Liberia: National Health Workers Union Condemns Government For ‘Unlawful Salary Deduction’, Chaotic Headcount Audit

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Paynesville – The National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) says the ongoing General Auditing Commission (GAC) payroll audit of health workers is not being conducted in the right way and warned of serious consequences if its members are left out of the process.

Addressing a press conference, NAHWUL, through its Assistant Secretary-General, Deemi T. Dearzrua, said contrary to the union’s expectation that the audit will not only capture the actual number of the health workforce, but to equally identify gaps created by the massive retirement scheme over the past two years for subsequent replacement with thousands of other workers who have been volunteering for years in these facilities, the headcount process has been more “problematic than solution oriented.”

Said NAHWUL: “The GAC chose designated points which in the first instance are not the assigned areas of the employees, tantamount to green light for ghosts to turn out.  There was no prior notification about these designated points which in some instances are located in distances between LRD2,000.00 to LRD5,000.00 transportation fare to the sight, in hard-to-reach areas, with no guarantee of getting validated on first visit due to the disorganized manner of the process,” NAHWUL said.

It continued: “No duration as to how long this GAC team will be at the particular point. The headcount also compelled our health workers to leave their patients unattended thus putting us in collusion with patients and their relatives.”

But in response, the GAC, through its Senior Media Analyst, Edwin Clarke, said the process is being conducted well and the GAC has completed 14 counties with only Montserrado remaining.

NAHWUL also alleged that most of its members, mostly volunteers that were promised by the Government through the Ministry of Health to gain full employment status as part of commitments made during the union’s strike action in 2019, are being turned down by the GAC audit team without the Ministry of Health’s intervention.

Making specific reference to Bong and Grand Bassa Counties, NAHWUL alleged that the GAC audit team rejected National Identification Registration (NIR) numbers of some its members in the validation process despite the Government insisting that the NIR should be used by civil servants for employment purpose.

NAHWUL then recommended that “the exercise be carried out at each facility or district level in an orderly manner; that the personnel are matched with their work schedule and attendance roster; that those who are working but are not captured on the MoH payroll be identified for immediate placement on the payroll.”

If these measures are not taken in to consideration, NAHWUL warned that it envisages a total chaos at the end of the headcount as the process lacks the pedigree to diagnose and mitigate, but rather designed to compound the already complex situation; adding, “It does not and will not give any pictures of the gaps in the system but will serve as a gateway to further fraud the payroll.”

“NAHWUL do hereby sounds the caveat to GoL that she will not condone any unnecessary embarrassment to the already overstretched women and men whose selflessness and devotion have kept our health system up and running over the years at their own detriment by the so-called headcount being conducted by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).”

It continued: “To be very clear, NAHWUL considers it as a provocation should any legitimate worker be removed from the payroll this time as has always been the case in the past. NAHWUL calls for the immediate and unconditional validation of all health workers who were subjected to payroll enrolment by the use of the National Identification Registration (NIR) number and the immediate issuance of their payroll numbers as the GAC now demands.

GAC Response

Meanwhile, the GAC has denied the allegation that it is turning down health workers with NIR numbers. Responding to the claims, Mr. Clarke said the NIR is one of the documents that is being requested for by the team.

“It is not true because the National ID is one of the documents as reflected in all of the requested documents,” he debunked.

‘Deduction of Poverty Salary’

NAHWUL, through its Assistant Secretary General Dearzrua, also accused the Government of unlawfully deducting a chunk of what it called the poverty salaries of Healthcare Workers throughout the country. To compound their miseries, he alleged that the GoL has failed to provide pensioners their retirement benefits and replaced pensioned Healthcare Workers in the already understaffed Health System.”

In addition it alleged that the Ministry of Health has embarked upon an unnecessary and inconveniencing transferring of staff from one health facility to another without prior notice and not facilitating the relocation.

The union, Dearzrua added, has been engaging its members to retain constraints while it has made substantive efforts for a social dialogue with health authorities but to no avail; alleging that the government’s posture since September 2020, has been to relegate NAHWUL to an association status and to remove him and NAHWUL’s General Secretary, George Poe Williams before it engages the union. He warned that the Government should not take the union’s tolerance and resolve to seek redress to the workers’ legitimate concerns through peaceful means for granted.

However, the head of Communications at the Ministry of Health, Ms. Felecia Gbesioh denied NAHWUL’s claims about salary deduction. Ms. Gbesioh said the health workers, like any other civil servants, are being paid based on the current exchange rate; adding there is no reduction in their salary.

On the transferring of staff, Ms. Gbesioh said the Ministry of Health is not aware of any such practice and advised that those that are being affected should report the situation to the authorities. She also added that the Ministry currently enjoys a cordial working relationship with NAHWUL, and has no intention to recommend the removal of any of its officials. 

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