ISSUE 57
December 2003
 
 
   
    Anti-Aids Public-Private Partnership Launched in Nairobi
Human Services Secretary Lauds Public/Private Partnerships Battling Aids in Africa
Nigeria: Framework for Private-Public Partnership in Healthcare
Nigeria: ... Seeks Public, Private Sector Partnership
   
    India: Pension Reform Rides on a Young Population
Australia: Public Servants Getting Older, More Skilled: Report
India: New Findings Released on Critical Success Factors for Public-Private Collaboration in the Fight against HIV/Aids
Papua New Guinea: A New Partnership in Health Services
Viet Nam: Vietnam Thinks Again
Pakistan: Bill To Amend Code Of Civil Procedure Moved In Senate
   
    UK: Public Services Need Greater Accountability
Slovak Republic: Problems with New District Offices
UK: Rebalancing Act
UK: Tory 'Passports' to Better Services
Turkey: Parliament Adopts Public Finance Administration and Inspection Law
Italy: Public Administration: Cabinet OKs Regulations for Managers
Greece: 150 French Public Administration Students & Staff Briefed on ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games
   
    USA: Text of Governor's Address at Leadership Summit
USA: Anti-spam Bill: Public Policy or Public Relations?
Trinidad and Tobago: Public Servants Duck Integrity Act - But Only for Short While
USA: Weinberg Private-Public Partnership Unanimously Rejected
Canada: New Scholarship for Public Administration and Political Science Students
USA: Hill Briefing: The Politics of Pain Drugs; Public Policy & Patient Access to Effective Pain Treatment
Jamaica: Buchanan Lauds Private/public Sector Partnership
USA: Civil Service Board Criticizes Mayor's Veto of Civil Service Act
USA: Chamber Heads Tourism Effort - Commissioners Give OK to Private/Public Partnership
   
    U.N. Summit to Focus on Internet; Officials to Discuss Shifting of Control to International Body
Internet Address System Defended Icann Response
U.N. Meeting Debates Software for Poor Nations
UN Summit Sends Wake up Call on Power of Information Technology
Open-source Software Gets Boost at UN
 
   
    Zimbabwe: Mugabe Pledges to Crack Down on Corruption
Zimbabwe: Mugabe Vows to Weed out Corruption
Nigeria: Botswana on High Alert for Corruption
Nigeria: Nigeria Fires Minister Named in Corruption Probe
Nigeria: Minister of Finance Okonjo-Iweala Tasks Customs On Corruption
Nigeria: Okonjo-Iweala Tasks Customs on Corruption
South Africa: Corruption Report not Finalised
Nigeria: FG's Anti-corruption Crusade Commended
Kenya: A Fight Against Corruption
Nigeria: Tackling Corruption: Towards Citizens' Covenant (2)
   
    Australia: Corruption Leads to 'Clear-Felling Out of Control'
China: Officials Punished in Corruption Purge
India: Nations Remain Poor Because of Corruption and Inefficiency
Philippines: Roco Vows to Fight Corruption
Malaysia: Malaysia to Sign Anti-Corruption Convention
Malaysia: Asia's Anti-Corruption Fight Hurt by Lack of Political Will
India: India Reports 1,916 Corruption Cases in 5 Years
Pakistan, Russia Join Hands To Check Corruption
China: China Signs UN Act Against Corruption
Indonesia: Reforms Bring Rampant Corruption in Indonesia, Former President Says
China: Chinese Officials Held in Regional Corruption Probe
Brunei: Brunei Joins Global Anti-corruption Drive
Indonesia: Indonesia to Sign UN Convention against Corruption Soon
Thailand: Corruption Drive is Getting Off to a Slow Start
Bangladesh: Corruption, Irregularities Rampant in Cooperatives Bank, Milk Vita - JS Body Members Allege
Philippines: 3 Measures to Reduce Red Tape and Corruption in the Bureaucracy
India: Corruption a Major Threat to Economic Development
South Korea: Corruption Snowballs at Defense Think Tanks
South Korea: Corruption Scandals Grip South Korea
Viet Nam: Administrative Reform and Fighting Corruption Top Next Year's Key Tasks
Indonesia: Anti-Corruption Body Leaders Sworn In
   
    EU: EU Enlargement Will Make Corruption Problem Worse: Ex-Magistrate
Greece: Systemic Corruption
Russia: Putin Says Those Who Broke Law During Privatization Will Face Punishment
   
    Iraq: Iraq, US to Set Anti-corruption Unit
   
    USA: Consumer Advocate Questions Extent of Corruption
USA: Politicians Speak Out Against Corruption
   
    World Bank Aims to Tackle Corruption, Poverty
UN Member States to Sign Anti-Corruption Treaty
U.N. Countries Reveal Costs of Corruption
U.N. Anticorruption Treaty Aims To Ease Retrieval of Dirty Money
Countries from Around the Globe to Sign U.N. Anti-Corruption Treaty
43 Nations Sign UN's Anti-Corruption Accord
World Bank Urges Corruption Crackdown
 
   
    Botswana: Civil Servants Participating in Party Elections Face Dismissal
Ghana: Civil Service Policy on HIV/AIDS to Be Formulated
Nigeria: Civil Servants Reject FG's Pension Reforms
Kenya: More Civil Servants Face the Sack by March 2004
Kenya: Ominous Turn in Pay Rise Hopes for Civil Servants
Kenya: Civil Servants Abetting Female Cut Warned
Zimbabwe: Former Civil Servants Evicted from Flats
Botswana: Public Servants Urged to Play Role in Enhancing Capacity of Dikgotla
Botswana: Auditor General Advises Civil Servants to Retire Imprest
Ghana: Civil Servants Seek Clarification from SSNIT on NHIS
Nigeria: Monetisation: FG Approves New Salary for Civil Servants
Nigeria: Shake-Up in Civil Service: Perm Secs Redeployed
Nigeria: Public Servants Frown at Naira's Free Fall
Burundi: HIV-positive Civil Servants to Pay 20 Percent for ARVs
Cameroon: Diplomats Trained In International Public Service
   
    Australia: Public Servant Payouts Cost $55m
Indonesia: Pay Cut for Absentee Indonesian Civil Servants after Holiday
Brunei: Government Officials Attend Civil Service Meet in Malaysia
Thailand: Outsiders 'Not Fit for Civil Service'
Brunei/Malaysia: Government Officials Attend Civil Service Meet in Malaysia
Australia: Knight Set to Be First $1m Public Servant
Thailand: Outside Hires: Civil Service Chief to Explain Scheme
South Korea: Public Workers to Get 5-Day Workweek
Japan: Bonuses for Public Servants Down 7.3%
Malaysia: Hold on to Integrity, PM Tells Civil Servants
Malaysia: All Civil Servants Must Declare their Assets
China: China Lays Off 17,000 Civil Servants in Seven Years
India: 'Government Biased against the Disabled in Civil Services'
China: Civil Servants Get Pay Raise
Malaysia: Wake up Ministers, You Are Civil Servants
Indonesia: Important for Indonesia Civil Servants to Be Neutral in 2004 Elections - President
Australia: Australia to Pay Pre-Christmas Wages for Nauru Public Servants
Australia: Public Servants Back Down on Pay Claim
New Zealand: Merry Cheap Christmas in the Public Service
China: HK and Beijing to Swap Civil Servants
Thailand: Thai Civil Servants May Get Privatization IPO Shares
Philippines: Fight Graft, Corruption in Government, Prelate Urges People
   
    Yugoslavia: Bosnian Serb Gets 27 Years for Srebrenica Massacre
Ireland: Civil Servants to Be Allowed Work 'Beyond 65'
UK: Top Civil Servants Will Have to Pass Exams
UK: Minister Criticises Penalties for Civil Servants Taking Maternity Leave
Ireland: Transfers for 10,000 Civil Servants
Ireland: Over 10,000 Civil Servants to Move in Decentralisation Plan
UK: Senior Civil Servants to Be "Re-Professionalised"
Russia: Government Approves Alternative Civil Service Bill
UK: Civil Servants "Stunned" at Decentralisation Plans
Ireland: Senior Civil Servants Question Relocation Decision
Yugoslavia: Serbian Civil Servants Finish EU Course
Ireland: Civil Service Jobs to Bring Economic Boom
Ireland: Compensation Ruled Out over Civil Servants Relocation
UK: Civil Servants Snub Move to the North
UK: Inquiry Recalls Civil Servant
Ireland: Top Civil Servants Against Relocation, Survey Finds
Ireland: Waterford Can Cope with Influx of Civil Servants
UK: Outrage over £534,000 Bonus for Civil Servants
UK: Civil Service Boss Promises to Cut Red Tape
UK: Civil Service Needs Drastic Overhaul
Ireland: New Law on Civil Service Recruitment Proposed
Ireland: Government to Revamp Civil Service Recruitment
Ireland: Civil Service Recruitment Gets More Flexibility
Malta: White Paper on Civil Service Reform
UK: Dewar 'May Have Misled MSPs'
Ireland: Benchmark Pay Increases for 100,000 Public Servants
Germany: Schroeder Against Public Servants Wearing Hijab
UK: Rethink Urged over Civil Service Jobs
UK: £370m Cost as Civil Servants Take Time Off Sick
   
    Oman: Civil Service Ministry Postings
Israel: Optimism' Over End to Civil Service Action
   
    Brazil: Brazil Reeling under Inept Civil Service Appointments
Canada: Lord Government Assaulting N.B. Public Services
USA: Council to Vote on Measure to Drop Civil Service Program
USA: House Passes Spending Bill with 4.1 Percent Civil Service Pay Raise
USA: Civil Service Likely to See Shakeup
USA: Legislature May Hear KU Civil Service Plan
 
   
    Nigeria: 'STB Chosen for e-Governance'
Mozambique: Mozambique Turns to E-government
   
    Solomon Islands: Solomons Assistance Mission to Focus on the Public Service
Solomon Islands: Solomons to Look at Public Service Issues
China: China Gets eGovernment Advice from Brent Council
China: Alcatel Powers E-government Network in the Guangxi Province of China
China: Hong Kong to Promote Helicopter Services
India: E-government Better Received in India than Globally: TNS Study
India: 'Government Biased against the Disabled in Civil Services'
Pakistan: The Media and Conflict Management
China: China Cleans out Civil Service, Police Ranks to Raise Efficiency
Australia: Corruption in NSW Health System
New Zealand: Public Service Remains a Stable Work Environment
New Zealand: Gender Pay Gap in Public Service Lower than Private Sector
India: Kalam Favours Comprehensive E-governance Framework
Asian IT Ministers To Discuss E-governance Initiatives
Philippines: ITECC Endorses 9 Projects for E-government Fund
China: "Aging" China Promotes Community Services for the Elderly
Indonesia: Corruption a Serious Threat to Business Sector, Kadin Says
India: "E-gov Will Lead India Towards Innovation"
India: Kalam Dreams of Polls Via E-governance
India: Faster Implementation of E-governance to Curtail Corruption: Experts
Pakistan: IT a Must to Increase Efficiency, Quality of Public Services: Awais
India: New E-governance Project Launched
Azerbaijan: E-Government Acting
   
    UK: Public Services Reforms Will Continue, Says Minister
EU: EU Citizens and Business Welcome e-Government Services
EU: Europe Gets Online Satisfaction
Italy: P.A.: Stanca, Italy Is an E-Government Laboratory
UK: eGovernment: Edinburgh Planning Portal Puts Property Enquiry Certificates Online
EU: EU eGovernment Services Analysed in Detail from Citizens' Perspective: Flaws Found
UK: Case Study: Edinburgh Plans to Be 'Smarter' with eGovernment
UK: Open Source Software for 500,000 Civil Servants Possible after OGC / Sun deal
UK: UK E-government Enjoying Slow Progress
Italy: E-government: Tomorrow Meeting with Stanca and Storace
UK: New Service Allows Public Sector to Test IT & E-Government Ideas at Early Stage
Italy: Budget: Water and Public Services Amendments Today
UK: £284 Million for City Public Services
UK: BBC3 Unveils 'Public Service' Line-up
EU: Online Public Services Get Thumbs Up
UK: Watchdog Attacks 'Inefficient' Public Services
UK: UK to Investigate E-government by Digital TV
UK: E-government Fails to Catch On
UK: E-government: Must Try Harder
UK: Britain to Appoint Head of E-government
UK: E-Gov Chief to Target Public Services
UK: E-government Head to Replace Internet Tsar
UK: Head of e-Government to Replace E-envoy in UK
Scandinavian Countries Take E-government Lead
UK: IDeA Launches New eGovernment Services
UK: First Report on Actual Progress Vs UK National eGovernment Strategy
UK: Public Should Benefit from E-government Savings
UK: Use Public Services, Tories Told
Italy: E-government: A Habit for a Quarter of Italians
   
    Rapid PC Penetration Will boost e-Governance in the Arab World
UAE: Dubai eGovernment Launches Monthly Magazine to Communicate Latest Developments in eServices
Israel: Licensing Bureaus Packed as Histadrut Lifts Civil Service Sanctions for Five Hours
UAE: Dubai eGovernment's e-Services Will Help Reduce Piracy, Says Business Software Alliance
Brunei: Brunei Inks $23.5 Million e-Government Deal
Brunei: Sarawak Set to Achieve E-government Status
   
    USA: Baez Chosen Chairman of Public Service Commission
USA: Convera Simplifies Taxonomy Creation Mandated by US e-Government Act
USA: Convera Simplifies Taxonomy Creation Mandated by E-Government Act; Information on Government Web Sites and Intranets Easily Organized and Searched With New Taxonomy Workbench
USA: eGovernment Looks to Open Source
USA: Lieberman Accuses DHS of Violating E-Gov Act
USA: E-gov: A Year in Review
USA: Official Sees Hurdles for 'Open Source' E-government
USA: PureEdge Picked For E-Government Grants Initiative
USA: Shifting Responsibility for Public Services from State to Counties Led to Decreased Health Spending in California, Finds New Analysis
USA: Hardeeville Public Services Plan for Expansion
Canada: Changes in the Senior Ranks of the Public Service and other Appointments
USA: Former E-government Officials Favor Governmentwide Plan
USA: Medical Library, Student Aid Sites Score High in E-gov User Satisfaction
USA: E-Government Customer Satisfaction on the Rise
USA: Turk to Lead E-gov Citizen Portfolio
USA: E-Gov Starts Next Phase
USA: Happy Anniversary, E-Government
USA: Next Wave of E-gov Projects Coming Soon
USA: NSF Wins Honors for E-government Progress
USA: Reform Civil Service
USA: Think Tank Rolls out E-gov Tool
   
    Global E-government
U.N.: Statistics on Internet Use Flawed
Global E-government
U.N. Agrees to Examine How Internet Is Governed
Global E-government
 
   
    South Africa: MPs Hit the Road while Public Departments Spin their Wheels
Uganda: IT System for Public Funds in Final Stages
   
    Solomon Islands: Solomon's Government Rules Out Pay Rise for Public Servants
Japan: Banks Won't Collapse: Japan Finance Minister
India: Consolidate Public Finance: Claros
Bangladesh: A Critical Overview of our Financial Management System
China: Banking Giant Wants Facts on QFII Tax Policy
India: Efficient Financial Management Needed in Co-op Dept: Bhargawa
   
    Czech Republic: Klaus Vetoes Second Bill in Government's Public Finance Reform Package
UK: Civil Service to Get High-Powered FDs
UK: Brown Shirks Tough Questions on Public Spending
UK: 'Rattled' Blair Misrepresenting Our Tax Policy - Kennedy
Italy: Ciampi: Keep Watch on Public Finance
Slovakia: Budget Saves Cabinet's Credit
   
    UAE: Module III of the UAE-Harvard Program for Public Sector Innovation Starts 13 December
UAE: UAE Ministry of Finance and Industry Holds E-government Vision and Strategy Workshop
   
    USA: After Scandals, State Treasurers Take Aim at Corruption
USA: Lawmakers Pushing Campaign Finance Reform
 
   
    Ghana: Wholesale Privatisation not Answer to Problems of Public Sector
Nigeria: Privatization: 'BPE to Confront Challenges'
   
    India: Orissa Government Plans to Appoint Private Sector to Strengthen Road Network
Pakistan: Public-Private Partnership Scheme - Nahaqi Hospital's Experience in Doldrums
Guam (USA): Resolve: Key Issues Must Be Addressed in the Privatization of Waterworks
Pakistan: Privatization Is the Need Of The Time: PM Jamali
Indonesia: PGN Rounds Off Indonesian Privatization Programme for 2004
Azerbaijan: Minister of Public Health Care against Privatization of Large Medical Departments
Japan: Road Firm Privatization Accord Reached
Japan: True Independence Key to Privatization
   
    Russia: Privatization To Be Completed in 2008
Russia: Russia's Agricultural Ministry Against Today's Privatization of Rosselkhozbank
Czech Republic: Government Sets Restrictive Terms for Coal Privatization
Ukraine: Ukraine May Get PAL-II Loan if Resumes Privatization - World Bank Representative
Turkey: 'Judiciary Hinders Privatization'
Germany: DPWN: Speeding Up Privatization
Lithuania: Lithuanian Privatization Commission Approves Lietuvos Dujos Sale Agreement
Russia: Putin Objects to Ending Privatization in Russia
France: Privatization of French Companies to Resume in 2004
Russia: Press Review: Audit Chamber Plans to Check Privatization Deals
   
    Jordan: Jordan's Privatization Draws Criticism
Israel: Privatization Revenues Soar to NIS 1.2b in 2003
Lebanon: Forum on Privatization Demands Transparency and Public Accountability in Sell-off of State Assets
Lebanon: Privatization to Be Publicly Scrutinized
Iran: Khatami: Goverment Will Facilitate Privatization
   
    USA: City Studies Bus-System Privatization
USA: Hilltop House Residents Petition Against Privatization
USA: Privates State Hopes Privatization Brings Bottom-line Results
Canada: Privatization Gone Wrong
Canada: B.C. Government Sued over Hydro Privatization Act
USA: Nodler's Committee to Hear Privatization Report
USA: Taking on Corporate Corruption in the US
USA: County Votes to Accept Bids on Jail Privatization
USA: New Hampshire Station Bans Union's Anti-privatization Ad
USA: Experts Warn Privatization Could Affect Mental Care
   
    Commonwealth, Private Sector Partnership Forum Kicks Off
 

Anti-Aids Public-Private Partnership Launched in Nairobi

Nairobi - Thompson and Holbrooke enlist businesses in fight against disease - In his role as chairman of the Global Fund, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson joined Richard Holbrooke, president and CEO of the Global Business Coalition (GBC) on HIV/AIDS, to launch a new public-private initiative that is expected to galvanize the business sector to take arms against the deadly virus that has killed millions of Africans and driven down life expectancy in Kenya from 59 to 49 years. The HHS team of about 100 experts, including U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias, is on a weeklong mission to four African nations to gauge local and regional health care needs and see what more America can do to help. After stops in Zambia and Rwanda, the delegation arrived in Nairobi, Kenya December 3 to join Kenyan government officials, NGO representatives and businessmen at the Kenyatta International Conference Center where Thompson and Holbrooke formally announced the launch of the "Co-investment Partnership" between the private sector and their organizations to fight AIDS. Kenyan Health Minister Charity Ngilu opened the event by pointing out that five million Africans die each year of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. "We therefore support this public/private partnership to fight AIDS," Ngilu said.

And now that business is becoming involved in battling the disease, she added, "I know we are going to have a new beginning for people who have to live with AIDS. "This is [also] a new beginning between us and America," Ngilu declared. Thompson said the Co-investment Partnership came about because "we have not done enough to incorporate the business community. We need everybody to join with us in this fight - a fight in a war that we cannot afford to lose. The continent of Africa has been ravaged far too long by this scourge, this virus of HIV. Millions of people have died and millions of children have been left homeless. And that is why Ambassador Holbrooke, at the request of Kofi Annan, has set up a business coalition against HIV/AIDS and now grown it to over 100 countries. Thompson noted that Holbrooke "is an ambassador from the previous [Clinton] administration. So you can see that this fight against HIV/AIDS ... is bipartisan - a Republican and a Democrat administration working hand-in-hand for the ultimate success of defeating this virus."

Thompson specifically cited firms like Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb, both pharmaceutical companies whose CEOs are part of the delegation, for "stepping forward making their resources available to assist us ... [and] our brothers and sisters in Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Cameroon and all the other countries that are in so much need." Acknowledging the "unprecedented" bipartisan nature of the delegation, Ambassador Holbrooke added, "It is, I believe, the largest group of its sort to ever have visited Africa on the issue of HIV/AIDS. We are particularly proud to be here in Nairobi to announce the launching of a new initiative against HIV/AIDS: the first co-investment partnerships in this war." According to both Thompson and Holbrooke, co-investment means combining the grant and fund-raising abilities of their organizations with the business infrastructures of companies that have the employees and technical skills to implement programs both sides feel will be useful in the fight against AIDS. "Business has a vital role to play in the war on AIDS, and these co-investment partnerships are a major new step forward in that war," Holbrooke said. But the "great companies that are joining this initial effort are exceptions," he added. "Most companies still do not see that it is their responsibility."

Holbrooke pointed to the companies enrolled in the project - Anglo American, DaimlerChrysler, Lafarge, ChevronTexaco, Eskom, Tata Steel, Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb - as "doing their part and have offered to do more. I hope and pray that other companies will join the fight as we move forward," he added. He cited the work Anglo American has already done to combat AIDS among its mineworkers in southern Africa and the health projects ChevronTexaco operates for its employees - and other citizens - in Nigeria's oil-producing Delta region. Such programs could be expanded elsewhere with the financing and cooperation of the Global Fund and GBC, he said. Aside from U.S. contributions to the Global Fund and the assistance of other multilateral agencies helping Africans battle AIDS, the U.S. government has committed to spend $15 billion in the next five years as part of President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. A major portion of the money is headed for 12 African nations that are seen as being especially vulnerable to the disease, which has no known cure. Following the announcement of the new co-investment partnership, Thompson and members of his delegation joined Kenyan first lady H.E. Lucy Kibaki at a reception in Thompson's honor hosted by U.S. Ambassador Mark Bellamy at his residence. Also present were Kenyan government officials and representatives from HIV/AIDS-related organizations and the United Nations. (The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by James Fisher-Thompson, 5 December 2003

Human Services Secretary Lauds Public/Private Partnerships Battling Aids in Africa

Kampala - Ends Ugandan visit with dedication of Pfizer Foundation building - On December 7 U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson seemed almost reluctant to leave this nation, which has become a model of disease prevention and treatment, having seen for himself how successful public/private partnerships can be in fighting HIV/AIDS - which he repeatedly warned threatens to rob Africans of their future. Thompson capped what he termed a very successful fact-finding tour of the continent --his third since taking office in 2001 - with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to reopen the newly renovated pediatric HIV/AIDS training center at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. At 1,500 beds, Mulago is the nation's premier medical training center. The pediatric clinic was rebuilt with a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which comes under HHS. The clinic was a perfect example of the public/private partnerships Thompson touted on his November 30-December 7 tour of four African nations, with the Pfizer drug company donating much of the equipment for the newly refurbished laboratory, the University of Wisconsin providing the furniture in the offices and the waiting and examining rooms, and Johns Hopkins and Baylor universities also helping out.

At the ceremony, Thompson and his party, which included Ugandan Minister of Health James Muhwezi, CDC Director Julie Gerberding and Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnel, were escorted into the Mulago clinic by the Uganda Red Cross Brass Band, playing Christmas songs, more reflective of the snowstorm that had swept through the delegation's hometown, Washington, than with the equatorial climate of Uganda. Mulago Hospital director Dr. Lawrence Kaggwa, in greeting his American guests, pointed out that the renovation project "cements another solid and foresighted linkage with the CDC." Noting that Mulago is the oldest medical school in East Africa, Minister Muhwezi said, "We very much appreciate the help we're getting from the U.S. and other partners" in the battle against AIDS, adding that pediatric clinics are essential to the health of all nations because "children are 30 percent of our population but 100 percent of our future." The American delegation also participated in a ceremony to mark the grand opening of the new building of The AIDS Support Organization (TASO). Established by volunteers in Uganda in 1987, TASO is a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose aim is to alleviate the suffering of AIDS victims.

The newest addition to the TASO Mulago Complex was named the Pfizer Foundation Building after the U.S. drug company that helped build it with a grant of $315,000. To round out the public side of the AIDS partnership, the Ugandan Government gave $57,000 to the project. CDC and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also contributed $185,000 to the TASO construction. TASO Chairman of the Board David Matovu set the tone of the dedication ceremony, declaring: "Within these walls of this complex hope and dignity will be restored to thousands of people." Dr. Alex Coutinho, TASO executive director and a tireless fund-raiser for the AIDS NGO, added that the complex "symbolizes the global partnership needed to fight AIDS." Pfizer CEO McKinnel then officially opened the new building, emphasizing that he and his company were dedicated "to a spirit of vision and commitment and doing something significant for future generations." Even before the building was ready, the CEO said, Pfizer and its Ugandan medical partners "trained and put into the field 150 infectious disease specialists from 17 countries, but mostly from Uganda."

Pfizer also has four health care professionals working in Kampala as part of its "Global Health Fellowship." They are performing such tasks as evaluating herbal medicine and similar traditional remedies, training nurses to conduct antiretroviral (ARV) therapy and developing a university curriculum for a master's degree program in pharmacy. As for future partnerships, McKinnel said Pfizer's vision also includes working with Ugandan medical institutions and others "so that we can train each year 100 or more specialists in infectious disease who will return to their districts in Uganda or their countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and those hundreds will train thousands and thousands will care for millions." The new trend toward using a multifaceted campaign against AIDS employing government, business, NGOs, and faith-based institutions was summed up best on Thompson's trip by U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias, who was recently named by President Bush to spearhead U.S. AIDS initiatives overseas, including the president's $15 billion, five-year emergency plan for AIDS relief.

At the World AIDS Day celebration in Livingstone, Zambia, where the U.S. delegation began its tour, Tobias said one of the goals of the president's plan is to expand U.S. partnerships with all sectors of society. Tobias, a former CEO of the giant pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, added: "Coming from the private sector, I have an acute awareness of what that sector has to offer. Creative new public/private partnerships combine finances, technical expertise, prestige, political influence and the potential to transfer skills to governmental and non-governmental bodies. "Public-private partnerships," Tobias said, "will provide a base for addressing the next generation of issues, the critical, enduring challenges of how to build a greatly enlarged pool of skilled personnel, to extend services effectively to local communities, to build up the non-governmental sector, and to empower women and persons living with the HIV virus." (The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, BY Jim Fisher-Thompson, 9 December 2003

Framework for Private-Public Partnership in Healthcare

Lagos - I will briefly take us through the healthcare challenges with particular reference to Nigeria and the role of private-public partnership in addressing these challenges in order to achieve the 2015 millennium development goals (MDG). The millennium development goals are aimed at overall improvement in the quality of life of people around the world. These goals are: _ eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; _ achieve universal primary schooling; _ promote gender equality and empower women; _ reduce child mortality; _ improve maternal health; _ combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other disease; _ ensure environmental sustainability and _ develop a global partnership for development. The challenge of achieving the MDG is quite enormous when viewed against the current state of healthcare and social infrastructure in many developing nations. Under the poor healthcare services, they include inadequate number of healthcare professionals, low doctor patient ratio, low pharmacist patient ratio and inadequate health facilities. On poor funding of healthcare, the challenges include less than five per cent budget provision, lip service by state and no allocation by local governments, ineffective health insurance, fee for service-based healthcare system and high poverty level. Other health challenges are poor preventive healthcare, biting poverty, low literacy level and lack of commitment by government.

There is a low level cooperation between private and public sector, both operating on parallel lines. Most government officials act as if they have all the wisdom, power and knowledge to do it all, perceiving the private sector as profit oriented. This lack of synergy leads to large amounts of waste. Corruption is the bane of any sustainable development. It leads to ineffective utilisation of resources, under performance and collapse of the healthcare delivery system as a result of lack/poor maintenance of equipment, infrastructural facilities. Intellectual property right (patents) prevents easy access to life saving drugs. It also leads to high prices of pharmaceuticals, especially HIV/AIDS drugs. Faking and counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals is a crime against humanity. The fight against faking should be a challenge to Commonwealth Heads of Governments to prevent member countries from manufacturing and distributing fake drugs. We need to unite and act globally to prevent dumping of fake drugs particularly in Africa. Evidence today indicates that no government anywhere in the world can achieve sustainable development alone. Global trends show a steadily increasing active partnership between the public and private sector (PPP). The PPP is a joint venture between government (public) and organised private sector to attain common health goals like the MDG. It is win-win situation for the overall health of humanity.

What are the factor militating against PPP in Africa? They include: _ lack of political will to make decisions and take long term view on issues in order to champion meaningful reform or change. Most government officials, for political reasons choose short term projects that will give immediate gain but nothing strategically to boost the economy. _ resistance by public institutions to competition that could embarrass them or show better ways of doing things. _ corrupt partners that may resist transparent processes. People who are benefiting from the inefficiencies in the system frustrate efforts to introduce transparency, which the private sector bring along. _ poor preventive healthcare service. This is as a result of poverty, low literacy level, inefficiency of the public sector and inability to integrate traditional medicine practice by raising standards. _ inadequate health budget and accountability. General healthcare budget is very low in some developing countries (less than five per cent of the national budget) compared to World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations. The healthcare delivery systems are based on fee in exchange for services. There is excessive dependence and pressure in government in the provision of healthcare services. _ inadequate compensation for local content of service and _ lack of administrative training about practical steps required to start and operate PPP successfully.

For successful development and implementation of the private-public partnership for the overall improvement in healthcare systems, there should be: _ deregulation/privatisation of health services. Presently, this is imperative with privatisation, government will focus on key areas of core competence such as training of healthcare personnel and provision of regulatory framework. The private sector can intervene by equipment installation and maintenance, provision of laboratory services and essential drugs amongst others. Joint partnership in running health facilities should be encouraged at levels. There should be commitment of both parties to the term of any partnership like contractual agreement. This improves private sector confidence. For example, the case of the Roll-Back-Malaria programme derailed as a result of the launch of a new anti-malaria drug, which was not part of the Roll-Back Malaria programme. The programme did not only get jettisioned but also left a huge scare of distrust in the private sector who would further look at partnership with government with suspicion. The pharmaceutical industry therefore was stabbed on the back, leaving them with huge financial losses running into billions of naira. One hopes that the local production of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs will not go same way.

The pharmaceutical industry has the capacity to produce for the nation's needs. The Brazilian delegates on HIV/AIDS has promised to work with Nigeria to transfer the technology to the public or those who are not equipped for production. We expect the public sector to hand over this project to the private sector. We also expect government to intervene like in South Africa to ensure that we start producing as stated in the TRIPS agreement. The National Health Insurance Private Public should it be compulsory? Social insurance through pension reform for both, private and public sector should be encouraged. Funding of the healthcare system should be holistic to ensure primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare system development. People should not be denied access to healthcare services because of their social economic status. Creation of appropriate investment environment by government will promote provision of new healthcare facilities like modern hospitals, new or expansion of modern pharmaceutical plants. The clear determination of roles is a key factor to the success of PPP. Developed Commonwealth countries should come to the aid of less developed countries. Training and learning together breaks down attitudinal barriers, build trust and fosters teamwork.

Private sector investment in healthcare education should include: _ training of healthcare personnel (full of part sponsorship) at the levels including travel fellowship, institution of chairs. _ involve in health education like enlightenment campaigns of HIV/AIDS, family planning, immunisation as their corporate social responsibility _ government should give tax relief to encourage such activities by the private sector. Research and Development (R&D) should be taken seriously by all and adequate research funds provided to empower medical pharmaceutical research institutions and universities to research on the diseases prevalent in many developing countries especially malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis amongst others. Intensive research on local herbs is also very important. Development partners like WHO, UNICEF, WTO, UNDP should be enlisted. This will enable local pharmaceutical industry to produce anti-retroviral drugs for use within their sub-region. Effective regulation also ensures local production and distribution of high quality produce to meet international standard. Ensure that countries that manufacture and export fake and counterfeit pharmaceuticals are sanctioned. This summit needs to agree on a committee to monitor and stop the menace of substandard and fake products in the Commonwealth countries and the world at large.

For example, effective regulation and tough stand on fake/counterfeit regulated products by the new Director-General of NAFDAC has yielded immense results in Nigeria. This led the drug fakers to shift to neighbouring ECOWAS countries like Mali, Senegal and Guinea. This must stop. Therefore, I call on all government of countries to be on alert. Local industries should be encouraged to produce high quality generic drugs at are affordable price and made available. Government should patronise/compensate for local content by giving the private sector opportunity to win bids and allowing them mark up to 25 per cent above the minimum price in recognition of their role in job creation, provision of infrastructural facilities. This will encourage growth of the industry to world class standards to enable compete globally. Developed countries should be encouraged to transfer technology in order to achieve the national drug policy, curb diseases and improve the healthcare delivery system. Regular policy dialogue between the public and private sector as epitomised by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) format will also ensure effective, regular monitoring, evaluation of set target and achievement of the millennium development goals (MDG). Public-private partnership is inevitable for a successful healthcare delivery system. Government must show serious commitment by entering into contractual agreement with the private sector and seeing to its implementation.

Long term funds have to be provided at low interest rate to encourage private sector participation. To combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other medical emergencies, member nations that have manufacturing capacity should take advantage of the provision of TRIPS (Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement of license production of patented products for sale within their territory. Access to research funds for disease that are prevalent mainly in developing countries e.g malaria, tuberculosis. Promulgation of international laws that provide for strict sanctions against drug faking and counterfeiting. Governments should also set up a competition policy to reward entrepreneurship and enterprise as well as setting target dates to achieve these laudable goals. A nation's health sector is too important and too complex for any single stakeholder to design and manage its resources for health gain. The government, the public non-governmental organisation (NGOs) and the private sector need each other for meaningful and sustainable health gains. Government cannot do it alone. Through private public partnership (PPP), Nigeria would be among the countries that will achieve the millennium development goals. Okoli, MD/CEO, Emzor Pharmaceutical, Lagos, presented this paper at the Commonwealth Business Forum of the just concluded CHOGM held in Abuja.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Stella Okoli, 12 December 2003

... Seeks Public, Private Sector Partnership

President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday said the public and private sectors of the economy must work as partners towards achieving a Nigeria to be proud of. The President was speaking at a briefing session for the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce, Mines, Industry and Agriculture (NCCMIA); Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) on the ongoing reforms of government. He said he was determined to ensure the reforms worked, and that both sectors played their own roles for the development of the economy and growth of democracy. President Obasanjo said while peace and stability was necessary for democracy to thrive, a buoyant economy was imperative because "democracy and poverty are strange bed fellows. If people do not see dividends of democracy, then society is threatened." The major planks of the reform, he said, were privatisation, governance and institutional reform, entrenchment of transparency and accountability, as well as service delivery.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Josephine Lohor, 17 December 2003

 

Pension Reform Rides on a Young Population

From January next year, the Union Public Service Commission will carry an innocuous line in its advertisements for government jobs. It will do away with the most attractive feature of joining the government service so far-retirement benefits. Accordingly, the employment advertisements for the civil services, including the medical service, forest and engineering services as well as those for recruitment from Grade IV staff to assistants in various ministries, will say these employees will have to contribute to their own pension benefits, with an equal support from the government. But has the Centre overly relied on the capacity of the market to make the proposed pension scheme viable? Mukul Asher, professor of public policy programme at the National University of Singapore, who has been deeply involved with the Centre's pension project told Business Standard that it wouldn't be the case. He said the need for reforms in the government provident fund scheme for the civil servants is that it is too closely tied in a non-transparent manner to financing government expenditure, and does not utilise the opportunity to bring about greater efficiencies in the saving-investment process.

Private fund managers think in the same lines too. Anjana Grewal, vice-president, Birla Sun Life said reforms in the pension sector were the culmination of the phased reforms that began in the financial sector, and had come to the pension sector at the longest end of the spectrum. Asher said the reforms had been initiated after other financial and capital market reforms such as in banking and insurance sectors. So there had been an appropriate sequencing. The issue of sequencing is of significance. In both France and Italy, pension reforms caused the governments to change in the last decade. China has seen frequent street protests by pensioners who lost their benefits when state sponsored industries failed. Experts say India has the twin advantage of a young and growing population and of having co-opted the unorganised sector in the pension reforms (the US followed the latter approach). This will make reaching the critical mass faster. An aging population has been the bugbear of many of the east European countries which switched over from a pay-as-you-go system to a defined contribution system for pension benefits. Interestingly, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha had reiterated the promise to introduce pension reforms in India in the Budgets for 2001-02 and 2002-03.

But it was only this year that the process picked up steam, with the market players nudging the Centre towards the changes. Nearly 30,000 recruits to the central civil service every year, will now have to set apart a 10 per cent of their salary every month to a pension fund, with a matching contribution from the respective ministries. The sum will be invested in pension funds to be run by public and private sector companies. It is the capital market division of the finance ministry that has worked out the blue print for the pension reforms. Originally the job was supposed to be done by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, which actually committed the Old Age Security of Income Stream (Oasis) report. The report was in cold storage from 1998 for three years till 2001. The issue could have also been handled by the department of pensions in the ministry of personnel and training. However Urjit Patel, executive vice-president of Infrastructure Development Finance Company and a member of the high powered committee on pension reforms said it did not matter who initiated the reforms as the issue was to get it going. But as the international experience shows, it is also the scarcity of good investment avenues in many developed markets that is prodding the pension fund companies to explore new vistas. And the World Bank report on pension reforms in developing countries came at just the right time.

From Business Standard, India, by Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, 2 December 2003

Public Servants Getting Older, More Skilled: Report

A new report indicates the Australian Public Service is not immune from the ageing of the general workforce. The annual State of the Service report says over the past year there has been a consolidation of trends towards an older and more skilled public service workforce. The typical new starter in the service is now a 31-year-old with tertiary qualifications and is more likely to be a woman than a man. The public service commissioner Andrew Podger says the changing nature of the workforce will pose challenges for managing the future capability of the service. Mr. Podger also acknowledged there was still widespread unease among public servants about performance-based pay and the handling of underperformance. About half felt it did not provide appropriate rewards for top performance.

From BBC News, UK, 4 December 2003

New Findings Released on Critical Success Factors for Public-Private Collaboration in the Fight against HIV/Aids

New York - Strategic Simulation provided an unprecedented forum for the generation of ideas on accelerating the business response to HIV/ AIDS in New Delhi, India - The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Booz Allen Hamilton and the Confederation of Indian Industry issued a groundbreaking report today detailing the findings of the first ever simulation aimed at identifying critical multi-sectoral responses to the AIDS epidemic in India. The simulation, involving over 200 leaders from government, business and non-governmental organizations, found that successful prevention and targeted early actions are often the least expensive interventions, and can mitigate longer term economic, political and social costs of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India. "HIV/AIDS is one of the most serious threats to the economy and society of India and other developing nations, and we were proud to provide a forum for new ideas to fight this epidemic," said Booz Allen Senior Vice President Heather Burns. Teams worked together to develop and articulate a range of novel partnerships and initiatives to fight the epidemic: - 53 new partnerships between public and private organizations were explored for their potential effectiveness in combating HIV/AIDS. - 100 new initiatives were proposed, from business-led efforts to raise awareness and increase access to treatment, to national government programs targeting high risk populations.

The decisions made by the teams were run through an integrated epidemiological and economic model to assess their impact on the potential future growth of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India and its public health implications. The simulation found that the suggested initiatives could provide dramatic benefits: - Reducing projected HIV/AIDS prevalence, incidence and mortality by over 50% - Cutting simulated losses in India's GDP by $31.5 Billion and discretionary spending by $9.2 billion. Key conclusions from the simulation included: -- Clearly defined strategic priorities are critical, given the enormous resource and infrastructure constraints in India - Governments have a responsibility to dramatically increase funding and rapidly mobilize resources - Broad collaboration between and within sectors is needed to unleash new sources of energy and new ideas - The expertise of the business sector can and must be used to improve the reach and effectiveness of HIV programs - Co-investment partnerships between sectors should be used to scale up existing initiatives - Leaders in the private and public sectors must speak out publicly and commit the time and energy necessary to drive effective action across sectors.

Director-General of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Mr. Tarun Das said, "There is a clear need and opportunity for business to supplement government efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. Business associations have a very large role to play. I urge leaders to engage and enlist the support of business associations in their own country and around the world to tackle this epidemic." Ratan Tata, Chairman, Indian Business Trust for HIV/AIDS and Chairman, TataSons praised the creativity of the participants and their heightened level of commitment to the HIV/AIDS issue. He noted critical need for new initiatives and new partnerships in India to fight this epidemic. Shivesh Sinha, Chief Financial Officer, Lafarge India, said, "As a result of the October events and in line with Lafarge Group HIV/AIDS Guidelines, Lafarge India is currently working on how to tackle this issue in India. The emphasis, initially, will be to increase the awareness and prevention of AIDS in and around our plants." "Public/private partnerships have a critical role to play in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India and internationally. Through this unique process, the Simulation allowed us to assess the future impact of our decisions. We must now work to implement successful partnerships on the ground to prevent future deaths and improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS," said Trevor Neilson, Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

The report concludes the "AIDS Epidemic Strategic Simulation", which took place in New Delhi, October 11-13th, 2003 as part of an international Conclave on Accelerating the Business Response to HIV/AIDS, hosted by GBC and CII. The global management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton conducted the Simulation designed to encourage government and the business community to explore innovative ideas and practical steps to address the spread of HIV/AIDS in India. Participants analyzed the economic, social and human impact of HIV/AIDS and the competing needs of the various stakeholders. Looking forward based on the success with India, the Global Business Coalition and Booz Allen will be supporting other countries as they address this human epidemic as it reaches the tipping point in the next year (i.e. China, Russia). This ability to facilitate and overcome barriers to action through private and public partnership will define the battlefield to fight this war.

From Business Wire (press release), 11 December 2003

A New Partnership in Health Services

Over the past 30 years, the public and private health care systems have been providing services to our people, but they not been able to work together. I'm pleased to announce that this is changing now. The National Health Board approved the partnership policy earlier this year. The board had forwarded the policy proposals to private health providers and is awaiting their feedback. The submission for formalising the partnership will be made to the National Executive Council (NEC) early next year. The National Department of Health (NDoH) has been working with private health providers to form a partnership that will benefit both public and private health providers, and more importantly the people of Papua New Guinea. Private health providers play a crucial role and the NDoH would like to see them as partners, and not competitors in the provision of health services. We are especially keen to ensure there is an equitable and accessible health care system throughout the country. We want to ensure that the National Health Plan and the various standards (in particular standards for district health services) for the improvement of the health of the population are understood, abided by and implemented by service providers. We also want to ensure that the national health information system is up-to-date and relevant.

People should have information on the range of service provided. Unless we can properly measure the effectiveness of all the health system, we will not know where we should invest to improve our services. I believe that by 2005, public and private health services will be working as partners. The private sector should also have support from the people and government, including financial support, to run their health services. The government has been working closely with health care providers in the private/corporate sector and formal linkages with this sector group through partnership agreements will allow all of us to exchange information to help with our planning and service delivery. The National Health Board and Provincial Health Boards will be the registration authorities for the partnership agreements. This means that provincial health services are also a very important part of this new partnership. The National Department of Health and Provincial Administrations will identify specific health programs to be supported under the partnership with the private/corporate sector.

Both systems will have their own priorities. The private health care health system operates on a for-profit scheme and offers a wide variety of services including health professionals, doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, private health insurance, private universities and companies providing health protection and medical services in both rural and urban settings, private companies promoting healthy lifestyle or products, private contractors, suppliers and consultants dispensing health services. The distinction here is that the private sector only provides some curative health services and does not necessarily follow the standards and manuals set for government services. They also have only a limited range of specialist services, charge a high price compared to the heavily subsidised government health services, and are only located on sites and places where there is potential for high economic returns. Public health providers are financed by the government and regulated. This sector provides both curative and public or preventative components of health services and attends to a large number of patients. They also have a large number of specialists, manuals and standards are set to guide the services for uniformity and to conform to the minimum standards set by government as well as the World Health Organisation's (WHO) practices and standards.

The services provided are located in central places for the benefit of the majority of the people. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the two services, they need to be understood so that in the end the people benefit. The NDoH is working to identify areas where both private and the public health sectors can work together to provide responsive services to the people. I am confident we will be able have improve our relationship by 2005 under the guidance of this policy. Through this understanding, the private health sector can work together with the public health sector. I believe that in the last five years we have come a long way in making this partnership possible. In the National Policy on Partnership document, Health Minister Melchoir Pep said: "This provides the opportunity for meaningful participation by the private/corporate sector and non-governmental organizations in partnership with government, to make PNG a healthy nation." As I have repeatedly stated in this column, we have to aim for a unified health system. We have limited resources and we cannot afford to waste any of them. What I want to see is a health system that includes private, profitable health services, which will practice public health as well as curative health. They will receive support from government and become accountable for the standard of health care they deliver under the unified system.

From The National, Papua New Guinea, 10 December 2003

Vietnam Thinks Again

Government officials in Vietnam are reconsidering their e-government programme - In an echo of the UK's emphasis on using IT to redesign public services, they are calling for a greater emphasis on social and economic issues rather than just improving administration. Trinh Duc Huy from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was quoted by the Vietnam Economy journal on 17 December 2003. "e-Government is a policy of the Communist Party and forms a small part of state modernisation," he said. "It does not cover all social and economic issues." Huy warned that the state administration programme 112, which dates back to the late 1990s, does not relate its e-government elements to wider issues, and that this is undermining its chances for success. Pham Van Hoan, head of the 112 programme in Hai Duong province, said the province had faced difficulties in implementing the programme for the past seven years. "In the late 1990s, after the IT steering committee and the Ministry of Post and Telematics were set up, they had control over the programme in provinces," he said. "This has caused confusion ever since among local authorities about their respective roles in the programme." He added that both Communist Party and state agencies had invested in local area networks, and that this had added to the confusion.

From Kablenet, UK, 19 December 2003

Bill To Amend Code Of Civil Procedure Moved In Senate

Islamabad - A bill to further amend the Code of Civil Procedure was presented to the Senate on Monday. Senator Anwar Bhinder moved The Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2003 to further amend the Code of Civil Procedure 1908. As there was no objection on the bill from the government, Chairman Senate, Muhammedmian Soomro referred the bill to the Standing Committee concerned. During Monday's session, a private members day, three bills to be moved by the opposition, lapsed, due to absence of the opposition from the house. Debate on Babar Ghauri's commenced motion to discuss overall performance of PTV and that of Senator Tanveer Khalid to discuss Education Policy were deferred. Motions to be moved by Dr. Shahzad Waseem, Muhammad Akram and Babar Khan Ghauri to discuss housing policy, performance of NHA and performance of the Public Works Department respectively, were also deferred.

However, the Senators expressed their views on a commenced resolution by Senator Babar Ghauri for extension in service of the government servants after superannuation. Ghauri had demanded a complete ban on re-appointment and extension in service of the government employees. Senator Javed Ashraf pleaded to make an amendment in the resolution that extension be granted in cases where there is no substitute for the retiring official and if it is in the best public interest. Senator Khalid Ranjha said this provision was already there in the existing rules. Senator Razzaq Thaheem said there is no harm in extension in services of persons specialising in a particular field. Senator Sarwar Khan Kakar said most of the favourites in every tenure benefit from this law. He said extension trend deprives the youth from employment opportunities and closes doors for new people to deliver. Leader of the House, Waseem Sajjad sought from the Chairman to defer the resolution for some time to make necessary amendments in it and consequently, the resolution was deferred for another day.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 23 December 2003

 

Public Services Need Greater Accountability

A wide-ranging survey of views on public services in Northern Ireland has revealed that the general public believes that there needs to be greater accountability in the current system. The findings were included in a research report published today by the Review of Public Administration (RPA). The report, which was carried out by Research and Evaluation Services (RES), is based on the views and experiences of the general public drawn throughout Northern Ireland. RES organised 24 focus groups attended by 282 people over a six-week period during September and October. The key findings of the report include: o Although people are not always familiar with the bureaucratic details of public administration, the general public does have an understanding of the essential concept of public service. Dissatisfaction with standards in public administration reflects their understanding of what public services ought to be o There is a widespread view among the public that they have an entitlement to quality public services.

This derives from the knowledge that they pay for services through rates and taxes, and a view that there is excessive waste and bureaucracy in the system o A consequence of the sense of entitlement is the acceptance of the need for accountability. People agree with the need for accountability and say they would like to see it extended as far as possible into public life o People feel that they have a right to quick and responsive access to public services, and redress when services are not up to standard o Many people have experienced fast, efficient and flexible service from the private sector, where the needs of the customer or client are foremost.

There is an expectation that the public sector should be copying these methods of delivering services o Although there is some criticism of private sector involvement in public services, the strongest criticism was reserved for privatisation because of the strong perception that it made things worse, that it was poorly managed and supervised, and that it was inefficient and wasteful o Centralisation was identified as an important problem, due to the tension between, on the one hand, the demands of a geographically dispersed population, and on the other, the need to create institutions that are modern and efficient o There was also concern about the large number of bodies that provide public services. This concern usually rested on anxieties about over-expenditure and waste caused by too many public bodies. The outcomes of the discussions were collated and analyzed by RES and form the basis for the report. This research builds on and explores in more detail, previous focus group work carried out by RES on behalf of the RPA team, into the views and experiences of the general public on a series of issues relevant to the Review. (MB)

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 1 December 2003

Problems with New District Offices

Some experts and heads of the country's district offices have warned that public administration might run into chaos related to the recently approved law that is part of the public administration reform. The law abolishes 79 district authorities, replaces them with 50 new offices, and introduces dozens of small specialized administrative units that will deal with agenda such as environmental affairs, transportation issues, social affairs, and land matters. The respective ministries will administer these specialized offices, the Slovak daily Pravda wrote on November 25. But several heads of the current districts confirmed for the daily that they were still unclear about how many employees the new offices would have. Štefan Farkaš, head of the Nitra district office, said to Pravda: "We don't know how many people will leave the office." According to Interior Ministry spokesman Boris Ažaltovic, the staff numbers are clear. He also said that those offices that fall under the Interior Ministry would start working without any problems.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, 1 December 2003

Rebalancing Act

The civil service has a staid image, but will the management culture change with a planned injection of 'professionalism'? The blithe tradition of Whitehall's administrative amateurism - trying to run mega departments of state without trained finance, human resources, IT and project specialists - is now under heavy assault from the very top of the civil service chain of command. Sir Andrew Turnbull, cabinet secretary and titular head of the civil service, wants to inject "new professionalism" into departments. Revamped corporate management boards are to run them, and they will feature a new breed of specialist with professional qualifications in personnel and financial management. The word from the Cabinet Office is that the civil service does policy advice to ministers well enough. What it needs are certified finance, HR, communications and strategic management skills - and the people with them have to have a bigger say in running things. Departments are to be "rebalanced". "Are these professional skills positioned in the organisation so that they have the influence and authority they require?" Turnbull asked in a contribution to a recent seminar convened by the House of Commons public administration committee. His answer has taken the form of a round-robin to existing principal finance officers across Whitehall, promising a major upgrade in their status.

He has already gone public on the creation of a new permanent secretary to head the government information and communication service, post-Alastair Campbell. Turnbull intends to use the coincidental departure of three senior people, with Whitehall-wide responsibilities, to cement the changes. Sir Andrew Likierman, head of the government accountancy service, and de facto senior adviser on financial management, retires in the spring, along with Sir Peter Gershon, head of the Office of Government Commerce, while Andrew Pindar, the so-called e-envoy and de facto head of IT in government, is moving also. Their replacements are to act as whizzy "heads of profession", insisting that throughout the administrative empire there are self-confident and senior people with a strong sense of professional identity in project management, IT and finance (perhaps leading in time to a higher profile for Whitehall's lawyers and statisticians). If they are baulked in their department, the idea is that they can mobilise their professional allies to secure change. With HR, things are not so clear cut.

Departmental HR chiefs will have a relationship with the team in Turnbull's own domain specialising in personnel - the corporate development group, currently headed by Alice Perkins. Reaction to the proposals has so far been positive, especially from bodies representing the professions affected. Steve Freer, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, says: "Strong and effective financial management is particularly important if organisations are to deliver continuous improvements in efficiency. Back-office functions such as finance and HR may be out of the sight of service users, but their impact on the quality of services can be tremendous." It would probably be over-egging it to ascribe to Turnbull a "vision" of some new Whitehall. What he is saying sounds similar to the critique of Whitehall offered by Sir Michael Bichard, the man passed over (along with Turnbull) when Tony Blair picked Richard Wilson to be cabinet secretary in 1997. But, whatever its provenance, Turnbull's plan involves a marked shift in Whitehall's centre of gravity. If the Blair mantra remains "delivery, delivery, delivery", Turnbull's take on it, as the civil servant responsible for the machine, is "capacity, capacity, capacity". Turnbull wants to be known for refitting the way Whitehall is managed.

Turnbull's critique is reminiscent of what Sir Derek Rayner said when he was appointed efficiency adviser by Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. It even echoes paragraphs in the Fulton report - the plan for civil service reform commissioned by Labour prime minister Harold Wilson in the late 1960s. Inertia and rearguard action by top civil servants saw both of them off. This time round, reform is to be owned jointly by all the permanent secretaries and will be embedded in the "performance partnerships" agreed between Whitehall departments and the Cabinet Office. And where does the Treasury - itself a Whitehall department that traditionally has been undermanaged - fit into the plan? On these pages a few weeks ago, we captured the frustration of former Treasury official Lucy de Groot at the absence of proper personnel management there. Still, Turnbull does want to make his tenure of Whitehall's top job distinctive. He kept a remarkably low profile during the Hutton inquiry, though he is preparing a civil service response to its findings. Instead of grandstanding, he has been in the engine room. He is grappling with the consequences of raising the retirement age. There is a new scheme for picking the permanent secretaries of the future while they are in their early 30s, and grooming them by means of secondments and special training. But what are the prospects of overturning 150 years of amateurism, and teaching Whitehall respect for managerial skills, especially in personnel and finance? If Turnbull succeeds there, he will enter the history books.

From Guardian, UK, by David Walker, 2 December 2003

Tory 'Passports' to Better Services

The Scottish Conservatives plan to introduce individual "passports" to public services in an effort to improve them. Party leader David McLetchie said the drive would give greater education and health care choices to parents and patients. Mr. McLetchie said the reform package would "dramatically improve" standards in public services. He will unveil the proposals during a lecture to the Conservative Policy Forum in Edinburgh on Thursday. Under the proposals, sick people would receive a "patient's passport" enabling them to seek treatment outside the NHS. A "better schools passport" would also enable parents to have children educated at the school of their choice. Speaking before the lecture, Mr. McLetchie said the Tories were committed to empowering people using public services. He said: "Parents will be empowered by their passport to take effectively the cost of the state education to an existing school which can expand its role to take others in. "The passport will create a network of independently-run state-funded schools which will give far greater choice to parents in Scotland than they have at present." Mr. McLetchie said the Tories wanted to see a proportion of private care funded by the NHS. He said: "It's the taxpayers' money to give the NHS to people who deserve it and who aren't getting it at the moment from a service that is failing them."

From BBC News, UK, 4 December 2003

Parliament Adopts Public Finance Administration and Inspection Law

Ankara - The parliament adopted on Wednesday night the law that re-arranged public administration and inspection in public sector. The law foresees effective, economic and productive use of public sources in line with policies and targets mentioned in development plans and programmes, and it aims to control financial supervision, accounting all financial proceedings in order to ensure financial transparency. According to the law, financial administration will be in integrated harmony and will be carried out in that form. Public opinion will be informed about the method of acquisition and use of all sorts of public sources. The principles of ''financial transparency and the need to make accounting for'' will be taken into consideration in use of public sources. Incentives and subsidies to be given will be made public and public accounts will be formed in line with standard accounting order.

Authorized institutions and persons will make accounting for the acquisition and use of public sources. All public institutions excluding State Economic Enterprises (SEEs) will submit their budget estimations to the parliament. Public administrations will not make expenses beyond the allocations covered by their budgets and they will not undertake any tasks if there is no allocation for that in their budgets. According to the newly adopted law, all public institutions will prepare activity reports every year and account for the things they did and they could not at the end of that year. The law also takes special incomes within the scope of the budget and the scope of the inspection by the Supreme Council of Public Accounts (Council of Audit) is also broadened. The law also prohibits collection of donation or aid by use of public force. The revolving funds and enterprises set up in public administrations will be liquidated until December 31, 2007. The law also canceled the 50-year the Public Accounting Law.

Some articles of the law like the one on ''budget policy, monitoring of expenses and incomes,'' and the article which authorizes Finance Ministry to make the necessary regulations for implementation of the provisions of the law, will go into force when the law is promulgated, and its other provisions will enter into force on January 1, 2005. After the adoption of the law, State Minister Babacan said that public finance would become more transparent as of the year 2005. The regulation brought the three-year budget concept, Babacan said adding that ''next year hopefully we will submit a three-year budget bill to the parliament. The budget will also be one which erases six zeros from Turkish Lira.'' Babacan added that the economy administration reached an important turning point with the adoption of the law.

From Turkish Press, Turkey, 11 December 2003

Public Administration: Cabinet OKs Regulations for Managers

Rome - The Cabinet has approved a set of rules that regulates the organisation and the role of managers working for the state or autonomously. In particular the procedure and the classification process of managers in the first and second group which were inserted in the single role, which had already been suspended. The regulations, which will be analysed by the State Council, also gives managers the option to use people who do not work for the state. The Cabinet also passed Minister Mazzella's approval that authorises ARAN to start talks with the unions to pay out holiday pay to university workers. This pay is a partial initial payment of the amounts that will be defined in the 2002-2005 4-year contract, taking into account the scheduled inflation. "I am very pleased - said the Minister for the Public Administration Luigi Mazzella - with the approval by the Cabinet of two important laws relating to the civil service. These two laws are the result of the efforts of my department during the past twelve months. But we will continue to do more".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 12 December 2003

150 French Public Administration Students & Staff Briefed on ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games

Some 150 French Public Administration students and staff took part in the three-day seminar on "The Olympic Games: International, Cultural and Administrative aspects", jointly organised by the Public Administration School in Greece and the Institut Régional d'Administration (Bastia, France) as part of educational exchanges and obligations to other EU member-states. ATHENS 2004 staff briefed the 150 French participants on the various preparatory stages, participation, and cooperation with other public administrative bodies as regards organisation. ATHENS 2004 International Relations General Manager, Dionyssis Gangas, spoke about the administrative and organisational scheme. Volunteers General Manager, Dimitris Caramitsos-Tziras, presented the Olympic Games Volunteers Programme. Sports Planning and Operations Manager, Eleni Michopoulou, spoke about sports administration, and Communications Section Manager, Sakis Kostaris, about ATHENS 2004 Communications. The ATHENS 2004 Paralympic Games General Manager, Ioanna Karyofylli, presented in detail the preparations for what, in terms of size, is the second largest world sports and cultural event to be hosted by Greece in 2004. The 150 French participants found the seminar particularly interesting and at the end of the three-day session asked many questions, mainly about administrative, sponsor, image and volunteer matters.

From Athens 2004 (press release), Greece, 12 December 2003

 

Text of Governor's Address at Leadership Summit

Governor unveiled slogan: "Oregon. We Love Dreamers." Here are the complete remarks given by Gov. Ted Kulongoski at Monday's "Business Leadership Summit": Thank you Senator Smith for your introduction and support for today's Business Leadership Summit. While we are here on the same stage, I also want to thank you for another contribution. I recently appointed your state director, Kerry Tymchuk, as chairman of Oregon's Lottery Commission. This is meaningful for me - for all of us - for at least three important reasons. First, Kerry Tymchuk brings great talent to our efforts in state government, and his appointment rounds out a transformation underway at that critical agency since I took office. Second, with Kerry overseeing the Lottery, I can now direct people with concerns about the state budget to your office, Senator Smith. But third, and most importantly, Kerry's role is one of many signs of the collaboration that we have seen in Oregon in the last year - starting, I believe, with last year's Summit.

