ISSUE 56
November 2003
 
 
   
    Ghana: Public-Private Partnership in Health Care Needed
   
    India: National Action Plan On E-governance Soon
India: E-governance Policy by March '04
India: National Policy for E-gov to Roll Out in March
   
    Ireland: Ireland Fares Well in UN E-gov Study
UK: Blair: No Let Up in Public Service Shake-Up
   
    Jamaica: Davies Out to Trim Wage Bill Public Sector Payouts Skyrocket Since 1999
 
   
    Nigeria: Long Awaited Report on Nigerian Corruption Released
   
    Malaysia: MBs Admitting to Corruption
India: Corruption in Ministries: Congress Demands Inquiry
India: Indian Environment Minister Resigns over Corruption Allegation
Australia: Corruption Watchdog Probes Jailing of Australia's Hanson
Pakistan: PM Directs Chairman Wapda To Rid Organisation Of Corruption
Malaysia: Efficiency, Corruption Watch on HR Ministry
Indonesia: Corruption in Indonesia: Is it Cultural?
   
    Russia: Switzerland Begins Corruption Investigation of Russian Tycoon Boris Berezovsky
Russia: Putin Sets Up Council to Deal with Corruption
EU: EU Development Chief Heaps Praise on Kenya's Anti-corruption Drive
   
    Canada: Toronto's Mayor Vows to End Corruption
USA: Tunica Sheriff-Elect Says He'll End Legacy of Corruption in County
USA: Judicial Corruption Hot Topic at Forum
   
    Why Fighting Corruption Helps the Poor
U.N. Oversight of Internet: Dumb Idea
 
   
    Central African Republic: China Loans Bangui $2 Million to Pay Civil Servants
Nigeria: Why We Need Efficient Civil Service'
Kenya: Kanu Link Probe for Top Public Servants
Zimbabwe: All Civil Servants to Get Bonuses: Nzuwa
Ghana: Big Shake-Up In Civil Service
Botswana: Mfa Applauds Committed Public Servants
Botswana: Public Servants Barred from Bulela Ditswe
   
    New Zealand: Subsidised Super for Public Servants
Malaysia: PM: Only 8.2% Chinese In Public Services
Malaysia: Abdullah Wants Civil Service Procedures Improved
Malaysia: Civil Servants Must Pledge to Fight Corruption Menace, Says Abdullah
Indonesia: 1400 Civil Servants in Indonesia's East Java Get "Vacation Pay"
Malaysia: Retiring Civil Servants Will Be Paid Up to 120 Days in Lieu of Leave
Thailand/Singapore: Thailand-Singapore Civil Service Exchange Programme Begins on Monday
Singapore: Consultants Say Private Sector Unlikely to Follow Civil Service Pay Cuts
Singapore: Civil Service Ideas Contest Needs Revamp
Malaysia: Making Civil Service More Civil
New Zealand: At Least Help These Public Servants To Do Our Dirty Work
Indonesia: Government to Revise Conflicting Laws on Papua
Malaysia: Bankruptcy Act to Include All Civil Servants
Australia: Visa Corruption Rife, Lawyer Alleges
Viet Nam: Government Takes Loan from ADB to Train Public Servants
China: Hong Kong to Streamline Civil Servants
Australia: Top Public Servants Crack $400,000
Australia: Organised Crime Will Target Public Servants
New Zealand: Public Service Broadcasting Increasingly Relevant
Afghanistan: Afghan Civil Servants Get 600% Pay Hike
Thailand: 47,000 Civil Servants to Go Next Year
New Zealand: Organised Crime Targeting Public Servants
Sri Lanka: Goodies for Public Servants
   
    EU: 1 December Meeting, EU Public Service Ministers
UK: Devolution Brings 25% More Civil Servants
UK: Swinney Attacks Civil Service Numbers
UK: Swinney Calls for Civil Service Cull
UK: Nibbles Take a Big Bite Out of Ministry Budget
UK: British Honours Still Go to Civil Servants, Diplomats and Military
   
    Israel: A Civil Servant's 'Neutrality'
Israel: Finance Ministry - Civil Servants Talks Break Down
   
    Canada: Teaching Civil Servants Some New Tricks
USA: City's Civil Service Manual Approved By 3-Member Board
USA: Chief Aims to Rid Department of Civil Service, 'Archaic System' Slows Down Hiring
USA: Civil Servants Hang on to Wall Street-Style Salaries
USA: Police Civil Service Rules on Way Out
 
   
    Kenya: Registrar Says 40,000 Public Service Vehicles Not Roadworthy
South Africa: SA is Making Progress On the Road to E-Government
   
    South Korea: Korea Ranks 2nd in e-Government Ranking in Asia
India: Government to Invest in E-governance
Sri Lanka: Ambitious Sri Lankan Project to Usher in E-governance
South Korea: E-government Study Puts Seoul at the Top
China: China's 2002 Road Toll: 109,263
Brunei: Excellent Workers Recognised At Public Service Day
India: E-governance Plan to Focus on Banking
India: Experts Caution over E-governance Pitfalls
India: 'India Must Focus on Security Aspects of E-governance'
Malaysia: Learn from the Best E-government in India
Australia: Public Service Makes Its Stand on Freebies
India: Speaker Encourages Public Service
   
    UK: Milburn Plea for Voluntary Sector to Help Modernise Public Services
Ireland: E-gov May Be a 'White Elephant,' Says UN
UK: Councils 'Sceptical' About E-gov
Italy: E-Government: Alliance of Italian Government and UN on UNDP
UK: E-government Deadline? What Deadline?
UK: UK Councils Indifferent on E-government
UK: Think Tank Seeks E-government 'Revolution'
   
    UAE: Dubai Municipality and Dubai eGovernment Launch Online Payment Facility
UAE: Dubai eGovernment to Support First Middle Eastern Summit on Handheld Computing Devices
   
    USA: USDA Announces New Technology And E-Government Advisory Council
USA: Another E-Government Official Leaves The White House
USA: Agriculture to Create E-gov Advisory Group
USA: E-gov Includes Accessibility, Privacy
USA: Congress Approves $3 Million for E-Gov Fund
USA: IT Execs Optimistic about E-gov
USA: New Major Offered in Public Policy
   
    Global E-government
The First Study On Digital Governance in Municipalities Worldwide Ranked Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, and Shanghai as the Top Five Cities, and Tallinn, Dubai, Jakarta as Among the Top 20 of 100 Large Cities Worldwide.
 
   
    South Africa: Use Existing Law to Combat Corruption - Bank Council
South Africa: Finance Bill Tightens Controls
Nigeria: CBN to Publish List of Healthy Finance Houses
   
    India: ADB Offers Grant for Tax Academy
India: CST Bill: Finance Ministry Move to Hit Reliance
   
    Ireland: Public Servants Cash In
Poland: Public Sector Reform is Key to Poland's Continued Economic Recovery - IMF
Ireland: Minister Announces Relocation of Public Services Funding
UK: Finance Going Begging
Czech Republic: Klaus Signs First Four Bills of Government's Public Finance Reform Package into Law
 
   
    Libya: Libya Announces Vast Plan for Privatization
   
    India: Public-Private Partnership Key to Success of Telemedicine
Australia: Australian Government Completes Airports Privatization
China: Yu to Form Commission on Privatization
Azerbaijan: Two Major State-run Banks Slated for Privatization
   
    Russia: Putin Tells IMF Russian Privatization Will Not Be Reversed
Italy: Italy Approves 'Flexible' Alitalia Privatization
Italy: Italian Government Approves Alitalia Privatization
Russia: Decision on Russia's Foreign Banks Privatization to Be Made 2003
Russia: Russia Not to Review Privatization Results: Putin
Germany: Germany Says Privatization of East Complete
   
    Canada: Eager to Profit from Municipal Privatization
USA: Bush Privatization Plan Claims First Local Jobs
USA: Privatization Fails Poor Kids Needing Health Care
 

Public-Private Partnership in Health Care Needed

Koforidua - Participants at a workshop have called for a change in official attitude in the allocation of resources to the private sector to ensure effective public-private partnership in health care. The participants made the call at the end of a five-day workshop organised at Koforidua by the Eastern Regional Directorate of Health Services, which ended on Friday. It was sponsored by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) to examine the current situation of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in health delivery at the district level. The workshop was also to identify key challenges of the programme at the district level, analyse the situation and propose strategies to enhance implementation of it. Selected Regional and District Directors of Health Services, Representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations, Mission Hospitals, Private Midwives, Pharmacists and Chemical Sellers and Representatives of herbal medical practitioners attended the workshop.

In a resolution, the participants called for the creation of a co-ordinating body of all private health care services provider groups and the Ghana Health Service with active participation and leadership of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies. The participants called for the strengthening of the private health care service provider groups and the need for special attention to be paid to human resource development in that sector. Commenting on the workshop, Professor Patrick Twumasi, former Dean of the Faculty of Social Science, University of Ghana, Legon, observed that the implementation of the PPP programme was on the right direction. He said it could bring an interaction between medical practitioners and the various traditional herbal practitioners and provide the opportunity for the improvement of the herbal practice from more scientific and technological dimension.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 24 November 2003

 

National Action Plan On E-governance Soon

Chennai - A national action plan on e-governance is getting ready. The Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is expected to unveil it soon for the Union ministries and departments. The ground work for this action plan is expected to be completed during the seventh national e-governance conference beginning here on Thursday. Over 350 delegates from 25 states in the country and from abroad are expected to participate in the conference. The action plan would be discussed in detail in a plenary session during the conference. The vice president and controller of the World Bank Mr. Fayezul Choudhary will also present a general overview on financing options for e-governance during the conference. The objective of the action plan is to identify the areas in which the Centre and state governments should act and those that can be done by the private sector or in partnership with the private sector. While some of the sectors would be able to mobilise funds and generate revenue by themselves, certain areas would need central funding support.

The action plan would also give guidelines for the states to choose the best technology and solutions. Department of administrative reforms and public grievances additional secretary P I Suvrathan, said here on Wednesday that a draft report on the action plan would be ready in a month and the final report is expected to be completed by March 2004. "We have been looking at the achievements of some of the state governments and Union ministries like Railways and identifying the 'islands of excellence' in e-governance," he said. Meanwhile, deputy prime minister L K Advani will open the seventh edition of the three-day national e-Governance Conference here on Thursday. The meet is organised by the Department of Administrative Reforms and the Public Grievances, in coordination with the information technology (IT) department of the Tamil Nadu government.

From Indian Express, India, 12 November 2003

E-governance Policy by March '04

Chennai - The union government is expected to come out with a concrete action plan on e-governance by March 2004. The draft report on e-governance is expected to be ready in the next one month. Addressing a press conference to announce the seventh national conference on e-governance to be held in Chennai from tomorrow, P I Suvrathan, the additional secretary, department of administrative reforms and public grievances, Government of India, said, "the Prime Minister will be ready to announce the policy by March. The draft report is expected to be ready in the next one month." Suvrathan said that this year Tamil Nadu had been chosen as the partner state for the conference and the state was blazing success in terms of e-governance initiatives. 25 Indian states had confirmed their participation in the three- day conference in Chennai starting tomorrow to be inaugurated by the Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani. The e-governance conference will see various aspects of e-governance being discussed which include success models, private public partnerships, best practices, and financing options for e-governance projects. Earlier, addressing a curtain raiser, D Jayakumar, the Tamil Nadu minister for information mechnology, said that the Tamil Nadu government would soon come out with a specific policy for facilitating ITES investments into the state. Prior to the national conference, four regional conferences were held in Bangalore, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, and Thiruvananthapuram. The regional conferences held for a day helped the respective states identify key areas of discussion during the national conference.

From Business Standard, India, 12 November 2003

National Policy for E-gov to Roll Out in March

Chennai - The policy, which has taken two years to be formed, promises to standardize the best practices, so that all the states can benefit from it. Government of India Additional Secretary (Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARG), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions) PI Suvrathan, informed that the National policy for e-governance on which the Central Government has been working for the past two years will be rolled out in March 2004. He added that however it would be upto to the State governments as to how and when to implement it in their respective states. He also said that there are some states in India like the North Eastern States, which are less receptive to e-Governance initiatives quoting financial deficiency and on the other hand there are States like Karnataka, Maharastra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, that have emerged as e-ready states, following the National Conference on e-governance. "There are islands of excellence as far as e-gov initiatives are concerned. We will take best practices and standardize them so that these are available to the other states," he said.

He was speaking to the media in Chennai during a press briefing on the 7th National Conference on e-governance that will kick start in Chennai on November 13. Deputy Prime Minster of India, LK Advani, will inaugurate the three-day National Conference on e-governance, which is being organized by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARG) in co-ordination with IT Department of Tamil Nadu. The opening session will have presentation of National Awards for Best e-Gov Paper, Best e-Gov Practices and Best Website. On the Children's Day, awards will be given to the winners of the national essay contest on "Information and Communication Technology: How will it shape my future." For the first time the National Conference will talk about the Financing Options in e-governance by World Bank vice president & controller Fayezul Choudhry. Already 25 states, IT ministers of three states and 350 delegates have confirmed participation.

From CIOL, India, 12 November 2003

 

Ireland Fares Well in UN E-gov Study

A new study by the United Nations has found Ireland performing well in e-government, but still behind many other European countries and the United States. Of Ireland, the study concluded that the Irish e-government initiative "provides an example of the political commitment and the quality of on-line programmes." It said that easy-to-find and easy-to-use information and tools were the hallmarks of the Irish sites. Several useful one-stops were available, it said, such as the e-government site Reach.ie, OASIS (On-line Access to Services, Information and Support), and BASIS (Business Access to Services Information and Support). It also described the government's e-tenders initiative as "innovative." The report also attempted to gauge the degree to which governments used their e-government potential, as determined by their telecommunication and human capital resources.

This Web Measure Index also found Ireland at 17th place. However countries such as Mexico, Chile, Argentina and the Philippines were found to be making better use of their available resources. Another aspect of the report involved assessing the effectiveness of existing e-government services. The "E-Participation Index" attempted to measure how relevant and useful these services were from the point of view of people's ability to engage in dialogue with their government as consumers of public services and to participate in the political process as citizens. Ireland came in at joint tenth in the table, with a score of 0.586. Top countries such as the US, UK, Chile and Canada had scores of between 0.8 and 1.0.

From Electric News Net, by Dick O'Brien, 10 November 2003

Blair: No Let Up in Public Service Shake-Up

Tony Blair today signalled further radical reform of public services declaring that "one size fits all" provision is a thing of the past. Despite the looming parliamentary battle over the Government's plans for foundation hospitals, Mr. Blair made clear he has no intention of lessening the pace of change in the public services. In a keynote speech to the CBI's annual conference in Birmingham Mr. Blair rejected claims that the Government's huge investment in the NHS was failing to produce significant change. He said: "The truth is that the increased investment in the NHS and schools has made a significant difference. "It is being accompanied by reform to open up the NHS to new suppliers and consumer choice and to create increasingly independent state secondary schools, with three-quarters of schools to be specialist schools or City Academies by 2006. "The 'one size fits all' public service is on the way out. "In the next few months, each main delivery department will produce plans for a smaller centre and further forward steps on reform.

From The Scotsman, UK, by John Deane, 17 November 2003

 

Davies Out to Trim Wage Bill Public Sector Payouts Skyrocket Since 1999

Future wage increases within the public sector are under threat as the Government struggles to put a stranglehold on the nation's ballooning financial crisis. Dr. Omar Davies, Minister of Finance and Planning, says the overall wage cost in the public sector is one of three areas on which the Government will have to focus, as it attempts to balance the national budget by March 2006. The other issues of concern are the financial sector's negligence in engaging in "real banking" as well as unsustainable interest costs. "If you look at the rate of growth (in the wage bill)... it's not feasible for us to continue. We have to look at whether there's a trade-off between employment and rate of growth in terms of salaries," Dr. Davies said during yesterday's PanCaribbean breakfast at the Terra Nova Hotel, St. Andrew. He was making a presentation to members of the business community, on the state of the country's fiscal accounts.

WAGE PAYMENTS - During his presentation, the Finance Minister pointed out that, since the 1999/2000 fiscal year, wage payments in the public sector have increased by a whopping 61 per cent. At the same time, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the cost of a basket of goods, has moved by 32 per cent, he said. In an interview with The Gleaner in November last year, Dennis Townsend, director of the Compensation Unit of the Ministry of Finance, said the Government would spend an additional $1 billion on wages over a four-year period. The projected growth in the wage bill was linked to a commitment by Government to bring the salaries of civil servants up to 80 per cent of those paid in the private sector by 2005. "The idea of a poorly paid public sector is one which we have nurtured and carried on for years," Dr. Davies claimed yesterday, noting that many employees within the embattled Ministry of Health are "not paid badly at all". The reference to the Health Ministry came in the wake of Tuesday's revelation at a sitting of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the Ministry was facing a $3 billion debt, in addition to needing $1.5 billion more than it was allotted in the budget, to meet its obligations for the 2003/2004 fiscal year.

MAJOR SOURCE OF THE MINISTRY'S PROBLEMS - Grace Allen-Young, Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry, told the PAC this week that a major source of the Ministry's problems came from the increase in its wage bill from 57 per cent to 85 per cent. Partially as a result of the increase, she said, shortfalls were created and the Ministry was forced to hold off on making payments to several of its creditors. Yesterday, Dr. Davies also implored financial institutions to start looking for more "real" projects to support. He said that "the notion of simply lending money to Government is not sustainable in the long-term." Dr. Davies admitted, however, that the Government has been part of the problem because of its willingness to borrow. The Finance Minister noted that the capital budget had been trimmed from $9 billion to $6 billion and that adjustments were necessary on the recurrent side. Noting that "diets are not a bad thing" he also said that all ministries have to realise that the fiscal situation is very tight and that the country will have to make sacrifices. "All ministries will have to learn that it is not business as usual. People will just have to make fewer cellular calls. People will have to make fewer trips, and we will manage. We have been through it before and we will go through it again," he said. The Minister also told his audience that its $450 million debt to contractors, owed up to October, will be paid by the Government.

From Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica, by Robert Hart, 21 November 2003

 
 

Long Awaited Report on Nigerian Corruption Released

The Nigerian government has included former government ministers in a long awaited report on a 400-million-dollar corruption case involving Nigeria Airways, the national carrier. A damning report that has been kept under wraps since May, was finally released by the government Sunday. The report recommended that authorities recover 400 million dollars of state funds from the government officials and companies involved. It also recommended the prosecution of several individuals, including government ministers, and companies for corruption and financial mismanagement. Political Analyst Tunde Martins says, although this is the biggest corruption scandal to have been unearthed since President Olusegun Obasanjo took office in 1999, the problems in Nigeria run much deeper. "Government is systematically and gradually unearthing corruption that has taken place in the past. But government has not succeeded in prosecuting anyone due to lots of obstacles - it is not the fault of the government, but the unwillingness of Nigerian society to confront corruption head-on." Two former aviation ministers are implicated in the graft case.

They are Alabo Graham-Douglas, a former presidential candidate, and Patrick Koshoni, a retired admiral from the Nigerian navy. In total, 90 government officials are named in the report. In 2001, President Obasanjo appointed a judicial commission to look into activities at Nigeria Airways under the previous military regime. Nigerian Airways was in the 1970s a thriving airline operating a fleet of 30 planes. But by the time President Obasanjo came to office in 1999, it had only one plane left. Fraudulent invoicing and questionable payments were among the irregularities uncovered by the probe, as were payments made for planes that were never delivered. Free tickets were regularly handed out to friends and associates of employees. Assets were stripped, including the sale of Nigeria Airways House in London for less than half its value. Nigeria is widely regarded as one of the world's most corrupt countries. In its 2003 survey of corporate executives, the non-governmental organization Transparency International, found that Nigerian government and public officials are perceived as the second most corrupt in the world after Bangladesh.

From Voice of America, by Sarah Simpsom, 24 November 2003

 

MBs Admitting to Corruption

Premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made clear of his determination to cut red tape and get rid of corruption in the public services. He has now directed heads of state to set up committees to find ways to accomplish the task. The next day, we heard state menteri besar coming out in droves to praise Pak Lah for his boldness and farsightedness in coming up with this directives. I read this piece of news with exasperation. As heads of state, isn't it their responsibility to ensure that governmental machinery under their charge run smoothly without any hitch and without any room for corruption? The menteri besars are in fact admitting that they have been sleeping on heir job, or were afraid to do anything to curb the menace. It only proves to the world that our menteri besars are just parrots. Hopefully, Pak Lah will do something to get rid of these parrots and replace them with those who are ready and really wanting to serve the people.

From Malaysia Kini, Malaysia, 11 November 2003

Corruption in Ministries: Congress Demands Inquiry

New Delhi - Are ministers demanding favours and money from PSUs under their charge? That could well become a major political issue before the assembly elections. With media reports indicating that Central Vigilance Commissioner P Shanker has submitted to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee the names of six ministers who have asked PSU chiefs for money, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the issue. "I urge you to agree to immediately institute an independent parliamentary inquiry into the allegations made against the ministers and reveal their identities," Sonia said in a letter to Vajpayee. Vajpayee issues denial - But a day after the cabinet secretariat issued a clarification; it was the Prime Minister who chose to flatly deny ministerial involvement. Vajpayee said the Chief Vigilance Commissioner had not discussed with him about any Central Minister having sought undue favours from PSUs. "No name of any minister figured during the meeting I had with the CVC and the Cabinet Secretary," he maintained.

Ministries embroiled - However, NDTV has learnt that five ministries which control more than 50 PSUs were reportedly named by the CVC when he spoke to Vajpayee over PSU functioning. These ministries include power, steel, coal, petroleum and heavy industries. That the issue has a distinct political colour is apparent in the manner that Rashtriya Janata Dal Chief Laloo Prasad Yadav claimed that three of the six ministers are from Bihar. Making matters even more ambiguous is Central Vigilance Commissioner P Shankar's refusal to comment on the issue. That union ministers use PSUs for their personal gain has been one of the worst kept secrets in the country. But unless there is specific ministerial involvement, the issue may get caught up in another round of allegations and counter-allegations.

From NDTV.com, India, 11 November 2003

Indian Environment Minister Resigns over Corruption Allegation

New Delhi - Indian Union Minister of Environment and Forests Dilip Singh Judeo resigned Monday from the government in the wake of allegations of accepting bribe for a mining deal, ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s President M. Venkaiah Naidu said. "Judeo has sent his resignation to the Prime Minister," Naidu told reporters emerging from a meeting convened by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to discuss the issue. Asked whether Vajpayee has accepted the resignation, the BJP president said "it is the Prime Minister's prerogative." Naidu said the leaders, who attended the meeting, requested Vajpayee to order an inquiry either by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or by an appropriate agency "so that truth comes out." The BJP chief said Judeo, who spoke to him twice on telephone on Sunday and Monday morning, told him that he would continue to campaign for the party for the coming assembly polls. Naidu said Judeo had told him that the matter was part of a "conspiracy" and "vilification" campaign against him and the party. Vajpayee, who returned last night from a week-long three-nationtour, had told reporters that a probe was on into the charges against Judeo and asserted he would go if found guilty. Naidu said Judeo felt that it would be better if he quits office as Congress could make it an issue in the run up to the assembly polls, affecting the party's election prospects.

From Xinhua, China, 17 November 2003

Corruption Watchdog Probes Jailing of Australia's Hanson

Sydney - A corruption probe has been launched in Australia into a now-quashed electoral fraud conviction which temporarily put firebrand right-wing politician Pauline Hanson behind bars. Peter Beattie, premier of Queensland state, referred the case to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) last week after Hanson's conviction was overturned and Court of Appeal officials voiced concerns over her prosecution. CMC chairman Brendan Butler said the commission would investigate those concerns and the role of federal health minister Tony Abbott in pursuing action against Hanson and the co-founder of her One Nation party, David Etteridge. Abbott took a leading part creating a fund to pursue legal action against Hanson's anti-immigration party, which was widely seen a major threat to the governing centre-right coalition before its relegation to political sidelines. Hanson walked free from jail two weeks ago when the Court of Appeal quashed her conviction and criticised the decision to pursue the prosecutions against her and Etteridge. Beattie said the commission should particularly examine the court's comment that the prosecution service could have avoided problems if it was better resourced and had access to more senior prosecutors. "What we're interested in doing is finding out what the concerns are," Butler told journalists. "There have been veiled suggestions of impropriety. We'd like to hear from those people who have got concerns about exactly what it is that their concerns are."

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 17 November 2003

PM Directs Chairman Wapda To Rid Organisation Of Corruption

Islamabad - Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali Tuesday directed the newly-appointed Chairman WAPDA Tariq Hameed to rid the organisation of corruption and speed up the electrification of rural areas. The Prime Minister expressed the views during a meeting With Tariq Hameed, who called on him here at the Prime Minister's Secretariat. The Chairman exchanged views with Prime Minister Jamali on matters pertaining to his organisation. The Prime Minister congratulated the new chairman and directed him to strive for further improving the performance of the organisation. He directed him to take measures to reduce line losses. He specifically asked him to concentrate on speedy Redressal of public complaints. Consumer satisfaction should be the organisation's goal', he observed. The Prime Minister also made it clear that he wanted to see WAPDA emerge as a "corruption free" organisation. The Prime Minister asked him to speed up the electrification drive in the remote and rural areas as a first step to bridge the gap between urban and rural areas.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 19 November 2003

Efficiency, Corruption Watch on HR Ministry

Kuala Lumpur - All departments in the Human Resource Ministry will be closely monitored to ensure staff comply with the call of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to be efficient, responsive and incorrupt. Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said he had directed heads of departments to look into staff performance, productivity and work efficiency and ensure the speedy processing of documents submitted by the public. "I have also directed that forms be simplified and minimised so that all processing can be expedited within the stipulated time frame," he told reporters after opening the MCA Cheras Community Centre, popularly known as Lee Boon Kok Service Centre at 2 Jalan Jalak 2, Taman Sri Bahtera in Cheras, today. All staff-public counter evaluation forms are to be placed where the public could write in complaints, including whether bribes were solicited. Until now, Fong said, there had been no complaint of corruption in any of the ministry's departments. "The ministry will continue to be transparent in its activities and it hopes the public will co-operate by highlighting weak and grey areas that need to be improved, and suggest how it could be done." Fong said a committee headed by him had been set up to oversee the overall performance in all the departments under the ministry, and to monitor public complaints and information on corruption.

The committee will meet every week to get feedback from department heads, including the industrial court and social security organisation. "We will work with the Prime Minister to have a clean Government," he added. Fong, who is also the MCA vicepresident, said the Chinese community had been told at all levels to strongly support the Prime Minister in his vision to have a clean Government. Those working in the public service were asked to render efficient and quick service to the public. "MCA will also monitor government departments and channel problems, grouses and complaints to the respective ministries so that immediate action can be taken to resolve them," he said, adding that MCA will also assist Abdullah in his anti-corruption drive. Fong also hit out at the DAP for not acting when Pas placed restrictions on women, entertainment and traditional rituals of the non-Muslims in Kelantan and Terengganu for the past four years. "DAP councillors in the two States did not say anything. "In fact, they were part and parcel of the whole process and now when the DAP sees the Pas blueprint, it asks its councillors to resign," he said. DAP chairman Lim Kit Siang recently said the blueprint violated the Opposition alliance's manifesto formulated in 1999, which had pledged to uphold the supreme law of the country, the Federal Constitution. Fong said DAP had given Pas a lot of encouragement and motivation to go about completely transforming Malaysia and now when "it has crystallised, DAP, which started the fire, is now running away". He said MCA would go all out to mobilise its members to oppose the blueprint.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Annie Freeda Cruez, 24 November 2003

Corruption in Indonesia: Is it Cultural?

Denpasar, Bali - My friend David Hill grew up in Florence, Alabama, in the heart the US Deep South and in the wake of its legacy of racism. Hill couldn't believe what he had read in his home-town paper. In an article about teenagers gathering to show off their car stereos on the fringes of a residential neighborhood, Florence City Council President Sam Pendleton called the situation particularly dangerous, since gatherings of black youths were known to be more likely to breed problems such as gangs and violence. Given a chance to clarify his statement - ie, to retract it - Pendleton said he wasn't going to say what was popular, just what was true: black kids were more trouble than young people of other races. "I immediately fired off a letter to the editor about how I can't believe that an area that had done so much to distance itself from its horribly racist past could have a city council president espousing such idiocy," Hill, editor of Outside Pitch, a baseball newspaper in Baltimore, recalled. "If Sam Pendleton doesn't resign, I wrote, I would hope the good voters of Florence would oust him from office at their earliest opportunity."

