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Information Ministry clarifies Covid-19 risk allowance paid to staff in Auditor General’s report

By Vincent Ashitey
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 The Ministry of Information has responded to the Auditor General’s latest report on Covid-19 risk allowance paid to staff without approval.

In the report, the Auditor-General, Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu directed that the Information Ministry refunds some ¢151,500 to its own management and staff without approval.

The development reportedly ensued in 2020 during the lockdown at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in Ghana.

“During our review, we noted that senior management staff and other supporting staff of the Ministry of Information paid themselves a total amount of GH¢151,500.00 as COVID-19 risk allowance for coming to work during the lockdown,” the report stated.

The Ministry of Information in a memo, explained that said the GH¢151,500 it has been directed by the auditor general to refund was used to pay call centre operators and critical staff at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Ministry, during the pandemic, it recalibrated the state-of-the-art National Information Contact Centre (NICC) as a 24/7 Covid-19 Call Centre and staffed it with personnel from the Ghana Health Service and other emergency services.

The Ministry said it served as an information dissemination hub on Covid-19 for the general public as they requested assistance and guidance in the fight.

The centre also collated data on the national Covid-19 effort, it added.

"We were operating under stressful and high-risk environment” which led to over four officials contracting the deadly coronavirus,"

“The fear of contracting the virus became a demotivating factor for officers to continue to give off their best under the circumstances. As you are aware, the ministry is in the business of providing relevant and timely information to save lives and as a result, we needed to motivate officers by way of small compensation for the risk they faced in working during the period of the pandemic,” the Ministry’s response dated December 14, 2022, to the external auditors said.“It would also be recalled that during the lockdown period, most staff of MDAs were made to sit at home as a way of curbing the spread of the disease whilst staff of the Ministry of Information were required to come to work by virtue of the special assignment given to the ministry by the President when he directed that the Ministry of Information should be the lead in risk communication and community engagement.

“Additionally, the ministry set up a 24-hour information desk at the digital centre, close to the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra where the general public was given the opportunity to call in and report Covid-19 related cases and also seek information in respect of the prevention and management of Covid-19 cases,” the memo added.

“The centre also served as a link between critically ill COVID-19 patients and the ambulance service for quick pick-ups. Management needed to whip up the interest of the desk officers and the supervisors to ensure that the centre continues to provide services to the public 24 hours,” the memo concluded.