CIVIL SERVANTS in Mutare are complaining they are not enjoying the real value of their Covid-19 allowances as local businesses were taking advantage and reaping them off by overpricing commodities bought via electronic transfers.
In June, the government announced a hike in civil servant salaries in local currency and also awarded the public sector workers a US$75 Covid-19 allowance for three months.
Government pensioners were also promised an allowance of US$30 per month.
However, the government later announced the US$75 allowances could not be redeemed for cash in banks, but could only be used to purchase goods in supermarkets at the prevailing official rate.
A survey conducted by this paper revealed that most shops which were accepting the civil servants' nostro accounts were charging an extra fee while some money barons were deducting US$14 for cash back.
"We are not enjoying the value for the Covid-19 allowances. Banks are deducting $2 service charges while local shops are charging extra an $2 per commodity. Say a box of soap is going for US$10 cash, you have to pay US$12 from a nostro account," a teacher from Mutasa district, Chido Sakupwanya said.
She said most civil servants were not interested in purchasing groceries but to keep the money as savings for future use but this was not possible as banks were not giving them cash over the counter.
"The biggest beneficiaries of this project are business people and money changers. I would rather use my RTGS salary for groceries and use my nostro for future savings but this is not possible.
"In this case, I have no choice but to go to money changers and redeem my money for a few dollars cash. They are charging 15% commission so I received $59 cash from my allowance. I want to pay my rentals which are being charged in foreign currency," said Sakupwanya.
Other civil servants said they have resorted to the purchase basic goods such as cooking oil, soap, salt and sugar in bulk and later reselling them for cash on the streets with small mark-ups.
A shop owner who declined to be named said he was charging extra fees as he was taking a great risk.
"I have to charge a 2% risk fee because you never know I may lose or win. Remember I am taking my hard currency and gambling with this electronic US dollar from government. You will wake up and be told that it's now Zim dollar. For a US$40 grocery I pay US$10 cash back," said the shop owner.