Black act - In addition to sending his letter to the newspaper, Hill circulated it among friends and family, and one relative replied with startling news: Council President Pendleton was black. Furthermore, he was a senior official in the local chapter of the leading civil-rights group, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "I really wasn't sure what this revelation meant," Hill admitted. When the local newspaper called about printing his letter, Hill withdrew it. After some reflection he concluded, "Alabama is so racist even blacks are prejudiced against blacks." Remarkably similar comments emerged from a conference in Indonesia last month. Citing the nation's dismal performance in the annual global corruption rankings (see Corruption, human rights, and the usual suspects, October 17) that costs the economy billions and arrests development, longtime activist Emmy Hafild accused fellow Indonesians of cherishing cultural values that encourage dishonesty. Among government officeholders, Hafild observed, "Obligations to give charity and the expectations of their villages and relatives are all real and difficult obligations to refuse. How can an official rely solely on his salary when society's expectations of him are so high?"

Vulture culture - Moreover, according to Hafild, who heads Transparency International's Indonesian branch, officials become subjects of scorn and ridicule if they don't own fancy houses, expensive cars or large plots of land, send their children to study overseas, or support freeloading relatives. "I look around me and find that the values we live by are not in favor of someone who lives free from corruption," Hafild lamented. "My experience tells me that far from stopping corruption, these values nurture it." Hafild may have been politically incorrect, but she's right about some parts of the social equation. I learned about hospitality expectations first-hand when I invited in-laws to Bali for a family gathering. I agreed to pay airfares plus hotel bills for three nights. My in-laws joyfully announced they'd be staying five nights, so please extend their reservations. Under duress, my wife explained they were welcome to stay as long as they liked, but we'd only pay for three nights. Suddenly, they all discovered pressing obligations that would limit their stays to three nights only. But is there anything really cultural about people trying to live beyond their means by whatever methods available? Freeloading relatives are known in all groups and nationalities throughout history. The global popularity of consumer credit indicates that only one race - the human one - is susceptible to the temptations of living large.

Blame game - Blaming social problems on race or class or culture doesn't get to the heart of the problem. It's just a shortcut to poisonous, defeatist attitudes such as Council President Pendleton voiced. Even if you don't condone music measured on the Richter Scale or official corruption, stereotyping marks those behaviors as a norm rather than an unfortunate exception. A shrug of the shoulders - because, after all, they're blacks or Indonesians or stupid tourists or whatever - is the wrong way to begin the search for solutions. To her credit, Hafild did more than shrug. She suggested public shaming as a method to discourage corrupt behavior. If Hafild is right about the cultural factor, though, shaming probably won't work very well in the Indonesian context: the choices become shaming for taking too much or shaming for giving too little. You can find the germ of a solution in Hafild's cultural observations. Behind broad public acceptance of corruption is the widespread belief that everyone expects their turn to benefit from it. From vote buying to jobs for the boys to phony procurement contracts, politics and government are all about spreading wealth among friends and family.

President Suharto and his children (see Indonesia's first family of corruption, October 31) extended the family tradition to new levels, but they didn't invent the practice. Ahead of this week's Lebaran holidays in Indonesia marking the end of Ramadan, dozens of journalists turned up at city halls across the archipelago to ask for a holiday gratuity, as did thousands of people impersonating journalists. During the holiday, it's a tradition for groups of neighborhood children to come to your doorstep and shout holiday greetings to receive a few coins. Many adults have switched to offering sweets because children too often turned up repeatedly. At Lebaran, people who work in the cities return to their ancestral family homes and are expected to bear gifts. No one asks where the presents come from or how they were paid for. Moreover, it's not necessarily considered wrong to steal if that plunder winds up as gifts or charity. Until those attitudes change, Indonesians don't have the luxury of taking offense at politically incorrect comments like Hafild's. Alabama had to reverse its racist past to let a black man like Sam Pendleton become an elected official and insult fellow blacks. Indonesia still hasn't gotten to the stage where honest people can make an impact in public life. (Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

From Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, by Gary LaMoshi, 24 November 2003

 

Russia: Switzerland Begins Corruption Investigation of Russian Tycoon Boris Berezovsky

Geneva - Swiss authorities have begun a criminal investigation of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who fled corruption charges in his homeland and was granted political asylum in Britain, the federal prosecutor's office said Sunday. The investigation is related to the corruption case in Russia, but Hansjoerg Widmer, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, declined to provide further details. Berezovsky is one of a number of prominent Russian business executives who made fortunes during their country's privatization of state industries in the 1990s and now face what critics of President Vladimir Putin say are politically motivated criminal charges. Swiss prosecutors dismissed such concerns with their investigation. "We are concerned with criminal justice not politics," Roschacher told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper. "We just want to know which ones of Berezovsky's activities in Switzerland were legal and which ones might have been illegal." Berezovsky, an influential insider under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, was charged with an associate of defrauding a regional government in Russia of $13 million during the mid-1990s by stealing cars from Russia's largest automaker, AvtoVaz. Berezovsky denied wrongdoing and said his life would be in danger if he returned home. Britain granted him political asylum in September, denying Russia's bid to extradite him. Switzerland aided Russia in a previous legal probe of Berezovsky, but this is the first time Swiss authorities launched their own investigation.

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA, by Clare Nullis, 17 November 2003

Putin Sets Up Council to Deal with Corruption

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on setting up a presidential council for fighting corruption, the presidential press service told RBC. The council will seek to improve government policies on countering corruption within federal and regional authorities, rooting out causes and conditions that encourage corruption, preventing and precluding misuse of authority, ensuring the observance of professional ethics by civil servants and creating favorable conditions for Russia's economic recovery. The decree will take effect on the day when it is officially published, the press service specified.

From Ros Business Consulting, Russia, 24 November 2003

EU Development Chief Heaps Praise on Kenya's Anti-corruption Drive

European Union development chief Poul Nielson on Friday praised Kenya's drive to stamp out corruption, which was widely blamed for a near collapse of the country's economy. "In terms of intentions of President (Mwai Kibaki) in fighting corruption, he gets high marks," Nielson told reporters in the Kenyan capital after holding talks with Kibaki at State House. Kibaki's ruling National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) swept to power in general elections a year ago, mostly on a platform of promising to eradicate the endemic corruption said to have permeated every part of the government. Kibaki quickly embarked on a massive campaign to fight the vice, which was the most cited reason for Bretton Woods institutions and other donors to cut funding to Kenya in 1997. "It's a hard task to clean an administration that has been poisoned by corruption," explained Nielson, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid.

The EU is currently one of Kenya's leading development partners, the presidential press service (PPS) said, pointing out that during an earlier meeting with Kibaki at State House on Friday, Nielson announced that the European Investment Bank (EIB) would establish a branch in Nairobi. "The EIB facility office in Kenya will enable the private sector to access subsidized loans," the PPS said. The EU's Development Fund has allocated Kenya some 225 million eurosmillion dollars) to be used in rural agricultural development, rehabilitation of transport infrustracture and budgetary support. Nielson is also due to visit Tanzania, Madagascar and Mauritius during his current 10-day tour of Africa. Text and Picture Copyright © 2003 AFP. All other copyright © 2003 EUbusiness Ltd. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable.

From EU Business, UK, 21 November 2003

 

Toronto's Mayor Vows to End Corruption

Toronto voters have chosen left-leaning local councillor David Miller as their new mayor, backing his pledge to rid city hall of corruption and backroom dealing. Mr. Miller won 44 per cent of the vote in Monday's election, against 38 per cent for businessman John Tory, running on a right-of-centre platform. Barbara Hall, the centrist former frontrunner, won just 9 per cent of the vote. Mr. Miller, who has been a Toronto councillor for 10 years, brandished a broom before cheering supporters on Monday night, promising a "clean sweep" and an era of change for Canada's biggest and richest city. "Together we will open up the doors of city hall for the people of Toronto," he said. "And we will padlock the backdoors to the dealmakers and influence peddlers." His win brings to a decisive end the reign of Mel Lastman, the outgoing mayor who combined flamboyant promotion of Toronto with reliance on a closed circle of political allies. Mr. Lastman's administration was damaged in recent years by allegations of mismanagement and by the mayor's own frequent public gaffes. Mr. Miller takes over a city with a C$6.5bn ($5.9bn, ?4.3bn, £2.9bn) annual budget - more than some of Canada's provinces - but which faces mounting cash shortfalls in maintaining its infrastructure.

However, the race was marked by a sense among voters that the election was a turning point for the city and an opportunity to usher in a higher level of managerial competence. "There is an unmistakable feeling of hope and optimism around the city," said Myer Siemiatycki, a professor of politics at Ryerson University. "I think that would probably have applied whichever of the frontrunners would have won." Mr. Miller will seek to improve Toronto's relations with both the federal and Ontario provincial governments. He is also expected to unite with other cities in an effort to wrest more power and resources from the top levels of government. One of Mr. Miller's first acts on Monday night was to call Paul Martin, who is expected to be elected leader of the ruling Liberal party on Friday. Mr. Martin, who would in effect become prime minIster-in-waiting, has promised a more "city friendly" agenda and a share of the federal fuel tax for cities. The new mayor has also pledged to halt the building of a bridge to Toronto Island Airport and the controversial facility's expansion. The pledge appears to have struck a chord with voters eager to see improvements on the city's long-neglected waterfront.

From Financial Times, UK, by Ken Warn, 11 November 2003

Tunica Sheriff-Elect Says He'll End Legacy of Corruption in County

K-C Hamp becomes sheriff of Tunica County in January and he says the past corruption will end with his administration. Hamp's two elected predecessors were arrested for taking kickbacks from bail bondsmen and drug dealers. Right now Hamp's in a temporary position as assistant to the county administrator and is getting a handle on how to manage the department and its 137 deputies. The 29-year-old Tunica native says his first the task is to find and root out the corruption that has damaged the reputation of the sheriff's department and the county. Tunica County has become one of the country's top gambling destinations over the past decade. Its population is about 94-hundred and its nine casinos have quickly brought wealth to an area that was once the poorest in the country. The county has made 361-point-5 million dollars in revenue from the gambling halls since the first casino opened in 1992. But trouble has tagged along with the wealth -- there have been 19 casino robberies there over the past year. That's more than any other gambling locale. (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

From WMC-TV, TN, 24 November 2003

Judicial Corruption Hot Topic at Forum

Bill Ballenger said the judicial branch of government needs to be held to the same rules as the other two branches. That and other messages comprised almost two hours of discussion at the Griffin Policy Forum Thursday in the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium. Ballenger, Griffin Endowed Chair and political science professor, assembled a panel of experts on judicial matters to discuss and debate problems in the judiciary system. The auditorium was full of students, judges and former judges, lawyers and political science professors. All six panelists agreed the public is less than thrilled about selecting judges and many people do not put the time or effort into learning about the candidates. "People are overwhelmed by all of the information and do not know where to start," Ballenger said. The major discussion topic was how a judge should be elected and financed. Panelists and audience members both said politics will never be taken out of judicial races, but some argued in favor of the appointment system instead of elections. "Political parties are the best screeners because they are the only institution that cannot afford to have a complete klutz trying to be a judge," Ballenger said.

The discussions were light and full of humor, as moderator Tim Skubick, host of East Lansing's Channel 13 WKAR's "Off the Record," moved from the audience to panelists, cracking jokes and keeping the discussion lively. Solutions offered included putting judicial candidates on the regular election ballot instead of an off-year and placing judges under political labels so the voters are more aware of who will represent them. "People vote for a party to express their own politics, but if they don't know what party a judge is what are they voting for? That he starts court on time?" said Doug Roscoe, associate political science professor. Judge James Alexander defended using large amounts of money in a campaign. "I would spend half a million dollars on door-to-door flyers and media advertisement just to figure out who my constituency was," he said.

Panelist Kim Cahill, co-chairwoman of the Committee on Judicial Qualifications in the State Bar Association, said funding sources need to be made public to keep people's trust. "If the public feels you can buy a judge, we have a problem," she said. "But if you take all the money out, you'll still have politics to deal with - there is no easy answer." Grand Rapids junior Nicole DeRuiter said she learned a lot from the program. "It was interesting, although most of it was over my head," she said. "My only complaint is that not enough of the panelists had extreme views." College Republicans President Jesse Purdon, Ann Arbor junior, said the panel was diverse and intelligent. "I understand where people are coming from a little better now," Purdon said. "But until someone comes up with a better system, things are fine the way they are." The panelists included Alexander, Ballenger, Cahill, former Chief Judge Robert Danhof, attorney Hugh Clarke and Chief Judge Joseph Swallow.

From Central Michigan LIFE, by Benjamin Ray, 21 November 2003

 

Why Fighting Corruption Helps the Poor

Fighting corruption is no longer just a moral issue. It has become a major tool in the fight against world poverty. Once seen as the cost of doing business in much of the globe - sometimes even regarded as useful in greasing the way for development projects - bribery increasingly is viewed as a major stumbling block to progress. And increasingly, governments and business groups around the world are beginning to do something about it. "There has been a sea change in the past seven or eight years in awareness of the issue," says Daniel Kaufmann, the World Bank's top official on the corruption issue. Three factors have been pushing the planet in this direction: the spread of democracy to many developing countries and former communist nations, recent research proving the terrible damage corruption does to the economies of poor nations, and the rapid spread of this knowledge across borders through the Internet. The most sweeping move came two weeks ago when the General Assembly of the United Nations approved - unanimously - the Convention Against Corruption. Justice ministers and some heads of state from about 130 nations plan to gather in Merida, Mexico, from Dec. 9 to 11 to sign the new treaty. "Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly. "It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life, and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish."

As Mr. Annan noted, this evil phenomenon is found in all countries, rich and poor. The United States, despite its wealth, democracy, and elaborate system of justice, has been experiencing a troubling bout of financial fraud. Corruption, though, hits poor countries especially hard by diverting money away from development. New research finds that, over a generation, if a poor country with a high level of corruption manages to reduce corruption to a median level, it will enjoy a 400 percent improvement in its per capita income, according to Mr. Kaufmann. That translates into a jump from, say, $ 4,000 a year for every many, woman, and child to a relatively prosperous $ 16,000. By contrast, people subject to a truly corrupt government often see a reduction in their living standards. Just signing a treaty, of course, does not block all corrupt activities. But the convention includes a major breakthrough. It requires signatory nations to return assets obtained through corruption to the nations from which they were stolen. "Corrupt officials will in future find fewer ways to hide their illicit gains," said Annan. Though proving that money is ill- gotten may not always be easy, that provision may prevent corrupt dictators, such as Ferdinand Marcos, a past president of the Philippines, or Joseph Mobuto, former president of Zaire, from stowing billions of dollars abroad and getting away with it for years. The Convention Against Corruption will require ratification by 30 nations to come into force.

This process, usually involving legislative approval, could take 18 months or so. Other moves are also afoot: * Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo announced in Berlin Nov. 7 that his government would publish the revenues it receives from the oil industry. This would square with the British government-led Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Representatives of oil companies also indicated they would make public what they pay to Nigeria. In some countries, "signature bonuses," royalties, and other payments have gone to hiring mercenaries or buying arms for a civil war. For instance, Human Rights Watch in Washington charges that over the past five years, $ 4.2 billion of Angolan state oil revenues disappeared before it could reach the coffers of the central bank. That sum is roughly equivalent to the total foreign aid Angola has received in that period. * Anticorruption conventions approved by several international organizations - the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Organization of American States, the Council of Europe, even the African Union - have pushed many nations to pass their own antibribery laws. In Germany, for instance, some key business executives regarded graft as a necessary if unpleasant way of doing business abroad. Then Peter Eigen, chairman of Transparency International, a watchdog group fighting corruption, met with about 20 key executives.

Over several meetings, he persuaded them that bribes were by now extremely risky for their companies. If they were caught, consumers of their goods would punish them for their transgressions by withholding purchases. As a result, the German government signed on to the 1997 OECD convention and soon thereafter rescinded a law allowing bribes by business made abroad - not in Germany - to be tax deductible. * The World Bank is promoting "integrity pacts." A group of competitive companies bidding on a major deal, say the privatization of a telecommunications company or a minerals project, will pledge to each other that they will not engage in bribes. If subsequently caught, a bribing firm must pay damages to its competitors without the necessity of them proving damage. And that firm will be blacklisted for future projects. Some 60 of these pacts now exist involving more than 100 multinational firms. In a 1996 speech, World Bank president James Wolfensohn placed corruption front and center as a worldwide challenge to development. Today the Bank and other development institutions work to discourage graft, sometimes with success, sometimes with little progress. "A country needs to have some commitment to help itself," says the World Bank's Kaufmann. One factor making the worldwide drive to tackle corruption easier has been the end of the cold war. The US and other Western industrial nations are no longer under any strategic pressure to support corrupt governments - thieves on the side of the West.

That change, however, has not ended "political expedience in international relations," cautions Kaufmann. Another key trend: the spread of democracy across the globe. It makes governments more accountable to their citizenry. "It creates millions of auditors," Kaufmann says. Moreover, democracy usually includes a more or less free press that can expose corruption. Another helpful factor is an explosion of data. Economists can now prove the enormous cost of corruption and other elements of poor governance to economic progress. The World Bank even ranks nations on their governance. When the Bush administration gets its Millennium Challenge Accounts in operation, a new plan to provide more foreign aid to those countries with the better governance that makes economic progress more likely, it will use the bank's ranking of nations, rough as it may be, as a guide. A fourth factor is the Internet. It makes it easier to disseminate this information. Authoritarian governments have greater difficulty controlling the Web than print or broadcast media. The World Bank site on corruption gets some 500,000 visitors a month, half from developing countries. Thousands of copies of papers on corruption issues, especially if they include data on the issue, are picked up each month. When Kaufmann participated in an anticorruption symposium in China two years ago, an official mentioned that a legal-network website highlighting the symposium had 1.2 million visitors.

Chinese officials wanted the Chinese people to know about the harm caused by corruption. All the anticorruption treaties will not do much to limit graft unless nations act on them. They are, in effect, primarily statements of good intentions. The new UN treaty itself contains no follow-up provisions. But Dmitri Vlassis, a key facilitator of the two-year negotiations leading to the treaty, hopes to get some support from the Nordic nations for a small bureaucracy to help train and advise other nations on how to implement the treaty and call conferences of nations to review progress. One provision dealing with campaign finance bribery was removed from the treaty at the insistence of the US delegation. Apparently, the US had concerns similar to those expressed in battles over campaign finance at home, that any limitations would restrain free speech. But the treaty does include a framework for stronger cooperation between nations to prevent, detect, and return the proceeds of corruption. It sets standards, measures, and rules that all countries can apply to strengthen their legal and regulatory anticorruption regimes. It calls for preventive measures and the criminalization of the most prevalent forms of corruption. "If fully enforced, this new instrument can make a real difference to the quality of life of millions of people around the world," the UN's Annan said.

From The Christian Science Monitor, by David R. Francis, 13 November 2003

U.N. Oversight of Internet: Dumb Idea

It would be hard to think of a dumber idea than putting the United Nations in charge of the Internet, other than letting the French direct a global defense against Martian invaders. Giving the U.N. bureaucrats control over the future of international communication and commerce would be akin to putting Karl Marx in charge of stock trading at Merrill Lynch. Marx, the father of communism who thought markets should be mothballed, could not fathom the idea that the profit motive might one day produce wealth that benefits most of society. So, too, it would be impossible for many members of the United Nations, and certainly its bureaucracy, which sees government and central planning as the font of all knowledge, to do anything but screw up the Internet. Yet that is what some - especially in lesser-developed countries that suspect anything having too much Western influence - want to occur. The issue is reportedly on the agenda at an international information summit next month in Switzerland. According to the Financial Times - the U.K.-based business-oriented newspaper - initial opposition from the United States and the European community has, for now, forestalled a drive to give a U.N. agency oversight of the Internet. Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Saudi Arabia are among those unhappy with the current system, under which the Internet and access to it are overseen with a very light hand by a California-based entity.

The semiprivate, nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers hands out Internet addresses and generally is the technological coordinator of cyberspace. ICANN, run by a board on which Americans are a minority, does not regulate content. The Internet was created by the U.S. military in the 1960s in order to have a bombproof communication system in case of nuclear attack. It evolved into a network used primarily by universities, and in the 1990s, the Internet began to sprout as an all-purpose communication system that has revolutionized virtually every aspect of modern life. The U.S. Congress formed ICANN in 1998, when the Internet began going commercial and there was a need to coordinate its development. The legislation sets criteria, not all of which have been met, that ICANN must accomplish before it can become independent. Because ICANN's directors are mostly from industrialized nations with previous Internet backgrounds, not surprisingly those outside that club want to use their political skills to win the ability to shape something they could not in their wildest dreams have created. Now, there may even be some here at home who believe in multilateralism to the extent that they think the United States and its friends should share their pre-eminent role.

Those who think so are nuts. The Internet has prospered because all that ICANN does is collect a relatively small amount of money for addresses and to keep the traffic moving. It has nursed the Internet on the notion of capitalism, limited government interference and embraced commercialization. Those are principles that can get you shot by governments in many parts of the world. It would be quite easy to imagine how giving a world government control over the Internet would restrict the information flow to avoid offending this or that political or religious sensibility. Those who argue that the Internet is a public resource are correct. It was even developed, to a degree, by government - actually a Pentagon agency - but it has remained generally free of government's heavy hand and has thrived because of it. And what those of us in the United States consider the heavy hand of government is actually just a love tap compared to the way that governments run things in most of the world and especially in those countries that favor U.N. control because it would increase their say.

Yet complaints about rising amounts of spam and viruses should not become an excuse for a power grab that would give a bunch of bureaucrats the power to regulate cyberspace. This issue is one of the few things these days on which there is common cause between the United States and most Western European countries. Even the quasi-socialists on the continent know not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Although any effort to make major strides toward U.N. Internet control apparently have been sidetracked for the Dec. 10-12 summit, the Financial Times reports those pesky elves in U.N. land are hoping to keep the issue alive. Their new goal is reportedly to try to demand that the United Nations and its minions take over the Internet when a second world information summit is Centre Daily Times November 19, 2003 Wednesday God forbid. Peter A. Brown is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Readers may e-mail him at pbrown@orlandosentinel.com

From Centre Daily Times, by Peter A. Brown, 19 November 2003

 
 

China Loans Bangui $2 Million to Pay Civil Servants

Bangui - The Central African Republic has received a US $2-million interest free loan from the People's Republic of China, with which to pay September salaries for civil servants, a government official told IRIN on Monday. At the same time, the government has received a $1.68-million grant from Equatorial Guinea, which would also go to paying salaries, the director of cabinet at the prime minister's office, Marcel Djimasse, said. Payment of the salaries begins on Tuesday, he said. Prime Minister Abel Goumba and Chinese Ambassador Wang Sifa signed the agreement for the loan on Monday in the capital, Bangui. This was the second time that China has given the CAR an interest-free loan since the 15 March coup that brought former army chief of staff Francois Bozize to power. China loaned the government $2.5 million in early June. It also granted $2 million in April, which enabled the government to pay civil servants their salaries for the month. In mid-September, China also gave a $83,000 grant for the national reconciliation forum that ended on 17 October. The latest loan comes when China has started building a 20,000-seat football stadium in Bangui, and is preparing to hand over to the government 100 low-cost flats it built in a Bangui suburb. "The funds granted by Equatorial Guinea have been at the Central Bank since last Friday," Djimasse said.

He added that the government had paid the same day August salary arrears. Like other four member states of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States, Equatorial Guinea accepted on 2 June in Libreville, Gabon, to contribute 1 billion francs CFA ($1.8 million) for the reconstruction of the CAR, which has been ravaged by civil strife for many years. So far, Chad, Gabon and the Republic of Congo have made their contributions. Cameroon is yet to make its own. The Chinese loan and Equatorial Guinea's grant came while the CAR government owed civil servants two months' salaries, which it failed to pay because of a sharp decrease in the income generated from import and export taxes. The shortfall occurred due to a transportation hitch caused by heavy rains, that hindered the ferrying of goods across the country. Djimasse said that the funds, in addition to a -1 million ($1.14 million) grant from France in October, would enable the government to obtain the 2.7 billion francs CFA ($4.9 million) needed for each month's salaries. On 29 October, Goumba asked Lebanese traders who collectively owed the government 1.5 billion francs CFA ($2.7 million) in taxes to meet their obligations to enable the government to pay civil servants' salaries.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 11 November 2003

Why We Need Efficient Civil Service'

Abakaliki - Dr. Sam Egwu of Ebonyi State has stated that the state deserves an efficient and virile civil service to face the challenges of governance, noting that senior civil servants "are government's dependable allies in the conduct of government business." Egwu described the civil service as one of the most dependable organs for ensuring effective execution of government policies and programmes. The governor stated this in a keynote address at the opening of a two-day seminar organised by the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Ebonyi State chapter in Abakaliki. He observed that the theme of the seminar, "The Role of Civil Servants in the Development of a Virile and Stable Civil Service" was most appropriate and timely and in tandem with his administration's new work ethic. He urged them as senior civil servants to conduct themselves in a manner that will not be misconstrued by the public and charged participants to properly avail themselves of the opportunity offered by the seminar to enhance their productivity.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Chinedu Eze, 8 November 2003

Kanu Link Probe for Top Public Servants

The government has asked for an investigation into five top public servants, among them a permanent secretary, who are alleged to be involved in Kanu activities. Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi has ordered that the five, said to be close associates of former President Moi be probed under the Public Officer Ethics Act (2003). They are Permanent Secretary for Co-operative Development Benjamin Sogomo, Deputy Central Bank Governor Edward Sambili, the Egerton University Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof James Tuitoek, the Kabarak University Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr Daniel Tuitoek and Kabarak High School Principal Henry Kiplagat. Murungi has written to the Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Mr. Francis Muthaura instructing him to find out if the officers have broken the law. At least one of those affected saw the probe as a move to instigate the sacking of certain people from Government. "It must be a well-calculated move to instigate the sacking of certain people from Government ... I do not engage in politics at all," said Dr Sambili. Sambili, a former principal of Moi High School Kabarak, said he had received a copy of the letter from Murungi to Muthaura on Friday.

The minister was acting on a complaint purportedly written by some Kanu officials from Koibatek District. The Mogotio Kanu branch officials had asked the minister to restrain the officers from engaging in Kanu activities. In an undated letter to Murungi, the nine officials claimed that the five were actively engaged in planning, organising and directing Kanu grassroots elections. However, one of the purported signatories, Mr. Kiprono Chekugui (delegate), has disowned the letter and the signature against his name. He has written to Muthaura, saying he suspected that someone scared of losing the election was trying to antagonise imaginary contenders with the community's role models "so as to find an escape route". The other officials are Mr. Charles Koskei (chairman), Mr. John Komen (vice-chairman), Mr. John Lagat (treasurer), Mr. Geoffrey Chesire (organising secretary), Mr. Kiptum Binot (youth leader), Mr. Geoffrey Chelal and Mr. Chebiriach Koima. Mr. William Morogo, who is the known branch chairman, was not available for comment.

The five public officers are the first to be targeted in such investigations since the new law came into force. The law bars public officers from acting as agents for political parties or indicating support for or opposition to any party in an election. The minister called upon the PS to "look into the matter and take the necessary action, if the complaint is found to have merit". Contacted to comment on the issue, Sogomo said he was abroad for a long time and returned to find the issue hot in the village. He said Muthaura had later informed him about the matter. "I am sure the PS will carry out his investigations and come out with a truthful report," he said, adding that he had never engaged in politics. Prof Tuitoek also denied the allegations, saying he had never engaged in party politics and wondered why someone wanted to malign him. Dr Tuitoek said he was shocked by the allegations and that he was waiting for communication from the Government. Kiplagat could not be reached for comment.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Samuel Mburu and Peter Mutai, 17 November 2003

All Civil Servants to Get Bonuses: Nzuwa

The civil service Joint Negotiating Council met yesterday and deliberated on several issues, including a review of the transport allowance and the 2004 collective bargaining exercise. But details of the meeting were not readily available to the Press last night, with the JNC chairman, a Mr. Chimbunde saying he would issue a statement "at the appropriate time through proper procedures". The JNC is composed of the Public Service Commission and staff associations representing civil servants. Public Service Commission chairman Dr Mariyawanda Nzuwa said on Tuesday Government would pay a bonus to all civil servants despite the introduction of the performance management system and review the transport allowance with immediate effect. He said the rest of the civil service, apart from those from the education sector, would be paid their bonuses this month while those from the education sector would be paid in December. Dr Nzuwa said Government was aware of the difficulties being faced by civil servants and would also review their salaries next January. Civil servants are demanding a transport allowance of at least $80 000 a month, up from $22 000. The lowest paid civil servant earns a net salary of about $50 000 a month.

