Recruitment freeze could cripple government, warns Msoni

Nason Msoni

Nason Msoni

Statement

The wage and recruitment freeze in the civil service as announced by the Minister of Finance during the presentation of the 2014 national budget is retrogressive and could seriously harm and cripple the smooth running of government.

We doubt whether this moratorium that is expected to last up to 2015 had the legitimate input of all stakeholders given the emerging reactions from various workers representatives.

Past experience has shown clearly that indiscriminate freezing of all civil service positions has the debilitating effect on the overall performance of the government machinery.

You cannot wholesomely ban recruitments as the government constantly requires the services of medical and teaching personnel on a regular basis to build capacities in the social delivery system.

It would be extremely problematic at every twist and turn to seek long-delayed-bureaucratic approvals from cabinet office and the relevant public service commissions for every nurse or civil servant to be recruited into the service.

This delay in seeking approvals de-motives and keeps those recruited literally hanging and going without wages for considerable long periods of time essentially turning them into employed destitute not-on-payroll.

Clearly this is unnecessary creation of bottlenecks towards sustainable provision of public services.

Our considered view is that government should have made exemptions for key strategic areas and positions like those for nurses, teachers, technical and other professional staff positions that require specialized qualified personnel.

In most cases it is the non-productive administrative positions which should be subject and systematicallyfrozen.

It is tragic for any government to start breaking its own set of rules later by going back to revisit erroneous decisions after initially failing to widely consult other stakeholders.

Wage freezes are acrimonious in every sense and don’t promote industrial harmony.The key to a durable and sustainable working atmosphere lies in constant social dialogue with trade unions.

The decision taken by government unilaterally presupposes that unions are irrelevant in seeking their input. This implies that should the wage freeze boomerang the government should not turn to trade union leaders to talk to their members as in the first place the unions were never consulted but politely ignored.

We think the challenge lies on the President himself to help trim the size of his current cabinet and the deputy ministers to make a saving and pass-on the accrued savings and benefits to medical personnel and other professionals serving the general public rather than affecting a wage freeze.

The large assembly of do-nothing deputy Ministers is unnecessary burden and cost on the national budget which should be dispensed forthwith.

Some deputy Ministers are literally squatting in designated rooms for storing staff files as most ministries are over bloated and littered with political functionaries. We think opposition Ministers have no business being in government and their presence only services to add more pressure on the national budget and deprive essential staff improved conditions of service.

The PF government and their leaders have grossly misunderstood the concept and role and function of forming government on behalf of the Zambian citizenry. According to their basic understanding they think it is the responsibility of the state to look after those who ultimately form government to the exclusion of the electorate.

This explains the lavish life styles of the leaders and the carefree provocative appointments of relatives with impunity in total disregard of the views and feelings of the electorate on whose behalf they purport to have formed government.

It is only by pruning unnecessary baggage that the government can reasonably relieve the pressure on the national treasury. We still think it may be absolutely necessary to shut-down non-performing Zambian missions abroad and in some cases it may be necessary to just downsize the structures and recall unnecessary excess staff.

Where it is appropriate the Zambian government can retain a consular arrangement for administrative convenience only.

The cost saving proposals should help improve the quality of service delivery in public hospitals and schools and further re-introduce the social benefit system for the most vulnerable persons.

We think the cash transfer system being haphazardly implemented by government does not adequately address the social and economic needs and challenges faced by people dislocated economically.

The challenge should be to come up with a workable social benefit system which can respond to the daily needs rather than just a one-off payment to a randomly picked lucky recipient whether real or imaginary.

We are desirous of a social and political system that works for everybody and not just PF politicians.