ISSUE 55
October 2003
 
 
   
    Zambia: World Bank Nods Poverty Reduction Programmes
Nigeria: NSE, Stockbrokers Fault OPS on Pension Reform
Nigeria: Forum Seeks Public/Private Intervention in Healthcare Celivery
Kenya: Public Sector Reform Is the Solution
Nigeria: Pension Fund Reform: How Not to Formulate Public Policy
   
    Asia: Eastern Regional Organisation for Public Administration (EROPA) Holds Its 19th General Assembly and Conference
Bangladesh: A Fresh Look into the Study of Public Administration
Brunei: Strategies For More Efficient Civil Servants
Maldives: Cabinet Discusses Ways of Further Improving Standards of Public Services
Pakistan: Pak Contribution To Draft Of UN Convention Against Corruption Lauded
China: Time for Government to Regain People's Confidence
South Korea: Reform of Public Sector at Half-Way Point
Pakistan: Human Capital Needed to Reduce Poverty: FM
   
    UK: Guru of Public Sector Reform
UK: Poor Pay and Conditions Damaging Public Sector Reform
EC: EC Adopts Communication on Importance of E-government
Yugoslavia: One Million Euros to Promote Serbia's Public Administration
Slovakia: ANO Gives in on Public Administration Reform in Slovakia
UK: Minister Outlines Public Services Plans
   
    Lebanon: Globalization Fuels Drive for Hospital Accreditation
   
    Canada: Tory Defeat Is Opportunity to Rebuild Public Services, Casselman Says
USA: Church Coalition Plugs Away at Public Policy
USA: Talk to Focus on Business in Public Policy Process
USA: A Wellspring for Public Servants
USA: Bill Would Bar Corruption
Canada: Alberta Latest Province to Consider Private-Public Hospital Projects
USA: Change Civil Service Laws
USA: OMB Urged to Educate Lawmakers on E-gov Funding
USA: Senate Would Keep E-gov Funding at $5M
   
    UN Members Agree on Global Anti-corruption Treaty
Fighting Corruption: Transparency Plans Backed
Apec Ministers: Cancun, Round Two
 
   
    Ghana: Chiefs Justice Urges Lawyers to Help Ensure Good Governance
Africa: Setting the Stage for 'Good Governance' in Africa
Nigeria: Support Obasanjo's Anti-corruption Crusade, Nigerians Urged
Ethiopia: Corruption Reportedly Worsening
Ghana: Zero Tolerance For Corruption Blunted
Ghana: Book on Corruption in Ghana Launched
Kenya: Report Chronicles the Strange Acts of Corruption in the Bench
Liberia: New Members of Liberian Government Must Be Corruption-Free, UN Emphasizes
South Africa: 'Corruption Denial is Electioneering'
South Africa: Corruption Probe Slows University Merger
Zambia: George Bush Commends Zambia for Fight Against Corruption
Kenya: Corruption Saps a Rich Tradition in Kenya
Ghana: Government Launches Investigation into Corruption Allegations
Nigeria: How to Win the Anti-corruption War!
Uganda: Anti-Corruption Body Wants Information Law
Uganda: Fish Ban Lifting Temporary, to Check Corruption, Says Cheeye
   
    Bangladesh: Amend Constitution to Empower Anti-Corruption Commission
Solomon Islands: Solomons Corruption Probe Underway
India: J&K the Second State to Launch E-governance
Australia: Anti-corruption Watchdog Raids MP's Office
Bangladesh: Bangladesh Delays Formation of Anti-Corruption Watchdog
Philippines: GMA Downplays RP'S Corruption Ranking
Indonesia: Indonesia Concedes Corruption is Rampant
South Korea: South Korea's Roh Sees ''Coughs'' Before Corruption Cure
Philippines: Lacson Proposes New Commission Vs Corruption
Indonesia: Ghosts of Past Fuel Corruption, Says World Bank
Vietnam: Reform, Fighting Corruption Priorities in Vietnam's Assembly Meet
China: China Sacks Land Minister as Property Corruption Scandals Grow
Indonesia: World Bank Says Corruption Threatens Reform
Pakistan: MoE to Incorporate Concepts of Anti-Corruption in the National Curriculum
Brunei: Anti-Corruption Bureau to Organise Lectures
Bangladesh: Empower Independent Commission to Check Corruption of Influentials
Australia: Greens Push for Tas Government to Launch Corruption Inquiry
   
    Greece: Corruption Watchdog 'Tainted'
Bulgaria: Corruption Increases - Poll
Romania: Romanian Government Opens Own Probe into Corruption Charge
UK: Britain Needs to Get its International Anti-corruption Act Together
Slovakia: Corruption Keeps Drinking Society's Blood
Greece: FM: Greeks Tired of Corruption
Slovakia: Dzurinda Signs Anti-corruption Charter
   
    Middle East: Anti-corruption Manual to be Adapted for Region
   
    USA: Governor Considers Requiring Students to Perform Public Service
   
    Step Forward for Fight Against Global Corruption
Annual Global Corruption Index Results Released
Work Completed on UN Treaty to Fight Corruption Worldwide
Global Corruption Survey Claims Improved Governance in Armenia
The Fruits of Foreign Aid - Corruption
 
   
    Kenya: Kilimo Lashes Out At Corrupt Civil Servants
Nigeria: Dariye Tasks Civil Servants on Development
Kenya: Changes in Civil Service to Continue, Says Kibaki
Kenya: High Wage Bills to Hamper Services
South Africa: Moleketi Urges Civil Servants to Put Interest of People First
Kenya: MPs Accuse Government of Bias in Hiring of Civil Servants
Kenya: Kenya to Get Sh3.5b for Civil Service Reforms
Kenya: MPs Accuse Government of Bias in Hiring of Civil Servants
   
    Malaysia: Fight Corruption by Making Civil Servants Efficient
Bangladesh: JS Body Seeks Career Policy for Civil Servants
Australia: Quarter of Public Servants Bullied
Pakistan: Declaration of Assets by Generals, Civil Servants Demanded
Brunei: Civil Servants Told To Take Isra' Mikraj An Example
Brunei: Minister Bats for Efficient Civil Service
Sri Lanka: Budget to Benefit Public Servants, Pensioners
Brunei: Empathy Required from the Civil Service
Japan: Record-high Wage Cuts for Civil Servants
Brunei: Brunei Civil Service Could Face A Major Shake Up Says Minister
Singapore: CEO of Civil Service College Attends Launching of Dubai's Premier Institute for HRD
Asean Civil Servants Gather In Brunei In Spirit Of Cooperation
Indonesia: Civil Servants, Soldiers to Plant Trees
China: Forum to Discuss Civil Service
Singapore: NTUC Income Cuts Monthly Insurance Charges for Civil Servants to 60 Cents
Brunei: Civil Service Alignment Meet Draws to a Close
China: Civil Service Slams 'Salt in Wound'
Malaysia: Top Civil Servant's Joyrides Only a Tip of Iceberg
China: China's First Law on Civil Servants to Debut
Brunei: Singapore Expert Talks To Brunei Civil Servants On Corruption
Singapore: Civil Service Tries Short-term Hiring
Indonesia: Small Salaries Not Main Cause of Corruption, Says Minister
Indonesia: Many Civil Servants Assigned to Study Abroad Don't Return
   
    UK: We Want 1,000 Civil Service Jobs Here
EU: EU Civil Servants Pension Reform Gets Go-Ahead
UK: Civil Servants Encouraged to Get Out More
Ireland: Mayo Hopes for Inclusion in Movement of Civil Servants
UK: Conservatives Pledge Lower Taxes and Public Services Reform
UK: MPs to Call Campbell and Head of Civil Service
UK: 22,000 More Civil Servants in One Year
UK: Civil Service Jobs Boost
UK: Civil Servants Pass Half Million Mark
Ireland: ICTU Defends Benchmarking Deal for Public Servants
Greece: Letter Reveals Civil Servant Felt Pressure
UK: 'Vital Role' of Front Line Public Service Staff Celebrated
UK: Public Service Pay Deals 'Top Private Sector'
UK: Top Civil Servants Hit at Cabinet Secretary
   
    Brunei: Focus On Your Core Businesses Department Heads Told
   
    Canada: Scandal Rocks Civil Service
USA: Candidates Back Civil Service Commission
USA: Wisconsin Public Service Announces Promotion
Argentina: Argentina's Federal Police Chief Fired on Corruption Charges
Canada: Civil-Service Bill Could Weaken a Toothless Tiger
USA: Budget Cuts Put Public Service in Peril
Barbados: Civil Servants Have Nothing to Fear
Canada: Civil Service Binge to Hit Economy
Canada: Yukon Civil Servants Buck Wages Trend
USA: Double Duty: Public Servants on Stump
 
   
    Ghana: Stakeholders Discuss Draft on Social Dialogue in Public Service
Burundi: Belgium Offers Aid to Burundi for Health, Civil Service
Nigeria: FG to Overhaul Public Service Soon
Zimbabwe: Public Service Commission Should Formulate AIDS Policy: Secretary
Zimbabwe: Ministry Spends Half of Its Budget on Social Services
   
    Brunei: Exhibition on Public Service Day
Australia: Public Services 'Safe Under WTO'
India: Andhra Hottest on E-governance
Brunei: Sultan Highlights Excellence In Brunei's Civil Service
Thailand: Service Fees to Help Combat Corruption
South Korea: Government to Build Private Network For e-Government After 2005
Brunei: Brunei Envisions e-Smart for 21st Century Civil Service
India: Punjab Signs E-gov Pact with HFCL
Viet Nam: Ha Noi Launches E-government Website
Brunei: Brunei Keen On E-Government Says Senior Official
South Korea: Only 2 in 1000 Volunteer for Public Service Last Year
China: Shanghai Progresses with an Efficient E-government
India: MP to Set Up IT Network to Support E-governance
Malaysia: Kit Siang: Inequitable Distribution o Public Services
Brunei: E Government Executive Forum
Australia: e-Government Drives IT Growth
India: PM's E-governance Plan May Soon Have Links in Place
   
    Switzerland: Swiss Launch E-government Initiative
UK: Making e-Government Happen in the United Kingdom
Malta: Most Advanced E-government System Adopted for Vehicle Licence Renewal
Bulgaria: Log on to E-government
UK: Government Seeks New IT Spending Supremo
Bulgaria: Hewlett Packard Keeps Contributing to Bulgaria's E-government Project
UK: IT Benefits to Public Services Could Be Economic Catalyst
Malta: 'Building of E-government' Nearing Completion
EU: Efforts to Set up an Internet Portal for Pan-European Public Services Have Stalled, Says the EU
UK: Have Your Say on Public Services
UK: Public Service Staff Share Success Stories
Europe: E-gov Must Offer Value for Money: Report
   
    Jordan: E-government Programme Communicates with the Private Sector
Jordan: Jordan King in Singapore for Agreement on e-Government and ICT Cooperation
UAE: Government Departments to Demonstrate Diversified Online Services under Dubai eGovernment Umbrella at GITEX Dubai
UAE: Planned Smart ID Cards to Pave Way for E-government
Middle East: A Grim Arab Survey of Rights and Education
   
    USA: Putnam Says E-gov Faces a Startling Array of Challenges
USA: Wisconsin Public Service to Power Customer Service With Informatica Data Integration
USA: USDA Launches E-Government Resource For Commodities Information
USA: Frank O'Bannon's Support of Indiana's e-Government Portal Results in Top e-Government Awards
USA: White House Vows to Step Up Progress on E-gov Efforts
Canada: Group: Federal civil Service Expanding Rapidly
USA: Nation's Highest Honor for Public Service Awarded to Bozeman Public Library
USA: Evans: E-gov Marches On
USA: E-Government 2003 and Beyond
USA: GAO: E-Gov Efforts Still Lacking
USA: Commerce's Bodman to Head PMC E-gov Committee
USA: Academia Gets Creative with Web Services
USA: Government Plans to Form Two New Companies - 'Yards' Debts to Be Written Off
   
    Global E-government
Global E-government
Global E-government
Global E-government
Global E-government
 
   
    Papua New Guinea: New Fiscal Scheme in Government Working
Viet Nam: Project on Public Finance Management Reforms Begins
New Zealand: Government Proposes "Tax Holiday" to Lure Talent
South Korea: Policy Failures and Asset Bubbles
Malaysia: Accounting System Switch
   
    Bulgaria: Controversy on Tax Policy in Bulgaria
Poland: Poland Details Plan to Slash Public Spending
Germany: S&P Forum Reviews German States' Fiscal Reform Needs
Russia: Corruption in Russia Still a Problem for Investors
Russia: IMF Forecasts 13% Inflation in Russia in 2003
UK: Tax Rises Threat to Trade, Says Blair
Czech Republic: Sobotka to Become Deputy Prime Minister, Will Oversee Public Finance Reform
Italy: Show of Pride for Public Finance
Italy: Budget: Buttiglione, We Will Amend Public Service Legislation
   
    Lebanon: Finance Minister: Privatization Not the Only Reform Issue
Iran: Campaign Against Financial Corruption
   
    USA: Self-Funding eGovernment Projects Help Solve States' IT Budget Woes, According to BearingPoint Executive
USA: Accounting and Finance Starting Salaries to Stay At or Near 2003 Levels in 2004: Optimistic Outlook for Managers and Senior Accountants
USA: Casino Money Helps Finance Public Services
USA: The Bank of New York Hosts First Annual New York Public Sector Symposium
   
    What Mainstream Economic Models Tell Us About Wealth Taxes and Changing Tax Policy
UN Call to Beef Up Forum on Global Tax Policy
 
   
    ASEAN Can Help Public Buy Privatization
Japan: Focus of Privatization Debate Shifts to Japan Post Finances
South Korea: Success of Privatization Measured by Corporate Governance
India: India Seeks New Airport Privatization Policy
Australia: Health Workers Campaign Against Privatization
Japan: Koizumi Defends Posts Privatization in LDP Manifesto
Pakistan: Public-Private Partnership
   
    Bulgaria: France Interested in Privatization of Bulgarian Electricity Distribution Companies
Slovakia: Privatization of Power Producer Resumes
Belarus: Belarus May Compromise Over Beltransgaz Privatization
Russia: Unified Energy Systems of Russia Heading for Privatization
Poland: Polish State Savings Bank PKO BP's Privatization on Track for Q2-Q3 2004 Public Float
   
    Israel: Hospital Privatization Plan Draws Ire
Jordan: Jordan's e-Government Program Dialogues with the Private Sector Share Successes and Challenges with Local Firms
Lebanon: Lebanon Launches Tender for the Privatization of Mobile Telephone Sector
   
    Canada: No Privatization of Any Part of New Health Center
Canada: Independent Opposes Privatization
USA: Nodler's Committee Addresses Privatization
USA: Senator Raps FAA Conference over Privatization Measure
Bermuda: Public/Private Sector Partnership Needed to Trigger Action
USA: U.S. Will Present Privatization Plan for Iraqi Industries by the Spring, Official Says
USA: DCF Preparing for More Privatization
USA: Medicare Privatization Language Softens
USA: US Lawmaker Seeks Deal on Air Traffic Privatization
USA: Foes Attack Idea of Exempting Control Towers from Privatization
Canada: Privatization Can Cause More Problems Than it Solves - Lessons from Africa
USA: GOP Confident on FAA Bill, but Privatization Issues Unresolved
Canada: B.C. Liberals Urged to Reconsider Privatization Policies
USA: Doctors Say Patients Want Privatization in Final Medicare Reform Bill
USA: Congress Ready to Strip Privatization from FAA Bill
USA: State Bars Privatization of Pensions
 

World Bank Nods Poverty Reduction Programmes

The World Bank has acknowledged recent successes scored by Government in its poverty reduction programmes. The bank, however, challenged Government to strengthen the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and other corporate bodies on good governance to improve on accountability in the public sector. Director for Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi Hartwig Schaffer said yesterday Government also needed to deal with factors responsible for the poor performance and accountability of the sector if poverty reduction programmes were to succeed. Mr. Schaffer was speaking yesterday on behalf of the donors at a donors' briefing on the status of the Public Service Reform Programme (PSRP) at Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC) in Lusaka. "Clearly, without real progress on good governance and accountability in public sector management, the likelihood of sustained progress elsewhere will be low. "For instance, macro-economic stabilisation, which in turn is key to stimulating private investment, is largely a function of prudent Government fiscal and monetary policies," he said.

He said a number of poverty reduction reform programmes had been launched and had since been progressing despite some shortcomings which Government was addressing during implementation. Mr. Scaffer assured Government that donors would always support good programmes that aimed at development but accountability needed to be adhered to in the use of foreign aid. Finance Minister Ng'andu Magande said it was a pity that Zambia continued to lose a lot of money arising from the weak financial management and accountability systems. He said it was for that reason that under the 2004/08 strategy and action plan, Government had identified public expenditure management and financial accountability reforms as one of the highest priorities.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 1 October 2003

NSE, Stockbrokers Fault OPS on Pension Reform

Lagos - As controversy rages over the planned reforms of public and private sector pension scheme, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and Chartered Stockbrokers have rejected the opposition mounted by the Organised Private Sector (OPS) which faulted Federal Government's move to harmonise the public and private sector pensions in the draft pensions reforms bill. The NSE and Chartered Stockbrokers, reacting yesterday to the rejection of the harmonisation of the pension scheme by the OPS, said the group's stand was selfish, as it did not consider the benefit of the integration of the private and public sectors to the economy as a whole. President of the NSE, Alhaji Abdul Razaq, commenting on the response of Chartered Stockbrokers calling for the outright rejection of the OPS' views said the NSE would send a powerful delegation to the National Assembly to lobby the Assembly members to accept the planned reform. Speaking at the 42nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NSE, Managing Director of BGL Securities Limited, Mr. Albert Okumagba, who spoke the mind of Chartered Stockbrokers said the move by the OPS was capable of disrupting government's goals of reforming the pension scheme in the overall benefits of the nation. He noted that government's plan was in order, especially after the submission of the amended draft bill to the National Assembly by the Adeolu-led Committee.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Funmi Komolafe, Emmanuel Aziken, Rotimi Ajayi, 3 October 2003

Forum Seeks Public/Private Intervention in Healthcare Celivery

The need for the public and private sectors to come together to promote the fortunes of healthcare delivery in Nigeria and the African continent as a whole has been identified, just as the right of the child to be protected from infectious diseases has again been stressed. In a chat with Good Health Weekly about the importance of the public-private sector interaction, Mrs. Claire Omatseye, a pharmacist with Aventis Pasteur and member of the African Health Forum - a partnership of about 30 stakeholders from the public and private sectors - said it was the most acceptable option if quality of healthcare is to improve within the continent. Omatseye, while relating activites of the Forum towards hosting the first ever African health summit billed to come up November 2-4 at the Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel, Abuja, said the first objective is to have the partnership. "Government is doing its best, but no one party can do it alone,we all need to come together and interact at a higher level so as to give quality to health in Africa," she affirmed. "The public sector is challenged with making sure that Nigerians and Africans are generally healthy. The private sector on its own, looks after the basic few but you notice that there is a mixture between the two activities. What we'd like to do is take the best of both worlds- the mass appeal of the public sector and the more efficient accountability that is associated with the private sector and have a mix through which we can have better health gains."

Highlighting the role of the Forum in disease prevention, she said the Abuja Summit is being put together at its (Forum) by bringing together renown speakers an other stakeholders on healthcare in Nigeria and Africa. "If we can take this partnership and move it to the next level, we'll all be able to do better in improving the quality of healthcare in Africa and Nigeria. The expectation at the end of the day, is that people will be able to walk into a hospital and come out healthy, that children born daily have a chance of life without them dying in their first year of life from malnutrition or malaria, or their mothers dying during pregnancy or labor. This is what we'd like to do to achieve health for all." Debunking myths and rumours associated with the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), Omatseye said such rumours were unfounded. "A vaccine is a drug used to prevent disease and therefore will not cause another or be used as a contraceptive or source of HIV transmission. There are three things to look for in a vaccine. The first is tolerance or side effects. These could be systemic side effects (like fever) or local side effects (like redness or swelling at site of administration). Second is immunogenicity (need for antibodies ) and third, efficacy. Still punching holes in the alleged rumours about the OPV, she assured that all the vaccines produced by the pharmaceutical company are WHO certified.

"Nigeria is one of the few countries where the wild polio virus is still circulating. Why should children get crippled when there are adequate preventive measures available? It is the right of the child to be protected. There are so many diseases that are not vaccine preventable, but for the ones that are, it is the right of the child to be vaccinated against them" Dr. Ebun Aleshinloye, also a member of the Summit organizing committee allayed fears raised about he safety of the OPV: "Government had done quite well in disease prevention especially in the area of immunization. More children are getting immunized and we are preventing diseases that would have crippled more children and made them more of economic hazards. The polio vaccine is very critical to preventing a mortal, deadly and debilitating disease. In the past we used to have a lot of cripples on our roads, but the children we are having today are tall and well formed. They are also well fed, thanks to prevention and better feeding." Personal Secretary to the Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Dr Jide Idris, and Chairman of the African Health Summit, says while the collaboration will foster interaction between the public and private sectors with the overall aim of enhancing the status of healthcare delivery in the nation today. He added that with the level of poverty and illiteracy in the country, more emphasis needs to be placed on awareness and education.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Sola Ogundipe, 21 October 2003

Public Sector Reform Is the Solution

The lively exchange between Planning Minister Peter Anyang'-Nyong'o and various commentators - notably Jaindi Kisero and J. T. Mukui - addresses matters of considerable interest and importance. The question is how to get the economy out of "recession". To conduct a productive discourse on this matter, and much else besides, it seems to me necessary to be sure that we are agreed on what it is that the economy is to recover from. This is difficult to do without a plausible theory and persuasive evidence. To be sure, Prof Nyong'o has postulated the problem as a "balance sheet" recession (in plain language, a financial crisis). But neither he nor his opposition has brought any evidence to the debate. This article attempts to do so. What exactly is a "recession"? It is a cyclical economic downturn. Although definitions vary across countries, recessions are identified by durations, usually quarters, of falling output. Conversely, a recession is declared over if the economy expands for a specified number of consecutive quarters. The operative word here is "cyclical". It implies that the downturn is known to be temporary. The duration from the bottom of one recession to the bottom of the next is referred to as a business cycle. The purpose of a stimulus, either fiscal or monetary, is to create demand for goods and services.

The objective of policy interventions is well understood to be to reduce its severity, that is, to hasten recovery and mitigate unemployment. Underlying the entire intellectual discourse on the conduct of macro-economic policy is the question of how effective either of these policy interventions is in smoothing out business cycles. This has been the subject of the debate so far. The more pertinent question, however, is: Is Kenya's economy suffering from a "classical" recession? From the short view, the economy went into recession in 1997. Growth fell from 4.2 per cent in 1996 respectively to 2.4, 1.8 and 1.4 per cent in 1997, 1998 and 1999. It can be said that recession bottomed out in 2000. Thus, in the short run, the economy has been on a recovery path since 2001. Figure 1 above plots GDP growth for the last three and a half decades (1967-2002). From the long view, two important trends are evident. First, something akin to business cycles is, indeed, evident. It shows five significant troughs, one in the mid-70s, which bottoms out in 1977, a second smaller one at the turn of the decade and bottomed out in 1981. A third big one followed in short order and bottomed out in 1984, a fourth one in the early 1990s bottomed out in 1993, and the most recent, which seems to have bottomed out in 2001.

But are these really classical business cycles? Yes, the patient is prone to bouts of fever and headache, but is it malaria, typhoid or something else? Let us bring events into the picture. The first "recession", comes in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. The small one is explained by the second oil crisis of 1979 and the coup attempt in 1981. The third one is explained by the major drought in 1984, the fourth by the adverse events - aid freeze, political turmoil and money printing - in the transition to the multi-party system. The most recent one has been brought about by similarly adverse effects - political violence, in particular - in the aftermath of the 1997 General Election, compounded by drought and political uncertainty. Thus, what looks like a cyclical trend is, in fact, a reflection of independent negative shocks, both domestic and external. In fact, positive shocks are also at play: the two sharp peaks a decade apart, in 1977 and 1987, are explained by coffee booms. From a stabilisation policy perspective, "shocks" and "cycles" are as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese. In economic jargon, cycles are endogenous (i.e., a self-propagating dynamic of the economic system), while shocks are "exogenous" (i.e., independent and unpredictable). Drought is a good example, the travel advisory shock on tourism a case in point.

An economic stimulus, fiscal, monetary or any other kind, is unlikely to make an impression on the heavens or the potential tourist. The second and, to my mind, the most pertinent observation to be made is that each recovery from a shock has been weaker than the preceding one. This is clearly revealed by the dotted trend line in the graph above, and even better in the second graph, which shows five-year averages of both GDP and GDP per capita (i.e., adjusted for population growth) growth rates. Quite evidently, the economic performance has been deteriorating for much longer than many of us like to admit. The long view suggests that the economic recovery challenge is of a structural, not a cyclical, nature. As of 1999, the date of the most recent national labour force survey, there were over two million unemployed Kenyans. They are predominantly young. The critical observation is that the vast majority, over 90 per cent, had no job skills of any kind, either by training beyond primary or secondary schooling or by vocational experience. What, then, would be the impact of an economic stimulus when the unemployed have no job skills? A stimulus will generate demand for goods and services. To the extent that this creates job openings, it will be jobs that require skills. But since the supply of skilled workers is, in the short run, fixed, this will bid up wages as firms compete for skilled workers.

The higher wages will be reflected in the price of goods and services. Kenyan goods will be dearer both at home, relative to imports, and in our export markets. In effect, stimulating the economy is more likely to translate into trade deficits, as opposed to jobs. This is, in fact, exactly what has been going on in Kenya over the last two decades - unemployment and real wages rising in tandem. The law of the market dictates that if something is in excess supply, the price should fall, not rise. In a background paper prepared for the Government's economic recovery strategy, my colleagues identified three dimensions of the challenge, specifically: open unemployment, productivity of the working poor, under-employment. The plight of the open unemployed, as shown above, is brought about by lack of job skills. If Kenyans are too poor to send two million children to primary school, it follows that they are too poor to finance skill formation. This suggests that a publicly-funded job skills programme for the long-term unemployed ought to be one of the top priorities in the economic recovery effort. This would attack both unemployment and crime.

The current policy which provides public money for university loans and nothing for vocational training is bad from every perspective - economic, social, political and moral. In the pre-election proposals, there was a mention of an employment think-tank. It is an idea that the Government might want to give serious consideration to. The working poor dimension is best illustrated by the informal sector. We postulated that the principal constraint on the informal enterprises is lack of secure property rights. With such rights, informal enterprises would not only be able to access capital to grow, they would be drawn into the formal sector where they can be taxed. This suggests that the Government might want to consider directing some of the resources it has pledged to invest in 150,000 residential housing units into "site and service" infrastructures for small enterprises. The latent demand for this is self-evident: I would like to believe that the hundreds of entrepreneurs manufacturing excellent furniture and metal products by the roadside in Nairobi would be willing to take out mortgages on permanent workshop sites of appropriate scales if they were made available.

We argued that under-employment is primarily manifested by over-establishment in the public sector. The economic cost of over-establishment in the public sector is more deleterious than is commonly appreciated. First, the opportunity cost of the wage bill paid to unnecessary employees is investment in infrastructure. Second, unnecessary workers amount to misallocation of scarce resources, that is, "hoarding" of skilled labour that could be much more productive in the private sector. As we all have had occasion to experience or observe, speed is a function of load. Government weight is one of the key explanations of the economy's secular decline. The solution to this is public-sector reform. It is a political choice: to muster the resolve to shed some of this load to make haste, or to continue to use public employment for patronage and ethnic affirmative action until we drop dead. The choice is ours to make. Mr. Ndii is Executive Director, Kenya Leadership Institute.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, 23 October 2003

Pension Fund Reform: How Not to Formulate Public Policy

I was privileged, in the course of my duty, to have interacted with some non - governmental personalities who had, by their claim, been patriotic enough, at no cost to the government, to accept an assignment from Mr. President to reform our pension system. Mr. President has, of recent, been making reference to the formulation put together by these "patriotic Nigerians" as the antidote to the embarrassing plight and pains of pensioners, particularly in the public sector. Let me say right away that it is not my intention here to dwell at length on the appropriateness or otherwise of pension fund reform in Nigeria. The main purpose of this piece is to encourage the government to embrace best practice in policy articulation and formulation. There is no doubt about the fact that Nigeria requires a functional and effective pension fund scheme. The pension fund system in the public sector has virtually collapsed, and the schemes in the private sector have limited coverage. However, comparatively, the private sector has fared better through existence of effective pension/provident fund schemes in some private sector companies. Most private sector employees equally enjoy a bonus in view of their membership of the NSITF, which, if the law setting up the body had been effectively implemented, would have provided a good social security and pension cover for all employees in the private sector.

Therefore, government's intention to institute a National Pension Fund Scheme is indeed commendable. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the modalities the government has adopted to realise this noble objective. First, the Organised Private Sector (OPS) was presented with a finished meal of a draft law at a meeting summoned by the Presidency within 48 hours notice, at which organised Labour, represented by the NLC, was also present. The OPS and Labour were expected on the spot to give a nod to this "messianic" piece of legislation that will put an end to the woes of pensioners. Organised Labour saved the day by expressing surprise on the turn of events; moreso when this messianic" piece ran contrary to the report of an earlier Committee, the Fola Adeola Committee, set up by the government to guide it on the way forward for pension reform in Nigeria. Interestingly, the Chairman of the said Committee, whose report is still being studied by the government, was present at this meeting and unbelievably, introduced to us, as the leader of the team that had put together this draft law. Questions streamed in: What has become of the Adeola Committee report? Is this draft law based on the committee report? Why was a copy of the draft law not sent to stakeholders in advance? etc, Thank God for the wisdom of Mr. President who brought the meeting to an end by mandating the Fola Adeola - led team to consult with labour and other stakeholders on the new draft law.

From this point onward, the Fola Adeola - led advisory team became the door to the government on this important issue of pension fund reform. All submissions must be channeled through this advisory team. The team became government's contact point on the reform. The advisory team went to work. It consulted on a one - on - one basis with identified stakeholders. The leader of the team brought his natural charm to bear and fully utilized his gift of the gab. The team welcomed comments on the draft act but not a total rejection of the proposed dispensation because it considered the reform, as packaged by it, the only way forward for the country. The team picked from the various submissions that were sent to it only that which fitted its expectations. It conducted informal interaction with the legislators to sensitize them on what is in the pipeline. Eventually, a second draft of the law emerged. In all this, at no time was a formal meeting held with the Organised Private Sector. At no time was a common forum held with all the Stakeholders present to debate issues and buy in into the new policy thrust.

There are quite a number of matters arising from this encounter, which should be of interest to the government and the public at large: What role should private advisers to Mr. President play in formulating major public policy? Where there is a role, how should they be utilized and whom should they report to? Would it be right for consultants or private advisers to government to serve as link between it and the public? What should be the government's approach in soliciting the input of stakeholders and the public into its policy? How should feedback be communicated? What is government's acceptable code of behaviour for those charged with the responsibilities to relate with the public? In all these, we can surely learn from best practices around the world. Certainly, the way and manner the government went about the pension fund reform falls short of best practice. Apparently, in this instance, the entire machinery of the civil service was ignored in preference for a so-called advisory team of technocrats that consistently touted itself as "working for Mr. President and not the government". There was no robust public debate on the issue by all affected parties. While there might be nothing seemingly wrong for government to set up an advisory team to guide it on crucial issues of national interest, the real problem lies in the conduct of those who have been so recognised to serve government.

Where such a team sees itself as "all knowing", "all powerful". "most patriotic, "most altruistic" and others as "selfish", "scared of change", "uncooperative", e.t.c, then there cannot be meaningful and genuine interaction. Where an issue is of national dimension with multiple interests, it would be more appropriate for the government to set up a committee comprising representatives of all stakeholders, rather than place the fate of the nation in the hands of a cabal of technocrats that does not appreciate the values of openness, robust public debate and the right of people to a position contrary to theirs. The committee set up by the government on the reform of the tax laws stands out as a best practice in the use of experts to shape public policy. To a large extent, the Ogunsola Pension Review Committee and the later day Adeola Pension Reform Committee (not the advisory team) also qualify as a practice worthy of emulation. That, unfortunately, cannot be said of the Adeola Advisory Team, which crafted the controversial draft Pension Act. We must insist that those that have been charged with public responsibilities, in whatever capacity, display humility in service, shun contemptuous behaviour and refrain from unnecessary touting of their distinguished business pedigree.

They should be made to realise that they are duty-bound to exude the best in etiquette and mannerism in their relationship with the public. There is another lesson here: those who cannot operate in a committee and be bound by consensus do not deserve the privilege of appointments as private advisers to Mr. President. Back to the controversial draft bill on pension reform. Why would the government want private sector employees to finance the pension fund liability in the civil service? Where is equity and fairness in all this? By this intended action, is the government not robbing the dutiful and efficient Peter, the private sector pension fund, to reward the irresponsible and inefficient Paul, the debt -ridden public sector pension fund? The government also plans to scrap the NSITF and place it under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Finance while the body winds up its operation and metamorphose into a pension fund administrator. Given the fact that the NSITF assets belong to the private sector, the right thing is to allow the stakeholders in the private sector to oversee its winding up process.

Whatever might be the laudable objective of the pension fund reform, the mere fact that government is targeting 500/0 of interest earned on contributors' investment to settle public sector's pension fund debts clearly exposes its main reason for embarking on this reform, which is to source cheap fund to bail itself out of the embarrassing liability of funding the public sector pension scheme. The next phase of the controversy surrounding the pension fund reform will soon shift to the National Assembly. Already, the executive arm of government is celebrating its victory because of its conviction that the legislators will merely rubberstamp the draft bill. Time will tell if this indeed is true. The National Assembly owes Nigerians the duty of ensuring that this draft bill is subjected to a thorough public debate, involving all the stakeholders, before endorsing the bill. oMr. Olusegun Oshinowo is the Director-General of the Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association (NECA).

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Olusegun Oshinowo, 21October 2003

 

Eastern Regional Organisation for Public Administration (EROPA) Holds Its 19th General Assembly and Conference

The Eastern Regional Organisation for Public Administration (EROPA) is holding its 19th General Assembly and Conference on "Public Administration and Globalization; Challenges, Opportunities and Options" in New Delhi from 5th October to 10th October, 2003. The Deputy Prime Minister, Shri L.K. Advani will inaugurate the Conference on October 6, 2003. The weeklong Conference will deliberate on various aspects of Public Administration at the backdrop of the present Globalization and Advance in Information Technology and related Opportunities and Challenges, Globalization in the context of Human Resource Development and Public Sector Reforms, bringing in Transparency and Ethical Governance - Promoting Accountability in Administration and also Enhancing Public-private Collaboration in Public Service Delivery. The EROPA endeavors to achieve its objective through General Assemblies, Regional Conferences, Seminars, Training Programs and Research & Publication. It also serves as an umbrella organization for the training institutions of the member countries of the Asia-Pacific region involved in training of Civil Servants.

The Objective of this Conference is to enhance co-operation between Member countries of the EROPA by providing an avenue for academic discussions and interaction with individuals involved in the field of public administration. The Conference will deliberate on the challenges and opportunities and options spawned by the globalisation in the 21st Century through the following dimensions: Enhancing Public-Private Collaboration in Public Service Delivery through direct attention to the experiences of various states and institutions in bringing together state and market mechanisms to introduce new forms of producing and delivering public services which were traditionally delivered through purely state mechanisms. Globalistion, Human Resource Development and Public Sector Reforms focus on various aspects of human resource development, specially in the field of: a) public management training and education; b) performance evaluation ;c) compensation ; and d) sustaining the merit system in the public sector.

It will document efforts at improving these aspects of human resource development. Globalisation and Information Technology which will address questions like how Information Communication Technology can help solve poverty within and across nations even as it facilitate the movement of information and capital across national boundaries. Transparency and Ethical Governance by examining and documenting efforts through greater access to information in the field of fiscal management, procurement and related areas such as the installation of systems that provide the public more direct access to public information. This organization had come into being in 1960 in response to a common desire among developing countries in the Asia Pacific region to promote regional cooperation in improving knowledge, systems and practices of Government administration. It was the first organization in this region devoting to development of public administration for advancing economic and social progress of countries of this region. The last Regional Conference of EROPA was held at Bangkok in November, 2002, and in this Conference it was decided that the 2003 Conference will be held in New Delhi.

From Press Information Bureau (press release), India, 3 October 2003

A Fresh Look into the Study of Public Administration

The study of Public Administration, as an academic discipline, now-a-days has gained a distinct position. However, the study has been considered as applied rather than a theoretical one. For this reason, the analysis and research of Public Administration is mostly directed towards different problems and their immediate remedies. In theory, Public Administration, for the most part, gives less importance to the philosophic, historical and social basis of problems enclosed to it. Mohammad Shamsur Rahman, Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Administration, Rajshahi University and country's pioneer in the study of Public Administration, in his book, Lok Proshason Totto O Bangladesh Proshason has attempted a tough job of assimilating the theory of Public Administration and its functional part in Bangladesh context. The book comprises 19 chapters, six schedules and a bibliography. In the first chapter, the author has given a critical overview of Public Administration concept. He stresses herein the weight of Public Administration as: i) importance of Public Administration to the people; ii) necessity of Public Administration in modern welfare state; and iii) significance of Public Administration as an academic discipline. Doing so, he further notices that, Public Administration is not merely an administrative device, rather a system of enhancement and protection of public culture.

The ideological foundation of a state may perhaps be better; however, its implication is largely executed by the administration too. Viewing this, he assumes that Public Administration is a living social process of achieving greater good. To him, it is an integral part of economic, social and cultural life of modern state. Thus, the author focuses a new approach of understanding Public Administration to us. The book also contains an inventory to the study of Public Administration in the Universities of Bangladesh. It is designed primarily by following the syllabus of Public Administration for the Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Shahjalal and the Islamic University. It is also intended to meet the need of students of Political Science of different affiliated colleges of National University for their Public Administration courses. Considering the paucity of quality textbook on Public Administration the book has a separate value too. Public Administration is closed to Political Science and Management as well. Moreover, it cannot ignore Sociology also. In theoretical part, the author attempts to conceptualise Public Administration lucidly. While discussing the origin and development of Public Administration he also shows a close link of other Social Sciences to it. Policy Planning and Decision Making are the key concern to Public Administration.

Giving due attention to above matters the book also illustrates some pertinent problems of Public Administration like, administrative authority and leadership, development planning for administration, bureaucracy, administrative law, administrative control and administrative responsibility. Discussion of Bangladesh's politico-constitutional background along with a brief note on Bangladesh Constitution is one of the attractive parts of the book. It includes matters related to 11 parts on Bangladesh Constitution and a table of constitutional amendments in detail. A table, featuring a detail of governmental systems since the creation of Bangladesh certainly improves quality of the book. The book gives a detail account of administrative structure of Bangladesh, determined by the Rules of Business made under the authority of Article 55 (2) of Bangladesh Constitution. Thus, it designates the constitutional basis of Bangladesh public administration. The book discusses regional settings of Bangladesh public administration like, Divisional, District and Thana administration, and diverse existing structures of Local Self Government (LSG) as well. Considering the distinct character of local governments of Chittagong Hill Tracts, a separate chapter has been designated in the book.

The role of Ministry of CHT Affairs has been given an appropriate denotation too. The appendices have incorporated important documents of GOB as well. It includes the functionaries of 23 Ministries. The book, in brief, has made efforts to delineate the organisation, functioning and revenue earnings of Union Parishads since its beginning in the British rule. UP is the single sort of LSG formed through people's direct representation. Thus, the appendices may be handy for the researchers indeed. For including all the major issues of Public Administration, the size of the book has also been increased. The book, nonetheless, will provide a fresh look into the study of Bangladesh Public Administration. It goes far beyond the traditional approach to Public Administration dealing with issues like, appointment, training, transfer, salary, promotion, retirement and other issues concerned only to the government officials. It encompasses the constitution and laws enacted under it, the execution and the executors of these laws, public co-operation and participation, project planning to implementation and so on. The book will be very useful not only for the students, but for the academicians, researchers and the public officials too. In conclusion, we can propose for inclusion of an entire and up-to-date list of Bangladesh Ministries, a more professional bibliography and indexes of subjects and names. Khandaker Muzahidul Haq Ph.D is Researcher, Institute of Bangladesh Studies, Rajshahi University.

From The Daily Star, Bangladesh, by Khandaker Muzahidul Haq, 1 October 2003

Strategies For More Efficient Civil Servants

Bandar Seri Begawan - The Civil Service has continuously introduced and implemented several strategies for its transformation. These programmes include 100 training hours introduced this year at all levels to enhance skills, ability and to contribute towards the effectiveness of the organization continuously. This is in line with the government's effort to introduce e-government, which will become the facilitator of the process of the Civil Service towards an efficient, productive and dynamic system. This was stated by Dato Hj Hazair, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office turn Chairman of the Executive Committee of the 10th Civil Service Day in his speech yesterday. Speaking on e-government, he noted the encouraging development being achieved, whereby projects approved mounted to 39% of the total allocation for e-government under the 8th National Development Plan, which amounted to $1,000 million. At the same time, short and long-term training are continuously being carried out, be it in the country or abroad.

Officials and staff who undergo around 200 training programmes carried out by Civil Service Institute (CSI) from 2000 to the third quarter of 2003 totalled 25,000, he said. "This year alone, CSI carried out close to 100 training programmes and around 4,000 government staff from all levels engaged in such programmes. To expose officials in the intermediary level in the latest management techniques, a two-month long course was carried out from August this year at Universiti Brunei Darussalam besides the executive programme for senior officials that has been carried out annually since 1996." To overcome grievances by the public and the private sector on the delay of professionalism forms, inefficient counter service and inefficient Client's Charter of TPOR in certain ministry departments, an auditing of TPOR will be carried out this year. To give satisfaction to the customer as well as to enhance productivity and quality of the Civil Service and to enhance efficiency of work procedure, Quality Control Circle (KKC) is also introduced in every ministry and department. - Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin (Brudirect.com News).

From Bru Direct, Brunei, by Azlan Othman, 4 October 2003

Cabinet Discusses Ways of Further Improving Standards of Public Services

Male - The Cabinet on Wednesday discussed ways of further improving the standards of public services, during an afternoon meeting of the Cabinet. In the meeting, Members of the Cabinet spoke on the existing arrangements in government offices to provide public services and exchanged views on possible measures that could be implemented to increase the levels of efficiency of service provision.

From Haveeru Daily, Maldives, 9 October 2003

Pak Contribution To Draft Of UN Convention Against Corruption Lauded

Islamabad - The special committee of the UN General Assembly, assigned the task of drafting an international convention against corruption, has adopted a final draft of the instrument after extensive negotiations in which Pakistan played a leading role on behalf of developing world. The final text provides for the facilitation of return of illicitly-acquired assets to the developing countries through the cooperation of the concerned authorities in the developed world. The Convention can prove to be a helpful tool in the Governments' effort to recover ill-gotten wealth derived from high level corruption in Pakistan, and stashed in western countries. The Convention will be adopted later this month by the UN General Assembly. It provides for the criminalization of a wide range of corruption offences and the prosecution of the criminals through international cooperation - White collar crime will henceforth not go unpunished for want of cooperation amongst states.

In a rare gesture of appreciation for the contribution made by Pakistan, the Adhoc Committee applauded Pakistani delegation's substantial contribution at the concluding session of its deliberations. Pakistan Ambassador in Vienna represented the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the deliberations that spanned over two years. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, has termed this Convention as one of the most significant instrument, which shall benefit and bring welfare to millions of people around the World. The UN-Convention against corruption is the first international instrument of its kind, which addresses critical issues and transactional aspects of corruption affecting the developing states. The negotiations, marked by a sharp divide between the developed and developing states, resulted into a balanced text, which considerably meets the aspirations of the Third World.

The Pakistan delegation played a leading role on behalf of the developing states, and succeeded in inclusion of a number of its proposals besides improving upon several suggestions considered useful for the developing states. A significant proposal tabled by Pakistan, that was eventually accepted, related to giving a right to a state whereby it could rescind an international contract in cases of corruption. Such a provision would become very useful in cases of corruption found in the award of international agreements and contracts that adversely affect public interest. The case in hand being the infamous power plant agreements in Pakistan. Other burning issues relating to return of proceeds of corruption to the countries of origin were debated threadbare. The developed countries, having dragged their feet on this issue, finally yielded to the pressure of the Group of 77 & China, which had lent its full support to the provisions tabled by Pakistan. The Pakistan Delegation to the negotiations in Vienna was led by Ambassador All Sarwar Naqvi and the members of the permanent Mission of Pakistan. Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a Lahore - based Lawyer, assisted the Pakistan Ambassador in negotiations.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 13 October 2003

Time for Government to Regain People's Confidence

Within a matter of only a few months, the atmosphere in Hong Kong has turned from extreme pessimism to extreme optimism. In June this year, just when the SARS attack was about to subside, Hong Kong people were worrying how deep the economy would plummet and how many more workers would lose their jobs. The most optimistic view at that time was that it would take Hong Kong at least a year or two to recover. However, measures taken during the summer have completely turned the situation around. First is the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement that would bring the economies in Hong Kong and the mainland closer; and the second is the flexibility for mainland visitors to visit Hong Kong as individuals. Suddenly, Hong Kong people have found the economy here not as depressed as they have thought. Business opportunities have also increased so much that Hong Kong people are beginning to see the benefits of the co-existence of the Hong Kong and mainland systems. With the return of a buoyant economy, the next question that one needs to ask is what further actions the Hong Kong Government has to take to maintain this optimistic spirit. Obviously, Hong Kong people feel happier because the property market has become more stable and the stock market has picked up again.

But there are signs, like the persistent high rates of unemployment, that the economy is still vulnerable and that much has to be done to ensure that it would not suffer another setback. Furthermore, the trust of the people in the government has to be regained. Even Chief Executive Tung Chee-hua has admitted that the government has not been responsive enough to the wishes of the people and pledged that government officials would do a better job in future. In fact, the chief executive knows well that the administration could hardly afford to make another blunder that would further alienate itself from the people. How then could the Hong Kong Government regain people's confidence? The head of the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong SAR Government, Professor Lau Siu-kai, has pointed out that in the last year or so, the administration had focused so much attention on some controversial political issues, like the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, that it tended to be neglectful of people's feelings. To make up, he suggested that government officials, especially bureau and department heads, take more active steps in gauging the reactions of the people towards government policies and measures. Indeed, there is nothing absolutely right or wrong in public administration and the only criterion in judging the feasibility of a particular policy or measure is its acceptability by the people.

To convince the public that a certain government policy or measure is necessary and desirable is not at all easy. Adequate preparations are a must before any policy or measure is put to the public for consultation. More important still is that relevant government officials must be prepared to explain and to defend the position of the government in public and in language that people can fully understand. This is not to say that people's opinions must be right. But if the government wants its policies and measures to have their desired effect, then people must be made to feel that their voices have fully been heard. The second important thing for the government to do to regain the confidence of the people is to reshuffle its priorities. For the government, the fiscal deficit might have been the major concern as it affects the ratings of Hong Kong in the eyes of international investors. However, ordinary people cannot understand why balancing a budget is so important while they are living in the fear of losing their jobs or having their wages cut the next day when they go to work. To create more employment opportunities should top the government's priority list.

The existing unemployment rate of 8.6 per cent is simply unacceptable - not that Hong Kong is unused to such high rates; but the welfare system is hardly adequate to provide the unemployed with the necessary protection and, most important of all, to help them go back to work. The third important thing that the government must do is to build up a mechanism through which its views can effectively reach the people. There is no doubt that the government Information Service is doing its job in conveying government messages and Radio Television Hong Kong is also supposed to provide outlets for official announcements. However, it is clear that Hong Kong people have often little knowledge, not to say understanding, of government policies and whatever little that they might know are distorted. There is no suggestion that the government should use more propaganda, especially when the trust of the people is low. But certainly it would help if some government departments, like the Home Affairs Department, which have direct contact with the masses, talk to the people at the grassroots about governmental views. This kind of personal contact between the government and the people is essential to avoid misunderstanding, but unfortunately it is completely lacking in Hong Kong. Hence, people are getting views from all sources except the government. To regain the trust and confidence of the people is no easy task but it is a step that the government must take.

From China Daily, China, 13 October 2003

Reform of Public Sector at Half-Way Point

South Korea's efforts to reform public companies following the 1997-98 economic crisis have been fruitful outwardly, but there remains a long way to go in the field of ``software,'' according to a recent report. The Ministry of Planning and Budget (MPB) yesterday announced the results of a competitiveness survey by the Korea Productivity Center on 16 public firms, including Korea Electric Power Corp. and Korea National Railroad. The research shows that the labor and capital productivity of the public firms have improved somewhat over the past several years, while total factor productivity, a key measure of management efficiency, leaves much to be desired. Labor productivity grew by a yearly average of 9.9 percent between 1998-2002, higher than the 5.9 percent recorded between 1993-97 and the 7.7 percent by private companies. Capital productivity also improved from minus 5.58 percent to minus 3.71 percent. But total factor productivity recorded a 1.46-percent drop, worse than the 0.08-percent fall seen before the economic crisis and 0.19-percent increase by private firms.

The government admitted that previous restructuring efforts for state-owned enterprises were focused on scaling down business through a reduction of manpower and asset sales. ``It was an inevitable measure to cushion the impact of the economic crisis, although it was not without adverse effects,'' Chang Young-chul, director of MPB's fiscal reform bureau, said. The government will focus more efforts on technology- and knowledge-oriented growth to enhance the efficiency of the system at public firms, he added. During the Kim Dae-jung administration, eight of the country's 26 state-owned enterprises were sold to private interests as part of efforts to restructure the bulky yet inefficient public sector. The current administration also is poised to decide the fate of three other firms - Korea Electric Power Corp., Korea District Heating Corp. and Korea Gas Corp.

From Korea Times, South Korea, 17 October 2003

Human Capital Needed to Reduce Poverty: FM

Islamabad: Finance minister Shaukat Aziz Monday said economic growth can effectively reduce poverty only when accompanied by a comprehensive programme for human development. "Human capital is the primary asset and its development is of fundamental importance in the war against poverty," Mr. Aziz said in his address to a symposium on human development "A Grassroots Experience" organised by the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) and Pakistan Human Development Fund. The minister said that country's long-term sustainable growth and poverty reduction prospects are critically contingent on investment in human development which is constrained by financial resources. "As the demand for social services rises, the government will need to increasingly target human resource investment to the poor and will need to work more closely with the private sector, non-governmental and community based organisations as well as donors to ensure provisions to the people," he said. The minister, who believed that education is the cornerstone of human development and poverty alleviation, said that government realises that the education service delivery in Pakistan is faced with a multitude of challenges from lack of infrastructure and facilities to severe shortage of qualified and trained teachers.

Further, Mr. Aziz said that the government is conscious of the fact that governance now matters critically in economic growth and development of human capital. "A successful public policy requires considerable emphasis on governance without which the full potential of the economy cannot be actualised and effective spending and improvement in service delivery will not be ensured," he said. "Strengthening of devolved governments is imperative for achieving human development goals as our strategic thrust is on meeting the actual, needs of the people at the grassroots level through community participation, improve funding mechanism to increase enrolment, raise literacy and improve quality, removing institutional bottlenecks that have disrupted flow of funds in the past, and making devolution to work for achieving social sectors outcomes." The minister also said that government recognises that successful implementation of on-going reform programme both at the federal and provincial levels, and devolution is inseparably linked with the capacity of government institutions and the quality of civil services. "The government firmly believes that without public-private partnership the government cannot accomplish the formidable task of achieving the MDG.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 21 October 2003

 

Guru of Public Sector Reform

Tony Blair's new guru of public sector reform has strong views on the role of markets and the welfare state. Professor Julian Le Grand of the London School of Economics is an academic who is not shy of controversy. He first came to prominence by arguing that the middle class have captured many parts of the welfare state, and actually benefit disproportionately from free, state-funded health and education. Now, as he prepares to enter No 10 Downing Street as a policy advisor to the Prime Minister, he has set out a compelling vision of the necessity of public sector reform. Professor Le Grand would like the government to give more power to the people who use public services, and give young people substantial assets to start up in life. His appointment is a sign that Tony Blair will not be distracted from his drive to transform the public services by the opposition of the unions and other Labour Party members. Shift in purpose - In his new book, Professor Le Grand argues that it was both inevitable and desirable that the provision of welfare services shifted away from a model which gave most power to the providers, such as doctors and teachers, and little to the patients or pupils who used the service. He says that in the classic welfare state, public servants were seen as altruistic "knights" who acted for the general good, while the recipients were passive "pawns" who had little say in what was provided.

Now he says that welfare systems must be designed on the assumption that providers act in self-interest, not altruism, as "knaves," while those who use public services must have more choice and more rights, must be treated more like "queens" than pawns. Professor Le Grand says the logical conclusion of the drive towards more purchaser power is the greater use of markets in the provision of public services. Reforming health and education - And he endorses the changes in the education system that have given parents more power - such as the publishing of exam results and the freedom to enrol in any state school that has a place. But he wants to go further in encouraging strong schools to take more poor pupils - by using cash vouchers, and giving each poor family a voucher with a higher cash value. This, he says, will give the better schools an incentive to take on more poor pupils, because they would get more resources. Professor Le Grand also wants to provide greater incentives for consultants to treat more patients in the NHS. His solution is that they should be paid on a fee-for-service basis to do extra operations above their basic commitment to the NHS. Professor Le Grand recognises that markets in the public sector will always be limited by the different levels of information that the public and professionals have, especially in health care.

And he is concerned to prevent "skimming" of services by the better-off. But he will be a strong supporter of the Prime Minister's drive to put patients and parents in the driving seat including, if necessary, facing down doctors and teachers. Asset-based welfare - Like Tony Blair, Professor Le Grand says he is egalitarian, but feels most strongly that the government should tackle equality of opportunity, rather than equality of outcomes. So his most radical proposals are for the redistribution of wealth to young people. He would like to use the proceeds of an increased inheritance tax to give everyone a government grant of Ł10,000 when they start out at 18. And he would give matching government grants to encourage people to save for retirement, and to put aside more for long-term care - funded perhaps by abolishing tax relief on pensions. The government has already announced modest moves in this direction, through the "baby bond" for all parents, and the "savings gateway" which would match savings for those on low incomes. But with planning for the next general election now in full swing, and other Labour intellectuals like Matthew Taylor of the Institute for Public Policy Research, and Michael Jacobs of the Fabian Society joining the government, if Labour win re-election, a third term could turn out to be its most radical. Motivations, Agency and Public Policy: Of Knights and Knaves, Pawns and Queens, by Julian Le Grand is published by Oxford University Press. Professor Le Grand takes up his post as special advisor to the Prime Minister on 6 October.

From BBC News, UK, by Steve Schifferes, 23 September 2003

Poor Pay and Conditions Damaging Public Sector Reform

The two-tier labour market is damaging progress on public sector reform according to a report from the government think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research. The report, to be published tomorrow, says that public-private partnerships are unlikely to gain public support while cost improvements are gained from "cutting of terms and conditions of low-paid public service staff rather than through genuine productivity improvements". The report comes as unions attack the public-private partnership schemes under which their members are often paid less and have worse conditions of employment. Workers' rights and public services are expected to be dominant issues at this week's annual Trades Union Congress. However, the report does not agree with the unions that private sector workers should maintain exactly the same terms and conditions as public sector workers providing the same service. Instead the overall package of terms and conditions should be "no less favourable". It suggests flexible working and other management skills as alternatives to changing terms and conditions in order to get value for money from workers.

From Human Resources-Centre, UK, 3 October 2003

EC Adopts Communication on Importance of E-government

The European Commission adopted a communication signalling the importance of eGovernment as a means of achieving world-class public administration in Europe. As part of the Lisbon strategy, eGovernment is seen as providing an economic boost by providing new and better services for all citizens and companies of Europe. The Communication calls upon Member States to express their political commitment to co-operation at European level spanning both the private and public sector, to accelerate the take-up and development of eGovernment. It presents a set of actions that reinforce the eGovernment priorities currently being addressed within the eEurope 2005 Action Plan. Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner, Erkki Liikanen said: "It is essential for Europe to have a public sector that helps the European economy to grow, that provides high quality services to all and that reinforces democratic involvement." The public sector has a prominent role in Europe's social and economic welfare.

Public administrations need to meet the increasing expectations of citizens and companies for high quality and efficient services. Yet they also have to deal with challenging economic and social conditions, institutional change and the profound impact of new technologies. The most effective solutions to improving public services, democratic processes and public policies are those that combine information and communication technologies (ICT) with organisational change and new skills. This is what is called eGovernment. Despite the emergence of good practices, there still remain many barriers and obstacles to overcome before widespread take-up of eGovernment can be achieved. In its Communication, the Commission therefore calls for strong political leadership and commitment from the Member States to achieve the modernisation of public administrations, with the help of eGovernment. Administrations should ensure access to public services for all citizens, through investment in multi-platform approaches (PC, digital TV, mobile terminals, public access points etc).

Trust and confidence in online interaction with governments needs to be ensured, the privacy of data safeguarded, and authentication and identity management issues properly addressed. Administrations could achieve significant productivity gains by making electronic public procurement easier, and more widely available. Specific action is needed to define, develop and implement pan-European eGovernment services and promote their use. This will facilitate people's freedom of movement in the internal market, and help to establish a true sense of European Citizenship. Measures foreseen in the Communication to address these issues include exchange of good practices, support from European Union R&D, piloting and implementation programmes, and above all the initiatives and action plans at national, regional and local level.

From Telecom Paper, Netherlands, 30 September 2003

One Million Euros to Promote Serbia's Public Administration

Belgrade - Secretary of the Serbian Agency for Public Administration Development Sonja Cagronov, Director of the Swedish Institute for Public Administration (SIPU International) Arne Sjoberg and Director of German company Perbit Software GmbH Richard Manuel signed a contract on the delivery of IT system for human resource management worth one million euros, aimed at developing the Serbian public administration in line with European standards. The contract includes the delivery of hardware, software, its implementation, as well as training services, technical support and maintenance of the delivered system in the guarantee period and in the contract's validity period. This IT system will be introduced in 23 institutions in the Republic. The contract is part of the €3.7 million project "Development of the Modern Human Resource Management in the Serbian Public Administration."

The project is financed by the Swedish Agency for International Development and Cooperation (SIDA) and carried out by the Serbian Agency for Public Administration Development and consultants of the Swedish Institute for Public Administration. The objective of the project is to provide support to the Serbian government in efforts to develop the system of human resource management. That would make the Serbian public administration more efficient and aligned with modern standards. Swedish Ambassador to Belgrade Lars Goran Engfeldt, who attended the signing, hailed the Serbian government's determination to reform the public administration. He said that this agreement will be the starting point of wider cooperation between Sweden and Serbia.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 10 October 2003

ANO Gives in on Public Administration Reform in Slovakia

Following initial objections to the cabinet-approved public administration reform, the ruling coalition New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) has agreed to support the plan. The coalition council agreed on minor changes to the concept, related to the placement of some of the new offices. The cabinet's plenipotentiary for the reform, Viktor Nižnanský, was optimistic that the scheme will be passed in parliament.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, 20 October 2003

Minister Outlines Public Services Plans

Enterprise Minister, Ian Pearson today outlined the government's vision on the way forward for joining-up public services in Northern Ireland. The Minister was addressing delegates attending the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) Conference, the first event of its kind to be held in Belfast. Speaking at the Innovation Centre in Belfast's Science Park, Mr. Pearson said: "Reform and modernisation are central to our agenda. We want to see the continuous improvement in the quality of public services that everyone expects." Referring to the recently published OnlineNI Strategy document that identified a possible way ahead for a modernised Government in Northern Ireland, Mr. Pearson acknowledged that such recognition to change was, in fact, already in place. He said: "What we now have is a vision of how e-Government might look in the future whilst at the same time setting out a clear, long-term goal, for the entire public service." Mr. Pearson also recognized the role that SOCITM and similar organisations would have to play in the transformation of government services and encouraged all participants to "ensure that we use that knowledge, skill, expertise and enthusiasm to best enable the change that we all seek." The Overcoming the Barriers to Joined-Up Government Conference was organised by the SOCITM with the aim of developing ways of improving joined-up services to citizens.

