Finance and National Planning Minister Alexander Chikwanda has said reports attributed to him that government will effect arbitral removal of allowances negotiated through collective bargaining with unions are misplaced and should be ignored with the contempt they deserve.
In a statement to ZANIS, Mr Chikwanda instead reiterated that conditions of service allowances which are sanctioned through collective bargaining processes are only adjustable through established consultative processes as stipulated by relevant laws and regulations.
Mr Chikwanda said though the anxiety is understood, it was premature and a clear case of disregard for consultation for some union leaders to wantonly misinform the public about the stand of government on allowances without seeking clarification from the Minister of Finance, to whom the comments on removal of allowances were attributed.
Mr Chikwanda however confirmed that government is in the process of reviewing administrative allowances sanctioned outside the collective bargaining framework adding that the Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Roland Msiska has supported this stance.
The Minister said this will be done through implementation of an integrated strategy for improvement of conditions of service.
He said the goal of this will be to rationalize the circumstances under which remunerative administrative allowances are payable and also to foster a more responsible and financially sustainable approach to utilization of public resources.
“The process of reviewing administrative allowances has been necessitated by governments concern that workers, retirees and ordinary members of the public who travel from all over Zambia to seek services from certain public institutions are sometimes made to wait for days or weeks to be attended to just because officials responsible for helping them are constantly attending events which have incentives such as administrative allowances,” he said.
Mr Chikwanda explained that the decision was arrived at on a tour of projects in Mongu last week where one of the reasons advanced for delays in implementing governments’ development programmes was that some public service workers were spending too much time in workshops and seminars at the expense of coordinating and overseeing the speedy implementation of projects.
Mr Chikwanda cited a statement attributed by the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) which he said also expressed concern at the slow pace at which development programmes were being implemented in the province.
The Minister of Finance stated that government could not ignore the concern of the BRE as it was a confirmation of reports which the government has been receiving concerning the same.
“Through monitoring and evaluation of activities government, recorded that there is a growing tendency by some public service workers to transform and mutate routine and ordinary station work for which they get salaries on a monthly basis, into special assignments that are shipped out to incessant workshop and seminar settings, whose underlying inducement are administrative allowances for attendees and organizers,” he said.
Mr Chikwanda has since strongly appealed to public service workers to prioritise government development programmes instead of chasing workshops and seminars.
“Public service workers should render focused attention to development programmes through timely, efficient and effective implementation of projects which will deliver jobs and poverty reduction for the majority of Zambians,” the minister said.
Mr Chikwanda also appealed for the unions’ support in ending workshop related fiscal irresponsibility in government especially that most of them do not even benefit from the administrative allowances in question.
He has reaffirmed that the PF government has a responsibility to deliver development to the people and to look after workers in the best possible way.
Mr Chikwanda restated his deep concern with the proliferation of fiscal irresponsibility to the extent that funds meant for development programmes are sometimes channelled to workshops and seminars at the expense of job creation, poverty reduction, and the general social-well-being of the people of Zambia.
The aim of the Integrated Strategy for Improvement of Conditions of Service is to harmonize and rationalize salaries and conditions of service across all three arms of government in a financially sustainable manner in order to facilitate the recruitment and retention of highly motivated and productive staff.
The strategy also aims at having a transparent compensation system which addresses vertical and horizontal inequalities in the compensation structure and compares well with what is obtaining in the public service in the region and the private sector in the country.