National Assembly: Police budget approved, DRDM budget under scrutiny |11 March 2021
The National Assembly yesterday considered and approved the budget for the department of police, at a sum of R522,959,000, but decided after a lengthy debate to consider the budget of the department of risk and disaster management at a later date.
The budget represents an increase of 19 percent, or R83,409,794 as compared to the 2020 budget. Of the appropriation, R265,376,000 is appropriated to wages and salaries, R146,928,000 for goods and services, and R110,655,000 for non-financial assets.
The department, represented by Minister for Internal Affairs Errol Fonseka, deputy commissioner for policing and personal development Ted Barbé, deputy commissioner in charge of Anti-Narcotics Bureau (ANB) and specialised operations Romano Songor, and director general for the department Angele Lebon faced intensive deliberations from the assembly, with members focusing on aspects such as discipline for members of the force, proper management of funds and the standard of service offered to the public.
Minister Fonseka in introducing the budget for approval addressed the challenges within the force, and while he acknowledged lacks in resources and equipment, attributed the challenges mainly to the mindset of officials within the force.
“When I look at this budget, what I want to introduce in our next budget, is a line, definitively for training. You will see a lot of planned training on this budget, which are really mostly individual trainings, but I think we need to look into collective training, team-building, coordination training where you have different people working on different parts at the same time, the machine that is producing the results is well oiled,” he said, asserting the importance of training and development towards a more efficient force.
Honourable Conrad Gabriel, elected United Seychelles member for Pointe Larue, questioned the panel as to how it intends to deter bad practices and the lack of discipline and coordination within the force. He remarked that the Commissioner of Police Krishnan Labonte has been absent from the public eye for a while, going further to ask how law and order can be restored in the country, and how MNAs can contribute towards such efforts.
With regards to an increase in the governance, management and administration heading for which the appropriation has increased significantly from R79,844,000 to R167,515,000, Mrs Lebon explained that the allocation is to cover the running and administrative costs for the new police headquarters, for which the construction is being financed by a grant from the Government of India, rewiring works on the Central Police Station upon the advice of the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC), as well as a construction project on La Digue. The police headquarters will serve to unify all the administrative functions of the police, and will also house crucial facilities including a space for the storage of exhibits, a police library and temporary holding facilities.
Following numerous queries about the appropriation for transportation and car hires, most specifically under the visible policing heading, whereby the primary objective is to renew the fleet of vehicles on an annual basis to ensure that there is a constant fleet that is able to respond to the needs of the community, DG Lebon noted 10 buses, 32 cars, 42 jeeps, 1 lorry and 14 pick-ups most of which are old, as well as nine motorcycles in the force’s fleet. Some vehicles owned by the force are also under reparation. Furthermore, the department is renting 22 cars from car hire operators, eight of which are assigned for special Covid-19 patrols and criminal investigations, while 13 are attached to different police stations.
As per the Appropriations Bill, 2021, 14 additional vehicles are to be acquired from the local market this year, in order to minimise hired vehicles and reduce the cost of maintenance by allowing vehicles to have mileage breaks.
“With regards to car hires, it has been two years that we have been allocated some funds for cars. Considering our lack, management conducted an assessment and purchased different vehicles to help us discharge our functions, especially in relation to the movement of officers,” said Mrs Lebon.
“This year, under our budget for regular police, we have R2.8 million, and then we had some money allocated for the car hire component. Bear in mind that the police cannot do without car hire for some years. For instance now with the Covid-19 pandemic, we need vehicles for special patrols. We cannot remove our vehicles which are attached to the police stations as we still need to serve the communities […]. So this year, the allocation would not have been sufficient, so we moved early. I took a component of the car hire component in the budget, and added it to that assigned for the acquisition of cars, and we moved early through procurement, through car dealers and we have already acquired our vehicles for this budget. We have already signed the contract,” Mrs Lebon stated, noting that the first batch of vehicles are expected to arrive this week, and work started for branding, installation of GPS equipment and the recording of the vehicles in asset management prior to being released to police stations.
With the acquisition of its own fleet, the force expects to by this month be able to return at least 10 of the hired vehicles, although it still intends to keep at least two on a monthly basis.
Honourable Sandy Arrisol sought a guarantee from DC Songor that ANB can and will deliver on its mandate to combat the drug issue in the country. The agency has been allocated R64,274,000, which is over R10,000,000 above that of the 2020 budget.
DC Songor in response said there is ongoing work to step up the war against drugs, also going further to note reforms within the agency, which are to be communicated to the public in the coming weeks. DC Songor also pointed out that ANB has, since the beginning of the year been more proactive by being more transparent with the public.
Considering the absence of forensic laboratory facilities locally, DC Songor informed the assembly that the majority of samples are sent to either one of two international forensic families with which the force collaborates, with 85 percent of cases sent to Mauritius for analysis. The budget component, set at R340,000 provides for the transportation of exhibits overseas for examination.
“Now that we have our budget, we have some serious work, but at the same time, there are some components that we need to add concurrently. Progression in our work will materialise eventually but for the time being as we are working to sort out the different parts, it will start off slowly, but I think towards the middle and end of the year, we will have gained traction to resolve some of our issues,” Minister Fonseka said in concluding.
The second appropriation put before the assembly for approval was that of the department of risk and disaster management (DRDM), represented by principal secretary Paul Labaleine and assistant administrative officer Maggie Dugasse. The entity, with a relatively smaller budget than other public service entities under the portfolio proposed a budget of R9,843,000.
The department is governed by the Disaster Risk Management Act 2014, and was established to be responsible for disaster risk reduction, management and civil protection in relation to natural, biological, technological, societal hazards, environmental and industrial emergencies.
Despite the smaller budget, the assembly deliberated lengthily about how the funds are to be used and the roles and functions of the department. The assembly is to consider the budget in a future session.