A Scheme of Service is a document used in the management of staff seniority, promotion, career progression and remuneration in public organizations in Tanzania. It stipulates the career path of an employee by outlining progression within a job position and between related job positions within an organization. Each job position is divided typically into three grades whereby an employee moves up to the next grade on the basis of completing a number of years; often three years. For example a job of Accountant may have three job positions namely Accountant (iii), (ii) and (i) with (iii) being the lowest. Each grade represents a senior position with a higher salary scale. An employee is promoted from Accountant (iii) to Accountant (ii) upon completion of three years in grade (iii) and so on. As progression between grades is fairly automatic the key criterion for promotion is age on the job. In this way the Scheme of Service has served to strengthen rewarding employees based on age on the job rather than performance.
It ought to be mentioned that the three grades in a job position are exactly the same in job content. Since promotion is, by definition, moving up to a higher level of duties and responsibilities, promotion between grades does not meet this essential promotion criterion. Therefore, you have a situation whereby individuals in different job grades have different salary scales but their job description is essentially the same. The only reason for the difference in their salaries is age on the job. The underlying assumption seems to be that the older one is in the job, the better the performance.
In addition to stipulating promotion between grades within a job position, the Scheme of Service also stipulates promotion between different jobs. For example an Accountant (i) may be promoted to Senior Accountant (iii), the lowest of the grades in the Senior Accountant position. Like within same job position promotion, promotion to a different job position is not subject to vacancy; it is based on completion of specified period of time in the preceding job grade and there is often a requirement for a higher educational qualification but no regard to experience. Although it is often stated that promotion is subject to good performance the real deciding factor is age on the job since most organizations lack effective staff performance appraisal systems. Owing to lack of verifiable performance based criteria, the system is also prone to favouratism.
The Scheme of Service was introduced during the socialist era when salaries were deliberately kept low to avoid great income disparity. Relatively slow progression through “promotions” based on age on the job was designed to give employees hope that they were advancing in their own jobs and income was increasing. The principle of first come first served as exemplified by promotions based on age on the job served to ensure employment security. Employees tended to stay while counting on their entitlements. This is the major feature of the public service even today. But, to what extent is the Scheme of Service relevant today under the ongoing public service reforms? For one thing, use of the Scheme of Service does not augur well with results based management systems being introduced under public service reforms. In a performance based system promotions are be based on merit and not age on the job.