Natural Scientific Professions Bill Amendment: deliberations

Arts and Culture

01 September 2003
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

1 September 2003

Chairperson Ms M Njobe (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SAPS presentation: Natural Scientific Professions Bill (awaited)

The SAPS was permitted to make a late presentation to the Committee, notwithstanding parliamentary procedure irregularities.

Despite the extensive in-house training SAPS forensic scientists' undergo, the Bill would result in many of its forensic scientist being withheld from their respective duties as a result of requirements relating to formal qualifications. The SAPS' internal forensic training was currently being evaluated for SAQA accreditation and this could, when completed, formalise SAPS' in-house training.

The DA delayed expressing itself on the Bill to consult the Party Caucus. The Committee reported this Bill with an amended motion of desirability, leaving space in the report for the DA to comment.

SAPS Presentation
Assistant Commissioner K Morris, Head of the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory, explained the various processes and aspects of forensic investigation in detail. Explosive devices could be reconstructed up to 85% with sufficient time. This allowed the police to identify a 'bomber's signature' and investigate possible suspects. Every firearm had a unique internal marking with which ballistic investigations could identify weapons used to commit a crime. Mr Morris also explained the use of biological samples such as blood, urine, semen etc. to investigate crimes.

Ms Njobe said procedurally the committee must accept or reject the NCOP amendment to this Bill. Since SAPS' correspondence to the NCOP considerably influenced this new amendment, they would be allowed to make a presentation to the Committee. The Committee had advertised the Public Hearing process but only one submission was received and the SAPS did not take advantage of the opportunity. However, the Committee was allowing this presentation to more clearly understand the need for the amendment.

Mr A Pedlar, DDG Group Executive of the Government Science and Technology System (DST), said his department held discussions with the SAPS and endorsed the amendment to the Bill to avoid negatively impacting on SAPS' efficiency.

Mr F Cassim (PJC) said the Committee wanted South African scientists to be registered as this would give them greater recognition nationally and internationally. He would support it if it was merely a technical matter to avoid evidence being unnecessarily kicked out of court.

Mr Morris said SAPS forensic scientists were allowed to register but the process was not compulsory.

Mr S Dithebe (ANC) said he was disturbed at the late intervention by the SAPS. In future, the SAPS and other state organs should be more alert to the legislative process.

Prof Mohammed (ANC) said he was glad this matter came up. He was aware and informed the committee that knowledgeable scientists would be excluded because of this bill. The DST went ahead with this Bill despite his comments and he added the DST did not consult the SAPS whilst drafting the bill.

Ms Njobe noted on the last page of the bill that it said all national departments were consulted. She expressed concern that they were making a law from which the people responsible to assist the implementation thereof were being exempted. She asked how SAPS ensured its forensic personnel were qualified or whether availability exceeded qualifications in importance.

Mr Morris said a dedicated team of scientists dealt with forensic investigations. Their scientists go through extensive training, both practical and theoretical. They also had to pass a demanding proficiency test and were tested at regular intervals.

Ms Njobe asked whether this exemption would be indefinite or whether the SAPS would comply with this legislation at some stage.

Mr Morris said the SAPS' internal forensic training was currently being evaluated for SAQA accreditation.

Mr Cassim said the department should inform the Committee on regulations implemented to ensure that public representatives were informed and consulted.

Mr Pedlar said he was a firm believer in good grounding and mentoring. The regulations part of this Bill was incomplete but SAPS forensic scientists did undergo extensive in-house training. The normal procedure was not followed, but in hindsight, the SAPS correspondence resulted in an important debate. The Deputy Minister had chastised his colleagues for the lapses that occurred with the drafting. The department would have preferred no exclusions were made to the Bill but scientific skills and knowledge in South Africa needed to be developed. He saw the current amendment in that context.

Prof Mohammed said the Committee should admit that it blundered.

Mr V Gore (DA) said he would not be able to vote on the Bill before he consulted his Party Caucus.

Mr Cassim suggested the Committee should avoid holding up the process. The DA could be allowed to make its contribution to the report at a later stage.

Ms Njobe said the Committee reported this Bill with an amended motion of desirability.

The meeting was adjourned.



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