ISSUE 53
July 2003
 
 
   
    Angola: IFAL Institute to Run Course On Public Administration
Angola: Francophone Parliamentarians Appeal for Good Governance
   
    Brunei: Call to Revise Trading Regulation for Civil Servants
Nepal: "It Is Difficult For Civil Servants To Perform The Role Of Elected Representatives"
Japan: Civil-Servant Reform Bill Delayed
   
    EU: E-Government: a Key Component to Europe's Competitiveness, Hears Conference
EU: EC Calls on Political Bosses to Tear Down E-gov Barriers
France: French Civil Service Outlaws 'E-mail'
EU: Commission Welcomes Determination Expressed by 30 Ministers to Accelerate eGovernment
Russia: Putin Signs Decree on Alternative Civil Service
Italy: Special Service by AGI on Behalf of the Italian Prime Minister's Office
   
    USA: House Panel Approves Deep E-Gov Funding Cuts
USA: NAII Reiterates Strong Public Policy on Civil Justice System
 
   
    Kenya: Police Lead in Corruption Survey
Nigeria: Bush Urged to Condemn Nigerian Corruption
Ghana: Local Governance Is The Cornerstone of Participatory Democracy
Nigeria: Should Local Government Be Reformed?
Zambia: Zambia's Corruption is Redeemable - Dhanani
Kenya: Managers Warned Over Corruption
South Africa: Mbeki Addresses Governance Conference in London
Zimbabwe: Mugabe Given Key Role in Governance Group
Kenya: Anti-corruption Team Targets KFF - Federation Officials Questioned on Finances
Zimbabwe: Corruption Now The Order of The Day
Sierra Leone: Anti-Corruption Investigates Education Ministry Again
Kenya: Kenya Says Tackling Corruption But Faces Hurdles
Sierra Leone: The Government's Corruption Coup
Zimbabwe: Corruption Levels Sink to All-time Low
Cameroon: Toward Capacity-Building In Good Governance
Nigeria: Corruption, Ethnicity Hinder Fair Elections in Nigeria - Shehu Shagari
   
    India: 1,000 Corruption Cases Spending Prosecution in State
Thailand: Wichit Wins Good Governance Award
Nepal: Self-Help Organizations and Good Governance
Papua New Guinea: Amendments Are Aimed at Stability, Good Governance
China: More Effort Needed to Fight Corruption: Commentary
Bangladesh: Good Political Leadership Ensures Good Governance: Intra-party Democracy, Curbing Corruption a Must
Thailand: Corruption Eats Away at Thailand
Thailand: Good Governance Awards
Malaysia: Local Authorities Forging Ahead with E-government
India: Good Governance Key to Economic Growth: Chidambaram
   
    UK: Good Governance Won't Help Bad Strategy
Turkey: Parliamentary Corruption Investigation Commission Proposes Launching Investigation About Former Prime Ministers And Ministers
   
    Egypt: Has a New Era Dawned on Arab Governance?
   
    USA: Corruption Probe
Colombia: Police Corruption Probed in Colombia
Trinidad and Tobago: Extradition for Corruption
   
    Top of Corruption List
Measuring the Quality of Governance
Anti-corruption Talks Pose Challenge
Convention Against Corruption
 
   
    Nigeria: Accountability Workshop, Seminar for Civil Servants Underway
Zambia: Trade Union Warns of Civil Service Action in Zambia
Morocco: Prime Minister Sees Modernization of Public Service As Key to Fulfilling Economic Aspirations
Nigeria: Why Corruption Thrives in Civil Service - Ex-Secretary to State Government
Ghana: Civil Service Boss In Corrupt Deal?
Tanzania: Government Salaries Up By 6-10 Percent
Nigeria: Ogun Government Holds Retreat for Civil Servants
Zimbabwe: Publication of Salaries Riles Public Servants
Ghana: TUC, Civil Servants kick against Insurance Bill
Zimbabwe: Pay and Employment Reforms in Civil Service
Kenya: Fresh Headcount for Civil Servants
Ghana: Senior Minister Decries Current State of the Public Service
Nigeria: Shake-up in Federal Civil Service Soon - 190,776 Jobs On Line
South Africa: Too Many Public Servants, Says Audit
Kenya: Kenya Uses More On Civil Servants
Nigeria: Jigawa to Restructure Civil Service
   
    Malaysia: Problem Lies With The Civil Service
Malaysia: Malaysia to Build Public Servants Housing Scheme
Singapore: Employing Gays in Civil Service a 'Tiny Step Forward'
Malaysia: Report Graft and Abuse in Civil Service to MCA
Malaysia: Good Citizens Course for All Civil Servants
Japan: Japan Mulls Linux for Civil Service
Brunei: Civil Servants Urged to See the Bigger Picture
South Korea: More Male Civil Servants Take Childcare Leave
Malaysia: Stressed Civil Servants Can Seek Advice of Mentors
Viet Nam: Vietnamese Civil Servants Face Sex Sanctions
New Zealand: 'Kamikaze' Type to Test Public Service Deal
Malaysia: Tahan Expects RM2.5 Milion in Premiums From Civil Servants
Australia: Public Servants' Air Travel Under Review
Nepal: Power To The Civil Servants
China: Taiwan to Lift Ban on Business Trips By Civil Servants to China
Pakistan: WB Proposes Major Overhaul of Civil Service
India: India's Civil Service Not Unduly Overstaffed: World Bank
Malaysia: Sabah MCA Wanita Public Service Bureau Launched
China: Sichuan Civil Servants Forbidden from Moonlighting in Private Sector
Malaysia: Psychological Tests for Civil Service Applicants
Singapore: Civil Servants Face Demanding Challenges Ahead, says DPM Lee
Malaysia: Action Against Civil Servants Who Join FSFM
   
    UK: Survey Fuels Fears of Civil Service 'Sick Note Culture'
UK: Public Services MMR Below England Average
Bulgaria: Corruption Grave, Says Survey
Malta: Head of EU Civil Service 'Impressed' by Maltese Preparation for Accession
Turkey: Rise In Salaries Of Civil Servants Will Be Announced Tomorrow
Malta: Dalli Insists on Flexibility in Top Civil Servants' Thinking
UK: Increase in Civil Service Numbers under Fire
UK: Civil Servants Deserve Better Treatment
EU: EU Ruling on Public Service Subsidies
EU: EU Presidency, Hungarian Civil Servants Learn Italian
   
    Bahrain: A Civil Service
UAE: Performance of Public Servants To Be Monitored
   
    USA: Potential Public Servants Think Twice About Running
USA: Civil Service Crossroads
Brazil: Brazil Union Leaders Say Nearly Half of All Civil Servants on Strike
USA: Public Services at Risk as US States Face Financial Crisis
USA: Watchdog Queries Public Service League Tables
Canada: Quebec civil service has grown since 1996
USA: Commission Studying Overhaul of Civil Service System
 
   
    South Africa: Don't Hold Your Breath for E-Government
Nigeria: Expert Advocates E-Governance
Uganda: Public Service in Power Fight
Kenya: Public Service Taken to Task Over Jobs
   
    India: E-governance: the New Line of Force in India
Singapore: Singapore to Invest $740M on New E-government Push
China: Public Service Sector Prepared for Peak Season
India: Naidu Asks IIIT to Focus on E-governance
India: IBM E-governance Master Plan for Pondicherry
India: Pondicherry: E-governance by 2006 says, CM
India: Andhra Pradesh Speeds up E-governance Schemes
Australia: Public Servants Vow to Fight for Pay Claim
Viet Nam: E-Government Master Plan in the Pipeline
Viet Nam: Extra Push on To Meet E-government Goal
Asia-Pacific E-governments 'on Right Track', Says IDC
   
    Italy: E-Government: From Cernobbio Rules For European Citizens
UK: UK Will 'Miss E-gov Deadlines'
EU: Italy to Host EGovernment Conference
EU: Winners of eEurope Awards for EGovernment 2003 Announced at Ministerial Conference
Italy: Formigoni: E-Government Shouldn't Focus on Technology Alone
EU: Europe Vows to Speed Up Rollout of EGovernment
UK: Citizen E-government - The Case for Conscription
UK: E-government 'Needs Rebooting'
UK: Spotlight on Public Sector Outsourcing
UK: Government Risks Online Failure
UK: Pushing to E-government
UK: Think Tank Recommends Compulsory Use of E-Government Services
UK: Thinktank Stirs Debate on Choice in Public Services
Malta: More M-government Services Coming Online Soon
UK: United Kingdom Welcomes 11th MD Explorer for Public Service Duty
UK: Inefficient Public Services 'Are Wasting £70bn a Year'
Italy: E-Governemnt - Projects for 125 Milllion Euro (Including Digital TV)
UK: Civil Servants' Families Could Test Government Websites
   
    UAE: Dohms Integrates Portal to E-government Content
UAE: Fourteen Government Departments to Standardize Online Services on Dubai eGovernment's Unified Content Management Platform
UAE: Dubai e-Government's Reviews Strategy to Boost Usage of eServices
   
    USA: White House Praises Potential of E-gov Project
USA: Smart Energy Public Service Announcements Available at Energysavers.gov; Abraham Encourages Smart Energy Use
Latin America: Microsoft and the OAS partner for e-gov in Latin America
USA: New E-gov Initiatives Expected In The Fall
USA: Little Progress on R-gov in Latest Management Dcorecard
Canada: Canadians Click 'Yes' to eGovernment
USA: City Administrator Interviews Will Be Open to the Public
USA: Finalists for 2003 Public Service Awards Announced
USA: Tech Trepidation Holding Back E-government
USA: Public Service Commission Approves Utility Standby Rates
USA: UCF Appoints Public Administration Chair
USA: City Recognized for Public Service
   
    Global E-government
Global E-government
Global E-government
 
   
    Ghana: We Won't Act On Emotions - Finance Minister on GCB Privatisation
Nigeria: Study Group Advocates New Tax Policy
   
    India: India's tax Policies Rank 3rd in the World
   
    Russia: IMF Cautions Russia Against Extremely Weakened Tax Policies
EU: Italy Calls for Multilateral EU Tax Policy
Yugoslavia: Political Party Finance Reports Available to Public
Finland: Permanent Secretary Criticises Tax Policy
UK: Freedom to Tax Remains Secure
Germany: The German Government Aims to Limit Additional New Borrowing Next Year...
UK: Government U-turn on Private Finance for IT
Czech Republic: Finance Ministry Expects Public Finance Deficit to Top 8 % of GDP This Year
Czech Republic: MPs Approve Government's Finance Reform Package in 1st Reading
   
    USA: U.S. Shows Willingness to Reform Auditing, Tax Policies Overseas
USA: Lawmakers Stand Behind New Tax Policy
Venezuela: Venezuela's Finance (Hacienda) Ministry Preparing External Bond Issue
USA: 'US Tax Policy Should Boost Demand'
USA: Tax Policy That Uses Economies of Scales
Argentina: Argentina, Feeling Cheated, Cracks Down on Tax Evasion
USA: President Talks Up Tax Policy for Boosting Economy
USA: PNC Capital Markets Adds Experienced Professionals To Public Finance Team
 
   
    Ghana: Pragmatic Policies Will Enhance Growth of Private Sector
Ghana: The Spectacle of Failed Privatization - East African Banks Collapse After Divestiture
   
    Philippines: Government Finalizing Guidelines for Mile Long Privatization
Australia: More Public Works for Private Sector
India: In India, a Turbo Boost for Privatization
India: Larry Ellison Addresses Indian Audience on Good Governance
Japan: Koizumi Sees Japan Post Privatization in 2007
Philippines: Stability, Over Privatization, Counts, Says Finance Chief
China: China Shows Keen Interest In Privatization Of Oil & Gas Sector
   
    UK: 'Private Sector Key to Regeneration' Says Report
Lithuania: Lithuanian Government Confirms Grid Privatization Plan
Germany: Backdoor Privatization
Poland: Poland Calls Off Hunt for Privatization Adviser for State Retail-Banking Giant PKO BP
Turkey: I.M.F. Delegation Visits Privatization Administration Chairman Kilci
Russia: Russia PM: No Privatization Reversal
Czech Republic: Privatization Theft - Audit Finds that 1.2 Billion Kc Disappeared During Privatization
Russia: Prime Minister: Privatization Not to be Reversed
Russia: Groups Urge Putin on Privatization Issue
Bulgaria: Social Rider in Privatization Deal over Bulgaria's Power Utilities
Russia: Former Russian PM Defends Last Decade`s Privatization
   
    Lebanon: Privatization Cannot Move Forward Without Right Conditions for Success
Iran: High Privatization Council Mulls Iran Air's Privatization
Lebanon: Preparing for Privatization of the Energy Sector
   
    Canada: CIDA Launches New Private Sector Development Policy for Developing Countries
Canada: CIDA Helps Expand Opportunities for Private Sector in Developing Countries
USA: Bush Pushes Privatization
USA: Finance Minister Unakitan Briefs U.S. Investors About Privatization
USA: State Privatization Chairwoman Faces Ethics Complaint
USA: Privatization Study Adviser Under Scrutiny
USA: Privatization and Neo-feudalism
USA: House, Senate Agree on Air Traffic Control Privatization
 

IFAL Institute to Run Course On Public Administration

Luanda - The Angolan "Institute For Training On Local Administration" (IFAL) will start as from the next school term a high-school degree course on Public Administration, announced Monday, here, the institution's general manager, António Martins. The course will last four years and will be aimed for young people interested in taking up a career on Public Administration. The manager informed that in an initial stage they will take in young people aged 19-20 residing in the capital city, Luanda, because the centre does not yet have conditions to get students from other provinces. IFAL is a public institution established on May 2002, with the objective of contributing to the improvement and modernization of the state's local and autarchic administration, by providing training, scientific investigation and technical assistance to local administration officials.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 7 July 2003

Francophone Parliamentarians Appeal for Good Governance

Niamey - The Parliamentaries from the French speaking countries on Wednesday appealed for the consolidation of law abiding states and good governance amongst the countries comprising the Francophone community, Angop has learnt. The appeal is part of the final resolutions from the 29th Parliamentary Assembly of French Speaking countries (APF), which gathers since Sunday, in Niamey (Níger), more than 30 member countries, observers, organisations and foreign individualities. When opening the event on Tuesday, the Niger Head of State, Tandja Mamadou, said the instauration of lawful states and consolidation of the Francophone community may be translated into the reinforcement of relations amongst the peoples. According to Tandja Mamadou, the political instability in some African Nations "weakens the community and holds back the economic and social development of those countries". To overcome these crisis, the Niger President pointed out national dialogue, involving every constituent of the civil society and a transparent governance.

On Wednesday, last day of session, the Francophone parliamentarians approved the matters addressed by the political commissions, such as parliamentary matters, cooperation and development. Cape Verde, which up to date had the statute of an observer, was admitted as an APF full member country. Whereas the Central African Republic, suspended from the organisation till the holding of legislative elections in the country has been readmitted. As an observer, Angola participates since 2002 at the Francophone Parliamentary Assembly and, in Niamey, the delegation was headed by the Speaker of the Angolan Parliament, Roberto de Almeida, who was accompanied by the MPs Carlos Magalhães and João Manuel Barradas, from MPLA (Ruling party) and Augusta Valentim, from UNITA (main opposition party). The Angolan participation was inserted in the strategic vision of its diplomacy which is to observe the development of parliamentary activity of the countries of the region. The French speaking Parliamentary Assembly was established in Luxembourg, in 1967, aiming at promoting inter-parliamentary cooperation and democratic development among French speaking countries. The Angolan parliamentary delegation is expected back home today.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 10 July 2003

 

Call to Revise Trading Regulation for Civil Servants

A local business association has delivered a letter to the Prime Minster's Department requesting for the regulation that allows civil servants to conduct businesses, to be revised. Persekutuan Peniaga-Peniaga Melayu Brunei (PPPMB) stated in a letter dated July 14 that the regulation allowing civil servants to conduct businesses had lead to inefficiency and incompetence in concerned employees as they could not concentrate on doing two jobs at one time. The letter was signed by the association's secretary general Hj Ilmi Hj Awg Gafar. Elaborating the content of the letter to the Bulletin was its deputy president Pg Shahminan Pg Hj Ismail. Pg Shahminan said allowing civil servants to conduct businesses had caused the concerned civil servants to be ineffective in their day-to-day office works.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei, by Rosli Abidin Yahya, 18 July 2003

"It Is Difficult For Civil Servants To Perform The Role Of Elected Representatives"

Naresh Kumar Chapagain, Local Development Officer at Kavrepalanchwok District Development Committee, is now the senior authority to plan, formulate and execute the local development activities in the district. Chapagain, who has a long experience of working as a local development officer in various districts, spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various issues at his office in district headquarters Dhulikhel. Excerpts: How do you see the present state of District Development Committee (DDC)? We have been running the administration and development works. After the expiry of tenure of elected representatives a year ago, local development officers are responsible to execute, to plan and to formulate development works for the district. Do officers like you effectively carry out the programs? It is definitely difficult for the civil servants to perform the role of elected representatives. But we have been making every effort to prove ourselves efficient and effective. Since the Ministry of Local Development has well trained pool of district development officers, we can fill the vacuum left by the absence of elected representatives. Undoubtedly, elected representatives can deliver services more effectively than us since they know the problems of the villages and the priority, as well.

Since the tenure of elected representatives expires, what are your challenges right now? We are running the programs approved a year ago by elected District Development Council. Since there are no more elected representatives in the DDC, the responsibility falls upon us to formulate annual plans for the district for the coming fiscal year. Our difficulty is to set the prioritization and to meet the people's demand. How do you see the role of DDC now? Since Village Development Committees (VDCs), Municipalities and District Development Committees (DDCs) are institutionalized and legal entities; they will be there in one or other form as a popular institution. They have established mechanisms to carry out their day-to-day activities and formulate plans. The DDCs are guided by the acts passed by the parliaments and regulations formulated by the elected councils. The existing manpower in the DDCs knows how to run these institutions. But the only question is whether it is effective. What is your impression about the planning at the VDC level? We are facing certain difficulties in some VDCs, which are situated in the remote parts of the district. Although there are secretaries in each village development committees as a government representative, it is difficult to establish regular contact with them. The VDCs are local based institutions so people at the grass root level know its importance. There are scarcities of manpower in the VDCs. Despite insurgency, I have seen strong trust of the people in the VDCs as the institutions have been there for more than five decades in one or other forms. People want functional VDCs. As you mentioned you were transferred here from the Bara district.

What differences did you perceive working in districts of terai and hilly region? There are more difficulties in hilly region than in terai. In terms of topography, the hills are inaccessible and economic activities are nominal compared to terai. However, in hilly areas, people participation is higher. Since there are similar systems and institutional mechanisms in both the areas, we don't have other difficulties. We have to work remaining within different acts, regulations and sub-regulations wherever we go. But personally, I find it easier to work under the elected leadership. I am more comfortable in implementation rather than the planning aspect. Currently I am expected to carry out both these aspects. Having worked for more than a decade in different DDCs, I am aware of the kinds of development programs that local people desire. We are receiving support from all concerned parties of the district. Because of the dissolution of local bodies, people are said to be suffering from various problems. How do you look at it? At the village level, people are facing some problems. In absence of elected representatives, people have to rely on VDC secretaries. In many cases, we also receive complaints from local people that secretaries do not stay in village. I am organizing regular meetings of VDC secretaries in my district. How do you see the support of donor countries in strengthening DDCs and VDCs? They have made immense contribution to institutionalize the local bodies. I have seen changes in the donors' attitudes. In the past, different donors used to have different priorities and targets, but they are now coming through institutionalized way. The process of internalizations has already begun. There are transparency in institution building and developing mechanisms.

From Spotlight, Nepal, 17 July 2003

Civil-Servant Reform Bill Delayed

State reform minister Nobuteru Ishihara said Friday he will give up trying to present a bill to reform civil servant employment practices to the current session of the Diet, which ends Monday. Ishihara, minister in charge of administrative and regulatory reforms, indicated he will try to present a revised bill to the extraordinary session in the fall. The bill would be aimed at introducing merit-based wage and personnel systems, and cracking down on the practice of "amakudari," which literally means "descent from heaven." Under the practice, retired civil servants often take plum jobs in public corporations or the private sector in industries formerly under their bureaucratic jurisdiction, and typically try to obtain favors for their new employers from the agencies for which they had worked. "In question-and-answer sessions, such as in the Diet, the National Personnel Authority gave answers that were opposite mine and it shows the matter is not agreed upon within the government," Ishihara said at a news conference, referring to why the bill will not be submitted. "And we did not gain the acceptance of the governing parties," he said. "The bill cannot be submitted as long as there is no understanding from the relevant Cabinet members and the ruling parties. It would serve no purpose if it cannot withstand Diet debate."

The Japan Times: July 26, 2003

 

E-Government: a Key Component to Europe's Competitiveness, Hears Conference

'In the Lisbon strategy, we have sketched out the future that all Europeans want to see. This is a future in which eGovernment will be a source for the competitiveness, integration and cohesion of Europe,' Italian Minister for Innovation and Technology, Lucio Stanca, told delegates attending the first day of the eGovernment 2003 conference in Como, Italy, on 7 July. Mr. Stanca said that implementing eGovernment is at the very heart of one of the priorities of the Italian Presidency - relaunching competitiveness in Europe and continuing with the Lisbon strategy - because 'a competitive Europe really needs administrations which are able to introduce change, drive forward development, and generate innovation and economic growth.' 'New information technology is a lever to bring about this transformation in government and public administrations; it can also help remove the bureaucratic red tape that is slowing up European business,' said Mr. Stanca. 'It is for this reason that we have to support the IT industry's ability and its strategic role in making available these technological instruments. This will be the foundation for any further growth or competitiveness,' he said, adding that providing political commitment to the information and communication technologies (ICT) industry was particularly crucial, given the current economic climate in the sector. However, to become a meaningful agent in the modernisation of public governance, eGovernment cannot remain technology focused, Mr. Stanca claimed: 'eGovernment is not just a combination of informatics and technology, it is a path we have to follow based on human, technological and organisational capital,' he explained.

This point was also taken up by EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Erkki Liikanen, who noted that in the future, ICT has to be combined with investment in the reorganisation of public funding and the improvement of civil servants' skills. 'A more productive public sector will also benefit the private sector and make companies more competitive,' he said. For the purpose of shared prosperity and for the provision of an open society, both Mr. Stanca and Mr. Liikanen agreed that further political commitment is needed in order to cultivate a long term public-private partnership: As long as politicians are not fully convinced of the medium and long term benefits which eGovernment can bring to the public sector and to public governance, the willingness to participate and fund such initiatives will be limited, they said. However, as Gerard Druesne from the European institute for public administration's (EPIA) explained, Europe is already demonstrating its ability to work in this way. In his presentation of the EPIA study 'eEurope in Europe: the current state of affairs', he noted that administrative authorities are already working closely with private partners to bring about examples of innovative and competitive forms of public administration.

'Perhaps, we are seeing for the first time the emergence of 'integrated eGovernment',' he suggested. 'We have seen a considerable transformation across Europe and we are witnessing a stage at present where the traditional power structure of society based around a State, is moving to a more flexible one that listens to market needs to a greater extent,' he continued. Professor Druesne noticed that in the projects submitted for the eEurope 2003 awards for eGovernment alone, more than 20 per cent of local administrations focused on services, contributing to the enhancement of job creation, productivity and overall competitiveness. These projects illustrated an openness and willingness to share information, which the professor believes is key for the sustainable competitiveness of Europe. However, in order to continue fostering such exchanges and common objectives, Professor Druesne believes there is a need for an effective and sustainable framework to be put into place, calling it a prerequisite for the broad development of the best solutions at affordable costs. 'If the Commission agrees, we would suggest establishing a permanent platform which would facilitate exchange of experiences and best practices between public administrations right throughout Europe,' Professor Druesne concluded.

FromCordis News, EU, 8 July 2003

EC Calls on Political Bosses to Tear Down E-gov Barriers

The "mindsets and rigidity of administrations" are the greatest barriers to implementing effective e-government, Erkii Liikanen, EC commissioner in charge of IT policy, said today. Opening the EC's eGovernment 2003 conference today at Lake Como, Italy, the commissioner called upon politicians "at the highest level" to commit themselves to eGovernment and lead by example in overcoming internal resistance to political reform (so when will Tony Blair get his first email address?). eGovernment cannot be led by the IT department, Liikanen proclaimed. Removing the barriers will require "a change in the way we think and the way we work. Putting the citizen first and creating a culture of service will in many instances mean reforming the public sector." Liikanen is a techno-optimist. He characterises technology as a tool for public sector reform, and a method to improve governance. eGovernment will enable open administration, better accountability and services for all, according to Liikanen In his speech he quotes Manuel Castells: "The Internet can be used by citizens to watch their governments - rather than by governments to watch their citizens." True enough, but this goes against the grain somewhat of the natural inclination of governments, even in mature democracies, to do the watching. The EC is keen to promote Europe-wide online services. At the conference it is to release a working paper outlining a framework for interoperability of back-office processes between the Member States and with the European Institutions. The framework is to be available for comments from September.

From The Register, UK, 7 July 2003

French Civil Service Outlaws 'E-mail'

Paris - The French government, in a bid to turn back the tide of English words in the field of technology, has banned its civil service from using the term "e-mail" instead of its approved French equivalent, the culture minister announced Wednesday. All government ministries, websites, publications and documents must now use "courriel" - a shortening of "courrier electronique" (literally: electronic mail) - when they are referring to the messages sent via the Internet, the ministry said in a statement. The move, made law by its publication in the official government gazette on June 20, will put the French administration out of step with the majority of the French public, who still prefer to use "e-mail" to communicate between computer accounts.

From Expatica, Netherlands, 10 July 2003

Commission Welcomes Determination Expressed by 30 Ministers to Accelerate eGovernment

Lucio Stanca, Italian Minister for Innovation and Technology, today issued a ministerial declaration on behalf of the Italian Presidency, proposing concrete measures to accelerate the move to eGovernment. The declaration was agreed by the 30 EU, EFTA and accession countries Ministers attending the second European conference on eGovernment 7 and 8 July. Ministers were able to see for themselves the best of eGovernment practices already implemented in Europe and the benefits these are bringing to all concerned. As a result, they have jointly expressed their determination to further accelerate exchanges of practical experiences, and proposed concrete measures to be taken towards widespread deployment of eGovernment. This declaration was the result of a ministerial meeting that took place within the conference, in the presence of Erkki Liikanen Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society. Ministers have specifically asked the Presidency to present their declaration to the next meeting of the Telecommunications Council.

In acknowledging eGovernment as a driver for the modernisation of Europe's entire public sector, Ministers recognised many advantages it can offer through increased productivity and efficiency within Public Administrations. These free up resources, and deliver more value for taxpayers money. On-line applications and services are supporting new forms of involvement and participation of European citizens in the policy definition and decision-making processes of government. Ministers believe that such technologies should cement the four freedoms of the single market, and help those citizens and enterprises from one EU Member State wanting to settle, work or trade in any other. The experience gained with pan-European services in the fields of job search and learning opportunities were highlighted as examples to be further diffused and extended to other fields.

Ministers reaffirmed the importance of making eGovernment services open and accessible to all citizens, by providing these services through the most appropriate platforms, including PCs, interactive TV and improved front-office counter services of the administrations themselves. They called upon the Member States and the Commission to agree on a list of services for which trans-national interoperability is desirable, taking into account differences in culture and legal practices. Ministers welcomed co-operation between Member States and the Commission in research for cross-border solutions for identifying individuals, and for maintaining the security and privacy of information compiled through eGovernment services. Europe's programmes that can support eGovernment must contribute coherently to the goals of eEurope 2005, and the "Lisbon Strategy" for a knowledge-based economy. This second European eGovernment Conference was jointly organised by the Italian Presidency and the European Commission.

From Tenders Direct, UK, 8 July 2003

Putin Signs Decree on Alternative Civil Service

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree "On the organization of alternative civil service". According to the presidential press service, the decree defines the Labor Ministry and the Defense Ministry as federal executive agencies responsible for organizing alternative civil service. It also lays down the functions of federal executive agencies interested in sending citizens to their organizations for alternative civil service. The decree comes into effect on January 1, 2004. Earlier, the Federation Council approved the bill "On alternative civil service". The law was passed by the State Duma on June 28, 2002. According to the new rules, the period of alternative civil service will be 3.5 years if it is performed in civil organizations and 3 years - in the organizations of the armed forces. Applicants for alternative civil service will have to prove that service in the armed forces contradicts their convictions. The persuasiveness of their arguments will be assessed by draft committees. Draft committees will also decide where alternative service should be performed - in civil organizations or in the armed forces (as civilian personnel).

From Gateway 2 Russia, Russia, 22 July 2003

Special Service by AGI on Behalf of the Italian Prime Minister's Office

Rome - Public Administration: Mazzella, Cabinet Approves 7000 New Jobs - The Cabinet approved the hiring of 7000 people in the public sector. This morning, the Cabinet authorised the hiring of around 7000 people in State administrations, also including the armed forces. The Minister of Public Functions, Luigi Mazzella, was quite satisfied. "Finally, after two years, the winners of the 2000-2001 competitions can be hired. Notwithstanding the hiring freeze, the budget established a specific norm for workers in the public security sector, for national defence, international commitments, the legal sector, as well as that of research and technology," he said. The new jobs will be divided in this way: 900 will be destined to ministries, 150 to public and economic bodies, 159 to research, 170 to universities, 5601 to the security sector.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 25 July 2003

 

House Panel Approves Deep E-Gov Funding Cuts

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is calling for only $1 million in 2004 funding for the Electronic Government Act (E-Gov), which invests in inter-agency projects with government-wide applications. The Bush Administration had requested $45 million for the program. Amid much fanfare last November, Congress passed the legislation, touting a new era of government services, and President Bush signed the bill in December. Bush had hoped to ramp up funding for the program to $150 million a year by 2006. As a part of the President's Management Agenda, the E-Gov initiatives proposes to make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government, save taxpayer dollars, and streamline citizen-to-government transactions. A House Appropriations Committee spokesperson said the Bush Administration had not justified the $45 million funding request. The Senate has not reported an E-Gov funding bill as yet and Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) and Conrad Burns (R. Mont.), who authored the original bill, are expected to fight for more money for the program. The issue will be ultimately be resolved in a compromise budget committee of House and Senate members.

The E-Gov Act also establishes an Office of Electronic Government, headed by a Bush-appointed administrator within the Office of Management and Budget. The administrator will implement e-government initiatives and oversee agencies' compliance with relevant statutes. In addition, the new legislation: - Authorizes funding for improvement of the federal Internet portal, Firstgov.gov, so that on-line government information and services are organized "according to citizen needs, not agency jurisdiction."; - Requires regulatory agencies to conduct administrative rule-makings on the Internet, and federal courts to post court information and judicial opinions on their Web sites; - Allows agencies, scientists, policy makers and the public to have access over the Internet to non-sensitive information about where federal funds for scientific research are spent; - Improves recruitment and training for federal information technology professionals; and - Establishes "significant new privacy protections" for personally identifiable information maintained by the government.

From InternetNews.com, by Roy Mark, 28 July 2003

NAII Reiterates Strong Public Policy on Civil Justice System

The National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII) Board of Governors reiterated its strong support of litigation reform by adopting a comprehensive policy position on the topic at its June meeting. The policy position adopted by the NAII Board extends the Association's support for litigation procedure and civil justice reforms from the state to the federal level. The position updated public policy adopted in 1996. "The U. S. tort system is the most expensive in the industrialized world, equating to a tax of more that $720 on every U.S. citizen in 2003. Barely three years ago the figure was $87," said Terry Tyrpin, NAII senior vice president, insurance and research services. "There is little control over civil litigation at the present time, but when reforms are enacted insurance markets are more stable and consumers benefit as coverage is more available and pricing less prone to dramatic fluctuations." Tyrpin said that NAII does not seek to restrict access to the courts, but to support reforms that provide balance by controlling the "lottery-like" characteristics of the civil justice system and restoring predictability that is crucial to an effective insurance mechanism and a healthy economy. "The U.S. tort system is highly inefficient, returning only 46 cents on the dollar to the people it is designed to help and only 22 cents on the dollar to compensate for actual economic losses to the very people it promised to make whole.

Who is the winner here? Certainly not the consumers or insurance policyholders the courts claim to protect," said Tyrpin. The U.S. tort system costs are reportedly more than double that of any other industrialized countries. U.S. tort costs are 2.04 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Tort costs were 1.33 percent of the GDP in 1970 and only 0.61 percent of the GDP in 1950. NAII advocates litigation management reforms that specifically address attorney contingency fees; collateral source rules; frivolous lawsuits; noneconomic damages; state of the art defense and forum-venue shopping. "It has been widely publicized that certain 'venues' attract lawsuits from around the nation because attorneys correctly perceive that a particular court has a bias, rather than being considered even-handed," said Tyrpin. "Madison County, Illinois was named along with other counties in Alabama, California, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia in a list created by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) as court venues where the term equal protection under the law doesn't seem to have the same meaning. However, on a more positive note, since 1986, 45 states and the District of Columbia have enacted tort reform legislation addressing most of the priority issues named by the NAII Board in it policy position." Tyrpin said NAII supports state and federal reforms in a variety of areas including, but not limited to: Asbestos liability; Automobile injury liability; Class actions; Environmental liability; Medical liability; Other professional liability; Premises/operations liability; and Products/completed operations liability.

From Insurance Journal, 28 July 2003

 
 

Police Lead in Corruption Survey

Nairobi - Government officers led by the police force are the most corrupt in the country. A latest survey by the Public Service Integrity Programme (PSIP) also reveals that an estimated 50 per cent of Kenyans engage in corruption. "About 50.4 per cent have bribed recently," says a report of the survey. The details were contained in a paper presented by the head of Research, Information and Public Education of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Committee, Mr Gikunda Muketha. Muketha made the revelations at Bandari College during a PSIP implementation seminar for provincial and district commissioners. Second in the list is the Provincial Administration followed by the Judiciary, Ministry of Lands and Government hospitals. Others are the Local Authorities, Immigration Department, colleges/schools, Parliament, religious organisations, businesses, licensing offices and public works department. Corrupt sections which are not visible include the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Registration of Persons and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

Muketha also said in his report that 90 per cent of Kenyans interviewed in the survey believe that corruption can be reduced and eliminated. About 70 per cent believe that it is the duty of "the Government and the people" to fight corruption. Muketha outlined the biggest causes of corruption as poverty, greed, bad governance, bad politics, lack of standards, bureaucratic complexities and insurbodination. In the opening speech Coast Provincial Commissioner, Mr. Cyrus Maina said he had instructed all DCs in the province to put up corruption prevention and complaints suggestion boxes in their offices to report corruption cases. Maina, whose speech was read on his behalf by Mombasa DC Mr. John Egesa, warned that any officer or department reported three times would be liable for investigation and prosecution. He said members of the public or any person who may want to settle "personal scores through the boxes" would also be liable for prosecution. Maina reported that most departments within the province had already constituted their Corruption Preventive Committees.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Caroline Mango, 10 July 2003

Bush Urged to Condemn Nigerian Corruption

Lagos - Yetunde Ogunwa, a 45-year-old mother of five, lives without water or electricity in a dilapidated house next to mountains of garbage in Lagos, Nigeria's vast seaside commercial capital. Despite the country's massive oil wealth, Nigeria's citizens have grown steadily poorer and its cities more violent in the four years since military rule gave way to democracy. So as the United States turns to Nigeria to help lessen its dependence on Middle East oil, pressure is mounting for President Bush to take a stand against rampant corruption in the West African country. "If only they would let him see how we live, he might take pity and help us," Ogunwa lamented ahead of Bush's arrival Friday in Nigeria at the end of a five-nation tour of sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria, a regional powerhouse and Africa's most populous nation, is a land of contradictions. Billionaires and beggars, law-abiding citizens and con men rub shoulders in cities where power and water services are still among the worst on the continent. Violent crime is rife, and more than 10,000 people have been killed in ethnic, political and religious bloodletting since President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected in 1999. Underlying many of the problems is widespread graft. A World Bank study on public expenditure in Nigeria showed as much as 70 percent of government funds were frittered away as patronage through over-inflated contracts between 1970 and 1992 - leaving the country with worse social indicators than it had at independence from Britain in 1960. More than two-thirds of Nigeria's 126 million people survive on less than one dollar a day.

Widespread poverty spawned a generation of drug dealers and organized criminal gangs with a global reach long enough to prompt the United States to establish a Secret Service office in Lagos. When Obasanjo was elected, he promised to end the brutality and corruption that characterized 15 years of military rule and quickly set up a body charged with investigating and punishing those guilty of graft. Four years later, the government has failed to secure a single corruption conviction against officials or civil servants. Government coffers continue to be pilfered, while roads, schools and clinics are left to crumble and decay. Oil multinationals, pumping more than 2 million barrels a day from Nigeria's southern swamps, face growing questions here about whether they are fueling the culture of corruption. American companies Exxon Mobil Corp. and ChevronTexaco together account for more than one-third of production. The U.S. oil services giant Halliburton caused a stir recently when it filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission admitting a Nigerian subsidiary paid $2.4 million in bribes to a Nigerian official in exchange for tax exemptions. Obasanjo has ordered an investigation into the deal. Warring ethnic groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta region accuse oil companies of colluding with Nigeria's government to deprive impoverished residents of profits from the area's massive oil wealth.

Activists - and thugs - frequently target the companies with sabotage, kidnappings and other attacks in a bid to extort payoffs. Companies counter that they spend millions of dollars a year on community development. "What we need from Bush is to ... clean up our environment and allow us to control our God-given wealth," said activist Itioghor Tortorbor. International human rights groups have launched a "Publish What You Pay" campaign calling on oil multinationals to disclose all payments to the government. Oil companies, which say they work to the same standards here as in any other country, have embraced the initiative. The scheme as also won the support of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and activists are urging Bush to endorse it too. U.S. Embassy officials said the violence in the Niger Delta would be on the agenda when Bush meets with Obasanjo in Abuja on Saturday. But Bush has said little on the allegations of corruption in the oil industry. "Bush should push the Nigerians to break the web of entrenched corruption and vested interests, and move into a more open economy where oil money is used to uplift people instead of uplifting elites," said Herman Cohen, who served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Clinton. "That's a tough message he should take to Nigeria."

From Salon, by Dulue Mbachu, 11 July 2003

Local Governance Is The Cornerstone of Participatory Democracy

Accra - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday said an efficient and effective local governance at the grassroots level formed the cornerstone of participatory democracy. "Participatory democracy cannot be practised efficiently and effectively without local governance at the grassroots level." President Kufuor was speaking at a reception held in honour of the delegates attending the 12th Annual United States-Africa Sister Cities Conference at the Castle, Osu. The seven-day conference, the third to be held in Africa is on the theme, "Strengthening Sister Cities in Africa: A Focus on HIV/AIDS Crises, Business, Trade Investment and Democratic Governance." Senegal and Kenya are the other two countries that had hosted the conference, aimed to promote local community initiatives in line with decentralization as well as promote international peaceful co-existence as a prelude to improving international trade and investment. The participating countries at the Conference included Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Luanda, Botswana and South Africa. President Kufuor said the world was rapidly moving into an arena where the individual human being was being seen as the rational for government.

He said democracy was fast gaining grounds all over the world and Africa was very much included in this awakening where governments were being made to acknowledge the rights of the individual citizens and assuming the responsibilities to serve people in their localities. President Kufuor said: "You are all local governors serving the people at the grassroots. When the people are well served and empowered to pursue their responsibilities to assert their lives all over the world then the human being could become the justification for the decentralisation of governance." Mr. Kwadwo Adjei-Darko, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, said it was ideal to foster such relationships between the people among sister cities and Africa. He said all the relationships had been between nations and officials at the governmental level but the sister cities relationships sought to bring about interaction among the people at the grassroots level. Mr. Adjei-Darko suggested that such relationship should also be established between cities and towns within particular countries to study and understand the customs and cultures of the various ethnic groups within a country in order to curtail the rampant conflicts on the African Continent.

Miss Shirley Rivens Smith, President of the US-Africa Sister Cities Conference, said the meeting was held in Accra because of the warm Ghanaian hospitality that Ghanaians had always shown to Americans who visited the country. Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Vice President, who was one time the Chairman of the Tamale-Louisville, Kentucky Sister-Cities Relationship, is honorary patron of the conference. A former US President Dwight Eisenhower, introduced the sister city concept in 1956, as a non-profit, non-governmental network and movement of citizens, corporations, NGOs and institutional partners in all countries around the world. There are about 2,400 sister cities relationships formally registered world-wide. In Ghana, nine cities and families are in relationships with sister cities in the United States. These are Accra-Chicago, Tema-San Diego, Kumasi-Charlotte and Newark, Sekondi-Takoradi-Oakland and Boston, Cape Coast- Hanover Park, Tamale-Louisville, Bolgatanga- Glenarden, Ga District-Grand Rapids and Akwapim South District-Lansing. The Accra Conference is being hosted by the Ghana Sister Cities Foundation and the Metropolitan City of Accra under the auspices of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 2 July 2003

Should Local Government Be Reformed?

Lagos - Many believe that governance at all the tiers should be pursued in the interest of the well being of the masses, but the experiences of all in the past four years have been to the contrary. In the face of the widespread poverty and corruption by the officials and politicians in charge of the various administrations, the dividends of democracy have become elusive. It is interesting that the President and some state governors have embarked on some self-examination through which attempts are being made to reduce the excessive and unwieldy bureaucracies, which have eaten deep into the resources of government. At the state and federal levels, attempts are being made to reduce the number of ministers, commissioners and their retinue of hangers-on. Some attempts are being made too to monetise the fringe benefits of all public and political office-holders so as to reduce the expenditure on accommodation, cars, furniture and reduce the dishonesty associated with overhead costs and bring financial prudence to governance, embark on efficiency in resource allocation, minimise waste and bring an end to misuse and abuse of public facilities.

Welfare - But the piece will dabble only into the efforts and the desirability of reforming or re-structuring the third tier of government. After all, governance is not an end itself but a means to improving the welfare and ascertaining the well being of all stakeholders. Therefore, the attempts of the President through the Council of State to improve the performance of the third tier of government through a proposed restructuring, yet to be determined should be encouraged and seen by all and sundry as a bold step to make the local governments more responsive to the yearnings of Nigerians. These efforts, to the uninformed and many professional opponents of President Obasanjo and particularly the nascent Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) and their individual political party members, have been roundly rejected and regarded as the 'biggest blunder'. Many refused to come to terms with the reality of the fact that local governments were wantonly created not to achieve and meet the needs of the people but to satisfy personal egos and ethnic interest at the expense of genuine progress and development of the people.

Recently, many state governors before handing over to their successors in furtherance of their political gimmicks increased the local governments in their states by over 200-300 per cent, whereas the existing ones merely paid salaries and allowances without bringing any positive influence on the masses. Corruption - The third tier of government also successfully served as the anchor leg of corruption ravaging the polity. That most of the politicians that superintended over these local councils looted and regarded them as their personal fiefdoms is not in dispute. If the Council of State comprising of eminent Nigerians now desire to restructure with a view to making the local councils fulfill the needs of the people they should not be blackmailed. The suggestion of the committee would still be made open for the comments of the people. The problems afflicting this polity are numerous. Not all can go before a national conference but many can still be solved through the instrumentality of honest, sincere Nigerians. Therefore, there is 'need to cultivate the culture of tolerance and understanding.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Olorunnimbe Farukanmi, 11 July 2003

Zambia's Corruption is Redeemable - Dhanani

Lusaka - Zambia's corruption and bad governance record is absolutely redeemable, said American Embassy acting deputy chief of mission Kathy Dhanani yesterday. Closing the US Embassy sponsored seminar on the role of the Inspector General of Police in public affairs at Lusaka's Hotel InterContinental, Dhanani said the Zambian government had shown great commitment to improving good governance. "We are very pleased to have the opportunity to provide lessons on public administration as asked by the government of the Republic of Zambia to be helpful on wide range of governance objectives they have embarked on," Dhanani said. "This event in my view is concrete evidence of real commitment to provide good governance in Zambia." Dhanani said Zambia's bad corruption and governance record was absolutely redeemable under the current path that government had taken. "We have a long way to go together to make things different and I have great optimism," she said.

Dhanani said the US government would work hard with the Zambian government to create an African model of good governance. "Zambia needs own model of good governance and programmes like this small contribution we have made adds to that," he said. On Zambia's 163rd ranking on the Human Development Index, Dhanani said the statistical record was only important at alerting people of the potential problems. She said such indices did not significantly portray the actual economical position or problems a country was facing. "The challenge is to create development and good governance is critical to economic development," she said. Dhanani said the US government support Zambia's economy directly through the various USAID activities including agriculture, exports, good governance and other income generating activities. She said US President George Bush's visit to Africa was to help trigger HIV/AIDS fight. "We have noticed the major challenge to Zambia's development is HIV/AIDS," Dhanani said. "HIV/AIDS is President Bush's major spotlight and the US government is interested to help Zambians help themselves."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Larry Moonze, 14 July 2003

Managers Warned Over Corruption

Nairobi -The Public Service Integrity Programme (PSIP) yesterday warned parastatal heads and managers in the private sector who have continued to victimise workers unearthing corrupt deals that "their days were numbered." A PSIP official, Mr. J. F. Mwachai, told District Commissioners and heads of department who attended a one-day implementation seminar in Mombasa that the most affected sector was parastatals. He said members of the public should report any corrupt activities in their places of work as "there is nobody above the law". The seminar also discussed the role of corruption prevention committees and integrity assurance officers. Mwachai told participants that Kenyans were keeping quiet on matters concerning corruption while the few who had the courage to unearth corrupt activities in their organisations were being victimised. Mwachai said if former top personalities who were declared "untouchables" were now recording statements and others in jail, then eliminating corruption was not difficult. "The culture of victimisation still exists and those responsible will soon be dealt with," warned Mwachai.

He cited a case involving a former Railways employee who was allegedly sacked and evicted from his residence despite a court order after he reported corrupt activities. The employee was sacked after he allegedly unearthed corrupt deals at the Kenya Railways. Mwachai called on members of the public to take advantage of the police and the anti-corrupt police department to report corrupt activities. Mwachai praised Kenyans who have had the courage in the last six months to fight for their rights freely and without fear. The official, however, asked the police department to try and change its dented image so as to be able to be close to the public. "The police have been viewed as the most corrupt department whereas ironically, the public is desperate for police service," said Mwachai. Mwachai encouraged bosses both in the parastatals and private sector to accept anonymous letters and at least go through the information they contain.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Caroline Mango, 14 July 2003

Mbeki Addresses Governance Conference in London

President Thabo Mbeki and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazilian president, have joined forces to attack rich countries for protecting their farmers with subsidies. Speaking to delegates at a progressive governance conference in London, Mbeki said the World Trade Organsiation talks in Cancun, Mexico, would fail if the United States and Europe did not overhaul these subsidies. Lula, who named France as the key offender, said politics was the driving force behind the policy. The EU agreed last month to overhaul its farm policy hoping to give stalled world trade talks a boost ahead of the Cancun meeting. However, critics say the EU must do much more. Tony Blair, British prime minister, who hosted the event, defended his efforts on fighting to change farm policy in the EU. Britian has frequently clashed with France who is one of the main benefactors of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

From SABC News, South Africa, 14 July 2003

Mugabe Given Key Role in Governance Group

President Robert Mugabe's regime has pulled off an extraordinary diplomatic coup by winning a senior role in the African Union, the group set up to promote good governance in Africa. The move was seen as a direct snub to US President George Bush, who called for a "return to democracy" in Zimbabwe during his African tour last week. It also outraged Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which said that it was a "betrayal of the people of Zimbabwe". The MDC leadership said that the African Union, founded a year ago, was no better than its widely discredited predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity. This was notorious for appointing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin as its head in the 1970s. Mr. Mugabe is expected to exploit Zimbabwe's appointment as a deputy chairman of the African union to bolster his claim that he is the victim of a Western conspiracy against Africa. While America and the European Union have condemned the Mugabe regime's systematic abuse of the rule of law, African leaders have been more tolerant if not completely supportive.

From The Age, Australia, 14 July 2003

Anti-corruption Team Targets KFF - Federation Officials Questioned on Finances

The Kenya Football Federation (KFF) is being investigated by the Kenya Anti-corruption Commission, the Nation has reliably learnt. A source at the commission said several top KFF officials have recorded statements at the commission's Integrity House headquarters in the past one month. Our source said the investigation, which is centred around the federation's financial management, started two months ago and is in its final stages with a preliminary report soon to be handed over the minister of sport Najib Balala. Citing legal constraints, however, our source declined to give further details about the identities of those who had recorded statements and what exactly the commission is seeking to establish. The KFF top brass has denied any knowledge of the federation being investigated. Treasurer Mohammed Hatimy said he did not know of such an investigation into the federation's finances. "Yes, I do remember people from the anti-corruption commission coming over to the federation headquarters three months ago but I have no details of what happened then or who they spoke to," said Hatimy. He also denied having personally recorded any statement with the commission.

The federation chairman, Maina Kariuki, could not be reached yesterday to react to this development. But last, week he too denied any knowledge of such an investigation into the federation's activities or of any official having recorded a statement. "I would have known if any member of the executive had recorded a statement with the police," he said. The acting KFF secretary-general Allan Chenane has been away from the federation's Nyayo Stadium headquarters for weeks and cannot even be reached on telephone. Several claims of financial mismanagement have been made against the KFF in the past with the most prominent being a public accusation in 2001 by the then minister in charge of sport, Francis Nyenze. Two weeks ago, the KFF Nairobi Branch chairman, Samuel Kihara raised questions about how much money was raised from the live transmission of the 2004 Olympic qualifying match between the Kenya under-23 team and South Africa at Kasarani two weeks ago. Kihara also wanted the KFF national office to declare how much money was realised from the advertising boards that were on display during the match.

The Nairobi branch chairman also sought to know which company was handling the team's home international matches and how it was awarded the contract. A week ago, the same questions were put to KFF by the Nation in the presence of the minister in charge of sport, Najib Balala, as he received a Sh1 million cheque from Total oil company for Harambee Stars. Hatimy, who was present at the ceremony, said Sh270,000 was raised from the ticket sales but no information was given on how much money, if any, was raised from advertising and the live transmission of the match back to South Africa. It is not just the present administration that has been accused of lacking transparency and financial accountability. The previous administration too, faced many such accusations but was never investigated. Ironically, the current KFF executive is being investigated at a time when Kenya is experiencing relative success on the international scene having qualified for the Africa Nations Cup finals for the first time since 1992. The KFF has been in the red even when it had sponsorship for the Premier League and the national soccer team. Several Premier League clubs have taken on the federation on financial matters, demanding in vain to be furnished with audited accounts of the federation. Towards the end of last season, the clubs refused to play a mini league organised to decide the 2002/2003 champions unless KFF paid them all the money owed to them.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, by Chris Tsuma, 16 July 2003

Corruption Now The Order of The Day

"Something for something nothing for nothing," so sang Chimurenga music guru Thomas Mapfumo. This was in the early 90s, after having detected the virus and little did he know corruption was going to spread like a wildfire. Then, Zimbabwe was still a good country to live in with few such cases. Poor government policies, coupled with political uncertainty have plunged this country into chaos, reducing Zimbabweans to paupers living well below the poverty datum line. This has created two classes - the rich and the poor. There is no middle class anymore. The once promising nation is now full of thugs and crooks. Corruption is the order of the day. It's sad that Africa, with all its natural resources, cannot realise its potential. It has had its fair share of civil wars, diseases, and bad governance, making it a fertile place for corruption. People in government have specialised in dipping their fingers in national coffers. This has mainly benefited their immediate families and cronies. Some African dictators have become so rich as to lend their governments some money. Money from the International Monetory Fund and the World Bank meant for development purposes has been channelled towards personal projects. In the case of Zimbabwe, Bretton Woods institutions have severed ties with us. They do not hate us. We are just irresponsible. We are corrupt. It depends on who you know to get government tenders. It depends on who you 'grease' to get even a hearse to take your beloved one on their final journey.

We are so corrupt we cannot even respect the dead. Withdrawing money from the bank can be a nightmare. After oiling a bank official's palms to get cash, you have a supermaket chap to give a "cut" for the scarce basic commodities and you also have the petrol attendant to give a few Zimkwachas to get fuel. The list is endless. Recently, the government came up with a brilliant idea. We have fuel problems. We have to share the little that trickles in. It was laudable to introduce coupons so commuter omnibus operators could get the scarce commodity and improve on public transport. But the same commuter omnibus operators, as reported in newspapers, are selling the coupons. In a situation like ours, there will always be those who use short cuts and whatever means possible to make money. Some cannot stomach the idea of standing for a long time in queues for commuter omnibuses. So, the solution is to gag the rank marshalls with cash. Getting a national identity document, a birth certificate, let alone a passport, which is every citizen's constitutional right, is a hassle too. In 1980, it would take less than three weeks to get a national identity document, less than three days to get a birth certificate and less than seven days to get a passport.

Now, you have to bribe everybody starting the very moment you join the queue. Government institutions are so corrupt that even people who are supposed to be enforcing the law have joined the race. We have a fuel crisis that was triggered by corruption at the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) and we have a looming power crisis blamed on corruption of the top brass at the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA). Are the responsible people facing the the music? No, they are getting promoted instead, or "retired" with golden handshakes. Roadblocks are now called automated teller machines (ATMs) in the police force. Policemen demand bribes from motorists with impunity. This has resulted in accidents which could have been avoided had road unworthy vehicles been taken off the road. We have become a corrupt nation such that we need a complete change of attitude in us all, starting with those at the top to the ordinary man in the street. That, with a bit of divine intervention will see us regain our respectable place on the continent. (teve Mathambo Ngoma is a journalism student.)

From Financial Gazette, Zimbabwe, 17 July 2003

Anti-Corruption Investigates Education Ministry Again

Freetown - Information reaching this press say the Anti Corruption Commission is currently probing circumstances that led to an excess payment of two hundred and two (Le 202 m) million Leones as grant-in-aid to students of Fourah Bay College recently. At the centre of the investigation is the Student Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Gilbert Copper who is alleged to have colluded with finance officers of tertiary institutions in what has been described as a well organized syndicate which has been in operation for the past decade. The deal involves inflating students pay vouchers with fictitious names of non-existing students, which is then presented to the Ministry of Finance for endorsement. The latest fraud involving the Le202 million was detected by Finance Ministry officials who alerted the Education Ministry, who in turn informed the University of Sierra Leone. A query was sent to Fourah Bay College authorities about the anomaly. "The Senior Assistant Finance Officer (SAFO), Mrs. Alice Lansana broke into tears when she was served the query," an FBC source told Standard Times.

