Forensic supply firms tied to rip-off of cops

Probe links former commissioner to pricing scam

A police watchdog probe has lifted the lid on an alleged forensic equipment supply pricing scam which has seen the cops pay up to 3 000% more than the actual cost of items.

A confidential document sent to top police management by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate shows how, for the past seven years, forensic supply companies have been allowed to loot the state’s coffers.

The report points a finger at former national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, his family and other senior officers.

On Tuesday, Ipid investigators raided the homes of Phahlane, who has gone to ground, and his sister, as well as the offices of Pretoria forensic supply company Forensic Data Analysts (FDA), seizing vehicles, documents and cash.

Last month, parliament’s standing committee on public accounts canned FDA’s contract with the police over its corrupt nature.

Phahlane, who is on suspension, is also under investigation for allegedly having had a chemical supplier instal an R80 000 sound system in his home and provide him with vehicles for awarding it police forensic tenders.

The document, written by Ipid’s national head of investigations Matthews Sesoko to then acting national commissioner Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba, specifically centres on FDA and its director, Keith Keating.

The report reveals an alleged scam involving foreign bank accounts, second-hand car dealerships and police officers in the forensic and technical management services divisions.

It highlights how, in return for securing lucrative tenders for the supply of latex gloves, disposable face masks, field radios and distilled water, among other things, Phahlane allegedly received hefty kickbacks including luxury vehicles.

The vehicles were, according to Sesoko’s report, sold to Phahlane, who was listed under the name John Doe.

Invoices seen by The Times, which are contained in the report, show police paid:

R500 000 for 500 disposable face masks;

R1.4-million for 11 000 latex gloves;

R2.25-million for 120 plastic stepping plates (used at crime scenes to avoid contamination); and

R1.6-million for distilled water. The invoices show how police paid three times for the same forensic software programme, with the price escalating each time.

They paid R300 000 per crime scene torch, which are manufactured and imported from Australia for R7 000 a torch.

The torches are used to detect blood and semen.

Keating said neither he nor FDA had been involved in any wrongdoing.

He said he rejected Scopa’s announcement that FDA had a corrupt relationship with the police and its instructions that the company’s contracts with the SAPS be cancelled.

“Scopa does not have the mandate or authority to make such determinations as if it is a court of law,” Keating said.

He said FDA would cooperate fully with Ipid’s investigators, adding that “the unlawful leaking of information raises concerns as to the motives for this investigation”.

Keating denied that FDA had overinflated prices of items sold to the police.

“FDA products, software and services are augmented by customising to specifically satisfy the service-level requirements and conditions of the SAPS.

“FDA does not merely sell the basic off-the-shelf products as the local conditions and the SAPS requirements are specifically different,” he said.

Keating said they did not have a corrupt relationship with Phahlane or any other officer and had not bought or paid for any vehicles or overseas trips for anyone.

He said a trip to Manchester in the UK in 2011, revealed in a Scopa meeting, had been authorised by the national police commissioner and police minister.

Additional documents seen by The Times, which form part of Ipid’s investigation, show how since 2010 FDA has secured police tenders worth R5.4-billion.

Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini declined to comment as the investigation was still ongoing.

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