REVIEW REPORT ON THE FIJI POLICE ANNUAL REPORT 2013- Hon Prof. Biman Prasad’s reply

HON. PROF. B.C. PRASAD.- Thank you, Madam Speaker. I also thank the Committee for the bipartisan Report. I am also aware from the records that the Committee actually looked at the 2015 Annual Report as well.

Madam Speaker, I agree with the contributions made so far and most of the Honourable Members did pick up on the challenges facing the organisation in terms of leadership and the high turnover of heads of various organisations within the Police Force

Madam Speaker, we know the Police Force had eight Police Commissioners and two Acting Police Commissioners since May, 1987. Apart from the Heads of Departments of the Force, there has been a high turnover of Police Administration itself. So in some ways there has been limited continuity in terms of the leadership positions within the Force.

Madam Speaker, just looking at the Report, I wanted to pick on one particular issue, I know this is in relation to staff welfare and we know that the Job Evaluation Exercise has been implemented. In fact in the 2017- 2018 Budget, this was provided for.

One of the things that I have noticed, Madam Speaker, and I thought is appropriate for me to highlight, perhaps the Government and the Police Force as an organisation need to look at that, and that is really in terms of the salary scales for various ranks. I find that it is quite a bit of disparity in the way it has been determined, it is not going to raise the morale of the police officers.

I have a copy of the Police Salary Table Gazette Notice, this is from July 2017, Madam Speaker, and I went through the salary scales and I just wanted to point out that particular aspect of the salary scale ought to be looked at and I just wanted to point out some examples.

HON. A. SAYED-KHAIYUM.- (Inaudible interjection)

HON. PROF. B.C. PRASAD.- This is what is available now, this is what the salary scales are now and if it has being reviewed, Madam Speaker, that is good but let me nonetheless point out some of the issues. The salary for Deputy Commissioners, Madam Speaker, ranging from about $71,131 to about $79,000, if one is in service for over four years. An Assistant Commissioner will receive just over $62,000 and over $68,000, if in Police service for six years, this goes on for other ranks like SSP, SP, DSP and ASP. Senior Inspector, Madam Speaker, has to serve for more than eight years to be eligible for the maximum of $39,617 while a newly appointed Senior Inspector would receive $36,570.

A newly appointed or a newly promoted Inspector of Police would receive just over $34,000 but one has to serve as an Inspector for over eight years to receive the maximum salary in that grade of just over $35,850. So in eight years, you are just having a raise of a mere $1,700 in that eight-year period and I think that is an issue.

A newly appointed Sergeant, Madam Speaker, will receive about $27,802 but has to serve in that position for over 14 years to be eligible for a maximum salary of about $30,091 in the grade; an increase of almost $2,300 for 14 years of work as a Sergeant. The same anomaly exists for those holding the rank of Corporal, a newly appointed Corporal would receive about $22,624 and has to serve in that post for over 14 years to receive a maximum salary of $26,900; it is just over $4,000 for 14 years of service. Similarly a Constable, Madam Speaker, would have to serve in the position for over 14 years to receive a maximum salary of $22,027, while a newly appointed colleague would get about $18,831.

Madam Speaker, those disparities I think are quite glaring and perhaps when the next job review is done, I am told that it has been reviewed, it should be reviewed quickly so that that disparity could be removed because I think our police officers, Madam Speaker, need better support. In terms of very specifically salaries, we need to make sure that this disparity is removed. 18th Apr., 2018 Review Report – FPF Annual Reports 2013 1301

 

One other point, Madam Speaker, before I finish, I said this last time when we were looking at another report, the practise of police beat. I think we need to look at the number of police officers we have, especially in urban areas where the population is increasing, where there are new settlements, where a lot of streets and police presence is the most important thing in preventing crime.

I think we should need to focus on prevention and I remember in the 1970s and the 1980s, especially in the 1980s, Madam Speaker, when I came to Suva we used to have police beat. So if you are walking from USP to the city or you are walking along Raiwaqa, you will see police officers around 10 or 11 in the night, their shifts where police used to go for what they call police beat and much of the prevention strategy was based on that. So I think, Madam Speaker, we need to bring that back and Government ought to put in more resources if it means hiring more police officers, we need to do that. It is not already because there are no police beat at the moment.