We have faced a number of challenges in Oregon, and these challenges, and the conflicts surrounding them, tend to dominate the front pages of our newspapers. But in my view the real news is the successful collaboration we have seen on a number of fronts, in ways big and small, with citizens coming together for a common purpose. I have seen it traveling Southern Oregon with Congressman Greg Walden, in conversations with Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden about job creation opportunities, in our work with Gary Locke to facilitate Channel Deepening in an environmentally sound way, in our successful bipartisan efforts to convince the Bush Administration to clean up a festering Superfund site in the Portland Harbor, in the generosity of Dan Wieden, one of the most sought after talents in the world, who has focused so much time and energy in crafting a new branding campaign for Oregon, in the talent that has raced into the public arena. For example, our new five-member PERS board, which includes three talented members of the business community - James Dalton of Tektronix, Mike Pittman of Scottish Power, and Eva Kripalani, all new to government service, and now sitting side by side with a school teacher and a member of my cabinet to bring new accountability to government.

And yes, I have seen it in the efforts of many talented state employees who have made great sacrifices and contributions in an effort to serve Oregonians and turn this state around. And of course, I have seen it in the many successes achieved in the last 11 months with the help of people in this room. It is often said that Oregon is at a crossroads. Maybe - but I think it is more accurate to say we have encountered a series of significant crossroads in recent years. I think if Andy Grove of Intel was governor of Oregon, he might well look around and describe our situation using words similar to those he applied to Intel in his book, Only the Paranoid Survive. In that book, he talks about Intel struggling through a "Strategic Inflection Point." "A strategic inflection point," Grove writes, "is when the balance of forces shifts from the old structure, from the old ways of doing business and the old ways of competing, to the new." We are not simply at a crossroads, but in the midst of a long-term economic transformation. Where once most of our jobs were tied to the land in this state, we now see jobs and capital fly across borders with increasing ease and speed. Think about it: In my first six months as governor, I traveled to China to try to create job opportunities for Oregon farmers. When Tom McCall became governor, Richard Nixon had not even been to China and kicked open the door to trade that now has such a profound effect on us.

As I have said before, in this state we have too often focused on internal competition - Democrats vs. Republicans, the House vs. the Senate, the governor vs. the legislature, rural vs. urban - when all around us the evidence is mounting that we MUST collaborate to focus on our external competition in an increasingly challenging global economy Obviously we have our share of differences in this state, and we engage in many debates, often heated. We will now, no doubt, see more of that as an effort is made to repeal our balanced budget. But I still maintain that Oregon is one of the few states where you can be an optimist in the political arena, and where people of all persuasions can come together to solve great challenges. In just two of such efforts I have led - PERs reform and Worker's Comp reform in the late 1980's - we have saved Oregonians roughly $20 Billion. Billion, not Million. Look for a state that has saved more for its citizens - you can't find one.
We cannot control most world events, and we cannot control global competition. But we can control how we react to the changes around us, and to one another. We can control whether or not we collaborate to build bridges, or whether we go our own ways and tear bridges down. This Summit, I think, is in the finest Oregon tradition, because it is fundamentally about building bridges. It is about collaboration in the pursuit of opportunity. Maintaining that tradition of collaboration - that continuity - in the midst of the change involved in a Strategic Inflection Point is a challenge, but one that is clearly ours to control.

Albert Einstein once famously said: "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." And he proved the point himself by coming up with a formula that almost everyone is familiar with: E = MC2. I have a formula of my own: O = C + E2. I modestly thought of calling this Ted's Theory of Prosperity. But a better name is simply: The Oregon Equation, because it is not just a reflection of my views, but a reflection of this state at its best. The Oregon Equation means: If we pursue economic opportunity, focus on our children, and maintain our livability, Oregon will thrive. The Oregon Equation also means that the elements of our future success are intertwined. For example, we cherish the livability and quality of life here in Oregon; but the recession has been a harsh reminder that having a job - a rising income -- is itself a critical part of livability and affording what we aspire to as a state. At the same time, we cannot jettison our lasting commitment to the environment any time there is an opportunity to make a short term economic return. Ultimately that is self-defeating. Not only does it destroy one thing that draws so many to this state, but in the long run stifles economic opportunity for all of us. You can find a prime example of this several hundred yards away from this building, in a Superfund Site we call the Willamette River. Prime real estate that could contribute to economic opportunity and our quality of life has been sidetracked for years by contamination. That is why I worked so hard to find the money from the Bush administration to finish the clean up at the McCormick and Baxter site in North Portland.

As for children's role in the equation, it should go without saying that the future of any state is only as good as the future of its children. To prepare ourselves for economic opportunity, we must prepare our children for it. If our children don't have health care, or safe communities, how can they thrive in school? And if they do not thrive in school, how will they ever find or keep a job, much less ever start a business? And even if they are prepared to thrive in school, but can't find a world class program in our post-secondary system, how can we possibly entice them to stay in Oregon and build a future here? Finally, though, think about how we can best provide for our children. Yes, the government has an important role, particularly in the areas of education and health, but more fundamentally, we must provide economic opportunity for parents, so that they can prepare their own children for success. The Oregon Equation is about both focus and balance. You see it in the actions I have taken as governor, in my budget priorities, and in the initiatives I have undertaken, from shaking up higher education, to cleaning up the McCormick & Baxter Superfund site, to launching a Children's Charter for Oregon. And yes, you see it in our balanced budget, which I know many of you did not like and which now may be repealed. Contrary to the rhetoric you may hear, no one ever likes to raise taxes. For me it was a last resort, when I found both Republicans and business people coming to me expressing in their own words the Oregon Equation.

The Depression Era corporate minimum tax - set at $10 - they said, should be raised because we owe our children - and their parents - a full school year. The cigarette tax should be extended, both because we need to provide health care to children, and because if we don't that will just increase costs for private insurers and ultimately private sector employers. Let me be clear, though. While I think it is a mistake - and a disruptive distraction for this state - to tear down the bridge that Republicans and Democrats built together, along with representatives of business and labor, I also know that Oregon and the Oregon Equation will move forward and ultimately thrive even though we are about to engage in a divisive debate. Focus and balance. I fully intend to continue on the path I set out for you a year ago. The long-term success of this state requires raising incomes and raising healthy and educated children, not raising income taxes. The Oregon Equation is about preserving the past - our quality of life; building the present - our economy; and securing the future - our children. Oregon is a special place. I think that is reflected in The Oregon Equation. It is also, in a slightly different way, reflected in one of the most exciting economic initiatives I have been working on. That is, the one we call "Brand Oregon." You know, CEOs around the globe long to get time with Dan Wieden and his creative team. I had reached the point in my career where I figured I'd never be CEO of a major footwear company and have the opportunity to work closely with Dan, but I was half-wrong. As you are seeing today, Dan has come forward with a major contribution - one that is really unprecedented for a state.

Brand Oregon is not about public policy - let's be clear: it is about making money and creating jobs for Oregonians. It is a business strategy. But the underpinning, in many respects, is the same idealism that underpins the Oregon Equation. Oregon is a special place in part because we aspire to be a special place. We dare to dream and we embrace people who dare to dream. As Bobby Kennedy used to say, quoting Aeschylus, "some men see things that are and ask why; I dream things that never were and ask "why not?" In many respects that sums up Oregon and the branding campaign. It is about idealism and the dream of a better future for our families, our friends, our employees and our state. I said that Brand Oregon is about making money. Dan and Debby Kennedy will tell you much more, but let me give you a preview of why this is so innovative It is not just that we have world class talent pitching in. Other states can try to match that. What is different is that we are leveraging efforts across the state in a coordinated campaign that serves multiple economic goals. Many states have tourism campaigns. Oregon has long had one - and by the way, we're now in a much better position because we put together a new tourism promotion fund with the aid of the lodging industry and local governments. Brand Oregon is intended in part to create a new effort that will indeed promote tourism and fill restaurants and hotels with paying customers.

But the creative work is also designed in a way that it can be used to promote Oregon products and enhance business recruitment. A great example is the seafood industry, which can use its own money - not state government funds - to tap into Dan's creative work to enhance sales of an Oregon commodity. At the same time, the money spent by seafood industry, because it uses the same team and creative work, will reinforce the branding that is intended to draw tourists to Oregon. Brand Oregon is Oregon style innovation. It is about leveraging the dollars already spent so that they go farther and create more opportunity. Rest assured, though, that Brand Oregon is but one tool in the toolbox. Ads and branding are helpful and important, but fundamentally, a brand is a promise about the product we in Oregon have to offer, and it is a promise we must deliver on. And one of those promises is the promise we are all here today to focus on, the continuing work to enhance our economic environment. As you are hearing from others today, great work has been done already to improve our economic environment. I am confident that because of our efforts together in the past year, Oregon is a better place to grow a business than it was when we first met, and I firmly believe that a year from now we should be even further along toward our goals.

Much of this is because of a consistent focus on the fundamentals, fundamentals that are intended to help Oregonians compete in the world. Let me address just a few of the things we are working on in addition to Brand Oregon. I recently announced that former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt will lead a new board of higher education, bringing new energy and determination to our post-secondary education efforts. It is about time. There are many surprises in the public policy arena, but one of the biggest surprises to me over the years is this: opinion leaders from business, economics, labor and elsewhere have agreed for years that an investment in post-secondary education is a critical component of economic opportunity. Yet, this is one area that we have consistently shortchanged in Oregon. While the budget boomed in Oregon in the mid to late 1990s, we still shifted resources away from higher education, the one clear engine for future economic growth. In 2001-2003, we actually provided less money to higher education than Neil Goldschmidt did when he was governor more than a decade earlier. This disinvestment must change. That's why I've established four critical long-term objectives for higher education. They are: Reconnect post-secondary education to its core mission: Access for all qualified Oregon students. Demand excellence so that our graduates become highly prized in the global economy.

Target higher education dollars to programs that drive economic opportunity and other statewide objectives. And reverse the decade long trend of disinvestment, and pursue a strategy of reinvestment in post-secondary education. Changing this course is a long-term effort. In the short-run, following February's vote, we could see further cuts to this critical system. But we must start now to work on our long-term objectives, with an eye to the economy we need to build ten, twenty and thirty years from now. I believe this to my core. I do not just believe it is important, I know it is from my own personal experience. Many decades ago some forward thinkers in this country created the GI Bill, which is the reason a young former Marine named Kulongoski was able to work his way up from driving a truck and laying bricks on an open-hearth furnace to Oregon's Supreme Court and ultimately the governor of this great state. As some of you may know, I only testified on one bill during the entire legislative session. That was Senate Bill 644, which would have created a fund called ASET - the Access Scholarships for Education Trust - to help qualified Oregon residents pay their tuition at an Oregon institution of higher learning. ASET did not make it to my desk. That was unfortunate. But I am determined to keep the issue of access to post-secondary education front and center. I want you to help us with this effort. And when you do, take a broad view of post-secondary education. This is not only about our university system. It is about a renewed commitment to our system of community colleges and to workforce training.

It is about giving Oregonians the opportunity to learn throughout life so that they can succeed in a changing marketplace and provide themselves with the skills they need to compete in a global economy. It is not only about creating engineers, but training employees who can turn out rail cars at Gunderson or trucks at Freightliner. If there is one thing I hear consistently from businesses everywhere it is this: help to provide us with a skilled work force that can help us to compete. That is why we have already redirected our workforce development efforts, directing a new workforce development fund toward the needs of Oregon's private sector. The new fund that I recently created is not large enough, but it is a solid and important beginning that will pay dividends for Oregonians and Oregon businesses. Developing skills and brainpower in Oregon is critical for future economic development. As I often remind myself, many of the important economic engines in this state weren't recruited to Oregon. They were Oregon born. Nike is just one shining example. But even if we create the next generation of entrepreneurs in our schools, and strive for the most adaptable and skilled workforce, we will only be successful if we continue our commitment to other fundamentals. Of those, transportation, needs to be at the forefront. After years of unproductive wrangling in this state, this year we collaborated on a tremendous transportation package that will be the largest public works project in Oregon since the interstate was built.

If your employees cannot get to work safe and on time, and if we can't help you get your goods to market, then this state will not prosper. Businesses in this state need a comprehensive transportation strategy. And I promise you - that is what I have been working to deliver - a multi-modal transportation system that can put Oregon on the leading edge of international competition. You have already seen significant successes this year. In addition to the road and bridge package, we made great progress toward deepening the Columbia River channel and I have personally spent a great deal of time and energy with Bill Wyatt at the Port of Portland to build our direct international air connections - to Europe, then to Mexico, and - knock on wood - to Asia. Next year we're going to redouble our efforts to target the state's rail, marine and aviation systems - all of which are vital to moving Oregon products to domestic and foreign markets. Oregon is uniquely situated to be a gateway to the world, as well as a gateway to the United States for inbound passengers and goods. But that only works if we are consistently working to build our multimodal transportation systems. Already the efforts and investments we have made in this state are giving us new economic advantages over California and Washington, where similar investments are not being made.

Last year, I promised you that I would refocus our economic development department toward job creation activities, and with great help from Marty Brantley, my director, and Jack Isselmann, the department deputy, we have done that. But as you can tell from my statements about education and transportation, I take a broad view of economic development. It is not just one department that needed to focus on creating economic opportunity. It is a message I have been spreading through my cabinet, and we are seeing the results. The Department of Agriculture is more than a regulatory agency, but a partner with agriculture in helping to market our commodities to the world. Other departments, from Consumer and Business Affairs, to Transportation, to the Department of Environmental Quality, have been engaged in regulatory streamlining and customer service initiatives intended to make state government more of a partner with the citizens of this state, without abandoning their fundamental missions. One area where we have made progress but need much more is in the area of land use. We made great strides in creating opportunity for industrial land development, and there are already many Oregonians who have jobs as a result. On that score, just look to Hood River, where Cardinal Glass has established a new facility on an abandoned mill site, all facilitated by actions we took in the first few months of my administration.

But that is just a beginning. Our land use system has provided great value to this state, but it also generates more than its share of frustrations for Oregonians. We need to strive to make it simpler, more certain and less costly, all of which we should be able to do while preserving our core values. I am committed to seeing that Oregon has a workable land use system. A speech to this group is not complete without addressing public finance. I do not like our tax code, and I am certain that at any given time, throughout Oregon's history, most Oregonians would say they do not like the tax code, even as they have repeatedly voted against efforts to reform it. I am all for addressing reform, but I do not come before you today with The Answer. In fact, I come before you in part to say that I think we need to do a better job focusing on what The Question is. The term Tax Reform in many ways has become a political inkblot, a Rorschach test, in which each person seems to see either their greatest hopes or fears. One person looks at the inkblot and sees a tax reduction, while another sees an opportunity for a tax increase. One sees opportunities for job creation, while another sees job destruction. One sees fairness, while another sees imbalance. One sees a massive overhaul of our tax system with all aspect of our tax code shifted around on the table like a puzzle, while another sees modest tweaks for our existing system.

The mantra I hear most often is that we need Tax Reform to raise more money for government and to provide more stability for services and programs. And that Mantra, to me, underscores why we need to think about The Question, not just The Tax Reform Answer. However much I may dislike aspects of our tax code, I think the first question we need to ask is not whether our tax code needs improvement - of course it does - but whether we should be first focused on Fiscal Reform. In other words, should we focus always on how we raise money, how we can get more money, or on how we spend it? Let me give you examples of some of my priorities, which I think will underscore why I believe we need to think more broadly about the question we are asking. Our tax system is volatile, but before I would look to tax code stability - which no state has figured out - because I think it is critical to think about the creation of political stability. Some people have said that our troubles in the last couple of years are due to the fact that the legislature spent every last nickel during the boom of the 90's. It is not just that every nickel was spent. The state actually BORROWED on top of it. Whatever tax code you have, I guarantee if you spend every nickel and borrow on top of that, you will not have stability and the state will suffer. That is a fiscal issue. Even as I desire a better tax system, Fiscal Reform is a critical step that precedes sweeping tax reform.

That is why I have been so adamant about creating a "pay as you go" budget policy, avoiding accounting trickery and borrowing. That simply costs us in the long run. That is why I changed the approach to budgeting so that we don't start with continuing service levels and just keep building on top of them. And that is why I think a top priority of people in this audience should be working with Republican Senator Frank Morse on his proposal to create a rainy day fund in the state budget. That is the measure that should have been on the ballot for voters this year. Let me also address another aspect of fiscal reform, but let me do it with an analogy that I hope you in business will appreciate. Imagine that I come to you with a business opportunity for you to invest in. And then imagine if I describe the opportunity this way: 1. I have set up a corporation to deliver a product. 2. I am CEO of the parent corporation, and we have 198 subsidiaries. 3. Each subsidiary has an independent board of directors. I have no say in the selection or removal of any director. 4. Each subsidiary hires its own CEO, without consulting with me. 5. Each subsidiary enters into its own business arrangements, including establishing its own health plan. 6. The product specs, and quality control, are provided by a sister corporation that has a CEO that does not report to me. 7.

As CEO of the parent, I am accountable to all the shareholders, and I am responsible for paying the bills for the subsidiaries. All current liabilities are rolled up to the parent - but I have little control over the assets. 8. And when customers have complaints, they don't bring the product back to the subsidiary where they bought it - they bring it to me to fix. Yes, I have all of the long-term liabilities. What I have just described is the actual governance structure for K-12 education in Oregon, which is 40 percent of our state general fund budget. Think about it: I am asking you to invest in this critical business, a business for which there is such great demand, but my ability to direct spending, policy, or outcomes is severely limited. If this truly was a business, would you invest in it, or would you tell me to go see a corporate lawyer and get my governance structure fixed? Well this is a critical part of fiscal reform that we need to address in this state, and it has been a festering issue since Measure 5 severed the link between local taxes and school spending. I urge you to look at this, and think about whether this governance structure was what the voters intended in passing Measure 5, or whether anyone in his or her right mind would create this kind of governance structure, sever most ties of accountability, and expect it to be fiscally accountable.

I cannot provide you the Answer for this today. I attempted to start to provide part of the answer during the legislative session, when I worked with Republican Max Williams to at least begin pooling health insurance for our 198 school districts - with an expected savings of $100 million per biennium - but we fell one vote short of success in the Senate. And let me give you one last example of fiscal reform. Across this state there are Oregon State Police troopers who are putting their lives at risk providing security for Oregonians. In many rural areas in particular the troopers are a critical component of law enforcement. Yet those troopers have consistently had a pink slip hanging over their heads, just as those communities have their public safety hanging in the balance as our bipartisan balanced budget may now be repealed. Like the school governance structure, this is not just a short term problem that demands Tax Reform as a fix. This has been a trend since the state police were removed from the Highway Trust Fund roughly twenty years ago, left to compete against schools when Measure 5 transferred school funding responsibility to the state. That is why I worked so hard to get the state police put back into the highway trust fund, a stable and predictable revenue source, an effort that was stifled by legislators in the House in the final hours of our session.

Think of these examples: the rainy day fund, school governance, the state police, and ask yourself whether any is solved by the various forms of Tax Reform that are typically bandied about. These are not issues simply of getting more money. They are issues of reforming the way we do business as a state. Do I believe in reform? Absolutely. Do I believe there must be accountability between those who pay and those who spend? Absolutely. Do I believe we must give elected officials the power to make decisions and the responsibility to stand up and be held accountable for those decisions? Absolutely! Step by step, that is what we have been trying to bring about. Do I think our budget and economic issues will be solved by sitting at a table and rearranging our tax code? Even in a perfect world, that can only be a part of the picture, particularly if we do not address the fiscal issues that have been brewing in this state for more than a decade. I want to close by reading to you part of an email that Dan Wieden wrote as he was contemplating our state's brand: "Oregonians want to see what is really possible, not just probable. We want to surprise. We want to shock the world.

We don't just want jobs, we want quality jobs of the first order. We want to grow the ultimate pear, the sweetest cherry, the superior grasses, the must luscious seafood. This level of expectation we carry around with us can make us pretty self-critical at times, but it powers a will to succeed, to do what few thought possible. As a state, we cannot compete any other way." Dan is of course writing about the product that Oregon has to offer, but this can also be a description of our state's politics, if we want it to be. This is a state of innovation, a state where one person or a handful of people can make a difference and change the course of our future. It is a state where people of all parties can collaborate for the common good, particularly when we focus on the very real competition outside our borders. I understand that the last few years have been difficult for many Oregonians who planted their dreams here.

But to anyone in this state who ever had a dream: I say the call of Oregon is louder and more hopeful than it is has ever been. That is because of your hard work over the last year, the hard work and sacrifice of the people of Oregon, and the proven success of The Oregon Equation. We can't rest on our progress. And we can't close our minds to further change in the way we do business. But today we can look in the rearview mirror and see the hard times fading behind us, and then look ahead to much better times not far down the road. We live, by nature's grace, in a place of unmatched beauty. So we are all fortunate to call Oregon our home. But Oregon also has a way of calling us. It calls to our sense of social responsibility. It calls to our sense of adventure and exploration. It calls to our belief in hard work and a better tomorrow. I heard that call when I came here over 30 years ago with a family, a dream - and not much more. All Oregonians have dreams. That's one reason why the tag line for Brand Oregon is - Oregon: We love dreamers.

From Bend.com, OR, 2 December 2003

Anti-spam Bill: Public Policy or Public Relations?

Although the president is expected to sign off on the image-friendly anti-spam bill, many industry experts say the legislation is more public relations than public policy. The House of Representatives and Senate have batted the Can Spam Act back and forth in recent months. On Nov. 25, the Senate made a minor revision to the House's Nov. 22 version. Sources say the House is expected to approve the bill within a week, propelling it to President George W. Bush's office before the end of the year. Under the bill, mass e-mailers are held liable for civic fines of up to $250 per e-mail if they hide their identities. It also allows the Federal Trade Commission to create a "do not e-mail" registry, similar to the popular list intended to block unwanted telemarketing calls. But Pete Wellborn, an Internet attorney with Atlanta's Wellborn & Butler LLC, said spam is already illegal - punishable under such provisions as trespass or computer fraud laws. He and others prefer a more aggressive bill that makes all unsolicited commercial e-mail illegal, as seen under California law. Under the House and Senate versions, only misrepresentation of identity is illegal. "The law is meaningless," Wellborn said. He accuses Congress of conceding to the direct marketing lobby while at the same time trying to look good for the public. "We really don't need this law. It's awful. Congress should be ashamed of itself."

That echoes the feelings of many experts from Atlanta to Anaheim. Legislation is largely desired by businesses, large and small, and individuals, tech-savvy and not-so-tech-savvy. The problem is that spammers can bounce their e-mails from offshore servers, making them invisible. In addition, analysts say it would be virtually impossible to investigate and enforce all the complaints, which could range in the thousands - daily - if attorneys general are allowed to prosecute. "The practicality is, there's no way to enforce it," said Matt Springfield, a Dallas-based independent security consultant. "It's a feel-good bill." Nonetheless, some major Atlanta businesses are cheering the act, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. said the measure could eventually save the company millions. Computer security firm CipherTrust Inc. said the bill is part of a three-pronged attack on spam: technology, education and legislation. United Parcel Service Inc. also supports the bill. But Wellborn points out that ISPs like EarthLink have been very successful suing spammers under existing state and federal laws. In fact, he can't think of any unsuccessful suit by any ISP.

EarthLink has sued more than 100 spammers. Most notably, the ISP last year won a $24 million suit against Kahn Smith, aka the "Genghis Spammer." The suit is believed to be the largest such victory ever. Even UPS has joined the fray. The company is in the discovery phase of litigation against several unnamed defendants who allegedly used UPS' e-mail system to send sexually explicit messages to its customers. Dave Baker, vice president of law and public policy for EarthLink, is aware of the federal government's daunting task of enforcing anti-spam laws. But he said the bill has a little more bite than many think. It's difficult to find pro-spammers. Even the most staunch skeptics say the government has to do something to curb the practice, which is estimated to cost the average business $2.5 million annually. The costs arise in increased bandwidth and storage, anti-spam and virus protection, decreased productivity and, in some cases, litigation. Michael Botos, a Chicago-based consultant for corporate strategy firm Strategos Inc., said spam has gotten a bad rap. He proposes a new class of "spam brokers" to narrow-cast spam to people who might actually want it. Research shows that 2 percent of the population respond to such messages. Research also shows that 61 percent of all business e-mails are unsolicited. Some carry computer viruses. Some are pornographic. Yet others are just a nuisance.

From MSNBC, by Justin Rubner, 29 November 2003

Public Servants Duck Integrity Act - But Only for Short While

Hundreds of senior public officials escaped yesterday, the requirement by law to declare their assets for the year 2002, as initially required by the Integrity Act. However, this will only be shortlived. Their escape yesterday came via a loophole created by Government's failure to have the declaration forms approved by both Houses of Parliament before Sunday's deadline for filing declarations. However, Government is seeking to rectify the situation by amending the Act to make the declarations retroactive. The last time persons under the Integrity Act declared their assets to the Integrity Commission was in 1999. Although the forms were recently brought to Parliament, it was too late for senior public officials to declare their assets before Sunday's deadline. According to the Integrity in Public Life Act, a person in public life must declare his/her assets within three months of entering office and subsequently on May 31 every year. The Act allows the Integrity Commission the authority to extend that time by a period not exceeding six months.

Government is now required to amend the Integrity Act to make the declaration of assets retroactive to the year 2000, and to also give the Commission the authority to extend the period of time for declarations. Prime Minister Patrick Manning has also given the Government's commitment to amending the Act. Persons required to declare their assets include all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, members of the Tobago House of Assembly, judges and magistrates, as well as members of Statutory Authorities. According to the declaration forms, these persons must declare eight different sources of income including salaries, benefits from employment and income from dividends. They are also required to state the value of their property, unit trust and mutual funds, company shares, stock and life insurance policies under Assets. The office of the Attorney General has stated that the expiration of the date will not be significant when government amends the Act.

From Newsday, Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago, 2 December 2003

Weinberg Private-Public Partnership Unanimously Rejected

Frederick, MD - Frederick City's historic Weinberg Center for the Arts will not be operated by the theater's Board of Directors, at least not for now. In a unanimous vote, Frederick's Mayor and Board of Aldermen rejected the Weinberg's offer to create a public-private partnership. The Weinberg board had asked for $1.6-million in city funds over the next five years, but city officials balked at the proposal. Alderman Donna Ramsburg went so far as to call the theater a "money pit." Since negotiations began in July, all but one of the theater's full-time staff-members have resigned, leaving the center running at an $80,000 surplus. Weinberg board members warn that surplus will disappear as the theater's bills arrive. Now, the city and the center are left with no operational agreement and a lot of questions, questions that need to be answered as soon as possible. Weinberg Board Member Carole Powell said, "the solutions have to happen over the next few months, and I think that if we get to the end of February and we have not resolved this, we all are going to be remiss." Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said, "I would prefer that we hunker down and operate the theater as a community theater and as we have been." For the time being, the mayor will get her wish. The Weinberg will continue to be operated by the city pending another public-private offer. Earlier this year, the city tried to negotiate a deal that would have handed control of the theater to a member of the private sector, but those talks quickly broke down.

From WHAG-TV, MD, by Amanda Mallonee, 11 December 2003

New Scholarship for Public Administration and Political Science Students

Gilles Patry announces the creation of a Jean Chrétien Scholarship Fund at the 2003 Liberal Convention. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's political career will be one not soon forgotten by the University of Ottawa. The Jean Chrétien Scholarship Fund of the University of Ottawa was announced by Gilles Patry, rector and vice chancellor of the University of Ottawa at the 2003 Liberal Convention held on Nov 13. In his address to the Prime Minister, Patry said that many of the Prime Minister's supporters and members of his caucus encouraged the creation of this fund. The University of Ottawa would match any contributions made to the scholarship. The Jean Chrétien Scholarships will be available to undergraduate students entering their first year at the University of Ottawa in either the public administration or political science programs. Scholarships will be available to students who wish to study in either French or English and will be based on both merit and financial need. The announcement was aired on television and radio. "It was an exciting moment for us to be seen on national television," said David Mitchell, vice-rector, relations at the University of Ottawa. "The Jean Chrétien Scholarships are a wonderful way for Canada's University to commemorate the leadership of Prime Minister Chrétien in a manner that highlights the unique characteristics of the University of Ottawa," he added.

Mitchell explained that the University of Ottawa is the ideal university to honour Prime Minister Chrétien with a scholarship fund because of the university's proximity to Parliament and because of the university's status as a national bilingual institution. He added that although it was not the intent of the scholarship, it does "compliment the branding message of Canada's university." "The goal of the Jean Chrétien Scholarship Fund is to establish an endowment of $500,000," said Bob LeDrew, communications officer for the University of Ottawa. Five eligible students will receive scholarships of $5,000 annually, from five regions across Canada: British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces. Apoorve Chokshi, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, believes that students of the U of O will appreciate the significance of the scholarships. "It's a great thing when the University of Ottawa and a high profile Canadian are mentioned together in the same light," said Chokshi. Chokshi maintained that the establishment of the Jean Chrétien Scholarship fund is a positive addition to the university. "With the high cost of tuition, the value of the scholarship will make students' academic years easier," he said. "Hopefully it's the beginning of more scholarships to come from both the alumni and friends of the University of Ottawa," he added.

From The Fulcrum, Canada, by Joanne Lutfy, 13 December 2003

Hill Briefing: The Politics of Pain Drugs; Public Policy & Patient Access to Effective Pain Treatment

News Advisory: More than 48 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain, according to the National Institutes of Health. Recent high-profile news cases of opioid usage have placed the issue on the front pages, including a debate over dependency vs. addiction, who is "deserving" and who is "undeserving," of opioid treatment, and whether pain patients should be subjected to different standards of personal scrutiny than others. The DEA claims drug diversion has reached crisis proportions, justifying increased investigative initiatives that frequently circumvent the Congressional appropriations process. Physicians are prosecuted and imprisoned, and patients sentenced based on pill counts. Medical research and treatment has made tremendous advances in pain management, but is public policy keeping up? And is law enforcement discouraging patient access to treatment as a result of prosecution of physicians under the Controlled Substances Act? This distinguished panel will examine the current state of pain management, law enforcement initiatives, patient experiences, economic impact of untreated pain, funding sources, sentencing guidelines, H.R. 3015 prescription drug database act, and solutions for cooperation between lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement and the medical community. Contact: Kathryn Serkes, 202-333-3855 or Kathryn@AAPSonline.org, for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons; http://www.aapsonline.org.

From U.S. Newswire (press release), DC, 15 December 2003

Buchanan Lauds Private/public Sector Partnership

The water and housing ministry's joint venture partnership with housing developers has provided 3,700 housing solutions at a cost of $4.3 billion in almost seven years, according to housing minister, Donald Buchanan. "Since its inception (in 1996), the government's housing joint venture programme, which was created to facilitate the ministry's partnership with public, private and international developers to deliver affordable housing solutions, has accelerated and definitely improved the home ownership process," Buchanan noted. He said in addition to the amount of solutions already delivered, projects presently under construction are expected to make 5,640 solutions available by next April. These, he said, are valued at roughly $9 billion. "In addition, there are an additional 12 projects presently being negotiated," the minister said. He was speaking recently at the handing-over ceremony for 44 units in Cambridge Meadows, St James. Under the government's housing joint venture programme, the ministry invests its land and equity and provides technical, administrative and legal services under the provisions of the Housing Act of 1968.

The co-developer, on the other hand, is responsible for leveraging financing, contracting professional services and managing the constructing works for the development. According to Buchanan, since its inception the ministry's joint venture portfolio has accomplished: 12 projects in planning; 32 projects in construction; 17 projects completed. He added that since this year, projects were completed at Angeles Estate 11 in St Catherine, Riverview Estate in St Thomas and Non-Pariel in Westmoreland. The housing minister pointed out that the programme forms a major part of the government's thrust to provide affordable housing to a greater number of Jamaicans. Cambridge Meadows, a $22-million joint venture housing development, offers 107 two-bedroom units at about $2.4 million each. The development, which began in June 2002, rests on 18 acres of land 16 miles south of the tourist resort of Montego Bay. Financed by the Jamaica Mortgage Bank to the tune of $105 million, the project, which is being developed by W A W Developers Limited, also includes 12 commercial lots, a community centre and a playing field. It is scheduled for completion by next April.

From Jamaica Observer, Jamaica, by Mark Cummings, 18 December 2003

Civil Service Board Criticizes Mayor's Veto of Civil Service Act

The Greeneville Civil Service Board called on Mayor Darrell Bryan Thursday afternoon to reconsider his veto of a resolution by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen calling for the state legislature to amend the town's Civil Service Act. The Civil Service Board issued its call for reconsideration at a 4 p.m. news conference called by the board at Greeneville Town Hall. Mayor Bryan had announced on Wednesday that he had vetoed the resolution approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during its Tuesday meeting. He presided at that meeting but did not vote or raise objections to the resolution. He explained Wednesday that he decided to veto the action later Tuesday, after talking about it with City Attorney Ron Woods. When contacted Thursday evening about the Civil Service Board's request for him to reconsider, the mayor said he had no plans to take any further action on the vetoed resolution before the first meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in January. In its 4 p.m. press conference Thursday, Civil Service Board member Brian Bragdon said the resolution needs to be approved more quickly to allow time for the revised Civil Service Act to be submitted to Greeneville's delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly in time for it to be considered for passage as a "private act" during the legislature's 2004 session.

Mayor Bryan also said he would like to see the Civil Service Board meet again with City Attorney Woods to ensure that board members and Woods were in agreement on the legal aspects of the resolution amending the Civil Service Act. Mayor Bryan's veto was the first veto exercised by a Greeneville mayor in 100 years, City Recorder Jim Warner told The Greeneville Sun on Wednesday in response to a question by the newspaper. The resolution to amend the Civil Service Act had been recommended to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen by the Greeneville Civil Service Board in connection with the recent adoption of a new employee handbook for the town's classified employees - those of the Police Department, the Fire Department and the Recorder's Office. Presents Statement - After reading a prepared statement in which he voiced the Civil Service Board's displeasure with the mayor's veto, Civil Service Board Chairman Scott Saulsbury said, in response to a reporter's question, that he had not spoken with Mayor Bryan about the issue before the press conference.

In response to another question about why the Civil Service Board had decided to hold a press conference, Saulsbury said the press conference was chosen over a direct conversation with the mayor because Civil Service Board members first had learned of the mayor's veto through the news media rather than directly from Mayor Bryan. Saulsbury also said the mayor had not contacted him with questions about the Civil Service Act resolution before vetoing it, although contacting him was one alternative suggested to the mayor in a letter from City Attorney Ron Woods. Earlier in the week, the mayor said he vetoed the resolution because he had reservations that some of its wording could be interpreted as transferring authority over determining classified employees' duties and the chain of command from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to the Civil Service Board. "I just wanted to slow the process down to make sure we got everything right," he said. "I don't want to do anything to take power away from the aldermen." The mayor also said he had never been invited by the Civil Service Board to attend any of its meetings and had only received a copy of the resolution a few minutes before last Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. "In retrospect, I wish I had had it (the resolution) taken off the agenda," Bryan said during a Thursday evening telephone interview.

CS Board's Statement - "To say the least, the Civil Service Board is very disappointed with the mayor's decision to veto the resolution for the changes to the Civil Service Act," Saulsbury read from his statement during the press conference at Town Hall. "We are here to provide the classified employees of the Town of Greeneville (fire, police, and recorder) a place to work without the worry of being fired or demoted based on their political affiliation. "On Nov. 18, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen endorsed the new civil service handbook. This handbook is what we used to make changes to the Civil Service Act. "The Civil Service Board has been working on the handbook and act for the past 13 months. During this time, we have met numerous times, and we created over 15 drafts to the handbook. We met with the department heads, the city attorney, and various members of the classified services. "The Civil Service Board believes the new handbook and changes to the act are in the correct format to provide the Town of Greeneville with the best police department, fire department, and recorder's office. "During the past year, the mayor did not attend any of the Civil Service Board meetings or workshops. But during a Thursday evening interview, Mayor Bryan said he had never been invited to attend a Civil Service Board meeting.

"As a result of the mayor's 11th-hour veto, the Civil Service Board is in a predicament," Saulsbury read from the statement on Thursday. "Right now we are operating with a new handbook endorsed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, but with an old (Civil Service) Act. On Dec. 2, and Dec. 16, we (the Civil Service Board) presented the act to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for their approval. "During these meetings and the regular Civil Service (Board) meeting, we discussed the issues brought up by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen with the city attorney and the department heads (Police Chief Mack Jones, Fire Chief Jim Bowman and Recorder Jim Warner)." Police Chief Jones and Recorder Warner attended the Thursday afternoon press conference along with a handful of Town Hall employees. None of the town employees who attended the press conference spoke. Fire Chief Bowman did not attend. Saulsbury continued, "We made all necessary changes to the act that we felt were necessary. As a result, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed the resolution to amend the changes to the Civil Service Act on Dec. 16." Mayor Bryan Disagrees - Mayor Bryan said during a Thursday evening interview that he did not believe that all the changes in the resolution that had been requested earlier by the city attorney had been made.

But Saulsbury said in the Civil Service Board's statement, "The Mayor had numerous opportunities to discuss with our board any issues he felt were important. "As you can read in Mr. (City Attorney Ron) Woods' letter," Saulsbury's statement said, "the mayor had two choices: discuss the issues with me or veto the resolution. I found out (that) he vetoed the resolution from Amy Overbay at The Greeneville Sun." However, again, Mayor Bryan differed with Saulsbury. The mayor stated he had tried to reach Sausbury and had thought that a notice of his veto had been faxed by the city attorney to Saulsbury at the same time it was sent to Greeneville aldermen and the news media. The mayor conceded that it was possible that Saulsbury did not receive a copy of the veto notice. Saulsbury also charged in the statement, "The mayor is trying to circumvent a system that has been used for the past 50 years. The Civil Service Act is here to protect the classified employees for the Town of Greeneville. "Without this system in place, every two-year-term mayor can fire and promote at will.

Again, the mayor disagreed on Thursday evening with Saulsbury's comments. "The mayor cannot fire anyone," he said. "That's just plain wrong." Mayor Bryan also commented on the two-year term, saying that he would like to see the Greeneville Charter changed to allow mayors to serve four-year terms. At A 'Crossroads' - During the Thursday afternoon Civil Service Board press conference," Saulsbury said the board was at a crossroads regarding the Civil Service Act. "Now we are at a crossroads. We need to know if the mayor is going to approve the act 'as is' or if he is not going to approve the act. We urge the aldermen to have the mayor make a decision." In response, Mayor Bryan said he would "push the resolution forward" only if "all our questions are answered and the city attorney advises me this is the best thing to do for the town." The mayor said there are health problems in his family that could result in his being called out of town soon, but said he plans to work on recommendations to be considered by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen concerning the Civil Service Act issue. Asked if he planned to seek a called meeting of the board prior to the board's next regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 6, the mayor said, "not at this time." He maintained that waiting until Jan. 6 to act should not prevent a private act from being approved by the legislature this year.

From Greeneville Sun, TN, by Bill Jones, 19 December 2003

Chamber Heads Tourism Effort - Commissioners Give OK to Private/Public Partnership

Cumberland - The joint venture between the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce and county government to promote tourism yielded a marketing campaign and Web site that has been seen by more than 11,000 people since September who viewed more than 186,000 Web pages that feature attractions in Allegany and Garrett counties. With that kind of successful working relationship, the county commissioners announced Thursday that the chamber will lead the county's new tourism department. Incoming chamber president Michael McKay said, "As we considered the offer to manage local tourism on a more formal basis, we viewed it as an endorsement of the chamber's growing effectiveness in creating economic improvement for local businesses. This is an opportunity to directly help small businesses and nonprofit attractions prosper and grow. The whole reason for the community to invest in tourism is to create employment and encourage visitor spending here, which makes the chamber a very solid choice." "The county was very lucky when the chamber stepped up to the plate in the interim," said County Administrator Vance Ishler, referring to the informal working relationship the county has maintained with the chamber on tourism since this fall. "I've never seen such a private/public partnership as we've got going," said Commission President Jim Stakem.

Chamber executive director Barbara Buehl worked with chamber members and hospitality industry stakeholders on the task of investigating tourism management issues and overseeing transitional marketing programs. "Everyone has a passion to make this work," said Buehl. She said that the committee members accomplished so much in transition that the national search ended up confirming the direction of the new tourism program rather than pointing out its weaknesses. "As a member of the tourism committee and the search committee, I have a good feeling about this from the grass-roots perspective. Over the last six months, we have concentrated on the details of how tourism promotion can lead to increased traffic and income for local businesses and nonprofits. By working from the bottom up, I honestly think we may have come to a better understanding of needs that wasn't possible from the top down," said chamber member and Allegany Arts Council Director Andy Vick. The chamber will continue direct marketing and promotion efforts while taking on a six-month task on developing longer-term programs and streamlining operations and communications between major attractions.

From Cumberland Times News, MD, by James Rada, 19 December 2003

 

U.N. Summit to Focus on Internet; Officials to Discuss Shifting of Control to International Body

Leaders from almost 200 countries will convene next week in Geneva to discuss whether an international body such as the United Nations should be in charge of running the Internet, which would be a dramatic departure from the current system, managed largely by U.S. interests. The representatives, including the heads of state of France, Germany and more than 50 other countries, are expected to attend the World Summit on the Information Society, which also is to analyze the way that Web site and e-mail addresses are doled out, how online disputes are resolved and the thorny question of how to tax Internet-based transactions. Many developing nations complain that the world's most visible Internet governance body - the U.S.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) - does not adequately represent their interests and should be scrapped in favor of a group allied with the United Nations. A nonprofit company based in Marina del Rey, Calif., ICANN oversees the Internet's addressing system under an agreement with the U.S. government.

The U.S. private sector controls about 85 percent of the Internet's underlying infrastructure. "Because this is taking place in a U.N. summit, the commercial sector is not yet fully aware of the implications this has for the Internet," said Marilyn S. Cade, director of Internet and e-commerce, law and government affairs at AT&T Corp. Companies such as AT&T say the Internet has benefited from ICANN's ability to set policies and resolve disputes quickly with minimal government oversight, but some countries complain that the United States wields too much control over ICANN and that the body is unresponsive to their needs. "That sentiment is very much out there and although [ICANN] has evolved and has tried to bring in a lot of engagement from a lot of places, there have to be ways to open up the process even a little bit more," said Sarbuland Khan, head of the United Nations' Information and Communications Technology Task Force.

Khan said world governments, for instance, have no central authority to coordinate rules for Internet security and taxing online transactions. He added that the United Nations is not trying to transfer ICANN's powers to its own International Telecommunications Union (ITU), as some countries have advocated, but he conceded that such recommendations would be on the table in Geneva. ICANN Chairman Vinton G. Cerf said the group has been unfairly made the focal point of all criticism relating to Internet administration, even in areas where it was never intended to have a say. "The bizarre argument that gets made: What ICANN does is Internet governance, and since ICANN doesn't deal with all those other issues, it's not doing its job and let's replace it with the ITU," Cerf said. Cerf said that the United Nations could address Internet security and taxation, but should leave control over the Internet's addressing system to ICANN.

That is the point of view of the U.S. government, which will send representatives to the Geneva meeting. "We believe that Internet governance should continue to be coordinated and led by the private sector, and we remain committed to working with ICANN to ensure that Internet governance remains balanced among all stakeholders," said Clyde Ensslin, a spokesman for the Commerce Department, which oversees ICANN. Tom Galvin, director of government relations for U.S. Internet giant VeriSign Inc., said the meeting could help resolve lingering questions about how much power ICANN should have. VeriSign administers the .com and .net Internet domains and is overseen by ICANN. The two organizations have clashed repeatedly since ICANN's launch in 1998. Khan said the main purpose of the conference is to agree on a set of goals for promoting improved Internet governance and development. The ITU won't made its final policy decisions until the second half of the summit meeting, set to take place in Tunis, Tunisia, in 2005. David McGuire is a reporter for washingtonpost.com

From Associated Press Online, by David McGuire, 5 December 2003

Internet Address System Defended Icann Response

Geneva - The head of the organisation that manages the internet address system yesterday rejected criticisms of its operations by some developing countries that want them transferred to the United Nations. Paul Twomey, president and chief executive of Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a California-based not- for-profit organisation, said many of the criticisms reflected misunderstanding of Icann's role, which was strictly technical. "We are not the government of the internet. We're responsible for the plumbing, that's all," he said. Icann had no role in public policy issues such as control of unsolicited advertising (spam) or child pornography, where many countries want some form of international co-ordination. Mr. Twomey welcomed last weekend's decision by governments preparing for the world information summit, which opens tomorrow, to request establishment of a United Nations working group to look at all aspects of internet governance. "It's a really good outcome that will allow Icann to explain what we do," he said. Separately, Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, a prominent Jordanian businessman who is vice-chairman of the UN's information and communication technology (ICT) taskforce, said yesterday he would use a high-level pre-summit meeting today to propose creation of an "internet governance forum" under the taskforce umbrella.

Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh's proposal, which does not have official backing from the UN or elsewhere, would bring Icann under the aegis of the UN taskforce, on which governments, the private sector and civil society are represented. The UN working group on internet governance is due to report by 2005, when the second stage of the summit will be held in Tunis. Human rights activists have called for another venue to be selected because of Tunisia's "systematic" violations of press freedom and freedom of expression, including the imprisonment and harassment of journalists. * The US leads the world in "networked readiness", a measure of how well economies are geared to exploiting the potential of information and communications technologies, the World Economic Forum says today in its latest global information technology report. Singapore ranks second, with Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Switzerland, Norway, Australia and Iceland are also among the top 10, and Germany and Japan in 11th and 12th place. The networked readiness index compiled by Geneva-based WEF for over 100 countries combines indicators of the economic and regulatory environment, the ability of individuals, businesses and governments to use and benefit from ICT, and current usage by the three groups. www.itu.int/wsis www.weforum.org/gcp www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/ publications/wtdr03

From The Financial Times Limited (London), by Frances Williams, 8 December 2003

U.N. Meeting Debates Software for Poor Nations

Whether governments should support open-source software like Linux over commercial software like Microsoft's Windows was debated on Wednesday at a United Nations conference on closing the so-called digital divide between rich and poor countries. Samuel Guimaraes, executive secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, told government representatives at the opening sessions of the meeting that open-source, or free-to-share, software was crucial for the developing world because it would permit poorer countries to develop their own technology instead of having to import it. Brazil, with the support of India, South Africa and China, wanted the delegates to the meeting, the World Summit on the Information Society, to endorse open-source software as the best way to bridge the technology gap. But while language declaring open-source software an important option was in a statement by the delegates, it was watered down considerably after pressure from industrialized countries, some conference participants said.

The information and communications technology arm of the United Nations Development Program is advising governments that want to move to open-source software on how that software could become a foundation for local software development. But Raoul Zambrano, an adviser to the program, said the office was cautioning nations not to require open source for their governments because the goal should be to create choice and competition. The program plans to open a regional center in Europe early next year to offer support to countries in the Balkans and on the Baltic Sea on this issue. Veni Markovski, an adviser to the Bulgarian president on technology, said he had asked the United Nations for help because he thought the Bulgarian government had spent too much money on Microsoft products.

Microsoft denied any overcharging. Microsoft's influence is so great, Mr. Markovski said, that "the end user, the citizen, doesn't have a choice and the government doesn't have a choice." Microsoft confirmed on Wednesday that it was discussing with the United Nations program how to work together most effectively. Microsoft, which has said it will invest $1 billion on projects to help bridge the digital divide, said it did not require that its software be used in such projects. "People, at the end of the day, have the right to choose, and we support that," said Claudia Toth, a spokeswoman for Microsoft. Peter Dravis, a consultant who wrote a report about open-source software for the World Bank, said, "It is a tough call for a lot of agencies and groups when Microsoft offers to give away software to schools and governments." But he said that there was a growing demand for open-source software, and that Microsoft's deals with governments would not ensure market dominance.

From The New York Times, by Jennifer L. Schenker, 11 December 2003

UN Summit Sends Wake up Call on Power of Information Technology

The UN information summit has alerted world leaders to the importance of the Internet and other forms of technology as a powerful economic tool and not just an area for IT experts, EU ministers said Thursday. The world's first summit on the information society, born from the advent of mobile phones, Internet access and electronic media, was "quite a political achievement," said Lucio Stanco, Minister of Innovation and Technologies in Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. "We have achieved a lot," Stanco told a news conference on the second day of the UN-sponsored event. Until recently, information and communication technologies (ICTs) had been considered the specialised area of technology wizards, noted European Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society Erkki Liikanen. "Technology was not a matter for foreign policy," he told reporters. "This shows the change," he said, about the first stage of the summit. "ICT is a tool for development and political leaders have a responsibility to use this tool," said Liikanen.

Some 175 governments are due to sign documents on Friday that cover key issues such as freedom of speech on the web, and agree to study the creation of a new fund to bridge the so-called digital divide between the north and south while looking at long-term plans to govern the Internet. "I am not so naive to expect that tomorrow the world will change but this is quite a political achievement," said Stanco. But some participants have said that failure to agree now on the core issues of funding and Internet governance, while only offering a vague reference to human rights and other contentious points meant the plan of action and declaration of principles to be endorsed lacks any genuine bite. The question of the special fund - a priority for many African nations - will be put to the second stage of the summit, planned for Tunisia in 2005. And a controversial attempt to place the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) - the United Nations agency in charge of the summit - in charge of global regulation of the Internet has also been put off and placed in the hands of a working group under UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. EU ministers have decided to establish a working group to clarify their position on how the Internet should be ruled, said Liikanen. Later in the day, attention at the summit will likely focus on a speech by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, while groups of young inventors will also have a chance to share their ideas on the power of the Internet.

From Agence France Presse, 11 December 2003

Open-source Software Gets Boost at UN

Geneva - A months-long backroom battle led by Brazil, with support from India, South Africa and China, against the United States over open-source software took center stage Wednesday at the UN information summit meeting here. Samuel Guimarães, executive secretary in Brazil's foreign ministry, told government representatives at the summit meeting's opening sessions that free-to-share software is crucial for the developing world because it enables poorer countries to develop their own technology instead of having to import it. That message put the maneuvering for open-source software business at the highest levels of global policy, with proponents and critics both struggling for the endorsement of intra-governmental agencies such as the UN. Brazil wanted the summit talks to endorse the idea that the digital divide cannot be bridged with proprietary software and that open-source software, which is developed collaboratively and exchanged freely over the Internet, is the best path forward. The language was watered down considerably in the summit meeting's written declaration after pressure from developed countries, according to participants, but the free software did get a mention as an important option for developing countries to consider.

"Companies that sell proprietary software are going to have to accept that there is competition and that is good for developing countries because it leads to affordable pricing and increased access," said Raoul Zambrano, a UN adviser on information and communication technologies, in an interview. The information and communications technology arm of the UN Development Program is currently advising governments that ask on how to use open source as a tool to build local skills. But Zambrano said the UNDP is cautioning them not to mandate open source for their governments because that creates another type of monopoly. The goal, he said, is to create choice and competition. The UNDP plans to announce that it will open a regional center in Europe to help governments in the Balkans and Baltics move to open-source software. The debate over commercial software such as Microsoft's dominant operating system, Windows, and collaborative software has become a rich versus poor argument at the UN meeting, which is trying to address how to close the digital divide.

Veni Markovski, head of the Bulgarian president's information technology advisory council and head of the local branch of the Internet Society, said he had approached the UNDP to get help for his country and was motivated to do so because he was shocked by the outcome of several government contracts involving Microsoft products. In the first case, the government spent $13.6 million on Microsoft's Windows XP products in 2002. He claimed that it was later discovered that the government paid twice the list price for the software, which was purchased through a Microsoft retailer. A Microsoft spokeswoman and another member of the Bulgarian delegation at the UN talks, Roman Trifonov, denied that the government had overpaid for the software, Another contract, involving a contract for an e-government portal on the Internet, which would allow citizens to access government services online, required citizens to use Windows XP or Windows 2000 and to use Internet Explorer as their browser, Markovski said. Trifonov, an adviser to the minister of state administration, countered that any computer user with certain system tools could access the portal. A third contract, for $1.5 million, was for 35,000 software licenses for schools, but Markovski maintains that there are no more than 850 computers in schools that could run the software.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the contract was jointly issued by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and that it covers up to 15,000 computers for public schools, with the rest being used by universities and the Academy of Science. "I am convinced that the end result of the influence that Microsoft has on the government here is that the end user, the citizen, doesn't have a choice and the government doesn't have a choice," Markovski said. Microsoft confirmed Wednesday that it was in talks with the UNDP about "how to leverage each others' competencies." The software giant, which has said it will invest $1 billion on helping to bridge the digital divide, said that it did not require its software be used when the company participates in such a project. "People at the end of the day have the right to choose and we support that," the spokeswoman said. "It is a tough call for a lot of agencies and groups when Microsoft offers to give away software to schools and governments," said Peter Dravis, an independent consultant who wrote a report about open-source software for the World Bank. But he said there was strong bottom-up demand for open-source software, so even a handful of Microsoft deals with governments would not ensure market dominance.

From International Herald Tribune, by Jennifer L. Schenker, 11 December 2003

 

Mugabe Pledges to Crack Down on Corruption

President Robert Mugabe pledged today to crack down on high-level corruption that has plagued Zimbabwe's crumbling economy, but did not specify how he would do this. "Corruption and dishonesty will not be tolerated," Mugabe said in his annual state of the nation address to Parliament. Police "will enforce the law without fear or favour, without regard for persons of stature," he said. Ruling party leaders are believed to have secured for themselves many of the 5,000 white-owned farms confiscated by the government for redistribution to impoverished blacks. Some have even taken several farms, despite Mugabe's stated policy of "one man one farm." So far, police have not acted against them. Zimbabwe faces its worst economic and political crisis since independence from Britain in 1980. The land-seizure programme has crippled the agriculture-based economy, and political violence and intimidation are widespread.

Mugabe described these as "challenges that can be overcome." "We need to work for genuine unity, so our family house is not divided," he said. He promised to crack down on black-market deals he said were aggravating acute shortages of hard currency by keeping money offshore. He also promised to fight record inflation - officially running at 526% - with what he called "rational management" of prices of basic goods. Fixed prices for corn meal and other commodities have so far only worsened shortages and spurred black market trading. Mugabe claimed the government was improving the country's ailing transport, energy and telecommunications sectors. But he made no mention of crippling strikes by doctors, nurses, postal workers and telephone technicians. Efforts to overcome a severe housing backlog were also a priority, he said. But many building projects have come to a standstill in recent months because of shortages of cash and materials.

From The Scotsman, UK, 2 December 2003

Mugabe Vows to Weed out Corruption

Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean President, has pledged to weed out corruption as part of government efforts to lift the country's battered economy out of its fifth year of recession. Mugabe said status would provide no defence - in either the private or public sector - against his drive to weed out people who had enriched themselves from black markets in gold, foreign currency and other scarce commodities. "The Zimbabwe Republic Police, with the assistance of related agencies, will be urged to enforce the law without fear or favour, and without regard to stature or status of persons or organisations," he said. Mugabe was addressing parliament in an annual state-of-the-nation speech. Zimbabwe is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, which government critics blame on mismanagement by Mugabe, Zimbabwe's sole ruler since independence in 1980.

Unemployment is running at more than 70%, while inflation has soared to more than 500%, one of the highest rates in the world. Mugabe said his government would rebuild the economy on controversial land reforms, a consolidated economic policy and vigorous implementation of state plans. International donors and multilateral institutions have halted lending and foreign currency balance of payment support over Mugabe's policies, including seizures of white-owned land for redistribution to landless blacks. In a statement, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said Mugabe's address showed he had run out of steam and offered no answers for the country's pressing problems. "What Mugabe did in his address was to give a shallow description of the current crisis touching on the pertinent issues that include the food shortage, HIV and humanitarian disaster, the economic collapse", the MDC said.

From SABC News, South Africa, 3 December 2003

Botswana on High Alert for Corruption

Abuja - Botswana remains on high alert for corruption despite its status as the least corrupt country in Africa accorded by Transparency International, President Festus Mogae said on Wednesday night. Giving a keynote address at the Commonwealth Business Forum in the NIgerian capital, Mogae said Botswana is committed to zero tolerance for corruption and has launched a multi-barrelled attack on the scourge. The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), the Auditor General and the Ombudsman have been established to ensure strict adherence to proper financial management practices and good corporate governance. Consequently, they have accordingly been given strong legal mandates and powers to investigate and report on possible abuses and departures from financial laws and regulations. Mogae, who was speaking on "Governance and Sustainable Development: Partnership Between Business and Government," said the country's resolve is that corrupt practices must remain a "high risk low return undertaking".

This has earned Botswana a rating, by Transparency International, as the least corrupt country in Africa and the developing world, and indeed among the best in the world. Also, the United Nations July 2003 Economic Report on Africa has accorded Botswana a number one spot as a performer in good governance in Africa. However, Mogae told his audience that the country is not under any illusion that it can totally stem off the malaise of corruption. "I am under no illusion that our fight against corruption has been won," he said. "We are fully aware that we need, perhaps more than ever before, to remain vigilant at all times." The December 2-4 Commonwealth Business Forum was touted as the biggest international conference on sustainable development since the 2002 World Summit in Johannesburg. Attended by hundreds of business leaders, including representatives of the Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA), the event is a side-show of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which starts today.

Mogae observed that corruption, in addition to being costly, "cripples development by undermining the rule of law, as well as the institutional foundation for economic growth and development". He stated that it is the weak institutions that tend to have greater potential for corruption and as such strong, efficient and transparent government institutions are fundamental to economic growth and sustainable development. Also Mogae emphasised that adherence to professional standards, ethical conduct and compliance with agreed regulations is important in promoting fair competition. "Working together is partnership, buttressed by good governance in the public and private sectors, we can overcome many of the contemporary global challenges," he said. The Forum is organised by the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Nigerian government.

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 5 December 2003

Nigeria Fires Minister Named in Corruption Probe

Lagos - Nigeria's labour minister was sacked on Thursday after being named as a suspect in the highest-profile corruption investigation so far undertaken by the country's three-year-old anti-graft agency. President Olusegun Obasanjo fired Hussaini Akwanga shortly after the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said it was probing allegations that he and six others took bribes from French firm SAGEM (SAGM.PA). ''As a member of the cabinet in the current administration, the report constitutes a serious embarrassment to government and a dent on your image as a minister,'' Obasanjo said in a letter to Akwanga, according to a statement announcing the dismissal. The ICPC said it was investigating whether SAGEM, a maker of telecoms and defence equipment, paid huge bribes to Akwanga when he was a permanent secretary in the internal affairs ministry.

The six other suspects include two former internal affairs ministers, a former national secretary of the ruling party and a Nigerian business partner of SAGEM, which has a $214 million identity card project in Africa's most populous nation. Nigeria, a major oil producer, is the world's second most corrupt nation, according to Transparency International, a Berlin-based sleaze watchdog. Since his re-election in April, Obasanjo has tried to improve Nigeria's image by launching a fresh anti-corruption drive. The ICPC'S latest enquiry is the first to target serving or former ministers. The officials ''are alleged to have collected colossal sums of money in local and foreign currencies,'' the ICPC said in a statement. An ICPC spokesman said the agency had already questioned the suspects and that their their bank accounts in Britain were being investigated. He said he expected the suspects to be formally charged soon. Obasanjo set up the ICPC after he was first elected in 1999, in a move aimed at cleaning up the country after 15 years of military rule. However, the agency has failed to bring a successful prosecution despite numerous investigations.

