Minority takes Minister to cleaners over army recruits

Linda Akrasi Kotey

Minority Leader Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu

It is official. Every one in three recruits of the Ghana Armed Forces, under President John Evans Atta Mills ‘Better Ghana’ agenda, is from the Volta Region.

Officially, the region is entitled to a mere 8.3 per cent of recruits under the formula to ensure regional balance in the military.

Yesterday, the Minority in Parliament took issues with President Atta Mills’ Minister of Defence, Lt-Gen Henry Smith (rtd), for the over-representation of the Volta Region in recruitment into the Armed Forces.

In addition to the regional imbalance, the Minority accused the Defence Minister of recruiting 67 unqualified personnel, who have been given regimental numbers and are undergoing training.

Minority Leader Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu said if the minister disputed what they were saying, he (Smith) would have lied to the whole country, including members of the august House, because a document available to him indicated that 67 failed recruits were undergoing training.

The Minister was in Parliament to respond to a question, as to what extent the Ministry took into considering regional and gender balance in the recruitment of 453 personnel of the 2009/2010 batch of general recruitment.

Lt-Gen. Smith (rtd) insisted he was conforming to the current policies within the Ghana Armed Forces, and that he had done nothing wrong.

The questioner further probed whether the Minister considered the regions from which the applicants hailed from, for the purpose of ensuring regional balance.

The Minister, in his response, said on the forms that applicants purchase for recruitment, there is a column which says where applicants must indicate where they wished to appear before the recruitment committee. In effect, candidates choose their preferences.

This did not go down well with the Minority, which said further investigations they had conducted revealed that some of the regions got a higher number of recruits than they were entitled to, citing the Volta Region, which was supposed to get 8.3%, but actually got 30%, according to recruitment figures available..

General Smith (rtd) said recruitment into the Ghana Armed Forces was now a very popular choice for young people, as it is keenly contested, and allows them the opportunity to stick to stringent criteria to recruit only the best.

“Generally, we have little difficulty maintaining a regional, as well as a gender balance, because the number of applicants always outstrips our requirements significantly.”

He added that in the Ghana Armed Forces, the recruitment policy generally requires 90% male to 10% female in all three services.

A second requirement is that each region should exhibit the appropriate gender mix as well, through all three services i.e. Army, Navy and Air Force.

The Defence Minister noted that out of an upper limit of 300, the Navy had recruited 180 males and 35 females, and the Air Force 104 males and 25 females, out of a quota of 300. In both cases the regional spread is impeccable.

According to him, in the 2009/2010 General Recruitment Exercise, the Ghana Army was given a quota of 90% male and 10% female. These recruits are expected to be taken in two batches of 450 each. At the moment, 391 males and 60 females are undergoing training.

The second batch of 534, is currently undergoing medical examination, out of which 450 will be shortlisted for training in January, 2011. It is hoped that any shortfalls in the regional quotas in the first batch would be addressed, the Defence Minister stated.

“The extra one person in the first batch may be regarded as a trivial detail for our purposes today. It is a human organisation and a small measure of flexibility may be permitted, provided it does not derail the primary goal of regional and gender balance,” he told the House.

The Minister said the percentage chosen for each region was based on the population census figures of Ghanaians between the ages of 15 and 29. For instance, Greater Accra is 19.3%, Upper West is 2.7% and Volta is 8.2%.

“During the process of recruitment, which consists of aptitude test, medical examinations and so on, the figures undergo many slight changes. But, the final tally is accurate, in terms of regional and gender balance,” he added.

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