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Civil servants struggle to use US$75 allowances

by Staff reporter
30 Jul 2020 at 08:52hrs | Views
CIVIL servants are facing challenges utilising US$75 deposited into their accounts by Government as a flat non-taxable Covid-19 monthly allowance.

The news crew understands that those who received their allowances have been failing to utilise it because shops are saying no system has been put in place for them to swipe while some employees are yet to be issued with bank cards by financial institutions.

Last month, the Public Service Commission (PSC) said the foreign currency allowances will not be disbursed in notes form but civil servants will use their nostro bank account electronic cards to swipe for their purchased items. Government is paying civil servants a flat non-taxable Covid-19 allowance of US$75 while pensioners who retired from the civil service will also get a flat non-taxable Covid-19 allowance of US$30 per month.

In an interview yesterday, Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) president Mr Ralph Watungwa said most civil servants are still to get their bank cards to start transacting.

He said after Government announced the US$75 allowances, time was needed for banks to put in place modalities or functioning systems to enable smooth access of allowances by the civil servants. As such, Mr Watungwa said there will be some delays before civil servants can use their allowances.

"When the announcement of the US$75 for civil servants was made which is meant to fund cards for shopping for civil servants, naturally some banks did not have enough cards. There are 300 000 civil servants and some didn't have nostro accounts," he said. Mr Watungwa said material for the cards needs to be imported and it may take up to the end of August for all civil servants to have the cards.

"I know that civil servants are failing to access their cards, they don't have the cards. Ordering 300 000 cards overnight is not possible. So, the process of importing them will take up to the end of August because we don't have the material to make that number of cards," he said.

The cards, Mr Watungwa said, will ensure holders can walk into a shop and swipe for products that they need. He said the banks were also waiting for clearance from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to have an option to convert the allowances into local currency at the official bank rate.

"Banks were not deciding on converting the allowances into the local currency at the official bank rate but can do it now since they got the clearance from the central bank. The banks were doing it on an exceptional basis meaning therefore that any client that cannot wait for their card or whose card is not working can convert that allowance into the local currency and be able to use the money in local currency," said Mr Watungwa.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Lovemore Matuke said Government was unaware that banks were struggling to provide nostro accounts to civil servants.

"Banks have different capacities. There are some who are not ready to do that and there are some who are ready. We will work with those who are ready to implement the Government policy as the policy says they should have nostro accounts.

"Logistical challenges can be addressed through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. Us as the Public Service we want people to have their allowances. They are entitled to their allowances," said Deputy Minister Matuke.

He said he does not know if the policy allows those without nostro accounts to receive their money converted to local currency. Finance and Economic Development Mthuli Ncube and the Ministry's Permanent Secretary Mr George Guvamatanga could not be reached for comment.

Zimbabwe Teachers' Association president Mr Richard Gundani said his members are finding it difficult to use the allowances.

Commending the Government for depositing the allowances into their members accounts, Mr Gundani said clarity should be announced by the Government on which shops and modalities to be used by civil servants to enjoy the real US dollar value attached to the allowance.

"We are happy that almost all our members got the allowances with only a few still to receive and we have engaged the employer on that. However, it is not clear which shops are accepting the US dollar allowances whether be it nostro account, RTGS or through swipe. In any case, there are no cards for swiping. The few who have used it did so after the banks liquidated the money," he said.

Mr Gundani said they want clarity from Government on how the allowance can be used.

"We got a message that liquidating the allowances is wrong and we were left confused. We want it to be clear so that we know if the money will be used at US dollar value or not. We have picked up one or two shops that have accepted once one has done a bank transfer and other shops don't want to entertain us," he said.

Retailers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Denford Mutashu said information they were receiving was that some retailers are asking civil servants to take quotations to banks so that they are processed before they get their goods.

He said the other issue is to do with the exchange rate that is being offered by retailers which civil servants are not happy with. Mr Mutashu said Government should at least announce a position on how the money can be used for the benefit of the retailers and civil servants.

"When they come to buy, they are showing unhappiness in the exchange rate and the issue of the real value they expect in US dollars. We believe it's not our issue as such but it has to do with clarity from the Central Bank so that everyone knows how the money is to be used," he said.

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Source - the herald

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