Former Director of the Saint Lucia Forensic Science Laboratory, Yannis Charles, has expressed concern about the facility which remains unmanned and unattended. Charles, who served as Director from 2009-2015 has told the Times that almost two million dollars’ worth of equipment is sitting in the building at Tapion without any maintenance.
“Considering the sensitive nature of the equipment and the fluctuations in electricity frequently being experienced in St. Lucia and with no staff present to check, then we are in big trouble,” Charles asserted.
The former Director, who has a slew of qualifications including a BSc Chemistry and Business Management from UWI and an MSc in Forensic Science from King’s College, London, explained that all equipment is sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity.
“No one is present to monitor the ac units or the dehumidifiers, and it would not be surprising if some of the equipment have started rotting as a result of the accumulation of moisture. The lab is located very close to the sea and the equipment is subject to sea blast, again with no one present to do weekly maintenance there will be an accumulation of rust leading to malfunctioning of the equipment,” Charles asserted.
According to her, the insurance coverage for the building and equipment expired in June 2015, and she wonders whether it has been renewed.
“God forbid any disaster, fire or hurricane as we are in the hurricane season, and then all will be lost,” Charles warned.
She also pointed out that the relationships with suppliers and service providers have been damaged, with outstanding invoices not having been paid and contracts which have been signed have not been honored.
“A new piece of DNA equipment which was received in May 2015, after the laboratory management made a request for this instrument over a year earlier in February 2014 and only received approval and funding in March 2015, now sits there idle. The supplier had to come in for installation and training of staff in May 2015 and they were prevented from coming because the lab was closed and remains closed after 5 months.
She disclosed that the proficiency test providers need to send the proficiency samples to the analysts for their annual assessment of competence but are unable to do so because the lab is closed.
“The lab has already paid for these tests and because it is no fault of theirs the test provider will not reimburse the money. They have sent out some samples already but who knows where those samples are right now, since the lab is closed.” Charles explained.