From Harare Herald, Zimbabwe, 12 November 2003

Big Shake-Up In Civil Service

Payroll Bloated by 220,000 - Government has just completed the first phase of a comprehensive study of the public service, the results of which will lead to the redefinition of the missions of all public institutions, their structures and skills requirement, with the view to make them more relevant. The findings do not only confirm that the public sector is in many areas woefully unproductive, unskilled and overstaffed, but also that the payroll is far larger than the real individuals earning incomes. According to the Co-ordinator of the National Institutional Renewal Programme, Dr K. Appiah-Koranteng, "the perception that the public sector is over-bloated is real". For example, as at the year 2000, there were a total of 538,866 people in the public sector. This figure has been found to be more than 200,000 above the actual number of individuals that are entitled to draw their salaries from the Consolidated Fund. Last year, President Kufuor tasked the NIRP to undertake, among other things, a censorship of the actual workforce as part of the entire reform exercise of the public sector. It took the NIRP six months to complete the exercise, which culminated in a two-week field exercise of head-to-head counting nationwide, which revealed that the payrolls had been bloated by more than 200,000 'ghost' employees. The NIRP is currently right-sizing the payroll. Dr Appiah-Koranteng said his team would be going back to the field next week for a three-week exercise to get the various heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies to attest to the revised payroll list.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 19 November 2003

Mfa Applauds Committed Public Servants

The Botswana Public Service has been lauded for its commitment to serving the nation. Assistant Minister in the Office of the President Olifant Mfa said this week that their resolve was unwavering despite problems, including lack of accommodation, harsh conditions of roads and poor communications. Mfa, who was addressing public servants at Goodhope, urged them to continue working hard to develop the country and economy. Although the Botswana public service is one of the best in Africa, the minister said, it is besieged by problems, including existence of some unproductive officers who spend most of their time either out of office or engaged in politics. Mfa urged public servants to refrain from participating in active politics so they could discharge their duties fairly and effectively. He said some people have suggested that government revive the deadwood exercise to weed out unproductive officers. Mfa further advised supervisors to be transparent when selecting officers for promotion, training and transfers in view of complaints of favouritism shown to some officers by their friends and relatives. He said his office had received complaints that some officers had never been transfered, while others were favoured for promotions or training.

He urged public servants to report any incident of corruption and favouritism in their departments so appropriate action could be preferred where necessary. This is because favouritism, tribalism and partisanship are corrupt practices that should not be tolerated. Mfa told his audience that government was working hard to raise the P618 million needed to implement the De Villiers report in April next year. Consequently, several major projects have been abandoned or suspended in an effort to raise such funds. Other cost cutting measures will include discarding business class travels by top civil servants. Mfa said he did not believe that civil servants were selfish when demanding salary increments, but that they needed an explanation that there were no funds to pay them higher salaries. In their comments, the officers said the De Villiers report should not have been accepted because it was harsh in recommending salary reductions for officers on D scale. The officers concurred with the minister that there are some corrupt officers who also ill-treat their subordinates. Some speakers expressed displeasure at instances where someone is a public servant today and is a councillor or parliamentarian the next day. The practice, they said, encourages public servants to get involved in active politics. Also, they blamed politicians for politicising the public service by allowing officers to enter politics while serving the nation. BOPA

From Republic of Botswana, Botswan, 21 November 2003

Public Servants Barred from Bulela Ditswe

Civil servants who hoped to cast their vote in the coming Botswana Democratic Party primary elections under the new system of bulela ditswe will have a rude awakening as the party has decided to bar them from participating in the elections. According to BDP Executive Secretary, Botsalo Ntuane the move, communicated to various party structures yesterday morning, is aimed at maintaining the party's belief that civil servants should not actively "participate in politics." Ntuane says his office communicated this notice to all the party structures: "But I must emphasise that this has always been the practice. It is just that this time we thought we should clarify this, following the party's adoption of Bulela Ditswe system, which says "all members must vote". In the past it was not necessary to make the clarification since the party was using the committee of 18 system to vote and civil servants were not members of those committees." "If we allow the civil servants to participate in these elections members of the public may lose confidence in them after discovering the parties they belong to. This will be unlike in the general elections where it is not possible to know the party that voters belong to," Ntuane said in an interview.

However, some labour associations see this move as unfair and uncalled for. "If this is true, the party will be denying its members who are civil servants their democratic right. As members of BDP, they have a right to participate in the process that chooses who represents them in the coming general elections, vice president of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions, Othusitse Tsalaile said. According to Tsalaile, allowing the civil servants to participate in the primary elections is a lesser evil when compared to a trend where "civil servants resign today only to be in Parliament the following day." However, Botswana Civil Servants Association (BCSA) President, Andrew Motsamai has lauded the move as a step in the right direction. According to him, there is a need to draw distinction between membership of political parties and actively participating in party activities: "There is nothing wrong in belong to a political party but there is everything wrong in actively participating in political party activities," Motsamai said. BOPA

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 21 November 2003

 

Subsidised Super for Public Servants

After an 11-year hiatus, public servants are again being offered taxpayer subsidised superannuation. Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday that 96,000 people on the public payroll would become eligible for a new scheme in July. It is an attempt to boost retirement savings and to provide a model for private sector employers. The Government will match dollar-for-dollar employee contributions to approved superannuation schemes up to 3 per cent of their salaries. The value of the new scheme will vary wildly according to pay levels, interest rates and length of service. The scheme was announced by Miss Clark to sustained applause at a Public Service Association 90th anniversary dinner in Wellington. She said the Government aimed, over time, to raise the level of employer contributions to the scheme to 6 per cent. (MPs get 20 to 24 per cent subsidies under the superannuation schemes they have created for themselves.) Officials expect a third of public servants to opt into the scheme, and calculate that it will cost $32 million a year. It will be open to employees in the 35 public service departments, the six non-public service departments (Defence Force, SIS, office of the clerk, Parliamentary Services, police and the Parliament Counsel Office), the state school sector and registered teachers employed by free kindergarten associations.

Miss Clark and State Services Minister Trevor Mallard said the scheme met two important government objectives. "We are dedicated to building a strong public service and we are also intent on promoting retirement savings. "This scheme models the type of arrangements which the Government would like other employers to develop." PSA national secretary Lynn Middleton said the scheme was "great news" and an example of what unions, government and employers could achieve working in partnership. The old Government Superannuation Fund was closed off to new members in 1992. About 25,000 public servants are still paying a proportion of their salaries into it. Independent Savings and Insurance Association chief executive Vance Arkinstall said the scheme sent a powerful signal of the importance of personal saving for retirement. "Traditional company superannuation has been in decline for a decade now. This is the first positive sign that the Government wishes to reverse that trend." Green Party co-leader Rod Donald said yesterday's announcement was a "small step in the right direction. "We can only hope that the State Services Minister Trevor Mallard will be able to persuade Finance Minister Michael Cullen to lift the level of subsidy above the miserly 3 per cent he's currently offering."

From Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand, by Nick Venter, 5 November 2003

PM: Only 8.2% Chinese In Public Services

Kuala Lumpur - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said there were 1,026,143 civil servants in the country as of December 31 last year. Of this total, only 8.2% were Chinese, he said. He said majority of the public servants were Malays, about 76.4% of all. He answered a question by DAP Kota Melaka MP Kerk Kim Hock that there were still 47,563 vacancies in the police and armed forces as of December 31 last year.

From E.Sinchew-i.com, Asia, 10 November 2003

Abdullah Wants Civil Service Procedures Improved

Putrajaya - Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wants every measure to be taken to further improve and streamline the civil service work procedures to ensure smooth running of the country's administration and an effective delivery system for the people. The prime minister said that civil servants must also enhance their ability, particularly through acquiring more knowledge about their work. "This means that man, machine and procedures must be improved at all times," he said at the Finance Ministry's monthly assembly which also marked his first day in office as the new finance minister. Pledging to work hard as finance minister, he said all these moves were important to ensure that the nation's success left behind by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was managed well and even increased. Present were Second Finance Minister Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, the two deputy finance ministers, Datuk Dr Shafie Salleh and Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen, and the ministry's secretary-general, Tan Sri Shamsudin Hitam.

Abdullah said Dr Mahathir's contributions in his 22 years at the helm of the nation were really fantastic. He said: "It's important that we manage the success that we have inherited. It means that we don't want that success to decline, disappear or be eroded. "Let's hold on to what we already have. Besides that, we must also add some more, so that what's targeted is attained, what's in hand is not lost along the way." Abdullah said Malaysia's financial system must be managed efficiently to create confidence among investors, businessmen and the people in the country. He urged all Malaysians to give their total commitment and to work towards attaining excellence in the discharge of their duties. Earlier, Shamsudin led the assembly in reading out the pledge of allegiance before handing over the document to Abdullah on behalf of all the ministry staff. Abdullah then entered his new office on the 12th floor of the Finance Ministry Complex before attending a briefing and closed-door meeting with senior officials of the ministry and its agencies.

From Utusan Malaysia Online, Malaysia, 11 November 2003

Civil Servants Must Pledge to Fight Corruption Menace, Says Abdullah

Putrajaya - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today urged civil servants to make a pledge not to be involved in corruption and initiate measures to fight the menace. Abdullah, who is also Home Minister, said the fastest way of doing so was not to accept or be involved in corruption. "If we pledge to ourselves, understand (our) responsibility, we will not want to be involved in corruption and corruption will not occur," he said when opening the Home Ministry's Quality Day 2003 here. Abdullah hoped that corruption would no longer exist among civil servants after they made the pledge. However, for cases under investigation, the probe would proceed and the cases dealt with according to the law, he said. Abdullah also called on the ministry's departments and agencies to be the role model for other government bodies in improving services to the public. He said this was so as several of the ministry's departments and divisions had been named as recipients of quality awards for rendering quality services to the people. However, there was still room for improvement, he said. Deputy Ministers Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin and Datuk Chor Chee Heung, secretary-general Datuk Seri Aseh Che Mat, parliamentary secretary Datuk Seri Abu Zahar Isnin and Inspector General of Police Datuk Seri Mohamed Bakri Omar were also present.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, 13 November 2003

1400 Civil Servants in Indonesia's East Java Get "Vacation Pay"

Surabaya - Some 1,400 employees of East Java's provincial secretariat on Monday received their "vacation pay" in time for next week's Idul Fitri festivities. They received a "vacation pay" equivalent to their monthly salaries or about Rp1 million each, head of the provincial secretariat, Mohammad Munir, said. "This is the second year they have received such a pay," he said, adding that contract workers also got a vacation pay of about Rp400,000 each.

From Antara, Indonesia, 17 November 2003

Retiring Civil Servants Will Be Paid Up to 120 Days in Lieu of Leave

Petaling Jaya - The "golden handshake" for retiring civil servants has been increased by a further 30 days, according to the Public Services Department. "Civil servants will be allowed to accumulate not more than 120 days for cash in lieu of leave throughout their service," PSD Director-General Tan Sri Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri said in a circular issued yesterday. Previously, they could only be paid for a maximum of only 90 days. The change took effect from Aug 1. The PSD said that while the Government's policy was to encourage civil servants to take their leave each year, it was accepted that some were unable to do so due to the call of duty. "In such situations, they are allowed to accumulate leave, subject to certain conditions, to be replaced with cash," the circular stated. The circular said for the implementation of the new formula for cash in lieu of leave, the number of leave days accumulated up till Dec 31, 2002, would be taken up to 90 days only. During the last year of service, civil servants would be allowed to accumulate up to a maximum of their leave entitlement, added the circular. With the enforcement of the circular, payment for leave not taken would be calculated based on the formula: 1/30 x last pay received x accumulated annual leave days (subject to a maximum of 120).

From The Star, Malaysia, by Jane Ritikos, 14 November 2003

Thailand-Singapore Civil Service Exchange Programme Begins on Monday

Singapore - The sixth meeting of the Thailand-Singapore Civil Service Exchange Programme (CSEP) will start on Monday in Thailand. Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar and his Thai counterpart Surakiart Sathirathai will be at the opening ceremony. Professor Jayakumar will also call on Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The two-day meeting will review the progress of joint projects and identify new areas of collaboration. Since the inaugural meeting held in Singapore in 1998, the CSEP process has strengthened linkages between the two Civil Services and increased avenues for exploring new areas of cooperation.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 14 November 2003

Consultants Say Private Sector Unlikely to Follow Civil Service Pay Cuts

As the island's largest employer, the Civil Service often sets the trend for salaries and bonuses, but this time the private sector is unlikely to follow the public sector and cut starting salaries by up to 20 percent. Channel NewsAsia spoke to a large international firm and a consultancy which tracks salaries. Accounting firm KPMG has already hired 100 graduates this year. The good news is that it may hire even more next year. This reinforces soon-to-be released findings by a separate salary tracking consultancy - that 70 percent of companies in Singapore are hiring again, up from 63 percent in June immediately after SARS blew over. So there are jobs, but will starting salaries be cut? Mr. Stephen Tjoa, Human Resource at KPMG, said: "The revision on Civil Service pay structure would not make a significant impact because I think we look at the number of factors. As far as KPMG is concerned, we look at the business realities, we look at the economic forces, we look at competition."

In fact, salary consultants forecast an average 2 percent increase in private sector pay next year, signaling a move in the opposite direction from public sector salaries. Fresh graduates at KPMG now start at $2,000, while graduates in the Civil Service used to earn as high as $2,400 before the cuts. Salary consultants say this is because a few years ago, the Civil Service tried to catch up with the private sector and in some cases, may have overshot a little. Mr. Peter Lee, Managing Consultant at RDS Remuneration Data Specialists, said: "Since the Asian crisis, private sector companies had to adjust. So the salaries had been coming down gradually, whereas the government has maintained their salaries, that's why the recent review and adjustment downwards is not a surprise." But this is set to change from January, when ministries cut starting pay by an average of 11 percent. The minimum starting salary will then be closer to $1,500. The only group likely to feel a knock-on effect from the public sector pay cuts are statutory boards like the Health Sciences Authority. HSA said it would be reviewing starting salaries for fresh graduates.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, by Yvonne Cheong, 14 November 2003

Civil Service Ideas Contest Needs Revamp

Changes on the way as too much time, effort and money go towards preparing for elaborate annual Wits convention - IT IS one thing to hear Singaporeans tick off civil servants for waste. It is quite another to hear a top civil servant highlight unproductive ways in a movement aimed paradoxically at cutting waste and improving efficiency. Yesterday, Mr. Bilahari Kausikan indicated that the civil service's ExCEL movement which he heads appears to have lost its way. One in two civil servants would rather stay away from the proliferation of Work Improvement Teams (Wits) formed to think up innovations for workplace and service improvements. Too many man-hours are wasted on elaborate preparations for the annual Wits convention, he said, and too much time, effort and money is spent in perfecting presentations for it. His speech at an awards ceremony bristled with unburnished facts and observations as he urged his audience of about 600 civil servants to go back to basics and re-think the way they push for efficiency. A survey of civil servants this year showed that almost half, if given a choice, would not take part in Wits.

They felt the same way in another survey five years ago. 'I find this disturbing,' said Mr. Kausikan, the second permanent secretary (Foreign Affairs) who chairs the PS21 ExCEL committee overseeing training and learning in the civil service, with special emphasis on Wits and the Staff Suggestion Scheme (SSS). It is also common knowledge 'that Wits and SSS are widely perceived as a numbers game; an extra-curricular activity and an additional burden, not an integral part of work', he added, referring to the way departments race to chalk up the most ideas and awards. For this year's convention, 100 judges took four days to pick the winners, for 48 awards, from nearly 400 teams. Each team comprised three to five people, or more. He asked: 'What is the real significance of an event of such magnitude? Can it be anything more than just a celebration? Was there any real sharing of experience?' Apparently not. 'Form is crowding out substance,' he added. That's because judges are forced to focus on formalities of methodology and presentation because a judge from one ministry does not have the expertise to judge the substance of another ministry's project. As a result, many man-hours and money are spent on transforming Wits reports into presentations and rehearsing for the perfect presentation, he noted.

He drew laughter and knowing nods when he said: 'It is no secret that consultants are hired to vet and improve the presentation of Wits projects and reports and are paid large sums of money for doing so.' Some consultants are said to charge $200 an hour. Mr. Kausikan almost raised the roof of the Victoria Concert Hall when he added: 'No wonder some brilliant wit has dubbed Wits as 'Waste Important Time.' ' He did not think holding an event of this scale was necessary, at a time when the civil service was under greater public scrutiny for how its uses public funds. His committee will propose a new-look convention in January next year. Currently, most of the winners receive trophies, with winners in one category receiving money from a $20 million fund to test winning innovations. One likely change is the abandonment of the elaborate fishbone diagram, crucial in Wits presentations. It was hinted at by Mr. Lim Siong Guan, head of the civil service, who ditched his prepared speech to voice his strong support for Mr. Kausikan's message. 'Imagine an ExCEL convention without fishbones!' he said. Consultants interviewed agreed with Mr. Kausikan's observations. Mr. Freddie Yap, who provides Wits training and has written a book on the subject, said: 'I'm against conventions... There's a lot of pressure and some of these teams spend a lot of time and, when they get a bronze medal, their boss is not happy.'

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Alexis Hooi, 13 November 2003

Making Civil Service More Civil

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is not one to hibernate in government administration centre, Putrajaya. It is commendable that even when his premiership is still in its infancy, he is keeping the pace and making strides to emphasize the "civil" in the civil service. In meeting people face-to-face while inspecting how the civil service interfaces with the public, he displays his hands-on style of political leadership. And if initial feedback on the street is any guide, it is a most welcome approach. These sporadic forays into the otherwise mundane world of government bureaucracy appear to take an unsuspecting public by surprise. The higher aim, however, is to put government bureaucrats on notice that their work must bear closer scrutiny from now on. These efforts by Pak Lah, as he is affectionately known, are furthermore themed with the concept of fighting corruption and red tape. As a package, it is a means of tweaking the system for peak performance by making the government machinery work smarter and better. Suddenly, the job of a desk-bound civil servant no longer seems so predictable and boring.

Even the most jaded counter clerk may begin to appreciate that a spirit of innovation, enterprise and rededication to public service means there is life beyond the next photocopied form. Among the new moves is encouraging the public to rate the quality of civil servants' work as a means to identify high and low performers. If private establishments like hotels can practise this to streamline operations, why not the government service as well? The benefits of Pak Lah's fresh approach are obvious to the people. Yet the greater beneficiary may be the civil servants themselves, as they stand to gain greater job satisfaction and recognition if they strive to work with Pak Lah for the people. At Cabinet level, this hands-on style may also inspire individual ministers to kickstart the enthusiasm and drive of their respective ministries, agencies and departments. The point, however, is to ensure that it is more than a short-lived gimmick, by making it standard practice throughout the civil service. Already, the people's expectations have been raised in terms of improved service. This must figure as a net advantage, even if only because it helps to keep the civil service on its toes.

Few would disagree that this emphasis is vitally needed. If the government's bureaucratic juggernaut can be pressed to produce better performance from now, then we are all the better for it. Some cynics may carp that if it works, the political incumbents stand to reap a better electoral image for themselves. But since the advantages are apolitical in a non-partisan sense, with the benefits spread all-round, is success for serving the nation any reason for bitter politicking? One thing is abundantly clear: Pak Lah's new premiership is making the right moves in ways approved by the people. To encourage and help sustain this effort, all must cooperate and pull together by pulling in the same direction. For the various government departments and agencies themselves, this is also far from being a problem. Where there is any doubt, all they need do is abide by their essential mission of serving the public. Nonetheless, there may still be that minority whose sloth or venality grates against any effort to improve matters. These individuals never made good civil servants or citizens anyway, and the sooner they are identified as chaff, the sooner the others can move ahead. (The Star/ANN)

From E.Sinchew-i.com, Asia, 15 November 2003

At Least Help These Public Servants To Do Our Dirty Work

The systems were in place. The failure was by a person. There will be more such failures. People are frail. So more children will be killed, like the Masterton pair, or maimed or damaged. It is a ghastly fact of life in our and every society. At each such failure the media and politicians will line up to throw rocks at the public service, not thinking that they, too, make mistakes. No one will ask if eliminating violence is do-able. The modern sensitised society demands it be done to relieve guilt and anger. So we now ask the state to do far more than we would have dared ask a generation ago. National's Roger Sowry thought in the 1990s the state could break the "cycle of family violence". At best it can interfere and ameliorate. When the Child, Youth and Family Service fails to stop every case of violence, we throw rocks. It is a marvel anyone wants to work there. Even more of a marvel is that anyone would want to be chief executive and cop the rocks for the inevitable staff errors. Am I being too forgiving of failure? Possibly, in this sense: that systems can fail for another reason than individual human frailty. They can fail because the organisational culture is inappropriate, wrong or rotten.

Then the CEO is rightly to blame. And there has been a cultural inhibition to effective social services. A "silo" culture has meant that often several, sometimes numerous, state agencies have worked separately, at times counterproductively, with malfunctioning families. Sowry tried to break down the silo culture as Social Services Minister up to 1999 and had some success. His successor, Steve Maharey, has carried that on. Public service bosses have worried at it for some years. One of the smartest, Peter Hughes, who heads Maharey's Ministry of Social Development, is driving a decentralisation designed, in part, to join up social agencies at local level. Ask yourself what is the Government's face in most towns and community centres. Not the post offices. Richard Prebble saw them off, though Jim Bolger has opened some on the back of Kiwibank. The state's face is that opiate of the downtrodden, Work and Income, doler of benefits. In about 60 Work and Income offices Hughes has made space for other state agencies, for example, the Inland Revenue Department (family tax credits, etc) and the Housing Corporation: a one-stop shop where you do much of your social needs business with the state.

Hughes has also linked his staff with local mayors and officials (armed with their new "power of general competence", conferred last year), non-government community agencies (which often generate useful ideas besides delivering services) and iwi. Hughes has devolved considerable autonomy, including discretionary control over some funds, to 12 regional commissioners and parked a policy wonk with each, to plug the commissioner into head office policy thinking and make head office analysts take into account local realities and insights. In behind the commissioners are regional social development managers whose job is to get a social development focus at the regional and local level - potentially (though Hughes is coy on this point) a match, as regional lead agency for all state social agencies, to Jim Anderton's Ministry of Economic Development (MED). An aim of this approach is to break down silos within the social sphere. Similarly with MED in the economic sphere. And, logically, the environment. But walls need to be melted between the spheres, too. If new economic activity starts up, Hughes wants the workers coming off that region's unemployment rolls, not from another region.

Conversely, Hughes can't get unemployed into work in a region if the jobs don't materialise for lack of transport and infrastructure, as in Northland. So breaking down silos is a complex business - unimaginably so to bosses of compartmentalised businesses in the private sector who have just one line of ultimate accountability (to shareholders) compared with public sector bosses' two, to ministers and end-users. Moreover, efficiency is not enough. That was the 1990s focus. Now effectiveness is the focus. Hughes wants eventually to measure his commissioners against social outcomes. Multi-agency co-operation and linkages are part of that drive for effectiveness. Cross-links should be enhanced by legislation due soon to make it easier to spread funding across activities. And next year's budget might, if the money keeps rolling in, produce a simplified benefit system, so families in difficulty can get what they need more readily and Work and Income staff can be case managers instead of calculators of which bits of the befuddling cocktail of benefits are available to a dependent. There will still be child-bashing and murders. But over time the state might better help malfunctioning families and so society - even maybe thereby reduce the guilt and anger so we don't feel such need to throw rocks at the public servants doing our dirty work.

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, 17 November 2003

Government to Revise Conflicting Laws on Papua

Jakarta - The government plans to launch revisions of two conflicting laws on Papua - Law No.45/1999 and Law No.21/2001 - and is preparing the draft of a government regulation on the establishment of the long-awaited Papuan People's Assembly (MRP). With the revision and amendment of the two conflicting laws, the government plans to legitimize the establishment of new provinces in Papua. Under Law No.21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua, any partition of Papua into different provinces must be made with the approval of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP), the Papuan legislative council (DPRP), and after due consideration has been taken of the local culture, human resources, and the economic potential of Papua. "(The revised laws will say ... ) the establishment of new provinces must be with the approval of the MRP and DPRP except for those established before the revisions," Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno said during a hearing with the House of Representatives' home affairs commission on Tuesday.

The revisions will thus make the controversial establishment of West Irian Jaya and Central Irian Jaya provinces in 1999 exempt from the need to seek the approval of Papuans. The minister added that the revisions would also clearly state that special autonomy would be applicable in all provinces of Papua - the original Papua province, West Irian Jaya province, and Central Irian Jaya province. The government partitioned Papua into three provinces - Papua, West Irian Jaya, and Central Irian Jaya - in what it claimed was an attempt to improve the quality of administration there. However, the policy was roundly rejected by students and people in Papua, and they occupied the provincial legislature for one week in a show of resistance. Worried by the increasing tension in Papua, the government delayed the formal setting up of the new provinces and granted the enormous province greater autonomy in 2001 in an attempt to appease separatist sentiment there.

Under Law No. 21 of 2001, the government should have issued the government regulation setting up the Papuan People's Assembly one month after receiving input from the governor and the DPRD. Two years after the law was passed, however, the government had still not issued a government regulation to give effect to the law. The home minister said that the government had drafted the regulation and would soon issue it. "We sent the draft to the President on Nov. 4," he added. The controversy over the division of Papua into three provinces continued with the inauguration of Abraham Atururi as acting governor of West Irian Jaya despite the objections of local people last week. The secretary of the Information Center for Humanity, Justice, and Truth in Papua (PIK-3-TanPa), Frans Maniagasi, said that the inauguration of the acting governor was legally defective.

From Jakarta Post, Indonesia, by Kurniawan Hari, 17 November 2003

Bankruptcy Act to Include All Civil Servants

Petaling Jaya - The Government will amend the Bankruptcy Act 1967 to bar bankrupt civil servants from remaining in office, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim. Currently, under Section 36 of the Act, the disqualification only applies to Sessions Court judges and magistrates and those nominated or elected to or holding or exercising the office of a councillor of a local authority. Dr Rais said the provision needed a closer look to embrace all public servants and the ministry's legal department had been instructed to study the matter. "It is a public policy that a bankrupt should not serve in the public office. This is due to the pecuniary indebtedness position one is in," he said in a telephone interview. Dr Rais was responding to a report that the Jasin district council secretary, Abdul Manaf Jaffar, had had his contract renewed on Jan 1 this year although he had been declared a bankrupt three months earlier. Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam had said that there was nothing wrong in a bankrupt holding the post as no rules had been broken. He added that the Official Assignee had also not stated that Abdul Manaf could not hold the post. Dr Rais said Abdul Manaf's case was covered under Section 36 of the Bankruptcy Act because he was nominated to the post. "Some people may split hairs over the fact that he is not a councillor but just a contract secretary.

However, the key word is that he is nominated to the office of a local authority and he forms part of the council administrative structure." When asked to comment on the amendment to the Bankruptcy Act, Cuepacs adviser Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said it would be unfair to dismiss all public servants who were declared bankrupts. "Some became bankrupts not by their own fault but because of being guarantors for loans taken by others. "The current regulations that allow disciplinary action based on the merit of the case is sufficient to deal with the situation," he said when contacted. Siva Subramaniam said the proposed compulsory dismissal for bankrupt public servants could push hard pressed civil servants to the edge and seek help from loan sharks instead. "This will open the opportunity for loan sharks to threaten civil servants," he added. In Malacca, Mohd Ali said he would submit a report to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi this week on the matter. "I will abide by any advice given by the Prime Minister," he added, saying the state government was ready to rescind Abdul Manaf's contract. Abdul Manaf, 47, was declared a bankrupt on Sept 11 last year for standing as a guarantor for a company over a RM2.5mil loan. He said yesterday that he had nothing to hide. "I am not a criminal. Everyone in the council and my friends know that I am a bankrupt. I am also a victim here," said the former Jasin Umno committee member.