Madam Speaker, that is a very, very important consideration for the prevention of crimes. Not only do we need more police officers but we need to remove the disparity in the salaries that we have so that those at the level could be motivated and made to work in the way that they should. So I think, Madam Speaker, that is a very important consideration for prevention of crimes. Not only do we need more police officers, but we need to remove the disparity in the salaries that we have so that those at the lower level could be motivated and made to work in the way that they should.

Madam Speaker, I also think that because the numbers of positions within the Police Force , not everyone can become inspectors, or not everyone can become assistant commissioners of police or deputy commissioner of police but we need to look at a salary scale where a constable or a sergeant or an inspector, if someone wants to remain a sergeant for the next 20 years until they retire, the salary scale should take that constable or the sergeant because not everybody will get to be promoted because of sheer number limitations. But if they serve for that many years, they should be at a reasonable salary level without being promoted and somewhere near to perhaps those at the top.

In that way, Madam Speaker, I think we can motivate more people to actually join the Police Force and motivate the Police Officers who are there to actually deliver the services that people need.

Madam Speaker, those are the suggestions that I would like to make and I hope that the Government takes that into account and if they do not, Madam Speaker, when we come into Government, we will do that.

(Chorus of interjections)

HON. SPEAKER.- Honourable Acting Prime Minister.

HON. A. SAYED-KHAIYUM.- Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am tempted to say they wish but the results will obviously speak for itself.

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the Committee for the report. The report, of course, makes three key recommendations. One of them, of course, is about the morale of the Force and the quality of service delivery. The other one, of course, has to do with the financial and technical support and indeed for the Police Force to carry out its duties without fear, favour or malice and the third is about the additional finance that is required for existing infrastructure in particular for accommodation, amenities and centralised headquarters.

Madam Speaker, I am glad the Honourable Professor Prasad, the Honourable Leader of the NFP actually did tell Parliament about the incident in the Police in 1987 when we have had since then a lot of changes taking place; it is a fact. He said it though. To say seti, seti is actually hiding the fact. You had 1302 Review Report – FPF Annual Reports 2013 18th Apr., 2018

 

the then Commissioner of Police like I have said before, they do not want to hear this, the Commissioner of Police being put in his underpants in CPS at the 1987 coup. That is when it all happened. That is when it all started. When you actually take the head of any organisation like that, which is a regimented organisation and carry out that sort of act, it has a huge impact on the structure and the morale and indeed the career path of that particular agency. It is a fact, Madam Speaker.

As Honourable Minister Usamate who is more of an expert than most of the other Members on the other side on human resources etcetera, has very clearly stated about the impact of various other factors within a particular organisation and in particular the human resource capacity within that. They do not like to hear that, Madam Speaker, about 1987 because they were all supporters of 87.

Madam Speaker, the fact of the matter is this. The structures in the Fiji Police Force have actually remained in that form for a number of decades. So it is not just only a question of increasing the numbers within the same structure but it is a question of restructuring the entire organisation. As any organisational expert will tell you, that you simply do not improve the structure just by tweaking it. You may need to completely revamp the entire structure and that is precisely what the current Commissioner of Police is doing.

We have already had discussions in the various agencies, the Security Council meeting, et cetera, about the restructuring of the Fiji Police Force. Now that restructuring is very important, not just only to provide specific career paths but as also provided for in the Civil Service Reforms that you need to have salaries that actually cater for people to stay within a particular band which is exactly what Honourable Prasad was talking about and that is precisely what we have done in the Civil Service Reform. So if you take teachers, for example, not all teachers want to become the head teacher, some of them are very passionate about the subject area. They simply just want to teach Science and that is all they want to do and that is their career. Some of course want to move up the ladder and become a head teacher, others do not.

