Why Zimbabwe’s civil service needs reform


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When a team from the Public Service Commission turned up at Mbiriyadi Primary School in Nyanga for a staff audit and headcount three years ago, the head handed them attendance registers. Hawk-eyed officials quickly spotted an anomaly.

Names of pupils were repeated in several grades, creating ghost pupils that raised the pupil enrolment to 240, to justify a staff complement of six teachers, the auditors found. The school’s actual enrolment level was 109 pupils.

Government regulations stipulate teaching staff ratios of 1:40 for primary schools and 1:33 for secondary schools.

The rules also require heads of schools with less than 281 pupils to take on some teaching duties.

To get around this, heads at schools such as Gunde in Buhera, Majiji in Bubi, Gumira and Ngaone in Chipinge as well as Somvubu Secondary School in Bubi, devised a plan.

They requisitioned technical-vocational teachers knowing fully well that their schools did not have the equipment and capacity to offer these subjects.

Once deployed to the schools, the technical-vocational teachers were used to take classes that the school heads should have taken.

These are just some examples of the absurdities unearthed by the Public Service Commission’s 2015 audit, ordered by government as it battled a burgeoning wage bill, at a time when revenues were falling.

At the time of the audit, conducted between February and April 2015, government employed 3 463 youth officers. The youth officers could not be found at their workstations, but “they later surfaced for the purpose of enumeration,” according to the audit report.

“Information gathered indicates that some of these youth officers might be gainfully employed elsewhere.”

Despite a high concentration of youth officers in urban wards, five in each, “there was no evidence of specific projects youth officers were undertaking,” the report adds.

It also noted duplication of functions, with the same government also deploying ward development coordinators under the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, whose projects the auditors found to be ‘more visible.’

“In rural wards, most youth officers operate in the same ward where there are extension workers from other ministries. During the audit, evidence gathered indicated that youth officers claim ownership of projects initiated and managed by other extension workers at ward level,” the audit found.

As if that was not enough, a total of 121 agricultural extension workers were found to be deployed in non-agricultural urban areas.

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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