Friday, April 3, 2020

Police Service faces severe manpower shortage following drivers’ licence scam

The perpetually under-staffed Botswana Police Service (BPS) could find that situation getting even worse following discovery that hundreds of its officers bribed a fellow officer to obtain drivers’ licences.

At the centre of the saga is a driving instructor at the Police Training College in Otse who operated a side business selling drivers’ licences to both police learner drivers and civilians. He is said to have charged P4500 per client. The Serious Crime Squad (which is collocated with CID South at a roadside office in Extension 4, Gaborone) has been calling in and interrogating police suspects. One is a police officer at the Mogoditshane Police Station who spilled the beans when she was caught with a mysteriously-obtained licence. Her colleagues in the Traffic Department discovered that she had been driving without a licence and rather than charge her as they rightly should have, decided to give her a collegial warning. A week later, she had a licence and on being interrogated about how she had acquired it within that short period of time, “panicked” and spilled the beans. Subsequent investigations revealed that many more officers of varying ranks had also been issued licences fraudulently by this training instructor. The figures of those involved differ but would seem to be in the 250 to 600 range.

Both the instructor and the Mogoditshane officer have been suspended and a BPS source says that similar fate certainly awaits all other suspects. Botswana has long faced manpower shortage – which was the reason BPS introduced special constables and cluster policing. The latter programmes have not alleviated the problem. Just last month, Kgosi Oganne Polson of Matshelagabedi lamented shortage of police officers in the village during a kgotla meeting addressed by the Tati East Member of Parliament, Dr. Douglas Letsholathebe. Polson said that the shortage has led to escalation of crime. Many more leaders across the country can say the same thing.

The instructor and the Mogoditshane officer were suspended in terms of the Police Act which prescribes that “when any police officer is accused of a criminal or disciplinary offence against this Actor any other criminal offence under any enactment, the appointing authority may suspend such officer from duty for a period not exceeding three months pending the institution and determination of proceedings against such officer.” The appointing authority is the Commissioner of Police and a BPS source that as a matter of both policy and practice, similar action will have to be taken with regard to every other officer suspect in the matter. The source adds that while it may not appear so, the Police Service is actually facing a “crisis” because there is no way it can afford to suspend as many officers as are said to be involved and continue to function normally.

According to the police grapevine, the chief suspect has told confidants that he plans to resign from the Service. Whatever he does, what happened is economic crime and down the road, an encounter with the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime is certain.

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