Days numbered for Zimbabwe's ghost workers


Public Service Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Prisca Mupfumira

THE long-awaited public service staff audit has now been completed in what marks the first step in government’s attempts to flush out ghost workers.
Public Service Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Prisca Mupfumira, revealed this week that she was now in possession of the report but will only release its findings after further consultations.
Mupfumira told the Financial Gazette that the report would be made public in no time.
“I have just received the staff audit report and am still looking at it. Consultations with the necessary stakeholders will be made in no time and the report will be made public any time soon after all the necessary deliberations have been done,” she said.
In a bid to lower its wage bill to sustainable levels, government tasked the Ministry of Finance to coordinate efforts to reduce its payroll costs, currently chewing over 80 percent of the National Budget.
The audit, which was funded to the tune of US$15 million, started early this year before reaching its conclusion in March.
It encompassed a head count of personnel and an assessment of their duties to ascertain whether they are any duplication of roles and if they were skilled people in the right places.
It may also form the basis for government to eventually flush out ghost workers, most of whom are believed to be militias used by the ruling ZANU-PF party to intimidate opponents.
In a 2009 report, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, Mildred Chiri, accused the Ministry of Youth Development of hiring 10 277 youth officers between May and June 2008 although the ministry is required to employ only 144 youth officers.
Political analyst, Godwin Phiri, said it will be interesting to see how Chinamasa would strike a balance between ZANU-PF’s political interests and government’s need to cut the wage bill. Chinamasa is also ZANU-PF’s secretary for legal affairs.
“Almost everyone in government was employed based on political connections, so it will be difficult for him to flush out unwanted people. This is the reason why we have ghost workers everywhere,” he said.
Economic analyst, John Robertson, highlighted that the ballooning public workforce should be cut as a matter of urgency if the country is to entertain any hopes of recovery.
“Previously one out of every 10 workers in the formal sector was a civil servant, but now one out of every three workers in the formal sector is a civil servant, making it hard to raise money to pay wages,” Robertson said.
Political analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, doubted if there was any political will for government to bite the bullet.
“It’s a question of political considerations trumping economic rationality,” he said.
Indeed, flushing out those irregularly employed would be a mammoth task as the December 2014 ZANU-PF congress resolved to revive and “strengthen its cadetship development policy, including structured and compulsory ideological programmes, for nurturing a broad human resources-base for deployment by the party into critical, strategic positions in both the party and government”.
In the normal course of business, staff audits give an up-to-date analysis of the workforce and provide the basis for subsequent benchmarking and workforce analyses.
They also provide the necessary database for accurate estimation of the costs of alternative severance and pensions strategies, and for the eventual disbursement of payments to workers.
Up-to-date records of personnel and removal of ghost workers are immediate benefits of a staff audit.
Another audit was conducted under the inclusive government but its findings were never made public or implemented.