Treasury underfunds DNA database


National Treasury has made an initial allocation of R3 billion for the implementation of the DNA database over three years

However, the budget is less than half of what the South African Police Service (SAPS) needs to meet the IT requirements for the database, ITWeb reports.

The R3 billion would be used to implement IT systems, equipment for criminal record centres, training, the implementation of improved business processes, and the expansion and retention of the skills base.

Parliament and the SAPS are proposing amendments to the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill, which would allow for the creation of an extensive DNA profiling system, with the aim of strengthening the police services’ crime-fighting initiatives.

The Act would allow the SAPS to create a database, using biometric technology, which would allow for DNA profiling, DNA typing, DNA fingerprinting or genetic fingerprinting. The profiling system would be linked to the Department of Home Affairs’ Hanis system and Department of Transport’s eNatis system.

While the Bill has not been signed off, the SAPS and Cabinet are confident it will be passed and have applied for funding before the Bill is enacted, ITWeb reports.

Following an inquiry into the required budget in February, the parliamentary committee on police reported that a minimum of R7.5 billion would be needed for to fulfil the IT and technology implementation plans of the national database.

The police previously reported they would need R2 billion for the reference samples from private laboratories over a five-year period. Another R3 billion would also have to be budgeted to build the crime scene and reference sample capacity. A further R2.5 billion would be needed for the expansion of the police fingerprint database and to link it with other databases.

The Office for Criminal Justice System Reform (OCJSR) which is coordinating the inter-departmental project, says the Bill would be implemented – but that widespread implementation would depend on the available IT infrastructure and additional funding.

While the office says the official deadline for the operation of the database will be January 2011, it says the database will not operate on full capacity. Upgrades to several police IT systems will lag, as improvements would only be made once funding had been secured.

Pieter Du Rand, chief director of court services with the Department of Justice, says information sharing between databases of the departments of home affairs, transport and the SAPS will still be done manually. The SAPS will be enabled to send requests for information to these departments, which would reference their databases and send information back to the SAPS.

Funds should be available for the creation of the Hanis and eNatis interfaces “as and when required for the automated interfaces to their databases”, says Du Rand. Other SAPS IT systems would only be integrated with the database in 2011, but full integration between all departments would not be achieved as it’s not a requirement of the Bill, says Du Rand.

While Cabinet has approved a phased implementation of the project, the SAPS has still not secured funding for other areas of the project. Citing budget shortages, a lack of skills and the need to improve IT infrastructure and systems, Cabinet approved the plans, saying it was confident the OCJSR would ensure the project was effective.

“While there are technology risks linked to the project, the inevitable risks associated with the implementation of a project of this magnitude are manageable,” says Du Rand.