‘Japa’ Health Workers On DTSG Payroll: Your Job Not Done Dr Onojaeme

Dr Joseph Onojaeme

By Wilson Yafugborhi

Like the proverbial lizard that falls from the high Iroko tree praising self if no one else would do, Dr Joseph Onojaeme, Delta State Commissioner for Health must be basking in self glorification.

He has uncovered a salary fraud in the ministry that may have been covered for God knows how long by his predecessors and ministerial staff.

According to the handsome commissioner, the Delta State Government has deleted from her payroll, names of 200 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health workers employed in the Delta State University Teaching Hospital Oghara and continued to receive salaries years after migrating overseas for green pastures.

In his own words, “When I came onboard, I called for auditing of staff, especially in DELSUTH because I got complaints. We found out that those number of staff were not in existence in the hospital. They don’t come to work.

“We did thorough investigation, found out a lot of them are abroad. We had to remove them from our payroll. That is to serve as deterrent to others in the state. This is not only happening in Delta state, it’s happening everywhere, even in federal ministries.

“But in Delta, anybody caught will face severe sanctions. You cannot collect government money when you are not working for it. They will be made to refund the money.”

“The major problem we have in the health sector is human resources. We employ 100 doctors today, within six months it remains only 50. Some take up the job to gather funds and travel out. A lot of health workers leave the country for abroad.

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“You will discover that a lot of these workers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab scientists, others, travel abroad few months after receiving employment from the government. They will still be receiving salaries in their respective hospitals. They also receive foreign currencies in the countries where they work. This cannot be condoned.”

Dear handsome commissioner, my compliments for your efforts so far and for the findings that were already common knowledge, even if no one had been ringing the bell on these concerns openly.

Beyond my compliments and I guess majority critical Delta public would feel same way, your job is not done, if you must earn my full compliments.

Your capturing of the situation is even incomplete. Aside the japa category you identified, there are health employees on the Delta State Hospitals Management Board payroll who are also engaged and receiving same benefits in neighboring states.

Serving and getting paid in multiple states engagement also means cheating on Delta state because covering both or more ends means they can’t deliver the service worth their salaries in one state. As to your job not being done, what is worth doing, they say, is worth doing well.

You believe you have taken actions to serve as deterrent to others who may want to indulge just as you vowed those caught would be made to refund what they have receive just as you have deleted their names from the state payroll. I strongly disagree, Hon Commissioner.

Deleting names from payroll won’t meaningfully deter anybody and does not equal “severe sanction”. This is one of the issues with accountability in the civil service. Slack consequence management against those found wanting in payroll fraud in the system fuels the increasing salary fraud in the civil service. And it smells collusion on the part of those in position to allocate value.

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Hon Commissioner, how could you uncover 200 health workers receiving free salaries from Delta government while working abroad without worrying about the culpability of the personnel and salary managers who release these payments?

Have you any idea that the monies you have uncovered to have been filtered into private pockets is Deltans’ commonwealth and you owe the populace a duty to give full account?

It is not enough to scratch the surface of a clear organised fraud that have been going on for years. To truly serve deterrent on this saga, you must give the complete picture.

In case you are ignorant on how to do the needful, here is further debt of accountability you owe Deltans. First, publish names, job status and wage details of the said 200 persons who have ‘japa’ and still enjoying salaries on the health ministry’s payroll.

Determine how long they have been enjoying this free money and to what tune in clear figures to what strain on the state’s treasury. How are you determining making them refund what they have stolen?

Second and this is the most critical deterrent, remove the veil off the personnel and payroll managers in the health ministry who have been encouraging this fraud. Without their involvement, it cannot happen.

You said you were fixated on the teaching hospital, but the findings should provoke a total staff audit on the entire Delta Health Ministry. You should know better that this ‘japa’ health workers on the payroll is just one expression of the burden of ghost worker racket that is even more profound in the State Hospital Management Board.

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Check the board records. Several doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians are captured engaged. But go to the field, most of the General Hospitals are manned by one, at most two doctors overstretched and supported by NYSC serving doctors. Many are on payroll but never seen on duty.

You must apply clear sanctions against all involved in this racket. If heads do not roll, no deterrent is served. I attest to your commitment to accountability, because it is under you that the State Health Ministry, weeks before, also tackled worsening extortions on student in the state nursing schools to the extent of ordering the authorities to refund illegal fees and levies collected from the students.

This extortion has been going on for years. That is why I also believe even the sanctions you applied on the extortion saga are not deterrent enough. It is not enough to refund what has been extorted. How much was extorted and the management forces behind this misconduct must be exposed and shamed.

As you rightly observed, ghost workers and payroll fraud permeates all MDAs in all tiers of government nationwide. Do a thorough job with the revolution you have started to lead and you be the hero and catalyst for fighting this scourge which bloats governments’ recurrent expenditure and inhibits development across the landscape.


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