ISSUE 52
June 2003
 
 
   
    Public Policy and Poverty Reduction
Namibia: Swapo MPs Divided On Anti-Corruption Bill
   
    Greece: Informal Summit of the EU Public Administration Ministers
EU: Internet Companies Forced to Collect EU Tax
UK: Blair Speech to Renew Focus on Public Services
Italy: I.T. In Public Administration OK, But Still Some Shadows
Yugoslavia: Public Administration Modernisation as a Precondition for Successful Democratisation
UK: Public Sector Progress 'Being Hampered by Target Setting'
   
    USA: Clinical Study Improves Lives, Inspires Public Policy
USA: E-gov Chief Urges Administration to Offer Incentives to CIOs
 
   
    Angola: Good Governance is Government's Goal, President Says
Malawi: Corruption, Weak Leadership Worry DFID
Zambia: The Church Urges Zambians to Join Fight Against Corruption
Zambia: Swedes Hail Fight Against Corruption
Kenya: Government Steps Up War On Corruption
Angola: Good Governance Is Government`s Goal, President Says
South Africa: Minister Explains Efforts to Root Out Corruption in Public Service
Botswana: Botswana Top in Good Governance
Uganda: President Continues Anti-Corruption Campaign
   
    India: Good Governance, Development To Be BJP's Poll Plank
Asia: Strong Measures Urged To Boost Good Governance
Afghanistan: Afghan Ruler Moves to End Corruption, Nepotism
Australia: Queensland Government Considers Indigenous Governance Changes
Afghanistan: Afghan President Establishes New Commission to Fight Corruption, Nepotism
Bangladesh: The Economic Cost of Corruption
South Korea: SK Group Faces Major Governance Reform
Afghanistan: Karzai Vows to Weed Out Corruption from Country
   
    UK: Corruption Bill 'Aims to Clarify Existing Laws'
Yugoslavia: Good Laws Are Precondition for Effective Fight Against Corruption
Switzerland: Swiss Crack Down on Corruption
Russia: As Elections Approach, Russians See Corruption Crackdown
   
    USA: Transparency and Good Governance
USA: Powell Emphasizes Importance of Good Governance at OAS Meeting
Jamaica: Portia Seeks Transformation of Local Governance Through Municipalities
Jamaica: Parties' Youth Groups Offer Young Professionals for Local Government
Canada: Combating International Corruption Pandemic
USA: U.S. Battles Europe to Narrow Global Treaty Banning Corruption
   
    The Impact of ICTs on Democratization and Good Governance
On an 'Insidious Menace' to Economic and Social Development - Annan
Corruption is a 'Menace' to Economic And Social Development, Says Annan
 
   
    Nigeria: Civil Servants Fear Outbreak of Epidemic
Gambia: PMO Tells Civil Servants to Dress Properly
Botswana: Public Servants Not to Abandon Government to Politics
Ghana: 71 Top Civil Servants "Re-assigned"
Nigeria: Governor Appeals to Civil Servants Over Attitude to Work
Kenya: Pay Boost for Civil Service
Zimbabwe: State Announces New Salaries for Civil Servants
South Africa: Public Servants Get 8.5% Rise
South Africa: Government Welcomes 8.5 Percent Wage Increase for Public Servants
South Africa: Minister Urges Public Servants to Be Proud of Their Work
   
    Brunei: Civil Service Day Mulled At Belait Meeting
Malaysia: Prevent Graft and Abuse of Power, Civil Service Told
Afghanistan: Over 100 Women Civil Servants Sacked
Brunei: Four Senior Officers Confirmed, One Promoted In Public Service
Australia: Queen's Birthday Honours: Public Service
India: Maharashtra: Hazare to Launch Anti-corruption Stir
China: Civil Servants in Hong Kong Lose Suit Against Pay Cut
Singapore: Remaking Singapore Committee Urges Civil Service to Adopt 5-Day Week
China: Well-paid Government Employees Hired to Assist Public Administration
Australia: Queensland Public Servants Impose Work Bans
Indonesia: Indonesia to Screen Civil Service for Patriotism
Indonesia: Loyalty Test for Civil Servants
Australia: Public Servants Take More Than 1 Million Days Off Work
   
    UK: Public Services 'Flag As Spending Rises'
UK: Fall in Public Sector Productivity Makes the Case for Reform
Malta: New PS Warns Civil Servants
UK: Civil Servants Ignore Rules
UK: Warning on Costs of Online Public Services
UK: Senior Civil Servants Up in Arms Over Shambolic Reshuffle
Estonia: Civil Service Key to Success in The EU
UK: Blair Bid to Steer Attention Back to Public Service Reforms
Bulgaria: Tougher Rules for Civil Servants
   
    Bermuda: Civil Service Shuffle Sees Key Changes
USA: Rumsfeld on Capitol Hill to Urge Reform of Civil Service System
USA: Graduates Prefer Nonprofit Jobs Over Civil Service
Canada: Civil Servants to Get a Workout - At Work
Dominica: IMF Wants Pay Cut for Dominica's Civil Servants
USA: Student Awarded Prestigious Scholarship for Public Service
USA: Bush Seeks Civil Service Overhaul
USA: Public Service Tests Lawyers - Panels Rule on Potential Conflicts
USA: The Civil Service Faces an Overhaul
USA: A Civil Service Overhaul
   
    Corruption an 'Insidious Menace' to Economic, Social Development: Annan
ILO Set to Recommend Review of Civil-Service Labor Reform
 
   
    Tanzania: IT Matters: Practical Benefits of E-Governance
Zambia: Public Service's Poor Delivery
South Africa: Mobile Technology Ready to Contribute in Public Service Delivery
South Africa: Fraser-Moleketi Speaks on Public Service Day
South Africa: Huge Revamp of the Public Service Looms
South Africa: First Tuesday Focuses on E-government
   
    Brunei: Brunei Introduces E-government In Mega Projects
Brunie: Brunei Readies e-Government To Generate Jobs For Locals
Australia: Delivering eGovernment With a Service Promise
India: E-governance Project Runs Into Roadblock
Malaysia: E-government With a Smile
India: Oracle to Set Up E-governance Centre of Excellence at Gurgaon
Singapore: IT Vendors Are Making Integration the Buzzword in Their Concerted Push Into the Hearts of Asia-Pacific Governments
Bangladesh: Minister Urges Private Airlines: Ensure Better Services
India: 'Convincing People About E-governance Was Tough'
   
    UK: Government Preps One-Stop Hub for E-services
Netherlands: Commission Surveys E-government Services
UK: Global E-government
UK: Public Sector Outsourcing 'Not All Bad'
UK: E-government Costs Outstrip Savings
UK: Global E-government
UK: Private Sector E-services Providers Feel Left Out of Whitehall's New Intermediaries Policy
EU: Major European E-government Programme Unveiled
UK: E-government Concerns Unite Professions
Spain: Spain Takes an E-siesta
UK: Global E-government
UK: Civil Servants Shun E-government
   
    Dubai: Dubai eGovernment Conducts Training Programme for Libraries and Data Centres in Dubai
Lebanon: E-government Strategy Aims to Improve Efficiency
UAE: Dubai eGovernment Online Services Reach 600 Mark
Iran: UN to Recognize Exemplary Public Service
   
    USA: New Public Service Hopes to Help Children
USA: Waveset Presents Identity Management Strategies at E-Gov 2003
Canada: Grads Advised to Engage in Civic, Public Service
USA: E-gov Leader Says Trust Is Key To Online Government
USA: The Slow and Steady Rollout of E-Government
USA: MapInfo Helps Government Focus on Citizens; Introduces e-Government Grant Program
Bahamas: Using a Little Creativity on the Civil-Service Front
USA: U.S. Customs Service Receives E-Gov Award for Right Now's Customer Service Implementation
USA: Military Health System Tech Programs Win 2003 E-Gov Awards
USA: MapInfo Helps Government Focus on Citizens; Introduces e-Government Grant Program
USA: When or Will E-government Apps Pay Off?
   
    UN to Recognize Exemplary Public Service
 
   
    Kenya: Finance Minister Promises Budget With Difference
Kenya: Icpak: Budget Ignored Civil Service Reforms
   
    Pakistan: Public Sector Poses Threat to Fiscal Stability
Bangladesh: Budget Success Hinges on Governance, Law & Order
India: Mazdoor Sangh Flays Tax Policy
Vietnam: Vietnam Formulates a Comprehensive System of Tax Policies
   
    UK: The Parable of the Unwise Spender
Czech Republic: Unions Oppose Public-Finance Cuts
EU: Czechs Head To Polls To Vote In Referendum, With A Few Twists
Czech Republic: Spidla Puts Job On Line Over Public Finance Reform
Czech Republic: Prague Agrees Finance Reforms
Russia: IMF Cautions Russia Against Extremely Weakened Tax Policies
   
    USA: House Votes to Study, Not Change, Corporate Tax Policy
USA: Education and Agriculture Share Tips for Improving Financial Management
USA: Bush Administration Tax Policy at a Crossroads
 
   
    Nigeria: Arguments On Privatization
Morocco: Morocco Will Honor Commitment for Phone Operator Privatization, Minister
   
    Pakistan: Rs 161bn for Public Sector Development
Kazakhstan: Kazak PM to Leave Office Over Controversial Privatization Bill
Japan: J-Power to Go Global After Privatization
Japan: Privatization Decision Put Off
Australia: Small Business Told to Find Productivity Online
Japan: Japan Highway Boss Drives Out Pro-Privatization Staff
   
    Belarus: Privatization in Belarus Is Not Simple - Lukashenko
   
    Iran: Systematic Approach Essential for Privatization
Iran: Students Against Privatization Plan
   
    USA: New films Exposes Effects of Privatization
USA: White House Threatens to Veto FAA Bill Over Privatization Language
 

Public Policy and Poverty Reduction

Most African countries have prepared poverty reduction strategy papers by participation of all stakeholders in the economies. The PRSP were prepared with technical assistance from the World Bank and IMF. The World Bank and IMF Growth and Poverty Reduction Facility was intended to be used to adopt strategies that would lead to high rates of economic growth of 8 - 10 per cent, said by economists to be consistent with poverty reduction. Countries which qualified to get debt relief under HIPC were expected to direct resources that would have been used for debt servicing of multilateral and bilateral loans to areas that would indirectly contribute to poverty reduction. These areas included investment in health, education, rural roads, water supply and the fight against the HIV-AIDS pandemic. The ultimate goal is to attain the UN Millennium goal of reducing absolute poverty by 50% by the year 2015. Economists have started to question if policies have a role to play in reducing poverty. Debate has centred around the determinants of poverty and strategies for alleviating it. According to the latest issue of IMF Survey a key point of reference in literature has been the impact of rapid economic growth on poverty reduction in South-East Asia. It has been observed that economic growth is a key driver of poverty reduction with little or no direct role of economic policies except those which promote high economic growth.

These policies include attainment of macro-economic stability required to attract investment which in turn leads to higher GDP growth rates. n the context of Tanzania, investment in the agricultural sector, which contributes 45 per cent of GDP, would lead to a higher economic growth rate because this sector employs 80 per cent of the population and hence the inpact on poverty reduction would be substantial. Research by IMF and other institutions has revealed however, that public policies play a small role in directly lowering poverty. It is revealed that a major challenge for research in this area stems from the scarcity of poverty related data for low income countries. Some of the proposed measures of poverty is the percentage of people living on less than $1 dollar per day. In this context, as per the UN Millennium Development Goals, poverty is defined as the average income of the lowest 20 per cent of the population in the income distribution. What are the findings? IMF researchers findings indicate that on average countries in which the poor have incomes higher than those of their counterparts in other countries, are characterised by a higher micro-economic stability, lower income inequality, better internal environments, more democratic political institutions, and better governance.

These countries have also got a better educated population, more open trade regimes, and higher levels of financial development. The findings have confirmed the relationship between economic growth and poverty reduction. This relationship is said to be less than one to one although it is a positive correlation. It also revealed in the studies that for a given target of poverty reduction over a certain period of time, the economic growth rates required could exceed what can reasonably be expected. It was found in the studies that certain economic policies have a direct effect on economic growth and hence poverty reduction. These are the policies which have a direct effect on incomes of the poor. They include policies which lower the inflation rate, shrink the size of the government, promote financial development and raise the educational level. These policies related variables are considered "super pro-poor. As far as this policy implication on poverty reduction is concerned, it has been revealed that raising overall economic growth is key to poverty reduction and the bottom line is that lots of economic growth is needed so that extra income generated can also benefit the poor. It has also been observed that while growth is a necessary condition for poverty reduction, it is by no means sufficient. Countries need to implement policies which focus on creating an enabling environment for the poor to participate in and benefit from the growth process.

From IPP media, Tanzania, by Theo Mushi, 4 June 2003

Swapo MPs Divided On Anti-Corruption Bill

Windhoek - Swapo lawmakers in the National Council were yesterday split over landmark legislation aimed at fighting corruption, before the Bill was passed by majority vote. Ten of the ruling party's MPs voted for the Anti-Corruption Bill and eight registered their disapproval of the proposed law by abstaining from voting. Two were absent. All four opposition members voted against the Bill. The House voted after the Chief Whip of the DTA-UDF coalition, Mburumba Kerina, objected to the passing of the proposed legislation. MPs from both sides of the Council had raised a number of concerns about the Bill. The controversial Anti-Corruption Bill came to the NC for the second time earlier this year after it was rejected and sent back to the National Assembly in February 2002. One of the Swapo lawmakers to openly express his disapproval of the Bill was Oshikoto Regional Councillor, Nico Kaiyamo. Last year Kaiyamo headed a National Council Select Committee which recommended that the Bill be rejected and be sent back to the National Assembly with a number of amendments.

Yesterday, the Swapo MP expressed disappointment that the Bill was returned to NC in its original form without any of changes proposed by his committee being taken aboard. "The only difference in this Bill and the one sent back by this august House last year is the year 2002 in the previous one and 2003 in this one. What message are we sending out there. Are we backtracking from our previous decision?" he asked. The NC Select Committee recommended that the envisaged Anti-Corruption Commission be accountable to Parliament. This, the Committee members argued, was vital if the Commission was to be truly independent. In terms of the Bill, the Anti-Corruption Commission will be accountable to the Prime Minister, while its head will be appointed by the President. Kaiyamo warned fellow lawmakers that history would judge them if they fail to stand by the same principles they used when they rejected the Bill last year. "I want to be at peace with my conscience now and in the future.

For me the reasons for referring back this Bill in February 2002 are still valid, therefore I have difficulty in supporting the Bill and want to register by reservation and objection," he said. The Swapo MP's sentiments were echoed by the DTA-UDF coalition's Mburumba Kerina, who regarded the Bill as an unnecessary duplication of functions that could be dealt with by the Office of the Ombudsman. Kerina stated that Namibia was already burdened with corruption in most of its State-owned entities, therefore the Bill should rather empower the Ombudswoman to devise mechanisms to combat the problem. "Furthermore, we reject the idea that the Commission should report to the Office of the Prime Minister due to the 2000-2001 Financial Report of the Auditor General which mentioned financial irregularities in that office (Prime Minister's)," he added. The Bill now awaits the President's signature before coming into effect as a law.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Petros Kuteeue, 11 June 2003

 

Informal Summit of the EU Public Administration Ministers

The political unification of Europe depends on the administrative convergence of the EU member states, stressed Greek Minister of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Kostas Skandalidis, presenting the conclusions of the informal summit of the EU Public Administration Ministers taking place in the Aegean island of Rhodes. e underlined the commitment of all parties involved to issues of EU public administration, both at a national and a European level, for an easier to understand, simpler and more transparent public administration and a lasting social dialogue for the improvement of the services offered to the citizens. n the informal summit participated 10 ministers and 12 undersecretaries from the 25 EU member states and the three under accession countries. They also discussed legislation issues, human resources, e-governance and the support of remote and island regions. resent in the summit was Turkey represented by Public Administration Minister Mr. Aksu, who referred to the steps made by Turkey in the specific sector. Greek Interior Minister Mr. Skandalidis underlined, responding to a relevant question by MPA, that Turkey has a positive attitude clarifying that no discussion was made on bilateral issues.

From Macedonian Press Agency, Greece, 6 June 2003

Internet Companies Forced to Collect EU Tax

On July 1st, overseas Internet companies must collect a tax on digital services. Internet customers located in member countries of the European Union (EU) will pay a higher cost for digital services from overseas Internet companies beginning July 1st. The Value Added Tax (VAT) is placed on services delivered by Internet companies which do not take any tangible form, such as auction services and software and music downloads. Large websites such as AOL UK, eBay, and Amazon will have to charge higher prices to customers who live in EU member countries for services offered. The VAT tax does not affect tangible items such as books, but does affect items such as eBooks. Prior to July 1st only companies based in EU member countries had to collect the VAT tax. The change now requires overseas companies to collect a VAT tax from EU citizens who buy "digital services." Prior to the change EU companies had a disadvantage when competing with their overseas rivals. Read more on this topic at Reuters and CBS MarketWatch.

BRIAN'S OPINION - I thought the U.S. tax code was confusing. Charging a tax on "digital services?" That won't cause any confusion trying to figure out what a digital service is ... For example, though an EU customer doesn't pay a tax on a hotel reserved online, will they have to pay a tax on the service fee charged for securing that room digitally? I understand the law is trying to level the playing field for EU companies which already have to charge for the tax, but I think the tax overall is a bad idea. Even worse, you now have companies forced to collect a tax they never had to before, causing those companies to invest in technologies to handle the proper tax assessment of EU customers. Many companies may just not sell to EU customers to avoid the hassle. Pretty soon online companies will simply sell to customers within their own country to avoid all of the headaches involved in collecting online taxes.

From Financial Times, UK, by Brian Osborne, 10 June 2003

Blair Speech to Renew Focus on Public Services

Tony Blair will try to draw a line under the cabinet reshuffle row tomorrow with a speech making clear that he will not back off from radical reform of Britain's public services. In a move aimed at kickstarting a summer of campaigning on voters' main concerns, the Prime Minister will declare that reform is essential to give the poorest in society the same chances in life as the better off. The message, that the choices offered by specialist schools and foundation hospitals are central to social justice, will delight New Labour modernisers worried by the departure of the cabinet minister Alan Milburn last week. It is also intended to underline Mr. Blair's desire to be seen to be focusing again on domestic issues after the war on Iraq and disputes over the European Convention. With party strategists acutely aware of voters' scepticism about the Prime Minister's globetrotting, ministers will be employed over the summer recess to campaign ruthlessly on the public's priorities of health, education, crime and asylum. The campaign will run until the next Labour Party conference and use the first two-week return of the Commons in September to send out the message that the Government is hard at work on delivery.

The past two summers were remarkably quiet for ministers, with a natural lull in 2001 after the general election and internal squabbles within the Conservative Party dominating 2002. But with the general election possibly less than two years away, Downing Street understands that the next few months are crucial to preventing an image of drift that brings down most governments. Some MPs have claimed that the loss of Mr. Milburn - after the departures of Stephen Byers and Peter Mandelson - has left Mr. Blair looking worryingly exposed in the Cabinet. Mr. Blair will travel to the EU's Thessaloniki summit in Greece later this week and fly to China and Japan later this month. He is already committed to a roadshow to sell the merits of the euro. However, in his speech to the Fabian Society tomorrow, Mr. Blair will aim to reassure his most loyal followers that his passion for domestic reform remains undimmed. The speech was being worked on throughout the weekend, a measure of the importance attached to it by Downing Street spin-doctors, who are keen not to repeat the bad press surrounding the "botched" reshuffle.

From Independent, UK, by Paul Waugh, 16 June 2003

I.T. In Public Administration OK, But Still Some Shadows

Rome - RUPA (the Public Administration's unitary network) is surely making some progress, but there still are many shadows. According to the report on the outcome of a recent survey on RUPA, sent to the parliament by the Court of Accounts, "there has undoubtedly been a technical improvement, with the creation of an interconnection network that exploited the modern application protocols which guarantee faster and more reliable connections, a broader band and higher security levels". Yet there is still much to be done: "the most innovative initiatives are still being tested". The court is particularly critical on the management of RUPA-linked projects, financed with the funds allocated through law n.400 of 1996, with particular reference to competence initiatives other than those of the IT Authority.

To this matter, the report stresses that "there are many delays, inefficiency, continuous strategy changes, activity duplicates, lack of coordination, studies and experimentation followed by applications and procedures". According to the judges, the management trend was negatively affected by several coinciding factors: scarce planning and operational capacity of administrations, where IT technicians and managers couldn't play a leading role; projects being financed without a correct feasibility study; gradual loss of importance by the IT Authority; starting off of the reform of the central and peripheral State administration. All this to reach the following conclusion: "today, ten years after 1993, despite acknowledging the great progress made by the IT culture and the use of modern communication tools, most administrations still are not completely aware of their IT requirements, because of a lack of skilled personnel and, generally speaking, because of an underdeveloped IT culture".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 13 June 2003

Public Administration Modernisation as a Precondition for Successful Democratisation

Belgrade - Serbian Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Rodoljub Sabic and French Ambassador to Belgrade Gabriel Keller said at workshop in Belgrade on Monday that the successful democratisation of Serbia calls for the reform and modernisation of public administration. Opening a workshop entitled "Status of Public Employees", Sabic said that the Serbian government has opted for the French model of public administration organisation, adding that France's experience will help Serbia meet European public administration standards. According to Keller, a sustainable democracy requires a public administration that protects the state and its stability. French government experts said that bringing Serbia's public administration up to EU standards is not a simple task as it requires taking care of the country's national interest and economy. The experts also said that France will help Serbia train a number of public administration officials by 2005, who will be tasked with the country's integration into European institutions. The two day workshop, held at the Belgrade Hyatt Hotel, is being organised by the Public Administration and Local Self-Government.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 16 June 2003

Public Sector Progress 'Being Hampered by Target Setting'

Innovation in health and education has been stifled by setting centrally driven targets and performance indicators, a study of public sector managers has found. And a lack of good quality leadership means the government's public sector reform agenda is in danger of stalling, according to the report from the Chartered Institute of Management. The survey found that setting targets had delivered some good results, but also prevented imaginative management and leadership. At the same time public sector managers claimed they had less power to influence political decisions than they did three years ago, and less ability to resist inappropriate political interference. The findings came from a survey of almost 1,900 public sector managers, mainly in the middle or junior ranks of public services from health to the armed forces. Nearly six out of 10 managers said big reforms of the past three years had directly improved services.

But while chief executives and senior managers thought the use of targets and performance measurements had been effective, this was not true of their more junior colleagues. Junior to middle managers talked of a "blame culture", with blurred priorities, initiative overload, excess bureaucracy and measurement, and of targets becoming a "raison d'κtre". And while they rated "clarity of vision" as the key personal attribute needed by their superiors, only a third saw it demonstrated in their own organisation. Big efforts were needed to engage both junior managers and the professionals who deliver frontline services in setting local goals and redesigning services, the report said. "Those developing policy and targets need to reconnect to the front line and listen to the people directly engaged in the provision of services," said Sir Michael Bichard, former permanent secretary at the Department for Education and chair of the advisory panel to the report.

The study says: "People are more inclined to support reform that they help create themselves, while resisting that which is forced upon them." That required the development of more effective leadership both at the top of organisations and lower down, the report said. Where that had happened, employers saw a rise in satisfaction and motivation. Where it had not, employee satisfaction was down significantly. The report says there has been much recent talk about devolution and greater managerial autonomy, but so far that has been "more rhetoric than reality". "There has been a growth in apparent autonomy," the report says. But in very few cases have budgets and the ability to hire and fire been devolved to frontline managers with ability to set genuinely local targets and performance objectives.

From Financial Times, UK, by Nicholas Timmins, 17 June 2003

 

Clinical Study Improves Lives, Inspires Public Policy

Little Rock - LeQuita Howard's fetching almond-shaped eyes twinkled as she placed small plastic pyramids into a triangular hole in the top of a wooden box. Her mother looked on with pride. The children's game was no challenge for the 18-year-old Howard, who works in a doctor's office and will start college at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway this year. But it had been her favorite game in 1985, when she and her mother, Terri McKeever, participated in a clinical child development trial. Researchers in eight cities across the country looked at the effects of early training of 985 premature or low-birthweight babies, and now the researchers are checking back with some of them, now 18. The researchers - at Boston, Dallas, Little Rock, Miami, New Haven, Conn., New York, Philadelphia and Seattle - are in the early stages of their follow-up on the 18-year-olds and their findings aren't expected for a few years. When it started, the program provided comprehensive services to the young participants, including physical therapy, exercise, socialization activities, and preschool instruction. Some, like Howard, attended preschool classes and daycare through age 3, and researchers compared their progress with a control group that received just pediatric care. Dr. Patrick Casey, chief of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, has coordinated the Little Rock portion of the Infant Health and Development Program and now leads the other seven sites in gathering follow-up data from his 126 participating families.

Because of success stories like Howard's and McKeever's, the program was transformed from esoteric research into a full-fledged state assistance program for children born with medical problems called Kids First. Little Rock was the only one of the eight sites to directly inspire a change in public policy. The data Casey gathered in the first three years of the program showed that those who received physical therapy and followed the special educational curriculum tended to have higher IQs and behaved better than those in the control group. As a result, UAMS was able to get the state Legislature to approve Medicaid funding for Kids First, which took over Casey's research site near Arkansas Children's Hospital in 1989. Kids First is different from ARKids First, Gov. Mike Huckabee's 1997 medical insurance initiative for families who don't qualify for Medicaid. "Kids First showed that if government is willing to invest in new thinking and be a little patient so data can be gathered, we can turn a lot of the bad things in society around," said Attorney General Mike Beebe, the one-time Searcy senator who joined former Sen. Allen Gordon, D-Morrilton, in sponsoring the initial Kids First bill. Since then, the Little Rock center has moved to a bigger location at an old supermarket and expanded to serve more than 500 kids with special needs at 12 sites across the state. "You'd think it would be common sense to back a program like this," said Carolyn Marsh, Kids First director. "People may know that early intervention makes a difference, but it's getting people on the bandwagon that's hard."

Dr. Marie McCormick, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and lead researcher for the 18-year follow-up, said it's discouraging that Americans have to keep doing research to promote early childhood programs when they are a staple in many other developed countries. She said a similarly structured, but smaller, study at Syracuse University in the 1960s led to Head Start, the federal program for preschool children. "The difference between what we did and the trial for Head Start was that we started earlier and really went after the people who dropped out of the program," McCormick said. Casey, McCormick and the other researchers have gone to great lengths and cost, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to track the children and their parents with follow-ups at ages 5, 8 and 18. Casey said that is longer than most clinical trials run, and researchers have had to hire private investigators to find some subjects. McCormick said the 5-year and 8-year follow-ups showed the benefits diminish after intervention ends at age 3. "I think that means the intervention is not an immunization for the future," Casey said. "In the best possible world, the intervention would continue all the way until the kids get to public school." Still, Casey said he has been "very impressed" with anecdotal evidence that the infant intervention led to better professional and educational attainment for the subjects and their parents. The program included weekly home visits to help parents deal with the trauma of having a child with physical problems, and Casey said he was particularly interested in those ancillary benefits for parents.

McKeever, now 32 and a licensed nurse, was 13 when she gave birth to Howard six weeks early at a weight of less than 5 pounds. With her baby in an incubator, McKeever said she was blessed to be randomly selected for the study by Casey. "Even though I'd made a God-awful mistake having her so young, they treated me like a human being," said McKeever, whose ex-husband wouldn't let her go back to school for years. But once she got a leg up from the program, she said she knew she couldn't waste the second chance. "It was such a big help - in LeQuita's health and attitude and in my attitude, too," she said. "If we weren't in the program, I'd still be in what we call lock-up." Marsh said avoiding future jail time was just one of the cost benefits of the program, along with lowering the need for expensive emergency room visits. Casey said another study found preschool care can save $90,000 in behavior-, health- and education-related costs over a lifetime. Still, Casey said, "It's been an uphill battle. It's difficult enough to fund public schools, so it's even harder to bring it down to babies." He said the initial study results in 1990 inspired Congress to look at a nationalized early intervention program for special needs. But the costs of the study - $30 million in the eight sites over the first five years - may have scared some lawmakers away.

From Stamford Advocate, CT, 9 June 2003

E-gov Chief Urges Administration to Offer Incentives to CIOs

Bush administration officials must look for ways to prevent federal agencies' chief information officers from "burning out" as they work to improve cybersecurity and address a wide range of other technology issues, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) e-government administrator told a House panel on Tuesday. "We're trying to drive an awful lot of transformation, and these have become some of the most stressful jobs," Mark Forman said during a House Government Reform subcommittee hearing on cybersecurity. Forman said much of that stress stems from the sweeping management reforms that must be implemented in order to better protect agencies' information systems from cyberattack. "I'm not quite sure yet how you keep people from burning out, although that is something we're going to have to start looking at more and more," he said. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., agreed, raising concerns that agencies may be losing a large amount of "institutional knowledge" as their CIOs leave through a "revolving door" for higher paying private-sector jobs.

Forman said the administration has asked Congress for a "performance fund" to give federal CIOs a greater incentive to remain on the job. "I think that will help a tremendous amount," he said. The administration also is trying to "significantly empower" the CIOs to make a "business case" for how federal IT dollars should be spent, Forman said. "What really is at the heart of getting the federal government more secure is what we're doing with the infrastructure, networks, telecommunications, the basic computing platforms that we're using," Forman said. "I think we're fine with resources. The challenge is that there is a lot of work, and it takes time." Pointing to OMB's May 16 report to Congress on federal government information security reform, Forman said federal agencies have made progress in identifying and fixing longstanding problems.

He noted that in fiscal 2002, for example, risk assessments had been performed on 65 percent of federal information systems, and 62 percent of federal systems had an "up-to-date security plan." "But there's much work that remains before we can say IT systems are adequately secured in the federal government," Forman said, noting that more than half of the largest federal agencies have reported at least one "material weakness" related to information security. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., chairman of the Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Subcommittee, said lawmakers share a "bipartisan frustration" over the cybersecurity problems plaguing federal agencies. "The weaknesses identified are weaknesses that would be significantly reduced if approved procedures and protocols or best practices were actually followed," Putnam said. He noted, for example, that General Accounting Office audits have found that some federal information systems have never been tested in a production environment, and some agencies have failed to install patches on systems "for months after known vulnerabilities are identified." "These rudimentary lapses are not acceptable," Putnam said. "While some progress is clearly being made at federal agencies, going from an 'F' to a 'D' isn't saying much."

From GovExec.com, by Molly M. Peterson, 24 June 2003

 
 

Good Governance is Government's Goal, President Says

Luanda - Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in Gaberone that "good governance" is the objective of the Angolan Government - President Jose Eduardo dos Santos Thursday said in Gaberone that "good governance" is the objective of the Angolan Government and there is an internal effort in the sense of having a cabinet that performs its duties better and better. Jose Eduardo dos Santos said this at a joint press conference with its Tswana counterpart, Festus Mogae, at the end of his official visit to Botswana. According to the Angolan statesman, the issue of good governance has been a condition imposed by international financial organisations to unblock aid to certain countries. "I think this condition is an expression of bad will, because good governance is a goal and not a precondition", he underlined, adding that he does not agree that this precondition be used to make governance of countries in Africa impracticable. "We will go on mobilizing the world community and clarify them about our purposes, we need help for national reconstruction but we also need partnership fundamentally, and we will say that we will count in this partnership with an Angolan effort, with an internal effort", he said.

According to the President, good governance must be a goal of a programme by the Angolan government, and not only a demand from the international community, adding that the principle of good governance has also been a factor for the creation of stability in Africa. "If the African states do not get aid, do not get assistance, they become weak and becoming weak they govern worse and worse and, naturally, create the instability because the opposition attacks", he explained. He said most developed countries can help Africa improve its governance and, somehow, they have been doing it. "The international financial organisations like IMF have been outlining programs of technical assistance to improve financial management, working out of budgets, improve the elaboration of plans, statistical systems and the functioning of central banks". In his opinion, "being ourselves in democratic systems in which the whole fiscalization is assigned to parliaments, the task related to governance control should be assigned to parliaments and never to extra-national institutions. The President concluded that good governance is a subjective concept and it applies for any government in the world, not only for Africans.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 6 June 2003

Corruption, Weak Leadership Worry DFID

Levels of corruption and poor accountability in the country may deteriorate further between now and the general elections next year, the British Department of International Development (DFID) said on Monday. Launching the Country Assistance Plan (CAP) for Malawi in which DFID will provide K22 billion to Malawi for the next three years, head of DFID Malawi Mike Wood said his office consulted widely for almost year with government officials, the civil society and parliamentary committees. "There is a risk that government may divert development resources for purely political purposes," reads the CAP document released on Monday. DFID also says among other risks that may hamper the implementation of the Malawi's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) include corruption, lack of leadership on HIV/Aids, weak voice and accountability and macroeconomic instability. Unless government tackles corruption more aggressively, donors may conclude that scarce resources should be channelled elsewhere. The people of Malawi will also lose faith in government's anticorruption pronouncements," says DFID in the document. DFID also says there is a medium probability that macroeconomic instability will persist and said they would encourage improved productivity of public expenditure and reduced wastage to ensure sustainable fiscal deficits.

