The Sunday News
Lincoln Towindo, Harare Bureau
Government has begun accepting applications for voluntary retirement from civil servants as authorities move to trim its workforce and reduce costs.
Voluntary retirement was identified as one of the means through which Government can contain recurrent expenditure and make savings.
Treasury spends an estimated $120 million on salaries each month, which effectively undermines Government capacity to finance capital projects and productive sectors.
Workers who are opting to take up voluntary retirement will receive their statutory gratuities and pension benefits.
Although our Harare Bureau could not establish the exact number of workers who have applied for retirement, Secretary to the Service Commissions Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe said there has been favourable response from civil servants.
“The commission (Public Service Commission) continues to receive and process applications for voluntary retirement forwarded by heads of ministries.
“Voluntary retirement is, by its very nature, voluntary, and it is encouraging to see that members who are so inclined are taking serious Government’s readiness to facilitate them.
“At this stage, I cannot offer numbers, which I believe will become more significant as the year progresses beyond January. Those who retire are entitled to their gratuity and pension benefits,” said Ambassador Wutawunashe.
Last year, authorities budgeted $39 million for severance packages for civil servants who took up the offer to retire voluntarily.
From the allocation, $12 million was set aside for retiring employees aged 65 and above, while $17 million was earmarked to pay off 3 188 youth officers whose contracts were terminated last year.
Around $8,7 million was meant to cover civil servants who were retired for not possessing requisite qualifications.
A civil service audit conducted in 2015 recommended aggressive downsizing of public service workers through abolition of vacant posts, discontinuing free transport services and reduction of allowances paid to student teachers, among other measures.
The audit revealed that dominant labour-cost drivers are abusing overtime allowance facilities and leave days, salary fraud, idle manpower, role duplication and unco-ordinated recruitment.
According to the auditors, an aggressive cost-cutting exercise would likely to result in annual cost savings of $388 million.
More than 158 994 civil servants are on Government’s payroll, with about 123 000 (77 percent) employed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
However, a major restructuring exercise, which involves eliminating duplication of roles, abolition of vacant and non-essential posts, redeployment of redundant workers, optimisation of departmental functions and retirement of eligible staff, is presently underway.
Posts for clerks, executive officers, typists, data capturers and dark-room assistances have since been abolished.
The new structure of Government, which will be aligned to enhanced mandates and functions of ministries and departments will determine the number of civil servants on the payroll.