Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill (B2-2009): briefing

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03 November 2009
Chairperson: Ms L Chikunga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The committee was briefed by the South African Police Service on the implementation of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill (B2-2009). Issue raised by members included the fact that the presentation was only in draft format and did not reflect a finalised decision by senior SPAS management. The committee was concerned over the fact that it appeared that SAPS had not consulted with other relevant departments over the implementation of the bill and had not taken a definite decision on the way forward. Costs of implementation were cited as being extremely high. It was decided that SAPS would be required to finalise the document and reappear before the committee.

The committee was briefed by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) on the implementation of the bill in terms of their technical capacity to do so. The committee felt that SITA had not been adequately consulted by SAPS, despite being in position to implement the bill. Members raised issue with the cost-effectiveness of SITA’s equipment procurement processes.

It was decided that a task team needed to be appointed to deal with the implantation of the bill and should be comprised of all the relevant departments and agencies involved in the implementation of the bill

Meeting report


Presentation by the South African Police Services (SAPS)
Mr T Khunos, Assistant Commissioner, Division Crime Records & Forensic Science (DCRFSS), SAPS, went through the presentation as per the document. Outlining the Criminal Justice System (CJS) expansion program for 2009/2010, which included Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) database and forensic equipment upgrades. A breakdown of the requirements of the bill according to SAPS divisions was provided. Systems available to support the proposed bill and implementation of the bill were outlined. The budgetary requirements of for the implementation of the bill were supplied. Available databases that could be used were alluded to as well as two options for the way forward. Option 1 allowed for an interface between the SAPS and Department of Home Affairs (DHA) databases and Option 2 focused on duplicating the DHA database for SAPS use. Option 1 was cited as the ideal solution.

Mr G Schneemann (ANC) stated that he was confused as the SAPS had recently said that the bill would be very easy to implement and that looking at the document it did not appear that the SAPS was ready to implement the bill. It was very strange that according to the presentation, consultation with the Department of Transport (DoT) and Department of Correctional Services (DCS) had not occurred. Training required significant accommodation costs and as such he asked whether the SAPS did not have their own training facilities that could be used. The issue of whether spending R5 billion to enhance search capacity form 9,000 searches per day to 12,000 searches per a day was worth it was posed. The equipment costs needed to be checked against value for money. It also appeared that the figures cited per annum for equipment upgrades did not seem realistic as there was no accounting for inflation in the figure as they remained static.

Mr P Muller, Superintendent, DCRFSS, SAPS, replied that the training colleges that were operational were being used for Visible Police training and that they were trying to get a facility. In the final plan SAPS wanted a more cost-effective training facility. Due to the training being given requiring specialised equipment that was not available at training colleges mobile labs were very important, as they could be taken to training colleges. SAPS were doing there utmost to keep costs down. The lack of increase in costing in the document was based on the assumption normal MTEF increases would apply and could be included in the document if wished.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) asked what the turn-around time for fingerprint searches was and stated that they needed to look at the security risks surrounding access to fingerprints. It was extraordinary that there seemed to be no discussion and synchronisation with other departments. The expected costs of new office, staff and labs for fingerprinting were very high in light of the fact that the document stated that this was only a medium term strategy and as such it appeared that they were raising the departmental budget significantly.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) questioned the cost of R44,000 for Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) training, considering that the SAPS had their own training facilities and asked why these facilities were not being used. He asked whether they had compared the utilisation of guesthouses for training accommodation and renting office space against actually buying property as the figure for rental and accommodation was exorbitant. The cost of R950, 000 for new CSI cameras was questioned against the supposed advantage that they were supposed to allow for, as well as the security of said equipment. The number of unsolved case fingerprints was not decreasing and as such, it did not seem that a budget increase was justified.

Mr Khunos replied that the AFIS backlog was due to network capacity issues due to an increase in search demands; they had indicated how they would plan for this in the document.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) asked whether SAPS could implement the bill or not, as this was the primary question. According to the document this did not seem likely, as the money needed to do so did not exist.

Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) was concerned that a year and a half later the committee was being presented with two options and that the favoured one had huge cost implications for the DHA, which they did not seem to have envisaged. Concern was raised over the SAPS involvement in the drafting of the bill was raised, as it appeared that the usual working in silos problem was occurring again. It seemed that SAPS Legal Division did the drafting and then after the fact informed the Division Criminal Record and Forensic Science Service (DCRFSS). She asked whether the DCRFSS had the capacity to even process 1.1 million more prints a year. The State Law Advisor (SLA) was asked about how the Access to Personal Information (API)  Bill impacted on this bill. The information on forensics development capacity, whilst misplaced, was welcomed. 

