Accra, Oct. 12, Chronicle -- With only a few weeks to Election 2004, when the country's security apparatus would be stretched to its limit, The Chronicle can report that all is not well within the Ghana Police Service.
The paper's weeks of enquiries have revealed that personnel of the service, particularly among the junior ranks, within the last couple of months have resolved to discharge their duties with little or no commitment, following what they perceive as the refusal of the authorities to heed their demand for improvement in their salaries and service conditions.
Intelligence reports reaching The Chronicle speak of "secret caucus meetings" among personnel in the various units of the service in an attempt to come out with a felicitous strategy on how to circumvent service regulations and stage a massive demonstration to compel state authorities to heed their demands.
The intended demonstration, if staged, would be unprecedented in the history of the service. Junior ranks have been blaming their senior colleagues for being indifferent to their quiet, but well- known struggle for better conditions of service and better salaries.
The junior personnel said by the regulations of the service, they had no voice to make their demands publicly known and argued that the senior colleagues, being aware of their poor conditions, should have intervened on their behalf in the quest for improved working conditions.
But a number of senior ranking officers confided in this paper that they were doing their best but the appropriate authorities had not responded favourably.
The Chronicle gathered that this year, personnel of the service have had their salaries increased by 11%, a figure that most of the personnel described as "very ridiculous." Apart from the fact that the figure was unacceptable, the police personnel contended that the whole situation was worsened by the fact that the effective date for the payment of the increment was put at July 2004 instead of January.
Further checks within the service indicated that as at Tuesday, October 5, 2004, personnel had not still received their salaries for September. Most personnel said they were surprised at the turn of events and the fact that there had not been any formal explanation for the delay in the payment of the September salaries.
When the Director of the Public Relations Unit of the service, Mr. David Eklu, was contacted, he said he could not comment on the issue and referred The Chronicle to the Ministry of Finance. Another source at the Public Relations (PR) unit, however, confirmed the 11% increment and July as the effective date for implementation.
Another issue which had been a source of worry among personnel of the service, but which the police PR boss described as unofficial, was the alleged payment of various amounts of money by personnel before getting materials for their uniforms released to them.
The paper gathered that before police personnel took materials for sewing at their own expense, they had to pay amounts ranging between ¢20,000 and ¢30000 to officials responsible for the distribution. This was under the pretext that before taking delivery of the materials at the police headquarters, certain amounts of money had to be paid to ensure their quick release.
" We are always told that to ensure that our unit gets its share of the uniform materials, some amount of money has to be paid and so when the materials are brought to us, we have to share the amount of money that was paid at the headquarters", one policeman complained bitterly. "This practice is bad and has to be stopped because we don't have anything like uniform allowance to warrant any payment of money for uniform," he added.
Mr. Eklu said he was not aware of the payment of any such monies for uniforms, stressing that if anything like that existed in any unit of the service, then it was an unapproved act which, if detected, would warrant some disciplinary action against the perpetrator(s).
" I am not aware of what you are saying. What I know is that every policeman is entitled to two uniforms per year and such uniforms are given to the personnel free of charge. If you know any unit where this was happening, you can tell me," the PR boss told this reporter.
A number of personnel who were interviewed on the current developments in the service stated that they had now come to realize that there was no need to work diligently in the police service since, according to them, the government was not appreciating the work they were doing for the nation.
" If the government appreciates the importance of the police in this country, I don't think that the salaries of other security personnel would have been increased without doing the same for us. Our current situation is a pitiful one and our morale has been dampened, so how do you expect me to do my work well?" another junior rank said. "If you think I am lying, you can ask any policeman. But I am sorry that with our current decision, it is you the civilians who are going to suffer."
Some also warned that if the current situation was not quickly resolved, the service would be corrupt, saying the present situation "is a recipe for personnel to employ all means, fair or foul, to exploit complainants and suspects."
" In fact, I can tell you plainly that most of us today are looking for ways and means of keeping ourselves and families surviving instead of focusing on the job because the pay is poor and other conditions like promotions are also very bad," he went on. Another said: "A lot of us have managed to do courses on the basis of which we should have been promoted long ago, but look at me, I am still a poor corporal in the service."
The aggrieved policemen brushed aside the argument that with the provision of vehicles and other equipment, the conditions in the police service had been improved, saying that the equipment would only make a useful impact when the personnel were prepared to work effectively with them.
One policeman argued that the cars had nothing to do with their welfare as policemen but that they were rather to the advantage of the civilian population just as, "ambulances that are supplied to hospitals are not to the advantage of doctors but rather to the advantage of prospective patients."