|ADI Eric Afari|
SOME aggrieved junior officers of the Ghana Immigration Service in Tamale are accusing their Northern Regional Commander, Assistant Director of Immigration (ADI) Eric Afari of an alleged “inhumane treatment, disrespect for human dignity, tribalism and alleged diversion of monies meant for their Annual Medical Allowances.
The Junior Officers who are also demanding the immediate transfer of ADI Afari also called on the Immigration High Command to institute an independent investigation into his administration especially his alleged rude behavior towards staff and the alleged misappropriation of their annual medical allowances.
Some of the angry officers, who stormed the Northern Regional office of Savannahnews on the ground of anonymity, could not hide their frustrations and the longstanding disenchantment they have been habouring against the Commander.
They asserted that, ADI Eric Afari had supposedly connived with the Regional Accountant, DSI Samuel Ankomah Gyasi to rob the junior staff of their Annual Medical Allowances under the guise of using the money (allowances) to defray their electricity and water bills.
Each of the personnel is entitled to an average amount of GH¢300 as medical bills, but the officers are said to have refused to release the money to the personnel under the red herring of using it to pay their utility bills. Meanwhile, the bills according to account details (statement of accounts) from the VRA presented to Savannahnews by the aggrieved officers showed that the bills had been accumulated since 2002 by some transferred and retired officers. Most of the junior officers being forced to pay the bills are the newly recruited officers, who are even less than one year in Tamale.
This blogger learnt from the angry personnel that the government of Ghana had been responsible for the payment of utility bills and accommodation of all Immigration Officers in the Northern Sector, and could not comprehend why their Commander and the Accountant should seize their medical allowances for the payment of electricity and water bills.
A critical assessment of the statement of accounts from the VRA gave varied figures. None of the figures showed on the statement tallied with the amount of money taken from the junior officers for the payment of the bills.
Several demands for receipts by the junior officers (as they alleged) from their superior officers had proven futile.
In an attempt to avert the ongoing frauds and to ensure transparency, the Junior Officers appealed to the Immigration High Command to henceforth pay the Medical Allowances directly into their individual bank accounts.
ADI Eric Afari is also accused by the junior officers of playing tribal cards resulting in disunity, disrespect for each other and lack of peaceful co-existence among the staff. He is reported to have openly said that he hated certain people in the service because of their tribal lineage.
They further accused him of high level discrimination and biases against those from outside his tribe (name of tribe withheld) especially when it comes to assigning officers on duties or giving annual leaves or pass.
“Because of his tribal sensitivity, he is having problems with most of the staff and it is affecting his human relationship with most of us and our operations. He is very unfriendly to most of the staff except the few who are in his good books or from the same region with him”.
The aggrieved officers complained bitterly that Mr. Afari had always put the lives of personnel who perform duties at his residence at risk as he had refused to equip or arm them with the requisite tools like rain coats, flashlights or weapons (riffles). The officers are forced to stay outside the security room at the mercies of cold weather, mosquitoes and sometimes heavy rains or sunshine.
They asserted that majority of the officers, both juniors and some seniors, are not comfortable to work under ADI Afari due to his alleged unfriendly and intimidating leadership style.
According to them, however, officers who go on duty at the Tamale Airport (about 23 kilometers away from the regional office) are compelled to find their own means of transportation to and from the Airport without any reimbursement, even though “impresses” are paid to the Service from their headquarters every quarter for such operations at the Airport.
Reacting to these allegations by the Junior Officers, the Northern Regional Commander of the Ghana Immigration Service, ADI Eric Afari denied almost all the allegations and described them as “malicious attempt to tarnish” his image.
According to him, he had never and would never connive with the new Regional Accountant to embezzle monies belonging to the junior officers or the Immigration Service.
Even though he confirmed that the Annual Medical Allowance was being used by management to defray the accumulated electricity bills in all the four barracks of the service in Tamale, it was a collective decision reached between the occupants (officers) and the new accountant after separate meetings to avoid possible disconnection.
ADI Afari further explained that the electricity bills were accumulated by former officers who had gone on transfer between 2002 and 2011, but the new Accountant DSI Samuel Ankomah Gyasi in trying to safeguard the service from any eminent embarrassment from the Volta River Authority thus came up with that idea to get the officers to start paying their bills from time to time.
He said, all the officers agreed to pay but insisted on the accountant to use their medical allowances to settle the bills. However, officers at the Kukuo Barracks led by three long serving officers (names withheld) insisted on not paying the bills, since they were accumulated by different officers.
This led to the disconnection of their lights by the VRA, but on three occasions that the lights were disconnected, according to ADI Afari, the officers in that barracks reconnected the lights, and also sent threatening text messages to the VRA officials to desist from disconnecting them. A phone call was also made to the Regional Commander by the same gang leaders threatening to tarnish his image, if the lights were disconnected again.
As a result, the VRA in a letter dated June 5, 2014 under the caption: Illegal Reconnection of Power VRA/NEDCo electricity” with account number 201161420, addressed to the Regional Commander of the Immigration Service, decided to arrest all officers in the Kukuo Barracks for prosecution and nonpayment of bills to the tune of GHC6,450.45.
But ADI Afari said that his timely intervention annulled the arrest and a pre-paid meter was subsequently installed in that barracks to avoid further accumulation of bills.
The Northern Regional Immigration Commander also denied being “tribalistic” in his dealings with the personnel of the service. He insisted that most of the officers working closely with him including his bodyguards, secretary and driver were all from different tribes.
According to the former Director of the Immigration Training Unit, the unflattering and undisciplined behaviour of some of the personnel was making it difficult for them to fit into the new transformational environment he had introduced in the last three years.
ADI Afari said that he was not perturbed by the agitations of the few recalcitrant officers who are trying to tarnish his reputation and even calling for his transfer, since about 90% of the personnel take him in a high esteem.
The Northern Regional Accountant of the Ghana Immigration Service, DSI Samuel Ankomah Gyasi in an interview with Savannahnews insisted that the service had made it explicitly clear for officers to honour their utility bills. A policy letter dated 24th September 2012 signed by the Director of Immigration, Kwasi Opoku Apau and copied to all Directors of Immigration confirmed that the service no longer pays for the utilities of staff except for Regional Commanders. The letter reads “I am directed to inform you that as a matter of policy, the Service pays utility bills for only Regional Commanders. It is advised that officers who have the benefit of barracks accommodation paid for by the Service should bear the cost of utilities”.
However, DSI Ankomah Gyasi admitted initiating the move on his first day in office (February 2, 2013) to encourage officers occupying the various barracks to be responsible enough to pay their electricity and water bills.
As at 31st July 2014, the four barracks, according to the Accountant were owing to the tune of GHC11, 179.46 without making any attempt to pay. The Kukuo Barracks alone owed GHC6, 855 as at 4th September 2014. The officers after dialogue meetings with management agreed to use their medical allowances to defray the debt, except three officers at the Kukuo barracks.
The VRA officials he said decided to cut off power supply to the entire Kukuo community, after several illegal reconnections by the officers, which DSI Ankomah Gyasi observed could have resulted in serious upheaval from the community members against the officers in the barracks.
At the moment, a pre-paid meter is installed at the Kukuo barracks and efforts are being made by the management to encourage the officers to settle the outstanding bill of GHC4, 323.56.
Meanwhile, Savannahnews has learnt that the Regional Management of the Immigration led by the Commander, ADI Eric Afari is likely to interdict two of the three rebelling officers (name withheld) for various misdemeanors which have the potential to dent the hard won reputation of the Service.