16 June 2017

Uganda: Health Ministry, Makerere Clash Over Researchers' Pay

Three hundred data enumerators have accused the ministry of Health and Makerere University School of Public Health of holding onto their pay after they completed a nationwide immunization survey.

According to contracts signed by Ssegawa Ronald Gyagenda, the undersecretary at the ministry of health, each of the 300 enumerators was supposed to be paid a daily per diem of Shs140,000 for the 28 field days. The enumerators were also to be paid transport allowances to-and-from the furthest district in their allocated study regions.

"The ministry of Health portion will be paid via bank transfers to your account in two installments," the contract partly reads, adding, "The last and final installment will be deposited on your account after submission of all survey data, the field report and all survey equipment."

However, some of the enumerators, who requested anonymity in order to avoid victimisation, have told The Observer that even after submitting their reports and equipment in March, the ministry has not met its part of the bargain.

"The ministry has refused to pay us and other 300 research assistants our professional fees amounting to Shs1.7 million each. They are playing blame games with the school of public health who were the technical team," the source said.

The enumerators were supposed to do surveys in different districts of Uganda to ascertain the national immunization coverage of 2017. The study was co-funded by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI).

But Undersecretary Ssegawa wondered in an interview with The Observer why the enumerators are speaking to the media and not his ministry.

"They have not spoken to us; maybe we would have found a solution already," Ssegawa said. "No one has come to my office and I said I don't have time to listen."

Ssegawa, however, said Makerere University School of Public Health, the handlers of the programmes, should explain why enumerators are not paid yet.

"Sometimes they [enumerators] also have problems," he added. "Maybe they have not performed according to the contract; maybe the deliverables have not been confirmed. Consultancy is not like a commodity that is paid for immediately you deliver it."

The Dean of the School of Public Health, William Bazeyo, said in a short message that his school owes nobody any money and the passed the buck over the rest of the money back to the health ministry.

"Dr Juliet Babirye [a senior public health school lecturer] received all the money from Unicef," he said. "Those she did not pay, I am sure, are owed by the ministry of health. They were hired by the ministry so they are their responsibility. The bulk of their money was given to the ministry of health."


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