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STATEMENT BY THE RT HON PRIME MINISTER

 

DR B.S.S.DLAMINI

 

AT THE LAUNCH OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE PAYROLL AND SKILLS AUDIT

 

AT THE MOUNTAIN INN HOTEL, MBABANE

 

FRIDAY 12 JULY 2013

 

 

Honourable Minister for Public Service

Senior Government Officers

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

 

Public servants are Government’s most valuable resource, and it is essential that such a resource is managed properly, ensuring that the desired standards of public service delivery are achieved in a well-controlled and cost-effective manner.

One matter that has been of considerable concern to Government is that, whether in relation to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or as a proportion of recurrent Government expenditure, the cost of the public sector payroll is too high. Indeed, it has been recognized as a significant impediment to Government achieving a sustainable fiscal stability.

Understanding the dimensions of the problem is straightforward. How to remedy it is less so. Precipitate surgery in the form of retrenchment is not a fair solution and, therefore, cannot be entertained. The Enhanced Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme (EVERS) is ready for implementation but only really scratches the surface of the problem. It is now generally recognized that the total number of employees on the payroll needs to come down by around 7,000. In 2010, recruitment was frozen for the filling of vacancies, and pay increases across the public sector were deferred for three years. These were measures to keep the size of the payroll in check but would be insufficient to reduce the total cost to the required proportions.

For some time, in fact, there have been as many questions as answers. And the issue of quantity cannot be examined without reference to quality.

For instance, does an exceptionally high payroll cost mean that there are more employees than are required for efficient public service delivery? Not necessarily so. We could have a situation where a minimum critical mass of employees is necessary to achieve the requisite standard of service, and that it is the level of GDP, or failure to collect sufficient domestic-source public revenue, that is the problem. Or, alternatively, that the other measure - recurrent Government expenditure - is artificially low and more a function of fiscal stringency.

Another question is - do we have an excess of some skills, or a shortage of others, or a mismatch of skills with posts? Almost certainly, yes, but a precise identification of the problem is another matter. And we cannot accept guesswork.

We must also ask - are we happy that, for everyone being paid, there is an individual on the Establishment Register of Government and actually working, as well as in the correct grade and receiving the correct salary? For some years there has been a prevailing perception that, in this area, there are significant irregularities – in some cases downright fraud in the case of the infamous “ghost employee!”  

These last two questions – the first regarding skills and the second relating to “ghost employees” – will be answered by the work which we are launching today. As those closely involved will recall, I took the opportunity, during a meeting with the World Bank some months ago, to ask for technical assistance to carry out a Public Sector Payroll and Skills Audit.    

The allegations that there are “ghost employees” on the Government payroll has been of considerable concern to Government. Such circumstances might arise where an employee has died or left the service but continues to be paid, or where an individual is being paid, whether working or not, but without the Establishment Register including that individual as a properly recruited employee.

In the likely event that such circumstances exist – the more relevant issue perhaps being the extent of the irregularities – they will amount to a serious waste of public money. For this reason, the Updated Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap of September 2012 stated that a payroll audit should be a Government priority as we carve out the path to sustainable fiscal stability.


A payroll and skills audit had, in fact, been carried out in 2010, piloted by the Ministry of Public Service. This created the awareness that a more comprehensive audit exercise, covering the whole Civil Service, needed to be carried out. It was judged that we needed external assistance to carry out an independent audit conducted with objectivity and impartiality, and to high professional standards.

 The objectives of the Audit that we are launching today are, therefore:

  1. i)to establish that the payroll reflects the authorized Establishment Register and is free of irregularities;

 

  1. ii)to establish that there is an up-to-date Skills and Qualifications Database to facilitate long-term strategic human resource planning and development in the Public Service; and

 

  1. iii)to strengthen controls and introduce transparency measures for the Human Resources and Payroll Systems.

At the end of the exercise, which I understand to be in about two months time, we will have identified whether there are “ghost employees,” we will then take steps to eliminate such anomalies and we will be putting in place the controls to ensure that such incidents are not repeated.

We will also have a database of skills and qualifications which will facilitate the task of matching skills and qualifications that exist with those that are required for the respective posts on the payroll – as the saying goes, identifying horses for courses. Or, put another way, examining whether we have the skills and qualifications that we need, and if not, setting out the plans to ensure that they are acquired.

 

This is a crucially important exercise and one that will assure us that any irregularities are removed and systems tightened while ensuring that we tackle our public service delivery responsibilities with the appropriate skills in place. Within the broader picture, the Audit will also give us a much more clear understanding of whether our high public sector payroll cost is a function of over-staffing.

 

It will also give Government a clean payroll and updated human resources data to inform policy-making, as well as strengthening the quality of human resource management. The use of the Biometric Matching System will enable an electronic database to be generated. This will facilitate finger-print details of all verified, bona-fide Civil Servants being captured as part of a process of identifying “ghost workers” who might be in the system.

I take the opportunity to urge all public servants to cooperate in this exercise and, especially, to make themselves available for the verification process.

On behalf of His Majesty’s Government I wish to express our gratitude to the World Bank for providing this valuable technical assistance. In tackling the combined issues of human resources and financial controls, the audits will prove of great assistance to Government in meeting the public needs of the future, getting value for money and eliminating wastage. I can assure the audit team that it will receive the fullest support for its audit work from Government and look forward to reading the respective reports at the end of September this year.

It is now my honour to declare the Public Service Payroll and Skills Audit officially launched.

 

Thank you.

 

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