Zimbabwe govt acts on ghost workers

Published: 23 December 2018
Government plans to roll out the biometric registration of workers in the civil service within the first three months of next year, in an exercise that is largely expected to help streamline the public sector payroll through weeding out "ghost workers".

The three-month exercise is part of broad measures that have been adopted by Government - through the Transitional Stabilisation Programme - to rationalise its wage bill by ensuring an auditable and verifiable head-count.

The Public Service Commission is already working with Government departments to develop mechanics of how the exercise will be implemented. Similarly, Ministries and State-owned enterprises (SOEs) have since been ordered to come up with clear succession plans for employees over 65 years to ensure a seamless roll-out of the programme.

PSC chairperson Dr Vincent Hungwe told our Harare Bureau last week that the process will be measured as public service employees above 65 years will be retained on a short-term basis in cases where their vacancies cannot be readily filled.

"We need to come up with a roadmap on how we are going to implement it. It is something that has to be managed and given leadership by Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission is going to work hand-in-glove with other line ministries. We are going to start in the first quarter of 2019.

Biometric registration will take long, thus we must look at it as a process. We will be sharing information with other parties on how it will be rolled out," said Dr Hungwe.

"In terms of retiring those over 65, people have been retiring in the past and it is a process that has been ongoing, but it does not imply that if you over 65 years, Government has no interest in you whatsoever.

To the extent that Government recognises that there is a shortage of skills, knowledge and competence, it will always engage those people on a short-term basis, which means you will not be given any contract that is more than 12 months. As a matter of fact, all line ministries have been instructed to ensure that they put in place a succession plan, talent management plan that ensures that alternative persons are identified to take over the responsibilities of a person that is acting on a 12-months basis," he said.

Government has 158 994 workers on its payroll, of which 123 000 are employed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Bold measures, which include a five percent salary cut for senior civil servants, rationalisation of foreign missions, retirement of youth officers and strictures in the use of public service vehicles, has already been announced as part of a package to restore macroeconomic stability.

The public service wage bill accounts for over 90 percent of Government revenues. Authorities are, however, upbeat the biometric registration exercise will help weed out "ghost workers" that are leaching from the public purse.

A similar exercise in Tanzania in 2016 managed to net 10 000 ghost workers. It is understood that the process managed to save the East African country more than $2 million per month. Similarly, the Mozambican government announced that it had discovered more than 30 000 ghost workers on its payroll, which had prejudiced the country of more than $250 million between 2015 and 2017.

Human resources expert Mr Memory Nguwi said Government's undertaking needs to be complemented by measures that ensure high productivity.

"It is good that Government has realised that the current staff costs-to-income ratio is not sustainable as it leaves no room for Government to fund critical national projects and other important services," he said.

"However, there are other measures that need to be taken by Government such as carrying out workload analysis of every Government employee for a full month. The results of the study are very likely to show that there are some people who are overworked while others are barely utilised. This will enable the Government to align roles and focus on high-value adding roles. Besides saving money, this study will allow Government to get value for every dollar paid to staff."

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently recommended the need to reduce Government's wage bill and to re-orient spending towards capital projects. According to the IMF 2017 Staff Report on the Article IV Consultations, the country's spending pressures stemmed from high employment costs, Government transfers to support specific economic sectors and high discretionary expenditure.

The TSP, which is the overarching policy framework governing civil service reforms, has already won over the IMF, with the international financier describing it as "credible" and "comprehensive".

Government has already started retiring 3 384 youth officers as part of civil service reforms announced in the 2019 National Budget.
- zimpapers
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