Mrs. Lansana, the source explains, took up the SAFO job without realizing that a syndicate of that nature existed in that college for years, leading to the dismissal of a former Finance Officer of the college. "I am a victim of circumstance," she is quoted to have said after she received the query letter from her supervisor. Recently Finance Ministry fished out ten names of students from the FBC voucher, students said to have left the college more than two years ago. Education sources say the sum of Le50 million was recently shared among some education officials, being proceeds from the loot. The painful aspect of the entire deal is that even the Minister, Dr. Alpha Wurie doesn't have a comprehensive list of students from the different colleges entitled to the Sierra Leone Government grant. "In such a situation, the possibility of rogue officials to defraud the state is very high," opined a ministry official, noting that if Le200 million could be recovered from an operation involving a single college, the is all the likelihood that more of such amounts have already been siphoned from the treasury before this discovery.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 17 July 2003

Kenya Says Tackling Corruption But Faces Hurdles

Nairobi - Kenya's new government led by President Mwai Kibaki said on Wednesday it was making progress in the fight against corruption but warned there were no quick fixes. Corruption is widely seen as the defining characteristic of former president Daniel arap Moi's 24-year rule, and Kibaki's government has made the fight against it a high priority. But more than six months after the government was sworn in, momentum has waned. Many Kenyans are becoming impatient and questioning the government's commitment to the process. Kiraitu Murungi, the minister for justice and constitutional affairs, said fighting graft had been slowed by insufficient resources and threatened by growing complaints by some ethnic groups that the campaign was a witch-hunt for supporters of the previous government. ''The pace and the depth of anti-corruption reforms are disappointing many Kenyans. They are becoming cynical and impatient, some are talking of impossibility and failure,'' he said at a conference to launch Kenya's five-year anti-corruption programme.

The government has made changes to the judiciary, taken several senior managers of public firms to court and enacted key anti-graft laws demanded by donors for lending to resume. Kenya's main opposition party, largely made up of members of parliament from Moi's ethnic tribe, have dismissed the fight against corruption as an attempt to punish Moi and his tribe. But Kibaki said he would not stop the campaign and promised to deal ''ruthlessly'' even with members of his government. ''My administration is committed to making political sacrifices necessary to keep us firmly on the anti-corruption road,'' Kibaki told the conference, also addressed by visiting heads of the World Bank James Wolfensohn and Peter Eigen, the head of the Transparency International. The body ranks Kenya the world's sixth most corrupt nation. Wolfensohn said Kenya should take advantage of the change of government to wipe out graft and promised World Bank support. ''I urge you to take this moment because it will be a long time coming again,'' he said. (Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.)

From MSNBC, by David Mageria, 24 July 2003

The Government's Corruption Coup

Freetown - Corruption has blushingly accepted that it above be blamed for all that is wrong with Sierra Leone. In corruption's is also the blame for the war that confounded the dead as much as the living. Weekend TV sensitization programme by the Finance Ministry must be commended as the government's determination to hold the blue by the horn more corruption is most cruel at the grassroots. Corruption may be a criminal act but it is essentially a problem of morality. So both teachers anyone to steal (or look the books). Of course, corruption is usually expressed in cash but it can also be found in sheer inability to be judicious with responsibility or abusing regulation for rewards prompted by ills of greed. Stealing from, or abusing public trust is a rascal thing to do and is as despicable as rape. The people need to know at the grassroots, and not limited to it, that the thief has to be desprised even if his jeep is the latest in the market. Corruption faces a hard time when the people are engaged in monitoring their own resources. Officials of the Ministry of Finance have by their initiative recruited themselves as combatants of the enduring war.

Always assuming that the ministry is itself above board then, victory is within a sniffing distance. The endemism of the country's corruption has always, unfairly, been laid at, the feet of governments above. A country that lacks the culture of corruption promptly puts its rogues behind bars. When a country's rogues are prospering it is either that the people are encouraging by condoning or the people are not paying attention to their own resources. The Anti-Corruption Commission will have a better chance to succeed when the people are themselves the crusaders. Although the initiatives are coming form a government ministry, cultural and religious leaders should seize the baton. The Churches and Mosques will have to walk with the government on this even if they don't work together. A moral disease, corruptions have cost this nation dearly and the custodians of culture and soul cannot be seen to be unconcerned. Any unfair advantage is corruption, period. And unfair advantages in the society are found on the mountaintops as well as on the bottom of valleys. It is a society problem. Which is why all sectors of leadership should give corruption a critical look. Sierra Leone is God's beautiful garden. If the people resolve to fence off corruption then it will be paradise again.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Sule Musa, 24 July 2003

Corruption Levels Sink to All-time Low

Zimbabwe has been classified as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, slumping from 45th place in 2000 to 71st position in a Transparency International Corruption Perception Index released this week. A Transparency International Zimbabwe programme officer, Mary Ncube, said Zimbabwe's corruption rating had been worsened by the country's continued economic meltdown, rising poverty and unemployment. But the major blame for the country's increasing corruption record, she said, stood out as corrupt systems and policies that were benefiting a few individuals while the rest of the country's population bore the brunt of the economic woes. Zimbabwe is currently going through its worst economic crisis, characterised by acute food shortages, foreign currency and From C9fuel shortages that have disrupted the normal functioning of all economic activities.

Basic food commodities, whose prices have shot up by over 500 percent during the year, are in short supply and only available on the black market. Inflation has been breaking record highs, with the year-on-year rate touching 364.5 percent for June. Ncube said a recent survey conducted by Transparency International had indicated that over 80 percent of Zimbabweans believed corruption had worsened their plight in the face of mounting shortages and economic woes. She said the local chapter of transparency International was advocating for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission to help stem the worsening economic cancer. Already a Bill on the formation of the commission awaits parliamentary approval. It is expected that the Bill could pass during the fourth session of the House, which opened this week.

From Financial Gazette, Zimbabwe, 24 July 2003

Toward Capacity-Building In Good Governance

Yaoundé - Poverty and exclusion was at the centre of the conference organised by the International Institute of Administrative Sciences that ended in Yaounde last Friday. The Minister of State Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic and president of the International Institute for Administrative Sciences, Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara has called for the implementation of proposals for good governance in order to stimulate national prosperity. He made the call last Friday while presiding at the closing ceremony of a conference organised by the International Institute of Administrative Sciences, IIAS. During the four-day workshop in which 264 delegates from 49 member countries took part, several important issues were examined. They include: participation in governance, poverty alleviation and exclusion, partnership, coordination and cohesion, accountability and transparency. On participation in governance, it was resolved that, exclusion as well as power within society must be shared amongst multiple actors, specifically, government, civil society and the private sector. All were asked to work hand in glove as partners but with each group having well-defined role. "

The Yaounde conference signals a return to a more balanced view where the State and the civil society will all have key roles to play", Mr. Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara said. Addressing the participants, the Minister of Public Service and Administrative Reforms, Réné Ze Nguéle said that, there is no standard means of fighting poverty and marginalisation. " Individual countries must therefore define their objectives, taking into consideration their local realities". On poverty and exclusion, participants resolved to develop strategies for the State to implement laws protecting the minority groups. Transparency and accountability were raised as means of effectively checking government actions. Decentralisation was also proposed as a powerful tool although not as a panacea. It was recognised that in order that decentralisation be successful, a number of conditions must be fulfilled. They include: capacity building, adequate resources and a system of mutual help, solidarity, cooperation and coordination. The next conference takes place in South Korea, in 2004.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Esthar Azaa, 22 July 2003

Corruption, Ethnicity Hinder Fair Elections in Nigeria - Shehu Shagari

Kaduna - Former President Shehu Aliyu Shagari has said corruption abetted by debilitating poverty, ethnicity and intolerance are the factors hindering free and fair elections in Nigeria. Opening a three-day Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 2003 post-election seminar at the International Trade Fair Complex, Kaduna yesterday, Shagari said corruption was a serious national problem that can no longer be swept under the carpet. "I sincerely and firmly believe that the cankerworm that has greatly hindered the flourishing of democracy in Africa in general and in Nigeria in particular is corruption aided and abetted by the debilitating effects of poverty, ethnicity and intolerance," Shagari declared. He commended INEC for "miraculously" succeeding in entrenching democracy in Nigeria where many in similar circumstances would have failed. "The tension that pervaded the political system made a lot of us to shiver and wonder where the country was heading to. The signs were ominous. Most of us thought we would never come out of the elections in one piece." He said democracy was heavily dependent on the supremacy of the law. "Democracy can only thrive in this country therefore when we all learn to respect our laws. Anything short of this is an invitation to anarchy," he added. Shagari said we should when necessary delete from our books all laws that would hinder the growth of democracy in Nigeria and also spoke of the need for prompt release of funds to INEC.

INEC Chairman, Dr. Abel Ibude Guobadia said although the last general elections were widely acknowledged as successful "we as a commission are under no illusion that all was well with the elections. We note in particular, the constructive criticisms of most of the international and domestic observer groups." He said all the identified flaws by the commission, individuals and observer groups have been collated for analysis and that the issues and problems during the 2003 general elections were legal and constitutional issues, funding, logistics and operational problems, voter registration and education. Others are: polling day activities cum result management, political parties (monitoring, party auditing, campaign and fund raising), electoral violence and national security. Senate President Adolphus Wabara said the National Assembly was willing to let INEC get its funding from the first line charge to make the commission truly independent. The seminar is being attended by over 400 participants drawn from INEC, all the political parties, academia, State Independent Electoral Commission (SIECs), the diplomatic corps and relevant NGOs. Seven principal papers are expected to be presented covering all legal framework of the Nigerian electoral system, the electoral-process, voter registration and education, funding the electoral process: issues, problems and solutions, logistics and electoral operations, polling day and result management and political parties and the political system.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Sani Babadoko, 29 July 2003

 

1,000 Corruption Cases Spending Prosecution in State

As many as 1,000 of the 2,642 cases registered by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) are hanging fire since the past four years due to lack of state government sanction for prosecution. Addressing mediapersons, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra Chaggan Bhujbal said on Monday that of these cases, 169 were awaiting sanction for prosecution for more than 10 years, 139 for between 8-10 years, 195 for between six-eight years, 439 for between four-six years, 664 for between two-four years, 569 for between one-two years and 340 cases for less than a year. Bhujbal said: "The technicality of government sanction being required to prosecute corrupt officials may have been incorporated in the law so that innocent persons are not falsely implicated and prosecuted." "Considering the large number of cases that are pending sanction, we have directed all state government departments to promptly clear the paper work on these cases," he said. The ACB, up to May 6, has registered 250 cases. In 2002, it had registered 453 cases, while 450 cases were registered in 2001.

According to Bhujbal, 20 cases of government officials amassing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income were registered till May. The ACB had registered 14, 20 and 29 such cases, in 2000, 2001 and 2002, respectively. The state revenue department tops the list of the most corrupt division with 62 cases registered against its officials who were nabbed while accepting bribes. The state police department came in second with 41 cases of entrapment undertaken by ACB officials. These two departments are followed by the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB), municipal corporations and councils, and the land records department. Bhujbal said that the Union government has convened a high level meeting of state government officials to take stock of various cases registered in various states in the fake stamp paper scam that is being investigated for the last few years. He added that the state police department, which last week arrested Anil Gote, an accused in the stamp paper scam, was making progress in the case so far.

From Business Standard, India, 8 July 2003

Wichit Wins Good Governance Award

Phuket Town - Wichit Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor) has won a best-governance award and additional funding of 1.7 million baht in competition against seven other Phuket OrBorTor. OrBorTor Pa Klok received additional funds of 1.4 million baht for coming second and OrBorTor Sri Suntorn received 1.2 million baht for third place, Sorawich Chaiyasawat, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Local Administration Office, said today. A committee of representatives from the government and private sectors, headed by Phuket Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi, also considered entries from Maikhao, Rawai, Sakoo, Thepkrasattri and Rassada tambons. The Office of the Prime Minister cooperated with the Department of Local Administration in Bangkok to provide the 500-million-baht budget to reward local administration organizations around the country for good governance. K. Sorawich added that the Tambon Council and Tambon Administration Act, passed earlier this year, means that leadership of an OrBorTor, which formerly carried the title of Chairman (Prathan), now carries the honorific of President Nai Yok.

From Phuket Gazette, Thailand, 1 July 2003

Self-Help Organizations and Good Governance

While the government machinery is generally corrupt, unaccountable and non-transparent, it is just the reverse in the case of the self-help groups (SHG). The SHGs have immense advantages in terms of good governance over the government organizations. Three basic attributes characterise the functioning of self-help groups in Nepal. First, an SHG is invariably an exclusive organisation of the direct stakeholders or users of a certain activity, infrastructure or service and is democratically organised. Secondly, the members have valuable stakes in common. With the proliferation of externally-promoted or spontaneously organized self-help groups in the communities in recent years, reclaimable cash contributions by members to group savings have almost invariably emerged as the stake they hold in common and have been used as a group-managed mini-credit scheme for themselves. Even where there are other stakes such as an irrigation scheme or a community forest, the emphasis on cash savings has been increasingly pronounced. This condition creates a vested interest on the part of the members in the proper functioning of the groups which, in turn, ensures the regular and effective part9icipation of all the members in the meetings and decision-making of their groups. Such common stake-holding in the groups has had very significant empowerment effect on the weaker sections of the people in the village communities, including women.

Traditionally, the inter-caste, inter-class and gender disparities between people have been the principal barrier to effective participation by women, Dalits and other poorer members in the decision-making in the communities. Invariably, it is the elite who take the decision for the rest of the people in the community. And, for reasons cited earlier, those decisions went unchallenged even when they affected them adversely. However, when the poor and non-poor alike in the communities participated in the groups with common stake-holding, these barriers have simply melted away. Their poverty and disadvantaged position in the communities notwithstanding, the members of the weaker sections too have found it necessary to assert themselves and to participate in the decision of their groups to assure that their valuable stakes are properly managed and not misappropriated. And conversely, in the face of such new found assertiveness on the part of the weaker sections of the communities, the leaders in the groups too find themselves in a position of having to be more responsive, accountable and transparent. Thus, mobilization of such cash savings has not only established itself as an important source of local resource mobilisation for development in the communities but also an effective equalizing instrument in favour of the poor and the disadvantaged in the community.

The third attribute of Self-help Groups (SHGs) is their capacity to seek out and access new information, skills, technologies and inputs, in short, the ISTI support. As an organized collectivity the SHGs perceive and establish new horizons of possibilities for themselves which they, as single individuals, could not have done. This is one of the main advantages of the group approach to development. As members of an organized group, they are more confident of themselves and set out to access resources that can potentially contribute to their material, social or spiritual well-being. This is where most members find meaning in organised self-help action. These days, there are many non-government initiatives under which the SHOs have significantly benefited from the ISTI support provided or promoted by the concerned NGOs. Important examples of such NGOs would be CEAPRED, DSD, RSDC, SAPPROS, VDRC, etc. Even under government promoted projects such as the Remote Area Basic Needs Project of CARE-Nepal in northern Gorkha (1992-1999), the local self-help groups, 170 of them in nine VDCs, were able to bring about significant improvements in the living conditions in their remote villages due to the smooth ISTI support provided by its Project Office at Arughat in the district (Shrestha, et al, 2000). Even where no such NGOs or agency is formally committed, the spontaneously established SHGs have been able to access ISTI support from the environment although in a more limited scale than otherwise such as the Didi Banini Bachat Tatha Reen Shakari Shantha in the Amarapuri VDC of Nawalparasi district.

There is, therefore, a crying need in the country for redefining the role of the government service delivery agencies so that the burgeoning population of the Self-help Organizations (SHOs) all across the country can have easy access to the ISTI support represented by them. Besides, the recent experiences of a number of both government and non-government programs (e.g. SFCL, CEAPRED, SAPPROS, etc.) have show3n that a higher order of organisaitons at supra-grass-roots level is feasible and essential for greater sustainability and self-reliance of the SHGs. Under SFCL, for instance, the individual small farmer groups at the grassroots with a limited membership 6 to 8 generally are federated into Inter-Group organisations at the ward level and the latter into the SFCL at the VDC level. With a large membership at the base of its pyramid, the SFCL is able to employ its own managers and other support staff without having to rely on any government officials, subsidies or grants to run them. Similarly, formed of some 85 producers' groups at the grassroots. While the saving and credit functions are still performed at the smaller groups level, the (federated) co-operative performs mainly the marketing function. CEAPRED has withdrawn itself from the project for a long time, and the co-operatives continued to function effectively (Adhikari and Shrestha, 1994). The essential lesson from these experiences is that certain functions such as the management of saving and credit is better performed at the small group level whereas they need higher order organisations to manage their higher order functions such as banking and marketing services for their large number of group members.

Whether at the level of the grassroots or of their higher order incarnation, democracy and the essential conditions of good governance are effectively at work in the organization and management of the SHGs in Nepal. The members of the organizations effectively participate in their decision-making; the SHG leadership is accountable to the members; and the functioning of the organization is transparent. Because of these good governance conditions in the groups, resources are mobilished and used for the greater good of the members; members are materially benefited in terms of increased income and employment opportunities; and they go on to effectively establish new norms of social existence wherein their mutual cooperation is heightened, evil practice such as gambling, drinking and extravagance are effectively curbed, and the whole groups look to the future with vision an optimism. Evidence also exists, although sporadically, that in those VDCs here most people are organised in such SHGs, the office bearers of the local bodies are more beholden to the wishes of their voters than otherwise. The VDC members in them are much more accountable in their behaviors and the management of the VDCs themselves are more transparent. Two examples of such VDCs would be Chhatre Deurali in Dhading and Prithivi Narayan in Jhapa where most of the households in the villages are organised in small farmer groups and SFCLs.

Similarly, most of the nine VDCs in northern Gorkha under CARE Nepal RABNP Project too are more transparent and accountable, given the fact that most people there are organized in the large numbers of SHGs there. In these situations, the social and economic stratification in the village notwithstanding, an association seems to exist between the majority of the people being organised in SHGs on the one hand and the increasing degree of accountability and transparency of the local leaders on the other. Should this proposition hold on a larger scale in the country, then there is a very compelling case for devolving authority all the way down to the level of the SHGs at the grassroots and to drastically re-define the roles of the VDCs, DDCs and the government service delivery agencies accordingly. With such pressure being built up from below, both the politics and bureaucracy at the national level will have to tame themselves and be increasingly accountable in their behavior in order to successfully respond to the demands from the SHGs at the grassroots. The demands themselves are bound to be ever more persistent because of the compulsion for the local leaders to have to be responsive to needs and priorities of their own constituents. So far, however, there has been no purposive effort on the part of the government for instituting a well-informed policy of decentralisation in the country to promote and backstop such self-help initiatives at the grassroots where Nepalese poverty is at its worst.

Despite decades of rhetoric favoring decentralisation, effective devolution of powers has remained a mirage. While centralised planning has persisted as the basis for national resource allocation, it has been inherently incapable to respond to the specificities of local needs and priorities. The national planning mechanism has thus stubbornly continued to preside over the continued to preside over the continuous wastage of scarce national resources. This situation is brought to the full glare by the fact that the expenditure of enormous sums of resources over the decades has failed to make any significant dent on the continued underdevelopment and worsening poverty in the country. The national planning mechanism must acknowledge that SHOs at the grassroots are critical for successfully reaching the poor and for bringing about overall socio-economic development in the communities. They have the demonstrated capacity to generate savings, promote income generating activities, adopt better health and sanitation practices, enhance access to literacy and education facilities, establish more progressive norms for population control, and ensure more effective management of infrastructure. The whole super-structure of the development bureaucracy must be geared to providing support to such self-help organizations at the grassroots.

The donor's side too assures us no better. Despite five full decades of foreign aid to Nepal, the socio-economic condition of the vast majority of the people in the country has only gone from bad to worse. The country continues to languish in abject poverty, stark under-development, unacceptably high population growth rates, ill-developed infrastructures, poor health and educational systems, acute social and economic stratification, and discriminatory access to limited social services. The numerous donors in the country whose number is steadily on the rise cannot absolve themselves of their share of responsibility in perpetrating and perpetuating this mess. This raises a very fundamental question about the very justification and legitimacy of their continued operations in Nepal. The mounting debt burden of Nepal, which affects the poor and the weak the most, results primarily from this largely irresponsible conduct of foreign aid both by the donor officials and their receiving counterparts in the country.

There are a number of regions in Nepal which, after having gone through more than fifteen years of the implementation of prominent bilaterally funded and donor-directed rural development projects, have now turned not into the promised oases of prosperity but into strongholds of Maoist insurgency. The responsible donor officials and the government counterparts themselves are now ensconced conveniently away from those political hotbeds, enjoying the perks and privileges associated with their elevated positions in their organizations. And it is the very poor local people who, having been denied any role to influence the donor projects, are now left to face the music of the Maoist insurrection. (Excerpts from the author's article on " The Sociological Context of (I)NGO Work in Nepal from a book, NGO, Civil Society and Government in Nepal published by Central Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, T.U in cooperation with the FES: Chief editor.)

From The Telegraph, Nepal, by Bihari Krishna Shrestha , 15 July 2003

Amendments Are Aimed at Stability, Good Governance

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare told Parliament yesterday that his idea to propose the law to repeal and replace the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates was to leave behind a legacy of political stability and good government. Sir Michael said the proposed law and the constitutional amendments would further strengthen and entrench the role of political parties as key players in PNG's system of government and guarantee political stability and continuity, which has been lacking. Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta, however, maintained that extending the Prime Minister's term for a further six months, on it own, does not create stability. Sir Mekere pleaded in Parliament with Sir Michael to withdraw the amendment, stressing that PNG needs flexibility in its system of government - a pressure valve that allows for a no-confidence vote - when the people are not satisfied with the performance of their government.

Tabling the changes initiated by the Central Fund Board of Management, for first reading and the first opportunity for debate, Sir Michael said the amendments maintain the motion of no-confidence as a pressure valve without becoming a threat to good government. Important changes also include the recognition and establishment of the Office of the Opposition with its own budget to be appropriated annually in the national budget. The age limit of the person holding the position of Registrar is extended from 55 to 60 years and a female candidate, who receives 10 per cent of the votes cast in an electorate in an election, would be entitled to 75 per cent of K10, 000 payable to a successful party-endorsed candidate and not a percentage of the expense as is the current law. In the main, the decision by the coalition for the new amendments means it effectively removes dissolution of parliament after a successful vote of no-confidence. Instead, the grace period is extended from 18 months to 36 months and an absolute majority vote is required for a vote of no-confidence to be successful. These amendments would be accommodated at the committee stage.

Sir Michael said these amendments deal with three situations that impact on political stability: namely the activities of political parties and their members, the independent members and the motion of no-confidence. "We have experienced the outcome of weak political parties, manoeuvrings by Members of Parliament and frequent motions of no-confidence. We must deal with these situations to make way for progress," he said. "I have no selfish interest in maintaining my term and that of the current coalition government for the five years. I do not need to extend my term. I want to leave politics knowing that the future of this country is secure and the way to achieve this is to ensure political stability through these important proposed amendments. "What is more important than leaving our governments to be constantly exposed to motions of no-confidence at the drop of a hat is to create stability in our political system and its processes, so that it can trigger the acceptable developments in other sectors like economic, social and related activities." Many Government ministers and MPs spoke in support of the changes. Debate was adjourned to today.

From The National, Papua New Guinea, by Colin Taimbari, 17 July 2003

More Effort Needed to Fight Corruption: Commentary

Discipline inspectors in Beijing are to talk to all newly appointed or elected officials in Communist Party and government departments, urging them to be clean and honest in their work, under revised anti-corruption guidelines. Discipline inspectors in Beijing are to talk to all newly appointed or elected officials in Communist Party and government departments, urging them to be clean and honest in their work, under revised anti-corruption guidelines. Officials who have committed minor improprieties will be admonished, under an interim regulation issued by the Beijing Municipal Discipline Inspection Commission. Such measures are aimed at nipping the evil in the bud, a lesson drawn from past failure. China has reaped a lot from its anti-corruption crusades of recent years, catching some high-ranking officials. But, by tracing the fall of corrupt officials, we find that one of our failures has been not able to detect and contain their wrong-doing at an early stage. With their initial misdeeds going unchecked, those corrupt officials, whose malpractice might otherwise have been contained, went inexorably down the road to doom. By strengthening internal supervision, the new mechanism of admonition and of giving new officials advance warnings will play a part in curbing the growth of corruption. However, this alone cannot guarantee clean government.

Some corrupt officials are often cunning at covering up their dirty deeds. For example, they often make inspiring speeches on different occasions, calling for tighter control on corruption while receiving bribes in secret. They only pay lip service to the fight against corruption. The fall of several high-ranking officials in recent years exemplified this stark contrast between words and deeds. Good at putting on a show, corrupt officials can often manage to deceive their seniors into believing their feigned innocence. In this situation, "clean talk" from the top will not work. Past experience has shown many corruption cases have been uncovered thanks to information provided by the public or the media. Therefore, while enhancing internal controls, policies should be devised to facilitate supervision by the media and the public. Officials should be made more accountable to the public instead of only to their superiors. Government activities should be made more transparent. And the role of public opinion should be better respected. Only by combining external and internal efforts can we win the war against the scourge of corruption.

From People's Daily Online, China, 17 July 2003

Good Political Leadership Ensures Good Governance: Intra-party Democracy, Curbing Corruption a Must

Leading political scientists at a seminar in the capital yesterday uderscored the need for intra-party democracy, leadership training, curbing of corruption and bettter government-opposition relationships for good governance in Bangladesh. The seminar formed the first working session of a two-day 9th National convention of the Bangladesh Political Science Association at the Sonargaon Hotel. Prof. Ataur Rahman of Dhaka University who presented the keynote paper at the seminar underlined the need for the establishment of a high profile institute for excellence in leadership in governance for leaders from various sectors including political leaders and Members of Parliament to interact, learn and take courses to update their knowledge and experience. Barrister Mainul Hosein, Chairman of the Editorial Boards of The New Nation and the Daily Ittefaq, presided over the seminar which was addressed by NDI country representative James Oliver, Hafizuddin Khan, former adviser of Cateraker Government, Prof. Aftab Ahmed, Vice Chancellor of National University, Prof. Dilara Chowdhury, of Jahangirnagar University, Prof Shamsur Rahman of Rajshahi University, AKM Shahidullah, of Dhaka University Prof. Yahya Aktar and Prof Badiul Alam of Chittagong University, Prof Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, Prof. Ferdous Hossain and Prof. Nurul Amin Bepari of Dhaka University, Dr Shawkat Ara Hossain, Dr Habibur Rahman, Dr Tareq Shamsur Rahman and Dr M Abdul Wahab.

Tracing the growth of political leadership in Bangladesh Prof Ataur Rahman said that the era of charismatic leadership ended with Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman who built his charisma on hard work, and a unique vision of a prosperous Bangladesh with a strong sense of nationhood. The much-coveted transition to parliamentary democracy in 1991 ushered in a new brand of democratic and participatory leadersip that came from the context of struggle against authoritarian rule, he said. Prof Ataur listed the reforms initiated by the present government in the legal judicial system but pointed out the dominating public perception that police and criminal justice system are inefficient and corrupt. He said as in other South Asian countries, corruption has become an enduring pattern of public life in Bangladesh and poses a threat to democracy and development. Quoting from World Bank and UNDP reports, he said that 30-40 per cent of development fund of Bangladesh is siphoned off by corrupt means and that the country can save a substantial percentage of its GDP by curbing this malaise. The move to set up an independent anti-corruption commission is a step in the right direction, he said. Underscoring the need for making Parliament effective he said that the challenge for Khaleda Zia's leadership is to make legislative body attractive for the opposition lawmakers as well as the members of her own party and alliance. Barrister Mainul Hosein congratulated Dr Ataur Rahman for his keynote paper. He said, our Constitution as the supreme law has given us the outlines of democratic system and good governance.

It is important that we follow the Constitution in its full meaning and spirit. Our opposition politicians in general believe that as MPs if they cannot become ministers it is no use attending the Parliament. On the role and significance of the opposition in the Parliament our political scientists should come forward with their ideas and thoughts. Barrister Hosein said that democratic leadership has to be collective for securing collective national interest. But it is advantageous for the corrupt ones to help one-person leadership. We must fight corruption for the needed democracy and good governance, he said. James Oliver said that the political leadership must have courage, vision and tolerance. Democracy is also about change in party leadership, he said. Hafizuddin Khan referred to shortage of qualitiy leaders and called for filling this gap. Prof Aftab Ahmed strongly criticised the MPs for remaining busy with allocations for their constituencies instead of taking interest in legislative activities. This leads to quorum crisis, he said. Prof Dilara Zaman underscored the need for practicing democracy within the parties first to run the country in a democratic manner. She said without participation of women good governnce is not possible. Prof Shamsur Rahman alleged that the country's politics was being controlled by the musclemen and black money holders. AKM Shahidullah said, "We want parliamentary democracy not Prime Ministerial system." Prof Yahiya Akhter of Chittagong University said "Political criminals buy nominations for election to Parliament. They consider this an investment." © Copyright 2003 by The New Nation

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, 19 July 2003

Corruption Eats Away at Thailand

Corruption condemns the Thai people to never being able to reach their full potential in so many areas of daily life: in education, politics, the economy and morally the list could almost be endless. Its crippling practices run through every level of politics and the bureaucracy. Things look glum even though the people had the chance to take part in shaping their future through helping to draft the ``people's constitution'' of 1997. This constitution paved the way for the establishment of semi-independent agencies tasked with making the electoral process fairer and making life tougher for the corrupt in society. These bodies include the Election Commission, Constitution Court, National Counter Corruption Commission and Anti-Money Laundering Office. The aim was to guarantee less corruption and less cheating and vote-buying in elections. Thailand also was given an elected upper house for the first time whose members were supposed to be non-partisan. The future was to be a brighter place. But things have not worked out as well as intended. We might have stable government, especially after the Thai Rak Thai party managed to win a huge number of seats at the last election and has since been able to add even more.

But the party is made up of too many of the old politicians who continue to practise their old ways based on money and patronage, practices which help to encourage corruption. The prime minister himself might not be a member of this old breed, but he must spend an inordinate amount of his time balancing their demands, and those of others in the government, against those of the public. Take the matter of the Klong Dan waste-water facility in Samut Prakan. This project has cost the taxpayer 23 billion baht to acquire the necessary land and build the treatment plant, but now, when things are very near completion, the Thai public and the foreign creditors have been told the development is to be halted. Investigations completed around a month ago into the land purchases and the building costs show that the corruption involving the land deals alone has been massive and around 10 people, among them prominent politicians, would be charged. It is a familiar story only the scale of the corruption is different and there are very few among the public who actually believe the powerful among the guilty will be brought to justice.

Another suspected case of corruption involves the recent suggestion to ban the advertising of alcoholic beverages on television between 5am and 10 pm. The suggestion was warmly received by the media and the public. But rather than go to the cabinet weeks ago as planned, the proposal has run into roadblocks as a result of the considerable influence of the liquor industry. And let's not forget Chuwit Kamolvisit, the operator of a chain of upmarket massage parlours, and his accusations of bribes paid to a large part of the Bangkok police force. It is understood that dealing with corruption takes time, but a concerted start must be made. Too much tax money has been abused, too little which is duly owed has not been collected, and too many state resources have been wasted. The public's hopes rest with Mr Thaksin. He promised them he would fight corruption, drugs and poverty should they elect him. He has done well on drugs and has now promised he will turn his attention to eradicating poverty within the next six years. But if he cannot deal with corruption, a considerable but the lesser of the two tasks, how can he possibly bring about an end to grinding poverty?

From Bangkok Post, Thailand, 24 July 2003

Good Governance Awards

Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh yesterday told executives of local administrative organisations to take poverty, drugs and corruption problems seriously. At a ceremony to present good governance awards, Gen Chavalit said there was no other solution than education to eliminate poverty. As far as the drugs problem went, the government was implementing mostly peaceful campaigns to encourage traffickers to stop dealing in drugs, he said. When it came to corruption, he remarked softly that the overall budget of local administrative organisations was indeed tiny compared to the scale of corruption and the amount of money being siphoned off from mega development projects at the national level. Of the 7,946 local administrative organisations, only 258 received good governance awards yesterday. The first prize went a provincial administrative organisation in Prachin Buri. Bang-on Wilawan, the Prachin Buri administrative organisation president, said her organisation emphasised transparency in its management and project implementation. Local people, experts and representatives from the Auditor-General's Office were always involved in the day-to-day operations. There are 75 provincial administrative organisations, 1,129 municipalities and 6,742 tambon administrative organisations.

From Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Onnucha Hutasingh, 21 July 2003

Local Authorities Forging Ahead with E-government

Kuala Lumpur - The launch of the Smart Local Government's Governance (SLGGA) Agenda is expected to promote e-government among the local authorities. The programme would enhance the local authorities' efficiency in providing better services to the public, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said Wednesday. "SLGGA is aimed at increasing the quality of services offered by the local authorities to the community using information technology. It will help to strengthen the elements of transparency, accountability and effectiveness and will also be more responsive. "SLGGA will also help to reduce the digital gap between progressive local authorities and those that are less progressive," Ong told reporters after the weekly post-cabinet meeting at his ministry here. Under the project, the "e.pbt.gov.my" portal will be established to enable the public to source for the latest information about the activities and services rendered by the authorities. Effective September, about 40 local authorities nationwide are expected to implement the online programme through their respective websites. "All the local authorities must have functional websites. Don't just put up a website that shows the name of the YDP (president) and secretary. I emphasise, it must be a functional website," he said. Ong said the website should have at least five functions - e-complaints, e-submission, e-tax, e-collection and e-licensing. The first project, introduced in collaboration with the National Information Technology Council, was launched on July 7 in Port Dickson.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 25 July 2003

Good Governance Key to Economic Growth: Chidambaram

Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has urged the government to get out of business and concentrate only on sectors like education, healthcare, law and order, justice delivery, roads, drinking water supply and sanitation to improve the human development index of the country. Delivering the keynote address at a one-day seminar on the 'Changing Face of Banking', organised by the Greater Mysore Chamber of Industry in Bangalore on Saturday, Chidambaram said huge spending in these core areas was the need of the hour if India had to be transformed into a developed country. ·Chidambaram pats Shourie on divestment strategy - "The fundamental failure of the Indian state is the failure of governance in the issues where the state must and can alone act. All other activities must be left to the people who are quite capable of taking care of them. "The people of India are far more qualified than a few of them occupying key positions in the government. Trade, business, export, import, manufacturing and production of goods must be freed from all controls and left to the people to take care of. "In the case of building the infrastructure, the government must encourage more and more public-private partnerships as it lacks both the resources and the expertise in executing the projects. By involving the people and the private sector, a great deal can be achieved to mitigate the hardships of daily life," Chidambaram stated.

The government must concentrate its energies and tariffs on what it alone can do, namely, of maintaining the supply of public goods and creating a climate where people are happy and contended. All other aspects of the economy should be left to the people, who will find resources, make investments and create jobs. Referring to the success story of the Indian software development industry, Chidambaram said the main reason why the IT industry flourished was because the government could not control though its bureaucrats would have liked to do so. "It is not that the government did not want to control the software sector. It simply did not have the wherewithal to control something that was being exported through the means, which were beyond its reach. "As the software industry was free from the travails of customs, excise and inspector raj, it could consistently outperform and sustain its growth despite recession and turbulence in the global economies," Chidambaram claimed. The people are competent to organise their tax, lending, borrowing, investment, and capable of producing goods and services, creating markets for their products, and earning huge foreign exchange. What needs and can be done by the people should best be left to them, while the government should ensure that its energies and resources are spent judiciously in the larger areas that have a direct bearing in the socio-economic development of the country. In the case of public-private partnerships, Chidambaram stressed the need to define the role of the government and limit it.

Lamenting on the decline in good governance during the last 4-5 years, Chidmabaram said the absence of feel good factor and lack of fresh investments were the result of the prevailing sense of uncertainty among the people. The flip-flop attitude of the government towards economic and labor reforms is keeping away fresh investments in green field projects and creation of new jobs. While jobs in the public sector have shrunk, they have remained stagnant in the private sector over the last five years. The Montek Singh Ahulwalia report to the Planning Commission bears testimony to these hard facts. Even in the agriculture sector, the investments have dwindled rapidly. In Tamil Nadu, out of a state budget of Rs 24,000 crore (Rs 240 billion), the capital investment on agriculture is just Rs 400 crore (Rs 4 billion). This sorry state of affairs spill over to irrigation facilities, channels, canals, new seeds, new fertilisers and new pesticides, roads to connect farms to markets, storage facilities, cold chains and testing facilities. "If investments are not made in agriculture, I wonder how there can be growth that is commensurate with the increasing needs of a growing population. The Indian economy has become more monsoon dependent in the last 6-7 years than ever before," Chidambaram cautioned.

Reflecting on the state of Indian economy, the former finance minister said despite the tall claims of the NDA government, the GDP growth remained below or around 5 per cent in four years and 6 per cent in one year. In the case of various states, the growth rates differ widely with the southern ones surging ahead, while those in the north and the heartland of India stagnating. "Growth cannot be measured by GDP alone. In the long-term, it is the human development index of the country that matters most as it encompasses a variety of aspects of human life such as housing, drinking water supply, sanitation, education, healthcare, infant/child mortality, and longevity," Chidambaram declared. Calling for a drastic change in the mindset of the people in grappling with the socio-economic problems faced by the country, Chidambaram said the prevailing situation was totally different from what it was a decade ago when India embarked on the reform process. "The geo-political changes the world over has brought about a paradigm shift in our priorities and strategies. In the face of increasing globalisation and inter-dependence of the economies of one another, we need to become more productive and competitive to emerge as a developed country," Chidambaram affirmed.

From Rediff, India, by Fakir Chand, 26 July 2003

 

Good Governance Won't Help Bad Strategy

Much has been written in the past few months about the impact of regulatory changes, particularly in terms of the roles of UK plc chairmen, chief executives, directors, auditors, audit committees and other interested parties. The shared political imperative for all of them is to shore up corporate governance measures in boardrooms and to build shareholder confidence. As the Financial Reporting Council redrafts the Higgs review and more column inches are devoted to the implications of the latest changes, it is clear that improved corporate governance does not rest merely in combined codes and the detail of refined standards. As an audit partner who spent seven months at Amey, the support services group, as acting finance director, albeit not a member of the board, I have found the regulatory debate, and the accompanying notion of boardroom scrutiny, stimulating and important. As an auditor and adviser to many public companies I was, of course, already familiar with the boardroom. However, in my role as acting finance director, attending all board meetings, I became even more directly aware of the complexity of the various board roles in dealing with a fast-changing environment.

One of the most significant issues for boardrooms is ensuring that directors work well together and trust one another. At Amey I observed a strong determination to do exactly this, which is not a surprising revelation given that the company was in a very public crisis mode. There was a real desire to get things moving, and my role was to help the board to stabilise the business. Within two weeks of my appointment, clear objectives were developed and there was a common acceptance that the board was there to work together to provide solutions necessary for the survival of the company. The overriding issue was to rescue or salvage as much shareholder value as possible from the potential terminal cashflow crisis facing the company. The crisis situation forced the board to share information and work together in a way that doesn't always happen when things are going better for a business. Invariably, a company in distress is not in that situation because it has too few or too many directors either as a result of changed trading conditions or because of poor strategic decisions or instances of poor financial control. The corporate governance challenge is to ensure that such causes can be recognised and that actions are taken to rectify them and mitigate loss.

Many companies are now focusing on complying with new requirements as new processes, reporting and risk management systems are introduced. Yet in difficult market conditions compliance is not the sole boardroom concern. Strategy is paramount in determining the success or failure of a company. Corporate governance compliance cannot make up for bad strategic direction. For a board to be successful, roles must be clearly defined. In particular, a working relationship, but one that of necessity contains a certain tension, needs to be created between the chief executive, chairman and finance director. Trust is essential, but board members must be prepared to challenge and be challenged. Strong personalities who try to shape the direction of a company without input from others on the board must be prepared not always to get their own way. Indeed, this is critical to success. In practical terms, an informal system of checks and balances should operate at the highest levels of a company so that key figures play off each other's strengths and nullify weaknesses. Some finance directors in the mid-1990s seemed to be over-focused on acting as deputy chief executives, sometimes to the detriment of their gatekeeper role.

While most chief executives want to see their finance directors as partners in developing their businesses, the gatekeeper role cannot be watered down. Finance director responsibility extends to balancing the demands of strategic and financial realities and ensuring that chairmen and chief executives are engaged in the detail of business information. No amount of vision can prevent disaster if the basics of cashflow management and business planning are not kept in view. While the board's role has not fundamentally changed, non-executive directors are now expected to be the scrutineers, and management can expect an increased degree of scepticism from the board. Ambiguity or confusion can have disastrous consequences for a company. However, a better definition of roles will not, on its own, necessarily lead to better corporate governance or improved shareholder performance. What is also needed is for the board to have the best information and analytical data available to it when taking strategic decisions. No number of additional combined codes will lead to success for a company that has embarked on a fundamentally flawed strategy that in turn has been based on an incomplete picture of the business's activities. The author is a partner in Deloitte & Touche.

From The Times, UK, by Eric Tracey, 9 July 2003

Parliamentary Corruption Investigation Commission Proposes Launching Investigation About Former Prime Ministers And Ministers

Ankara - Parliamentary Corruption Investigation Commission proposed on Wednesday launching investigation about 25 former ministers including former prime ministers Bulent Ecevit and Mesut Yilmaz. The Commission submitted its final report to the Office of Parliament Speaker. The Commission announced its decisions and the conclusion part of the report. Accordingly, the Commission expressed its view to launch a parliamentary investigation about 16 separate issues. The report proposed launching investigation about former prime minister Bulent Ecevit and deputy prime minister Devlet Bahceli on charges of their acts contrary to the Privatization Law and on charges of corruption in the tenders of the Supreme Privatization Board. Also, the commission said that investigation should be launched regarding former prime minister Mesut Yilmaz on charges of corruption in the Turkbank tender. Other ministers for whom opening of parliamentary investigation is wanted are Rustu Kazim Yucelen, Husamettin Ozkan, Hikmet Ulugbay, Sukru Sina Gurel, Metin Sahin, Nami Cagan, Yuksel Yalova, Sumer Oral, Ahmet Kenan Tanrikulu, Recep Onal, Kemal Dervis, Yilmaz Karakoyunlu, Yasar Topcu, Gunes Taner, Mustafa Tasar, Koray Aydin, Abdulkadir Akcan, Cumhur Ersumer, Zeki Cakan, Yasar Okuyan and Mehmet Kececiler.

From Turkish Press, Turkey, 23 July 2003

 

Has a New Era Dawned on Arab Governance?

The march of history is filled with coincidences, portentous or otherwise, and Tuesday added a new one whose nature has yet to be determined. Egypt got an early start on its July 23 national day commemorating Gamal Abdel Nasser's overthrow of the monarchy, an event that infused the entire Arab world with hope that bold new leadership would sweep the region. Simultaneously, Odai and Qusai Hussein, progenies of a pretender to Nasser's mantle, were breathing their last in a firefight with American soldiers. It will take months and maybe years to know for certain, but the violent deaths of two men who led such violent lives would be a fitting symbol for the closing of the book on a dream that went sour. Nasser's rise to power inspired Arabs everywhere to believe that they could do away with the dysfunctional governments and lopsided relationships bequeathed by the colonial era. It took just a decade, though, for "revolutionary" Egypt to be seduced by traditional power politics into entering the civil war in Yemen.

This and other instances of foolhardiness eventually drained the Egyptian experiment of its creativity and its Arab admirers of their enthusiasm. What Saddam wrought was far worse. Styling himself as the inheritor of Nasser's legacy, his interpretation of pan-Arabism was degraded, debased and then deranged by unquenchable ambition. The long and costly war with Iran robbed his country of precious lives and resources, and the subsequent invasion of Kuwait opened the door to the return of foreign hegemony over the region. His betrayal of everything for which Nasserism was once thought to stand culminated in the unofficial crowning of his sons as heirs to an especially bloody throne. With any luck, Arab history reached a genuine turning point on Tuesday and what comes next will be fundamentally different from that which went before. There is no more convincing argument for radical reform than the economic, moral, political and social bankruptcy of the Arab ruling class.

Saddam's sons represented a new generation that thankfully failed to follow in its predecessor' footsteps. Their demise offers a chance for legitimate leadership to take root, not just in Iraq but elsewhere in the Arab world as well. As this newspaper has previously stated, the onset of competent, democratic governance in the Middle East is inescapable. The only uncertainty is the manner in which the transformation will take place, and the people best-placed to make sure it avoids the self-destructiveness of full-fledged revolution are those who currently hold power. They still have a chance to compensate for their many and manifest failings of the past by recognizing the approach of a very different future and working to ease and hasten its arrival. Should they fail to do so, they will only delay and make more painful the inevitable. The fate of such shortsighted rulers is to be unceremoniously supplanted by forces they could and should have nurtured with all the tools at their disposal.

From The Daily Star, 7 July 2003

 

Corruption Probe

Land at the center of Alabama's government corruption probe is now owned by Montgomery County. Questions surrounding the state's plan to build two warehouses on the 256-acre site just north of downtown prompted a federal and state investigation into government corruption in 2001. The ongoing investigation has resulted in convictions or guilty pleas by six people involved with the state warehouse project, including a member of former Governor Don Siegelman's Cabinet. Montgomery County paid nearly $693,000 for the land. County Administrator Donald Mims said the county plans to use the site to build a minimum-security community corrections facility in the near future, and later on, build a jail on the site. Mims said the land's location was a major factor in the county's decision to buy it.

From WTVY, AL, 7 July 2003

Police Corruption Probed in Colombia

Bogota - Focus remains on suspected coastal corruption - Colombia's scandal-prone police force said on Friday it was investigating a group of officers to determine whether they took bribes of more than $1 million to return confiscated cocaine to traffickers. The probe comes a month after the government sacked an army general amid media reports of U.S. anger at the disappearance from under police guard of two tons of cocaine seized last year. As was the case with last month's scandal, the three new suspected cases of corruption all took place in Atlantic Province on Colombia's Caribbean coast, the main departure point for the country's massive cocaine shipments. "I will act with all the rigor called for by this type of conduct," National Police head Gen. Teodoro Campo said in a news release, without revealing the identities or number of police officers under investigation for the three separate incidents. Colombia's National Police, with about 100,000 officers, has been a principal beneficiary of about $2 billion in U.S. aid aimed at fighting the cocaine trade over the past few years. Dozens of senior police officers, including the former president's security coordinator, were investigated last year after about $2 million of American money was found to have disappeared. Corruption has taken some of the shine from the success of an aerial spraying onslaught which slashed drug crops by about 30 percent last year. Both far-right paramilitaries and Marxist rebels exploit the narcotics trade to pay for a 39-year-old war claiming thousands of lives a year.

From CNN, 11 July 2003

Extradition for Corruption

Trinidad and Tobago citizens found guilty of corruption, computer crimes or illegal, electronic transfer of funds can no longer escape the long arm of the law by hiding out in foreign countries. This was the warning sounded by Attorney General Glenda Morean when she piloted the Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) Order 2003 in Parliament yesterday. The AG said while the original Act of 1985 listed murder and drug-trafficking as extraditable offences, global technological adv-ances have seen an increase in trans-national crimes such as corruption, money laundering and cyber-crime. "In recent times, TT has intensified its efforts to fight corruption which it recognises as a threat to democracy, the economy and the moral fabric of society," Morean told the Opposition UNC. She said the former regime amended the Act's schedule in 1995 to include offences under the Treason and Firearms Acts. Morean further recalled that on April 15,1998, the UNC Government signed and ratified the Inter-American Convention against corruption and joined 92 countries in signing the 1997 Lima Declaration on Corruption. "These international conventions provide guidelines for the various measures which states can adopt to facilitate better investigation, prosecution and prevention of this most brutish form of criminal activity.

The Prevention of Corruption Act of TT in accordance with the Convention provides a sound legislative framework for the prevention of corruption," Morean said, subtly hinting at the UNC government's failure to deal with corruption. She declared it has now become necessary to amend the 1995 Act, in accordance with Articles 6 and 13 of the Lima Convention, to include corruption as an extraditable offence. Noting growing concerns about computer misuse and credit card fraud, the AG stated: "Both the Computer Misuse Act 2000 and Electronic Transfer of Funds Act 2000 provide the legislative framework for prevention of computer crimes as well as credit card fraud. It has therefore become necessary to include these acts as extraditable offences to be listed in the first schedule of the Act of 1995." Pointe-a-Pierre MP Gillian Lucky expressed concern about compatibility of evidence in extradition matters, recalling her role as a State attorney in the extradition of Lolita Saroop to the United States in the early 1990s. She called for "a special police force" and prosecutors to deal with sensitive matters involving extradition and crooked cops. She wondered why the authority to investigate such matters was shifted from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Office of the Attorney General. Morean reminded Lucky that this transfer occurred under the UNC.

From AG Morean, by Clint Chan Tack, 17 July 2003

 

Top of Corruption List

Economic or white collar crime is a problem throughout the world, but a survey has found that South African companies headed the list when it came to being defrauded, having their assets stolen or experiencing corruption or bribery. The Global Economic Crime Survey 2003, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that 37% of businesses worldwide had suffered economic crime in the past two years and that they had lost an average of $2 million (about R15million) each. The survey of more than 3 500 chief executives and financial directors in 50 countries worldwide found that 71% of South African companies had experienced economic crime in the past two years. This compared with the global experience of 37%. Peter Cromhout, a Forensic Services partner, said asset misappropriation was by far the biggest problem in South Africa and Africa. He said 79% of the 91 South African companies featured in the survey reported that they had experienced asset theft, compared to the global figure of 59%. Product piracy was also prevalent, with 30% of those surveyed reporting the problem. Corruption and bribery was reported by 21% of South African respondents, compared to 14% globally. Cromhout said economic crime was most frequently detected by internal and external audits, followed by tip-offs, risk management systems and "accidentals".

Worldwide, the highest levels of economic crime was reported in Africa (51%) and North America (41%). The survey found that larger companies, with more than 1 000 employees in a country, were most vulnerable to fraud with 52% reporting economic crime in the past two years. This compared to only 37% of smaller companies reporting fraud. "Larger companies' investment in unfamiliar overseas markets, the devolution of management control and investment in superior fraud risk management systems helped to explain higher detection rates in larger businesses," the survey said. Rick Helsby, leader of the Investigations and Forensic Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: "Far from being a victimless crime, fraud can have a material and lasting impact on businesses, their share price and reputation." Financial loss from economic crime was notoriously difficult to quantify, especially for less tangible economic crimes such as cyber crime. PricewaterhouseCoopers said the real financial cost of fraud extended beyond the average loss of $2.2 million (R16.5 million) to the companies they had interviewed. Not only were such losses rarely recovered - only 9% of companies which suffered fraud managed to recover more than 80% of their losses - but they were unlikely to be insured: just over half of the businesses surveyed had taken out insurance against fraud losses.

One third of businesses reported long-term operational effects of economic crime and 47% stated that fraud had a long-standing impact on the company share price. Despite the risks, a majority of businesses were found to be inadequately prepared to manage and prevent economic crime. Fewer than 30% of businesses had any fraud-related training for senior management that had responsibility for handling economic crime issues. The survey concluded that too many companies relied on intangible prevention tools such as codes of conduct and ethical policies which, although a foundation for good practice, were poorly understood and difficult to enforce. "But companies that had actually suffered fraud were more likely to take practical and effective measures to combat fraud and mitigate its impact. By taking out insurance cover against fraud-related losses, companies were three times more likely to recover more than 60% of their losses," the survey said. PricewaterhouseCoopers said a preventative anti-fraud regime should consist of an ongoing assessment of the real risks and vulnerabilities to fraud within an organisation; senior management actively communicating a company's fraud policy; developing policies to encourage and protect whistle blowers and development of a robust fraud response plan which was based on worst-case scenarios. Looking to the future, a majority of companies said they expected fraud to increase in the next five years and 35% of companies expected their greatest fraud risk to continue to be asset misappropriation, followed closely by cyber crime.

From Daily News, Africa, by Yunus Kemp, 8 July 2003

Measuring the Quality of Governance

World Bank indicators confirm governance issues are critical in development - Governance is increasingly one of the key factors that determines whether a country has the capacity to use resources effectively to reduce poverty. Measuring governance has traditionally been an elusive challenge, but one that is crucial in understanding the link between governance and development, and for enabling countries to monitor their performance. A newly updated set of World Bank indicators that tracks the quality of governance across the globe can help assess how countries perform in this critical area of development. The indicators trace six areas of governance from 1996 to the present in almost 200 countries. They create a unique source of benchmarks for policy makers, donor agencies, civil society and development experts. The authors, Daniel Kaufmann and Aart Kraay of the World Bank, define governance as the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. To create the indicators, they divided the concept of governance into six categories aimed at capturing how governments are selected, monitored, and replaced; a government's capacity to formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern them.

The six measured indicators are:·- Voice and Accountability - Political Stability and Lack of Violence - Government Effectiveness -·Regulatory Quality -·Rule of Law -·Control of Corruption. Kaufmann, Director of Global Governance at the World Bank Institute, says that the World Bank uses these indicators to help countries identify areas of weakness so that capacity building and assistance strategies are more effective. However, the authors caution against using this data to run "horse races" among countries with similar ratings. While the researchers' methodology reduces the margins of error, those margins of error can still be large enough to make precise rankings of similarly rated countries impossible. They also dispelled the myth that good governance is a 'luxury' that only wealthy countries can afford, as exemplified by emerging economies with good governance, such as Botswana, Chile or Slovenia. They found that a country that has an income windfall from, for example, higher oil prices, would not automatically benefit in terms of improved governance. To the contrary. Income growth alone does not guarantee better rule of law or improved voice and democratic accountability. Governance reforms are continuously required instead, and they then result in higher incomes. The indicators are based on 25 separate data sources at 18 different organizations, including the World Bank itself, Gallup International, the Economist Intelligence Unit, IMD, DRI/McGraw-Hill, Columbia University, Freedom House, Afrobarometer, Latinobarometro, the World Economic Forum, and Reporters Without Borders. The database covers four time periods (1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002) and will be updated regularly.

From World Bank Group, DC, 14 July 2003

Anti-corruption Talks Pose Challenge

The delegates assembling in Vienna today to try to finalise the first global anti-corruption convention are expecting the talks to be fraught. The process has been dogged by debates between countries over how far to extend rules ranging from the international return of stolen assets to private-sector graft and the transparent funding of political parties. Experts hope to conclude the text in time for a December launch in Mexico. But its unprecedented ambition leaves officials with few illusions about the challenge they face. Previous drafts have looked not only to prevent and criminalise the bribery of public officials, but also to address untoward political funding, "trading in influence", accountancy fraud and banking secrecy. While all delegations agree on the need for global rules, and have made significant progress over past sessions, a long list of unresolved questions remains over how binding they should be and how toughly they should be monitored. It is not even clear how tightly corruption as a concept should be defined. Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN office on drugs and crime, says the rules are needed to respond to an international area of concern, but acknowledges that they envisage big changes yet to be universally agreed.

