Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Tough times end water freeloading by police officers

The party has ended for police officers who have been freeloading on government’s largesse for years.

A certain class of Botswana Police Service officers enjoy generous utility subsidies from the government. For water supply, officers from the rank of Constable to Inspector get a P100 per month subsidy. The arrangement is such that officers should use water amounting to that much via an account opened with WUC under the office of the Commissioner, which makes direct payment to the Corporation. What looks like a neat arrangement is also one that is very easy to game and has been gamed for way too long by officers. For too long, some officers have been consuming above the subsidy ceiling and passing on the excess expenditure to the office of the Commissioner, which then paid WUC. With COVID-19 having ravaged the economy and prompting all manner of cost-cutting, it has become unsustainable to support this freeloading.

“Please be informed that effective April 1, 2021, all officers, including junior officers, are to connect water individually using their names and disconnect from Botswana Police bulk meters,” reads a sample letter from the North Central Divisional Commander that outlines policy that will be applied across the Service. “At the moment, our office is experiencing high water consumption mostly by officers incorporated in the Commissioner of Police bulk meter bills and this alone accounts to poor control measures by management.”

This particular letter directs the Officer Commanding to liaise with WUC “to facilitate the separation of water meters in your districts.” The same direction would have been given to officers of the same rank nationally.

Apparently, there was similar mishap with the power subsidy, which mishap was arrested when a decision was taken to include the subsidy amount (P200) in the monthly salaries of the officers in question – Constable to Inspector – in order that they could buy the power for themselves. Officers from the rank of Assistant Superintendent up don’t get utility subsidies and have to buy utilities for themselves directly from suppliers.

COVID-19 has forced the government to take extraordinary measures to contain expenditure. Last year, Gaborone City Council electricians went through a phase when they were unable to attend to defective streetlights because such lights are typically identified at night. However, working at night would have attracted overtime pay that the Council said it couldn’t afford.

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