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 20 October 2003

 

Lebanon: Globalization Fuels Drive for Hospital Accreditation

Workshop highlights challenges of reform - Universal standards of sustainability, quality must be introduced nationally - Hospital accreditation is gaining prominence due to globalization, especially trading in health services, and will eventually become a tool for international categorization and recognition of hospitals, according to Makassed Hospital director Mohammed Firikh. "The challenge calls for immediate reform to hospitals' role as a component of the national health system," said Firikh during the first workshop of The Accreditation of Hospitals at the Makassed Hospital in Beirut on Tuesday. "Countries must introduce their own standards of accreditation based on the best interests of their health system, safeguarding primary health care principles of universality, equity, quality, efficiency and sustainability," Firikh added. The forum, organized by the Lebanese Healthcare Management Association (LHMA), a chapter of the Lebanese Management Association (LMA), included distinguished panelists such as Private Hospital Owners' Syndicate president Suleiman Haroun and Health Ministry director-general Walid Ammar. The panelists said national health systems are coming under increasing scrutiny, with focus on cost containment and quality improvement as a result of health sector reform.

The trend is expected to continue due to restructured economic and social policies, globalization of markets and enhanced worldwide communication. Studies showed that hospitals account for 40 to 70 percent of the national health budget and employed half the physicians and over two thirds of the nurses in any given country. Participants said hospitals' treatment patterns were altering due to changes in technology and demands despite the fact that hospitals were large, fixed assets and difficult to change. They added that high costs and increased demand were forcing a re-engineering of hospitals, and accreditation offered a means to enhance standardization of care and the exchange of expertise worldwide. They also said that pressures were intensifying to make hospitals more accountable to national health policies. Firikh said that "hospital accreditation objectives can be summarized in four major points: Enhanced health systems, continuous quality improvement, informed decision making, enhanced accountability and regulation."

The World Health Organization's Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office's guidelines stipulated that to be eligible for accreditation, hospitals must be nationally owned, multi-institutional, comprehensive, incremental and integrated. The panelists agreed that the regional accreditation guidelines recommended the use of standards that defined structures, processes and results that must be firmly established in a hospital as a prerequisite for quality care. They said that standards of structure, process and outcomes would require evidence of performance (qualitative indicators) that must be simple, inexpensive and easy to observe by the surveyors. Hospitals with different sophistication levels would be accredited to the highest common level available to all services. "Failure to change the behavior and attitudes of people and organizations is the most common cause of ineffective quality initiatives," said Firikh. "In hospital accreditation, the challenges in setting and measuring against standards are mostly technical while those of appropriate change are social and managerial." According to Firikh, priority challenges consisted of strengthening legal supports and the establishment of a multi-institutional and independent accreditation body.

Other challenges included the ensuring of private and public sector participation, and application of standards to all hospital services. Accreditation must be based on consensus rather than numerical scoring, with a clear differentiation between licensing and accreditation. Sustainability of the program and the definition of the role of surveyors are also crucial. Firikh said the strategies for developing hospital accreditation in the region depended on raising awareness at the national level, strengthening of inspection units and improving administrative procedures by health ministries. Strategies comprise the establishment of national hospital registers, exchange of experiences via a network of institutions and experts and collaboration with regional and international bodies. Annual international forums, an expert advisory group and periodical reviews must also be considered. The workshop's panel called on member states to plan and conduct an intensive awareness campaign to promote concepts of quality improvement and adapt regional accreditation guidelines, where necessary, to develop national plans for quality improvement.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, by Ara Alain Arzoumanian, 9 October 2003

 

Tory Defeat Is Opportunity to Rebuild Public Services, Casselman Says

Toronto - The convincing defeat of the Ernie Eves Tories at the polls today presents a long-awaited opportunity to rebuild Ontario's public services, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says. "For eight long years of Tory rule, front-line public service workers have borne the brunt of vicious and repeated attacks on the work they do for Ontarians," Leah Casselman said. "We look forward to working with the new government to rebuild public services so we can start creating the kind of society people really want." Conservative cuts and privatization have left Ontario with public services that are too weak to do what they are supposed to do, Casselman said. "The Walkerton water disaster, and the Aylmer meat scandal, and heart patients sleeping in hospital hallways didn't happen by accident," she said. "The collapse of our public services was carefully planned to benefit the private investors who are the main backers of the Tory party. "Tonight marks the beginning of the rebuilding, and our union will be front and centre in that work," she said. "We look forward to laying down our arms and picking up our tools."

Casselman said the union would not be deterred by reports of a provincial deficit that could be as high as $4.5 billion. "Our members provide great value for money in every part of the public sector," she said. "In contrast, the provincial auditor found Tory consultants who were getting paid up to six times more than our members would get paid to do the same work. "Ending privatization and improving management can pay huge dividends in terms of service quality and cost. We look forward to sharing our ideas to make things work better." Whatever the budget situation, a Liberal government will have billions of dollars more to put towards public services than a Conservative government would have, Casselman said. "Since 1995, tax cuts have sucked the lifeblood out of public services," she said. "We welcome the end of the Tory tax cut era."

From Canada NewsWire (press release), Canada, 3 October 2003

Church Coalition Plugs Away at Public Policy

A coalition of religious leaders will present a progress report Thursday on their demands for change from public officials, ranging from providing access to police conduct reports to including black and Muslim history in school curriculums. "It's been our experience that after the fanfare dies down from a big public meeting, it's easy for people to forget about what was discussed," said the Rev. Glenn Grayson, president of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network. "We think it's important to let people know that while the work is by no means done, progress has been made on all fronts," said Grayson, pastor of Wesley Center AME Zion Church in the Hill District. The interfaith network, which has 32 member churches, drew nearly 1,000 people to its first public meeting in February at Grayson's church.

From Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, PA, by Tony LaRussa, 7 October 2003

Talk to Focus on Business in Public Policy Process

"Can or should business leaders make public policy?" will be the topic of the 2003 Berry College Executive Round Table fall dinner on Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Coosa Country Club. Natalie M. Davis, professor of political science at Birmingham-Southern College and a frequent political commentator, is the featured speaker. She will discuss business leadership's impact on the public policy process, focusing on Alabama's recently defeated tax and accountability package. She will discuss the role business played in shaping the package and the financial backing it provided to sell it to voters. The evening will begin with networking, followed by dinner and Davis' presentation. Dinner discussion at each table will center on various questions regarding business in public policymaking, including a look at what role local businesses played in pursuing the SPLOST to bring the Class A Braves to Rome.

The public is invited to attend the dinner program on a space-available basis. Cost is $30 per person. Registration, including payment, is required by Oct. 21. Table sponsorship also is available. For more information or to register, e-mail ert@campbell.berry.edu or call Julie Bumpus at 238-5835. Davis holds a doctorate in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She comments on Alabama and Southern politics for CNN and Alabama Public Television. The Executive Round Table originated at Georgia Tech in 1956. Berry College formed the second chapter in 1989. The group's purpose is to encourage and help develop students who display character and leadership. Membership includes a balance of students, faculty and industry/business executives.

From Rome News Tribune, GA, 8 October 2003

A Wellspring for Public Servants

As a 2003 graduate of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, I was troubled by the Oct. 8 news story "At Princeton, Feeling Failed; Family Seeks Return of $525 Million, Saying University Has 'Abused' Gift." Of the more than 70 students in my graduating class, 11 now work for the federal government. To my knowledge, only two students - not 33 percent of the class, as a Wilson school report stated was the case in 1999 - work in private-sector jobs. While the article presented William Robertson's opinion of how his foundation's funds are being used, the article failed to define the university's idea of government service. Mr. Robertson's definition is only federal service, but a more comprehensive definition would include other sectors of public service. Statistics show that the Wilson school, even more than its peer institutions, is a leader in government service graduates. Its alumni directory lists hundreds of graduates employed by the federal government. Mr. Robertson did not consider that while students may not enter the federal workforce when they graduate from Princeton, chances are good that at some point in their careers they will. I am grateful for the Robertson family's contribution to the school and for my education, but to remove this endowment from a highly respected school of public affairs would have a devastating effect on the responsibility of institutions of higher learning to train public servants.

From Washington Post, DC, 21 October 2003

Bill Would Bar Corruption

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District) recently announced that legislation he is sponsoring would disqualify corrupt corporations, such has Enron, MCI/WorldCom and Tyco, from bidding on lucrative government contracts in New York State. The "New York State Contract Disqualification Act of 2003" would deny these corporations access to contracts at all levels of government and would require a written declaration from corporations stating their right to bid on contracts in the state. The loss of state funds due to corrupt corporations has not only affected the day-to-day budgetary constraints of the state but has inflicted immense damage on the state pension fund. According to a recent report from the Office of the New York State Comptroller, the loss seen by the State of New York due to these crooked corporations has totaled over $13 billion. This includes a $2.8 billion loss to the state's economy, a cut in state revenues of over $1 billion and a decrease in the value of the state pension fund of $9 billion.

From South Bay News, NY, 21 October 2003

Alberta Latest Province to Consider Private-Public Hospital Projects

Edmonton - Alberta will review a $400-million proposal this fall to build a hospital under a public-private partnership, but critics warn they have failed in other countries and put taxpayers at risk. However, supporters say a P3, as such partnerships are called, is a viable method for cash-conscious governments to develop projects more quickly. "We are keen on looking to see if there is a way that we can actually get important facilities that we need now by financing it in a different manner," said Alberta Health Minister Gary Mar. "We are certainly open-minded to this. I don't think that people should be worried about it." Similar public-private hospital projects are in the planning stages in Ontario and British Columbia. If approved, the Alberta project would see a private company build and finance a hospital to service the fast-growing population of south Calgary about two years before it could be built with public money, said Bob Holmes, senior vice-president of the Calgary Health Region. The company would then run the facility under a lease agreement with the government-appointed health region.

The province would remain responsible for delivering health-care services. "I don't think that the downside risks of doing it privately are any greater than the downside risks of doing it publicly," Holmes said. "I have little doubt that there is a lot of public support for this in the area that we're hoping to serve." Some groups, including Alberta's opposition parties, say the scheme will benefit private developers more than taxpayers. Liberal health critic Kevin Taft said similar ventures have failed in Australia. He also cited British studies that determined the costs to finance such hospitals are higher. Public-private partnerships also put taxpayers at risk because the public is on the hook if the private firm fails, he said. "This is a taxpayer ripoff," Taft said. "This is the kind of thing that should outrage people across the province." New Democrat Leader Raj Pannu said private hospital operators will put profits ahead of patients when faced with bottom-line financial pressures. The controversy over P3 hospital projects became an issue during the Ontario election campaign when former Tory premier Ernie Eves signed such a contract for the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

Other deals were in the works for P3 hospitals in Brampton and Markham. Dalton McGuinty, Ontario's new Liberal premier, has suggested the projects could be reviewed. "P3s represent an extraordinary departure from our history when it comes to public hospitals in the province of Ontario," McGuinty said last month. In British Columbia, the P3 hospital concept is proceeding more smoothly. A company created and owned by the province called Partnerships British Columbia expects to receive proposals from four consortiums that are competing to develop a 300-bed hospital and cancer centre in Abbotsford. The fast-growing community east of Vancouver has needed a new hospital since 1986, but cash-strapped governments haven't been able to proceed. Construction of the new facility under the P3 model is expected to begin next fall and be complete by the end of 2007, said chief project officer Mike Marasco. Under the deal, the provincial government will pay the winning consortium about $40 million a year for 30 years to build and operate the hospital. The private firm will provide services such as housekeeping, food service, laundry, maintenance and medical engineering. The province will own the building and maintain responsibility for delivering health services. "We hear from the community there is an urgent need for a new hospital and a cancer centre," Marasco said. "They are not interested in the rhetoric on how we get there. They want to see this hospital built."

From Canada.com, Canada , by John Cotter, 24 October 2003

Change Civil Service Laws

The anecdotes offer a glimpse of Colorado's state government at its bloated, bureaucratic worst: A state nursing home worker fired for taking money from a resident has his termination overturned because his supervisor wrongly used the word "theft" at his hearing. The termination was for "misappropriation," not theft. The state shuns new technologies that would allow it to work more effectively for fear of putting employees out of work, rather than retraining them for other jobs. Qualified applicants for jobs are ignored only because they live out of state. Colorado's civil service laws largely have outlived their usefulness and need to be changed. When they were first approved by voters in 1918, the state didn't have anti-discrimination laws or restrictions on official misconduct, so the constitutional protections were needed to combat political patronage. But the world, and government, has changed dramatically in the last 85 years. There are better ways to do business. A bipartisan commission recently produced a solid set of reasonable changes that will make it easier to hire, fire and discipline state employees.

If enacted by voters, or in some cases the legislature, the changes also will allow government to work more effectively and give higher education institutions the option to create their own personnel systems. The commission wisely suggested leaving the cornerstone of Colorado's civil service laws intact: Promotions and hires must be made according to "merit and fitness." "We said the system at its core is a good system, but we need to be more flexible," says Troy Eid, outgoing state personnel director. It's now up to Colorado's lawmakers to study the recommended changes - some of which yank portions of the state's civil service laws out of the Constitution - and put the measures before voters. (The last major reform effort failed at the polls in 1986.) If enacted as proposed, Colorado law would: Allow state managers to consider all qualified candidates for a job, not just the top three. Under the current structure, the state spends cash to develop and administer tests to rank candidates, meanwhile some vacancies go unfilled for months.

And people who test poorly - but are perhaps the perfect candidate - are given a premature heave-ho. Permit non-Colorado residents to apply for state jobs and allow for some state employees to reside outside Colorado, such as agents who conduct audits on out-of-state corporations doing business with Colorado. Allow higher education institutions to create their own personnel systems. Those that do opt out would be required to give all employees a voice in the alternative system and would allow current employees to retain their existing benefits and protections if they so choose. Make it easier to discipline employees and dismiss them for cause. The constitution now only allows for discipline in specific circumstances. Colorado's civil servants are the backbone of the state, and their work must be respected. But the archaic civil service rules that govern them are due for an overhaul. The way government business is conducted in Colorado must be changed.

From Denver Post, CO, 25 October 2003

OMB Urged to Educate Lawmakers on E-gov Funding

The Office of Management and Budget needs to press Congress harder if it wants them to fund interagency e-government projects adequately, two former federal technology officials said Monday. In a vote on the 2004 Transportation and Treasury budget bill (S. 1589), the Senate last week allotted $5 million to the interagency e-government fund, $40 million below the amount requested by OMB. The House version of the bill grants the interagency fund $1 million. Given these figures, House-Senate negotiators are likely to arrive at a final amount well below that requested by the administration and authorized in an e-government bill signed by President Bush on Dec. 17, 2002. The 2002 E-Government Act granted $345 million to fund interagency technology initiatives over four years, allowing $45 million for fiscal 2003, $50 million for fiscal 2004, $100 million for fiscal 2005 and $150 million for fiscal 2006. Last year, Congress undercut OMB's request by $40 million. To ensure lawmakers do not shortchange the fund in future budget cycles, the administration will need to undertake an extensive "education" effort on Capitol Hill, said George Molaski, former chief information officer of the Transportation Department.

Molaski is now president and chief executive officer of E-Associates LLC, a technology consulting company in Falls Church, Va. OMB has not spent enough time teaching lawmakers about the interagency fund, Molaski said. Congressional appropriators, accustomed to funding agency-specific projects, are "naturally hesitant" to support interagency funds, he explained. They "don't know where the money's going," and do not understand how the interagency pool relates to money already granted on an agency-by-agency basis. Karen Evans, OMB's new technology chief, will need to visit key offices on Capitol Hill and make a strong business case for the interagency fund, Molaski said. Evans could also seek help from industry lobbyists, he said, though some may prove reluctant to support interagency projects. These projects often involve consolidation, which increases efficiency but can result in fewer opportunities for IT contractors to bid on work, he explained. "It's got to be communicated that [the interagency fund] is a high priority," said Paul Brubaker, a partner at ICG Government, a Reston, Va.-based consulting and market research firm, and former deputy CIO at the Defense Department. "[OMB] can choose to play hardball if it wants to."

OMB essentially needs a new "marketing plan" for selling interagency e-government projects to lawmakers, Brubaker said. Congress' lack of support for the fund demonstrates that "somewhere the case wasn't made that this was an investment that would yield any sort of return," he said. OMB needs to convince lawmakers that they would not be giving out a "blank check," he added. OMB did not respond to a request for comment on e-government funding. But in a policy statement about the Senate version of the Transportation-Treasury budget bill, OMB urged lawmakers to "support the president's $45 million request for this important component of the president's management agenda." Results from the "modest" amounts invested to date demonstrate that interagency fund "can bring significant improvements across agencies while reducing the need for each agency to reinvent the wheel," the statement said. By underfunding e-government projects, Congress risks impeding progress on some initiatives, according to David Marin, a spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.

For instance, the General Services Administration's e-authentication project, the subject of recent criticism from the General Accounting Office, has suffered from a lack of adequate funding, he said. "More money will mean fewer problems [with initiatives]." "By continuously shortchanging these initiatives, the government is being pennywise and pound foolish," Marin added. "This is an investment that will save money and increase efficiency in the long haul." Marin attributed the failure of lawmakers to support the interagency fund to an "education problem," echoing Molaski and Brubaker's observations. Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, has urged colleagues to grant the administration's requests for e-government funding. But "in the past, the Appropriations Committee has said it opposed full funding because [the funding] is duplicative," Marin said. "The e-gov fund is far from duplicative," Marin said. "In fact, it can help overcome duplication and redundancy. And members and staff need to know that."

From Governement Executive Magazine, DC, by Amelia Gruber (agruber@govexec.com), 28 October 2003

Senate Would Keep E-gov Funding at $5M

The Senate this week granted $5 million for the e-government fund in fiscal 2004, higher than the amount allotted by the House but still lower than the Bush administration's request. As in past years, the administration requested $45 million to fund e-government initiatives. And as in past years, the Senate approved one-ninth of the request. Congress in each of the past three years has dedicated $5 million for e-government, forcing agencies to use their own budgets to fund their projects. Under the House version of the Transportation, Treasury and Related Agencies Appropriations bill passed last month, the e-government fund would receive $1 million. Administration officials urged Congress to support the requested $45 million for what officials called "an important component of the President's Management Agenda," according to the Office of Management and Budget's statement of administration policy released yesterday. OMB officials have said they will need to spend more time convincing lawmakers of the need for this fund. "As has been demonstrated by successes from the modest $5 million invested in each of the last two years (including e-Rulemaking, recreation.gov, e-Authentication, geodata.gov, e-Training and firstgov.gov), the e-gov fund can bring significant improvements across agencies while reducing the need for each agency to 'reinvent the IT wheel,'" OMB officials wrote.

The Senate bill does not include funding for the Human Capital Performance Fund, for which the administration had requested $500 million. The fund would create performance-driven pay systems and focus on performance management. The administration wanted the fund to help pay employees above their regular salaries, based on performance. "The committee agrees with the concept but denies the creation of the Human Capital Performance Fund," according to the Senate report. "The committee believes that an initiative of this type should be budgeted and administered within each individual agency." Administration officials said they were "extremely disappointed" the bill does not support this fund. "The fund allows a more targeted approach for promoting high performance," according to OMB's statement. Also in the statement, OMB officials reiterated the intent of Bush's senior advisers to recommend a veto of the bill if it includes a provision shutting down the competitive sourcing initiative. The House version included this provision, prohibiting the use of the revised Circular A-76 to administer public/private competitions. "The administration seeks to improve the performance of government services based on the common-sense principle of completions," OMB wrote. "Now is the wrong time to short-circuit implementation of this principle especially since numerous agencies are starting to make real progress."

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 24 October 2003

 

UN Members Agree on Global Anti-corruption Treaty

Vienna - U.N. member states have finally agreed on an international treaty to combat corruption after two years of haggling, U.N. officials announced on Thursday. "The convention means business," U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) chief Antonio Maria Costa told reporters. "It has teeth...I believe it's going to get a few fish." The agreed draft criminalises bribery, money laundering and embezzlement of public funds. It enables the recovery of illegally acquired assets and will force states to prevent corruption rather than merely prosecute offenders. But anti-graft campaigners said it was not tough enough on private sector corruption. The U.N. Convention against Corruption will be formally adopted by the U.N. General Assembly "in the coming weeks", UNODC's head of treaty affairs, Eduardo Vetere, said. It will enter into force once 30 states have ratified it, which will probably take about two years, he added. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Vienna, Kenneth Brill, gave his backing to the treaty saying it would strengthen international efforts to fight corruption. The convention will provide mechanisms for the cross-border recovery of assets pilfered by public officials.

Britain's Financial Times newspaper on Thursday highlighted Nigeria's struggle to recover up to $5 bln it said may have been stolen by former military ruler Sani Abacha, much of which is in foreign bank accounts. Previous reports have put the figure at $2.2 bln to $3 bln. "Corruption is not only criminal behaviour which has to be prosecuted. It also undermines society," Costa said, adding that it hindered development in poorer countries. "When you see that $5 bln are stolen by the former leader, now late leader, that has a dramatic impact on the economy of that country. "So it is much more than just trying to stop this sort of activity but trying to salvage economies which otherwise would go bankrupt." Peter Rooke of the independent anti-graft pressure group Transparency International (TI) welcomed the treaty as "an opportunity to create public awareness and commitment to curbing corruption". But Transparency International said measures dealing with private sector corruption and the financing of political parties had been watered down so much that they were optional, not obligatory. Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service.

From Forbes, by Francois Murphy, 3 October 2003

Fighting Corruption: Transparency Plans Backed

Apec's 21 members have agreed to fight corruption in the region by developing specific plans by the end of next year to promote transparency, the Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) announced yesterday. ABAC, the private-sector advisory arm of the Apec Leaders' Summit, said the leaders had endorsed its proposed standards for transparency. These include many of the issues now under negotiation by the 146 members of the World Trade Organisation, as part of the new Doha round of talks. The Apec leaders' communique explicitly pledged to "fight corruption, a major obstacle to social and economic development, by working in 2004 to develop specific domestic actions to combat it". The communique also pledged to "promote transparency by implementing our general and area-specific transparency standards through our Transparency by 2005 Strategy". Gary Benanav, the US representative on ABAC, said last year the Apec leaders had endorsed a general standard on transparency. "This year, the Apec leaders took a second and a very large step by committing to transparency standards in specific areas," Benanav said.

The plans involve packages of transparency standards in eight areas - services; investment; competition law and policy and regulatory reform; standards and conformity; intellectual property; customs procedures; market access; and business mobility. The transparency initiatives are aimed at reducing the opportunity for corruption and improving the investment environment. Refocusing on WTO negotiations, enhancing security, building capacity, implementing transparency standards and ensuring business input for the Apec process, were amongst the topics discussed in the dialogue between Apec leaders and ABAC. Sir Dryden Spring - the New Zealand representative who chaired the ABAC action-plan monitoring committee - said almost all the Apec economies were on track to achieve the Bogor goals for the removal of trade barriers. He said the World Trade Organisation and the recent failure of the Cancun talks were major topics for ABAC representatives this year.

Viphandh Roengpithya, chairman of ABAC, said Thailand had made innovative changes to the format of the dialogue to enable representatives to fully explore the key recommendations to leaders and allow their views on advancing Apec's stated goals of free and open trade to be heard. He said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had expressed the desire for leaders to muster the necessary political will to send a clear and strong message that Apec is committed to the multilateral trading system under the WTO, and to the successful and timely conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda. Apec leaders also expressed their view that business was rightly concerned about the cost burden of security measures. Leaders praised ABAC's recommendations on risk management and information technology to ensure there is no adverse impact on trade and investment from security measures. Apec leaders also agreed that it was essential to build the capacity of individuals, institutions and government "so that they can fully enjoy the benefits of globalisation". ABAC had called for comprehensive measures for capacity building.

From The Nation, Thailand, by Choosak Jirasakunthai, Somluck Srimalee, 21 October 2003

Apec Ministers: Cancun, Round Two

In a stunning reversal from positions taken at Cancun by hard line developing nations, Apec ministers have agreed to restart work on a compromise trade liberalisation text drafted by Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez. China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand all agreed to begin working with the controversial text. The four were among the leaders of the so-called G-21, which was spearheaded by ministers from Brazil and India at the World Trade Organisation meeting on the Doha round in Cancun. Differences over agriculture and "transparency" governance issues proved too much for the G-21 Cancun delegates who, led by African nations, walked out of negotiations. But in their final communique released Tuesday, the 21 leaders attending the Apec summit in Bangkok, Thailand, directed their negotiators to go back to work on the text they left behind in September, CNN reports. The leaders also gave in to a key US requirement that they do more to end corruption and to "promote transparency" in public financial management. A White House fact sheet welcomed the development, noted that it came following "US encouragement" and said: "The United States is prepared to move forward with the Doha negotiations, if all parties are ready to negotiate seriously on substance. At the same time, the United States will proceed with regional and bilateral free trade agreements." CNN noted that between them, the Apec economies have gross domestic product of more than $US18 trillion, accounting for 60 per cent of global GDP. They also handle 47 per cent of world trade. Apec includes five of the world's top 10 economies: The United States, Japan, China, Canada and Mexico, plus another four in the top 20 - South Korea, Australia, Russia.

From National Business Review, New Zealand, 21 October 2003

 

Chiefs Justice Urges Lawyers to Help Ensure Good Governance

The Chief Justice Mr. Justice George Acquah on Monday urged the members of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) to ensure that while educating the people on the need to reject military take over, they should also ensure that the Government of the day "is on track and ruling in accordance with the Constitution". Mr. Justice Acquah made the call when he opened a three-day 2003/2004 National Annual Conference of the GBA at Elmina under the theme: "Consolidating Constitutionalism In Ghana: The Role Of The Legal Profession". The Chief Justice told the Lawyers that by virtue of their expertise it was their role as members of the legal profession to ensure the establishment of a State where the Constitution was operated faithfully and with responsibility and where the administration was generally efficient and incorrupt He further exhorted them to ensure that the rights of people were not trampled upon arbitrarily, and that the citizens' legitimate needs were catered for in good faith. He contended that, even though, the members of the GBA had so far done very well in their efforts at securing sound democratic system for the people of this country, they needed to maintain and deepen their defence of freedoms and rights of the people and the rule of law.

The Chief Justice reiterated his determination to build up the image of the Judiciary, improve and modernise the justice delivery system to make the adjudicating process transparent and to create a hard working bench and supporting staff dedicated and committed to bring quality justice to the doorsteps of the people. The National president of the GBA, Mr. Paul Adu-Gyamfi said the Association had noted with deep concern, mistrust, animosity and the unhealthy relationship existing between President John Agyekum Kufuor and Former President Jerry John Rawlings. He, therefore, called on the Council of State, religious bodies and other peace-loving bodies in the country, to strive to bring them together in the interest of the nation, saying "the cat and mouse relationship existing between them does not auger well for our nascent democracy". Mr. Adu-Gyamfi also appealed to political parties and the Electoral Commission to ensure that the 2004 General Election are conducted in a peaceful and free atmosphere. On media reportage on political issues, he echoed the need for the media to be circumspect in their reportage so as not to inflame passions to disturb the peace that Ghanaians were enjoying. There were goodwill messages from the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA), Ghana Medical Association (GMA) American Embassy and Donewell Insurance Company (DIC).

The Chief Justice reiterated his determination to build up the image of the Judiciary, improve and modernise the justice delivery system to make the adjudicating process transparent and to create a hard working bench and supporting staff dedicated and committed to bring quality justice to the doorsteps of the people. The National president of the GBA, Mr. Paul Adu-Gyamfi said the Association had noted with deep concern, mistrust, animosity and the unhealthy relationship existing between President John Agyekum Kufuor and Former President Jerry John Rawlings. He, therefore, called on the Council of State, religious bodies and other peace-loving bodies in the country, to strive to bring them together in the interest of the nation, saying "the cat and mouse relationship existing between them does not auger well for our nascent democracy". Mr. Adu-Gyamfi also appealed to political parties and the Electoral Commission to ensure that the 2004 General Election are conducted in a peaceful and free atmosphere. On media reportage on political issues, he echoed the need for the media to be circumspect in their reportage so as not to inflame passions to disturb the peace that Ghanaians were enjoying. There were goodwill messages from the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA), Ghana Medical Association (GMA) American Embassy and Donewell Insurance Company (DIC).

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 30 September 2003

Setting the Stage for 'Good Governance' in Africa

In mid-September, British aid organization Oxfam published a report warning that the more the world focuses on the fight against terrorism and the problem of weapons of mass destruction, the greater will be the failure to pay sufficient attention to the plight of people caught up in conflicts in Africa. It's a thought-provoking warning. Starting on Sept. 29, Japan will play host to the third Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD III), a major Japanese diplomatic initiative. The main theme of the conference is the realization of "good governance," including democratization and the elimination of corruption. What conditions are needed to achieve that goal? I recently visited Senegal in West Africa, which is regarded as a model African nation. While more than 90 percent of the people in Senegal are Muslims, its Constitution does not specify a state religion. "Our country cherishes the tradition to live in harmony with people of other religious faiths," said Sidy L. Niass, chairman of Wal Fadjri, a leading Senegalese newspaper. "Separation of politics and religion is supported by that tradition. Radical Islamic thinking does not agree with the Senegalese people." Senegal is practically the only West African nation with a stable administration in a region plagued by civil wars. It was also one of the first African countries to introduce a multiparty political system. While they live in a multi-ethnic state, many Senegalese practice Sufism, a mystical form of Islam considered heretical by Arabs.

Although rural farmers still live hardscrabble lives under tin roofs, they seem to be enjoying a certain amount of freedom under Islamic priests known as Marabu, and are free from oppression. I also attended town meetings and saw residents openly criticize provincial governments and complain about the price of rationed well water, among other matters. A native democracy that differs from the version practiced in Western countries has taken root in Senegalese society. Of course, this does not mean that Senegal's unique Islamic model can be applied to every African country. Still, the country demonstrates what is needed to establish ``good governance'' and points to a direction for other countries to follow. What is the African problem? It is about ethnic and tribal fighting, education, AIDS and oppression. We tend to gauge the poverty of a nation by counting the number of citizens who live on $1 a day or less. But when we think about what is actually going on in Africa, we realize that such international yardsticks alone are not enough to determine the soundness of governance. Meanwhile, negotiations for a new round of trade talks of the World Trade Organization recently held in Mexico collapsed. As the failure shows, we must also not forget that the North-South problem between industrialized and developing countries is still deeply rooted.

Sudanese President Omer Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir recently visited Senegal's Goree Island, where some 20 million African slaves were taken to Europe and the United States. Al-Bashir has demanded compensation from industrialized nations, saying the prosperity of Western countries stands on the foundation of slavery, which deprived Africans of their freedom and dignity. Goree Island is the starting point of the African tragedy. No matter how much Western countries apologize, the history of slavery continues to cast a dark shadow over the North-South problem. According to the Oxfam report, last year the United Nations asked member states to provide 25 kinds of humanitarian relief, all of which were directed to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in Africa, 3 million people were killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire) over the last three years, 300,000 people were killed in Burundi in the last decade and about 40 percent of Rwanda's population was lost to a civil war that started in 1994, the report states.

A huge amount of money and personnel are being devoted to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq under the slogan of establishing "good governance." Why can't the same thing be done to help Africa? The African Union, made up of 53 countries, has sought to establish regional stability with a style of intervention that does not rely on the United Nations alone. However, it lacks the funds needed to advance the initiative. Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who is taking the lead to advance the peace process in Liberia, told me: "We do not have the means to provide pay to peacekeepers. If only we had the financial backing of the international community, Africa would be more stable. We ask the Japanese government to expand aid, including the building of infrastructure needed to establish peace." Although Japan is a major donor, it is too busy dealing with the United States to devote more attention to other important areas. TICAD III, where many African leaders will gather, will be a test for Japan to show its reliability and leadership.


From Asahi Shimbun, Japan, by Daiji Ssdamori, 28 September 2003

Support Obasanjo's Anti-corruption Crusade, Nigerians Urged

Abuja - President Olusegun Obasanjo's commitment to the anti-corruption crusade has been described as the much needed political will which absence had thwartedprevious efforts at checking corruption in the country. The President's Special Adviser on the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Sunday Onuoha, who said this in Abuja, urged Nigerians to give Obasanjo full support in the anti-corruption as well as other laudable programmes of the government. Onuoha made the statment while he was being honoured by his kinsmen in Abuja at the 2003 Item Union New Yam Festival and Reception for outstanding sons of Item Community of Bende Local Government Area of Abia State. Also honoured was a member of the House of Representatives, Mba Ajah, representing Bende Federal Constituency. Onuoha advised Nigerians to embrace the current privatisation programme as it was aimed at making hitherto unworkable government firms more efficient. He also assured that the Federal Government would be non committed to making available more infrastructure in the South East part of the country. The chairman Item Union in Abuja. John Mba, said the community was proud to have the likes of Onuoha in government, having distinguished himself in community service. He urged other indigenes of Item to emulate Onuoha and Ajah.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria, by Chesa Chesa, 6 October 2003

Corruption Reportedly Worsening

Addis Ababa - Corruption is worsening in Ethiopia and the levels are higher than in previous years, according to the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International (TI). Ethiopia was listed joint 92 on an index of 133 countries, scoring 2.5 on a scale of 10. TI, which is based in Germany, said a lack of coherent rules and regulations, red tape and poorly trained staff were contributing to corruption. "Corruption is a serious problem in Ethiopia," Jeff Lovitt from TI told IRIN. "There is a problem in developing countries because they lack strong public services." The African Union - which has pledged to stamp out corruption on the continent - estimates graft has cost Africa around US $148 billion. "Corruption is currently one of the major afflictions seriously confronting Africa," Desmond Orjiako, spokesman for the AU, told IRIN. "Good governance is part of peace and security and tackling corruption is a key part of good governance," he added. "The AU has been at the vanguard of ensuring that corruption does not spread on the continent."

In Ethiopia, the federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has been waging war against corruption in the country. Spokesman Abraham Gozguze welcomed the report and said international support to fight corruption was sorely needed in the country. "We also have to create awareness because in many cases what we are trying to do is change the mentality of people," he noted. He told IRIN that the most recent case of alleged corruption in the country involved a doctor taking a bribe to move patients up a waiting list so they could receive treatment. Other Horn of Africa countries such as Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti were not covered by the report as insufficient material was provided to enable analysis. (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks).

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 9 October 2003

Zero Tolerance For Corruption Blunted

Accra - Newspapers are also to blame for corruption perception - Information Minister, Nana Akomeah on Thursday said the initial thrust of the government's policy of "zero tolerance" for corruption seemed to have been blunted. He said that it seemed measures to stop corruption had not been comprehensive enough to deal with the root causes of the problem or powerful enough to stand the test of time. Nana Akomeah was speaking at the weekly media briefing in Accra to present Governments' assessment of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) launched by the Transparency International that ranked Ghana 72 on the index chart of the most corrupt countries in the world. Ghana dipped from a high of 3.9 in 2002 to 3.3 in 2003 on a scale of 10, meaning that, "the level of corruption in the country was increasing." He said the evidence the index presents, sowed a recurring tendency in the management of corruption in Ghana where measures put in place by new governments initially made an impact and then tapered off. "This is probably because those exposures by the new measures served as a deterrent to others who then stepped more carefully, but unfortunately not for long." The Challenge, he said, was to develop strong legal and institutional frameworks that ensured the rule of law and punished corruption ruthlessly, no matter the source. "This approach may be slow, but necessary ad-hoc measures have not had lasting impact."

He said Government's strategy to minimize corruption had been based on openness, improved public financial management and participation, adding that Government was encouraging participation through the media. Government, he said, was also keen on improving the legal framework with the review and eventual passage of the anti-corruption bills such as the Procurement Bill; Financial Administration Bill; Freedom of Information Bill and the Whistleblower Bill. The Minister said that government had streamlined revenue collection with the establishment of the Central Revenue Agencies Board. Nana Akomeah said, even though, Government was putting in many of the efforts to stop wrong-doing, the most significant initiative was the endorsement of a diagnostic study of the institutions involved in the fight against corruption. He said since the CPI report dealt with perception, it would be prudent to find out why the index changed between 2002 and 2003. Nana Akomeah said one of the causes for the perception was newspaper reports of corruption that were not borne out of professional Journalism, but purely out of malice, mischief and political propaganda. "Limiting corruption may not be a short term process, but with good leadership from Government and support of all of us the process should succeed."

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 10 October 2003

Book on Corruption in Ghana Launched

Accra - Mrs. Lisa Aubrey, a Political Scientist from Ohio University, in the United States launching a Ghanaian authored book on corruption on Friday in Accra, said those who benefited from the vice condoned it and those who did not condemned it. She said "the book talks about two-facets of corruption: One that condemns it when it does not benefit anyone and the other that condones it when it enhances one's welfare". The title of the 131-page book, written by Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, a legal practitioner and a politician is "Zero Tolerance: Public Sector Corruption in Ghana". Mrs. Aubrey described Mr. Iddrisu as an activist and a scholar who had sought to reach the height of ethical standards in society. The book looks at the interrelationship between corruption and bad governance and seeks to instil in the Ghanaian the spirit of patriotism and the need to fight against corruption, she said.

Mr. Iddrisu, who is also the National Youth Organiser of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) said the book identified institutions such as Public Procurement agencies and the Ministries, the Lands and Forestry and Trade and Industry where corruption has been found to be very real and evident. Mr. Iddrisus said, "zero tolerance for corruption is an ideal thing for this country that everybody has to fight for and it should not just be a rhetoric but rather should be popularised and efforts made to fight it. He said he defined the concept of corruption and its underlining causes in the country and offered a theoretical explanation of the criminal act. The book was dedicated to Mrs. Joyce Markham, one of the Secretaries to the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah and the first copy was auctioned for three million cedis.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 11 October 2003

Report Chronicles the Strange Acts of Corruption in the Bench

Nairobi - Court of Appeal judge A.B Shah talks to reporters as he walks out of the High Court in Nairobi. Wearing their bright red flowing robes and sheepskin wigs, Kenyan judges cut a bizarre image. They are dressed to resemble their counterparts in Britain who, in turn, take their cue from the fashions of the 17th century, or thereabouts, when it was fashionable for men to wear wigs. In a number of other countries, like the United States, judges dress in modern fashions and look less comical. But looking bizarre does not necessarily lead to strange or, one might say, eccentric behaviour. It certainly should not be linked to the twin evils of corruption and abuse of office and, in most cases, there has been no such link. But it has been found that some of the judges and magistrates alleged to be corrupt and to have thoroughly abused their offices in the past also seem to have been among the most bizarre and eccentric characters in the public eye. The Bench's "List of Shame," as many are now referring to Justice Aaron Ringera's report on judicial corruption, lifts the lid on some of the weirdest individuals ever to don a wig and a red robe in Kenya. The accusations against the judges range from accepting bribes of more than Sh15 million to sexual harassment, to the exhibition of behaviour weirder than Charles Dickens could have depicted in Bleak House. Bleak House, Dickens' ninth novel, was intended to illustrate the evils caused by long, drawn-out suits in the Courts of Chancery.

Dickens had observed the inner workings of the courts as a reporter in his youth and observed that "the one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself". The memorable story features the fictional long-running case of John Jarndyce and his being heard in the High Court of Chancery. In the book, John, owner of Bleak House, has little hope of gaining anything from it. Meanwhile, on her aunt's death, Esther Summerson is adopted by Jarndyce and becomes companion to his wards, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. Carstone has hopes that the Chancery case will make his fortune. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that Esther is the illegitimate daughter of Captain Hawdon and Lady Dedlock. When the Dedlock's lawyer, Tulkinghorn, learns of this, and tries to profit by the information, he is murdered by Lady Dedlock's former maid. Lady Dedlock flees and later dies at the gates of the cemetery where Hawdon lies buried. In the meantime, John Jarndyce has fallen in love with Esther and asked her to marry him. She consents out of respect for Jarndyce but, during the engagement, she falls in love with Allan Woodcourt. When Jarndyce learns of her feelings, he releases her from the engagement and she marries Woodcourt. The Chancery case comes to a close with court costs eating up all the estate. Carstone, who has married Ada, dies in despair.

According to the Ringera report, a copy of which the Sunday Nation got, some of the judges and magistrates were so well known by the public for their corruption that they acquired nicknames such as "the Toll Station", "the Blemish" and "the Cashbox". The accusations likely to be brought against the judges are said to range from sexual harassment to demanding and getting multi-million-shilling bribes. The allegations arise from complaints received by the Ringera committee and contained in a two-part report presented to the chief justice. While the first report was released to the media, the second report, the one that actually named names, was only released on Wednesday last week. In one instance, a judge demanded a Sh3 million bribe to dismiss a civil application. He began hearing the case by advising the respondents to change their advocates because he "did not wish to deal with the firm then representing them" and asked for the bribe to dismiss the application. The respondents agreed to pay and handed over the money in two installments Đ the first in the basement parking of the Hilton Hotel shortly after midnight on November 28, 2000, while the second installment of Sh1 million was collected by the judge from the reception of the same hotel two days later. The judge dismissed the application. In another instance, another judge committed two offences of corruption and gross misbehaviour by having a close personal relationship with counsel appearing before him who was also a director and acting chairman of the respondent's company.

In yet another case involving the same judge, it is reported the judge helped the same counsel draft pleadings, including an affidavit of a case he was hearing. In fact, one paragraph of the affidavit was in his own handwriting! It is claimed that the judge was to be paid a fee for the advice he gave in a case he was hearing. Yet another judge is likely to answer charges of lack of integrity, unethical conduct and judicial misbehaviour. The judge reportedly presided over an appeal in spite of having previously been disqualified from hearing the case because of his intimate relationship with the appellant for whom he was the legal consultant. The appellant won the case and was given damages in excess of Sh100 million. The same judge, it is alleged, was the conduit through which bribes from a prominent Kenyan were delivered to other judges - four in the Court of Appeal and two in the High Court. The same judge is also reported to have received a hefty bribe - Sh15 million - from a businessman to influence fellow judges in a case they were hearing. However, he was unable to do so and decided to repay the bribe and was still doing so in instalments. Another judge is reported to have handled Goldenberg-related cases during recess yet he was not the duty judge. It is alleged that he not only visited the business premises at night while handling the Goldenberg case, but also wrote his ruling at night and faxed it to the lawyer representing an investor involved in the case. It is claimed the judge received Sh6 million for his troubles.

In yet another instance, the same judge reportedly made a threatening phone call to the clerk of the Narok County Council after the civic authority entered a consent with the plaintiff and also grabbed 76 acres belonging to a school in the Nkorrkorri area of Narok District. He reportedly delayed judgment for five-and-a-half years, having concluded hearing a dispute in December 1997 and setting judgment day for April 2003. It is claimed that one judge had close relations with the late drug baron Ibrahim Akasha and his family. The judge was seen visiting the Akashas at home while criminal cases against them were pending before him. Among the High Court judges, one of them is alleged to have been caught red-handed in his chambers holding a bundle of notes he had just received from a rival party in a civil case. When his impartiality was questioned, he refused to disqualify himself and even threatened to jail his accuser. The judge, nicknamed Cashbox, is reported to have asked the defendant to give him Sh60,000 and a bag of millet so that he could rule in his favour. When the defendant refused to pay the bribe, the judge approached the opposing party who gave him Sh60,000. The sobriquet "Cashbox" was earned during a case he is reported to have stage-managed. The case involved a disputed piece of land which the judge was reported to be eyeing. He somehow managed to buy the land in question and have it registered in his name while the dispute was still being heard.

The story is told, for instance, of a magistrate who, while hearing a divorce case, took a fancy to the man in the case and, having made her feelings quite clear on the matter, rushed through the case and allegedly began living with the man even before the process was complete! Another magistrate forced public service commuter mini-buses to fuel only at his petrol station and threatened those who defied that their vehicles would be impounded. Another magistrate is known to cite people for contempt if they forgot to bow to his court and to acknowledge his presence. The usual punishment for such forgetfulness on the part of the offending person is a brief stint in jail or, if the magistrate is feeling lenient, a fine. Obviously obsessed with having people bow before him, this magistrate once committed a police corporal to jail for not lowering his head as a mark of respect when they met at a grocer's. The same magistrate is reported to have demanded Sh20,000 from a suspect to get him off the charge sheet. The suspect, unusually for a Kenyan, was aware of his legal rights. He refused to pay the bribe and immediately wrote to the Attorney-General with a request that the case be referred to a different magistrate. When the magistrate found out what the suspect had done, he decided to humiliate him by having him frogmarched around the courts and then assaulted him in front of a group of police officers.

Another rapacious magistrate would visit the homes of suspects and complainants to assess their material worth before deciding on the amount of money he would extort from them while deciding their cases. The infamous magistrate, known simply by everyone as the "Toll Station," was so named for once having transferred the operations of the traffic court to his house where he is alleged to have received bribes from motorists to let them off. The same magistrate is also infamous for visiting restaurants and cafes, ordering food and drinks and then, when presented with the bill, pointing out a seemingly innocent customer and ordering that they pay. Woe betide any who did not. It was possible they could find themselves brought before him on trumped-up charges. Few, if any, ever refused to pay for the magistrate's food and beverage. This magistrate, who was quite obviously notorious and acting with impunity, was also known to conduct impromptu fund-raisers at which all traders in the vicinity were forced to make "donations" of Sh2,000 each. He was reported to have received a Sh3,000 bribe to release a person who had been committed to civil jail by another court. The magistrate was also reported to often share a beer with court clerks and secretaries while loudly discussing court matters at a bar or other social place. Another judge was said to be putting up a building. He would reportedly have litigants organised to buy and transport materials to the site and, depending on how much they brought, they would have their matters decided for them speedily and in their favour.

The other way to get ahead in his court was to hire a certain lawyer, who just happened to be the judge's relative and who always won the cases he argued in his court. This crafty fellow is said to have once conducted a fund-raiser for his wife during which litigants were invited to contribute "generously". Another story is told of how the same judge stayed at a hotel and ran up a bill of Sh56,000 which he refused to pay. When the management sued, he threatened the process server who, apparently, also doubled as an assessor in his court, with a fine of Sh1,000 or six months in prison. Bizarre and darkly amusing as the antics of the judges and magistrates described might be, it must not be forgotten that Kenyans take the issue seriously. Therapists will advise their couch bound patients that admitting the problem exists is the first step to sorting it out. In the case of the Kenyan Judiciary, for years it was visible to the public and others on the outside looking in, that the whole system was rotten to the core. For whatever reason few, if any in the Judiciary, were ready to admit that there were any problems and so nothing was done about anything. However, about two years ago, the stench on the bench had begun to assault the nostrils of a few conscientious judges and magistrates, for whom turning a blind eye to corruption was no longer an option.

In July 2001, after a very public bust up between three Justices of the Appeal Court during which one of them, Mr. Richard Otieno Kwach, questioned the integrity of two of his colleagues, A.B. Shah and P. Tunoi, the then newspaper columnist, now official Kenyan anti-graft czar, Mr. John Githongo, wrote: "The process of judicial reform in Kenya began some time ago. Indeed, the most talked-about report on this subject was actually authored by one of the judges involved in the latest flare-up. The Report of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, dubbed the Kwach Report, spoke of lengthy case delays, limited access by the population, lax security, inadequate accommodation, corrupt practices, cumbersome procedures, questionable recruitment and promotional procedures and general lack of training, weak or non-existent sanctions for unethical behaviour and inequitable budgets. "The Judiciary, it said, was able to meet the expectations of the private sector and the public only to a limited extent. The Judiciary is the station of final recourse for wananchi (citizens). A weak or pliable Judiciary undermines the rule of law in the most fundamental way." With the Kwach Report, someone from the inside seemed finally to be admitting that there was a problem. Later, in March last year, there was the then highly controversial visit by a group of legal experts from the Commonwealth. At the end of their visit, these jurors called for a drastic shake-up of the Judiciary.

The Commonwealth group urged a "short, sharp shock" to rid the Judiciary of sleaze. Their most drastic recommendation was that a new constitution requires that all judges be asked to resign to pave the way for a clean slate. This call was later taken up by sections of the Constitution of Kenya Review Committee who had actually hosted the Commonwealth jurors. The then Chief Justice, Mr. Bernard Chunga, on hearing the recommendations of the experts, furiously retorted: "Experts for what, on what, about what?" It remains one of his best-remembered quotes. At the time, Mr. Chunga, who was himself hounded out of office early this year after a tribunal was set up to investigate allegations against him, accused the team of "acting on rumours and cheap gossip." Led by Mr. Justice George Kanyeihamba of the Uganda Supreme Court, the Commonwealth team comprised Mr. Justice Damian Lubuva of the Tanzania Appeal Court, Lady Justice Yvonne Mokgoro of the South Africa Constitutional Court, Mr. Justice Robert Sharpe of the Ontario Appeal Court, Canada, and Prof Ed Ratushny of the University of Ottawa, Canada.

In their 64-page report, they said: "The air is full of allegations of corruption, incompetence and inefficiency. If the Judiciary is to carry out its function in an acceptable manner, the air must be cleared." The former CJ claimed that the Commonwealth report had tried to undermine the Judiciary. He added: "A visitor cannot come here, stay at a lavish five-star hotel and tell me that my judicial system is at a cross-roads after only two days of entertainment." When presenting his report to the current Chief Justice, Mr. Evan Gicheru, Justice Ringera was colourful in his description of the corruption dragon that has eaten into the judicial community and warned: "It is bound to snort, kick and jump and even attack, for corruption always fights back." He made a point of not just stating the facts as he had found them to be, but also of warning the parties that appointed him that only half the work had been done. As the Ringera Report noted, court registries are a haven of corrupt court officials. Lawyers have contributed to turning them into dens of thieves. Inflation of court filing fees is rampant and this usually happens through collusion between advocates and registry clerks. Shadows of Charles Dickens' Jarndyce and Jarndyce again?

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Mwangi Githahu, 20 October 2003

New Members of Liberian Government Must Be Corruption-Free, UN Emphasizes

United Nations (New York) - With Liberia currently in the process of selecting members of its transitional government and legislative assembly, the United Nations today underscored the need to choose honest and qualified professionals. Those appointed or elected to the new government must be "individuals of high moral character and integrity, with untainted past records," the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said in a statement released in Monrovia. At the current critical juncture, "every effort should be made to ensure that all members of the new government are appointed or elected based upon their professional abilities, and are those who will place the interests of the people of Liberia ahead of any personal interests," UNMIL stressed. The statement also pointed out that the UN Security Council as well as international donors are closely following developments in Liberia with a view to reinforcing support for its peace and reconstruction efforts. "Any setbacks at this early stage could adversely affect international commitment and future support," the Mission warned.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 21 October 2003

'Corruption Denial is Electioneering'

President Thabo Mbeki was trying to "recapture lost ground" before next year's election by telling religious leaders that there was no government corruption in the arms deal, the United Democratic Movement said on Wednesday. UDM president Bantu Holomisa said in a statement that Mbeki was in a state of denial. "He seems to be living in a state of denial if he can make such a claim whilst an independent structure of his government, the Scorpions, has said that it has prima facie evidence of corruption against Deputy President Zuma," Holomisa said. He added that it would not help to be "disingenuous" about the allegations against Deputy President Jacob Zuma. "Religious leaders should ignore any such claim of propriety in the arms deal and dismiss it for the hogwash it is. The arms deal is a festering sore that should have been excised with a proper investigation."

On Tuesday, Mbeki gave an assurance to religious leaders that there was no corruption in the government, with particular reference to the multi-million rand arms deal. "The message was that the government is not involved in any corruption," National Religious Leaders Forum chairman Aswhin Trikamjee told reporters in Pretoria. "The president made it a point of assuring religious leaders that there is nothing wrong with the present government." Mbeki used a meeting of a presidential working group set up to promote interaction between the government and religious communities to dismiss the notion that there was a "big crisis" within the government over corruption. "The religious leaders were very, very satisfied and extremely grateful to the president for having taken them into confidence in this whole debate." On the arms deal, he said Mbeki rejected claims of corruption involving the primary contract, in which the government was involved.

From IAfrica South African News, South Africa , 22 October 2003

Corruption Probe Slows University Merger

Johannesburg - Sharda Naidoo, Education And Tourism Correspondent - Asmal delays naming interim council and name of institution pending Durban-Westville findings - Education Minister Kader Asmal lifted the lid on the extent of corruption problems at the University of Durban-Westville (UDW) yesterday by delaying the announcement of the interim council and name for the new super university in KwaZulu-Natal. Asmal said he would only make a decision and gazette the merger between UDW and Natal University pending the findings of a ministerial probe into governance issues and mismanagement at UDW. Transnet chairman Bongani Khumalo was appointed by Asmal as an independent assessor last month to handle these matters, following the suspension of two senior academics, Kanthan Pillay and Anand Singh. The report will be finalised next week. UDW's administration has for years been marred by conflict between senior academics and administrators, with recent incidents derailing merger negotiations with Natal University.

Although Asmal gave assurances that the merger would still go ahead on January 1 next year, his hesitation to decide on a name signalled that the marriage of the two institutions was heading for a stormy start. "The consequences of what the assessor will say will influence the decision on a name and interim council for the new university," said Asmal. He said the interim council could not be set up because of the many issues at hand, including continuous disagreements between the two parties on the name of the merged institution. Natal University had proposed that the merged institution be called University of KwaZulu- Natal. UDW suggested three names Walter Sisulu National University, Eastern Seaboard University of SA and King Shaka National University. Asmal was mum on which of the above was likely to be chosen, but the names of the other new universities suggested that geographical information was a deciding factor in the final pick.

Asmal also refused to preempt the findings of the probe, and how it would affect plans for the imminent merger. "It would be unfortunate and insulting to Dr Khumalo to anticipate the findings of his report," he reiterated. Despite Asmal keeping tightlipped on the possible outcomes of the investigation, evidence of fraud and several allegations of corruption have surfaced in recent months. These include UDW's former principal, Prof Mapule Ramashala, being accused of borrowing R70m from Investec Bank and then placing R69,3m in an offshore account in 1998 without the knowledge of the university's council. It also emerged this month that UDW principal Dr Saths Cooper, had been overpaid R126666 since January an overpayment of R15843 every month. Another high-ranking member of the university's management, Prof Dasarath Chetty, received a once-off overpayment of R5000, while the salary of a third member of the institution's executive is also under scrutiny.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 22 October 2003

George Bush Commends Zambia for Fight Against Corruption

Lusaka - United States President George W. Bush has congratulated President Levy Mwanawasa on efforts to fight corruption in Zambia. Mr. Bush has described president Mwanawasa's fight against corruption as inspiring not only to the Zambian people but by the entire African continent. The US president said this in a congratulatory message to president Mwanawasa on Zambia's 39th Independence Anniversary which falls on Friday, October 24. President Mwanawasa's principal private secretary Jack Kalala confirmed to ZANA in a statement that Mr. Bush has also wished the people of Zambia success in meeting the objective of fighting corruption as well as other challenges. Mr. Kalala also disclosed that United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan has described the occasion of Zambia's National Day as a crucial time in the life of the UN.

Mr. Annan however, appealed to the international community to redouble efforts in its fight against poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and terrorism in order to make the world a better place to live in. "From poverty to pollution, from AIDS to armed conflict and terrorism, the international community must redouble its efforts if we are to be bequeath to our children a world of choices, not constraints, part of Mr. Annan's message read. Mr. Annan further expressed the UN gratitude regarding Zambia's commitment and support towards the UN global mission of peace and stability. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has also hailed Zambia for playing a significant role in the establishment of the regional body. Comesa Secretary General Erastus Mwencha commended Zambia for contribution made towards maintaining and building of the role of Comesa. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Libya's Muammar Al-Gaddafi and Togolese president Gnassingbe Eyadema have also wished president Mwanawasa personal good health and prosperity for the people of Zambia.

From Zambia News Agency, Zambia, 22 October 2003

Corruption Saps a Rich Tradition in Kenya

Nairobi - Culture of Dishonesty Leads Government to Consider Ban on Community Fundraisers - Batha Awino's smile was as big as the wad of cash in her hand. And her pleas to contribute more money for the funeral costs of Florence Aduor, a former teacher, were as silky-smooth as her flowing, cream-colored skirt. "You can't take your bread without the butter!" she cried to a group of about 40 friends of the departed, who were sitting in plastic chairs in the garden of a Nairobi pub, looking nervous, clutching their purses and glancing at one another. One friend smiled weakly, stood up and handed over the equivalent of $5. Awino swooped in on her like a preacher honoring a generous worshiper. "This nice lady is called Alice, and well, she is a friend indeed," she sang out, raising her eyebrows and shaking her head in approval. By the end of the night, the fundraiser, known as a harambee, generated just over the equivalent of $1,000. It was one of several such meetings taking place that night in the Garden Square Restaurant. But the newly elected government is considering banning these community fundraising parties, a cornerstone of life in Kenya. Officials say they became a tool for corruption and graft under former president Daniel arap Moi, as government workers routinely began demanding donations for funerals, school fees and weddings, or for the dispensation of birth certificates, licenses or yellow fever cards.

And political parties had begun to use harambees for their own purposes, ostensibly to promote community development. But the money donated for schools and hospitals often disappeared, officials said. People also felt compelled to give money, goats and cows at harambees lest they be passed over for promotions and raises at work, according to the government. "The harambee spirit is an avenue of corruption," said Mwalimu Mati of Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog group. "There is a lack of accountability, like wedding collections and then the couple do not get married, or exaggerated illnesses. Harambees now have a culture of dishonesty. Not all of them are like this, but something went very wrong along the way." Kenya's founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, introduced the community parties as a way to bridge the gap between poor and rich in a country without a state welfare system. Under Moi's 24-year rule, harambees became a way of funding such basic services as water wells and infant health care, along with college, funeral costs and community events. The word harambee - derived from two Gujarati words, one meaning "hail" and the other the name of a Hindu goddess - is part of Kenya's coat of arms and, as such, embossed on the country's currency. "Harambee" is the national motto and is seen as defining the pulling-together, self-help spirit of a poor country.

There is a Harambee Avenue in downtown Nairobi. The office of the president is called Harambee House. The pledge of allegiance once included the word. "We don't have to kill our communities by saying that harambees be abolished. It's what makes a strong and united community where people can rely on each other," said Luke Ouma, a senior lecturer at Kenyatta University who was attending the harambee for Aduor. He said Aduor's children could not afford to hold a funeral on their own. Some gatherings have food, others do not. There was none at this one and guests wandered away to the bar occasionally to buy a beer. The restaurant is paid a small amount for the space; the fee depends on the size of the group. The owners said about 50 fundraisers take place each Thursday through Sunday; tables are marked with small pieces of white paper indicating who the harambee is for. Invitations can be as informal as word of mouth or as public as a newspaper ad. People know they are invited for the purpose of giving money, and they give with pride, as a sign of wealth, proponents of the custom said. "Many of our present leaders, professors and economists are products of harambees," said K. B. Makulae, a teacher who favors the practice because many school costs are paid with the fundraisers. "Harambees are a public siren to assist. The government should just find a way to regulate them." When the government formed a team this summer to study banning the practice, the issue triggered a national debate on radio talk shows, in the papers and even in schools.

From Washington Post, DC, by Emily Wax, 24 October 2003

Government Launches Investigation into Corruption Allegations

Government said yesterday that it has launched an investigation into allegations of corruption in the mass cocoa spraying exercise. "For the recent report in the Western Region, we have asked the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) to move in and they have moved in," Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo told newsmen during questions and answers time at the weekly meet the press briefing in Accra. "If we find out people have cheated they will be punished according to the law." Osafo-Maafo said. The government introduced the mass cocoa spraying exercise in 2001 as a form of assistance to the farmers. As part of the exercise the government, through the COCOBOD, put aside ˘341 billion to purchase chemicals for the exercise. But the agents undertaking the exercise were allegedly demanding money from the farmers for the services which had already been paid for by the state and should have been provided free of charge. Others were also engaged in diverting the chemicals to neighbouring, Cote d'Ivoire for sale. The institution of a probe followed The Chronicle's front-page report about two week ago that a section of the farmers in the Juabeso-Bia District, one of the major producing areas, had been denied the benefit of the exercise since its inception two years ago.

The Chronicle, quoting the local chief farmer, said some of the chemicals meant for the spraying had mysteriously landed in neighbouring Cote d'lvoire. The Chronicle found out that even though the government provided the chemicals and other logistics required for the success of the exercise, some officials handling the project in the region diverted the chemicals thereby denying farmers access to them. However, the minister admitted at the conference yesterday that there had been problems with the exercise because of the dubious activities of some people who wanted to take advantage of the farmers' need of the service. Acknowledging that similar problems existed in the ministries, he said the question should be how to deal with the Ghanaian attitude toward such practices and not leaving it on the Cocoa Industry alone. On alleged politicization of the exercise, Osafo-Maafo said cocoa beans did not bear the colours of political parties and therefore it was not in the interest of the COCOBOD to use segregation in the mass cocoa spraying exercise based on partisan politics.

From Ghanaian Chronicle, Ghana, 24 October 2003

How to Win the Anti-corruption War!

