By Jonathan Ugbal
Investigations by CrossRiverWatch have revealed that there are about 4000 ghost workers in the Primary Health Care (PHC) Departments across the 18 local government areas of Cross River State on payroll.
This is even as the 18 PHCs across the state are suffering from acute staff shortage with official records showing that there are over 6,000 workers under the payroll of government as staff in the department, findings by CrossRiverWatch reveal.
This is following the call last week by PHC staff, on governor Ben Ayade to immediately direct their deployment from the Local Government Ministry to the newly created Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency (CRSPHCDA), citing several reasons including the intense politicking been done with their jobs and postings by local government chairmen amongst others.
Reliable sources informed CrossRiverWatch that there are barely 2,000 staff on ground and that dead colleagues, retirees, those who have left the service or transferred as well as “non-existent persons” make up the remaining 4,000 ghost workers who are under payroll as PHC staff with the Local government affairs Ministry overseeing the departments.
A staff in the office of the Director General, Primary Healthcare Development Agency also told CrossRiverWatch that upon resumption of office, the DG was told there were about 5,980 staff or thereabout but preliminary findings by the DG herself showed this not to be true, although she is yet to carry out proper data collection to ascertain the actual number, “what is on ground and on paper has a very wide gulf separating the two to the tune of almost 4,000.”
Sources inside the PHCDA, Local Government Ministry, Local Government Service Commission, and the PHC Departments across the 18 local government areas in the state agreed there is a clear deviation from the figure on the payroll and what is on ground.
A senior PHC staff in the central senatorial district confidently told CrossRiverWatch that “It was only during the tenure of Donald Duke as governor, that we got a figure close to the actual number on ground as consistent table payments (of salaries) for months reduced drastically, the massive number of ghost workers then in the system, this local government and banks approach is just a classical way of stealing. Only table payments for at least 4 months can save us, and because some of our union members and thieving politicians are perpetrators, they will always kick against screening and table payment.”
Further findings by CrossRiverWatch showed that no PHC Department in all the local government areas in the northern and central senatorial district has a staff strength of up to 250 as against an average of 333 per LGA if unconfirmed information from the LGSC is anything to go by.
In Bekwarra local government area, a senior staff of the department said there are only 195 staff with just a little above 100 actively carrying out duties as assigned to the latter. The staff who spoke on condition of anonymity claims the ghost workers may “even be more than what you are saying because people who have died, left the service, retired are still collecting salaries, how? The pay offices do that in conjunction with local government chairmen, staff of the local government and some powerful coordinators.”
Also, in Obudu local government area, the total staff strength was pegged at less than 200, same with Obanliku which is less than 150, Ogoja and Yala, about 200, Boki at less than 200, Ikom, above 200, Obubra, around 150.
It was discovered that apart from the main Primary Healthcare centers and the Model Primary Healthcare centers in each local government area where there is a minimum of 15 to 20 staff, other health centers have less than 10 in most cases, worse off are the health posts where one may be lucky to find up to 3 staff posted there.
For example, the health post in Bedia village, Obudu local government area has only two health workers posted there who take shifts weekly. This was the same case in several other health posts visited.
Information obtained by CrossRiverWatch reveals that when the Tulsi Chanrai Foundation was overseeing the PHC Departments, healthcare facilities where classified to see a health post cater for between 300 to 500 families in every ward with each ward having a Primary Healthcare Center, while each local government area has one Model Primary Healthcare facility and a “main” Primary Health Care facility.
The arrangement it is said, also included the attachment of one SUV and an ambulance to the Doctor attached to the local government area who was also mandated to tour every healthcare facility at least once a week.
This it is reported made the PHC departments quite effective as the foundation also employed ad hoc staff whom were referred to as Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs) and Junior Community Health Extension Workers (JCHEWs).
It is unclear at the moment what the fate of the foundation is as it is rumored they are yet to be “answered” by the incumbent administration.
When CrossRiverWatch contacted the Local Government Affairs Commissioner, John Ulafor, he said he was in a meeting. Several text messages to his phones have not been replied either.
As at press time, the DG of the PHCDA, Dr. Betta Edu said she could neither confirm nor deny CrossRiverWatch finding as the agency was yet to carry out a thorough staff audit to determine whether the information is correct.
She however assured that the agency is working towards auditing its total number of work force to ensure better management of available manpower to meet the yawning gaps in staff strength in most of the PHCs.
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