For example, "at the moment there is no legislation requiring recipient countries to return assets: if [countries do] it, they do it voluntarily", says Mr. Costa. Transparency International, the Berlin-based anti-graft organisation that publishes an annual corruption league, says a tough convention is essential. "Governments have a historic opportunity to secure a UN convention with teeth and global reach," says David Nussbaum, head of TI's international secretariat. But the danger, warn some officials, is that in attempting to take on too much, delegates end up with an instrument no one fully agrees to, resulting in a convention not respected in practice. The US is concerned at calls to extend the convention's ambit to criminalising private-sector corruption. "We are not against the convention dealing with the private sector," said one US official. "It is just when it comes to defining what conduct is criminal, we need to be careful when we start making globally applicable, legally binding rules. "What qualifies as criminal in purely private conduct, and how you get to it in the most effective way, has not been very thoroughly fleshed out. We feel we are testing out new tools [in the US]. The convention has enough to bite off dealing with the public sector." But TI backs other delegations' belief that the convention must address private-sector corruption, as "tolerance of corruption in this sector undermines public confidence and can thwart sustainable development".

From Financial Times, UK, by Mark Turner, 21 July 2003

Convention Against Corruption

The final round of negotiations on a United Nations treaty aimed at fighting the proliferation of corruption has began in Vienna on Monday July 21, with more than 110 Member States expected to discuss remaining areas of divergence in order to reach consensus. "The text being finalized over the next three weeks in Vienna has been compiled from proposals submitted by 26 countries from all regions of the world. That by itself reflects the global nature of the problem," said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The sixth session of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Negotiation of the UN Convention against Corruption, through 8 August, will focus on areas where divergence still exists. These include the search for a definition of corruption, assets recovery and the question of whether to sanction only public, or also private, corruption. Mr. Costa called for every effort to be made to reach consensus. "The effective fight against corruption is a condition for good governance and rule of law. These in turn are foundations of financial stability and sustainable development. Above all, the world needs an anticorruption instrument with teeth, namely able to have an impact," he stated. Finalizing the text would allow the new instrument to be submitted to the General Assembly at its 58th session this September and to the High-level Signing Conference scheduled to take place in Merida, Mexico, from 9 to11 December.

From Accra Mail, Ghana, 23 July 2003

 

Accountability Workshop, Seminar for Civil Servants Underway

Civil servants in Kano State are to participate in seminars and workshops on accountability and transparency to aid the discharge of their duties. The decision to organize the workshop and seminars by the state government arose out of the need for civil servants in the state to regard public service as public trust, which Almighty Allah (SWT) would hold them responsible on the day of judgement. The Kano State governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau stated this while receiving the executive members of the Kano State council of Ulama who paid him solidarity visit at the government house recently. He emphasised his administrations resolve to run an open door government and urged the council to always forward their suggestions and advises to the government on matters affecting its services. Malam Shekarau then urged the members of the council not to relent in their effort to assist the government for the smooth implementation of Sharia in the state. In his remark, the chairman of the council, Uztaz Ibrahim Umarkabo expressed delight over the reconstituting Sharia implementation committee by the government, which he said, would take care of a number of vital issues forwarded in their memorandum for the smooth take off of the Sharia.

Civil servants in Kano State are to participate in seminars and workshops on accountability and transparency to aid the discharge of their duties. The decision to organize the workshop and seminars by the state government arose out of the need for civil servants in the state to regard public service as public trust, which Almighty Allah (SWT) would hold them responsible on the day of judgement. The Kano State governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau stated this while receiving the executive members of the Kano State council of Ulama who paid him solidarity visit at the government house recently. He emphasised his administrations resolve to run an open door government and urged the council to always forward their suggestions and advises to the government on matters affecting its services. Malam Shekarau then urged the members of the council not to relent in their effort to assist the government for the smooth implementation of Sharia in the state. In his remark, the chairman of the council, Uztaz Ibrahim Umarkabo expressed delight over the reconstituting Sharia implementation committee by the government, which he said, would take care of a number of vital issues forwarded in their memorandum for the smooth take off of the Sharia.

From Weekly Trust, Nigeria, by Habiba Adamu, 3 July 2003

Trade Union Warns of Civil Service Action in Zambia

Lusaka - The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) had threatened to paralyse the government if it cut or froze wages for public service workers and civil servants, state media reported yesterday. The powerful trade union federation was responding to acting finance minister George Kunda's announcement on Tuesday that the government would reduce salaries and freeze wage negotiations with civil servants in an effort to close a $124 million budget deficit. Leonard Hikaumba of the ZCTU said if the government went ahead with the plan, it would face nationwide industrial unrest on a scale never seen before. Hikaumba said workers had already sacrificed enough and the government should look elsewhere to finance the deficit. The Zambian government is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other western donors to balance the budget. The donors have threatened to suspend aid unless the government explained how it would finance the deficit without shifting funds from priority poverty reduction programmes. The IMF has already refused to release $100 million in aid. Recently the government awarded both civil servants and public service workers wage increases and housing allowances after a prolonged countrywide work stoppage that nearly crippled all essential government operations. Civil society and opposition political parties have urged President Levy Mwanawasa to reduce his 69-member cabinet instead of cutting wages for civil servants and public service workers.

From Independent Online, South Africa, by Sapa-DPA, 3 July 2003

Prime Minister Sees Modernization of Public Service As Key to Fulfilling Economic Aspirations

Moroccan prime minister, Driss Jettou, said on Thursday the key to fulfilling economic aspirations lies in modernizing public sectors and their management means as well as improving the administration's capacity to meet openness and competition requirements. The prime minister, who made a report on his government's action at the House of Representatives, said the government has devised a comprehensive program meant to lay down the bases of a modern and transparent administration. Likewise, he went on, the government has also developed an e-government program in order to provide information to citizens and, consequently, facilitate access to the administration basic services. Furthermore, said the prime minister, in a bid to improve standards of public officials and fight corruption, a law that compels administrations to justify their decisions entered into force on February 1st as a text that will establish modern relationships between the administration and citizens, on the basis of transparence and responsibility. In the same vein, the government is drafting an anti-corruption bill that will be referred to the parliament.

From Morocco Economics, 12 July 2003

Why Corruption Thrives in Civil Service - Ex-Secretary to State Government

Lagos - Former Secretary to the Kwara State Government and Head of Service, Mr. Joshua Ogunlowo, has called on political leaders to respect the nation's constitution on the concept of political neutrality of the civil service to reduce corruption in the public service. Speaking at a lecture organised by the National Institute of Personnel Management (NIPM) in Ilorin yesterday, in a paper titled:" The Civil Service and Politics: The Dividing Line and Implications for Effective Human Resource Management," Ogunlo-wo warned against politicisation of the civil service adding that such could increase the level of corruption in the country's civil service. He stressed the need to enhance stability, effectiveness and higher productivity in the civil service warning that treating the public service sector with disdain and in manners which contravened the rules and conventions of the service were bound to affect human resource management.

He identified poor management of human resources as the bane of country's development urging the present crop of political leaders to reverse the trend so as to bridge the gap between policy formulation and implementation. He emphasised that political leaders should consider merits in their appointment "to bring on-board men and women who are sufficiently motivated to tap to the fullest the potentials of those working for them." Earlier, the state chairman of the institute, Alhaji Ganiyu Opeloyeru, said the lecture was to mark the 23rd anniversary of the institute. He said the institute's motive of promoting discussion on contemporary human resource issues informed the choice of the topic of the lecture.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ayodeji Fashikun, 15 July 2003

Civil Service Boss In Corrupt Deal?

Following the announcement made last month by the head of Civil Service, Dr. Alex Glover Quartey, that a South African consultant had been contracted to review the universal salary structure of the Civil Service, Moses Asaga, a former deputy Finance minister, has accused him of having a cut in the deal with the consultant. Mr. Asaga told The Chronicle in Accra that there is nothing new that would emerge from this new contract because it is the old policy which was developed by the Central Management Board and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which the consultant was going to polish and go away with a huge sum. Mr. Asaga described the situation as a waste of resources. The former minister explained that the previous administration implemented 90% of what was recommended by the Price Water House Coopers but there were a few distortions which constituted about 5% of the total package, and must be rectified. Mr. Asaga, who is also Minority spokesman on Finance, further argued that awarding such a contract to a South African consultant cast a slur on the competence of Ghanaian experts and is also an indictment on those who understand incomes and prices in the country.

According to Mr. Asaga, the assertion by Dr. Quartey that he wanted the job done within a period of two weeks was a lame excuse, and wanted to know whether he had contracted any local consultant that could not meet such a deadline. Even though Mr. Asaga told The Chronicle that there is nothing wrong with Ghana importing expertise from other African countries, he stressed that such contracts are justifiable only when there is deficiency. "The fact that we want African integration does not mean that Ghana should import chocolate from Nigeria," he asserted. He further explained that integration should complement comparative advantage but not to duplicate it for the benefit of the whole continent. Asked why the former government could not implement the CAP30, he said both CAP30 and the pension scheme were exhaustively dealt with by Price Waterhouse Coopers and that certain categories of public and civil servants mainly in the security services were expected to benefit.

However an attempt to include those who have benefitted from CAP30 in the pension scheme, he said, was hindered by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) pension scheme, which needed a second look. Civil servants in the country have been disappointed on promises by successive governments to alleviate poor conditions of service and pay them better wages and salaries. Poor conditions of service have created the impression that the service is corrupt and inefficient. Based upon these problems that have bedeviled the service, Dr. Quartey on his assumption of office as head of the Civil Service, promised that he would do everything possible to address the numerous problems. However, how soon these problems would be rectified remains unknown to civil servants. Earlier Dr. Quartey had declined to mention the name of the consultant when this paper interviewed him.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 9 July 2003

Government Salaries Up By 6-10 Percent

The Government will increase civil servants' salaries by between 6 and 10 percent, effective this financial year, the National Assembly was told yesterday. About 34.5bn/- has been budgeted for the exercise in the estimates of expenditure. This follows an agreement reached between the government and the Tanzania Union of Government and Health Employees (TUGHE). Presenting the budget estimates of the President's Office (Civil Service) for this financial year, the Minister for Civil Service, Mary Nagu, said the 10 percent increment would go to teachers who would use 54.4 percent of the total money allocated. Teachers make up 49 percent of the civil service. Nagu said other cadres to benefit from the 10 percent increment include doctors, lawyers, accountants and information technology experts. She said the office would continue to issue permit and coordinate employment of new civil servants in education, health, judicial, police, prison and accountancy departments.

The minister said her office was looking into possibilities of employing directly graduates of professions which employers fail to get through advertising the vacancies. She said since the third government assumed power, seven years ago, the ratio between female and male civil servants had been improving. She said available data showed that 34% of civil servants in the low cadre were women. The minister said 39% of civil servants in the middle cadre were women whereas 24 percent of permanent secretaries were women. She said 26% of directors in government departments were women, whereas for assistant directors women count for 24%.Nagu said the trend was a deliberate move by the government to build and improve women's ability to lead. She is asking the Parliament to approve 54,313,390,600/- for recurrent expenditure and 44,459,494,100/- for development expenditure.

From IPPMedia, The Guardian, Tanzania, by Juma Thomas, Dodoma, 16 July 2003

Ogun Government Holds Retreat for Civil Servants

Abeokuta - Ogun State Government has organised a three-day retreat for its commissioners, special advisers and permanent secretaries to acquaint them with the focus and intentions of the present administration. Addressing the participants at the end of the programme held in Ijebu-Ode on Sunday, the State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel explained that the aim of the retreat was to ensure that stakeholders in the state understand the intention of his administration. He reiterated his resolve to reduce the cost of governance by 25 per cent through prudent deployment of funds, just as he encourage maintenance culture in the state's civil servants. While charging the participants to show more understanding with his style of administration, Daniel urged them to join him in evolving a shared vision for the development of Ogun State, by imbibing the challenges "business unusual". The Governor said he was happy that the service principal officers showed good understanding for the focus of his administration in employment generation through key sectors such as Agriculture, Sports, Commerce and Education. He reminded them of the necessity of leading by example and cultivating a modest lifestyle that would inspire hope in the citizenry. According to him, there was the need for top government officials to avoid scandals and give their utmost best to actualize his government's programmes as contained in his manifesto tagged "My contract with Ogun people".

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Toba Suleiman, 16 July 2003

Publication of Salaries Riles Public Servants

The civil service staff association has deplored the publication of civil servants' salaries in media by the Public Service Commission saying this violated industrial relations principles. But the PSC said it published the salaries for transparency and accountability purposes. "We published them for the benefit of the public servants and the general public," said PSC secretary Mr. Ray Ndhlukula. "Civil servants are paid from public funds. If we didn't publish them, it could create a lot of suspicion and mistrust. And publishing them removes these things. We want to communicate so that we can remove mistrust and suspicions." He said through publication of the salaries, civil servants could easily note anomalies and bring them forward to the attention of the commission. In most countries throughout the world, particularly the United States and Britain, civil servants salaries are a matter of public record and can be accessed by anyone, even on the Internet. P

ublic Service Association executive secretary Mr. Charles Chiviru said his association learnt with shock and embarrassment the publication of civil servants' salaries in the media. "When civil servants join the public service, the employer makes it clear that there should be no disclosure of any public service activity or information to the public," he said. He said employee records are classified as confidential information, but the PSC had decided on its own to publish salaries for the entire civil service. "The Public Service Commission has shown that it has no sense of remorse in violating industrial relations principles, including its own regulations. "This is a clear contradiction of its own regulations or employment regulations which it formulated single handedly without even consulting the same worker. "It's a pity that despite the harmonisation of the labour laws in the country it is still living in the legacy of making decisions unilaterally without consulting the other stakeholders," Mr. Chiviru said.

He said the publication of civil servants' salaries would push inflation up as retailers would increase the prices of commodities in line with the new salaries. "We are aware that civil servants' salaries are public expenditure but this is captured during the budgetary process and the publication of the national budget but the contract of civil servants with their employer remains confidential." PSA, Mr. Chiviru said, was now considering taking action against its employer for exposing the civil servants' salaries. The PSC should have informed the National Joint Negotiating Council first before going ahead to publish the civil servants' salaries in the media, Mr. Chiviru said. He also said the commission should urgently address anomalies and disparities, which emerged after the Government embarked on a job evaluation exercise. Civil servants, he said, should move with speed to form workers' committees as provided for in the Labour Relations Act.

From Harare Herald, Zimbabwe, 16 July 2003

TUC, Civil Servants kick against Insurance Bill

Accra - The Civil Servants Association, Trades Union Congress (TUC) and other groups have kicked against certain provisions of the National Health Insurance Bill currently before Parliament and called for a review of some portions. They have also questioned the lack of consultation and haste with which the Bill was laid before Parliament in its present state, which they said was flawed. The Bill seeks to provide a policy and regulatory framework for health care financing to replace the 'cash and carry system', which involves paying for services at the point of delivery. Speaking at a day's stakeholders' workshop on the Bill in Accra, Mr. Wilson Tei, an Official of the Ghana Insurers Association, said the administration of the National Health Insurance Scheme should be the duty of the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and not the Health Ministry, as captured in the Bill. "The implementing agency being the Ministry of Health is a fundamental flaw in the delivery of health insurance as it is a financial service. The implementing agency should be the Ministry of Finance," he said.

The Bill makes provision for the establishment of the National Health Insurance Council (NHIC) to license, regulate and supervise the operations of all health insurance schemes in the country. "The NHIC should be under the MOF and not the MOH as is being proposed by the draft Bill," Mr. Tei noted. The workshop was organised by the Legal Resources Centre, a non-governmental organisation and PHRplus, an insurance organisation at present engaged in establishing mutual insurance organisation in the country. Mr. Tei said the Bill proposes two and half per cent deductions from the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) in addition to levies or taxes. This source of funding, he noted, would further place a burden on the formal sector in the face of inequalities in taxation between the formal and informal sector. "The SSNIT funds belong to only about one million Ghanaians, who invariably already enjoy employer sponsored health delivery. Over the long-term the reductions of SSNIT contributions will compromise the solvency of SSNIT," he stressed.

Mr. Tei said the Bill, as it stood now, did not seek "to promote private health insurance business and seeks to kill already existing health insurance schemes". Mr. Smart Chigabatia, Executive Secretary of the Civil Servants Association, said the Association has already started its own health insurance scheme, which the government had to build on. He said it would be wrong to evolve a new scheme without reference to the existing ones. Mr. Chigabatia said the government was not the only employer and did not also own workers' contributions to SSNIT and, therefore, had no right to take any monies from SSNIT for the insurance scheme. He also questioned the tax regime being proposed by the Bill as a source of funding. He said the government should be a regulator of the insurance scheme and not a businessman. He questioned why the government had hastily sent the Bill to Parliament without giving any chance for the majority of people to see copies including Parliamentarians, who had their copies on Tuesday. Mr. Kwasi Adu-Amankwa, the TUC Secretary-General, also deplored the haste with which the Bill was sent to Parliament and the lack of consultation.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 17 July 2003

Pay and Employment Reforms in Civil Service

The advent of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1990 saw the introduction of civil service reforms as one of the major facets of the reform programme. Among other things, civil service reforms sought to rationalise the size of the civil service by shedding off about a quarter of the public service in order to end up with a leaner and more efficient public service. Most would agree that when staff rationalisation measures were put in place, the service unfortunately lost some of the cream in the process. While numbers may have gone down, the wage bill has continued to increase in nominal terms simply due to the inflation adjustment exercise that has taken place year in and out. It is understood that the recently completed job evaluation exercise that has seen a significant improvement in the remuneration of civil servants has been conducted with the same spirit of implementing reforms that will bring about a more efficient and well rewarded civil service. This has been one of the long outstanding items on the ESAP/ZIMPREST/MERP agenda. The job evaluation exercise has helped reduce distortions that have prevailed in the civil service wages structure and incomes policy for a long time. Effectively, the adjustments have improved the real incomes of civil servants to some extent.

This can only be considered a positive development if such measures are accompanied by serious and more concerted effort to address enemy number one - INFLATION! Failure to do so simply becomes a zero sum game and before December 2003, we will be negotiating another round of salary adjustments. In view of the prevailing inflationary conditions in the economy, where inflation has moved from single to triple digit levels, it is only logical and necessary for such adjustments to take place. Simplified, with bread costing an average of $ 1 000 a loaf, a domestic worker earning $10 000 month can have a loaf of bread per day for 10 days only in a month (By the way, there are people who are still paying domestic workers such low salaries!) Given that the civil service salary adjustments have gone up by more than 100 percent, one would wish to undertake a simple maths exercise using figures in the Blue Book. Taking an example of the following scenarios where salaries are adjusted by 100 percent, 200 percent and 300 percent or whatever percentage, such increases over a 2003 total civil service wage bill estimate of $221.6 billion will increase the bill to an estimate of around $443.2 billion, $664.8 billion and $886.5 billion respectively. It is therefore hoped that the capital budget, an equally if not more deserving expenditure item, will be granted a similar boost.

The question being raised by the taxpayers who finance this wage bill is one of value for money. The taxpayer is over-burdened with not only Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or corporate tax or whatever form of tax, but inflation tax (of which civil servants are taxpayers too!). Value for money can only be granted to the taxpayer if he / she asks for it. So here comes the request on value for money from the taxpayer. 1. The taxpayer would like to see the Public Service Commission develop into a strong institution that monitors and implements reforms in the civil service on a continuous basis. Reforms should not only focus on remuneration although retrenchment and remuneration can be the starting points. The positive effects of the efforts made by the Commission should be felt and acknowledged by the taxpayers. Specific examples of areas that need attention are as follows: lSome civil servants are insufficiently productive in that they do not fulfil the tasks assigned to them or they carry out the assignments with great delays at high cost. Consequently, some are ineffective and inefficient. Such a civil service syndrome needs to be tackled before it becomes endemic; lAn unsavoury response to low salaries is corruption. While corruption may be a function of low salaries, among other factors, high pay does not necessarily guarantee absence of corruption.

Corruption is not only a challenge in Zimbabwe but other developing countries too. Therefore we need to talk and debate such issues and consider ways to curb this cancer. By keeping quiet, corruption becomes a way of life. The taxpayer would like to see measures put in place to address this cancer that is slowly eating away the reputation of the civil service. lGraft, bribery and other forms of extortion are widely prevalent and are becoming contemporary instruments of collecting rents or tributes. Empirical evidence for this manifests itself as payment of money to "speed up things" e.g. passport processing, allocation of A2 farms, placement at institutions of higher learning especially teacher's colleges, high and primary schools, private high profile creches or day centres, speed money to have files move rapidly. Speed money is also paid to facilitate clearance of goods and luggage at airports with customs officials or to facilitate transfer pricing; speed money to get passport forms that have the required "stamped number" otherwise the form is unacceptable; payment of illicit under-valuation of imports, income tax forms, licensing officials e.g. for liquor licence, shop licences so that inspectors do not enforce laws and regulations. The list is endless but this will stir debate and propose solutions to this cancer that has destroyed other developing countries. So what will make Zimbabwe immune if we do not confront the challenge head on before it gets out of hand? This is the question the taxpayer is asking.

Further empirical evidence on how the taxpayer is failing to get value for money is in the area of abuse of state assets e.g. telephones, withdrawal of working hours as some staff are reported missing in office, teachers not being on duty or doctors not being in hospitals when required; civil servants requesting for travel allowances on more mileage than actual travelled etc The guilty are afraid and will not like this kind of talk but if the truth is to be told, this is it. This is what is happening not only in other countries out there, but here in Zimbabwe too. The taxpayer is now saying, in addition to the efforts made by the government through the Public Service Commission I presume, the following reforms may be considered to have the kind of civil service everybody wishes for: lCivil servants should display their IDs and employment numbers as is the case with the Zimbabwe Republic Police. lConsideration could be made to having a hotline that is managed and monitored by an autonomous body. The hotline will handle reports, complaints, compliments and disseminate the information accordingly. lQuick resolution of complaints and queries is a vital component of the civil service reform programme. lImproved information dissemination on pertinent issues is vital to the taxpayer e.g. what may be simple to some may be but a nightmare to others. This is exemplified by such processes as accessing government services like passports, burial orders, death certificates, national IDs , qualifying criteria for entrance into institutions of higher learning or qualifying criteria for accessing A2 farms, access to subsidised loans for the mining and export sectors.

From Financial Gazette, Zimbabwe, 17 July 2003

Fresh Headcount for Civil Servants

The Government is considering undertaking a major head count of civil servants to flush out ghost workers, Finance Minister Mr. David Mwiraria announced yesterday. Mwiraria also warned the local business community against falling prey to tricksters currently going around pretending to be soliciting money for use by the Government using names of leading officials including himself. The minister said the Government was concerned at the continuing huge wage bill in the Civil Service despite the retrenchment exercise carried out by the previous regime under the World Bank-driven Civil Service Reform Programme (CRSP). He said initial investigations through scanning of the payroll had established that some people were earning more than a salary in the Government. "Our estimation is that if the retrenchment process yielded a reduction of 10 per cent in the level of government, we expect the wage bill to go down by the same margin and not increase by 2 per cent," the minister said.

Mwiraria said the move to scrutinise the Government payroll would be taken as part of the ongoing efforts to bridge the current huge budget deficit estimated at Sh47 billion by cutting on unnecessary expenditures. "We will start the process of accounting for the huge wage bill by looking at what is on the computer. We have already established that our payroll has repeated names which means people are earning more than they are entitled to," he said. Mwiraria who was addressing a news conference in his Treasury office, produced a number of letters written to leading chief executives of local firms by tricksters asking for colossal sums of money to support various government projects. The letters are on the Ministry of Finance letterhead complete with a reference file number and Mwiraria's signature. Though the minister said the signatures were fake, he could not immediately ascertain whether the file numbers were genuine.

In a letter written to Messrs Vijas Manufacturers and Horseman Cigarettes, and purportedly signed by Mwiraria, the conmen say: "The government as a matter of urgency requires Sh2 million for refurbishing and furnishing of State House Nairobi. It is the Government's pleasure to appeal for financial support from private sector". It goes further to say that the fund should be channelled through the National Bank of Kenya, Harambee Avenue Branch Account Number 0126005024500 and should be strictly cash deposits. Another letter addressed to the Executive Director of Kirinyaga Construction Company the Government says as a matter of urgency requires Sh300 million for re-carpeting and reconstruction of roads destroyed by floods in Nairobi as part of their participation in financing the infrastructure. Mwiraria said the same characters had also used his name to send people to industrialists, Messrs Manu Chandaria and Chris Kirubi for employment consideration. He said there was a possibility that the same tricksters could be using names of other ministers to solicit funds from the private sector players. He said initial investigations by the police indicated that the account number belonged to a university student.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by John Oyuke, 18 July 2003

Senior Minister Decries Current State of the Public Service

Accra - Senior Minister Joseph Henry Mensah said on Wednesday that the public services remain in a state of considerable ineffectiveness because of the neglect of systematic training, capacity building and career development of public servants. Speaking during a visit to the National Institutional Renewal Programme (NIRP) Secretariat in Accra, he said a weak public service could not serve the government well enough in implementing its development agenda. A statement from NIRP quoted Mr. Mensah as saying, it is therefore, necessary to take stock of the on-going public sector reforms in order to prioritise them and redefine the reform programme that seeks to make the public sector more efficient and effective. Mr. Mensah is also responsible for Public Sector Reforms and the NIRP. Dr Appiah Koranteng, National Co-ordinator of the NIRP, charged staff of the Secretariat to redouble their efforts in ensuring that the reforms are carried through for efficient delivery. He said the pilot phase of the programme has achieved significant successes but admitted that a lot of work still needs to be done. He pledged support of the secretariat to assist the Senior Minister in the implementation of the public sector reforms.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 24 July 2003

Shake-up in Federal Civil Service Soon - 190,776 Jobs On Line

Abuja - A comprehensive overhaul of the Federal Civil Service that would erase about 190,776 jobs is under way. Sources close to the just-concluded ministerial retreat told the DAILY TIMES that the job cut was one of the sour decisions taken there. The sources said a presidential directive was handed over to the ministers some whom had already briefed their directors and heads of departments. A staff audit to determine those to be eased out is under way and all the relevant heads in the ministries, and government parastatals have accordingly been told what to do. At present, the Federal Civil Service, which the World Bank had repeatedly said was over-bloated has 286,163 staff, excluding the military, the police, the judicary (1,152 workers) and the 1,448 political office holders. World Bank's reasoning is that the government could execute its policies with about one-third of the present workforce. Already, the fate of no fewer than 1,500 drivers in the employment of the Federal Government hangs in the balance as their vehicles have been withdrawn as part of the implementation of government's monetisation policy. Sources said the worst hit might be Works and Houseing Ministry which has 28,000 staff, though, the erstwhile minister, Tony Anenih, had insisted that "8,000 could actually do the job."

From Daily Times of Nigeria, by Ebhohon Ikhurionan, 23 July 2003

Too Many Public Servants, Says Audit

The government is paying 23 836 people who are performing functions in various departments where their skills are not required. This is according to an audit on personnel done by the department of public service and administration, in which the employees are declared in "excess". This was revealed by the department's director of communications, Thembela Khulu, who indicated that minister Geraldine Fraser- Moleketi would brief cabinet on the issue at the July lekgotla. She said the department was spearheading the formation of the new government security agency, which would absorb 7 856 soldiers, who form the bulk of the excess. Moleketi viewed the formation of the new security agency, which will safeguard state buildings, and the formation of the social security agency, which will administer payment of social grants, as urgent. A number of public servants who were found to be in excess during the audit face redeployment to other departments and provinces.

A total of 23 836 public servants have been declared in "excess" in their respective departments. Khulu said the agricultural sector had 860 employees more than the number required for their respective expertise. The department of defence has the highest "excess" - 7 856 - while education has 2 019, the criminal justice sector nine, the environmental field 118 and finance 115. There was also an excess of 15 562 general administration employees, drawn mainly from home affairs. The excess employees have been encouraged to apply for vacant positions in the public service. Khulu said by the end of June there were 11 163 vacant posts in the public service. Among other sectors with the most vacant posts are infrastructure and parks, with 2 843, criminal justice (15), the welfare sector (474), the agricultural sector (192), public works (1 553), arts and sport (3), education (153) and finance (5).

From City Press, South Africa, by Mpumelelo Mkhabela, 19 July 2003

Kenya Uses More On Civil Servants

Nairobi - Wages and salaries of civil servants consume 9.2 per cent of total wealth created in the economy, according to a new study launched by the government yesterday. The study shows that Kenya spends much more on civil service salaries than Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia. According to the study, Uganda spends 5.7 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Tanzania 4.1 and Ethiopia 7.8. The study, launched by Finance minister David Mwiraria, also shows that budgetary allocations to development and capital expenditure were also lower than in the three countries. In terms of development spending, Tanzania is at 5.9 per cent of GDP, Uganda at 10.1 and Ethiopia at 12.8. The study found that even when monies are allocated for development, most of the ministries do not spend it. The study named several ministries and departments as persistent over-spenders of resources. They include the National Assembly, State House, Office of the President, Health and Defence. It shows that government departments engaged in administration consumed a disproportionate share of budgetary resources compared to ministries which provide services to the public.

The study recommends that the government should live to its pledge of reducing the wage bill to below 8.5 per cent of GDP by the year 2005. The study, known as Public Expenditure Review, was conducted by the Ministry of Planning and sponsored by the European Commission, the Department for International Development (DfID), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAid). Speaking at the launch, Mr. Mwiraria said that such reviews would be conducted more regularly, noting that it was one of the tools for monitoring and evaluation. He blamed the previous government for having conducted public expenditure reviews on a "stop and go" basis. He said the Narc Government would re-train staff and equip them with necessary skills to conduct expenditure review. The minister noted that a publication, the African Competitive Report, had ranked Kenya among the top African countries in terms of quality of human resources, exporting human labour to South Africa, Botswana, Rwanda, Namibia and Zambia.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 25 July 2003

Jigawa to Restructure Civil Service

Dutse - Worried by the of redundancy- inefficiency and overlapping functions within the state ministries, parastatals and agencies, the Jigawa State government has set up a committee to re-structure ministries and the civil service for improved productivity and efficiency. Head of Service, Malam Ibrahim Manzo who delivered this to Daily Trust in his office said the restructuring exercise to avoid overlapping functions of workers, waste and idleness and to study, recommend and ensure the only relevant ministries, agencies or parastatal are maintained. Malam Manzo added that the structuring would also instil discipline among civil servants in the state and ensure punctuality and dedication to service. He also revealed that the civil servants would be streamlined to relevant agencies and ministries to wipe out cases of redundancy. He warned that worker who is in the habit of late coming or absenteeism will be shown the way out of the service. The Head of Service therefore called for concerted efforts by all civil servants to brace up for a better and more enduring challenge towards bettering the state civil service, stressing that time for lukewarm attitude to work and idleness has gone. He said the committee's report would form the bedrock for the transformation of a stronger, viable and production civil service in the state. The five-man committee has the state Deputy Governor, Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia as the Chairman; the committee's term of reference includes analysing the present structure of government.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Hassan A. Karofi, 29 July 2003

 

Problem Lies With The Civil Service

In response to the letter by Jeffrey, 'Meritocracy is the solution to our malaise', I would like to say that meritocracy is not a cure-all either! Let us first accept that Malaysia is a Muslim country with a sizeable (40 per cent of the population) non-Muslim citizenry. This is as it should be by Articles 3 and 153 of the Federal Constitution. Then we have to understand that the meaning and implementation of 'meritocracy' may be different for the different ethno-religious groups. What is worthy of merit for one group may not be so for others because of differing value-systems. In particular, Muslims attach an Islamic dimension to the practice of meritocracy. To make matters more complicated, the distinct ethno-religious groups have different aspirations and they may be heading towards different directions socio-politically. Thus in both PAS and the Umno-led BN, political supremacy is reserved for the Malay-Muslim majority because they can realise and project the Muslim aspiration and values both locally and internationally.

In other words, a purely materialistic definition of meritocracy ala Singapore's PAP, is not sufficient to capture the Malay-Muslim aspiration in Malaysia. Of course this leads to dissatisfaction among certain quarters - but by and large, Malaysia functions well when compared to other multi-racial and multi-religious Third World nations. The same can be said of Singapore too - as after all there are those who claim that Singapore's 15 percent Malay-Muslim population have been marginalised because of their materialistic, numbers-only approach with meritocracy. I think the problem in Malaysia are the inefficiencies in the civil service sector. Should the Malaysian civil service overcome its inefficiencies and make significant improvements, I am sure that people like Jeffrey will be happy to be Malaysian. That is what matters at the bottom-line anyway.

From Malaysia Kini, Malaysia, by Dr Syed Alwi Ahmad, 8 July 2003

Malaysia to Build Public Servants Housing Scheme

On the invitation of Minister of Public Administration, Management and Reforms, Vajira Abeywardene, Minister of Works Malaysia, Dato S. Samy Vellu laid the foundation for two Housing Projects for Public Servants at Wakunagoda and Habaraduwa. Under this Pilot Project, 1,500 houses for public sector employees would be constructed by Wincon Development (Ceylon) Pvt. Ltd of Malaysia. Making the keynote address, Minister of Works, Malaysia, Dato S. Samy Vellu said that under the able stewardship of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lankan Government had shown the farsightedness and demonstrated the seriousness by providing affordable housing for the employees of the public sector. Malaysia he said had encouraged its private sector to venture out and invest overseas. Malaysian private sector had considerable experience and technical know-how in a number of areas, particularly in construction, consultancy and the development infrastructure, he said. He thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for giving the opportunity to the Malaysian private sector for development as well. He said this was the first major Malaysian project ever undertaken by a Malaysian company in Sri Lanka.

This would also be an opening for Malaysian investors to invest in development projects in this beautiful country, he said. Rapid development in Malaysia in the last decade had produced many Malaysian construction industry players of international standards. The type of projects successfully completed in Malaysia by these construction firms covered a wide range of scopes including infrastructure, buildings, highways bridges and water supplies, he said. Large number of impressive and large-scale residential schemes in Malaysia were the evidence of the great achievements and success of our country in implementing housing projects, he said. 'I regard this housing project for the public servants of Sri Lanka, very important as it provides the means and platform for the Malaysian construction industry players to share their expertise and experience in the development of housing', he said. This would open the door for a lot more Malaysian involvement in Sri Lanka not only in the scope of housing but also highways as well as other scopes of construction, he further said. This would directly contribute towards further enhancing the good relationship between the two countries, he said.

The foundation laying ceremony was the culmination of several months of cordial discussion and negotiation between the two sides involved namely Pembinaan Wincon Sdn Bhd and the Ministry of Public Administration, Management and Reforms, Sri Lanka, he said. This symbolized the commencement of the construction of 25,000 units of houses over various locations within Sri Lanka for public sector employees, he said. Minister of Public Administration, Management and Reforms, Vajira Abeywardene said that there were nearly 25,000 public sector employees and out of that number about 3,000 to 4,000 were keen on buying houses on terms of easy payments. As a pilot scheme, out of 25,000 houses, only 1,500 houses would be constructed in Galle district, he said. Similarly in all other districts, 'Nila Sevana' housing project would be implemented in order to solve the housing problem of the public servants, he said.

Once the project was completed, the private sector employees could purchase the houses for four to ten lakhs of rupees which amount could be paid monthly out of their salary, he said. Minister of Mass Communication, Imithiaz Bakeer Markar said that this novel housing scheme embraced the whole system of public administration. During the previous government there was no congenial atmosphere for the foreign investors in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan nation was bleeding during that dark era, he said. As a direct result of the protracted North-East War, people were living in suspicion and fear. The economy was shattered due to mismanagement of resources, corruption and malpractices were rampant. The unprecedented amount of foreign aid granted by the international community to the Sri Lankan government revealed the trust and confidence they had on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as a statesman genuinely dedicated to bring lasting peace to Sri Lanka, he said. On the same day foundation was laid for the Economic Centre of Galle District at Boossa.

From Daily News, Sri Lanka, 8 July 2003

Employing Gays in Civil Service a 'Tiny Step Forward'

Some gays see policy change as progress, but feel more has to be done before they gain acceptance - As a policy officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1998 to 1999, Mr. Lee Say Choy had access to classified information on the free trade agreement to be signed between Singapore and the United States. After a day of closed-door discussions, he would unwind in gay bars with his friends. 'My colleagues and, I believe, my supervisors, knew I was gay, because I was quite open about it. But it was never an issue,' said Mr Lee, 30, now a financial reporter. His move to the private sector three years ago was for 'personal reasons' unrelated to his sexual orientation. 'I never felt I was discriminated against because of my sexuality,' he told The Sunday Times. 'The top-most priority is still one's capability.' His experience reflects the quiet policy change towards homosexuals that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong revealed in a recent interview with Time magazine. Mr. Goh said the Government now employs openly homosexual people, even in sensitive jobs.

He said: 'In the past, if we know you're gay, we would not employ you. But we just changed this quietly. We know you are. We'll employ you.' Homosexuals had to disclose their status to avoid being open to blackmail, he added. When interviewed, members of the gay community here said PM Goh's comments represented a 'tiny' step forward that was long overdue, but they would adopt a 'wait and see' attitude to see if the words would 'translate into action'. 'It's a step towards affirmation of the gay society although, all along, there have been homosexuals working quietly in the civil service,' said Ms Peggy Koh, 30, a counsellor. Members of the gay community said that at the root of the 'danger' of gays being blackmailed was society's prejudice against them. 'Why should gays be susceptible to being blackmailed in the first place?' asked law academic Eleanor Wong. Mr. Alvin Tan, director of arts group The Necessary Stage, was among those who were sceptical. 'I don't think the Government is doing this in a true attempt to embrace diversity, but due to the brain drain of talented gays who have left the civil service - and Singapore - in search of more welcoming environments.'

There is a lot more to be done before homosexuals can receive the same level of respect as heterosexuals, said people in the gay community. Dismantling the 'archaic' legislation against engaging in homosexual acts would be chief among them, they said. In the Time interview, PM Goh said homosexual acts will remain an offence. 'It's more than just the criminal code. It's actually the values of the people. The heartlanders are still conservative,' he said. Dr Lim Han Nan, 55, a Chinese physician, agreed. He said: 'It defies human nature. If people of the same sex want to be friends, that's fine. But not if they become lovers. 'We should not encourage them by legalising homosexual acts.' But Singapore Buddhist Federation secretary-general, the Venerable Shi Ming Yi, said: 'People have different likes and dislikes. Of course, as a religion, we do not think that homosexuality is right. 'But we should still respect them and try to help them as much as possible. We would extend them a hand of compassion.'

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Li Xueying, 5 July 2003

Report Graft and Abuse in Civil Service to MCA

MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting has urged the Chinese community to help curb corruption, abuse of powers and administrative deviation in the government service by reporting such cases to the MCA, Sin Chew Daily reported yesterday. Ong, who is Housing and Local Government Minister, was quoted as saying that such reports should be made with concrete evidence to enable MCA ministers to raise the matter at Cabinet meetings. "The MCA has been bringing up social problems, particularly those affecting the Chinese community, at the weekly Cabinet meeting. "Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his deputy Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi are concerned and are trying to find ways to resolve them," he was quoted as saying. Ong said he came to know that Dr Mahathir had specifically instructed Second Finance Minister Datuk Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis to make sure that hawkers and petty traders from all ethnic groups benefited from the small loan scheme provided under the economic stimulus package.

The daily added that Ong told hawkers and petty traders who were facing difficulties in their application for small loans to seek help from the MCA. The daily and Nanyang Siang Pau also reported that the Federation of Hawkers and Petty Traders Associations Malaysia cried foul over the strict terms and conditions imposed by Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) on the small loans provided under the stimulus package. Quoting the federation's president Tan Tian Kooi, the two dailies reported that the red tape set by BSN had made it almost impossible for the hawkers and petty traders to get the loans. According to Sin Chew Daily, Tan said that the BSN wanted hawkers and petty traders to include a seconder, who is a member of the federation, in their loan applications. He said the bank had also stipulated conditions in selecting the seconder. Tan added that over 1,000 members of the federation had submitted their applications but none of their loans were approved, the daily reported.

From Star, Malaysia, 3 July 2003

Good Citizens Course for All Civil Servants

Kuala Lumpur - All civil servants, except police and armed forces personnel, will have to attend a five-day course on being good citizens to instil patriotism and good work culture in them. Public Service Department director-general Tan Sri Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri said this would help create a mentally and physically prepared and disciplined civil service. "The modules in the course will include the nation's history, loyalty pledge to the King, government and nation, the importance of preventing corruption, being accountable for one's actions and having good morals and ethics," he said in a circular. This took effect on March 1 and participants will be assessed throughout the course and required to sit an objective test. Those who fail the test will be allowed to attend the same course a year later with an option for a shorter programme. Those who do not pass will not be considered for promotion, while those confirmed in service will be given preference to attend the course. Jamaluddin said the course would be handled by National Civics Bureau under the Prime Minister's Department. The PSD will appoint officers to run the course.

The participants will be briefed on events leading to independence, the provisions in the Federal Constitution, national policies and the social contract. "They will also be briefed on the importance of the country's demography to the nation's development, the workings of the parliamentary democracy system, the country's diplomatic relations with other countries as well as loyalty to the country and its leaders," he said. At the end of the course, the participants are expected to understand the implications of the country's social contract system. They also have to understand the values, morals and ethics in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. "Participants are expected to know how to gauge their level of fitness through simple tests, to reduce stress, to improve one's physical being and to remain emotionally stable," said Jamaluddin. He said during the course, individuals would be told of the need to inculcate the spirit of solidarity and to help one another without looking at one's race or self-interest. "It is also important that they know each individual may differ in opinions and the importance of respecting this and how to become an effective civil servant," he added.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Sarban Singh, 3 July 2003

Japan Mulls Linux for Civil Service

Japanese authorities may consider switching to Linux during their next IT systems upgrade in 2005, a move which is expected slash maintenance costs by half. The government has taken to a proposal by Fujitsu, IBM Japan and Oki Electric Industry which moots the use of open-source for managing salary and other personnel administration data for the country's 800,000 public servants, government spokesman Masanobu Arao told Japanese daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun. While finer details of the deal are still being discussed, the paper said the 188 million yen (US$1.6 million) contract will halve maintenance fees for government IT systems because Linux is free. Japanese authorities first sneaked details of their Linux plans in November last year. At that time however, security issues were cited as the key impetus for considering the open-source move as hitches in platforms such as Linux are thought to be easier to fix.

Besides Japan, India and China are two other Asian strongholds for open-source software. Officials in India's Department of Information Technology in New Delhi disclosed details of a move called the Linux India Initiative just weeks before Microsoft chairman Bill Gate's visit to the country last year. In China, Linux has already made inroads into a slew of government ministries such as the National Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Statistics and the National Labor Unit. To curb the spread of Linux, software giant Microsoft has started to reveal its closely-guarded Windows source code to authorities around the world as part of its Government Security Program (GSP). In Asia, the company has opened its code to the China and in other parts of world to Russia, NATO and the United Kingdom. Microsoft said it is also in discussions with more than 30 countries, territories and organizations regarding their interest in this program.

From Cnet Asia, Asia, 10 July 2003

Civil Servants Urged to See the Bigger Picture

Kota Kinabalu - Sabah State Secretary Datuk KY Mustapha said civil servants must raise their level of mission consciousness to achieve the goals of the state government for a better administration. He said civil servants cannot let their jurisdiction and duties deter them from forming productive and progressing networks to achieve the state government's goal. To achieve something important together, they must first be lifted above boundaries, territories and pettiness. Datuk Mustapha said this when launching a workshop on team dynamic and the Kota Kinabalu City Hall's management guidebooks at Nexus Karambunai Resort here. He said civil servants must work towards a symbiosis between individuals and the goal of the various government components. Symbiotic relationships depend on the ability of diverse organisations to set aside differences and strive towards a common goal. "We need to shut out the bureaucratic mindset be resourceful, innovative and pioneering. If we think we are the entire picture, we will never see the big picture," he said.

He said civil servants must be receptive to new ideas and not hide behind rules and regulation. They must not resist changes that expand opportunities. Datuk Mustapha strongly urged government agencies to work as a team, have the ability and confidence to make great individual contributions and still have the humility and cooperative spirit to respect and contribute to the team. Mayor Datuk Haji Abdul Gahni Rashid said earlier that the guidebooks are meant to spur the implementation of its Corporate Action Plan comprising strategic and operational plans, complemented with a human resource policy and practice, which are the deciding factors for organisational success. "We want to forge stronger partnerships in resolving issues pertaining to the city's physical and social developments," he said.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei, by Arman Gunsika, 10 July 2003

More Male Civil Servants Take Childcare Leave

An increased number of male public servants took a childcare leave last year, according to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs. According to a poll conducted on 54,159 public servants qualified for childcare leave, 1,784 took it, 50.1 percent up from the previous year's 1,188. The proportion of male servants who took a childcare leave increased to 6.1 percent, up from the previous year's 4.9 percent while that of female servants dropped to 93.9 percent from 95.1 percent of the previous year. Childcare leave is designed to provide workers, both men and women, time off from work to care for children under the age of three. The government provides financial assistance for ten and a half months. Public servants became eligible to receive the benefits since November 2001. However, only a small number of civil servants had taken the leave, due mainly to lack of publicity, a ministry official said. The small amount of money allotted and uncertainty about being able to return to work after the time off also contributed to decisions not to go on leave. In line with the earlier decision by the National Assembly's standing committee to raise workers' allowance for childcare leave from the current 200,000 won (about $160) per month to 400,000 won, the government also expanded benefits for public servants on childcare leave.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Yoo Dong-ho, 10 July 2003

Stressed Civil Servants Can Seek Advice of Mentors

Putrajaya - All government departments should implement a mentoring programme as a way to counsel and support civil servants working under severe stress, said Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman. He said the departments would benefit from such a move as there had been cases where civil servants were unable to cope with their workload or personal problems. "For instance, previously, we tended to treat people who turn up late for work or who don't even bother to show up at all as a disciplinary matter, but we have found that those involved may be experiencing serious emotional and personal stress. "By having mentors in each department and allowing these people to talk about their problems, we hope this will be able to help them work and live better," he told reporters after presenting excellent service awards to 301 staff of the various departments under the Prime Minister's Department here yesterday.

Samsudin said the PM's Department had implemented such a programme for the second year running and had seen improvements in overall performance and efficiency standards. "The feedback is very positive. We started off with 53 mentors who underwent a training course by psychologists on how to best counsel and listen to their colleagues. The mentors may not necessarily be someone of a certain seniority level, but they have the ability to listen and advise. "We think that all government departments and ministries can benefit from such a programme, and we would like to encourage them to implement it," he said. Earlier in his speech, Samsudin called on civil servants not to delay taking action or coming to a decision on matters referred to them by the public, which was the main factor behind the recent rise in the number of complaints received by the Public Complaints Bureau.

From Star, Malaysia, 11 July 2003

Vietnamese Civil Servants Face Sex Sanctions

Hanoi - Few have taken Vietnam's previous pledges to eradicate prostitution seriously, but recent legislation could result in state employees being caught with their pants down. The names of all civil servants, military and police personnel found to have visited a prostitute will be passed on to their superiors for punishment. Civil servants account for 60 percent of prostitutes' customers. Those caught face fines between $15 (about R100) and $250 (about R2 000) and will be barred from promotion for a period. Repeat offenders risk suspension. Nguyen Thi Hue from the ministry of labour, invalids and social affairs, leading the drive, said the annual budget of $1,5-million was "insufficient". Nguyen Ngoc Lan, manager of a Hanoi mini-hotel is sceptical. "The benefits brought by the sex industry are too important," she said. "What's more you cannot settle personal matters with administrative measures." - Sapa-AFP

From Independent Online, South Africa, 14 July 2003

'Kamikaze' Type to Test Public Service Deal

Opposition MPs want to find a "kamikaze" public servant bold enough to head a legal challenge against extra benefits given to union members in eight Government departments. Act finance spokesman Rodney Hide says he has been approached by staff of four departments furious at what they see as bribery, but has been told he needs to find one close to retirement "or else a kamikaze" for a legal challenge. He said the latest approach was from a Conservation Department insider, whose 1150 union colleagues are voting on a three-year collective employment agreement including payments of $1137 in recognition of the perceived value of a management-union partnership. About 150 non-unionists will receive all allowances negotiated by the Public Service Association and the Amalgamated Workers' Union for their members, but not lump-sum payments of $737 this year and $200 for each of the following two years. "They are angry beyond belief because they see it as the politicisation of the civil service, but say it is more than their job is worth to speak out," Mr. Hide said yesterday. Conservation Department human resources manager Julie Craig denied extra payments were bribes.

To get them staff had to be union members on June 20, predating the end of months of negotiations between their delegates and managers. She said the department wanted its staff on standard terms but was also directed by the Employment Relations Act to promote collective bargaining. PSA secretary Richard Wagstaff said it was ludicrous for Opposition MPs to keep "bleating on about this" as his union could negotiate only on behalf of its members, having no lawful authority to represent anybody else. Neither Mr. Hide nor National finance spokesman Dr Don Brash accept this, saying they will keep searching for a public servant prepared to take a test case to court. Auditor-General Kevin Brady said in reply to a complaint by Dr Brash about special deals reached last year in Inland Revenue and four other departments at a cost of almost $5 million that he had no mandate to intervene.

But he said the relationship between two clauses of the Employment Relations Act had not been tested, and the Employment Court had jurisdiction to consider the lawfulness of lump-sum payments if a litigant had necessary standing to make a case. One clause says preferences should not be given to workers over terms or conditions of employment, fringe benefits or opportunities for training, promotion or transfer just because they are or are not members of a union. But the next clause adds that the anti-preference provision is not breached just because a worker's employment terms are different from those of somebody else employed by the same organisation. The State Services Commission has defended the extra payments under its bargaining rules, which allow lump sums "in recognition of identifiable benefits arising out of the collective relationship with a particular union". Other departments paying lump sums to unionists are Social Development, Internal Affairs, Corrections, and Land and Information.

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, by Mathew Dearnaley, 14 July 2003

Tahan Expects RM2.5 Milion in Premiums From Civil Servants

Composite insurer Tahan Insurance Malaysia Bhd hopes to generate RM2.5mil in premium income from the government employees market via a salary deduction programme, said its chief executive officer, Razidan Ghazalli. He said this could materialise following its business alliance with Coshare Holdings Bhd where government employees could opt to invest in Tahan Insurance products via a salary deduction programme. "We have created a platform that will enable these employees to invest via a salary deduction programme," he told reporters after formalising the business alliance with Coshare in Shah Alam yesterday. A result of a merger involving Talasco Insurance Malaysia Bhd, The People's Insurance Co (M) Bhd and Tenaga Insurance Malaysia Bhd, Tahan Insurance aims to register a combined premium income (from life and general insurance products) of RM300mil next year.

On plans of further acquisitions, Razidan said he did not rule out the possibility that Tahan Insurance would acquire more insurance companies. He said the insurance industry was currently operating in an overcrowded environment. "There are too many players. The insurance industry will consolidate, taking the cue from the consolidation of the banking industry," he said. Tahan Insurance is the third insurer that has formed business alliance with Coshare, an entity granted by the government to undertake government employees salary deduction programme. The other insurers are AIA and Pan Global Insurance. "There's no exclusivity to any insurer. So they (employees) have choice," said Coshare chief operating officer Amir Awang Hamad.

From Star, Malaysia, 14 July 2003

Public Servants' Air Travel Under Review

An independent review is to be held into air-travel in the Commonwealth public service following claims by REX airlines that most bookings go to Qantas. REX argues public servants tend to fly with Qantas even though its fares are often more expensive. The head of the Prime Minister's Department, Peter Shergold, has written to senior transport and finance executives saying a review will be held to determine if public servants are opting for the cheaper flights. REX airlines is expecting to make a decision by next week on whether to axe the rest of its Canberra services.

From ABC Regional Online, Australia, 16 July 2003

Power To The Civil Servants

With the expiry of the tenure of elected representatives of local bodies a year ago, the democratic exercise practiced at the grassroots has been held up, thereby, obstructing the local development activities and process of social mobilization. In the history of strengthening the grass root level democracy, the clashes of internal and external interest often thwart the process of institutionalization and leadership making. Be it under the leadership of Panchayat system or democratic set up, the local bodies continue to struggle for survival. Grass root level organizations were more institutionalized and stable than central level institutions when they were under the elected leadership. However, in the absence of election of new representatives, the local bodies are now in similar state as their central counterparts. Local bodies are popular institutions and they have contributed immensely in the social mobilization and development activities. If it is so, why this successful experiment is not being allowed to function properly? When Naresh Kumar Chapagain, chief of Kavrepalanchwok District Development Committee switched on a light of projector to display progress report at the meeting hall of District Development Committee at Dhulikhel last week, it reflected the changes at the local level that have come about in the last one decade. The sophistication in his presentation and the time he took to explain the planning and programs showed how capable the local bodies have become at far away districts.

From district planning to networking, human resources and social mobilization, the two-hour presentation covered all the important aspects that had evolved in the last five decades. It focused on the changes that occurred after the implementation of the Participatory District Development Program (PDDP). Since there is a remote possibility to hold the elections now, it seems that district development officers will have to take the leadership role in planning, implementing and execution of development programs in the grass root level, activating the existing institutions. Kavrepalanchwok is not alone in boasting such progress. Many other DDCs have similar kinds of institutions and development planning, completed in the last one decade. Despite political instability at the center, the DDCs and VDCs provided stability and strong leadership much needed for the development of local areas. Experiences have shown that the effective program is implemented only through the participation of local people. In the last one decade, many successful programs were put into action where DDCs and VDCs enjoyed dedicated and strong leadership. In terms of expenditure, the DDCs spend more than half of the development budgets, allowing local population to select, plan and execute the development programs they desire.

