Govt not retrenching: Chinamasa

HARARE - Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has allayed fears that government was moving to retrench civil servants over 50 years of age, explaining that the ongoing civil service audit aims to slash the wage bill by weeding out “ghost workers”.

This comes as government workers are edgy over an audit of employees, seeking to identify staff over the age of 50. The civil servants are seeking an audience with officials, a civil service labour union said.

“We have no idea why this is being done, but we’re seeking a meeting,” Richard Gundane, chairman of the Apex Council, said.

The workers are concerned that “everyone over 50 faced retrenchment,” he said.

Chinamasa has said government planned to lower its wage bill to about 40 percent of total spending from the current 83 percent.

Responding to question on Thursday in the Upper House from MDC Manicaland Senator David Chimhini on how government is going to reduce the wage bill, Chinamasa said the government was looking to weed out all ghost workers through the ongoing civil service audit.

“We are not going to be chasing away or sacking anyone,” Chinamasa told the Senate.

“I do not know where that is coming from, but if you are a ghost worker, then you are not there. You should not be receiving a salary because you are not entitled to it since you are not working. Those that are working are not going to be sacked.

“We should come up with other measures that are possible to ensure that government workers become more productive, but firstly, we need to understand who the workers are and whether there are no ghost workers.

“Hence, we conducted an audit and the audits are going to be done in the entire civil service so that payment cannot be made to ghost workers or even workers that are already deceased.

“A few weeks ago, we conducted an audit for the pensioners to establish the strength of our pensioners so as to ensure that we eliminate those that are receiving payment when they are deceased, because in terms of the Pension Fund, you are not entitled to a pension fund if you are deceased although your remaining spouse and children are entitled to a reduced fund.”

Staff costs are hitting the public sector, with 83 percent of government revenue being used to pay civil servants’ wages, leaving little funding for capital projects such as construction of roads, schools and infrastructure.

“Our budget is consumptive and that is the problem that we have with our budget and the problem that the country is facing,” Chinamasa said.

“It is my hope that we will be able to do what we can do within our means to reduce the wage bill so that we can be able to remain with funds for the construction of schools, roads, clinics and other operations. This cannot be done overnight.

“As I earlier on said, it is my intention that we reduce the wage bill from 85 percent to 40 percent, this is a process and not an event. We know that for a long time, we will be dealing with that and I will reduce the wage bill gradually.

“The steps that we are going to take to reduce the wage bill are that firstly, we must ensure that our economy grows. We should grow the cake, if the cake is small, not much can go around our priority areas.”

The World Bank has projected that the economy will register a 1 percent growth but economic analysts are less optimistic, with some predicting Zimbabwe could slide into recession later this year.

Highlighting the effects of the slowdown, Chinamasa cut revenue estimates to $3,6 billion from $3,99 billion this year.

The government would have to borrow $400 million from domestic and foreign sources to cover for the budget deficit, he said. The State had initially planned to borrow $125 million.

President Robert Mugabe’s government has been struggled to pay its bloated civil service due to a shrinking tax base coupled by a massive drop in economic activity.

Comments (1)

Chnamasa is now back pedalling b4 the Lima meeting with creditors. He has been negotiating with creditors without a mandate from the Big Man. Chinamasa promised creditors reforms that he cannot deliver and not agreed on by the Zimbabwe cabinet. Chinamasa is beeing bulldozed by anti-reform Ministers who have Mugabe's ear. Chinamasa should know that to grow the economy u need money. Zimbabwe is broke and has no money to grow the economy. Instead of wasting time negotiating with creditors without a mandate from Mugabe and his Cabinet, Chinamasa should look for money to finance civil service wages and bonuses for November 2015. The re-engagement and reform programme has been rejected by the powers that be. Chinamasa should not give false hopes to creditors and people of Zimbabwe.

Gumbo - 4 October 2015

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