What you need to know:
- Police sources say traffic officers tampered with the Express Penalty Scheme ticketing system to steal money generated from fines on motorists.
Motorists who may have bribed their way out of paying traffic fines will now pay twice for the same offence after an internal police inquiry revealed that Shs5 billion was stolen by traffic officers who tinkered with the penalty payment system.
The inquiry was instituted on the orders of high level management, and it has since been recommended that all penalties which were illegally wiped off the system by the crooked officers be reinstated.
The Monitor has learnt from police sources that the racket involving several personnel revolved around tampering with the Express Penalty Scheme (EPS) ticketing system.
Corrupt officers in both the traffic directorate and directorate of ICT reportedly participated in the theft, which went on over two years, by deleting EPS tickets from the police system.
It is alleged that the officers were given super access rights to manage EPS accounts countrywide and were soliciting money from offending motorists; mainly taxi and bus drivers in order to delete their traffic tickets.
Yesterday, acting Director for Traffic and Road Safety in police, Senior Commissioner of Police Lawrence Nuwabiine, confirmed the investigation into the theft.
“Through community policing, we were able to get information that some of our police officers interfere with the receipts issued by the Police EPS machine… I informed the Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth-Ochola and he gave me a go ahead to investigate the matter,” he said.
“The investigations [revealed] that some drivers do not use the formal way of paying the EPS tickets given to them of paying through the bank or mobile money, but rather they were paying to an individual,” SCP Nuwabiine explained.
The EPS was introduced under Section 165 of the Traffic and Road Safety Act, 1998, to manage minor traffic offences by levying express on-the-spot penalties in a bid to decongest courts.
Police launched the automation of EPS in 2019 with the then Director of Traffic Police, Dr Stephen Kasiima, touting it as a measure which would help catch drivers who had been dodging payment of traffic fines.
Any driver caught breaking traffic laws and is issued a ticket is supposed to pay the fine into a Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) account in a designated bank.
The system is then supposed to capture and record payment on both URA and police registries.
The EPS fraud, according to sources, was committed with the crooked traffic police personnel tinkering with evidence of such transactions -- right from the point of ticket issuance -- from the police side of the electronic record.
Unknown to the corrupt lot, however, the URA servers would still retain a record, including amounts reflecting pending payment – and this may have probably raised the red flag.
A credible source close to the ongoing investigation told Daily Monitor on Tuesday, May 9 that in April 2023, the traffic leadership received an anonymous whistle-blower message notifying them about possible ongoing and widespread fraud on their EPS facility.
The source said that the Traffic directorate quickly alerted police’s Directorate of Crime Intelligence and the office of the Inspector General of Police.
Senior police management is reported to have swung into action, promptly putting together an investigating team.
External auditors; senior traffic police officers; officers from the directorates of ICT and crime Intelligence, and officers from the Professional Standards Unit were part of the team.
Their preliminary findings revealed that through their suspected fraudulent activities, up to Shs5 billion was stolen by shady traffic police officers in just two years.
Investigators found out, rather helpfully, that a record of the suspect tickets had not been completely erased from the police computer servers because the system is “multilayered”.
They were also able to establish that the fraud was orchestrated when the officers used one Payment Registration Number provided by URA to ‘clear’ multiple offenders and then taking the money for themselves.
Life style audits
Parallel to this inquiry, the investigating team also quietly carried out lifestyle audits from which it was ascertained that some of the suspect officers were living a life of luxury quite beyond their means given their known salaries.
Some of the suspect traffic police personnel clearly looked the part of a well-off person, proudly driving around in expensive vehicles.
It was also discovered that a number of them had unusually spent up to seven years in the same office – suggesting possible collusion to ensure cohesion of the racket.
The investigating committee subsequently recommended that all officers suspected to be a party to this fraud be replaced immediately as investigations continue.
They also instructed that the ICT administrative systems to reverse all fraudulently cleared tickets. A legal desk has been set up to handle anticipated complaints from members of the public which are likely to arise out of reversed tickets.
Crime Intelligence was also detailed to vet all new officers from the ICT directorate with a traffic background who were assigned the job of recovering EPS money from motorists.
The revelations come amid transfer of police officers.
The Force on May 4, communicated a raft of staff movements.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Faridah Nampiima, until recently spokesperson for Traffic police, was recalled and referred to human resource administration at police headquarters.
ASP Nampiima had been the head of the EPS car tracking unit.
Mr Steven Sande from ICT was announced as her replacement on attachment as Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of the EPS tracking unit.
Superintendent of Police Clare Asansire from ICT, but who was attached to traffic directorate, was relieved of her duties and ordered to report to human resource department at police headquarters.
Superintendent of Police Sylvia Auma from traffic directorate was also ordered back to police headquarters for redeployment.
Two of the officers had reportedly tried to refuse to go quietly.
Speaking at the traffic directorate headquarters in Nateete, just outside Kampala capital city, SCP Nuwabiine told Daily Monitor that Asansire and Nampiima tried, though unsuccessfully, to resist the transfer orders.
“The police message for transferring them came on May 4 but they had refused to hand-over to the new officers. I charged them with disobedience of lawful orders and sent their files to Human Resource administration,” he said yesterday afternoon.
The traffic chief said that in the midst of the stand-off, and as they contemplated breaking into the offices, police headquarters sent a team to witness the hand-over whether Nampiima and Asansire were present or not.
Both officers reportedly heard about this turn in events and hurried to present themselves at Nateete in time for the hand-over.
Other staff movements communicated on in the May 4 police message to all commanders included:
1. Assistant Superintendent of Police Christine Achora from ICT to Aswa region on attachment as regional EPS tracking unit officer.
2. Assistant Superintendent of Police Elia Kamugisha from ICT to Kampala Metropolitan as an EPS tracking unit officer.
3. Assistant Superintendent of Police Hadi Seiko from ICT to Kira region as regional EPS tracking unit officer.
4. Assistant Superintendent of Police from ICT to Greater Masaka as regional EPS tracking unit officer.
5. Assistant Superintendent of Police Nyeko Kilama from ICT to Elgon as regional EPS tracking unit officer.
6. Assistant Superintendent of Police Savasio Mutungye from ICT to Rwizi as regional EPS tracking unit officer.
7. SCP Nuwabiine also said that once the hand-over is complete, the directorate will launch an operation to crack-down on all EPS defaulters countrywide.