Police must get lasting solution to solve power disconnections

Sunday September 8 2019

Victoria Nyeko

Victoria Nyeko  

By Victoria Nyeko

On Tuesday, Daily Monitor reported that Nsambya Police Barracks in Kampala was without electricity. It seems Nsambya Police Barracks has been without electricity for the last two months.
According to Gen Jeje Odongo, the minister of Internal Affairs, government does not have the money to maintain electricity supply at barracks. The explanation given is that the police budget is not adequate to cover electricity bills.
Apparently Shs1.46 billion is required as payment every three months to ensure electricity supply for the barracks and yet the approved quarterly budget for all utilities, including water, in the barracks is Shs640 million.
Additional information was availed by the minster that police needs at least Shs2 billion per quarter to cater for electricity bills in all barracks across the country.
Therefore, Gen Jeje Odongo said, “Due to this financial constraint, there is no way we can avoid power blackout in Nsambya Barracks.”
The electricity blackout at Nsambya seems to be just the tip of the iceberg of challenges facing the Uganda Police Force.
Less than two months ago, it was reported in the media that many police barracks in the Kampala area were experiencing difficulties with not only electricity blackouts, but water shortages as well.
The unfortunate situation that Uganda policemen, women and their families find themselves in the barracks could easily have been avoided with better budget planning, more accountability and use of technology improvements in the form of the prepaid Yaka metres.
Three months ago, the Uganda Police Force management appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where they failed to explain and account for more than Shs17.1 billion from the 2017/2018 budget.
When PAC probed the police management further, it was also unearthed that more than Shs102 billion was spent in excess by the Force on water and electricity bills.
The conclusion PAC arrived at with the issue of financial discrepancies in police suggested that even the “consumption on credit” for electricity and water could not explain the anomalies in the police budget.
It seems there are some individuals, a minority in the Uganda Police Force, who are taking advantage of certain loopholes by virtue of them being in certain powerful and decision making positions and secretly benefiting financially at the expense of the police officers and their families.
The issue of failure to manage water and electricity bills by police is not new and yet the Force does not seem to have taken any interest in making an effort to better manage these challenges.
In February 2017, service providers also threatened other government institutions such as the UPDF, Mulago hospital and Uganda Prisons Service, with disconnection for failure to pay bills.
According to the Umeme website, “Yaka is prepaid electricity, allowing you to conveniently manage and control your usage. It works much like buying airtime for your mobile phone, when the units are used up, you buy more to continue using the service.”
In the last 12 months, Mulago hospital implemented the prepaid electricity meters in order to avoid accumulating bills while maintaining electricity supply.
It reminds to be seen what direction the Uganda Police Force will take going forward.