From school buildings to roads and bridges and health posts, local populations have constructed them on their own. Unfortunately, despite their importance, the government seems to be in no mood to revive the local bodies. According to a source close to the prime minister's office, the government is considering to extend its one-year-old decision of leaving the local bodies under the supervision of the civil servants by another year. History of Local Bodies - The institutionalization of local bodies has a long history. Many donors have put valuable resources and expertise to build and develop local bodies so as to deliver effective service to the local population. From initial days of process of institutionalization, the local bodies have passed through various phases of ups and downs. From the conflicting interest of internal and external powers, the local bodies had seen many painful days. But, it has survived many a number of sabotages and clashes of interests. With an initiation of the United States, the evolution of modern and functional local bodies embarked on in Nepal. "From the beginning, the Point IV team believed that if assistance programs were to be successful, a structure had to be developed to extend program benefits to Nepal's many villages," states Half-a-Century of Development, The History of U.S Assistance to Nepal 1951-2001, published by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

"In the early 1950s, there was minimal government organization at the local level, and no dialogue between villagers and the national government. Paul Rose, the director of U.S Operation Mission (USOM), and chief Agriculturist Harold Dusenberry proposed the concept of local bodes in 1950s. According to the USOM, this was to be an organization known as the Village Development Service, established to contact village people, to find out their needs, and then to get assistance from various departments which would channel programs through this service," it further states. Today's village development committee, according to experts, is not merely a traditional and informal organization but it is an institution established under a legal and constitutional provisions. Constituted under the Local Self-Governance Act, 2055 (1999), various constitutional provisions and other existing acts and regulations guide its functions. The Supreme Court also interprets the laws relating to the local bodies. The process of legal evolution is very long. Recommendations of the representatives of local bodies are required in acquiring citizenship, birth, migration, marriage certificates and so on related to individuals. The article 46 (C) of the Constitution of Kingdom of Nepal 1990 has provision where representatives of local body choose members of National Assembly.

The constitution says fifteen members, three each of Development Regions, to be elected in accordance with law on the basis of the system of single transferable vote by an electoral college consisting of the Chief and deputy chief of the villages and town level local authorities and the chief, deputy chief and the members of the district level local authorities. Since at present the local bodies do not have elected representatives, it is facing obscurity in implementing the programs. "Because of lack of elected representatives, the local bodies are unable to effectively accomplish development activities in the rural areas," said Krishna Man Pradhan, president of Rural Development Foundation, a non-governmental organization working to protect the rights of the local bodies. "Sooner the elections are held, better the local bodies will function." Achievements of DDCs and VDCs - Along with the District Development Committees (DDCs), the Village Development Committees (VDCs) have also achieved remarkable success in the areas of social mobilization. Supported under the PDDP, local residents of Kushadevi Village Development Committee of Kavre district have shown how transformation can be effected in their localities through social mobilization. "During my two tenures as a chairman of Kushadevi Village Development Committee, we had constructed four concrete two lane bridges, 39 kilometers long road, four primary schools and one high school building, health posts and number of community buildings," said Bhim Neupane, former chairman of Kushadevi VDC. "The pace and spirit of the development has decelerated following the expiry of tenure of local bodies."

With the expiry of the terms of elected representatives a year ago, chief executive officers of the DDCs have to share additional burden including formulation of planning, execution and implementation. Likewise, secretaries at the village development committees are responsible to impart the duties, which were earlier carried out by elected chairmen. Many see it is impossible for civil servants to carry out effective development-oriented activities. "Central leaders have little idea regarding the importance of the grass root level organizations like VDCs, municipalities and DDCs. Had the local bodies been given due considerations, the country would not have to face severe situation in the villages like now," said Daman Dhoj Chand, former minister from Bardiya who had worked for ten years as the president of Bardiya DDC and before that for another ten years as the chief of local Panchayat. "Based on the local people, the local bodies can easily mobilize the people at the grass root level," he said. Institutionalization of DDCs and VDCs - Responsible to implement almost all district level development activities, the DDCs play catalytic role to coordinate and implement planning process in the districts. The Local Self-Governance Act 2055 (1999) authorizes VDCs for formulation of plans of and process of implementation, preparation of resource maps, feasibility study and selection of the projects and coordination among village development committee and governmental and non-governmental agencies. The DDCs, too, have similar authority at the district level.

With the pressure from international donor agencies, civil society and elected leaders of local bodies, the government had tabled the Local Self-Governance Act in 1998 giving sweeping power to the elected authorities in the matters related to development and planning. If local bodies are such important and powerful entities, why did the mainstream democratic parties and government never consider holding its elections? The answer is simple and clear. Political leaders always perceive elected representatives of local bodies are their rivals. External powers, which have their own interests, too, feel the threat because the local bodies mobilize people at grass root level. However, the existing local bodies had enjoyed strong backing from the western countries including the United States since they want to see the democratic exercise at all level. "Weakness of western power is that they cannot influence the leadership at the policy-making level where national political leaders have a cozy interest with a country that has strong interest in Nepal," said a political analyst. Capabilities of Local Bodies - After injecting billions of rupees and experimenting with several rounds of elections, the local bodies have developed institutional frame works and program management systems. There are strong pools of civil servants working under the ministry of Local Development and political workers at the grass root level.

Chapagain's presentation demonstrates the capability of local level institutions built over the last five decades and software available at the local level. From drinking water to road and other micro-credit projects, the chief executive had many things to boast about. Divided into 15 units, Kavrepalanchwok district, which has 87 village development committees with a population of 385,281, has introduced many new programs including the computerized network as well as transparency in the accounting and program management. "Because of the lack of the elected representatives, we are facing the problems in the process of prioritizations. But the DDC has adequate manpower and capability to build planning and implement them," said Chapagain. "We are now on the planning phase and our programs for the forthcoming fiscal year will be announced next month." Despite his enthusiasm and institutional capabilities and legal authority, what he lacks is a backing of the elected representatives to implement the programs successfully at the targeted population. Since almost all 75 districts have well-built institutions and physical infrastructures with technical and administrative back up, district institutions will remain immobilized till the elections take place. "Since the officials are accelerating the development works, the question is who will take the ownership of development programs? Will VDC secretaries be responsible for failures?" Pradhan asked.

Evolution of local bodies - The sophistication seen in the Chapagain's presentation was not the outcome of a week or a month's efforts but a cumulative result of five decade long continuous support and contribution of the donor communities, who had backed the institutionalization efforts of local bodies. Whether it is through a Participatory District Development Program (PDDP), which is supported by United Nations Development Program (UNDP), or other local governance programs supported by various donor countries including DANIDA, DFID, NORAD, SDC, GTZ, SNV and other international organizations, all have focused their attention in strengthening the institutional capability of local bodies. Since the involvement of the USOM in early 1950s, many donor countries have injected billions of rupees to strengthen the local bodies and make it more effective and credible. This has resulted in the growth of strong institutions. Although more than 1800 VDC buildings were destroyed in the last seven years, people have not forgotten the importance of the VDCs. In the People's Movement of 1990, the parties directed their workers to go against the local Panchayat and changed the name of all local bodies, but people's attachment to the grass root institution remained. "Decentralization and local government system have always been the areas of keen interest for the Kings and rulers of Nepal since the very dawn of history. The Kirat Kings belonging to the first Nepalese dynasty had laid down the foundation of LGIs (local government institutions)," said Tulsi Narayan Shrestha, a decentralization expert.

To make more representation in the village and districts, the act divides the VDCs in nine wards and DDCs in 15 units. Each VDC is composed of 47 elected representatives including chairman and vice chairman. DDC consists of area members including president and vice president elected through indirect elections. Whether it was called Panchayat or VDC, people have strong attachment to the local bodies, which is their own government where they can discuss and decide their fate. Following intensification of Maoist insurgency, many police posts were removed from far away villages - the VDCS, then, were the only remaining entities of the state. King Mahendra's Contribution - Although King Mahendra dismissed elected government and suspended the constitution in 1961 AD, he also played equally important role in formation of popularly elected local bodies. King Mahendra introduced Panchayat system at the grass root level to mobilize the people. Introduced by late King Mahendra, who is criticized as an authoritarian ruler, the local bodies have helped to transform power structure giving room for local people to take their collective decision. Before the establishment of the VDCs, it was the sole duty of landlords. Along with establishing the local bodies, the Constitution of Nepal promulgated in 1962 also gave the constitutional guarantee to the local bodies. The Part 8 of the Constitution of Nepal 1962 mentions the modalities and functions of Village Assembly, Town Assembly, Village Panchayat, Town Panchayat and District Panchayat.

In terms of constitutional guarantee, the Constitution of Nepal 1962 was more progressive and protective than the present constitution formulated by the democrats of 1990.The existing forms of local bodies are based on a system introduced by the Panchayat and legal institutional frame works, too, originated at that time. "The existing structure of local bodies is compilation of custom, religion, habit and historical compulsions. Since the arms of the central government never reaches in the periphery except to collect the revenue, local bodies are envisaged to mobilize the local population," said a senior advocate. "As the unitary form of government always tends to be authoritarian, the local bodes are very important to decentralize the power." Realizing the need of local bodies in forming the leadership, King Mahendra encouraged local participation. After the restoration of democracy in 1990, many leaders who were groomed in Panchayati local set up were elected to the parliament. The elected leaders of grass root level are always powerful influence to contain the insurgency. When the Maoists launched their insurgency in 1996, they began their movement by targeting the infrastructures of local bodies and elected representatives. As long as elected representatives were functional, the insurgent could not escalate their activities. Many VDCs contained the Maoists through effective development planning and by penetrating to the villages. "Local bodies will help foster the leadership at the center. Since the periodical elections produced the leadership much needed at the center, it is the best place where new leaders are groomed and taught the apprentice," said an analyst.

Clashes of Interest - The local bodies have survived the clashes of interests among Nepal's friendly countries. In the early phase, the US government wanted the local bodies to make delivery system effective at the grass root level. But the Nepalese government chose the Indian support to form the local bodies and the US left the scene. "The goal was to establish a nationwide system which would distribute increased services to villages, while providing a channel of communications through which people could express their wants to the government. A fundamental assumption was that rural Nepalis were willing and able to learn new technology, and they would use this knowledge to develop themselves. In his justification for the Village Development Project, Rose emphasized the "bumpy transition from autocracy to democracy' that was making HMG an unstable partner," states the Half-a- Century of Development. As India had successfully launched village development program, Nepal also sought support from India to strengthen the local bodies. Late in the 1950s, USOM decided to phase out village development assistance over a three-year period and turned this sector over to India. "The USOM decided to phase out village development assistance over a three year period and turn the sector over India. USOM expected the Indians to assume full responsibility for the sector in the coming decade.

However, Nepali dissatisfaction with India's patronizing attitudes (in 1962 it asked India to withdraw from the village development project), combined with critical internal political development, would draw the U.S. back to support the next rural development program in the 1960s," writes Eugene Bramer Mihaly in his book Foreign Aid and Politics in Nepal, A Case Study. "Nepal accepted the Indian Aid Mission (IAM) offer because of political pressures and the fact that India was willing to provide substantial assistance. For a couple of years joint USOM-IAM assistance was discussed, however, India and the U.S. mainly competed for spheres of influence and selection of the most appropriate community development model. India concentrated its efforts in Terai districts and the key valleys of Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Palungtar hoping to increase friendliness towards India in strategically vital areas," Mihaly further writes. The initial phase had seen the conflicting interest between India and USOM. "USOM officials apparently resented the Indian domination of the field resulting from its larger investment. They also felt the Indian emphasis on "brick and mortar" instead of development of human resources was inappropriate. In addition, Mission support for the Village Development Project dwindled as new technical officer assigned higher priority to projects of counterpart's technical ministries," states the book Half-a-Century of Development.

Phases of Uncertainty - From the very beginning, the village development concept passed through bumpy roads surviving all kinds of internal political upheavals. The un-elected central political leaders always faced a threat from elected representatives of local bodies since they acquire the basic knowledge of governance. As an elected leader, they will always be threat to the un-elected leadership in the party organizations. Once the local leaders realize their strength, they will even defy the order of central leaders. This will help to develop sense of accountability at the local level. Unfortunately, this positive aspect itself has stood in the way for its advancement. Furthermore, the elected representatives of local bodies are also threat to elected MPS who will always perceive them as rivals in their pocket constituencies. From political leaders to elected members of the parliament, the local leaders have become nobody's favorite. The elections of local bodies are important to sustain the democratic system since it provides much needed leadership at the center. Only those who want to impose the leadership from top down will oppose it. Girija Prasad Koirala, then prime minister, in 1993, decided to hold the local elections under the pressure of western donor countries.

Since 1990 to 1993, the local bodies were left under the nominated civil servants. When the Local Self Governance Act was passed in the parliament in 1999, the CPN-UML, which controlled two thirds of local bodies, broke all the seats in parliament opposing certain clauses. Though the act was passed after a long and bitter struggle, the local leaders could not enjoy it for more than two years. Whenever there is a revolution or political upheavals in the country, local bodies have remained vulnerable. The People's Movement of 1990 was initiated by burning the buildings of local bodies. During the 45 days of the movement, they burnt a couple of municipality buildings including the Lalitpur Nagar Panchayat and other Village Panchayat buildings forcing the local elected leaders to leave their villages. Maoists, too, followed similar route. They, too, started their revolution by dismantling the local bodies. Even democratically elected government did not consider it important when it came to extending the tenure of the elected representatives.

It was during the Sher Bahadur Deuba's government last year that their tenure expired. "Without extensive citizen participation, electoral democracies run the risk of becoming hostages to the manipulation of voter performances by rich and powerful elites. Involvement in civil society and the public sphere can also provide citizens common grounds to make demands upon the state, thereby improving the functioning of higher-level bureaucratic and representative institutions," says an expert. Despite its strong role in accelerating development activities and leadership making, the local bodies have to struggle with different institutions for its survival. In the last five decades, every political party wanted to put the local bodies on its own hold. Since the elected local bodies mobilize the mass and challenges any kinds of hegemony, it is regarded as a threat to other powers. While a huge number of people are facing several difficulties because they have no local bodies to carry out their day-to-day duties, nobody is concerned about reviving them for the time being.

From Spotlight, Nepal, by Keshab Poudel, 18 July 2003

Taiwan to Lift Ban on Business Trips By Civil Servants to China

Taiwan will lift a four-month ban from August on business trips by its civil servants to China which had been aimed at curbing the spread of the SARS outbreak. On March 28, Taiwan suspended most visits to areas affected by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome including China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. It relaxed the restriction on July 16, allowing them to visit the mainland for family reunions, seeing sick relatives and academic activities. Travel to Taiwan by Chinese living overseas and by mainlanders through third countries also resumed on July 16.On July 5, the World Health Organisation announced SARS had been contained worldwide after it declared Taiwan, the last region on its watch list, free of new infections. Taiwan, where 84 people died and 670 were infected, was the third worst-hit area after China and Hong Kong.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 18 July 2003

WB Proposes Major Overhaul of Civil Service

Islamabad - The World Bank would finance a comprehensive programme of civil service reforms to upgrade skills, improve pay packages, and rightsize the bottom-heavy structure. Pakistan Public Sector Capacity Building Project, with an estimated cost of $62 million, was expected to be approved by October, 2003. The Bank observed in the Project Information Document that the capacity and quality of public institutions had been declining overtime. Based on the analytical work undertaken on civil service reforms (CSR) in Pakistan, the Bank said that steady erosion in capacity and technical skills of civil servants was a key issue. The Bank maintained that the government had over the time set up many committees and commissions on administrative restructuring that have produced copious reports. However, until very recently, implementation of the recommendations coming out of these reports had been weak. This had been largely attributed to "vested interests, lack of political will or resources constraints."

Since the last three years the government had embarked on a broad-based institutional reform agenda of key institutions like the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Central Board of Revenue (CBR), Auditor General (AG), and Controller General of Accounts (CGA). The first phase of devolution had been undertaken. The objective of the Public Sector Capacity Building Project (PSCB) was to support government efforts in the implementation of its ongoing Economic Reform Programme by: Enhancing the skills of public sector officials; Strengthening capacity for improving the quality of entry level civil servants; strengthening capacity of key ministries/agencies which are in the forefront of design, implementation and monitoring of policy reforms; strengthening capacity of independent regulatory institutions in effectively regulating their respective sectors; and enhancing government capacity to facilitate broad-based civil service reforms (CSR).

From Hi Pakistan, Pakistan, 19 July 2003

India's Civil Service Not Unduly Overstaffed: World Bank

New Delhi - Contrary to the Government's view of right-sizing its staff strength, the World Bank has said India's Civil Service was "not unduly" large, but there was a "pronounced imbalance" in the skills. Though it held that the Fifth Pay Commission was the "single largest adverse shock" to the country's strained public finance, the World Bank said "India's civil service is not particularly overstaffed and not unduly large by global standards." The K P Geethakrishnan-headed Expenditure Reforms Comm had suggested proportionate pruning of Government staff in view of implementation of the Fifth Pay Commission report. In its India Development Policy Review, the Bank, however, said "there is pronounced imbalance in skills mix" since 93 per cent of the civil service comprised Class III and Class IV employees for both the Centre and various states. Stressing that changes in skills mix should accompany the measures to reduce administrative fragmentation, the Bank said, "within Government of India and in many states, number of ministers, ministries and departments has proliferated far beyond any rational assignment of functions." Comparing that the number of cabinet ministers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries had come down to an average of 14, it said India had 31 cabinet ministers and another 45 ministers of state. Many states had 35-40 cabinet departments and especially in Uttar Pradesh, there was over 70 such departments, it said, adding, "institutional reforms are therefore needed to reduce the current administrative fragmentation and align the structure of civil service more closely with the modern-day functions".

From PTI News, India, 24 July 2003

Sabah MCA Wanita Public Service Bureau Launched

Kota Kinabalu: MCA Wanita Chief Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen viewed the setting up of the Sabah MCA Wanita Public Service Bureau at its premises as a platform or centre to train women in volunteerism. The bureau is headed by Sabah MCA Wanita Chief Senator Datuk Agnes Shim. Launching the bureau on Monday at Lintas Square here, Dr Ng urged the committee to initiate a training programme for women to acquire communication and counselling skills. She said the bureau welcomes anybody, regardless of gender, race or age, who needs help. "The services provided are for everybody, men, women and children, and not just for members of Sabah MCA Wanita. Depending on the nature of the complaints or concerns raised, the Bureau's officials will refer the case in question to the relevant authorities," she explained. The bureau is expected to deal with a wide range of social and welfare issues, involving individuals and families, relating to marriage, domestic violence, single motherhood, old age assistance, health and education, among others. Shim, meanwhile, said the bureau comprises three units, namely Counselling for Women under Agape led by Dr William Liew, Legal Aid and Complaints Bureau led by senior lawyer James Lam and Social Welfare Bureau headed by former Deputy Director of Welfare Services, Lawrence Hee. There are 10 counsellors trained by Dr Liew. "The bureau is open to the public every day. All complaints and requests will be recorded accordingly for the necessary action, and those seeking professional advice will be referred to the counsellors concerned," she said.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 21 July 2003

Sichuan Civil Servants Forbidden from Moonlighting in Private Sector

Civil servants in the southwestern Sichuan Province have been forbidden from taking jobs in the private sector, according to a notice recently released by Sichuan provincial government. Civil servants in the southwestern Sichuan Province have been forbidden from taking jobs in the private sector, according to a notice recently released by Sichuan provincial government. Local regulations which previously allowed civil servants to take jobs in the private sector while remaining in the civil service have been abolished. In recent years, in order to develop the local private economy, civil servants in some areas in Sichuan were allowed to enter the business world and remain employed with government organizations. The "double identities" of these business-running civil servants violates the State Public Servant Statute and is to be banned. The Sichuan provincial government started to investigate the issue early this year and identified 423 civil servants who were working full-time or part-time in the private sector. The 423 civil servants have been ordered to choose between their government jobs or private sector employment.

From People's Daily Online, China, 26 July 2003

Psychological Tests for Civil Service Applicants

Lumut - The Government has begun conducting psychological tests on job applicants during interviews to ensure that they are able to take the work pressure and provide service with a smile. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said: "Now we have two officers in the Public Services Commission who are responsible in carrying out psychological tests on those who are interviewed for jobs with the government sector." On questions set for the interviews, he said the expertise of officers from other government departments such as Intan, the Public Services Department and the Education Department would be obtained when the need arose. Such tests had to be carried out as the workload and the pressure in the government sector now was not the same as in previous years, he said yesterday after opening the Eighth seminar of the Public Services and Education Commissions in Damai Laut, about 30km from here. "I think it is very important for an officer who mans the counters in government departments to be psychologically prepared to shoulder the responsibility. "This person should also be able to serve the public with a smile although he or she is under pressure," he said. Dompok said the number of applicants applying for jobs with the government sector had been increasing as more school leavers and graduates were looking for jobs, adding that 290,979 people registered with the Public Services Department last year.

From Star, Malaysia, 29 July 2003

Civil Servants Face Demanding Challenges Ahead, says DPM Lee

Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said today's civil servants face demanding challenges compared to their peers of yesteryear. Mr. Lee was painting the picture of the demanding challenges to this year's Public Service Commission scholars. Terrorists they are not, but these PSC scholars are just showcasing the bad and good times Singapore has been through. And as the 48 scholars took their pledge, DPM Lee had a sobering reminder. "From time to time surprises will come out of the blue like SARS to which we must respond creatively and vigorously, improvising as the situation unfolds, always thinking on our feet and using our brains to stay ahead. Never before has "total defence" meant so many serious challenges on so many different fronts at once," he said. As part of the scholarship, the students had to undergo a 3-week orientation and leadership course, the first group to do so. "What I took away most was the interaction with the pupils there teachers on the ground, to facilitate the gap between those who make the policies and those who had to implement them," said Lian Ming Wee, one of the scholars. Another scholar, Regina Low said: "The 3-week pre-departure course has certainly changed my perception of the civil service. I always thought it was mundane 9-5 job, everyone does the same thing everyday - simply monotonous. Now I see the civil service is more than what you see." The students will head to China, France, the UK and the US to pursue their undergraduate studies.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, by Farah Abdul Rahim, 26 July 2003

Action Against Civil Servants Who Join FSFM

Lumut - Disciplinary action will be taken against government officers and staff found be involved in the illegal Federal Special Forces of Malaysia (FSFM), Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said Monday. He said the government took a serious view of the involvement of its employees in such illegal activities and hence, appropriate action would be taken against them. "No doubt about it. If government officials are involved in this special forces, they will face the disciplinary board," he told reporters after opening the Eighth Public Services Commission meeting in Damai Laut, near here. He said this when asked to comment on the uncovering of the activities of this illegal group on Thursday by police who estimate that the shadowy paramilitary movement has more than 8,000 members nationwide. According to press reports, a director at the Science, Technology and Environment ministry is among the FSFM members who surrendered and was detained by police throughout the country Sunday.

On reports that the FSFM used the name and logo of the Prime Minister's Department and the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry on their letterheads and authority cards, he said the matter should be probed further. Dompok, however, said he believed employees of the Prime Minister's Department or other divisions under the department were not involved in the forgery. "I do not believe officers in the Prime Minister's Department are involved in the activities of the FSFM. To my knowledge, police have not sought help or information from us," he said. Dompok said Malaysians should not believe in such activities and take the easy way out to gain power or promotional opportunities. "Malaysians must learn not to expect short cuts to achieve something. This scam is unrealistic," he added.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 29 July 2003

 

Survey Fuels Fears of Civil Service 'Sick Note Culture'

Scotland's civil servants feel stressed out, overworked and undervalued, a new survey has revealed. The findings in an official report for the Scottish Executive suggest high workloads and tight deadlines are partly to blame for sick leave which is costing taxpayers almost £2m a year, fuelling concerns of a 'sick note culture'. The survey of 4,195 staff found 69% of civil servants had suffered from work-related stress and that a quarter did so on a regular basis. The factor causing staff most difficulty is the sense that they have "too much work to do", which is cited by 30% of the civil servants questioned, while a quarter complain they are struggling to balance work and home life. Long hours were a problem for 15%. Perhaps most damaging is that under Jack McConnell's leadership only 53% believe the Executive values its employees and just 48% think it makes good use of resources.

The findings underline the scale of the challenge facing Scotland's new top civil servant John Elvidge as he tries to modernise the system to deliver the improved public services on which McConnell has staked his political reputation. A period of dramatic changes in the way civil servants work appears to have taken its toll. Since the creation of the Scottish parliament they have faced strong pressure to prepare bills and answer MSPs' questions to ministers, which are about five times higher than the number that had to be dealt with in the former Scottish Office. There have also been tensions between ministers and civil servants as McConnell and colleagues voiced frustration over the way the civil service machine operates. Last night an Executive spokesman said the survey findings would be acted upon.

From Scotland on Sunday, UK, by Jason Allardyce, 5 July 2003

Public Services MMR Below England Average

Rates for the immunisation of children by their second birthday remained several percentage points lower in London than in England as a whole. Adverse publicity concerning the effects of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination contributed to a fall from 83 per cent coverage in London in 1991/92 to 75 per cent in 2001/02, while coverage for most of the other major childhood vaccinations rose over the same period. Numbers of people on NHS hospital waiting lists in London changed little between 2000 and 2002. However, average waiting times fell, and the numbers of people waiting more than 12 months decreased by nearly 3 percentage points to 3 per cent. Forty two per cent of London's 1,691 general medical practices had only one general practitioner in 2001, much higher than the England average of 29 per cent. The average list size for London GPs at 1,985 was higher than the average of 1,841 for England. There were 4,500 children and young people on child protection registers in London in 2002 and nearly half the cases were due to neglect - 48 per cent in Inner London and 45 per cent in Outer London. This compares with 39 per cent in England as a whole. Sexual abuse was a relatively less common factor in London than nationally. The London Fire Brigade employed around 6,600 people in March 2001, some 6 per cent fewer than in March 1999. London had a lower rate of fire-fighters, at 68 per 100,000 population, than the other metropolitan areas in England (74) or Great Britain as a whole (82). Front-line ambulance staffing in London increased by 32 per cent between 1995 and 2003, reaching 2,500, while emergency calls increased by nearly 26 per cent in the same period. The rate of emergency incidents, at 7.7 per 100,000 population, was higher in London than in England as a whole in 2001/02.

From National Statistics, UK, 8 July 2003

Corruption Grave, Says Survey

A survey by Transparency International called The Global Corruption Barometer 2003 has found that 76.5 per cent of Bulgarians think that corruption in the country has a significant impact on their lives. The survey was done in 47 countries all over the world. A total of 81.8 per cent of the respondents in Bulgaria said that corruption affects very significantly the business environment in the country. The polls showed that 20.2 per cent of all Bulgarians polled think that the highest corruption levels exist within political parties. In this respect Bulgaria is a part of the global trend, because according to the survey by Transparency International, an overall total of 29.7 per cent of all respondents in the world think that the political parties are the most corrupt institutions in their countries. The next most corrupt institutions in Bulgaria are courts, according to 19.8 per cent of respondents, the customs with 16.5 per cent, the medical services with 14.3 per cent and business licensing with 9.9 per cent.

The least corrupt institutions, according to Bulgarians, are the immigration and passport services with only 0.9 per cent of respondents saying that they would remove the corruption in those services. Diana Kovacheva, head of Transparency International for Bulgaria, said that according to the survey, most Bulgarians come across various forms of corruption every day. A total of 39.7 per cent of Bulgarians think that corruption has a somewhat significant effect on the political life in the country, while another 40 per cent believe that it affects it very significantly. According to 55.3 per cent of those polled in Bulgaria, however, corruption does not have a significant impact on culture and values of society. The survey by Transparency International showed that most respondents think that within the next three years the levels of corruption globally will rise. In this aspect Bulgarians are quite uncertain about the levels of corruption.

Almost 34 per cent of the respondents said it would stay the same, while 26.1 per cent said they did not know. A total of 11.4 per cent said it would increase a little, 19.7 per cent said that it would decrease a little. By comparison, people in Colombia are most optimistic, 32 per cent believing corruption will decrease sharply. Most pessimistic are the people of Cameroon - 39.4 per cent think that the levels of corruption will increase a lot. The index of perception of corruption puts Bulgaria in forty-fifth place out of 102 countries. The most corrupt country, according to the index, was Bangladesh, while the least was Finland. The Transparency International poll also showed that corruption affects most seriously people with low incomes. Against the background of this statistical data, last week the BBC World TV channel showed a four-minute report on Bulgaria as a part of the Europe Direct magazine show, which treats serious problems all over Europe.

From Sofia Echo, Bulgaria, 11 July 2003

Head of EU Civil Service 'Impressed' by Maltese Preparation for Accession

The top civil servant in the European Commission yesterday said he was "tremendously impressed" by the state of preparations on the part of Malta as it prepares to join the EU. David O'Sullivan was on a short visit to Malta and he spoke to the media at the EU Delegation in Ta' Xbiex after meeting EC representative Ron Gallimore. He is carrying out a fact-finding mission to all acceding countries and this was his first visit to Malta. Coinciding with his visit, there is also in Malta a rather large monitoring mission from the Commission, which is examining, in all technical detail, that Malta is doing what it committed itself to doing. The report on the state of preparedness of the 10 acceding countries will be published by the Commission in autumn. Malta, Mr. O'Sullivan said, is well-prepared to accede to the EU. There are nine months yet to go and there is still much work to be done but it is time to prepare on all levels so as to be able to finalise all arrangements before accession. After accession, the EU will not be monitoring Malta as it has been doing during the accession negotiations and during these months. However, it will still monitor, as it does all member states, to see that they implement all EU legislation. Mr. O'Sullivan said he has been impressed by the seriousness of the public servants he met.

He has met with the Cabinet Secretary, the Head of the Civil Service, the Foreign Minister and also the members of the Monitoring Commission. Meanwhile the recruitment of Maltese nationals to posts within the Commission has been proceeding and at least a minimal presence of all accession countries will be in place by next May. A total of 85 officials from Malta have been chosen at entry grade while further recruitment will be undertaken in the coming months. Mr. O'Sullivan said that there is a cyclical effect of recruitment. His fellow Irish who were recruited with him 20 years ago are now heading many EU directorates. Just below them are the Spanish and the Greeks, who came in later. The EU civil service is a meritocratic bureaucracy and able Maltese officials will be able to get promoted. Some top officials, like Directors General and Deputy Directors General, will be recruited from Malta in the coming months. As regards the Commissioner from Malta, Mr. O'Sullivan said that the name would be expected around January or February so that the European parliament will begin its hearings in April, just before accession. As members of the EU civil service, these Maltese will not be representing Malta but it is important that the Commission's officers express a spread of nationalities of all member states and ensure that the EU has a multicultural basis. Mr. O'Sullivan touched upon the translation mishap of the draft Constitution. The EU prides itself with having a very serious level of linguistic diversity but one must admit that the first attempts to put the Maltese language at EU levels has met with some teething problems, he said.

It would seem that some mistakes were committed on a procedural level which led to the mistranslation of the draft Constitution but it would also seem that there are not enough structures in Malta to sustain the amount of work of translation and interpretation that having Maltese as an official language of the EU entails. The EU delegation has opened an office in Malta to coordinate all translation work and it is holding talks with the academy of language and with the university to increase the number of Maltese who are expert at this level. Mr. Gallimore added that when a call for applications for translators was made, not enough people applied, even before one started to ascertain how expert the applicants may be. It may also be the case that some of the requirements were too stringent.2004 will be a very important year for the EU: the final decisions on the Constitution will be taken then; there will be enlargement on 1 May, and 10 new Commissioners will start functioning in May. There will be elections for the European Parliament in June and, before ending its term in November, the Commission is due to issue its draft financial programme for post 2007 so that the discussion on the next EU budget can begin. However, enlargement will be the main item on the EU agenda next year. In a way, Mr. O'Sullivan said, "we are already 25". Many meetings in Brussels are already being held with all 25 representatives present. 1 May 2004 is a formal date: the EU is already working as a collection of 25 nations.

From Malta Independent, Malta, by Noel Grima, 12 July 2003

Rise In Salaries Of Civil Servants Will Be Announced Tomorrow

Ankara - Justice Minister and government spokesman Cemil Cicek said on Monday that rise in salaries of civil servants would be announced on Tuesday. Following the meeting of Council of Ministers, Cicek told reporters that they set the principles of rise in salaries of civil servants in their meeting. Cicek said that State Minister Ali Babacan for the Treasury and Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan would work on the issue in detail later in the day under chairmanship of State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin. Thus, the rise in salaries of civil servants would be given final shape, Cicek noted. Cicek stated that a verbal or written statement regarding the issue would be made on Tuesday. ''Our principle is to make high rise in salaries of people with lower salaries and low rise in salaries of people with higher salaries,'' Cicek said. When reporters recalled him about the news that 60 million Turkish liras (TL) of rise would be made in salaries of civil servants, Cicek said, ''we will announce the details tomorrow because it is a technical issue. I may say wrong things if I make a detailed statement now. Our three friends will work on the issue and inform you tomorrow.''

CICEK: LEGAL ARRANGEMENTS IN 21 FIELDS SHOULD BE MADE IN ORDER TO ENCOURAGE FOREIGN INVESTORS - Cicek told reporters that they agreed to legalize those arrangements as soon as possible and pass a majority of laws on agenda of parliament before the parliament recess. Cicek said that scarcity and insufficiency of investments came at the top of main problems of Turkey. Turkey could not make sufficient investments from its budget since it was under a heavy debt burden, Cicek noted. Cicek stated that scarcity and insufficiency of investments brought forward many social and economic problems, particularly unemployment. Therefore, information about the efforts of the Investment Environment Rehabilitation Coordination Board was given during the meeting, Cicek said. Cicek recalled that the board was formed by high-level undersecretaries of some ministries and representatives of private sector. Very comprehensive initiatives were made under the umbrella of that board to attract foreign capital and encourage foreign investors, Cicek said. Cicek stated that many legal arrangements should be made in that field. ''We give importance to such initiatives to encourage investments and the Council of Ministers once more confirmed that these initiatives should be accelerated,'' Cicek said.

Cicek pointed out that legal arrangements in 21 fields should be made in order to attract foreign capital and encourage foreign investors under the auspices of that board. The government had legalized four relevant laws so far, including direct foreign investments law, labor law, law on working permit for foreigners, and company establishment law, Cicek recalled. Cicek said that Employment Agency Law, law on amendment to several laws to enable sale of lands belonging to the Treasury, law on fight against smuggling were passed from the parliament and waited for President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's approval. Five laws namely law on Social Security Agency (SSK), law on Social Security Agency for the Self-employed (Bag-Kur), Environment Law, Mine Law, and Turkish Patent Institute Law were on parliament's agenda, Cicek stated. Cicek went on saying, ''some of the laws on parliament's agenda are among laws we have to pass priorily within the scope of the fifth negotiation. There are 4 draft laws at the Prime Ministry. There are five issues which are at the stage of presentation to Prime Ministry. We think that legal vacuum in encouragement of foreign capital will totally be ended in case we legalize these 21 laws.'' ''Today, we have decided to legalize these laws and pass a majority of laws on parliament's agenda before the parliament recess,'' Cicek added. Cicek stated that the commission formed to amend Press Law had completed its work and draft Press Law was ready.

State Minister Besir Atalay would hold a press conference within the week and give information about the mentioned draft, Cicek pointed out. Cicek noted that they thought of legalizing the draft in the new legislative term. One of the issues they took up in their meeting was foreign trade, Cicek stated. Cicek emphasized that export was one of the most important factors of economic growth. Turkey had gained a good momentum in exports and recorded positive developments, Cicek said and expressed pleasure. Cicek went on saying, ''Turkey has recorded 7.4 percent of growth rate in the first quarter of 2003. This figure is the second biggest rate in the world. Exports from Turkey rose 14.1 percent to 35.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2002. Turkey raised an income of 17.8 billion U.S. dollars through exports with a rise of 30.1 percent in the first five months of 2003. Rate of increase in all main and sub sectors was 30.1 percent as of January-May 2003. Rate of increase in agricultural product exports was 16.5 percent, 30.8 percent in industrial product exports and 20.4 percent in mining sector in the mentioned period.'' ''First ten countries ranked first in exports from Turkey are EU countries. Germany, the United States, Britain, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Russian Federation, Israel and Greece come at the top of exports from Turkey. Turkey makes imports from Germany, Italy, Russia, France, Britain, the United States, Switzerland, China, Iran and Japan,'' Cicek said.

Cicek continued, ''thus, it can be seen that Turkey has not only targeted EU as a political preference but also the economic figures have shown that Turkey is in more cooperation with EU countries and makes a great deal of its exportation to these countries. Our exports to European countries increased 36 percent this year and Germany ranks the first with 33.5 percent.'' ''China comes at top of markets we give importance. Our exports to China increased by 79.4 percent. Our exports to Japan rose by 63 percent. Automotive and by-industry, electronics, agriculture, ceramics, paper, glass products, textile are our main export fields,'' Cicek said. Cicek stated that Turkey had 50 billion U.S. dollars of investment in contracting services in 55 countries. Noting that they also debated work of Eximbank, Cicek said that Eximbank was serving businessmen who made investments abroad. Cicek noted that Eximbank had provided support to exports to 173 countries so far and gave around 2,500-3,000 exporter firms loan every year. ''Firms using loan from Eximbank make 55 percent of Turkey's export. After our government came to power, significant steps have been taken through Eximbank. Maturity of short term loans are extended from six months to a year. A new program named small and medium scale enterprises export preparation loan to solve the guarantee and finance problems of those enterprises.

Short term loan interest rates were reduced for three times on April 21, May 5 and June 5, 2003. The interest rates are between 30 and 41 percent on Turkish lira and Trlibor plus 1.50 and 3.75 percent on foreign exchange loans. Turkish Eximbank has stated that it will provide cash loan support of 3 billion U.S. dollars to export sector and 3.5 billion U.S. dollar insurance guarantee support in 2003. Thus, it will contribute to 16 percent of finance of Turkey's export,'' Cicek said. Cicek pointed out that talks with IMF delegation were also taken up during the meeting. Fifth review contacts continued by not only representatives of private sector but also with officials, Cicek said. Cicek added, ''as the government, we favor that these talks are concluded positively and they are ended as soon as possible. As the government, we favor expressing our determination about these talks with the IMF. The stability program in practice is for the benefit of Turkey. The government doesn't have any hesitation about this. The program will be continued determinedly.'' CICEK: ''WE WISH TO PASS SEVENTH EU ADJUSTMENT PACKAGE BEFORE PARLIAMENT RECESS'' - When asked if the efforts of the commission formed by Turkey and the United States to inquire detention of Turkish soldiers by U.S. forces in Sulaymaniyah came onto agenda, Cicek said that the issue did not come onto their agenda. Cicek said, ''in fact, it needn't come to our agenda. We talked about this before. It is a negotiation carried out by the Foreign Ministry and Office of General Staff. A statement will be made about the issue by authorities who join the talks soon.''

Asked if the seventh EU adjustment package was opened to signature, Cicek said that there was a short discussion on the issue. Cicek stated that they had to inform political parties about the issue and hoped to give that information within that week. ''We think of submitting the package to parliament most probably within this week. We wish to pass it before the parliament recess,'' Cicek said. When a reporter said that a meeting on economy would be held at 9.00 p.m. and asked if new economic measures were in question, Cicek said that the most important issue of Turkey was always the economy and it was natural to make meetings on economy so often. Cicek added that evening's meeting would be within that scope. Asked if arrangements on making National Security Council (NSC) civilian would take place in the seventh adjustment package or if it would be included in another package, Cicek said that there were not any arrangements necessitating a constitutional amendment in the seventh package. Cicek pointed out that the mentioned issue directly required a constitutional amendment and said, ''such an amendment is not foreseen in this package. I think this is an answer to your question.

In fact, a constitutional amendment cannot be made by a draft of the government. This necessitates signature of at least 184 parliamentarians. Therefore, ours is a draft not a proposal.'' Replying to questions of draft on Higher Education Board (YOK), Cicek said that that issue did not come onto Turkey's agenda for the first time with their government. Cicek went on saying, ''YOK is on Turkey's agenda for a long time. There is a paragraph about YOK even in program of every government and in election declaration of every party. These reveals that YOK has some shortcomings and deficiencies in making a modern university life. It will be useful to make such an arrangement. We try to make every arrangement with a wide participation and informing everybody. Since YOK Law is a basic law and since it is an arrangement regarding the most distinguished institutions of Turkey, it will be beneficial to bring the issue onto agenda after discussing it with the concerned institutions.'' ''When Erkan Mumcu was the National Education Minister during the term in office of the 58th government, the draft was sent to all concerned institutions, rectors, YOK and Inter-university Board. But, a positive response did not come. And, even no response came. After it was stated last week that the draft YOK law would be submitted to parliament, the Inter-university Board held a meeting. National Education Minister Huseyin Celik was also invited to the meeting.

What came out of the meeting was that the concerned institutions expressed belief that they could make contributions to an amendment to the YOK law. Thus, our government thought it would be beneficial to give opportunity to the concerned institutions to express views about the draft if it would contribute to the law,'' Cicek said. Cicek added, ''therefore, the draft will be sent to YOK, all political parties and the opposition party, members of the Inter-university Board, and rectors. We have given them one-month time. In this one-month time, we will expect everybody to express their views on the draft. After learning their views, we will bring the draft onto parliament's agenda in the new legislative term.'' Asked if rise in salaries of public workers came onto agenda, Cicek said, ''this issue was negotiated by the Prime Minister and Turk-Is Coordination Board. It was earlier announced that 5 percent rise would be made in the first six months, 9 percent rise in the second six months of time, and 5 percent rise would be made in the third and fourth periods. Any change is out of question. We expect the unions to accept this proposal and sign collective contracts. The process Turkey is undergoing is certain. Economic problems are obvious. The number of unemployed is certain. Therefore, I would like to state that the earlier proposed amount is not a rise which can be underestimated.'' Cicek added, ''as government, we have told them that we don't have the opportunity to make a higher rise. I would like to once more express the same determination today.''

From Turkish Press, Turkey, 14 July 2003

Dalli Insists on Flexibility in Top Civil Servants' Thinking

The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, John Dalli, yesterday exhorted heads of government departments and parastatal organisations to add a strong dose of flexibility to their way of thinking when they deal with small enterprises. The country, he said, needed to invest far more funds in research and remove stumbling blocks that prevented innovative ideas by entrepreneurs from taking shape and yielding results. "Entrepreneurs cannot be held back for a year-and-a-half by red tape before being given the go-ahead to move along with their initiatives. "One should not keep citing regulations as if they are divine commandments with which to pour cold water over and kill off initiative. "The country can no longer afford, for example, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and the trade department taking too long to issue permits," Mr. Dalli argued. Earlier this week Mr. Dalli called on heads of government departments to contain their spending.

The minister was making off-the-cuff comments while addressing a half-day conference at the Metco offices, in San Gwann with the theme "Thinking small in an enlarging Europe". He departed from a prepared speech, which was more of an overview of what the government was doing in the small and medium sized enterprises sector. The minister said he did not mean to say that one ought to do away with regulation. If, at Mepa, for example, the rules were not suitable, the best thing would be to change them but, at the same time, this did not mean that every architect should have a free hand to lay down his or her own regulations. "Nobody has his own empire. It is important to dismantle the walls that separate organisations, walls that hamper the efficiency of those who want to work. "Let us not hinder the people who want to work", the minister entreated his audience.

Earlier, Edwin Vassallo, the parliamentary secretary at the ministry for economic services, focused on the message that government departments and entities could not keep piling burdens they dream of onto small businesses. Quoting the rural proverb that "a hundred nothing killed the donkey", Mr. Vassallo said that the policy whereby small businesses were marginalised and burdened with innumerable burdens was obsolete. He said he would be dedicating next year to the spreading of the culture of entrepreneurship. Vince Farrugia, director general at the General Retailers and Traders-GRTU, called on the National Statistics Office to compile data showing the economic impact of SMEs. Reginald Fava, president of the Chamber of Commerce, likened excessive bureaucracy to a worm that ate into the economy. The Small Business Efficiency Unit at the finance ministry may be contacted on sbu@gov.mt or through 21226688.

From Valletta Times, Malta, by George Cini, 19 July 2003

Increase in Civil Service Numbers under Fire

New Labour's target culture has made Whitehall "bloated with form fillers", it was claimed yesterday, as government figures showed an annual rise of more than 8,000 in civil service numbers. The 1.9 per cent rise in permanent staff in the year to April 2002 took the total number of government staff and some key agencies to more than 500,000.The Inland Revenue - which employs 14 per cent of the total civil service - had one of the highest increases, taking on new staff to cope with "increased workloads and the preparation for the new tax credits". Ofsted, the education watchdog, was another big net recruiter, bringing in 1,920 new staff to carry out inspections of childminders and play groups. The Crown Prosecution Service took on 980 new people. The Cabinet Office report stressed that, despite the annual increase, civil service numbers remained about 35 per cent below their 1976 peak of 751,000 staff. But the Liberal Democrats claimed the new statistics showed "Labour's centralisation drive is getting out of hand," with the main "form filling" tax and benefits agencies increasing staff by 24,000 since the government came to power in 1997."Whitehall is getting bloated with form fillers costing the taxpayer over £10bn a year and costs are still rising," said David Laws, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman.

From Financial Times, UK, by Jean Eaglesham, 25 July 2003

Civil Servants Deserve Better Treatment

One issue that Lord Hutton's inquiry into the David Kelly tragedy should touch on is the ability of top civil servants to protect their own people and defend Whitehall traditions of political neutrality. In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Kelly's apparent suicide there was an almost palpable sense of anger among some officials. They felt this was another sign that they are being sucked into a blame culture where unscrupulous ministers and party propagandists use them as fall guys for government failings. Even some senior people only a few rungs down the hierarchy feel let down by the Whitehall establishment. A climate of unease in the civil service has built up over time. Small incidents have bitten deep. Earlier this year, for example, David Blunkett, the home secretary, when urging his officials to do better at meeting targets, is reported to have said failure to do so could bring him down - and he warned that if he fell he would take them with him. Perhaps it was meant as a joke but it struck like iron into the civil service soul. As Lord Hutton begins his inquiry, civil servants hope it will answer some questions. Specifically, they are asking why Sir Kevin Tebbit, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, and Sir Andrew Turnbull, cabinet secretary and head of the home civil service, were unable to protect Mr. Kelly. Admittedly, some details remain vague. It is still not clear, for example, whether Sir Kevin knew the intricacies of the plan to leak Mr. Kelly's name to the press.

We also do not know whether he was one of the officials who invited the House of Commons intelligence and security committee to interview Mr. Kelly, albeit in private, which would have made it more difficult for the government to deny the foreign affairs committee the chance to interview him publicly. Once Mr. Kelly's name was out, Sir Kevin and Sir Andrew were bound to find it harder to prevent his being hauled before MPs. History tells us they had the power to do so if they had had the will. It is less than 20 years since the Westland crisis when another cabinet secretary, Sir Robert, now Lord, Armstrong, faced a political scandal centring on Whitehall leaks. Civil servants, drawn into a titanic battle between two Tory ministers, leaked damaging extracts from a letter written by the solicitor general. The civil servants' names became public and, then as now, a Commons committee was determined to cross-examine them. They included Bernard Ingham, then Number 10 press secretary. Sir Bernard, as he is now, was never the shyest violet in the bunch and he and his colleagues could probably have withstood public scrutiny better than Mr. Kelly. Unlike Mr. Kelly they were spared such an ordeal. They were spared because the then cabinet secretary refused to let his civil servants go before MPs. Instead he went himself, having already carried out an internal leak inquiry. MPs protested. Yet in Whitehall terms Lord Armstrong showed leadership and courage to prevent civil servants being made into political scapegoats.

Admittedly he had the advantage of the backing of Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister. Her government's line then is instructive now: "A select committee inquiry into the actions and conduct of an individual civil servant conducted in public and protected by privilege, would give the civil servant concerned no safeguards and no rights, though his reputation and even his career might be at risk." Officials today may wonder why the same principle was not upheld with Mr. Kelly. One Whitehall knight noted that having confessed to his bosses, Mr. Kelly was in double jeopardy. He asked why, at the least, Sir Kevin did not accompany Mr. Kelly to the Commons. Whitehall etiquette means that Sir Kevin, as the ranking official, would have answered questions on Mr. Kelly's behalf, while the junior man sat down table, speaking only to clarify. Events such as this summer's botched cabinet reshuffle and the intelligence furore have shown the folly of Tony Blair's tendency to sideline impartial officials in favour of political advisers. Yet if civil servants are poised to reclaim their rightful role from the usurpers, that is all the more reason for those at the top to be more robust in defending their service - and being seen to do so. A new set of Whitehall guidelines on the appearance of civil servants before select committees would be a good start. The writer is an FT journalist and author of The Cheating Classes.

From Financial Times, UK, by Sue Cameron, 25 July 2003

EU Ruling on Public Service Subsidies

The European Union's highest court yesterday delivered a verdict on the rules for providing subsidies for public services, in a case that heightened concerns for Germanländer. It ruled that subsidies granted to public services did not qualify as potentially illegal state aid where four conditions were met. In such instances, the Commission will not have an oversight role. The conditions hold that companies must have clearly defined public service obligations; that the rules for granting subsidies must be transparent and set in advance; that the subsidies cannot exceed costs; and that they should be compared with the costs of a typical undertaking. The action is known as the Altmark case, after a German bus company that claimed it could not survive without public subsidies. Germanländerhad been worried that if conditions were too stringent they could lose important freedom of manoeuvre to fund public services.

From Financial Times, UK, by Daniel Dombey, 25 July 2003

EU Presidency, Hungarian Civil Servants Learn Italian

Rome - An initiative promoted in the context of the current six month Italian European Union Presidency, which has provided a free intensive course in Italian for government employees in Budapest, organised by the Italian Cultural Institute, has been a huge success. More than 200 students have taken part in the project, which began in mid July and will finish in mid August with the awarding of a diploma. All the Ministries are represented, with greater participation from employees working in Cultural, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade offices. The aim of the initiative, promoted by the Institute and the Italian Embassy, and the first to be organised between an EU member country and the Hungarian government, is above all to i improve linguistic and cultural communication between Hungarian and Italian public institutions, in view of the entrance of Hungary into the European Union.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 29 July 2003

 

A Civil Service

Bahrain's civil servants were honoured yesterday for all they have done for their country. His Majesty King Hamad, accompanied by Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, hosted a reception for civil service employees at Bustan Palace. The King praised their loyalty and voiced his approval for a union for government employees. Generations of government employees have helped push the country forward, the King said at the ceremony, also attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Islamic Affairs Minister Shaikh Abdulla bin Khalid Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa and other ministers and officials. Bahrain's continuous development is a model for the Gulf region said the King, who stressed that rule must be based on the will of the people through constructive democratic processes. "I am pleased to renew our blessing for the directives for the formation of the private union for government employees and to recognise the collective system for the workers," he said. "We shall support the Parliament statement submitted to the government for approval." Privatisation of some services would continue, to ease the burden on the government and to fuel Bahrain's progress as a leader in the free market, said the King. He said he considered the civil servants as watchdogs for the interests of the country.

From Gulf Daily News, Bahrain, 15 July 2003

Performance of Public Servants To Be Monitored

Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ras Al Khaimah Crown Prince, affirmed yesterday that he would propel the emirate into a bright future. A raft of changes, including law reform and a watchdog on the performance of public servants, comprise Sheikh Saud's prescription for improving the quality of life and attracting new enterprise to Ras Al Khaimah. Efficient, hard-working staff will be rewarded, and the lazy ones punished. "My main objective is to improve Ras Al Khaimah in all aspects of life, and make a difference, especially in the economic sphere," he said. "We need to know the exact responsibilities of every department to implement a new monitoring system. Each head and director general of every department should submit a detailed report on the performance of his department in two weeks. "We should all fight routine and make the procedures more flexible. My door will be open 24 hours to all department heads to discuss notes and new creative ideas to enhance life." The recently-appointed Crown Prince was speaking at a meeting with heads of local and federal departments at the Emiri Court. He will personally go through the reports and issue recommendations. "These reports will tell us about the work in each department and the problems. Services will be improved and people will feel the change very soon. The departments will play their roles and foster change."

Every employee will be questioned even on small details of his work. He called on departments to facilitate procedures to make things easier for people. The Government of Ras Al Khaimah will work under the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who has repeatedly called for the development of all individuals. He said Ras Al Khaimah will adopt e-government in the very near future and Dubai will be the model. Departments will be ordered to take steps to achieve the goal. "UAE national women are equal to men and will be given the same job opportunities. Women will be given training in the workplace. They will be recruited in local and federal departments to play their role in the progress of the emirate." Sheikh Saud underlined the importance of investment in Ras Al Khaimah and encouraging capital to come. All obstacles will be removed. Laws will be implemented to guarantee true development. However, laws in the courts will be amended soon to create a better social and economic environment for investment. Sheikh Saud said a key step to development is to increase the number of the projects which will ultimately raise the price of land. On raising budgets, Sheikh Saud said it will depend on the performance of departments. Raising salaries of national employees is currently under study. On the Ras Al Khaimah Executive Council, he said a decision will be taken in due course.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, by Nasouh Nazzal, 22 July 2003

 

Potential Public Servants Think Twice About Running

It's an odd-numbered year and summer has only just begun, but here we are, already enmeshed in politics. The governor is about to be recalled, the Modesto City Council is in moderate and perpetual turmoil, and the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors is under suspicion of all kinds of misdeeds. To this environment, The Bee has added a clarion call for "high-caliber candidates" with "common sense" to step forward and run for office. Sure. Before all you political wannabes run down to the elections office to apply, it might be wise to understand what all successful politicians say you must become: one part chameleon, one part beggar, two parts saint and three parts deaf and dumb, with a dash of masochism and a pinch of egotism. An alligator skin is essential. Oh, yes, being rich doesn't hurt. You must be able to speak and say nothing. You must tell farmers how important agriculture is to the community and the next night talk glowingly of the need to grow and become a more vibrant community. You must address the needs of the poor and minorities, but never hint that some of their wounds are self-inflicted. You must laud the wealthy but never speak of their obligations to the common good and to those less fortunate. Above all, mumble and irritate no one. Surely, this is "common sense." The public expects it. And yet, there are some whose words are meaningful and cause good things to happen.

You must be able to beg campaign funds from friends, family and all kinds of institutions in ways that put San Francisco's street people to shame. Of course, donors expect nothing from street solicitors, but sooner or later the hand that gives to the political process is the hand that expects to receive. No biting that hand. Just "common sense." The public ignores this. And yet, some - a very few - can pursue the public good without financial distortions. You must be the patron saint of goodness, with a closet empty of even the smallest skeleton, for surely all transgressions, real or imagined, will be uncovered in the name of "the public's right to know." Accept untruths and distortions as your daily due - all in the name of "common sense." And the public approves this. And yet, there are those who know the virtues of selective deafness, ignore the mean babble and press the larger goals. Not many, but some. I spoke not long ago to two competent, community-minded men, asking if they would consider running for office. Before the first could respond, his wife intervened. "If he runs, I'll kill him," she said. "Divorce is too lenient." The second looked at me as if I were daft. "Are you out of your mind?" he asked. These, too, are men of "common sense." What have we done to our public servants? Allen, a semiretired Modesto physician, has served as a visiting editor on The Bee's editorial board.

