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Paynesville- The National Union of Health Workers of Liberia (NAHWUL) says the ongoing audit of the General Audit Commission (GAC) health workers payroll is not being conducted in the right manner and has put warns of serious consequences if its members are excluded from the process.
Addressing a press conference, NAHWUL, through its deputy general secretary, Deemi T. Dearzrua, said contrary to union expectations that the audit will not only capture the actual number of health workers, but will also identify gaps created by the massive retreat. plan over the past two years for subsequent replacement by thousands of other workers who have volunteered for years at these facilities, the headcount process has been more “problematic than solution-oriented.”
Says NAHWUL: “The GAC has chosen designated points which, in the first place, are not the areas assigned to employees, which amounts to a green light for the ghosts to show up. There has been no prior notification regarding these designated points which in some cases are located at distances between LRD 2,000.00 and LRD 5,000.00 for transport to sight, in difficult areas of access, with no guarantee of being validated on the first visit due to the disorganized way of the process,” said NAHWUL.
He continued: “No duration as to how long this GAC team will last at any given time. The count also forced our health workers to leave their patients unattended, putting us in collusion with the patients and their loved ones. »
But in response, the GAC, through its senior media analyst, Edwin Clarke, said the process was well done and the GAC had completed 14 counties with only Montserrado remaining.
NAHWUL also alleged that most of its members, mostly volunteers who had been promised by the government through the Ministry of Health to obtain full employment status as part of the commitments made during the strike of the union in 2019, are rejected by the GAC audit team without the intervention of the Ministry of Health.
Referring specifically to Bong and Grand Bassa counties, NAHWUL alleged that the GAC audit team rejected the National Identification Registration (NIR) numbers of some of its members in the validation process despite the fact that the government insisted that the NIR be used by civil servants for employment purposes.
The NAHWUL then recommended that “the exercise be carried out at the level of each institution or district in an orderly manner; that staff are matched with their work schedule and attendance list; that those working but not on the Ministry of Health payroll be identified for immediate placement on the payroll.
If these measures are not taken into consideration, NAHWUL warned that he envisions utter chaos at the end of the head count as the process lacks the pedigree to diagnose and mitigate, but rather is designed to aggravate the already complex situation; adding: “It does not and will not paint any picture of the shortcomings of the system, but will serve as a gateway for further payroll fraud.”
“NAHWUL hereby cautions the GoL that she will not tolerate any unnecessary embarrassment to the already overstretched women and men whose selflessness and dedication have kept our healthcare system operational over the years to their own detriment by the so-called effective being conducted by the General Auditing Commission (CGA)”.
He continued, “To be very clear, NAHWUL considers it a provocation for a legitimate worker to be taken off the payroll this time around, as it has always been the case in the past. NAHWUL calls for the immediate and unconditional validation of all health workers who have been submitted for payroll registration using the National Identification Registration Number (NIR) and the immediate issuance of their payroll numbers, as now required by the GAC.
Meanwhile, the GAC has denied the allegation that it refuses health workers with NIR numbers. In response to the claims, Mr Clarke said the NIR is one of the documents requested by the team.
“It is not true because the national identity card is one of the documents reflected in all the documents requested,” he debunked.
“Poverty Wage Deduction”
NAHWUL, through its Deputy Secretary General Dearzrua, also accused the government of illegally deducting part of what it called the poverty wages of health care workers across the country. To compound their miseries, he alleged that the GoL had failed to provide pensioners with their retirement benefits and replaced retired health workers in the already understaffed health system.
Furthermore, he alleged that the Ministry of Health embarked on an unnecessary and inconvenient transfer of staff from one health facility to another without notice and was not facilitating relocation.
The union, Dearzrua added, urged its members to maintain restraints as it made substantial efforts for social dialogue with health authorities, but to no avail; alleging that the government’s position since September 2020 has been to relegate NAHWUL to association status and remove him and NAHWUL General Secretary George Poe Williams before he engages the union. He warned that the government should not take for granted the union’s tolerance and resolve to seek redress for workers’ legitimate concerns through peaceful means.
However, the Communications Officer at the Ministry of Health, Ms. Felecia Gbesioh, denied NAHWUL’s claims regarding the wage deduction. Ms. Gbesioh said health workers, like all other civil servants, are paid based on the current exchange rate; adding that there is no reduction in their salary.
Regarding the transfer of staff, Ms Gbesioh said the Ministry of Health was not aware of any such practice and advised those affected to report the situation to the authorities. She also added that the ministry currently enjoys a cordial working relationship with NAHWUL and does not intend to recommend the removal of any of its officials.