From The Star, Malaysia, by Lam Li, 18 November 2003

Visa Corruption Rife, Lawyer Alleges

Corruption was rife in the visa approval system with the immigration minister susceptible to lobbying by MPs and community leaders, an immigration lawyer alleged yesterday. Michael Clothier told a Senate inquiry the minister's discretion to grant visas was unfair and open to corruption. He said migration agents had to know which buttons to press, and the right buttons were to get a Liberal Party MP or a community leader to lobby the minister. "You've got growing corruption in that area," Mr. Clothier said. "If you've got unsupervised power, you're going to get corruption." Mr. Clothier, a former Immigration Review Tribunal member, said representations made by MPs of the same political background as the minister were generally more successful. But he denied that corruption extended to bribes being taken. "I'm not aware in my 20 years of anyone paying money to a minister," he said "The sort of corruption I'm talking about is the wooing of ethnic communities by using that special power." He said both sides of politics were guilty of such political bias. The Senate inquiry was set up following allegations that former immigration minister Philip Ruddock was influenced by Liberal Party donations when granting visas - an allegation he denies. Migration agent Marion Le, of the Independent Council for Refugee Advocacy, denied there was such corruption but admitted the success of an appeal depended to a large extent on access to the minister. She called for more flexibility and honesty in the immigration system.

From The Age, Australia, by Meaghan Shaw, 18 November 2003

Government Takes Loan from ADB to Train Public Servants

The Government has taken out its first foreign loan to undertake training programmes aimed at making its employees and bureaucracy more effective. Deputy Minister for the Interior Nguyen Ngoc Hien announced the Asian Development Bank loan of US$80 million in Ha Noi last Friday. Hien said improving skills of public servants is the key goal of the Government's public administrative reform programme between now and 2010. "This is the first time the Vietnamese Government is using a loan from overseas for training and re-skilling cadres and civil servants to meet needs emerging from the industrialisation and modernisation of the country and its international integration," said Hien. Principal governance specialist at ADB's Viet Nam mission, Ramesh Adhikari, said the country had made remarkable strides to date achieving rapid economic growth and substantially reducing poverty. However, Adhikari pointed out that excessive bureaucracy and associated inefficiencies in public administration could restrain its competitiveness, and further economic and social development. The programme will include training in strategies and legal frameworks from the central to local levels. Hien explained that besides the ADB loan, the ministry is set to benefit from a Technical Assistance grant of $920,000 from the organisation.

From Vietnam Economic Times, Vietnam, 18 November 2003

Hong Kong to Streamline Civil Servants

Beijing - The Hong Kong government will cut 14,000 civil servants in the first quarter of next year, and reduce welfare subsidies to the work force, said Wong Wing-ping, Secretary for the Civil Service in Hong Kong Wednesday. In order to prevent the government expenditures from increasing by 15 percent every year, the Hong Kong government will slash the civil-servant work force from 174,000 to 160,000 in the first quarter of next year, and put a lid on the soaring government expenditures in welfare subsidies to local civil workers, Wong Wing-ping said. Housing and educational subsidies, accounting for nearly 80 percent of the total welfare subsidies, will be the main part of the reduction. However, the government should keep a close eye on the impact the new policy will have on local civil servants, and be cautious that civil servants might appeal to court for their subsidy cuts, Wong warned. (Shanghai Daily).

From Xinhua, China, 12 November 2003

Top Public Servants Crack $400,000

A soldier an economist and the nation's quarantine boss have topped the list of best-paid federal public servants. An AAP analysis of annual reports from more than 100 federal departments and agencies reveal that for the first time there is more than one public servant now earning more than $400,000 a year. At the top of the list is the secretary of Treasury, Ken Henry, who earned between $410,000 and $420,000 last financial year. His pay includes both the take home cash, superannuation, bonuses and vehicle. Dr Henry's boss, Treasurer Peter Costello, survives on half of what his departmental secretary earns, while Prime Minister John Howard is paid just under $270,000.

From NEWS.com.au, Australia, by Shane Wright, 17 November, 2003

Organised Crime Will Target Public Servants

State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham has warned organised crime will target public servants. His prediction to a Parliamentary select committee this morning follows the admission of a customs officer that he helped a pure methamphetamine smuggling ring. National MP Murray McCully, himself a former Customs Minister, says Mr. Wintringham has reassured parliamentarians the problem is not endemic. Mr. McCully says it happens only very occasionally, and he says the commissioner was certain there was no systemic problem.

From Advertiser, Australia, 21 November 2003

Public Service Broadcasting Increasingly Relevant

The government has reasserted the importance of public service broadcasting as part of the push to develop New Zealand's national identity, Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey said today. New Zealand and international broadcasters are meeting today at a conference in Wellington today to debate the future development of public service broadcasting in this country. It follows changes in recent years driven both by technology and government's increased emphasis on the cultural and civic importance of broadcasting. Steve Maharey said public broadcasters continue to have a vital place in New Zealand, but their needs to be much more debate about they should fulfil their mandate. "The government regards audiences as citizens, not simply as consumers, and has reclaimed expected of it in most nation's to ensure New Zealander's diverse needs as citizens are met by broadcasters. "The principles of public service broadcasting have been revitalised and placed at the heart of the government's broadcasting agenda.

Those principles are: universality of availability, universality of appeal, provision for minorities, serving the public good, a commitment to education, independence and autonomy, competition in good programming rather than in numbers, and a liberal and open environment for programme makers. "Public service broadcasting in the 21st century does not provide a haven for a nostalgic view of the past. Nor is it about producing 'worthy but dull' programming. "In order to get the 'mix' right it's important that we continue to foster a lively national conversation about how we want to see ourselves and our aspirations explored and portrayed. This conference has begun that conversation," Steve Maharey said.

From Scoop.co.nz (press release), New Zealand, 21 November 2003

Afghan Civil Servants Get 600% Pay Hike

Kabul - Afghanistan has increased civil servants' salaries by 600 per cent but most will still struggle even on their new pay, finance ministry officials said on Saturday. "This pay rise will affect 40 per cent of people working for the government, excluding the military, police and teachers whose salaries were already increased at the beginning of the year," Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani said. Even with the increase and a $35 food allowance, the highest ranked government worker will only take home 4,825 Afghanis ($100) a month. The lowest-paid will see their salaries climb from 40 Afghanis (80 cents) a month to 280 Afghanis ($5.80) but all ranks still receive the same $35 food allowance. Deputy Finance Minister Abdul Salam Rahimi admitted that civil servants would struggle even with their new pay rises. "We know that the increased salary plus food allowance is not sufficient even for half a month expenses of the smallest family," he said. "The living cost is very high in Kabul and other cities. This is the best we could do in the structure of this year's budget."

Rents in Kabul have soared, with even a rough mud dwelling without electricity and just access to a communal well or water pump costing around 50 dollars a month. Rahimi said civil servants would have to wait for ongoing tax and customs reforms to take place before their salaries could be raised to a realistic level. The pay rise will cost the government 397 million Afghanis for the remaining five months of the Afghan fiscal year and is backdated to October so civil servants will benefit in time for the Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the fasting month of Ramzan next week. Afghanistan's government budget for this year is 550 million dollars, of which Kabul has to raise 200 million with the rest coming from international donors. The country's development budget for the year is estimated at 1.7 billion dollars.

From Hindustan Times, India, 22 November 2003

47,000 Civil Servants to Go Next Year

PM unveils B13bn early retirement plan - The government intends to retire 47,000 civil servants next year. In a bid to trim down and smarten up the bureaucracy, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday announced his government's fresh 13-billion-baht voluntary early retirement programme, which begins next April Fools Day. At present Thailand has two million people employed in the civil service. At yesterday's Thai Chambers of Commerce seminar in Chon Buri, Mr. Thaksin said the government had a policy to improve Thailand's bureaucratic system for more efficiency, and had come up with an early retirement scheme for officials which would cost 13 billion baht. The target group would be 47,000 government officials aged 50 up, or with 25 working years. They will be paid gratuities for their voluntary early retirement, he said. To be launched on April 1, 2004, the scheme is not for those with outstanding work performance, and Mr. Thaksin hoped the programme would prompt remaining officials to work harder.

The early retirement programme would benefit the country as the economy improved, because retired officials would be able to either join the private sector or start their own businesses, or even run in local elections. "The timing is good. The proposal [on the early retirement programme] will be presented to cabinet for approval in December and registration will last three months. It will take effect on April 1 next year," the prime minister said. Mr. Thaksin added that government policies focused on an economic drive at the grassroots level rather than on those at the top of the pyramid. The move to encourage the public and private sectors and the people to push for a better economy began with state agencies first, such as the CEO governor project which allows the provinces to adjust to a changing world and become more open to free trade. The government will next year push for the issuance of land ownership documents for poor people wanting to become farmers.

He cited the National Economic and Social Development Board's statistics that the number of poor people in Thailand had dropped to seven million from 10 million. The prime minister also forecast that Thailand's gross domestic product would increase to 8% next year and 10% in 2005, from 6% this year. From October next year, the E-service system will be introduced at all departments and provinces for faster services which would be very similar to a one-stop service. Ajva Taulananda, chairman of the Thai Chambers of Commerce, said he agreed with the government's early retirement scheme for 47,000 more officials, as this would improve the bureaucratic system's efficiency in the same way that the private sector was downsizing its workforce. Sauwanee Thairungroj, dean of the University of Thai Chambers of Commerce's economics faculty, voiced support, saying action must be taken because the civil service workforce was huge and clumsy, with many idle employees.

From Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Phusadee Arunmas, 24 November 2003

Organised Crime Targeting Public Servants

Organised crime is targeting those public servants who stand in the way of their profits, State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham told MPs today. Mr. intringham told the government administration select committee this week's case of a corrupt Customs officer showed how the environment had changed. Tori Rocky Kotahi Puata gave drug smugglers details of security secrets. He has pleaded guilty to a charge of importing crystal methamphetamine and is awaiting sentence. "In the case of criminal activity the customs case in particular shows the environment has changed," Mr. Wintringham said. "Now organised crime specifically targets some areas of the public service where a financial advantage can be seen, or where the public servant stands in the way of profits from criminal activity." "I expect public service chief executives to understand the environment that they are operating in, to understand the risks and take steps to mitigate them," he said. "That is an important part of the performance management environment in which they operate." While there have been several high profile recent cases of public servants breaking the law, Mr. Wintringham said he oversaw an "incorrupt" administration. "The New Zealand public service has and continues to have a fine record of honesty and integrity. "I personally feel betrayed when public servants act corruptly or otherwise betray the expectations that the Government and New Zealanders should have of their behaviour."

In addition to criminal action, there were also cases when senior public servants exercised poor judgement in areas such as hospitality expenditure, or dealing with offers of corporate gifts. Both types of case risked public confidence in the administration, he said. He had reissued the code of conduct, with supporting material for enforcing. That had attracted international interest from countries who saw New Zealand as a model. "We still have a record, rightly so, for having an incorrupt public service with high standards of integrity," he said. "There is international concern that that should be an important part of any public administration." Inquiries had taxed commission resources, he said. There had been about seven in four years. Te Puni Kokiri, the Civil Aviation Authority and Fisheries Ministry administration of the scampi industry have come under the commission spotlight this year. Such inquiries required careful definition , an adherence to due process and careful judgment in responding to public and political demands while maintaining principles of natural justice, Mr. Wintringham said. "That is not the kind of situation or environment in which one puts relatively junior or untried people, it requires very often the best and most seasoned of our staff."

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, 20 November 2003

Goodies for Public Servants

Finance Minister K.N. Choksy announcing several - concessions to the people through the third budget of the UNF government yesterday granted a minimum salary increase of Rs.1250 for public servants, a 10 percent increase in pensions, a 15 percent flat rate for VAT and an increase in the fertiliser subsidy. Minister Choksy noted the salary hike was the highest such increase granted for public servants in the past ten years. Minister Choksy stressed that the sustained efforts of the government had enabled a 5.6 percent growth rate in the first six months of this year enabling the government to bring about these concessions to the people. The fiscal deficit for 2004 is estimated to be Rs. 138 billion, or 6.8 percent of the projected GDP. The net domestic borrowing requirement for the year is projected to be Rs. 65 billion. The government expects to collect Rs. 332 billion in revenue next year. From January 1, next year the government will grant every public servant a monthly increase of 10 percent of his or her present salary or Rs. 1,250 whichever is higher. This will also apply to employees of the Police Department, the armed forces and corporations.

Further benefits are to follow in 2005 and 2006, Minister Choksy said. Pensioners will be granted a 10 percent increase in pensions from January 1, next year. This increase will cost the government Rs. 2.5 billion. The government will introduce a voluntary retirement scheme for public servants. The retirement package will include an upfront payment equal to one years remuneration while receiving monthly payments equal to his salary at retirement until he reaches the retirement age of 55. Thereafter he will receive the applicable pension. At present, VAT is charged at two rates of 20 percent and 10 percent. From 2004 there will be a single unified VAT rate of 15 percent. An annual levy of Rs.300 per mobile phone subscriber will be imposed instead of VAT on the purchase of mobile phones. The subsidy on fertilizer will be increased from Rs. 2,000 million to Rs. 3,000 million resulting in the total subsidy on a bag of Urea increasing from Rs.300 to Rs.450.

From Sri Lanka Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, by Kesara Abeywardena and Sajeewan Wijewardena, 20 November 2003

 

1 December Meeting, EU Public Service Ministers

Rome - The impact of the enlargement of national administrations and community institutions with particular reference to the quality of public services, to better regulation and training. This is the subject at the centre of the informal meeting of ministers responsible for public services in the EU, which will take place in Rome on 1 December at the Foreign Ministry at 9.30am. The 15 member EU member states will take part along with the 10 countries in the process of joining and the three candidate countries. The meetings will take place on 2 and 3 December at the Hotel St. Regis Grand with a meeting of the Director Generals and of members of the institutions.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 12 November 2003

Devolution Brings 25% More Civil Servants

The number of civil servants in Scotland has grown by a quarter since devolution, it emerged today. According to new figures, the number of Scottish Executive civil servants rose by 24.7% from 3,417 in 1999 to 4,261 presently. In the same period, bureaucrats with Executive agencies increased from 9,766 to 11,061, a rise of 13.3%. Calling for a cut in numbers, SNP leader John Swinney said savings should be invested in child protection services. The figures were revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question. Mr. Swinney claimed the estimated cost of the new bureaucrats was £50 million and pledged to return civil service numbers to 1999 levels. He said: "It beggars belief that ministers are wasting millions on extra bureaucrats when cases such as the Caleb Ness tragedy reveal the full horror of the crisis in children's services. "Since 2000, vacancies in children's services have more than doubled. "Social workers themselves are admitting that some children in desperate need of care never even see a social worker." But the role of the expanded civil service was robustly defended by the Executive. A spokesman said: "Civil servants in the Scottish Executive have achieved a huge amount since devolution. "It is not surprising that the organisation has grown over the last few years. "The workload of ministers and officials has increased significantly with the work of the legislative programme, and parliamentary questions contribute to this."

From The Scotsman, UK, by Ian Marland, 16 November 2003

Swinney Attacks Civil Service Numbers

The SNP has called for a reduction in the number of Scottish civil servants and a renewed focus on child protection. The intervention came as figures released in a parliamentary written answer revealed a 25 per cent increase in civil service numbers in four years. John Swinney, who is also warning that the number of child social work vacancies left unfilled is rising, vowed to reverse the increase. He said the SNP would use the £500 million saved to invest in child protection. "No one can seriously believe that Scotland is better governed under the Executive than pre-devolution. There is massive disillusionment among the public with Labour's failure to make a real difference," he said "Yet instead of focusing on the public's priorities, ministers seem to have spent their time expanding their own personal fiefdoms." Scotland's social services have come under fire following the death of 11-week-old baby Caleb Ness. The baby's father Alexander Ness was jailed for 11 years earlier this year after he admitted shaking Caleb to death.

At the time of the baby's death Ness was still on licence after early release from a five-year prison sentence. Edinburgh City Council's social work department was last week severely criticised following an investigation into the death. "It beggars belief that ministers are wasting millions on extra bureaucrats when cases such as the Caleb Ness tragedy reveal the full horror of the crisis in children's services," said Swinney. "Since 2000, vacancies in children's services have more than doubled. "Social workers themselves are admitting that some children in desperate need of care never even see a social worker. "Cutting bureaucrat numbers back to 1999 levels would save something in the order of £50 million a year and that is exactly what I am proposing to do. "That money should be invested where it can make a real difference by putting it directly into children's services. "The question ministers have to answer is simple; what do they think is more important, more pen pushers or fewer tragedies like that of Caleb Ness?"

From ePolitix, UK, 16 November 2003

Swinney Calls for Civil Service Cull

The number of Scottish Executive civil servants has risen by 25 per cent since the opening of the parliament in 1999. SNP leader John Swinney is demanding a cull after it emerged that 843 extra posts created. He estimates the additional cost to the taxpayer is £50 million, which he says could have been better invested in child protection services. He branded the civil servants "Sir Humphries" after the character from sitcom Yes Minister. The Executive defended the move, saying ministers' workloads had risen since devolution.

From Glasgow Sunday Mail, UK, 15 November 2003

Nibbles Take a Big Bite Out of Ministry Budget

Civil servants at the Department for Education under Charles Clarke have increased their appetite, not for learning, but for wine and luxury sandwiches. An internal memorandum from the Secretary of State's senior officials shows that the ministry spent £600,000 of taxpayers' money on refreshments last year - a huge 30 per cent increase on the previous year when the more ascetic Estelle Morris ran the department. Mr. Clarke is known for his fondness of red wine, while Ms Morris' tipple wasfizzy water. The department's spending in this area compares with the £88,503 spent on hospitality by the Department of Health between April and December last year. One civil servant told The Independent: "Just think what the extra £200,000 would do for an inner city primary school.'' One observer said it would fund 10 extra teachers or an additional 13,000 books.

The e-mail warns that refreshments should only be provided when people have to travel to the department in Westminster. John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said he had seen no difference in the quality of comestibles since Mr. Clarke had taken over. He said he found it hard to believe he was responsible for the huge increase in budget. John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said he had received less of ministers' hospitality since his organisation refused to sign a new agreement on workload. A spokeswoman for the department said: " ... any extra spending in this area only reflects our extra determination to work more closely with key partners and ensure we are always offering the best service ... ."

From Independent, UK, by Barrie Clement, 19 November 2003

British Honours Still Go to Civil Servants, Diplomats and Military

London - Tony Blair has failed in his pledge to shake up the honours system and reward ordinary people for their contribution to society, a leaked internal Whitehall report has concluded. Diplomats, civil servants and officers in the military are still thousands of times more likely to get knighthoods, peerages and CBEs than hard-working teachers, nurses and other public servants. Women and ethnic minorities, too, have barely increased their representation, according to the confidential civil service report which will be published today by the Public Administration Select Committee. The Wilkinson Report blames Mr. Blair for failing to intervene to make it more representative of the population. It finds that every diplomat in 123 can expect an honour while only one nurse in 20,000 can expect a similar mark of official recognition.

The report, marked "Restricted Honours", says that women are still sharply unrepresented, and the Prime Minister is well aware of this. "These figures are always drawn to the attention of the Prime Minister by the Head of the Home Civil Service when he submits each list," the report says. "We are still a long way from parity." In the New Year honours of 1998, 34 per cent of honours below the level of CBE were given to women but in the New Year honours of 2003 that number had shrunk to 32 per cent. But for honours for CBE and above the figures slip back to 10 per cent in 1998 and 20 per cent in 2003. Among black people the figures are even worse. In New Year 1998 only 2.6 per cent of honours went to ethnic minorities below the level of CBE and in this year's New Years honours list that number was still only 6.5 per cent. For higher honours, which have been measured only since 1999, the figures are far lower. Minority ethnic groups received only 3.3 per cent of higher honours in New Year 1999, and only 1.9 per cent this year.

Downing Street has repeatedly said it is committed to ensuring that ordinary people, such as teachers and nurses are rewarded with honours. But the report says that even in the extended millennium list of honours, which Downing Street designed specially to reward people "working at the sharp end of public services", "it was only possible to find ten candidates" to be made Dames. The report says that the traditional practice of honouring diplomats and ministerial advisers is still alive and well. It says that change will not happen unless the Prime Minister has the political will to seriously shake up the honours system. Harold Wilson and John Major have been the only Prime Ministers to intervene with the committee which reviews the scale of awards and reports to the Queen to reduce the number of "state servants," the report says. "Over the last six lists, teachers have been getting one award per 15,500; the ratio for nurses is one in 20,000," the report says. "Had HD (the committee on the Award of Honours Decorations and Medals) looked wider, they might have paused on state servants' strikingly better chances of getting an award - one honour per 3,125 home civil servants. The chances are much better for diplomats (one honour per 123) and members of the armed forces (one per 1,090.)"

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, 24 November 2003

 

A Civil Servant's 'Neutrality'

In a recent interview with The Jordan Times, UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said, "I challenge [the Israeli government] to produce anything I've said that's been one-sided or unbalanced." As the only nongovernmental organization exclusively mandated to monitor the integrity of the United Nations, UN Watch will gladly pick up that gauntlet. The UN Charter requires UN officials to have "the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity." Hansen fails this test, having demonstrated his pro-Palestinian bias on several occasions. Hansen's partiality was most prominently on display last year during Operation Defensive Shield. He demanded on April 7, 2002, that Israel "end this pitiless assault on civilian refugee camps." Months later, in a July 22 press release, Hansen admitted that "undoubtedly, there were weapons and munitions that had been produced in the camps, as had been the case in Jenin." Having headed UNRWA for over seven years, Hansen could not in good faith have been ignorant of terrorist activities in the camps. Jenin was also the subject of Hansen's most infamous statement. On April 18, he led a UN delegation there, after which he said: "I had hoped that the horror stories of Jenin were exaggerated and influenced by the emotions engaged, but I am afraid these were not exaggerated and that Jenin camp residents lived through a human catastrophe that has few parallels in recent history."

The most well-known of these "horror stories" was Saeb Erekat's claim to CNN that 500 Palestinians had been killed. Not only did Hansen's statement give this Palestinian lie a UN endorsement, his reference to a human cost with "few parallels in recent history" exposed Hansen's one-sided sympathies. Only three weeks before Hansen's statement, a suicide bomber murdered 29 Israelis on the eve of Pessah in Netanya - killing indiscriminately an even greater number of civilians than were killed accidentally in Jenin. One of the deadliest terror attacks in Israel's history apparently slipped his mind. When challenged about his statement at the Commission on Human Rights, UNRWA replied: "The commissioner-general made this statement after leading a UN delegation into the Jenin refugee camp as soon as humanitarian workers were allowed in after the fighting died down The report of the secretary-general confirms that assessment." IN FACT, Kofi Annan's report contradicts Hansen's statement. Referring to the Palestinian propaganda, the secretary-general calls it - in diplomatic language - a lie: "A senior Palestinian official alleged in mid-April that some 500 were killed, a figure that has not been substantiated in light of the evidence that has emerged."

Nor does the secretary-general's report confirm Hansen's statement that the battle in Jenin had "few parallels in recent history." Kofi Annan makes no comparative assessment, reporting only the consensus opinion that there were 52 Palestinian deaths in Jenin, and noting that "Human Rights Watch documented 22 civilians among the 52 dead." Hansen has also tried to suppress Palestinian abuse of UNRWA facilities. UNRWA's July 22, 2002, press release asserted that UNRWA is responsible only for the integrity of its own facilities, not the policing of the entire camps, and "[Hansen] could say with absolute certainty that there were no questionable activities in any UNRWA installations." Yet, at the December 5, 2001, meeting of signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Hansen admitted: "Outside parties have entered UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip and shot at Israeli positions," and "armed Palestinians have on occasions entered UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip during the last year." Hansen may also have covered up the involvement of Palestinian UNRWA employees in terrorist organizations. Reacting to the death of two UNRWA employees, including Osama Tahrawi, in an Israeli missile attack in Gaza last December, Hansen said: "This loss of civilian lives, of people working for a humanitarian UN Agency, is completely unacceptable."

But was Tahrawi a civilian? The al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades reportedly claimed him as a member, and his mother told a New York Times reporter: "All the young men here left their houses. Some had guns, some not. Osama had a gun." These are just a few examples - independent of any Israeli government allegations - of Hansen's failures to live up to the standards expected of an international civil servant. Additionally, Israel claims that one UNRWA employee admitted to using an UNRWA ambulance to transport arms for Hamas, while another used an UNRWA vehicle to hide armed terrorists en route to an attack. In the end, Hansen himself provided the most damning evidence of bias. In the very same interview in which he proclaimed his objectivity and issued his challenge to the Israel government, he dropped all pretense of neutrality. After characterizing the two sides to the conflict as "asymmetrical" militarily, he asserted that Israelis and Palestinians were also "asymmetrical in the legitimacy of their cause." The challenge for Hansen is going to be defending that statement and keeping his job. The writer is executive director of UN Watch, a nongovernmental organization based in Geneva.

From Jerusalem Post, Israel, by Andrew Srulevitch, 10 November 2003

Finance Ministry - Civil Servants Talks Break Down

The Civil Servants Union strike HQ team will convene today to discuss subsequent measures. The Civil Servants Union strike headquarters will convene today to discuss measures to be taken following the breakdown in the negotiations with Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander. The strike headquarters comprises the national union secretaries and workers committees' representatives. Last night's negotiations were supposed to end the six-week civil service labor sanctions. However, it turned out that substantial differences remained on three issues: industrial quiet, retirement benefit levels, and management fees for the pension funds. Regarding industrial quiet, the government demands that an agreement ban civil servants from participating in any strike or labor sanctions called by the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) on other matters. The government wants to eliminate the retirement benefit level granted to every civil servant upon retirement. The Civil Servants Union insists that the practice continue. The only subject on which the parties reached an agreement in principle was to continue the negotiations over the structural reforms beyond December 31. The parties agreed that the ministries will make their reform plans transparent to the relevant workers committees and hold negotiations on the workers' rights. (www.globes.co.il)

From Globes Online, Israel, 13 November 2003

 

Teaching Civil Servants Some New Tricks

When the Seeing Eye organization in New Jersey first began training guide dogs for the blind in the 1920s, they encountered a dilemma. A guide dog had no way of knowing that its master wanted to go to the grocery store, and it didn't necessarily know how to get there. It obviously had to be trained to obey the master's commands, such as "left," "right" or "forward." This in itself was no problem; dogs were smart and willing to do as they were told. The problem was that while they didn't know about the destination or how to get to it, their blind master didn't know about the curbs, construction sites or approaching vehicles on the way. If he could see the obstacles, he wouldn't have needed a guide dog. This meant that if the dog obeyed him unconditionally, sooner or later they would both fall into a manhole or step in front of a bus. In answer to this quandary, Seeing Eye came up with a concept for canines. It was a brilliant concept - and one that still overloads the capacity of human beings. The people at Seeing Eye called it "intelligent disobedience." Like all brilliant concepts, intelligent disobedience is simple. It requires a dog to obey whenever its master says "forward" - except when obeying would land both in a ditch. The dog's master, for his part, must learn to trust that whenever his dog disobeys him, it has a valid reason.

As anyone who has ever had an unruly pet knows, dumb disobedience is available to every dog. Even dumb obedience is available to many. Intelligent, selective disobedience is harder. Not every dog can learn the trick (nor can every master) but graduates of Seeing Eye - the smartest Labradors, German Shepherds, or Golden Retrievers in the breeding program, the ones that make the cut - all know how to be intelligently disobedient. A blind person may take a little longer to accept that his dog isn't being recalcitrant because it's fractious or disloyal, but because it has a faculty its human partner lacks, namely sight. If it won't cross the street (as in a famous Florida case) it's not because it prefers another route, but because an alligator is sunning itself on the road. Eventually blind people learn to accept that when a guide dog says no it means no. It enables partnerships of man and dog to navigate the most perilous urban environments with confidence. It's all due to the concept of intelligent, selective, loyal disobedience, a skill mastered by some dogs. Unfortunately, it isn't a skill that has been mastered, so far, by many humans.

