COMMENTARY | EMMANUEL AINEBYOONA
The Ministry of Health has a very sound and effective salary and pension management system, contrary to what was reported in the Saturday Monitor of December 1, 2018.
The edition carried a false, inaccurate and misleading article titled: “Audit exposes Shs2.7billion pension fund theft in Health Ministry.”
The article quoting a leaked draft internal audit report alleged that money was stolen in a payment to pensioners who were not intended to benefit, something that is false and inaccurate.
However, the Ministry of Health would like to provide accurate information regarding its internal systems that handles staff salary and pension payroll.
First and foremost, internal audits are part of the checks and balances of the Ministry of Health that seek to ensure that proper procedures are being followed as the Ministry executes its mandate.
Therefore, the draft internal audit report that was quoted by Saturday monitor is one among many other tools that are used to monitor accountability and efficiency of the Ministry of Health and its systems.
Despite the works by malicious individuals who intend to misinform and mislead the public, the leadership at the Ministry will not be deterred to bringing positive reforms in the health sector.
The draft internal audit report, currently is in its initial stages, was seeking some responses from the Human resource department that is responsible for salaries and pension payment, something that is intended to correct any anomalies or errors that maybe within the system.
The Internal audit department is an advisory and compliance unit that advises the Ministry for better management and the purpose of this unit is to help the Ministry meet its objectives.
In general, issues raised by internal audit are first discussed with the accounting officer and these become outstanding when no sufficient responses have been availed by management. In such instances, the audit report is no longer drafts but final reports.
For this reason the responses are available and management found them satisfactory. However, we don’t conduct government in the media.
As far as payment of pension is concerned, the Ministry of Health took over payment of pension in July 2015 after the Ministry of Public Service partially decentralized pension management.
In July 2015, Ministry of Health received a payment file for decentralized pensioners from Ministry of Public Service with 2,604 names of pensioners for payment.
However, payment could not be paid as most of the pensioners on the payment were not known by those responsible for verification and payment and their records could not be traced.
The Human resource management Department undertook the exercise of verifying records of names on the payroll from public service in order to establish the titles at the time of retirement. However, this method of verification could not guarantee that the pensioners whose records were verified existed or retired from the Ministry of Health Headquarters.
There was thus need for a method of verification that would guarantee physical existence of the pensioners and their actual votes of retirement with less financial costs to the pensioners and at more convenient places.
Since then, several measures and processes have been ongoing to ensure proper management of the pension payroll, something that the ministry is handling well.
Instead of misinforming the public, the media, most especially the Saturday Monitor should have lauded the Health ministry for putting in place internal accountability processes that provide the checks and balances to the payment systems.
The Ministry of Health is working with the Ministry of Public Service to update and clean-up the pension payroll to ensure that no tax payers’ money is lost.
Today, the Ministry of Health has an updated list of pensioners with their valid documentations which include annual life certificates – these are documents that act as proof that benefiting pensioners are still alive fifteen years after retirement.
Currently, the Ministry of health has 1, 205 pensioners on the payroll, out of which 856 are currently receiving their pension monthly while 349 are still being verified.
Despite, the hurry to publish the article, the reporter should have sought clear and detailed accurate information from the Health ministry and Ministry of Public Service, this information is available and can be verified upon request.
The title of the article was highly sensationalized, something that renders the article inaccurate and malicious. We condemn such approach but request for more professionalism.
Emmanuel Ainebyoona is a Senior Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Health