FOR THE second time in the space of six months we state the importance of the Police Service having a healthy cash flow in order to meet operational needs, and call on both Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and Finance Minister Colm Imbert to permanently resolve this matter. Whatever the outcome of deliberations and whatever facts are unearthed and marshalled in service of both sides of the coin, this affair must not become routine.
It’s beginning to feel like we are watching a mini-series on Netflix or a soap opera or the latest installation of a movie franchise. The players are the same, the setting is the same. But by this point we are fed up of the story line.
A few months ago in this space we said: “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.”
Happily, that meeting did occur but the details were scant. The country was left to assume the matter had been resolved and there would be no repeat. But it would seem a sequel was in the works.
On the last occasion Griffith’s disclosure that the Police Service owed contractors to the tune of millions emerged when he appeared before a parliamentary committee. His evidence differed substantially from public statements from the Finance Ministry suggesting a series of payments totalling $80 million had been in the pipeline.
This time around, Griffith has taken to media interviews to say the police owes $100 million to suppliers.
“I have been liaising directly with the Ministry of Finance on this matter and they have promised to rectify the situation,” Griffith said. “It is accurate to say the TTPS is in debt of over $100 million owing to many suppliers. Barring salaries we have not been given funds since March to offset goods and services.”
Once again, we observe the allocation of a separate budget head to the Police Service would seem to have been designed to prevent a situation like this. However, the Ministry of Finance has clear rules and procedures when it comes to the disbursal of funds.
Such procedures are undoubtedly meant to function as a basic check to protect taxpayers. Yet both the police and the ministry are harmed if the public is left with the impression of a Police Service struggling to pay. Have operational and anti-crime initiatives been affected?
Given the timing of this right before the budget, the minister may not be available to meet. However, the October presentation will be an opportunity for the ministry to set out a clear policy position and to explain what has taken place and what measures will be implemented to ensure we don’t all end up watching reruns in a few months’ time.