HARARE – Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mthuli Ncube has proposed a five percent salary cut for all senior government officials effective January 01, 2019 in a bid to instill fiscal discipline and rationalising expenditures.
In order to achieve that, Ncube proposed a whole host of initiatives including cutting salaries for senior civil servants, rationalisation of foreign missions, retirement of youth officers, public service retirements among others.
Presenting his maiden 2019 National Budget, Ncube stressed the need to create additional financial capacity for government to deliver public services effectively.
“The 2019 Budget, consistent with the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, places emphasis on living within our means by instilling fiscal discipline and rationalising expenditures in order to create additional financial capacity for funding developmental expenditures and enhancing delivery of public services.
“Accordingly, the following package of wage and non-wage expenditure rationalisation measures are now being implemented. Mr Speaker Sir, it is critical that we reduce public spending on employment costs. As a first step, government has decided that effective January 01,2019, a five percent cut on basic salary, be effected for all senior positions from Principal Directors, Permanent Secretaries and their equivalents up to Deputy Ministers, Ministers and the Presidium,” said Ncube.
This is also extended to basic salaries of those in designated posts in State Owned Enterprises (Chief Executive Officers, Executive Directors and equivalent grades), including Constitutional Commissions and grant aided institutions.
Ncube said standardization or alignment exercise in remuneration including benefits for Constitutional Commissions, will also be undertaken to remove inequity and disparities.
He noted that as another cost cutting measure, government will undertake a foreign missions rationalisation exercise with the country’s diplomatic presence currently sitting at 46 and Consulate staffed by around 581 home based and locally recruited staff.
The above diplomatic presence is currently imposing annual budgetary support levels of around $65 million, which is above available 2018 Budget capacity of $50 million.
“Government has resolved to reduce the number of Foreign Missions, thereby optimising the utility value realised from the remaining missions as well as avoiding accumulation of arrears and embarrassing evictions of our diplomats,” said Ncube.
He added that at its 38th Meeting of December 05, 2017, Cabinet re-affirmed its decision to terminate employment contracts of 3 188 Youth Officers as previously resolved.
Drawing from the Cabinet Resolutions and guidance of the Public Service Commission, Treasury proceeded to mobilise in the first instance $5,2 million in December 2017 towards three months’ Cash In-Lieu of Retirement Notices and in the second instance, $17,7 million on February 16, 2018 towards the officers’ Pension benefits.
According to Ncube, Youth Officers who still remain on the payroll, are being retired and the posts removed from the establishment, by end of December 2018.
He said the 2019 National Budget is further operationalising the policy stance of retiring government officials above the age of 65 also as part of government’s quest to control expenditure.
In addition Ncube noted that government will introduce a Biometric Register for civil servants in 2019.
Previous civil service audits undertaken by Government in 2011 and 2015, respectively, point to possible existence of ghost workers in the service, who are contributing to the burgeoning public service wage bill which accounts for over 90 percent of total revenues.
Ncube said this goes against the thrust of re-orienting budget expenditures towards growth enhancing and poverty reducing developmental programmes and projects through rationalisation of the Public Service Wage Bill.
“Mr Speaker Sir, to weed out these ghost workers, I propose to introduce a biometric registration of all civil servants, with effect from 1 January 2019. The registration process will be rigorous and will involve capturing data on Letter of Appointment, Academic and Professional Qualifications, National Identification Documents, Employment Code Numbers, and Biometric Data,” said Ncube.
Government will also look at improving the management system of its fleet as another avenue for improving efficiency and making savings. Ncube noted that some public officers tend to use government operational or pool vehicles after working hours, during weekends and on public holidays, which practice contributes to unsustainable build-up of outstanding payment arrears to service providers related to maintenance and fuel bills.
Against this background, Ncube is proposing an austerity measure that leads to all government pool/project vehicles being parked at the work stations or the nearest police station after designated working hours, during weekends and public holidays becomes inescapable.
Similarly, all government pool vehicles will be transferred and centrally managed through CMED while entities with capacity to maintain their fleet will be excluded from the directive.