Kampala. Food suppliers to the Uganda Police Force have frozen their service over an unpaid debt of Shs28b for food items delivered to the Force.
More than 200 companies that supplied foodstuff to the police when its strength doubled during the 2011 election period and are still demanding more than Shs3 billion in arrears, have rejected a new order for fresh supplies to feed officers ahead of the elections.
The Shs3b for the 2011 food supplies shoot up to Shs28b as the suppliers continued with deliveries of maize flour (posho), beans and rice up to January last year, when they ran out of stock under the weight of the debt.
The traders, under their umbrella Police Suppliers Association, met in Kampala on Thursday and resolved not to supply the police fresh foodstuff until all the outstanding arrears are cleared.
The suppliers said they have been meeting the police authorities led by deputy Inspector General of Police Okoth Ochola since 2011 and in 2013, he promised to pay them but nothing has been forthcoming.
The supplying companies include Ndyomu General Merchandise, Ngolede Stores, Kasawo Distributors and Medsen Enterprises.
Mr Badru Kisitu, the chairman of the suppliers, told a press briefing on Thursday that police officers deployed across the country to secure the election might operate without food if the Force does not settle the debt.
“They have now put in requests for supplies of the increased number of officers that have been brought in to secure the election. They want us to supply stocks enough to last up to April but we have no money to stock supplies because of debts,” Mr Kisitu said.
In preparation for the forthcoming election, 3,500 police trainees have been called from training at the Masindi Police Training School Kabalye and will be deployed in the Kampala Metropolitan Police area.
With most of the suppliers operating on loans, Mr Kisitu indicated some of their colleagues had since fled into hiding as court bailiffs and money lenders hunted them down.
The current rate of food supplies is at Shs250,000 per 100kg bag of maize flour, Shs350,000 for beans and Shs400,000 for rice.
Police deputy spokesperson Polly Namaye admitted they have pending debts with food suppliers but said they will be cleared when the Force receives its quarterly money releases.
“We receive money on a quarterly basis and we have not received money for this quarter. As soon as we get the money, they shall be paid. We do not want this to be interpreted wrongly because we are in elections,” Ms Namaye said.