By Angelique Serrao for News24
The battle between the police and a supplier that switched off access to critical IT systems last week has hit the courts.
Last week, Forensic Data Analysts (FDA), a police supplier which has been accused of corruption, threatened to suspend the police’s Property Control and Exhibit Management (PCEM) and Firearm Permit System (FPS), unless the police and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) pay them.
The company, run by businessman Keith Keating, claimed SITA had not paid them for five months for their services.
The two systems – as well as a system called the VA-Amis proprietary solution – supplied by Keating’s other company Investigative Software Solutions (ISS) – were all switched off, leaving the police’s capacity to handle forensic evidence, firearm controls and their ability to do in-depth investigations stranded.
Police responded publicly to FDA by saying that it was coming up with contingency solutions.
Behind the scenes, in a letter seen by News24, attorneys for the SAPS and SITA wrote to FDA and ISS saying that, in barring the police from accessing the three systems, the companies were acting unlawfully.
They went into detail about each of the three systems and their functions, and stated why they believed FDA could not block them from accessing them.
FPS, they said, was initiated in 2006 to perform critical functions of marking, identifying, issuing and tracking its firearms. It also enables the storage of information regarding the ballistic characteristics of the firearms.
The letter said SAPS was granted a permanent, non-expiring licence to use the FPS and to make sufficient copies for backup purposes. SAPS paid a once-off licence fee of R11.6-million and this meant that, by stopping the police from using the system, the FDA was acting unlawfully, the letter stated.
The PCEM system is used to log evidence and track it throughout the process, ensuring the chain of evidence is not broken.
Lawyers representing SAPS said in the letter that SAPS access to the PCEM system was governed by a written agreement concluded between the police and Unysis Africa in 2010.
“In exchange for the PCEM licence, SAPS was required to pay a once-off licence fee of R35 910 000,” the letter said.
“Notwithstanding, the fact that SAPS paid the full licence fee to Unysis under the PCEM Licence Agreement, FDA has with effect from 5 April 2018, unlawfully prevented SAPS and/or any of its members from accessing the PCEM system.”
The VA-Amis contract, SAPS said, was governed by a written agreement between SITA and ISS concluded in June 2017.
In exchange for the licence and performance of the VA-Amis services, SITA was required to remunerate ISS in the form of service fees which could not exceed R80 954 179, the letter said. This full amount was paid to ISS the SAPS lawyers said.
Police and SITA then threatened to go to court on an urgent basis if the systems were not turned on.
News24 understands that the police were set to approach the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria earlier this week on an urgent basis, but the application was halted after the systems were restored.
The case is set to be heard on Thursday instead.
The State wants the companies to restore the police’s possession of, access to and use of the intellectual property for the three systems.
Keating told News24 that FDA was served with an urgent application on Monday afternoon to restore all the services “due to the fact that SITA and SAPS now suddenly admit that the services are mission critical and of national importance”.
Keating said they agreed to switch on VA-Amis, but “due to SITA legal now playing games around the terms of switching back on, this has still not occurred”.
SITA and SAPS re-established the services for FPS and PCEM illegally, Keating said.
He said that FDA would approach the court on an urgent basis.