From Modesto Bee, CA, by C.V. Allen, 2 July 2003

Civil Service Crossroads

Democrats got rolled again last month when House Republicans moved another step closer to granting the Defense Department's request for sweeping authority to build a new personnel system almost from scratch. It was the most stunning breakout since William Holden's great escape in Stalag 17. Assuming the Senate goes along, which is anyone's guess, the legislation would spring 750,000 Defense employees from the civil service system, marking the end of an era. With 200,000 employees at the Homeland Security Department already outside the system, 100,000 operating under flexible rules at the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Aviation Administration, and 250,000 working under a separate (albeit outdated) system at Veterans Affairs, the civil service system would apply to little more than a third of the federal workforce. As Government Executive's Brian Friel rightly pointed out in the June issue, the problem facing the Defense Department and the rest of government is not necessarily the impending retirement wave. Indeed, the turnover rate in government might actually be too low, especially at the middle and upper levels. Moreover, as Friel reported, there are plenty of applicants for most government jobs. More than 1.5 million people applied for the 62,000 baggage and passenger screening jobs at the Transportation Security Administration last year, while another 47,000 applied for 900 Federal Bureau of Investigation jobs, 23,500 applied for 465 Foreign Service slots, and 20,000 applied for 270 information technology jobs at Agriculture.

The challenge is not getting enough applicants, however, but getting the right applicants. The vast majority of the TSA applicants were rejected because they could not read or write, pass the initial screening test, or were not U.S. citizens. Recent reports also suggest that a troubling number of final hires have criminal records. Unfortunately, by almost any measure, the federal government's human capital system does not work. According to a recent survey of 1,002 liberal arts and social work students who are about to graduate, the nonprofit sector, not the federal government, is now seen as the destination of choice for young Americans who want a public service career. Not only is government in general seen as far less effective than nonprofits at helping people, spending money wisely and making fair decisions, its hiring process is seen as the most difficult, the slowest and the most confusing. The Defense proposal would certainly address some of these problems. It would give recruiters authority to offer jobs on the spot at career fairs, for example, while expanding the number of qualified candidates. However, in its push for special hiring authorities, Defense neglected an essential piece of the process-bipartisanship and consultation with federal employee unions.

Sensing an opportunity to move quickly, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pushed the idea forward in what one House Democrat described as another "shock and awe" campaign. Hearings were scheduled overnight, witnesses were given only a day or two to prepare testimony, and the bill was marked up for passage a day or two later. Like last year's Homeland Security legislation, the proposal moved through the House on straight party line votes with nary a Democrat in support of the overall package. That's been a problem for Democrats. Lacking any alternatives of their own, they've been trotting out much of the same rhetoric they used last year. Democrats are right to fear that the Defense bill is moving too fast. And they have good reason to worry about giving the Defense secretary carte blanche on hiring and firing rules. It is one thing to streamline the disciplinary process, for example, and quite another to eliminate employees' right to appeal. The status quo is no longer good enough for government work.

But that hasn't stopped Democrats from falling back into their old rap. If the civil service system is good enough for other agencies, they argue, it is good enough for Defense. Luckily, at least one Democrat, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, has decided to join with his Republican colleagues, Susan Collins, George Voinovich and John Sununu, in drafting a bipartisan amendment to the Defense proposal. Defense would clearly get less than it wanted under the bipartisan proposal, particularly under a requirement to phase in the reforms 120,000 employees at a time. But it would get more than it needs to do the job. More importantly, a bipartisan bill would send a signal to all federal employees that human capital reform is not a one-party issue, while establishing a template to govern the mad rush for the gates that is sure to follow as other departments and agencies seek their freedom. That is just the kind of signal that anxious federal employees need right now. Instead of making reform a Rumsfeld referendum, Congress should work hard to reach a bipartisan consensus at this critical crossroads.

From GovExec.com, by Paul C. Light, 29 June 2003

Brazil Union Leaders Say Nearly Half of All Civil Servants on Strike

Thousands of Brazil's teachers and health and social workers stayed off their jobs Wednesday, the second day of a strike protesting planned cuts to retirement benefits. Strikers - which also included university staff, tax inspectors and social security workers - had agreed to a 72-hour work stoppage, but several groups said they would strike indefinitely until their demands were met. Union leaders said about 40 to 45 percent of the nation's civil servants took part in the walkout, which started Tuesday and came six months after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office. A former union leader who rose to prominence during the country's 1964-86 military dictatorship, Silva defended the workers' right to strike but said he would not stop his government from pushing the proposed reforms in Congress. "What would hurt (the reforms) would be if the congressmen went on strike," he told reporters. Silva's government says trimming retirement packages is needed to offset federal budget woes. Proposed changes include requiring a financial contribution from retirees and raising retirement ages. The government hopes the reforms will help reduce the country's $24 billion social security deficit by saving the country about $19 billion over the next 30 years. Professors and staff were striking at about 32 of the country's 52 federal universities, union leaders said. "Our objective to is to maintain and widen the mobilization," Jose Domingues Godoi Filho, the leader of a federal teacher's union said Wednesday.

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA, 9 July 2003

Public Services at Risk as US States Face Financial Crisis

The street lights may still be twinkling on Sunset Boulevard and the sun may still come up every morning over the Mojave desert, but California could soon be plunged into fiscal darkness. The state with an economy the equivalent of the world's fifth largest nation is bust, and a crisis which could lead to mass lay-offs and collapse of the public education system is in the offing. California is just one of many states facing the worst financial crisis for decades. Nevada, smarting from a decline in tourism and a loss of gambling revenues to the growing number of reservation casinos, is facing a deficit of up to $1bn. To deal with the shortfall, it is introducing a novel live entertainment tax of 10%, which will apply to the state's brothels, legal in 10 of Nevada's 17 counties. The state's many strip clubs would also have to pay the tax. Elsewhere, New York's police officers are leading the drive to plug a potential $4bn deficit in the city's budget, fining anyone they can for anything they can think of. One man was ticketed for sitting on a milk crate outside a shop; the citation was "unauthorised use of a crate".

Alabama has been facing a deficit of $700m and now the governor, Bob Riley, a conservative Republican, has announced the biggest tax changes for 100 years. "We cannot balance our budget with cuts alone, not unless we are willing to lay off thousands of teachers and cancel all extra-curricular activities, open prison doors and put convicted felons back on the streets, and force thousands of seniors out of nursing homes and take away their prescription drugs," he said. There are also budget crises in Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. In Connecticut, the Republican governor, John Rowland, is now running the state by executive order, making ad hoc decisions on which of the state's mounting bills get paid until a budget is agreed. But it is in California that the meltdown is most spectacular. The state has a deficit of $32bn and desperately needs to agree a new budget. The Democrats, who control both the state senate and assembly, want to put half a cent on the sales tax and make some cuts in public services.

The Republicans, whose support they need to pass the budget with the required two-thirds majority, have suggested an alternative which would mean mass lay-offs of public employees, closure of college courses, and putting back by a year the age for entering kindergarten. Into this stew has been added a spicy political ingredient. Democrats believe the Republicans are being encouraged by the White House to cause chaos in the hope this will lead to the recall of the Democratic party governor, Gray Davis, and his replacement with a Republican, possibly Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Davis is fighting his corner. "I will not sign a budget that slams the door on more than 100,000 kindergarten students," he said this week. The Democrats have warned that if the Republican budget were adopted, with its cuts in prison costs, it would mean freeing 20,000 prisoners. California has the lowest credit rate of any state, but others are facing problems of varying magnitude. The stuttering economy is blamed for the chaos as taxes once generated by capital gains and stock options in the wealthier states in the boom years have dwindled. Growing unemployment, which reached a national nine-year high of 6.4% in June, means people are buying less, thus cutting sales tax revenues. And most states have used up their "rainy day" funds over the past two years.

From Guardian, UK, by Duncan Campbell, 5 July 2003

Watchdog Queries Public Service League Tables

Concerns about the use of numerical targets and league tables for public services will be reinforced by a warning from the new statistics watchdog about the reliability of data used to assess them. Professor David Rhind, chairman of the Statistics Commission, said statisticians knew that the quality of the information used for league tables and other performance measures was "variable", and promised that the commission would address the use of that information by the government. He said the question was how to ensure that "the lay public, not just the compilers, are aware of the sensitivities in the league tables to all sorts of assumptions". Hospital waiting lists are one of his priorities. In spot checks on 41 NHS trusts by the Audit Commission last year, only three were found to have "no significant problems" in their reporting of waiting list information. Prof Rhind said: "It seems to me that a lot of the statistics that I've seen quoted on hospital waiting lists have got this big problem because they don't cover the end-to-end experience; they just cover a particular section in the middle. So we've been trying to get to grips with that and we will do more about it. "His concerns will add to the pressure on ministers to step back from the government's concentration on quantitative targets and league tables for measuring the performance of public services.

Earlier this month, Patricia Hewitt, the trade and industry secretary, said the government had "sometimes fallen into the trap of frankly having too many targets". The signs are that Prof Rhind intends taking a tougher line than his predecessor, Sir John Kingman. Now that the commission, made up of part-time experts supported by a full-time staff, has had three years to find its feet, Prof Rhind expects it to start sticking up for itself. He is aware that outside central government, the commission's profile has been low. "We'll start putting out things fairly straightforwardly - not necessarily gently but I hope clearly and calmly - and if things that we believe to be important don't get done, then we'll wind it up," he said. "There are bound to be some things which are minutiae of statistical matters which are not worth a full-frontal confrontation. There will undoubtedly be other things which are worth going to war over if we have to." He added: "A lot of people I talk to think of statistics as extremely boring things. I think statistics are absolutely fundamental to all of this and we need to ensure statisticians and the lay public understand the bigger issues."

From Financial Times, by Ed Crooks and Simon Briscoe, 14 July 2003

Quebec Civil Service Has Grown Since 1996

Early-retirement packages short-sighted: Treasury - Quebec employs more bureaucrats, nurses, doctors and teachers now than it did before early-retirement packages were offered in 1996 to reduce the size of the provincial payroll. The Liberal government revealed yesterday a total of 36,950 public- and para-public-sector workers took a sweetened retirement deal offered by the Parti Québécois back in 1996. But since then, 52,849 new workers were hired in health, education and the civil service. While there were 365,158 on the public payroll in 1996, there were 381,057 as of June 2002. The figures raise questions about whether the painful exercise - which has led to personnel shortages in many medical specialties - was worth it and whether it is possible to reduce the public payroll and still offer adequate public services.

Treasury Board President Monique Jérôme-Forget released the numbers yesterday during the final stage of study before this year's spending estimates are voted on today. She promised her government's plans to re-engineer the province won't be as short-sighted. "We emptied our hospitals, in particular, of an irreplaceable expertise," she said. "The lesson is you better be careful when you ask people to leave the civil service. It indicates that, frankly, it was a decision that was taken too rapidly. The consequences were not evaluated." The Liberals will use a combination of public-private partnerships, the Internet and anticipated retirements in the public service to manage the payroll. "We don't need to reduce the number of civil servants. In the next 10 years, 40 per cent of the public service is going to leave," she said. "It's enormous." Former health, finance and education minister Pauline Marois, today the opposition education critic, defended the PQ's actions as necessary in light of the $6-billion deficit they faced. The PQ never expected the program to be so popular, she admitted. But the goal of reducing payroll costs was achieved. ahanes@thegazette.canwest.com

From Montreal Gazette, Canada, by Allison Hanes, 15 July 2003

Commission Studying Overhaul of Civil Service System

Denver - Hiring more private companies to do government work, giving temporary employees longer contracts and making it easier to fire inept workers are some of the changes being considered for the state's civil service system. State personnel director Troy Eid said the current system for hiring and promoting state workers is antiquated, with some mandates reaching back to 1918. A commission he leads along with former Gov. Dick Lamm plans to meet Friday to prepare a final draft of changes. Already unions that represent state workers are feeling uneasy and leaders worry if the reforms will resurrect the spoils system that civil service rules were intended to stop. ''Privateers are licking their chops over all the possibilities,'' said Jo Romero, president of the Colorado Federation of Public Employees. ''That's what this is all about. The people lose control of public services once they are privatized.'' Larry Odegard, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Colorado Council 76, suspects Gov. Bill Owens wants the changes so he can provide more favors and rewards for political allies.

Some of the other changes being studied include giving department heads more freedom to appoint their immediate staff to ensure loyalty and confidentiality and allowing public colleges and universities to create their own pay scale system. The commission has also talked about eliminating the ''rule of three'', which requires all candidates for a vacancy to take a test. Only the top three scorers on the test are then eligible for appointment. Colorado is one of only 10 states that constitutionally require a competitive selection process. Only Colorado and Louisiana limit the appointment to the top three. Many of the changes being considered would require a constitutional amendment to be approved by voters. A 1986 ballot question which attempted to change the system was defeated but Eid said conditions have changed. ''The labor organizations were huge, but not now. I think the mood of the work force was different,'' he said.

From Wyoming News, WY, 28 July 2003

 
 

Don't Hold Your Breath for E-Government

Johannesburg - A decade of work and hundreds of millions of rand will be required before all government information and services are made available online. The e-government initiative has been talked about for years as a vision for enabling every citizen to apply for services without filling in reams of paperwork, waiting in queues or being shunted from office to office. But the more that government explores the initiative, the more work it uncovers. Last week, the e-government project was discussed at three separate events, each attracting a high level of interest from information technology companies eager to win some work. But each event shared a common concern that government and the private sector do not see eye to eye. "Government and the private sector aren't really talking to each other," says Jane Mosebi of research house Forge Ahead. "The private sector wants business from the government but that's not the right attitude. Government wants the private sector to understand it intimately. They need to work together so the private sector doesn't just deliver goods and go away, but understands what government is all about and shares the risks." Government needs to communicate better to tell the industry exactly what is happening and precisely what it requires, agrees Mike Wright, the organiser of an industry think-tank, First Tuesday.

A government official says the problem was that IT suppliers simply wanted to sell a product, and were not interested in holistic solutions. The perfect technology partner would analyse the problems within government operations, design a solution, then provide the services for a fixed fee, such as producing passports within a week or running the payroll system, he says. IT spending in SA is expected to hit R35bn this year, of which government alone would account for R14bn, says Mojalefa Moseki, chief information officer of the State IT Agency (Sita). Much of that will be generated by the e-government's most visible project, the Gateway, an internet portal serving as the front door to all government services. Eventually people will be able to access the Gateway through the internet at home, at work, or from internet cafes, or at 8000 internet kiosks to be installed in post offices, banks and at other points. Walk-in centres will be established where computer illiterate citizens can ask an assistant to help them. People in remote areas will access the services by telephone, by calling an agent to act as their internet intermediary. The Gateway is a six-phase project. The first will see information put online, but with no ability to interact.

Users may be able to see what social benefits they are entitled to and the address of the local office they must visit, for example. Phase two will introduce e-mail for asking questions and receiving replies. Each phase will offer more interactivity, until information automatically flows between different departments without intervention. That will let details recorded at various times during a person's life be made available for the next event, from birth to death. The size of the task is enormous. Home affairs alone has 14 different systems which are not linked to each other, let alone to other government departments. "Information is the single most important resource within government," says Moseki. "This will be one of the most modern service delivery systems in the world. But e-government will not happen overnight, it will take a massive change. There is so much to be done and so many stakeholders to be consulted."

Government has not yet reached phase one, although TSystems has been contracted to set up the internet portal, while Siemens Business Services and Cornastone are setting up a call centre. That should soon be completed so phase one can be launched next month. "For the second stage, we will go out to tender to find companies able to offer services as we go forward," says Moseki. Every province will appoint its own service providers to carry out the work using standards and technologies approved by Sita. One source said no calculations had been made to extrapolate the likely cost of the entire Gateway project. "There will be cost savings and it will serve customers better, but it is never going to be a breakeven project," he said. The costs will be shared by the public service and administration department and various other government departments. "This is a 10-year process in its entirety," said Vusi Magagula, the chief information officer for the public enterprises department. "Government has done a reality check and recognises that it has to improve its services."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Lesley Stones, 10 July 2003

Expert Advocates E-Governance

Lagos - A Technical Consultant with Federal Ministry of Information, Mrs. Ibukun Olusote has advocated e-government as a panacea to maintaining transparency and dynamism in Nigeria's governance. Speaking on an NTA channel 5 programme-one-on-one on Thursday, Mrs. Olusote said that it is only e-government that can fasten pace of work and eliminate bureaucracy in the nation's public sector. She said that her experience at the ministry of Information provided her insight into the ailing public sector in need of information technology for structural evolution. She observed that effective use of e-government can boost government programmes like NAPEP and UBE adding that this would provide opportunity for government to configure numbers of people enrolling in primary and secondary school job seekers and other relevant statistics. Mrs. Olusote stated that the recently conducted national identity card project and passport photographs taken at immigration department are examples of e-government.

She for urged the federal government to evolve a broad-based e-government model in the public sectors. Responding to questions on the possibility of e-government, Mrs. Olusote said "We must work at it being realistic." She said with the wave of globalisation blowing across the world "People cannot be thrown out with computers but rather be enhanced by computers." She commended Nigerians for helping to force down prices of computers through frequent travels abroad for IT transaction. She observed that the ever-increasing numbers of cyber café(s) in Nigeria is a good development in Information technology market adding that parents should always caution their wards against cybersex and other forms of pornography on the net. Meanwhile, Mrs. Olusote has said that she is currently working on a project called DG Test 2003. The programme which has been introduced since year 2000, according to her, was designed to tutor children between the ages of 8 and 17 the rudiments of computers. She said DG Test 2003 will "enable children to excel in what they are doing, to develop their intellect."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Mohammed Shesanya, 23 July 2003

Public Service in Power Fight

Kampala - The ministry of Public Service has usurped some of the constitutional powers of the Public Service Commission, legislators heard yesterday. The commission, under the Public ministry, is in charge of recruiting civil servants. The commission officials were presenting their 2003/4 budgetary allocations and policy statement before the Public Service and Local Government committee. "We are suppressed," lamented the Commission Deputy Chairperson Ms Joyce Kaddu, who is also the acting chairman. She led the 10-man delegation to Parliament yesterday to defend their budget. The commission budgeted for Shs 2.198bn but the Finance ministry allocated it only Shs 1503bn. Ms. Kaddu spilled the beans after committee vice Chairperson Ms Beatrice Byenkya (Hoima) asked her to state the difference between the Ministry of Public Service and the commission. Kalungu East MP Mr. Anthony Yiga presided at the meeting. The commission officials did not however, name any ministry official usurping their powers. Third deputy Prime Minister Mr. Henry Kajura is also minister of public service. Lubaga North MP Mr. Deo Kayongo said the Judicial Service Commission is also suppressed. Mr. Sam Baingana, a Public Service Commissioner outlined the role of the statutory body. He appealed to the MPs to enact a law, which defines their work. The meeting also discussed problems faced by district service commissions. These include political interference from the councils.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, 25 July 2003

Public Service Taken to Task Over Jobs

Nairobi - Members of Parliament yesterday took Public Service head Francis Muthaura to task over the appointment of over-age people in government. The MPs asked Mr. Muthaura to explain why he was not advising the President on the appointment of such people to top positions. They were attending a post-election orientation seminar at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi. Speaker Francis ole Kaparo told MPs to look for ways to make the House recover the powers he said it had lost to the Executive. "In my opinion, a quiet coup took place years ago and government was unlawfully taken away by civil servants. This is why a district commissioner will tell a minister that the Government will not accept this or that," Mr. Kaparo said. The constitution is clear, only that civil servants have stolen government "and it is about time that Parliament flexed its muscles to ensure the wishes of Kenyans are adhered to," he added. Mr. Boniface Mganga (Voi, Kanu) asked Mr. Muthaura why he had not advised the President on public service recruitment. But Mr. Muthaura countered: "Retiring age is not constitutional. It is administrative", sparking protest. Mr. Muthaura added: "There are two groups of officers - permanent and pensionable who retire at 55, and the others who are usually recruited on contract after retirement". He said the latter group had no mandatory retirement age. Mr. Bonaya Godana (North Horr, Kanu) asked Mr. Muthaura to brief the meeting on plans to raise the mandatory retirement age from 55 to 60.

A week ago, there was an uproar in Parliament when an assistant minister said there were only five permanent secretaries over the retirement age. Yesterday, Mr. William ole Ntimama (Narok North, Narc) said the President's constitutional powers to appoint officials, regardless of existing commissions, had an element of dictatorship. "We are supposed to build a government through democratic institutions; why doesn't the Government rely on these institutions so that the President's role is that of approving their appointments? The present one entrenches dictatorship," Mr. Ntimama said. Mr. Muthaura said there were only a few posts filled by the President. But he added that the constitution was the creature of Parliament and not the Executive. Opening the two-day workshop, Mr. Kaparo had said: "Power gets to the people through their elected leaders collectively". The secretary-general of the Constitution Review Commission, Mr. Patrick Lumumba, said the three arms of government should be complementary, and that without this it would be impossible to achieve full democracy. Mr. Dennis Marshall, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association secretary-general, said general election campaigns should be pegged on pledges made by governments. Other leaders who addressed the seminar were Mr. Moody Awori, Dr Bonaya Godana for the deputy leader of Opposition, Government Chief Whip Mr. Norman Nyagah and Assembly Clerk Mr. Samuel Ndindiri.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Julius Bosire, 28 July 2003

 

E-governance: the New Line of Force in India

It's a different image that the government sector is getting - that of emerging as the fourth largest vertical spender on information technology after the telecom, manufacturing and banking and finance industries. That's not surprising, since most major players in the IT industry say that e-governance is their biggest practice worldwide, and so it would seem that India's following that trend. According to Gartner estimates, the Indian government has spent $1.008 billion on information technology in 2002. This includes the expenditure of the Central and state governments on hardware, software, telco equipment, telco services, and IT services, but excludes salary costs of IT staff. In fact, the government accounted for 9 per cent of the total IT spend in India for the year 2002, and in five years that's estimated to go up to 15 per cent. That makes it quite a force to rckon with in the Apac (Asia Pacific) region where combined spend across Apac governments was $15.2 billion. According to Gartner that makes it the only recession proof vertical that could keep up the momentum in IT spend despite a downturn in the country's economy. Though eGovernment is just five years old in India, 12 states already have an IT policy in place.

For Microsoft, for instance, which is working with various departments of the Central government and most state governments considers its role as a "technology partner" in e-governance and a very important part of its practice in India. According to Shailendra Kumar, head, government vertical, Microsoft, the vertical applications where IT-spend is being seen most include police departments, treasury, land records, irrigation and justice. "Work flow and messaging are the areas where IT first makes its entry in governments," he adds. IBM too is a major player in this sector having implemented several initiatives for various governments across the country. "With the 10th 5 year plan laying emphasis on Information Technology playing an important role as an interface between the government and the public, we feel that e-governance is definitely a serious consideration with the Indian government. Some of the governments that IBM India has been closely working are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Goa and Haryana," Frank Luksic, country manager, software group and developer relations, IBM India Limited.

But there are immense challenges that the country faces. "Bandwidth, power and connectivity are the most important and basic criteria for any e-governance project to be successful. Unless there is proper connectivity across the country/state and uninterrupted power to access any information 24x7 irrespective of whether it is a metro or a village the initiatives will not reach out to the masses, says Luksic. Local language support is another challenge that is peculiar to a country like India on account of its diversity. "Literacy levels in rural areas when compared to cities is very minimal. Basic education infrastructure improvement would be another key enabler for masses to adopt e-governance," adds Luksic. In fact, Gartner warns that the "Indian eGovernment initiatives have reached the peak of inflated expectations; and through 2003, insufficient increases in service levels and difficulties in managing constituent relationships will push it toward the trough of disillusion." There's also the problem of resources and making sure that the benefits of IT reach as many people as possible. In a number of cases, where less expensive solutions based on Linux have been available from Red Hat, the government has been quick in adopting them. Maharashtra, Goa and Madhya Pradesh are the states which have gone for Linux-based solutions in many areas.

Various Central departments, including the Railways have also gone in for Linux. With regard to the competition among states in wooing IT companies and talent, Gartner cautions that the "influx of e-government initiatives is bound to lead to a mismatch among constituents' needs, political vision and ability to execute." The problem isn't unique to India, Gartner explains. In fact, it estimates that through 2004, over 50% of e-government projects worldwide will fail to deliver the service levels required by citizens and businesses. At the moment however, Gartner feels India's e-governance programme is at par with China, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Philippines, the most evolved countries in this area being Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. Not just for governments, but for IT companies too e-governance has become a major focus area in the last five to seven years.

"Over the last five to seven years, e-government has developed as a topic and IBM has established a broad portfolio of e-government solutions and capabilities. It addresses the range of e-government requirements from web-enabling legacy systems, through providing single-agency transaction systems over the web, to integrating data and workflow across different parts of government. IBM also offers government consulting services covering e-government strategy through to implementation. In addition to our broad range of offerings and capabilities, IBM has significant experience both internally and with customers around the world that accelerate the implementation of any facet of e-government," says Luksic. Last year IBM set up the 'IBM e-Government Center' in Gurgaon, near New Delhi to offer technology, support and infrastructure to help governments and total service providers to design, develop, test and port proof-of-concept and prototypes of e-government applications. Microsoft too has been working closely with the government, signing MoUs with some of them and "helping in evolving a long-term technology blueprint for IT infrastructure." One does hope, the government isn't the latest entity to be involved in the industry's most recent hype-cycle.

From Economic Times, India, by Sobha Menon, 12 July 2003

Singapore to Invest $740M on New E-government Push

Singapore launched its Second e-Government Action Plan (eGAP II) Tuesday, promising to make virtually all government services and procedures available online by 2006.Among the stated goals are: - to have 90 percent of the government's customers, whether businesses or individuals, use e-services at least once a year; - to have 80 percent of these users satisfied with the overall quality of e-services; - to implement 12 more cross-agency integrated e-service The government will invest S$1.3 billion (US$740 million) in this second phase of the plan, which is aimed at driving the country forward both economically and socially, according to Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "We must be more dynamic, entrepreneurial and self-reliant, including venturing abroad, to seize and exploit the opportunities around us," he said in a transcript of his speech at the launch. "The environment is more uncertain and more competitive...(and)... our old model of relying on foreign direct investment for economic growth will no longer suffice." Singapore has already put 1,600 public services online, from filing tax returns and applying for a passport to booking sports facilities. About 75 percent of Singaporeans who need to transact with the Government have done so through electronic means, Lee said, quoting a government survey. Continuing on this path through the use of IT will reduce bureaucracy and enable Singapore companies to compete better, Lee said.

One application under development is the Online Application System for Integrated Services (OASIS). Using OASIS, a company can register a business and apply for all required licenses by visiting just one Web site. On the social side, eGAP II will enable citizens to have a more effective say in how Singaporean society evolves, according to Lee. "These days, when a member of public writes in to make a suggestion, he will not simply accept 'no' as the answer. He expects a serious explanation, and will debate the pros and cons of what he is proposing." The government recently launched an Online Consultation Portal for that purpose, designed to make giving feedback and airing views easier than before. The broad aim of eGAP II is a major overhaul of Singapore's business and society to meet new challenges, Lee said. "Ultimately, eGAP II is not about IT, but about changing the approach to government," he said "The default answer to any request cannot be to preserve the status quo, but to ask why the status quo should remain, what we can learn from the members of public, and what other perspectives are relevant in considering the issue. This is the biggest change we are aiming for, which will go a long way to remaking Singapore."

From IDG.com, Singapore, 17 July 2003

Public Service Sector Prepared for Peak Season

Public service organs in Shanghai are checking up facilities and working out plans to counter emergency, following the metro service breaking down on July 14. About 50 to 60 buses are reserved at the public traffic control center to meet any emergency. The buses can set out for substitution use in half an hour if any emergent condition happens along public transportation lines. As the stormy season comes, possible traffic blocks caused by windy and rainy weather are counted within the counter plans. The control center has worked out the shorting detouring route in case the original bus line should be broken. In case trolleys should break down because of power generating equipment be affected by storm and flood, reserved buses will run the trolley line instead. The public transportation sector tests the maneuverability of each scheme, according to the traffic control center.

Tap water companies in Shanghai have finished facility checking and renovation ahead of the peak season for tap water consumption, an official from the Shanghai Water Conservation Bureau said yesterday. A household tap water supplying hotline is at service round the clock, and staff from the water supplying company in each district will rush to check the problem in case of emergency. Information networks on the major tap water supplier in the city will be connected and the companies have set up a information exchanging system, in which representatives of a company will briefs their peers on the service condition in its region when daily temperature reaches 35 degrees. Accordingly, power supply sector launches a 24-hour emergency service which vows to arrive at power broken down site in 90 minutes. Emergency staff will reach in 45 minutes if the site is in the inner-ring road area.

From EastDay.com, China, 17 July 2003

Naidu Asks IIIT to Focus on E-governance

Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu today asked the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) to get involved in some of the e-governance projects. The Centre for Electronic Government, which is being set up at IIIT with support from the state government, should make it possible for the institute to contribute to the e-governance initiatives of the state, Naidu said, while addressing the convocation of the institute today. He also advised the institute to benchmark itself against the top ten institutions in the world in selected areas of activity. Delivering the convocation address, V K Aatre, the scientific advisor to defence minister, predicted that "with the help of biotechnology, we can have designer crops that would enable us to feed the ever increasing population with high yielding varieties while battling the environment and pests." Eighty five students have graduated B Tech programme this year, of which 29 have decided to pursue either higher studies or research projects while the rest have joined jobs in IT majors.

From Business Standard, India, 21 July 2003

IBM E-governance Master Plan for Pondicherry

Chennai - IBM Business Consulting Services has created a master plan and implementation process for the Pondicherry Government to introduce e-Governance, according to an IBM press release. The master plan envisages value added services to the public and business enterprises, and aims to enhance transparency and efficiency of operations. It covers 16 departments and the overall information technology architecture and cost estimates to fund the initiative. IBM has recommended an integrated approach and identified applications that can be shared by the departments including data centre and wide area network. This will help to reduce cost and improve integration, according to the release.

From The Hindu Business Line, India, 20 July 2003

Pondicherry: E-governance by 2006 says, CM

Pondicherry - The territorial administration will switch over to E-governance in another three years, Chief Minister N Rangasamy announced today. Addressing a press conference here after receiving the Rs 26 lakh Information Technology Master plan and roadmap for E-governance, prepared by IBM Business Consulting Services India, from company Partner Ravi Trivedi, he said the Government had entrusted the work with IBM following his assurance on the floor of the House to provide a clean, corruption-free and transparent administration. The recommendations would be implemented at a cost of Rs 60 crore in three years to benefit the public, he added.

From The Hindu, India, 19 July 2003

Andhra Pradesh Speeds up E-governance Schemes

Overcoming mid-course sluggishness, e-governance projects in tech-savvy Andhra Pradesh are now put on a fast track with a series of 23 schemes set for completion within the next two years at a total cost of Rs 260 crore. Ongoing projects such as 'SmartGov', envisaging automation of the functioning of state secretariat, and 'e-Seva', a computerised citizen services facility have been speeded up. Further, new initiatives, including Human Resource Management System, a centralised Data Centre Gateway and Integrated Financial Management system, are being planned, sources in the state IT department said. Being funded by the World Bank, the new e-governance schemes are being taken up as part of efforts to reform the administration by adopting Information Technology as a strategic tool, the sources said. Started with much fanfare, several IT-related projects in government departments have, of late, got bogged down by delays due to technical and other reasons. Taking a serious note of the delay in implementing 'SmartGov', a prestigious project for automation of file monitoring in secretariat, Naidu had recently asked the department officials to pull up their socks and put all the e-governance projects on a fast track. The new projects are aimed at facilitating online decision-making in various government departments by providing quick access to data, official sources said.As part of efforts to boost IT-related initiatives, it has been made mandatory for all the departments to earmark specific quantum of funds from their planned budget for such projects, they said.

From Hindustan Times, India, 25 July 2003

Public Servants Vow to Fight for Pay Claim

The Victorian Government is bracing for widespread industrial action as more than 100,000 teachers, nurses, sheriffs, and child protection, prison and environmental officers open campaigns for better pay and conditions. Unions representing all public sector unions have warned that industrial action appears inevitable because of a yawning gap between their claims and the Government's total offer. Welfare groups also warn of a welfare crisis more severe than that during the Kennett era cutbacks. Treasurer John Brumby told union secretaries at a meeting last week that the Government could fund pay rises of only 2.25 per cent, plus a productivity component of 0.75 per cent. Angry unions point to double standards: politicians pocketed a 4 per cent pay rise from July 1. Mr. Brumby said public sector claims would need a significant productivity offset as bushfire, drought and Commonwealth Games costs had made a a big hole in the budget surplus. In a veiled reference to the blow-out in benefits to nurses three years ago, he said individual union gains above the offer would discount rises to other unions. "It was all divide-and-rule stuff," one unionist at the meeting said. "But even (former premier) Jeff Kennett didn't try and offer less than the CPI. I think it will all end in tears." Unionists were left in no doubt that, should the Australian Industrial Relations Commission grant a higher increase, government agencies would have to fund it from staff or service cuts.

The tough fiscal line has also been adopted in talks with the Victorian Council of Social Service and public sector unions covering the not-for-profit sector. The Government funds up to $400 million in sector contracts. Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Leigh Hubbard said the Government's offer fell well short of most claims, and forecast "significant industrial volatility towards the end of the year and into next year". Community and Public Sector Union secretary Karen Batt said: "This is so far from a Labor position that... confrontation, not co-operation, will be the hallmark of industrial relations over the next couple of years." Welfare groups say one in four Victorians risks losing vital services such as drug and alcohol counselling and child welfare, housing and disability support if the Government proceeds with plans to force productivity savings on the sector. Agencies face losing about $35 million over the next three years, they say. The plan for phased-in productivity savings of 1.5 per cent is contained in a three-year service agreement that welfare agencies have refused to sign. VCOSS said advisory firm KPMG had found the welfare sector could not cope with further cuts. A day of protest against the change is planned for August 12, when many agencies may close their doors. "These agencies are already just getting by on shoe-string budgets," said the acting head of VCOSS, Carolyn Atkins.

From The Age, Australia, by Paul Robinson, Julie Szego, 28 July 2003

E-Government Master Plan in the Pipeline

HCM City - Policy makers at a workshop held in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday vowed to build an efficient administrative apparatus as a first step in an e-government master plan. The symposium was held by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, (MPT) UNDP, Singapore's Infocomn Development Authority-IDA, and the U.S Cisco Systems corporation. The MPT at the workshop unveiled for the first time the plan for e-government in Viet Nam. One of the first steps in this plan will be ensuring transparency and unified administrative formalities, according to the MPT. Cutting administrative cost, building a business-friendly environment as well as a "close bridge between government and citizens, government and business" are also cited in the master plan. Speaking at the workshop, Deputy Chairman of HCM City People's Committee, Nguyen Thien Nhan said that a project to apply IT in public management kicked-off two years ago here and has helped promote transparency and dialogues among businesses and officials. Decentralisation was imperative in managing a major hub like HCM City, he added. The city will seek cooperation with foreign partners to get more experience and find solutions for implementing e-government at a cheaper cost and less-time consuming, he assured participants.-Enditem

From Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam, 25 July 2003

Extra Push on To Meet E-government Goal

Vietnam should reach an advanced level in its e-government programme by 2010, if the latest targets are met. The advanced-level target, which is based on the progress of other Southeast Asian nations, was announced by the Deputy Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Mai Liem Truc, during a recent e-government conference in Hanoi. Vietnam is currently 55th on a list of 82 nations in terms of readiness for e-government, according to UNDP figures. Truc told the gathering of IT industry leaders and officials that Vietnam could learn how to build and execute its e-government strategy from neighbouring countries. He said that e-government will facilitate government activities in relation to its residents and promote economic development via the usefulness of online services such as business registration, e-commerce and e-payment. UNDP Vietnam Deputy Resident Representative, Neil Reece-Evans, defined e-government as an approach to poverty reduction, public administration and economic reform.

Neil Reece-Evans elaborated, "E-government opens up new internal and external communications channels, simplifies administrative procedures, improves the accessibility of public services, enhances public access to information, provides government with direct feedback, and supplies the government with faster global information." Initially state officials should be taught how to use electronic applications to offer services and promote effectiveness in business. An official from the MPT's science and technology department said most officials have a low-level of IT skills, making the implementation of the e-government project difficult. Moreover, the IT literacy rate of the general population is low, which will also create problems for the project. The use of the government's WAN for management and operation activities is quite limited. For the time being the country will move toward to the second phase of implementing e-government by conducting electronic interactions and online transactions between businesses and customers.

From Voice of Viet Nam, Vietnam, 28 July 2003

 

E-Government: From Cernobbio Rules For European Citizens

Cernobbio - A "rule book" for European citizens has been drawn up at the start of Italy's EU presidency at the end of the European Conference on e-government at Cernobbio, on the banks of Lake Como. "It is the first time - explained the satisfied Technology Minister, Lucio Stanca - that the fundamental points of the strategy for communication and technological innovation in Europe, have been laid out. A document that is very politically valuable, which can be used as a base for al countries. The aim will be to create services for European citizens and to give concreteness to the political idea of European citizenship." It will be the European Council of telecommunications, which will meet this autumn to put into effect the policies contained in the Cernobbio document.

These in synthesis are the ten points: 1) Recognition of e-government as a factor in promoting an information society. 2) The role and function of e-government for the modernisation of public administration in Europe as a key for the development of productivity and efficiency. 3) European productivity can be increased thus reducing the burden on public administration with a consequent reduction in total costs. 4) Emphasis on e-government as a means to increase efficiency and transparency in the public sector and the institutions. 5) E-Government is an instrument for improving the quality of life for European citizens. 6) A decisive role for information and communication technology for citizens participation in decision-making processes. 7) A modern European administration happens via cooperation between different levels of government. 8) Satisfaction about the forms of cooperation begun between European countries at the various administrative levels. 9) Necessity for cooperation between the European Commission and each state to define standards of services and the identification of priorities for investment. 10) The summit on the information society, that will take place in Genoa in December 2003 and in Tunisia in November 2005 represent a unique opportunity to discuss the situation of the information society at a global level.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 8 July 2003

UK Will 'Miss E-gov Deadlines'

UK local authorities are unconfident that 100 percent of services will be e-enabled by the government's deadline of 2005, a Datamonitor study reveals. The UK government has encouraged the use of e-government to transform services, renew local democracy and promote local economic vitality, and has confirmed that all councils will receive a capital grant of £200,000 to assist them in becoming e-enabled. But the study, titled "Technology Opportunities in the UK Public Sector," said that 36 percent of local authorities believed they would not meet the implementation of electronic government (IEG) requirements by 2005. In an explanation of the problem with roll out, Kathleen Klasnic, senior analyst at Datamonitor, referred to the three tier council system in the UK. The first tier consists of councils in large cities, such as London, Birmingham and Manchester, which she said are IT savvy and have used the funding they received well.

The second tier comprises councils in smaller towns, such as Portsmouth and Bristol, also fairly IT savvy but have started later and tend to have reduced funds. The third tier is small rural areas and seems to be where the main problem lies. "These tend to lack both the necessary in-house IT expertise and the funds necessary to fully meet e-government requirements. Compounding the problem is that the government often penalises laggards with regard to funding. More cuts don't help," Klasnic added. Nevertheless, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has said that those authorities who do not meet the requirements may find themselves short-funded. But Datamonitor notes that the trouble is not just with funding. In fact, the survey showed that many councils thought guidance would be most helpful in hastening e-government. According to the report, 73 percent of councils cited guidance as important while 92 percent of councils cited funding as key.

From The Register, UK, 6 July 2003

Italy to Host EGovernment Conference

The Italian city of Como will host an eGovernment Ministerial Conference and Exhibition on 7-8 July. Brief news: In the context of the eEurope Action Plan, the 1,000-plus participants will discuss ways to employ advanced technology for increasing the productivity of public administrations. The most outstanding best practice projects will receive the eEurope Award for Innovation in eGovernment. The conference is expected to conclude with a Ministerial Declaration. Under the eEurope 2005 Action Plan, the Member States are expected by the end of 2004 to make their basic public services interactive and accessible to all through broadband networks and multi-platform access. EICTA, the European Information, Communications and Consumer Electronics Technology Industry Association issued a plea on 4 July to the Italian Presidency to revive Europe's confidence in technology. EICTA calls on the Presidency to consider its recommendations spelled out in the document "eEurope - The Way Forward".

From Euractiv, Belgium, 4 July 2003

Winners of eEurope Awards for EGovernment 2003 Announced at Ministerial Conference

The 3 top prize winners for the eEurope awards for eGovernment Applications were announced today by European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, in a formal ceremony held in the presence of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Lucio Stanca Italian Minister for Innovation and Technology. This ceremony was attended by some 30 Ministers participating in the European eGovernment Conference at Villa Erba, beside Lake Como in Italy. The top winners are:Award Winner: The role of eGovernment for European competitivenessTitle: Bremen Online Services Description: Integrated portal for e-Government transactions, security and legally binding electronic signatures Organisation: Senator for Finances - Department for New Media and e-Government Germany Award Winner : A better life for European citizensTitle: '"HELP" Description: Online guide to authorities, offices and institutions Organisation: Federal Chancellery Austria Award Winner: European, Central and Local Government e-Cooperation and Public eServicesTitle: Tax administration e-Services Description: Tax authorities provide electronic certificates Organisation: Agencia Tributaria Spain In addition to the top-winners, Honourable Mentions were awarded to:Title: AMS Swedish National Market BoardDescription: Well-established integration of a wide set of job-related services

Organisation : Swedish National Market Board Sweden Title: Special Citizens Web Portal Description: Example of how to move to fully open and transparent governmentOrganisation: Department of State Information Systems Estonia Title: Three Islands Partnership 3IP Description: Supporting remote islands comunities Organisation: Argyll and Bute Council United Kingdom Title: "Auto e-Counter" Description: Example of good inter-agency collaboration Organisation: Automobile Club d'Italia Italy Title: Inter-Agency Messaging Service (IAMS) Description: Messaging Service between various agencies Organisation: Reach Agency Ireland In presenting the prizes, Commissioner Liikanen said : "I congratulate the winners and the runners-up for their excellent applications. These are an inspiration to us all. By showing so clearly what can already be done, such applications serve to redouble our political determination to thoroughly modernise the entire public sector of Europe. Everyone stands to benefit from more effective and more personalised services being offered by administrations".

The top prize winners and honourable mentions were chosen by an independent jury. All 65 best practices that had already been selected by an independent panel of experts from some 360 applications to exhibit at the conference, received a "Finalist" certificate. Background information: The eEurope 2005 Action Plan identifies a number of key target areas in which services, applications and content should be stimulated. The provision of modern online public services in areas such as eGovernment, eHealth and eLearning is a key element in this strategy. eEurope aims to build upon existing experiences by identifying and exploiting good practices, and promoting them as showcases. The Commission foresees a total of four separate award competitions in 2003 - 2005; two in eGovernment and two in eHealth. These are organised with the support of the European Institute of Public Administration in Maastricht (NL). The present competition for the "eEurope Awards for eGovernment Applications" was launched though a public Call to identify current best practices in the field. This led to 65 exhibits being selected from 357 applications received. Further information on the eEurope Awards may be found at: http://www.e-europeawards.org/

From Tenders Direct, UK, 7 July 2003

Formigoni: E-Government Shouldn't Focus on Technology Alone

Cernobbio - The Italian semester of EU presidency has opened with innovation as a focal point. Technology Ministers of all the European countries were summoned by Lucio Stanca to Cernobbio, on Lake Como, for a European conference on E-government. More than 1,200 members participated, and Lombardy regional president Roberto Formigoni opened, speaking on the "risk of letting the vision prevail of E-government that is too focused on aspects tied to the use of technology. Aspects - underlined Formigoni - that are essential, but not exhaustive when we think of the wide sense of government. We need to imagine a true revolution in the was of relating between citizens, businesses, and institutions. Such a vision calls for a new slogan that moves from E-government to E-governance". Roberto Formigoni assured that the Lombardy region "intends to continue to move along with the "European Commission strategy" and share in "the effort being made to modernize the European Public Administration. We want to achieve the goal set by the Commission to make Europe one of the most advanced entity on the planet by 2010. Lombardy - concluded Formigoni - will help to achieve true e-governance with several institutional levels and social, economic, and entrepreneurial forces".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 7 July 2003

Europe Vows to Speed Up Rollout of EGovernment

In short: The Commission welcomed on 9 July the pledge by 30 European ministers to accelerate the rollout of eGovernment; proposed new programme on cross-border interoperability. Background: In May 2002, the Commission adopted the eEurope 2005 Action Plan as a follow-up to eEurope 2002, running from 2003 to 2005. eEurope is part of the Lisbon strategy to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy with improved employment and social cohesion by 2010. Issues: The eEurope action plan aims to stimulate services, applications and content, covering both online public services and e-business. Simultaneously, it also addresses the underlying broadband infrastructure and security matters. Owing to its dual goals, the latest developments associated with the eEurope programme have commercial as well as policy implications. Echoing the call by the 30 ministers from the EU, EFTA and accession countries participating in the eGovernment Conference for the Commission and the Member States to agree on a list of eGovernment-related services for which transnational interoperability should be developed, the Commission on 9 July proposed a new programme on pan-European eGovernment services for administrations, businesses and citizens.

Known by the acronym IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of pan-European eGovernment Services to Public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens), the programme aims to promote cross-border interoperability of online public services. IDABC is a follow-on to the IDA (Interchange of Data Between Administrations) programme. Positions: The ICT industry considers the public sector as the next booming technology sales market throughout Europe. Under the eEurope 2005 Action Plan, the Commission wants the Member States to put their public services online by 2010. According to the research firm IDC, Europe's public sector spending will reach 53 billion US dollars by 2005, and the bulk of this purse will likely be spent on ICT-related developments. The industry welcomed the Como conference's conclusion which urged more public-private partnerships and encouraged the Member States to clarify the areas in which they aim to invest. Next steps:·The Commission's IDABC programme will be launched on 1 January 2005, subject to its formal approval by the European Parliament and the Council, The participants in the Como conference asked the Italian Presidency to present the Declaration to the next meeting of the EU Telecommunications Council.

From Euractiv, Belgium, by Sylvia Leatham, 10 July 2003

Citizen E-government - The Case for Conscription

The UK government should downgrade its short-term objectives for e-government but compel people to start using such services, according to a report published today by The Work Foundation, an independent, not-for-profit thinktank and consultancy. According to the report, the government's aim of having all government services online by 2005 is a strategy that prioritises rolling out e-forms for burial at sea above actually getting people to use services, such as tax return form, already available on the internet. James Crabtree, one of the authors of the Smartgov report, told the Financial Times that though 30 per cent of the government's planned e-services had still to be implemented, it was high time that the case for compulsion was made. By forcing the technologically well-off to discontinue using expensive paper-based service where possible, the money saved through the uptake of e-government resources already deployed could subsidise others to leap over the digital divide. Businesses in the UK are already being compelled to interact with government and regulatory bodies, with the Inland Revenue telling companies that they will have to file tax return electronically by 2005. However, Mr. Crabtree believes that there is a strong case for the wider use of such measures, and that the government is being too squeamish in targeting online citizens. David Minto is the Editor of Europemedia. Before joining Europemedia, David worked in project management for IBM. He has a degree in English from Cambridge University, where he was Arts Editor at the student newspaper, Varsity.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 16 July 2003

E-government 'Needs Rebooting'

Computer literate people should gradually be forced to go online to use public services, says a leading think tank. Savings from making the middle classes do things like file their tax returns online can help improve other services for those uncomfortable with computers, says the Work Foundation. In a new report, the think tank says the government should downgrade its target of getting all public services online by 2005. The target should not be scrapped completely, it says, but the top priority must go to increasing the number of people using services through the internet. User focus At a reception to launch the report on Wednesday, author Noah Curthoys said the best way to improve internet usage was to focus on those people most comfortable and skilled at using the internet. Research suggested that was more affluent, younger people in full-time employment, he explained. Instead, it was older people from poorer backgrounds who were less computer literate and also were the greatest users of public services. Mr. Curthoys acknowledged the idea of compulsion was controversial and, as with London's motorist congestion charges, it would not always be necessary.

But his report says: "The logical issue for rebuilding government is the introduction of greater incentives, and greater compulsion. "E-government currently offers neither a bonus for use nor a penalty for avoidance." 'No e-ghetto' The report goes further, pushes for wider reforms, both putting services online and rejigging the way government deals with them. It suggests that the "ghettoisation" of e-government should end and it should instead seen as part of the broader drive for "joined-up government" and reformed public services. Mr. Curthoys says the government has invested in and started to build online services. But evidence of success is scattered, successes not trumpeted loudly enough and perceptions of failure reinforced. His report adds: "Usage and delivery of online services remain patchy. To be blunt, British e-government needs rebooting." The idea of compelling people to take up online services got short shrift from the some of the other experts at the launch. Val Shawcross, e-envoy at the Greater London Authority, said: "I think that would be wholly wrong in a democratic society." But she backed other parts of the report, saying the public sector needed to use its partnerships with private companies more effectively.

Ms Shawcross added: "We always knew really that the rather narrow targets of 2005 was unintelligent. "It was a very rough boot in the right direction." Incentives Ian Kearns, from think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research, said the target should now be scrapped completely as it had done of its job of kick-starting initial efforts. He too argued against compulsion, saying choice was the best way of improving take up by focusing on core services online. Instead, he suggested a public interest company be set up to help get people who are not using the internet online. If such companies got people in the long term online and using e-government services then the savings would made would go back to the firm to help it continue its work, said Mr Kearns. Steve Beet, from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, said the compulsion idea was important for helping to change attitudes. But he thought incentives were a better way to improve take-up. "If you offer a high quality service - and we do not in e-government - people would migrate to using it," he said. There was, however, some support for the compulsion idea at the launch One observer argued it was "dishonest" for government to say it would use paper communications channels when they were much more expensive.

From BBC News, UK, 17 July 2003

Spotlight on Public Sector Outsourcing

For e-government to deliver on its promise, the emphasis must shift from the electronic front office to the back office, and from websites to better integration of data and applications across agencies and tiers of government. This is a much more complex endeavour than simply opening virtual service access points on the internet. It poses fundamental questions about the core mission and processes of governments, as opposed to the frills and thrills of websites and portals. How can governments provide excellent online service levels to constituents in a climate where attention to cost justification and value for money is top priority? Funding, skills and a favourable political climate are all key. However, the single most important factor is the way that the roles and responsibilities of the public and private sectors are blended to deliver and manage electronic services. The pace of technology change, combined with increasing expectations from constituents and ambitious plans to become citizen-centric and more transparent, all call for more intense and effective collaboration between public sector organisations and a variety of private sector suppliers (including, but not limited to, IT service providers) and intermediaries.

Collaboration between the public and private sectors can take different forms, ranging from providing skills or deliverables as part of a change project or business initiative, to managing services or solutions, typically as part of service delivery. An additional role for private sector parties is to intermediate, aggregate or add value to e-government services. As well as the licensed intermediaries of government services, such as car dealers registering vehicles or accountants filing tax claims, other intermediaries can act as integration agents. They can link services on their customers' behalf, such as a utility company providing a change of address service, or they may bundle proprietary and public services to add value to each other, such as travel agents or banks. Any sourcing strategy must start with a gap analysis between strategic goals and current internal capability: competencies, processes and services. This will reveal which are unsuitable or do not have sufficient resources to be run internally. Government organisations must also understand what the local services market can provide in the expected timeframe.

The evaluation should consider the simple availability of a service, as well as its service maturity, quality and stability. Relationships need to be managed over time, which relies on a solid governance framework addressing culture, organisation, management, skills and process issues. It is essential that the contractual relationship benefits both parties. Whereas this means increased profit and revenues for the external service provider, government organisations will have to look carefully at how that relationship benefits three different areas: service levels to constituents; operational efficiency; and fulfilment of political objectives. Government organisations must also understand the different nature of deals. If it aims at cost containment, service level and price will be the dominant factors. If it aims at productivity gains, its value will depend more on good relationship and flexibility. And if it aims at innovation and new business models, alignment and vision will be vital to success. A sourcing strategy must be an integral part of e-government strategy and must be a concern for all top level executives in government, not just the chief information officer. Andrea DiMaio is vice president of research at analyst Gartner.

From VNUNet, UK, by Andrea DiMaio, 17 July 2003

Government Risks Online Failure

London - The failure to get people to use online services is putting the credibility of the UK's £6bn e-government strategy at risk, according to a new report. The UK government has set a deadline of getting all public services online by 2005. However, while it has already achieved about 70%, the report stresses that many of these services are not being used. The Smartgov report, produced by The Work foundation and sponsored by Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers, suggests that encouraging more citizens to use online services should be made the "unequivocal top priority" by the government in its forthcoming e- government review, even if this means downgrading the 2005 target for getting all services online. "Some of the services government has to put online to meet its 100% target - from burial at sea to potato seed classification - begin to look a little peculiar when barely 3% of those eligible are filing their tax returns online," said report co-author James Crabtree. "The Government wants to give people choice in how they use public services, but in a dogfight between choice and use, use has to be the clear victor," he added.

While the report acknowledges that the Government is committed to improving usage of e-government services, it proposes measures such as improved customer segmentation, better marketing, and the introduction of compulsion for certain e-enabled user groups, to improve take-up of services. The Inland Revenue has said it will require larger businesses to file taxes electronically by 2005, and the report said there is no reason why the government shouldn't consider compelling certain groups of citizens to use e-government services. It suggests that those groups who are most able to use the internet should be forced to use online services, rather than being subsidised to use more expensive paper-based processes. The money saved by doing this could then be used to help those who don't know how to use them get online. The report follows research from industry analyst group Forrester last week, which said the UK government was in danger of missing the 2005 deadline due to funding shortages, and lack of guidance, particularly in smaller rural areas.

From NetImperative, UK, by Susie Harwood, 17 July 2003

Pushing to E-government

How do you get people to use e-services? Don't give them any other choice, says a new report - Compulsion is not a pretty word, but it may be necessary if people are to use online services, according to new research. While the Government has recognised that low usage of e-services is a key problem, it may have to consider radical solutions such as "compelling" some people to go online in favour of the traditional channels, the report says. The Work Foundation's SmartGov report* to be available on 17 July 2003, says that if e-government is to succeed and realise its full benefits, usage should come first, before the 100% e-services target. It points out that the majority of public services are delivered to the most disadvantaged in society - the unemployed and the elderly - yet these people are least likely to use e-government.

