Po­lice Bud­get Pri­or­i­ties Mis­placed

By: Winnie Watera

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.