Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Government blunders bleed national coffers

Court records show how government blundered its way through the scarce skill allowance policy ending up with two secret retractions and an out of court settlement bill in excess of P20 million. This emerges in two High Court settlements that were signed by lawyers acting for the government officials who had taken government to court over scarce skill allowance, Monthe Marumo Attorneys and state attorneys from the Attorney general Chambers. The first order was issued by former High Court Judge Justice Lakvinder Singh Walia on 11th August while the second one was issued by Lobatse High Court judge Justice Michael Leburu on 2nd December 2016. It has also emerged that the Director of Public Service Management Ruth Maphorisa’s decision to reach an out of court settlements with top government officials in the Ministry of Local Government in 2016 has cleared the way for other government officials from various departments to seek the same treatment. According to court documents, in one of the savingram signed by one Taunyane from Attorney General Chambers’ civil litigation division, it advised the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government “to secure compliance.” “Kindly note that the matter has been settled out of court as per the instructions of the DPSM,” reads the Savingram referring to one of the court orders. It also emerges in the court documents that the government had stopped paying scarce skills allowance to some government officials from as far back as 2010 resulting in them pursuing legal action against the state. In the two court orders, Government was ordered to pay scarce skill allowance arrears to some of the civil servants who have already retired and those who are still in the employ of the government.  It also emerges in the court documents that government had deducted money from the salaries and terminal benefits of those who retired. The deductions were aimed at reimbursing the Government for scarce skills allowance which the officers were deemed to have received erroneously. As a result, the courts ordered that the government repay the officers to compensate for deductions.  The government was also ordered to pay the money that it had withheld from the retired officers. Some of the officers were town clerks, Council Secretaries and senior assistant senior council secretaries. They had argued that they were covered under Directive no.2 of 2008 which saw Medical doctors, engineers, dentists, architects and other professionals being awarded between 15 percent and 40 percent as a percentage of basic salary as part of a retention policy.


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