Police spend billions on arms, surveillance as welfare drops

Men sit outside a dilapidated housing block in Naguru Barracks in Kampala in 2013. PHOTO/STEPHEN OTAGE. 

What you need to know:

  • The funds, Shs53.24b, allocated for feeding of the personnel can only last them for four months of the financial year.
  • The funds, Shs53.24b, allocated for feeding of the personnel can only last them for four months of the financial year.

The Shs916b police budget for this financial year devotes Shs172.6b for surveillance and acquisition of firepower to deal with civil disobedience, but spares only Shs94.4b for officers’ welfare, with only 18 of every 100 officers able to get accommodation, leaving a housing gap of 49,422 units, writes Andrew Bagala.

Officers and their families at Nsambya Police Barracks, the country’s biggest, ended last financial year in pain. They spent the last two months of the financial year in a blackout.

But in the new financial year, the barracks’ power was switched back on after the Force paid the bills.

Even then, the officers say their estate administrators still ration the power and they can barely use it for 12 hours consistently.

Similarly, officers at Naguru Police Barracks, the second biggest police accommodation facility, face the same challenges.

The officers’ tap water supply was rationed for the better part of that period.

Although power and water were switched on again after July 1, the relief will be short-lived.

The police’s Shs916b budget for the 2021/2022 financial year, provides only Shs16.24b for power and Shs11.09b for water bills.

It would require an additional Shs86b to sort out the utility bills annually, meaning the allocated funds can sustain the utilities for only four months in a year. To the contrary, the police budget proposals prioritise surveillance and acquisition of firepower to deal with civil disobedience. 

Police priorities

Deplorably, the police’s performance targets to improve the welfare of their officers is at an embarrassing Shs94.4b, representing a paltry 10 per cent of the Force’s total budget, while retooling of the officers will take Shs172.6b, the biggest chunk of the budget.

A police director, who sits on the police policy advisory committee, said retooling of the Force is wide and involves buying of equipment, ideological orientation of officers and sharpening their leadership and management skills.

The total budget for retooling officers and acquiring new equipment is bigger than the Shs169b to be spent on urban crime management, Criminal Investigations Directorate, and police welfare combined.

But in the same budget, there is Shs150b for human resource management and development, which is the second biggest expenditure after retooling the police in this financial year.

Purchase of specialised machinery and equipment is going to cost police Shs123b this year.

The police budget indicates this will cater for buying of armoured vehicles, fire tenders, telecommunication interception equipment such as jammers of 4G and 5G systems, among others.

Telecommunication equipment, including surveillance body cameras, data monitoring systems and others, will cost the police more than Shs30b.

Police use a water canon and an armoured vehicle to block National Unity Platform president Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, from accessing Kayunga Town on December 1, 2020. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA. 

Financing Anti-Stock Theft Unit

The Karamoja Sub-region, where President Museveni said cattle raids and insecurity were re-emerging, will take more than Shs43b for the police’s Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) to secure the sub-region.

This Shs43b annual budget for ASTU is nearly equal to Sh48.9b combined allocation for the Criminal Investigations Directorate, the Directorate of Forensic Service and Canine Unit combined in the same period.

The police will buy 15 armoured vehicles worth Shs10.5b to carry out patrols in areas of Chepkunya, Kolir, Katakwi, Abim, Pader, Kitgum, Lamwo, Karenga, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Napak, Nabilatuk, Nakapiripirit and Amudat.

Each armoured vehicle will be bought at Shs700m, according to the documents.

With police funding priorities absorbed into acquisition of firepower, the police officers will continue living a dog’s life.

“The Uganda Police Force faces major challenges stemming from funding shortages to some of the critical operational requirements and capital development projects that have effect on the welfare of personnel, maintenance of operating equipment, as well as general posture of the institution to undertake prevailing service demands,” the Internal Affairs ministerial policy for  this financial year, states.

Most of the police funds is spent on recurrent budget, especially on payment of wages and supplies, to the tune of Shs650b.

Capital development funds, which is meant to be invested in welfare, infrastructure and acquisition of equipment, is only Shs240b.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga says they are cognisant of the stress on the National Budget due to the coronavirus disruption to the economy and police too could not get the funding they needed.

Mr Enanga said they are planning to reduce utility bills by installing solar systems and also drill boreholes in police barracks and administration offices.

The police budget has been growing from Shs40b in 2006 to Shs1 trillion in just 15 years.

Over the years, government officials have used the dire welfare of police officers and general policing as a pitch for more funding.

