To quell riots and keep public order in Uganda in the coming financial year, police will spend at least Shs 15.8bn on tear gas and other relevant riot equipment.
According to the 201415 Internal Affairs ministerial policy statement, Shs 14bn will be spent on procuring riot gear, shields, jackets, boots and other equipment necessary to put down riots and other unlawful assemblies. Another Shs 1.8bn will be used by police’s directorate of human resource management and development to meet the cost implications of public order management and riot control.
The huge expenditure has come under g parliamentary criticism. In its report on the policy statement, the House committee on Defence and Internal Affairs argues that the cost of public order management, both in terms of resources and time, has been increasing over time. The committee calls for less-costly policing and aocates for an inquest into the numerous demonstrations and the country’s politics.
“Over the last three fiscal years, police has been servicing a Shs 5.334bn per annum contractual obligation on public order management equipment…with the 2016 general elections approaching whilst there is no end in sight for public agitation, the cost of policing is even bound to rise further,” the committee notes in its report.
The police has had run-ins with opposition politicians since 2011 when former FDC President Kizza Besigye launched a civil defiance campaign against the establishment. In fact, the police has continued to deploy in most public spaces, such as the Constitution square, to block pro-opposition assemblies. Interviewed on Friday, the junior minister for Internal Affairs, James Baba, said the expenditure on public order management was justified.
“Those demonstrating have a right to do so but as police, it is our mandate to make sure that they [demonstrators] enjoy their constitutional right without infringing on the rights of others who are not part of the demonstration,” Baba said, adding that maintaining law and order was costly. “I agree that it’s expensive but that money is used to buy the equipment to regulate the demonstrations.”
Geoffrey Ekanya, the shadow Finance minister, told The Observer on Friday that while police had to maintain law and order, it must spend public resources sparingly.
“It is acceptable that police’s role is to keep law and order but my argument is that it has to be done through a cost-effective approach, not through a costly military approach. We are buying equipment that is used by the military to regulate civil demonstrations,” he said.
Ekanya said if community policing was explored as an alternative, it could help save funds to be used for other priorities. “This is not for only public order management but the entire police has become a conduit for stealing public resources,” he said.
The police’s budget has increased from Shs 303bn in 201314 to Shs 412bn this year. And it is projected to rise to Shs 455bn in 201516. Whereas the expenditure on policing is increasing, the Internal Affairs ministry claims it is still grappling with a funding gap.
“An increasing population comes with the increased demand for policing. Currently, the police strength stands at about 42,000, far below the ideal 70,000 and yet the challenges of public order management keep rising by the day,” the policy statement partly reads.
The statement notes that in the 201213 financial year, the police had an overall budget shortfall of Shs 90.819bn. In 201314, police’s realistic budget stood at Shs 595.665bn but only Shs 303. 124bn was allocated. Parliament continues to express its disapproval.
“The committee recommends the need to work within limited resources and adaptation to more cost-effective and yet efficient methods of policing such as community policing and soft power approaches to public order management that are less coercive and yet cost effective,” the committee report reads.
According to Baba, police has warmed up to community policing as an affordable alternative.
“Our core policy now is to emphasise community policing as it will help cut on the costs incurred,” he said.
In the policy statement, police says it has increased its investment in community policing and intelligence-led operations.
“This strategy has so far yielded positive results in forestalling public disorder, riots and prevention of crimes,” the statement says.
Highlights of police budget
Item Cost (Shs)
Salary and wages
Cleaning and sanitation
Fuel, oils and lubricants 26.973bn
Vehicles, equipment amp building maintenance 7.501bn
Classified expenditure 5.974bn
Travel inland amp abroad 4.631bn
Duty Free items 2bn
Stationery (printed and ordinary) 1.045bn
Contribution to intentional organs 0.968bn
Computer suppliesIT services 0.873bn
Source : The Observer