It’s a holiday resort!
Thanks to Government’s recent Re-implementation of the Shift System, some civil servants have found an opportunity to engage in their own projects. The system allows half of the staff to report for work while the other half is to work from home, all on a weekly rotational basis.
The system was effected with intent to combat the contracting and the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic and is enshrined in Circular no.1 of 2021, which came into effect on January 14.
While at home, civil servants are to be doing government business but investigations by Independent News has revealed that most workers are engaging in personal projects including lying idle or enjoying beverages including the seasonal Buganu drink.
Random visits to various places where civil servants are resident affirmed that the civil servants do not adhere to the shift system, which stipulates that government employees are to be working while at home.
A trip to some government ministries revealed empty or locked offices and on enquiring how such was possible, some workers who preferred anonymity, said employees chose when and when not to pitch for work. “I know of workers who remain at home for more than the stipulated period of time of one week but will be away for two or three weeks,” said the civil servant who was found at one of the ministerial blocks.
Communications Officer in the Ministry of Public Service, Hlobisile Vilakati said she would not be surprised to receive information to the effect that some civil servants are flouting the dictates of the circular and stated that her ministry is working on a Performance Management System (PMS), which will focus on the delivery service of civil servants. She said civil servants that will be found to be lacking in this routine review will be taken to task and disciplined in line with government’s general orders.
“We are in the process of piloting the system on four ministries being the public service, finance, housing and urban development as well as the ministry of planning and economic development,” said Vilakati. She added that the choice of these ministries is based on the fact that they are central agencies and are in the lead of all the others. Vilakati mentioned that the system is part of government’s Strategic Roadmap 2018-2023, which promotes excellence at the workplace all in an effort to resuscitate the economic crisis, which had nosedived even before the advent of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Vilakati stated that Circular no.1 of 2021 was for the sole reason to follow government’s pronouncement on tightening measures to combat to an absolute minimum the spread of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. She said the ministry of public service has deemed it necessary to issue this circular in an effort to provide guidance on the operationalization of the policy directive in the public service. She said this would be done through the implementation of a partial lockdown across government and only applicable to non-essential services.
The circular advises all principal secretaries and heads of departments to implement measures which include ensuring that half of the staff physically report for duty while the other half works from home, something which should be undertaken on a weekly rational basis. It says managers and supervisors must be vigilant and ensure that there the employees who work from home are allocated enough work and that they still meet their performance targets.
Supervisors and managers are also to ensure that the two (2) groups of employees do not have physical contact handover notes, and that work distribution is to be done through other means such as electronic mail and telephone calls, amongst others. In addition, all meetings are to be done virtually, unless there is a pressing and absolute need for first line workers to hold physical meetings. The circular further states that in such instances, such meetings should be limited to twenty (20) individuals, all on condition that all Covid-19 protocols are strictly observed, including maintaining the 1.5 meter social distancing, sanitizing and sitting in the meeting for not more than two (2) hours.
Vilakati said it is the responsibility of civil servants who will be working from home to ensure that they remain in their residences to minimize contracting or spreading the coronavirus, and that employees can only leave their residences for essential needs such as accessing healthcare services, banking services and restocking food.
She mentioned that it is the employees’ responsibility to be on standby during working hours as they may be recalled to report for duty when the need arises. “It is therefore the duty of the employee to maintain a sense of sobriety as it is not possible to see how one can perform while intoxicated,” said the public service communications officer. Adding, the CO stated that to prove that workers may be recalled anytime they’d have to provide their contact details to the supervisor for communication purposes during this period.
Vilakati said employees working from home are anticipated to adhere to all terms and conditions of services governing civil servants including applying themselves to government business and not engaging in personal projects. Hence, said Vilakati, workers who will be found to be violating these laid down obligations will be called to account, whose end result could be disciplinary measures, some of which may not be pleasing. Asked on employees who might fall sick Vilakati said they (employees) should take it upon themselves to notify their supervisors so that adjustments on the work distribution and performance targets can be made. “Employees are duty bound to take care of themselves while working from home and they should not be a burden to government due to negligence,” stated Vilakati. She added that it is in that vein that the ministry of public works issued Circular no.1 of 2021 with terms and conditions not only for operational purposes but the protection of government employees. “Anything against what is enshrined in the circular will not only compromise government’s operations during these dire times but jeopardize the health of employees,” said Vilakati. Therefore, all employees are advised to take the necessary precautions all to mitigate the spread of the virus while also advancing government business, said the communications officer.
Vilakati reiterated that it might help for employees to know that government will definately institute disciplinary measures against civil servants who intentionally flout the rules as laid down by the public service. “We are calling for all employees to adhere to the re-implementation of the shift system and not take advantage of being away from their controlling officers,” said Vilakati, adding that in the end, for those workers who will be found on the wrong side of what has already been implemented there shall be crying and grinding of teeth.
It’s Government’s fault – TUCOSWA
Trade Unions Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) has blasted government for not inspecting civil servants to ensure that they do work while at home in line with Circular no.1 of 2021 which made official the re-implementation of the shift system.
TUCOSWA President, Quinton Dlamini stated firmly that when the circular was issued government had expectations on her employees. “Therefore, you inspect what you expect,” said Dlamini. The president wondered how civil servants could be blamed for not working while at home when there were controlling officers in supervisors and managers who are tasked to ensure a smooth flow of government business while employees are out of the office. He said surely some people would be sleeping on their job and should be the ones that should be taken to task (referring to controlling officers).
He said he would assume that civil servants were equipped with enough and relevant resources to enable them to work while at home and not fall into the temptation of engaging in personal projects. On one hand, the president said he doubted that government fulfilled the other end of the bargain by providing adequate resources for the employees which then would force them (civil servants) to spend their own money for the purchase of the likes of data and airtime. “I exonerate civil servants from the claims that they are lying idle instead of working but the blame falls solely on their employer who is government, who is on record for failing to shape up where it matters the most,” said the TUCOSWA President.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman and Matsanjeni North MP Phila Buthelezi said he was afraid he would be compromised if he commented on the matter as presented by this publication. “As chairman of the PAC I do not want to be seen saying one thing during this interview and another in the event some implicated inviduals would appear before the PAC,” said Buthelezi. He added that if the assertions made by this publication were true then indeed, certain individuals would eventually appear before the PAC and they would have to answer for stealing government’s time and by extension the employer’s (government) money.