But the report also says that those in the best position to use e-services are failing to do so. It recommends that "the government must consider compelling the advantaged to use e-government" along with a more "aggressive" marketing strategy. "We're not saying that everybody should be compelled to use e-services," the report's co-author Noah Curthoys said. "But if the true benefits of e-government are to be achieved and if resources are to be freed up, then as much effort as possible should be made to encourage usage. If the better off, and people who are more computer literate use online services, that in turn will release resources to help the less advantaged." Examples of online services where compulsion would be appropriate include online tax self assessment, and student loans where users tend to have access to the internet, Curthoys added.

The report is particularly critical of wasted effort, where obscure and nonessential services - such as seed potato classification and burial at sea - are put online before more useful services. The Office of the e-Envoy is understood to be looking at e-government usage, planning an "Online Government Store" to act as a single point of access for e-services and to encourage take up. It has signalled a degree of resistance towards the idea of compelling people to use e-services, however, instead emphasising that it is "committed to offering choice and flexibility to all users of government services via the internet". *SmartGov: Renewing Electronic Government for Improved Service Delivery is part of iSociety, The Work Foundation's IT research project. It was sponsored by Microsoft and PwC.

From Kablenet, UK, 16 July 2003

Think Tank Recommends Compulsory Use of E-Government Services

A new report from The Work Foundation recommends that Net-savvy users should have to use some e-services in order to boost the use and the money-saving benefits of paperless transactions. The report, SmartGov - renewing Electronic Government for Improved Service Delivery, says the government's current target of getting all services online by 2005 should be downgraded, with priority given to getting people to use them. Co-author James Crabtree said: 'Some of the services Government has to put online to meet its 100 per cent target - from burial at sea to potato seed classification - begin to look a little peculiar when barely 3 per cent of those eligible are filling in their tax returns online.' 'Targets lead to perverse outcomes,' said Nick Isles, Deputy Director of Advocacy, 'The priority is getting knowledge of these services to the people that can use them... and to achieve [the Government's] objectives an element of compulsion is essential. This is absolutely critical.' Isle pointed to precedents set in the US where citizens filing their tax returns online have longer to do so than those doing so by paper.

The report recommends that rather than going for a 'big bang' centralised approach of throwing everything online in one fell swoop, the Government strive to 'deliver a smarter centre which can promote stronger decentralisation.' In short, by setting national standards but giving local councils the flexibility to deliver online services that make a difference to the people using them, the Government should be able to achieve some real success stories. Focusing on these will give the public more confidence in the project and promote greater use in turn. Even so, the problem of low use - currently at around 10 per cent - and negative public perceptions of these services may yet turn out to be growing pains, said Isles. 'Transition requires a very good understanding of the impact of technologies for delivery.' He pointed to the passport fiasco which he claimed would not have made front page news had the technical hiccup blighted a business rather than the Government. 'This is rites of passage stuff,' he said, and remained confident that performance would improve with time.

The report also recommends the Government undertake a rebranding exercise - rather than hive off e-services for those with the nous to use them, it should amalgamate them into a general strategy for the reform of public services. Often disadvantaged groups stand to benefit most from these services and yet are least likely to be able to access them. The telephone still remains the most popular method of dealing with the state over more complicated matters and so these more traditional forms of access should be accommodated with the new services. Report co-author Noah Curthoys said: 'The E-Envoy has hinted he is about to unveil a "dramatic shakeup" of e-Government. We are calling on Government to redouble their efforts to put increasing usage at the heart of this review, and to back this up with increased resources to meet their targets and new strategies to get people using e-Government.'

From PC Pro, UK, 18 July 2003

Thinktank Stirs Debate on Choice in Public Services

A thinktank headed by a former adviser at the heart of New Labour will today inflame more traditional Labour supporters by suggesting the principle of choice could be extended throughout all public services. New Local Government Network, headed by Dan Corry, a former special adviser to the Blairite ex-cabinet minister Stephen Byers, will call for a debate on whether individuals should be able to pick and choose services provided by local authorities. But the centre-left thinktank also warns this could lead to a "postcode lottery" - with social exclusion being increased if residents in richer areas choose to opt for more expensive services than those in poorer areas. And it suggests the government has failed to think through the all pitfalls and problems of the concept. "The government has tended to throw 'choice' into its mantra on public service reform as though it will serve all its problems at a stroke with few difficulties along the way," it warns in Choice, a pamphlet published today.

The issue of choice is a current preoccupation for the government, which has sought to introduce this in education, with the proliferation of specialist schools, and in health, with the more controversial plans to create foundation hospitals, while being concerned not to introduce inequity. Three recent speeches made by the prime minister, the health secretary, John Reid, and by Mr. Byers - who is still a Blair ally despite resigning from the cabinet 14 months ago - have stressed the importance of choice as a means of increasing equity by giving the same facilities to the poor as the rich; keeping better off patients and parents within the public sector; and putting pressure on low quality providers to raise their game. Tony Blair told the Fabian Society that choice "boosts equity". Mr. Byers told the Social Market Foundation the government could be "at our boldest" in areas such as health and education, such as the provision of home help, meals on wheels, and home adaptations. But critics believe that, far from being a motor of reform, choice is a fig leaf for privatisation.

The pamphlet, co-authored by a NLGN research team and Professor Julian Le Grand of the London School of Economics, aims to chart a course between such polarised views. It suggests choice could be extended in local services as diverse as home repairs and maintenance for council tenants; refuse collection; pest extermination; and aspects of social services including transport and home adaptation. But it also warns: "There are very important potential implications for equity and equality that need to be looked at carefully." Its head of communications, Ian Parker, said: "There are potential problems and pitfalls. One example is that, if you had well-off areas opting for regular refuse collection every couple of days and shiny bins, and poor areas not paying for this service, you would generate a sense of social exclusion." But choice would increase democracy by putting power to determine local services in the hands of the public, he added. NLGN is setting up a research project called Making Choices to examine how the concept of choice has been taken up by local authorities, and will report back early next year.

From Guardian, UK, by Sarah Hall, 24 July 2003

More M-government Services Coming Online Soon

Following the success registered last week when 8,000 students received their exam results on SMS, more mobile-phone services from government will be launched over the coming weeks. Some have already had their soft launch but have not been officially announced. One such new venture is that already operational at court where court sitting postponements are being notified to the lawyers of the parties by SMS. Later on, this service may be extended to the clients, but this would require further tightening of the system. Negotiations are ongoing with the Chamber of Advocates. Another service regards the notification of trade licences, Public Transport Authority and Malta Tourism Authority licences. There are around 40,000 such licences. Their owners will be notified by an SMS when their licence is up for renewal. IT and Investments Minister Austin Gatt took part at the second EU ministerial meeting on e-government last week. The conference took place in Como following the first meeting which was held in Brussels in November 2001. All accession countries were represented at the Como meeting. The conference had two main aims:o To ensure that e-government services would not be offered by governments to their own citizens but also on a pan-European level; ando To identify best practices. Ministry sources told The Malta Independent that Malta participated in the search for best practices.

round 40 submissions were received, and 39 were accepted. One of these was from Malta. Malta also participated in the Europe Awards which were won by Austria, Spain and Germany. The Maltese submission for best practice regarded M-government. The submission was being proposed at the same time that 8,000 students all over Malta and in Gozo were receiving, for the very first time ever, their exam results by SMS. The experiment was a huge success. Although SMS technology is somewhat weak, as it depends on outside factors, such as in areas where there is no proper mobile phone cover, only 3 per cent of the messages were lost. Furthermore, there were no complaints whatsoever that someone, for instance, received an SMS which told him (her) they had passed, only for the hard copy letter then telling them they had failed. Another source of satisfaction for the e-government commission was that they had got the two telecom operators to work together on a common platform. This represented a saving of some Lm50,000 as otherwise they would have had to develop a platform each. There are other possible uses of SMSs which may be launched soon. One such use regards the use of SMS to call MPs for divisions in the House of Representatives. This system can also be extended to inform them of the agenda of the next sitting. Over the next few days it is also expected that government will announce that recipients of Social Security payments to the bank accounts will be told by an SMS that the benefit has been lodged with their account.

Any time a benefit is due, many phone calls are made to the department, and consequently much time is wasted by people who want to know if the lodgement has been made. Clients will be able to use this system to apply for specific government services. There will be a specific site on the Internet where clients can apply to get these services through SMS. One can also go to the appropriate department and register there, or else as from September they can apply through the local council. One issue regards payment through the mobile for government services. Discussions on this issue with the Malta Communications Authority are at an advanced stage. This will enable, for instance, one to order a certificate from the Public Registry over the mobile phone. To do this, the mobile must be linked to the person's credit card. The technology to establish this link is there. What is needed is to set up an electronic payment gateway so that people may be able to pay over the Internet. This will then be replicated for M-government. The date when these kinds of services start being used by people depends on when the agreement is reached with MCA. There are complex issues of licensing involved, the government sources told this paper. On its part, government would prefer these services to be cost neutral, or even cheaper if the SMS system is used, than they are now when one has to go in person to the department or office. Once agreement is reached on this matter, the way will be open for many services to be able to be delivered both on the Internet and through SMS.

Deadline anticipated by one year -The Como meeting was attended by 32 ministers from EU member states, accession countries, applicant countries, and EFTA and EEA countries too. The meeting discussed the way that e-government is developing across Europe with regards to basic public services. The Commission insisted with the governments represented at the conference that the Internet must not represent just a window of information - i.e. telling you when such an office is open, who heads it, etc. What is more important is that the Internet must be used to deliver services. Governments must not be minimalistic in the way they approach the Internet, the Commission told them. Otherwise people will never get the proper incentive to get Internet access and to put e-government in practice. Over the coming years, the Commission told the countries represented, e-government services must become the rule in the EU. The meeting concluded with basic agreement to deliver at least 20 basic services by the end of 2004.The Maltese Government however intends to have all these 20 services up and running by the end of 2003.Around half of them are already available.

Today, one can use the internet to:o search for a job;o apply for social security services for disabled or elderly people;o send a message to government;o make a declaration to the police (even this is already available);o find out which books are held by which public library;o ask for a Public Registry certificate;o pay company tax;o submit the VAT declaration (without being able to pay it online so far);o report environmental matters;o calculate one's Income Tax and submitting one's declaration (even here, no payment is yet possible for the time being).Once agreement on the payment gateway is reached, it will be possible to add these services:o Payment of driver licenceo Payment of vehicle licence;o Payment of VAT;o Payment of Company Tax; o Submission of data to the National Statistics Office; ando Payment of National Insurance payments (for employers).Trust, security and privacy issues The development of Internet and mobile phone services including payment bring to the fore the big issues of the trust, the security and the privacy of such systems. The system government is moving towards seems to be one where authentication and the keys to the system will not be controlled by government but by a private entity which will manage the digital keys of the citizen. The local councils will be the registry offices for one's electronic identity. Anyone will have to have his own electronic ID Card.

The request then goes to this private entity that generates two electronic keys, which, when used together, will permit access to the services. One will be like the PIN code which we use to get money from ATMs while government will hold the second key to the person's information. It is only when these two keys are matched that access is permitted. Government is then planning two additional levels of security in areas where the sensitivity of the service requested is even more serious. The first level is a digital certificate or a CD with an encrypted code which will allow the user to access that level of information. The most serious level, the third level, will see the use of a Smart Card or even possibly a fingerprint scan. It is at this level that information regarding the health of the individual will be released to him. This is the level of security at which people are perceived to trust. Technology in this respect has already been developed and is being tested by Microsoft. The tender for the private entity which will ensure the security of e-government closes tomorrow. It is hoped that the tender will be adjudicated by the end of August. Malta will be thus one of the first countries in Europe to get things so far advanced.

The security this system entails is a very serious one. The company which wins the tender will have a service agreement with very high penalties for infringement. Benchmarking The Como meeting also discussed the second benchmarking report of all European countries. A report on this survey will be given next February in Budapest. The coming report will examine all member states and accession countries together. It will focus on what each country is offering by the way of e-government and what take-up each service has as well as the level of internationality of the service. The Maltese Government intends to do well in this report said ministry sources. The first report, which was published in June 2002 was already very good with regards to Malta. Malta, as compared to the other countries, does not have any problem regarding telecommunications and it will have even less problems in the coming years considering that a broadband strategy is due to be in place by the end of September. Government hopes that by the time the report is drawn up, Malta will be at a par with the Nordic countries.

From Malta Independent, Malta, 24 July 2003

United Kingdom Welcomes 11th MD Explorer for Public Service Duty

An 11th MD Explorer helicopter has landed in the United Kingdom for public service work. MD Helicopters, Inc., delivered the twin-engine helicopter last month to Police Aviation Services (PAS), based at Gloucestershire Airport. Once PAS has painted and fully outfitted the MD Explorer with specialized role equipment for airborne law enforcement, the helicopter will enter service with the South Yorkshire Police. MDHI Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Henk Schaeken said the MD Explorer is ideal for the public service mission, which, in the United Kingdom, often combines law enforcement and air medical work. "Within the twin-engine category, the MD Explorer is the best choice for these demanding and specialized missions," Schaeken said. "We value and appreciate the ongoing support of the public service community in the U.K." Europe continues to be a stronghold for the MD Explorer, where its twin-engine performance and exclusive NOTAR system offer distinct advantages. The United Kingdom's fleet of 10 public service MD Explorers is nearing the 25,000 flight-hour mark. The nation's busiest airborne law enforcement helicopter belongs to the West Midlands Police. That aircraft has logged more than 3,300 hours. The first MD Explorer entered service there in 1998. The MD Explorer is one of three MD helicopters equipped with the exclusive NOTAR anti-torque system. Helicopters equipped with the NOTAR system are significantly quieter and safer than helicopters with conventional exposed tail rotors. In addition to the MD Explorer, MDHI manufactures a range of products, including the MD 600N, MD 530F, MD 520N and MD 500E. MDHI is based in Mesa, Ariz.

From Rotorhub, UK, 18 July 2003

Inefficient Public Services 'Are Wasting £70bn a Year'

As much as £70 billion is being wasted by the UK Government every year because of inefficiency in the public services, a new independent study suggests. A report by economists at the European Central Bank (ECB) concludes that hundreds of billions of pounds could be saved in Europe each year if the EU public sector raised its game and became as efficient as that of the US or Japan. In terms of value for money from the public services, the UK scores more highly than France or Germany, but falls far short of the US, Ireland, Japan and Australia, according to the study. If the UK was as efficient as the US, Britain could spend 16 per cent less than it does at the moment and still achieve the same level of public sector performance. This implies that government spending could fall to £380 billion a year from its current £450 billion without any drop in service quality. If France and Germany were to match US efficiency levels, they could slash public expenditure by 36 per cent and 28 per cent respectively and still maintain service levels, the working paper finds.

The ECB report analyses data up to and including the year 2000. In the European Union as a whole, state spending could drop by more than a quarter if efficiency in public services matched that of the US or Japan. The three authors of the paper, who stressed that their opinions were personal and did not necessarily represent those of the ECB, said: "The 15 EU countries should be able to attain the same level of output using only 73 per cent of the inputs they are currently using." This would allow state spending in the EU to drop to around 35 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) from its current level of 50 per cent, the authors calculated. The large state sectors found in many EU countries are almost always more inefficient than the relatively small government sectors in America or Japan, the report concludes. "We find that differences in efficiency are much more pronounced than in performance across countries, with 'small' governments clearly outranking the others. This illustrates that the size of government may be too large in many industrialised countries," the three authors - António Afonso, Ludger Schuknecht and Vito Tanzi - said.

Aside from the US and Japan, three other industrialised countries score highly in the report - Australia, Ireland and Switzerland. Australia's public sector is virtually as efficient as America's, with those of Ireland and Switzerland close behind. If Ireland's public sector was as efficient as America's, the Government would be able to reduce spending only by around 4 per cent, the study reports. Switzerland could see spending fall by 5 per cent if public sector efficiency was raised to US levels. The authors looked at a wide range of indicators - including education, health, economic stability and income distribution - when assessing public sector performance. They acknowledged that there were difficulties in comparing public spending across countries, but said that the figures presented in the paper were the "best possible approximation", given the data they had.

From The Times, UK, by Lea Paterson, 28 July 2003

 

Dohms Integrates Portal to E-government Content

The Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services (Dohms) launched an all-new portal that offers online services, including applications and renewal of health cards, medical permits and downloadable forms. With the launch of www.dohms.gov.ae, the new portal of the department, which could also be accessed from Dubai eGovernment's portal www.dubai.ae, Dohms, the first government department to fully integrate its systems with Dubai e-Government's advanced Content Management System (CMS), is on track to achieve the objective of providing services online through a user-friendly interface. The suite of services being offered electronically will benefit corporate users and individuals. Corporate users can renew staff health cards online and apply for medical permits for new establishments or renew permits. Residents can acquire or renew health cards electronically, apply for medical fitness certificates or seek information on any of the services.

"Dohms is a key department whose success depends on fruitful and effective interaction with a large number of people. We are delighted that the new portal, helped by the industry's leading systems provided by Dubai e-Government, has the capability of eliminating many physical constituents. "It migrates the processes to electronic platforms and offering dramatically improved efficiency and speed," said Qadi Muroushed, Director General of Dohms. "Driven by the ultimate Dubai eGovernment goal of delivering a majority of Dubai government services by way of electronic channels, and with the support of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance and Industry, and General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, Dohms revamped its portal to present a friendly face to all users, including those who are challenged by technology." The site is easy to navigate and one can locate the service one wants in a few clicks. "We are pleased to say the system offers invaluable tools enabling participating departments to enrich their websites. "We expect to benefit from it at several levels and achieve substantial cost savings with quicker transactions, apart from the advantage of sharing a common platform that brings great value additions to online services."

Muroushed said several features have been added to the portal, such as Customer Care, an online query system for users about services, logging complaints, an online 'Ask the Doctor' service and an informal online meeting place for parents and doctors. Salem Al Shair, Director of eServices, said: "This is a milestone for the Dohms and the people of Dubai. The full integration of the Dohms systems with Dubai eGovernment's CMS dramatically raises the standard of service delivery. "The Government Information Network (GIN), the engine of the eGovernment system, ensures the system is dynamic and secure. Dohms is guaranteeing that our support team is available round-the-clock to tackle malfunctions." The portal has been designed along international standards, powered by the world's leading technologies. It offers government departments flexibility to access their websites and alter content at their convenience. The content is stored in the central repository of Dubai eGovernment, giving other departments access to shared data.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, by Mona Al Khanjare, 7 July 2003

Fourteen Government Departments to Standardize Online Services on Dubai eGovernment's Unified Content Management Platform

Fourteen Dubai government departments are working closely with Dubai eGovernment to integrate their websites with the leading edge solutions provided by the advanced Content Management System. The progress of the implementation of Dubai eGovernment's Content Management System (CMS) for Dubai's portal www.dubai.ae was reviewed at a meeting of the content advisory board held recently at the Dubai Radio and Television offices in Dubai. The board evaluated the progress achieved in the wider application of the CMS systems by the various Dubai government departments with a view to standardizing content for faster access, customer-centricity and user-friendliness. Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment, who chaired the meeting, highlighted the need for faster adoption of the CMS among all participating departments in order to progress to the next level of eServices implementation. "The active participation of the fourteen departments has increased Dubai eGovernment's efforts at promoting the integration of CMS for more effective content management," said Anas Haddad, Content Manager, Dubai eGovernment. "Encouraged by the response, many other departments have displayed greater interest in the new system and we expect many more to join in the near future. The recent Content Advisory Board meeting evaluated the performance of the system and discussed how members had benefited from its adoption, because of the centralized and unified administration application."

Khawla Salem, IT Manager, Department of Information, suggested the initiative of a new, dedicated TV programme on eGovernment. The proposal was welcomed and accepted by the board, which recommended further discussions. It was agreed that all Dubai government departments would be part of the proposed TV show. The board also discussed the proposal for a regular forum to analyze new ideas, with a view to adding new features to eGovernment services. The meeting took note of the participating departments and organizations. The Department of Health and Medical Services and the Dubai Civil Defence department have already announced the integration of their systems with Dubai eGovernment's advanced Content Management System (CMS). The Content Advisory board was also updated about the revamped portal for Dubai Excellence Award programme (The Executive Office). All other government departments are in the advanced phase of development, including Dubai Medical Zone, Dubai Quality Award, Financial Auditing Department, Dubai Workshop, Dubai Airport Free Zone, Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing Department, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Foundation, Awqaf Department, Dubai Women's Association Al Nahda, Dubai Development Board, Dubai Transportation Department and Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Haddad said the implementation of the new CMS had enabled different government departments to integrate their Web services with the unified portal, facilitating decentralized content management, allowing each department the autonomy to manage its own content, while remaining an integral part of the portal. Highlighting the key elements of the CMS, Haddad said: "Representatives of different government departments have been trained on the technical aspects of uploading and publishing of content. It is pleasing to see that many departments have shown great enthusiasm in adopting the CMS, because it enables systematic categorization of topics, resulting in easy navigation as well as quick and desired content retrieval with minimum clicks. We are proud to say that the CMS has made information retrieval several times faster than standard HTML publishing." "As Dubai eGovernment gets closer to the objective of offering most public services online through the shared Content Management System, the need for all participating departments to make optimum use of the advanced features has become critical," said Haddad. "The content management advisory board expressed satisfaction at the progress achieved so far but called for greater acceleration, to enable Dubai eGovernment to maintain its plan of offering over 70 per cent of eServices online by the year 2005."

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 12 July 2003

Dubai e-Government's Reviews Strategy to Boost Usage of eServices

Dubai - Dubai eGovernment's Advisory Board on Community Outreach and Marketing recently discussed a host of measures to boost awareness for eServices, with a primary focus on e4all, the new community IT education initiative aimed to enhance e-literacy amongst citizens and businesses that was launched recently in coordination with strategic IT partners and leading training providers. The advisory board, comprising of representatives from various Dubai government departments and Dubai eGovernment, chalked out plans for the next stage of the awareness campaign and called for generating greater interest in eServices among all concerned parties, including government departments, private and business sectors. "The marketing aspect has now acquired critical importance, with the eGovernment having reached a highly developed stage in the delivery of eServices. The portal is now ready to offer integrated services spanning several key departments through the sophisticated Content Management System and the Government Information Network," said Marwan Al Naqi, Community Outreach Officer of the Government Sector.

"The time has come for stepping up the marketing activity at various levels, so as to trigger an all-round and consistent interest in Dubai eGovernment and its eServices." "The launch of e4all forms the key element of the next phase of the Dubai eGovernment marketing programme. e4all has been designed to offer value packages for individuals, small and medium enterprises as well as large corporations. This involves providing PCs or notebooks at special prices, customized hardware and software, installment schemes, end-user warranty and several add-ons such as free subscriptions to IT magazines," said Naqi. "The e4all initiative's overall objective is to enable Dubai eGovernment to act as a single point for acquiring knowledge about eServices. In the first phase, the project mainly targets government department employees. The rest of the sectors will be targeted in the next phase. The attendees at the Advisory Board meeting discussed the role of new subsidiary teams including the community outreach team, marketing team, suggestions team and the follow-up and execution team. The role of the outreach team is to promote outreach plans, accelerate awareness of technology and increase the number of eService users.

The role of the marketing team is to put in place strategies, evaluate current services, study and add on new services as well as delivery channels taking into consideration the needs of the community. The suggestions team will study new submissions and ideas, which contribute to increasing the efficiency and speed of eServices besides spreading the concept of creativity in work environments. The team will also work on strengthening the links between the Dubai eGovernment, businesses and the community in general. The follow-up and execution team will implement the decisions of the Advisory Board on Community Outreach and Marketing and all the other teams. The Advisory Board discussed the list of major events and shows in Dubai for Dubai eGovernment's participation. The criteria was set for such participation, which included understanding the correlation between these events and Dubai eGovernment's activities, the number of visitors, media coverage and assessing each event's role in boosting Dubai's image as the economy hub of the region. Dubai eGovernment's participation in GITEX Dubai 2003 was also reviewed. The Advisory Board outlined new strategies to promote the participation of government departments under the umbrella of Dubai eGovernment during GITEX to make participation in this event more effective and result-oriented.

From MENAFN, Africa, 20 July 2003

 

White House Praises Potential of E-gov Project

A federal initiative dubbed the Business Compliance One-Stop Project shows the "greatest potential" toward reducing the government paperwork burden on small businesses, the White House concluded in a recent report. Submitted to Congress on June 28, the report by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urged agencies to work together to create more e-government programs. Small businesses complain that "there's too much red tape, paperwork and time needed to comply with regulations, and they want government to pursue the promise of e-government as a solution," Mark Forman, OMB's e-government administrator, said in a statement. "The Business Compliance One-Stop Project is a direct response to these recommendations, and we're committed to making it happen." A 2002 law directed OMB to convene a task force on electronic solutions to the regulatory paperwork burden imposed on small businesses. The project to create the Internet portal was launched last year on the recommendations of an interagency task force. The project creates a "business gateway" to electronic forms and other documents that small businesses need to comply with regulations.

OMB estimates that during fiscal 2003, businesses and individuals spent $320 billion and 8.2 billion hours submitting data to the government. The gateway is expected to cut the number of federal forms filed by 10 percent and bring agency compliance with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act to 75 percent by September 2004. The report highlighted other federal e-government programs, including the Bush administration's efforts to reform e-government management, to craft blueprints for how disparate technology devices within an agency or among agencies should work together, and to support the work of the Architecture and Infrastructure Committee of the Chief Information Officers Council. For e-government to succeed in the long run, agencies must demonstrate a "serious effort" to work with "other agencies, stakeholders, state governments and the business sector," the report concludes. Government also must commit the necessary management, financial resources and technology to make e-government an integral part of the federal bureaucracy.

From GovExec.com, by Ted Leventhal, 7 July 2003

Smart Energy Public Service Announcements Available at Energysavers.gov; Abraham Encourages Smart Energy Use

Washington - Smart Energy public service announcements are available online for radio use nationwide. The public service announcements record Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham encouraging smart energy use and directing listeners to energysavers.gov. The consumer-dedicated site contains information on energy-saving home improvements - including points on landscaping, roofing, heating and cooling system maintenance and buying energy-efficient appliances. "Conserving energy is not difficult, and it's not expensive," Abraham said. "Did you know that the typical U.S. family spends $1,300 a year on gas and electricity? And did you know a large portion of that energy is wasted? If everyone did just a few of the things on this list, it could make a major difference for the economy as well as for the family budget." Secretary Abraham called for Americans to conserve energy in their homes and businesses to help ease pressure on the nation's supply of natural gas, the fuel that operates most new electricity-generating power plants. "The demand for natural gas is growing faster than producers can get it out of the ground and ship it to consumers," Abraham said. "If we have an unusually hot summer, there's a chance that prices could increase dramatically because of tight supplies."

The growing summer demand for natural gas, combined with heavy gas usage during this past winter's unusually cold temperatures for much of the nation, has left storage levels well below normal for this time of year, according to Energy Department statistics. The Smart Energy public service announcements are one part of the Smart Energy Campaign launched by Secretary Abraham on July 9 and tied to President Bush's national energy strategy. The Smart Energy Campaign activities include: - The Energysavers.gov website to educate consumers on specific steps they can take to conserve. DOE will be asking other government agencies to link to the Energysavers.gov Web site. - A DOE letter sent to all 50 governors with recommended actions that states can take to improve the natural gas situation, including infrastructure improvements and joining the Smart Energy Campaign. - A public awareness campaign. DOE will contact news outlets through the country encouraging them to publicize the Smart Energy Campaign and Energysavers.gov Web site, along with an opinion editorial on the campaign for publication. - DOE regional summits on energy use that will begin in Atlanta, with other cities to be announced later this summer. http://www.usnewswire.com/ (Contact: Jana Toner of the U.S. Department of Energy, 202-586-4940).

From U.S. Newswire, DC, 10 July 2003

Microsoft and the OAS partner for e-gov in Latin America

Organizations to promote adoption of Internet systems in Latin America - Microsoft and the Organization of American States (OAS) have partnered to promote the adoption of Internet-based systems among Latin America's municipalities and public-sector agencies, they said Wednesday. Microsoft, through its Latin America division, is contributing $6 million worth of software and IT services to this e-government initiative. Meanwhile, the OAS, through its Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD), is providing personnel and administration services to the initiative, which, along with contributions from other participants, have been estimated to have a value of about $3 million, said Rafael Pérez, regional director of government and education at Microsoft Latin America. The OAS/IACD will review proposals from government agencies and municipalities throughout Latin America.

The initiative will sponsor 94 implementations that break out as follows, according to Pérez: - 20 portals - 20 systems for citizen access to public services - 50 systems for managing community Internet kiosks, such as PC software configurations and Internet access policies - Two e-procurement systems - Two systems for managing the administration of public schools - Half of the projects will be awarded in a first phase that begins now. The other half will be awarded in a second phase starting in December, because Microsoft and the OAS/IACD couldn't handle all 94 projects at the same time, he said. Municipalities and agencies can find out more information about the process to draft and submit proposals at the IACD's Web site (http://www.iacd.oas.org). While Microsoft and the OAS/IACD will shoulder part of the cost of each implementation, governments will also be expected to invest in the projects, Pérez said.

For example, governments will need to provide the necessary hardware and related infrastructure for the system. They will also need to commit the necessary personnel to oversee, design and operate the system. And they will have to cover training and consulting costs beyond $25,000, which is the maximum Microsoft will cover in training and consulting per implementation. "Often when you announce you're going to donate something, many takers show up," he said. But in this initiative, only municipalities and agencies willing to commit the necessary resources to the success of the projects will be chosen, he said. The main goal sought with this initiative is to foster the creation of e-government systems that will improve the delivery of services to citizens in the region, he said. For Microsoft, the initiative is also a way to extend its presence in the region's public sector and show that it can deliver e-government systems, he said. Among the competitors Microsoft faces in the public sector is open source software, particularly the Linux operating system. Microsoft and the OAS/IACD about two years ago collaborated to create a portal called Portal Educativo de las Américas (The Americas Educational Portal) to give access to educational resources to OAS member countries.

From InfoWorld, CA, by Juan Carlos Perez, 11 July 2003

New E-gov Initiatives Expected In The Fall

Federal agencies have started work on plans for new cross-agency IT initiatives that will consolidate operations in criminal investigation, public health information, financial management and human resources, said Mark Forman, administrator of IT and e-government in the Office of Management and Budget. Opportunities to consolidate operations in these areas were identified in agency IT budget requests for fiscal 2004. Forman spoke today at a hearing of the House Government Reform subcommittee on technology, information policy, intergovernmental relations and the census. Business cases for the new projects should be complete by September, Forman said. The initiatives will result in about $4 billion in savings through fiscal 2008 and improved government operations, he said. For example, federal officials realized when anthrax was being sent through the mail in 2001 that the plethora of public health information systems wasn't effectively linking medical facilities to the information they needed. "We probably need two systems, not 18," he said. The Department of Health and Human Services will lead the public health information project, and the Justice Department will lead the criminal investigations case management project. Efforts to identify lead agencies for the human resources information systems and financial management systems initiatives are under way, Forman said.

From Washington Technology, VA, by Gail Repsher Emery, 16 July 2003

Little Progress on R-gov in Latest Management Dcorecard

"More than meets the eye" is how senior administration officials today described the latest scores for agencies' work on the President's Management Agenda. "This is the most agencies have changed in two years from one quarter to the next," said Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management. OMB today released the midyear scorecard for the 2-year-old initiative. Although most agencies still received red scores for overall progress, many have moved into the implementation work on agenda items after spending most of the last 18 to 24 months on planning, Johnson said. Over the next 12 months, OMB expects agencies will begin to be better managed and focus on delivering results to citizens, he said. Nine agencies improved their ratings in at least one of the five PMA areas, which are budget and performance integration, competitive sourcing, e-government, financial performance and human capital management. "We have demonstrated what is possible," Johnson said, adding, "It is a significant milestone to move from red to yellow and even more to go from yellow to green." OMB rated the 26 major agencies' progress using scores of green, yellow or red. Green means an agency has met all of OMB's criteria for success; yellow means it has met some criteria; and red means there are serious problems. The administration gives agencies a pair of scores, one for their overall status and one for progress in implementing agenda items.

No agencies improved their overall scores in the e-government area from the latest ratings, issued March 31. OMB scored one agency in the green, 11 in yellow and 14 in red. As to the progress ratings, three agencies-the Transportation and Treasury departments and the Army Corps of Engineers-improved to green and two-the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration-were downgraded to yellow. "Sometimes the scorecard masks the progress of agencies," said Norm Lorentz, OMB's chief technology officer. "If you look at how far we have come, it is pretty impressive." On the e-government front, agencies in the last month only received the tools to improve their scores when OMB released the latest version of the Business Reference Model, Lorentz said. Plus, agencies have not quite caught up in making improvements necessary to meet the administration's security demands, he said. The Defense and Education departments and the Office of Personnel Management are the first agencies to move to yellow under competitive sourcing. Four agencies-State, Transportation, Army Corps and the SBA-improved to yellow in Human Capital. EPA and the Social Security Administration received the first green scores, in the financial performance area.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 14 July 2003

Canadians Click 'Yes' to eGovernment

Toronto - "Canadians Surpass Americans and the Japanese In Accessing Government Online" - Many countries around the globe have over the past several years dedicated themselves to making government information and services easier to access for their citizens by utilizing the Internet. Commonly referred to as eGovernment, the Internet is helping citizens access government services on their schedule and in the comfort of their own home. Empirical evidence from comScore Media Metrix Canada, the leader in Internet Audience and eCommerce Measurement reveals that Canadians, based upon actual Internet surfing behaviour, have embraced 'eGovernment'. Since October 2002 through to May 2003, the overall government category has seen a 27.2% increase in traffic. This growth in traffic to government web sites appears even more significant when compared to only a 2.6% increase overall in the number of Canadians using the Internet on a monthly basis. Brent Lowe-Bernie, President of comScore Media Metrix Canada says, "The Internet is now the premiere source for timely and comprehensive information. Recent history has proven that whether it's for world events or crises within our local metro communities, Canadians have turned to the Internet for the full story on what is going on and the information needed to deal with it. eGovernment is about getting services to the Canadian people.

The Internet is not only being used by most Canadians but it is also one of the most fiscally responsible way to deliver pertinent information to the relevant constituents." Canada Is A Global Leader - A recent comparative analysis of Canada, Australia, Japan, and the United States revealed that within the month of May, 2003 52.9% of Canadians online visited a government website as compared with 29.7% for Australia, 24.2% for Japan, and 42.4% for the United States. This represents a 10% greater reach than our friends to the South, more than double our friends in the Far East, and almost 33% more than our friends "down under". Canadians Spend More Time Interacting With Government - The fact that Canadians, as percentage of the total online population, are visiting government websites in greater numbers than many other countries reveals only half the story. A deeper analysis of the data also reveals that Canadians spend more time and go deeper into government websites. On average, during the month of May 2003, Canadians spend approximately 34.6 minutes per month on government web sites as compared to 28.7, 15.5, and 10.6 minutes per month for the United States, Australia, and Japan respectively. Canadians are also going further into Government websites.

Canadians, during the month of May 2003, viewed an average of 63 pages per visitor on Government websites compared to 40 pages in the United States, 24 in Australia, and 20 in Japan. Federal And Provincial Web Sites Are The Lead Destinations - Over the past 8 months there have been significant increases in many of the flagship government websites. Federal and Provincial websites are among the more prominent government websites Canadians are visiting with increased frequency ranging from the official Canadian government web site (http://www.canada.gc.ca), Human Resources & Development (http://www.hrdc.gc.ca), Environment Canada (http://www.ec.gc.ca), to the very familiar Canada Customs & Revenue Agency (http://www.ccra.gc.ca) as well as the provincial websites of Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. Canadians are embracing eGovernment, whether it be in times of crisis and a need for information or simply utilizing the convenience the Internet affords to manage their interactions with their Government. Canada is establishing itself among the leaders in eGovernment around the globe.

About comScore Media Metrix Canada comScore Media Metrix Canada, a division of comScore Networks, provides Canada's only Internet audience measurement services that report - with unmatched accuracy - details of Web site usage, visitor demographics and online buying power. comScore Media Metrix Canada services are recognized as the currency in online media measurement among financial analysts, advertising agencies, publishers and marketers. About comScore Networks comScore Networks provides unparalleled insight into consumer behavior. This capability is based on a representative cross-section of more than 1.5 million global Internet users who have given comScore explicit permission to confidentially capture their Web-wide browsing, buying and other transaction behavior, including offline purchasing. Through its patent-pending technology, comScore measures what matters across the entire spectrum of surfing and buying behavior. This deep knowledge of customers and competitors helps clients design more powerful marketing strategies and tactics that deliver superior ROI. comScore services are used by global leaders such as Microsoft, Kraft, The New York Times Company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Nestlé, GlaxoSmithKline and many more. For more information, please visit www.comscore.com.

From Canada NewsWire, Canada, 15 July 2003

City Administrator Interviews Will Be Open to the Public

Billings - Three finalists for the Billings city administrator position will be interviewed by the mayor and City Council next week. The council will interview the candidates separately on July 22, 23 and 24, at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall, 210 N. 27th St. The interview sessions will be open to the public and will be aired on public access channel 8. People attending the interviews or watching them on television will be invited to call 237-6150 to give their opinions on the candidates to the City Council. Here is the schedule for the interviews: - July 22 - D. Craig Whitehead of Sioux City, Iowa. - July 23 - John F. Fischbach, city administrator of Fort Collins, Colo. - July 24 - Kristoff Bauer, Billings acting city administrator. City Human Resources Manager Rick Harden said each interview will last about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes. Harden said he and representatives of the Mercer Group, the consultant that coordinated the search for a new administrator, will be on hand, but the interviews will be conducted by Mayor Chuck Tooley and the other 10 members of the City Council. The position opened up in March, when City Administrator Dennis Taylor left to take a similar job in Eugene, Ore. Bauer, who had been assistant city administrator since January 2002, has been the acting administrator since Taylor's departure. On the morning of their interviews, Harden said, Whitehead and Fischbach will be given tours of the city and then have lunch with council members. In the afternoon, they will meet informally with department heads and have dinner with council members who couldn't make the lunch session.

Bauer will skip the tour and the department-head meeting, but he will have lunch and dinner with council members on the day of his interview. Harden is hoping to schedule a meeting for July 30 at which the City Council can discuss the candidates and vote on who gets the job. Tooley has said previously that he hopes the top candidate will be on the job right after Labor Day. More than 80 people applied for the administrator position, which was advertised with a salary in the mid-$90,000 range. Bauer, who holds a law degree, a master's in business administration and bachelor's degrees in business and drama, was the assistant to the city manager in Shoreline, Wash., for seven years before coming to Billings. Before that he was the interim assistant city manager in Shoreline for a year and a half. He also spent two years as an associate attorney with a law firm in Seattle. Fischbach has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in public administration. He has been the city manager in Fort Collins since 1995, and before that he spent 19 years as a city manager in Vancouver, Wash.; Lake Forest, Ill.; and Robbinsdale, Minn. Whitehead, who holds a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in public administration, has been a city manager or assistant city manager for 20 years. His most recent job was city manager in Sioux City, where he worked from 1997 to January 2002. Before that he was the assistant manager in Sioux City for two years and had been city manager of Newport, Vt., for three years.

From Montana Forum, Montana, by Ed Kemmick, 16 July 2003

Finalists for 2003 Public Service Awards Announced

Twenty-eight federal employees were named Wednesday as finalists in this year's Service to America Medals program. The employees hailed from departments ranging from Justice to Labor to Homeland Security. The awards, which aim to raise public awareness of the work done by federal employees, will honor winners in the fall with cash awards ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. The finalists were chosen from "hundreds and hundreds of wonderful nominations and truly have extraordinary stories," said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization devoted to reviving interest in government service. The three magazines of Atlantic Media Co.-Government Executive, The Atlantic Monthly and National Journal- joined with the Partnership for Public Service to establish the awards program last year. Siemens and DuPont are corporate sponsors of the 2003 awards. The nine categories within the Service to America Medals are designed to honor outstanding contributions to the country from federal employees with varying degrees of experience and from different professional backgrounds, including business, science, national security, social services and justice.

The two top prizes, which come with cash awards of $10,000 each, honor a federal employee or team of the year and an individual who has demonstrated lifetime achievement in public service. Ray McKinney, the administrator of the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration, and a team of engineers and mine rescue professionals are among the finalists for the 2003 Federal Employee of the Year Medal. McKinney and his crew, including an engineer who has worked for the agency for 30 years, saved nine miners trapped for four days inside the Quecreek mine in Somerset County, Pa., a year ago this month. Jeff Kravetz, an engineer nominated alongside McKinney, played a large part in assisting the rescue efforts by lending his 30 years' technical experience in structural disasters to the team, according to Katharine Snyder, director of the office of information and public affairs at the Mine Safety and Health Administration. For a complete list of the 28 finalists for the 2003 Service to America Medals, click here. Winners will be announced at an awards gala on Oct. 15 at the National Building Museum in Washington.

From GovExec.com, by Kellie Lunney (klunney@govexec.com), 24 July 2003

Tech Trepidation Holding Back E-government

Public sector users prefer classroom to CD-ROM - Enthusiasm for e-learning is growing in the public sector but its implementation has been slowed by end-users' lack of technological knowledge. The 2005 e-government deadline has given the already burgeoning e-training market a push in the right direction, helping it to establish a substantial foothold: over half of organisations in the sector have adopted it already, according to a survey of public sector HR professionals by LogicaCMG. But the picture isn't completely rosy for the e-learning evangelists. In a sector where PC avoidance is common, not all users feel entirely confident with electronic education and only 48 per cent of organisations have invested in staff IT skills training to address the situation. Keith Scott, director of training at LogicaCMG, believes that the reason half of public sector staff aren't IT-savvy as yet is down to the attitudes of both ground level users as well as their managers.

"Staff who aren't familiar with IT can be resistant to change. They think they don't see how it's relevant to them. But with NHS strategies for common IT backbones also being discussed, some managers are waiting to see the results before they implement any new programmes", he said. The research also turned up some big winners and losers in the current training market. On the podium: blended learning, with over 60 per cent of existing users saying they'll put more of their money where their mouth is in the future. On the scrapheap: video conferencing, out of favour with the public sector. The public sector seems reluctant to give up its dependence on the face-to-face approach entirely, however, with instructor-and-classroom arrangements still common in 86 per cent of organisations. Keith Scott says it's simply a case of horses for courses. "E-learning is particularly good for imparting knowledge - a new process, how to work a machine - but when it comes to effecting cultural change, traditional methods come into their own," he said.

From Silicon.com, 23 July 2003

Public Service Commission Approves Utility Standby Rates

The state Public Service Commission has voted to approve new rates for utility companies' standby electric delivery service to customers that produce some of their own electricity on-site and standby service to independent wholesale electric generating plants that import electricity to support their operations. The new standby rates are for Consolidated Edison of New York Inc., Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc., New York State Electric and Gas Corp. Inc., and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. Inc. "The new standby rates approved today balance our goals of promoting the use of alternative energy sources and energy efficiency with our interest in having customers respond to the appropriate economic signals through cost-based rates for standby service," said PSC Chairman William Flynn. The new rates take effect on Feb. 1, 2004. The commission earlier approved rates for Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. and is expected to rule on standby rates for Central Hudson Electric & Gas Corp. later this year. For more information, visit: www.dps.state.ny.us.

From Albany Business Review, NY, 25 July 2003

UCF Appoints Public Administration Chair

The University of Central Florida's Department of Public Administration has appointed Montgomery Van Wart chair of the department and professor of public administration. He assumes the position this month from Professor Tom Liou, who has served as chair of the department since July 1997. As chair, Van Wart will oversee the department's academic programs, which include undergraduate, graduate, certificate and internship programs, and 12 faculty members who are actively engaged in a variety of research and community-based projects. Van Wart has worked in higher education for almost 25 years. Most recently, he was employed as director of the Center for Public Service at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. His more than 35 publications include three books and many articles in leading journals. He currently serves on eight editorial boards. At his previous institutions, Van Wart raised nearly $1 million in technical assistance grants and projects, as well as several million dollars in local fees generated by the operations he managed. Van Wart earned his Ph.D. in public administration from Arizona State University, his master's degree from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., and a bachelor's degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

From Orlando Business Journal, FL, 28 July 2003

City Recognized for Public Service

Los Angeles city agency was selected as one of the top 100 in the country for its efforts to improve service to the public, Mayor James Hahn announced on Monday. The city Department of Building and Safety was recognized by Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government as part of its Innovations in America government award. "The Department of Building and Safety has been able to improve customer serivces, increase efficiency and cut costs of doing business," Hahn said at a news conference at the Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center in Van Nuys. Hahn said the agency was selected because of its work to establish workload indicators and demand performance accountability. Among other factors, the department was cited for efforts such as customer guarantees of giving people money back if they do not hear back within an hour, reducing waiting times to seven minutes and developing an express permit program. Andrew Adelman, general manager of the department, credited his staff and Hahn with providing the goals for the department. "Under Mayor Hahn's direction, the department's focus and change of attitude from regulator to facilitator has allowed us to excel," Adelman said.

From Long Beach Press-Telegram, CA, by Rick Orlov, 29 July 2003

 

Global E-government

Most governments fail to make the most of CRM: report: Although most governments value customer service highly, the majority admits to falling far short of their ideal level of service, according to new research by Accenture. The management and IT consultancy company conducted a global survey on CRM (customer relationship management), titled "CRM in Government: Bridging the Gaps," questioning 143 government executives in 15 countries across Europe, North America and Asia. The study exposes a significant gap between governments' positive attitude towards CRM systems and the lack of strategies and facilities for the actual implementation of such systems. One of the main findings of the research was that the majority of government agencies are becoming more comfortable thinking of citizens as customers and are placing a strong emphasis on customer service delivery. Nonetheless, agencies are struggling to introduce the building blocks of CRM and, although most agencies are focusing on the technological aspects of CRM, they are struggling to reap the expected benefits. The report concludes that governments should look to the private sector in order to gain a better understanding of CRM. Germany revises e-government strategy: The German government is devising a new strategy for the implementation of e-government, following criticism that its existing BundOnline plan had failed to adequately involve regional and local authorities in the process.

The revised plan, DeutschlandOnline, which aims to foster cooperation between all layers of government, was agreed by the central administration, federal states, regional districts and local authorities in late June. The strategy identifies five main areas for improved coordination between government agencies: the development of e-services for citizens and businesses; the interlinking of Internet portals; the creation of shared IT infrastructures; the formulation of common e-government standards; and the improvement of knowledge exchange between the various layers of government. It is also hoped that the DeutschlandOnline initiative will help avoid the duplication of e-government efforts and reduce the development and implementation costs of e-government solutions. Siemens announces e-government solution for water agencies: Siemens Business Services (SBS) has launched an electronic solution aimed at government water departments. SBS said the system enables the electronic exchange of data between water utilities, laboratories and waste disposal providers, enabling relevant data to be made available quickly and in standardised quality and formats. Current practice for governments who deal with water is mostly paper-based, a process that SBS says can be time-consuming and error-prone. Using the SBS solution, water departments can create an electronic template, featuring fields for required information.

This document can be sent electronically to waste disposal companies and water utilities, who use software to read the file, check it and forward it to a laboratory, which enters water analysis results into the template before returning the document. The utility or company then sends the electronic copy to the governmental authority, which reads it automatically. SBS says the solution meets all governmental regulations for qualitative analyses of water. Europe vows to speed rollout of e-government: The European Commission has welcomed a pledge by 30 European ministers to accelerate the rollout of e-government across the region. A declaration proposing concrete measures to promote e-government was agreed by 30 ministers from the European Union, the European Fair Trade Association and accession countries at the eGovernment Conference held in Italy in early July. At the meeting, ministers acknowledged the importance of making e-government services accessible to all citizens through the most appropriate channels, including PCs, interactive TV and front-office counter services. The ministers called on EU Member States and the Commission to agree a list of services for which transnational interoperability should be developed.

Ministers at the conference also welcomed cooperation between Member States and the Commission on research into cross-border solutions for the identification of individuals, and they praised efforts to maintain the security and privacy of personal data compiled through e-government services. The ministers asked the Italian Presidency of the EU to present the declaration to the next meeting of the EU Telecommunications Council. Bahrain plans e-visa service for tourists: Bahrain is gearing up to issue tourist visas over the Internet, as part of the government's ongoing e-government efforts. Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Bahrain's Under-Secretary for Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs at the Interior Ministry, made the announcement, saying the system should be operational from the start of next year. The government has launched a study into the requirements for a complete border-control management system, said Shaikh Rashid, and a team is about to be dispatched to Australia to review a similar system put in place by the government there. It is expected that the new system will allow most visitors to Bahrain to enter their details on a dedicated Web site, receive official approval to enter the country and pay their visa fees electronically before their arrival.

The government is working closely with Gulf Air, Bahrain's national airline, to ensure that the project is up and running in advance of the influx of visitors expected for the first ever Arab Formula One Grand Prix in April 2004. Australia to debate use of open source software: Politicians in Australia are about to debate proposed legislation that could force government agencies to consider the use of open source software. Australian Democrats senator Brian Greig has said he intends to introduce a private members' bill into the Senate that could force federal agencies to justify spending on proprietary software. Agencies should be required to consider open source options when assessing their IT needs, he said. The introduction of a similar bill in the South Australian parliament provoked controversy recently, as the Initiative for Software Choice, an industry group backed by Microsoft, lobbied government ministers to vote against the bill. At the time, media reports quoted ISC spokesperson Mike Wendy as saying that the bill discriminated against US software companies. However, a spokesperson for Greig asserted that his proposal was not anti-US or anti-proprietary software: "Our proposed bill will be calling for open source and free software to be considered on merit along with all other options when the government is making its purchasing decisions," the spokesperson said.

From Electric News Net, 9 July 2003

Global E-government

European Commission proposes new e-government initiative: The European Commission has proposed a new program to deliver pan-European e-government services to public administrations, businesses and citizens. The new program, called IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of pan-European E-government Services to Public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens), follows on from the Commission's existing IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) program, which promotes the electronic exchange of information between the governments of EU Member States and the European institutions. The new program will focus on the need for governments, enterprise and citizens to interact electronically with public sector bodies across the EU, and it will aim to establish pan-European e-government services for businesses and citizens. The IDABC initiative will also develop and deliver infrastructure services based on pan-European interoperability guidelines, to support the exchange of data and services across the region. If the program is adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, it will be launched on 1 January 2005.

Microsoft promotes e-government in Latin America: The Organization of American States (OAS) has announced a partnership with software giant Microsoft that aims to promote e-government efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean. Microsoft is contributing USD6 million worth of software, tech support, IT services and training to the initiative. The OAS, acting through the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD), will provide personnel and administration services, which, along with contributions from various governments, represents an investment of around USD3 million. The program plans to sponsor 94 e-government projects throughout the region, focusing on the following areas: Web portals for government agencies and municipalities, e-procurement, software to support citizens' access to public services, community Internet kiosk systems, and public schools administration systems. More information is available at the IACD's Web site, http://www.iacd.oas.org.

Oracle and HP launch e-government centre in India: Oracle Corp has launched an e-Governance Center of Excellence in India, in association with Hewlett-Packard. The two companies will jointly operate the centre, which will focus on the development of model e-government applications. Oracle is providing the software for the centre, while HP is contributing the computers, which will mainly run the Linux operating system. "Linux will play a critical role at the centre, as it will help bring down the cost per transaction for e-governance applications," said Balu Doraisamy, president of HP India. The services offered by the centre will include technical consultation and proof-of-concept services. Another objective of the centre is to help decision makers at the central and state government levels to define and implement e-government processes. Shekhar Dasgupta, managing director of Oracle India Private Limited, an Oracle subsidiary, said the centre, located in Gurgaon near Delhi, would also showcase e-government applications that are running in India and other parts of the world.

Philippines boosts local government on-line: More than half of municipalities in the Philippines have an on-line presence, according to statistics released by the country's National Computer Center (NCC). Sixty-four percent of local government units (LGUs), or 966 out of 1,496, now have an Internet presence, a huge increase from last year's figure of 3 percent, thanks to the NCC's recently launched e-government project, "Jumpstarting Electronic Governance in the Local Government Units," also referred to as the eLGU Project. The aim of the project is to have all municipalities on the Web by 15 September 2003. So far, the vast majority of the LGUs that have an Internet presence are only at Stage 1 (also known as Emerging Web Presence) of the UN-ASPA (United Nations and American Society of Public Administration) Five Stages of E-Government, which means that the sites contain only static information about the local government unit. Only 17 LGUs have reached Stage 2 (Enhanced Web Presence), and just 13 have achieved Stage 3 (Interactive Web Presence). None of the LGU sites has reached Stage 4 (Transactional Web Presence) or 5 (Fully Integrated Web Presence).

Spain launches new information society plan: The Spanish government has unveiled a new plan of action for the development of an information society. In a recent survey by the country's La Fundacion AUNA, Spain ranked 14th out of the 15 EU Member States in terms of development as an information society. The new initiative, known an Espana.es, replaces a 2000 program that failed to live up to expectations. The new plan has three main objectives: stimulating demand for information society services and meeting that demand; enhancing the availability and accessibility of such services for all citizens; and encouraging the adoption of e-business by SMEs. The program reaffirms the administration's previously stated goals for e-government. Specifically, these include the implementation of electronic ID cards for citizens, the deployment of interactive services, and the enabling of information exchange between public sector bodies. The new action plan is expected to cost in excess of EUR1 billion, with EUR180 million expected to be spent on e-government initiatives.

US revises procurement strategy for CIOs: The US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has advised all federal government agencies that it wants to purchase authentication technologies for use government-wide. The OMB has asked federal Chief Information Officers (CIOs) not to buy authentication or identity management technologies without first getting approval from the E-Authentication team or the Federal Identify and Credentialing Committee. "The federal government is spending in excess of USD160 million in fiscal 2003 and 2004 on potentially inconsistent or agency-unique authentication and identity management infrastructures," said Mark Forman, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT. He also noted that agencies tended to have inconsistent approaches to security, in terms of both physical and computer security. By the end of the year, the OMB plans to have selected vendors to provide credentials and public key infrastructure (PKI) services. Once the providers have been chosen, federal agencies will be expected to develop migration strategies for moving to the central government options.