DFID also says the PRSP does not clearly specify the pro-poor programmes that will be protected should shocks require adjustments to the budget and noted that this, together with capacity constraints and weaknesses in public expenditure management, pose a major risk. DFID also says that PRSP and longer-term millennium development goals for Malawi will not be met unless there is a sustained effort on the part of government and donors to deal with the Aids crisis."A key risk is lack of leadership and capacity to implement a genuinely multi-sectoral HIV/Aids strategy which comprehensively addresses prevention, care and mitigation in the health and non-health sectors," says DFID.M inister of Finance Friday Jumbe defended government, saying there is strong political commitment in addressing poverty as evidenced by the launch of PRSP by President Bakili Muluzi in April 2002.He also said government is serious in addressing issues of corruption by the creation of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)."Corruption is evil and we, as government, need to put in transparent and accountability systems and strengthen capacity of the ACB," said Jumbe. He denied that there is lack of leadership in the fight against HIV/Aids saying the matter is in the office of the president and the appointment of a full minister responsible for HIV/Aids is testimony enough that government is taking the fight against the scourge seriously. Wood announced during the launch of CAP that DFID has approved the provision of 500,000 pounds to the National Aids Commission (NAC) and will continue to support it in the fight against HIV/Aids.

From The Nation, Malawi, by McDonald Chapalapata, 9 June 2003

The Church Urges Zambians to Join Fight Against Corruption

Lusaka - Three Christian church mother-bodies yesterday made a clarion call to all patriotic Zambians to join the fight against corruption. In a joint statement signed by Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Reverend Japhet Ndhlovu, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Bishop Paul Mususu and Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) secretary general Fr. Ignatius Mwebe, the Church urged President Levy Mwanawasa to subject all those found or suspected to be corrupt to the law regardless of their status in society. "We further call upon all patriotic Zambians to report all corruption cases to the law enforcement agencies," read the statement in part. "And together let us fight this terrible vice, as it is not a battle for one individual." The Church urged President Mwanawasa to exercise wisdom in ensuring that the crusade against corruption was won by subjecting all those found or suspected to be corrupt to the law regardless of their status in society. The Church demanded for the immediate investigations of the alleged corruption of the leaders President Mwanawasa dismissed from his government last week.

They expressed disappointment at the way President Mwanawasa handled former vice-president Enoch Kavindele, finance minister Emmanuel Kasonde and information minister Newstead Zimba's dismissals. "What would have happened if Mr. Kavindele did not react in the manner that he did? Are the other two gentlemen being spared because, unlike their colleague, they have chosen to remain silent? (In one instance even being promised a diplomatic posting)," read the joint statement in part. The Church condemned President Mwanawasa and Kavindele's washing of dirty linen in public because it demeaned the respect and integrity due to the two highest offices in the land. "Mr. Kavindele's actions, after his dismissal, deserve to be condemned, because he himself when it suited him, went against the MMD party constitutional provisions," read the statement. "How can he then turn back and claim the moral high ground only after he is dismissed? It indicates to us that as long as his misdeeds were not disclosed everything in the MMD was just fine."

The Church wondered why President Mwanawasa chose to disclose the information only after Kavindele's reaction. "We demand to know the truth behind these issues otherwise President Mwanawasa will be perceived to be shielding the same corruption he is trying to fight," read the statement. "In the interest of transparency, President Mwanawasa should have allowed questions from the press by addressing the nation through a press conference during the day and not at night through TV and radio only." The Church asked government to work towards reducing tension in the nation by drawing up a long-term plan that would facilitate and pave way for lasting dialogue. The Church observed that Vice-President Nevers Mumba's appointment came at a time when the legality of President Mwanawasa's presidency was still being challenged in the Supreme Court. "How will the country focus on the development if the two most powerful offices in the land are subjected to perpetual legal battles, as they try to legitimise their hold on power?" read the statement.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 9 June 2003

Swedes Hail Fight Against Corruption

Lusaka - Swedish Ambassador to Zambia Christina Rehlen yesterday observed that President Mwanawasa has really tried his best to fight corruption in the country. In an interview during the commemoration of the Swedish national day at her residence, Ambassador Rehlen said her government supported the fight against corruption. "The fight should not be left to the President alone but everyone should get involved, the business community, donors and Zambians," she said. Ambassador Rehlen said she was satisfied with the pace at which the Task Force on corruption and plunder of national resources was carrying out its duties. "It's not only old corruption that should be fought but incoming corruption," Ambassador Rehlen said. "It is so deep here. We need to have transparent systems in procurement and expenditure." And in her speech, Ambassador Rehlen said the past year in Zambia had been eventful in terms of fighting corruption and HIV/AIDS, two of the country's major wars. She noted a lot more needed to be done in the area of poverty eradication. "The eradication of poverty among the Zambian population is highly dependent on what extent corruption and HIV/AIDS can be fought," she said.

Ambassador Rehlen challenged Zambians to have a greater role in the struggles against corruption and HIV/AIDS. She also said government's commitment to review and reform the Constitution, the electoral system as well as the ongoing parliamentary reforms in consultation with representatives of various groups in society was vital. She said the successful outcome of the reform programmes would further strengthen the potential of Zambians to actively participate in decision making and the governance of the country. "This I believe will contribute to empowering them to take charge of their own destinies and improve their living conditions," she said. Ambassador Rehlen said her country had since 1964 been a close committed partner to Zambia's development efforts. She said in consultation with Zambian stakeholders, her country had in the past year been working on a new country strategy for continued Swedish development co-operation with Zambia. Ambassador Rehlen explained the focus of the new co-operation strategy as reducing poverty. "It is envisaged that Zambia and Sweden shall co-operate to remove obstacles that create or reinforce poverty. Special attention will be paid to measures that counteract HIV/AIDS and its social and economic impact," she said.

Ambassador Rehlen said donor co-ordination and harmonisation with government systems and procedures took centre stage in the dialogue with the Zambian government last year. She said Zambia in March signed a joint action framework regarding harmonisation of donor practices for aid effectiveness in Zambia together with Denmark, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Ambassador Rehlen said her country was committed to sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment in all development efforts to Zambia. "The environment is something we are very concerned about even in our country," said Ambassador Rehlen. Tourism minister Patrick Kalifungwa said Zambia appreciated the commitment Sweden had shown in Zambians development efforts. He said it was pleasing that a country co-operation strategy for the periods 2003 to 2007 was being worked out. Kalifungwa said during the past year, Zambia benefited from Swedish development assistance in the areas of health, agriculture, private sector development, energy, democracy and human rights and public administration. "My government is hopeful that our two countries could enhance co-operation particularly, in the agricultural sector with an added focus on research and development of drought-resistance plants and crops," Kalifungwa said. "This would go a long way towards achieving our goal of food security."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 9 June 2003

Government Steps Up War On Corruption

Nairobi - Cabinet Minister Raila Odinga yesterday declared that short-cut to acquisition of illegal wealth will be curtailed by the Government from next month. Raila also declared war on illegal sugar importers at the Port of Mombasa. He said forms for declaration of wealth were now ready and the Government will monitor how ministers and other public servants acquire wealth. The Roads, Public Works and Housing Minister was speaking during his tour of Roads in Khwisero constituency of Butere/Mumias District. The minister was accompanied by Narc MPs Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya (Butere), Julius Arunga (Khwisero) and Butere/Mumias District Commissioner Ibrahim Duale. Raila said President Mwai Kibaki will lead the ministers in declaring their wealth and how it was acquired from next month. He noted that no one guilty of corruption will be spared as the law will be executed without discrimination. Raila pointed out that sugar importers had ruined the country's economy and their activities will now be curtailed to bring to an end acquisition of illegal wealth. The minister said roads in the country will also be repaired for smooth flow of goods to the market to improve the economy. At the same time Raila said the Government will also construct houses for police officers to de-congest their accommodation. Raila said housing and better terms and condition of service to the police officers were crucial to improve the security operation in the country.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ayub Savula, 9 June 2003

Good Governance Is Government`s Goal, President Says

Luanda - President Jose Eduardo dos Santos Thursday said in Gaberone that "good governance" is the objective of the Angolan Government and there is an internal effort in the sense of having a cabinet that performs its duties better and better. Jose Eduardo dos Santos said this at a joint press conference with its Tswana counterpart, Festus Mogae, at the end of his official visit to Botswana. According to the Angolan statesman, the issue of good governance has been a condition imposed by international financial organisations to unblock aid to certain countries. "I think this condition is an expression of bad will, because good governance is a goal and not a precondition", he underlined, adding that he does not agree that this precondition be used to make governance of countries in Africa impracticable. "We will gon on mobilizing the world community and clarify them about our purposes, we need help for national reconstruction but we also need partnership fundamentally, and we will say that we will count in this partnership with an Angolan effort, with an internal effort", he said.

According to the President, good governance must be a goal of a programme by the Angolan government, and not only a demand from the international community, adding that the principle of good governance has also been a factor for the creation of stability in Africa. "If the African states do not get aid, do not get assistance, they become weak and becoming weak they govern worse and worse and, naturally, create the instability because the opposition attacks", he explained. He said most developed countries can help Africa improve its governance and, somehow, they have been doing it. "The international financial organisations like IMF have been outlining programs of technical assistance to improve financial management, working out of budgets, improve the elaboration of plans, statistical systems and the functioning of central banks". In his opinion, "being ourselves in democratic systems in which the whole fiscalization is assigned to parliaments, the task related to governance control should be assigned to parliaments and never to extra-national institutions. The President concluded that good governance is a subjective concept and it applies for any government in the world, not only for Africans.

From Angola News Index, Angola, 6 June 2003

Minister Explains Efforts to Root Out Corruption in Public Service

Pretoria - Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi says government has identified 60 percent of corruption cases in the public service on its own efforts. The minister was addressing the National Assembly yesterday during her department's budget vote. 'Fighting corruption is an important priority for government. If we are to sustain social change, we need honesty and integrity in the public service,' the minister said. She said there were a number of proposals on the table to curb corruption, including the establishment of a single national hotline for reporting cases of corruption. 'Training public officials on how to combat corruption is also receiving attention. Nearly 100 senior investigators and prosecutors recently attended workshops on new tools and techniques for fighting corruption,' Minister Fraser-Moleketi said. The minister said they were working to address the problem at a hands-on level, adding that the Public Service Commission continued to undertake investigations into specific cases of corruption.

'In the Eastern Cape, the Interim Management Team (IMT) and the Joint Anti-Corruption Task team are working to address specific cases and a number of people implicated have already been charged and appeared in court,' Minister Fraser-Moleketi announced. Government established the IMT in January, to rid the Eastern Cape of corruption and a number of alleged corrupt officials have since been nabbed. She told the National Assembly that her department was also considering proposals for the creation of a permanent anti-corruption capacity in the Eastern Cape. The minister said a special court dealing with corruption had been set up in Mdantsane and a second one would be set up in Umtata to speed up the prosecution of corruption cases and serve as a deterrent. Minister Fraser-Moleketi said her department had also identified the need to increase awareness and provide more public education on how to fight corruption. 'In the coming year we will be communicating a clearer message about what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour by public servants so that we can minimize the negative effects of corruption on service delivery.'

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Karen Pretorius, 12 June 2003

Botswana Top in Good Governance

Botswana has been ranked the least corrupt African country in a list compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Tunisia, Gambia and South Africa followed Botswana as the countries with the best standards of governance. Nigeria and Chad were named as having the worst public institutions. "The index is a very important component of our assessment of a country's competitiveness and overall prospects for economic growth", WEF economist Fiona Paua said. The Swiss-based organisation graded 21 countries on the rule of law, impressions of corruption and the enforcement of contracts. The WEF draws its evaluations from a survey of business leaders in the countries concerned. This year WEF received about 2,000 responses for the survey. The survey looks at law enforcement and corruption, combining the two to give an overall ranking on good governance. South Africa was dragged down in law enforcement because of its high rate of organised crime. Zimbabwe, which is facing a political and economic crisis, was ranked 16 and judged to have the least independent judiciary.

All the countries where the survey was carried out are partners of the WEF's global competitiveness programme. The rankings were announced at the opening of the WEF's Africa economic summit in the South African city of Durban. About 650 African parliamentarians and international business leaders are meeting there to promote investment and development in the world's poorest continent. Anti-corruption campaign The rankings were released at a time when the European parliament has been holding hearings into payments made by international oil companies to African governments. The hearings are part of a campaign to bring in a law requiring companies to reveal the money they pay governments for operating in their countries. The European Parliament's spokesman on corporate responsibility, Richard Howitt, said companies were under pressure from corrupt governments not to reveal how much they pay in taxes and licensing fees, so that the money can be siphoned off for personal enrichment.

From BBC News, UK, 12 June 2003

President Continues Anti-Corruption Campaign

Kampala - Continuing with his national campaign against corruption in local governments, an angry Museveni directed local governments to prosecute Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) who embezzle government funds. He was riled by the failure of Mukono district leadership to prosecute their CAO who allegedly embezzled Electoral Commission funds during Aziz Kasujja's time. The Mukono leadership irritated him when they said the funds stolen did not belong to the district. He said from whatever source the money was embezzled, it belonged to the Government. Addressing Mukono district leaders and the public at Njeru on the western banks of the River Nile yesterday, Museveni said he would soon set up a commission of inquiry to investigate, expose and arraign corrupt local government leaders. He launched the Mukono Boda Boda Cyclists Cooperative Society and commissioned 70 motor-cycles to be sold to members who will pay by installment. He rode on one of the bikes as the crowd that filled the St Moses Primary School football pitch cheered.

"We are moving to create EPVs (export promotion villages) to ensure that our villages are transformed into production zones for exports. But we must produce high quality products. We need maximum hygiene to do that. We need food security," he told the audience that braved a scorching sun. He said the Government had done its lubimbi (role) by providing funds to citizens through the local governments. "We send more than sh25b to Mukono district every year as grants for various projects," he said. He said the Government was also streamlining the disbursement of poverty eradication funds (entandikwa) and the high interest rates charged by the intermediary agencies. But the audience kept shouting back that the projects in the district report to the president were merely on paper and that no work had been done especially on the Njeru-Nyenga road where the district officials claimed they spent sh80m repairing it. The audience said the Kyetume-Katosi road was not repaired. The officials said they had spent sh180 and that 90% of the work had been done. Museveni directed the local government minister, Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere, to check and report back to him for action.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Alfred Wasike, Jonathan Angura And Esther Mukyala, 24 June 2003

 

Good Governance, Development To Be BJP's Poll Plank

Hyderabad - With good governance and development as the poll plank, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is now leading a coalition government at the Centre involving several partners, will seek a clear mandate from the people in the next elections due in 2004. The party leadership, which held a brainstorming session here for two days with presidents and general secretaries of the state units, felt that five years was "too short a period" to bring about development on all fronts though the NDA government had been successful in putting the country on the road to development. "As the people had given the BJP a limited mandate, we will seek 300 seats (absolute majority) next time. The battle cry in the elections would be good governance and development and not Hindutva," party president M. Venkaiah Naidu told newspersons at the end of the two-day national convention of party leaders. Chaired by Venkaiah Naidu, the conference discussed threadbare the issues that had to be raised in the run up to the elections not only in the four North Indian states (MP, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chattisgarh) but also for the realisation of Mission 2004 - riding back to power at Delhi with a clear majority.

At the end of the session, the party decided to hold its executive at Raipur from July 18 to 20 to take stock of the situation and speed up the preparedness for the poll battles that lie ahead. Venkaiah Naidu made it clear that Hindutva would not be an electoral issue though the party considered it as "soul of India." The party has listed several issues that should be raised during the poll campaign such as the need for anti-conversion law and scrapping of Illegal Migration Detention Tribunal Act (IMDTD) to check the migration of people from across Bangaladesh, ban on cow slaughter, inter-linking of rivers and providing reservation for economically backward sections. The message for partymen was: Think progressively, assert ideologically and campaign aggressively. They were asked to educate people on party policies and touch every household in the country by the end of this year to gauge the pulse of people.

From Newindpress, India, 30 May 2003

Strong Measures Urged To Boost Good Governance

Asian countries should step up efforts to ensure full convergence with international accounting standards, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These should be among vigorous measures to protect minority shareholders, strengthen corporate governance practices and rebuild investor confidence in the region, the Paris-based organisation says in an Asian corporate governance policy document to be published on Tuesday. Although Asian countries have made progress in introducing better corporate governance since the 1997 financial crisis, the OECD report warns that much work remains to be done. Exploitation of non-controlling shareholders is considered as "the most serious corporate governance challenge" facing the region, according to the wide-ranging panel of policymakers, regulators and experts who took part in the four-year drafting of the Asian policy document using the OECD's corporate governance principles as a framework. The report does not assess individual countries but instead has sought to identify common policy objectives and practical reform proposals for the region. The need to strengthen the protection of minority shareholder interests reflects the high degree of ownership concentration in most Asian countries.

The report notes that three quarters of listed companies in Asia are family-run. These have also had a tendency to establish complex and opaque networks of subsidiaries and partially owned publicly listed sister companies. "A particular challenge for corporate governance reform in Asia is to encourage the dynamism and growth of family business while channelling their energies and operations into structures that are more transparent and more clearly equitable for non-family investors," the report says. Asian governments are urged to ensure minority shareholders are adequately protected by strengthening disclosure requirements; ensuring regulators have real powers and resources to monitor companies and impose substantial sanctions for wrongdoing; strengthening the fiduciary duty of directors to act in the interest of all shareholders; and provide shareholders who suffer financial losses with private and collective rights to sue controlling shareholders and directors. The OECD also recommends full adoption of international accounting, audit and financial disclosure standards and practices by Asian countries to improve transparency as well as the comparability of information across different jurisdictions.

Although local conditions may require the adoption of international standards by individual countries at differing speeds rather than all at once, the document stresses that such local conditions should not be used to politicise standard-setting or encourage divergence from international benchmarks. While many Asian countries have substantially revamped corporate governance rules since the 1997 financial crisis, the report says these rules must now be put into practice. It notes the important part played by a "free and vigorous" press in promoting disclosure and transparency. A "significant" percentage of enforcement actions in Asia begin with press reports of wrongdoing. But in some Asian jurisdictions, expansively drafted libel laws have been used to stifle reporting on corporate or state enterprise wrongdoing. Reputable news organisations have been forced to retract stories and pay large settlements rather than risk regulatory closure or substantial damages in a national court possibly subject to political pressure. The document says Asian countries should enact narrowly tailored defamation and libel laws to promote investigation and reporting by the press.

From Financial Times, UK, by Paul Betts, 9 June 2003

Afghan Ruler Moves to End Corruption, Nepotism

Kabul - In a move to root out corruption and nepotism, Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to set up a commission to reform non-military sectors of his interim administration, an official said on Wednesday. The move comes amid accusations by many ordinary Afghans of corruption in some government institutions and doubts over the qualifications of several senior civil servants in Karzai's government. A presidential order published in state-run newspapers said the new body would be given powers to appoint or remove high ranking civil servants "on the principle of merit and qualification". It will also oversee administrative reforms. "The main thing in this order is to end bribery, corruption and get rid off nepotism," Khaliq Ahmad, a presidential press official, told Reuters. "It is aimed at the reform of the senior bureaucracy and the civil servant on the administrative side." Called the Independent Reforms Commission of Administrative and Civil Services, the body will report directly to Karzai. The commission is the latest in a series of measures designed to consolidate Karzai's control not only over regional governors and warlords, but also over central administration in Kabul.

Last month he threatened to step down within three months should he fail to make regional authorities pay up millions of dollars in unpaid customs revenues to the central government. His cash-strapped government says that provincial customs revenues exceeded $500 million last year, but Kabul received just $80 million. Days after the threat, Ismail Khan, the powerful governor of the western province of Herat, released $20 million into central funds which was used to pay wage arrears to 100,000 employees in the defence ministry. But as well as wresting control from the provinces, Karzai is seeking to strengthen his position in Kabul where some factional leaders appear bent on consolidating their own positions. The US-backed leader was installed in power after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001. There are around 11,500 troops under US command in Afghanistan hunting Taliban and Al-Qaeda remnants and a further 5,000 peacekeepers patrolling Kabul.

From Utusan Malaysia Online, Malaysia, 11 June 2003

Queensland Government Considers Indigenous Governance Changes

The Queensland Government says it is looking into changing the structure of governance in Indigenous communities, including Palm Island. The Government has a green paper looking at the governance issues in all Aboriginal communities, and is considering getting rid of the Aboriginal acts of Parliament and incorporating community councils in the Local Government Act. The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy, Judy Spence, says communities such as Palm Island could benefit from the changes. "I think there would be a lot of important synergies," she said.

From ABC Online, Australia, 10 June 2003

Afghan President Establishes New Commission to Fight Corruption, Nepotism

The Afghan government has set up a new commission to fight corruption, nepotism and red tape, President Hamid Karzai said Sunday. The Independent Reform of Civil Administrative Services Commission is the latest in a series of measures Karzai has taken to try to jump-start the economy. After two decades of war, the country is desperately short of cash and heavily dependent on foreign aid. The panel will be headed by one of the country's several vice presidents, Hadyat Amin Arsala, Karzai said in a speech at the Interior Ministry. Several Cabinet members were among the hundreds who attended. "Lots of people complain about how our administrative system works. Businessmen say they have to wait for days and days to get licenses to operate," Karzai said. "These people should be allowed to start work as soon as possible, because if they open businesses, it will mean more job opportunities for lots of people." Afghans have taken to the streets several times in recent weeks, demanding the government increase salaries, pay back wages and rehire employees it has laid off.

Karzai responded by demanding that warlords who control lucrative import routes hand over millions of dollars in unpaid customs revenues - a move that has begun to pay off. Money has started coming in, and much of it has been used to pay soldiers and civil servants whose salaries were several months in arrears. The government hopes to raise at least $200 million in custom revenues this year, but Karzai said that alone would not be enough to get the economy going. Providing job opportunities was "not just the job of government," he said, adding that private sector growth was also key. "Customs revenues alone are not enough," Karzai said. "If we have a good economy and we can pay good salaries to civil servants, then there won't be any need for corruption in government." The new commission also would work to route out nepotism, Karzai said. "It's not good when someone gets work because he knows the boss or director," Karzai said. "The people who have the talent and capacity to do a job should get the job."

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA, 16 June 2003

The Economic Cost of Corruption

Dhaka - Is corruption and lack of accountability in politics, business, and society on the run? The latest i.e. 2003 Transparency International (TI), report seems to believe it is. In fact, TI's chairman Peter Eigen, stresses that empowered by technology-essential to the prompt and accurate flow of information-the media and the public are increasingly calling politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen to account. TI's report itemised region-by-region and sector-by-sector abuses through corruption and lack of accountability worldwide. True corruption is a major issue in a developing country (also in others) and continues to pervade every aspect of economic life (political too). Research shows there is a strong corelation between per capita income and quality of governance. The strategy of waiting for improvements in governance to come automatically as countries become richer is unlikely to be successful. Nor in there any chance of better governance improving income which would lead to an improvement in governance. For the second year running, Bangladesh has been called the World's Most-Corrupt Country, the costs of which (corruption) are devastating to a developing economy such as Bangladesh's.

Here, with the decline in real income, petty corruption is on the rise and major corruption is rampant among senior government officials, politicians and their henchmen-the businessmen with shady character. Corruption in Bangladesh can be prevented through harsh punishment to the corrupts, greater transparency in accounting and better control mechanisms, particularly in respect to international aid, and in relations between large outfits and states regarding government purchases and contracts. However, the battle against financial corruption can be best achieved through separating and empowering the Judiciary and stricter doses of democracy. An ombudsman is a must together with an independent anticorruption commission. Again, a good percentage should be allocated to the justice system. When an overloaded and under-researched justice system is confronted by organised crime, political corruption, and other types of corruption, the latter is, more often than not guaranteed impunity.

Another major development is the use of ICT with Internet and cell phones-to open up government processes and enable greater public access to information, and to allow on-line tracking of permits, licences and transactions. However, good governance is the master key to elimination of corruption. Nevertheless, TI finding does come with some interesting facts-women for instance are less tolerant of soliciting bribes and that policies that increase women's role in public life reduce graft. However, the corruption and scandals involving women government leaders do not imply that corruption would be controlled if individual women are in charge of governments or organissations. The women as above in the TI report, said to be most corrupt, are: #4 is Edith Cresson at the European Commission (EC),#3 is Tansu Ciller, former PM in Turkey, #2 is Benazir Bhutto, former PM of Pakistan, and finally topping the TI list is # one: Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the so-called Fereshta of Bangladesh (former PM)!

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, by Rekha Abdullah, 16 June 2003

SK Group Faces Major Governance Reform

Following the decision by SK Corp.'s board to bail out its ailing trading unit, SK Global Co., the SK Group has averted its worst crisis ever that could have led to the breakup of the Korea's third-largest business conglomerate. But the conglomerate is expected to undergo a seismic change in its governance structure. On Sunday, SK Corp. board members gave the go-ahead to a controversial proposal for the country's top oil refiner to convert 850 billion won of its domestic accounts receivable owed by SK Global into equity, despite lawsuit threats from the refiner's labor union and its largest shareholder, Monaco-based Sovereign Asset Management which has a 15 percent stake. Following the approval, SK Global's creditors plans to meet today to conclude the debt restructuring to keep the troubled trading company afloat. The bailout plan is expected to defuse the SK Group crisis, which was sparked by the revelation in March of $1.2 billion worth of accounting irregularities at SK Global, but business observers say that the SK Group will have to reform its governance structure in order to regain the market's confidence. No specific blueprint for restructuring SK Global has been drawn up yet. But the trading company will likely experience a major change in its management because its creditors will take control of the firm after the proposed debt-restructuring measures, which include a capital write-down, debt-to-equity swaps and debt rollovers.

The SK Group will also likely undergo huge changes of its governance structure, as many of its top managers suffered great setbacks after they were found guilty of the SK Global accounting fraud, loosening their strong grip over the conglomerate. Last week, the Seoul District Court sentenced Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Corp. and a son of the late founder of the conglomerate, to three years in prison for his involvement in the accounting irregularities and making illegal stock transactions. The court found the SK Group chairman, Son Kil-seung, and other group executives guilty of the accounting book-rigging and handed them suspended sentences of up to three years. "The SK Group's image has been marred significantly, and it will have to reform its governance structure drastically," an analyst said. The top two leaders of the SK Group, Son and Chey, may appeal to higher courts in their bids to maintain their control over group affiliates. But their authority over the conglomerate will likely be in jeopardy if Sovereign and shareholders' rights activists take legal action against SK Corp. for bailing out its beleaguered affiliate at the expense of its shareholders' interests. (simonkim@heraldm.com)

From Korea Herald, South Korea, by Kim Hyun-chul, 16 June 2003

Karzai Vows to Weed Out Corruption from Country

Kabul - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has vowed that his government would remove corruption from all the government departments. Addressing a meeting of senior officials in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai said that there had been a lot of problems in government departments of the country, which needed immediate attention to be rectified. The main objective of reforms in the county is to end corruption, he added. Hamid Karzai said that to weed out corruption from the government departments, he issued an ordinance last week in which he gave several recommendations to the reform commission headed by Hidyat Amin Arsala. He said that there is need in the county to work for an organizational set up and strengthening of different departments in Afghanistan. He said that there is need to make appointment in these departments on the basis of merit and professionalism and not on the basis of political affiliations. He expressed to establish such a governmental structure in Afghanistan, which stands on rules and regulations.

From PakTribune.com, Pakistan, 17 June 2003

 

Corruption Bill 'Aims to Clarify Existing Laws'

A shake-up in bribery legislation will not lead to a crackdown on corrupt officials, Lord Falconer admitted yesterday. Responding to criticism that the government's draft corruption bill lacked teeth, the criminal justice minister insisted that the planned legislation was not intended to tighten the laws to catch more corruption offences. Giving evidence before a parliamentary inquiry, he said: "The purpose of the law is to codify and clarify. We believe the effect will be not to capture a greater series of offences than are already captured." The bill will pull together some existing laws into one act to make it easier to understand and prevent prosecutions failing on technical issues. Lord Falconer told the joint committee of the House of Commons and House of Lords that an impact assessment was not needed because no new offences would be caught. But he said there could be more prosecutions because the laws would be easier to understand. He also told MPs and peers that the government had struck the right balance in its attempt to define "acting corruptly" for the first time in English law.

The draft bill was savaged this week by Professor Mark Pieth, the head of a bribery taskforce, who claimed the definition was too vague. He said Britain should adopt the concept of "undue payments" like most of its trading partners. The committee said Prof Pieth was the latest in a "stream" of witnesses who claimed the definition was unworkable. One member, Lord Waddington, criticised the government's definition for failing to include the notion of "doing something wrong". He said the bill could catch transactions as innocent as paying motorway tolls. Industry leaders have also expressed concern that the law will hit legitimate acts such as commission payments by insurance companies. They have criticised the government for failing to conduct a regulatory impact assessment to find out what effect the changes will have. Lord Falconer said the government had struck a middle course between a bill that failed to define the offence at all and one that listed many specific crimes and risked missing some out.

From Financial Times, UK, by Bob Sherwood, 5 June 2003

Good Laws Are Precondition for Effective Fight Against Corruption

Belgrade - Members of the Serbian government's Anti-corruption Council said that the bill on prevention of conflicts of interest in the performance of public functions and the bill on financing political parties should be adopted by the government and forwarded to the Serbian Parliament for debate by the beginning of July at the latest, as promised by Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic. Council member Vladimir Goati told a press conference on Monday that good laws are the grounds for an effective fight against corruption, and pointed to five very important measures to be introduced by the Law on financing political parties. These include the abolishment of anonymous contributions, closer surveillance of parties' financial operations, introduction of an annual audit to be carried out by auditing companies, disclosure of donors of sums above the established ceilings, and the introduction of penalties other than financial ones.

Council member Zagorka Golubovic said that the Council will begin fighting corruption in specific areas in the next period, which will call for the formation of special expert teams. The Council will work on the examination of criteria for the privatisation of companies and legalisation of unlicensed construction, and will analyse the degree of corruption in the health sector, education and judiciary, said Golubovic. The Council's members also pointed to the need for a thorough investigation into the Milosevic regime's unspecified taxpayer expenditures, with the aim of preventing similar behaviour in future. According to Council member Miomir Brkic, in the past two years the budgetary inspection service has filed a number of criminal charges against ministers of the Milosevic regime for the unspecified spending of tens of millions of euros. However, charges have yet to be filed by police and the prosecutor's office.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 9 June 2003

Swiss Crack Down on Corruption

The cabinet has issued concrete guidelines to combat corruption among government officials. The recommendations, published on Monday, ban federal employees from accepting any gifts exceeding SFr100 ($77). The Federal Personnel Office drew up the code of conduct following the introduction of a new anti-corruption law three years ago. The guidelines have been passed on to the cantons and, according to Ulrich Schneider of the Federal Personnel Office, the response has been positive. "There is no guarantee that government staff will follow the rules; however, we have already had some feedback from the cantons. They will look into the matter and see whether they need to apply such guidelines," Schneider told swissinfo. Gifts Under the recommendations, gifts should generally be declined, but those worth less than SFr100 may be accepted. Staff are also being urged not to accept anything that would "challenge their independence and capacity to act".

The guidelines also call for better internal control systems and include recommendations on how to protect so-called whistleblowers - people that reveal wrongdoings. One of the main findings of the report was that corruption could only be defeated if different departments cooperated and agreed on a range of preventive measures. However, the finance ministry stopped short of creating a special anti-corruption office. Nepotism Last year Switzerland was ranked 12th in a global study conducted by Transparency International, a non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption. The organisation blamed the country's ongoing culture of petty nepotism for its poor ranking and pointed out that around 40 cases of official corruption occurred in Switzerland each year. The global watchdog estimates there are many more incidents of corruption but claims "these disappear under a cloak of silence". Transparency blames the culture of corruption and cover-ups on Switzerland's home-grown "old boys' network" - circles of associates, friends, family and ex-military colleagues that help grease commercial and political exchanges.