If civil servants could be taught to acquire the art of intelligent disobedience, they might save their political masters endless grief. If experts in the intelligence community, or in the finance departments, war departments, departments of justice, and in myriad of other branches of government could be trained to say no whenever, in their blind ambition, their political masters fail to notice an alligator in the road, many of the scandals, errors and quagmires that make up the daily news could be avoided. Arguably, for instance, if human beings had the judgment of guide dogs, the enthusiastic attempts to malign former prime minister Brian Mulroney in the Airbus scandal would have been nipped in the bud before it cost Canada's taxpayers $2-million. Alert officials would have stopped then-solicitor-general Herb Gray and then-justice minister Allan Rock before they stumbled into that particular alligator. Some would say - though I reserve judgment on this - that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would be in a stronger position today if guide dogs in the intelligence community had stopped zealous officials from "sexing up" Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities. It was sufficient to sell the war; overselling it wasn't only unnecessary but would come back to haunt Mr. Blair politically.

And many would add that the Bush-administration faces the same problem. Whatever intelligent disobedience might have done to stop the White House or the Pentagon from overselling the war, it's possible, even likely, that in the next election Iraq will become a political liability for Mr. Bush and a political asset to the Democrats. The irony is that the economy, which was to be the Democrat's flag to rally round, may now be carried to ultimate victory by Mr. Bush's campaign. Not even the sharpest-eyed guide dog could have foreseen this as recently as six months ago when the President declared an end to major hostilities. The biggest obstacle to the concept of intelligent disobedience making a successful transition from guide dogs to civil servants can be summed up in one word: Agenda. Guide dogs have none (or next to none, for sometimes the most loyal dog may want to pass by an ice cream vendor for selfish reasons.) Even so, when a guide dog says no, the reason is likely to be a manhole or an alligator in the road. Civil servants have agendas galore. If they were to say no to their political masters, their reason could be anybody's guess.

From National Post, Canada, by George Jonas, 11 November 2003

City's Civil Service Manual Approved By 3-Member Board

The Greeneville Civil Service Board on Thursday approved the city's Civil Service Manual, which it has been revising for the past 14 months. The new Civil Service Manual will serve as an employee handbook for the 92 employees in Classified Services - the Police Department, Fire Department and Recorder's Office. It is scheduled to be considered by the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday. The three department heads - Acting Police Chief Mack Jones, Fire Chief Jim Bowman and City Recorder Jim Warner - discussed organizational charts of their departments. Each department head submitted two charts - one showing the current organization of their department and another showing proposed changes, as the board previously requested. Chairman Scott Saulsbury reviewed each position on the charts, asking questions as board members Kidwell King and Brian Bragdon observed. "I'm just trying to understand these, to make sure I know what's going on," Saulsbury said. Chief Jones submitted a new chart without the administrative major's position, which he held before being promoted to assistant police chief.

Chief Bowman submitted a new chart adding an assistant fire chief position. Warner submitted a new chart adding a cashier/clerk position. King asked the department heads individually if their new organizational chart would affect any existing employees in their departments. Each department head said the charts would not. However, Jones did say that anyone who might be eligible for promotion to administrative major might be affected. The board also discussed how adding an assistant fire chief might affect the current position immediately under the fire chief. The board approved the fire department and police department changes, but did not add a position to Warner's organizational chart. After the new organizational charts are added to the 21-page final draft of the Civil Service Manual, it will be presented by Bragdon for consideration by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday, Nov. 18. The Civil Service Manual includes some information from a portion of the existing city employee handbook, which was issued in 1973.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen also is working on a new, more comprehensive employee handbook for all city employees. Legislature Must Approve - Completion of the new Civil Service Manual requires approval by the Tennessee General Assembly of the final draft. Legislative approval is necessary because the planned revisions to the handbook require changes in the Greeneville Civil Service Act, locally-written legislation which was formally enacted by the state legislature years ago. These changes in the Civil Service Act, which are being prepared by Civil Service Board member Kidwell King and Danelle Sells, a clerk in the Town Recorder's office, are scheduled to be considered by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday, Dec. 2. The board approved a list of five eligible names for the position of Greeneville Police Chief. The list was certified by the board and will be submitted for consideration by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The Civil Service Board board also voted to "exhaust." or eliminate, the current list of eligible names for position of assistant police chief.


From Greeneville Sun, TN, by Amy Overbay, 14 November, 2003

Chief Aims to Rid Department of Civil Service, 'Archaic System' Slows Down Hiring

Northampton - Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz says he hopes to shed a layer of bureaucracy from his department, and to that end, is asking the City Council to exempt all police personnel from the state civil service program - a set of state hiring and firing guidelines adopted by the department more than 100 years ago. Sienkiewicz says he isn't always able to hire the most qualified candidates or fill vacant posts in a timely way because of the ''extra hoops'' civil service adds to his management requirements. ''It's an archaic system,'' he said in an interview this week. If city councilors agree to exempt the police department, they will have to file a home rule petition, asking the state Legislature to make the change official. All police department unions have agreed to drop the civil service program, Sienkiewicz said. Police personnel in Amherst and Easthampton cut the requirement years ago. The council meets Thursday, begins with a public comment session at 7:15 p.m. in the council chambers in Puchalski Municipal Building. Finance committee is scheduled to meet at 7:20 p.m. and the regular meeting set to start at 7:30 p.m.

This week city councilors will also decide whether residential and commercial property owners should carry the same share of the local tax levy, in a vote this week on next year's tax rate classification. For years the council has opted to keep a single tax rate classification, which means residential and commercial properties pay the same percentage of their assessed values. In the past, there has been some debate about whether to try a two-tiered tax system, which could ask commercial property owners to take up a greater percentage of the local tax levy. If the tax rate remains as a single rate in fiscal 2004, it will be about $13.39 per $1,000 of assessed valued, according to the Board of Assessors. That's a significant drop from the current tax rate of $16.40 per $1,000 of value, but that doesn't mean taxpayers will see a proportionate drop in their bills. This year residential and commercial properties were reassessed and the city's burgeoning real estate market has sent the values up.

Since state law limits cities and towns to a 2 1/2 increase in property taxes each year, the tax-rate went dropped just under $3 per $1,000 of value - to offset the approximately 30 percent rise in assessments. Before the assessors' office can verify next year's tax rate, the new property values have to be approved by the state, so the $13.39 rate is, for now, just an estimate. At 8 p.m. Thursday, the council will hold a special public hearing, taking comments on the tax rate classification. Mayor Clare Higgins and the Board of Assessors are endorsing a single tax rate for next year. These other items are on the council's agenda: o Second and final vote on financial orders to move $1,300 to the city's Planning and Development fund to pay for permit advertising and to move $7,835 to the Board of Health permanent employees account to pay for half the wages of a public health nurse the city will be sharing with Easthampton; o Acceptance of the results of the Nov. 4 election; o

Acceptance of 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 from Steve and Regina Berlin-Chavez and 16 acres in the Saw Mill Hills; o An amendment that revises language on a set of ordinance related to the city's use of sewers, following guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency; o Second and final vote on a set of ordinances that reorganize city council subcommittees; o First vote on a set of ordinances that would transfer management of the city's landfill from the Board of Health to the Department of Public Works; o First vote on an ordinance that changes the zoning of school zones; o First vote on an ordinance that would create a Parking Committee as a subcommittee of the city's Transportation Commission. Kristi Ceccarossi can be reached at kceccarossi@gazettenet.com.

From Hampshire Gazette, MA, by Kristi Ceccarossi, 19 November 2003

Civil Servants Hang on to Wall Street-Style Salaries

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film star recently sworn in as governor of California, makes $175,000 a year. Mark Anson, chief investment officer of Calpers, the state's public employees' retirement scheme, makes $434,526. That sounds like a good deal. But if Mr. Anson worked on Wall Street, as he once did, he would earn far more. Mr. Anson is happy with his lot. But his salary, and that of other fund managers, has been the subject of bitter conflict in America's richest state. Should civil servants running the biggest pension fund in the US be paid like government bureaucrats or Wall Street wheeler-dealers? Calpers says it should be able to override local civil service rules that salaries should not be paid above the state-wide level. These rules would force it to pay fund managers $34,000 to $96,000: the low end of starting salaries for junior executives on Wall Street. But two years ago, Kathleen Connell, then California's state financial controller who, as part of her job, sat on Calpers' board, sued the pension fund to prevent them from paying the higher salaries. It was a bizarre turn of events. Calpers appealed.

The pension fund also commissioned a study showing Calpers' staff did not command the high salaries of Wall Street peers. Clem Meredith, staff analyst to the State Assembly Committee on pension system oversight, said its fund managers' salaries were in the bottom 10 per cent compared with Wall Street companies. But the appeals court upheld Ms Connell's action. Until last month, it looked worrying for the pension fund, which manages $147bn of assets. Rumours of a talent exodus abounded. It was nothing new for Calpers. More than 10 years ago, it had contracted out its fund management, but it became dissatisfied with this management. The California Pension Protection Act of 1992 allowed Calpers' board to manage all investment activities and administration. Seeing a chance to raise salaries for certain "exempt" employees, Calpers hired new staff and, by 1999, its assets had almost tripled to $159bn.

When in 2000 the state's department of public administration stopped the Calpers board raising salaries for 10 portfolio managers, the board set up its own payroll system and used an alternative payroll agent to pay the higher salaries. It was this initiative that Ms Connell, as state financial controller, sought to stop in 2001. She won the appeal but the court instructed her to continue to pay the higher salaries until March 2004. Last month the dispute was resolved. Just before leaving office, Gray Davis, the outgoing governor, signed new legislation authorising the boards of the pension agencies to pay higher salaries to the chief executive, chief actuary, chief investment officer and 28 investment managers. Now Arnie is in power, he is expected to have to introduce severe budget cuts. But he is unlikely to point his gun towards the salaries of Calpers' fund managers.

From Financial Times, UK, by Bruce McWilliams, 24 November 2003

Police Civil Service Rules on Way Out

Northampton - City councilors took the first step Thursday to remove the city police force from the civil service program. In a unanimous vote, the City Council passed a resolution that would let the department drop the state's hiring and firing statute, put in place more than 120 years ago. ''It's an archaic system,'' said Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz. At its Dec. 4 meeting, the council will take a second and final vote on the resolution, which was endorsed by all Police Department unions. After that, the city must file a home rule petition with the Legislature, which has final jurisdiction over the change. The Police Department, along with other city departments, adopted the civil service statute in 1884. The program sets admissions tests and other regulations for new hires to the department - or, as Sienkiewicz explains it, ''time-consuming bureaucratic hoops.'' Sgt. Andrew Trushaw and officer Donald J. Moraski, representing police unions, told councilors Thursday they would like to see civil service removed from the department. They said the program has, at times, made it difficult for the city to hire the best-qualified candidates.

If the department is exempted from civil service, current police officers will not be effected, explained Elaine Reall, the lawyer who helped draft the resolution. The protections officers are now guaranteed under civil service will be grandfathered into whatever new policies the department designs in its absence. ''This is talking more about the future of the Police Department,'' Reall said. ''New hires will all be hired with the updated system.'' Police departments in Amherst and Easthampton have already dropped the civil service requirements, Reall noted. She said the city's department would likely follow their lead when designing personnel guidelines to supplant the program. Several councilors congratulated the chief, and indeed the entire department, for negotiating the terms of a change in policy. ''This is a landmark decision,'' said At-Large Councilor James M. Dostal. ''The rank and file and sergeants have really come together on this one, and I applaud your work.'' Assuming the council approves the resolution in a second vote next month, the home-rule petition will be sent to Boston within a few weeks. Sienkiewicz says he'd like to see the petition go before the Legislature as early as January. Kristi Ceccarossi can be reached at kceccarossi@gazettenet.com.

From Hampshire Gazette, MA by Kristi Ceccarossi, 21 November 2003

 
 

Registrar Says 40,000 Public Service Vehicles Not Roadworthy

Nairobi - More than 40,000 public service vehicles (PSVs) now in service should not be on the road. This is because they are unroadworthy and do not meet the standards set by the Government for public service vehicles. Of the 400,000 matatus and buses on the road, the Government considers 10 per cent of them unroadworthy. The Commissioner for Motor Vehicle Registration, Mr. Simon ole Kirgotty, described the unroadworthy vehicles as being in a "pathetic state". Speaking at the Central Provincial Commissioner's boardroom when members of the Transport Licensing Board visited the administrator, Kirgotty also said the proposed seat belts and speed governors must meet the Kenya Bureau of Standards regulations. He said unroadworthy matatus had become death traps because of laxity among police inspection department which is supposed to certify that PSVs are fit to carry passengers.

The Kenya Revenue Official said the Government is committed to removing all un-roadworthy vehicles to reduce accident deaths. Over 10,250 road accidents have been reported in the country in the past eight months. Matatus have contributed 70 per cent of the accidents, police data indicate. On seat belts and speed governors, Kirgotty said the Government would be alert lest some scrupulous operators fit their vehicles with sub-standard gadgets. He said the Government has not imported seat belts or speed governors but businessmen were free to do so. However, they must be inspected by the Ministry of Public Works engineers to ascertain that they are of acceptable quality. A speed governor could cost between Sh25,000 and Sh45,000. Matatus are not allowed to exceed a speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 13 November 2003

SA is Making Progress On the Road to E-Government

Johannesburg - Last year's BMI-TechKnowledge report on IT in government shows that the South African government is spending between R8 billion and R10 billion a year on IT, despite negative trends in the global IT industry. The report also notes that an apparent lack of understanding is impeding the transition to e-government. But a local expert with ICT integrator Comparex Africa finds that SA is making progress, considering the huge challenges involved. "While SA faces the same challenges as most developing nations in implementing e-government, it has the added challenge of having to extend and improve services to previously neglected communities," says Thabiso Tenyane, general manager for the public sector in Comparex Africa. His company works directly with central, provincial and local government as well as SITA, from an IT consulting basis but also in providing solutions, closely adhering to government's Handbook for Minimum Information Interoperability Standards (MIOS). Much has been done already. One of government's key achievements has been in the e-enablement of the SA Revenue Services (SARS). "With eFiling and i-Tax, citizens can now interact with SARS and submit tax returns and IRP5 forms online. Citizens can also do online property ownership checks or bond registrations using their ID. As a result, bond registration has been reduced from three months to three weeks," says Tenyane.

But the reality is still very far from the e-government vision. Local government, for example, has quite a few disparate systems in operation and nowhere are these systems sharing or exchanging information. As a result, once a customer starts making an enquiry, he/she is being referred from one department to the other. "Our solution is that instead of trying to identify the customer through a stand or account number, a customer database should be created and the customer should be given a customer number. This customer number will enable the customer to access all his or her information in the local authority with one unique number," says Tenyane. Clearly, says Tenyane, the public sector can leverage e-government as the means by which to structure and render services around life episodes of its people, following a series of events from cradle to grave. "The e-government vision means that services become accessible to all citizens anytime, anywhere and through a range of access devices and media," says Tenyane. He says government is giving itself 10 years to implement e-government, using that time to consult with public and private sector experts, formulate appropriate policies, plan and implement effective business strategies, and make the necessary technological changes.

Tenyane points out that e-government represents a huge paradigm shift. "Government is starting to view the ratepayer as a customer, taking on a much more business-oriented stance. As examples of this shift, currently elected councillors are referring to their term of office as the "period of delivery", and all senior officials are appointed on a three- or five-year contract period with specific key performance indicators." He says the timing is right for e-government implementation and its delay before is logical in light of the political history of this country. "Since 1994, government has gone through two main phases: policy formulation in the first five years, and now an assessment of the core processes necessary to implement these policies. The next phase, bringing information and communications technology up to date to support government's core processes, will include e-government." But the government faces some serious challenges that are hampering the full roll-out of e-government, limiting it to ad hoc implementations at individual departments. "The biggest key challenge government faces is in the lack of education and training of citizens, including civil servants, both in the use of ICT and in the culture of e-government, which goes against the traditional training of civil servants in a particular silo. E-government will require much more process-based thinking, where a department of health official for example can seamlessly point a citizen to another department or service," says Tenyane.

A few pieces of legislation have paved the way for e-government. One, the skills development act, will contribute to solving the lack of ICT education and training. Companies like Comparex Africa not only contribute a percentage of their payroll to skills development, but also will actively participate in committee meetings and training. Another important piece of legislation has only recently been passed: the electronic transactions bill, which ensures security of data in online services and which is an essential e-government, as well as e-business, requirement. While e-government as a policy and strategy is beginning to get 'buy-in' at interdepartmental meetings, he says the next step is to develop an ICT curriculum, because the local education system is currently not geared to provide technological training from an early age. Says Tenyane: "All the departments have commented on e-government as a strategy. They are beginning to see ICT as a major enabler of service delivery and have identified the challenges to its implementation, which range from insufficient funds and lack of skills to inappropriate technological platforms." Despite these challenges, a master system plan (MSP) can be developed in the meantime, with SITA as the state IT agency playing a pivotal role. "What is needed now is a well-defined roadmap or blueprint containing plans to investigate the base elements of e-readiness, information interchange, technology relevancy and stakeholder touch points, including all of the present government portals and their suitability for e-government," concludes Tenyane.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Thabiso Tenyane, 19 November 2003

 

Korea Ranks 2nd in e-Government Ranking in Asia

Geneva - South Korea ranked second in Asia and 13th in the world in terms of its use of electronic technology in providing public services, said a United Nations report released here Tuesday. Singapore, in fourth place overall, was the only Asian nation ahead of South Korea in the electronic government ranking of the2003 UN World Report on the Public Sector titled e-Government at the Crossroads. Japan came in 23rd out of the 191 countries listed. South Korea, which moved up two notches from 15th place last year, has carried out one of the most dramatic projects in instituting electronic transaction services and networking, while Japan didn't achieve its full capacity to help its citizens live more conveniently in terms of online public services, the report said. A South Korean official said that the government completed its "electronization project" last year. "In most cases, people don't need to bother to go to public offices to pay their bills or get their official documents. Almost every transaction between an individual and the government can be made online," said Lee Gui-hyun, deputy director of the Information Support Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Communication. "Electronization has also made the government operate in a more transparent way when collecting taxes and issuing purchase orders to private businesses, since things are not done by hand but by computer system," he added.

The e-government report evaluated each nation on how effectively its government uses electronic means to provide public services. The criteria included whether the government possesses a website, the quality of public services provided through the Internet and the penetration rates of electronic services and devices such as broadband Internet access, personal computers, telephones and mobile phones. The U.S. government topped the ranking, followed by Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. European nations, including Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark, filled out the top 10. A total of 173 nations out of the 191 U.N. member nations had a government website, an improvement from 143 in 2001. The remaining18 countries without government homepages were mostly in Africa. The annual report, launched last year, is a co-project between the UN and the American Society for Public Administration, an organization that studies how to make governments and public services work better. Even though the development and the existence of e-government do not necessarily reflect the quality of life in a country, the facilitation of electronic tools by governments can make public services more convenient and transparent and "positively impact human development," the report concluded.

From Korea Times, South Korea, 6 November 2003

Government to Invest in E-governance

Bangalore - The government plans to spend over Rs 12,410 crore in the next five years on information and communication related e-governance projects to bring about transformation of the rural Indian economy, Union industrial policy and promotion secretary R Shah has said. Delivering his address on "government as ICT-enabler" seminar at the ongoing Bangalore IT.com 2003, Shah said the plan to be spread between 2003 and 2007 was still on the anvil. He said the project was being undertaken by department of information technology and the department of personal and administrative reforms. Shah said the government was mulling a government-to-business portal aimed at FDI, where investors would have a one stop access for filing applications and getting clearances before and after they invest. "This is in the concept stage, but it is entirely doable and viable," he said.

From Times of India, India, 12 November 2003

Ambitious Sri Lankan Project to Usher in E-governance

Colombo - Sri Lanka began preparing for the WSIS way back in December 2002, after the Telecommunication and Regulatory Commission formed a working group to support WSIS activities. But, it was only in July 2003 that work on the WSIS picked up speed after the Ministry of Mass Communication initiated a media campaign to create public awareness on the information society and development organisation Worldview International Foundation held a seminar for journalists. Right after this seminar, a forum titled - e-Journalists Association of Sri Lanka - was formed, a cyber café started for journalists and a blueprint drawn up to promote the e-Sri Lanka programme of the government. The ambitious e-Sri Lanka programme is the island nation's first attempt to bring together all government institutions through networking and is expected to bring about a paradigm shift in the field of information and communication. The estimated cost of the five-year pilot project for e-Sri Lanka is likely to be US $ 300 million. Already several nations and agencies have pledged support for the move and the World Bank is providing US $ 100 million for the first phase of the pilot project. Sri Lanka is seeking technical assistance from ICT-savvy neighbouring countries to implement the project. It has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian government and will seek Malaysian help to upgrade the Arthur C. Clark Center to a multimedia university.

The e-Sri Lanka project is likely to improve delivery of public services, will empower civil servants with information and communication tools, facilitate co-ordination across government agencies, increase government accessibility and accountability, provide transparency in public procurement and reduce business costs. Once fully implemented, the project will enable weather forecasting for fishermen in certain areas and provide for electronic bidding and e-tenders which at present are done by only a handful of institutions. It was only after the parliament endorsed the ICT Bill in August this year that the country started thinking of developing capacities for the information technology sector. The bill was based on a shared vision by the government, the private sector and other stakeholders who saw ICTs as an important medium for equal distribution of opportunity and knowledge. The bill advocates a ICT task force with at least five Cabinet ministers and experts drawn from various sectors. The government is working with experts and the Sri Lankan civil society in preparing for the WSIS.

The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of the Ministry of Science and Technology is at the forefront of coordinating WSIS programmes. ICTA held two meetings with UNDP's ICT adviser Joy Daniel over the WSIS. On September 17, ICTA led Sri Lanka at a video conference on Information Technology together with India, Brazil, Tanzania and Bulgaria. It was the first time that Sri Lanka was invited for an event like this. The event - Catalyzing National Action to Promote Equitable and Inclusive Information Society - was organized by the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility along with the World Bank, the UNDP and the Development Gateway Foundation. The purpose of the conference was to connect ICT stakeholders in the five countries to share views about WSIS and issues relating to information society. The secretary of the Ministry of Mass Communication Kumar Abeysingha led the Sri Lankan delegation. The government is keen to exploit the summit to its maximum for the benefit of the common man.

From OneWorld, UK, by Champika Liyanaarachchi, 7 November 2003

E-government Study Puts Seoul at the Top

Seoul was named the best city for electronic government services in a recent international research study backed by the United Nations. But the study said that Seoul had room for improvement in privacy protection and the convenience of services. Research centers under Sung Kyun Kwan University in Korea and the State University of New Jersey evaluated the electronic government systems of 100 cities in 100 countries from March to October. Seoul topped the chart, with a grade of just under 75 percent, the universities said yesterday. Hong Kong was second at 66 percent, followed closely by Singapore, New York and Shanghai. Rome was placed sixth and Auckland, New Zealand, seventh. The assessment was based on five major categories ? information protection, convenience of use, information content, administrative services and citizen participation. Seoul was ranked first in the categories of convenience and frequency of use, but was third in information protection, after Hong Kong and Singapore. The American Society for Public Administration and the United Nations Division for Public Administration and Development Management also took part in the research, along with 150 researchers speaking 44 languages. Based on the results of the study, the UN plans to launch a campaign to encourage governments around the world to build electronic government service sites.

From Joongang Ilbo, South Korea , by Choi Hyung-kyu (arjuna@joongang.co.kr), 17 November 2003

China's 2002 Road Toll: 109,263

Beijing - Bad driving is cited as main cause of carnage - Traffic accidents have killed nearly 76,000 so far this year - More than 100,000 people died in traffic accidents in China last year and nearly 76,000 are dead so far this year, part of what one official newspaper warned Monday was part of an upsurge linked to drivers who fail to follow the rules of the road. The Ministry of Public Security reported the number of 2002 traffic deaths at 109,363 - equivalent to the population of a mid-sized city and a figure that represents 78 per cent of those killed in all accidents across the country, according to the state-controlled newspaper China Daily. The deaths reflected a 6.3 per cent increase over those recorded in 1986. The newspaper said 75,841 people were killed in traffic accidents during the first nine months of this year. "The main cause for these accidents is that drivers did not pay attention to traffic rules and regulations," China Daily said, citing the ministry. "China is experiencing a huge upsurge in traffic accidents and fatalities," the newspaper said.

It said there were 773,139 reported traffic accidents across the country in 2002. China's increasing economic prosperity has fuelled an auto revolution. Increasing numbers of newly affluent or middle-class citizens are buying cars, choking the streets of Chinese cities with traffic and pollution. Major carmakers are pushing into China. Earlier this month, Toyota Motor Corp. joined forces with Rupert Murdoch's STAR group to promote car use as a "lifestyle" in China. A recent poll cited by China Daily said nearly half of drivers questioned admitted falling asleep while driving. A separate test showed that 20 per cent of those who said they were tired while driving showed longer reaction times because of the fatigue, the newspaper said. More than two million vehicles are on the streets of Beijing alone, and millions of people are flocking to get driver's licences across the country - both legitimate ones and fake permits easily available by calling the numerous cellphone numbers painted on the sides of buildings.

From Toronto Star, Canada , 17 November 2003

Excellent Workers Recognised At Public Service Day

Bandar Seri Begawan - Self-excellence in the office covers all aspects of jobs, practice and intention towards his colleagues and leaders as well as concern on public needs. Awang Haji Jumin Bin Haji Marsal, Permanent Secretary of Technical and Professional at the Ministry of Development, made the remarks at the presentation of certificates and awards for excellence to government servants of public works department for the year 2002 in conjunction with the 10th Public Service Day. He said excellence also needs positive innovative, progressive and vision. A total of 57 officers and staff received their certificates for achieving excellence in the performance appraisal for three consecutive years from 2000 until 2002. Pengiran Haji Othman Bin Pengiran Haji Omar, Director General of Public Works, presented the certificates. Eight officers from division three were awarded with Anugerah Pekerja Cemerlang or Excellence Government Servant. - Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, 15 November 2003

E-governance Plan to Focus on Banking

New Delhi - The national action plan for e-governance, a part of the government's priority agenda, will include banking as one of the areas of focus. It will also include a system of incentives to encourage states to harness the benefits of e-governance. The decisions were taken at a meeting convened by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At the meeting, the finance ministry also asked the IT department to resubmit a consolidated proposal to provide a suitable package of incentives to promote the hardware industry as hardware capacity was required for widespread adoption of IT and e-governance, officials said. The government has proposed a total outlay of Rs 2,550 crore for the national plan on e-governance. While Rs 1,485 crore is slated to go to the Centre, Rs 800 crore has been earmarked for financial institutions and Rs 265 crore for state governments.

From Business Standard, India, 16 November 2003

Experts Caution over E-governance Pitfalls

Chennai - Even as the pressure to improve the quality of the government's services to its citizens is on the rise, and the need to move towards paperless offices in the government sector is strongly felt, state governments would do well to understand e-governance before committing resources or doing away with existing manual systems. In its urgency to move towards a paperless office, which is in-principle commendable, state s should not end up in a chaotic situation caused by inadequate electronic systems, while doing away the existing manual system too. Cautioning on this front, speakers at the third and the final day of the Seventh e-Governance said the existing forms of e-Governance tried by both the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka governments had their share of security-related issues. Rajiv Chawla, the secretary, e-Governance, Karnataka, said: "e-Governance might look very simple on front, but is not as simple inside." States, he said, must understand e-governance and answer pertinent questions like what can go wrong or who owns the source code once a system is implemented. On the issues related to outsourcing e-governance solutions from private sector, he underscored the importance of a state informatics centre on the lines of the apex National Informatics Centre to handle the related projects.