From MSNBC, 5 December 2003

Minister of Finance Okonjo-Iweala Tasks Customs On Corruption

Lagos - Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has urged the officers and men of the Nigeria customs service to imbibe the ideals of the ongoing war against corruption in the country, or be arraigned for corrupt practices. The minister gave the advise yesterday at the opening of year 2003 conference of comptroller Generals of customs held at the Imo Concord Hotel, Owerri, Imo State. "It is an open secret every where and whereas the there are men and women of goodwill and integrity among you, they are tarred by those bent on doing the wrong thing and enriching themselves. I want to sound the alarm bell that the Anti-Corruption war is on. "Events of last week have demonstrated this. More will come. So let me urge you to self police before you are policed and sharply bring those who are the bad eggs on the corruption blight to book", she said. Iweala, who expressed reservations at the inability of the custom service to meet the target set for it by the Federal Government, however called on them not to relent on their efforts to increase the revenue available to government. The minister urged the senior cadre of the customs to be in the vanguard of the crusade against corruption, adding that leadership should be by example. While explaining the case of the ban on imported products like poultry products, textiles, fruit juices, confectioneries, beer, bottled water, among others, Mrs. Iweala said that the aim was to stem dumping in Nigeria. The minister later commended the various initiatives of the customs management to improve its efficiency and image, adding that the weekly television programme by the customs was a boost to its services.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Chuka Odittah Owerri, 10 December 2003

Okonjo-Iweala Tasks Customs on Corruption

Owerri - Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has urged the officers and men of the Nigeria customs service to imbibe the ideals of the ongoing war against corruption in the country, or be arraigned for corrupt practices. The minister gave the advise yesterday at the opening of year 2003 conference of comptroller Generals of customs held at the Imo Concord Hotel, Owerri, Imo State. "It is an open secret every where and whereas the there are men and women of goodwill and integrity among you, they are tarred by those bent on doing the wrong thing and enriching themselves. I want to sound the alarm bell that the Anti-Corruption war is on. "Events of last week have demonstrated this. More will come. So let me urge you to self police before you are policed and sharply bring those who are the bad eggs on the corruption blight to book", she said.

Iweala, who expressed reservations at the inability of the custom service to meet the target set for it by the Federal Government, however called on them not to relent on their efforts to increase the revenue available to government. The minister urged the senior cadre of the customs to be in the vanguard of the crusade against corruption, adding that leadership should be by example. While explaining the case of the ban on imported products like poultry products, textiles, fruit juices, confectioneries, beer, bottled water, among others, Mrs. Iweala said that the aim was to stem dumping in Nigeria. The minister later commended the various initiatives of the customs management to improve its efficiency and image, adding that the weekly television programme by the customs was a boost to its services.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Chuka Odittah 9 December 2003

Corruption Report not Finalised

Kimberley - A forensic report on alleged corruption by Northern Cape MEC John Block has not yet been finalised, a spokesperson for premier Manne Dipico said on Tuesday. Mafu Davis said Block, MEC for transport, roads and public works as well as provincial chairperson of the African National Congress, was still serving in all his posts. A recent newspaper report alleged that Block was likely to resign this week following a damning forensic audit of his department. Dipico was believed to have recommended that he be dismissed, the report maintained. Davis denied this, saying there was still no indication when the results of the Auditor General's investigation into Block's department would be released. A first draft had been finalised, but the final report still had to be handed to Dipico, Davis added. Block, who is currently heading the ANC's Northern Cape election list, has been accused of widespread corruption, involving travel claims, among others. Dipico ordered the forensic investigation into the allegations a few weeks ago. Official complaints have reportedly been lodged with the Public Protector and the National Prosecuting Authority's Scorpions unit as well.

From News24, South Africa, 9 December 2003

FG's Anti-corruption Crusade Commended

The Federal Government has been commended for living up to its crusade in flushing out corrupt elements within the top hierarchy of the government, especially with the arrest of serving and past functionaries. This is coming on the heels of a call by as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Solomon Asemota, for a more patriotic constitutional review exercise, which would re-introduce independent candidacy during elections. He condemned the hijack of the political parties by "group of very, very good people," who prefered the status quo regarding the various "mischiefs" in the 1999 Constitution. The government commendation was contained in an eight-point communique issued at the weekend , during the end of the 32nd annual conference of the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria (C.L.C.N) held in Benin City, and signed by Mr. John U. Iredia and Mr. John W. Bagu, President and General Secretary, respectively.

The council, which represents the lay faithful of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, chided the Obasanjo administration and other governments in the country for not doing enough to stem the spate of violence, insecurity, youth restiveness, cultism and other vices, adding that sacred cows should not be condoned in the process. The council also sought for a review of the implementation process of the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry as well as the accelerated convocation of a National Conference. "We commend the government's efforts at eradicating corruption especially by the recent arrests by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). We stress that there should be no sacred cow in this quest to sanitise the polity," it said, but warned that "our leaders who have often carried on business as usual."

From This Day, Nigeria, by Omon-Julius Onabu in Benin City, 15 December 2003

A Fight Against Corruption

Former presidents of small, corrupt nations do not, lamentably, have many bad weeks. But last week was one of them. Nicaragua's former president, Arnoldo Alemán, was given a 20-year jail term for corruption. And in Zambia, the corruption trial of Frederick Chiluba began - a rare attempt in Africa to prosecute a former head of state for a crime that is all too endemic. These trials are a giant step forward. But they are not, in themselves, an anti-corruption program, and can even get in the way of fighting graft because they can eat up all the money budgeted for it. While trying one's predecessor is a dramatic way to show that things have changed, it can also be a convenient way to dispose of a rival. Moreover, it affects very few people. The police officer shaking down drivers or the bureaucrat demanding a cut of a government contract may not be deterred by seeing a former president on trial. The solution is not to abandon prosecutions, but to work to prevent corruption. This requires resolve, but if the political will is there, effective reforms are simple.

Many countries have cleaned up government contracting by establishing Internet bidding, with the winning offers made public. A driver's license bureau that clearly posts the required documents and the steps in the process gives officials less opportunity to extort. If public servants must declare their wealth annually, and can be fired if caught lying, they are deterred from buying a Mercedes or a beach house. Kenya's new president, Mwai Kibaki, has used Kenyans' fury about corruption to build support for purges of corrupt judges and laws that increase transparency and require public servants to declare their wealth. Although Daniel arap Moi, who ruled Kenya from 1978 until last year, is widely accused of corruption, he is not on trial. President Kibaki says he may ask the judiciary to try Mr. Moi, but not until the courts are cleaner. His attempt to change the system is more difficult than tossing his predecessor in the dock. But it is also more successful - Kenyans used to daily shakedowns are already seeing a change for the better.

From New York Times, 15 December 2003

Tackling Corruption: Towards Citizens' Covenant (2)

Lagos - How long can we hang on colonialism as excuse for today's failures? IN a one-day public lecture titled: "The Anti-Corruption Crusade, the cultural perspective" (organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation), the man blamed corruption in Nigeria on the adoption of colonial laws which are inconsistent with the culture and experience of our people. Yet, this is the same Godwin Kanu Agabi who until very recently was a two-time Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federation, a position that empowered him to propose changes to the law and fashion the direction of legal development in the country. Throughout that period he didn't find it necessary to propose one single change to the supposedly euro-centric common law rules and those legal traditions steeped in colonialism that largely govern our legal system. I mean, here he is, blaming the adoption of colonial laws for corruption, when he had the chance, just up to a few months ago, he couldn't propose one thing - just one thing - to change anything within the law! All we remember him for as an Attorney-General and Minister of Justice is his collaborating with Obasanjo to foist a forged Electoral Act on an unsuspecting populace and his blowing hot and cold over the adoption of unconstitutional Sharia.

The Anti-Corruption Act, which he would possibly want to claim credit for is nothing but another document well steeped in colonial law, and which, as events have since proven, is observed more in its wanton breach right under his nose! Jobs for the boys - And yet he hangs around the place as some "Senior Special Assistant on Ethics and good governance"- a position that itself is a corrupt contraption, created as a means to give jobs to the boys after being dropped as ministers to pave way for some new termites! Ask him what his job really entails and I'm sure he'd find it tasking enough to exhaust half a page of A4 trying to explain it! Well, back to his argument. On the surface, it seems genuine; but on closer scrutiny, it is vacuous - it is of the genre that begins by hanging everything on the neck of the white man, proposing to paint us all as victims of some colonial legacy, even where it is obvious that we should be standing up to take responsibility for ourselves. Today, when I look at Transparency International's corruption index, I find this theory inadequate to explain the progress being made in tackling or controlling corruption in some of those countries that have similar or worse experience than Nigeria in terms of colonialism, neo-colonialism or cultural imperialism.

Now, I am by no means saying colonialism did not play its role in fostering corruption. In as much as colonialism itself is roguery rather than a civilising mission, it would be preposterous to assume some saintly posture for its effects. To loot and plunder - The white man came to loot and plunder; he found willing tools in collaborating 'natives', who, recognizing the colonialists' superior military strength and criminal determination, found it convenient and exceedingly profitable to join him against their people. The white man bought those he could buy to his side, conquered those he couldn't buy and went on to establish an administration that depended on subterfuge and behind-the-curtain manoeuvres to succeed in the continued exploitation of the people he administered. While the image of the ramrod butter-will-never-melt-in-his-mouth colonial official was being projected to the home audience by colonial propaganda, the colonial office understood what the bottom line was. Think of Joyce Cary's Mr. Johnson and the corrupt Harry Rudbeck driving on with his road-building project by hook or by crook, while allowing poor Mr. Johnson to carry the can and you'll understand how cruelly single-minded the conception of the colonial project was even in the minds of its servants.

Think of Ezeulu in Achebe's Arrow of God refusing to be bribed with the position of Warrant Chief, in spite of his helplessness before Tony Clarke the colonial Assistant District Officer, and you can begin to imagine how traditional society became overran by corrupt puppetry and the huge shock it underwent before realigning to the reality of thieves and scoundrels becoming the new law givers. Consider another Achebean character, Obi Okonkwo in No Longer At Ease struggling to meet up with the new materialist demands of colonial society and you'll understand the new pressures put on the individual to meet the same age old social obligations with new and alien tools and outside the natural communal environment. Yes, colonialism has done its bit, but how long are we to hang on to that excuse for the failures of today? Perhaps, if there's something to learn from colonial corruption, it is the way the white man conceived and used it. Of course, anyone who's read history properly knows that there was no idyllic corrupt-free Africa before the white man came and that though he may have introduced a new wave of and indeed dimension to materialism, his gifts of mirrors, guns and gin to the mercenary chieftains did not suddenly open up a new unknown evil in these people.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Kennedy Emetulu, 18 December 2003

 

Corruption Leads to 'Clear-Felling Out of Control'

Hobart - The Tasmanian Labor government and Forestry Tasmania are facing a crisis of credibility. In October, former state forest auditor Bill Manning told a Senate inquiry about illegal practices, corruption, "bonuses" paid to Forestry Tasmania executives for maximising forest clearing and "clear-felling out of control" in the state. Since then, the government has resorted to character assassination to deflect the criticism. Manning, who had worked in the industry for 32 years, claimed "the implementation of the regional forest agreement (RFA) and the federal government plantation program 2020 Vision have led, first, to the weakening of the Forest Practices Code by making a lie of the claim that it is world's best practice; "Secondly, to corruption of forest management in Tasmania such that there is no enforcement of this weakened code of forest practice and no silvicultural [tree cultivation] outcome other than the clear felling of native forest for the establishment of exotic introduced plantation species; "Thirdly, to the RFA and 2020 Vision manipulating the development of an internal auditing system which has led to the misleading of the Tasmanian parliament; "Fourthly, to the decimation of habitat for endangered species in Tasmania"; and, "Finally, to a culture within the Tasmanian forestry industry of bullying, cronyism, secrecy and lies."

In a 2.5 hour presentation, he went on to detail damning evidence to support his claims. From 1990 to 2002, Manning was an employee of the Forest Practices Board, a supposedly independent statutory body charged with overseeing the Forest Practices Act. He explained that the Forest Practices Code is nothing but a guideline for industry self-regulation. As an example of its failings, Manning explained scientific evidence that indicated a 30-metre reserve was needed alongside streams, in order to protect rare and threatened species and water quality. Despite this, the reserve space has been falling. The 2000 Forest Practices Code allows reserves as small as two metres for some kinds of streams. The code becomes legally binding only when drawn up, by Forestry Tasmania employees or private forestry workers, into a "forest practices plan" for the management of specific areas of forest. Manning alleged that "hopelessly compromised" forestry officials "lead to forest practices plans that are drawn up to maximise the area of land to be logged and that ensure the maximum volume of woodchips. This is not in the interest of long-term, sustainable silviculture." He outlined the practice of approvals in which the Forest Practices Board receive only the cover page of the report before giving approval, making "illegal alteration of plans after the event" "relatively easy".

Manning presented evidence that, contrary to advice from the solicitor-general that retrospective approval of illegal actions didn't make them right, the chief forest practices officer Graham Wilkinson had on one occasion written, "Instruct the district forester to amend the plan to allow the breach". Prior to auditing Forestry Tasmania, Manning had been responsible for monitoring private forestry practices and had carried out numerous successful prosecutions for breaches. He recounted being "horrified" when he moved into monitoring Forestry Tasmania, which he had assumed would operate with higher standards. When he issued Forestry Tasmania with a "section 41 ticket" - in effect a warning - Wilkinson wrote in a note, "Instruct Bill not to issue notices". Manning's authority to issue warnings and prepare prosecutions was then stripped from him by then chair of the Forest Practices Board and an executive director of Forestry Tasmania Ken Felton. Manning concluded that "the Forest Practices Board is not independent of the forest industry" and is "hopelessly compromised by being dominated by members of the industry". Arguing that it fails to enforce the code, he said instead it "delivers what the industry wants, which is the wholesale clear-felling of native forests for conversion to plantation". Manning noted that "Forestry Tasmania has never been prosecuted for any alleged offence under the Forest Practices Act… despite my reporting to the Chief Forest Practices Officer of nearly 100 separate serious alleged breaches from my auditing between 1999 and 2002."

Manning also claimed the auditing system was "designed to mislead" - even serious ecological damage could still result in a high rating. In addition, when he audited the Murchison and Bass districts in 1999 and 2000, his results "reflected very badly on Forestry Tasmania and were altered under the instruction of the chief forest practices officer". Manning was subsequently "relieved of [his] duties as auditor." To Manning's knowledge, none of the auditors who reported on the Forest Practices Board "have any qualifications in environmental auditing." Manning charged that not only is "the wholesale destruction of native forests" occurring "in many cases in areas which are unique in the world for their flora and fauna", but that "the chief forest practices officer has instructed the zoologist of the Forest Practices Board to delay reports of alleged breaches [until the time for prosecution would expire] to allow logging activity to go ahead". Claiming "there are many foresters who would like to do the right thing but are too afraid to do anything", Manning pointed to his own treatment by the board as a "stark warning" to others. Manning outlined his attempts to take the documentation to the state attorney-general and Ombudsman. After holding onto the documents for six months, the then attorney-general Peter Patmore forwarded them to Manning's then employer - whose "only action… was to remove [him] from [his] role".

The Ombudsman refused to investigate. Manning's evidence was given in public only after an aborted attempt by the Senate committee, opposed by Greens senator Bob Brown, to force him to give his evidence "in camera". That hearing, in Launceston on August 6, had been suspended owing to protests by members of the public objecting to being removed from the public hearing. Following the public hearing, Forestry Practices Board chair Kim Evans circulated a letter claiming the board had "not yet had an opportunity to reply" to Manning's allegations, despite the fact that the Senate committee hearing the inquiry had requested its representatives attend. He claimed primary industries minister and deputy premier Paul Lennon had decided for political reasons that he should not attend - whereas Lennon had advised the Senate committee the representatives would be "unavailable" owing to prior engagements. State government spokespeople have also tried to make out that Manning's allegations were a Green "put-up" job by a disgruntled employee, challenging him to make his claims outside the protection of parliamentary privilege - ignoring the fact that he had tried to use the formal mechanisms but was restricted as a state employee from making public comments. He had only attended the hearings as a witness after being subpoenaed. On October 29, the Liberals joined the state Labor government to vote down a Greens motion for a commission of inquiry into the conduct and administration of the forestry industry in Tasmania.

From Green Left, Australia, by Kamala Emanuel, 1 December 2003

Officials Punished in Corruption Purge

In a move to step up the fight against corruption among officials, a vice-governor of Liaoning Province has been sacked and a former vice-mayor in the southern city of Shenzhen has been sentenced to 20 years in jail. Liu Ketian, vice-mayor of Liaoning's capital Shenyang in the early 1990s and former vice-governor since 1995, was sacked last week for taking bribes, the Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday, without giving the figures involved. He was also relieved of his post as a deputy to the provincial People's Congress and is expected to face judicial charges later. Separately, Wang Ju, former vice-mayor of Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province, and deputy director of the city's People's Congress, was sentenced over the weekend by Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court to 20 years in jail for taking large sums of bribe money and neglecting his duties. Wang, was investigated to have accepted bribes valued at more than 830,000 yuan (about US$100,000) plus HK$123,000 (US$15,850) and US$3,000 when he was in office between 1991 and 2000. And Wang's neglect of his duties also caused economic losses for the State valued at more than 100 million yuan (US$12 million). In 1996, Wang who used to be in charge of urban planning and development in Shenzhen, illegally approved a piece of land at a very low price in Shenzhen's busiest area for his son-in-law for property development.

More than 780,000 yuan (US$93,970) plus HK$173,000 (US$22,290) and US$3,000 worth of Wang's income was confiscated, as it was considered to be illegally obtained. Wang, who had been expelled from the Communist Party of China before he was brought to court for public trial, was detained during the second half of 2000. Wang became the highest-ranking Party and government official to be sentenced to serve a jail term in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. In another case judged by the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court, Liang Liwei, former vice-chairman of board of directors and general manager of the Guangzhou Dongshan Department Store Group, a State-owned retail company, was also sentenced to 20 years in jail. He was found to have taken bribes valued at 820,000 yuan (US$98,790) plus gifts worth 240,710 yuan (US$29,000) from 1996 to 2000. Meanwhile, Liang was found to have more than 4 million yuan (US$481,930) worth of cash and property that he could not explain to authorities. Liang was investigated to have at least four properties in Guangzhou's city proper and plenty of foreign currency deposits in banks in Hong Kong. More than 650,000 yuan (US$78,313) worth of the illegal income Liang earned when he was in office was also confiscated by the court.

From China Daily, China, 1 December 2003

Nations Remain Poor Because of Corruption and Inefficiency

Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, while addressing the India-European Union Business Summit in Delhi, warned that the ignorance of the developmental concerns of the poorer countries could lead to disastrous consequences for future discussions on the international trading regime. "We have to recognise that unless the developmental concerns of the poorer countries of the world are taken into account, popular support for economic liberalisation will collapse in the developing countries and this could have disastrous consequences for our future discussions on the international trading regime''. Those were his very words. The Indian prime minister, observing that agriculture provided the core livelihood for millions of people from a large number of developing countries, said the decision taken at WTO would need to respond to this basic fact while protecting the interests of farmers elsewhere. Now my question here is, why should these poorer countries remain poor at all? Why are they in the first place poor?

Poverty was not something that the outside world imposed on them. Most of the nations that have got out of the bracket of "poor nations" in the last 50-60 years have done so by sheer hard work on political as well as socio-economic fronts. Most of the poor nations in the world, especially those in the South Asian and South-East Asian regions, are rich in resources, have plenty of agricultural land and enough population to become productive enough and thus rich. Industries like tourism can thrive in these parts of the world. They can produce enough to feed their peoples and also export the surplus. But what is holding them back? I think it is the phenominal corruption prevalent in these countries that is holding them back from advancing. Corruption really is pulling down these countries and sinking their economies. A former prime minister of a south Asian country is alleged to have slashed away funds that would equal one year's budget allocations of that nation. And even now that person claims innocence.

Progress is also hindered by bureaucratic red tape and sheer negligence in most of the poor Asian countries. See how a country like Singapore, which started from scratch after World War II, has developed. There is no corruption; and a set of hard-working immigrants made Singapore what it is today. Also, not all European countries were rich and prosperous as they are today. Poverty reigned in countries like Ireland 80-90 years ago, and that is why many of the Irish people emigrated to America. And once they got the opportunity they worked hard to become rich and they also made their adopted country rich. Tax structure in many of the poor countries is another reason why they have remained backward. Even in countries where taxation is not very high, loopholes to avoid paying taxes are plenty.

Also, a staggering number of people avoid paying taxes because of inefficient tax-collection methods and corruption, making honest tax payers look like fools. Restructring taxation methods alone can save the economy of a nation. Britain under Margaret Thatcher was a good example. By bringing down tax rates, she was able to generate more money and more jobs in her country. Also, all these so-called poor nations are recipients of large amounts as donations and aid. Where does that money really go? Do these aid amounts really reach the people that it is intended for? Hardly ever. And, if at all, only a very small percentage. Corruption thus eats up aid-funds too. So instead of lamenting about poverty in their countries and seeking concessions from the rich nations, these poor nations should get their acts together and find ways and means to progress without outside help. Only then will they be able to earn respect in this global village.

From Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates, by Mohammed A.R. Galadari, 1 December 2003

Roco Vows to Fight Corruption

Manila - The Filipino people will see a graft-buster in former education secretary Raul Roco if he wins the presidency next year. At the 29th Philippine Business Conference (PBC) at the Manila Hotel yesterday, Roco said he intends to battle corruption in the country if he is "blessed" and is elected president next year. "If we can have no tolerance for corruption, we'll have more resources to invest," Roco said. He is running for president under the banner of his political party Aksyon Demokratiko. The Reporma party of former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and the Probinsya Muna Development Initiatives (Promdi) party of former Cebu Gov. Emilio Osmeña's are allied with Aksyon Demokratiko. Roco is announcing his running mate and senatorial slate today at a convention at the Folk Arts Theater in Pasay City. Roco said the Philippines might become the most corrupt country in the world and be subjected to adverse travel advisories in the coming years if graft and corruption are not addressed by the government.

He cited the report of the international corruption watchdog Transparency International, which monitors corruption and grades countries from zero to 10, with zero indicating the most corrupt and 10 as the most honest. In 2001, Transparency International gave the Philippines a grade of 2.9. That grade slid to 2.6 in 2002 and 2.5 this year. "We are going down," Roco said. "It's the lowest grade we ever received in the 12 years of Transparency International." He added that "if we do not do something about it, (in the next few years), we'll be considered the most corrupt country." "Transparency and accountability" will be Roco's bywords for the use of public funds. Roco to lead by example if elected president, adding that "the problem is a lack of... credible leadership. The problem is a lack of government that is respected by the people." "What Aksyon Demokratiko proposes to submit to the Filipino people is an agenda of HOPE - honest government, opportunity for all, special privileges for none, peace, productivity and prosperity and education and environment for sustainable development," he said.

For his part, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) chairman Miguel Varela expressed satisfaction with Roco's platform of government. Roco, Varela said, "was very sure of what he wants to do and he made a very inspiring presentation. He was able to very clearly articulate his vision and how he intends to realize this. At least we know what he will do and what we'll expect." PCCI president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said most of the people who heard Roco's speech were impressed. "That's a good platform," he said, "but, you know, as (Roco) said himself, it's the implementation of the platform that is very important... on the basis of his track record, he'll be able to do it." Besides battling corruption, Roco wants to pursue the education programs he initiated at the Department of Education (DepEd). During his tenure as DepEd secretary, Roco implemented free public education at the elementary and high school levels as mandated by the Ganzon Law. "We increased the survival rate (in school) by merely implementing the Ganzon Law. If we'll be blessed, we'll implement the law," Roco said.

He also assured the business leaders that he intends to observe fair play in business and will not allow "influence-peddling" in his administration. "Implementation of economic policy must be predictable and pursuant to law," Roco said. "Without these, steady increases in investment will be difficult to sustain... We need leaders who will enable the Philippines to recapture its status as one of the most important economies of Asia. The talent for enterprise and competitive spirit of the people are there. The leadership must remove the roadblocks for all these to prosper." Roco also vowed to initiate reforms in the police and military and to make healthcare services more accessible to Filipinos. He said the Philippines is not wanting for good, talented and skilled Filipinos, but the government must come up with programs that will enhance these positive aspects of the Filipino. A strong republic, he said, "does not make a strong nation. Strong people make a strong nation It's not the strong republic that makes strong people... We must save the Philippines because no one else will save the Philippines for us."

From Philippine Headline News, Philippines, by Sheila Crisostomo, 1 December 2003

Malaysia: Malaysia to Sign Anti-Corruption Convention

Kuala Lumpur - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Wednesday that Malaysia will sign the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention later this month in demonstrating its strong commitment in fighting corruption especially at the international level. He said that this was agreed upon at today's Cabinet meeting. Malaysia remains committed to the cause of reducing and eradicating corruption, he said in his address at the Fourth Regional Anti-Corruption Conference for Asia and the Pacific here. Abdullah said that Malaysia welcomed any initiative that seeks to advance justice and integrity in spheres of public life. The general areas that are covered by the Convention include criminalisation of bribery, prevention of corruption and promotion of integrity. The international cooperation covered by the Convention include in asset recovery and extradition as well as cooperation in implementation of the Convention. Speaking at a media conference later, Abdullah said that Malaysia hoped to build international cooperation by signing the convention as corruption was a trans-boundary problem. "We hope it can help us in solving whatever corruption cases in Malaysia especially those related to overseas banks. It may help the Perwaja case," he said. Malaysia, he said, welcomes whatever initiative that contribute to fighting corruption more effectively.

He also said that justice must be done although some quarters demand that corruption cases must be investigated speedily. "Prosecution by the media is not correct...I appeal to the press to cooperate with us on this matter," he said. In his speech, Abdullah said the government recently approved a RM17 million allocation for the establishment of an Anti Corruption Academy under the purview of the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA). It is the first of its kind in the region. The academy was set up in recognising the need for greater investigative expertise and skills to clampdown on the rise of corruption. Malaysia would like to offer the academy as a regional centre for anti-corruption capacity-building in promoting best practices in investigation, monitoring and enforcement. The academy can also venture into newer areas such as forensic accounting and forensic engineering, he said. He said Malaysia hopes that countries around the region would support this effort by sending their representatives to the academy to discuss, share and learn from each other new methods and tools to fight corruption. The Prime Minister said the government would be reintroducing civics classes in the school curriculum for all students in the hope of instilling a lifetime of good values and ethical behaviour in its society.

He said inculcating values, attitudes and behaviours based on the principles of integrity and justice was the most important element in the fight against corruption. "We must always consider a system-wide approach as our action especially in the area of good governance and anti-corruption should not only be aimed at instilling the right values and attitudes but should go beyond that to strengthening processes, institutions as well as punitive measures. "I have always been a strong believer in the need to promote good governance. As many of you may be aware in the past month, I have vigorously pursued efforts to improve the public service delivery system to make it more efficient, transparent and accountable," said Abdullah. He said corruption exacted a heavy toll on a nation's social, political and economic well-being. Abdullah said corrupt acts undermined good governance and fundamentally distort public policies that lead to misallocation of resources and harm the growth of the public and private sectors. He said a country with corruption problem would find its foreign and domestic investors shying away from further investing and doing business in such country. A better functioning public service delivery system would promote integrity by reducing opportunities for corruption to occur, he said.

He said the ACA must be allowed to operate without fear or favour and empowered to investigate speedily and comprehensively. The Prime Minster said the government would ensure that there were easy and convenience channels provided to the public to report cases of corruption and protection be given to those who come forward to report cases. The three-day conference, themed "Combating Corruption in the Millennium", beginning today, is jointly organised by the ACA, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation And Development (OECD). Vice President of ADB Gerry Van Der Linden earlier said it was estimated that one-third of public investment in many Asia Pacific countries was squandered on corruption. He said studies had shown that corruption could cost up to 17 per cent of a country's gross domestic product, robbing the population of precious resources that could be used to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development. In Asia, it was estimated that governments pay between 20 to 100 per cent more for goods and services due to corrupt procurement practices.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 4 December 2003

Asia's Anti-Corruption Fight Hurt by Lack of Political Will

Kuala Lumpur - Great efforts are being made by some countries in the Asia-Pacific region to reduce corruption but they are hampered by a lack of political will and inadequate resources, a regional conference declared on Friday. To counter these problems the Fourth Regional Anti-Corruption Conference for Asia-Pacific, organised by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), called for stronger regional cooperation. The meeting reviewed progress made by 21 countries which have endorsed the ADB-OECD "Anti-Corruption Action Plan" launched in Manila in 1999, under which they are committed to combating bribery and money laundering and promoting public sector integrity. A statement issued at the end of the three-day conference, which saw Australia sign up as the 21st endorsing country, said the initiative "is already bearing fruit". The adherence of a growing number of countries testified to the attractiveness of the plan's core principles, which include a focus on prevention and punishment and put a priority on feasibility and effectiveness, the statement said.

From Hindustan Times, India, 5 December 2003

India Reports 1,916 Corruption Cases in 5 Years

New Delhi - Indian Deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani informed Rajya Sabha (Upper House) on Wednesday that as many as 1,916 cases of corruption were registered against Central Government employees over the past five years. "In all, about 1,916 cases of corruption relating to Central Government employees have come to notice of which 1,008 have been sent for trial and 293 to the government department for action," he said, adding 99 of these cases have been closed. Advani, who was replying to supplementaries during Question Hour, said the government has stipulated a time-frame for sanction and disposing of cases. He said special courts have been created for speedy disposal of cases relating to corruption. The Central Bureau of Investigation cases are within the superintendence of Central Vigilance Commission which has been made a statutory authority, he said.

From Xinhua, China, 10 December 2003

Pakistan, Russia Join Hands To Check Corruption

Islamabad - Pakistan and Russia Monday agreed to cooperate bilaterally for the eradication of corruption and check financial irregularities, with the latter showing its keenness to benefit from experiences of National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Lt. Gen Munir Hafiez, Chairman NAB and S.V. Stepashin, Chairman of the Accounts Chambers of the Russian Federation also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this respect on behalf of their respective governments. Later responding to the queries of newsmen, S.V. Stepashin said, exchange of experience and personnel, information sharing and joint actions for the eradication of corruption are the main points of the MoU. He said, his country would like to benefit from the experiences of NAB in checking the menace of corruption as, President Putin has recently signed a decree for the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Council in Russia.

Replying to a question, he said, currently there is no extradition and legal assistance treaty between Pakistan and Russia, adding, but the MoU signed today will help in putting the process forward in this respect. S.V. Stepashin further said he took up the issue of said treaty during his meeting with President Pervez Musharraf, besides, discussing the matter with President Putin before his visit to Pakistan. In principle, the agreement is ready and is likely to be signed early next year, after the technical matters between the countries are settled, he added. To a question, he said, Russia also faces the problems like Pakistan such as misuse of power, economic and financial irregularities etc. He, however, maintained that there was improvement in corruption at middle level governance in Russia due to major efforts in the last few years, with upper-level corruption totally removed.

To a question, S.V. Stepashin said, no individual or institution was above law in Russia, as actions have been taken recently or are underway against some high ups in various ministries and departments in Russia. "There is no exemption for anyone; whosoever is guilty will be netted under the law," he remarked. To another query, he said, the Russian government being member of various international and regional organizations was fully cooperating and will continue to do so in anti-corruption measures and campaigns at various fora. Chairman NAB, Lt. Gen Munir Hafiez in his brief remarks on the occasion said, corruption was an international problem and menace, which needs joint international efforts, as it has no boundaries. "The more countries join hands against this menace, the more better it would be", he remarked. He said, Pakistan was playing a leading and pro- active role in the campaign against corruption and financial irregularities at various levels. The Chairman NAB said, the MoU signed today will help Pakistan and Russia to cooperate bilaterally for the eradication of corruption through exchange of experience, information and personnel.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 9 December 2003

China Signs UN Act Against Corruption

China on Wednesday signed the UN Convention Against Corruption, saying the pact will contribute to global social and economic development. Chinese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Yesui signed the document on behalf of the Chinese Government during a high-level political conference in the city of Merida, in the southeastern Mexican state of Yucatan. In his speech, Zhang reaffirmed the Chinese Government's determination to fight corruption and its stand on strengthening international co-operation in the field. "We are ready to work with other countries to create a healthy environment to promote economic and social development in China and other countries,'' he added. China has been strengthening efforts in carrying out an anti-corruption campaign over the past years. In recent years, the campaign has involved more minister-level senior officials who were sacked and punished for corruptive charges. Just during this week, a trial on Wang Huaizhong, former vice-governor of Anhui Province, was opened in Jinan Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Shandong Province, who was charged with taking bribes and holding a large amount of property.

On Wednesday, Wang Xuebing, former president of China Construction Bank, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in the first instance by Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court for taking bribes worth 1.15 million yuan (US$140,000). Earlier this year, Cheng Weigao, former chairman of the Standing Committee of the Hebei Provincial People's Congress, was expelled from the Party for taking advantage of his position in August. And in July, former governor of Yunnan Province, Li Jiating, was sentenced to death by the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court for taking bribes. Zhang said China has always been active in formulating a legal instrument against corruption worldwide. China's position during the negotiations has been "sincere, co-operative and realistic'' and China has contributed positively to the establishment of the treaty, said the vice-minister. In order to implement the treaty in China, a code of conduct is being developed for the public services at every level of government to foster self-discipline in the administration, he said.

The agreement, which is expected to be signed by 125 nations over the next three years, will take effect after it is ratified by 30 signatory countries. More than 120 countries attended the three-day meeting, 90 of which expressed their readiness to sign the document, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said. The Transparency International said on Wednesday that the UN Convention Against Corruption opens the way for the recovery of funds that corrupt leaders from developing countries have transferred abroad. President Peter Eigen of the organization said that under the convention, it will be possible to develop a more effective mutual legal assistance system and make it easier to prosecute bribery cases. Eigen stressed that the signing of the convention is a "great step forward'' and that a control process will be required. The agreement establishes for the first time a consensus-based framework to combat at an international level embezzlement, money laundering, bribery and illicit enrichment.

From China Daily, China, 11 December 2003

Reforms Bring Rampant Corruption in Indonesia, Former President Says

Jakarta - Corruption and weak law enforcement are the price which Indonesians are paying for reforms, former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie was quoted as saying. "Corruption, collusion and nepotism continue to grow; law enforcement becomes more difficult to develop and this is creating high economic costs," Habibie was quoted by Kompas newspaper as saying. All of this is the price of reforms, he said. Habibie, who replaced Suharto as president after the former dictator resigned in May 1998, was speaking at a gathering of Muslim intellectuals in Jakarta on Sunday. "These days, we can see that KKN is committed openly, not only in Jakarta, but in almost all regions across Indonesia without an ounce of guilt," the Jakarta Post quoted him as saying. KKN is the Indonesian acronym for corruption, collusion and nepotism.

The country's current plight was a temporary phenomenon now that it was in a transitional phase to democracy and the government installed through elections next year must take the lead in coping with these challenges, said Habibie, 67, who now lives in Germany. During his 17 months in office, Habibie introduced several reforms such as allowing more political parties, releasing political prisoners and freeing up the media. He pulled out of the presidential race in October 1999 after legislators rejected his progress report, partly due to dissatisfaction over East Timor's breakaway from Indonesia. Habibie had authorised a UN-sponsored referendum on the issue. Abdurrahman Wahid became president but was impeached in July 2001 for incompetence and alleged corruption. His deputy Megawati Sukarnoputri took over.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 15 December 2003

Chinese Officials Held in Regional Corruption Probe

Fuzhou - Chinese authorities have detained more than 17 senior provincial and city officials in this southern city over the last two weeks following the arrest of the alleged leader of an organized criminal operation that specialized in gambling, prostitution, illegal bank loans and the laundering of drug money, official sources said. Judges, senior police officials, prosecutors, tax collectors and agents from the Ministry of State Security were among those detained. Underscoring the increasingly close connections between organized crime and politicians in China, the alleged gangster, Chen Kai, was a member of a local government agency called the Chinese People's Consultative Congress and jointly ran a hotel and gambling operation with that agency. "He was like a local congressman," said a former business partner, "a congressman from Fuzhou." Chen also handed out stock in the more than 200 companies he controlled to scores of government officials, sources said. And he placed various retired officials or their children in high-paying jobs.

Chen was arrested for laundering drug profits into real estate schemes for an alleged heroin trafficker, Kin-cheung Wong, a Fuzhou-based Hong Kong resident who was arrested in May on charges of smuggling $100 million of heroin into the United States over the last three years. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cooperated closely with Chinese police in investigating Wong. Censors have banned most reports about the recent detentions of government officials and none of the accused has spoken out. No media outlet in Fujian province has reported the affair, although in this city of 1.5 million, the provincial capital, it has become the talk of the town, with almost everyone from taxi drivers to hotel maids to bartenders trading gossip. Among those under investigation are Song Licheng, the deputy party secretary of Fuzhou responsible for the police, Zhi Dujiang, the deputy chief of the Fujian province state security bureau, and Xu Li, the son of the Fuzhou's former police chief. Some officials implicated in the probe, including Xu's father, Xu Congrong, and a top deputy, have fled to the United States, which does not have an extradition treaty with China.

Chen, 42, the son of a shop owner, got his start in business selling carpets in Fuzhou. He advanced to electrical appliances and in the early 1990s, when the Communist Party ordered banks to start making money readily available for loans, moved into the entertainment industry, business associates said. Official sources said the beginning of Chen's criminal activity corresponded with a friendship he made with Xu Congrong, then Fuzhou's police chief. Xu took Chen as his godson. Under Xu's protection, Chen opened a string of restaurants and hotels and used them as a front for his casinos, officials said. He imported used slot machines from the United States and Macau, using his increasingly powerful connections to ensure that customs agents did not seize the goods. Gambling has been illegal in China since the Communist revolution in 1949. In 1998, Chen opened Music Plaza, a four-story nightclub festooned with neon lights, in the middle of Fuzhou.

More than 200 women and girls worked at Music Plaza, providing everything from conversation to sex, a Fuzhou-based real estate developer said. That same year, Fuzhou's Communist Party branch appointed Chen as a delegate to the city's People's Consultative Congress, a sign that he had arrived politically. At Music Plaza, many of the guests were government officials. Chen also hired former government officials, including senior police officers, to provide security at his properties. To share the wealth, he distributed stock in Music Plaza to business associates working in the police force, the courts and the city prosecutor's office, said a source in the central discipline committee of the Communist Party, the party's corruption watchdog. Chen also began investing in real estate. Over about five years starting in 1998, Chen borrowed an estimated $50 million from six state-run banks, officials said. He provided kickbacks to lending officers, usually around 5 percent of the loan, said a source with firsthand knowledge from the People's Bank of China, based in Fuzhou.

From Washington Post, DC, by John Pomfret, 17 December 2003

Brunei Joins Global Anti-corruption Drive

Pengiran Anak Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Puteh, non-resident Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to Mexico based in Washington DC, delivering his address on December 11. Top officials from around the globe including Brunei gathered in Merida, Mexico to attend the high level political conference for the purpose of signing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. The meeting was held from December 9 to 11. Brunei's delegation was headed by Pg Anak Dato Seri Laila Jasa Hj Puteh, non-resident Ambassador of Brunei to Mexico based in Washington DC, United States of America, a press statement from the Anti-Corruption Bureau stated yesterday. Other members of Brunei's delegation were the Attorney-General, Dato Paduka Hj Kifrawi and Director-General of Anti-Corruption Bureau, Hjh Intan. In his address to the conference, Pg Anak Dato Seri Laila Jasa Hj Puteh stated that Brunei welcomed the new landmark treaty with great optimism.

The adoption of the UN Convention against Corruption affirms the commitment of the international community in the determination to prevent and control corruption. He added that the Convention reaffirms the universal values of good and clean governance, respect for the rule of the law, honesty and accountability of holders of public office. It sends a powerful universal warning that betrayal of public trust and abuse of public office is no longer tolerable. The treaty will take effect once ratified by the congress of at least 30 signatory countries. Among others, the treaty requires member states of the Convention to enact laws against corruption. With the entry into force of the Convention, it may open financial and banking institutions in countries of money-havens to more scrutiny and allow some poor countries to recover state funds lost through embezzlement and corruption. It is hoped that with the coming into force of the Convention, both rich and poor nations will have more equal footing for the purpose of tracing and returning scandal-tainted money that often winds-up in wealthy banking capitals.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, by Azlan Othman, 17 December 2003

Indonesia to Sign UN Convention against Corruption Soon

New York - Indonesia will sign the UN Convention against Corruption in New York on Thursday, a Foreign Ministry official has said. "Justice and Human Rights Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra will sign the convention at the UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday," the ministry's director general of information, public information and international treaties, Mangasi Sihombing, said on Tuesday. The world body adopted a convention against corruption at its session in Vienna, Austria, recently.

From Antara, Indonesia, 17 December 2003

Corruption Drive is Getting Off to a Slow Start

Slowly but surely, more and more people are waking up to the desperate need to combat graft. Delegates from countries across the world agreed recently in the southern Mexican city of Merida to do more about this scourge. But a large number of countries that agreed to sign the treaty are yet to take action and lead the international community in the quest for a corruption-free world. The first legally binding international agreement aimed at defeating corruption through integrity, transparency and accountability was welcomed by ministers and government representatives from 120 countries in Merida last week. But it requires at least 30 nations to ratify the treaty for it to be effective. The formation of the accord came after high level talks at a conference for the United Nations Convention against Corruption, with hundreds of officials and non-governmental organisations among those invited to attend the Mexico forum. In an announcement, ministers and government representatives recognised that corruption "hurt the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining governments' ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice, and discouraging foreign investment and aid". The World Bank Institute estimated the value of corruption worldwide would run into trillions of dollars and this did not include additional indirect and long-term costs.

On the other hand, it is clear that anti-corruption and good governance can pave the way for enormous development, with some estimates to the tune of 400%. Even countries with moderate improvements in suppressing corruption can expect a four-fold increase in income per capita, together with reductions in long-term infant mortality and illiteracy. The United Nations General Assembly recognised this and adopted a resolution on Oct 31 to accept the treaty. The first legally binding, mandatory request made was for each member state to accept the resolution and consider the following factors which were included in the treaty's 71 articles: definitions, scopes, protection of sovereignty, preventive measures, criminalisation, sanctions and remedies, confiscation and seizure, jurisdiction, liability of legal persons, protection of witnesses and victims, promoting and strengthening international cooperation, preventing and combating the transfer of funds derived from acts of corruption and illicit origins, including money laundering, technical assistance, collection, exchange and analysis of information, and mechanisms for monitoring implementation. Corruption in the private sectors is considered a criminal offence under the treaty.

While welcoming the announcement, Transparency International, an organisation dedicated to curbing corruption at the national and global levels, insisted that words must be matched with concrete action. "t would be a very great mistake for anyone to believe that a UN convention will alter the great burden of suffering corruption inflicted on billions of people around the world," the organisation said in a statement issued after the release of the declaration. Transparency International representative Peter Rooke said the agreement was better than he had hoped for, although a UN convention was no substitute for an anti-corruption programme at the national level. Both national and international mechanisms are necessary if governments are to tackle the enormously damaging impact of international grand corruption, where private companies compete in bribery, instead of quality and price. The struggle to contain corruption begins with winning the hearts and minds of politicians, the private sector, civil society and the citizens of each country. "These core issues were not addressed sufficiently in the declaration," Mr. Rooke said.

Transparency International was supportive of the declaration, but wished for a far stronger and a much more urgent commitment. Attorney-General Raywat Chamchalerm, who oversees the treaty in Thailand, said a thorough examination on details of the total 71 articles had to be made. He said the UN resolution contained unfamiliar laws dealing with corruption between private agencies and witness protection. Laws and regulations governing graft, the National Counter Corruption Commission and the Anti-Money Laundering Office - even criminal acts - would all have to be amended before the government could approve the bill. Although the Thai government's adherence to the treaty would not be a problem, much depended on the willingness of other nations to change their legislation for a global drive against corruption to be effective. The government said several countries set to sign the treaty were well known for their inability to tackle domestic money laundering. "In principle, the cooperation under the UN framework has shown signs of progress," Mr. Raywat said. "However, it will take several years until the 30 countries will be ready to ratify the treaty and make the UN resolution against international corruption effective. Only time will tell."

From Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Apiradee Treerutkuarkul, 18 December 2003

Corruption, Irregularities Rampant in Cooperatives Bank, Milk Vita - JS Body Members Allege

The parliamentary standing committee on the local government and rural development (LGRD) and cooperatives ministry yesterday slapped allegations of corruption and irregularities on the cooperatives bank and Milk Vita. "The committee members alleged that corruption and irregularities are rampant in the two organisations under the ministry, which provided several persons with jobs and loans violating the rules," said Abdul Mannan Talukder, chairman of the committee. The committee asked the ministry to submit a report to its next meeting to clarify the allegations, Mannan told newspersons after the meeting held at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban. "If the ministry fails to satisfy the committee, we will form a sub-committee to probe the allegations". A committee member alleged that Sayed Hafiz Mahmud, Dhaka district cooperatives officer, who joined the LGRD and cooperatives ministry as an officer in 1984, was fired from police department because of corruption the previous year. Following the allegation, the committee asked the ministry to submit another report on the activities of the officer, Mannan added. The chairman said allegations were also raised against Milk Vita regarding a tender of Tk 22 crore in its Mirpur office. The committee discussed a project of Tk 107 crore initiated during the past government to purchase 600 trawlers, of which not a single one has been seen, Mannan said.

From The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 22 December 2003

3 Measures to Reduce Red Tape and Corruption in the Bureaucracy

Malacanang - In key thrusts to reduce red tape and corruption in the bureaucracy, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration has implemented three measures. First, it instituted the following initiatives in the different government agencies: -acquisition of goods, supplies and materials through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management; -posting of flowcharts at the lobby of government agencies with frontline services showing the processes and steps in business transactions; -reduction of signatories and processing time of various clearances, licenses and permits, even reducing signatories by half, in a number of agencies; -issuance of Executive Order 40 consolidating procurement rules and regulations to enhance transparency in government procurement; -and enhanced efficiency in the delivery of infrastructure services, increase in transparency, and improvement of internal controls to combat graft and corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways.

These reforms focus on the ongoing Road Information and Management Support system project assisted by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. This includes the intensive use of new procurement system application of geographic information system, improved Right-of-Way management process, improved internal controls on fiscal management, use of New Government Accounting system. Second, it issued Executive Order 109 which streamlined rules and procedures on the review and approval of all government contracts, considerably cutting the time for processing. Third, it reduced by half the processing time of employment contracts and accreditation of land-based workers and established the Philippine Seafarer's One-Stop Center designed to provide frontline services, including quick documentation to seafarers in connection with their overseas employment. It has also encouraged local government units to reduce red tape by establishing One-Stop Shops, Customer Complaints Desks and improved Civil Application Systems in 113 cities, more than 35 capital towns and municipalities in growth centers and more than 100 other municipalities.

From Philippine Headline News, Philippines, 22 December 2003

Corruption a Major Threat to Economic Development

Coimbatore - Eminent personalities from various spheres of life, today termed corruption as 'anti national' and one of the major threats to the economic development of the country. Addressing a workshop on corruption, organised by Anti Corruption Movement here this evening, former Central Vigilance commissioner, N Vittal alleged that corruption was anti-economic development and black money often had gone to funding terrorist activities. Saying that 'hawala' racket had proved to be anti-national with a direct effect on economic development, Vittal alleged that in certain cases, tainted money had gone in funding extremist activities in Jammu and Kashmir also. He also alleged that political system, unfortunately was based on corruption, as parties needed large funds to contest polls, in which black money, invariably, had played a big role In his address, former CBI director, D R Karthikeyan said that though terrorism appeared to be the biggest threat to a nation, assessment of individual cases had revealed that corruption as a biggest culprit. Corruption has grown from a cottage industry to a well-established industry now, he said. He said that time-frame for processing applications and files and stringent enforcement were needed to prevent corruption. He also suggested for bringing a law, by which voters be given right to recall elected representatives, if they were found corrupt.

From Economic Times, India, 22 December 2003

Corruption Snowballs at Defense Think Tanks

In the wake of a snowballing bribery scandal revolving around government defense contracts, police said the chiefs of the nation's two hallmark defense institutes were being detained Sunday night for allegedly receiving bribes from arms dealers. Police requested arrest warrants yesterday for the chief of the Agency for Defense Development, identified only by his family name Park, and the head of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, Hwang Dong-jun. According to the police, Park, a retired three-star general, purportedly received money totaling 20 million won ($16,720) last year from an underwater weapons producer, identified as "M," in relation to choosing a military satellite communication system. Hwang is suspected of receiving 10 million won from "M" in connection with the selection of a war-game simulation developer in August 2002.

Park and Hwang have denied the allegations. Police are also investigating whether both institute heads are connected to Chun Yong-taek, a former defense minister under President Kim Dae-jung, who is suspected of having received massive bribes from the defense industry. Chun, a sitting pro-government legislator, was given a second subpoena yesterday to appear on Dec. 29 for questioning after he ignored the first summons last week. ADD and KIDA are both funded by the government and are cited as arguably the highest-profile think tanks in Korea, providing scientific technologies for the local development of weapons systems and theoretical frameworks for defense policy formulation, respectively. Established in 1970, ADD aims to develop advanced defense science and technologies for a range of weapons, equipment and material.

The agency is staffed with 1,700 scientists who are affiliated with 11 areas of high-tech defense, including multimedia communications, intelligence and next-generation materials. KIDA was established to provide useful national defense policy guidel;ines formulated by more than 200 scholars in various social science and economic disciplines. Meanwhile, the detained representative of the company "M", who confessed to offering bribes to the chiefs of ADD and KIDA, caused a commotion yesterday on hearing the news of the two former government officials' arrests. Apparently driven by a sense of guilt, the arms dealer injured himself by poking his own face with a pen and pounding his head on the desk while undergoing investigation at a Seodaemun branch of the National Police Agency in western Seoul. He was sent to a nearby hospital to treat minor injuries. "The arms dealer requested a pen, saying that he needed to make a new confession and began hurting himself with it," said a police detective. "He must have been feeling guilty that his business associates were detained."

From Korea Herald, South Korea, (khjack@heraldm.com), 22 December 2003

Corruption Scandals Grip South Korea

South Korea has made little progress in rooting out the corrupt ties between politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen despite the repeated promised by past leaders to declare war on corruption. People vividly remember that all previous governments had fought in vain to eradicate deep-rooted corruption and injustice, particularly in cases involving the inner circles of the country's politicians. It is no wonder when the prosecution launches a crackdown on "dirty money," vowing to severely punish not only politicians and high-ranking government officials receiving bribes but also businessmen offering them, the public is skeptical. People have long criticized political leaders for being long on words and short on action in eliminating corruption, which reached its peak during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The three-way ties among politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen were partly blamed for the turmoil. Now almost one year after its commitment, the prosecution is being lauded by many people for its efforts to get to the bottom of various corruption scandals. Some people even organized on-line fan clubs to support Prosecutor General Song Kwang-soo and other prosecutors who are conducting related probes. They proved their resolve to fight corruption by accurately bringing to light the inter-Korean summit scandal. The prosecution indicted nine peo

ple after finding that the Kim Dae-jung government paid $500 million to North Korea to help hold the historic summit in June 2000. Park Jie-won, the former President Kim's right-hand man, was sentenced to 12 years in jail on charges of accepting 15 billion won in bribes from Hyundai Group in 2000. He was also fined 14.75 billion won in the graft case. Nine other government officials who served in key posts in the previous government are now on trials. Then came the SK scandal. In October, prosecutors said they have secured evidence that Rep. Lee Sang-soo of the Uri Party, Rep. Choi Don-woong of the majority Grand National Party and former Chong Wa Dae secretary, Choi Do-sul, accepted illegal political funds from SK Group prior to last year's presidential election. All three, along with a number of officials from the two major parties and SK, were summoned in what was seen as a sweeping anti-corruption campaign. Prosecutors previously told the nation that the sum of money they received amounted to about 10 billion won, saying most of the money was spent on the campaigns during the presidential election.

Later, the case expanded to much bigger campaign scandals after many of the top conglomerates, such as Samsung, Hyundai, Lotte, Hanjin and several others were found to have made illegal donations to political parties. A series of raids on their key offices were conducted and accounting records showing the dirty transactions and other illegal business frauds were seized. The amount the parties took from the business groups swelled as the investigation went on. Now, the facts show that the GNP accepted more than 50 billion won from the top five conglomerates, while about 11 billion won was given to the MDP. The attention is also on whether President Roh Moo-hyun, who was elected under the MDP's banner, was in any way involved in his former party's acceptance of illegal campaign donations. After taking office, Roh urged prosecutors to do their part to secure independence and neutrality from political powers in their probes into corruption allegations. Now his words are coming back to haunt him, with those who helped him rise to power under investigation.

Prosecutor General Song has vowed to press ahead with thorough and fair probes into illegal fund-raising by both ruling and opposition parties during the presidential election in December 2002. "Our promise to strictly deal with the corruption case is as firm as ever,'' the chief prosecutor said in a statement after revealing the SK scandal. He called the investigation an ``extremely sensitive issue,'' saying he feels an enormous burden, but will try to lead a transparent and fair investigation to resolve mounting public doubt over the case. The prosecution now faces another test of its ability to regain public confidence through its investigation of shocking money scandals involving Roh's former aides. Setting aside President Roh's demand that the prosecution dispel any political considerations and investigate the case thoroughly, a common wish is for the nation's law enforcement authorities to be free of political influence. One of the most important tasks of the "reform-minded" Roh administration is to establish social justice and order by successfully fighting the corruption of the ruling class.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Na Jeong-ju, 28 December 2003

Administrative Reform and Fighting Corruption Top Next Year's Key Tasks

To focus on administrative reform and fighting corruption is one of the key tasks set for next year, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai told ministry and provincial officials at a Government conference on Sunday. Speaking at the conference, PM Khai stressed "readjusting the administrative machinery together with preventing and fighting corruption is the break-through needed for the years to come." He added that despite sound achievements recorded in 2003 as well as in the last three years, the country is expected to face more difficulties over the next two years. Ministries and provinces should work towards a faster integration into the global economy and a breakthrough in administrative reform and fighting corruption and improve efficiency in order to ensure an economic growth rate of more than 8 percent. The Prime Minister also pointed out other tasks for 2004, including the improvement of the investment environment and the removal of obstacles in taxes and customs procedures to make it easier for enterprises, especially small- and medium-sized ones, to operate more effectively.

He also called for the prompt deployment of some newly issued laws on land, construction, State-owned enterprises and co-operatives. The Government leader also asked State-owned enterprises to take the lead in raising business effectiveness, renewing technologies to cut production costs and raise the competitiveness of its products. "An end should be put to changing the state monopoly into an enterprises monopoly," Khai said, adding a law on competition and business monopoly control should be built. The PM said measures should be taken to renew financial and banking operations, prevent losses in tax collection, reorganise the tax collecting system for higher effectiveness, and strictly control budget spending. It is necessary to promote stricter enforcement of financial disciplines towards State-owned enterprises and administer strict penalties towards violators. PM Khai further said economic development should not be separate from cultural and social matters, elaborating the government's main measures to accelerate cultural and social activities and to increase aid to the poor in the coming time.

From Voice of Viet Nam, Vietnam, 29 December 2003

Anti-Corruption Body Leaders Sworn In

Indonesia's judiciary and political elite have failed abysmally to eradicate endemic corruption since the fall of ex-president Suharto more than five years ago. Pundits aren't expecting the creation of a national graft eradication commission to change much. The five leaders of the long-awaited Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) were sworn in by President Megawati Sukarnoputri in a ceremony at the state palace on Monday (29/12/03). Megawati, who was accompanied by Vice President Hamzah Haz, gave no speech at the induction event. Indonesia has long been ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The pervasive problem, which exists at all levels of politics, business and society, is considered a major detriment to urgently needed foreign investment. International donors had put pressure on the government to establish the anti-graft commission, as the judiciary is widely viewed as too crooked, too incompetent and unwilling to deal with corruption. The chairman of KPK is retired police inspector general Taufiqqurochman Ruki, who served in parliament's non-elected military/police faction for several years under Suharto. Ruki's four deputies are former state auditor Amien Sunaryadi, Finance Ministry official Sjahruddin Rasul, former state prosecutor Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean and former Jakarta Stock Exchange commissioner/former tin mining executive Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas.

The five were elected on December 16 by the House of Representatives, which is led by Akbar Tanjung, who remains free despite being convicted over a year ago of massive embezzlement of state funds. Many observers seriously doubt that a state institution led by a convicted felon would have a appointed a commission willing to tackle rampant corruption to the full extent of the law. No one is expecting KPK to swiftly resolve the case of Tanjung, who was sentenced in September 2002 to three years in jail for misappropriating Rp40 billion ($4.7 million) in state funds that were supposed to have been used to buy food for the needy. Presidential aspirant Amien Rais, who is speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), has said KPK will be useless without any political commitment from the government to combat corruption. He said it's understandable that some elements of society have expressed pessimism over the commission. After the five KPK leaders were elected in a secret ballot by 44 legislators from House Commission II on legal and domestic affairs, analysts immediately complained that "more worthy" candidates with greater integrity had failed to make the grade. Among those who had hoped to be in KPK were respected former attorney general Marsillam Simandjuntak, state prosecutor Mohammad Yamin and Indonesian Transparency Society (MTI) member Iskandar Sonhaji.

The House was widely accused of selecting the KPK members based on political considerations, rather than choosing figures with an unblemished track record against corruption. One major problem that faced KPK even before it was inaugurated was that Sunaryadi, one of the team's more respected members, said he might quit because some of his colleagues are "too old". Despite the criticism and pessimism, commentators have said KPK's leaders must be given the benefit of the doubt, as they will have the power to prosecute corruption cases, unlike previous toothless anti-graft bodies. Such power was previously in the hands of the Attorney General's Office and the police. KPK chairman Ruki on Monday vowed to never to succumb to pressure and promised to act swiftly to deal with corruption. "No powers or individuals will be able to intervene...whoever they are," he was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. "We will not hesitate in taking actions against corruptors," he said, adding the commission would not abuse its powers.

Ruki last week admitted that corruption was rampant in all levels of the police force, but claimed he had tried to stop it. "I know that corruption is rampant in the police force. I know because I am an insider," he was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post daily. He acknowledged it would be difficult to build a potent institution capable of combating corruption, but promised to do his best. Whether KPK will be willing and able to flex it muscles remains to be seen. Legislators have already demanded that KPK's secretariat should be placed under one of the ministries accountable to House Commission II. Commission II monitors the Home Affairs Ministry, Justice and Human Rights Ministry, State Administrative Reform Ministry, National Police and the Attorney General's Office. According the Commission II, the move is necessary to reduce state budget costs.

If such a proposal is accepted, Indonesians might just as well forget about having an independent, powerful anti-corruption body. Health Wealth - In addition to student groups demanding the resolution of Akbar Tanjung's corruption conviction, KPK has also been urged to immediately deal with the alleged mark-up of Rp345 billion ($40.7 million) in additional 2003 state budget funds for various development programs in eastern and western Indonesia. A. Rusly Biki, president of the State Wealth Rescue Committee (KPHN), on Monday claimed much of the money had been misused by the Health Ministry and state-owned PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia, which is one the country's main sugar manufacturers. "We called on the related institutions, the police, the prosecutors office and the newly established KPK to focus on Health Ministry officials for investigation and legal process," Biki was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara. He made the demand as about 200 members of KPHN and the People's Anti-Corruption Commission (Korak) protested at the Health Ministry to call for the resignation of Health Minister Achmad Sujudi.

From Laksamana, Indonesia, 29 December 2003

 

EU Enlargement Will Make Corruption Problem Worse: Ex-Magistrate

Oslo - Corruption, rampant in many of the countries knocking at the European Union's door, will become a much more serious problem for the EU once they join, according to Eva Joly, a prominent former anti-corruption investigating magistrate. "Of the ten countries that will be integrated into the EU, several have an entrenched culture of corruption," Franco-Norwegian Joly said in an interview with AFP. "We can't fight against criminal behavior with the presumption of innocence as our only weapon." Joly knows a thing or two about corruption and white-collar crime, having run the high-profile investigation into kickbacks and misuse of corporate assets at French powerhouse Elf Aquitaine in the 1990s, which landed the oil giant's former chairman, Loik Le Floch-Prigent, and others in jail. She returned to her native Norway a year ago, and now uses her expertise in the service of the Norwegian government. Suddenly finding herself in the role of special adviser against corruption and money laundering, Joly has, at nearly 60, become Norway's official voice on these topics on the international stage.

She also offers advice to future EU member states, even as her own country stubbornly remains outside of the Union. "We all live in the same world," she explains from behind piles of papers and files cluttering her desk. "That's the reason that Norway is involved in this fight, including in central European countries. We must help them bring their institutions up to scratch, and pressure them to fight what otherwise could lead to an increase in crime in all of our countries." Joining the EU on May 1 are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, and Malta. All of them have their anti-corruption work cut out for them, according to Transparency International, an NGO specialized in the war on corruption. In the organisation's latest ranking of 133 countries according to their level of integrity, Poland (64th place), Slovakia (59th), Latvia (57th), and even the Czech Republic (54th) were stuck in the middle of the pack. The prospect of joining the EU has not necessarily done much to bring these countries on the path to rectitude. To obtain a driving license, win a court case, or receive decent hospital care, bribery is still often the only way. In Slovakia, hospital doctors make just 500 euros (600 dollars) a month, making them vulnerable to offers of illicit payments.

