THERE’S a clear disconnect between what Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith is saying and what the Ministry of Finance said a few weeks ago in relation to Police Service funding.
“We are applying for things on credit,” Griffith told a Parliament budget committee on Thursday. “We have not received allocation for fiscal year 2018-2019, apart from salaries.”
In response to a Newsday story published on January 13, the Ministry of Finance assured a series of payments totalling $80 million was in the pipeline. “The ministry has so far released $20 million for equipment, materials, services, and supplies,” it said in a press release. “A further $20 million is scheduled to be released within the next two weeks and a balance of $40 million in February 2019.”
This is vastly different from what Griffith said on Thursday. Both sides must now work together to get to the bottom of things. We recommend an urgent meeting between Griffith and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert.
Whatever the true state of the books, clearly a mismatch is occurring. And this mismatch is doing no favours to either side. That’s not what we need at this point when the fight against crime remains a sensitive matter requiring a steady application of resources which have to be paid for, and when management of our economy needs to be focused on recovery.
It is notable the Police Service has its own heading in the annual budget. This means it does not deal with the intermediary of a line ministry. It is engaged directly with the Treasury and is in charge of how it spends its money. But what’s the use of having your own vote in the budget when you have no control over when the funds are allocated? All of this points to the need for reform. There needs to be discussion of what special arrangements can be put in place.
Griffith, however, should not in any way give the appearance of indirectly condoning accounting practices that have resulted in the service procuring goods and services “off the books” through credit arrangements.
While we understand his frustration over what he deems to be a lack of swiftness, as Police Commissioner his duty is to manage the service in a way that inspires confidence. An accounting of the “zero” expenditure figures and a review of the $500 million being paid to suspended officers would be good places to start.
While some of the financial obligations that now stand to be serviced may well pre-date Griffith, his job, which is definitely a tough one, must necessarily include fulfilling these financial obligations while also looking to the here and now.
At the end of the day, the Ministry of Finance must be allowed to exercise its powers to properly supervise and scrutinise the transfer of taxpayer funds. That role, however, should never unreasonably hinder an entity as crucial as the Police Service from performing its own equally important mandate. This requires co-operation.