ISSUE 54
September 2003
 
 
   
    Nigeria: Government to Begin E-Governance in 2008
South Africa: New Wits Principal Promises Reform
South Africa: Managers Urged to Work Towards Integrated Public Service
Swaziland: Economic Recovery Tied to Political Reform
Uganda: Reform Wants an End to Public Waste
   
    Australia: Ministers' Staff Must Be Accountable, Inquiry Told
South Korea: Government Draws Plan to Reform Labor
China: Bill Approved to Streamline Pensions for Civil Servants
China: Education Minister Says Reform Process Must Continue
China: China to Enhance Cooperation with Czech Republic in Public Administration
Tailand: Still Much to Do on Education Reform
Bangladesh: Regulating Public Construction Works
Japan: Takenaka's Fate Is Test of Japan's Reform Resolve
   
    UK: Poor Pay and Conditions Damaging Public Sector Reform
Italy: Berlusconi, Teachers Real Players in Reform
Italy: WTO: CAP Reform Might Not Suffice, Says Confagricoltura
Greece: The ND Program on Public Administration
   
    Middle East: WB Calls for Better Public Governance in Middle East
Syria: Bashar Names New PM to Speed Up Reform
Israel: Public Administration Employs 5,300 Foreign Workers
   
    USA: Women Advocate Urges for Public Policy on C-sections
USA: 'National Security' Part Of Bush Plan To Gut Civil Services
USA: Evans: E-gov More than Automation
USA: More Reform Urged at Signing of Juvenile Justice Act
USA: Lawmakers Unveil Education Reform Plan
Canada: Quebec Premier Charest Wants Private Sector Involved in Public Services
USA: Former President Ford to Attend Dedication of New Public Policy Building Site
Canada: Whistleblowers Need Protection: Public Servant
   
    Democracy and Mobocracy - The Future of Freedom
 
   
    Kenya: Local Government Minister Maitha Must Quit Over Corruption, Say MPs
Lesotho: Commission of Inquiry to Fight Corruption in Lesotho
Zimbabwe: Parliament Ratifies Protocol Against Corruption
Liberia: From the Agreement - a Guide for Good Governance
Nigeria: Respected Economist to Tackle Nigeria's Corruption
Nigeria: NEPA, Corruption and Inefficiency
Nigeria: Ogun Obas to Obasanjo: Be Aggressive On Corruption
Zambia: Mwanawasa to Continue War on Corruption
Zambia: Anti-corruption Commission Arrests Donald Chanda for Theft of Public Funds
   
    India: PM's Action Plan for Good Governance
Australia: MP Lashes Out at Corruption Watchdog
India: Anti-Corruption Bureau Arrests Inspector, Constable in Pune
Bangladesh: Globalisation and Appropriate Governance: Bangladesh Perspectives
Pakistan: Treasury Seeks Corruption Record of Opposition
Bangladesh: Specialist Expressed Doubt on the Proposed Anti-Corruption Commission in Curbing Corruption
Australia: Corruption Fighter Gets Top Legal Job
Bangladesh: Anti-Corruption Commission 'Chief Justice Should Head Selection Body'
India: Now, Modi's Mum on Good Governance
Pakistan: Corruption-Free Society Aim Of MMA Government: Kanju
China: Fight Against Corruption Not Yet Won: Interview
   
    Bulgaria: WB Grant Assists Bulgaria in Tackling Corruption
Balkans: Balkans now stable but must fight corruption - NATO
UK: Public Sector Targets 'Should Be Set Locally'
Bulgaria: Customs Officers Top Bulgaria's Corruption Ranking
Romania: Romania Receives Praise for Corruption Fight
EU: Good Governance and Corruption
Turkey: Civil Law Convention on Corruption
   
    USA: Blagojevich Hopes New Office will Fix Corruption
USA: More Than 150 Government Workers in State Face Corruption Counts
 
   
    Nigeria: Agagu to Revitalise Civil Service
Zambia: Zambia Warns Civil Servants - Government Calls for End to Strike
Zambia: Civil Servants Ready for a Showdown With Government
South Africa: East Cape Ex-Civil Servants to Get Their Pensions
Zimbabwe: Civil Service Overhaul Long Forgotten
   
    Fiji: Week-long Celebrations for Public Service in Fiji
Bangladesh: Politicisation of Civil Service Reason for Corruption
China: Macao Civil Servants Obliged to Declare Wealth
Singapore: Civil Servants Not Likely to Have Special Bonus this Year: DPM Lee
South Korea: Civil Servants to Get 5-Day Workweek in 2005
Australia: Scholarships for Public Servants
China: China's Civil Servants 'Don't Deserve Raise'
Malaysia: Graft Rampant in Some Sectors of Civil Service
South Korea: Civil Service Jobs Flooded by Applicants
Australia: Bureaucrat Dismisses Claims Public Servants Are Withholding Advice
Malaysia: Civil Service Seen as Corrupt, Says Report
Malaysia: Extra Bonus, Flexi Hours for Civil Servants
Australia: Public Servants Join Pay Queue
Japan: Government OKs Record-high Wage Cuts for Civil Servants
Australia: Public Servants Demand Pay Boost
Malaysia: PM Pays Tribute to Civil Servants for Their Dedication
Malaysia: Give Pak Lah Full Support, PM Tells Civil Servants
Indonesia: Indonesia's Phantom Civil Servants
Australia: Public Servants Want 25 Percent Pay Rise
   
    UK: Civil Service to Take Control of Blair's Advisers
Turkey: We Cannot Agree to Public Servants' Demands: Sahin
UK: Investment in Recycling Needs To Be Tripled
UK: Public Services Pay 'Must Top Forum Agenda'
UK: 20,000 Civil Service Jobs May Be Lost
UK: Study Points Civil Servants Towards the Regions
UK: Watchdog Attacks PM's Rules on Advisers
UK: More Civil Service Staff Facing Move
Ireland: Civil Servant Wins €40,000 in Age Discrimination Case
   
    Israel: Budget Includes 2,500 Public Service Lay-offs in 2004
Saudi Arabia: 40% of Public Servants Are Smokers
   
    USA: Contractor Workforce Grows as Civil Service Shrinks
USA: 'National Security' Part Of Bush Plan To Cut Civil Services
USA: Utility Regulators Meet to Confront Ethics Issues - Corporate Gifts Are Status Quo, Report Says
Canada: Public Servants Honoured at Inaugural Awards Event
Venezuela: Revenge Haunts Public Servants in Venezuela
USA: Goodyear Honors Public Servants with Memorial
 
   
    Nigeria: Government Should Consider E-Governance - Nel
Nigeria: Phantom Pensioners and the Public Service
South Africa: 'Public service success'
   
    Asia-Pacific E-governments 'on Right Track', Says IDC
Brunei: Identifying New Measures for Management in Civil Service
Papua New Guinea: PM Opposes Aussie Expats in Public Service
Japan/China: Hitachi, Chinese University to Jointly Develop E-government Business
India: Conference on E-governance
Pakistan: E-governance: Solution to Government Citizen Interaction
Brunei: Public Servants Use Urban Services To Reach Sustainability
China: Hitachi Primes JV for Chinese E-gov Market
Malaysia: Money Game: Samsudin at Forefront of E-Government, Promises More
Australia: Airline to Push for More Public Service Bookings
New Zealand: Fighting Over Public Service Attacks Continues
India: Risk-share Formulas for Private Role in Public Services
Viet Nam: HCM City Boosts IT Investments with Focus on E-government
   
    Italy: E-Governemnt - Projects for 125 Milllion Euro (Including Digital TV)
UK: Civil Servants' Families Could Test Government Websites
UK: Civil Servant to Head Government PR
UK: Question Time for Local E-government
UK: Unions Given Voice on Public Services in UK
UK: E-government Eases Home Buying Process
Bulgaria: IBM to Assist Building Bulgaria's E-government
UK: Unions Given Voice on Public Services in UK
UK: Barber Makes Public Services Plea to Blair
UK: Labour's Control Obsession "Stifles" Public Services
UK: Livingstone Judged Most Influential Figure in Britain's Public Services
UK: Spotlight on E-services
UK: Public Services Failing Disabled Children, Claims Watchdog
EU: Liikanen Alludes to Content of Forthcoming E-government Communication
UK: Windfall Reward for E-government Pioneers
UK: New Body Supports Public Service Co-ops
UK: McConnell Defends Low-key Public Service Reforms
Switzerland: Swiss Launch E-government Initiative
EU: Commission Presents 18 Actions to Speed up E-government
France: Raffarin Faces E-frustration
   
    UAE: Dubai eGovernment Gears to Deliver Messages on Mobile Devices Via Dedicated Portal
   
    USA: Bush Selects Career Civil Servant As New E-gov Leader
USA: Companies to Commemorate 9/11 With Day of Public Service
USA: Lucas Co. Treasurer Receives Award for E-government Work
Canada: Forget PS Reform, Live with the Mess
USA: Web site Merges Public, Private Sectors to Market Office Spaces
USA: Central Vermont Public Service Ratings Upgraded by Fitch
USA: Maine Public Service Implements Long-Term Interest Management Initiative
USA: Utility Fights State over Reform Order
USA: Senate Committee Holds Firm on E-Gov Fund for Fiscal 2004
USA: Public Service Enterprises Downgraded to "Equal Weight"
USA: The New City Public Service Command Center Is Designed to Endure the Worst Weather
USA: Health Site Earns Top Marks in E-gov User Satisfaction Survey
USA: Government Websites Evolve to Rival Private Sector
USA: Fourth Annual 'E-Government' Survey: Readability Is Problem for State, Federal Government Web Sites
USA: Gov Sites Gaining in Consumer Satisfaction
USA: E-Gov Sites Rate High Customer-Satisfaction Scores
   
    Global E-government
E-Government Projects Attract Foreign Investment
Global E-government
Global E-government
Global E-government
E-government Speeds up for Europe & South Africa
Global E-government
 
   
    Malawi: Parliament Questions Government's Financial Prudence
   
    China: IMF Chief Confident of China's Economic Growth
Bangladesh: Saifur Asks Bankers Ensure Good Governance in Lending System
India: UP, Bihar Lead Reform Execution
Pakistan: IMF Team Urges Government to Ensure Transparency in Use of Funds
Bangladesh: Public Funds To Go To Private Banks: Saifur
South-East Asia: Public Finance in South-East Asia - Hey, Big Spender
India: Centre to Bankroll State Reforms
   
    Czech Republic: Social Democratic MPs Submit Demands for Changes to Government's Public Finance Reform Plan
France: France in Choppy Waters at EU Finance Ministers' Lakeside Retreat
UK: Effective Public Finance Must Be Based on a Definition of Need
   
    Brazil: Brazil Stocks Trade Sideways Despite Tax Reform Vote
USA: The Laffer Curve, As a Public Service
USA: Tax Reform Commission Sets Two Town Meetings
USA: Tax Windfall to Finance State Effort to Diversity Economy
USA: Huffington Proposes Public Finance Initiative
 
   
    Japan: JH to Review Toll Discount System for Privatization
South Korea: New Rush to Privatization
Pakistan: PC Realizes Rs 7.6 Billion Through Privatization
India: Corruption Advisory for Corporate India
Hong Kong: Government Mulling Bond Issue As Part Of Privatization Plans
Pakistan: Pakistan to Hold Investment Conferences in Japan
Bangladesh: Privatization Protest Hits Bangladesh
Philippines: Privatization of City's Economic Enterprises Not Mandatory - Teo
Indonesia: Indonesia Pertamina/Directors: Part Of Privatization
Japan: Ministry Spurns Privatization, Plans to Keep Final Say on Roads
Japan: Privatization Woes Unlikely to End
   
    Bulgaria: Bulgaria Failed to Complete 28 Privatization Deals Jan-June
Ukraine: Parliament Considers Draft Program for Privatization in 2003-2008
Italy: Italy Moving Ahead with Privatization of Alitalia
Russia: Privatization Results Won't Be Reviewed
   
    Lebanon: International Banker Calls for Privatization
   
    USA: Seniors Will Converge on Washington to Oppose Privatization of Medicare; Their Message to Congress: Improve Rx Bills or Let Them Die
USA: WateReuse Association Recognizes Beneficial Water Reuse Program at Honolulu Treatment Plant; Water for Irrigation and Manufacturing Provided by Unique Reclaim Plant
USA: Court Sets Rules on Privatizing Services - It Imposes Limits on Civil Service Panel
Canada: New Poll Says Public Wants to See Privatization Deals
USA: Detroit Union Seeks Privatization Law
Canada: NDP Rips Tories over Privatization
USA: Medicare Privatization Not a Sure Thing
USA: Medicare: Privatization Is the Key
USA: Police Unions to Fight Prison Privatization
USA: NYSE Faces Governance Question
   
    World Bank Wronged Over Privatization
 

Government to Begin E-Governance in 2008

Abuja - The Federal Government plans to commence e-government in 2008, the Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has revealed. Speaking at the launch of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) website in Abuja, yesterday, he said that the Federal Government recognised the role of Information Technology (IT) in modern business and public administration and was therefore prepared to squarely face the challenges. "Government will continue to support the introduction of on-line system to all government services and we are determined that, by 2008, most government services would be accessible on-line," he said. The e-government project of the Federal Government being anchored by the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) suffered a major setback, last year, when the staff of NICON Insurance resisted a presidency directive, asking the National Planning Commission to take over the NICON Plaza, located in the Central Business District, of Abuja. The National Planning, then under Dr. Magnus Kpakol, the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, insisted on the property as a suitable edifice was made a pre-condition for the release of a grant provided by the European Union for e-government in Nigeria.

The row between the two organizations led to the suspension of the NICON Managing Director, Ms. Pricilla Saores who has since been recalled. Vice President Abubakar said yesterday, the present administration would identify some key areas that needed to be changed for the realization of the on-line project. "We would therefore concentrate on putting in place new incentives, levers and institutional structures to make sure this transformation includes new funding and sharpened financial incentives to promote electronic service delivery, and the creation of a government incubator to develop new service ideas", he said. Earlier, the Direct-General (D-G) of the BPE, Dr. Julius Bala, said that the organization operates in "a highly networked IT-environment that is primed to provide the International Best Practice that is required to meet the challenges of the new technology".

He disclosed that the BPE web was re-designed to meet international investors community standards with which they are familiar and comfortable. "It has been designed to be a credible, trusted and helpful source of information, not just on the privatization programme, but also on other issues on Nigeria", the D-G explained. He added that the web team that designed it focused on the definition of web content, graphics, interfaces and features around the site's target audience which are the staff, Nigerian citizens, civil servants, potential investors, government agencies, Nigerians in diaspora, donor agencies, international community, researchers and students. Dr. Bala who promised to set the pace in the public sector on-line programme said that BPE would become a paperless office by 2007. BPE"s immediate task he said remained the unbundling of NEPA, the sale of majority shares in the refineries, and the Initial Public Offer of NITEL.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Emma Ujah, 26 August 2003

New Wits Principal Promises Reform

Johannesburg - The newly installed University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor and principal Loyiso Nongxa says one of his main challenges is to broadening access to higher education while keeping standards high. This is a formidable challenge as the country spends more than R1,3bn a year on students who fail. Nongxa said recently there was a universally held belief that broadening access to education resulted in a drop in standards. He said the large number of students did not finish their studies was unacceptable and indefensible. Solving the problem of dropouts would come in the form of sophisticated admissions procedures, innovations in teaching and learning and family and community support, he said. "Past performance should not be the sole criterion in admitting students into our programmes. We should not be afraid or ashamed of emphasising the educational value of diversity in higher education," he said. Nongxa said the country should look seriously into analysing the tons of data that had been generated in universities and technikons over the years to find the programmes that had been successful.

He said SA needed to introduce all successful programmes in the country's teaching and learning programmes. Nongxa said SA's higher education institutions should also strive to reflect a future society which derived its strengths from its rich diversity of beliefs, language and religion. "In my view, the Wits graduate will be not only to be well trained but he or she will also be to be comfortable and self-assured in a diverse workplace." The university's transformation drive should be accompanied by an emphasis on raising the bar with regard to performance and improving service excellence and quality, he said. "Our transformation agenda should be forward looking and be about redress. "It should address the creative tensions between access or success or between excellence and equity. South African Universities Vice-Chancellors' Association CEO Piyushi Kotecha said that Nongxa's 10-year term showed that the university believed he could steer the institution to greater heights.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ernest Mabuza, 11 September 2003

Managers Urged to Work Towards Integrated Public Service

Pretoria - Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi has urged senior managers within the public service to continue to work towards the goal of an integrated public service. She also urged the managers to actively promote the integration of their work within their respective departments, between their departments and other departments as well as with other spheres of government. The minister was speaking this morning during the Senior Management Service Conference in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. The theme of the conference is: 'the integration of the public service'. Ms. Fraser-Moleketi said issues of integration and coordination in government were perennial and had been the topic for much debate, discussion and structuring considerations. 'Integrated and coordinated government is of fundamental importance since it holds the key to unlocking effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery,' she said, adding that it held the potential to remove unnecessary duplication and improved the use of scarce resources.

The minister said the most significant area of integration was perhaps the establishment of a 'single public service'. 'The creation of a single public service as is intended in the Constitution is firmly on the political agenda,' she said. She said the 'single public service' referred to an integrated public service consisting of all three spheres of government. She said, the two main objectives in uniting all three spheres of government were to enable government to address the problems associated with fragmentation in government and to allow mobility of staff between the spheres, ultimately resulting in a more equitable distribution of skills. This to the benefit of local government in particular. 'Before we can bring about a single public service, we must therefore harmonise conditions of service between the spheres of government,' added the Minister. She added that research had shown that there were significant discrepancies between the public service and local government, and even more significant discrepancies between municipalities themselves.

The minister cited the development of interim measures to assist departments that were already required to transfer staff between the spheres as another important intervention required. She said currently the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry was transferring staff from national government to local government and the Department of Health was transferring staff from local government to provincial government. However, she acknowledged that there were complexities, which these departments had to contend with. 'Conditions of service are not the same, there must also be a change of employer, which means that staff must resign and be reappointed, and must often resign from pension funds and medical aids as well and join others,' she explained. She added that after the transfer there were often staff members working in the same facility who had different salaries, benefits and working hours. 'We cannot solve all the problems at this stage, but we can identify measures to make the processes more straightforward,' she said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Tsila Makhuvha And David Masango, 15 September 2003

Economic Recovery Tied to Political Reform

Mbabane - In light of a continuing decline in the national economy, documented in its annual report of economic trends released this week, the Central Bank of Swaziland took the unusual step of recommending that government enact political reforms to improve the business environment and attract much needed foreign investment. "The negative perception by the international community that there is a breakdown of the rule of law in Swaziland, deepening bad governance and lack of political direction in the country, should be dealt with promptly," said the central bank report. Such sentiments have never before appeared in the bank's usually data-filled report on the state of the economy. The nation's business community supports the call for political reform. "We must safeguard our preferential trade privileges with the United States and other markets, and fundamental issues that may lead to the loss of those agreements have to be addressed," the Federation of Swaziland Employers (FSE) said in a statement. Both the FSE and the central bank are concerned about the loss of Swaziland's participation in two US trade initiatives: the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), and the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). "AGOA came as a relief to the gradual decline in growth of the manufacturing sector," the bank said in its report.

An expansion in the manufacturing industry in response to the benefits offered by AGOA, which include duty-free entrance of Swazi-made products into the American market, mitigated the effects of other company closures in Swaziland, and increased employment. However, the US Treasury Department has accepted a petition from the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) asking for an investigation into Swaziland's labour practices and human rights record. The probe will determine if Swaziland deserves to participate in the American trade initiatives, which are linked to participating nations' commitment to good governance and political reform. Despite AGOA, Swaziland's economy is performing worse than at any time since national independence from Britain in 1968. Economic growth last year was at an historic low of 1.6 percent, less than half the 3.5 percent achieved in 1999, and even below 2001's lacklustre 1.8 percent. "Swaziland experienced exceptional double-digit growth rates in the 1980s and early 1990s, but in hindsight this could be seen as unsustainable because investment came from South African companies relocating to neighbouring Swaziland to escape sanctions on the apartheid government," central bank governor Martin G. Dlamini told IRIN. "Investment stopped and reversed when democracy came to South Africa. If we factor out that boom, a realistic growth rate would have been three percent," he added.

But doubling the current growth rate to achieve even this historically reachable average requires the restoration of investor confidence, Dlamini said. "The weak state of the economy has resulted in an increasing number of people living below the poverty line (currently estimated at 66 percent), and a high number of economically active people joining the unemployment ranks in the country," the bank reported. With government reluctant to initiate a population policy to mitigate one of the world's highest population growth rates, the outlook is grim. "Given the estimated population growth rate of 2.9 percent, the unimpressive economic growth fails to achieve the upliftment of the well-being of the average Swazi, and implies a deterioration of the standard of living as measured by per capita income," the bank noted. Labour leader Jan Sithole, secretary-general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, told IRIN that "we have said all along that you cannot separate political issues from bread-and-butter issues that affect the working person. The central bank report clearly illustrates this". Government's expenditure also worries the bank. External reserves of cash that government has traditionally drawn upon to pay its debts fell a significant 34 percent over the past year. As a result, the government was forced to borrow from foreign sources to pay its bills, resulting in an escalating national debt.

However, government was spending in the wrong places, said the bank. It urged that in addition to introducing fiscal reform, government should downsize the civil service - whose salary increases last year fueled inflation - and speed up the privatisation of non-performing public enterprises. Investment in infrastructure was also lacking. "Given that public investment facilitates the growth of private investment, then the slow growth in public investment is likely to negatively affect the performance of private investment," the bank remarked. Bongani Dlamini, an activist with one of the banned political opposition parties, doubted that government would shift its spending priorities. "Government is the biggest employer, and it will give civil servants and teachers what they want to keep them happy. All civil servants have to sign an agreement that they will not become involved in politics. Government's spending priorities are those things that help them stay in power, like the police and army," he said. Continued drought conditions and lower demand for Swazi products due to a global economic downturn have had their effect on the performance of Swaziland's agricultural sector.

But calls for land reform would intensify with central bank data showing that agricultural production last year fell to R131.5 million (about US $17.8 million), from R154 million (about US $20.9 million) two years earlier. During the same period, agriculture as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product declined from 10.6 percent to 8.7 percent. "This is a worrisome decline for a nation that has an agriculture-based economy, and where four out of five Swazis live off the land," said Manzini agri-businessman Luke Magagula. The manufacturing, mining, banking and real estate sectors failed to take up the slack. Only tourism was up slightly, from 5.9 percent to 6 percent of GDP, construction (7 percent, from 6.2 percent) and government services (16.6 percent from 16.5 percent). The central bank report linked data showing a deteriorating economy with the need for foreign investment, and called for government to create a supportive climate for investment by putting its political house in order. Faith in the judicial system - which was eroded during the past year after the government refused to recognise key court decisions it disagreed with - and good governance tied to development-oriented spending, as well as a sound constitution were all prerequisites for economic revival, the bank said.

From UN Regional Information Africa, 15 September 2003

Reform Wants an End to Public Waste

Kampala - On August 11, Reform Agenda presented a criticism of the 2003 national budget. President Yoweri Museveni's Private Assistant on Political Affairs, Moses Byaruhanga on August 19 called on the RA to present an alternative budget. It is ridiculous to demand that RA present its own budget. Oddly, Mr. Byaruhanga ignored the vast substance of our proposals. Byaruhanga must surely know that the government wastes billions of shillings a year making its budget. Yet he contends that RA should make one as well. Reform Agenda might as well create a shadow defence force to make up for the government's failure to end conflict in the north, or a shadow secondary education programme to replace the government's non-existent one! RA criticises the budget in order to give Parliament alternatives to the government's budget. We have Members of Parliament focusing on number crunching and we generally address faults of the budget so that Parliament knows that there is a popular request for more money to sectors that generally benefit the majority of ordinary citizens in rural areas. Byaruhanga failed to deal with most issues in RA's criticism of the budget. Did he, for instance, address our criticism of defence spending? One focus of our petition is that the Ministry of Defence receives more than Shs 300bn. This is an increase of around 25 percent from last year, which itself was a vast increase from previous years.

Yet, the Movement government is almost incapable of dealing with insurgency. Last year's increase in funding led to the failed Operation Iron Fist, which as we all know was supposed to have ended the rebellion by now: who knows what idiocy will be revealed, now with even more funds? Furthermore, Uganda's defence spending has been criticised by the international community, in addition to considerable domestic pressure. The Irish government almost cut off aid to Uganda to protest the ridiculously high defence budget. Our defence spending is clearly obscene, yet the Movement continues to raise it. So what is sensational about asking that the defence budget be cut? Byaruhanga also never mentioned that RA called upon the Movement government to reduce presidential and State House spending, which is currently over Shs 83bn a year. We applaud Mr. Museveni's decision to fire some of his advisors who were basically doing nothing, and were only hired out of patronage. However, this only reduces spending by Shs 700m a year. Why does the President spend Shs 800m on a private jet a month, when starvation is a critical problem in the country?

Why does the President control two security organizations, which spend much more time harassing the opposition than doing anything to improve the security of Ugandans? Is it sensational, or unreasonable to call on the government to stop wasting our money? Byaruhanga never mentioned that RA called upon the government to stop funding to the Movement Secretariat. The Movement organisation's term has expired; it is clearly illegal and yet the government still funds it to the tune of Shs 7bn. Isn't it odd that Byaruhanga chose to attack RA's policy instead of acknowledging that the government illegally wastes Shs 7bn? His attack on our call to reduce the Ministry of Finance's budget is misplaced. Even the Movement government has expressed concern over public waste, and clearly the Ministry of Finance's budget is bloated. For example, the Ministry is to spend Shs 8bn on training its staff and Shs 4bn on capacity building. Note that this is done year in, year out! In his remarks on how the government wonderfully funds social services, Byaruhanga does not mention that health-workers are ever on the verge of striking because of insufficient wages.

Primary school teachers barely make enough to survive. He never mentions that the biggest reason for Police corruption is low salary. Despite his attempt to imply the opposite, the government has done nothing for secondary education, apart from the intervention of MPs a week after our criticism. It would be nice if the Movement stopped telling the people that they are happy with social services and instead listened to complaints that they [people] are not happy. It is pretty obvious that we are ruled by an unresponsive, uncaring Movement that is much more concerned about buying support than winning it through good policy. Perhaps if we had a government that was not so interested in funding its supporters, it might have listened to the people's loud cry. Reform Agenda will continue to show the government that the citizens are unhappy about the current budget and to help the opposition MPs win their battle in Parliament to spend more on the ordinary Ugandan. The author is an active member of the Reform Agenda and MP, Budadiri West (Sironko).

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Nathan Nandala Mafabi, 17 September 2003

 

Ministers' Staff Must Be Accountable, Inquiry Told

Ministerial advisers should be legally compelled to appear before parliamentary inquiries so that ministers cannot avoid accountability for their actions, a Senate committee was told yesterday. A retired intelligence officer, Alan Stretton, also told the inquiry into ministerial accountability that it should be assumed ministers were fully aware of all advice received from, and actions taken by, their staff. Following the 2001 "children overboard affair" - in which the Prime Minister, John Howard, said he was not told claims that asylum seekers threw their children into the sea were false - the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee is looking into the role of advisers and their accountability. Mr. Stretton told the inquiry that the affair highlighted the advisers' growing power and influence. "They've become experts as spin doctors designed to confuse and mislead the public," he said. "The truth is that the increasing role of ministerial advisers, with their lack of accountability, is one of the significant means by which ministers avoid public scrutiny and are able to keep Parliament and the public in the dark." Currently advisers cannot be called to account by parliamentary committees, which means ministers can claim they were not aware of information without fear of public contradiction from their staff. However, the head of the public service, Andrew Podger, said ministers were responsible for the actions of their advisers. He said that a code of conduct for ministerial advisers, such as that which exists for public servants, would ensure they behaved professionally. The country's top public servant, Peter Shergold, head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, rubbished claims of a culture where officials were intimidated and did not even offer controversial advice or information to ministers.

From Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Cosima Marriner, 2 September 2003

Government Draws Plan to Reform Labor

Provoking a sharp outcry from organized labor, the government unveiled yesterday a comprehensive blueprint aimed at dramatically reforming Korea's labor climate. The Labor Ministry proposal, if adopted as amendments to present labor laws and regulations, would likely shift the balance of power more in favor of company managers. Entitled "A Proposal for Modern Labor Relations," the blueprint aims to give management greater authority in dealing with labor conflicts. It will also check the power of labor unions at large businesses and public companies, while strengthening the rights of individual workers. Many of the legal restrictions that discouraged attempts by employers and unions to resolve their differences will be abolished. The Tripartite Commission ? entrusted to consult on economic issues and made up of labor, management and government members ? yesterday reported on the framework to President Roh Moo-hyun. But although it contained ideas reportedly agreed upon by all three sectors, the proposal drew fierce opposition from labor federations who called it "unacceptable." The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions said in a statement the proposal strengthened only management power against employees and would intensify labor conflicts.

Business interest groups generally welcomed the proposal, but said some aspects needed to be changed. Mr. Roh approved the proposal in principle, but added there should be more dialogue between labor and management in the near term to bring about a work culture of compromise and cooperation. "If that doesn't appear likely," Mr. Roh said, "this proposal should be the basis of new labor law." Bills to amend labor laws may come next year, he added. Strengthening management abilities to respond to strikes, the plan proposes to allow employers to lock out striking workers regardless of the legalities of union actions. Employers have been prohibited from locking out workers during illegal strikes, with the government fearing such action would further fuel conflicts. However, offensive lockouts by employers ? before unions go on strike ? would continue to be prohibited. In other proposals, the management of public corporations and other organizations that affect the public interest would be able to hire replacement workers or engage subcontractors to continue operations when their workers went on strike. Employers would also be able to call in police at the earliest sign of law-breaking by striking workers, such as occupying company facilities, disrupting operations by replacement workers, and damaging property. The proposal would also require labor unions to have the finances independently audited.

From Joongang Ilbo, South Korea, by Kim Ki-chan (jackkim@joongang.co.kr), 5 September 2003

Bill Approved to Streamline Pensions for Civil Servants

The Examination Yuan yesterday approved a draft bill to eliminate a special bonus pension program for civil servants. The bill will be reviewed by the Legislative Yuan before being enacted into a law. The so-called "five five special project," which provides an additional stipend for government employees who voluntarily apply for retirement at the age of 55, will be annulled following the passage of the bill. In addition, the draft bill stipulates that retired officials who continue to work for organizations who receive over half of their funding from the government will not be entitled to pensions. The bill aimed at preventing retired government officials who switch to the private sector from receiving "double salaries," - the pension allowance paid by taxpayers and the income from the private sector. The bill will impose stricter work standards for civil servants, dubbed as the holders of the reliable "iron rice bowls," and those who receive failing grades for job performance over two consecutive years will be dismissed.

From China Post, Taiwan, 5 September 2003

Education Minister Says Reform Process Must Continue

Education Minister Huang Jong-tsun said yesterday that the reform process in the country's education system must go on even if it is flawed. Huang urged his critics to have faith in the Ministry of Education (MOE) to come up with methods to resolve some of the problems of the reform. Teachers and policy makers should not lose courage to go on with the reform out of fear of criticism, he said to a group of scholars during a special conference. Huang reminded the attendees that the reform had been adjusted in response to many problems it caused, such as issues of retirement, ineffective mathematics learning and inconsistency between lessons taught in elementary and junior high schools. The MOE will unveil a five-year plan by early next year to follow up on a reform package designed by former Education Minister Lin Ching-chiang some ten years ago, Huang added. The new campaign will continue to uphold Lin's previous 12 goals in education development. Opinions from school teachers play an important role in the making of the new policy, he said. A report on the failings of past education reforms was presented and discussed in the conference, organized by National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU).

NTNU professors attempted to deliver a general overview on what is wrong with the reform from the side of school teachers. The university is one of the country's major facilities to specialize in training future public school instructors. The experts advised Huang to postpone his pet plan of reinventing the high school entrance system and instead focus on providing free preschool education to children above the age of five. Meanwhile, Huang's predecessors Kuo Wei-fan and Wu Jin voiced their opposition against the MOE project to include high schools as part of the country's compulsory education. Kuo said the policy, expected to go under discussion inside the MOE this week, is hasty in its making and may bring about increasing competition between high schools. The MOE may have launched the plan under pressure from "high authorities" eager to win over some supporters in next year's presidential election, he said. Wu said in concurrence with Kuo that ushering every junior high graduate into a high school is not a good idea. He urged the government to reconsider its decision to discontinue vocational schools and keep them as an alternative to high schools. An education minister "should never take heed of what superiors say" but act only for the benefit of the children, Wu added.

From China Post, Taiwan, 8 September 2003

China to Enhance Cooperation with Czech Republic in Public Administration

Beijing - China will enhance exchange and cooperation with the Czech Republic in public administration and the training of civil servants, Chinese State Councilor Hua Jianmin said here Monday. Hua, also secretary general of the State Council and president of the Chinese National School of Administration, made the remark during a meeting with a delegation from the Czech Government, headed by Jaroslava Sporkova, assistant to the deputy prime minister and director general of the government's human resources department. China and the Czech Republic could learn from each other's experience in public service sector, Hua said. The Czech delegation visited the Chinese National School of Administration on Monday and will also tour Shanghai.

From Xinhua, China, 8 September 2003

Still Much to Do on Education Reform

The agreement reached between Education Ministry officials, academics and state university representatives on Monday came after about a year of contentious debate on the issue of university entrance. Even after the agreement, sceptics were not satisfied. One university rector did not think it was any different from the present system and would merely turn the attention of students from the university entrance exam to the single national test. Under the proposed new system, school leavers will apply for places at the country's 24 state universities largely (90%) on the basis of their exam results in five subjects: math, Thai language, sciences, English and social studies. The remaining 10% would come from a combination of the grade point average for other elements. Those seeking to take up professional studies like medicine, architecture and engineering would have to take exams in other subjects. Under the current system, school leavers have to sit a separate university entrance exam just days after taking their finals at secondary school. Cabinet, which met the day after the educators met, has acknowledged the proposed new proposal and a formal approval is expected to come in due course as it conforms with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's instruction to minimise exams.

University rectors previously had held out for a separate entrance exam because they had no faith in the standards set by schools, which enjoyed what the education elders saw as excessive freedom with the scores they gave. The rectors apparently were persuaded to accept the new system after the assembly came up with a means for measuring the progress and performance of pupils and schools. Under the winning formula, school children are to take the national test every three years from Prathom 3 until Mathayom 6. And the number of subjects in which they would be tested would grow from two, math and Thai language, at Prathom 3, to five at Mathayom 6. The proposed new system would be in place in 2006, and suggestions are already rife that an assessment be made two years after that. One fear is that the universities and the schools will baulk at the measure of freedom both of them will lose under the new system, and it will take a skilful mediator to convince them that this is for the common good. Besides reducing the number of exams, the new system gives teenagers in prime learning years more space to concentrate on just that pursuit, and parents, as well as teachers, should encourage that.

While it might be too much to expect an end to the commerce in tutorial schools - which probably will enjoy a boom, in those five subjects needed for the single test - let's hope pupils and parents will have more time and peace of mind to choose the effective ones. A Bangkok Post reader who expressed support for the single exam on these pages earlier this week emphasised that the idea could fulfil its potential only if we keep education reform in mind, and teach students how to think, not what to think. That is about the content of education. The agreement on Monday was about measuring the process of learning towards some form of quality control, and streamlining university entrance. One question, however, sticks as the clamour for university places grows, reaching 1.3 million last year. Has the debate over the past year given due thought to school children and candidates for university entrance in rural areas, who form by far the greater part of the population?

From Bangkok Post, Thailand, 12 September 2003

Regulating Public Construction Works

There are rules to be observed in designing structures, for land use and proper building process and these were set out in the Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) of 1993. But ironically, the BNBC's worst violators in many cases are the government's own bodies which should have set the standard really that all others, specially private developers, would then feel obliged to follow out of a concern of being judged as violators of the law. But the unconcern or incapacity of the government's construction bodies in these respects are not only adding to sub-standard construction activities of often vital projects throughout the country, the same also provide encouragement to private sector builders to treat legal requirements in construction rather casually. Poor construction activities by government bodies not only lead to erection of weak and undependable buildings and other structures, the same also cost the public purse huge amounts for reconstruction and maintenance. For instance, the Facilities Department of the Education Ministry is responsible for large scale construction of school buildings and the like.

But time and again newspapers reported the very poor quality of its construction activities in many cases. School houses built by this department reportedly collapsed in some cases soon after the completion of their construction and had to be rebuilt; others were found with leaking roofs and other features of bad construction. The lack of expertise and devotion are only one side to the problems but corruption is the biggest factor for non observance of building procedures or using inferior construction materials deliberately so that unscrupulous employees of these departments can make pecuniary gains for themselves and split the gains with contractors engaged in these public works. Thus, adequate supervision of the affairs of these government's building bodies has become indispensable. This is extremely important to ensure that structures built with public finance are durable enough in the first place that should prevent the current very wasteful drain of precious resources on reconstruction or spending on partial reconstruction which are sought to be passed off as maintenance activities.

Besides, supervision is also acutely needed to ensure fulfilment of other requirements in the areas of design, land use, environment, etc. It is unacceptable that Bangladesh, a least developed or one of the poorest of countries, has no viable mechanism in place to ensure that scarce resources spent on account of its public works are being truly well spent. When the hard economic realities demand that all spending of public resources ought to show endeavours toward their optimum utilisation, the present spectacle of wasteful application of resources in the domain of public works in this country appears to be a mockery of the economic and ethical principles. Thus, the institution of a proper and motivated regulatory body to supervise public works has become an absolute imperative. © Copyright 2003 by The New Nation.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, 15 September 2003

Takenaka's Fate Is Test of Japan's Reform Resolve

Tokyo - Now that Junichiro Koizumi looks likely to keep his job as prime minister, people looking for clues to the future of reform in Japan are watching to see whether Heizo Takenaka will keep his post as banking minister. Economics and Financial Services Minister Takenaka is seen by financial markets as Koizumi's right-hand man on economic issues and a controversial symbol of financial reform. Koizumi - who swept to power in April 2001 with promises to reform Japan's deadlocked economy - is expected to win re-election as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Saturday and thus retain the prime minister's post. Takenaka, an academic chosen by Koizumi to be economics minister in 2001 and then also put in charge of banking policy last September, is unpopular with conservative LDP members, who see him as an outsider crushing the economy with his tough attitude towards the banks. Speculation is rife that Koizumi has promised to deprive him of at least one of his portfolios in return for support from anti-reform power brokers in the LDP. "It's looking very unlikely that Takenaka will retain both of his posts, though he should be able to stay in the cabinet as a symbol of Koizumi's reform agenda ahead of a general election," said Chotaro Morita, senior economist at Deutsche Securities. "He's not much of an influence on fiscal policy, so the attention will be more on what happens to his banking post."

Mixed Record - Takenaka, 52, made his name last October when the Financial Services Agency (FSA) that he oversees forced the banks to apply tougher rules in assessing their dubious loans and set a March 2005 deadline for them to resolve the loans crisis. Bad loans built up during Japan's bubble economy have held the economy down, but writing them off could see a lifeline taken away from a host of small firms in the regions. Lauded by some as a reformer daring to initiate the painful changes needed to bring Japan's sickly economy back to health, he is branded by others a cold-hearted scholar with no qualms about seeing businesses fail and workers thrown out on the street. For Akira Omotekawa, an official with the Mito Chamber of Commerce and Industry in central Japan, bank reforms are merely pushing local firms to the wall. "Lending has got tight. Now not only big banks but smaller banks as well are being strictly inspected and companies which relied on borrowing are in a tight spot," he said. In reality, Takenaka's record on reform is mixed. "The changes we have seen from Takenaka are of atmosphere and not of substance," said Brett Hemsley, financial institutions analyst at Fitch Ratings. "The attitude was that the Financial Services Agency would be less friendly to banks, but it hasn't done anything concrete."

Other analysts say that a weak economy, compounded by a slump in Tokyo share prices to 20-year lows earlier this year, made it difficult for Takenaka to turn tough talk into action. The big banks are making progress on shedding bad loans, which total over 40 trillion yen ($344 billion), and in cutting costs, but they all ended the year to March showing losses. Tougher capital rules forced Japan's fifth-largest bank, Resona Holdings Inc <8308.T>, to seek a $17 billion government bail-out in May and brought in new management, but even that drew mixed reviews. Some credited Takenaka for strengthening a bank reluctant to take drastic action on its own. Others said the bail-out was too lenient on the bank's shareholders. Backtracking Worry - Most analysts don't expect Koizumi to do an about-turn on reform, not least because of the message that would send to the rest of the world, impatient for Japan's economy to pull its weight. "Takenaka's policies seem to remain highly regarded internationally and there is a worry over how markets will react if the government is seen backtracking on reform," said Nozomu Kunishige, banking analyst at BNP Paribas.

That means it is unlikely that the banking brief will be given to someone like Hakuo Yanagisawa, Takenaka's predecessor, who followed the mainstream LDP line and found no reason for the government to interfere unduly in bank management. But Kunishige also said that any tough-talking reformer risked treading the same path as Takenaka, watering down plans or finding them being watered down in cabinet. Candidates being mentioned to replace Takenaka in the banking post include Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a pro-reform 52-year-old LDP lawmaker who once worked for the Bank of Japan. Kazuyoshi Kaneko, a 60-year-old LDP deputy secretary general and son of a former finance minister, has also been tipped. "The international community seems anxious to see Japan's financial problems solved and it would seem that anything to further slow down reforms would be unacceptable," said Morita at Deutsche Securities. ($1=116.20 Yen). Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service.

From Forbes, by Chisa Fujioka, 17 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, 8 September 2003

Berlusconi, Teachers Real Players in Reform

Rome - "School reform will be very successful because I believe teachers will be committed to it and will gain satisfaction by being involved in the new system." Thus said Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, at a press conference at the Council of Ministers. "When we presented it, we said that it is an epochal reform: our schools although excellent in curriculum, were surely lacking in other ways, like reading." For Berlusconi, "There is however need for children to leave school with a critical faculty that can be taught, with a real knowledge of themselves and their abilities, with the capacity to be businessmen and to be aware of things they were not taught, like heath and nutrition. This year, then, children will enter first and second elementary and begin studying English, while at the beginning of the first middle school it will be obligatory to learn another language, something that puts us ahead of other European countries."

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 12 September 2003

WTO: CAP Reform Might Not Suffice, Says Confagricoltura

Cancun, Mexico - "Showing up in Cancun with an already approved CAP is a bold move. What is currently going on proves that something went wrong in Brussels, either regarding strategies or communication. In fact, minister Alemanno announced that the decisions taken in June might not be ratified". That's what Confagricoltura president said in Cancun, where the negotiations are now at a crucial stage. "On one hand - said Bocchini - developing countries have formed a compact block, attacking the agricultural policies of the USA and the EU, without really recognising the considerable progress made in Brussels with the reviewing of the medium-run policy, which drastically reduced support interfering with exchanges, nor the opening of the European agricultural market to the importation of developing countries". The situation, according to Confagricoltura, is very worrying indeed, because even the dossier on the multilateral list of denominations keeps on being an exclusively European application, and nobody will support that. "The risk - concluded Bocchini - is a negative compromise, not along the lines of our agriculture. We hence must insists and negotiate with care, because any agreement must be balanced and positive for everyone".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 12 September 2003

The ND Program on Public Administration

Athens - The institutional protection against corruption is the basic priority of the right-wing main opposition party of New Democracy government program on public administration that was presented today, while an emphasis is given on control and clarity. New Democracy President Kostas Karamanlis accused the government of mismanagement, corruption, lawlessness and bureaucracy, saying that the Greeks are used to a state identifying with the governing party that transforms into a mechanism of regime-like interventions and in effect, equals to a regime of impunity. Referring to the ND program on public administration, Mr. Karamanlis stated that it provides for the monitoring of the so-called "political money", clarity in public contracts and stock exchange transactions, more effective public sector, measures against bureaucracy, greater service to the people, and appointment of public employees based on merit. Also, the ND program gives a special emphasis on the upgrading of local administration, regulates issues concerning the regions, administration at prefectures level, local administration organizations' cooperation, economic self-sufficiency of those organizations and upgrading of their development and social role.

From Macedonian Press Agency, Greece, by Sylvia Leatham, 29 September 2003

 

WB Calls for Better Public Governance in Middle East

Muscat - The World Bank yesterday said improved public governance is vital for future economic growth in the Middle East. With about two weeks to go for the annual meetings of the boards of governors of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Dubai, the bank said public governance is typically weaker in countries in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. A World Bank report released in Dubai yesterday underlined that the ways in which governments interact with citizens or civil society groups to promote social and economic welfare is typically weaker in countries in the Mena region than in others at similar income levels. The World Bank-IMF annual meetings will be held on September 23 and 24. The overall event will be held from September 18 to 25. In fact, it will be for the first time in the history of an Arab nation, such meetings are being held. The report - "Better governance for development in the Middle East and North Africa" - second in a series of reports focusing on development in the region argues that good governance rests on the twin values of inclusiveness and accountability. Indeed, some countries in the region have made strides towards greater transparency. Iran publishes its full national budget and televises its parliamentary debates, like some other countries in the region. The media is also contributing to the public debate on government accountability in countries like Iran and Algeria, and is particularly vocal in Lebanon.

Satellite televisions are playing an increasingly important role in transmitting information across previously impenetrable borders. But in general, Mena countries exhibit a pattern of limited and reluctant transparency. It has the least empirical data on issues that relate to governance. The bank said no country assures citizens the right to government information. Activities of the media are carefully monitored and controlled in most countries, stifling public debate, the bank said. And although countries like Morocco and Bahrain have recently strengthened their parliaments, accountability mechanisms in the region consistently continue to be weak because of excessive concentration of power in the executive authority and limited channels for citizen participation. Contestability for most public officials through regular, fair and competitive processes remains rare. Weak governance has taken a toll on economic performance. Productivity has been on the decline in Mena for three decades. Average annual per capita growth for the region stands at 0.9 per cent since 1980, less than that of sub-Saharan Africa. Studies have shown that if, over the past 15 years, Mena had matched the average quality of administration in the public sector for strong performers in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand), the region's growth rates would have been higher by about one percentage point a year.

This would have meant that average incomes per person would be double what they are today, the report added. "Gains of the last decades in basic services are being threatened by weaknesses in inclusiveness," cautions Mustapha Nabli, chief economist for the Mena region at the World Bank. "Pressures from rising populations, increasing urbanisation and growing complexity of modern public services have strained the coverage of many public services, creating gender inequities and urban-rural gaps in literacy and other social indicators." The report reveals that the failure of Mena countries to ensure these has weakened their economic growth and human development. And, as men and women in MENA are living today at a time of rising expectations and growing economic challenges, the gap between societies' achievements and people's aspirations puts development in Mena A at risk. "Development is not only about incomes and wealth. It is also about the broader quality of life: having educational opportunities, access to quality healthcare and clean water, equality of treatment by policies, bureaucrats, and other citizens and the freedom to participate in the governance process," says Christiaan Poortman, World Bank vice-president for the Mena. "Good governance is essential to secure these values, because it ensures that state authority is excercised in ways that respect the integrity, rights and needs of everyone in the country."

Governments in Mena have sought to provide a broad range of public goods, achieving remarkable results in recent years. Lebanon raised the rate of childhood immunisation from virtually none to more than 90 per cent in one decade. Tunisia increased the number of phone lines by five-fold, also in one decade. And despite the water scarcity afflicting most countries, the region enjoys among the best access to water for its people. According to the report, inclusiveness is based on equality, which is enshrined in virtually every constitution in Mena. Inclusiveness protects people's basic rights, treating everyone uniformly before the law, allowing all to participate in governance, and assuring equal opportunities to access public services. The region is particularly lagging in the second core value underpinning good governance, accountability. This draws on the notion of representation - of holding public figures answerable to their constituents - a value that most Mena constitutions also recognise by vesting sovereignty in the people. Accountability depends on public transparency, which requires knowledge and readily available information on what government does.

Accountability also rests on mechanisms such as contestability and a strong ethic of service to the public, which encourage government officials to act in the public's interest - or be removed from office for poor performance, the report said. "There is clearly a strong economic rationale for Mena countries to embrace good governance," stresses Charles Humphreys, lead economist at the World Bank and lead author of the report. "The quality of governance helps shapes the quality of policy formulation and implementation, which in turn determines whether there is effective delivery of public services and an attractive business environment for investors." The absence of a sound governance system, therefore, hinders governments' ability to meet the growing demand for more jobs and better social services, as well as more rights, from a burgeoning young population. Economic growth and job creation is restrained by sluggish private investment, which in turn is the result of a poor overall climate for investment. This again is caused by poor governance - by policies that are often inefficient, ineffective or biased, by bureaucratic structures that are uncertain, ineffective and costly, and by inadequate public services needed by businesses. In a world where public services are increasingly complex - from ensuring Internet access to delivering market-relevant education - the inflexible policies, limited flows of information and large cumbersome administrations of many Mena countries fail to keep up with demands and aspirations of both businesses and citizens.

As a result, human development suffers both from material and social deficits and from the failure to assure human rights for all. The region ranks at the bottom in terms of overall governance quality when compared with countries with similar characteristics in east Asia, eastern Europe or Latin America, as well as with other developing countries. This is one of the key findings in 'better governance for development in the Middle East and North Africa', which constructed an index-based on worldwide data for 22 indicators. Within the region, richer countries have, on average, better scores on the governance index - a pattern that also holds for the world as a whole. But digging deeper, the report makes a fundamental distinction. Mena countries are typically only slightly worse than their comparator countries on an index of the quality of administration - which assesses the strength of the rule of law and protection of property rights, the efficiency of the bureaucracy, the quality of regulations, and the control of corruption. But on an index of public accountability - which assesses how well the citizens can access government information, openly debate public policy in the media, and participate in processes to hold their leaders and public officials accountable - virtually every Mena country ranks behind, typically far behind - and the low rating persists across countries of different incomes.

For the young men and women entering the labour force, the region's economies need to create productive income-generating opportunities through economic growth, and the government needs to provide key public services ranging from education to a good business environment. "Good governance is central to the solution - it holds the promise of growth and social improvement; it is also a fundamental dimension of human development itself." Countries - both their governments and people - need to therefore commit to a programme to enhance governance. Moving towards greater inclusiveness and accountability requires time, because it involves changing traditions and confronting privileged interests. It requires tolerance of compromises and mistakes, while the institutions required for good governance, especially those of citizen participation, gain capacity and credibility. But there are ample grounds for optimism, stemming from experience both globally and within the region. In conclusion, the report offers a structured programme of reform that revolves around 'five pathways' that lead to better governance. They include expanding inclusiveness, national actions to strengthen external accountabilities, national checks and balances to strengthen internal accountabilities, local actions to strengthen external accountability and administrative measures for better internal accountability.

From Times of Oman, Oman, by Palazhi Ashok Kumar, 8 September 2003

Bashar Names New PM to Speed Up Reform

Damascus - Syrian President Bashar Al Assad yesterday accepted the resignation of the cabinet of Prime Minister Moham-med Mustafa Mero and appointed parliament speaker Mohammed Naji Al Otari to head a reformist government. "Naji Al Otari is a reformist and a stern advocate of modernisation," Mahmoud Al Abrash, the speaker of parliament's foreign affairs commission, said. Bashar said last month that pushing through reforms would be the main task of the new cabinet he planned to form. The change of prime minister is the first since he took office in 2000, succeeding his late father Hafez Al Assad. After becoming president, Bashar announced a wide-ranging reform programme. Critics of the outgoing cabinet said it had been slow to put the plans into action. "I expect Otari to speed up reform to a reasonable pace. Not too fast but fast enough," said Abrash. Otari, an architect, is a prominent member of the ruling Socialist Arab Baath Party, a former deputy prime minister and a former governor of the central city of Homs. "Full harmony is the key element in the formation of the new cabinet," said Rateb Al Shalah, the chairman of the union of Syrian chambers of commerce. "The reform policy has been approved by the political command and Otari has proved to be a man of immense capabilities who can carry out the task," said Shalah, an independent businessman.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, 11 September 2003

Public Administration Employs 5,300 Foreign Workers

There are currently 209,600 legal and illegal foreign workers employed in Israel, amounting to 8.3% of the total labor force. The government is not pursuing its own policy to reduce the employment of foreign workers. Data obtained by "Globes" reveals that public administration employs 5,300 foreign workers, 7.3% of its total workforce. The number of foreign workers in public administration varies according to need. There are currently 209,600 legal and illegal foreign workers employed in Israel, amounting to 8.3% of the total labor force. The business sector employs 204,100 foreign workers, 11.4% of its total labor force. The data show that the number of foreign workers has fallen by 21.8%, or 55,100 people, in the past year. The number of foreign workers in the business sector has fallen by 21.9%, or 53,900 people, in this period. The data also show that the employment of Israelis dropped in the second quarter of 2003, after the government issued employment permits for Palestinians. The number of Israelis employed fell by 2,100 to 2.316 million in the second quarter. The number of Israelis employed by the business sector fell by 0.7%, or 10,900, to 1.591 million, while public administration employment increased by 2.3%, or 16,600 people, to 726,700 in this period. Published by Globes - www.globes.co.il

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein, 18 September 2003

 

Women Advocate Urges for Public Policy on C-sections

San Juan - In light of the high number of Cesarean sections practiced on the island with no apparent need for them, Women Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos urged for public policy aimed at promoting natural births. She also requested that a uniform protocol be established at island hospitals for births so that the decision for a Cesarean would not be taken by anyone by the mother. According to statistics revealed in a House Health Committee public hearing, 44.7% of last year's births were by Cesarean despite the fact that the World Health Organization has said the number should not be more than 15%. Fernos said Cesarean sections increase health risks for women and their babies. The death risk is also between 5% and 7% higher than that of natural births.

From Puerto Rico Wow, Puerto Rico, 4 September 2003

'National Security' Part Of Bush Plan To Gut Civil Services

The Bush administration is evoking "national security" as a powerful weapon to accomplish its twin goals of privatizing thousands of federal jobs and taking a whack at government unions. The administration's sales pitch is to raise the specter of terrorism and 9-11 - a surefire way to scare Congress into backing plans to gut the Civil Service system. Congress passed the Civil Service Act in 1883 to end the spoils system, which based federal employment on nepotism and cronyism. The bad old days may be returning. I note the lack of competitive bids on some government contracts to rebuild Iraq and the appearance of favoritism in the administration's decisions to award contracts to politically influential companies. John Gage, President of the AFL-CIO's American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), sees a trend. He predicts "a return to the spoils system for politically connected corporations and campaign contributors." The administration's drive to cut down the size of the government and shift federal jobs and services to private contractors is a process known as "outsourcing." Halliburton, the oil-field construction company, comes to mind as a firm that has perfected outsourcing. Once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, Halliburton has received contracts for rebuilding Iraq totaling nearly $2 billion, not to mention the multimillion-dollar billings for cells it built for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has given federal agencies until Oct. 31 to designate 15 percent of their jobs as "not inherently governmental" and, therefore, available for competitive outside contracts. Strangely, despite all the concerns about airport security, the air traffic controllers were put in that category. That would seem to be one area where the government would want to have more control on personnel selection. After all, before 9-11, airport security screeners had been employees of private companies. Congress and the public later woke up to the fact that these private firms weren't up to the job of reliably protecting travelers. The result was that Congress forced President Bush to accept new government agencies - the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration - to increase the federal role in safeguarding the public. Even then, Bush held out for his personal goal of cutting the strength of federal employee unions in the new department. The workers in 22 agencies who were shifted to the new Department of Homeland Security lost their basic collective bargaining rights. Gage said the assault on the Civil Service system was "shocking and wrong." "Our people are scared to death they'll lose their jobs and the Bush administration will try to dismantle the system," he said.

Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., voted against creation of the Homeland Security Department in that form as part of his efforts to preserve the workers' union rights. He paid the political price when he failed to win reelection last year after Bush went to Atlanta six times to campaign against him. The Republican opposition played hard ball, calling Cleland - who lost both legs and an arm in the Vietnam war - "unpatriotic." The administration is also locking and loading against any involvement of unions in the civilian workforces of the Pentagon and the Transportation Department. In a power grab, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has drafted a plan that bars collective bargaining for the Pentagon's 640,000 civilian workers, eliminates due process in the workplace and promotes public-private competition for defense work. Gage said the plan amounts to "contractors in, federal workers out." The Rumsfeld plan was rammed through the House but was rejected in the Senate. The issue will be resolved in a conference committee. Rumsfeld should stop tampering with the job security of Pentagon civilians and pay more attention to the two wars he is trying to run.

