An independent investigation named at least 20 South African senior police officials as suspects in a massive fraud and collusion case involving allegedly illegal contracts worth millions of dollars awarded to a private forensic software company over the past five years, the Daily Maverick reported.
The report, compiled by a U.S. accounting and auditory corporation partnered with a local firm, was presented on Tuesday to the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), which is in charge of reviewing the use of public funds.
Those implicated in the scandal include the former acting commissioner who was head of the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) forensic services at the time, as well as at least 20 other high-ranking officials including colonels, generals, and department heads.
The report recommended that National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole obtain legal counsel for dozens of individuals “for their involvement in potential fraud and/or collusion” involving numerous “irregular” transfers, transactions, and requests over the past several years.
The software firm, Forensic Data Analysts (FDA), provides police with hardware and infrastructure used in forensic investigations.
The contracts in question were awarded to purchase forensic light sources for police departments. A forensic light source is a crime scene tool that helps collect evidence such as fingerprints, body fluids, hairs, fibers, and more.
Investigators now say that police officials did not reassess the budget before they began awarding contracts to the firm in 2013.
“The budget of [US$720,000] R10.5 million made available in 2013 for the procurement of 378 light sources seems to have been set without taking into account the actual unit price of the light sources,” the report says.
In 2014, SAPS’ $2.4 million budget neglected to specify the actual number of light sources the Forensic Services department required, thus rendering the entire budget “questionable,” according to the report.
In November of last year, SCOPA, the budget oversight committee, instructed the police to stop paying FDA for their services due to the suspicious nature of the contracts.
“The position of the Committee is that the contracts with FDA are of a corrupt nature and we want to have them cancelled,” said SCOPA Chairperson Themba Godi at the time.
FDA CEO Keith Keating, a former police employee, called the lengthy standoff with law enforcement “mind-blowing,” according to Financial Mail.
In April, the outraged CEO said that SAPS owed the firm an excess of $4.8 million for services rendered since the previous December, and that it was “totally unreasonable” to expect his company to continue its services.
In a bold move, Keating authorized a shutdown of FDA’s systems at midnight on Apr 4, jeopardizing police’s day-to-day operations. FDA is police’s sole provider for many IT systems.
SCOPA said it was “shocked and disappointed” that one man could “hold the country to random by having the power to switch off the criminal justice system.” The company later switched its servers back on.
Keating has never been particularly amenable in his dealings with Parliament.
During a November 2017 SCOPA hearing in which the SAPS-FDA contracts were being discussed, the CEO slipped into the room, outraging committee members in a move that reporters at the time called “brazen.”