A serious traffic violation in the Czech Republic can be made to disappear for about 100 euros (120 dollars). In its battle against this scourge, ingrained at every level of public life, Brussels has little except awareness campaigns and admonishments to offer. Meanwhile frustration runs deep that EU financial aid often fails to be put to the intended use. "The money doesn't always reach its intended destination, mainly because of corruption. That's something we should not tolerate," says Joly. "(But) it's extremely difficult to fight international crime at the national level." Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, has proposed the creation of a European legal area with a large dose of supranationalism. "That would solve the problem, but issues surrounding sovereignty will prevent us from taking that path," Joly predicted. "When looking at the patchwork of European institutions, we see that we have the European Court of Human Rights," Joly says. "But the EU, which is trying to become ever more integrated, and which is even creating a common defense policy, doesn't have a European judiciary, not to mention a criminal court for prosecuting fraud at the EU level." Joly said she regrets that the creation of a European anti-corruption task force remains "utopia for the time being." "We'll need to get there, but it's going to take enormous amounts of time," she said. "But as we tackle the necessary long-term issues, we shouldn't forget about the things we can do even today," Joly said.

From Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates, 1 December 2003

Systemic Corruption

Weariness and stagnation, both of which are manifest in many aspects of government work, usually go hand-in-hand with systemic corruption, with the consolidation of a covert network that brings together politicians, businessmen and state functionaries who abuse power and squander public wealth. Our readers know that Kathimerini insists on emphasizing the corrosive effects of corruption. Corruption, however, is not the only source of stagnation. Fatigue, dereliction of duty and arrogance are not always accompanied by profiteering. Moreover, it is far from certain whether graft itself can be attributed to the personality of a specific individual or to the corrupting effect the long exercise of power has on all or on most people. In other words, the symptoms of degeneration evident in a ruling party that has in the past shown a high degree of dynamism (such as when it had to push Greece's entry into the eurozone), are not the result of acts by the individuals themselves but of their having been in power for too long. These officials are timeworn: They have forgotten that their role is that of the people's representative and not of their principal; they have become estranged from citizens' problems; they have even reached the point of considering unlawful money-making as fair reward.

Sad as this conclusion may be, selflessness and moderation appear to succumb to man's thirst for greater power. Politics is always tied to human nature. Hence the quintessence of democracy and its ability to check the tendencies for over-concentration of power lie in a change in government. Even in a situation where parties basically share the same platform, this changeover helps to contain the human extremes of politics. But it's actually more than that. A party's long stay in power not only causes fatigue among its cadres but also undermines its collective spirit and desire for betterment. This said, the alternation of power helps rejuvenate political movements and parties. Despite any disagreements that one may have had for the policies of the late Socialist prime minister and PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou, no one can deny that his victory in the 1981 parliamentary elections contributed to further cementing our democracy by verifying the possibility of political changeovers and by breathing new air into governance. Even during the time of Pericles, democracy in ancient Athens was imperfect. Thucydides described Athens as being a democracy in name but in practice ruled by its leading man - and this about Pericles.

From Kathimerini, Greece, 1 December 2003

Putin Says Those Who Broke Law During Privatization Will Face Punishment

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the government wouldn't launch a broad revision of post-Soviet privatization but indicated that it will crack down on those who broke the law during the controversial sellout. Putin reaffirmed his earlier stance that the government wasn't planning a major redistribution of assets gained through privatization of state property, but said that "doesn't concern people who weren't observing the law," the Interfax news agency reported. "I keep hearing that laws were complicated and it was impossible to respect them," Putin said in a speech at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "Yes, laws were complex and intricate, but it was quite possible to respect them. Those who wanted to respect them did so." Putin's statement is likely to further scare investors already spooked by a probe against Russia's largest oil company, Yukos.

Yukos former chief and a key shareholder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is in jail on fraud and tax evasion charges, some of which are linked to a 1994 privatization deal. On Tuesday, Khodorkovsky was brought to a Moscow court for a second day of hearings on a prosecutors' appeal to keep him in custody for another three months. Russia's top tycoons won prized state assets at giveaway prices in murky privatization auctions, often using their connections in former President Boris Yeltsin's administration. "Those who were involved in deliberate fraud put themselves in more favorable conditions than those who played by the rules," Putin said. "The latter may not have earned so much money, but they now sleep well." Putin has cast the Yukos probe as a part of anti-corruption efforts, but it has been widely seen as an example of Kremlin-inspired selective justice intended to avenge Khodorkovsky's political activities.

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA , 23 December 2003

 

Iraq, US to Set Anti-corruption Unit

Baghdad - The Iraqi governing council and the U.S. civil administration in Iraq are preparing Wednesday for the establishment of an authority to fight administrative corruption in Iraq. During a meeting with members of the interim Baghdad city council, U.S. civil administer in Iraq Paul Bremer vowed to fight corruption in Iraqi government departments. Bremer said a new authority would be set up to investigate administrative corruption and that an anti-corruption law would be issued by the end of the year. Administrative corruption was prevalent during the rule of ousted President Saddam Hussein, increasing during the 13 years of imposed sanctions.

From Irib, Iran, 3 December 2003

 

Consumer Advocate Questions Extent of Corruption

Topeka - Kansans who watch Westar Energy Inc. said they were not surprised Thursday by allegations contained in a federal indictment against two former executives, though a consumer advocate questioned why more defendants were not named. Former chief executive officer David Wittig and former chief strategic officer Douglas Lake each face 40 counts and are accused of trying to "systematically loot" the company, the largest electric utility in Kansas. Wittig - who once played host to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, then the state's insurance commissioner, at his home in the Hamptons in New York - faced criticism for months before he resigned as Westar's top executive in November 2002. Some allegations in Thursday's federal indictment first were raised in regulatory hearings conducted by the Kansas Corporation Commission. In May, Westar's board of directors released a 376-page report alleging misconduct by Wittig and Lake.

While he said he would not second-guess the federal grand jury that issued the indictment, David Springe, an attorney for the Citizens' Utility Ratepayers Board, said the directors' report suggested other Westar officials had some role in what happened at the company during Wittig's tenure. "There's an awful lot of conspiracy going on, but it seems to be between only two people," Springe said. "I find it a little hard to believe. These types of things can't take place, I'd think, in a vacuum." The indictment came nine days after Sebelius reappointed Wittig's wife, Beth, to the Kansas Film Services Commission, a board that helps promote movie projects in Kansas and find locations for film companies. She also is active in the Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy. "That is a separate issue," said Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran. "Beth Wittig has done a lot for the community."

During Sebelius' 2002 campaign for governor, she acknowledged she counted Wittig and his wife as friends. In 1998 and 1999, Sebelius received $5,000 in campaign contributions from the Wittigs. But the couple also helped other politicians - including former Republican Gov. Bill Graves, to whom they contributed $3,000 in 1994 and 1998, and Tim Shallenburger, Sebelius' GOP opponent in 2002, who received $2,000 for his primary race from Wittig. Thursday, Sebelius issued a statement saying, "I am hopeful that with these findings, we can focus on the new management team's continued efforts to strengthen our state's largest utility company." Other Kansans also said they did not think the indictment would affect Westar's operations. James Haines became CEO a year ago, and Westar was trying to shed all nonutility assets. "I am hopeful that neither the public nor the investment community overreact to this news," said KCC Chairman Brian Moline. "This is essentially a personal matter and does not affect the company as currently structured, or its ability to provide electric service."

From Lawrence Journal World, KS, by John Hanna, 5 December 2003

Politicians Speak Out Against Corruption

Many elected officials Wednesday distanced themselves from George Ryan, the once-popular former governor. "I want to take this opportunity to reassure the public that corruption will not be tolerated in the secretary of state's office," said Democrat Jesse White, the current officeholder. "I made a commitment to end corruption when I first came into this office," White added, "and I want to reassure the public that the practices of the past will remain in the past." Gov. Rod Blagojevich said what happened to Ryan came from a way of doing business that, over the years, had "blurred the lines of proper behavior." But without the Ryan scandal, Blagojevich said it might have been impossible to enact the sweeping set of ethics laws he and lawmakers recently approved. Some of Ryan's harshest critics said they gained no pleasure from his indictment. "There's no joy, but there is serious business that needs to be done," said state Sen.

Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican. U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, an Inverness Republican and outspoken Ryan critic, hailed Wednesday's events as a possible sea change in Illinois politics. "Historically, the state's culture of corruption has seemed intractable," Fitzgerald said. "But with today's development, perhaps Illinois turns a new corner." At least one official expressed sorrow for the fallen political giant. "For Governor Ryan and his family, I'm sure this day has been difficult," said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat. "It is also a difficult day for all Illinoisans. Anytime a public official is charged with misconduct in office, it calls into question the trust that people need to have in their government." (Daily Herald staff writer Natasha Korecki contributed to this report).

From Chicago Daily Herald, IL, by John Patterson, 18 December 2003

 

World Bank Aims to Tackle Corruption, Poverty

Following are two new press releases from the World Bank, outlining its ambitious strategies to promote good governance, poverty reduction and infrastructure improvements in Indonesia. The upshot is that the Bank will annually provide up to $850 million over the next four years, as long as the country's regional governments prove they are able to use funds transparently to promote the economic well-being of the poor. In other words, Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso shouldn't expect to hit the foreign assistance jackpot if he continues his policy of brutally evicting the city's poorest residents and destroying their houses. If everything goes to plan and rampant corruption is reduced, the Bank's total funding to Indonesia could be increased to up to $1.4 billion a year.

From Laksamana, Indonesia, 4 December 2003

UN Member States to Sign Anti-Corruption Treaty

United Nations - The international community will take a major step in fighting corruption worldwide when United Nations member States sign the UN Convention Against Corruption at a ceremony to he held from December 9 to 11 in Merida, Mexico. The convention will come into force once 30 nations ratify it and will be the first binding legal agreement to tackle the scourge globally. Talking to correspondents here yesterday, UN's Legal Chief, Hans Corell, said corruption poisons the society, thwarting developing, repelling investment and undermining efforts to raise the living standards of the poor. The 191-member UN General Assembly had adopted the convention on October 31. Earlier on September 29, the 'Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime' had come into force. Corell said the two treaties have created a kind of global momentum to fight corruption. The convention focuses on preventative measures against corruption, stressing that education is vital in promoting the values of integrity and self-respect, he said. He added that the Convention highlights the need for greater cooperation between States to ensure that police and prosecutors can bring more cases before the courts.

From The Hindu, India, 5 December 2003

U.N. Countries Reveal Costs of Corruption

For decades, corruption was something governments denied. But with the signing of the first worldwide anti-corruption treaty, governments are talking, revealing the enormous cost of embezzlement, collusion and "accounting errors." The revelations are exactly what the U.N. Convention Against Corruption - being signed this week by leading officials from around the globe - was designed to accomplish: uncover corruption, detect illicit funds and return them to the countries from which they were stolen. "Corruption ... has ruined our schools and hospitals," Kenya Justice Minister more equal Murungi told a gathering of some 125 nations expected to sign the accord. "It has destroyed our agriculture and industries. It has 'eaten up' our roads and jobs. ... It has destroyed our society." Consider the costs: The U.N.'s top anti-crime official, Antonio Costa, estimates that Zaire and Nigeria, two of Africa's hardest-hit states, have lost some $5 billion each in the last few years to graft, most of it spirited out of those countries. In Pakistan, an estimated 30 percent of the price of all public works projects goes to kickbacks and bribes. In Bangladesh, corruption eats up a whopping 50 percent of foreign investment.

As high as that price tag stands, there are even more alarming activities: what officials call the intermingling of terrorism, money laundering and corruption. "The routes for arms trafficking and drugs are usually lubricated by corruption," Costa said. He estimated that about one-quarter of the $2 billion in annual proceeds from Afghan heroin - a trade that couldn't survive without graft - may be used to finance terrorism. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of the first to sign the agreement, said corruption "provides sanctuary to the global forces of terror." Corruption also represents "a tax on the poor ... it steals from the needy to enrich the wealthy," Ashcroft told the convention in Merida, 620 miles east of Mexico City. That is especially true in Africa and Asia, two regions which have never signed onto such a pact before, where embezzled money is usually sent abroad to a rich banking capital.

Some of those banking centers - such as Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein - have signaled their intentions to join the pact; others, such as the Cayman Islands, have not yet done so, according to officials. The agreement opens banks in money-havens to more scrutiny and may allow some poor countries to recover billions of looted dollars. It requires signatories to fight theft in the corporate sector, and punish domestic companies that pay bribes in other nations. The treaty also requires governments to enact laws against corruption, protect whistle-blowers and assist other countries in detecting illicit funds. All this places poor nations - who normally have to beg for years to get looted funds returned - on a closer footing with rich nations. It also marks a sea-change over the last decade in the way corruption is viewed. "Bribery ... was simply a part of human nature, a trivial issue," Ashcroft said, describing the attitudes of a decade ago. It was viewed as "a necessary oil to lubricate the wheels of business, or even promoted as a normal expense to be deducted from taxes at home."

From Associated Press Associated Press Online, 10 December 2003

U.N. Anticorruption Treaty Aims To Ease Retrieval of Dirty Money

Merida, Mexico - The first world-wide anticorruption treaty will try to create an atmosphere where dirty money can't hide, requiring nations to return embezzled or stolen money. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption, to be signed here today, was promoted by developing countries such as Nigeria and Mexico, which hope to recoup billions of dollars stashed in foreign bank accounts. It is also the first anticorruption pact to cover Asia and Africa. "I think that with this convention, we have laid to rest the old idea that we, developing countries, are corrupt, and that the developed countries are the good guys," said Patricia Olamendi, a Mexican undersecretary of foreign relations who was involved in negotiating the treaty. "We are creating an equal system, a just system, in which those who receive the money are just as corrupt as the country it was taken from." The U.S. has committed to signing the pact, along with more than 100 other nations, including much of Europe, Russia, China and Japan. The pact requires signatory governments to enact minimum legal standards against corruption, protect those who provide details of illicit funds and assist other countries in detecting the flow of such money.

It will take effect once ratified by the congresses of at least 30 signatory countries. While it doesn't require countries to repeal banking-secrecy laws or the immunity from prosecution granted to some politicians as part of their tenure in office, it does require safeguards so that politicians can be held accountable for their acts and that banking records can be examined. But it all comes back to repatriation. "The return of funds is expressed as a fundamental principal" in the pact, said Jose Vila del Castillo, the regional representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. The stakes are high. Mexico says it is pressing for the return of more than $600 million taken out of the country by corrupt political figures. Regulators in Switzerland have concluded that several banks there were remiss in failing to identify millions of dollars linked to the late Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha. But Nigeria is still wrestling with Swiss officials to speed the return of more than $640 million in assets linked to Gen. Abacha.

Those funds were frozen four years ago. Officials believe Gen. Abacha looted more than $2.2 billion from Nigeria's state coffers during the 1990s. British authorities found traces of about $1.3 billion allegedly handled by British banks on behalf of Gen. Abacha's family and friends. Money also was discovered in Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and the British offshore banking center of Jersey. New York-based Citibank came under congressional scrutiny for handling millions of dollars in deposits by officials accused of corruption in Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Gabon. Citibank officials later acknowledged that the bank's oversight was lax. Miguel Angel Gonzalez, who heads international affairs for the Mexican attorney general's office, said it is often difficult or even impossible to recoup money from foreign accounts. After six years of haggling over $9 million in bribes deposited by a former Mexican prosecutor in a U.S. bank, he said, the U.S. turned over less than a tenth of that amount to Mexico. Had the U.N. anticorruption convention been in effect when those funds were seized in 1997, Mr. Gonzalez said, "It would have been a whole different story." (Copyright (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

From The Wall Street Journal, 9 December 2003

Countries from Around the Globe to Sign U.N. Anti-Corruption Treaty

Merida, Mexico (AP) - Top officials from around the globe gathered Tuesday to sign the first worldwide anti-corruption treaty, a move that may open banks in money-havens to more scrutiny and allow some poor countries to recover billions of looted dollars. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Mexican President Vicente Fox were among the first to line up to sign the U.N. Convention Against Corruption, a pact that requires countries to aid in investigations and return money to wherever it was stolen or embezzled from. The convention, expected to be signed by over 100 nations, will put both rich and poor ones on a more equal footing when it comes to tracing and returning scandal-tainted money. The treaty got significant support in the developed world, and the United Nations stressed that corruption is not just a problem of developing nations. The pact requires signatories to fight theft in the corporate sector. "Particularly in the developed countries, multinational corporations and their powerful executives have been brought before justice for having defrauded shareholders, betrayed their employees or manipulated public policy," the United Nations said in a statement Monday. The treaty also requires governments to enact laws against corruption, protect whistle-blowers and assist other countries in detecting illicit funds. That could help poor nations like Mexico and Nigeria recover looted money kept in banks in Switzerland and the United States.

Nigeria has spent more than four years trying to recover US$2.2 billion taken by late Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha. And after six years of haggling over US$9 million in bribes deposited by a former Mexican prosecutor in a U.S. bank, the United States turned over less than one-tenth of that amount to Mexico. The pact, the first to cover Asia and Africa, may help developing countries by ensuring their systems are cleaner and more creditworthy, the U.N. said. "Donor countries and financial institutions like the World Bank have instituted strict anti-corruption policies to regulate the granting of loans and donations," the U.N. statement said. More of interest to Ashcroft and the United States may be the treaty's effect in requiring other countries to open up money laundering investigations, expedite extraditions and prevent the establishment of phantom banks with little legitimate business. While the pact doesn't require countries to repeal banking secrecy laws or the immunity from prosecution granted to some politicians as part of their tenure in office, it does require safeguards so that politicians can be held accountable for their acts and banking records can be examined. What remains unclear is whether the treaty will be signed by many of the so-called offshore banking havens like the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. It will take effect once ratified by the congresses of at least 30 signatory countries.

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA, by Mark Stevenson, 9 December 2003

43 Nations Sign UN's Anti-Corruption Accord

Merida, Mexico - For decades, corruption was something governments denied. But with the signing of the first worldwide anti-corruption treaty, governments are revealing the enormous cost of embezzlement, collusion and "accounting errors". The revelations are exactly what the UN Convention Against Corruption - being signed this week by leading officials from around the globe - was designed to accomplish: uncover corruption, detect illicit funds and return them to the countries from which they were stolen. More than 100 UN member states opened a two-day meeting on Tuesday to sign the first UN Convention Against Corruption. Forty three countries had signed the accord by late Tuesday, UN legal affairs director Hans Corell said - well over the 30 signatories needed to see the agreement in force in the next 90 days. Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, was the first to sign the document that resulted from two years of negotiations. "Corruption has ruined our schools and hospitals," Kiraiti Murungi, Kenya's justice minister, told the gathering of about 125 nations expected to sign the accord. "It has destroyed our agriculture and industries. It has eaten up our roads and jobs. It has destroyed our society."

The UN's top anti-crime official, Antonio Costa, estimates that Zaire and Nigeria, two of Africa's hardest-hit states, have lost about $5 billion each in the past few years to graft, most of it spirited out of those countries. In Pakistan, an estimated 30 percent of the price of public works projects goes to kickbacks and bribes. In Bangladesh, corruption eats up a whopping 50 percent of foreign investment. As high as that price tag stands, there are even more alarming activities, what officials call the intermingling of terrorism, money laundering and corruption. "The routes for arms trafficking and drugs are usually lubricated by corruption," Costa said. He estimated that about one-quarter of the $2 billion in annual proceeds from Afghan heroin - a trade that could not survive without graft - may be used to finance terrorism. US attorney-general John Ashcroft, who signed the agreement, said corruption "provides sanctuary to the forces of terror". Corruption represented "a tax on the poor, it steals from the needy to enrich the wealthy", Ashcroft said.

That is especially true in Africa and Asia where embezzled money is usually sent abroad to a rich banking capital. Some of those banking centres - such as Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein - have signalled their intentions to join the pact; others, such as the Cayman Islands, have not yet done so, according to officials. The agreement opens banks in money havens to more scrutiny and may allow some poor countries to recover billions of looted dollars. It requires signatories to fight theft and punish domestic companies that pay bribes in other nations. The treaty requires governments to enact laws against corruption, protect whistle-blowers and assist other countries in detecting illicit funds. All this places poor nations - which have to beg for years to get looted funds returned - on a closer footing with rich nations. It marks a sea change in the way corruption is viewed. "Bribery was simply a part of human nature, a trivial issue," Ashcroft said, describing the attitudes of a decade ago. It was viewed as "a necessary oil to lubricate the wheels of business, or even promoted as a normal expense to be deducted from taxes at home".

From Independent Online, South Africa, 11 December 2003

World Bank Urges Corruption Crackdown

The World Bank has called on United Nations' members to stamp out government corruption and strengthen transparency. The organisation said at a UN conference in Mexico that around five per cent of the gross domestic product worldwide is lost to corruption, including the misuse of funds and embezzlement. World Bank official Daniel Kaufman added that nations need to reform campaign financing and make their governments more open to scrutiny.

From swissinfo, Switzerland , 11 December 2003

 

Civil Servants Participating in Party Elections Face Dismissal

Public officers are being advised against taking part in political parties' primary elections as this would constitute a breach of the General Orders. "Such breach, once proved, would attract summary dismissal from the public service," according to a statement from the Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale. The statement draws the attention of public officers to General Order 38 dealing with political and other related activities of officers. It states that General Order 38.2 entitles eligible public officers to vote at any general election. General Order 38.2.2 further provides that public officers may not be active members or hold office in any political party. Recently, the Daily News reported that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has decided to bar its members, who are civil servants, from voting in its new primary election system known as Bulela Ditswe.

Botsalo Ntuane, the executive secretary of the BDP, said the move sought to maintain the party's belief that civil servants should not actively participate in politics. During the previous primary elections, the BDP had an electoral college that comprised the constituency committee of 18 as well as representatives of wards and cell committees. Civil servants were not members of these committees. On Friday, the Daily News' lead story indicated that the Botswana National Front and the Botswana Congress Party allow civil servants to vote in their primaries. The article says officials of the two parties described as uncalled for and undemocratic to disenfranchise party members from participating in the parties because they are civil servants.

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 1 December 2003

Civil Service Policy on HIV/AIDS to Be Formulated

Accra - Dr. Alex Glover-Quartey, Head of the Civil Service on Thursday said a civil service policy on HIV/AIDS would soon be formulated to address the care and support for Civil servants who might be infected with HIV/AIDS. He said measures that would help fight the spread of the dreadful disease within the Civil Service would also be put in place. Dr. Glover-Quartey was speaking at a day's seminar on HIV/AIDS organized for civil servants with the theme: "The effect of HIV/AIDS on productivity." He said the epidemic has now become a global catastrophe, which knew no limits, and it was crucial for the civil service to join in the campaign against the disease. "As head of the civil service, my concern for the health of the civil servants does not rest with only the 500 or so staff working under me at my office, indeed my concern is for the over 77,000 strong civil servants working through out the country" he said.

Dr. Glover-Quartey said HIV/AIDS posed a threat to the health, welfare, security and general development of the human resource of the Service. "HIV/AIDS has far-reaching devastating effects on our resources. It has moved from a stage of being a mere health issue intertwined with social responsibilities, to a looming economic disaster, which is slowly but surely creeping in and destroying the workforce of nations worldwide" he said. He advised the civil servants to go for HIV/AIDS test voluntarily to enable them to know their status and know how to lead fruitful lives. "It is only when you know your status that you could take advantage of the provisions that would be made for HIV positive workers" he added. He advised civil servants to change their behaviours adding, "I would rather ask you to concentrate on being faithful to your partners or if you dare to be a bit adventurous, use a condom." The civil servants were taken through topics like "Anatomy and psychology of the male and female reproductive system and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 29 November 2003

Civil Servants Reject FG's Pension Reforms

Abuja- Civil servants have rejected the recent draft pension reform Bill by President Olusegun Obasanjo forwarded to the National Assembly for passage into law. In a memorandum to that effect, the civil servants, under the umbrella of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (Trade Union side), argued that the draft Bill is a repeat of our national obsession for models, "crafted by other countries to solve their peculiar problems, noting that, it therefore lacks originality and inventiveness." The public servants opined further that the main thrust of the Bill substantially undermines the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Moreso, when it seeks to cover both the public and private sectors. Most importantly it abrogates gratuity entitlement in the public service including states and local governments." The union further argued that the Bill had provided for a private pension management, noting that even this in essence, is tantamount to privatisation of pension management in Nigeria. "This is very dangerous and lacks caution." "We recall the proliferation of mortgage banks in the early 1990s in response to the compulsory contribution of 2.5 per cent of workers monthly salary to the National Housing Fund. The fate and performance of these banks today are now part of our dismal history."

The civil servants also said that from assessment, the NSITF was relatively a success story and has justified reasons for replacing the former NPF. "To therefore collapse it as the Bill provides, into a conglomerate, is unwise and over ambitions. It portrays a movement from the known to the unknown. Above all, it does not enjoy the confidence and trust of private sector employers and workers who are sole contributors to the NSITF." The workers therefore urged the law makers to discard the Bill, as according to them it fails to recognise the limitations imposed by the constitution." The public sector being the problem area, any reform therefore should be restricted there." "A new reform should be subjected to negotiations by the stakeholders-federal, state, local governments and trade unions. The outcome of the negotiations should form the basis for future bills." The civil servants averred that the current draft Bill should therefore be thrown away as, it fails to recognise the limitations imposed by the constitution. It stressed further that any draft Bill on pensions in the public service must aim at; maintaining the twin benefits of pension and gratuity, address the existing heavy burden placed on governments in respect of present pension liabilities and prompt payment to retirees.

The workers further said that a fresh law on pensions must ensure that the pensions fund derived from each states, and public service impact positively and directly on the developmental needs of the states. It must also promote caution and provide credible fall back mechanism in the event of failure. The workers contended that removing profit motive from its management in order to engender confidence and trust, must also form the purport of the new provision reform. The civil servants stated that the fears that public sector management of pensions would suffer from non-compliance on the part of government to contribute to the funds, as and when due, because it will also provide for gratuity payments, and life pension was an force and unguided thought. "These fears have failed to appreciate, that privately managed pension fund are equally susceptible to abuse, mismanagement, collapse and circumvention of legislations," they noted. On the other civil servants he stressed that governments were now elected and that there also exist the legislatures both of which over time, would be increasingly moving towards good governance and to the electorates with respect to public opinion. It posited that a situation in which an individual worker would have to deal with a pension manager who is a corporate entity, would in reality lead to disparity in power relations to the advantage of the pension manager no matter what regulations we put in place.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Wisdom Patrick, 2 December 2003

More Civil Servants Face the Sack by March 2004

Thousands of civil servants are to be sacked - many by next March - as the Government pays the heavy price demanded by donors for a full resumption of aid. The total to lose their jobs could be as high as 24,000, with the number made up by heavy cuts also in parastatals and other Government institutions like State banks and universities. The full extent of the donors' demands became clear when Finance minister David Mwiraria was called to answer an MP's formal question in Parliament yesterday. He said donors were also insisting that commercial banks should be freed to charge whatever fees and interest rates they like, without controls imposed by either the Government or the Central Bank of Kenya. The banks will have to publish their charges and rates, however, and market forces will determine whether they attract customers or not, the IMF believes. The conditions also mean the CBK is expected to have a bigger say in the licensing and regulation of banks, in a move clearly aimed at limiting interference from Treasury and by extension the Executive. Interference by past governments is blamed for nurturing the so-called political banks, most of which came to grief in the mid-80s and late-90s.

Other conditions, which the minister called "structural benchmarks", included reshaping the National Social Security Fund, setting up a Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission "with a credible management", and creating a clear timetable for the declaration of wealth by all senior public officials. Yet others are presenting a Bill to privatise public assets, and creating an action plan and timetable for a Commitment Control System (CCS) to stop spending on anything other than agreed targets. The IMF is asking for specific action in the fight against corruption: the formation of an active Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC). Already a board has been set up, but the lenders are looking for faster appointment of a chief executive and the strengthening of the Integrity Centre secretariat to give new impetus to the anti-corruption drive. The Government is also expected to come up with a clear timetable for wealth declaration by public officials. So far, ministers, MPs and civil servants have filled in the forms, but the debate continues about the value of an exercise carried out in private without any public disclosure. Kenyans can look forward to better pensions if reforms at the NSSF are carried through as advocated by the IMF.

To qualify for aid, the minister said, the Government must also present the 2002/3 final budgetary accounts to the Controller and Auditor General by end of next March. In addition the Government has to complete its audit of pending bills, and to pay them off over a three-year period. In return, Kenya is set to receive nearly Sh319 billion from donors which is expected to fund the three-year economic recovery strategy (ERS). Mr. Mwiraria said the amount was "unprecedented" and spoke of the donors' "show of generosity and interest." "They are ready to support the Government recovery strategy for wealth creation," he added. Without elaborating, Mr. Mwiraria denied suggestions that the IMF programme would see an end to funding for farmers. About 90 per cent of the loans will go to the Government mainly for project aid, he said, with the remainder being channelled to non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

Reading a ministerial statement demanded by Alego Usonga MP Sammy Weya, Mr. Mwiraria said that because of disparities in pay among civil servants, the Government had commissioned a committee to harmonise salaries before cutting jobs. Some of the conditions had already been met, the Finance chief said. The Government had already started to sort out the pending bills, for instance, and only genuine ones would be paid. The presentation to Parliament of the 2003/4 budget had already been done, as had the transfer of financial controls from the Ministry of Finance to the Central Bank of Kenya, and bringing down Treasury Bill rates to stabilise the financial market. The Government had also started restructuring the National Bank of Kenya. Answering Mr. Weya directly, Mr. Mwiraria said the donors had not given any political conditions before the resumption of aid. "I want to confirm, contrary to Press reports, that absolutely no political conditions, like the sacking of certain ministers, were given by the donors," he said. The minister said the IMF had used the Government's own blueprint for economic recovery to prepare the criteria for resuming aid.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, 5 December 2003

Ominous Turn in Pay Rise Hopes for Civil Servants

Nairobi - The civil service is torn between fear of retrenchment and expectation of a pay rise as part of the International Monetary Fund and donor conditions for the resumption of aid to Kenya. The hope of an improved civil service pay package has been stirred by a number of factors, including the recent establishment of a Permanent Public Service Remuneration Review Board. Others are last month's talks between the Union of Kenya Civil Servants and officials from the Directorate of Personnel Management and President Kibaki's inauguration of the Permanent Public Service Remuneration Review Board. Chaired by Mr. Gaylord Avedi, who is also the vice-chairman of the Moi University Council and a former permanent secretary, the board will continually review and harmonise pay and conditions for all civil servants. A senior civil servant from the Office of the President told the Sunday Nation: "There has been movement. We are hopeful that the Government will do something for us . [Education minister George] Saitoti promised university lecturers, who are currently on strike, something by February, and there might be something for us too." Finance minister David Mwiraria told Parliament on Thursday that one of the demands by donors before they resume aid disbursement to Kenya was the sacking of thousands of civil servants.

However, in an angry rejoinder to the minister's revelation, the secretary-general of the Union of Kenya Civil Servants, Mr. Alphayo Nyakundi, claimed the Government was being dishonest about the IMF demands. In a statement, he said: "The Government should not use the World Bank and the IMF as a scapegoat to retrench more civil servants." The unionist claimed that past retrenchments were irregular as they had involved "favouritism, tribalism or nepotism" while the IMF maintained that it had not imposed any preconditions on the Government. Mr. Nyakundi said reports of the pending retrenchment were causing "anxiety" among Government employees and claimed that the civil service wage bill was "negligible" as the majority of workers were underpaid. He called on the Government to exercise "prudent management of its budgetary proposals without interfering with the size of the civil service". About a month ago, seemingly oblivious of the donor conditions, the Union of Kenya Civil Servants sent a team of eight members to the Directorate of Personnel Management to press for "remedial measures" on low civil service pay and poor working conditions. The unionists were led by Mr. Nyakundi while the Government's team of five was headed by the Permanent Secretary in the DPM, Mr. Simon Njau.

At the end of the meeting, both sides agreed on the main point which was that civil servants are grossly underpaid and the situation needs urgent redress. The unionists were assured of the Government's commitment to pay all workers better salaries. Mr. Nyakundi told the Sunday Nation: "We were even informed that the Government had actually set aside some funds which were safe at the Treasury and modalities were being worked out on how to pay us. However, all seems to have gone up in smoke with the signing of a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund at the end of last month, barely 10 days after the November 13 Harambee House talks. Analysts predict that the Government may have to postpone any increases in public sector wages to comply with the November donor agreement. A commitment to keep a lid on the wage bill and to contain wage pressure within the economy are among centrepieces of the new IMF-supported economic programme. The new aid package offered by the IMF will, among other things, set the stage for the implementation of the delayed civil service reform programme. It seems the Government had to make some pledges on civil service reform (read more retrenchment and a cap on salary rises) to seal the deal with the IMF.

Feeling they had been duped, a furious Mr. Nyakundi told the Sunday Nation: "We are shocked that, as we waited for all the good things we were promised, the Government went behind our backs and secretly suspended the whole arrangement in a move to please the Bretton Woods institutions. A senior employee said a pay rise across the civil service would also mean an increase in pensions, none of which had been budgeted for. "If you raise salaries, the ripple effect is that pensions, too, have to go up and this would involve budgetary adjustments which I don't see the Government making at this time." In the run-up to this year's budget in June, there was intense speculation that there would be increments in civil service pay. This speculation was stoked by the fact that in his finance estimates tabled in Parliament, Mr. Mwiraria said an extra Sh7.3 billion had been set aside for the Treasury. About Sh5 billion of this money had been tagged for the harmonisation of public service pay and conditions of service. However, after Mr. Mwiraria's revelations this week in Parliament that up to 24,000 civil servants would be sent home by early next year, many civil servants gave up on pay rise and focused on whether they would be retained. In April, the Union of Kenya Civil Servants demanded a 600 per cent pay rise for its members. Mr. Nyakundi claimed that low salaries were a threat to the Government's stability and would have a negative effect on its commitment to efficient services.

By the end of that month, an assistant minister in the Office of the President in charge of the public service, Mr. Morris Dzoro, announced that while civil service pay and conditions would be reviewed, the whole package would depend on the Cabinet's adoption of a new Planning and National Development Policy. At the end of the month, Office of the President Minister Chris Murungaru announced the setting up of a Permanent Public Service Remuneration Review Board as recommended four years ago by the Kipkulei Commission. Last month President Kibaki inaugurated the Permanent Public Service Remuneration Review Board to review the salaries of civil servants on a continuous basis. Chaired by Mr. Gaylord Avedi, who is also the vice chairman of the Moi University Council and a former permanent secretary, the board will continually review and harmonise pay and conditions for all civil servants. Attempts by the previous government to bridge the remuneration gaps were not effective as they were carried out piecemeal and targeted different sub-sectors of the civil service. Civil service reform in Kenya is one of the most politically challenging tasks as whateerver the government does somebody is aggrieved. This is probably why the previous regime of President Moi's left tinkering with the civil service to it's last term. Even then the government balked.

Moi may not have needed any votes in 2002, but his successor (as yet unnamed in 1998) certainly would and firing or to use the corporate term, downsizing a whole load of people would be no way to endear oneself or one's party to the electorate. Throughout the 1990s the IMF, the World Bank and major donor nations had been trying to get the Kenyan government to shrink its civil service to a more manageable and efficient size. In July 1998, seven months into his final term in State House, President Moi appointed a group of people under the chairmanship of Benjamin Kipkulei, himself a former long serving civil servant to look into the future of the civil service. Innocuously, named the Harmonisation Commission on Terms and Conditions of Service for Public Servants, the group's main aim was to sort out the many gaps between minimum and maximum wages, the disparities in annual increments, salary overlaps, the proliferation of non-standard allowances and grading disparities. In 1999 while Chrisanthus Okemo was Finance Minister, he spoke about the issue of harmonisation saying: "It had been noted that for many years, public servants possessing similar qualifications, training and experience had different terms and conditions of service. These disparities had caused discontent, low morale, inefficiency and declining productivity in the public service."

Meanwhile, in what many civil servants will see as a cruel twist of fate, analysts are predicting that the government may have to postpone any increases in public sector wages in order to comply with the new agreement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in November. Apparently, a commitment to keep a lid on the wage bill and to contain wage pressure within the economy are among centrepieces of the new IMF-supported economic program. In November, the IMF approved a three-year $252 million credit to Kenya. Of this amount, Kenya can draw $36 million immediately. In fact the new aid package offered by the IMF will, among other things, set the stage for the implementation of the delayed civil service reform programme. Finance minister David Mwiraria is thought to be seeking to reduce the number of civil servants and the computerisation of important areas in government such as court registries. Civil service reforms stalled in the 2001/2 financial year, when the World Bank failed to release the much-needed funds to finance it. The reforms had began with the appointment of the so-called 'Dream Team' headed by palaeontologist Dr. Richard Leakey as the head of the Civil Service. The team, which was the brainchild of the Bretton Woods institutions had introduced to the service private sector professionals and World Bank staffers who earned hefty salaries. There was a huge disparity between the salaries offered the new government officials and those of the rest. As it turned out, all of them eventually left the government.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 8 December 2003

Civil Servants Abetting Female Cut Warned

Provincial administrators and police officers abetting female circumcision risk harsh disciplinary measures. Minister of State Linah Jebii Kilimo says the practice was greatly undermining girls' education in some parts of the country and should be eradicated. The rite also undermined the Government's free primary education programme, said Mrs Kilimo. She asked the officers to implement the Children's Act to the letter, which prohibited circumcision of girls under the age of 16. The minister in the Vice-President's office was speaking at St Paul's Kapkondot Secondary School in Marakwet at the weekend when she presided over the graduation of 450 girls who underwent a week-long alternative passage rite training, organised by World Vision Kenya. "Female circumcision is detrimental to girls' and women's health and has far-reaching psychological and physiological implications that sometimes last a lifetime," she said. She lamented that many parents were tempted to withdraw their school-going girls after circumcision for early marriage.

The girls, aged between 13 and 19, received training in HIV/Aids nutrition, home economics, child rights, hygiene, career choice, sexuality, religion, peer guidance and counselling, courtship, self-reliance, girl-child education, discipline and adolescent crisis. Mrs. Kilimo, who described the traditional rite as retrogressive, said it contributed to women's low representation in decision-making positions in society. "We are fighting for women to move from dress-making to decision-making in the societies they live in," she said. Mrs. Kilimo said it was encouraging that more girls had rejected the rite, contributing in the rise from 72 in 1999 to 450 this year the number of girls going through the alternative initiation. She asked other non-governmental organisations, churches and parents opposed to female circumcision to redouble their efforts to save more girls from the cut. Mrs. Kilimo who is also the Marakwet East MP thanked World Vision Germany, the donors of the programme for supplementing Government efforts in supporting girls in the area.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, 9 December 2003

Former Civil Servants Evicted from Flats

The Government has started evicting former civil servants or their relatives from Government flats in Belvedere to make way for other civil servants. Scores of civil servants who resigned from work and left for "greener" pastures are still holding on to Government flats in Belvedere at the expense of many civil servants in dire need of accommodation. In some cases relatives of some civil servants who died "inherited" the Government accommodation, some of which was now being rented out for huge profits. Some nurses who were accommodated in Government flats, but turned their back on the civil service for the UK and other countries, still have children occupying the flats. Although the Government demands rentals of about $20 000 from each flat a month, some former civil servants who are now working outside the country are renting out the flats for as much as $200 000. The Herald visited the flats yesterday and established that some were occupied by relatives of deceased civil servants. "The magistrate who used to stay nearby died last year and his relatives who are not civil servants have occupied the one bed-roomed flat," one of the residents said. Some professionals sponsored by the Government to further studies abroad never returned home, but their relatives still occupy the flats. "We discovered recently that some are only renting from the professionals and worse still, they are not civil servants," she said.

The director of the civil division in the Attorney General's Office, Mrs. Loice Matanda-Moyo, yesterday said her office is handling over 50 cases of evictions of former Government workers from the flats. "So far we have managed to evict six people who resigned from the Government but were illegally benefiting. Most former workers who allege they were on a rent-to-buy scheme are resisting eviction, " Mrs. Matanda-Moyo said. She said the legal procedure to evict the former Government workers was negatively affected by a critical shortage of magistrates. "Of late, we only have two magistrates in the civil courts and it was difficult for them to manage the cases together with other civil matters in Harare. We hope with an addition of other magistrates in the department, we will be able to fast track the evictions." She said investigations into illegal occupations were underway. "We have cases of some former civil servants who have handed over their flats to fellow Government workers and those will be issued with eviction orders soon," she said. However, some former civil servants living in the flats on a rent-to-buy basis said they were surprised when they were issued with eviction orders. They have vowed to fight the evictions in court, saying the arrangement was that they would buy the flats. "I have stayed here for more than five years under the impression that I will own this house. We are prepared to challenge the order since we are in possession of an agreement of sale," said a former magistrate who is now in private practice.

From Harare Herald, Zimbabwe, by Tsitsi Matope, 11 December 2003

Public Servants Urged to Play Role in Enhancing Capacity of Dikgotla

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mompati Merafhe has urged public servants to continue playing a role to enhance the capacity of the kgotla system to enhance Vision 2016 goals. Merafhe was opening the Eighth Annual General Conference of the Botswana Tribal Administration Service Association (BOTASA) at Tati Siding. He said if properly harnessed the machinery and instrumentality of the kgotla system could take a long way towards achieving the national goals of sustainable socio-economic development. He urged BOTASA to familiarise themselves with Vision 2016 because it has been realised that a sizeable number of the people were not familiar with its contents. He called on them to work with greater dedication to sell the vision to the people they represent because the nation's ownership of the vision was paramount to its success.

Merafhe described the conference as a welcome and worthy undertaking because it provided the opportunity to take stock of the successes and failures of the past year. It also identifies and acts on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead to improve the people's lives. The theme of the conference was 'the role of the kgotla towards the attainment of Vision 2016'. Merafhe said Botswana was grappling with mammoth challenges such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which continues to decimate communities across the length and breath of the country and the drought. He said these were undermining development efforts. He told public officers about the performance agreement which officers would be required to sign next year. He said supervisors would then assess employees' performance at the end of the year to determine whether they had delivered and should be rewarded.

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 12 December 2003

Auditor General Advises Civil Servants to Retire Imprest

Civil servants have been advised to retire their imprests and acquaint themselves with the right procedures of lodging complaints and appeals. Seletlanyo Serema, from the Attorney General's Chamber, warned employees of the Auditor General's Office during their meeting in Gaborone that imprest would be deducted from their salaries if not retired. "Such financial indiscipline often leads to impairment of an officer's performance when money is deducted from their salaries and they are left with nothing," he said. He advised supervisors to allow officers to draw only the required amount to meet hotel expenses when they go on trips to curb misappropriation of public funds. He noted that government is owed millions of pula in unretired imprest. Serema advised the officers to follow the right procedures of lodging complaints or appeals, assuring them that no one would be victimised for doing so.

He noted that the offices of the Vice President, Ombudsman and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) were inundated with anonymous letters, alleging maladministration. However, "because the writer or the writers did not put their names, it becomes difficult to investigate the claims. The potential tip-off ends up as rumour and malicious gossip." Serema mentioned the Public Service Commission, courts of law and Ministerial Consultative Committee as some of the bodies people could complain or appeal to. He informed his audience that the government had introduced Performance Management System (PMS) to boost productivity in the civil service. He urged them to respect laid down office hours by avoiding late coming in the morning and after lunch, as well as unauthorised absence from duty to attend to personal matters. Serema informed the officers about the new appraisal forms and performance reward system that will be introduced next year. He urged supervisors to be fair and as humanely possible in the conduct of the exercise.

From Republic of Botswana, 15 December 2003

Civil Servants Seek Clarification from SSNIT on NHIS

Accra - The Civil Servants Association (CSA) of Ghana on Sunday asked the Management of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) to clarify whether the funding being provided for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) through workers' contribution was a loan or a gift. The Association said if it was a loan, what were the terms of its repayment and on the other hand if it was a gift what approval did it seek from contributors through their representative on the SSNIT Board. A statement issued by the National Secretariat and signed by Mr. S.Y.A. Chigabatia, Executive Secretary of the Association, said while applauding government for transforming her dream into reality, the Association objected strongly to section 78(1)(b) of Act 650, which stipulated; "Two and one half percent of each person's seventeen and one half percent contribution to the Social Security and Pension Scheme fund" as part of the source of funding the scheme.

The statement also said the Civil Servants Association had never stood against the NHIS, which was to replace the cash and carry system that was inimical to their very existence. It said it was to escape the negative effects of the cash and carry system that the CSA successfully piloted a Mutual Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) in the Ashanti Region in 2001 and thereafter resolved at its 9th Quadrennial Congress, in 2002 to adopt the scheme for its members countrywide. The statement stated that the confusion created with the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme Act has made some of the regions to slow the pace of preparation towards the take off of the MHIS. The CSA recalled that along side other organized labour groups had raised objections to some aspects of the National Health Insurance Bill, which has now been granted Presidential ascent in Act 650. It urged the other regions to continue "the sensitisation processes and preparations for the take off of our Mutual Health Insurance for our members and their dependants in the rest of the country."

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 21 December 2003

Monetisation: FG Approves New Salary for Civil Servants

Perm Secs to earn N2.9m p.a, level 01 gets N.114m - In line with the Federal Government's monetisation policy, President Olusegun Obasanjo has approved a new salary structure for all categories of civil servants. In the new structure, which took effect from October 1, Permanent Secretaries would take home N2, 974,560 per year or N247, 880 per month, while those on grade level one would take home N114,000 per annum or N9,500 per month. The approval of the new salary structure was based on the recommendations sent to the President by the National Salaries, Income, and Wages Commission (NSIWC) on November 27, and upon which the President gave his approval through a letter to the Head of Service of the Federation on December 9. According to the President's letter, "the recommendations are generally acceptable to me." In the new salary structure, the basic annual salary of the permanent secretaries is N865, 200, while accommodation per year is pegged at N648,900, transportation is N216, 300 and the meal subsidy is N16, 200. A permanent secretary is by the new salary structure entitled to an annual furniture allowance of N346,080 and medical expenses up to the tune of N86, 520 per year.

He is also to earn the amount as his leave grant. In the same manner, officers on grade level one and level six have no furniture allowance, but are entitled to vehicle loan of N54, 000 and N194, 000 respectively which is 100 percent for officers from grade level one to five based on their basic salaries or 150 percent of their basic salaries. President Obasanjo had last week abolished the direct granting of car, motorcycle, and bicycle loans to civil servants. It also abolished the grant of entertainment allowance to all categories of staff. This new directives on the monetisation of fringe benefits in the Federal Civil Service were contained in the approval letter by Obasanjo to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale. President Obasanjo in the letter said, "where it is not possible for a single digit interest rate to be secured, government will intervene. We should commence negotiations with interested banks immediately to actualize this plan." In this regard, vehicle loans of 10 percent (Annual Basic Salary - ABS) will be granted to staff on grade level 1 to 6, while those on grade level 6 and 7 are entitled to 150 percent of ABS, while those grade level 8 and above are entitled to 200 percent of their ABS.

All categories of staff are entitled to ten percent of their Annual Basic Salary for their medical and leave grant. On meal subsidy, staff on grade level 1 to 6 are entitled to N6000, those on 7 to 10 are to get N8400, those on 12 to 14 are to receive N9600, those 15 to 17 to get N10, 800 and Permanent Secretaries and above are to receive N16, 200, per year. President Obasanjo gave reason for the withdrawal of entertainment allowance. He said "Entertainment allowance was introduced at a point in the service when the personal emoluments of Civil Servants, especially those in the senior cadre, were very low vis-a-vis their responsibility and before the adjustment that have come in the life of our administration. As this is no longer the case, this allowance is removed." In the new rates, 50 percent of the Annual Basic Salary will be paid as accommodation allowance to staff from grade level 1 to 6, those on grade level 7 to 14 will be paid 60 percent of the annual basic salary as accommodation allowance.

In the same vein, officers on grade level 15 and above would be paid 75 percent of their annual basic salary as accommodation allowance. On transportation, the President said that all grade levels would receive 25 percent as transport allowance, while staff on grade level 1 to 16 would receive 15 percent of their annual basic salary as utility allowance. Officers on grade level 17 and above will receive 20 percent of their annual salary as utility allowance. Obasanjo also said in the letter that officers on grade level 15 are entitled to one domestic servant on grade level 3 step 8, while officers on grade levels 16 and 17 are entitled to two domestic servants on grade level 3 step 8 each. Permanent secretaries and above are entitled to three domestic servants on grade level 3 step 8. Staff on grade level 1 to 6 are no longer entitled to furniture allowance, while those on grade level 7 and above are entitled to 200 percent of their annual basic salary (that is 40 percent per annum).

From This Day, Nigeria, by Chuks Okocha, 20 December 2003

Shake-Up in Civil Service: Perm Secs Redeployed

A major shake up in the ranks of the federal permanent secretaries in the civil service was yesterday approved by President Olusegun Obasanjo, who also appointed three new permanent secretaries. In the shake up which was signed by the Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Yahale Ahmed, the Secretary to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed was moved to the Federal Ministry of Works, while his counterpart in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Dr. Babangida Aliyu was redeployed to the Ministry of National Planning. According to the official memo approving the redeployment, the former Perm-anent Secretary in Internal Affairs, Mrs. Akinrele who is being detained for her role in the $214 million scandal rocking the National Identity Card Scheme is replaced by Mrs. T.A. Ireminren who was formerly in the National Planning Commission. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Benedict Hart is moved to the office of the Head of Service as the Permanent Secretary SWO. Also affected in the redeployment is Mr. C.J.C. Orjieke who moves from the Ministry of Science of Technology to Water Resources.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Mrs. A. O. Omotade is redeployed to MFCT. Dr. Ayilu Abdullahi of the National Poverty Allevi-ation Programme (NAPEP) is now the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology. He is to be replaced by Alhaji Garba Buwai. Dr. Ama Pepple of the Ministry of Petroleum Affairs is moved to the Ministry of Commerce, while Alhaji B. K. Kaigama of the Ministry of Defence is now the Permanent Secretary in the General Staff Office (GSO) in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). The three new Permanent Secretaries appointed are Mrs. Timibe K. Agary, who is to be the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of labour and Productivity, Mr. R.O. Ogunbambi, who is deployed to the Office of the Head of Service, while Ambassador M.O.U. Wadibi - Anyanwu replaces Hart in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to the memo from the Head of Service, all handing and taking over is expected to be done not later than December 31, 2003.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Chuks Okocha, 19 December 2003

Public Servants Frown at Naira's Free Fall

Public servants under the aegis of the Senior Staff Association of Utilities, Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSAUSCGOC) have frowned at the free fall of the national currency and suggested alternative measures to help stregthen the Naira. In a communique made available to THISDAY at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) in Lagos, at the weekend, the workers asked government to deal decisively with corrupt managers of government establishments instead of laying off workers unnecessarily. The workers frowned at the state of the Nigerian economy and the alleged attempt by government to devalue the Naira, even as they suggested alternative mesures to the ugly development. The union urged the Federal Government to put in place a "well-articulated, sustenable and consistent economic policy". The workers advised that the "value of Naira should not be left to be determined by market forces," and asked government to peg the value of the national currency. They also want government to lure Nigerians back to farming while strengthening the manufacturing and export sectors of the economy as well as curb capital flight from the country.

The workers placed government's anti-corruption campaign side by side with the planned public sector reform and pledged their support for the initiative of government, just as the wanted overnment to focus on those, who mismanaged government resources instead of victimising workers in those organisations. "Government should however beam its searchlight on the originators of the mismanagement which has led to the present problems of most parastatals instead of making the hapless workers scapegoats of the exercise," they demanded. While waiting for the report of the the technical committee on monetisation in the public service, the workers vehemently opposed government's decision to relieve public servants of their duty under whatever guise. "NEC-in-session is of the opinion that downsizing or rightsizing simply amount to retrenchment. It is totally opposed and rejected as it will only add to the present unemployment situation in the country particularly when viewed from the fact that the problem of the public sector is due to large scale corruption and government is aware of those responsible", they insisted.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Nnamdi Duru, 22 December 2003

HIV-positive Civil Servants to Pay 20 Percent for ARVs

Bujumbura - The Burundian health minister, Dr Jean Kamana, has authorised the civil service insurance company "Mutuelle" to cover the cost of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) by 80 percent, in line with its policy on other medicines, Radio Burundi announced on Friday. Kamana signed an ordinance adding ARVs to the list of medicines the company generally covers in response to a request from the health insurer's general manager, Francois Nkengurutse, it said. Nkengurutse told IRIN on Monday: "The measure is in force since Wednesday, and the list includes all anti-retrovirals, as well as possible combinations of two or three anti-retrovirals." An HIV-positive civil servant in need of ARVs will therefore pay 20 percent of the price, leaving the health insurance company to pay the rest. Until now, a civil servant had to fund the total cost, despite regular contributions to the company.

According to Nkengurutse, patients will only be able to get ARVs from HIV/AIDS associations. "HIV patients will be supplied in our partner associations such as ANSS [National Association for HIV-positive and AIDS patients], SWAA Burundi [Society of Women Agaist Aids] and others, but if drugstores start selling anti-retrovirals, we will work with them", he told IRIN. This may not happen soon, according to government pharmacist Lievin Mizero, who said that ARVs could not be compared to other medecines. "They [ARVs] must be distributed following a known circuit to curb drugstore speculation on them", Mizero said. "If all drugstores sell them, their prices and even the quality will be out of the ministry's control." The cheapest ARVs cost around US $30 a month, a price few Burundians can afford. Sylvain Ndayikengurukiye, in charge of communication and public relations at the National Council for AIDS Control, told IRIN that only 1,200 people out of 25,000 in need of ARVs had access to them.

From UN Regional Information Africa, 23 December 2003

Diplomats Trained In International Public Service

Yaoundé - Twenty-five young cadres from the Francophonie, are currently undergoing training on international public service. The International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC) is currently hosting the 7th edition of the training of young cadres for international public service. Twenty-five participants are attending the workshop which is jointly organised by the European Union, the Intergovernmental Agency for the Francophonie (AIF) ; with the collaboration of the National School of Administration (ENA) in Paris, the United Nations Institute for Research and Development (UNITAR) in Geneva, and the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC). During the opening ceremony last week, the Director of IRIC, Professor Jean-Emmanuel Pondi said the institution had the expertise to train young Francophone cadres in this era of globalisation.

He noted that the programme not only transcends national and international barriers, but will (this year) be made up of a study trip to the University of Buea which would allow the participants to familiarise themselves with the cultural diversity of Cameroon. In his speech, the Rector of the University of Yaounde II, Professor Tabi Manga harped on the importance of the training programme, and that it would re-inforce inter-Francophonie cooperation. For Rabih Haddad of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the role of the institute is to give participants theoretical training outside Geneva that ends in March. The participants are from Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti, Slovakia, Togo, Vanuatu, etc.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Peter Efande, 25 December 2003

 

Public Servant Payouts Cost $55m

Efforts to rejuvenate the public service cost the Beattie Government about $55.5 million last year as 1345 people took advantage of early retirement packages under the Workforce Renewal Program. Deputy Premier Terry Mackenroth said yesterday the program would save the Government about $71.5 million a year and was "one of the easiest investments we have made". "This is about maintaining a strong, committed and professional public service for the people of Queensland," Mr. Mackenroth said. Figures provided by the Government show most of the Voluntary Early Retirement packages granted under the program came from Education Queensland (258), followed by the Department of Main Roads (245) and Queensland Health (184). There also were more than 170 VERs granted outside the program, and it was unclear yesterday why the Government had not included in its program tally the 17 VERs from the Department of Housing, which cost $689,000.

Mr. Mackenroth said $32.2 million in savings from the program had been pumped into the Government's key priority areas of families, health and education as part of the 2002-2003 State Budget. "The remainder has been retained by individual agencies to be better spent on other areas of need," he said. The 2002-2003 VER figure is consistent, if not slightly higher, than previous years and follows the Government's decision earlier this year to slash more than 1200 public service jobs over the next 10 years to employ more teachers, nurses and police. Mr. Mackenroth said the VER recipients made up less than 1 per cent of the total public service workforce "and many more employees indicated an interest in VERs than what we were prepared to offer".

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the Government had employed more than 20,000 extra public servants since coming to power, so the VERs would have little impact. "This looks like a further desperate attempt to rein in their budget problems created by an explosion of their bureaucracy, particularly in the early years when the number of public servants grew by 14,000," Mr. Springborg said. "And only a fraction of those were teachers, nurses and police." Mr. Mackenroth said the program was complete but individual agencies could still grant their own VERs when deemed necessary. Agency annual reports indicate Main Roads granted another 36 VERs last financial year, bringing its total to 281, while Employment and Training granted another 55, Queensland Health another 20, Primary Industries another 18, Families another 14, Emergency Services another nine, Queensland Transport an extra eight, Industrial Relations another seven and Tourism, Racing and Fair Trading another three with one each from Premier and Cabinet, Justice and Attorney-General and the police service.

From Brisbane Courier Mail, Australia, by Sean Parnell, Steven Wardill and Rosemary Odgers, 30 November 2003

Pay Cut for Absentee Indonesian Civil Servants after Holiday

Jakarta - Indonesian civil servants who failed to return to work Monday after a week-long Islamic holiday will lose their annual pay rise, a minister said. Faisal Tamin, Minister for Administrative Reforms, was speaking after a surprise tour of several ministries and state institutions on the first day of business for most state institutions since November 21. "This time, for employees who did not come to work without a clear reason, I am opting to revoke their periodical pay raise... this is a form of punishment," Tamin said, according to the Kompas newspaper online. He said last year, only verbal and written reprimands were handed down. This year the government declared a week-long holiday for its officials to mark the Aidil Fitri festival at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan. Much of the private sector followed suit.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 3 December 2003

Government Officials Attend Civil Service Meet in Malaysia

A delegation from Brunei's Civil Service left for Malaysia yesterday to attend the 5th Brunei-Malaysia Civil Service Exchange Programme for Senior Civil Servants. The 27-member delegation comprising Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Senior Government Officials was led by Dato Paduka Hj Hazair, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office. Also in the delegation were Pg Dato Paduka Hj Abd Hamid and Dato Paduka Hj Dani, Permanent Secretaries at the Prime Minister's Office, and Dato Paduka Hj Md. Yusof, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Others include Dato Paduka Hj Idris, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Dato Paduka Hj Abdullah, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications as well as the Permanent Secretaries at the Ministry of Development, Awg Hj Jumin and Awg Hj Metasan. Whilst in Kuala Lumpur, the delegation will pay a courtesy call to the chief secretary to the government of Malaysia. The delegation will also be holding bilateral meetings with their counterparts and will be briefed on the development and modernisation of the civil service in Malaysia. The delegation will also hold a friendly golf competition and badminton competition with their counterparts. The exchange programme is a continuous effort by both countries to maintain as well as to improve the existing long cordial and friendly relationship between the two nations. Brunei hosted the fourth exchange visit programme in July 2002.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, by Azlan Othman, 5 December 2003

Outsiders 'Not Fit for Civil Service'

The government came under fire yesterday over its decision to recruit outsiders to fill top civil-service positions. Nakhon Ratchasima Senator Sawai Phrammanee warned the civil service could plunge into turmoil if the plan was implemented. "Top positions like provincial governors and ambassadors are very specialised," he said. The Civil Service Commission recently decided to allow non-civil servants to be appointed as provincial governors, deputy governors, consuls-general, ambassadors and vice ambassadors. The government said the recruitment of outsiders would encourage civil servants to work harder. Sawai said appointing non-civil servants as provincial governors would adversely impact on key posts like police and district chiefs. "If the government can choose anyone it likes and the appointment is the result of political affiliation, problems will certainly arise," said Sawai, himself a former provincial governor, without elaborating. He said few former police or military officers fared well when they switched to the civil service. "If [veteran] central government officials struggle, what are the chances of an outsider being successful?" he said. Democrat Party leader Banyat Bantadtan also faulted the move. "My concerns are with civil servants. So many things have been changed [in the civil service] recently and things look confusing nowadays," he said.

