Around 10,000 Government health workers in Liberia are to be paid their salaries and allowances, including back pay. UNDP Liberia has been collaborating with the Ministries of Health and Finance to undertake a rapid assessment of lists of health workers across all counties so that the right amounts will go into the right bank accounts. Government health workers have not been paid for the past three months.
The Ebola crisis in Liberia has uncovered some of the structural issues that already existed in the country, issues like the difficulty in paying health workers. UNDP Liberia is working with the Government of Liberia to address some of these issues in the short term, to deal with the crisis, but also to put in place systems that mean that the Government has a robust, effective payroll system with the best payment methods that can be used into the future.
Stuart Kefford, Project Coordinator from UNDP has been visiting counties with Health Ministry officials to compare payroll lists, make random checks on those people who are on the list to ensure they are actually working, and the lists are now very close to 100 percent accurate.
He is working in collaboration with consultants from the UN Capital Development Fund, who have been assisting with the development of strong information systems at the Health Ministry, and assessing the best payment methods for each county and district in the country.
“Health workers are being hired by so many different organizations, and we’ve been trying to make sure that the list of workers is up to date, that the pay rates are standardized and that people are not getting paid twice,” Mr. Kefford said.
“By the end of this week every county will have had a visit from officials who will be able to verify that the lists are accurate. UNDP and the Health Ministry have made it their top priority to make sure that the people who are out on the front lines get what they deserve as quickly as possible.”
When the payments are made, UNDP and the Health Ministry will visit the counties again to ensure the system is working.
The remaining issue is to pay the thousands of health workers who are not on the Government payroll – people who are working for NGOs, or are employed as consultants. This includes the Contact Tracers/Active Case Finders who are tracking down people who have been in contact with Ebola victims. UNDP is advising the Government on the best way to make sure all the workers are paid.
This process has highlighted the structural limitations in such a large operation, says Stuart Kefford. “Mobile money is the easiest way to get funds quickly out to remote areas. However, there are big problems with liquidity – merchants in remote areas just don’t have enough cash at any one time to guarantee that all the health workers can be paid when they want it,” he said.
UNDP is continuing its work with the Ministries as well as the Central Bank, commercial banks and cell phone companies to find the most effective way to get cash to people in rural areas both during the Ebola crisis, and into the future.