Govt Lab Needed in the Delivery of Justice

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Rose Akol, confirmed to Parliament this week that the Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory (DGAL) is ill-equipped, and in a way, it has contributed to case backlogs in the courts of law.

DGAL is one of the specialized public agencies that provide scientific and analytical advice to government departments such as courts of law and the police. It is not only useful in matters of criminal justice, but also involved in any scientific inquiries related to food and innovations in the manufacturing sectors.

The Minister says DGAL needs about Shs 1.5bn to buy chemicals used in the investigations and tests, yet its recurrent budget is at Shs 2.5bn. The agency not only needs to have financial capability but also needs the integrity of the human resource improved and maintained.

The people who seek or subject their inquiries to DGAL must be satisfied that the personnel are qualified, experienced and would not swap information for bribes nor would they distort results.

Science is now an integral part of the justice system. As the country grows and develops so are the needs to put certain matters to scientific inquiry and strict proof. When justice is not delivered and miscarriages of justice occur, Ugandans suffer.

They suffer because at times innocent people are jailed while criminals are set free for lack of cogent evidence. Science should make delivery of justice fair and predictable.

The work of a police officer investigating certain suspicious fingerprints in a murder or robbery case will be rendered useless, if he has no laboratory to confirm his hypothesis or suspicions.

We have had many cases of parentage contestation, and some desperate parents have had to take their inquiries abroad to confirm the DNA test because they could not rely on DGAL.

The liberalization of the economy has unleashed on the country all manner of consumer goods, some of them substandard and harmful to humans, but the country is unable to be insulated against these fake products because DGAL doesn't work to its full mandate.

We should embrace science in the delivery of justice, and government should revive and capitalize agencies such as DGAL in order to achieve this goal. We cannot afford to operate as if we are still in the stone age.