He warned the government not to go down what he described as the trial-and-error path, saying the administration's streamlining of the bureaucracy had already resulted in numerous problems. Banyat said the civil service relied on a web of detailed regulations and procedures, and outsiders were unlikely to do well as provincial governors. "Even government officials from outside the Interior Ministry struggle in this job, so imagine how hard a complete outsider will find it," he said. The opposition leader also expressed concerns that the move could result in conflict of interests, especially if an appointee had links to the business world. "What if ambassadors are working overseas to expand markets for their business empires or those closely linked with them?" he said. Democrat Party deputy leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government needed to prove its intentions were sincere before implementing the plan. "Our party planned it [appointing outsiders to the civil service] during the previous administration, and I am not against the plan in principle,'' he said. "But I am concerned about the plan's implementation, as the incumbent government tends to use bureaucracy as a political tool."

From The Nation, Thailand, 10 December 2003

Government Officials Attend Civil Service Meet in Malaysia

A delegation from Brunei's Civil Service left for Malaysia yesterday to attend the 5th Brunei-Malaysia Civil Service Exchange Programme for Senior Civil Servants. The 27-member delegation comprising Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Senior Government Officials was led by Dato Paduka Hj Hazair, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office. Also in the delegation were Pg Dato Paduka Hj Abd Hamid and Dato Paduka Hj Dani, Permanent Secretaries at the Prime Minister's Office, and Dato Paduka Hj Md. Yusof, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Others include Dato Paduka Hj Idris, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Dato Paduka Hj Abdullah, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications as well as the Permanent Secretaries at the Ministry of Development, Awg Hj Jumin and Awg Hj Metasan. Whilst in Kuala Lumpur, the delegation will pay a courtesy call to the chief secretary to the government of Malaysia. The delegation will also be holding bilateral meetings with their counterparts and will be briefed on the development and modernisation of the civil service in Malaysia. The delegation will also hold a friendly golf competition and badminton competition with their counterparts. The exchange programme is a continuous effort by both countries to maintain as well as to improve the existing long cordial and friendly relationship between the two nations. Brunei hosted the fourth exchange visit programme in July 2002. Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin.

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, by Azlan Othman, 4 December 2003

Knight Set to Be First $1m Public Servant

Canberra - Cricket and rugby loving ex-British admiral and knight is the frontrunner to become Australia's first $1 million bureaucrat. Sir Peter Spencer is in the box seat to run the Defence Materiel Organisation which buys the nation's warships, fighter jets, tanks and other military hardware under a $6 billion-a-year budget. Executive headhunters estimate the Cambridge University graduate will earn a base salary of about $600,000 plus bonuses, taking him past the $1 million-a-year mark. "That is what you have got to pay these days," a defence industry insider said yesterday. The $11,538-a-week pay packet is almost three times more than Prime Minister John Howard's $267,000 annual package. Defence Chief General Peter Cosgrove and the civilian Secretary of Defence, Ric Smith, are paid about $342,000-a-year. If he is paid $1 million, Sir Peter will be in the same league as CEOs of banks and other large companies and would set the bar very high for taxpayer-funded salaries. He has been head of the British Defence Procurement Agency since May following a distinguished career in the Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence.

Sir Peter was deputy head during a period of major reform similar to that imposed on the DMO and served as Controller of the Navy, Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Home Command. He was knighted in 2001 and he and wife Lisa have four children. The British agency has a turnover of about $18 billion, employs 4500 people and manages more than 1000 projects. The DMO has 8000 staff managing 444 projects. Another former head of the British agency Sir John Walmsley has also been mentioned as a contender for the Australian job which has been advertised globally. "It is a shame we can't get an Australian to do the job," one industry source said. Defence has been dogged by cost over runs and late deliveries on projects such as the Collins Class Submarines, Sea Sprite helicopters and armoured vehicles. Ian Hansen, from recruitment agency HSF Executive Search, which is handling the appointment, said there had been huge interest in the blue-chip position. "There has been a lot of interest from all around Australia and a lot of interest from overseas," Mr. Hansen said. A government source said the appointment would be made as soon as possible.

From Advertiser, Australia, 9 December 2003

Outside Hires: Civil Service Chief to Explain Scheme

Initiative will be introduced slowly, to be tested in four provinces first - The chief of the Civil Service Commission will today explain the plan to hire non-government officials as provincial governors and ambassadors, following an outcry from civil servants. Commission secretary-general Sima Simanan, who will hold a press conference on the issue this afternoon, said yesterday that the plan would not be implemented for some time because legal amendments have to be made first Deputy Prime Minister Vishanu Krua-ngam said on Tuesday that the commission had approved the plan to recruit non-government officials as ambassadors, provincial governors and deputy governors. Vishanu said he initially planned to explain the scheme himself but later decided to let Sima do it. He also said the plan would require further study by the commission, including ways to prevent outsiders from pursuing their business interests after being recruited to official posts.

The plan would first be tested in four provinces, Vishanu said, adding that non-government officials would be allowed to become deputy governors of the four provinces. The president of the Civil Servants Association said that non-government officials should only be recruited as a last resort. "It should be fully explained why outsiders are brought in to hold the posts," said Noppadol Hengcharoen, also secretary-general of the Constitution Court Office. The government should give priority to civil servants in line for promotion, he said. "The public should be informed that outsiders are [being] brought in because there are no senior government officials with the right qualifications to hold the posts." A provincial governor, who asked not to be named, was against the plan and said local people and officials might not accept those governors. "Who will take responsibility if these non-government governors cause problems? The government should think the issue through and be fair to current governors," he said.

From The Nation, Thailand, Thailand, 11 December 2003

Public Workers to Get 5-Day Workweek

Starting next July, public sector workers are to have a five-day workweek twice a month. As of July 2005, a year-round five-day workweek would go into force. The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs said on Wednesday that because the new Labor Standard Act, amended last August, has helped spread the five-day workweek to industries around the country, the ministry has decided to apply the system to the public service sector as well. Currently, civil workers can take only one Saturday off every month. Also, starting in July next year, an additional working system which requires civil servants to work for one more hour, until 7 p.m., on every Monday will be abolished. In addition, workers at educational offices, public libraries and museums, who have been excluded from even one Saturday off a month, will have the same workweek as civil servants. For libraries and museums, the system will be put into effect in phases, to minimize inconveniences to other people. As the five-day workweek gets more common, the ministry said it would gradually decrease the number of legal holidays, now 16 a year. The ministry is also devising measures to improve the labor conditions for those who work on 24 hour-a-day shifts, like police officers and firemen.

From Chosun Ilbo, South Korea, by Ahn Seok-bae (sbahn@chosun.com), 10 December 2003

Bonuses for Public Servants Down 7.3%

Tokyo - Most Japanese government employees received 7.3% smaller winter bonuses Wednesday than they did last year, the fifth straight annual fall. The decline contrasts with larger winter bonuses at many businesses as bonus payments to government employees are based on private-sector payments the previous year. (Kyodo News).

From Japan Today, Japan, 10 December 2003

Hold on to Integrity, PM Tells Civil Servants

Putrajaya - Civil servants have been advised not to put themselves in any position that can cause their integrity to be questioned by the people. The advice came from Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the Prime Minister's Department Hari Raya open house here yesterday. "What is most important in civil service is that everyone work together as a team. However, this does not mean that civil servants can shift their responsibility to someone else. "Don't pass the buck," he said. The Prime Minister said civil servants should always improve their performance and be proud of their contribution. On the open house, he said, such occasion could foster close relations between civil servants.

From The Star, Malaysia, 10 December 2003

All Civil Servants Must Declare their Assets

Kuala Lumpur: All civil servants must declare their assets by March 31 or face disciplinary action. Public Service Department director-genaral Tan Sri Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri said they would include those who had not declared their assets since their appointments as well as those who had done so more than five years ago. The directive was issued to all department heads, including those in the States, on Nov 28. It would affect about 850,000 employees. Jamaluddin said civil servants would, among others, be required to state their incomes as well as those of their spouses, incomes from investments, including those from unit trusts, inheritance and other sources of income. "Even if they have not acquired new assets or money during the period, they will still have to make a declaration," he said. Jamaluddin said if the individual had acquired wealth from the sale of any of his assets, he would have to state it in his declaration. PSD rules state that civil servants in the Top Management Group must declare their assets at least once in three years and the rest at least once in five years.

Those in the top management group include heads of department, heads in State administration such as State secretaries and heads of departments at State-level like district engineers, Immigration directors and area evaluation directors (Pengarah Penilaian Kawasan). Previously, civil servants were only required to declare their assets before confirmation of their posts, upon promotion or when they applied for optional retirement. Civil servants who accumulate additional assets worth more than six times the value of their monthly emoluments are also required to report it to their heads of department within three months. In the event a civil servant and his or her spouse are both Federal employees, they would only have to declare their assets to their department head as well as Disciplinary board (Pihak Berkuasa Tatatertib) once. The move is in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's fight against corruption. Abdullah had, after chairing his first Cabinet meeting as Prime Minister on Nov 5, directed all ministers to set up a task force in their ministries to tighten procedures and reduce bureaucracy in efforts to fight corruption. Abdullah said that he would be paying a lot of attention to frontline departments.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 15 December 2003

China Lays Off 17,000 Civil Servants in Seven Years

Beijing - The jobs-for-life culture in China's government offices was officially confined to history on Monday when the Ministry of Personnel announced that the government laid off 17,857 civil servants from 1996 to 2002. The ministry figures also showed that 28,626 people resigned from public service jobs in the seven years. And 156,022 civil servants were penalized for breaking rules from 1993 to 2002. The number was 10,842 in 2002 alone. More than 95 percent of civil servants have their performances assessed annually to decide promotion or demotion. The government issued a temporary regulation on civil servants in 1993 and launched the first national examination to employ government officials in 1994. The central government hired over 23,000 officials through the exam held annually in the past decade, and from 2000 to 2002 approximately 439,000 people passed the examination to get jobs In local government departments. Hiring civil servants through exams had effectively reduced backroom activity and improved transparency in government personnel system, said a Ministry spokesman. A set of rules and regulations have been issued to cover all aspects of life of civil servants, including examination, promotion, salary, bonus, training and relocation. China has been reforming the civil service since 1993 and the number of civil servants stands at about 5 million in the country.

From Xinhua, China, 15 December 2003

'Government Biased against the Disabled in Civil Services'

New Delhi - The National Centre for Promotion of Employment For Disabled People today highlighted the alleged ''systemic discrimination'' against people with disability while providing posts in the civil services. NCPEDP director Javed Abidi alleged that the government was violating its own policy of reservation as laid down under the 1995 Disability Act. The Act extended the three per cent reservation for disabled in Class III and Class IV jobs (in place since 1977) to include Class I and II employees. Eight years on, there is no clear application of the Act, with the UPSC - responsible for the examinations - and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) - responsible for placements of successful candidates - at odds with each other. And caught in the midst are bright individuals. One such candidate is Ramesh Arora. In 2001, Arora, 29, cleared the Prelims, Mains and interview. He was subsequently told by the DoPT that his 6/60 vision made him a visually-impaired person (later contested by the UPSC) and denied him a post on grounds of his ''substandard vision''.

The discrimination in the services is further highlighted with three cases of orthopaedically-disabled candidates who successfully qualified for the IAS in the reserved category last year. While two of them, Rigzin Sampheal and Lokesh Kumar, were denied placement in the IAS and demoted to IIS posts by the DoPT, M. Satish has been altogether denied a job for want of ''vacancy in the identified posts in the physically disabled category''. Figures show that only six posts had been reserved for the orthopaedically disabled and hearing impaired and none for visually impaired candidates, despite the Act requiring one per cent of the jobs to be earmarked for them. Further, the six posts were limited to three of the 26 civil service arms with the IFS, IAS and IRS excluded from the list. Abidi alleged that this was suggestive of ''arbitrary government policy effectively barring physically disabled candidates from the services even when they display merit''. He has written to Deputy PM L.K.Advani and other MPs, and is waiting for the issue to be raised in Parliament next week.

From Delhi Newsline, India, 12 December 2003

Civil Servants Get Pay Raise

The central government's recent decision to raise the basic salaries of public servants was a right choice to stimulate the country's consumption demand, economists say. China's public servants, who have complained of being poorly paid for a long time, will get a much fatter pay packet January 1, 2004. Their raises, ranging from 30 to 300 yuan (US$3.60-36) a month, will be retroactive from July 1 this year. This is the third time the government has raised the salaries of public servants since 1999, effectively doubling these people's basic salaries. Niu Li, a senior economist with the State Information Centre, said this was good news for China's consumer markets, a key engine for the country's economic development. "With more money in their hands, public servants can spend more on housing, cars, travel and telecommunications, as well as on food and clothing,'' he said.

The salary increase will also help solve the problem of low salaries among public servants, which is considered one of the chief causes of corruption, he said. Yuan Gangming, a senior economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the recent move (to raise public servants' salaries) is mainly aimed at stimulating consumer demand, one of the weaker sections in the booming economy, which is driven largely by investment. China's retail sales rose a year-on-year 8.9 per cent during the first 11 months of this year, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show. "Weaker consumer demand but aggressive investment have become headaches for the government in its efforts to carry out its macrocontrol policies,'' Yuan said. Raising the salaries of public servants is one of the best ways to solve the problem, he said.

The government should also try to increase the income of rural residents as part of the proactive fiscal policy, he said. The slow income growth of rural residents has long been a headache for the government, because it severely restrains stimulation of consumer demand. "If consumption in rural areas cannot be stimulated, the full expansion of domestic demand will not be realized,'' said Xie Yang, a senior researcher with the State Development Research Centre under the State Council. The government should continue to encourage farmers to go out and find work in cities, as the farmland in the country cannot accommodate so many farmers. China also should prioritize the development of township businesses and the expansion of small towns, create more job opportunities for farmers and accelerate the resettlement of unemployed rural labourers, he said.

From China Daily, China, 17 December 2003

Wake up Ministers, You Are Civil Servants

Last week's fantastic outburst by Entrepreneur Development Minister Nazri Aziz over the Anti-Corruption Agency's (ACA) investigation was the funniest thing I have ever read. It is timely to remind him and other ministers that they are all public servants. As recipients of tax money, they are all answerable to the public, including our prime minister. We did not vote them in to be our bosses, as Nazri mistakenly assumed. We voted them in to work for us. And if they do not do their job properly, they answer to the taxpayers. What is funnier is that Nazri disparagingly claimed that ACA enforcement head Nordin Ismail is "only a civil servant". What then is Nazri, if not also a 'civil servant'? Where on earth did he get the idea that ministers - or "politicians" as he calls himself - are our "political masters"?

This is symptomatic of what is wrong with our ruling party, and indeed our government. If I had a say I would prefer our government not to be inhabited by "politicians" but by people who work honestly and selflessly for the rakyat. But unfortunately most of the people who make to office are "politicians", but that is by no means a right, dear Minister! This kind of erroneous attitude has spread through our civil service like cancer - even policemen think they are the bosses and we, their subordinates who should listen to what they say. If Pak Lah wants to change the civil service for the better, he might start right here, by changing the mindset of the counter clerk right up to the cabinet minister that they serve the people, not the other way around.

From Malaysia Kini, Malaysia, 17 December 2003

Important for Indonesia Civil Servants to Be Neutral in 2004 Elections - President

Lembang, W Java, - The Indonesian Corps of Civil Servants` (KORPRI) neutral role as a bureaucratic engine would be immensely significant for the success of the general elections in 2004, President Megawati Soekarnoputri said here Thursday. "Your neutral role is immensely important for next year`s elections," Megawati told about 10,000 civil servants during the commemoration of the corps` 32nd anniversary in Lembang, about 20 km north of West Java`s provincial capital of Bandung.

From Antara, Indonesia, 18 December 2003

Australia to Pay Pre-Christmas Wages for Nauru Public Servants

Australia is bailing out the Nauru government by paying its public servants in the lead-up to Christmas. Australia's foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer, has revealed the Christmas gift of $A1.2 million ($US890,000) to Nauru at a news conference in Fiji. Mr. Downer made the announcement after being questioned about a request he made to his officials to prepare an options paper on what Australia can do to ensure the future of Nauru's 10,000 people. While describing the suggestion of automatic Australian citizenship as fanciful, Mr. Downer says Nauru is in real financial difficulties. "We're now providing $1.2 million today to Nauru to help the government of Nauru to pay the fortnightly wages on public servants," Mr. Downer said. "Look, I'd be the first to admit it's an ad-hock decision, there is no question of that," he said. "President Harris has asked for help and this is an ad-hock decision to give them help. It's Christmas time, but we do need to find medium-to-long-term solutions to the difficulties that Nauru is facing." Our Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, reports Mr. Downer wants the options paper on what Australia might be able to do for Nauru by early next year.

From Radio Australia, Australia, 18 December 2003

Public Servants Back Down on Pay Claim

The union representing Western Australian public servants says it has been forced to reduce its claim for a pay rise. The Community and Public Sector union has been demanding a 19 per cent pay rise over three years but now wants a 7 per cent rise over two years. Branch secretary Toni Walkington says the union had to make the offer late yesterday after the Government gave it a 24-hour deadline to sign off on a pay offer. She says the union has not been able to consult its members yet. "It basically averages out to be 7 per cent over two years. We believe that's a considerable concession on our part, but in light of progress on other matters we'd be willing to take that to our membership," she said. A spokesman for Government Minister John Kobelke says he has not been formally notified of the union's new offer.

From ABC Online, Australia, 18 December, 2003

Merry Cheap Christmas in the Public Service

Government departments must be dreaming of a budget Christmas if their staff Christmas parties are anything to go by. A survey of 10 departments has shown that rather than the swanky blow-outs expected in private companies, most public servants will get far more conservative affairs. Ministry of Fisheries staff fared best. They were treated to an evening bash at Wellington's Boatshed at a cost of $10,100 for about 170 staff - an average cost of $59.42 a person. That covered food and drink as well as hiring the venue, chairs, tables and a jukebox. The Treasury contributes up to $30 a staff member for food, but in the past two years its employees have spent only between $18 and $22 each.

The Ministry of Housing contributed $20 a staff member to its Christmas bash. Land Information paid about $15 a head towards a function organised by its social club. The Ministry of Economic Development spent $17.85 a staff member, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade $13.15 and the Ministry of Health $10. The Scrooges of the public service are the departments of Corrections and Child, Youth and Family, where staff got $5.60 and $5 respectively to spend on a party. Although Customs did not provide a figure, its chief executive did foot the bill for a pre-Christmas morning tea for all staff. Human resources expert Dr Paul Toulson of Massey University said that although there was an element of public accountability for taxpayers' money, end-of-year events were a good and cost-effective way to show appreciation for staff and their efforts.

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, 22 December 2003

HK and Beijing to Swap Civil Servants

The Hong Kong and Beijing municipal governments will launch a civil service staff exchange programme next year, the Hong Kong government announced yesterday. "It is a sign of closer co-operation [with the mainland] on all fronts, not just economic but also in civil service training," said Patrick Wong, a spokesperson for Hong Kong's civil service bureau. Under a similar scheme begun last year, Hong Kong's civil service exchanges up to five professional officers such as environmental engineers and architects with Shanghai each year for three- to six-month secondments.

From Financial Times, UK, by Ien Cheng, 23 December 2003

Thai Civil Servants May Get Privatization IPO Shares

Bangkok - The Thai Prime Minister has asked ministers involved in the privatization of state enterprises to consider setting aside a certain amount of initial public offering shares for civil servants as an incentive to improve their working efficiency, Government Spokesman Jakrapob Penkair said. "The Prime Minister (Thaksin Shinawatra) told the meeting that a certain amount of IPO shares should be locked for civil servants, especially from sizable privatizations such as the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand," Jakrapob told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting. However, the premiere didn't specify how civil servants would be allotted state IPO shares. Six state enterprises are scheduled to launch IPOs in 2004 - Airports of Thailand PCL, CAT Telecom PCL, formerly the Communications Authority of Thailand, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, the Provincial Electricity Authority, and TOT Corp., formerly the Telephone Organization of Thailand.

From Yahoo News, 23 December 2003

Fight Graft, Corruption in Government, Prelate Urges People

The Diocese of Marbel has appealed to the public to help fight graft and corruption in the government. Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, in his homily during Christmas day mass, said people should join in the church's campaign to combat corruption in government. Gutierrez disclosed that Catholic bishops nationwide have organized a national secretariat, which will draw up plan to fight corruption. "This is not an easy job because we estimated it to take us one generation or 20 to 25 years to achieve our goal," the bishop said. Gutierrez also appealed to the politicians to set a good example in leading the country's economy. "To all politicians, refrain from personal attacks that surely cannot help in the country's progress. Instead, present your platform of government," he said. The bishop said it is important for people to know the platform of government of politicians in order to vote wisely in the elections next year.

From Sun Star, Philippines, by Merlyn F. Velarde, 29 December 2003

 

Bosnian Serb Gets 27 Years for Srebrenica Massacre

The Hague - UN war crimes judges jailed a Bosnian Serb former army commander for 27 years today for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 Muslims - a stiffer sentence than even prosecutors had requested. Momir Nikolic, 48, pleaded guilty in May to one count of crimes against humanity for persecuting non-Serbs in Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two. In return for his plea, prosecutors dropped four other charges. Nikolic was an assistant intelligence commander in the Bratunac Brigade which encircled the U.N.-declared "safe area" of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia. Under the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to request a 15-20 year sentence and the defence said it would recommend 10 years. But Judge Liu Daqun said neither term was sufficient. "Neither sentence adequately reflects the totality of the criminal conduct for which Momir Nikolic has been convicted," the judge told the court, saying the Srebrenica massacre was "committed with a level of brutality and depravity not seen previously in conflict in former Yugoslavia".

Tribunal judges have found Serbs committed genocide in Srebrenica after overrunning it in summer 1995. Nikolic admitted to attending army meetings that July at which plans to execute Muslim men were openly discussed. Weeks after Nikolic's guilty plea, co-accused former Bosnian Serb army commander Dragan Obrenovic admitted his own role at Srebrenica in a deal with prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. Both Nikolic and Obrenovic agreed to testify against ex-army commanders Vidoje Blagojevic and Dragan Jokic. Nikolic told the Blagojevic and Jokic trial in September that the Srebrenica massacre was ordered by the highest Bosnian Serbian political and military authorities. He linked the atrocity to The Hague's most wanted men, Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic - both accused of responsibility for the Srebrenica massacre. Judges in The Hague last week began hearing an appeal by Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic against his 46-year jail term for leading the Srebrenica massacre.

From B92, Yugoslavia, 1 December 2003

Civil Servants to Be Allowed Work 'Beyond 65'

Charlie McCreevy today said in a bid to address the problems of an ageing population creating future pension problem that the compulsory retirement age for civil servants of 65 yrs is to be abolished for new entrants, allowing staff to work longer if they wish. The minimum age to start drawing a pension will be set at 65 for new entrants and these measures will apply from April 1 next year. The minimum pension age for guards and prison officers is to be set at 55. The Government has rejected proposals for an additional 1% pension contribution from all public servants. A single additional voluntary contribution scheme for the public service is also being proposed.

From Independent, UK, 3 December 2003

Top Civil Servants Will Have to Pass Exams

A century's tradition of "gifted amateurism" in Whitehall is set to end in a civil service revolution that will restrict top management jobs to people with professional qualifications. The cabinet secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, backed by the Treasury, is insisting that experienced professionals alone should be considered for top finance, personnel, IT and management jobs. Future civil service high-flyers will have to pass accounting, legal and resource management exams to progress. Sir Andrew, a former Treasury permanent secretary, is anxious to leave his mark on Whitehall by "re-professionalising" its upper echelons. Senior civil servants do a good job in providing ministers with policy advice, he says, but do not always have the capacity to run their departments.

The Treasury is impressed by a claim that the recent introduction of professional financial management in the Ministry of Defence secured a £7bn cut in the annual cost of maintaining stocks of munitions and materials. Reform of human resource management comes before likely criticism in the forthcoming Hutton report of the way the personnel aspects of the David Kelly case were handled by the MoD. It will have major consequences for the way that civil servants are recruited and trained. The Treasury said departments would need good reasons for not quickly installing trained accountants in their top financial slots. New Whitehall-wide super "heads of profession" will cover accountancy and finance, human resources, procurement and project management, providing backup for professional chiefs in these areas in each department.

From Guardian, UK, by David Walker, 3 December 2003

Minister Criticises Penalties for Civil Servants Taking Maternity Leave

An employment minister yesterday criticised one of the biggest government departments for forcing a "performance" system on staff which could mean women on maternity leave suffer financial penalties. Gerry Sutcliffe, employment relations minister, said the move by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was not an example of best practice. The DWP has imposed a settlement on its 130,000 civil servants which gives them a 2.6 per cent pay rise, but which would cut bonuses for those taking more than five days off a year apart from annual leave. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS, Whitehall's largest union, argues that the new regime could mean lower pay for employees on training courses and even for members of the Territorial Army serving in Iraq. The decision led to an unofficial strike last month by several hundred Jobcentre and benefit office workers in Glasgow and Essex. Mr. Sutcliffe, who yesterday published an Employment Relations Bill, revealed that he will write to other ministers to ensure, "our employment relations procedures match what we want others to do. "The new Bill was "very clear" about what the Government wanted in terms of employment relations, said the minister. He added that one of the aims of the legislation was to tackle rogue employers and those who exploited their staff. Stella Dennis, an official of PCS, accused the DWP of using "bully boy" tactics.

A spokeswoman for the ministry denied the settlement had been "imposed" and said that management was still in talks with the union. Mr. Sutcliffe said the new Bill would encourage employers and employees to work together. "I want to see an end to the climate where people only hear out of the blue about job losses from the media, or by text message," he said. The TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the Bill contained "many useful" measures, but did not go far enough and left Britons with less protection than employees on the Continent. Under the proposed legislation unions will be allowed to expel racist activists. Some unions have been taken to employment tribunals after expelling British National Party members. "The law should not allow racists to hide behind their political party membership to avoid being expelled by unions," said a Government paper published yesterday. The law will be amended to give unions greater latitude over expulsions. The Government also said it would re-examine the case for giving tribunals more discretion when setting compensation levels. "We believe bonus payments should be given to staff who have made an extra effort and contributed the most to helping us deliver a good service to our customers," said Mr. Sutcliffe.

From Independent, UK, by Barrie Clement, 3 December 2003

Transfers for 10,000 Civil Servants

Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has announced details of a major programme of decentralisation of Government department and agencies. This will include the transfer of complete departments - including ministers - to provincial locations. Eight departments and the Office of Public Works will move from Dublin. In total, the moves announced today will involve the relocation of more than 10,000 jobs to 53 centres in 25 counties. The Minister said transfers would be voluntary, with no redundancies. An implementation committee is being established to drive the programme forward. He said he believed decentralisation would lead to a radical change of culture in terms of policy formation. 'No longer will policy be made entirely in Dublin on the basis of a Dublin mindset,' he said.

The Civil and Public Service Union has broadly welcomed the decentralisation announcement as 'good for the country' but has expressed doubts about the feasibility of moving entire departments. General secretary Blair Horan said while younger civil servants may be happy to move out of Dublin, middle ranking and higher officers would be reluctant and would probably be seeking incentives. He said the devil would be in the detail and, as proposed, this move would take many years to implement. The Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute, which represents estate agents, says the decentralisation move announced in the budget will have a major impact on the property market in Dublin and elsewhere. While welcoming the decision, which involves transferring 10,000 workers, the IAVI said it was important that stability be maintained by phasing in the moves.

From RTE News, 3 December 2003

Over 10,000 Civil Servants to Move in Decentralisation Plan

The transfer of 10,000 civil servants out of Dublin, the key element of Budget 2004, will be completed by 2007, the Minister for Finance, Mr. McCreevy, said. Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent, reports. The decentralisation programme, the biggest in the history of the State, overshadowed other elements of the Budget, including the Minister's decision not to increase tax bands. The tax package was aimed at lower earners, while social welfare increases exceeded the rate of inflation. There were across-the-board increases of €10 a week in all social welfare payments and an increase in child benefit of €6 a month for first and second children and €8 a month for third and subsequent children. However, the increases were criticised by a number of campaigning organisations, with anti-poverty groups saying the Budget had ignored child poverty. With the local elections six months away, the Minister gave €30 million to the schools' building programme and the same amount to local authorities. Committing the Government to the 2007 decentralisation timetable, Mr. McCreevy said last night: "It can be done, and it will be done." The entire eight Departments designated, and the Office of Public Works, will move out of Dublin, although staff will transfer voluntarily. "I believe that over time decentralisation will lead to a radical change of culture. No longer will policy be made entirely in Dublin on the basis of a Dublin mindset," he told the Dáil.

He rejected charges that the selection of the 53 towns had ignored the Government's own National Spatial Strategy. "There is a logic to this," he said. Just €20 million has been put aside next year to fund transfer costs. Mr. McCreevy has insisted the project will be largely self-financing. Developers could be offered "swaps" by the Office of Public Works if they provide offices in provincial towns, in return for Dublin premises. The Minister has ruled out demands already voiced by trade union leaders for relocation expenses for their members. "No, there won't be," he said. Large numbers of civil servants will jump at the chance of moving "rather than traipsing into and out of Dublin every day of the week". The clustering of related Government offices in different areas would ensure that promotional opportunities still exist for civil servants, unlike previous decentralisation schemes. Fine Gael TD Mr. Richard Bruton described the decentralisation plan as a smokescreen to cover broken promises. Defending his decision not to increase tax bands, the Minister said he had made it clear last year that the era of major tax reform is over for now. His decision means that 33.4 per cent of all taxpayers will pay the top rate of 42 per cent next year - the highest percentage for nearly 20 years.

The employee tax credit has been increased by €240 to €1,040, although no changes have been made to the largest element of any individual's total tax allowance, the personal tax credit. Mr. McCreevy rejected the temptation to abolish the PRSI ceiling, although the income ceiling for the charge rises from €40,420 to €42,160. Emphasising that efforts to control inflation take precedence, the Minister raised cigarette prices by 25c a packet of 20, rather than the expected 50c, and petrol by 5c a litre. Companies will be able to qualify for a 20 per cent corporation tax credit up to 2008 in return for research and development investment. Despite his previously stated opposition, Mr. McCreevy has bowed to demands to continue film tax relief until December 2008 at a cost of €25 million a year. Just under a quarter, 24.2 per cent, of all State spending next year will go on health, 28.7 per cent is earmarked for social welfare and 15.4 per cent for education. The Minister announced that State employees hired after April 2004, including teachers and nurses, will retire at 65. Acknowledging that the changes were being introduced without union agreement, he said talks dating back to 1997 had failed to reach a conclusion.

The minimum pension age for gardaí (police) and prison officers recruited after April 2004 will be 55, while soldiers will not qualify for pension until they reach 50. The changes will save the Exchequer €300-400 million a year in current monetary values in 30-40 years' time, the Department said. Labour TD Ms Joan Burton said the Budget was "silent on healthcare, silent on education, silent on crime, silent on medical card holders, silent on housing". Key changes - Decentralisation: 10,300 public sector staff will move out of Dublin to 53 centres in 25 counties. Welfare: €10 a week increase in most basic schemes, including old age pension, with child benefit up €6 a month on first and second child. Income Tax: Employee tax credit raised €240 to €1,040 a year while standard rate band stays unchanged. Cigarettes: Excise duty on cigarettes rises by 25 cents a packet of 20 from midnight last night. Fuel: Five cents a litre added to excise duty on both petrol and diesel from midnight last night. Film Relief: Intense lobbying wins three-year reprieve with investment ceiling raised to €15 million. Capital spending: Investment on public programmes switches to five-year €33.6 billion rolling programme. Research: New tax credit on R&D allows 20 per cent of such spending to be offset against corporation tax. Tax Incentives: Business Expansion Scheme extended for three years with most property scheme incentives remaining open until end-July 2006.

From Irish Times, Ireland, 4 December 2003

Senior Civil Servants to Be "Re-Professionalised"

Applications for top jobs in the civil service will only be considered from those with professional qualifications, Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, is insisting. Backed by the Treasury, Sir Andrew is intent on "re-professionalising" senior Whitehall posts. He says that senior civil servants are currently good at providing policy advice, but not always able to run their departments. The reform of HR management will have major consequences for the way that civil servants are recruited and trained. "Heads of profession" will be appointed for accountancy and finance, human resources, and procurement and project management. The "heads" will provide backup for leaders in these areas in each department. The changes come as Whitehall awaits likely criticism from the Hutton Report of the way the personnel aspects of the David Kelly case were handled by the MoD.

From Human Resources-Centre, UK, 4 December 2003

Government Approves Alternative Civil Service Bill

On Thursday the Russian government approved a resolution that will ensure and organize an alternative civil service, Labour Minister Alexander Pochinok told reporters after a Cabinet of Ministers session. "Today, the Russian government has approved a resolution on organizing an alternative civil service (ACS)," said the minister. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2004. According to Pochinok, ministries and government departments have created 40,000 jobs for those who prefer an alternative civil service. In this case, they will work as members of junior medical personnel, in social protection bodies, in the timber industry, in special civil engineering, in firefighting service and as engineers. Under this law, those who prefer the ACS will serve for four years, while in the army they are only required to serve for two years.

From Gateway 2 Russia, Russia, 4 December 2003

Civil Servants "Stunned" at Decentralisation Plans

The country's top civil servants have raised questions about the Government's plans to decentralise 10,000 civil and public service jobs. It has emerged that top-level officials at Government departments were given only 48 hours notice of the plan, before it was announced in the Budget on Wednesday. Senior civil servants were "stunned", according to the Irish Times, and question the practicality of the plan.

From The Scotsman, UK, 5 December 2003

Senior Civil Servants Question Relocation Decision

A number of Government Department secretaries general - the State's top civil servants - have raised reservations about plans to move over 10,000 civil and public servants out of Dublin. Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent, reports. The senior officials were only told by the Minister for Finance, Mr. McCreevy, of his decentralisation plans on Monday afternoon - less than 48 hours before his Budget speech, The Irish Times has learned. The late notification by the Minister raises questions about the planning that has gone into the State's biggest-ever decentralisation programme, due to be completed in three years. The secretaries general of the eight affected Departments, along with their Ministers, were told by the Minister for Finance during separate briefings in his Merrion Road offices. The secrecy surrounding the plan was so tight that Ministers and officials knew only about the plans for their own Departments, and were not given sight of those affecting others. The top civil servants were reportedly "left stunned" by Mr. McCreevy's decision, and a number of them, then and since, have privately questioned the practicality of the plan.

Many now fear that their Departments could lose influence compared to the already powerful Department of Finance and the Department of the Taoiseach. "I have no doubt that this will concentrate power in Finance and the Taoiseach's, while everybody is split up around the country," one highly-informed source said last night. Some secretaries general believe that they could lose high-flying officials, who, they fear, will not be attracted by life outside of Dublin, regardless of promises made about future promotion. Meanwhile, it emerged that Finance repeatedly ignored calls made by trade unions since 1999 to carry out a survey of opinion among staff to test their attitudes to decentralisation. Eight Departments will leave Dublin. They are those of Agriculture & Food; Arts, Sport and Tourism; Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs; Defence; Education and Science; Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and Social and Family Affairs. Two more, Foreign Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, will move hundreds of support staff, as will semi-State companies reporting to transport, such as Bus Éireann and the National Roads Authority.

Decentralisation's merits are widely accepted. "Eighty per cent of this could be done, with some problems, perhaps, but it could be done. The problem is moving key policy staff," said one official, echoing others. Key departmental decision-makers increasingly have to work in concert with colleagues from other Departments. "That will be difficult to replicate when everybody is around the country. Video conferencing, e-mails, etc., deal with a lot of those kind of problems, but they don't deal with everything. No other government has ever tried this," said one reliable source. The Government has not ruled out raising millions of euros by selling or leasing landmark State-owned building, including the Office of Public Works (OPW) headquarters on Stephen's Green, to pave the way for decentralisation, writes Arthur Beesley. However, the Custom House will not be sold as it is an "exception". The Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Mr. Tom Parlon, said last night there were no "major issues" preventing the disposal of other listed buildings which are used by Departments scheduled to move from Dublin.

From Irish Times, Ireland, 5 December 2003

Serbian Civil Servants Finish EU Course

Belgrade - Sixteen Serbian civil servants completed on Wednesday a training course on European issues, which included theory and practice of EU institutions and regulations, and which was organised by the German Embassy to Serbia-Montenegro and the Serbian Ministry of International Economic Relations. German Ambassador Kurt Leonberger said that the project aims to prepare East European countries for joining the EU. He explained that those who complete the course are to pass on the knowledge they acquired, adding that the first group is already training other employees in public administration. Leonberger said that the project will continue over the next few years in order to provide training for all Serbian citizens and prepare the country for admission to the EU. Assistant Minister of International Economic Relations Ana Trbovic said that the course was conducted over the period of 2 years, with a total of 45 working days of training. She said that the sixteen civil servants have visited EU institutions, where they received certificates endorsing them as official trainers on EU issues.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 10 December 2003

Civil Service Jobs to Bring Economic Boom

The Government's decision to re-locate a number of government departments at up to 55 locations in 25 counties has been broadly welcomed by community leaders and activists. Mayo is to benefit to the tune of 290 jobs after Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy announced decentralisation plans during his Budget speech on Wednesday. Claremorris and Knock Airport were the big winners in Mayo. The Department of Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is to site its new headquarters at Knock Airport and, in the process, in the region of 140 Civil Servants will be transferred to the area. The Office of Public Works is set to re-locate 150 employees at a new base in Claremorris. It is hoped that both operations will be 'up and running' inside the next five years. Clár I.R.D. and the Claremorris Chamber of Commerce, who led a major campaign for decentralisation, has expressed delight with the news. The organisation has over the last two years used every opportunity to promote Claremorris as a perfect location for a decentralised department. The considerable investment over the last few years by Central and Local Government has given Claremorris major improvements in infrastructure e.g. the bypass, water, sewerage and the upgrading of the rail line from Dublin and has helped to further the case for decentralisation.

The chairman of Clar I.R.D., Seamus McCormack, said "We believe that Claremorris was chosen because it is a good environment where industry can thrive and people can enjoy a quality of life. Its central location coupled with excellent sport and recreation facilities and community spirit gave it the edge over other areas. "We acknowledge the support the campaign received from our local TD, John Carty, who has been promoting Claremorris and Knock as ideal locations for decentralisation. The work of Mayo County Council in bringing services and infrastructure to the town made the job of promoting the town much easier. "We are delighted that Knock airport has also been chosen for decentralisation, as the airport is a very important facility in the area. We look forward to working with the O.P.W. in their plans to move and to welcoming the 150 new families to Claremorris." The President of Claremorris Chamber of Commerce, Pat McHugh, on behalf of the Chamber, has welcomed the Budget Day announcement "It will be a huge boost for the town and surrounding areas.

The Chamber along with Clar I.R.D. had submitted a joint submission which was very comprehensive and which made the case for the Town which is ideally located in the heart of Connacht. "They followed up the submission with a lobbying campaign of the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Ministers along with anyone else who might be in a position to support the application. Pat McHugh welcomed the people who will come to work and reside in the town. "We have some fine facilities from a social, cultural and infrastructural viewpoint and I am confident that the civil servants who do locate in Claremorris will find it a very positive experience." Mr. McHugh has extended thanks to all who worked so hard promoting the town at political, business and community level and he expects that the whole community will be the beneficiaries of last week's announcement. At Knock Airport, there was also a warm welcome for the decision. A spokesperson for the Airport said it was a huge endorsement of the ethos of the airport famously founded and promoted by Fr. James Horan. In Charlestown and Kilkelly, the news was also warmly welcomed across the political divide. Local business people saw it as an endorsement of the growing status of Knock Airport and the benefit it was now bringing to the entire region.

From Western People, Ireland, 10 December 2003

Compensation Ruled Out over Civil Servants Relocation

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern today ruled out financial compensation for the civil servants being relocated away from Dublin. He also stressed that the major decentralisation plans to move eight Government departments into the regions were not going to be diluted. Dismissing reports of fierce opposition to the move among the ranks of civil servants, Mr. Ahern claimed they were "glad" of the announcement. "Naturally a change is going to generate a lot of talking and a lot of controversy but I have spoken to many people involved and they are glad the decision has been made and as always, they'll get on with it," he said. The Taoiseach said with modern technology it was no longer vital for offices to be situated in close proximity. "Information technology allows major companies around the world to hold board meetings regardless of their location," he said. "It would be a bit of an insult to our own IT industry to say we couldn't do the same."

He acknowledged that a move would be more difficult for senior civil servants, many with children settled in Dublin schools, but said there were no plans to offer a compensation package and never had been. Mr. Ahern cited advantages such as cheaper house prices as good reasons to move away from the capital. Asked whether those involved would be offered any incentives to relocate, he said that was not the plan. Finance minister Charlie McCreevy also today ruled out any financial compensation for those being asked to move. More than 10,000 civil service jobs are to be moved from Dublin to eight regional locations designated for government headquarters: Cavan, Drogheda, Killarney, Knock Airport, Newbridge, Mullingar, Trim and Wexford.

From The Scotsman, UK. 8 December 2003

Civil Servants Snub Move to the North

A plan to shift 20,000 civil servants out of London to boost economic growth in the North has been delayed after they refused to move. Chancellor Gordon Brown confirmed yesterday that the long-awaited report by the Lyons Review had been put back from the autumn to March next year. The Treasury admitted the delay was to allow "close engagement" with Government departments that needed a "better understanding of the opportunities" of moving out of the capital. The restrained language is thought to mask bitter opposition within Whitehall at the prospect of the public-sector jobs transferring to towns and cities in the North. At least three Government departments are believed to have received a "terse" letter from Sir Michael Lyons, the former council leader conducting the review. They were told the number of staff they planned to relocate was "disappointing" and ordered to think again. Some must double the number to hit their targets. Back in October, the Town and Country Planning Association urged the government to relocate the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to Merseyside. It said Liverpool would be the ideal home for the department, because of its long history of driving forward initiatives to regenerate the city.

The announcement that the Lyons Review would not be published until March 2004 was buried deep in Chancellor Gordon Brown pre-Budget report, published yesterday. A statement on the Treasury website said: "Sir Michael is clear that further work is needed to develop these proposals. "The timetable of the review has therefore been extended a little beyond the original deadline of late November to reflect the need for a further period of close engagement with departments. "In his further exchanges with departments, Sir Michael hopes to achieve a better understanding both of the opportunities and the constraints." A spokesman for Mr. Brown insisted the delay would not weaken the Government's determination to move the jobs, which are seen as a powerful economic driver. Sir Michael would publish new evidence soon proving that staff and accommodation costs were higher in London. Around 230,000 civil servants - about a third of the total - are based in London and the South East, a tally that has grown by 4pc since 1997. David Curry, Tory local government spokesman, said an extra 20,000 civil service jobs had been created in the last 12 months alone. He said: "What the Government seems incapable of doing is making sure that the regions get their share of whatever benefits there might be from these jobs."

From Liverpool Echo, UK, by Rob Merrick, 11 December 2003

Inquiry Recalls Civil Servant

The civil servant responsible for bringing Bovis back into contention for the Holyrood project after the firm's tender had been rejected will be recalled to the Fraser Inquiry next week. Barbara Doig, the former project sponsor, took the decision to reinstate the construction company in the bidding process, despite the fact that it had already been dropped by a panel of experts because it submitted the highest tender of the shortlisted firms. Mrs. Doig appeared before Lord Fraser's inquiry into the Holyrood fiasco last week, but failed to give an explanation for her actions. She also admitted failing to pass on warnings to ministers over increasing costs and delays in the building during the first few months of the project's existence. Robert Gordon, another senior civil servant who was involved closely with crucial decisions taken during 1998 and 1999, is also being recalled.

Mr. Gordon, the former head of the Scottish Office's constitution unit, will be asked what part he played in the decision to award Bovis the main building contract, and what he knew of the early developmental problems. Some of the most interesting evidence might also come from David Boyle, a director of the building firm, Sir Robert McAlpine. McAlpine submitted the lowest tender for the role of construction manager of the Holyrood building, a tender which was almost £1million lower than the Bovis tender, but it was passed over for the contract. There has been increasing speculation about whether McAlpine might take legal action against the Scottish Office, and Mr. Boyle may be able to explain his company's intentions when he appears before the inquiry on Tuesday next week.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Hamish MacDonell, 11 December 2003

Top Civil Servants Against Relocation, Survey Finds

The majority of senior civil servants at the Department of the Environment are unwilling to move out of Dublin as part of the decentralization programme according to an internal survey. Thirty-five out of 40 senior civil servants who responded to a union survey at the Department said they did not want to move to Wexford, where the new Department headquarters is to be located, or to any other town outside Dublin. The figures emerged following an internal e-mail survey carried out by the Department's branch of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCP). Forty of the 120 assistant principal and principal officers responded to the survey in the Department. It asked whether they would be willing to move with the Department to a location outside of Dublin, move to another Department outside of Dublin or remain in Dublin. Only three civil servants said they would be willing to move outside Dublin with the Department, with two willing to move to another Department. The remaining 35 said they wanted to remain in Dublin. The Minister for the Environment, Mr. Cullen, was informed of the survey results last night. The AHCP represents assistant principal and principal officer grades.

These grades are responsible for much of the policy formulation within Departments. Only assistant secretaries and Department secretaries general hold more senior posts in the civil service. The internal survey is the first to have been carried out in any Department, and if the opposition to decentralisation among staff is replicated in other Departments, it could pose serious problems for the Government's ambitious decentralisation programme. The programme is voluntary, and the Government is hoping that lower house prices and a better quality of life will attract more than 10,000 civil servants to move outside of Dublin. On Monday, the Minister for Finance, Mr. McCreevy, said there would be no compensation package, and that civil servants would be more than compensated by the "bonanza" they would get by selling houses in Dublin. Government sources also pointed out that the number who answered the Department of the Environment survey was only a small proportion of the 1,360 staff in the Department. The new headquarters of the Department of the Environment will be in Wexford town, with a further Department division in New Ross, employing 130 staff.

From Irish Times, Ireland, by Liam Reid, 12 December 2003

Waterford Can Cope with Influx of Civil Servants

Waterford city has a number of options available between greenfield sites and in-fill development opportunities to provide the necessary accommodation which will be required for the 200 civil servants coming to work here under the decentralisation programme announced last week. The city is to be the new home for almost half of the employees from the Department of the Environment, which is headed up by Minister Martin Cullen. According to the Minister, the decentralisation of 200 jobs to the city can be the catalyst for further economic developments in Waterford. Making the announcement, last week, he said "It is incumbent now that energy nationally is matched with energy locally and it is in Waterford's interests that all the local stakeholders come together to fast track delivery of decentralisation."

In terms of office provision City Manager, Conn Murray said that Waterford was more than capable of providing what was needed and while no specific areas have yet been identified, he said that a number of options were available. He added, however, that it was important to continue to sustain the development of the heart of the city with a good mix in terms of the type of services that already exist. The decentralisation of 200 jobs to the city, a further 300 with the Ordinance Survey of Ireland Agency in Dungarvan will bring in on salary spend alone, an estimated €20m per annum. That will further be boosted by some €80m per year which will be at the disposal of another 1,300 civil servants who will be coming to towns across the South East.

From Waterford News, Ireland, by Marion O'Mara, 12 December 2003

Outrage over £534,000 Bonus for Civil Servants

The bonuses paid to Scotland's top mandarins have doubled in the past year to more than £500,000, despite growing problems in the health service, schools, and law and order. Scotland on Sunday can reveal that more than 100 civil servants have received bonuses of up to £6,000, compared with the £2,000 to £3,000 typically paid out last year. The awards are controversial because, over the same period, waiting lists have grown, many Scottish youngsters have failed school tests in basic skills, violent crime is rising, and the nation's economy is lagging behind the rest of the UK. But the Scottish Executive says it made the bumper bonus payouts to 118 of 253 eligible mandarins - at a total cost of £534,000 - because they met administration-based targets in running their departments. The average payment this year was £4,530 compared with £2,420 last year. In addition to the bonuses, senior civil servants in Scotland receive salaries of between £45,000 and £122,000. They also enjoy final salary pensions, and better job security than most areas of the private sector. Senior civil servants are to receive pay hikes of between 5% and 10% over the next two years despite the official rate of inflation being 2.9% at the time of the award. Brian Monteith, the Scottish

Tory finance spokesman, said: "Scotland is drowning in a sea of civil servants, where the only growth is coming in government. The amount this Executive is spending on governing the country is indicative of its meddling where it wants to micro-manage every aspect of our lives. What Scotland needs is fewer bureaucrats and less regulation, and not more." Bruce Crawford, the SNP parliamentary affairs spokesman, said: "What kind of a message does this send out to our frontline public servants? Our nursery nurses are in dispute right now over their poor pay. The mandarins are getting all the money while the people who are actually delivering the public services are losing out." The increase in the level of bonuses was decided by the Treasury. Who received the awards, and the precise amount, was then decided by a 13-member committee, which included 11 Scottish Executive civil servants and two people from private industry. A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland said: "We do not have any problem with civil servants being given incentives to perform well and find solutions. What concerns us is the fact that so few non-civil servants are on the panel which assesses these rewards."

Questions have also been raised about the need for bonuses to relate to achievements in the 'real world' rather than the internal administration of departments. Figures published last week showed alarming gaps in children's ability to read and write. The number of children in Secondary Two not reaching the level of attainment in maths expected of a Primary Three pupil jumped 57% from 1,015 in 2001/2 to 1,590 in 2002/03. Figures for S2 children not reaching the level of attainment in writing expected of a Primary 3 pupil jumped 41% from 1,038 in 2001/2 to 1,459 in 2002/3. The latest health service figures show waiting lists at an all-time high, and that the health service is treating fewer people. Official government figures indicate the waiting list for inpatient treatment stands at 110,661, compared with 96,361 in 1999. In addition, 4.28 million outpatients were seen by NHS staff in 1999 compared with 4.08 million this year. The time from seeing a GP to receiving hospital treatment was 94 days, nearly three weeks longer than the 76 days Scots were having to wait when the Executive first published figures in June 1999. The Executive is also accused of failing to get to grips with a rising tide of violent crime. The number of stabbings is at its highest rate for 10 years, with 68 people killed by knives last year.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Executive said the performance awards could not be linked to waiting lists or school standards. He said: "The awards have been agreed on the basis of agreed achievements in departments. They are not responsible for waiting lists or schools. The scale of the awards have been agreed by the Treasury and were not decided by the Scottish Executive." The hefty bonuses have come in the wake of mounting worries about the cost of government and the ballooning size of the Scottish public sector. One Briton in four is employed by the public sector. In Scotland, the boom in government since devolution has resulted in an extra 31,000 Scots - equivalent to the population of Stirling - being recruited to the public sector. However, the boom is mainly in 'support staff' which has seen the extra bureaucrats outnumber new teachers and police. The size of Scotland's civil service has grown by a quarter since the establishment of the Scottish parliament, costing the taxpayer an estimated extra £50m. Civil servants with Executive agencies, such as Scottish Natural Heritage and enterprise companies, have risen from 9,766 in 1999 to 11,061 today.

From Scotland on Sunday, UK, by Murdo MacLeod, (mmacleod@scotlandonsunday.com), 13 December 2003

Civil Service Boss Promises to Cut Red Tape

Cabinet secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull has conceded that a culture of red tape and targets is a major issue for many people working in public services. Interviewed in Friday's Telegraph, the civil service chief said that form-filling was now of greater concern than pay for many teachers, doctors and police officers. And he revealed that the government wants to reduce back office costs and "streamline" the process. "We want to move away from it [the targets culture]," Sir Andrew said. Performance data was too often "vulnerable to game playing" and manipulation, he added. Whitehall's top mandarin also admitted that there are too many civil servants and pledged to reduce the number working in London. "We can reduce the numbers and we certainly will reduce the numbers," he said. "People will be asked to say what they can do to reduce their back office costs and streamline their dealings with the front line."

The interview came after the chancellor confirmed in his pre-Budget report that 20,000 government employees would be moved out London. Gordon Brown also announced that public service agreements between the Treasury and other departments - which tie budgets to specific targets - would be scrapped. But Sir Andrew said a wider review of red tape would go further, with an emphasis on outcomes, rather than the means to achieve them. "Targets sometimes measure the wrong things," Sir Andrew said. "We must improve the validation of them. There was a target to increase the number of farmland birds. "The easiest way to increase the number of farmland birds is to breed them in cages then release them. But the real outcome you want is better stewardship of the countryside. "In that case, the target was an indicator of an outcome rather than the outcome itself."

From ePolitix, UK, 12 December 2003

Civil Service Needs Drastic Overhaul

"The civil service," Rab Butler once said, "is a bit like a Rolls-Royce. You know it's the best machine in the world, but you're not quite sure what to do with it." That is to say, whatever crisis engulfs the country, at least you know that the engine is turning over smoothly, every sprocket interlocking, the gears changing so imperceptibly that all you can hear is the ticking of the clock. This comforting notion has taken a few jolts in Scotland recently. There have been some grinding noises from under the bonnet, a few wisps of smoke curling up through the floor and a very nasty smell that just could signal a major malfunction. I refer to the evidence emerging from the Fraser Inquiry, and the damning report by the Auditor General into Scottish Enterprise. In both cases the basic competence of civil servants has been called into question. Rules have been broken, guidelines ignored, and even fundamental paperwork, the very stuff of the civil servant's manual, has been overlooked. The thread linking both cases has been the seeming inability of government to cope with the commercial world, and the way it manages to fall apart when dealing with major financial projects.

It was the late Professor C Northcote Parkinson who observed that a committee confronted with two decisions, one costing many millions of pounds, the other involving the erection of a bicycle shed at the back of the building, will nod through the big project in less than an hour and spend the rest of the day deciding whether there should be room for 10 cycles or 20. Despite all the reforms that have taken place within the civil service, the gulf between it and the real world of business and finance seems wider than ever. The Fraser Inquiry, of course, has a long way to go, and one should not prejudge its conclusions. Nevertheless, some worrying information has emerged, which concerns the way civil servants rather than politicians were handling the project. There is still no reasonable explanation for why a construction firm - Bovis - which put in a tender almost £1m more expensive than its closest competitor, was chosen to go on the short-list when the guidelines clearly stated that this was not allowed. Or for the fact that the Secretary of State was not informed that the Holyrood project manager, Bill Armstrong, had resigned after voicing serious concerns about the escalating costs of the project.

One can see why the curmudgeonly Armstrong was considered by his colleagues to be a "pain in the neck". He kept pointing out irritating details, like the lack of proper insurance, the failure to control costs, the lengthy delays in delivering plans. He was clearly not on the same wavelength as the flamboyant architect, Enric Miralles. Nevertheless, the least one might have expected from a competently run civil service would be to ensure that rules were observed, contracts adhered to, and, if costs looked like getting out of control, to have warned ministers of the danger. The one golden rule in any civil servant's book is the need to protect ministers from embarrassment or exposure - hence their reputation for excessive caution. In this case what seems to be emerging is the opposite. Expensive risks were being taken by the civil servants, while ministers were kept in the dark. This, surely, is the wrong way round. Scottish Enterprise, which last week appointed a new chief executive, is meant to be the organisation which operates at the sharp end of the Scottish economy. Its remit has been controversial ever since its inception nearly 15 years ago. It has expanded hugely, and yet it has not yet found an effective role.

Last week's report by the Auditor General showed that it is spending more and more on consultants, that it has failed to apply for some European funding to which it was entitled, that certain documents were missing. He confirmed that it had claimed to hit 21 of its 22 targets. But these were mostly small, 'micro-management' targets, like improving training prospects in deprived areas - that is, building the right kind of bicycle shed. They do not include the fundamental goal of increasing Scotland's growth rate. Employing more consultants is a give-away: it means you are not confident about the money you are investing, and that you need reassurance that your bets are the right ones. So what are these? Looking back over SE's track record, what one concludes is that the organisation has usually been behind the game rather than ahead of it. The roll call of Scotland's inward-investment successes include Chungwa, Hewlett Packard, Alcan, Lite-On, Motorola and Hyundai, all of which attracted vast subsidies and ultimately lost jobs.

Maybe they were justified at the time, maybe not. But every time I pass the Hyundai plant, where mains water was laid on from Loch Lomond and a whole slipway road was built to connect it to the M90, I wonder how many millions it really cost, and whether those echoing buildings will ever be filled. SE has been tackling the symptoms of decline for so long, it no longer recognises how to support success. What is the industry that has expanded fastest in recent years in Scotland? It is financial services. Is SE involved in any way? It is not. Somewhere along the line, those who have been involved in thinking ahead about the Scottish economy have failed to notice the way the global economy is moving. As one economist put it: "Politics and economics don't mix. You shouldn't be subsidising companies; you should be subsidising people. We need to spend the money on individual skills and on making Scotland an attractive place for people to be based and then, hopefully, the business will come to the people rather than being the other way around."

Interestingly, that view is appreciated in Wales, where they have created an Institute of Public Sector Management to train civil servants to think in entrepreneurial terms. That at least recognises the problem, even though it may be some way from solving it. There seems little recognition of that in Scotland so far. Instead, SE is continually trying to second-guess a commercial sector it just doesn't understand, whereas it should be working to support expanding industries of the future by providing investment in the infrastructure, and thinking ahead. It relies on a system which is not best placed to respond to a rapidly changing situation with imaginative and informed ideas. Civil servants, climbing their way up the career ladder, shifted around from department to department, cannot begin to understand the way that business works. All that can change, however. With a new chief executive, a complete rethink of the organisation is required. A new broom could clear out the bureaucratic cobwebs. And that should certainly include most of the civil servants who run it.

From The Scotsman, UK, 13 December 2003

New Law on Civil Service Recruitment Proposed

Anyone interfering with public service recruitment procedures could face fines of up to €10,000 and two years in jail under new legislation published today. The Public Service Management Bill makes offences of certain conduct - including making a false application, or canvassing for a candidate. The legislation will establish a new more flexible public service recruitment process. Welcoming the Bill, Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy described it as a major reform, which would support the Government's decision on decentralisation.

From RTE Interactive, Ireland, 16 December 2003

Government to Revamp Civil Service Recruitment

The Government this afternoon published a bill revamping the way civil servants are recruited, which it says will aid the decentralisation process. Under the terms of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Bill 2003, Government departments will be allowed to apply for licences to recruit their own staff directly, rather than having to go through the Civil Service Commission. The Civil Service Commissioners and the Local Appointments Commissioners will be dissolved and replaced with the Commission for Public Service Appointments and the Public Appointments Service. These will continue to recruit for State bodies which choose not to apply for a licence.

The Bill also covers recruitment to An Garda Siochana and jobs under the remit of the Local Appointments Commissioners, which include senior and professional posts in local government, the ten health boards and the VECs. Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy said the Bill would help the modernisation of the system that was agreed under the Sustaining Progress agreement. He said it would ensure a "a constant supply of good recruits" and insisted the high standards of the old system would be maintained. "[The Bill is] introducing real flexibility into the recruitment process which will support the Government's decision on decentralisation announced in the Budget," he said. "The provisions of the Bill and the overhaul of recruitment practices will be of great assistance in a highly regionalised public service with the majority of civil servants located outside Dublin," he added.

From Business World, Ireland, 16 December 2003

Civil Service Recruitment Gets More Flexibility

The Government has published a bill renovating the way civil servants are recruited, which it believes will aid the decentralisation process. Under the terms of the Public Service (Recruitment and Appointments) Management Bill 2003, Government departments will be allowed to apply for licences to recruit their own staff directly, instead of going through the Civil Service Commission. The Civil Service Commission will be replaced by the Commission for Public Service Appointments and will continue to recruit for those bodies not applying for a license. Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy today said that the bill was introducing "real flexibility" into the recruitment process which supports the Government's decision on decentralisation announced in the Budget.