That President Olusegun Obasanjo is hell-bent on waging war on the seemingly intractable cankerworm, called corruption, is no longer news. Indeed, no day passes without the President or one of his aides reminding Nigerians that this administration is unwavering in its battle to rid the polity of the cankerworm. And, not a few Nigerians, particularly the downtrodden, appear to be solidly behind Obasanjo in the crusade. But then, the people are gradually becoming disillusioned, in fact, frustrated, because several allegations and/or accusations have been made against known persons, but nothing concrete appears to have been done to get to the root of these allegations or accusations. Perhaps, the most striking is the allegation by the FCT Minister, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, that senators Ibrahim Mantu and Jonathan Zwingina demanded N54 million bribe from him to ensure confirmation of his nomination as a minister. Now, while the two senators denied making such a demand from the minister, he is insisting that the duo are being economical with the truth. Somewhere along the line, the Senate mandated the Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora led Senate Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee to probe the allegation. The committee invited the accuser and the accused to a public hearing, where both sides maintained their stands.

The Mamora committee submitted its report, reflecting evidence adduced by both parties, without any declarative recommendations; because, according to it, the committee, was not given any term of reference to do so. Fair enough. But the Senate, in its wisdom, returned a verdict of "not guilty" on its accused members; stressing that, since el-Rufai had failed to produce any documentary evidence to back up his allegations, it would not be proper to find any fault with Mantu and Zwingina on mere allegations. Another fair decision, you will agree. To win the anti-corruption war, Obasanjo must be interested in every allegation made against every person in government or in the public serviceConversely, however, the Nigerian public would have expected a more painstaking investigation into this grave allegation. And, the reasons are legion. First, we all know that if any minister had been "forced" to cough out millions of naira to smoothen his or her passage into office, such a minister is literally licensed to go into office and plunder the people's treasury. Or, where will he or she recoup the bribe from? One may ask. We can as well add: "Where did we expect the "donors" to find the millions to pave their ways into office?"

These questions and many relevant others are not supposed to go without appropriate answers in a society craving for probity and accountability. Almost simultaneously, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, the Minister of Works, alerted the nation on the apparent fraudulent deals in the maintenance of federal roads in the South-East zone. He asserted that Nigerian engineers in his ministry connived with contractors, who collected huge amounts from public coffers, and did not perform but were certified to have done well after some money had passed round. Yet, some Ndigbo shouted blue murder and later got the Fedral Government to re-award the contracts for the maintenance of some of the roads; the same for which millions (if not billions) of naira had already been paid to some "ghost contractors" without nothing to show for it. Now, all these allegations are there unverified and we continue as if nothing has happened. Do you still ask why the ordinary Nigerian is frustrated?

The ordinary Nigerian hates nobody; but he hates a system which appears to shield the highly-placed to his detriment. I really sympathise with President Obasanjo because he is no longer a military leader, who can do things with automatic alacrity. But even then, he has a duty to oil the machinery to prosecute his anti-corruption war effectively. He and his PDP must convince us that we need to make more sacrifices to take this country to the proverbial promised land. But not when political office holders and top civil servants are dipping their dirty hands into our Commonwealth and yet the people are forced to make sacrifices to boost the economy. To win the anti-corruption war, Obasanjo must be interested in every allegation made against every person in government or in the public service. He must insist on thorough investigation of every accusation; not only to get to the root, but also to convince the people that the much-touted anti-corruption war is not a battle of the tongue or one on paper. The nation waits impatiently. God bless Nigeria.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria, by Dele Odebiyi, 30 October 2003

Anti-Corruption Body Wants Information Law

Kampala - The Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) has called for an urgent law to allow the public access information as one way to stop corruption. The ACCU coordinator, Lydia Bakaki, said, "The Government must present a bill in Parliament about access to information. We want information which even the semi-illiterate will be able to access." Byakaki said this during a press conference on the anti-corruption week organised by civil society organisations at the National Theatre in Kampala on Friday. The week meant to create awareness against corruption started on October 26 and will run until November 2. "You cannot fight corruption if you don't have the figures. The amount of money sent to a district must be pinned on the notice board and Government officials must be able to account for it," Bakaki said. She said public participation regarding the Poverty Eradication Action Plan and the local government have not been effectively realised due to the old fashioned, restrictive and secretive laws.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Immaculate Tumwesigye, 30 October 2003

Fish Ban Lifting Temporary, to Check Corruption, Says Cheeye

Kampala - President Yoweri Museveni lifted the ban on catching immature fish because law enforcement officers were using it to extort money from fish dealers. ISO's director of economic monitoring Teddy Sseezi Cheeye yesterday said the President's directive was a temporary measure. "President Yoweri Museveni did not lift the ban with the aim of hurting the fishing industry in the long run, but as a temporary measure to smash a racket by corrupt law enforcement officials from the fisheries department," he said in a statement. He said some officers were making more than sh100m a week by selling impounded fish. The announcement to lift the ban followed discussions between the President and members of the Fish Processors and Exporters Association in Soroti recently. The fish processors told the President that despite the ban on small fish in Uganda, there were no such restrictions in neighbouring countries. Cheeye said the law enforcers were supposed to ensure use of the right fishing gear on the lake but they instead chose to wait on roads and ambush trucks full of fish which they confiscate.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Joyce Namutebi, 29 October 2003

 

Amend Constitution to Empower Anti-Corruption Commission

Participants at a roundtable yesterday called for constituting an independent, powerful and effective Anti-Corruption Commission free from political influence. "Form powerful, effective and independent Anti-Corruption Commission for its proper functioning by bringing amendment to the Constitution," they suggested. They said the proposed Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) should be given constitutional protection through amendment to the Constitution so that no political government can remove any member of it or curb its authority in future. They observed that much of the periphery and authority of the proposed Commission had been curtailed in the draft Anti-Corruption Commission Bill. "If this bill is passed by parliament, the proposed Commission will never be a powerful and effective institution." The participants also said the bill was drafted by the government in such a manner that the bi-partisan approach and the participation of civil society have not been ensured in the proposed Anti-Corruption Commission. The dialogue on "Necessity of An Independent Anti-Corruption Commission and Role of the Bureau of Anti-Corruption" was organised by the Council for National Agenda (CNA) in cooperation with The New Nation. Former Advisor to the Caretaker Government Justice Latifur Rahman addressed the dialogue as the chief guest. With former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and CNA Chairman Justice Mohammad Abdur Rouf in the chair, the dialogue was also addressed by Co-Chairman of CNA Justice Sultan Hossain Khan and Chairman of the Editorial Boards of The New Nation and the Daily Ittefaq and Executive President of CNA Barrister Mainul Hosein.

The dialogue was participated by Chairman of the Trustee Board of the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Professor Khan Sarwar Murshid, TIB Trustee Board Member Professor Dr Muzaffar Ahmad, former State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Awami League leader Abul Hasan Chowdhury, former Advisor to the Caretaker Government Syed Manzur Elahi, former Chairman of the Press Council of Bangladesh Justice Habibur Rahman Khan, Advisor to the BNP Chairperson Ambassador MM Rezaul Karim, Chairman of the Privatisation Commission Enam Ahmed Chowdhury, Chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies (BIISS) Ambassador MR Osmany, Abdul Mannan, MP and Dr Mushfiqur Rahman, MP of BNP, GM Quader, MP of Jatiya Party, former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University Professor Emajuddin Ahmad, former Secretary and Director-General of the Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAC) Dr Shah Abdul Hannan, Chairman of Sonali Bank Professor Dr Mahbub Ullah, Vice-Chancellor of Bangladesh Open University (BOU) Professor M Ershadul Bari, Maj Gen (Retd) Imamuzzaman, Brig (Retd) M Shakhawat Hossain, journalist Gias Kamal Chowdhury and Professor KM Mohsin of University Grants Commission (UGC). Justice Latifur Rahman said the proposed Anti-Corruption Commission should be headed by honest, impartial and dynamic personalities of the society.

He said initiative has been taken to form the Anti-Corruption Commission as the existing BAC is longer effective. "But the question is who are going to the chairman and members of this Commission," he asked. Justice Latifur Rahman, also the former Chief Justice of Bangladesh, suggested that the selection committee for the appointment of chairman and members should be free from political influence so that honest and good people could join it. Besides, necessary steps should be taken so that the Commission has adequate financial capability and it can function freely. He also observed that the executive government was facing difficulties to work impartially due to lack of democratic political culture in the country. Justice Abdur Rouf said whatever the selection process proposed in the draft bill, all should accept it. "Let us allow the selection first and then see what happens." He said corruption in Bangladesh would go down when the colonial administrative system was changed. "It takes a file to move to 26 desks to get approval in Bangladesh, where it takes a file to go through three desks in England to get approval," he said. Professor Khan Sarwar Murshid said the proposed Anti-Corruption Commission must be an independent and effective body "if we want to make it functional and meaningful." He said the BAC has totally failed to play it proper role. It has no significant suo moto prosecution authority. All the governments in Bangladesh have used the BAC directly or indirectly. The BAC has to get permission from the upper level of the government to file a case against anyone, which is a major impediment to its functioning.

Moreover, Professor Murshid said there is no accountability inside the BAC. There is no scope to monitor the corruption inside the BAC itself and take action accordingly. Referring to the selection committee proposed in the draft bill, he said that the composition of selection committee did not seem meaningful to him. The chairman and members of this Commission can be appointed by three judges of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Barrister Mainul Hosein said no country needed Anti-Corruption Commission for dealing with corruption. "In our socio-political situation, we must have a powerful and independent Anti-Corruption Commission for keeping our political leaders free from corruption," he said. Barrister Mainul said when politics is free from corruption the political leaders themselves can take effective measures for restraining corruption of others. "It is true that there is corruption in developed countries also. But there corruption of political leaders are not forgiven. Even small cases of corruption of political leaders are viewed with seriousness. They face corruption cases no matter how small the corruption. The people even do not spare their Presidents or Prime Ministers," he said. Prof Muzaffar Ahmad said the authority of recruiting the employees of the Commission should be given to the Commission itself. The Commission will employ its staff on contract basis. Otherwise, hiring and firing would not be possible. Besides, the staff should be provided with handsome remuneration.

He said the TIB proposed a legal team for investigation of the cases of the Commission. But the good lawyers will not be available unless they are given attractive remuneration. Prof Ahmad said it takes one to six years to get permission from the Prime Minister's office to file any case. Punishment of any corruption case must be deterrent. Moreover, the effectiveness of the country's legal and judicial systems must be strengthened. Shah Abdul Hannan said when he was the DG of BAC, the then President intervened in one or two cases. "But the President or the Prime Minister should refrain from intervening in the affairs of BAC," he said. He said the corruption of political leaders must be brought down at any cost to save the nation. "If the politicians, ministers and secretaries do not indulge in corrupt practices, there will also be no corruption in the Customs department," he said. Justice Habibur Rahman Khan said the chairman and members of the Commission must be patriotic. He said the Commission must be independent to function properly. "If the selection authority of the Commission is given to politicians, it will get destroyed at the very initial stage."

Prof Emajuddin Ahmad said the Anti-Corruption Commission should be kept above all controversies. "Given the situation in the country, there is no alternative to it and we must have to pay attention how best we can make it meaningful." He said corruption is confined to only five per cent people of the country, while the 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line do not get involve in corruption. He also regretted that a consensus was yet to be developed among the two major political parties of the country. Ambassador MR Osmany said it is impossible to contain corruption even if three "angels" are made members of the Anti-Corruption Commission. "Even if we want to contain financial corruption in the country, the head of the government has to show courage and honesty," he said. Prof Mahbub Ullah said the main source of corruption in Bangladesh is foreign aid. "We have so limited resources that the scopes of corruption is much less here," he said. Maj Gen (Retd) Imamuzzaman said it is not important who are going to give appointment to the chairman and members of the Anti-Corruption Commission. Rather, it is important that who are going to be appointed as the members of the proposed Anti-Corruption Commission. SM Al-Hosayni said the Anti-Corruption Commission must have a self-controlled budget so that they could determine what logistic supports they needed. He said if the Anti-Corruption Commission members are appointed by the politicians, it would never be able to function independently.© Copyright 2003 by The New Nation.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, 1 October 2003

Solomons Corruption Probe Underway

The Australian-led intervention force in Solomon Islands has defended its progress on tackling official corruption. Head of the Regional Assistance Mission Nick Warner, speaking on Solomon Islands' national radio, said an audit of the government and public accounts had begun by advisers and personnel installed into key ministries. Politicians and community leaders had accused the Mission of not tackling corruption. Mr. Warner said action would be taken if there had been any misappropriation of funds within government by public servants or parliamentarians.

From ABC Online, Australia, 1 October 2003

J&K the Second State to Launch E-governance

Srinagar - Jammu and Kashmir became the second state in the country after Andhra Pradesh, to introduce video conferencing facility and e-governance in government administration. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who launched the facilities on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, told mediapersons that it would help in improving efficiency and aid effective monitoring and supervising of works in all the regions of the state. He said it would not have any bearing on the darbar move as the 172-year old practice would continue to be an effective arrangement for integration of the state. He inaugurated the video conferencing system by speaking to Ministers and officials in Jammu, Leh and Nuyoma from the secretariat in Srinagar. The facility, created with the help of NIC would be extended in phases to all district headquarters in the state beginning with far-flung districts of Kupwara, Poonch and Doda. It is expected to help the senior officers at Secretariat to monitor development schemes at district level, listen to public grievances and interact with locals. It would also cut administration travel time and costs besides bringing efficiency in work culture and enabling departments to follow up cases with Central government ministries.

The Chief Minister, held a conference with Ministers for Social Welfare, Rural Development, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Information Technology, Chairman of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council and senior government officials, who were in Jammu and discussed various issues. He enquired about the sanctioning of new anganwari centres by the Union government, about the progress on the beautification and creation of parking lots in Jammu city. He was informed that necessary action was being taken on the issues with work in progress on development of parks, walkways and public convenience facilities. The Chief Minister also spoke to the local MLA and other officials in Leh congratulating them on receiving the highest tourist traffic this year and enquiring about the current tourist flow, which he was informed was satisfactory.

The state capitals have also been connected to Nuyoma, a far-flung area of Ladakh, through the facility. The SDM Nuyoma apprised the Chief Minister about development activities in the area. On the occasion, the Chief Minister also inaugurated "smart gov," a facility for e-governance in the Secretariat, consisting of the Central Information System (CIS) and the Departmental Information System (DIS) and fully computerising common applications like payrolls, leave, audit, monitoring of plan schemes, assets management, court cases and personnel information system. Tata consultancy, which is executing the smart gov, said that the objective was to integrate technology to deliver electronic work place for better efficiency. In the first phase, working of 5 departments- chief minister's office, science and technology, information technology, finance and general administration, have been put on the e-governance. The system is designed to regulate the file movement on a priority basis and incorporates concepts like knowledge bank, work flow automation and electronic files.

From Sify, India, 2 October 2003

Anti-corruption Watchdog Raids MP's Office

There has been a raid by officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on the offices of New South Wales Upper House MP Peter Breen. Around six or seven officers from the NSW anti-corruption watchdog have this afternoon swooped on the parliamentary offices of Reform the Legal System Party MP Peter Breen. Witnesses say a parliamentary IT expert was called in to provide help with downloading a number of computer files and many more hard copy files were also taken away for further investigation. The raid took about two hours. A spokeswoman for Mr. Breen said only "no comment" when asked about the raid. The ABC understands that ICAC officers this week interviewed a staffer in Mr. Breen's office as well as staffers from the offices of the Democrats and the Shooters Party. Today's raid comes after last month's resignation of fellow Upper House MP Malcolm Jones, who was found to have corruptly misused parliamentary entitlements amounting to around $40,000.

FromABC Online, Australia, 3 October 2003

Bangladesh Delays Formation of Anti-Corruption Watchdog

Dhaka - While there were a reported 874 corruption cases in Bangladesh between January and June 2003, the government's longstanding promise of establishing an independent anti-corruption body, remains mired in controversy. Last week's report on corruption by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), based on press reports over the last six months, underlines the urgency for setting up such a commission. According to the report, corruption related cases between January and June 2003 numbered 874, with 216 making specific mention of financial losses totalling around US $one billion. Remarks TIB Chairman, Professor Khan Sarwar Murshid, "As in the past, the police department tops the list in terms of the number of corruption cases, but in terms of devouring the sum, the taxation department outperformed all." About 37.3 per cent of corruption occurred in the areas of direct and indirect taxes, followed by the police at 22.4 per cent, the education department at 12.9 per cent, local government at 10.1 per cent and health and family welfare at around 6.6 per cent. The existing anti-corruption body - Bureau of Anti Corruption (BAC) - that works directly under Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, was termed a toothless watchdog a decade ago. The BAC's track record proves it mainly serves as a political weapon for the ruling party against the Opposition. But with graft continuing to spirla, the government was forced to begin drafting a Bill for an independent anti-corruption commission two years ago.

Due to heavy pressure from civil society activists and international donors, the draft was scheduled to be completed in April. But on one excuse or another, the government continues to delay it. Members of civil society and social watchdogs who studied the draft, express deep misgivings about its effectiveness and independence. They feel the proposed commission will only widen the scope for crooks to get away scot-free. "We fear the Commission will never be able to function freely if its members are appointed by persons who may face corruption charges in future," notes former cabinet secretary Mujibul Haq. Haq is referring to the proposed two positions of the six-member team, who will be entrusted with recruitment. These two positions will be filled by two political representatives, Finance Minister, M Saifur Rahman and Law Minister, Moudud Ahmed. Ironically, both these worthies are accused of graft in cases filed at different times. "The recruitment body of the Commission should be headed by the Chief Justice, and not by a minister," stresses TIB chief, Khan Sarwar Murshid. Despite such criticism, the government was ready to send the draft Bill for the commission to Parliament last month. It refrained from doing so at the last moment. Explains Law Minister Moudud Ahmed, "There has been a lot of criticism on the Bill. In this context, we decided to seek the opinion of experts and amend parts of it if necessary."

According to Ahmed, the draft envisages that the commission will be empowered to take steps against ministers, state ministers, MPs, other public representatives and government officials of any tier. The commission members will have a four-year term, during which they could only be removed by the Supreme Judicial Council comprising the chief justice and two senior members of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. But different organizations including the TIB say the Bill is riddled with loopholes. Leading Bangladesh lawyer who drafted the country' Constitution, Dr Kamal Hossain believes the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2003 lacks in two aspects. "It does not mention an independent prosecution department," he points out. "Besides, the Commission will have to depend on the government for funds. This will affect its functioning." Even the BAC, to be abolished after the creation of the Anti-Corruption Commission, is critical about it. In a confidential report sent to the Cabinet late last month, the BAC offers an interesting insight. It compares the jurisdiction of the proposed Commission with its own, concluding that the Commission will be infinitely weaker.

The BAC report notes that although the BAC filed 2,632 graft cases in the last three years, the commission will fail to lodge even 2,270 such cases, as its authority has been eroded by the removal of certain laws. In addition, it will be unable to press charges against bureaucrats, customs officials and bankers, who are often accused of widespread corruption. Worse, while the BAC operates under 16 fully-fledged laws and 47 sections of the Bangladesh Penal Code, the commission will have only one fully-fledged law and use only 14 Penal Code sections. The sections of the Penal Code not included in the commission's jurisdiction, include cheating, forging court documents and property embezzlement and misappropriation. "That means the definition of corruption has been narrowed," the report says. Former adviser of the caretaker government and ex-inspector general of police ASM Shahjahan notes, "The proposed Bill should be discussed in detail in Parliament, with the Opposition participating in the discussion." Currently, the government is engaged in eliciting the opinions of concerned pressure groups on the proposed Bill. It is uncertain when it will be amended and prepared for approval in Parliament.

From OneWorld, UK, by Sharier Khan, 6 October 2003

GMA Downplays RP'S Corruption Ranking

Manila - President Arroyo yesterday tried to downplay the recent report of the Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) which showed that corruption in the country has worsened. The TI report is based on the perceived corruption level in 133 countries by business leaders, academics and risk analysts. A score of 10 means the country is "highly clean" while zero means it is "highly corrupt." The Philippines scored 2.5, along with Albania, Argentina, Ethiopia, Gambia, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Zambia. Last year, the Philippines' score was 2.6. It ranked 92 in the list. Bangladesh was most corrupt for the third successive year with a score of 1.3, just edging out Nigeria. Finland, Iceland and Denmark continued to top world rankings. Thailand, to which the Philippines is often compared, ranked 70. Burma ranked 129 and Indonesia 122. Arroyo said in a statement that the TI report was based on "perceptions of corruption that does not take into consideration hard evidentiary cases or positive actions by governments." "We may not have breached the level of perceptions on corruption in our country but we are surely doing something about it, which is not reflected in the report," she said. She claimed that government's procedural reforms and lifestyle checks are "taking their toll on corruption" and revenue agencies are registering increased tax collections.

From Philippine Headline News, Philippines, 9 October 2003

Indonesia Concedes Corruption is Rampant

Indonesia's Vice President Hamzah Haz has conceded that there is still too much corruption in the country. Mr. Haz says one of the reasons corruption is still rampant is because many Indonesians have forsaken religion. The vice president's remarks came a week after a global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, named Indonesia as one of the most corrupt countries. Indonesia was listed on the same level as Kenya, although it was ahead of Burma, Angola, Cameroon, Paraguay, Nigeria and Haiti.

From GoAsiaPacific.com, Asia, 11 October 2003

South Korea's Roh Sees ''Coughs'' Before Corruption Cure

Seoul - South Korea's turbulent 55-year history has seen presidents assassinated and driven from power by protests and coups, but Roh Moo-hyun is the first leader to launch what is in effect a no-confidence motion against himself. Roh told parliament on Monday he wanted to renew his mandate after a series of scandals by holding a referendum in December -- just a year after he was elected for a single five-year term. He said that if he lost, he would step down in February and hold a presidential election in April. Roh was promptly labelled an amateur by the opposition, which has rejected his referendum plan. The opposition, which has a majority in parliament, has hampered Roh's reform plans since he took office eight months ago. Roh has been an outsider from the time he led a student boycott in 1960 against mandatory essays praising Seoul's autocratic first president. The self-educated labour lawyer appears to live up to schoolteachers' descriptions of him as being stubborn with a special talent for forcefully expressing his opinion. Perhaps his determined streak comes from his upbringing. Roh hails from a farming family. He could not afford college and took low-paying odd jobs in between self-study, finally passing the bar examination in 1975.

He spent the early 1980s defending student and labour activists, joining the pro-democracy movement himself in 1987. A decade ago, he quit his mentor's party over a merger that enabled that man to become president. Last month, Roh quit his ruling party, decimating his already weak support in parliament. ''If we look at his political history, every time he was in a critical moment he would either charge ahead or use risky strategies with his political career at stake,'' the JoongAng Ilbo daily, a staunch critic of Roh, said earlier this week. Feisty and Forceful - His bombshell referendum proposal brought fresh upheaval to a country already gripped with uncertainty about a sluggish economy, a crisis over North Korea's nuclear arms ambitions and frictions with its security ally the United States. But in an interview with Reuters at the Blue House presidential compound in Seoul on Friday, Roh said his drastic move was necessary to cure corruption in South Korean politics and that the society was sound enough to endure the treatment. ''When you first catch a cold, you have a cough...you also cough at the end of your sickness,'' he said. ''Consider this the cough that comes at the end of a cold or flu,'' said Roh, 57, of the past week's confusion. The 57-year-old stressed the need to tackle corruption even at the cost of his job.

He has not been accused of wrongdoing. ''A politician who is as important as the president of a country must bear responsibility for allegations of corruption relating to himself or his associates,'' he said. Roh's decision to put his future in the hands of voters - unveiled on October 10 in an unscripted news conference - was triggered by prosecution allegations that a close aide of 20 years was involved in a widening political funding scandal. The aide was arrested on Wednesday. The drastic move has baffled many of South Korea's 48 million people, and nobody has provided a clear answer to the question whether the constitution permits such a confidence vote. Roh said he saw ''no legal problems'' with his proposed referendum. Roh has accomplished the rare feat of uniting South Korea's fractious political parties -- against him. The main opposition party called Roh an ''amateur'' and spoke of impeachment. Living up to a reputation for feistiness, Roh took a swipe at his opponents, noting they had at first welcomed the referendum idea ''when my approval ratings were below 35 percent.'' ''But after my declaration, when public opinion polls showed my support rising, they shifted their position and created this controversy,'' he said. Public opinion surveys have indicated that voters would return Roh by a margin of about 10 percent.

From MSNBC, by Paul Eckert and Lee Suwan, 17 October 2003

Lacson Proposes New Commission Vs Corruption

Manila - Sen. Panfilo Lacson proposed yesterday the creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to fight corruption in the bureaucracy. Lacson also proposed that the ICAC should have the power to examine the internal systems and procedures of government agencies to reduce, if not eliminate, opportunities for graft and corruption. "Corruption is the most serious obstacle to our country's progress," he said. "Scant as they are, resources are plundered by the corrupt." One consequence of corruption, he said, is that "investors, foreign or local, have yet to see a truly level playing field. Instead they are pressured by the attorneys of the most powerful." He said that "being an independent body, the ICAC could go about its job of going after crooks in government without fear of being pressured by Malacańang or any other top official as what is happening right now." Lacson earlier called for the creation of an ICAC in his Oct. 13 privilege speech, in which he outlined several areas for legislation as a result of his "Jose Pidal" exposé series. He is seeking the creation of an ICAC similar to the probe body operating in Hong Kong, saying it is a matter made urgent in the wake of Fraport AG's extortion case against top officials of the government, as contained in a lawsuit filed by the German firm before the World Bank's International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington.

The opposition senator is also pursuing the amendment of the Bank Secrecy Law to "exclude government officials, elected or appointed, from being covered" by it. Lacson is proposing that Congress be given the power to look into bank deposits when its committees conduct investigations in aid of legislation. He said his proposal will include the proper safeguards to prevent abuse. He is also pushing for additional amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act that will include crimes involving graft and corruption as predicate crimes covered by the AMLA. He also wants the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act to be strengthened. "We must tighten the rules on the filing of statements of assets and liabilities (SALs)." Lacson is going to ask Congress to look into the accountability of presidential spouses who use and abuse the authority of the president. He wants a review of the Revise Penal Code to make way for stiffer penalties for perjury and subornation to perjury. "The Revised Penal Code should be reviewed, especially insofar as imposing heavier penalties on perjury." Even the procedures by which the Commission on Audit does its job should be changed to prevent COA auditors from colluding with corrupt government officials and stop the practice of wasting government money through unliquidated cash advances, Lacson said.

Too many probe bodies - However, with the plethora of probe bodies already in existence, there is no need for an ICAC as proposed by Lacson, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo's lawyer, Jesus Santos said in a statement. Santos said the country is already "strangled" by an "overwhelming" number of probe bodies, many of which are investigating the same cases. "Senate probe, congressional probe, Ombudsman probe, DOJ probe," he said. "As a lawyer, I would like to see graft cases move in the courts, where the facts can be presented and solid evidence weighted factually." Another probe body, he said, would merely entail the duplication of efforts and additional expense. Investigations, he warned, could also take longer. "We do not need another probe body. What we need are facts, evidence and the candid ability to admit guilt," he said. "That's the only way graft investigations could move faster." Santos added that "it is sad to see that a senator of the Republic has publicly displayed very little faith in his colleagues at the Senate. The senator from Cavite shows insensitivity and a lack of respect for his fellow senators, who are now immersed in a three-committee probe of his earlier allegations of irregularities."

Lacson's press statement, Santos said, "assails the independence of the Senate and paints a tarnished picture of the character of the senators involved in the investigation." Citing the Kuratong Baleleng multiple murder case as an example, Santos pointed out that the wheels of justice ground to a standstill while Lacson was chief of the Philippine National Police and former President Joseph Estrada held office. Lacson is one of the principal accused in the case. The Supreme Court recently ruled for the reopening of the case, which was dismissed on a technicality by the Quezon City courts. "Right now, there are graft cases against Senator Lacson before the Ombudsman, where solid evidence has been presented from the United States government's Financial Crimes Investigation Center," Santos said. "Lacson and his wife Alicia have been shown to have deposited millions in US accounts, much of it shortly before (Estrada) was ousted," Santos said. "There is no need for an independent commission to probe that, because the evidence is all there."

From Philippine Headline News, Philippines, by Jess Diaz, 21 October 2003

Ghosts of Past Fuel Corruption, Says World Bank

Jakarta - Indonesia remains one of the world's most corrupt countries because the "ghosts" of the old Soeharto regime have adapted to the new environment and are continuing to flourish, according to a World Bank report. Despite new anti-corruption institutions and anti-corruption laws, the old network of Soeharto cronies and the former president's family members have shaped the new environment to their own advantage, the report says. "Today Soeharto has gone but those who ran the franchises largely remain," the report says. "Their influence continues to lurk behind new laws and policies tipped in favour of the elite or in the quiet reclamation of their old assets at knock-down prices..."These ghosts of the past have found many new opportunities to re-establish their power in the fluid environment of Indonesia's simultaneous political and economic transition." Corruption was so much a part of Indonesian society, it was "simply unrealistic to expect comprehensive reforms" in the short or even medium term, according to the report's author, Sawar Lateef. He refrained from adding to the criticism regularly heaped on the Megawati Government for its tolerance of corruption, saying it was normal for evolving democracies to spend their early years getting the economy under control and providing stable government.

The opening up of Indonesian society since Soeharto's fall five years ago, combined with the rapid growth of a free media, has exposed corruption almost daily and yet it continues to flourish, the report says. "You have a problem of a very high level of transparency without accountability," Mr. Lateef says. The best hope for breaking down corruption is at the grass-roots level rather than within the country's ruling elite where there is no appetite for reform, the report says. "The vested interests are too powerful and the ability of the state to implement a broad-based program of reforms is limited," the report says. Success in tackling corruption is more likely in individual villages where the World Bank now directs much of its funding, after widespread criticism the bank received for its years of funding Soeharto's regime. Now the bank has a program directly funding 20,000 community projects in half of Indonesia's poor villages - bypassing the Government figures who in the past regularly took a cut of any funds. "Transparency and publicity, the involvement of local stakeholders and village leaders and of local institutions are central to effective community participation in the fight against corruption."

From The Age, Australia, by Matthew Moore, 21 October 2003

Reform, Fighting Corruption Priorities in Vietnam's Assembly Meet

Hanoi - Vietnam needs to push harder for economic reform and work to restore public trust by stamping out widespread corruption, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Tuesday at the opening of the biannual National Assembly. "The phenomenon of paying money for positions, projects, crime reduction ... has been mentioned in many places, but very few have been uncovered,'' he said. "The measures to fight corruption are not efficient.'' Dung mentioned the conviction and sentencing of Ho Chi Minh City's most notorious gangster, Truong Van Cam, known as Nam Cam, as an example of the government's clampdown on corruption. Cam and 154 other defendants were put on trial earlier this year in the communist country's biggest-ever criminal trial. Dung said the country also must press forward with economic reform ranging from eliminating government subsidies and breaking up monopolies to allowing more foreign investment and encouraging growth within the private sector. "There are still some weaknesses in the economy: the economic development over the past three years is mainly development in width ... (it) does not secure sustainable development,'' he said.

He praised several accomplishments achieved this year, despite the war in Iraq and a bout with SARS that killed five and infected 63 here last spring. The country's gross domestic product is expected to grow at 7.2 percent or 7.3 percent this year, up from 7 percent in 2002, and export growth reached 16.7 percent, double the target and the highest rate in three years, he said. Vietnam also has been praised by the international community for its efforts in poverty reduction. He said legal reform must be sped up along with government efficiency and creating a framework for handling land-rights issues. Government seizure of land at below-market value is a major source of complaints in Vietnam, mainly from farmers. It has fueled massive demonstrations and altercations between villagers and authorities. Outside the National Assembly building, a band of protesters waving large Vietnamese flags and carrying pictures of the late revolutionary Ho Chi Minh were shooed away by police. The group carried signs calling for an end to local corruption. The 498-member lawmaking assembly will meet until the end of next month.

From The Star, Malaysia, 21 October 2003

China Sacks Land Minister as Property Corruption Scandals Grow

Beijing - China's minister of land and natural resources has been sacked, an official has confirmed, amid growing reports of corruption scandals linked to the booming real estate market. A ministry official declined to say why Tiang Fengshan had been removed from his post, but the Hong Kong daily Wen Wei Po, which is close to the Beijing authorities, said he was being investigated for corruption. "Tian Fengshan is no longer the minister, we don't no why he was removed," the ministry official told AFP. "It is not convenient to talk about this issue at the momment." Sun Wensheng, vice minister of land and natural resources, was named on October 14 as the Communist Party secretary of the ministry, the ministry's top post, another official said. "Sun Wensheng, as the party secretary, is now leading the ministry," he said. Under Chinese law the formal removal of Tian, who served concurrently as minister and ministry party secretary, must come from the country's parliament, the National People's Congress, he said.

China's booming but chaotic real estate market is riddled with corruption, with the demolition of private homes and forced relocations fuelling social discontent. "At present there is indeed a great deal of corruption in real estate development especially in the relocation of people and in city planning," Liu Zhifeng, vice minister of construction told a press conference last month. Liu blamed developers and city government planners, saying they had not met the needs of the market when planning residential development and had "blindly" undertaken projects beyond the financial means of ordinary Chinese. Developers and city planners also refused to follow regulations in demolishing old homes, relocating citizens and paying compensation, a situation that has caused widespread discontent, he said. According to China's Marxist constitution, all land belongs to the state, a situation that gives the ministry of land and natural resources tremendous powers over how to develop real estate.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 22 October 2003

World Bank Says Corruption Threatens Reform

Following is press release from the World Bank on corruption in Indonesia. In a report issued on Monday (20/10/03), the Bank says Indonesia is at a critical juncture in the fight against corruption and must punish the corrupt. The report stops short of directly criticizing President Megawati Sukarnoputri for tolerating corruption, such as allowing Indonesia's parliament to be led by convicted corruption felon Akbar Tanjung. However, the report does mention that corrupt officials from ex-president Suharto's regime remained entrenched in the civil service, judiciary and law enforcement agencies. INDONESIA AT A CRITICAL JUNCTURE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION - New report sets out a framework for anti-corruption reforms and for safeguarding development assistance: Jakarta - A World Bank report issued today urges Indonesia to build upon its progress towards a more open society and a more stable economy by tackling systemic corruption through enhanced accountability and transparency. The report calls for the central government to create an enabling environment for local level reforms that strengthen public participation in the making and monitoring of development policies and programs. The report, entitled "Combating Corruption in Indonesia: Enhancing Accountability for Development" is a major input to the Bank's new Country Assistance Strategy for Indonesia for fiscal years 2004-2007, to be released later this year.

The report examines why public accountability fails so often, looking in detail at the roots and practices of corruption in a number of sectors and processes.(1) "Like so many of our Indonesian and international partners, each day we face the challenge of corruption in all aspects of our work and have endeavored to select and design projects to promote development with integrity," said Andrew Steer, Country Director for the World Bank. "This report brings together our learning on corruption, as well as that of our partners, to feed into our new Country Assistance Strategy which focuses squarely on how to deal with corruption and improve accountability. I hope that the many courageous individuals in Indonesia engaged in this fight for greater accountability - and in particular the newly selected members of the Anti-Corruption Commission - will find it a useful tool." The report argues that the nature of Indonesia's current transition makes it very difficult to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to fight corruption. The current state of flux allows the informal rules and perverse incentives of the past to flourish, while new formal rules have yet to take hold. Vested interests remain powerful, law enforcement institutions are weak, and the ability of the state to implement an integrated program of anti-corruption measures is limited.

The report however argues that this environment could well favor solutions based on local level or sector-based initiatives in selected regions with a genuine commitment to governance reforms. H. S. Dillon, Executive Director for the Partnership for Governance Reforms in Indonesia, added, "The Partnership is working at various levels and in various fields in the fight against corruption, and this report, on which we have collaborated closely, comprises an important contribution to our future work." The report calls for a two track approach to deal with corruption: "The first is to help strengthen demand for reforms at the local level. The second is for the central government to pursue a core program of reforms that create an enabling environment for the pursuit of localized solutions." Localized solutions: The World Bank's experience with the Kecamatan Development Project has shown how local communities can be empowered to take charge of planning and monitoring development in their villages and, by so doing, serve as an effective internal check against the misuse of development funds. At the district level, competition for investment, increasing political competition and enhanced bottom-up pressures are creating opportunities for governance reforms in the regions. Decentralization is also creating openings for local communities to manage the delivery of public services and their natural resources more transparently and efficiently.

All these opportunities need to be seized. Core reforms at the Center: The report pulls together six common policy messages from its analysis of corruption in different sectors and processes which would be included in a program of core reforms at the Center. o Campaign finance reform: Unless urgently addressed, the high cost and weak regulation of campaign finance will continue to drive corruption in Indonesia. The report calls for efforts to establish a more level playing field, citing best practice in other countries which include such measures as partial budgetary funding for campaign finance, reducing costs of electoral campaigns by allocating free time slots on TV and radio with no additional time allowed, and banning the use of state resources for political purposes. o Strengthen the guardians of accountability: Four key institutions that dominate the accountability monitoring landscape, Bank Indonesia, the Election Commission (KPU), the Supreme Audit Agency and the Supreme Court need to be greatly strengthened. This calls for men and women of high integrity and competence at the top of these institutions, full autonomy from interference by the executive and legislative branches, and adequate funding to help them discharge their responsibilities.

o Funding public services adequately: Many institutions providing key public services are severely under-funded, forcing them to adopt informal means of revenue mobilization through "off-budget" measures. Adequate funding of the budget of agencies delivering these public services is critical. o Cleaning up the regulatory jungle: Reform and rationalization of the thicket of regulatory constraints is essential if this source of rent-seeking is to be reduced. o Reducing impunity: Failure to punish the corrupt creates strong incentives for the continuation of corrupt practices. The report therefore calls for strong efforts to make the new Anti-Corruption Commission get off on a sound footing. This will require the appointment through a publicly credible and transparent process of outstanding men and women to head the Commission, adequate funding of its budget, the full cooperation of the police and Attorney General's office, and a selective and strategic work program. o Enhancing transparency: Transparency is the strongest weapon in the hands of those fighting corruption. Easy access to information empowered by adequate legal and regulatory backing, including sunshine laws, is recommended. "For any of this to happen," says Sarwar Lateef, lead author of the report, "will require strong leadership, not just from government but from all segments of society. The war on corruption is too important to be left solely to government to fight".

The report concludes that the choices facing Indonesia's leaders are stark. Failure to act now could have severe consequences for Indonesia's long term stability. Yet a determined and sustained reform effort that builds upon Indonesia's recent successes in promoting historic political reforms and securing macroeconomic stability could immeasurably strengthen prospects for this country. The report ends by asking how Indonesia's development partners can ensure that they are part of the solution rather than be seen as part of the problem. It cites five key lessons the Bank has learned from its enhanced efforts to safeguard against corruption in its own projects since the Asia crisis: o Better project design can improve outcomes and reduce corruption. Bank financed programs are demonstrating that when beneficiaries take responsibility for helping design projects and monitor their outcomes, corruption is often lower and project outcomes more favorable. Local communities who learn to fight corruption in projects become more aware of hard realities and could potentially become champions in the war against corruption. o Greater openness empowers those fighting corruption.

The Government of Indonesia and the Bank are together beginning to release much more information on new Bank-financed projects exposing procurement processes and audit findings. If extended to all aid financed activities, this could potentially reduce opportunities for corruption, particularly if civil society is assisted in monitoring these projects effectively. o There is no substitute for due diligence. The Bank has greatly strengthened its fiduciary controls, doubling its staff on fiduciary oversight issues, systematically following up on complaints, conducting ex-post procurement reviews and following up more systematically on audit findings. o Lack of tolerance of corrupt practices sends a message. The Bank is attempting to take decisive action when corruption is found in activities it finances through investigations and declaration of misprocurement. This sends a clear signal that it will not tolerate corruption in its projects. o Partnerships have a high pay off in the fight against corruption. The Bank has learned that going it alone is not an option. It therefore works very closely with other international and bilateral development agencies, with civil society, with the media, and most importantly with the intended beneficiaries of activities it funds.

From Laksamana, Indonesia, 22 October 2003

MoE to Incorporate Concepts of Anti-Corruption in the National Curriculum

Islamabad - Ministry of Education (MoE) with the collaboration of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will jointly develop strategies to incorporate the concepts of anti-corruption in the National Curriculum. This was said by the Federal Education Minister Zobaida Jalal and Chairman National Accountability Bureau Lt. Gen. Munir Hafeez while speaking at the concluding session of the workshop on inclusion of Anti-Corruption Themes in the National Curriculum. Besides, Federal Secretary for Education Shafqat Zaidi, principals and heads of the all the federal schools and colleges were present on the occasion. Speaking on the occasion, Zobaida Jalal said that to deal the issues like human rights, population development, environment, drug abuse and preventive education on HIV/AIDS, the education is the best strategy. She told that our religion Islam is a complete guideline for responsible behavior and the concepts related to the anti-corruption are part of our educational values. "These things need to be highlighted and emphasized. Moreover, our students and teacher need formal orientation and training that how these can become a part of daily lives," Zobaida added.

The federal minister went on to say that the ministry of education will develop strategies to incorporate these concepts on anti-corruption in the National Curriculum. "The text book development agencies will translate these concepts into teaching learning materials and will be made part of the textbooks," she told the participants. Zobaida further told that the teacher training institutes both at the Federal and Provincial levels, will be involved for pre service and in-service training of the new concepts included in the curriculum. She said that their ministry in collaboration with NAB will also look into the possibility of awareness campaign for public through Non-formal education including media campaign. Zobaida assured that the themes on anti-corruption will be an important part of the National Curriculum. Sharing his views, Chairman NAB Lt. Gen. Muneer Hafeez said that they were planning to start this project to include anti-corruption themes in the curriculum from the last one-year.

He told the participants that enforcement alone cannot do anything effective and we cannot get rid of corruption. There was strong need of an awareness campaign among the people, he stressed. Hafeez was of the view that to start this project, youth was the best opportunity to target. Commenting on the curriculum, he said that we must do every thing in the practical way and in a very simple language so every body could absorb it and be able to understand. He said that our religion is the best way of life therefore the curriculum must reflect our Islamic teachings. He emphasized that both teachers and parents will also have to learn as they make the character of a child. Earlier, speakers stressed on the inclusion of Islamic values in the national curriculum. They said that the curriculum must be based on the simplicity so the youth could learn the accountability and transparency. They also highlighted that the current problems, which are confronting Pakistan and their remedial measures should also be included in the curriculum.

From PakTribune.com, Pakistan, 23 October 2003

Anti-Corruption Bureau to Organise Lectures

The Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Civil Service Institute will be organising two sessions of lecture tomorrow at the Civil Service Institute in Kampong Rimba Gadong. Present at the first session will be the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Dato Paduka Awang Haji Adanan who will also be the guest of honour. The first session, which will start at 7.45am, is open especially to Permanent Secretaries and also the Heads of Departments. The second session meanwhile will start at 1.30pm and is for senior government officers. The two lectures will be presented by Professor Jon S. T. Quah from the Political Sciences Department, National University of Singapore. For the morning session Professor Jon S.T. Quah will be delivering a talk titled "In Pursuit of Good Governance in Asian Countries: The Role of Corruption Control and Civil Service Reforms". In the afternoon, the talk will be on "Ensuring Integrity in the Public Service or How to Keep Corruption at Bay?"

Professor Jon among other things in his lecture will touch on the reasons of corruption, the types of corruption control and civil service reforms in the Asian countries. He will also be making a conclusion that political will is an important prerequisite in ensuring the effectiveness of reformation in civil services and lowering corruption. In the afternoon session, the professor will be talking on the cost and results of corruption in two of the Asean member countries, the Philippines and Thailand. For this session, Professor Jon will be making a conclusion by stressing on the importance of leadership through example of promoting integrity and work culture in the public services by keeping corruption and its adverse consequences at bay.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, by M K Anwar, 24 October 2003

Empower Independent Commission to Check Corruption of Influentials

Jurists, MPs, leading members of civil society and political leaders at a roundtable yesterday called for total independence of the proposed anti-corruption commission. Ministers should not be nominating members of the Commission, they said. The proposed anti-corruption commission should be free from political influence and be truly independent, neutral and effective, they opined. The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs organised the roundtable at the auditorium of the Institute Judicial Administration and Training marking two-year completion of the present government. Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Barrister Moudud Ahmed presided over meeting. Former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Chairman of Editorial Boards of The New Nation and The Daily Ittefaq, Barrister Mainul Hosein presented the keynote paper. Some of them, however, suggested that two Members of Parliament (MPs), one each nominated by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament should be included in the selection committee of the proposed Commission as member. Some others opined that involvement of the Chief Justice in the nomination of members of the commission would simply make the esteemed office of the Chief Justice controversial. They suggested that the provision for involvement of the Chief Justice should be deleted. All most all the participants stressed the need for amendment of the "Proposed Anti-Corruption Commission Act" which is now under scrutiny at the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs.

Former Chief Justice Mostafa Kamal, State Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Barrister Shahjahan Omar, Attorney General Hassan Arif, Supreme Court Bar Association President Barrister Rokon Uddin Mahmud, senior Advocate Nurul Islam, Chief Whip of the Opposition Vice-Principal Abdus Shahid, Abdul Mannan MP and MA Hena MP of BNP, GM Kader MP, Barrister Abdur Razzak, Prof Muzaffar Ahmed of Transparency International, Prof Khan Sarwar Murshid, editor of New Age Enayetullah Khan, editor of Daily Star Mahfuz Anam, former Inspector Generals of Police Enamul Haque and ASM Shahjahan, former Cabinet Secretary Mujibul Haq, former Director General, Bureau of Anti-Corruption Badruzzaman, Director General, Bureau of Anti-Corruption Major General (retd) MA Matin and Advocate Harun-Or-Rashid took part in the discussion. Barrister Mainul Hosein in his keynote speech said nobody expects to see corruption eradicated from public life easily or overnight. But people hopes to see strong determination on the part of the government and some drastic actions at least against a few of the most corrupt ones. He said people have chosen political leaders to give leadership in public affairs and when they are affected by corruption there cannot be any end to corruption. "We struggled for democracy and democratic government to build good governance for the general public. But there cannot be good governance when corruption in high places can go unhindered," he said, adding the extent of corruption in high places is such that it has made the institutions of good governance difficult to foster.

The constitutional obligation for the separation of the judiciary is facing stiff resistance, he noted. The protection of rule of law is under constant threat from the power of black money. Being empowered with black money politics for some have become the other name for terrorism or extortion, Barrister Mainul said. He regretted that it is a national tragedy when honest public functionaries cannot serve people honestly. "We need a high-powered and independent Anti-Corruption Commission not for dealing with corruption from a peon to the Prime Minister. We need such a high-powered and independent Anti-Corruption Commission to organise assaults on corruption of the 'high-powered' people, namely the high government functionaries," he said, adding corruption of ordinary people can be dealt with through the normal criminal justice system. He said his first suggestion is that the Anti-corruption Commission should be specifically and exclusively for stopping corruption among highly placed public functionaries- political or otherwise.

The charges of corruption against the ministers including the Prime Minister and bureaucrats not below the rank of the Joint Secretaries only shall be taken up by the Commission. "The Anti-Corruption Commission has to be truly independent and for this purpose it should have sufficient budgetary allocation enabling it to carry on the investigation of corruption charges as well as to appoint competent lawyers to consult and conduct the cases in court. In our situation reliance on public prosecutors shall seriously hamper the Commission's independence and efficiency. It cannot be enough to start corruption cases in court. The Commission needs to be generously funded. The fight against big corruption cannot come cheap," Barrister Mainul said. He said the independent and powerful Anti-Corruption Commission shall go a long way to make corruption in high places punishable. But the people's faith in the judiciary must also be scrupulously upheld because in the final count it is the court that will decide corruption cases. That the lower judiciary is not unaffected by the corruption is well established. Suspicion has now been cast on the Supreme Court also, he noted. He said the judiciary being a very sensitive institution, there has to be a different way for protecting integrity of the judiciary.

The reason being even an unfounded bad reputation of a judge is good enough for shaking public faith in the judiciary. To prove misconduct through formal proceedings in the Supreme Judicial Council of elsewhere is bound to prove most difficult and more damaging for the judiciary. Yet such a method has to be used in an extreme case. "But it is my considered view that the lawyers and judges must evolve an informal mechanism for handling the question of bad reputation against a judge before it becomes too serious calling for the extreme measure of removal of a judge formally. But publicly such a situation is not desirable that a judge should first be accused publicly and in the press and then enquiry by the Supreme Judicial Council shall commence. The Chief Justice should first be given a chance to deal with the allegation of misconduct against a judge," he said. He suggested that as head of the judiciary the Chief Justice should be able to informally investigate and seek a solution to the problem when a judge has widely held bad reputation. Thus judges and the leaders of the bar cannot shun their responsibility for maintaining the sanctity of the judiciary. The Bar Associations have to play their role to punish those lawyers without whose inducement judges cannot be corrupted.

In short all the democratic institutions of good governance must work rightly and harmoniously to end corruption in public life. Establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission will certainly be a bold step in the right direction. Let us earnestly hope that the government would not wait further to take the bold step courageously, he added. Barrister Moudud Ahmed in his presidential speech said the suggestions and recommendations of the roundtable would be placed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee which is scrutinizing the proposed Anti-Corruption Commission Bill. He said the government want to make the Commission truly independent and neutral. This is a beginning on new journey he said and reminded all that no law is one hundred per cent perfect. "Genuinely we want to improve the law and make the Commission effective," he added. Former Chief Justice Mostafa Kamal urged all concerned to establish the anti-corruption commission as early as possible. "Lot of good words have been said and valuable time has passed. We are tired of talks. Let do it now," he said. He wondered why the bill has a provision involving the Chief Justice in nominating the panel of commission members. "You did not give power to the Chief Justice to appoint High Court judges. Even the system of consultation has long been taken away. Now you are giving him authority to nominate members of selection' committee," he said.

Justice Kamal said, "Do not use the Chief Justice everywhere. It will only make office of the Chief Justice controversial." He said that the corruption relating to money laundering and e-commerce should be brought under the jurisdiction of the commission. Barrister Shahjahan Omar suggested that all member of the Commission should be nominated by the Prime Minister and her nominations placed on the floor of Parliament for approval. Attorney General Hassan Arif suggested some technical improvement to the bill. Barrister Rokon Uddin Mahmud said that the constitutional provisions on Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court should be studied to avoid complications before involving them in nominating panel of members the Commission. Opposition Chief Whip Abdus Shahid said, ministers and MPs cannot avoid political agenda of the government while nominating panel members for the Commission. So, he suggested the Leader of the House (Prime Minister) and Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice should nominate members to the selection committee of the Commission. MA Hena MP of BNP said that an effective mechanism should be evolved so that the Commission is truly neutral and powerful. GM Kader of Jatiya Party (Ershad) said that the anti-corruption commission should be independent of the government. Earlier in the morning another roundtable on "Good Governance and the Judicial System" was also held at the same venue with Barrister Moudud Ahmed in the chair. Senior Advocate Khandker Mahbubuddin Ahmed MP presented the keynote paper.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, 24 October 2003

Greens Push for Tas Government to Launch Corruption Inquiry

The Tasmanian Greens say the State Government's rebuttal of corruption allegations made by former forestry auditor Bill Manning has not averted the need for a commission of inquiry. Tasmanian Greens leader Peg Putt says not all of Mr. Manning's allegations have been addressed by the Government. Deputy Premier Paul Lennon today described Mr. Manning as an individual at odds with his employer, whose professional judgment was marred by a "mind-set of conspiracy, secrecy and corruption". But Ms Putt says Mr. Manning's evidence on the handling of forest practice breaches has not been answered. "Allegations that weren't answered today were the specific advice of the Solicitor-General, that complaints must either be prosecuted or have fine levied in result of breaches of the forest practices code," Ms Putt said. "Instead he's made very clear that the practice is to routinely disregard the letter of the law and to try and encourage people to lift their game rather than take any action when they make breaches."

Meanwhile, the State Opposition says the Greens have manipulated the former forestry auditor into making allegations of industry corruption that cannot be substantiated. Opposition leader Rene Hidding says Mr. Manning's evidence to a Senate hearing alleging institutionalised corruption in the forestry industry has been fully rebutted by Mr. Lennon. Mr. Hidding says if there was any truth in Mr. Manning's allegations, the Government would have at least owned up to one of them. "We'd have to say on the sheer weight of rebuttals of that you'd have to say that the Greens are in all sorts of trouble on this, that they've been manipulating this person for political reasons and in fact, have pushed him so far out that he's not been able to substantiate, it would appear, not even one of his allegations," Mr. Hidding said.

From ABC Online, Australia, 29 October 2003

 

Corruption Watchdog 'Tainted'

The ruling Socialists yesterday dismissed as politically motivated Tuesday's report by an international watchdog organization that listed Greece as the most corrupt country in the European Union. The Transparency International report ranked Greece in joint 50th place, together with South Korea and Costa Rica, among 133 countries surveyed. It also found that five of the new EU members set to join in May - Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Hungary - were less corrupt than Greece. "I have the impression that, through the vague and truly odd way that Transparency International's representatives in Greece handle their data, they are effectively trying to serve New Democracy's political aims," government spokesman Christos Protopappas said. The head of the watchdog's Greek office is Virginia Tsouderou, a former ND MP who served as deputy foreign minister in the early 1990s. "Efforts have been made to fight corruption and institutions have been set up that are similar to if not better than European (institutions)," Protopappas said

From Kathimerini, Greece, 9 October 2003

Corruption Increases - Poll

Corruption in Bulgaria has increased for the first time in six years, a survey by the Transparency without Borders Association shows. The association is a part of the International Organisation for Combating Corruption. This year the corruption index in Bulgaria decreased by 0.1 points. This brings the country nine positions back from its previous ranking, from 45th to 54th position among the 133 countries polled. The corruption index for 2003 is 3.9. For 2002 it was 4 and in 1998, the first year Bulgaria took part in this survey, it was 2.9. The corruption index is calculated on the basis of reports by major finance industry organisations, including the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Gallup International and the Economist Magazine. The index is important for investors because they include the size of bribes and the corruption fees as expenses in their investment plans. An index of 10 means there is no corruption. Finland is the closest to this ideal situation with an index of 9.7, followed by Iceland (9.6) and Denmark and New Zealand (9.5). The highest level of corruption is registered in Haiti, Nigeria and Bangladesh. This year Bulgaria shares the 54th place with Brazil and the Czech Republic. An increase in the corruption pressure is observed in nearly all East-European countries.

Latvia ranks 57th, Slovakia is 59th, Poland 64th. Corruption in Bulgaria is lower than in Lithuania (44), Hungary (40), Estonia (33) and Slovenia (29). "Obviously, according to people the business climate gets worse and the 'big privatisation' is carried out in a shameful way," political analyst Ognyan Minchev said. Emi Baruh from Transparency without Borders said that there were "suspicions of successful corruption practices among MPs". The Council of Ministers' Committee coordinating the combating of corruption has been given 104 corruption tip-offs in 18 months, 13 in the past three months. The Committee checked out six tip-offs and sent the rest to the competent ministries and regional governors, BTA reported. Over 260 privatisation transactions of the last 12 years have been referred to the prosecution magistrates because of suspicions of corruption, State Administration Minister Dimitar Kalchev said. According to him, one way to curb the problem in the state administration is to introduce 20 or 25 e-services to avoid direct contact between the service provider and the client. Another way is to hand over some state activities to the private sector. Suggestions to this effect will be made by every ministry by the end of the year, Kalchev said.

FromSofia Echo, Bulgaria, 10 October 2003

Romanian Government Opens Own Probe into Corruption Charge

Romania's education ministry said Friday it had opened its own inquiry into charges that a government minister had misused European Union funds to benefit her family. In September the European Commission said it had launched a corruption inquiry after it emerged that money had been paid to the family of the Minister for European Integration Hildegard Puwak for bogus business projects. "Following information published by the media about this affair the ministry has decided to establish a committee of inquiry," a ministry spokesman said. The committee's members will include representatives of the EU's Leonardo da Vinci centre (a programme aimed at candidates for membership) which financed projects submitted by Puwak's husband and son. Its findings will be published no later than October 27, according to the ministry.

Romanian media recently revealed that two companies run by Puwak's husband and son had obtained 150,000 euros (160,000 dollars) in EU funding to operate business training schemes after she was appointed to her job in December 2000. According to the reports, several German companies cited as partners in the various business plans were owned by friends of the Puwak family and were listed with bogus telephone numbers attached. Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors have opened an investigation into the claims, while the country's two main opposition parties have demanded the minister's resignation. 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, 10 October 2003

Britain Needs to Get its International Anti-corruption Act Together

A ground-breaking agreement has been reached in the war against global corruption. On October 1, the United Nations concluded talks on a new convention against corruption. A signing ceremony will take place on December 9 in Mexico, where President Vincente Fox has been one of the leading supporters of Transparency International or TI, the anti-corruption watchdog. The date is being proposed to the UN general assembly as an annual international anti-corruption day. Peter Eigen, TI's founder, said: "This is an unprecedented breakthrough." The convention was "a major instrument to push governments to live up to new international standards of integrity and good governance". TI played an official part in the talks leading up to the UN convention. Mr Eigen had been a senior official with the World Bank in Kenya. But he was so incensed by the corruption that squandered resources under Daniel arap Moi's government that he resigned in 1991 and founded TI 10 years ago. He returned to Kenya in July and, standing next to President Mwai Kibaki, addressed 400 people in Nairobi, six months after the elections that ousted Moi's corrupt regime. Grassroots "clean election" campaigns had helped in a revolt against repression and corruption.

Kenya is cleaning out the Augean stables, including sacking 35 public procurement officials recently for awarding themselves building contracts, and dismissing the head of a corrupt judiciary. According to an opinion poll conducted for TI in Kenya, 80% of Kenyans think their government is committed to eradicating corruption. Last week TI published its ninth annual corruption perception index, CPI, ranking 133 countries according to how corrupt they are seen to be as assessed by 15 independent surveys. However corrupt poor third world regimes are perceived to be - and many score badly on the CPI list - too often it is western business interests which perpetuate corruption, paying huge bribes to win contracts. To combat this, an earlier convention was drawn up by the world's richest countries, members of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, to outlaw the bribery of foreign public officials. The treaty came into force in February 1999, committing ratifying states to introduce national legislation. Britain fares well on the CPI, ranked equal eleventh of the least corrupt countries, with Canada and Luxembourg, while Nordic countries top the list.

And in TI's separate bribe payers' index, which monitors bribe paying in international trade, Britain is the eighth country least likely to offend out of 21. Yet Britain's anti-corruption legislation is archaic, despite being updated under the government's Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, enacted after 9/11. This complies with the OECD treaty by outlawing foreign bribery. Yet, according to the police's national criminal intelligence service, there have been no prosecutions since the act came into effect in February 2002. This hardly indicates that UK businesses have suddenly become lily white. In an opinion poll conducted for TI, 52% of respondents thought British businesses may still be affected by corruption. The Home Office proposed new draft legislation last March. But both TI and a joint parliamentary committee chaired by Lord Slynn thought it too complex for businesses to know their obligations or for prosecutors and investigating bodies to implement. The legislation, as drafted, is a backward step. "The police don't prosecute foreign bribery now, and would face additional hurdles if the draft bill is enacted in its present form," said Graham Rodmell of TI UK. There is now a chance to make a redrawn corruption bill effective in time for parliament's next sitting. The government needs to do so if it is serious about the war against global corruption. o Michael Smith is associate editor of For A Change magazine.

From Guardian, UK, by Michael Smith, 13 October 2003

Corruption Keeps Drinking Society's Blood

The people feel that corruption in Slovakia has not been slashed during the last three years, as recent allegations of corruption in top politics cause major concern among the public. New figures on the public perception of corruption show that the introduction of several laws to cut down bribery and cronyism in this postcommunist state has made no difference in real life. Cabinet efforts to fight corruption through introducing new legislation and amending existing laws are missing their target; the positive results of approved laws are yet to come. Current allegations of corrupt behaviour and clientelism in top state posts, including accusations against Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, are meanwhile discrediting reform efforts aimed at rooting out corruption, thus leaving people unconvinced that their official representatives in cabinet and parliament really mean their anti-corruption rhetoric. In an annual update, transparency watchdog Transparency International Slovakia (TIS), released figures for 2003 on the so-called corruption perception index (CPI), which indicates how much corruption is seen as a problem in selected countries. A total of 133 countries were listed this year. On a 0 - 10 scale, with 10 suggesting a corruption free society, Slovakia ranked 59th, along with countries such as Columbia and Peru, with a 3.7 index, which it has scored for the third year in a row.

