… Health ministry explains that smaller group is needed to complete survey
By Eliaser Ndeyanale
AT least 50 Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (NamPHIA) enumerators claim they were unfairly dismissed from the survey on 31 August – a month before their employment contracts came to an end.
However, the health ministry has explained that they were not dismissed, but that, in line with the survey implementation plan, the number of survey teams had been reduced.
NamPHIA is a large-scale project to assess the impact that collective interventions have had on HIV in Namibia, and to evaluate the treatment responses that has been implemented to date.
According to their 10-page employment contracts, signed in January this year, the enumerators were supposed to have worked until 30 September.
Ministry of Health and Social Services Permanent Secretary, Andreas Mwoombola, wrote to the enumerators on August 25, informing them that their final day of employment would be 31 August and that they are required to surrender all NamPHIA equipment by that date.
“This letter serves to notify you in terms of Section 2 of your employment contract, that your contract period will be ending 30 September 2017, and no extension for this particular position was granted. The decision is based on the fact that no further funding has been secured for this position.
“Kindly take note that depending on the number of accumulated leave days, you will be entitled for the payment of leave gratuity. However, should any departmental debt be detected with the dissolution of your service, such debt will be carried against the leave gratuity and any remaining amount will be directly invoiced to you. The final settlement payment will be made to you on 30 September 2017. Your last date of duty will be 31 August 2017 and you are required surrender all NamPHIA equipment on this date,” Mwoombola said in the letter, which is in Confidente’s possession.
“It is trusted that despite the completion of your contract, you will continue to invest in your career development and your contribution to the improvement of health in Namibia is greatly valued.”
An enumerator, who spoke to Confidente on condition of anonymity, said, “We were axed from work on 30 August, while our contact ends on 30 September. About 50 people were sent back home, while the contracts of 350 people were renewed. If it was due to funding, why did they not dismiss half the staff?
“Why didn’t they allow us to work until the end of September and extend with one month, and we finish the survey early? Why did they dismiss the hardworking people and leave those that cannot meet the daily objective of the survey? What were the reasons given to the American government regarding our dismissal?” asked the enumerator.
“We have been unfairly dismissed. The NamPHIA management did not follow the right procedures and they have breached their own contract. They have discouraged us, telling us we shouldn’t go to the media. Why were we not given a 30-day notice period, as it was stated in our contract? What did we do that led us to be dismissed? What channels did they follow? Why did they breach their own contract?”
The dismissed enumerator also called on President Hage Geingob and foreign donors not to give surveys to the health ministry in future.
“We want all the surveys to be conducted by the Namibia Statistics Agency, where people are treated equal and with dignity,” he added.
Director of Special Programmes in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Anne-Marie Nitschke, told Confidente that the enumerators have not been dismissed, but that their employment contracts had come to an end.
“I am not aware of their dismissal; we have informed them that their contracts have come to an end,” she said.
Manga Libita, the ministry’s Public Relations and Customer Care Officer, also told Confidente last week that, in line with the survey implementation plan, the number of survey teams were reduced.
“While it is true that all contracts expired at the end of September, staff were released from duty with full remuneration, as described in their contracts, a month early, and this was based on survey progress and the latest deployment plan. It was determined that redundancies in some of the positions existed, therefore allowing the survey to be completed with a smaller group of staff,” she said.
She added that staff contracts were valid throughout September, and therefore subject to the terms and conditions, which included the returning of all equipment in good working order, and salaries and standard remunerations were paid.
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