Government focus should not be on the civil service wage bill but on what the civil servants are doing


Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is rightly worried. The public wage bill is too high, taking 92 percent of government revenue leaving only 8 percent for development.

But once again, Chinamasa is behaving like a typical politician. He says cabinet has mandated the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Ministry and his Ministry to recommend ways to remedy this.

Simply put, the cabinet has asked the two ministries to waste more money, doing nothing. What is likely to happen is that the two ministries will set up a commission or task force or committee to look into the matter.

This will take anything between 12 and 24 months. Two financial years will have gone by while the expenditure remains at 92 percent, if not more since the civil servants will be clamouring for salary increases.

Yet there is a simple solution to the government wage bill. First, who is being paid? An audit carried out almost five years ago was never implemented.

It showed that there were some 75 000 ghost workers. Could be exaggerated because the government never made the audit public, but 75 000 ghost workers at $300 a month translates to $22.5 million a month or $270 million a year. This is enough to cover the entire budget of the Ministry of Finance in its bloated form. It can finance the operations of more than 10 of the smaller ministries.

But what is more important is to ask, what is each civil servant doing to deserve a salary? The civil service should not be a home for people that cannot find jobs elsewhere, or a half-way house for those who want to do other businesses.

Civil servants must serve the people, honestly. Right now, most of them, especially in service ministries, are complaining about poor salaries, but most of the time, they are milking people out of money for services that should be provided to the people at no or at minimal fees.

Getting a birth certificate is a hassle. Worse still, getting a death certificate has become one of the most difficult things at the moment yet the civil servants should be feeling for the bereaved. Instead, it appears they want a cut of the benefits without even checking whether the deceased was working or not or has any benefits at all.

Right now, commuter omnibus operators in Bulawayo are on strike because of the bribes they are being forced to pay to the police. These same officers are getting paid every month, yet they want to pocket more money when the fines that they collect should be going to the fiscus.

Because of the rot that has taken place in Zimbabwe, reforming the civil service and cutting the wage bill, requires a strict disciplinarian, someone who can issue orders that will followed to the letter, and can make an example of a few, for others to notice that things have changed (masamba asiyana).


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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