At the same time, Slovakia ranked second to last before Poland of the region's transforming postcommunist democracies known as V4 countries, which also include the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Daniela Zemanovicová, program director with TIS, said that the fact that Slovakia's index has not changed for three years in a row does not necessarily mean that the state's legislators were ignoring the problem of corruption. "The respondents in the survey are analysts, businessmen, and regular citizens and the reason why the figure hasn't changed may be that measures that were adopted to fight corruption still haven't brought results in real life," she said. While approved laws may inevitably require some time to bring results, the public is often confused about politicians' dedication to address corruption. Pavel Nechala, an analyst with TIS, said that politicians often talk about the need for anti-corruption laws, but once drafts come to parliament, MPs do not support them. "It often happens that a law is introduced with fanfare [to parliament], and it passes the first reading. [In a formal process, drafts are voted on three times to give MPs a chance to fix the original draft].

Then suddenly, a group of MPs emerges and they say that they have factual objections towards the legislation, although they never said a word during previous parliamentary discussion. As a result, the law is not passed," Nechala said. According to Ján Hrubala, head of the cabinet's anticorruption unit, corruption is not easy to get rid of, and a series of steps are needed to cut down the problem. "There is no single cure for corruption. Fighting it requires a series of steps," Hrubala said. Determined to behave transparently and push forward honest practices, dozens of local businessmen recently signed a so-called anti-corruption charter, in a move initiated by Transparency International. The document binds its members to behave transparently in their business activities. PM Mikuláš Dzurinda, who participated in the signing of the document, said that he was "not so completely naive as to think that there can be a world 100 percent free of corruption". "But the quality of this phenomenon can either be very unpleasant or it can be so that it does not endanger society. I would be very glad if the latter was the case for Slovakia," Dzurinda said.

Ironically, Dzurinda himself is now facing allegations of cronyism. Recently, the sacked head of the National Security Office (NBÚ), Ján Mojžiš, said that in 2001, Dzurinda tried to persuade him to change the NBÚ's decision to deny security clearance to the firm KISS. As a result of the decision, the firm lost an Sk800 million (€1.9 million) tender that was part of the state information system Govnet project. Dzurinda has denied these claims. If such allegations remain unsolved, TIS officials said, it harms the country's morale and reassures common people that politicians do not genuinely try to address the issue of corruption. "For a common citizen, solving corruption cases and allegations relating to top positions would be a signal that there is a genuine will to address the issue," said Zemanovicová. Among problematic issues concerning the legislators and top officials, issues such as changing the law on the financing of political parties, the law on conflict of interest, and a law reducing the immunity of MPs have remained on the agenda for years, despite promises to address them. "Scandals, as we are seeing them now, however, can also have a positive impact because they can create public pressure for systematic changes. So far, however, almost nothing is happening [to fix the laws] in big politics," Zemanovicová said.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, by Martina Pisárová, 13 October 2003

FM: Greeks Tired of Corruption

Papandreou backs Simitis, concedes many people see PASOK as incapable of taking initiatives - Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who garners the highest public approval of all PASOK members, is a key figure in the government's efforts to be re-elected. But he is also certain to be a key player in whatever happens inside PASOK whether the Socialists win or fail in the elections, as he is a likely successor to Prime Minister Costas Simitis. In a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini yesterday, Papandreou reiterated his strong support of Simitis and his own efforts to help PASOK stay in office. But he also acknowledged that people were tired of bureaucracy, corruption and the pervasiveness of powerful vested interests. Asked to comment on rumors that Simitis might pull out of his party's leadership before the elections, allowing his successor to fight the battle, Papandreou said: "We are at a critical political juncture in the completion of our work, the preparations for the elections, and the formulation of our strategy and vision for the next term.

The prime minister himself is on the front line of this effort and we all have a duty to help in the struggle and serious work without getting involved in rumormongering." And would he be a candidate for the party leadership after the elections? "I am struggling to create conditions for PASOK to win the elections once again. I have always been and will always be part of that effort. This for me is the great political challenge. I am not interested in scenarios or working hypotheses," he said. But Papandreou noted also the many factors that had made the public feel tired of PASOK. "I believe that Greeks are indeed tired of having to deal with bureaucracy, they are truly disgusted with the extent of corruption in many sectors of the civil service and they find it unacceptable that all of society is held back by the petty interests of smaller or larger interest groups that want to dominate political life," Papandreou said. He noted, though, that the government's reform effort could save the day. "(The people) know that Greece has to push through reforms.

The question is which party has the inner strength and conviction to do so. PASOK has shown that it can set Greece on the road to progress and change. PASOK governments have been identified with major changes that have benefited the country and its people. Costas Simitis has made this effort his life's work, and this is something the vast majority of Greeks recognize," Papandreou said. He stressed the necessity for such reforms, even at the expense of the party's own identity. "I realize, however, that today many people believe that PASOK has itself become part of the establishment and that it is therefore incapable of carrying out the necessary initiatives," Papandreou said. "That is the challenge we will have to rise to. I believe that PASOK is and can always be a living movement which, when necessary, can even contradict itself in order to better serve the country, and to transform itself into a new force for reform and change."

From Kathimerini, Greece, 13 October 2003

Dzurinda Signs Anti-corruption Charter

Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda signed the Anti-Corruption Charter of Slovak Business, an initiative of NGO Transparency International Slovensko that has already been signed by more than 20 firms, news wire TASR reported. The head of the European Commission Delegation to Slovakia, Eric van der Linden, welcomed the country's move in fighting corruption but stressed that Brussels still expects the Slovak Parliament to adopt further measures in this area. Signatories to the charter pledge not to give or receive bribes, or use any other illegal ways to prefer business partners, state representatives, or employees. Among its supporters are representatives of major companies in Slovakia, including oil refinery Slovnaft, railway operator ŽSSK, US producer of electrical and electronic components Molex, Coca-Cola Beverages Slovakia, and Pepsi Cola. Other signatories are the Association of Slovak Businessmen, the Slovak Business and Industrial Chamber (SOPK), and the Business Alliance of Slovakia.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, 13 October 2003

 

Anti-corruption Manual to be Adapted for Region

Transparency International (TI), the leading international anti-corruption and good governance organization, and its national chapters in the Middle East and North Africa have launched the process of adapting TI's source book to the Arabic context, according to a Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) statement. The source book is a handbook for anti-corruption practitioners, a manual for all those working in this domain and guardians of good practice in government and, increasingly, in the private sector, the statement said Thursday. The source book has been translated into Arabic. But for this anti-corruption manual to be of value for the region a translation is not enough. TI's national chapters are adapting it to relate to the region's reality and political context to function as a tool for civil society and policymakers. LTA called on researchers and economists interested in cooperation in this process to send their applications for the adaptation of the following chapters of the book: building political will; independent anti-corruption agencies; conflict of interest; nepotism and cronyism; and the right to information, before the Oct. 30. For additional information, please contact The Lebanese Transparency Association in Beirut at telefax 01/293045/282238 or by e-mail to contact person, Fourat Achkar at: faschkar@tranparency-lebanon.org

From Daily Star, Lebanon, 24 October 2003

 

Governor Considers Requiring Students to Perform Public Service

Springfield - Illinois high school students would have to perform community service before they could graduate under a proposal being considered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Saying American children spend too much time watching television, Blagojevich said mandatory community service is a way to steer kids into productive activities. "Serving their community, that's healthy, productive good use of time that I think is better than too much time in front of television," Blagojevich said. The idea is still in its formative stages, but it would require every high school student to complete a certain number of hours of community service before obtaining a diploma. Details such as the number of hours and what counts as community service are under discussion. "An idea likes this is complex, and it is not something that we can or should decree overnight," Blagojevich said. "We're going to work with local school districts, with teachers and with volunteer organizations. We'll do all of the research, but on it's face, I find the idea very compelling." State law already allows school districts to require community service as a condition of graduation but does not require it. Chicago public schools, for example, require 40 hours of community service. Maryland is the only state where all students must perform community service to graduate.

Students there must complete 75 hours of "service experience," said Tracey Seabolt, service learning specialist for the Maryland Department of Education. That can range from a letter-writing campaign conducted from a classroom to outdoor cleanup projects, Seabolt said. The requirement has been in place 10 years, and it hasn't stopped a student from graduating. "Most of the people who haven't graduated, it was for some other reason," Seabolt said. Blagojevich said that if school districts want more money to implement the plan, he'll give it consideration, but they shouldn't count on it. "They ought to stop doing that (asking for more money) and start figuring out ways at their own level to provide these kinds of services," Blagojevich said. "Those at the local level ought to take some responsibility as well." The idea of statewide mandatory service to obtain a diploma isn't new. Ben Schwarm of the Illinois Association of School Boards said his research shows bills requiring mandatory service have been introduced in the General Assembly for the past six or seven years.

None of the bills made it out of committee. Schwarm said the association isn't necessarily opposed to the idea. "It would be more a time problem than a money problem," Schwarm said. "(Students) need so many credits to graduate. It's a pretty full plate right now." Springfield school superintendent Diane Rutledge took a cautious approach to the idea. "To be involved in your community, we think that's a really good idea," Rutledge said. "We will have to se how something like that could be structured and how that fits into the school day." A spokesman for the Peoria public school system could not be reached for comment. Blagojevich also said he wants to make community service a condition for receiving an Illinois Merit Recognition Scholarship. Students in the top 5 percent of their class who attend a public university are eligible to receive the one-time, $1,000 grants. In addition to class rank, Blagojevich wants the students to contribute a minimum of 50 hours of community service as condition to receiving the money. "The service will vary depending on where they live, what they like to do and how they can best serve," Blagojevich said. The governor said he will push for the change during the spring session of the General Assembly.

From Lincoln Courier, IL, by Doug Finke, 11 October 2003

 

Step Forward for Fight Against Global Corruption

The first global anti-corruption convention was on Wednesday finalised by delegates at talks in Vienna, an observer said, opening the way to more effective co-operation in prosecuting crooked public officials and recovering stolen assets spirited abroad. The text must now go to the United Nations' General Assembly, which is expected to rubber-stamp the final draft, ahead of a signing ceremony in Mexico in early December. It will come into force after 30 countries have ratified its provisions into national law, a process that could take two years or more. Peter Rooke, who sits on the advisory board of the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, said the move sent "a powerful political signal" that countries were getting serious about the international problem. The convention's highlight is ground-breaking provisions to facilitate the return of assets stolen by officials or leaders in one country and transferred to another - a subject that had engendered "quite a battle between the developed and developing world", he said.

The final provisions on the return of assets ran to between five and six pages, which will now have to be examined closely to assess their impact. Mr. Rooke nonetheless regretted the fact that, under US pressure, the text shied away from dealing with private-to-private sector corruption, as well as the financing of political parties. He also noted that tough decisions on how the agreement should be monitored had been deferred to a future conference of state parties - suggesting that was a battle anti-corruption campaigners would need to fight another day. Earlier this week the UN announced the entry into force of its convention on fighting international organised crime, adopted in 2000 to combat money laundering, organised crime and human trafficking. However, most of the countries that had ratified the convention were developing nations, Reuters reported. Only two European Union members, France and Spain, had ratified it, while the US, which signed in 2000, had not.

From Financial Times, UK, by Mark Turner at the United Nations, 1 October 2003

Annual Global Corruption Index Results Released

\Washington - An anti-corruption organization has released its annual corruption index at media briefings in several world capitals. In terms of the amounts of money involved, corruption is most pervasive in the process of awarding government contracts, particularly in developing countries. Transparency International says corruption flourishes where the rule of law is not supported and the news media restricted. It also thrives where organized crime is unchecked and government regulation weak. Now in its 10th year, Transparency International says while progress has been made there is enormous work still to be done. In particular, it says, rich countries need to provide practical support to developing-country governments that demonstrate the political will to fight corruption. Corruption is most pervasive in the awarding of government contracts. Nancy Boswell, the head of Transparency International in the United States, says procurement and investment contracts need to be made public. "Many governments put confidentiality clauses into their contracts with companies so that the companies are not permitted legally to disclose the payments they are making to those governments," he said. "This insures a closed circuit, where governments can help themselves if they want to."

Michael Hershman of the U.S. chapter of Transparency says rich countries are not free of corruption. He says while Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development agreed to an anti-corruption code, offenders have not been prosecuted. "They [these codes] have not led to prosecutions," he said. "There has been no evidence of widespread enforcement of these conventions. And so there is beginning to be a credibility problem." While he makes no allegations of wrongdoing, Mr. Hershman expresses concern at what he says are less than transparent reconstruction contracts in Iraq that have been awarded by U.S. authorities. Too many of those deals with the U.S. aid agency, he says, have involved single company, non-competitive bidding. Transparency International says throughout the world there needs to be increased educati`on on ethics and the difference between right and wrong.

From Voice of America, by Barry Wood, 9 October 2003

Work Completed on UN Treaty to Fight Corruption Worldwide

Work on a United Nations treaty to combat corruption worldwide, including the return of assets obtained through bribery and embezzlement to the country of origin, has been completed, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailing it as a milestone in improving the lives of millions of people around the planet. "This Convention can make a real difference to the quality of life of millions of people around the world," Annan had told the ad hoc committee in Vienna drawing up the treaty delivered by Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). "It is particularly heartening that you were able to complete this process in less than two years," he said of the Convention on Corruption, which will be put to a ministerial signing conference in Merida, Mexico, from 9 to 11 December. Once adopted, the treaty will enhance cooperation between governments and help standardize the way in which individual countries deal with corruption in their national legislation.

The requirement for Member States to return assets obtained through bribery and embezzlement to the country of origin represents a new fundamental principle in international treaties. In a number of countries, corruption has led to the depletion of national wealth. Some of those countries, whose former dictators have stolen hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars, have made a great contribution to the search for new rules, including the Philippines and Nigeria. Preventive measures in the Convention include norms of conduct for public officials, greater transparency based on public access to information on government businesses, and stricter procurement regulations and measures against money laundering.

From Arabic News, 9 October 2003

Global Corruption Survey Claims Improved Governance in Armenia

Transparency International, an international non-governmental organization, has ranked Yerevan among the least corrupt former Soviet republics. Azerbaijan and Georgia, along with Central Asian states, lagged near the bottom of the NGO's annual corruption survey. Armenia came in 78th place in Transparency International's 2003 survey of 133 countries, formally known as the Corruption Perceptions Index. Among Caucasus countries, Armenia ranked far ahead of Azerbaijan and Georgia, which shared 124th place together with three other states. Corruption in Baku and Tbilisi is "pervasive," according to the annual survey. Bangladesh rated as the world's most corrupt country, while Finland ranked as the cleanest. Russia ranked 86th. Among Central Asian states, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan tied in 100th. Kyrgyzstan was 118th and Tajikistan was 124th. Turkmenistan was not rated. The ranking was determined by the extent of their corrupt practices as perceived by business leaders, academics and risk analysts. All countries were evaluated on a 10-point scale, in which a score of 10 represented an absence of graft. Armenia scored 3.0 in Transparency's Corruption Perception Index, up from 2.5 points it received in 2000. The score, though low in absolute terms, puts the country just below the NGO's threshold for a "high level" of corruption.

Representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have endorsed Transparency International's findings, based on separate studies conducted by international lending institutions. "A number of other studies ... have basically confirmed the observation that if one looks at the CIS as a whole, Armenia is among the better performers," said James McHugh, the IMF resident representative in Yerevan. McHugh cautions at the same time that the Armenian authorities still have "a long way to go" in promoting the rule of law. This is also the point stressed by independent Armenian experts. "In my opinion, going up from 2.5 to 3.0 in three years is a modest achievement," says Arevik Saribekian of Transparency International's Armenian branch. "Corruption may indeed be down but we shouldn't consider it a high score." Corrupt practices, which date back to the Soviet era, have long been as a serious hindrance to Armenia's economic development, which is also hampered by the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Improper conduct, including bribery and nepotism - remains relatively common among government bureaucrats. Bribes are often offered to get officials to turn a blind eye on tax evasion, cover up a criminal case, speed up bureaucratic paperwork or even enroll a student in a state university.

The impact of graft has been particularly negative on the country's investment climate. Some forms of lucrative economic activity (e.g., imports of fuel and basic foodstuffs) still require government patronage. Also, many businesses have long complained about harassment from corrupt tax and customs officials. Authorities in Yerevan have been under growing pressure from the IMF and other Western donors to tackle the problem. In recent years, they have simplified Armenia's business legislation and enacted a set of laws aimed at complicating abuses committed by government officials. However, virtually no senior government officials have been sacked or prosecuted on corruption charges. In late 2001, the government received a $340,000 grant from the World Bank to work out a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy. Publication of the document has since been repeatedly delayed and is now expected by the end of this year. Armenian opposition leaders have expressed skepticism over whether President Robert Kocharian's administration has the political will to implement an anti-corruption plan. Kocharian critics maintain that corruption serves as a key pillar of Armenia's oligarchic political order.

To support their claims, opposition point to Armenia's presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year, which were both marred by widespread allegations of fraud. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. McHugh, however, noted the Armenian government has registered significant anti-corruption results in recent years, singling out Armenia's banking and energy sectors as the areas where progress has been particularly evident. "There is a perception out there that Armenia is a very corrupt country," McHugh explains. "But what we see from these indicators is that perhaps that impression is too negative and that the situation is improving." In the words of another member of Transparency International's Armenian affiliate, Varuzhan Hoktanian, a lot will depend on public scrutiny over the implementation of anti-graft measures. "World experience shows that countries with strong civil societies are less corrupt because their citizens hold their rulers in check," he says. "Government programs alone don't solve problems."

From Eurasianet, by Emil Danielyan, 20 October 2003

The Fruits of Foreign Aid - Corruption

The Poverty of Nations: International Monetary Fund Socialism (And Corruption) Run Amok - On Sept. 23, the World Bank Group and the board of governors of the International Monetary Fund will meet in Dubai to try - yet again - to determine how current international monetary issues should be addressed. Let-s hope they bring some fresh ideas because - despite a $1.5 billion annual budget, 100-plus offices and more than 10,000 employees - their current approach isn't working. The World Bank-s motto is: Our dream is a world without poverty. But its assistance has done little or nothing to alleviate poverty and, in many cases, has helped perpetuate the systems that brought the hardship in the first place. Consider the "accomplishments" of the International Development Association (IDA), the branch of the World Bank Group that lends money to the world-s poorest countries. India, its top recipient of aid, has received $28.8 billion since 1961; Kenya, ranked 10th, has received $3.2 billion since 1964. On average, the top 10 recipients of IDA aid have been on this dole for 37 years. What do they have to show for it? Their per capita incomes have climbed from between $117 and $447 in the 1960s to between $124 and $527 today. Bangladesh, the world-s No. 3 recipient of foreign aid and a member of the IDA-s top 10, is, coincidentally, also the world's third-poorest country. Why? Transparency International, an organization that spotlights corruption in government, ranks it the world-s most corrupt country. The group says Bangladesh's corruption means its gross domestic product is 4.7 percent lower than it otherwise would be.

The pattern of squandered money holds for the top 10 recipients of IMF loans - Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, Indonesia, India, Philippines and Pakistan. This group has received between $3.6 billion (Pakistan) and $53 billion (Brazil) since 1958 (except for Russia, which didn't begin to receive loans until 1992). And now, after four decades of well-intentioned assistance, most of these countries' economies remain repressed and poor. There are a few exceptions, most notably South Korea, which made significant improvements in enforcing contracts and policing property rights. As a result, its per capita income has climbed from $1,325 in 1960 to more than $14,000 today. In most cases, though, the assistance hasn't helped. Why? Largely because recipients have failed to address the main causes of their economic ruin - corruption, repressed economies, weak judicial systems and excessive state ownership of key enterprises. Every year, The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal issue an "Index of Economic Freedom." The Index surveys 161 countries and rates each on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 representing the world's freest economies - those with low tax rates, transparency in government, reduced red tape and a strong commitment to property rights, among other factors. In almost every case, countries at the top of the scale, the 1s and 2s, are far wealthier than the 3s, 4s and 5s, indicating a strong correlation between economic freedom and per capita income.

It-s simple: When governments establish strong courts, strong property rights and strong rule of law, when they lower or eliminate tariffs, make it easy to open businesses, privatize state-owned enterprises and reduce barriers to foreign ownership, incomes rise and economies flourish. The World Bank and the IMF won-t come close to realizing the dream of "a world without poverty" as long as they keep feeding money to countries with repressed economies and weak judicial systems. These factors breed corruption and deter growth. And the aid merely enables the problems to persist. Argentina, for example, recently used IMF funds to pay government debts so it could avoid much-needed reform of its corrupt public sector. Fortunately, the world has begun to see the folly of bestowing huge financial aid packages on countries without the economic freedom or rule of law to properly take advantage of them. Last year, at an economic summit in Monterrey, Mexico, President Bush set the tone with his proposal for Millennium Challenge Accounts, which would make U.S. foreign aid contingent on countries reforming their economies and judicial systems. Other experts, such as Allan Meltzer of Carnegie-Mellon University, suggest the World Bank and the IMF change their lending practices so they send funds only after reforms have been made. If this meeting leads to changes along these lines, it will have been more than worthwhile. If not, that dream of a world without poverty will remain just that - a dream.

From Pravda, Russia, 24 October 2003

 

Kilimo Lashes Out At Corrupt Civil Servants

Nairobi - Home Affairs Minister Linah Jebii Kilimo yesterday said the Civil Service is the epitome of corruption, inefficiency and wastefulness. And Kilimo called on civil servants to shed off the tag by fighting theft which is an obstacle to development. "We can only rid ourselves of this debilitating tag by accepting that there is a problem and then go ahead to seek solutions," said Kilimo. She was addressing heads of departments in the Home Affairs Ministry during a sensitisation programme organised by the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission. The workshops are being held under the Public Service Integrity Programme launched by the Head of Civil Service, Mr. Francis Muthaura, in April. The programme seeks to restore integrity, responsibility, accountability, transparency, efficiency and responsiveness for better service delivery. Kilimo said the respect the public service enjoyed in the 60's and 70's has been eroded.

She said the workshop signifies the Government's determination to overcome corruption as an obstacle to development. "The public service (used to) attract people in the private sector which is not the case now," said Kilimo. She said the anti-corruption net will be cast wider to rid the Government of the vice and called on the public to stop giving bribes. "We must stop giving bribes to public officers and demand services as a matter of right not privilege," she said. Acting Director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, Mr. Gideon Mutua, said earlier civil service reform programmes failed because they were not well co-ordinated. He accused civil servants of extorting funds from the public. Mutua said the Government had formed corruption prevention teams in all ministries, parastatals and local authorities to meet the Public Service Integrity Programme targets. He said 1,400 integrity assurance officers had been trained in public service.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Andrew Teyie, 30 September 2003

Dariye Tasks Civil Servants on Development

Plateau State Governor, Chief Joshua Dariye, has charged public officers and political appointees in the state to be committed to the vision and mission of re-engineering the state. Dariye gave this charge at the swearing-in of 19 commissioners, 11 special advisers, 17 Transition Implementation Committee chairmen and heads of government parastatals in Jos. The governor warned that the era of misrepresentation and mispresentation was over, adding that adequate machinery has been put on ground to detect and flush out "apostles of doom" and "promoters of primordial and sectional interests." "You are all aware that we made far reaching, wide and substantially exhaustive consultations before your appointment. The oath taken today is a covenant with God, with your constituencies and a covenant with the entire state. I urge you to keep constant touch with your various home local governments so that the peoples' felt needs are truly identified, understood and communicated to me," he charged. Dariye urged the TIC chairmen to see their call as selfless service and that the welfare of their people should be their primary concern. "We shall closely monitor your conduct and will not hesitate to show you the way out if your behaviour is considered inimical to the attainment of the objectives." THISDAY checks revealed that security operatives had a hectic time controlling the surging crowd that witnessed the occasion which took place at the Azi Nyako Youth Centre.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Funmi Peter-Omale, 6 October 2003

Changes in Civil Service to Continue, Says Kibaki

The Government will continue its deliberate and systematic changes in the public service to bring it to same level with those in the developed world, President Kibaki has said. Only necessary changes would be made and they should be viewed as normal, he said. "We are doing what is necessary because Kenya must join other modern nations," he said, when he addressed Kenyans living in UK and Ireland at a London hotel on Wednesday night. He emphasised that his Government would perform and deliver to the people, adding that it was ready to do anything to improve the lives of Kenyans. The head of State criticised a tendency by some people in responsible positions to use their positions for personal gain, saying the era of exploiting the public was long gone. He told Kenyans in the diaspora that they could contribute to the development of their country at home from their foreign bases and urged those with special skills needed home to come back and join in rebuilding the country. He told those who were underemployed in foreign countries that they could be engaged in more satisfying and gainful employment in Kenya. The President, who was applauded throughout his speech, said there was an impetus for the acceleration of the East African Community, adding that East Africans were being encouraged to engage in economic activities on an equal basis. The three countries were moving towards regional integration together with Rwanda and Burundi to make the region a single market.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, 10 October 2003

High Wage Bills to Hamper Services

Councils to have less for operations and maintenance - The immediate impact of the salary increases will be a sharp rise in the wage bills of the cash-strapped local authorities. The ratio of wages as a share of total revenue will hit the roof for most of the local authorities. And, the consequence will be that most of the councils will have less money to spend on operations and maintenance. The inevitable result will be further deterioration in services. Clearly, these salary increases were neither based on productivity nor the cost of providing better services. The pressure came from recent salary awards to MPs and civil servants. With their counterparts in Parliament having awarded themselves huge increases early this year, it was a forgone conclusion that the councillors were going to demand their share. Indeed, it is doubtful that the increases were fully costed and funding implications worked out before they were implemented. In a sense, what has happened is a perfect case of extravagance in the middle of poverty. Not a single local authority in the country operates a surplus budget. Municipal and town councils are steeped in debt, with massive sums owed to institutions like Kenya Power and Lighting Company, National Social Security Fund (NSSF), and National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).

The typical profile of a local authority is a deeply-indebted outfit with millions of arrears in salaries and allowances, and which owes statutory organisations and the workers' savings and credit societies hundreds of millions. Putrid garbage mountains, potholed roads and the notoriously erratic water supplies characterise the lot of Kenya's local authorities. Workers' strikes, allegations of corruption by mayors and chairpersons, and crippling cashflow problems beset most of the towns and local authorities. Until recently, the claim was that the councils did not have adequate sources of revenue since the abolition of the Graduated Personal Tax more than 30 years ago, and the service charge in the late 1990s. It used to be said that there was an imbalance between their financial obligations and the revenue instruments at their disposal. Yet, no major changes in the quality of services has occurred since the introduction of the Local Government Transfer Fund. This year alone, the Government intends to transfer Sh3.7 billion to local authorities.

The greatest problem facing local authorities in Kenya is mismanagement of resources. They have inefficiently administered the revenue instruments at their disposal. Take property rates, for example, collections are poor and lawyers owe councils hundreds of millions of shillings. And, despite the fact that the law gives them the flexibility to revalue for rate adjustment, most of the rates have remained static for many years. Councils are also allowed to impose all manner of fees covering a wide range of activities, from hawking, ambulance fees, cesspit cleaning, to approval of permits for buildings. These fees remain static for years, with councils not bothering to ensure that the fees cover the cost of the services provided. Nothing illustrates mismanagement of services by local authorities as Nairobi water works. Intermittent supply has become the rule and all categories of customers have to rely on costly substitutes, such as tankers and water vendors.

The poor, comprising 40 per cent of the total population and mostly living in informal settlements, suffer most. The Water and Sewerage Department neither has the managerial or financial autonomy to provide quality services. Billing is inefficient and monies are diverted from improving the service to paying salaries. What are the likely implications to the macro economy? If the salary awards are implemented, the Government risks a floodgate of of claims for increases in wages by other categories of public servants. It is noteworthy that increases awarded to civil servants in the last Budget have yet to be implemented. When the Government recently implemented parts of an award to the police, the International Monetary Fund protested that it had broken the benchmark for the ratio of wages to the GDP, which it had agreed with the lender. These salary increases will complicate relations with donors.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, by Jaindi Kisero, 10 October 2003

Moleketi Urges Civil Servants to Put Interest of People First

Pretoria - Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi has called on public servants to respect the rights of people, especially the elderly and the disabled. She was speaking at the Home Affairs offices at Qaukeni Municipality during her visit there, which was part of Imbizo Focus Week. 'Everywhere there is a cry from elders about the ill treatment they get when visiting government offices, we want that to come to an end,' said the minister. 'Together with public servants and the communities, we will make sure that we root out [bad behaviour and instil respect among our people],' she said. The minister issued certificates to at least 100 youth, trained by the Umsobomvu Fund. Six were given grants to start up their own businesses. Minister Fraser-Moleketi also visited the Masimanyane Arts and Craft Centre for the disabled.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Nomonde Makaula, 20 October 2003

MPs Accuse Government of Bias in Hiring of Civil Servants

MPs criticised the Government's method of recruiting civil servants, complaining that it was partisan. The lawmakers lamented that certain districts had been left out altogether in recent recruitment of civil servants and particulary that of military, security and district officers. Assistant minister in the Office of the President, Morris Ndzoro, had a hard time defending the Government against allegations that recruitment of officers favoured certain regions. He was responding to a question by Mr. Francis Kagwima (Tharaka, Ford Asili) who had complained that Tharaka District was discriminated against during the recruitments. He wanted to know what the minister was doing to ensure that the district was included in all financial allocations and recruitments. . Mr. Kagwima shocked the House with claims that the district was not included in the Government Financial Estimates. He proved his allegations by displaying the current estimates to the assistant minister.

But House Speaker, Francis Kaparo, said the estimates were currently under debate. He asked OP to send a circular to all Government departments to "let them know of the existence of Tharaka disctrict. Mr. Guracha Galgalo (Moyale, Kanu) complained that only five people from Moyale District were picked in the recent military recruitment drive while 300 came from Nyeri District alone. However, Mr. Muhika Mutahi (Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri) disputed the allegation saying that only two people were picked. Dr. Oburu Oginga (Bondo, Narc) complained that recruitment of DOs and security officers was done in a partisan manner. Mr. Osman Kamama (Baringo East, Ford-People) described the alleged partisan recruitment as a "grave matter.'' He claimed out of the 2,400 people recruited into the army, 1,400 came from the Mount Kenya region and 27 from the Kalenjin community.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, by Njeri Rugene, 28 October 2003

Kenya to Get Sh3.5b for Civil Service Reforms

Kenya may finally get a Sh3.5 billion funding from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) when the executive boards of the multi-lateral lenders meet next week. The money, which is the second tranche of the Sh10.5 billion credit approved three years ago, will go towards economic and public sector reforms. However, its release depends on agreement between the government and the IMF over the multi-million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). The agreement will also require waivers to take into account a shortfall in Civil Service retrenchment and difficulties in implementing the core poverty expenditure program. The IMF had approved a Sh13.3 billion PRGF credit for Kenya three years ago but the agreement expired last August with an outstanding Sh10.5 billion that was never released. A new program is currently being negotiated with the Fund and hopes are high that the IMF board will approve it and put Kenya back into the lending program that went off the track in 1997. Though the World Bank and the government have held high level discussions that saw credit extended to April next year, there are still contentious issues that may delay release of the full amount. Among them is privatisation of Telecom Kenya, which has been outstanding for the last three years.

The Bank maintains that privatisation of Telcom Kenya is a key aspect of the much needed environment for faster growth and poverty reduction. Bank sources say that upon its election, the Narc government requested for more time to develop its long-term privatisation strategy that would also cater for the sale of the giant parastatal. And a Privatisation Bill is being prepared. The credit, by far the largest that the Bank has given to Kenya in the last decade was also meant to improve accountability in the public sector focusing in particular on procurement and financial management and on the Judiciary. It was also meant to assist the government to shift public expenditure towards core poverty reducing programs identified in the poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP). However, the new government has downplayed the PRSP and instead developed an Economic Strategy Paper that is yet to be discussed and a work plan to implement it developed. But the World Bank, in the Country Economic Memorandum released last month, says reducing poverty will require allocating public spen

ding towards pro-poor programs, and eliminating obstacles to the full participation of women and other groups in the economy. "The government has made considerable progress in addressing issues linked to the second tranche of US$50 million that was suspended in January 2001," observes the Bank. Among the achievements are the new procurement regulations currently in place. A directorate of Public Procurement has been established and the Public Procurement Bill may also be discussed before Parliament breaks for Christmas. However, the implementation of civil service reforms, which include right sizing of the government consistent with refocusing of the public sector to its core functions and the policy priorities, has not succeeded. Retrenchment of 23,000 civil servants was completed in 200/2001 and additional downsizing done in public-funded organisations including state universities. "Core poverty recurrent expenditure were largely protected in 200/2001 and 2001/2002 budgets, although progress in protecting core poverty development expenditures was disappointing" the Bank says.

Though the Kenya Economic and Public Sector Credit was approved after the former regime showed its commitment to reforms, little success was achieved. Prior to approval of the credit, former President Moi appointed a new team popularly referred to as the "dream team", and headed by the renowned conservationist Dr Richard Leakey. The team, which also comprised of current Kenya Airways managing director, Titus Naikuni, was mandated to steer economic recovery by tackling long-standing development problems including endemic corruption in the public sector. The first tranche was released on the commencement of the project in August 2000. It was pegged to economic governance, public sector reform, privatisation, expenditure prioritisation, and portfolio improvement. The team however failed to deliver due to what analysts say was lack of political will. Consequently, the World Bank, which had released the first tranche of US US$50 million (Sh3.5 billion) withheld the balance. The third and last tranche of a similar amount is tied to the privatisation of Telcom Kenya.

From Financial Standard, Kenya, by Benson Kathuri, 27 October 2003

MPs Accuse Government of Bias in Hiring of Civil Servants

Nairobi - MPs criticised the Government's method of recruiting civil servants, complaining that it was partisan. The lawmakers lamented that certain districts had been left out altogether in recent recruitment of civil servants and particularly that of military, security and district officers. Assistant minister in the Office of the President, Morris Ndzoro, had a hard time defending the Government against allegations that recruitment of officers favoured certain regions. He was responding to a question by Mr. Francis Kagwima (Tharaka, Ford Asili) who had complained that Tharaka District was discriminated against during the recruitments. He wanted to know what the minister was doing to ensure that the district was included in all financial allocations and recruitments. . Mr. Kagwima shocked the House with claims that the district was not included in the Government Financial Estimates.

He proved his allegations by displaying the current estimates to the assistant minister. But House Speaker, Francis Kaparo, said the estimates were currently under debate. He asked OP to send a circular to all Government departments to "let them know of the existence of Tharaka disctrict. Mr. Guracha Galgalo (Moyale, Kanu) complained that only five people from Moyale District were picked in the recent military recruitment drive while 300 came from Nyeri District alone. However, Mr. Muhika Mutahi (Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri) disputed the allegation saying that only two people were picked. Dr Oburu Oginga (Bondo, Narc) complained that recruitment of DOs and security officers was done in a partisan manner. Mr. Osman Kamama (Baringo East, Ford-People) described the alleged partisan recruitment as a "grave matter." He claimed out of the 2,400 people recruited into the army, 1,400 came from the Mount Kenya region and 27 from the Kalenjin community.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Njeri Rugene, 29 October 2003

 

Fight Corruption by Making Civil Servants Efficient

The ACA director-general has suggested that the anti-corruption agency should go after bribe givers instead. It is a very good suggestion yet it seems to further protect the civil servants who will have the added choice of reporting any offer below their expectation. Our government should improve the efficiency of the civil service to such an extent that there is no room or need for any offer of bribe. Who wants to bribe if there is no need for it? I would blame it on the immediate supervisors who should be able to monitor the workload properly so that any delay is dealt with before the public perceives that a bribe is needed to move the file. Court cases and bankruptcy cases are known for missing certain files for a fee. The service can be either for the file to go missing so that the person gets a period of "unofficial reprieve" or for the person desperately looking for a file. Dishonesty seems to be rampant everywhere. At any of those car parks which are manually operated, the ticket is likely to differ from the counterfoil. In cases where the cashier uses a till, if one asks for a receipt, it is likely to be one meant for an earlier parker.

Where there is a proper till being used at a warehouse sale, given the opportunity, the cashier will use the calculator instead so that he can pocket the money. To give credit where it is due, I do find improvements in many places like the JPJ, Kedai Telekom and so on. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the Ipoh Immigration Department to renew my passport. The counter staff served with a smile and not only did she not tell me off for not completing the form properly, she actually filled in the few missing information which she had in her record! How I wish other departments are as customer friendly as this. Sometimes, minor inconvenience matters a lot to the public and it only needs a considerate officer to realise it and make it possible at minimum cost. Once, I was at the EPF building in Ipoh to make a withdrawal. It required a photocopy of my IC. Being early, the Greentown Mall shops were still closed and I had to walk half a kilometre to Fair Park to do it. It occurred to me then that the EPF's existence is due to the employees' contributions and therefore we should be served rather than being made to run around for something as simple as photocopy IC.

If the commercial sector can do it for free, why not the EPF? Instead of having fanciful buildings and lending hundreds of millions to companies which banks would not lend or getting involved in housing developments which it has no experience nor the right to do so, it should have provided better service and better returns. The lack of accountability in the civil service, especially in the Land Offices, is incredible, judging from the yearly reports of the auditor-general. No remedial action seems necessary as it will only carry forward to the next year. Any wrongdoing discovered will have the culprit transferred to another department. All they need are competent accounting staff and good internal controls, as well as strict enforcement of deadlines to present the accounts. If the Registrar of Companies can penalise companies for late submission of accounts, why can't the government do it to their own departments? Every year we hear of ministers' rhetoric to improve, for example, the issue of land titles and certificates of fitness for new buildings, yet the problems remain. It is either the ministers are out of touch with reality or there are no effective follow-up action to ensure compliance.

From Malaysia Kini, Malaysia, 2 October 2003

JS Body Seeks Career Policy for Civil Servants

The parliamentary standing committee on the establishment ministry has recommended introduction of a career policy for the government officials. A four-member committee comprising officials of the establishment ministry was formed at its yesterday's meeting to prepare a draft within three months. The government officials are frustrated as the competent ones are not getting the opportunity for career development, the committee observed. This is happening due to the absence of a proper career planning and development policy. The four-member committee, headed by a joint secretary of the establishment ministry, will submit the draft to the parliamentary standing committee by year-end. The committee will then meet with the prime minister, who is in charge of the ministry and also a member of the committee, and discuss the matter. After the draft is finalised , it will be placed before parliament to make it a national policy, said Mia Golam Mohammad Parwar, member of the committee. The establishment ministry has set up a career planning and training wing, but it has not started operating, Parwar told The Daily Star yesterday. The meeting was informed that 98 officials are now acting as officers on special duty (OSDs). Chairman of the committee Sarder Shakhawat Hossain Bakul presided over the meeting held at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.

From The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 1 October 2003

Quarter of Public Servants Bullied

One in four public servants has experienced bullying or harassment at work, a State Government survey has found. But only a third of them reported the incident as they felt there would be no change or they'd be unpopular with workmates. Five per cent of public servants surveyed in June said they had been subjected to verbal threats in the workplace, while 6 per cent had been shouted at. Of the 6000 or 36 per cent of public servants who responded to a survey from the Commissioner for Public Employment, 10 per cent said they had experienced intimidating or aggressive body language at work. A further 13 per cent reported "persistent nitpicking or unjustified criticisms" while 10 per cent had been humiliated through sarcasm or insults. One per cent said they had been threatened with physical violence. Public Service Association secretary Jan McMahon said bullying in the workplace was on the rise, partly because of pressure caused by staff cutbacks. "The workloads are just through the roof," she said. There was a "significant" bullying problem among corrections officers she said, and union-run training courses on how to deal with the issue were in constant demand. Premier Mike Rann said the reported bullying was unacceptable. "We don't want that in our workplace," he said.

From South Australia Advertiser, Australia, by Melissa King, 30 September 2003

Declaration of Assets by Generals, Civil Servants Demanded

Islamabad - Pakistan Peoples Party Friday stressed the need to declare all assets by all military generals and civil servants following the members of parliament and provincial assemblies. In a statement issued here Friday a spokesman of PPP said that the PPP welcomes the requirement of declaration of assets and liabilities by the legislators as an element of transparency, public scrutiny and good governance. The Party has accordingly directed its legislators to comply with the law and submit to the Chief Election Commissioner a statement of their assets and liabilities as on June 30, 2003. "The Party has also noted with deep concern the media reports that at least two sitting ministers of the government namely Finance Minister Mr. Shaukat Aziz and Education Minister Ms Zubeda Jalal have failed to submit the required declarations by the due date. This is a matter of grave concern as it shows, on the one hand, the scant respect the ministers have for the laws of the land and that the law is intended to be yet another coercive instrument against the opposition on the other. "The Party demands of the allegedly defaulting ministers to publicly explain their position as to why they failed to submit declarations", he said.

"The Party also believes that transparency, public scrutiny as elements of good governance and accountability should not be confined to the 1170 legislators alone. For the law to have some measure of credibility and equity, it must also require the Generals and senior civil servants to make public every year their assets. If the assets of 1170 legislators can be advertised every year in the name of transparency and public scrutiny what is the justification to exempt the 400 odd generals and senior bureaucrats from the ambit of such a law? "The people of Pakistan have a right to know how many residential and commercial plots, agricultural lands, plazas and bank balance was owned by an officer upon entry into the defense service and how much was owned at the time of exit as a general and the magic of the multiplication of their wealth beyond known mathematical formulae" he added. "The Party hopes that the Chief Election Commissioner would also make public his assets and liabilities. There may be no law requiring the CEC to make public his assets. However, The CEC's call to the legislators to declare assets will have great moral force if he were to also declare his assets and no minister of the cabinet would be able to flout the law with impunity as it seems is the case at present", the spokesman maintained.

From PakTribune.com, Pakistan, 3 October 2003

Civil Servants Told To Take Isra' Mikraj An Example

Bandar Seri Begawan - The Israk and Mikraj or the Ascension of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, should be taken as an example among the Muslims, including government officers and staff. Muslim civil servants will then be able to run their daily life, particularly in managing official affairs and community, based on the Islamic teachings. The Ministry of Home Affairs last night organised an Isra' Mikraj celebration as an effective way for its officers and staff, including penghulus and kampong ketuas who serve in the ministry. The religious function was held to instil the teamwork spirit among them. Present at the ceremony was Dato Paduka Haji Awang Adnan, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs. A religious talk by Awang Haji Alihassan Bin Haji Mohammad Said, a lecturer from the Islamic Dawah Centre, highlighted the ceremony. The Isra and Mikraj event is commemorated to guide Muslims to always conduct excellent services. Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 7 October 2003

Minister Bats for Efficient Civil Service

Tutong - The civil service should be enhanced, efficient and more effective to ensure the implementation of development programmes are in accordance with the country's inspiration. Dato Awang Haji Adnan, Home Affairs Deputy Minister, made this remark at the Civil Service Day Celebration for Tutong District at the Tutong Civic Centre yesterday. He said the civil service acts as catalyst for development, progress, peace, welfare and harmony of the residents in the country. Dato Awang Haji Adnan said with the development of Information Communication Technology (ICT), the civil service should not only act as provider, facilitator and regulator but should act as agent of change, creative and thinker. He also presented certificates to retired government staff for the Tutong District. More than 100 people, including 52 women received their certificates. The Deputy Minister also presented appreciation certificates to nine people for exemplary service rendered in the district. The winners of the poetry writing competition in conjunction with the Civil Service Day for Tutong District level also received their prizes. First place went to Dayang Hajah Safiah Binte Metusin who wrote 'Kearah Kecemerlangan Perkhidmatan Awam'. Second place went to Awang Jaman Bin Haji Jumahat with his poem entitled 'Tonggak Negara' and third Awang Abdul Manan Bin Haji Rauf with his poem 'Nasihat Perkhidmatan Awam'. Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 7 October 2003

Budget to Benefit Public Servants, Pensioners

The Budget 2004 will be investment and development oriented, Finance Minister K.N.Choksy told the Daily News yesterday. The Budget will be presented in Parliament next month. Public officers, corporation employees and pensioners will also be beneficiaries, he said. The Minister presented the Appropriation Bill in Parliament yesterday. The total expenditure slated for 2004 will be Rs. 352 billion, of which Rs. 209 billion will be for recurrent expenditure and Rs. 143 billion for capital expenditure. Additionally there will be debt service repayment and pension payments in a sum of Rs. 313 billion. There is no reduction in outlay for Samurdhi, the fertiliser subsidy, school uniforms and textbooks. The total provision for foreign funded projects has been increased from Rs. 70 billion in 2003 to Rs. 89 billion in view of the enhanced foreign aid. This will be invested in road development, supply of power, enhancing agricultural production and development of irrigation. Consequent upon the Government's success in reducing interest rates, the Interest Bill for 2004 will be Rs. 121 billion as against Rs. 130 billion in 2003. This saving has been allocated to capital expenditure. The projected increase in revenue is Rs. 30 billion. Steps have been put in place to enhance revenue collection.

According to a Finance Ministry release yesterday, the expenditure is for maintaining the Public Services and undertaking development work. The expenditure figures included in the Appropriation Bill do not include certain items of expenditure for which Parliamentary approval has already been granted under various laws such as those on re-payment of Public Debt, payment of Interest on Public Debt, Pension Payments etc., amounting to Rs. 313.8 billion. Therefore, the total expenditure that has to be incurred during the year 2004 will be Rs. 668.6 bn. On the receipts side, the revenue and foreign grants are estimated to be Rs. 356.1 bn. Hence, approval is sought by this Bill to borrow Rs. 312.5 bn from both domestic and foreign sources. Both the expenditure and revenue have been estimated on the existing basis without taking into consideration any policy change. Certain sectors such as highways, and water supply have been allocated more funds than was done in 2003 due to the inflow of foreign aid. Out of the estimated receipts of Rs. 356.1 bn tax revenue amounts to 81% while non-tax revenue and other receipts amounts to 19 per cent. Of the tax revenue, direct taxes amounts to 17.5 per cent while the remainder is from indirect taxes such as Value Added Tax, Import Duties, and Excise Duties.

From Daily News, Sri Lanka, 9 October 2003

Empathy Required from the Civil Service

"The Civil Service should not consider the public a rival but instead consider them as good partner. It is from the public that civil servants are able to find weakness and shortcomings in the management and the government administration." This was the Titah of His Majesty the Sultan, during the 10th Civil Service Day held at the BICC, on Oct 4. The core message in His Majesty's Titah is the requirement for the Civil Service to have "empathy" which according to the dictionary means "the capacity to understand and respond to the unique experiences of another" "Good citizens deserve a good government with the latter depending on the mechanism. All parts of the civil service are government mechanisms. In this respect, civil servant must be determined, honest, transparent and forward looking" stated His Majesty. "Contributions from the public do not cause authority and credibility of the public service to diminish.the procedures and conditions applied to the public including foreign and local businessmen should always encourage an environment for growth and healthy and quality entrepreneurship." There are many who would regard the "titah" as mere reminders for the civil service to do better. Very few would look at the "titah" as criticisms of the "Civil Service". And yet very few would regard the "Titah" as a signal to an organizational "crisis" that requires immediate attentions and remedy.

The core component of His Majesty's leadership is that of "care" and there have been many occasions where he has been branded as the "caring monarch". "No one should be unduly concerned because our public service is transparent. It has been put on a pure and true track, following the teachings of Islam" The good teachings of Islam that that places demands on us to build an "ummah" where "empathy" is the main essential ingredients and values. The "caring monarch" projects the visions well articulated by Dr A Ciaramicoli of Harvard Medical School as follow: When we are empathic, meaning that we are capable of understanding each other on a deep level, actually feeling the emotions and understanding the thoughts, ideas, motives, and judgments of others. Empathy is the bond that connects us, helping us to think before we act, motivating us to reach out to someone in pain, teaching us to use our reasoning powers to balance our emotions, and inspiring us to the most lofty ideals to which human beings can aspire. Without empathy we would roam this planet like so many disconnected bits of protoplasm, bumping into each her and bouncing off without so much as a how-do-you-do, awake but unfeeling, aware but uncaring, filled with emotions but having no means of understanding or influencing them. By increasing our awareness of other people's thoughts and feelings, empathy shows us how to live life fully and wholeheartedly Empathy is primarily interested in that process of becoming, enlarging, and expanding, or in truth that's what empathy is - an expansion of your life into the lives of others, the act of putting your ear to another person's soul and listening intently to its urgent whisperings.

Who are you? What do you feel? What do you think? What means the most to you? These are the questions empathy seeks to explore. This is a good passage on empathy and reflects many of the essentials in the Islamic "ummah". The ideals of "persaudaraan" the ideals of "neighbours or jiran" are all encapsulated in the passage. There are very many programmes and procedures in the Civil Service that focuses on working together in teams. There are many projects that looks at the problems and provide technical and procedural solutions but there are few that addresses the "empathy" or the caring aspect of the administrations. The "caring" values for people. The "ingau ku" for people. The "ingau ku" for the public. The "ingau ku" for the success of your business. There are officers who defines the caring administrations are those related to the work of Pusat Dakwah, and the Welfare Departments in providing care for the unfortunates and the displaced. Providing homes for the fire victims, collecting charities are all that represent good governments. They may not consider good customer relations and good customer cares as the foundations for good governance. They are wrong because there are many unexpressed frustrations, there are many minor crisis, there are many more temporary loss of income and many more discomfort and hardship that can be averted through "empathy" in the front lines of the administrations. Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, by Bakar Jair, 10 October 2003

Record-high Wage Cuts for Civil Servants

Tokyo - The House of Councillors enacted an amended law Friday to carry out record wage cuts for central government employees to make their pay match sagging private-sector wage levels. The government-proposed revision to a law governing salaries for central government employees, which has already passed the House of Representatives, will take effect Nov 1. (Kyodo News)

From Japan Today, Japan, 10 October 2003

Brunei Civil Service Could Face A Major Shake Up Says Minister

Kuala Belait - Brunei's Civil Service could be in for a major shake up. They are to be reformed to meet the challenges of a changing world. And Civil Service members are urged to continue their efforts in finding new ways to ensure the smooth running of the administrative machinery and to be more dynamic, progressive and responsive towards public needs. The staff should also be able to solve problems on time professionally. Dato Haji Suyoi, Deputy Minister of Education speaking at the Public Civil Day celebration for the Belait District yesterday added that the government was taking various steps for public civil service to become an excellent sector. These include efforts to reform the public civil service to become a catalyst to be prepared to meet challenges of the 21st Century.

The reforms include promoting quality work culture through teamwork, introduction of civil service innovation award, a revision of the various departments' organisational structure. These efforts will propel the service towards empowerment in line with future demands and a civil service vision for the 21st century. Sixty retired government officers also received their certificates at the event. Apart from that government staff and officers, village heads, penghulus and kampong ketuas as well as retired government officers and staff had a health check-up by officers from the Suri Seri Begawan Hospital, Kuala Belait. The theme of this year's civil day celebration is "Toward Excellence of the Public Civil Service". - Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei (Brudirect.com News)

From Bru Direct, Brunei, by Dato Haji Suyoi, 11 October, 2003

CEO of Civil Service College Attends Launching of Dubai's Premier Institute for HRD

Singapore - Dean and CEO of the Civil Service College of Singapore (CSC), Brigadier-General (NS) Yam Ah Mee, will be attending the opening ceremony of the Dubai Institute for Human Resource Development (DIHRD) in Dubai on Monday. A statement from the Civil Service College said, CSC is the only Asian institution invited by DIHRD to attend the opening ceremony. In August, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between CSC and DIHRD to engage the services of CSC in providing training and development for government employees of Dubai. This is the first MOU signed between government institutions of both countries, following the official visit by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to the United Arab Emirates in February 2000. The MOU covers delivery of standard short courses, tailored courses and study tours, staff secondment, student exchange, IT system acquisition and E-Learning services. DIHRD recognises CSC's experience in providing public administration and management training. Its other prestigious partners include the UK Civil Service, Bradford University School of Management and Edexcel International. Dubai Crown Prince and UAE Defence Minister, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will be the guest of honour at the ceremony. DIHRD is set up under the directive of the Crown Prince, with the vision of unleashing human potential and setting the pace for innovative management thinking and practices.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 13 October 2003

Asean Civil Servants Gather In Brunei In Spirit Of Cooperation

Bandar Seri Begawan - The 12th Asean Conference on Civil Service Matters (ACCSM) has agreed that further evaluation be carried out by a working group and will report to the next technical meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan next year. Dato Haji Hazair, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's stated this in his capacity as chairman of ACCSM Executive Committee in a media conference at the close of the meeting yesterday afternoon. Dato Haji Hazair added that the conference has also been able to identify and chart the areas of future cooperation in the field of civil service by taking stock and supporting Asean leaders' aspirations towards Asean Vision 2020 and initiative towards Asean integration with particular reference to the Bali Concord Two.

Earlier, Dato Haji Hazair and other Asean delegation leaders signed the "Letter of transmittal". In his closing remarks the Permanent Secretary noted that the success of the conference is a manifestation of true spirit of commitment and determination between Asean civil services. The gathering also serves to strengthen the scope of cooperation in the field of civil service and further cement the bond of friendship, understanding and cordial relations between Asean agencies through civil service. The event took place at the Empire Hotel and Country Club in Jerudong. On Tuesday night, the leaders and representatives attending the 12th Asean Conference on Civil Service Matters were entertained to a dinner hosted by Pehin Isa, Special Advisor to His Majesty at the Prime Minister's Office and the Minister of Home Affairs. - Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei (Brudirect.com News)

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 15 October 2003

Civil Servants, Soldiers to Plant Trees

Bogor - Civil servants and soldiers have been told to donate 10 trees each for the municipality's regreening project that culminates on Nov. 12, an officer said on Friday. Capt. Dede Komaruddin of the Bogor district military command said an estimated 53,000 trees would be collected from the bureaucrats and soldiers. "The trees will be planted along the banks of the Ciliwung and Cisadane rivers, and along several roads downtown. Some of the trees also will be donated to residents of the Cimanggu housing complex, who have no trees in their backyards," he said. He added that soldiers had been cultivating longan and durian fruit tree seedlings over the last five months.

From Jakarta Post, Indonesia, 17 October 2003

Forum to Discuss Civil Service

Government Reform - The local and international experts will talk about exams, management and training issues related to how a government bureaucracy works - Distinguished international and local academics and government officials will participate in a two-day symposium starting today that aims to give advice to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on how to modernize the nation's civil service. Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen said the purpose of the International Symposium on Government Reform and Civil Service System is to provide a forum where Taiwanese academics can exchange views and ideas with overseas academics on various issues relating to government reform and the civil service. "It is through this exchange that we hope to learn from other countries' experiences and development of civil service systems which can therefore help the country enhance its overall national competitiveness," Yao said last night at a welcoming banquet at the Examination Yuan. "We also hope that this exchange will result in various visionary and novel ideas that can result in a blueprint for the country's development on government reforms and the civil service system," Yao said.

According to Yao, the symposium will deal with four main topics: examination system for the legal civil service; the effect of government reform on the civil service; efficient management of civil servants and training for higher-level civil servants. Among those giving speeches are Deborah Hensler, Stanford University professor, Udo Bartsch, president of the Federal Academy of Public Administration of Germany's Federal Ministry of the Interior, and Examination Yuan Secretary-General Chu Wu-hsien. Yao, Han Chung-Mo Law Foundation Chairman Lee Hung-hsi and Judicial Yuan President Weng Yueh-sheng will preside over some of the discussions. A reputable specialist or scholar in each field will give a speech in each session, which will be supplemented and analyzed by other interlocutors from either the government or academia. Aside from civil servants, symposium participants will include members from civil groups, the private sector and universities, according to a press release from the Examination Yuan. The symposium, to be held at the National Library in Taipei, is organized by the Examination Yuan, the Han Chung-Mo Law Foundation and co-organized by the Law School of the National Taiwan University, the Ministry of Examination, the Ministry of Civil Service and the Civil Service Protection and Training Commission.

From Taipei Times, Taiwan, by Huang Tai-lin, 13 October 2003

NTUC Income Cuts Monthly Insurance Charges for Civil Servants to 60 Cents

Singapore - NTUC Income is cutting insurance premiums for civil servants and statutory board employees and their families to just 60 cents a month. This is a 25 per cent reduction designed to make life and accident insurance more affordable for the 50,000 workers who fall under this scheme. The government puts civil service insurance out to tender every three years. NTUC Income has had the contract since 1997 and recently re-secured the business for another three years, starting the first of this month.

From Channelnewsasia.com, Singapore, 21 October 2003

Civil Service Alignment Meet Draws to a Close

The two-day symposium on 'Civil Service Alignment Programme', co-organised by Management Services Department and Civil Service Institute of the Prime's Minister Office drew to a close yesterday. It was held at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources premises. The symposium was officially launched Tuesday by the Permanent Secretary at the Prime's Minister Office, Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hazair. Also present were Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Directors, Head and Deputy Heads of Department as well as senior government officials. The Civil Service Alignment Programme was first introduced in January earlier this year. It aims to assist Civil Service Management in ensuring that projects and activities conducted by ministries (and departments under it) are in line with the objective of the National Development Plan (RKN) and the vision of Civil Service. Various activities have been implemented to educate relevant parties on the procedures of the Civil Service Alignment programme. Among them were Alignment Workshop for the Department Directors (January 27-29), Extra Alignment Workshop for Ministries / Department Directors (May 10), Leadership Seminar for Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries (June 16-17) and visits to ministries.

Meanwhile, the main objective of the symposium on Civil Service Alignment Programme was to shed some insight on the strategic planning and projects that would be implemented by each of the ministries and departments under them. The main purpose of holding the symposium is to improve and upgrade transparency and accountability of all levels in ministries and departments under them. It also hopes to upgrade the coopertation and synergy of all levels within the Civil Service, as well as to implement and ensure that resources allocated for project plans from each ministry and departments under them would give 'good value-for-money'. Additionally, it hopes to promote the sharing of information on strategic planning by ministries and to upgrade the alliance between ministries. The symposium is in line with His Majesty's titah, which was delivered during His Majesty's 57th birthday celebration in July. It stressed the need for all ministries and government departments to focus on alignment programmes. During the closing ceremony yesterday, the Director of Civil Services Institute, Dr. Azaharaini bin Haji Mohd Jamil delivered his closing remarks. He is also the co-chairman of the symposium committee.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, by Achong Tanjong, 23 October 2003

Civil Service Slams 'Salt in Wound'

Civil service unions attacked the planned 11 per cent cut in the government's operating expenditure over the next five years, warning that the quantity and quality of public services would be affected. Henry Tang has yet to announce details of the cuts, but has said not all bureaus and departments would suffer cuts and that the timing was flexible. Civil Servants' General Union chairman Felix Cheung said public-sector staff were already under tremendous pressure in the face of pay cuts, restructuring and other cost-cutting measures. He said the civil service had already suffered after 1.8 per cent was trimmed from the operating expenditure and the additional 11 per cent would add salt to their wounds.

Local Inspectors' Association chairman Tony Liu said the cuts would have a big impact on the quantity and quality of police services, especially because demand for manpower would only increase at border checkpoints to deal with the influx of mainland tourists. "There's no way but for the police force to reprioritise the services again. Non-core duties such as looking for lost dogs or repairing water pipes will be greatly reduced," Liu said. "I don't worry about police morale - I worry more for the safety of the public because our services will be affected." Democrat Cheung Man-kwong said he was greatly disappointed, predicting "bloodshed" in the education sector. "They [the cuts] amount to more than HK$5 billion and will deal a heavy blow to the education sector. How can education reform be carried out without money?" the lawmaker representing the sector asked. "Policies such as four-year university education and small group classes will be dumped."

From The Standard, Hong Kong, 23 October 2003

Top Civil Servant's Joyrides Only a Tip of Iceberg

The report on misuse of government aircraft by a top civil servant is just the tip of the iceberg. What about ministers who use them for their political party functions? This is particularly common among ministers who have access to aircraft under their ministries e.g. Defense, Home (police) and Housing and Local Government (Fire Department). In Malaysia, there seem to be no concept of division between official government matters and party business. About 10 years ago, a military helicopter carrying a certain defense minister crashed in Pahang while on a trip to attend a party function in his hometown. Come election time this use will escalate. The tab is being picked-up by the taxpayers.

From Malaysia Kini, Malaysia , 28 October 2003

China's First Law on Civil Servants to Debut

Beijing - The Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) has proposed legislation regarding civil servants, said its chairman here Tuesday. After a 10-year trial of the regulation on civil servants, it is time to draft China's first law on civil servants, said He Chunlin, who was at the fifth meeting of the 10th NPC Standing Committee to elaborate on the proposal to top legislators. In the first session of the 10th NPC this March, nearly 200 representatives raised six proposals calling for such legislation. He said his committee made the proposal after seriously deliberating the bills and conducting relevant investigations. His committee also received the written proposal from related governmental departments. In January of 2001, China's Ministry of Personnel established aspecial working group responsible for drafting the law on civil servants jointly with other related departments. The almost completed draft law is now under revision by the related governmental departments.

