BROKE GOVT TO CUT $400M FROM WAGE BILL

Government will save at least US$388 million yearly if recommendations of the 2015 Civil Service Audit Report on rationalising its artificially inflated wage bill are implemented.
Cabinet could adopt the three-volume report as early as this week after poring over it last Tuesday.

The document, which The Sunday Mail has read, recommends centralised staff recruitment, merging some departments, streamlining roles/functions of remaining departments, and cutting salary support to grant-aided institutions.

It also suggests scrapping manpower development benefits, curtailing promotions and withholding salaries of the 3 000-plus absentee civil servants caught out by the audit.
Leave days will be strictly monitored and anyone linked to salary fraud will be disciplined.
Auditors project savings of nearly US$400 million if all these measures are implemented.
Government has been targeting a wage bill to revenue ratio of 40:60.

State salaries gobble 83 percent of revenue, arresting Government’s efforts to steer socio-economic transformation. In the first half of 2015, Treasury spent US$1,54 billion on labour, against revenue of US$1,718 billion. Monthly, US$120 million is spent on salaries, with the least-paid taking home about US$380.

Chief labour cost drivers are flagrant abuse of overtime allowances and leave days, salary fraud, idle manpower, role duplication and unco-ordinated staff recruitment, according to the Audit Report.

The Sunday Mail read in the report that Government has 188 070 workers, excluding uniformed forces and Health Services Board personnel. Some 130 000 are in education, though the approved staff threshold for this sector is 100 000.

Around 3 307 teachers were away, mainly on vacation, when the physical head-count was conducted. Auditors also determined that district education officers had over the years transferred thousands of teachers to different work stations without the Salary Services Bureau’s knowledge.

These DEOs would then recuit new staff to replace those transferred, thereby increasing salary demand. Teachers at Government schools on average earn US$520 monthly.
It also emerged that Government was shelling out US$1,2 million to deputy heads at 170 schools annually when regulations prohibit employment of deputies at learning institutions with enrolments below 281 pupils.

Thirty-two schools had two heads each, while 63 more had two deputy heads apiece.
The report also reveals that yearly, Government gives trust schools over US$19 million to pay their teachers as per provisions of the Education Act.

In addition, 920 people were employed as technical and vocational teachers and yet their schools do not offer such lessons. It is believed some ended up signing up for subjects they were not conversant with.

At other learning institutions, the names of teachers who had long died still appeared on the payroll. The audit also established massive role duplication in the ministries of Agriculture; Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, and Gender, Women’s Affairs and Community Development.

The Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Ministry is said to have employed five youth officers in each of Zimbabwe’s 1 200 wards, though their duties are unclear.
This translates into 6 000 civil servants with a cumulative monthly salary bill of US$2,2 million, assuming each of them earns at least US$380.

Further at least three agriculture extension officers are invariably being deployed in the same ward, doing more or less the same job. About 121 extension officers are said to be “operating” in urban centres.

The Transport and Infrastructure Development Ministry has over 2 000 redundant workers.
This ministry employs temporary workers whenever it embarks on an infrastructural development project and these are supposed to be released upon project completion.
However, 2 000 of them are still on Government’s payroll even as they have no work to do. Auditors established that some of them even get bonuses.

Further, the report states that Government is engaging lecturers for grossly undersubscribed courses at tertiary institutions. For instance, Mutare Polytechnic’s Music Department has three senior lecturers for 12 students.

St Peters Kubatana in Harare has two Brick Laying lecturers and yet there are no students for that course. Nine grant-aided institutions are also bleeding Treasury as Government pays their salaries.

These include the Environmental Management Agency and the Forestry Commission.
There is also rampant abuse of overtime and leave days in various departments, as many civil servants do not submit leave application forms to the Salary Services Bureau through relevant channels. This means the SSB does not deduct such leave days and Treasury has no option but to compensate those individuals when they leave service.

At the time of the head-count, 1 165 civil servants had reportedly gone on maternity leave while 1 473 were reportedly on manpower development leave. Auditors, however, failed to verify some of these cases.

Individuals in departments like the Central Vehicle Registry were deliberately creating work backlogs so that they could work after hours and claim overtime allowances.
The Audit Report recommends disciplinary action for fraudsters who are out to cheat their employer and an immediate halt of grants to private and trust schools.

Promotions and paid manpower development leave will also be put on hold if the recommendations get the thumbs up. Departments in some ministries will be collapsed and their workers redeployed to others with vacancies.

In an interview, Public Service, Labour and Social Services Minister Prisca Mupfumira said the envisaged changes would create a leaner and more efficient civil service.
She said the Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Ministry had already collapsed two departments and remoulded them into one to streamline activities.

Minister Mupfumira is the Acting Minister in the Information portfolio. “The audit was meant to bring sanity to the way we conduct business as a Government. If we complete this process properly and put systems in place that ensure situations such as this are not repeated, we can have enough to support our programmes.

“Resources we would have saved will then be directed towards capital development projects. We went out (on the audit exercise) with two objectives; that is to rationalise the establishment and cut the wage bill.

‘‘We wanted to ascertain whether we were paying the right people. As a result of the exercise, we will soon have a leaner and more efficient Civil Service that will show that we can actually do more with less.”

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