Regional News of 2014-01-28

Fire Officers reject “compulsory” welfare fund

By: Fred Yaw Sarpong

Fire Officers in the Eastern Region are rejecting what they call a “compulsory welfare funds” instituted by their superiors in the region. According to them, the so-called welfare funds, including the Fireman Provident Fund need to be scrapped because they do not derive any benefit from them.

In separate interviews with a Daily Express reporter, the Junior Officers in the region complained that even though they reluctantly contribute between GHc15.00 to GHc30.00 every month, no account has been rendered to them, and they have not been told what their monies are being use for.

“At least at the end of every year, we expect them to tell us the state of the fund, but they have never done that,” one of the Officers complained.

According to them, even accessing loans from the fund in times of need, becomes difficult.

“Even when the loan is granted, we do not get the actual amount, unlike the Senior Officers who benefit fully whenever they request for loans. But we all contribute equal amount,” another Junior Officer lamented.

The officers further stated that part of the welfare fund was used to purchase musical instruments (band) to render services to the public, for revenue generation. However, they do not understand why if a member (Fire Officer) passes away, ‘the family has to pay again for services of the band’ on behalf of the dead Fire Officer.

“We have complained several times but our authorities have refused to hear us,” the officers emphasized.

“We also do not understand why 10% is deducted from the welfare benefit accrued to an Officer who goes on retirement. They have never been able to explain this to us,” they said.

Touching on the Fireman Provident Fund (GHc20.00 per month), which is a national insurance plan, the officers complained of not having any proof to show that the contribution is part of the welfare, saying “We don’t have any policy numbers and even certificates to certify that we are members of such welfare.”

The Daily Express gathered that there is a third-tier welfare fund, managed by the State Insurance Company (SIC), where each member contributes GHc55.00. They said they were first contributing GHc25.00 for an SIC Insurance. However, a recent SIC Insurance Policy makes them pay an additional GHc30.00 per month. They said this amount is different from the GHc20.00 they pay for the Fireman Provident Fund and the GHc15.00 compulsory payment for the Eastern Region welfare.

Checks the Daily Express from other regions indicate that, apart from the Fireman Provident Fund and the SIC insurance plan, each region has the right to institute welfare on behalf of the officers, however this should not be compulsory. It was revealed that most of the regional welfares were made compulsory immediately an officer joins the service.

In an interview with Prince Billy Anaglatey, the Public Relations Officer of the National Fire Service, he stated that “I know every region has its regional welfare. They have agreed among themselves to have such welfare schemes, but the arrangement from Eastern Region might be different from Greater Accra or Northern regions”. He however, stated that this does not come from the Headquarters and does not think it should be compulsory.

Mr. Anaglatey explained that there was a team that went throughout the regions to explain the SIC policy to all the fire personnel and based on their acceptance, the insurance was initiated. “So if anybody is complaining again, I will be surprised” why.

He said the purpose of going round the country was to know the response from the fire officers, adding that, the SIC scheme was initially done for every fire personnel, but currently, an officer can decide to opt out or continue at any time and the amount to be contribute is optional.

Contacts to some Senior Fire Officers in the Eastern Region, for an explanation of the issue proved futile. Those who answered their phones declined comment on the matter.

Source: Sarpong, Fred
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