Sunday, 10 September 2017

Resident doctors battle medical director over alleged diversion of N280 million

The Association of Resident Doctors, ARD, at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State, has raised the alarm over an alleged diversion of N280.8 million credited to the hospital by the Federal Ministry of Finance for the payment of salary arrears.

The arrears reportedly covered the ‘Skipping’ entitlements for 2016, a term used for entitled double promotions for resident doctors.

According to the doctors, the Medical Director, Liasu Ahmed, had received the funds since March 2017, but had diverted the funds, stalling the payments despite several agitations by the doctors.
The resident doctors and the hospital management had been embroiled in series of conflict particularly after a strike action by the doctors in August last year.

But Mr. Ahmed denied the allegations, saying the hospital was yet to receive the amount as alleged by the resident doctors, stating that the doctors were out to tarnish the image of the hospital.

However, a letter made available to PREMIUM TIMES, dated March 5 from the Ministry of Finance’s Cash Management Department titled ‘Authority to Incur Expenditure’, addressed to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation(AGF) detailed advance release of funds to 13 federal agencies, of which, FMC Owo, was the ninth, with N280.8 million allocated to it.

“Being advance release of fund to the OAGF for the payment of verification personnel shortfall claims of the 13 MDAs as per attached list,” the letter with reference number OHMF/FICA/RPV/198/V.1, and signed by Edet Akpan, Director of Cash Management, stated in part.

Another letter also cited by PREMIUM TIMES from the Funds Department of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation dated March 5, 2017, addressed to the Director, Banking and Payment Systems Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, indicated that the funds had been paid to the hospital’s account at the CBN.

The letter which was signed by one Alexander Adeyemi on behalf of the AGF, was entitled: Mandate Schedule of Payment to Federal Medical Centres, Gusau and Owo (Non- regular allowance)
On the schedule, Gusau FMC had a total of N173, 936,000.19 credited to its CBN account number 0380110261017, while Owo FMC had N280,800,750.00 credited to its CBN account number 0160103161018.

“Being release of fund as payment of outstanding 2016 non-regular allowance to the under-listed MDAs,” the letter read.

Earlier in October 2016, the medical director had written to the Budget Office of the Federation in response to a request by the office in April 2016, for the compilation of the comprehensive list of salary shortfall and promotion arrears of the hospital.

Mr. Ahmed, as observed from the letter obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, made a request for the Skipping arrears of N280,413,614.76 among other personnel demands.

On learning that funds had been released to the hospital, the ARD, Owo branch, wrote a letter to the medical director, informing him that it had received information on the payment, and attaching the evidence of payment.

The ARD letter was dated May 2 and signed by its President, Ibikunle Fakorede, and the General Secretary, I.K. Afeboye.

“This is to bring to the notice of your honourable office that we are aware of the receipt of money for the payment of 2016 salary shortfall by the centre,” the letter read.

“Attached to this letter are documents to support that this money is meant for the payment of our 2016 salary shortfall and not for any other purpose.”

Mr. Fakorede, late told PREMIUM TIMES that several efforts to get the medical director to release the funds were unsuccessful even with the intervention of well meanings citizens of Ondo State.

He said several meetings had been held and Mr. Ahmed had made efforts to deceive mediators in the crisis, refusing to produce any evidence that the funds had not been received.

But the medical director told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday that the documents peddled by the ARD and the payments therein were not for the payment of the arrears which they claimed.

He said the doctors were only out to paint the institution in a bad light by engaging in deliberate misinformation.

He admitted that certain monies were released to the hospital, but was not specifically for the payment of the skipping arrears, but for other purposes in the institution.

He said he had applied for the N280.8million for the doctors’ skipping arrears and was still awaiting payment from the federal government.

“Let me say that our own residents are just painting the institution in a very bad light. We are not the only one that the monies were released to. You know that some institutions received even more N700 million. Nobody heard about it. So many institutions were given the money.

“When we were given the money, they saw that what we were given looked so much like what we asked for, for skipping and because of that they thought it must be for skipping. It is not the same amount, but it looked like what we asked for to cater for skipping.

“They said we should not give to any other worker except for skipping of the doctors, we said look, we were asked to collate the financial implications of the skipping of the doctors and we done that.”
“Doctors still benefitted much from the money that came. Some of them collected up to N1.6million out of the money.”

On the documents detailing the approvals and payments of the money to the FMC Owo, he said the doctors had already taken the documents to different agencies of government who should verify the veracity of their claims.

“That document has gone all over Nigeria. The document has gone to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), it has gone to the Senate, FICA, Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity; it has gone to all the clubs in Owo; it has gone to the governor of Ondo State; even to the level of local government chairman,” Mr. Ahmed said.

“So, why can’t they wait for all the places they have gone to… to EFCC and to whistle blower, to indict us, why are they still going everywhere?”

He said besides the arrears, there are other benefits peculiar to doctors, such as arrears of upgrading, arrears of training, workshop and seminars, saying all such had been paid to the doctors.
He lamented the manner in which the resident doctors had been portraying the institution, saying since he implemented the no-work-no-pay rule during their strike last year, the doctors had come after him.

“They had gone to the EFCC to say that we diverted money meant for capital project, when nothing came out of it…they have gone to EFCC for this one too; they’ve gone to the people that paid us the money… cash management department, they’ve gone there. They’ve gone to the Senate, they’ve gone everywhere.”

The doctors had dragged the medical director to court for failing to pay up a month salary said to have been withheld by Mr. Ahmed following the implementation of the no-work-no-pay rule last year.

The National Industrial Court in Akure had ordered him to pay the doctors two months in arrears. He defaulted, was charged for contempt, and was almost sent to prison.

The doctors confirmed that only one month had been paid, while the matter would soon be coming up in court to thrash the pending issues.

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