Portfolio committee on police shocked to find SAPS members still working in unsafe Veritas building
The SA Police Service is endangering the lives of its employees by allowing its workers of the Central Firearm Register (CFR) to continue working in the Veritas building which does not meet all the safety requirements.
This is according to the parliamentary portfolio committee on police which said this was one of the things it uncovered when it embarked on a visit to the Tshwane premises on Saturday.
“The committee was shocked to hear that the CFR continues to occupy the Veritas building despite it being disqualified by the safety, health and environment unit,” said the committee’s acting chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe in a statement.
“The committee said it was unacceptable for SAPS to allow officials to continue working in an unsafe environment, and committed SAPS to prioritise the matter and engage with the department of public works to have the matter resolved,” he added.
The committee had on Saturday conducted an oversight visit to the premises to get an update on the backlog at the DNA laboratory and updates on the firearms control register.
The use of this building has been questionable for some time.
In 2019, TimesLIVE reported that years after buying the Telkom Towers, which were to be used as the new headquarters of the SAPS, police were yet to occupy the buildings. Instead, police staff and senior managers are stuck at the old, “completely overloaded” and “condemned” buildings of Veritas and Wachthuis in the Pretoria city centre.
The portfolio committee's visit was aimed specifically at checking on the SAPS DNA laboratory and firearms control register.
This after police minister Bheki Cele announced that they were making strides in clearing the backlog at the DNA centre.
Speaking on Friday as he delivered the latest crime statistics, Cele said the delays had been severe, but that 42% of dockets for crimes committed against women and children that had been outstanding for over a year had now been finalised.
Maphatsoe said when they conducted their own visit on Saturday, they were briefed by senior SAPS management led by the national police commissioner, Gen Khehla Sitole.
“The committee was not impressed by the backlogs and proposed a fully-digitised application system instead of the current system which was found to be laborious and inefficient,” Maphatsoe said.
“According to SAPS there is a process of modernisation which is under way and that a bid has already been advertised to computerise the firearm licence application system to make it possible for citizens to renew their licences online,” he continued.
The SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory committed to monitoring the DNA backlogs closely and predicted that it would have caught up by the end of next year.
“The committee noted that the national outcry on the forensic backlog was justified as this could jeopardise the fight against violent crimes such as gender-based violence and femicide, if it is not urgently addressed,” Maphatsoe said.