‘Ministers performance contracts illegal’

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday railroaded his Cabinet ministers, heads of State-owned entities and parastatals into signing performance contracts, but critics said the contracts were difficult to enforce as the latter were bound by statutes such as the Official Secrets Act.

Legal analysts also warned that Mnangagwa could run into problems as the contracts were unconstitutional, hence not legally binding.

The signing ceremony was held at the Harare International Conference Centre, with several Cabinet ministers and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya among those who signed the documents.

“Your performance shall also be judged in the domain of citizenry who are critical stakeholders of government as part of the body politick more so as we continue to implement the devolution and decentralisation policy,” Mnangagwa said.

“Appointment and serving at the highest echelons of public office should never be a licence for self-aggrandisement and the advancement of narrow sectional interest. Performance under the second republic must answer to the preservations and defence of our independence and sovereignty.

“Performance contracts being signed here are part of government efforts to put an end to commitment as well as mediocre performance and service delivery which have, in the past, curtailed our success.”

Mnangagwa first announced plans to introduce the contracts in October 2021 at the official opening of the fourth session of the Ninth Parliament, saying Zimbabweans deserved value for their money.

But Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika said the contracts were not binding at law.

“At law, there is no requirement for such contracts for ministers and permanent secretaries. The Constitution has no such provision,” Kika told NewsDay.

“However, nothing prevents the President from having performance requirements for ministers and permanent secretaries set in contracts. That doesn’t change the fact that ministers serve at the pleasure of the President — and labour law does not apply here.

“For permanent secretaries, these are public service officials, and remain bound by applicable public service legislation, their government employment terms of reference, and the Constitution. Any performance contracts signed directly with the President are additional to these.”

Analyst Nhamo Mhiripiri said the country’s laws did not allow for employment contracts to be publicised.

“It is difficult, for instance, to publish goals that involve national secrets. Such secrets include industrial and trade secrets, and national secrets. It is, therefore, difficult to give a complete assessment of whether previous goals for permanent secretaries were fully achieved,” he said.

Another analyst Eldred Masunungure said while the contracts were necessary and a “staple requirement in the private sector”, they were difficult to implement in the public service.

“It must be appreciated that it is often problematic to accurately and fairly measure performance in a service delivery field because public services invariably tend to be qualitative. Notwithstanding this difficulty, survey after survey tends to confirm deterioration in those things that touch the lives of ordinary Zimbabwean citizens,” he said.

“The most effective antidote is competence, unquestionable integrity and professionalism on the part of the permanent secretaries as well as the appointing authority. In too many instances, we tend to have square pegs in round holes and this lack of fit gravely undermines performance.”

Meanwhile, Higher and Tertiary Education permanent secretary Fanuel Tagwira was recognised as the best performing secretary for presiding over  the production of cofcol syrup, medical gas and introduction of innovation hubs.

Youth, Sport and Recreation secretary Thokozile Chitepo came second for facilitating access to empowerment opportunities and training 22 000 youths on short leadership courses. Newsday.

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