Felex Share Harare Bureau—
Cabinet has approved the civil service audit, heralding a new chapter in the public sector through the implementation of measures such as reduction of student teachers and trainees’ allowances, termination of any salaries still paid to teachers at trust and private schools and resuscitation of payment of pension by civil servants.
Some of the cocktail of changes, meant to reduce the government wage bill and steer economic growth, are with immediate effect.
All vacant posts have been abolished, bus fare for civil servants has been re-introduced, under-used staff is being redeployed, funding of bridging courses has been scrapped while all members who were abusing various types of leave, tampering with pay sheets and attendance registers have been charged.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira said the approval by Cabinet would change the face of the civil service. She said civil servants would make 7,5 percent pension contribution to the Public Service Pension and there would be a cut on the allowances student teachers were getting.
“There was agreement to reduce the allowances of student teachers on teaching practice from $329 to $157 per month,” she said. “It’s almost a full time employee’s salary and not viable but there will be need to consider bush allowances for those in rural areas. Government workers haven’t been paying pension since 2009 when everyone was getting a flat $100. Despite non-contribution by members, the government continued to pay out full pension benefits to members after termination but the situation has become unsustainable. A huge backlog of commutations has accumulated.”
Minister Mupfumira said teachers at private and trust schools, who gobbled $72 million this year in salaries and allowances, would no longer get anything from the government.
“The position is that this is an unfair charge to public funds and these institutions are run on commercial basis and should cater for their employment costs,” she said. “A Public Service Pension Fund will also be established and it’s a process which begins in the New Year. The Ministry of Finance would be expediting that and members’ contributions made to the pension fund would be invested to provide a sound and sustainable base for timely payment of the pension benefits.”
This comes amid reports that the audit is heading towards other sectors such as Judicial Service Commission, Defence Forces Service Commission, Police Service Commission, Prisons and Correctional Service Commission and the Health Service Board where the Civil Service Commission has no mandate to conduct any stock-taking.
This, officials said, will see the government attaining a “comprehensive assessment of the employment costs” as the sectors also draw a sizeable portion of the wage bill. The 2015 civil service audit only covered members governed by the Public Service Act (Chapter16:04) who chew about 29, 9 percent of the budget.
She said civil servants using CSC buses were now paying a nominal bus fare as some of them were drawing transport allowances and using the bus at the same time.
“The set up was discriminatory as there are others who weren’t using the bus,” Minister Mupfumira said. “We’ve started implementing and we’ll save about $1 million per year which will go towards maintaining the current fleet.”
She said the employment costs for grant aided institutions would be reviewed with effect from 2016 as some of them collected revenue that could sustain their operations. “It was agreed that public service training be centralised.
:Ministries were submitting human resources development plans to the PSC which analyses and approves specific courses to address skills gap. “Treasury allocated funds for training without any synchronization with the plans submitted meaning no link between the provision of funds and identification of skills gap.
“This proved costly as more often than not, ministries channelled resources to private players who do not prioritise Zim-Asset. “Institutions like Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration and Management should be utilised and turned into centres of excellence.”
Minister Mupfumira said salaries for foreign service officers were now being paid through the Salaries Service Bureau adding that no civil servant would be sacked. “It is not the number of employees but the dollar value,” she said.
All the initiatives the government is taking are in line with the Zim-Asset Public Administration, Governance and Performance Management sub-cluster which is guided by the Results Based Management System which focuses on budgeting and resourcing, public sector modernisation and civil service reform, fostering good governance and building capacities for public sector institutions.