The Public Service Reforms Commission has stressed the need for tough decisions to be made to reduce the number of public sector employees and fight the allowances culture.
Since its establishment two years ago, the commission, chaired by Vice-President Saulos Chilima, has made slow progress on reducing public expenditure.
However, the commission has, so far, brought changes to some government departments, including the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS), which has since improved on revenue collection and devolved vehicle inspection to the private sector.
But due to lack of funds, government has shied away from retrenching redundant public servants, which can help save a lot of taxpayers’ money.
Currently, there are 45 principal secretaries (PSs), four of whom are on two-year contracts ending 2017. The other PSs, including Secretary to the Treasury Ronald Mangani, are on secondment.
In addition, government has faced massive resistance in its quest to increase fees in public secondary schools and universities as well as introduce user fees in hospitals despite recommendations from various sectors.
But speaking in an interview on Friday after a week-long review of the reforms progress of Northern and Central region-based statutory corporations, Chilima said following natural attrition of principal secretaries in the past months, the process would move to directors’ level and even to drivers with a proposal to redeploy them to other sectors such as education and agriculture.
There have been concerns that government has too many drivers and directors, contributing to a high public sector wage bill.
Meanwhile, donors and Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe have since bemoaned the allowances culture such that government officials are no longer attending meetings with full board facility.
Said Chilima: “I have always said there are certain positions in the civil service that don’t exist anymore and are completely useless and we [need to] delete those. That is a process that the people at Department of Human Resource Management and Development and Office of the President and Cabinet as managers of the civil service will be looking at.”
He said although civil servants are not adequately remunerated, compensation should not be in the form of allowances.
Chilima also said discussions are underway to reduce the huge fleet of government vehicles, which has become costly.
He said the reforms would also include reducing stationery costs to introduce new solutions as well as reducing unnecessary internal and external travel.
Said the Veep: “The first step to achieving success in public service is to start looking at what we can start forgoing and sacrificing for the greater good.”
Chilima cited the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) as one of the areas where government has started making tough decisions, following the reduction of beneficiaries from 1.5 million to 900 000 within two years.
“Elsewhere, people are paying for services, but we have become people that want everything for free and that is not sustainable because we cannot maintain facilities if there is no revenue,” he said.
He also said public discourse on introduction of levies and increasing fees on public services must continue because Malawians have shown willingness to pay.
The Democratic Progressive Party government introduced the reforms to make government more efficient. (Suzgo Khunga-The Nation)