Chawla questioned the wisdom of the finance departments at the state level deciding on the viability of the e-Governance projects. Judging the viability of an e-Governance project, according to him, should be the prerogative of the IT department. Speaking on the revenue aspects of e-Governance, N Janardhan, the chairmanof Halsefrë Solutions, said, "Citizen's expectations from the government are on the raise. Service needs to be delivered at the door steps, at the time and in a manner of their choice and not in the way the government wants." He said, in order to attract private sector participation in e-Governance projects, the government has to reckon with issued related to return on investment (ROI). "Increasing the ROI can be done by maximising value and decreasing the risk attached to such project, whether they are real or perceived risks." He said value maximisation can be done by communicating to the end-user the benefits and the quality of services from e-governance initiatives and the government can also craft policies to cross subsidise services in such initiatives. "On the risk mitigation side the questions that need to be addressed are whether the services are citizen-centric and whether the leadership is committed to such projects and whether the government is willing to sign off such initiatives," he said.

From Business Standard, India, 16 November 2003

'India Must Focus on Security Aspects of E-governance'

Chennai - A clear focus on security aspects is a must in becoming an Information Technology enabled nation, Tamil Nadu IT secretary Vivek Harinarayan said on Saturday. Inaugurating the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India's (ICAI), "Virtual Institute programme", referring to instances of hackers, he said the e-governance initiatives should have clear focus on security issues, which were not adequately focussed upon currently. Whether it was the e-seva experiments in Andhra Pradesh or the "Tamil Nilam" project in Tamil Nadu, all were subjected to threats from hackers, Harinarayanan said adding that the security is a vast area by itself, which the country must pay attention to. The e-initiatives by itself would not increase productivity. Instead there had to be a simultaneous overhaluing of the proceedures which could increase the efficiency levels of any organisation and also ensure customer satisfaction, he noted. Harinarayan urged the Chartered Accountants to assist the Government devise effective procedures of governance which would mean eliminating a whole lot of redundant rules and guidelines that often led to low productivity. He said going online without streamlining the procedures might not help reap benefits from the e-initiatives.

From Sify, India, 22 November 2003

Learn from the Best E-government in India

Kuala Lumpur - The Andhra Pradesh state will showcase its highly successful e-governance technology at the Incredible India 2003 Trade and Investment Exhibition at the Putra World Trade Centre here from Dec 2 to 6. The state's Information Technology and Communications Department joint-director (Promotion) Capt C. K. Veeresh said the e-governance service has been well-received by the people. "We want to promote this system at our booth," he said in an interview in Hyderabad recently. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu will be participating as partner states in the exhibition, with Dec 3 dedicated for Andhra Pradesh and Dec 4 for Tamil Nadu. There are various e-governance services linking the government and the citizens of Andhra Pradesh. These include the e-Seva, which is the first of its kind in India, and provides a spectrum of friendly services, including the payment of utility bills and the issuing of certificates and licences. Other services include the Fully Automated Services for Transport (FAST) which encompasses services like the issuance of driving licences and registration of vehicles.

The Computer-Aided Administration of Registration Department (CARD) has e-enabled the system to register legal deeds such as sales and mortgaged deeds while e-Computerised Operations for Police Services (e-COPS) strives to accomplish not only the computerisation of crime analysis but also the dissemination of information, better planning, prosecution, monitoring and speedy detection of crimes. Veeresh said the Andhra Pradesh government had also launched a Telemedicine project with the purpose of providing expert medical advice in remote hospitals by leveraging advanced state-of-the-art information technology. "This e-governance project is a joint-effort between the public and private sector. The government has provided the physical infrastructure while the private sector provided the software and hardware services," Veeresh said, adding that it was implemented in August 2002. He also said that the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) in India had undertaken an extensive study on the competitiveness of nine Indian cities as destinations for IT-Enabled service companies and had ranked Hyderabad as number one. "We were chosen because of the rapid improvements in infrastructure (power, international bandwidth and urban transportation) and lower manpower costs," he said, adding that the Computer Society of India has also rated Andhra Pradesh as the best e-government state.

From The Star, Malaysia, by A. Letchumanan, 24 November 2003

Public Service Makes Its Stand on Freebies

Canberra - The federal public service has declared its independence from the Government in a sweeping new code of conduct for bureaucrats. In a hefty new document drafted partially in response to accusations of politicisation arising from the "children overboard" affair, Public Service Commissioner Andrew Podger has reminded public servants that they cannot be bullied by ministerial staff. He has also cautioned them to keep themselves absolutely beyond reproach by avoiding corporate hospitality, perks and any other potential conflicts of interest. Last night he told The Age that the guidelines, called APS Values and Code Of Practice, were a response to some "external factors", including the politicisation criticisms. "The 'children overboard' (case) highlighted the importance of public servants understanding their obligations," he said. He also said the guidelines were necessary because increased outsourcing and contact with the private sector meant clearer directions about conflict of interest were needed. "They highlight that we must be responsible to ministers, but we also must remain apolitical, impartial and fully accountable," Mr. Podger said.

The guidelines, which were issued not long before the recent series of Rugby World Cup matches in Canberra, caused a small-scale lobbying crisis in the national capital as private companies seeking to wine and dine senior public servants found themselves with a sheaf of polite rejection letters. While bureaucrats on the whole rejected invitations to enjoy World Cup hospitality because of the new guidelines, federal politicians experienced no such restrictions. Twenty-seven federal MPs had, as of yesterday, declared their receipt of World Cup largesse from companies including Bundaberg Rum and BAE Systems. Labor frontbencher Laurie Ferguson and his wife accepted double passes and refreshments at seven games. These included two semi-finals and last Saturday's World Cup final. Ministers Alexander Downer, Peter Costello, Joe Hockey, Brendan Nelson, Larry Anthony, Eric Abetz, Ian Campbell and Rod Kemp have also declared their receipt of free tickets. Mr. Podger said the recommendations on perks for public servants were not intended to be a black-and-white prohibition. "We're not being zealots, but we are saying 'weigh up the considerations'," he said. "If you're going with your minister, that might be fine, but be careful that you have weighed up the public interest against any private interest."

From The Age, Australia, by Annabel Crabb, 24 November 2003

Speaker Encourages Public Service

When Kavita Ramdas was a teenager volunteering in a poor village to help with chores, an old Indian man approached her and asked why she was making bread rather than using her education to advocate his village's cause to the government. Now, as chief executive of the Global Fund for Women, she is much more than an advocate for a single village. At a talk to a group of about 30 students at an event hosted by South Asian organization Sanskriti last Friday, Ramdas explained how she surpassed the man's expectations, describing her motivation for getting involved in a social justice organization and her experience with public service. Ramdas said her experience growing up in India sparked her desire to be involved in public service. Her mother pointed out the injustices that were prevalent in the country, making Ramdas aware of social problems at a relatively young age. Later, Ramdas worked for a variety of civil servant organizations, which made her recognize the gravity of gender inequality within Indian society.

When she moved to the United States, Ramdas kept up her involvement in public service organizations, spending time working with public housing shelters in Chicago. She used her experiences in rural India and urban Chicago to explain that people cannot truly understand a situation unless they are exposed to it first-hand. For example, in one Indian village, most of the women woke up at 4 a.m. to prepare the house and make tea for their husbands every morning. In Chicago, one local who she met insisted that she had to be either black or white, showing Ramdas the racial divide in the city. Ramdas also said that stereotypes play a key role in defining people's notions of others. She, a Hindu woman, often jokes with her husband, who is Muslim, about the traditional stereotypes the two religious groups have of each other. She also said that as a South Asian woman, she is searched nearly every time she boards a plane. This experience "taught me about the privileges people get for looking a certain way," she said. The Global Fund for Women is the largest grant-making fund in the world and helps local women's groups in more than 160 countries.

Ramdas said that the goal of the organization is to "give local women's groups capital, not for profit, but to provide a model for change or an idea to transform society." While the grants that the organization gives aren't especially large, Ramdas points out that they are effective. "A small amount of money can go a long way when used in creative ways," she said. Ramdas said she believes that by helping women rectify unfair situations across the world, the fund can improve society as a whole. "There's no such thing as a 'women's issue,'" she said. "We make up 52 percent of the population, so every issue is a woman's issue." Attendees of the talk found Ramdas a very interesting speaker with an engaging style. "Her delivery was really good and very personal," freshman Aditi Iyer said. Sophomore Vijaya Tripathi, a Sanskriti cultural chair member who helped organize the event, said, "She is a very motivational speaker who shows us what a progressively minded South Asian can do."

From Stanford Daily, by Raghav Thapar, 24 November 2003

 

Milburn Plea for Voluntary Sector to Help Modernise Public Services

Labour's leading moderniser Alan Milburn will today argue that the government can defuse the row over extending choice in the public services by giving a much greater role to the voluntary sector. Mr. Milburn will suggest a voluntary finance initiative, working alongside the private finance initiative, in which the non-profit voluntary sector can borrow against long-term government contracts. He will also propose that every government department should be required to sign an agreement setting out the terms on which the voluntary sector can expect a right to run public services, so long as the provision extends choice. Mr. Milburn, while secretary of state for health, signed a similar agreement with the private sector in the health service. Mr. Milburn in his speech will say: "Labour needs to move beyond the assumption that the only alternative to the private sector is the public sector." The voluntary sector can become the third stool in public sector provision, he will say. He will argue that the government needs to develop, where appropriate, the equivalent of the private finance initiative, so that the voluntary sector can be brought it in from the cold.

He will say: "There will be those who say any more devolution of decisions is merely privatisation by another name. They say the government has gone too far and needs to stop. I say we have not gone far enough and need to go further." He will also argue that when the public sector offers contracts, the voluntary sector should be automatically allowed to bid. Mr. Milburn has been struck by figures showing that the voluntary sector is a larger employer than the NHS and has an asset base of £70bn. He believes a mixture of the asset base and the promise of long-term contracts could provide a secure source of funding, so making it possible for the voluntary sector to borrow long term at cheap rates. He believes the voluntary sector has shown it is focused on the consumer. Mr. Milburn has no formal role in the preparation of the election manifesto, but he will be influential in Labour's plan for a third term.

The chancellor, Gordon Brown, has long been an advocate of a greater role for the voluntary sector, mainly through a charity bill in the Queen's speech. Some in the Labour party are more cautious about choice, and the fear that it fosters inequality. He will argue that if the voluntary sector is going to be given a bigger role, a trade-off will be greater accountability and clearer governance rules. Mr. Milburn regards his proposals, due to be made in a speech to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations today, may be a way of refuting the claim that choice means privatisation and inequality. The dispute, real or potential, over choice is seen as one of the great ideological fault lines inside Labour party. Signalling the importance of the debate, the public services administration select committee chaired by Tony Wright, one of Labour's leading backbench thinkers, announced yesterday that it will conduct an inquiry into the impact of choice on equality of public service provision.

From Guardian, UK, by Patrick Wintour, 11 November 2003

E-gov May Be a 'White Elephant,' Says UN

The governments of more than 90 percent of UN member states are installing Internet services, but many e-government projects are potentially a waste of money. Ireland's Minister for the Information Society Mary Hanafin has faced criticism this year over costly delays to 57 or Ireland's 154 e-government projects, at a time when crucial public services such as hospitals and schools have faced budget cutbacks. The governments of more than 90 percent of UN member states are installing Internet services, but many e-government projects are potentially a waste of money. Ireland's Minister for the Information Society Mary Hanafin has faced criticism this year over costly delays to 57 or Ireland's 154 e-government projects, at a time when crucial public services such as hospitals and schools have faced budget cutbacks.

From Electric News Net, by Ciaran Buckley, 6 November 2003

Councils 'Sceptical' About E-gov

The Government's big idea to digitise essential public sector services looks to be falling out of favour as local councils decide to wait and see before spending taxpayers' money on e-government projects such as online procurement and e-voting initiatives. It seems local authorities are reluctant to commit to major IT initiatives until such schemes have been carried out elsewhere and are proven to work. Worse still, a number of council IT departments are either "indifferent" or "sceptical" about some of the technologies currently being touted by central Government and the IT industry, according to analysis by eGov monitor. Areas singled out include interactive digital television services, smartcard systems, e-democracy tools and Whitehall's own flagship e-government project, the Government Gateway.

This downbeat assessment of e-government in the UK - which throws further doubt on the Government's target of e-enabling all services by 2005 - follows analysis of 100 submissions made by local authorities. Said Joe Organ, of eGov monitor: "Our analysis possibly shows that for the UK at least, a one-size-fits-all 'blanket approach' to the task of implementing e-government at local level is distinctly unsuitable." This month a United Nations' report questioned the effectiveness of e-government claiming that its growth had "not gone entirely smoothly". The report warned that a "too-grandiose approach" to e-government could result in failure or "white elephants" that cost tax payers dearly.

From The Register, UK, by Tim Richardson, 17 November 2003

E-Government: Alliance of Italian Government and UN on UNDP

New York - They will speak Italian at the UN programme set up to give developing countries technological equipment that will enable good running of the civil service. At the end of their meeting in the UN Building in New York, in fact, Lucio Stanca, minister for innovation and technology, and Mark Malloch Brown, MD of UNDP (United Nations Development Program), announced through a joint press release, that the Italian government would contribute 2.3 million dollars (2 million euro) to the UNDP. The objective is to further the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the civil services of developing countries. The resources will be assigned to the UNDP's Thematic Trust Fund, set up specifically for Information and Communication Technologies.

They will draw on those of the Italian e-Government initiative for Development, launched by the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, at the international conference on e-Government in Palermo (April 2002). Explained the Rt. Hon. Lucio Stanca, "With this initiative, Italy is making its own technological and management experience available to the UN in a subject as delicate as that of e-Government for the purposes of Development. This experience has been gained in various countries, including Mocambique, Jordan, Nigeria, Tunisia and Albania". In thanking Lucio Stanca for Italy's Contribution, Mark Malloch Brown explained that the "resources will be used to continue carrying out 'good governance' in developing countries. In this way, their efficiency and the transparency of the administrations will increase, as well as the monitoring of their operations and transactions of public government". An agreement on the use of these funds is currently under discussion and will be signed by Italy and the UN at the "World Forum on WFIS-Information Company" that the same international company is putting on in Geneva in December 2003. This joint programme will be the basis of a collaboration that is expected to be long and productive, the note stipulated. (AGI)

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 15 November 2003

E-government Deadline? What Deadline?

The latest report from e-Gov Monitor has highlighted "wide variations" in progress among local governments towards meeting the 2005 e-government deadline for putting services online. The findings of the report are based on a sample of 100 Implementing Electronic Government (IEG3) Statements, representing more than a quarter of all returns from English local authorities, which councils had to submit to the Deputy Prime Minister's Office by 10 November. While some local authorities, including Macclesfield and Woking Borough councils, are confident of meeting the target, some neglected to address the 2005 target question at all. E-gov monitor found that many local government IT heads are putting off e-government projects until they know the outcome of various central government-driven pathfinder projects currently underway, which could perhaps offer cheaper, and more customised solutions. It also found that a number of council IT departments are currently either indifferent, sceptical, or simply have no demand at this stage for the technologies that have been aggressively marketed to them by government and industry.

These include interactive digital television services (IDTV), smartcard systems, e-democracy tools and Whitehall's own flagship e-gov project, the Government Gateway. E-gov monitor said that progress with IDTV services in local government appears to be particularly slow. Some councils have stated that digital TV is not a priority access channel for development, while one reports that IDTV services do not, at this stage, "seem a likely possibility". The E-gov monitor report comes just several days after survey results, published by Oracle in conjunction with the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE), revealed that over half of local authorities are not on target to meet the 2005 e-government deadline. Barriers identified by local authorities included financing, cultural resistance, data management problems and the "sheer complexity of the task".

From NetImperative, UK, by Susie Harwood, 18 November 2003

UK Councils Indifferent on E-government

Before commiting to the 'building-block' technologies of eGovernment, many local government IT heads are playing a careful "wait and see" game. Major eGovernment investment decisions are being held off until they know the outcome of the various central government-driven pathfinder projects currently underway, which could perhaps offer cheaper, and more customised, solutions. The very-latest picture of how billions of pounds of government investment in technology are being put to use by councils in England has emerged from public sector research specialists eGov monitor. Moreover, a number of council IT departments are currently either indifferent, sceptical or simply have no demand at this stage for many of the technologies which have been aggressively marketed to them, by both government and industry, as key to the success of their online strategies. These include interactive digital television services, smartcard systems, e-democracy tools and Whitehall's own flagship eGovernment project, the Government Gateway.

Other emerging findings and trends: * Progress Towards Egovernment Targets - This year's IEG3 Statements show councils moving towards the Whitehall target of e-enabling all services by 2005, but with wide variations in individual performance. Some, like Macclesfield and Woking Borough Councils, are confident on their progress. Enfield Council also expects success, but warns that "early wins in e-service development are becoming difficult to repeat as significant investment in ICT infrastructure is required". Strikingly, some IEG3 Statements neglect to address the 2005 target question at all.

* DIGITAL TV - Progress with interactive digital television (IDTV) services in local government appears to be slow. Some councils regard it as a "key access channel", however other authorities are attributing, at present, less value to establishing services through digital TV. Rochford District Council notes that digital TV "has not been a priority access channel for development", while another reports that IDTV services do not, at this stage, "seem a likely possibility".

* E-DEMOCRACY - Despite great interest among councils in this area, there has been arguably little headway made with e-democracy tools. One City Council admits it "has no plans to develop e-democracy at this stage". Other authorities show more encouraging signs of activity, but are awaiting results from national projects before taking decisions.

* GOVERNMENT GATEWAY - Many councils have still not fully bought into central government visions. Analysis shows many authorities have reservations over the use of the Office of the e-Envoy's Government Gateway, which is designed to enable citizens and businesses to interact securely with government online. One notes that "at present the authority has no plans to utilise the Gateway" whilst a borough council warns that the "lack of local government services on the 'gateway' is a concern". Many councils indicated an interest but are awaiting progress or information from central government. One London Borough notes that, although interested, it is "not in a position to join at this point".

* E-GOVERNMENT INTERMEDIARIES - One of the recent models of eGovernment to emerge is the concept of involving intermediary organisations in offering access to e-services. Most councils state they intend to engage intermediaries, but have yet to advance beyond the embryonic stages. Some however already offer concrete examples - one innovative district council is using the Post Office as an eGovernment intermediary and using funding to explore further possibilities.

* SMARTCARDS - The issue of smartcards has evoked a mixed response among local authorities, with some clearly displaying confidence with the technology. A number are forging ahead with developing single or multi-purpose systems or are in the process of conducting pilots. However overall, the common view is that smartcards only figure as a "longer term issue", as one council describes it. Elsewhere, a borough council states that it "has no plans at present to use smartcards" and remarks that "a national solution seems the most sensible approach to this technology".

* STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS - eGov monitor's analysis has identified more than 100 strategic partnerships formed by councils to help deliver eGovernment. This collaboration represents the strength of commitment within local government to share learning, experiences and ensure the success of the eGovernment programme. These partnerships deliver significant benefits and are identified by many authorities as key to IEG success. Groups include the Cheshire and Warrington Information Consortium, the Berkshire eGovernment Partnership, North West e-Government Group, the Buckingham Accessible Services Partnership, the Lancashire e-Government Network, the Staffordshire eGovernment Partnership, the South Yorkshire E-Forum, the Access East Sussex Partnership, Kent Connects, the Oxfordshire IEG Partnership, the Herts IEG Action Group, Humber Area Web Partnership and the South East London e-Government Services partnership to name but a few.

* CRM - CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT - CRM is emerging as a prime area of joint-working across councils. eGov monitor found that many are progressing well in using CRM in e-delivery - Hull City Council claim their Hull Connect call centre CRM system is "a global reference site for Oracle". But central government-driven activity in this area is again leading some authorities to stall progress. One City Council remarks that they are "waiting for the roadmap to be delivered by the National Project".

* E-PROCUREMENT - This could prove to be another fertile area for joint-working with a number of e-procurement partnerships already being formed to help build economies of scale. E-auctions, another e-procurement model, is gaining a foothold in local government - one council using this model claimed savings 20 per cent on their paper contracts, and hopes to translate this experience to larger contracts. At the same time, another district council's business case for e-procurement "identified very limited cash savings". Also with great pressure on councils to focus on the customer, back-office operations, which could deliver valuable efficiency savings, are at risk of being sidelined so that authorites can concentrate on projects with more visible customer benefits.

One council comments that e-procurement is "generally deemed not a priority customer-centred development" for them, while the Greater London Authority make virtually no mention of activity in this area. According to Joe Organ, Report author and Senior Analyst at eGov monitor: "As would be naturally expected with any complex, national change programme, across the country there will be a large variance along the scale of eGovernment sophistication. Our analysis possibly shows that for the UK at least, a one-size-fits-all 'blanket approach' to the task of implementing eGovernment at local level is distinctly unsuitable. However the case for an effective, centralised eGovernment monitoring and knowledge sharing facility, which the Government does not currently possess, has never been more compelling."

From InSourced, UK, 19 November 2003

Think Tank Seeks E-government 'Revolution'

A leading think tank has called on ministers to pay the private sector to deliver e-government services. In a report published on Monday, the Institute for Public Policy Research said that companies and voluntary sector organisations could provide electronic public services alongside their usual services. The move could see motorists being able to pay their road tax while buying car insurance and would allow people to claim benefits while seeking help from a charity, said the study. Payments for the delivery of such "intermediary services" should become the norm, said the IPPR. The move would "revolutionise the relationship between citizens and public services and increase access". But the merger of e-government and e-commerce would require additional regulation to ensure accountability and equity of access, accepted the report. "The government has been talking about creating a mixed economy in e-services for three years now but progress has been virtually non-existent," said report author Ian Kearns. He added that the government would "need to move fast" to take the recommendations on board before it publishes e-government implementation guidelines, which are due by the end of this year.

From ePolitix, UK, 24 November 2003

 

Dubai Municipality and Dubai eGovernment Launch Online Payment Facility

Dubai Municipality and Dubai eGovernment have announced a new online payment facility to enable customers to complete transactions online without visiting Dubai Municipality's offices. The new ePay service, part of the Dubai eGovernment initiative, allows customers to pay bills and invoices online using a Visa or MasterCard credit card or through an eDirham smart card. Customer payments are processed using the secure Electronic Payment Gateway of Dubai eGovernment. The announcement was made at a press conference on November 17, 2003, addressed by Hussain Nasser Lootah, Assistant Director General of Dubai Municipality for Environment and Public Health and Head of eGovernment Committee, and Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. Speaking at the event, Hussain Nasser Lootah said Dubai Municipality's eGovernment initiative, launched in October 2001, had achieved its strategic objectives of reducing time taken to deliver services, improving internal processes, providing tangible benefits and enhancing customer satisfaction, by leveraging leading edge technology. 'The success of our eGovernment initiative is reflected in the rising number of online transactions on a daily basis. Now that the online payment service is in place, we are confident that there will be a continuous rise in customers paying bills online as more people become aware of the service,' said Lootah.

Salem Al Shair said: 'Dubai Municipality is a dynamic organization that has to interact with thousands of customers every day. The number of people visiting its offices to pay bills and invoices is phenomenal. Dubai eGovernment's ePay system has created a dynamic solution for enabling online payment, and we are pleased that Dubai Municipality is utilizing this service to serve the community and businesses more effectively.' 'Dubai eGovernment has incorporated high quality security features into its online payment system, in order to provide state of the art solutions to online users,' Al Shair added. 'By offering this system to an increasing number of government departments, we are getting closer to our strategy of providing 70 per cent of Dubai Government's services to public through electronic channels by 2005. We are positive Dubai Municipality will be able to deliver enhanced customer satisfaction using our online payment service.'

Initially, fourteen services are supported by the ePay service. Another four services, including parking fines and Dubai Central Laboratories Services, are to be added to the list shortly. Currently, the ePay service allows customers to pay online using a Visa or MasterCard credit card or an eDirham smart card. Shortly, Dubai eGovernment's online payment gateway will also support account-to-account bank transfers. The online transaction service of Dubai eGovernment has been designed to allow customers to centrally view and process their transactions for bulk services through the Centralised Billing Service or individually through the corresponding eServices. The time spent by customers is reduced dramatically since multiple payments can be cleared in one online transaction.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 17 November 2003

Dubai eGovernment to Support First Middle Eastern Summit on Handheld Computing Devices

The Dubai eGovernment has announced that it will provide patronage to the two day summit on Palm, PDAs, Pocket PCs, Tablet PCs and handheld computing devices to be held on December 9 and 10, 2003 at the Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai. The summit, which is organized by the Arabcom Group and HiTEK, will highlight the importance of mobility in business scenarios and bring into focus futuristic mobile technologies that have the potential of raising return on investment (ROI) through the adoption of Enterprise Mobility and wireless connectivity. Dubai eGovernment's participation in the summit was announced at a press conference organized by the Arabcom Group and held today, Tuesday November 18, 2003. The summit will feature an exhibition of mobile computing products, as well as host a series of workshop sessions that will cover every aspect of business mobility. 'One of the principal objectives of Dubai eGovernment has been to create scenarios that encourage market growth in every sector of commercial enterprise.

The procedures of eGovernance put into motion have been an important step in this direction. However, this step must go hand-in-hand with a consistent effort to educate the society on innovative technologies that can boost individual success ratios and in this way contribute to the flourishing national economy,' said Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. 'It is with this objective in mind that the eGovernment has extended support to the summit on mobile computing.' 'The government's effort has always been to increase the levels of enterprise mobility amongst its staff, as we have discovered that this provides real-time advantages in situations requiring immediate access to governmental databases or where immediate response can avert possible disaster situations,' added Al Shair. 'With a target audience of enterprises, governmental departments, developers, distributors, resellers and individual end-users, the summit will provide an opportunity for dialogue among those wishing to be informed, whether it is the end-user exploring new technologies or the developers investigating market needs.

Such an event will ultimately provide the means of ensuring that the region stays at the cutting-edge of global technology evolution, instead of borrowing from the so-called advanced markets.' Katia Tayar, President and CEO, Arabcom Group stated: 'Our world is evolving into a Knowledge economy. The ability of a society to acquire knowledge helps drive the competitiveness of a country's economy and can mean the difference between growth and stagnation. The utility of a 'Mobile Office' surpasses expectations in a multitude of ways for both the public and the private sectors'. The summit workshops will cover a wide variety of topics, including 'mobilizing field service teams in the real world', ' the future of enterprise mobility', 'developing mobile point of sale applications', 'increase ROI by adopting enterprise mobility' and 'the management solution: maximizing wireless employee productivity in an era of limited IT resources'. The sessions, addressed by experts from across the globe and belonging to technology leaders such as Intel, Oracle and Microsoft, will be open for the public. The exhibition will showcase the latest technology launches in the fields of Handhelds, Software and Customized Solutions, as well Service Solutions for the end-users. The summit is co-sponsored by HP, PalmOne, ADB, Captaris and AME Info.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 19 November 2003

 

USDA Announces New Technology And E-Government Advisory Council

The USDA's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) is creating a Technology and eGovernment Advisory Council to advise and offer recommendations to the Chief Information Officer on improving USDA technology and eGovernment planning and operations. "Our staff has been around the country in recent months receiving valuable input from customers at farm shows and conferences," said USDA Chief Information Officer Scott Charbo. "This advisory council is another great way to receive customer feedback on USDA's information technology and eGovernment efforts." Nominations are being sought for nine members and nine alternates who will begin serving 3-year terms in May 2004. The committee members, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, will represent a broad spectrum of USDA customers, partners, and employees. The Council will meet quarterly and members serve without compensation. Persons interested in serving on the advisory committee, or in nominating individuals to serve, should contact the Office of the Chief Information Officer, by telephone (202-720-8833), fax (202-720-1031), or e-mail (adrienne.bowman@usda.gov) and request Nomination Form AD-755.

From Crop Decisions, MO, 12 November 2003

Another E-Government Official Leaves The White House

SRA International hired Daniel Chenok, branch chief for information policy and technology at the White House Office of Management and Budget. One of the government's top IT policy makers will leave his White House post for a job with a company that sells integration services to federal agencies. SRA International Inc. has hired Daniel Chenok, branch chief for information policy and technology at the White House Office of Management and Budget, as its VP and director for policy and management strategies. Chenok begins his new job in January. Chenok is the third senior IT official to leave OMB since August, when E-government administrator Mark Forman left. The next month, OMB chief technology officer Norman Lorentz resigned. Like Chenok, Forman and Lorentz took jobs in the private sector. At SRA, Chenok will report to president Renny DiPentima and will focus on developing management services. Chenok will help SRA's government clients develop end-to-end solutions that integrate technology, policy, and management, DiPentima says. At OMB, Chenok led a staff responsible for OMB oversight of federal policies regarding E-government, computer security, privacy, budgeting for IT, information dissemination, and related issues.

