Wednesday, October 27, 2021

GAF: Frantic efforts are being made to pay retirees

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Nelson Manneh

Gambia Armed Forces said on Tuesday it was making frantic efforts to ensuring that its personnel that have retired from the force are paid their entitlements without further delay.

See below the full text of the statement issued by GAF:

The general public could recall an online publication by Freedom Newspaper on 21 August 2021 reporting a planned protest on 23 August 2021 by some retired soldiers of Intake 30 of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) regarding pending payments of their retirement benefits including gratuity. Given the sensitivity of the matter, GAF High Command would like to make some clarifications on the situation surrounding the planned demonstrations by the affected soldiers.

Firstly, it is instructive to note that GAF like most armed forces the world over is not a conscript armed forces and hence its membership is voluntary. In other words, the enlistment of eligible personnel for military services is done voluntarily for a fixed term of service at the end of which they may opt to re-engage or voluntarily discharge. This is in line with established administrative procedure and regulations as succinctly contained in the Gambia Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) 1993. Furthermore, it is essential to inform the public that out of a total number of 1500 soldiers that constitute Intake 30, 135 of them representing approximately 9 (nine) percent of the total strength of the Intake, applied for voluntary discharge upon expiration of their term of engagement (12 years). Consequently, all of them were granted approval in accordance with the relevant provisions of the TACOS.

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As a regulation and a normal military practice, GAF was required to give in writing a 3 month notification in advance to each and every member of the armed forces once their term of service comes close to the end. This is done in order to allow adequate time for them to make informed decisions on whether or not to re-engage in military service. As a result, and upon completion of their term of service, some of the soldiers voluntarily discharged whilst others opted to re-engage in line with the set service terms and conditions of the Gambia Armed Forces. However, barely two months later some soldiers who after re-engagement, decided to change their decisions and opted to be discharged instead citing compassionate grounds as the main reason for such late decision.

This decision by these soldiers meant that the Defence Headquarters needed to start working on administrative/financial procedures to ensure that all their dues are paid to them and on time. Consequently, all the personal files of these discharged soldiers were compiled for processing of such benefits and refunds.

The processes amongst others involved completion of discharge forms including Widows Orphans Pension Scheme which were sent to the Personnel Management Office for similar processes.

Perhaps it is instructive to state that the processing of retirement benefits and refunds for public servants including members of the Armed Forces requires diligent bureaucratic process which cannot be circumvented. Besides, the process also involves the participation of various government institutions and functionaries at different levels and times. Equally, the output of one institution becomes the input for the other which makes the possibility of processing all these benefits simultaneously very remote. In this particular situation, the main stakeholders include Retirees, Defence Headquarters Finance Directorate, Personnel Management Office, Internal Audit Directorate, Accountant General’s Office, National Audit Office, Central Bank of The Gambia, and personal bank of the beneficiary. It can be deduced that the entire process is characterised by thoroughness and transparency.

It is worthy to further clarify that the seeming delay in the payment of benefits and other entitlements to some soldiers is as a result of their voluntary discharge few months after having re-engaged for a new term. Hence, naturally and in line with due process and procedure, they could not be paid at the same time as their colleagues who discharged earlier than them. The GAF wishes to inform the general public and the affected soldiers that as of today, 80 percent of the retired soldiers have been paid their full benefits whilst the payments for the remaining 20 percent are being processed to be paid as soon as possible.

Currently, frantic efforts are being made by GAF and the relevant stakeholders to ensure that the affected retirees are paid their entitlements without further delay. Meanwhile, GAF wishes to reassure the public that it is concerned and committed to satisfying the welfare of its members including retirees as a priority and assures all Gambians of this commitment at all times when and where necessary. Furthermore, the public is also assured of GAF’s determination to maintaining the existing peace and security in the country. Meanwhile, GAF wishes to reiterate its open door policy in engaging all and sundry on matters of security that is of concern to all.

We seek the cooperation of all in this regard.

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