MASERU – The government will not hire personnel to fill new posts because of the scarcity of funds, according to Finance Minister Timothy Thahane.
Thahane revealed the new approach while presenting the 2011/12 fiscal year budget speech in parliament on Monday.
But despite the financial crunch the government says it will increase civil servants’ salaries by five percent.
Money for these increments, Thahane said, will come from savings that government will make from the frozen posts.
“Government has decided to make a start this year of keeping the growth of public service at zero by freezing all new positions. The funds so saved will
then be used to increase the salaries of the few who remain and who will be expected to do more,” Thahane said.
“In this context a five percent salary increase will be granted to all public servants without increasing the overall deficit of 15 percent,” he said.
But civil servants will not get the increment on a silver platter, Thahane added.
Thahane said civil servants will have to work harder with severe punishment, which includes dismissal, being meted out against those who are corrupt.
Those who abuse government property will also suffer the consequences.
“Government has decided that immediate changes and harsh penalties and dismissals be instituted for those who misuse government vehicles, steal and sell government petrol.”
Thahane however expressed disappointment that previous government efforts to fight corruption had failed.
“With regard to procurement we have tried many initiatives at the suggestion of chief accounting officers. We decentralised procurement and increased the thresholds. We instituted training courses. But, nothing solved the problems of fraud and corruption.
“Instead things became worse. I have now decided to explore the route of an independent board and incentives. For successes we will even consider creation of the “Light Brigade” which will create a website in which to display cases of fraud and corruption that are before the courts.”
He urged public servants to improve the quality of services they offer to the people.
“The time has come when we must all learn to do more, with less for the sake of our country. Time has come for public servants to change their attitudes towards their work and the people they serve.
“It is these tax-payers who pay their salaries. Unless they deliver high quality services for which beneficiaries would be willing to pay, there will be less and less money to pay their salaries.”
However, civil servants unions have criticised the five percent increment. The salary increase is only slightly above Lesotho’s inflation rate which is hovering around 3.4 percent.
Paul Sematlane, the chief executive secretary of progressive Association of Lesotho Teachers said the increment is not enough.
“Five percent increment is unfortunate. It is going make people poorer,” Sematlane said.
Lesotho Teachers Trade Union secretary general Vuyani Tyhali said Thahane’s increment would not make a difference because some teachers have already gone for two years without salaries.
He said the government still had to pay teachers their arrears.
“We are not impressed by the increment. It means nothing to us until our teachers are paid what is theirs,” Tyhali said.
Last year civil service unions criticised a 3.5 percent increment that government had offered.