Cops battle poor IT systems


Police minister Nathi Mthethwa has revealed the South African Police Service (SAPS) is still battling with delays and backlogs, despite spending R1.5 billion on improving its IT systems this year.

Mthethwa, in responses to parliamentary questions, noted that backlogs in certain divisions had increased; shortfalls in forensic science laboratories were on the rise; and skills shortages were impacting the efficacy of the department, as most skilled posts were left vacant, ITWeb reports.


While the Democratic Alliance (DA) says the SAPS has failed to implement effective IT systems, the police responded by saying the R1.5 billion spent on technology in the past year has been used optimally.


“We have taken great steps to address critical problems, such as that of docket theft and loss and backlogs in the systems. The likelihood is strong that our systems will be successful and we will meet our mandate,” says the SAPS.


The DA has called for automatic information backups to be made mandatory and for the availability of a real-time crime information system, which would incorporate secure networked access to police case dockets.


“In sum, the figures show that the South African Police Service faces an array of severe challenges that simply are not being addressed,” says the DA.


In September 2008, the SAPS implemented an e-docket system aimed at preventing the theft, sale and loss of dockets from police stations. Each case docket would be indexed and registered on the Crime Administration System and scanned onto the centralised information system.


The dockets would only be accessible at the SAPS Information and System Management division. The information could also not be deleted and allowed for audit trails of dockets in the new system.


The DA, however, says the system has proved inefficient as lost and stolen police case dockets had increased by 57% in a year. The minister revealed that 671 dockets were lost, or stolen in 2008/9. This had increased from 427 in the previous financial year and had continued to rise since 2005, when 382 dockets were lost or stolen.


By August, the e-docket system had been rolled out to 143 police stations in seven provinces. Of these, 100 police stations in Gauteng and 29 police stations in KwaZulu-Natal have implemented the new system. Provinces such as Free State and Eastern Cape are still in the preparation phase.


In October, the National Treasury slated the performance of the technology systems of the SAPS, saying its projects have failed to improve crime levels in the country.


“Missing dockets represent a severe impediment to any police investigation, and the situation is unlikely to improve in future. It is also simply unconscionable in this day and age that we have handwritten dockets going missing,” says the DA.