The failure to be open on how the office is operating has given credence to accusations first made by independent lawmaker Jonathan Moyo that Tsvangirai has a parallel structure in his office whose mandate is to further MDC interests.
Apart from his Munhumutapa offices, the premier reportedly has two other offices in the capital and another one in Bulawayo whose rentals, services charges and staff are not paid by the treasury. The offices are reportedly manned mostly by none civil servants allegedly receiving salaries of between US$700 and US$7 000 –– salaries way, way above the US$150 most government workers earn.
This, Jonathan Moyo argued, was a threat to the life of the inclusive government.
The Prime Minister’s Office and MDC spokespersons have worsened the situation by giving conflicting statements on the matter. Their reactions to the allegations were not coordinated and leave a lot of unanswered questions. Initially, Minister of State Gorden Moyo admitted during an address to the Bulawayo Press Club earlier this month that the World Bank was paying salaries for some workers in the Prime Minister’s Office, but adamantly denied the premier had set up parallel structures
“It is a scheme of government…We are getting (human) resources through a scheme of (provision of) technical assistants through the World Bank. These people are being paid through the World Bank,” he was quoted saying.
But last week he was singing a different tune. Minister Moyo denied categorically in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent that workers in Tsvangirai’s office were being paid by the Bretton Woods institute.
Moyo said: “The Prime Minister’s Office has a staff compliment of only 11 people of which only three have had their appointments and contracts as government workers formalised by the Public Service Commission. These three receive government salaries like all other civil servants while those who are awaiting appointment are struggling like other Zimbabweans.
“For the record, there is no arrangement for the World Bank to pay civil servants in the Prime Minister’s Office. The only scheme that I know is that of technical assistance. This facility of technical assistance by the World Bank is available to all government ministries.
“To date, the Prime Minister’s Office has benefited from this facility through the consultants seconded to organise and facilitate the two government retreats. I think you will need to talk to the World Bank itself to get clarification.”
Under a normal situation, technical assistance of any nature from any institution, organisation or country should be done at the request of the government, but in this case it is not clear who approached the World Bank. Was it the Prime Minister or the whole government’s decision to approach the bank?
The funding the World Bank made public is for a needs assessment “in anticipation of future work that would have to be done, once the right conditions are in place, in key areas to help jump-start an economic revival –– agriculture, mining, tourism, energy, public finance management, etc” and I am not sure if this also covers operation of the Prime Minister’s Office.
The bank is on record as saying the right conditions have not yet been created for the World Bank to re-engage on a full-fledged economic development programme with Zimbabwe and humanitarian assistance currently provided to help the poor in the country is being channelled through NGOs and aid agencies.
While Minister Moyo was firing blanks and contradicting his earlier statement, the MDC information department went into overdrive and instead of addressing the allegations with empirical evidence and facts, it decided to peddle half-truths.
The department continued to argue that Tsvangirai is the head of government and, therefore, could not form a government that is parallel to the one he heads. If one reads the global political agreement carefully, it is clear that the premier is not the head of government by the virtue that he does not chair the cabinet.
Tsvangirai is aware of this. That’s why he tried and failed to have the cabinet handbook amended to get the authority to head government. Reports abound that some ministers from Zanu PF do not even report to him because they argue that he is not the one who appointed them.
“The real scandal is the attempt by the Public Service Commission to undermine the Prime Minister’s Office by failing to formalise the appointment of staff in the Office of the Head of Government. This scandal is an attempt by Zanu-PF, through its sidekicks, to undermine and soil the image of the Prime Minister’s office through falsehoods and fiction, the MDC said.”
The information department further did not help their cause by making counter-accusations that the only shadow government is being run by a known “civil servant in the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity who continues to peddle hate speech in the public media and to sow divisions by maligning ministers and officials of the” inclusive government. Two wrongs do not make a right!
What is needed is transparency and accountability in the running of the Prime Minister’s Office. Without openness all sorts of accusations will be thrown at the office and some of them will stick even if they are false or half truths.