Financial independence may finally be on the cards for an initial 40 out of 107 Karachi police stations, ending reliance on the headquarters for every pen and pencil used.
If the initiative goes through each police station will be given a yearly budget of between Rs1 million to Rs1.2 million to pay for what the force calls operational expenses. This could mean no more scrounging around for cash to pay for petrol to go on patrol or hitting motorcyclists for ‘kharchi’ to pay for the broken-down police van gathering dust at the back of the police station that starts to resemble a junkyard.
The reality right now is that many constables have to pay from their own pockets if they want to even buy stationery to file FIRs. It takes months for them to be reimbursed, which is why they don’t bother with the paperwork and accept bribes.
The man who had been quietly working on ending corruption in the department is Finance DIG Dost Ali Baloch. He understood that a long bureaucrat process to be reimbursed for running daily expenses was the root cause of the corruption.
Baloch almost has the air of a bureaucrat when he cautiously tells The Express Tribune, “Everything takes time. This will also take time to complete.” He hopes that it will grow and be implemented across the entire province next year. If it does, it will be the first time such a system would work since the police force was created.
The budget for 2011-2012 makes 40 police stations autonomous. They will get 40 new cost centres manned by drawing and dispersing officers (DDOs). In the next phase, all 475 police stations in Sindh, including 107 in Karachi, will be provided separate budgets by splitting the existing cost centres.
The post of a DDO is almost like an office accountant. The idea is for there to be a financial manager at the police station to cut through the layers of bureaucracy. Right now, if a police station wants money, it has to go to the accountants of their respective SSP or senior superintendant of police. The gripe is that these SSPs have been eating up the funding that never reaches the police stations – something that DIG Baloch was only too aware of.
“The ‘respected’ SSPs and their accountants have become millionaires by feeding off the funds of police stations, while the personnel are poor.” Baloch said. “Once this system is set up in all police stations, you’ll see these SSP roaming around with begging bowls.”
This is not the first time DIG Baloch has cut out the ‘middleman’. In another of his initiatives, reported in this newspaper, he decided to start giving policemen money to buy their own uniforms instead of allowing them to be cheated by the men managing the operation. They would show the department high quality cloth but give the policemen substandard uniforms.
Needless to say, the SSP accountants are irritated over the prospect of losing control of the purse strings. “Everything has its own method and it is better if that is followed,” said one accountant, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “If the SHOs get all this [money], then the state of corruption will worsen.” Nonetheless, Baloch believes that while these funds are not enough, it is a good start since police stations have not been receiving their due share so far.
District South SSP Naeem Sheikh called it an experimental exercise. “This has just started, let’s see how it proceeds. Anything positive is a good thing, whether it is the old or the new system.”
Saddar SHO Tassawar Ameer supported the idea. “We have started to get funds based on new schemes, but there are still some issues, such as hiring our own accountants,” he said. “It is good if these initiatives are implemented at the lower level because the SSPs’ accountants had to manage the budgets of all the police stations in their districts.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2012.