Saturday, November 14, 2009

(TALKZIMBABWE) Is Government getting a fair deal from civil servants?

Is Government getting a fair deal from civil servants?
Bhekizulu Sibanda - Opinion
Sat, 14 Nov 2009 15:21:00 +0000

WITH the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe indicating a rise in the cost living for a family of six from US490.08 to US496.98 per month isn’t it about time the Ministry of Finance showed leniency towards the public service and seriously considered incorporating a salary adjustment as preparations for the 2010 National Budget are currently underway.

It is common knowledge that much of the revenue collected is being expended on survival needs as opposed to growth, but government should know that it plays two roles in this process, that of employer and manager of the economy and must strike the balance between fair remuneration for employees and public accountability for expenditure.

With a monthly salary of US150, vis-a-viz a breadbasket of $496, how then have the majority of the civil servants managed to maintain their balance sheets?

How have they handled their rentals, bills, school levies and food amongst other needs, how have these people managed to sustain themselves and maintain their life styles and yet their salaries do not even cover 50 percent of their basic needs requirements.

Whilst its common knowledge that the purpose of pay is to compensate employees for work done, motivate them to perform better and retain them, should it not come as a surprise to government how they have managed to retain personnel against paltry salaries.

Could it be that most civil servants have remained as a show of patriotism or fortitude? Have those that have remained done so as a show of selflessness and an endeavor to maintain professional excellence in the service to Zimbabweans…. Better said than done.

In reality the civil service is synonymous with poor service delivery and bureaucracy. Although Civil Servants are social service providers, it has become a nightmare for the public to timely get assistance whenever necessary. It is common knowledge that you have to either have a connection or else pay some one to get your business done in time.

This is the animal that has been created by government because of its failure to properly remunerate its workforce. Social services provisions have been compromised and corruption has gained breeding ground.

Money that should go into government coffers is finding its way into individual pockets as workers exude desperate means to survive.

Those in sectors that do not afford them an opportunity to make monetary gain have resorted to absenteeism and fake sick leave and are using that time to do personal business.

Would It come as a surprise if a civil servant takes a half-day in the morning to attend a funeral and does not return to work the entire day. Does it come as a surprise if a civil servant goes to the doctor for a 1200pm appointment and fails to return?

The examples are countless and people have taken this to be the norm and none performers in private sector are likened to civil servants when being reprimanded.

Whilst the behavior of Civil Servants appears to have been socially accepted, what government is forgetting is that these people are expending public funds and should be made accountable for their behavior.

The government should also know that they are breeding a culture of none performance which is inherently rewarded with a salary.

Within the same crop of civil servants they is another constituency of workers who have small enterprises running on government expenditure. This constituency will abuse office hours to operate their small ventures and will only make an appearance in the mornings.

These people will laden government with astronomical telephone bills in respect of their business ventures. Transport and fuel costs for these ventures are accredited on government and this employee still expects to get paid month and is waiting in anticipation for his annual bonus.

This is the kind of civil service that the government has created, a highly disgruntled lot that has greatly compromised on production. The morale is low and they are no gatekeepers to keep watch. They remains no one to goad them and no daily pressure to meet deadlines and most can get away without working

Ironically most of those people in government have realized the absence of proper monitoring in government and today none production, corruption, and ineptitude have become the order of the day.

This is not to suggest that government is in the habit of recruiting none performers but it’s the culture that has been gripped government workers and it’s the duty of government to remedy the situation.

Unfortunately the current inclusive government has seen an enlarged cabinet, which translates to more ministries and human resources to pay. What was ignored was the absence of financial resources to sustain these. Invariable resources have been spread thinly spread resulting in poor service delivery.

Meanwhile the civil servant has been pushed up the wall and left with no option but to devise survival tactics under the circumstances. He is faced with rentals, school levies, bills, and food amongst others.

Whilst their behavior cannot be condoned the government has to be practical and sensitive to the plight of civil servants and work towards paying them meaningful salaries. Given the two devils that Government has to bear, that of an unproductive bunch and paying them a lucrative salary against a shoestring budget, very bold decisions have to be made in order to strike a balance.

Ironically government continues to recruit employees when in fact they are failing to pay the current crop and let along provide adequate resources for them to perform their duties. Should it not be time for government to concentrate on only filling up critical vacancies?

Given the minimal budget government is working with the Public Service Commission (PSC) should justify beyond reproach any new or filing in of vacancies and whether the posts are essential for the national interest. Treasury must also weigh the macro-economic environment before recruitment

The majority of operations in the civil service are social services and contribute minimal or nothing towards the revenue base and therefore Government should work towards maintaining a lean competitive civil servant.

As another cost cutting measure government should work on reduction in hotel expenses for seminars and workshops, which have become a means of extracting money by ministers and senior government officials.

Most civil servants understand that government is not in a position to pay them lucrative salaries but they also expect a notable effort to pay them decent salaries so that they are able to meet their requirements in part and remain committed to their jobs.

However, civil servants will continue to hope against hope and if the last statement by Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, on the eve of the Mid term policy statement is anything to go by when he said, “ We are living from hand to mouth, in other words we are actually being generous in terms of paying people because sound fundamental economics says we can not do what we are doing…” it means civil servants will be getting $150 for some time.

Anyway why would Biti care when he is receiving over $8,000 courtesy of the World Bank? We can only wait with bated breath as the 2010 budget presentation draws near.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home