DEVELOPMENT officials yesterday offered mixed assessments of a payment scheme that recently replaced salary supplements for civil servants.
Under the Priority Operating Costs programme, which came into effect on July 1, development organisations are required to obtain permission from the government to provide lump-sum payments to civil servants for each individual programme they run.
Previously, they had been funding straightforward salary supplements.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s 2010 country audit report, published October 1 and seen by the Post yesterday, warned that the abolition of salary supplements could cause “low morale, more staff losses in the public sector, a lower quality of performance and an increase in corruption”.
Yesterday, officials at some local development groups reported that the new scheme was not without its kinks, while others said the transition had been smooth and that POC could end up being an improvement on the old system.
Graham Shaw, a technical adviser on drug use with the World Health Organisation, said civil servants working at a new methadone clinic for heroin users, which is run by the Ministry of Health with funding and support from donors and NGOs, had not yet received payments under the new scheme.
“The delay has been causing significant problems in terms of staff motivation,” he said.
He said the Health Ministry was still processing WHO requests for permission to provide POC payments to civil servants working under the programme, and that officials had received no indication of when permission would be granted.
“At the moment, we’re not expecting it any time this month,” he said.
Tia Phalla, secretary general at the National AIDS Authority, said yesterday that the organisation was also having some payment problems under the new system, but declined to elaborate on what they were. He added that he expected them to be resolved “soon”.
“We are now in the process of discussing this with the Global Fund, and then I think there will be no more problems,” he said, and declined to comment further.
By contrast, Jeroen Stol, country director for the NGO Handicap International Belgium, said yesterday that he had “no complaints” about the new system.
He said that, contrary to his original concerns, the POC system had turned out to be “very simple”.
“We haven’t experienced any major hiccups,” he said. “The NGOs are still allowed to pay a supplement to existing civil servants, and the amount is regulated under the POC.”
By introducing pay brackets for different classifications of workers that were consistent across sectors, he said, the POC had “harmonised” payments for civil servants across the board.
“There’s no competition between sectors and within sectors anymore,” he said.
Officials at the Health Ministry could not be reached for comment yesterday. Ngo Hongly, secretary general at the Council for Administrative Reform, declined to comment.