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 17 December 2003

White Paper on Civil Service Reform

Parliamentary secretary Edwin Vassallo has taken the initiative to begin talks about the White Paper on Civil Service reform between the Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Industry, the GRTU and the Malta Institute of Management. According to Mr. Vassallo: "There is a need for greater motivation and less bureaucracy in the Civil Service." The discussions are taking place in order to analyse the effects of the White Paper, and the proposed law which is included in the document, on the Civil Service. Once the reforms come into effect, the Civil Service should be more efficient and less bureaucratic. Mr. Vassallo said that as far as the White Paper about reform in the public sector is concerned, now is the time for the business and industrial sectors to give their suggestions. "I believe that this is the time for us to give our suggestions in order to see how the Civil Service can be made more efficient and less bureaucratic," he said.

The Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Industry, the GRTU and the Malta Institute of Management will be organising meetings in order to carry out this analysis. This consultation process will take place through a series of discussions, during which representatives of these organisations will meet parliamentary secretary Edwin Vassallo. "This White Paper is particularly interesting for entrepreneurs because the Civil Service is the largest service provider for those involved in trade," said Mr. Vassallo. "For this reason, those entities that represent the private sector will be meeting in order to discuss how to pass on their proposals for a more efficient, less bureaucratic and more motivated public service that can be of real service and help to all those that use its services."

From Malta Business Weekly, Malta, 18 December 2003

Dewar 'May Have Misled MSPs'

The man leading the Holyrood Inquiry has suggested that late First Minister Donald Dewar may have misled MSPs over the costs of the building. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie suggested that the budget of £62m for building and £109m overall may not have been the whole story when made public in 1999. The suggestion was rejected by senior civil servant Robert Gordon who was then head of the Executive Secretariat. The first that newly-elected MSPs heard of the costs was in June 1999. The project was handed over from the Scottish Office to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body shortly after the first Holyrood elections. MSPs were presented with the estimated figures and an agreement to press ahead was only narrowly secured. On Tuesday, Lord Fraser was at pains to discover what information on cost had been passed onto Mr. Dewar when he announced the original figure. In March 1999 he had been advised that the budget for construction cost alone would have to increase from £50m to £60m. But the inquiry, being heard at the Scottish Land Court in Edinburgh, has already heard that consultants hired by the Scottish Office to keep an eye on costs had advised that the budget was closer to £88m by March.

Those figures from Davis Langdon and Everest (DLE) do not appear to have been passed onto Mr. Dewar because, according to Mr. Gordon, the project team managing the building had decided that various elements allowed for in the DLE estimate could be "managed out". Lord Fraser said: "The tension for the then Scottish Office about to hand over to the corporate body, is that for the expenditure of public funds it's answerable to parliament and then the Scottish Parliament. "As I understand it the concern was that when Mr. Dewar reported £62m and £109m that was less than a true figure in his mind, thus parliamentarians were misled." The Tory peer said that Mr. Dewar may have "honestly believed" the figures which led to the project going ahead in a parliamentary vote which "swung on one or two votes". 'Jumped through hoops' - Lord Fraser said: "All I know so far is that someone employed in a professional capacity has reported a figure of £89m. "I understand your position as a manager of costs but if parliament is demanding figures surely in the spirit of openness and transparency it could have been included."

He added: "I would be extremely unwilling to come to a conclusion without good evidence that the first minister deliberately misled parliament with these figures and that's why I'm pressing hard to try and understand whether it's reasonable for him to report these figures on the basis of the information he had at that time." Mr. Gordon replied: "I had worked very closely, as had many members of the team, with the secretary of state from May 1997 to June 1999 and we would have jumped through fiery hoops for the secretary of state. "The secretary of state was not deliberately misleading parliament and we were not deliberately misleading the secretary of state." He added: "I'm absolutely sure that ministers reached the right decision in June 1999 in deciding that the budget for the parliament project should be £109m based on the development of the design then. "The fact that Stage D was very close and that the project had been transferred with the team to continue working under the direction of the corporate body meant I was content that, provided it was managed by the client in a rigorous and vigilant manner, it could be achieved for that price." The inquiry is trying to discover why the price of the building has risen from an original estimate of £40m to stand at £401.2m.

From BBC News, UK, 16 December 2003

Benchmark Pay Increases for 100,000 Public Servants

More than 100,000 civil servants and health service staff have been cleared to receive benchmarking pay increases next month. Independently-chaired groups set up to monitor their work found that staff in both sectors were delivering real improvements in services to the public. Staff including junior doctors, nurses, health board personnel and civil servants will now receive benchmarking increases, in addition to a basic 3 per cent rise, on January 1st. With local government and education staff also likely to qualify for benchmarking, the public sector pay bill next year is set to rise by 8 per cent, to €14.2 billion. Fine Gael, which opposes payment of the benchmarking increases, repeated its claim last night that the public was not getting value for the money. That view is challenged, however, by the reports of two performance verification groups. They found that staff in the civil service and health service respectively were delivering greater flexibility and service improvements, in return for the pay rises.

The benchmarking body recommended increases averaging 8.9 per cent for public servants, but insisted that the awards be conditional on staff signing up to a programme of modernisation and change. A quarter of the increase has already been paid, and a further 50 per cent is due next month. In his report to the Department of Finance, the chairman of the civil service performance verification group, Dr Donal de Buitléir, said he was concerned about the pace of change in some areas. But he said his group was impressed with the extent of activity aimed at improving the levels of customer service. There had also been "full co-operation" with the maintenance of stable industrial relations, as well as flexibility and ongoing change, he said. Unions welcomed the report as evidence that civil servants were delivering the work practice changes required in return for the benchmarking payments. "If we weren't, we wouldn't be getting the money. "That's the bottom line," said Mr. Tom Geraghty, assistant general secretary of the Public Service Executive Union.

Fine Gael's finance spokesman, Mr. Richard Bruton, however, said the group's reports highlighted actions that boosted productivity, while remaining silent on areas of failure. Three of the four performance verification groups set up to monitor the pace of public service change have now reported. Benchmarking increases for almost all staff in the education sector have already been approved by the group for that sector. However, the Department of Education general secretary, Mr. John Dennehy, who has the final say, has not signed off on the payments because of a row over parent-teacher meetings. The fourth group's report, on the local government sector, is expected within the next few days. Public service staff, who accepted a six-month pay freeze earlier this year, are due to receive a basic increase of 7 per cent, in three phases, in 2004, in addition to the benchmarking rise. The increases in total will add €1.1 billion to the public sector pay bill.

From Irish Times, Ireland, by Chris Dooley and Arthur Beesley, 17 December 2003

Schroeder Against Public Servants Wearing Hijab

Berlin - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is opposed to public servants wearing Islamic headscarves but is not against students wearing them in schools, he said in an interview published Sunday. "My position is clear: headscarves have no place in the public service, and that includes teachers. However I would not stop a young girl from going to school with a headscarf," he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "Germany is a secular state influenced by three great traditions; Greco-Roman philosophy, Judeo-Christian religion and the heritage of the Enlightenment," he said. Germany's highest tribunal, the federal constitutional court, ruled in September that the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim female teacher from wearing a headscarf in the classroom. But the court specifically said individual states could legislate to ban religious apparel if it were deemed to unduly influence children. Since then, Baden-Wuerttemberg and neighbouring Bavaria, both run by the Christian Union alliance parties, have drawn up legislation and plan to put a ban in place. The issue has been a hot topic of debate in France.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 22 December 2003

Rethink Urged over Civil Service Jobs

The future of the joint, region-wide campaign to bring more civil service jobs to Tayside appeared to be in jeopardy today after a local MP said the current format of the initiative was effectively unworkable, writes Ian Findlay, industrial reporter. Just days after a meeting in Perth at which it was decided that the Tayside Civil Service Jobs Campaign should be re-launched early in the New Year, the comments by Dundee East MP Iain Luke have now put that event into doubt. Mr. Luke said today that the current campaign was "impractical and unrealistic" in that it was expected that areas like Dundee and Perth would campaign for jobs which could go ultimately to the other's area. "The structure makes no sense," he said. "How can those from Dundee be expected to campaign for jobs to go to Perth and vice versa? "They are two different areas with their own agendas and portfolios. They are, to all intents and purposes, rivals." Until recently the TCSJC was chaired by Scottish Enterprise Tayside and the local enterprise company continues to provide the secretariat for the campaign.

However, chairmanship of the campaign has now been handed, as a shared responsibility, to the two main chambers of commerce in the region, Perth and Dundee & Tayside, with Perth taking the chair first. It is this development that appears to have helped expose some differences of opinion within the campaign. It is understood that Mr. Luke's views about the impracticality of the current campaign format are not exclusive to him and are shared by not only fellow campaigners from Dundee, but others from elsewhere in the region. Rivalry between Dundee and Perth over economic development opportunities is, of course, far from new, so it should be no surprise that such rivalries have now surfaced within the TCSJC. Last Friday's meeting of the campaign in Perth was poorly attended, with fewer than a dozen people turning up.

Out of the five MPs and five MSPs with constituencies in Tayside only three attended -Dundee East SNP MSP Shona Robison, Perth SNP MP Anabelle Ewing and Angus SNP MP Mike Weir. Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative list MSP Murdo Fraser was also present, as were representatives from the Dundee & Tayside chamber and Scottish Enterprise Tayside. No economic development-related elected members or officials from Tayside's three local authorities, Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross, was present. The poor turnout for the meeting prompted Ms Robison to call for those backing the efforts to bring civil service-related jobs to Tayside to continue to give the campaign their full support. Her plea may now be in vain. Mr. Luke has now written to SET's chief executive Shona Cormack, apologising for his non-attendance - but calling for the current campaign format to be scrapped in favour of separate campaigns, led by Perth Chamber and Dundee & Tayside Chamber respectively. Mr. Luke said today that the Dundee & Tayside Chamber-led campaign could probably see Dundee and Angus working together because they shared many common boundaries. However, a joint, region-wide campaign was no longer practical or realistic.

From Evening Telegraph, UK, 23 December 2003

£370m Cost as Civil Servants Take Time Off Sick

Scotland's civil servants suffer some of the highest sickness rates in the country, contributing to staffing shortages that cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds every year, a survey has revealed. An independent report commissioned by the government has revealed that public servants take almost two weeks off sick every year, 50% higher than the average chalked up by counterparts working for private firms. The total of almost five million days lost to sickness absence in 2002 is almost 800,000 up on the previous year, and cost the taxpayer over £370m. The findings will make depressing reading for Chancellor Gordon Brown, who announced in 1998 that he wanted to cut sickness rates by a third, to 7.2 days, by this financial year in a bid to make efficiency savings throughout the public sector. Instead, the average number of sick days taken by non-industrial civil servants has spiralled upwards, to 9.8 working days last year. Barely a third of all staff went through the year without taking a day off. Five Scottish civil service agencies feature among the 20 organisations with the highest rate of sickness absence in the country. Staff at the Scottish Prison Service took an average of 12.6 days off due to sickness last year - up from 11 days in 2001 - the fifth-highest sickness rate in the country.

The Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, the Scottish Public Pensions Agency, the National Archive for Scotland and the General Register Office Scotland were also in the top 20. Union leaders last night claimed prison officers were trying to control sickness absence, but insisted that their members were forced to do a dangerous job in increasingly pressurised conditions. Jim Dawson, assistant secretary of the Scottish Prison Officers Association, said: "People have to recognise the pressures of the job we do, which are increasing year on year through efficiency savings, which usually mean staff reductions. At some point that elastic is going to break and our members are feeling the strain." The report, from independent consultants AON, confirmed that stress-related sickness "continues to be a major contributor to long-term absence in the civil service". Cases of long-term mental illness among staff leapt by almost 5% during the year. But ministers have made it plain that they are determined to tackle a persistent problem seen as a drain on efforts to drive through improvements in public-sector concerns. Cabinet Office minister Douglas Alexander has urged civil service bosses to crack down on absence, telling them that "the management of absence continues to affect all our operations and its reduction remains a continuing goal".

From Scotland on Sunday, UK, by Brian Brady (bdbrady@scotlandonsunday.com), 27 December 2003

 

Civil Service Ministry Postings

Muscat - Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Mattar Al Azizi, civil service minister, has issued ministerial decisions No. 66 and 71/2003. Decision No. 66 appointed Sayyid Talal bin Badr bin Saud Al Busaidi as acting director of training and qualification, while Decision No. 71 appointed Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Ansari as assistant director-general of the civil service employees, Saud bin Hamad Al Hammoda as assistant director-general of recruitment and training, Sallam bin Saleh bin Mohammed Al Na'abi as director of research and revision, Jokhah bint Khalid bin Abdullah Al Nu'amni as director of statistics and career planning department; Mohammed bin Saif bin Zahran Al Abdulsalam as head of the training department and Suleiman bin Saif bin Salim Al Jahuri as head of the qualification department. The civil service minister and deputy chairman of the Civil Service Employees Pension Fund's board also issued decision No. 47/2003 which appointed Musabbah bin Abdullah Al Ghassani as head of the human resources department, Mohammed bin Amer Al Ma'amari as head of the human resources department, Rashid bin Said Al Rabi'ee as head of the public relations department and Saleem bin Berbakh as head of the planning and analysis department.

From Times of Oman, Oman, 9 December 2003

Optimism' Over End to Civil Service Action

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Amir Peretz met late last night in an effort to finalize an agreement that would end three months of labor sanctions by government workers - the longest public sector labor action in Israeli history. Treasury and Histadrut officials expressed cautious optimism that an accord could be reached "within hours" to allow tens of thousands of state workers to resume work at full pace. The main issue remaining to be resolved was a demand that the Histadrut withdraw all of its lawsuits on pension issues filed against the treasury at the National Labor Court. One Nation MK and former labor activist Ilana Cohen, who participated in the negotiations, called the demand "illogical." Peretz and Netanyahu were also negotiating over the retirement age for pension eligibility. The Histadrut is prepared to raise the retirement age to 67 for men and 62 (or even higher) for women on condition that it applies only to members of pension funds and not all salaried workers. The main points of the deal were worked out last week during talks between Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander and the head of the Civil Servants Union, Ofer Eini.

According to the accord, the treasury will proceed with its plan to restructure government ministries, conduct partial privatization of the Employment Service, and convert the Public Works Department (Ma'atz) to a government company, however, these steps will not be accompanied by layoffs. Instead, workers will be encouraged to take early retirement or be transfered to other civil service jobs should their current positions be eliminated. Layoffs has been the major issue in the labor dispute. The union argued that in May it had agreed to 700 layoffs based on an understanding that there would be no further job losses in 2004. Another issue that delayed an agreement was the practice of giving government workers a promotion just prior to retirement. Since the employee's pension is based on his last salary level, this last-minute promotion can mean a 20-percent pension boost. The treasury agreed to allow this practice to continue, partly in the hope that it would provide an added incentive for early retirement, thereby thinning public-sector ranks without resorting to layoffs. Anshel Pfeffer adds: Union of Local Authorities heads are expected to decide today whether to call a school strike starting Tuesday. The strike would come in protest against planned cuts in the education budget. ULA officials said that a third of these proposed cuts would be taken from local council budgets.

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Haim Bior, 27 December 2003

 

Brazil Reeling under Inept Civil Service Appointments

NY Times News Service, Brasilia - The country's leading newsmagazine calls it "the most radical and voracious partisanization of the state bureaucratic structure" in Brazilian history. Since taking office at the start of the year, President Luiz Inacio da Silva has stuffed government ministries and agencies with political appointees, many of them unseasoned, and the country is now feeling the effect of their efforts to learn on the job. Da Silva's Workers' Party had limited administrative experience, even at state and municipal levels, when it began to govern this nation of 175 million people. The result, critics contend, has been confusion and immobility, as thousands of posts have been filled with party loyalists.

Complaints of delayed and inefficient services are multiplying, and even with budget cuts, some government ministries are so unsettled that they seem likely to end the year unable to spend money allotted them. "The Workers' Party has cre-ated a model in which militancy in the party or a labor union counts more than administrative experience or an academic curriculum," said Lucia Hippolito, a political scientist who has studied the bureaucracy for 20 years. "They've gone way beyond the policy-making level and deep into the management level with inexperienced people who do not know how to run the machinery of state and are committing one folly after another." Party leaders reject accusations of incompetence and deny that any housecleaning or disruption of the bureaucracy has occurred. But they also say that in emphasizing political loyalty as a criterion for appointments, they are merely doing what other parties have done in the past. "There has been no division of spoils or dismissals for political reasons," Jose Genoino, president of the governing party, said in an interview at the party's headquarters in Sao Paulo.

"The state apparatus is functioning normally, and where we have made changes, it has been with people from within the civil service." The egalitarian structure the Workers' Party has traditionally favored may be contributing to the perception of chaos, political analysts say. Da Silva has on several occasions been publicly contradicted by his own Cabinet ministers, whose own declarations have sometimes been rebutted by their subordinates, leaving doubt as to who makes policy and what that policy actually is. "It is the logic of a social movement transferred to the structure of government, and that has grave consequences," said Edson Nunes, author of The Political Grammar of Brazil and a professor of political science at Candido Mendes University in Rio de Janeiro. "The Workers' Party doesn't recognize the idea of hierarchy, and since everyone is a comrade, you have a lack of command and rank and even of loyalty to the minister." While da Silva's own popularity rating remains high, several recent polls indicate that the majority of Brazilians now consider his government to be "mediocre or bad."

From Taipei Times, Taiwan, 1 December 2003

Lord Government Assaulting N.B. Public Services

'Out-sourcing, contracting out, whatever the name, it amounts to privatizing government services and it is unacceptable.' Fredericton - Out-sourcing, contracting out, whatever the name, it amounts to privatizing government services and it is unacceptable, says Tom Mann, executive director of the New Brunswick Public Employees Association (NBPEA/NUPGE). Recent statements by Finance Minister Jeannot Volpé amount to a declaration of war on government services in New Brunswick, Mann says. "When the Lord government was first elected in 1999, it began a program of slashing resources for government programs. "Most departments were stripped to the bone in terms of resources, but it was easy to see the strategy - reduce funding to the program, cause it to be de-valued in the eyes of the taxpayer and then privatize it. We call that the 'defund, devalue and privatize' formula," he says "It's an idea that was borrowed from the Ontario government and we have seen the results of those efforts - just ask the people in Walkerton, Ontario, who buried their loved ones because of unsafe water.

Is that what New Brunswickers want, because that's the direction we're heading? "It has been proven time and again throughout North America that P3s, the so-called public-private-partnerships, do not work. Just think about the Wackenhuts and the Andersen Consultings. Are those the organizations we want to be delivering public services in this New Brunswick? The private sector's first motivation is profit. You need look no further than the insurance debacle in this province to understand that. New Brunswick taxpayers will end up paying inflated prices for reduced services," Mann says. "If the Finance Minister and his 'resource maximization committee' are truly interested in improving the bottom line in this province, why don't they include the front-line troops in the process? How about asking the highway supervisors, the hospital technologists, the engineering technicians, the community college instructors, the administrative assistants throughout government, the specialized health care professionals and the peace officers to participate in the discussions? Maybe then this would stop being a bureaucratic exercise ... and reflect our reality." The NBPEA represents nearly 7,000 public and private sector workers in New Brunswick.

From National Union of Public and General Employees, Canada, 27 November 2003

Council to Vote on Measure to Drop Civil Service Program

Northampton - The Police Department is poised to drop a century-old set of hiring and firing guidelines. City councilors are expected to help move that change along when they take a second and final vote Thursday on a resolution that exempts the department from the state's civil service program. Police Chief Russell P. Sienkiewicz says a civil service exemption would shed a layer of bureaucracy from his department. Under the terms of civil service, he is mandated to hire and monitor personnel by state guidelines, not local ones. Since 1883, many city departments have operated under the civil service program; the fire and public works department, for example, still do. The civil service exemption was passed by councilors in an unanimous first vote last month. Councilors said they would vote similarly this week, barring any challenge from police personnel. The council meets Thursday, beginning with a public-comment session at 7:15 p.m. in the council chambers in Puchalski Municipal Building.

The Finance Committee is scheduled to meet at 7:20 p.m. and the regular meeting set to start at 7:30 p.m. The following items are also on the council's agenda: o a vote on the appointment of Elaine Reall, of 12 East St., to the Cable Television Commission; o a vote on a resolution that allows Mayor Clare Higgins to apply for public funding for road improvements related to the redevelopment of the former Northampton State Hospital; o a hearing by Massachusetts Electric Company and Verizon to place seven telephone poles on Pynchon Meadow Road. The poles, the companies say, would allow them to provide service to the Massachusetts Audubon Society in Easthampton; o a transfer of $26,751 from the public safety computer-system fund to the Police Department's tactical equipment fund.

The transfer, according to Police Chief Sienkiewicz, will allow the department to replace protective equipment; o a transfer of $13,550 from the Department of Public Works to replace riding lawn mowers for maintenance of the city's cemeteries; o an amendment that revises language on a set of ordinances related to the city's use of sewers, following guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency; o a second and final vote on whether to retain a single rate of tax for residential and commercial property in fiscal year 2004; o a second and final vote to accept several parcels of land, including 2.25 acres of land in Mineral Hills, 1,000 feet of right-of-way from Pathways Association, 28 acres of property located in the Oaks subdivision, 1 acre adjacent to Veterans Field, and 16 acres in the Saw Mill Hills. (Kristi Ceccarossi can be reached at kceccarossi@gazettenet.com.)

From RTE News, 3 December 2003

House Passes Spending Bill with 4.1 Percent Civil Service Pay Raise

The House on Monday approved an $820 billion fiscal 2004 omnibus spending bill, wrapping together the remaining seven appropriations measures, over the objections of many Democrats and some Republicans angered by what they regard as excessive "earmarking" of federal funds for unrequested home state projects. The final vote on the legislation was 242-176. The fiscal 2004 Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill, which contains language granting white-collar federal employees a 4.1 percent average pay raise in 2004, was folded into the legislation. "Though I voted against this bill for unrelated provisions, I believe that it was imperative that we provide federal employees, including those at the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, a fair pay raise to reward them for their dedication to serving and protecting our country," said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "This pay raise respects the principle of pay parity, which ensures that both civilian federal employees and military employees receive fair pay adjustments for their service." But the timing of a final Senate vote remains unclear. A spokeswoman for Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he had not yet decided whether to bring senators back for a roll call vote, but added that he was leaning against it.

However, if enough GOP senators concur with Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and President Bush that final passage is necessary this month, Frist could file cloture when the Senate reconvenes Tuesday which could ripen for a vote as early as Thursday. Stevens and House Appropriations Chairman C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., want to enact the massive spending bill this month to avoid funding shortages for veterans' health care, FBI counterterrorism activities and the National Institutes of Health, among other priorities, and Bush has weighed in on global AIDS funding. "People are dying every day waiting for the funding to come online," said a spokesman for Debt, AIDS, and Trade in Africa - a group spearheaded by U2 lead singer Bono, who has worked closely on the issue with the White House and Frist, among others others. The spokesman said several GOP senators have approached the advocacy group arguing for a roll call vote this month on the omnibus, although they stopped short of calling for breaking out the fiscal 2004 Foreign Operations appropriations bill - which contains most of the $2.4 billion to combat AIDS - as Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has suggested.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called it "shameful the way we as Republicans have exploded the earmarking." Flake voted against the omnibus bill. He and other GOP conservatives such as Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., are urging Bush to veto the bill, citing earmarks such as $360,000 for Citrus Waste Utilization in Winter Haven, Fla. But Musgrave has sought earmarks for her state, such as $318,000 to study genetic enhancement of wheat at Colorado State University, which was eventually dropped from the final version. Young said the omnibus, when combined with the six already enacted spending bills, stays within the president's budget of $785.6 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2004. The omnibus contains $328 billion in discretionary spending, including about $50 billion for earmarks, he said. "Had it not been for Appropriations Committee discipline, [earmarking] would have been $50 billion more," Young added. Flake also decried the rule for floor debate since it did not allow points of order removing provisions not voted upon by the House and Senate. Another conservative, Rep. C.L. (Butch) Otter, R-Idaho, circulated a "Dear Colleague" urging lawmakers to vote against the measure because appropriators removed his amendment to block Justice Department "sneak and peek" procedures.

From GovExec.com, by Peter Cohn, 9 December 2003

Civil Service Likely to See Shakeup

Saratoga Springs - The city's Civil Service Commission, which acts as a personnel office for city employees, has two members affiliated with the same political party, technically a violation under the new charter that could allow people to challenge the legality of the commission's decisions. 'City law says no two members of the commission shall be affiliated with the same political party,' Assistant City Attorney Anthony Izzo said. Chairwoman Carole Catone and Commissioner Karen Stetkar are Republicans, while Commissioner Elio DelSette is a Democrat. Under the new charter, either Catone or Stetkar would have to step down, change their affiliation or not register with any political party. The law was written in an attempt to clear up the vagueness of New York State Civil Service Law, which says that 'not more than two (members of a Civil Service Commission) at any time shall be adherents of the same political party.' The word 'adherents' might mean formality of membership or the goals and platforms of a political party rather than actual affiliation with a party, Izzo said. Secretary Patsy Berrigan said the commission will not change until the City Council tells it to. 'We just don't know how this is going to work,' she said. 'Commissioners stay until they are replaced, and we don't have anybody that is up for reappointment.'

Though failing to comply with the charter could result in challenges, Izzo said he would have to research the specific action complained of. 'As long as the charter is not complied with, it will always remain an issue and it's something the commission will need to worry about,' Izzo said. Since only two commissioners are needed for a vote, the Civil Service Commission might be able to get around the charter by only having the Democrat and one Republican vote, Berrigan said. Mayor-elect Michael Lenz was not aware that the commission might need modification. He said his transition team, which he should officially announce by the end of the week, will review all of the boards and inform him of what appointments must be made. Berrigan said neither Lenz nor any other council member has notified them about a possible replacement.

From The Saratogian, NY, 12 December 2003

Legislature May Hear KU Civil Service Plan

Topeka - A plan to move 1,500 Kansas University employees out of the state's civil service system may be heard by the Legislature when it convenes early next year. KU administrators want the Legislature to approve a bill that would allow each of the state's universities to decide whether its classified employees should withdraw from the civil service system. The plan gained approval Wednesday by the Council of Presidents, an advisory group to the Kansas Board of Regents made up of the CEOs of the six state universities. "I believe the way this is proposed is that the legislation would be permissive," said Ed Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University. "I see it as being an institution-by-institution call." The issue now will be forwarded to the regents for their discussion in January. If they approve, it could be presented as a bill during the 2004 legislative session. The earliest the new system could start is July 2005.

KU classified employees, which include secretaries, janitors and maintenance workers, voted 623 to 532 in October in favor of creating a new system of employment that would retain benefits such as health insurance, a retirement plan and vacation but would allow KU to set pay raises higher than those set by the state. The Legislature currently sets salaries for classified employees. A previous vote on the issue ended in a 545-to-545 tie. Employees at FHSU, Wichita State University and Kansas State University also are considering plans to leave civil service. The plan likely won't come without opposition. Some KU employees and the Kansas Association of Public Employees, a union that represents some state workers, have said they would oppose the change. They say civil service gives workers additional job security that another plan might not provide. But KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway insisted Wednesday that the only change would be the possibility of better pay. "Classified employees are often the last ones to be considered for raises at the end of the legislative session," he said. "They've been somewhat the forgotten figures when these things get considered."

From Lawrence Journal World, KS, by Terry Rombeck, 18 December 2003

 
 

'STB Chosen for e-Governance'

Abuja - A Director of Standard Trust Bank Plc (STB) and Managing Director, BGL Limited, Mr. Albert Okumagba, has disclosed that STB along with First Bank of Nigeria Plc are being considered for e-governance (electronic governance) in Nigeria. Also, Executive Director of the Bank, Mrs. Faith Tuedor-Mathews, disclosed that the bank was targeting the expansion of its branch from the present 86 to 150 by the year 2006. The bank, she stated, is targeting the West African sub-region market starting with Ghana. Making this disclosure yesterday in Abuja at the bank's Investors' Forum for its initial public offer (IPO) Okumagba said the bank has been holding series of meetings with the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) towards the actualization of the government's IT project. E-governance or electronic governance may be defined as delivery of government services and information to the public using electronic means.

Such means of delivering information is often referred to as information technology (IT). Use of IT in government facilitates an efficient, speedy and transparent process for disseminating information to the public and other agencies, and for performing government administration activities. He assured that the bank has put in place measures to sustain its rapid growth over the past six years. According to Okumagba, STB has already put in place strategies to take advantage of the opportunities that it sees in the macro environment assuring that, "with these opportunities that we see, we will make sure that the bank will be able to sustain the growth that we have witnessed the past six years. "I do not see the fear that is envisaged by potential investors that were worried about the growth that the bank has been making over the last six years. It has taken a lot of work to achieve this growth and to sustain what is put in place." Specifically, he noted that going public is one of the strategies of sustaining the growth.

According to him, "this bank has been owned by less than 50 people in the last six years. Now the opportunity that we see, we did not believe can be sustained by the shareholders and that is why the decision was taken about two years ago to first of all go public, convert the bank from a private bank to a public limited liability company. "It has taken us about 15 months from when the bank was converted, to finalize all the arrangements of having the application approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and getting approval from the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE). A lot of work has been done and for those who are customers of the bank, correspondence has been consistent over the last 12 months about the plan to go public and its that plan that is manifesting." Tuedor-Martins who revealed the bank was adjudged the largest in terms of deposit having hit N26 billion mark, said it is planned to more than double its asset base to N221 billion from N92 billion in three year's time.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Kunle Aderinokun, 11 December 2003

IT Expert Calls for E-Governance Policy

Geneva -Kenyan IT expert, Ayisi Makatiani, says most African countries lacked a clear telecommunications policy. He warned that unless such policies were put in place, the continent will continue lagging behind in information technology (IT). He made the remarks at an international telecommunications conference in Geneva, yesterday. While chairing a discussion on e-governance, Makatiani the founder of Africa Online, said most African governments had failed to put in place systematic information and communication technology (ICT) policies. He said this has led to the backwardness in the use of Internet for governance and commercial activities. An ICT policy, he said, will ensure that governance issues are digitised with the overall effect of tax reduction on Internet services and equipment. Delegates at the conference called for a stakeholders forum drawn from government, civil society and the private sector to develop a global framework for e-governance.

The issue of Internet governance is one of the topics being discussed at the telecommunications conference held,in Geneva, Switzerland. The stakeholders forum to be drawn from various parts of the globe, will open its deliberation to other interested parties. Recommendation shall be adopted by the Secretary General of the UN, Koffi Annan as the official advisory team in the formulation of globally acceptable Internet governance regulations. Kenya's Vice President Moody Awori and the Minister for Transport and Communication, John Michuki are expected to attend the global meeting. However the summit is expected not to challenge the continued private sector leadership of the technical co-ordination of the Internet, but endorse it instead.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Agatha Katheu, 11 December 2003

Mozambique Turns to E-government

The government of Mozambique will build a "Government Electronic Network (GovNet)" under an agreement signed by Lidia Brito, minister of higher education, science and technology of Mozambique; Lucio Stanca, minister for innovation and technologies of Italy; and Alan Rossi, CEO of the Development Gateway Foundation. José Antonio Ocampo, under-secretary general of the United Nations, department of economic and social affairs (UN/DESA), was also present at the signing ceremony, representing the organization that formulated the project and signifying UN/DESA's continuing cooperation with the government of Italy in the area of egovernment for development. GovNet is intended to allow the government of Mozambique to implement new egovernment systems that improve its internal operations and better connect with its citizens.

The first stage of GovNet will include a secure intranet for internal communications and a set of Web portals to improve quality and coverage of public services delivery and increase participation in government decision-making processes. The first stage will involve 21 government departments in Maputo, including some 800 workstations, new process management guidelines, training, and the identification of steps for expanding GovNet to new ministries and out to the municipalities. The assessment and formulation of GovNet was conducted by the UN/DESA, in collaboration with the Governments of Mozambique and Italy. The three partners in the execution of the first stage of GovNet, the government of Mozambique, the government of Italy, and the Development Gateway Foundation, are launching the project during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

From EContent Magazine, CT, 16 December 2003

 

Solomons Assistance Mission to Focus on the Public Service

The size of the Solomon Islands public service will become the focus of attention of the Regional Assistance Mission next year. Special Coordinator of the Australian led regional mission, Nick Warner, says the mission will be working closely with government to determine how it can assist to identify issues that hinder the work of the public service. He says finding solutions to ensure that government machinery works efficiently and cost effectively will be the main focus. Mr. Warner also says assistance will be given to provincial administrations. Most of the nine provincial governments have been unable to provide services or work because of a lack of finance when the central government fell behind in provincial grant payments.

From Radio Australia, Australia, 2 December 2003

Solomons to Look at Public Service Issues

The size of the Solomon Islands public service will become the focus of attention of the Regional Assistance Mission next year. Special Coordinator of the Australian-led regional mission, Nick Warner, says the mission will be working closely with Government to determine how it can assist to identify issues that hinder the work of the public service. He says finding solutions to ensure that government machinery works efficiently and cost effectively will be the main focus. Mr Warner also says assistance will be given to provincial administrations. "Most of the nine provincial governments were unable to provide services or work because of a lack of finance when the central government fell behind in provincial grant payments," he said.

From ABC Online, Australia, 3 December 2003

China Gets eGovernment Advice from Brent Council

Top officials from China came to see how Brent Council is implementing its eGovernment and information technology activities to improve services for local people. The 20-strong team from China's central and provisional government visited staff at the council's One Stop Shop advice and Contact Centre in Wembley to look at how the council's projects. The delegation met council Leader Cllr Ann John and heard about the UK's national strategy for e-Government. They saw how Brent, as a pathfinder authority, has set up free on-line centres for local people and is implementing Customer Relationship Management and Electronic Document Management systems to improve services to customers.

In a virtual tour of the Brent website they were shown the many practical ways e-Government can benefit people, with special email alerts, the council's popular wedding webcam, online payments and community information. The visit, arranged through Sino-Bridge International, was led by the Deputy Director General of China's State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform, Liu Zhenglei. Director of Corporate Services at Brent Council, Bernard Diamant explained: "The concept of e-Government is new in China and the delegation particularly wanted to see how they can make a start in this area and the type of services we provide. They wanted to know how we use IT to improve face-to-face and phone based services."

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 2 December 2003

Alcatel Powers E-government Network in the Guangxi Province of China

Alcatel (NYSE:ALA) today announced that the government of China's Guangxi Autonomous Region has selected Alcatel to provide its e-government network solution for the province. This government's initiative will enable the deployment of a highly-available network offering real-time updated information such as policies and regulations, automated analysis of financial and economic data, intelligent processing for the regional affairs and decision-making support for the government. Under the contract agreement, Alcatel will supply the Alcatel OmniSwitch 8800 and the Alcatel OmniSwitch 7800 data infrastructure series of switches to deploy the e-government network for China's Guangxi Province. Alcatel's solutions will enable rapid and convenient internal communication at all government's levels and link with external websites in the fields of education, science and technology. With its modular chassis design, the Alcatel OmniSwitch family allows customers to plan for future technologies and support eventual upgrades to 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

"Alcatel prides itself in offering the best value in high-availability, security, and easy to manage enterprise data networking. Our data infrastructure solutions create information superhighways for government organizations, helping them provide all types of web-based services to citizens. We're honored to be providing these best-in-class solutions to the Guangxi government," said Alcatel China Chairman and CEO Dominique de Boisseson. Alcatel is a global leader in e-government solutions. In China, Alcatel has partnered with many government entities, including the city governments of Beijing and Shenzhen, as well as the Tianjin Customs Office, in creating leading-edge e-government platforms. About Alcatel - Alcatel provides end-to-end communications solutions, enabling carriers, service providers and enterprises to deliver contents to any type of user, anywhere in the world. Leveraging its long-term leadership in telecommunications networks equipment as well as its expertise in applications and network services, Alcatel enables its customers to focus on optimizing their service offerings and revenue streams. With sales of EURO 16.5 billion in 2002, Alcatel operates in more than 130 countries.

From Business Wire (press release), 4 December 2003

Hong Kong to Promote Helicopter Services

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is in search for a permanent heliport site to meet the high demand, as domestic helicopter service in Hong Kong has been witnessing a rapid growth in the past 10 years. The volume of helicopter movements for tourism purposes increased 20 percent each year in the past 10 years and the helicopter movements in the first 10 months this year reached 4,000, 30 percent up over last year's same period, according to statistics provided by the Civil Aviation Department. Secretary for Economic Development and Labor Stephen Ip Shu-Kwan was quoted by Monday's Hong Kong Commercial Daily News as saying that the government is looking for a permanent place for the heliport to provide steady service and at the same time collaborating with the Chinese mainland to discuss the landing and taking off fee in hope of widening the service over the border. Ip made the remarks at the inauguration ceremony of the new West Kowloon Heliport Sunday.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Department said Sunday that "it is believed that the development of domestic helicopter services will enhance Hong Kong's role as a regional and international aviation center. It will also help in promoting Hong Kong as a tourist destination, enriching visitors' travel experience and enhancing Hong Kong's attractiveness." "It has been the government's long standing policy to facilitate the development of commercial helicopter services," he added. The new West Kowloon Heliport, located at the southern tip of the West Kowloon Reclamation, became operational as of Sunday for domestic helicopter services. The Hong Kong government made this site as a temporary domesticheliport to facilitate the continuous development of commercial helicopter services following the closure of the Central Heliport. Occupying an area of about 7,910 square meters, the West Kowloon Heliport comprises one landing/take-off pad and three parking pads.

From Xinhua, China , 8 December 2003

E-government Better Received in India than Globally: TNS Study

Mumbai - The global market information group Taylor Nelson Sofres plc or TNS has come out with its third Government Online Study - GO Study 2003 - which is a marketing information report that provides global and national benchmarks relating to citizen uptake of government services online. According to the new research, while worldwide growth in public use of e-government saw a slump in year-to-date November 2003 compared to 2002, India displayed an optimistic appetite. According to the study, the use of e-government services worldwide has grown by 11 per cent over the past 12 months, which is a downturn from the 15 per cent growth achieved in the year to November 2002. The annual study, conducted across 32 markets, shows that e-government use rates have slowed in the past year and suggests that strategies to increase use are generally taking more time than anticipated to impact on Internet users. However, India has illustrated a slightly brighter picture. Being in the high penetration zone among the countries surveyed, India shows an upward trend in the use of government's online services in the past 12 months with a significant increase from 2002 figures. 40 per cent of adults for SEC A and B who live in the eight major metropolitan cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune) and are regular Internet users have accessed Government Online over the last 12 months, an increase from 31 per cent in 2002.

All the same, the Indian results are neither directly comparable to 2002 data nor to the global average since in India, only Internet users were interviewed. TNS director Alison Dexter comments, "While the use of e-government services continues to grow, the rate of increase has slowed, suggesting that more needs to be done to increase momentum and encourage further online use. Improved Internet access, enhanced connection speeds, marketing and communications and website functionality are likely to be instrumental in achieving this, but one of the main challenges still facing governments is to convince existing and potential users that it is safe to provide personal details online." "At a time when members of the public are increasingly turning to the Internet as an information resource, there is also growing concern about access to personal information by hackers and spam mailers. Governments around the world need to allay public fears by communicating the security measures which are in place to prevent access to personal details so that confidence is grown," Dexter adds. One of the prime objectives for governments worldwide has been to encourage users to provide personal information and make transactions online. However, according to the study, interaction with government is still primarily to access rather than to provide information.

In India (data not directly comparable to global figures), Internet users seem to have accessed government services online for a variety of purposes. The major Government Online use amongst Internet users remains for seeking information, with an increase from 2002 (29 per cent from 23 per cent). Downloading increased in usage in 2003 (14 per cent from 10 per cent in 2002). Information seeking includes getting information from a Government website and for printing Government forms which you have then sent by post or fax, for instance, a tax form to claim a government rebate. Other usage such as, providing personal or household information to the Government as in completing and lodging a tax form, applying for a service, change address, paying for Government services or products involving the use of a credit card or bank account number (for rates, driving license, recycle bins, traffic fines) and using the Internet to express a point of view or participate in community consultations with Government, have remained relatively the same as in 2002.

Amongst Internet users, incidence of Government Online is strongest among 35 - 44 year olds (46 per cent) and 25 - 34 year olds (45 per cent), although usage in all age brackets increased. Usage by those less than 25 years old increased from 28 per cent to 35 per cent in 2003, and among those aged 25-34 years usage increased from 36 per cent to 45 per cent of all Internet users. Male Internet users also remain more likely to use Government Online (46 per cent) than females (30 per cent), and usage by male has increased (from 31 per cent in 2002). Among Internet users, those aged 25-34 years and 35 - 44 years were more likely to use all Government Online services than the other age brackets. Those with university or postgraduate qualifications are also more likely to be higher users too. One key factor limiting the release of personal information to local government is the perceived security of online information. The study also points out that perceptions of safety have not improved in the past year, despite an increase in the number of Internet users. When asked as to how safe would they feel about using the Internet to provide the Government with this sort of personal information, there is equilibrium among people who feel safe (49 per cent) and unsafe (49 per cent). The perceptions of 'safe' are higher amongst Internet users aged under 25 years (53 per cent), and decreases gradually with age.

Internet users with tertiary qualification (either vocational or at university) are more likely to consider it 'safe' to provide Government with personal information online. Perceptions of safety are high among downloaders (49 per cent) and information seekers (50 per cent). The Global Overview - Globally, the study reveals that Scandinavian countries still lead the field in e-government use, with more than six out of 10 adults in Denmark (63 per cent) and Norway (62 per cent) using government services online. In contrast, many central European markets have much lower levels of e-government use - just one per cent of adults in Bulgaria and only six per cent in Hungary and Poland use online government services. Growth in the use of e-government has slowed in many markets, particular in America (from 43 per cent of adults in 2002 to 44 per cent in 2003) and Germany (from 24 per cent to 26 per cent over the same period). In Singapore, usage levels have remained static at 53 per cent and levels have decreased in Turkey (from 13 per cent in 2002 to nine per cent in 2003) suggesting weakening demand for accessing and supplying government information online. However, in other markets, typically where the use of e-government is already well established, the outlook is more positive.

The biggest increases in use are in the Netherlands (from 41 per cent in 2002 to 52 per cent in 2003), Denmark (from 53 per cent to 63 per cent over the same period), Finland (from 49 per cent to 58 per cent) and France (from 25 per cent to 35 per cent), all of which have experienced significant growth. The Government Online (GO) Study - The Government Online (GO) Study was undertaken by the Polling, Social and Corporate division of TNS, via telephone and face-to-face interviews with 31,823 people across 32 countries or territories between July and October 2003. The report compares global differences in levels of adoption of government services online from information seeking to transact and specifically examines perceptions of safety when dealing with this delivery channel. Key questions that the study seeks to answer are: * What are the levels of Government Online usage? * How is Government Online being used? * Are safety concerns a barrier to Government Online uptake? * How does Government Online uptake compare to Internet use globally? The participating countries were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Faroe Islands, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, and USA. All country results have been weighted to be representative of their country population.

From Indian Television, India, 9 December 2003

'Government Biased against the Disabled in Civil Services'

New Delhi - The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People today highlighted the alleged ''systemic discrimination'' against people with disability while providing posts in the civil services. NCPEDP director Javed Abidi alleged that the government was violating its own policy of reservation as laid down under the 1995 Disability Act. The Act extended the three per cent reservation for disabled in Class III and Class IV jobs (in place since 1977) to include Class I and II employees. Eight years on, there is no clear application of the Act, with the UPSC - responsible for the examinations - and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) - responsible for placements of successful candidates - at odds with each other. And caught in the midst are bright individuals. One such candidate is Ramesh Arora. In 2001, Arora, 29, cleared the Prelims, Mains and interview. He was subsequently told by the DoPT that his 6/60 vision made him a visually-impaired person (later contested by the UPSC) and denied him a post on grounds of his ''substandard vision''.

The discrimination in the services is further highlighted with three cases of orthopaedically-disabled candidates who successfully qualified for the IAS in the reserved category last year. While two of them, Rigzin Sampheal and Lokesh Kumar, were denied placement in the IAS and demoted to IIS posts by the DoPT, M. Satish has been altogether denied a job for want of ''vacancy in the identified posts in the physically disabled category''. Figures show that only six posts had been reserved for the orthopaedically disabled and hearing impaired and none for visually impaired candidates, despite the Act requiring one per cent of the jobs to be earmarked for them. Further, the six posts were limited to three of the 26 civil service arms with the IFS, IAS and IRS excluded from the list. Abidi alleged that this was suggestive of ''arbitrary government policy effectively barring physically disabled candidates from the services even when they display merit''. He has written to Deputy PM L.K.Advani and other MPs, and is waiting for the issue to be raised in Parliament next week.

From Delhi Newsline, India, 12 December 2003

The Media and Conflict Management

Many analysts on Indo-Pakistan relations believe that jingoistic attitude of media in the sub-continent obstructs all peace moves in the region. Media breed hatred in both the countries in order to make profits and resultantly incapacitate the governments to take concrete steps towards peace. Media's role in the formulation of foreign policy and conflict resolution has generated a heated debate since early sixties and now it is considered an actor of tremendous importance in international arena. The media have come in for serious criticism for inflaming conflicts. Harshly nationalist and sectarian leaders have used the media in promulgating inflammatory propaganda. Hate radio in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia provide dreadful examples of direct and powerful incitement to mass violence. Yet even media in democratic societies have been criticized for glorifying violence-more so in entertainment than news. How can the international community foster a mass media that is devoted to combating inter-group prejudice and ethnocentrism, as well as communicating the values and skills of conflict resolution? We are by now all too familiar with political entrepreneurs who use the media to exploit inter-group tensions-actions which often unwittingly make their own constituencies as vulnerable as the groups that they target. Can publics and "hot spots' be reached by independent media?

Radio is a relatively low-cost and widely accessible medium even in the poorest countries. The international community should support radio and other independent media that combat divisive myth making by providing accurate information about current events, inter-group relations, and actual instances of violence prevention. News media can report conflicts in ways that engender constructive public discussion oriented to conflict resolution. The media can stimulate new ideas and approaches to serious problems by involving independent experts in their presentations, seeking to understand the problem and paths toward solution. The media should develop standards of conduct in crisis coverage that give adequate attention to serious efforts under way to defuse and resolve conflicts, even as they give full international exposure to the violence itself. Research has established causal relationships between children's viewing of aggressive or pro-social behavior on television and their subsequent behavior. Children as young as two years old are facile at imitating televised behaviors. In general, the relationship between television violence and subsequent viewer behaviour holds in a variety of countries.

Cross-national studies show this in countries as diverse as Australia, Finland, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United States. There is some research evidence that television need not be a school for violence-that it can be used in a way that reduces inter-group hostility. Television can portray human diversity while highlighting shared human experiences. It can teach skills that are important for the social development of children and do so in a way that both entertain and educate. So far we have had only glimpses of its potential for reducing inter-group hostility. Professor Gerald Lesser of Harvard University has summarized features of the children's educational television programme, "Sesame Street," that are of interest in this context. The programme originated in the United States in 1969 but appears today in 100 other countries. Each programme is fitted to the language, culture, and traditions of a particular nation. The atmosphere of respect for differences permeates all of "Sesame Street's" many versions. Research from a variety of countries is encouraging. For example, the Canadian version of "Sesame Street" shows many sympathetic instances of English-speaking and French-speaking children playing together.

Research demonstrates that the children who see these examples of cross group friendship are more likely to form such friendships on their own than are children who do not see them. The same is true for Dutch, Moroccan, Turkish, and Surinamese children who see "Sesame Street" in Holland. The findings suggest that appealing and constructive examples of social tolerance help young children to learn such behaviour. Educational television can be developed in ways that reduce inter-group hostility as research on Sesame Street has demonstrated in different cultures. The world has only scratched the surface in the constructive use of this powerful tool to promote understanding among different cultures and conveying non-violent ways to cope with life's frustrations. An interesting example of far-sighted programming is provided by a 1995 initiative of the Carnegie Corporation in cooperation with the Voice of America under the leadership of Geoffrey Cowan. The Conflict Resolution Project developed and produced special programmes to introduce its worldwide audience to the principles and practices of conflict resolution. Journalists undertook production of stories exploring local efforts to resolve problems, improve inter-group relations, and highlight efforts for peace. A core series of documentary programmes in several languages was adapted to the needs of specific audiences.

It included a lecture series on media and conflict prevention, a workbook for journalists reporting in emerging democracies, and broadcasting on conflict resolution. Activities included journalist training in Angola and daily radio broadcast in the Kinyarwanda/Kirundi language aimed at Rwanda and Burundi. Similar ingenuity was reflected in BBC Radio's educational series on democracy for Russian audiences; and by Ted Koppel's ABC Nightline programmes on US-Soviet relations during the Cold War and on Israel-Palestinian relations' vis-à-vis the Middle East peace process. The promise of this approach, reaching millions of people in engaging and constructive ways, is genuinely encouraging. Independent, pluralistic media can promote democracy by clarifying issues, attitudes, candidates, and institutions essential for democracy. International election monitors should press for access to the media for all parties as an integral part of free and fair elections. Development of independent mass media has been a major part of efforts to assist the democratization of the post-communist states. This work has involved international, state, and non-governmental organization in journalist training, technological improvement, reforming the legal regulatory framework, enhancing the financial and managerial performance of media outlets, and developing professional associations for media professionals.

These efforts have shared a common outlook that independent and pluralistic media are a bulwark of democracy, serving as a watchdog of abuses of power by elected officials and as an inclusive arena for consideration of public issues. After decades of highly intrusive Communist Party control, the newly liberated media lacked the skills and resources to perform these democracy-supportive functions on their own. International support had a positive influence in shaping the norms and practices of the post-communist media, enhancing their professionalism and their viability, and helping to integrate them into an international media community. There are four main lessons for effective media assistance. First, there is a need for strategic planning so that resources can be effectively matched to the most pressing needs of the media sector in each setting. Second, in post-authoritarian settings where the media are likely to be highly partisan, international actors must be careful about mistaking opposition media outlets for independent, professional media.

Third, there is a need to integrate media support with other democracy promotion activities, especially those aimed at strengthening civil society organizations and local government reform. Fourth, efforts to foster viable commercial media should be balanced by support for the norm, practices, and effective operation of public service media. Therefore, media should not only foster traditions of amity and tolerance within Pakistani society, but these should also help in resolving outstanding conflicts with other nations. We get http://www.unpan.org/information/worldgovernancewatch/images of societies beyond our direct contact through media. It means that media has to shoulder a responsibility of gigantic magnitude by promoting intercultural harmony. Pakistani media has grown mature over the years and one can hope that it would help the government manage conflict with neighbouring states. The writer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mass Communication, University of the Punjab.

From Hi Pakistan, Pakistan, by Asmet Rasul, 15 December 2003

China Cleans out Civil Service, Police Ranks to Raise Efficiency

Beijing - China is cracking down on ineffective government officials and police, laying off thousands in a bid to streamline bureaucracy and build a more efficient civil service. According to figures issued by the ministry of personnel, some 10,800 civil servants nationwide were penalized for breaking rules in 2002, while 156,000 received punishments between 1993 and 2002, Xinhua news agency said. And in a stark contrast to a former system of lifetime employment, some 17,850 civil servants were laid off between 1996 and 2002, it said, while 28,626 people resigned from public service jobs during the period. In the first 11 months of 2003, some 33,700 people in China's police force were laid off following a nationwide "rectification" of the ranks, the Beijing News reported in a separate report.

Another 10,900 police force workers went into early retirement or were determined to be unfit for duty during the period, it said. China has been reforming the civil service since 1993 with the number of civil servants currently around five million, Xinhua said. There are some 1.6 million police officers in China, but it was not immediately clear how many other staff were employed by the police. Civil servants must now undergo a national examination before they are taken on, while assessments of work performance are also now routine, it said. Job layoffs in China were rare in the country's former Marxist socialist economic system of cradle to grave benefits, but due to ongoing market reforms that system has slowly been eroding.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 16 December 2003

Corruption in NSW Health System

Mark Colvin: From Health at the Federal level to a health scandal in New South Wales. The State's Opposition says it's now clear that the prevalence of corruption and cover-ups in the health system is comparable to the New South Wales police force of the 1980s. Today the Opposition Leader John Brogden released another document, which he says shows that the Government failed to take action, even when the state's Health Care Complaints Commissioner warned of serious deficiencies in the system. The Carr Government has been unusually quiet in response. The current Health Minister is celebrating the festive season and the former minister, about whom many of the allegations are being made, isn't commenting. Hamish Fitzsimmons reports. Yesterday the Carr Government's spin doctors were playing it down, but a memo obtained by the Opposition shows former Health Minister Craig Knowles was aware for some months of the bungled treatment of a Sydney woman who died from meningococcal disease before he corrected his public explanation of the event. But today in another blow to the Carr Government the Opposition has released a letter from the New South Wales health care complaints commissioner, which called for an urgent review of the health system by early 2002.

In the letter of October 2001, Commissioner Amanda Adrian outlines a looming crisis in the health system. Letter excerpt: The review of Commission files found significant deficiencies in the health system culture and practice, which if not addressed, would result in preventable adverse events, unnecessary suffering and harm to people and erosion of the community's confidence in the New South Wales health system. Hamish Fitzsimmons: The review was completed in May this year. 19 suspicious deaths and 47 incidents in two hospitals are being investigated and today the State Opposition took the extraordinary step of buying newspaper ads calling for people to come forward with examples of inappropriate treatment at other hospitals. The Government has promised inquiries by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and a special commission of inquiry, but Opposition Leader John Brogden says that's not enough. John Brogden: The importance of a royal commission is that it guarantees that all of the matters relating to not only clinical concerns about unnecessary deaths, malpractice and maladministration in the health system, but the proven allegations of corruption and cover up can be investigated in the one forum. New South Wales had the policing culture turned around with a Royal Commission in the mid 1990s.

It's quite clear now in 2003, moving into 2004, that the health system needs the same level of inquiry to deliver the same level of cultural change. HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Are you saying that the health system is in a similar state to what the police force was in then? It's quite a serious allegation to make, that there is that level of corruption and covering up. John Brogden: Well, the real indication I think, of some substance is in the Coroner's letter. This is a letter from the Coroner in 2000 and it is directly to the Minister for Health. It goes on to say "the lack of complaint by medical personnel is of the utmost concern and points to a continuing unacceptable culture of self regulation and peer protection." We have seen over the last week whistle-blowing nurses who have been hounded out of their jobs, who haven't been paid for nearly a year because they went to the Minister to tell the truth.

We have seen those nurses vindicated, but prior to their vindication they'd spent some 13 months being absolutely attacked, intimidated, vilified, heavied and turned into lepers within the health system, so yes, I would go as far as to say that the state we find the New South Wales health system in at the moment is comparable to the state we saw the police in when the Royal Commission was put in place ten years ago. Hamish Fitzsimmons: The office of former Health Minister Craig Knowles declined to comment today, as did the current minister Morris Iemma. Mr. Knowles though, was praised by a number of health professionals PM spoke to. They said the health system is now too politicised and questioned the need for a judicial inquiry. Former Prime Minister Artie Fadden once said never hold a Royal Commission unless you already know the result. The Carr Government, like any State Government, knows there are problems with its health system and it doesn't want a Royal Commission. The test for the opposition is whether it can generate a loud enough public outcry to force the Government's hand.

From ABC Online, Australia, by Hamish Fitzsimmons, 17 December 2003

Public Service Remains a Stable Work Environment

The latest public service employment survey shows New Zealand has a strong and stable public service, said State Services Minister Trevor Mallard. "This is a clear sign that the government is delivering on its commitment to strengthen the public service. The survey results indicate a stable and strong public service that is able to rely on its own expertise and less on outside consultants."

The State Services Commission's Human Resource Capability Survey collects and analyses anonymous data on all staff in the 37 public service departments in existence at 30 June 2003. "The 2003 results show the number of permanent staff increased by five per cent in the year to 30 June 2003, once structural government changes (such as agencies entering the public service) were taken into account. "This was spread across the public service. Since 2000, the public service has grown by around 3,000 employees (10 per cent) indicating continued building of capability, a greater reliance on permanent staff and less reliance on temporary staff. Trevor Mallard said the public service continues to provide a stable working environment with turnover rates remaining fairly constant for the past four years (11 per cent in 2003) and the number of staff on collective employment agreements increasing over the past year. "In addition, the number of employees who received redundancy payments during 2002/2003 was at the lowest level since this data was first collected in 1991. "The survey again found that more women and Maori are moving into senior management. Over the 1998-2003 period women filled between 45-50 per cent and Maori between 15-18 per cent of new senior management jobs." "The 2003 survey results show that some progress has been made in closing the gap between salary levels in the public service and those in the labour market as a whole."

The survey can be found at: http://www.ssc.govt.nz/hrc-survey-2003/ Questions and Answers What is the Human Resource Capability Survey? The survey is carried out each year by the State Services Commission. It gathers anonymous unit-record data on all staff in public service departments. The survey includes a wide range of information relevant to Human Resource (HR) management and Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO). How long has the data been collected? The unit-record survey has been carried out since 2000, however aggregate survey information, showing overall employment levels in public service departments, has been gathered for many years. How many people are employed in the public service? As at 30 June 2003, there were 34,445 employees (33,118 full time equivalents) in the public service. The public service of 2003 was approximately the same size as the public service of 1996. How many people make up the State sector? The public service makes up a small proportion of total State sector employment, as measured by Statistics NZ. In 2003 the public service made up only 13 per cent of the 270,000 State sector jobs.

From Scoop.co.nz (press release), New Zealand - Dec 15, 2003

Gender Pay Gap in Public Service Lower than Private Sector

The pay gap between men and women in the public service is lower than that of the private sector, a survey shows. The latest public service employment survey showed women were paid on average 7 per cent less than their male counterparts, compared with 13 per cent for the labour force as a whole. Maori and Pacific women were paid 9 per cent less than Maori and Pacific men but 22 per cent and 29 per cent less respectively of all men. Asian women were paid 10 per cent less than Asian men and 19 per cent less than all men. The survey showed 34,445 people were employed in the 37 public service departments, up about 10 per cent from three years ago.

From Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand, 15 December 2003

Kalam Favours Comprehensive E-governance Framework

New Delhi - President APJ Abdul Kalam has said that a comprehensive E-governance framework should be evolved in the country, which would entail setting up an E-governance commission or an empowered board with a view to ensure transparency in citizen-government interface. "A comprehensive E-governance framework needs to be evolved which should encompass an E-governance commission or empowered board, E-governance grids across centre and states, and setting up of E-governance data centres at both central and state level," Dr Kalam said at an international conference on E-governance organised by IIT Delhi. "It would also entail setting up a multi-purpose, secure, authentic national citizen ID database as the primary data for all E-governance services, and online issue of citizen ID cards seamlessly," Dr Kalam added.

The President also stressed on the need for language-independent operating systems, databases, application servers and mail servers in Indian languages. "As much as 90 per cent of the work concerning E-governance should be outsourced and government should only manage the data centre and maintain it for online applications," Dr Kalam said. "There should be grids at the central, state, panchayat and village levels to ensure E-governance in every sphere of life," Dr Kalam pointed out. According to Oracle's South Asia regional managing director, Keith Budge, E-governance initiatives in India face the twin challenges of automating government departments and taking online services to the common man. "While there are standard approaches available for the former, the latter needs innovations to suit the needs of developing countries India," Mr. Budge told eFE on the sidelines of the conference.

From Financial Express, India, 18 December 2003

Asian IT Ministers To Discuss E-governance Initiatives

Hyderabad - Gitex exhibition, National Association of Software and Service Companies' (Nasscom) iTech meet and Asian IT ministers' conclave - to be held simultaneously during January 12-14, 2004 - are expected to help Andhra Pradesh redefine its e-governance strategies, besides giving a fillip to the IT industry in the state. The three-day event in Hyderabad, organised by the state government, in association with Nasscom and support from the Union ministry of communications and information technology, will be attended by a host of chief executive officers, chief information officers and industry experts from India and abroad, apart from a huge gathering of information, communication and technology (ICT) ministers from 25 Asian countries. Over 500 delegates from various Asian countries, the US, the UK and Europe will assemble in Hyderabad to discuss and deliberate upon their expertise in various subjects, sharing of expertise, productive usage of IT in overall growth, e-governance, products, technologies and business opportunities, a senior Nasscom official said.

