Some fire officers in the Upper East region have decried alleged demands for cash by their superiors at the regional headquarters before they are handed promotions due them.
The firefighters confided to Starr News that officers seeking to be upgraded are charged unfixed amounts as contributions for assistance during promotion examinations and, when the examinations are over, they are levied Gh¢40 each for upgrading processing.
“Recently, they charged 97 officers GH¢40 before they were promoted. Calculate it. Multiply the 97 people by GH¢40. Our superiors normally would demand for these monies as charges to facilitate inputs for promotions. They also charge some monies…they don’t have a specific amount- for examiners. The monies are given to examiners and invigilators to allow for officers to teach each other or to teach those who cannot write,” a fire officer told Starr News in a recorded interview.
“It is a like normal practice now. If there is a promotion exam or you need something to be done, you must pay for inputs. But my year, they said each person should pay contributions for examiners. I didn’t pay. I said I don’t have money. But I paid the Gh¢40 for my promotion,” another officer recounted.
We buy rank markings meant for free- officers
A number of the aggrieved officers have also claimed that the laces and badges worn among other insignia on the khaki uniforms to show their ranks are being sold to them by their bosses, contrary to the norm that strongly frowns on attempts to put up such emblems of authority for sale.
“The normal thing is that after you have been promoted, you go and sign and pick the rank markings for free and wear them on your uniform to show your new status. But in this case, the materials are not in the stores. They tell you they are not available. But some senior officers have those materials in their hands and are selling them to newly promoted officers.
“You ask yourself how come the stores mostly don’t have the rank markings but how some individuals have them and are selling them. This is a million-dollar question we should ask for answers. The reality is that some individuals have created that unavailability or artificial scarcity of the rank markings in order to sell them to make money. We buy them. That’s what happens,” an officer complained.
Of a critical concern to the disturbed officers is also what they describe as an “improper” way of handling issues whenever internal conflicts erupt among the personnel and are reported to the regional command. They claim junior officers involved in a row with their seniors are never heard but rather handed disciplinary transfers without hesitation.
“You have a problem with somebody who is closer to a big man. He just reports you that you have done this. They will not set up a committee to look into the matter whether you really did it. An independent committee should be set up to interview both parties and recommendations given. People just put laws aside and use their own discretion and even ranks to intimidate people.
“It’s not good for the service. This is an emergency work and people need to be happy. People are sitting and angry. And when they are going to quench fire, how are they going to save lives? How can an angry person go and save lives? It’s not about the salaries. It’s the motivation in terms of the way the big men relate to [the junior officers] in the service. They use their ranks to intimidate the junior officers. It’s something dampening the morale of service personnel. And with that, productivity would be low,” a firefighter said.
Agitated officers not clean- Regional Command reacts
When Starr News contacted the regional fire command, the Upper East Regional Fire Officer, ACO Douglas Kouyiri, hit back strongly at the agitated officers.
He described their claims as an attempt to smear innocent senior ranks with unfounded lies and said no one but the same disconcerted officers themselves were to blame for the alleged payment of the “illegal fees”.
He confirmed that monies were being paid by officers in return for aid during promotion examinations and also for the facilitation of their promotion inputs, but said such arrangements were consciously being made by the officers themselves without the regional command involved.
The Regional Fire Officer said he continually had overlooked such affairs on compassionate grounds considering the unfortunate reality that officers who were due for upgrading and higher salaries might have to wait for eternity if they were not allowed to ‘bribe’ their way through with those responsible for facilitating their promotion outside the realm of the fire service.
He also dismissed claims that some senior personnel had hoarded rank markings for the purposes of cashing in on an artificial scarcity created. The Regional Fire Officer said some rank markings actually had been short in supply from the national headquarters, leaving newly promoted officers and those with worn-out badges or without name tags to the mercy of some individuals who had been designing such materials for sale.
A few samples of the rank markings, said to be the only materials left in the regional store and only meant for some particular ranks, were brought out to the office of the regional fire commander at his request to support his claims that the stores were not empty but only did not have all the markings for the respective ranks of all the officers under the regional command.
He said the shortage of insignia and accoutrements was not peculiar to the fire service alone and that he expected officers to be responsible enough to buy the markings on their own and not depend on the headquarters or government for everything to look respectable in public all the time.
A number of officers testified to Starr News at the regional fire commander’s office that they bought their rank markings with their own monies from private designers elsewhere after they had realised that a wait on their employers for supply was never going to end.
ACO Kouyiri also described as baseless the allegations that the command had been biased, dishing out disciplinary transfers to officers at loggerheads with their superiors. He said there had been no such punitive transfers since he took over the reins of the command.
Meanwhile, the Regional Fire Officer has sworn to dig out the fire officers who confided in Starr News and to have them punished for going public with those concerns against what he called the paramilitary rule of the fire service. He also swore to henceforth put a stop to arrangements of enticement package for examiners, invigilators and promotion facilitators as another batch of fire officers braces for the next promotion examination this June.