Commission suggests 5.5% increase for office bearers
The Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Officer Bearers has recommended an across the board salary increase of 5.5% for government officials. The recommendation would affect all public office bearers from the president and the chief justice to municipal councillors and traditional leaders.
The recommendation does not take into consideration the performance of individual officials though. So Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, who has presided over an education department in crisis and refused to accept personal accountability for the Limpopo textbook crisis, will get the same increase and earn as much as Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who has hardly set a foot wrong as he works to transform the health care system.
Speaking at a media briefing in Parliament on Wednesday, commission chairperson Judge Willie Seriti said the commission had been considering ways to include performance-based remuneration in its recommendations.
"We have already formulated a view about that and discussed it with some of our stakeholders and we seem to be getting somewhere," he said.
The matter had been "shelved" because of budgetary constraints. Seriti said the commission hoped to pick up the matter again once the budgetary issues had been resolved.
He declined to comment on whether South Africa's public office bearers are worth the salaries they are paid.
"That's outside our mandate," he said.
Seriti said there were two other legislative gaps that prescribed the commission's mandate – it does not allow the commission to rule on the benefits that accrue to public office bearers and does not cover questions around the "tools of trade" such as car allowances and computers.
Seriti said while it had consulted widely with its stakeholders, it was hard to please everybody.
"More often than not our stakeholders are not happy with us," he said.
In the past, one group that has been unhappy with past recommendations from the commission are magistrates. Seriti said magistrates had challenged the increases that were approved for the past two years. The cases were still pending, and it was likely they would again challenge the commission's findings, he said.
Last year, the commission recommended a 5% salary increase for the year 2011/2012.
The increase is in line with inflation and with salary increases for senior managers and CEOs in the general market, which are expected to average around 6% this year.
If President Jacob Zuma accepts the recommendation, ministers' salaries will increase from R1.9-million to R2-million.
These figures do not reflect the additional perks like car allowances and travel allowances which are covered by other guidelines such as the Ministerial Handbook.
Premiers will receive R1.88-million and provincial ministers will receive R1.65-million, while the salary for mayors and executive mayors moves just past the R1-million mark. Traditional leaders will receive R179 000 and tribal kings R978 000.
Meanwhile, public sector unions have yet to resolve their wage increase dispute with the public service and administration department. Government has offered 6.7% increase with some additional increases in benefits but unions are holding out for more.
Standard Bank chief economist Goolam Ballim said the 5.5% increase would be a welcome leadership signal from government and one that aligned with the practice of inflation-targeting.
"There's a call for wage restraint from government especially related to executive remuneration in the private sector. A 5.5% pay increase would resonate with the moral suasion invoked by government," he said.
"This would also be constructive in guiding compensation practices economy-wide, including among the middle class."
Ballim pointed out that there's a strong relationship between price setting in the wage market and overall inflation in the overall economy. "If wage growth is lower, inflation in the overall economy subsides," he said.
In line with inflation
A 5.5% salary increase would be within the 3% to 6% inflation targeting zone, he added.
"One would like to see nominal wage settlements decline to even below 5.5% in coming years," said Ballim.
Ideally, this deceleration in wages should continue until inflation dropped to between 2% and 3%, which is more constructive for long-term economic growth.
"Overall the desirable trend should be towards perpetually lower fixed-wage growth, alongside increasing productivity. And, any resulting increasing in corporate profitability can then be dispensed through discretionary payments," he said.
DA chief whip Watty Watson, said the increase was "quite acceptable".
"Public representative salaries, like other peoples, should be reviewed in line with inflation," he said.
Watson said that, given the precedent set in previous years and because of pressure from wage negotiations in the public service, it was likely the president would adjust the figure downwards.
Watson said a move towards performance-based increases would be welcome. "We have a lot of very hard working members of Parliament. But there are MPs that are not doing as much as they should be doing," he said.
Jay Kruuse, head of the monitoring and advocacy programme at the Public Service Accountability Monitor, conceded the commission's mandate does not require it to evaluate the performance of office bearers when deciding on the annual salary increase.
Kruuse said the question of whether to dock the salaries of non-performing public officials should be put to the president.
He pointed out that both the ministers in the presidency, Collins Chabane and Trevor Manuel, admitted the state was not performing efficiently and that there needed to be consequences for non-delivery.
"We need our government, particularly [provincial ministers] and ministers to perform better and to be held accountable for failed delivery," he said.
"You can't keep paying people mega bucks when they're not delivering."