By Omar Bah
Health Minister Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh on Saturday shocked the nation with his frank revelation of an apparent attempt by corrupt officials to steal monies from the D500M provided by government to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Samateh told the National Assembly that over 300 ghost names were submitted as beneficiaries of allowances from the Covid-19 money.
Speaking during debate on the extension of the state of emergency, Samateh said some of the country’s healthcare workers have begun casting greater focus on money instead of Covid-19, following an allowance gesture from the government.
“Instead of us dealing with the response to Covid-19, we deal with allowances and this allowance issue is very unfortunate,” he said. The minister said government came up with the idea just to motivate the workers since no one can ever pay health workers adequately especially frontline health workers.
“So government agreed to provide an honorarium and asked for a list of the people who are at the front line. In fact, the whole thing became unfortunate and especially when the 500 million was announced,” he said.
“People start to even forget about Covid-19 and what they talk about is money, money, money.”
He said majority of health workers are dedicated in their work and are sacrificing daily for the welfare of the citizens.
He went on to reveal that in fact the initial proposal they were given as to the allowances would have consumed the entire D500M.
“That was the suggestion and of course, we would not accept that. So it went back and then they brought another list which was so big that ‘we asked where are all these people’ and when we looked at the list and there were names of 300 volunteers. Nobody knows where those volunteers are from, meaning they are not in the health sector. We said no,remove names of all the volunteers”.
He further argued: “All this is happening because we inherited a very bad system. That is the bottom line. The same old people are still there, they are used to this bad system of doing things. We talked about Ebola and unfortunately the Ebola funds were wasted in this country and that’s what they want to do with the Covid-19 funds too and we said no. Equipment which were said to be procured never reached this country. If a former minister could call a programme manager 3 weeks ago to ask him to send him fuel coupons. This is the reality in our country. This is why we have a big battle.”