Poor accommodation

The officers’ accommodation has deteriorated from 21 per cent to 18 per cent, with only 18 of every 100 officers able to get accommodation, bringing the housing gap to 49,422 units.

The police recruited 10,000 constables, which led to increase of the Force’s strength to 54,000 personnel.

“This has forced many officers to rent outside the barracks, making mobilisation very difficult,” the statement prepared by the police’s Undersecretary, Mr Aggrey Wunyi, reads in part.

“Police requests the government to have a deliberate affirmative intervention to solve this acute accommodation problem through budget support.”

Officers at and below the rank of Inspector of Police are supposed to stay in the barracks, but the situation is so dire that some are allowed to rent out or build their own shacks on police land.

Senior officers at the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police were chased from the barracks and promised allowances in return. Senior officers don’t receive housing allowances.

Since 2016, the police have been riding on the Naguru Housing project where they promised to create 1,020 housing units.

Police documents indicate that they need Shs99b to complete the project yet they were only given Shs21b. If the funding pace remains at the level, it would take another five years to complete the housing project.

However, at a cost of Shs75.6m each, the police say they want to build a two-roomed houses that have a bedroom, sitting room, a kitchen and a store.

Building experts say the police cost of such a small house is nearly twice the market price of similar structure with a land title, yet the construction will be done on police land and by the police engineering department.

The total budget allocated to buildings and administration infrastructure this financial year is just Shs68b.

Mr Enanga says they are aware of the accommodation challenges, but they are trying to establish decent houses for their staff amid limited funds. 

“The new police stations we have constructed have decent accommodation. At least at each new station in the countryside, we have made sure there is accommodation,” Mr Enanga says.

However, even with those efforts, the demand for housing units is surpassing the supply.

Mr Enanga says they will get help from the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) project to construct accommodation for their officers.

“JLOS is working to ensure we get good accommodation. You should understand that the demand for police is very high. It is putting pressure on us. In areas where we don’t have accommodation, we are going to rent for our officers,” he says.

He also says they are in discussion with a private firm he does not name to construct for them houses.

But the police budget doesn’t reflect such plans or show allocation of funds from local and external support for the housing projects for this financial year.

Makindye East MP Derrick Nyeko, who also represents Nsambya Barracks, says police officers raised welfare issues to him, although the government has given him a deaf ear to his petition to improve the police welfare.

“We aren’t calling for the increase of their budget because we know they have enough money. A lot of the money is put into ‘classified’ and buying tear gas yet the officers have no water, power and food,” he says.

He says corruption tendencies in the situation police officers are living is inevitable.

Feeding

This financial year, like it was in the previous one, feeding of the police personnel will be a challenge.

The funds, Shs53.24b, allocated for feeding of the personnel can only last them for four months of the financial year. The police need at least Shs188b to feed only its officers in operation.

“Shs10,000 is required to feed a police officer deployed for three meals daily,” the police document reads in part.

It is estimated that each day, a police officer consumes 1kg of posho at Shs3,100, ½kg of beans at Shs2,170, mineral water at Shs1,500, 50gms of sugar at Shs250, condiments of Shs1,770 and fruit at a cost of Shs1,210.

The police also ceased its long tradition of feeding officers at work and in barracks except the personnel in active operations like those dispersing rioters or carrying out anti-stock theft campaigns.

Police Budget over the years

Year                               Amount

2021/2022                   Shs916b

2020/2021                   Shs986b

2019/2020                   Shs930b

2018/2019                   Shs733b

2017/2018                   Shs665b

Breakdown of 2021/2022 police budget

Item                                                                             Amount

Information and communication technology  Shs14b

Research, planning & development                  Shs7.3b

Human resource management and development Shs150.3b

Retooling (training, surveillance tools)                        Shs172.6b

Finance and support services                            Shs46.5b

Internal audit                                                    Shs0.9b

Police operations                                            Shs29.8b

Traffic regulation and road safety            Shs5b

Foot and motorised patrols                            Shs56.3b

Urban crime management                           Shs27.4b

Emergency and rescue services           Shs45.8b

National projects policing                          Shs13.9b

Human rights and legal services             Shs4.5b

Management   Shs15.2b

Assistance (government assistance)       Shs72b

Welfare                                                         Shs94.4b

Counter terrorism                                       Shs18.1b

Crime investigations, forensics and canine services Shs48.9b

International police and cross border relations.          Shs8.2b

Anti-Stock Theft                                       Shs43.2b

Crime Intelligence                                    Shs20b

Community policing                                Shs20.5b

Total                                                            Shs916b

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