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Law Enforcement and Asset Management

Strolling through a village on the outskirts of Freetown, my friend saw a teenager pushing a large barrel of water on a sort of contraption with wheels.  It looked quite new and shiny.  Upon closer inspection, he realized it must be a hospital trolley without the sides and the top.  The teenager was pushing it on a rocky, sandy surface not the most ideal for the trolley, but it gave him some leverage.  He would have certainly been unable to carry the barrel of water.  My friend stopped to ask him what the contraption was.  He couldn’t get a meaningful answer out of him. ‘It is for pushing the water...’ he explained in broken English, finishing off in his local dialect.  Where did he get it from? …One of the many pieces of equipment which had been removed from the nearby Ebola treatment center without permission or authorization…

It was unclear of anyone knew it was missing, or even if indeed anyone realized it ever existed.  Was it on the books,  anywhere?

This story draws a parallel with law enforcement assets.  There’s usually a lot of them, especially equipment, spread over vast numbers of divisions, stations and units.  They need to be properly managed.  If these fixed assets are lost or stolen, they can become very dangerous.  That is why their proper tracking is essential to the safety of the nation.

It can sometimes be a struggle for police to track items like handguns, ammunition, handcuffs, batons etc.  This is why they need solutions to track, manage and reconcile these items.  Asset tracking labels and manages all police equipment efficiently.  If a policeman is issued with a handgun and twelve rounds of ammunition, he must be able to account for the assets and the disposable items in his care.  If he accidentally fires a shot, it must become evident at his next tracking session ad can easily be used to ascertain in cases where there is a dispute over who fired a shot.

Rightly, the 2014 public accounts audit in Sierra Leone focused on asset management and identified it as an area sorely lacking in ownership, having being, most times, added on to the portfolio of the procurement, the accounts or the stores function.  In this area, where most public servants seem to lack the training and experience to manage assets, the Sierra Leone Police stood out as one government function where the asset management effort was very visible.  Having established the Asset Management Function in 2013, the SLP, with funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) created an inventory, which so far covers only a part of the country.  SLP’s asset management policy has also been created, although it is yet to be approved by the Executive Management due to their attention to detail and stringent requirements for policy approvals.

Independent of government, the Audit Service in Sierra Leone help the nation’s parliament and its people to hold government accountable for public spending. In this way it supports the improvement of public services.  Their insight and cross cutting work across government organs focus on the key issues that government is faced with.  Their skills and knowledge are key to achieve saving and impact in governance.  Because the audit service is able to influence parliament and government bodies, they are important to achieving positive change.  By sharing insights and good practice, the audit service supports government.

The Audit service rightly focused on fixed assets management as one of the cross cutting pillars for good governance.  With proper assets management, if an item gets misplaced or stolen, officers can more rapidly track it down.  Using technology, it is more possible to specify where an item was last seen, who last used it, and other vital details.  With this, investigation is expedited and many more headaches are prevented.

With law enforcement today, shortage of vehicles is a perennial headache.  When vehicles are plentiful in use, as with the police, they end up being very expensive items on the books.  They also have their own fixed assets requirements.  Depreciation is often an important factor because police vehicles are fitted with all sorts of gadgets and technologies.  If the assets system cannot properly calculate such values and report them accurate, this may result in losses to the police force.  Because it is also public money funding the police, the organization tries to be frugal with purchasing and assets management.  Proper assets management will therefore decrease significantly the amount of lost funds and equipment incurred on an annual basis.