Furious civil servants, who this week rejected a government offer to increase their allowances by between $20 and $25, said they were informed of the scandal by officials at the Ministry of Public Service and other civil servants involved in the audit.
There are about 250 000 civil servants on the government pay-roll. It also emerged that the issue was one of the most contentious ones discussed during salary negotiations between the government and workers’ unions on Wednesday, as the unions felt ghost workers were eating heavily into the government wage bill.
“The audit has revealed that there are about 70 000 ghost workers. It is a fact. Civil servants were actually involved in compiling that report and they reported those issues to us.
“Officials at the ministry also confirmed this,” said Takavafira Zhou, the president of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
“So we are saying the money to pay civil servants is there even before we go to the diamonds and platinum. Get rid of ghost workers and improve the conditions of the civil servants.”
The chairperson of the Apex Council, Tendai Chikowore, confirmed the issue of ghost workers was discussed although it was not on the agenda in the last meeting.
The Apex Council comprises of the Public Service Association, Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta), PTUZ, Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe and College Lecturers’ Association of Zimbabwe. Chikowore refused to discuss figures saying she could only do so after seeing the actual audit report.
“I have heard different figures, so it’s difficult for me to comment or for us to plan using the ghost workers until we see the report in black and white,” she said.
PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said although he had not seen the report, senior government officials revealed there were up to 70 000 ghost workers.
“We were told that there are between 45 000 and 70 000 people who could not be traced and that is a big problem because they are eating into the civil servants’ money. We also had discussions as workers’ representatives with (Public Service) minister (Eliphas) Mukonoweshuro and (finance) Minister (Tendai) Biti and those figures were confirmed,” he said.
“So the money is there, but it’s going into the wrong mouths,” he said.
Mukonoweshuro confirmed on Thursday the audit report was out but declined to divulge the contents saying it was now before cabinet and could therefore not discussed with the Press because his hands were tied.
He said the audit report was finalised in November last year and was forwarded to cabinet in December.
“It’s now going through a cabinet process and I’m sure you know of the Official Secrets Act which does not allow me to discuss the matter with the Press. The cabinet will deliberate on the report and I will make a presentation in the House of Assembly and also hold a press conference when the time comes.”
Civil servants, currently mulling a strike in protest against meagre salaries and allowances, have now sought protection from President Robert Mugabe, himself a teacher.
President Mugabe once berated civil servants for going on strike without exhausting all channels including meeting him.
Mukonoweshuro on Thursday reiterated that the government did not have money to pay its workers competitive salaries, but said efforts were being made to constantly improve their welfare.
“It’s a situation of shared misery, because all the government expenditure items are starved of funds. When we look at the budgetary allocations, there is no excess where we could take from, and channel it towards the salaries. There is equal stress be it in health, education, infrastructural development and so on,” he said.
“But as a minister I am committed to ensure that civil servants are adequately remunerated. You will realise that we started with a $100 allowance, then we improved that by having a salary, and later paying workers according to their experience.
“At each opportunity we have sought to increase remuneration, but it’s not going to be an event, it’s going to be a progressive journey.” – NewsDay