From ElectricNews.net., by Sylvia Leatham, 16 July 2003

Global E-government

UK should focus on boosting use of e-services: report: Increasing the usage of e-services should be the top priority in the British government's imminent review of e-government, according to a new report by the Work Foundation. The "SmartGov" report, sponsored by Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers, argues that encouraging the use of on-line services should be prioritised, even at the expense of the government's target of having all services e-enabled by 2005. The study's authors say that the government should focus on exceeding existing targets for usage of e-government services, and this aim should be supported by improved "customer segmentation" and marketing, and by forcing some e-enabled groups to use e-services. "Some of the services government has to put on-line to meet its 100 percent target - from burial at sea to potato seed classification - begin to look a little peculiar when barely 3 percent of those eligible are filing their tax returns on-line," said report co-author James Crabtree. Singapore launches EUR650 million e-government plan: The government of Singapore is planning to invest SGD1.3 billion (EUR653 million) in the second phase of its e-government plan. Launching its "e-Government Action Plan II" (eGAP II), Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the aim was to put almost all government services on-line by 2006. A recent annual Global E-Government Survey by Accenture ranked Singapore second out of 22 countries, a reflection of the fact that Singapore has to date e-enabled 1,600 public services.

Indeed, the deputy prime minister noted that, according to a government survey, about 75 percent of Singapore citizens who needed to engage in a transaction with the government in the past year had done so via electronic means. Among the stated objectives of eGAP II are to have 90 percent of the government's customers - citizens and businesses - using e-services at least once a year and to have 80 percent of users satisfied with the general quality of e-services. "Ultimately, eGAP II is not about IT, but about changing the approach to government," Lee added. Jordan aims to bring ICT to schools: The government of Jordan has launched the "Jordan Education Initiative," a collaboration with a group of high-tech companies that are members of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The pilot scheme will see ICT and e-learning introduced in 96 schools throughout the country, with a view to eventually extending the initiative to all 3,000 of Jordan's schools. Among the companies that have agreed to participate in the project are Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Siemens and Sun Microsystems. Education Minister Khalid Touqan said the program formed part of a five-year educational reform plan that aims to modernise curricula and teaching methods and to place more emphasis on critical skills and innovative thinking. Alongside the launch of the initiative for schools, ICT Minister Fawwaz Zu'bi presented a plan to bring broadband to Jordan's universities by this September. US on-line tax service gets an upgrade: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the US has improved its popular on-line tax filing system.

The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) allows taxpayers to pay federal taxes on-line, at www.eftps.gov, over the phone or via special software provided by tax preparation experts. In 2002, the IRS collected USD1.5 trillion through electronic means. The improvements to the Web site include an ability to schedule four tax payments in one session, as opposed to the previous facility to make just one payment at a time. Access to 16 months of payment history is now available to users, along with the capability to search, print and download payment history by date, tax type, amount and tax form. In addition, taxpayers can now change the bank account they want the payment to be deducted from by phone. The upgraded site also features links to the sites of states that have electronic tax services in place. Australian councils frustrated by slow Net connections: Local councils in Western Australia (WA) are planning to seek compensation from the state government on account of slow Internet connections. The state government no longer sends hard copies of documents to local authorities, which means that the councils have to download and print lengthy documents such as annual reports. In some rural areas of WA, the download speed is up to four times slower than the speed in some cities. Dundas Shire Council says that it is considering asking the state government to compensate it for the cost of printing documents. The chief executive of the council, Brian Willoughby, said such costs could amount to thousands of dollars for small councils. The Local Government Association (LGA) of WA says the situation exemplifies the growing frustrations of rural communities about the quality of telecommunication services.

From Electric News Net, 24 July 2003

 

We Won't Act On Emotions - Finance Minister on GCB Privatisation

Accra - Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Yaw Osafo-Maafo says the government will not yield to 'threats' and 'emotions' regarding the sale of 46.8 percent of GCB shares to a strategic investor. Captured live on national television, the minister said, "We will not be persuaded by threats and emotions. We will rather wait for a report from the committee set up to look into GCB's privatization" the minister said at the Meet the Press series on Tuesday. He said as the sector minister, he believes it is wrong for him to lead in discussing all aspects of GCB's operations in public and advised commentators on the bank's privatization to educate themselves properly before coming public. Osafo-Maafo also alleged that it is some members of management and staff of GCB eager to keep their jobs who are making capital out of government plans to complete the divestiture of GCB, which the National Democratic Congress- government started in 1996. "That will not change our mind. What we want is the best for Ghana and not the staff and management of GCB", he stressed. He allayed the fears of the public that a divested GCB would not continue to lend to parastatal as in the case of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) which had to be bailed out by the bank with a huge capital outlay.

His statement sharply contrasts with the evidence on the ground when both Standard Chartered Bank and Barclays Bank withdrew from financing oil imports. According to the minister, when a certain level of technology needs to be injected into a state-owned enterprise to make it efficient, it is better to go for a strategic investor. The minister cited the divestiture of former Continental Hotel (now Golden Tulip) as an example of a success story, which yields billions of cedis in taxes to government annually. But the minister was reminded that not all privatizations have yielded good returns. A questioner referred the Finance Minister to the struggling Sabat Motors, which was divested in 1996 and retaken by government in 2001 because of poor results. To press his case for the sale of the 46.8 percent shares Osafo-Maafo said, "some people may have lost sight, either intentionally or otherwise that to date 53.2 percent of GCB's shareholding is not with the government. Majority of the shares of GCB are, therefore in the hands of the ordinary Ghanaian through the Ghana Stock Exchange." Financial analysts, Agenda spoke to, though disagree with Osaafo-Maafo on the grounds that the current share structure of the bank leaves state and state-owned institutions as the largest shareholders.

Currently Government of Ghana has 46.8 percent, Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) owned 100 percent by government has 17.2 percent, while Ghana Reinsurance Company, State Insurance Company and Ghana Cocoa Board own 0.7 percent each. Struggling Tema Oil Refinery, which incidentally is the cause of GCB's financial troubles has 0.6 percent, Produce Buying Company, 0.3 percent and Graphic Corporation 0.1 percent, bringing the total to 68 percent owned by the state and state-owned institutions. The remaining ten among the top 20 shareholders hold 8.75 percent. This leaves members of the general public with 24.25 percent, which makes a strong case for more of the bank's shares to be off-loaded on the Ghana Stock Exchange. Osafo-Maafo says "no Ghanaian will be excluded from bidding as a strategic investor in the bank, once the required technical and financial requirement can be satisfied." In a country where the search for a strategic investor has always ended in foreign hands, it remains to be seen what will happen. Earlier this year, Societe General bought controlling shares in SSB Bank and information reaching Weekend Agenda says the new- look SSB Bank has started tightening the screws. A distressed customer last month alleged that interest on a loan he took last year at 35 percent has shot up to 37.2 percent without prior notice.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Amos Safo, 14 July 2003

Study Group Advocates New Tax Policy

The Federal Government has been advised to urgently establish a national tax policy as well as replace the Nigerian tax system with another comprising two taxes - income tax and expenditure tax - after 2008. The Study Group on the Nigerian Tax System, which reviewed the existing system, made these recommendations. The study group led by its chairman, Dr. Dotun Philips, which presented a report yesterday in Abuja, came up with 275 recommendations, 127 amendments to the existing tax laws and three constitutional amendments. Speaking at the presentation, Philips said the study on the Nigerian tax system revealed that the nation had been operating a counter-productive system. He expressed dissatisfaction that the current Nigerian tax system was hardly in a good shape in many respects: policy, law, administration, revenue, economic impact, constituency with federalism, robustness, taxpayer satisfaction." He said the system is overloaded with multiple overlapping taxes, particularly at the lower tiers of government and characterised by widening sharp practices. He said "whilst the tax evaders largely escape because they are untouchables, corrupt and/or big, the vast majority of ordinary honest taxpayers groan under the increasing nuisance value of the system. Basic reforms, instead of peripheral tinkering are clearly required."

Philips expressed the group's belief that taxpayers should be at the centre of the basic reform "because there are usually four contenders for primacy in tax matters: government, tax administrator, tax consultant and the tax payer. The study group, he said, cast its lot in favour of the taxpayer, being "the goose laying the Golden Eggs." He said the group it believes that, it is only when the taxpayer is the primate in tax matters that the other three contenders also benefit." The study group also recommended that registers of individual and corporate taxpayers should be compiled and smart Nigerian tax identity cards be issued and maintained for all taxpayers. The group called for a speedy constitutional amendment to institutionalise the legality of the value-added tax, annual revenues which proceeds "should henceforth be shared among the states, after three per cent has been deducted to meet the cost of federal administration of the tax." To encourage investment in the rural areas, the group advised that special tax incentives, such as tax holidays and import duty reliefs should be limited only to industries locating in rural areas, fully export-oriented industries, solid minerals production companies and oil and gas operations.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Kunle Aderinokun, 23 July 2003

 

India's tax Policies Rank 3rd in the World

India ranks a surprising third on an international tax misery index that attempts to measure the relative attractiveness of a country's tax and social security policies to multinationals looking to set up base. The index, created by Ernst & Young, ranks 50 countries and shows India's score at a low 79.3 in 2003 (a lower score indicates a higher rank). Hong Kong takes the top spot with 43, while France brings up the rear at 179.4 even though it has reduced its misery score substantially since 2001, by lowering tax rates. China ranks 45th and the United States finds itself at eighth position. The study says China does not score well because it has to go a long way towards providing incentives to business people beyond that of a mammoth emerging market. The West European countries have generally performed worse on the misery index because of a combination of high marginal rates of direct tax and heavy mandatory contributions to social security. India, which imposes no social security contribution on employers and which is reducing its tax rates, therefore, scores much better. The index, in its fifth year, was created by Ernst & Young for Forbes on global taxation practices. It is intended to show where each country stands on the amount of burden it imposes on entrepreneurs in terms of individual and corporate tax rates as well as social security contributions.

Though the article acknowledges that tax is not the sole factor in choosing a business location, it says when equally attractive options are available, the tie-breaker is generally tax. Comparing the same basket of income for the 50 countries, the study shows that on a gross annual salary of 50,000 euros for a married individual with two children, the take-home pay is 70 per cent in India, compared to 79 per cent in China and 75 per cent in Brazil, even though India has no mandatory social security contribution by employers. But as the employer also does not foot any similar cost, the cost of doing business here is much lower. The total cost to the employer as a percentage of the employee cost is only 63 per cent in India, compared with 91 per cent in Brazil, and 71 per cent in China. In Europe it is 96 per cent in France, 77 per cent in the United Kingdom, and almost 88 per cent in Germany. In the US, because of the different tax laws across the states, the picture changes considerably. While the cost to the employer is a low 58 per cent in New York, it is almost 67 per cent in Illinois.

From Rediff, India, by Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, 24 July 2003

 

IMF Cautions Russia Against Extremely Weakened Tax Policies

'Russia must resist the extreme weakening of fiscal policies during the reform of its tax system,' said Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Ann Krueger in a press conference on June 20. Krueger said that on the whole she supports the course the Russian leadership has chosen and considers that it 'will allow for the distribution of economic growth from monopolized sectors of the economy to remaining sectors.' 'However, I want to caution Russia against significant weakening of fiscal politics. I think that extreme regulation and corruption are much more difficult over time for the economy than high taxes and precisely these problems must be decided at first,' said Krueger. Krueger said that the 'key role of fiscal politics must lie in the opposition of effects of the real strengthening of the rouble in a period of high oil prices.' Krueger said in considering high oil prices that 'Russia is conducting not the most ideal fiscal politics.'

She said that the unified social tax is too high in Russia. Lowering that tax rate could bring positive effects to the economy, said Krueger. Krueger said that on the whole today Russia must reform its financial system, government bureaucracy and monopolies. She is confident that without the reforming of these sectors 'Russia can not completely realize its potential.' 'I strongly caution against the return to direct credit and subsidizing separate sectors of the economy,' she said. Krueger also said that as a result of her visit to Russia she 'understood that the Russian government has realized that without structural reforms further development of the economy and doubling the gross domestic product is not possible.'

From Pravda, Russia, 21 June 2003

Italy Calls for Multilateral EU Tax Policy

Brussels - The EU should develop a "multilateral policy" on taxation, according to the Italian Presidency. Italian Finance Minister, Giuliano Tremonti, who is also President of the ECOFIN council (which brings together the Finance Ministers from the 15 countries of the EU), called for such a policy today, (8 July) when speaking in the European Parliament's Committee for economic and monetary affairs. These comments are certain to be seen by some as a move towards tax harmonisation in the EU. Mr. Tremonti also emphasised that a multilateral taxation policy would have a symbolic political effect and said that it was "important to bring about greater harmonisation in ECOFIN". The call is also likely to cause tension at next week's ECOFIN Council, especially with the British delegation, which steadfastly oppose moves towards fiscal harmonisation.

No watering down of euro-rules - As far as the Stability and Growth Pact is concerned - the set of rules governing how much Member States in the EU are allowed to spend - Mr. Tremonti told MEPs that there would be no "watering down" of the rules and that the Italian investment plans are compatible with an intelligent interpretation of the Pact. Mr. Tremonti seemed slightly unsure of himself when probed on the subject of the forthcoming Swedish referendum on the euro. Asked what consequences a "no" vote would have for Sweden and for the EU, Mr. Tremonti replied that there had never been a negative referendum on the euro. When he was reminded by the floor that Denmark had rejected the euro in a referendum in 2000, he countered, "well, there has never been a final negative result". He concluded by saying that he found it difficult to envisage why a country would vote no to the euro. Finally, the possibility of introducing a €1 banknote arose. Mr. Tremonti said that he was generally in favour of introducing such a note, especially for the symbolic value that would be attached to the note. He claimed that it could achieve the same symbolic value around the World as the US$1 - a claim which caused some laughter in the Committee room.

From EU Observer, Belgium, 8 July 2003

Political Party Finance Reports Available to Public

Belgrade - The Serbian government approved a bill on financing political parties at a session on Friday, seen as one of the crucial pillars in the fight against corruption. If adopted by parliament next week, the law will take effect on January 1, 2004, Serbian Minister of Finance and Economy Bozidar Djelic told a press conference. According to Djelic, political parties will be obliged to keep a record of the origin, amount and structure of their revenues and expenses, contributions and property. Also, parties must submit annual reports to the parliament's finance board on property and contributions, which will be made available to the public. The bill also stipulates the setting up of an independent auditing body, as well as penalties for breaking the law. According to Djelic, the bill envisages that parties cannot be financed by tax defaulters, convicted individuals, persons dealing with games of chance, or those involved in the import, export, production or sale of excise goods. Under the bill, political parties can be financed from the Serbian budget, the budgets of autonomous provinces and local self-government bodies, or from private sources such as membership fees, contributions and revenues from promotional activities and property. The bill also defines the financing of election campaigns, as well as the financing of non-parliament parties.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 11 July 2003

Permanent Secretary Criticises Tax Policy

Permanent Secretary Raimo Sailas believes the current system of gradated taxation is problematic. He agreed in part with criticism by the director of the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, Pentti Vartia. Vartia said earlier this week that the tax system should be changed to the same flat rate for everyone, instead of the current system in which the amount you make determines the tax percentage. Sailas said the current system does somewhat limit the income gap between rich and poor, but that it has many problems as well. For example, he said that focusing tax cuts for small incomes means that the percent tax for higher incomes would have to be increased. However, Sailas told a Western Savo newspaper that Vartia's scheme wouldn't work entirely either. But he did say it was "refreshing" that new ideas are being discussed. He does expect the government to continue talking about tax cuts in the upcoming budget talks in the fall.

From YLE24 Online, Finland, 12 July 2003

Freedom to Tax Remains Secure

It is an article of faith that increasing globalisation of economies must lead to a convergence of countries' taxes, so national governments will have less and less freedom to tax as they would wish - especially if their country is a member of the European Union. There is only one problem with this argument: the facts do not support it. In practice, the only areas in which governments have been forced to adjust their tax policies in response to economic globalisation is in the reduction of tax rates - both income and corporate - and, in a few countries, the reduction or abolition of taxes on capital and capital income. Believers in the inevitability of global tax convergence are apt to confuse tax convergence with common trends. It is a common trend that income tax rates have decreased and that VAT and social security contribution (NIC) rates have increased. But if, for example, income tax rates decline by a greater amount in countries with previously low rates than in those with previously high rates, divergence will have occurred. In practice, whether one is talking about tax levels, tax structures or tax rates, some countries converge towards an average and others diverge. There is no reason to believe that this pattern will greatly change over the next years.

Domestic tax choices may be subdivided into four categories. First, what should be the tax take (usually measured by the ratio of total tax revenues to GDP)? Second, what should be the tax mix (measured by the ratio of revenues from each tax to GDP or total tax revenues)? Third, with each kind of tax it is necessary to prescribe a rate structure and the base to which it is applied. Fourth, each tax generates numerous choices. For example, within the personal income tax, should the rate schedule be indexed for inflation? Should different sources of income be taxed alike or differently and should relief for parents be given through the tax system - and if so how - or by way of cash benefits? And so on, for all the other main taxes. In all four categories, different countries have made different choices. To some extent it is possible to explain why they have made their choice, but in the last resort they have done so because they like it that way; and usually there has been nothing to stop them from doing what they want to do. Neighbouring countries with similar outlooks and cultures might be expected to make similar tax policy choices, and often they do. Surprisingly, they also on occasion make totally different choices. There are many differences, for example, between Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. They rely mostly on different revenue sources - respectively, income tax, consumption taxes, employers' and employees' contributions.

Also, 30 years ago they were the highest taxed countries in the OECD area; Denmark and Sweden remain the top two, but Norway and the Netherlands are at present only just above the EU average. Their choices in the third and fourth categories mentioned above are also often very different. The EU constraint on its member country tax policy choices is confined to consumption taxation, where much national freedom still remains - for example, countries are free to impose any standard rate of VAT, provided it is at least 15%, or any excise rate at all on wine. The European commission has important reasons for seeking maximum tax harmonisation - reduction of trade barriers, economic distortions and tax evasion - but member countries give greater priority to meeting their revenue needs in the way they prefer. Thus there is no validity in the Europhobe argument that EU membership seriously constrains countries' tax policy choices. Sub-national tax subsidiarity is less alive and well than is national subsidiarity. Giving state or local governments more power in practice often meant giving them greater expenditure functions with less tax revenue to pay for them, a problem particularly acute in the United States, where spending cuts forced on states by balanced budget laws may yet bury the Bush presidency. Ken Messere is former head of the fiscal affairs division at the OECD. He is co-author of Tax Policy: Theory and Practice in OECD Countries, with Flip de Kam and Christopher Heady; OUP, £75.

From Guardian, UK, by Ken Messere, 14 July 2003

The German Government Aims to Limit Additional New Borrowing Next Year to Pay for Accelerated Tax Cuts to Around 4.5 Billion Euros by Boosting Privatization Revenues, a Government Source Said on Wednesday

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder intends to bring forward 15.5 billion euros of tax cuts planned for 2005 by a year to stimulate Europe's largest economy, which is in its third year of stagnation. The cost in lost income to the federal budget is around seven billion euros, all of which has so far been pencilled in to the draft 2004 budget as ``new borrowing.'' The source said the difference between the 4.5 billion euros and the draft budget's seven billion euros in borrowing would be made up by privatizations worth around two billion euros. Privatization revenues are likely to come as in previous years by parking government shares in former state monopolies such as Deutsche Telekom AG and Deutsche Post AG with state bank Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau, another government source said. Such shares are legally "sold'' to KfW with the aim that they are then sold on. Schroeder and Finance Minister Hans Eichel will present the financing plans at a news conference at 1130 GMT, a government spokesman said. The plans mean the bulk of the cost of the tax cuts to the federal government will be made up via new borrowing and give a net boost to the economy, analysts said.

However, they cautioned against expecting too much and cast doubt on whether Wednesday's figures would be the final word, given the 2004 budget is not due to be adopted until the autumn. "I think the new borrowing will be more than expected because the assumptions on which the budget are based, particularly in terms of revenues, are rather optimistic,'' said Rainer Guntermann of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. "It's still too early to say how the tax cuts will be financed and I'm sure many of the figures we're seeing at the moment will change,'' he added. In total, the draft 2004 federal budget currently foresees 30.8 billion euros in new borrowing. The federal deficit accounts for around half Germany's total public sector deficit, which is relevant for compliance with European Union rules. Eichel has said the 8.5 billion euros cost of the tax cut plans to lower levels of government is already covered by subsidy cuts he has pencilled into the draft budget. However, both the subsidy cuts and the plans to bring forward the tax cuts require approval by the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament. The tax cut plans have sparked fears Germany could bust the EU's budget deficit limits for a third year in a row, potentially leading to a financial penalty under the terms of the bloc's Stability and Growth Pact.

From CNN, 16 July 2003

Government U-turn on Private Finance for IT

The pace of technological change and nature of IT contracts meant that the Private Finance Initiative was not delivering value for money - The government has scrapped the use of controversial Private Finance Initiative deals for public sector IT contracts following a catalogue of costly high-profile projects. A report by the Treasury, PFI: meeting the investment challenge, concluded that while PFI was working in many sectors, it was not delivering value for money in IT contracts. One of the objectives of using the PFI model in IT was to introduce third-party finance into IT projects to transfer more risk to the vendor. However, botched PFI projects such as the £698m cancelled Pathway project to develop benefits payment smartcards and the £134m overspend on the Libra system for the courts have led to a major government policy rethink. The report said: "Many aspects central to IT procurement do not fit well with the central requirements of PFI."

These include the fast pace of change in the technology sector and the fact IT costs are generally not an upfront capital sum but ongoing running costs, according to the report. Most traditional PFI projects are also based on fixed scope and outcome such as a hospital or school but the tendency for requirements to change significantly during the course of IT projects has caused problems. The report said: "The close links between IT infrastructure and organisational operational needs, combined with the rapid pace of technological change, frequently make it difficult to codify long-term IT requirements into an effective contract, especially over the time periods PFI agreements typically cover. Generally the service requirement in an IT contract is likely to change frequently during the course of a contract." Within the report a study of responses from 11 operational public sector PFI IT contracts found only a fifth of projects had delivered most of the benefits defined at the outset.

The Treasury now recommends that conventional methods of procurement should be used for negotiating IT contracts and said it will be down to individual departments to decide whether to proceed on a PFI basis with contracts currently under negotiation. IT industry trade body Intellect has welcomed the government's u-turn, saying it will lead to more successful public sector IT contracts. Nick Kalisperas, senior programme manager for Intellect, told ZDNet UK's sister site silicon.com: "Our members have expressed disquiet about it in the past. PFI only works when there are clearly defined outcomes. With IT projects the technology and the requirements of the project change very regularly and very quickly within a long-term arrangement." He said Intellect will be talking to the Treasury and the Office of Government Commerce through the Senior IT Forum to develop new advice on IT procurement for government departments.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, by Andy McCue, 17 July 2003

Finance Ministry Expects Public Finance Deficit to Top 8 % of GDP This Year

Prague - The Czech Finance Ministry expects the government deficit (excluding net lending) to reach CZK 196.4 bn in 2003, or 8.3 % of GDP. The prediction is found in the Ministry's latest macroeconomic forecast, released this week. The deficit, excluding net lending and subsidies to transformation institutions, will reach 7.0 % of GDP this year, up from 3.9 % last year. In addition to transformation costs, the Ministry says the increasing deficit stems from rising mandatory expenses - particularly welfare expenditures. These will continue to grow faster than revenues, says the Ministry. The estimates for public finance deficits have risen since the bank's April forecast, due in part to the country's payment of CZK 10.7 bn to CME because of a lost arbitration over TV Nova. A European Investment Bank loan for the settlement of flood damage was also included. Government debt is expected to increase to CZK 582.5 bn this year, rising from 19.5 % of GDP in 2002 to 24.5 % of GDP this year. State debt accounts for 88 % of government debt. The government has drafted a plan to reform public finance designed to bring the deficit to 4 % of GDP by 2006. To adopt the euro, a state must have a public finance deficit below 3 % of GDP. Parliament is to vote on the public finance reform bill later this month.

From Interfax, Czech Republic, 18 July 2003

MPs Approve Government's Finance Reform Package in 1st Reading

Prague - The Chamber of Deputies on Thursday approved the government's public finance reform package in the first reading. The government's reform plan comprises eleven public finance reform bills. MPs will have the chance to introduce amendments to the legislation in the second and third readings. Deputies will vote on a final version at the end of September. The approval represents a victory for the ruling coalition, which lost its narrow 1-seat majority in parliament earlier this week, when an MP from the Social Democratic (CSSD) party, which leads the coalition, announced that he would leave the CSSD's deputies' club. All members of the CSSD-led government, which also includes the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union, remained united to pass the package in the first reading. The senior opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Communist Party (KSCM) voted against the reform plan.

The reforms, a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, should bring 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. To achieve its goals, the Cabinet is considering public sector staff cuts and a clampdown on wage growth. The legislation also makes changes to the Czech pension system, sick-leave benefits, health-care insurance, social benefits and the tax system. In addition, the government wants to reduce the volume of state support for building society savings plans, and has also proposed introducing mandatory double-entry book keeping for entrepreneurs with annual turnover of more than CZK 3 mln. Deputies in the first reading also approved a proposal to freeze the wages of institutional authorities for three years.

From Interfax, Czech Republic, 25 July 2003

 

U.S. Shows Willingness to Reform Auditing, Tax Policies Overseas

In recent months, tension has been rising between the U.S. and foreign governments over jurisdiction over accounting firm oversight, and perceived unfair corporate tax breaks. Now, U.S. officials are publicly expressing a willingness to show some flexibility in their policies to avoid an all-out confrontation. PCAOB Oversight of Foreign Firms At a news conference in London, Ethiopis Tafara, acting international director at the Securities and Exchange Commission, indicated that it may not be possible for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board itself to inspect all firms providing audit services to U.S. companies. His statement alluded to the possibility that the PCAOB could work cooperatively with other foreign regulators to ensure a high standard for investor protection. He added that the PCAOB would still need direct access to work papers in the event of a fraud investigation. Accounting regulators around the world have been at odds with the PCAOB for months because of the U.S. regulator's insistence that it have oversight authority over all foreign public accounting firms that provide audit services for U.S. corporations.

Senate Urged to Reform Unfair Corporate Tax Breaks In May 2003, the European Union issued an ultimatum to the United States - end illegal export subsidies or face retaliation. At the heart of the dispute is a system of tax breaks for major companies known as the foreign sales corporations (FSC) program. The EU has targeted a number of products receiving these special breaks including nuclear reactors, iron and steel, aluminum, electrical machinery, textiles and clothing, fruit, and grains. This week, John Veroneau, general counsel in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative told the Senate Finance Committee that time is running out, and urged Congress to reform the law. "I suspect that if by the end of the [congressional] session we have not shown serious progress in passing legislation to replace [the tax laws that violate international trade rules], I think next January we face a very high likelihood of retaliation," he said. Senate Finance Committee chairman Charles Grassley has indicated his intentions to introduce legislation in the next few weeks to reform the law, and bi-partisan support for the change in law has been shown in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

From Accountingweb.com, IN, 10 July 2003

Lawmakers Stand Behind New Tax Policy

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and legislative leaders said today they won't back away from a new sales tax collection policy that has some Kansas business owners confused and others fuming. The new policy - called "destination sourcing" - took effect on Tuesday and imposes sales tax at the rate where a consumer takes possession or delivery of a product. Businesses that deliver goods across a wide area of the state must compute a different sales tax rate in every jurisdiction where they do business. This morning, House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, and Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, asked the governor to temporarily halt the new policy, arguing that businesses didn't have time to adjust to the changes, which passed late in the session and without a debate before the full House. Both Mays and Kerr voted in favor of the plan. "Small businesses, in particular, need relief," Mays said. "Given the current economy, the business climate in Kansas is fragile. We should not be jeopardizing their well-being by placing onerous burdens on them, but should work hard to help foster a favorable business environment in Kansas."

But at a joint afternoon news conference at her Statehouse office, Sebelius said that because the new tax policy is the law of the land, she doesn't have the authority to impose a moratorium on it or any other Kansas law. She was joined by Kerr, Mays, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, and Assistant House Minority Leader R.J. Wilson, D-Pittsburg. The group issued a joint statement saying they stand behind the new policy. They also re-emphasized that the Kansas Department of Revenue will focus on educating Kansas businessmen and businesswomen rather than imposing sanctions. "I don't think there's any intent to back away from the law," Sebelius said. "Kansas is now kind of on the cutting edge. We're the front edge of this." The change is designed to simplify and standardize Kansas' sales tax policy so it conforms with those of other states that are members of a consortium working to design a system for taxing Internet sales. Officials estimate Kansas loses more than $70 million annually to online sales that go untaxed. Revenue Secretary Joan Wagnon said her agency will emphasize service rather than sanctions. No penalties will be imposed on businesses during the six-month grace period, she said.

From Topeka Capital Journal, KS, 2 July 2003

Venezuela's Finance (Hacienda) Ministry Preparing External Bond Issue

VenAmCham's Jose Gregorio Pineda (chief economist) and Jose Gabriel Angarita (economist) write: According to reports published in the El Universal, the Venezuelan Finance Ministry is preparing a bond issue of approximately 2 billion bolivares, to be placed overseas. The bonds will mature in 10 years. The idea is for holders of bonds maturing in the second half of this year and next year to swap them for the new securities, and thereby relieve the pressure on public finance. Finance Minister Tobias Nobrega said one of the problems Venezuela faces is the high concentration of debt maturities, and that it can be overcome with an adequate refinancing policy, debt swaps, and extension of maturities for the foreign debt. According to figures published in the same report, Venezuela has to make US$4.506 billion of foreign debt service payments this year, with $2.985 billion corresponding to principal and $1.52 billion interest ... another $4 billion will be payable in 2004. The proposal should not be viewed in isolation. The first thing to consider is the conditions under which the government seeks to conduct the swap, since maturity is not the only factor involved when contemplating a transaction of this kind; another is the high interest rates that would be payable, which could seriously compromise the country's fiscal solvency. The high cost of internal public debt should not be neglected either.

It is accumulating to levels that pose a serious threat to fiscal solvency. And on top of all this is the impact of a devaluation on the foreign debt burden. Public finance needs to be managed with great care, especially following National Tax Superintendent Jose Vielma Mora's announcement that tax receipts are down 16% so far this year. Given the expectations for economic contraction, the distortions in productive industry due to the foreign exchange restriction, company shut-downs, and a possible reduction of oil revenue, a recovery of tax collection would seem rather unlikely, not only for the rest of this year but probably in 2004 as well. In view of this scenario, the public borrowing policy (both internal and external) needs to make room for these factors, to avoid compromising the National Treasury's long-term solvency still more. The accumulation of debt and the deterioration of economic activity at the present time have driven Venezuela's debt to product ratio above 40%. Given the interest rates now being demanded by the markets, the possible effects of a devaluation, and the steady deterioration of the tax base due to the absence of economic growth, this augurs for enormous future fiscal sacrifice, threatening Venezuela's fiscal solvency. The authorities should take measures to prevent this costly growth of debt in the short term from provoking a grave problem of fiscal sustainability for future generations.

From Venezuela Electronic News, Venezuela, 11 July 2003

'US Tax Policy Should Boost Demand'

Basel - The US administration's tax policy should spark economic demand and activity in the United States from the second half of this year, Bank for International Settlements (BIS) general manager Malcolm Knight says. "The effect of tax cuts will help strengthen demand and activity in the second part of the year," he said. Stronger economic activity in the United States will stimulate the economies of other countries, especially the NAFTA members (North American Free Trade Agreement), he said. NAFTA groups Canada, Mexico and the United States. Tax cuts could also stimulate investment, he added, saying: "The level of investment has been quite low because of geo-political uncertainties." In Europe, the good news in the first six months of 2003 had been the "good behaviour of the consumers," Knight said. Representatives of more than 100 central banks and international institutions are attending the Basel-based bank's annual general meeting.

From Basel, 11 July 2003

Tax Policy That Uses Economies of Scales

As most full-time residents of foreign vacation spots will tell you, Americans are fat. And, as statistics will tell you, we're getting fatter. Doctors and nutritionists have been encouraging us to slim down for years. But to solve a big part of this big problem of big people, we need economics. Wait a second, this sounds like economists' getting too big for their breeches again. Next they'll be telling us how to appreciate art or find a soul mate, right? Not quite. In many cases, the problem of obesity fits well into an economic model. First of all, obesity often persists as a result of individual choice. It may result from a disease or an inherited condition. But most individuals have the power to affect their own weight through diet, exercise and other habits. Second, obesity is easily observable. A few measurements are all it takes to place a person somewhere along the continuum from dangerously skinny to Brobdingnagian. Third, an individual's obesity can affect many people. As a result, it becomes a societal issue as well as a medical problem. Precisely identifying these effects can be difficult. At least one seems much more important than squeezed seats on airplanes, however. Obesity increases the risk of many medical problems. When someone has a heart attack, chances are either taxpayers or members of a private insurance plan will foot most of the bill. And, thanks to modern medicine, the obese elderly survive almost as long as their thinner counterparts. Last month, a state assemblyman from Brooklyn suggested a tax on fatty foods to discourage their consumption.

An economist might take exception to this plan, because the tax would punish even people who ate such foods in moderation. Of course, that has not stopped similar justifications for taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. Even if you have just one drink or cigarette a year, you still pay heavy "sin" taxes. Two weeks ago, Kraft Foods decided to lower the fat content of some recipes and reduce the sizes of single-serving snacks. Again, this approach is slightly clumsy. Even if you're eating rice cakes, you'll gain weight if you eat enough of them. And though some Americans may be happy with a smaller packet of cookies, others may just buy two and finish them both. (Kraft said nothing about cutting the snacks' prices in line with the portions.) Another kind of remedy might have more success. The problem is obesity, not fatty food or anything else that contributes to being overweight. So why not take aim at obesity directly? Basic economics recommends taxing individual behaviors that hurt society. But taxing overweight people, perhaps by identifying them and then assessing them some social cost of obesity every year, sounds draconian and impractical. A more palatable solution might be to collect a lump-sum tax from every American and put the proceeds into a reward pool. Each year, anyone who wanted to could go to an existing government office for a simple series of measurements.

People who registered normal weights throughout the year would receive cash rewards from the pool - much like a tax refund. This system would still tax obesity, though it would not tax the heaviest people more than the merely rotund. Nor would it tax the middle-aged and disease-prone more than the roly-poly young. Nevertheless, the incentive to lose a few pounds might be quite powerful. TO see why, consider just one cost of the overweight and obese population: the extra burden it imposes on the Medicare and Medicaid programs paid for by taxpayers. A study published in May by Eric Finkelstein and Ian Fiebelkorn of RTI International, a research group in North Carolina, and Guijing Wang of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put that figure at $40 billion to $50 billion a year. The average cost to society is about $250 a year for each of about 180 million heavy Americans. There are about 300 million Americans in total, so setting the lump-sum tax at $100 a year would yield $30 billion for the reward pool - enough to reward about 120 million Americans of normal weight with checks for $250. Most likely, not everyone of normal weight would collect the reward. High-income thin people, for example, might be too busy for the weigh-in. These no-shows would allay the regressive nature of the lump-sum tax, as well as leave plenty of money to cover administrative costs. Those who are not obese would be $150 richer on balance, while obese Americans would be out $100 - a total difference of $250. And $250, though perhaps not foie gras, is not exactly chicken feed.

From New York Times by Daniel Altman, 12 July 2003

Argentina, Feeling Cheated, Cracks Down on Tax Evasion

Buenos Aires - The idea of selling 500-pound cows without paying taxes might seem absurd until you consider the following: In Argentina, about 50 million head of cattle are registered with animal health authorities, but only 25 million are registered by the tax collection agency. So how do you make a Black Angus cow, fat and skittish and snorting hot steam, tax free? Through the long tradition of ventas al oído, or ear sales, private deals at auctions that skirt the 10.5 percent tax on cattle sales. That tradition and other forms of tax cheating are now under attack by Argentina's new president, Néstor Kirchner, who has made recovering at least part of the estimated $7 billion to $9 billion in taxes evaded each year by Argentines his first major fiscal reform since his inauguration in May. Fighting tax evasion is crucial for South America's second-largest economy, which in late 2001 declared the largest foreign debt default in world history and is just now showing signs of recovering from a brutal five-year recession, its worst economic bloodbath ever.

The economic crisis, in fact, increased tax-evasion rates, already high because of the country's oddly circular reasoning: keep tax rates exorbitantly high in order to make up for its toleration of one of the highest rates of tax avoidance in the Western Hemisphere. ''The tax rate is too high for profit margins, creating an irresistible temptation to evade,'' explained Marcelo Rosas, 37, for 20 years an above-the-counter auctioneer at the Liniers cattle market in the mataderos, or slaughterhouses, section of Buenos Aires. "This system counts on - or at least it counted on - the complicity of the state." ''If the government really tried to enforce taxes, half the country would shut down,'' said Luciana Díaz Frers, a fiscal policy expert for the watchdog Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth, or CIPPEC. Kirchner, a reformer who in his first two months in office has displaced entrenched leaders in the armed forces, the retiree healthcare program and the Supreme Court, appears ready to take on tax evaders. On the Agenda - His tax chief, Alberto Abad, last month proposed a series of laws punishing the use of false invoices, foreign tax havens and under-the-table salaries. Crucial to the proposed changes is adding teeth to tax enforcement, from increasing penalties for the worst evaders to using undercover investigators to expose tax frauds. ''The president has put tax reform back on the political agenda,'' said Abad, head of the Federal Administration for Public Income, known as the AFIP, during a recent interview with The Herald. "We are trying to bring back a taxpaying culture that will allow Argentina to reinsert into the world.''

The crackdown on tax cheats has already begun. On July 3, the tax agency unveiled its largest sting ever, with about 1,400 inspectors serving search warrants on 187 supermarkets, banks, television studios and other suspected members of a tax-fraud ring that skirted $71 million in payments using false receipts. The Kirchner administration has also started legal efforts to prosecute a prominent businessman as an important signal that it will not spare the rich. Eduardo Eurnekian, who made his fortune managing 33 privatized Argentine airports, faces charges of using a Caribbean tax haven to avoid $5 million in taxes on the sale of a television station in the mid-1990s. The charges carry prison terms from three to nine years. But for Kirchner to succeed, he will have to battle Argentina's long tradition of tax evasion, a practice some suggest is rooted in the country's first national industry: contraband. Buenos Aires was born as a back door for European smugglers in the 17th and 18th centuries who wanted to avoid Spain's tightly regulated trade routes to Peru. ''Tax evasion is a national sport here,'' said business journalist Jorge Oviedo of the newspaper La Nación. "In Europe, they complain about taxes but they don't applaud those who don't pay them. Here, we don't just applaud evaders - we ask them how they did it." Argentines hold the distinction of having one of the most skewed tax systems in the hemisphere, with nominal tax rates - a 21 percent sales tax on most items and income taxes from 9 percent to 35 percent - that rival European welfare states and yet an actual collection rate under 20 percent, in line with its developing Southern Cone neighbors. That translates to a loss of between $7 billion and $9 billion in potential tax proceeds per year, according to leading tax expert Alfredo Lamagrande.

The actual extent of evasion is notoriously hard to measure. In its most recent study in 1998, the Argentine tax agency estimated sales-tax evasion alone at 27 percent, meaning for every $4 spent legitimately, $1 was slipped under the counter. But as the Argentine economy worsened over the past five years, so, it appears, did evasion. In 2000, the watchdog Institute for Studies on the Argentine and Latin American Reality, or IERAL, measured sales-tax evasion at 42 percent, one of the worst rates in the hemisphere. Sales-tax evasion in Chile is estimated at 18 percent and Uruguay is 30 percent. ''When it comes between feeding your children and paying taxes,'' auctioneer Rosas explained, "you evade." Economists argue that reducing evasion would not only bring in higher tax receipts that would help the country repay its $144 billion debt, but it would force Argentine industries to be efficient, rather than sneaky, to stay competitive. Cracking down on tax cheats hasn't been high on the political agenda since the reign of Carlos Tacchi, chief tax collector in the early 1990s under President Carlos Menem. Tacchi boosted tax collection from 15 percent to 22 percent of gross domestic product. But with the latest economic downturn, the collection rate dipped again. The government collects about $2 billion, or 14 percent, less per year than during the Tacchi era. Root Causes -

Some experts maintain that Kirchner's crackdown doesn't address the root causes: o An overly complex tax system. The AFIP adopts more than 400 new tax regulations in an average year, compared to 12 new tax laws in the United States, congressman Carlos Balter wrote in an article on tax evasion. o One of the world's most inefficient tax agencies. The AFIP spends four times more for every tax dollar it collects than the IRS, according to a 1994 study by the IERAL. o Leniency for late taxpayers. The government has offered discounted repayment plans, on average, once every two years, creating an incentive to avoid paying on time. Such endemic problems have made many Argentines deeply skeptical about the new government's determination to collect more taxes. ''Kirchner's proposal is more political rhetoric than a true plan against evasion,'' scoffed Pablo Gerchunoff, the chief economic advisor to two previous presidents. Abad argued, however, that fighting evasion is just part of a plan that includes improving customer service, simplifying tax law and educating schoolchildren on why taxpaying is important. The effort, he said, coupled with a nascent economic recovery, is beginning to pay dividends: This year, he expects to collect 1 ½ times the tax proceeds of 2002. But perhaps the highest hurdle for any lasting change, Abad and others agreed, is combating widespread disgust with ineffective government. ''Many people here feel defrauded by the government and don't want to contribute to it,'' tax expert Lamagrande said. "Without coupling this crackdown with increased efficiency of public spending and the elimination of corruption, people will continue to evade."

From Miami Herald, FL, 21 July 2003

President Talks Up Tax Policy for Boosting Economy

Livonia, Mich. - Bush Calls for Expanding Child Credit, but GOP Is Wary - President Bush paid a quick visit today to two states that he lost in the 2000 election but hopes to carry next year, promising that the tax cuts he has championed will soon begin to create more jobs while pressing Congress to extend the expanded child tax credit to the lowest-income Americans. Bush's first stop was at the Treasury Department's Regional Financial Center in Philadelphia, where some of the first checks that will go to taxpayers from the expansion of the child tax credit are being processed. But the expanded tax credit, from $600 to $1,000 per child retroactive to Jan. 1, will not benefit an estimated 6.5 million families that do not earn enough to have to pay federal income taxes. The Senate has passed a bill that would extend the tax credit to those families, but House Republican leaders are strongly opposed. Calling on lawmakers to break the impasse and accept the Senate measure, Bush told an enthusiastic audience of workers at Beaver Aerospace & Defense Inc. here, "The child credit must be given to low-income Americans as well. I want the benefits of tax relief all across the spectrum of our society." In May, Bush and congressional Republicans excluded these low-income families from the child tax credit because they do not pay federal income taxes.

Many Republicans have made the case that only those who pay income taxes should get income tax credits. Although some Republicans worry the issue could hurt them, particularly with women, independent voters and the poor, they are unwilling to compromise a core principle of their economic philosophy. "We are doing things that stimulate the economy - period," Rep. Thomas Davis III (R-Va.) said. The issue has "some marginal political value," he said, "but it's not a huge political issue." A GOP leader added that because Bush is not applying heavy pressure on House Republicans to act, they are unlikely to budge. House Republicans are willing to extend the benefit, but only as part of a larger package that would boost the credit to $1,000 through 2010 and allow families making as much as $150,000 eligible for it. Some Senate Republicans, led by Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), are pushing for a less costly compromise. Still, the House is expected to recess Friday and the Senate next week without a deal. As Bush hailed the mailings of the tax checks, Democrats intensified their pressure on House Republicans and the president to provide the per-child tax credit to those families passed over in the latest round. "Mr. President: Be honest," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "Twelve million children, including 250,000 children of active-duty military families, are not getting these checks. They want to know what you are going to do about it besides pose for pretty pictures. They want you to get the House Republicans to expand the child tax credit now."

House Democrats demanded a series of floor votes as a way to protest the GOP's refusal to embrace their expansion of the children's tax credit. They plan to hold several news conferences Friday, including one targeting Hispanic audiences, to draw attention to their campaign. Democrats also are planning television ads highlighting the 4.1 million Hispanic children who would benefit from their plan. Michigan and Pennsylvania are critical swing states in presidential elections, and are particularly important now because the sluggish economy poses a threat to Bush and his party in 2004. So on this whirlwind swing through the two states, Bush marshaled the arguments that he will use during the campaign in defense of his economic policies. His central theme was that the tax cuts he pushed through Congress, which Democrats say will mostly benefit the wealthiest Americans, will work their way through the economy, multiplying economic activity and creating jobs to meet growing demand from consumers and businesses that want to expand. "There's a ripple effect throughout our economy," Bush said here. "As people make decisions, whether you're a consumer, or whether you're a small-business owner trying to buy a machine, it affects economic vitality and growth. It affects more than just one life. And that's the whole purpose of the tax plan, to have a ripple effect throughout the economy that's positive and far-reaching."

Bush said the country was "sliding into recession" when he took office, and that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "caused the economy to sputter." But he said that because of the first round of tax cuts he won from Congress, "the recession we're in is one of the shallowest recessions our country has had." The president acknowledged that the federal budget deficit has ballooned while he has been in office, but he blamed this on the sluggish economy, which has depressed government tax receipts, and on the cost of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. "We've got a deficit, as well, because I'm spending the money necessary to win the war," Bush said in Philadelphia. "My attitude is when we put our troops in harm's way, they deserve the best." But Bush also called on Congress to exercise spending restraint and said he has a plan to cut the deficit in half over five years, largely from growth in tax receipts that he predicts will result from increased economic activity. Tonight, before returning to Washington, Bush attended a fundraising event for his reelection campaign in nearby Dearborn. It is part of the torrid pace of fundraising that already has given him a huge financial advantage over Democratic presidential contenders. VandeHei reported from Washington. (© 2003 The Washington Post Company).

From Washington Post, DC, by Edward Walsh and Jim VandeHei, 25 July 2003

PNC Capital Markets Adds Experienced Professionals To Public Finance Team

Pittsburgh - New personnel will focus on higher education, health care and government business - PNC Capital Markets, a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC), has hired Michael Zubasic as a managing director on its top-ranked public finance team along with Jason DiMartini and Rebecca Mulvay. With more than 20 years of investment banking experience, Zubasic returns to PNC Capital Markets as a managing director and acting manager of its public finance office in Pittsburgh. He will lead the Government group for the Western region, which serves Pittsburgh and Erie, and report directly to Charlotte McLaughlin, chief executive officer and president of PNC Capital Markets. "These three individuals add strength to our talented and seasoned team of banking professionals and reflects PNC's commitment to this business, providing financial advisory services as well as underwriting and distributing debt securities for government, health care, non-profit and educational issuers," McLaughlin said.

Zubasic's professional experience includes director of capital projects and debt management for Allegheny County, in southwest Pennsylvania, and senior analyst with Moody's Investors Service. His investment banking experience includes a previous tenure of 11 years at PNC as well as with RBC Dain Rasucher and Mellon Financial Markets. DiMartini brings nearly a decade of experience in investment banking in the public finance arena, including director, Grant Street Group (formerly doing business as Grant Street Advisors and MuniAuction); vice president of Fixed Income Banking, RBC Dain Rauscher; and vice president of Public Finance, Mellon Financial Markets. He also returns to PNC as a managing director. Mulvay's experience in public finance dates back to 1995. She rejoins PNC as a senior associate. The largest bank headquartered in Pennsylvania, PNC operates four public finance offices across the Commonwealth with locations in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre.

PNC Capital Markets is the marketing name used for investment banking and capital markets activities conducted by The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., through its subsidiaries, PNC Bank, National Association, and PNC Capital Markets, Inc. PNC Capital Markets, Inc., is not a bank and is a distinct legal entity from PNC Bank, National Association. Services such as public finance, underwriting debt securities, securities sales and trading, mergers and acquisitions advisory services, private placements, securitization of assets and the arrangement of syndicated loans are offered by PNC Capital Markets, Inc. Derivatives and foreign exchange products are offered through PNC Bank, National Association. The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., headquartered in Pittsburgh, is one of the nation's largest diversified financial services organizations, providing regional community banking; wholesale banking, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management; asset management; and global fund services.

From PRNewswire, 25 July 2003

 
 

Pragmatic Policies Will Enhance Growth of Private Sector

Accra - A pragmatic national policy framework specifically targeted at stimulating growth in the private sector is an essential ingredient for giving meaning to the government's Golden Age of Business, an Economist said on Tuesday. Mr. Kwabena Oku-Afari, Principal Economist at the Ministry of Finance, said implementation of a set of comprehensive policies that addressed concerns of industry, investment, environment, energy, small and medium scale enterprises (Sees) and entrepreneurship development were key to a successful private sector. "It is in this direction that government was making every effort to ensure that a conducive environment was created for the private sector to thrive", Mr. Oku-Afari said, at a lecture organised by the Institute of Accountancy Training as part of its annual accountancy week. It is on the broad theme: "The Public Sector in the Golden Age of Business." His topic was: "The Golden Age of Business: Pre-Conditions for the Take-off." Mr. Oku-Afari said the establishment of the Ministry of Private Sector Development was an attempt by government to facilitate the development and growth of a competitive private sector to facilitate the Golden Age of Business. He said government was also pursuing prudent fiscal and monetary policies to maintain stable prices and exchange rates and improve gross reserves to about three months of imports in effort to stimulate the growth of the private sector.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 9 July 2003

The Spectacle of Failed Privatization - East African Banks Collapse After Divestiture

Accra - Public Agenda has information to the effect that privatization of banks in sister African countries have yielded no good returns. Following persistent claims by government sources that it would only take the sale of 46.8 % state shares to make Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) efficient, Public Agenda launched a vigorous research into the divestiture of banks in other African countries and what the divestiture left in its trail. The results obtained have been quite revealing. A 2003 World Bank Report titled "Success and Failure in Bank Privatisation from Six Country Case Studies" attests to the fact that privatisations of banks in many cases in Africa ended in failure. Written by Alfred Darmmert and Esaperanza Lasagabaster and sponsored by SASFP, the report concluded that in the case of bank privatisation "a mere change of hands has not always yielded positive results, and in some cases, it has even been followed by a crisis." Besides, this and other World Bank reports strongly suggest that, "if macro conditions are not favourable banks should not go through any reform." Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania are the three countries the report covered. The report said in the case of Mozambique, just a few years after privatisation, banks were experiencing financial distress. The SASFP report claims that the financial distress was caused because "the building blocks were missing: regulations were weak and supervision lax and markets were not fully developed."

The report said the failed privatization of Banco Comercial de Mozambique and Banco Austral, which were sold in 1996 and 1997 "came at a heavy cost to the state, which still owns minority stakes in the banks." In the case of Uganda, Louis A. Kasekende, Executive Director of World Bank reported that the process of privatization itself was marred by corruption. Kasekende said the Central Bank of Uganda was in fact "sold to a buyer without capital, banking reputation and expertise. The buyer secretly assigned the shares to another bank, further weakening the sector." The report points out that although the problem of inefficiency can be a real one, privatization plans under the poverty reduction strategy represents the IMF and World Bank preferences to resort to privatisation over improvements in the existing system. In Uganda, the "IMF's new lending instrument, the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRSF) supports reduction goals of the Poverty Reductions Strategy Paper (PRSP) with an $11 million loan to support its removal of trade protections for its domestic textiles and sugar industries and continuing with the privatisation of the Uganda Commercial Bank. The Ugandan experience bears resemblance to the issues surrounding GCB. The IMF gave three reasons for pushing government to sell state shares.

The three reasons advanced by IMF are; (1) state control of the bank has distorted its lending decisions, putting depositors and shareholders resources in danger (2) the provision by GCB of open ended lending to Tema Oil Refinery has allowed the refinery to avoid or delay reforms of its finances and (3) experiences all over the world show that the private sector runs business better than the public sector. Perhaps, the overriding reason making the sale of GCB a condition for continued budgetary support. In a swift reaction to IMF, the Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC), an advocacy NGO, which is leading the campaign against government's plans to divest GCB argued that IMF's reasons wither in the face of critical examination. ISODEC argues that the GPRS, which is cited in reference to government's, own decision to sell its shares in GCB was prepared at the instance of the Breton Woods Institutions. ISODEC wonders whether setting up a mechanism to bail out strategic industries amounts to distortion in lending decisions. Even in the case of Tanzania, privatization had always concluded that, "the economic and social costs of privatization process has always outweighed the benefits accruing from the whole exercise." The report said financial sector reform and privatization of banks have been ongoing, with substantial portion now in private hands. The sale of the giant NBC in 1997 and the former National Bank of Commerce, which was split into two before it was sold, was quite controversial, according to the report. It was to be sold at 21 billion Tanzania Shillings, as earlier agreed and later sold at only 15 billion Shillings. The report was quite emphatic that "how money accruing from the sale of parastatals are being used remain questionable", across Africa.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Amos Safo, 14 July 2003

 

Government Finalizing Guidelines for Mile Long Privatization

The Government expects to come up by the end of this month with guidelines to govern the sale of pieces of property in the Mile Long development area in Makati City to raise money to cover the budget deficit, an official said Monday. The Department of Finance has identified pieces of land in the area totaling 120,000 square meters that can be sold, said the finance undersecretary for privatization, Eric Recto. He said the final valuation of these pieces of land should be available soon. Inquirer sources said the sale of the identified properties could generate around 2.4 billion pesos for the government. Recto said the government had so far raised only 300 million pesos from the privatization of assets. The government is aiming for one billion pesos from the sale of assets this year. For another piece of property, the former site of the International School, in Makati City, Recto said the government again could find no bidders but several groups were interested in submitting unsolicited proposals to develop the place. The government hopes to keep its budget deficit at no more than 202 billion pesos this year.

From Philippines Daily News, Philippines, 8 July 2003

More Public Works for Private Sector

The Victorian Government has foreshadowed a bigger role for the private sector in providing infrastructure, pointing out that $2 billion worth of projects are in the pipeline. The Treasurer, John Brumby, said that three years after the launch of the Partnerships Victoria policy the Government had contracts with private partners for projects worth $700 million. These included the $300 million Spencer Street Station redevelopment, the $80 million Berwick Community Hospital, an $80 million mobile data network project, and the waste-water treatment project, Enviro Altona ($15 million). The latter two projects were signed in the past two weeks. Other contracted projects are the Wodonga waste-water treatment upgrade, $40 million of work on the film and TV studio at the Docklands, and the Echuca/Rochester waste-water treatment plant. Mr. Brumby, who was addressing a meeting of the Australian Council for Infrastructure Development, said the Government had between $2 billion and $2.5 billion worth of projects "in the market". He said they included the $1.8 billion Mitcham-Frankston Freeway, which had already received two expressions of interest. Other projects were a 300-bed correctional programs centre and a 600-bed remand centre, an emergency alerting system, a metropolitan mobile radio system for emergency services, and the Ballarat/Creswick reclaimed water plant. Mr. Brumby said projects being readied for the market included redevelopment of the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds and the Royal Women's Hospital.