Gage said the moves to privatize the government payroll were a "grand slam" blow to the Civil Service system and organized labor. Beyond what looks like a bow to big business, Karl Rove, the president's political guru, tipped the administration's hand on why the administration thinks federal workers are suspect. In an interview in The New Yorker magazine on May 12, Rove said: "Bigger government strengthens the Democratic Party. It generates federal employees who will mostly vote Democratic ... conversely, smaller government helps the Republicans." And if the message hasn't sunk in, the president has more Labor Day good news for them. Citing a national emergency, he plans to hold government civilian pay raises to 2 percent instead a 2.7 percent. Also ruled out was a proposed salary hike to make it comparable with the private pay scales in certain geographical areas. As the nation's chief public servant, Bush should be protecting the rights of government employees who serve all Americans, not undermining them at their workplace. (Helen Thomas can be reached at the e-mail address helent@hearstdc.com).

From Iowa Channel.com, IA, 4 September 2003

Evans: E-gov More than Automation

Cambridge, Md. - In her first public comments since being named to replace e-government chief Mark Forman, Karen Evans said Thursday that e-government is not just about office automation. In fact, she said, e-government is about providing better services to the public and using technology to make life better for citizens. It is about evaluating how a dirty bomb might impact a community or the impact an electrical blackout has as it sweeps across the Northeast, said Evans, who replaces Forman as administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of E-Government and Information Technology. "IT is the enabler. ... It's the glue that will hold all that together," Evans told the annual Interagency Resources Management Conference in Cambridge, Md. Evans said she is being challenged to continue the track record set by Forman, the federal government's first e-gov executive who developed 24 interagency initiatives and pushed the federal government to carry out a mandate for the electronic age. Although her experience is strictly in government, unlike Forman who came from industry, she said she intends to develop partnerships with the private sector and "reach across the table to industry." "I do not consider myself an IT czar," Evans said. "I'm not a tyrant. ... I'm not a ruler. I'm Karen Evans, mother of two, wife of Randy. I live in West Virginia. ... I do IT." Evans' appointment was lauded by industry and government officials.

Ira Hobbs, co-chairman of the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for IT Committee, said Evans and Forman have worked closely together on the Bush administration's e-government initiatives. "Karen and Mark were almost symbiotic in their relationship," Hobbs said. "It is almost like a natural extension." Hobbs said it is good to have Evans step into that role because it means the initiatives can maintain their momentum. "Mark set a strong foundation, a very fast pace," he said. "That's always difficult to come behind. It's like we didn't stop the train to let Mark off, and we've got a capable engineer to keep the train moving." Evans, who has been a management analyst at the Agriculture Department and head of the IT shop at the Office of Justice Programs, was widely seen as the frontrunner for the job ever since Forman announced his resignation last month to take a job in the private sector.

Evans is vice chairwoman of the CIO Council and takes over the post during a money crunch. Although Forman repeatedly tried to get $45 million for an e-government fund, Congress only appropriated $5 million in fiscal 2003. The Senate has slashed the fund to $1 million for fiscal 2004, and congressional negotiators are expected to try to increase the money for crossagency e-government initiatives later this month. But Norm Lorentz, the OMB's chief technology officer, who has been the acting e-government chief, said OMB will have to do a better job communicating with Congress exactly how much money is needed to develop the e-government initiatives. For fiscal 2004, agencies will be asked to contribute, but he said the administration would have to work harder to get more money in fiscal 2005. "We're not going to rest on our laurels," he said. "We're going to have to use the tools at our disposal."

From FCW.com, 5 September 2003

More Reform Urged at Signing of Juvenile Justice Act

Legislation calls for Tallulah juvenile prison closure - With the ceremonial signing Wednesday of the state's Juvenile Justice Reform Act, reform advocates called on the next governor and legislature to enact the reforms called for in the legislation. The reforms include creating a new state agency, the Department of Children, Youth and Juveniles, to be carved from the state corrections, health and social services departments. The legislation signed into law by Gov. Mike Foster also calls for the closure of the state's juvenile prison at Tallulah within the next 18 months. "What we have witnessed today is the culmination of many years of hard work," state Sen. Donald Cravins, D-Arnaudville, a long-time critic of the state's juvenile justice system, said in a news conference after the signing ceremony. "We are only halfway home," said state Rep. Mitch Landrieu, who chaired the state Juvenile Justice Commission that recommended the legislation. "We will not get there without the cooperation of the next governor and legislature," the New Orleans Democrat said after the signing ceremony held in conjunction with the Governor's Children's Cabinet meeting.

From Baton Rouge Advocate, LA, by Vicki Ferstel (vferstel@theadvocate.com), 11 September 2003

Lawmakers Unveil Education Reform Plan

Harrisburg - Two state lawmakers unveiled an education reform plan Wednesday that they say will bridge the gap between rich and poor school districts and save taxpayers money. Pennsylvania's 501 school districts would be consolidated into 67 countywide districts, with the option for less-populated counties to merge into one district, under the plan proposed by two Democrats from western Pennsylvania. In addition, property taxes would be eliminated. To fund schools, the state's sales tax would be raised about 17 percent, from 6 to 7 cents per dollar, and the personal income tax would go up by as much as 71 percent, from 2.8 to 4.8 percent." All students will have the same materials and books to use, which would be especially helpful for special needs students," said the proposal's prime sponsor, Rep. Victor Lescovitz (D-Washington/Beaver/Allegheny). "The streamlined system would provide for additional computers, advanced classes offering more foreign languages and magnet schools for gifted students." "This will eliminate the redundancy of large administration groups ... and, more importantly, eliminate property taxes," said Rep. Tim Solobay (D-Canonsburg).The proposed reforms aren't anything new. For the past 30 years, legislators have been looking for ways to reduce or eliminate property taxes. School consolidation also comes up every year, but it has been almost 40 years since Pennsylvania last consolidated its public school system, reducing the number of districts from 2,500 to 505.

According to a 1996 study by Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan research group aimed at helping state leaders in education policy, at least seven states have county-based school districts, including Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, South Carolina and West Virginia. At the moment, there doesn't appear to be much support to do it again, among either school officials or Republicans, who control the General Assembly. Some school officials worry that consolidation will mean a loss of autonomy, identity and local flavor. "I don't know if I'd want to give up individual control to the county," said Upper Moreland school board member David Bender. "But I'd have to see more about the plan before I made up my mind." But Lescovitz insists communities would still retain local control and identity. "In other states [with countywide school districts] they continue to have their local schools with their local football teams. No schools need to be eliminated. ...As far as local control, I am proposing each district have a nine-member school board, with some more populated counties having 11. Additionally, each school building would have a local representative that would meet with the entire school board twice a year and twice with their local elected school board member."

Regardless, some school officials say the logistics alone would make the proposal almost impossible. "I'd be interested in knowing first of all how they are going to settle labor contracts," said Edward Godin, president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, which represents all 501 districts, and a 27-year member of the Bristol Township, Bucks County, school board. "Each one of us has different labor contracts. I really don't see smaller districts, such as Morrisville and Bristol boroughs, raising teacher salaries. By the same token, I don't see large districts, such as Central Bucks and Council Rock, lowering their salaries. And then we have benefits and other side issues." It's unclear how those issues would be settled, since Lescovitz so far has offered only a broad proposal. He said he plans to introduce legislation, with more details, within the next few weeks. Frederick Smeigh, superintendent of Frazier School District, doesn't see his district benefiting much from the proposal. "I have mixed emotions," he said. "I think 501 school districts is too many and some districts could be consolidated and that would probably allow them to be run more efficiently. But making it a countywide system isn't going to equalize education in poor counties like Fayette. We're all poor, so we're all going to be poor together. The wealthy districts really aren't interested in taking in poor districts." The state Department of Education declined comment until the legislation is introduced.

From Uniontown Herald Standard, PA, by M. Bradford Grabowski, 11 September 2003

Quebec Premier Charest Wants Private Sector Involved in Public Services

Laval - The Quebec government may get the private sector involved in the water system while cutting the number of health-sector bargaining units, Premier Jean Charest said Sunday. Charest's closing speech at a Liberal general-council meeting near Montreal was the latest sign of a sharp turn away from the heavily interventionist policies of his Parti Quebecois predecessors. Charest, who has promised major civil-service and income-tax cuts, told delegates the government can't do everything for everyone, with unlimited funds. "Are we going to continue to block sub-contracting in the public sector when we can be more efficient?" he said. "We can better respond to needs through partnerships, through new concepts of management." Charest said the province may work with the private sector to share the enormous cost of upgrading water infrastructure. But he cautioned the water system would remain government-run. "Privatization is not an option," he told a news conference following his speech. "Public-private partnerships may very well be (an option) if there are proposals in that respect, but public-private partnerships are not privatization." The government plans to make changes to the labour code this fall to clear the way for increased sub-contracting by government departments.

Also in the works is a plan to group together health-sector bargaining units that currently operate independently. Charest said the streamlined contract structure would give the province more flexibility to manage and transfer personnel. Spending cuts and a leaner and more efficient public sector are key planks of the Liberal platform. Their first budget in June included plans to slash nearly $800 million in program spending from PQ projections. Finance Minister Yves Seguin also introduced measures to eliminate subsidies and tax breaks for businesses to help the government save up to $800 million a year. The fiscally-conservative plan was shot down Sunday by the head of one of Quebec largest labour groups. Claudette Carbonneau, president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, said workers are paying the price for the government's right-leaning policies. "The Liberal government is extremely hardline towards workers," Carbonneau said. "They're ready to apply it (subcontracting) in a totally savage way, on the backs of the workers. "They're jeopardizing the employees, working conditions and the very existence of the unions." But Charest has remained undeterred in the face of the criticism. He told delegates the Liberals will honour its promises to slash taxes and review the $1.3-billion day-care program.

The premier also repeated a pledge to trim the size of the civil service - a hot issue during the election campaign. Charest noted Quebec's civil-service budget is currently 37 per cent higher than that of neighbouring Ontario and 28 per cent higher than the national average among all provinces. "Is this the price of our distinctness in Quebec?" asked Charest. The Liberals have promised to slash income taxes by $1 billion, or 27 per cent per taxpayer, each year for five years beginning in 2004-2005. The tax-cut pledge has drawn the ire of unions and community groups that fear social programs, such as day-care services, would suffer. On Sunday, Charest addressed problems in the $5-a-day day-care system, which he called "dysfunctional" and in dire need of an overhaul. His government is reviewing the program amid soaring costs and waiting lists up to three years long. The PQ accused Charest Sunday of targeting critical social programs to finance tax cuts. "The population has absolutely no idea what to expect from the cuts that are coming," PQ critic Sylvain Simard said in an interview. "There is no specific mandate that allows him to do this. "Jean Charest and his government have no other preoccupation but to cut services to lower the taxes of the wealthy."

From Ottawa Citizen, Canada, 15 September 2003

Former President Ford to Attend Dedication of New Public Policy Building Site

Ann Arbor, Mich. - Former President Ford will be among several former officials attending a dedication of the future site of the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy building. "He is expected to attend a portion of the day's events," spokeswoman Julie Peterson told The Detroit News for a Monday story, noting that Ford, a University of Michigan graduate, will be an honored guest. The Thursday event features former Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neil and David Gergen, who was White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. Both are scheduled to speak at the dedication. Construction on the 80,000-square-foot, $32 million building initially was approved in December 2001, but will not begin until fund-raising is completed, university officials said. The Ford school's faculty and staff currently are housed in three buildings. The new five-story building will consolidate the school's offices and classrooms at a location that will serve as the gateway to the Central Campus. The school, ranked in the top 10 public administration and policy programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report, has 40 faculty and 200 students. Founded in the early 1990s as the Institute of Public Administration, it underwent a reorganization in 1968 that expanded curriculum to include economic analysis, political analysis and quantitative methods. In 1995, it was given school status within the university and named the School of Public Policy. The school officially was named after President Ford in 1999. Ford, who grew up in Grand Rapids, graduated from Michigan in 1935 and from Yale Law School in 1941.

From MLive.com (subscription), MI, 15 September 2003

Whistleblowers Need Protection: Public Servant

Ottawa - The man appointed to investigate government wrongdoing and protect public service whistle-blowers says his office is regarded with suspicion and should be replaced by an independent agency created by Parliament. In his first, and perhaps last annual report to Parliament, Edward Keyserlingk, the Public Service Integrity Officer, said he's not getting the kind of juicy allegations he expected. There may be scandals out in government, but people aren't coming to him with earth-shaking evidence of misdeeds. Instead, he's getting complaints about human resource issues; bad managers, harassment and the like, all of which are normally dealt with by various agencies and tribunals. "We are, in fact, not getting the cases that this office was set up to deal with." Keyserlingk, a lawyer and a former professor of ethics, said he can't overcome growing mistrust among public servants. "Despite considerable effort to demonstrate that my office is functionally independent from government in the investigation and disposition of cases, skepticism persists, and is in fact, increasing," he said. "Until the office is based on legislation that ensures functional independence from government, it will not attract the credibility it needs to encourage public interest disclosures of wrongdoing." He said because his office can only make recommendations and is under the watch of the Treasury Board, whistle-blowers don't see it as a powerful agency which can do something with their claims while protecting them from reprisals.

He said he doesn't blame them. "I don't know if I'd go to this office myself," he said ruefully at a news conference. Public service unions and some MPs and senators have demanded legislation to create an independent office to investigate claims of wrongdoing. Nycole Turmel, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, one of the biggest public unions, said Keyserlingk's report was dead on. "The evidence keeps mounting that separate legislation with strong provisions for enforcement of the law and protection of whistleblowers is what is needed," she said. "The time for study is over and the time for Parliament to consider legislation is overdue." The Professional Institute of the Public Service, which represents federal scientists and other professionals, said it's been 10 years since the government promised legal protection for whistleblowers. It's time to act. Unions and several private members' bills in Parliament say the integrity office should have teeth to enforce its findings, a broader mandate and the power to protect people from reprisals. Keyserlingk agrees. He said his office is supposed to do that, but can't overcome the suspicion that it is simply a front for Treasury Board. He said he had his doubts about taking the job in the first place, noting that unlike an agency based in law, his office is based on policy and can vanish with a pen stroke.

Nevertheless, he said, it was a valuable experiment. "The experience provided a rare and needed opportunity to test the credibility and effectiveness of a system that is based on policy. It also made it clear that there is an urgent need for a more robust institution." He said a new office should be created by law, reporting to a Parliamentary committee and a minister. He said he isn't seeking the full independence granted to people like the auditor general or the information commissioner. The new office should cover all of government, including Crown corporations. Right now, Keyserlingk can only deal with complaints involving government departments, meaning he covers only about half of federal employees. He also said the integrity office should be able to hear allegations from anyone, including public servants, ordinary citizens, advocacy groups or unions. Now, it can only take complaints from civil servants. Keyserlingk also said it's time to reward whistleblowers, to make it clear that uncovering wrongdoing is a duty and a service to the public. The Professional Institute agreed: "The recommended approach to the disclosure of wrongdoing moves from one of 'cloak and dagger' to one of recognition and reward for those who disclose wrongdoing."

From CTV, Canada, 16 September 2003

 

Democracy and Mobocracy - The Future of Freedom

A panoply of political philosophers, from Aristotle, Montesquieu, De Tocqueville and Edmund Burke to Francis Fukuyama, have worried about the excesses of democracy that can degenerate into mobocracy. Newsweek International editor and former editor of the influential Foreign Affairs journal, Fareed Zakaria joins this brotherhood with an ambitious conservative critique of illiberal democracy. A rising star in the American foreign policy horizon, Zakaria has been tapped as a future secretary of state, the first Muslim to occupy the office. His columns and books enjoy enormous reach and impact in the United States and around the world. This new work cements his place as an original thinker on global systems, however much one may resent the elitism that runs amok from cover to cover. We are living in a democratic age where 119 countries are governed through universal adult franchise. Pressures from the masses are the primary engines of social change. Capitalism itself has been democratized, as consumption, saving and investing are now mass phenomena. Culture has been democratized thanks to popular music, blockbuster films and prime-time television. Technology and information have been democratized. Zakaria asks if this shift of power has not overreached itself to the detriment of liberty. "Democracy is flourishing, liberty is not." (p 17)

Liberty is secured through "constitutional liberalism", ie rule of law, separation of powers, protection of private property, freedom of speech, assembly and religion. In Yugoslavia, Indonesia, Iran, Peru, Palestine, Zimbabwe etc, democratization is antagonistic to constitutional liberalism and is imposing new forms of tyranny. In the US, too, slavery and segregation were entrenched in the South by the democratic system. The American Congress is today "utterly open to its constituents' views and pressures more responsive, more democratic and more dysfunctional". (p 23) Political parties and professionals are engaged in a spiraling search for the "pulse of the people", a race to "be the first to genuflect before the people". Zakaria alleges that Western democracy's pandering to populism, special interests and lobbies has taken the inner stuffing out of liberty. Just as Ulysses, the Greek mythological hero, imposed limits on himself and took the advice of Circe while crossing the Island of Sirens, "democratic societies need new buffers and guides", unelected institutions that can temper and tame public passions, educate citizens and preserve liberty. The first fires of liberty were lit by strife between church and state in Europe from the time of Constantine. Catholicism's independence from the state and countervailing authority limited government. European landed aristocracy's near equal relationship with kings in the Middle Ages gradually allowed for separation of powers. Dukes, barons and counts forced monarchs to concede freedoms, thereby limiting the arbitrariness of the state.

The Reformation rejected the now-oppressive authority of the papacy from the 16th century and opened space for religious liberty. Capitalism created an independent class of businesspeople who pushed the envelope for free trade, free markets and individual rights. Zakaria maintains, "capitalist growth is the single best way to create an effective and limited state". (p 76) If capitalism and constitutionalism come first, followed by democracy, the sequence is liberty-enhancing. South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia liberalized their economies, legal systems and rights of worship and travel before transiting toward democracy. "Premature democratization" must be avoided. Taking more leafs out of history, Germany, Austria-Hungary and France had bourgeoisie and civil societies that were weak, divided and subservient to the state. Their democratization had to undergo violent shocks. Oil-rich Persian Gulf sheikdoms, Nigeria and Venezuela have business classes deeply dependent on the state. They are immature for full-scale democracy. Endowed with independent economic institutions, countries like Belarus, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia are ideally placed for liberal democracy to flourish. Singapore, the apotheosis of economic freedom, "will be a fully functioning liberal democracy within a generation". (p 86) China's administrative and legal reforms and its truncation of state power in the economy are also conducive to Zakaria's preferred form of democracy. Having missed liberty-friendly sequencing, many countries are afflicted by "elected autocrats" and illiberal democracy.

Zakaria claims that half of the democratizing nations in the world are illiberal democracies. Boris Yeltsin emasculated competing centers of power in Russia - legislatures, courts and regional governors. Vladimir Putin has taken the cue and left absolutely none to check the Kremlin. African states "overemphasized multi-party elections and correspondingly neglected basic tenets of liberal governance". (p 98) Pakistan had a system in the 90s best described as "fascist democracy", which a "liberal autocrat" like Pervez Musharraf is trying to change. India's "semi-liberal democracy" has in recent decades grown less tolerant, less secular, less law-abiding, less liberal. Its court system is a corrupt handmaiden of politicians, who are also polarizing the population on the basis of factional solidarity in opposition to some other group. Introduction of unregulated democracy in Bosnia, Azerbaijan and Georgia has ended in war. Echoing Immanuel Kant, Zakaria opines, "without constitutional liberalism, democracy itself has no peace-inducing qualities". (p 116) Elections in the Arab world would produce demagogues closer in mentality to Osama bin Laden than King Abdullah of Jordan. It would be "one man, one vote, one time" and an endless night of theocracy thereafter. Arab politics is not culturally unique but has been caught in a time warp since European inspired liberal thought flourished in the Middle East two centuries ago. Fundamentalism is on the upswing owing to the total failure of Arab political institutions.

Zakaria calls the mineral-laden kingdoms "trust-fund states" that have too much unearned income, don't need to tax the population and provide accountability, transparency and liberty in return. What the US should pursue prior to free and fair elections in west Asia is capitalism, a genuine middle class, rule of law, civic institutions, courts and political parties. Moving to the US domestic arena, Zakaria thinks too much democracy is shortening liberties. Pursuit of public opinion has gone out of control in Washington, so much that the hyper-responsive poll-driven American system has booted out institutions that guarded liberalism. Congress is dictated by each individual member's whim, which in turn is the mouthpiece of a fanatically self-interested lobby. Political parties are so open and decentralized that nobody controls them. Presidential primaries have been snatched from party organizations and handed over to the voters. Democratization of campaign finance has converted fundraisers into king makers. Politicos are single-mindedly focussed on winning the next election to the exclusion of all else. States like California have gone overboard with direct democratic procedures like referendums and initiatives, rendering centuries of liberal governance chaotic. "Politics did not work when kings ruled by fiat and it does not work when the people do the same". (p 196) Zakaria's agenda is to resurrect institutions and elites injured by mobocracy. American democracy's halcyon era was served eminently by public-spirited elites who acted as "social stabilizers".

From independence until 1960, the WASP elites (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants) performed public service as a responsibility that came with power. They adhered to an unwritten code of honor and took charge of local and national-level public policy, showing the masses the way. "Without guidance or reference to authority, people can make bad choices." (p 220) Zakaria argues for delegation of governance to citizens experienced in public affairs, nonpartisan specialists who are unfazed by short-term interests. Key decision-makers must be insulated from the intense jockeying of politics so that deliberative and unemotional policies are implemented. Central banks, the European Union and the World Trade Organization work well due to their insularity from vote-bank considerations. Those with immense power should lead and set legal and moral standards or else illiberal democracy will take the world into a race to the bottom. Zakaria's sophisticated and complex theory deserves the attention of everyone worried about democracy's inadequacies. However, his unabashed admiration for elites and "liberal autocrats" is worrisome. The notion that a handful of aristocratic know-alls can decide better on behalf of the unlettered and underfed poor shocks sensibilities and goes against the notion of self-determination and decentralization. For a scholastic work of this order, there is no mention or concern for equality. Inequality of status, wealth and power is a far greater world problem than lack of "liberties", as Zakaria defines them. Readers would do well to consult Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom to counter Zakaria's fusillade against mobocracy. The Future of Freedom. Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, by Fareed Zakaria. Penguin Books India, New Delhi, June 2003. ISBN: 0-67-004993-X. Price: US$24.95, 286 pages.

From Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, by Fareed Zakaria, 12 September 2003

 

Local Government Minister Maitha Must Quit Over Corruption, Say MPs

Nairobi - But minister insists attack is all political - Local Government minister Karisa Maitha should resign because of his part in corrupt deals, four MPs claimed yesterday. They alleged he was guilty of fraud, abuse of office and breach of trust - all three of which are included in the legal definition of corruption. And if the minister refuses to resign he should face a vote of no confidence by MPs and then be sacked by the President, they said. The four MPs claimed Mr. Maitha was guilty of fraud in January, shortly after his appointment, by nominating 67 councillors to local authorities after switching names on a list given to him by political parties. He later backed down following heated criticism of his actions in Parliament. His alleged abuse of office came in July, the MPs alleged, when he ordered Nairobi City Council to accept a Sh45 million insurance tender from a firm called Invesco, in breach of the Treasury's procurement procedures. His decision was overturned by the Treasury last week, following an appeal by another bidder. Invesco, owned by former Kanu national treasurer Peter Kuguru, who recently defected to Narc, had been given the business in spite of quoting Sh12 million above the lowest bid, it was earlier revealed. Mr Maitha was guilty of breach of trust when he said he had found a briefcase containing Sh5 million at his door, in April this year, but failed to report what he said was an attempt to bribe him to the police, the MPs claimed.

The MPs also accused Mr. Maitha of intimidating council officials through a series of on-the-spot dismissals so they would carry out his wishes without protest. The four MPs demanding his resignation were: Mr. Bilow Kerrow (Mandera West, Kanu), Mr. Musa Sirma (Eldama Ravine, Kanu) Mr. Otieno Kajwang' (Mbita, Narc) and Mr. Abdi Sasura (Saku, Kanu). However, Mr. Maitha immediately dismissed all the allegations as false, and said the clamour for his resignation was due to the ongoing succession war in the ruling National Rainbow Coalition (Narc). He said that while three of those criticising him were from the main opposition party, Kanu, Mr. Kajwang', who is in Narc, was associated closely with Mr. Raila Odinga, a central figure in the ongoing row over over the need for an executive prime minister. "I was the first one to oppose the idea of an executive prime minister and that is the reason why they are fighting me," Mr. Maitha said. He did not explain how the issue of prime minister was related to the Treasury's decision against the tender award. The four, who addressed a Press conference at Parliament Buildings, tabled a series of documents which, they said, supported their allegations that included a copy of a letter Mr. Maitha wrote to Nairobi council, approving the insurance bid by Invesco.

Dated July 1, 2003 and addressed to the Town Clerk, it read in part: "The firm was the most competitive one due to the fact that Monarch Insurance Company, which Consolidated Insurance Brokers has quoted for some of the policies, is not a reputable firm, having been adversely mentioned in the tender assessment report". However a council Evaluation Report on Tenders stated that Invesco, who had been insuring the council for the previous four years, had not been honouring claims promptly, and that another firm - Leon Insurance Brokers - had provided all the necessary information required by the tender applications and had quoted lower premiums. Said Mr. Kerrow: "The Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act defines corruption to include fraud, abuse of office and the breach of trust; Maitha is guilty of each of these." The MPs said Mr. Maitha did not have the power to nominate 67 councillors. He had revoked the nominations of the parties while nominating replacements. They said that when he claimed there was an attempt to bribe him through a briefcase containing Sh5 million that was found abandoned outside his door, he then failed to report the person trying to bribe him to the police. "To this day, no one knows why he did not report the attempted bribe to police. It is anybody's guess why he did not do that. He was in a breach of trust for failing to report the matter, in defence of the Constitution and laws he took oath to defend," the MPs said.

They further accused Mr. Maitha of intimidating chief officers, some of whom he suspended and later reinstated in different stations. Mr. Maitha, they said, revoked the appointment of members of the Interim Oversight Board, a body that approved any proposed spending at the City Council, so he could be left free to interfere with procurement. Mr. Kajwang' said: "I urge the Justice minister Mr. Kiraitu Murungi and Mr. John Githongo (PS Governance and Ethics), to move quickly and investigate the City Council insurance tender saga and cause the minister to write a statement with the Anti-Corruption Police unit". He said local authorities were independent and autonomous, and had rules of procurement, which the minister had contravened with impunity. Any hesitation would would confirm fears of corruption within the Narc administration. The Mbita MP added: "It is very embarrassing for the minister and the Government; let him tender his resignation in order not to continue embarrassing our Government". Mr. Sirma said: "We have honourably done what he asked us to do - give evidence of his corruption". Mr. Sasura added: "If the minister hangs to his seat, we shall go ahead and censor him in the House when we resume and compel the President to sack him".

In dismissing all the allegations, Mr. Maitha yesterday said it was within his powers to sign the tender award. He said the tenders were by the Town Clerk and his evaluation committee, who scrutinised them before making a decision. They forwarded their recommendations to him for consideration and approval. Mr. Maitha said that two of the applicants were insurance brokers while the rest were insurance companies. One of them, Monarch Insurance, was cited by a broker, Consolidated Insurance Brokers. "The Town Clerk and his evaluation committee decided they would no longer deal with brokers who would still have to look for insurance companies. That is why they decided on Invesco, a company which has been providing insurance cover to Nairobi City Council since 1999," Mr. Maitha said. Monarch Insurance Company was rejected when it was found to have been adversely mentioned in the tender assessment report. He said those companies that were dissatisfied with the ruling could appeal against his decision to the Procurement Appeals Board at the Treasury. "I will still have to approve any tender awarded for this and others, and those who are unhappy have the right to complain to the appeals board and even the High Court if they wish it," he said.

He also denied abusing his office in the nomination of councillors. Mr. Maitha then attributed the demands for his resignation to the succession war in Narc, and his opposition to the idea of an executive prime minister. He described the MPs as busybodies who were not qualified to criticise him. He accused Mr. Kerrow of embarking on a personal vendetta because of disciplinary action he had taken against his first cousin, Mr Abdi Billow, who until a month ago was the director of the Inspectorate department in the ministry. "Mr. Musa Sirma was an assistant Local Government minister for three years and Mr. Sasura is Mr Kerrow's cousin. They do not have the moral authority to point fingers at me," he said. Support for the minister came from Nairobi mayor Mr. Joe Aketch, who challenged anyone with information and evidence to prove that Mr. Maitha was corrupt, to table it. (Additional reporting by Odhiambo Orlale)ext Here

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Julius Bosire, 3 September 2003

Commission of Inquiry to Fight Corruption in Lesotho

Pakalitha Mosisili, the Lesotho Prime Minister, today announced the establishment of a commission of enquiry to investigate alleged corruption in the issuing of building permits by the Maseru City Council in connection with the reconstruction of the Maseru city centre. This in a bid by the Lesotho government to show the world that it will continue to fight corruption after the bribery scandal involving millions of rands over the construction of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. The reconstruction of the city centre followed the destruction of commercial buildings that took place during political protests in Lesotho in 1998. Michael Ramodibedi, a senior judge in the Lesotho High Court and a judge of the Court of Appeal, has been appointed chairperson of the commission. He will be assisted by Lebohang Phooko, a practising engineer, and Mathibeli Hlaele, a member of the fraud division in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service. The terms of reference of the commission will investigate the procedures prescribed in the processing and issuance of planning and building permits by the Maseru City Council during the period December 1998 and December 2002. Tsokolo Makhethe, the deputy attorney general, said: "The collective effect of the commission of enquiry will be to investigate the existence of corrupt practises in the issue of building permits for the construction of buildings in the Maseru city centre." Masupha Sole, the former chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, is currently serving a 15-year prison term for accepting bribes from several international contractors and consultants.

From SABC News, South Africa, 3 September 2003

Civil Servants Ready for a Showdown With Government

Lusaka - We are meeting at Nakatindi Hall for a big showdown with government, warned Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (CSAWUZ) general secretary Darrison Chaala yesterday. Reacting to Vice-President Nevers Mumba's warning for striking civil servants to return to work or face consequences of their illegal strike, Chaala said government would not be allowed to run the country through intimidation. "We love Zambia but this is not the way to rule us. We have a meeting tomorrow (today) at Nakatindi Hall. It will be big just come and attend," he said. Chaala said unions could not declare a dispute on an agreed collective agreement as demanded by government. "Even the Industrial and Labour Act clause that Vice-President Nevers Mumba cited is clear, it's only when you are still negotiating and before you arrive at an agreement that you can declare a dispute," he said. Chaala said in Chiluba's government the union declared four disputes because they had failed to reach an agreement during bargaining. "I challenge government to seek judicial review to show that we can declare dispute after an agreement has been reached and the minister of labour appends his signature," he said. "He should not think we are laymen in this. We had four disputes in the Chiluba government and we won." Chaala said it was sad government wanted to rule the country through intimidation and harassment. "They want workers to work under pressure, intimidation and harassment when somebody owes them money even after the labour minister appends his signature on that collective agreement?" he asked. "No, we love Zambia but this is not a way to rule us."

Addressing the nation on both radio and television last night, Vice-President Nevers Mumba ordered striking workers to return to work or face consequences of their illegal strike. Vice-President Mumba said the strike action was an illegal wild cat strike. He said no collective dispute had been declared by the unions as envisaged in the law before they staged their strike and that even if there was, procedure had not been complied with. He said the threats of street protests over the housing allowance would be met with full force of the law because they were not part of the current industrial and labour relations Act but a political activity. "I am advising all striking workers to return to work forthwith or face the consequences of their illegal strike," Vice-President Mumba said. He said the strike action by civil had seen denial of essential services to the public and that it had gone beyond the country's borders. He said the strike action had portrayed the country as unstable and unsuitable for business destination. Vice-President Mumba said prior to 2002, government was paying K86 billion per year in rentals and thus decided to spread the amount to cover other government workers to minimise their suffering. He said although government was unable to pay the housing allowance in 2002, it had informed the unions it was committed to pay the arrears. He said during various meetings with the unions, he explained that government had renegotiated its economic programmes with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Vice-President Mumba said government would be forced to borrow about K618 billion from the private sector to meet the current demands by the unions. "This level of borrowing will not be favourable as there will be increased inflation and a weaker kwacha," he said. Vice-President Mumba said if government was to use resources for capital projects, the country would not be able to reach the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point and that the influx of donor assistance would be drastically reduced. He said it was time for the union leaders to place national interest before their own. Vice-President Mumba said the demands for housing allowances by the civil servants would put the country into a deeper economic crisis that would take years to recover and not months. "Government considers this strike as illegal because according to section 75 of the industrial relations Act, no collective dispute has been declared by the unions," Vice-President Mumba said. Meanwhile the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) public relations officer Sara Kamanga said yesterday that wards have become congested following the strike action by workers in health institutions around Lusaka and nearby towns. And Zambia Air Force (ZAF) officers have taken over the meteorological department at the Lusaka International Airport after workers under the government department joined the country-wide strike by civil servants pressing for their housing allowances.

Kamanga said most wards at UTH were congested due to the strike action by health workers at most hospitals in Lusaka. "We are lacking manpower. We don't have many nurses. The most affected is the maternity ward. Patients are coming from Kabwe because the workers there are not working," she said. Kamanga said there was a rapid turnover of patients being referred from clinics throughout Lusaka and Kabwe where health workers were on strike. Most of clinics in Lusaka such as the Railway Clinic, Chainda Clinic and Chelstone Clinic are not operating due to the strike. A check at UTH revealed that management has had to provide extra beds in most wards while some had been provided with mattresses put on the floor. Kamanga admitted that there was a problem of congestion at UTH caused by the strike. Kamanga said the most congested ward, was the maternity one. "The workload is too much. It's really tough going," she said. Kamanga said some people were dying because they were too ill and could not afford good food at their homes. She said UTH recorded 76 deaths on Tuesday. Kamanga said 41 were Brought In Dead (BIDs) while 35 died while at UTH on Tuesday. She said it was difficult to tell if the deaths were caused by the strike because most times, the number either reduced or increased.

But some of the workers said most of the people that died had been turned away from some clinics in Lusaka. Kamanga said some people who were brought in dead could have died at their homes. The workers have been on strike, which is in its second week following government's failure to pay them housing allowance. And Kamanga said incarcerated former State House press aide Richard Sakala's condition was stable. "He (Sakala) is looking fine," said Kamanga. Meanwhile UTH Catholic Nurses Guild president Mary Mwandila said despite all strike problems, the nurses would hold a fundraising walk this weekend to help buy materials for UTH. Mwandila appealed to the public to sponsor the walk. UTH workers falling under the Zambia National Union of Health and Allied Workers have not gone on strike. And meteorological department workers at the Lusaka International Airport have joined the strike. Some workers talked to said they had downed tools this week while all meteorological work was being handled ZAF personnel.

Agricultural Technical and Professional Staff Union of Zambia secretary general Teza Nchinga said the strike was not in the best interest of the nation. He said the union leaders should get back to the negotiating table and find a solution to the impasse. "We demand of the trade union leaders the highest aptitude for conflict resolution with government to end the current strike which is only adding to the already existing socio-economic decadence," said Nchinga. Labour deputy minister Chile Ng'uni addressing heads of government departments in Chama district urged public service unions to return to the negotiating table with government. He warned government would be forced to withdraw the recognition agreements of the unions whose members were currently on strike. He warned the workers on strike to be prepared to face the consequences of their actions. Ng'uni said President Mwanawasa was committed to developing the country.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Speedwell Mupuchi, Larry Moonze and Bivan Sauseki, 5 September 2003

Parliament Ratifies Protocol Against Corruption

Harare - Parliament has ratified the Sadc Protocol Against Corruption aimed at promoting and regulating co-operation among member countries in the fight against corruption in the private and public sectors. The protocol was concluded in August 2001. It strives to promote and strengthen the development by each state of mechanisms needed to prevent, detect and eradicate corruption in the public and private sectors. Member countries would be required to harmonise policies and domestic legislation related to the detection and eradication of corruption. The protocol, subject to domestic law of each state and existing treaties, facilitates the extradition of suspects that would have been implicated in corrupt activities in the region. Moving a motion for the ratification of the protocol, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, said corruption was transnational in character, hence the need to come up with the protocol. Corruption, he said, was like cancer since it had the potential of eradicating the social fabric of society. "Some local companies have amassed wealth overnight through corrupt dealings and there is a lot that is happening in the private sector, especially in relation to companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange where insider trading has been practised," he said. "There should be standards in the way in which public and private sectors administer their services. We will definitely take measures to ensure that listed companies give information to the public about their operations."

The minister said it was vital to come up with corruption indicators from a Zimbabwean perspective. He said the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill that would provide the necessary legislation to curb corruption in the private and public sectors would be presented in the House in the near future. There was a need to come up with measures that would stamp out corruption in revenue collection as well as in the collection of fines by police, Cde Chinamasa said. Contributing to the debate on the motion, Glen Norah MP Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC) said if Parliament was serious about stamping out corruption, MPs should then set an example by declaring their assets. "If we are serious about eradicating corruption in the society, why has it taken us so long to declare our assets in line with Standing Order number 18 of Parliament that requires us to declare all our assets?" she asked. "In some countries such as Kenya even public servants declare their assets." Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga said corruption was rife in Zimbabwe and alleged that there was a lot of dealing at institutions such as the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), where funds were being abused by some individuals through dubious loan schemes.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 8 September 2003

From the Agreement - a Guide for Good Governance

Monrovia - At the recent Liberian peace talks in Accra, Ghana, good governance was one of key issues of discussions amongst the delegates. The system of good governance had been circumvented by previous national leaders either out of the lack of political will or out of personal greed and corrupt behavior. Bad governance had therefore, to a larger extent, contributed to civil crisis in Liberia. The comprehensive peace agreement which grew out of the peace negotiation therefore took note of the need to promote the principles of good governance by establishing two of several commissions through which good governance would be adhered to. Under Article XVI of the comprehensive peace agreement, a "good governance reform commission was established to serve as a "vehicle" for the promotion of the principles of good governance. The agreement also established under ARTICLE XVII a contract and monopolies commission (CMC) to, oversee activities of the contractual nature undertaken by the government.

Under the Governance Reform Commission, its seven-member commissioners, appointed by the chairman of the transitional government and confirmed by the transitional assembly, existing program for the promotion of good governance will be review with the objective of adjusting its scope and strategy for implementation. The Governance Reform Commissioners would also be expected to develop public sector management reforms through assessment, reforms, capacity building and performance monitoring. The commissioners would have the task in ensuring transparency and accountability in "all government institutions and activities acting as the public ombudsman." It is expected that by next February, members of the Governance Reform Commission would have been appointed and confirmed to begin implementing their mandate. On the other hand, to further enhance the practice of good governance, the Contract and Monopolies Commission is mandated to ensure that all public financial and budgetary commitments by government are transparent, non-monopolistic and in accordance with the laws of Liberia and internationally accepted norms of commercial practice.

The five-member contract and monopolies commission is to ensure that public officials will not use their positions to benefit from any contract financed from public money. For transparency and maximum competition for contracts, the commission is mandated to publish all tenders in the media and on its own website. It is also mandated that the Commission publish on its website the result of tenders as well as a record of all commercial entities that have participated and succeeded in reviewing contracts. Independent national and international experts would be expected to assist the Commission. Nomination of members to the Contract and Monopolies Commission is expected to be done by November 14, thirty days following the installation of the transitional government. The commission will begin implementing its mandate by December 14, sixty days following the induction of the transitional government.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 12 September 2003

Respected Economist to Tackle Nigeria's Corruption

Abuja - These days there is a buzz in the upper storeys of Nigeria's finance ministry, a palpable feeling that at last Africa's most populous country could be on the verge of meaningful economic reform. Much is at stake as the new finance minister, former World Bank vice-president Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, prepares to take a machete to the corrupt and inefficient thickets of Nigeria's overgrown public sector. Many before her have failed to make any visible impression on a system that has soaked up the revenues of Africa's largest oil industry and sapped the energy of 126 million people as they sink ever deeper into poverty. The Nigerian public remains distrustful of any programme that promises more austerity in a country with annual income of only $300 per capita and a distressing lack of basic public services. But outside observers have taken heart in President Olusegun Obasanjo's choice of Okonjo-Iweala, a Harvard-educated economist with a 20-year World Bank pedigree who is coming home with a fresh outlook on Nigeria's woes. "Taking the job was a very, very difficult decision for me ... but the president asked me to come and put together a team that would be competent and credible," she said.

Two of the challenges facing her, the incompetence and corruption of Nigeria's bloated state sector, are in evidence right outside her office. Abuja's streets are once again snaked by winding fuel queues, caused by the inefficiency of Nigeria's subsidised fuel distribution system. Once past the traffic jams, a visitor to the finance ministry is met by staff openly and cheerfully requesting cash, itself a minor problem but also the public face of a vast network of public sector corruption. As she launches her much-anticipated reform programme (and the inevitable new acronym: Nation Economic Empowerment Development Strategy, or Needs), she faces a third obstacle: public scepticism. The Nigerian people have seen the kleptocratic elite get fat on oil revenues, while the poor lack clean water and a regular power supply. They simply don't trust the government to make cutbacks in the general good. "Among the Nigerian people there's a lack of trust, I agree. We will have to build the trust," Okonjo-Iweala said. "Some of these reforms are very difficult."

Her plan reflects the thinking of her former colleagues at the World Bank, and is as economically orthodox as it is ambitious. Okonjo-Iweala plans to boost growth by investing in agriculture, microfinance for small and medium-sized businesses, and by pushing forward a faltering privatisation drive. Money will be spent on fighting Aids and malaria, on repairing Nigeria's decrepit road network and on education, while recurrent expenditure will be reined in through civil service restructuring and job cuts. She hopes to boost growth, which is currently somewhere between zero and 3.5 percent. At 5 percent, poverty levels would stabilise, she said. If it hit 6 and 7 percent, the lot of Nigerians might begin to improve. The police and the courts will be given more support in the battle against graft. There's nothing all that new in the plans; Obasanjo promised and failed to deliver a similar programme after his first election victory in 1999. But Okonjo-Iweala makes a persuasive case that this time things will be different, and diplomatic observers say she has a grasp on details and theory of policy that eluded her predecessors.

From Independent Online, South Africa, 15 September 2003

NEPA, Corruption and Inefficiency

An institution is the embodiment of those that make it. Those that animate NEPA as an institution are the people that should have been looked into rather than insisting on privatisation. Administratively, NEPA is a national failure. We have economic and social history different from those the Bureau of Public Enterprises is trying to copy on privatisation of state's companies. The countries we are trying to copy have the history of states encouraging individuals and corporate initiatives. This encouragement influenced their overseas ventures. Nigerians and many countries colonised have no capital to establish many of the companies been sold today by the government of the day. Breaking one company into many components may not translate to efficiency. It is just mere decentralisation. It cannot solve NEPA's problem. The new companies are still to be managed by the same inefficient and lackadaisical Nigerians. NEPA staff have developed damningly insensitive skin to public complaints. The officials bleed the rest of us, especially individual consumers. They feel consumers are favoured whenever there is stable electricity current. Corruption has retarded national and individual progress. In view of this, the government wants to eliminate or reduce corruption in the society. Some government institutions like NEPA, aids and abets the thriving of corruption through the meter readers and "revenue task force".

Whenever your complaint to NEPA is on excessive billing, head or tail, you cannot win. You will be urged to pay the amount of the bill and reconnection fee before you can be listened to. This is the basic ingredient of corruption that thrives in NEPA. It is a national phenomenon. It is not localised! Position or the age of whomever you are directed to talk to on the bill does not matter. The ready answer you will get is go and pay first. Initiative has long been lost in the institution. The nation is paying dearly for this economically and socially. The almighty NEPA officials will talk to you as if you are being favoured to have the epileptic current. I doubt if NEPA officials pay for the electricity they enjoy. Yet, they claim utility allowance like other workers in the government service. The institution has a group of officers called meter readers. With the existence of this group, the word "estimate" should not appear in any NEPA bill. This is contrary to what is happening to consumers. NEPA computers have been fed with the word "estimate" and they reproduce the word at random. The bill will go further to show shamelessly that actual last reading was done about a year or two ago! Though, you pay your bill regularly. When the officials feel they can exploit you, your bill will go red or debit. You are then in the hands of the "revenue task force" for disconnection.

Whatever your bill is, once you settle those members of the task force, you are free till another batch of "the task force" comes round for disconnection. Can we call this national loss? Some of us do the reading and write the consumptions on the bills of the computer and the accounts people to take note and effect correct reading. Because of corruption, those feeding computers will not take the figures to get accurate consumptions of the consumers. The meter readers claimed they had no access to the meters. They never try to be at such venue on Saturdays or try to leave a note for occupants to wait for NEPA to have access to the meters. Yet the reading you put on the bill you paid is neglected. Some of the meter readers complained of areas to cover on foot. Hence the use of the word "Estimate" on all bills. Buy them machines to do the job. They need the machines for effectiveness. When the unit price of electricity consumed was low, people did not bother about what units they were said to have consumed. Now that the price is four naira per unit, a lot of damage is done when somebody who consumes "150" units is estimated to have consumed 300 or 400 units. Multiply any of these units by four and add one hundred naira NEPA maintenance fee and VAT.

You will be denied a lot of money if any of the units above one hundred and fifty units is used as "Estimate" to bill you. Because of the vested interest of the revenue task force; you will not be listened to. Imagine a situation where a four-bedroom flat consumes over seven thousand units in a month! This will give you about N28,000 to pay NEPA! This is because some people will not do their own job for which the nation pays them. They benefit from the predicament they actually caused others. NEPA does not maintain any meter yet; N100 is claimed every month from every Nigerian that cares to pay his/her NEPA bill. With the generally bloated "estimate" which NEPA gives everybody, the "revenue task force" cannot go to the police or the armed forces to disconnect for the unpaid bills! These institutions budget every year for utilities of which electricity is paramount. Was the vote not released? Was the amount for utilities spent on other things? Who approved the spending? Why then should they not pay their bills? Are the institutions above the law of the land?

From Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria, by Munirudeen Gafari, 16 September 2003

Ogun Obas to Obasanjo: Be Aggressive On Corruption

Abuja - Tradtional rulers from Ogun State, President Olusegun Obasanjo's home state, yesterday charged him to ensure that his crusade against corruption is "more aggressive and result-oriented." The council, led by its chairman, (Dr) Adekanbi Tella, the Olu of Ilaro, during a visit to the President at the State House, also urged the Federal Government to alleviate poverty in the land, provide more employment opportunities and check the level of inflation and sliding rate of the naira. Oba Tella, in his address, stated that "poverty is still very much with us in the country. Government should introduce economic policies that will further alleviate poverty in the country. There is the urgent need to provide more employment opportunities for our teeming youths to reduce crime and other vices in the society. "There is also the need to put in place appropriate measures that will check the inflationary trend and the sliding rate of the naira. Your crusade against corruption should be more aggressive and result-oriented," he added. Oba Tella, who noted that the Obasanjo administration would require useful advices to move forward, said there is also "need to ensure a harmonious relationship with other arms of government - the legislature and the judiciary. It is highly desirable that all arms of government see one another as reliable partners in the quest to move our great country forward."

Oba Tella stated that the Obasanjo administration has succeeded in laying a solid foundation for the enthronement of transparency in the conduct of government business and public affairs. "Your relentless efforts in turning around the fortunes of our great country for the benefits of the people will continue to linger on in our memory. Suffice to say that your administration has gone a long way to demonstrate the awesome socio-economic challenges of our time," he added. Obasanjo, in his response, enjoined traditional rulers to become partners with government in "mobilisation, education, development and the renewal of urban and rural areas." While noting that a large segment of the society still believe a lot in what traditional rulers say, the President urged them to propagate and mobilise the people to make the rural areas more habitable. Obasanjo who expressed hope that amendments to the constitution will ensure the provision of roles for traditional rulers, praised the Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, who was part of the delegation, for giving agriculture and food security top priority. He added that if the governor's idea of training young farmers succeeds, it will become a model that will be emulated by other states of the federation. Other key traditional rulers on the delegation, were Alake of Egbaland, Oba Oyebade Lipede and the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Josephine Lohor, 16 September 2003

Mwanawasa to Continue War on Corruption

Johannesburg - Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said this week he would press ahead with a crackdown on corruption although it had made him enemies on both sides of the political divide. "I would consider it a betrayal of the electorate if we did not carry on with the campaign to rid Zambia of corruption. There can be no sustainable development if we give up our zero-tolerance stance," he said. Mwanawasa has built his presidency around the biggest assault on corruption since the Zambia gained independence from Britain in 1964. "I am a man of integrity. I decided to launch this probe after pledging to do so during the 2001 poll campaigns. The government says it has confiscated $16 million so far in cash or property stolen by individuals during Chiluba's rule, but Mwanawasa said he expected to recover at least $300 million by the time his campaign was over. "I shall press ahead. I am fully determined," he said.

Zambia has come under severe scrutiny since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) withheld $100 million in an aid package following the government's disclosure that it faced a budget overrun of 600 billion kwacha (about R918 million) this year. The World Bank, the US and Japan have also signalled that they would withhold support until progress was made with the IMF. Zambia's 120 000-strong civil service has launched an indefinite strike to force the government to pay housing allowances dating back 14 months. Mwanawasa said the workers had a point but the government simply had no money to pay them. On Monday, he said the IMF was punishing Zambia for having a transparent and open style of government. "We are getting punished by international donors for opening our books to scrutiny".

From Independent Online, South Africa, 17 September 2003

Anti-corruption Commission Arrests Donald Chanda for Theft of Public Funds

Lusaka - The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday arrested Chiluba's former economic advisor Donald Chanda for theft of K20 million. The ACC also arrested former Public Service Pensions Fund (PSPF) managing director Offman Gondwe for abuse of office. And the Task Force investigating plunder of national resources in the previous government yesterday arrested former Northern Province deputy minister Daniel Kapapa. ACC assistant Director of Operations Sibalwa Mwaanga said Chanda and Gondwe were picked up in connection with abuse of office. He said Chanda, who is former PSPF chairman and former president Frederick Chiluba's economic advisor, was arrested on Monday for theft contrary to Chapter 87 section 365 of the Laws of Zambia. Mwaanga said particulars of the offense were that Chanda between June 1, 2001 and December 31, 2001 in Lusaka did steal by fraudulently converting to his own use the sum of US $4, 500, the property of the PSPF. Mwaanga said Gondwe was on September 11, 2003 charged with three counts of abuse of office contrary to section 37 (2) (b) of the ACC Act number 42 of 1996. He said Gondwe, while serving as PSPF managing director between December 29, 1999 and March 2000, abused his authority by causing the board to purchase from Shonga Steel Limited a building at K905 million thereby causing an advantage to accrue to Shonga Steel.

Mwaanga said in the second count, Gondwe is between January 1, 2002 and July 31, 2002, without recourse to tender procedure and without approval of the board of directors alleged to have awarded or caused to award a contract exceeding K80 million to Mwitumwa Mungandi, an architect to draw plans for the erection of a perimeter wall around plot 12533, along Alick Nkhata Road. In the third count, Gondwe is said to have irregularly sanctioned the issuance of an open cheque in the sum of K80, 757, 750 to Mungandi. "Both Mr. Gondwe and Mr. Chanda have been given bond and will appear before the principal resident magistrate at Chikwa courts on September 19, 2003," Mwaanga said. And a Task Force spokesperson said Kapapa was arrested yesterday and charged for abuse of authority of office while he was deputy minister in Chiluba's regime. He said Kapapa was alleged to have between July 1, 2000 and October 2001 supplied fax machines, computers, printers and other office equipment to the district administrator's office and other government departments in Kasama without following tender procedures thereby having undue advantage over others. Kapapa was released on bond. He is expected to appear in court before principal resident magistrate on September 30 for plea.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Sheikh Chifuwe And Speedwell Mupuchi, 17 September 2003

 

PM's Action Plan for Good Governance

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Wednesday said his government is willing to sit with state governments to discuss "an action plan on good governance." He was speaking at the eighth Inter-State Council meeting in Srinagar. He presented a five-point programme for evolving a programme of good governance: "A comprehensive legal framework that is defended and enforced by an impartial and competent judicial system. A framework that would be accountable and open. A transparent executive decision making apparatus. A system coupled with a capable, efficient and people friendly bureaucracy and last but not the least, a strong civil society." He said the dynamics of social, economic and political forces in India have changed significantly since the Sarkaria Commission submitted its report on Centre-state relationship. "Centre-state relationship has improved and a sense of partnership has emerged. The end of one-party rule at the Centre has inaugurated a new process of harmonisation of regional aspirations.

This has also helped political parties to somewhat alter their traditional positions on various issues," he said. The prime minister asserted that during his tenure the Centre-state relations improved because of a strong federal spirit. "The [Inter-State] Council strengthens the bond of partnership between the Union and the states, which is the mainstay of our democratic polity and also the main requirement for achieving India's speedy all-round development," he said. He said a majority of programmes undertaken by governments - both at the Centre and in states - are expenditure based and not sufficiently based on quantitative and qualitative changes. "This must change. All of us now realise that the people are demanding higher levels of performance by the governments they elect. Therefore, I would like the Inter-State Council secretariat to focus on monitoring the implementation of the action plan on good governance both in quantitative and qualitative aspects," he said.

Talking about 59 recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, Vajpayee said he is happy that instructions have been issued to ministries and departments to consult the state governments - barring on those issues which figure on the concurrent list of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution - before taking a decision. "I urge the Union ministries and departments as well as the state governments to ensure adherence with these instructions," he said. He complimented Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and the people of the state for successfully organising the Council. "The people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve our highest appreciation for showing their faith in democracy in the face of grave threats. I assure the people of Jammu and Kashmir that we will give them maximum help in consolidating the recent gains. We will further intensify our sincere efforts to advance the dialogue process," he said. Vajpayee said the government has kept its door open to those who wish to enter into a dialogue with it and play a constructive role in taking Jammu and Kashmir forward.

From Rediff, India, by Onkar Singh, 27 August 2003

MP Lashes Out at Corruption Watchdog

Disgraced NSW upper house MP Malcolm Jones told the New South Wales Parliament today the corruption watchdog had no right to determine his role as a parliamentarian. Mr. Jones, who was found by the Independent Commission Against Corruption to have misused his parliamentary entitlements, said he had been judged guilty without being given a fair hearing or even appearing in court. "It's not the role... of ICAC to determine our role and if the day for that occurs, God forbid," the Outdoor Recreation Party MP told the Legislative Council. He said such a day would be "the day democracy is finished". "It's the right of this honourable House and Parliament itself to determine our roles and our functions," he said. Mr. Jones said his only crime was to be ignorant of the exact requirements of the Parliamentary Remuneration Act, which he said was vague and poorly worded in defining the difference between parliamentary and party work. He said the only entity with the right to judge him guilty was the District Court of NSW but that would never happen because there was not enough evidence against him. Mr. Jones has been given an opportunity to convince his parliamentary colleagues that the criminal allegations against him are baseless. In July, ICAC Commissioner Irene Moss found Mr. Jones had claimed an allowance to which he was not entitled and had misused his parliamentary entitlements to fund non-parliamentary activities. She also recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions consider pursuing criminal charges. No such charges have yet been laid.

From NEWS.com.au, Australia, 3 September 2003

Anti-Corruption Bureau Arrests Inspector, Constable in Pune

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has nabbed an inspector and a constable for allegedly accepting a bribe from the owner of a massage parlour in Narayanpeth area of Pune. Inspector Vijay Kadam and constable M Pandharinath Gochade, attached to the Vishrambaugh police station, were nabbed by the ACB while they were allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 3000 from a woman who runs a massage parlour on Monday, an ACB release said on Tuesday. The inspector and the constable had demanded a bribe from the woman failing which they had threatened to implicate her in a case. The ACB said the constable who had demanded a 'full body' massage from her, threatened to lodge a case if she refused to oblige. He then produced the woman before the police inspector who asked her to sort out the matter with the constable.The constable allegedly demanded Rs 25,000 from her but finally settled for Rs 3000. The woman registered a complaint with the ACB and a trap was laid to nab the two.

From Hindustan Times, India, 2 September 2003

Globalisation and Appropriate Governance: Bangladesh Perspectives

Globalisation as a doctrine is not yet based on clear and compact set of principles. It is broadly understood as a form of political and economic liberalism realised through democratisation and free market within a great variety of shades and colours. In fact, globalisation is currently understood mainly in terms of interconnectedness of nations in economic domain, in particular trade, financial flows and transnational corporations. It is seen as an economic parallel to internationalisation in the form of universal rule of the market, free trade, and global flow of capital via spread of information technology. Although, there is no doubt that economic and technological changes have been the driving forces of globalisation, less attention is given to the inter-linked process of political, social and cultural globalisation in the current globalisation discourse. No wonder, the 'dark side' of globalisation is coming from the major fault-lines of political, social and ethical aspects of the globalisation process. In fact, the economic benefits of globalisation - faster growth, cheaper imports, greater exports and investment, and new technologies that the world has enjoyed in recent years are too easily taken for granted.

