‘Cabinet okays civil service cut’

FINANCE minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday hinted that government would drastically reduce the civil service, as it seeks to save $170 million a year, saying this had been approved by the Cabinet.

by VENERANDA LANGA

Presenting the $4 billion 2016 National Budget in Parliament, Chinamasa said rationalisation of the civil service would save $14,2 million per month.

The Finance minister did not say whether civil servants would get their annual bonuses.

“The principle of containing the size of the public service has already been accepted by the government, which in 2011 introduced the policy of a general freeze on recruitment. However, notwithstanding this policy thrust, employment numbers have been on an upward trend,” he said.

“Cabinet has accordingly approved implementation of various rationalisation measures, which will unlock savings of $14,2 million per month.”

Chinamasa said the civil service numbers had been ballooning and grew by 35,8% from 203 362 in February 2009 to 276 163 by December 2014.

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“It is, therefore, critical that government rationalises the size of the civil service. This will require a functional review of all ministries, identifying core structures and critical posts,” he said.

The minister also said government would reintroduce employee pension contributions at a rate of 7,5% from December 1, to ensure employers and employees contributed to pensions.

In his presentation, Chinamasa highlighted that the biggest cost savers were to be the review of the education sector leave days, which was envisaged to save $3 932 772 a month, and the rationalisation of student teachers’ salaries, which are to be cut in half, to save $2 159 288.

The most contentious measure though would be the rationalisation of youth officers at ward level, which would save the government $1 611 509.

Chinamasa had long hinted that the number of youth officers would be reduced, but Youth minister Patrick Zhuwao said nothing of that sort would happen and instead the Finance minister would be fired before he could implement his decision.

Chinamasa has also been at loggerheads with his Public Service counterpart Prisca Mupfumira, who has insisted that no job would be lost during the rationalisation process and government would, instead, look at other cost-cutting measures.

The Finance minister also proposed a review of the level of road traffic fines to begin from Level 2 and end at Level 4 of the standard scale of fines, with effect from January 1, which will see traffic fines for double parking, fuel and oil leaks, discarding rubbish from vehicles, spitting in or from vehicles, and others going up from $5 to $10.

Traffic offences such as failing to signal when slowing down, stopping or turning right or left, cutting corners, encroaching over white lines at traffic lights, proceeding against amber lights and abusive behaviour at roads will attract a $20 fine, up from $10.

For traffic offences such as proceeding against a red traffic light, overtaking over the solid white line, no driver’s licence, and having a footbrake that is not working, the fine will be $100, up from $20.

Excise duty on second-hand vehicles of an engine capacity of 1 000cc will be a flat rate of $300, while for vehicles with engine capacity of 3 001 to 3 500cc, it will be a flat rate of $600.

“This is in order to promote transparency in the determination of excise duty and also ease the administrative burden on Zimra,” Chinamasa said.

He said departments that retain their collected revenue would now have to open a revenue account with the Reserve Bank and transfer all balances of the said account by January 2016.

“Failure by these entities to comply will result in their authority to retain revenue revoked,” the Finance minister said.

Chinamasa extended suspension of duty on wheat flour for a further period of 12 months and a reduction in the wheat flour quota from 5 000 to 4 000 metric tonnes per month, in line with the utilisation capacity of approved importers with effect from January 1.

He also extended rebates of duty on capital equipment imported by the mining, agriculture, manufacturing and energy sectors, for equipment valued at $1 million and above with effect from January 1, while introducing duty on importation of ploughs.

At the country’s border posts, Chinamasa said any motor vehicles used to commit transit fraud would be forfeited to the State, adding government would engage independent border post experts to re-organise Beitbridge Border Post, as well as remove unauthorised persons like vendors, beggars and touts from the border areas.

On travellers’ rebates, Chinamasa reviewed downwards the duty-free allowance to $200 from $300 per calendar month, in order to complement efforts to resuscitate local industries.

He said the Ziscosteel debt would be taken over by government, while contracts of all the firm’s employees would be terminated on three months’ notice by the end of this year.

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