From Swissinfo, Switzerland, 16 June 2003

As Elections Approach, Russians See Corruption Crackdown

Moscow - State television today featured majestic shots of a compound of brick dachas, an all-weather tennis court and an azure swimming pool - all built by police colonels with official salaries of about $300 a month. It's election season, cynics say, which means it's time for a televised anticorruption campaign. "A gang of werewolves wearing police epaulets," Russia's interior minister, Boris Gryzlov, intoned about six police colonels formally arrested today for running "a crime corporation" that extorted protection money from owners of shops, restaurants and casinos. Interior Ministry officials said that the ring involved 30 police officers, but several escaped arrest on Monday, possibly because the minister announced the crackdown on state television just as his teams were knocking on doors across Moscow, making televised arrests. Mr. Gryzlov wears a second hat, that of the leader of United Russia, the main party of President Vladimir V. Putin's parliamentary coalition.

Parliamentary elections are now less than six months away, and voter polls show United Russia running neck and neck with the Communist Party, each receiving about 21 percent of voter preference. Today's images of the police colonels' gold-plated toilets and 16th-century icons competed with more news from the interior minister: the arrest of two men suspected of involvement in the murder of an opposition member of the State Duma, Sergei Yushenkov, who was shot outside his Moscow apartment on April 17. The arrest of the two men capped a busy two months for the Interior Ministry, which has announced the solutions to most of Russia's high- profile murders of recent years. Last week it announced the arrest of a suspect in the murder of the governor of the Magadan region, Valentin Tsvetkov, who was shot on a Moscow street in October. In April, just days after Vasily Naumov, a gangland figure in the Russian Far East, was shot to death in South Korea, the interior minister announced that the same man had organized the May 2002 killing of a general in the Federal Border Service, Vitaly Gamov.

In that killing, three Molotov cocktails were thrown into the general's apartment, sparking a fire that killed him and badly injured his wife. "He travels to the Far East and announces that he has solved two of the region's most high-profile murders," said Yulia Latynina, a sharp-tongued novelist, who had plenty of time to talk today because her talk show went off the air with the demise on Sunday of the only remaining independent television station. "People will be impressed with the police when they stop stealing from them, when they start preventing crimes, when they start solving crimes." The Interior Ministry public relations department deflected such criticism by citing a public opinion poll (commissioned by the ministry) showing that the number of respondents "quite satisfied" with Russia's police rose to 23.5 percent in 2002, up from 21 percent in 2000. Each year the ministry purges about 10 percent of its ranks for corruption, said Alexander Doronin, an expert on private security agencies. As part of this week's purge, television viewers saw suspects being paraded before cameras and heard special reports on the mechanics of an extortion racket. According to the ministry, the "gang of colonels" would frame their targets, sometimes planting heroin packets, explosives or weapons. They would then demand cash to drop the charges.

New York Times, by James Brooke, 26 June 2003

 

Transparency and Good Governance

"A corporation's objective isn't to hide anything," says the CEO of National City Corp. His key to effective oversight: a strong board - War, SARS, and other current events have pushed corporate-governance issues off the front page but they remain critical to the success of all publicly traded companies, believes David Daberko, chairman and CEO of National City Corp. (NCC.). The Cleveland-based bank-holding company had revenues of $6.8 billion in 2002. Statistics support Daberko's assertion: Federal securities-fraud lawsuits grew by 31%, to 224 filings in 2002 from 2001, according to a report by Stanford Law School and Cornerstone Research, a financial-and-legal research outfit in Boston. The companies sued in 2002 lost $1.9 trillion in stock market value during the "class periods" - the time frame for shareholders to be covered by the class actions. So far this year, 101 class actions have been filed. For the last article in a three-part series on corporate governance, I asked Daberko to share his strategies and best practices (see previous "Ask the CEO" columns on BW Online: 5/6/03, "A Board's Top Job: Watching the CEO", and 5/16/03, "AutoZone's "40-Headed CEO"). Here are edited excerpts of our conversation:

Q: How do you define successful corporate governance? A: Corporate governance is about protecting the shareholders - and implementing a structure to ensure disclosure and accuracy of financial reporting purposes. Good governance rests on the issue of transparency. A corporation's objective isn't to hide anything or to be obtuse. You have to guarantee that shareholders are given as much information as is useful for them to understand the positioning of company without publicly revealing competitive positions. Thanks to increased Congressional scrutiny and the passage of new regulations, I believe that we're at the tail end of the trend for corporate scandals, and that we're moving closer directors actually overseeing management's actions. To be effective, board members have to be willing to rock the boat and possibly lose the friendship of the chairman or CEO.

Q: What are the top five elements for strong, effective corporate governance? A: In my view, there's one element, not five: a strong, independent board. A board that demands accountability of management, keeps shareholder issues in focus, and advocates the upholding of the company's code of ethics. I'm the only member of the executive team serving on our board. Our board members can serve on no more than five separate directorships, or two audit committees, including ours. The audit committee meets 10 times year, but the whole board approves financial reporting. Hewitt and Associates, an outside compensation consultant, and the compensation committee together determine executive pay levels. Compensation committee meetings are held without the presence of senior management. At places like Enron, where enormous stock options were given, there was huge incentive to drive the price of the stock up in the short term. We have more of a long-term approach. Top officers in the company are required to own shares of stock as a defined multiple of their salary and hold these shares for at least a year. When they exercise options they must hold the stock for at least a year to avoid speculative selling. Loans are prohibited from the corporation for executives and board members and we don't believe in offering stock options for board members. Also, within three years of appointment, company directors must own 12,000 shares of company stock. These shares aren't given in compensation for being a director - they must be purchased.

Q: How do you know you've successfully addressed governance issues? A: We use Institutional Shareholder Services for measuring our performance in this area. A key measure is being recognized in independent surveys as having good corporate governance. Positive feedback from financial analysts who applaud us for open and clear reporting is another way. The ultimate measure of our success, though, is the confidence that our shareholders, especially the largest and most sophisticated ones, demonstrate in support of our management decisions. Q: What failings have you seen in how other CEOs and or corporations have addressed such issues? A: The biggest failing is when CEOs make decisions or take stands that primarily protect their own interests or those of management rather than shareholders'. Another problem is when CEOs only tell the board of the company's achievements and don't share bad news or concerns about the corporation. Q: What's the most important consideration for a CEO who has to address corporate-governance issues? A: You have to have a clear philosophy. Also, you need to remember that shareholders own the company and the board and executive management exist to represent and serve them.

From BusinessWeek, 1 June 2003

Powell Emphasizes Importance of Good Governance at OAS Meeting

(Says democracy and market reforms must deliver results) - Good governance is necessary to ensure that democracy and free-market reforms extend opportunity equitably in the Western Hemisphere and meet the expectations of the region's citizens, says Secretary of State Colin Powell. In June 9 remarks to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Santiago, Chile, Powell outlined the challenge before regional leaders at the gathering. "We are here today to make sure that democracy delivers for the people of this hemisphere," he said. The hemisphere's citizens, the secretary said, "expect to see results from their democracies and from having market economies." Powell stressed that these results are expected "sooner, not later," and said that regional leaders "must deliver." Expanding on this theme, Powell said that democracy and economic development are mutually reinforcing - and both are advanced by good governance. "Respect for the rule of law, fairness, accountability in government and sound economic policies bring hope and opportunity equally to all," he said.

Powell indicated that the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) currently being negotiated can play an important role in creating greater prosperity throughout the hemisphere. Free trade and open markets, he said, can bring investment, spur economic growth and generate employment if supported by the proper government policies such as investment in education, health care and security. The Bush Administration, the secretary said, is committed to helping governments that pursue sound policies and make the necessary social investments. U.S. assistance, he added, will be administered through the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) that President Bush introduced to Congress in February 2003. The MCA will allocate $5 billion annually, beginning in 2006, to support countries that "govern justly, invest in their people and encourage economic freedom," Powell explained. He noted that several countries in the hemisphere meet the basic income threshold to compete for MCA funding in the program's first year.

Powell said regional cooperation is another vital factor in addressing challenges in the Americas. He applauded regional cooperation against corruption, drug abuse and terrorism, while adding that such cooperation has also been essential in defending democracy in the hemisphere. Moreover, Powell said, the United States would continue to work with the OAS and others to help achieve a solution to the political crisis in Venezuela. He also announced $1 million in additional funding to support OAS efforts to encourage the security climate required in Haiti to ensure free and fair elections there. The secretary said that the OAS efforts to bolster democracy in the region should extend to Cuba. "The Inter-American Democratic Charter declares that 'the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy,'" Powell noted. "It does not say that the peoples of the Americas, except Cubans, have a right to democracy." Powell said the United States "deplores" the recent crackdown on dissidents in Cuba, and looks forward to working with the OAS to hasten the inevitable democratic transition in that nation.

From Washington File, 9 June 2003

Portia Seeks Transformation of Local Governance Through Municipalities

Local Government Minister Portia Simpson Miller is hoping that the new municipalities legislation will be a major instrument of transformation during her tenure in that ministry. "The passage of this bill is creating a new paradigm of governance in this country for local government. And I'm hoping that... other parishes will get to the stage where they will identify the kind of management mechanisms that they would want to put in place for their various developmental areas, putting local governance into the hands of the people", she told the Observer. So enthusiastic is the minister about the work to be done in reforming local government that she is hoping that "within three years... I would have done such a good job assisting to reform local government that the prime minister will have to ensure that I have other things to occupy my time!" The Municipalities Act, passed by the House of Representatives on May 13, will facilitate urban centres establishing their own municipal council, or other mechanisms for local governance. Portmore, the sprawling urban community, which has sprung up, just west of Kingston & St Andrew in South St Catherine, is set to become the first such municipality created, with its own mayor to be directly elected in the upcoming local government elections, due by June 30.

That is slated to be a pilot exercise lasting three years, during which any required adjustment to the regulatory regime will be made. But Simpson Miller is anxious to replicate the Portmore model in other urban centres, which qualify. "Mine is the responsibility to accelerate this programme and to see that we push the agenda as fast as we can. My dream and vision is to get a number of communities on board within the three-year timeframe so that we can move ahead", she said. In keeping with her fast-track approach, the local government minister is hoping that shortly after the elections, other communities will quickly "identify the kind of management mechanism that they want to put in place for their various developmental areas; putting local governance into the hands of the people and giving the people an opportunity to be involved in all the decisions that will take place that will affect their daily lives". In the meantime, she is predicting several benefits for the people of Portmore, including more orderly and timely planning and development; easier access to members of the Municipal Council and their Mayor; and the opportunity for direct involvement of residents in the development of their community; and a structured approach to business and investment.

While Portmore will not be fully autonomous from the St Catherine Parish Council, the local government minister is satisfied that the municipality will be off to a good start. It will, she said, have responsibility for preparation and adoption of its annual budget and work plan for Portmore; maintenance and enhancement of the revenue base of Portmore; solid waste management; street lighting; code of enforcement; and beautification. The St Catherine Parish Council will continue to be responsible for the local board of health for the parish; roads and infrastructure; pounds and control of animals; and cemeteries. "There is already established in the St Catherine Parish Council the management responsibility for these areas. And while we're granting municipality status, we're also looking at how we can cut costs; and if the parish council can continue to carry out these functions, then Portmore will not have to put new people in place. I am sure that as the municipality develops we will look to add more responsibilities," she said, in explaining why the St Catherine Parish Council still maintained some responsibilities. Members of the Portmore Municipal Council will also sit on the St Catherine Parish Council, based in the parish capital, Spanish Town.

That provision for dual representation proved one of the most controversial aspects of the discussions in the Committee and in the subsequent debate in the Lower House, with one view being in favour of the Portmore councilors sitting in both chambers while the other side advocated restricting them to their municipal council. Simpson Miller, a strong supporter of dual representation, asserts that "the first principle is that they are parish councillors". On that basis, she argued that it would not be fair to exclude the Portmore councillors from involvement in matters that relate to other sections of the parish. A compromise position suggested by some was to restrict the Portmore representatives in the St Catherine Parish Council to voting only on those matters relating to Portmore. Simpson Miller, however, reiterated her position that "as parish councillors they must be involved in all matters relating to the parish". She added that in the near future, several other towns in St Catherine - Old Harbour, Bog Walk, Linstead, Spanish Town - may wish to secure their own form of self-governance. "In such circumstances, it would not augur well for good management if we were not to allow dual representation," she asserted. The local government minister, in keeping with her commitment to speedy implementation, is looking forward to receiving additional applications for creating additional municipalities.

While Mandeville and Montego Bay may be prime candidates for municipality, Simpson Miller told the Observer that the relatively low-key parish of St Thomas was also moving to prepare for the new dispensation. "They've identified all their developmental areas; they've been working on the kind of management mechanisms they would want, and if they are ready and they meet the criteria for the areas that they have identified, then certainly I'm going to look at it and would hope that we would be able to implement their municipality within the three-year time frame rather than waiting until the three-year pilot in Portmore is up" she disclosed. In seeking to justify that course of action, Simpson Miller disclosed that other communities were free to opt for a different management mechanism from the one developed for Portmore. In such cases, she argued, it would not be necessary to await the completion of the three-year pilot period for Portmore to go ahead with the other schemes. Parish Councillors across the island, she said, had been encouraged to identify the model of transformation they would wish to pursue, with the local government ministry acting as facilitator, using the basic precept of reform laid out.

From Jamaica Observer, Jamaica, by Earl Moxam, 19 May 2003

Parties' Youth Groups Offer Young Professionals for Local Government

At least 50 young professionals have been put forward as candidates for this Thursday's local government elections by the youth affiliates of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in an apparent effort to inject fresh, young intellect into Jamaica's political system, seen by many as dominated for too long by old, tired minds. The candidates, who range in age from mid-20s to mid-30s, include men and women who are teachers, scientists, pastors, business owners and computer technicians, as well as farmers, secretaries and store clerks. They, according to organisers of G2K (the young professionals arm of the JLP) and the PNP Youth Organisation (PNPYO), represent the future of Jamaican politics. "Since the general elections, we have been carrying our principles to the highest levels, and as you can see, we have G2K members in the Senate, and in Parliament, so now we would like to have people at the community level carrying our message there," said G2K president Ronald Robinson. He said that among the G2K member candidates were luminaries such as award-winning scientist, Andrew Wheatley. The JLP affiliate body has been continuously recruiting since last October, launching chapters in each parish and working with student organisations in the island's tertiary institutions.

The increased level of participation, said G2K vice-president and national organiser, Ian Hayles, is part of the organisation's wider aim to recruit young, bright, committed persons to politics, to infuse the party with talented individuals from all walks of life. "In November, our president, Dr Robinson, said that he wanted to bring G2K, not just to uptown Jamaicans, but to the people - to Jamaicans who live in the inner city, Jamaicans who live in rural areas, Jamaicans at all social and economic levels," Hayles told the Sunday Observer. "What we're doing is creating a database throughout every parish, so that the day the Labour Party becomes government, you have young professionals who can step in and fill the critical positions within government and, at the same time, contribute to this country." But although G2K is widening its net, the group's executive has always been very decided about the calibre of candidates they would put forward. "You have to be someone who is in touch with the community, people focused, and someone who is passionate about rebuilding the country," said Hayles. "G2K is not about profiling. A G2K candidate has to be ready to work long and hard with people, has to know the issues, and must bring management capabilities to the table. We have insisted that our candidates have an understanding of fiscal prudence - you don't need to be an economist - but each candidate has to know what is going on in the country, understand current issues and yet know how to solve problems within the constituency."

For the PNPYO, fielding candidates at the local level is just part of the tradition of that organisation, which counts government ministers Dr Peter Philips and Donald Buchanan among those who made the successful transition to representational politics. "The YO has always been an area to groom people who want to catapult into the wider arena of politics," said Kirk Johnson, the national organiser. "As such, the present crop of persons, though they may be younger and larger in number at any one time, simply represent a generation that is more eager and cognisant of their role and need to participate in the nation's development." Younger persons, he said, need to participate actively in governance "and we think that at the community level, it is the perfect place to start. A lot of the challenges that we face as a country have to do with young people, so young people would be better able to understand and articulate the problems of young people". The PNPYO, Johnson explained, assigned one member to each of the 227 candidates, to be on the campaign teams, to assist "in directing the campaign from a youth perspective". In addition, the PNPYO, he said, would be conducting targeted support for candidates in 70 divisions across the island, ostensibly to offer support for candidates to connect with the youth. "Sixty per cent of the population registered to vote is considered to be youth, and it is important that we recognise that, and not just recognise it but act accordingly to show some respect and concern for that, by reflecting that in each and every campaign," he said.

From Jamaica Observer, Jamaica, 15 June 2003

Combating International Corruption Pandemic

Parliament Hill - After being convicted of electoral corruption, the late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi attempted to justify herself by arguing that corruption is a global phenomenon. She was right. Over 3,000 international partner firms and thousands of employees across the globe were implicated in the Enron scandal. Within memory, some developed nations' tax laws considered bribes to be business expenses. The list of political leaders and public servants from around the world who have seriously abused their positions is long. Corruption remains pervasive today, but the significant progress is this: the global community has now come together and committed to the concept that corruption anywhere will not be tolerated. Many necessary legal and social changes are being made to ensure that the tired excuses of cultural relativism and universality no longer resonate. Some important concepts emerged at the 'Third Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity' I recently attended in Seoul along with representatives from Canadian civil society, government departments, independent agencies and the House of Commons. First, modern corruption is a borderless and multi-sectoral problem demanding multi-faceted solutions.

Globalization increasingly makes corruption abroad a domestic issue by linking economies and attracting the attention of concerned citizens, whether in Sao Paulo, Genoa, or Edmonton. Transnational crime is associated with corruption, and the political instability it can cause within one state invariably spreads to others. What's more, we know the poor and disadvantaged are disproportionately harmed by corruption. Recent corporate scandals demonstrate that it is not limited to governments. In addition to political corruption of all sizes and sorts, businesses, NGOs, media outlets, and health and education systems are all potential sites for corruption, thus demanding that effective advocacy and prevention not overlook them. Second, transparency and accountability are critical to reducing the friction anti-corruption efforts face. When the fight against corruption is a struggle between governments and civil society, states tend to win. Clearly, where political corruption is rampant, the political will to create transparent and accountable governance cannot exist. The concepts, however, can still be powerful if adopted by the large number of democracies which recognize it as a problem that must be addressed. There will always be misguided (and probably totally corrupt) states who argue that transparency and accountability violate their sovereignty.

Yet when better governed nations adopt and advocate public access to information, they themselves become more just while simultaneously gaining the legitimacy and public support to push for the same rights elsewhere. Third, while tough legislation must be pursued, there must also be stress on building communities intolerant of corrupt practices. There is also the matter of unsavory practices, such as nepotism, that cannot be clearly legislated against, but depend mostly upon the integrity of public officials. Although integrity cannot be created by public policy, a population demanding just conduct from its government can be strengthened through laws and practices. Consider the story of a politician who was asked why he was favoring his family. He responded, "If I do not favor my relatives, whose relatives am I supposed to favour?" The response to such thinking is too often regretful acceptance rather than mobilization and protest. The efforts of international organizations such as Transparency International need to be supported so that effective public protest can be promoted and an advocacy network of concerned global citizens created. The international community has taken important steps to combat corruption. The very existence of a Global Forum involving representatives from several sectors and ongoing work towards a UN Convention Against Corruption demonstrate that this is not a regional or sector specific problem. Regional initiatives, such as the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, and domestic laws such as Canada's Access to Information Act help to create transparency and accountability.

Advocacy networks created by NGOs and the United Nations have served to reinforce the view that no citizens must tolerate corruption in their politicians, private industry, or aid organizations. The fact remains that without the sustained and committed action of Parliamentarians, we will be condemned to only nominal progress. Iron political will is needed to usher through challenging legislation, create government-to-government and Parliamentarian-to-Parliamentarian advocacy networks to complement those established by civil society and NGOs, and to bring state support to international initiatives. Canada has supported the efforts of Canadian Alliance MP John Williams, the MP for St. Albert, Alta., who created the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) to bring together Parliamentarians around the world who are committed to holding governments to account. With chapters forming all over the world, the spread of GOPAC is a memorable advancement. The fight against corruption has involved the fall of multi-billion dollar corporations, street protests, and difficult political transitions. The road ahead may be no less turbulent, but with political leadership driven by communities intolerant of corruption, we can at least move in a better direction. Liberal MP David Kilgour is secretary of state for Asia-Pacific and represents the riding of Edmonton-Southeast, Alta.

From The Hill Times, Canada, by Secretary of State David Kilgour, 16 June 2003

U.S. Battles Europe to Narrow Global Treaty Banning Corruption

Washington - The U.S. and Europe are battling over an ambitious global treaty to ban corruption, largely because Europe wants the pact to cover businesses and the U.S. wants it restricted to governments. The conflict comes at a time when the U.S. and Europe are redefining their relationship after the deep splits of the war in Iraq. Many European officials remain dubious about the U.S. commitment to multilateral accords, especially after the Bush administration rejected international pacts on global warming and a war-crimes court. U.S. officials suspect that Europe wants to tie down the U.S. in a web of agreements that would limit Washington's power. In that atmosphere, the corruption accord has taken on significance both for its subject matter and for its symbolism. Should the negotiations collapse, it will be another signal that the U.S. and Europe will have trouble working together even on issues of mutual interest. That same uncertainty surrounds the stalemated global trade talks, which are languishing because of U.S. and European differences over agriculture and intellectual property. The U.S. position represents a striking turnaround from several years ago, when the Clinton administration pressed a reluctant Europe to crack down on bribes.

The U.S. has long campaigned against foreign corruption, starting with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977, which barred bribes to foreign officials. But negotiators for the Bush administration object to the broad, sweeping nature of the proposed pact, which goes well beyond illicit payments to bureaucrats. Among the provisions being debated are prohibitions on bribery, favoritism, false documents and other corrupt practices - among businesses as well as government agencies - and requirements that political parties disclose their sources of financing. Nations would grade each other on their compliance with the provisions of the accord. The U.S. wants the convention to be limited to subjects such as government corruption and recovery of stolen assets by the likes of Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Only such a limited pact could be finalized by an August deadline set for the negotiations, U.S. negotiators say. European Union nations privately accuse the Bush administration of trying to dilute the pact. They snicker that the U.S. has made ad hoc alliances with China, Russia and other nations that are notoriously weak on corruption to oppose new disclosure rules on political parties. U.S. officials say the Europeans make similar pacts.

Bush Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra says the U.S. "remains committed to the fight against corruption." U.S. officials criticize the provisions Europeans seek as too vague, too unsettled legally or simply impractical. They especially object to European plans to include business corruption in the pact, saying that many practices viewed as corrupt in government aren't improper in business, and that business customs differ among countries. Giving a salesman a gift worth $200 may be customary in Asia, for instance, but could be considered a bribe in the U.S. The negotiations, being held in Vienna under the auspices of the United Nations, have largely been ignored by businesses that could be affected. That's likely to change as discussions over what's called the U.N. Convention Against Corruption - "convention" is U.N.-speak for treaty - enter the final rounds. "It's problematic," says William Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based trade group of large exporters. "People in other countries could sue American companies in court elsewhere claiming that [U.S. companies'] actions contravened the convention, even if that doesn't contravene U.S. law." People who lose business deals, he worries, could use the treaty to sue their rivals for alleged corrupt practices. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank, among others, have argued that corruption has become a serious impediment to economic development.

The Bush administration says it wants to base economic aid, in part, on a country's willingness to end bribery, patronage and nepotism. If the Bush administration gets blamed for breaking up another international effort it could boost the ability of Democratic rivals to portray the White House as obstructionist. "The technique of embracing something and watering it down is something this administration uses to look good," says Leon Fuerth, who was Vice President Gore's chief foreign-policy adviser. Bush officials say they are acting in good faith. If the treaty is "so broad, so novel, so pie-in-the-sky, it can't be effective," says a U.S. official who also worked in the Clinton administration. Although U.N. conventions are generally approved by consensus, the U.S. and Europe invariably take lead roles. Their agreement is critical for a treaty to succeed; developing nations often won't sign on to a treaty if it isn't binding on the world's wealthiest nations. Before a U.N. convention becomes law in the U.S., it must be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Other nations also need parliamentary approval. European negotiators say businesses sometimes make illicit payments among themselves and that those corrupt business practices should be barred. The pact would bar bribes paid from one business to another and limit the lobbying activities of former government officials, among other provisions.

U.S. negotiators counter that that's too broad. A small-business owner, for instance, may hire his cousin for an important job because of family relations; if a U.S. government agency tried that, it would be barred as nepotism. The U.S. and Europe also split over whether political parties should be included. A European proposal would require countries to bar political parties from financing campaigns with illegally obtained funds and to disclose large donations. The U.S. says that funding issues are too complex for the pact because political systems vary so widely. Generally, the U.S. has tried to make the provisions of the convention less restrictive. An October 2002 U.S. proposal would require nations to have anticorruption regulations but without specifics. The rules would only have to be "consistent with fundamental principles" of domestic law and other provisions of the U.N. convention. "In reality, a country isn't obliged to do anything," says a European negotiator, who says that China is backing the U.S. approach. The U.S. says it's willing to negotiate further. The U.S. spent decades lobbying European nations to change their laws so foreign bribes couldn't be deducted as business expenses. At Clinton administration urging, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes U.S. and European nations, adopted a strong antibribery treaty in 1999. The Clinton administration looked at a U.N. convention as a next step toward banning government corruption world-wide, but the Bush administration objected to many provisions in an initial draft pact in 2002.

From The Wall Street Journal, by Bob Davis, 17 June 2003

 

The Impact of ICTs on Democratization and Good Governance

The DOT-COM Alliance and InterAction are hosting a two-hour forum today at 4pm focusing on information and communications technologies (ICTs), democracy and good governance. Among the issues to be addressed: Has e-government increased the dissemination of information to local communities? What makes an e-government systems implementation successful? What role do nongovernmental organizations play in advancing technology in the government sector in developing countries? Speakers at today's forum include Dr. Eric Rusten of the Academy for Educational Development and Dr. George Sadowsky of the Global Internet Policy Initiative. RSVPs are not required but would be appreciated, and can be sent to Julie Fossler at jfossler@interaction.org. The event will take place in Washington DC at the Academy for Educational Development Conference Center, 1825 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 8th Floor.

From The Digital Divide Network, 5 June 2003

On an 'Insidious Menace' to Economic and Social Development - Annan

Corruption is an "insidious menace" and obstacle to economic and social development around the world, and has prompted the United Nations to strengthen its own mechanism to ensure that integrity and ethics guide all its undertakings, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to an anti-corruption meeting. "[Corruption] debases democracy, undermines the rule of law, distorts markets, stifles economic growth, and denies many their rightful share of economic resources or life-saving aid," Mr. Annan said yesterday in a message to mark the beginning of The Executive Programme on Corruption Control and Organizational Integrity co-founded by the UN and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The UN is in the frontline in the fight against corruption, Mr. Annan noted, adding that such efforts must however begin at home, and hence the need to join hands with Harvard to strengthen the training required to take "a closer look at our internal governance and professional ethics." "A major step forward is expected later this year when Member States gather in Mexico City to sign a United Nations Convention Against Corruption," the Secretary-General said. The Convention would ensure the criminalization of diverse forms of corruption and oblige Member States to take effective preventive measures to protect the dignity of their institutions and procedures. "By contributing to poverty and a sense of hopelessness, corruption can be a midwife of terrorism, trafficking in people, and other threats to human security," Mr. Annan warned. The message was delivered by Dileep Nair, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services.

From UN News Centre, 9 June 2003

Corruption is a 'Menace' to Economic And Social Development, Says Annan

Corruption is an "insidious menace" and obstacle to economic and social development around the world, and has prompted the United Nations to strengthen its own mechanism to ensure that integrity and ethics guide all its undertakings, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to an anti-corruption meeting. "[Corruption] debases democracy, undermines the rule of law, distorts markets, stifles economic growth, and denies many their rightful share of economic resources or life-saving aid," Mr. Annan said in a message to mark the beginning of The Executive Programme on Corruption Control and Organizational Integrity co-founded by the UN and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The UN is in the frontline in the fight against corruption, Mr. Annan noted, adding that such efforts must however begin at home, and hence the need to join hands with Harvard to strengthen the training required to take "a closer look at our internal governance and professional ethics." "A major step forward is expected later this year when Member States gather in Mexico City to sign a United Nations Convention Against Corruption," the Secretary-General said. The Convention would ensure the criminalization of diverse forms of corruption and oblige Member States to take effective preventive measures to protect the dignity of their institutions and procedures. "By contributing to poverty and a sense of hopelessness, corruption can be a midwife of terrorism, trafficking in people, and other threats to human security," Mr. Annan warned. The message was delivered by Dileep Nair, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services.

From Africa News, 11 June 2003

 
 

Civil Servants Fear Outbreak of Epidemic

The degenerating sanitary condition of the Federal Secretariat phase I in Abuja has become a major source of concern to civil servants in the building who are complaining of poor maintenance of sewage facilities. The surroundings of the secretariat especially the left wing is dominated by a stench coming from the cess-pits which people suspect are filled up. Others suspect that the pipes may be broken and called on whoever is responsible to correct the problem. Apart from this, some of the toilets have broken down completely and are sometimes filled up without flushing. The toilets attached to ministries which we gather were supposed to serve the ministers, permanent secretaries and directors been become eye sores. The toilet attached to the ministry of Health for example, Abuja Trust can report, has degenerated in recent times with ministry officials requesting that it be locked up to avoid epidemic. "We gather that directives have been given that the toilets should be locked up for now because people are coming from other places to use it and it has become an eye sore, a civil servant in the ministry told our man.

According to him, it was despicable that the ministry of Health which should be in the vanguard of sanitation should allow its toilets to degenerate to that level. Abuja Trust gathered from respondents that the stench coming from the left wing of the secretariat was nothing new at it has become part of the building since the conveniences were located in that part. One of them said that it was not expected that the cess-pits would be filled so soon since the building was still new. Abuja Trust gathered that sanitation of the building has been contracted to a private firm but could not confirm if the contract involves cleaning of the suck-away or cess-pits and cleaning of the water listern. Efforts to get the private firm to ascertain the extent of the contract was futile as most of the people contacted said they did not know the office of the company. A senior official who declined to give his name said the maintenance department is supposed to be in charge of the building and ensure that repairs are effected and that infrastructure made available at the secretariat is maintained.

From Daily Trust, Nigeria, 3 June 2003

PMO Tells Civil Servants to Dress Properly

Banjul - The Personnel Management Office (PMO) has issued a circular requesting civil servants to wear the proper dress to work. The memo written by Jackie Njie for permanent secretary, PMO, on May 6 and addressed to all permanent secretaries and heads of departments stated: "PMO views with increasing concern and is highly disturbed at the type of revealing dresses such as half blouses, mini skirts, transparent dresses, T-shirts, baseball caps, Jeans and tight fitting pants etc, that are worn by some civil servants to work, which violate the civil service dress code." The circular further stated that "every civil servant worthy of his or her name and status....need to be neatly attired in either traditional or Western apparel." The PMO urged all supervising authorities to ensure that all efforts are concerted to ensure that everyone conforms strictly to the appropriate dress code. Veil memo - Meanwhile the Daily Observer has also secured an "a very urgent" definitive memo written by Mr. Y Sirreh Jallow, permanent secretary, Department of State for Education on May 20th and sent to the University of The Gambia, The Gambia College, MDI, GTTI, Catholic, Methodist and Anglican secretariats, nine other schools as well as students and teachers unions on the veil and schools uniform issue.

