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National Assembly

Police force, DRDM, SNYC budgets approved | 13 November 2019

Three portfolios which fall under the office of the Designated Minister, Macsuzy Mondon, yesterday appeared before the National Assembly to justify their budget for 2020.

These were the department of police, department of risk and disaster management (DRDM) and the Seychelles National Youth Council (SNYC).

First to appear was the department of police which was defending its R526,773,000 budget, and was represented by the Commissioner of Police Kishnan Labonte helped by Deputy Commissioner Romano Songor and director general for human resources and administration Angel Lebon.

In this allocation, R172.4 million will go towards governance management and administration, R173.2 million for visible policing, R91.6 million for response services, R37.6 million for detective services and R52.2 million for the Anti Narcotics Bureau (ANB).

Notably, only R2 million has been dedicated to cover the force’s expense costs for the presidential election in 2020 and R6.6 million has been apportioned for the construction of the new La Digue police station under the capital project.

Responding to LDS member for Anse Etoile Ahmed Afif, Commissioner Labonte explained that the police force’s wages and salaries have increased by R38 million, from R234 million in 2019 to R272 million in 2020, because of a change in the scheme of service made in July 2019 wherein the inducement allowances were substantially increased.

The scheme of service has been revised, in parts, to encourage more qualified and committed candidates to join the force.

The R38 million increase also makes provisions for the long service allowance as well as an increase for compensation.

Commissioner Labonte noted that he was nonetheless disappointed with the allocation for the department’s operation costs which has declined for 2020 and qualified the amount as “not enough”.

He observed that the police force’s capacity to deal with maritime crimes, particularly to apprehend drugs coming into the country, is extremely low and that the force also lacks a range of sophisticated equipment to detect drugs at border control.

Elaborating on this later on, Deputy Commissioner Songor who is responsible for the ANB said that some of the equipment needed include scanners – which they are already acquiring with the help of customs , GSM listening devices, telephone trackers, jammers and body surveillance cameras.

“I personally believe that this budget is not enough. Our operational costs are really, really high. We should not look at the police department like any other department because if we are unable to react, there may be a crisis in the country,” Commissioner Labonte expressed yesterday.

This later led to discussions on the force’s inability to purchase enough vehicles to fill its fleet and reduce its dependence on hired vehicles.

It was also revealed that the police force has recorded a total of 39 vehicle accidents and two write-offs.

Mrs Lebon explained that only R5.8 million has been attributed to the acquisition of vehicles in their 2020 budget, which is a fund made possible through an Indian grant.

She said that the police department is presently weighing two options; the first option is to purchase TATA Storme vehicles and the second option is to acquire a specialised vehicle and use the remaining money to purchase only 10 new smaller cars and six jeeps.

Given the source of the grant, all these vehicles will have to be acquired from Indian manufacturers.

“Until we can renew our fleet every year, and spares and consumables are easily available on the local market, we will not be out of this dilemma anytime soon,” she highlighted.

The principal secretary for finance, Damien Thésée, however said that the government has come up with a five-year R22 million replacement plan for police vehicles through the line of credit from India.

Nonetheless, PS Thésée expressed the ministry’s concerns over how the police’s vehicles are maintained and used, and stressed that any incidents or write-offs should be reported to the ministry of finance.

He also clarified that the ministry of finance has communicated to the police force that the equipment it has requested for will be funded through the security account at the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS).

The equipment requested by the police expects to amount to at least R12.4 million and these will be for body scanners, servers, body cameras, speed cameras, X-Ray imager, equipment to detect drugs and organic contraband, software, equipment for ANB’s maritime team as well as for training.

The National Assembly approved the full sum of R526.7 million for the police department.

Also approved in full was the budget for the department of risk and disaster management (DRDM) which stands at R9,862, 000. DRDM was represented by its principal secretary, Paul Labaleine.

Many of the concerns that were raised by the MNAs were related to the efficiency of the department in managing disasters and risks in the country.

Mr Afif, in particular, pointed out that much of its budget were allocated to policies and management compared to risk management and civil protection.

The department has apportioned more than 70% of its budget, R7.2 million, for policy and management while only R1.8 million has been given to risk reduction management and civil protection.

Meanwhile R836,000 is to be used for planning, intelligence, research, information and management.

PS Labaleine noted that the large amount of money under policy and management is due to the migration of staff to this heading from risk management.

He further noted that the contingency fund usually caters to any disasters and emergencies, although he later acknowledged that DRDM had hoped to gain extra funds for various scientific and technical works.

The Seychelles National Youth Council (SNYC) wrapped up the day with the National Assembly approving its budget of R28,198,000.

Debate on SNYC’s budget focused on the excessive rent which SNYC is now paying after it moved to the Sacos Tower and which has hiked its ‘other goods and services’ heading from R7.2 million in 2019 to R11.1 million in 2020.

The MNAs argued that this money could have been better used to fund SNYC programmes or provide social workers with a better scheme of service, and both sides of the table were in agreement that the government should re-negotiate the rent.

 

Elsie Pointe

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