WE WELCOME Police Commissioner Gary Griffith’s audit of police officers’ overtime payments. Such an audit is long overdue and should be part of an overall plan to rehabilitate the human resource systems within the Police Service (TTPS).
To be clear, no one begrudges officers their entitlement to overtime pay. All workers have a right to be properly compensated according to their terms of employment, especially officers who go above the call of duty to protect and serve. However, it is not acceptable for people to make fraudulent claims. Nor should officers, aided and abetted it would seem by senior figures, be encouraged to abuse a system that is meant to ensure fair treatment.
“Overtime should be paid to officers who perform actual duties,” Griffith said on Wednesday. “By ordering this audit, I think I can cut expenditure by over $10 million a month and within a year those funds could be used to acquire all of the critical resources needed, from equipment to training to technology improvement and other assets.”
The extent of this problem is alarming. According to the 2017 Final Report of the Police Manpower Audit Committee, overtime expenditure for the TTPS for the period 2013/2014 to 2014/2015 amounted to $288.8 million. The committee, chaired by Prof Ramesh Deosaran, found that for 1,300 officers, commuted overtime reflected 53 per cent of their base salary. However, the full extent of the bobol may be impossible to estimate.
“The human resource system of the TTPS is in a dire condition regarding record collection,” the Deosaran committee also found. Therefore, while an audit is essential to get to the bottom of this practice and to identify perpetrators, it is clear that profound reforms need to be introduced to put systems in place to prevent abuses or to detect when those violations transpire.
Any funds that were improperly siphoned could have been put to better use within the service. In the first place, they could have been used to fund the pay of other officers who could have been recruited. There is also an issue of productivity underlying all of these developments. Do overtime officers work well? And why should overtime be necessary if there are adequate numbers of police officers?
According to the Deosaran report, the total number of police officers is “acceptable for Trinidad and Tobago at this time.” In fact, the ratio of police officers to population is on the high end when compared internationally. However, according to Deosaran, the main issue is the allocation and utilisation of officers in the most efficient and effective way.
Crooked cops fudging overtime figures is perhaps a sign that some have too much time on their hands.