DIVISIONS have rocked the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), a constitutional body which institutes criminal proceedings on behalf of the state, following disgruntlements over huge salary disparities between demoralised permanent staff and those seconded from various security services including the army, air force, prisons and police.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Prosecutor-General, Ray Goba in August last year revealed that seconded staff constitute about 46% of the NPA workforce. He revealed that most of the seconded staff do not have required qualifications in the form of a law degree.
Goba also said 32 members of staff have resigned or died without any replacements and had it not been the seconded staff services at NPA would have been “hamstrung”.
An emergence meeting with all “prosecuting staff” was held at the NPA offices in Harare last Thursday to discuss grievances and the salary disparities. The meeting was attended by representatives from all provinces and the agenda of the meeting was to “update all prosecutors of operational issues within the NPA”.
According to sources at NPA, workers at the organisation expressed frustration at the preferential treatment given to seconded staff, resulting in tensions within the authority. The seconded staff are also getting back-dated salaries which their colleagues are not getting.
The Justice ministry was tasked with investigating the issue.
“A number of people are not happy because Goba has ignored an important issue which he promised to address last year that is of re-grading. Some people have been in the same grades for over 10 years while our contracts say after every two years we should move a grade up,” said a source at NPA who preferred anonymity.
“Several letters have been written to him by disgruntled staff. People have also approached (deputy national director public prosecutions Nelson) Mutsonziwa in a desperate move to have their grievances addressed.”
Another source at NPA who spoke on condition of anonymity said a salary increment that was agreed by Treasury in October 2017 and effected in December, backdated to November last year to meet the Judiciary Service Commission staff’s pay structure, was done in a controversial way.
“The challenge is that the grades were done in secret and no letters of upgrading were issued to the respective workers especially permanent staff. The ones on secondment are the only beneficiaries. Permanent staff salaries were increased using old grades, even though they had new grades at NPA while seconded staff salaries were increased using new grades. They also received back-dated salaries of up to two years,” said another disgruntled NPA staffer.
“That means a seconded staffer with a salary of US$1 500 multiplied by 24 months (backdated) will get US$36 000. In addition the ones on secondment have two pay slips, one from their organisations and one from NPA meaning now they have two EC numbers from the same government? These top managers also get an allowance of US$450 and a monthly fuel allocation.
“However permanent prosecutors who are at head office and all over Zimbabwe, and the ones who head the stations had increments of between US$100 and US$200 respectively.
“Also, the permanent supporting staff salaries were increased by between US$40 and US$80 respectively while some had their housing and transport allowances reduced with no explanation.”
The official added: “There is an issue of filling vacant posts of prosecutors, with outsiders without first considering the ones who are already in the system. Though some of them are non-degreed they need to be given grace period to complete their studies like what was done with Judicial Service Commission staff. They are the ones who are representing NPA in court but now experience does not count, only qualification.”
Contacted for comment, Goba confirmed that his staff were raising genuine work improvement issues and he hoped these would be addressed.
“There is no hidden agenda when it comes to people’s lives. Our staff grievances have always been there since independence. It is one of the reasons that I and several others in this profession left before I rejoined,” Goba said.
“We intend to correct any possible teething problems. They might have been some mistakes made at treasury level, Public Service Commission or NPA Board and they have to be corrected.
“We are going to look at individual grievances of the prosecutors and general staff because they have different grades. We should not forget that government had imposed a salary and recruitment freeze and some of their benefits were taken away and these people have soldiered on. I really sympathise with them and we are trying to solve these problems now and turn NPA into a more professional and independent organisation.”
Goba however declined to comment on the salary differences between the seconded staff and permanent staff.
“I cannot speak on the salary of those seconded to NPA because they fall under the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commission. So maybe their salaries could be something that came from there and not from us, their salaries are not determined by NPA,” he said.