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'Civil servants paid peanuts' -report

SHARE   |   Friday, 22 June 2018   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane

 Parastatal CEOs earn more than Permanent Secretaries they report to

Last civil service salary review done 10 years ago

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Too many allowances 41, and 356 deductions

 F super scale has no range, only one notch

Contrary to the pomp and fanfare characterising commemoration of Civil Service Day, Convention and Awards 2018 during the week, a confidential report exposing poor salaries and lack of progression that have led to poor performance and low morale among civil servants is gathering dust at the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) offices.  

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Permandu Associates – the Malaysian performance management consultants engaged by government to review civil service salary grades, remuneration (pay packages) and the structure of DPSM – have trashed the current system and recommended drastic changes to hire and retain talent to improve service delivery, The Patriot on Sunday can reveal. But three months after the recommendations were shared with stakeholders for their input as far back as March 2018, DPSM is yet to finalise and submit a report to Cabinet for consideration.

This inaction on the part of government runs contrary to a commitment to improve working  conditions in the civil service made last week by senior cabinet ministers – Nonofo Molefhi of  Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration and Tshenolo Mabeo of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development. The duo had just returned from the 2018 International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland where Botswana government was grilled by the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) for violating and/ or refusing to comply with ILO conventions that the country has long ratified. Local trade union federations Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) had jointly reported government for the violations and a crackdown on workers' rights, particularly in the civil service.  

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Salary structure

The consultants, Permandu, observe that the government salary structure is below market rates and the gap grows with the higher grades. In fact, "parastatal chief executive officers (CEOs) are earning more than the Permanent Secretaries they report to"; they confirmed. The Consultants also concluded that the current salary structure does not follow the norm of a salary structure design as it does not overlap nor does it allow for growth. A salary structure has to be fan shaped (e.g. USA, South Korea and Japan) and the range has to be fatter as it goes up the grade. With civil service salary structure in Botswana, one startling discovery is that grade F has no range and has only one notch.

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According to Permandu, there are many legacy issues in the current government remuneration system. It says 20% of allowances are related to attraction and retention, 56% job, 24% welfare. There is lack of enforcement of a directive on management of Deductions from salaries, which negatively affects the minimum take home pay that in some instances leave civil servants with blank payslips at the end of the month. The consultants also query that there are too many labels of allowances (41) and 356 deductions noted in salaries of civil servants. 

Although inflationary adjustment takes place every year, Permandu consultants found that there is no salary review process in place within the civil service. In fact the last salary review was found to have been done 10 years ago, a point public sector trade unions have repeatedly raised at the public service bargaining council, which is currently lying comatose.

PMS

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In an analysis to establish why there is poor uptake of the current Performance Management System (PMS) Permandu identified the main reason as people skills which include lack of ownership, disappointing implementation and poor management of the process/ system. The current PMS has been heavily criticised for being a one-size-fits-all which only measures against goals and does not include behavioural aptitudes. The process was too long and a waste of time. It did not showcase true feedback. It was only done once a year, and was riddled with confusion and conflict during review. It was not aligned between individual employee and the organisation. Further, there was lack of communication and understanding," the consultants concluded, trashing the current PMS used in civil service.

Solutions

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To create a high performance public service, Permandu has recommended a competitive remuneration system to attract and retain talent; an effective performance management system that is linked to productivity and is outcome based. The consultants propose that DPSM has to play a more strategic role in a decentralised Human Resource Management environment. They also recommend improving productivity at line ministries to achieve good public service delivery and doing more with less.  

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To overcome the challenges in the current salary structure Permandu Associates recommend a once off wholesale salary adjustment for the civil service and a new system with bigger range and overlap (where even grade F will have a range).

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Even more fundamentally, Government has been advised to create and implement a salary review process for the civil service, and to seriously consider linking reward with performance management and development. Similarly Permandu has recommended that government introduce an allowance creation and elimination review process that will categorise 20 of the current allowances into just 6 (six) categories, and convert five allowances from personal to holder (PTH) or into salary.

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As a matter of urgency, government has also been encouraged to immediately enforce the directive on minimum take home pay to save civil servants from further indebtedness. 

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Trade unions

Although BOFEPUSU leaders deny being engaged over the Permandu Associates report, Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, said there are many devastating challenges facing workers of Botswana, particularly public servants. He said for a long time, government has arrogantly and ruthlessly ignored their conditions of service and welfare. "That is why in the public servants we have the working poor (workers who earn wages way below the cost of living). They are akin to modern day slaves for they work for almost nothing. The only difference between these workers and the unemployed is that they wake up early to take a bath and report for work. That is the only difference because in terms of their livelihood they are in the same bracket," said Motshegwa, adding that the cost of living is high given rising costs of food, petrol, housing and transport which erode the purchasing power of the meagre wages of public servants particularly those in bands of A, B, C.

"Some workers are helpless and hopeless, and only waiting for death to rescue them from their miserable life.  While workers sweat hard in dangerous situations to create the wealth of this country, when it comes to distribution of such wealth they are pushed aside to the periphery and forgotten. Government loses a lot of funds through rampant institutionalised corruption, which involves senior officials connected politically to the administration. This self-aggrandisement enriches the few at the expense of national development, which should include better wages for workers," he said, adding that to demonstrate lack of seriousness to deal with public service, the most important post of Director of DPSM has remained vacant for an extended period.    



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