This memo was written against the backdrop of the St Therese's veil incident. The full text of the memo read: "In view of the shortcomings and attendant problems of the previous directives on the above captioned subject, I am re-issuing the said directives as follows: Your attention is kindly drawn to the volatile situation of the disciplinary line of action meted out to girls wearing the veil based on their religious persuasions. Directives are hereby conveyed for the cessation of the practice of sending away girls who wear veils to school in the spirit of tolerance for greater peace and harmony in our motherland. The veil is permitted in all schools in The Gambia that enroll Muslim girls irrespective of ownership. These directives are specific to the VEIL i.e: headgear. Any student who attempts to change the school uniform either by extension of the skirt or wearing of long sleeve blouses or failure to wear the school badge should be sent home. Students who prefer long dresses should go to Arabic/Islamic schools that allow long uniforms. The colour of the veil remains the discretion of the school administration and no ornaments or decorative embroidery on the veil is permissible. The veil should be plain and simple. In addition all students who choose to wear the veil should participate fully in every curricular activity including Physical Education (PE). Addressees are kindly requested to disseminate these directives to all and sundry under their purview. The cooperation of all concerned is highly solicited.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Omar Bah, 4 June 2003

Public Servants Not to Abandon Government to Politics

Public servants who resign to join politics have been advised not to abandon the public service when their skills are still needed to serve the nation. Vice chairperson for Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) women's wing Neo Kealotswe said if all public servants joined politics the economy would stagnate. She was speaking at BDP congress for Boteti women in Letlhakane. Kealotswe also explained the BDP's primary election system, "Bulela Ditswe". She reminded those who wanted to contest to prepare themselves and have party membership and Omang. Kealotswe also advised BDP members not to treat politics as a source of employment, saying the party was not meant to enrich people. She said people should always accept defeat and not cause conflicts. Boteti MP Slumber Tsogwane advised BDP members to avoid factions and work as a united force. Tsogwane urged them to take party elections seriously. Councillor Mmammu Gaborone urged women to support one another, saying men supported women but "you can not see a woman supporting another woman". She blamed this on petty jealousy.

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 2 June 2003

71 Top Civil Servants "Re-assigned"

Seventy-one top officials within the Civil Service have been re-assigned following the first major shake-up in the service in more than two decades. The officials affected in the shake-up include 22 directors and 49 deputy directors within all the ministries in Accra. Additionally, the posting process will, in the near future, be broadened to include assistant directors, accountants, and secretarial staff at the various ministries, departments and agencies of the service. In an interview, the Head of the Civil Service, Dr Alex Glover-Quartey, said the move is aimed at enhancing efficiency and effectiveness in the civil service. He said that the affected officers have been notified and given up to the end of this month to report at their newly assigned places. The Head of the Civil Service explained that most of the affected officials have been at post for more than a decade and a half, adding that this is unacceptable and should not be the normal practice. Dr Glover-Quartey stated that the exercise is within the establishment of the rules and regulations of the Civil Service. He explained that postings in the Civil Service constitute one of the most effective means of ensuring a rational and even distribution of skills, as well as the acquisition of experience and enhancement of self-development by officers.

This important management tool, he said, appears in recent times to have been abused and used as a purely punitive measure. Dr Glover-Quartey explained that in some cases, quite a large number of officers, both in the senior and junior grades, have been allowed to stay at particular stations for unusually long periods while others have been shifted around between four and five times within six years, this has impacted negatively on their performance and family life. He said most officers who have stayed at particular ministries for a very long time end up being corrupt and forming networks which are detrimental to the development of the country's economy. He noted that the net effect of this practice is that these officers tend to be ineffective on their jobs and lend themselves to all manner of unwholesome practices. Dr Glover-Quartey said to ensure that postings in the civil service achieve the primary purpose for which they are made, it has been decided that the relevant civil service postings policy, which permits a maximum of four years duty tour at a particular station should be rigidly enforced. He has, therefore, directed heads of ministries, regional co-ordinating directors, departments and agencies to post out officers who have stayed for more than six years at their present stations to new ones. Dr Glover-Quartey added that copies of the letters postings instructions should be sent to his office while heads of MDAs ensure that postings are affected early enough to enable officers to look for schools for their children and wards.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 9 June 2003

Governor Appeals to Civil Servants Over Attitude to Work

Lagos - Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State charged yesterday civil servants to change their attitudes to work in line with the vision of his administration, describing them as terribly demoralized. The governor made the remark during an scheduled visit to six ministries where he met a handful staff while the permanent secretaries and some directors had not resumed for duties as at 8:15am. He nevertheless announced the restoration of the salary steps cut by the last administration and uniformity in the treatment of all civil servants. He assumed that, "every civil servant in this state shall take joy and pride in being true servants of the people and discharge their duties faithfully and honestly, I promise that you will not beg or cry for what you are rightfully entitled to". "Very soon" he said, "government will embark on process of re-orientation and re-building the capacities of all the ranks of the work force to prepare them for the enormous challenges ahead," he said. Governor Saraki, who though lamented that the state civil service has lost sight of its enormous responsibilities as the engine room for efficient and transparent conduct of this business of governance expressed his intention to build a civil service that is information based, efficient, public spirited and capable of responding speedily to the urgent task at hand and the needs of our people.

Continuing, he said, "we must build a civil service that is driven by impartiality, political neutrality, loyalty, transparency, professionalism and accountability. We must build a civil service that is guided by equity and public interest, not ethnicity, religious sentiments, fraternal affiliations, kinship and other such primordial consideration". At the works ministry, Dr Saraki directed that a comprehensive list of plants and equipment be sent to him in preparation for the take-off of a direct labour agency, stressing that "we will do our best to provide a conducive environment". The governor who frowned at the heap of discarded equipment and the untidy environment of the ministry charged the Urban and Regional Planning section of the Lands and Housing ministry to proffer solutions to the menace of illegal structures which dot Ilorin metropolis. At the Ministry of Social Welfare, Governor Saraki commended the permanent secretary, Mrs. Z. F. Ambali for the neatness of the offices while in her response she called for adequate funding of the ministry to enable it have the necessary impact on the lives of the less privileged.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Demola Akinyemi, 10 June 2003

Pay Boost for Civil Service

Nairobi - The Government yesterday factored in the Budget a major pay increase in the Civil Service. A good portion of the Sh41 billion increase in this year's Budget will go to meeting various pay increases promised teachers, the police and other civil servants. Teachers are expected to get their first installment of Sh3.5 billion of the promised pay rise amounting to Sh28 billion over the next eight years. Minister David Mwiraria also said that an additional Sh300 million will be spent on enhancing law enforcement and another Sh400 million has been allocated for the Prisons Department. The Ministry of Finance will see its budget increased by Sh7.3 billion to meet the costs of partitioning the Times Towers, compensation to Royal Media Trust and computerisation of the Customs Department. Harmonisation of Civil Service salaries at the Treasury will take Sh5 billion of the Sh7.3 billion increase in the ministry's budget. The ministry of Health's budget has been increased by Sh1.5 billion to reflect the implementation of medical allowances for doctors and paramedics in parastatals and a rise in provision for drugs.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Nick Wachira, 13 June 2003

State Announces New Salaries for Civil Servants

Government yesterday announced a new salary structure for civil servants which will see the lowest paid worker earning at least $54 000 while the highest paid will earn at least $800 000 a month with effect from July 1. Public Service Commission secretary Mr. Ray Ndhlukula said the lowest salary for the worker in grade A1 is now $54 650 a month. Professionals like teachers, nurses, lecturers and others in the C1 to C5 grades would now earn salaries ranging from $138 446 to $222 967. Middle managers and top management in the grades D1 to E5 would now earn salaries ranging from $263 505 to $807 735. The Government has also approved that transport and housing allowances for the lowest grades be $22 000 and $15 000 respectively with effect from July 1, 2003. "Much as Government would have wanted to enhance the conditions of service including salaries for the public service as reflected in the results of the job evaluation and as per earlier commitment for 1 January 2003, Government indicated that it had financial constraints and this was noted by all stakeholders, including staff associations," Mr. Ndhlukula said.

The Public Service Commission and the Joint Negotiation Council concluded negotiations to improve salaries for civil servants on Wednesday. Officials of the JNC, a grouping of all staff associations representing civil servants, confirmed yesterday that negotiations had ended and were awaiting the Government to make announcements of the details of the agreement. The JNC, which comprises the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, the Public Service Association, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association and other employee associations, has been engaged in negotiations with the Government since May over new salary structures. It is hoped that the deal would usher in a new salary structure and improved working conditions for civil servants. The PSC embarked on the job evaluation exercise in October 2002 to redress the anomalies and discrepancies in the salary structure of civil servants. The PSC has since the early 1990s faced new challenges demanding the transformation and rationalisation of the public service. There were about 190 000 civil servants in 1990 when economic reforms were launched. The number went down to 171 000 by 1998 as the Government battled to reduce expenditure in line with its economic reforms.

From Harare Herald, Zimbabwe, by Sifelani Tsiko, 12 June 2003

Public Servants Get 8.5% Rise

Cape Town - Public servants are to receive an 8.5% pay rise as from July 1 and a one percent "pay progression" increase, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi announced on Wednesday. The rise is roughly in line with CPI. She also announced that same-sex partners and life partners will be able to register as the spouses of public servants to gain access to the benefits of the government pension fund - the Government Employees' Pension Fund. Speaking in her ministry's Budget Vote in the National Assembly, Fraser-Moleketi said the minister's committee of the Budget - which included Finance Minister Trevor Manuel - had agreed after much debate that this would be the route to go. Fraser-Moleketi also announced that the benefit structure of the pension fund would be expanded to include a funeral benefit and orphans' pension. Although she did not expand on this point in her speech, the latter was thought to make allowance for public servants' who died of HIV/Aids or other terminal illnesses. She noted too that the agreement made with public sector unions also allowed for a public servant to sacrifice a part of his or her initial pension in return for a higher spousal entitlement, although the minister did not provide further details.

From News24, South Africa, by Donwald Pressly, 11 June 2003

Government Welcomes 8.5 Percent Wage Increase for Public Servants

Pretoria - Cabinet has welcomed the 8.5 percent wage increase for public servants as from 1 July as announced by public service and administration minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi in Parliament today. Cabinet also welcomed the announcement of the one percent increment for pay progression. 'The fact that this was attained without any conflict confirms the improving labour relations in the public sector, and affords both government as employer and the public servants the opportunity to focus on their core mandate: to provide better services to the citizens,' the statement said. Earlier minister Fraser-Moleketi said all stakeholders signed the agreement after it was unanimously acceptance. 'The agreement provides for an 8.5 percent adjustment with effect from July 1 2003. The signing of this agreement brings to a conclusion the three-year wage agreement,' Minister Fraser-Moleketi said.

Minister Fraser-Moleketi added that the Ministers Committee on the budget agreed that this was the route to go. She further said it was important that public servants were deployed where they were most needed and where they could have the biggest impact. 'Essentially, Resolution 7 will resolve the problem of inappropriate deployment of staff while increasing productivity and ensuring the delivery of better quality public service,' she said. Resolution 7 is an agreement between the state as an employer and public service trade unions on the transformation and restructuring of the public service. The minister said the approach to restructuring of the public service had been a consultative and dynamic relationship with unions representing workers and public servants. 'We agreed on the 30th of June as a deadline for completion and so we have less than three weeks until the process should be completed,' the minister added.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by David Masango, 11 June 2003

Minister Urges Public Servants to Be Proud of Their Work

Pretoria - Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi has urged all public servants to take pride in their work by providing meticulous service in the spirit of Batho Pele (People First). Minister Moleketi was addressing public servants and their families during the Africa Public Service Day celebrations held at the SAPS College in Pretoria yesterday. On this day, African public service ministers reaffirm their commitment to enhance professionalism and ethics in the public service throughout the continent. It was the third time Africa Public Service Day was celebrated in South Africa. The day was celebrated with much fun-fare, full of cultural activities that included soccer, volleball and netball matches, drama about the notion of Batho Pele, music and exhibitions by different Government departments. 'The purpose of this day is to celebrate public service and public servant in the continent. This is based on the Public Service African Charter that looks at issues such as productivity, ethics and remuneration,' the minister said. She added that the charter was aimed at building a better public service. 'We want to ensure that across Africa, public servant must know that their role is to serve the people and their country,' Mrs. Fraser-Moleketi said. The Minister also said Batho-Pele should be a priority to public servants. 'We do not want dead wood in the public service. That is why a day like today is to build unity and ensure that those proud public servants, who are proud to serve, will be willing to do so,' the minister said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Seshoane Masitha, 23 June 2003

 

Civil Service Day Mulled At Belait Meeting

Kuala Belait - Preparations for the forthcoming Civil Service Day and other important issues were discussed in a meeting between heads of departments and its branches in Kuala Belait yesterday. The Civil Service Day will take place on September 29 every year. District Officer, Awang Adnan chaired the meeting at the Belait District Office. Other agenda discussed at the meeting were next year's National Day celebration and eco-tourism programmes for the district. The meeting also aimed at streamlining programmes and plans to be undertaken by various government departments in the district.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 2 June 2003

Prevent Graft and Abuse of Power, Civil Service Told

Kangar - The civil service must ensure it maintains the highest level of credibility and integrity by preventing corruption and abuse of power, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Speaking after chairing the Perlis Umno Liaison Committee meeting at Hotel Putra Palace here, he said the Government would not protect any of its officers who were corrupt or abuse their powers. Advising Deputy Minister of Housing and Local Government Datuk M. Kayveas to lodge a police report over allegation of corrupt practices in the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council, Abdullah said action would be taken if the allegations were proven. Abdullah was asked to comment on Kayveas' allegation that the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council enforcement chief Kapt (rtd) Abdul Kudus Ahmad had taken bribes averaging RM70,000 a month. Asked on the nationwide efforts to nab illegal and pornographic VCD operators, Abdullah said: "(God willing) we will prevail, if we continue exerting pressure on these operators." Commenting on Australia's insistence on pre-emptive strikes against countries harbouring terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, Abdullah said Malaysia rejected such a stand. "We are fully capable of defending our sovereignty and our country from any intrusion. "I am confident the people will remain together in the event that our sovereignty is ever threatened." Australian Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill was reported as saying traditional doctrines of defending oneself were outdated and Canberra was ready to launch pre-emptive strikes to avert terrorism as well as nuclear threats.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, 2 June 2003

Over 100 Women Civil Servants Sacked

Kabul - Standing in front of women's affairs ministry gate, Simagul and four of her colleagues were remonstrating with the gatekeeper, who was refusing to let them in. Just a week earlier, the five civil servants had been treated with great respect when they had reported to the ministry as full-time employees. "I just want to know why we were sacked," the 40-year-old widow and mother-of-seven told IRIN in the capital, Kabul. Simagul is one of 112 women who were sacked by the ministry early this week. They were dismissed following a government re-evaluation of the administrative structure of some ministries, according to women's affairs ministry officials. "It is more than unjust when over 100 women are sacked from their jobs at a time when the government claims to be working for women's survival from the calamities of two decades of war," said Simagul, a seamstress with 16 years of experience, noting that many of the dismissed women were professionals, most of them also heads of their families. "Do they want us to beg on the streets?" she asked. Everyone had expected that the ministry would expand in 2003, "but unexpectedly it happened the other way round," she lamented.

But, according to the ministry, most of those sacked were either completely unqualified or women with mere vocational skills. "The women's affairs ministry is a policy making body on gender issues. Unfortunately, policywise, we cannot keep most of the women with craft skills," Habiba Sarabi, the women's affairs minister, told IRIN on Wednesday. She said many of the women with needlework, embroidery, and tailoring skills were dismissed because the ministry did not have the capacity to place them according to their professions. The ministry's decision came as a shock to most of the dismissed workers, who have no other source of income. "Thousands of women, and widows in particular, counted on this ministry as a leading body for solving their problems. Now they are losing hope, seeing the ministry stepping backwards," a woman needleworker and ex-employee of the ministry who declined to be identified told IRIN. She had expected that the ministry would help hundreds of unemployed women to find jobs, who were now in a state of shock.

The ministry asserted that in addition to a lack of posts for certain professions, it was also a budgetary issue. "We have been given around US $500,000 as an annual budget. That would not be enough even for the current remaining staff," said Sarabi, declaring that her ministry would try to re-employ most the dismissed women once it had been restructured. "We have set up machineries in a separate compound to enable the dismissed workers to work there and be self-reliant," she stated. The ministry is the first of its kind in Afghanistan's government structure. Based on the Bonn accords, it was created early last year with the establishment of the interim administration. "Our mandate is to make a policy for the government for the betterment of women's lives," Sarabi said, noting that her ministry could not solve the unemployment problem, which was a huge challenge to the whole country. She stressed that the ministry was still employing over 1,300 women at its headquarters and its 27 provincial branches.

From UN Regional Information Asia, Asia, 4 June 2003

Four Senior Officers Confirmed, One Promoted In Public Service

Bandar Seri Begawan - Four senior government officers have been confirmed in their posts and one senior officer has been promoted. Acting Director-General of Public Service, Dato Awang Haji Mohd Yunos bin Haji Mahmud has been confirmed as the Director-General of Public Service Department with effect from 6 February 2003. Acting Director of the Public Service Institute, Dr Awang Haji Azaharaini bin Haji Mohammad Jamil has been confirmed as Director of the Public Service Institute, effective from 21 January 2003. Acting Director of Information, Awang Haji Bujang bin Masu'ut, has been confirmed as the Director of Information from 16 March 2003. Acting Director of Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Awang Haji Mohd Sharip bin Othman has been confirmed as the Director of Policy and Planning as of 1st June 2003. Acting Managing Director of Semaun Holdings Sendirian Berhad at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Pengiran Hajah Mariana binti Pengiran Dipa Negara Pengiran Haji Abdul Momin has been promoted to and confirmed as Managing Director of Semaun Holdings Sendirian Berhad with effect from 1 June 2003.

From Brudirect.com News, 5 June 2003

Queen's Birthday Honours: Public Service

Public Service Medal (PSM) - Commonwealth Public Service: Dr Catherine Anne BROWN-WATT, Surry Hills NSW: For outstanding public service in developing policy and strategic change within the Australian performing arts sector. Dr Joanne Christine DALY, Ainslie ACT: For outstanding public service through the development of Australia's national research priorities, and to science and its application. Mr. Maxwell James DAVIS, RAAF Base Amberley Qld: For outstanding public service in aeronautical engineering, particularly in the field of aircraft composite structures and adhesive bonding technologies. Mr. Wayne Julian GIBBONS, Garran ACT: For outstanding public service, particularly in relation to the delivery of the Commonwealth's employment services. Dr John McEWEN, Red Hill ACT: For outstanding public service in advocating drug safety through the monitoring and reporting of adverse reactions. Ms Sharon Maureen PAGE, Lilyfield NSW: For outstanding public service in the provision of hearing and support services to Indigenous people. Mr. Ross Alexander QUINN, North Rockhampton Qld: For outstanding public service to broadcasting as a program maker and manager and in the provision of services to the central Queensland community. Ms Meryl Annette STANTON, Duffy ACT: For outstanding public service as Executive Director of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and in promoting public administration in Australia.

NEW SOUTH WALES PUBLIC SERVICE: Mr. Geoffrey Grey BARNDEN, Elizabeth Bay NSW: For outstanding public service to New South Wales Government policy development. Mr. Terrence Stanley BARNES, Castle Hill NSW: For outstanding public service to local government. Mr. Geoffrey Charles FILE, Orange NSW: For outstanding public service to New South Wales Agriculture. Mr. Bruce Philip INGS, Winmalee NSW: For outstanding public service to the New South Wales Police. Mr. Martin Garner MAY, Orange NSW: For outstanding public service to agriculture, particularly in the cereal and other farming industries. VICTORIA PUBLIC SERVICE : Mr. Wayne Robert CARMODY, Warragul Vic: For outstanding public service, particularly through resource management of schools within the Gippsland region. Mr. John Desmond KELLEHER, Tecoma Vic: For outstanding public service, particularly in the area of post-blast bomb scene investigation. Dr Peter Robert MERRIMAN, Canterbury Vic: For outstanding public service in the field of plant protection sciences and bio-security. Mr. Ian Anthon MORRIS, Macedon Vic: For outstanding public service to local government, particularly in the Mornington Peninsula area. Mr. Andrew Thomas WALSH, Victoria Police: For outstanding public service in the field of youth justice.

QUEENSLAND PUBLIC SERVICE: Mr. David Bentley ARBON, Currumbin Waters Qld: For outstanding public service to local government in the field of land use planning. Ms. Jeanette Adelaide COVACEVICH, AM, Brisbane Qld: For outstanding public service to the Queensland Museum, to the wider scientific community, and to the people of Queensland. Mr. Dale Leslie GILBERT, The Gap Qld: For outstanding public service in the field of build environment research, and for developing protocols and measures to ensure homes and workplaces are free of health risks. Mr. William Spence KITSON, Morayfield Qld: For outstanding public service to the history of surveying and land settlement in Queensland. Ms. Dianne MURAKAMI, Walloon Qld: For outstanding public service in the field of disability support, and for strong leadership and commitment to people with disabilities. Dr Anilkumar Muljibhai PATEL, Chapel Hill Qld: For outstanding public service in the field of health, particularly in the control of tuberculosis in Queensland. WESTERN AUSTRALIA PUBLIC SERVICE: Mr. Ian Lea ALLNUTT, Furnissdale WA: For outstanding public service to the Parliament of Western Australia. Mr. Brian Thomas BRADLEY, Lesmurdie WA: For outstanding public service, particularly in the field of occupational health and safety.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA PUBLIC SERVICE: Ms. Jennifer Beryl ALAND, Goodwood SA: For outstanding public service, particularly in the field of arts education curriculum. Mrs. Jill FITCH, Burnside SA: For outstanding public service, particularly in the field of radiation protection. Mrs. Debra Sharon ROWETT, Glengowrie SA: For outstanding public service, particularly in the field of clinical pharmacy. AUSTRALIAN POLICE MEDAL (APM) - AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE: Assistant Commissioner Graham Leonard ASHTON; Assistant Commissioner John Adrian LAWLER. NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE: Chief Superintendent Bernard Frederick AUST, GM; Superintendent Alan Leonard BECKE; Superintendent Gary John COMMINS; Senior Constable Johannes GERITS; Chief Superintendent Gregory MOORE; Superintendent John Steven RICHARDSON; Assistant Commissioner Robert James WAITES; Detective Chief Inspector Peter John WOODS. VICTORIA POLICE: Senior Constable Kerry Raymond ALLEN; Detective Inspector Patrick Thomas BOYLE; Superintendent Robert John CLEGG; Detective Chief Inspector Richard John DALY; Sergeant John Leslie MOLONEY. QUEENSLAND POLICE: Inspector Tonya Roxanne CAREW, OAM; Chief Superintendent Clement David O'REGAN; Senior Sergeant Walter Paul SIGANTO; Inspector Terrence John STEWART; Superintendent Roy James WALL.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA POLICE: Assistant Commissioner Timothy John ATHERTON; Sergeant James Albert CLARYSSE; Inspector Stephen Bobby STINGEMORE. SOUTH AUSTRALIA POLICE: Superintendent Darell Wayne BRISTOW; Detective Senior Sergeant Janne Marie STEVENS. TASMANIA POLICE: Inspector Paul Maxwell GRAY. NORTHERN TERRITORY POLICE: Commander Colin James HARDMAN. AUSTRALIAN FIRE SERVICE MEDAL (AFSM) - NEW SOUTH WALES FIRE SERVICES: Brigade Captain Allan Francis BARTER, Bendalong NSW; Group Captain Kevin Joshua BROWNE, Mumbil NSW; Station Officer Bruce Clifford COVEY, Berowra NSW; Assistant Commissioner Mark Bernard CROSWELLER, Collaroy Plateau NSW; Group Captain Janette Marjorie JACKSON, Keinbah NSW; Firefighter Alan MARGERISON, Oak Flats NSW; Superintendent Glen SHEEDY, Springwood NSW; Captain Vincent John WIEGOLD, Umina NSW. VICTORIA FIRE SERVICES: Deputy Chief Officer Geoffrey Keith EVANS, Skye Vic; Leading Firefighter Roy David MARSHALL, Doncaster East Vic; Mrs. Winsome Jeanette MORRIS, Stawell Vic; Senior Station Officer Ian Alexander MUNRO, Norlane Vic; Captain Robert William WATERSON, Cohuna Vic; Deputy Chief Fire Officer Shane Kimberley WRIGHT, Taylors Lakes Vic.

QUEENSLAND FIRE SERVICES: Station Officer Ian Walter HAWKINS, Carseldine Qld. WESTERN AUSTRALIA FIRE SERVICES: District Officer Lloyd Alexander BAILEY, Waterford WA; Mr. Lyle James BOYLE, Moonyoonooka WA; Ex-Captain Peter Leslie NEWBY, Busselton WA. SOUTH AUSTRALIA FIRE SERVICES: Group Officer Quentin Mark RUSS, Tumby Bay SA. AMBULANCE SERVICE MEDAL (ASM) - QUEENSLAND AMBULANCE SERVICE: Mr. Russell John LINWOOD, McDowall Qld. EMERGENCY SERVICES MEDAL (ESM)- NEW SOUTH WALES EMERGENCY SERVICES: Mr. Mark Ashley WAIN, Dural NSW. VICTORIA EMERGENCY SERVICES: Mr. Alan Robert BARNARD, Kalorama Vic; Mr. Paul Francis OCTIGAN, Bacchus Marsh Vic; Mr. Raymond Charles POLASKI, Portland Vic; Mr. Gary Desmond TOMLINS, Wallington Vic. WESTERN AUSTRALIA EMERGENCY SERVICES: Mr. Herman William HOFMAN, Mundijong WA. SOUTH AUSTRALIA EMERGENCY SERVICES" Mr. Allan Leslie McDOUGALL, RFD, Gawler SA.

From Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia, 8 June 2003

Maharashtra: Hazare to Launch Anti-corruption Stir

Ralegansiddhi - Noted social activist Anna Hazare today said he would launch an agitation from August 9 to press for the removal of four "corrupt" Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ministers from the State Cabinet. He told reporters today, the agitation would continue till the four Ministers were removed and legal action was taken against them. Hazare has accused four Ministers - Sureshdada Jain (Civil Supplies), Padamsinh Patil (Irrigation), Nawab Malik (Housing) and Vijaykumar Gavit (General Administration) of fiscal irregularities in some cooperative bodies and misuse of public funds.

From The Hindu, India, 10 June 2003

Civil Servants in Hong Kong Lose Suit Against Pay Cut

Civil servants here lost a court challenge yesterday to stop the government from cutting their salaries. Judge Michael Hartmann at the Court of First Instance rejected the appeal brought by the Hong Kong Civil Servants General Union, ruling that the pay cut was a one-off exercise aimed at adjusting salaries for one specific year. The government had proposed the 4.75-per-cent pay cut as part of a package to reduce the public purse deficit, which had bloated to HK$70 billion (S$15.5 billion) by March. A union spokesman said they would study the ruling and decide whether or not to appeal. Meanwhile, civil service secretary Joseph Wong welcomed the ruling, saying that 'with the court case behind us, we sincerely wish the Legislative Council will examine the Bill expeditiously so that we can implement the pay-cut decision in accordance with our timetable'. He said the first phase of the cut would start from Jan 1 next year. The civil servants had argued that the legislation paving the way for the cut breached the territory's mini-constitution - the Basic Law - and was a breach of employment contracts. But in his ruling, Judge Hartmann said provisions in the Basic Law were not meant to inhibit change but were aimed at ensuring the continuity of employment after the handover, a government-run radio reported. There are some 190,000 civil servants in Hong Kong. Top bureaucrats earn HK$180,000 a month.

From Straits Times, Singapore, 11 June 2003

Remaking Singapore Committee Urges Civil Service to Adopt 5-Day Week

The Remaking Singapore Committee has suggested that the island's biggest employer, the Civil Service, switch to a 5-day work week. Singaporeans need more time to relax and have fun so that they won't think the grass is always greener somewhere else and perhaps decide it is time to leave. "If people are happy living in a place, if they feel this is a place where I can not just work hard but also relax, chill out and just be happy, then it lends itself to the issue of rootedness. It will also attract foreigners and give Singapore a lot more buzz," said Indranee Rajah, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC who is also a member of one of the Remaking Singapore Sub-Committees. But the Prime Minister's Office, which oversees the Civil Service, feels this may send the wrong signal that the Government is working fewer days, so workers in the rest of the economy should also shift to a slower pace. "I think if you look at the five and a half day week, it was implemented at a time when Singapore moved at a slower pace. In the past few years we can't get disconnected from work, there is SMS, there is email, you are connected all the time," said Indranee Rajah. But the committee pointed out that, in fact, many private sector firms are already working 5-day week and this has boosted morale and productivity. And it also does not mean essential services get cut back as rosters can be tweaked to keep counters open for a full day on Saturdays. So the committee says worries over productivity are more imagined than real.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, by S Ramesh, 12 June 2003

Well-paid Government Employees Hired to Assist Public Administration

Northeast Jilin Province is seeking to recruit three individuals to fill three well-paid posts who will assist in the establishment of the provincial computer network, said local officials in charge of staff recruitment Wednesday. Northeast Jilin Province is seeking to recruit three individuals to fill three well-paid posts who will assist in the establishment of the provincial computer network, said local officials in charge of staff recruitment Wednesday. Once employed, the three persons will become China's first government employees with monthly salaries reaching up to 16,500 yuan (1,990 U.S. dollars). The average salary of a Chinese civil servant in the province is about 1,100 yuan (133 U.S. dollars). The high salary policy, set by the provincial government, is part of a strategy to lure outstanding talents to participate in public service, said Wu Wenchang, the provincial government director of human resources. Two of the vacancies are for general network engineers, and the other is for a senior webmaster.

All of them will assist in the establishment and maintenance of the provincial network of public security. According to a regulation issued by Jilin Province last June, government departments can employ necessary specialists to meet certain needs. In most cases, the employees hired in this category boast expertise in the fields of law, finance and information technology. Although well-paid, they have no administrative duties or powers. On the contrary, they will focus only on technical tasks, Wu explained. "The move to hire government employees is evidence of our need for talented people," said Wang Dajun, officer with the provincial department of public security. However, the new move will not have a significant impact on the current civil service system given that the number of civil servants will be extremely limited, said Wu, adding that they will be hired on a contract basis to complete specific projects.

Their function will be supplementary rather than supervise, said the official. Wang Tongxun, president of the Institute of Chinese Personnel and Human Resources, attributed the recruitment to the transition of the function of the Chinese government and the fast development of science and technologies. Chinese government departments will need more support from well-trained specialists to overcome certain technological hurdles when carrying out administrative functions, said the senior scholar, who described the recruitment as an experiment which will have an important impact on the government's human resources system in the future. Such experiments could also have a negative impact on the current system if not properly handled, said Wang, who reminded government leaders to keep an eye out for potential problems such as jealousy among colleagues. Experts say that China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) has raised the standards for those wishing to enter public administration. Jilin is the first in the nation to recruit government employees.

From People's Daily Online, China, 12 June 2003

Queensland Public Servants Impose Work Bans

Brisbane - On June 12, 800 Queensland Public Sector Union members participated in a march to state parliament to protest deteriorating job conditions and job cuts. QPSU members have also imposed work bans in response to the failure of enterprise bargaining negotiations. The union had been negotiating on behalf of 50,000 state public servants for a new enterprise bargaining agreement that includes wage rises, more staff and clear career paths. The previous EBA expired on April 30. In negotiations with the QPSU, Premier Peter Beattie's Labor state government offered a 3.8% increase every 13 months over 39 months or an extra $50 a fortnight, but this was rejected by QPSU members who want an 8% wage rise or an extra $60 a week. The QPSU has also accused the government of reneging on promises that areas dealing with the public would not suffer job cuts. However, in workplaces such as the Queensland Transport Licence Centre in inner-city Spring Hill, more than 20% of staff positions have not been filled and staff reported to the local Independent newspaper that there is low morale, high absenteeism and rising stress levels. Workers at the licence centres in Spring Hill and in the central Queensland town of Emerald are closely monitored and increasingly upset over electronic surveillance of their workplaces.

From Green Left Weekly, by Kerry Vernon, 18 June 2003

Indonesia to Screen Civil Service for Patriotism

Indonesia plans to screen its 4.1m civil servants for patriotism, as part of a nationwide programme that will begin by removing separatist sympathisers working for the government in the restive province of Aceh. The move is the latest bid by the government to take advantage of a surge in Indonesian nationalism since Jakarta imposed martial law in Aceh on May 19, after the collapse of a five-month-old ceasefire with rebels from the Free Aceh Movement, or Gam. More worryingly, say human rights activists, it is reminiscent of tactics used by the former dictator General Suharto to screen civil servants for communist beliefs. Beginning next month in Aceh, where at least 10 civil servants and politicians have already been arrested by authorities for being Gam sympathisers, civil servants will face a series of questions designed to winkle out hidden allegiances, the Jakarta Post reported on Monday. According to Hari Sabarno, the country's home affairs minister, the "re-registration" programme will eventually be widened to all 4.1m civil servants in the Indonesian archipelago. "All civil servants are bound to their oath to remain loyal to the state and the law," Mr. Sabarno said. Rights activists say the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri has begun to crack down on freedom of expression in Indonesia in recent months. They say the situation has been amplified by the military campaign in Aceh.

