Disparities in Rwanda civil servant pay blamed for graft, skills flight

Friday May 17 2013

Experts want the government to review its pay policy to remove discrepancies, motivate staff, retain the best brains and end corruption. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya

Experts want the government to review its pay policy to remove discrepancies, motivate staff, retain the best brains and end corruption. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya Nation Media Group

By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Rwanda Today

Experts want the government to review its pay policy to remove discrepancies, motivate staff, retain the best brains and end corruption.

A recent ministerial order establishing salaries and fringe benefits for public servants of the central government that was gazetted recently depicts sharp discrepancies in the remuneration of civil servants, which economists and some of the employees say does not favour the national development agenda.

The policy is tilted in favour of the position held, not career progression, they say.

For instance, heads of parastatals and the recently created boards pocket Rwf2.6 million on top of tax-free and subsidised four-wheel-drive vehicles and hefty telephone and vehicle maintenance allowances. Telephone allowances of these officials are much higher than the Rwf212,504 gross monthly salary of a government secondary school teacher while some public primary school teachers earn Rwf59,000.

“We are much ridiculed. We live miserable lives,” a career teacher told Rwanda Today.

Senior government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity were wary of rampant but unreported corruption arising from the salary structure, which they termed a destabilising agent.

A price reference officer at the National Procurement Authority, whose job it is to ascertain prices during evaluation of bids to ensure the government is not cheated, earns Rwf641,191. This makes the officer vulnerable to corruption, which could explain many cases of government tender rigging.

Article 2 of the order sums it up: “Determination of the salary: Salaries for the public servants of the Central Government shall be determined basing on job classification in accordance with the general principles on salary fixation for public servants of the Central Government.”

For instance, while the government waives Customs duty and facilitates the purchase of vehicles for some officials appointed by the Cabinet, that is not the case with senior research fellows at the universities or doctors at national referral hospitals.

Under the law, the government cannot provide communication allowances to medical and university teaching staff positioned by career progression to senior level if they do not have a pool of staff under their supervision.

Nevertheless, some of the Cabinet appointees are entitled to communication allowances that exceed the gross salary of a primary or even secondary school teacher.

“Directors of District Hospitals shall not be entitled to transport facilitation stipulated in the present,” the law states.

District hospitals are hotspots for strange illnesses arising from poor hygiene in the rural setting and staff there tend to work under pressure.

However, the government policy on determination of wages and benefits would come under criticism if one juxtaposes the remuneration packages of staff at upper government offices and the lower cadre in health and education sectors.

A nurse who attends to the First Family earns a gross monthly salary of Rwf980,000 while their junior colleague at the district hospital is paid Rwf191,411.

An ambassador earns Rwf1.5 million but executive secretaries of government commissions, which are seen as less important in stimulating development, Rwf2 million.

While a cameraman for the First Family is paid a salary of Rwf980,010, a victims and witness protection officer in the Ministry of Justice earns Rwf485,333.

Skills flight

Rwanda has set out to achieve a knowledge-based economy by 2020 but this is doubtful going by the high turnover of public university lecturers over poor pay.  

A professor earns Rwf1.7 million.

While the government says it wants to achieve a disease-free population, it is not making tangible moves to retain even the small number of doctors that it has trained. A physician at Kigali National Teaching Hospital earns Rwf1.6 million, just like a Permanent Secretary, who is a political appointee.

Many doctors are abandoning public service to take up better paying yet less strenuous jobs with NGOs.

Officials at the Ministry of Labour however say the discrepancies are a result of limited resources and that the government intends to have its employees’ salaries average at Rwf500,000 by 2016, although teachers will have to wait until 2023.

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