From Xinhua, China, 28 October 2003

Singapore Expert Talks To Brunei Civil Servants On Corruption

Bandar Seri Begawan - Political will, is the important factor in ensuring the effective reformation in Civil Service and to reduce corruption. This was stressed by an expert from Singapore, Professor Jon Quah at a talk entitled 'In pursuit of good governance in Asian countries: The role of corruption control and civil services reforms.' Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries and Department heads attended the presentation. Professor Jon Quah also touched on the reasons of corruption, and in the form of corruption control and reformation of civil service in Asian countries. He added the importance of leadership as an example in upgrading the work culture in civil service by avoiding corruption and its negative effects. The talk was jointly organised by the Anti-Corruption Bureau and Civil Service Institute in conjunction with Civil Service Day. - Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, 26 October 2003

Civil Service Tries Short-term Hiring

Some ministries offering short-term contracts for permanent posts; scheme lets ministries assess job compatibility - Singapore's biggest employer, the civil service, is hiving off some jobs into contract hires, with several ministries employing officers on short-term contracts for permanent posts. This year, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) has at least 20 officers on contracts for jobs across the organisation, from research to corporate services. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), walking the talk it gives to employers, is among the first in the public sector to offer one- to two-year contracts to staff at all levels. It took the step in the middle of last year, but promising officers are offered permanent jobs even before their contracts end. 'This move reflects changes in the broader employment market towards greater flexibility, which MOM itself needs to keep pace with,' said a ministry spokesman. At the Finance Ministry, the flexible scheme 'allows both the MOF and the officer a period of time to discover how compatible they are,' said its spokesman. Officers on contract get similar pay and perks as the permanent staff, so they are not disadvantaged in any way, said MOM's spokesman.

At the Education Ministry, only a small group of foreign teachers is employed on contract while the majority of teachers are permanent staff. It does, however, offer jobs on the permanent establishment or contract terms to new recruits under the executive and administrative staff schemes. The trend towards non-permanent employment has been growing in the last few years. The number of people working in temporary jobs rose from 59,400 in 2001 to 74,600 last year. Unlike outsourcing of work that is contracted out, these contract employees carry out the organisation's work while on its payroll. In yet another move away from its iron rice bowl image, the civil service is also showing poor performers the door within nine months and giving those stagnating in their jobs the option to leave and reapply for work, but in a lower-level job. A Public Service Division (PSD) spokesman told The Straits Times that a person deemed an underperformer at his appraisal is given nine months to pull up his socks.

However, a person who is going nowhere in his job can opt to leave without worrying about being shut out of the service forever. Adopting what industry observers described as a revolving door approach, the Government is willing to consider them during its recruitment exercise. These policies allow ministries to refresh themselves and remain vibrant, said the PSD spokesman. Ministries that have yet to take the new routes for contract employment have different views on the matter. The Ministry of National Development said it would look into employing officers on contract in the future. The Home Affairs Ministry hires staff on contract only for non-permanent posts and they make up less than 5 per cent of its total staff strength. Manpower experts say the new policies are timely as the uncertain economy makes it difficult to project far into the future. Mr. Na Boon Chong of Hewitt Associates is especially struck by the revolving door policy and thinks it is worth emulating. 'It seems to be a face-saving way of getting poor performers off the jobs they occupy. Perhaps, the private sector should adopt it too.'

From Straits Times, Singapore, by M. Nirmala, 26 October 2003

Small Salaries Not Main Cause of Corruption, Says Minister

Jakarta - Small salaries are not the main cause of corruption within Indonesia`s bureaucracy, Finance Minister Boediono said here Thursday. "It is not true that the small salaries of civil servants are the reason that corruption is so rife in Indonesia," the minister said at a function to mark the 57th anniversary of Financial Day here on Thursday. While the state still lacked the financial capability to pay higher civil servants` salaries, what Indonesian civil servants were now receiving was not very low compared to their peers in Vietnam, China or India, he said.

From Antara, Indonesia, 30 October 2003

Many Civil Servants Assigned to Study Abroad Don't Return

Jakarta - State Minister for State Administrative Reforms Feisal Tamim said many civil servants, including high-ranking officials, assigned to study abroad or at foreign universities fail to return to Indonesia or their institutions. "There are many problems which cannot be predicted in the sending of civil servants on study assignments abroad," he said. Feisal was explaining the results of an exercise to collect data on the civil administration after a meeting with Vice President Hamzah Haz here on Wednesday.

From Antara, Indonesia, 29 October 2003

 

We Want 1,000 Civil Service Jobs Here

North West campaigners are bidding for up to 1,000 civil service jobs to come to Cumbria in a Government review. The Lyons Review is looking into 20,000 civil servants' jobs being moved from London to other parts of the country. The North West Regional Assembly is campaigning for 5,000 of those to come to the region and is urging local authorities, MPs and other bodies to get behind the plans. Cumbrian MPs have already had informal talks with ministers about what the county has to offer. Workington MP Tony Cunningham said West Cumbria has already proved it can do the job as the British Cattle Movement Service has expanded since it moved to the town in 1998. Mr. Cunningham said the success of the cattle tracing service in Workington proved local people can do the job. He said: "It came here with a couple of hundred jobs. There are now around 800. We have a very loyal, flexible workforce. "There used to be a language problem when Welsh farmers phoned up but now over a dozen Welsh people work there and are living in the area. We have proved we can accommodate these things. "And with new technology such as internet and email, it doesn't matter where things are. "We've also got reasonably priced land, quality of life that's second to none, the best scenery, and reasonable house prices."

Simon Barwick, who is director of policy development for the NWRA, said: "We've not had the best deal in the past and we want the biggest slice of the cake we can get. "The North West has lots to offer. It makes sense to re-locate agriculture here rather than having it in Whitehall where the nearest field is 20 miles away. Why not let it go to Carlisle? "It's also more affordable here. It costs the Government three times as much in overheads to have a civil servant working in London than in the North West because of office space costs. "It's up to local authorities and other partners to support this and put forward their ideas. The more joint working in the region that goes on now, the more we'll get out of it." Sir Michael Lyons is carrying out the review of civil service relocation and the NWRA has drawn up the case for the North West. Reports will be submitted to Chancellor Gordon Brown by November. Carlisle MP Eric Martlew said the city would be a perfect base for the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs. Mr. Martlew said: "One think tank has already suggested Carlisle as a possible base for Defra. Being a big agricultural community, it's sensible to move it here."

From Carlisle News, UK, by Nicola Jolly, 3 October 2003

EU Civil Servants Pension Reform Gets Go-Ahead

EU foreign affairs ministers have approved a controversial pension reform for EU civil servants, which is set to increase their pension age and make new entrants work more years to receive the maximum level of pension. The deal came after the Unions, representing thousands of EU civil servants, backed down from their request to change the proposals and yesterday (29 September) gave the go-ahead for the proposed reforms. Germany, Austria and Denmark, however, voted against it feeling the changes did not go far enough. These new rules, proposed by the Commission in 1999, will come into force by May 2004 when 10 new countries join the EU bloc. According to the new rules, the staff retiring age will be raised from 60 to 63, however, up to 10% of the civil servants will be able to retire beforehand - under certain conditions. The monthly salary contributions to the pension fund will also decrease from 2 to 1.9 % each year, making it harder for EU officials to reach the maximum level of pension. Another controversial change is that pensions will not be adjusted according to the prices of the capital city where the EU civil servant will have their pension, but according to the country as a whole - meaning that some EU civil servants could be receiving a lower pension than what they are receiving now.

The present measure being abolished, known as "coefficients capitale" allows pensioners to have the same buying power irrespective of where they reside. Unions complained that prices in capital cities are generally higher than in the rest of the country, and that this measure also risks hindering the free movement of persons at their pension age. Agreement on Members' Statute - The EU foreign affairs ministers also agreed on the reform of the statute of Euro-parliamentarians, which would see the system of salaries for MEPs made much more transparent and MEPs being paid the same salary irrespective of their country of origin. Agreement was also reached on the financing of the pan-European parties, where 8.4 million euro will be made available from the Community budget from July next year. In order to qualify for the money, parties have to be represented in at least a quarter of the member states of the European Union. Otherwise, the party must have obtained at least three percent of the votes cast in the most recent European elections in each, of at least four, member states.

From EUobserver.com, Belgium, 20 September 2003

Civil Servants Encouraged to Get Out More

The DTI wants its staff to leave their desks and meet those most affected by its policies, writes Richard Tyler - Civil servants within the Department of Trade and Industry are being encouraged for the first time to regularly take time out of their working week to go to talk to the businesses affected by their policymaking. Stephen Haddrill, director-general of the fair markets section of the DTI, has established a set of guidelines for his staff and these have been taken up by the Cabinet Office, which is seeing whether they can be applied to other departments. "In the past there's been a tendency to require people to go through a traditional box-ticking exercise without providing the motivation that better regulation is important," said Mr. Haddrill. "The DTI now expects its staff to get out and about in businesses, whether preparing changes to regulation or just to make sure you understand how businesses are working on the ground." Mr. Haddrill said this approach included seeking and assessing feedback from businesses on major pieces of legislation. The first to benefit from the new approach is the work-life balance legislation, brought in this April. "We have a big research programme to enable us to assess the impact of that in two to three years' time. That will involve consultancy work but also going out and talking to businesses," he said.

Mr. Haddrill said the DTI was working "very closely" with the Cabinet Office to "encourage this approach across Whitehall". The changes have been welcomed by William Sargent, chairman of the Small Business Council, who said the "change in culture" among civil servants he worked with was "beginning to happen". "There's a long way to go, but there's nothing like a start," he said. "The civil servants think they are doing it right. They don't deliberately get it wrong but, just like in business, things do go wrong. You do, though, have to go out and find out why it has gone wrong." As part of this new focus on assessing how regulations are working, several feedback schemes have been launched, which are attended by a team of policymakers led by Bill Hallahan from the Small Business Service. One, called The First Step, is examining the experience of entrepreneurs looking to start out in business. The first of three meetings targeting young professionals has already been held at Therapy coffee bar, in Earlsfield, south London.

A second, aimed at parents, is planned for October 23. Charlotte Bram, a former lawyer and the coffee bar's founder, has organised the meetings, which see business role models and specialists answer questions and give advice. The questions from the floor are noted by the SBS staff present and the areas where policy appears not to be working are fed back into government. "You have to ask the right people," said Ms Bram. "It's no good going to people in Business Link, as they have their own agenda. You have to ask the people who want to set up in business. "I came on board because I had a very difficult experience setting up in business. The point was brought home to the SBS when they came to visit me. There's all this wealth of money, millions and millions set aside to help small businesses, but somewhere along the line the existing advisory businesses are failing. "There are so many available. The problem is, when you approach these organisations it's a bit like finding a rough diamond. It's very difficult to find someone who actually knows what they are talking about."

From Telegraph.co.uk, UK, 6 October 2003

Mayo Hopes for Inclusion in Movement of Civil Servants

Several towns in Mayo are among more than a hundred towns and cities across the country hoping to gain from Government decisions on the decentralisation of civil servants which now look likely to be taken before Christmas. Among the Mayo towns hoping to feature are Claremorris, Ballina, Castlebar and Westport. Ballina got a bit of a boost during the week when Government Minister, Mary Coughlan, said Government departments should be decentralised to places like 'Ballina or Ballinasloe' and not to places that are already over-developed. But Mayo towns and other towns of similar size will have to renew their campaigns for inclusion in the programme with some vigour in order to stave off a Department of Finance suggestion that civil servants should be transferred to 'fringe' areas of Dublin city as a means of relieving city centre congestion.

The President of Westport Chamber of Commerce, Mr. James O'Doherty, said it would make a complete mockery of the whole concept of decentralisation if all it turned out to be was a movement of civil servants from Dublin city down the road to the suburbs. 'That was never what the Government had in mind and it certainly could do little to relieve congestion or the over-development of Dublin'. The moving of civil servants is still being considered by Cabinet, with Ministers still weighing up their options, said Mr. Dermot Quigley, a principal officer at the Department of Finance. Roughly half of the civil servants working in Dublin would have to leave the capital if the target of 10,000 decentralised posts were to be reached, said Mr. Quigley at the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service. But nearly four years after the Government first announced its intention to do so, the Cabinet has yet to decide which civil servants are to leave Dublin or where they might go.

In the absence of a deadline, the Government continues to consider submissions from individual Departments, unions and from the 130 towns and cities lobbying to house decentralised offices. More than 10,000 expressions of interest have been received from Dublin-based civil servants. This figure, however, includes those indicating they would be prepared to move to more than one location. It is unlikely that any Department will be transferred in its entirety as there will be a need for senior civil servants to be close to the capital so long as it remains the centre of political and economic power, Mr. Quigley has said. It could be argued, he said, that senior civil servants should be near not only the Government and the Attorney General but also to the "movers and shakers" in the political and business worlds. In a poll of civil servants Westport was favoured by many as a place they would like to relocate to.

From Mayo News, Ireland, 7 October 2003

Conservatives Pledge Lower Taxes and Public Services Reform

Shadow Chancellor, Michael Howard, has committed Conservatives to cut taxes and reform public services. In his keynote Conference speech, Mr Howard declared, "we believe in low taxes. We are the party of low taxes. All our instincts are for low taxes." He pledged, "we can and we will reform public services. We will always be a lower tax government than Labour. And we do plan to cut taxes." Promising that a fair deal on tax would go hand in hand with improving public services, Mr. Howard said Conservatives' plans would be carefully costed and clear for all to see. "Reforming and improving the public services is the only way to break Labour's vicious circle of ever higher taxes and ever failing services. It is the key to everything we want to achieve. It has got to be done and we'll do it." Under Labour, he said, people and businesses had been "hammered by higher taxes and too much of their money is being wasted".

Mr. Howard said that under Labour there had been 60 tax rises and "still no delivery" on improvements to public services. "Tax rises this year alone cost a typical family Ł568 a year. Labour's council tax rises are driving those people on fixed incomes like pensioners into real hardship. "Labour talk about relieving poverty. The sad truth is they are creating poverty.""The fact is people are fed up. Fed up with endless tax rises. Fed up with endless promises and fed up with failure to deliver." The Government's central failure was that they had spent the money, but not carried out the reform. He mocked Chancellor Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour conference last week, saying, "in two days flat he went from the Incredible Bulk to the Incredible Sulk - from Brown to green with Blair in between." He added, "everybody knows that, under Labour, taxes will rise again. Tax rises are at the heart of Labour. Old Labour, New Labour. Any Labour. They have put up taxes. They are putting up taxes." The Liberal Democrats too, he said, wanted to pile on extra taxes, like a regional income tax, VAT on new homes and a development tax.

From Conservatives.com, UK, 9 October 2003

MPs to Call Campbell and Head of Civil Service

Alastair Campbell and Sir Andrew Turnbull, the head of the Civil Service, are to be summoned before a powerful committee of MPs to answer questions on the treatment of Dr David Kelly. Mr. Campbell, who had earlier refused to appear before the Public Administration Committee, will be asked about Downing Street's role in releasing Dr Kelly's name to the press. He is expected to be called next week when MPs return to the House. It would be Mr. Campbell's first appearance on the political scene since standing down as the Prime Minister's director of communications and strategy. Now that he has left Number 10, he may not be able to refuse a summons. Mr. Campbell would be questioned as part of the committee's review into the Government's communications policy.

The Public Administration Select committee has already asked Sir Andrew, the most senior civil servant in Whitehall, to appear and explain whether the Civil Service, as Dr Kelly's employer, abided by its "duty of care" to the scientist. Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide after he was named by the Government as a source for a BBC story about an intelligence dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The cabinet secretary is understood to be cautious about the invitation and his office is negotiating with the committee on the terms of his appearance and the date. "Why wasn't the head of the Civil Service involved in the whole issue of how to treat Dr Kelly?" asked one source close to the committee. The Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr Kelly will take evidence today from Sir Kevin Tebbit, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence.

From Independent, UK, by Marie Woolf, 13 October 2003

22,000 More Civil Servants in One Year

The Conservatives accused the government yesterday of overseeing an unnecessary rise in the number of bureaucrats, after figures showed the number of full-time civil servants had increased by 22,000. The official statistics released by the Cabinet Office revealed that there were 512,400 permanent civil service posts on 1 April, an increase of 22,160 compared with the same date in 2002. David Davis, the shadow deputy prime minister, said the rise was typical of the government's approach. "With a million people still on the waiting list, gun crime doubling and one in five trains running late, the government choose to invest in over 20,000 extra bureaucrats, rather than delivering the money to front-line public services. "Their centralising and complex policies continue to be the reason why Labour have taxed and spent and failed," he said. The Cabinet Office said many of the additional staff had been taken on at the Foreign Office, due to an increased volume of work resulting from the Iraq war and reconstruction effort.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Jason Beattie, 17 October 2003

Civil Service Jobs Boost

The number of permanent civil servants has increased by 4.5 per cent in the past year. Cabinet Office figures released on Thursday revealed that there are 10,740 more staff in Whitehall than in October last year. On April 1 this year, the total number of government employees was 512,400 - a 2.6 per cent increase on October 2002. Whilst the number of casually employed staff fell by 2,040, the number of permanently contracted staff rose by almost five per cent. The government put the rise down to an increases in the workload of some departments. The number of Foreign Office staff has risen in response to the Iraq war and the continued growth of the Welsh assembly's work has led to an expansion in its workforce. More staff have also been employed in the Home Office as part of a drive to cut the asylum backlog. The Crown Prosecution Service has also recruited more staff "in order to meet its commitment to increase its force and reflect its changing role within the criminal justice system". The data also revealed that 2.8 per cent of senior civil servants are from minority ethnic backgrounds and 1.7 per cent are disabled. The Cabinet Office revealed that 26.4 per cent of the senior civil service are women - with 23 per cent of those in the "very top management posts" being female.

From ePolitix, UK, 16 October 2003

Civil Servants Pass Half Million Mark

The total number of staff employed by the civil service has grown by more than 10,000 during the past six months. The number of permanent civil servants now stands at 512,400, an increase of 12,780 since numbers were last released six months ago. However, there has been a drop of 2,040 in the number of casual staff employed by the Government since October last year. In the complete year to April the number of permanent staff increased by 22,160 (4.5 per cent) and there was a decrease of 2,910 in the number of casual staff, so the overall level of staffing increased by 19,260 (3.8 per cent). According to the latest figures from the Cabinet Office, diversity in the civil service remained roughly static with 52.3 per cent of staff female and around 8 per cent from ethnic minority groups. Some of the changes in staffing numbers were due to departmental changes with responsibility for various agencies and schemes moving across government.

From PersonnelToday.com, UK, 20 October 2003

ICTU Defends Benchmarking Deal for Public Servants

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has hit back at critics of the benchmarking scheme for public servants, accusing them of opposing a process that will bring significant benefits to Irish society. Several prominent politicians, including Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, have called for the deal to be renegotiated because of the costs it will incur for the Exchequer. However, ICTU said today that the process had already delivered positive reforms and it accused critics of the deal of failing to see its obvious benefits. IMPACT spokesman Peter McLoone said: "We've achieved significant reform of the public service pay determination system, we've achieved industrial peace and stability and we've set about a programme of modernisation and change that will bring improved services, will bring about better performance and will give greater efficiencies and value for money."

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 16 October 2003

Letter Reveals Civil Servant Felt Pressure

Suicide victim targets media - Sunday's suicide of Finance Ministry official Rubini Stathea, who had been involved in a case concerning demolition of plush seaside dwellings, revealed the contradictions in the relevant legislation, infighting between state agencies, and suspicions over the state administration's illicit dealings with the rich and powerful who can thus circumvent the law. Stathea left behind six letters, one of which, addressed to the chief editor of Eleftherotypia newspaper, Seraphim Fyntanidis, was published yesterday. The letter provided an explanation of her suicide, implying that she had been under pressure by colleagues, politicians and, above all, the media, especially television reporters. "I wish my own end to be the beginning for a little effort by everyone to become better, the civil servants a little bit more industrious, responsible and effective, the politicians a little more honest, the judges a little more trustworthy and the journalists less carnivorous," Stathea wrote.

She went on to ask forgiveness of her husband, Panos Tzavaras, for "ruining his political career" - he is a member of the ruling PASOK party and a municipal councillor - and proclaimed that most civil servants are honest, the government "with exceptions, the best I've ever seen and the prime minister the most honest we have ever had. I believe that the majority of judges are honest and that there are good journalists, too." The other five letters were addressed to her husband and children, the family doctor and three of her superiors. All letters are in the hands of the authorities investigating the circumstances of her death: The recipients received copies. Government officials expressed "deep regret" at her death. Stathea had issued two contradictory orders within two days last week, first prohibiting and then allowing the demolition of the wall of a seaside villa. The five-year-old demolition order had been issued by the Environment Ministry and Stathea's initial order halting the demolition was based on a 27-year-old court decision.

From Kathimerini, Greece, 15 October 2003

'Vital Role' of Front Line Public Service Staff Celebrated

A new booklet launched today highlighting the "vital role" front line staff play in improving public services will be distributed to 30,000 senior managers across the public sector. The publication 'Leading from the Front Line' contains a number of case studies from across the country. The Prime Minister's Adviser on Public Sector Reform Wendy Thomson said: "'Leading from the Front Line' highlights the good work happening on the ground - where it really counts for customers and communities. It is services like these, led by committed people that are setting the pace on reform and best practice." The role of front line staff was reflected also reflected by the Charter Mark awards ceremony. The awards promote "choice, flexibility and innovation in public service". The 2002 Charter Mark Award Ceremony acknowledged 790 public service winners for excellence in customer services. Over 2,400 public sector organisations are now recognised by the scheme. Both the booklet and the awards encourage public sector leaders to share their ideas and best practice.

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 22 October 2003

Public Service Pay Deals 'Top Private Sector'

Economic analysts say the level of pay rises is being pulled up by increases in the public sector, which are outstripping deals in private firms. Average deals in the three months to September were worth 3.3%, but the figure was 3.5% in the public sector and 3% in private companies. Relatively high pay awards have been agreed recently in parts of the construction, food, drink and tobacco processing industries, while in other parts of manufacturing increases have been lower than 3%. The report, by pay analysts Incomes Data Services, said that in the finance sector more emphasis was being placed on bonuses rather than salary rises. Of almost 100 pay deals covered in the report most were worth between 2.5% and 3.5%, including a 3% rise for administrative and ground services staff at British Airways. Just seven of the settlements were worth less than 2.5% and one was below 2%, while one in four gave rises of 4% or higher. One of the bigger deals was 5% for 7,000 workers in the demolition industry in a move to improve minimum rates.

From Ananova, UK, 26 October 2003

Top Civil Servants Hit at Cabinet Secretary

Sir Andrew Turnbull, cabinet secretary and Whitehall's top mandarin, is facing a revolt from senior colleagues accusing him of lack of leadership and a tendency to curry "political favour" by "denigrating" the performance of the civil service. In a remarkable attack, the First Division Association, which represents Britain's most senior civil servants, said there appeared to be "a culture among a small number of people at the centre who seem to believe that political favour is won by denigrating the performance of the civil service. That is unfair, damaging, is not supported by the evidence and in practice does not serve the interests of ministers". The intervention came as a senior Whitehall insider took Sir Andrew to task for failing to take a lead on how the civil service should respond to the Hutton inquiry.

The insider said he was constantly asked by employees for guidance on contact with the media, following the disclosure of the extent of the weapons scientist David Kelly's contacts with the press and television. But Sir Andrew refused to advise his most senior colleagues, saying such matters should await Lord Hutton's report. "We've got guidelines for everything but what we need is a bit of leadership," the insider grumbled. The FDA also warned that Sir Andrew's programme for modernising the civil service is too technocratic. It paid too much attention to delivery of targets and performance management and too little to preserving the values and ethos of the civil service, the FDA said. It needed to emphasise more the moral leadership senior civil servants have to provide.

Jonathan Baume, general secretary of the FDA, said the need had been highlighted by the Hutton inquiry, which had exposed "the very complex, difficult decisions that people have to take and advise on". In a commentary on Sir Andrew's modernisation programme, the FDA acknowledges the civil service must be "fit for purpose" - the challenge Sir Andrew has put before it, emphasising that if it fails to deliver the government's agenda its own future will be in question. However, the FDA says it "does not support what appears to be an underlying premise of Sir Andrew's approach which is that somehow the civil service is a failing organisation". Most civil servants do a thoroughly professional job, it says. But, where departments are widely perceived to be failing, "it is usually the case that there has been a political failure".

From Financial Times, UK, by Nicholas Timmins and Cathy Newman, 29 October 2003

 

Focus On Your Core Businesses Department Heads Told

Bandar Seri Begawan - It is the objective of the civil service to provide more efficient, effective, and productive ethical services by prioritizing measures that could reduce cost and avoid wastage in implementing government projects. Dato Awang Haji Hazair the Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office said that with the application of such steps the distribution and utilisation of resources of an organisation could be implemented with more competence and justifiable stability. He was speaking at the launch of the alignment symposium in Civil Services yesterday. He added that efforts in conducting a symposium such as this was in line with the titah of His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei on his 57th birthday in July in which the monarch stressed that all ministries and government departments should give serious attention on alignment programme. Dato Haji Hazair went on to say that alignment programme serves to provide heads of department and management to interact, cooperate and nurture high values such as transparency and accountability apart from providing every ministries with the opportunity to apprehend about each other's strategic programmes.

He added that each department should focus attention at all times on their core business. To achieve good management, he elaborated each department should evaluate the vision, mission, objective and role of its purpose. By observing such measures, duplications in areas of authorisation and work with other ministries could be avoided. Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Directors, Assistant Directors, Heads of Departments and Deputy Heads of Departmentd are attending the two-day symposium. The symposium is to discern and share information on strategic planning of ministries to further increase strategic alliance among ministries. The Management Service Department and the Civil Service Institute is conducting the symposium at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resource in Berakas. Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, 22 October 2003

 

Scandal Rocks Civil Service

Editorial - Rarely has Canada's auditor general been so forceful. On Tuesday, Sheila Fraser was pulling no punches, calling on the federal government to launch a police investigation of former privacy commissioner George Radwanski and his top officials, citing a "reign of terror" and abuse of public funds. For those with short memories, Radwanski resigned June 23 after a Commons committee said it had "lost confidence" in him, adding he had misled them using falsified documents. Fraser, as the federal government's auditor, was asked by Parliament to audit the department, and what she found caused her to make it clear nothing short of a criminal investigation is warranted. Naturally, Radwanski was just as determined in his own defence, calling Fraser's audit a "vicious personal attack."

However, given the propensity for auditors to have everything double and triple-checked, we have a feeling that Fraser would not have made the strong statements she did if she did not have an overwhelming amount of evidence to back up her claims. Consider: "Many senior executives (willingly or by omission) turned a blind eye to breaches of law and policy." Or when Fraser blames two government bodies - Treasury Board Secretariat and the Public Service Commission - of failing "to respond decisively when they became aware of problems." There's more, much more, but it is evident a real problem exists here, perhaps a problem that is a microcosm for a civil service that has grown out of control in Ottawa and needs a good wake-up call. Sheila Fraser is just the person to give it.

From The Pembroke Daily Observer, Canada, 1 October 2003

Candidates Back Civil Service Commission

Whether Wilmington will keep its civil service commission is a big issue in the race for city council. Tuesday night firefighters and police officers asked the candidates what they would do with the commission. All agreed to keep it, including George Wrage - who promised to give them a pay raise. And Christian Verzaal - who is married to a police officer - says the commission should cover all city employees, among other powers. "The powers and duties explained in the city charter state they can approve policy and approve promotions," Verzaal said. The forum was included the County's Association of Educators. You can watch our own mayoral forum live here on WECT Saturday at 7 p-m.

From WECT, NC, 1 October 2003

Wisconsin Public Service Announces Promotion

Green Bay, WI - Janet K. McKee, formerly Director of Treasury for Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, has been promoted to Assistant Treasurer. McKee, 49, graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay in 1988 with Bachelor of Science degrees in Managerial Accounting and Business Administration/Finance. She is a Certified Public Accountant in the state of Wisconsin and is a member of the Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants. McKee joined Wisconsin Public Service in 1996 and has worked in both the accounting and treasury areas where she was responsible for the financial planning, cash management, and accounts payable functions. Prior to joining Wisconsin Public Service, Ms. McKee held the positions of Accounting Manager and Assistant Controller for Schneider Communications. McKee and her family live in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Public Service Corporation is an investor-owned electric and natural gas utility serving more than 450,000 natural gas and electric customers in northeastern and north central Wisconsin, as well as an adjacent portion of Upper Michigan. Wisconsin Public Service is a wholly owned subsidiary of WPS Resources Corporation (NYSE: WPS).

From Pressi.com (press release), 3 October 2003

Argentina's Federal Police Chief Fired on Corruption Charges

The Argentine government has fired its new federal police chief on corruption charges. Justice Minister Gustavo Beliz told a news conference in Buenos Aires Thursday that General Roberto Giacomino, the country's Police Commissioner, was removed from his post for awarding over-priced service contracts to companies linked to his relatives. General Giacomino was named Police Commissioner only four months ago. His appointment was part of a government shake-up by President Nestor Kirchner, aimed at stamping out corruption. No one has yet been named to lead the federal police following General Giacomino's dismissal.

From Voice of America, 3 October 2003

Civil-Service Bill Could Weaken a Toothless Tiger

The fallout from the George Radwanski affair is spreading and could block a major overhaul of the civil service legislative structure currently before Parliament. The Public Service Commission, supposedly the overseer to ensure the integrity of the civil service, has been shown in the Radwanski case to be a toothless tiger, hopelessly mired in its own red tape and bureaucratic bumbling. So, if it took the commission more than two years to catch up to the former privacy commissioner under the existing rules, does it make sense to further weaken its role? That is what would happen in C-25, a massive bill governing all aspects of the civil service, which is currently stalled in the Senate. Auditor-General Sheila Fraser has exposed in excruciating detail not only Mr. Radwanski's expensive tastes and jet fuel addiction, but how he and his associates at the top of the privacy office systematically manipulated the system to hire and promote friends, to give themselves huge and unwarranted raises and to bend the rules for their financial benefit. But an equally big scandal is the fact that both the Public Service Commission and the Treasury Board knew there were problems in the privacy office and had done very little about it until the Commons government operations and estimates committee began investigating Mr. Radwanski last spring. In the summer of 2001, barely a year after Mr. Radwanski was appointed, the director of human resources left the privacy office and informed the PSC there were big problems.

The PSC investigation and audit took almost two years and, in a move that smells of political expediency, delivered its reprimand about Mr. Radwanski's mode of operation on June 16, after the government operations committee had issued its first stinging report. The Treasury Board knew the privacy office's expenditures were out of control but instead of cracking down, it provided an extra $73,000 for personnel costs. The Achilles' heel at the PSC is a policy of delegating to the deputy ministers of the various departments the right to both hire civil servants and to reclassify positions. In return, the deputies sign a Staffing Delegation and Accountability Agreement and the PSC is supposed to monitor the departments to ensure hiring is based on merit. The process is also supposed to be transparent and not subject to patronage, either political or bureaucratic. But here's the rub: The PSC used to have 51 auditors monitoring the departments, but after government downsizing, there are now only six. After the tip from the former human resources director, the PSC tried to use this delegation agreement to tug gently on Mr. Radwanski's chain, to zero effect.

The PSC explanation was they were dealing with problems with 72 delegation agreements at the time they were looking into the privacy office, but had concentrated on larger departments since the privacy commissioner had only 100 employees. Bill C-25 proposes to shift even more responsibility for hiring to individual departments to "afford public service managers the flexibility necessary to staff, to manage and to lead their personnel to achieve results." This is combined with a watering down of the merit principle and a reduction of the competitive process. The word "competition" doesn't even appear in the proposed act. Scott Serson, president of the PSC, expressed concerns about some of the changes in C-25, but the Treasury Board and the Privy Council Office who drafted the bill have turned a deaf ear. But several Conservative senators have heard him and the other criticisms and were questioning the bill even before the Radwanski story broke. Senator Gerald Beaudoin has moved an amendment to C-25 to restore the merit principle and Senator Noel Kinsella will make another try to insert provisions to protect whistle blowers. Maybe in the process, the Public Service Commission will regain some teeth. If not, maybe we should put the whole organization out of its misery.

From The Globe and Mail, Canada, by Hugh Winsor, 6 October 2003

Budget Cuts Put Public Service in Peril

Eighty-seven billion dollars is a lot to ask, even for the difficult task of building a democracy in a country that has never had one. Two hundred million dollars? Not as impressive. Well, that's how much money AmeriCorps, the country's premier federally funded national service organization, asked for last year. They didn't get it. So what? Why should you care? City Year is one reason. City Year is an AmeriCorps program that strives to improve the nation from within by doing community service in 15 sites across the country. City Year provides services ranging from domestic violence prevention to environmental protection, with the primary focus on teaching underprivileged children how to fight social injustice and "build a beloved community," a term taken from a speech made by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Think of City Year as the "domestic Peace Corps." City Year was founded here in Boston in 1988 and since then has revitalized more than 3,617 outdoor spaces, worked with more than 364 corporate partners, served more than 772,250 children, and completed more than 10.9 million total hours of service. Whether you know it or not, if you live in Boston (or any of the other places where a City Year site is located), City Year has positively affected you. Maybe you take walks in a park beautified by City Year. Maybe you use a public garden space set up by City Year.

Then again, maybe you know how City Year has affected you. Maybe a City Year corps member is a positive role model and mentor to your child. Maybe you have found a no-cost, enriching place to send your child (City Year for Kids) while you work through school vacations. Maybe City Year helped you recover from an abusive relationship. Or maybe you are one of the thousands of proud City Year alums who during your year of service gained valuable skills and a new perspective on life. We are City Year Corps members. We are an 18-year-old white male born and raised in Wayland and a 22-year-old African-American female born and raised in Roxbury. Although we have grown up with two different backgrounds, we have joined forces to do national service because we think it is our duty as citizens of the United States. One of us serves on the East Boston team teaching the "Building a Beloved Community" curriculum to middle school students. The other serves on the environmental initiative team teaching elementary school students in a hands-on outdoor classroom setting, which allows them to experience and appreciate nature, an opportunity that many children in the city wouldn't have without City Year.

Every team at City Year works with kids at an after-school program and completes physical service projects at least once a week. We work 50-hour weeks and get paid a living stipend that is the equivalent of about $3 per hour. We are proof that the youth of today do care and are ready to make sacrifices for our country. We both have friends who wanted to serve in City Year but couldn't because of the cuts in funding. As a result of these cuts, this year's corps has 60 fewer members than last year, a cut of 37.5 percent. Keep in mind that City Year is just one of more than 1,000 AmeriCorps organizations, many of which got shut down entirely. As City Year Corps members, we constantly keep in mind the lives of children, who will be leading our country in the near future. We are planting seeds in the young so that when they grow they can be leaders and role models for the subsequent generation. Our funding has been cut, and while these cuts have been devastating, we are still striving for excellence and striving to make a difference. This is an important year for City Year and AmeriCorps as a whole. We must and will prove that national service is an important component to building a stronger, more ideal community. Kemba Gray and Zach Meyer are City Year members who live in Boston.

From Boston Globe, MA, b Kemba Gray and Zach Meyer, 10 October 2003

Civil Servants Have Nothing to Fear

Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of the Civil Service John Williams, is urging persons working in the public sector not to view the new Performance Review and Development System (PRDS) with fear, but rather to see the various opportunities that will be provided across the public service, and reflected in the professionalism experienced by the wider Barbadian society. Williams, under whose ministry falls Public Sector Reform, described the PRDS system as the single most important aspect of our public sector reform programme. It has the potential to significantly transform the public service through the way employees and managers relate to each other. The senator, who was at the time giving the feature address at the opening ceremony of the PRDS Training of Trainers Course, told participants that feedback received thus far indicated that persons are satisfied that the PRDS system is a vast improvement over "the existing and long-standing unsatisfactory method of managing work performance within the public service".

He stressed that the system was not intended to apportion blame, but rather, "to create an environment that facilitates learning and development, that promotes transparency at every level, and that leads to improved productivity across the public service". Williams noted that as we move into a regional single market and economy, we must be able to guarantee the public "a minimum level of performance through the full adoption of a system of Customer Charters for every department of Government". He noted that this can only be successful if everyone is working to his/her potential, and all areas of weakness are identified and addressed. He also said that it was important that everyone works toward having a public service that is unparalleled in the region and beyond, in terms of performance and customer satisfaction.

From Barbados Advocate, Barbados, by Janelle Husbands, 14 October 2003

Civil Service Binge to Hit Economy

Federal government payrolls expanded by 24% during past five years: CFIB study - Spending on federal public service jobs and wages, slashed drastically during the mid- and early 1990s, is surging and threatens economic growth if allowed to continue unchecked, according to a new study. Federal government employment - not including military positions - stood at 290,098 jobs as of June 2003, up 24% from 234,570 jobs in November 1998, according to data compiled by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Also, federal employees in public administration on average enjoy wages 15.1% higher than those of their private-sector counterparts, the business group reported yesterday. With benefits included, that differential jumps to 23.3%. In 1995, the wage difference already stood at 8.9%, according to the CFIB. That was about the time when Ottawa began to cut public-sector jobs and freeze salaries in a bid to balance the budget. "I think they're remarkable and they're alarming," Rick Casson, a Canadian Alliance member of the House of Commons finance committee, said of the CFIB's findings. "We cannot, as a country, continue to increase the amount of spending at the levels we have - spending is outpacing the economic growth by far," Mr. Casson said yesterday. "Sooner or later, it will come crashing down around this government's ears."

Catherine Swift, CFIB president, said the growth in public-sector compensation is more than simple catch-up for the wage freezes of the mid-1990s, saying, "That's just excess on top of that, frankly." "If the feds don't get a grip on their spending ... then what's going to happen is that we're going to limit the extent to which the economy can successfully grow," she said. Calls for comment from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which helps manage the government's human and financial resources, were not returned yesterday. Ms. Swift presented her group's findings to the Commons finance committee yesterday. The CFIB wants Ottawa to measure and publicly disclose disparities between public and private sector compensation, as well as review pay scales. Spending is also increasing on public-sector positions provincially and municipally, but the federal government leads the pack, the CFIB report found. Provincial employees in public administration have wages that are on average 9.1% higher than ones for comparable positions in the private sector. The same differential is 11.4% for municipal public-administration employees. With benefits are taken into account, those disparities rise to 14.8% and 14.2% on average in favour of the public sector respectively, the report found. Where high-level executive positions are concerned, the disparity is usually reversed in favour of the private sector.

Still, employment growth in public administration continues to outpace other industries. Last month, Statistics Canada reported public administration employment grew by 6.1% in the first eight months of the year - the strongest pace of any industry. At the same time, public-sector wage settlements are running more than twice as high as the core inflation rate. The latest government data shows third-quarter wage increases in the public sector averaged 3.8%, compared with 2.3% in the private sector. TD Bank senior economist Marc Levesque said Ottawa has been focusing on expanding its ranks ever since then-finance minister Paul Martin "slayed the deficit." "It's not necessarily a bad thing that the government is hiring people," Mr. Levesque said. "The fiscal situation of the federal government is still in pretty good shape." Ms. Swift strongly disagreed, arguing it is "perverse" that private companies are having a harder time finding staff while governments lure away top talent with higher compensation. Walter Robinson, the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said it is the growth in the size of the federal public service that is more alarming. "There's ramifications there for taxpayers," Mr. Robinson said. (wdabrowski@nationalpost.com).

From National Post, Canada, by Wojtek Dabrowski, 22 October 2003

Yukon Civil Servants Buck Wages Trend

Whitehorse - Government workers in the Yukon aren't so high-paid compared to their private-sector counterparts in the territory. A study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found the wage gap between the public and private sectors is growing - except in Yukon. In the Northwest Territories, government workers make almost 25 per cent more in wages and benefits, compared with a national average of 23 per cent. But the Yukon bucks the trend, says CFIB head Catherine Swift. "In the Yukon we found virtually no difference between the public and private sector," she says. "The economy of the Yukon with a heavy resource dependence would certainly be one reason you would find that." Where a private-sector worker in the N.W.T. makes $52,018, a public sector workers would make $63,009, says the CFIB. in the Yukon, a public servant would make about $2,600 more than a private worker earning $45,206. That's a premium of just 1.1 per cent, the organization estimates. The CFIB's research, however, shows Yukon public servants have seen their wage erode in the last 15 years compared to the private sector. in 1985, a worker in government made about 21 per cent more than a private-business worker. Swift says the Yukon's poor economy and small private sector work force also influenced the results.

From CBC North, Canada, 24 October 2003

Double Duty: Public Servants on Stump

One week in the life of Ernie Fletcher, United States congressman and Republican candidate for governor: Monday brings a barbecue and other campaign events in western Kentucky. Tuesday, it's a press conference in Frankfort and a fund-raiser in Eastern Kentucky. Wednesday, there's a gubernatorial debate in Erlanger. Thursday and Friday, it's off to Washington for votes on the House floor. Saturday, it's back to the campaign trail. Holding one public office while running for another means living a politically schizophrenic existence. "It's a tremendous task running for statewide office while serving in Congress," said Fletcher campaign spokesman Wes Irvin. It also requires frequent judgment calls that can turn into campaign fodder for your opponent. Democrats have criticized Fletcher for missing important House votes, while Fletcher's running mate, Steve Pence, has suggested that the Democratic candidate - Attorney General Ben Chandler - should step down while he runs for governor. Both candidates dismiss the criticism as nothing more than political rhetoric and insist that they have proven adept at being a public servant and gubernatorial candidate. "I believe, and other folks believe, that he has been able to balance serving in Congress and running for governor at the same time," Irvin said of Fletcher.

Chandler's responsibility as attorney general "has always and continues to come first," said Brian Wright, a spokesman for the attorney general's office. "As a matter of fact, he may be pressing us more than ever to get things done." Juggling the dual roles has been especially challenging for Fletcher. Congressional duties require him to frequently be in Washington, while his responsibility as a gubernatorial candidate dictates that he hit the campaign trail in Kentucky. Fletcher is a physician and a former fighter pilot, and his staff suggests that his medical residency and military experience provided good training for his hectic life in politics. "His work ethic and his drive is so tremendous that he hasn't slowed down one bit," Irvin said. Fletcher generally spends Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in Washington on congressional business and the rest of the time on the campaign trail in Kentucky, Irvin said. If he's in Washington and has to return to Kentucky for a campaign event in the middle of the week, he usually flies home on a private plane at his campaign's expense. "We certainly have not done anything on this campaign on the taxpayers' dime," Irvin said.

Wright said the attorney general's office doesn't keep track of the time that Chandler spends in Frankfort. Chandler talks to the attorney general's staff several times a day while he's on the campaign trail and frequently comes in the office in the evenings after everyone else has gone home, Wright said. "Sometimes he's in the office making decisions as attorney general. Sometimes he is in Hazard or Paducah or Louisville making attorney general decisions," Wright said. "He considers himself always behind the desk no matter where he is. It really is a 24-7 job, without walls or borders." Chandler's campaign manager, Mark Nickolas, said his campaign team works closely with the attorney general's staff to coordinate Chandler's schedule. Democrats have lashed out at Fletcher for missing a number of key votes in Congress this year. The House clerk's office declined to release Fletcher's voting record. According to the Fletcher campaign, though, the congressman missed 80 votes from January of this year through the end of September. Those missed votes include proposed changes to federal overtime regulations and coal mine safety. "Maybe if he spent more time doing his job, he could spend more time getting the tobacco bill passed," Nickolas said, referring to a Fletcher-sponsored measure that would set up a buy-out for tobacco farmers.

The bill is pending in the House. Irvin countered that Fletcher has maintained a 95 percent voting record in his five years in Congress and missed fewer votes than other congressional members running for office. Irvin also points out that voters returned Fletcher to Congress last year even though he had already set up an exploratory committee for the governor's race. "They sent him back to Congress knowing he was going to be running for governor," Irvin said. The Chandler campaign rejected Pence's argument that Chandler should resign as attorney general. Pence, a former U.S. attorney, offers his own experience as the proper path to follow in such a situation. When Fletcher tabbed him as his running mate, Pence said, he quit his prosecutor's job. Nicholas dismisses the comparison as "apples to oranges. "(Pence) is somebody who was nominated and confirmed for a position," Nickolas said. "He can't possibly do both. It's not legal. Ben is an elected official. It's a very different scenario."

From Kentucky Post, KY, by Michael Collins, 17 October 2003

 

Stakeholders Discuss Draft on Social Dialogue in Public Service

Accra - Mr. Yaw Barimah, Minister of Manpower Development and Employment, on Wednesday said either government, employer or workers should always reach consensus on social dialogue issues to ensure healthy labour front that would increase productivity for accelerated national development. He said some social partners always take entrenched positions when particular issues were being discussed and such behaviours often prolong the implementation of certain policies. This was contained in a speech read for the Minister at the opening of a two-day workshop national on social dialogue in Public Service reform in Accra. The workshop, under the theme: "To test the practical guide for strengthening social dialogue in public service reform" organised by the International Labour Organisation, is a follow-up to conclusions adopted by the joint meeting on the impact of decentralisation and privatisation on municipal services held in Geneva in October 2001.

Participants would discuss and validate the draft on practical guide for strengthening social dialogue in public service, which underscored a win-win approach that focused on the issue rather than the person. They would also examine and evaluate the reforms undertaken in Ghana in the light of the various recommendations made in the practical guide. The draft also looks at a process that facilitates problem solving and decision making to enhance the effectiveness of public service as well as the quality of life for public service workers. Mr. Barimah gave the assurance that the government would ensure a healthy labour front by promoting employment social right, social dialogue and social protection and create an enabling environment that would promote and encourage private sector development. Dr Alex Glover-Quartey, Head of the Civil Service said efforts by the service to engage workers in the formulation of policies that concerned them have proved futile adding, "this workshop will give us the opportunity to dialogue and put across our concerns". He said the introduction of technology had brought about retrenchment in public service and called for the policy to consider and address this issue.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 1 October 2003

Belgium Offers Aid to Burundi for Health, Civil Service

Kampala - Belgium has pledged an undisclosed sum of cash to support the reconstruction of the war-torn central African nation of Burundi as it moves towards peace, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel and Cooperation Minister Marc Verwilghen said on Wednesday. They were speaking at a conference called by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at his official home in Kampala, as part of their tour of the Great Lakes region. Verwilghen told reporters at the conference that Belgium would sign "three conventions committing us to support the present government in Burundi": two offering aid to Burundi's beleaguered health system and one pledging funds for "the administration of the country so it can pay its civil servants". Museveni, who is the chairman of the Regional Initiative on Burundi, said the country was nearing a final peace deal bringing all the belligerents together. "One sticking point is the FNL [Forces nationales de liberation] that is unhappy with some of the details of the deal. We will continue to strongly pressurise them to come to a final agreement," Museveni said. Michel said Belgium was focusing a lot of energy on finding solutions to troubles in the Great Lakes. "We have promised a sincere engagement of Belgium with central Africa and we intend to deliver on that. We have already been working closely with the governments of Burundi and the DRC," he said. (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks).

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 9 October 2003

FG to Overhaul Public Service Soon

Abuja - President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja on Tuesday declared that the Federal Government has concluded arrangements to overhaul the public service sector to make it viable. Obasanjo also said at the opening of the 33rd yearly accountants conference that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would be reinvigorated to strengthen the process of accountability in governance. Obasanjo, who was represented by the Finance Minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, restated his government's determination to continue to lead by example by living above board. He said: "We will carry to its logical conclusion our initiative to overhaul the administrative structure in the public sector in an effort to further engender transparency in public governance." The President, however, urged the accountants to live above board in their dealings with the public and to create what he called islands of integrity in their respective organisations with a view to serving as models to deviants. He pointed out that while members of his government were doing their best to ensure accountability in office, the additional support expected from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), would facilitate the achievement of a virtuous society.

The President, who acknowledged that the average Nigerian was going through severe hardship, however, cautioned that except a patient braced up and swallowed the right pill with its bitterness, he might never be whole as aimed. "This patient called Nigeria must live, not by chance, but by our collective will and through the dedicated application of the right therapy which are prescribed by the new initiative of government," he stressed. The President of ICAN, Basorun J. K. Randle, in his welcome address, said the time had come for all Nigerians to do away with what he called indecision and waywardness, and support the present administration's drive towards greatness. Federal Capital Territory Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai in his own address, used the ICAN members to join hands with the government in the development of the FCT adding that the city should not be perceived as just the home of civil servants alone. Said he: "we cannot go on with our self-indulgence and posture of apathy - fertilised by our own mentality. This is the time to draw the curtain and close the chapter on indecision and waywardness." This years conference with the theme "Meeting Expectation," which began on Monday at Sheraton Hotel, will end on Thursday.

From Forbes, by Anthony Obiechina, 22 October 2003

Public Service Commission Should Formulate AIDS Policy: Secretary

Harare - The Public Service Commission should urgently formulate an Aids policy that will provide guidelines on how to deal with the pandemic in the civil service, Public Service Association executive secretary Mr Charles Chiviru said yesterday. In an interview, Mr. Chiviru said his association was lobbying for the establishment of the policy that would go a long way in dealing with HIV/Aids in the public service. "The policy will focus on issues like how to deal with HIV-positive civil servants at the workplace level and procedures in dealing with terminally ill employees," he said. The private sector, Mr. Chiviru said, had been on the forefront of developing HIV/Aids policies at the work- place while the civil service was lagging behind. "For instance, we don't know how many of the about 160 000 civil servants countrywide are infected with the HIV and such information is important for future planning purposes," he said.

The PSA, Mr. Chiviru said, had already trained at least 1 200 people to spearhead HIV/Aids programmes. He said since civil servants provided essential services to various people that included those living with HIV/Aids there was need for guidelines on how they could deal with such people. It was vital for the public service to have a policy on HIV/Aids since it played a pivotal role in influencing other sectors to develop policies on specific issues, Mr. Chiviru said. He said the PSA would next week hold a workshop to discuss ways of dealing with the pandemic in the civil service. The prevalence of HIV in the 15-49 age group in Zimbabwe has dropped from 34 percent to 24,6 percent, according to the latest figures. At least 1,8 million people were living with HIV while 761 000 children had been orphaned by Aids. Patients suffering from Aids-related illnesses occupied between 50 and 70 percent of the beds in hospitals.

From Ananova, UK, 26 October 2003

Ministry Spends Half of Its Budget on Social Services

Harare - The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has spent $16.5 billion of the $32 billion budget allocation it was awarded last year to cater for humanitarian assistance, a Parliamentary inquiry has revealed. In its report to Parliament prepared by the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare explaining the expenditure patterns of the ministry, the inquiry showed that half of the allocated money was spent on social services and for providing food relief to people who had been affected by drought. "The Department of Social Service consumes a large part ($16.5 billion -sic) which is more than 50 percent of the ministry's vote," the report said. "This is largely because it provides support to children, disabled and elderly persons, drought relief as well as public assistance. Your committee will focus mainly on the social protection line items." The inquiry was headed by ZANU PF legislator Webster Shamu and comprised eight other members of Parliament from both the ruling party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The ministry comprises largely of seven departments, which had to be sustained through the $32 billion allocated last year. Of that amount, administration and "general" consumed $12 billion, Labour Administration used up $574 million, Public Service Commission $1 billion, Social Services $16.5 billion, Salary Service Bureau $375 million and Training Centres $681 million.

By June this year, the labour and administration department had spent 53 percent of the allocated $574 million, which the ministry says falls within the 50 percent target of expenditure for six months but warned that some expenditures set for later in the year might affect the projections. "However a closer look at some of the line items indicates expenditure overruns that may affect service delivery in the remainder of the year," the ministry said. The report said the ministry was also affected by the shortage of fuel and lack of adequate transport, which resulted in the "department failing to carry out career guidance and counselling as well as inspections. Ultimately, the department failed to resolve labour disputes as effectively as they should have done". As part of cost cutting measures, the parliamentary inquiry recommended that the ministry should consider revising upwards rates paid for use of private business "on official business". The inquiry also recommended that even though the ministry had exhausted the drought relief budget by June, there was need to constantly monitor drought relief distribution to ensure that it reaches the intended beneficiaries.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 30 October 2003

 

Exhibition on Public Service Day

The 10th Public Service Day for the year 1424 Hijrah/2003 will be held at the International Convention Centre, Berakas on October 4, 2003. In conjunction with Public Service Day, a special exhibition by the ministries and government departments of Brunei will be held. The public is invited to view the exhibition that will commence from Oct 4 till 6 2003 starting in the afternoon.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei, 3 October 2003

Public Services 'Safe Under WTO'

Publicly funded services such as schooling and efforts to save the environment were safe under world trade talks, a Senate committee was told today. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade first assistant secretary Bruce Gosper said there was no doubt that publicly funded services were safe from challenge under the World Trade Organisation. The Senate's Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence committee is investigating Australia's bids under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). GATS is a part of world trade talks, but focuses solely on trade in services. Countries are not bound by the GATS agreement, and can pick and choose the changes in services they make under it.

From NEWS.com.au, Australia 1 October 2003

Andhra Hottest on E-governance

IT-savvy Andhra Pradesh has topped the list of states with maximum number of hot e-governance projects, followed by Madhya Pradesh, as per the latest DataQuest magazine ranking. Andhra Pradesh has five e-governance projects such as e-seva and Saukaryam, while Madhya Pradesh has played host to three projects - including the popular Gyandoot project. The e-Gov 20 Hot Projects ranking has placed Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra together in the third slot with two projects each. Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the other states in the list, with one project each. The DQ e-governance special report compiles 20 hot and successful e-governnace projects currently operational in the country that is actually making a difference in the government-citizen interaction. Some of the projects listed in the report are Akshaya and Friends (Kerala), Warana Wired Village (Maharashtra) and Delhi Slums Computer Kiosk project.

From Rediff, India, 24 September 2003

Sultan Highlights Excellence In Brunei's Civil Service

Bandar Seri Begawan - His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has highlighted the need to put more efforts to achieve excellence as the main objective of Brunei's civil service. His Majesty made the titah at a ceremony marking the 10th Civil Service Day at the International Convention Centre in Berakas this morning. He said public service is the driving force behind the government machinery, and if it is weak and non-dynamic, the nation will not be able to progress. In relation to this, His Majesty stressed that the Info-Communication Technology (ICT) era has given an impetus to His Majesty's government to be committed in implementing the e-government concept. Under the e-government concept, the Sultan said, members of the civil service have to accept the challenge of changing work style as well as establishing a new work-culture that gives priority to knowledge and skills in ICT. The full implementation of e-government in the year 2005 under the 8th National Development Plan is to improve the quality of the civil service, where hopefully, every employee will have a more positive and progressive approach to work. His Majesty continued in highlighting the importance of cooperation between the civil service and the public. The Monarch called on both sides to carry out their responsibility in reciprocity, besides acting as good and patriotic citizens.

His Majesty said among the signs of true patriotism is cooperating with the government in preserving the peace and stability of the country. "The government asks no more than this and a good citizen deserves a good government," he added. The Sultan stressed that a good government will prevail only if it has a good machinery and all the members of the civil service are part of that machinery. "Thus, they must be transparent, hardworking, honest and progressive thinking. Any mechanism that does not possess such characteristics is deemed out-of-date and redundant, he pointed out. His Majesty said the civil service needs to change how it thinks and acts, when it is clear that the old ways have to be changed. "The time for change comes when the old methods cause discontent and become more susceptible to criticisms," he said. His Majesty added that when such factors occur, it means the old ways need to be reviewed for any possible changes. He further said public contributions are vital in helping to detect any shortcoming or weakness in the management and administration of the government. According to His Majesty, the contributions of the people will not cause the authority and credibility of the public service to diminish.

The Monarch emphasised that the role of the public service as the facilitator and implementer of government policies cannot be challenged. To achieve this, His Majesty highlighted the procedures and conditions applied on the public, including local and foreign businessmen and investors who should always encourage an environment for growth as well as healthy and quality entrepreneurship. "The mechanisms should strengthen and smooth out efforts towards the progress and development of the nation, not obstruct them," he said. The Monarch also made a strong reminder that no one should be unduly concerned, because the public service is a transparent one that has been put on a pure and true track that is the religion of Islam. "The members of the public service must remember it and prove that they cannot be influenced by anything that would deviate them from proper ethics," he added. His Majesty concluded by saying God-willing, the civil service will achieve the excellence desired by every one because of the people's sincerity and willingness to make self-evaluation.

On arrival at the International Convention Centre in Berakas, His Majesty was greeted by Pehin Dato Awang Haji Isa, Special Advisor to His Majesty at the Prime Minister's Office and the Minister of Home Affairs, YAM Pengiran Lela Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pengiran Anak Haji Abdul Aziz, and the executive committee of the Public Service celebration led by its chairman, Dato Awang Haji Hazair. With His Majesty were His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, and Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna. At the function, His Majesty presented prizes to the winners of the final contest of Quality Control Conference. From 38 teams, three won gold medals. They were 'ukaz' from the Brunei Islamic Religious Council Department and Wizforce and Synergy teams, both from the Pharmaceutical Service Department of the Ministry of Health. His Majesty also presented certificates to 23 division one officers and 58 officers from division two who have retired from the government service. Before leaving, His Majesty toured an exhibition.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 4 October 2003

Service Fees to Help Combat Corruption

The Customs Department is seeking the assistance of the Council of State, the government's legal advisory body, in drafting a new ministerial announcement to allow the assessment of service fees for shippers and agents. The cabinet last month formally approved the proposed assessment of fees for all services provided by the Customs Department, to take effect before the end of the year. Funds raised from the service fees will be used to finance new information technology investments by the department, the installation of x-ray inspection systems for use in ensuring the security of container shipments as well as closed-circuit television stations at customs clearing points nationwide - a main part of the Customs Department's drive to curb endemic corruption at ports and customs clearance points. Department officials want the service fees to replace the traditional payments of under-the-table bribes to customs officials to help expedite clearance procedures. The new auditing and monitoring systems, besides serving as a deterrent, are expected to help in gathering evidence for prosecuting corrupt officials.

Chaowalit Sethameteekul, customs director-general, said other agencies, including the Anti-Money Laundering Office, would be asked to help in investigating and prosecuting any corruption cases. He said the cabinet decision would permit the assessment of service fees to be used for a five-year-trial period. If the system proved effective in improving operational flexibility and clamping down on corruption, the charges could be extended for another five years. Mr. Chaowalit said the Customs Department estimated annual revenues from the charges at around 800 million baht. Around half of the revenues are slated for various IT investment programmes, with the remainder paid as performance incentives to officials working in customs clearance operations. "We have set up the system to close as many loopholes as possible to prevent officials from demanding bribes."

From Bangkok Post, Thailand, 6 October 2003

Government to Build Private Network For e-Government After 2005

As a part of its policy to enhance security and functionality of the electronic government, the government plans to construct a separate telecommunication network dedicated to the e-government, starting 2005 when the second phase nationwide information super highway project is completed. The government decided to take this initiative because it realized the necessity of a comprehensive protection of administrative information as it had bitter experience with the National Education Information System (NEIS) and it foresaw the possible occurrence of similar incidents in the future. To draw up a plan for this project, the Ministry of Information and Communication held a three-day workshop from October 7 to 9 attended by specialists and representatives from related organizations, and communication and broadcast industries.

According to the draft plan drawn up at the workshop, the private communication network will intensify control over access to government administrative data to fundamentally block hacking and vicious abuses, and its security will be improved by tightening the management of encryption, authentication, and keys. The administration will also classify electronic data of the government and public organizations by security value, and transact important data of government agencies over the private network to be built after 2005, dealing those of public organizations over the existing information super highway. President Roh Moo-hyun showed keen interest in this initiative and instructed government agencies involved to materialize the plan. "In early stages of the e-government, Korea underwent various adverse effects such as electronic residence certificate cases in the 1990s and the contentious NEIS incident in recent months," said a ranking government official. "The new private communication network for e-government will be an alternative for improving credibility and efficiency of the government, as well as for enhancing civil services."

From Etnews, South Korea, by Seo Han & Kim Yu-kyung, 9 October 2003

Brunei Envisions e-Smart for 21st Century Civil Service

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei has drawn up a strategic framework identifying a robust roadmap towards envisioning an e-Smart Government in line with the 21st century civil service vision. Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Hamid, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, spelled this out in his working paper on the spearheading k-Economy through e-Government in Brunei. The paper was presented at the k-Economy International Conference which continued yesterday with several concurrent sessions in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), human resource development, small and medium enterprises and e-government. He said, His Majesty's government is hoping to establish an electronic governance in serving the nation better.

