Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) Secretary General Tobokani Rari has confirmed that according to the Public Service Act it is unlawful for civil servants to have a zero balance in their bank accounts after salary deductions.
Rari was confirming an earlier statement made by Assistant Minister of Education Skills and Development, Patrick Masimolole, at a kgotla meeting in Mogoditshane, that the law prescribes stiff penalties against any teacher found to have zero balance after salary deductions. Masimolole said the act seeks to ensure that productivity is not compromised by teachers who are heavily burdened by debts. Contacted for comment on Monday, Masimolole once again reiterated that the law that prohibits zero balance after deductions applies to all civil servants.
“Every public servant should not have a zero balance after deductions. This is called financial embarrassment and it is provided for under the public service act that civil servants should guard against financial embarrassment. It is advisable that every civil servant, after deductions, should be left with what is referred to as a take home,” he said.
According to Masimolole, when a civil servant intends to buy a house or car, an assessment is conducted against him or her to ensure that he or she does not experience financial embarrassment.┬á Under the Public Service Act, Masimolole said, financial embarrassment is an offence punishable by law. Rari concurred, saying as BOFEPUSU they also support the principle that civil servants should handle their finances prudently.
However, he refuted Masimolole’s claims that the offense is punishable, saying there is nowhere in the law where it is stipulated that action will be taken against those found to have zero balance in their accounts.
“But there is a portion under the Public Service Act and the general orders that cautions civil servants against financial embarrassment. It simply says remaining with a bank balance that cannot sustain you for a month is not advisable,” he said.
He added that Masimolole’s statement was unfortunate as some public servants could interpret it the wrong way, especially since their salaries have not been increased in a long time. He said many public servants are unhappy with the statement as they find themselves financially embarrassed because they are not properly remunerated.
“Issues of financial embarrassment apply to all civil servants because they are not well paid. No employee will be happy to have an account that reflects a zero balance. Employees who are burdened by debts won’t be productive,” he said.