Despite all the gains that globalisation brings, it has also created losers - mostly developing countries whose relative deprivation and marginalisation, have led to the perception that globalisation is not also irreversible. In the aftermath of the failure of the recent WTO conference, there is a stronger-than-ever perception of the need for deeper exploration of social and political dimensions of globalisation - that in order to move forward on the path of free trade and higher economic growth, issues of equity and fairness both within and among nations should be addressed. In fact, the lack of effective governance both at the international and national levels has prevented the benefits of globalisation to reach not only to the poor countries, but also to the poor people within such countries. The impact of globalisation, its form, extent and multiple linkages are, therefore, very important in understanding how the process of globalisation will unfold in the future, and how a particular nation will work out its political, social and cultural costs as it tries to reap its benefits. In the past decade economic benefits of globalisation like faster growth, cheaper imports, greater exports are financial investment and even sharing of knowledge and new technologies were too easily taken for granted.

In fact, the end of the cold war, offer expressed as the triumph of a political liberal capitalism or democracy created a congenial political environment for a global regime of economic cooperation and free trade. The East-West or great-power rivalry shifted from a politico-military one to an economic one. This political foundation of cooperation paved the way for movement of almost every factor of production, money, technology information, goods as well as people across borders and opened up new possibilities for national economics and regional economic/political blocs. The international capital flows made significant impact on the development strategy and productive activities of third world countries, who started renegotiating their relationships with international financial institutions, trade regimes and private foreign capital to cope with the new winds of globalisation. Three major cracks came in the globalisation process in the past five years with tremendous backlash on the ethics politics of globalisation. a) 1997 Financial crises in East Asia particularly Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. The efficacy and trust in the global financial institutions like IMF, WB and international (mainly Western Capital flows) were-shattered. The need for greater "regulatory control" by the state arose because of the vulnerability of the global financial flows v market." b) The Seattle Episode of 1999 where WTO was strongly perceived to be working well for transitional corporations, big business and rich countries, but not the poor. c) 11 September Episode of 2001. When. WTC was destroyed by terrorist activities. Immediately alter the incidents on 20 September President Bush in "National Security Strategy" document released on that day assested, "The United States possesses unprecedented-and unequalled strength and influence in the world". "Might globalisation restrict the power a little? No. The word globalisation does not appear. (Economic, September 28, 2002).

Bangladesh context - The significance of globalisation differs for individuals, groups and countries. The impact of various global flows varies depending on the stage of economic development of a country, its access to technology, strength of its state and democratic institutions, and cultural characteristics. In other words, the heart of the matter is the "differential access" to power, where power is conceptualised as the capacity to transform material circumstances- whether economic, political or social-and to achieve goals based on the mobilisation of resources, the creation of the rule system, and the control of infrastructures and institutions. The differential, unequal, and uneven access to the dominant organisations, institutions and processes of the new global order has, therefore, come under increasing attack. Bangladesh, like many other developing countries, is not in comfort in coping with the winds of globalisation, as it has less access to and use of different opportunities, living at the margin in the hierarchies of global order with low technological base and poor governance in most arenas of state and society. In this paper, I have tried to assess the impact of globalisation on the character of the Bangladesh state, its policy-making autonomy in some vital sectors including security, and the nature of democratisation and governance of the polity.

Globalisation and democratization - In broad terms, it may be said that the penetration of capitalist values and market practices into every corner of Bangladesh society has been causing disorder bringing into question, if not destroying, established traditions, social structures and political arrangement. There is a striking paradox of globalisation that can be noted in the context of Bangladesh: on the one hand, there is an increasing trend in championing democracy as a form of political organisation, on the other hand, the efficacy of democracy and its fate, is fraught with difficulty. While students of democracy generally examine and debate the challenges to democracy that emerge from within the boundaries of the nation-state, only recently they are seriously questioning whether the nation-state itself can remain at the centre of democratic thought. Second, the idea of a democratic order can no longer be defended simply as an idea: suitable to a particular closed politial community or nation-state. We are compelled to recognise that we live in a complex interconnected world-where the extensity, intensity and impact of issues (economic, political and environmental) raise questions about where those issues are most appropriately addressed.

Deliberative and decision making centres beyond national territories are appropriately situated when those significantly affected by a public matter constitute a cross border or transitional grouping, when lower levels of decision-making cannot manage and discharge satisfactorily transnational or international policy questions, and when the principle of democratic legitimacy can only be properly redeemed in a transnational context. This is very important and relevant for a new democracy like Bangladesh, particularly in protecting human rights and in ensuring a free and fair electoral process. Democracy: Procedure or substance? In Bangladesh, both the procedures of democracy - free and fair elections, rule of law, political parties-and the substance of democracy in terms of efficiency, democratic ethos, ctvil society and meaningful participation in public spheres are influenced by the global and regional environment and inducement. Although, Bangladesh's effective democratic transition began since 1991, it is still struggling to evolve a free and fair electoral system ,and its record of human rights is very unsatisfactory. The transition of democracy in Bangladesh has been accompanied by renewed measures of economic liberalisation. The adoption of free market policies has been in conformity with external economic patterns and structural adjustment programmes of international financial institutions and donor countries.

Globalisation - in this sense of opening up of the economy and trade-led to alteration in political equation and paralleled by a socially disturbing process. The politically active groups and political parties abandoned their old 'ideological baggage'-their desires and aspirations were increasingly defined in terms of material positions that can be enhanced through the political process of democratization. Once, the values and ideologies between and among political groups and political parties are relegated in the background, politics becomes what an author calls " a contest between the rich, the famous and the ruthless". People find less difference whether he belongs to the Bangladesh Awami League or the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The main concern has become how to go to power and have access to perquisites and privileges that it endows. The electoral arena has become violent-money and muscle power replacing the age-old honesty or devotion to people's welfare. Cynicism and disregard for moral and legal principles are now reigning among a large segment of political activists who are often sheltered by political parties. In fact, the ubiquitous nature of politics has already intensified social insecurity-the organised crime, pervasive violence, lack of confidence in (unaccountable) police, and corruption in public institutions have undermined the ethos of citizenship and the image of the nation,In fact, the implications of globalisation are less meaningful for democratisation processes and institutions in Bangladesh.

Democracy will remain a facade - offering less opportunity for human dignity and economic and social progress for millions of disadvantaged people of Bangladesh. On the other hand, the tradition of the country's struggle for popular sovereignty and social justice will be replaced by a powerful constellation of internal and external interests resembling a 'corporatist structure' for the governance of the nation. As Professor Muzaffar Ahmed has aptly remarked in a recent article, " Unless and until market liberalisation is respectful of the democratic rights of the bottom half of the populace and do not show concern merely through palliatives of safety net, the congruence of economic and social basis of political democracy will remain threatened". I have argued that the nature and prospects of democracy in Bangladesh affected by globalisation in a number of distinctive ways. First, the locus of effective political power can no longer be assumed to be national government-effective power is shared and bartered by diverse forces and agencies at national, regional and international levels. This can be easily discerned in Bangladesh in the formation of political parties, working of bureaucratic institutions and in prioritising national resource allocations. Indeed, the kind of accountability and control the citizens of Bangladesh exercise over democratic process and decision making is marginal and sporadic.

The international actors like the World Bank, IMF including the multinational corporations and regional influential public and private organisations play more effective role overtly or covertly. As a result, the autonomy of democratically elected governments has been, and is increasingly, constrained by sources of non-elected and unrepresentative economic and political power beyond the borders. Globalisation and governance Globalisation calls for enhanced policy capacity of the states and requires a reorganisation of the core competencies of governments at all levels. A look at the most successful East Asian nations like South Korea, ''Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan in the past decade convinces that incorporation with the global economy is a compelling necessity, but this must also be matched by adequate capacity of the state. In other words, in whatever ways one may define development-in terms of growth, poverty alleviation, human needs fulfilment or social equality, it has to be seen in the context of contemporary global capitalism as well as in the political context of nation-states. Indeed, globalisation has transformed the role of the state, bureaucratic actors, interest groups, political parties-not to mention increasing number of individual consumers and market players who are linked with the global economy as surely as they are bound up by national society. In fact, today the distinction between states lies increasingly in the degree to which the government really governs, and no society can quickly transform the way it governs.

As one perceptible observer has remarked, "Tearing down a wall, like one that divided Berlin or a state like the Monument of Felix Dzerzhinisky in central Moscow, is much easier than building institutions like a non-political police force and an independent judiciary". Thus, if a nation is to participate effectively in the globalisation process, it has to improve its governance-in the sense of organisation of political relations focused on legitimate authority, political leadership, performance of institutions and strength of social organisations. Governance issues loom large in Bangladesh. Given the dependence of Bangladesh on external assistance, both bilateral and multilateral development partners have a stake in the process of good governance in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, much of the 'non-impact and halting pace' of market economic liberalisation can be explained in terms of ineffective and poor governance in Bangladesh. The emphasis of good governance by Bangladesh's development partners is often rhetorical, misplaced and not effectively backed by resource leverage. Since, the governance issues are inextricably linked with the political process, the donors also feel constrained and avoid their roles for the sake of neutrality. But the crisis that Bangladesh faces in coping with globalisation stems mainly from its inability to ensure a committed political leadership, a functioning democracy, an efficient and responsive bureaucracy and a countervailing civil society.

The value-framework of political leadership is a crucial factor in the process of evolving good governance in Bangladesh. Many Southeast Asian countries' experience shows that an honest, patriotic and rational leadership can have far-reaching impact on the pattern of political and economic changes of nations. In Bangladesh, political leaderships has been failing again and again in sustaining democratic governance mainly because of their 'tunnel vision', petty jealousies and inability to resolve power conflicts in a peaceful manner. This is because, Bangladesh has not been 'globalised' in the political arena, its political culture still remains parochial, fractious and uncongenial for democratic' governance. The social and cultural roots of democratisation of an agrarian society, as some authors argue, needs time to be socialised into the norms and values of a cosmopolitan democracy. Therefore, while Bangladesh is fortunate to enjoy a unique homogeneity as a nation, its political leaders espouse seemingly irreconcilable beliefs, symbols and values-creating stress and instability in the governing system. There remains a perpetual fear that opposition forces will increasingly become dysfunctional and the party in power intolerant and repressive resulting in 'crisis' of governance. Globalisation needs adequate preparedness by the people as well as the institutions of the state.

In a country like Bangladesh where the majority of the people are illiterate and embedded in poverty, the civil-military bureaucracy and educated class have a special role. The bureaucracy, particularly, has administrative expertise, access to privileged information and enjoy the power to distribute the resources. In some countries like Singapore and Malaysia, the civil service shows high performance, dedication and incorruptible record. In Bangladesh, on the other hand, the bureaucracy is not only inefficient, they are corrupt and arrogant. But they play the central role in structuring policy alternatives and high degree of discretion in the formulation and implementation of policies. Bangladesh for the past one decade has been facing the questions of the state, its capacity, legitimacy and values with greater complexities added by globalisation and democratisation. Bangladesh has chosen the path of democracy to achieve its development and social progress. This is a very difficult route -necessitating improvements in the normative, structural and substantive dimensions of policy and political framework. The normative political discourse and ideological question of culture needs to the linked with the issue of political leadership as a factor in regime legitimisation. The entire civil society comprising businessmen, journalists, professionals and intellectuals should mobilise public opinion towards creating the most crucial broad consensus on vital national issues and resolving power conflicts in a peaceful manner.

Politics should be taken as normative, creative and problem-solving terms not as an unmitigated power conflict of politicians. While the politicians may seek power and opportunities they should have also "other-regarding" public aspects of political behaviour. Therefore, there should be some political reforms so as to make individual politicians or parties responsible for their policies and actions whether in power or out of power. There should a 'governance realm' constituting the core of politics, and this should be bounded by political relationships of reciprocity, trust and accountability. In fact, the political legitimacy is closely interlinked with reciprocity, exchange and control, and should be woven into the governing process. The basic democratic ingredients of consent, rights and participation should be combined with varying degrees of coercion to improve the performance variable in social problems. But the existing consensus on democratisation cannot be violated by any regime by repressive laws and policies. In fact, the good governance hinges mainly on how the law is used by the state as an instrument of public policy that holds moral conduct to be a matter of rule following, and moral relationships to consist of duties and rights determined by rules. The globalisation process should be brought to ensure that such moral conduct is reflected in the legal framework of governance. In fact, economic globalisation will be fruitless without political liberalisation and reduction of social marginalisation.
© Copyright 2003 by The New Nation

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, by Prof. Ataur Rahman, 5 September 2003

Treasury Seeks Corruption Record of Opposition

Islamabad - The treasury benches on Monday demanded production of the record of corruption "committed by some opposition leaders," during the National Assembly session here. On the other hand, the opposition continued protest from the very start of the sitting against the Legal Framework Order (LFO) and President General Pervez Musharraf. Later, they walked out just before Deputy Speaker Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob read the adjournment order. Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali also attended a major part of the proceedings and remained discussing matters with Federal Ministers, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Abdus Sattar Laleka and Faisal Saleh Hayat. Jamali waived hands to the opposition members who intensified their slogans as he entered the House. The members from treasury benches including Dr Sher Afgan, Dr Farooq Sattar, Malik Asjad Malli, Ms Bushra Kausar and Chaudhry Wasi Zafar while raising points of orders, hurled charges of corruption against Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. Dr Sher Afgan said the record of distribution of Rs 140 million by then Chief of the Army Staff, General Aslam Beg to politicians should be tabled in the House. Sher Afgan raised his point of order when the opposition members were staging walk out from the House.

He invited the opposition members to stay in the House and defend allegations against their leaders. He said that Rs 140 million were given to Nawaz Sharif and Javed Hashmi to use that money to block Pakistan People's Party (PPP) from winning the general elections. He said the PML (N) President, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in an interview recently published in the a newspaper said that he was also offered share from that money, but he refused. Afgan said the religious parties who compromised on uniform of General Ziaul Haq for eleven years and supported the martial law were now demanding General Pervez Musharraf to shed his uniform. He urged the House should also be allowed to discuss the issue of Qazi Hussain Ahmed who was given Rs 140 million by then prime minister for Jehad-e-Kashmir. Farooq Sattar of MQM said that Benazir Bhutto looted the national exchequer with both hands and has deposited that money in foreign accounts purchased property abroad. He criticized the politicians who compromise on principles when they are in the opposition and when they are in corridors of power.

Farooq Sattar said the Swiss courts have given the right judgement against Benazir Bhutto as they are courts of a civilized world and are not the kangroo court. Chaudhry Wasi Zafar pointed out that Benazir Bhutto has never denied the huge amount deposited in Swiss banks does not belong to her. He said that instead of denying allegations of corruption, Benazir Bhutto and her accomplices were trying to fight the case in the higher court on technical grounds. "This is the only way of survival for them," Wasi Zafar said. The outspoken PML (Q) member demanded that the House should pass a resolution against these "corrupt" elements who earned a bad name for the country. Malik Asjad Malli and Bushra Kausar condemned the attitude of the opposition in the National Assembly. They said the opposition members were raising hollow slogans on non-issues and were not ready to come on the real issues. They said the opposition members were not even ready to defend their leaders who have proved guilty. "It shows that their leaders had been involved in corruption," they said. The House would now meet on Tuesday morning.

From Hi Pakistan, Pakistan, 9 September 2003

Specialist Expressed Doubt on the Proposed Anti-Corruption Commission in Curbing Corruption

Dhaka - Speakers at a roundtable today expressed doubt that the Anti-Corruption Commission proposed by the government to set up by enacting a law will be effective in curbing corruption. Taking part in the discussion on the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill, 2003 now under scrutiny by the parliamentary committee, former Chief Justice Mostafa Kamal said there was no need for such commission if the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament is strong enough to deal with the vices. 'Our failure to run different institutions effectively has plagued us. Parliamentary democracy has not function for long. In independent Bangladesh it was practiced three years in the first phase and started anew in 1991,' he observed. He added: I'm not hopeful about the effectiveness of the proposed Commission keeping the same administration of police which is plagued by high corruption and the system of prosecution of corrupt elements. I'm not at all hopeful about the Commission as the institutions engaged in curbing corruption are bedeviled with corruption. 'Even if four or five Ferestas (angels) are imported from the Haven and set in the Commission, the purpose will not be served for the actual job will be done by the police,' he said.

Justice Kamal further viewed that there would be no need for Anti-Corruption Commission if the police administration is overhauled, make it an efficient and honest institution. He thought there was weaknesses in the proposed Commission and pointed to its selection committee comprising ministers and bureaucrats. Justice Kamal opposed suggestion of Transparency International (TIP) of keeping the Chief Justice on the selection committee. 'Don't bring the Chief Justice to the scene. The judiciary has already been given the political label by making the Chief Justice head of caretaker government.' Awami League lawmaker Surunjit Sengupta termed the corruption problem as political and social. 'There is no short-circuit to democracy and no good will yield if parliament and other institutions are made effective.' He stressed the need for making the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament functional and effective. 'Despite all controversies Parliament remains the highest institution.' Terming the present democracy as conflicting and confrontational Surunjit said, 'corruption cannot be curbed with cosmetic surgery.'

Prof Rehman Sobhan held malfunctioning of Parliament responsible for rising corruption. He stressed the need for dealing with the root causes of corruption for weeding it out from the society. Dr Kamal Hossain said the proposed Commission would not be independent if government servants are planted in it. He echoed the views that no results could be achieved without overhauling the police administration, which is bedeviled with the highest corruption. Chairman of TIP Prof Muzaffar Ahmed, who presided over the discussion meeting, was critical of composition of the selection committee of the proposed Anti-corruption Commission. He suggested inclusion of representatives of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on the selection committee. He pointed to the limitation of jurisdiction and lack of financial autonomy of the proposed Commission and suggested for amendments to make it effective. Swadhin Malik, Dr Asif Nazrul, Dr Kholiquzzaman, Tasmima Hossian, Syed Yusuf Hossain, SM Shamsuddoha, Hafizuddin Ahmed, Abdul Muhit Chowdhury and Dr Atair Rahman also took part in the discussion held at CIRDAP auditorium.

From Matamat.com, Bangladesh, 9 September 2003

Corruption Fighter Gets Top Legal Job

A barrister who played a key role in cleaning up corruption in Queensland has been appointed the state's chief magistrate. Premier Peter Beattie today said Marshall Irwin had beaten 40 applicants for the role vacated by Di Fingleton, who is serving a jail term for retaliating against a witness. Mr. Irwin, a barrister with 26 years' experience, was a senior counsel assisting the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption, then helped set up the Criminal Justice Commission in which he was a general counsel until 1994. He left the CJC to set up his own Brisbane private practice, specialising in criminal, family and workers compensation law, before joining the National Crime Authority. He returned to private practice this year.

From NEWS.com.au, Australia, by Paul Osborne, 11 September 2003

Anti-Corruption Commission 'Chief Justice Should Head Selection Body'

Proposed inclusion of ministers in the selection committee for appointing members of the long awaited independent Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission (BACC) creates a lot of questions whether the BACC would truly be able to work independently at all, said participants at a roundtable yesterday. It has been proposed in the draft Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2003 that a six-member selection committee led by the Finance Minister will give appointment to the members of the BACC. Other members of the commission will be Law Minister, High Court judge, Comptroller and Auditor General and Public Service Commission chairman. "But, it is being apprehended that the Commission will never be able to function freely if its members are appointed by the persons, who or whose people may face corruption charges in future," said the participants taking part in the roundtable on "Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2003" at city's CIRDAP auditorium. Participants included politicians, lawmakers, lawyers, economists, academics, journalists and representatives of donors and NGOs. The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) organised the roundtable with Professor Muzaffar Ahmad, Member of the TIB Trustee Board, in the chair.

Former Chief Justice Mostafa Kamal, noted lawyer Dr Kamal Hossain, economists Professor Rehman Sobhan, Suranjit Sen Gupta, MP of Awami League, former MP Tasmima Hossain, former CAG Hafizuddin Ahmed Khan, Executive Director of BRAC Abdul Muyeed Chowdhury, economist Dr Atiar Rahman, Dr Samad, among others, took part in the discussion at the roundtable. At the roundtable, the TIB proposed two different structures for the formation of selection committee of the Anti-Corruption Commission. The first proposal is that not any minister, but the Chief Justice should be the chairman of the selection committee of the Anti-Corruption Commission for the sake of its functioning independently, while the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament will nominate two respected persons of the society. They may be the members of Jatiya Sangsad. The Chief Justice and nominated persons will nominate two more members from the eminent individuals of the society on the basis of discussions among themselves. "Such an arrangement will be helpful in formation of a powerful and impartial commission," the TIB opined. The second proposal is that a committee, comprising the Chief Justice and Cabinet Division Secretary, will be constituted. This two-member committee will prepare a list of the persons among whom the Chairman and Members of the Anti-Corruption Commission will be appointed and then submit it (list) to the Jatiya Sangsad.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) will elect the Chairman and Members of the Commission from the list of names through secret ballots. The voting relating to the appointment of Chairman and Members will totally be free from party's influence and impartial. Justice Mostafa Kamal cautioned about dragging the Chief Justice too much. "Don't drag the chief justice too much. I myself served for 17 years in the judiciary as a justice. It is regretting that some quarters tried to colour me politically during the formation of caretaker government in 1996," he said. "Did any chief justice lobby with any political government to become the chief adviser to any caretaker government," he asked and suggested not to politicising the post of chief justice. Justice Mostafa Kamal also felt that if there was an honest and efficient police administration in the country, formation of an independent Anti-Corruption Commission was not needed. He said the Anti-Corruption Commission will have the authority only to investigate the graft charges, but they would not have the authority to file any case.

Only the police will have the authority to file any case. In an oblique reference to police administration, the former chief justice said, "Those who are supposed to contain corruption, they themselves are corrupted. So, how the independent Anti-Corruption Commission will carry out its activities with such corrupted people," he asked. Referring to the post-independence rule from 1972 to 1975 in the country, Justice Mostafa Kamal said there was unrest during the period. "We could not make the parliament effective during that period." "We also even could not make the parliament effective for long 13 years since 1990. It is our failure," he regretted. He said corruption is a criminal offence. "Any scattered law would not bring desired result to contain corruption." Justice Mostafa Kamal also said if an angel like individual has to exercise his authority over a tasted failed administration, it would not bring any desired result at all. Dr Kamal Hossain said nothing about an independent prosecution department has been incorporated in the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2003. Citing the example of the Election Commission, which has to depend on the government for funds to run its affairs, Dr Kamal said the Anti-Corruption Commission would not be able to function properly if it will have to depend on the government for funds. © Copyright 2003 by The New Nation

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, 10 September 2003

Now, Modi's Mum on Good Governance

Ahmedabad - A day after the Supreme Court asked him follow Raj Dharma or quit, Chief Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a day-long seminar on 'Good Governance'. However, when he delivered the opening speech, he made sure mediapersons did not hear what he said. Hardly had the seminar started when the mediapersons were asked to leave the hall. For the next two hours, they waited for the Chief Minister to come out. Soon, Chief Secretary PK Laheri came out and informed that none of the government officials would comment on the Supreme Court observations. ''The matter is in the court and neither the Chief Minister nor any other official will comment on it,'' he said. The journalists had to make do with extracts of Modi's speech provided by the State Information Department in the evening. In his speech, Modi did not mention the SC observations. Neither did he mention what is good governance. He said, ''Only when the people start describing the government as pro-people government, has the administration succeeded.'' The day-long seminar at AMA was aimed at making changes in the working of the bureaucracy levels so that it meets the yardsticks set at international level. Government officials, including ministers, secretaries, commissioners and chairpersons of various boards and committees attended the seminar.

From Ahmedabad Newsline, India, 15 September 2003

Corruption-Free Society Aim Of MMA Government: Kanju

Peshawar - NWFP Minister for Science & Technology and IT Hussain Ahmed Kanju has said that establishment of narcotics, corruption and poverty free society was the prime objective of the MMA government and strenuous efforts were being made to achieve the said goal. He emphasized the need for waging crusade against the menace of narcotics, corruption, illiteracy and poverty as these were the destroyer of our society. He called upon the people to come step forward and extend helping hand to government in this noble task. This he said while addressing a function arranged by the Pak Anti-narcotics Students Society (PASS) to distribute free uniform among the orphans and poor students of government middle schools Swati Patak at Peshawar on Tuesday morning. On this occasion the Minister gave away uniform to 17 students of the said school. Chairman PASS, Ghulam Akbar Afridi on this occasion informed that the society during the year 2002 has given free stationery to some 192 and uniform to 42 students besides arranging awareness campaign against narcotics, corruption and poverty also sat-up free medical camps at different parts of the province. He further informed that PASS was functioning on self help basis without any foreign assistance and donation.

Minister S&T said that the provincial government decided the provision of free books and uniforms to the students at primary level from the next academic year that will cost more than Rs. 60 million. He said that promotion of education particularly the women education was the top priority of the present government and establishment of women university and women medical college were steps towards this direction. He further said that an endowment fund of Rs. 500 million was also formed in the health sector to provide free cure of six crippling diseases to the poorest of the poor besides arranging free emergency treatment facilities to all while Rs. 1.24 billion has also been distributed among the Mustahiqeen-e-Zakat during the current year for making them self reliant. Mr. Kanju said that the government was planning to setup rehabilitation centers in different parts of the province for the drug addicts that will help in controlling the menace of narcotics. He regretted that educational institutions were also in the grip of this menace. The Minister praised the PASS for working against narcotics and corruption and providing selfless services to ailing and poor humanity. He assured his full support on behalf of the government to PASS for boosting its activities.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, by Muhammad Khurshid, 17 September 2003

Fight Against Corruption Not Yet Won: Interview

In early August, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC) decided to expel Cheng Weigao, former chairman of the Standing Committee of Hebei Provincial People's Congress, for taking advantage of his position. In addition, since the 16th National Congress of the CPC (held in November 2002), at least eight senior officials at provincial levels were sentenced or disciplined by the Party for corruption. In early August, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC) decided to expel Cheng Weigao, former chairman of the Standing Committee of Hebei Provincial People's Congress, for taking advantage of his position. In addition, since the 16th National Congress of the CPC (held in November 2002), at least eight senior officials at provincial levels were sentenced or disciplined by the Party for corruption. Li Xuezhong, an expert on corruption studies with a central authority, gave his insight into China's corruption war since the Party congress during a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency. "The 16th Party congress worked very hard on how to crackdown on corruption more effectively, providing some new guiding principles for the battle ahead," Li said. First, from the 12th to the 15th Party congress, it had kept on using the term "counter corruption", while the 16th Party congress clearly addresses how to "fight and prevent corruption". The appearance of the new word "prevent" signaled an important and strategic change in focus in its anti-corruption campaign. Second, prior to the 16th Party congress, anti-corruption was defined as "a severe political struggle".

At the 16th Party congress, "firmly opposing and controlling corruption was specified as an important political task for the Party." The anti-corruption endeavor thus became more significant. Third, the 16th Party congress added two more - institution and capability - to its original list of Party 'building' tasks in terms of ideology, working style and organization. This shows the Party's determination to eliminate corruption from the root. During the interview, Li also pinpointed the changes in the corruption behaviors in China. Some corrupt officials have formed interest groups to guard their illegal practices, according to him. Such practices include large scale leasing trade deals; granting loans through abuse of power; income tax fraud; stock market dealing; smuggling and protection of smuggling; and taking advantage of key national project construction. In some places, corrupt officials have transferred their illicit gains by first sending their children, spouse and relatives abroad, and then fleeing themselves. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) recently formally ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which is a helpful step in the crackdown of absconded corrupt officials, said Li.

Some corrupt officials are getting more skillful and more deceptive. There are three main forms of corruption. One, optionalizing the power/money trade. Now, when making a deal with businessmen, corrupt officials prefer to get their money later. Just like depositing a large sum of money in the bank, they are patient enough to wait for their money plus interest even until their retirement. The second trick falls on the lending and transferring of their power. Officials don¡¯t always take bribes by themselves, but often let their families make good use of their positions. The last and most important is to wash their ill-gotten gains clean or make a profit. By and large, they would like to set up companies and invest abroad so as to gradually become legal. As virtue lifts a foot, vice raises ten. Corrupt officials are good at acting these days. Many corrupt officials successfully act as clean cadres in their daily life to mislead the public. Once exposed, they put up desperate resistance and refuse to surrender. And last, but not least, it is worth noticing that the underworld is involved in corruption, which puts the work of anti-corruption in a more difficult situation. (china.org.cn)

From People's Daily Online, China, 18 September 2003

 

WB Grant Assists Bulgaria in Tackling Corruption

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Lidya Shuleva and Oscar de Bruyn Kops, the World Bank Country Manager for Bulgaria, signed Thursday an agreement for a USD 455,000 grant to Bulgaria that will help the preparation of the Second Programmatic Adjustment Loan (PAL 2), which will focus among other things on anticorruption measures, privatization, judicial reform, public administration. The signing ceremony took place in the presence of the Japanese ambassador H.E. Jasuyoshi Ichihashi as the grant is made available with resources provided by the Government of Japan. PAL 2 is the second in a series of PALs that will be providing a single umbrella of World Bank support to reforms across different sectors of Bulgaria's economy. PAL 2 will continue the actions started under PAL 1 in improving the business environment, the restructuring of infrastructure sectors and further deepening of financial sector.

PAL 2 is expected to be approved by the World Bank's Board of Directors in the spring of 2004. The loan was expected a year after the release of the first tranche in February this year. In the middle of May World Bank Country Director Andrew Vorkink warned that the finalization of Bulgartabac's privatisation by the end of the year and the successful implementation of reforms in the judicial system are conditions for the release of the World Bank PAL 2 loan. Andrew Vorkink called for an end to the "civil war" that is raging between government, parliament and president in Bulgaria. World Bank representatives have been informed on Thursday about the government's new strategy on Bulgartabac. Oscar de Bruyn Kops pledged to monitor the progress in this respect over the next several months. He expressed the expectation for a new approach to lead to a transparent privatization procedure.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 4 September 2003

Balkans now stable but must fight corruption - NATO

Sofia - NATO's Secretary-General George Robertson said on Friday the Balkans were past the ethnic conflicts that had made the region Europe's "powder keg" but must now fight organised crime and corruption. Robertson told a conference of Southeast European defence officials the region no longer exported instability, but reiterated calls for more joint efforts on combating other endemic problems and building democratic institutions. "Southeast Europe is coming back into the European mainstream. The region is shedding its long-standing image as Europe's 'powder keg'. A return to the dark days of conflict is ever more implausible," Robertson said. "(The) progress must continue... the countries must continue to build democracy, to root out crime and corruption, and the establish the rule of law. And they must cooperate with their neighbours." After being hit by a decade of wars sparked by the breakup of the former Yugoslav federation, the Balkans are now stable, with most governments making political and economic reforms. But smuggling of guns, narcotics, sex-slaves and migrants ran rampant in the aftermath of the wars, hindering economic progress and wider integration. Infiltration of terrorist groups is now seen as a spinoff threat. Since its intervention to stop the Bosnia war in 1995, NATO has been deeply involved in maintaining peace in the region and guarding Balkan borders in Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and since 1999 in the U.N.-run province of Kosovo. Robertson reassured Balkan countries that NATO would remain committed to sustaining stability in the region but added the main responsibility for tackling economic stagnation, crime and corruption rested with local political leaders.

From Reuters AlertNet, UK, 5 September 2003

Public Sector Targets 'Should Be Set Locally'

The best hospitals and councils should have more freedom to set their own priorities instead of having performance targets dictated by central government, the audit commission said today. In a report, the commission said that the government should reduce the number of national targets it sets for public services in favour of a more sensitive approach to raising standards that reflects local needs. National targets have been at the centre of New Labour's programme for driving public sector improvements, with scores of different goals set for hospitals, schools and police forces to meet since 1997. The audit commission's report, Targets in the Public Sector, reaffirmed the potential benefits of targets, describing them as "invaluable" as a tool for driving reform. But it warned that too many targets were being set centrally in Whitehall, and recommended that more be drawn up locally by professionals aware of the challenges faced in different parts of the country.

It proposed that high-performing councils, NHS trusts, education authorities and police forces be given more opportunity to set their own goals. The commission said that it would often be better for the government to announce a national aspiration and leave it to local organisations to determine the targets that need to be met to fulfill it. Targets should not be set in isolation, but should take account of related issues. For example, a goal of increasing the number of people promptly discharged from hospitals should be linked to one seeking to limit readmissions, it added. The audit commission's chairman, James Strachan said: "Targets are invaluable and here to stay - but as a tool for improvement. They should never be ends in themselves. "Used well, they drive improvement and increase accountability." Of course, the government should set goals for service delivery. But there is widespread recognition that the current regime could be more effective with a greater degree of locally-set targets and clusters of performance indicators that reflect the whole, not just part, of the service-user's experience. "Government is absolutely right to be looking again at how it best uses targets to deliver real improvements in our public services that meet users' needs."

The report acknowledged that a shift towards more local target-setting will take time. And it said that the drive to meet targets should not be allowed to override professional judgement on the best approach to individual cases. "Targets should not be seen as 'trumping' professional judgement," the report said. "If a service professional believes that the application of a particular target is leading to perverse consequences for users, then it is their duty to challenge its use." The government's critics claim that its target-setting culture has distorted public services' priorities with adverse effects, particularly in the NHS. The Conservative party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, has pledged to scrap targets wholesale if he comes to power, and last week published a pamphlet denouncing Labour's obsession with them as part of a "disease of total politics". A number of targets have also been dropped by the government as it became clear that they were impossible to achieve or were having unforeseen consequences.

From Guardian, UK, 15 September 2003

Customs Officers Top Bulgaria's Corruption Ranking

Customs officers are Bulgaria's most corrupted state officials, survey of the Alfa Research agency shows. This result is no different from those of the agency's previous corruption studies, which are held once in three months. Officials who directly contact people - such as customs officers, doctors, tax agents and teachers - are most often tempted by bribery, Alexander Stoyanov from Alfa Research told the Bulgarian National Radio on Monday. It's also a very disturbing fact that many of the country's business people pay to win public procurement bids, Stoyanov underlined.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 15 September 2003

Romania Receives Praise for Corruption Fight

The European Commission on Tuesday praised Romania's efforts to combat corruption. During an official visit by Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase (16 September), European Commission President Romano Prodi said it is the first time that the country is making "systemic legislation" in the area. However, there is a black cloud on the horizon. The Romanian minister for European integration, Hildegard Puwak, is currently under OLAF (the European Anti-Fraud Office) investigation for alleged misuse of EU funds. The Romanian press recently accused Ms Puwak of siphoning up to 150,000 euro of EU money through her family's private businesses. The money was initially dispersed through the so-called EU "Leonardo" programme. A Commission audit in Bucharest last week found no evidence of guilt, but the inquiry continues. Both Mr. Prodi and enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen stated that, so far, the "Puwak case" shows no conflict of interests. Minister Puwak is expected to visit the Commission this Friday, as she postponed a visit scheduled for last week - before the audit took place.

From EU Observer, Belgium, 17 September 2003

Good Governance and Corruption

The EU has made fight against corruption one of its highest political priorities, both in its internal affairs and in its relations with third countries. In its relation with the candidate countries, the EU systematically includes corruption-related issues on the agenda and insists that its future Member States set up and implement national anti-corruption policies. The Union is also planning to make the fight against corruption an integral part of its external and trade policies.

From Euractiv, Belgium, 18 September 2003

Civil Law Convention on Corruption

Ankara yesterday ratified the Civil Law Convention on Corruption due to enter into force next November. Under this convention, Turkey becomes a member of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), an organization designed to help its members fight corruption by monitoring the compliance of states with their initiatives in this cause. GRECO helps to identify deficiencies and insufficiencies of national mechanisms against corruption and to prompt the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms in order to better prevent and combat corruption. According to government sources, by joining GRECO's ranks, Turkey has taken another historic step in improving its democracy.

From Turks.US, 18 September 2003

 

Blagojevich Hopes New Office will Fix Corruption

Springfield - Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich hopes the new state Inspector General will clean up corruption that has plagued the state. Concerned citizens can now file complaints via the web or a toll-free hotline. An executive order will also protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Blagojevich said the last administration left behind a culture of corruption. He said some state employees must change the way they do business. "Because they've seen that their leaders have not led by example, I think there's been a sense that it's sort of like anything goes, and it's the wild wild west in Illinois government, and that's what we're trying to change," Blagojevich said. Blagojevich says every employee in an office under his authority will receive mandatory ethics training on a regular basis. The Governor is also urging state legislators to pass an ethics reform package.

From KWMU, MO, 11 September 2003

More Than 150 Government Workers in State Face Corruption Counts

Ponce Inlet, Fla. - Authorities say more than 150 government employees throughout Florida face dismissal from their jobs in a national corruption case involving taking kickbacks in return for purchasing drastically overpriced cleaning products. Nationwide, at least 2,000 public employees in 48 states have been accused of taking kickbacks from the company, Florida officials said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Georgia authorities issued arrest warrants Wednesday for officials of Loganville Ga.-based Stone Cold Chemicals accused of bribing city, county and state workers to buy its products. Government employees throughout Florida allegedly accepted gift certificates in return for buying products at as much as 10 times the cost of comparable products. Stone Cold, which has a supply house in Ponce Inlet, where its principals lives in an oceanfront mansion, is accused of targeting blue-collar workers allowed to order their own supplies, according to the FDLE. There is no immediate estimate of how much money governments lost from the alleged scheme. State agents could not recall a corruption case involving more than 150 public employees.

Gift certificates to Home Depot, Victoria's Secret and other national chains amounted to 10 percent of each order, records show. FDLE spokeswoman Lori Sanders said the company sent between three and 11 gifts to each Florida government employee, with gifts ranging from $185 to $1,275 on orders up to $14,190. "They feed on anybody who has the ability to spend money without getting a supervisor's approval," said FDLE agent Matt Herring, who ran the nine-month investigation. FDLE agents Wednesday arrested nine government employees described as the worst offenders. Arrests were made in almost all areas of the state. Agents also went to the mansion of Stone Cold's owners and to their Ponce Inlet office with warrants to arrest nine employees on charges ranging from racketeering to illegal telemarketing, records show. The company heads, Glynn "Barney" Barnard and his wife, Marilyn Meek, were also arrested Wednesday. They were being held without bond at the Volusia County Jail on various Georgia charges, and under $100,000 bonds each on a variety of Florida charges, including racketeering, conspiracy, 23 counts of unlawful compensation and 22 counts of telemarketing without a license.

Their first court appearance is set for Thursday. Jail officials had no information on their legal representation. Interest of Florida and Georgia authorities in the sales practices of the company was aroused by an investigative report by Atlanta television station WAGA in March. Former Stone Cold employees told the station that they pushed their products by offering promotions, or "premiums," including a fishing boat trip, an all-expense paid trip to Disney World and an autographed football worth $300. FDLE raided the Ponce Inlet offices on March 4, seizing 27 computers, a server containing about 30,000 pages of purchase orders and 63 cartons of documents. The company had been operating in Volusia County since 1997, agents said. Evidence against the public employees not arrested Wednesday includes orders listing which gift certificates they ordered and their home addresses for delivery. Their names and where they worked were withheld because they still may face a statewide grand jury and possible criminal charges, the FDLE said. But to keep arrests at a manageable level, the majority of government employees identified as having taken bribes will be referred to their agencies for non-criminal administrative hearings, agents said.

From Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL, 18 September 2003

 
 

Agagu to Revitalise Civil Service

Governor Olusegun Agagu of Ondo State has vowed to revitalise the civil service, to make it more relevant to modern governance. Agagu made the remark at the swearing-in ceremony of the new Head of Service, Mr. Alaba Isijola, saying steps would be taken to restructure the service. He said since it was the civil servants that directly deal with the people, the bureaucrats should be able to react to the yearnings of the government. "Every decision being taken by the government," he said, "was to the benefit of the state, and he charged everybody to co-operate with his administration." "The civil service is the machinery through which the government's promises would be delivered. We have used the last three months to look at the act of governance in this state, and we have come to the reality for us to revamp the system," the governor said. While advising civil servants, especially the senior ones to co-operate with the new head of service, Agagu said restructuring would also affect the junior cadre. "We have said it long ago that people would be moved around. We shall engage civil servants in places we feel they can best serve the interest of this state," Agagu said. Meanwhile, the Owo Progressive forum has lauded Agagu for appointing Isijola. In a statement signed by Dayo Fadahuns, the forum urged Isijola to justify the confidence reposed in him by the administration.

From This Day, Nigeria, 31 August 2003

Zambia Warns Civil Servants - Government Calls for End to Strike

Lusaka - The Zambian government has said it will take action against striking civil servants who continue with a nationwide work stoppage, state media said on Sunday. Vice President Nevers Mumba said the workers who continue with the strike will not be paid for the days they stayed away from work, the Sunday Mail reported. About 120 000 public workers in Zambia have been on a nationwide strike since last week to press for their outstanding housing allowance payouts, which the government has failed to pay due to financial contraints. Mumba said there was no reason for the workers to continue with the strike when negotiations with their labour leaders and government were going on. But Civil Servants Union of Zambia (CSUZ) in a statement on Sunday urged workers to continue with the strike action until the government responds positively to their demands. "Workers are advised not to succumb to any intimidation by the employer. Work will only resume when government make a commitment to pay housing allowances," said CSUZ.

From News24, South Africa, 31 August 2003

East Cape Ex-Civil Servants to Get Their Pensions

Pretoria - At least a thousand former public servants who were dismissed by the Ciskei military junta following a public service strike in 1991 stand to receive their pension dues. The Eastern Cape government, in collaboration with First National Bank (FNB), will embark on a roadshow to assist these former public servants to open bank accounts in order for them to access their pension. This after Premier Makhenkesi Stofile committed himself to ensure that the pension issues of people dismissed between 1991 and 1994 were settled, said the Premier's office in a statement. It said FNB had offered to assist with the processing of payments by helping those affected open bank accounts without the normal charges as most of them were in need of support. The roadshows will start tomorrow at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane and continue until September 22. The roadshows will then proceed to Dimbaza Community Hall on 16 September, Victoria Hospital Hall in Alice on the 17th, Nompumelelo Hospital in Peddie on the 18th, Whittlesea Community Hall on the 19th and at Zwelitsha Community Hall on the 22nd.

According to the Premier's office, the project coordinator Mzi Nkantsu said relatives of former employees who since passed away would only be able to access the money through the appointed beneficiary of the deceased's estate. He said relatives of those who passed away should not go to the gatherings or visit the bank. 'Those still in the employ of the government will have their pension records just updated to seal the missing period in the employment history as registered by Pension Administration,' said the Premier's office. It said the settlement was made possible by the cooperation between itself and other government departments that include the Departments of Public Service and Administration, National Treasury and Pension Administration. 'The Office of the Premier has deployed a number of officials to work with bank officials from 08:30 to 15:30 everyday from 15 to 22 September at these identified venues,' said Mr. Makhenkesi's office. People who want to access these funds should take their identity documents to the venues.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by David Masango, 15 September 2003

Civil Service Overhaul Long Forgotten

A crackdown on laxity in the civil service promised by President Mugabe after winning the disputed March 2002 presidential ballot has all been forgotten as the ZANU PF government ducks critical issues that could dent its waning support base. The whittling down of the bloated civil service has proved to be a tall order for the government, which has never taken the exercise seriously since adopting the now abandoned International Monetary Fund-backed economic reforms in 1991. Seventeen months have elapsed without a sign of the restructuring that came out among the major highlights in President Mugabe's sixth-term inauguration speech in March last year. The 79-year-old leader of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle who had survived a stiff challenge from Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, said then the restructuring of the civil service was vital for a time-framed and result-oriented economic revival. "We cannot afford the luxury of dilatoriness and bureaucratic sloth and indecisiveness. Our civil service will have to be gingered up. "In fact, we will restructure it for speedy execution of plans and that means those who cannot perform or take time to perform will have to go. "The day is gone and gone for good when the business of the people could be half done, postponed inordinately or even recklessly and irresponsibly set aside," Mugabe was quoted as saying.

Analysts this week said the threat of a major overhaul was a mere veiled attempt that was meant to cow civil servants seen to be sympathetic to the MDC. The 300 000-strong civil service is largely bloated because of the large numbers employed in the army and police. The government, which has been accused before of abusing its control over the police and the army, is unlikely to trim down the two forces because of the potential of dissent in the politically charged environment. It also appears that the restructuring of the civil service could have been shelved because of the massive exodus of skilled and professional staff to neighbouring countries. At least one million Zimbabweans now reside in South Africa, Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia among other countries because of political violence, the economic recession and other professional reasons. "Under the circumstances, you cannot restructure when there is an urgent need to replace key personnel in the education and health sectors, which have been hit hard by the brain drain," said a political scientist with the University of Zimbabwe. Bulawayo chartered accountant Eric Bloch said President Mugabe and his government were caught up in a Catch-22 situation where the fear of the unknown has put spanners in the whole exercise.

The government is torn between maintaining the status quo at a heavy cost or risk losing its shrinking support base, particularly in the urban areas. Bloch said: "He (Mugabe) doesn't want to alienate any of them (civil servants) because of the vote. There is also the high cost involved." Proponents for reforms in the civil service argue that the process would lower consumptive expenditure gnawing the biggest chunk of the revenue. For example, the total wage and interest bill for 1996/97 constituted 71 percent of total revenue or 57.5 percent of total expenditure, leaving only 29 percent of revenue available for discretionary expenditures, including the public sector investment programme. At the moment, a lot of money that could have gone towards infrastructure development is going towards financing inefficiency and red tape in the civil service. Bloch said the government would have to spend a lot of money in setting up appropriate monitoring and assessment procedures before undertaking the reforms. "There is probably a lot of resistance in the civil service.

There could be empires which they don't want to upset," he said. "A very large number of the civil servants are not good enough to get jobs in the private sector, which is a recognition of lack of their abilities." John Robertson, a local economic consultant, said it would be difficult for the reforms to kick off without sufficient funds to pay the retrenchment packages. The Public Service Commission, which employs the civil servants, is currently stuck with employees retrenched following commercialisation of the Central Mechanical and Equipment Department, now CMED (Private) Limited. The only way to get out of the trap, Robertson said, would be for the government to revive the economy so that industry will contribute more to the fiscus in terms of taxes that can be used to finance the exercise. Robertson said the lack of resources, particularly in technical ministries such as tourism and public construction, has de-motivated the remaining civil servants. "Let us bring back the ability to get them (civil servants) to work. Economic revival has to start first so that it can finance the restructuring," said Robertson.

From Financial Gazette, Zimbabwe, by Hama Saburi, 18 September 2003

 

Week-long Celebrations for Public Service in Fiji

The Public Service Week's is a Government Open Day and the Exhibition, where civil servants are expected to showcase their ministries and departments to the public. The theme for this year's Public Service Week is dedicating the Service to Community Needs. Secretary of the Public Service, Ratu Tui Cavuilati said the celebration would provide an opportunity to enhance cooperation and partnership between public service and relevant key stakeholders in line with the Public Sector Reform. Apart from showcasing, the ministries and departments will also be engaged in sports at the various nominated centres around the country. The Suva and Central Division celebrations will be held at the Sports City and other surrounding venues. Ratu Tui said that the National Steering Committee has decided that the following sports be played this year: Volleyball, Rugby (15s), Rugby (7s), Touch Rugby, Soccer, Basketball, Netball, Beach Volleyball, Baseball, Hockey, Golf, Swimming, Outrigger Canoeing, Bowling, Table Tennis, Lawn Tennis, Tug-o-War, Darts, Snooker, Cards, Chess, Cramboard and Walking.

From The Daily Post, Fiji's Daily Post, Fiji, 3 September 2003

Politicisation of Civil Service Reason for Corruption

Noted economists and former top bureaucrats at a workshop yesterday identified politicisation of recruitment, promotion and transfer as one of the main impediments to delivery of better service to society. Any decision based on political considerations frustrates civil servants and forces them into corruption, they said with calls for a clear, transparent promotion policy. At the workshop, "The role of civil service in improving investment climate," organised by the World Bank and Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI), former cabinet secretary Mujibul Huq said the present code of conduct for promotion is outmoded and riddled with loopholes. "If promotion is given only on the basis of fitness, politics may manipulate the fitness criteria," he said with a suggestion that promotion should be based on seniority plus fitness. Huq proposed formation of a 'Whitley Council' with experienced and senior citizens to seek remedy if anybody gets sucked into the politicisation vortex. Appointments on contract also create similar problems, Establishment Secretary of Pakistan government Javed Hasan Aly told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the workshop.

Aly, presenting a paper, "Civil service reform agenda", discussed various aspects of civil service in South Asian countries and suggested a long-term policy to bring reforms to civil service. "This plan will not yield results overnight but will bring changes in the long run. The decision has to be taken now, though," he added. Aly said an attractive compensation package should be offered on the basis of job description and responsibility, otherwise there is no chance to reduce corruption in civil service. He said no motorway police inspectors in Pakistan are involved in corruption, as they draw more salary than a government secretary. Presided over by former adviser to caretaker government M Hafizuddin Khan, the workshop was attended by, among others, Chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Professor Rehman Sobhan, former finance minister AMA Muhith, former secretary Dr Masihur Rahman, BEI President and former secretary Farooq Sobhan. The speakers sought a review and revision of the government's Official Secrets Act and underscored appointment of a spokesperson to disseminate information, if need be. They also recommended establishment of an independent recruiting commission having constitutional obligations and comprising bureaucrats, parliamentarians and judges.

From The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 2 September 2003

Macao Civil Servants Obliged to Declare Wealth

Macao - All civil servants in Macao are obliged to declare their wealth beginning from October to February next year, stipulated by a new law that came into force Monday. The newly-amended law relating to the property declaration of civil servants in the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) is named the "Sunlight Law." The anti-corruption legal article specifies the terms and process for civil servants to declare their property to the Macao Commission against Corruption (MCC) in the designated period of time. Civil servants in Macao are obliged to report their property ownership every four year with the latest declaration made in 1998, which was one year before the return of Macao to the motherland. MCC said that there are some 10,000 civil servants employed in government departments, who should declare their wealth. The new law requires civil servants to declare their ownership of bank accounts and cash with a value above 25,000 patacas (3,125US dollars). In a courtesy to privacy, the law allows spouses of civil servants to make a separate declaration.

From Xinhua, China, 1 September 2003

Civil Servants Not Likely to Have Special Bonus this Year: DPM Lee

Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned civil servants they are not likely to get a special bonus this year. And even starting salaries in the civil service are going to be reviewed and some adjustments will be made. He revealed this during the first of three dialogues about the CPF changes and reaching a concensus on economic recovery. Also at the dialogue is Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and some cabinet members. Responding to a question by an employer who asked if employees could be allowed to dig into their CPF savings to alleviate their debt burdens, Mr.Goh said: "I dont think its a good idea digging into your CPF. You dig into the CPF, it is a short term problem. Just for one year, maybe you can persuade the Minister to relent. You dig into the CPF and the wages are kept low, for how long can you keep digging into CPF to keep wages low. I don't think that's a long term solution."

Nearly a thousand unionists and employers were at Thursday's dialogue at Nanyang Polytechnic. During the dialogue, unionists asked employers to share the savings from the CPF cut with the workers. Responding to this, Mr. Lee said: "I am not sure there will be many profitable companies and therefore will have a windfall from the CPF. There will be a few. In those cases if they are unionised, the unions will talk to the employers and they will be able to work something out and say you have to be fair to the workers. "If this is the situation then my advice is take a bonus, let's take some special distribution, one off this time, the year is good, we share it with the staff, but we don't lock ourselves in because if you fix it and raise salaries and next year is tough, then you will ask the government to cut CPF again, which I don't think it's a very good idea."

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 4 September 2003

Civil Servants to Get 5-Day Workweek in 2005

The government yesterday decided to exclude April 5, Arbor Day from the list of public holidays from 2005. Civil servants will also work five days a week beginning in 2005, the same as workers in private sectors. These are the main points of the follow-up measures arranged by the government ahead of the introduction of a shorter workweek. From July, next year, government officials will take two Saturdays off in addition to their Sundays. Currently, they take one Saturday off each month. The shorter workweek will be also introduced for government-financed companies with more than 1,000 workers. Policemen, firefighters, prison facility workers, emergency services personnel and soldiers are not to be affected. The government also stated that the exclusion of Arbor Day as a public holiday was decided on to meet international standards about the number of annual paid day leaves for public servants. At present, there are 17 national holidays. "It is best to take out at least two public holidays now that the five day workweek will be introduced. The other likely candidate is Children's Day on May 5," an official at the Ministry said. The five-day workweek bill was passed at the National Assembly late last month in the face of strong opposition from the labor sector. The bill is expected to trigger a major change in the daily lives of the Korean people who reportedly work the longest working hours among advanced countries.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Sung Tae-kyung, 3 September 2003

Scholarships for Public Servants

The Australian government will establish a scholarship programme for senior public servants in the Pacific Islands to study at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, in which applicants from Fiji would be accommodated. The Pacific Islands Scholarship for Governance will provide five recipients each year with the opportunity to work for three months in a relevant Australian government agency and then attend a three-week intensive residential course at the school. Media and Public Affairs Officer for the Australian High Commission said he believes this combination of academic study and professional experience would provide a valuable training opportunity for senior public servants from Pacific Island nations.

From Fiji's Daily Post, Fiji, 2 September 2003

China's Civil Servants 'Don't Deserve Raise'

Beijing - The bloated bureaucracy needs trimming - that's the consensus in a discussion raging on the Internet - A recent wage survey has triggered a debate on whether civil servants should be sacked or given a raise. Thus far, the sentiments are tilted towards ridding the bloated bureaucracy of deadwood. Only those who do real work deserve a pay rise, appears to be the general consensus - and civil servants, for whom not many have a good word, are not counted in that category. The debate, conducted largely over the Internet, followed the publication of a survey by Chinahr.com, a national jobs portal, in July. Researchers polled 40,000 people in 25 Chinese cities. They found that civil servants received the second-lowest income among 25 professions. That is hardly surprising - the starting pay for China's president, for example, is a mere 1,250 yuan (S$265) a month. On an annual package of 24,232 yuan, the civil servant ranks only above the teacher, who gets 21,167 yuan. Both rank below all private sector professionals, the poll found. The highest paid are operations and logistics executives. They earn 61,008 yuan a year, on average. Project managers are next, with annual packages of 54,581 yuan. Even poorly paid public relations executives, known to work at a punishing pace, take home an average of 44,901 yuan a year.

The central government budgeted 10 billion yuan initially to raise civil service starting salaries on July 1. But the Sars outbreak led to an unexpected increase in government expenditure as funds were diverted to upgrade rural health care systems. Between taking care of the 'privileged poor' such as civil servants and the 'unprivileged poor' in villages, the government shifted its priority to the latter, said journalist Wang Yong. He backs those who are not in favour of any pay rise for civil servants. Earlier reports by the Xinhua News Agency on the poverty level throughout the country coloured the debate. According to the reports, 210 million people live below the poverty line, one-seventh of the population. They receive just several billion yuan in state subsidies. By contrast, there are 45 million civil servants drawing salaries of a total of 1,000 billion yuan a year - more than half of the 1,900 billion yuan that the state collects in revenue. In the past six years, only 22,000 civil servants quit their jobs, said China International Business in this month's issue. The bureaucracy can afford to be leaner and more efficient, it added.

'China should axe the number of people living on government revenue rather than increase their pay,' said Mr. Wang, who works for the journal. Others who joined the discussions on the Internet took issue with the original proposal to increase monthly salaries for civil servants by 200 to 300 yuan in July. Such an across-the-board hike would reward mediocre employees, they said. Still others pointed out that civil servants enjoyed additional income from the 'grey economy' so their salaries were not as low as the survey showed. For instance, teachers who held tuition classes after work or judges who lectured at private schools generally did not report the additional income to the state. 'We must balance the huge amount spent on civil servants' privileges and the 'grey revenue' in many government sectors,' said Mr. Tan Gang, a state-employed economist. But health inspector Pan Yong felt civil servants were being unfairly judged. They were merely asking for equitable pay, not milking the state for more money, as critics seemed to imply, he said. 'Many of them believe civil servants are laggards who do not deserve a yuan more. 'But the least we do is an honest day's work. 'For that, we deserve to be paid fairly,' he said.

From Straits Times, Singapore, 5 September 2003

Graft Rampant in Some Sectors of Civil Service

Kuala Lumpur - Corruption is perceived to be rampant in certain sectors of the civil service in the country, according to a special report by Transparency International Malaysia (TIM). "The results of the governmental efforts against corruption is less than satisfactory," the Finnish government-funded report said. It stated that despite the prosecution of some junior and middle level civil servants by the Anti-Corruption Agency, the public viewed this as minimal compared to the magnitude of the problem. The National Integrity Systems Country Study also singled out the need for greater transparency in the award of public contracts, the lack of involvement by the local community in the running of local authorities and corruption in the police force. It said that although competitive bidding is the general rule, the perception was that major contracts were awarded based on closed tenders, where a few companies were invited to make a bid and only disclosed to the public after the contracts had been awarded. While the report stated that there were rules to prevent any conflict of interest from public procurement officers, no procedures exist to review the decisions made. The report suggested that information on procurement contracts should be widely accessible and assets of its officers monitored effectively. It further stated that the ACA and Public Complaints Bureau be given autonomy and be free from the Prime Minister's Department.

