Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Govt caught up in massive public service payout controversy

There are fears that government could be headed for massive cost overruns, after it was recently ordered by the courts of law to pay various public officers thousands of Pula in scarce skills allowance and ‘promotion money.’ This has sparked fears that government has set a precedent which could prompt other public officers to also make demands for such lapses. 

The Director of Public Service Management recently instructed all government ministries and departments to pay scarce allowances to officers with AAT/Diploma in Accounting/Diploma in Accounting and Business Studies/Botswana Institute of Accountants (BIA)/ Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accounting (CIPFA) Performing Accounting duties and functions. 

In a savingram obtained by the Sunday Standard, Mpaphorisa states that initially a Circular Savingram DP 19/96/3 III (15) dated 24th April authorised payment of Scarce Skills Allowance to holders of certain accounting and equivalent qualifications in specified ministries, effective 1st April 2014.

However, Maphorisa said, “and with a view to ensuring implementation of the High Court judgement in Joseph Yusuf Utwang and two others vs. Attorney General delivered on 2015 May, authority is hereby granted for the payment of the allowance to all officers with the above stated qualifications, who notwithstanding occupation of accounting positions and actual performance of accounting duties are currently not being paid the allowance.” 

“Please be informed further that the effective date of payment in respect of qualifying officers is backdated to 1stApril 2013.  Please note that 25 percent of basic salary remains the rate at which the allowance will be paid.

In another victory for public servants against government, the Botswana Land Board Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) also prevailed over the Central District Council’s failure to fire personnel who work in Palapye and Serowe Administrative Authorities. The workers had requested through their unions that they should be paid for overtime for the excess hours worked, emanating from what the union said was “unlawful and unreasonable long shift rotary which resulted in the workers working for 16 hours per shift.”

 The Union took up the matter with the Industrial Court and the Central District Council caged in and agreed to pay the said monies due to the affected employees. In a savingram dated 04th November, Central District Council Secretary, Gaolatlhe Dipholo states that “we as the Central District Council, we do commit that the payment to your members will be effected by December 31st2015.”

In yet another victory for public servants, Justice Harold Ruhukya of the Industrial Court on 26 November issued an order directing the Ministry of Health that letters of assimilation placing 357 health auxiliary personnel on B3/2 shall be signed and delivered to the officers by 31 December 2015 and the appointments and commensurate remuneration shall be effective from 13th November 2012.

The Court also ordered that salary disparity arrears due shall be paid to all the 357 health auxiliary personnel by the 28th February 2016.

The matter arose from another court order directing the Ministry of Health to implement and comply with terms of the arbitration award delivered on 10th January which ordered the Ministry of Health to appoint the concerned health auxiliary personnel at B2 scale and to make necessary administrative logistics to facilitate their appointment at that scale, retrospective as at 13th November. 

The health auxiliary personnel were converted into permanent pensionable in 2010 with salary scale of B3 and were later substantively confirmed in the same year.  But some of their colleagues were assimilated into B1 in 2012 with effect from 2011 and the 357 health auxiliary personnel wanted to know the criteria that was used because there was no such scheme of service by then.

Court papers show that some of the concerned officers were hired on temporary basis with salary scale of B3/B2 in 2012.  The 357 health auxiliary workers then argued that they have been unfairly treated and made to stay in one grade for too long and therefore demanded B1 with effect from November 2012.

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