Liberia: COVID-19 Response Drivers Besiege Health Ministry over Delayed Salaries
MONROVIA – Ministry of Health in Monrovia was besieged on Wednesday when drivers of health vehicles and ambulances stormed the ministry’s premises in demand for their salaries and just benefits.
The compound became tense when some officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) carrying guns barricaded the second floor where the drivers had blocked a door and demanded to see the financial officer who was said to have been in a meeting.
Speaking to journalists outside of the compound, one of the drivers said he signed a two-month contract for March and April, for which he had received pay for March but not April. He blamed the financial officer Fidell Weah for taking certain employees over them and depriving them of getting their money.
“Fidell Weah who was the comptroller at NPHIL is now the financial man for the COVID-19 response, but he is picking and choosing and paying US$600.00 to his special interest but he keeps lying to us that he has paid our money into our accounts but he has not paid a dime into any of our account. While the President is doing his best for the Liberian people, he has people like Fidell Weah around him who is responsible for the tarnishing of President Weah’s reputation. We will not allow it. President Weah has to dismiss certain people in his government when it comes to money,” says Jerome Carlor, a driver at NPHIL.
Carlor said their representative was called into the meeting room to dialogue, but he is tired with dialogues and wants his money. He further disclosed even health workers at the 14 Military Hospital have not taken pay as well.
“Every day they go for meeting; what kind of meeting they keep having when people are not getting paid? We noticed that they are paying certain people and we who are doing the heavy work are not getting pay. I work very hard, from Sunday to Sunday to be treated this way. Therefore, what I sign for let them give it to me because these people are wicked and they are broad day witches,” says Driver Carlor.
It is not only the drivers who are having problem with Weah, but some employees of the coronavirus testing center at SKD Sport Complex in Paynesville, have also complained of being abandoned by the Government and for this reason, the testing center is empty.
“We have not taken pay since April and worse of all they are not feeding us after staying here all day to carry out tests. Our lives are at risk, yet we leave our families to work for the Liberian people but we are treated like slaves,” says a health worker.
The health worker who did not want to be named because of reprisal, said via mobile that due to the ‘don’t care’ treatment by health authority, many workers do not go to work, because they do not have money to transport themselves.
When journalist arrived at the nearly empty testing center, the supervisor who was setting up the place was complaining to another worker of employees not coming to work early. Just within minutes, a hand full of employees, were seen arriving after 10:00 a.m. and complained of being stuck in traffic.
When asked to speak on the issue of employees not being paid, she said she was not in a position to speak to journalist but only her boss who was between Mashall and Monrovia.
True to Carlor’s accusation of employees of the 14 Military Hospital not being paid, on Wednesday morning, health workers from the 14 Military Hospital, Star Base and the Palm Spring called on a local radio station to complain about not being paid for four months and they were mobilizing to protest at the Ministry of Health soon.
Journalists could not see Mr. Fidell Weah because he was said to be out of office attending to some matters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When contacted via mobile, his phone was switched off up to press time.