THE proposed move by Treasury to carry out a skills audit in government to determine who is who and what their contribution to government is, must be commended as that would certainly reduce the wage bill and yield the desired results in the economy.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa elsewhere in this paper is quoted as saying that the government through the Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund will provide $15 million to conduct the much-needed skills audit in the civil service to determine its size and possibly flash out ghost workers.
It is our fervent hope that this time around government will not just conduct the study, but implement the findings and cut the huge numbers of ghost workers most of whom are militias used by ruling party politicians to intimidate opponents.
It is regrettable that annually, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Central Intelligence Organisation and the Zimbabwe National Army bypass the Civil Service Commission and recruit new employees, further fuelling the ballooning government wage bill.
The actions by the security clusters have only served to burden government as the additional workers would not have been budgeted for.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have pressed government to reduce the number of government workers without success putting the country on the edge as Treasury is now evidently struggling to foot the salary bill.
This will be the umpteenth time that Zimbabwe has had a skills audit after previous reports, according to Chinamasa, had been poisoned.
Treasury has sadly reported that the number of civil servants has this year gone up to 554 000 from 315 000 in 2009.
We believe that if government reduces its civil servants that will help the economy in a big way. Also through the skills audit, government would know how many workers it will need in its employ to ensure viability.
What makes the audit even more plausible is the fact that it appears government currently does not know all workers in its employ as the figures continue to escalate by each day.
The education sector accounts for 140 000 civil servants while health workers are 40 000. Yet, Zimbabwe continues to face skills deficit in the health and education sectors as most people left for greener pastures.
Therefore what is required is to cut unnecessary staff in the security clusters and focus on development clusters such as education and health services sectors.
It is not objectionable that the education and health sectors are critical in the economy.
It is sad that the government wage bill has been taking over 75% of the budget since 2009 — itself an unsustainable scenario as it leaves little room for capital expenditure.
This has resulted in government failing to implement infrastructure development projects that could help attract foreign direct investment inflows.
It is very clear that ordinary civil servants are not paid much, but the benefits for top bureaucrats are the ones pushing up the wage bill.
It is high time that government looks into the welfare of all civil servants regardless of their station by implementing the skills audit as a matter of urgency. After all conducting an audit is economically sound for all concerned parties.