By Tabora Bojang
A number of officers from the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services who preferred anonymity, has alleged that they are being ‘illegally deducted by their administration”.
The officers who walked into the offices of The Standard to make the allegations further said they are being deducted D250 monthly, purportedly as contribution towards a bus service and CUG telephone service which they said does not benefit them.
“These deductions have now accrued to over D8 million and though they were stopped sometime ago, without any notifications they have started again,” one of them alleged. The officers said they could not believe that after 10 years of deductions, only a single 24-seater bus was purchased from the funds. “What is more, the bus only serves those from Brikama to Banjul out of eleven fire stations and 1,200 officers across the country,” one of the officers complained. They also said the telephone CUG service is unfair because it is made compulsory.
“We have been complaining and the relevant authorities heard about our voice but to date no action has been taken”, another queried.
Responding to these complaints in a write up to The Standard, the management of the GFRS insisted that the deductions are geared towards providing “mobility, effective communication and raising safety awareness during the well-known Fire Service Open Day.” The statement is reproduced below:
“The bus has been running on fuel, maintenance and other lubricants over the entire period. At the time of purchase, the cost of the bus was D2.5 million, which was to be serviced by less than 1,000 fire fighters.
“The CUG is only compulsory on senior officers and optional for junior officers. The fire service as clearly portrayed constitutes people from diverse backgrounds and the number is not sufficient enough to gather a lot of money over a small period. The bus contribution began 8 years ago with a nominal roll of less than 1,000 firefighters, each contributing D100. It is true that we have almost 11 fire stations across the country and every firefighter expects good service, but this can only take place if our own staff are ready to effect a positive change. As we speak, some provincial stations are contributing D325 just for food without any other attached benefits.
“The management is planning to create a staff welfare unit that will be tasked to come up with a staff welfare package to address their needs.”