Authorities in the Ministry of Finance have tasked the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Martins Okoth Ochola and team to explain how they accumulated arrears currently standing at Shs163.9 billion.
The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, on Tuesday demanded to know how the police debt was allowed to go through the budget ceiling and vowed to hire a reputable international firm to audit police debts before releasing any money.
“Every arrear, before we pay, must be verified… but how did they [police] accumulate them? That’s a question. How did they accumulate all those arrears? Where were they hiding them? Mr Muhakanizi asked.
“We will have to verify those police arrears [before releasing any money]…. Take it [from me], I am going to hire [an] international firm like I have done for others to verify those police arrears.”
Sources close to police headquarters, however, told Daily Monitor that out of the Shs163b in question, at least Shs125b.9b was inherited from the tenure of former IGP, Gen Kale Kayihura. Gen Kayihura was sacked on March 4 last year and replaced with his deputy Okoth-Ochola.
Defence and internal affairs docket, however, has a total bill of unsettled domestic arrears owed to suppliers and service providers to a tune of Shs592b.
It is an offence under the Public Finance Management Act 2015 for accounting officers to commit government without funds.
In a May 29 petition to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, police suppliers under United Suppliers Umbrella Association Ltd, demanded Shs38b.
“It is shocking that even as we end this financial year, there is no provision [in the Shs817.5b police budget for 2019/20 FY] to settle our debts, which are uncleared for financial years 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18 and now 2018/19,” the police supplier’s chairman, Mr Ismail Katende’s letter, reads in part.
In March, a total of 299 companies that were supplying food to police staged a protest demanding payment of arrears. The suppliers have since threatened to suspend supplying maize flour and beans to police until government pays them.
On February 22, IGP Ochola had also petitioned Mr Kasaija requesting for supplementary funding and at the same time complaining about severe cash constraints to effectively carry out police operations due to inadequate funding.
“The situation has become so [dire] that police personnel deployed cannot be fed, vehicles to respond to crime reported cannot be fueled and a majority of police vehicles are grounded in the garage due to lack of funds to maintain them,” the IGP letter reads in part.
To purchase fuel and maintaining the police fleet of 1,524 vehicles, 5,830 motorcycles, 53 vessels and three helicopters, police needs Shs49.2b. Ministry of Finance officials, however, allocated only Shs29.7 billion.
Although it’s not clear whether Mr Ochola received any response from Mr Kasaija, when contacted on Tuesday, he explained that the main cause of the financial crisis has been underfunding of police’s annual budget over the past financial years.
Although Mr Muhakanizi promised to hire services of a major auditing firm to verify police arrears, police spokesman Fred Enanga told Daily Monitor on Tuesday that arrears of 2017 and 2018 have not been paid and claimed that “all domestic arrears were taken over by the Finance ministry”.
Without disclosing the details (date of the audit and the particulars of the report], Mr Enanga maintained: “They [Finance officials] carried out an audit verifying all claims from government institutions. The report was submitted to them.”