EFCC To Go After Doctors For Fraudulently Collecting ₦540m Training Allowance
The federal government is considering dragging some medical doctors through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for illegally collecting medical training allowances meant for House Officers on residency training programme in 2020, to the tune of N540 million.
The move came as THISDAY learnt that the government had released N4.8 billion for the 2021 residency training programme.
Reliable sources at the Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment told THISDAY at the weekend that the health ministry was considering reporting the doctors, who failed to refund the illegal payment to the treasury, to the anti-corruption agencies.
The source said there were three categories of medical officers involved in the scam, including some consultant doctors.
The source also said the government had accused the managements of some of the Teaching Hospitals of allegedly smuggling names of those who had completed their residency training programme into the list of House Officers that received payment from the medical training fund in 2020.
According to the source, though the affected doctors had promised to refund the money, they were yet to do so, thereby making it difficult for the ones due for the training to access their allowances.
According to THISDAY, the federal government was particularly concerned that some of the consultant doctors who were involved in the illegal deal had not shown remorse for their action but rather were among those collaborating with resident doctors on the on-going strike.
The source also disclosed that out of the 8,000 House Officers that applied for the 2021 residency training programme, 2,000 were screened out for not having postgraduate residency training numbers.
The source said verification was on-going to ensure that only those qualified were deployed for the next programme.
According to the source, the Federal Ministry of Finance has released N4.8 billion as this year’s residency training fund to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation two weeks ago.
Regarding the smuggling of names into the salary payment platform, the source said the federal government had issued queries to Chief Medical Directors of the Federal Teaching Hospitals involved in the illegal act.
About 205 doctors were alleged to have been illegally recruited at the Ibadan Teaching Hospital, while the Calabar Teaching Hospital carried out illegal recruitment of over 100 doctors out of the 500 health workers.
According to the source, these illegally recruited doctors and health workers formed the majority of those that the NARD leadership were demanding that government should pay before they would end their on-going strike.
The source said, “These CMDs went ahead to recruit new doctors and other health workers without relevant approvals and ignoring the federal character principles. They went further to smuggle their names into the (GIFIMS) salary payment platform.
“Teaching Hospital, Ibadan recruited over 950 health workers without waiver from the office of the Head of Service, without certificate of finance and manpower compliance from the Budget Office of the Federation and without compliance with the federal character principle.
“These illegally recruited doctors and health workers were among those that NARD is demanding that federal government must pay salaries. This amounts to arm twisting of the government and cover-up of fraudulent act and it will not happen.
“The federal government in its magnanimity, despite the on-going strike, has decided to pay these illegally recruited doctors and health workers by asking the Head of Service of the Federation to approve a waiver for the affected doctors to be recruited formally into full employment.
“The Budget Office of the Federation is now working to capture them into the budget to be paid through the service wide vote.”
But, in a statement issued at the weekend and made available to THISDAY, former President of NARD, Dr. Muhammad Askira, accused some government officials of deliberately delaying the grant of waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical doctors and other health workers in the federal government health institutions.
Part of the grievances of the striking Resident Doctors was that their members were being owed several months of salaries and allowances by federal and state governments.
Askira, while justifying the current strike by resident doctors, said it was as a result of the government’s insincerity in implementing agreed actionable series of memoranda.
He alleged that there was currently a dearth of medical manpower in healthcare institutions caused by unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Askira alleged that the country presently had a doctor-to –patients’ ratio of 1: 7000, adding that many hospitals are finding it difficult to recruit or replace doctors.
According to Askira, many doctors are leaving the country to other climes where they can do their job with satisfaction.
He said, “As a result, the hospitals are depleted but find it difficult to employ new staff because of bureaucratic processes that involve the Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the Federal Character Commission as well as the Federal Ministry of Health.
“This has made the work burden on the available doctors to be unbearably high, resulting in physician burnout and limited care to a limited number of people needing care.”
Writing on the alleged rot in the public health sector, Askira said the process of recruitment or replacement of medical staff was incessantly delayed for no just reason. He accused some officials in the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies of corruption and deliberately delaying grant of approval for waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical staff.
He said, “It takes an average of 8-12 months for a lucky hospital to finally obtain a waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical staff. In some cases, the hospitals would be forced to consider candidates from some directors and politicians if at all they want the processes to be expedited, otherwise, it would be out rightly rejected or at best delayed and the required number slashed.”
But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had debunked these, saying contrary to the claims by the striking members of NARD, no genuinely recruited doctor or health worker in Nigeria is being owed monthly salary.
Speaking recently at a conciliatory meeting with doctors, Ngige had said, “NARD goes about telling Nigerians that government is owing them salaries and that government is not taking the problems in the health sector serious. But this is not true. It is incorrect.
“No doctor, nurse, pharmacist or any other health worker, including the driver, is owed monthly salary. Government pays as and when due.
“The truth is that NARD doctors fail to tell Nigerians that their colleagues who are owed salaries are the ones illegally recruited and were, therefore, neither captured by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation nor was their payment provided for by the Budget Office of the Federation.”