Speaking in Tokyo on Monday, Mrs. Megawati said: "The constitution makes clear that Indonesia is a unified state, and it is unacceptable that any people should aim for an arrangement contrary to that." The current moves by the government, rights activists argue, are disturbing because freedom of expression was one of the rights won with the 1998 collapse of the Suharto regime. It is also worrying, the rights activists say, because it signals a resurgence in the military's influence in politics ahead of important elections next year. "We are now afraid that this situation in Aceh is [becoming] like a stepping stone to develop a new authoritarian regime in Indonesia," said Munir, a leading Indonesian human rights activist. Meanwhile, the Indonesian military said it had deployed 36 British-made Scorpion armoured vehicles to Aceh, further testing Jakarta's relationship with the government of Tony Blair, which has expressed concerns about the use of Hawk jets in Aceh. The UK is a major investor in Indonesia. Both the Scorpions and the Hawks were sold to Jakarta under the proviso that they would not be used to suppress internal uprisings, a condition included as a result of Indonesia's brutal campaign then under way against rebels in East Timor. Jakarta has claimed the Hawks were used only for patrolling the skies over Aceh and not to attack rebels. An Indonesian military spokesman said on Monday the Scorpions would be used to guard the main roads in Aceh against rebel ambushes and to carry troops.

In London, a UK Foreign Office official said on Monday: "When we sold this equipment and continue to supply the spares, we do this on the basis of certain assurances we received." These assurances are twofold and we've had reassurances from the Indonesians - repeatedly and recently - that the UK-supplied military equipment would not be used offensively or in violation of human rights anywhere in Indonesia." He said the British government would monitor the situation to see what the Indonesian government did with the tanks. The UK official added: "We regret that the cessation of hostilities agreement broke down and we urge both the Indonesian government and Gam to return quickly to the negotiating table." Asked about the deployment of the armoured vehicles, Aceh military spokesman Colonel Ditya Sudarsono said: "Maybe later the British foreign minister will have a fit. But is it wrong if we use the tanks to save the people?" Those whom we're going to wipe out are those who are conducting intimidation, extortion and murder not only on the little people. So, the ones we kill are not part of the people." According to the Indonesian military, some 255 rebels have been killed in Aceh since the new campaign began on May 19.More than 10,000 people, mainly civilians, have died in the conflict since 1976.Resource-rich Aceh is one of two major separatist hotspots in Indonesia's sprawling archipelago. The other is in Papua province at the eastern end of the country. am has demanded independence instead of the special autonomy Jakarta has offered the oil-and-gas-rich province.

Financial Times, UK, by Shawn Donnan and Christopher Adams, 23 June 2003

Loyalty Test for Civil Servants

Jakarta - Millions of Indonesian civil servants nationwide will be subject to government screening starting next month to prove their loyalty to the nation. The 4.1 million civil servants in the country have been given a month to register and take the nationalism test at the local offices of the National Employment Body (BKN). The test includes written questionnaires as well as interviews with BKN officials. The move - initially planned to cover only civil servants in the separatism-hit province of Aceh - was announced by Home Affairs Minister Harry Sabarno on Sunday and soon drew criticism. He told reporters after attending a plenary session of the Jakarta Council marking the 476th anniversary of the capital: 'Even the civil servants outside Aceh may not be fully loyal to the nation, and they may have questionable commitment to Indonesia's territorial integrity. 'Through the registration process, BKN will divide the officials into three categories: loyal, uncertain and questionable.' He said BKN officials could determine the depth of the civil servants' loyalty through their answers. Asked whether the civil servants who failed the test would be sanctioned, he said: 'We'll see after the registration process.'

The plan came as Indonesia began a crackdown on government officials and local politicians with apparent links to the separatist group Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in the province that is currently under martial law. The military authorities in Aceh have detained more than 10 officials, members of local legislatures and businessmen in the province for allegedly supporting or sympathising with GAM. Jakarta said last week that it would conduct a registration process for Aceh civil servants. But with separatist sentiment also brewing in other areas such as Papua, the government decided to conduct the screening for officials across the archipelago. To many people, however, the move evoked the exhaustive special background checks of civil servants under former president Suharto. In 1990, he began the screening systems of civil servants to trace their past involvement in, or their links to, the Communist Party and other outlawed organisations. Officials often turned against each other to curry favour with their superiors or safeguard their positions.

Former president Abdurrahman Wahid revoked the decree in March 2000. Analysts fear that the planned registration process will lead to discrimination and rampant backstabbing among civil servants, as in the past. They also questioned the effectiveness of the so-called nationalism test. Dr Jimly As-Siddiqie, state law expert from the Habibie Centre think-tank, said it was possible to conduct such a screening system in Aceh because the province was under martial law. 'But I doubt that it will be effective if it is applied across Indonesia, and I suspect there will be a lot of negative consequences, such as discrimination,' he said. 'How can we assess someone's ideology or judge the depth of someone's loyalty through questionnaires?' But BKN chief Hardiyanto said his office also wanted to update data on civil servants through the registration process in light of the implemention of regional autonomy.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Devi Asmarani, 24 June 2003

Public Servants Take More Than 1 Million Days Off Work

Commonwealth public servants took more than one million sick days off each year at a cost of $900 million, a new report said yesterday. An audit report into unscheduled leave in the Australian Public Service found public servants took an average of about 12 days off each year for sickness, to care for children or for personal emergencies. The audit report said with 123,500 staff in more than 100 agencies, the unscheduled leave cost taxpayers about $295 million in direct salary costs each year. But the full costs could be as high as $885 million a year by the time indirect costs, such as replacement staff, were added on. "These results indicate that, on any given working day, at least one in every 20 APS employees will be absent on unscheduled leave," the report said. It found public servants took|1.36 million unscheduled days off in 2001-2002, for an average 11.9 days for every full-time employee compared to 6.8 days for private sector employees. The audit pointed to several conclusions. It found staff were more likely to be absent on Mondays, while the number of sick days increased during winter when bad weather, colds and flu were more common. It found those aged over 60 took three times the average amount of sick leave, while those under 25 took double the average levels. The audit report said organisations with lower sick leave entitlements reported fewer absentees.

From Wodonga Border Mail, Australia, 20 June 2003

 

Public Services 'Flag As Spending Rises'

Taxpayers have been getting worse value for their money as spending on public services has soared, according to a pioneering report by the Office for National Statistics. The study - an attempt to measure the productivity of the public sector - suggests that resources have been used less efficiently. Between 1995 and 2001 the volume of government inputs - including labour, goods and services - rose by 14 per cent. But output went up by just 11 per cent - implying a fall in productivity. The deterioration started after 1999 as rises in public spending began to accelerate, the report suggested. But experts said that the figure did not prove that Labour was failing to translate extra resources into improved services. The ONS acknowledged that the figures were not yet a reliable gauge of government success in improving services. The index measures government outputs - such as the number of prisoners, the number of crimes investigated, and number of school children - rather than prison conditions, the police detection rate and the quality of education.

According to the index, therefore, a rise in violent crime and a fall in police dealing with it would show up as an improvement in productivity. "This is perhaps more a measure of throughput than of productivity," said Tony Travers, at the London School of Economics. The ONS said it would be working to make the figures more revealing of desired outcomes of government rather than simply activity. Carl Emmerson, an economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the study was a bold first step but would need to be refined. "Clearly under this measure, you could improve productivity by simply chucking children into larger lecture halls and reducing the number of teachers," he said. But the study did contain valuable information. Inflation in the public sector - the cost of producing a unit of government output - has risen by 29 per cent since 1995. This is faster than the rate of inflation for the economy as a whole, which was 21 per cent. But the figures showed that not all the extra spending was being eaten up by rising prices and wages. The report said education spending rose by 39 per cent between 1995 and 2001 - to give a real increase in resources of 18 per cent. Similarly, NHS spending climbed by 53 per cent - an increase in resources of 22 per cent.

From Financial Times, UK, by Christopher Swann, 5 June 2003

Fall in Public Sector Productivity Makes the Case for Reform

Productivity in the public sector has fallen sharply over the first years of Labour rule, according to the first official attempt to measure government efficiency. The growth in the amount of money pumped into the public services outstripped the resulting increase in performance between 1995 and 2001, according to experimental work by the Office for National Statistics. "Over this period output growth has fallen behind the increase in inputs implying, on the new experimental measure, a fall in productivity," the report said. At face value the research confirms the need for public services reform that the Government insists must accompany its massive planned spending increases. The Treasury has already imposed targets on Whitehall departments via Public Services Agreements that committed civil servants to hitting specific targets. However, the figures will also stoke concerns that extra cash aimed at improving hospitals and schools will be absorbed by higher pay rises and managerial inefficiencies. The Tories seized on the figures. Michael Howard, the shadow Chancellor, said: "This raises questions about the value people are getting for higher taxes and higher spending and they will expect answers from the Government."

The UK already lags its main economic rivals such as France, Germany and the US in private sector productivity, measuring output achieved per hour worked by employees. The ONS warned that the fall in productivity could be explained by a delay between when the money was spent and when the output could be measured. In addition, spending might have been on items that improved outcomes, such as staff training, that did not result in an output that could be measured. Academics believe it is almost impossible to measure productivity and attempts can produce strange results. One well-known piece of research, by Professor Simon Burgess of Bristol University, found that the introduction of competition in hospitals to improve productivity was followed by higher death rates. Another oddity is that moves to cut class sizes in schools would worsen productivity, as more teachers were needed to teach the same number of pupils. Louise Horner, a researcher at the Work Foundation in London, said: "You are ultimately looking at social outcomes when there may be many factors affecting them. What you choose to measure is a political decision." The ONS research was based on spending on labour, goods and services and capital consumption for health, education, social security, social services, and the police, justice and fire services - which together make up 70 per cent of public spending.

From Financial Times, UK, 5 June 2003

New PS Warns Civil Servants

Newly-appointed parliamentary secretary Tony Abela warned unnamed civil servants who are obstructing him that they will be named if they persist with their behaviour. Dr Abela gave this strongly-worded warning when he spoke on the Adjournment on Wednesday night. Perhaps unconsciously referring to the words rendered notorious by PN secretary general Joe Saliba, when he claimed there was a "nest of Labour supporters inside the civil service", Dr Abela was less forthright. There were, he said, Labour supporters who did their job with loyalty and dedication. There were also Nationalist supporters who did their jobs well. But there were others, both Labour and PN supporters, who did not give their day's worth. He was in charge of the tax department but this happened everywhere, including at Water Services, Enemalta and other places. People were not getting adequate service from civil servants: even he, as parliamentary secretary, was finding obstacles when it came to setting up his parliamentary secretariat.

He was finding people who, eight or nine years ago, objected to the tax levied on them and who have not had any decision. The roundabouts and centre-strips are now blooming with flowers. Why has this happened only now when the same people were employed with the Department of Agriculture before? The problem was, said Dr Abela, that some people had been at the top for too many years, and if they were not delivering, the time had come for them to move on, or to be moved on. It was time for everyone to stand up and be counted. Dr Abela said that in the first month-and-a-half since he was appointed, he had been going to EU Council meetings in Greece and in Brussels. It was certainly an experience to be seated between the Portuguese and German ministers. Malta could now truly state that it was seated at the table where decisions are taken.

From Malta Independent, Malta, by Noel Grima, 6 June 2003

Civil Servants Ignore Rules

The Public Accounts Committee yesterday disclosed how some civil servants blatantly disregard official instructions and procedures while carrying out their duties. Presenting the Committee Report in the House of Representatives yesterday, Public Accounts chairman, Poseci Bune highlighted numerous instances where the provisions of the Finance Act, the Public Service Commission and other procedures and instructions as laid done in General Orders, Government Stores instructions and supplies and Services Instructions, Finance Regulations and the Public Works Department plat Hire Operating Procedure, were not followed by officers in the Government departments and ministries and major tenders board. The Labour parliamentarian said many officers appeared to lack knowledge and familiarity with office instructions and procedures.

Mr. Bune said the Office of Auditor-General pointed out some examples where instructions and procedures were not followed, including: - Issuance of Job Instruction Sheets after the works were completed by the contractor; q splitting local purchase orders; - disregarding tender procedures; - circumventing of contract agreement; - unregistered vehicles hired; - lack of supervision on road reinstatements; - contractor-owned vehicles were used by officials for private purposes; - unregistered excavators and uncertified by the Ministry of Labour used in contracts; -q double payments; - alterations and discrepancies in payment vouchers and official documents; - backdating of JIS after approval of major tender board. Mr. Bune told the House the committee noted that instructions and procedures were essential control mechanisms to safeguard public funds and property. "It is therefore of the view that unless there is strict compliance with instructions and procedures by officers, the department's maintenance and operation costs will continue to escalate," Mr. Bune said.

From The Daily Post, 10 June 2003

Warning on Costs of Online Public Services

The cost of introducing "e-government" is set to outweigh the financial savings for at least a decade, according to new independent research. The government has a target of getting all services online by 2005, with a growing proportion able to allow citizens to deal directly with government to pay taxes and fines, claim benefits, fill in forms and undertake other transactions. But hopes expressed both inside and outside government that the process will produce significant savings will not be realised, according to Kable, the IT market analyst - certainly not in the short-term and possibly never. By 2005-06, e-government may be generating savings for both local and central government of £289m a year, the study says - but the spend on the system will still be running at £1.2bn."On an annual basis, savings may match costs in 2012," said Karen Swindon, Kable's head of forecasting. "However even this is optimistic."

It is possible, she said, that the savings may never overtake the costs so that e-government, while sharply improving services for those able to take advantage of it, may remain an additional cost: "Unlike the private sector, the public sector cannot maximise the savings from digitisation by dramatically cutting physical access [to services] and staff numbers, as it has a duty to ensure equal access for all, including those who do not have digital access. "This means that in many cases, parallel physical and digital processes have to be maintained to a far greater extent than in private sector areas such as insurance and banking. This is costly." Between 2001, when the e-government programme got properly under way, and 2005-06, local government is likely to spend just under £3bn getting services online while central government will spend £4.4bn, Kable estimates. Spending will start to fall after that, once much of the infrastructure is in place, but total savings over the same period are likely to be only some £820m.Some government departments with high levels of financial transactions such as the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise may be able to achieve big savings by getting transactional services online and collecting revenues more effectively, Kable said. But the need to maintain access to services for people not equipped to go online will limit savings elsewhere. Savings may well be easier in government's dealing with business than in its dealings with individual taxpayers and citizens.

From Financial Times, UK, by Nicholas Timmins, 10 June 2003

Senior Civil Servants Up in Arms Over Shambolic Reshuffle

Senior civil servants have complained to Downing Street about the lack of consultation over the government's shambolic reshuffle, including plans to abolish the post of lord chancellor and merge parts of the Scotland Office and Wales Office into a new Department of Constitutional Affairs. Jonathan Baune, leader of the First Division Association, the union representing the most senior civil servants, said last night: "A reshuffle is clearly going to be a matter for the prime minister, but these reorganisations in Whitehall will make far better sense in the long run when ministers take time to consult and plan with those involved. "If government expects civil servants to do more to deliver services and produce results, then it is important for government to think through its reorganisations. A lot of time-consuming consequences will flow from these changes and need to be examined". He said that even the planned abolition of the post of lord chancellor would not be easy since there were references to it in more than 500 statutes. Mr. Baune's complaint reflects unease at the Blair style of government among many permanent secretaries. Mr. Blair will try to reimpose his authority with a big domestic speech tomorrow to the Fabian Society, arguing that choice and decentralisation must be at the heart of the government's reform programme.

It was becoming increasingly clear that the presentation of the reshuffle was ham pered by a complex debate in which Lord Irvine resisted plans to abolish the post of lord chancellor, and the home secretary, David Blunkett, opposed a new ministry of justice taking over some of the functions of the Home Office Mr. Blunkett won his battle and Lord Irvine lost his, prompting some reports that Mr. Blair was forced to sack him when he asked to stay in office to consult over the future of the lord chancellor. Even last night some cabinet ministers were privately suggesting that Mr. Blunkett had only won the battle, not the war to prevent parts of his department eventually being transferred to a ministry of justice. The constitutional implications of the reshuffle were still causing confusion yesterday with reports that the prime minister had failed to warn the Queen over his plans to scrap the 1,400-year-old post of lord chancellor. Downing Street and Buckingham Palace both sought to play down any row over the reshuffle, insisting the Queen's approval had been sought for the ministerial changes. In a belated attempt to explain the thinking behind the constitutional reforms announced as part of the reshuffle, Lord Williams, leader of the Lords, said Mr. Blair, by abolishing the post of lord chancellor, was voluntarily giving away the prime ministers' powers in three vital areas of the law. The government was relinquishing the right to appoint the speaker in the Lords, as well as the most senior figure in the judiciary. Also, the government was abandoning the right of a member of the cabinet to sit in the highest court in the land.

From Guardian, UK, by Patrick Wintour, 16 June 2003

Civil Service Key to Success in The EU

Estonia must overhaul its public administration to ensure maximum benefits from European Union membership, according to European Commission Secretary General David O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan raised his concerns with Estonian Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland and various high-ranking civil servants during a recent visit to Tallinn. "We have discussed a number of issues: the referendum, the convention, the recruitment of Estonian nationals into the European public service and the reform of Estonia's public administration," O'Sullivan said. He conceded that recent improvements had been made to Estonia's public service, but added that, like many EU accession countries, Estonia must still implement further reforms. "A well-performing public administration is absolutely crucial to getting the best out of membership in the EU. That is the experience of all countries that have joined previously," O'Sullivan said. Juri Raatman, an adviser to the minister of justice, agrees that there are several elements of the Estonian civil service which require reform. Raatman said the salary system for civil servants did not meet the intent of regulations and needed to be more flexible and transparent. "Another big field for improvement is the appraisal system of personnel. The current model contains too much bureaucracy and is hardly applicable," Raatman said.

With professional public administrations already in place, reform of the public service had not been a major consideration for the majority of previous candidate countries prior to EU accession. "I think it is largely a function of economic development," said O'Sullivan. "The countries that were poorer, such as Ireland, such as Spain, such as Portugal, such as Greece, did face similar challenges. But it is true that you [Estonia], are coming from further behind and you have perhaps more of a legacy to overcome in terms of public administration than even those countries did." While unable to confirm how much money will be directed toward reforming Estonia's public administration, Raatman confirmed the groundwork to establish a new civil service act had already been laid. "The work has already started and the focus should be on finding and removing main bottlenecks in the civil service system, rather than trying to change everything totally," said Raatman.

According to the European Union secretary general, Estonia must also ensure its citizens understand the importance of a well-paid, efficient and professional civil service. "I know that in all of the new member states, the history of the last 50 years has not left in the public mind a very positive image of the public service," O'Sullivan said. "And I know that the notion that you need well-paid jobs in the public service is not perhaps readily accepted by public opinion. "I can only say that an investment in an independent, efficient and a well-paid public service is as important as an investment as you would make in roads, in telecommunications, or in any other kind of infrastructure." O'Sullivan said that while Estonia should review public servant salaries, it would not be necessary to bring them into line with other European countries. "I think the issue is how the public service is remunerated relative to other employment possibilities in Estonia," he said. "The key thing is to strike the right level of public service salaries so that it is sufficiently attractive to attract talented people, but not so attractive that it makes it uninteresting to go into the private sector, which is where wealth is created and where economic progress comes from." He also emphasized the necessity to incorporate nationals of accession countries into the administration of the European Commission. "We want skills and knowledge, but more importantly, for the overall cultural mix of our administration. We are a multicultural, multilingual administration, and it is very important that all nationalities and all linguist trends of the EU are represented within the administration," said O'Sullivan. Approximately 120 positions within the EU administration will be filled by Estonian nationals, with recruitment for secretarial and entry level administrative positions already underway.

From Baltic Times, Latvia, by Melanie O'Connell, 13 June 2003

Blair Bid to Steer Attention Back to Public Service Reforms

Tony Blair is to set out his public service reform agenda in a high-profile speech later. In his address to the Fabian Society the Prime Minister is expected to warn supporters they risk allowing the Tories back into power if they allow their commitment to public services to become no more than a defence of the status quo. But his effort to steer attention back on to the Government's domestic agenda is likely to be overshadowed by the ongoing row over last week's Cabinet reshuffle. MPs are to debate a Tory motion on the constitutional implications of Thursday's changes, including the planned abolition of the post of Lord Chancellor and creation of a Supreme Court and the downgrading of the Scotland and Wales offices. Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith accused Mr. Blair of "running scared" after he refused to come to the Despatch Box for the debate, insisting that he would deal with the issue in a statement to the Commons. Mr. Blair agreed to give the statement after Speaker Michael Martin took the unusual step of requesting an explanation of the changes from Downing Street. Mr. Martin said he shared MPs' concerns that the new arrangements had not been fully explained to Parliament. Tuesday's speech comes as an opinion poll suggested the Tories are gaining ground on Labour. The Populus survey for The Times put Labour on 37% (down 2% on a similar poll last month), four points ahead of the Conservatives on 33% (up 1%).

From Ananova, UK, 17 June 2003

Tougher Rules for Civil Servants

By March 31 each year, all civil servants will have to declare any companies of their relatives which are connected to the area in which the official is working, in order to avoid conflict of interests. This is provided for in the new State Officials Bill, presented by Minister of State Administration Dimitar Kalchev and recently approved by the Cabinet. According to the bill, civil servants must disclose the addresses, and the objectives of the activities of the companies, of up to the fourth degree of the lateral branch of the family and the third degree of direct relatives. For example, if a company of a relative is participating in a public procurement procedure and the state employee does not resign from the committee deciding the bid, he or she might be fired. The new bill also provides for the introduction of a system for evaluating the performance and abilities of civil servants. Officials who get the lowest grade, five, for two consecutive years will be fired. The bill introduces the mandatory announcing of competitions for a position in the state administration and introduces qualification courses for newly-appointed employees. According to the new bill, all state officials who have attended state-funded qualification courses abroad or in Bulgaria for more than three months must work in the state administration for at least two years afterwards. The bill requires that all public servants abide by the Code of Ethics. The new bill decreases annual paid leave from 30 to 25 working days. According to Kalchev, most of the state administration could not use the entire period.

From Sofia Echo, Bulgaria, 20 June 2003

 

Civil Service Shuffle Sees Key Changes

The senior civil service looks set for another shuffle following the "return to office" of at least one permanent secretary this week. In a controversial move last December, government shifted Permanent Secretary of Health and Social Services Derrick Binns to the Ministry of Works and Engineering while Permanent Secretary of Works Russell Wade was sent to the Environment to replace Brian Rowlinson who was sent to Home Affairs. He replaced Robert Horton who took a four-month leave while long-time Ministry official Luelle Todd was to act in the Health position for an unknown period of time. That month civil service head Stanley Oliver told the press that the moves were "permanent" and that the Permanent Secretaries would gain "valuable knowledge as a result of having a wide range of experience in different ministries." The Bermuda Sun understands however that Mr. Rowlinson will now return to his old post in the Ministry of the Environment. The fate of the other permanent secretaries is unclear. When the Bermuda Sun called the Ministry of Works and Engineering yesterday and asked for Mr. Wade, we were informed that "his phone had not been set up yet." The Bermuda Sun later asked Dr Derrick Binns if he would be leaving the Ministry of Works and Engineering, but he replied in the negative. On Monday, after completing a two-week international study programme on "Freedom of Information: Achieving Open and Transparent Government" in Europe, Mr. Horton returned "to the office". What office he returned is also unclear. A March 31 government press release still described him as "permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety" even though Mr. Rowlinson was holding that post at the time. Honey Adams, of the Department of Communication Information Services, confirmed last night that a shuffle was in the works, but she was unable to confirm who would be moving. Head of the civil service Stanley Oliver, she explained, was in a meeting.

From Bermuda Sun, Bermuda 4June 2003

Rumsfeld on Capitol Hill to Urge Reform of Civil Service System

Pentagon - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warns the current system covering civil workers is broken and in need of urgent repair. He's trying to make his case today in testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Rumsfeld insists it's a matter of national security - since the Defense Department manages about a third of all federal workers. He wants more control over the firing, hiring and managing of those 700-thousand defense workers. He notes the restrictive rules covering civilian workers don't apply to the military. So, he says that means some 320-thousand military personnel are doing jobs which should be done by civilian workers. Rumsfeld notes that's more than two-and-a-half times the number of U-S troops who were in Iraq when Baghdad fell. He says it's putting an unnecessary strain on military personnel.

From WAVY-TV, VA, 4 June 2003

Graduates Prefer Nonprofit Jobs Over Civil Service

Interest in public service careers is growing among graduating college seniors, but the focus is on nonprofit employment rather than federal jobs, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution. "When asked about public service they tend to think about what nonprofits do first," said Paul Light, director of the Brookings Institution's Center for Public Service. "Seniors do not see government as the best place to go for helping people." Though 67 percent of the 1,002 liberal arts and social work students surveyed said that helping people was the most important job characteristic for them, just 16 percent of those surveyed said that government was the most effective at doing that. "Somewhere along the way, government lost its meaning as a destination for those who want to help people and make a difference," the Brookings report said. The survey found that 62 percent of respondents have given serious consideration to working in a public service-related job with 36 percent equating public service to helping people. But more of those graduating seniors expressed interest in nonprofit organizations than they did in the federal government, survey results showed.

Aside from the belief that government did a poor job of helping people, Light pointed to the lengthy and paperwork-riddled hiring process as another reason recent college graduates are less prone to seek government employment. As many as 63 percent of the students described the government hiring process as confusing, and 78 percent said it was slow. "Government at all levels needs to do something bold to … assure they will have the chance to serve their country through their work," Light said. Light moderated a panel that included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Volcker, chairman of the National Commission on the Public Service, a 10-member bipartisan group of former federal officials who spent last year studying the government's organization, outsourcing strategies and personnel systems. Rumsfeld said inefficiencies in the Defense civilian personnel system and hiring processes act as a deterrent to recruiting students. "We offer them a ream of paperwork and promise to get back to them in three to five months," Rumsfeld said, describing how recruiters handle potential applicants.

"The decades-old system of hiring, firing, recognizing, promoting and paying civilian employees needs to change," said Rumsfeld, whose plan to revamp the Pentagon personnel system was included in the fiscal 2004 Defense authorization bill approved by the House late last month. "Civilian personnel are really managed outside the department with a set of rules and regulations fashioned for another era." Volcker also blamed the antiquated civil service system for the disinterest in government employment. "We have a personnel system that was designed for a different kind of government," said Volcker, whose group issued a report in January that recommended implementing more flexible personnel systems. "After all the frustrations of trying to achieve some reforms, I think we have a real opportunity to effect some change," Volcker said, referring to the proposed National Security Personnel System at the Pentagon and the flexibilities given to the Homeland Security Department. "I hope that those two initiatives are followed by a broader framework making it easier to bring about changes across government."

From GovExec.com, by Tanya N. Ballard (tballard@govexec.com), 3 June 2003

Civil Servants to Get a Workout - At Work

Winnipeg - Winnipeg City Hall is undergoing a massive renovation to beautify its courtyard, but there's a little known area underground under renovation to help beautify civic employees. It's a backroom hidden in the bowels of the civic administration building that is about to be converted into a gym at a price tag of $200,000. To help jazz up the appearance, workers are installing frosted glass doors, diffused lights and new shower and locker facilities. o Gym can be a stress reliever o Mayor Glen Murray says its not just being built to help him buff up. "We all work in high stress jobs here," says Murray. "I'd rather people take it out on some dumbbells than take it out on the public." Murray says in the past ten years, the number of civic employees has shrunk from 11,000 to 8,000, with fewer people doing more work. He says its about time the city had on-site facilities for them. "Its a sad state of affairs if the workplace is devoid of any opportunity for people short of running outside," says Murray. "I think its reasonable. Healthier employees are happier employees." The $200,000 cost is just for renovating the room. Murray isn't sure what the total price might be once equipment is included. "I know how much it's costing us in stress leave and in things in the workplace," says Murray. "It becomes really important that we find good ways to deal with stress and good fitness and being in good shape helps you deal with stress." Environmental groups have been pushing for similar facilities in most workplaces. They say if there are change and shower facilities at a workplace, employees would be more likely to bike to work. The gym facilities at city hall are likely to be completed within a few months.

From CBC Manitoba, Canada, 3 June 2003

IMF Wants Pay Cut for Dominica's Civil Servants

Rosseau - The Dominica Government of Prime Minister Pierre Charles, faced with a serious cash-flow problem, is resisting a demand by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a six per cent cut in the pay packets of public sector workers. At the same time, conscious of the urgent need to close an estimated US$20 million financing gap for the new fiscal year starting next month, Prime Minister Charles is appealing to the IMF, as well as the labour unions and his political opposition for "understanding and cooperation." Charles, who is also finance minister, and current chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), told the Observer yesterday that originally the IMF was asking for a 10 per cent pay cut for civil servants and other public sector employees. But the IMF team said it could not "go beyond six per cent", the Prime Minister said, explaining that further proposals have been submitted to the Fund's negotiating team for a reduction, possibly in the range of four to five per cent.

Currently, the government's monthly salary/wages bill for public sector workers is approximately EC$10 million (EC$2.70=US$1). It is regarded as one of the highest in the OECS sub-region in relation to revenue earnings and population size. Prime Minister Charles said that fresh efforts were underway to secure the cooperation of the Dominica Civil Service Association. He said the Association's executive have "so far shown much understanding of the difficulties we face as a government and nation but party politics are being played out at the general membership level." He added that while his Dominica Labour Party-led administration was prepared to "pay the price for inevitable adjustments in the national interest", he could emphatically rule out at this stage any question of a new general election, as demanded by the main opposition United Workers Party of ex-Prime Minister Edison James. "Today's financial crisis cannot be delinked from what our party has inherited from previous administrations, and the holding of a new general election will not solve the problem that we now confront in negotiations with the IMF," said the Prime Minister.

From Jamaica Observer, Jamaica, by Rickey Singh, 3 June 2003

Student Awarded Prestigious Scholarship for Public Service

For his commitment to enriching young students' lives with educational television, UC Berkeley senior Nathaniel Singer was handed one of the Strauss Foundation's prestigious service scholarships, the foundation announced May 15. The scholarship foundation annually awards $10,000 to at least 14 college juniors who propose a creative public service project and demonstrate a desire to commit a significant portion of their lives to public service. With his "BeeTV" project-Berkeley Educational Television Project-Singer hopes to create educational public television programs aimed at elementary school students. The project's goal is to extend the boundaries of the learning environment from the classroom into students' everyday lives. This is no small ambition, Singer realizes. "Failure? Good chance of happening. I happily embark on such a journey," Singer wrote on the project's Web site. "It is better (to) completely fail in (the) relatively safe environment of college where you can learn from your failures and subsequently in the future have a better chance for success when attempting the impossible."

Impossible as his goal may seem, it is Singer's personal outrage with the "wasting of (American elementary school students') intelligence and curiosity sitting in boredom in front of a plastic cube" that grabbed the Strauss Foundation's attention. "It is absolutely ridiculous that we as a country spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the six or so hours that kids spend in school and then completely ignore another of the other major influences on most kids' lives-the television," Singer told the foundation. This past spring, Singer taught a de-cal class called "Creating BeeTV: Alternative Education Through Television," sponsored by UC Berkeley Education professor John Hurst. "The Strauss Foundation scholarship has provided a sense of focus to the project," Singer said. "We have no choice but to do a good job." Singer said the scholarship will allow him to put together longer programs, use higher-quality lighting and make his educational ads look more professional.

He plans to use $3,000 of the award for his BeeTV de-cal, which he will offer again this fall. Singer hopes that by the end of the year the television programs created in his de-cal class will air on local networks. As a math major, Singer currently maintains a 4.0 GPA. Last year he founded the Origin Lecture Series, in which math professors discuss their research with undergraduates. Singer was the sole UC Berkeley student to receive a 2002 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. The $7,500 Goldwater Scholarship is awarded annually to 300 students nationwide. Its purpose is to encourage math, science and engineering students to pursue careers and higher degrees in these fields. Singer also won a $1,300 Datatel Scholarship and the National Science Foundation/American Mathematical Society Scholarship to study in Moscow.

