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General News of Tuesday, 7 January 2003

Source: UN Worker/Ghanaweb

Extortion in Kosovo: Police Service Denies..

..but, officers want their money back
The police administration, in Accra, has denied extorting money from its officers on peacekeeping duties in Kosovo. However, the peacekeepers have still not got their money back and say they will fight on till justice prevails.

According to a statement issued in Accra, no amount was requested from the Kosovo officers by the police administration, but a probe has been set up to establish if monies have been collected from any police personnel and for what purpose. The police also denied knowledge of a request for extension for the 54 officers in Kosovo. According to the statement, extension requests are received from the UN and not police contingent commanders. The statement refused to address the mandatory $1900 that officers have to pay on their return and what that money is used for.

ASP Kontomah, one of the officers in Kosovo, accused of forcing the Kosovo officers to pay ?500 each, on behalf of a minister and IGP, got in touch with ghanaweb?s CEO with this statement:

    I just want to notify ghanaweb that my name has been mentioned in this news item. I will also notify my Contingent Commander as a matter of procedure. With the permission of my Contingent Commander you will read from me at the appropriate time. I wish you a very Happy New Year and many good returns in the years ahead.
    Thank you.
    Officer Kontomah.
An officer in Kosovo, who refused to be identified, confided in the UN worker who broke the original story

?After facing facts, the police administration has come out fast to deny the extortion issue. Our monies (?500) has still not been refunded to us, but we are looking forward to what action they are going to take for us to have our monies back,? he said.

?There are more skeletons in the closet, which will come out if matters are not resolved and our hard earned money returned. If the police administration is saying that they don't take monies before extensions are granted nobody doubts that, but when the extensions are granted and they take the money, it should be in a transparent manner, ? he continued

Former IGP Poku ?The main issue we are going to "HAMMER" out is the mandatory $1900 that they have been taking from each peacekeeper without proper accounting. The police administration cannot proudly identify a single thing they have used those monies for. We have been made to understand that the former I.G.P Mr.Owusu Poku left nothing in coffers. He is not dead. Why can't he be called upon to account for it? Our plea is that, in this so called era of ?zero tolerance for corruption? they should set good examples for the young ones to follow.? He concluded

According to the police top brace, the payment of the mandatory $1900 is a tradition, which was started in the NDC era. Most peacekeepers have spoken out on this issue, but till date the government has done nothing on it. Acting Minister for Interior, Addo Kufuor According to another peacekeeper, now back in Accra, the IGP knows very well that no person can come out openly to defend them hence their continue denials. He is however shocked that the current minister of interior, Mr. Addo Kufuor, who he highly respects, is doing nothing about it. This makes some of his colleagues believe the minister benefits from the ?extortion?

?What we want is accountability. If this is a tax, then let it reflect in our paychecks. Monies taken from us can be used to even buy computers for our training depots and divisional headquarters and that would have made us proud. Is it not a shame going to police stations to meet the typist still using the manual typing machine, whereas a communication center owned by a police officer can even boost of three computers?? said another peacekeeper.

?They think more of themselves, than the police institution. This crusade will never stop until matters are resolved. Mr. PRESIDENT please wake up. WE SAY WE NO GO SIT DOWN!? he concluded.

Chief Staff Officer Assistant Commissioner James Oppon-Boanuh told a local pape, Network Herald, that in 1994, the police administration decided on a means of enforcing a payback of some of the allowances of police peacekeepers to the administration, to help revamp the Service. The figure was pegged at 20 per cent of the allowances. However, during the administration of Mr. J.Y. Kuofie, the figure was pegged at 500 dollars and named a Development Fund.

He explained that the police administration had to adopt the stance because unlike the case of the military, who deal directly with the United Nations during such operations, the police operations do not fall under the direct administration of the UN. He said in the case of the soldiers, who are housed and fed and all their allowances paid directly into government coffers and given ?small amounts? for their maintenance, the police are paid individually hence the need to extract something from them for general welfare.

Mr. Oppon-Boanuh insisted that the deductions have nothing to do with any minister and pointed out that out of amounts collected over the years, two four by four vehicles were acquired for the use of testing officers of the mission while computers have also been purchased for a central computer pool for the general use of the police service.