The question then arises, if they want to simply pursue that particular pursuit of theirs which they are very passionate about, do they have actually a liveable salary in that respect and does the system actually allow for people to move within the band? This is why we have talked a number of times in this Parliament about the Civil Service Reform and how we have created the bands, and how you can take cognisance of the fact that a person’s contribution whether it is a particular scarce skills or whether it is longevity in a particular regimented area whether that can be recognised or not.

Madam Speaker, a lot of work is being done behind the scene. As we know the first report that came out was by the former NFP Senator, Mr. Shardha Nand. He headed the Committee that actually looked at the Police Force, et cetera and they made various recommendations.

Madam Speaker, we still are very much caught up with the old way during the Colonial times. The police officers are given quarters, they are given kerosene allowance, et cetera, and many of them actually use gas stoves now. There are many police quarters that need to be revamped so we are looking at those structures too. Do we, for example provide accommodation at different forms? Indeed do we give accommodation allowance and simply get them to look for accommodation themselves or do we tear down the structures and put up new structures. A lot of work is being done behind the scenes in that respect.

The other fact, of course, Madam Speaker is that the society has changed as Honourable Howard Politini has remarked. Technology is being introduced, so nowadays you can actually be in touch with your fellow officers and others people in the community through the use of technology. Everyone having, for example, ‘walkie-talkies’. 18th Apr., 2018 Review Report – FPF Annual Reports 2013 1303

 

Many cities, for example, reduce the number of physical prisons but also introduce CCTVs, so you have CCTVs for example in the Central Business District (CBD) areas. I recently was in Sydney and nearly every corner of the street has cameras and that is how the modern day policing takes place.

Madam Speaker, the other point of course is that, in respect of the remarks being made about personnel changing. In any organisation that actually deals with other organisations of which they are part of, they need to have the administrative will to be able to change people if they are not performing well. Just because someone has filled in a position, it does not mean that they will remain there forever. They need to be able to be performing as per the Job Description. It goes precisely to the point that the Honourable Usamate talked about. You need to be able to change people if they are required to be changed, as long as your change is a positive move. As Honourable Jilila Kumar remarked that the current Commissioner of Police has brought about a number of changes. Obviously, we are complimenting that, I was just looking at the budgetary figures, the Honourable Member should actually look at that.

Today, the Fiji Police Force; if you look at the funding allocation, the total expenditure in 2015-2016 was $117.9 million, for 2016-2017 was $1.7 million and in this year’s budget they receive $148.79 million. This budget allocation has increased quite substantially, a lot of it has gone in respect of the salary increases, the Job Evaluation Exercise. The Police Force was the last agency to have the fulfilment of the Job Evaluation Exercise. That is now being achieved.

Madam Speaker, as we said, there is no point in simply increasing it within the existing structures, we may need to look at the restructures again.

The other point, of course, Madam Speaker, the Fiji Police Force never had so many vehicles. They have now received over 130 motorcycles and they will be receiving vehicles also. Now again, that increase in the response time, it has increased the morale of the Police Force and Honourable Usamate highlighted too, he had a police officer who was recently assaulted quite badly.

Honourable Members may recall that in the last session of Parliament, we actually approved a particular amendment to the Crimes Act so that people who actually attack Police Officers who are supposed to represent law and order, get a heavier penalty in that respect and many other jurisdictions have done that, Madam Speaker.

So, Madam Speaker, the reality is that, there is obviously a lot of changes that are taking place within our society. The Police Force needs to deal with issues, we have, there is no doubt, we have harder drugs than the actual marijuana in Fiji.

There are people using all sorts of new technologies. Before if you had speed cameras, now you can go and buy an equipment that will tell you that a speed camera is ahead of you. I mean people have all those sorts of technology available. The Police Force needs to get up to speed with that, we need to be able to give them the level of sophisticated access to resources.

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that a number of the issues that had been recommended in this report are being addressed. Some of them, of course, need to be addressed a lot more fuller away because a lot more work is being done behind the scenes in that respect, Madam Speaker. I would like to thank the Committee for their recommendations