From The Berkeley Daily Californian, CA, by Melanie Colburn, 3 June 2003

Bush Seeks Civil Service Overhaul

Washington - Nation's security at stake, Bush administration says - The Bush administration, citing national security concerns, is pressing Congress to enact the biggest overhaul of the federal civil service system in a quarter-century. In the name of reshaping the federal bureaucracy to better counter global terrorism, administration officials are seeking the authority to rewrite long-standing pay and personnel rules governing 746,000 civilian employees at the Department of Defense. The powers would be similar to those won by the administration last year in a contentious battle over the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, which has about 180,000 employees. Administration officials say the current personnel system is too restrictive, giving managers little flexibility to create a modern workforce. They want to tie pay to performance, discipline bad workers without lengthy appeals, hire employees more quickly and limit union bargaining rights over workplace conditions. Confined to these agencies alone, the changes would affect more than 45 percent of the government's 2 million civilian employees. But few analysts expect the changes to stop with defense-related agencies.

'EVERYONE WANTS OUT' - "The lineup of agencies for these kinds of authorities is going to be equal to that of a summer blockbuster movie," said Paul C. Light, a government scholar at New York University and the Brookings Institution. "Everyone wants out. Once Defense goes, it's everybody for the gates." The rush has begun already. The Department of Education said last week it wants to revamp many of its personnel systems by moving all 5,000 employees into a demonstration project. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Securities Exchange Commission also are seeking some freedom from civil service rules in recruiting and hiring practices. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said the prospective overhaul at Defense could usher in major changes in a civil service system with origins in the 19th century. "That's why I feel so strongly about making sure that we do this right," said Collins, the chief sponsor of a bill that would grant Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld much, but not all, of the authority he seeks. "[T]his is likely to become the template for either government-wide civil service reform or other departments' and agencies' [efforts]."

The civil service system dates to the Pendleton Act of 1883, which replaced the "spoils system" of doling out jobs through political patronage with a merit-based system. More changes followed, with the biggest overhaul in recent decades coming under President Jimmy Carter. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 did away with the Civil Service Commission and divided its responsibilities chiefly among three agencies: The Merit Systems Protection Board hears employee appeals; the Federal Labor Relations Authority deals with labor-management relations; and the Office of Personnel Management sets policies to create a level playing field in hiring and pay for all federal civilian workers. Although some government officials and scholars have called for further changes to make it easier to reward good workers and get rid of poor performers, presidents and most lawmakers over the past 25 years have shown little interest in spending political capital on such arcane and complicated issues. In eight years of promoting "reinventing government," the Clinton administration never found a way to sell major civil service legislation on Capitol Hill, particularly with federal employee unions resistant to major proposals.

POST-9/11 CHANGES - Then came the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Pressured by Democrats to create a Department of Homeland Security, Bush eventually embraced the idea. But the president insisted on freedom from many civil service constraints to effectively merge 22 disparate agencies. In April, Rumsfeld asked for similar authority, arguing that Defense needed a more "flexible" workforce to fight terrorism. "In an age when terrorists move information at the speed of an e-mail and money at the speed of a wire transfer, and fly around in commercial jetliners, we still do have bureaucratic processes of the industrial age as opposed to the information age," Rumsfeld told Collins's committee last week. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), whose district includes many government workers, said some changes may be needed. But he and other Democrats are skeptical of the administration's motives and speed. He said officials should wait to see how the new freedoms work at Homeland Security, which is still crafting its personnel system. "It's trying to take advantage, on this and so many other issues, of the national security argument being the rationale for moving everything quickly without careful consideration," Hoyer said. Last month, the House agreed to grant Rumsfeld much of what he wants.

Collins and Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) have introduced more restrictive legislation in the Senate. With Republicans in control of Congress, analysts say Defense probably will get the authority to implement substantial personnel changes, although the final package remains unclear. In the biggest change likely to be approved, Defense employees could no longer count on the guaranteed annual pay raise that many federal workers hold sacred. Officials would implement pay-for-performance systems in which compensation would be tied to annual job evaluations, with poor performers getting little or no raise, or perhaps even a pay cut. The General Schedule, the current 15-grade pay system, would be replaced by more general pay ranges in a system known as pay banding. Another major change would make it easier to fire or discipline workers by allowing agencies to streamline the employee appeals process. Rather than take their claims to the Merit Systems Protection Board, workers would have to go through a faster internal appeals process devised by their agency. Some lawmakers, however, want to require that the board be the final arbiter. The prospective changes at Defense also would restrict employees' collective bargaining rights, allowing management to bargain with national union leadership, rather than union locals, on issues that have an impact on more than one bargaining unit.

Labor-management disputes could still go before the Federal Labor Relations Authority, but would have to be resolved within 180 days. Also mentioned as significant possible changes at Defense and other agencies are more latitude in offering bonuses and other incentives in recruiting top talent, and the ability to hire job applicants "on the spot" - or at least more quickly than the five months or so the current process requires. IMPROVING EFFICIENCY? Proponents say that, besides national security issues, such changes are needed to promote general government efficiency. They say the current system is outdated and protects mediocre workers without rewarding good ones. "We have an opportunity, the likes of which [has] not existed for many decades, to make a real and constructive change in the way the civil service is managed," said Paul A. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman who twice has led commissions that called for overhauling the civil service. Critics, including unions and many Democrats, agree that change may be necessary. But the rapid, far-reaching revisions sought by Bush could erode protections against patronage and discrimination, demoralize the workforce and make government less efficient by concentrating power in the hands of incompetent or politically motivated managers, they say.

The American Federal of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, has opposed the Defense plan as a threat to workers' rights. And Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said administration officials have offered few specifics about what they intend to erect in place of the current system, while sending a message that they have a low opinion of federal employees. "Most federal employees would say that they are accountable every day, and they want to be," Kelley said. "But they want to know that there is a credible system in place that they will be measured against, and that it won't be a system of favoritism or of nepotism." A few other agencies have already broken out of the traditional civil service system. In 1996, Congress agreed to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to implement faster hiring practices and an alternative employee appeals process. The Internal Revenue Service has been permitted to create a personnel system that includes a pay-for-performance program that, so far, covers about 2,000 managers. "I think we're moving from a one-size-fits-all to agency-centered [personnel] plans," Dan Blair, deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management, said in a recent congressional hearing. "We operate under 100-year-old rules. Agencies chafe and find ways of going around and find ways of operating in a system that was not designed for the 21st century."

From MSNBC, by Christopher Lee, 7 June 2003

Public Service Tests Lawyers - Panels Rule on Potential Conflicts

Several months ago, Wappinger Town Justice Heather Kitchen was about to hear a case when she glanced at the name of the defendant who stood before her. ''I realized she was the wife of a man I was representing in a matrimonial case,'' said Kitchen, who maintains a private law practice in addition to her duties as a town justice. ''I informed the woman about the conflict and told her, 'I can't sit on this case,' and she agreed,'' Kitchen said. It was promptly referred to another judge. In April, City of Poughkeepsie Common Council Chairman Thomas J. O'Neill, a criminal defense attorney, was appointed by the council to fill an unexpired term on the Dutchess County Legislature. Less than a week after he took his oath of office, O'Neill was advised of a recent opinion issued by the ethics panel of the state Bar Association recommending that defense attorneys refrain from serving on county governing bodies. The panel noted that since county legislatures control the budgets of the law enforcement agencies such as the district attorney's office and sheriff's office, a defense attorney could be open to criticism if, for example, he or she voted against increasing those agencies' budgets.

Informed of the ethics panel's opinion, O'Neill immediately resigned from the Legislature. Confront cynicism - As these two incidents illustrate, attorneys often face conflicts of interest - or potential conflicts or the appearance of potential conflicts - when they become involved in public service. Those who monitor such conflicts say the vast majority of attorneys who face them do the right thing, the public's cynical view of the legal profession notwithstanding. Poughkeepsie attorney Robert Ostertag said he believes his service on the state Bar Association's Ethics Committee - the panel that issued the opinion that convinced O'Neill to leave the county Legislature - is some of the most important work he does. ''It's important to this profession that attorneys are interested in doing things correctly - and they are,'' Ostertag said. ''Lawyers are subject to a lot of criticism in this area, but most of it is wrong and ill-informed.'' New York City attorney Peter Blauner, who has chaired the committee for the past two years, agreed. ''I've heard many members of the Bar Association who have served on the committee say our monthly meetings are often long and hard,'' Blauner said. ''But it's also intellectually satisfying to sit with a group of lawyers who are among the most knowledgeable on ethics and professional responsibility.''

Judging appearance - Many of the questions posed to the committee concern the possible conflicts that arise for lawyers such as Kitchen and O'Neill who are engaged in public service, Blauner said. But the panel also considers such issues as advertising, fee schedules and the performance of legal work for relatives or political groups. In the majority of these cases, Blauner and others say, the risk attorneys face is not an actual conflict of interest, but an appearance of impropriety. This was the issue, he said, that arose regarding O'Neill's service on the county Legislature. Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady said he never considered objecting to O'Neill's appointment to the Legislature. But he also said he understood the reason for the ethics panel's opinion recommending that O'Neill step down. ''The key is not an actual conflict,'' Grady said, ''but whether the circumstances of a particular relationship or association might create such a perception.'' Grady said he could envision a situation in which both he and the public defender asked the county Legislature to increase staffing. ''What would the perception be,'' Grady asked, ''if the legislator who happened to be a defense attorney voted in favor of the public defender's request but against the district attorney's?

People could argue he did so because of his affiliation with the defense bar.'' County Sheriff Adrian Anderson said, like Grady, he never considered objecting to O'Neill's appointment to the Legislature. ''I had no problem with Tom being there - I felt he would use proper judgment,'' Anderson said. ''But as I tell my own deputies who decide to seek public office, you have to consider how much you're going to be scrutinized.'' The sheriff said he requires any deputy seeking work of any kind outside the department to discuss the issue with him before doing so. ''I generally encourage my deputies to get involved in their communities,'' he said. ''You can't walk around with blinders on all your life, and being involved is often a positive thing. But I always want to advise them of some of the issues that may be coming their way so they can prepare to defend themselves.'' Decision called unfair - The man responsible for rendering legal opinions for the Legislature, Poughkeepsie attorney Anthony Quartararo, said he understood the argument that O'Neill or other defense attorneys who serve on the governing body open themselves to possible criticism.

But he said he believed barring such attorneys from serving on the Legislature was an extreme, and unnecessary, remedy. ''It's grossly unfair,'' Quartararo said. ''Sure, you have to worry about the appearance of impropriety, but where does that argument end? Should the state legislators who are lawyers be barred from voting on budgets for the state's judges? ''In the case of Tom O'Neill, not only is the Legislature diminished, but the people of Dutchess County suffer from losing someone who has been a knowledgeable public servant for so long.'' O'Neill said he would have enjoyed serving on the Legislature, but understood the logic behind the ethics panel's opinion advising that he not do so. ''As an attorney, I am held to a higher standard, and that is a responsibility I readily accept,'' he said. ''In Dutchess County, we are fortunate to have an extremely ethical group of individuals at all levels of government, and the idea of someone attempting to overreach their authority is not something we're accustomed to, nor would it be tolerated. But I accept that I am bound by the appearance of impropriety.'' Kitchen said the same is true of judges.

And she said she has occasionally sought an opinion from the state's Judicial Ethics Committee as she tried to balance her duties as a town justice with her responsibilities as a private attorney. ''A number of us have asked for opinions - that's what the committee's there for,'' she said. ''And if it's a close call, we'll just recuse ourselves to be on the safe side.'' Ethics expert offers advice - Kitchen said it's easy for judges and lawyers in Dutchess County to consult an expert in judicial ethics: State appellate Judge George Marlow, a former Dutchess County Court judge who maintains an office in the county courthouse, has been a member of the panel since its inception in 1987 and its co-chairman since 1996. Marlow said the panel meets six times a year to discuss dozens of requests from judges for opinions on possible conflicts or ethical quandaries. ''The rule is, 'If you're unsure of any of the rules, check with us,' '' Marlow said. The judge said the Commission on Judicial Conduct - the body that disciplines judges - has often ruled that any judge who adheres to an opinion rendered by the judicial ethics panel will not be sanctioned for such behavior if a complaint is brought before the commission.

By the same token, Marlow said, judges are required to keep informed of the opinions of the ethics panel and may not cite their lack of knowledge as a defense if they are accused of failing to adhere to such standards of behavior. Those accused of unethical behavior face severe penalties - including disbarment and, in some cases, criminal prosecution - if the accusations are proven. Poughkeepsie attorney Arthur Gellert was a member of the Dutchess County Bar Association's grievance committee in 1982 when fellow attorney Barry Grandeau admitted stealing more than $200,000 from clients who had given him money to invest in real estate deals. ''What Barry Grandeau did to damage the profession around here is still being talked about today,'' Gellert said. ''But it's my impression that the vast majority of those in the profession - and those who oversee the conduct of those of us in this profession - are doing a superb job.''

From Poughkeepsie Journal, NY, by Larry Fisher-Hertz, 10 June 2003

The Civil Service Faces an Overhaul

The Bush administration is moving quietly toward the most sweeping reform of the Civil Service system in a generation, a mammoth turnabout that would empower the Pentagon to scrap and replace the way it hires, pays, promotes and disciplines its roughly 750,000 civilian workers. The House has already rubber-stamped a plan proposed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who wants the "flexibility" to become in effect the potentate of payroll. Under that bill, Mr. Rumsfeld and his managers would have final word on the merit, demerit and pay raises of workers, who would have minimal recourse to appeal. Workers are understandably anxious about this work force revolution, warning of a retreat toward the 19th-century spoils system of patronage and cronyism. These concerns can be considerably eased by the Senate, which will be considering a creative alternative that would moderate the administration's plan through a balanced mix of concessions on reforms and safeguards for workers. The Senate bill has the virtue of genuine bipartisanship - it is sponsored by Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat with unimpeachable pro-labor credentials.

The senators agree that the administration needs the authority to reform a system that independent studies have long criticized as too ossified to reward good workers and discipline failures effectively. Under either approach, pay raises would no longer be automatic but would depend on a new system of performance ratings. The current six-month delays in hiring qualified workers would be ended. Collective bargaining would be moved from hundreds of local union negotiations to simpler national union bargaining. But compared with the House, the Senate would extend workers far firmer rights to appeal and job protection processes. The Pentagon changes, coupled with tightened practices in the new Department of Homeland Security, will become the template for all two million civilian government workers. The last Civil Service reform was achieved 25 years ago only with a careful bipartisan effort. President Bush has the opportunity to achieve an historic improvement in the management and morale of the people's work force. All he has to do is press for the Collins-Levin compromise in the final horse-trading in Congress.

From New York Times, 12 June 2003

A Civil Service Overhaul

The Bush administration is moving quietly toward the most sweeping reform of the Civil Service system in a generation, a mammoth turnabout that would empower the Pentagon to scrap and replace the way it hires, pays, promotes and disciplines its roughly 750,000 civilian workers. The House of Representatives has already rubber-stamped a plan proposed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who wants the "flexibility" to become in effect the potentate of payroll. Under that bill, Rumsfeld and his managers would have final word on the merit, demerit and pay raises of workers, who would have minimal recourse to appeal. Workers are understandably anxious about this work force revolution, warning of a retreat toward the 19th-century spoils system of patronage and cronyism. These concerns can be considerably eased by the Senate, which will be considering a creative alternative that would moderate the administration's plan through a balanced mix of concessions on reforms and safeguards for workers. The Senate bill has the virtue of genuine bipartisanship - it is sponsored by Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat with unimpeachable pro-labor credentials.

The senators agree that the administration needs the authority to reform a system that independent studies have long criticized as too ossified to reward good workers and discipline failures effectively. Under either approach, pay raises would no longer be automatic but would depend on a new system of performance ratings. The current six-month delays in hiring qualified workers would be ended. Collective bargaining would be moved from hundreds of local union negotiations to simpler national union bargaining. But compared with the House, the Senate would extend workers far firmer rights to appeal and job protection processes. The Pentagon changes, coupled with tightened practices in the new Department of Homeland Security, will become the template for all 2 million civilian government workers. The last Civil Service reform was achieved 25 years ago only with a careful bipartisan effort. President George W. Bush has the opportunity to achieve a historic improvement in the management and morale of the people's work force. All he has to do is press for the Collins-Levin compromise in the final horse-trading in Congress. The Bush administration is moving quietly toward the most sweeping reform of the Civil Service system in a generation, a mammoth turnabout that would empower the Pentagon to scrap and replace the way it hires, pays, promotes and disciplines its roughly 750,000 civilian workers.

 

The House of Representatives has already rubber-stamped a plan proposed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who wants the "flexibility" to become in effect the potentate of payroll. Under that bill, Rumsfeld and his managers would have final word on the merit, demerit and pay raises of workers, who would have minimal recourse to appeal. Workers are understandably anxious about this work force revolution, warning of a retreat toward the 19th-century spoils system of patronage and cronyism. These concerns can be considerably eased by the Senate, which will be considering a creative alternative that would moderate the administration's plan through a balanced mix of concessions on reforms and safeguards for workers. The Senate bill has the virtue of genuine bipartisanship - it is sponsored by Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat with unimpeachable pro-labor credentials. The senators agree that the administration needs the authority to reform a system that independent studies have long criticized as too ossified to reward good workers and discipline failures effectively. Under either approach, pay raises would no longer be automatic but would depend on a new system of performance ratings. The current six-month delays in hiring qualified workers would be ended. Collective bargaining would be moved from hundreds of local union negotiations to simpler national union bargaining. But compared with the House, the Senate would extend workers far firmer rights to appeal and job protection processes.

The Pentagon changes, coupled with tightened practices in the new Department of Homeland Security, will become the template for all 2 million civilian government workers. The last Civil Service reform was achieved 25 years ago only with a careful bipartisan effort. President George W. Bush has the opportunity to achieve a historic improvement in the management and morale of the people's work force. All he has to do is press for the Collins-Levin compromise in the final horse-trading in Congress. The Bush administration is moving quietly toward the most sweeping reform of the Civil Service system in a generation, a mammoth turnabout that would empower the Pentagon to scrap and replace the way it hires, pays, promotes and disciplines its roughly 750,000 civilian workers. The House of Representatives has already rubber-stamped a plan proposed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who wants the "flexibility" to become in effect the potentate of payroll. Under that bill, Rumsfeld and his managers would have final word on the merit, demerit and pay raises of workers, who would have minimal recourse to appeal. Workers are understandably anxious about this work force revolution, warning of a retreat toward the 19th-century spoils system of patronage and cronyism.

These concerns can be considerably eased by the Senate, which will be considering a creative alternative that would moderate the administration's plan through a balanced mix of concessions on reforms and safeguards for workers. The Senate bill has the virtue of genuine bipartisanship - it is sponsored by Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat with unimpeachable pro-labor credentials. The senators agree that the administration needs the authority to reform a system that independent studies have long criticized as too ossified to reward good workers and discipline failures effectively. Under either approach, pay raises would no longer be automatic but would depend on a new system of performance ratings. The current six-month delays in hiring qualified workers would be ended. Collective bargaining would be moved from hundreds of local union negotiations to simpler national union bargaining. But compared with the House, the Senate would extend workers far firmer rights to appeal and job protection processes.

From International Herald Tribune, France, 12 June 2003

 

Corruption an 'Insidious Menace' to Economic, Social Development: Annan

Tehran - Corruption is an 'insidious menace' and obstacle to economic and social development around the world, and has prompted the United Nations to strengthen its own mechanism to ensure that integrity and ethics guide all its undertakings, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a message to an anti-corruption meeting. "[Corruption] debases democracy, undermines the rule of law, distorts markets, stifles economic growth, and denies many their rightful share of economic resources or life-saving aid," Annan said Sunday in a message to mark the beginning of The Executive Program on Corruption Control and Organizational Integrity co-founded by the UN and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, said a press release issued by the United Nations Information Center here on Tuesday.

The UN is in the frontline in the fight against corruption, Annan noted, adding that such efforts must however begin at home, and hence the need to join hands with Harvard to strengthen the training required to take 'a closer look at our internal governance and professional ethics'. "A major step forward is expected later this year when member states gather in Mexico City to sign a United Nations Convention Against Corruption," the secretary general said. The Convention would ensure the criminalization of diverse forms of corruption and oblige member states to take effective preventive measures to protect the dignity of their institutions and procedures. "By contributing to poverty and a sense of hopelessness, corruption can be a midwife of terrorism, trafficking in people, and other threats to human security," Annan warned. The message was delivered by Dileep Nair, under-secretary general for Internal Oversight Services.

From IRNA, Iran, 10 June 2003

ILO Set to Recommend Review of Civil-Service Labor Reform

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is set to issue its second recommendation that Tokyo review proposed measures that could limit the basic labor rights of government workers, including restrictions on their prerogative to strike. The ILO's governing body is slated to formally approve the recommendation, compiled by the organization's Committee on Freedom of Association, on June 20 in Geneva, sources said. The recommendation asks the government and public-sector labor unions to ``make efforts with a view to rapidly achieving a consensus on the reform of the public service'' and calls on Tokyo to keep the committee versed on negotiations. The central government and civil servants are discussing six major topics, including giving firefighters and prison guards the right to form unions and guaranteeing public employees the right to bargain collectively and conclude collective agreements. Under the civil-service reform proposal being considered by the government and ruling coalition, government bureaucrats would be paid and assigned posts according to a system that grades them on their competence level.

If the provision is implemented, it would severely weaken the National Personnel Authority's power and conversely increase the power of the Cabinet over personnel matters, even among lower-ranking officials. For this reason, labor unions for public workers, including Rengo, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, took their case to the ILO in February 2002, claiming the proposed change violates the ILO's charter. The ILO committee's first recommendation, issued in November, also called on Tokyo to change the reform proposal. That recommendation was rejected last year by government officials as being based on a lack of understanding of the Japanese labor situation. Terming the first ILO recommendation an interim report, government officials presented the ILO with additional reports they hoped would clarify the apparent misunderstanding. The reports explained that the National Personnel Authority serves as an independent body that makes recommendations on public workers' labor conditions. It also detailed the function of alternative measures that serve in place of the restrictions on basic labor rights. But if the second recommendation is indeed issued, it would indicate the committee has rejected the government's arguments.

From Asahi Shimbun, Japan, 13 June 2003

 
 

IT Matters: Practical Benefits of E-Governance

Dar es Salaam - E-government is no longer a foreign concept to business people and decision-makers in Tanzania. However, as a practical issue, it is something which may take years to be operational unless our government becomes an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) savvy. Most African governments, except South Africa, are yet to tap the potentials that ICT can provide in effecting good governance and efficient administration. Look at the 2003/4 budget and see what has been allocated towards promoting the growth of ICT in Tanzania. It is paltry. This shows how Tanzania and many other African countries are lagging behind in employing one of the most important weapons in globalisation. The first benefit of e-government is that of having a notice board for all citizens who are able to access ICT to have information published by the government. The government can do this by having websites for ministries and departments that need to inform the public about various matters such as agriculture, foreign affairs, immigration, police, health or sports and culture. E-mail also forms an important part of the communication and information packaging and dissemination benefit.

All media, be they newspapers, radio, TV or internet-based news system, can be provided with regular news and features about various departments and ministries of government. Having established the information platform, e-government can then proceed to serve the people. A government is not supposed to be there to make life tough to its people. Rather it should promote living standards and working conditions. Services that are in most cases a torture to the public like payment of taxes, getting paid by the government for services rendered or products sold need no longer cause sufferings to the people if ICT is employed to make such services efficient, effective and people-friendly. This applies to licensing, tenders and social services in general. As a communication and information tool, e-government ensures that problems are dealt with immediately since all parties need to solve them can be networked, and decisions reached within a short time. For instance, if there is an outbreak of a strange disease in a remote district and the district is networked with the Ministry of Health headquarters, information about the disease from medical practitioners on ground can be sifted through and inquiries made from the World Health Organisation and other national health bodies. Thus, efforts can be made to identify the disease in case it is not totally new.

The outbreak of SARS in South East Asia is a case in point: the use of e-governance and ICT applications made it possible to save thousands of lives in the world. Similarly, opportunities are seized without waste of time for the good of the people and the country. Investment, trade or tourism opportunities can also be tapped by e-government that also promotes ICT applications in other sectors such as transport and hotel. For instance, if tourists can make direct queries from the Ministry of Tourism website about travelling and accommodation arrangement, and there is someone in the ministry full- time employed to respond to those queries, tourism in Tanzania will grow faster than is the case now. Another major benefit of e-government is that of reducing operational costs to the government. Telephone, cellphones and facsimiles are still the most expensive means of communication while ordinary or airmail are slower form of communication. But the internet-based communication is faster and comparatively inexpensive compared to traditional means of communication and information. Governments, however, have been slow in using e-mail instead of telephone and faxes partly because unlike the private sector there are no serious cost analysis and attempts to manage costs for similar or even better performance results. If governments become cost-conscious they will undoubtedly opt for the computer and e-mail.

In the case of application of video-conferencing as part of e-government, the government can reduce considerably the costs of assembling district commissioners and regional commissioners, MPs and ministers for discussing something which could be done by video-conferencing connecting all the essential parties concerned. If need arises, the whole session can be recorded and kept for references and future uses. Since the Web is also used for educational and informational purposes, it is open also for the government to produce publications that inform the people about various issues. With the e-government, it will be also possible for a nation to create various data bases on social, economic, cultural, technological and political matters that can benefit Tanzanians and also be available for sale to outside parties by linking with yahoo.com and splitting revenue generated from selling pieces of information to various users like researchers and consultants. E-government can also enable the government to train its servants online and provide policies and guidelines for making various decisions- online too. Good governance and efficient administration is basically an issue of having good and able managers. E-government makes it possible, especially, when working with experienced and established ICT problem solvers to have regular ongoing management training for all officials. E-government reduces inconveniences to the public, promotes good use of taxpayers' money and enables the people to devote their time and energy to matters that are important in production and provision of services.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Sammy Makilla, 13 June 2003

Public Service's Poor Delivery

Lusaka - No one can deny that the performance of the public service is not as it should be - it is poor. And it is good that Secretary to the Cabinet Lesley Mbula is admitting and acknowledging that there has been a decline in public service performance and service delivery. We say Mbula's admission and acknowledgement of the public service's weaknesses is good because we believe that the seriousness of purpose of any institution is measured by the attitude it takes towards its own weaknesses. When weaknesses are identified and acknowledged they stand a better chance of being addressed. This is why we welcome Mbula's forthright and serious attitude toward public service weaknesses. And it is difficult to disagree with Mbula that the dwindling Zambian economy, poor remuneration leading to failure to recruit and retain professionals in the public service and ever rising wage bills were among reasons for the dismal performance of the public service. Clearly, there's need for the government to take a leading role in setting up of an appropriate environment for our country's development. And to achieve this there's need for an efficient and effective public service. There's need for a developmental state in the process of development - whose nature was long term, tiresome, fundamental and necessary not only for the sake of business but for the transformation of the lives of our people.

Very little, if not nothing, can be achieved where there is an inefficient public sector with a lot of inadequacies - an inefficient public sector is not good for the economy of the country. But the policies that the World Bank and its sister organisation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have imposed on us make the attainment of this development very difficult, if not impossible. The Public Service Reform Programme (PSRP) which the World Bank and the IMF imposed on us at the beginning of the last decade was ill-conceived - presumed that the civil service was overstaffed. And our government was made to pursue PSRP as though it was a numbers game. The World Bank and the IMF, and indeed the Chiluba government, used to tell us that our civil service was overbloated and needed to be streamlined. But the only overbloated sector in Zambia is the political establishment and retrenchments should start from there. The World Bank and IMF can't tell us schools, hospitals, the Ministry of Agriculture has more extension service officers than we need and the police is overstaffed. Clearly, the negative attitudes and the harmful policies and programmes of the World Bank and the IMF - like PSRP - continue to weaken the performance of the public sector. There's a definite need to reform our public service for it to meet our developmental challenges. But not in the way suggested by the World Bank and the IMF in PSRP.

It should be appreciated that our administrative structures were inherited from our former colonial rulers. And these structures had served the minimum functions of British colonial control and had been insulated from our people. But after independence, the state assumed a much broader range of activities and policy agendas and had a much wider reach than its colonial predecessor. This made the state more amenable to societal pressures and more open to clientalistic relationships. Therefore the need to reform our administrative structures to ensure efficiency and reduce the likelihood of inefficiency, corruption and other vices is obvious. But we feel the current initiatives to reform our civil service are based on a crust of suspicion and an essentially cynical view of public servants. As a result, the emphasis is on retrenchment, monitoring and control, rather than on long-term, sustainable right-sizing and performance arrangements, worker discretion and autonomy. And we think among the damaging legacies of the World Bank and IMF's structural adjustment programme framework that will take time to repair are the mistaken ideal that public-service retrenchment is the same thing as reform; the diminished real wages for public employees and the consequent loss of morale; the resulting brain drain that depleted the public service of its capacity; and, most important, the loss of confidence suffered by employees of the public service and other governmental agencies, who were constantly berated because they are perceived as being the constraints on development. Under the World Bank and IMF outlook, all the economic ills appear to be attributed to the "poor policies" of the past and public servants are daily being severely ridiculed for incompetence, lack of capacity and proclivity for rent-seeking activities.

The World Bank and IMF's policy direction is massive retrenchment, combined with a deluge of foreign advisers, consultants and representatives - some of them Zambians - of multilateral agencies who seem to have taken over key policy-analysis and policy-making institutions in our country. The result, if anything, has been further demoralisation and disillusionment. How anybody expected the remaining public servants to be committed to implementing policies mostly designed in Washington beats the imagination! We believe the first point of reform in the public service should be to address issues of capacity, and the emphasis should be on reconstruction rather than on retrenchment. The central goal of the reform should be to create a skilled and efficient government workforce. This would entail significant reorganisation and modernisation to make the public service sensitive and responsive to today's requirements of development. Furthermore, no meaningful and sustainable reform can occur without ensuring that the public service can attract and retain highly qualified and competent personnel. The issue of a competitive wage structure to reward competence comes to the fore. The second aspect of the reform, which is more subtle, pertains to rebuilding a damaged esprit de corps and the lost confidence of bureaucrats.

The remaining public servants, who were for almost a decade derided in most policy analyses and pronouncements as being the cause of the problems, should now be re-oriented to become the vanguard of developmental ideals. Completely wiping out the old system with a view to starting afresh might in the end be counterproductive. This would lead to permanent loss of capacity. For the benefit of retaining some institutional memory, it is important to transform the bureaucracy into one that is developmental by, at least initially re-orienting the mentality and the accumulated skills and experience of the bureaucrats. Instead of putting a wage freeze, the issues of remuneration and recognition would need to be addressed, and the bureaucrats would need a re-definition of their roles in development. An important ingredient of this reorientation would be to allow bureaucrats to reclaim from foreign experts the authority to initiate, formulate and implement policies. The only way for them to develop these skills is to grow on the job - making mistakes and learning as they go along but within the overall context of the development agenda.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 24 June 2003

Mobile Technology Ready to Contribute in Public Service Delivery

Pretoria - A research report commissioned by three government-linked agencies has revealed that many mobile and wireless technologies are ready to be implemented for public service delivery. The report, entitled 'Government Unplugged' and released yesterday in Pretoria, provides government departments with a framework for action in deciding which technologies to implement in order to improve service delivery. The Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) commissioned the study in partnership with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The research was led by an independent research organisation, World Wide Worx. The study found that applications such as wireless networking, cellular messaging, mobile data collection and database updating, access to databases from mobile devices, mobile inventory management, remote equipment monitoring and emergency caller identification could be rolled out almost immediately.

The report also provided an understanding of the extent to which legislation must be considered but not seen as an immovable obstacle, and the extent to which the needs of business and citizens should drive applications. Imraan Patel, programme manager for Research and Knowledge Management at CPSI said it was astonishing to find how much had already been achieved and how many of these technologies were in daily use in government and business. CPSI said the report had identified more than a hundred South African providers of mobile and wireless products, services and expertise ranging from small start-ups to the local subsidiaries of large multinationals. 'The report stressed the need for mobile applications to be driven by service delivery requirements,' the agency said. Dr Dimakatso McKay Motshabi, general manager for Research and Development at SITA said the report was a logical extension of major ongoing projects such as the Government Gateway and Government Common Core Network.

