The South African Police Service has been hit hard by a failure in its Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
According to a report by Die Burger, as of 08h00 on Thursday morning (6 December) there were more than 30,000 unprocessed claims sitting on a backlog on the system.
The police service has now reportedly briefed all provincial and national courts on the issue, stating that the forensic department was unable to make use of the system and that the support contract with the system’s service provider had been terminated.
No timeline was provided for when the contract would be renewed or when the system would come back online.
The AFIS forms a core part of a number of police functions including background checks, police clearance certificates, and analysing fingerprints found at crime scenes.
Die Burger reports that the issue has also been exacerbated by power outages at the State Information Technology Agency’s (SITA’s) offices in Pretoria.
New technology coming?
In May 2018, former home affairs minister Gigaba announced the coming launch of the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS).
The new identification system will be powered by a sustainable technology and will offer a single view of citizens across the life cycle and their status change at various stages.
Home Affairs said that the ABIS will act as a fundamental baseline for the broader National Identification System (HANIS) and will consolidate South African and foreign nationals’ data into a single base.
“The grand plan seeks to integrate HANIS and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) into an automated system through ABIS with the capability to identify and verify people through fingerprints, facial recognition and IRIS technology,” it said.
According to the department’s 2018/2019 annual performance plan, it expects the AFIS data migration into ABIS to be completed within the 2018/19 financial year, with iris and palm-print recognition capabilities beginning to come online by 2019/20.