Chinamasa opens up on civil service job cuts

Tinashe Farawo Sunday Mail Reporter
\nGovernment will not sack any of its workers to rationalise the Civil Service wage bill, but, instead, pursue economic growth and robust systems that stimulate savings. A strategy has been formulated to clear Zimbabwe’s external debt in line with measures to access new capital and grow the economy.

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Over the weeks, many civil servants feared the axe was looming as Cabinet perused recommendations contained in the 2015 Civil Service Audit Report.

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The document suggests cost-cutting measures like centralised recruitment, merging some departments, curtailing promotions and weaning State-aided institutions off salary support. Though Cabinet might adopt the Report as early as this week, authorities are considering alternatives to streamline expenses instead of “culling” its workforce.

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The Civil Service wage bill chews 83 percent of revenue and this continues to impede socio-economic development.
\nTherefore, a countrywide physical headcount was conducted to determine how to rationalise salaries while creating an efficient labour force.

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In an interview with The Sunday Mail last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Government will not spur joblessness, but steer economic growth. Scrapping “ghost workers” from the payroll, rationalising pensions, redeploying manpower and promoting efficiency are among the measures being considered, Minister Chinamasa said.

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“On the wage bill, let me be clear. What we are attacking or seeking to correct is the percentage of that goes to wages as opposed to operation and capital formation. That percentage needs to be corrected. “What we need to do is grow the economy. Where the economy has grown and the cake is larger, what we are paying to workers as a proportion of a bigger cake will become a small percentage. Wages can remain where they are, but when you grow the economy, it will be an insignificant amount.”

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He also said: “We are looking at how we have been running the show to check whether any savings can be made in terms of sound, efficient administration. We should be able to make savings. If we do that, we will reduce the wage bill.

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“Whether or not the economy is performing, we should always aim to have the correct percentage of wages to revenue. If you don’t, then that is unsustainable. We should bring the percentage of wages to the proper level which is 40 percent.

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“It is about rationalising our expenses by making savings. What should be (infused) in the Civil Service is efficiency and effectiveness; it is good for the economy.”

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Cde Chinamasa indicated that other areas to be tackled include pension payouts to “non-existent” beneficiaries and “ghost workers”.
\nThough he would not readily provide figures, the minister said the pension bill remains relatively high despite a number of pensioners and their beneficiaries having died long ago.

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“We have authorised some audits to be done just to check whether the people are there. You would not call it ‘dismissal’ if we do an audit and find out that we have been paying someone for three years and yet that person was not there the whole time.

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“Is it dismissal? Some of the audits (have been on) payments to pensioners and the rule of any pension scheme is that pension payment ceases when the pensioner dies. And this is one of the ways of reducing our wage bill. In some respects, when the pensioner dies, his/her spouse will get a small amount until he/she also dies.”

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He went on: “If no one reports any death of the pensioner/spouse/other beneficiaries, it means we continue paying out the money of someone who is non-existent. We will flush out such occurrences.

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“Pensioners are being asked to show themselves. In other words, it is a census of sorts. We are not going to sack anyone. In cases where we have duplication of roles, we are simply going to redeploy.”

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Government has been grappling with its huge wage bill, which continues to arrest efforts to steer socio-economic transformation.
\nIn the first half of 2015, Treasury spent US$1, 54 billion on labour, against revenue of US$1, 718 billion.
\nMonthly, US$120 million is spent on salaries, with the least paid taking home about US$380.

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Chief labour drivers are abuse of overtime allowances and leave days, salary fraud, idle manpower, role duplication and uncoordinated staff recruitment.

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A countrywide audit commissioned over three months revealed that Government has 188 070 workers, excluding uniformed forces and Health Services Board personnel.

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Auditors established that many civil servants were redundant while function duplication was rampant in certain departments.
\nThe Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Ministry is said to have employed five youth officers in each of Zimbabwe’s 1 200 wards.

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These officers’ duties are, however, unclear. It was also discovered that the Transport and Infrastructure Development Ministry had 2 000 redundant workers.