A labour expert has indicated that in order to cut costs and maintain the civil service wage bill, the Government needs to reduce the top-heavy structure, merge some ministries and slash the number of lawmakers.
Herbert Jauch says reducing the Namibian civil service would be a challenge due to the “tough” economic conditions.
Jauch also believes there are too many advisors in the system.
“The Presidential group (A-Team) is extreme since they are highly paid advisors and normally the appointed Cabinet members should also be the ones to advise the President on relevant policy issues.”
Alternatively, Ministers of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development and Finance should be the ones advising the President on economic matters instead of having additional advisors.
“That’s where I then see duplication when you have additional advisors, and then Ministers have advisors, so that is all top-heavy and very costly, and I think these structures could be reviewed and streamlined,” concluded Jauch.
“It’s going to be very difficult because of the tough economic climate that we are facing right now. If you retrench people from the public sector now, they are unlikely to find new jobs. The private sector is not really ready to cater for people that are employed in the public sector now,” said Jauch.
According to Jauch, one of the major reasons why the country finds itself with a “bloated public service” is mainly due to the fact that it carried over about 30 000 employees from the colonial South African regime.
“At independence, the public sector was at around 30 000 people (the colonial civil servants) and the constitution guaranteed that these colonial civil servants would retain their jobs.”
“And about 40 000 new employees were employed in the first few years after independence, so the civil servants jumped from 30 000 at independence to 70 000,” explained Jauch.
This was done in the spirit of national reconciliation, meaning the colonial civil service needed to be kept in place and those that were kept outside had to be employed.
“Over the years, the civil service grew further and sometimes new Ministries were established. So, we are now in a situation of around 100 000 (civil servants).”
In addition, Jauch said the current government has too many ministries and advisors that are a heavy burden on the national budget.
“Firstly, I think we have far too many ministries and far too many advisors, which is a very costly exercise.
“It might be easier to merge ministries than to have so many of them, I believe we have more ministries than even the Peoples Republic of China,” stated Jauch.
Jauch also said the set-up of Namibia’s Parliament, whereby the country has two houses, the National Assembly and National Council, was “too costly.”
“Having two houses of Parliament is a very costly exercise and a move towards having just one united and smaller chamber of Parliament is a cost-cutting measure that can be considered,” noted Jauch.
“One is to say if we have employed so many people, let us use them in the best possible way, let us deploy them and utilize them to render services critical to Namibians on a large scale of good quality.”
Jauch, pointed out that reducing the size of the civil service would do more harm than good and therefore government should mainly focus on improving service delivery.
“It will lead to a situation where civil servants will lose their jobs and therefore unemployment and poverty will increase,” he said.
Cabinet last year announced 11 recommendations aimed at reducing the public service wage bill, which recently hit the N$23 billion mark.
With over 100 000 public service employees, the public wage bill chews up more than a third of the country’s entire national budget.
Cabinet will investigate the possibility of reducing the early retirement age from 55 to 50 years by making the retirement benefits of staff members going on early retirement more attractive.
Apart from looking at the retirement age, Cabinet had also resolved to set a limit on the creation of posts and to upgrade the human capital management system to make it impossible for ghost workers to sneak into the system.
In addition, there were also plans to streamline and rationalise the multiplicity of bonuses and other allowances and increase the objectivity on the wage determination process and future increases by aligning these to the prevailing inflation rate.
To ensure planned training and development interventions, plans to implement a training needs assessment coordination mechanism were also mooted.
At the time, Cabinet said there would be functional reviews of each office, ministry and agency to determine staffing needs by focusing on their strategic positions in the context of developmental objectives.