Ghana: Fire Service Mgt, Personnel Tango Over Gh₵8 Million Pension Fund

Some personnel of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) are demanding, from their management, immediate release of all funds deducted from their salaries for a pension policy at the defunct CDH Asset Management Company Limited.

For seven years spanning 2012 to 2019, the deductions were made to the company, until it was declared insolvent by the Bank of Ghana three years ago and placed under liquidation.

The personnel alleged that the GNFS management had received full refund of the deductions from GCB capital, liquidators of CDH, but had decided to pay half to the contributors and withhold the rest until they retire.

However, the Service, when contacted, parried the allegation, explaining that out of over GH₵8 million which was validated by GCB capital as deductions from 2012 to 2019, about GH₵4.3 million, representing half, had been paid to the management and the same disbursed to the 9,143 contributors.

It said as of Tuesday, the liquidator owed the GNFS about GH₵4.3 million as the outstanding amount due contributors, therefore it was untrue that management had clandestinely invested that same money for profit.

One of the affected officers (name withheld), on behalf of some colleagues, told the Ghanaian Times last Friday that the management did not seek their consent before the deduction started neither did they fill out any form.

"They gave out our names and other details to CDH just like that without consulting us, the personnel. We do not know how much profit we are yielding or the terms of the agreement made between CDH and the GNFS. If any of the personnel die, his or her monies also die," the personnel said.

The officer also alleged that the management announced the decision to withhold half of their contributions at a meeting convened on June 28, last year.

Describing the decision as unfair and provocative, the firefighter said, they wanted their money in full and immediately else they would be compelled to take matters into their own hands.

Other allegations were that 80 per cent of fire tenders were broken down; fire hydrants were faulty and the personnel lacked tools for effective firefighting, but the GNFS management had allegedly not taken steps to address them.

Responding to the allegations on behalf of the GNFS, Assistant Chief Fire Officer (ACFO) Timothy Osafo-Affum, the Head of Public Relations of the Service, recalled that in 2011, CDH introduced to the National Welfare Association of the Service a policy intended to enhance the pensions of personnel.

He said the Welfare Executives, agreeing that it was a good policy sought permission from the then management of the service to solicit the views of personnel nationwide.

"Personnel agreed to the CDH policy, however, there was no agreement on the amount to be deducted. While some personnel opted for GH₵20, others opted for GH₵50," he said.

ACFO Osafo-Affum said GH₵20 was accepted across board and deductions started from the Controller and Accountant General's Department in 2012.

"This was however not compulsory as some personnel from the Ashanti Region decided not to be part and were left out," he said.

Over the period, between 2012 and 2019, ACFO Osafo-Affum said the deductions continued and some personnel benefited from partial withdrawal from the policy.

He said in October 2019, GNFS management ordered deductions to cease after the Bank of Ghana declared CDH insolvent and formed a taskforce to follow up with the liquidators to retrieve locked-up funds.

Relating to fire appliances and hydrants, ACFO Osafo-Affum said it was not true that 80 per cent of fire appliances had broken down, adding that although some of them were very old, those that broke down were periodically fixed.

He said a process was underway to retool the service and assured all personnel that management would ensure a safe working environment, by providing the tools needed for effective service delivery to the public.

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