The Controller and Accountant General, Mr Christian Tetteh Sottie, has stated that the issue of the striking junior doctors is not about non-payment of salaries but delays in the implementation of the new salary structure, a situation which affects all health workers.
He told the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday that it was unfortunate that the junior doctors should go back on their own word after they had reached a compromise following series of meetings with the President, Mr J. A. Kufuor, government officials and officials of the Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD).
He said if there was any doctor who had not been paid, then that doctor must be newly employed, a situation which he complained about but said had always been a problem for all newly-employed persons in this country.
Mr Sottie explained that even in the case of the newly-recruited doctors, the current arrangement was that they should be given salary advance by the health facility that had engaged their services and expressed regret that most doctors had not taken advantage of the opportunity.
The Controller and Accountant General said it was made clear to the doctors that since the necessary documents which would facilitate the work on their new salary structure had delayed, there was no way they could be paid the new salaries and the arrears before the end of June 2006.
He said there were currently about 42, 000 health workers on the payroll and the new mapping system was such that the case of each individual worker must be handled separately before the person could enjoy the new salary.
Mr Sottie said a letter from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) indicated that there had been an understanding by the doctors that one third of all arrears relating to the new salary levels be paid at the end of this month, to be followed by another one third by the end of July and the final payment made at the end of August 2006.
Reacting to a statement made by a Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Samuel Owusu Agyei, that the new salaries and arrears would be paid by the first week of June, Mr Sottie said that was on condition that all the necessary documents were made available by May 22, 2006 for processing, adding that it was only last Friday, June 1, 2006, when his office received all the needed documents from the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
He added that one other thing which brought about the delay in the implementation of the process was that the consultants working on the new structure had to suspend work for one month to enable them to look at the anomalies which were complained about by the other health workers.
He said after the executives of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), together with six junior doctors, had met with President Kufuor on June 1, 2006, he (Sottie) met them in his office, discussed a letter from the MOFEP concerning the payments, which was copied to the Director of the GHS and was assured of an agreement, only to hear reports that the doctors were still on strike.
A letter signed by the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in charge of Budget, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, dated June 2, 2006, addressed to Mr Owusu Agyei and copied to all the stakeholders on the issue, stated, “I am directed to inform you that approval has been granted for the new salary structure for the public health professionals to be implemented immediately, effective January 2006”.
The letter went on to direct the Controller and Accountant-General to implement the new salary structure immediately to ensure that the June payroll would reflect the new salary levels.
It further requested all commercial banks, where appropriate, to advance up to one month's salary of the new pay levels to those health professionals who might need financial help.
The letter, therefore, requested that with those decisions, the GAM should move to suspend the strike.
Story by Lucy Adoma Yeboah.