The Uganda Police Force is planning to start watermarking bond papers issued at stations across the country, with an inscription; ‘police bond is free.’
The watermarking is a new attempt at fighting corruption and extortion among investigating officers. The decision is part of an anti-corruption strategy recently launched and adopted by the police top management. The watermarking lies on top of the list of nine strategies that have been adopted and await implementation and evaluation.
According to the police director research and planning, Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Edward Ochom, the watermark is meant to alert the suspects and their sureties that they are not supposed to pay for police bond. It’s an open secret that police officers allover the country perennially charge for bond despite it being legally free.
The watermarking strategy will also limit the issuance of a bond to the officer in charge of criminal investigations at a police station and the District/Divisional Police Commander (DPC).
The move follows complaints of extortion by police officers granting bond to suspects. Two years ago, police top management resolved to write at all police stations, a label confirming that police bond is free, and encouraging people not to be forced to pay for police bond.
This, however, did not bring to an end the numerous complaints of extortion by police officers, some of whom charge millions of shillings from naive members of the public.
One of the complainants who our reporter talked to on condition of anonymity, was arrested last year on an allegation of being involved in the theft of a motor vehicle. He says he was made to pay Shs 1.5 million to the investigating officers before he was granted bond.
“They warned me that if I tell anyone, things will be bad. When I reported to their boss, I was told to bring proof or evidence of the extortion.”
The other strategies to end corruption in the force include; enhancing salaries of the officers, increasing resources and facilitation for investigations as well as improving welfare for the police officers.
The strategy also looks at putting in place mechanisms to detect corruption and punitive measures for those involved in corruption, promote transparency and accountability in order to enhance public trust and confidence as well as during in place a framework for the prevention of corruption.
The inspector general of government Irene Mulyagonja says that while some of the things in the strategy will require government commitment, it, in general, is applicable and can easily be implemented by the police management. Recently inspector general of police Martins Okoth-Ochola named corruption inside the force as the biggest challenge confronting his administration.