Presenting her department's budget vote in Parliament last week, public service and administration minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said through the Gateway project, government would set up integrated one-stop service centres aimed at providing incorporated access to its services. The project will allow people 24-hour access to government services anywhere through different access devices and medium, such as an electronic portal and a toll-free call centre. Dr Motshabi said these projects promised to 'bring Government to the People' and make government services accessible to every citizen. 'We as South Africans are becoming ever more advanced users of technology in the daily execution of our tasks,' she said. Mobile and wireless technology did not only offer opportunities for efficiency gains but also the potential to impact positively on the quality of life, knowledge, communications and economic activity, by providing access to services which had not been possible before, said director for information and communications technology at CSIR, Sello Matsabu.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by David Masango, 24 June 2003

Fraser-Moleketi Speaks on Public Service Day

Today is Africa Public Service day. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, public service and administration minister, says a charter for public services on the continent was adopted by African public services ministers in Namibia in 2001. Moleketi says included in the charter was the decision to celebrate the revitalisation of public services in Africa, and that it is based on the ''Batho Pele'' principles of accountability, accessibility, better service delivery and better remuneration.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 23 June 2003

Huge Revamp of the Public Service Looms

Johannesburg - Government is expected to embark on a massive restructuring of the public service aimed partly at ending the concentration of skilled public servants in urban rather than rural areas. Restructuring is expected to entail redeployment of workers with skills deemed to be in oversupply in some sectors, followed by retrenchment of those with skills not needed. This is expected to spark resistance among public servants as some will be transferred to other regions and within government departments. Dissatisfaction is simmering over possible promotion through skills "placement and matching". Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine FraserMoleketi, whose department spearheads the process, said it was not likely to reduce government's estimated 1,1-million employees. "It is not about downsizing, but about rightsizing." Fraser-Moleketi said restructuring aimed to place workers with certain skills in the correct positions to improve service, particularly in rural areas where delivery was sometimes hampered by migration to towns and cities.

Relocation costs would be covered fully, while some provinces had offered to pay rural allowances to entice workers out of urban areas. At this stage it was unclear how many people would be affected by the restructuring. "We believe that by the end of June we'll have a clear understanding as to how many public servants are in excess. We will also know which posts need to be filled," Fraser-Moleketi said. Agreement to restructure the public service was reached last year between government and unions such as the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), the SA Democratic Teachers Union, and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union. Others, such as the Public Service Association (PSA), did not sign the agreement. The restructuring is now at the skills-audit stage, expected to be completed by the end of this month.

All national and provincial departments are identifying redundant workers and their skills shortages. Departmental spokeswoman Tembela Kulu said this was the first restructuring exercise that would simultaneously involve all government departments. Several departments that previously embarked on restructuring programmes would be compelled to align these with the broader plan. Fraser-Moleketi said the process was going smoothly, but some departments and sectors needed more time. This was echoed by the Nehawu, which said it expected tension in the next few weeks over the placing of people in higher positions. Its members felt that this would amount to promotion, and senior positions should be advertised rather than filled through the "placement and matching" of individuals. The PSA has said the restructuring would have "catastrophic social consequences". PSA general secretary Anton Louwrens said at the weekend that the restructuring had resulted in the creation of posts which required skills not possessed by those public servants deemed to be redundant.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Nontyatyambo Petros, 24 June 2003

First Tuesday Focuses on E-government

Johannesburg - Is e-government the next "new and greatest" government solution? Or will it get bogged down in the quagmire of bureaucracy? This is one of the topics to be tackled at the forthcoming First Tuesday Thought Leaders event, focusing on e-government, to be held at the Sandton Convention Centre on Tuesday, 1 July. Says Mike Wright, First Tuesday Executive: "The Web has enabled us to 'dot-com' ourselves both on personal and business levels - why is this not happening in the same way within government?" The event will look at e-government in general and how the digital economy is encouraging governments to transform themselves into nimble, effective and responsive service providers. The event will kick off with an interactive workshop from 17h00 until 18h00, which is a think tank/brainstorming session where key trends, challenges and possible solutions will be explored. This will be followed by a keynote address, delivered by Mojalefa Moseki. A former journalist, Moseki is a co-founder and member of the government's e-government policy, the chairperson of GITO Workgroup, and currently group CIO of SITA and the head of Communication e-Gatway.

From ITWeb, South Africa, 26 June 2003

 

Brunei Introduces E-government In Mega Projects

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei has introduced E-government and Tafis as part of the government's mega projects. The director of Language and Literature Bureau disclosed this at the closing of the multimedia and computer graphic course yesterday. Awang Ham Abdul Hakim said His Majesty's government has allocated millions of dollars for the project. Therefore, government officers and staff should give positive response to the efforts by enhancing and upgrading their ICT knowledge from time to time. Thirty-seven designers attended the 3-month course from the Language and Literature Bureau and two each from the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports and the curriculum development of the Ministry of Education. During the course participants were aptly trained to exploit the latest technology in multimedia and computer graphic designs. The main objective of the course was to transfer knowledge in multimedia and computer graphics design tools and introduce to non-designers to basic web page creation with hypertext mark-up language and the usage of internet. The director of Language and Literature Bureau presented certificates to participants. Three experts from Singapore via web private limited conducted the course.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 3 June 2003

Brunei Readies e-Government To Generate Jobs For Locals

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei is ready to exploit ICT to its optimum potentials to put in place the $1 billion e-government expected to generate job opportunities for locals. The government is critical to the development of ICT. It has allocated $1 billion towards the implementation of the e-government project. Deputy Minister of Education, Dato Awang Haji Suyoi disclosed this at the launch of the Seameo Voctech International Computer Driving Licence, ICDL authorised test centre. Seameo Voctech authorised test centre, the centre will bring the international driving standard to as many individuals as possible initially to drivers in Brunei. It will provide a mechanism whereby individuals can upgrade their skill as necessary by means of new versions of the ICDL and new products. The ICDL programme will be the benchmark for Bruneians to measure their IT skills and with this certification, their skills will be recognised not only locally but also internationally.

From Brudirect.com News, Bru Direct, Brunei, 4 June 2003

Delivering eGovernment With a Service Promise

The winners of the third annual eGovernment awards created by consulting firm, Accenture, were published last month. At the top e-government in the world is Canada, followed in fourth position by Australia. Part of the reason for getting the top spot is satisfying customers. Once they were called citizens but as government is drifting to become more like a shopping mall, pleasing punters makes for happy voters - apparently. Should the private sector, be interested in whether the government is an adequately networked institution, and primed to meet the challenges of the coming years? Broadly yes. Stimulating understanding and contact is better for private sector initiatives in their relationship with government, at whatever level they may occur. And there is one aspect of meeting customer's demands that government may learn from the private sector: service promise. The methodology and criteria used by Accenture, examines service delivery and transactions such as downloading forms, obtaining cards or visas, activities that bypass visiting offices and waiting in queues. In a sense this is a rationalising service, finding low cost options that work for both suppliers and end-users.

This is true, so to speak, of the Federal government's national portal, where everything from applying for citizenship, finding employment or searching for a school is possible. For the financially astute there is a Budget link. So before applying for residence, read the financial statements first and be certain the country is solvent. These information initiatives are underpinned by data delivery and facilitating action where it is possible online. There is clearly evident a new belief in the powers of information. For example, go into a Medicare payments office and the organisation's mission statement is displayed on the back wall: "Improving Australia's health through payments and information". It would be intriguing to have this proposition tested: that is whether the nation's health has improved, even indirectly, because of payment. And in terms of information the Health Commission website does acknowledge that non-English speakers may use it, whereas at one time the entire site was in English. Government sending out useful information is handy and practical. But in any transaction the loop between supplier and user must be closed to serve and fulfill. That is, it must be clear that the service was used and satisfied, at the very least, to a minimum level of customer service. In a wider definition of delivery, eGovernment services must offer more than simple access.

To understand whether the service meets the requirements of the public, it is necessary to survey the quality of end-delivery. The three random and real cases below illustrate where a service has not fulfilled what it originally was intended to offer. Email a local council about services and never get a response, neither on email nor on the telephone. · Send an email enquiry to the National Library but never get a response. · Lodge a tax return with the tax office and have it acknowledged with a receipt, but be fined a year later for failure to lodge the very same tax return, because it was never received by officers of the organisation, even though the system issued a receipt. Every organisation has its occasional operational difficulties; however, when it systematically ignores a problem it cannot be fulfilling obligations. At the outset of e-commerce this was the trouble that bedevilled operators who let customers down by not meeting their expectations. Although eGovernment is already providing its worth, for it to really work, it must acknowledge and act on what its ultimate stakeholders think and want from the services. The hollow option is to create another awards ceremony that only cynics would jeer.

From Australia.Internet.com, Australia, by Guy Cranswick, 5 June 2003

E-governance Project Runs Into Roadblock

Thiruvananthapuram - The City Corporation is lurching from one crisis to another in the bid to secure final clearance for its ambitious e-governance project, amid fears that the Government is trying to scuttle the project and clear the way for a proposal to outsource the computerisation of local bodies in the State. The Local Administration Department is understood to have finalised the blueprint for the proposal which involves engaging a private agency for the computerisation and networking of all the local bodies. Moves are afoot to invite global tenders for supply of hardware. Already three months behind schedule, the Corporation's project estimated at Rs.1.3 crores has been repeatedly impeded on various grounds. Last month, the Government ordered a performance audit of the computerisation programme following allegations of irregularities in the purchase of hardware. Scheduled to be launched in March, the project aimed at streamlining administration and improving citizen service facilities ran into the first major hurdle after the District Planning Committee (DPC) called for a review. Alleging irregularities in the purchase of hardware, the UDF members in the DPC demanded an inquiry into the decision to award the contract to a private company ignoring a better offer from the public sector Keltron.

Following several rounds of discussions, the Local Administration department promised to clear the project. But what followed was a conditional approval insisting on a performance audit. The three-day audit is understood to have detected no irregularity in the deal. The subsequent Government order which followed the audit has however recommended a re-tender for supply of hardware. Officials point out that this would be impossible since the tender had been finalised and the company had started supply of computers and peripherals. Officials fear that a move to re-tender the supply would invite legal action from the suppliers. A senior Corporation functionary alleged that the Government was just trying to buy time for the outsourcing project to take off. "It is evident that the department is posing impediments to scuttle our project and replace it with the privatisation programme.'' The Government project envisages the computerisation of all local bodies in the State and a network linking them to the State Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. The department is learnt to be in favour of handing over the entire project to a single agency which will recover its investment by collecting fees for various citizen services.

The project will be handed over to local bodies after five years. While the hardware supply is to be tendered, the project will use the software designed for panchayats by the Information Kerala Mission. The Corporation project envisaged a network linking the Corporation headquarters with the zonal offices situated in the new wards annexed to the city from five suburban panchayats. Two major city hospitals which register the largest number of births were also scheduled to be included in the network in the first phase. The Corporation headquarters at Palayam has already been equipped for the launch of the e-governance programme. A front office with a computerised counter has been set up on the ground floor near the main entrance to the office. Designed on the lines of the Friends Janasevana Kendram, the project includes an interactive help desk and an electronic token dispensing system for queue management. The data entry of back records for the last five years had been completed up to January 2003 with the help of Kudumbasree units and Corporation employees were trained to familiarise them with the computerised system.

From The Hindu, India, by T. Nandakumar, 9 June 2003

E-government With a Smile

Kuala Lumpur - The Government wants to make e-government more customer-oriented to complement the large infrastructure build-up that has been the primary focus of its efforts. The new emphasis on the customer - that is, the public - is expected to be a key item in the Malaysian Public Sector ICT Strategic Plan that is currently being drafted by the Malaysian Administrative and Management Planning Unit (Mampu). Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman devoted the bulk of his address at a conference on e-government for the civil service last week on enhancing service delivery to the public. "We can build on the successful implementation of e-government ... (but) there are still gaps in the level of service delivery and the perceived value of that delivery from our most important constituents - the citizens," he said. The conference was organised by Microsoft Knowledge Capital Centre in collaboration with Mampu, National Institute of Public Administration and, the Energy, Communications and Multimedia Ministry. He added that there was a need to move up the scale in which the basic services offered online would create new avenues of value added services. Such a move would involve integrating multiple channels of service delivery - counter, telephone, SMS, and Internet - and end-to-end services that involve "cross-agency collaboration." "This will ensure that the Government portrays the image of 'one government' to citizens and business, instead of the view of a myriad of agencies and departments," said Samsudin.

Malaysia's huge e-government initiative began in 1997 with the launch of the Multimedia Super Corridor's E-Government Flagship Application. Since then, the Government has made large strides in areas such as electronic procurement, project monitoring, and human resource management. But services that require members of the public to come into regular contact with the government, like driving licence renewals or income tax returns, remain at a rudimentary level or have yet to make it online. The Government has conducted a study to take stock of its e-government achievements so far, and the findings have been used to develop the Malaysian Public Sector ICT Strategic Plan, according Samsudin. "It will serve as the blueprint for future ICT development and implementation in the public sector," he added. The blueprint would also chart the public sector's path towards an "e-government that is able to provide seamless services and information." In line with the plan's customer focus, the Government will set up a portal through which the public would eventually be able to access all online public services. Samsudin said the portal would also provide access to community sites as well. "The portal represents a progression from the current scenario of disparate websites," he added. Many public sector websites currently focus largely on providing information, rather than services that are available, but Samsudin indicated that that would eventually be a thing of the past. "We want government departments and agencies to promote the services, not promote the departments," he said.

From TechCentral, Malaysia, by Raslan Sharif, 11 June 2003

Oracle to Set Up E-governance Centre of Excellence at Gurgaon

Kolkata - Oracle India, the leading enterprise software company, today said it would set up an 'e-governance Center of Excellence' at Gurgaon along with Hewlett Packard India in July this year. The model centre, by the Indian subsidiary of Oracle Corporation, the world's largest enterprise software company, would use Linux as the operating system and would showcase e-governance application for the governments in the country and support the initiatives taken by the governments at the central, state and local level. The centre to promote successful e-governance projects implemented, showcase the best architecture and applications so that the project cost could be reduced. It would also familiarise visitors on appropriate an emerging technology developed specifically for the country and conduct workshops on the subject. "The centre, to have capabilities on the virtual platform would handle pilot projects at the beginning.

The Centre would try to build up a proper government enterprise, business, supplier and employee relationship," Oracle India Director Public Relations Dipankar Sanyal said here today. Mr. Sanyal said the company, involved in the successful implementation of a number of e-governance projects in the country, including the citizens service delivery application for Andhra Pradesh, Commercial and Sales Taxes and treasury automation application for Madhya Pradesh and automation in municipalties at Gujarat among others, would be holding workshops for developing a model for payment of tax and return through the internet and an e-procurement method for the government. However, Mr. Sanyal refused to comment on the total investment in the centre and said, "It's difficult to measure the investment at present since it is an ongoing process and the base would be strengthened as and when required."

From Deepika, India, 12 June 2003

IT Vendors Are Making Integration the Buzzword in Their Concerted Push Into the Hearts of Asia-Pacific Governments

Content management firm Hummingbird, for example, is making integration the basis for their future solutions. So is the government services arm of industry heavyweight Hewlett-Packard (HP). K Bala, Hummingbird's general manager for ASEAN, Greater China, and India, said that having a common infrastructure within a government is important because different technologies must work together for higher efficiencies to be attained. Without a common infrastructure, information flow and data analysis will be impeded. "We need to combine document management, knowledge management, and record management, which have previously been looked upon as different entities," he said. "Right now, the problem is that we have islands of data which are not integrated. This happens because of the different platforms and technologies selected by the different government agencies." Elias Diamantopoulos, Hummingbird's vice-president and general manager for the Asia-Pacific, Canadian, and Latin American operations, thinks that such an approach to bring different arms of the government together like a big corporation will find favour with this region. "Asians are very business-oriented to begin with. The Singapore government, for example, is highly entrepreneurial. The increasing necessity for governments to be open and to reach out to the public is also driving the need for such integrated systems," he explained.

In fact, Diamantopoulos is working hard to promote the Canadian government's Records, Documents and Information Management System (RDIMS) -one that he considers exemplary-in this region. He is doing this by leveraging on Hummingbird's Canadian contacts and by organising high-level meetings between the Canadian and Asia-Pacific governments. "In particular, we hope governments here can take a cue from Canadian practices in record and correspondence management," said Diamantopoulos. The Canadians have different sub-committees to manage different records and a common correspondence management vehicle across the government. To date, the Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australian governments have expressed keen interest in such integrated systems, said Diamantopoulos. HP is also making inroads into this area. It announced two weeks ago that it is actively developing enhanced, or "next generation", e-government services counters.

These are basically one-stop facilities that integrate services from multiple government bodies and allow citizens to access them in one go, said Tan Lark-Yang, the general manager for HP's government, transport and logistics industry verticals and corporate sales, enterprise systems group, Asia-Pacific. These service counters, which can be implemented in government offices, as stand-alone kiosks or even as a phone service, can aggregate services such as pensions, tax payments, driving licence renewals, income support, social security, health, and education administration. The launch of such systems, however, may still be some time away, said Tan. "Besides an upgrading of technology and the skill sets of people, policy changes of governments and their departments are also involved. "Cross-ministry information flow can be sensitive and issues like security must be considered. All these will take time," he said.

From Asia Computer Weekly, Singapore, 22 June 2003

Minister Urges Private Airlines: Ensure Better Services

State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin said yesterday called upon the private airlines to offer better services to the valued passengers taking advantage of the recent cabinet decision allowing them to operate in international air routes. "The government has taken a major decision allowing private airlines to operate in international routes, because we want to stop flow of our valuable foreign exchange out of the country......Billions of dollars are going out of the country every year and the government wants to stop it," he said in response to a felicitation accorded to him by the Private Airlines of Bangladesh at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in the city on the occasion of opening of international air routes to private airlines by the government. FBCCI President Yussuf Abdullah Harun, Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary M Shafiqul Islam, Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh Air Commodore Zahed Quddus, Managing Director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Air Commodore Lutfar Rahman, Managing Director of GMG Airlines Shahab Sattar, Chairman of Air Bangladesh Shahjalal Mazumder, Managing Director of Best Aviation Ltd M Haideruzzaman, Managing Director of Bismillah Airlines MA Mannan, Managing Director of Air Parabat Limited Nadira Alam and Director of East West Airlines Ltd Mehedi Hasan addressed the felicitation ceremony.

While taking the decision to allow private airlines to operate in international routes, Mir Nasiruddin said the government took into account the interest of Biman Bangladesh Airlines. "Bangladesh Biman is a factor, because it is the national carrier and we have taken all-out steps to protect its interests." The State Minister said Bangladesh Biman has air service agreement with 42 countries of the world. Biman is touching 26 cities of 24 out of these 42 countries. "So, we have wide scopes to allow the private carriers and at the same time to protect the interest of Biman," he said. "Interest of Biman would not be affected in any way with the induction of private airlines in aviation business." It's high time to create a congenial atmosphere to flourish the private sector in the aviation industry along with the state-run Biman," he said. Mir Nasir said the government could allow the private airlines to operate on the international routes, like London, Gulf countries, Singapore and Bangkok initially. The State Minister said Bangladesh Biman could no longer enjoy absolute control in civil aviation business. "If Biman cannot sustain competition with private airlines, there is no reason to protect and nurture this white elephant at the cost of people's money," he asserted.

He, however, said despite recession in global aviation industry in the wake of September 11 terrorists attacks on the United States, Biman carried some 15 lakh passengers last year, which was the highest in last 30 years. "I thank the Biman officials and employees for achieving this significant success," he said. FBCCI President Yussuf A Harun said the decision by the government to allow the private airlines to operate in international routes would fetch three to four billion dollar extra earning for Bangladesh's aviation industry. This will also enhance the image of Bangladesh in the global level. Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary M Shafiqul Islam laid emphasis on greater cooperation between the state-run Biman and private airlines to attain success in future. Chairman of CAAB Air Commodore Zahed Quddus said there are many rules and regulations, including high standard of professionalism and moral commitments, which would need to be followed by the private airlines while they would operate in international air routes. "Passengers are the VIPs for any airlines and there should be no compromise with safety and security of passengers once you (private airlines) enter the international arena," he said. Managing Director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Lutfur Rahman expressed the hope that private airlines would maintain and uphold satisfaction and confidence of passengers offering greater hospitality. Managing Director of GMG Airlines said the government decision has proved that private airlines could serve the nation side by side Biman Bangladesh Airlines. © Copyright 2003 by The New Nation.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, 26 June 2003

'Convincing People About E-governance Was Tough'

Come August this year, Karnataka's Bhoomi project, will revolutionise the way people access information of land records. Several of the 7,00,000 land records will be available online within two months for banks, judicial courts and hundreds of village kiosks all across the State. Bhoomi, a successful project, is the only one and premier e-governance project in India, that has recovered 70 percent of revenues of the total investment in the project, which is expected to generate more than Rs 10 crore every year. What were the challenges that the Government had faced in implementing the Bhoomi project? How is the Government taking its IT projects to its citizens? How is the e-governance scenario in Karnataka? Rajeev Chawla, Secretary, e-governance, Karnataka, shares his views in an interview with Sify.com. How is Karnataka is taking its e-governance initatives to citizens? Karnataka's IT policy focuses on using e-governance as a tool and delivering a Government that is more pro-active and responsive to its citizens. The Government's Millennium IT policy, 'Mahithi', emphasises the importance of taking IT to the common man. Several efforts for implementing Government projects using electronic means are being carried out, under its IT policy. The State has implemented and will be implementing several e-governance projects and actions.

The various departments of the State Government are also introducing electronic means to computerise their activities and take IT to the masses. Each Government department has conducted several departmental activities in e-governance. Bhoomi has been recognised as a successful e-governance project in India. It has also earned recognition outside the country. What do you attribute to its success? The success can be attributed to 10,000 village accountants and more than 2000 officials in the revenue department, who worked for over four years tirelessly to digitise 20 million manual records. The digitisation of manual records was a very tough process. That is the only process, which no other State has been able to do in such a systematic manner, making Bhoomi the only experiment in India, which has been a success. Apart from that, its business model which was put in place also contributed to the success of the project. The training of the officials, who run the system in the talukas (small towns), the political leadership and their support for the program are among the other things attributed to its success. What is the status of Bhoomi today? What are the extended features in the project for farmers? In the final phase of Bhoomi, we are in the process of creating a State Data Centre (SDC) where the records of all the 700,000 agriculture farmers are available.

This database can be shared with the franchises, who would provide the land records of farmers in various villages directly by setting up village kiosks. Once the SDC is available, online connectivity would be provided to financial banks, judicial courts and even to franchisees. The activity is on right now. The SDC, which would be up and running in one or two months, would see the final phase of Bhoomi, actually revolutionising the way people access information. The process will benefit the needy to access information anytime, anywhere. You had started Bhoomi amid protests a few years ago. What challenges did you face while implementing it? The officials were cynical. They thought it could never happen; the village officials especially. Many of the senior officials thought it was difficult if not impossible. However, we were confident that we would be able to do some good job though the environment was very pessimistic. The most important thing, therefore, was to create confidence among all the people. I think the sense of pessimism was so pervasive that it took me a lot of time in convincing the people that the project is possible. That was a biggest challenge. This was because it was never done in India and it was lingering for the past 15 years. Everybody was feeling that it will never happen and a lot of money had been wasted.

The example of photo identity card in the election - the experiment, which was not doing well, made everybody pessimistic. To convince and involve 10,000 village officials to digitise 20 million records of rights, tenancy and certification was the biggest challenge, which I had faced during the implementation process. Another challenge was to ensure the records were tamper-proof. How was the cooperation from other quarters - officials and Government? We really got support. Once five to six talukas were up and running there was total political support for the program. In fact, the political support to a large extent facilitated our internal efforts. People could understand the priority of the Government and could understand that it was possible because it had already been done in five to six talukas very successfully. Without the kind of political cooperation I received, it wouldn't have been possible. It was completely a team effort coupled with huge political power. It finally resulted in a miracle. You had implemented the unique security system - Bio-metric Authentication - for the project. What was the idea behind introducing the system? When we started it five years ago, fingerprint technology was not heard of in India. There were not many vendors in this space in India and even in the world. The challenge was how do I ensure that people do not back out and say they did not update a record. Everything had to be on computer.

User name and password was ruled out. We realised that user name and password are something which can be hacked easily, and people can always complain about passwords and usernames. We said that we need something beyond Internet and password. It could have been either smartcard or finger print. We initially tried smartcard, but it was not accepted. We felt smartcard can also be shared. We finally decided that it was fingerprint recognition mechanism that could help the project. Fingerprint is a simple thing. Everytime a database has to be updated with critical data the empowered officials have to put their fingers on the device. The device will recognise the fingerprint of a particular person. Bangalore-based Compaq and Identics helped us in providing the solution, but not before working on it for a month or so at that time four years ago. We ran the pilot projects at six talukas on fingerprint reorganisation mechanism from day one. We did not work even a single day on username and password environment. What is the budget that went into Bhoomi? What is the budget for e-governance projects in Karnataka? We have spent approximately Rs 25 crore on the project. Digitising records took about Rs 11 crore and about Rs 14 crore went into providing infrastructure at all talukas. We have already collected Rs 18 crore through user charges. Every month, we collect Rs one crore.

We hope that in future, the minimum revenue the Government could have earned out of the program would be to the order of Rs 10 crore every year. This is the program which helps farmers and Government. Therefore, a well-designed e-governance project should be able to recover at least running costs from the user charges, which come out of the program itself. Most of the programs, which are meant for citizens can survive out of the user charges. Karnataka has taken up several e-governance projects. Are they in good progress now? We are certainly better off than other states. We are well-organised State. We have introduced some interesting projects for citizens and Government functions. We have introduced Khajane - the Treasure. This project essentially involves computerisation of 225 treasuries all across Karnataka. The State's treasure payment system handles Rs 20,000 crore annually. Do you find your job profile challenging now compared to the additional revenue secretary post a few years ago? I now find it very challenging. I now have a bigger picture before me. Earlier, I used to look after one project at a time (Bhoomi). But I now have to think about integration of all e-governance projects in the State. For instance, we are in the process of creating Wide Area Network (WAN) and providing common infrastructure for all projects. Earlier, I never had thought about it, about empowering all other departments, providing common infrastructure.

From Sify, India, b T Radhakrishna, 18 June 2003

 

Government Preps One-Stop Hub for E-services

The e-Envoy is due to announce a major new eGovernment venture that will create a single access point for online services, writes Ian Cuddy, of eGov monitor Weekly. The Online Government Store will bring together the various e-services scattered across department websites into a central hub or 'one-stop shop', where citizens could pay their income tax, buy a TV licence or apply for a passport. It is hoped that the project will make e-services more accessible to citizens and in doing so, help to boost the present low levels of public take-up. Following months of discussions with Whitehall departments and local government bodies, the e-Envoy's Office is now almost ready to make public details of the Online Government Store. The decision to create a new brand identity for the service will raise fresh speculation over the future direction of the e-Envoy's existing eGovernment hub projects, the UK Online citizen portal and its flagship IT project, the Government Gateway, which have both been designed to provide common access points for online services across government. Outlining the concept of the Online Government Store, Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service, described the project so: "This is the idea that if you are a student, elderly person, a traveller or motorist, you can come into electronic space and there is something that says 'All the services we offer to you, irrespective of the department that they are offered by, can be found in that space'."

The e-Envoy's Office told eGov monitor Weekly it could not provide any further details of the project at this stage, as matters have yet to be cleared by ministers, but said that the UK Online portal was not going to be replaced. The Department of Trade and Industry has also disclosed that it will be working in close collaboration with the OeE on the Online Government Store project, as part of plans to enable its e-services to be delivered in a way that would allow its customers "to find the information and services they need more quickly and easily". The move comes as the OeE launches a three-month consultation on proposals allowing the private and voluntary sectors to assume the role of an intermediary between government and citizen in delivering online public services. The draft framework outlines the "policies and principles" governing the rights and obligations of intermediaries and plans for a new, high-level working group with a remit to "actively drive the intermediary agenda in departments".

The aim is the creation of a "mixed economy" for the supply of public services, which in three years' time will be developed to the point where citizens and businesses can "engage intermediaries from the public, private and voluntary sectors to use public services in the manner that suits them." In a separate but related development, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is investigating the potential use of UK Online centres to offer access to online government services. Results of a survey in April 2002, made public earlier this year by the National Audit Office, found that just five per cent of UK Online centres showed government e-services to all customers, a quarter to "quite a few", a half "rarely", and the remaining 20 per cent not at all. The DfES is attempting to find centres that have pro-actively taken on the responsibility of providing access to eGovernment, in order to discuss "successful practices, obstacles and barriers encountered, capacity building requirements and sustainable business plans".

From The Register, UK, 3 June, 2003

Commission Surveys E-government Services

Benchmarking of e-government services goes into a new - interactive - phase this summer with the European Commission's "Top of the Web" survey. Over 4000 webmasters across Europe are being asked to put a user-questionnaire on their site. These web sites deliver one or more of the 20 key public e-services that the Commission is benchmarking, as part of the eEurope strategy. The "Top of the Web" survey will provide instantaneous feedback to webmasters about the quality of their e-service, based on a number of carefully selected criteria. At the same time, the questionnaire results will point to those aspects of e-service delivery which can be considered "best practice", within such areas as filing an on-line tax return, registering a change of address or applying for a copy of one's birth certificate. The benchmarking results are posted on a dedicated web site as they come in and the findings will be disseminated via European e-government meetings and conferences during 2003 and again in 2004, when the survey will be repeated. Public service webmasters who are operating one of the 20 key e-services who have not already been contacted by "Top of the Web" may also join in the benchmarking survey. The survey is being conducted in the 15 EU member states plus Iceland and Norway by PLS-RAMBOLL, Denmark and EWORX S.A., Greece, under contract to the European Commission's Information Society Directorate General. For further details, go to the Web site: http://www.topoftheweb.net

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 4 June 2003

Global E-government

UK launches local e-government standards body: The UK government has set up a national authority aimed at preventing the duplication of e-government efforts among local councils. The Local eGovernment Standards Body is the British government's newest National Project under the National Strategy for Local eGovernment, which aims to find standard solutions to the problems faced by local councils in the development of e-services. The body will reportedly receive STG2.5 million in funding from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The new organisation's objectives include the promotion of common standards, the publication of best practice and the prevention of duplication of efforts and investment by councils. "The standards body will perform a much-needed role for local government, making it easier to join up services for the benefit of the customer by ensuring that many products from national and other projects are able to work together," said Jim Haslem, chairman of the board. Among the organisation's initial projects are establishing an on-line repository of key e-government projects; compiling a standards catalogue and identifying gaps that need to be filled; and advising councils and their suppliers on how to interpret and adopt local e-government standards.

UK government IT market may be worth STG7 billion by 2006: The public sector software and IT services (S/ITS) market in the UK will grow 30 times faster than the commercial sector until 2005, according to a recently published report. Analyst and consulting company Ovum Holway's "UK Public Sector Market 2003 - The Market for Software and IT Services" predicts that the public sector S/ITS market will grow by 9 percent annually on average between 2001 and 2005, reaching STG7 billion in 2006. The report forecasts that the commercial S/ITS sector in the UK will grow by an average of just 0.3 percent per annum over the same period. Assessing each of the major public sector markets, Ovum Holway says that the two most lucrative S/ITS markets are criminal justice and the NHS, which it claims will grow by an average of 25 percent and 20 percent respectively from 2001 to 2006. The report's authors noted that the public sector will provide plenty of opportunities for smaller players, pointing out that government agencies are starting to favour consortia over single suppliers, an approach called 'multisourcing.' "This allows government to spread its risk across a number of suppliers," said analyst Georgina O'Toole, and "makes it possible... to change one under-performing supplier within a consortia rather than having to replace the sole supplier on a contract."

Albuquerque sets up bill alert system for citizens: Albuquerque, New Mexico, has deployed an automatic alert system that lets users know when a utility bill has been issued. Developed in conjunction with Cognos, a specialist in business intelligence and corporate performance management, the system is part of a wider solution to provide Web-based analysis and reporting on criminal statistics, tax revenue, campaign reporting, development applications and vendor services. Users who register for the utility bill alert system can have an immediate notification sent to a computer or mobile device when a bill is issued. In addition, using the on-line system, key decision-makers within the relevant government departments can check on the status of citizens' payments. According to Nucleus Research, a Massachusetts firm that evaluates financial return on IT assets, Albuquerque has achieved an almost 2,000 percent return on investment (ROI) through its overall deployment of the Cognos system, through the reduction of administrative overheads and the identification of other cost-savings opportunities.

