Botswana Police Service (BPS) has joined a long list of government departments that have been found to be involved in the abuse and mismanagement of special funds (levies), which are entrusted under their custody.
BPS Commissioner Keabetswe Makgophe admitted before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday that they sometimes use funds from the Road Traffic Fines Fund to procure vehicles which are used for general duties by different police units. “Yes, we use the funds to procure even for other police divisions,” he admitted, adding that it is difficult to divide the duties of police officers into separate units as they are often deployed across different divisions, including traffic.
The Road Traffic Fines Fund was introduced in 2009 to help the traffic unit of Botswana Police to procure vehicles and equipment to help them to fight road traffic offences. In 2016/17 report the Auditor General identified numerous acts of diversion, abuse and failure to account across Special Funds. Under the Road Traffic Fines Fund, the Auditor General queried the truthfulness of an alleged expenditure amounting to P3.5 million on five Land Rovers to patrol the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve on traffic duty. “In this instance, it is questionable whether the five Land Rovers would be used on road-traffic-related duties in that area in view of the paucity of vehicular traffic.”
For the past 9 years the fund has cumulatively raked in about P342.8 million, which was credited to the Botswana Police Service. In 2017/18 financial year, the Traffic Fines Fund collected P95.6 million, the biggest since its inception.
The adage ‘cut your coat according to your size not mine’ could best the BPS in regards to obeying traffic rules among government departments.
Although one of their main mandates is to ensure that roads are safe and through their constant patrols they try to reduce car accidents, it seems the police are not practicing what they preach. Police Commsioner Makgophe was visibly at pains trying to explain how they are the leading government department in causing accidents in Botswana. Explaining the development before the PAC on Tuesday, Makgophe said the nature of the job of police officers is that they are the most highly mobile institution among all government departments, which makes them more likely to be involved in an accident. “Police officers are doing double duties, as a driver as well as attending to a crime scene. In most cases they have to drive at a high speed to attend to a situation,” he reasoned, without revealing the statistics.
Member of PAC Prince Maele, who was not convinced by Makgophe's explanation, put it to him that despite the reasons the fact of the matter is that cops cause a lot of accidents despite that they encourage people to drive safely. Makgophe, who was at pains to explain the situation, said they are currently training their officers on defensive driving to reduce road accidents.
Safe City Project
In November 2017 BPS Commissioner Makgophe and the Managing Director of Huawei Botswana Mr Ren Fujun signed a two year contract for the commencement of Safer City Project. According to Makgophe the project is necessary for the police to deliver effective policing to Batswana through the use of surveillance cameras. He said through this project Batswana will look forward to crime free streets and improved security in general.
Briefing the PAC, Makgophe said the project is going well and Gaborone will be ready by November 2018. The project will later be rolled out to the city of Francistown.
The first component of the project according to the Police Commissioner is about crime prevention and the second component, which will be done later, will include traffic offences.
Asked if the installation of the cameras will reduce the police patrols in the streets, Makgophe answered in negative but rather said with cameras in place there would not be any need to deploy lot of officers in the field for patrols. Cops will only be deployed to promptly respond to incidents and cases captured on the cameras. He said the cameras, installed under the safer city project, would be monitored 24 hours daily.
Just like their counterparts at Botswana Defence Force, BPS is decrying the paltry budget for training their officer s especially external training. Makgophe informed the PAC that their training budget is P6 million and that is very small leading to them failing to send anyone outside the country for further training.