PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s populist promise to civil servants earlier this year that they would be paid end-of-year bonuses no matter what happened, and notwithstanding the State’s ever-dwindling revenues, is coming back to haunt his cash-strapped government.
Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that the uniformed forces who were scheduled to start receiving their bonuses last month had not been paid their dues because of a lack of funds.
She also said that she was not sure when the money for bonuses was going to be made available by the fiscus — although she reiterated the government’s commitment to fulfil Mugabe’s promise.
“We are going with what the president said that government workers will get bonuses. Unfortunately, our cash inflows have not improved and so we could not pay the money in November.
In April this year, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa — whose pragmatic approach to his work has won him wide praise — announced that the government had suspended civil servants’ bonuses until 2017, owing to the country’s shrinking tax base.
But barely a week later, Mugabe reversed the decision, making a fool of his Treasury chief and expressing disgust at Chinamasa’s announcement — adding that he had neither been consulted nor had Cabinet ever discussed the issue of the suspension of bonuses.
“I want to make it clear that the report which was in the newspapers that bonuses were being withdrawn is not government policy. The Cabinet did not approve that at all and the presidency was never consulted on the matter.
“We were never consulted the three of us, that is myself and the two vice presidents and we say that is disgusting to us and it will never be implemented at all,” the nonagenarian thundered.
Later, Mupfumira announced that the government would stagger the bonus payments, with the uniformed forces supposed to have received their money last month.
However, with a fortnight to go before the end of the year, that has not happened, amid revelations that the government is stone broke and struggling to raise December salaries for all civil servants, including teachers.
According to the government’s pay schedule for this month, teachers face a bleak Christmas as they are only going to receive their salaries after the festive season.
“We have nothing to celebrate on December 25 because we are only going to get our salary after Christmas, on the 28th, and faced with such a situation it would be foolhardy for us to even talk about a bonus.
“We are powerless and we cannot do anything but suffer in silence,” a teacher based in Mashonaland East Province lamented yesterday.
The government has for a long time been struggling to pay its salaries bill which gobbles up to $260 million a month, constituting about 82 percent of its total budget.
In his April statement, Chinamasa correctly said the government no longer had the capacity to pay bonuses as the State had challenges in collecting taxes, arguing further then that paying bonuses would mean “bleeding” the already depressed formal sector.
“I am reluctant to increase taxes in order to increase revenues to the fiscus. In fact, to do so will be very negative in my view and it’s like trying to squeeze blood from a stone, so I am reluctant to use that route,” Chinamasa said.
Source: Daily News