BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU
ARUA: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2021
Frank Muzoora, the former district police commander of Pakwach district has been sentenced to severe reprimand, meaning he is one mens rea and actus reus away from being dismissed from the police force.
Pontiano Agaba and Charles Ndabangutse both assistant superintendents of police and former O/C station and O/C Criminal Investigations Directorate respectively were fined sh200,000 each and Charles Kerifua, the Crime Intelligence officer was fined sh120,000.
Their crime stems from last year’s recruitment of special police constables (SPCs) to guard polling stations during the general elections.
A total of 162 SPCs were recruited in Pakwach and after toiling throughout the election period, the police headquarters on February 2, 2021 disbursed sh675m for their payment and to clear other costs.
Francis Otim, the commandant of the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) in Arua said five officers were assigned to effect the payment.
These were Muzoora, Agaba, Ndabangutse, Kerifua and Innocent Mafabi, the officer in charge of traffic.
Each constable was supposed to be paid sh375,000 but the crafty paymasters decided to deduct and steal sh5,000 from each SPC totaling to sh810,000.
A complaint was registered at the PSU and the five officers charged with corrupt practice contrary to Section 2 (a) of the Police Act.
Mafabi was eventually exonerated on grounds that he had excused himself to buy medicine for a sick colleague and therefore skipped the payment exercise.
The accused officers rushed to payback the stolen money under pressure but that did not stop the PSU from pressing ahead with the case.
To pave way for investigation police headquarters decided to scatter the officers away from Pakwach, leaving only Kerifua to stay at the station.
Muzoora was suspended and sent home pending the outcome of the prosecution, Agaba was posted to Buvuma in Kalangala Islands and Ndabangutse was transferred to the CCTV centre in Kampala.
On October 5, 2021, the officers were arraigned before the disciplinary court in Arua headed by Staff Officer, Gasper Obinguonzi. The other court members were Dr Charles Madrama, Patel Akais, the Regional Crime intelligence officer and Hudson Ochen, the court orderly.
The suspects all pleaded not guilty, placing the onus on prosecution to adduce evidence to prove their guilt.
Otim said they assembled documentary evidence including the payment vouchers, witness statements and then the witnesses themselves, leading to the guilty verdict.
The disciplinary court ordered that the officers be reinstated once they pay the fines and Muzoora is to be reinstated after the police legal team at the headquarters signs off the sentencing.
However the prosecution and sentencing of the officers is only a tip of a disciplinary cancer that is eroding the quality of the police service to the Ugandan citizens.
Records at the Arua PSU indicate that the office registers over 40 complaints against police officers annually and this is just from seven districts and the Arua city.
Rampant misconduct by the police was also a subject of hot debate when Assistant Inspector General of Police, Asan Kasingye, who is also the police political commissar visited West Nile recently.
“I have received the complaints from the public and from within the police force. There are issues of corruption and bribery, cases are not investigated properly and there are issues of poor attitude to work,” Kasingye said.
He said some of the complaints from police officers include claims that West Nile is a “dry area” for dumping people as others are deployed to “wet” area.
“You should know that while you are in West Nile, there are people deployed in Kidepo National park or in Karamoja policing armed rustlers,” he said in a pre-event media briefing.
Kasingye said the remedy to such issues is ideological orientation and the other is to hold the local police leaders accountable so that they provide leadership to lower rank personnel.