While the two-day iTech 2004 will throw light on global perspectives, competitiveness, challenges and strategies and B2B networking, the Asian IT ministers' conference is set to discuss issues ranging from how information and communication technology can be utilised to bridge the digital divide, challenges and opportunities for cooperation and competition using IT in the areas of agriculture and education. Speaking with eFE, the official said that the state government has decided to leverage the three events - Gitex, iTech conference and ICT ministers meet - to design strategies for e-governance activities apart from developing the IT industry in the state. The Asian countries are expected to share their expertise in e-governance activities, sustaining growth and expansion, human resource challenges and strategies, he said further. Speakers at the meet will include Lakshmi Narayanan of Cognizant, Ramalinga Raju of Satyam, Jerry Rao of Mphasis BFL, Ramesh Srinivasan of McKinsey & Co, Hong Koh of Sun Microsystems, Asia South besides others, he said.

From Financial Express, India, by R. Ravichandram, 22 December 2003

ITECC Endorses 9 Projects for E-government Fund

The Information Technology and E-Commerce Council (ITECC) endorsed nine government projects to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to qualify for an e-government fund, officials said. ITECC is the highest policy-making body in information and communications technology in the Philippines. These projects include modernization projects of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Bureau of Customs, the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Department of Science and Technology, the Bureau of Food and Drugs, and the National Computer Center. Science and Technology undersecretary Fortunato dela Peña said that the nine projects amounted to close to two billion pesos, which is half of the four-billion-peso budget allocated for the fund this year.

BIR received the biggest allocation of 678.51 million pesos for its various computerization projects. The Bureau of Customs followed with 500 million pesos. DOST has also been given a total of 166.77 million for its e-library project, while the National Computer Center e-government portal and e-LGU project both received 150 million pesos-worth of funding, Dela Peña said. The Commission on Elections has previously received 900 million pesos for its computerization project, he added. Malacañang, through an administrative order, institutionalized the e-government fund to help modernize governance in the Philippines. The e-government fund was created by allocating around two percent of the capital expenses, maintenance, and other operating expenses budget of each government agency's for e-government projects. Currently, only 0.8 percent of the national budget is set aside for information technology development in government.

From Philippines Daily News, Philippines, by Erwin Lemuel G. Oliva, 21 December 2003

"Aging" China Promotes Community Services for the Elderly

Beijing - Zeng Huaqing, a 65-year-old retiree in the Fazhan Community, Wuhan City of central China's Hubei Province, brings with her a red card wherever she goes, on which are printed service items and telephone numbers provided by her community. "I can enjoy services like cleaning, washing, cooking and plumbing with this service contact card," said Zeng, whose husband passed away last year, while her two sons rarely came home to see her due to their busy jobs. "Life is comfortable, though I live alone. I call the community whenever I need help," she said. "Every retiree in this community is issued with this card." China reports over 34 million retirees, just like Zeng, according to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Meanwhile, China is moving rapidly towards an aging society, registering over 130 million elderly, about 10 percent of the total population, and the figure will keep growing at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the next half century. Statistics also show that China has now at least 23.4 million "empty nesters", or senior citizens, both married and the widowed, in a family without children around. Experts point out that the happiness of the elderly has great relevance for the stability of the whole society.

China has actively promoted community services for the elderly. State-owned enterprises have been allowed to break away from the management of their retirees, encouraging communities, which usually cover several residential quarters, to provide matching services. Before that, retirees relied on enterprises to organize their life, from spare-time activities to funerals. Presently, computer networks containing detailed information one very retiree have been established in most city communities of China, which helps ensure the punctual distribution of pensions. "My monthly 720-yuan pension comes to me on time every month, and my living is guaranteed," said Liu Xiaofang, a 56-year-old retiree in the Jiangzhi Community, Nanchang City of east China's Jiangxi Province. "It is also convenient for us to see the doctor, since the community has its own medical center." Pension and medical care are two major concerns of the elderly. Liu Yongfu, vice-minister of the Labor Ministry, said that communities should play a key role in improving the life of the elderly in an all-around way, especially after their basic living has been secured. In most city communities of China, activity centers, including reading rooms, fitness rooms, table tennis and chess rooms, have been established.

Communities also set up art groups, like choirs, dancing and Tai Chi, and organize contests among the elderly to enrich their life. "We often gather for reading and exchanging ideas," said 55-year-old Zhong Shengbai, who has been elected as head of the retirees in the Douyaxiang Community of Nanchang. "We sometimes help the community clean the streets, organize art activities and aid the poor family, which makes our life colorful and meaningful." The Ministry of Civil Affairs has invested over 5 billion yuan (604 million US dollars) in community infrastructures nationwide. More than 50,000 special organizations for the elderly have been founded throughout China, which has benefited some 800,000 elderly people. China has at least 70 newspapers and magazines targeted at elderly readers, with a circulation of nearly 10 million. Meanwhile, more than 3.3 million volunteers are providing services for the elderly across the country. Pi Dehai, deputy director of the Social Insurance Administration with the Labor Ministry, said that China has brought about one-third of the retirees into community management, but that was "not enough". "Since community management is just at its primary stage in China, we still have a long way to go in this regard," he added.

From Xinhua, China, 23 December 2003

Corruption a Serious Threat to Business Sector, Kadin Says

Jakarta - Rampant corruption, coupled with ineffective bureaucracy and unfavorable industrial relations, remains the main obstacle in doing business in this country, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) said in its year-end assessment. Kadin chairman Aburizal Bakrie told a media conference on Monday that corruption and collusive business practices had created uncertainty and worsened the investment climate here. Aburizal cited a study from the prestigious University of Indonesia that shows that businesses have to set aside 10 percent to 11 percent of production costs for bribes. He explained that one of the direct impacts of the above problems was a slowdown in the recovery of the country's crucial manufacturing sector, which has seen a decline in production capacity, as new investment in the sector remains low despite hard-won macroeconomic stability.

The recovery of this sector is important as it can provide a huge number of jobs for the millions of people left jobless following the late-1990s economic crisis. Aburizal also criticized the country's ineffective bureaucracy. He cited a World Bank study, which shows that it takes 196 days to set up a company in Indonesia, while it only takes 50 in Vietnam and 5 in Singapore. He said that corruption and the ineffective bureaucracy had worsened the country's competitiveness. The World Economic Forum recently ranked Indonesia 60th of 102 countries surveyed in terms of business competitiveness. Aburizal said it was urgent to reform the bureaucracy in the country to reduce corruption and collusive business practices. Kadin plans to work with different groups as part of the organization's drive to combat corruption. The organization signed an antibribery pact last week with Muhammadiyah Students Association (IMM), under which IMM will be involved in an antibribery campaign.

"We shall sign an antibribery pact with different groups, including students. We want to inform the public that bribery is damaging and needs to be eliminated," Aburizal told The Jakarta Post. Aburizal added the business sector needed a business-friendly government. "We need a strong leader who can ignore political parties and select capable people who understand business and the economy," he said. Aburizal cited the government's minimum wage policy as an example of what was undermining the country's business competitiveness. He said that minimum wages in Jakarta were higher than those in Hanoi and Shanghai. The upcoming election also raises concern on whether it can produce a government that is committed to economic development, Aburizal added. "They want a government that can tackle problems like the rising price of goods, unemployment and other matters," he remarked. He said that improving the investment climate at home was crucial to attracting new investment to the country to help the economy grow at a faster rate and create more jobs.

From Jakarta Post, Indonesia, by Fitri Wulandari, 23 December 2003

"E-gov Will Lead India Towards Innovation"

E-governance has the potential to take the country into having a developed knowledge society, says the President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. An application like e-governance will lead the country into a dimension of knowledge based innovation and that will ideally position India to have a developed knowledge society. President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam stated this while inaugurating the International conference on e-governance at IIT in New Delhi. "Innovation is the key and when coupled with knowledge, it becomes a force to reckon with, as far as knowledge society is concerned. An information-based society connects a family, different families connect communities and communities connect different regions and regions then go forward to connect the whole nation. Connecting different people with the help of a single platform is the prime idea behind any e-governance related objective," he added.

Citing security as one of the hurdles facing different e-governance models, the president emphasized the need to have a proper security policy in place before going in for any e-governance initiative. "We should have a citizen centric approach towards designing applications and security is one such issue. We should have a management policy towards e-governance security. All the e-gov initiatives have to be designed in a citizen-friendly way and the software should not be too difficult for the common people to understand," he explained. Talking about the different languages that India has, he mentioned that it becomes necessary for different software vendors to provide their solutions in all 14 national languages. "Language independent software is a necessity towards having a national e-governance platform. Institutions like IIT, should take the lead in developing such platforms having language intelligence," he added.

The way forward - Although, there are a number of examples for proper e-governance practices within the country at present, there is still has a long way to go when it comes to having centrally located e-governance applications. "There are a lot of things which we need to do. Firstly, the country should have a national citizen database. We should also have a proper VPN based network to connect various states to a central server where different applications can be accessed. Then, we need to have a data center both at the center as well as the state level. All these things will lead us to have a better e-governance atmosphere within the country," the President informed. He also mentioned the importance of a national grid between different state governments and the center to ensure safe and sound data transfer. "I do not think that the government should go out and implement all this work. Ideally, more than 90 percent of this work should be outsourced to different system integration and service providers. Government should only be made responsible for the maintenance and the updation of these applications and networks," he explained. (CyberMedia News Service).

From CIOL, India, 20 December 2003

Kalam Dreams of Polls Via E-governance

President Abdul Kalam requesting the audience to recite the National Anthem during the conference on E-Governance organised by IIT, Delhi, on Thursday. Also seen is Prof M G K Menon (right). Photo: V Sudershan. New Delhi, Dec 18 (PTI) President A P J Abdul Kalam today said he visualised a scenario in which e-governance is used in the election process right from the stage of candidate verification to voting through virtual polling booths. "I visualise an election scenario where a candidate files his nomination and election officer verifies the authenticity from national citizen identity database through multi-factor authentication via a multipurpose citizen ID card," he said at an International e-governance conference at IIT, Delhi.

Kalam's e-governance vision would even get the candidate's civic consciousness and citizenship behaviour from the police crime record on a real-time basis while the property records are verified online by the land authorities. "The aspirants' income can be verified online from the Income Tax department and education credentials from the University records," he said. Kalam said all these details could arrive at the computer terminal of election officer within few minutes automatically by the act of e-governance software agents that spans various state and Central Government web services directories through network. He said there could even be an Artificial Intelligence Software which analyses the candidate's credentials and gives ratings on how successful he would be as a politician. "This is my dream. Is it possible? If possible when shall we have it. Can we provide good governance to our one billion people," Kalam asked the audience.

From Financial Express, India, 18 December 2003

Faster Implementation of E-governance to Curtail Corruption: Experts

Faster implementation of e-governance in all administrative departments at the central and state levels would curtail rampant corruption and bring in transparency, experts said on Friday. Efforts must be made to bring in "people-centric administration" all across the country through the use of latest technologies and Internet, experts said, at an e-governance conference organised by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi. "Many state governments in India are now attempting to use technology to deliver services to people in rural as well as urban areas," said Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna. "But governance is still not a very popular word in India because of the corruption and lack of transparency associated with it. "We can popularise the concept of governance by faster implementation of e-governance projects," he said. Karnataka, home to Infosys and Wipro, is one of the few states that have computerised many government departments and rolled-out innovative e-governance projects for faster deliver of services. "If you ask me if these attempts have resulted in eliminating corruption and make governance citizen friendly, the answer is an emphatic yes," the chief minister told the conference.

Krishna said his government had tied up with private sector companies to help them set up Internet kiosks in rural areas and provide e-governance related services to village folks at an affordable cost. "Public private partnership assume great significance in successful implementation of e-governance projects. Good e-governance projects should be replicated all across the country. "Governments should not be averse to use of novel mechanisms that can help in offering good governance. We can bridge the digital divide through e-governance projects," he added. National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) president Kiran Karnik said India, with its vast pool of skilled software professionals, must use IT as a means to expedite delivery of services like health and education. "The most important thing for all governments to understand is that governance should be citizen centric and not employee centric. Through e-governance, you can introduce a system that is equitable and not exploitative," he said. Oracle India managing director Shekhar Dasgupta said some state governments were waking up to the advantages of e-governance. "Many state governments have realised that there is tremendous amount of efficiency to be gained through e-governance. It is as important a method as any other to drive economic progress," he said. "Good citizen services through the use of technology can also help in terms of winning elections and reduce poverty level in a major way," he added.

From Hindustan Times, India, by Sumeet Chatterjee, 19 December 2003

IT a Must to Increase Efficiency, Quality of Public Services: Awais

Islamabad - Federal Minister for Information Technology Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari Tuesday called for using IT as a tool in improving the business process management in the public and private sector organizations to increase efficiency and the quality of services. "If Pakistan is going to compete in the global markets, speed, efficiency and quality are vitally important," he said in a speech to a seminar on Business Process Management organized by Ultimus Pakistan at a local hotel. He maintained that it was very important for the public as well as private sector organizations to seriously consider the use of new technologies. "Indeed, when the Pakistan government, like governments everywhere, talks about 'E-Government', the purpose is to digitize, automate, and improve business processes," he said, hoping the business process management (BPM) would become "a central component of our IT strategy in building an effective e-government".

The minister said every organization in every country and in every industry had business processes that defined how the company interacts with its customers, supplier, employees and partners. "These include things like order processing, document review processes, performance reviews, benefits, loan process, credit card applications and many others. In many cases the quality and speed of these business processes determines the success of the company," he said, hoping the BPM software such as that provided by Ultimus would provide the tools to model, automate, manage and optimize these business processes over their life cycle.

He said by BPM, organizations could also reduce the cost as well as the response time to their customers. Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari noted that while business processes were prevalent in all companies and government offices in Pakistan, "these processes rely mainly on the use of people with every office in Pakistan full of a large number of clerks and a tremendous amount of files and paperwork". He invited the Ultimus, co-founded by a Pakistani, to use the Ministry of Information Technology as a test-bed on which to try out the applicability of their software in a Pakistani government setting. "We would be very happy to act as the pilot site for their product and if the experiment works, we could then replicate this solution in the other ministries," he said. He observed that the government departments were too dependent on the skill of the people to manage the sheer volume of workload. "While this does create employment for a large number of people, we suffer from the fact that we cannot respond quickly to our customers," he added.

He said he was happy to learn that Ultimus was donating US $400,000 worth of Ultimus BPM software to the GIK Institute for their internal use. "This is another excellent example of a Pakistani software company helping a leading educational institute," he said, describing the initiative a win-win deal because Ultimus was obviously hiring a good number of graduates from GIK Institute. He also commended Ultimus for offering an Ultimus Scholarship that covers full cost of education for a student in every undergraduate class at the GIK Institute. "This partnership between Ultimus and GIK Institute is an excellent example of how industries and educational institutions can work together for the long-term success of Pakistan in the IT sector," he said. The minister thanked the management and employees of Ultimus for making the workshop a success and pledged the government would continue to do its best to foster success stories such as this with other Pakistani companies. Giving demonstration of the products and processes developed by his company, Ultimus chief executive officer Rashid Khan said that due to its growth and success, Ultimus had demonstrated that it was an excellent model for software companies wishing to leverage the talent of the abundant human resources in Pakistan.

"Unlike many other companies in Pakistan who rely upon selling services for project-based software development or call centers, Ultimus uses its software development team based in Rawalpindi to develop a world-class software product," he said. He said "Ultimus' product business is not dependent on the whims of companies overseas wishing to outsource their development, and who have many countries to choose from". "Instead, Ultimus uses its worldwide sales and marketing team to promote and sell its BPM solutions," he said, adding "the company uses its Pakistani facility not only for software development but also to provide customer support, professional services and web development in order to support its global business". He told the audience Ultimus started from two developers in 1994 and so far has successfully grown its staff to 55 developers in Pakistan. "I am pleased to inform you that Ultimus has announced plans to double and expand to over 100 developers in Pakistan in 2004 and the company is well on its way to become a leading player in the Pakistani IT community."

From PakTribune.com, Pakistan, 23 December 2003

New E-governance Project Launched

Hyderabad - In yet another e-governance initiative, Andhra Pradesh today launched 'eSeva APOnline', a portal-based, fully computerised facility offering a host of citizen services including online payment of utility bills, filing applications for caste and nativity certificates, complaints and registrations and accessing important information. A joint venture project of the state government and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the eSeva APOnline brings together various agencies under a single platform offering as many as 15 Government-To-Citizen (G2C) services. Unveiling the project, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu termed it as an important milestone in his government's efforts to take the administration closer to people and offer them hassle-free online services.

From The Hindu, India, 29 December 2003

E-Government Acting

Khabar - The presentation of the project "Electronic Government" was held in Ust Kamenogorsk. From now the city residents will not stand in the lines in the corridors of the executive power. A complaint or question can be sent due to Internet. The answer will be received during one hour. The first stage of the project is the site "Transparent city". It contains information about Ust Kamenogorsk. There are such columns as "Structure of power", "My city", "Economy" and "Culture". The journalists can use electronic archives. Site is very popular among the local painters and photographers. Chat was founded some days ago. Akim of Ust Kamenogorsk, Alexander Grechukhin answered the questions of city residents. The organizers confessed that they hadn't expected such number of questions. "During 2 hours the residents asked 56 questions and got the answers at once. We can see the advantage of this method", said Dauren Dusebayev, organizer of the project.

Over 2000 addresses were registered during the year. The most popular questions are about pensions, allowances, ecology and social sphere. Two people will render service on the site at the city akimat. They have already faced the activity of hackers. The next stage is "Electronic government" and it is more difficult. It supposes close connection between city residents and executive power, absolute transparence and access. The Estonian model was taken as a sample. The project's organizers consider that the system of administration is like in Kazakhstan. Advantages - saving money and time. Some computers were set up in some public places in order to send necessary information to the akimat, courts and other departments.

From Central Asian and Southern Caucasus Freedom of Expression Network (CASCFEN), Azerbaijan, 27 December 2003

 

Public Services Reforms Will Continue, Says Minister

The Government's legislative package will enable Ministers to carry on with reforming public services, the Lords heard today. The programme would continue "in partnership with others and focus on social justices and safe and secure communities," said junior Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal. Patients would get more choice and freedom under health legislation and local communities would get more control over hospitals. "The 2002 Budget provided the largest ever sustainable increase in NHS funding. "Between 2003 and 2008 the average annual real term increase in NHS expenditure in England will be 7.4%, a cumulative increase of 43%. "By 2008 total UK health spending will be 9.4% of GDP, well above the current EU average of 8%," she said during resumed debate on the Queen's Speech. The Government remained committed to one of its highest priorities, the reduction of crime and fear of crime. "Crime has fallen by 25% since 1997 and we now have 9,000 more police officers than in March 1997. "The police have also been given more resources and partnership working between local agencies has been established through 376 crime and disorder reduction partnerships," she added.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Amanda Brown and Andrew Evans, 1 December 2003

EU Citizens and Business Welcome e-Government Services

A survey just published on the quality and usage of public electronic services shows that almost 80% of users approve of the quality of on-line public services, and more than half are very satisfied with these services. Almost 80% of users indicate that they would recommend the services to other people. The most frequently cited benefits of using on line services are saving time (84%) and gaining flexibility (65%). The most important factors providing user satisfaction are ease of use (for citizens) and the speed of the web site service (for businesses). The study concludes that crucial elements for the success of on line government services are optimising workflows, simplifying processes, and improving the way information is re-used and shared amongst public authorities. Erkki Liikanen Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, said: "This survey gives a good insight into the actual usage and benefits of eGovernment. It provides a helpful guidance for public administrations wanting to improve the quality and the take up of their own on-line public services".

The survey was based on 28,114 users from 18 European countries, which, though a small sample, nevertheless provides interesting results. The study was carried out for the European Commission in support of the eEurope2005 action plan. By focusing on the views of users rather than on the supply side, the study follows a new approach to benchmarking eGovernment called for in the Commission's recent Communication and taken up in the Council Conclusions on "The role of eGovernment for Europe's future". The survey was conducted in 2003 and will be repeated again in 2004. The survey identifies which on-line public services are currently used by citizens/businesses in the participating countries. It analyses the level of quality of on-line public services; shows the extent to which basic public services are being used and whether these services are responding to the needs and expectations of citizens/businesses in Europe. The survey offers a set of recommendations to public e-service providers in the further development of eGovernment.

From Tenders Direct, UK, 2 December 2003

Europe Gets Online Satisfaction

Users of e-government services are satisfied but want improvements, says the EU - Most people who transact with their government online are "satisfied", but few say they actually get an improved service, according to new research by the European Commission. The Commission's study, announced on 1 December 2003, says that overall in Europe, the "quality of public e-services is high". It finds that the majority (80%) of users will recommend public e-services to other people they know. The most widely reported benefit of e-services, according to the report, is "saving time and gaining flexibility". But few people say they gain much value from e-services compared to other ways of dealing with the public sector.

The report says more work is needed to ensure that e-services deliver real benefits. "E-services are an improvement because the users can access the service on-line, 24-hours-a-day, instead of only during office opening hours," it says. "However, service improvements on top of the channel improvements are only experienced by 30-40% of the users. This indicates that public e-services are offline services, which are then provided to users online without further development and optimisation of the services. "While the majority of users are satisfied, 28% report problems with e-services, says the report. Users' most frequent problem is the difficulty in finding what they are looking for, and webmasters face the task of improving usability. This could be done through better channel integration and by focusing on the most important usability factors on their websites."

Other findings were: o Most (75%) webmasters and e-service providers do not know how many users they have or transactions are made online; o Offline information is the most used source to find out about a government website; o Almost 80% of those asked said e-government saves time and provides flexibility. Erkki Liikanen commissioner for enterprise and the information society, said: "This survey gives a good insight into the actual usage and benefits of e-government. It provides a helpful guidance for public administrations wanting to improve the quality and the take up of their own online public services". A total of 28,114 users participated in the Europe wide survey. The figure includes 24,788 citizens and 3,326 companies across 18 European countries. The Commission contacted 3,767 webmasters. The survey is to be repeated next year.

From Kablenet, UK, 3 December 2003

P.A.: Stanca, Italy Is an E-Government Laboratory

Rome - Italy is considered a laboratory of e-government. Thus emphasised Technology Minister, Lucio Stanca, in his speech to the Eleventh Meeting of European Ministers responsible for public Services. "E-government is not only an instrument but is a policy and due to this electronic government is a priority for the Italian government." The fact that Italy is a laboratory of e-government is confirmed by the "rise of our country to ninth position (against 12th in 2001) in the European Commission table on the quality of e-government services. Italy is also the fourth European country in terms of the level of development of these services." According to Stanca, "the growth of public services at a European level to be more transparent and efficient via the application of digital technology is a resource to create that sense of European citizenship that is the basis of the draft Constitutional Treaty." Stanca will lead the Italian government's delegation at the UN world summit, which will take place in Geneva 10-12 December, in which at least 5000 delegates from 185 countries and more than 60 heads of state and government will take part.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia Italy, 1 December 2003

eGovernment: Edinburgh Planning Portal Puts Property Enquiry Certificates Online

A new system, which allows solicitors to request property enquiry certificates (PECs) on the Internet from the comfort of their own desk, will be launched by the City of Edinburgh Council today Monday, 1 December 2003. A PEC is a property search of information that may affect the value of a property; for example, is the property located on a road adopted by the local authority. Mortgage lenders require it as part of the conveyancing process in house sales. The new e-PEC will radically improve the way in which solicitors can access the Council's property enquiry service. From today, solicitors can, after registering, order and receive PECs electronically via the Council's Planning portal (www.edinburgh.gov.uk/pec), directly to their PC. This will greatly reduce the process time for a PEC - providing same day delivery.

Simon Fairclough, marketing director of Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre, the company whose member firms sell around 16,000 houses and flats every year, comments: "The introduction of the new e-PEC service will delight many of our member solicitors. In this fast moving market, home buyers are turning to the Internet in rapidly increasing numbers when searching for a property. Moreover, the need for speed - as well as for accuracy - is mirrored among the profession. The opportunity for web-based access to property enquiry certificates will, I'm sure, be valued by practitioners eager for a faster turnaround time." The project is part of the Council's Smart City programme, which is about using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to develop and deliver new and improved Council services to citizens, businesses and organisations. Key to this project is more user-friendly advice on line, an electronic request and payment process, and the ability for customers to monitor their own accounts online.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Executive Member for Modernising Government, commented: "I am delighted that we have been able to introduce this latest improvement to an important Council service. Thanks to this innovation, solicitors can now access information for their clients in the city much quicker. This follows on from the earlier introduction of the planning portal, which means that anyone can now view planning applications in Edinburgh, going back to 1990, on their own PC: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/planning. As part of the Smart City project we are committed to improving access to Council services for everyone using new technology." The project is part of the Council's Smart City vision and is being delivered in partnership with BT, led by Syntegra, BT's expert in business transformation and change management. Since 2000, the City of Edinburgh Council and Syntegra have used ICT to improve the way that public services are delivered to citizens, businesses and organisations in Edinburgh. "By combining technology with a fundamental conveyancing process the Council has been able to respond to its customers requirements and offer a valuable service improvement. The Property Enquiry Certificate service over the last few months has undergone a major face lift, format improvements, indemnity insurance, new information and now it's accessible online. A true indicator that the City of Edinburgh Council's Smart City vision is becoming a reality," said Craig Apsey, Syntegra Land and Property Propositions Director.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 1 December 2003

EU eGovernment Services Analysed in Detail from Citizens' Perspective: Flaws Found

A survey just published for the EU on the quality and usage of public eGovernment & electronic services shows that almost 80% of users approve of the quality of on-line public services, and more than half are very satisfied with these services. But, and it's a big but, real service improvements are only experienced by 30-40% of users. Almost 80% of users indicate that they would recommend the services to other people. The most frequently cited benefits of using on line services are saving time (84%) and gaining flexibility (65%). The most important factors providing user satisfaction are ease of use (for citizens) and the speed of the web site service (for businesses). The study concludes that crucial elements for the success of on line government services are optimising workflows, simplifying processes, and improving the way information is re-used and shared amongst public authorities. Erkki Liikanen Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, said: "This survey gives a good insight into the actual usage and benefits of eGovernment. It provides a helpful guidance for public administrations wanting to improve the quality and the take up of their own on-line public services".

The survey was based on 28,114 users from 18 European countries, which, though a small sample, nevertheless provides interesting results. The study was carried out for the European Commission in support of the eEurope2005 action plan. By focusing on the views of users rather than on the supply side, the study follows a new approach to benchmarking eGovernment called for in the Commission's recent Communication (see IP/03/1300) and taken up in the Council Conclusions on "The role of eGovernment for Europe's future". The survey was conducted in 2003 and will be repeated again in 2004. The survey identifies which on-line public services are currently used by citizens/businesses in the participating countries. It analyses the level of quality of on-line public services; shows the extent to which basic public services are being used and whether these services are responding to the needs and expectations of citizens/businesses in Europe. The survey offers a set of recommendations to public e-service providers in the further development of eGovernment.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 4 December 2003

Case Study: Edinburgh Plans to Be 'Smarter' with eGovernment

"The City of Edinburgh Council is undertaking a far-reaching programme of modernisation through innovative use of information and communications technology to achieve its vision for a 'smart city'. This vision is the core of its response to the Scottish Executive's 21st Century Government initiative ot modernise public services. For Edinburgh, its vision is all about people based public services - how customers and the Council connect. It is about changing the way the Council organises and delivers its services to be efficient, effective and customer focussed. Its aim is to use ICT to support delivering all of these services to citizens, businesses and organisations - and be recognised as a leader in delivering modern, joined-up and interactive public service using a wide range of new technology. The Council's strategic IT 10-year partnership with BT plc provides a solid base for developing Edinburgh as Smart City. BT not only provides IT support services, they are also investing in modernising the way the Council delivers services.

In particular, the Smart City programme will: > use leading-edge ICT to change the way services behind the scenes (in the "back office") are delivered to improve customer service, productivity, effectiveness and efficiency; > improve information and internal communication to help strategic planning and prioritising resources as well as promote innovative thinking and collaboration (involving Council staff in the process); > provide the tools and infrastructure to let citizens and community organisations take advantage of the information age and to participate and express their views as part of local decision-making; > deliver new "value-added" services to citizens, visitors and local businesses using leading-edge technology to improve their quality of life, their experience of visiting the city or competitiveness. The Council is managing a wide range of ICT projects which will help us deliver our Smart City vision.

Recent success are: > an online system to view and bid for available Council housing over the website, through offices or in response to newspaper advertising; > the development of a common housing register for all Registered Social Landlords in the City piloting a 'smart card' for residents which can be used to get a range of services provided by many different suppliers. > an innovative project join up the planning and building control processes electronically which allows the public and businesses to view and submit planning applications online, with building warrants to follow; > introduction of parking payments by mobile phone. In order to deliver these projects, the Council is fully aware of the need to address a number of back office changes. Key work involves the migration from mainframe IT systems to create a new environment that will support the implementation of Smart City infrastructure, a council-wide email and intranet platform and a new metropolitan area network which will enhance the speed of data traffic and improve security features.

The Council is providing a lead in the community to enable all citizens and community organisations to exploit information age opportunities. As such, the Council is taking forward a number of initiatives to build a more inclusive environment and to bridge the digital divide. Initiatives include the use of videoconferencing services in public offices, free internet access for the public in the city's libraries and community centres through the People's Network and the launch of the myEdinburgh.org community web portal. Transformation to a Smart City is fundamentally changing the way the Council operates. To manage the challenges that lie ahead, the Council has in place a human resource strategy incorporating change management. The Council is also working closely with staff and trade unions from the start and throughout the transformation. These programmes will equip employees with the skills necessary to adapt to their changing work environment and assist with employees who have been affected by the organisational change. They will receive support through re-training, career services, and assistance with redeployment and job search."

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, by Jacqueline Allan, City of Edinburgh Council, 5 December 2003

Open Source Software for 500,000 Civil Servants Possible after OGC / Sun deal

Following a deal between Sun Microsystems and the Office of Government Commerce, it may be a possibility that Open Source Software could be used on desktop computers for the entire UK Civil Service - for all 500,000 Civil Servants. Initially being trialled, Sun's software could become widespread if it proves a more cost-effective alternative to proprietary software solutions from Microsoft. Peter Gershon, Chief Executive of OGC, who met with CEO of Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy, on Friday to conclude the negotiations commented: "I welcome these trials of OSS Desktop solutions by Sun Microsystems, which if successful, could significantly extend the choice of IT systems in the government marketplace. The public sector is alive to the possibilities inherent in this innovative approach, which would enable us to free up resources for delivery." The arrangement provides competitive pricing for the whole public sector and increases choice across the entire range of both Desktop and Server IT systems. It also offers a means of enabling alternatives such as 'thin client' computing and has the potential to extend the life of existing PCs with a consequent direct impact on capital expenditure. The strategic five year agreement between Sun and OGC will allow public sector organisations to realise significant value-for-money savings when purchasing desktop and enterprise software.

The arrangement, which is effective immediately and includes the Sun Java Desktop System and the Sun Java Enterprise System, offers the Public Sector an alternative to licensing agreements with other suppliers such as Microsoft. The use of 'proof of concept' trials in government organisations will look at the practicalities and potential to generate significant value-for-money improvements. "The UK Public Sector is faced with huge IT purchasing decisions, it requires best value desktop and underlying software architecture that is based on open standards, predictable pricing models and infinite right to use," said Scott McNealy, chairman, president and CEO of Sun. "Our arrangement with the OGC, delivers transparent IT buying to the UK public sector and introduces competition in the desktop space." Open Source Software (OSS) is where the source code (the language in which the program is written) is freely distributed with the right to modify the code, and on the condition that redistribution is not restricted, and indeed is obtainable for no more than the reasonable cost of reproduction. As part of the deal, Sun Microsystems will undertake a series of trials of its OSS based Desktop system with various public sector bodies in the New Year, These trials will build upon the recent similar OGC initiative with IBM, with both aimed at opening up the government IT marketplace to wider competition and offering significant potential value-for-money and other benefits.

There are also potential environmental benefits as less frequent replacement of computers will reduce landfill and decrease consumption of resources used in the production of resource intensive PCs. Mark Woods, who led the negotiations for OGC added: "We should not underestimate the impact on the environment of frequently replacing IT equipment, which together with the potential direct cost benefits makes for a compelling case." Indications are that very significant efficiency gains and cash savings are possible, which OGC and SUN will investigate over the coming months. Background notes on this story: The Office of Government Commerce is an office of HM Treasury, which works with central civil Government as a catalyst to achieve best value for money in commercial activities. OGC aims to provide guidance and expertise to support successful delivery of procurement-based projects and other commercial activities; develop the Government market to make it more efficient and attractive to suppliers and customers; and develop a clear and supportive framework for best-in-class procurement activity, while making a leading contribution to Government modernisation.

About Sun Java Enterprise System - The Java Enterprise System seamlessly integrates enterprise network applications and services at the heart of Web services. This complete system of standards-based software is delivered as one entity on a pre- integrated infrastructure. Simplified pricing - $50 (U.S. list price) per faculty and administrative employee per year for the education market is probable. The Java System Portal Server, Java System Directory Server, Java System Identity Server, Java System Web Server, Java System Messaging Server Java System Calendar Server, Java System Instant Messaging and Java System Application Server are key components of Sun's Java Enterprise System. About Sun Java Desktop System - The Java Desktop System is a comprehensive, secure, affordable enterprise desktop solution which can interoperate with existing infrastructure. Key features include a well-defined, integrated look and feel, familiar desktop themes, as well as document and printing interoperability with Linux, Solaris and Windows environments. U.S. list price for the Java Desktop System is priced annually at $100 per desktop user or $50 per employee for existing Java Enterprise.


From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 10 December 2003

UK E-government Enjoying Slow Progress

London - Britain is ranked 23rd out of 32 countries in a new survey investigating the take-up of e-government services. Research firm TNS said that, while use of e-government in Britain has increased this year to 18%, up from 13% in 2002, this is still way behind the global average of 31%. Scandinavian countries still lead the field in e-government use, with more than six out of ten adults in Denmark (63%) and Norway (62%) using government services online. Canada and the US also have a high take-up of e-government services, with 51% and 44% respectively, while France with 35% take-up and Germany with 26% are also way ahead of the UK.

TNS said it is encouraging to see increasing take-up of e-government services in Britain, despite the lag, especially since growth in the use of e-government has slowed in many other markets this year. "The large amounts of investment by the government are likely to have contributed to this growth but there is still a long way to go in order to bring Britain in line with levels of e-government usage in other markets," said Susannah Quick, director at TNS' Polling, Social and Government division. The survey is the latest blow to the UK's e-government efforts, and follows a number of recent reports that suggest wide variations in progress among local authorities towards meeting the 2005 e-government deadline for putting services online. A Smartgov report, produced by The Work Foundation earlier this year, revealed that a number of the e-government services already online are not being used. It recommended that encouraging more citizens to use online services should be the number one priority for the government, even if it means pushing back the 2005 deadline.

From NetImperative, UK, by Susie Harwood, 9 December 2003

E-government: Tomorrow Meeting with Stanca and Storace

Rome - The second stage of e-government, recently introduced by the national and local government and involving the so-called e-democracy, will start Tomorrow, Dec. 9, on the occasion of a meeting on "The introduction of the e-Government in the regional systems." The goal of the meeting is to foster the active participation of the local institutions to the policies for the second stage of the e-government, the electronic public administration. The meeting will be held in the Tyrrhenian Hall of the Region seat in Rome at 9.30. The Minister for Innovation and Technologies, Lucio Stanca, will present the second stage of the government initiative. Further, the Minister and the President of the Lazio Region, Francesco Storace, will sign the convention for the creation of Lazio's Competent Regional Centre. This event will be the occasion to continue the dialog with the regions, so as to strengthen the 'shared vision' of the Centre and the Local Systems and concretely implement the Federalism. Also policies to foster the diffusion of services to citizens and businesses through the recycling of the technology solutions, with relevant synergies and economies, and the inclusion of small municipalities in innovative processes. This conference belongs to a series of events on the "Introduction of the e-government in the regional systems.", promoted by the Department for the Innovation and Technologies of the Prime Minister's Office, in the ambit of the Communication Plan for the e-government made by Formez.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 8 December 2003

New Service Allows Public Sector to Test IT & E-Government Ideas at Early Stage

Concept Viability is a new service offered by Intellect to the public sector. It will enable public sector organisations to use industry as a 'sounding board'. Its goal is to help public sector organisations effectively assess the potential technological risks associated with specific public sector IT projects, before progressing from concept to delivery. The initiative from Intellect is part of its Senior IT Forum activities. With Concept Viability, Intellect is inviting public sector clients to take market soundings to test the practicability of their ideas at the earliest possible stage. Within the Gateway process this would be before Gate 1 (and may even be before Gate 0), and before any public commitment (political, financial or 'go live' date) has been made. In essence, the earlier the concept is tested, the better; clients will gain greater understanding of the achievability of their ideas and high-risk proposals can be modified or abandoned before any substantial investment has been made. This service is intended to assist the development of a more comprehensive assessment of projects at their earliest stages. To this end, the assessment proposed in this document should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as part of a wider consultation undertaken by the client (i.e. this will not replace work which the client undertakes on proof of concept or feasibility, but rather seek to inform it).

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 9 December 2003

Budget: Water and Public Services Amendments Today

Rome - The MPs of the Water Association, including Pietro Folena (LD), Nichi Vendola (PRC),Francesco Martone (Green party), will present the amendments to the budget for water resources and public services together with Rosario Lembo, the World Water Agreement secretary. The amendments oppose the privatisation of local public and water services through the slogan "Water is a common good" and "has to stay public". After the government's intervention, through the budget amendments, which partly came back on the privatisation issue, opened by the budget law in 2001, several position arose in the Center-left, and a transversal coalition center-left/center-right was created to restore the privatisation of public services. The MPs of the Water Association will battle this in order to promote the public management of water resources.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 9 December 2003

£284 Million for City Public Services

Dundee City Council today launched its £284 million plan for modernising public services over the next four years - The investment includes £129 million on schools, £72 million on housing, £9 million on the city centre waterfront, £7 million on McManus Galleries, £5 million on the Smartbus project and £4 million on the regeneration of Stobswell. The Dundee City Council Plan 2003-2007 details priorities for action spanning 100 projects, 70 objectives and 35 reviews covering key strategic challenges. Councillor Jill Shimi, administration leader, said, "This is a confident plan because we have turned a corner in the life of this city. "The City of Discovery is building a reputation for excellence and innovation in science, culture, learning and new technology as well as an environment that provides the opportunity for a high-quality of life - exactly what we need for the new economy. "Unemployment is down to its lowest level for 30 years. I can remember the 1980s when there were 18,000 people out of work in the city compared with about 4000 now." Councillor Shimi added, "The city is now experiencing a net increase in jobs in place of a net loss. Over 5000 new jobs have been created in Dundee since 1997 and £1 billion has been invested on a commercial basis in our city in the last few years."

The £129 million for schools includes the £80 million Public Private Partnership-funded project, and the £72 million on housing stock includes a £30 million heating programme. The £9 million to create the new waterfront involves the demolition of Tayside House. Councillor Shimi said the plan, as well as promoting the new economy, must be inclusive. Social inclusion and anti-poverty measures would be part of all planning. Learning and working would be more co-ordinated as would be health and care services, and she said communities would feel stronger and safer in a cleaner and more attractive environment. The council would contribute towards the city's reputation for excellence and innovation by modernising the way they provide customer services. The council would become as good as anyone at providing services electronically over the web, in using mobile technology, by using smartcards and by taking calls later in the evening in response to customers' needs. She said it was important for the council to publish the plan so that as many people as possible could appreciate the value of their contribution. The plan will be sent to over 700 local organisations, and leaflets will be given to all employees.

Local community plans will be developed to bring the council's intentions closer to the people, and the council will listen to what the people and outside organisations say. She added, "We must also report on our performance on delivering this plan because the citizens of Dundee are the council's main stakeholder." She also gave a commitment that Council Tax would not be increased by more than 5% a year over the next four years, something that would narrow the gap between Dundee and Scottish average Council Tax levels. She added that council house rents would over the same time span not be increased by more than 1% a year above the rate of inflation. Councillor Shimi welcomed members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, the Youth Voice Group and the Dialogue Youth groups to the launch of the plan. "The council is committed to listening more to young people and making it easy for young people to help frame the next set of plans," she continued. "Dundee's future depends on how well we support our young people and help them to develop their talents to create a city in which they are proud to stay."

From Evening Telegraph, UK, by Andrew Argo, 11 December 2003

BBC3 Unveils 'Public Service' Line-up

BBC3 controller Stuart Murphy today launched what he considered the channel's most "public service" schedule yet, declaring he was only showing football to coax reluctant viewers into an "innovative" line-up that includes a season of films on Africa and documentaries on Mikhail Gorbachev and former bad man of rock Shaun Ryder. Mr. Murphy is also focusing on the stresses and strains of family life, with a Happy Families season featuring three factual series dealing with the relationships between parents and their offspring - when they are children and grown-ups. BBC3 will also have the first airing early next year of Catterick, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's first new comedy show since Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased three years ago.

Mr. Murphy was unapologetic about using football - in this case delayed coverage of the African Nations Cup matches - to drive audiences to BBC3 and in particular Africa Kicks, a season of documentaries about different aspects of life on the continent that will be broadcast after each game. "At launch we were given a remit to drive [take-up] of digital TV. There are various ways of doing that - we've had premieres of EastEnders, Absolutely Fabulous and What Not to Wear, but another one is to show football," he said. "I'm not uncomfortable with that, as long as we use it intentionally to drive audiences [to other programmes on the channel]. For instance, we showed a documentary, Gangland Manchester, after live coverage of a Manchester City game," Mr. Murphy added. "I would be uncomfortable with big ratings drivers [such as live football] if we weren't showing original programming around it. There are lots of things we've been doing [including football] that were not in our original remit, such as history and maths."

Shaun Ryder Comes Clean - a reference to the fact that after consuming heroic quantities of drugs in the 80s and 90s, the former Happy Mondays singer is now on nothing stronger than booze and fags - was shot over eight months by film-maker Richard Macer, who Mr. Murphy said he hoped would develop into "our version of Nick Broomfield". The 60-minute documentary shows the softer side of rock's former wild man, including one episode in which he tries to give his young daughter advice about unprotected sex - to her obvious embarrassment. But at other times there are clear signs of his addictive nature, such as when he complains of a headache and wolfs down a whole packet of Nurofen to combat it. At another point in the film Ryder is too embarrassed to show Macer a tattoo on his arm, because it features an incorrect spelling of "Ecstasy". "He lives in a small terraced house with a garden backing on to [fellow former Happy Mondays band member] Bez's place in Derby. The film follows him and Bez as they go around their old haunts in Manchester and they get into big arguments about which hotel they stayed in in Rio, or when their first TV appearance was - because neither of them can remember," Mr. Murphy said.

Who Rules the Roost? is a Wife Swap-style reality show in which working parents each give up their jobs for a separate two or three-week period in the summer holidays and stay at home looking after their children, with no outside help. "The mother stays home for three weeks, the dad for two. The kids don't go to nursery, the cleaner doesn't come, whatever child support they have is taken away, to make it a more intense experience," Ms Taylor said. "Every story has a different outcome. One of the mothers thinks she wants to stay at home, but then hates it. At the end of the film she doesn't come across very sympathetically. But after we finished filming the couple sold up and moved back to Ireland to be near her mother," she added. Little Angels features clinical psychologist Dr Tanya Byron attempting to teach parents who are at the end of their tether how to deal with troublesome kids.

The show features Dr Byron, who comes across as a kind of Trinny and Susannah-esque trouble shooter, bellowing orders via a two-way radio to a befuddled mother whose son is running amok in a department store. Parent Trap, in which adults have to cope with spending a whole week living with their parents - who follow them to work, to the pub and even on dates - completes BBC3's Happy Families season. Catterick producer Lisa Clark described the new Reeves and Mortimer show as a "roadcom". The comedy duo play brothers Chris and Carl, who set off on a journey around England, pursued by a murderer, in search of Carl's son. Catterick features an impressive line up comedy talent, including Matt Lucas, Charlie Higson, Reece Shearsmith, Tim Healy and Morwenna Banks. "It's not as surreal as some of Vic and Bob's stuff. It's very narrative driven, but along the way there are surreal moments," said Ms Clark. The six-part series has been made by Reeves and Mortimer's Maidstone-based independent production company, Pett Productions, with most of the show filmed on location during a six-week shoot on the south coast.

From Guardian, UK, by Jason Deans, 10 December 2003

Online Public Services Get Thumbs Up

Most European web users are "very happy" with the quality of public services on the internet, according to an EU report. The EU survey, titled Top of the Web, found that 79 per cent of European net users would recommend an online public service if they think it is good quality. According to the study, public services sites that include libraries, job search and online councils, are of benefit because users can access them 24-hours-a-day, get more information and help as well as a faster reply to a case. Figures also show that one of the most important factors for web users when using a public services site is the ease of navigation. The EU report reveals that the UK ranks second after Germany in a top ten European public services list, with its Family Fund site that provides social security benefits for UK citizens. Top of the Web studied a pool of 24,788 EU web users in 18 European countries for the European Union's eGovernment Action plan.

From Web User, UK, by Veronique De Freitas, 15 December 2003

Watchdog Attacks 'Inefficient' Public Services

Most government departments are failing to manage their resources and finances effectively, parliament's public spending watchdog said today. The departments and government agencies have failed to take advantage of reforms introduced over the past five years to improve their efficiency, according to the National Audit Office (NAO). The NAO report follows the admission in the pre-budget report that about £9bn a year is spent on policymaking, regulation and distributing government money across the public services. The finding came from Peter Gershon, head of the Office of Government Commerce, who is leading an efficiency review of government spending, intended to release billions of pounds to frontline services. The NAO report, Managing Resources to Deliver Better Public Services, said only a quarter of departments and agencies had made good use of public service agreements, which were meant to improve the delivery of services by setting targets on the departments' main goals. The study found that two-thirds of the governmental bodies have not taken advantage of the allocation of budgets for three years instead of just one, which allows them to carry forward unspent resources. It said most departments still tended to wastefully spend resources in the last two months of the financial year.

The NAO also found that over a third of departments do not know how much it really costs to deliver public services because they have failed to reform their accounting procedures. The watchdog warned this increased the risk that poor value for money went undetected, and that departments underestimated the investment needed to improve public services. It said the extra £61bn for health, education, transport and criminal justice over the next three years meant there was an urgent need for reliable management of departmental resources. "Without careful planning and management there is a risk that resources are not all used as intended or efficiently with the result that the full potential to improve services is not realised," the report stated. Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, said: "Good resource management is vital if departments are to meet their ambitious objectives and targets for service improvement. "They need to review their resource management practices and make best use of the new information on service costs and the consumption of resources. "Given the huge amounts of resources involved in governmental programmes even a relatively small improvement in efficiency could release significant resources for frontline public services."

From Guardian, UK, by David Batty, 12 December 2003

UK to Investigate E-government by Digital TV

The UK government has outlines some policy guidelines on how it might deliver information and services by digital TV (DTV). It is estimated that 45 per cent of UK households now have DTV either through Freeview, cable or satellite and the government sees an opportunity to allow the public to communicate through the interactive services it can offer. It also gives a boost towards the government's promise of providing all its services electronically by 2005 - now little over a year away. The increasingly widespread adoption of DTV is seen as a way of providing access to those who are unwilling or unable to communicate via a PC. With some 98 per cent of households now having a television and the government currently sticking to its plan to switch off the analogue TV signal in 2010, providing government services via DTV is seen as a way of providing maximum coverage in the years ahead.

The document Digital Television Television - a policy framework for accessing eGovernment services, is somewhat vague on detail at this point. It suggests that both central and local government `should evaluate the benefits of DTV as a key channel for e-government using the strengths of this medium to deliver richer services and inclusiveness` and that it should work with broadcasters and ISPs to develop its DTV offerings. The Office of the e-Envoy has been charged with developing DTV pilot schemes with, for example NHS Direct and publish the findings. The e-Envoy should also establish best practice for usability and accessability. There are already a number of pilots underway both at local and national level.

From PC Pro, UK, by Steve Malone, 15 December 2003

E-government Fails to Catch On

Virtually all Britons know where they can get online - but three-quarters of them have never even visited a government website, a report out today reveals. The e-envoy, Andrew Pindar, published his fourth and final UK Online report as the government announced it would appoint a new head of e-government early next year. Mr. Pindar, whose contract runs out in April, said the job of ensuring that all Britons had access to the internet was almost done. Over two-thirds of government services are now online, every local council has a website, and 96% of Britain's population are aware of a place where they can readily access the internet. The new head of e-government - who, like his predecessor, will be based in the Cabinet Office - will concentrate on encouraging the public to make more use of government websites and on automating back-office Whitehall functions. Fewer than one in 12 internet users have ever carried out a transaction with the government online, and three-quarters of the population have never visited a government website at all. The trade and industry secretary, Patricia Hewitt, said a digital inclusion panel would be set up with the aim of ensuring everyone could get online from home in five years' time. "Every home in the UK should have a connection to online services through a digital network by 2008 - whether through a personal computer, DTV, mobile phone or other device," she said.

The report welcomes the proliferation of more than 3,000 .gov.uk websites but admits the lack of a single "clearly branded and heavily promoted" portal had held back progress. The current UK Online portal "falls a long way short of providing a single delivery point", it says. A "single sign on" page would help the public navigate the thousands of sites and would enable people to register just once to access all of them, it says. It would also help to allay their concerns about internet security. Some sites - notably NHS Direct, driving theory test bookings, Companies House and Ucas - have proved very successful, the report adds. Nonetheless - despite the introduction of self-assessment tax returns and online benefits - only 8% of internet users have ever carried out an online transaction with the government. Douglas Alexander, the cabinet office minister, said the new head of e-government would make government services more "customer-focused". He or she will also help to fulfill the chancellor's promise to cut back on costly Whitehall bureaucratic functions. The report also confirms that e-voting will not be an option in the next general election. An "e-enabled" election will take place "some time after 2006," it says, after a series of local election pilots.

From Guardian, UK, by Ros Taylor, 15 December 2003

E-government: Must Try Harder

£10bn of taxpayers' money could be wasted if the government fails to provide online services that the public want to use, warns a top parliamentary committee. The British government is still failing to take full advantage of the Internet by providing citizens with useful and innovative online services, according to an influential group of MPs. The Public Accounts Committee said on Wednesday that government departments must do more than simply provide information on their Web sites. If e-government is to succeed, the committee warned in a new report, then people must be able to benefit from online services that make their lives better and easier. The government is committed to putting all its services online by the end of 2005, and it currently has 100 major IT projects underway at a cost of £10bn. The committee fears, though, that this money will be wasted if the public do not use online services because they see no benefit in doing so. "Most government services currently available online just provide basic information and advice. More rapid progress now needs to be made to enable people to carry out transactions with government such as applying for a driving licence or claiming benefits," said Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts committee, in a statement accompanying the report. "There is also a need for better marketing strategies to encourage people to actually use what is available online," Leigh added.

There's little dispute that IT and the Internet can revolutionise the way that government supplies services to the public. In its report, Improving Public Services Through e-Government, the committee noted with some concern that this potential is largely not yet being realised. "Very few of the services that citizens routinely use can be fully accessed online," the committee said. To make sure that they provide the right kind of e-services, departments have been advised to work closely with the groups of citizens they are targeting, to try and ensure that their online services are attractive and likely to be used. Even if the government does make a success of using IT to deliver better public services there is also the danger that many people will not benefit, because of the failure to close the Digital Divide. "Groups in society such as the elderly, unemployed, those on low incomes and those with learning difficulties may not have easy access to the Internet with the risk that they are excluded from the benefits of e-government," the report said. Even though some online services are available in banks, post offices and Citizen Advice Bureaux, the public accounts committee wants market research to be conducted on the take-up of this option by the elderly and those on low incomes. Improving Public Services Through e-Government is the latest report to cast doubt on the government's ability to embrace the Internet. As ZDNet UK reported, the National Audit Office said back in April that the government is ignorant about the costs and benefits of putting public services online, and is not doing enough to learn from the experiences of people who are using existing government Web sites.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, 15 December 2003

Britain to Appoint Head of E-government

The CIO for the UK will be charged with building government services around citizens rather than departments, and using technology to improve service delivery at the sharp end. The UK government has confirmed speculation that it will appoint a head of e-government next year as part of its drive to improve the deployment of IT within departments. The post is effectively a chief information officer (CIO) position and will replace the role of e-envoy. A key responsibility of the job will be to improve the government's delivery of online public services by building them around customers and not departments. Other parts of the job will be overseeing the use of technology to improve "front line" service delivery, as well as increasing the automation of back office functions. The government is looking to appoint a heavy hitter with plenty of top-level experience. Andrew Pinder, the current e-envoy, was already expected to leave his position in April 2004 when his contract ends. He proposed that he should be replaced by a CIO who would be able to give leadership on big government IT projects.

The plan to appoint a head of e-government was announced on Monday by Douglas Alexander, minister for the Cabinet Office. Alexander said that the move marked an "evolution in the e-envoy role", and that whoever was appointed would "play a pivotal role in supporting the prime minister's vision for public service reform." Speaking at the launch of the UK Online annual report for 2003, Pinder explained that the priority for the future is to create effective online public services that are tailored for particular users, not just getting departments onto the Internet. "When I began as e-envoy, three and a half years ago, we just prodded government departments to get online. Later, we deepened our role to focus on improving the take-up of those online services," said Pinder, adding that a CIO approach was now needed to improve the delivery of public services via the Internet.

Rather than just putting all the functions performed by each particular department onto the Web, the government now believes it is better to pull together different services from across the public sector into portals designed for different groups of the population, such as small businesses, or perhaps the elderly. This change of approach has been prompted, at least in part, by disappointing take-up of some online government services. Pinder plans to meet headhunters next week as the process of appointing Britain's first head of e-government grinds into action. Advertisements will be published in the New Year, but the government says it has a fairly open mind on what a successful candidate should be. "It could be a senior partner in a consulting firm, or someone who's managed IT for a very big organisation, but we're not ruling anyone out," Pinder told journalists. "It'll be a difficult role to fill, I expect," he added.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, 15 December 2003

E-Gov Chief to Target Public Services

A Head of e-Government is to be appointed to put information technology at the heart of the public service reform programme. A UK Online report out today found that 96 per cent of people now have access to the internet. The post has been created to ensure that IT supports the Government as public services become more customer focussed, with the aim of having all services online by 2005. It represents an evolution in the e-Envoy role that will build on the achievements of the last four years. Speaking at the launch of the UK Online Annual Report today, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and e-Minister Patricia Hewitt said that the appointment of an e-Envoy has been a clear success. "The UK is now one of the world's most connected economies with ICT firmly embedded in the economy, education and wider society," she said.

The report found that: o 96 per cent of the population know of a place where they can readily access the internet at home, work, at a public access point or via mobile technology o the UK has one of the best environments in the world for e-commerce according to independent research, with over £23 billion of business done online in 2002 o broadband take-up is accelerating with over 3m enjoying faster internet access, and 80 per cent of the population now have the option of connecting to broadband o over two-thirds of Government services are now online, and more than half of internet users have used government services and information Ms Hewitt said: "Today's report shows that we have made substantial progress over the last four years in extending the benefits of the internet to everyone who want access to it." New plans for a private sector-led Digital Inclusion Panel were also announced today. The panel will advise on how to reach out to people who have not yet taken advantage of internet and digital television.

From 10 Downing Street (press release), UK, 16 December 2003

E-government Head to Replace Internet Tsar

The post of e-envoy, the internet tsar appointed to promote the benefits of online technologies, will cease to exist in April, the government announced on Monday. The envoy will be replaced by a new head of e-government, who will focus on using information technology to improve government efficiency. The new role will be analogous to a chief information officer in the private sector, Andrew Pinder, the e-envoy, said. "As the civil service starts to get more commercially-minded, it's appropriate that we have something that feels like a group head of IT to provide some leadership across departments." The head of e-government, due to be appointed early next year, will feed into the Treasury-commissioned Gershon review of public sector efficiency.

The head will be responsible for using IT for "driving cost out from service delivery" and freeing up public sector staff for frontline delivery. Ministers want to rationalise the government's "fragmented" internet presence - more than 3,000 gov.uk domain name websites and 900 central government websites - turning it into a service centred on the public rather than Whitehall structures. The new role will also take over the main responsibility for government liaison with IT suppliers. "The head of e-government will play a pivotal role in supporting the prime minister's vision for public service reform. Their task will be to focus on ensuring that IT supports the business transformation of government itself," Douglas Alexander, the Cabinet Office minister, said on Monday.

The new post will not be easy to fill, Mr. Pinder admitted Monday. "We're primarily looking for a Brit, because there are aspects of the role to do with [national] security, and we will almost certainly not find this person in the public sector," he said. "It's more likely it will be a senior person in a consultancy firm or some person running the IT in a very big organisation." Ministers said the government's switch from preaching about the benefits of the internet to making the public sector more cost-efficient reflected the extent to which Britain had embraced new technology. Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary, announced plans for a "digital inclusion panel", a new body, led by the private sector, to advise the government on how to reach people who have yet to use the internet or digital television.

From Financial Times, UK, by Jean Eaglesham, 15 December 2003

Head of e-Government to Replace E-envoy in UK

Cabinet Office Minister Douglas Alexander yesterday announced the Government's intention to appoint a Head of e-Government, and to scrap the role of e-envoy which had been given the task of making all Government services available electronically by 2005. Announcing the responsibilities of the Head of e-Government, Douglas Alexander said: "The appointment of a Head of e-Government represents an evolution in the e-envoy role which will build on the achievements of the last four years. The Head of e- Government will play a pivotal role in supporting the Prime Minister's vision for public service reform. Their task will be to focus on ensuring that IT supports the business transformation of Government itself so that we can provide better, more efficient, public services."

The Head of e-Government will be based in the Cabinet Office and will report to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull and Minister for the Cabinet Office. Specific responsibilities will include: o delivering the existing Cabinet Office target for electronic service delivery; o defining and driving implementation of a Government-wide information systems strategy to support the public sector reform agenda; o defining the architecture, requirements, and standards, and be the intelligent customer, for common Government infrastructure and services; o providing leadership and guidance for the Government IT community; and o acting as the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance. The current e-envoy, Andrew Pinder, was already expected to leave his position in April 2004 when his contract ends. Adverts for the new post are expected to start appearing in the New Year.

From Out-Law.com, UK, 16 December 2003

Scandinavian Countries Take E-government Lead

The UK is unlikely to meet its e-government targets, according to IDC, which finds Denmark, Sweden and Finland ahead of the pack in getting the public sector online - Few European countries will be able to meet the region-wide goal of getting all government services online by 2005, according to a study by IDC released this week, which projected that e-government spending will nearly double in the next five years. Despite much rhetoric on the subject in the UK, the country is not faring particularly well compared with its neighbours, the study found. Denmark was best prepared for e-government both in the ability of the government to deliver services online and in the public's willingness to use them. Sweden and Finland were also well-prepared, according to European eGovernment Services, Country Benchmarking and Market Forecast, 2002 - 2007, published on Monday.

E-government spending across Western Europe will rise from $2.9bn (£1.64bn) in 2002 to $5.8bn in 2007, IDC said. 2002's figures accounted for 16 percent of all public-sector spending on IT services. While countries are unlikely to meet the EU's eEurope Action Plan objective of having all services online by 2005, "e-government has definitely become a key component of government modernization strategies," said Marianne Kolding, director of IDC's European Services research, in a statement. She said that governments are taking other actions aside from creating e-services, such as modernising and integrating back office functions, closing the digital divide and encouraging citizens to use services, investments which will ensure e-government's success after 2005.

