Big savings from leaner Cabinet

Brian Chitemba and Lincoln Towindo
Government will save millions of dollars following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to trim the number of Cabinet ministers and their deputies.

The President appointed a 22-member Cabinet down from 26, while the number of deputy ministers was slashed from 22 to six.

Ministers of State in the Office of the President were reduced from four to two.

Each minister is entitled to two vehicles – normally the latest Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan which costs around US$1000 000 and a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) such as a Land Rover Discovery or the latest Range Rover valued also at about US$100 000.

This means the learner Cabinet could save up to US$4,5 million on vehicle purchases, minus fuel and high maintenance costs of top-of-the-range vehicles.

Ministers are also entitled to a monthly salary, accommodation in a low-density suburb, travel and subsistence allowances, high-end cellphones, airtime, support staff: Personal assistants and secretaries.

The cost of these can easily run into millions of dollars per annum, meaning the streamlining of the ministers will save the much-needed resources.

The cut in ministers’ numbers is in line with what President Mnangagwa said last week; “I am currently in the process of putting together a new Government structure, which should essentially be leaner.

“This, of course, will entail the merging of some line ministries in order to remove functional duplication as well as contain unnecessary expenditures, so as to enhance productivity and efficient delivery of service.”

Observers have given a thumbs up to President Mnangagwa’s move to appoint a leaner Cabinet, saying it was a step in the right direction.

A bloated Civil Service has for years been gobbling about 90 percent of the national budget, thereby negatively affecting implementation of capital projects.

President Mnangagwa pledged that no civil servant would be fired though those who had reached retirement age would be let go.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has been pushing austerity measures such as reviewing of class travel arrangements of all public officials, and a reduction in foreign travel allowances.

The measures were anticipated to reduce employment costs to around 60 percent of total revenues by 2019.

A former Cabinet minister, however, said perks paid to the executive were lower than in other countries, saying being a minister in Zimbabwe was “more of national service”.

The ex-minister said, “Zimbabwean ministers are among the most poorly paid in the world. The conditions of service are pathetic. That is probably the reason why we tend to have so much corruption at the top because most people who get appointed probably for the first time believe that ministers are paid a lot.”

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