Mr Johan De Lange, Director, DOJ & CD, replied that if the API bill was in place then security would need to be looked at from another angle and that they would not need to cover it in the amendment bill, but due to the API Bill beinga draft the issues needed to be covered in this amendment bill.

Ms D Schafer (DA) asked how the database would practically work and whether they had consulted with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA)

The Chairperson stated that the bill under revue was a result of the fact that the CJS had disintegrated and that this bill was not integrated, which seemed to defeat the purpose of the revue of the CJS in order to make it more integrated. She asked whether senior managers within SAPS had even seen the presentation document. Options were not wanted, senior management needed to make a decision and present it. She asked whether they were able to implement the bill and how.

Mr Khunos replied that SAPS management had seen the document, that it was discussed with Deputy National Commissioner, A Dramat and that they would engage other departments. If National treasury allocated the funds then SAPS would be able to implement the bill. Deputy National Commissioner Dramat had told him that they were still going through the consultation process.

Mr H Chauke (ANC) suggested that the committee get a clear mandate from the SAPS as the gentlemen sitting here could not provide answers. The SAPS delegation needed to go back and consult properly with senior management and then giver the committee a proper implementation plan which took into account the bill in relation to the wider revue of the CJS. A full report was needed from SAPS senior management, as it was clear that there was no clear decision or mandate in the presentation. The presentation did not even talk to the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development (DJ&CD). He proposed that they ask for a proper view from a cluster point of view and that the Department of Police (DoP) go back and consults.

The Chairperson replied that they would allow the DoP to respond to questions asked and that they would take it from there, as the DoP had in fact indicated that they had not interacted with the National Commissioner yet and responded to the committees request for briefing regardless of whether they were actually ready. She asked how communication could be considered as risk, as it was under risks in the document. There appeared to be no official communication channel and as such there was a need to create one for the exchange of information between the SAPS, DHA, DoT, DJ&CD, SITA and DCS. SAPS tended to always present contradictory points, the presentation implied communication between departments, but the delegation had said there was none, the pre4sence of options showed that senior management had not seen the document. SAPS needed to tell the committee the truth due to the fact that if the bill was not ready to be pushed through, the committee needed to know this based on accurate information.

Mr Schneeman found the lack of a communication platform absurd and added that this document should be based on formal interaction. If the document was not, then the document could not possibly be accurate.

Mr Leon Odendaal, Senior Superintendent, DCRFSS, AFIS Manager, SAPS, replied that there was a formal interaction platform for the bill, but not for the implementation.

Mr De Lange stated that the objects of the bill stated that it was developed in consultation with everyone and gave the impression that it was a consensus bill. The bill was the fruit of the Office of the Criminal Justice System Revue (OCJSR) and as such this office should be called before the committee. The situation was bizarre as there was comprehensive consultation on implementation of the bill through the OCJSR.

The Chairperson stated that they took note of the document and that it was a draft and requested that it be finalised, taking into consideration the issues that were being raised. In future more senior members of the SAPS needed to brief the committee.

Presentation by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA)
Ms Ramabele Magoma-Nthite, Acting CEO, SITA, stated that due to comments made by the Minister of Finance the previous week, SITA was asked how they saw themselves in the area of cost containment. A response was given to the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) which stated that if SITA found a new way of doing business, they would be able to save government a lot of money.

Mr Johan Entres, General Manager, SAPS CBU, SITA, went through the presentation as per the document, outlining SITA’s role in the implementation of the bill, there Information Technology Systems, the interfacing of the databases, ICT infrastructure capacity and implementation considerations.

Mr Schneemann stated that the last slide indicated that SITA was not involved in the funding projection, but that Mr Entres had said that the SAPS projection in their presentation seemed in line. How could SITA have an opinion on a topic that they had not been consulted on. SITA had been specifically mentioned by the Minister of Finance in terms of costs of procured equipment, as such how could SITA provide assurance that the procurement processes they used ensured the most cost-effective solution.

