The budgeting period is one of the busiest times in Parliament. The corridors are always bustling with activity. Committees hold back to back meetings trying to figure out what to allocate to different Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs) and local governments. This was the scene late last year when Parliament was considering the National Budget Framework Paper (NBPF) 2016/17-2019/2020.
During one of the meetings, the committee of Defence and Internal affairs’ chairperson Honorable Benny Namugwanya presented the budget for the Uganda Police force (UPF). The budget for the institution according to the NBPF is remaining static at UGX 527.8 billion. This notwithstanding, there has been recruitment all over the country and the rate at which the force is growing does not commensurate the budgetary allocations.
For a number of years, police officers in Uganda have faced a number of hurdles in their work for example delayed salaries, meager salaries, dire living conditions in barracks among others. For the financial year 2016/17, there is a UGX 38 billion shortfall in salaries for the officers. In the same year, the force is requesting for UGX 51.1 billion for handling post-election violence. One could argue that the force has misplaced priorities. If the force was so hell bent on averting any violence in the period, then the budget request should have been presented in the 2015/16 budget.
The general polling date for the 2016 elections is 18th February and the budget is approved by Parliament by May 31st according to the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 and only comes into effect in July. In addition, the money is not disbursed in one go, it is released in quarters. Given the entire process, when does the police intend to deal with the post-election violence?
The budget allocation request is also highly speculative, in light of the budget request, what happens to the money in the event that no violence breaks out post-election. Does it become a virement or does it return to the consolidated fund? Also, does the police know something we don’t? Presenting budget requests and importing armored vehicles just ahead of the polls is very suspicious.
The Electoral Commission in the 2015/16 financial year received UGX 375 billion for policing elections while the police received UGX 204 billion. The EC which is the front runner in the entire election process; conducting the entire election, printing ballot papers, hiring polling officers among other things should logically be given more money to ensure the smooth running of the process. The police, whose role is limited to providing security should be allocated less and the money used for its other underfunded priorities like case backlogs, salaries improvement of the welfare of police, construction and renovation of police posts, areas that have been grossly neglected.
The police are one of the most important institutions for any democracy and this rides on the fact that planning for the institution is done well and the available funds used efficiently. Our police need to realize there is a problem, set its priorities straight if at all it is to realize its objectives. As of now, there is a lot that needs to be done.