From Star, Malaysia, 9 September 2003

Civil Service Jobs Flooded by Applicants

A record number of people applied for this year's recruitment test for mid-level civil servants, reflecting rising unemployment particularly among young people, officials at the Government Administration and Home Affairs Ministry said yesterday. A total of 60,991 applicants vied for 614 posts at the seventh-grade level on the test taken at 16 sites across the country, recording a competition rate of 99:1, they said. It marks the first time the number of applicants has exceeded 60,000, said a ministry official. Last year, 53,766 applicants competed for 610 seventh-grade jobs. The ministry official attributed the ever-increasing number of applicants to corporations' plans to scale down employment, giving rise to a preference for public jobs considered relatively secure. As many as 116,505 people applied for the test recruiting 1,936 ninth-grade civil servants, which took place earlier this year, compared with 105,286 last year. "We have realized how serious the joblessness problem is in our society, seeing the ever-rising competition rate of the recruitment tests for public servants," said the ministry official.

From Korea Herald, South Korea, by Kim Kyung-ho (khkim@heraldm.com), 7 September 2003

Bureaucrat Dismisses Claims Public Servants Are Withholding Advice

Australia's top bureaucrat has dismissed suggestions that public servants are withholding politically unpalatable advice from their Ministers. A senate committee has quizzed Dr Peter Shergold about suggestions there is a culture of compliance and self-censorship in the Foreign Affairs Department. Dr Shergold has told the committee that there is a healthy relationship between career public servants and politically aligned Ministerial advisors. Our reporter, Melanie Christiansen, says the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has told a senate committee it works remarkably well to have Ministers getting different advice from their advisors and career public servants. And he says there's no evidence that public servants are holding back. "The notions that ministers do not wish to hear policy advice or that public servants are cowered into not providing robust policy advice is balderdash and poppycock," he said. Doctor Shergold says public servants assume that requests from Ministerial advisors have the authority of their Ministers and he can recall only two occasions when he has seen the need to question those requests.

From Radio Australia, Australia, 1September 2003

Civil Service Seen as Corrupt, Says Report

Kuala Lumpur - Efforts against crooked officials 'minimal' - Corruption is perceived to be rampant in certain sectors of the civil service in Malaysia. 'The results of the governmental efforts against corruption are less than satisfactory,' a special report by Transparency International Malaysia (TIM) said. The Finnish government-funded paper stated that despite the prosecution of some junior and middle-level civil servants by the Anti-Corruption Agency, the public viewed this as minimal compared to the magnitude of the problem. The National Integrity Systems Country Study also singled out the need for greater transparency in the awarding of public contracts, the lack of involvement by the local community in the running of local authorities and corruption in the police force. It said that although competitive bidding is the general rule, the perception was that major contracts were awarded based on closed tenders, where a few companies were invited to make a bid and disclosed to the public only after the contracts are awarded.

While the report stated that there were rules to prevent any conflict of interest from public procurement officers, no procedures existed to review the decisions made. The report suggested that information on procurement contracts should be widely accessible and the assets of its officers monitored effectively. It further stated that the ACA and Public Complaints Bureau be given autonomy and be free from the Prime Minister's Department. In a similar report in 2001, the TIM said that top civil servants in a survey listed the courts as the least corrupt of government departments and institutions. The Inland Revenue Board was ranked second 'cleanest' by the survey respondents, while the Anti-Corruption Agency managed only third placing as least corrupt. - The Star/Asia News Network.

From Straits Times, Singapore, 10 September 2003

Extra Bonus, Flexi Hours for Civil Servants

Civil servants will receive an additional half-month bonus and those with disabled children will enjoy flexi work hours. For the disabled to have access to job opportunities, the Government will allocate 1% of public service posts for them while a special unit will be established at the Human Resources Ministry to help them secure jobs. For civil servants without immediate beneficiaries, the Government will extend the derivative pension benefits, apart from gratuity, to either one of their parents upon death prior to retirement. Free medical treatment facilities will be extended to former Sarawak Ranger personnel and their wives, including the wives of former personnel of Force 136 and the British Army. The Government will also extend to them the benefits of hospital ward charges currently provided to families of former reserve personnel of the Armed Forces. For the armed forces, a sum of RM418.1mil is provided for the construction of 2,500 units of houses while RM251mil is for the completion of 44 housing projects for police personnel under the People's Housing Programme. The police will get an allocation for equipment and special training while the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Force has been set up to increase surveillance in local waters.

For the consumers, excise duties would be levied on imported cars when import duties are reduced from Jan 1, 2004, to encourage them to buy local cars now. Describing the Budget as "very good," Cuepacs president Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said: "Overall, it was a well worked out Budget and we welcome it because it is a boost to the morale of civil servants. "For civil servants with disabled children, having flexi-work hours will be helpful because it is not an easy task for parents," he said. Fomca president Professor Datuk Hamdan Adnan said it was the best Budget ever. "It is a caring Budget and more domesticated. It covers almost all aspects," he said, adding that it would help spur the country's economy. Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the allocation to provide provision for training and equipment for the police was timely in light of increasing crime occurrences. However, he said the salary scheme for the police had to be reviewed to encourage more to join the force. He suggested that a special fund be set up for the promotion of moral values by non-governmental organisations. Lee, who is also National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairman, welcomed the Government's move in allocating RM20mil for the setting up of a Centre for Disease Control to be better prepared for future outbreaks.

From Star, Malaysia, 12 September 2003

Public Servants Join Pay Queue

Public servants are seeking a 42 per cent pay rise over three years. Their claim includes a demand for an immediate 12 per cent increase. The State Government has not yet put an offer on the table but says accepting the claim would cost taxpayers $950 million over three years. Union officials say it is more like $100 million a year. The claim lodged by the Community and Public Sector Union comes as the Government grapples with a teachers' claim for a 30 per cent rise and a police claim for 15 per cent more. The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the claim is extreme and out of kilter with the average 4 per cent increases that workers in the private sector have been getting. Bruce Williams, the chamber's director of employment relations, urged the Government to pay no more than 3 per cent, fearing any more could result in higher business taxes. "It's like throwing petrol on a bonfire in terms of a wage spiral and it would trigger leap-frogging claims through the private sector," he said. He accused the Gallop Government of hypocrisy, in backing Australian Council of Trade Unions push for wage increases in the private sector only to take a more responsible line when it came to government money. "Frankly, this Government supported ACTU claims against the private sector, carte blanche, and ignored the private sector's capacity to pay," Mr. Williams said.

CPSU secretary Toni Walkington said public sector workers were not about to feel guilty for demanding more money, especially when the Government was so quick to blame them when something went wrong, such as parole breaches or pollution problems at Brookdale and Bellevue. She said 66 per cent of public servants were paid less than $39,000 a year and on average they got $10,000 less than bureaucrats in other states and territories. "Wage rates are low," Ms Walkington said. "They are not high-paid workers. They have had decades of very moderate wage increases. "There is low morale, high turnover and a loss of knowledge, skills and experience. "What we are saying is our people have to be recognised, not paid better than the rest of Australia, but on a commensurate basis." She said the union was happy to bargain with the Government, but 3 per cent was simply not good enough. Union members were angry at job losses and cuts over the past two years as a result of the Government's drive to save $750 million within the public service.

From Sunday Times, Australia, by Grahame Armstrong, 13 September 2003

Government OKs Record-high Wage Cuts for Civil Servants

Tokyo - The cabinet on Tuesday approved record-high wage cuts for central government employees to make their pay match sagging private-sector wage levels, government officials said. Average annual civil servant salaries will be cut by 163,000 yen, the highest ever, to about 6.15 million yen. That will reduce government spending by roughly 231 billion yen in the initial fiscal 2003 budget, the Finance Ministry said. (Kyodo News)

From Japan Today, Japan, 16 September 2003

Public Servants Demand Pay Boost

The Community and Public Sector Union says about 200 public servants will attend meetings in Albany and Bunbury today to demand a better pay deal from the Western Australian Government. Branch secretary Toni Walkington says the Government has capped its pay increase offer at 3 per cent and that is not enough. She says the issue will be discussed in the southern regional centres today, before a mass meeting in Perth on Wednesday, which could spark state-wide industrial action. Ms Walkington says today's meetings will mean services at police stations and licensing centres will be affected. "There'll also be people from community development, from agriculture support, the Department of Agriculture, people from [the Department of] Conservation and Land Management, people from Main Roads, basically every State Government service that's provided in the south-west and the Great Southern, it will have some impact on it," she said.

From ABC Regional Online, Australia, 16 September 2003

PM Pays Tribute to Civil Servants for Their Dedication

Putrajaya - Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad tonight paid tribute to the civil servants for their role in developing the nation, describing them as true professionals. The Prime Minister said the civil servants' untiring efforts in implementing the various Government policies had enabled the administration of the nation to run smoothly. "I consider myself very lucky because throughout my career in the Government I have had full co-operation, especially from the civil servants. "They have been very kind, they have implemented decisions made by the Government and they have been instrumental in making this country successful; so we really have a very professional civil service. "You may have your differences, you may not agree with Government policies, but far and large, all Government policies are carried out and implemented the way the Government wants them to be implemented," he said in his speech at the 2004 Budget dinner at the Ministry of Finance here. He expressed hope that such a work culture and level of professionalism would be maintained.

Dr Mahathir, who is also Finance Minister, also specifically thanked the Treasury staff and representatives from the various sectors involved in the preparation of the 2004 Budget. "My wife and I would like to thank all of you for being able to prepare a budget which drew very minimal criticism from the public," he said, adding that the budget was prepared according to the capacity of the Government to cater for the needs of the people. "To give everything that the people want is not possible all the time; we have to look at the needs, our capacity. If we keep on borrowing just to support our spending, then we will end up as a bankrupt nation in no time," he said, adding that the 2004 Budget was not prepared with the next general election in mind. "We draw the budget based on our needs and our financial capabilities; if we go on spending in order to win elections then we will end up bankrupt. We have seen many countries drawing up their budget without taking into account their financial strength ...We can't follow such traditions. "Personally I'm a very stingy person, and I also practise this with the Government's money." The dinner was also attended by Datuk Seri Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Second Finance Minister Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, former deputy Finance Minister who is now Transport Minister Datuk Chan Kong Choy, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsuddin Osman and Finance Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Samsudin Hitam. Both Dr Mahathir and Dr Siti Hasmah also sang the song Autumn Leaves as their parting gift during the dinner.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, 17 September 2003

Give Pak Lah Full Support, PM Tells Civil Servants

Kota Baru - Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the country's civil servants should give their undivided support to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whom he described as his "able successor." "I am sad to leave the Government but I have an able successor in the form of Abdullah. "I hope they can work well with him for the nation's continued success," the Prime Minister said at a dinner function with civil servants here on Monday night. Present at the occasion were his wife Datin Seri Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, National Economic Action Council executive director Datuk Mustapa Mohamad and other state dignitaries. Dr Mahathir said Malaysian civil servants were recognised as being among the best in the region and he hoped they would maintain their standard of professionalism under the next prime minister. "I have received rave remarks from heads of governments as well as the foreign private sectors on the high level of professionalism among Malaysian civil servants. "And I am sure they can continue with their work under Abdullah's tenure when I step down," said Dr Mahathir, who is due to retire next month.

From Star, Malaysia, 17 September 2003

Indonesia's Phantom Civil Servants

Consider this: Pack in your cushy job pushing paper for the government, move to the more lucrative private sector - and retain full pay from your previous employer. Now multiply that untenable scenario by 109,000 and you start to get some idea of how Indonesia's creaky civil service is run. That is the number of former government employees who still draw salaries, according to an official this week. A large percentage of the job-hoppers had not even resigned officially from their government posts, says Mr. Feisal Tamin, state minister for administrative reform. Incredibly, he said, his staff had discovered that some civil servants only went to work one day per month - to collect their pay. These people continued to get their salaries courtesy of obliging former office mates. Worse still, griped Mr. Feisal, many had been university-educated - often abroad - at the state's expense, and rather than remain in the service have jumped ship. Add it all up, and the phantom payroll amounts to a gargantuan 111.7 billion rupiah (S$22.87 million) a month. Indonesia's bursting-at-the-seams civil service - employing almost four million people - is a vast bureaucracy that is rife with corruption and incompetence. Visits to government offices in the capital reveal antiquated set-ups in which hordes of uniformed staff laze about in smoke-filled rooms.

Some peck indolently on primeval typewriters; others, with little to do, read the day's papers. A handful of these cases would be acceptable, but when tens of thousands are at it, readily defrauding the government, it exposes a culture of self-serving greed and latent graft at the very core of the corps. Small wonder there is stiff competition, involving large bribes-a-minute, to enter the civil service, the base from which springs all good fortune. And, alas, many other state institutions are perceived by Indonesians as being on an equally rotten footing. Working for the government, per se, will not line your pockets (divide the whopping pseudo salaries by the reported deceivers and you get a paltry US$120 (S$210) a month). However, in the civil service this is only the beginning of a road that can buy you grand housing and contacts which bestow the latest-model BMWs for favours exchanged. This pitiable view of the civil service is one that is held at the very top. President Megawati Sukarnoputri concedes there is a glut of civil servants, many of whom are wholly ineffective.

Cabinet ministers and others have chimed in, too, saying the lazy lot should be fired. With the government putting the number of its non-performing workers at a hefty 60 per cent, why not just give them the boot? The bill, for one. In figures that boggle the mind, the severance cost of getting shot of 'tens of thousands' of the impecunious nation's civil servants would be in the region of 80 trillion rupiah, according to a parliamentary committee this week, which says it will nonetheless forge ahead with the cuts sometime next year. The trouble with the civil service system can, like many of Indonesia's ills, be traced back to the defining decades of former president Suharto, under whose authoritarian auspices the emerging service ballooned into what it is today: a heaving white elephant. Mr. Feisal clearly has his work cut out for him in his state-employee purge, but his tasks are better served under the banner of a transparent democracy, and an effective government. If streamlining the civil service can be achieved, the methodology can serve as a model for dealing with those other sorry arms of the state that are so often lambasted for dragging the country down.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by William J. Furney, 18 September 2003

Public Servants Want 25 Percent Pay Rise

NSW public servants will ask the state government for a 25 per cent pay rise, their union said tonight. Public Service Association (PSA) assistant general secretary John Cahill said administrative workers in a whole range of government agencies would fight for wage parity with the state teachers' anticipated pay rise. Around 90 per cent of public school teachers in NSW went on strike yesterday to demand a 25 per cent pay rise over two years, rejecting the government's six per cent two-year offer. Mr. Cahill told an executive meeting of the NSW Labor Council the PSA would not tolerate job cuts and the erosion of conditions in agencies including the Department of Education, the Anti-Discrimination Board, Department of Agriculture and Corrective Services. He said public servants would stage a rally next Wednesday in Sydney to protest against the government's proposed changes and support the 25 per cent claim.

From NEWS.com.au, Australia, 18 September 2003

 

Civil Service to Take Control of Blair's Advisers

Tony Blair's launch of a "no-spin" Downing Street is expected to see the cadre of 65 special advisers lose their independence in what will be billed as a major concession to the civil service. The Prime Minister is understood to have accepted that the spin doctors he personally appoints must now be supervised by Whitehall. While the No10 shake-up will restrict the power granted to official political appointees, there are fears that this will simply cede power to unofficial advisers who are neither acknowledged nor regulated. This will be part of a series of measures billed as the abolition of the spin structure exposed by the Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly. Alastair Campbell, who handed in his notice as Mr. Blair's communications and strategy director on Friday, is overseeing the new format which will be inherited by David Hill, his successor. It will involve the weakening of political appointees, and hand power back to the civil service - settling a long-running dispute between them and the Labour government which dates back to 1997.

This is expected to be done through the Cabinet Office, likely to slip from being the Prime Minister's watchdog, and instead becoming the civil service's means of controlling the special advisers spread across Whitehall - who cost an average £83,000 each. An interim report of the Government Information and Communication Service, named the Phillis Review, is expected to recommend that the special advisers do become answerable to the civil service, through the Cabinet Office. It will have no say, however, on the growing role of the unofficial advisers such as Peter Mandelson, who has been in constant touch with Mr. Blair since he was sacked from the Cabinet two years ago. Mr. Campbell will also keep advising Mr. Blair in an unpaid capacity - providing a platform for his new career as a writer and broadcaster.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Fraser Nelson 2 September 2003

We Cannot Agree to Public Servants' Demands: Sahin

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin also said that the cabinet had not reached a final decision on deploying forces in Iraq. Turkey's government will not bow to higher wage demands by public servants, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said on Sunday. Speaking after a series of meetings of the reconciliation council for the public servant collective bargaining Sahin said the government could not agree to the demands. "For our government it appears difficult to agree to the reconciliation council report for the 2004 pay increases as a whole," he said. The report contradicted some of the economic targets estimated by the government, according to the Deputy Prime Minister. However, Sahin vowed that any pay rise to be granted to public servants would not be under the inflation rate. Even before the council had met to try and hammer out a compromise on the wage demands, thousands of members of the public servants union, KAMUSEN, started a hunger strike all throughout Turkey in protest at the conditions set by the government. A final round of talks between unions and government is scheduled for Thursday.

From NTV MSNBC, Turkey, 8 September 2003

Investment in Recycling Needs To Be Tripled

Councils need to invest three times more than they are in recycling if government targets are to be met, according to research from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). CIPFA, the only professional accountancy body to specialise in the public services, carried out a study of local authority spending on household waste recycling in England and Wales over the period 2001-02. While £2.2 billion was spent by councils on the provision of all waste services in England and Wales during that period, the study found that councils spent £52.7 million on the separate kerbside collection of recyclables. This was in itself an increase of 17.9% on the previous year. Based on responses from 74% of councils in England and Wales, the study found that of the £2.2 billion spent on waste, 25% was spent on sending material to landfill while around half was spent on household refuse collections and street cleaning. Spending on recycling made up just 6% of the total with a further 6% spent on civic amenity sites, while incineration came to about 2%. Commenting on the report, CIPFA principle statistician Nicholas Campbell said: "This is the first time we've really looked at recycling in our waste collection and statistics report - recycling is the big issue at the moment in local government and there's a lot of interest in this area. The study shows that a lot of extra funding will be needed for councils to reach their targets."

Trends - England's national waste strategy has set household waste recycling targets of 25% by 2005, 30% by 2010 and 33% by 2015. The recycling rate in 2001-02 was 11.3%, and in 2002-3 it had reached only 12.4%. Based on funding trends up until 2001-02, CIPFA said that "nearly a threefold increase in expenditure on recycling over the next three years will be necessary to achieve the desired recycling target of 25%". The CIPFA study said that an increase in the levels of funding specifically for recycling would be needed from the government and from other sources. The report said: "Although local authorities represent the front line in collecting, recycling and disposing of our household, commercial and industrial waste, the responsibility needs to be shouldered equally by central government, producers, manufacturers and not least the public as consumers, taxpayers and environmentalists." Since 2001-02, the government has distributed extra recycling funds in the form of a £140 million waste minimisation and recycling grant, with a further £135 million soon to be made available to authorities. Mr. Campbell told letsrecycle.com that CIPFA was now looking into the effects of this extra funding, which will be presented in next year's waste report.

From letsrecycle.com, UK, 9 September 2003

Public Services Pay 'Must Top Forum Agenda'

The head of the Trades Union Congress has declared that a key union document demanding discussion of pensions, pay and targets in public services should be "the first item on the agenda" for the hotly anticipated public services forum. Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, blamed the "many difficulties" in public services - despite record investment - partly on the fact that unions and government had stopped talking "largely because there didn't seem to be anywhere for us to have an honest and constructive conversation". Mr. Barber was speaking to delegates at the TUC's annual policy-setting congress, which overwhelmingly passed the TUC general council's statement on public services. The statement makes it clear that union leaders want to use the new public services forum, which aims to improve dialogue between government and unions, to discuss strategic issues at the heart of the government's delivery of public services and treatment of public service workers. Senior TUC officials are determined to set out a dividing line between what the public services forum does and does not discuss.

They feel the forum should not be used to discuss specific pay deals and gripes but broader issues that cut across public sector unions. These include working time in public services, government plans to raise the public sector pension age from 60 to 65, and the elimination of low and unequal pay. Later in the day, Andy Gilchrist, Fire Brigades Union leader, thanked the unions for their solidarity during the firefighters' dispute. Mr. Gilchrist also warned that if the fire service was changed on the basis of the government's recently released white paper, which ends national standards of fire cover, "we're in for some seriously dangerous times". But although national standards - which dictate how many engines have to arrive and by when - will disappear, Nick Raynsford, local government minister, will set out a new national framework at the annual fire conference in Glasgow on Thursday.

From Financial Times, UK, by David Turner and Nick Timmins, 11 September 2003

20,000 Civil Service Jobs May Be Lost

More than 20,000 Civil Service jobs could be forced out of London and the South-East under drastic plans now being implemented by Gordon Brown. The exodus to Scotland, Wales and the regions is planned to hit civil servants at all levels, including senior policy-makers. The Chancellor this week barred all Whitehall departments from leasing new property in London and the South-East without Treasury consent. The freeze also covers renewal of leases. A report published by the Treasury yesterday says it should be possible to meet the target of shifting 20,000 jobs "or even exceed it". The report from the Treasury's investigator, Sir Michael Lyons, demands a farreaching rethink which could eventually see some Civil Service jobs, like call centres, shifted abroad. But Sir Michael says the first priority must be a "radical change" inside the UK. The move is the latest in a series of government blows for the capital, highlighted by the Standard yesterday. It looks likely to fuel complaints that job losses are now being imposed on top of the "spending gap" of up to £20billion between tax raised and money spent on London's public services.

Mr Brown's scheme has targeted four groups - call centres, IT and support staff, scientific and other advisers and, most controversially, policy-makers. Sir Michael declares that the cherished belief that policy-makers need to be in London close to their ministerial masters "must be challenged". And he says the internet and video conferencing allow organisations to work effectively across big distances. At present one in three of the 700,000 civil servants in Government departments and related agencies are based in London and the South-East even though it is the most expensive business area. Numbers in the capital have climbed four per cent in six years. Unions are ready to accept the shift to help regenerate regions beyond the South nut they fear the Treasury hopes for big savings by setting lower pay rates in the regions. Mark Serwotka, boss of the Public and Commercial Services Union, warned "this must not be just a cost-cutting exercise".

From This is London, UK, by Charles Reiss, 10 September 2003

Study Points Civil Servants Towards the Regions

Three government departments may be named for a move from London to the regions on the basis of a study for the Treasury, which will shortly call for radical measures to disperse civil servants from the capital. The study's interim findings published yesterday make it clear that there will be little difficulty in meeting Gordon Brown's objective of moving 20,000 civil service jobs out of London. Senior civil servants are fighting to keep policymaking close to ministers in Whitehall while conceding that some "back office" functions could be moved out of London. Insiders say Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Trade and Industry (DTI) and John Prescott's local government and the regions department - the grandly titled Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - are likely candidates for transfer. The interim report by the Treasury study team, led by Sir Michael Lyons, a former chief executive of Birmingham city council, suggests that it could make more sense to have policy advisers closer to the areas where industry and agriculture are more dominant than in London.

In a separate report for ministers due shortly, the Labour peer Lord Haskins will also suggest that much of Defra could be put outside London. Last week, in a study for the thinktank Catalyst, three leading geographers put the case for resiting entire Whitehall departments in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, and Newcastle upon Tyne. Because of the concentration of powers in London, they argued, a "significant element of national policymaking effectively functioned as an unacknowledged regional policy for south-eastern England". Sir Michael conceded that a "pretty strong message" was coming from the civil service that it would not be helpful to disperse policy functions. But he said there was a strong argument that there were cost, and potentially policy, advantages in the civil service being more widely spread.

From Guardian, UK, by Peter Hetherington, 10 September 2003

Watchdog Attacks PM's Rules on Advisers

Public standards chief says decision to allow ministers to appoint civil servants is missed opportunity to enhance trust in government - The official responsible for standards in public life launched an extraordinary attack on the prime minister yesterday when he attacked new rules on ministerial special advisers. Sir Nigel Wicks, chairman of the powerful and independent committee on standards in public life, accused the government of giving ministers powers to appoint civil servants which "could lead to a politicisation of the civil service". In a strongly-worded statement, the committee condemned the decision as "a seriously missed opportunity to enhance public trust in the processes of government". He warned: "The government appears to favour giving ministers the selection decision in the recruitment of civil servants by open competition." The changes, announced yesterday by No 10, come after Sir Nigel's committee published a report backing curbs on the number and role of special advisers after the furore over the behaviour of Jo Moore, the adviser to the former transport secretary, Stephen Byers. She was forced to resign after suggesting that the September 11 attacks could be used "to bury bad news". Sir Nigel took the unusual step of criticising the government yesterday after it became clear that the new rules ran counter to recommendations from his committee.

Instead of limiting special advisers Mr. Blair announced he would have no limit on their number and insisted on keeping the powers at present held by Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, and available to two other Downing Street advisers to be able to instruct civil servants, without consulting parliament. Sir Nigel said: "The committee is disappointed that core recommendations have not been accepted." He took particular issue over a proposed amendment to the code of conduct for special advisers. "This will allow them to convey to officials ministers' views, instructions and work priorities, including on issues of presentation." This seemed to enhance the position of special advisers and confused accountability within the department. The amendment also says special advisers can "hold meetings with officials to discuss the advice being put to ministers". The risk here was that ministers would not receive independent and impartial advice from the civil service." Sir Nigel objected to plans to appoint an ethics adviser to help ministers in private if they have any conflict of interest.

He had called for the publication of all ministers interests and for an independent person to adjudicate where there were allegations of any conflicts. This was rejected by the government which proposed that permanent secretaries still adjudicate on any conflict, which would be kept secret. Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrat constitutional affairs spokesman, said: "It is unheard of for a statutory committee to feel it necessary to respond so speedily and so sharply to the government in this way. The politicisation of the civil service is increasing day by day." The government has accepted a recommendation that the first civil service commissioner - an existing watchdog which oversees appointments and impartiality in the service - should be appointed after consultation with the leaders of the main opposition parties. It also accepted the case for a civil service bill to lay down the statutory independence of Whitehall but would not give any date to introduce it. The initiative for this legislation will now come from the Commons public administration committee, which will draw up a draft bill. The announcement was also criticised yesterday by Sir George Young, the Tory chairman of the standards and privileges committee, who called for an urgent debate in parliament on its proposals.

From Guardian, UK, by David Hencke, 12 September 2003

More Civil Service Staff Facing Move

More civil servants face the prospect of being forced to move out of Edinburgh when the Scottish Executive unveils its plans for a new strategic transport authority. The new agency, which will oversee improvements in transport infrastructure across the country, will be staffed by officials transferred from the Executive's 200-strong transport department - but it is not clear how many posts would be involved. Under the Executive's policy of job dispersal, the STA as a new agency will automatically be considered for location outside Edinburgh. Transport Minister Nicol Stephen is due to launch a consultation on the STA tomorrow, with the aim of setting up the new body by spring 2005. No decision on location is expected immediately, but Mr Stephen said: "The location of the authority would go through the same public policy process as other bodies." The Executive is currently embroiled in a bitter row over its insistence on moving the headquarters of Scottish Natural Heritage to Inverness despite opposition from staff, unions, local politicians and the quango's own board.

Eddie Reilly, Scottish secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said there would have to be good reasons for any move out of the Capital. "We are not prepared to have a repeat of SNH and have a situation where decisions are taken for purely political reasons which are not in the best interests of the machinery of government. We would not accept a relocation that would lead to compulsory transfers or redundancies." An Executive spokeswoman said the location of the STA would be subject to the normal location review, but no decision could be taken until the exact shape of the agency was known. The setting up of a Scotland-wide strategic transport authority, directly answerable to ministers, was a key pledge in the Labour manifesto for the May 1 elections and the subsequent coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats.

From Edinburgh Evening News, UK, 16 September 2003

Civil Servant Wins €40,000 in Age Discrimination Case

The Equality Tribunal has ordered the Department of Health to pay €40,000 in compensation to a man who was overlooked for promotion because of his age. John Gillen, who unsuccessfully applied for promotion on two occasions, claimed the department had a policy of not promoting officers over the age of 50. As well as ordering the department to compensate Mr. Gillen for age discrimination, the Equality Tribunal also directed it to make its promotion policy more objective and transparent and to ensure that job interview boards have adequate training, apply strict promotion criteria and retain their interview notes.

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 18 September 2003

 

Budget Includes 2,500 Public Service Lay-offs in 2004

The number of public administration employees increased by 2.6%, or 2,600 people, within a year, while 4,000 teachers were fired in the same period. The Ministry of Finance proposes laying off 2,000-2,500 public sector employees as part of the streamlining measures outlined in the 2004 budget. The lay-offs would be in government ministries, local authorities, and affiliated agencies. Under the agreement signed with the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) six months ago, the Ministry of Finance promised to lay off only 700 public sector employees. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of public administration employees in the national government and local authorities increased by 1.5%, or 1,600 people, in the first half of 2003 to 107,300. The number of public sector employees increased by 2.6%, or 2,600 people, within a year. The number of employees at government ministries and agencies increased by 1.5%, or 1,100 people, in the first half of 2003 to 76,600. The number of employees in local authorities increased by 1.1%, or 500 people, in the first half of 2003 to 30,700. The number of employees at government ministries and agencies increased by 3.2%, or 2,400 people, within a year. About 4,000 teachers were fired in the same period, to 331,500 amounting to 1.2% of the education system's staff. Most of the lay-offs were in higher education, yeshivas (houses of Jewish learning), and religious schools.

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein, 8 September 2003

40% of Public Servants Are Smokers

Jeddah - About 40 percent of government employees are smokers, according to a recent survey conducted by the Anti-Smoking Society in the Kingdom. "Of these smokers, 48 percent are married," Okaz reported yesterday quoting the study. A total of 40,621 smokers visited the anti-smoking clinics in a single year, the Arabic daily said, adding that 7,908 of them had been able to quit the habit. The largest number of people who visited the anti-smoking clinics was in the Eastern Province - 5,501, but only 1,119 of them stopped smoking. In Jeddah, 4,337 smokers visited the clinics and 580 of them stopped smoking.

From Arab News, Saudi Arabia, 13 September 2003

 

Contractor Workforce Grows as Civil Service Shrinks

The government's "shadow workforce" of contractors grew by 727,000 positions between 1999 and 2002, while the civil service got smaller, according to a new estimate by the Brookings Institution. The estimate, which is sure to fuel the debate over federal outsourcing efforts, finds that as of the end of 2002, federal contracts were generating 5.17 million jobs, while grants supported another 2.86 million jobs, the highest figures since the end of the Cold War in 1990. At the same time, the number of civil servants continued to shrink-in 2002, federal agencies had 1.76 million civil servants on the payroll, 418,000 fewer than they did in 1990. The figures do not include postal workers or uniformed military personnel. In all, Brookings estimates the federal government relied on 16.7 million employees to carry out its missions in 2002, a figure that includes civil servants, military personnel, postal workers and people who work under federal contracts, grants and mandates imposed on state and local governments. In 1999, this overall figure stood at 15.6 million workers. The estimate is the work of Paul Light, a senior fellow at Brookings, who believes officials should consider government's contract and grantee workforce as they debate outsourcing and civil service reforms. "I believe all the jobs should be on the table for discussion," he said. "Virtually no one ever says that contractors and grantees might be doing jobs that should be in the civil service or back in the military." Eagle Eye Publishers Inc. of Fairfax, Va, helped compile Light's new estimate.

Most, if not all, agency personnel strategies only include civil servants. Contracting, and the contractor workforce, is seen as a procurement issue. In April, the General Accounting Office urged the Defense Department to consider the role of contractors in its "human capital" plan, but Defense demurred. "The use of contractors is just another tool the department uses to accomplish its mission, not a separate workforce, with separate needs, to manage," the department said in comments to GAO. Federal contractors and unions were quick to react to the new figures. "Light's update reminds us that contracting out doesn't reduce the size of the federal government; rather, it merely makes federal services delivered by contractors less accountable to taxpayers and customers," said John Gage, the new president of the American Federation of Government Employees. Stan Soloway, President of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va.-based contractors association, said Light's estimate of contract positions should be viewed with caution. "I don't dispute the general trends he's talking about, but I think we need to be very careful about the [contract] numbers being thrown around," he said. "It doesn't measure direct functional work; it measures jobs created as a result of federal spending." Light's method uses Commerce Department data to estimate the total employment generated by federal contracts and grants. "I like to say that federal contracts created an estimated 727,000 new jobs," said Light, who is also a professor at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.

Soloway added that the new numbers show that contractors are not replacing federal employees, since the growth of the contractor workforce since 1999 far outpaced the drop in federal employment over the same period. The civil service lost 46,000 positions from 1999 to 2002. "If the government only lost roughly 50,000 positions [since 1999], yet he's saying there were a million positions created by virtue of contracts and grants, it certainly defeats the argument that we are contracting out on the backs of civil servants," said Soloway. "And if [the government] is creating a million new jobs, that's a good thing." Light's analysis shows that the contract workforce has grown rapidly under the Bush administration, both through new defense spending and in contracts issued by civilian agencies. "Many of these jobs have been added at agencies involved in the war on terrorism, but many have also been added at domestic agencies such as Health and Human Services," he said. Since 1999, civilian agencies have added 550,000 contract and grantee jobs. Civilian agencies added only 300,000 such jobs from 1993 to 1999, during the Clinton administration. Overall, the growth in contract and grantee jobs has replaced three-fourths of the 2 million jobs cut at the end of the Cold War, according to Light. "When all the jobs are totaled, the federal government has added back all but 500,000 of the jobs cut after the Cold War," he said.

Both Gage and Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Light's numbers should prompt the Bush administration to reconsider its competitive sourcing initiative, which lets contractors bid on federal jobs. "I hope some people are shocked," said Kelley. "I would say these numbers show that there is more than enough work that has already been moved to private contractors and in many instances not through any competition whatsoever." The Office of Management and Budget did not respond to questions on Light's estimates. Light's analysis shows that federal grants supported 333,000 more jobs in 2002 than they did in 1999. In 2001, a Bush administration study found agencies have little data on the effectiveness of federal grant programs. The True Size of the Federal Government 1999-2002:
1999 2002
Civil Servants 1,802,000 1,756,000
Contractors 4,441,000 5,168,000
Grantees 2,527,000 2,860,000
Military Personnel 1,386,000 1,456,000
Postal Service 872,000 875,000
Total True Size of Government 11,028,000 12,115,000
State and Local Mandated Employees (1996 estimate) 4,650,000 4,650,000
Total True Size w/ Mandated Employees 15,678,000 16,765,000

From GovExec.com, by Jason Peckenpaugh (jpeckenpaugh@govexec.com), 5 September 2003

'National Security' Part Of Bush Plan To Cut Civil Services

The Bush administration is evoking "national security" as a powerful weapon to accomplish its twin goals of privatizing thousands of federal jobs and taking a whack at government unions. The administration's sales pitch is to raise the specter of terrorism and 9-11 -- a surefire way to scare Congress into backing plans to gut the Civil Service system. Congress passed the Civil Service Act in 1883 to end the spoils system, which based federal employment on nepotism and cronyism. The bad old days may be returning. I note the lack of competitive bids on some government contracts to rebuild Iraq and the appearance of favoritism in the administration's decisions to award contracts to politically influential companies. John Gage, President of the AFL-CIO's American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), sees a trend. He predicts "a return to the spoils system for politically connected corporations and campaign contributors." The administration's drive to cut down the size of the government and shift federal jobs and services to private contractors is a process known as "outsourcing." Halliburton, the oil-field construction company, comes to mind as a firm that has perfected outsourcing. Once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, Halliburton has received contracts for rebuilding Iraq totaling nearly $2 billion, not to mention the multimillion-dollar billings for cells it built for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has given federal agencies until Oct. 31 to designate 15 percent of their jobs as "not inherently governmental" and, therefore, available for competitive outside contracts. Strangely, despite all the concerns about airport security, the air traffic controllers were put in that category. That would seem to be one area where the government would want to have more control on personnel selection. After all, before 9-11, airport security screeners had been employees of private companies. Congress and the public later woke up to the fact that these private firms weren't up to the job of reliably protecting travelers. The result was that Congress forced President Bush to accept new government agencies - the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration - to increase the federal role in safeguarding the public. Even then, Bush held out for his personal goal of cutting the strength of federal employee unions in the new department. The workers in 22 agencies who were shifted to the new Department of Homeland Security lost their basic collective bargaining rights. Gage said the assault on the Civil Service system was "shocking and wrong." "Our people are scared to death they'll lose their jobs and the Bush administration will try to dismantle the system," he said. Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., voted against creation of the Homeland Security Department in that form as part of his efforts to preserve the workers' union rights.

He paid the political price when he failed to win reelection last year after Bush went to Atlanta six times to campaign against him. The Republican opposition played hard ball, calling Cleland - who lost both legs and an arm in the Vietnam war - "unpatriotic." The administration is also locking and loading against any involvement of unions in the civilian workforces of the Pentagon and the Transportation Department. In a power grab, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has drafted a plan that bars collective bargaining for the Pentagon's 640,000 civilian workers, eliminates due process in the workplace and promotes public-private competition for defense work. Gage said the plan amounts to "contractors in, federal workers out." The Rumsfeld plan was rammed through the House but was rejected in the Senate. The issue will be resolved in a conference committee. Rumsfeld should stop tampering with the job security of Pentagon civilians and pay more attention to the two wars he is trying to run. Gage said the moves to privatize the government payroll were a "grand slam" blow to the Civil Service system and organized labor.

Beyond what looks like a bow to big business, Karl Rove, the president's political guru, tipped the administration's hand on why the administration thinks federal workers are suspect. In an interview in The New Yorker magazine on May 12, Rove said: "Bigger government strengthens the Democratic Party. It generates federal employees who will mostly vote Democratic ... conversely, smaller government helps the Republicans." And if the message hasn't sunk in, the president has more Labor Day good news for them. Citing a national emergency, he plans to hold government civilian pay raises to 2 percent instead a 2.7 percent. Also ruled out was a proposed salary hike to make it comparable with the private pay scales in certain geographical areas. As the nation's chief public servant, Bush should be protecting the rights of government employees who serve all Americans, not undermining them at their workplace. (Helen Thomas can be reached at the e-mail address helent@hearstdc.com). Copyright 2002 by Hearst Newspapers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

From WPBF Channel.com, FL 3September 2003

Utility Regulators Meet to Confront Ethics Issues - Corporate Gifts Are Status Quo, Report Says

Baton Rouge - On a spring evening in Miami Beach last year, the marketing director for the Lafayette power company Slemco treated Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Dale Sittig and two high-level staff members of the state regulatory agency to prime rib, New York strip and filet mignon dinners at the popular Shula's Steak House. What is extraordinary about the meal, which took place during a conference of utility regulators, was that it wasn't extraordinary at all. In recent months it has come to public light that state utility regulators have been accepting hundreds of meals and other gifts each year from the people they are regulating, an illegal practice in nearly every state but Louisiana. "That's pretty astonishing," said Melissa Marland, an administrative law judge for the West Virginia public service commission who teaches ethics to utility regulators from across the country. Today, all of that might begin to change. Faced with broad criticism of its operations and ethical guidelines, the five elected commissioners of the PSC have pledged to make changes as part of a process that formally begins with a 1 p.m. meeting between the agency and its chief critic, the legislative auditor's office. They will meet in public to discuss the findings of the auditor's scathing report on the PSC that was released in May.

That report said the agency was not following its own guidelines for conducting routine audits of regulated companies. It stated that the PSC was a rubber-stamp agency for gas rate requests by power companies, had poor procedures for deciding river pilots' pay and operated under ethical standards that raised questions about undue corporate influence on its staff and commissioners. The next step comes Wednesday, when the commissioners and staff hold their regular monthly public meeting, with several reform issues on the docket. Commission Chairman Jay Blossman, the sharpest opponent of the auditor's report, said he now is prepared to work with the agency and propose changes in PSC operations. The problems cited in the report cover the breadth of the agency's activities, and there is disagreement among the commissioners about how much needs to be done. Meanwhile, at least one state lawmaker has an eye on the PSC's overhaul efforts and has said he is prepared to take legislative action to change the agency's ethics standards if the commissioners don't. The most serious complaint in the auditor's report is that the agency is not doing a good job setting utility rates paid by customers across the state.

Commissioners have discussed proposals aimed at cleansing the agency of its reputation for cozy relationships with the people and companies it regulates and hires for consulting and legal work. "You can issue the most wonderful and most fair decisions in the world, but if there's a perception that you've been influenced by something other than the record, that perception is always going to govern," Marland said. "It will cause the public to think their rates aren't being made fairly." Law favors giving favors - Until the auditor's report, the relationship between the regulators and regulated had become such that Entergy, the state's largest power company, routinely provided doughnuts and other refreshments for PSC staff at the agency's monthly public meetings, as well as hundreds of dollars worth of food and drink for holiday staff parties. The auditor's supplemental report released in July showed that 11 power companies last year treated the agency's executive secretary, Lawrence "Tubby" St. Blanc, to 154 meals valued at $3,016, on some occasions paying the tab when St. Blanc's wife and children dined with him. In all, the 11 utilities provided PSC staff and commissioners with more than 800 meals, golf outings, sports tickets and other items in 2002, worth more than $50,000. "In my class I teach that you should never be accepting expensive meals or tickets, because you can never avoid the appearance of impropriety there," Marland said. "The general public is never going to be able to offer you similar gifts."

In Louisiana, commissioners and staff may accept food and drink, including reasonable transportation and entertainment incidental to it, as long as the party providing them accompanies the public servant during the meal. Elected officials may accept tickets for cultural or sporting events and golf outings, valued up to $100 per gift, but may not accept more than $500 in such gifts from any one individual per year. The favors must be given in Louisiana unless the officials are out of state on official business, such as the Shula's dinner in Miami Beach. When the auditor's report came out, the commission placed a moratorium on staff and commissioners accepting meals and gifts from companies they regulate, until a new policy can be evaluated. Out-of-state perks - Documents released in the auditor's reports and PSC travel records show that out-of-state conferences provide a beehive of interactions among regulators and utilities, including frequent meals with tabs picked up by the corporations. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and its regional sister groups, along with the Institute of Public Utilities, are the leading organizations providing networking and education opportunities for public service commissioners and staff nationwide. And there usually is some play to offset the work at the conferences. At the Miami conference last year, attended by a number of commissioners and staff, about a dozen Louisiana power and telecommunications companies split the cost of a four-hour, $10,000 dinner cruise for 80 people.

Several commissioners and staff played golf at company expense. The out-of-state conferences also can offer the opportunity to stay in luxury accommodations. While attending the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners annual meeting in San Diego in November 2000, Blossman shared an oceanside condominium suite called Executive Elegance with his chief assistant, Colin Mount, at a cost of nearly $2,000 for five nights. About 10 miles from the conference hotel, the condo building on Ocean Front Walk is a prestigious waterfront location with units valued at more than $1.3 million, according to San Diego real estate records. The condo visit was charged to the PSC. A spokesman for Blossman said the room was cheaper than the conference hotel and saved public money. However, PSC travel records show he could have paid considerably less had he shared a room at the Marriott hotel, which hosted the conference under the theme, "Customer Choice: An Ocean of Possibilities." Commissioner Irma Muse Dixon attended the same conference for three days and was reimbursed by the agency for lodging at the Marriott, meals and round-trip journey, all for less than half the cost of Blossman's waterfront condo. Marland said she teaches an ethics seminar at the same association's annual "summer camp" and that conferences generally provide valuable tools for utility regulators.

But officials should avoid appearances of a conflict of interest at the conferences, and commissioners should behave in a way that sets a good example for their agency staff, she said. "It all flows from the top," Marland said. "If commissioners are more concerned about ethics, then that flows through to the staff, and to the other parties." Staff opinions count - PSC Secretary St. Blanc said that although he and his staff have operated within the state's ethical guidelines, he recognizes that the auditor's reports have raised concerns about appearances. But the commissioners, not the staff, are the decision makers, he said. "All the staff members can do is make recommendations," St. Blanc said. "Commissioners have the final say-so." But PSC staff opinions are influential and rarely overridden by the elected commissioners. Staff opinions deal with questions about rate increases, consultants' fees, commission rules and utility financial transactions. When voting on utility decisions in the past 12 months, commissioners accepted 49 staff recommendations, three of which were amended, and rejected none, according to minutes from PSC monthly meetings. For example, the PSC staff recommended water and sewerage rate increases in various parts of the state six times in the past year and made a motion to dismiss a rate hike once. The commissioners agreed each time. Such rate decisions are seldom made without a staff position.

An exception was a December vote, based on a request by Blossman rather than a staff opinion, to pass a sewerage service rate increase for businesses in his home parish of St. Tammany. The commissioners were more likely to reject opinions from administrative law judges, who rule on a variety of disputes that come before the PSC. On at least two occasions this year, commissioners approved staff motions to overturn judges' rulings. Commissioner Foster Campbell, who took office in January, ran up against the persuasiveness of staff opinions this spring when Shell Pipeline requested a 10 percent increase on the rate it charges for crude oil passing through part of its pipe system in Louisiana, a markup of about $2 million annually. At the May PSC meeting, a staff member briefly summarized the proposal and requested approval, which several commissioners were inclined to accept without further question. But Campbell broke from routine procedure and asked why no one from Shell had appeared at the meeting to explain the company's case. He was told that pipeline companies do not normally show up at PSC meetings and that the higher rate would have no consumer impact because other Shell-related companies would pay for it. Campbell moved that the proposal be taken up at the commission's next meeting, with Shell representatives in attendance.

He said he was concerned that the PSC was being used as a pawn to increase the value of Shell's pipelines and that no matter what company was paying directly for the rate increase, consumers would eventually bear the higher costs. Shell and Campbell made their arguments at the June meeting. In the discussion that followed, the other commissioners ultimately invoked the staff recommendation as the best advice. Shell got the three votes it needed for the rate increase, while Campbell voted against it and Dixon abstained. Where to begin? Commissioners individually have indicated they might consider a broad range of changes in the way the PSC operates. They have in hand a study conducted by the PSC's general counsel surveying the meals and gifts policies in most other states. Among the states in the survey, none of the ethics standards is as liberal as Louisiana's. Some of the commissioners have suggested changes in the way the PSC deals with lobbyists. Unlike in the Legislature, lobbyists to the PSC do not have to report their entertainment expenses or who benefits from them.

They must register with the agency and identify the company they represent, but they have no other reporting requirements. Companies must report every three months to the PSC how much they spend on outside consultants, including lobbyists, but those reports contain no specific information about what the money is for. Another issue will be how to apply new ethical standards. Should a new set of ethics guidelines apply just to companies regulated? What about companies with business before the commission, such as manufacturing plants that want to build power generators or consultants and lawyers who work for the utilities? Whatever the commissioners decide to do, their actions will be noted. State Sen. Tom Schedler, R-Slidell, introduced legislation in the spring session that would have prohibited regulatory agency officials from accepting things of value from the companies they oversee. He did not push the bill after the PSC said it would look into making changes following the auditor's report. "The appropriate thing to do is to let the PSC come forth with their plan and see what they do," Schedler said last week. "I'll look to see if their solutions are at all lacking. If so, I would be willing to revisit that issue at the next session."

From Times Picayune, LA, by Robert Travis Scott, 9 September 2003

Public Servants Honoured at Inaugural Awards Event

History was made in Regina Wednesday night when a special ceremony and banquet marked the first presentation of the Premier's Award for Excellence in the Public Service. Receiving this award were three individuals and three teams or groups in Saskatchewan's public service: - Don Fairbairn, executive director of the intergovernmental relations branch of the Community Resources and Employment (formerly Social Services) department, saluted for his work as co-chair of a working group on early childhood development; - Terry Lang, assistant deputy minister of Saskatchewan Corrections and Public Safety, for his work in adult probation services, in which innovative new programs have been implemented; - Don Stevenson, manager of the employee and family assistance program of the Public Service Commission, for his work in overseeing delivery of professional assessment and counselling support services to public servants; - Five members of Saskatchewan Justice's Cree Court Party for their work in developing and operating a Cree-speaking provincial court that travels throughout northern Saskatchewan, thus making justice more relevant to the people of the area; - Four members of the taxation and intergovernmental affairs branch of Saskatchewan Finance, who served as a tax review team credited with significantly lowering tax rates on individuals and businesses, and; - 32 members of the information management branch of Saskatchewan Environment, for skillfully upgrading a 14-year-old computer system, saving taxpayers between $200,000 and $450,000, and delivering this project ahead of schedule, under budget and with less disruption than expected, a government news release said. Next year, these awards are to be presented in June. To nominate an individual or organization, contact the provincial department of Government Relations and Aboriginal Affairs or go to its Web site at http://www.graa.gov.sk.ca/ and click on "protocol and honours", then "honours and awards" and finally "premier's award." © Copyright 2003 The Leader-Post (Regina).

From Regina Leader Post, Canada, by Will Chabun, 4 September 2003

Revenge Haunts Public Servants in Venezuela

Caracas - Those who signed a petition seeking a recall referendum on the president say they are being fired for their views. With unemployment running at 21 percent, Vanessa Roca considered herself lucky to find a secretarial job earlier this year in Venezuela's massive state-run oil company. Her good fortune was short-lived. After her employers found out she signed a petition calling for a recall referendum to remove the country's controversial leftist president, Hugo Chavez, she was abruptly fired. "When I signed (the petition) I never gave it much thought," the 31-year-old said. "I didn't think it would be so important." It comes as no comfort to Roca that in a country bitterly polarized by two years of political strife, hers is not an isolated case. As Venezuela's government tries to cling to power, public sector employees who signed the referendum petition, or who are suspected of harboring anti-Chavez sympathies, are being purged from their jobs, according to dozens of interviews with dismissed workers, trade unionists, lawyers and opposition politicians. In an effort to discredit the referendum, public servants whose names appear on the petition are being encouraged by the government to sign legal complaints alleging that their signatures were forged. "There is enormous pressure on public employees," said opposition Congressman Gerardo Blyde. "They are trying to snarl up the referendum by any means possible.

The referendum sentences Chavez to leaving office, and they know that." The government denies the allegations, saying instead that the referendum petition was itself a violation of the constitution, and the signatures were marred by fraud. Government supporters claim they have uncovered 6,000 forged signatures so far. Some 175 formal complaints are being investigated by a public prosecutor's office in the capital, officials say. During a visit to Cuba this week, Chavez declared the signatures "illegal" and warned the country's autonomous National Electoral Commission (CNE) not to validate them. Were it to do so, he said, the CNE would risk "destabilizing" the country, and prove itself "morally disqualified" from carrying out its functions. Chavez, a former army lieutenant colonel who led a failed military coup in 1992, was elected to a five-year term in December 1998 on a wave of popular outrage over decades of political corruption and squandered oil wealth. On taking office, Chavez declared a sweeping revolutionary process to overhaul the state, drawing inspiration from Venezuela's founding father and independence hero, Simon Bolivar. But his once sky-high popularity has since plummeted to only 30 percent. After a year in office he held early elections in 2000 under a new constitution, and was elected to a six-year term, which expires in 2007. Foes accuse him of seeking to impose a communist-style dictatorship, while igniting class hatred with his fiery revolutionary rhetoric.

Mass demonstrations against his rule culminated in a two-month general strike earlier this year, paralyzing the country's $46-billion-a-year oil industry. Opposition leaders followed this up with the referendum drive, collecting 2.7-million signatures calling for a recall vote to remove Chavez from power, an electoral right provided under Venezuela's Constitution. On Friday electoral officials ruled the referendum petition was invalid on technical grounds. The signatures should have been collected after the halfway point of Chavez's presidency which was only reached Aug. 19, the five-member body ruled. But opposition leaders took the ruling in stride, saying they would hold a new petition drive Oct. 5 to collect the 2.4-million signatures required by law. But many hurdles remain. The referendum issue remains stuck in a nightmarish web of procedural uncertainties which electoral officials should rule on this week. Even the nation's supreme court is having trouble making sense of the situation. One of its rulings last week - on whether Chavez could stand for re-election if defeated in a recall vote - was called into doubt after someone allegedly inserted several unauthorized paragraphs into the official text. It was only the latest foulup in a catalog of mysterious misdeeds that have sapped public confidence in the organs of state. In March, a list of the names and identity card numbers of those who signed the first of two referendum petitions was leaked to a progovernment congressman, Luis Tascon.

The names of those who signed were supposed to remain in the safekeeping of electoral officials. In an interview, Tascon said the list was delivered to his office anonymously in a sealed envelope. Instead of returning it, he posted the entire list on his official Web site in the form of a database, allowing names to be checked at the click of a mouse. From there the list appears to have made its way to government offices, where it is being used to cross-reference the names of public servants. Among the first to be singled out were members of the armed forces and employees of the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). "Currently five military officers are under arrest at the air base here in Caracas," said Carlos Martinez, a lawyer representing many of the military dissidents who signed the referendum petition. Officers who signed were summoned before disciplinary hearings, and only those who held their tongues were allowed to keep their jobs. "All those who fought for their rights were kicked out," he said. Officials at PDVSA have also used the referendum signatures to blacklist applicants for jobs, as well as hundreds of highly sought-after academic internships and grants, according to students and academics at the Central University of Venezuela. One former doctor at a PDVSA medical clinic in the eastern oil fields of Monagas state, Dr. Josefina Acosta, was fired after she joined the strike. Soon after finding a job at a nearby clinic in July, her new employers were informed that PDVSA would no longer refer any patients to clinics that employed staff fired from the company. "Apart from the fact that they violated my employment rights, they violated the rights of all those patients to be treated," she said.

PDVSA's head of human resources, Asdrubal Chavez, a cousin of the president, did not respond to requests for an interview. Union leaders also say their members are under intense government pressure to switch allegiance to a new, pro-Chavez union, created by the government in May. "Our public sector members who signed the (referendum) petition are being blackmailed with threats of firing and loss of bonuses," said Manuel Cova, an opposition leader and secretary-general of the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, the country's largest labor organization. The politicization of Venezuela's state institutions has reached as far as the country's chief civil rights ombudsman, a federal office known as the People's Defender. A creation of the 1999 constitution drafted by Chavez in his first year, the office has failed to take up a single case of political discrimination, say human rights activists. In an interview, the ombudsman, German Mundarain, said he was unaware of any abuses. "Political opinions are being respected," he said. He attributed the allegations to a politically motivated campaign by the opposition-dominated media. However, Mundarain is accused of fomenting a climate of political intolerance that has resulted in numerous firings and resignations.

One former employee who served as a senior human rights lawyer, Ramon Colina, 50, said he was dismissed in November after complaining that office staff were participating openly in progovernment demonstrations. "I didn't think it was appropriate," he said. "I'm anti-Chavista and not afraid to say it, but I never went on opposition marches. I kept my political views to myself." Although political discrimination is a violation of the constitution, as well as international labor and human rights treaties, so far only a handful of cases have been challenged in the courts. "Things have gotten so bad that people are losing their capacity for astonishment," said Carlos Correa, head of PROVEA, a leading human rights group. "They are reacting as if there is no state." With no faith in the system, many Venezuelans are at a loss to know what to do. On Thursday, Vanessa Roca, the fired PDVSA secretary, traveled seven hours by bus from her home outside the capital to file a complaint with the prosecutor handling alleged signature forgeries. Standing outside the prosecutor's office with a notarized complaint in her hand, she said she was not claiming forgery. "That would be absurd," she said, admitting that she had signed the petition.

Saying she no longer supported the referendum, she said she simply wanted her name taken off the petition list. Later that afternoon, the prosecutor, Gledys Carpio, made headlines by showing up at the national electoral headquarters, accompanied by an intimidating police SWAT team armed with submachine guns. She was ostensibly there to search for falsified signatures. But her presence earned a rebuke from her boss, the country's chief prosecutor, who promised such heavy-handed legal tactics would not be repeated. Even so, it may have had the desired effect. The next day Roca telephoned one of the reporters, asking to retract her story. Clearly nervous, she said she was no longer sure why she had been fired. Earlier, Roca had been in no doubt. Saying she no longer supported the referendum, she said she simply wanted her name taken off the list. Upset by the whole experience she blamed both sides. "I don't believe in anything anymore. No one is playing fair. It's all gotten so radical." (David Adams is the Times' Latin America correspondent. Phil Gunson is a Times correspondent based in Caracas).

