The Public Service Commission (PSC) is targeting “ghost workers” in the civil service as part of government’s transformative agenda, chairperson Vincent Hungwe has said.

Hungwe told journalists during an induction workshop for permanent secretaries in Harare yesterday that the government had no choice, but to tackle problem areas in Zimbabwe’s civil service.

“A ghost worker is a moniker for someone who is not supposed to be in a particular space or performing a particular function. Of course, there are instances where people have been employed outside the rules and procedures of the Public Service Commission,” Hungwe said.

“The PSC has dealt with such issues and we continue to identify them and get rid of them. But in instances where we have more personnel than is institutionally required, that does not render the person a ghost worker. It is only that our systems have not been efficient and effective enough in terms of making sure that there is resonance between what we require and the numbers we hire.”

A government staff audit a few years ago revealed former President Robert Mugabe’s administration connived with the ruling Zanu PF party to employ over 70 000 youth officers outside the remit of the PSC.

With multi-lateral institutions demanding a rationalisation of the civil service as a precondition for financial and technical support, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has reportedly committed to slashing recurrent expenditure by reducing the size of the workforce.

Hungwe said it was not possible to determine the number of civil servants required, but this will be informed by the strategic plans that line ministries will come up with which the PSC will use to set up structures that will help in the implementation of government policy.

He also said that government’s workforce was top-heavy.

“The whole idea is to right-size the civil service, making sure that the right persons are performing the right jobs given the skills sets that they have. It’s a combination of right-sizing, right-skilling and right-tooling. There has always been a tendency to assume that the overall size of the civil service in Zimbabwe is too big,” Hungwe said.

“There are certain areas in respect of certain levels where there are more people than required and that has tended to be the case at the highest level of the civil service like permanent secretaries and principle directors. But this does not, in aggregate terms, imply that the civil service is too big.”

Hungwe said government was aware that there was a disconnect between the people in its employ and the tools they use on a day-to-day basis.

“We want people to move from a manual system to an ICT enabled workflow system and, yes, this will result in some people being made redundant. But if people become redundant in one area, they can as well be accommodated elsewhere. We want to make sure round pegs get into round holes and square pegs into square holes,” he said.

Permanent secretaries will now be appointed for two five-year terms only, with retirement rigidly set at 65 years, except in “exceptional circumstances”.

In his address to delegates, Hungwe said the civil service needed to change the way it operates if it is to be the engine that drives Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030 of a middle-income country in the next 12 years.

“Change is not an option in this instance. Change is an imperative on the road to the realisation of Vision 2030, but change or talk of change instinctively invokes tension and resistance,” he said.

Mnangagwa’s administration, Hungwe said, was “fast moving away from a society characterised by subdued and inward looking economy, political polarisation”.

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