The Ministry of Defence is making efforts to resolve the challenges in the retirement benefits of the 1,700 retired soldiers who stormed Parliament last week to protest.
The sector minister, Dr. Benjamin Kunbuor, who had been silent on the issue until yesterday, said the problem cropped up in the media last week because the ex-servicemen did not have much information on the regulations of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) on gratuities.
Addressing the media at the meet-the-press series organised by the Defence Ministry, Dr. Kunbuor, explained that the GAF took many conditions, including the type of trade, time of intake, and rank, into consideration before determining the gratuities of its retired officers.
He said it was possible for two soldiers to leave the service with different retirement benefits, even when they were recruited on the same day.
“If you are a soldier and you take a loan from a bank and your platoon commander or any other commander guarantees the loan for you, and you are leaving the GAF, why do you think that loan should not be recovered? You can enter the army the same hour with somebody, retire at the same rank, but depending on how you handle your finances, you will not take home the same amount,” he said.
Dr. Kunbuor said some of the allegations made by the ex-servicemen were misleading and cited an example where one of the soldiers who left the service with a retirement package of GH¢59,750 but told the media that he was given only GH¢301 as retirement benefit.
The Defence Minister, who had been silent on the issue until yesterday, said “sometimes, some stories, when they are not accurate, are sweeter in the ear than those that are accurate. Our profession enjoins us not to go to the media but at the appropriate time, we will come out to let the public know soldier to soldier, what everyone took”.
Dr. Kunbuor took a swipe at the media for not cross checking the facts properly to get the accurate information before going public with their reports.
“With greatest respect to the media, you can play your media games with we politicians, for God sake, do not extend it to our noble officers,” he said
The minister also touched on recruitment into the Army and indicated that the process was now more transparent than ever before but some unscrupulous people tried to cheat the system with their ages.
He said there were systems in place to catch such people who tried to circumvent the process.
“I had my two cousins who came all the way from Nandom. I saw it and their names were not shortlisted so they had to go back to Nandom,” he said.
On recent reports that President John Mahama’s helicopter had a crash landing, he said what happened was a precautionary landing and not a crash landing as reported in some media quarters.
Touching on projects being executed by the Defence Ministry, Dr. Kunbuor said the expansion and upgrading of infrastructure for the GAF had been steadily ongoing and added that some of the SSNIT housing projects and the affordable housing units for the military at Borteyman had been completed.
Also, he said the Military Training Camps at Daboya and Bundase had seen major facelifts and indicated that a new academy hall for the Military Academy and one 16-unit (two bedrooms) officer’s quarters were completed and handed over last year.
“The construction of the new officer’s Mess for the military Academy and Training Schools (MATS) is about 40 per cent complete and this also will be completed soon,” he said.
According to the Defense Minister, a major challenge facing the GAF was the encroachment on its lands in all the garrisons.
“The Training Command has virtually lost its local training areas that are vital to the training and development of cadets. The proximity of civilian settlements to military training areas and critical installations raises serious safety and security concerns and this need to be addressed,” he said.
Dr. Kunbuor said a three-face project which included the construction of an ultra- modern officers Mess Complex, an apartment for 96 single-officers and a 48 three-bedroom married quarters for officers in Burma Camp were being constructed under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative.
In addition, he said there was a similar project being undertaken under a PPP initiative on Drake Avenue in the Airport Residential Area.
“This arrangement is on a 10-acre plot half of which will be given to the private partner, Goldkey Properties,” he said and indicated the remaining five acres of land were to be used to construct 20 four-bedroom bungalows with two-bedrooms out-houses for senior officers.
The Defence Minister said work was steadily progressing under the Housing for Security Scheme Project for the construction of 368 Housing Units at Paradise Beach, Tema for the Ghana Navy.
The GAF benefited from 1.5 million Euros worth of equipment, including nine Man trucks, two speedboats, vehicle maintenance equipment and a number of Mercedes Benz trucks, from Germany as its contribution towards the establishment of the ECOWAS Standby Force, he said.
By Yaw Kyei & Gifty Ansah