10 June 2014

Liberia: Police Budget Vs. Road to UNMIL Drawdown, GOL Investment Minimum

Monrovia — Well the Liberia National Police is not getting the US$40 Million it was expecting in the draft budget for FY: 2014/2015 instead, the government in the new draft budget has earmarked a little over US$20million for the overall operations of the Police including salaries and operations.

The government on the overall seems not to be investing heavily on security as sectors under the civilian component of the security pillar of the government, which falls directly under the Ministry of Justice, including the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, Drug Enforcement Agency, National Fire service and prisoner rehabilitation and other areas only get a little over US$45 Million.

The GoL highlighting the ministry of justice's achievement during the FY: 2013/2014 asserts that it constructed four security towers at the correction palace and completed eleven laws, which were enacted by the Legislature.

The government states that the ministry reviewed, redrafted in some cases and advised on a total of 152 contracts and also won a total of 144 cases out of 172 and lost 28. The government also states that the ministry operationalized the Gbarnga regional security hub, which has conducted fifty-six confidence patrols, responded to twenty-four security incidents, twelve convictions in 14 trials of rape cases.

For FY: 2014/2015, the ministry wants to fast track prosecution for tax offenders to increase the government's revenue generation. It also seeks to recruit and deploy twenty law school graduates in magisterial courts around Liberia to boost prosecutorial services. The ministry's priorities also include the construction of health facilities in six Liberian prisons, the renovation of prison facility at the National Palace on Correction and conduct trainings for 140 correction officers.

But with the expected United Nations Missions in Liberia (UNMIL) drawdown of its military component by 2015 the government has not spelled out funding to this huge initiative that will see the LNP taking over the civilian aspect of Liberia's security.

There is US$0.00 allotted for strengthening capacity of the LNP in the new draft budget even though there is US$5,000,000 for LNP camp maintenance and logistics. Employees' compensation alone amounts to US$11.7 Million use of goods and services amounts to over US$2.112Million, with fuel and lubricant making up US$1Million.

The issue of uniforms seems to be of prime concern to the authorities of the LNP as Police officers are seen all around the country in uniforms that are already fading. During a news conference recently, Police chief Col. Chris C. Massaquoi stressed the need for Police officers to be given new uniforms, but it seems that the government had it all worked out for the FY: 2014/2015 as there is nothing allotted for Uniforms.

But the budget still reflects the amount of US$400,000 that was allotted in the 2013/2014 Budget even though Police boss announced that there was nothing in the budget for uniforms.

"This time around, we decided to have two uniforms per officer. Two uniforms per officer with one set of accessories, if they don't want to give the car, we need to have two uniforms and accessories," said Col. Massaquoi.

"I continue to let the President know that the Police has not been provide uniform and say what do you mean by that and I said Madam President money government can put in the budget every year for uniform, by the time it is time for the people to graduate from the academy, we give it to them, so tactically, the government has not provided uniform for the Police in the last 6, 7 or 8 years."

Col. Massaquoi guaranteed officers that they would be properly attired after the new budget is passed because all was being done to secure funding for uniforms.

"One of the most important things again is the credentials, what do I mean by credentials, your identification, your badges, your headgear, your head badge; those things have to be in place and I can guarantee you, once we have the credentials undertaken, uniforms and everything about 50% of the problems, misconduct, corruption that we are experiencing now will be cut," he said.

"I can guarantee you, so it is a very sensitive thing, the credentials, the uniforms have to be in place, once it is in place the behavior of the Police will be cut down by 50% those are some of the things that we are working on."

The Police have come under fire for widespread public corruption and in the recent past, there have been swift dismissals by the Police authorities of a few officers who are caught in the act of soliciting bribes from drivers.

But the problem, according to sources who worked closely with the force during the recruitment exercise done by UNMIL and other partners, the process was flawed and a lot of bad apples infiltrated their way into the force therefore the level of negative press the force is getting but Massaquoi wants all that to change.

"The LNP under our watch is determined and will not relent in identifying and weeding out from our midst any and all undesirable elements within the Liberian National Police when identified, with the aim of drastically dealing with unethical behavior or practices," he said during a news conference recently.

But the question now is how can the government weed out corruption in the Police without the proper investment? 2015 will see a significant drawdown in UNMIL forces and the LNP will be left with other arms of the security sector to Police the state, but its current budget seems to be minimum to the task that lies ahead.

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