Saturday, March 2, 2024

Directors, Town Clerks, Council Secretaries slap Government with a P20m out of court settlement bill

Government is facing an agonising financial dilemma as it set to pay more than P20 million to settle outstanding scarce skill allowance arrears to Directors, Town Clerks and Council Secretaries from various departments, it has emerged.   Lawyers acting for more than 31 government officials Monthe and Marumo Attorneys set the tone for the massive out of court settlement case when they demanded that two High Court orders of 2016 in which government agreed to pay their 16 colleagues should also be extended to them. In the 2016 court orders, government agreed that 16 top government officials were qualified and entitled to be paid scars skills in terms of directive no. 2 of 2002 and agreed that they be paid arrears and 10 percent interest rate. In her affidavit, Lobatse Town Council Clerk, Boikhutso Matenge (on behalf of 30 other applicants) states that the denial of scarce skills allowance is discriminatory or unfair in so far as other cadres in other government departments and with the same qualifications as them do receive the scarce skill allowance.  According to Matenge, such conduct amounts to “discriminatory conduct and/or unequal treatment by the same employer or the same persons in the same occupation or employment of defendant (government) and/or holding the same occupations in the employ of the defendant.” Therefore, Matenge states that she and other applicants are entitled to be paid scarce skill allowance and seek a declaratory order to that effect. Matenge also seeks an order directing the government to pay her and other 30 top government officials same benefits as it did to the seven top government officials that Walia had ordered they are entitled to scarce skill allowance. Matenge also wants the court to issue an order declaring that Directive no. 2 of 2008 (announcing payment of scarce skill allowance0 applies to occupations or professions of the said directive and not positions. She also wants the court to declare that the decision of the government to base the scarce skill allowance or positions is unlawful or contrary to Directive no.2 of 2008.   Matenge further states that the government should be ordered to continue paying scarce skill allowance of the applicants until such a time as same would have been lawfully withdrawn in terms of the law. Replying, the government denies liability to the officials saying they were appointed as result of their managerial and leadership competencies and would be excluded from payment of the allowance unless if they demonstrate that the nature of their work is such to require the consistent application of their technical know-how. But Sunday Standard has turned up information showing that the government is angonising over the matter as it has no choice but to enforce the 2016 court order that was issued by former High Court Justice Walia and current Justice Michael Leburu in which the government reached an out court settlement and paid millions of Pula in arrears to top civil servants. The scarce skills allowance was introduced in 2008 to enable government to attract and retain expertise deemed to be scarce. This was a product of recommendations of a study undertaken by the Botswana Institute for Public Administration and Analysis (BIDPA) in 2007. Medical doctors, engineers, dentists, architects and other professionals are awarded between 15 percent and 40 percent as a percentage of basic salary as part of a retention policy in order to address the needs associated with scarce skills and the need to attract and retain suitable staff in the public service.


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