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04.05.2007 General News

Fire burns at Fire Service

By myjoyonline

Junior officers of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) are seething with rage after discovering that managers of their welfare fund have diverted over ¢250 million into their own pockets as loans that are far in excess of what each is legally entitled to.

An audit report which exposed the GNFS Welfare Management's fishy deals and threw the junior staff into fury determined that the underhand deals had been going on for pretty three years, beginning from January 1, 2003 to June 30, 2005.

The report which was signed for Mark Brako-Appiah Ado, head of the internal audit team, and presented on April 7, last year, with copies to the Chief Fire Officer, concluded that after auditors exercised due diligence in their investigations, they had firmly established that an amount of ¢258,477,000 was secretly lent to the Management of the Service Welfare Fund.

Convinced of the illegality of the act, the report ordered the leadership of the GNFS to retrieve the money from the management together with the stipulated interest rate of 11 percent without any delay.

"The amount belongs to personnel of the GNFS and should never be put to any other use than personnel welfare", the statement stressed.

However, the junior staffs are further lamenting over the 11%, arguing that the coffers looters are being boxed with kid gloves. To them, they should have been made to pay compound interest on the amount spanning the whole three years that the audit covered and not just 11% on all the money they diverted.

As a background, this reporter gathered that a monthly amount of ¢4, 800 is deducted from each worker's monthly salary. From this, a worker in dire financial strait was entitled to secure a personal loan, paying an interest of 10% on it.

Another arrangement exists that allows contributors to finance their purchases of certain items from the welfare fund but that attracts 15% interest. But the management's behaviour soon depleted the coffers, making it impossible for some broke contributors to access loans from it.

When contacted, the Public Relations Directorate of the service explained That, about two weeks ago, Management of the fund went to see the new Chief Fire Officer on the findings of the report and they promised the big boss that they were making feverish preparations to refund the almost ¢259 million diverted with the stipulated interest.

According to the directorate, over the years, the service had relied on the fund when Government budget was not ready and there was the need to carry on with administrative work.

Ironically, they explained, it came to some times when some contributors needed loans but could not access the fund because the fund had been diverted, defeating the original aim of establishing it.

They, however, implored agitated workers to exercise the utmost restraint and not engage in any breaches of the law and service regulations as, at all costs, the money would be coughed up by those who diverted it.

Credit: The Heritage