Government has turned down a request by University of Botswana authorities to have the Scarce Skills Allowance extended to the university personnel.
Sunday Standard has turned up information which suggests a souring of relations between government and the university as a result of the decision taken by government not to extend Scarce Skills Allowance to the university.
After consultations between the two, government, which pays salaries for all university staff, has come to the conclusion that the Allowance should only be paid to civil servants.
While the University of Botswana is experiencing difficulties accessing the allowance, it has since surfaced that other government owned parastatals are already implementing the Scarce Skills Allowance regime which is meant to attract and retain technical skills, especially in the science and engineering fields, including medicine.
In an internal memo to some university staff, the Head of Human Resources, Emmanuel Maite, makes it clear that from their interaction with government, the financier is not willing to foot the bill.
This was after the university approached government to get authorization to go ahead with implementing the Scarce Skills Allowance.
“On the 7th August 2008, we received a letter from government informing us the scarce skill allowance dispensation was for government employees (civil servants) only and that it does not automatically extend to parastatal organizations ÔÇô including the University of Botswana,” says Maite.
In fact, the government has since advised the university authorities to try other avenues if they still feel strongly that they deserve the Scarce Skills Allowance.”
“We have been advised that if we feel we have a strong case, we should make a submission to the National Employment, Manpower and Incomes Council (NEMIC). We are in the process of pursuing the matter further but I have to warn you that we may have a long and difficult journey ahead of us. You will note that we only received this response from government towards the end of last week and that we also needed time to reflect on it.”
Please be informed that, as promised, we have been working around the clock towards getting authorization to implement the scarce skill allowance. Unfortunately, this is very expensive. We, therefore, had to find sources of funds before we proceeded with it. As you know, our staff costs are fully funded by government so we appealed to government to assure us of its support.
Maite ends by warning the university academics against going to the public media about their grievances with the government.
“I am quite aware that the University, as a tertiary education institution, should promote academic freedom. However, causing negative publications on issues that are not in any way related to your academic work cannot be seen within the context of academic freedom. This will, in the long run, not serve any of us well as our personal and professional images are inextricably linked to those of the organizations we work for. Please, let us all desist from pursuing issues this way. I hope this email is read within its proper context and that we all appreciate the need to keep our issues internal,” said Maite.
He further implored for patience and understanding saying the university authorities find ways of pursuing the matter further.
“I am seriously concerned that we find it convenient to raise issues concerning our conditions of service, and our relationship with the employer, through the mass media. This is certainly not the way to go. My office, and that of my colleagues within the Senior Management, remain open for all of you should you feel aggrieved by your conditions of service. Please use these avenues as raising issues through the mass media can only serve to tarnish the image of the organization we are all employed to promote and protect,” said the Human Resources Director.