Monday, March 28, 2011

Report: Fat cats feed on doctors’ awards

DISTURBING new evidence has emerged that fat cats in the Health Department have used perks and privileges negotiated for the striking national doctors in their own contracts, The National reports.
Even more disturbing, the “doctored” contracts were approved in a matter of weeks while the National Doctors Association has been waiting for these perks and privileges after five years of negotiations.
Tired of the procrastination, the NDA called its membership to strike last Friday despite a court order restraining the action.
Documents released to The National showed there was double-dipping in relation to housing and vehicle allowances in the contracts of six executive managers of the Department of Health.
Further, overtime, education and domestic market allowances had been calculated and paid to these executive managers over and above those allowable for these positions.
In all, a total of K1.6 million per annum had been paid the six executive managers with total packages ranging from K232,476 at the lower range to K342,561 at the upper level.
Correspondence between a terminated whistle blower from the DoH and the Department of Personnel Management secretary John Kali indicated that the contracts for the executive managers had been negotiated by the NDA for specialist medical officers.
Executive managers were only entitled to standard senior public services category B contracts which do not carry allowances such as housing, vehicle, overtime and education at the levels contained in the contracts, the correspondence revealed.
The NDA specialist medical officers awards were negotiated “to attract and retain our limited highly skilled medical professionals”, one letter dated last May stated.
In the letter to Kali, the whistle blower said: “The NDA specialists medical officers are still waiting for this contract payment to be signed and the very agent, NDOH, that should implement these contracts according to the MoU signed with DPM in January 2010, has decided to draw their contract on this hard-fought contract and have made payments to themselves as effective in April 2010.”
Instances mentioned included the following:

* One executive was awarded and paid K96,000 housing allowance even though the officer had an institutional house and was also paid K60,000 special domestic market allowance for which the officer was not entitled to as it was only negotiated for specialist medical officers; and

* Another executive was awarded and paid K48,000 in minimum consolidated clinical overtime/on-call allowances which was only for specialist medical officers even the executive does not do clinical on-call and was not eligible for overtime as an executive.

Although the department refused a negotiated backpay for doctors of 25%, one of the executives was paid the full backpay amounting to K27,083.
Although new four-wheel-drive vehicles were given to the executive managers, each had worked into their contracts K42,000 and K45,000 vehicle allowances per annum.
Details of cheques paid and alleged fraudulent contracts were made available to DPM, Public Service Commission, the Ombudsman Commission and the chief secretary as well as senior ministers in government.
The whistle blower recommended that the fraud squad be called in to investigate the allegations and for the government to withdraw the devolution of powers to the Department of Health and for the secretary of the department to be suspended.

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