Liberia: Ministry of Health Clarifies Issues Concerning Health Workers Incentives

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Monrovia – The COVID-19 Deputy Incident System Manager for Finance and Administration, Fidel Wiah has addressed the recent action of drivers of vehicles and ambulances of NPHIL, who besieged the Ministry demanding their COVID-19 response benefits.

Driver Jerome Carlor said he signed a two-month contract covering the period of March and April, for which he received pay for March but not April.

Carlor accused Mr. Wiah of preferring certain employees over them and was depriving other drivers of getting their salaries.

Addressing Carlor’s accusation, Wiah said they have salary structure as per a person’s profession. For example, he said, a lab technician is not making the same salary as a medical doctor.

He furthered that his team “did some house cleaning” after taking over the COVID-19 Incident Management System, (IMS).  

“During the months of Februarys and March, we paid responders cash over the counter and we have vetted the payroll and removed over 300 ghost names. We told responders to open bank accounts for which about 80 percent of them opened, but out of that number, many of them gave wrong account numbers, for which we have evidence to that effect,” explains Wiah

“My thinking is that some of the drivers were used to getting paid in cash over the counter and did not want to go through the banking process, but because the banking process normally delays, so they try to push us to the wall to pay them through cash.”

He further explained that they had refused to pay responders through mobile money because most of the telephone numbers they gave were numbers of relatives and not theirs, so for fear of not paying somebody else’s mobile money to another person’s telephone number, they requested every employee open an account.

“Up to present, those with correct account numbers have started receiving credits from their different commercial banks including some of the drivers you spoke with recently,” Wiah said.

“The Medical doctors at 14 military Hospitals have all taken pay; including the lab technicians, ambulance drivers and dead body management team have also taken pay. We learned a lesson from the Ebola audit, so we are trying to do the right thing, and that is all responders take paid through bank accounts.”

As to why the driver of Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, who allegedly led the protest of the aggrieved drivers, Wiah said he was shocked.

“That is the million-dollar question, why would a driver who drives the head of NPHIL bang on the door in demand of benefits while we were meeting with our partners? But up till now this driver is still working with no action taken. He even threatened the life of the Human Resource Director, and she reported to Dr. Fallah.  So that question should go to Dr. Fallah as to why his driver did what he did and is not been investigated,” said Wiah

Driver Carlor, who confirmed via mobile that he had taken his April salary, said the drivers agreed to protest because they had not taken pay since April.

He said the Ministry has falsely blamed him for inciting the protest and calling journalists to cover the incident.

“Were you journalists not at the Ministry and asked to speak to me, then everybody is saying I called journalists? I am just fed up with these people,” Carlor said

Chrystal Smith, Human Resource Director of NPHIL, in an email addressed to Dr. Fallah, accused Mr. Carlor of threatening her life.

Portion of her e-mail reads: “When drivers disrupted the second floor, where the Incident Management System holds their daily meetings with partners and stakeholders, I tried to speak with Mr. Carlor one on one.  At which time he knelt down in front of me and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘HR, don’t try me, I can kill you for my salary’. This was a direct threat on my life.”  

When contacted via mobile, as to what has been done to his driver for misbehaving and threatening the life of the HR, Dr. Fallah referred FPA reporter to his Deputy Director General, Dr. Patrick Kpayen to respond to the inquiry.

“The issue was submitted to my office and we are doing an investigation and putting our reports together but since the HR told me she had a funeral yesterday and could not come to work, we are expecting her this morning to get her side before we can conclude the report. So, I would like to appeal to her to please give us a little time to come up with our conclusion,” said Dr. Kpayen.

Atty. James Gilayeneh, who was part of the meetings, added that even though the government has resource constraints, “no one can say they have not been paid,” adding that employees who made mistakes while submitting banking details are the ones challenged.

“Everybody who is getting some incentives from the response is still getting their salary from government, but because of the risk they are taking, this is why we show some level of appreciation in giving out some incentives. Therefore, some of the information on people not getting pay is not true. This is why we told them before they are paid, they need to get a bank account,” he said

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