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DHA cautious on police integration

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The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has welcomed the possibility of providing the police access to its Hanis database.

However, it cautions that the move would introduce even more challenges for its national information system.

Vusi Mkhize, deputy director-general of civic services at the DHA, welcomes collaboration between the two IT departments, but adds that the implications for cost, compliance and response times would have to be given careful consideration.

Parliament is proposing a new draft of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill, which would not contain any clauses proposing the establishment or operation of the proposed national DNA database.

The first phase of the proposed changes would be to give the SAPS access to the Department of Home Affairs' Hanis database and the Department of Transport's eNatis, and any state department for the purpose of compiling records. The SAPS hopes this phase could be finalised this month.

The Bill currently allows for the creation of a database, using biometric technology, which would allow for DNA profiling, DNA typing, DNA fingerprinting or genetic fingerprinting. The profiling system would be linked to Hanis and eNatis.

The second phase of the Bill would deal with the creation of the DNA database. This phase would be put on hold until investigations are completed, and could be finalised in 2010.

Range of challenges

Mkhize says that, while the department is already working with the SAPS on ID verifications, timeframes and costs on integrating systems could only be determined once it received information on exactly what is required and expected.

Protocol on the use of the database would have to be developed, as Hanis was developed mainly for civilian purposes. While legislation exists for the use of the database for criminal investigation and prosecution, and the minister of police is empowered to issue national instructions for the use of the database, citizens would need to be assured their information would only be used for civilian purposes.

Capacity and volume requirements would also have to be decided upon between the two departments, he says. While the DHA is extending the capacity of Hanis to 70 million, it is still unclear whether it would need to provide additional capacity once it integrates its systems with the SAPS.

The department notes that extended support and maintenance will be critical, as integration would impact on the turnaround and response times of the database. The system will have to perform in real-time and also be highly-reliable, introducing new challenges, says Mkhize.

Security worries

The department says concerns on who can track and access the database have been addressed, with the introduction of the biometric access control mechanism that requests a password and a fingerprint, so that it can clearly track who is using the system. The DHA notes it will add a smart card component, to further restrict and control access.

Mkhize highlights that, while no system is absolutely secure, the DHA is constantly deploying new measures to enhance security and make the system as secure as possible. The DHA says defining roles and responsibilities, system availability, departmental expectations and after-hours access, would also contribute to enhanced security.

Security measures for the SAPS would not be the responsibility of the DHA, but security standards and requirements have to be defined, says Mkhize.

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