Meantime, Dato Awang Haji Abdullah, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communication, in his working paper entitled 'Laying the infrastructure foundation for the k-Economy in Brunei Darussalam' focused on the information and communication technology. According to him, nowadays business to business is being done more through online purchasing. A graph in the United States of America from 1998 until 2004 showed online sales is increasingly by more than eight trillion in the year 2000 and 12 trillion by the year 2004. Internet, he said, is globally used. And, there are about 100,000 internet users in Brunei. Singapore and United States of America showed a largest number of internet users with more than 500,000. - Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei (Brudirect.com News).

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 10 October 2003

Punjab Signs E-gov Pact with HFCL

The Punjab government has entered into a strategic agreement with HFCL Infotel for the e-governance and citizen services projects. According to the memorandum of understanding, HFCL Infotel will provide free data connectivity for the government's e-governance and citizen services projects. Announcing the agreement, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said in Chandigarh, Andhra Pradesh had pumped in Rs 10,000 crore in the infotech sector through public private participation in the last five years whereas Punjab had merely spent Rs 10 crore in the corresponding period. He claimed that Punjab would soon emerge as one of the leading states in the infotech sector. The state government had signed a MoU with Microsoft, he added. Microsoft will impart computer education in the government schools. The state government has recently singed an agreement with Quark, a multinational company engaged in the infotech sector, to set up an information technology park in the Ropar district at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore. It is expected to generate over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The state government is also planning to launch Sukhmani, a project aimed at providing integrated citizen services like municipal services, land records, transport services, registration of property, social security services and police administration under one roof. Heritage festival: The Punjab government would be organising a three-day Kapurthala heritage festival, beginning on October 17, to tap the state's tourism potential, the chief minister said in New Delhi yesterday. The Kapurthala festival was part of the state government's plans to organise a series of cultural celebrations this year with an objective to bring alive the "cultural vivaciousness" of the state and place it on the international map, he said. Announcing that a similar festival would also be held in Amritsar and Patiala, the chief minister said, "these festivals will showcase the rich cultural heritage of Punjab and help attract both national and international tourists". Kapurthala was the natural choice as a venue to kick off the festivals because it had a number of heritage sites which included royal palace and the world renowned Moorish mosque, he said.

From Business Standard, India, 9 October 2003

Ha Noi Launches E-government Website

Ha Noi - Ha Noi authorities on Friday officially launched a website the "first step towards an E-government" which will strengthen public administration in the capital city. "This is a landmark step towards an electronic society in the Ha Noi. The city has recorded important achievements recently but it lacks a strong public administration", Ha Noi Mayor Hoang Van Nghien said at the opening which coincided with the 49th anniversary of the capital's liberation from the French colonialist regime. About 13 billion VND is earmarked for the first phase of the portal's construction available on the web at www.hanoi.gov.vn. "The municipal government is committed to a transparent administration through this project aimed at publicly and efficiently providing the city's citizens with information about public policy. This will save their time and money", Nghien said. An administrative breakthrough is expected. The website will provide 439 documents which can be filled on-line. Information on infrastructure project and land and property planning details can now be seen on the website. Nghien said investment will continue to be make a "safe and reliable website". The project is expected to become fully operational by October next year.

From Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam, 10 October 2003

Brunei Keen On E-Government Says Senior Official

Bandar Seri Begawan - His Majesty's government is active in implementing e-Government project at ministries and departments. Some of the management between the public and government agencies can only be implemented electronically by using info-communication technology so that it can be done with more cost effective, easy and efficient. Awang Haji Matassan Bin Haji Mohamad Daud the Permanent Secretary for Administration and Finance Ministry of Development said this at the World Standards Day celebration and the launch of Safety Month yesterday. He said the management would certainly involve the delivering of data by way of digital process whether in the form of texts or in the form of image such as drawing, pictures or maps. He said in making a structure for e-government project, we would need to give attention to suitable standards and combination data in accessing the information so it can be used wisely and the operation could be interconnected.

Talking about Safety Month, he said that safety at work is a factor in upgrading the work productivity especially in industry such as the construction industry where workers are exposed to several dangerous situations and work environment, which can cause risks. This year's celebration carries a theme 'Global standards for global information society'. The theme stressed on how important the world standards in digital information era is being used in operating the Info-Communication Technology management. Subsequently, a talk on occupational safety and health in construction by an invited speaker from Australia, followed. He said 1.1 million workers die every year as a result of work and 25 per cent are killed as a result of exposure to hazardous substances. Approximately 250 million accidents and 160 million occupational diseases occur to workers each year. He added 68,500 accidents occur per day that is one accident every eight second. 600,000 lives would be saved every year if available safety practices and appropriate information were used. World Standards Day is celebrated every year to take a glimpse on the standard development, which has been achieved as well as to focus attention towards the next planning. - Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 16 October 2003

Only 2 in 1000 Volunteer for Public Service Last Year

Only about one person in a thousand volunteered for public service last year, according to a study by the Korea National Council on Social Welfare (KNCSW). The KNCSW announced yesterday that although approximately 125,000 people registered for volunteer work at 957 social welfare centers throughout the nation in 2002, the number of those who actually did any public service numbered 71,500, or roughly 1.5 people per 1000. Furthermore, the number of volunteers who worked regularly, at least once a month, came to 1,439, only two percent of those doing actual voluntary work. According to the spokesperson for the KNCSW, Kon Hee-jin, "This number is much lower than the comparable number in the so-called welfare states such as the United States and Britain." Kon went on to comment that the percentage of the population that is known to provide some type of volunteer service is more than 56 and 48 percent in US and Britain, respectively. "Our research was only based on registrations at 975 social welfare centers. The number of volunteer workers in the country, therefore, may be much greater when considering those working voluntarily on personal basis outside the system. However, the economic value of their work was still minimal when compared to the value of volunteer work U.S. and Britain." While volunteer work in Britain accounted for more than 5 percent of the country's 1998 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the value of volunteer services rendered by Koreans came to be worth only about 6.5 billion won ($5.4 million). By profession students make up the largest group - 51 percent - of volunteers, followed by housewives with 24.2 percent.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Byun Duk-kun, 20 October 2003

Shanghai Progresses with an Efficient E-government

Shanghai government website, www.sh.gov.cn, is offering a wider variety of services and responding to people's quests faster to step up its efforts toward buidling a functional government online. Local residents have got easier access to educational, medical, civil affairs and social security services through a mouse-click via the Internet. Foreigners have cut monthlong process of visa application and export-import operational affairs to just a couple of days or scores of minutes. With a click away on the portal, more lifestyle, business and diplomatic things are facilitated faster online, ranging from civil services to exit-entry applications, and from policy consultations to faculty recruitments, for people both in and out. With a daily page view of more than 200,000, www.sh.gov.cn is selected one of the best two portals among all the 36 online government websites in China by an authoritative computer magazine this year. The other winner is of the Beijing government. In the "government efficiency" round, Shanghai scored the highest. For example, a vice president of a US-based company came all the way to express his gratitude to the portal after it helped the Chinese Embassy grant him an interim entry visa with stunning high efficiency a couple of days ago.

With all the application and granting business completed within 20 minutes online, instead of several days offline, the president arrived in Shanghai right on time for an emergent meeting. The high efficiency of the portal has also benefited people in other areas. Online "annual check" shortens the times of visits local companies should pay to the industrial and commercial authorities from three to one. Online "recruitment & test" reduces the official seals people need for their job approvals from seven to one, with out-of-town candidates for local government posts needing to come to Shanghai three times only for writen test, interview and health check, rather than five or more times in the past. Timely reply to needy quests is another feature heralding the city's strive for a functional online government. The taxation and fiscal administration is responding to citizens' online questions within three working days, rather than 21 days offline previously. The information commission has integrated its 18 permit-approving procedures to 14 and later, to nine, shortening the time needed for the ratification for a report of feasibility from 20 to 15 days. Top government officials have also started to read "letters to governors/mayors/directors/chiefs" in person, in a bid to achieve the goal of offering 100 percent reply to citizens in the near future.

From EastDay.com, China, by Vicky Xu, 21 October 2003

MP to Set Up IT Network to Support E-governance

New Delhi - The Madhya Pradesh Government is planning to set up an information technology network in the State to support e-governance in sales tax, entertainment tax, land records and other revenue earning departments. "The State Government wants to set up an IT network to support online transactions and dealings in revenue earning departments, a release said here, quoting Chief Minister Digvijay Singh. The State Government has recently computerised commercial tax, treasury and electricity billing departments. The State Government is also keen to encourage e-marketing through 2000 "chaupals" which have been connected through an IT network.

From The Hindu, India, 17 October 2003

Kit Siang: Inequitable Distribution o Public Services

Kuala Lumpur - DAP National Chairman Lim Kit Siang urged the government to rectify by 2005 the situation of drastic reduction in the ratio of non-Malay public servants. He said the ratios of Chinese and Indian public servants have fallen drastically from 29.7% and 9.8% respectively in 1980, to only 8.2% and 5.2% now. He urged the government to hold a special debate on this issue. Lim said in a statement that the Barisan Nasional government first introduced the New Economic Policy for 20 years, followed by the National Economic Policy for 10 years, with the purpose of restructuring the Malaysian society in a bid to eliminate poverty. However, he lamented that the figures of racial distribution of public services in the country have shown that the government's policies have failed. He said the ratios of Chinese and Indian public servants cannot reflect the population ratios of 24% and 8% for Chinese and Indians respectively.

From E.Sinchew-i.com, Asia, 22 October 2003

E Government Executive Forum

An E Government Executive Forum on "Next Generation E Government: Delivering Friendly, Accessible and Integrated Public Services" was held yesterday afternoon at the Members Grill of the Empire Hotel and Country Club. It aimed to bring industry leaders together and spearhead development of solutions for the next generation of E Governments worldwide. The event was organised by Ecquaria and Sun Microsystems along with partners e.cop.net, Elixir technology, e Suria and SCS Information Technology. Participants for the seminar included around eighty members from the government and ten from the private sectors. It showcased Ecquaria and Sun Microsystems' experience in aiding Singapore's deployment of its "Public Services Infrastructure" (PSI), a government-wide infrastructure with an estimated 1,600 public services online and an emphasis on the best practices for Next Generation E Government. The first wave of E Government saw the development of Intranets and electronic services from various government agencies.

The forum explores the possibilities and improvements that can be done to further leverage on these investments, with the objective of transforming the public service into a networked government that delivers friendly, accessible and integrated electronic services that delight customers and citizens. Present on behalf of Sun Microsystems was Mr. Boon San Gan, Managing Director as well as Mr. Bernard Kam, Technical Consultant. Among the seminar's speakers were representatives of companies as well as other users including LCDR Julianto G. Bucayan, Jr. (PN). The Sun Java Desktop System featured during the seminar consists of a judicious selection of integrated and tuned desktop software, mostly based on open source and standards. The Java Desktop system fully integrates the latest Java Runtime Environment, Standard Edition (JRE).Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin.

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, by Huraizah Ahmad, 22 October 2003

e-Government Drives IT Growth

Australia's emphasis on e-Government deployments is helping to drive IT growth at between four-and-a-half and six percent in 2004, up from relatively flat growth in 2003, trade show organiser CeBIT reports. Speaking at the launch of CeBIT Australia 2004 in Sydney, CeBIT Australia managing director Jackie Taranto explained that Australia now ranks number two globally in e-Government implementation behind the United States and ahead of the UK, Canada and Germany. This example is providing the stimulus for other areas to embrace the e-business culture. "To support this emphasis, we've incorporated a one-day e-Government forum into next year's show," says Taranto. "This is a first." The forum will take place on 4 May 2004. Taranto says the forum will facilitate knowledge exchange between industry representatives and provide a global platform showcasing Australia's e-expertise. Among the already successful e-Government programs implemented in Australia are the e-Tax online lodgement system, JobSearch and the Business Entry Point for all dealings between government and private enterprise. An electronics tendering system is also currently being implemented.

Taranto confirmed CeBit's commitment to Australia and NZ by highlighting that the Sydney event is one of only four regional venues, along with New York, Shanghai and Istanbul, and, despite pressure to do so, the company "has no plans to open CeBit at another venue". "[We] believe in the innovative resource of this region," Taranto adds. "That's why we have set up our [IT] event here." CeBIT also plans to strengthen "future parc"-a highlight of this year's exhibition-at the 2004 show. Among the R&D on show at this year's event was Canberra-based Seeing Machines' faceLAB driver fatigue monitoring system (see Electronics News 22 May 03 front cover) and Victoria University of Technology researchers' development of a wireless technique, which takes advantage of the multipath fading channel that plagues many indoor WiFi installations (see same issue, page 4). CeBIT Australia runs from 4-6 May 2004 at Darling Harbour, Sydney.

From Dial Infolink Electronics, Australia, by Steven Keeping, 24 October 2003

PM's E-governance Plan May Soon Have Links in Place

New Delhi - This could easily be the most ambitious networking project Prime Minister AB Vajpayee has announced after the national highway development project. The project, when fully implemented in four years, could have a revolutionary impact on the economy, more potent than that of the highway project. The e-governance programme announced by the PM, during his Independence Day speech in '02, is finally taking shape. At current estimates, the project could cost about Rs 12,500 crore and the Centre's share would be about Rs 5,300 crore. The states' share would be about Rs 3,100 crore, while the balance is to come from financial institutions and the private sector. The proposal involves massive computerisation and networking to make available on the net information about almost all government functions - ranging from land records, registration of vehicles, municipalities and civil supplies distribution to income tax, customs, passport, provident fund and insurance. Also proposed are PoliceNet, EduNet, E-employment, Health-Net and human resources management systems. India portal, state portals, country gateway, electronic document interchange, e-procurement and e-biz would be the other components of the project. A payment gateway is also being planned, to be set up in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, Bankers Association of India and the lead nationalised banks, to facilitate e-commerce transactions and payments over the internet.

From Economic Times, India, by Tina Edwin, 28 October 2003

 

Swiss Launch E-government Initiative

The Swiss could soon be benefiting from better government services over the internet, thanks to an initiative to develop e-government. The project aims to cut down on bureaucracy and boost Switzerland's e-government ranking compared with other European nations. On Monday, a national project was launched to better coordinate the internet activities of Switzerland's vast patchwork of cantons and communes, which are currently responsible for their own websites. The economics minister, Joseph Deiss, said the initiative, eVanti.ch, would not only boost Switzerland's image as an internet-savvy nation, but would also help ease collaboration between the government, cantons and communes at very little cost. Deiss added that the standardisation and improvement of e-government services would ensure the smooth running of Switzerland's federalist system and would lead to a cheaper, more user-friendly service. The finance ministry, which is coordinating the project, said it planned to rapidly increase the number of services in a bid to cut down on bureaucratic paperwork, to the benefit of the population, the economy and of the government itself.

The news is likely to be welcomed by the Swiss who, in a study released in August, said they would like more public services to be available online. Some 83 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed said they would use the internet for everyday administrative tasks such as registering a change of address or searching for jobs. Cyber image - During Monday's launch, eVanti.ch organisers said the initiative was also designed to make Switzerland a more attractive place for investors and help it climb up e-government rankings. Switzerland is currently languishing at number 15 out of 18 countries in European e-government rankings. The finance ministry said it aimed to move the country up into the top third of the rankings by the end of 2005. It plans to create an online databank of information relating to e-government, encouraging visitors to the site to put forward suggestions. The ministry said it would also monitor Switzerland's e-government progress more closely. The Swiss government has already launched several projects in the domain of e-government, including the online administrative information portal, www.ch.ch, and has experimented with e-voting in canton Geneva. (swissinfo with agencies).

From Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland, 29 September 2003

Making e-Government Happen in the United Kingdom

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) places Location-Based Intelligence at the heart of its e-Government strategy - The UK's e-Government initiative to provide all services online by 2005 is currently a major focus for local authorities and councils. While turning this concept into reality has been fraught with challenges, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) has made significant progress in delivering online services to its citizens by placing location-based solutions at the heart of its IT strategy. Rotherham's initial e-Government goals were to provide methods of working that would make it easy for citizens to contact the Council, allowing them to access services directly. This would include online access where the boroughs' citizens could find information relevant to their location, based on a single postcode search. This kind of information would encompass everything from access to planning regulations through to vital services such as bin collection times. Through achieving this high level of information access, RMBC has seen a dramatic cultural change in the way different departments are now working together and sharing core information to deliver better, timelier services. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC), a 'Beacon' Council serving a population of 248,000 in the North of England, has successfully exploited the potential of GIS for many years and has utilised the benefits of MapInfo Professional, across dozens of departments for functions such as planning, research, statistical analysis and service delivery.

These intensive users tended to be GIS experts who typically created and edited data. Their work was and still continues to be shared with other council employees who require 'lighter' functionality for answering the thousands of 'who, what, where' questions that a council deals with on a daily basis. Effective though this has been, RMBC's use of GIS still remained largely 'departmental' serving the requirements of individual groups of users 'working in silos'. Little information was shared outside of these departments and consequently it was difficult to reap the advantages that working with one consistent set of data brings, nor was it easy to deal with inquiries both internally and from the public without passing requests from one individual to another and so on. In order to meet its e-Government objectives an essential task for RMBC therefore has been to ensure that all staff, regardless of location and level of technical ability, were connected to the full range of council information internally. But it also was vital that this information could be shared effectively across the entire organisation. For Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, the goal of 'joint working' has been made possible with the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN), derived from Rotherham's Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG). This digital database, maintained using MapInfo's BS7666 toolbox, provides the key to joining up RMBC's services.

"Location-based information is the key to the way a Local Authority works and the LLPG provides the common thread, enabling us to link the many disparate address-holding databases that council employees work with every day, from council tax to social services to education and a multitude of specific departmental data", explains Richard Copley, principal systems analyst (GIS) for RMBC. "For the first time, we will be able to store a single Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) in all our address-holding systems. The use of the UPRN as the common search element will enable council employees to retrieve all information held by Rotherham Council on that location instantly. This will not only be more efficient but once completed will also provide a significant time saving on current procedures", he adds. Currently Rotherham is working hard to make the UPRN an integral part of its entire IT systems and it has already recorded a major achievement in making much of its location-related data available to all internal users cost-effectively via an Intranet based solution called MapKey. This solution was built on MapInfo MapXtreme, an Internet mapping server for enabling the broad deployment of mapping applications. MapKey empowers the council's 3,000 employees to utilise, via a browser, an easy-to-use secure website to access and share location enabled data. The system, which receives in excess of 600 visits per day, is available from every PC within RMBC and currently makes over 150 different datasets available to everyone within the council - information that hitherto has not been shared.

Data is stored on central GIS web servers making maintenance, updates and dissemination simple. This includes maps and analysis created in MapInfo Professional, aerial photography and databases of location enabled point information. As more and more address holding databases are integrated with the LLPG so more information can be retrieved that is relevant to a specific location. The key benefit of this new enterprise wide system was accessibility for all, according to Richard Copley. "MapXtreme has delivered a level of accessibility previously unknown by RMBC. The GIS data held on our Intranet is now available to everyone. A point-and-click format makes it easy-to-use by all our employees, regardless of whether they are power or relatively inexperienced users." While Rotherham has succeeded both in sharing information internally and making disparate data accessible, it has also done much to improve its services to customers. The principle way in which it has achieved this is through a dedicated contact centre for handling calls from the public. RMBC has also invested in a new, multi-functional website called Rotherham Connect (www.rotherhamconnect.com). Here citizens in the borough can go online to directly access a variety of information including planning, education, housing, local taxes and other address-specific information.

Such has been the success of the site that it recently won a prestigious CRM award in the UK. "We want our customer's contact with us to be a quick and successful experience. We don't want people to be passed from 'pillar to post' in their attempt to find the answer to an inquiry", Copley said. "Rotherham Connect provides an interface between us and our customers. Underpinning the delivery of this service is the high quality spatial information, which already exists in our Council departments." While RMBC still has some of its original 'joined-up government' goals to attain, it has demonstrated that for any local authority e-Government project to succeed, location enablement is a key factor. Equally important however has been the cultural change that the process has driven within RMBC. "There is a new openness and understanding of the importance of sharing our information and joining up our services", Copley concludes. About the Author - Matthew Spencer is EMEA Marketing Manager at MapInfo (www.mapinfo.co.uk) and can be contacted by email at: matthew_spencer@mapinfo.com - MapInfo Corporation is a global software company that integrates software, data and services to help customers realise greater value from location-based information and drive more insightful decisions. MapInfo solutions are available in 20 languages through a network of strategic partners and distribution channels in 60 countries.

From DirectionsMag.com, IL, by Matthew Spencer, 1 October 2003

Most Advanced E-government System Adopted for Vehicle Licence Renewal

Malta's e-government system will soon launch an on-line vehicle licence renewal service that is completely transaction-based and the first of its kind in Europe. This service will be operating the most technologically advanced digital framework that incorporates a multitude of operations. The Minister for IT and Investments, Dr Austin Gatt, is expected to launch the service as part of the e-government programme spearheaded by himself. Speaking to The Malta Business Weekly, the head of Minister Gatt's secretariat, Claudio Grech, said that the framework is a real first for government on-line systems in Europe. "The MITTS developers did a superb job. The framework provides a seamless operation to clients despite including the required input from at least four different sources, which include insurances, VRT stations, the law enforcement system and the ADT, to enable the renewal of a vehicle licence," said Mr. Grech. "The government will continuously maintain the on-line system that has been purposely designed for insurance agencies and brokers. It will enable customers to renew their vehicle licence either through their insurance company while paying for their insurance policy or by accessing the system on-line and paying their licence themselves by using a debit or credit card," added Mr. Grech. "The on-line vehicle licence renewal system took over a year to develop at a cost of Lm0.25m.

Furthermore, the system was specifically developed to help the insurance agencies and brokers facilitate on-line renewal of vehicle licences for their customers," said Mr. Grech. The on-line system only requires three steps to complete and each step requires straightforward information that is available on every insurance policy such as vehicle registration number, policy number and ID card. Asked to comment on rumours that insurance companies are expecting a payment fee of Lm1 per transaction to operate the system, Mr. Grech confirmed that a fee of Lm1 was proposed for every licence renewed on-line from their agencies. "This proposal potentially added a cost of Lm0.25m to be forked out by the government. This will not make any financial sense especially when considering that the government invested Lm0.25m to set-up the system while insurance companies are not required to make any investment. Besides, the on-line system has been designed to reduce costs rather than increase overheads. After all, the scope of e-government is providing excellent public services at a lower cost to the tax payer," said Mr. Grech. "This system was primarily designed to reduce the inconvenience of having to queue to pay their vehicle licences. The current system requires clients to renew their insurance policy and subsequently visit the Licensing and Testing Department to renew their vehicle licence.

Some insurance agencies and brokers provided an added service by sending someone to the Licensing Department to renew the vehicle licences for their clients," added Mr. Grech. He added that with the on-line system, this procedure will be simplified as all insurers will have the possibility of registering the renewal of insurance policies in real time from their office. This will permit clients to renew their vehicle licence on-line and avoid queuing. Besides, insurance companies will also be able to issue vehicle licences immediately as an added benefit for their clients. The system is capable of logging instantly every vehicle insurance policy that is renewed or taken out new to enable the issuing of a vehicle licence. According to the Laws of Malta, a vehicle licence cannot be issued unless an insurance policy covers that vehicle. When asked whether the insurance sector is expected to make any investments to adopt this on-line system, Mr. Grech said that no investment is required as the system will be made available at no cost to the companies. "The government has also committed itself to train insurance personnel that will be using the system during insurance policy renewals. All insurance companies require is a PC connected to the internet," said Mr. Grech.

"The government has also bought the necessary security digital certificates to avoid any investment requirement by the insurance companies while ensuring that maximum protection is offered to clients. These certificates will also be renewed by the government on a yearly basis for on-going security," added Mr. Grech. "Insurance brokers have already received the required training to operate the system and should be able to offer the service by end of October. Insurance agencies, are in the process of determining those employees that will require training. The system is practically complete from e-government side and we are waiting for the Malta Insurance Association to formally advise when to officially launch on-line vehicle licence renewal," said Mr. Grech. Contacted by this newspaper, the director general of the Malta Insurance Association, Dr Anton Felice said that the association has had close consultations with the government to ensure that the on-line system is effective and foolproof. "In October 2001, the Malta Insurance Association had prepared a report on the possibility of an on-line payment system for vehicle licences that is similar to what is being proposed by the government," said Dr Felice. "The MIA is in favour of on-line renewal of vehicle licences and insurance policies. However, it ensured that certain issues posed by the Law were amended to provide a wider scope for this on-line system which should be launched soon," added Dr Felice."

The MIA has been working with government to ensure that insurance policies are paid prior to renewal of a vehicle licence. Obviously customers have to prove that their insurance is paid prior to obtaining their new vehicle licence. This is a safeguard to guarantee that no vehicle is driven without adequate cover for injuries or losses to third parties," said Dr Felice. "Discussions are currently being held to work out how insurance companies can update the Licensing and Testing Department about those insurance policies that are renewed. A central database, the Motor Insurance Information Database, will be set-up and will include up-to-date details about all registered vehicles and the insurance policy holders cover they hold. This should ensure an efficient vehicle licence renewal for owners," explained Dr Felice. "Another concern that the MIA has is credit risk especially when payment is effected through cheques. Fraudulent cheques are not the norm. However, it is the exception that disrupts the system. The MIA wants to ensure that insurance companies are not defrauded of the money due to government for licence renewals. Thus, the MIA will instruct its members to accept only cash or credit card payments for vehicle licence renewals," said Dr Felice.


From Malta Business Weekly, Malta, by Chris Sultana, 2 October 2003

Log on to E-government

State Administration Minister Dimiter Kalchev this week announced the launching of e-government in Bulgaria. The first services to be provided on the internet are changes in address registration, information on the court registration of companies in Bulgaria and on social security contributions, the government information service said. It is expected that the administration will offer at least 20 e-services to physical and legal entities by 2005. They include company registration, filing of customs declarations and car registration. It will become possible for the following documents to be submitted on the internet by the end of 2003 or the beginning of 2004: tax returns, VAT payment data, uniform documents for statistical and tax purposes. It will also be possible to participate in public procurement procedures worth up to 10 000 leva, Finance Ministry chief secretary Tencho Popov said during the ceremony. E-government services require a digital signature certificate, provided by the state company Informatsionno Obsluzhvane (Information Service).

A digital signature and a reading device for the computer cost 125 leva a year for physical and 300 leva for legal entities. So far Informatsionno Obsluzhvane has issued 16 000 digital signature certificates, mostly to juristic persons, its director Nikolai Gelev said. The Web portal is: http://egateway.government.bg. Kalchev said that the completion of the national optical cable network, which will link all state and municipal services into an integrated system, would cost between 40 million and 50 million leva. This allocation has been requested from the 2004 budget. The optical cable network will save 100 million leva a year, which are now paid to BTC, he said. Also this week the Government officially launched an information web portal on the EU integration progress and processes. At the internet address www.europortal.bg, the state administration will publish documents on the pre-accession negotiations, information about events and opinion polls.

From Sofia Echo, Bulgaria, 2 October 2003

Government Seeks New IT Spending Supremo

Peter Gershon is set to leave his government post next year, and the hunt is already on for a successor - Headhunters have started the search to replace the influential Peter Gershon as CEO of the government's procurement watchdog the Office of Government Commerce (OGC). His contract expires next year. Gershon took the three-year post in 2000 and has made it a key part of the OGC's role to crackdown on the billions of pounds of taxpayers' money wasted on botched public sector IT projects by introducing strict 'gateway' reviews and checks on all new technology programmes. Such was his influence in the corridors of power and high-profile successes such as negotiating a Ł100m saving through a central government licensing deal with Microsoft that Gershon was persuaded to stay on an extra year and will now bow out at the end of March 2004.

A headhunting firm has now started searching for someone to fill the position, which offers a Ł145,000 salary - although that is somewhat less than Gershon, who was briefly the highest-paid civil servant, currently takes home. A spokesman for the OGC said there will be a lot of competition for what will be a key role in the government's Common Systems Strategy for standardising IT across the public sector. "There is no indication or speculation yet as to whether the person will come from the private sector, as Gershon did, or be a senior civil servant. It is wide open but the best person will get the job," he said. Gershon has not yet publicly revealed his plans for post-OGC life but the spokesman said that now the recruitment process is in the open there are likely to be approaches and lucrative offers from the private sector. Last month e-envoy Andrew Pinder raised the prospect of a government-wide CIO role being created out of the merging of his own office and the OGC but the OGC spokesman said nothing has yet come of that proposal.

From This is London, UK, by Andy McCue, 2 October 2003

Hewlett Packard Keeps Contributing to Bulgaria's E-government Project

Hewlett-Packard opens on Monday its second information Public Center in Bulgaria - another step of the company's contribution to the country's e-government project. The new center was built in the Glavnitsa region near the town of Silistra, and the first one is situated near Blagoevgrad. Locations for the centers were selected according Hewlett-Packard's idea to give people in remote regions admission to the online administrative services that the e-government provides. Four such services are already available, and another 16 are said to be on the way. Building of the two centers cost a total of USD 60,000.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 6 October 2003

IT Benefits to Public Services Could Be Economic Catalyst

Over dinner last week with Bob Downes, who heads up the Scottish operations of BT, we discussed to what extent it would be possible, or helpful, to force organisations to adopt the latest technologies. There are precedents elsewhere and it does have implications for the Smart, Successful Scotland strategy. Among the other guests present last week there was a bit of a murmur of indignation. Enforcement sends a lot of people into a cold sweat. They hate being told that they have to do something. Except that other countries are driving their economies and public services by forcing citizens, and their public and private sectors, to use technology. Not only is it working to produce greater efficiencies and benefits, but it is leaving Scotland behind. The issue of our dinner debate was the take-up of broadband technology and why only 4.9% of those in Scotland who have access actually bother to take it. But we could have been talking about any technology whose wider adoption would stimulate growth. Two nights later Gordon McKenzie, who runs the Scottish operations of Microsoft, insisted that the Irish had got it right. So had the Maltese and the Latvians, those giants of Europe. They had sensibly tied economic development to public policy so that one stimulates the other. They are making substantial progress as a result.

Scotland has failed to do this, partly because political infrastructure is not weighted towards it, but mainly through a lack of political will and imagination. In Ireland, the enterprise ministry told the telecoms companies that if they did not lower prices for internet access to schools there would be legislation. As McKenzie points out, that enforcement order linked public policy and economic development at a stroke. If they complied, the telcos would get the business and the schools would get their internet links. No messing. McKenzie argues that because the Scottish government is a spending authority, rather than a revenue-raising body, it therefore plots policy accordingly. But he warns that if Scotland continues to see itself as a spending country, then it will never pay any serious attention to wealth creation. It is arguable - and there are plenty in the business community who would argue this point - that the ability to raise rates refutes this argument to a certain degree. But the more important point, that the Executive and its agents should integrate economic and public policy, is a fascinating one. Countries that we would regard as no bigger and certainly no more influential than Scotland are way ahead of us in taking advantage of this integration. It has to be said that the Executive has made some attempt at doing this.

During her time as enterprise minister, Wendy Alexander tried to harness the power of public-sector spending to stimulate demand for broadband technology. But there was a lack of real enforcement and so we still have this daft situation where Scottish Enterprise pursues an e-business strategy then joins in the great paper-chase with its customers - a mentality that also persists in our police and health services. Nobody is pulling all the strings together to make sure that we apply the benefits of information technologies to our public services so that they act as a catalyst for the economy instead of a drain on its resources. The Catalans, by contrast, have done exactly that, drawing electronic government together under the auspices of a company to execute government services. Riga, the capital of Latvia, is way ahead of Glasgow and Edinburgh in delivering public services electronically. Once the accession countries join the European Community, we will be viewed as seriously behind the times for insisting on doing things the old way. McKenzie, who is passionate about all this, may one day have a chance to put his grand plan into action.

He is the latest senior businessman to show an interest in succeeding Robert Crawford as chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, and he has obviously been putting some thought into how a McKenzie-led Scottish Enterprise would prioritise its agenda. Should he get the job, he could change all our lives. He argues that Scotland is not only missing out on an opportunity to use its vast public sector to stimulate the economy. It is also missing a chance to become a European or world leader in a technology in which it has already made great strides: smart cards. There are many companies dotted around the country that have leading-edge smart-card technology. One of these in East Kilbride has developed smart-card technology for the Department of Transport that would improve ticketing on public transport. With the right initiatives instigated in the public sector - among the many thousands of students, for instance - it would be possible to stimulate a new industry, improve the efficiency of public services, and help with the learning and skills of citizens who use them. It would represent the Smart, Successful Scotland mantra in action, taking it from the parliamentary debate and strategy document into the real world. And, as seeing is believing, we would all become supporters to the cause, and be better off because of it.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Terry Murden, 11 October 2003

'Building of E-government' Nearing Completion

Around 95 per cent of the government's services should be available online in the next six to nine months thanks to the introduction of a state-of-the-art electronic identification system, IT and Investment Minister Austin Gatt said yesterday. The system was the "last pillar in the building of e-government", allowing private information to be accessed by the appropriate individuals, he said. The advanced electronic version of the ID card has been developed by Microsoft and Malta Information Technology and Training Services (MITTS) and the system was intended to be replicated and sold worldwide, Dr Gatt said. It is intended for use in the online services - ranging from VAT to income tax, social policy and health - that have still to be introduced. So far, only the e-government services accessible to everyone are available online. The system offers 100 per cent security, Dr Gatt said, explaining that the government would be operating the system, but would not be issuing the so-called "password". The latter was in the hands of a separate private company - the same concept behind credit cards and Personal Identification Numbers.

Dr Gatt was speaking at the inauguration of the 12th Information Technology & Telecommunications fair at the Trade Fair Grounds, in Naxxar, with his ministry's hi-tech stand forming the backdrop and offering a "glimpse at the future". The fair, he said, was "growing in importance year after year" and the number of participants and visitors reflected the government's policy on IT. Dr Gatt augured that the costly new system would not only be used by the government but would be taken up by private companies too. The minister augured that users would only need to have one identification code to access the various services. Dr Gatt said the delay in the introduction of the system was caused by government bureaucracy. The tender to appoint an administrator was issued in July 2002 but the Department of Contracts took over a year to evaluate it, only to draw the same conclusions that had been drawn a year before. Dr Gatt said the next challenge lay in educating the public to use the services, as well as bridging the digital divide, which still required more work.

Maltacom chief executive Stephen Muscat said a substantial increase in the amount of bandwidth for use by internet service providers had been commissioned. This was considered to be necessary also in view of the government's initiatives in the field. Maltacom, the sponsor of the fair, was busy setting up the necessary infrastructure on the island, such as Wi-Fi, which was being installed in areas where it was thought the demand would grow. Visitors to the IT&T Fair, which is open until Sunday, will have the opportunity to experience the latest technologies, Trade Fairs Corporation president Ian Mizzi said. All the space available at the fair grounds has been allocated, he said. Last year, the IT&T fair was attended by about 25,000 visitors and Mr. Mizzi was sure the number would continue to grow. The fair is open from 6 p.m. to 10 today and tomorrow, from 5 p.m. to 10 on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 9 on Sunday.

From Valletta Times, Malta, by Fiona Galea Debono, 15 October 2003

Efforts to Set up an Internet Portal for Pan-European Public Services Have Stalled, Says the EU

Europe's e-services portal is confronting "huge practical difficulties" and will not be available until next year, the EU's e-government programme has admitted. The portal, which is an ambitious attempt to set up the first "pan European" online services, has been in development for over a year as a pilot but is not to become fully operational until key obstacles can be overcome. When the project first began the EU had a publicly available url for the portal, but it has now been closed down. In its October 2003 strategy update, the EU's Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA) programme says it recognises that one of the stated political aims is to set up a portal for e-government services which work across Europe. "But behind the political will, it should be noted that there are huge practical difficulties involved in coordinating such a type of portal.

All EU national administration websites are structured in their own unique way, providing different levels of information on their public services, according to their importance and availability locally." One example given is that while most national governments provide information about income tax online, they do not offer advice if an individual is paying tax in another country. Creating a portal designed to provide such information, incorporating the differences between national administrations as well as overcoming language barriers "is a highly complex task", says the report. The IDA's strategy paper says the portal will be kept as a pilot until 2004 for "learning and demonstration" purposes. But it does say that eventually it will become operational and will be the "the reference public portal for citizens and enterprises interested in cross-border activities within the enlarged EU."

From Kablenet, UK, 21 October 2003

Have Your Say on Public Services

The Government is asking people for their views on the best ways of improving efficiency in the public services to release more resources to the frontline. Spending on public services has risen significantly and increased the number of frontline staff working in areas like schools, hospitals and police forces. By 2005/6 the Government will be spending Ł320bn on public services, with Ł70bn controlled by central Government. The aim of the review, announced by the Chancellor in this year's Budget, is to ensure that frontline staff get the resources they need to do their job even better and to remove the bureaucracy that can get in their way. It will focus on six key areas: o Procurement - the way the public sector buys goods and services; o Back office functions - like finance, IT and human resources; o Transactional services - could modern technology be better used?; o Policy, funding and regulation of the devolved public services; o Policy, funding and regulation of the private sector; o Productive time - are staff spending too much time serving the organisation at the expense of customers? More details about the consultation are available online and people can submit their views until 21 November. The review will be led by Peter Gershon, Head of the Office of Government Commerce. He will report back next summer.


From 10 Downing Street (press release), UK, 20 October 2003

Public Service Staff Share Success Stories

A new booklet launched today showing the vital role front line staff play in improving public services will be distributed to 30,000 senior managers across the public sector. The publication 'Leading from the Front Line' contains a number of relevant case studies from across the country. The Prime Minister's Adviser on Public Sector Reform Wendy Thomson said: "Leading from the Front Line highlights the good work happening on the ground - where it really counts for customers and communities. It is services like these, led by committed people that are setting the pace on reform and best practice." The critical role of front line staff was reflected also reflected by the Charter Mark awards ceremony. The awards promote choice, flexibility and innovation in public service. The 2002 Charter Mark Award Ceremony acknowledged 790 public service winners for excellence in customer services. Over 2,400 public sector organisations are now recognised by the scheme. Both the booklet and the awards encourage public sector leaders to share their ideas and best practice.

From 10 Downing Street (press release), UK, 22 October 2003

E-gov Must Offer Value for Money: Report

In its report, Gartner said that the governments of Western Europe will spend USD67.8 billion on e-government and information technology in 2003 but said that with this kind of expenditure, there will be pressure to show that it has been worthwhile. "It's a lot of money," warns vice president of research at Gartner, Andrea Di Maio. "That is a lot of hospitals, schools and trains. Technology has the ability to deliver fantastic improvements across society and is an asset equally worthy of investment, but governments must prove that it has broader benefits to the people that pay for it, or they risk public disillusionment." This is particularly relevant to Ireland, where the government has come under increasing pressure over spending cutbacks in vital areas such as the health sector. Though many of Ireland's e-government initiatives have won important awards, Minister for the Information Society Mary Hanafin has faced criticism this year over costly delays to certain e-government projects including the all-important Public Services Broker, a kind of e-government central nervous system. Before Hanafin took on the job of Minister for the Information Society, there were calls in the private sector for the government to appoint an e-Minister. Though Hanafin filled that job, some expressed disappointment that the position was not a full cabinet post.

For it part, Gartner said in its report that establishing e-ministers, or public sector Chief Information Officers (CIOs), to oversee the adoption of e-government and ensure that it delivers value for money for taxpayers, is essential. These should be followed by what Gartner calls Domain Information Officers (DIOs), who would focus on architectural, application and data modelling needs, the report said. "This arrangement would strike a better balance between a centralised and decentralised approach to government management of technology," said Di Maio. "Departments pursue individual agendas without an eye on accountability or cross-departmental prioritisation and assessment. The result is repetition of effort and wasted resources, and the money being spent is not matching the government's stated objectives." By putting government services on-line, it is hoped that the public can have greater access to information, forms, government services and range of other functions such as tenders and planning permission applications. In fact, e-government has grown to become far more than the re-jigging public sector Web sites, with the term now referring to the re-engineering of way public services are delivered with efficiency and customer service as primary goals.

From Electric News Net, by Patrick Kelly, 23 October 2003

 

E-government Programme Communicates with the Private Sector

Amman - To facilitate dialogue between local IT firms and the e-Government programme, int@j hosted a workshop earlier this week. The conference was part of efforts to communicate programme objectives and goals, and share with the industry the challenges being faced in implementing e-Government, according to an int@j statement. The e-Government programme aims at contributing to the Kingdom's economic and social development by providing access to government e-services and information for all citizens, irrespective of location, economic status, IT literacy, and educational background. "Jordan's e-Government model is not replicated from other national programmes. It is a truly unique Jordanian model that builds on best practices from around the world," stated Mahmoud Khasawneh, chief information officer and head of e-Government. "Our emphasis has been on equipping qualified subject matter experts in the area of programme management, technology, and change management, with the goal of developing and supporting e-Government operations and management."

Team members from the e-Government Programme Management Office (PMO) updated the local ICT industry on the role of the office, which provides support and capability to government departments for the coordination of management, implementation and interoperability of e-services. PMO Quality Assurance Director Nadia Naber said her office "aims to support other ministries and communicate the standards and methodology to support consistency in operations across government." Emphasising the programme's objective of successfully delivering e-Government initiatives and projects through dedicated project managers, Khasawneh highlighted the progress of select e-services in the Kingdom. Fatima Abdel-Rahim, e-Services manager, added that "we are now in the process of development and implementation of key citizen services, including income tax, drivers and vehicle licensing, land and surveys, and borders and residency service." Updating other developments, Khasawneh said: "we have created operations at the National Information Technology Centre, and it is a great source of pride that this centre is being run by a local company, and not a global entity with a call centre that is introducing the concept of customer services to government."

The PMO team shared the strategy towards the development of the e-Government portal, emphasising that 100 government agencies had been scanned with content gathered, developed the look and feel of the site, and that content managers across government had been assigned. Government Portal Project Manager Fadi Mari said the various private sector companies working with the PMO on the implementation of the portal "have been working together as one team," and that the aim of the portal was to "facilitate citizen access to e-services." The PMO team also updated the sector on the various projects including e-procurement and e-accounting, the secure government network currently connecting six ministries, as well as other shared services. Khasawneh also shared with the local IT industry, challenges in implementing e-Government in Jordan, including staffing, technology, programme management, change management, communications, readiness and acceptance.

From MENAFN, Africa , 9 October 2003

Jordan King in Singapore for Agreement on e-Government and ICT Cooperation

Singapore, Jordan sign pact to spur info-comm technology, investments - Jordan wants to jump start its online government services, so it has turned to Singapore for help. The two countries on Tuesday signed a broad agreement to promote co-operation in various areas of infocomm technology. The signing of the agreement was witnessed by Jordan's King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. As part of the deal, Singapore will provide Jordan with e-Government consultancy. Singapore has been offering government services online for several years now, and it plans to share this expertise, especially in areas like financial management and portal management, with Jordan. Other potential spin-offs - partnerships between local and Jordanian companies on e-government projects, and increased trade and investment between the two countries.

Earlier, King Abdullah II and Mr. Goh discussed regional and global developments, including the situation in the Middle East and Iraq. And with a bilateral free-trade agreement being negotiated, their talks also touched on ways to strengthen economic ties between Singapore and Jordan. The King also made a quick stop at the Assyakirin Mosque in Jurong and had a discussion with Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs, Associate Professor Yaacob Ibrahim and mosque officials. "We had a good exchange and good discussion with him about how the mosque building fund is, and how Muslims are practising their faith in Singapore. His Excellency offered some suggestions about how we can work together closely. I think these are good moments for us between the two countries and I appreciate the opportunity given to us by His Excellency to visit the mosque here in Singapore," said Associate Professor Yaacob.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, by Julia Ng, 14 October 2003

Government Departments to Demonstrate Diversified Online Services under Dubai eGovernment Umbrella at GITEX Dubai 2003

The Dubai eGovernment stand at GITEX Dubai 2003 will witness strong participation by 21 government departments and ministries who will showcase a host of online services offered through the unified portal www.dubai.ae. The departments will demonstrate the applications of several systems deployed by Dubai eGovernment to enable them to deliver improved services through multiple channels, including mDubai, the channel for mobile services, and AskDubai, the state-of-the-art contact centre. 'The participation of government departments at GITEX 2003 as part of the Dubai e-Government stand, consolidates our efforts to project the www.dubai.ae portal as the main gateway to access any service of any government department,' said Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. 'The portal is entering an important phase in which the government departments will migrate to more efficient payment systems, and more innovative ways of categorizing services. This will ensure the success of the e-Government project which has adopted best-of-breed technologies to bring about a revolution in the way people interact with the government'.

Briefing the participating departments at a meeting held recently at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Marwan Al Naqi, Project Manager for GITEX at Dubai eGovernment, said: 'This is going to be the biggest ever participation by Dubai government departments in GITEX. It is also the most significant, because there has been more sophistication and upgrade in our services since our last participation in GITEX last year. It is the perfect platform to showcase our eServices to a key audience that has a high degree of awareness of computers and IT.' Over 130 representatives from the participating departments took part in the meeting. They were briefed on the various activities and the point of sale and publicity material that has been designed for distribution at the GITEX stand. Among the 21 departments demonstrating their online services at the e-Government stand at GITEX are, Department of Health & Medical Services (DOHMS), Dubai Development Board (DDB), Dubai Municipality, Dubai Civil Defence, Land Department, Dubai Transport, Awqaf & Islamic Affairs Department, Real Estate, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Department of Civil Aviation, Dubai Police, Department of Economic Development, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Dubai Government Workshop, Dubai Ship Docking Yard, Justice Department, Tanmia, Department of Information, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Dubai Naturalization and Residency Administration (DNRD).

'This is our second joint promotion of government departments under the Dubai e-Government umbrella at GITEX,' said Al Naqi. 'It is a matter of great pride to bring, under one roof, so many key departments to the public. Their presence reflects their commitment to fulfill the objectives of Dubai e-Government to automate and integrate services as part of Dubai's ultimate goal of creating a wired community fully equipped to conduct government transactions electronically. We have added more innovative services and initiatives since our last participation in GITEX and we would like to encourage visitors to try them out.' The Dubai eGovernment stand located at Hall No. 6 at GITEX Dubai 2003, will consist of 30 kiosks.

Visitors to the Dubai eGovernment stand will be able to view and test the hundreds of services now available online for the members of the public and the business community, from various government departments. Dubai Land Department will demonstrate the application of mDubai and AskDubai, for more effective delivery of its online services such as request for parcel plan, update ownership information, locating a parcel, letter of ownership, real estate agent index and land transaction index. Dubai Development Board will showcase its online services utilizing Ask Dubai, mDubai and eJob. The Department of Islamic Affairs (Awqaf) will also highlight its applications of eJob for recruitment. Dubai Civil Defence will demonstrate how AskDubai is proving to be the central contact centre to provide a highly effective link between the various departments and the people. Dubai Municipality will highlight eServices in lab testing results of Dubai Central Labs, food control health certificates, clinic health certificates, veterinary certificates, online statistical information, building services, Geographical Information System and parking fines inquiry.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 17 October 2003

Planned Smart ID Cards to Pave Way for E-government

Abu Dhabi - A landmark plan involving supplying UAE nationals and expatriates with smart identity cards to replace their driving licence and all cards used in health and other services will put the UAE on the way to a fully electronic state, a police spokesman said yesterday. Each electronic card, bearing a special number, will include the individual's blood group, fingerprints, and other biological characteristics. It will be linked to all government departments to ensure quicker services. "This card will bear the most personal information about the holder," said Lt Col Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, Director of Information Technology at Abu Dhabi Police. "It will be an alternative to many personal cards being used by citizens and residents, including the labour and health cards, the driving licence and other cards. This vital project will help the UAE in strategic planning and provide a ready population census. It is considered the infrastructure for the planned UAE electronic government." The Ministry of Interior announced in August it had struck a deal worth around Dh194 million with France's Sagem company to produce the advanced cards, which are expected to be distributed to the public in November next year. The card will have a lifetime validity and expatriates can keep it even after leaving the UAE and re-use it when they return on a visit or for work.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, 18 October 2003

A Grim Arab Survey of Rights and Education

Amman, Jordan - Arab experts issued a report on Monday that finds the Arab world lacking in three areas they deem fundamental to development: freedom of expression, access to knowledge and empowerment of women. The group, which was criticized by Arab officials for a similar report last year, said the challenges caused by the deficiencies "may have become even graver." One of the authors, Clovis Maksoud, said he hoped the document would generate debate among Arabs to seek "objective and constructive change from within." Arabs want to take part in decision-making, not "remain marginalized and frustrated," said Dr. Maksoud, a Lebanese professor of international relations at American University in Washington and a former Arab League diplomat. The report was commissioned by the United Nations Development Program in Amman. More than 40 Arab scholars contributed, advised by representatives of various United Nations agencies. The report, covering 21 Arab countries and the Palestinian territories, called for more access to knowledge, focusing on family upbringing, education and the news media.

Knowledge can help the region expand human freedoms and become a "powerful driver of economic growth through higher productivity," it said. The report said illiteracy persisted among women, particularly in less developed nations, and many children lacked access to basic education. Arab media outlets operate "in an environment that sharply restricts freedom of the press and freedom of expression and opinion," while journalists "face illegal harassment, intimidation and even physical threats," the report said. The report noted that the Arab region had 18 computers for each 1,000 people, compared with the global average of 78. Fewer than 2 percent of Arabs have Internet access, compared with 79 percent of Americans. Concerning women's rights, some progress has been achieved but much remains to be done, the report said, praising the representation of women in some Arab parliaments and appointment of others to senior public service posts. The report also criticized the United States and other nations for making it harder for Arabs to study, live and travel to the West since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (http://www.nytimes.com)

From The New York Times, 21 October 2003

 

Putnam Says E-gov Faces a Startling Array of Challenges

Agencies must overcome four challenges to make e-government successful, and none of the four deal with funding or resources, said Rep. Adam Putnam, chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census. The Florida Republican told an audience of industry and federal officials yesterday that to make e-government work, agencies must lessen federal managers' resistance to change; hire talented federal workers; and prioritize cybersecurity and privacy, and intergovernmental coordination concerns. "We've seen progress, and as the administration takes it to the next level, we have to shine the light on the successes and market them," Putnam said at a lunch sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council, a Washington association. "The magnitude of these challenges is startling." Changing the culture, along with matters of security and privacy, are the biggest issues agencies must overcome, Putnam said. He recalled a recent hearing his subcommittee held on smart-card technology in which the General Accounting Office reported that there are 62 smart-card systems in place across government. "We built up smart card stovepipes just as we appeared to be learning to break them down through the [25 Quicksilver] initiatives," he said. "This is of great concern to the subcommittee. We have to move forward in a smart way."

As to security and privacy, the government needs to look at whether it should collect personal data, and whether that data would be helpful in combating terrorism, Putnam said. Worms and viruses also pose great risk to public and private systems, he added. "The federal government needs to do a better job of tracking and capturing these people who create and release these viruses," Putnam said. "We need to change the law enforcement mentality of how they look at these crimes. We will work with the FBI to make sure they have the resources they need and if there are any legislative changes that could help." Putnam also is considering legislation that would require publicly traded companies to receive third-party verification that they can protect their IT infrastructures. "This is similar to the Year 2000 plans," he said. "This forces executive attention on this serious issue. I think we will strike the right balance with these requirements." Putnam's subcommittee has scheduled at least five more hearings before November, including two with Homeland Security Department officials next week.

From GCN.com, 1 October 2003

Wisconsin Public Service to Power Customer Service With Informatica Data Integration

Redwood City, Calif. - Informatica PowerCenter to Help Wisconsin's Leading Utility Improve Customer Analysis - Informatica Corporation (Nasdaq: INFA), a leading provider of data integration and business intelligence software, today announced that Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, a subsidiary of WPS Resources Corporation (NYSE: WPS), has selected the Informatica PowerCenter data integration platform to help improve customer service through enhanced customer analysis. "As competition in our industry emerges, it is essential that we maintain a deep understanding of our customer base so we can continue to meet their evolving needs," said Nancy Fictum, IT project manager at Wisconsin Public Service. "We selected Informatica PowerCenter to help us enable strategic customer analysis because of its proven performance, as well as its metadata-centric architecture, which will give us more confidence in our data by enabling impact analysis and data lineage tracking." Wisconsin Public Service provides electricity and natural gas to more than 450,000 customers in northeast Wisconsin and a portion of upper Michigan. To provide its account management representatives with information about how customers are using its energy, the company is developing a data warehouse for detailed analysis by location, type of customer, and usage loads and times. This data will help the company's marketing team to better target and price new and existing products and services.

In addition, Wisconsin Public Service's research and planning departments will be able to better estimate capacity and facility needs by analyzing customer usage patterns. "With the impact of deregulation, utility companies must become more agile in order to ward off competition," said Sanjay Poonen, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Informatica. "We are pleased to work with a forward-looking company such as Wisconsin Public Service to help ensure that their management is equipped with timely, accurate business information." By using PowerCenter to migrate billing and meter data from its 14-year-old customer information system into a client/server data warehouse environment, Wisconsin Public Service expects to reduce time-to-deployment and streamline integration, in turn enabling more efficient support for business users. Wisconsin Public Service will also use PowerCenter to support its future initiatives to expand customer analysis. In 2004, Wisconsin Public Service plans to complete the implementation of automated meter reading, which will read customers' meters every hour, rather than every month. Wisconsin Public Service will use PowerCenter to feed these large amounts of data into the data warehouse for more detailed analysis across the enterprise. Informatica PowerCenter is the industry-leading data integration platform for building, deploying and managing enterprise data warehouses, as well as other data integration projects. Informatica PowerCenter helps users transform data from disparate enterprise systems and sources into reliable information to support strategic business initiatives.

From PRNewswire, 6 October 2003

USDA Launches E-Government Resource For Commodities Information

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced a new e-government resource designed to provide one-stop information about USDA commodities. The Commodity Food Network (CFN) provides a single-point-of-contact to all online federal resources and services related to the purchase and distribution of USDA commodities. "The Commodity Food Network will enable schools, community feeding organizations, state agencies, Native American tribal organizations and others to have instant access to information about USDA commodities," Veneman said. The Commodity Food Network is available at http://www.commodityfoods.usda.gov/. Source: USDA Release.

From Crop Decisions, MO, 8 October 2003

Frank O'Bannon's Support of Indiana's e-Government Portal Results in Top e-Government Awards

Indianapolis - Efforts to get Hoosiers online instead of standing in line to interact with state government - a priority of the late Governor Frank O'Bannon - continue to gain national recognition. Last month, the state's Web portal (www.IN.gov) was ranked third in the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University's fourth annual survey of state eGovernment performance. Indiana's official eGovernment portal was also awarded third place in the Best of the Web contest sponsored by the Center for Digital Government, an international research and advisory institute on information technology use in government. Indiana was the only state to receive a top five ranking in both studies. Frank O'Bannon had urged state government to focus on putting more information and services online as a way to help Hoosiers and people all around the world do business with the state, said spokeswoman Mary Dieter. "Governor O'Bannon would be so pleased to hear that the state's official Web portal, accessIndiana, has won third place in the Brown University survey and Best of the Web contest," said Dieter. "He was an absolute believer in making government open and accessible to the people it serves, and he thought that Web-based services were the best way to accomplish that."

O'Bannon died on September 13 after serving seven years as governor. He had 15 months left in his term. In Brown University's study of state eGovernment Web sites, accessIndiana ranked high in readability, disability access, privacy and security policies, as well as a number of online services. Brown University's complete findings are available at www.insidepolitics.org. Indiana's services from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, departments of Revenue and Labor, Legislative Services and the Health Professions Bureau caught the attention of the Best of the Web judges. They also praised the portal's common look and feel, branding strategies, new Web-based GIS, and digitally certified records pilot. Full details on the results are available at the Center's Web site, at www.centerdigitalgov.com. "The governor regularly said that he wanted to take more people out of line and put them online to do business with the state. Our excellent Web site is making this happen, and he would be very happy about that," Dieter explained. "For years, Indiana has led the nation in providing better service to its citizens through the use of innovative technology," said Laura Larimer, Indiana's chief information officer. "This recognition is a tribute to the support and vision of Governor O'Bannon and is a legacy that we plan to build upon."

From Business Wire (press release), 6 October 2003

White House Vows to Step Up Progress on E-gov Efforts

Two White House Office of Management and Budget officials briefed reporters Wednesday on the status of OMB's e-government initiatives and hinted at future plans, stating that whether or not Congress centrally funds e-government, the initiatives are moving forward. The press conference featuring OMB Deputy Director Clay Johnson and e-government administrator Karen Evans was called to introduce Evans, most recently the chief information officer at the Energy Department, to the media and field questions on the e-government initiatives. Earlier this month, Evans replaced Mark Forman in OMB's e-government slot. Evans said OMB plans to finish implementing the e-government initiatives next year and continue improving security and privacy. OMB also will work to educate state and local governments and the public about the new services available to them through the initiatives, she said. "The federal government continues to make strides in service while saving taxpayers' dollars," she said. Evans dismissed the idea that the change of senior leadership at this point in the process would affect the initiatives' deployment. "It's always difficult when there's a change, but I think the momentum will pick up," she said, adding that the government's chief information officers "want to accomplish this mission."

Evans added that about 60 percent of federal agencies will be in compliance with rules for eliminating government paperwork by the Oct. 21 deadline. The law requires the agencies to give individuals or organizations that do business with the government the option to transact business electronically. Further implementation of act will become part of the e-government initiative, Evans said, but agencies will have to determine where it will be "practical" to move forward. Johnson stated that by questioning the idea of a central appropriations fund for e-government, Congress is not calling the initiatives into question but just wants them funded from the federal government's broader $60 billion information technology budget. He said OMB will do that if necessary and already has done so to a limited extent this year. "If Congress doesn't fund it, then the beat goes on," he said, adding that Congress opposes the idea of a central fund because OMB "hasn't been effective enough in communicating the idea."

From GovExec.com, by Ted Leventhal, 16 October 2003

Group: Federal civil Service Expanding Rapidly

Ottawa - The federal public service, which dwindled during the spending cuts of the mid-1990s, has become the fastest-growing sector in the labour market, a business group said Tuesday. In a presentation to the Commons finance committee, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business also said public servants get wages and benefits that are, on average, 23 per cent higher than those in the private sector. The federation, which represents 105,000 small and medium-sized businesses, said provincial and municipal jobs are also growing and also enjoy a wage premium over the private sector, but not to the same extent. Catherine Swift, the federation president, said Ottawa's workforce has grown by 24 per cent since 1990. She said this growth, coupled with the attractive wage and benefits package, make it hard for private employers to find workers. It's a sign that Ottawa is back on the big-spending bandwagon when her members want tax relief, she said. Swift said there should be a public debate on the differentials between public- and private-sector wages. She agreed, however, that the wage differentials vanish at the higher echelons of the public service, with senior executives in the private sector far outstripping their civil service counterparts in salaries and benefits.

From Canoe News, Canada, 21 October 2003

Nation's Highest Honor for Public Service Awarded to Bozeman Public Library

Library to Be Honored at Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC and Receive $10,000 - Dr. Robert Martin, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, one of the top three federal cultural agencies, announced that the Bozeman Public Library is one of only three recipients to receive a 2003 National Award for Library Service, the highest honor the country gives libraries for extraordinary service to the public. The Free Library of Philadelphia and the Pocahontas Free Libraries (West Virginia) also received the award. From the grant center that helps organizations apply for funding to computer and Internet classes; from kids' book discussion groups, to the annual community-wide Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, the staff and volunteers have made their library an active, living part of the community," said Dr. Martin. "I commend the Bozeman Public Library and am proud to honor them with the National Award for Library Service." The Bozeman Public Library is at the center of one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Though it is a city library, it has an agreement with Gallatin County to provide its services to almost 50,000 residents. More than 1,200 people with diverse interests and needs use the library daily.

The library, guided by a strategic plan developed with citizen input meets that meets the myriad needs of its community. As a technology leader it supports a portal to 150 community Web sites enabling residents access to cultural, political, educational, and practical local information. An example of its public outreach is a unique partnership with public radio, enabling the (KEMC) in Billings, Montana, to operate a recording booth in the library to give voice to local experts in broadcasts. From classes in Japanese to dialogs with Mongolian economists to Sunday concerts, the library has something for everyone. Lecture series with Montana State University; reading programs with Intermountain Therapy Dogs encouraging children to read by letting them read aloud to non-threatening canine listeners. "I'm thrilled that the Bozeman Public Library has received a distinguished award from such a prominent organization," said library director Alice M. Meister. "It validates the hard work of our staff and volunteers. We are grateful for the recognition." For more information, see: www.imls.gov.

