By Peter Stevenson
THE Defence Ministry will need almost €13 million to safely dispose of expired ammunition which has been stockpiled in storage facilities with certain pieces dating back some 70 years.
Deputies have been discussing the method which would be used to dispose of the ammo during House Watchdog Committee meetings.
“It is a truly scary subject as three and a half tonnes of ammo has been disposed in recent years without the correct safety measures already and now €12.8 million is required to deal with old stockpiles, otherwise there could be casualties,” chairman of the committee Giorgos Georgiou said.
The chairman said that safety was the main concern of the chief of the National Guard (NG) who expressed his concern regarding the disposal of the ammo.
“We have to wonder what decisions were made in previous years that such large stockpiles have been amassed that require so many millions to dispose of,” AKEL MP Irene Charalambidou said.
Aristos Damianou, also from opposition AKEL said there was an issue with ammo being stolen for the purpose of stripping it down and selling off as scrap metal. He said that certain companies use their employees to strip ammo and that it was extremely dangerous and could put lives at risk.
In its response, the defence ministry said that a number of measures had been taken to prevent such phenomena and that it was taking steps towards the disposal of expired ammunition having recently signed a four-year deal which is aimed at reducing already large stockpiles.
To this end a tanker belonging to a Spanish company is currently waiting to be loaded with hundreds of tonnes of expired ammo which will eventually be destroyed.
The deal, worth €1.2m, will see the tanker travel to Cyprus one more time to collect the ammo which the Spanish company will eventually dispose of, a defence ministry spokesperson said.
Another deal has been signed with a local company worth €180,000 which will purchase a portion of the ammo.
MPs also discussed the worrying trend of the increase in drug use within the NG. “Twelve per cent of our soldiers, according to a test sample, are drug users,” Georgiou said.
He said that the issue needed to be dealt with. Charalambidou said it was extremely worrying that the chief of the NG himself had admitted that 12 per cent of soldiers use drugs.
“It is a very high percentage and the state needs to find ways to deal with the problem, not only in the army but in society,” she said.
Speaking about a reduction in conscription, Charalambidou said the committee was informed by Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou that for that to happen, the whole of the NG would need to be restructured.