Thursday January 16 2014

Did we get paid for police services?

By Editorial

Someone at the Bank of Uganda should tell the country exactly how much was stuffed into the national coffers as a happy windfall from Uganda’s recent charitable security work in the region.

Mr Museveni made a rather unusual revelation two days ago when addressing what must have been a bemused audience of regional police chiefs. He let on that Uganda’s police forces had some of their equipment hired out to an unnamed country (supposedly neighbouring) to help contain feared elections-related violence.

The hiring-out of security services by Uganda is old hat. We are already doing it in Somalia where the UN is, by some accounts, deemed to be paying us for the use of certain heavy military ordnance which our boys and girls deployed under the Amisom flag carried along. What remains unclear is how this money is being accounted for.

A year or so ago, Ministry of Defence officials told Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee a long tale about how they receive the payments for the Amisom project, and where it is banked. Some committee members were not entirely happy with the accountabilities.

Regardless, it should be safe to assume such payments can be categorised as part of our informal export earnings. The informal cross border trade survey report done for Bank of Uganda/Uganda Bureau of Statistics in 2012 documents estimates of more than $450 million earned by Uganda from informal exports. This is a respectable figure which accounted for 16 per cent of the country’s total exports, according to the report.
How much of this forex can be attributed to receipts due from the hiring out of our police gear, if at all?

If we were paid, was the payment reflected in entries to the Consolidated Account or anywhere else? It would be enlightening if the Office of the President shed some light on the matter. A police spokesperson, not unexpectedly, was mortified when approached; declining to expound on the matter when asked for comment.

More intriguing, though, was the run-around we were given at the Finance ministry. An official, in effect, eventually said it may even come down to: “I scratch your back, you scratch my back’ with no actual receipts (cash) changing hands. Countries apparently do this sort of thing from time to time – for ‘strategic reasons’.