THE Pragmatic Lesotho Public Employees Association (PALPE) is appalled by the government’s persistent disregard of the role played by civil servants.
The decision by the government to award civil servants a 3.5 percent salary increase beginning in April came as a total surprise to us.
This is because there continues to be a widening of the gap between those in senior management and rank and file government workers.
These workers are the poorly paid but are expected to deliver diligently.
In 2008, Finance Minister Timothy Thahane promised to review salaries for civil servants.
We issued a statement around that time saying what the minister termed a review did not have elements of a review but was a simple annual increment.
No one listened to our outcry then.
The so-called 3.5 percent salary raise has brought despair to those who are expected to work their socks off for this nation.
A civil servant who earns around M1 000 a month will, starting in April, get a slight M35 increment under the new salary schedule.
For a senior civil servant earning M10 000 a month, his salary will increase slightly by M350 a month.
The minister is well aware that there are no special schools, clinics, supermarkets, buses and taxis for civil servants who are in the lowest category of the picture we have just painted.
We believe he is also aware that some will abscond from work as they fail to raise bus fares.
The minister is also probably aware that some civil servants are trapped in debt as they continue to borrow beyond their means from money lending companies.
These civil servants have no alternative but to continue borrowing. The reason is that they are earning pitiable slave wages every month.
We are quite aware that the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) was Lesotho’s main source of revenue.
However, we are aware that the government now has other sources of revenue such as the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
It also now has other sources of revenue generated from toll gates and other forms of taxes.
Let’s not use the Sacu thing as a scapegoat.
Where does money come from when other sections of the government are lavishly remunerated even in the middle of a financial crisis?
We also live and buy in the same economy.
Although the minister is threatening to take drastic measures against the civil servants he termed lazy, we tend to wonder how he will do this without discrimination.
And if he pays attention to front-desk occupants and disregards the engine (management), his corrective measures will not go too far.
Well the junior civil servants from cleaners, drivers, office assistants and assistant officers may be easy to dispose of, but the real problem of slack delivery lies in the higher echelons of those who receive per diems and attend everlasting workshops characterised by lavish three-course meals.
Nevertheless, the minister is urged to tone down his rhetoric. There are mistakes, we agree, but we believe it is wrong to mix a national budget speech with threats levelled against civil servants.
There are permanent secretaries, chief executives, directors and so on, who are tasked with ensuring best service delivery and these are the first people whose heads must roll if service remains poor in their respective jurisdictions.
We must strongly warn the government against taking decisions involving civil servants without their representation or participation.
History dictates that such decisions never take root and Lesotho cannot be an exception to this universal order.
Secretary General, PALPE