Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
UNIVERSITIES are fretting over pay cuts following a proposal by Treasury to slash the 2017 budget for the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development by about 50 percent.
The Higher Education Ministry has since criticised Treasury for failing to appreciate the role of tertiary institutions in the socio-economic development of the country.
According to the Ministry, Treasury indicated that it could not sustain the continued full payment of employment costs for universities due to limited revenues.
In a statement, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dr Machivenyika Mapuranga, said they had written a letter to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development expressing dismay over its unilateral decision.
“Vice Chancellors and the Staff Association of Zimbabwe State Universities have raised concerns on the proposed 2017 budget allocation that has been radically slashed by almost 50 percent, in particular salaries for staff in universities.
“Key players have been alarmed by this decision taken by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development,” said Dr Mapuranga in a statement on Thursday.
He said his Ministry was taking the concerns by universities seriously.
Dr Mapuranga said on January 17, the Ministry presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development the gravity of a reduction of salaries.
“The Ministry presented the gravity of a reduction on estimates of expenditure on salaries for grant aided institutions from $221 601 000 to $125 178 000.
Universities are owed $7 963 320 by Treasury being half of August 2015 salaries.
“During this meeting these concerns were echoed by Vice Chancellors and the committee assured the ministry that it would take the matter to Parliament,” said Dr Mapuranga.
He said university staff representatives’ wrote to the Higher Education Ministry indicating that in terms of the Labour Act, it was illegal to reduce employees’ salaries.
Dr Mapuranga said Vice Chancellors indicated that they were ambushed and shocked by the reduction in salaries.
“The ministry and the Vice Chancellors agree that there appears to be a shocking lack of appreciation by Treasury on the strategic role that the universities play in the socio-economic development of the nation.
“Universities are operating under the same harsh economic environment like any other sector. About 90 percent of students who enrol at local universities and tertiary institutions are from poor families but Treasury continues to ignore this reality,” said Dr Mapuranga.
He said universities are owed huge amounts of money by students who do not have the capacity to pay.
Dr Mapuranga said many were failing to sit for their examinations or access their results due to failure to pay fees.