Switzerland is lagging behind other European countries in its e-government sophistication because of the country's decentralised public sector, IDC said, while Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal have relatively successful programmes in place, and France is spending the most on e-government in absolute terms. While the target to provide e-government services for all who want them by 2005 was broadly welcomed at the UK's first e-Summit in November - an event in London that brought together an international group of government and industry policy-makers - some argued that more must be done. Speaking at the e-Summit, prime minister Tony Blair acknowledged the problems. "Fifty-four percent of government services are already online," said Blair, "but we recognise that British companies and citizens are still not using those services." ZDNet UK's Matt Loney contributed to this report.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, 17 December 2003

IDeA Launches New eGovernment Services

The IdeA and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) have jointly announced the creation of two new units to support local authorities with the implementation of e-government. The announcement coincided with and supported the publication by Phil Hope MP, Minister for Local eGovernment, of the results of the latest Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) assessments. The ODPM, LGA and IDeA are working together to help all local councils to implement e-government. The IDeA has been asked to expand this help through the creation of two new specialist and complementary teams that are funded through the Local Government Online (LGOL) programme. eGovernment Strategic Support Unit - The e-Government Strategic Support Unit is a strategic advisory service on local e-government that is available free of charge to support all local authorities by sharing advice/good practice and by responding to enquiries/problems. It will work on a 'research once and share many times' basis and so will help to reduce both the costs and risks of implementation.

The advisors are all specialists in specific areas within the local e-Government model, and will provide in-depth support across the range of National Strategy 'building blocks' of local e-government. They will respond to specific enquiries, research areas of difficulty, anticipate future problems, link authorities to National Projects, and disseminate findings to authorities through a number of channels, such as web-based and printed publications, the IDeA website, the e-government resource on IDeA Knowledge, the e-champions network, workshops and seminars. eGovernment Implementation Support Unit - The e-Government Implementation Support Unit will provide assistance to a number of councils that are identified by the ODPM as needing tailored support to meet the 2005 target.

It will provide on-site programme/project management assistance, drawing on peer support. Its managers have extensive experience in local government together with the skills to help individual authorities with their improvement plans and to carry forward their e-government programmes. They will access additional help, support and information for their assigned authorities through the Strategic Support Unit and will thereby help to deliver better services and information to citizens and businesses. John Thornton, Director of e-Government at the IDeA, said: "The Strategic Support Unit will provide all councils with free access to a level of expertise and assistance that even the largest authorities cannot afford on their own. The Implementation Support Unit complements this service with tailored assistance which is available to some of those that need to make more rapid progress."

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 17 December 2003

First Report on Actual Progress Vs UK National eGovernment Strategy

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has published the first year's report, www.localegov.gov.uk One Year On, The national strategy for local e-government into how its National Strategy for eGovernment has fared. It's important reading for anyone involved in local or central eGovernment. Since publication of the National Strategy last November the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister have seen much progress. The programme has proceeded at a rapid pace. It has established 23 National Projects, over 100 Partnerships, a new support and capacity function, launched the new e-innovations fund and LocaleGov web site which has been a success. The report celebrates some of the success stories in local government. Without councils' support the National Projects would not have been established or be starting to deliver their products. In the introduction to the report, Phil Hope MP, Minister for Local e-Government, and Cllr Paul Bettison, e-champion, Local Government Association say: "We are aware that the 2005 target is a challenging one. This report also looks at the risks to the programme and what measures can and are being taken to avoid or mitigate these risks."

The report also outlines a vision of what an e-enabled local council will look like in 2005 from both an organisational and customer perspective. Asa snapshot of the current picture in local government, the report identifies that the average council now:
> Has 60% of services online and expects to get to 100% by 2005
> Has a Member and senior manager e-champion
> IEG strategy is delivering its agreed objectives
> Submitted its IEG3 return including corporate e-Government commitments
> Has an information website to SOCITM's 'content' standard
> Is working towards a single public access telephone contact centre
> Is developing Customer Relationship Management to handle transactions across multiple channels
> Is working toward e-procurement and other e-business solutions
> Is engaged with National Project programme
> Is part of a local e-government partnership
> Is concerned about capacity and resources
> Wants Government to develop:
- Data protection
- Authentication/security
- Common solutions to reduce costs, uncertainty and implementation time

The success of local e-Government is vital to the Government's overall approach to improving public services. e-Government of course is not an end in itself but is an integral part of the bigger picture of improving public services, underpinning organisational change and responsiveness to the public. As local authorities handle 80% of people's dealings with government they are in a unique position to directly effect people's lives. How they interact with their customers in the services they provide is vital. Good progress is being made towards the 2005 target. Councils are committed towards reaching the target but there is further work to be done. ODPM will continue to measure the progress made by local authorities, through the BVPI 157 indicator and IEG statements.

However, although the initial target will have been reached, there is an expectation of further development from the momentum, which has already been established. There are a number of ways in which this progress will be made, particularly if it is supported by local government as a whole. There will be further opportunities for example to replicate the joined up working for citizens and business at a local level, to be taken further to join up service delivery between central and local government. This joining up can bring more citizen satisfaction, greater take up of services. This is the longer term vision that motivates the programme and the examples quoted in this report and significant reductions in back office costs.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 18 December 2003

Public Should Benefit from E-government Savings

A report by the National Audit Office recommends that passports and driving licences should be cheaper once they are available online. The public may show little interest in e-government unless it is cheaper, faster and easier for people to carry out important tasks online than by traditional methods, according to an influential report published on Thursday. The National Audit Office (NAO) has recommended that some of the cost savings that the government will make by providing its services online should be passed on to users. If implemented, this could mean it would be significantly cheaper to buy a driving licence or get a new passport by using a Web-based service, instead of sending an application by post or by visiting a post office, for example. The government is committed to offering all its services online by 2005 but Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, has warned MPs that take-up could be low if many members of the public cannot see any advantage in accessing them electronically. "Departments need to set take-up targets and develop incentives to encourage people to use electronic services. These might include transferring some of the cost savings to users, providing free services and faster service delivery," warned Bourn.

The NAO's report, Better public services through e-government, also identifies other threats that the government must combat if it is committed to providing its services online to a large percentage of the population. The NAO is concerned that while just over half of the 524 services that government departments routinely provide are already online, the vast majority of these only provide information rather than letting people carry out transactions. "Seven services (3 percent) provide grants or benefits online and none collect revenue," warns the NAO. Another NAO concern, given the digital divide, is that people without access to the Internet may be excluded from the benefit of e-government. "Only 7 per cent of those in the lowest income group have Internet access compared to 71 per cent of those on higher incomes," warns the report. It recommends that government departments should actively promote key services that meet the need of specific groups. For example, a Web site targeted specifically at the elderly could be created, with information about issues such as pensions and cold weather fuel payments.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, by Graeme Wearden, 15 December 2003

Use Public Services, Tories Told

Conservative MPs should use public services more often and be proud of it, Tory frontbencher John Bercow has said. Making more use of the NHS and state schools put politicians in touch with voters instead of living in an "ivory tower", he told the Times newspaper. Meanwhile, shadow cabinet minister Tim Yeo appeared to hint the Tory promise to scrap student tuition fees could be changed or ditched. Mr. Yeo pledged to oppose Labour's plans but to listen to university chiefs. Status symbol? Modernising MP Mr. Bercow resigned from Iain Duncan Smith's shadow cabinet over the party's opposition to adoption by unmarried heterosexual and gay couples. In his newspaper interview, the MP, whose wife is a Labour supporter, was critical of people boasting about using private healthcare. "I'm very struck by the fact that people announce the birth of their babies with details such as 'born at the Portland' or whatever as if it is a badge of status to have spent £4,000 on the birth," he said. Mr. Bercow was proud that his son, Oliver, was born in an NHS hospital. "We believe in the principle of the NHS in which treatment is available free at the point of entry. "We are very proud of the NHS. The staff were magnificent."

Mr. Bercow said he would like to use a state school for his son's education "if at all possible". He went on: "If you see public services at their best, or even if you see the problems, then you can deal with your constituents on equal terms and you can level with them instead of seeing it from an ivory tower." His comments follow shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin's remark earlier this year that he would "rather beg" than be forced to send his children to their local London state school. Mr. Bercow said Tory prospects had undergone a "real change" since Michael Howard took over the helm. The new Tory leader could appeal to voters losing faith with the Labour Party. "I thought Michael's first speech was extremely significant when he talked about representing all parts of society," he continued. Third World challenge - Turning to his new international development brief, Mr. Bercow said the Conservatives had an opportunity to show their commitment to the world's poorest people. "For too long the Conservative Party did not have a reputation for caring about the Third World," he said. "Our image was competent but cruel, whereas I think it should be competent and caring."

The Tories were best placed to promote the spread of fair trade and end the protectionism hindering Third World nations, he argued. "If we have a choice between giving a poor country another $10m or letting them earn it, we should do the latter. "The Conservative Party has to demonstrate that it cares about these people. There has always been a strong internationalist streak in the Tory party and we should put this to good use." Tuition shift? Meanwhile, Tory shadow cabinet minister Tim Yeo was asked on BBC Radio 4's World At One about suggestions he had been in talks with university chiefs about ditching or modifying his party's pledge to scrap university tuition fees. "It is my job to understand the concerns and the views of senior figures in the world of higher education about how they think university funding should develop in the next few years," said Mr. Yeo. The Tories were absolutely opposed to the government's current proposals, which face a crunch Commons vote next month, he said. But he argued he was "completely open-minded" about how best to preserve the excellence of British universities. Mr. Yeo added: "We shall fight this bill every inch of the way. "It is a bill which we will oppose because we think it is wrong in principle. "After we know whether or not we have defeated it at the second reading, the landscape which will be inherited by whoever is in government after the next election will become a bit clearer."

From BBC News, UK, 29 December 2003

E-government: A Habit for a Quarter of Italians

Rome - Public online services, or e-government, have become so much part of Italian peoples habits that now a quarter of the entire population of our country has indeed used internet sites for public offices, national or regional. This picture has emerged out of the annual international report published by Taylor Nelson Sofres/Abacus (Tns), drawn up by the Technology Minister's Study Centre. The analysis has, among other things, shown that users are mainly men between 25 and 34 years of age and that now 41 pct of the Italian population has surfed the web over the last month, which is a higher figure than that in Spain and France.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 26 December 2003

 

Rapid PC Penetration Will boost e-Governance in the Arab World

Rapid PC penetration will boost e-Governance in the Arab world: Dubai - PC penetration in the Arab world is poised to record a rapid increase within the next few years, with many of the countries crossing penetration levels of 20 per cent. This augurs well for the various e-governance projects launched by the different governments in the Arab countries, according to Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. Al Shair was delivering the keynote address at the recently held "Regional Workshop on e-Government" organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in association with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Yemen, at Technology City, Sana'a. The workshop was under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Yemen, H.E. Abdelkader BaJamal, who is also the Chairman of the ICT Executive Committee. "Market research findings indicate that the growth in PC penetration and the spread of the Internet are going hand in hand in Arab countries. Though PC penetration in some Arab countries is low compared to the more developed countries, the past few years have shown high levels of energy and dynamism among government circles to implement e-government initiatives," said Al Shair. "The next five years are going to be critical in the implementation of e-government programmes across the region."

Recounting the Dubai eGovernment experience, Al Shair said: "Backed by a time-bound program to migrate more than 70 per cent public services to electronic channels and a 30 per cent PC penetration in the UAE, Dubai eGovernment has succeeded in keeping to its target. In just three years, we have successfully managed to create a proper environment and infrastructure to deliver customer-focused eServices over innovative channels, including mobile devices. Dubai's vision to emerge as the front-runner in e-governance and Knowledge Economy was translated into reality through extensive planning, deployment of best of breed technologies and involvement of all key government departments. The result is that the Dubai eGovernment portal currently delivers over 600 eServices." Al Shair emphasized that, among the requirements for a successful implementation of e-government initiatives were, clear vision and direction, wise leadership and government commitment, accelerated momentum with set goals, quick decision making and establishment of a flexible, robust and scalable infrastructure.

This has to be supported by the adoption of international benchmarking standards and community-focused outreach programs. Referring to Yemen's measures to implement e-governance, Al Shair said: "We would like to commend the Yemeni authorities for adopting a dynamic strategy to energize the key ministries in embracing automation and launching programmes to enhance IT literacy among the people. By hosting this workshop, Yemen has demonstrated its seriousness in pursuing e-governance. The interaction with officials from different countries, including the UAE, will enable Yemen to benefit from the experiences of countries that have had an advance start in e-governance." The workshop featured speakers and experts from different countries that are at various stages of e-governance implementation, including Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Tunisia, India, Yemen and UAE. H.E. Abdulmalik Al-Mualimi, Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, highlighted the Yemeni experience in e-governance on the first day of the workshop. The workshop also featured speakers from UNDP, International Computer Driving License and IT experts from leading global companies. (WAM/TF 18 52 CCCCQQE).

From Dubai Interact, United Arab Emirates, 6 December 2003

Dubai eGovernment Launches Monthly Magazine to Communicate Latest Developments in eServices

Dubai eGovernment has launched a monthly magazine under the name 'e4all' to keep citizens and the business community in the Arab World updated on the latest eServices available in Dubai. The magazine is part of Dubai eGovernment's efforts to extend the e4all concept to different aspects of a citizen's life and promote eLiteracy among the community. The magazine will target a cross-section of users irrespective of IT proficiency, including government employees, public and private sectors. It will also be available at major trade exhibitions and airports. In its campaign to promote eLiteracy and achieve its objective of delivering 70 per cent of public services through innovative electronic channels by 2005, the Dubai eGovernment's primary task is to increase public awareness of its eServices. By communicating these services to Dubai's citizens and business community in an easy to understand format, the magazine will be an informative link between Dubai eGovernment's advanced IT infrastructure and public awareness, thus ultimately increasing usage of the services and the special trade packages on offer for the private sector.

The magazine will carry interesting features, interviews and studies including in-depth analyses of key Government services and a 'Guest of the Month' feature. Readers will be updated on the latest developments in business, and have the opportunity to participate in IT-based competitions. The magazine will also be instrumental in assessing standards of individual services from government departments thus fostering a healthy spirit of competition among the various government departments. The inaugural issue of e4all features an interview with HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, focusing on his vision that has helped make this pioneering project a success.

Commenting on the launch of the magazine, Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment and Editor-in-Chief of e4all, said: 'This publication presents a new communication channel of the Dubai eGovernment by conveying messages directly to the community and businesses. This is an important part of our community outreach campaign to enhance people's awareness of eServices.' 'The first issue has received overwhelming response. We have even received feedback from organizations belonging to other countries asking for more issues, as they are keen to keep track of Dubai eGovernment's development and progress,' Al Shair added. Marwan Al-Naqi, General Coordinator of e4all magazine, said: 'This magazine is the first of its kind representing such an initiative in the Gulf and the Arab world. It will be the true voice of the Dubai eGovernment, one of the leading e-government projects in the Middle East' 'e4all has been created to raise awareness of IT competency among the public and highlight the importance of a digital economy as a catalyst for transforming business and personal life. It will familiarize readers with the core concept of eServices and focus on services they can use electronically. It will also provide insights into forthcoming services and the innovative offerings that make Dubai eGovernment one of the leading performers in the world of e-governance,' Al-Naqi added.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 13 December 2003

Licensing Bureaus Packed as Histadrut Lifts Civil Service Sanctions for Five Hours

Interior Ministry to open today as part of labor federations' easing of strike - The Interior Ministry and the Population Registry Bureaus will be open to the public today from 8 A.M. until 2 P.M., as part of the Histadrut labor federation's plan to ease the burden on a strike-plagued public by opening various government agencies on a rotating basis. For the first time in almost 10 weeks, citizens will be able to renew their passports, obtain identity cards, birth and death certificates, or record changes to their identity cards. The bureaus will not, however, issue diplomatic passports, nor will they provide services to Knesset members or government ministers. Given the large number of citizens who are expected to take advantage of the six-hour hiatus in sanctions, the Interior Ministry yesterday hired the services of a security company to provide extra guards at its offices throughout the country. The Histadrut yesterday allowed the Department of Motor Vehicles to open its doors to the public for five hours. Thousands of citizens descended on offices nationwide Monday, as striking workers returned to their posts for five hours.

In Holon, crowds were so dense that they broke entrance doors off their hinges, and many of the throng - some of whom had waiting outside in long lines during the night - entered without having undergone security checks. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday agreed to a request by Histadrut chairman, MK Amir Peretz (One Nation), to speed up the work of the joint negotiating committees that are discussing the main points of contention. Netanyahu announced that he accepts Peretz's proposal to end the discussion of the teams by the end of this week, which would be followed by a summit meeting between the two men to hammer out the final details of a compromise. A treasury source said yesterday that the team discussing pension reform would convene again this morning, after a day of inactivity. The Histadrut, for its part, it readying itself for a limited general strike next week, if the negotiations fail. On Sunday, the National Labor Court granted the Histadrut approval to hold a limited strike, on condition that it did not affect rescue and public health workers, to vital services like water and electricity, and certain industrial and business sectors.

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Haim Bior, 15 December 2003

Dubai eGovernment's e-Services Will Help Reduce Piracy, Says Business Software Alliance

Business Software Alliance, the non-profit organisation that represents the interests of global software developers, stated that the efforts of Dubai eGovernment to deliver public services through electronic channels and the launch of programs to boost computer literacy are major contributors to reducing software piracy in the UAE. 'Dubai eGovernment's innovative delivery channels, complemented by some great initiatives designed to encourage people to acquire IT skills through cost-effective learning programs, are helping boost IT penetration in the UAE,' said Jawad Al Redha, Co-Chairman of BSA Middle East. 'This contributes to creating a healthy IT industry where global and local software developers can opera

e in a safe and secure environment, and thus provide leading edge solutions for the benefit of the corporate sector and society as a whole.' Al Redha said the availability of more than 600 online services through the Dubai eGovernment portal would encourage the community to adopt online practices to carry out public transactions, indirectly increasing the computer knowledge of those whose competency level in computing is low. 'Dubai eGovernment has displayed great dynamism in devising programs aimed at accelerating IT penetration in the society. The e4all project, for instance, is a significant new initiative that seeks to boost Internet and PC usage through value packages in computer learning, put together in collaboration with experts. Additionally, the launch of the new international IT certification programmes developed by the European Computer Driving Licence Foundation (ICDLF) is another new development that will help increase IT penetration in the region,' Al Redha added.

'Dubai eGovernment has become the torch-bearer of IT education in the region. This government-led initiative will definitely encourage people to use copyrighted software, strengthening our efforts to create a healthy environment for software developers from all over the world,' said Al Redha. 'BSA would like to complement Dubai eGovernment on creating a model eGovernment infrastructure that is bound to go a long way in protecting the intellectual property rights of software developers.' 'Dubai e-Government was launched with a clear vision of establishing a knowledge society,' said Salem Al Shair, eServices Director, Dubai eGovernment. 'This involved implementing leading edge IT solutions backed by the world's best hardware and software suppliers. In such a scenario, there is certainly no place for pirated software. To derive optimum benefits from eServices, it is imperative that people use only original copyrighted software. We fully support the BSA's campaign against software piracy and are pleased that our approach is helping it achieve its objective.'

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 22 December 2003

Brunei Inks $23.5 Million e-Government Deal

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei's determined efforts to reach a speedy realisation of an eGovernment system received a further impetus yesterday with the signing of a contract worth over B$23.5 million for a project known as PMOnet that will connect all government agencies with centralized management of common facilities. This state of the art project will enable a seamless integration and collaboration across government agencies towards a more efficient and effective service delivery to the nation. This is the second main eGovernment programme initiative after the Treasury Accounting Financial System (TAFIS), which was launched earlier. The contract signed yesterday at the Indera Kayangam ballroom of the Empire Hotel and Country Club, was between the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang DiPertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Syabas Technologies. According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office the agreement is for the "Supply, Delivery, Installation, Development, Testing and Commissioning of the Enterprise Data and Network Center, Network Infrastructure and Services including the Operations and Management Data and Network Center for the Prime Minister's Office".

The Guest of Honour at the signing ceremony was the Minister of Communications, Pehin Dato Hj Awg Zakaria Datu Mahawangsa Hj Sulaiman, who is also the chairman of the Brunei Information Technology Council (BIT Council). Dato Paduka Awg Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office signed on behalf of His Majesty's Government, while CEO Syabas Technologies Sheikh Abbas Sheikh Mohamad signed on behalf of the company. The $23.5 million project, is also known as PMOnet and will also include the change management programme, training packages and addressing the transfer of technology and know how to the Prime Minister's Office, The Enterprise Data Center (EDC), which constitutes one of the major components of PMOnet which plays a vital role in the Prime Minister's Office efforts in establishing a service delivery infrastructure to facilitate the effective dissemination of information and services electronically within the departments under the Prime minister's Office. EDC will serve as Prime Minister's Office single gateway to the public network (Internet), sharing a common security features in preventing any malicious attacks and unauthorized access to the ministry-wide network.

It will be operated and managed by adequate technical resources with relevant experience and expertise, ensuring high availability of services on a 24hours X 7 days basis. Services to be incorporated in the EDC are the Collaborative e-Office (CEO), Enterprise Service Portal (ESP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which will contribute to and facilitate the Prime Minister's Office effort to be a more customer-oriented organization. The ESP will enable public to access information and services being offered including the hosting of government websites, which are currently being hosted by the Telecommunications Department. What is also interesting is that the CRM system will help the Prime Minister's Office to identify and monitor all applications, grievances and actions a taken by relevant agencies. The CEO will create an environment to enable collaboration and communication across agencies in delivering their services with improved productivity and performance through the use of e-mail Syabas technologies in partnership with IBM will work together with the Prime Minister's Office to deliver the proposed Enterprise Data and Network Center, Network Infrastructure and Services, which includes the operations and management of the Data and Network Center. (Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin).

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, by Lyna Mohammad, 23 December 2003

Sarawak Set to Achieve E-government Status

Kuching - The Sarawak civil service has been given until 2008 to achieve full electronic-government (EG) status. State Secretary Datuk Amar Abdul Aziz Husain said a full EG status would be indicated by the availability of all government services through virtual means, according to The Star yesterday. "In my mind, full EG status is when the public can receive the full range of government services virtually, anytime and anywhere, and at affordable costs," he said in a keynote address at the E-Government Initiatives Conference here on Monday. Towards this end, he said the state would develop more ICT systems to deliver services to the public.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, 25 December 2003

 

Baez Chosen Chairman of Public Service Commission

Tallahassee, Fla. - The Public Service Commission, the body that regulates Florida's utilities and approves their rates, voted unanimously Tuesday to make Braulio Baez its chairman. Baez' term starts Jan. 6. Baez was appointed to the PSC by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 and reappointed last year for a term ending in January 2006. Before becoming a commissioner, Baez was a lawyer in Miami specializing in telecommunications regulatory law. He also served as an executive assistant to Public Service Commissioner Joe Garcia from 1994 to 1998.

From Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL, 2 December 2003

Convera Simplifies Taxonomy Creation Mandated by US e-Government Act

Convera has announced that its new Taxonomy Workbench will help government agencies comply with the e-Government Act of 2002. The company says that through customized taxonomy creation, the Workbench allows agencies to improve the way public information is organized on government Web sites. With what is claimed to be a complete set of tools for organizing large amounts of disparate government data, the Taxonomy Workbench aims to reduce the time and expense required to comply with Section 207 of the e-Government Act of 2002. The Workbench is designed for easy use by information managers, librarians, and subject matter experts, according to Convera. Graphical and intuitive, the Taxonomy Workbench also sets out to address another critical mandate in the e-Government Act - the preservation of government information - by classifying diverse data into efficient taxonomies. The Act illustrates how effective taxonomy development is the lynchpin for delivering quick online search results on government Web sites. Signed into law by the President on December 17, 2002, the legislation requires compliance within two years - by December 17, 2004.

From Tenders Direct, UK, 2 December 2003

Convera Simplifies Taxonomy Creation Mandated by E-Government Act; Information on Government Web Sites and Intranets Easily Organized and Searched With New Taxonomy Workbench

Vienna, Va. - Convera (Nasdaq:CNVR), a leading provider of search and categorization software for enterprises and government agencies, today announced that its new Taxonomy Workbench will help government agencies comply with the E-Government Act of 2002. Through customized taxonomy creation, the Workbench allows agencies to improve the way public information is organized on government Web sites. A complete set of tools for organizing large amounts of disparate government data, the Taxonomy Workbench reduces the time and expense required to comply with Section 207 of the E-Government Act of 2002. User-friendly and interactive, the Workbench is designed for easy use by information managers, librarians, and subject matter experts. Using the Workbench to create taxonomies, key agency personnel can integrate their collective knowledge and expertise to organize vast quantities of data in an automated environment. Graphical and intuitive, the Taxonomy Workbench also addresses another critical mandate in the E-Government Act - the preservation of government information - by classifying diverse data into efficient taxonomies.

The Act illustrates how effective taxonomy development is the lynchpin for delivering quick online search results on government Web sites. Signed into law by the President on December 17, 2002, the legislation requires compliance within two years - by December 17, 2004. (To view an online copy of the Act, use the following link to reference taxonomies in Section 207: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/ cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ347.107) (Due to the length of this URL, it may be necessary to copy and paste this hyperlink into your Internet browser's URL address field.) "Through 2006, more than 70 percent of firms, including federal agencies, that invest in unstructured information-management initiatives will not achieve targeted return on investment due to under investment in taxonomy building," said Rita Knox, Research Director and Vice President, Gartner Research. "In 2003, there has been a major rise in explicit concerns about "taxonomies"; few professionals have the intuition or the skills to build robust, extensive and long-lived taxonomies."

The new product makes taxonomy creation easy for a broad range of users by: -- Developing Completely New Taxonomies: Customized to an agency's particular needs, the Workbench helps create an easily searched organization structure for each agency's own specific online public information. -- Importing Existing Taxonomies and Thesauri: To maintain a simple approach to using data organization models already have in place, users can integrate and modify an agency's existing taxonomies or thesauri. Automated import, generation, combination and pruning wizards aid in accelerated taxonomy and classification development. -- Testing, Benchmarking and Tuning Taxonomies and Classifications: A full suite of taxonomy quality measurement tools helps ensure the general public using a government Web site will not need to search unnecessary layers of data for details they need. Convera's static and dynamic benchmarking tools significantly reduce the time to create and maintain quality taxonomies, offering measurable ROI. Utilizing a graphical interface, users can highlight certain data, identify taxonomies and simply watch their monitor as the newly created taxonomies are populated by dispersed data.

ll categorization processes, including normalization, latching, idiom detection, disambiguation and ranking are performed through benchmarking. -- Translating Human Subject Area Expertise into Fast Web Site Browsing and Searching: User friendly and ideal for large agencies, the Taxonomy Workbench allows agencies to capture the expertise of domain subject experts online by building in-depth methods of search on a particular data set. Multiple users on different development platforms can work simultaneously, yet securely, creating taxonomies and classifications. "Simple and effective information access impacts everyone associated with the government whether you are searching online for tax forms, travel warnings, consumer credit laws or even homeland security precautions," said Dr. Claude Vogel, Chief Technology Officer, Convera. "Convera's new Taxonomy Workbench is the science behind matching a government agency's data assets with understandable categories to preserve any type of public information online." For customized agency results, Convera supports 20 different domain cartridges and offers the following standard taxonomies such as DTIC 2003 (Defense Technical Information Center) thesaurus produced by the U.S. Defense Department; GO 2003 (gene ontology); MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) produced by the National Library of Medicine; and Geography.

From Business Wire (press release), 2 December 2003

eGovernment Looks to Open Source

A detailed announcement of a three-day government software conference set for next Spring appeared at Slashdot yesterday. Civilian and military bureaucrats and their private sector contractors regularly get together to smooze about computing systems and software, but this confab made Slashdot's front page because it will be dedicated to Open Source in eGovernment. All three days, Open Source. The full name of the conference is: "Open Source for National and Local eGovernment Programs in the U.S. and EU." It will be held in Washington, DC on March 17 through 19, 2003. The announcement invites participants - including especially companies involved with Open Source solutions - to submit papers and demos on a broad list of topics (linked below). This eGovernment Open Source conference will be well attended this year. Local, State, and Federal IT managers both in the US and abroad have had bad experiences with the dominant proprietary software vendor lately.

What with heavy-handed BSA software licensing audits, high upgrade costs (with an alternative of submission to lock-in software rental contracts) and arrogant, high-pressure sales tactics, many government IT executives are, um... disenchanted with Microsoft is a polite way of putting it. Other factors leading government IT officials into serious consideration of Open Source software include wrenching budget shortfalls, the dawning recognition that Open Source is working in mission-critical roles, and a growing understanding of several Open Source strengths: higher security and reliability, more user control and flexibility, open standards and APIs, avoidance of unnecessary duplication, plus lower overall costs. The Slashdot story is available here. The conference webpage can be found at the sponsoring organization site.

From The Inquirer, UK, by Egan Orion, 1December 2003

Lieberman Accuses DHS of Violating E-Gov Act

The ranking member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee has charged that the Homeland Security Department broke the law by not conducting and publicizing a privacy impact assessment for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology System. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) today sent a letter to DHS secretary Tom Ridge asking him to explain why the department is going forward with the program before it finishes the privacy assessment. Homeland Security has been testing US Visit, which collects travelers' fingerprints for tracking their entry into the country and exit from it, at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport since Nov. 17. The agency plans to implement the first version of the system at 113 airports and 14 seaports nationwide in early January [See GCN coverage from Nov. 14 at www.gcn.com/vol1_no1/daily-updates/24175-1.html ]. The E-Government Act of 2002 - and Office of Management and Budget regulations--requires agencies to conduct privacy impact assessments in the planning stages of a project. "The PIA must be conducted before the agency develops or procures information technology for the program," Lieberman wrote in his letter to Ridge. "If this assessment is not conducted until the system is on the verge of becoming operational, the PIA becomes a pro forma exercise.

After hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in the deployment of the next phase of US Visit, it seems highly unlikely that agency officials would reconsider the system's design or configuration on the eve of deployment." Lieberman said conducting a privacy assessment "reassures the public that new technologies have not been developed at the expense of privacy safeguards." DHS has been working on a privacy impact assessment, but has not completed it. Lieberman asked Ridge to explain: o Why an impact assessment was not finished before the technologies were purchased; o What the consequences of this omission are: o When the assessment will be released; o How the department will respond to any privacy concerns identified during the process; o What DHS will do to ensure that the future privacy assessments will be completed in a timely manner. This is the fourth time since June that US Visit has come under fire from lawmakers. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, earlier this month sent a letter to Ridge and secretary of State Colin Powell asking for specifics of the project's IT plan and the coordination between DHS and State. [See GCN Coverage from Dec. 1 www.gcn.com/vol1_no1/daily-updates/24315-1.html .] The General Accounting Office also has released two reports detailing its concerns about US Visit.

From GCN.com, 5 December 2003

E-gov: A Year in Review

Government officials and observers report on the progress made under the E-Gov Act of 2002 - One year ago this month, President Bush signed into law the E-Government Act of 2002, which Congress and administration officials hailed as a turning point for government operations. The act provides agencies with a laundry list of technology guidelines and mandates intended to ease the transition of paper-based information and services to the Internet, opening up a new channel through which the public can interact with government. As the one-year anniversary approaches, observers are questioning the impact of the law. For many, it simply conveys the message that e-government is a priority. For others, the law should - or at least could - help shape e-government now and in the future. Several areas have received intense focus. As the act requires, agency officials are filing regular reports to the Office of Management and Budget that assess their progress on ensuring the privacy and security of their data and systems. And OMB has created a permanent e-government position. But privacy and security were already near the top of the Bush administration's agenda, and a de facto e-government leader was already in place. The law touched on nearly every aspect of technology management. It defined measurements of e-government success and expectations for action. It solidified legislative concepts and activities, attaching funding and deadlines to actions and outlining priorities.

It also required the development of some key e-government applications. The progress agencies make in lesser-known areas can serve as a useful gauge for measuring the act's overall impact. Here's a look at five such provisions, with a snapshot of the success agencies have had and the work still to be done. Web site guidance - Synopsis: Talking the talk, but a long walk to walk - One of the underpinnings of e-government is the Internet itself. One goal of the E-Government Act is to develop some rules of the road that every agency must follow. After the act has been in effect for two years, OMB officials are expected to release guidance for agency Web sites to ensure they include information about the agency, its strategic plan, tools to gather data and security measures to protect information. OMB, accordingly, has established an Interagency Committee on Government Information. The committee is expected to conduct studies on the accessibility and preservation of government information, and make recommendations. The group has begun work and is focused on the deadline, OMB officials said. "Basically, under the committee, we have a working group led by the Office of Citizen Services in [the General Services Administration] that is bringing together people from across the federal government to provide recommendations to OMB on this issue," an OMB official said. "There are so many people across government with roles in this. We really felt the need to gather an interagency group to do this."

However, a staff member for Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee said the interagency committee has been established only on paper and there have been no meetings. Beyond Web site guidance, the group is charged with defining standards for categorizing government information and establishing schedules for implementing the standards. "That committee is going to have a lot to do," the staffer said. "We're not just talking about government information already on the Internet. We're talking about information stored in any form and how that information can be made electronically searchable. That's very complicated when you think about how much government information there is, and you need interoperability standards on how it would be retrieved." System interoperability - Synopsis: Focused on architecture, fuzzy on funding - An even more ambitious provision aims to solve agencies' perpetual lack of interoperable information systems. Although the legislation mandates that a study be performed within three years of the act's implementation to determine agencies' progress toward that integration, the real effort has taken the form of the federal enterprise architecture. The architecture presents a framework for system development through five models. OMB has released versions of the performance, business, services and technical reference models, and will continue to revise them.

The final and most complicated component - the data reference model - is in its final pre- release stages. Agencies are required to link IT projects in the budget process to the federal architecture, which then allows OMB officials to help coordinate and integrate IT programs government wide. In essence, this architecture work fits right into the language of the law, OMB officials said. The reference models "are in large part creating standards for interoperability," an official said. "So it made perfect sense to link this requirement up with the federal enterprise architecture." It's not technology that stands in the way of interoperability, said Roger Baker, former chief information officer at the Commerce Department. Instead, it's cultural barriers that impede information and process sharing among agencies. The act, he said, falls short in addressing interoperability, because funding has not been authorized to provide incentives for sharing. "Interoperability is not a technology issue," Baker said. "It would be very, very straightforward to make the systems interoperable. The only people who want that are the technologists. There is a reason why the 40 [terrorist] watch lists exist, and it has nothing to do with technology." Bruce McConnell, president of McConnell International LLC and former chief of information policy and technology at OMB, echoed those funding concerns, particularly regarding the federal enterprise architecture.

This seems to be a common problem with e-government, he said, and the Bush administration has not been effective in convincing Congress to spend the money. "My contention is they have not educated, reached out effectively to the appropriations committees," he said. "The fact that stuff has been authorized but not appropriated shows they haven't done their homework. The job's only half done." R&D repository - Synopsis: Good start but looking for closure - Another example of a job half done is the creation of a database on federal research and development funding. According to the law, the database should include details about each funding award, such as the dates of the opportunity and the total funds attached to the project. The law was based on work already under way at the National Science Foundation and the Defense Department, OMB officials said, and the interagency committee will expand those efforts. The process is much like Grants.gov, a Web portal for information on federal grants available government wide, launched in October. Similarly, OMB would establish a policy framework for agencies, setting the standard for what information to post, officials said. "R&D is just a different slice," one OMB official said. "All of those opportunities are available and viewable to the public in terms of what they are doing, who's doing it and how much money there is." Committee members are looking for ways to expand NSF's Research and Development in the United States (RADIUS) system.

Developed by Rand Corp., a nonprofit research institute, the system supports the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It is the first comprehensive database that allows users to search for information on the more than $75 billion in annual federal R&D funds, according to Rand. Despite authorizations in the act for $2 million each fiscal year through 2005, no money has been appropriated. "They are looking for ways to refine the current system to comply with the act," said David Marin, a spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee and one of the E-Government Act's authors. "The act authorizes appropriations for the development, maintenance and operation of the repository, but the funding has yet to be appropriated. That disappoints us." Lieberman's staff member agreed that the NSF project needs funding, but said it's ready to be implemented today. "The existing RADIUS system is fully operational, and could be made publicly available immediately at essentially no additional cost," he said. "OMB may not yet understand how easy that is. They just need a modest dedicated funding stream, equivalent to past expenditures, to get it done." Courthouse Web sites - Synopsis: Ahead of the curve before the race began - The law recommends each court establish and maintain a Web site with information on its location, rules or general orders, access to docket information of each case and written court opinions .

The Web sites should be up and running within two years of the act's implementation. However, the act didn't bring a sweeping transformation to the way the judicial branch does business, according to Karen Redmond, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Courts. "That's because many of the requirements of the E-Government Act already have been met by the federal courts," she said. Almost all courts of appeals, district courts and bankruptcy courts have Web sites, and several courts have exceeded the mandates, Redmond said. For example, in the middle district of North Carolina, the court's calendar, updated hourly during the workday, can be accessed online. The act also requires access to electronic documents and written opinions, an effort the judiciary started a couple of years ago with creation of the Case Management/Electronic Case Files systems. The systems now hold more than 14 million documents, Redmond said, and the number of courts using them increases each month. Davis is pleased with the courts' progress, but said there is room for improvements. "Some Web sites have search engines," Marin said. "However, the Court Administration and Case Management Committee of the Judicial Conference is working on overcoming logistical challenges to improving Web site search ability and establishing uniform search engines across federal court Web sites. We'll need to keep a close eye on that."

Online tutorial - Synopsis: Less a question of progress than process - Although many provisions of the E-Government Act come with hard and fast deadlines, others are tougher to pin down. One often overlooked section of the act recommends that OMB officials work with the Education Department and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent organization, to develop a Web-based tutorial for accessing government services and information online. As envisioned by the law's authors, the tutorial would be available at community technology centers and libraries nationwide. The act authorized $2 million each for fiscal 2003 and 2004, but officials are relying on existing resources, the official said. The tutorial does not have a deadline attached to it, and the official called it an ongoing process. OMB has asked IMLS to take the lead on this project. Mamie Bittner, the institute's director of public and legislative affairs, said it is partnering with Education and state and local libraries on this effort, but a spokesman for Education said IMLS has volunteered to spearhead the effort for the agency. Nonetheless, Bittner said institute officials would be expanding on similar work under way at the agency, such as a tutorial developed for grant seekers. "An initial meeting has occurred to frame this effort," she said of the tutorial suggested in the act. "The group will develop a guide for use by community technology centers, public libraries and citizens to help them access government services online."

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 8 December 2003

Official Sees Hurdles for 'Open Source' E-government

The lack of clear points of contact for conducting business with companies in the "open source" software industry has hampered the ability of that industry to grow effectively within the government, a former Pentagon official said on Thursday. Certification and accreditation of open-source software, whose underlying code is open to inspection and alteration, is a "huge stumbling block" for the industry," Doug Maughan said during a Secure Trusted Operating System conference at George Washington University. He said because no single company owns open source, the open-source community has had a difficult time finding anyone to fund the certification and accreditation process. Apple Computer is the exception, he said. It has taken steps to test and evaluate its product. Maughan, who currently works at the nonprofit Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and formerly headed the open-source research project at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), argued that testing and evaluation is the "door to the procurement world," which in turn would help commercialize the product.

He said DARPA's project helped move open-source software into the government mainstream and improved assurances of the products, but research and development needs to continue. "It's not there yet," he said. "None of the open-source software is as good as it needs to be." The problem is finding a place in government that will continue to fund the research, he added. He said the federal government finds it difficult to use open-source software because it lacks a centralized clearinghouse, unlike proprietary software. "Today's model is not working - at least in the government," Maughan said, adding that the government "is looking for a single - or at most a few - belly-buttons to push." The open-source community must "congeal" in order to succeed, he advised. Maughan, who is working with the Homeland Security Department to organize its critical infrastructure and cyber-security research agenda, is hoping to join the department in 2004 to head cyber-security research under the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA). He would like to use a small part of that agency's budget to fund open-source research, he said.

From GovExec.com, 5 December 2003

PureEdge Picked For E-Government Grants Initiative

PureEdge Solutions, a provider of automation for form-based business processes, has been awarded a contract "to provide secure, browser-based e-forms for the Grants.gov E-Government initiative." With this deal, PureEdge says, its XML e-forms will be used for Grants.gov's grant applications. It is projected that 15,000 users will submit grants through the portal during the system's first year of operation. The grants are issued to state and local governments, academics, non-profit groups and other organizations.

The grants.gov portal is part of President Bush's E-Government initiatives and "will provide a single, secure and reliable source for applying for Federal Grants online," PureEdge notes. "Applicants will download and fill out forms offline, and then submit them with proper authentication. By offering an electronic means of submitting grant applications, Grants.gov is improving service delivery methods while creating internal efficiencies by streamlining processes and eliminating redundancies." "As one of the major Presidential E-Government implementations, Grants.gov shows how agencies can work together to make it easy for citizens, businesses, non-profits, and state and local governments to find and apply for grants. There are thousands of grants provided by over two hundred government bureaus. Until now, those needing grants had to pay someone to help them navigate the government's maze. Grants.gov eliminates paper-based processes and streamlines the bureaucracy to better to meet the needs of citizens," said Mark Forman, executive vice president, Worldwide Services, Cassatt Corporation and former U.S. Administrator for E-Government and IT. "It is a good example of how the initiative is leading the way for greater operational efficiency and reduced costs within government, and how e-government is becoming a reality for employees, businesses and citizens in the United States."

PureEdge points out that its technology "is based on document-centric, XML-based architecture to provide organizations with the power to manage the entire lifecycle of each business process, including creation, routing, management and archiving. With PureEdge, Grants.gov users will have the ability to digitally sign documents, use both ad hoc and structured routing, work remotely, move data in and out of corporate systems and store all elements of a process in one secure file. This integration of PureEdge's front-end technology with Grants.gov's existing backend architecture will create a complete end-to-end content management solution." "We're very pleased to be playing a significant role in this e-government initiative," said Mark Upson, CEO, PureEdge Solutions. "Government departments and agencies now recognize the need for e-forms that are intelligent, secure and XML-based. Grants.gov's selection of PureEdge technology for this project is a testament to the value we offer to our government customers by enabling them to create operational efficiencies and lower costs. Ultimately, this enables government to improve service between departments and other levels of government, as well as with citizens, businesses and employees."

From ebizQ, NY, 9 December 2003

Shifting Responsibility for Public Services from State to Counties Led to Decreased Health Spending in California, Finds New Analysis

Berkeley - In 1991, the California legislature shifted the responsibility of providing health, social and mental health services from the state to the counties in a landmark effort to resolve the state's fiscal crisis and to increase local control and delivery of services. As a result of this "realignment," however, per capita spending on public health has decreased, particularly in counties where there is a greater need for social services, according to a new analysis by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. After California's 1991 Realignment Bill was enacted, per capita health services expenditures fell in the state by about nine percent from an average of $190 to $174, according to the findings, which were released today (Monday, Dec. 8) in a policy brief by the Petris Center on Healthcare Markets and Consumer Welfare at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. "The study is important because it is the first rigorous analysis of the impact of decentralizing control and spending on health services in California," said Richard Scheffler, UC Berkeley professor of health economics and public policy, director of the Petris Center and co-author of the study. "California's experiences should serve as an important example for other states and for the federal government as they move to decentralize responsibility for providing services to the public."

The policy brief comes at a time when state legislators are considering significant cuts to state health programs for low-income residents. State cuts that are now on the table could reduce health service spending over the next two years by as much as $720 million, including $600 million in cuts to Medi-Cal reimbursements. "This brief raises concerns about the impact of further cuts to public health programs for low-income residents in the state," said Scheffler. "Per capita spending on health services has already been reduced, and counties are being stretched in their efforts to provide public services for their residents. Large cuts in state health programs will significantly increase the financial pressure on counties because they would leave low-income residents even more dependent upon county programs." The researchers analyzed annual expenditures from 25 counties, representing about 85 to 90 percent of the state population, from 1986 to 2000, inclusive. The 15-year period covers the five years prior to and the first 10 years following enactment of the realignment bill. Counties that were not included, such as San Francisco, did not have expenditure data available and were left out of the analysis. The researchers found that in San Diego County, the average per capita spending for health services declined by nine percent from an average of $86 before 1991 to $78 after 1991.

Several large counties throughout the state also saw declines in per capita health spending after 1991, including a 19 percent decline from $74 to $60 in Orange County. Although there were a few counties that saw increases in spending on health services, the researchers found that overall, there was a proportionally greater decline of health spending in areas where the demand for social services are greatest. According to a 2001 report by the state Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO), there was actually a net increase in funds allocated to social services after the realignment bill was passed. The LAO report notes that from 1993 to 1998, total of $133.3 million was diverted from health and mental health services into social services. The researchers said this reflects one of the most significant changes from the realignment bill: Counties were given the flexibility to transfer funds between health, mental health and social services. They said rules governing use of the funds favored money moving from health to social services. For instance, counties were allowed to shift up to 20 percent of funds from health services to pay for social services by the second year of realignment. It wasn't until three years after the bill was passed that counties were allowed to transfer funds in the other direction, diverting up to 10 percent of funds from social services to either health or mental health services.

"Counties were perhaps faced with a dilemma with regard to funding health and social services," said study co-author Richard Smith, assistant professor of economics at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and a faculty affiliate at UC Berkeley's Petris Center. "They are mandated by state and federal law to fully fund certain social service programs, but no such mandate exists for health services. As caseloads increased for social services, counties with large indigent populations may have felt like they had no choice but to reduce access to health services in order to adequately fund mandated social service programs." Merced County, with the highest proportion of residents in social service programs, saw a 43 percent drop in per capita health service spending after the realignment bill was passed, while Sacramento County, with the fourth highest proportion of residents in social service programs, saw a 20 percent drop, the researchers found. "We don't know how the net decreases in per capita spending on health services have affected health outcomes, but any time you take money away from health care services you exacerbate the stress of an already overburdened health care system," said Smith. "Accessing health services may have become more difficult in counties where the social service needs are highest, and that is troubling. The people who are affected most by these changes tend to be the most vulnerable in the state."

From UC Berkeley (press release), CA, by Sarah Yang, 9 December 2003

Hardeeville Public Services Plan for Expansion

People are still reacting to the plan that will triple the size of Hardeeville. If two enormous tracts of land are annexed into the city limits, city services like public works and the police and fire departments will be a lot busier. The fire department is well on its way. Their plan includes two trucks, 24 more employees and substations in the future. "The money that is used to pay for trucks and such comes from various accounts that have been coming down through grant money or various funds," explained the city's Rob Dewig. "It is not coming out of taxpayer money." The public works department hopes to double its staff by next summer, and the police department also wants to buy four more cars soon.

From WTOC, GA, by Chris Cowperthwaite, 10 December 2003

Changes in the Senior Ranks of the Public Service and other Appointments

Ottawa, Ontario - Later today, Prime Minister Paul Martin will be making the following changes in the senior ranks of the Public Service: Margaret Bloodworth, currently Deputy Minister of National Defence, becomes Deputy Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, effective December 12, 2003. Hélène Gosselin, currently Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence, will be Acting Deputy Minister of National Defence, effective December 12, 2003. Alain Jolicoeur, currently Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, becomes President of the Canada Border Services Agency, effective December 12, 2003. Denis Lefebvre, currently Assistant Commissioner, Customs Branch, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, has been named Executive Vice-President of the Canada Border Services Agency, effective December 12, 2003. J. Michael Horgan, currently Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Finance, becomes Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, effective December 12, 2003. Nicole Jauvin, currently Deputy Solicitor General of Canada, becomes Deputy Minister of Social Development, effective December 12, 2003. Wayne Wouters, currently Deputy Minister of Human Resources Development and Deputy Minister of Labour, becomes Deputy Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, effective December 12, 2003. Maryantonnett Flumian, currently Associate Deputy Minister of Human Resources Development, becomes Associate Deputy Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and will exercise the functions of Deputy Minister of Labour, effective December 12, 2003.

Michelle Chartrand, currently Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Senior Personnel and Special Projects), Privy Council Office, becomes President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, effective December 12, 2003. Monique Boudrias, currently Assistant Deputy Minister, Task Force on Modernizing Human Resources Management in the Public Service, Privy Council Office, becomes Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, effective December 12, 2003. Robert A. Wright, currently Associate Secretary to the Cabinet, Deputy Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister and Security and Intelligence Coordinator, Privy Council Office, becomes National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister in addition to his current responsibilities, effective December 12, 2003. Arthur Carty, currently President, National Research Council, will become National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, effective April 1, 2004. Jonathan Fried, currently Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, becomes Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister and Head of the Canada-United States Secretariat, Privy Council Office, effective December 12, 2003. Marie-Lucie Morin, currently Assistant Deputy Minister, International Business and Chief Trade Commissioner, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, becomes Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, effective December 12, 2003.

John L. Adams, currently Assistant Deputy Minister, Marine Services and Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, will be appointed at a level equivalent to that of an Associate Deputy Minister to serve as Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, effective December 12, 2003. Cassie Doyle, currently Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Service Innovation, Environment Canada, becomes Associate Deputy Minister of the Environment, effective December 12, 2003. The Prime Minister also announced the creation of an advisory committee and the establishment of a secretariat within the Privy Council Office to assist in the development and implementation of a New Deal for cities. The advisory committee to be chaired by Michael Harcourt, former Premier of British Columbia, will include other members to be named at a later date. Mr. Harcourt is Chair of the International Centre for Sustainable Cities, Senior Associate of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia, Vice-chair of CitiesPLUS and Senior Associate with the Sustainable Development Research Institute of the University of British Columbia.

He previously served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and, from 1991 to 1996, served as Premier of British Columbia. Mr. Harcourt studied at the University of British Columbia where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws. The advisory committee will be supported by the Cities Secretariat in the Privy Council Office, under the direction of Yazmine Laroche who will serve as Head of the Secretariat. Ms. Laroche is currently Assistant Deputy Minister, Planning and Corporate Affairs, Canadian Heritage, a position she has held since September 2000. In addition, the Prime Minister announced the creation of the Task Force on Active Living and Dignity for Seniors, to be chaired by Tony Ianno, Member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina. The Task Force reporting to the Prime Minister will make recommendations on the policy changes required to improve the quality of life of seniors. It will examine current programming, new community-based approaches, and possible pension adjustments, in consultation with seniors and their organizations.

From Government of Canada Newsroom (press release), Canada, 12 December 2003

Former E-government Officials Favor Governmentwide Plan

The federal government should create a flexible, governmentwide information technology plan to cut costs and expand services, including new applications for homeland security, two former senior federal officials said on Thursday at a Hewlett-Packard-sponsored event. Stephen Squires, Hewlett-Packard's chief science officer and a former senior official with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Mark Forman, the former e-government and information technology chief at the White House, said the government should use inexpensive network servers, advanced computer-operating systems, and specialized software applications to create a tech framework that could eliminate redundant systems in federal agencies. Separately, Forman told reporters that Congress' reluctance to meet the Bush administration's request for a central e-government fund will not thwart implementation of such initiatives. Hewlett-Packard is repositioning itself as a framework computing company, shifting computer intelligence from desktop systems to networks, and the conference was designed to demonstrate how an "adaptive enterprise" would work for government. "In the future, we will look at computers the way we look at electricity," with portable computer devices that "just plug into the wall," said Bruce Klein, vice president of HP's federal division.

Squires said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks demonstrated that the U.S. defense complex had "over-optimized itself to win the Cold War" and needs to be retooled for the 21st century. "The only way the United States will achieve strategic advantage in economic and strategic security is to work with emerging technologies," he said. Building government-wide systems can create a virtual network of critical resources - including emergency response and supplies - that could be activated and monitored quickly, Squires said. With 85 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure in private hands, government and industry must cooperate to build an intelligent communications network that goes "beyond the Internet." Such a network could track, locate and communicate with "first responders" to emergencies. "The day will come when there will be a building-code requirement in every room for ubiquitous wireless communication," Squires said, "giving business and government a strategic advantage in ordinary times and also during an extraordinary event."

Forman noted that the greatest recent computer innovations have been in infrastructure. The law of diminishing returns shows that devoting money and personnel toward a management problem yields limited results, he said, whereas adaptable computer infrastructures yield greater returns. Forman said oversight of government technology by House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., and Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., is moving the government toward a leveraged computer system. The Linux computer-operating system soon will play a bigger role in federal technology, Forman said. "Linux is more robust; it fits better for heavy-duty applications," he said of the "open source" system that is open to review and alteration. "There's a clear path to Linux for servers." He further argued that a central e-government fund is not essential for tech deployment, but that continued oversight by the White House Office of Management and Budget is. OMB can go to individual agencies and tell them to "shut down redundant investments and join the common plan," Forman said.

From GovExec.com, by Ted Leventhal, 11 December 2003

Medical Library, Student Aid Sites Score High in E-gov User Satisfaction

A health library and the online application for federal college aid topped the latest quarterly survey of e-government customer satisfaction. Just over half of the 35 surveyed Web sites received a passing grade of 70 or above on a 100-point scale, according to the survey. The survey, released today, looked at 35 federal sites that use the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) developed by the University of Michigan. The main site of MedlinePlus, a medical information portal run by the National Library of Medicine at medlineplus.gov scored 86 out of 100 points on ASCI. The Spanish-language counterpart to MedlinePlus, at medlineplus.gov/esp, scored an 82. Matching the main MedlinePlus site's score of 86 was the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at www.fafsa.ed.gov, which lets college students determine eligibility for federal grants, loans and work-study programs.

The National Women's Health Information Center, at www.4women.gov, received a score of 83, the same as in the previous E-Government Satisfaction Index survey. The increase in the number of Web sites using the index, from 22 to 35 over the past quarter, "is just one indication that federal e-government is getting serious" about meeting users' demands, said Larry Freed, chief executive officer of ForeSee Results Inc. of Farmington Hills, Mich. ForeSee Results sponsored the survey. Anne Kelly, director of the Treasury Department's Federal Consulting Group, said the index is "an ideal complement to usability testing to help managers set priorities in terms of site design and service offerings." Kelly's group works with other agencies to improve their customer service. Other Web sites that scored 75 or above were the CIA's recruitment site, the main sites of NASA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Mint's online catalog, the State Department's employment page and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

From GCN.com, by Patricia Daukantas, 15 December 2003

E-Government Customer Satisfaction on the Rise

The positive findings are all the more surprising given that e-government is still very embryonic, says Aberdeen analyst Denis Pombriant. "From what I've seen, some of the systems are not well integrated with other planning operations, like emergency planning." Switch to Sprint for wireless you can depend on. Find out if you can transfer your number to Sprint and take advantage of number portability. PCS from Sprint. The clear difference in wireless. See details. The upside of getting ticketed a few weeks ago for allowing my license tags to expire was that I got to experience first hand how efficient and customer-friendly the state of Maryland's Department of Motor Vehicles has become - specifically, its e-commerce operation. Using a kiosk in the lobby, I got my temporary registration sticker on the spot, without waiting in line. I was out of there in five minutes - a DMV encounter that almost made the US$300 plus ticket worthwhile. The last time my tags expired, some two years ago, I distinctly remember wasting a morning in DMV's office. Customer Satisfaction on the Rise - As one of the administrators of the American Customer Satisfaction Index for e-government services, a quarterly study made in conjunction with the University of Michigan Business School, Foresee Results CEO Larry Freed is not surprised.

He has found that customer satisfaction with government services provided online or through a Web site is on a definite upswing. As recently as two years ago, some government Web sites obviously were updated on an ad hoc basis, serving as little more than agency brochures, he said. "Since then, we have been seeing a widespread adoption of customer satisfaction as a key metric for government agencies," he told CRMDaily.com. Among the signs of improvement, the number of participants in the study jumped to 36 from 22. Also the overall scores of the Web sites have moved up. "This quarter we saw 14 percent of the Web sites with scores of 80 or higher, compared to 5 percent last quarter." By way of comparison, in similar studies, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) received a score of 88; Google, a score of 82; Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK) 55; Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), 74, and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), 70. In other words, the government sector's e-commerce initiatives are going head to head with some of the best practices employed in the private sector.

Embryonic - These findings are all the more surprising given that e-government is still very embryonic, Aberdeen CRM vice president Denis Pombriant told CRMDaily. "From what I've seen, some of the systems are not well integrated with other planning operations, like emergency planning." On the other hand, he added, there are scores of people who can attest to the greater ease of obtaining information. "The greatest effect of 'webinization' that we have seen in government is at the state level," he said. "There is a lot you can do now that you couldn't ten years ago." Leading the Way - The highest-performing sites on the user satisfaction scale are MedlinePlus - information sites operated by the National Institutes of Health - and the Education Department's federal student aid site, both of which received scores of 86. "These medical information sites are really helping show the way," said Freed. "They mimic the commercial sites in terms of experience, but they add a nonbureaucratic, customer-driven approach many would have not thought possible of the government."

In many ways though, these sites are more of an aberration that an indication of e-government progress. "With all of the scams and spam and just plain made-up medical information swirling around the Internet, the reliability and credibility of government is very comforting to people," said Freed. "Strong sites organized how users want - and not how bureaucrats or experts want - plus the stamp of the government is a powerful formula." Top Sites - Still, many government portal sites performed on par with private-sector portals, the ACSI suggests. FirstGov made a respectable showing, Freed noted, and improved over time through user feedback. Other high ranking Web sites include the National Women's Health Information Center Web site, the Central Intelligence Agency's recruiting page and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's main page.

Who Pays? One question that must be raised concerns the future of these endeavors, given the crushing budget deficits that have developed in the last two years. This has become an issue for government agencies, Freed acknowledges, but instead of abandoning their online initiatives, they are squeezing out whatever dollars are available to them to continue. "The government recognizes the importance of these initiatives - both from a customer-satisfaction perspective and from an ROI (return on investment) one." In short, he said, government agencies have come to the same conclusion that most private sector firms have - and that is that self-service is much cheaper than maintaining call centers and other human-contact assistance. To be sure, unlike the private sector, the government cannot shift all assistance online, given the digital divide that still exists in the U.S. But the more people that do go online, the more resources they free up for other endeavors.

From NewsFactor Network, by Erika Morphy, 17 December 2003

Turk to Lead E-gov Citizen Portfolio

The Energy Department's former head of communications and outreach, Michael Turk, has been named the new manager of the government-to-citizen portfolio for e-government initiatives at the Office of Management and Budget. Turk will oversee the five initiatives intended to provide online access to government information and services: GovBenefits.gov, Recreation One-Stop, IRS Free File, E-Loans and USA Services. He takes over from Paul Mamo, who held the position after the previous manager, Jonathan Womer, took another job within OMB. Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and information technology, announced his new role today at a lunch sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.

Turk worked with Evans at Energy. He was involved in the agency's Web site redesign, which made it easier for users to find information and interact with the department, Turk said. Before joining Energy, Turk worked for Grassroots Enterprises Inc., a citizen activism organization. He said today that he is looking forward to working with the e-government initiatives and project management teams. "Our focuses are really on those initiatives, just getting out of the blocks in development," such as Recreation One-Stop, he said. He will also be focused on how to expand and improve the initiatives that are further down the road, such as GovBenefits and Free File.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 18 December 2003

E-Gov Starts Next Phase

The next phase of e-government will involve looking at the federal enterprise architecture to identify projects that will yield a "common government solution," said Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget information technology chief. In the coming year, OMB officials will focus on finding projects that fall into four lines of business that weren't originally identified as a part of the 24 e-government initiatives: public health information systems, criminal investigation, human resources systems and financial management applications. Officials described the first initiatives as "low hanging fruit" that provided a good opportunity to demonstrate the value of e-government. The next step is a more detailed process, and officials have yet to determine just what projects will emerge, said Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT. "What we are really looking at is taking the efforts in the enterprise architecture...and logical projects [that] will come out of that," Evans said, speaking today at a lunch sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.

OMB officials have been working on this issue at least since the fiscal 2004 budget process, when Mark Forman, OMB's former IT chief, identified six categories or lines of business that cut across agencies. As OMB officials move through the fiscal 2005 budget process, they will have more information, but they don't have a handle on the projects yet, Evans said. She said the analysis of those areas are wrapping up. Meanwhile, the 24 e-government initiatives will not be forgotten, she said. Completing the initiatives, which Evans and other officials hope to do in the coming year, means the projects have finished an initial phase to demonstrate the benefits of the president's management agenda and agency cooperation. Those initiatives then become part of the government's business lines. "When we say we're done, it doesn't mean OMB is moving away from the project," Evans said. "It means they're moving into the mainstream. It's not that we're backing off of those, it's that those initiatives have graduated. They're mature." New initiatives working toward this common government solution will move up and take their place in the spotlight, she said.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 18 December 2003

Happy Anniversary, E-Government

President Bush's e-government "czarina,"