The Public Service Engagement Forum
THE Public Service Commission (PSC) has witnessed a huge demand for the Government Employees Mutual Savings (GEMS) Fund loans, a development confirming that the loan facility has roused interest among the civil servants.
The GEMS Fund was introduced last year and started inviting loan applications in May this year. To date, 10 400 loan applications worth $855 104 463 have been successfully processed. More will be processed over the coming months as Government moves to meet the demands and needs of its workers.
Through GEMS, Government intends to meet the overwhelming demand from thousands of public sector workers for supplementary income to cushion them from economic hardships and improve their livelihoods. GEMS helps complement the monetary benefit of salaries and wages for civil servants. Government is committed to ensuring that all members of the Fund, who successfully apply for loans, will receive them.
“Applicants, who are members of GEMS and are yet to receive loans, should not despair as the savings scheme, which is based on a combination of monthly contributions and monthly repayments by those who have already drawn loans, is designed to ensure that all contributing members benefit,” said PSC secretary, Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe.
“Due to the enthusiastic response, disbursements are being managed to ensure that a significant number of applicants receive their loans every month.”
One of the loan recipients, 27-year-old Munashe Musumare (not his real name) struggled for a long time to get capital to start a couple of income generating projects. As a civil servant, he was happy with regular salary increases his employer was effecting as and when funds permitted.
However, he needed a considerable financial injection to launch a few income-generating projects in order to improve his livelihood. “I had been on the market for some time looking for a source of capital injection to start some income-generating projects,” Masumare said.
“But it was difficult. The most daunting thing were the interest rates.
“Most lenders were asking for 25 percent to 35 percent interest per annum.
“This proved to be very tricky for me and I feared that i would not be able to repay such expensive loans if I took them up.”
As he looked around for more alternatives, Masumare said he was overjoyed when his own employer, the Government, provided just the solution he needed. “The assistance and cushioning I needed came from my employer,” he added. “I was able to secure a loan of $250 000 in May, and this was just what my family and I needed,” he said.
Along with his spouse and mother, they immediately used the loan to start a poultry project and a commodity broking project, buying and selling soft furnishings such as carpets, duvets and other types of bedding.
“Today our projects are up and running. This is one source of capital I can recommend to other civil servants without hesitation.
“It is a real convenient source of borrowing and the repayment terms are flexible.” The loan came with a 10 percent interest rate per annum and a three-year tenure. “I am glad I took advantage of the opportunity to borrow from a trusted source.”
Masumare is not the only one to receive this life-saving financial boost.
Chenai Mutumha (not her real name), 31, is another public sector worker who has benefited from the GEMS Fund.
A nurse in Harare, Mutumha had also struggled to find money to pay examination fees for an external course for her child.
“I had been worrying about where to get that money, when one day as I was working in the ward, I heard another nurse talking about GEMS. I then decided to apply right away,” she said.
Mutumha received a $244 000 loan.
“I was able to quickly pay the examination fees and also bought some furniture for home improvement,” said Mutumha.
She added that were it not for the loan, she would not have been able to pay the exam fees for her child.
“Where else would I have gotten such an affordable loan? This loan is very ‘workable’,” said Mutumha. Amb Wutawunashe said Government recently injected “significant amounts” (of funding) as a bridging measure to allow the member-financed fund time to grow and independently support the demands of members.
In fact, GEMS goes beyond providing loans to its members. The principal purpose of the Fund is to mobilise mutual savings for civil servants for their direct financial benefit during the tenure of their employment and post retirement in the form of concessionary loans that improve their welfare.
Members the Fund contribute 2,5 percent of their basic salary monthly.
Loan amounts will depend on ability to repay within stipulated time horizons.
The Fund objectives include:
a)Receiving monthly contributions from members as a form of savings, made via direct deductions from members’ salary or other forms of payment;
b)Providing financial assistance to members in the form of loans or similar instruments; and
c)Operating, managing or administering any service which is conducive to the provision of financial security to members. The Public Service Commission advises that all qualifying applications are being processed on a continuous basis as Government continues to build funding capacity to augment employee contributions. For more information on the GEMS Fund, call 242 70081-3 or contact/visit any PSC office closest to you or any National Building Society branch nationwide. This is part of a series of articles by the Public Service Commission aimed at engaging with and updating the public on matters of public interest that fall within its mandate.
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