Source: Big Zim contingent for ILO conference | The Financial Gazette June 1, 2017
ZIMBABWE’S cash-strapped government is to send a huge delegation comprising of 30 officials to the 106th International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference in Geneva, Switzerland scheduled for next week.
The huge contingent has raised concern, particularly at a time government is struggling to fund critical commitments like salaries.
An ILO preliminary list of delegates confirms that 30 top officials from Zimbabwe’s government, who include officials from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), are due to attend the 2017 edition of the ILO conference running from June 5 to 16.
Of the 30, 21 are from government, which has nine advisers.
Other regional countries that are economically performing better than Zimbabwe are sending smaller delegations.
South Africa will be sending smaller delegation consisting of seven people, while Malawi has 15 guests on the ILO list. New Zealand, for example, will be deploying only nine delegates.
Concerns have been raised by stakeholders within the labour movement that the huge delegation was just meant to milk the fiscus, with very little value to the ILO session.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Patrick Chinamasa, and his predecessor, Tendai Biti, have previously noted that travel allowances accounted for a huge chunk of expenditure. The bulk of it was unbudgeted for.
While the amount of money that government spends every year on foreign junkets has hardly been made public, in 2011 Biti said Zimbabwe was expected to spend at least US$50 million that year alone.
At the ILO conference, Zimbabwe is expected to participate in four committees and according to ILO regulations, only two representatives from government are expected to sit in each committee. This implies that a maximum of eight representatives from government will be committed in meetings.
Discussions affecting the country will be conducted by the Committee on the Application of Standards, Committee for Labour and Migration, Committee for Fundamental Principles and the Rights to Work and the Committee on the Transition to Peace.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general, Japhet Moyo, told the Financial Gazette that despite government being expected by the ILO to fund all delegates participating in the committees, only two delegates from business and labour will be travelling on the government’s bill.
“They (government) are not respecting the ILO regulations on sponsorship of conference delegates. Only one delegate from labour and business will receive sponsorship and the rest will be funding themselves, yet there are people being funded by government to Geneva who are not going to be participating in any committee,” said Moyo.
Moyo said government’s failure to abide by ILO statutes would, however, mean huge expenditure for tax payers.
“Countries which respect workers’ rights have no need to bring such a huge delegation because they have nothing to defend. This could only be avoided by respecting labour rights. However, the government officials who made the decision to send thirty people took advantage of the trip to award themselves of extra income,” he said.
He added that most of the people in the delegation will be mere tourists as they will have no role to play at the conference.
Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe president, Josephat Kahwema, said the huge entourage by government was regrettable.
“This is too much considering the state of our economy. The other worrying fact is that each time we travel to Geneva, government is in the habit of throwing cocktail parties where they invite all Southern African Development Community representatives yet we are one of the poorest nations,” he said.
Precious Sibiya, a legal adviser in the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare, did not respond to questions sent to her on the issue.
Government may spend at least US$300 000 in airfares, accommodation and travel allowances for its high-powered delegation.
Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare sources told the Financial Gazette that government officials normally receive handsome daily allowances when on official duties internationally.