From St. Petersburg Times, FL, by David Adams and Phil Gunson, 14 September, 2003

Goodyear Honors Public Servants with Memorial

Goodyear unveiled its memorial to public servants Sept. 11, with appropriate pomp, circumstance and ethos, and more than 250 people in attendance. The corner of Litchfield Road and Van Buren Street, in front of the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce, was the scene for the unveiling. Fire trucks and police vehicles lined the parking lot to the east of the chamber building, next to a large white tent that was set up to provide shade to attendees of the festivities. Goodyear Deputy City Manager Grant Anderson served as the master of ceremonies. He first introduced Tolleson Fire Chief Donald Garcia to lead the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Goodyear Fire Department Chaplain Peter Lamphere with an invocation. Rep. Bill Arnold, R-District 12, the former mayor of Goodyear, was the first speaker of the morning. "The council felt very emotional about it and wanted to do something to let people know how public service people work to help us," Arnold said about being on the council at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist events. "This has gone even farther. It makes us realize that our public servants do put their lives on the line for us every day … I'm glad it happened on my watch to come up with this memorial." Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini spoke next, noting that firefighters, police officers and public works personnel are "incrementalists," who "fill in the gaps" in a city's operations. "We're really conservationists - keeping the city running the way people are used to," he said, adding that even though police and firefighters are called up to do heroic things now and again, "We really are lousy heroes. Ask any of them and they'll say 'We're just doing our jobs.'" And it's not just police and fire, but all public service personnel who are heroes, he added.

"Garbage collectors are heroes - you don't think so, see what happens if they stay home for four days how your phone will ring, mayor," he quipped, looking at Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and drawing laughter. Sept. 11, 2001, has changed a lot of things, "and created a new normal for us," Brunacini said, adding that he saluted the memorial being created that day. "It's not an academic memorial or a theoretical memorial - they built it at the side of the road so people can see it every day," he said. "I hope that whoever goes by this … for the next 350 years, looks at this and will remember what it means." Plans for subsequent additions to the memorial call for trees surrounding a winding path to the flagpoles and benches. City gets help with memorial - Anderson then introduced 12-year-old Alyson Elkins of Litchfield Park, a student at Western Sky Middle School in Goodyear, who together with her friend Jessica Ziegler, 13, of Los Angeles and her mother, Kim, formed the Not in Our World Foundation. Alyson handed Anderson a check for $1,500, proceeds from the sale of "Not in My World" T-shirts, to help pay for the memorial. "We wanted to empower kids to fight against prejudice, violence and terrorism," Alyson said about forming the foundation, which not only sells the T-shirts, but also puts on interactive plays at elementary schools to educate children about bullying, hatred, prejudice and violence.

Goodyear resident Jacqueline Island, who stirringly sang at Goodyear's mayoral and council swearing-in ceremonies last June, sang a couple of patriotic songs during the memorial ceremony. After she began singing "God Bless America," several audience members spontaneously began singing along with her, prompting a second chorus by everyone. Flags, emotions are raised - The ceremony moved from the tent to near the corner of Litchfield and Van Buren, where six flagpoles stood empty. The Goodyear Police Department Honor Guard then raised the U.S. and Arizona flags while Island sang the "Star Spangled Banner." Retired firefighter Joe Tufano, a 23-year veteran of the New York Fire Department who has since retired to Prescott, spoke emotionally about serving with many New York firefighting "brothers" who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist events involving the World Trade Center Towers. "We have to keep these memorials up," he urged. "We have to keep remembering." Tufano's remarks were punctuated by a sudden emergency call that prompted two Goodyear fire engines, an Avondale engine and a pair of ambulances to pass by the ceremonies going south down Litchfield Road. "Those were heroes going by," Anderson said shortly after they had passed. "Avondale and Goodyear and the ambulances working together."

A moment of silence came next, followed by the Glendale Police Department Bagpipe and Drum Corps playing "Amazing Grace." The Goodyear Police Department Honor Guard then assisted Avondale Vice Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, Goodyear Mayor Jim Cavanaugh, Litchfield Park Councilman O.K. Fulton and Tolleson Mayor Adolfo Gamez in raising the flags of each city on the remaining four flagpoles. The Glendale Police Department Bagpipe and Drum Corps then played excerpts from each of the military services' hymns. "We need to remember that in times of crisis and confusion, that professionalism, heroism and human kindness make such a difference," noted Goodyear City Manager Steve Cleveland in closing remarks. "Police, fire and public works professions, and those who support them, are worthy of this recognition. They're the first responders. "This new memorial signifies the value we place in our public service professionals." After the ceremony, retiring Goodyear Police Chief Peter Nick, in dress uniform, expressed his pleasure with the memorial. "It feels good to finally get the recognition that I think has been deserving for a long, long time. It's absolutely tragic that it took the event of 9/11 two years ago to accomplish this," Nick said. "As the retired New York firefighter said, it's good to remember, we need to remember and never forget. It would be a great thing if we could remember every day."

From West Valley News, AZ, by Darryl Henning, 17 September 2003

 
 

Government Should Consider E-Governance - Nel

Lusaka - Government should consider e-governance in its delivery of services to citizens, Microsoft, South East Africa country manager Pierre Nel has suggested. In an interview on Tuesday night at an Information Communication Technology (ICT) forum cocktail at Hotel Intercontinental in Lusaka, Nel said Africa's ICT perspective was too gloomy. Nel also announced that his company would spend more than US $5 billion in research and development in the ICT area in Africa. He said e-governance (electronic governance) would enhance the delivery of services to citizens efficiently and at reduced costs. "In short e-governance is equal to happy citizens, because if I want information on registration cards, I could easily go to the internet and get the information" he said. "Citizens can have information from government which they can't access now" He said e-governance fosters accountability and transparency. Nel said the efficient governments of today could not function based on paper and thus needed ICT. He said since Zambia wanted to attract foreign investors, e-governance would greatly assist them get necessary information about the country profile. He, however, said the country's banking and mining sectors had made huge leaps in realising the benefits of ICT in their work.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Speedwell Mupuchi, 29 August 2003

Phantom Pensioners and the Public Service

The report that 24,000 phantom pensioners were found on the payroll of the Ministry of Defence would have been shocking enough if it were an isolated case. At the very least, it clearly demonstrated how many ghost workers were on the payroll of the Defence Ministry before they "retired " and became eligible for pensions. Even at N1000 per month that amounts to N24 million per month or N288 million per year fraudulently paid out by the Ministry. In fact the amount involved in these shady deals which could not have occurred without the active connivance of the ministry's officials employed in the pensions' department over the years would be many times that figure; perhaps as much as five times. Sad as this revelation might be for honourable Nigerians who daily feel humiliated by the knowledge that no ministry or parastatal of governments nationwide is free of corruption, the more heart-breaking aspect lies in the fact that the discovery of phantom pensioners in the Ministry of Defence is not an isolated case. The problem is pervasive in the public service. As a result ghost pensioners swelling the payout and succeeding in collecting pensions not due to them have exacerbated the problems o

f the pension scheme which are enormous and perhaps intractable. The discovery of so many fake pensioners also threatens the claims of legitimate pensioners who might be subjected to more lengthy delays before payments are made on the grounds that their claims are being scrutinized. Most painful of all for younger Nigerians looking up to adults for good example is the fact that many of those old people, grandfathers and even great-grandfathers dying on pension queues and evoking sympathy were crooks who had no business being there at all because they never worked for the organizations they approached for pension in the first instance. Vanguard is aware of the difficulties involved in fishing out all the crooks on the pension list of every government establishment. But, we also believe it is a task that must be done as part of the efforts being made to save the pension scheme in Nigeria which is now on the verge of total collapse.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, 7 September 2003

'Public service success'

Parliament - The public service restructuring process is nearing the end and phase two, which deals with excess employees not placed during redeployment, has begun, says Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi. These employees would be placed in a special programme and assigned to defined centres by the employer, she told journalists at Parliament on Thursday. According to current data, government had 20 958 excess employees, and 20 313 vacancies. Most excess employees were from the agricultural sector, predominantly less skilled and lower paid, and most vacancies in the health sector, she said. The special programme would focus on re-skilling workers and facilitate their absorption into future departmental vacancies, based on an analysis of requirements for vacant posts. This process would run until May 31, 2004, and employees unsuccessful in this programme would be eligible for employer initiated severance packages.

However, employees could leave earlier by applying for voluntary severance packages, Fraser-Moleketi said. Turning to disputes related to the restructuring, she said to date the South African Police Service had referred 305 disputes to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council for mediation or arbitration. This process should be completed by the end of November. Most of the disputes resulted from the integration of special units, such as the drug unit, into service delivery units at station level, and most were in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. "We can confidently state that restructuring has succeeded in integrating the public services and practically promoted representivity. "We have also succeeded in ensuring that all departments (nationally and provincially) have strategic plans that correspond with their human resources plans, while taking into account employment equity," she said.

From News24, South Africa, 11 September 2003

 

Asia-Pacific E-governments 'on Right Track', Says IDC

Hong Kong - E-governments in the Asia-Pacific are delivering only a fraction of their promises, although some of them are reaching the critical masses. According to Dane Anderson, vice-president, Consulting & Vertical Markets, IDC Asia Pacific, 33% of urban Internet users in the region access government information when they log onto the Internet. "Thirty-three percent is a significant figure. From our research, only 20% of urban Net users go to the Web for e-commerce and fewer than 30% go for activities related to personal finance," he commented. In addition to benefits such as cost reduction and improved revenue collection, one of the major drivers of e-government is an enhanced image. "A government wants to know it's better than others. The implementation of e-government is also perceived as a means to achieving international competitiveness and a better image," Anderson noted. Despite having an audience, e-government has a long way to go because full transformation of e-government services will take years. Some hurdles include tradition, habit, people, and processes, he suggested. He pointed out that e-governments in the region are characterised by delayed communications, the lack of personalised content, and reactive rather than proactive approach in communications. But Anderson believes they are moving in the right direction. "From 2004 to 2010, they will be moving towards real-time communications, personalised content, interstate communications, and a public driven rather than a government-driven model."

From Asia Computer Weekly, Singapore, by Teresa Leung, 27 July 2003

Identifying New Measures for Management in Civil Service

"Continuous efforts should be made to identify new measures that can be used as current management tools because the civil service is constantly confronting problems or new management agenda which requires different approaches." This was stated by Dato Paduka Haji Dani bin Haji Ibrahim, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office. He was the guest of honour at the National Outstanding Work Performance Convention 2003 that took place at the Civil Service Institute premises yesterday. The convention which began yesterday runs until September 4. There are 28 groups participating in it - Sumaka, Turbo, Waja, Belait Innovative Group, Kdimat 605, Salimada, Peranca, 2P, DDKC, MDJB, Insan Dinamik, Brilliant Green, 3k, Al-Wadi, File.com, Spanar Jaya, Waspada, Teguh, Bakti, Wizforce@pharm, Synergy, e-infostst, Ukaz, Al- Basyir, Imtiaz, Fire Team, Ops - Maju and Bersatu. He added that with the various additional measures, the management in the civil service would be more effective when facing current challenges.

The method of management should not only depend on its existence but its effectiveness in solving issues and its contribution in upgrading the quality of services. He said the introduction of this convention is imperative in the competitive work culture that requires creative and innovative employees that create changes and improvement in administrating government machinery. He explained that passive work culture and waiting for orders would not make us move forward and progress. In the end we would be left behind if compared with other countries whether regional or international. He advised management parties to provide support and encouragement to the groups in the respective ministries and departments. They are encouraged to be active in providing strategies towards implementation and improving productivity at their respective ministries and departments. (Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin)

From Bru Direct, Brunei, by Laila Rahman, 2 September 2003

PM Opposes Aussie Expats in Public Service

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, says he will oppose efforts to place Australian expatriates in senior positions in the country's public service as part of a review of Australia's aid program. Last week Prime Minister John Howard sent a special envoy to Port Moresby to discuss Australia's plans which are aimed at addressing alleged corruption and mismanagement in the public sector. Sir Michael was reported to have been visibly upset after the meeting with the Australian envoy.

SOMARE: "I was disappointed with the fact that we are being branded as a weak nation. I mean especially for someone like me, who has been the forefront of everything, right from beginning, right from the beginning when we were under the Australian administration. "And we've come, we've gained independence. I've always had disagreements with the Australian government. I have sat with them on the conference tables. "A number of Prime Ministers that Australia produced from Gough Whitlam, from the time of independence up to now. I've always had this personal rapour, even with the prime minister of Australia. There is nothing about being angry or annoyed. "What the comment I made in Auckland, I said yes. Don't talk about it, come and review. Now Australian Government has an agency which runs the funding of the country, which is Australian aid program. They fund all their money through the Australian aid program. It's dealt with it in Canberra and it goes. "Previously we had two systems. We have a grant in aid, Australia had a grant in aid program which gives about a certain amount of money for grant in aid. "It goes to our budget process and secondly, it's project aid, and we identify projects, we tell them we want you to fund that project. "But recently in 2002, we've now changed. Everything now is done is monitored, audited through Canberra. So you cannot blame us really for misappropriating money or not using the funds that Australian public is paying to us. Because if you look at the administration of the fund, your looking at their sources where fund is coming out from. It's coming out from Canberra to Australian High Commission office, from Australian High Commission office it then there is a dialogue between our national planning office."

TIRIMAN: Prime Minister is it true then that the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, wants Australians to be put in key position of power in Papua New Guinea, like may be finance and other related departments? SOMARE: "Well, there has been some discussions about may be getting some people and you say ....... experiences to be placed in the finance department, but I would personally disagree for something like Solomon Islands to happen to us where if Australians are talking about putting people as departmental heads or change the secretary and get an Australian secretary for finance, get an Australian as a Secretary for Planning, that I would say no. "You are now coming into disrupt in the area of sovereignty. A sovereign state has the right to decide what type of people that we would have as expert to help us out. So in that particular context that's the standpoint that I am taking and I don't think it's their intention. "I think their intention was to provide sufficient trained personnel where we don't have Papua New Guineans available to fill those positions."

TIRIMAN: So Prime Minister, what is it really that you want to be done with the Australian aid? SOMARE: "What I want as a Prime Minister and as a leader who is leading this country at the moment, is there must be a proper discussion on how the funds are administered. So review, the case of review has come up and I am prepared to sit down, get my officers, all our officials to sit down with the Australians and negotiate it again. "Because we feel that the administration of it, how it's funded. There are things which, like you take the tender process for example. If a tender goes out to do a road and the Tenders Board really has the final say. But we have incidences of not granting, Tender Board says one thing, then of course there's influence from Australian aid program up here, personell on the program go and say no. "This has to go to an Australian company. So these are issues that we need to sorted out, so that they understand where I'm coming from, where Papua New Guinea is coming from."

From GoAsiaPacific.com, Asia, 2 September 2003

Hitachi, Chinese University to Jointly Develop E-government Business

Tokyo - Japan's Hitachi Ltd. said Tuesday it will set up a joint venture with Beijing University of Technology to push ahead with joint business efforts for China's e-government projects. The joint venture, Hitachi Beijing Tech Information Systems Co., is due to be established in October with an initial capital of 100million yen (854,700 US dollars) and a workforce of 30, Hitachi said. Hitachi will own a 50 percent equity stake in the new company, with 10 percent held by Hitachi (China) Investment Ltd. and 40 percent by a business arm of Beijing University of Technology, it said. The joint venture will develop and provide technologies and products tailored for China's e-government projects and create relevant systems based on the expertise Hitachi has built up in the market for Japan's e-government business. The move comes two years after Hitachi and Beijing University of Technology formed an alliance, under which they opened an e-government showroom at the university.

From Xinhua, China, 2 September 2003

Conference on E-governance

Chennai - A conference on e-governance, e-security and Information Assurance focussing on creating awareness on these areas among government and private sector organisations is to be organised by the E-Information, Systems, Security and Audit Association (EISSA), in Chennai on 29 August, 2003. Addressing presspersons here yesterday, N Vittal, former Central Vigilance Commissioner and patron for the council, said a lot of fraudulent activities take place in the Information Technology (IT) both in private and public sector and to detect the frauds and eliminate it, this conference would be held. Nearly 75 per cent of the frauds were taking place in the organisation, he added. The Southern India Regional Council of EISSA and the conference would be inaugurated by Justice Subashan Reddy, Chief Justice of Madras High Court, on 29 August at 9 pm. Donald T Charumbira, secretary general of the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), United Nations, would be delivering the keynote address. Experts from the government and private sector would be participating and share their views as to how to improve the efficiency and transparency in the areas of governance, auditing and information assurance. Southern India Regional Council of EISSA covers Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry. T Theethan, Accountant General, Tamilnadu, and chairman of the regional council was also present. The conference would be held at Residency Towers.

From News Today, India, 27 August 2003

E-governance: Solution to Government Citizen Interaction

Oracle the largest enterprise software company in the world and Techaccess Pakistan, Oracle's Certified Partners jointly held a half day seminar on the critical role of a successful E-Government. E-Government is not just government online. A successful E-government is an extended integration of many parallel efforts including electronic-commerce and electronic-governance, which brings together strategy, technology, process and people. To succeed in this area, government organizations must successfully harness all four together. These views were discussed and elaborated upon in an interactive seminar on "Empowerment thought E-Governance" organized jointly by Oracle Corporation and Techaccess in Islamabad. The Seminar that aimed to highlight how various government departments can increase their levels of efficiency through effective deployment of modern technology and processes was attended by top government functionaries, corporate heads and other dignitaries.

Emphasizing the role of technology, the Chief Guest on the occasion Mr. Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari, federal minister for IT & Telecom said, "Technology deployment at every level is the top most priority of the government. However, we are not looking at technology for the sake of technology alone. There has to be a demonstrated need and a tangible outcome. In fact if you see the E-Government projects that are in the pipeline, all are focused in making governance more effective and beneficial for the common man as well as creating transparencies in the government operations. One such project is the Land Records Management project which has been launched in Punjab. "We have offered incentives to internationally renowned IT companies to invest in Pakistan and many software companies have already shown their interest and inclination," said Mr. Leghari Khalid Saeed, secretary IT & Telecom said that the present government is giving immense importance to good governance, transparency and accountability. Much inroads have been made in the field of Information Technology and it would not be long when Pakistan would be considered in the same league as other countries in the region.

While welcoming the guests Samina Rizwan, Oracle Regional Manager for SAGE (South Asian Growth Economies that includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal) said that governance is about how citizens relate to the government as well as how they relate to each other. "Good governance must facilitate the best possible relationship between the two parties - government and citizen. A globally established business motto customer is king, needs to be translated to governance as the citizen is all important," she said. Ms. Rizwan also pointed out that prior to the concept of E-Governance the main challenge faced by the governments was to get in connection with the citizens, to improve his/her quality of life which were formidable tasks due to lack of technology and resources. Oracle incorporates powerful information architecture which is built on a Unified Data Model which will help Government of Pakistan transition smoothly and quickly into fully automated governance mode.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 24 August 2003

Public Servants Use Urban Services To Reach Sustainability

Bandar Seri Begawan - Urban services are tools public authorities have to help cities reach sustainability and act as spearheads of the world economy. This was highlighted at the launch of the sustainable cities CD stressing on sustainable urban services as a necessity to make urban life possible and attractive for all yesterday. The task force focused on water supply and treatment, waste management and related issues that are considered vital services that are indispensable for a decent and dignified life. In tabling her paper, Mrs. Genevieve Dubois-Taine, coordinator of the sustainable task force, suggested that public authorities and private enterprises play a role in steering urban vision of public interest in developing countries. She also stressed that high level capacity building is compulsory and that international cooperation and financing are necessary. Meanwhile, Mr. Bernard Poignant, the International Financial Projects Director of the Veolia Environment noted that at present over 90 % of the world's water is still delivered by publicly owned utilities or entities. "t is everyone's right to improve water services that invariably help low income people by providing cheaper water or better quality as well as improving the environment," he said, saying that "efficient sanitation and waste management help to contribute to better life improvement." Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Brudirect.com News, Bru Direct, Brunei, 2 September 2003

Hitachi Primes JV for Chinese E-gov Market

Hitachi Ltd. will establish a joint venture with Beijing University of Technology in October this year that will focus on the electronic government market in China, the company said Tuesday. Hitachi said it is aiming for sales of ¥5 billion (US$43 million) in 2007 for the new company, Hitachi Beijing Tech Information Systems Co. Ltd., which will be capitalized at ¥100 million. The Tokyo-based company will own half of the new organization with its Chinese subsidiary holding a further 10 percent and the remaining 40 percent in the hands of a company owned by its Chinese university partner. Two years ago Hitachi established an e-government showroom in Beijing with the university. The China Cyber Government Square center was opened in October 2001 to showcase systems such as smart card security, online tendering and electronic education.

From IDG Communications, Hong Kong, by Martyn Williams, 3 September 2003

Money Game: Samsudin at Forefront of E-Government, Promises More

IT would normally have to be something quite extraordinary to impress Tan Sri Samsudin Osman, the Chief Secretary to the Government, but not so when he visited a primary school recently. The incident would seem a simple one, but it left a deep impression on him when some pupils came running up to him, eager to show him how they could operate the computers in the school. They were so excited about being able to access the Internet to search for information to use for their lessons. Samsudin said he felt "on the top of the world". "This is the new generation of Malaysians, a generation that will take the country into the technological era and achieve Vision 2020."Children today, even in primary school, are able to operate the PC as easily as when they use pens and pencils." Samsudin, the professional and progressive head of the country's civil service, added: "This is the result of the implementation of the Smart Schools initiative under the Multimedia Super-Corridor flagship applications projects." The MSC, now in its seventh year, has seven flagship applications, comprising four developmental flagships (government multi-purpose card, electronic government or e-Government, tele-health and smart schools) and three environmental flagships (R&D clusters, e-business and technopreneur development).

The flagship projects are to help Malaysia become a knowledge-based economy and society by 2020. They are jumpstarting the MSC's efforts by implementing high-impact projects to enhance our productivity and competitiveness in an increasingly technology-driven world "Competitiveness will also be given a boost with the e-business and e-Government flagship applications, while the digital divide between geographical areas as well as within and between various social strata will also be overcome by the smart school flagship initiative." Samsudin, who was closely involved with the formation of the MSC, said it has become a global test-bed for the implementation of leading-edge IT solutions. All these efforts, he said, will help make Malaysia a major exporter of information and communications technology products and services. The development of homegrown intellectual property would also be stepped up. Of all the flagship applications, the closest to Samsudin's heart is e-Government, which essentially is the extensive use of ICT in government. The objective is to enable Malaysians to be served more efficiently and at much lower operating cost. The civil service is seen by many as inefficient, slow and full of red-tape but this view is being changed with e-Government. "E-Government was launched to reinvent the government operations, both internally and in terms of the delivery of services to the people. "It seeks to improve convenience, accessibility, information flow and processes within the Government with a view to achieving speed and quality of policy development, co-ordination and enforcement."

It is not just about using computers and adopting new processes. It is about getting the public servant to re-invent himself and serve the people better. "No, I would not call the change a new way of doing things in the civil service. I would call it a new initiative because we are not going ICT in all functions. There are some operations that still have to be done on paper." E-Government has certainly created a tremendous impact on the Government machinery. Ten years ago, no one had heard of the term "e-Government". Today it is on the lips of every civil servant. Thanks to Samsudin. The amount spent on e-Government is not small, but to Samsudin, the returns are worth every sen. The expenditure on e-Government for the period 2001-03 is expected to be about RM380 million. "No other country has done what we have done to date with e-Government. We are still in the process of consolidating our efforts. In fact, we are at a stage of rolling out the flagship projects throughout the whole Government." The e-Government initiative, especially in the case of flagship application projects, is first carried out on a pilot basis. Its most interesting and extensive project is the Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS).HRMIS will pool all available data to enable the various agencies and departments to respond quicker to the changing political, economic and social environment.

The other six projects are project monitoring system, generic office environment e-Services, e-Procurement, e-Syariah, and electronic labour exchange. The seven projects under e-Government are massive, but as Samsudin puts it: "There is always a learning curve in the sense that you need to train people each time you implement a project, and of course, getting them to be committed. "We were the first to carry out such a venture. No government in the world has undertaken a HRMIS project that spans so many agencies." In carrying out the project, we found that there were really no suitable solutions that you could buy off the shelf. We have created cutting-edge solutions for use with the HRMIS." The HRMIS project initially involves 10 government agencies and following successful trials, will be rolled out soon to all government agencies. The e-Government project, and one in which Samsudin has also played a very significant role, that fascinates him most is e-Syriah. Launched in April last year, e-Syariah has introduced administrative reforms that upgrade the quality of service in syariah courts. This will eventually enhance the Islamic Affairs Department's effectiveness through better monitoring and co-ordination of its agencies and improving the management of its 102 syariah courts. The project is expected to be implemented in three years. "What impressed me most is that when you talk to syariah court judges, they are so excited about the project." The judges are now able to use PCs to get access to past cases and have all the information they need for a particular case quicker than before."

Under the e-Syariah project, it is possible to have a court case management system, a syariah lawyer registration system, an e-Syariah portal and a library management system. One other flagship application that also impresses Samsudin is the multi-purpose smart card, which will soon be rolled out throughout the country. "Many people have forgotten that it was less than 10 years ago that it took them a long time to apply for an IC, driving licence or passport, or to even get a replacement. "Today, all these can be done in days, not weeks or months. Take, for instance, the Road Transport Department. You can sit for the driving theory test online at any RTD centre and get your results immediately." Although there is still a long way to go before the entire civil service operates under an ICT environment, Samsudin is proud of the progress made. "What we have done so far has contributed substantially to a mindset change. Civil servants, like everyone else, benefit from the use of ICT." The ability to produce products and deliver services much faster allows civil servants, because they have seen the success of what they have done, to move on to other things. "Perhaps, we will see the day when Government agencies and officers are able to discuss and decide on matters electronically rather than face-to-face.

Hopefully, there will also be cost savings for the Government. "Eventually we will see a new paradigm in the way the Government operates. That is essentially the intention of e-Government. Even now we are slowly changing the way Government operates, and how the Government provides its services by giving its citizens more alternatives." For example, previously when you paid a bill, you went to the post office or posted a cheque. Now, some departments provide online payment facilities." Samsudin is aware that "in order to develop world-class services, the Government should also aim to be world-class". "To achieve this, the Government must raise standards, break down old departmental barriers and work in unison to serve customers. We must ensure that we provide an innovative environment so that Malaysian companies can create new products for the export markets. "We need to take a closer look at our capabilities and ourselves to meet continuously rising expectations of our people and spearhead Malaysia's endeavour to become a knowledge-based economy and society." For now, Samsudin is satisfied with the progress of e-Government. But, as many would know, Samsudin will not rest easy. The task is just beginning.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by P.Y. Chin, 6 September 2003

Airline to Push for More Public Service Bookings

Rex Airlines says it is planning to step up its campaign to get more public service bookings on its Canberra to Sydney route. Since initially complaining to the Commonwealth that most bookings were being made with Qantas, despite its more expensive airfares, government custom has tripled. But Bob Winnell from Rex Airlines says the upward trend is now starting to level out. He says more bookings will be needed for the route to remain secure. "We will now be having talks with individual government ministers where we believe their departments are not properly following the government guidelines on best fare of the day," he said.

From ABC Regional Online, Australia, 11 September 2003

Fighting Over Public Service Attacks Continues

The tit for tat accusations between the Government and the National Party over public service attacks continued today, with National leader Bill English being labelled "gutless". State Services Minister Trevor Mallard made the comment after Mr. English released a letter he wrote to State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham following an article the commissioner had published in the Dominion Post newspaper. Mr. Wintringham's article came after National and ACT attacked civil servants for protecting the Government over potentially damaging issues. Government ministers called Mr. English gutless for his attacks on civil servants while Mr. Wintringham said "unjustified attacks" eroded public confidence in the service. In his letter dated September 10, Mr. English said Mr. Wintringham appeared to have come to the conclusion that the real problem was "unjustified accusations" from the Opposition. "In fact, it is the Government who most regularly attacks the civil service," he said. But Mr. Mallard accused Mr. English of resorting to criticising and hectoring the public service through a series of baseless and inaccurate statements.

Mr. English had effectively, in his letter to Mr. Wintringham, called Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet head Mark Prebble a liar and accused the public service of treating the Official Information Act with disdain. "He attacked the public service last week, spent this week dumping on the police and now he has relaunched his unjustified attacks on public servants," Mr. Mallard said. Mr. English this week questioned police impartiality over their decision to prosecute National MP Shane Ardern for his tractor-driving stunt last week while last year opting against charging Prime Minister Helen Clark for forgery despite finding she had a case to answer. In the past fortnight he had also personally attacked the credibility of Mr. Prebble and Internal Affairs Ministry chief executive James Buwalda, Mr. Mallard said. "With the warped logic of someone who does not know where to turn, he is now trying to excuse this totally inappropriate behaviour by suggesting it's the Government that is attacking public servants," he said. "There is a big difference between naming and attacking individual public servants, as he has done, and minister pointing out that in a couple of agencies, and on a couple of occasions, systems have broken down."

Mr. English had included in his letter to Mr. Wintringham what he said were examples of Government attacks on public servants: o Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia's blaming of officials for incorrect answers he gave in Parliament; o Prime Minister Helen Clark's criticism of Mr. Horomia's officials for providing poor advice; o Miss Clark's laying the blame for Corngate documents being held back on Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet head Mark Prebble; and o a government official being forced to apologise to Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel for writing a memo suggesting a conspiracy to lie about the detention of a suspected Algerian terrorist. A spokeswoman for M.r Wintringham told NZPA the commissioner would respond to Mr. English in writing rather than through the media.

From Economist, UK, 11 September 2003

Risk-share Formulas for Private Role in Public Services

The government has prepared a concept paper on public-private partnerships listing four possible types of collaboration based on different risk sharing formulas. However, it has encountered a problem area - hardly any companies provide the services where the government wants private partnership. Part of the government's priority agenda for reforms is developing models of public-private partnerships for different categories of public services for implementation and operation of such projects. The idea is to make them the default option for all government programmes in the 10th plan. However, like has seen in case of infrastructure projects, especially road construction, very few Indian companies have the requisite capabilities. "Inviting foreign companies is a possible solution, but if they bring in their own labour, it could be a flashpoint for protest," say government officials. Hiring and training labour here would be a time consuming process and unlikely to be feasible. For now, the concept paper has identified four possible types of collaborations. One is where the government owns the facility and it is operated by a private party.

The second is where the facility is owned partly by the government and partly by the private party, but is operated by the private party only. The third type of partnership is where the facility is owned jointly and operated jointly, while the fourth is where the facility is owned by the private party and services brought by the government. Ministries and departments have been asked to identify areas and activities in which these partnerships can be applied and then see which approach will be suitable. They will then be required to build models based on successful case studies. The concept paper has based it's indicative partnerships on the basic assumption that the public sector is more inefficient that the private one and that given an equal amount of money to spend, the private sector operator is more likely to make the project profitable. As an example, entry tax collection in Delhi has gone up since collection has been privatised. they turn over 76 crore to delhi government and they keep the balance.

From Business Standard, India, by Mamata Singh, 11September 2003

HCM City Boosts IT Investments with Focus on E-government

HCM City has planned to invest a total of 1.1 million USD towards the application of information technology this year. IT is considering the industry one of the 10 key socio-economic projects, leading to the first stages in e-government, announced vice-chairman of the municipal People's Committee, Nguyen Thien Nhan at a recent meeting for representatives from IT industry. About 550,000 USD will be invested in telecommunications infrastructure, facilities, equipment and the Quang Trung Software City. A database and network will be established to link all municipal offices. A further 275,000 USD will be invested in IT applications for State administrative management, under the Government's national e-government project. Around 175,000 USD will be spent on the application of Geographic Information Systems software, and 100,000 USD will be invested in software and personnel training. Each district and department will establish teams of up to five employees who will be responsible for developing and maintaining the new IT applications. Nhan has also asked the IT industry to set up special consultants for the State-management, health and education sectors to meet the city's burgeoning demands. "We hope that these efforts will enhance IT applications in our city for the future," Nhan said. "We are gearing up for the first National Information Technology workshop and exhibition, which will be held in HCM City this year."

In a visit to the Quang Trung Software Park with Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia KhiemNguyen Thien Nhan said that several other projects were in the cards for the next four years, helping HCM City to become the country's IT capital. One project is a software production facility at Quang Trung, which will house 400 IT companies and employ up to 20,000 IT workers by 2005. The programmers are slated to turn out 250 million USD in software products every year by 2010. The project will also focus on an IT training and research centre, a residential area for 2,000 IT workers, and an entertainment and shopping complex at the software park. Investment for the programmes and projects is estimated at around 6.9 trillion VND over five years, including 651 billion VND from the municipal budget. By 2005, 1.5 per cent of the population will be Internet subscribers. All central hospitals, more than 50 per cent of provincial hospitals and agencies and 50 per cent of high schools will be connected to the Internet. To improve the domestic workforce, a new IT co-operation project was launched last weekend with funding from Japanese IT firms and software production associations. The Japan-Viet Nam Portal Project is aimed at improving the quality of Viet Nam's IT workforce and providing them with necessary skills, including Japanese language. The programme will train the first 40 people for free and will be overseen by Japan's Individuals System Company and Viet Nam's Nha Vui Company. Additionally, 1,000 promising young IT engineers will get the chance to hone their skills in North America over the next three years. The programme, organised by HCM City authorities, will offer extensive work place training in Canada and the United States.

From Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam, 16 September 2003

 

E-Government - Projects for 125 Milllion Euro (Including Digital TV)

Rome - After the internet, even home television will become interactive and useful for the development of e-government, that is, on-line services and information provided by the public administration to citizens and enterprises. The committee of ministers for an IT society, chaired by the minister for technology and innovation, Lucio Stanca, approved several projects to update the country's system, allocating 125 million euro, including the one of the TLC ministry and those of Stanca and Marzano (minister of productive activities), for a digital reorganisation of SME (62 million euro). As to land digital systems, the committee approved the allocation of 10 million euro for a pilot project. According to the agreement between the TLC ministry and RAI, half of the population will be covered by digital TV by the end of the year. The project is co-financed by the TLC and technological innovation ministries. Local public administrations will provide services through the internet and interactive TV. Once a decoder is plugged in along with the set top box, it will be possible to carry out operation from the TV itself. This way "it will be easier to provide services. The internet is growing rapidly, but only in 2005 will half of the Italians have an internet connection, whereas 99 pct already have a television. Hence, digital TV becomes a very useful additional interactive tool". As to the initiatives discussed by the committee today, the "go-ahead for the digital innovation plan for enterprises" was in the spotlight. It's the result of an agreement between ministers Stanca and Marzano, which defines the development plan of ICT innovation. The committee approved the allocation of a 30 million euro fund, which is to be added to the 32 million euro co-financing of the ministry of productive activities.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 29 July 2003

Civil Servants' Families Could Test Government Websites

Government web managers needing users to make their websites citizen-friendly should consider recruiting public sector staff or their families as a "cheap alternative" to usability consultancies. The advice is given in the Office of the e-Envoy's long-awaited 'Quality Framework for UK Government Website Design', which was published in its finished state last week by Cabinet Office Minister Douglas Alexander. The document forms part by efforts by the e-Envoy's Office to tackle potential barriers to eGovernment take-up, such as poorly-designed public service websites. Its aim is to make government web managers aware of issues they need to address in incorporating user's needs into the design process. The guidance centres on employing the principles of human-centred design to maximise website usability, working closely with target audiences and building services based around their needs, rather than those that government considers to be most important. Its production has involved a committee of some 23 members, chaired by the e-Envoy's Office, including 'internet experts' drawn from the web design and usability industry, academics, three members from local authorities and the Webmaster of the Prime Minister's Office. The new framework, which has taken over a year to publish, stresses the "crucial" role of user feedback and the need for testing, at various stages, by groups of end-users who are representative of the website's target audiences. The document puts the 'optimal' size of a testing group for one target audience as six to eight people.

But acknowledging that the budgets allocated to government websites vary greatly, managers of smaller sites are advised that students, public sector personnel or family members of staff could be used to "approximate target audiences" "It is common practice to pay users for their time when testing", the document states, and that depending on the type of person being tested, "some usability companies pay some types of users as little as £20, while paying others as much as £200." It concludes: "A cheap alternative would be to use government staff or their families who are not involved in the development of the site." An Office of the e-Envoy spokesperson told eGov monitor Weekly: "The framework offers practical guidance on accessibility issues and it is up to individual web managers to identify the most appropriate method for testing their services. "The framework is clear that for the tests to be effective, any group brought together must be representative of the website's target audiences. Testing on friends and employees is one method outlined which might be appropriate, depending on the scale of the project. "It is standard practice for employees to test and analyse products and services before they are more widely used."The Office of the e-Envoy's quality framework itself points out the potential pitfalls of this approach, informing managers to "bear in mind that students may be unrepresentative of the skills of your audience and people from your own organisation may be too familiar with your structure and terminology." Commenting at the framework's launch, the e-Envoy Andrew Pinder said it was "vital" that government websites were as accessible and easy to use as possible.

He added that the document "sets out clear guidance for web managers to ensure they incorporate users needs in their web design process." Human Centred Design specialist Nancy Perlman of Synchordia stressed that the guidelines were only a starting point. "A large gap opens between reading guidelines and working out their practical application. And there are no shortcuts to wisdom. Guidelines should not be taken as a panacea - follow them, check off the list and voila, usability and accessibility - but seen as a catalyst to embark on a learning journey of trial and error application. "Guidelines are not standards. For example, if one were to adhere strictly to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Accessibility Initiative guidelines cited in the document, one would be building an unusable, perhaps even inaccessible, site. Some of the W3C guidelines suggest the use of features that are either inconsistently supported across browsers and assistive technology, such as access keys, or are not found to be entirely helpful by the user group they purport to help, such as tab indexing. "While it is great that official steps are being taken to promote usability and accessibility, the steps should become more assertive. Standard, across-the-board awareness training might be a good start, may be even a requirement. Usability and accessibility are not one-person jobs, but require team effort. And experience strongly hints that unless there is support and understanding at the highest level of the organisation, the efforts made by individuals may not come to fruition."

From The Register, UK, by Ian Cuddy, 29 July 2003

Civil Servant to Head Government PR

A top civil servant with Permanent Secretary rank is to be put in charge of the Government's overall communications strategy, Downing Street has announced. As part of a Whitehall shake-up, a new post of senior official spokesman for the Prime Minister will also be created, who will be deputy to the Permanent Secretary based in the Cabinet Office. That official spokesman will also head the civil service aspects of No 10's communications operation. A Prime Minister's director of communications, responsible to Tony Blair, will head the political Downing Street communications operation. That director will also work with Cabinet ministers and their special advisers and has been named as ex-Labour press chief David Hill. The changes announced today follow the publication of the interim conclusions of the Phillis review of Government communications set up in the wake of the Jo Moore e-mail fiasco.

From icBirmingham, UK. 3 September 2003

Question Time for Local E-government

Whitehall has set up an internet broadcast service to help councils meet e-government targets - Councils are to get a internet television channel dedicated to delivering broadcasts on e-government, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has said. The channel, which will offer its first broadcast on 22 September 2003, aims to help local authorities reach their e-government targets. The first programme, titled "Delivering 2005", will be broadcast at 3pm on 22 September and will feature an interview with the ODPM's e-government minister Phil Hope. There will also be a "Question Time" style panel discussion involving organisations such as the Improvement and Development Agency, the Society for IT Management and the Society for Local Authority Chief Executives. "Local authorities are achieving some encouraging successes in the local e-government programme but it is vital that these succeses can be shared to help all local authorities achieve the 2005 targets," Hope said. "This unique initiative from eGovernment-Vision.TV will provide an effective medium for sharing best practice, enabling local authorities to learn from the progress made in areas such as National Projects."

From Kablenet, UK, 3 September 2003

Unions Given Voice on Public Services in UK

Unions have won agreement from the Government for a forum to be set up on the future of public services, sparking a fresh row with employers. TUC leaders announced the new forum following a 75 minute meeting with the Prime Minister in Downing Street. General secretary Brendan Barber said the forum would provide a "useful mechanism" for discussing reforms such as foundation hospitals. He denied the move would give special privileges to unions, saying he believed it would help harness the support of public sector workers. But within minutes of the announcement, business leaders were complaining the unions were being given special access by the Government. John Cridland, deputy director general of CBI, said: "The form of public services is too important to the country to be discussed behind closed doors marked 'unions only'. "Businesses should have equal opportunities to have their say." Mr. Cridland said the voluntary sector and consumers should also be involved in the debate about the future of public services and said the Government should start responding to the needs of all those involved.

From Ananova, UK, 2 September 2003

E-government Eases Home Buying Process

Massive reduction promised in waiting time for environmental search results - The Environment Agency said it will save £1m over three years and hugely reduce the time home buyers wait for the results of environment searches on prospective properties. Instead of waiting between three and six weeks for their solicitors to complete the process with the agency, using the online service will reduce the waiting time to just two minutes, the agency said. Users will simply be required to key in the postcode of their desired property into the website and wait two minutes for it to provide the results. The Enviroment Agency, which employs 200 IT staff and spends £46m per year on technology, currently meets requests for around 30,000 environmental searches from home buyers every year. But this figure is set to rocket to over a million annual surveys, because new housing legislation due to be enacted in 2005 will make the enivromental search a compulsory part of home buying.

The Agency is investing £3m over three years in technology and a remote managed service from Computacenter to cope with the predicted 'overnight' explosion of demand for environmental searches. It previously carried out searches manually by collecting data from over 250 core application systems, with an employee collating the results. "With the government's changes there will be a massive increase in the number of environmental surveys carried out, and our old system could not have coped," said David Price, project manager of the Environmental Agency's Property Search Project. "It used to take between three and six weeks for a search but it now only takes two minutes." The government initiative is part of the National Land Information Service system, and will put the environmental search online alongside a range of other property searches. The Agency's new infrastructure, which was developed in partnership with Computacenter, uses hardware from Sun Microsystems with applications supplied by Oracle and Weblogic.

Computacenter will remotely monitor and manage the new environment from its Service Operations Centre (SOC). A tight service level agreement (SLA) has been set to guarantee 99.97 per cent uptime and the capability to handle three million search requests every year. Colin Brown, sector director for government at Computacenter, said the IT services company's SOC offered customers consolidation and economies of scale through remote management services. Computacenter already hosts the Agency's main website infrastructure. "We also offered them savings because we used the same web infrastructure that we have already provided the Agency with," added Brown. "The SLA is a challenge but we are accustomed to it, with the public and private sector both looking for high service levels."

From VNUNet, UK, by Karl Flinders, 29 August 2003

IBM to Assist Building Bulgaria's E-government

IBM Vice President Andreas Kerstan and Bulgaria's State Administration Minister Dimitar Kalchev pledged to work together for building Bulgaria's e-government, which will provide online administrative services. The two met at Thursday's Vision to Reality conference where IBM presented its On Demand strategy, aiming to reintegrate technology and business and work for technical innovations adapted to business people's needs. The e-government system will establish a reliable real-time connection between Bulgaria's separate institutions, letting them provide quick, complex services to people, Minister Kalchev explained. He also underlined that improvement of administrative services is one of Italy's main priorities during its current presidency of the European Union (EU), which also makes it a major challenge for Bulgaria. The minister received a jesting present - huge ostrich egg - from IBM-Bulgaria General Manager Georgi Randelov, who explained that the country's e-government should symbolically hatch out of the egg. During the conference Kerstan also introduced basic principles of the On Demand strategy. "The product has to be available at the moment of request, easy for clients to operate with and costs should be variable," Kerstan explained.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 4 September 2003

Unions Given Voice on Public Services in UK

Unions have won agreement from the Government for a forum to be set up on the future of public services, sparking a fresh row with employers. TUC leaders announced the new forum following a 75 minute meeting with the Prime Minister in Downing Street. General secretary Brendan Barber said the forum would provide a "useful mechanism" for discussing reforms such as foundation hospitals. He denied the move would give special privileges to unions, saying he believed it would help harness the support of public sector workers. But within minutes of the announcement, business leaders were complaining the unions were being given special access by the Government. John Cridland, deputy director general of CBI, said: "The form of public services is too important to the country to be discussed behind closed doors marked 'unions only'. "Businesses should have equal opportunities to have their say." Mr. Cridland said the voluntary sector and consumers should also be involved in the debate about the future of public services and said the Government should start responding to the needs of all those involved.

From Ananova, UK, 2 September 2003

Barber Makes Public Services Plea to Blair

Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, yesterday challenged the government and the unions to work together to transform public services and make Britain a fairer society. As government ministers prowled around the TUC conference, Mr. Barber, in a low key, serious speech to the Brighton conference, spelt out the consequences of failing to co-operate with the government in spite of its shortcomings. In an interesting departure from the usual trade union script he demanded that they make the unions "raise their game". He said: "We would be selling our own efforts short if we ignored those areas where real progress has been made with this government. "If the increased funding they are pumping in - funding to provide for 400,000 new public servants - if that fails to deliver visible improvements they will pay a devastating political price. "But it wouldn't be just the government that pays the price - it would be everyone who believes in public services. The right-wing ideologues would take us in a very different direction. We would rue the day if those ideas ever began to gain ground."

Mr. Barber's speech was made against a backdrop of old fashioned rhetoric from union leaders intent on causing maximum embarrassment to the government, and in particular Gordon Brown, who is making a key note speech in Brighton this afternoon, but after John Monks, the European TUC's general secretary, called on the unions to swing behind the government. Mr. Monks said: "This is an imperfect but a decent government. At the moment it is in the need of help and the TUC should usually aim to be a source of help more than awkwardness. "Awkward for sure, but supportive too, and always looking for positive engagement. Not, by the way, out of blind loyalty to Labour but because workers and unions do better under Labour." Mr. Brown's office in the Treasury, in this new era of no spin, were refusing to be drawn on the contents of today's speech but trade union leaders predicted that anything less than a U-turn on government policy would be condemned. Although Mr. Barber wants a genuine partnership with the government he is still prepared to condemn a trench of their policies. Rallying delegates to fight child poverty and boardroom greed, he said: "Take the cleaners and the HSBC headquarters in east London. They earn just £5 an hour. What must it be like for them to clean the directors' offices knowing that one is guaranteed a £20m pay off. Let us commit ourselves today to put the struggle to eliminate low pay at the heart of our trade union mission." Alarmed at the ballot box success of National Front politicians, he asked the conference "to pledge never to rest as long as the BNP try to divide and destroy our communities".

His list was long: Mr. Barber demanded that the government and employers "wake up" to tackle the long hours culture in the UK and end the opt-out from the working time directive in the European Union. He also called for the potential of the millions "working way below their talents and capabilities" to released through the use of their skills. His plea to the government to set out "a positive vision for the role unions can play in achieving all our joint objectives" left the delegates, who seek only confrontation, perplexed but Mr. Barber was adamant that this is the only credible way forward. In an impassioned plea to the prime minister and the government, he said: "Don't just treat us as a problem, something to be squared for the conference season. Use us. Use our ability to make business productive. Use us for the way we can bring learning to the workplace. Use us to make a fairer society - to help those at the bottom and tackle those at the top." He added: "We've made important gains. We will go demanding more - from the government and employers too. "But let us make sure we are getting the best from all the gains we've made. When we gather each year we come together to make our point. Let's make sure we do something even more important - and that's make a difference."

From The Glasgow Herald, UK, by Catherine MacLeod, 9 September 2003

Labour's Control Obsession "Stifles" Public Services

Iain Duncan Smith has promised to unveil a raft of new policies designed to free Britain's struggling public services from the dead hand of Labour's obsession with central control. At next month's party conference in Blackpool, plans will be unveiled "to give direct control over public services to those who depend on them," the Conservative Leader has declared. And branding Tony Blair's obsession with running everything from Downing Street and Whitehall as the "disease" undermining attempts to shake-up the health, education and transport services, he pledged that the next Conservative administration would reverse the decline.

Speaking at the launch of a party booklet entitled Total Politics: Labour's Command State - which has been described as a "roadmap to victory" - Mr. Duncan Smith declared: "Under New Labour, almost no aspect of people's lives is free from the intrusion of government. We are witnessing a vicious cycle of escalating central control. There is a disease at the heart of Tony Blair's government - and that disease is total politics. "Warning that New Labour control was "everywhere and over everything", the Opposition Leader said: "We will reverse the four drivers of Labour's centralisation: the target culture, centrally controlled funding, bureaucratic inspections, and rigid staff terms and conditions. We will free public service professionals from total politics, will give citizens real choice through a real range of different providers, and where choice does not apply - as in the police force - we will ensure that local communities, not remote officials, decide local priorities." Mr. Duncan Smith added: "In policing, in healthcare, in education, we will ensure a fair deal for everyone."

Shadow Deputy Prime Minister David Davis said the reforms would underpin the policies being promoted at next month's Blackpool conference. He said: "The Conservatives will strip away the structures of the command state and our reforms will deliver a fair deal where Labour has let people down." And claiming that Labour's total politics and total control had resulted in total failure, Mr. Davis added: "Our approach is different. Where Labour pulls power upwards to the centre, and the Liberal Democrats spread power around new bureaucracies in the middle, Conservatives will push power downwards - to the people who need it."

From Conservatives.com, UK, 11 September 2003

Livingstone Judged Most Influential Figure in Britain's Public Services

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was celebrating another triumph this morning - being chosen as the most influential figure in Britain's public services, according to a survey carried out by Society Guardian. Mr. Livingstone took first place for the audacious way in which he set a radical agenda for councils across the UK with his policies for transport, planning, and housing - despite intense political opposition from the government. The charismatic former Labour MP came in ahead of Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Bristol children's heart surgery inquiry, who is to become chairman of the new NHS inspectorate, and Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail. Mr. Livingstone said the finding was further proof that the mayoral experiment had worked for London. "A year after I was elected many commentators were concerned that I had disappeared and that the mayoralty did not have enough power. "The success of congestion charging, the setting of budgets to recruit more police than at any time in London's history, the transformation of Trafalgar Square, the expansion of the bus network and the radical planning framework of the London plan now demonstrate that devolution in London is delivering." He added: "I am delighted and slightly relieved to find that I have more influence over public services than the editor of the Daily Mail." Gerry Stoker, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, and a leading proponent of elected mayors, said Mr. Livingstone's style of leadership was a model from which central government and public services could learn.

Mr. Livingstone had a "clear vision" and was prepared to take risks while at the same time being a good listener who "took people with him". "It's a style of leadership we are going to need if we are going to get successful reform of public services," he added. Mr. Dacre was chosen for the way in which his paper's aggressive coverage of issues such as asylum seekers coloured public perceptions of public services and influenced the way the government developed and presented its policies. A public sector communications expert said: "Dacre is well connected in government and has the ear of Blair. There is an argument for ignoring the Mail. But Dacre is influential because having won over the Sun, Blair is still convinced he can win over his other media opponents." Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, Britain's most powerful public sector union, which has opposed many of Mr. Blair's public services reforms, also made the top 10, riding a wave of grassroots Labour anger at the private finance initiative and foundation hospitals. The 100 "influentials" drawn up by the Guardian's public services specialists were picked for the extent to which they variously: influenced public policy, delivery or practice; transformed institutions or perceptions; or held financial clout or political muscle. Mr. Blair, the chancellor, other ministers and Whitehall permanent secretaries were excluded from the survey.

From Guardian, UK, by Patrick Butler, 10 September 2003

Spotlight on E-services

A new collaboration between a UK voluntary and public sector body aims to improve government web services - The quality of UK e-government services will be scrutinised in a new study by two national organisations, the Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) and Socitm Insight, the research arm of the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm). The project aims to get better services for citizens by highlighting how the Government can improve their e-services. Under examination will be the role of intermediaries - such as the CAB itself - in facilitating the online delivery of information to people who don't own computers. The study will also look at the quality of e-government services in complex areas such as benefits, debt and employment. Announcing the project on 10 September 2003, CAB e-government project manager Malcolm Taylor said: "e-Government should be a force for driving through fundamental improvements in public services, as well as making them faster and easier to use. This means understanding and responding to the real needs of service users, rather than simply putting a form online to meet a performance target." This is the first research collaboration between the CAB and Socitm. As a frontline organisation dealing with the problems of the public, the CAB is specially placed to access how web services can help the members of the public, especially those who don't own computers. Socitm represents members who provide public services, primarily in local authorities, but also in the police and fire services, housing authorities and other locally delivered public services.

From Kablenet, UK, 12 September 2003

Public Services Failing Disabled Children, Claims Watchdog

Disabled children are losing out on the chance to live normal lives because public services are failing them, the Audit Commission has warned. In a report out on Wednesday, researchers claimed services in England and Wales were "a lottery". Access to care, equipment and facilities is dependent largely on where families live and how determined parents are to do battle with officials. Parents are routinely forced to turn detectives and work their way through "a maze of providers" in order to find essential information and support. The Commission warned services were often offered on the basis of what could be provided rather than being based on the priorities of individual families. Social services departments, schools and hospitals should ensure specialist and mainstream services focus attention on helping families participate in everyday life, the report recommended. "Disabled children continue to receive Cinderella services, which not only reduce their life chances but also their families' quality of life," said chairman James Strachan. "Improving disabled children's services does not mean new targets, new structures or wholly new approaches. "What is needed is better management of services so that good practice is mainstreamed, the leadership that makes this possible, and a new attitude which sees the social exclusion of disabled children as unacceptable."

From ePolitix, UK, 17 September 2003

Liikanen Alludes to Content of Forthcoming E-government Communication

Strong political leadership is needed to enable full-scale implementation of eGovernment, the EU Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Erkki Liikanen, has said. Speaking at the China nation school for administration on 16 September, Mr. Liikanen said that the benefits of eGovernment are manifold, describing its implementation as an opportunity not only 'to make governments more relevant to citizens by increasing participation and involvement in decision-making', but to 'help public administrations to become more productive and offer personalised services for all, in an open and transparent way.' However, some barriers still remain, claimed the Commissioner, noting that the challenges still facing the implementation of electronic public services have to be taken up by politicians: 'The politicians have to keep reminding themselves of the longer-term vision and at the same time insist on delivering shorter-term concrete results.' In an effort to help bring about a full scale implementation of eGovernment within the EU, Mr Liikanen noted that, for its part, the Commission aims to identify some of the remaining issues to resolve in its forthcoming communication on eGovernment.

Some of these issues include ensuring inclusive and widespread access to the Internet so that public services are accessible for all; safeguarding trust and confidence in online interaction with governments; making electronic public procurement easier; and defining, developing and implementing pan-European services and promoting their use. 'There are further issues, such as interworking of administrations at all levels for one-stop personalised services,' added the Commissioner. 'This will require interoperable technical platforms to be established and government processes that span the boundaries of organisations and the borders of countries. Some of this infrastructure for eGovernment is already in place but much more needs to be done, also in international cooperation.' Further discussions regarding the international dimension of eGovernment will be tabled during the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in December.

From Cordis News, EU, 17 September 2003

Windfall Reward for E-government Pioneers

£14m in cash, anyone? The government is set to reward local councils that make cutting edge use of technology with a cash bonus of £14m, it was announced yesterday. The cash will be made available to local authorities over the next three years as part of the government's existing £675m Local e-government programme, which aims to get all local authority services online by 2005. The first round of e-innovations funding will focus on rewarding pioneering work in e-learning, local authority ebusiness, using new technology to improve government services and using e-government to reach socially excluded people. Although local councils have two years to make the online switch, almost 40 per cent have already done so. Phil Hope, local government minister, launched the initiative, saying the government was: "committed to improving public services" and that "local e-government is all about councils using their technology so they work better."

From Silicon.com, 17 September 2003

New Body Supports Public Service Co-ops

Co-operatives UK has launched a support service for communities setting up co-operatives in public services. The new initiative - Provide - was unveiled at the Co-operative Party conference in Newcastle during the Public Sector Services fringe meeting. Part-funded by Co-operative Action it is run by Co-operatives UK's New Ventures Panel. The support body's remit is to promote awareness of co-operative opportunities for delivery of public services and to assist those looking closely at ideas. A six-page booklet released at the launch includes case studies of co-operatives in the community that provide public services. It cites seven examples from housing, social care, childcare, health, education, waste management and leisure sectors. Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, told delegates: "The Government's current commitment to our ways is striking. We now have a window of opportunity to see where we go now and to look at how co-operation interacts with local services. This document does that." Mick Taylor, director of Mutual Advantage, which offers support to new co-ops on behalf of Provide, said: "What we're asking people to do is make co-operative connections in their communities and find holes that co-operation can fill. "Many people in the Co-operative Movement have interests out of the Movement.

