Health Ministry uncertain of status of 8,000 staff on its payroll

Published On: November 29, 2018 10:37 AM NPT By: Bishnu Prasad Aryal

KATHMANDU, Nov 29: The Ministry of Health and Population is uncertain about the status of some 8,000 of its staffers as they do not figure in the records of the Department of Civil Personnel Record, said MoHP officials. The department keeps the records of civil servants and the payments made to them.

According to DoCPR, there are around 89,000 government officials in the country, including 62,000 civil servants . Of these, 27,000 are under MoHP, as shown in the records at the department. However, MoHP's own records show that there are around 35,000 staffers working under the ministry. They are all receiving their salaries, perks and other facilities out of state coffers.

“We have taken this mismatch in records between the two government bodies seriously,” said Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, spokesperson for MoHP. “We are going to do a head count of the staff under the ministry to find out the exact figure,” Shrestha said. “We have written to all seven provincial governments to provide records of staffers under the MoHP in all 77 districts,” he added. “We have also assigned seven officials, one for each province, to search the records.”

The records might have shown a higher figure due to transfer of staff and the resulting duplication in their count, said ministry officials. “The situation might also have arisen because some staff assigned in the rural areas remained in areas with better facilities. The records might have counted them in both places. There may also be other complications,” they said.

During the tenure of Gagan Kumar Thapa as health minister, he had initiated an investigation to uncover fake staff numbers. He had said that some health ministry staff are unaccounted for even though the government has been sending their salaries into their accounts.

Thapa disclosed in April 2017 that the Health Ministry had started investigations into embezzlement of state funds in the name of staff who were no longer present. The ministry started the investigations following complaints that some ministry staff who had quit their jobs to go abroad were still drawing the salaries, according to ministry sources. The salaries of some who had already died were also being paid out in their names.

MoHP is having trouble relocating staff as per the federal structure of the country. “We are still unaware of the exact numbers of staffers, including health workers and administrative employees, under the ministry,” said spokesman Shrestha.

The government brought in a Civil Servant Adjustment Act in October 2017 to adjust the civil servants as per the federal structure. However, the government has yet to relocate the staffers and provincial and local governments are now under a staffing crunch. Staff could not be readjusted in line with the federal constitution due to technical problems in the existing law, according to Shrestha.

“The government is preparing to bring a new civil servants adjustment ordinance within a week,” Shrestha further said. “We will establish the exact number of staffers within a month,” he claimed. “We will then depute them within another month."

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