The Rwandan government has ordered all public offices to introduce biometrics to help monitor workers’ attendance, efficiency, productivity and service delivery.
In a letter to all public institutions at the end of November, the ministry of Public Service and Labour decried laxity in managing attendance and productivity by supervisors and heads of departments.
“Public servants need to remember that they are required to work nine hours a day and five days a week” the letter signed by Public Service Minister Judith Uwizeye said.
Unlike the private sector where work runs on an eight to five work day civil servants are supposed to work from 7am to 5pm. But the routine is barely respected by the majority of workers in government offices prompting lawmakers to raise the issue when Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi appeared before parliament last week.
“At bus stops between 7am and 9am and you still find many people just going to work. This is a clear indication that working hours are not respected in different government institutions,” said Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, a member of parliament.
Mr Uwizeye’s letter puts special emphasis on government employees who have fallen into the habit of extending their lunch breaks, stressing that all employees must be back from their one-hour lunch break by 1pm.
To make sure that working hours are respected the ministry has ordered all departments to install automated access control systems to “eliminate human error,” in managing attendance.
“We want all government institutions to use biometric verification systems that generate real time staff attendance data which can be easily verified by supervisors,” Mr Uwizeye said.
Observers say the manual system was unreliable not only due to errors in transferring data to the databases, but because buddy-punching was rampant, with some of the employees clocking in for their friends.
Many government institutions already use biometric attendance control but Mr Uwizeye condemned managers who fail to regularly check reports of the systems and to take disciplinary action.
According to analysts however, the proposed electronic control might not help the government in addressing respect for working hours, especially Friday afternoons that are dedicated to sports in all public institutions.
There have been recurring reports of abuse with many workers leaving work at lunch time to go straight home or shopping malls instead of attending sports in designated areas paid for by the government.
“Sports hours are working hours and dodging them can result in disciplinary sanctions” Mr Uwizeye said.
He blames non respect of the sports hours on “negligence on the side of supervisors” who according to him should ensure all their subordinates attend sport activities as required.
Civil servants who talked to Rwanda Today on condition of anonymity said that the only way their supervisors can control them is if they attend sports to check on the attendance books of the service providers, a method considered inefficient.
Non-respect of sports is blamed for double loss. Not only does the government pay people for time they weren’t working but also pay millions of taxpayers’ money to service providers for non-consumed services.
Some lawmakers condemned the recent increase in official holidays.
“When you are poor, you in fact should increase working hours instead of reducing them and we always say that we need to work more to achieve what we want” said Mr Nyirarukundo.
A 2015 presidential order increased holidays to 14 from initial 11 and provided that if one of the gazetted holiday coincides with a weekend, “the following working day shall be an official holiday.”