THE cash-strapped government faces tough decisions in its bid to reduce the unsustainable civil service wage bill as it ponders cutting the size of the security sector and laying off senior civil servants who have reached retirement age but have been retained to prop President Robert Mugabe’s faltering regime.
Owen Gagare/Kudzai Kuwaza
The development comes at a time government has informed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that promotions in the civil service have been shelved as a way of containing costs. The government has also suspended salary increments to curb costs.
“In addition to the hiring freeze already in place, they (the government) are currently elaborating near-term measures to contain employment costs in 2015, including freezing promotions and eliminating redundancies. The savings from these measures would be channelled to finance capital investment and social outlays,” said the IMF in a country report released last week.
“The authorities have no plans of raising wages and salaries in 2015.”
Despite these measures, government officials told the Zimbabwe Independent this week a number of senior civil servants and high ranking officials in the security sector had over the years taken retirement packages but remained in the civil service, thus contributing to the huge wage bill.
A large number of senior officials have also reached retirement age but were clinging on to their positions so as to enjoy the hefty perks that come with their offices, further straining government resources in the process while also frustrating junior officials hoping for promotions.
A senior government official said the government may have to take the “painful” decision of laying off workers at a time it is implementing its ambitious five year economic blueprint, ZimAsset, which it implausibly says will create 2,2 million jobs between 2013 and 2018.
“Retrenching is itself an admission that ZimAsset has failed, so naturally those in higher offices are not so keen on it. However the wage bill is choking government operations, so painful decisions will have to be taken,” said the official.
“Most of the problems (in relation to the wage bill) are self-inflicted because there are a number of senior civil servants who have long reached the retirement age but are still on the job. There are also cases where some senior people actually retired and received their packages, but have somehow remained on the job.
“In most cases those clinging onto the jobs despite reaching retirement age or taking retirement packages are often loyal to Zanu PF and the government, and have been kept on their jobs as a reward.”
The official pointed out that in the army, for example, the recommendation was that one should retire after serving for 20 years, but most senior officers have been in service since 1980, having participated in the liberation war.
“The situation is the same in the police and intelligence, but most of the officers are Zanu PF loyalists so the likelihood of corrective measures being taken are slim,” said the official.
Another official revealed that Ministry of Finance officials had at one time recommended the reduction of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces from 70 000 to 20 000 as a way of reducing government expenditure.