They may be a director of a hospital or a school governor. We want them to make sure empowerment is embedded into their organisation's vision, values, and business plan. "If people let us know about opportunities we will conduct a formal assessment and if necessary facilitate a support team to take ideas forward." The booklet says that if specific public services are no longer provided by the state co-ops have a role to play in keeping service delivery in the hands of communities. Ideas of co-operation in public services outlined in Provide's launch document include homecare co-op Shepshed Carers, Loughborough; south London's GP co-op SELDOC; Tower Hamlets recycling co-op; Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op's childcare initiative; and Greenwich Leisure co-op. Dame Pauline added: "The Co-operative Movement has been one-dimensional with its businesses being put into certain sectors, but now, at last, it is starting to come together. "It is my ambition that by the time the next opposition government comes into power co-operation will be so embedded into society that it cannot be moved." Provide offers practical advice, support and a consultancy service with telephone support, face-to-face meetings, workshops, pre-feasibility studies and help in bringing together teams to work with local partners and development staff. For further information or assistance contact Helen Shaw, Project Administrator at Co-operatives UK, on 0161 246 2941, or e-mail: helen.shaw@cooperatives-uk.coop

From Co-Operative News, UK, 18 September 2003

McConnell Defends Low-key Public Service Reforms

Jack McConnell last night defended his decision to shy away from controversial public service reforms pioneered by Tony Blair. The First Minister insisted that, although his administration was doing things differently, it did not mean that he had deserted the New Labour project. Addressing the Labour Conference in Bournemouth, Mr. McConnell took the opportunity to answer his critics who have accused him of stopping short of the reform agenda being pursued by Westminster. Mr. Blair has made it clear that the theme of this week's conference will be the reform of public services and he has emphasised his determination to introduce foundation hospitals and top-up fees for students. Labour in Scotland has shied away from both these measures and has gone much further to provide new universal benefits in other areas, such as introducing free care for the elderly and abolishing tuition fees for students. Mr. McConnell said: "Our reform will be different to that in England, or to Rhodri (Morgan)'s in Wales, but reforms there will be. We will do things differently to England, but that doesn't mean we'll do them in the same old way." He added: "Reform is not an end in itself, it is the means to improve public services, tackle inequalities, create choice, save lives, deliver real opportunities and support growth in our economy."

The Scottish Labour leader insisted that he was delivering reforms to put patients and pupils first but in a way that suited Scotland. "The path is different because devolution is working, but the values and the objectives are shared," he said. Mr. McConnell said he believed in comprehensive education but that did not mean all schools being the same. He said he believed in a comprehensive health service, but that did not mean uniformity. He added: "I believe that if we do what has always been done, we will get what we've always got and that's not good enough for me. In my socialism, in our public services, the pupil, the patient, the passenger and the victim of crime must always come first." Mr. McConnell finished justifying his approach on public services with a thinly veiled warning to the unions and other vested interests that he would not let them stand in the way of his reform agenda. He said: "To be on the side of the many may mean saying things that the few don't like to hear." Mr. McConnell also used his speech to deride both the SNP and the Tories, ridiculing John Swinney, the SNP leader, over the leadership contest which has consumed the SNP and attacking the Tories for trying to become the official opposition in Scotland.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Mr. Hamish Macdonell, 29 September 2003

Swiss Launch E-government Initiative

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.

From swissinfo, Switzerland, 29 September 2003

Commission Presents 18 Actions to Speed up E-government

In short - In a Communication published on 29 September, the Commission urged Member States to take political leadership in developing a world-class online public administration. Background: eGovernment is one of the key elements of the EU's eEurope 2005 Action Plan. It also plays an important role in realising the Lisbon strategy for economic, social and environmental renewal. However, the final responsibility to introduce eGovernment rests with the Member States' governments, who might encounter a lot of resistance and barriers to implement effective online public administration services. Such barriers can be organisational (e.g. need for information sharing across departments, organisation change), financial (costs), and social (e.g. trust and confidence in online interaction with governments, digital divide etc.).

Issues: In its Communication "The Role of eGovernment for Europe's future", the Commission presents an overview of the current state of play in eGovernment (Sweden and Ireland leading and Germany and Belgium as serious laggards). The Communication also lists 18 possible actions to speed up the further development of eGovernment. Key actions proposed: o access to public services for all via multiple platforms (PC, TV, mobile terminals); o new services via broadband development; o trust and confidence building measures; o swift adoption and transposition of directive on re-use of public sector documents (see EurActiv 27 August 2003); o three-year action plan on electronic public procurement by 2004; o development of pan-European services; o interoperability framework to be adopted by end of 2003; o new approaches to benchmarking needed; o one-stop shop for eGovernment related activities of the EU.

From Euractiv, Belgium, 29 September 2003

Raffarin Faces E-frustration

The French Prime Minister says he is not satisfied with his administration's progress towards e-government - Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the French Prime Minister, is to make sweeping changes to his country's e-government strategy as a result of delays and poor progress, according to an official circular. In the highly critical circular, sent to fellow ministers earlier in September 2003, Raffarin said that while he wanted quick progress, he was disappointed that the country "took delay" over e-government. Raffarin signalled his frustration at a lack of ministerial cooperation on e-government. He highlighted the work of France's e-government agency in giving a "clear framework" and an "effective organisation" to coordinate work between different ministries. But in order to develop cross cutting services, said Raffarin, ministers will have to work more closely together. He also pushed ministers to implement three key measures immediately in order to get the programme moving: o to speed up work on IT projects which can bring mutual benefits o to reduce the number of different information systems in the Government, setting up common services across departments o to set up common systems from 2006. He pledged that by the end of 2003, he will create an "interministerial" committee for reforming the state, which is to develop a new strategic plan for e-government.

From Kablenet, UK, 26 September 2003

 

 

Dubai eGovernment Gears to Deliver Messages on Mobile Devices Via Dedicated Portal

Dubai eGovernment is set to offer yet another channel of customer interaction with the launch of m-Dubai, a brand-new project aimed at delivering messages to citizens through mobile phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) or the Web. An insight into m-Dubai was given by Rihab Lootah, eServices Provisioning Manager, Dubai eGovernment, at a seminar recently organized by Dubai eGovernment in Dubai and attended by key representatives from 12 government departments that are actively participating in the project. The m-Dubai project ultimately aims to deliver messages via mobile phones, PDAs or the Internet. In the first stage, the service will concentrate on SMS (short message service) via mobile phones. Each participating government will be given a name and a password to allow them to send SMS to their database of customers using special software, through a new portal www.mdubai.ae which will go live shortly. 'Dubai eGovernment is committed to using every new technology to enrich the eGovernment experience for end-users. m-Dubai is a project that will leverage the increasing popularity of mobile phones to building communication channels with the people. SMS is today one of the most effective ways of communication in both business and personal life.

We are pleased to offer m-Dubai, which will allow government departments to communicate with their customers through mobile phones, PDAs and the Web, using advanced technology. The response from the departments indicates that we are on the right track as we move towards an advanced stage of e-governance.' said Salem Al-Shair, Director of eServices, Dubai eGovernment. 'm-Dubai is yet another exciting development at Dubai eGovernment. It provides the government departments a powerful new channel to deliver tailored messages to their target audience within seconds,' said Rihab Lootah. 'It is a user-friendly system. We have identified the requirements of the various departments through an advance questionnaire and a statistical analysis. We now see indications that the departments are keenly waiting to use the system.' 'The first phase will see basic SMS being used for one-way communication. In due course, we will migrate to two-way messaging via the push and pull models, allowing each department to receive feedback from the customers. We are working closely with Etisalat to ensure the project functions smoothly and delivers expected results. The m-Dubai project has been developed by Dubai eGovernment in association with Ducont, a leading company specializing in mobile messaging,' Lootah added.

The 12 departments participating in the m-Dubai project are Department of Civil Defence, Department of Health & Medical Services, Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority, Dubai Development Board, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Information Department, Dubai Naturalisation & Residency Department, Dubai Police, Dubai Ship Docking Yard, Land Department and Dubai Municipality. Kamal Nawfal, Project Manager, IT Section, Dubai Naturalisation & Residency Department (DNRD), said: 'm-Dubai is one of the most ambitious projects of Dubai eGovernment that will help government departments deliver instant messages using leading technology. We will use the SMS service for answering customer queries, sending visa expiry reminders, intimation of visa collection and other alerts.' Khalid Abdulla, Head of Customer Service Section, Administrative Affairs Department, Dubai Municipality, commented: 'This project marks a new era for Dubai Municipality because it will cut on administrative time in routine matters. We will use m-Mobile to inform public library members about new titles, send new public transport tariffs to commuters and send information about new bus routes.

We have developed a database of mobile phone users to keep them updated on events of interest to them.' 'We are positive this project will boost interaction between Dubai Civil Defence and the community as well as businesses,' said Ayman Abu Al Hnoud, Technical Support Coordinator, Dubai Civil Defence. 'Initially, we will use this service in our safety programme for sending notifications on safety regulation and notices to companies that violate safety rules. It will be used by our purchase section to notify contractors and suppliers about cheque collection.' Each department will have a separate account with Dubai eGovernment. The quantum of monthly messaging for each department has provisionally been worked out. Dubai Police will send the highest number of messages (190,000), followed by Department of Civil Defence (98,940), DNRD (77,900), Dubai World Trade Centre (50,000) and Dubai Information Department (40,000).

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 14 September 2003

 

Bush Selects Career Civil Servant As New E-gov Leader

President Bush on Wednesday announced that he plans to nominate Karen Evans, the Energy Department's chief information officer, as the federal government's technology chief. Evans would fill the spot vacated by Mark Forman on Aug. 15, when he left the Office of Management and Budget to join a startup technology company in California's Silicon Valley. During his two-year tenure at OMB, Forman led efforts to eliminate duplicative technology and secure federal computer networks against hackers. He also encouraged agencies to share technological resources and break out of a "stovepipe mentality." As technology chief Forman also headed the administration's 24 electronic government projects, designed to give the public greater access to federal services. The initiatives are part of President Bush's five-part management agenda. With Evans as chief, OMB's technology office might change its emphasis from "esoteric ideas to things concrete," said Don Arnold, director of business development at PeopleSoft, an information technology consulting company based in Pleasanton, Calif. Evans differs from Forman in that she is a career civil servant, and is more removed from Bush's immediate political circles, Arnold added.

Before serving as the Energy Department's CIO, Evans was director of the information resources management division at the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs, and was also deputy director of the applications management division at the Agriculture Department. "There are pros and cons with having a career civil servant [as technology chief]," 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. But experience overseeing the Energy Department's technology projects will help Evans "dive deep into the issues facing chief information officers," he predicted. Evans successfully gained the respect and attention of Energy officials, "elevating" the CIO position within the department, Brubaker said. "She's one of the few CIOs who has a high level of responsibility, in terms of being sort of a direct report to the [department] secretary," he explained.

Evans has also developed good relationships with other CIOs as vice president of the Federal Chief Information Officers Council, Brubaker said, a position she has held since December 2002. "I think [Evans] was a great choice for continuity, because she and [Forman] are on the same page," said George Molaski, president and chief executive officer of E-Associates LLC, a technology consulting company in Falls Church, Va. "She's done some very innovative stuff at the Energy Department." Evans has the ability to effectively implement ideas, and will be good at putting in place the processes and procedures Forman has suggested, Molaski added. "We don't need new changes of direction," he said. The head of Entrust Inc., a digital technology company that has worked with Evans on Energy Department projects, also praised Evans for her skill at following through on plans. "In the technology arena there are those who get it, and those who get it done," Entrust Chairman Bill Conner said in a statement. "Evans is one of those highly valued leaders who possess both essential qualities."

From GovExec.com, by Amelia Gruber (agruber@govexec.com), 3 September 2003

Companies to Commemorate 9/11 With Day of Public Service

New York - Douglas Bowen did not lose any co-workers on Sept. 11, 2001, but he wanted to find ways for his company to honor the 3,000 people who died. Bowen, a managing director of ING Clarion Partners, convinced his company to mark the second anniversary of the attacks by holding blood drives in 25 skyscrapers it manages across the country. ING Clarion, a New York-based real estate management and investment company, is not alone in its plans to mark the anniversary with public service activities. Dozens of companies, large and small, are encouraging employees to spend this Sept. 11 doing good deeds - from writing letters to soldiers in Iraq to delivering food to the elderly. Some hope the tradition will continue for years to come. One Day's Pay, a nonprofit organization, seeks to establish Sept. 11 as a national day of volunteer service. Founded by people directly and indirectly affected by the attacks, the organization helps companies plan volunteer activities in honor of those who died.

"A big reason we started this initiative is we don't want the memory to be lost," said David Paine, a co-founder and president of One Day's Pay. "We were looking for something we thought we could do to pay tribute on a lasting basis." Paine said he believes many Americans feel the same way. Last year, One Day's Pay conducted a survey showing more than 70 percent of employees wanted to observe Sept. 11 in some way, but only 39 percent of employers were doing anything. And in many cases "doing something" meant observing a moment of silence, Paine said. So far, more than 100 companies have signed onto One Day's Pay's mission, among them the public relations firm Peppercom. This Sept. 11, about 100 Peppercom staffers in New York and San Francisco will write letters to American soldiers as part of a company project called "Operation Appreciation." "It's a day of personal reflection," said Brendan Mullin, a senior account executive at Peppercom. Marc Maltz, a managing partner at Triad Consulting Group, a New York-based firm, said organized volunteer programs are "an excellent way of enabling people to deal with what happened" by providing meaningful outlets.

Triad has advised companies on ways to commemorate the tragedy. A number of companies are independently marking the anniversary by supporting local charities. Bloomberg LP and Oppenheimer Funds Inc. will provide funding to Citymeals-on-Wheels to help cover the cost of a weekend's worth of food deliveries for the homebound elderly. Employees will also deliver the meals. Ogilvy New York, the marketing and communications company, permanently moved its annual day of service from the December holiday season to Sept. 11. The company, which allows workers to volunteer for any organization they wish, said about 1,000 employees - more than 60 percent of its work force - participated last year. They hope to draw high interest again this year. "After we moved the date, an unprecedented number of people went out," said Bill Gray, president of Ogilvy New York. "To go out and be active, that's the biggest food for the soul."

From Newsday, by Jennifer Friedlin, 2 September 2003

Lucas Co. Treasurer Receives Award for E-government Work

The Iowa Treasurers statewide website, www.iowatreasurers.org, which includes the Lucas County Virtual Treasurers office, was recently the recipient of two prestigious awards for e-Government achievement and excellence. The statewide website received the Pioneer Award from E-Gov.com and a 2003 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties. The statewide treasurers website was first launched a year ago as an on-line property tax service. Initially 50-70 Iowa counties were part of it but now all 99 counties have virtual offices on it. Lucas County signed up to be on the statewide website the first time it was offered in June 2002. People can visit the Lucas County virtual office at www.iowatreasurers.org 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On the county's virtual office citizens can pay property taxes, download forms, and find other helpful information about motor vehicle renewals, drivers license renewals and property tax payments.

They can also communicate directly with the treasurer's office via e-mail. Lucas County Treasurer Phyllis Baker said that hopefully by mid-June 2004 people will also be able to do vehicle registrations on Lucas County's virtual office. Through receiving the Pioneer Award, the Iowa Treasurers statewide website was recognized as one of the top 20 e-government initiatives of the year. The recipients of this award included organizations from all over the world such as the United Kingdom, NASA, EPA, the Social Security Administration and Ontario, Canada. The recipients of the Pioneer Award were recognized for solutions for improving electronic government delivery and exemplary achievements in e-government and higher education service delivery throughout the world.

From Chariton Newspapers, IA, 3 September 2003

Forget PS Reform, Live with the Mess

Expert says new bill, like all others, is doomed to fail - Canada's dean of public administration says governments have made such a mess out of trying to reform the public service that they should leave it alone and "live with it." Ted Hodgetts, 86, has spent a lifetime studying the public service and read the latest reform bill having seen it all before. Every major stab at reform in the 20th century tried to wrestle with the same issues: how to simplify the bureaucracy without losing merit, non-partisanship and accountability. And none has really worked. In each case, this pursuit of simplicity ended up creating new agencies or structures, tying up the bureaucracy in more rules and red tape, while slowly chipping away at the sacred principles it was trying to preserve - merit, accountability and non-partisanship. "There's nothing wrong with this reform, but they are repeating themselves, banging their head against the wall to try and produce utter logic into a system that will always confound logic, it's just too complex and the more actors you get into the system the more the territorial fights there will be," Mr. Hodgetts warns. Just as worrisome, says Mr. Hodgetts, is the shrinking of the 'core' public service to be covered by the reform bill and the explosive growth of what he calls the "second public service." Over the years, the government cut loose large portions of its operations to get out from under the rules of the public service and hived them off into agencies, boards and corporations.

Mr. Hodgetts says these "structural heretics," which operate at arms-length and often beyond public scrutiny, "should be held accountable and not be forgotten." "They are part of the public service ... and I think raise a series of very serious problems about accountability that will be lost track of in this perpetual concern for rectifying this hardcore (public service) that, in my judgment, has produced a massive mess that I think we have to learn to live with." Last week, the Senate called Mr. Hodgetts as an expert witness for hearings into the latest reform bill, C-25, which will rewrite the laws governing personnel management in the public service. He said the bill "gives a deceptive notion of reducing the chaos" but will "further rigidify the control regime whose simplification is sought," bogging down government in more red tape, turf wars and court cases. Tory Senator Lowell Murray, who chairs the Senate's finance committee, said Mr. Hodgetts' testimony drives home the need for more "historical analysis" when governments are passing new laws. He said Mr. Hodgett's testimony will force senators to take a second look at some changes that would otherwise have slipped by. J.E. (Ted) Hodgetts is considered one of Canada's pre-eminent academics and the "father" of public administration, whose books on the history of the public service are must-reads for any scholar of political science or public management, said Donald Savoie, a professor at the University of Moncton. "What he has to say about this bill should carry a lot of weight," said Mr. Savoie. "He's the giant in public administration, the father and pioneer who led the way and one of the first to write about it and his work has stood the test of time. His work is still a must read for scholars today and he laid the groundwork for what public servants do today."

Mr. Hodgetts, a Rhodes Scholar and Officer of the Order of Canada, taught political science at Queen's University and the University of Toronto. He closely studied the evolution of the bureaucracy through the lens of the five royal commissions of the past century. He worked for the ground-breaking Glassco Commission in early 1960s and then 17 years later "it was déjà vu" when he was appointed a commissioner to the Lambert Royal Commission into public service reform. Mr. Hodgetts says the reform story is always the same. Every few years, senior bureaucrats and ministers throw up their hands and vow to fix the staffing system and "let the managers manage." The goal is always to get rid of red tape, rules and reduce the many players who have a hand in managing personnel, all tripping over each other with "conflicting or overlapping mandates." But when the dust settles, Mr. Hodgetts says the solution always ends up adding new agencies, making operations more complicated and slower, and sparking turf wars or "institutional angst" among the old agencies whose roles are being threatened by the newcomers. One of his biggest concerns about the latest bill is the creation of a new Public Service Staffing Tribunal to take over as arbitrator of all promotions and other "internal appointments" - a role that has always belonged to the Public Service Commission.

The PSC loses many of its traditional jobs in this bill, which allows staffing to be turned over to managers - a move unions say opens the door to nepotism, favouritism and bureaucratic patronage. The bill's supporters, however, say the PSC is being stripped of its conflicting roles to focus on its job as merit watchdog. Its main job will now be to monitor or audit departments to ensure they are hiring people on merit and that managers who don't, face sanctions, such as losing hiring privileges. Mr. Hodgetts, however, argues the commission and new tribunal will end up knocking heads as each tries to stake out territory. He questions whether the tribunal is even necessary or is simply being created because the government doesn't have the courage to take on the PSC or abolish it as was widely speculated a year ago. The bill will also redefine merit so managers will no longer have to look for the "best qualified" candidate for a job. Instead, the bill will allow managers to hire someone who is qualified and competent.

The bill will also allow managers to fill a job without holding a competition, which opponents say all but kills merit and gives managers carte blanche to hire who they want. Mr. Hodgetts said "merit is a weasel word" and the bill's efforts to define it will make it "fuzzier" because managers will now be able to decide what merit is when hiring or promoting someone. And merit becomes a "big ball of wax" when managers have to hire and promote people to comply with language rules and targets for women, visible minorities and the disabled. This will inevitably open the door to appeals and "judicialization of the process they want to streamline," said Mr. Hodgetts. Merit is not defined in existing laws, but appeal tribunals and courts interpreted it over the years to mean "best-qualified" in decisions that ensnared the staffing system in reams of rules. Managers who follow the rules can take months to fill a job, so many have simply bypassed them by hiring short-term employees. "It makes sense for the managers ... but I think they are dreaming when they say this will ease the burden of managing."

From Ottawa Citizen, Canada, by Kathryn May, 8 September 2003

Web site Merges Public, Private Sectors to Market Office Spaces

Bellevue - A high-tech town has come up with a high-tech approach to help address an old-fashioned problem of slow economic times and too much vacant space in Bellevue's commercial buildings. The city of Bellevue is scheduled to announce today a new Web site -- www.eastsideproperty.biz - that knits together the public and private sectors to market office space in Bellevue. The idea is to offer businesses, developers and others access to free, detailed information about commercial real estate - 24 hours per day. According to a press release from the city's Planning and Community Development department, EastsideProperty.biz will merge public data on subjects such as zoning, demographics, topography and transportation statistics. City staffers worked with the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, Bellevue Downtown Association and the Commercial Brokers Association to develop the Web site. Ellen Miller-Wolfe, Bellevue's economic development manager, said that planning for the Web site started more than a year ago, and actual development started six months ago.

She expects the Web site to expand in the future to include information from other interested Eastside cities. "We are always looking for better tools in our economic development program to help businesses. This is one in our toolbox," Miller-Wolfe said. "We are very conscious of the fact we have high vacancy rates and that has energized us to pursue new marketing tools." Providing the real estate information will be the Commercial Brokers Association, which serves the commercial real estate industry in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties with current listing information. It's the first time the time the association has provided such information to an outside organization, according to the city's press release. The organization will update leasing information continuously, at no charge to the city. Such an economic development tool couldn't hurt. Though vacancy rates have stabilized in recent months after hitting all-time highs last year, in the second quarter of 2003 the rate for office space in downtown Bellevue was 21.8 percent. For all of the Eastside it was 17.6 percent, according to Grubb & Ellis Co., a commercial real estate brokerage with an office in Bellevue.

A different real estate brokerage, Cushman & Wakefield, put the vacancy rate at 25.7 percent downtown and 16.7 percent on the Eastside. Just three years ago, office vacancy rates hovered around 2 percent, the lowest in history. Toni Cramer, the city's chief information officer, said the Web site cost approximately $30,000 to develop and will cost the city about $20,000 per year to maintain. "The technology is cool, but it's not what it's really about. It's about the partnership and the economic development boost," Cramer said. Steve Gilbert is a commercial real estate broker with Bellevue-based Pacific Real Estate Partners and a former vice president at the Bellevue Downtown Association. He said the Web site not only provides valuable information, it also sends a message. "It shows potential businesses that Bellevue understands the importance of business, the importance of making things as seamless as possible and that Bellevue is always looking for ways to improve," Gilbert said. David Grant can be reached at david.grant@kingcountyjournal.com or 425 453-4228.

From King County Journal, WA, by David A. Grant, 9 September 2003

Central Vermont Public Service Ratings Upgraded by Fitch

New York - Fitch Ratings has upgraded Central Vermont Public Service Company's (CVPS) first mortgage bonds to 'BBB+' from 'BBB' and second mortgage bonds to 'BBB' from 'BBB-'. Fitch has also affirmed CVPS' preferred stock rating at 'BB+'. The Rating Outlook is Stable. The higher ratings reflect CVPS' strengthening credit measures and lower business risk. The improved financial performance largely stems from a constructive rate order implemented in 2001, which provided full recovery of costs associated with a long term power purchase agreement (PPA) with Hydro-Quebec (HQ). The reduced business risk is primarily the result of the sale of CVPS' interest in Vermont Yankee to Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC (Entergy). The sale is expected to net about $13.5 million in after-tax proceeds and eliminates CVPS' nuclear operating risk. Management also streamlined the activities of its unregulated subsidiary, Catamount Energy, to focus solely on wind projects, and also scaled back expected equity contributions. Moderate commodity exposure is the primary credit risk. Meaningful increases in non-regulated spending beyond current commitments of about $20 million would also be a concern.

The commodity risk is primarily the result of having no fuel adjustment cost recovery mechanism. Although CVPS has sufficient resources to meet its load requirements (including long-term purchase power agreements with Hydro Quebec and Entergy), the unit-contingent nature of the Entergy contract (accounting for 40% of energy requirements) could expose CVPS to price volatility in the event of an extensive unplanned outage. During certain periods of the year CVPS will also be challenged to manage the moderate over supply that results from the pending sale of Connecticut Valley Electric Co. and the associated load to Public Service New Hampshire (PSNH). However, the latter concern is offset by an agreement whereby CVPS will receive $21 million in the form of a power contract buy out payment. CVPS recently reached a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Vermont Department of Public Service extending CVPS' rate freeze until Jan. 1, 2005. The MOU is subject to approval by the Vermont Public Service Board (VPSB) in a pending docket. If approved, the MOU would reduce CVPS' authorized return on equity (ROE) to 10.5% from 11% beginning July 1, 2003, including a cap of 10.75% in 2003, and 10.5% for 2004 and 2005, with any excess earnings used to reduce costs held for future recovery.

From Business Wire, 11 September 2003

Maine Public Service Implements Long-Term Interest Management Initiative

Presque Isle, Maine - Maine & Maritimes Corporation (AMEX: MAM): Maine Public Service Company has announced its successful implementation of a long-term interest rate stabilization program designed to protect consumers and investors from exposure to its variable debt portfolio. Prior to implementation of the interest rate protection program, all of Maine Public Service Company's long-term debt had a variable interest rate. As a result of its recent rate case with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, authority was granted to allow the implementation of an interest rate "lock" program, funded through the Company's authorized rate increase. According to Kurt Tornquist, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Maine Public Service Company, "While our consumers and shareholders have enjoyed the benefits of low variable interest rates during the last several years, we believe prudent financial planning and today's forty-year historically low rates support our decision to fix our long-term interest rates.

When viewed over a twenty-year planning horizon, we believe taking advantage of today's favorable fixed rates provides significant long-term consumer and shareholder protection against potential variable interest rate exposure." The interest rate management plan transacted with Fleet National Bank consists of interest rate swaps for each of the Company's long-term debt instruments with maturities extending until the year 2025. The average fixed interest rate, including amortization of issuance and credit enhancement costs is 6.59%. Costs for the interest rate swaps are covered by a portion of the rate increase approved on September 3, 2003, by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Maine Public Service Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Maine & Maritimes Corporation, traded on the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) under the ticker symbol "MAM." Headquartered in Presque Isle, Maine and serving most of northern Maine, Maine Public Service Company is a regulated electric transmission and distribution utility.

From Business Wire, 11 September 2003

Utility Fights State over Reform Order

Zionsville - An investor-owned utility is contesting state orders for financial reform and will plead its case in federal bankruptcy court. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization by Boone County Utilities comes days before a scheduled review of its compliance with the reform orders issued in March by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Agency spokeswoman Mary Beth Fisher said weeklong hearings that were scheduled to begin Sept. 22 will not take place now due to the filing Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. "BCU and its customers are being unfairly treated by the regulatory process," complained utility manager James Harmon, "and BCU believes a restructuring through Chapter 11 reorganization is the best way to protect customers from future unnecessary rate increases." Boone County Utilities serves about 600 customers, most of them residents of the Royal Run community near I-65 that was developed by utility owners.

The company's filing Monday in bankruptcy court is the latest wrinkle in a dispute with Boone County Commissioners and housing developers who initiated the regulatory case. County Commissioners claim the utility has effectively denied service due to onerous developer fees that have delayed business and residential development of the I-65 corridor. In March, state regulators denied the county's request that the utility's operating authority be revoked. But they cited flaws in the utility's management and fee structure and ordered a financial overhaul. In part, the order required a refund to developers and a $2 million investment of capital. The utility replied by seeking approval for a 60 percent increase in customers' combined sewer/water rate - a request the utility says it will not pursue if the regulatory orders are relaxed. "BCU believes the actions of the IURC to be improper and that higher court review will ultimately determine that there has been unconscionable overreaching," Harmon said.

From Indianapolis Star, IN, by Jim Gillaspy (jim.gillaspy@indystar.com), 10 September 2003

Senate Committee Holds Firm on E-Gov Fund for Fiscal 2004

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week OKed just $5 million for the Office of Management and Budget's E-Government fund, $40 million less than President Bush's request for fiscal 2004. The committee's actions on the Treasury, Transportation and other agencies appropriations bill followed an even deeper cut in the fund by the House in July. House lawmakers slashed the fund to $1 million in its version of the bill. This is the third year in a row Congress has failed to fulfill the White House's request. The administration in 2001 said it would commit $100 million to e-government over three years; Congress has allocated $5 million in each of the last two years. "We are restricted in funding, and we can't fund everything," said Tim Boulay, a spokesman for the Senate committee. Lawmakers had authorized $45 million for the fund through the E-Government Act of 2002, but it seems unlikely appropriators will deliver on that promise. Although the House also cut the administration's request of $2.5 million to support the Federal Enterprise Architecture efforts, the Senate did approve full funding for the initiative, Boulay said.

The White House responded to the reductions by asking the House to fully restore the funding. "As has been demonstrated by successes from the modest $5 million invested in each of the last two years, the E-Gov Fund can bring significant improvements across agencies while reducing the need for each agency to 'reinvent the IT wheel,' " OMB said in a statement. The administration also asked lawmakers to restore the enterprise architecture funding because it will let agencies "identify redundant IT investment across all agencies, thereby preventing new and eliminating existing wasteful spending." The General Services Administration also would see a reduction in funds. For the Office of Governmentwide Policy, the Senate committee earmarked $61.7 million, which is $12.2 million less than the president's request. The House approved an even deeper cut, to $56.3 million. The Senate committee also wants to cut $35.9 million from the National Archives and Records Administration request for the Electronic Records Archives project. The committee approved $258 million and has asked for a new General Accounting Office review by May. The House version of the bill would fully fund the ERA project.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 10 September 2003

Public Service Enterprises Downgraded to "Equal Weight"

New York - Analyst Daniel F Ford of Lehman Brothers downgrades the Public Service Enterprise Group (PEG) from "overweight" to "equal weight." The target price is set to $45. In a research note published on September 12, the analyst mentions that the company's stock has outperformed the sector by 31.9% since December 2002. The EPS estimates for 2003 and 2004 remain unchanged, and Lehman Brothers believes that the company's goal of 4-6% growth is achievable. The analyst expects Public Services Enterprise to marginally raise its dividends in 4Q03.

From New Ratings, 15 September 2003

The New City Public Service Command Center Is Designed to Endure the Worst Weather

The concrete is pouring thick at City Public Service's latest construction project. When CPS decided to build a new operations command center, it told locally based Lyda Builders that the walls would have to withstand 200-mph winds. Solid concrete walls will be the skins on the 72,200-square-foot building Lyda is constructing next to the utility's East Side service station. In those areas that will house the most critical functions, the walls will be up to 18 inches thick. For about $20 million, about the same chunk of cash that South African Internet magnate Mark Shuttleworth spent to be the second tourist in space, CPS will replace its 30-year-old nerve center for monitoring and operating the natural gas and electric lines that serve 1.5 million people. "We've just about completed the structure," said Dan Wettig, Lyda's project manager. The project broke ground in March. Though the shell is nearly done, finishing out the job will take another year. Electrical, plumbing, heating and air installations still await. On any day, 80 to 120 workers are on site, Wettig said. Most of them are San Antonio-based subcontractors.

These include Nathan Alterman Electric, CFS Forming Systems and Todd-Ford Inc., the air control and plumbing contractor. Perhaps best known for erecting the Tower of the Americas, Lyda's many projects include the Alamodome and the Westin La Cantera Hotel and Resort. CPS, more sensitive to security issues since the Sept. 11, 2001, disaster, was looking for extra safety. To get the job done, Lyda chose Wettig, who had done a hardened facility for Lackland AFB's Electronic Security Command. Wade Co. was the previous owner of the CPS property. It had been marketing the site as a business park, but two years ago CPS bought Dick Wade's entire 40-acre stake and split it in two. "We'd been looking at that piece of property for some time," said Fred James, CPS' operations director. "Half is being used by our service center." The remaining 20 acres will eventually come under James' control. He leads the city's operations from the Gas and Electric Operations Center on Jones Avenue, next to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

The GEO Center was a pacesetter in its day, but it is a multi-use facility that has gotten crowded. "We're pretty constrained here," James said. "The Primary Control Center will be considerably larger, such that it should serve us for the next 20 to 30 years, at least." The computers that remotely control electric switches and gas valves across the network will stay in place at the old GEO Center, which will eventually become the backup system. "National Electric Reliability Council is pushing to have this type of redundancy throughout the industry," James said. The new center will house 100 employees. Though functioning as the brain of the CPS system will be its primary purpose, some space is being reserved to do educational programs with area schools and universities. There will be a 75-seat auditorium for personnel training. It will also be available for visiting classes and community groups. Solar panel and rain harvesting equipment installations will be tracked through live readouts in the lobby. There will be displays on renewable energy systems and conservation.

From San Antonio Express, TX, by Adolfo Pesquera, 11 September 2003

Health Site Earns Top Marks in E-gov User Satisfaction Survey

Customers give federal Web sites better performance scores than offline government functions, but slightly worse scores than the national average of a general-purpose customer satisfaction index. The new quarterly survey, released today, encompassed 22 federal Web sites that use the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) developed by the University of Michigan. On a 100-point scale, the first E-Government Satisfaction Index came in at 70.9, according to the survey sponsors. Offline government agencies scored an average of 70.2. The national customer-satisfaction index for all providers of goods and services is 73.8. The list of surveyed sites includes the FirstGov portal, four State Department sites, the Treasury Department's main Web site and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs AmeriCorps and two other volunteer programs. The highest-scoring federal site on the ASCI index was for www.4women.gov, run by the Health and Human Services Department.

The National Women's Health Information Center site received a satisfaction ranking of 83. That the women's health site scored higher than several prominent private-sector sites and on a par with Amazon.com and the Google search engine indicates "how successful online government has already been in satisfying customers," said Larry Freed, president of ForeSee Results Inc. of Farmington Hills, Mich. ForeSee Results, the University of Michigan, the American Society for Quality and the CFI Group of Ann Arbor, Mich., jointly conducted the survey. Other sites that scored above average on the government survey included the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service, State's main and career Web sites, FirstGov, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (www.healthfinder.gov), NASA's home page and the NASA Education Program and Spacelink site. The sponsors plan to conduct the E-Government Satisfaction Index survey every three months.

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

Government Websites Evolve to Rival Private Sector

Ann Arbor, Mich. - New E-Government Satisfaction Index from University of Michigan and E-Gov Partner ForeSee Results Reveals Satisfaction With Some E-Gov Sites Catching Up to Private Sector - Federal e-government initiatives are showing clear signs of moving into high gear, with performance levels that sometimes rival those of private industry, according to data released today by the University of Michigan. The data is part of the E- Government Satisfaction Index, a customized special report of federal government websites from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which measures a wide range of companies on a quarterly basis and is produced in partnership by the University of Michigan Business School, the American Society for Quality, the CFI Group, and ForeSee Results. "In the aggregate, e-government satisfaction scores paint a picture of an 'industry' that is on the cusp of a major evolution," said web expert and ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed. ForeSee Results works directly with various e-government initiatives in cooperation with the University and the ACSI. "Some agencies are doing a better job than others in terms the scores they earn, but the data behind the scores paint a picture of a field that is aggressively in the process of finding models matched to what users want. E- government is beginning to undergo a maturation process and the data shows they are finding their way to maturity by letting citizens be their guide.

Many still have a ways to go, but this is a promising path." All of the agencies measured earned scores that are at least passable, but some government-oriented websites are already in the range that rivals some of the best of the private sector. "The common elements of superior performance are reorganizing government in ways that make the most sense to site users, selectively bringing in elements of the style of commercial sites, leveraging the trust and reliability of the government, and stepping back to let users drive web development rather than forcing approaches on people," said Freed. "Really, e-government is defining its own path to success, and it is truly making government better and more user-friendly in the process. E-government is not the stereotypical bureaucrat view of the world but is becoming government cast in the image people want." Among the top performers are sites from the Department of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and NASA. FirstGov.gov, the mammoth government portal, has moved its score up considerably by re-organizing based on how users want to see government organized as well as other key aspects of site interaction and design that have the most impact on converting site visitors into fans. Other agencies are still struggling, and are early in their evolution. "E-government is really just beginning," said Freed. "That we see as many high scores as we do is heartening. The others know they need to catch up as much as is feasible, and they're subjecting themselves to the harsh light of citizen evaluation. This can be painful, but it's the best way to get from here to there."

Not all scores are stellar, but the report points out that some agencies have very particular customer segments and even "customers" who might prefer that the agency not even exist, which makes earning high satisfaction scores more difficult than the private sector. "It is simply the nature of the public sector that there will always be a wide range of scores," said University of Michigan customer satisfaction expert Claes Fornell, who heads the ACSI. "Unlike private industry, government agencies don't always choose their customers, and, often, their customers don't choose them. In addition, there is no direct way for dissatisfied customers to penalize a provider of government services, by taking their business elsewhere. The financial consequences are not there." Fornell and Freed's analysis suggests that other forces are pushing e- government where it needs to be, more quickly in some cases than in others. They cited clear expectations-setting and leadership from the President and the ever-improving ability of technology to lower the cost of providing services - and therefore preserve precious budget dollars - as important factors. Jack West, past-president of the American Society for Quality, a co- sponsor of the American Customer Satisfaction Index stated, "Virtually any transaction that can be conducted online, rather than in person, provides benefits to both the user and the government. Having websites the public likes to use should help the government achieve productivity gains similar to those realized during the last two years in the private sector."

"When we look across the agencies, we see some who are really getting it right, and will continue to evolve," said Fornell. "In other cases, they are just starting to understand how their constituencies want to interact and are getting there bit by bit. Some agencies do things that are just harder to figure out how to translate online, and government services can be a much bigger challenge in that regard than selling books or disseminating news. And sometimes government can never completely satisfy those it serves: if you're a regulator, chances are that those you regulate would prefer you not exist, so making them happy isn't easy. It's encouraging that government is looking to getting things done in ways that work best for users, even knowing this." "In response to the President's commitment to have government agencies achieve immediate, concrete, and measurable results, agencies are increasingly searching for technologies to help them attain greater efficiencies while keeping their citizen-centric focus," said Anne Kelly, Director of the Federal Consulting Group, the Department of the Treasury, the executive agent of the American Customer Satisfaction Index within the federal government. "Ultimately, success or failure can only be determined by how well agencies accomplish their missions and how they are evaluated by the users of their services. Agencies recognize that and are shaping their initiatives accordingly, using the ACSI as a valuable tool to capture the voice of citizens that allows direct comparison with the private sector. This doesn't mean they'll always be able to 'compete' but it's a good way of seeing where they stand."

From Yahoo News, 15 September 2003

Fourth Annual 'E-Government' Survey: Readability Is Problem for State, Federal Government Web Sites

Providence, R.I. - Most state and federal government Web sites are not fully accessible to American citizens because they are written at too high a grade level, according to the fourth annual e-government analysis conducted by researchers at Brown University. Darrell M. West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, and a team of researchers led by Joanne Chiu and Erica Dreisbach examined 1,603 state sites (an average of 32 sites per state) and 60 federal sites. Financial support for the project was provided by Brown University. Research was completed during June and July 2003. Previous e-government studies were released in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Researchers evaluated readability levels by employing the Flesch-Kincaid test, a standard reading evaluator tool used by the U.S. Department of Defense. The test computes reading level by dividing the average sentence length (number of words divided by number of sentences) by the average number of syllables per word (number of syllables divided by the number of words). The average readability of American state and federal Web sites is at the eleventh-grade level, well above the comprehension level of many Americans. According to national literacy statistics, half of Americans read at the eighth-grade level or lower. This year's analysis of government Web sites found 67 percent at the twelfth-grade level and only 12 percent at the eighth-grade level or lower.

There are some differences between state and federal sites. Sixty-eight percent of state sites read at the twelfth-grade level, while 63 percent of the federal sites do so. Agency type also matters, although not always in a manner consistent with the particular audience served by the Web site. Researchers tested a theory that agencies serving a more highly educated clientele would gear their Web sites to a higher level than those serving people with less formal education. Agencies presumably geared toward the less educated, however, did not have lower grade-level readability. For example, corrections departments report the highest percentage 83 percent) of Web sites written at the twelfth-grade level. Other agencies that have a high percentage of sites written at the twelfth-grade level include budget 81 percent), economic development 79 percent), elementary education 74 percent), housing 69 percent), health 69 percent), human services 67 percent) and taxation 46 percent). The study also examined disability accessibility for users with vision or hearing impairment. Using the online "Bobby" service [at http://bobby.watchfire.com], researchers at Brown evaluated the actual accessibility of Web sites using two different measures: compliance with the Priority Level One standards recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and compliance with the legal requirements of Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Sites were judged to be either in compliance or not in compliance based on the results of these two tests. In this year's study, 33 percent of state and federal sites satisfied the W3C standard of accessibility, and 24 percent met the guidelines for Section 508. Federal sites 47 percent) are more likely than state sites 33 percent) to meet the W3C standard of accessibility. Researchers found little difference between state sites 24 percent) and federal sites 22 percent) in meeting Section 508 accessibility standards. Foreign language access is an area of improvement in state and federal e-government. The percent of Web sites with foreign language translation or publications in a foreign language is 13 percent, up from 7 percent last year. However, there is a wide discrepancy this year between state and federal Web sites, with 12 percent of state Web sites and 40 percent of federal Web sites offering foreign language translation. The study ranks the 50 states and various federal agencies on overall e-government performance. Using measures such as online services, attention to privacy and security, disability access, foreign language translation, Web site personalization and e-mail responsiveness, the research team rated the various state sites and compared their performance to last year.

The top ranking state is Massachusetts with 46.3 points out of a possible 100, followed closely by Texas 43), Indiana 42.4), Tennessee 41.1), and California 41.1). The states achieving the lowest rankings are Nebraska 31.3), New Mexico 30.9), and Alaska 30.3). The following table shows where each state ranked in 2003, with the previous year's ranking or score in parentheses. Overall State e-Government Ratings in 2003 (previous year's data in parentheses) Rank Site Rating on 100-pt scale: 1 24-Massachusetts 46.3 45.6); 2 6-Texas 43 52.8); 3 12-Indiana 42.4 51.5); 4 1-Tennessee 41.4 56); 5 3-California 41.1 54.8); 6 19-Michigan 40.6 48.2); 7 11-New York 40.5 51.6); 7 5-Pennsylvania 40.5 52.9); 9 13-Florida 40.3 51.5); 10 44-Kentucky 40 42); 11 16-Illinois 39.7 49.3); 11 22-Missouri 39.7 46.3); 13 2-New Jersey 39.6 55); 14 9-South Dakota 39.5 51.9); 15 32-Arizona 39.1 44.2); 16 7-Washington 38.6 52.4); 17 27-Maryland 38.1 44.9); 17 10-Utah 38.1 51.7); 17 15-Virginia 38.1 49.6); 20 23-Kansas 38 45.6); 20 17-North Carolina 38 48.6); 22 4-Connecticut 37.9 53.3); 23 14-New Hampshire 37.6 51.1); 24 41-Delaware 37.4 42.4); 24 34-Maine 37.4 43.7); 24 21-Ohio 37.4 46.4); 27 37-Minnesota 36.8 43.3); 28 43-Louisiana 36.6 42.3); 29 20-North Dakota 36.4 46.9); 30 39-Idaho 35.9 42.8); 31 38-Georgia 35.8 43.1); 32 8-Nevada 35.7 51.9); 33 35-Rhode Island 35.3 43.5); 34 18-Oregon 34.9 48.5); 35 28-Iowa 34.6 44.9); 36 46-Wisconsin 34.2 40.4); 37 30-Arkansas 34 44.5); 38 29-Oklahoma 33.2 44.9); 39 47-Colorado 33.1 40); 40 50-Wyoming 33 34.8); 41 25-Montana 32.7 45.5); 41 26-South Carolina 32.7 45.4); 41 36-West Virginia 32.7 43.5); 44 42-Vermont 32.3 42.4); 45 45-Hawaii 32.1 41.9); 46 49-Alabama 31.9 35.8); 47 48-Mississippi 31.5 37.4); 48 40-Nebraska 31.3 42.6); 49 33-New Mexico 30.9 44.2); 50 33-Alaska 30.3 44.1). Among federal sites, the FirstGov portal ranks first with 84 out of a possible 100 points, followed by the Federal Communications Commission 73), Social Security Administration 68), Internal Revenue Service 68), and the Library of Congress 68). The federal sites that had the lowest ratings are the various Circuit Courts of Appeal.

The following table lists the ranking of federal agencies in 2003, with last year's rank or score in parentheses. Overall Federal E-Government Ratings in 2003 (previous year's rank in parentheses) Rank Site Rating on 100-pt scale: 1 7-FirstGov portal 84 90); 2 1-Federal Communications Comm. 73 92); 3 6-Social Security Administration 69 80); 4 9-Internal Revenue Service 68 76); 4 18-Library of Congress 68 68); 4 17-U.S. Postal Service 68 68); 7 4-Department of Treasury 64 84); 7 29-Securities and Exch. Comm. 64 60); 9 27-Housing/Urban Development 62 64); 10 34-Consumer Prod. Safety Comm. 57 60); 11 23-Department of Agriculture 56 68); 11 33-Department of Defense 56 60); 11 28-General Services Administration 56 64); 11 26-National Science Foundation 56 64); 11 25-Small Business Administration 56 64); 16 5-Department of State 54 84); 17 43-Food and Drug Administration 53 52); 19 19-Federal Trade Commission 52 68); 19 14-Health and Human Services 52 72); 21 22-Department of Education 51 68); 21 10-Department of Transportation 51 76); 23 12-Department of Commerce 50 76); 23 3-Environ. Protection Agency 50 84); 25 21-Department of Energy 49 68); 25 2-Department of Labor 49 88); 27 15-General Accounting Office 47 72); 27 41-Department of Veterans Affairs 47 52); 29 31-Federal Election Commission 46 60); 30 24-Central Intelligence Agency 45 68); 30 38-Federal Reserve 45 56); 32 40-Congressional Budget Office 44 56); 32 8-NASA 44 76); 32 36-Office of Mgmt. and Budget 44 56); 35 13-House of Representatives 42 72); 36 58-5th Circuit Court of Appeals 41 32); 36 44-Equal Employment Opportunity 41 52); 36 42-Government Printing Office 41 52); 39 20-Department of Justice 49 68); 40 39-Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. 40 56); 40 30-National Endowment Humanities 40 60); 40 46-National Transportation Safety 40 48); 43 (na) Dept. of Homeland Security 38 (na); 43 45-National Labor Relations Board 38 48); 45 32-Department of the Interior 36 60); 45 16-U.S. Senate 36 68); 45 50-Supreme Court 36 40); 45 35- U.S. Trade Representative 36 56); 49 48-11th Circuit Court of Appeals 34 48); 50 49-10th Circuit Court of Appeals 33 48); 50 51-Federal Circuit Court of Appeals 33 40); 52 54-3rd Circuit Court of Appeals 32 40); 52 37-National Endowment for the Arts 32 56); 54 56-1st Circuit Court of Appeals 29 36); 54 52-9th Circuit Court of Appeals 29 40); 56 57-7th Circuit Court of Appeals 28 32); 57 55-2nd Circuit Court of Appeals 25 40); 57 53-6th Circuit Court of Appeals 25 40); 59 47-4th Circuit Court of Appeals 24 48); 59 59-8th Circuit Court of Appeals 24 24). In the conclusion of their report, West and his research team suggest several means to improve e-government Web sites.

Their recommendations include: - Sites should strive for clear and simple language that is easily understood by the American public. - More attention needs to be devoted to disability access so that sight- and hearing- impaired citizens can have access to online information and services. - Claims of W3C and Bobby disability compliance on the Web site should be verified on a regular basis. - Web sites should include clear, well-marked privacy policies and not simply disclaimers or liability statements. A detailed privacy policy ensures both legal protection for users and comprehension by users. - The privacy policy should be on the portal page of the Web site and easy to find. - Services should be conveniently clustered together on the portal page rather than scattered throughout the Web site. Web sites should always include a link back to the portal page to make for easy navigation. - Each Web site should be organized and uncluttered to help users access the services and information they want. - Translation into other languages should be easy to find and use. - Within-site searches should yield meaningful results and the search engine should be up to date (i.e., no broken links or outdated Web sites). For more information about the results of this study, please contact Darrell West at 401-863-1163 or see the full report at www.insidepolitics.org. The appendix of that report provides e-government profiles for each of the 50 states and the federal agencies.

From Ascribe, 12 September 2003

Gov Sites Gaining in Consumer Satisfaction

A handful of federal government websites are beginning to reach performance levels that sometimes rival those of private industry, according to data released Monday by the University of Michigan. The data is part of the E- Government Satisfaction Index, a customized special report of federal websites from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The index measures a wide range of companies on a quarterly basis and is produced in partnership by the University of Michigan Business School, the American Society for Quality, the CFI Group, and ForeSee Results. According to the report, all of the agencies measured earned scores that are at least passable, but some government-oriented websites are already in the range that rivals some of the best of the private sector. Among the top performers are sites from the Department of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and NASA. FirstGov.gov, the mammoth government portal, moved its score up considerably after a recent reorganization and redesign. "E-government is really just beginning," said ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed. "That we see as many high scores as we do is heartening. The others know they need to catch up as much as is feasible, and they're subjecting themselves to the harsh light of citizen evaluation.

This can be painful, but it's the best way to get from here to there." While some scores were barely passable, the report points out that some agencies have very particular customer segments and even "customers" who might prefer that the agency not even exist, which makes earning high satisfaction scores more difficult than the private sector. "It is simply the nature of the public sector that there will always be a wide range of scores," said University of Michigan customer satisfaction expert Claes Fornell, who heads the ACSI. "Unlike private industry, government agencies don't always choose their customers, and, often, their customers don't choose them. In addition, there is no direct way for dissatisfied customers to penalize a provider of government services, by taking their business elsewhere. The financial consequences are not there." Fornell and Freed's analysis suggests that other forces are pushing e- government where it needs to be, more quickly in some cases than in others.

They cited clear expectations-setting by agencies and the improving ability of technology to lower the cost of providing services. "The common elements of superior performance are reorganizing government in ways that make the most sense to site users, selectively bringing in elements of the style of commercial sites, leveraging the trust and reliability of the government, and stepping back to let users drive web development rather than forcing approaches on people," said Freed. "Really, e-government is defining its own path to success, and it is truly making government better and more user-friendly in the process. E-government is not the stereotypical bureaucrat view of the world but is becoming government cast in the image people want." Jack West, past-president of the American Society for Quality, a co- sponsor of the ACSI, stated, "Virtually any transaction that can be conducted online, rather than in person, provides benefits to both the user and the government. Having websites the public likes to use should help the government achieve productivity gains similar to those realized during the last two years in the private sector."

From InternetNews.com, by Roy Mark, 16 September 2003

E-Gov Sites Rate High Customer-Satisfaction Scores

Some cities and states are outclassing the feds in their online endeavors. Aberdeen analyst Denis Pombriant cites New York's 311 program, a combination of home-grown apps and Siebel's contact-center suite, which shunts non-emergency callers away from the vital phone banks of 911. While it is true that government Web sites and other constituent services are not driven by the same profit motives as their counterparts in the private sector, many of these sites rated as well as their for-profit counterparts, in some cases even better - in a survey conducted by ForeSee Results for the University of Michigan's E-Government Satisfaction Index. Highest-rated sites include the National Women's Health Information Center Web site and NASA's main page. "E-government is still relatively early in its evolution and agencies are still working to find the right formula," the report says. "Accordingly, some agencies are doing better than others. But the fact that so many are formulating their approaches based on citizen feedback should accelerate the process." In a similar survey released earlier this year, Accenture noted a similar trend. "In the past - say the last two to four years - we saw an initial push for governments to get as many services online as possible," Steven Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture's government practice, told CRMDaily.com.

Those earlier endeavors were fairly predictable - concentrating mainly on setting up static portals and otherwise publishing the services and documents offered by a particular agency. Now, Rohleder says, it has become obvious that e-government is moving into a new stage - "one that is focused on customer satisfaction." Practical Considerations - Given the red ink in which the federal and, now, state and local governments - thanks to federal cutbacks in state assistance - are drowning, it would seem likely that e-government, much like e-commerce, would be relegated to back-burner status. Indeed, the more grandiose projects have been shelved or modified. What money is available is plowed into smaller, more targeted projects. "The evolution of e-government is to re-organize information and services in accordance with how users think and want to interact, as opposed to the way government is organized," the E-government Index states. For example, the NWHIC's women's-health Web site "matches expectations created by the best commercial Web sites in terms of look and feel, navigation and related matters," plus has the added credibility of the Health and Human Services government (that is, non-profit) bias.

Ironically, the one area that probably should score the highest in terms of navigation and ease of use - the various agencies' job sites - shows spotty results. But then again, the same can be said for commercial sites - although, as government does have its own special problems attracting talent, special efforts should be made in this regard. "Continuing evolution in this area is vital if the government is to compete directly," the survey says. Exceptions, though, are duly noted (for example, www.careers.state.gov), which claims a not-bad-at-all score of 73. The NWHIC and NASA Web site scores of 83 and 79, respectively, are followed by NASA's Education Program and Spacelink (www.spacelink.nasa.gov) at 78. Other Web sites noted in the survey include Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (www.ers.usda.gov), at 76, and FirstGov.gov, at 74. Beyond Web pages - In some areas, though, cities and states are outclassing the feds in their endeavors. Aberdeen Group vice president Denis Pombriant cites New York City's 311 program, which shunts non-emergency callers away from the vital phone banks of 911. Typically, these callers are individuals looking for information about city services who get so frustrated when they can't find it, they call 911, Pombriant told CRMDaily. Based on a combination of home-grown apps and Siebel's (Nasdaq: SEBL) contact-center suite, "New York's system is a sophisticated one that synthesizes information for the call-center agents, thus saving the government money in the long run - not to mention vastly improving services," he said.

From NewsFactor Network, by Erika Morphy, 15 September 2003

 

Global E-government

A major contractor has withdrawn from the bidding for the UK's STG2.3 billion IT programme for the health service. Lockheed Martin, one of the largest providers of systems integration and consulting services to the US government, had been shortlisted for the contract to provide a "national data spine," an electronic repository of essential clinical information on all NHS patients. IBM and BT had also made the shortlist for the contract. Lockheed has also withdrawn from bidding for a second contract to modernise and standardise NHS systems across one of five geographical regions. It had been bidding as part of a consortium with Hewlett-Packard, competing against ten other consortia that include firms such as IBM, BT, Accenture, EDS and SchlumbergerSema. Although Lockheed did not comment on its reasons for pulling out, reports suggest that it was unhappy with high performance targets set by the government and hefty penalties that would be imposed for missed deadlines or system failures. US to launch complaint tracking system for health service: The US health department is set to launch a national system for tracking complaints about health care providers and services. The Health and Human Services Department plans to unveil in October the Aspen Complaints/Incidents Tracking System (ACTS), which will record and manage all complaints made about Medicare and Medicaid services and suppliers.

HHS officials said that the new system aims to eliminate the duplication of data collection and to help the agency to prioritise complaints. "ACTS will standardise reported complaints and incidents so that states can also use the information for licensing and accreditation," said a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The agency also said the system had built-in security measures to protect sensitive data pertaining to patients. Americans shun government sites during emergencies: study: Americans would not use government Web sites as a primary source of information in the event of a terrorist attack, according to a new survey. The study of around 1,000 adults, conducted by Federal Computer Week and the Pew Internet & American Life Project, found that only 3 percent of respondents would visit a government Web site before using news media for information on a terrorist incident. Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they would turn to television first during an emergency, while 15 percent said they would use radio as their initial source of information. Even avid Internet users said they would favour TV and radio sources over the Web. Nonetheless, 71 percent of survey respondents said they trusted the government to provide accurate and useful information in the event of an attack.

Denmark celebrates launch of e-Day: The Danish government celebrated "e-Day" on 1 September, an initiative aimed at promoting electronic communication between central and local government organisations. From that date on, all of Denmark's 379 public administrations are obliged to exchange information in electronic format, with the exception of documents that are deemed to be sensitive for privacy or security reasons. The scheme is expected to generate savings of about EUR25 million in the first year and to save 300 tonnes in paper, according to the Ministry of Finance. It is hoped that eventually at least 75 percent of all internal government correspondence will be conducted electronically. The initiative forms part of Denmark's strategy for e-government, which aims to systematically use digital technologies in order to encourage new ways of thinking and to transform organisations and processes to improve the quality of services. Malaysia plans to boost broadband penetration: The government of Malaysia is preparing a national broadband master plan, in the hope of boosting penetration levels in the country. According to media reports, the Minister for Energy, Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Amar Leo Moggie, has said that the government is aiming for a 50 percent broadband penetration rate by 2007.