He advised senior White House officials on major policy decisions and worked closely with the federal CIO Council and other interagency groups to coordinate federal actions in information policy and IT. Previously, he worked as assistant branch chief for human resources and housing in OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, where he managed regulatory and information policy for the U.S. departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, and served as the office's lead for state and local regulatory issues. "Dan is well-known and highly respected in the government IT community," DiPentima says. Indeed, Chenok has received numerous awards, including OMB's Distinguished Service Award, the agency's highest honor. He also received the eGovernment Leadership Award from Affirm, an IT association, and the Industry Advisory Council's Government Contributor of the Year award. In 2003, the Federal CIO Council awarded Chenok the Azimuth Award as the Government Executive of the Year.

From Information Week, by Eric Chabrow, 5 November 2003

Agriculture to Create E-gov Advisory Group

Agriculture Department officials today said the agency will establish a new advisory council to bring citizens and employees into the department's e-government planning. The USDA Technology and eGovernment Advisory Council will be made up of nine members, with nominations due by Jan 15, 2004. The department seeks people "who are outstanding in their respective professions and are knowledgeable of the various mission areas of USDA, and on how technology - both USDA and customer-owned - can be used to improve productivity and services," according to the Federal Register notice. This would be one of the only information technology advisory councils in the federal government. The most high-profile council is the President's Information Technology Advisory Council. President Clinton established the PITAC in 1998 and President Bush renewed its charter through 2005.

From FCW.com, by Diane Frank, 12 November 2003

E-gov Includes Accessibility, Privacy

Agencies should focus on accessibility and privacy issues as e-government initiatives move forward, Office of Management and Budget's information technology chief said today. These two areas need more attention, said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT, speaking at an enterprise architecture conference in Washington, D.C. "This is something we all know we need to do," Evans said, referring to compliance with the Rehabilitation Act's Section 508, which requires agencies to make technology accessible to people with disabilities. "This is what is going to give confidence in our services to the public. We have to make sure those services can be used by all types of citizens." The future of the 24 e-government initiatives laid out in the president's management agenda depends on agencies moving beyond a green score on the management scorecard. Green, the top rating on the scorecard, means agencies have achieved the status where they should have been all along, Evans said. "Green is not the end; green in the beginning," she said. The next step is what she called breakthrough performance, when all managers are using the enterprise architecture and collaborating across agencies. "For you to develop a business case jointly with a sister agency -- that's breakthrough performance," Evans said. Other goals in the future include ensuring that well-qualified, experienced project managers are handling major IT projects and that agencies work to complete the initial 24 e-government initiatives.

From FCW.com, 18 November 2003

Congress Approves $3 Million for E-Gov Fund

Although the administration likes to say e-government is taking root in agencies, Congress still has not jumped on the bandwagon. Senate and House conference committee members last week agreed to a fiscal 2004 appropriations bill that would allocate $3 million to the E-Government Fund. The House and Senate must now vote on the Treasury, Transportation and other agencies appropriations bills before sending it to the president. E-government funding is down $2 million from the two previous years, when lawmakers approved $5 million for last year and 2002. It's $52 million less than Congress authorized in the E-Government Act of 2002 and $42 million less than requested for the fund by President Bush. The White House had said it wanted to pump $100 million into the fund over a three-year period running from fiscal 2002 through this year, but if this year's bill goes through it will have received $13 million in that time. Lawmakers' decisions not to provide more funding to e-government also diminishes the chances of Congress coming up with anything near the $350 million the E-Government Act authorized for the time between last year and 2007. The administration did receive the $2.5 million it sought for the enterprise architecture initiative, sources said. GSA administers the account and the E-Government Fund for the Office of Management and Budget. Congress also approved full funding of $35 million for the National Archives and Records Administration's Electronic Records Project. But lawmakers didn't heed the president's request for GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy. Congress OK'd $56.3 million for the office, $17.6 million less than requested.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 18 November 2003

IT Execs Optimistic about E-gov

Two-thirds of senior federal information technology officials anticipate successful implementation of e-government initiatives, according to the Association for Federal Information Resources Management's eighth annual survey. In the Top Ten Challenges Survey released today, 67 percent of IT officials polled predicted some implementation success of the initiatives, up from 39 percent in 2002. "This dramatic increase means the president's e-gov agenda is showing positive results," the survey stated. "A few respondents expect a negative impact on e-government initiatives from the continuing resolution and budget cuts." As in the 2002 survey, respondents were asked five special questions - including some about the president's management agenda and homeland security - in addition to questions about the top 10 challenges for chief information officers and top 10 critical technologies. The survey also showed an increase in the number of officials who believe the president's management agenda impacts the emphasis on IT management, while the number of officials who thought the agenda didn't affect their mission dropped, according to AFFIRM officials.

About 76 percent of respondents said the agenda raises the visibility of technology, increases management focus on IT and provides an opportunity to rethink strategies. Nine percent said the management agenda is not relevant, down from 13 percent in 2002. IT officials identified program management, budget and control of IT implementation as areas where there were skill gaps, a change from last year when enterprise architecture topped the list. "Perhaps this is due to the progress made by several agencies in developing the enterprise architecture, as well as an increased awareness of the importance of [program management] skills in obtaining OMB project approval," the survey said. The number one challenge was obtaining adequate funding for IT programs and projects, an area that was number five last year. "The respondents are again sending a strong message that IT programs and projects have not been receiving the funding necessary to ensure successful implementation and maintenance," the survey said.

Hiring and retaining skilled professionals held the number two challenge spot, and formulating an enterprise architecture fell from number one to the third ranking challenge this year. Making business and cultural changes necessary for e-gov transformation fell from the top five for the first time in three years, again showing progress on the initiatives, the survey suggested. Despite efforts from OMB officials to raise the visibility of the need to comply with accessibility requirements, that topic was ranked last out of 25 in the survey for the second year in a row. "While Section 508 compliance continues to be a hot political topic, it does not appear to be of concern to the senior IT community," the survey said. In the list of top technologies, Internet applications, security infrastructure and knowledge management took the top three spots and have been in the top five for the last four years, according to the survey.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 20 November 2003

New Major Offered in Public Policy

The University of Massachusetts' Center for Public Policy and Administration is now offering a new interdisciplinary undergraduate certificate. This new certificate, which is open to all students regardless of major, will allow students to complement their majors with a concentration in public policy in various areas such as environmental issues and international policy. The requirements for this certificate involve successfully completing eight courses with a B or better. Three of the courses are required, including one in economics, one overview of public policy in the form of a political science class, and a course in introductory statistics. There is no minimum GPA needed to enroll in the certificate program. Anyone can apply before the beginning of his or her senior year, after choosing a major. Working with a faculty advisor, students determine what other five courses best fit the area of study. Each of these courses must be at least of level 200, with three of them at level 300 or above. Also, no two courses may be from the same department, providing a diverse knowledge base in public policy.

Along with education in public policy, recipients of this certificate can receive a thorough backing in survey research, computer applications, applied statistics, technical writing and public presentations, all of which are important skills to have for a career in public policy. Brenda Bushouse, Chief Undergraduate Certificate Advisor and political science faculty member, said "it has a potential to be ... well-rounded, as opposed to a minor, in which you take all your courses in one department." Students will constantly work with a faculty advisor to tailor the certificate to their needs. Twenty faculty advisors from university departments such as economics, sociology, geosciences, psychology, political science, and education policy, will provide advising services. "The strength of this is it's an interdisciplinary major," Bushouse said. For example, one currently enrolled student is a social thought and political economy major, but is interested in labor policy and wishes to pursue a career in that area after law school.

This certificate will not only provide a decoration on a transcript, but gives practical knowledge and experience in the concentration desired. While this certificate does not create any new courses to be offered, it does allow students to take classes they would not have been able to take before if they were not a part of the major. The CPPA formed in 1998 out of the Political Science department, offering a masters degree in public administration as well as heading research. This new certificate program is the first undergraduate offering of its kind, and has already received positive feedback. Students have already begun to enroll in classes for next semester. To enroll, a student must choose a course of study, and then write a one-page paper on the concentration and how the five elective courses will help to meet this goal. The eight courses taken towards the certificate's completion can also be used toward the completion of a major's requirements, or general education requirements. Anyone interested in the new certificate in public policy and administration should contact Brenda Bushouse at ugrdcert@pubpol.umass.edu, or any of the other faculty advisors involved. On the Net: www.masspolicy.org/undergrad.

From The Massachusets Daily Collegian, by Nathan Chomsky-Higgins, 20 November 2003

 

Global E-government

OECD publishes e-government leadership study: The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published a report on the factors required for successful e-government leadership. The policy document, titled "Checklist for e-Government Leaders," was drawn up based on the experiences of OECD member countries and the findings of the OECD Symposium for Senior E-Government Officials, which took place in June. The report outlines 10 key areas where leadership is especially important for the successful implementation of e-government strategies. These areas include having the vision and political will to ensure that e-government implementation is sustained; encouraging collaboration within and between agencies; eliminating legislative and regulatory barriers to e-government; and ensuring that e-services are focused on the customer, i.e. citizens and businesses. The report concludes that strong leadership can accelerate the rollout of e-government initiatives and help reinforce good governance objectives.

Call to boost reliability of electronic voting: The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) and the so-called Free E-democracy Project have launched a Europe-wide campaign to beef up the reliability of electronic voting. The FIPR, an independent think tank for Internet policy in Britain, and the Free E-democracy Project, which advocates the use of free software in government, claim that computerised voting is prone to error and tampering. The two groups have called for concerned parties to endorse a statement calling for the introduction of a "voter-verifiable audit trail" for e-voting. According to the statement, voter-verifiable voting involves the creation of "a permanent record of each vote that can be checked for accuracy by the voter before the vote is submitted, and is difficult or impossible to alter after it has been checked." The groups said that the release of the statement had been timed to influence decision makers and educate the public in advance of the 2004 European elections, when a number of countries will trial e-voting.

UK citizens ill-informed about data sharing: The majority of UK citizens are ill-informed about how and why government bodies share personal data, according to new research. A survey carried out for the Department for Constitutional Affairs by the MORI Social Research Institute found that 64 percent of people said they were not well-informed about how public bodies handle personal information. Some 27 percent of survey respondents were unable to give a reason why public services share information. Those who were able to answer the question provided both positive and negative reasons, ranging from improving efficiency and stopping fraud to keeping track of people and selling information for marketing purposes. In other interesting findings, the survey showed that 74 percent of respondents did not know how to find out what personal data government services held about them, while 53 percent did not know what their rights were with regard to their personal information.

Almost half of Australians have used e-government: Almost half of all citizens and nearly 60 percent of businesses have used e-government services in Australia, according to a recent study by the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE). According to the "E-government Benefits Study," around 80 percent of respondents to a survey said they had gained moderate or significant social benefits from on-line government facilities, while 45 percent said they had saved money through the use of e-government. The study predicts that demand for e-government services is set to grow by more than 30 percent every year. Still, the majority of those surveyed said there was plenty of room for improvement with regard to e-services. Among the suggestions made for improvement were the personalisation of content on government Web sites and the integration of services across agencies at all levels of government. The Australian government has e-enabled more than 1,600 services to date.

EDS wins government contract after protest: EDS has won a contract with the US General Services Administration to manage its E-Travel on-line travel system. The IT services giant will join Carlson Wagonlit Government Travel and Northrop Grumman's Mission Systems unit in providing on-line travel management services for the GSA. It is estimated that the ten-year contract could be worth USD450 million. EDS had protested after the contract was awarded to Carlson Wagonlit and Northrop Grumman, claiming that the GSA did not properly evaluate all the vendors in the competition. The GSA said that it had decided to re-open the competition, averting the need to defend its decision to the General Accounting Office. The government agency allowed all of the shortlisted bidders to once again present their proposed services, conduct further negotiations, and revise their proposals. EDS claims that its system will reduce costs for government travellers by as much as 50 percent.

Cape Town wins e-government award: The city of Cape Town in South Africa won the prize for e-government at the recent Africa Information and Communication Technology annual awards ceremony. According to a report in the Cape Times, the city's officials have spent ZAR360 million (EUR45 million) on implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system over the past three years, and the authorities say the money will be recouped over the next five years. The system integrates legacy systems from a number of municipalities and provides a new billing system for the city. Other notable ICT developments by the city include its SmartCape Access project, whereby PCs with Internet access are placed in public libraries. Cape Town's deputy mayor, Pierre Uys, said the city was committed to using technology to improve service delivery and to providing access to ICT to all communities.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 12 November 2003

The First Study On Digital Governance in Municipalities Worldwide Ranked Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, and Shanghai as the Top Five Cities, and Tallinn, Dubai, Jakarta as Among the Top 20 of 100 Large Cities Worldwide

Newark, N.J. - This survey was conducted jointly by the E-governance Institute of Rutgers University-Newark and the Global e-Policy e-Government Institute of Sungkyunkwan University, Korea, and was co-sponsored by the UN Division for Public Administration and Development Management, and the American Society for Public Administration. This is the first research effort to evaluate digital governance in municipalities throughout the world. This survey examined the largest city in each of 98 countries with the highest percentage of Internet users, and Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR were included. This research evaluated the official Web sites of each city in their native languages. Our instrument for evaluating municipal Web sites consists of 92 measures over five core areas: 1. Security and Privacy, 2. Usability, 3. Content, 4. Services, 5. Citizen Participation. Each measure was coded on a scale of four-points (0, 1, 2, 3) or a dichotomy of two points (0, 3 or 0, 1). Then, an overall score for each municipality (on a 100-point scale) was derived by giving equal weight to each of the five categories.

Professor Marc Holzer, Chairman of the E-Governance Institute said, "This joint research was helpful for reducing cultural bias in our survey methodology. During the design of the 92 measures in our e-government index, we identified some terms which people in various cultures might not understand. So, we developed an index which was 'culture-neutral'." Each Web site was assessed by two independent evaluators between June and October 2003, and in cases where significant variation existed on the raw score between evaluators, websites were analyzed a third time. Based on the evaluation of 100 cities, the top 10 cities are as follows:
Top 10 Cities in Digital Governance Worldwide

RANKING CITY SCORE

1 Seoul 73.48
2 Hong Kong 66.57
3 Singapore 62.97
4 New York 61.35
5 Shanghai 58.00
6 Rome 54.72
7 Auckland 54.61
8 Jerusalem 50.34
9 Tokyo 46.52
10 Toronto 46.35

New York City was ranked No. 1 worldwide in terms of content. Among the top 20 cities, three are from developing countries: Tallinn (Estonia) 14th, Dubai (United Arab Emirates) 18th, and Jakarta (Indonesia) 20th. This research identified a digital divide gap between developed and less developed countries. Although the average score for all cities is 28.10 out of 100, the average score in OECD countries is 36.34; however the average score in non-OECD countries is only 24.26. In addition, 67% of cities selected in Africa have not established official city websites, whereas only 3% in Europe have no city Web sites. Sungkyunkwan University is holding an international conference to present best practices cases based on this survey and is giving a "World Cities Best Practices E-Government Award" to the top five cites on November 21 in Seoul. Professor Seang-Tae Kim, President of the Global e-Policy e-Government Institute said, "Government services can be improved remarkably by E-government, but the digital divide is a problem to be solved. We can encourage e-government among cities in the world by measuring them and giving this kind of award." (Tel 82-2-760-0374, e-mail kimst@skku.edu). Scores and ranking of all 100 cities are online at http://www.andromeda.rutgers.edu/ egovinst/Website/.

From PrimeZone (press release), 17 November 2003

 
 

Use Existing Law to Combat Corruption - Bank Council

Cape Town - The Banking Council has asked Parliament's justice committee to use existing legislation to report corrupt actions rather than include a new provision in the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Bill. There are at present clauses in the bill that will make it a responsibility of all citizens to report corrupt activities. It goes further and makes it a crime for anyone aware of corruption not to report it to the South African Police Service. The council, in a letter to the committee, said that previous reporting requirements in other laws had caused problems for the banks.

Council GM Stuart Grobler said that the reporting requirements of the prevention of corruption legislation would duplicate the requirements of Financial Intelligence Centre Act of 2001. This act, designed to curb money laundering, provided appropriate protection for the financial institutions involved, Grobler said. "On the other hand, banks experienced considerable difficulties when they had to report suspicious money laundering or proceeds of crime transactions to the (police) under prior legislative requirements (the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Prevention of Organised Crime Act). "The (police) were never really resourced to fulfil this role and many times their inexperienced attempts to investigate the reports resulted in clients becoming aware that the bank had reported them," he said.

Grobler said this did not happen with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, because it was resourced to analyse the reports and there were appropriate safeguards protecting the reporting institutions and individuals. He recommended that this legislation be used as the mechanism for reporting corrupt transactions. Justice committee chairman Johnny de Lange said that the clauses in the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act were intended to impose a duty on all citizens to report corruption and did not mention corporate or business entities such as banks. He said for this reason the clauses would remain. In a letter, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi welcomed the fact that the bill was almost through Parliament. Next month she will sign a United Nations Convention Against Corruption and "the adoption of the bill will be of great value in ensuring SA's compliance with the requirements of these agreements".

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Wyndham Hartley, 19 November 2003

Finance Bill Tightens Controls

Cape Town - The Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Bill strengthens oversight by municipal councillors over local government budgets, says deputy Finance Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa. Piloting the Bill through the National Council of Provinces on Thursday afternoon, the deputy minister said the oversight and timely reporting to municipal councils was "an essential requirement for improved performance and accountability". The bill provides for a transparent public process, with the execution of projects, improved quality of information allowing "for strategic policy decisions to be made on a timely basis", he said. The legislation was passed by the National Assembly in September when Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said that the Bill covered the same issues for local government that the Public Finance Management Act covered for national and provincial spheres of government. It also allows for municipal borrowing and for provinces to intervene in the event of a serious financial crisis in a local government.

From News24, South Africa, 21 November 2003

CBN to Publish List of Healthy Finance Houses

Following the expiration of the November 7 deadline it gave to Finance Houses (FHs) to submit all outstanding statutory returns, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has commenced moves to publish the names of healthy finance houses. It would be recalled that the apex bank wrote to FHs, especially those that have outstanding statutory returns, to submit on or before Friday November 7, or face severe penalties. The letter was sequel to the prevailence of non rendition of quarterly returns as required by the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA). In the letter the CBN had complained that most FHs do not render returns and those that do, do so later than the stipulated time. Vanguard reliably gathered that a handful of FHs have responded to the letter by rushing to the Other Financial Institutions Department (OFID) of the CBN to submit their outstanding returns. Sources however confirmed to Vanguard that more than half of the affected FHs are yet to respond to the letter. It was gathered that the CBN had started compiling the names of those that complied within the stipulated time with a view to publishing their names in major newspapers as those that the public should do business with.

According to OFID sources, the department has commenced the diligence on the FHs in order to determine their true state. "Apart from examining their returns we are also going to conduct field examination to ascertain the validity of the returns," they explained adding that once this is concluded, the list will be forwarded to the management for approval and thereafter published. The decision to publish the list of healthy FHs as against publishing the names of those that have not been rendering returns, it was gathered, was to guide against the negative effect of such action on FHs that are yet existing but for one reason or the other have not been rendering returns. The proposed publication, it was gathered, is intended to guide the investing public vis-a-vis FHs to do business with. Meanwhile, Vanguard investigations reveal that FHs belonging to executives of Finance Houses Association of Nigeria (FHAN) were among those that have not been rendering returns. Investigations reveal that in most cases these FHs are yet to render returns for the second and third quarter of the year. Already FHs that could not meet the deadline have started clamouring for an extension, which sources say the apex bank might allow.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Babajide Komolafe, 21 November 2003

 

ADB Offers Grant for Tax Academy

Nagpur - The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) has offered the government a grant of up to a quarter of a million dollars for the National Academy of Direct Taxes (NADT) here. The grant will be utilised for developing new programmes and systems in taxation. The NADT is one of the three premier institutes set up to train civil servants. The other two institutes are at Mussoorie (for IAS) and Hyderabad (for IPS). The NADT is the premier training institution in the country for officers and staff of the Income Tax Department. Its primary task is to provide professional training to the recruits of IRS selected through the Civil Services exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Termed as "grant for capacity-building in tax administration", the aid will be used for making systems for "training trainers", offering improved tax payer services, distance learning courses using various media, preparation of new audit manuals, redefining risk analysis and so on. The proposal is significant in the light of the government's decision to reduce the fiscal deficit by higher tax mobilisation and not through drastic slashing of subsidies.

Sources in the Finance Ministry said that the tax to GDP ratio issue was revisited this quarter and plans were now being chalked out to improve the scenario. At present, the tax-GDP ratio is low at about 7 to 8 per cent and should go up 3 to 4 per cent over the next five years. The capacity-building exercise for increasing tax collections and better administration was originally suggested by former Finance Secretary Vijay Kelkar. The ADB team here has a compilation of various initiatives undertaken by India in tax administration over the past decade and also the recommendations of the Kelkar Committee on Tax Reforms. The capacity-building exercise finds reference in the Kelkar Committee's recommendations. Officials said the Centre had approached the ADB for its expertise and financial assistance in revamping the existing structure. "They can't wipe out an existing structure overnight and start with a new one. The present system is yielding results and growing. It only needs a few fresh ideas to work even better," the source said.

The ADB has worked out an initial plan and submitted a report to the Centre. Talks began in July and the ADB team visited the NADT to assess the quantum of work required, the new direction that needed to be given in the training programme for IRS recruits, re-orientation camps for officers and study the process for convergence of various new technologies in improving tax administration. The funds would be granted after the government approved the proposal, the sources said. Initial use of the funds would be in various areas like developing software packages, hiring expertise in taxation from a handful of reputed names in the field. The ADB will monitor the use of the grant. Sources said the funds would be granted under the "relationship assistance plan" of the bank. A similar proposal has also been submitted for indirect taxation.

From Business Standard, India, 19 November 2003

CST Bill: Finance Ministry Move to Hit Reliance

The Finance Ministry has ruled out implementation of the existing Rs 1,500-crore scheme for compensating refineries on taxes levied by the State Governments but are not recovered from the consumer during the current fiscal. This, despite the fact that the Union Budget for fiscal 2003-04 has provided this amount under the head "Irrevocable taxes". Under the scheme, which was operational in 2002-03, Indian Oil Corporation and other public sector marketing companies had paid Reliance Industries Ltd around Rs 470 crore. The other major beneficiary was Kochi Refineries Ltd, which got around Rs 200 crore. Reliance was paid this sum towards the Central Sales Tax (CST) levied by the Gujarat Government on the petro-products sold by its Jamnagar refinery to the public sector oil marketing companies outside the State and not recovered from the consumer. While the Budget has provided a compensation sum of around Rs 1,500 crore for the fiscal 2003-04, the Finance Ministry has, however, recently communicated to the Petroleum Ministry that it would not implement the scheme this year.

It has reasoned that such a compensation would amount to transfer of resources from the Union Budget to the State Government. The Petroleum Ministry is now planning to write back to the Finance Ministry on the issue and seek a review. In case the Petroleum Ministry's plea fails to convince the Finance Ministry, Reliance may have to absorb the Rs 470-crore CST bill within the `import parity' price paid to it by the marketers, thus taking a hit on the refinery margins. Import parity price comprises the landed cost of the product and the customs duty. Else, it would require to amending its agreement with the State Government, which allows for an option to waive the CST. In the existing arrangement, the CST is `deferred' for 15 years, which enables Reliance to charge the levy to its buyers and retain the CST amount billed for that period. In case the CST is waived, Reliance will not be able to raise the CST bill and enjoy the benefit of interest free money for 15 years.

From Business Line, India, by Balaji C. Mouli, 19 November 2003

 

Public Servants Cash In

Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy released the 2004 Book of Estimates on Thursday, detailing next year's government expenditure. Public spending will increase by 5%, or €1.9bn, to €40bn, with €1.1bn of this to cover pay rises for 280,000 public sector employees. In an attempt to control finances the Government is introducing a series of what its opponents call "stealth taxes", designed to raise €91m. These include changes to the drugs refund scheme, increases in A&E charges, road tax, passports, Junior and Leaving Cert examinations fees and visas. Also included are cuts in certain social welfare schemes aimed at saving €58m. The cuts will affect lone parent allowances, rent allowances and child dependent allowances. Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy called his approach "prudent" but he was attacked from all sides. Most Government departments are being allowed an increase in spending of between 1% and 6% but at the extremes the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment is losing 4% and the Department of Foreign Affairs is gaining 18% (to cover the cost of Ireland's presidency of the EU). The biggest spending department, Health and Children, goes up 8% to €9,541m. The next biggest is the Department of Education and Science which receives an 11% increase to €6058m.

From Emigrant Online, Ireland, 17 November 2003

Public Sector Reform is Key to Poland's Continued Economic Recovery - IMF

Warsaw - Poland's economy is firmly on the road to recovery, with exports and local demand likely leading to growth of 3.25% in 2003 and continuing improvement giving growth of 4% in 2004, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in the autumn version of its biannual look at the Polish economy. The key challenge for Poland's economy, and a preservation of recovery, is public-sector reform: "the recovery cannot survive under the continuing burden of a government sector bloated by large and poorly targeted social transfers, inefficient public enterprises and a high and rising public debt," the IMF said. Taxation, and related revenues, pale in significance compared with the problem the public sector poses for public finances. These trends in the public sector must be reversed, Susan Schadler, chief of the IMF mission to Poland, declared to journalists Thursday. "Poland's economy must be leaner and more efficient, and there is no better time to streamline the public sector than at present with the economy on the rebound," Schadler said.

A large increase in the fiscal deficit, coming during economic recovery, presents a large fiscal stimulus and the Polish government needs to save on spending to bring the budget deficit down in 2004, Schadler said. The government's public-finance reform program, authored by Economy and Labor Minister Jerzy Hausner, garnered support from the IMF and is seen as taking decisive steps to make the current economic recovery durable. The IMF is encouraged by efforts to garner wide political support for the program and the ambitious timetable to push reforms through parliament. The IMF's assessment of Poland's economic progress and inherent problems are very close to the government's own, Finance Minister Andrzej Raczko told reporters of the IMF report. Raczko also underscored his pleasure at the positive reception by the IMF of Hausner's public-finance reform program.

The IMF is pressing Poland to forge ahead on a tight but realistic timetable to rekindle the spirit and speed of privatization in Poland, particularly in view of the 2004 budget assuming higher privatization revenues next year than this year. After the first ten months of 2003, privatization income stood at just PLN 1.49 bln, or 20.2% of the annual target. In terms of monetary policy, the IMF said Poland was now in a transition period since a new Monetary Policy Council (RPP) will be elected at the start of 2004. "Future monetary policy should concentrate on the two major legacies of the out-going council," Schadler underscored. The new RPP should make decisions to maintain a low rate of inflation to protect the 2.5% target for 2004 and continue a non-intervention policy in the zloty's freely floating exchange rate, the IMF said. Raczko said he entirely subscribes to this view. Inflation is subdued in Poland and should measure 1.5% at the end of 2003, according to IMF estimates, versus a milder 1.3% forecast by Hausner. The IMF sees inflation at just under 3% by the end of 2004.

From Interfax, Poland, 21 November 2003

Minister Announces Relocation of Public Services Funding

Finance Minister, Ian Pearson has announced the reallocation of some £72 million for public services in Northern Ireland. Making the announcement today the Minister said these latest round of reallocations were part of the routine financial management process, ensuring that savings identified by departments were channelled to priority areas. Mr. Pearson explained that some £114 million was available for reallocation at this time, with £72 million to be allocated now, £32 million to be carried forward into 2004-05, and £10 million to be used to offset the anticipated savings allocated in the previous Monitoring Round in August. Turning to the allocations for 2003-04, the Minister said: "The substantial sums being allocated at this time will underpin the delivery of key public services in areas such as Health and Education, and will also take forward the important Welfare Reform Programme."

