THE Government has abolished more than 8 000 posts in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development as the Public Service Commission (PSC) implements recommendations of the Civil Service Audit Report of 2015.
The move comes at a time when the Government has frozen recruitments and promotions in the civil service as part of its staff rationalisation exercise.
A memo signed by PSC secretary, Mrs Pretty Sunguro, addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry Mr Ringson Chitsiko dated July 29 this year and copied to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, says that out of 19 235 posts in the Ministry, 8 252 posts have been abolished with immediate effect.
The Agriculture Ministry has since responded to the memo saying the posts must not be abolished as that would derail Government programmes to revive the agricultural sector.
The PSC decision affects all the departments within the Agriculture Ministry — Mechanisation, Irrigation, Crop and Livestock production, Agritex and Administration.
“Ref: Approved detailed establishment table (Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development). Reference is made to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development minutes referenced C/30/1 dated 13 June and 20 July 2016 respectively.
“The Commission has proceeded to implement the recommendations of the Civil Service Audit Report of 2015 as directed by Cabinet on 12 July 2016 and out of a total of 19 235 posts, of these 8 252 posts have been abolished. The rationalised structure and detailed establishment leaves the Ministry with an establishment of 10 983,” reads the memo in The Chronicle’s possession.
All provincial posts in the Agritex department have also been abolished as the department has been merged with the Crop and Livestock Production department.
The fisheries department has been abolished and the posts of provincial Agritex officer and provincial livestock production and development officer have been scrapped.
Mr Chitsiko responded in a letter dated August 11, asking the PSC not abolish the posts as the decision would leave the Ministry in a quandary.
“Expanded programmes to revive agriculture will be seriously affected by loss of staff. These programmes have long term national benefits and should be safeguarded from short term but short-lived benefits,” said Mr Chitsiko.
“Therefore, before we fully implement the approved structure, we seek the commission’s permission to propose an alternative approach to enable the Commission to manage the current fiscal constraints while hopefully retaining the Ministry’s capacity to deliver services within its sphere of expanded responsibilities and activities.”
He recommended a reduction in the number of working days for some staff where payment could be on a pro data basis, abolition of all vacant posts, retiring all non critical staff aged 60 years and above and maintaining the current freeze on the replacement of these staff upon retirement, resignation or death.
“We are already in the 2016/2017 farming season and we should minimise on restructuring as this could cause a lot of instability in the ministry resulting in poor service delivery,” said Mr Chitsiko.
Agriculture Minister Dr Joseph Made was not reachable while the Deputy Minister responsible for livestock Cde Paddy Zhanda referred questions to Mr Chitsiko, who was also not reachable.
The Deputy Minister responsible for Crops and Irrigation, Mr Davis Marapira said he could not comment because as Deputy Ministers they did not deal with human resources issues.