The current level of high-speed Internet penetration is below 1 percent, with only around 30,000 of Malaysia's 22 million people having access to broadband. The minister said the rollout of broadband was essential in order to support an e-learning initiative that will be implemented in nearly 400 schools by 2005. "Since e-learning is network-based, the most obvious requirement is accessibility," said Moggie. The government's broadband master plan will reportedly be published by the end of this year. Hitachi to set up e-government joint venture: Japanese electronics maker Hitachi has announced that it is to establish a joint venture with the Beijing University of Technology in order to develop technologies for China's e-government programme. The joint venture, to be set up in October, will be known as Hitachi Beijing Tech Information Systems Co. According to Hitachi, which will hold a 50 percent equity stake in the company, the venture will have an initial capital of YEN100 million (EUR797,760) and a staff of 30. A 40 percent stake will be controlled by the business arm of Beijing University of Technology, while the remaining 10 percent will be held by Hitachi (China) Investment Ltd. The joint venture will develop technologies and products for China's e-government initiatives, based on Hitachi's experience in the Japanese e-government market.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 3 September 2003

E-Government Projects Attract Foreign Investment

As a by-product of their attempts to streamline operations and citizen services, governments are helping to attract more foreign investment, according to independent researchers, IDC. In a recent IDC e-Government study, Asia/Pacific e-Government IT Spending, 2002-2007, the region's 2002 spend on the technology reached US$880.1 million, and is forecast to reach US$1,477.6 million in 2007, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.9%. And, apart from the benefits in terms of labour and cost savings, e-Government initiatives have also turned out to be a determining factor when foreign investors look to invest within Asia. Some companies have found that hidden costs of dealing with local officials, unclear regulations, and ingrained bureaucratic delays are a big problem. But e-Government services now offer investors convenient, transparent online government platforms for handling business-to-government transactions. This article is copyright 2003 TheWiseMarketer.com.

From Thewisemarketer.com, UK, 2 September 2003

Global E-government

Local governments refuse to join Japanese information sharing network: A number of Japanese municipalities have resisted joining Juki Net, the country's nationwide computer network for resident registration, which officially launched this month. Juki Net lets citizens get a copy of their residence certificates from any municipal government by showing identification, such as a driver's licence. But an editorial in Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper says Juki Net violates individual privacy, since it collates and stores a vast amount of personal information on the network and on a personal Juki Card. The government is seeking to use Juki Net as a key part of its e-government infrastructure, but the paper says citizens should have the right to keep their information off the network. Study calls for better service on e-mail queries: Local authorities worldwide can improve the service they offer to the public by implementing basic changes to their Web sites, such as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages, according to a new study by customer relationship management company Kana. A study of various authorities in the US and Europe found that Dutch local authorities were the fastest to respond to a time-sensitive e-mail query (around 22 hours), but UK authorities were the worst, taking an average of 58 hours to reply, if they replied at all - around a third of the authorities had not answered after 10 days.

Governments must find a means of quickly handling high volumes of citizen queries if they are to scale up their e-government services, Kana said. London freezes travel prices for smartcard users: The city of London is offering a financial incentive to get bus and underground passengers to pay for journeys with Oyster smartcards instead of cash. During 2004 fares for some journeys are set to climb by up to 25 percent, but the city will freeze fares at 2003 levels for travellers who pay in advance for their journey with Oystercards, smartcards that can be charged with cash before a journey. The city, which says it's carrying 1.4 million more bus passengers a day than four years ago, is seeking to cut queues and improve driver safety by removing cash from buses completely by 2006. The city estimates that the new fare increases will bring in additional revenue of STG81 million. Oregon emergency broadcast system goes live: After more than a year of development and testing, the US state of Oregon has gone live with RAINS-NET, the Regional Alliance for Infrastructure and Network Security. This emergency communication system uses a variety of technologies to notify local and national organisations - like hospitals, schools, key businesses and federal agencies - about emergencies, and to keep communicating with them during the crisis.

In Oregon the system is connected to the local 911 emergency centre, where operators receiving calls immediately notify emergency services. With RAINS, other institutions on the network receive the same notification, including rich media like maps or other images where necessary. Authorised institutions will receive initial notifications of a crisis through means like text messages to a mobile phone or a "screen pop" window on their PC. The coalition of Oregon technology companies that developed RAINS is looking to license the emergency communications system elsewhere, and four other states are thought to be exploring the technology. Planning applications go on-line in East Sussex: In the UK, Wealden District Council in East Sussex has put a planning applications facility on-line for residents. Citizens can log on to www.planning.wealden.gov.uk to see application details and supporting documentation, and an on-line form lets visitors lodge comments or complaints about applications from the Web site. The facility, which the council said has attracted 16,000 visitors since its launch in April, is designed to let visitors find planning applications even if they have only sketchy details about the site, such as "The Barn" or "High Street." The Web site, which also lets visitors track the steps in the processing of applications, was developed by Aurora.

From Electric News Net, by Sheila M. Averbuch, 27 August 2003

Global E-government

Malaysia moves toward open source: The government of Malaysia has spoken out in support of open source software. According to local news agency Bernama, the Minister of Energy, Communications and Multimedia, Amar Leo Moggie, said that the government is carrying out pilot studies to assess the benefits and obstacles involved in migrating government systems to open source software. Speaking at the Free & Open Source Software Conference 2003, the minister said it was government policy to encourage the civil service to choose open source solutions over proprietary software whenever possible. Moggie also said that the government wanted to promote the development and use of open source solutions in the private sector, and he noted that being overly dependent on "foreign proprietary software" would hurt the Malaysian economy in the long run. Victoria launches Web conferencing for councils: The State of Victoria in Australia has launched a Web conferencing service aimed at improving communication between local councils. The MAVConnect project is designed to enable Victoria's 79 councils, over 600 councillors and around 30,000 council staff to participate in Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) meetings without the need to travel to Melbourne to attend the meetings in person. Launching the initiative, Innovation Minister John Brumby noted that "A councillor in Mildura, for example, will be able to keep up to date with the latest developments in local government without having to jump in the car and travel 550 kilometres to Melbourne."

The minister also launched a report into the public broadcasting of council meetings over the Internet. The report, "Webcasting Council Meetings - Pilot Participation Report," says that some councils that are trialing the technology are regularly attracting over 1,000 members of the local community to view council meetings on-line. Baltimore to provide security for Hong Kong ID cards: Irish e-security company Baltimore Technologies is providing the technology at the heart of Hong Kong's new identity card system. Baltimore has partnered with Hewlett-Packard to implement PKI (public key infrastructure) security for the Hong Kong government, which will essentially see Baltimore provide the digital certificates that will be embedded in the new citizen ID card system. The system, known as Smart ID, is a strategic e-government programme aimed at enabling all citizens to exchange information electronically with the government. The ID cards will be phased in to replace the current paper-based ID cards, and Baltimore is expected to issue more than 4 million digital certificates, or e-Certs, over the next four years. The e-Certs will be used to authenticate on-line transactions and to generate digital signatures, which have the same legal status in Hong Kong as handwritten signatures.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 10 September 2003

Global E-government

US sets up cyberterrorism response unit: The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set up a special cyberterrorism prevention and response unit. Called US-CERT, the new group will initially be a partnership between the DHS's National Cyber Security Division and the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center, or CERT/CC, which is a federally funded group based at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. The DHS said that the unit will expand to include security companies from the private sector and other domestic and international organisations. "The recent cyberattacks, such as the Blaster worm and the SoBig virus, highlight the urgent need for an enhanced computer emergency response program that coordinates national efforts to cyberincidents and attacks," said Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge. US-CERT will be headed by Amit Yoran, who has been recruited from IT security firm Symantec. US public sector PC market is weakening: IDC: The public sector PC market in the US is exhibiting signs of weakness, in spite of a strong sequential growth in shipments, according to research firm IDC. The company's "Quarterly Public Sector PC Tracker" shows that PC shipments to the public sector - a market that includes federal, state and local governments and educational institutions - grew to 2.4 million units in the second quarter of 2003, an increase of almost 35 percent from the first quarter of the year.

However, on a year-over-year basis, PC shipments increased by just over 2 percent, while customer spending contracted by nearly 11 percent. "Although the market performed well sequentially with a double-digit growth rate, it is still slightly below historical rates of the past two years," said David Daoud, senior analyst at IDC. "There are worrisome signs of a market that could turn negative in 2004, and possibly sooner," he added. UK minister wants Wi-Fi hotspots in libraries: The UK's E-commerce minister has said he would like to see Wi-Fi hotspots installed in every public library in Britain. Speaking at a recent meeting of broadband industry experts in London, Minister Stephen Timms outlined his vision for the future of broadband in Britain. According to a BBC report, Timms said the government wants to make the UK the most competitive broadband market among G7 nations. One of the opportunities afforded by the rollout of broadband is that "rich content" can increasingly be made available to the public, said the minister. Timms said that the installation of Wi-Fi, a wireless technology that delivers high-speed Internet access to specially equipped laptops and PDAs within a certain range, in public libraries would encourage people to visit libraries and to access high-quality content.

The minister also indicated that of the STG6 billion earmarked for e-government over the next three years, STG1 billion would be spent on the rollout of broadband around Britain, particularly in rural areas. Dubai administration to launch SMS service: Dubai is gearing up to launch m-Dubai, a project aimed at enabling communication between government and citizens via mobile devices. The initial phase of the scheme will focus on one-way SMS communication for government agencies that wish to send short messages to citizens who have signed up for the scheme. Under the initiative, participating government departments will be able to log in to a new portal, www.mdubai.ae, from where they can send text messages to the mobile phones and PDAs of their customers. "It provides the government departments [with] a powerful new channel to deliver tailored messages to their target audience within seconds," said Rihab Lootah, eServices Provisioning Manager with Dubai eGovernment. Twelve departments have signed up to the scheme so far, including the Department of Civil Defence, the Department of Health and Medical Services, the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD), and the Dubai Police.

The DNRD said it plans to use the SMS service for answering customer queries and sending out reminders about visa expirations. Portugal to test e-procurement system: The government of Portugal has announced the launch of an e-procurement pilot project. Four software vendors were chosen to run pilot projects in a number of government departments, including the Ministries of Defence, Justice, Health and Social Security, as well as in the Prime Minister's Office. The government will monitor the various implementations, which together will build an acquisition centre to help the government process purchases of office equipment, IT systems and other goods and services. The system will consist of a register of users, catalogue management functions and purchasing facilities. An e-procurement portal is due to be launched in October, and it is thought that the system will be extended across the entire administration in 2004. The government said it expects that the system will save it between 10 percent and 20 percent in public procurement costs between 2003 and 2006.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 18 September 2003

E-government Speeds up for Europe & South Africa

Accenture and Microsoft have announced plans to introduce a version of Accenture's eGovernment Accelerator system that includes Microsoft's Gateway portal solution. The partners say this will help governments speed up the rollout of new electronic services, offering transactional forms and information on the internet, integrated with traditional back-end government IT operations. The new combined system will be marketed in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. "This new version will help governments integrate the back-end of their web-based services whilst shortening the time required to create convenient online services," commented Juan Domenech, Accenture's managing partner for government services in Europe and South Africa.

From Thewisemarketer.com, UK, 25 September 2003

Global E-government

US on-line government outranks off-line services: On-line federal services were rated higher than off-line government functions in a new survey developed by the University of Michigan. The first E-Government Satisfaction Index was conducted in accordance with the principles used in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which rates products and services in the private sector. The study was jointly carried out by the University of Michigan, ForeSee Results, the American Society for Quality, and the CFI Group. Twenty-two federal Web sites were assessed in the survey, receiving an average satisfaction rating of 70.9 points out of 100, compared with a score of 70.2 points for off-line government agencies. The average score in the ACSI is 73.8. The top-rated government site, with a score of 83, was www.4women.gov, which provides health information for women and is run by the Health and Human Services Department. Other sites that performed well in the study include the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service, the FirstGov.gov portal, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion's site and NASA's Web pages. EU states show similar levels of e-government use: Six out of seven EU member states examined in a survey were found to have similar levels of e-government services usage among the population.

The survey, conducted by e-Forum, an organisation supported by the European Commission, and Internet ratings firm Nielsen//NetRatings, questioned 38,000 Net users in the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy and Germany, in an effort to gain insight into the profile of e-government users. The study concluded that in spite of sharp disparities between countries with regard to levels of Internet penetration and e-government sophistication, every country except Sweden had around a 5.6 percent level of e-government use among the general public. The report also found that the proportion of Internet users who visited at least one e-government site during June 2003 varied widely, from 15 percent in the Netherlands and Germany to 33 percent or more in Italy, Spain and Sweden. E-Forum said it plans to release full details of the report on its Web site in the near future. New EU asylum system goes live: An electronic network for transmitting asylum applications between EU member states, plus Norway and Iceland, has been launched. The DubliNET system, operational from 1 September, standardises how information is exchanged between member states in relation to asylum applications, making use of a system of electronically signed forms.

The system also involves a reliable authentication and identification infrastructure over an encrypted network. DubliNET is also compatible with EURODAC, the EU-wide electronic system that compares the fingerprints of asylum applicants, in an effort to prevent applicants from seeking asylum in more than one member state. The personal data of asylum seekers is protected by the IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) programme, which governs the electronic exchange of information between the governments of EU Member States and the European institutions. Australia presents e-government awards: The Metropolitan Cemeteries Board in Western Australia was one of the winners at the 2003 Government Technology Productivity Awards, which were presented in Sydney in mid-September. The MCB was recognised for its funeral Webcasting service, which was launched last year and is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia. The password-protected service enables mourners who are unable to attend funeral ceremonies in person to view the proceedings via a live Webcast, which is recorded and made available on the MCB's Web site for 30 days after the event.

Other winners honoured at the Awards included Queensland's SmartLicence service, which is able to diagnose the licence requirements of applicants and to present them with the relevant information and forms; the Victoria Land Registry's Titles Automation Project, which has electronically captured 3.9 million paper-based land titles; and the Department of Urban Services' Communities Online project, which enables community groups to maintain an on-line presence without the need to run their own Web site. Spain helps local authorities to get on-line: The Spanish government has launched an initiative aimed at helping small municipalities to develop e-government functions. Known as "PISTA-Administracion Local," the scheme was developed by Spain's Ministry of Science and Technology and the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces for the Development of Local E-government. The scheme involves the development of a standard software program that will enable local authorities to roll out simple on-line services and information resources. Local government bodies will have free access to the software, which is expected to become available in the near future. Another project to develop a Geographical Information System (GIS) application for use by local authorities is also in the works.

From Electric News Net, 14 September 2003

 

Parliament Questions Government's Financial Prudence

Parliament's Budget and Finance Committee on Thursday wondered how the country could be assured that the new Public Finance Management Act, already in force, will ensure financial prudence when government resources continue to be used for ruling UDF party activities. Speaking during a capacity building seminar at Parliament, committee member Situsi Nkhoma questioned the effectiveness of the law when just last week vehicles from some government ministries and parastatals were used to ferry women, among them civil servants who absconded work, to a UDF meeting at Civo Stadium in the Capital Lilongwe. "While this law has come up with improvements on the previous legislation, but public resources continue to be abused. I wonder whether this new law is already in operation?" questioned Nkhoma. He was commenting on a presentation by Economic Services Secretary George Zimalirana that under the new Public Finance Management Act, controlling officers have a critical role to ensure government financial management is done with prudence. "In the act it is stated clearly that each controlling officer is responsible for ensuring that: provisions of the act are compiled with; advice on financial management is provided to the responsible minister; all accounts and records relating to functions and operations of the ministry are properly maintained; "All necessary precautions are taken to safeguard collection and custody of public money; all expenditures are properly authorised and applied to the specific purposes for which they are appropriated; there is no over expenditure or over commitment of funds; the collection of public moneys is according to approved plans and estimates; "Any tax, duty, levy or other charge imposed by the legislation is collected promptly and to the fullest extent; any proposal to charge supply of goods and services confirms that the charge is consistent with economic and fiscal policy, among other things," said Zimalirana.

He said that lack of compliance by controlling officers will attract punitive actions, saying the appointing authority may suspend without pay the controlling officer or chief executives who authorise expenditure or commitment of funds in excess of the approved limit or commits or expends funds where there is no appropriation permitting such expenditure. Commenting on Nkhoma's sentiments on Thursday, Information Minister Benard Chisale said government policy does not allow government resources to be used for party functions. "As I told the other reporter on Sunday, government policy is that government resources must not be used for party functions. As for the issue of vehicles being used for the Civo function, I cannot comment because I do not have the details. But what I know is that the ruling party does not use government resources," said Chisale. Nkhoma told the workshop, also attended by committee chair Louis Chimango (MCP), members Dindi Gowa Nyasulu (Aford), and Ramsy Kadango (UDF) and officials from National Democratic Institute who funded the exercise, the responsibility of approving government borrowing should be given to Parliament, instead of the Minister of Finance. "As Budget and Finance Committee, we proposed when the act was being promulgated that the committee should be involved when it comes to government borrowing, with Parliament giving the approval. We wonder why this was not included in the act," said Nkhoma. "I think there is need for the act to be amended to include the proposal." Zimalirana said government decided that Reserve Bank should set a statutory limit to control amounts of borrowing. Chimango accused government of lacking transparency on matters of national importance, wondering why the Ministry of Finance was not going public about the position of government's negotiations with the IMF. Zimalirana said efforts were underway to make public information handy.

From The Nation, Malawi, by Gedion Munthali, 11 September 2003

 

IMF Chief Confident of China's Economic Growth

Beijing - China is capable of sustaining an economic growth rate of up to 10 percent a year without overheating, Horst Kohler, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said Tuesday. Kohler said he was happy to see China's economy had offset the negative impact of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and maintained a strong economic growth momentum. He predicted that China's economy could achieve an eight to ten percent growth rate in a quite long period of time. "I don't think, generally, that China's economy is overheated, and a growth rate of eight to ten percent is possible and can be sustained over many years," Kohler said. Kohler regarded the government's plans for economic reform as "well thought through". He believed the establishment of the China Banking Regulatory Commission and creation of the State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission would play a positive role in economic reform, especially in the sectors of state-owned enterprises and public finance. Kohler said Chinese leaders had demonstrated determination to take further measures to decrease unemployment, accelerate the processing of the non-performing loans, and raise the income of Chinese farmers. "I have confidence that China would make its way forward," Kohler said. However, the IMF chief warned that over-investment in China's housing property sector and the rapid growth of bank credit in the macro-financial operation warranted serious attention.

From Xinhua, China, 2 September 2003

Saifur Asks Bankers Ensure Good Governance in Lending System

Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman on Wednesday appeared desperate to give a further boost to the country's economic growth engine through pumping additional investment into the agriculture sector. To remove the roadblocks hindering the growth, he came down heavily on the banks and government agencies related to agriculture for not giving proper importance to the potential sector. He also had harsh words against the media for their "negative role" in some cases. "You (bankers) have a great mission to uplift the nation," he told bankers at a conference of regional and divisional heads of Bangladesh Krishi Bank (BKB) at Sonargaon Hotel. "This mission is to ensure good governance in lending system, boost production and generate more job opportunities to help reduce poverty," he said, narrating his main message for the bankers. Finance secretary Zakir Ahmed Khan and BKB managing director AKM Sajedur Rahman also spoke on the occasion with BKB chairman Ahbab Ahmed in the chair. Saifur advised the bank to raise its capital to at least Tk 200 crore from the present level of Tk 140 crore for the initial stage to start with, giving an indication that the capital could be increased further considering the needs of investment.

He drew attention of the finance secretary in this regard to take necessary measures to help raise the paid-up capital and Bangladesh Bank to resume refinancing facilities for the bank earlier suspended for not making repayment. "It's not in conformity with the social interest … the banking sector should be made production-oriented," Saifur said, amid a bit criticism of the central bank for suspending refinance facility to the BKB. He said banks would not be able to provide loans to the farmers at lower cost collecting deposits at higher interest rates. Banks can avail of the refinancing facilities from the Bangladesh Bank at only 6 percent interest rate. BKB owes Tk 600 crore to the central bank against refinancing. He also directed BKB to raise its agriculture loan disbursement to the tune of Tk 1,800 crore in the current fiscal from Tk 1,700 crore disbursed last fiscal. He, however, cautioned the bankers not to lend large amount to make richer the rich, but to keep the range as high as taka one crore and examine all aspects of a project. There are lots of allegations that the bankers behave like "Kabuliwalas" and seek rent of Tk 1,000 for each lending of Tk 10,000. "This practice should go," he said, stressing the need for ensuring good governance in the banking sector.

The minister asked the bankers to accelerate loan disbursement and warned that he would close the bank branches, which would fail to disburse loan by January next without valid reasons. The minister is going to sit with all the banks Saturday next to find out ways to channel more funds at lower interest rates to the agriculture sector. He would also bring in Bangladesh Shilpa Bank and BASIC Bank to finance small and medium agro-processing enterprises, as BKB was not giving loans to them. "The whole objective of the economic management is to bring smile on the faces of poor people," he said. Despite a spectacular performance by the sector of the country's economic base with 50 per cent contribution to the GDP, he said, the sector has very poor investment and research. The country has no planned process to utilise its land, water and people, he said, adding that now the government wants to give more money, but the related agencies cannot take due to lack of plan to utilise. Criticising Water Resources Ministry, the minister said they only allocate 7 per cent of their resources for irrigation and waste money in river control without any accountability. But the agriculture sector needs more funds for comprehensive irrigation, he added. He also expressed dissatisfaction over the role of media, slowing down the pace of the country's development process.

He said, for instance, a press report sharply knocked down the demand for milk as the report said that some chemicals have been used in the milk as preservative. The media do not highlight the success stories although the country achieved a high growth of 5.5 per cent during the worldwide recession after the September 11 incident in USA, said the minister. Finance secretary Zakir Ahmed Khan said rural farm and non-farm growth is the main focus of the government to reduce poverty. He spoke of various measures of the government, including reducing interest rates for small and medium agro-based industries as well as farm and non-farm loans. The banks are likely to bring down the interest rates to as low as 9-10 per cent for the sector, he said. A few nationalised commercial banks have already announced the interest rate cut while private banks agreed to do the same.© Copyright 2003 by The New Nation.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, 28 August 2003

UP, Bihar Lead Reform Execution

Chennai - The scorecard on states' fiscal reforms programme is out. The surprise is that traditional laggards - Bihar and Uttar Pradesh- are leading the pack while fast-track states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are trailing. These are the findings of the Union Finance Ministry's internal review (1999-2000 to 2002-03), of the medium-term fiscal reforms programme (MTFRP) for states. As per ministry data, state governments have managed a good show by lowering the revenue deficit as a portion of revenue receipts by 9% points (-26.02% to -17.17%) in the period. This has been largely possible because of states' efforts in raising its own resources and marginal increase in Central transfers. State governments have upped their antennae on new revenue raising measures like expanding tax base and, indexation of user charges. They have also effected expenditure contraction by banning recruitment, capping borrowings, PSU and SEB reforms and debt swaps. The finance ministry review has ranked states into four levels. The first level includes those states which have shown consistent improvement - Bihar, UP, Chattisgarh, Andhra, Kerala, Goa and Sikkim. All these states have managed to bring down their revenue deficit/increase surplus as a portion of total receipts.

For instance, Bihar has managed to bring down its revenue deficit by about 16% points from -28.22% in 1999-2000 to -12.63 in 2002-03 (RE). Similarly, UP has brought down the number from a negative 33.74% in 1999-00 to negative 16.96% in 2002-03. The fourth level consists of those states that have witnessed steady deterioration - Gujarat, Uttaranchal, Himachal and Jharkhand. None of these states have drawn up a roadmap towards fiscal consolidation and reforms. The two middle levels comprise of states who started out well but failed to gather steam (III), and those who started slow but gained momentum later (II). Maximum number of states fall in the former category (III) - Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Karnataka, MP, Orissa, Assam, Manipur, Rajasthan and Meghalaya. Under level II, there are states like Maharashtra, Tripura, J&K, Arunachal and Nagaland which are on the road to recovery although they took time to pick up. While some big states face a crisis-like fiscal situation, the initiative has made state governments draw up concrete and time-bound programmes, the review notes. As of now, MTFRPs of 21 states are in place, while 13 states have signed up MoUs with the Centre.

From Economic Times, India, by J Padmapriya, 5 September 2003

IMF Team Urges Government to Ensure Transparency in Use of Funds

Islamabad - A high level IMF team has begun formal talks with the senior officials of the finance ministry on Saturday to review the steps taken by government of Pakistan for eradication of poverty. The meeting is also reviewing the utilisation of grant provided by IMF for the elimination of poverty from the country and the pace of implementation of projects initiated under this program. The IMF delegation, which is led by its Middle East Region chief, Clause Ander will stay in Pakistan for two weeks and hold talks with top officials of the Finance Ministry, CBR, and Ministry of Commerce, Planning Commission and Economic Affairs Division. Senior officials from Finance Ministry gave briefing to the delegation on Saturday in connection with the mode of utilisation of the aid provided by IMF under PRGF from April to June 2003. They informed the team that government of Pakistan is attaching tremendous importance to elimination of poverty program and has launched various projects and program at gross root level. IMF delegation stressed the need for just and fair utilisation of the aid provided under PRGF for the eradication of poverty from the country. It also underlined the need for implementation of an effective monitoring system of the projects besides ensuring transparency in the use of funds and allowing the benefits trickle down to common man. The delegation advised that the participation of district governments should also ensured in this entire process to achieve better results.

From PakTribune.com, Pakistan, 30 August 2003

Public Funds To Go To Private Banks: Saifur

The government has decided to divert public funds to private commercial banks (PCBs) as nationalised banks have failed to make a prudent loan portfolio, said Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman. "The nationalised commercial banks (NCBs) have huge capital shortfall. If they give Tk 100 crore loans, they can recover at best Tk 10 crore and the rest becomes classified. How they will give loans?" he said. The finance minister was speaking at a reception accorded to 27 borrowers of Bangladesh Shilpa Bank (BSB) who were adjudged the bank's best creditors in 2002-03. The BSB organised the function at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka on Sunday. As the NCBs' financial health has become weak, the government is trying to divert its fund to the PCBs in a bid to increase investment and generate employment that will ultimately reduce poverty, Saifur said. According to a proposal of the Finance Division, more than 10 years old PCBs should be entitled to have 20 per cent of the funds earmarked for the annual development programme (ADP) and 25 per cent share of corporate funds. Heavily criticising the bank loan defaulters, the finance minister said entrepreneurs criticise the NCBs, having 50 per cent market share, for not giving loans. "But how they will provide loans if the borrowers do not repay?"

Saifur said reform measures are on to stabilise the banking and financial sector and make it viable to help grow the real sector. Bangladesh Bank Governor Fakhruddin Ahmed also attended the function chaired by BSB Chairman Professor Abu Ahmed. BSB Managing Director M Ziaul Huq also spoke. Speaking at the function, the BB governor asked BSB to expedite its loan recovery drive by using the new law on money loan court. He observed that lending rate in Bangladesh is still high compared to any other neighbouring country. Professor Abu Ahmed said once the BSB had emerged as a 'hopeless case' but the situation has changed now. BSB's classified loan amount came down to 59 per cent from 72 per cent two years back, he added. Presently, BSB is providing loans to the entrepreneurs with good track record. The best creditors include Shamsuddin Spinning Mills, Techno Textile Mills, Monno Fabrics, Auto Spinning, Kader Synthetic Fibres, Nahid Cotton Mills, Mongla Cement Factory, Central Hospital, Wata Chemicals and Compath Ltd.

From The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 9 September 2003

Public Finance in South-East Asia - Hey, Big Spender

Narrow tax-bases and big stocks of debt mean that South-East Asian governments have little to spare for the things that matter - The article you requested is premium content. To read it, please log in, or pick a payment or subscription option, on the right. Economist.com Gift Vouchers are now available for either annual or monthly subscriptions. Simply choose your greeting card, write a personal message, and select a send date. We will then e-mail your personalised gift as requested. Print subscriptions to The Economist include a free subscription to Economist.com for the term of your print subscription (more about print subscriptions). If you already subscribe to The Economist in print, click here to activate your free online access.

From Economist, UK, 11 September 2003

Centre to Bankroll State Reforms

The Centre has decided to fund around 80 per cent of the "reform costs" of states. States will, however, be required to shell out the balance 20 per cent from their revenues. Finance ministry officials said the Centre would take on its books states' burden on account of reform measures like voluntary retirement schemes of public sector undertakings (PSUs), downsizing of PSUs, debt restructuring and other adjustments. "It will be through a blend of grants and additional open market borrowings," an official told Business Standard. These reform costs will be in addition to the Rs 10,607 crore incentive fund set up for states, following the recommendations of the Eleventh Finance Commission. For special category states, 80 per cent of the costs will be met by the Centre, but for other states, the support will be only to the tune of 60 per cent. These new incentives were finalised after the finance ministry's mid-term review of states' fiscal reforms between 2000-01 and 2004-05 revealed that they had fallen short of targets. The assessment showed that states had reduced the ratio of revenue deficit to revenue receipts by around 10 percentage points, against 15 percentage points targeted between 1999-2000 and 2002-03.

The officials said states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which had received structural adjustment loans from multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, would not be eligible for the new facility. According to the officials, the Centre has released Rs 2,714 crore from the incentive fund during the last two fiscals. In addition, it has allowed open market borrowings to the tune of Rs 2,363 crore for seven states, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Orissa. For special category states, the ministry has modified the minimum improvement to qualify for release from the incentive fund to a 2 percentage point improvement every year in the ratio of revenue deficit to revenue receipts, against 5 percentage points earlier. For other states, it will remain at 5 percentage points. For voluntary retirement schemes of PSUs to be closed or departments to be downsized, the Centre's support to states will be in the form of 50 per cent grant and 50 per cent additional open market borrowings. For special category states, the assistance will be in the form of 80 per cent grant and 20 per cent borrowings. In the case of downsizing of PSUs and restructuring to ensure their financial viability, the costs will be met through allocation of additional market borrowings.

From Business Standard, India, by P Vaidyanathan Iyer, 15 September 2003

 

Social Democratic MPs Submit Demands for Changes to Government's Public Finance Reform Plan

Ten Social Democratic Party (CSSD) deputies and one senator have submitted to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla a list of changes they are seeking in the government's public finance reform package. The list of demands sought by the MPs are modeled on proposals put forward by the country's biggest umbrella trade union association, the Bohemian-Moravnia Trade Union Confederation (CMKOS). While the CSSD's board gave Spidla its backing for the government's finance reform plans, Spidla will need every vote he can muster from CSSD MPs in order to push the reforms through parliament. Spidla said earlier that caving in to union demands would destroy the reform plan. Speaking to journalists after a meeting of the CSSD's leadership board, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the government would discuss the demands submitted by the group of MPs. Only those proposals that have the backing of the entire ruling coalition, which in addition to the CSSD includes the center right Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union, will have a chance of succeeding.

The finance minister added that he would certainly not support changes that would result in an increase in the state budget deficit. The 11 CSSD MPs and trade union reps are seeking a number of changes in the finance reform package, including assurances that sickness benefits will not be cut for the first three days of sick leave and that the retirement age remain unchanged. They also demand that years spent studying be included in calculations for retirement pensions and that social security payments increase. None of the MPs have said that they would categorically oppose the government's reform package if their demands weren't met. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has staked his future on the success of the reforms, saying that he would step down if they were not approved by parliament. The reform package is a combination of spending cuts and tax increases aimed at reducing the public finance deficit to less than four percent of GDP by 2006, down from the current 6 %. Over the course of three years, the reform plan should save some CZK 200 bn through cost-cutting while adding over CZK 70 bn to state budget revenues through higher taxes. Parliament is expected to vote on the package later this month.

From Interfax, Czech Republic, 4 September 2003

France in Choppy Waters at EU Finance Ministers' Lakeside Retreat

France was given a stormy ride by its EU partners Friday for flouting the budget rules governing the 12-nation euro zone, but appeared unrepentant despite the risk of multi-million-euro fines. European Union finance ministers gathered on the shores of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, in the shadow of the Alps, for what was billed as an informal get-together to take stock of economic developments. But the French government's defiance of the euro area's Stability and Growth Pact left it seriously out of step with other member states and the European Commission. Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes said he was "not reassured" by the French government's spending plans, and stressed it had to produce "clear and credible commitments" to reduce its swollen deficit. Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm refused to rule out the threat of court action if the Commission failed to push for fines against France for repeatedly breaching the deficit limit for euro countries. "I don't exclude anything to defend the interests of the Dutch people," Zalm said, when asked whether he stood by his threat to take the Commission to the European Court of Justice if it fails to bring France to heel.

Both France and Germany are on course to breach the 1997 pact's ceiling for public deficits - 3.0 percent of gross domestic product - for the third year running in 2004. That would raise the prospect of multi-million-euro fines, which would be decided by other member states at the Commission's recommendation. But while Germany reaffirmed its backing for the stability pact, France has insisted on the need to galvanize its struggling economy as it prepares to unveil its 2004 budget on September 25. Solbes' staff are due to review the French budget next month, and the commissioner said he would not shy away from recommending fines if necessary. "Sanctions are in the (Maastricht) treaty and in the regulations. I have said very clearly that we will apply the regulations," he warned after talks among the euro group countries. French Finance Minister Francis Mer committed himself only to getting his government's budget deficit back in line with the stability pact in 2005, a year later than sought by the Commission. While making no promises for 2004, he said France would "work at full throttle to make (the deficit level) credible" the following year.

The debate over the stability pact has intensified as the EU sinks deeper into economic trouble. The European Commission is forecasting the euro zone to grow by just 0.5 percent this year. But smaller member states, adamant that the heavyweights must not get special treatment, ridiculed Mer's assertion that the economic slowdown amounted to "special circumstances" that would allow the pact to be relaxed under EU rules. "If the rules are permanently disregarded, we have to take sanctions, otherwise the rules are worthless," Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser said. Friday's euro group meeting was to be followed on Saturday by a full meeting of the 15 EU nations including the three outside the common currency area - Britain, Denmark and Sweden. Saturday's meeting will come on the eve of a referendum in Sweden on whether to adopt the euro, which has become overshadowed by the murder of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh. Finance Minister Bosse Ringholm said in Stresa that Sweden would lose out economically if it remains outside the common currency area.

From EU Business, UK, 12 September 2003

Effective Public Finance Must Be Based on a Definition of Need

Recently, my brother, another benighted economist but with a different perspective due to a sojourn in Wales, arrived with two of his recent papers on the measurement of "need" between the four "countries" that make up the UK. He drew my attention to the work of other Scottish academics, notably David Bell at Stirling University and Iain McLean at Oxford. Such interest denotes an underlying problem: that the basis on which we treat need is indefensible, as is the proposed solution. In short, we need to sort out a sensible approach to need - particularly so in the Scottish case. It is a widely-accepted principle of public finance that equal citizens should be treated equally, no matter where they reside in the UK. If tax and public expenditure redistribute income from richer to poorer people, this process should also transfer income from the richer to the poorer countries of the UK. A progressive tax system works in this direction. However, if public expenditure is also to contribute to this process, then some attempt must be made to direct more public expenditure toward those countries with the greater need. First, consider actual devolved public expenditure per capita, as in the chart opposite, taking England Now consider two measures of "need". The first is GDP per capita, which is lower in the three other countries than in England. If these GDP differences were reflected in correspondingly higher devolved public expenditure then, for every £100 of public expenditure per capita in England, GDP-based devolved public expenditure would be £106 for Scotland, £127 for Wales and £132 for NI.

The second measure of need is social security expenditure, which is targeted on those in greatest need and whose payments, terms and conditions are identical throughout the UK. Social security expenditure per capita is higher for Scotland, Wales and NI. If these "dependency" differences were reflected in correspondingly higher devolved public expenditure then, for every £100 of public expenditure per capita in England, "dependency"-based devolved public expenditure would be £112 for Scotland, £119 for Wales and £122 for NI. These results may appear unremarkable in that public expenditure per capita is considerably higher in Scotland, Wales and NI than in England, and the latter has less need on our two measures. However, the Welsh have clear reason to feel aggrieved, as actual devolved expenditure per capita is, on the need comparisons with Scotland and NI, much lower than would be expected. Again, Scotland is generously treated compared to England as a whole. Moreover, public expenditure per capita is higher in Scotland than in English regions with lower GDP - the North East, the North West and Yorkshire and Humberside. In Scotland, special treatment was justified by reference to all manner of "special" factors - sparsity of population, the transport needs of the Highlands and Islands, the particular characteristics of our system of higher education, cold winters, social deprivation in some inner-city areas and estates etc. There was a good deal of rough justice in this, as most of us would readily recognise that the underlying issues required some redress.

But there was a good deal of rough injustice as well. The major problem in assessing "need" by such a process was that it is impossible to find a method that is widely acceptable and that can determine which factors should be included in assessing need, how they should be measured and weighted and then converted into appropriate levels of public expenditure. So the process of determining regional expenditure fell back on political log rolling. Very simply, Scotland and Northern Ireland had long enjoyed a seat at the top bargaining table and used this effectively. The English regions had no such built-in representation. Compared to the Scottish Office, the Welsh Office was a parvenu, having only been established in 1964, and it never had the same clout. The role of the Scottish Office was to recognise that Scotland had special needs and to push hard for these to be recognised in the public spending settlement. The role of the Treasury was to reflect these special needs but to keep the demands within reason. The latter was not too difficult in pre-devolution days because the effective political pressure was confined to the "Celtic Fringes" and the extra burden of funding higher public expenditure could be spread across a large body of, mainly English, taxpayers. Devolution made this situation more difficult to defend. The Needs Assessment Study of 1979 was undertaken because of the, then, expected devolution to Scotland and the desirability of finding a more defensible basis for Scottish public spending.

The study found that the level of public expenditure in Scotland per capita was higher than could be justified on a needs basis. Hence, the Barnett Formula, under which Scotland would receive, in future, a share of changes in English public expenditure based on the then existing population ratio. Of course, if one starts from a position that public expenditure per capita is higher in Scotland and then you increase such expenditure on a population share basis, then the relative advantage of Scotland would never entirely disappear but would become smaller over time. Devolution did not come in 1979 and for almost 20 years thereafter Scotland continued to enjoy much the same advantage in relative public expenditure per capita. However, the advent of devolution has recreated the position the Treasury faced in the 1970s and, not surprisingly, it has reverted to the old solution. That is, Scotland will receive a share of the increase in English public expenditure based on her population share, but the population share is to be revised each year. Moreover, the scope for log rolling is appreciably diminished. The so-called Barnett Squeeze is now in operation. If we continue down this route for any appreciable length of time, public expenditure per capita will increasingly converge on the English average - thus subverting the notion that relative need should be an important determinant of public expenditure. Let us go back to first principles.

The "need" we are referring to is surely some measure of command over goods and services - hence the use of GDP per capita above. However, an alternative, based on Rawls's "Theory of Justice", is to use a poverty-based measure, rather than an average income measure (such as GDP). Rawls puts particular emphasis on considering the lot of the most disadvantaged. He argues that low incomes and poverty contribute to ill health, educational disadvantage, to crime and to anti-social behaviour. Moreover, it is concentrations of the seriously disadvantaged that pose a particular challenge to public policy. On this basis, a poverty-based measure would be preferable to an average income measure as a means of determining relative levels of public expenditure by country. I find the dependency approach the more persuasive. Moreover, it has the merit of providing a better outcome for Scotland, and one can never ignore log rolling entirely. It is less generous to Scotland than the present situation, but we cannot be expected to get away with murder forever. A sensible approach would be to agree the concept of need we should apply, converge on the outcome over a period of time and then monitor and adjust the outcomes as further evidence dictates. This would yield a more sensible and politically sustainable outcome than present arrangements. These start from the wrong place and are heading for the wrong destination. An Irish observer might comment that we should not have started from here, but we should at least agree on where we are heading. Professor Sir Donald MacKay is a former chairman of Scottish Enterprise and Malcolm Group and is now chairman of Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Sir Donald Mckay, 15 September 2003

 

Brazil Stocks Trade Sideways Despite Tax Reform Vote

São Paulo - Brazilian stocks were trading sideways Thursday, with market participants saying that the approval of a key tax reform earlier in the day had already been factored in. At 11.50 am/14.50 GMT, the benchmark Brazilian index of blue chips, which closed the previous session at 15,633 points, was up a slight 0.16% at 15,658 on volume of some R$ 292.5 million. This was off an intraday low of 15,564 points. In the U.S., markets were mixed, with the DJIA slipping 0.10% and tech-heavy Nasdaq inching 0.12% higher. Brazil´s lower house of Congress approved the government´s proposed tax overhaul, in a first-round vote, in the small hours of Thursday. Although the tax legislation is backed by investors, the bill was widely expected to clear its first congressional hurdle despite resistance from opposing politicians and state governors. The São Paulo Stock Exchange (Bovespa) has been subject to bouts of profit-taking for several sessions, given that it has appreciated more than 38% this year.

According to traders, Bovespa hasn´t as yet succumbed to profit-taking because of increased trading volumes boosted by a comeback of foreign investors. Bovespa registered on Wednesday 55,545 transactions, its second best result ever, with turnover reaching a hefty R$ 1.1 billion. Petrobras, Brazil´s federal oil giant, was among gainers a short while ago, with its preferred and common shares advancing 2.19% and 2.01%, respectively. The rally followed news that estimated reserves for a natural gas field Petrobras discovered in the Santos Basin in April were revised to 400 billion cubic meters. The original appraisal was 70 billion cubic meters. Other risers were steelmaker CST (up 4.67%), oil company Ipiranga (up 3.45%) and beverages giant AmBev (up 2.77%). In losing territory were pay-TV carrier Net (off 2.63%), water utility Sabesp (common stock off 2.45%) and pulp and paper company VCP (off 1.87%). All fluctuations, unless otherwise specified, refer to companies´ preferred shares.

From AE Brazil, Brazil, 5 September 2003

The Laffer Curve, As a Public Service

On Wednesday, Patrick in Madison, Wisconsin rang me up to ask the following: "With regard to tax cuts stimulating more revenue to the federal government, where is the break-even point? I mean, we can't cut all taxes, so where is the point where you can't cut them any more because it's going to negatively impact the budget and revenue?" The Laffer Curve, which gave us the term "supply side economics," defines this very point. Economist Arthur Laffer jotted down this simple theory on a cocktail napkin, and it's brilliant in its simplicity. Depending on where tax rates are, you can reduce them some and stimulate economic activity that will then result in more treasury income and more taxpayers as a result of more jobs. Liberals have gotten away with making it sound like some of us think we can get away with no taxation, but that's not the case anyone is making. Everyone knows you can't cut taxes to zero. What people fail to realize is that you can go too far towards 100%, to a point where people will no longer continue to work. The goal is to strike the ideal tax rate of 15% to 18%.

The Russians, of all people, have enjoyed a huge boom with a flat tax rate. Nothing is more "fair" than everyone paying an equal tax rate. I believe that the government taking anything more than a quarter of someone's money is immoral. There's no way you can make the case that "fairness" is increasing somebody's tax rate simply because they earn more. It's not a crime to achieve, and it shouldn't be punished as if it is. Tax cuts are a sale on working, so the government gets more revenue. That happened when Ronald Reagan lowered the top marginal tax rate in 1986 and when JFK did it 25 years before that. Reagan cut out a lot of deductions to get that reduction, which has come back to bite the taxpayer as Congress has raised the percentages. I've linked to a lot of great stuff on this Laffer Curve business from the Essential Stack of Stuff. Read up on it, because it's key.

From RushLimbaugh.com, 11 September 2003

Tax Reform Commission Sets Two Town Meetings

The Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission will hold two town meetings this month to gather public opinion as it prepares a final report on how the city should restructure its tax system. On Monday, the commission will meet at Lea Elementary School, 4700 Locust St., West Philadelphia. A second meeting will be held the following week, on Sept. 22, in South Philadelphia, at J&A Catering, 1212 S. Broad St. Both meetings will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. The commission is asking people to register to testify in advance of the meetings at 215-686-2142. The commission's final report is due out in November, but it is moving toward recommending a wage-tax reduction and simplification in business taxes. The commission's most recent report is available at www.philadelphiataxreform.org.

From Philadelphia Inquirer, PA, 10 September 2003

Tax Windfall to Finance State Effort to Diversity Economy

Unexpected increases in state tax revenue probably will fund initiatives to diversify Florida's economy beyond its traditional tourism, real estate and agriculture, state officials said last week at a regional economic meeting. "Tax collections have been higher than expected," said David Bishop of Florida's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. "As we see more money coming in with the economy turning around, we can expect funding for the initiatives to be recommended in an economic-diversity plan for the state that will be presented to (Gov. Jeb Bush) in January." About 300 business, education, community and government leaders attended the Southeast Regional Strategic Planning Meeting in Deerfield Beach. The event, fifth of eight planned statewide, was designed for public input into a plan to broaden the range of industries that employ Florida's workers, state officials said. Leading the discussion, along with Mr. Bishop, were Secretary of State Glenda Hood; Darrell Kelley, president of economic-development organization Enterprise Florida; and Susan Pareigis, director of the state's Workforce Innovation Agency. They said their goal was to broaden the state's economy to create more "knowledge-based" jobs, which they said require a post-secondary education and would provide a higher standard of living for workers. A recent Florida International University study said 40% of employees in Florida earn less than $9 per hour.

Mr. Bishop said state funding for education would not be sufficient at current levels to accomplish the task. The current budget for public education of $14.9 billion represents 32.1% of the state's total budget - a little higher ratio than last year, the governor's office said. The entire education budget - including funds for community colleges and universities and includes state and federal funds - is $17.2 billion, not including student fees. State funding for higher education now is 3% to 4% higher than last year, state officials said. "The 2003-04 budget was exceptionally tight as we were recovering from the economic downturn," said Mr. Bishop, "although we were one of the few states that did not have to make draconian cuts or raise taxes. "What happened in that budget was the exception, and we expect money to fund the (economic-diversity) plan as it is completed," he said.

David Bruns of the Florida Department of Revenue said the state collected $173 million more than it expected last year in corporate income taxes, $205 million more in document-stamp taxes and $32.6 million more in sales taxes. Frank Nero, president of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County's economic-development agency, said that if more state money is not allotted for education, South Florida won't be able to raise residents' standard of living and will lose its chance to become one of the most diverse and dynamic economies in the world. "If we don't fund education and keep talking about creating economic diversity, we are talking out of both sides of our mouth," he said. "If there are no resources to fund that effort, then we should just admit that. "The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result," Mr. Nero said. "It is ironic that everyone says that education is top priority until it comes to funding it. "Maybe we don't have the money to go forward with all of our plans now, but when the economy rebounds, we need to be in a position to fund education to create knowledge-based jobs," he said. "You can't have knowledge-based jobs without the knowledge part." The last of the state's meetings on its economic plan is scheduled for Oct. 2 in Miami at a time and location to be determined, officials said. That meeting will focus on international marketing efforts and wrap up the series.

From Miami Today, FL, by Leslie Kraft, 10 September 2003

Huffington Proposes Public Finance Initiative

Repeating her claim that special interest money is the real bully in California politics, gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington filed a ballot initiative Thursday to publicly finance elections. "Again and again, when you are wondering why we don't have some commonsense policies, follow the money," said the columnist-turned-independent candidate. The measure would give candidates the choice of forsaking private donations for a pre-established pool of public money, similar to laws on the books in Maine and Arizona during the past two election cycles. To qualify for the money, Huffington said, candidates would have to collect a minimum number of voter signatures, along with $5 contributions per signature. That money would be deposited in a pool that would make up some of the public funding. Candidates would then get campaign funds that would match the average amount spent in that race in recent years. Huffington's campaign said the funding for the initiative would come from a new tax on oil extracted in California, allowing candidates to focus on public issues instead of fund-raising. "The advantage is that you're generating new money," said Jim Clarke, executive director of California Clean Money Campaign. "That doesn't take money away from health care, education, and things that are currently in the budget."

The initiative would also loosen the hold that large campaign contributors have on elected officials, Huffington said, which has been a focal point in the Oct. 7 recall election among candidates trying to replace Gov. Gray Davis. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat, and Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Northridge have come under fire for receiving support from Indian tribes with lucrative casinos. Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed stiffer penalties for campaign financing improprieties and also said he wants to ban fund-raising by lawmakers during much of the year. In a debate last week, Bustamante said he wouldn't have to rely on tribal money if campaigns were publicly financed, a comment that prompted cheers from Green Party candidate Peter Camejo, but scorn from McClintock. "Well there's a great idea," McClintock said. "In the middle of the worst fiscal crisis in this state's history we're going to take money away from the schools, away from health care, away from all the vital services of government and give it to politicians to run their campaigns."

Bustamante said during a news conference Thursday that he would like to review Huffington's measure. "I've always been a big supporter of these kinds of proposals," Bustamante said. Experts say that Maine and Arizona voters have already shown their approval of candidates who chose public financing. More than half of Maine's state representatives and over three-fourths of its senators were elected without raising private funds. "As a result, Maine was the first state to pass a form of universal health care," said Rick Bielke, communications director for Public Campaign, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit working for campaign finance reform. In California, Huffington said, "We don't have universal health care and it is because of the millions of dollars paid to politicians from drug companies, HMOs and the health industry." Last year, seven of Arizona's nine statewide officeholders chose to run using only public money - including the recently elected governor, Democrat Janet Napolitano.

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA, by Juliana Barbassa, 25 September 2003

 
 

JH to Review Toll Discount System for Privatization

Tokyo - Japan Highway Public Corp (JH) will review its discount toll system for large-lot users in line with the privatization of four road-related public corporations slated for fiscal 2005, JH President Haruho Fujii said Monday. "We will change the system if it is unfair to users," Fujii said at a meeting of a government advisory panel considering ways of privatizing JH and three other road-related public corporations. (Kyodo News)

From Japan Today, Japan, 2 September 2003

New Rush to Privatization

Healthier banks restive over Seoul's stakes - Kookmin Bank's president, Kim Jung-tae, told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that the bank wants to buy back the 9.3-percent stake, worth 1.3 trillion won ($1.1 billion), now owned by the Korean government. A Ministry of Finance and Economy official said the ministry is negotiating with several securities companies to sell its Kookmin Bank stake this year. The bank's shares have risen from 28,000 won ($24) earlier this year to yesterday's close of 45,350 won. Last year, the government had set a tentative target sale price of 50,000 won to 53,000 won per share, but the ministry official said yesterday the sale could come this year if market conditions are favorable. Mr. Kim said that the bank has assembled the capital needed for the acquisition by issuing hybrid bonds worth 600 billion won. The remaining 700 billion won would come from the bank's cash on hand. "We would comply with the wishes of the government in any negotiations, because ridding ourselves of the government holding would raise our credibility among foreign investors," Mr. Kim said.

Industry-watchers agreed, saying a completely private bank would add polish to the bank's image. Sources close to the bank said another reason for the interest in buying out Seoul's influence would be to strengthen Mr. Kim's position as head of the bank. Kookmin officials said they also want to buy the interest in the bank now held by the U.S. investment house Goldman Sachs. Perhaps prompted in part by punitive tariffs levied by the United States and the European Union on Hynix Semiconductor's exports, Seoul also is planning to sell its shares in other commercial banks. The rationale for the tariffs was that Seoul allegedly illegally subsidized Hynix by using its ownership influence to direct loans to the struggling firm. Government officials have said Seoul wants to disperse its current 87-percent ownership of Woori Bank among domestic and foreign investors.

Hana Bank is negotiating to buy back 9 percent of its shares held by the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation, which controls about 22 percent of the bank in total. The government also plans to sell its 48 percent interest in Korea First Bank, working with the U.S. investment fund Newbridge Capital, the bank's controlling shareholder. Some bank analysts said they expected that Korea First could be looking for a new owner soon; they argued that both the government and Newbridge have seen healthy capital gains in the bank's share price since the investment fund bought a controlling share in 1999. Han Sang-il, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Finance, said foreign investors who started investing in the Korean market immediately after the financial crisis are now trying to cash in, while investors only now entering the market believe that there is room for a further rise in the value the market places on domestic retail banks.

From Joongang Ilbo, South Korea, by Jung Kyung-min, Chang Se-jeong (imagin@joongang.co.kr), 5 September 2003

PC Realizes Rs 7.6 Billion Through Privatization

Islamabad - The Privatisation Commission has carried out the privatisation worth Rs 7.6 billion in the first eight months of present government. It was achieved through the sale of government shareholdings in the capital market by off loading government held shares of three entities POL, ARL and D G Khan Cement, privatizing ICP-SEMF lot and the recently received highest offers for Thatta and A C Rohri companies. This was informed to the PC Board meeting held here Saturday with Minister for Privatisation and Investment, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in chair, says a PC press release. PC Board recommended for the approval of Cabinet Committee On Privatization (CCOP), the improved bid offer of Rs. 9 per share. For the sale of 90 % shares of SCCP in Thatta Cement Company (TCCL) received from Al Abbass Group of Companies. This will fetch Rs. 646.173 million for the sale of 90 % shares of TCCL. In addition the Group would pick up the loan of Rs. 475 million. The bid offer of Rs. 255 million for A C Rohri Cement Company assets received from National Transport Company was also approved and recommended for CCOP's approval. The meeting was informed that the offer for sale of NBP Shares through Stock Exchange was being targeted during the coming weeks, while the Initial Public Offer of OGDCL and Public Offer of SSGC and PIAC would follow soon thereafter.

The Board was informed that six parties had been allowed to enter the data room for the HBL transaction, which is being opened next week. The meeting was also informed that 16 EOIs for NITL had been received and the transaction was progressing smoothly. Three potential bidders for Jamshoro Power Company (GENCO-1) submitted SOQs had been pre-qualified and they would be initiating due diligence shortly who have been asked to sign an agreement of Confidentiality. These included Crescent Group Consortium, Metro Securities Pvt. Limited and UBL. In FESCO 4 parties had been pre-qualified. These included Crescent Group Consortium, Rupaly Polyester Ltd, Fauji Foundation and UBL. They would also be undertaking due diligence of the transaction shortly. As regards the privatisation of PSO, the process of meeting the bidders had been completed and outstanding issues had been addressed. It was expected that bidding would be held in October. Exact date will be announced in consultation with the bidders.

Earlier, addressing the PC Board, the Minister for Privatisation and Investment said that Pakistan's image abroad And the investment climate had improved, which would help to Implement the Government's Privatisation Programme. He directed to hold frequent PC Board meetings to gear up The pace of privatisation and to meet the scheduled targets for HBL, PSO, FESCO, JPC and KESC and directed to accelerate the pace of The privatisation process of Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works, keeping in view the country's strategic needs. He also reiterated the Government's firm commitment that during the process of privatisation of public sector entities there would be no compromise on national security. The macro economic stability emerging through the continuity and consistency of the economic policies had attracted the investors from around the globe, which was a positive indicator, he added. Besides PC Board members, the senior officials of Ministries of Finance, Industries & Production, Defense and PC attended the meeting.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 6 September 2003

Corruption Advisory for Corporate India

BS Corporate Bureau Alarmed by the fact that almost 75 per cent of Indian corporates expect corruption to exacerbate in the near future, Transparency International has come out with guidelines to counter it. A set of do's and don'ts to handle bribery, facilitation payment, political contribution, charitable contribution and sponsorship. The guidelines say since facilitation payments are a form of bribery, enterprises should work to identify and eliminate them. It suggests the enterprise raise the issue at the highest level of the organisation from which demands for such payments originate. It adds that from the supply side, enterprises operating in societies where facilitation payments are prevalent can work with other enterprises to reduce demands from public sector employees by encouraging government agencies to implement control systems, provide adequate remuneration and build employee capacities. Transparency International says an enterprise should formulate a policy and criteria for political contribution.

It suggests that if an enterprise wants to support the political process on a non-partisan basis, it could use a formula such as the relative size of the principal political parties reflected by the number of seats won in the last election. Contributions should not be made when there is a prospect of business contracts or benefits arising in the short or medium term from the party being in the government. Transparency International, along with the Centre of Social Markets, is exploring with leading companies in the country to determine whether the dissemination and adoption of these principles should be taken up more widely. While the first such meeting was held in Delhi on Monday with corporates like Dabur and Oracle, another one will be organised in Mumbai with the Tatas and other big corporates. On charitable payments and sponsorships, Transparency International says an enterprise should ensure there is no potential conflict of interest that can affect a material transaction. For this, employees and business partners should be given training on avoiding conflicts of interest arising from contributions or sponsorships to organisations with which they have links. Also, the enterprise should monitor and track charitable contributions and sponsorships to make sure they accrue to the intended purpose.