Significant allocations in 2003-04 include £37.7 million for the Department for Social Development, £13.9 million for the Department of Education, and £7.5 million to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. As regards the £32 million to be carried forward to 2004-05, the Minister said: "£15 million will be carried forward to 2004-05 in respect of projects where departments have experienced some delays in taking work forward. "On 24 September 2003 I announced proposals to help strengthen the competitive position of Northern Ireland through the reduction of electricity bills by some £30 million per year. To fund this, £16.4 million is to be set aside for carry forward into 2004-05 with the balance being met through further in-year savings."(MB)

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 21 November 2003

Finance Going Begging

Businesses are missing out on key expansion opportunities due to lack of awareness about accessing finance, says a city lobby group. The problem was raised at a seminar organised by Birmingham Forward to advise on funding opportunties. Experts from Advantage West Midlands, The Royal Bank of Scotland, W H Ireland and LDC gave updates on funding opportunities for SMEs and the latest developments in banking facilities. Deloitte's Jane Lodge, who chairs Birmingham Forward's business growth committee, said: "Whether you are a sole trader or a large company, access to finance is an essential part of expanding your business. "However, it is not always easy to decide which route to take or to find out what services are available." Mary Martin, interim director at West Midlands Access to Finance, Advantage West Midlands, said: "Currently, companies looking to raise between £250,000 and £5 million of risk capital are struggling to find suitable finance. "They do not always have the collateral to offer good lending prospects for banks and are too small to get involved in the public markets or with major Private Equity funds. "Advantage West Midlands is facilitating the launch of two major initiatives designed to help bridge this equity gap. "The first of these is a £60 million venture capital fund for the region and the second is a local business exchange."

From icBirmingham, UK, by Jon Griffin, 21 November 2003

Klaus Signs First Four Bills of Government's Public Finance Reform Package into Law

Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Tuesday signed the first four bills of the government's public finance reform package into law, the press department of the Office of the President announced. The bills signed by the president include amendments to the laws on real estate transfer, social security, health insurance and the wages of elected officials. The amendment to the real estate transfer law reduces the transfer tax for real estate from the current 5 % to 3 % as of July 2004. The amendment to the health insurance law tightens conditions for receiving sick pay. The bill reduces the amount of sick leave in the first three days of illness by one-half and also cuts benefits for the first two weeks of illness. The amendment to the social security law aims to reduce fraud among those collecting benefits and tightens the conditions for paying out such benefits. The bill on wages of elected officials imposes a three-year freeze on salaries in this sector. The Senate recently approved another five bills related to the government's public finance reform plan and they have been submitted to the president for signature. Two final bills from the reform package - amendments to the accounting and income tax laws - were returned by the Senate to the Chamber of Deputies for fine-tuning. The lower house will take them up at the end of November. The government says its public finance reform package will save some CZK 200 bn over the next three years and cut the deficit from the current 7 % of GDP to 4 % by 2006.

From Interfax, Czech Republic, 20 November 2003

 
 

Libya Announces Vast Plan for Privatization

The Libyan prime minister Shukri Ghanem considered that Libya had prepared a large scale plan for privatizing state owned factories and companies and the plan is to be extended until 2008. Ghanem said in a press conference held in Tripoli on Saturday that this plan covers "privatization of mineral industries, especially iron, steel, chemical industries, and factories to assemble trucks and buses, textile, and shoes companies, and state owned farms." The Libyan prime minister did not explain the number of companies to be included in the privatization plan. In September Ghanem said that the number of these companies will be more than 300. Ghanem said that the privatization plan will be applied in three phases until the year 2008, noting that "the Central Bank will sell shares of these companies and factories until a stock market is founded." He stressed that this plan aims at "improving the national economic performance and the living standards of individuals through expanding the base of property owners." Ghanem, an economist, was appointed in June as head of the government, adopts the policy of economic openness. He stressed that his country seeks to open up to foreign companies especially oil companies. In June this year, Libya's Leader of the Revolution Colonel Muammar al Qathafi called for the privatization of the sector of oil, banks, public companies, and airports.

From Arabic News, 24 November 2003

 

Public-Private Partnership Key to Success of Telemedicine

Chennai - The success of telemedicine can only be realised when there is a good relationship between private and public partnership in providing them. Public-private partnership will be the key driver for healthcare delivery in India. Addressing a CII (SR) conference on telemedicine, Supriya Sahu, the joint secretary (health & family welfare department, Government of Tamil Nadu, said: "For telemedicine to be present everywhere in India there needs to be an effective partnership between private and public sector." Sahu added, "TN has the best health infrastructure in India but there are still some areas like Nilgiris and Perambalur which are inaccessible for any medical facilities. Tamil Nadu plays a leadership role in implementing many maternal and child healthcare programmes with 100 per cent immunisation being undertaken. In the last three years there has been no incidence of polio in TN." "There are about 42,000 beds available in Tamil Nadu government hospitals, 1,400 primary healthcare centre and 8,000 sub-health centres which are good indicators of available healthcare infrastructure in the state," she added.

A study funded by World Bank at Karur and Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu, revealed that most of the private healthcare facilities were concentrated only in urban areas. As some areas are inaccessible and proves to be a challenge in providing healthcare, telemedicine would be a more cost effective model compared to setting-up of more big hospitals which would require huge investment as a high-end model. Sahu said, "there are about 75 per cent of medical specialist in metropolitan cities, 23 per cent of them living in semi-urban areas and a marginal fraction of only 2 per cent medical specialists practise in rural areas. Issues like medico-legal framework have to be considered seriously with the growing popularity of telemedicine in India."

B S Bedi, the senior director of department of information technology, Government of India, said, "telemedicine refers to the use of telecommunication for diagnosis and treatment of disease and provides emergent delivery of health care for areas which inaccessible. Telemedicine provides healthcare where there is none and improves the health care where there is some existing medical facility available and also brings access to quality healthcare to under-served rural & urban masses." As India had low penetration of healthcare services, telemedicine becomes a necessity in our country as the availability of primary health care for the rural population is highly inadequate, Bedi pointed out. Despite several initiatives taken by the central government, the state government and private sector the rural and remote areas continue to suffer from absence of quality healthcare. "Telemedicine is necessary as well as the most suitable option for majority of patients living in rural and remote areas who could be successfully managed locally with healthcare advice and guidance given by specialists living in cities," he added.

From Business Standard, India, 13 November 2003

Australian Government Completes Airports Privatization

Canberra -The Australian government Friday wrapped up its airports privatization program, offloading three Sydney regional airports for A$211 million to the BaCH Airports consortium involving Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AU). The deal has pushed total sale proceeds from the airports divestment process above A$8.5 billion, helping the ruling Liberal-National coalition slash government net debt to below A$30 billion, or 3.9% of gross domestic product. The government's remaining blockbuster privatization, the A$30 billion divestment of its 50.1% stake in Telstra Corp. (TLS.AU), faces a hostile Senate, with legislation to enact the sale rejected by the upper house for the first time last month. BaCH Airports' winning bid is sponsored by Commonwealth Bank, James Fielding Group (JFG.AU), and transport group Toll Holdings Ltd. (TOL.AU). Equity investment in support of the bid has been provided by James Fielding, Westscheme Pty. Ltd. and Commonwealth Investments Pty. Ltd., a subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank. In addition, the purchase is funded by both infrastructure and property debt provided by Commonwealth Bank.

The three so-called Sydney Basin airports, comprising Bankstown, Camden and Hoxton Park, are located in Sydney's outer west and largely deal with smaller aircraft and freight. The divestment of the trio of airports was originally planned for mid-to-late 2002, soon after the bumper A$5.6 billion sale of Australia's busiest aircraft terminal, Sydney Airport. However, ongoing difficulties in the industry arising from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks persuaded the government to wait until this year. The coalition's patience has been rewarded, with the pricetag for the assets exceeding expectations that suggested an upper ceiling of A$150 million. No Development Obligations Attached To Sale - Finance Minister Nick Minchin said the sale followed a competitive process involving "high-quality bids." "This sale completes the Australian government's highly successful airports privatization program," the minister said. "The private owners of Australia's airports have invested significantly in their assets to provide new facilities and improved services to the community," Minchin said.

Apart from Sydney Airport and the city's regional aviation facilities, other terminals to go under the hammer included Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin and Hobart. Minchin said BaCH Airports intends to build on the strength of the existing management team, drawing as needed on the resources of Australian-based technical advisers to provide airport services to the general aviation sector. BaCH Airports also has the property management skills to conduct the non-aviation businesses associated with the airports, Minchin said. James Fielding described the deal as a "watershed transaction," allowing it to secure a prime investment for its infrastructure yield fund as well as control of more than 150 hectares of development land in strategic locations. "We have some exciting plans for the development of this land over the next several years," James Fielding Managing Director Greg Paramor said.

James Fielding intends to finance its investment via existing debt facilities and future development projects by way of syndicates and ventures with third parties. The sale of the Sydney Basin airports has been completed without any development obligations being imposed on the new owners. There is no longer a need for Bankstown Airport to develop as an overflow facility to supplement Sydney Airport and there will be no requirement for regional services to move there, Transport Minister John Anderson said. The Bankstown and Camden airports have been sold with their existing lease terms, which have about 45 years to run with an option to renew for a further 49 years. As previously announced, Hoxton Park airport is being sold with a shortened five-to-seven-year airport lease. At the end of the shortened lease for Hoxton Park, freehold title will transfer to the owner of the lease and it will be up to the new owner to determine the best use for the site. Caliburn Partnership, the Australian government solicitor, and Gavin Anderson & Co. assisted in the sale process.

From Yahoo News, by Veronica Brooks, 13 November 2003

Yu to Form Commission on Privatization

Premier Yu Shyi-kun agreed to form a fair and impartial commission under the Executive Yuan to monitor the process of privatization of state - owned enterprises during a meeting yesterday afternoon with leaders of many of Taiwan's labor unions. Accompanied by Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang, Council for Labor Affairs Minister Chen Chu, Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung and other officials, the premier met in the Executive Yuan complex with 18 leaders of unions affiliated with the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, including TCTU Chairman Lu Tien-lin and Public Enterprise Union Alliance Chairman Simon Chang for close to two hours. The meeting came in the wake of recent major demonstrations against privatization measures by over 7,000 workers in the Taiwan Railway Administration and over 4,000 Chunghua Telecom Corporation against privatization in September. The discussion focussed mainly on the problems linked with the government's policy, inherited from the former Kuomintang

regime, of privatization of state enterprises, related issues regarding safeguarding of the rights of employees and other labor policy issues. After hearing the views presented by the TCTU union leaders, Yu said that issues regarding individual state enterprises should be handled by the supervising agency for the firms in question. But the premier responded to numerous questions raised about the privatization process by stating that the process of privatization must become more transparent and that the degree of labor and union participation should be intensified. To increase the degree of transparency and realize a labor policy campaign promise issued by President Chen Shui-bian during the 2000 presidential campaign, Yu announced that the government will establish an "independent and impartial" privatization supervision commission and called on the Council for Economic Planning and Development and the Council for Labor Affairs to present a plan for the new organization within a week. The premier said that the new body would "allow the privatization process to take place under monitoring by representatives from labor, management, society and the government so that the entire process can be more open to the sunshine."

The premier also instructed that the CEPD's own commission to promote the privatization of public enterprises be opened to direct labor participation. Moreover, CEPD Vice Chairman Hsieh Fata reaffirmed that privatization plans should be reviewed in advance by the concerned union and returned for revision if the union did not agree to the scheme. In line with the governing Democratic Progressive Party's advocacy of "industrial democracy," Yu also instructed that the CEPD and CLA submit plans within a week that would ensure that government-invested enterprises with at least 20 percent official ownership have at least one board director nominated by the enterprise's union. The DPP-led Cabinet had mandated in 2001 that state firms in which government ownership exceeded 50 percent had to reserve a board directorship for the firm's labor union. The premier also declared that the National Assets Commission could not repossess assets of a state firm or privatized government - invested enterprise without prior consultation with both the company's management and labor union.

Yu also asked CLA Chairwoman Chen Chu to intensify dialogue with the Legislature Yuan to secure early passage of long-delayed revisions to the union law and other major labor laws and passage of a statute for a new labor pension system. "These measures are very progressive steps," said CLA Chairwoman Chen Chu. "There have been many questions raised recently about privatization and we hope that more direct labor participation and other concerned civic interests in an open monitoring process, concerns that privatization is tantamount to takeover by conglomerates can be eased," Chen told the Taiwan News. TCTU Chairman Lu Tien-lin affirmed the "goodwill response" of the Cabinet and declared that the federation will "absolutely not relax our monitoring to see whether the government agencies implement these measures." Chunghua Telecommunications Workers Union Chairman Simon Chang, who also heads an alliance of public enterprise unions, said "the session was very good as we were able to talk to the actual issues and allow the premier to have a deeper understanding." "We affirm the goodwill of the promises made by the premier, but we are also dissatisfied that the premier did not accept our first demand, which was to postpone all privatization measures and launch a comprehensive re-examination of the privatization policy," Chang told the Taiwan News. "If we do not see action on the premier's promised measures and a response to our first demand for a immediate delay of privatization, we will consider continuing our plan to carry out further sit-ins and protests against privatization," Chang said.

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan, by Dennis Engbarth, 3 November 2003

Two Major State-run Banks Slated for Privatization

Two major state-run banks in Azerbaijan, International Bank (IBA) and United Universal Stock Bank (UUSBank) will be soon privatized. Elman Rustamov, chairman of the Management Board of the National Bank of Azerbaijan (NBA), reported to a Friday sitting of the Milli Majlis (parliament) that next year privatization of IBA will be completed, while UUS Bank will be eligible to begin the process. A decision will be made by the end of this year on the sale of 20% of the total 50.2% state-owned shares in the IBA to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The remaining 30.2% of state-owned shares will be privatized in 2004. According to Rustamov, an initial memorandum has been signed regarding the IBA's privatization. Farhad Aliyev, Minister for Economic Development, told journalists on November 12 that the appraisal by international company KPMG was nearing an end.

Moreover, the EBRD will be notified of the amount to be paid for the shares in IBA. Aliyev stressed that the government was eager to receive the cash fund from the sale. According to Aliyev, appraisal of the remaining 30.2% state-owned shares will begin in 2004 and privatization of the bank will be carried out through a tender. The Ministry of Economic Development and EBRD signed a memorandum for the purchase of 20% of the state-owned shares in IBA on June 4, 2003. More than 250 banks with statutory capital amounting to $10,000 had been in operation in past years. Now, due to bank consolidation, fewer than 50 banks are currently active in the country. NBA is taking steps to increase the banks' statutory capital and assist in meeting the demand for loans from the public, economic concerns and businesses. The bank is eager to bring the Azeri banking system into compliance with international standards. According to the NBA chairman, a special project has been developed for this purpose and is being implemented in stages.

From AzerNews, Azerbaijan, 20 November 2003

 

Putin Tells IMF Russian Privatization Will Not Be Reversed

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin has assured Horst Koehler, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that privatization in Russia will not be reversed said that him, Koehler said after a meeting with Putin Thursday. Koehler said he is "assured" that Russia will not reverse its strategy of becoming a market economy. However, he added, Russia will need to carry out large-scale structural reforms in order to maintain economic growth and to double its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2010, as Putin said in his address to the nation in May.

FromPRIME-TASS, Russia, 13 November 2003

Italy Approves 'Flexible' Alitalia Privatization

An Italian government decree paving the way for a privatization of Alitalia, approved on Thursday, offers a "wide flexibility" in the way the sell-off will take place, a government source said. The source said the government reserved the right to keep a golden share in Alitalia after lowering its stake to below 50 percent, but would only do so if France and the Netherlands took a similar measure with Air France and KLM. Alitalia wants to join the announced merger of those two carriers and the Italian government has expressed its support. (Reuters)

From Airwise, 13 November 2003

Italian Government Approves Alitalia Privatization

Rome -The Italian government approved a decree authorizing the state to reduce its stake in the national air carrier Alitalia to under 51 percent, the government announced here. The state currently has a 62.39-percent interest in Alitalia. Adoption of the decree was a necessary step to enable Alitalia to join a future Air France-KLM entity, a move advocated by Alitalia directors. The text of the decree calls for "maximum flexibility" in the privatization procedure and for the carrier's integration into the Air France-KLM tie-up. It said privatization should take place in "several stages." The decree will now be sent to parliamentary committees for their comment and will return to the cabinet for final approval.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 13 November 2003

Decision on Russia's Foreign Banks Privatization to Be Made 2003

Helsinki - The Russian government will make up its mind on the privatisation of Russian banks in other countries within a month's time, in other words, by the end of the year, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters at the end of his official visit to Helsinki. "I have instructed agencies concerned to analyze all aspects of the problem so that we should be able to discuss it and make a specific decision in a month's time," Kasyanov said, adding that at this point the government lacked a clear opinion on that score. The problem is too complex and multi-faceted," he said. Russia's Central Bank controls a number of foreign structures - Moscow Narodny in London, Eurobank, in Paris, Ost-West Handelsbank in Frankfort, Donau-Bank in Vienna and East-West United Bank in Luxembourg.

From ITAR-TASS, Russia, by Andrei Golubov, Andrei Popov, 18 November 2003

Russia Not to Review Privatization Results: Putin

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will not review the privatization results, the Kremlin said Tuesday. "I am a categorical opponent of a review of the privatization results, even though these results are not ideal," Putin said in an interview. The review "will cause serious negative consequences for the economy and, consequently, for the social sphere," Putin warned. Putin made the remarks in response to a question about the Yukos case and the arrest of its CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which caused fears that Russia would reconsider the privatization results. "The charges brought by the prosecutor's office against the company managers should be proven by the prosecutor's office in a public trial," Putin said. "And only after that will it be possible to say whether the people currently charged are guilty or innocent," he said. "Our situation is probably more difficult than the situation inother countries with stable market economies. The difference is that such rich people have never been prosecuted, unlike in other countries," Putin said.

Khodorkovsky, the richest man in Russia, was arrested last month on charges of fraud, tax evasion and five other offenses. Heis at present undergoing a two-month pretrial detention in a Moscow prison. His arrest and jailing came after a four-month long judicial campaign against his company by prosecutors since July, when core company shareholder, Platon Lebedev, was arrested on charges of theft of state property in a 1994 privatization deal. Khodorkovsky announced his resignation as Yukos chief executiveMonday in a move he said was aimed at shielding his company from legal attack. Yukos said Tuesday that it had appointed a new chief executive to head the company following Mikhail Khodorkovsky's resignation. Enditem

From Xinhua, China, 4 November 2003

Germany Says Privatization of East Complete

Many East German businesses fell with the Wall. Thirteen years after reunification, the privatization of East Germany's economy has been officially declared complete. Since beginning its work in 1990, the German government's organization for privatization, known as the Treuhandanstalt and later as the BvS, has reintegrated some 4,000 ex-communist businesses into the private sector. On Wednesday, the organization's management said that, with it's job done, it will be dissolved on January 1, 2004. "Thirteen years are enough," said administrative board chairman Manfred Schüler, in a closing report. The BvS - it's official name in English is the Federal Institution for Special Issues Arising from German Unification - took over the Treuhand's work in 1995. It's main job was hammering out privatization contracts - some 44,700 in total. Unrealistic plan - In the summer of 1990, the Treuhand overtook all formerly East German companies that had yet to be privatized - some 8,500 firms in all, with four million employees in some 45,000 work sites. The German state's oroginal plan - to cover the costs of privatization with the proceeds of the sale of East German companies - was quickly proved unrealistic. Instead, the BvS invested €52.9 billion ($63.1 billion) in companies before investors agreed to take them over.

They shouldered a further €37.2 billion in old loans for the privatizing firms. By its dissolution in late 1994, the Treuhand had a debt of some €104.5 billion. Finishing up - Currently, the BvS still manages 1,450 contracts, oversees contaminated waste sites, and is dealing with some 2,000 pending legal actions. These tasks are expected to be completed in the next two years. Taking stock of BvS's accomplishments, President Hans Schroeder-Hohenwarth told reporters in Berlin that he felt the organization had done a good job. While mistakes had been made, especially in the early years up to 1994, he said these were "probably unavoidable." Schroeder-Hohenwarth noted that the Treuhand's work was unprecedented - and that there were "no realistic alternatives to the Treuhand and its work." Still, there were real, demonstrable successes, he said, citing the 861,563 jobs secured. Investments reached a volume of €68 billion - some 14 percent above expectations, he said. "Neither the Treuhandanstalt nor the BvS thought they could do away with the economic results of 40 years of East German dictatorship," the BvS president said. The job was much more about how to "translate the economic structure that was in place into something that could survive in a competitive economy."

From Deutsche Welle, Germany, 20 November 2003

 

Eager to Profit from Municipal Privatization

If the Quebec government follows through on plans to permit municipalities to cede certain services to the private sector, Jacques Parenteau says his firm will step up to bid. Privatization, public-private partnerships and more relaxed rules for outsourcing to the private sector by municipalities - all of these are the buzzwords of the new Liberal government. They are music to the ears of firms like Sintra Inc., a road and bridge construction firm of which Parenteau is a vice-president. "It's less expensive for a city," Parenteau said in a phone interview after Municipal Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Fournier announced Monday that the government is looking at private-public deals for municipal services. Cities would save money, Parenteau argued. And firms like Sintra, which has roadwork contracts with numerous cities, including Montreal, like privatization because it would offer financial stability over a long term. "The difference is that payments are spaced out," he explained of the difference with a one-shot road-repair contract. "We'll know that our orders are spread over 15 years and we'll be able to plan better."

On the other side of the debate, unions warn that subcontracting and privatization carry dangers. For instance, there are hidden costs that are not factored in when cities argue that subcontracting services like roadwork or garbage collection saves money, says Michel Parent, president of the Montreal blue-collar union, Local 301 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. And there's the question of who will take responsibility if the work is botched, he said. Another question is: Who pays? Tolls on roads and residential water meters in areas that don't already have them would be viewed by many as an additional tax. Fournier, who made his comments in a speech at an infrastructure conference in Montreal, said water is a principal focus of the deliberation on public-private partnerships. Such partnerships would be permitted only if firms can offer the same or better service at a lower cost, he said. Also, municipalities would have to retain ownership of assets and accountability for the services, Fournier said. (gyulai@thegazette.canwest.com)

From Montreal Gazette, Canada, 19 November 2003

Bush Privatization Plan Claims First Local Jobs

Missoula - After years reading and summarizing what other people have to say about the U.S. Forest Service, 20 employees of the agency's Content Analysis Team in Missoula have a lot to say about the privatization effort that cost them their jobs. "We worked really well as a team; we were all very dedicated and hardworking people," said Holly Schneider, who lost her job in August and has not been able to find permanent work since. Benefits gone - "The whole group was really into it," Schneider said Friday, after five more members of the team worked their last shift. "What we had was precious, and we all knew it." The Missoula-based group was one of the first targets of a Bush administration initiative to cut government costs by privatizing some Forest Service jobs. Members of the CAT team heard they were targeted for "competitive outsourcing" last spring; the layoffs began over the summer. By Friday, only a handful of team members remained - Schneider among them, although she was let go three months ago. "They called me back through a temp agency because they couldn't get the work done," Schneider said. Her return, though, came without benefits and at $4 less per hour. "I am very glad for the work, though," she said. "I really need the work."

High profile initiatives - In recent years, the Missoula-based Content Analysis Team had as many as 28 employees and handled the analysis of public comments on such high-profile proposals as President Clinton's roadless initiative, the Yellowstone Pipe Line environmental impact statement and the post-fire restoration plan for the Bitterroot National Forest. "It was really cool," Schneider said. "I think we did a really thorough job. We read every single letter that came through." Another Content Analysis Team was based in Salt Lake City and will also be phased out, although a new service center will be created to hire private contractors. The Forest Service has already put out a request for bids to private content analysis teams - a move that former CAT team member Karl Vester is certain will cost the government more money. Vester said the Forest Service's own cost comparison found the in-house team cheaper than private bidders by $425,000. The Forest Service disputes his interpretation of the study, said Northern Region information officer Ed Nesselroad. Private contractors cannot charge for "down time," while the CAT team remained on the payroll even when they did not have public comment to analyze, said Tom Mills, the Forest Service's deputy chief for business operations.

Eventually, the agency will save money by going to the private sector. Potential bias - Vester, whose last day on the job was Friday, said he also worries about the potential bias the private sector could inject into the content-analysis process. What if timber companies formed content analysis teams and submitted winning bids? he asked. What if the Sierra Club formed a content analysis subsidiary? "That's pretty scary to me," said Schneider. "It will be so easy for bias to enter in. As federal employees, we looked at things from a more objective standpoint." After learning their jobs were in jeopardy, the Missoula CAT team members joined the union - the Forest Service Council, Schneider said. But while "we found some people who were really supportive, the union could not save our jobs," she said. CAT team members were already classified as an "enterprise team," so were hired for discreet, four-year terms and worked almost like private contractors. The Northern Region staff was also "really supportive of us," Schneider said. "But they didn't make the decision to downsize. That came from Washington." Regional officials tried to find work for the CAT team members, Nesselroad said, but there were jobs for only a few. "We haven't had a sweeping effect," he said. "But we tried. They are Forest Service family." Congressional involvement - The CAT team also appealed to Montana's congressional delegation, Schneider said.

But they could not stop the layoffs either. Congress has, however, started to question the money spent by the Forest Service to study outsourcing - a figure that ranges from $12 million to $24 million depending on the source. For the next year, Congress put tight caps on spending in support of privatization: $5 million by the Forest Service, $2.5 million by the Interior Department, $500,000 by the Energy Department. Thus far, the Forest Service has decided to privatize the CAT team, a computer service center and a few maintenance positions. More to come - Next up are studies of the potential outsourcing of information technology teams. "Down the line, they're even planning to study the privatization of firefighting," Schneider said. "But the CAT team was one of the first through the gantlet," she said. "They just whipped us through it so fast, they didn't even follow their own rules." Schneider and her co-workers filed two grievances, to no avail. Vester said he'll continue until he exhausts every possible protest, including a legal challenge. "And what's really sad is there's still work that needs to be done," Schneider said. "We begged them to let us extend our terms. We just wanted to keep working."

From Montana Forum, Montana, by Sherry Devlin, 15 November 2003

Privatization Fails Poor Kids Needing Health Care

Service worse for Medicaid patients, study finds. In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences have found that most private insurance companies hired to provide health care for children on Medicaid do not provide high-quality care. "Although many policy makers herald the efficiencies and abilities of the commercial sector to provide high-quality health care … Most commercial health plans do not deliver high-quality care on a number of performance indicators for children enrolled in Medicaid," the researchers said in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Thirty-five states, not including Arkansas, contract with commercial managed-care health plans to run their Medicaid programs. Medicaid, financed by state and federal tax dollars, provides health care for the needy. The private companies negotiate with the states the amount they'll be paid. In some cases, the companies are paid less for Medicaid patients than they receive for the patients in their private plans.

The study compared the care received by Medicaid patients with that received by private patients in plans that served both. "Using standard indicators of clinical performance, children and adolescents enrolled in Medicaid received worse care compared with their commercial counterparts," the JAMA article said. "For most of the … health plans serving both populations, Medicaid enrollees had statistically significantly lower rates than commercial plans for clinical quality indicators … " For example, the average rate for childhood immunizations was 69 percent for private patients, 54 percent for Medicaid patients. Common procedures, such as myringotomies and tonsillectomies, were performed more often on private patients. (A myringotomy is a procedure to relieve pressure or release pus from the middle ear.) The private patients had more clinical access, such as well-child visits in the first 15 months of life. Dr. Joe Thompson, the lead author of the JAMA article, said that the managed-care industry "took offense" to the article, but had provided no data refuting the study's findings.

Thompson is an assistant professor of pediatrics at UAMS. The other researchers were Kevin W. Ryan, Sathiska D. Pinidiya and James E. Bost. "State officials should ask not only for the cheapest plan, they should see that they're getting quality for state dollars," Thompson said. In Arkansas, the state Department of Human Services administers Medicaid, paying physicians in a fee-for-service system, but also using primary-care physicians for case management, to assure that quality care is provided. Although the UAMS study didn't cover the Arkansas Medicaid program, Thompson said it appeared that immunization rates in Arkansas were better than those in states with commercial managed-care plans, based on a comparison of Arkansas rates with national averages. A few private companies did provide quality care to Medicaid patients, Thompson said. He said these had built provider networks that were "user-friendly" for low-income people, employing doctors with offices on bus routes, for example, and those who operated after-hours clinics.

From Arkansas Times, AR, by Doug Smith, 21 November 2003