Mr Entres replied that list price and what SITA actually paid for equipment was different, SITA would hypothetically receive a tender for R10, 000 and then order in bulk and beat the supplier down to R6, 000 per unit. Prices supplied were a projection, which SITA usually managed to come in cheaper than.

Ms Schafer assumed that the extra security mentioned as necessary in the presentation would cost more money. As SITA had not consulted with SAPS, she asked how they could say that the SAPS figures seemed in line. It was added that SAPS had said there was no communication forum, but SITA had said that there was.

Ms Van Wyk stated that SITA had said that a single transfer of the DHA database, followed by updates was the best solution and seemed more viable. But this was contrary to what SAPS felt was the best solution and highlighted that everyone seemed to be working separately. She asked whether there was consultation with SAPS IT. As government did not have a lot of resources to waste they could not afford to make wrong decision and as such it was crucial to get all concerned parties in consultation to allow for a viable solution. 

Mr Entres replied that what he was presenting was not contradictory to what SAPS was saying, but that there was an IT perspective and business perspective and that a middle road needed to be found. Recommendations for a single database transfer from DHA to AFIS were based on the potential for using the information for exploration of future directions and to act as a reference, even if SAPS could not process all the data. The AFIS upgrade figures had been seen, as SITA had been approached by SAPS about the upgrade and as such the figures in the SAPS presentation did seem in line with what they had seen. SITA currently had the capability to implement the bill; they possessed the bandwidth and switching services. As they operated on a need basis, the y now required SAPS to provide information so that they could start implementation and activation of capacity services.

Ms Kohler-Barnard stated that SITA was never invited to the OCJSR and that it seemed that ministers were not taking the bill seriously, as the ministries seemed not to be putting in the work and interacting with each other. Each presentation ran contrary to the other and it was necessary for the concerned ministers to co-ordinate and implement a task team.

Ms Van Wyk raised a point of order and stated that ministers could not be expected to do the work of officials. A task team needed to be appointed, but ministers could not be expected to regulate all of these things as they were the ones who had put the bill forward in the first place.

Mr Chauke added that they needed to make sure that Heads of Departments corrected for this.

Ms Kohler-Barnard replied that key role-players were being excluded and that they needed to pull together the relevant stakeholders. She apologised if her ignorance had caused offence to the Honourable Van Wyk by suggesting that ministers appoint the task team.

Mr Chauke stated that they should not confuse the content of the bill with the revue of the CJS as they needed to focus on the implementation of this bill. The frustration of the committee emanated from the SAPS presentation saying that there was no consultation with other departments, not the revue of the CJS. He added that there was a team for that and that the committee needed to evaluate whether the SAPS cost plan would enable for the implementation of the bill.

Mr Schneeman added that Ms Van Wyk was not objecting to the Minister of Police initiating a task team, but rather that they could not throw everything back at the Ministers, as it was the officials that were liable. At ministerial level there was good co-ordination, the problems rose from lower levels.

Mr Ndlovu stated that he did not know why SITA did not know the costing as they had just heard it. He added that now he was totally confused, more so than when the meeting began.

Mr Chauke stated that he thought they were in order as the committee had done what it was supposed to do in terms of the content of the bill and that now the problems they were looking at were implementation problems. The committee now needed to give SAPS a mandate and get a proper implementation plan from them.

Mr Entres added that all those who would work on the project had been security cleared for access and that both the security of SAPS and SITA networks were good as there had been no break-ins. Technically SITA was in position to allow for the implementation of the bill.

Mr Chauke stated that SITA was not looking at procuring equipment pro-actively and cheaply. He cited trade treaties and alliances with countries such as China as possibilities for cheap transfer of technology and equipment, which SITA had neglected to pursue.

Ms Magoma-Nthite replied that SITA was taking serious consideration of the need for value for money, cost effectiveness and negotiation to best price. SITA was committed to this and also had the capacity to aid in the implementation of the bill.

The Chairperson thanked SIAT and took note of the above statements. The purpose of the bill was to see to the integration of the CJS and this should not be forgotten. A task team was definitely needed to look into the implementation of the bill and SAPS should communicate this. The team should include the DHA, DCS, SITA, DoT and DJ&CD. As SAPS had a draft document they were in apposition to move forward and would be recalled the following week for a finalised version of the document. In future it would be necessary to invite all the departments affected by the CJS revue.

The meeting was adjourned.


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