SOME Global Fund contract workers are demanding their salaries in foreign currency claiming that they are being short-changed by the government.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
The employees, mostly primary counsellors, said following the pronouncement by the Finance minister Mthuli Ncube that people could go ahead and open nostro accounts, they said their issue has not yet been resolved and they were still getting paid in local currency.
“Our donor pays in forex through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which in turn channels it to the Health ministry. We were promised that this issue would be resolved, but we are still getting the bond peanuts which are never timely,” one of the counsellors said.
The employees are also riled by the fact that there had not been any feedback from their employer despite raising the matter several times.
“Opening foreign currency accounts (FCAs) has hit a snag. We were told that they were negotiating some deal with Standard Chartered, but until now, no positive feedback,” another primary counsellor said.
Responding to the issue, however, Health ministry’s director of Aids and TB Owen Mugurungi said the opening of FCAs was a prerogative of the employees and not a task for the ministry.
“If these employees have grievances, they should speak with their district administrators and surely opening FCAs is a personal issue,” Mugurungi said.
He also said it was barely two months since the Finance minister made the pronouncement, and so it was not fair for the employees to claim that they were being short-changed for a long time.
“When we entered the initial contracts the transfers were legal tenders and the country is operating on a multi-currency basis,” he said.
“I would advise them to open accounts with the same bank for Global Fund, but that is not for the Health ministry to say, it is an individual task. We want people to be aware of the financial dictates and regulations,” he said.
Commenting on the inconsistent pay dates, Mugurungi said the project was performance-based and so the idea was to meet the deadline as prescribed in the grant.
“Payment is based on meeting targets that have been outlined in the contract,” he said.
Meanwhile, lower income countries have been called upon by Global Fund to start paying for key medical commodities.
This was said during a recent board meeting of the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria in Geneva, Switzerland.
Over the last 16 years, the Global Fund’s central purchasing of HIV and TB treatment commodities has helped secure affordable prices through high-volume orders and attracting multiple-competing suppliers.
Crucially, the Global Fund has also been instrumental in ensuring people’s access to quality treatment by requiring all drugs purchased with its funding to have quality approval from either the World Health Organisation prequalification of medicines programme or a stringent drug regulatory authority.
At the same meeting, however, the international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) called on the board to make urgent changes to Global Fund policies and practices for countries transitioning away from donor support, which increases the risk of critical drug stock-outs and alarming drug quality issues in many countries.