Police get R5.4bn tech boost

Finance minister Trevor Manuel has set aside R5.4 billion for safety and security to be ploughed into technology solutions.

In his budget speech yesterday afternoon, the minister explained that part of the funding has been allocated to the sector’s integrated fingerprint and DNA database. It will also be stretched to include the upgrade of the police’s ICT systems, which will receive R100 million this year alone.

The South African Police Services (SAPS) and security expert Rob Matthews – the father of murdered student Leigh Matthews – have been developing the architecture around the database, which is intended to boost the conviction rate of the SAPS.

According to a treasury official, while fingerprint and DNA databases exist, the primary focus for the sector will be to integrate them into a central server. This will make them accessible to all departments that require that information, such as the SAPS and the Department of Home Affairs.

Over and above the R5.4 million, the minister has set aside funding for the overhaul of the police’s forensic and investigative capacity, which includes specialised forensic technology and training.

While a large chunk of the funding has been allocated to technology, some funds will also be used to increase the police’s manpower and improve the capacity of detectives.

The treasury official says some of the newly-hired staff will, after a two-year training period, have the option to move into detective services, where they can learn the ICT skills to manage the forensics technology. They will also have the opportunity to investigate e-crimes.

According to the Department of Safety and Security’s expenditure trends report, a significant amount of money is being spent over the next three years on ICT.

“The continued modernisation of the IT system will receive specific attention over the medium-term, with additional funding allocated to the department of R100 million, R900 million and R1.9 billion for revamping the criminal justice sector.
“E-docket and identification services will be targeted to improve the flow of information and the identification of suspects on the system. The continued expansion of the vehicle fleet, including the automated vehicle location system and upgrading the network and hosting infrastructure, account for increased spending in machinery and equipment.”

The expenditure report for the last year shows the department’s costs had increased rapidly from R29.4 billion in the 2005/6 financial year to R41.5 billion in the 2008/9 financial year.

It explained that one of the primary factors in the increase rested on its IT network upgrade and the physical capacity of the forensics and crime intelligence areas, both of which deal with IT-related crimes.

The department also chalks up the increase to the addition of automated vehicle location systems that were implemented over the last year.