Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Roland Msiska has justified President Edgar Lungu’s hiked salary and other allowances, saying the Head of State’s conditions of service are “totally different”.
He has, however, appealed to civil servants and Zambians at large to contribute towards effecting government’s austerity measures.
Meanwhile, Dr Msiska says government will save around US $400 million (about K4.7 billion) every year following the decision to withdraw the motor vehicle replacement allowance for Cabinet ministers.
Speaking when he featured on a ZNBC programme dubbed “Plugged In”, Thursday evening, Dr Msiska said the complexity of work for the Head of State was much more than anybody else’s .
“A President’s conditions of service are treated very different all over the world. So, to imagine that the President has been given a motor vehicle replacement allowance, how is that possible? It doesn’t fit in the structure of doing these things, it doesn’t fit in any system because the President’s conditions of service are totally different from the rest of us, and the reasons are very straightforward. When you are looking at salaries, there are three things you must consider: the span of control, which means, what does this person look at? The impact of long decision and also the complexity of the decision that particular individual makes,” Dr Msiska said.
“For example, if the President makes a mistake, the impact vibrates through the entire system. If you look at the span of control, he’s not only Head of State, he’s Commander-In-Chief, he’s also now Chair of IDC (Industrial Development Corporation); if you are looking at the work he does. But he’s also the Head of the Executive. And in reality, what is even more, he is the only one in the entire system that every Zambian who went to vote made an opinion about. The rest have all got separate constituencies that are much, much smaller than the President. So, I cannot imagine that anybody in his normal sense of mind would want to ramp the conditions of service for the President.”
But when asked if civil servants and ordinary Zambians should continue “tightening their belts” in view of the ongoing austerity measures, he appealed to civil servants to contribute towards effecting the austerity measures.
“I was just being told that our growth this year will be about 3.9 per cent GDP. We hope that when we re-base, then next year we will have a further increase and then we should be able to sustain ourselves and manage ourselves. The point is that as a people, when we are confronted with challenges like the ones we are facing now of fiscal distress, each one of us must contribute and the way to contribute is to understand what government is trying to do in terms of details. But also each one of us…for example…I mean even simple things; I am appealing now, to my civil servants like switching off the lights when they leave their offices; closing the taps when they leave their offices,” Dr Msiska said.
“These are all making sure that we all contribute and to do that, we must all become patriotic. I seem to think that there are people in this country who think that when the place goes in flames, it will only go in flames for others. But in reality, we are all Zambians, we have only one country and we must fight to make sure that the economy is stable and we move forward.”
And Dr Msiska explained that the removal of the second vehicle from Cabinet ministers’ privileges would save government an estimated US $400 million across the entire system annually.
“If you look at the way we had structured our conditions of service in the past, I would be getting K12,000…That’s what’s appearing on my payslip. But what it is not saying is that I am housed in a government house; the furniture has been paid for me and the car is also being refuelled. So, these things that are outside the payroll, when you add them up, that’s what shows you the real cost,” Dr Msiska explained.
“That’s why the salary view report of 2011 was very critical because for the first time, an analysis was done about what the distortions were in the system and how to compare that, they included even the benefits that were outside the payroll. So, it is a question of how we unfortunately designed these conditions of service. In fact, there is a concept in designs of conditions of service. There is a clean wage, and a clean wage just means that whatever you see on the payslip is all you have. There are no other things hidden somewhere and that’s exactly where the salary review commission and the pay policy was actually moving, and that’s where you actually save money.”
He said the hidden expenditures on civil servants’ pay were costing the government a lot of money.
“…if you leave it hidden, I will be telling you I am getting K12,000, but in reality, because of these other things that are hidden…and what the government did was to bring these things that are hidden onto the table and said: ‘if we are going to really be serious about austerity measures, these are the things that are costing us money.’ I can tell you, for example, as a matter of fact, we were looking at the entire cost for maintenance and insurance for the entire system, it’s about K4 billion,” said Dr Msiska.
“Now, if you think about that much money, even if you reduced it by half, that’s a saving. I can give you the figure of looking at the overall system if we introduce all the measures that we are doing in relation to motor vehicles and the rest of it. It will be about US $400 million, just for the entire system. But [when we have a detailed interview] on Sunday (yesterday), I will show you exactly how much it will cost. Then I will give you the cost of what a GX costs, what the maintenance cost for the GX is, because we have to consult with our colleagues. But we have the papers as far as this is concerned.”