Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Gov’t’s Covid-19 fight double standards


…as Covid-19 nurses go hungry while NACOSEC officials gobble over half a million monthly

Ntsoaki Motaung

Government’s double standards in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic came to the fore as it seemed that foot soldiers in the fight against the pandemic are being disregarded over posh office bearers at the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) doing the least of the job in the fight against the pandemic.

Earlier this week, a group of nurses said to have been employed in a move to combat the upsurge in the number of cases in the country protested that they have been carrying out their responsibilities for free for the past four months.

The health services providers numbering around 275, according to ministry records, posted throughout the country at different health centers had to come out of wherever they were posted to find answers to their non-payment crisis from the Ministry of Health Headquarters in Maseru, this after they had been given the run-around and reasons not convincing enough as to abate their worries on when they would be getting paid.

Speaking on behalf of the nurses converged at the ministry premises yesterday, Majara Jubilee from the Leribe district, indicated that when they were initially engaged, they were commissioned to work in the counter covid-19 unit as contract nurses who were eventually absorbed into the ministry’s permanent workforce and have been working, apparently, for free ever since.

“We have come together to get answers about our money which stands pending since last September.  We have not been paid since we got engaged hence our lives are basically at a stand-still, we can’t buy food, pay rent or transport to the very workplace,” he protested.

He said what makes the situation even more complex is fact that most of them have been posted to districts that are not their home towns hence are forced to bear rent and transportation costs in order to maintain job-life. Additionally, Jubilee pointed out, however, that the ministry seems to be pulling a divide-and-rule ploy on them as some have been paid while others haven’t.

“We have learned that there are some of us who were already paid but they do not even make a quarter of us. We do not have a clear explanation from the ministry of what is really happening. What is even worse is that our District Health Management Team (DHMT) do not have explanation, that is why we have chosen to incur the expense of coming to the headquarters,” he said.

Meanwhile, this publication saw a leaked list allegedly of the NACOSEC staff compliment with their positions, mostly administrative and non-medical or directly dealing with the Covid-19 incidences safe to offer expert counsel and seldom updates on the state of the pandemic in the country.

According to the list, the least paid inoperable NACOSEC worker who is also still employed by government in some other ministry, receives a monthly remuneration of no less than M12 500 with the highest pocketing M 30 000 monthly, denting the national purse a collective of no less than M 535 000 monthly.

Approached for comment, and to comment on the list and its bona fides as an operating document of NACOSEC, the Secretariat’s Human Resource Officer Lieketseng Makoko, did not deny the legitimacy of the list.

She however, could also not be brought into confirming it either saying she would not comment on the document without knowing where this reporter had gotten it from.

“As the Human Resource Officer I will not talk about the list, in order for me talk about it to any person, they have to provide me with the source of the list so that I could interrogate that source. As NACOSEC, we would not associate with anything whose source we do not know,” she said.     

Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the health ministry, Public Relations Officer (PRO) ‘Mateboho Mosebekoa, who is also NACOSEC Publicity and Social Media Manager (the same post she is listed in on the leaked document) as confirmed that the ministry was aware of the grievances by the nurses who were engaged by the ministry last year, although she pointed out that the problem was beyond their control.

“The Director Human Resources indicated that the office is already working towards resolving the problem. The director indicated that the payments delayed because of the newly introduced system used to pay civil servants which has a number of complications,” she said. Mosebekoa further said that the problem was not only facing the nurses but that it is a cross-cutting issue which also touches on other civil servants from other ministries

On the other hand, ‘Mamakhooa Molapo, from the office of Public Relations from the Ministry of Public Service, the ministry responsible for manning systems paying public servants, said generally it has been long since the ministry experienced challenges with the payment system for civil servants.

“Truly when the system was newly implemented, the ministry was faced with some challenges but those vanished when we got used to the system,” she said.

Molapo said that the said nurses had been experiencing challenges because they began working before they were officially hired by the government, because for one to be hired they should appear before the Public Service Commission.

“There was no way they would be incorporated into the system before they were hired. Maybe there were taken to work before approval by the commission because the Ministry of Health needed them so much. It was only last month when the Commission sat and approved their employment hence their names were put into the system,” she said.

She indicated however, that by the time that their names were fed into the system it was already beyond the time for their qualifying to be paid the following month since the system closes on the 29th day of the month to be processed for the subsequent month. For that reason, they were not captured into the system, they had to wait for when the system reopens and they hopefully they will be included for the month of February. Asked about NACOSEC staff and if the system has ever had complications when they were due for payment she reiterated the fact that the system has not had any problems in a very long time, and that “…NACOSEC staff is not paid from the system at Public Service but they are paid from the Disaster Management Authority because they are hired through the DMA Act,” she said

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