From Yahoo News (press release), 21 October 2003

Evans: E-gov Marches On

Hershey, Pa. - The White House's e-government chief told a conference audience that she will focus on completing current e-government initiatives and reducing redundant tech spending. "The [Bush] administration really does stand fully committed to the e-gov component of the president's management agenda," said Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget's new administrator of the Office of E-government and Information Technology. "We'll continue to make those progresses." Evans, speaking this morning at the Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference, said she expects agencies to press forward with the 24 e-government initiatives. "As we complete them, we will take them off the list, and they will move to the business lines," she said. "You'll hear the number declining, and that's a good thing." Changes at OMB do not mean changes to the President's Management Agenda, she said. "It just means there's another team in place and we're moving forward," Evans said. "The agenda is in place, and we're going to achieve the results laid out in the agenda." She vowed to continue developing the federal enterprise architecture and implementing the E-Government Act of 2002.

Her predecessor, Mark Forman, did "a tremendous amount of work" that she plans to continue with equal fervor, Evans said. Referring to the management score card, Evans said she wants to see agencies move beyond a green score, which is given to agency projects that hit their goals in five areas: strategic workforce management; expanded use of e-government; increased competitive bidding of government services; improved financial performance; and linking performance to budget. Many agencies are working to improve from red or yellow scores, and they should continue to progress even after they hit green, Evans said. "I'm just making the assumption that we'll be green," she said. "Green is what we should have been doing all along. It's the baseline." Beyond green, she said, all agencies should have electronic dockets for rulemaking or using a fully integrated enterprise architecture, for example. "The sky's the limit," she said. The key to meeting ambitious e-government goals is cooperation among agencies and OMB, Evans said. "It really truly is a partnership - leadership through partnership," she said.

From FCW.com, 21 October 2003

E-Government 2003 and Beyond

Administrator of E-Government and Information Technology, OMB - President Bush last year unveiled an ambitious e-government reform plan aimed at cutting red tape and allowing citizens to interact with government more easily via the Internet. The Office of Management and Budget is tasked with executing that vision, under the leadership of Karen Evans, the newly appointed administrator of e-government and information technology. Evans, the former CIO of the Department of Energy, was online earlier today to take questions about her work as the president's new e-government czar. washingtonpost.com reporter Cynthia L. Webb moderated the discussion. An edited transcript is below. Background on Evans: Prior to her work at the Dept. of Energy, Evans worked at the Dept. of Justice as assistant director for information services and later as division director for information systems management. She also was deputy director for the applications management division at the Dept. of Agriculture. Evans also serves currently as director of the federal CIO Council.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. Cynthia L. Webb: Good morning, Karen. Thanks for joining us today. And congratulations on your recent appointment as the OMB's administrator of the Office of Electronic Government. You have been tasked with an important job, but also a complicated one. What are your primary goals as overseer of the Bush administration's e-government and IT initiatives?" Karen Evans: Hi Cindy. I'm really excited to be here today as the Administrator of E-Gov and IT at OMB and I'm looking forward to our session on line. My primary goals as the Administrator are to: Drive toward full utilization of the President's E-Gov initiatives; Progress the work of the Federal Enterprise Architecture and individual agency enterprise architectures; Institutionalize effective IT management practices within agencies, including privacy and security; and Implement the E-Gov Act of 2002.

From Washington Post, by Karen Evans, 22 October 2003

GAO: E-Gov Efforts Still Lacking

Three years ago, Congress enacted the Government Paperwork Elimination Act requiring federal agencies to provide the public with the option of submitting, maintaining and disclosing information electronically by Oct. 21, 2003. The E-Government Act of 2002 further requires that public comments should be accepted "by electronic means." Tuesday, the General Accounting Office (GAO) said the government had achieved mixed results in reaching those goals. "Unfortunately, the public remains more than a mouse click away from submitting comments on proposed federal regulations," said Sen. Susan Collins (R.-ME), chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. "I'm encouraged by the steps the government has taken, especially with the introduction of Regulations.gov. But it's still difficult to navigate through the tangled online regulatory Web sites of individual agencies." The Regulations.gov site was created earlier this year, but the site has seen little traffic from the public. According to the GAO, the site contains 91 percent of the government's proposed regulations open for comment, but it has not been widely advertised to the public and most agency sites fail to link to it.

The GAO also said the low number of public submissions could primarily be blamed on confusing terminology by some federal agencies to describe their links to proposed rules and limited search capabilities on other government sites. "The E-Government Act requires that the public be given a greater voice in the rulemaking process through use of the Internet," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (D.-CT), author of the law. "The GAO found slow and inconsistent progress towards that goal. The Regulations.gov site, although functional, is barely used. And the Environmental Protection Agency was found to have made the least progress of the major regulatory agencies, which raises questions about why the EPA was designated the lead agency for the Administration's e-rulemaking initiative." The GAO report recommended that director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should instruct agencies to provide a link to Regulations.gov on their Web sites to allow users to identify proposed rules open for comments and that the agencies should note in the preambles to the proposed rules the availability of Regulations.gov.

From InternetNews.com, by Roy Mark, 22 October 2003

Commerce's Bodman to Head PMC E-gov Committee

E-Government managers are getting a new chief operating officer. The Office of Management and Budget today announced that Samuel W. Bodman, the deputy secretary of the Commerce Department, will be appointed the chairman of the E-Government Committee of the President's Management Council. The PMC is made up of agency deputy secretaries, who are considered COOs. OMB looks to the council to promote projects and initiatives, especially in the e-government arena. Bodman replaces Cameron Findlay, who left the Labor Department this summer to take a post as the general counsel for AON Corp. of Chicago, according to a department spokesman. In his new role, Bodman will work with Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT, to ensure that federal IT policy initiatives-such as the 25 Quicksilver projects, the President's Management Agenda and an effort to buy enterprise software licenses-maintain support from agencies and continue to move forward, said Clay Johnson, OMB's deputy director for management. At Commerce, Bodman manages the day-to-day operations of the agency, which has 40,000 employees and a $5 billion budget. Before coming to Commerce, Bodman spent 31 years as a consultant to new businesses. He also was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He graduated with a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and earned a doctorate in chemical engineering from MIT in 1965.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 24 October 2003

Academia Gets Creative with Web Services

A Web service can help you catch a bus. Or test an electronic circuit from a dorm room. Or even take English writing tests in a new way. These creative uses of Web services-a method for connecting software systems over the Internet-at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology stand in stark contrast to the more mundane, workaday uses of Web services at corporations. But these applications suggest that Web services may be an important link in realizing the vision of broad access to information originally promised by the Web browser. The ideas for tracking bus locations or performing technical experiments over the Web came out of a joint research program between Microsoft and MIT. The goal of the initiative, called iCampus, is to improve the quality of campus life through technology. Although the five-year, $25 million program has been in place since 1999, the broad industry support of Web services standards over the past two years is giving professors and students the means to unlock access to hitherto hard-to-access information - and change the learning experience in the process. For Microsoft, its $25 million investment is far from purely altruistic. On top of gaining more credibility in the academic research world, Microsoft is garnering valuable insights into how it should design future software.

Although iCampus is specifically focused on using technology to improve teaching, Microsoft said the lessons it is learning can be applied to business, particularly to Microsoft's primary customer: the information worker. The university's experiments with Web services, collaboration, security, Tablet PCs and visualization tools will translate directly back into Microsoft's product planning cycle, according to Randy Hinrichs, group research manager of learning science and technology at Microsoft. "I've learned that it's hard to see the difference between knowledge workers and students on campus. They do the same thing--they take data that's out there and they go to their customer to deliver knowledge assets," Hinrichs said. "We got lucky and got more than what we bargained for in terms of helping us define how products should integrate into fields outside of education." iCampus is another effort by Microsoft to expand its presence in the academic community, where future professional software programmers are trained. In an ongoing competition to gain market share against Java tools providers and open-source software, Microsoft is trying to make access to its Web services development tools simpler for students and faculty. Meanwhile, back at the iLab. At MIT, Web services has emerged as one of the central themes of the iCampus project, said Hal Abelson, the co-director of MIT's Educational Technology Council and professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Because Web services protocols have industry backing, universities and companies are more willing to invest in and experiment with the software technology. "All Web services are is distributed computing, which people have been talking about since 1983," said Abelson. "(But) the ability to open up information allows us to create a new kind of resource that just wasn't there before." Consider iLab. The project to offer remote access to lab equipment was conceived before Web services standards had fully gelled. But with Web services underpinning their applications, MIT academics can imagine instituting a barter system with other universities to share time on expensive testing equipment used by students across the globe. iLab was born in microelectronics classes taught by electrical engineering professor Jesus del Alamo. In 1998, he rigged up a system to let microelectronics students at MIT test transistors over the Internet, rather than requiring the students to be in the same room as the equipment. The obvious benefit for students was more convenient access to labs. But del Alamo could see potentially more significant benefits for MIT. With a networked system, the university could schedule access to expensive equipment more efficiently and open up access to its gear by other academic institutions. Through the iCampus initiative, del Alamo and other colleagues expanded the basic idea of remote lab testing to other academic disciplin

es. They chose Web services as the software to link highly specialized lab equipment with university networks and the Internet. MIT set up a cross-discipline team called the Center for Educational Technology Initiatives. The group is in the process of building a generalized system designed to allow universities to bring the Web to many types of lab equipment--from heat exchange machines used in chemical engineering classes to shaking tables used to test the sturdiness of civil engineering projects. "The attractiveness of Web services is that we thought that the protocols would be much more likely to not be tripped up by different network policies at different universities," said Jud Harward, senior architect at MIT's iLab project. "We wanted something vendor-independent that would work across organizational lines." MIT has already used an early version of its lab-sharing system with a partner at the University of Singapore and is working on a project to extend lab access to African universities as well. Surfing at the bus stop - Another iCampus Web services project, spearheaded by MIT graduate students, received $30,000 in funding to improve the campus life of students on the roadways of Cambridge, Mass., and Boston, rather than in its ivory towers. The brainchild of two MIT graduate students -Salil Soman and Krishnan Sriram - ShuttleTrack is a system that lets students find out where shuttle buses are located as they drive along their routes.

Rather than stand waiting in the cold New England winter weather hoping they haven't missed the last bus home, students can use their PCs or Web-enabled handheld devices to check where a bus is. The application, which was written with Microsoft's Visual C# development in about six months, uses GPS tracking equipment and cellular modems attached below bus seats to transmit location information to a central server in MIT's transportation office. The application stores information in an XML-based Web services data format, which allows people with many different devices to check bus locations. Using Web services formats to store and publish data, the application can distribute scheduling information in a variety of formats, including plain text or graphics, said Sriram. Web services has largely been used to ease technology integration woes at large corporations, but one of the much-hyped benefits of Web services is the ability to buy online access to software, rather than installing applications in-house. Project leaders from another iCampus initiative are doing exactly that: selling its test-taking software application as a service. The iCampus/MIT Online Assessment Tool (iMoat) application, which is already in use at MIT and other universities, is a replacement for freshman-placement writing exams.

Students register to take a test and are sent reading material via e-mail. Three days later they submit an essay. A teacher uses the same iMoat application to grade the exam on a PC. Rather than asking students to use pen and paper to write on a subject unprepared, iMoat was meant to give students a more realistic setting for composing essays--that is, writing on a PC after some preparation, said Leslie Perelman, the principal investigator of iMoat. The Web services-based system is also less costly than sending dozens of professional graders to a hotel to read through thousands of exams, and it can be more competitive with machine scoring systems, he said. "This is a hard time to get universities to buy or subscribe to a service because even universities are cutting budgets. (Now educators) can tell university administrators that they can save money," Perelman said. For MIT, the iCampus project is not specifically about Web services as much as it is about using technology to change the learning experience, in part by extending access to information as widely as possible. Like MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative to publish course material online, the use of Web services in iCampus reflects MIT's goal of "strengthening the intellectual commons by putting information out there and sharing," Abelson said.

From Cnet Asia, Asia, by Martin LaMonica, 28 October 2003

Government Plans to Form Two New Companies - 'Yards' Debts to Be Written Off

The government is planning to form two new companies to replace the current set-up at the two shipyards, sources said yesterday. One of the companies, Malta Shipyards Ltd (MSL), will continue to run the shipyards with a whittled down workforce while the other, Industrial Projects and Services Ltd (IPSL), will take up the two 'yards' 900 surplus workers. Malta Drydocks Ltd and Malta Shipbuilding Company Ltd will be dissolved. After lengthy and painstaking negotiations, the government last week reached agreement in principle with the General Workers' Union over the new set-up and the union will now submit the agreement to the shipyard workers for their approval. Under the government's plan, early retirement and voluntary redundancy schemes will be offered to employees of IPSL. Those who do not take up the offer could be seconded to government departments, local councils or the private-public partnership projects. They could also be seconded to the private sector, but only voluntarily or after consultation with the union. All of them, however, will retain their current working conditions, including the seniority they enjoy and the right to return to IPSL if the job they are seconded to is terminated in future. Four schemes will be launched, similar to the ones offered two years ago.

A retirement scheme on a two thirds pension will be offered to those aged 56 and over. Those aged between 50 and 55 will be offered a lump sum equivalent to 15 weeks' pay for every year, and could opt for a two thirds pension when they reach 56. Those aged between 40 and 49 will be offered an ex-gratia payment equivalent to 3.25 times their current basic salary, capped at Lm17,000. Those under 40 will be offered eight weeks' pay for every year of service capped at Lm12,000 for those with more than 15 years service or Lm10,000 with less. A minimum of Lm5,000 has been established. It is expected that the schemes will cost the government over Lm7 million. The government will write off the shipyards' debts, which amount to Lm310 million, so that both companies will start off with clear balance sheets. The government will take back the land at the Marsa shipyard, including the dock, and the Number One dock in Cospicua in return. A formula has also been found to give a wage rise that meets the General Workers' Union's aspirations, the sources said. Two collective agreements are expected to be signed next week.

One will be between the GWU and MSL, the other between the government or the management of IPSL and the GWU. A technical meeting between the union and shipyards' management lasting some six hours took place yesterday to finalise the draft agreements. The union is convening meetings for shipyards executive committees and delegates tomorrow when it will explain the agreement painfully negotiated with the government. Sources said there were mixed feelings among delegates over whether to approve the agreement, with some saying the union was rushed into it and others arguing that the union could not have done more in the circumstances. The government has repeatedly warned that it was prepared to take the decisions that needed to be taken over the shipyards. Although there was a faction of shipyard workers who were advocating taking to the streets, others were sceptical about such tactics, which they feared could turn public opinion even further against them and allow the government to close down the shipyards once and for all.

From Las Vegas Sun, NV, by Natalino Fenech, 28 October 2003

 

Global E-government

European Commission proposes biometric ID measures | Readability is a problem for most US government sites - European Commission seeks to boost e-government: The European Commission has adopted a communication outlining measures to promote the uptake of e-government across Europe. The communication stresses the importance of the implementation of e-government as a means of improving economic and social conditions. "It is essential for Europe to have a public sector that helps the European economy to grow, that provides high quality services to all, and that reinforces democratic involvement," said Erkki Liikanen, EU Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner. One of the key areas that needs attention, according to the communication, is accessibility to public services for all citizens, which can be promoted through investment in multiple platforms, including PCs, digital TV and mobile terminals. The EC also advises that confidence in on-line interaction with the government is essential, and that issues surrounding data protection and authentication and identity management need to be properly addressed. The communication also recommended the widespread rollout of electronic procurement for the public sector. The full communication document can be downloaded here. Did you know you can get the eGovernment Digest sent direct to your inbox every week? Just email us to get your free copy.

European Commission proposes biometric ID measures: The European Commission has adopted a proposal to compel EU member states to store biometric data for visa and residence permit applicants in a uniform format. The proposal, sent to the European Council and European Parliament, would make it mandatory for all member states to store digital facial http://www.unpan.org/information/worldgovernancewatch/images of immigrants who apply for visas or residence permits, as a primary means of biometric identification. Member states would also be required to store fingerprint data, as a secondary biometric identifier. The EC said the proposals were aimed at "ensuring interoperability" between member states' immigration systems. The EC also said that the use of biometric technology would help combat document fraud and abuse of the asylum system. The EC had been considering the adoption of fingerprinting as a primary means of biometric identification earlier this year, but it is thought that its decision to opt for facial imaging was influenced by the US government's move to integrate facial biometrics into passports. Readability is a problem for most US government sites: The majority of federal and state Web sites in the US pose problems of readability for citizens, according to an annual e-government survey by researchers at Brown University. In a study of over 1,600 state Web sites and 60 federal sites, the average readability level - assessed using the Flesch-Kincaid test, a reading evaluation tool used by the Department of Defense - was found to be 11th-grade level (around age 16).

It is thought that half of all Americans have a reading ability at or below eighth-grade level (around age 12). Just 12 percent of government Web sites had an eighth-grade or lower reading level, while 67 percent had a 12th-grade ability level. The same study assessed government Web sites in terms of accessibility for users with sight or hearing impairments. Only 33 percent of state and federal sites met the accessibility standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium, while 24 percent fulfilled the criteria for accessibility laid out in Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Outsourcing is quickest-growing tech sector for US government: Outsourcing is the fastest-growing technology segment within the US federal government, according to a new study by market research firm INPUT. The report predicts that US government spending on outsourcing will grow from USD8.5 billion in fiscal 2003 to more than USD15.5 billion in fiscal 2008, equating to a compound annual growth rate of 13 percent. Input senior analyst Lauren Jones Shu attributed some of the growth to the large number of federal IT workers who will reach retirement age within the next five years, "giving federal agencies little choice but to pursue outsourcing to meet the technology needs of initiatives like e-government and information sharing in defence of the homeland."

Indeed, the recently established Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a key example of the use of outsourcing "as a way to quickly ramp up to fulfill [its] mandate," said Shu. The DHS has also said it wants to outsource its travel services, payments to retirees and annuities recipients, and its support services. Swiss favour more e-government services: The majority of Swiss citizens would like more government services to be made available on-line, according to a survey by the GfS Research Institute. Eighty-three percent of those questioned said they would be willing to use the Internet to interact with the government to perform everyday activities, such as registering a change of address. However, most people expressed reservations about divulging their personal details over the Internet, with more than three-quarters of those surveyed saying they would only feel comfortable using e-government services if the security of their personal information was guaranteed. The Swiss government has just launched a national project aimed at making the nation more Internet-savvy and at boosting its e-government rankings among its peers in Europe.

The country's finance ministry, which is coordinating the project, said it planned to speed the rollout of e-services for citizens, in an effort to curb bureaucracy and paperwork. New Zealand ramps up e-government rollout: Government departments in New Zealand are working on around 150 separate e-government initiatives, according to a study by the State Services Commission (SSC). The survey of 36 public sector agencies found that about 25 percent of the projects have already been delivered. The initiatives range from Internet voting trials for the 2008 general election, through to the publication of court judgements on the Internet, to the development of an employment portal. Other planned projects include an on-line authentication system for the identification of citizens accessing e-services. According to the SSC, government bodies said the ramping up of on-line initiatives was fuelled by the promise of an increase in efficiency and cost-effectiveness, as well as improved quality of service for citizens. The study revealed that around one-fifth of the e-government schemes involved collaboration between various agencies.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 1 October 2003

Global E-government

Public sector needs new approach to ROI from e-government: Governments need to adopt a new approach to measuring the return on investment (ROI) of investments in technology, according to a study by Deloitte Consulting. The report advises that public sector bodies should evaluate their IT investments not just in terms of the cost savings they reap for the government, but also by taking into account the financial benefits of such investments for citizens and businesses. Report author William Eggers dubs this new methodology Citizen Advantage and notes that e-government "could potentially save individuals and businesses billions of dollars" by reducing the time and effort required to comply with regulatory and reporting requirements. The report also cites the potential economic advantages of the rollout of e-government "because the regulatory environment is often a critical factor in a company's decision on where to locate." One example of a successful e-government initiative that has created Citizen Advantage, according to the report, is the US State of Oregon's one-stop process for building construction approvals, which saves the construction industry USD100 million a year in reduced delays and decreased permit processing costs.


New EC portal encourages worker mobility: The European Commission recently launched its "European Job Mobility Portal," an on-line resource for jobseekers and employers across the European Union. The portal, known as EURES, links up the public employment services of the countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland, as well as regional and national bodies involved with employment issues, such as trade unions and employers' organisations. The site contains a facility to search for employment vacancies across Europe, along with an area where jobseekers can post their CVs on-line. The site also provides information on living and working conditions in various countries, along with details of labour market conditions. Another section of the site provides a guide to education and training opportunities throughout Europe. "The European Job Mobility Portal...will enable people to make choices based on full information on the opportunities available to them," said Anna Diamantopoulou, EU Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner. "It is an invaluable addition to our range of tools to encourage greater job mobility within the EU."


UK's agricultural ministry brings forms on-line: The UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that it has chosen an e-government solution from Adobe to enable the electronic delivery of some of its services. Defra is planning to bring a number of its forms on-line in order to accelerate processes for clients as well as for Defra employees. The implementation of Adobe's Document Server for Reader Extensions, an application specifically designed for forms-based processes, will allow Defra clients to securely download and electronically submit application forms for a number of services, such as government grants and export certificates. As well as saving time for applicants, the new technology is expected to improve efficiency for Defra staff, reducing their need to re-key information and streamlining application processes. "The thousands of forms we create, sometimes up to 20 pages long, need to be carefully managed. Defra has therefore been actively investigating ways to simplify the application processes for a number of years," said Defra's IT Programme Manager, John Kennedy.


Malta enables on-line vehicle licence renewal: The government of Malta is set to roll out a transactional on-line service for the renewal of motor vehicle licences. The service, which Malta's Ministry for IT and Investments claims is the first of its kind in Europe, will enable vehicle owners to renew their licences over the Internet or through their insurance company or broker. The current system that is in place requires vehicle owners to visit the Licensing and Testing Department in person, after they have renewed their insurance policy. The new MTL250,000 (EUR542,000) on-line system was designed for ease of use: citizens using the system only need to input their vehicle registration number, insurance policy number and ID card number, before paying by debit or credit card. Moreover, all insurance companies will have access to the on-line system, and it is expected that the service will generally be offered as an add-on for customers who are renewing their insurance policies. Insurance firms will have to pay a MTL1 (EUR2.16) fee for each on-line licence renewal.


Fairfax residents help catch tax cheats: Officials in Fairfax County in Virginia, USA, have introduced an on-line facility aimed at catching tax evaders who fail to pay their vehicle registration fees. Under county law, new residents in the area and purchasers of new vehicles have 60 days to file a registration form, pay a tax and purchase a decal (a special sticker) for their vehicle. Program Target, the new on-line system developed by IT solutions provider McDonald Bradley, links the state's motor vehicle department database with the various county tax databases and provides a Web site where people can report suspected tax cheats. Fairfax residents who notice vehicles without decals on display can input details of the vehicle on the Web site. The system will then try to match up the information provided against database records. Users of the site can also check up on the status of previously reported tips. According to McDonald Bradley, the site received several thousand visits in its first few days of operation.


Bulgaria unveils first e-government services: The Bulgarian government has announced the launch of the first of its e-government services. Unveiling the services, State Administration Minister Dimitar Kalchev said that from now on, citizens would be able to use the Internet to register a change of address, obtain information about their social security contributions, and view certain details about companies. There are also plans to implement a number of on-line tax filing services by the end of this year or early next year. Kalchev said the government intends to roll out at least 20 on-line services for citizens and businesses by 2005, including vehicle registration, company registration and customs declarations. Users of the e-services, which require digital signature certificates, will be issued with special smart cards for on-line identification. Separately, the government launched a Web portal to provide updates on the progress of Bulgaria's accession to the European Union.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 9 October 2003

Global E-government

NZ government may partner with IT industry: The government of New Zealand is considering a collaboration with the private sector IT industry. Through the partnership, the government hopes to promote the export of IT systems developed for or piloted by the public sector. The idea was first proposed at a conference organised by IT consultancy Synergy and attended by several government ministers in July this year. Government ministers are due to meet later this month to decide whether to take the proposal further. According to a report in The Dominion Post, the main motivation behind the proposal is the hope that government spending on IT could fuel growth in the ailing ICT sector, if the public and private sectors work together to extract value from government investments in IT. Government procurement accounts for around 40 percent of all IT purchases in New Zealand.

IBM to help Brazil use open source software: IBM has signed an agreement with the Brazilian government to help it develop expertise in open source software. In a statement, the IT giant said it had signed a letter of intent with the government that outlines a common interest in developing products based on open source standards and software, such as Linux. According to IBM, open standards "bring better interoperability, lower costs and greater scalability" for the public sector. "Linux can play a fundamental role in the economic development strategy of developing countries, such as Brazil," said Rogerio Oliveira, president of IBM Brazil. The news of the agreement is Big Blue's third announcement in recent weeks involving governments and Linux. The UK government has said it is to engage in a series of tests of Linux software, while the Russian government is working with IBM to establish a Linux competency centre in Moscow.

Public sector IT directors favour outsourcing: More than half of public sector IT managers in Europe are in favour of selective IT outsourcing, according to a new study by Synstar. The IT solutions company surveyed 700 European IT directors, including those in Ireland and the UK, for its annual Pressure Point Index report. Fifty-three percent of survey respondents in the government sector said that selective outsourcing - outsourcing certain managed services - was the most effective method of trimming costs while improving performance. The type of functions IT managers said they would like to outsource were infrastructure support (39 percent), user support (27 percent) and staff management (6 percent). Just 12 percent of respondents said they would be happy to surrender control of their IT strategy. Apart from reducing costs and improving performance, some of the other benefits of selective outsourcing cited by managers were access to skills that are lacking in-house, a guarantee of service levels and value for money.

Singapore gives guidance to Jordan: Jordan has enlisted the help of Singapore to develop its e-government program. The two countries signed an agreement this week to promote co-operation in the areas of e-government and ICT development. Under the deal, Singapore will provide e-government consultancy services to Jordan. Singapore was recently ranked the number one country for e-government in an annual study by Brown University, and earlier this year a similar study by Accenture rated Singapore as the number two country for e-government. The accolades reflect the fact that Singapore has so far e-enabled around 1,600 public services. Singapore's Information and Communications Acting Minister George Yeo said his country planned to share its e-enabling expertise with Jordan, especially in areas such as financial management and portal management. Government ministers also hope the relationship will help foster partnerships between Singaporean and Jordanian companies on e-government projects, as well as increase trade and investment between the two countries.

Czech Republic launches e-government portal: The Czech government has launched its new e-government portal, known as the Public Administration Portal. The site aims to provide a one-stop shop for citizens and businesses who wish to find information on and communicate with public sector bodies. The site currently offers information on Czech and European legislation, contact details for central, regional and local authorities, and a guide to public services for key life events, such as birth or marriage registration. The Ministry of Informatics said that additional services will be rolled out over the coming months, expanding the site's functionality to include transactional services, which will be supported by the use of electronic signatures. There are also plans to add an English-language section to the site to provide information for tourists and English-speaking residents. The Ministry of Informatics said the new portal would cost CZK40 million (EUR1.25 million) a year to run.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 15 October 2003

Global E-government

Energis wins UK broadband contract: The UK government has awarded a contract to telecoms firm Energis for the provision of a secure broadband network to link up government departments, agencies and local authorities. The STG40 million contract, which saw Energis beat off competition from companies including BT and Cable & Wireless, involves the installation of a next-generation Government Secure Intranet, based on IP virtual private network technology. The new high-speed network will support voice, video and data transmissions and will provide better support for real-time applications, and it is envisioned that 300,000 people will eventually use the network. Trials of the network are expected to begin in early 2004, with full migration from the existing C&W network scheduled for the end of next year.


Malta to have 95 percent of services on-line next year: The government of Malta has forecast that about 95 percent of its services will be available on-line in the next six to nine months. IT and Investment Minister Austin Gatt said that the government was planning to implement an electronic identification system, which he described as "the last pillar in the building of e-government," to facilitate access for citizens to its e-services. The system involves the issuing of electronic ID cards developed by Microsoft in collaboration with Malta Information Technology and Training Services (MITTS). Using just one ID code, citizens will be able to access services dealing with taxation, social services and health issues which are due to be rolled out in the near future. Minister Gatt said the ID system was intended to be reproduced and sold to governments, as well as private sector companies, around the world. Looking further ahead, Gatt said the next step for e-government was the education of the public in the use of the services, as well as bridging the digital divide in the country.


Thailand stalls national ID card plan: Thailand has put its THB1.6 billion (EUR34 million) plan to launch national smart ID cards on hold. According to a report in The Bangkok Post, the Cabinet has asked the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry to take over the project, which was being handled by the Interior Ministry's Bureau of Registration Administration (BORA). BORA had awarded a contract for the supply of 20 million magnetic stripe cards when the Cabinet intervened, saying that it wanted the ID cards to be high-tech smart cards. The ICT Ministry plans to review card specifications for the project, along with materials and the system for the issuing of cards. Earlier this month, the ID card plan was criticised by research firm Gartner, which said that the project was poorly planned and that the project's leaders had not consulted adequately with the government, private sector, public or industry experts. Gartner analyst Dion Wiggins said that planning and launching the ID card system could take one to two years; the government had originally planned to launch the system early next year.

US rolls out electronic food safety system: The US government is rolling out a system that will require all importers of food to electronically notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in advance. The new regulations, which require food manufacturers and distributors to register with the FDA, involve the implementation of key elements of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. From 12 December, food importers will have to use the Bureau of Customs' Automated Commercial System to notify the FDA of all incoming shipments. The FDA said it is expecting around 420,000 entities to register under the new system, and it expects to receive about 25,000 electronic notifications of incoming shipments per day. Registration may be done over the Internet, by mail or by fax. Officials said the new regulations should make it easier to ensure food safety in the US.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 22 October 2003

Global E-government

Lithuania's Eurovet revolution: The Lithuanian State Food and Veterinary Service is to adopt a new system called Eurovet to track the country's livestock, to be implemented by Irish company E-blana. The contract is worth EUR1.5 million to E-blana, and is the first time an electronic tracking system will be put in place in Lithuania. The system is part of an overall plan to prepare the country for inclusion in the EU, and is funded in part by PHARE, the EU's mechanism for preparing and funding applicant countries. Eurovet will comprise details of over 2.5 million animals and E-Blana will work in conjunction with ALNA, a Lithuanian firm. Chief Technology Officer for E-blana Michael McGrath said, "This contract is a very significant win and underpins the suitability of Eurovet to meet current legal requirements and provide public health assurance and animal welfare transparency."


Macromedia solutions in Washington: San Francisco company Macromedia has formed a new group within the company that will offer Web support specifically for government sites. While government agencies in the US already use some Macromedia products, from November 3 they will have the opportunity to avail of what Macromedia calls "whole-product, one-box solutions specifically targeted to their needs". Significantly, the solution will enable what the company calls "non-technical users" to update content, create templates, and speed up processes. The package will include the Macromedia Solution for Policy Compliant Websites, Macromedia Government Solution for Rapid Application Development, and the Macromedia Government Solution for Simplifying Web Updates. The firm is hoping to cash in on huge e-government spending in the US - last year's budget was USD50.4 billion, and this year's budget is estimated at USD57.3 billion. The US administration has requested a budget of USD59.3 billion for 2004, and it is estimated that over 71 million people used a government Web site in 2002.


Dubai raising standards for e-government: Dubai's e-government strategies appear to be positioning it as a leader in the region with calls for other Arab Emirates countries to follow its lead. Dubai has become one of the first countries to offer totally integrated on-line services available through one portal (www.dubai.ae), which also provides access to corporate services. A senior delegation from the UAE Air Force and Defence Institute recently visited Dubai's e-government chiefs to study their system. "Dubai e-government has become a highly successful IT initiative in the region and we would like to leverage its expertise to develop our processes further," said Colonel Mohammed Ibrahim Al Disi, who led the delegation.


Attitude problems haunt UK's e-government plans: Fujitsu's Government Consulting Division has conducted research which shows that despite an investment of STG5 billion in e-government, over 71 percent of people prefer to use the telephone when dealing with local authorities. Fujitsu says this particularly applies to the disadvantaged, who simply will not or cannot access government technology. Combined with the number of people who do not access e-government by choice, this brings the number of people who still telephone their local authorities to 96 percent. Other findings show that while approximately 45 percent of UK households are on-line, just 15 percent of men and seven percent of women over 65 use the Internet. The figures make depressing reading for those pushing the e-government agenda in the UK. While e-commerce and on-line banking have grown to 27 percent and 21 percent respectively since 2000, the numbers using e-government services have increased by only 1 percent.


IT in the fight against organised crime: Serbia's Organised Crime Directorate (OCD) is to implement a state-of-the-art system to investigate organised crime in the country, with the new equipment financed by the German government. Organised crime has been a persistent problem in the country since the breakup of post communist Yugoslavia. Peter Jung, liaison officer for Germany's criminal police division, has said that helping Eastern European countries to fight crime will harmonise them with general European standards. The new system, worth EUR800,000, will especially help to fight financial crime, providing faster links and improved processing of information. At a press conference in Belgrade on October 28, Serbian Minister of the Interior Dusan Mihajlovic welcomed the new equipment pointing out that other projects, such as police training in human rights, and communications training for police, would benefit from this investment.

From Electric News Net, by Patrick Kelly, 29 October 2003

 

New Fiscal Scheme in Government Working

The new financial reform system known as the Financial Management Improvement Programme (FMIP) is already proving to be a success at all levels of governments, Finance secretary Thaddeus Kambanei said yesterday. He said since the setting up of the program, many provincial treasury offices have updated most of their bank reconciliation accounts and completed financial statements and reports. "Good financial management and governance is the key to effective and efficient delivery of services to the people, and whilst the Government is embarking on a number of financial reforms, provincial treasurer's must take special responsibility by ensuring that financial services provided by the Government are delivered to the rural population," he said. This week when Treasury Minister Bart Philemon presented a ministerial statement on the FMIP in parliament, he said the appointment of financial controllers to national departments has resulted in the reduction in bogus claims from K7 million to K1 million in the Defence Department. He said improved planning, budgeting and account system in order to improved fiscal management and resource allocation would be the key results of the program. The FMIP is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), AusAID and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It is tasked to implement best practice and transparency in Government financial management at the national, provincial and local level government levels.

From The National, Papua New Guinea, by Baeau Tai, 3 October 2003

Project on Public Finance Management Reforms Begins

Ha Noi - A project to reform Viet Nam's public finance management started in Ha Noi on Tuesday. Attending the kick-off ceremony were leaders from the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), the British Ambassador and representatives from the World Bank (WB), international organisations and members of the diplomatic corps in Ha Noi. The project consists of three components: strengthening management of the State budget and the treasury, enhancing the capacity to plan the State budget; and managing public debts and other financial risks. The project will be carried out until 2008 at a cost of 71.4 million USD, including 54.3 million USD in preferential loans provided by the WB and 10 million USD in grants given by the UK Development Agency.

The project will cover all State finance agencies and treasuries from central to district levels, provincial Planning and Investment Services and a number of agencies enjoying State budget funding. A number of ministries and local administrations will join the project on a trial basis. The project is aimed at building a modern information system capable of providing up-to-date and accurate data on budgeting activities. The system will assist in the enforcement of the new State Budget Law, meant to increase the pro-activeness and responsibility of grassroots units in the management of allocated funding. The project will help the MOF and the MPI devise a finance plan and mid-term spending plan for a number of sectors on a trial basis. These plans will serve as tools for monitoring State budget funding. The project will also help set up a system to supervise and manage both domestic and foreign debts.

From Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam, 7 October 2003

Government Proposes "Tax Holiday" to Lure Talent

Speaking at the 2003 Tax Conference Of The Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of New Zealand, Finance Minister Michael Cullen has tipped a plan that would give some imported workers a "tax holiday" on income earned abroad. The proposal is a response to recommendations in the Tax Review 2001, which suggested "that individuals with no previous connection to New Zealand who become residents for tax purposes should be taxed only on their New Zealand-sourced income for the first seven years - in other words, tax on their overseas income should be exempted for that period" Dr Cullen said. He added, "some people who come here to work may find themselves facing tax on offshore income that they might not have faced had they made a different choice of residence. These extra tax costs faced by highly skilled overseas recruits may in many instances already be passed on to New Zealand businesses in the form of higher remuneration. "The skills needed for a flourishing, knowledge-based economy are in demand throughout the world.

The people who have these skills are increasingly mobile, and New Zealand businesses have to be able to compete with businesses in other countries to attract them to work here. "In recent months the government has been developing the idea of a temporary exemption from tax on overseas income for these people, with the focus on reducing costs for New Zealand businesses. We are also considering widening it to include returning New Zealanders who have been out of the country for at least ten years and are coming back to work here," he said. Dr Cullen said that details of the proposed programme would be announced in "the next few weeks" along with a discussion document. In related news, Dr Cullen said that the government was looking at a range of proposals to encourage foreign investment, including one in which profits from sales of certain shares might be exempt from New Zealand tax when the investor is exempt from tax in its own jurisdiction.

From Sofia Echo, Bulgaria, 2 October 2003

Policy Failures and Asset Bubbles

The government in Seoul is rightly concerned about the bubble in real estate prices, as most evident in soaring apartment prices in parts of Seoul. Data from the LG Economic Research Institute (LGERI) indicates that average apartment prices are up by 25 percent since 2001, exceeding growth in nominal GDP by a multiple of four. But the promise to stabilize real estate prices by implementing more 'tough measures' rings hollow. As it is, the previous 20 or so `tough' policies already implemented this year to prevent apartment prices have had little effect. And so a three-fold increase in taxes on housing property to curb speculation will only allow a bit of 'stealth' wealth redistribution. In the case of the property bubble, it is time to realize that a misunderstanding of the nature of the illness has led policymakers to undertake the wrong treatments. Without an appropriate diagnosis, public policy remedies are just as ineffective as when medical doctors guess wrong about the conditions of their patients. While it is true that an irrational tax system can cause distortions in behavior, the tax code is not the primary problem behind soaring property prices. Likewise, the blame cannot be put onto parents who wish to live in the Kangnam area of Seoul so their children can be close to schools there. To understand the problem and to establish appropriate countermeasures, consider some of the common interpretations of the sort of asset-price frenzies like 'tulipomania' or property bubbles.

Although economic theory provides no explanation of psychological urges, there are a few good economic explanations for the existence of speculative bubbles. Unfortunately, many economists and analysts peddle misinterpretations while overlooking the sensible ones. According to Lord Keynes, asset bubbles arise from "animal spirits" released by capitalism. Although this is perhaps the worst assessment, it is also the most widely accepted. A similar thesis with wide acceptance speaks as though there can be a 'madness of crowds.' It is not surprising that these interpretations offer so much appeal, especially to non-economists that are contemptuous of people who have become rich through speculation. These portrayals are of investors as gullible or stupid people that require guidance from the government. (Meanwhile, the same governments can exploit those lucky enough to be successful by squeezing them for tax revenues to support redistributive political programs.) However, careful reflection indicates that there is a serious disconnect from reality in the above explanations of bubbles and speculative frenzies. Let's start with the condition of stability that characterizes most markets, most of the time. Each day there are trillions of transactions that take place within millions of markets for different goods and services conducted by billions of people.

And this has been occurring with increasing scope over hundreds of years. Markets tend to be stable because of the qualitative nature of individual players. Some will be better informed and some will be better informed. There will be optimists about the direction of prices, bulls, and there will be pessimists about prices, bears. It these conditions were absent, markets would continuously spin out of control and would collapse frequently. While there have only been some truly dramatic instances of bubbles, it is truly remarkable that there have been so few. It turns out that the real cause of bubbles is excessive credit expansion by central banks. Without extensive expansion in long-term credit, there would be no financial support for the `irrational' urge to continue throwing money at speculative ventures. Unless there is monetary expansion to finance new bank credit, the transactions in the rest of economy would have to fall by an offsetting amount. Consider the dot.com bubble. New technologies generated promises of large potential returns and were met by exaggerated optimism. But hysteria alone was not responsible for pushing valuations beyond any connection to economic reality. Speculative manias, like in property, operate similarly in that price increases of an asset attract more investors seeking quick capital gains from the expectation of even higher prices. Inevitably, the speculative frenzy runs out of steam when asset prices reach levels that are obviously unsustainable.

At that point, a round of profit taking sparks panic and flight out of the asset so that prices collapse. The good news is that a collapse in real asset prices after a bubble bursts on its own cannot induce a recession. This is because declining prices are a symptom and not a cause of economic downturns. Indeed, falling prices of the over-inflated assets are the painful but necessary process of readjustments to restore stability in affected markets. At the same time, financially imprudent central bankers cause substantial economic pain in other parts of the economy. Expanding credit and making interest rates artificially low will divert resources and production towards badly conceived investments made temporarily viable by cheap credit. Eventually, these misguided investments will become unsustainable and lead to idle capital, excess capacity and rising unemployment. In turn, banks become illiquid and then insolvent as firms cannot service their debts as their cash flows dries up so that the number of defaults and non-performing loans rises. There is a simple rule that the government must remember if it wishes to stabilize the real estate market. And it is that both booms in the overall economy and speculative bubbles are symptoms of the irresponsible inflation of credit resulting from central bank policy. ** Christopher Lingle is a member of The Korea Times' Economic Editorial Board and Professor of Economics at Universidad Francisco Marroque in Guatemala. His E-mail address is: CLingle@ufm.edu.gt.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Christopher Lingle, 13 October 2003

Accounting System Switch

Putrajaya - The Government is working towards replacing the somewhat "conservative" accounting system currently applied in the Accountant General's Department with a more commercial-driven method that is in line with the changing times. Second Finance Minister Datuk Jamaluddin Jarjis said the Government wanted the department to look into swapping the present cash accounting method with the accrual system in order to modernise the public accounting mechanism. Dr Jamaluddin, who was speaking to reporters after launching the department's Quality Day celebrations and its new logo, said the move was geared towards improving the nation's financial management and to provide a clearer picture of the country's fiscal status. "The Government is studying the other countries which are using the system and may either decide on going fully accrual or implementing a method combining both systems," he said. Countries like the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand have implemented the accrual system to streamline financial management and as well as to facilitate transparency and accountability.

Besides allowing for a better co-ordination of public resources, the accrual system records economic transactions even in the absence of cash payments and keeps tabs of the nation's assets and liabilities as well as its debtors and creditors. This is as opposed to the cash accounting system which records transactions only when cash payments were made. On another matter, Dr Jamaluddin said the department was in the process of initiating a discussion with Bank Negara to find ways to enhance its internal control and security system to prevent untoward incidents like the cloning or forgery of government cheques. "The department must look into utilising the latest technology to overcome any fraudulent acts," he added. According to Dr Jamaluddin, it was the country's long-term plan to upgrade security by implanting microchips into government cheques to counter possible forgery. He said that government cheques now carried computer-generated signatures as a security facet.

From The Star, Malaysia, by Wani Muthiah, 21 October 2003

 

Controversy on Tax Policy in Bulgaria

Members of the National Council on Tax Policy (NCTP) and Deputy Finance Minister Stamen Tassev have agreed to discuss the Council's suggested amendments to tax legislation, the Finance Ministry has announced. Tasev is responsible for the tax policy of the Government. The NCTP consists of representatives of trade unions, employers and industries' organisations. There has been harsh reaction to the Government not keeping to its promises regarding tax changes. After refusing to decrease the corporate tax from 23.5 per cent to 20 per cent and setting it at 22 per cent, the Finance Ministry has also refused to change also the rules for taxation of natural persons. It also will not fullfil an election campaign promise by the governing party to reduce profit tax to zero per cent when the profit is re-invested. In May, Finance Minister Milen Velchev's team an-nounced that the income under which no tax will be calculated would be 120 leva a month for the following year and the lowest tax for people with low income would be 12 per cent. But the new amendments to the tax legislation envisage a tax minimum of 110 leva and a lowest tax of 15 per cent.

Calculations done by the Finance Ministry showed that decreasing the tax on the lowest income bracket, and raising the tax minimum by 10 leva, would mean losses of 70 million leva, the Ministry said. The other arguments for not reducing the tax burden was that given a projected seven per cent rise in incomes, the tax burden will increase, which contradicts the Government's programme for reduction in taxes and improvement of the business environment. "The IMF supported the reduction of the corporate tax to 20 per cent. It has always been the Government's intention to lower tax rates and we've supported that and we still do," said Gerald Shiff, IMF's country director for Bulgaria in an interview with Pari daily. At the end of last week,Velchev said that the introduction of family taxation was possible after 2005, when the National Revenue Agency has to start operating. Accor-ding to him, however, the limit of the annual turnover of entrepreneurs subject to patent taxation will be reduced from 75 000 to 50 000 leva. Excise duties on petrol will increase by 12.5 per cent, which is expected to push the price up by about five stotinki a litre. Excise on cigarette doubles to 0.4 stotinki a piece plus 43.5 per cent of the price.

From Sofia Echo, Bulgaria, by Elena Kodinova, 2 October 2003

Poland Details Plan to Slash Public Spending

The Polish government detailed Thursday a plan to slash spending and save 32 billion zlotys (seven billion euros, 8.21 billion dollars) by 2007, receiving a generally positive reaction from analysts and the market which had feared a swelling budget deficit and public debt as Poland prepares to join the European Union. Economy and Jobs Minister Jerzy Hausner told a news conference the government hoped to save around 20 billion zlotys between 2004 and 2007 by cutting spending on public administration, including cutting its staff, slowing defence spending and closing or merging several government agencies and fighting the underground market. The leftist government of Prime Minister Leszek Miller also launched consultations on a series of social measures, which should lead to the adoption of a series of draft laws on retirement and health care, which if approved would allow another 12 billion zlotys worth of savings by 2007.

Hausner told the news conference that if the plan was pursued, Poland would avoid passing the 60 percent of gross domestic product limit laid down in the constitution for public debt in 2003 and 2004, although it might be passed in 2005 and 2006. "I can guarantee that in the years 2003 and 2004 this danger will not exist," Hausner, who is also deputy prime minister, said. "In 2005 I would not be able to promise it and in 2006 there is a risk," he said. The first response to the plan from analysts and the markets was positive. "The first analyses of this programme are positive, all the more so as it addresses areas considered up to now as taboo, including the way pensions are valued and insurance for farmers," Marcin Mroz, an analyst as Societe Generale Warsaw told AFP. "The market reacted well to the plan. Since its presentation by Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner late Wednesday the currency firmed 2.5 percent against the euro," he said. On Thursday the zloty, which has recently had the wobbles was quoted at 4.51 against the euro.

However, Mroz acknowledged Poland was not out of the woods, saying it had "a market on a knife edge". "Monetary fluctuations or low revenues from privatisation risk increasing the fiscal pressure," he said. Poland's draft budget for next year, which is before parliament, provides for a public debt of 58.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2005 and 59.4 percent in 2006 before dropping to 58.7 percent in 2007. The budget is based on expected economic growth of five percent, against the 3.5 percent forecast this year, and a public deficit of 45.5 billion zlotys, or 5.5 percent of GDP. The deficit is important as Poland, if it seeks to join those countries using the euro following its accession to the European Union May 1, will be required to hold its public deficit to less than three percent of output. Annual inflation is set at two percent, against 0.7 percent in 2003, and unemployment at 17.8 percent, compared to 17.5 percent at the moment. In a reference to legislative elections planned in Poland in 2005 Hausner urged the opposition in parliament not to block the budget. "The opposition should not block this programme because it is possible that it will have to carry it out itself," he said. Miller's government is deeply unpopular, with polls showing it is backed by only 21 percent of voters.

From EU Business, UK, 9 October 2003

S&P Forum Reviews German States' Fiscal Reform Needs

(The following statement was released by the ratings agency) New York - The drastic weakening of state budgets since 2001 could prove to be the catalyst for a new direction in the fiscal landscape of federal Germany. As a result, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services believes a grand coalition of states, rather than central government, could become the motor of important fiscal reforms over the next 12 months, leading to improved financial performance for rated issuers in this sector. "German states are now proactively generating proposals for reforming tax legislation, which should allow them to gain more weight in fiscal policymaking," said Alois Strasser, credit analyst and a director of Standard & Poor's Public Finance Ratings Europe. "These are encouraging first steps. Nevertheless, additional structural reforms are needed to improve German states' budget performance and check rising debt burdens. Such moves will be a prerequisite for maintaining the states' current credit ratings." Addressing investors at a Standard & Poor's forum on public finance issues held in Frankfurt on Oct. 10, 2003, Mr. Strasser said that German states could derive benefit if they build on their willingness to use the influence granted to them under the German constitution to put forward new legal initiatives.

Faced with the prospect of continuing lower-than-expected tax revenues, the states are undertaking more profound structural budget consolidation plans for 2003 and 2004. Most states are taking advantage of new powers to cut or lower formerly uniform year-end gratuities and vacation allowances that were imposed nationally, amounting to between 63% and 80% of a public sector employee's monthly salary. Certain states are also using their new right to increase government employee working time to more than 40 hours per week. Moreover, some of the largest German states, which are governed by political parties that oppose one another other at national level, are presenting joint initiatives to make significant structural cuts in public spending. The premiers of Hesse (AA+/Stable/A-1+) and North Rhine-Westphalia (AA/Stable/A-1+), for instance, have recently put forward a joint initiative to cut subsidies and transfers granted by public authorities in Germany, gradually increasing savings in 2004 and 2005, to reach EUR10.5 billion per year by 2006. Furthermore, a working group of states led by Baden-Wuerttemberg (AAA/Stable/A-1+) has presented a project for a profound overhaul of the German tax system, including lowering tax rates, enlarging the tax base, and abandoning tax exemptions, which have often been far-reaching in Germany. Such fiscal projects would need to be approved by both the Bundestag and Bundesrat. Nevertheless, it is unusual for large national fiscal projects to be initiated by the states rather than by the central government.

Beyond party frontiers, the states also consider effective measures for budget consolidation are necessary and in their joint interest. German states have suffered a heavy decline in tax revenues averaging 7.9% in 2002, compared with 2000. This is a result of the effects arising from the first stage of a national tax reform implemented in 2001, which lowered income and corporate tax rates, and sluggish economic growth in Germany. In the first half of 2003, the average German real GDP declined by 0.1%, compared with an already low 0.2% growth in 2002. Of the total 16 German states, Standard & Poor's currently rates six for their own debt issuance: Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria (AAA/Stable/A-1+), Brandenburg (AA/Stable/A-1+), Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saxony - Anhalt (AA-/Stable/A-1+). Standard & Poor's rates a further five states in their role as guarantor for public sector banks. ANALYST E-MAIL ADDRESSES alois_strasser@standardandpoors.com christian_esters@standardandpoors.com PublicFinanceEurope@standardandpoors.com Complete ratings information is available to subscribers of RatingsDirect, Standard & Poor's Web-based credit analysis system, at www.ratingsdirect.com. Alternatively, call one of Standard & Poor's Ratings Desks: London (44) 20-7847-7400; Paris (33) 1-4420-6705; Frankfurt (49) 69-33-999-223; or Stockholm (46) 8-440-5916. Members of the media may contact the Press Office Hotline on (44) 20-7826-3605 or via media_europe@standardandpoors.com. Contact: Alois Strasser, Frankfurt (49) 69-3 39 99-240 - Christian Esters, Frankfurt (49) 69-3 39 99-242 Copyright (c) 2003, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services - Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service.

From Forbes, 13 October 2003

Corruption in Russia Still a Problem for Investors

From Mr. Ethan S. Burger. Sir, It is ironic that the Financial Times of October 9 includes not only reports saying "Russia makes investment grade" but also a largely positive Special Report on Russian finance. Earlier last week, Transparency International released its 2003 Corruption Index, showing that Russia has been ranked as 86 of 133 countries in terms of level of corruption (www.transparency.org/cpi/ 2003/cpi2003.en.html) This ranking represents a worsening in perceptions of the level of corruption in Russia over the past two years. Furthermore, last year Transparency International conducted a survey, the results of which indicate that corruption is not restricted to particular regions of the country or branches of government (www.transparency.org,ru/ proj_index_doc.asp) Granted, some Russian companies have made progress in their corporate governance.

The government has improved its criminal procedure code, instituted certain judicial reforms and increased the meagre salaries of state officials. Unfortunately, the rule of law remains largely absent when sensitive political issues are involved or the economic stakes are high. The Russian budget and economy have been helped by high world energy prices but this is not likely to continue indefinitely. While large companies may have an easier time doing business in Russia, the same appears not to be true for small and medium-size businesses (both foreign and Russian). Much remains to be done before one can invest in Russia without running significant risks or encountering serious problems. Ethan S. Burger, Scholar in Residence, Transnational Crime and Corruption Centre, School of International Service Adjunct Associate Professor, Washington College of Law American University, Washington, DC 20016, US.

From The Financial Times, 13 October 2003

IMF Forecasts 13% Inflation in Russia in 2003

The International Monetary Fund believes inflation in Russia will be around 13% in 2003, which is slightly higher than the official forecast, said the officials from the IMF mission for studying the economic situation in Russia, which worked in Moscow on October 2-10. The IMF officials have advised the Russian monetary authorities to focus on tougher inflation control, even if this is accompanied by a higher mobility of the currency rate and results in a tougher budget and tax policy. Jose Fajgenbaum, deputy director of the IMF Second European Department, who headed the mission, pointed out the considerable improvement in the macroeconomic situation in Russia in 2003. Among these improvements he mentioned the high real GDP growth (which IMF experts project at 6.25% in 2003), a strong balance of payments, an increase of reserves and a considerable reduction of the foreign debt. At the same time, inflation in Russia, although continuing to decrease, is projected at a higher level than the official forecast of 12% and is expected to reach 13% or more in 2003, he said. The main thing is to focus on reducing inflation, David Owen, head of the IMF Second European Department, said. In 2004,the Russian government intends to lower inflation to 8- 10%. However, IMF experts recommend aiming at the lower limit of this range, which they believe would require tougher inflation control, even if this results in a higher mobility of the currency rate.

From Gateway 2 Russia, Russia, 13 October 2003

Tax Rises Threat to Trade, Says Blair

Prime Minister Tony Blair today sent out a stern warning that future tax rises would harm British business in its battle to remain competitive. His comments appeared to be a clear message to Chancellor Gordon Brown that higher taxes would be politically dangerous. However, they were also aimed at other Cabinet ministers - such as Commons leader Peter Hain - who are advocating raising income tax rates. The Chancellor has faced warnings from the City that falling revenues mean he will either have to put up taxes or increase borrowing, or both, to maintain growth. Blair used a newspaper interview to endorse Brown's prediction that the way ahead will be 'tough'. But he repeatedly hit out at higher taxation, lambasting a Liberal Democrat plan to bring in a new 50% top rate. The Prime Minister stressed the threat posed to Britain from countries with surging economies such as China and India. He warned in The Times: 'You have also got to make sure that you remain competitive in your economy, including on the levels of taxation.' Blair also reasserted his opposition to calling a referendum on the European Union's new constitution, claiming it would 'convulse' his Government for months. With the Tories launching a drive to get a petition with one million signatures backing a national vote, the Prime Minister said: 'We are taken as having sold something out - we have not.' He said under the blueprint key decisions on tax, foreign policy and defence would still be taken by individual governments.

From This is London, UK, by Patrick Hennessy, 13 October 2003

Sobotka to Become Deputy Prime Minister, Will Oversee Public Finance Reform

Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka will become the country's new deputy prime minister in charge of public finance reform, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told journalists Wednesday. According to Spidla, Sobotka will be charged with managing the successful implementation of the second phase of the government's public finance reform plans. Sobotka's main task in his new post will be to coordinate the drafting of bills aimed at reforming the pension and tax systems, stabilizing the health care sector and fighting corruption. Responding to the announcement, Sobotka said he considered it a "promotion," and proof of the seriousness with which the Cabinet viewed finance reform. Sobotka also made an effort to differentiate this government with that of the previous one led by Milos Zeman. "The post of deputy prime minister does not mean one is above other ministers.

In this government, the prime minister leads and the deputy ministers coordinate," said Sobotka. Analysts were generally neutral on the appointment, saying that it was not likely to have a major affect on reforms. David Marek of Patria Online told the daily Lidove noviny (LN) that Spidla's decision to name Sobotka to the new post was a signal that the reforms had become an even greater priority for the government than they were at the outset of its term. While this could benefit the Czech economy, Marek said he would not overestimate the importance of the new post. Sobotka, 32, must be officially appointed to the new post by Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Spidla has reportedly already held talks with Klaus on the matter. Klaus is currently on a state visit to Slovenia. Sobotka's appointment is expected to take place within a month.

From Interfax, Czech Republic, 24 October 2003

Show of Pride for Public Finance

Rome - The premise is that "with the euro we have been able to examine the value of our savings", which with the euro "Europe has attained monetary stability", but we must not forget that "such stability is not enough for the well being of a community if it doesn't promote development and increase the national per capita income", said president Ciampi while speaking during the ceremony to recognize 'labor knights', asking for a "show of pride": "Italy - he said - will recover market quotas if the whole system aims united at the goal of growth. This is why we need cohesion, the capacity for dialogue, and the feeling that we are living a shared destiny". Ciampi also asked for "the need to keep public finances under control. We know - continued the president - we need to continue with an elevated principal advance to absorb the weight of the public debt. This, even if reduced, in terms of the Gdp compared to the highest levels of the mid 90's, hangs over stability and long term development".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 24 October 2003

Budget: Buttiglione, We Will Amend Public Service Legislation

Rome - The Minister for Community Policies, Rocco Buttiglione, said the legislation regarding local public services contained in the enormous bill linked to the Budget and modified following an amendment from the League will revert "to its original version or even lower. He added, "I am sure that it will be corrected". The League proposal, approved by the Senate Commission, extends the transitory period for opening the local public services market, in the case of mergers between small municipal companies, by two to three years beyond the term of December 31 2006. The legislation, explained Buttiglione in the House, is against European law "and European law overrides national law. There are some who think they live on another planet however we are in Europe and this law only generates enormous confusion. We intend to bring it in line with community law".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 24 October 2003

 

Finance Minister: Privatization Not the Only Reform Issue

International creditors want overhaul of civil service, too - Finance Minister Fouad Siniora said Monday that privatization was only one of a number of reform measures required from Lebanon by international creditors. Speaking during a news conference he held at the Dubai meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, the minister said that it was incorrect to boil down the "Paris II" conference to privatization only. "Saying that the Paris II conference called for privatization only is distorting facts," Siniora said. "Lebanon has pledged before the nations that attended the Paris II conference to rationalize the use of its national resources," he added. He explained that the desired reforms concerned health and education policies as well as the retirement pension system, working hours and other issues. He said Lebanon endures the problems of both rich and developing nations: "As far as the economy is concerned, for instance, there are people who work and others who don't and rely on those who do." He added that the way the Lebanese retirement system was implemented put a "significant burden on the workers." Siniora said that it was very important to introduce reforms to the way civil service institutions were managed because reforms were "necessary and not superfluous." He added that such reforms "could not wait." "Privatization is just a part of the comprehensive batch of required reforms, which are aimed at slimming down the civil administration," he said.

He recalled that he had tried to introduce "some crucial reforms" to the 2003 Lebanese national budget. But, "while these reforms were not approved, this does not mean that they are not needed." He said that all those he had met from the international monetary bodies had asked him about whether or not privatization had been implemented in this country. "It is not in Lebanon's interests to delay the privatization process. We should launch the necessary measures and wait for the right privatization offer to sell. Otherwise we shall not sell," he said. He added that up till now, the privatization operation had not been taken seriously. Siniora also recalled what the IMF and World Bank officials had told him. "They said that we Lebanese had a good reform program, so why is it that we couldn't implement this program?" He added that Lebanon had submitted to the Paris II organizers an overview of its planned reforms. He said the government had achieved the objectives it set out to achieve in the 2003 national budget, specifically in the area of national revenue. "As for the expenditure side, it increased as a result of the LL340 billion paid to Electricite du Liban (EDL). This was different from the LL300 billion which the EDL would borrow from the Central Bank," he said. Siniora added that there was one objective which had not been fulfilled, specifically in the area of maritime state properties.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, by Elie Hourani, 29 September 2003

Campaign Against Financial Corruption

Tehran - In a meeting held by the three branches of power, the new approach of the committee of campaign against economic corruption was discussed. In the meeting Iranian President Mohammad Khatami lauded the committee of campaign against economic corruptions' performance saying: "Tracing the root causes of corruption is the main task of the committee." "Legal cases go through the usual procedures but what is of great importance is the irreparable losses caused by the inefficiency of the systems." Khatami added. The meeting which was attended by the heads of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of power and their representatives at the committee of campaign against economic corruption dealt with such issues as smuggling, misuse of the current process of distribution of tea, fuel, flour, bread and land as well as the necessity of recognition of the systems' vulnerabilities.

