The Sunday News
Debra Matabvu, Harare Bureau
Over 3 000 youth officers and 500 unqualified civil servants will be off the Government payroll from today, saving the State roughly US$1,8 million per month.
Treasury has also begun turning down vehicle purchase requests from senior officials and trimming their fuel and mobile phone airtime allocations.
Landline telephone use is being closely monitored across all Government departments while fiscally-supported foreign travel has been curtailed, with recruitment for non-critical posts frozen.
Further, the Civil Service Commission is calculating packages for all its 65-year-old employees and will retire them come January 2018.
This is in line with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s economic turnaround strategy, which involves, among other aspects, rationalising Government’s expenditure-revenue ratio.
Civil service salaries and other staff-related expenses have previously gobbled 80 percent of national revenue, arresting latitude to finance capital projects with mega socio-economic impact.
President Mnangagwa indicated as much in his inauguration speech on 24 November, 2017, and went on to assemble a lean Cabinet; merging particular ministries and doing away with others.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa then followed through with elaborate austerity interventions in his 2018 National Budget Statement.
Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning Mr Willard Manungo told our Harare Bureau that all Government ministries have been told of fuel and airtime cuts, telephone management and a recruitment freeze.
Mr Manungo said parastatals and local authorities were also required to submit their remuneration frameworks to curb revenue leakages.
“The wage bill is a major expenditure item and we have started working on it. The President got the ball rolling when he rationalised ministries, so we will be doing more as we get into January.
“Treasury stands guided by the minister’s National Budget Statement. He spoke of shedding more than 3 000 staff from the National Youth Service.
That process has begun; they will be off the payroll come December 31. Each was getting US$446 in basic income and monthly benefits.
“Then there are also 500 staff members who were identified by an audit as lacking minimum requisite qualifications. All of them will fall off on December 31.”
Regarding foreign travel, Mr Manungo said Zimbabwe’s diplomatic missions will variably represent the country at international gatherings to curtail outward deputations.
He revealed that the Office of the President and Cabinet, Foreign Affairs Ministry and CSC were collaborating on rationalising foreign missions.
“The President wants us to re-channel the scarce public resources towards development and away from high operational costs. Thus Treasury has started applying all these measures.
“We are enforcing travel (controls) in terms of granting Cabinet authority. When one applies to the Office of the President for authority (to travel), a similar application is routed to Treasury. Therefore, we are tightening numbers and types of delegations, insisting on justification of travel.
“We are now saying: ‘Don’t we have diplomatic representation?’ If the answer is yes, we will ask: ‘Do we need to send someone from Harare? Can the people already there represent the country?’ Another issue is: if people are (travelling out of the country), how many should go?”
Mr Manungo also said, “In his National Budget Statement, Minister Chinamasa also spoke of tightening fuel allocations in order to make the necessary savings and this is something we are already working on in collaboration with various arms of Government.
“Fuel allocation is in two parts. The bulk of fuel is given to ministries for operations while other allocations go to those with Government vehicles. Some use Government vehicles as a condition of service and others based on operational service.
“Fuel allocations are being tightened for individuals who use vehicles for operational service. Their acquittals in terms of the amount of fuel used will be read against business undertaken.
“Regarding vehicle purchases, we continue to receive requests which we are turning down in keeping with the minister’s statement. Condition of service vehicles are being limited to, for instance, the Secretaries’ grade. The rest will benefit from what we call the Loan Vehicle Scheme.
“We want to move from spending over 80 percent of revenue on employment costs. In 2018, we want to reach 70 percent of budget, going down further to 65 percent in 2019 and, again, down in 2020.”
Spending in parastatals and local authorities will also be rationalised in terms of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill, which is likely to become law soon.
On the other hand, Command Agriculture beneficiaries are supposed to account for resources extended to them.
“We have communicated to all heads of ministries, requesting minute details of remuneration structures and frameworks in order to enforce the commitment we have made. That is an area where we are going to plug expenditure leakages. Government has been working on the Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill, which will add teeth to what we want to see done.
“In addition, we have pushed a lot of corporate governance towards Command Agriculture. (Beneficiaries) will be required to account for their use of resources and to honour obligations to pay back funds.
“Treasury is also gathering information on remuneration frameworks of public entities, including local authorities. The exercise began recently and we should have all the required information by January 31.”
Mr Manungo added: “Minister Chinamasa, in the budget statement, said Government should observe the retirement age. The Civil Service Commission has already started working on retirement of civil servants over 65 years old and their packages.
“That will take effect as we start January 2018, unless there are exceptional cases. That is what the minister spoke about, in the process creating space for new staff.”
CSC Chairperson Dr Mariyawanda Nzuwa said around 70 civil servants were over 65 years old.
He said, “The process of retiring civil servants who have reached retirement age (65 years) started in 2014 and is a monthly ongoing activity.
“However, in exceptional circumstances, the Civil Service Commission may extend on annual contract basis the services of those in critical skills posts.
There are about 70 civil servants over 65 years of age this year and payment varies according to grade and seniority.”
Human resources expert Mr Memory Nguwi said: “This is a step in the right direction as staff expenses account for a huge chunk of the National Budget. I’m happy that authorities have realised that the staff cost to income ratio is unsustainable as it leaves no room to fund critical national projects and important services.
“Whenever staff rationalisation takes place, those likely to be affected will not take it positively. What I want to assure civil servants is that staff rationalisation is a normal process of running organisations. This is happening everyday in the private sector.
“It is important to, however, note that for rationalisation to have the desired national impact, Government must also work on addressing the revenue side. Authorities need to create the right business environment for both local and foreign investors to run profitable businesses without hindrance.”
The 2015 Civil Service Audit revealed 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.
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.
The audit also established massive role duplication in the then ministries of Agriculture; Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, and Gender, Women’s Affairs and Community Development.
The Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Ministry employed five youth officers in each of Zimbabwe’s 1 200 wards, though their duties were unclear.
This translates into 6 000 civil servants with a cumulative monthly salary bill of US$2,6 million.
Zimbabwe has 46 embassies and consulates which gobble US$65 million annually; with US$4,3 million of the sum going to staff recruited in the host countries.
Many senior grades in the CSC come with vehicles every five years, with the State catering for licensing, insurance, maintenance and repairs.
The annual condition of service vehicle budget is US$140 million.
In 2016, audits revealed that 38 out of 93 public enterprises incurred a cumulative US$270 million loss due to weak corporate governance practices and control mechanisms.
Roughly 70 percent of these entities are technically insolvent, representing actual or potential drain on the fiscus.