Social audit unable to justify police funding over last two years

By Anwer Hussain Sumra (Daily Times)

LAHORE: The social audit of the Punjab police, which is generally conducted by a third party, has not been able to properly asses or justify the bulk of the non-development budget being provided since July 2006 to end the shabby thana culture of police stations, an official told Daily Times.

Thana culture refers to the general impression that the public has about thanas and police officials that are found there. In July 2006, the former chief minister of Punjab conducted a social audit of all police stations after various reforms had been introduced, the official, requesting anonymity, said. He added that community policing, waiting rooms, duty officers, extra allowances for sub-ordinates, shift system and the provision of new weapons and vehicles at all police stations had been implemented.

These steps had been taken to curtail the workload on police officials and to promote a healthy environment in the department, he said, adding that this was originally intended to reverse the deteriorating police morale and facilitate the masses in a friendly manner.

Benchmarks: The Planning and Development Department, on Pervaiz Elahi’s orders, outlined seven benchmarks for the social audit in October 2006.

The various yardsticks set by the Planning and Development Department were: efficient responsiveness to citizens on complaints; high quality investigations; transparent registration of First Information Reports (FIRs); complaint handling against all police officials; effective control of crime; the handling of public order and adherence to human rights.

The agency authorised to conduct the audit would also analyse whether the police force efficiently responds to calls relating to various incidents.

Quality of investigation means the third party would ensure that police officials do not use third-degree methods to get confessions from the accused.

In the past, it was generally practiced that reports regarding torture, bribe and illegal detentions were sought from the officer against whom the complaint had been lodged: however, under the new system, the authorised party would ensure that complaints were dealt with properly by taking action against the officials concerned.

The authorised party would monitor how strategies revolving around street crimes were developed. It would recommend any changes that it might feel the department requires. It would also ensure the department is following the strategies it has developed.

The party would also look at the ratio of police encounters, extra-judicial killings and illegal detentions by police officials for any possible ulterior motives. The social audit would be carried out randomly to evaluate the performance of all police stations after the introduction of these new initiatives, a Home Department official said.

Sources said that the prime objective of social audits is to assess the general public’s comments on police performance, and to justify the annual non-development budget that has been provided to the police department since 2006.

They said that this would help the government develop and maintain social accountability of the police department to see whether the police were justifying the resources spent on them or abusing the finances extended to them.

Senior police officials oppose these social audits as they believe that the department would fail to justify the amount of funds as police officials have not entirely stopped abusing the general public, the sources added.

Chances: A senior police officer, on the condition of anonymity, said that the department had very bleak chances of satisfying the government if the authorised party measured it against these benchmarks as it did not completely satisfy the requirements.

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