Government negotiators in the on and off discussions on conditions of service for public servants have proposed a Remuneration Policy for the Public Service while also warning that “any consideration of the conditions of service for the public service that have financial implications should be approached with caution.”
The negotiators agree that pressure for competitive pay from various cadres in the public service has resulted in Government enhancing salaries for selected cadres through allowances or regarding certain cadres in isolation of others. “These adhoc and piecemeal approaches have distorted the public service pay system,” they state in their position paper.
It is evident from the position paper that Government has more or less adopted all the recommendations of the PEMANDU Associates report but not those with financial implications. Government is underpinning its arguments on the economic conditions globally and domestically – which they argue is characterised by sluggish economic activity compounded by uncertainty in global markets. While acknowledging positive growth of 4.5% in the domestic propelled by non-mining sectors, Government points to a declining global economy which grew by 3.6% in 2018 and is anticipated to only grow at 3.3% in 2019.
Budget proposals for the 2018/2018 overall balance is estimated at a deficit of P6.35 billion (or 3.3 percent of GDP), which is expected to worsen to P7.79 billion (or 3.8 percent of GDP) in 2019/2020. “The latter is largely accounted for by the recent salary adjustment. This worsening of fiscal position is against the Government’s commitment of achieving budget balance or surpluses in the second half of NDP 11. Continuing in this trajectory will lead the country into a non-sustainable economic growth pathway.
This is against the backdrop that Botswana’s wage bill is high by international standards, as it currently stands at 11.3 percent of GDP, against the international threshold of 5.0 percent of GDP. A high wage bill has negative impacts in the economy as it erodes Government finances and therefore, needs to be compensated for by restraint in public spending, especially personnel emoluments, which account for a larger share in overall government recurrent expenditure,” reads the Government position paper.
Government argues that it introduced the Scarce Skills Allowance in March 2013 in an endeavour to attract and retain those skills that were perceived to be scarce at the time. “This was to be implemented for an interim period of 3 years whilst Government was working on introducing a broad banded pay structure. The broad banded structure was never introduced and the scarce skill allowance continued beyond the three years. The allowance no longer serves its purpose and has resulted in many challenges due to poor implementation resulting in endless litigation.”
PEMANDU Associates were engaged amongst others looking into the deferred recommendations through review of the Remuneration System. Government agrees that the public service salary rates are below market rates and not competitive in terms of attracting and retaining talent. “The gap is bigger at the higher grades,” states the report.
“Ob average public service pay scales substantially lag behind the national citizen market by 28%, 40% and 55% for Grade A and B, Grade C and D and Grade E and above respectively. “The parastatal CEOs are earning more than Permanent Secretaries,” it reads. The report further states that there are too many fragmented allowances and benefits, which leads to complex administration and distortion of the salary structure (41 allowances and 56 deductions). Government is of the view that the PEMANDU Consultancy report on remuneration and performance management, including negotiations of other conditions of service should be discussed separately from salary negotiations.
THE UNION PARTY IS NOT HAPPY
“We note with concern that the Employer Party has taken the view that the substantial salary adjustments awarded to the Disciplined Forces are irrelevant to the current negotiations, ostensibly because the Disciplined Forces are not governed by the Public Service Act (PSA).” Unions observe that it is unfortunate that merely because of the artificial divide created by four constitutive statutes, the PSA, the Botswana Defence Force Act, the Police Act and the Prisons Act, the employer party fails to appreciate that these statues govern employees of the same government, who serve the same public and are resourced from the same pool.
They argues that any decision that unreasonably favours one or more of these categories of government employees that excludes one or more of the others, is inevitably invidious to the excluded party (parties), and therefore constitutes an unfair labour practice. “This is the reason the salary structures of the disciplined have historically mirror that of the “Public Service”. Indeed, public sector salary adjustment are routinely extended to the disciplined forces. This happens, not as a matter of tradition and custom, but rather as a result of the substantive reality that these cadres are employed by the same government and serve the same public as those governed by the PSA.”
Taking into account the quarter one adjustments to the salaries of the disciplined forces, the Union Party recommends as follows:
Remove the A3 Band of the public sector salary structure: This will action will move the entry level salary in the public towards the P30000/annum recommended by the Union Party during the February 2019 salary negotiations and position the lowest paid workers to qualify for the public sector pension scheme.
Move every cadre one band up the public sector salary structure: This, as Table 3.5 shows, means that A3 becomes A2, A2 becomes A1…, and F1 becomes F0. This will have the effect of restoring parity between Directors and their equivalents in the disciplined forces. Below D1, the adjustment will narrow the gap between public sector cadres and their equivalents in the disciplined forces by one band. For instance, the entry band for fresh university graduates will move from C3 to C2 compared to D4 for the disciplined forces.
Consistent with the recommendations of the De Villiers Commission, public servants should be provided with accommodation or be paid a housing allowance of 15% of basic salary in lieu of accommodation. Accommodation is a big source of pay iniquity between the public service and the disciplined forces, and within the PSA governed part of the public service.
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”