From Rediff, India, 9 September 2003

Government Mulling Bond Issue As Part Of Privatization Plans

Hong Kong -Hong Kong government is considering a bond issue as one of the tools it could use in its long-term plan to privatize major state assets, a spokesman for the office of Financial Secretary Henry Tang said Tuesday. However, the government hasn't retreated from its position that it won't sell assets or issue debt simply to fund its operating deficit, the spokesman, Laurie Lo, said. While proceeds from a bond issue or asset sale could help the government trim its budget deficit, expected to reach a record HK$70 billion this year, he said any such revenue should go to fund long-term capital spending, such as infrastructure development. Citing recent remarks by Tang, the spokesman said the government has several options for how to privatize its assets. The first would be simply a direct sale to private investors. Other possibilities include a bond issue backed by a specific asset, without a commitment for a future sale, or a convertible bond that investors could later exchange for shares in a government company.

The spokesman said Tang was speaking in general terms, not about privatizing any specific asset. Tang, who was appointed financial secretary in August, announced as his first major policy move a plan to privatize the territory's Airport Authority, which runs its international airport. "The government has a plan for disposing of assets. If something can be done better by the market, we will let the market operate it," the spokesman said. In addition to the airport, the Hong Kong government has extensive property holdings, which make it the territory's largest commercial landlord. It also owns some transportation infrastructure, including the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp. (H.KCR). Hong Kong's last major privatization came in October 2000, when the government sold shares in light rail and subway operator MTR Corp. (H.MTH) in an initial public offering on the local stock market.

From Yahoo News, 9 September 2003

Pakistan to Hold Investment Conferences in Japan

Karachi - Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, federal minister for Privatization and Investment said on Tuesday that Pakistan intends to hold investment and privatization conferences in Japan to reach the private sector there. The minister stated this during a meeting with the Japanese ambassador to Pakistan, Minoru Shibuya. However, the statement did not give any specific time frame or schedule for such conferences. Shaikh believed that the conferences would create awareness among the Japanese private sector about investment and privatization opportunities being extended by Pakistan. "Our country provides attractive privatization and investment programs with remarkable incentives for the local and foreign investors," he said. "The proposed series of overseas investment conferences will provide an opportunity to the business groups and the investors to identify their fields of interest and to boost economic ties. "There is an urgent need to accelerate the pace of trade, investment and economic interaction between the decades-old friendly countries," Shaikh added.

He also told the Japanese ambassador that Pakistan was marketing its privatization program smoothly and successfully due to improvements in the investment climate at home and the better image of the country abroad. "The process of privatization was simple and most transparent," said Shaikh. "We look forward to Japanese investors groups [visiting] Pakistan to explore and identify the investment and privatization opportunities and to take advantage of the facilities being extended to the private sector." The Japanese envoy, Minoru Shibuya, said that his country was ready to further strengthen and promote bilateral economic ties. "Support would be provided to hold the proposed investment and privatization conferences in Japan to bring more closely the people and the private sector of both the countries," he said. Thus far, the privatization ministry has undertaken the privatization of state-owned assets worth Rs7.6 billion (US$131.6 million). Of this, Rs5 billion were grossed through the divestment of shares in certain public sector entities through the stock market during the past eight months. The privatization of mega projects like Pakistan State Oil, Habib Bank Limited, National Investment Trust, Faisalabad Electric Supply Company and WAPDAs (water and power development authority) Jamshoro power generating unit, are at an advanced stage.

From Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, 11 September 2003

Privatization Protest Hits Bangladesh

Bangladesh has come to a standstill amid a general strike called in protest at the government's privatisation plans. Schools, factories and ports shut down on Tuesday, while train services across the country were severely disrupted. Authorities said they had deployed around 5,000 extra police in the capital Dhaka, and increased security in the port city of Chittagong. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government sees privatisation as way of making companies more competitive. But unions and opposition parties fear job cuts, and say the sell-off of publicly owned firms is aimed at pleasing donors, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Shedding enterprises - The main opposition Awami League and a group of eleven left-wing political groups have backed the strike. 'The government is making us jobless instead of creating more jobs. We can't accept it,' said Shahidullah Chowdhury, a trade union leader. He added that he had heard reports of police harassing striking workers. The government has listed 100 state-owned companies for privatisation by 2005, at the cost of about 150,000 jobs. The World Bank has asked Bangladesh to dispose of 220 enterprises in the jute, textile, paper and food sectors to save state money for development and poverty alleviation. Finance Ministry officials said state-owned enterprises cost the country 30 billion taka ($513 m) every year. A nationwide strike was last called on 28 August to protest at the killing of two politicians of opposition Awami league.

From Matamat.com, Bangladesh, 16 September 2003

Privatization of City's Economic Enterprises Not Mandatory - Teo

Privatizing the city's economic enterprise units will always be an option, City Economic Enterprise head Engr. Roberto Teo yesterday said. However, Teo clarified that majority of the city's economic enterprises are earning revenues and have posted great improvement compared to past figures and statistics. The issue on privatization has been hounding the city's economic enterprises as most of these have become liabilities when they should be raking in additional income for the local government. But Teo said that a bulk of the units, especially public markets in Toril, Calinan and Agdao have posted substantial improvements. "Unlike before when all public markets are losing and funds are being allocated to subsidize (the markets) but now many of these markets have increased their income considerably," he explained. He added that operations of these markets have also improved. Teo said privatizing the city's economic enterprises is always the decision of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. "The mayor has the last say on this matter," Teo added. Earlier, Duterte said privatization will always be an option that shall be explored and pursued when most advantageous to the city.

From Mindanao Times, Philippines, 16 September 2003

Indonesia Pertamina/Directors: Part Of Privatization

Jakarta - The Indonesian government Wednesday named new directors for Pertamina (P.PTM) as part of plans to privatize the national oil and gas company in 2006, a government official said Tuesday. Roes Aryawijaya, a deputy to the state enterprises minister, told reporters the government named Arifi Nawawi, a former director at Pertamina, as president director, replacing Baihaki Hakim. He added that Hary Purnomo, an ex-director at the company was named as downstream director and Bambang Nugroho as upstream director. The government appointed Alfred Adrianus Rohimune as finance director, and Eteng Ahmad Salam as human resource director, Roes added. As of Wednesday, Pertamina officially became a limited liability company as part of moves to help it compete with foreign oil and gas companies after the government ended Pertamina's monopoly on Indonesia's oil and gas industry in late 2001, he said. An audit conducted at Pertamina after ex-president Suharto's fall in May 1998 found corruption and inefficiency caused the company an estimated $4.7 billion in losses from 1996 to 1998.

From Yahoo News, 17 September 2003

Ministry Spurns Privatization, Plans to Keep Final Say on Roads

The transport ministry refuses to relinquish control of the nation's highway projects and will submit bills that fly in the face of a government committee's privatization plans, sources said. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is preparing a package of bills related to the privatization of the four government corporations that administer Japan's toll roads. The package, currently being discussed by the ministry and the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, will be submitted to the Diet next year. But the bills will not revise key laws that govern toll road construction, meaning that the ministry will continue to have the final say in highway projects, sources said. The ministry's decision is certain to draw objections from the Promotion Committee for the Privatization of the Four Highway-related Public Corporations. The committee recommended in December that a new private entity take control over highway construction and decide on road projects based on profitability. The ministry is also posing a challenge to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has repeatedly said he will "respect the promotion committee's final recommendation." The debt-ridden public highway corporations have been criticized as a waste of taxpayers' money because of their approval of expensive-yet unneeded-road projects.

According to sources who provided the outline of the ministry's package of bills, the proposed legislation will likely duplicate three existing laws governing road construction. Under the package, two laws that govern construction and maintenance projects for highways will be left intact. The lack of changes to these laws means the ministry will continue to be the ultimate decision-maker in approving projects, regardless of profitability assessments made by the private entity. Another bill simply replaces the current Japan Highway Public Corp. with the new private entity. The bill also retains most of the wording in the existing law, which states the transport minister provides instructions to Japan Highway on road construction, and the corporation works as a proxy to the government in building and managing toll highways. The ministry is also expected to reject another proposal by the privatization committee. The committee recommended that the private entity collect tolls and use the revenue to buy the highways from an interim holding entity after 10 years. A current law stipulates the nation's toll roads are government assets. The ministry is unlikely to revise this law.

From Asahi Shimbun, Japan, 17 September 2003

Privatization Woes Unlikely to End

The privatization of the three postal services and the four road-related public corporations - two core goals of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's much-touted structural reforms--is certain to raise objections from many Liberal Democratic Party members, even if he is reelected as LDP president, observers said. In his campaign pledges for the LDP leadership race, Koizumi has proposed: - Compiling plans by around autumn next year to privatize the three postal services by April 2007. - Submitting a bill to the ordinary Diet session next year aimed at privatizing four road-related public corporations in fiscal 2005. However, discussion in the LDP leadership race so far has focused on economic and foreign policies, and there has been no active debate over the privatization of the postal services or road-related public corporations. This is partly because Koizumi has failed to present a concrete picture of his privatization plans, despite trying to shape the debate by presenting a schedule for privatization. However, Koizumi's three challengers--former Transport Minister Takao Fujii, former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shizuka Kamei and former Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura - also stopped short of debating the details of the privatization plans. Instead, Fujii merely criticized Koizumi by saying, "It's wrong to discuss privatization plans as if it's a given that postal services and road-related public corporations will be transformed into private businesses."

The four candidates thus have avoided discussing how to privatize the postal services and road-related public corporations, or even whether to do is appropriate. The three postal services currently operated by state-run Japan Post - postal savings, postal insurance and mail delivery - are linked to the four road-related public corporations, including the Japan Public Highway Corporation, through the government loan and investment program. The postal savings service is the core postal service. Under previous regulations, all postal savings had to be deposited at the Finance Ministry's Trust Fund Bureau. The funds were then funneled to public corporations, including the four road-related corporations, where they were spent on projects in a wasteful manner. Consequently, the four road-related public corporations became burdened with about 40 trillion yen in debt. In April 2000, the government launched reforms of the loan and investment program. However, there will be a seven-year transition period until these reforms are completed. Currently, postal savings are used to purchase a large volume of government bonds, creating government funds that are used to extend loans to and invest in public corporations, including the four road-related bodies. Given this, Koizumi, who has repeatedly stressed the importance of cutting national expenditures, sees privatizing the three postal services and the road-related public corporations as a cornerstone of his reforms.

Thanks to public trust in the state-run postal savings service, the total of outstanding postal savings currently stands at 231 trillion yen, which exceeds the combined amount of deposits at the four largest financial groups in the country at 216 trillion yen. Once this gigantic service is privatized, the flow of money in the country's financial market will change significantly. For this reason, business critic Naoki Tanaka pointed out that privatizing the three postal services is not a peripheral issue, but one that concerns the core of the nation's economic policy management. Politically, this is also an extremely controversial issue. The association of postmasters at state-commissioned post offices, an influential support group for the LDP, is opposed to the privatization of the postal services. In addition, because privatizing the four road-related public corporations is highly likely to slow the construction of expressways, groups with vested interests in expressway construction naturally oppose the plan. When Mikio Aoki, who heads the LDP caucus of the House of Councillors, announced his backing for Koizumi in the LDP presidential race, he clearly stated that he nevertheless objected to the privatization of the postal services and the road-related public corporations. Several Diet members, like Aoki, plan to support Koizumi in the presidential race, but oppose his privatization plan. Doubtlessly, Koizumi will find it more difficult to win support for his privatization plan from his party colleagues than to win in the presidential election, observers said.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Yomiuri Shimbun, 18 September 2003

 

Bulgaria Failed to Complete 28 Privatization Deals Jan-June

Bulgaria failed to complete some 28 of its scheduled privatization deals for the first half of 2003, Bulgaria's Dnevnik daily newspaper wrote September 7. The main reason for the miscarriage is reported to be lack of potential investors' interest toward those enterprises. However, the state Privatization Agency closed some 98 deals over the period and agreed on a total sale price of about BGN 251 M. Actual receipts by now are BGN 223 M, the newspaper said citing an official report of the Agency.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 7 September 2003

Parliament Considers Draft Program for Privatization in 2003-2008

Kyiv - The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine examined on Tuesday in first reading the bill on the State program for privatization in 2003-2008. The bill was submitted by the Cabinet of Ministers. Under the document, the main objective of privatization in 2003-208 is to raise social and economic effectiveness of production through completing large-scale privatization as a special social-economic project. Under the bill, the priorities of privatization, particularly, are modernization of companies, drawing into privatization of buyers having long-term interests in company development and meeting qualification demands set by the State Property Fund.

From Interfax, Ukraine, 11 September 2003

Italy Moving Ahead with Privatization of Alitalia

Rome - The Italian government on Tuesday said it would expedite plans to privatize state carrier Alitalia and complete an alliance with Air France. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin had a phone conversation Tuesday in which they discussed airline industry alliances. "The two premiers agreed that the development of alliances through consolidating European enterprises constitutes a common objective of the political economy, and they judged as positive the commitment on that account of Air France and Alitalia, which could also be extended to a possible alliance between Air France/KLM," an Italian statement said. "Premier Berlusconi underlined the intention of the Italian government to put into effect in a rapid timeframe these initiatives, including the process of privatization of the Italian company, aimed at favoring the acceleration of the European plan of integration of European carriers," the statement said. The government owns a 62 percent stake in the struggling airline. Plans to privatize Alitalia have been stalled for years. Alitalia Chairman Giuseppe Bonomi said Friday that the company was hoping to ally itself with Air France Group, which is in advanced discussions with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines NV on a possible merger.

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA, 16 September 2003

Privatization Results Won't Be Reviewed

The results of privatization in Russia won't be reviewed, although "there are cases of obvious violations", Alexander Voloshin, head of the Presidential Administration, said at a press conference in Baku on Tuesday. "In Russia, we have to gradually move away from the period of primary capital accumulation, without shaking the economic bases of the state's existence. One such bases is the inviolability of private ownership," he noted. Earlier, Arkady Volsky, President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, expressed concern over persistent attempts to review the results of privatization deals involving a number of large Russian joint stock companies. Mr. Volsky noted that, although privatization was carried out in the absence of some necessary laws and regulations, there were more urgent problems today - to modernize the Russian economy, to double the country's GDP and to increase the capitalization of Russian companies. He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had also reiterated this position. Mr. Volsky stressed that constant talk about the possible de-privatization and, as a result, the instability of owners, made Russia unattractive for investors. Attempts to review a number of privatization deals affected the ownership rights of a large group of citizens, he said.

From Gateway 2 Russia, Russia, 17 September 2003

 

International Banker Calls for Privatization

Merrill Lynch rep says Lebanese capital markets need boost - Merrill Lynch's Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa chairman, Paul Raphael, said that his company would raise Lebanon's ratings if the Lebanese government accelerated the implementation of some of the promises made during the "Paris II" donor conference and examined a broader and more creative set of economic reforms. "It would be the difference for us between staying neutral and rating Lebanon's eurobonds as outperforming," said Raphael. According to Raphael, Paris II gave the Lebanese economy a very solid shot in the arm, particularly in raising confidence. "It eased interest rates and any concerns over liquidity, but it also gave the country significant breathing room to implement some changes that we hope will be more permanent in nature," Raphael stated to The Daily Star during the Financial Markets Association's World Congress that was held in Beirut.

However, he said, the Lebanese government needs to quickly sell its state assets to the private sector because "our research highlights that it is one of the principal concerns for investors. Unfortunately, it seems to have been mired in the political struggle and we hope that a solution can be found soon. "At the same time, people have to understand that privatization is only one of several policy tools that the government has, and if done alone, without liberalization, setting up a proper regulatory regime and implementing other important reforms, would merely be a short-term solution." Privatizing state assets has also many ancillary benefits, such as creating liquidity in the local stock exchange by listing the companies on the somewhat non-existent Lebanese capital market. "The local capital market is a major problem, and privatization could significantly solve this issue," Raphael said. According to the chairman, Lebanon could boost its stock exchange by creating and listing a domestic money market, "which doesn't really exist," and creating domestic institutions through a regulatory process such as insurance companies and pension funds, "through which you would create capitalist investors in the capital market."

Raphael also advised on the possibility of extending by "three to five years," the yield curve for the Lebanese pound. All in all, Raphael believes that the government's debt management is "relatively effective, but the issue is the amount of the debt out there." He added that Premier Rafik Hariri's proposal to raise the Value-Added Tax and eliminate other taxes such as the income tax was worth being evaluated very carefully. "We welcome any measures that could help close the budget deficit gap, but it must be closely evaluated, and if it is implemented then it should be done within the context of a continuous fiscal consolidation," he said. Merrill Lynch recently extended its recommendation on the Lebanese eurobonds for the 11th consecutive month, and kept its market weight allocation unchanged at 3.4 percent in its model emerging markets' portfolio. The move reflected the still positive outlook on Lebanese paper, as the firm noted in its Emerging Markets Debt Monthly for September. But the investment bank did not have a strong preference for any particular bond, as the market is generally non-liquid. "We have a neutral position on Lebanese eurobonds since we don't think it will outperform or underperform." Merrill Lynch is one of the world's leading financial management and advisory companies with offices in 36 countries and private client assets of approximately $1.1 trillion.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, by Tarek El Zein, 15 September 2003

 

Seniors Will Converge on Washington to Oppose Privatization of Medicare; Their Message to Congress: Improve Rx Bills or Let Them Die

Hundreds of members of the Alliance for Retired Americans, which represents over 3 million union retirees and other older and retired Americans, will gather for the Alliance National Legislative Conference at the Hilton Washington & Towers, 1919 Connecticut Avenue, NW, for two and a half days of political action, activism and planning. The conference will focus on efforts in Congress to privatize Medicare and the grossly inadequate prescription drug benefit being considered by Congressional conferees. The bills are a shameful attempt to protect private insurers who are more concerned with profits than with reducing the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs. The Alliance disagrees with those who say any drug bill, no matter how bad, is better than no bill at all. As Congress returns from their August recess, the House-Senate conferees must fix the bills to provide a prescription drug benefit under Medicare that is affordable, universal, comprehensive and voluntary. The senior activists attending the Alliance's National Legislative Conference will be heard. They will rally in protest on Capitol Hill, and they will lobby their members of Congress. During the conference, attendees will hear from national labor and community leaders, elected officials and political strategists to help participants educate, motivate and mobilize older Americans into a major force to influence the 2004 elections.

Those scheduled to address the conference include: - Alliance members arrested while protesting the prescription drug bills; - Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO); Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); - John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO; - Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president, AFL-CIO; - Andy Stern, president, SEIU; - Guy Molyneaux, Peter D. Hart Research Associates; - Helen Thomas, former White House correspondent. Highlights of the conference include: - Rally and Lobby Day, Thursday, Sept. 4, 11 a.m., Upper Senate Park, Capitol Hill. Hundreds of senior activists will demand that Congress substantially improve the prescription drug bills. - Gala Banquet, Thursday, Sept. 4, 6:30 p.m., International Ballroom, featuring Helen Thomas, former White House correspondent and current syndicated columnist. The conference is open to press coverage. For more information, contact Ilana Sabban at the Hilton Press Office at 202-797-4833 or 4834, or visit http://www.retiredamericans.org. Contact: Ilana Sabban of the Alliance for Retired Americans, 202-974-8264; e-mail: isabban@retiredamericans.org; During the conference (9/3 to 9/5) call the Hilton Press Office at 202-797-4833 or 4834. Web site: http://www.retiredamericans.org

From U.S. Newswire, DC, 2 September 2003

WateReuse Association Recognizes Beneficial Water Reuse Program at Honolulu Treatment Plant; Water for Irrigation and Manufacturing Provided by Unique Reclaim Plant

San Antonio -A high-tech treatment facility that recycles wastewater for manufacturing and irrigation use was recognized today by the WateReuse Association at its 2003 symposium, being held here through Sept.10. A public-private partnership between the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (HBWS) and USFilter Operating Services, Inc. (USFilter) was presented with the "Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Water Use" award. The award recognizes programs that advance water recycling and preservation, sustain the environment and increase public education of water reuse. "Despite the fact that we're surrounded by an ocean, water is one of Hawaii's most precious natural resources. Our state-of-the-art wastewater reclamation facility enables us to maximize the use of reclaimed water, which allows us to then preserve and protect Hawaii's drinking water supplies," said HBWS Manager and Chief Engineer Clifford Jamile. Faced with prolonged droughts, dry winters and hot summers, Oahu's groundwater aquifers have been historically challenged in meeting the island's needs. During the late 1990s, the island's water issues were compounded by a federal consent decree requiring the City and County of Honolulu to recycle 10 million gallons per day of water by July 2001 and limit the amount of wastewater effluent discharged into the Pacific Ocean or face stiff penalties for non-compliance.

The answer came in the form of a public-private partnership. USFilter designed, built and now operates a 13-mgd (million gallons per day) facility that uses microfiltration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet and other technologies to recycle treated wastewater effluent and generate two grades of water. One grade is high in purity and sold to power and refining companies. The second grade is treated to the highest levels as regulated by the Hawaii State Department of Health and used by the City and County of Honolulu for irrigation purposes. "Every drop of reclaimed water we use for irrigation, industry and other non-drinking purposes allows us to save a drop of groundwater for use by citizens," said Jamile. "Efforts like this also help us keep rates down for the user because we've saved millions of dollars that would have been required to develop additional groundwater resources." According to the WateReuse Association, reclaimed water has been used for landscaping, agriculture, industrial processing and groundwater replenishment. "This award confirms the ability of the public and private sectors to work hand-in-hand to improve the quality of life for all citizens," said Mike Stark, president of USFilter Services Group.

USFilter's CMF(R) continuous microfiltration process removes particles and bacteria from the wastewater prior to a reverse osmosis treatment process also provided by USFilter. USFilter's Zimpro Products Hydro-Clear(R) filter system is used for wastewater polishing. "The WateReuse Association is proud to recognize the Honolulu Board of Water Supply's water reuse program and the benefits to their customers resulting from their public-private partnership with USFilter," said Wade Miller, executive director of the WateReuse Association. About the WateReuse Association - The WateReuse Association is a national organization whose mission is to increase the amount of high-quality water available for communities and the environment by promoting and investing in water reuse. The Association's membership consists of water agencies, public agencies, consulting firms, and local, state, and federal government agencies. WateReuse is involved in national advocacy, public education and outreach, and water reuse research. About the Honolulu Board of Water Supply - The Board of Water Supply is a semi-autonomous agency of the City and County of Honolulu. Its primary function is to provide municipal water supply to meet the domestic needs and fire protection for the island of Oahu. It is one of the 50 largest water utilities in the country.

From Business Wire, 9 September 2003

Court Sets Rules on Privatizing Services - It Imposes Limits on Civil Service Panel

In a ruling issued Tuesday with broad implications for any effort to privatize city services, the state Supreme Court upheld the Civil Service Commission's right to review contracts let by New Orleans mayors, but the court also limited the commission's ability to block such contracts. Mayors over the years have tended to clash with the commission, which represents the city's thousands of classified workers, complaining the agency ties the mayor's hands and impedes reform efforts. Commission advocates have countered that the commission was created to counterbalance the mayor's formidable power and to curb the excesses of mayoral patronage. Attorneys on both sides called Tuesday's ruling a victory, although representatives of Mayor Ray Nagin's administration were downright exultant. "I would argue that this decision is a total and complete win for the administration," said Chief Administrative Officer Charles Rice. City Attorney Sherry Landry said lower court rulings had given the Civil Service Commission wide latitude to veto contracts, while the high court's ruling makes clear that the commission's authority is "very limited in scope." "I think what this means is that the elected officials can do what they were elected to do," Landry said. "And that is to make the hard decisions that are necessary to determine what services should be provided, and by what method."

Gilbert Buras, attorney for the Civil Service Commission, did not disagree with much of what Landry said, but he pointed out an upside for commission members. For one thing, he said, the ruling enshrines the commission's right to review contracts, a right that is not enumerated in the state Constitution - and one that city officials argued the commission didn't have. "We think it's a good decision for us," Buras said. "It's a recognition of the commission's inherent powers to protect classified workers by reviewing contracts. I think the city and the commission have both gotten something out of this decision, by having their respective spheres defined by the court." The case before the Supreme Court stemmed from former Mayor Marc Morial's decision in 2000 to turn over management of the Municipal Auditorium and the Mahalia Jackson Theatre of the Performing Arts to a joint venture between SMG, which manages the Superdome and the New Orleans Arena, and a firm owned by Morial ally Stan "Pampy" Barre. But the ruling issued Tuesday will apply to various other privatization plans, some already in place, others still in the works. The biggest, of course, is the effort to turn over management of many of the Sewerage & Water Board's operations to a private firm - a deal that could be worth $1.5 billion over 20 years.

According to the proposed bid specifications, the contract would affect about 900 classified employees. John Wilson, a representative of the employees' group that is bidding for the S&WB contract, said he welcomed the Supreme Court's decision because it ensures the Civil Service Commission will have a chance to weigh in on any proposed privatization. The ruling presumably also applies to other challenges that have been made to contracts already in effect. The Civil Service Commission has sued to block the city's contract with Civil Sheriff Paul Valteau to provide security at City Hall, and the commission also has questioned the validity of a $5 million city contract with ACS Computer Solutions. In their ruling issued Tuesday, the justices agreed with lower courts that city officials erred in not allowing the Civil Service Commission to weigh in on the SMG-Pampy contract. And it directs the city to turn over the contract, which has been in effect for three years, for the commission to review. However, the ruling adds, the commission's review of that and any other privatization contract should be restricted to two questions: first, whether any classified employees will lose their jobs as a result of the privatization; and second, "whether the contract was entered into for reasons of efficiency and economy and not for politically motivated reasons."

The ruling goes on to point out that it is not up to the commission to determine whether city employees could provide the service in question or whether the contract being contemplated is a good deal. If the commission decides the contract violates the two-part test the court created, it should refuse to approve the contract; if city officials proceed with the contract anyway, the commission may sue, the ruling says. "I think the Civil Service Commission felt it had a pretty broad role to play in the letting of city contracts, and I think the court has said the role isn't as broad as they thought it was going to be," said Jim Swanson, a lawyer for SMG. Some parts of the ruling seem open to interpretation. For instance, there do not appear to be clear guidelines for determining when a contract is executed for "politically motivated reasons." "Exactly what the court intends as far as determining political motivation and the displacement of employees are issues reserved for the future," Buras said. "We have every expectation that the city and the commission can find ways to resolve these issues short of litigation."

From Times Picayune, LA, by Gordon Russell, 10 September 2003

New Poll Says Public Wants to See Privatization Deals

Ottawa - The Conservative government is trying to hide its privatization plans for Royal Ottawa Hospital, even though the public is demanding accountability, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees. According to a recent Vector poll of 1,023 Canadians: - 87% say P3 (public-private partnership) deals should be subject to public and media scrutiny; - 80% say governments should have to prove that P3s save money; - 64% say multinational corporations should not own public facilities such as hospitals. "The Eves government is making a last-minute secret deal with a multinational corporation to privatize Royal Ottawa Hospital," says Judy Darcy, National President of CUPE, "but the public isn't being allowed to see it. This shows Eves' contempt for democracy. No deal should be signed until we get all the facts. And nothing should be done that ties down a new government that doesn't like this deal." The government is modeling its hospital privatization plans after similar projects in Britain.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, says the P3 projects in that country have been a complete failure. There has been a 30% cut in beds and clinical staff, as well as cancelled operations and long waiting lists for surgery. "The British system is not one that we should copy," says Hurley, who traveled to Britain to study P3s there. "Now, Ernie Eves wants us to trust him that ROH privatization is a good deal. But why should we trust him if he won't even show us the contract?" Darcy and Hurley are calling on Eves to release the details of the deal before Ontarians go to the polls on October 2, so voters can pass judgment on the plan. If Eves doesn't release the deal, CUPE is prepared to go to court and force an injunction. "This whole process has taken place behind closed doors, between the premier and his financial backers," says Darcy. "Polls show that the public demands accountability, and that's what the public deserves."

From Canada NewsWire, Canada, 10 September 2003

Detroit Union Seeks Privatization Law

City Council is urged to establish guidelines for contracting services - The head of the city's largest employees union has called on the Detroit City Council to pass a law that would require Detroit to establish guidelines on how it can contract city services out to private companies. Al Garrett, whose American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 represents about 5,400 city workers, told the council he is amazed that the ordinance has taken so long to be established. In 1996, Detroiters approved a measure that would establish a process for the city to hire private companies to provide services. The guideline must be approved by an ordinance, but the council has been unable to agree on the language since then. The ordinance should have been approved 180 days after the election. "We've delayed it long enough, and we've got to move forward," Garrett said. "It's shameful to say that some of the folks who were elected then are no longer here. If you don't get moving on this thing, some may not be here when it's finally enacted." Garrett and the leaders of other city unions want to see the guidelines passed because they want controls over how and what functions the city privatizes. Privatization has helped other big cities save money and improve services, its proponents argue. But unions resist it because the practice takes jobs away from their members. "City workers can do the job, and given the opportunity will do the job better than anybody else," Garrett said.

The council is currently reviewing its latest version of the ordinance that was submitted by President Maryann Mahaffey in July. Neither of the three other drafts had enough support to pass through the council. Now Mahaffey, along with JoAnn Watson and Sharon McPhail, said they are ready to move forward with the latest ordinance. Each would like it passed by the end of the month. Mahaffey's draft calls for the city to present to the council a report that details the need to privatize a service; provide a written estimate of the cost to the city department that would no longer offer the service; and give city workers a chance to bid on the service. "We ought to do it because it's a matter of law," Watson said. "Council should have done it immediately after it was voted on. We ought not to just address it from the concept of the ordinance, but to police it. We should monitor contracts regularly." But Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said the council must decide whether the ordinance should either outline how the city should go about privatizing services or outline restrictions on the practice. "They are two different strategies that we are going to have to work through," Cockrel said. "Which is the one that meets the objective and does not have any problems to hamstring the process? I really think they have to be looked at." The council is set to meet again on the issue in about two weeks. At that time, the council should receive a report from its research arm examining each version of the ordinance. You can reach Darren A. Nichols at (313) 222-2396 or dnichols@ detnews.com.

From Detroit News, MI, by Darren A. Nichols, 10 September 2003

NDP Rips Tories over Privatization

Brampton, Ont. - The risks that Ontario Tories have taken with the public's health and safety border on criminal negligence, NDP Leader Howard Hampton said Thursday, adding that the meat inspection debacle should have cost the minister responsible her post long ago. Amid reports the government of Premier Ernie Eves was warned one year ago that failures in the meat inspection system have led to an increased risk of food-borne illnesses, Hampton chastised the ruling party for slashing the number of full-time inspectors and bringing in part-time contract workers with less experience and training. He said such cost-cutting measures led to the tainted-meat scare centred in Aylmer, where a processing plant had its licence suspended last month while its operations are being investigated. "This government is taking huge risks with people's health and safety, which border on criminal negligence," Hampton said from this community northwest of Toronto, where he linked the scare to the Tory platform of private power, private hospitals and incentives for private schools. "But if you believe that the market should rule, if you believe that as the government does, that those who have the thick wallet should be able to buy better services in the private marketplace and the rest of us who can't afford to pay should get less, that's how this happens." Hampton was quick to react Thursday to an internal government document obtained by the Toronto Star that said meat-inspection laws and regulations were outdated. The Toronto Star reported Thursday that a memo about tainted meat was presented to cabinet by Agriculture Minister Helen Johns in April 2002, the same month Eves was sworn in as premier.

The document recommended improved staffing and stricter standards that were never adopted, the newspaper said. Johns, who has been unavailable to speak with reporters, disputes the report, calling it "inaccurate and inflammatory." In a letter to Eves, Johns said Ontario's meat-inspection and food-safety programs are "fundamentally sound." Johns added that the memo in question was among nine draft policy submissions developed between March and November 2002, and "to suggest the government 'failed to act' on the draft policy submission is totally wrong." But Hampton said Thursday that Johns should not have continued to hold her cabinet post as long as she did, given the government's inaction on those early warnings. "There is no reason why Helen Johns is still the minister of agriculture and rural affairs," Hampton said during an evening campaign stop in Ottawa. "To be warned by the provincial auditor, to be warned by the meat-packing industry itself, to be warned by ministry officials in a cabinet submission that is very clear and very strong in its language, and still to have done nothing - this is a minister who should have been gone a long time ago." Since the election campaign began last week, Hampton has seized on public health disasters such as the meat scare, the tainted water disaster in Walkerton, and the recent power blackout to illustrate gross mismanagement by the Tories.

E. coli in Walkerton's drinking water killed seven people and sickened thousands more and at least one death in the Toronto area has been blamed on the power outage. Hampton said if his party is elected Oct. 2, he would end measures that put publicly run services in the hands of profit-driven corporations. His criticism focused on Eves in particular when he scoffed at Tory campaign ads that hail the premier for making the province "strong and safe." "Ernie Eves has left Ontario citizens at risk and vulnerable, not strong and safe," Hampton said from a campaign stop in Lindsay, near Peterborough. "He's turned his back on health and safety in the inspection of meat. That's not leadership. More than ever, we need a public inquiry." Hampton took his "public power" message to the Brampton site of one of three private hospitals - the others are in Markham and Ottawa - slated to be built in the province. He linked the plan for the William Osler Health Centre to privatization measures already in place in the meat and water inspection systems, and predicted it would result in poorer health-care services. "This is a repetition of mistakes of Walkerton, the mistakes of Aylmer, only now they're going to do it in the health-care system," he warned as about 50 supporters waved placards. "This is wrong from the beginning and every Ontarian should rise up and say it's wrong." Hampton said private hospitals end up costing taxpayers far more than a publicly funded facility because of added costs to support private executive salaries, the higher cost of borrowing for a private corporation, and the 15 per cent profit margin a private company would seek. "You pay for it over and over and over again," he said.

From Winnipeg Sun, Canada, by Cassandra Szklarski, 12 September 2003

Medicare Privatization Not a Sure Thing

House and Senate Medicare bills before a congressional conference committee call for making private health plans more fully a part of the senior health insurance program but analysts are concerned history might repeat itself and the entire program could fail. Republicans contend managed care efficiencies and market-based pricing can provide better care, while operating more efficiently and costing less than traditional Medicare - a $242 billion program. Analysts, however, point to lessons from Medicare+Choice program, the program's managed care option. The biggest of those lessons is managed care plans that participate in Medicare+Choice today are doing so at payments higher than 100 percent of the traditional program rates - in some areas up to 140 percent. Plans found they could not make a financial go of the program for less. Hundreds of plans pulled out in the late 1990s because the government's payment formula was not enough to allow them to make money, given their double-digit overhead percentages and an elderly and more sickly risk pool. As a result, many insurers remain skeptical about contracting with the government. Skepticism abounds as well that any attempt to privatize Medicare might not only fail to save money but also end up being a party the government throws and no one shows up - again. By wide margins, seniors in traditional Medicare say they love it.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates about 9 percent of Medicare beneficiaries by 2013 would join up should the Senate bill pass, compared to 11 percent for the House version - slightly lower than the current enrollment for Medicare+Choice. The government is hoping far larger numbers will sign up - the same optimism it had when it launched Medicare+Choice in 1997. Both the House and Senate bills contain financial enticements and risk corridors. They define the amount of financial risk for which health plans and the government will be responsible should healthcare spending exceed estimates. They will be key in determining whether plans will participate. The corridors are more generous to the plans through 2008 - to entice them to bid for Medicare business. "The extra payments that are being put into the system up to 2010 in order to entice PPOs into the program will erode because of the (Medicare plan) bidding system," said Joseph Antos, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "The only problem is that once you get to the point where you've eroded all of the additional payments ... PPOs will drop out of the program because they won't be able to make any money." Antos said in the end, the privatization efforts in the House and Senate bills will be Medicare+Choice repeating itself and "PPOs will disappear from the program." "Assume there will be a risk adjuster and everything will turn out fine, and the problem is we don't know that that's going to be the case at this point," said Marilyn Moon of the American Institutes for Research in Washington.

Health plans have taken a wait-and-see attitude. They have told Congress about the importance of the risk corridors in gaining plan support but are waiting for the final bill language. Brian Biles, a professor at The George Washington University in Washington, told an Alliance For Health Reform-sponsored Medicare briefing that in talking with health plan representatives, his research shows they are looking to see whether the Medicare proposals will be good business. "The major issue is simply that the overall rate of increase in Medicare costs has not been as great as the overall increase on the employer side, and so, in finding the most attractive business opportunity ... the employer market is simply much more attractive at this point then Medicare," Biles said. As for participation by insurers in drug-only plans for the prescription coverage, it is anyone's guess if there will be any. Such plans are uncommon because insurers like to spread out their risk. A mix of people with various levels of health is desirable because the healthier tend to use fewer services and help pay for the extra services used by the chronically ill. In a drug-only plan, that becomes difficult because seniors as a group are more likely to have one or multiple medical conditions, are more likely to have chronic illness and therefore are more likely to use multiple medications - leaving a smaller group of healthy individuals in the balance. The bottom line could be confusion for seniors if they are forced to switch plans or return to traditional Medicare because health insurers do not stay in Medicare. Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International.

From United Press International, by Ellen Beck, 13 September 2003

Medicare: Privatization Is the Key

Washington - This is the fifth in a series of UPI articles giving context and background as Congress debates expansion and reform of the U.S. Medicare program. House and Senate bills that would bring a prescription drug benefit to Medicare also contain measures that would link the government-run senior health insurance program more closely to private health plans. There is wide bipartisan support for adding an outpatient prescription drug benefit to Medicare, but the idea of further "privatization" in the Senate and House bills has opened a political rift between Republicans who support it and Democrats who insist it will destroy the 38-year-old social insurance program. "It's a cold-hearted Republican attempt to kill Medicare without getting any blood on their hands or suits," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who in 1965 successfully fought for passage of the original Medicare program. "The Republicans ... they are a fine congregation of snake oil salesmen ... but this is a wonderful example of shoddy merchandising," Dingell said. "If we don't make some changes to the current Medicare program, it will go bankrupt," said Pat Morrissey, deputy staff director of the House Energy and Commerce committee, which helped push through the House Medicare bill. "(It's) very modest reform," he told reporters at a Medicare update sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform.

Traditional Medicare remains a separate entity in both versions, and the Senate and House each have revamped Medicare+Choice and renamed it Medicare Advantage. The Senate bill, which holds the support of at least some Democrats, would allow preferred provider organizations - more loosely structured managed care networks - into Medicare Advantage to provide the health package and drug coverage. PPO plans, just like stand-alone drug plans in the prescription drug coverage proposal, would have to submit bids to cover all seniors within a region. Medicare would select the three lowest bidders. The House plan allows PPOs but also sets up a new feature, called enhanced fee-for-service, using private health plans to provide the traditional Medicare benefit. The bill also has a three-plan limit. The payment structure for PPOs is very complex. It is a combination of plan bids and government subsidy, modified and backed up by risk adjustment, which is determining payments based on the health of beneficiaries because sicker seniors use up more and more costly medical services. The government would set a benchmark payment for each service area. In the Senate bill, plans that bid higher than the benchmark would recoup the extra money via higher premiums from beneficiaries. Plans bidding below the benchmark would have to make up the difference by lowering cost sharing or deductibles - or providing seniors additional benefits.

The House bill is similar but plans bidding less would have to make up only 75 percent of the difference to beneficiaries. If this were the extent of the privatization, many more Democrats likely would vote for either the House or Senate bill. In early negotiations, Democrats insisted Medicare reform preserve the traditional program. Republicans agreed but in the House bill added "premium support," an attempt to rein in future program spending when the 76 million baby boomers begin reaching age 65 in 2011. "I think the idea behind premium support is to have a more rational outcome," said Joseph Antos, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "The basic idea is to let beneficiaries choose from among competing health plans in the Medicare program. Let plans have some flexibility to tailor specific packages of benefits, set the premiums and so on. "The idea is to have plans actually act like other companies and other industries and recognize that their job is to try to provide a product or a service that is attractive to beneficiaries," he added. This is the big sticking point. It is contained only in the House bill and Democrats have called premium support a "deal breaker" in conference committee negotiations. Beginning in 2010, the House bill would make traditional fee-for-service Medicare compete with Medicare Advantage and private fee-for-service plans.

The bill also would establish which U.S. service regions were "competitive," defined as at least two Medicare Advantage or enhanced fee-for-service plans having at least 20 percent penetration or the national penetration rate. In competitive areas, the program would set a benchmark for covering average costs, taking into consideration both fee-for-service Medicare and managed care plans. Beneficiary premiums would be determined by comparing plan bids and traditional Medicare rates to the benchmark. Traditional fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries would pay more for their Part B premium - which now covers physician care and other healthcare services apart from inpatient care - if the benchmark was lower. Beneficiaries would receive 75 percent of the difference if the benchmark came in higher. Uwe Reinhardt, a Medicare expert and professor at Princeton University in New Jersey, told United Press International the GOP has long wanted to turn Medicare from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program. That is what would happen if the government's subsidy was limited and tied to private plans, he said, adding the idea is to shift financial exposure from the wider base of all taxpayers, who pay for Medicare through payroll and general fund taxes, to the elderly who pay premiums. Reinhardt said that type of change would "whittle away at the traditional Medicare program." He characterized the argument as being over "generational burden sharing."

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who voted for the Senate bill, told ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" on Sept. 7 he will not support the House version. "If the Republicans insist on dismantling Medicare by their premium support provision that is included in the House bill, I will fight with every bit of energy that I have against that particular proposal because that will be the dismantling of the Medicare system, which Republicans have traditionally and historically wanted to undertake," Kennedy said. There are threats of a Senate filibuster occurring if the final bill contains the House privatization language. Kennedy said the only way a bill will pass this year is if President Bush becomes actively involved in the negotiations. Supporters contend premium support does not spell ruin for the traditional program. Rather, they argue, it could help keep costs down. "That doesn't mean the government is cut out of this," Antos said. "The government would continue to have a major role. You can't take the government out of the Medicare program for a couple of reasons. One is there will continue to be very large subsidies from tax payers to beneficiaries. There's the government role, the government at a minimum must serve as a good fiduciary and make sure that fraud isn't being committed in the program, but beyond that the federal government really has a very strong obligation to provide consumer protection."

Morrissey said the House bill would not lead to an uneven playing field for traditional fee-for-service beneficiaries because payments would be adjusted for sicker beneficiaries. A letter issued by Senate Democrats this summer said the House bill would allow the "wealthiest and healthiest" seniors to join the PPOs, leaving the sick and the poor to traditional Medicare. It said the final bill must not give seniors "false choices that coerce them into leaving conventional Medicare to enroll in HMOs and private plans." If it is true, as critics say, that traditional fee-for-service Medicare is more efficient than managed care, Morrissey noted, then seniors in that program have nothing to worry about because the benchmarks will come in higher than the costs and their premiums will be reduced. If not, the structure for beneficiaries to pay higher premiums based on benchmarks would be phased in over five years so it did not hit all at once. Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center in New York City, told UPI the risk of tying Medicare fee-for-service to such a benchmark is it could raise premiums substantially and jeopardize the ability of many low-income or fixed-income seniors to afford Medicare. "There will be winners and losers, but the winners will inevitably be the comparatively younger and healthier," Hayes said. "The losers will be the older and sicker folks who will be squeezed out."

On the other hand, there is no evidence that privatizing Medicare will save money for the $242 billion a year program, which experts predict will be insolvent by 2026 even without a prescription drug benefit. Private plan premium increases annually have been in the 12 percent range. The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program spending per participant is expected to increase by 15 percent in 2003 compared to Medicare per beneficiary spending, which is targeted to rise by just 4 percent, according to studies by The Commonwealth Fund in New York City. Traditional Medicare also runs at about 3 percent overhead - compared to double-digit overhead figures for private health plans. Another controversial part of the privatization measures in the House bill: health savings accounts, which essentially are medical savings accounts. The accounts - to which beneficiaries would contribute - offer tax advantages and would be combined with high-deductible healthcare plans. Seniors would pay less for the insurance and draw from the account to pay for healthcare services not covered by the insurance plan. Their estimated cost is $173.6 billion over 10 years. Critics say, however, if that much money exists in the budget it should be included to provide or enhance the prescription drug benefit.

From United Press International, by Ellen Beck, 12 September 2003

Police Unions to Fight Prison Privatization

Tallahassee - Groups launch ballot amendment effort - Florida's police officers and prison guards are fighting off advances by the for-profit prison industry, seeking a constitutional amendment that would keep government in control of state penitentiaries and county jails. The Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents some 30,000 law enforcement, corrections and probation officers, launched a petition drive for the amendment after privatization lobbyists convinced Gov. Jeb Bush's office last month to propose a privately built prison in Northwest Florida. The Legislature rejected the privatization deal, part of Bush's $65 million bailout for the state's crowded prison system. The PBA's constitutional amendment, for the November 2004 ballot, would ban private companies from running state prisons, and also county jails, probation services and juvenile offender centers. The police union also is turning to clergy for help, saying it's the government's job to rehabilitate inmates. "We're abdicating that responsibility by giving it to a for-profit corporation that profits off the mistakes of human beings," said union lobbyist Ken Kop-czynski. While some religious organizations already oppose prison privatization, Mike McCarron, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference, said his advocacy group has yet to decide if it will assist in the police union's petition drive. "The points made are alarming, if nothing else, and deserve some attention," McCarron said. "It would be a reason for concern for us."

Prison operator Wackenhut's lobbyist called the PBA's constitutional amendment "short-sighted," contending the real reason the union opposes private prisons is because their employees aren't unionized. "It's purely self-interest on their part," Damon Smith said. Private prisons also aim to operate more efficiently, employing fewer workers. Private pressure - The union's efforts come as two private prison companies, Wackenhut and Corrections Corp. of America, renegotiate their existing Florida prison contracts worth $76 million in 2001, and reach out for a bigger share of the lucrative corrections market. Florida alone made up 14 percent of Wackenhut's revenue in 2002. Nashville-based CCA runs a prison in Panama City, one in Gadsden County that houses women, and another in Lake County for juveniles. Wackenhut, based in Boca Raton, operates prisons in Moore Haven and South Bay. The company, which has 21 percent of the nation's corrections market, is expanding into holding centers for illegal immigrants and mental health institutions. So when Bush suddenly announced during last month's special legislative session that Florida needed an emergency $65 million to build new prison beds, lobbyists for the two companies already had greased the skids. Legislation proposed by Sen. Victor Crist, R-Temple Terrace, and Rep. Bruce Kyle, R-Fort Myers, would have set aside $75,000 for Florida's private prison oversight group, the Correctional Privatization Commission, to obtain bids for an unspecified 1,800-bed facility. Among those lobbying for it were CCA and Wackenhut.

Those companies, along with competitor Cornell Companies Inc., donated more than $274,000 to candidates and political parties in 2002. A 'public issue' - The Senate architect of the plan said the bill came directly from Bush's administration - despite a July 2002 pledge by the campaigning governor to not seek more private prisons. "The original bill was recommended to us by the governor's office," Crist said. "The PBA went ballistic." Among the lawmakers who objected was Rep. Mitch Needelman, a Melbourne Republican and former law enforcement officer who amended the governor's privatization provision out of the House bill. "The control of individuals who have had their rights removed by the state is a public function, not a private one," Needelman said. The proposal caught even the head of the state's prison oversight panel by surprise. "It's news to me that the governor was promoting private prisons to build the beds," said John Fuller, executive director of the Florida Corrections Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor. Within 48 hours, the idea was dead. "At the last minute, the governor wanted it out," Crist said. Kyle did not return phone calls on the matter. Bush did not respond to questions, but his press office said the governor's privatization proposal did not break an earlier campaign pledge to the PBA to not seek further private prisons. "He thinks this is a public issue, and by and large, most of the prison beds ought to be operated by the government," Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj said.

From The News-Press, FL, by Alisa LaPolt, 16 September 2003

NYSE Faces Governance Question

Commentators say the real scandal at exchange lies in a structural conflict of interest, writes Barrie McKenna. In the post-Enron era, New York Stock Exchange chairman Richard Grasso stood tall against the forces of darkness buffeting Wall Street. He talked tough and said all the right things to reassure investors, calm his corporate clients and keep U.S. government regulators at bay. "Good corporate governance starts with the message at the very top," Mr. Grasso pronounced last year. "We in the private sector are as outraged at the conduct of the numbers of companies that have failed their owners and their employees as their owners and employees are." Mr. Grasso was at the pinnacle of a successful career at the NYSE - the self-regulated body that runs the world's most important stock market. Fortune magazine celebrated the squat, gravelly voiced 57-year-old with the signature shaved crown as "the man who saved the New York Stock Exchange." Now, with the NYSE board accepting Mr. Grasso's resignation as a result of the furor over his $140-million (U.S.) -plus compensation package, the question is whether his departure can save the exchange from the corporate governance scandal. Investors, stock market insiders and U.S. federal regulators are wondering whether the head of the NYSE can be both a watchdog and an industry booster. Even as Mr. Grasso leaves, the NYSE is likely to be the next icon of Corporate America headed for an ethical makeover.

Speculation is rife that the NYSE will recommend the splitting of the chairman and chief executive officer jobs (both are now held by Mr. Grasso), plus possible changes in the selection process for key exchange committees, most notably, the compensation committee that okayed Mr. Grasso's pay package. Those decisions, however, could soon be out of the NYSE's hands. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is reviewing the NYSE's governance practices, including thousands of pages of documents. Speaking to a U.S. congressional hearing yesterday before Mr. Grasso's resignation, SEC chairman William Donaldson, a former NYSE chairman, ducked the question of whether Mr. Grasso should step down. But he vowed that the SEC would invoke its regulatory authority to ensure that the NYSE deals with "concerns" about its corporate governance problem. And he seemed to be already looking beyond Mr. Grasso. "I think we've got to put this in the context not of personalities but of procedures," Mr. Donaldson said, adding that he hoped the publicity surrounding the scandal would compel the NYSE to review its internal mechanisms.

Critics say Mr. Grasso's leadership wasn't the root of the NYSE's problems. "It's not simply that Richard Grasso is getting too much money," said John Coffee, a securities law professor at New York's Columbia University. "The fundamental structural problem involves the tension between [the NYSE chief's] role as a regulator and his role as an entrepreneur. If the industry can compensate him at extremely generous levels it may influence the level of activism he shows toward them." Splitting up the chairman and CEO jobs or cutting the NYSE chief's pay may not be enough to fully eliminate conflict of interests, Prof. Coffee argued. The ultimate answer may be for the NYSE to hive off its regulatory function over brokers and public companies from its role in promoting the exchange's listing business, he suggested. And that may require the creation of a separately regulated subsidiary. Far from being a beacon of light - as Mr. Grasso pledged last year - the NYSE has repeatedly neglected some of the basics of good corporate governance that have plagued public markets, remarked Thomas Donaldson, a professor of business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school of business.

The NYSE has shown a lack of transparency and failed to shield itself from potential conflicts of interest by putting industry players on its compensation committee, he said. Even more fundamentally, the NYSE's tendency towards "insulated arrogance" has caused it to forsake some of the basic rules of integrity. "Good people can override bad structures," Prof. Donaldson noted. Other critics argued that the NYSE needs a far more radical overhaul. Lawrence Mitchell, a law professor at George Washington University and author of Corporate Irresponsibility: America's Newest Export, said the SEC should consider whether the public markets can regulate themselves. "It's completely unseemly," Prof. Mitchell said of the Grasso compensation scandal. "How can you be regulating responsibly and authoritatively if you are trying to grab every penny you can for yourself?" he asked. "Those two things are incompatible." If the NYSE chief wants to be a full-time salesman, building up the exchange's business, then he can hand over his regulatory hat to the government, he said. "But as long as [the NYSE chief] is going to be a regulator, he has to be a leader as well," Prof. Mitchell said.

From The Globe and Mail, Canada, by Barrie McKenna, 18 September 2003

 

World Bank Wronged Over Privatization

The Bank is clear despite misinterpretations: Full-bore privatization remains the best course for any country concerned about its citizens - News sometimes travels slowly, and with the accuracy of a broken telephone. In April, a World Bank report reflected on privatizations that went wrong. In July, The Wall Street Journal referred to the report in a mixed-message column that began, "The World Bank, the apostle of privatization, is having a crisis of faith." In August, with anti-privatization groups enthused at the World Bank's apparent change of heart, Globe and Mail columnist Madelaine Drohan outdid The Wall Street Journal in reading new meaning into the report, and in infusing anti-privatization groups with new misunderstandings, through an article entitled "Now they tell us: Privatization is no panacea." The World Bank report did say privatization of public services is no panacea. To be precise, in referring to botched water and power privatizations, the World Bank said: "The last decade showed that private participation was not a panacea ...." Ms. Drohan misled no one as far as that goes. But she might have dropped the World Bank's second shoe for Globe readers. The balance of the World Bank's sentence, and the sentences that immediately follow, are: "... but also that it was not the root cause of these problems. The legally binding contracts and hard budget constraints introduced by private participation flushed into the open problems that had been hidden during the era of public provision. While some governments have not been able to deal successfully with these, these problems will not be solved by a reversion to public provision."

Privatization, in other words, exposed the rot that public services had masked. Full-bore privatization - not half-hearted compromises, not a reformed public sector - remains the best course for any country concerned about its citizens. "The evidence suggests that, where commercial risks are shifted to the private sector, private participation will deliver better results than credible alternatives, such as attempts to strengthen public provision," the World Bank states flatly, putting the kibosh to a return to public ownership. No fair reading of the report - check it out yourself at www.WorldBank.org - could conclude that the World Bank has come to doubt the need for privatization. "The most detailed studies of private participation have shown substantial welfare gains, and measurable impacts on important social indicators such as child mortality. The evidence suggests that in many cases private participation leads to an expansion in services, and that the poor can benefit from this compared to the situation prevailing under public provision." The World Bank is on solid ground in criticizing the developing world's ruinous "era of public provision" because the World Bank, more than any other agency in the world, created that ruinous era. After the bank's formation at the end of the Second World War, it not only became the world's biggest development agency, it became the world's chief central planning agency.

Because its mandate prevented lending to the private sector, governments had little choice but to nationalize their industries in order to receive World Bank largesse. Massive public authorities, modelled on the Tennessee Valley Authority, soon sprang up in Africa and Asia. Power, water, oil, mining, and forestry sectors throughout the Third World were soon nationalized. The result was wreckage in the great majority of cases, as unaccountable state bureaucracies went on spending sprees that culminated in a series of Third World debt crises. Seeing the wreckage that came of public ownership, the World Bank ended its anti-private sector stance a decade ago and abruptly reversed course. Then followed a series of new disasters, as the World Bank foolishly backed phoney Third World privatizations - typically, giveaways by ruling elites to their cronies. The elites and the cronies got rich, the public got poor, "privatizations" got a black eye. And the World Bank got reflective. It now understands, as it should have all along, that privatization, on its own, is not a panacea. Privatization will not eradicate corruption. Privatization won't deliver good governance. Privatization won't make the real costs involved in building water or electricity plants vanish. And the World Bank realizes that, if it is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, it needs to take its lesson to heart and ensure that future privatizations are done properly.

Privatization is merely a necessary component in a free enterprise economy - the best available system of delivering goods and services - much as democracy, in the famous words of Winston Churchill, is the best available system of governance. "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise," he said. "Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Churchill uttered those words in Parliamentary debates in 1947, in an attempt to stop Britain's Labour government from nationalizing the steel industry, one of many the state would absorb. Because Churchill's warning about socialism and state control over industry were ignored, Great Britain, until then a Great Power, became a second rate nation, soon to be eclipsed by Germany and Japan, nations with war-torn economies that Great Britain had defeated on the battlefield. Not until Margaret Thatcher's rise to power, and the privatization of the steel, auto, coal, oil, natural gas, electricity, bus, train, telecom, airline, airport and other industries, did Britain become great again.

The World Bank and Great Britain began and ended their "era of public provision" at about the same time. Britain ended its era successfully because it had what it took to privatize successfully - reasonably honest government, democratic traditions, the rule of law, independent regulation, respect for property rights. The World Bank's era won't find a successful conclusion unless it, too, promotes privatizations in countries that have what it takes to privatize successfully. The World Bank now accepts the necessity of privatization and other trade liberalizations. As put at its last annual meeting: "While it should be stressed that trade liberalization is not a 'panacea,' all evidence points to it as being a necessary element of any economic growth strategy in our increasingly globalized world. It is important to stress though, that in addition to opening their markets, countries have to ensure peace, macroeconomic stability, and good governance structures (curb corruption) in order for the positive effects of trade liberalization to be felt." This realization by the World Bank has been hard won, and unfortunately remains rare. Many, including the anti-privatization groups and the Madelaine Drohans, have yet to accept it, despite the inescapable evidence. For this failure, too, there is no panacea. As Churchill noted, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened." Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute. www.Urban-Renaissance.com E-mail: LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.

From National Post, Canada, by Lawrence Solomon, 3 September 2003