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Funding crisis cripples Police

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The funding crisis, which has hit government departments, has not spared security agencies which were thought to have been prioritised but are struggling to combat crime as they survive on borrowed fuel.

Several police officers from various stations confided in Malawi News that they were failing to execute their duties to combat crime because they have been grounded due to lack of funds since May this year.

This is happening at a time when the country, under the leadership of President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has been haunted by security lapse in recent times as evidenced by armed robbery and murder cases that have occurred recently.

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Health facilities too are operating in the doldrums and patients visit them without hope of getting well because drugs are a rare commodity due to funding challenges.

And Presidential Adviser on National Unity, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, was in Mzuzu on Wednesday and Thursday where he met the police, Mzuzu City Council, the business community and non-governmental organisations and asked the stakeholders to help the police in the fight against crime. Kaunda also met stakeholders in Lilongwe last week.

“Since May, we have not received funding. Vouchers for June, which were sent, have been sent back from Treasury without any funds. What do you expect your police to do in that situation? We have put up strategies to combat crime but we cannot implement them. There is insecurity and we cannot do anything about it without funding. Can we chase armed robbers who are driving a vehicle loaded with fuel when we have a quarter tank?” asked one officer from Zomba.

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Another officer from Karonga Police Station also said funding has not been made available since May, adding that they are forced to borrow fuel from filling stations.

“We have been borrowing fuel from filling stations and they are tired of us now. They are now becoming reluctant to lend us more. They fear that their business may collapse,” said the officer.

Asked how the situation affected police operations, the officer said: “We are struggling to carry out rapid response operations.”

Another officer at Mchinji Police Station said: “It’s like we are on holiday. We shall only work at our full capacity when funding comes. But security is compromised.”

Several other officers based in Mulanje, Blantyre, Rumphi and other districts echoed similar sentiments.

One fuel station proprietor in Mzuzu confirmed lending fuel to security agencies but said it was not proper for him go into details out of respect for his clients. He said the bills were high but he was hopeful that one day he would be paid.

Malawi Police Service Director of Finance, Innocent Botomani, admitted that funding was not channeled to the stations but attributed it to the upgrading of new payment system which he said is now decentralised from the central government to regional Treasury offices.

He said the police would continue to get fuel on credit basis so that operations do not stop. He called on companies that render services to the police to continue doing so on credit because payment would be made at all cost.

Said Botomani in an interview on Thursday: “Yes, we accept the challenge. Yes we will pay for the fuel that we are borrowing. We cannot stay idle. We have to serve the people. We are applying the 99th sense, so borrowing is part of the initiative. Let them continue borrowing until funding normalises but nobody should give lack of funds as an excuse to stop working. Companies should understand that they will get their money.”

However, Botomani justified the upgrading of the payment system. He said it was necessary because it would prevent Cashgate (plunder of public resources) issues.

“Our system is being upgraded. We are removing old data and feeding new servers with new information. The payment system is decentralised from the Central Government to regional Treasury offices which are now pay centres,” said Botomani.

Treasury spokesperson, Nations Msowoya, said yesterday: “That is a big issue. We need to come up with a proper answer. We are finding out. We will come back to you in the next 20 minutes.”

When called later he did not answer his phone.

However, Chancellor College political analyst, Blessings Chinsinga, said security issues ought not be compromised at any cost and he called on the Mutharika administration to tell Malawians how his government will solve not only security challenges but the overall economic crisis the country is embroiled in.

“Security cannot be solved in isolation but [in line with] the overall economic crisis. It is not about the DPP administration failing to deliver in [terms of] of security but the overall economic problem. Government should tell Malawians how they can solve the problem, otherwise every sector will collapse,” said Chinsinga.

But executive director for Justice Link and lawyer Justin Dzonzi said the DPP administration has found itself in a fix because of lack of donor support. He said the DPP was not to blame for the withdrawal of the donors but Peoples Party because of its infamous Cashgate issues.

But he said change of administration should be DPP’s task to win back donor confidence.

Dzonzi said the DPP government is in a situation to choose between two evils thus to fund essential services like hospitals or fund police.

“It is not an easy decision. But police is found in urban areas and most areas in Malawi are without police, about 80 percent. Would it make sense to fund police where 80 percent of Malawians are not benefiting or to fund essential services?” wondered Dzonzi.

Recently the Malawi Police have been involved in sporadic running battles with criminals carrying sophisticated weapons.

The police shot dead four criminals after exchanging fire for a series of times in the capital Lilongwe. The law enforcers were tipped of the ordeal by some people of a suspected plot for the thugs to steal at one filling station along the Mchinji Road.

Last week, parliamentarians complained about delays to allocate them fuel. Most hospitals are grounded with their ambulances stationary because there is no fuel.

It was reported that MPs’ fuel allocation for the month of June was slashed by half from K300, 000 to K150, 000. While government hospitals have also borne the full brunt with patients in some cases being advised to bring their own food and ambulances grounded because there is no fuel.

DPP spokesperson, Francis Kasaila, said last week that funding problems affected all government departments as the old financial year closed in June.

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