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Business News of Thursday, 14 July 2011

Source: Statesman

Budget swerves Health Workers on Single Spine

Yesterday, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kwabena Duffuor, read his Mid Year Review of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy when he presented his Supplementary Budget for the year.

Out of the GH¢1.46 billion additional spending he presented to Parliament for approval, only GH¢177.6 was for salaries and wages, increasing the pay budget for 2011 to GH¢3.91bn.

However, this is bad news for a high number of public sector workers because it does not even take care of existing salary arrears, let alone take care of the migration of one of the largest public sector employees, health workers.

This, according to the Danquah Institute, makes it “highly improbable” for the Single Spine Salary Structure to be extended to the 68,000 health workers of Ghana this year despite repeated assurances from both President JEA Mills and George Smith-Graham, Chief Executive Officer of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission.

By May 2011, with issues still raging over the size of teachers' SSSS, more than half of this year's pay budget, amounting to GH¢1,716,262,696 had been spent. “This,” according to a financial analyst at the Danquah Institute, “represents GH¢157,649,141 more than what was budgeted for January-May salaries and wages and only GH¢20m less than what has been added in the supplementary budget for workers' pay. The signs are certainly not good on the wage front,” said Ato Mensah.

The 2011 budget for salaries and wages, which was a meager increase from 2010, fell far short from meeting the migration of the nation's 250,000 teachers. Teachers have outstanding arrears which the boss of the FWSC has promised to settle in September, in anticipation of this supplementary budget.

But, according to a document prepared by the Ministry of Finance and titled “The Ghana 2011 Budget Strategic Paper”, which has been sighted by the New Statesman, Government knew the cost of implementing the single spine system this year would set it back GH¢5.3bn. Yet, it made budgetary provisions of merely GH¢3.7bn for total emoluments when the budget was read last November.

According to the Danquah Institute, which made this known to the public, “The budgetary allocation for wages and salaries for 2011 amounted to GH¢3,733,500,000, a 9.8% increment from the 2010 figure of GH¢3.4 billion which corresponds to government's decision to increase salaries by 10% across board. So from which envelop is the extra funds required to implement the SSSS?”

Government has consistently been shifting the implementation of the SSSS since the National Democratic Congress took office in January 2009.

On Friday, 7 January 2011, Mr Smith-Graham said that teachers and other Ghana Education Service workers were to be migrated on to the Single Spine Salary Structure that month.

He went on to promise that staff of Ghana Health Service and the Civil Service were to receive their single spine salaries by March during which about 90% of public institutions might have been migrated onto the SSSS.

He said, a team of experts in Accra were working vigorously and competently to ensure GES workers were migrated onto the SSSS before the Controller and Accountant General's Department completed preparing salary payments.

Currently 44 institutions are on SSSS, representing 68% of the total public service workforce.

Earlier this month, Mr Smith-Graham further assured, “Our main focus is now on the health civil [sic] service and the tertiary institutions,” adding “we are hoping that [they] will be on [the SSSS] in August.”

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