From The Age, Australia, by Philip Hopkins, 7 July 2003

In India, a Turbo Boost for Privatization

The successful divestment of the government's stake in carmaker Maruti has quieted critics and excited investors, both local and foreign Indian Privatization Minister Arun Shourie was meeting in Bombay last month with city officials about telecom infrastructure when he excused himself to take an urgent call. Upon returning three minutes later, the usually solemn and somber Shourie was beaming. An initial public offering of roughly half the government's holding in auto maker Maruti Udyog - about 27.5% of the outstanding shares and valued at around $215 million - had been oversubscribed in the first three hours of selling. Demand was pouring in from all parts of the world, with 10 times more buyers than there were shares. Declared a happy Shourie: "This is a vote for India, for Maruti, and for the capital markets." It's not just Shourie's mood that changed that day. The successful privatization of Maruti - Suzuki owns 54% majority share - has given a shot in the arm to India's slow, painful privatization efforts. Since 1996, successive Indian governments have tried to initiate an ambitious plan to sell off more than a 100 government companies. But groups with vested interests, especially labor, have stalled the efforts, accusing ruling parties of selling off the family silver. As a result, fewer than 20 companies were sold, raising barely $2.5 billion.

But the triumphant divestment of the government's stake in Maruti has quieted many skeptics, making privatization a vote-getter instead of a vote-loser. Also, it surely boosts the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) chances of maintaining power in next year's national elections. Just the Start. The key: the return of the local retail investor and the participation of middle-class India, the BJP's core constituency. Low deposit rates of 4% and a risky stock market had shorn those investors of havens for their savings. But well-managed state-sector companies like Maruti are perceived as solid investments with good returns - almost like government securities. For the first time, "the government needn't be defensive about privatization," says Subir Gokarn, chief economist for Crisil, India's premier rating agency. "It's putting good assets in the hands of the public, and that's positive." Indeed, the Indian public is anxious for more. The government's divestment of most of its Maruti stock has made almost certain the smooth sale later this year of three other state entities - aluminum-maker Nalco and oil refiners/sellers Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum. Combined, the three are expected to bring in more than $2 billion.

The schedule for more such privatizations in 2004 will soon be decided. The mood is so buoyant that state-owned companies are independently declaring themselves open to the idea of privatization. In early July, Bharat Sanchar, India's $5 billion telecom company, surprised investors when it announced its desire to go public. Bankers in Bombay say the appetite among investors for stable private companies is enormous. And the state-run outfits that have used the last few years to restructure operations and become profitable are now attractive to buyers. That's why overdue listings, such as that of $1 billion software-services giant Tata Consultancy Services, are expected to do as well as Maruti. The Maruti sale also reflects a revival of interest in India on the part of foreign investors, who have largely limited themselves to the booming software industry over the last five years. Their absence can be blamed largely on India's slow reform and chaotic politics. Yet of the $215 million raised by the Maruti issue, about a third came from foreigners investing in India for the first time. The confidence-builder? The transparent, methodical process. First came last year's sale of 4% of Maruti to Suzuki Motors, which already owned 50%, allowing it to become the majority player, followed by the sale of the government's 27.5%. The latest Maruti sale, which still leaves some 18% in government hands, also shows that domestic suspicions about foreigners controlling assets in India are waning. Maruti is considered one of the country's crown jewels, yet the fact that it's now majority-owned by a multinational has scarcely raised an eyebrow.

From BusinessWeek, 10 July 2003

Larry Ellison Addresses Indian Audience on Good Governance

New Delhi - First Oracle-HP e-Governance Center of Excellence Launched - ( http://www.oracle.com/tellmemore/?1855595 ) Larry Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle Corp., the world's largest enterprise software company, delivered a keynote and interacted with invited guests in Delhi, today, at the Oracle Executive Summit -- Practices for Progress, via satellite from Oracle's global headquarters at Redwood Shores, California. Oracle India Private Limited (Oracle India), a wholly owned subsidiary of Oracle, also launched the e-Governance Center of Excellence in association with Hewlett-Packard (HP) today. This is the first Oracle-HP e-Governance Center of Excellence in the world. (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20020718/ORCLLOGO ) "We are proud to be a partner in the Indian economy," said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. "By the government and business working together, India becomes more competitive in the world. That's something we're certain is going to happen in the coming years and we're very excited to play our role in making it happen." Shri. D B Inamdar, Minister of Information Technology and Tourism, Government of Karnataka, inaugurated the Oracle-HP e-Governance Center of Excellence which is based at Oracle India's head office at Gurgaon, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. "This Oracle-HP e-Governance Center of Excellence is proof of our commitment to our government customers in India, and the latest milestone in our ongoing commitment to India," said Keith Budge, regional managing director, South East Asia, Oracle Corp.

"The Oracle-HP e-Governance Center of Excellence will help Government departments develop concepts and adopt them swiftly and effectively," said Balu Doraisamy, president, HP India. "I am glad we are partnering Oracle in this project on the tenth year of their presence in the country. I wish them the very best for the future." Oracle India today has a customer base of 6,200 companies, one of the largest enterprise customer-base for any product or services company in the country. The company also has a large partner network which helps in taking Oracle technology and applications products to the Indian market. With two large developments centers at Bangalore and Hyderabad, where 80 percent of Oracle India's more than 3,100 employees work, and more than 300,000 members registered to Oracle's online community in India, Oracle is among the most popular technologies with corporations and governments in the country. The new Oracle-HP e-Governance Center of Excellence will further strengthen Oracle's presence in India, supporting e-Governance initiatives by central, state and local government bodies. The center will provide a platform for the development of model e-Governance applications, showcasing e-Governance applications that are currently being used by various Government agencies in India as well as e-Governance applications by Oracle, HP and their partners.

It will showcase Oracle's successful e-Governance architecture, implemented worldwide by more than 2,000 organizations, with particular emphasis on security, operations continuity, availability, scalability and lowering total cost of ownership. It will also draw from HP's global expertise and experience in the area of futuristic adaptive infrastructure solutions, which are important for e-Governance applications. The Oracle-HP e-Governance Center of Excellence will offer services such as technical consultation, proof of concept and thematic presentations, as well as create awareness amongst decision makers at the central and state-government levels to help effectively define and implement the e-Governance process. The launch of the Oracle-HP e-Governance Center of Excellence was followed by a high powered panel discussion on the subject of good governance with participants including Mr. R Chandrashekhar, Joint Secretary - e-Governance, Ministry of Communication and IT, Government of India; Mr. Gautam Thapar, managing director, Ballarpur Industries Ltd; Mr. Keith Budge, regional managing director, South Asia region, Oracle Corp.; and moderated by noted economist and editor Mr. T N Ninan. Oracle has been involved in the successful implementation of a number of e-Governance projects in India, including a Citizen Services Delivery application (Andhra Pradesh), Commercial & Sales Tax applications (Madhya Pradesh), Treasury Automation (Madhya Pradesh), automation in Municipalities/Local bodies (Gujarat), Urban Development Agencies and Law Enforcement departments (AP Police).

From Stock World, Germany, 10 July 2003

Koizumi Sees Japan Post Privatization in 2007

Tokyo - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Friday he expects Japan Post to be privatized in April 2007 if he is reelected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in September. "There will be a three-year term If I am reelected in the presidential election. Three years are enough for the enactment of legislation in the Diet for the privatization in April 2007," Koizumi told the House of Councillors Budget Committee.

From Japan Today, Japan, 11 July 2003

Stability, Over Privatization, Counts, Says Finance Chief

There are yet no firm plans of selling the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), according to Finance Secretary Jose Isidro N. Camacho. While Malacañang earlier maintained that government should divest from the bank, the finance chief said it was too early to scout for buyers days after the Sandiganbayan ruled that the bank is majority-owned by government. "[Government has] no plans yet (since there's a) need to stabilize the situation still," Camacho said. In an 84-page decision, the Sandiganbayan's First Division last Friday ruled that the 72.2-percent holdings of businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. and his nominees in UCPB belong to government. For his part, recently elected UCPB president and CEO Jose L. Querubin hailed the decision of the anti-graft court. A statement released by the bank on Sunday refers to UCPB as a government financial institution (GFI), and as such, "UCPB [would] benefit from the substantial deposits that both the national and local governments place in GFIs." "We are excited about this decision by the Sandiganbayan as it will allow us to focus on the rehabilitation of the bank. UCPB has an excellent franchise. We can now make sure it finally moves forward," Querubin was quoted as saying. Querubin echoed a comment made by Camacho, that the ruling "should help facilitate [the] UCPB rehabilitation," especially since the bank is now fully undergovernment control.

Last July 7, the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) extended UCPB a P20-billion financial assistance package comprising a P13-billion purchase of the bank's nonperforming assets and a P7-billion 10-year loan that can be converted into equity. The P20-billion bailout package would be sourced from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which would extend the amount to PDIC as a loan. The rehabilitation package was aimed to stem the financial losses of the UCPB even as the unresolved ownership of the bank prevented it from raising more capital. The government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government, earlier sequestered the bank - a move bolstered later on by a Supreme Court ruling, which held that the money used in putting up the bank-the so-called coconut levy fund-was government-owned. Over the past 16 years, the government has been claiming ownership over UCPB since Cojuangco allegedly used the coconut levy fund administered by the state-run Philippine Coconut Authority in buying shares of the bank in 1975. Originally meant to finance projects for the benefit of the coconut industry, the fund-called the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund-was instead invested in private companies like UCPB, San Miguel Corp., Pepsi Cola, among others. The fund was raised from taxes levied on coconut farmers.

From Manila Times, Philippines, by Arnold S. Tenorio, 13 July 2003

China Shows Keen Interest In Privatization Of Oil & Gas Sector

Islamabad, Pakistan - A five-member Chinese delegation, currently visiting Pakistan to evaluate prospective opportunities for investment in the Oil & Gas sector, has evinced keen interest in the privatization of Oil and Gas sector. The delegation led by Mr. Lu Jing, Advisor of DAQUING International (Daquing Oil Group) held a meeting with the Secretary Privatization Commission (PC), Mr. Ahmad Waqar here on Thursday. Briefing the delegation about the opportunities in the Pakistan's Privatisation Program, Mr. Ahmad Waqar, Secretary PC highlighted the transactions relating to the oil and gas sector. He said that Pakistan and China enjoyed warm, deep and strong relations over the past 50 years and we welcome the Chinese investors in all fields particularly in the oil & gas sector. He informed the delegation that the privatization process of state owned down stream company, Pakistan State Oil (PSO) was at final stages, while two upstream companies i.e. Oil & Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) were among the entities being privatized. "Two major transmission and distribution companies in the Gas sector namely Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company would also come on line for privatisation by next year," he added.

He further stated that National Refinery Limited has also now been included in the Privatisation Programme through the sale of 51 % equity with the transfer of management control. The government had improved the enabling environment through restoring investors confidence via macroeconomic stabilization, continuity of economic, deregulation and investment policies and putting in place effective regulatory regimes for all sectors to provide level playing field for the investors from around the world, he said. Mr. Ahmad Waqar further stated that a number of multinational Exploration & Production (E & P) companies were active in Pakistan. Combination of potentially significant growth in energy demand, the continuing deregulation and recent large gas discoveries had made Pakistan investment friendly for E & P companies, he observed. He emphasized the wish of the Government of Pakistan to transform and accelerate the existing strong bonds of friendship into further strengthening of business relations. The leader of the delegation Mr. Lu Jing said that Chinese investors were eager to invest and cooperate in the development of Pakistan. The members of the delegation expressed keen interest in the Pakistan's Privatisation Program. The Chinese delegation included experts from upstream, Fdownstream and marketing areas of Oil & Gas sector.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 25 July 2003

 

'Private Sector Key to Regeneration' Says Report

London - New research has shown that London's financial institutions, banks and other City investors have a vital role to play in business start-ups and the regeneration of run-down areas. The study, by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), into private sector funding of public sector projects around the world found that many schemes had proved successful in generating local economic development. Dr Sergio Arzeni, OECD director, said: "The report shows that different approaches to taxation, public debt and bank regulation do give rise to different economic developments in each country." "However, the report also shows that making local investment markets work well needs more than extra money. It needs dedicated work by the local development professionals to improve propositions and returns available," he added.

Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas, acting vice-chair at the London Development Agency (LDA), said that London must draw on the lessons from the report and take action to harness the cooperation of the City's financial community. She said that government organisations need to develop closer relationships with bankers, investors and accountants to encourage them to plough money into pan-London initiatives. Dame Judith added that the use of public funds must be overhauled by improving incentives and reducing risks for private finance. Policy-makers must also resist the temptation for a 'quick fix', while investors should look beyond making a 'quick buck' and instead work together to develop long-term strategies for the capital's economic development, she said.

From Business Europe, UK, 10 July 2003

Lithuanian Government Confirms Grid Privatization Plan

Vilnius. - The Lithuanian government confirmed a program for the privatization of electricity grids and decided to offer 71.35% of shares in Rytu Skirstomieji Tinklai (RST) and 77% of shares in Vakaru Skirstomieji Tinklai (VST) at a privatization tender, the Baltic News Service reports. According to the privatization plan, the start price for the sale of the shares in RST amounts to 421.6 million litai and VST - 358.9 million litai. It is planned to announce the tender on July 21 and contenders should submit bids on September 14-15. The exact schedule for submitting bids to buy the shares will be announced in a privatization bulletin. It is planned to privatize Rytu Skirstomieji Tinklai and 77% of shares in Vakaru Skirstomieji Tinklai by the end of this year, due to the fact that the privatization schedule has been reduced from seven- eight months to four-five months. As reported earlier, the German company E.ON. Energie, Finland's Fortum, and the Lithuanian company NDX Energija plan to participate in the tender. Other companies have also expressed interest in the grids - the Lithuanian company Achemos Grupe, Electricite de France and the Estonian company Eesti Energia. The state owns packets of 85.72% of shares in Rytu Skirstomieji Tinklai and Vakaru Skirstomieji Tinklai, of which 5% packets will be transferred as compensation to the owners of un-returned property. E.ON. Energie owns 10.9% packets in both of the companies. The exchange rate of the litas is tied to the euro at the rate of 3.4528 litai to one euro.

From Interfax, Lithuania, 10 July 2003

Backdoor Privatization

The exchangeable bond market is a hot new source of liquidity - for companies - and money needed to finance tax cuts - for politicians. At least that's the case with state financing agency KfW's EUR5 billion exchangeable bond issue, Europe's biggest ever. A de facto privatization, this week's bond issue allows the government to sell Deutsche Telekom shares parked at KfW. Exchangeable bonds, which can be swapped for the shares of a third company owned by the issuer, offer a fixed interest rate and the prospect of additional returns if the price of the underlying share rises. If the share price falls, investors still have their principal and the interest income on top. Swapping KfW's exchangeable bonds for Telekom stock becomes worthwhile when the shares gain. 38 percent from the EUR12.70 reference value, at the earliest two years after the issue date.

A special clause, however, allows KfW to redeem part of the bond with shares even if the "T-share" fails to climb this high. Without this clause, the German government could suffer the same fate as its counterpart in Greece, where several such attempts at back-door privatization are close to failure because the price of the underlying shares has collapsed. Irrespective of market developments over the five years until the bonds mature, the government will be able to reduce its Telekom stake by at least 6.8 percent. It still owns just under 43 percent of Europe's biggest telecoms provider, with 30.75 percent held directly and the rest indirectly via KfW. And the government benefits doubly because interest rates are currently lower than at any other time since World War II, making for favorable bond issuance conditions.

Although the finance ministry denies that the bond issue is in any way related to its plan to bring forward planned income tax cuts worth around EUR15 billion, the government will get around EUR1 billion from the transaction, the difference between the price KfW paid the government for the shares and the price it will receive. More importantly, the transaction will also free up space at KfW to allow the government to "sell" further shares from its remaining Telekom stake to its house bank, thus realizing revenue without throwing its shares on an unreceptive market. Government's last direct issue of Telekom shares in mid-2000 unleashed an avalanche of "issuance fraud" lawsuits. Small shareholders claim that Telekom concealed multi-billion risks in its books ahead of its third tranche listing. Government has said it won't list any more tranches until the market environment has improved.

From Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany, by By Anke Bryson, 10 July 2003

Poland Calls Off Hunt for Privatization Adviser for State Retail-Banking Giant PKO BP

Warsaw - Poland's State Treasury cancelled its search to find a privatization adviser for the country's largest retail bank PKO BP due to exclusion of a common offer from PKO BP's brokerage house and CSFB, the Treasury said Friday. "The offer placed by the excluded PKO BP and CSFB could not have been considered. As a result, the tender was cancelled as less than two offers were placed," the Treasury said. In early May, Credit Suisse First Boston with PKO BP Brokerage House and Citigroup Global Markets Polska with BANK Handlowy Brokerage House filed offers to advise on the privatization of PKO BP. The adviser is to prepare necessary analyses, recommend a privatization strategy and carry out the sale of the bank, which is currently 100%-owned by the state. The Treasury set a deadline to accomplish the process by December 31, 2004. Treasury Minister Piotr Czyzewski said in April that PKO BP is unlikely to be privatized as planned in 2003, and a partial public flotation of shares will not go ahead until the first or second quarters of 2004. The delayed privatization tender assures this. PKO BP's sell-off plan assumes the bank will not be sold to a strategic investor. Instead, it is to be partly privatized in the public debut with shares going to a wide audience. The Polish government plans to maintain control of PKO BP for the foreseeable future. PKO BP's net profit jumped by 24.7% to PLN 330 mln in the first quarter of 2003 against a year earlier, continuing a string of strong results that saw the bank lift its net profit by 19% to PLN 1.051 bln in 2002 against a year earlier.

From Interfax, Poland, 14 July 2003

I.M.F. Delegation Visits Privatization Administration Chairman Kilci

Ankara - Privatization Adminisration Chairman Metin Kilci said on Tuesday that the repercussion of the privatization programme in the market would determine the success of the privatization programme. Kilci who met with IMF Turkey Desk Chief Reza Moghadam and an accompanying delegation for more than half an hour, talked to the press about the meeting. Kilci said that they informed the IMF delegation about the privatization programme and that they explained the things done to date and to be done in the year 2004. Kilci stated that privatization programmes were carried out in a very successful way and that they explained it to the IMF delegation. Noting that the privatization target worth of 4 billion dollars was a serious target and that they launched efforts to realize that target, Kilci stated that if possible, the amount of privatization could be more than 4 billion dollars. Kilci pointed out that electricity, TELEKOM, National Lottery and sugar factories would be privatized in the year 2004, adding that if the bill on privatization was adopted in the parliament, privatization of National Lottery could take place in the year 2003. Kilci recalled that Capital Market Board undertook the preliminary preparations for privatization of Istanbul Stock Exchange Market (IMKB), adding that the privatization date of IMKB would become clear according to the results of those studies. ''Has the privatization strategy of sugar factories been approved?'' asked journalists to Kilci, who said that ''yes we know that they have been signed.'' When asked if the IMF had concerns about the privatization programme, Kilci said ''they don't have any concerns about the future.''

From Turkish Press, Turkey, 16 July 2003

Russia PM: No Privatization Reversal

Moscow - Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Thursday that the results of Russia's criticized privatization program will not be reversed, in an apparent attempt to calm business leaders and investors concerned over recent actions by law enforcement agencies against the nation's largest oil producer. "The results of privatization of the past years are unshakable," Kasyanov said in televised remarks at the start of the Cabinet session, whose agenda included discussions of plans for privatization through 2006. A handful of well-connected people got hold of some of Russia's richest assets in the country's post-Soviet privatization drive, particularly in a mid-1990s program in which tycoons lent the state money in exchange for shares in major companies. Business leaders fear an attempt to reverse the results and start anew could be disastrous. Kasyanov echoed President Vladimir Putin's economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, who said reassessing the results of Russia's privatization program could lead to civil war. The statements came with investors jittery over what many analysts say is a politically motivated campaign against the oil company Yukos. A major Yukos shareholder was jailed two weeks ago on the basis of allegations he defrauded the state in a 1994 privatization, and investigators rummaged through the company archives for 16 hours on Friday and Saturday, according to lawyers.

Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky said Wednesday that the situation would deter investment in Russia. The Yukos probe has spooked investors and caused a downfall in the Russian stock market. Speaking on a trip to the Russian Far East port of Vladivostok, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow voiced concern about the Yukos situation and spoke of the need to exclude political factors from investigations of companies, the Interfax news agency reported. Arkady Volsky, the chief of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, who discussed the Yukos case with Putin on Wednesday, warned against attempts to revise privatization. "The attempts do nothing but harm the national economic growth and the improvement of living standards," Volsky said Thursday, according to Interfax. He called for introducing a three-year limit to considering economic disputes linked to privatization. Later Thursday, Interfax quoted First Deputy Property Minister Alexander Braverman as saying Russia plans to end the privatization process in 2008. "After 2008, Russia will have a normally functioning economy, the same as other countries," he said. Braverman said the government will withdraw from all joint stock companies in which its stake is 25 percent or lower next year and from those in which it is up to 50 percent in 2005, Interfax reported. In 2006, the government will sell its controlling stakes in companies it considers are not of strategic importance, he said. Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press.

From Newsday, 17 July 2003

Privatization Theft - Audit Finds that 1.2 Billion Kc Disappeared During Privatization

Entrepreneurs stole 1.2 billion Kc ($43 million) from the state during privatization because of a lack of enforcement by the National Property Fund, according to a report released by the state audit office. The fund, which is in charge of privatization projects, also signed contracts without ensuring collateral against the purchases, the Supreme Audit Office (NKU) said. At the end of 2001, the National Property Fund (FNM) had claims totaling 13.5 billion Kc, out of which 7.8 billion Kc were overdue from nearly 120 privatization projects, said Rudolf Nemecek of the NKU. The audit found that 57 percent of the fund's claims are overdue. Ninety percent of the overdue claims concern purchase contracts signed between 1991 and 1994, said the FNM. No new claims have gone on the books in recent years, said FNM spokeswoman Petra Krainova. Nemecek was critical of the fund's tendency to set the deadline for payments in its sell-offs from 30 to 90 days following the purchase. Meanwhile, in many instances property was transferred to the new owners the very same day the contract came into force. "As a result, the acquirer became the owner even before he paid a single penny for the assets," Nemecek said. In some cases, instead of paying, would-be purchasers agreed to pay the FNM in installments, but postponed the payment deadlines while using the purchased property or transferring it to others. Fund fought defaults - The FNM said that the report did not take into account that the fund assessed its claims on its own. And beginning in 1994, the organization took steps to prevent future abuses, Krainova said. The fund said that it would not take any interim measures based on the NKU's findings.

Krainova said that the fund has fought defaults in the past. "In dozens of cases, the fund withdrew from arranged sales and took back properties worth several billions of crowns," she said. Nemecek said that among the main villains in the defaults were the individuals who signed on for privatization projects and never intended to pay for the assets. Nemecek did not want to cite any specific examples of the individuals or companies responsible. One entity among many that did not pay for an agreed purchase was Intercom. It was controlled by entrepreneur Vratislav Cekan, who signed a contract to buy state-owned electronics concern Elektroodbyt Praha in 1992 for 305 million Kc and agreed to pay the amount in installments. In 1996 Elektroodbyt Praha went bankrupt and the FNM has not yet received a single crown for the sale. The purchase of another state-owned electronics company, Tesla Pardubice, was similar. The company was sold to HTT-Tesla Pardubice for 155 million Kc in 1993. Tesla Pardubice fell into bankruptcy five years later, and the FNM has not collected on the transaction. Neither case has been officially closed. The FNM was partially responsible for the Tesla Pardubice purchase, said the NKU. The fund did not establish collateral from HTT-Tesla Pardubice for the sale, and so never had a chance to receive money as a primary creditor, the NKU said. The Tesla Pardubice and Elektroodbyt Praha cases are typical of early 1990s small-scale privatizations. Back then, the FNM usually did not put collateral provisions in its purchase contracts, the NKU said. Additionally, those early contracts often failed to state penalties for the buyer in the case of nonpayment.

Experts point out that in the early post-communist era, many of the nation's state-owned businesses were sold off quickly. A huge number of contracts were signed during that time, and many of those contracts were for small-scale privatizations, said Pavel Mertlik, Raiffeisenbank's chief economist. Although most of the disastrous contracts were signed in the first half of the 1990s and the fund said that its claims are not increasing, the numbers tell a different story. The FNM classified 302 debts worth 5.56 billion Kc as overdue by the end of 1999, according to its own figures. But over the following two years, that figure jumped to 7.8 billion Kc, the audit office said. The NKU also placed blame for the overdue debts on the country's slow court system. Ministry of Justice spokeswoman Ivana Chaloupkova said that the judiciary was partially responsible for the situation. But, she said, in the mid-1990s the courts were overloaded with business cases. "The business courts could not physically deal with all of their agenda and they didn't have a chance to get enough information for the filed cases," Chaloupkova said. New bankruptcy act - Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry has been preparing a proposal for a new bankruptcy law. The act, which supporters say will streamline the bankruptcy process, is expected to go to a first reading in Parliament in September. Chaloupkova said that under the new act the state should not have difficulties in the future with the nonpayment of assets. The FNM was established in 1991 as the country's privatization agency, and is scheduled to complete all state sell-offs by 2005, thus putting itself out of existence. There are about 170 firms remaining to be sold, including strategic companies such as energy giant CEZ, national airline CSA, telecom incumbent Cesky Telecom and petrochemical concern Unipetrol.

From Prague Post, Czech Republic, by Zuzana Kawaciukova, 24 July 2003

Prime Minister: Privatization Not to be Reversed

Moscow - Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Thursday that the results of Russia's much-criticized privatization program will not be reversed, in an apparent attempt to calm business leaders and investors concerned over recent actions by law enforcement agencies against the nation's largest oil producer. "The results of privatization of the past years are unshakable," Kasyanov said in televised remarks at the start of the Cabinet session, whose agenda included discussions of plans for privatization through 2006. A handful of well-connected people got hold of some of Russia's richest assets in the country's post-Soviet privatization drive, particularly in a mid-1990s program in which tycoons lent the state money in exchange for shares in major companies. Business leaders fear an attempt to reverse the results and start anew could be disastrous. Kasyanov echoed President Vladimir Putin's economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, who said reassessing the results of Russia's privatization program could lead to civil war. The statements came with investors jittery over what many analysts say is a politically motivated campaign against the oil company Yukos. A major Yukos shareholder was jailed two weeks ago on the basis of allegations he defrauded the state in a 1994 privatization, and investigators rummaged through the company archives for 16 hours on Friday and Saturday, according to lawyers.

Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky said Wednesday that the situation would deter investment in Russia. The Yukos probe has spooked investors and caused a downfall in the Russian stock market. Speaking on a trip to the Russian Far East port of Vladivostok, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow voiced concern about the Yukos situation and spoke of the need to exclude political factors from investigations of companies, the Interfax news agency reported. Arkady Volsky, the chief of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, who discussed the Yukos case with Putin on Wednesday, warned against attempts to revise privatization. "The attempts do nothing but harm the national economic growth and the improvement of living standards," Volsky said Thursday, according to Interfax. He called for introducing a three-year limit to considering economic disputes linked to privatization. Later Thursday, Interfax quoted First Deputy Property Minister Alexander Braverman as saying Russia plans to end the privatization process in 2008. "After 2008, Russia will have a normally functioning economy, the same as other countries," he said. Braverman said the government will withdraw from all joint stock companies in which its stake is 25 percent or lower next year and from those in which it is up to 50 percent in 2005, Interfax reported. In 2006, the government will sell its controlling stakes in companies it considers are not of strategic importance, he said.

From Russia Journal, Russia, 24 July 2003

Groups Urge Putin on Privatization Issue

Moscow - Leading Russian business associations and human rights activists urged President Vladimir Putin to offer guarantees to the business community unsettled by an official probe widely seen as politically driven against the nation's largest oil producer. Without naming the oil company Yukos, leaders of three top business associations and several prominent rights activists said in a letter published Tuesday that ``arbitrariness and intimidation'' by the authorities threaten the nation's stability. Russian prosecutors jailed a major Yukos shareholder earlier this month on charges of fraud in a 1994 privatization, and launched a 16-hour search of the company's offices. The probe has stoked fears that the government could revise results of the controversial privatization of state assets in the 1990s and has sent Russian stock prices downward. "These events ... may destroy the fragile foundation for achieving stable economic growth, social peace and well-being," said the letter, published in the business daily Kommersant. Its authors proposed that the government sign a pact with the business community that would guarantee the irreversibility of privatization results. Businesses, in turn, would pledge to help combat corruption and do more to solve social problems.

Opinion polls showed most Russians to be highly critical of the privatization campaign, in which well connected tycoons, dubbed "oligarchs," snapped up prized state assets at giveaway prices through their close connections to former President Boris Yeltsin's government. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov sought to assuage the business community last week by saying that privatization results wouldn't be revised. Putin has issued conflicting signals, saying that economic crimes must be fought but not by means of "arm-twisting and jail cells." He has not mentioned Yukos directly. Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a 40-year old billionaire who has supported opposition parties and criticized the Kremlin on some top policy issues, has dismissed the charges against his company and called the probe part of a power struggle inside the Kremlin. "The prosecutor's office is lying to the president on our case," Khodorkovsky said, according to the weekly Moscow News. He said that if prosecutors succeed in their actions against Yukos, it would set a precedent for arbitrary prosecution for the rest of the country. Copyright 2003, The Associated Press.

From Springfield News Sun, OH, by Vladimir Isachenkov, 22 July 2003

Social Rider in Privatization Deal over Bulgaria's Power Utilities

Bulgaria's commissions on energy and economy policy have approved the social section to the strategy for the privatization of Bulgaria's seven power distribution utilities. Milko Kovachev, Bulgaria's Energy Minister commented that it was not only a formal rider. He said involving the syndicates in the privatization of the seven power distribution utilities aims at forming a confidence that this would be useful deal for Bulgaria and its economy. The rider says that the candidates should not decrease the salaries under and social expenses for a period of two under a certain level. The syndicates will also negotiate with the potential buyers for the common labor conditions, social partnership as well as collective agreement. In the beginning of July it was announced that strategic investors with a minimum of EUR 1 B of their own capital and annual sales of over 8-12 billion kWh are eligible for the privatisation of 67% stakes in Bulgaria's seven electricity distribution companies.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 25 July 2003

Former Russian PM Defends Last Decade`s Privatization

Russian ambassador to Ukraine and former Russian prime minister [in 1992-98] Viktor Chernomyrdin admits that "if any big mistakes occurred in the course of privatization, they should be corrected". "When we launched the privatization process [in 1992], we realized that we could not avoid making mistakes," Chernomyrdin said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio. "We carried out such a huge undertaking for the first time and in the absence of clear-cut legislation. We knew that we would have to correct the mistakes, and the time has come to do it," he said. At the same time Chernomyrdin is sure that "a total reverse of the results of privatization would be a great mistake". "It would be a disaster," he said. "There have always been people willing to seize and divide everything [reference to a famous phrase said by a character in "The Dog's Heart" novel by Mikhail Bulgakov], but it is unacceptable. Any mistakes should be corrected calmly," he said. [Ekho Moskvy news agency]

From Gateway 2 Russia, Russia, 29 July 2003

 

Privatization Cannot Move Forward Without Right Conditions for Success

The aim of privatization is to transfer specific sectors from the public to the private sector, whether partially or totally. If it is well managed, privatization could improve the productivity and development of sectors, increase national and foreign investments, create new job opportunities, and provide better and cheaper services to consumers from all social and economic classes. In Lebanon, the main aims of privatizing the sectors of electricity, water, telecommunications, transportation and the Tobacco and Tambac Regie, is the government's need to reduce public debt, fulfill the promises made in "Paris II" and respect past and future economic treaties. To successfully privatize any public sector, according to the experience of countries that have succeeded in privatization endeavors, requires the following conditions: l For sectors that are expected to be privatized, policies and laws should be in place to guarantee public rights and interests, and sectors should be fully functional. Otherwise, services would decline under the control of the private sector, whose only concern is profit, as occurred in numerous developing countries due to weak governmental control and corruption. The existence of a consumer health and safety law, specific to the private sector. The law would protect the consumer from price fixing, and control the service and its quality. The existence of a law to protect competition and prohibit monopolies.

The respect of international standards and specifications. Effective, and enforced, environmental protection regulations. The creation of an independent organizational body, or watchdog, for each sector before privatization. That body would be charged with implementing the objectives of privatization, and would include representatives of unions, professional associations, consumer's associations and local authorities. Consumer protection was stressed by the United Nations in 1985 and by the International Labor Organization in 1995, and implemented by many countries since the 1980's. Thus, governments should not negotiate with workers without the presence of representatives from civil society. The transparency of the privatization process, and obtaining contracts and permits without any deals. Taking social factors into consideration to avoid sacrificing workers for privatization, through training and rehabilitating workers, and giving full rights to those who are laid off. For example, the privatization of the telecommunications sector has led to a decrease in costs in the majority of countries that adopted sophisticated techniques and free competition. In Lebanon, however, the privatization of the telecommunications sector in 1994 led to the adoption of advanced technologies but abolished competition, which has resulted in a monopoly and price hikes: Both companies (Cellis and LibanCell) exceeded the ceiling of 250,000 lines to more than 800,000 without paying taxes to the Treasury. Both companies have not been subject to any real control. No meters have ever been installed to count the number of communication hours.

Both companies have imposed escalatory prices which are among the highest in the world, especially if compared to the Gross National Product. The average cost of cellular communications (subscription and prepaid cards) is about $670 annually, without counting the cost of landlines and internet, while the average personal income in Lebanon is $4,000 annually. Both companies have practiced a clear double monopoly and have not proposed competitive offers. The water sector also suffers from key problems such as antiquated distribution, and the quality of water supplied to consumers. The technical situation of the remaining sectors intended for privatization does not fulfill the privatization conditions. The Lebanese administration suffers from numerous financial scandals that emerged after the war and caused significant debt. These scandals are well known by the public and have been listed by international institutions in the evaluation of corruption and its link to politics. Consumer's Lebanon perceives privatization as an economic necessity for the country. But, the government should postpone privatization until the conditions for its success are met. The absolute rejection of privatization will not result in the promotion of the economy and will not allow Lebanon to implement the treaties it has signed. Consumer's Lebanon will soon submit a memorandum to the government in this respect. Zouhair Birro is president of Consumer's Lebanon and a consumer protection watchdog. He wrote this commentary special to The Daily Star.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, 24 July 2003

High Privatization Council Mulls Iran Air's Privatization

High Privatization Council on Tuesday investigated a proposal for privatization of the Islamic Republic Airliner, Iran Air, IRNA reported from Tehran. High Privatization Council Secretariat reported that the privatization bid had been scrutinized on the basis of a directive issued by the President's Office. Minister of Economy and Finance Tahmasb Mazaheri was present at the meeting. Iran's aviation industry has been complaining of imbalance between costs and revenues over the past couple of years, appealing for permissions to adopt certain measures, including a 50 percent rise in air fares to rls 18,000 from rls 11,000 per seat/hour, to meet the ends. The price rise policy sparked strong opposition among some groups, condemning the practice as 'illogical and unfair'. Some 174 MPs in a petition to President Mohammad Khatami last year, urged reconsideration of the joint appeal by Roads and Transportation Ministry and High Aviation Council for the air fare hike in tune with better service quality and quantity, increase in the number of flights, management of flight delays and the like. The letter had said the hike would not lead to qualitative improvement of air transportation services, making it necessary for the Majlis and the government to reach a logical decision.

A group of lawmakers had earlier appealed for a temporary hold on a unilateral directive by Roads and Transportation Ministry to raise domestic air fares, saying the decision has triggered public dissatisfaction and a fall in demand for air transportation services. MP from Damavand and Firouzkouh (Tehran province) and member of the Majlis Development Commission Mostafa Khanzadeh last year voiced strong protest at a 50 percent hike in the price of plane tickets, saying the 'unusual and illogical' increase in the fares would definitely have adverse effects on other economic sectors. Khanzadeh said the commission had rejected the proposal by Ministry of Roads and Transportation, to lower the price hike to 35 percent maximum. The Majlis Development Commission then refused to respond positively to the demand for a 50 percent hike in air fares due to inferior quality of aviation services and its contradiction with the Third Five-Year Economic Development Plan (2000-2005). Some people believe that the government's move to make the price of domestic airline tickets more real and to make the aviation industry profitable and free of subsidy, would have positive results.

There are yet certain other groups who claim that the price hike and efforts to make the airline industry independent of government-paid subsidy will not solve all of the problems and would even have inflationary effect. There have been rumors of foreign contribution to the industry to save it from becoming paralyzed instead of increasing air ticket prices because the latter move would be an injustice to the vulnerable classes of the society. A member of the Majlis Development Commission Mehdi Ayati had on January 2 rejected the idea that that domestic airline fares should be raised to match those of international rates, saying it would not make sense given that the Iranians' income level is much less than the world average. "They (Iranians) earn revenues based on rials and have to spend on products and services based on dollars," said Ayati. He said currently the average per capita income of Iranians is much less than those in neighboring states, and even in many third world countries.

From Payvand, Iran, 22 July 2003

Preparing for Privatization of the Energy Sector

Partner in international law firm make proposals for new legislation - A partner in a prominent international law firm visited Beirut to propose new legislation that would regulate the energy sector, in a bid to prepare it for privatization, reduce production costs and limit corruption. "When you have the proper legislation, everything would flow in the interests of the public and the government," Hector Farina told The Daily Star in an interview. Farina is a partner in French-based Denton Sales Vincent and Thomas law firm, a group specialized in regulatory frameworks and laws for the energy sector. The firm has had experience in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, and is working, in France, on laws to assist large-scale privatizations. Farina participated in a seminar last week, and presented to the Energy and Water Ministry a proposal on introducing a regulatory framework to the energy sector - one that would cover energy policies, institutional organizations, legislation, tax regimes and contract practices. "We proposed tailor-made legislation, but we know that reforms take time," he said.

Minister of Energy and Water Ayoub Humayed, Minister of State for Administrative Development Karim Pakradouni, and the head of the Parliament's Administration and Justice Committee, Mikhael Daher, attended the seminar. He told The Daily Star that a new judicial and institutional status would allow the energy sector to be administered in a liberal environment, adding that the laws in question "would abolish monopoly in the electricity sector." "The current laws allow a monopoly on electricity, and if we were to allow the participation of the private sector in the production of electricity, we need new laws," Farina said. He said that bringing in new laws would introduce competition in the sector between private companies, and therefore lessen the cost of production because the sector would be managed in a more efficient way. However, Farina said that laws and regulations would allow "competition for the market and not competition in the market." He explained that it was impossible to compete in the market since there were not enough cables to have more than one company, adding that the company that would be in charge would be the one that made the best offer for the services offered.

Farina said that consequently, industrialists, who are the larger consumers of electricity, would have access to reduced prices, and even households would benefit from the competition in reduced prices. Another way to reduce prices is through selling energy to distributors, who would sell it to consumers, Farina said, which would also create competition between distributors and therefore lead to price reductions. Farina said that during the seminar he submitted various choices to manage the energy sector to the government, and explained what should be done to promote the involvement of the private sector. "I saw a lot of interest by ministers Ayoub Humayed and Karim Pakradouni, but the government has not asked us to do anything yet," Farina said. He stressed the importance of Pakradouni's presence at the seminar, saying that the reforms in the sector needed a lot of administrative reform. "I saw that the ministry was excited about facilitating the work of the private sector and encouraging investments," Farina said.

He added that liberalization and privatization in the sectors of water, electricity, oil and gas were affiliated with the principle of regulations, which the government appeared to support. Farina also said that setting the required rules and regulations would boost the whole economy as large companies would be interested in investing in the sector. He said that the management rules of the private sector are totally different from those of the public sector. He argued that governments were worse fee collectors than private companies as they dealt with customers as citizens while private companies dealt with people as consumers. Farina said the country was in need of legislation regarding the oil sector, saying that even if it was not an oil producer, the laws were a prerequisite for private companies that would want to search for oil in the future. "There is less activity in the oil and gas sectors, and that is why Lebanon needs legislation," he argued.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, by Badih Chayban, 28 July 2003

 

CIDA Launches New Private Sector Development Policy for Developing Countries

Moncton - The Honourable Susan Whelan, Minister for International Cooperation, will be in Moncton, New Brunswick, on July 9, 2003, to launch the Canadian International Development Agency's (CIDA) new policy, Expanding Opportunities Through Private Sector Development: Canada Making a Difference in the World. The policy is aimed at strengthening Canada's contributions to poverty reduction through private sector development in developing countries and countries in transition. It outlines how CIDA can best support the development of well-functioning markets and a healthy private sector capable of serving as an engine of growth and a vehicle for reducing poverty in developing countries. The launch of the policy statement follows a series of consultations which took place across Canada and internationally. The Minister will present the policy during a lunch event hosted by the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce. Representatives of the media are invited to attend the event. To learn more about how CIDA is working with its partners to develop a stronger, more equitable and sustainable private sector in developing countries, please see stories from the field as provided below, or visit CIDA's Web site at: http://www.cida.gc.ca.

From Canada NewsWire, Canada, 7 July 2003

CIDA Helps Expand Opportunities for Private Sector in Developing Countries

Moncton - The Honourable Susan Whelan, Minister for International Cooperation, today launched the policy statement Expanding Opportunities Through Private Sector Development: Canada Making a Difference in the World, that aims to strengthen Canada's contributions to poverty reduction through private sector development in developing countries and countries in transition. "Our approach to private sector development is designed first and foremost to meet the needs and priorities of developing countries and countries in transition," said Minister Whelan. "This policy focuses on results: the creation of more and better jobs, sustainable livelihoods, and markets that function well." The policy outlines how CIDA can best support the development of well-functioning markets and a healthy private sector capable of serving as an engine of growth and a vehicle for reducing poverty in developing countries. In support of this objective, CIDA will pursue economic growth that actively engages and directly benefits the poor.

It will be guided by a vision of sustainable development that recognizes the importance of governance, taking a long-term approach, and achieving the right balance among the social, environmental, and economic aspects of development. "A dynamic private sector generates gainful employment, expanding opportunities for people to earn income with which to satisfy their own material needs," added Minister Whelan. "When the private sector functions well and equitably, everyone benefits, and this will ultimately lead to an improved standard of living in the developing countries." The new policy is the result of a series of consultations, both in Canada and in developing countries, and builds on a policy statement released in September 2002 that sets the direction for Canada's aid programming entitled Canada Making a Difference in the World: A Policy Statement on Strengthening Aid Effectiveness (www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/aideffectiveness). Today's launch event was co-hosted by the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce. Funding for this initiative is provided for in the February 2003 federal budget and is therefore built into the existing fiscal framework.

From Canada NewsWire, Canada, 9 July 2003

Bush Pushes Privatization

George Bush's recent Circular A-76, ordering privatization of 15 percent of federal jobs, is but a tip of the privatization juggernaut. As the Bush administration diverts public attention to enemies, war and tax cuts, it more quietly pushes the pace of privatization, the takeover and control of taxpayers' equity by private corporations. Privateers underpin the Bush administration. Privateers write policy legislation for our legislators. Their innumerable think tanks are supported by large corporations and neo-conservative idealogues. Their mantra? Efficiency. Their sales pitch? Government can't do anything right. We can do it better, for profit. Their targets? Social Security, public schools, public lands, national parks, law enforcement, the military, the judiciary, local and state governments. Extremists of the movement advocate rewriting the Constitution to form a privately-run U.S. government. But with privatization comes the private board, private decisions, no financial disclosure and a disenfranchised public. George Bush and company's casual indifference to America's ever-weakening economy may well be explained by their devotion to the policy of privatization. After destroying Iraq and its economy, this group has announced their plans to privatize Iraq. If Bush's economic policies bring the United States to its knees, then might we see privatization as the final solution?

From Salem Statesman Journal, OR, 9 July 2003

Finance Minister Unakitan Briefs U.S. Investors About Privatization

New York - Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan on Wednesday met with U.S. investors and businessmen during ''Roadshow'' meetings organized by ''Citigroup'' in New York. Privatization Administration Board Chairman Metin Kilci and Finance Ministry Budget and Finance Control Deputy Director General Ahmet Kesik accompany Unakitan. Unakitan and Kilci briefed U.S. investors and investment fund representatives about the privatization program in Turkey, and developments in Turkish economy. Those who Unakitan met were the representatives of institutions investing in Turkey and the region. Unakitan is expected to meet administrators of U.S. companies in Turkey on Thursday. Citigroup officials said great interest was shown to the meetings held by Unakitan and the accompanying delegation. Unakitan will continue contacts in New York on Thursday, and is also expected to hold a news conference at 17.00 local time to brief about his contacts. Unakitan and the accompanying delegation will continue Roadshow meetings on Friday in Boston. The delegation is expected to return to Turkey on Saturday.

From Turkish Press, Turkey, 10 July 2003

State Privatization Chairwoman Faces Ethics Complaint

Panama City - A union for police and correctional officers has filed an ethics complaint against the head of a panel that oversees state contracts with private prison companies. The Florida Police Benevolent Association said Monday that its complaint accuses Carol Atkinson, chairwoman of the Florida Correctional Privatization Commission, of taking a trip paid for by a company that operates the Bay County Jail while she was a county commissioner in February 2000. The complaint also alleges violations by two other former county commissioners, a former county manager, a former county attorney and the county's chief of emergency services. All are accused of letting Corrections Corporation of America pay their expenses to visit a jail the company operates in Tennessee while the county was in the midst of negotiating a contract renewal with the Nashville, Tenn., company. "It's bogus," said Atkinson, who appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to chair the state panel last year. "There's nothing to it. They are absolutely out there in left field." Florida's ethics law prohibits public officials from receiving certain gifts including transportation, lodgings and food but makes an exception for official government business. The trip's purpose was for commissioners to observe a rehabilitation program later added to Bay County's contract with the company. The state privatization panel monitors contracts with Corrections Corporation of America at three prisons in Panama City, Quincy and Lake City and with Wackenhut Corrections Corp. for two prisons at Moore Haven and South Bay.

From Montgomery Independent, AL, 16 July 2003

Privatization Study Adviser Under Scrutiny

A consultant selected to study whether the state can save money by privatizing medical services at the Utah State Prison has ties to privatization companies, including the one seeking a Utah contract. Jacqueline Moore said Tuesday that her Chicago-based consulting firm, Jacqueline Moore and Associates, was selected this week through a competitive bid process to evaluate the prison's health care system. The amount she will be paid was not revealed because a contract has not yet been signed, said Kevin Walthers, legislative fiscal analyst. The contract is expected to be signed early next week, Walthers said. He told lawmakers in May that such a study could cost up to $60,000. Moore, however, acknowledged ties to St. Louis, Mo.-based Correctional Medical Services, saying she previously has been paid by CMS for conducting periodic reviews of Maine's prison health care. Mont Evans, a CMS lobbyist, Riverton mayor and former Utah Department of Corrections employee, told lawmakers in February the company could save the state millions by taking over inmate health care. In the "customer feedback" section of Moore's Web site (www.corrections.com/ moore), a comment is posted from Gary McWilliams, CMS' vice president of sales and marketing. "Jackie is noted in the industry for her research abilities, her keen understanding of the nuances of correctional medical care and professional presentation skills related to health care management," McWilliams says.

Also, Moore said, depending on which company held the Maine contract from year to year, she also has been paid by Prison Health Services for the periodic evaluations. Moore co-founded PHS in 1989, and her ex-husband still works for the company, according to published reports. She said Tuesday she has not been associated with the Brentwood, Tenn.-based company for more than a decade. Corrections officials have said they do not oppose the study, but point out the department's award-winning Bureau of Clinical Services (BCS) has been able to cut costs and streamline care in recent years without sacrificing quality. "What we want is just to ensure that it is a fair and balanced study, and we get treated fairly," said Scott Carver, Corrections deputy director, on Tuesday. "We feel confident that the study will show the quality of service and the economical service that we have." Fiscal analysts released a preliminary study in May, saying the state's savings through privatization might not be as significant as initially thought, given measures already in place within Corrections. Calls to Evans and CMS were not returned Tuesday.

Walthers said Moore was chosen by himself, another fiscal analyst and a director, and the decision was also reviewed by an "impartial fourth party," an employee of Legislative Research and General Counsel. Moore has offered to sign a statement saying she has no conflicts of interest, Walthers said, and she will be required to do so. In addition, her report will be evaluated by fiscal analysts, he said. In the correctional health care field, a small and specialized industry, finding a truly independent evaluator would be difficult, Walthers said. "Every consultant has worked for somebody." Moore said she plans to travel to Utah in mid-August to conduct her research. She will have until October to complete a report. Prison medical care in Utah has had a troubled past, including lawsuits from inmates that forced increases in staff and training. The prison opened its $2.9 million, 144-bed Olympus Mental Health Facility in Draper in 1999, under the leadership of Richard Garden, a physician and current BCS director. Garden has said the bureau also has increased preventative care and hepatitis C treatment and improved mental health screenings. Even the American Civil Liberties Union and the Disability Law Center - which both were parties in the inmate lawsuits and among BCS' biggest critics at one time - have said the bureau has shown improvement and they would oppose any effort to privatize medical services. (aebroughton@sltrib.com)

From The Salt Lake Tribune, by Ashley Broughton, 16 July 2003

Privatization and Neo-feudalism

Rightwing strategist Grover Norquist, famous for his stated aim to shrink government so that he can drown it in a bathtub, is en route to having his way. Recently, and within a brief time span, observers in many quarters have expressed their understanding that an unstated strategy behind the huge Republican tax cut has been to bring the U.S. government to its financial knees, thereby making it unable to cover the Right's hated social programs - e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid - and the administration of our public domain. Paul Krugman, in a May 27 article in the New York Times titled "Stating the Obvious," wrote that "the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises; ... The people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need." Two days later, Peronet Despeignes, reporting in the Financial Times of London, wrote, "The Bush administration has shelved a report commissioned by the Treasury that shows the US currently faces a future of chronic federal budget deficits totaling at least $44,200 trillion (the deficit is currently at about $6 trillion) in current US dollars."

That's trillion with a T. To put that terrifying figure in perspective, Despeignes reported it to be the rough equivalent of four years of U.S. economic output or 94 percent of all U.S. household assets, and that "closing the gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 per cent across-the-board income tax increase." The next day, on his public television show "Now," Bill Moyers was blunt. The Bush administration, he said, kept news of this impending debt from the public "lest it throw the fear of God into Congress and the financial markets and cost them the tax cut for the rich." Moyers went on to say that "we are watching the country's future slip deeper and deeper into a black hole of red ink." And two days after that, Noam Chomsky, in an interview on C-Span televised on June 1, stated flatly that the tax cut was calculated to lead to a "fiscal train wreck." "At some point," Krugman wrote, "Bond markets will balk - they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues, and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control." But that's the very point of massive tax cuts: breaking the bank so as to kill social programs. It was a point made very well by Press Secretary Ari Fleisher when pressed on the issue. Congress, Fleisher said, would have to reform programs accordingly. He didn't say "kill," which would have been more appropriate. Corporate America has spent billions lobbying for deregulation of its activities and for privatization of everything from the health system to education to national parks and forests to Social Security - a situation that would lead to ownership and control by the corporate sector and a tiny handful of the super rich of virtually every aspect of society.

With no cash in the federal till - due to massive tax cuts along with huge deficits, and ultimate inability of the government to borrow further - there would no longer be much to argue about. The corporate sector would win by default, so that everything needed by the masses would have to be obtained through them at any price they would want to charge. As the deficit balloons, the rightist program to privatize public lands is also moving right along. Free marketeer Terry Anderson, whose published plan to give each citizen "shares" of the public domain, said shares being sellable on the open market to those with the wealth to scoop them up, has been made President Bush's adviser on public lands issues. Late last year, fellow free marketeer and Interior secretary, Gale Norton, a product of the anti-environmental "Wise Use Movement," revealed plans to "outsource" to the private sector 3,500 jobs in the U.S. Park Service. This raised no eyebrows, and by January 2003 the estimate had risen to more than 11,000 positions - an eyebrow-raising 72 percent. Soon thereafter, President Bush revealed that as many as 850,000 positions, now federal, could become privatized. It was a declaration of war on public ownership and government by the people, framed as an argument for fiscal efficiency. With country and culture in the hands of a very few, democracy perishes.

The great American Experiment would end not through internal weakness, but via carefully crafted "neoconservative" strategy from without, to be replaced by something resembling, more than anything else, medieval feudalism, only set in a high tech world. According to the plan now in place, "we the people" are to be the new serfs. As Thom Hartmann noted: "We're entering a new and unknown but hauntingly familiar era." Mass media have been eager to keep ramifications of the tax cut and the loss of federal programs and public domain off of what they like to call their "radar screen." Simply look at the power brokers of the private sector who are the owners: giants in defense contracting, advertising and industrial entertainment and recreation. All of them stand to be big winners in a system controlled by wealth. Following 9-11, a mourning public and their congressional representatives too quickly handed the keys to the Kingdom to ideologues dedicated to killing government of, by and for the people. If we do not waken soon from our collective daze, our descendants will surely feel a deep rage at our having given up their birthright without a struggle.Bill Willers is a contributing writer for Liberal Slant, www.liberalslant.com, where this story first appeared.

From San Francisco Bay View, CA, by Bill Willers, 24 July 2003

House, Senate Agree on Air Traffic Control Privatization

Washington - Lawmakers negotiated an agreement on Friday that would allow private companies to operate about 70 air traffic control towers. Opponents say such a move would jeopardize aviation safety. The Federal Aviation Administration wants to assess whether to hand over to contractors smaller control towers - those that don't use their own radar. "The FAA wants the flexibility to smartly and efficiently manage the system and operate as cost effectively as possible," said agency spokesman Greg Martin. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., was part of the conference committee that worked out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, which authorizes spending for the FAA for the next four years. Oberstar pointed out that one of the control towers on the list, at Van Nuys Airport, is in Los Angeles' airspace, the busiest in the world. "You'll unravel all the skilled work force and hire it out," he said during a brief meeting of the conference committee on Thursday night. Many smaller control towers do not use radar, relying on visual assessments for control.

Others, like Van Nuys, rely on larger airports' radar. Both the House and Senate had voted to prohibit the privatization of federal air traffic controllers' jobs. The conference committee limited that prohibition to four years. Oberstar said the Bush administration threatened to veto it otherwise. Opponents say experiments with privatization haven't worked in Canada and England, where safety has been compromised and costs have been higher than estimated. "The move to privatize our air traffic control system is a risky experiment that ignores the disastrous experiences around the globe," Sonny Hall, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, said in a prepared statement. Marion Blakey, FAA administrator, doesn't intend to privatize air traffic controllers, Martin said. The agreement, approved through the committee's Republican majority, must still be approved by the House and the Senate. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

From Montana Forum, Montana, by Leslie Miller, 28 July 2003