The Defence Ministry completed the first ever, fully-comprehensive, six-month long stock-taking of ammunition stored at its warehouses in Slovakia and discovered that some listed items are missing, including grenades, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and more than 200,000 pieces of ammunition, the TASR newswire wrote on December 8.
The missing ammunition in army stores is a result of negligence and a bad system of inspections in the stores, the Sme daily wrote. The recent operation also revealed that the partial stock-takings carried out in the past were done only on paper and some boxes were not even opened. Hundreds of people responded to these findings, while several disciplinary and personnel measures were adopted. Others may follow, Chief of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces Milan Maxim said.
The situation is being investigated by the police, without any results so far.
The stock-taking results were announced on December 8 at a press conference in which Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš (Slovak National Party nominee), Police Corps First Vice-president Jaroslav Málik, National Crime Agency (NAKA) director Peter Hraško, Chief of the General Staff Milan Maxim and Military Police director Michal Migát took part.
What is missing from army stocks
The audit established that the missing stocks include 80 RG-F1 hand grenades, 11 anti-tank RPG-75s, 40 URG-86 hand grenades, one piece of ammo for an infantry combat vehicle (BVP), more than 200,000 5.6-long bullets and hundreds of other types of ammo.
“This was the first ever physical check of ammunition in which we went through 100 percent of the warehouses and 100 percent of the stocks – every item of ammo piece by piece,” Gajdoš said, as cited by TASR, adding that in the past the military checked 20 percent of ammunition annually. “Any of my predecessors could have ordered the drafting of such an inventory.”
The minister added that the missing ammo did not disappear in recent months and could have vanished at any point, all the way back to the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
Maxim announced that more than 20,000 tonnes of ammunition were physically checked by 7,900 soldiers and employees.
“Disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against 28 individuals, but cases are still pending,” said Maxim, as quoted by TASR, adding that the proceedings have resulted in discharges, financial penalties and the cancellation of bonuses.
The Defence Ministry has already boosted patrols at ammunition warehouses, replaced all security locks and revised the systems of entry to warehouses. NAKA director Hraško informed the media that there are no indications yet that the missing materials have been used for criminal purposes or terrorism.
“An extremely likely explanation is that the materials in question weren’t stolen but were neglected in terms of cataloguing or never supplied in the first place,” he stated, as quoted by TASR, adding that the police are investigating the matter.
Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) MP and former defence minister, Ľubomír Galko, praised the current leadership of the Defence Ministry for keeping its promise to carry out an unprecedented inventory of ammunition stocks in response to the disappearance of some ammo earlier this year, but he also voiced some criticism. He said that he disagrees with attempts to trivialise the reasons why the ammo went missing.
“If we know that there were 44 individual human failures, then such a massive failure isn’t human but systemic,” said Galko, as quoted by TASR.
Change in guarding the ammunition stores
In a way, Gajdoš also agreed with Galko's statement, opining that the whole system is poorly set, and needs to be changed. The minister said that professional soldiers should guard the military stores, and there must be a change in registration and checks on the issuing and registration of the material.
The change will be implemented only gradually, due partially to finances. The ministry is doing its best to prevent such a situation from being repeated and that 99 percent of the issues concern just two storage facilities in Kubra and Sklené, Gajdoš added, as quoted by the SITA newswire. He also stressed that no handguns were missing.