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Graft-laden Liberia deprives District Surveillance Officers of incentives

A mentor provides technical oversight for disease detectives trainees (DSOs) during a measles

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM–– Reports reaching Globe Afrique’s news desk revealed that corruption in Liberia has no boundaries and limits, even the health sector, a critical sector to the lifeline of any serious nation, is not spared in Liberia when it comes to graft and organized public theft in the Liberian government headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

According to reliable sources supported by Globe Afrique’s research findings, 91 District Surveillance Officers (DSOs) in the country have not received their incentives from the Ministry of Health (MOH) since January 2017, a little more than 10 months.

Globe Afrique’s investigative effort uncovered chilling facts regarding how insensitive and corrupt administrative and senior level officials at the ministry deleted the names of the DSOs from the MOH’s incentive payroll through the so-called County Health Teams (CHT) in all fifteen counties in the country.

The incentives for the DSOs are being provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) through the Liberia’s Ministry of Health.  WHO initiated the incentive payment after the Ministry of Health recruited DSOs to serve as District Surveillance Officers in the wake of the Ebola virus outbreak that killed over 5,000 persons in Liberia and left hundreds of children orphan.

According to sources, WHO stopped the funding of the incentive payment to the DSOs in December 2016 after it was observed that the Ebola and related medical services funds made to the Ministry of Health through the government of Liberia were being stolen and deposited into the personal accounts of some government officials and influential individuals with ties to officials.

Globe Afrique has learned that the various DSOs throughout the country have reached a pact amongst themselves not to release any surveillance report, thereby putting the population at risk.

The surveillance reports are usually sent to the MOH, National Public Health Institution of Liberia (NPHIL), WHO, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other international health organizations in Liberia.

The role and function of the DSOs are very important given the vulnerabilities of the Liberia and the sub-region to serious medical outbreaks. The various DSOs are charged with conducting active case search for priority disease and making daily, weekly and monthly reports on priority diseases that occur in all communities in Liberia.

But widespread corruption and looting in the Liberian government appeared to stall these necessary efforts.

According to sources, all health workers (who are employed with the Civil Servant Agency) are receiving both the Liberian dollars salary and the United States dollars incentive.

Currently, the DSOs are only receiving the Liberian dollars salary but not the US dollars incentive. The DSOs are currently paid $20,000.00 (Twenty thousand) Liberian Dollars. When converted, the $20,000.00 LD is less than $200.00 United States Dollars considering that the current rate is $1.00 USD to $130.00 LD.

Consequently, the District Surveillance Officers throughout the country are finding it difficult to feed their families and send their children to school.

Speaking to Globe Afrique, a spokesperson for the DSOs who elected to speak on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said the Director for the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), the Health Minister, the Personnel Director at the MOH are all responsible for the incentive problems facing the DSOs.

Globe Afrique made frantic efforts to reach out to the authorities concern but to no avail.  Further attempts will be made to ascertain the perspective of the authorities mentioned in this story.

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Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens is a researcher, media issues analyst and senior contributor with Globe Afrique.

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