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In an article “Lethargy shatters pensioners dreams” published last week, this paper discussed how the Finance Minister’s delays in setting up the pension Commission of Inquiry, is keeping pensioner life savings locked up in insurance companies, at the same time impeding economic growth, as economic benefits thereof are stifled.

In July 2014, Government undertook to set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the correctness of benefits entitled by insurance companies from pension and insurance contracts. The President of the country would, in Parliament, reaffirm this Government decision to compensate fully all those that would be established to be prejudiced by this Commission.

Subscribers to these contracts are convinced that the contracts are worth much more than the benefits entitled, for a number already proffered reasons.

Against a background of the recent announcement of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Monetary policy statement designed to eradicate poor work ethics that have precipitated “uncompetitiveness”, “low productivity” and hence economic woes of the country, the article further cited instances of poor works ethics, uncompetitiveness and low productivity at the Magistrate Courts’ Clerk of Court, at the High Court, with court appeal procedures and with lawyers representing ordinary members of the public, including pensioners.

The frequent missing of court records at the Magistrate Courts’ Clerk of Court, the many years it takes the High Court to deliberate on cases referred from junior Magistrates Courts, the manipulatable, bureaucratic court appeal procedures frequently taken aantage of by those financially endowed to abuse the vulnerable, and the indifference of lawyers to these problems as they weigh down justice delivery to their clients, were cited as some of the instances of poor work ethics, uncompetitiveness and low productivity.

The discussion also implicated the rather long time that it is taking the Finance Minister and the open-ended approach to setting up the Commission of Inquiry, as instances of poor work ethics, uncompetitiveness and low productivity.

Progressive work ethics seek to deliver on well defined end results of the work activities in question, and within stipulated time frames, for specified rewards. The end result, be it a good or service, must be defined in terms of the quantity of goods or services to be delivered at the targeted time-frame, and in terms of the delivery quality of the goods or services.

The delivery must be subjected to the assessment of the incumbent’s performance in their bid to deliver, and must be subject to strict (zero tolerance) corrective, or preventive accountabilitydisciplinary measures, serving to minimise delivery failure.

The delivery standards with regards to quantity, quality, time-frames, accountability and discipline are typically set in terms of those achievable in similar other competitive work environments.

In progressive work ethics, the Finance Minister would for instance be expected to coordinate all relevant pensioner stakeholders, put together the requisite Terms of Reference, appoint the Commissioners, set up the pension Commission, together with stakeholder review teams, within a month, considering that Finance Ministers in other progressive competitive economies deliver on these tasks in under a month. In corollary, poor work ethics are the opposite of this description of progressive work ethics.

Almost a year, or (to be exact) nine months after the Government announced its decision to set the pension Commission of Inquiry, The Herald publication reports the Minister announcing in Parliament that he is now selecting Commissioners for this Commission. The Minister did not say why it took so long to begin to select the Commissioners, neither did they say when the selection would be complete.

In the very first instance the Minister would not be drawn to say when the entire Inquiry would be complete. Be that as it may, pensioner groups and their memberships, as clients seeking delivery of a public service from the Minister, certainly did not for once think that the Minister would take a year to set up a Commission of Inquiry.

The Minister’s approach to setting the Inquiry is certainly the opposite of progressive work ethics – described by the Reserve Bank Governor as poor work ethics, that must be eradicated. Anyway, how long is it going to take the Minister to select the Commissioners and the RBZ to do away with poor work ethics, uncompetitiveness and low productivity in the economy and in particular at the Finance Ministry level, and ensure pensioners get their dues sooner?

The MPS cites the major causes of uncompetitiveness as costs of capital and production inputs higher than those obtaining in neighbouring countries and beyond. Higher finance charges, higher wages and salaries as costs of human resources are cited in this regard.

As if in corroboration of the latter RBZ charge of artificially high production costs, in particular wages and salaries, the Finance Minister himself admits a bloated public payroll, in a report of The Herald publication, and in the November 2014 budget.

The RBZ MPS solution calls ” . . . for a downward adjustment in the prices of goods and services . . .” It further announces that poor work ethics ” . . . would need to be partly addressed by amending the Labour Act . . .”

The MPS does not say when all this would be done. It is further not specific on who it will be “calling” for the adjustment of the prices and goods, for the amendment of the Labour Act, and when they require them to have adjusted the prices downwards, amended the Labour Act, etc – more importantly the basic fact of economics that prices are driven down by competitiveness, innovation and increased productivity seems to have escaped the RBZ.

Apart from flagging the menace of poor work ethics, uncompetitiveness and low productivity, the MPS does appear set to deliver on anything, to any quantity or quality standard, in any timeframe, such as to benefit Zimbabweans – it appears to be a statement just to comply with the RBZ Act, to be forgotten as soon as it is announced.

This show of work ethics at the RBZ seems to be resonated by Finance Minister’s proposition that he needs constitutional amendments to correct an evidently bloated public payroll, considering that the primary object of the Constitution is to benefit Zimbabweans economically and otherwise, thereby subordinating any other constitutional inclusions, in particular those contradictory to the primary constitutional object.

Just like the very belated announcement that the process of setting up the pension Commission of Inquiry is now selecting the Commissioners, this latter proposition shows up more as a strategy to delay doing the right thing, for motives that can only be speculated on.

With such poor work ethics a re-engineering of the conduct of business in Zimbabwe needs to be initiated with penal accountability standards, if pensioners are to get their dues.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not represent those of the organisations that the author represent

Martin Tarusenga is General Manager of Zimbabwe Pensions amp Insurance Rights, email, martin@zimpirt.com telephone +263 (0)4 883057 Mobile +263 (0)772 889 716.

Source : The Herald