From IranMania News, Iran, 23 October 2003

 

Self-Funding eGovernment Projects Help Solve States' IT Budget Woes, According to BearingPoint Executive

Boston - BearingPoint, Inc., (NYSE: BE), one of the world's largest business consulting and systems integration firms, announced today that Mary Kurkjian, director and head of the company's state and local government and education practice in New England, will address the topic of self-funded government technology projects at an upcoming conference sponsored by Government Technology magazine. Kurkjian will conduct a workshop titled, "Self-Funding Models for eGovernment," at the Massachusetts Executive Leadership Forum, which will be held October 15 and 16 at the Executive Conference Center at Bayside. "The biggest challenge to technical innovation in government today is often a lack of funding," said Kurkjian. "However, self-funding models allow projects to be financed through convenience fees or other revenue generating mechanisms bringing down budget barriers and enabling new projects to move forward." In addition, Kurkjian will highlight Enhanced Comm-PASS, an upgrade of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' procurement system that BearingPoint has just begun implementing.

Among many other innovations, the project is self-funded through a subscription fee paid by vendors looking to do business with the government. "Enhanced Comm-PASS is a great model because it's a win for everyone. The Commonwealth gets a better procurement system, vendors get added value, and taxpayers don't have to pay the bill. Massachusetts officials should be proud of their vision in conceiving this project," said Kurkjian. BearingPoint has extensive experience working with state and local governments on projects that employ alternative or self-funding models. One example is eFiling for Courts powered by BearingPoint and Microsoft. This managed service allows state and county courts to accept electronic filings without incurring the costs of acquiring, building, and operating systems of their own. The solution is funded through transaction fees charged to the filing attorney, which is typically substantially less than the traditional fees charged by couriers, express mail services, and other court delivery mechanisms. Kurkjian is a veteran of both government and the technology industry.

Prior to joining BearingPoint, she was a senior manager in Massachusetts state government and a vice president at Unisys, a leading information technology firm. A graduate of the University of Michigan and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Kurkjian was the founding director of a highly acclaimed executive education program at Harvard. To register for the Massachusetts Executive Leadership Forum, visit http://www.govtech.net/events. About BearingPoint, Inc. - BearingPoint, Inc. (NYSE: BE) is one of the world's largest business consulting, systems integration and managed services firms serving Global 2000 companies, medium-sized businesses, government agencies and other organizations. We provide business and technology strategy, systems design, architecture, applications implementation, network infrastructure, systems integration and managed services.

Our service offerings are designed to help our clients generate revenue, reduce costs and access the information necessary to operate their business on a timely basis. Based in McLean, Va., BearingPoint has been named by Fortune as one of America's Most Admired Companies in the computer and data services sector. For more information, visit the Company's website at http://www.BearingPoint.com. This press release may contain forward-looking statements, the accuracy of which is necessarily subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions as to future events that may not prove to be accurate. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied include general economic conditions and the factors discussed in our most recent Form 10-K. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

From PRNewswire (press release), 7 October 2003

Accounting and Finance Starting Salaries to Stay At or Near 2003 Levels in 2004: Optimistic Outlook for Managers and Senior Accountants

Menlo Park, Calif. - Average starting salaries next year for accounting and finance professionals should remain consistent with 2003 levels, according to the just-released 2004 Salary Guide from Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Accountemps. Additionally, experienced accountants who can help businesses improve cash flow and address new reporting requirements will be in demand, research shows. Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Accountemps are the full-time and temporary placement divisions, respectively, of Robert Half International Inc., the world's first and largest staffing firm specializing in accounting and finance positions. The 2004 Salary Guide is based on an analysis of the thousands of job orders managed by the company's U.S. offices. "While salary levels overall will likely remain stable, candidates with highly sought-after skill sets may see modest gains in compensation," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "Companies faced with increasing workloads are recruiting financial professionals in areas such as internal audit, credit and collections, and general accounting. "Employers are hiring selectively, focusing their recruiting efforts on professionals who can provide solid leadership and contribute immediately to critical business operations," Messmer added.

Stable Salaries Forecast in Public Accounting - Average starting salaries for public accountants should remain little changed from 2003 levels. Managers at midsized public accounting firms ($25 to $250 million in annual sales) can expect base compensation of $57,000 to $74,250, a 1.4 percent increase over last year. Average starting salaries for senior accountants at large public accounting firms (more than $250 million in annual sales) are forecast to rise an average of 1.1 percent, to the range of $48,750 to $62,250 annually. Both directors and managers at large public accounting firms are expected to see base compensation increase 0.9 percent, with average starting salaries ranging between $77,750 to $119,000 and $63,000 to $82,250 per year, respectively. Corporate Accounting Outlook - In the corporate sector, managers and senior accounting professionals will see the strongest salary growth i

n 2004. General and audit accounting managers at large companies can expect a 2.9 percent increase in starting salaries, with average base compensation of $60,250 to $81,500. Starting salaries for senior tax and cost accountants at large companies will rise 1.6 percent, to the range of $48,750 to $62,500; those at small companies will see a 1.9 percent increase, with base compensation between $41,750 and $52,000 per year. Credit and collections clerks at large companies will experience the biggest percentage increase in starting salaries of any single position in corporate accounting. Their base compensation is expected to rise an average of 5.1 percent, bringing starting salaries to between $29,250 and $37,500 per year. Credit managers/supervisors and assistant credit managers at large companies will also see notable gains, with average starting salary increases of 4.2 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

From Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam, 7 October 2003

Casino Money Helps Finance Public Services

Elizabeth - Ambulance stations have been built. Sidewalks have been improved. Scholarships have been awarded to help high school seniors prepare for college. It's indisputable that the presence of the Caesars Indiana riverboat casino has played a role in promoting the well-being of many aspects of life in Harrison County and its environs. Supporters of a proposed casino in Orange County envision the same kind of contributions will enhance the overall wealth there. Gambling opponents believe the risk of increased crime, bankruptcy, gambling addiction and family stresses would outweigh the benefits a casino can bring. Citizens, in a Nov. 4 referendum, will decide whether the casino is a go. Harrison County had its own casino opponents and narrowly approved a referendum in a 5,855 to 5,602 vote in 1996. James Goldman, a 57-year-old dairy farmer and Harrison County Commissioner, understands the reluctance some Orange County residents have for embracing the proposal for a casino. "Our community," Goldman said, "felt those same issues, a concern about what the riverboat would bring, and it has brought nothing but good things to Harrison County. There was talk of all kinds of illegal things. That never came to pass when it was voted in. ... In the very beginning, I was apprehensive like many people, but I tried to keep an open mind and listen."

Goldman said he trusted the task force that was organized to explore the ramifications of gaming in the county. "It has been a great, great blessing for Harrison County," Goldman said. In the five years since Caesars opened, it has paid more than $100 million in direct taxes (gaming, admission and property taxes) to Harrison County. The county shares 16 percent of its riverboat funds with Crawford, Floyd and Washington counties (which border Harrison) and with local municipalities. A document prepared for the Indiana Gaming Commission to review in considering Caesars' five-year license renewal reports an amount of $15,687,868 was distributed to the adjoining counties. In addition to the 16 percent, another 2 percent of the funds each year are divided among the towns in Harrison County for infrastructure. A portion of the Caesars tax money that is kept in Harrison County is dedicated to education. In remarks made to school board members in Orange County earlier this year, North Harrison schools superintendent Monte Schneider said 17 percent of casino money is earmarked to education in the county, where there are three public school systems.

The money is funneled through the county government. Schneider told the Orange County audience, "For the last four years, we've received approximately three-quarters of a million dollars ... essentially to spend it on what our school board chooses to do." County officials also decided to help school systems cut their debt service funds. Also, Schneider said his school system has received about $314,000 in scholarships. In addition to the local taxes Caesars has paid, another $49 million in voluntary contributions from the casino has benefited Harrison and Floyd counties. That includes about $35 million paid to community foundations in the two counties. The five-year, license-renewal document reports that through June 30, the Harrison County Community Foundation had distributed $5,286,027 while the Caesars Riverboat Casino Foundation, Inc. had distributed $1,727,448. Goldman said the money that has come through Caesars has helped to bolster roads and rural water systems. He also said discussions have begun about building a new hospital in a better location. The existing Harrison County Hospital, in the town's southeast portion, "is boxed in and cannot grow," Goldman said. Caesars revenues already have helped to improve emergency services in the county.

Goldman, as well as Harrison County Chamber of Commerce executive director Darrell Voelker, talked about new ambulance stations that have been added in the northern and southern parts of the county and about the benefits to other emergency services. Voelker said, "They (Caesars officials in a one-time amount of $540,000 paid voluntarily) made public safety a huge priority. There have been tremendous enhancements to the fire departments, including buildings and trucks and equipment." While the numbers illustrate Caesars' spending in five years, not everyone is convinced the casino is an asset to the county. One of the more outspoken critics has been Earl Becker, 54, of Elizabeth whose opposition to the construction of Caesars focused largely on where it was built. Becker maintains the chosen site, a flood-plain area known as Bridgeport, was not as suitable as a location farther west on the Ohio River at Mauckport. "The Mauckport site," Becker said, "had a lot of superiority as a project site, and there are a lot of environmental negatives associated with Bridgeport."

Becker maintains no substantive evaluations were done to determine the casino's impact on roads, schools or the environment. Becker also suggested a casino does not create wealth, but redistributes it. "That's pretty accurate from an economic standpoint. There are winners. There are losers." Further criticizing the riverboat, Becker said, "From the day that casino came, everybody in this county is now a second-class citizen. The only first class citizen is the casino. ... Through their employees, they have the larges political constituency in Harrison County." In Orange County - According to the Indiana Legislative Services Agency, an Orange County casino would generate an estimated $7.6 million each year in wagering taxes and $1.9 million in admission taxes. The agency reports that the money would be distributed as follows: Orange County: $746,000. Crawford and Dubois counties: $249,000 each. French Lick and West Baden Springs: $535,000 each. Historic Hotel Preservation Commission: $554,500. West Baden historic hotel preservation and maintenance fund: $3.3 million. Indiana Department of Commerce: $483,000. Property tax replacement fund: $2.85 million.

From Times-Mail, United States, by Roger Moon, 22 October 2003

The Bank of New York Hosts First Annual New York Public Sector Symposium

Meeting for Public Finance Officials from New York State and Municipal Agencies; NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. Delivers Keynote Speech - The Bank of New York today announced that it has held its first annual Public Sector Symposium for public finance officials, "Doing More, With Less," to discuss the challenges of managing fiscal budgets and public investment portfolios in volatile markets, while responding to the increasing demands of the citizens they serve. The all-day event was held on October 23rd at the Union League Club in New York City. In his opening address, Thomas A. Renyi, chairman and chief executive officer of The Bank of New York, said, "Today's difficult economic environment is challenging state and municipal agencies throughout the public sector to do more with less resources. In response, The Bank of New York has instituted the New York Public Sector Symposium as an annual forum at which agencies can exchange ideas and perspectives about the common challenges they face, as well as leverage solutions from the private sector."

The Honorable William C. Thompson Jr., Comptroller of the City of New York, delivered the keynote address. In his remarks, Mr. Thompson said, "In these difficult times, it is particularly important that all of us who are concerned with the fiscal challenges facing New York City and State work together as partners. New York is home to the best and the brightest in the field of public finance, and a symposium like this one offers an excellent opportunity to share ideas and develop creative solutions." "Doing More, With Less" offered an interactive forum, including discussions about creative strategies for municipal debt management, including tax lien securitization, auction rate securities, pension obligation bonds, and tobacco bonds; contingency planning and disaster recovery; investment allocation in a low interest rate and low revenue environment; fraud prevention measures for check and ACH disbursements; and municipal liquidity strategies.

Among the symposium's highlights were a panel discussion featuring Stephen Kagann, chief economist to New York State Governor George E. Pataki, on whether federal tax cuts are good for local economies; a luncheon address by the Honorable Edward I. Koch, former mayor of New York City; and an economic outlook by Kevin J. Bannon, The Bank of New York's Chief Investment Officer. According to Mr. Bannon, "Following a period of considerable economic uncertainty and difficult market conditions, The Bank of New York looks forward to the recent improvements in economic activity continuing and for investor confidence to gain strength in the year ahead. However, because economic and investment conditions will remain challenging, the Bank is pleased to be able to provide forums that deal with issues such as maximizing returns on short-term funds and meeting long-term pension return requirements in an environment of historically low interest rates." The Bank of New York provides integrated solutions that add value to public agencies and municipalities nationwide.

Services include municipal trustee, currency overlay, investment and cash management, investment risk management, master trust and custody, retirement plan services, securities lending, and trade execution services, the latter of which is provided by BNY Brokerage, a subsidiary of The Bank of New York. The Bank of New York Company, Inc. (NYSE: BK) is a global leader in securities servicing for issuers, investors and financial intermediaries. The Company plays an integral role in the infrastructure of the capital markets, servicing securities in more than 100 markets worldwide. The Company provides quality solutions through leading technology for global corporations, financial institutions, asset managers, governments, non-profit organizations, and individuals. Its principal subsidiary, The Bank of New York, founded in 1784, is the oldest bank in the United States and has a distinguished history of serving clients around the world through its five primary businesses: Securities Servicing and Global Payment Services, Private Client Services and Asset Management, Corporate Banking, Global Market Services, and Retail Banking. Additional information on the Company is available at www.bankofny.com.

From Business Wire (press release), 24 October 2003

 

What Mainstream Economic Models Tell Us About Wealth Taxes and Changing Tax Policy

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin visited Brussels on Wednesday, August 27, accompanied by the news that France's public sector deficit stood at four percent of its gross domestic product. While the Prime Minister made the best interpretation he could of this development, it is certain that Mr. Raffarin did not welcome this news or the prospect of cutting government spending. No government head wants to make the trip to Brussels with a deficit reduction plan in his or her pocket that is so ripe with political consequences back home. The day before Raffarin's trip, President George Bush received news, also unwelcome, that his government's current deficit stood at four percent of U.S. gross domestic product. While President Bush did not have to make the trip to Brussels, he did have to endure the criticisms of an outraged political opposition and the rising concerns over deficits among his conservative supporters. He, too, responded to these concerns with a deficit reduction plan. It is most interesting to me that both men are responding to their deficits in a generally similar way. Prime Minister Raffarin's approach will rely principally on spending reduction and small tax cuts. President Bush will continue to combine spending restraint with tax cuts and tax reform. While I have no insight into the reason the French government is pursuing this strategy, the Bush Administration is using these two fiscal policy tools to boost the level of economic activity while keeping the dead-weight losses associated with government spending in check.

I say "continue" because George Bush came to the presidency in 2001 with substantial tax cut legislation ready to go, and he has seen two additional and major tax bills pass since then. What characterizes Bush's approach is the recognition that tax policy and general economic performance are tightly connected. Indeed, the entire tax reform program is directed at two goals: change the tax code to make it more equitable and simple, and change tax policy in such a way as to support higher levels of economic growth. Analyzing the Implications - Achieving these goals, however, requires not only a major political push, but also an enormous analytical effort. The Bush White House and many organizations in the Washington think tank community have assembled a wide array of policy databases and analytical models to assist in achieving these goals. The databases contain information on taxpayers, families, business organizations, and so forth; and analysts use these data to test the degree to which a proposed tax policy change would accomplish its equity and simplicity goals. The analytical models are employed in assessments of how proposed changes would affect economic performance. This last test is particularly important to the Bush economic and tax plan, since so much of the justification for cutting taxes is higher economic growth.

When tax policy affects the level of economic activity and the pace of economic growth, it likely changes the pool of income and sales from which it draws its own revenues. Tax policy changes that might strike some as being too expensive for the government to undertake turn out to be highly affordable if they stimulate higher economic growth. For example, many Washington policymakers initially opposed repeal of the national wealth tax on the grounds that it would reduce federal revenues too much and would not benefit any group in America except the wealthy. However, database work showed that many who paid the national wealth tax are farmers, ranchers, small-business people, and others who would not consider themselves wealthy at all. Economic analysis using sophisticated models of the U.S. economy showed that repeal would generate higher economic growth and more income tax revenue to the U.S. government. For example, our own econometric work and similar studies published over the years by a wide range of economists supports this interesting relationship between estate taxes and general economic activity. The U.S. taxes estates at tax rates from 17 to 50 percent. The U.S. passed legislation in 2001 that will repeal this tax in 2010 after phasing it down over the intervening years. And, it is a good thing we are repealing it.

I used a mainstream model of the U.S. economy to estimate the estate tax's economic effects and found that: o Total civilian employment would jump an average of 142,000 to 215,000 jobs per year over the 10-year period, 2002 through 2011. o Inflation-adjusted GDP would increase by an average of $15.1 billion per year, reaching $24.6 billion in 2011. o Inflation-adjusted fixed investment would grow by an average of $10.1 billion per year and increase to $18.1 billion in 2011. o The user cost of capital would fall by 120 basis points by 2011. o Inflation-adjusted disposable income (what households have left over after paying taxes) would grow by an average of $22 billion and reach $32.7 billion by 2011. o Repeal would lower government revenues for about four years before economic growth leads to more revenues than before repeal. Preparing economic estimates such as these requires a host of analytical tools, from models of the U.S. economy to databases that allow the analyst to study the wealth holdings of all Americans. Indeed, every major policy change lends itself to just this type of analysis: extensive use of data about individual groups or types of people and employing a model of the general economy to estimate the policy change's economic effects. Tax Analysis at The Heritage Foundation - In U.S. policy circles, the state-of-the-art in policy analysis now consists of a complex integration of database analysis and specialized modeling, generally of the sort that produces forecasts of policy effects.

Let me illustrate how we perform our tax analysis at The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis. (Much the same work is being done at the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis.) I will use the major tax legislation that just became law on May 27 for my illustration. President Bush set forth the basic elements of his tax proposal in November of 2002. The initiative had many parts, but it became known for two bold moves. First, President Bush proposed that all of the tax law changes that had been enacted but would not become effective until 2004 or 2006 would take effect in 2003. The reduction in the tax rates paid by upper income taxpayers was the major part of this move. Second, the President urged Congress to end the taxation of dividends received by individual taxpayers. He justified this policy change by arguing that double-taxing income is bad tax policy, and dividend income is taxed first at the corporate level and again at the individual level. It may not surprise you that a presidential proposal to cut taxes and end the double taxation of income drew praise from The Heritage Foundation. The tax economists at the Foundation jumped into action nearly as soon as the President had finished describing his tax plan. Permit me a small digression from my story. The Heritage Foundation maintains a state-of-the-art Individual Income Tax Model. This model contains equations representing e

very part of the U.S. tax code relating to individual taxpayers. Because the U.S. tax code is a swamp of complexity, the model is complex. However, it permits analysts to calculate quickly how much a proposed tax law change would affect an individual's tax bill. Of course, there are nearly as many different tax bills as there are different taxpayers. Thus, our Income Tax Model sits atop an enormous database composed of data on hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in order to capture this variety. We have about 300 variables for each taxpayer in our model. These data come from public use datasets provided (at cost) by the Department of the Treasury and the Bureau of the Census. We take these two datasets that are produced from two very different surveys by two unrelated departments of the U.S. government and match variables in both in order to come up with the 300 or so characteristics of each taxpayer. We then create taxpaying families and households from the individual records. All of our work is tested by how close we come to matching the exact amount of taxes paid in certain historical years. Now, back to the President's plan. The Foundation's tax economists first introduced the provisions of the President's proposal into this Individual Income Tax model in order to calculate the tax effects on the entire spectrum of taxpayers. Our model is able to estimate these effects for each of the 10 future years that constitute the budget projection period required by Congress's budget rules.

When we subtract the annual amount of total tax collections under the President's plan from the annual amount without that plan and sum these differences over 10 years, we come up with the 10-year "accounting" or static cost of the proposal. We next calculated the effects of the plan on the economy. These calculations are performed using a model of the U.S. economy. The model of the U.S. economy that we employ contains 850 equations and over a thousand variables that are organized in a sequence of six blocks, each block of which represents a major sector of the economy. We introduced our "accounting" or static estimates into this model, made a few assumptions about labor and capital supplies, and let the model run. Economists call the resulting set of estimates "dynamic" because they reflect how consumers, producers, and other economic actors change their economic behavior after a change in tax law. Our "dynamic" analysis of the President's proposal showed: o Higher gross domestic product. Gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by an average of $69 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars from FY 2004 through FY 2013, with roughly 73 percent of this increase derived from the plan's dividend exclusion component. o More job opportunities. The employment level would average 844,000 additional jobs from FY 2004 through FY 2013, with projected increases of 997,000 in 2004 and 1,036,000 in 2005. o Added disposable personal income.

Disposable personal income (after adjusting for inflation) would be almost $179 billion higher in FY 2004 and would increase by an average of $121 billion from FY 2004 through FY 2013. o Higher economic growth lowering the Treasury's static revenue effect by 57 percent. Static estimates suggest the President's Economic Growth Package would reduce federal revenue by about $638 billion from FY 2004 through FY 2013. However, the CDA's "dynamic" estimates show that the proposal would reduce federal revenue during the period by only $274 billion. We are not done yet. After estimating the effects on the U.S. economy, we produced tables that show how the major economic indicators (employment, income, tax payments, and so forth) change in each state and in each congressional district. These tables translate national numbers into the quantities that politicians and local news writers can use in communicating the benefits or harms of policy change. Our state and district tables proved highly valuable in the effort to educate the public on the benefits of the President's plan. These same steps - static estimates, economic analysis, and translation of national results into state and congressional district estimates - also were performed by analysts at the Treasury Department and within the White House. Indeed, it is so common now to see analysts trace these same three steps in analyzing policy change, that those who do not are viewed as performing well below professional standards.

Greater Role for Statistical Analysis - What we do to analyze tax proposals we also do in analyzing policy changes in national energy, welfare, crime, education, and trade policy. A wide array of databases and specialized models support our work in this diverse set of issue areas. In fact, the Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis maintains over 70 major databases, ranging from ones that follow large groups of children over long periods of time to see how income and family structure affect their health to others that have organized vast amounts of information on entrepreneurs. Our specialized models range from one focused exclusively on reforms to our publicly provided retirement pensions to another that estimates the economic welfare effects of changing tariffs on goods and services. Members of this audience who rightly think of the United States as a country that highly values individual liberty and privacy may be shocked to hear about how much data are collected and how freely this information is distributed to private research organizations, like my think tank. Given the enormity of data collection in the U.S., it is more surprising that so little political abuse comes from it. Citizens are protected by datasets that give researchers representative cases but not the actual data on any particular citizen. Our privacy and data collection laws also protect citizens from an overly prying government. I suspect that post-industrial economies are more, not less, sensitive to changes in tax policy.

Capital and labor move easily between sectors, products, and countries; capital markets play an enormously more important role in these economies than in less developed ones; and, the relatively older age of the population in post-industrial than in less developed economies makes the after-tax return to labor and capital more important. If I'm right, then all of these factors mean that even seemingly small tax policy changes have large effects on the overall economy. This greater sensitivity of the economy to tax policy expands the role of sophisticated data analysis in the process of policy formation. Indeed, policymakers are relying more and more on data analysis to shape and guide their efforts. If the future of policy work in the United States is clear at all, it is that database analysis and analytical modeling will occupy a greater place in policy debates than they do today and that the results of statistical analysis will play a greater part in determining how those debates are resolved. William W. Beach is the John M. Olin Senior Fellow in Economics and director of the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation. He spoke in Paris, France, at the conference "Mettre l'ISF au service de l'emploi" ("Putting the Wealth Tax to Work for Labor") sponsored by the Institut Français de Recherche sur les Administrations Publiques (iFRAP or The French Research Instiute on Public Services).

From Heritage.org, DC, 10 October 2003

UN Call to Beef Up Forum on Global Tax Policy

The United Nations called yesterday for the creation of a global commission to strengthen dialogue between the developed and developing world on taxation policy. "The growth of business conducted over the internet, of multinational corporations and of cross-border trade in services has had a host of ramifications regarding which national authorities should collect taxes on which activities," the UN said at the start of a two-day ministerial meeting in New York on aid, debt and international finance. "There are limits to what individual governments can do about international tax evasion and tax avoidance; governments need to co-operate better to combat these problems." While initiatives existed within the developed world, such as efforts by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to eliminate harmful tax practices, Jose Antonio Ocampo, UN undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said the UN was the only forum for global dialogue on tax matters. The UN warned that tax competition led to countries "neutralising each other's incentives, and lowering each government's tax take", and said moves to "close globalisation loopholes" were in line with the fight against transnational crime and international terrorism.

Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, suggested that an existing 25-member UN ad hoc group of experts on international tax matters could be upgraded to "an intergovernmental body, in the form of either a committee of governmental experts or a specialised new commission". The new body would report to the UN's Economic and Social Council. The planned conversion could be discussed at a meeting of UN experts in Geneva this year. But tax experts said that while countries might agree to such a move in principle, any global taxation dialogue could face serious obstacles in practice. Developed countries face difficulties among themselves agreeing tax policy. Switzerland and Luxembourg, for example, have objected to proposals for improved access to bank information within the OECD, and offshore havens are wary of moves to bring them into the fold. A recent meeting in Ottawa, with representatives from 20 OECD members and 20 offshore financial centres, agreed to press ahead, but revealed many divisions. A leading EU tax lawyer said taxation, like defence, was seen as one of the last bastions of national sovereignty. He also pointed out that developing countries might resist any initiative that confused the question of tax competition with the fight against terrorism and crime.

From Financial Times (London,England), by Mark Turner, 29October 2003

 

ASEAN Can Help Public Buy Privatization

Denpasar, Bali - When ASEAN leaders meet in Bali for their annual summit starting October 7, expect the continuing tug-of-war with Myanmar's ruling junta over opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to grab the headlines. Also count on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to give a farewell kiss to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who made enemies mainly outside the region. The now ritual denunciation of terrorism may have a new twist thanks to the US invasion of Iraq, the collapse of the latest Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, and the pique of Indonesia, the Philippines, and other member states that want a crack at alleged Jemaah Islamiya mastermind Hambali, being held in United States custody at an undisclosed location. ASEAN may have a useful role to play (though only if it does more than talk) in these areas. However, with nothing more than talk, the organization can play a useful role for members and stake out a global leadership position on privatization of government-owned enterprises. Privatization has all the sex appeal of a summit group photo in swimsuits, but the issue is becoming more important and controversial in member states. Active involvement from ASEAN can help governments overcome resistance to privatization by stripping away the local political dimensions to cast the issue in favorable terms.

Iron Lady and family silver - There are a lot of things not to like about privatization. For one thing, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher is the godmother of the phenomenon of selling state enterprises to private investors for cash. To many citizens, it seems that privatization is abandoning a function that is in government hands for good reason and should not be subject to the pressures of producing profits. (And there are some, such as police services, that should remain state functions.) In cases where state enterprises make money, it seems politicians are selling the family silver for selfish, shortsighted reasons. ASEAN governments tend to justify privatizations as means to narrow budget gaps. Indonesia, for example, aims to raise Rp6.1 trillion (US$720 million) this year and more than a $1 billion next year when it leaves its International Monetary Fund program and loses concessionary loan terms that come with it. This year's goal, scaled back from Rp8 trillion, remains nearly 60 percent unfulfilled. Indonesia's attempted sale of its largest cement company, Semen Gresik, to Mexico's Cemex has been a case study in all that can, and too often does, go wrong with privatization these days (see Indonesia gives up privatizing another asset, September 16). Failure to close the deal, five years in the making, cost the Indonesian government $525 million. Competing interests - The Semen Gresik deal failed because entrenched management, local politicians, and the labor force combined to derail it.

Those groups fear, often rightly, that they will lose from privatization. The case needs to be made for those who have something to gain. Opponents of privatization like to focus on investors as the beneficiaries. These villains, preferably foreigners or multinational corporations, want the business only for the profits they can disgorge, without consideration of the costs to local citizens. What opponents neglect is that continued state ownership routinely carries considerable costs to local citizens. Taxpayers foot the bill for money-losing state enterprises, their bloated management, inefficient labor, and generosity to political patrons. State ownership often entails monopoly; at the very least it creates an unfriendly atmosphere for competition featuring conflicts of interest between regulators and state enterprises that ultimately have the same boss. The greatest costs to consumers and national economies come from the usual poor levels of service, innovation, efficiency and value that state companies provide. That's because state companies are generally larded with people owing their positions to whom they know in the government, rather than what they know about the business. Their political masters expect various indulgences in return.

These may be as benign as jumping to the head of the line when boarding a state airline flight, or less innocent kickbacks on jet fuel, perhaps from the state oil company as well as the airline. Immunity and impunity - Without restraints from investors, competitors or effective government regulation, state companies can act with far greater impunity than private enterprises (see WHO's caught with the smoking gun? November 16, 2002). Those companies pose a real danger to consumers because they can function as a hidden and pernicious branch of the government, immune from controls, an avenue for politicians to meddle deeply with your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. That's the real argument for privatization, but it's not one that governments are generally willing to make, since they turn out to be the villains in the story. That's where ASEAN can help. ASEAN can make the argument for privatization on behalf of governments, acting as a non-partisan, honest broker.

It may choose to establish an expert panel or academics, business people and bankers, to consider each privatization on a case-by-case basis, and recommend just enough changes in structures or even reject a few deals to give itself credibility. Grounds for rejection could include the involvement of an unreformed state enterprise, though that might cause some family tension within ASEAN (see Singapore's capitalist myth, November 7, 2002). A simpler alternative would be to assemble a representative blue-ribbon panel to produce a white paper on privatization. That paper could include guidelines on valuation, strategic investors, performance and other requirements that need to be met to ensure that privatization serves the public interest. No matter what the form, member governments should let ASEAN demonstrate the real benefits of privatization and give them political cover to overcome opposition. Otherwise, they can expect to keep missing their privatization targets, leaving them and their citizens stuck with increasingly tarnished state silver. (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, 30 September 2003

Focus of Privatization Debate Shifts to Japan Post Finances

If it goes private, the Finance Ministry may also lose a massive funding source. With the launch of his new Cabinet, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's crusade to privatize Japan Post has entered a key phase. The question now is how to bolster the postal corporation's capital base-and how the government will cope once its longtime source of funds is in private hands. Japan Post, which began operation in April, manages 230 trillion yen in postal savings deposits and 120 trillion yen in postal life insurance policies. This huge pool of funds accounts for about 20 percent of Japan's total individual assets. One of the reasons postal deposits, in particular, have ballooned to such gargantuan proportions is because the government has traditionally guaranteed the principal. As a public corporation, Japan Post enjoys certain perks. It does not have to contribute to the insurance system that protects bank deposits, nor does it pay corporate taxes. The Japanese Bankers Association estimates Japan Post's favored status saved it 900 billion yen in fiscal 2002. If it goes private, Japan Post would see those privileges disappear.

The silver lining is that it would also be freed from regulations that cap individual deposits at 10 million yen. A banking industry official said Japan Post would be a financial colossus if it is privatized as is. Analysts, however, point to the fragility of the corporation's state-funded capital base. The ratio of Japan Post's capital to assets stands at a mere 0.3 percent, while the ratio for its postal savings operations is 0.6 percent. These figures are roughly equivalent to the capital adequacy ratio used to measure the financial health of private sector firms, especially banks. If Japan Post were a bank, however, it would fall far short of the 4 percent capital adequacy ratio required to operate domestically. Clearly something must be done to improve Japan Post's finances-officials just can't decide what. A Lower House committee on postal issues was divided last week on whether the corporation should bolster its capital or shrink its assets. Privatizing all three of Japan Post's arms-savings, life insurance and delivery-into a single entity would require an injection of public money, said a senior Japan Post official.

But critics say pumping large amounts of public capital into Japan Post defeats the purpose of streamlining postal operations and weaning the corporation off government reliance. One alternative has been proposed by Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) in its policy manifesto. The nation's biggest opposition party suggests lowering the cap on deposits and cutting life insurance holdings while the corporation is still a public entity-scaling back its assets, in effect, before the shock of going private. But the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, Koizumi's key policy panel, adopted five-point guidelines last week that oppose Minshuto's proposal. The panel advises Japan Post to leverage its nationwide network of post offices to move toward privatization, and calls for postal workers' jobs to be protected. Privatization also offers another dilemma: Should Japan Post continue to support state finances by buying huge swaths of government bonds?

According to Bank of Japan statistics, postal savings and life insurance funds have been used to buy 126 trillion yen in government bonds, representing one-fourth of the outstanding 536 trillion yen issued. The Finance Ministry used to manage postal deposit funds, but gave up that authority after being criticized for lending money to money-losing public corporations. The Postal Services Agency, the predecessor of Japan Post, started managing the funds on its own in April 2001. Until fiscal 2008, Japan Post will continue to purchase bonds from the ministry to provide funds for its fiscal investment and loan program. After that, the corporation will finally take control of all postal funds. Critics say a privatized Japan Post may be compromised by pressure to channel money to state coffers, since the government will have trouble finding such a massive capital source elsewhere. The government could retain control of Japan Post if the corporation is turned into a joint-stock company owned by the state. But postal minister Taro Aso has rejected such plans, saying the public may see it as an attempt to maintain the status quo.(IHT/Asahi: October 8,2003) (10/08)

From Asahi Shimbun, Japan, 9 October 2003

Success of Privatization Measured by Corporate Governance

Successful privatization can be accomplished with transparent corporate governance as has been found in numerous cases in foreign countries. In the process of its privatization, KT, Korea's largest telecommunications service provider, has implemented progressive corporate governance that complies with global standards. This was accomplished through a specialized management system that separated management from ownership. Supervisory Function of the Board - For the decentralization of power and transparent corporate governance, KT separates decision-making and execution by prohibiting the chief executive officer from taking the role of chairman of the board. Instead, a non-executive director will be elected to the chairman of the board. To strengthen the supervisory function of the board, KT hired more non-executive directors versus executive directors, with a present ratio of 9:6 (from a previous of 7:6). Not including financial institutions, this is the highest ratio among big Korean companies.

KT also provides non-executive directors with special rights such as the right to approve or veto CEO nominations and dismissal of executive directors, the right to impose a management target for the CEO, and the right to evaluate and decide the CEO's compensation. Efficient Operation of the Board - KT increased the proportion of non-executive directors on the board's internal committees. The company also introduced special committees to ensure the expertise and efficiency of the board. Additionally, KT holds more than 40 board meetings per year. Such meetings support the board in its function as a top decision-making organization. KT also designates foreign directors and increases management transparency to protect the interests of foreign investors. Establishing Specialized Management - Through the agreement reached between the CEO and CEO Nomination Committee, KT strengthens specialized management by separating management from ownership.

There is also a change in management contracts. Management objectives were given to improvements in the EVA, share value and the CVA. As a result, the weight of share value grew from 2 percent last year to 25 percent in 2003. Based on these management objectives, the CEO is required to contract with non-executive directors. Managers are paid incentives on performance basis. To increase the shareholders' value and to protect the interests of the minority, KT abolished share ownership restrictions in the articles of incorporation. What is more, KT introduced the cumulative voting system, which ensures the right to select directors based on the interest ratio of the minority. By introducing stock incineration and the interim dividend system under the consent of the board, the company strives to return management results to the shareholders and to accomplish shareholder-oriented management. KT was selected as the best company by the KSE in July 2002 and by The Asset magazine in December 2002 for such a display of transparent corporate governance.

From Korea Times, South Korea, 7 October 2003

India Seeks New Airport Privatization Policy

New Delhi - Flying to India? New Delhi or Mumbai? Whichever, passengers are likely to find Asia's dirtiest airports with the poorest infrastructure - from the shaky jetway tube from which they emerge to faded carpets, poor air conditioning, unreliable escalators and chaotic baggage-handling systems. India, struggling to meet an annual target of 3 million tourists, is failing miserably. Its airports are part of the problem. Despite the fact that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has US$219 million in fixed deposits and $288 million in reserves - and annual profit of $55 million - renovation of the airports it manages is at a standstill, even the busiest. AAI officials acknowledge that investment for renovation and upgrading airports has stalled in absence of any government policy to move forward. A series of ad hoc policy decisions nearly ruined India's two national flag carriers, India Airlines and Air India (see India's airlines in a tailspin, October 9). For want of a comprehensive policy to modernize its airports, India Inc is perpetuating a disastrous image. K Roy Paul, secretary of the Civil Aviation Ministry, says privatization of India's airports is a government priority but the government is waiting for suitable private partners who will agree to allow the government to continue to hold 26 percent of the shares in this lucrative business.

Privatization of India's two major airports - Indira Gandhi International in Delhi and Santa Cruz in Mumbai - may not be affected by the country's September 15 Supreme Court decision to stop the privatization of the two government-owned oil behemoths, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum, but the lack of a policy decision would. Roy Paul has the answer. He asserts that government will privatize nine other airports as well, besides upgrading the Delhi and Mumbai airports. The government placed a number of private airports under the AAI after running them itself in the same lackadaisical manner in which Indian Airlines and Air India were being managed. The difference is that while the airlines are cash-starved, AAI is flush with funds but not spending any. A change of heart by the Civil Aviation Ministry would mean shelling out $119.64 million annually for the upkeep of the airports and $986.84 million (Rs45 trillion) to upgrade Delhi airport alone. The AAI has allocated only $438.59 million. The rest has to come from private partners. The same amount has been allocated for the Santa Cruz airport modernization in Mumbai. The government's recent decision to privatize the airports runs counter to the decision made by its civil aviation minister, C M Ibrahim, who blocked a TATA-Singapore Airlines proposal to build a modern alternative airport for Bangalore, a sought-after destination because of its information-technology (IT) industry.

Not only was permission refused but the whole project was trashed. All these provide critics with ammunition to demonstrate that the Civil Aviation Ministry has never been beyond reproach. Earlier, another civil aviation minister was accused of taking kickbacks when Airbus Industrie and Boeing were seeking contracts to sell aircraft to Indian Airlines. Although Boeing was able to sell some of its smaller aircraft, it lost to Airbus on longer routes. Now it appears that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has had enough and has told the Civil Aviation Ministry that if India's 2020 vision targets are to be met, the ministry has to change its ways. A comprehensive aviation policy is to be announced by the end of this month or in early November spelling out all aspects from airport modernization and privatization to the privatization of the two national air carriers. Paul said, "The new policy will be the blueprint for major issues in the aviation sector such as foreign direct investment, the role of government-owned airlines, impact of the state policy on airlines, the scope of the operations by the private airlines operating under an ad hoc open-sky policy, and the need and the type of regulators required for the airports and airlines."

In an effort to make competition fair, the old rules of not permitting airports within 150 kilometers of another airport are also to come under review. One of the problems relates to airport design and the entry of foreign construction and design companies. The AAI, which built Dubai Airport more than 20 years ago, may claim its stake to modernize both the Delhi and Mumbai strips. However, inside sources say the government wants designs ready within a few months of the announcement of the new aviation policy. Many in the Ministry of Civil Aviation feel that the AAI may not able to come up with the kind of quick funds flow required to modernize and upgrade the Delhi airport. There is also the question of legal and other governmental and non-governmental roadblocks that could be thrown in the way of the airport modernization. There are considerable bureaucratic forces militating for the status quo ante, no matter how frustrating it is to tourism, just as there was considerable resistance to the privatization of Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum. Despite the government's highest-priority program to privatize the oil companies, privatization is stalled. It remains to be seen whether this one will stall too. Things have a way of going wrong in India's stifling bureaucracy.

From Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, by Arun Bhattacharjee, 10 October 2003

Health Workers Campaign Against Privatization

Newcastle - NSW Health and Research Employees Association (HREA) branches throughout the Hunter region have unanimously condemned the NSW Labor government's decision to privatise new facilities to be built at the Newcastle Mater Misericordia Hospital. Four-hour strikes have taken place at the James Fletcher Hospital, the Mater hospital and the John Hunter Hospital. Meetings are taking place between the union and government and 24-hour rolling strikes, on an area-by-area basis, have been proposed by the union if the government's response is inadequate. On October 8, 40,000 hospital staff across NSW stopped work for four hours. On August 29, the NSW health minister stated: "Under the public-private partnership approach we will be calling for expressions of interest for the private-sector construction, financing and operation of selected non-clinical services for the new facilities."

The HREA was informed of the plans only the day before the public announcement. HREA secretary Michael Williamson declared that "the manner and timing of this announcement has been absolutely atrocious... This is more than just a public-private financing initiative, it is a blatant attempt to privatise public sector jobs in the NSW health system and our members will not stand for it". The HREA represents staff involved in maintenance, cleaning and domestic services, waste management and utility supply, secretarial staff and allied health staff, such as psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers. The government is proposing that the private sector build and maintain new facilities on the Mater hospital site for the next 25 years. The government will pay the costs of the new facilities over those 25 years and provide a profit to the private consortium. The private company would employ the non-clinical hospital staff. Existing Mater staff have no way of knowing if they will be employed by the consortium or lose their jobs - or, if employed, whether they would lose their existing conditions.

The HREA has information that security services will also be contracted out. The HREA is also concerned about the implications of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal's "Focusing on Patient Care" report, which was requested by the NSW health department. The report proposes that "a new body, the Health Shared Services Corporation, be established to ensure corporate and other services currently provided by the area health services and statutory corporations are managed in the most cost effective manner. The current restrictions limiting contracting out or market testing for clinical services should be removed". It calls for a task force to be established to determine how this is to be done. The HREA believes this is, in effect, a proposal to privatise ambulance services. The NSW government has also entered into a similar private-public partnership for a correctional health facility at Little Bay in Sydney. Instead of selling off public assets to private corporations, governments should be reviewing taxation and revenue raising in order to expand and improve public health, ensuring high standards and optimal working conditions.

From Green Left Weekly, by Jane Beckman, 22 October 2003

Koizumi Defends Posts Privatization in LDP Manifesto

Tokyo - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday released a set of pledges in a campaign manifesto for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ahead of the Nov 9 general election, again defending commitments including his plan to privatize postal services in 2007. "The postal privatization has become a pledge of the party. It's not Koizumi's personal opinion any more," the premier told reporters in releasing the tract, which was finalized following disputes between him and heavyweights in his party. (Kyodo News)

From Japan Today, Japan, 14 October 2003

Public-Private Partnership

Islamabad - It was riveting to watch how parliamentarians negotiated the thin line between public policy and private self-interest. The coming cotton crop has been hit hard by a virus attack, compounded by man-made mismanagement which is conveniently being palmed off as 'natural calamity' by the government representatives. Spurred by APTMA's meetings with the Finance Ministry to secure subsidy in view of high cotton price and the likely loss in their profits due to bad crop, the treasury backbenchers from the cotton growing areas raised the gravity of the cotton crisis creditably in the House. It was actually quite a relief to hear a cogent argument in the assembly that was not forced to fizzle out after the first few minutes. At the start of the session it did look as if Tuesday would be a repeat of Monday, with the chair trying to better its own record of going through the agenda in record time. The Speaker did manage a first of sorts though, when a treasury backbencher tried to walk-out in protest against the way he was refused an opportunity to get a satisfactory answer from the parliamentary secretary for interior. "I am satisfied," the Speaker told him, adding the answer is important, not your satisfaction. It was, therefore, just as well that Chaudhry Ameer Hussain decided to retire to his chamber, giving the chair to Mr. Zahid Hamid, to conduct the business, who did a good job.

The subject, cotton crisis, was a serious one and needed uninterrupted attention of the chair and the House. Given to frequent interruptions that he is, Ch Ameer Hussain might not have helped the debate along. As it is MNA Makhdoom Alam Anwar, who discussed the cotton crisis during an adjournment motion, was "astonished and surprised" at his fellow parliamentarians who were "constantly disturbing" him. It was almost comic the way parliamentarians would keep raising trivial issues, making him lose his train of thought. There was one MNA from Karachi who interrupted him belligerently, for having "talked for more than fifteen minutes" when there were other important issues such as the status of women to be discussed. A free-for-all was averted by the acting Speaker who reminded the House that two hours had been allocated for the debate on cotton. In any case, Alam Anwar was a determined man. Since he had done his homework and the matter was close to his heart and coffers, he made sense despite the disruptions. He spoke eloquently on the plight of the farmers hit by the cotton virus and stressed on the need to develop a dynamic agri policy that controls the current damage, institutes strict integrated pest management, and increases yield per acre by improving research in this crop.

He was supported by young Khusro Bakhtiar and Hina Rabbani Khar, both of whom spoke well. Bakhtiar had a some strong figures which would have sounded just as effective had he lowered his pitch by an octave or two. The interplay of vested interests and lobbies in the Tuesday session was an educative on. It was clear though that parliamentarians from rural constituencies were wary of the government-APTMA meetings, fearing that they would lose against the textile lobby if they did not make a strong case now. Also now that the crop is hit - although the overall loss may be restricted to around 5 lac bales, as reported by this paper - and government negligence quite evident, decisions such as Taskforce on Cotton could be obtained as also some extra sympathies. These could be, as they suggested, in the form of deferred loan payments with no interest. They were lucky that Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz was present in the House, for their clear words that any subsidy to the APTMA would be treated as a tax on the public and hence can only be allowed if the house permits it were heard by the relevant pair of ears.

Effective words, for the Finance Minister made it a point to meet all the cotton-belt MPs and spent quite some time sitting next to Makhdoom Alam Anwar; such being his charms when he got up the Makhdoom had a big smile on his face. So either the APTMA gets a regret letter, or both cotton farmers and textile owners get relief. In the past the governments have been playing lobbies such as APTMA and cotton growers against each other. The decision of course should be in the interest of the larger population, but even that is not without its dangers because in the last few years all unpopular actions - such as every increase in utilities - have been taken in the name of public interest. By the by, one wonders if small farmers had taken any credit lines from banks that the big cotton growers want to be deferred. TAILPIECE: Even in the US there is government intervention in agriculture for optimal design of institutions. We of course leave everything to the market. The government has reduced its role in the agri market such as pesticides, seeds, insecticides, fertilisers, tools, etc. The crop failure shocks clearly show that either the new systems are not in place or aren't efficient enough. If the Jamali-government has some fiscal space then it should be used to come up with a strong agriculture growth strategy. Rural poverty alleviation was once big on General Musharraf's agenda.

From Hi Pakistan, Pakistan, 22 October 2003

 

France Interested in Privatization of Bulgarian Electricity Distribution Companies

Sofia - French Ambassador Jean-Loup Kuhn-Delforge said Wednesday his country is interested in the privatization of Bulgaria's electricity distribution companies. "France is interested in the opportunity to invest in the electricity distribution companies of Bulgaria," the private BGNES news agency quoted Delforge as saying during a visit to the Black Sea port of Varna. Delforge said that the energy ministers of the two countries have recently discussed the issue. The government has put for sale 67% stakes in each of its seven electricity distribution companies earlier this year in a move to deregulate the country's energy sector.

From Bulgarian News Network, Bulgaria, 1 October 2003

Privatization of Power Producer Resumes

The privatisation of a 49-percent stake in Slovak power utility Slovenské Elektrárne (SE) will be announced in print media next week. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) is the official privatisation advisor to the government on this sale, news wire TASR reported. Nine companies have already expressed interest in bidding for what will be a controlling stake, and a shortlist of the initial offers should be known by the end of the year. The announcements will appear in British daily The Financial Times, Germany's Handelsblatt, and Slovakia's Hospodárske noviny. The Economy Ministry decided on the date of publication earlier this week, with the approval of new Economy Minister and ANO party leader Pavol Rusko. It remains unclear whether SE, Slovakia's largest company, will be sold as a whole or without its nuclear arm. Whereas Czech CEZ company is ready to acquire the entire company, its eight rivals are looking to buy a restructured company with only non-nuclear operations. Shortlisted bidders will be invited to perform due diligence, before submitting final offers. Among the potential bidders are Germany's E.ON, Electricite de France, British Energy, International Power (UK), Enel (Italy) and Electrabel (Belgium). Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports. The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, 3 October 2003

Belarus May Compromise Over Beltransgaz Privatization

Minsk - Belarus may reach a compromise during the next round of talks with Gazprom on the privatization of Beltransgaz, the republic's Energy Minister Pyotr Zhabko said. He said that active work is being carried out in this direction. In particular, he said that it is highly likely that the market value of Beltransgaz will be reduced. He also did not rule out that Belarus would not continue to insist on the Russian side including the Belarussian section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline in the charter capital of the gas transportation company being set up. As reported earlier, in line with agreements a joint gas transportation company based on Beltransgaz with Gazprom participation should have been set up by July 1, 2003. The Belarussian government proposed to Gazprom to set up a joint venture under the following conditions. Gazprom should increase supplies of Russian gas to Belarus at Russian domestic prices, Belarus should own controlling shares in the venture, the Gazprom shares are to be sold at a price set by the Belarussian government (Belarus estimated 100% of Beltransgaz shares at $5 billion). In addition, the venture should invest $1.7 billion of its own funds in the Belarussian gas transportation system. Gazprom should transfer the Belarussian section of the Yamal-Europe pipeline as a contribution to the payment for the shares.

In turn, Gazprom is insisting that the Russian side own not less than 50% of the charter capital of the venture, and that it acquire this at market price. Gazprom calculated that this is close to the nominal share price (100% of shares - $600 million). Gazprom has also said that it is necessary to give the joint company the right to sell 50% of its gas to large consumers under direct contracts. Payment for the Gazprom share in the joint venture should be made in cash and by the payment of debt for gas supplies. Gazprom does not foresee the inclusion of the Belarussian section of the Yamal-Europe pipeline in the deal and subsidized gas supplies to Belarus are planned at current levels. In mid-September the Russian government cancelled its recommendation to Gazprom to set, from May 1, 2002, gas prices for supplies to Belarus at the level of wholesale prices for the fifth price range in Russia. During recent talks between Gazprom and Beltransgaz, the Belarussian side proposed to Gazprom to increase supplies of gas to Belarus in 2004 from 10.2 bcm at present to 18.5 bcm. The Russian side proposed to increase the price of gas for Belarus from $30 per 1,000 cubic meters at the moment to $80 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2004.

From Interfax, Belarus, 6 October 2003

Unified Energy Systems of Russia Heading for Privatization

The long process of privatizing Unified Energy System (UES), one of the world's largest electricity utilities, and one of the last of the former Soviet Union's socialist economy enterprises, is under way. In order to meet future demand, the Russian power sector is in urgent need of modernization, which in turn requires huge foreign investment. UES produces 70% of Russia's power. The utility has a generating capacity of 156,000MW-almost as large as that of Germany and Britain combined. The Russian government plans to break it up and sell the restructured components, although the transmission grid will remain in state hands. At present, 38 federal power plants and the national transmission grid fall under the UES umbrella. The state-owned enterprise also has an average 49% stake in 73 regional power utilities. The government has a 52% holding in UES, while foreign portfolio investors hold around 20%. Russian companies have also made strategic investments in UES regional utilities.

In the past four years, we have turned UES round," says Anatoly Chubais, Chairman and Chief Executive. "We have introduced corporate governance in the company. We used to receive 80% of our payments through barter, now we are properly paid 100%. We had huge wage problems, but these no longer exist. We are paying our wages and taxes, and we have no unregulated debt to Gazprom (the Russian gas company) or nuclear power plants at all."Mr. Chubais adds, "We want to create competition within the generating sector of the market, because as long as you keep a monopoly, the only way to set prices is on a cost-plus basis." He says it is inevitable that price rises will occur over the next few years. "We will use this time to prepare the whole system for real restructuring and liberalization, which will not happen before 2005." Once there is competition in the market, prices will drop, he believes. "Unfortunately, it is very difficult to convince people that prices will fall in 2006, when they are paying more now." Mr. Chubais has been in talks with his energy counterparts in the United States. "It has been agreed that U.S.-Russian cooperation in energy, particularly in the electricity sector, ought to become one of the chief factors contributing to the strengthening of cooperation between the two countries," he points out.

From SRiMedia, UK, 7 October 2003

Polish State Savings Bank PKO BP's Privatization on Track for Q2-Q3 2004 Public Float

Warsaw. - Polish state retail banking giant PKO BP's privatization via the sale of a minority stake on the Warsaw bourse is now expected to take place in the second or third quarters of 2004, bank president Andrzej Podsiadlo said Thursday of the oft-delayed process. "I hope this attempt to privatize our bank will be a successful one. Although the privatization method will depend on the suggestions made by the to-be-selected privatization adviser, we are now considering the flotation of a minority stake in the second or third quarters of 2004," Podsiadlo said. The sale would be aimed at chosen small financial investors instead of at a strategic investor, Podsiadlo said. On October 10, Poland began another crack at finding a privatization adviser, putting the deadline for bids at November 24. A previous tender was cancelled after the exclusion of a common offer from PKO BP's own brokerage house and CSFB left only one other eligible bidder, Citigroup Global Markets Polska with the Bank Handlowy brokerage house. PKO BP is Poland's biggest bank on assets of PLN 86.4 bln at end-September and runs by far the country's largest retail chain. The bank's net profit was flat year on year at PLN 994 mln in the first nine months of 2003 against a year earlier. PKO BP has held onto guidance that it will surpass its record-high PLN 1.06 bln profit in 2002.

From Interfax, Poland, 24 October 2003

 

Hospital Privatization Plan Draws Ire

The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs, and Health Committee fiercely attacked the government on Wednesday for its plans to close or privatize state-owned geriatric hospitals and to shut down the Abarbanel psychiatric hospital. Committee chairman MK Shaul Yahalom called on the Treasury to drop the plans, saying that impartial experts had called the budget-cutting measures "dangerous and irresponsible." MK Ilana Cohen, a nurse by profession, initiated the committee's discussions. Of the government's intention to close the Flieman geriatric hospital in Haifa and privatize two others, she said, "For the Treasury, a dead patient is a profitable patient." Health Ministry director-general Dr. Boaz Lev said the proposed moves would harm the country's geriatric nursing infrastructure. Flieman, he added, did not lose money until recently, when Clalit Health Services stopped purchasing services from the hospital. A Netanya geriatric center, which the Treasury wants to privatize, continues to cover its expenses even today, Lev said. Flieman director-general Prof. Amos Gilhar said the decision to close the center was made even before members of a state-appointed committee visited it.

Patients who were moved out of the hospital suffered serious harm, according to a quality of life study at the hospital: only one out of 20 patients has received rehabilitation worthy of the name. Dr. Aharon Cohen, head of the Health Ministry's geriatric services, added that since 28% of all the elderly in Israel live in Haifa and the north, closing Flieman would have devastating effects. There will be 1 million elderly in Israel by 2020, said Dr. Shai Brill, chairman of the Geriatricians Association. "The Treasury wants to save money, but that means less treatment. There are no magic solutions. The push to save money has caused the health funds to move patients from public to cheaper private institutions, and that move has caused deficits in the public hospitals." Meanwhile, Yahalom declared that Abarbanel Hospital was "not ripe" for closure because there are no alternate arrangements for the psychiatric patients there.

Hospital director Dr. Motto Mark, who previously headed the Health Ministry's psychiatric services, said that the district geriatric office didn't find a single elderly patient who could be moved to a non-psychiatric ward. The psychiatric field is the most neglected in the health system, charged Prof. Eli Shamir, chairman of Otzma, the national forum of families of psychiatric patients. The health funds were told by the government to take over care of mental patients, who were the responsibility of the Health Ministry, starting June 1 of this year, but nothing was carried out because the insurers did not receive extra state funds. Meanwhile, the Knesset committee approved regulations that would require Israel Defense Forces career soldiers to pay health taxes to the National Insurance Institute totalling 3.1% of their income up to half of the average wage in the economy. Soldiers in the standing army are exempt from the taxes, but the professional army's exemption was cancelled. The payment rate is significantly below that paid by civilians (4.8%) because the health services provided by the IDF are less generous than those available outside the IDF.

From Jerusalem Post, Israel, by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, 1 October 2003

Jordan's e-Government Program Dialogues with the Private Sector Share Successes and Challenges with Local Firms

Intaj hosted a 'Jordan e-Government Program' workshop today with the aim of facilitating dialogue between local IT firms and the Jordan e-Government Program. This workshop comes as part of the Jordan e-Government Program's efforts to communicate program objectives and goals, and share with the industry the challenges being faced in implementing e-Government across government. The Jordan e-Government Program aims at contributing to Jordan's economic and social development by providing access to Government electronic services and information for all citizens in the Kingdom, irrespective of location, economic status, IT literacy, and educational background. 'Jordan's e-Government model is not replicated from other national programs. It is a truly unique Jordanian model that builds on best practices from around the world' stated Mahmoud Khasawneh, Chief Information Officer and Head of e-Government. 'Our emphasis has been on equipping qualified subject matter experts in the area of program management, technology, and change management, with the goal of developing and supporting e-Government operations and management'. Team members from the e-Government Program Management Office updated the local ICT industry on the role of the Program Management Office, which provides support and capability to Government departments for the coordination of management, implementation and interoperability of e-services.

Nadia Naber, Quality Assurance Director of the PMO highlighted that the Program Management Office 'aims to support other ministries and communicate the standards and methodology to support consistency in operations across government'. Emphasizing the program's objective of successfully delivering e-Government initiatives and projects through dedicated project managers, Mr. Khasawneh highlighted the progress of select e-services in the Kingdom. Ms. Fatima Abdel-Rahim, e-Services Manager added that 'we are now in the process of development and implementation of key citizen services, including income tax, drivers and vehicle licensing, land and surveys, and borders and residency service'. Updating other developments, Khasawneh added that 'We have created operations at the National Information Technology Center, and it is a great source of pride that this center is being run by a local company, and not a global entity with a call center that is introducing the concept of customer services to government'. The PMO team shared the strategy towards the development of the e-Government portal, emphasizing that 100 government agencies have been scanned with content gathered, developed the look and feel of the site, and that content managers across government have been assigned.

Fadi Mari, Government Portal Project Manager, highlighted that the various private sector companies working with the PMO on the implementation of the portal 'have been working together as one team', and that the aim of the portal was to 'facilitate citizen access to e-services'. The PMO team also updated the sector on the various projects including e-procurement and e-accounting, the secure government network currently connecting six ministries, as well as other shared services. Not neglecting to mention the real challenges in implementing e-Government in Jordan, Mr. Khasawneh also shared with the local IT industry the challenge of implementing e-Government in Jordan, including staffing, technology, program management, change management, communications, and readiness and acceptance challenges. Following the presentation, an interactive discussion came about during the Q&A part of the workshop. Members of the IT community addressed thoughts regarding the accomplishments of the program since the adoption of the e-Government initiative in 2000. In response, e-Government Team Members informed the IT Community that the e-Government program has progressed immensely, in terms of building the infrastructure for a secure government network; ICT training for government employees; building awareness and changing processes, all of which have been accomplished in accordance with the proposed work plan of the program. In closing, Mr. Khasawneh highlighted the future business model for identifying the next wave of e-services and the growing maturity of government operation services that will be offered through subscription models and/or driven by e-services.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 7 October 2003

Lebanon Launches Tender for the Privatization of Mobile Telephone Sector

HSBC said that Lebanon has launched an auction and tender process for the privatization of the mobile telephone sector in the country aimed at helping deal with a more than $30 billion public debt, Reuters reported. HSBC added that a short list of participants were invited to start a 60-day review period and a selection of finalist bidders is expected by the end of the year. According to HSBC, telecoms are potentially Lebanon's most valuable state asset, indicating that it wants $3 billion from privatizing mobile phones, possibly through the sale of two 20-year mobile licenses.

From MENAFN, Africa 17 October 2003

 

No Privatization of Any Part of New Health Center

Parry Sound - The Chief Executive Officer of the West Parry Sound Health Centre is assuring the community that no part of the new West Parry Sound Health Centre will be privatized. The issue came up at a provincial all candidates meeting here on September 24. A supporter of Green Party candidate Glen Hodgson alleged that the long-term care component of the new health centre was going to be operated privately, and said that none fund raising for the facility should be going to a private company. "There is no private, for-profit component in the construction of the new West Parry Sound Health Centre," said Norman Maciver in a news release. "The West Parry Sound Health Centre and Lakeland Long-Term Care are publicly owned corporations. While co-located, they are separately funded through the Ministry of Health. They are required to have separate public boards. "The West Parry Sound Health Centre is deeply appreciative of the widespread community support for the new West Parry Sound Health Centre. The health centre remains committed to publicly owned, not-for-profit, health care for West Parry Sound." The three founding members of the volunteer Lakeland Long-Term Care Board, Barbara Cardy, Reverend Larry Freeman and Len Yauk, remain committed to a co-located, separately managed long term care facility, the news release said. "The new hospital will have a publicly funded and accessible CT Scanner owned by the health centre. All funds raised by the hospital foundation are use