Health ministry fails to pay former workers
SCORES of former Health ministry employees descended on the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru last week demanding their outstanding salaries and terminal benefits.
The ex-workers started visiting the ministry on Wednesday and vowed to continue pressing for their money and reinstatement.
The disgruntled ex-employees told the Sunday Express that they had not been paid their July, August and September salaries, and also did not know when they would receive their gratuities following the expiry of their 10 and four-year contracts on 29 September 2014.
“There are 270 of us who were employed by the ministry under a special HIV and AIDS project funded by Global Fund. We were employed as counselors and data clerks from 2004 and 2010 respectively, and our contracts expired on 29 September,” the group’s representative, Refuoehape Tsiane, told the Sunday Express last Wednesday.
“I am one of the counselors who were employed under this project in 2004. We had never encountered any problems concerning the payment of our salaries until April this year after Global Fund left the project.
“We didn’t get our salaries for April, May and June, and the money only came as a lumpsum in August. We asked what was going on, but were sent from pillar to post. We were told that we had not been included in the current budget allocation of the health ministry.
“But at some point, we were also promised that the ministry was working on absorbing us into the Public Service.
“However, this did not happen until our contracts lapsed on 30 September. To make matters worse, we didn’t get our salaries for July, August and September and were also promised our gratuities by the end of November, but we never got the money, despite being promised otherwise during a meeting we held on 10 October 2014 with health ministry authorities. When this didn’t happen, we came here to meet the minister (Dr Pinkie Manamolela) on Friday last week. She then told us to come and see her today at 8:30 am, but again instead of meeting with the minister, we were sent from pillar to post.”
However, two representatives of the group eventually met Dr Manamolela on Wednesday and the minister allegedly told them to come for another meeting on Wednesday this week.
The ex-workers also held a meeting with the ministry’s Principal Secretary Lefu Manyokole, and Disease Control Department Director Mosilinyane Letsie on Thursday, who allegedly told them the issue was being resolved.
However, the disgruntled ex-staffers, who told the Sunday Express they no longer trusted the health ministry authorities, wrote to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last Wednesday, outlining their grievances.
The letter, which was signed by 37 of the disgruntled workers, reads: “We, counselors and data clerks, wish to express our grave concern following the non-payment of our salaries by the Ministry of Health. We were promised that we will get all our salaries on 29 November 2014, but wish to inform you with shock and shame that even up to today, we have not received our monies.
“Our contracts lapsed in September. However, we still need our jobs back considering that as things stand now, there are no HIV and AIDS counselors and data clerks employed in the country. We appeal to you Ntate; we humbly ask for your intervention to approach all concerned ministries to speed up our payments. We are dying of hunger in our families. We will appreciate your assistance as we remain hopeful that you will help us.”
The group further wrote to Dr Manamolela requesting that their payments be facilitated “as soon as possible and tax-free due to the suffering we have been subjected to because of the arrears.”
Contacted for a comment, Mr Manyokole said: “It is true those people have not received their salaries for three months.
“However, I’m working very hard to secure funds from the Ministry of Finance to pay them. You see, the problem was that these people had not been budgeted for in the current financial year. The government, having made a commitment in the past regime that it would take over from Global Fund and continue to pay the staff, failed to honour that commitment for reasons I don’t even know.
“However, I am working tirelessly with the Accountant General to address this issue, and I promise that before the end of next week, they would have been paid those salaries and gratuities. We need them in the ministry because their jobs are very important in our fight against AIDS. Actually, we should have long absorbed them into the Public Service had it not been due to some complications that came up.”
Mr Manyokole further said the ministry needed M7 million for the workers’ salaries for April to September.
“But because we didn’t have that money, I had to go back to Global Fund to ask for more money to pay the staff for the first three months – April, May and June.”
Global Fund is the world’s largest financier of anti-AIDS, TB and malaria programmes.