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NEED TO REVIEW HIRING FREEZE - FINANCE PS

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MBABANE – The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Sizakele Dlamini, says there is a need for central agencies to question whether the hiring freeze is still serving its intended purpose.

This, she said, during the ministry’s appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday, when the Treasury Department, through Acting Accountant General Nomsa Simelane, disclosed that most of the reconciliation in ministries had not been done due to a shortage of staff at the department. The Auditor General, Timothy Matsebula, concurred with the acting accountant general, stating that his office was also stretched and lacking in human resource. “Reconciliations were not done properly in almost all ministries, the staff shortage issue needs to be addressed accordingly and the situation on the ground should be assessed with the urgency it needs. Lena yimali yesive, this is not the time to generalise the situation.

Danger

“The Ministry of Public Service needs to see the situation beyond face value as there is imminent danger in not addressing this efficiently. Government funds need to be accounted for in order for people to be satisfied with the use of their money. The frequent submissions of unaccounted for funds are not painting the country in a good light,” he said. He requested for a reallocation of staff where officers were more than enough to ministries or departments which needed the human resource so that work could be done. The PAC Chairperson, Gege Member of Parliament (MP) Musa Kunene, said it was disheartening to see the offices which ought to assist in the prevention of funds’ misappropriation in government being unable to do their jobs efficiently due to shortages in staff and funding.

“It is now at a point where money is not being reconciled. The auditor general is doing 10 people’s jobs and this poses a risk of fatigue creeping in and him not being able to do his job efficiently. There is a clear overload and overtime in terms of work in the two departments, such that the Accountant General’s Office cannot reconcile,” said Kunene. He said the issuance of Circular No.3, which initiated the hiring freeze, was resulting in an abuse of human power as people were being hired on contract, which you find that did not come with any benefits.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Dlamini, said the hiring freeze affected everyone, including the Finance Ministry as work was increasing daily. “Unfortunately, every ministry is feeling the pinch now. The work is getting too much and resources are decreasing. There is a need for us as central agencies to go back to the drawing board to answer the question of whether we confidently say that this hiring freeze is achieving its intended purpose,” she said.

Auditor

She said the way the hiring freeze was structured, if there was a position which was vacant, the law said the PS responsible or auditor general or accountant general should write to the Public Service Ministry and justify the need for an officer and Finance should then be engaged by Public Service on whether the budget for this was available. Once confirmed, Public Service forwarded an application to Cabinet. “It is only when we have that Cabinet waiver that we can proceed with hiring,” said Dlamini. Mntfongwaneni MP Roy Fanourakis asked whether Public Service had indeed made the effort to forward these ministries’ requests for a waiver and if so, how many of the ministries had requested so far. He said this was essential so as to know how to approach moving a motion in Parliament on this.

The Finance PS Sizakele Dlamini, said they needed to review the way of implementing the hiring freeze because it affected service delivery. Manzini Region Member of Parliament (MP) Busisiwe Mavimbela said it was the committee’s responsibility to ensure the Auditor General’s Office was independent so as to work accordingly. “We have a responsibility to push that the AG’s Office becomes independent from the Finance Ministry, so that they can work freely,” said Mavimbela. The auditor general further said the Finance Ministry had assisted in adding onto the office’s annual budget, although the addition was barely enough.

“Rats are eating and feasting on funds and government is losing money due to the shortage of staff in the AG’s Office. The Accountant General’s Office and the Auditor General’s Office are essential services and should be treated as such, and therefore, need to be considered for a waiver in the hiring freeze,” he said. Dvokodvweni MP Mduduzi Magagula said if the one ministry which was responsible for the government’s funds and money was complaining about a shortage in staff then the nation would not be immune from rats which would feast on government money.

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