2009-10-10 09:19:00 IMPLEMENTATION: Salary report mystery By Tom Mosoba and Florence Mugarula THE CITIZEN Thousands of civil servants are running out of patience over a promise by the Government to raise their salaries and cushion them against the rising cost of living. And the workers' unions have already raised concern over what became of the report by the Commission on Public Service Salary Enhancement that was presented to President Jakaya Kikwete in January 2007. The appointment of the salary review commission was among the major steps taken by President Kikwete in his first five months of assuming office, following his resounding victory in the December 2005 General Election. However, little has been heard about it since then. The commission was tasked with, among other things, identifying the principles that would govern payment of salaries to all Public Service employees, and propose the criteria to be used to determine the salaries of different categories of employees. It was also expected to come up with a formula to set entry point salaries, based on economic and budgetary considerations, and devise a better salary structure for Public Service employees. The team was also to look into ways of harmonising the salaries of different categories of employees, who substantially depend on subventions from the Treasury. It would also advise on a preferable system of reviewing salaries, and whether there is need to establish a permanent Wage and Salary Board. With barely a year into the next General Election, the bold move that was applauded by many lowly paid civil servants several years ago, could return to haunt the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the President, who is expected to vie for his final five-year term in office. Today marks exactly 1,014 days since the salary commission led by Mr Deogratias Ntukamazina, a former private secretary to retired President Benjamin Mkapa, handed its report to his successor. The acting secretary general of the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta), Mr Nicholas Mgaya, told The Citizen that the workers' unions were planning to petition the Government to release the commission's findings. "We will soon hold a meeting to decide our next course of action. It's time the Government came out clean over the Ntukamazina report and the fate of the thousands of frustrated public service employees," said Mr Mgaya, in an exclusive interview with The Citizen in Dar es Salaam. He said the over 500,000 employees "have lost hope of ever earning decent pay for a decent life, as promised by President Kikwete".The three-year wait for an answer is perhaps the longest for such a simple promise." He said that over the same period, the cost of living had shot up, with food prices tripling, while water and electricity bills had also risen. Efforts to obtain comments from the Government failed, with a spokesperson at the ministry of Public Service Management, saying only State House could speak on the salary commission query. However, Chief Secretary Philemon Luhanjo could not be reached to shed light on the matter. The formation of the salary review commission was seen as a positive response by the fourth phase administration to an outcry over poor pay and huge disparities in earnings among civil servants. Salaries as low as Sh80,000 a month, have often been cited as among the many reasons that contribute to low morale among civil servants. It is also said to fuel petty corruption and apathy in service delivery, generally hampering government operations. Various studies have found that the low salaries have forced employees, even those in senior ranks to engage in other businesses, even during official working hours to make ends meet. Many have created opportunities to earn more money through the payment of allowances. This has become so lucrative that the ministry of Education last financial year spent a staggering Sh25.5 billion on allowances, according to data from the Government's Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS). Interestingly, the money went to staff at the ministry, excluding teachers, who are on the payroll of the Local Government ministry, and who suffer most. The Sh25.5 billion would be enough to employ 7,000 teachers in one year alone, with each earning an average of Sh300, 000 a month (teachers earn less than Sh200,000) to cushion the rampant shortage of personnel. In 2007, the ministry spent Sh11.6 billion on allowances, which increased by 120 per cent last year. According to the IFMS data, government employees receive allowances worth 19 per cent of their basic salaries. Those working for the central ministries are most privileged, pocket allowances equal to a 26 per cent of their basic salaries. Those working at the frontline of service delivery, such as teachers and nurses, get salary top-ups equal to only eight per cent of their basic salaries. The allowances gravy train does not only gobble up resources that should have gone into improving service delivery, but has also become a nuisance to private investors seeking opportunities. In an article published on July 29, the Financial Times of London recounted the tale of a pharmaceutical firm, Zenufa, whose owners said they had spent nearly two years on the waiting list to start operations despite an earlier assurance of three months. The owners said that despite lining up a $13 million investment in the manufacture of drugs, they were made to shuttle from one public office to the other to raise the quorum to approve their licence. Zenufa blamed the lack of progress on a culture of allowances, where officials are away from the office most of the time instead of doing their job. However, Mr Mgaya told The Citizen that no excuses should be used to blur the difficulties the workers were facing due to poor remuneration and lack of benefits. The workers were wondering why President Kikwete formed the commission, if the Government had no intention of implementing its recommendations. "As the umbrella body, Tucta, was expected to be involved in the implementation of the findings of the salary review team, but we have been kept in the dark," he said. "We are now considering what to do next because no one is ready to explain why this report is being treated as top secret yet the same government claims to champion the interests of its employees." Mr Mgaya said the commission spent millions of shillings of taxpayers' money to carry out its mandate. "The only way to help solve workers' problems is to reveal the contents of the report and provide an opportunity for all stakeholders, especially the unions, to advise and suggest the best way forward. To be opaque will not bring any positive results," the unionist said.