11 May 2008

Scamming the system

Since I began working in the public service, nearly 2 decades ago, I have been hearing about corruption in the Ministry of Health. In fact, there were times I saw with my own eyes records indicating that the corruption was indeed true.

Take for example the X-ray machine that ended up in a private medical centre, or the 10 computers that ended up in the private office of a senior doctor, or the photographer who also was given certain privileges as a IT consultant, but who had absolutely no IT training (and who also had equipment from the ministry)...

Those are examples of corruption involving physical assets of the ministry, but then we also have corruption involving monies going astray. Now, I'm not saying that it is only the medical staff guilty - some time ago we had a clerk in the accounting department at POSGH falsifying pay-sheets to the tune of millions, and her friends would then pick up the cheques at the ministry's office.

Today the Guardian reports though that some medical staff have been falsifying their overtime records to collect more money than they are entitled to.

It's a shortfall in the system, a loophole I identified nearly 20 years ago.

Back then, the maxillo-facial department comprised of one doctor. Because he was the sole member of staff, he claimed overtime for being on permanent first call despite never having to work beyond 4:00 PM.

He easily pocketed an extra couple of hundred dollars per hour for the hours between 4:00 PM and 8:00 AM next day during the week (every day), and significantly more during the weekends. Ten of thousands were paid to him each month, simply because he was the only member of staff in that department, and hence was technically allowed to be 'on call'.

It's an example of how people scam the system, much as the ones in the linked article are doing.

There is even a priority to process these claims, and people like myself who actually worked overtime or shift hours had to wait up to a year or more for payments of just a few hundreds of dollars.

Sometimes I think that the more these doctors earn, the more greedy and grasping they become. They have no conscience in scamming the system because the money comes from the government and not patients or relatives. I even wonder if there is collusion between the doctors and the higher admin staff.

If found guilty, I hope they get their arses nailed out to the wall to dry. I don't expect much though; they will be protected.