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GHS, Interpol manhunt absconded health workers granted study leave with pay

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) is collaborating with Interpol to identify and trace health workers who, after being granted study leave with pay, failed to return to fulfil their bond terms upon completing their programs in Ghana or abroad.

According to the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, some of these beneficiaries abandoned their courses or absconded without providing any notification. The Ministry of Health (MoH) is actively working with Interpol to recover these amounts, including interests.

“A number of the beneficiaries have made some efforts to pay back some of the salaries they received, with others having outstanding payments to make,” he said when the Ministry of Health (MoH) appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament on January 29, 2024.

The bond conditions of the GHS stipulate that awardees must report for work at the end of the bond period. Failure to return to the previous station within 10 days after the study leave period’s expiration results in being deemed to have vacated the post.

In such cases, individuals are required to refund all salaries received during the study leave, along with interest at the prevailing lending rate of the Bank of Ghana.

As per the Auditor-General’s recommendation, if the institutions that granted the study leave fail to recover these amounts, they should be retrieved from Principal Medical Officers.

The Director-General stated that since 2021, there has been a series of incidents involving health workers who, amid the current wave of brain drain, were granted study leave with pay but failed to return to fulfill their bond terms.

“But we are working very hard to see how we can find their guarantors to see how we can retrieve the money,” he said.  

Dr. Kuma-Aboagye expressed disagreement with a previous directive from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The directive suggested that, before being granted study leave, individuals should have banks guaranteeing their return. In case of default, the banks would be responsible for refunding their salaries.

The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service argued that implementing such a directive would be challenging. He emphasized that the service required specific capacities and specialties to advance its goals.

“It is in our interest to train some people to come and offer some service; so, putting in such major obstacle may be a problem because more than 95 per cent of beneficiaries return.

“And so we may have to relook that bank guarantee directive; the issue is that if that directive is also going to deter people from taking up such responsibilities, we also get affected,” he said.  

Meanwhile, Dr Kuma-Aboagye has highlighted the concerning rise in brain drain within the health sector, revealing that the GHS had lost approximately 4,000 nurses nationwide over the past three years.

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