Zimbabweans paying millions to Robert Mugabe's mob

Zimbabwe's overburdened taxpayers are paying almost $20-million every month to more than 75000 ghost workers, most of whom were deployed into civil service to save President Robert Mugabe from the jaws of defeat during the 2008 elections.

This comes amid revelations that cabinet last week decided to increase the salaries of the country’s poorly paid 260000 civil servants, which will cost taxpayers at least $120-million a month. Mugabe has said he will use diamond revenue for this.

A comprehensive payroll and skills audit done by Ernst & Young (India) on behalf of the Ministry of Public Service, seen by the Sunday Times, shows that Zimbabwe’s public service has been invaded by ghost workers, mostly untrained and unqualified Zanu-PF militias and supporters who are drawing salaries without providing useful services.

The ghost-workers scandal, yet to be discussed in cabinet and acted upon, has sent shock waves through the corridors of power as it reveals Mugabe’s abuse of power and office.

It also shows that he avoided defeat by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai during the 2008 elections through patronage, besides violence and intimidation.

A month before the ill-fated June 27 2008 presidential election run-off, the audit shows Mugabe recruited thousands of unqualified youth militias and deployed them in government to draw salaries from Treasury, while campaigning for him.

The situation, the report shows, was so desperate that the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, led by Mugabe die-hard Saviour Kasukuwere, hired 6861 youth militias on May 26 2008.

The youths were incorporated into the ministry as civil servants despite their lack of qualifications.

Kasukuwere is a former Zanu-PF youth leader under whose command the militias fell as well as an ex-intelligence operative.

"The maximum number of appointments made on one day was by the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, where 6861 ‘civil servants’ were appointed on May 26 2008," the report says.

Mugabe will soon reintroduce the controversial National Youth Service training programme ahead of crucial elections later this year, a move likely to have a chilling effect on his rivals and the country.

The discovery of the ghost workers demonstrates that Zimbabwe’s civil service has become a haven for unqualified Zanu-PF supporters and militias who are holding down government jobs irregularly.

"The civil service in Zimbabwe has been affected by the negative macro-economic trends over the last decade. In particular, the service has experienced a flight of key personnel with technical skills, leading to substantive skills gaps across all sectors of the economy," the report says.

"This has moreover led to a loss of institutional memory, and, in many cases, civil servants are not qualified to do the work they are hired to do. This has weakened the public service delivery system in Zimbabwe."

The report shows there are 75273 ghost workers out of 188019 employed in various ministries.

There are also 17088 civil servants whose designations do not appear. About 1315 civil servants are working without designation. At least 8723 civil servants’ qualifications could not be traced.

About 188019 civil servants were covered by the exercise, including 9571 civil servants who were not in the database. Out of this, 2191 civil servants could not be enumerated as their records were not available.

Records also show there were 13782 civil servants enumerated as absent or presumed absent as they have either retired, absconded, deceased, transferred or had resigned.

About 13782 workers did not show up for enumeration, raising more questions. The audit indicates 3593 civil servants appointed on or after January 1 2007, had no proper documentation, a violation of the law.

"On closer scrutiny of 10753 civil servants’ records it was observed that they do not have both police and medical clearance.

"This is a serious violation of government rules and regulations relating to recruitment and hiring of civil servants and should be further be investigated to determine who is responsible for these lapses."

About 6345 civil servants had obtained other relevant employment after their dates of appointment, a violation of the rules and procedures of employment.

Some government employees held several jobs at once and some had similar national IDs.

"About 10135 civil servants who have been appointed in various ministries are in excess of their authorised establishment and were appointed without the necessary treasury concurrence, which is irregular," the report says.

The report recommends further investigations and punishment of those responsible for the corrupt activities.

Zimbabwe’s Public Service Commission last month unilaterally increased the salaries of government employees, ballooning the wage bill. The increases were endorsed by cabinet last Tuesday. Civil servants’ salaries gobble most of the money government collects monthly.

Government collects $150-million and uses $120-million to pay its workers. For every $1 which government collects in the form of revenue, up to 80 cents goes to paying government employees, which leaves government with 20% of its revenue to meet other obligations.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti told the Sunday Times on Friday that Zimbabwe needed a comprehensive public service sector reform to flush out ghost workers, remove redundant employees and contain the wage bill.

"The ghost workers have to go. We can’t continue wasting taxpayers’ funds paying spooks and people who are not working. If we remove those ghost workers we create fiscal space to pay good salaries to professional civil servants." he said. – TimesLive