The South African Police Service (Saps) has dismissed claims that it failed to procure alcohol blood test kits in time to trap drunk drivers at roadblocks during the festive season.
This is after the Public Servants Association (PSA) said it had learned the Saps failed to procure alcohol test kits before the festive season, despite the known problem of drinking and driving which, according to the PSA, is behind more than half of road accidents.
PSA spokesperson Claude Naicker said Minister of Police Bheki Cele blamed the procurement section without taking responsibility for the failure to adequately resource the department.
“This failure will create an impractical situation wherein law enforcement officers will have to take all suspected drivers to hospitals for their blood to be drawn as the same will be needed as evidence in a court of law,” Naicker said.
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“The culprits might escape facing the law due to this incompetence, lack of proper planning and failure to capacitate government entities.
“Law enforcement officials cannot be expected to do their job without being resourced hence, the minister and his executive committee, must take responsibility for failing the workers and the nation.”
The Saps dismissed the allegations, saying there was only a delay in the distribution of the alcohol blood test kits from Saps national to police stations around the country.
Police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said the delay was caused by a global shortage of vials.
This is a component of the complete alcohol blood test kits which contains chemicals that ensure the blood drawn maintains the same alcohol levels until it is analysed by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) and utilised as evidence before the court.
“It is not true the Saps failed to procure alcohol blood test kits. The issue is the delay in the distribution of blood test kits,” said Mathe.
“As soon as we noticed there was a shortage, or the alcohol blood tests were being depleted in the system, we met the supplier who is contracted to the Saps.
“He then alerted that there is a global shortage of the vials.” Mathe said that as early as the end of November, the supplier managed to obtain the vials in the international market.
“These are new vials and not previously tested, so the Saps and the department of health are testing them to ensure compliance with the Saps specifications,” she said.
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“It is important that the vials go through the necessary stringent testing to ensure the accuracy of the evidence that will be presented in court.
“Once confirmation of the compliance is obtained, distribution of the alcohol blood tests will commence.” She said in the absence of these blood test kits, the police still managed to arrest drunk drivers in roadblocks by working together with various law enforcement arms, including the metro police and the provincial traffic police.
Mathe said there was never a situation where there were no alcohol blood tests at a roadblock because they conducted roadblocks with other government departments.
“Part of working together means we share resources which includes the alcohol blood test kits. “Metro police, local traffic police and the provincial traffic police had the kits,” Mathe said.
“Police also complete an observation report in drunk and driving cases. “We have been working together in these operations and we have made several arrests.”
She said Saps, the department of health and other stakeholders were working around the clock to fast-track tests on the new vials.
Naicker was still sceptical, saying: “Our members were not kept informed there was a problem with the vials that needed to be tested. “In any event, if the vials had to be tested, surely they should have been tested well in advance.
In our opinion, they are just trying to divert attention from the fact that they did not procure kits in time.”
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