Jordan re-launches ICT Web site: Jordan's Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MoICT) has re-launched its Web site, www.moict.gov.jo. The MoICT was set up in April 2002 with the aim of bringing the benefits of ICT to the citizens of Jordan, and the ministry is responsible for overseeing Jordan's e-government initiative. The new version of the site, available in English and Arabic, allows users to download e-government documentation and policy consultation papers. An on-line forum is provided where citizens can submit their opinions of government initiatives. Other features include a calendar of local and regional ICT events, news updates from the Ministry, and opinion polls. The site also hosts an "e-initiatives database," which provides information on all ICT-related initiatives undertaken by the Ministry. "The launch of the new MoICT Web site is in line with the Ministry's efforts to provide greater access to information and policies and to strengthen transparency of knowledge about the Ministry," said Emile Cubeisy, director of ICT promotion at MoICT. Dubai gives IT training to library staff:

Dubai is holding a series of training initiatives for employees of libraries and data centres, as part of the Dubai eGovernment project. The five-day programs, entitled "how to organise and run libraries and data centres," aim to provide a better understanding of how advances in IT can help libraries and data centres to function more efficiently. The program "highlights how new technologies can help to provide cost-effective innovative services that will enable libraries and data centres to satisfy user needs more effectively and better utilise the ready available resources," said Rehab Mohammed Lootah, e-services provisioning officer, Dubai eGovernment. One aspect of the program attempts to teach library workers new rules and procedures for the manual and electronic classification and indexing of documents. Other aspects deal with electronic systems and databases, as well as standards for scheduling and tabling information.

From Electric News Net , by Sylvia Leatham, 4 June 2003

Public Sector Outsourcing 'Not All Bad'

Despite high-profile failures, the private sector can learn a trick or two from Whitehall, says lawyer - The private sector can learn lessons from the public sector about outsourcing, despite some high-profile government IT disasters, according to law firm Shaw Pitman. Alistair Maughan, a partner at the firm, told vnunet.com that the perception of public sector bodies lurching from one outsourcing disaster to the next is the result of a greater scrutiny of public projects. But he maintained that the public sector is better than the private sector in its use of a structured tendering process, and in the dedication of resources for outsourcing projects and overall commitment to the end result. "The public sector gets all the flack. The private sector is much better at not washing its dirty linen in public, but the list of problems is just a long," said Maughan. "The public sector is not necessarily better or worse but there are some lessons you can definitely learn. The private sector is much more likely to go to a favourite supplier and a single tender solution. "Some vendors, such as IBM and Accenture, are very good at keeping a foot in the door. But the danger with this is that you end up buying what they want to sell you."

Better and clearer selection processes lead to better scoped projects, according to Maughan. Public sector projects are more likely to use dedicated project resources, whereas private companies will pull people from other projects and get them to work part time on the outsourcing deal. "The public sector also tends to do a better job of setting correct expectations at the outset and managing to those expectations. There are benefits in not being totally bottom-line driven," he said. A study by PA Consulting published in March found that only 41 per cent of public sector outsourcing projects, compared to 70 per cent of private sector projects, had failed to achieve the hoped-for cost savings. The same study revealed that supplier relationships had been managed effectively in 95 per cent of public sector projects, compared to just 58 per cent of private sector equivalents. Poor supplier relationships cost companies across Europe about €6bn every year, according to estimates from analyst Gartner. "There are some bad bits from the public sector, particularly the political dimension, but in the private sector there's more of a tendency to knee-jerk reactions and moving the goal posts," concluded Maughan.

From VNUNet, UK, by Rachel Fielding, 6 June 2003

E-government Costs Outstrip Savings

The government may have to wait more than a decade for its multibillion pound investment in public sector information technology to start producing savings for the exchequer, industry experts warned today. The potential for saving money was one of the major reasons that the government pushed for all public services to be available electronically by 2005 at a cost of £7.4bn for Whitehall and local councils. But IT analysis firm Kable has predicted that the massive costs of making services available over phone lines and the internet would outstrip any savings until at least 2012. Kable's head of forecasting, Karen Swinden, said: "Even this projection could prove to be optimistic. Unlike the private sector, the public sector cannot maximise savings from digitisation by dramatically cutting physical access to services and staff numbers, as it has a duty to ensure equal access those on the wrong side of the 'digital divide.'"

According to the company's report, E-government Cost Savings, Whitehall's investment in IT will yield average savings of £165m a year at both the central and local authority level. The benefits could begin to kick in this year, but would be heavily outweighed by the amount of money being spent on e-government - Kable estimated the deficit at more than £900m for 2005 alone. Reductions in staff costs and numbers, less money spent on office space and price reductions for goods and services bought through efficient electronic systems, have all produced savings. While Whitehall and its agencies, receive their money for electronic services largely from central funds, rather than individual budgets, the council taxpayer shoulders nearly 80% of the cost of local e-government. However, investment in e-government is likely to drop off dramatically after 2005 while the benefits continue, allowing savings from the new technology to slowly catch up with the amount of money being spent.

From Guardian, UK, by Simon Parker, 10 June 2003

Global E-government

UK e-government may not yield savings for ten years: report: It will be nearly ten years before e-government services start yielding cost savings for the UK government, according to a new report. The "e-Government Cost Savings Report" by public sector IT analyst Kable estimates that by the financial year 2005/2006, e-government will be generating savings for local and central government of STG289 million a year, but spending on e-government will cost STG1.2 billion for that year alone. "Plotting the e-investment against the increase in savings over the coming years shows that on an annual basis, the savings may match the costs only by financial year 2012," said Karen Swinden, Kable's head of forecasting. The study forecasts that between 2001/2002 and 2005/2006, e-government will cost UK taxpayers STG7.4 billion, with spending peaking in 2003/2004 at STG1.8 billion. Swinden also cautioned that it was possible that savings from e-government may never overtake its costs. "Unlike the private sector, the public sector cannot maximise the savings from digitisation by dramatically cutting physical access [to services] and staff numbers, as it has a duty to ensure equal access for all, including those who do not have digital access," she said.

European Commission launches e-government survey: The European Commission has launched an on-line benchmarking study to assess the quality of key e-government services in Europe. The study, called Top of the Web, aims to evaluate 20 public e-services for citizens and businesses that are available in the 15 EU member states, along with Iceland and Norway. The citizen services that are being assessed include those related to income tax, job seeking, social security, and personal documents and certificates; while the business e-services under scrutiny include VAT and tax matters, company registration, and public procurement. More than 4,000 Webmasters have agreed to implement a questionnaire for users into their Web sites. The results of the benchmarking study will be posted on the Top of the Web site, www.topoftheweb.net, giving e-service providers and Webmasters feedback on the quality of their services and allowing e-government providers to compare their performance with fellow providers. The study will be repeated in 2004. New EU computer system aims to reduce fraud: The European Council has given the go-ahead for a new computer system aimed at cutting down on excise duty fraud in the EU. Excise duty fraud, which is mostly associated with the movement of alcohol and tobacco, is estimated to cost EU countries around EUR5 billion a year. The European Commission reckons that about 80,000 individuals and companies will need to be connected to the new system, which aims to link up all traders and provide EU member states with real-time information about consignments.

The cost of implementation to each member state could range from EUR5 million to EUR12 million, and the annual running costs once operational are estimated at EUR4 million for the Commission and EUR300,000 for each member state's government. The electronic system, which will replace the current paper-based one, is not expected to be operational until 2008. Finland to issue new electronic ID cards: The government of Finland has announced plans to upgrade its citizens' electronic ID (eID) card system. The Population Register Centre, which supplies the digital certificates used in eID cards, has commissioned Irish e-security company Baltimore Technologies to provide it with new technology for the cards. The new version of the eID cards, which were first launched in 1999, will enable citizens to conduct secure transactions with public authorities and businesses over the Internet and via mobile devices. These transactions could include on-line banking services, educational services and other services provided by the public administration. The eID card can also be used as an official travel document for Finnish citizens in 19 European countries. The card will contain a total of three certificates: the citizen's authentication certificate, his or her digital signature certificate and the Population Register Centre's certificate.

US to test e-voting for overseas citizens: The US government is preparing to enable military personnel who are based overseas to vote electronically in elections. The Defense Department, ten states and a number of counties around the country will conduct an extensive e-voting trial during the 2004 presidential election. The trial is aimed at absentee members of the uniformed services and their dependents, as well as other US citizens living abroad. The on-line initiative, known as SERVE (Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment) expands on a small-scale on-line voting trial that was successfully conducted during the 2000 elections. Under the SERVE scheme, all eligible overseas voters will be encouraged to register on the SERVE Web site, www.serveusa.gov, where they will be able to vote securely during the election once they have been issued with a digital certificate. The states that are scheduled to participate in the program are Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.

New Zealand to create on-line resource of tradespeople: The government of New Zealand is requiring all builders to register on-line, an initiative that may lead to the establishment of an in-depth resource on tradespeople for consumers. Under a new law, builders and other key tradespeople will soon be obligated to register their credentials with the government, giving details of any disciplinary actions taken against them. Economic Development Ministry senior policy analyst Susan Townsend has indicated that the registry, which will likely be available to the public over the Internet, may be linked up with existing databases of registered electricians, plumbers and gasfitters. Individual entries in the registries could be linked up to sources providing more information, such as the Master Builders Federation and the NZ Certified Builders Association, two self-regulatory organisations. Townsend said that being able to link statutory and self-regulatory information with information maintained by individuals was one of the advantages of having an Internet-based system.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 11 June 2003

Private Sector E-services Providers Feel Left Out of Whitehall's New Intermediaries Policy

The Office of the e-Envoy's attempt to involve the private sector in delivering public services threatens to exclude smaller businesses and start ups, it was claimed on 11 June 2003. Stefan Magdalinski, a founder of UpMyStreet.com - which despite its financial woes is still recognised as a leading e-services enterprise - said that the policy to involve so called "intermediaries" in e-government would not help his former company and is likely to "benefit only bigger organisations". Speaking at the GC 2003 conference in London, Magdalinski questioned whether the policy had been designed with small businesses and IT entrepreneurs in mind. He said his former company, which was bought by utilities site uSwitch.com last month after running out of money, would not have been able to take part as an intermediary and that in general, official procurement procedures tend to discriminate against smaller firms. "The key is would this policy have helped UpMyStreet as it stands now or when we first created it in 1998 and the conclusion is no," he told delegates. "We'd have spent so much time going through a process which can only benefit bigger organisations. It will not help the small start ups" Magdalinski said that when he served as chief technology officer of upmystreet, the company could not afford to take part in Government procurements which often involved devoting resources to a bid over many months.

Responding to Magdalinski, Anwar Choudhury, director of e-government markets, technologies and innovation at the e-envoy's office, admitted that more work is needed to involve SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) in the intermediaries strategy. "We want to improve that policy so that it does something for SMEs but we also want to ensure that we are engaging the citizen," he said. "We haven't worked out how to involve the innovators in this." However, Choudhury did say that in general his office is attempting to involve smaller firms. "We are trying to create space to feed into Government just what SMEs need, sometimes we've even found that we have to shove off large companies to do that," he said. Choudhury's office published the Policy Framework for a Mixed Economy in the Supply of e-Government Services for a two month consultation at the end of May 2003. It outlines the Government's plans for improving service delivery by involving "e-enabled intermediaries" who offer services built around the needs of citizens. Intermediaries are described as "organisations from the private or voluntary sectors offering services targeted at and tailored to chosen groups of customers, who may be businesses or individual citizens." The Government believes that involving intermediaries in the delivery of public services will allow it to expand its overall number of delivery channels, as well as enabling it to offer public services in more "innovative and customer-focused ways". It also hopes the policy will help reduce the cost of e-government.

From Kablenet, UK, 12 June 2003

Major European E-government Programme Unveiled

The European Commission is to embark on a major new e-government programme designed to accelerate the pace of transnational e-service delivery across the EU administrations and accession states. Inter-governmental web portals, cross-border electronic data infrastructures and further development of a pan-European interoperability framework are among the activities planned over the coming year. The projects were announced in the 2003 Work Programme of the Interchange of Data Between Administration programme, a European Commission-driven strategic initiative that supports e-government activities and best practice exchange between EU Member States. The new programme outlines 45 'Projects of Common Interest', grouped under 12 themes, covering areas such as employment and education, agriculture and regional policy.

These include a real-time online flood alerting system, a pilot portal to interlink national and European sources of information for migrant workers, and an EU-wide information system for dealing with asylum applications. The work programme sets out a further 30 cross-cutting 'Horizontal Actions and Measures', which aim to provide generic or standard solutions for interoperability, encompassing the four main areas of Programme Management, Spread of Good Practice, Business Applications and Technology Solutions. As well as projects focusing on security and authentication, funding has been allocated to research studies examining migration to open source software and seamless, multi-channelled service delivery through mobile, kiosk and digital television technologies.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 17 June 2003

E-government Concerns Unite Professions

Chief executives and personnel officers take active interest in e-government - Three industry bodies are collaborating to combat fears surrounding the 'soundness' of local authority e-government programmes. Their concerns focus on the 'soft skills', such as influencing decision makers, leadership and change management, all of which must be improved if local authorities are to get the most out of e-government, according to Tony Riding, principal associate for the Society of IT Management (Socitm). Socitm has teamed up with the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers and the Society Of Personnel Officers In Local Government to produce a model approach. Riding said the collaboration is evidence of a changing mindset as e-government is seen as more than just an IT issue. "We used to just influence the IT managers," he said. "We are now working with chief executives, human resources and IT people to identify how e-government should be managed. "We have investigated a number of ad hoc arrangements in local authorities to develop a best practice framework for [delivering] e-government." John Griffiths, consulting director at IT services company Compusys, which works with hundreds of local authorities, said the IT industry is not well known for its "soft skills". "Local government is very good at addressing, or attempting to address, this type of issue and although it may take some time it will get there in the end," he said.

From VNUNet, UK, by Karl Flinders, 24 June 2003

Spain Takes an E-siesta

An annual update on Spain's e-government efforts says progress is 'stagnating' - The Spanish central administration is letting its e-government efforts slip and is performing poorly in its wider "information society" programme, according to an independent report. eEspana 2003 by Spain's Auna Foundation, places the country 14th out of 15 EU member states on overall IT developments, with only Greece performing worse. In e-government, the report says that compared to 2002 there are less central initiatives, although more effort is now made at a regional level. It warns, however, that a lack of cooperation and coordination between different regions could lead to the development of incompatible e-government systems. The Foundation calls on Spain's political leaders to renew their commitment to the information society in order to haul the country back up the league tables. In response to the criticisms, the Government is now rewriting its information society "Action Plan" which is expected to forge new partnerships between the central administration, regional governments and the private sector.

From Kablenet, UK, 24 June 2003

Global E-government

UK trials SMS reminder service for hospital patients: The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is testing a system for sending reminders of hospital appointments to patients via text message. It is estimated that missed appointments cost the UK's health service more than STG400 million a year. The NHS has signed a deal with mobile media and technology services company Enpocket that will see four NHS Trusts trial the service in Portsmouth, Manchester, Coventry and north-west London. Enpocket says that a test undertaken at Homerton Hospital in London last summer found that SMS reminders sent the day before an appointment greatly reduced non-attendance and improved communications with patients. The cost of the sending the text messages will be met by companies willing to pay to include an 80-character advertisement in the SMS. The trial will research the effectiveness of the initiative in terms of savings for the NHS, acceptance among patients and the value for companies sponsoring the service, according to Enpocket. The full launch of the service is planned for the autumn, and an additional 30 NHS Trusts are considering taking on the service in its first year. Florida set to ink IT outsourcing deal: The state of Florida is set to award contracts for an IT outsourcing project to two companies this summer. According to the state's chief information officer, Kim Bahrami, Florida plans to ink deals with Accenture and BearingPoint for work on the MyFlorida Alliance portal project.

Under the terms of the proposed seven-year contract, Accenture will supply applications management in support of the state portal and will manage the delivery of e-government services, while BearingPoint will provide desktop management, e-government services and desktop services for the state's data centre. Over 30 companies will have major roles in the project when it is awarded, said Bahrami, including NIC, Affiliated Computer Services and WorldCom, each of which will act as subcontractors for the project. Describing Florida's strategy as "partial outsourcing," Bahrami said that the state will collect fees from e-government transactions, from which it will pay the contractors. The value of the contract has not yet been agreed, but analysts estimate that it could be worth as much as USD80 million. France pilots e-voting for overseas citizens: The French government has declared a pilot e-voting scheme for overseas citizens a success. The experiment involved electing new members to the Upper Council of French Expatriates, or CSFE (Conseil Superieur des Francais de l'Etranger), an organisation that represents French citizens who are based abroad. There are an estimated 2 million French citizens living overseas, 600,000 of whom are registered to vote with French consulates. The government said that participation by such citizens in previous elections had ranged from 10 percent to 25 percent, and the e-voting trial was aimed at upping that figure.

Two electoral districts in the US - Washington and San Francisco - made electronic facilities available for more than 50,000 French residents between 19 May and 31 May. Election software specialists Election.com provided the secure Internet-based technology. French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Renaud Muselier described the e-voting trial as "an encouraging success" and said that it had boosted overseas voting by 2.5 percent. Muselier said that Internet voting will be extended for future CSFE elections and may be considered for other elections in France. Lebanon reveals details of e-government roadmap: The Lebanon's e-government strategy has been finalised and is awaiting approval from the Council of Ministers, according to the Minister of State for Administrative Reform, Karim Pakradouni. Speaking in Beirut at the recent "Solutions to the Power of Four" event, organised by Cisco, HP, Intel and Microsoft, Minister Pakradouni outlined the Lebanese government's "road map" for e-government. Pakradouni drew attention to the government's on-line portal Informs, www.informs.gov.lb, which now provides access to 4,555 forms for use by public agencies and citizens. Alongside the portal, a citizens' information hotline has been established. The minister also highlighted the government's on-line customs filing system, which was developed by the Ministry of Finance, and said that similar on-line systems were being deployed by other departments.

He also noted that work was underway to install a wide area network to connect key government offices with their branch divisions and said that a national government WAN was being considered. There are also plans to link up the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Lebanese Embassy, Consulate Generals, and UNESCO in France over a secure network. New Zealand reassesses e-procurement goals: The New Zealand government seems to have re-defined its plans for the creation of a comprehensive electronic procurement system. The original intention of the GoProcure project was to install an e-procurement application that would allow government departments to order electronically from suppliers. According to State Services Minister Trevor Mallard, the project's aims have been redefined and the goal is now to set up a "core transaction hub," which suppliers can use to offer their catalogues to government agencies. The hub uses technology from Oracle and is being built and maintained by consulting firm Cap Gemini New Zealand. The cost of the initiative has been cut from an estimated USD5.5 million over five years to a spend of only USD2 million now, with a review of whether to proceed further in November. E-Government Unit director Brendon Boyle said the original Oracle full-suite option was more difficult to implement and operate than initially thought.

Boyle said the project had been reorganised into three parts: completion of evaluation and testing of the first phase, a consideration of what might happen after November, and a project to assess how government agencies could implement syndicated procurement. Microsoft to aid e-government in New Zealand: Microsoft has compiled a shortlist of e-government initiatives that it plans to support through its recently launched Innovation Centre in Wellington, New Zealand. The software giant has pledged to provide free technical assistance to five public sector technology projects, saying it will spend around USD800,000 on developing prototype applications for the initiatives. Among the proposals under consideration are a request from the Fire Service to develop special software for use in tablet PCs, so that crews can download information about hazards en route to an incident. The Defence Force is seeking to develop handheld technology in order to capture information about its assets, while the Culture and Heritage Ministry has asked for technical help in making its databases accessible to the public. In addition, the Crown Research Institute has asked for the design of an Internet-based biological and land resource database. A Microsoft spokesperson said the projects that are selected - due to be announced shortly - should be prototyped by the end of the year.

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

Civil Servants Shun E-government

Public sector staff happy to use private online services, but not the government's - Despite moves by the public sector to offer e-citizen services, civil servants are still reluctant to conduct government transactions online, according to research released yesterday. A study from industry vendor LogicaCMG found that nine out of 10 public sector employees use online services for information gathering such as research, and sourcing addresses and contact numbers. But only 14 per cent are actually prepared to make e-transactions such as bill payments or claims for child support. The survey of public sector employees showed that online services are most commonly used for sourcing contact details (67 per cent), conducting research on government departments (51 per cent) and filling in forms such as tax returns (37 per cent). One in 10 respondents felt that it was appropriate to make complaints online, but only seven per cent indicated that they would be happy giving credit card details or making financial transactions online. In contrast, 97 per cent of public sector employees stated that they already use commercial sector online services for transactions such as banking or purchasing. This highlights a higher level of trust with sensitive information towards private sector organisations. "The results show that the divide between the take-up of private and public sector online services is narrowing, but the government still has some way to go," said Sara Nicholls, sales and marketing director for the public sector at LogicaCMG. "Increasing confidence in government online services will be key in increasing the take-up of core e-citizen services, both transaction based, such as paying council tax, and non-transaction based, such as filling in tax forms."

From VNUNet, UK, by Robert Jaques, 26 June 2003

 

Dubai eGovernment Conducts Training Programme for Libraries and Data Centres in Dubai

Dubai eGovernment recently concluded a five-day training programme on 'how to organise and run libraries and data centres', which targeted supervisors, librarians and employees of public libraries and data centres in Dubai at the Rashidiya Public Library. The programme which was held under the auspices of the Public Libraries Association of Dubai Municipality, aimed to create a better understanding of how advances in information technology can aid smoother and more efficient functioning of libraries and data centres. "The importance of libraries both as a major source of information and as intermediaries for knowledge and culture is well known. This initiative by the Dubai eGovernment is part of our continuous efforts to propagate a greater understanding of how technology can be optimised to enhance all services provided to the community. We are living in an age when the entire world is moving towards electronic services and it is important to understand its benefits and applications in various sectors of society," said Salem Al-Shair, Director of eServices, Dubai eGovernment. "Libraries and data centres play a key role in building knowledge-based economies and disseminating information.

This community outreach programme is the first of a two part event, which highlights how new technologies can help to provide cost-effective innovative services that will enable libraries and data centres to satisfy user needs more effectively and better utilize the ready available resources," said Rehab Mohammed Lootah, eServices Provisioning Officer, Dubai eGovernment. The core concept of the community outreach programme was the introduction of the various rules and procedures that need to be adopted for manual and electronic classification and indexing. Ayman Bastanji of Dubai Public Library who prepared the course material for the five-day session said, "It was a very informative session for participants who attended from various libraries and data centres in Dubai. The attendees were eager to understand and acquire the latest skills that were presented. The participants were well qualified and equipped to grasp the theoretical and practical aspects that were covered in each of the sessions and consequently this preliminary session achieved its goals by laying a foundation for implementing the right procedures in order to facilitate the smooth functioning of libraries and data centres."

One of the session participants, Wadad Khowias, Programme Coordinator, Dubai TV, Channel 33 said, "The sessions were extremely beneficial, with the presentations conducted in a way that helped us to clearly understand complicated concepts in an easy manner. It was a knowledgeable and informative experience that provided us with an insight into the technological advances that have taken place in the sphere of indexing and classification. I am very grateful to the Dubai Municipality and the Dubai eGovernment as well as Dubai TV for giving us this opportunity to enrich our skills and abilities." The next five-day session will be held from June 14 to June 18, 2003 and will focus on electronic systems and database in libraries. It will also touch on the standards for scheduling and tabling information.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 1 June 2003

E-government Strategy Aims to Improve Efficiency

Plan only needs final approval of council of ministers - Move aims to utilize information and communications technology to improve services and accessibility. The Lebanese e-government strategy has been finalized and only needs the approval of the Council of Ministers in the coming weeks, according to Raymond Khoury, of the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reforms (OMSAR). "The strategy provides a comprehensive vision and road map for what needs to be achieved as per the best international practices," said Khoury, during the Solutions to the Power of Four seminar at the Movenpick Hotel on Tuesday. "A set of strategic objectives, made possible by the facilitating role of ICT (information and telecommunication technology), backed by the necessary institutional and legal frameworks constitute the core of the program," he said. Since its establishment in 1994, OMSAR has been entrusted with the task of managing the implementation of a comprehensive government and national ICT strategic development plan. The e-government strategy has been aligned with the OMSAR Administrative Reform Strategy which was approved in 2001, for the realization of effective government services through productive and ICT-skilled civil servants. According to Khoury, the greatest benefit has been the increase in public administration efficiency, which was achieved by the implementation of modern ICT infrastructures.

LANs (local area networks), PCs and office productivity applications in a majority of ministries and public administration offices have led to procedure simplification, performance improvement, planning and human capacity building. "Some 4,550 forms are currently available on 'informs', an online government information portal dedicated for citizens to complete their administrative formalities," said Khoury. "Some 1,700 forms are for ministries and public agencies, and some 2,855 are for the governorates and municipalities. The portal is available on the internet as well as … through a hotline number 1700." Khoury said that another achievement was the effective citizen-centric government, which provided for the fulfillment of all citizen-related public sector services online. These are available for individual or company use, either at a government office or through the internet, regardless of the geographical location of the office or residence of the citizen. Khoury said that data, once entered in the government information systems, should not require re-entry, since any citizen can use a single point of notification to inform the government of any change in personal or business information. "The aim is to offer efficient services by reducing to a minimum the information and supporting documents required of a citizen … Currently it takes 46 different signatures to import a kilogram of coffee into Lebanon," he said. Khoury also announced that the design for a national ID or e-government smart card, with machine readable formats and biometrics security measures to support the reduction of data entry was already in the works. "Work is under way to design government-wide data centers to tackle the elimination of re-entry data as the respective databases can be cross-referenced and checked at these centers," he said.

Efforts are also under way to create a wide area network to connect government offices, ministries and agencies, with their branch divisions. A national government wide area network is also being studied for implementation, he said. "The aim is to establish a comprehensive intra-government information exchanges and communiques online … The objective is to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the dependency on courier services and/or the diplomatic pouch for embassies abroad. A pilot project, linking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Lebanese embassies, consulates and UNESCO mission in France over a secure network, is being tested," he said. Khoury called for continuous collaborative efforts from key stakeholders, government decision makers, pivotal civil servants, citizens and local and international IT providers to achieve the desired goals. "OMSAR is also collaborating with the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) to identify national cross-sector ICT and, specifically socioeconomic development policies," Khoury concluded. "The digital divide must be bridged," he said.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, by Ara Alain Arzoumanian, 11 June 2003

Dubai eGovernment Online Services Reach 600 Mark

Dubai eGovernment has reached the fourth stage in the project lifecycle of eGovernance, according to the United Nations international classification, and is pushing assertively towards the final stage that will place it in the league of only a few countries in the world to offer fully integrated services through a single portal,' said Salem Al-Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. Addressing a seminar on 'eGovernment - Challenges & Opportunities' organized by Dubai University College (DUC) in Dubai recently, Al-Shair said, "Dubai eGovernment had reached the transactional stage of the project and was pushing towards the seamless integration stage which signifies total amalgamation between all government departments through the single portal www.dubai.ae." "Around 79 per cent of eGovernment portals globally are still in the emerging and enhanced stages, while 19 per cent are placed in the advanced interactive and transactional categories," said Al-Shair. "This is a significant achievement for Dubai eGovernment considering that it went online with just 14 services in October 2001 and today there are close to 600 online services available, compared with several other developed countries which had a head-start and are still lagging behind." Al-Shair explained that all efforts were now concentrated on accelerating the pace towards the seamless phase with the collaboration of different government departments. While all government departments have websites, Dubai eGovernment's function is to standardize its contents and link them to the single portal (www.dubai.ae).

Services such as ePay and eJawaz, which allows for a single sign-on facility will increase the momentum toward seamless integration. "It is practically impossible to offer all services online, because there will always be certain services that would require the manual processing, such as the registration of births," explained Al-Shair. "Our goal is to have the majority of services online and we are on course to achieve that objective. Our aim will always be to put the customer first, even in the case where the services has to be delivered manually or in a hybrid form." Al-Shair urged the younger generation to lead the movement towards eCitizenship by supporting the community outreach programs of Dubai eGovernment. "It is the youth who can bridge the gap between technology and the older generation, to enable Dubai to have literate eCitizens and be the leader of the Digital Age in the Middle East region." Dr. Mahmoud Awan, Assistant Professor, College of Business Administration, DUC, said, "the prime need of any eGovernment is to be customer-centric and build trust with the community. Among the advantages of eGovernment is that it makes all citizens equal and promotes transparency in all dealings. It eliminates bureaucracy, corruption and harassment of people." This seminar was second in the series of events on related issues of eGovernment organized by DUC. Among the other speakers were Ahmed Behrozyan, Head of eGovernment Services, Dubai Municipality and Nauman Ahmed, Government Solutions Specialist, Microsoft and Abdul Rahman Al Matyoei, Director General of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry was among the prominent people attending the seminar.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 14 June 2003

UN to Recognize Exemplary Public Service

Tehran - For the first time, the United Nations is set to observe an international day to commend and encourage exemplary public service, said a press release by the United Nations Information Center here on Sunday. The world body will mark its first-ever 'UN Public Service Day' on Monday June 23, 2003 at its Headquarters in New York, in an effort to recognize that democracy and good governance are based on a competent civil service. The day will be inaugurated when public service awards will be announced for 14 government agencies or departments from around the world. "The day recognizes that democracy and successful governance are built on the foundation of a competent civil service," said Guido Bertucci, director of the UN Division for Public Administration and Development Management of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). "The ability of a society to maintain safety and essential public services, protect human rights, maintain an efficient framework for market activities and to hold free and fair elections draws on the skills and sense of purpose of public servants working as a team," he said, adding that without an effective civil administration, democracy and prosperity are virtually unattainable.

From IRNA, Iran, 22 June 2003

 

New Public Service Hopes to Help Children

One million American mostly children suffer from genetic immune diseases tht can cause everything from mild infections to death. Many cases go undiagnosed but a new public service ad campaign from the Ad Council hopes to change that. New public service announcements airing this month hope to make parents more aware of Primary Imunodeficiency Disorder or P.I. Experts say a simple blood test can be the first step in identifying P.I. To learn more about the warning signs and symptoms of Primary Immune Deficiency Disease call toll free 1-866-INFO-4-PI or og onto www.info4pi.org.

From WILX-TV, MI, 5 June 2003

Waveset Presents Identity Management Strategies at E-Gov 2003

Austin, Texas - Chief Technology Officer Bill Malik to Discuss Impact of Biometrics, Authentication and Identity Technologies within the Public Sector - Waveset Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of secure identity management solutions, today announced that Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Bill Malik will participate on a panel of industry experts discussing identity management strategies at the E-Gov 2003 conference in Washington DC, June 9 - 12, 2003. E-Gov is the premier venue for learning about, and collaborating on, technology to improve government operations. The panel "Authentication and Identity Technologies" will focus on the essential components for implementing a digital identity management strategy. Malik will join Russ Riva, Manager, Systems Development, Defense Mission Systems, Northrop Grumman Information Technology (IT), in presenting an overview of a secure enterprise identity management architecture and how it can benefit organizations in the public sector. Specifically, Riva will present a case study on the US Defense Information Systems Agency's (DISA)'s Global Combat Support System (GCSS) System Administration and Log Tool (GSALT), which integrates with Waveset Lighthouse to(TM) provide the agency's Combatant Commands/Joint Task Force (CC/JTF) with user authorization, authentication and administration capabilities across its highly complex and diverse IT environment. Date and Time: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 from 2:45 - 4:00 p.m.

"The need for identity management technologies in the government sector is paramount to enabling effective and secure e-government initiatives," said Malik. "This panel is intended to provide attendees with a greater understanding of their own identity-related challenges and, how to leverage strategic technologies to create a more secure, efficient environment." For more information on attending E-Gov 2003 visit http://www.e-gov.com/events/2003/egov/. To speak with Bill Malik, please contact waveset@lpp.com or 781-782-5000. About Waveset Technologies, Inc. Waveset Technologies, Inc. is a provider of identity management software that enables the secure control of business initiatives across enterprise, intranet and extranet environments. Waveset's unique, noninvasive approach delivers rapid ROI while ensuring that customers' mission-critical information assets are protected. Waveset, based in Austin, TX with operations in the UK, counts industry leaders such as GMAC Financial Services, Kraft Foods, First American Bank, The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, American Red Cross, ProBusiness Services, Inc, Household International, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, 7-Eleven, Inc., Dynegy and numerous other Fortune 500 companies among its customers. Waveset is funded by Lightspeed Ventures Partners, Austin Ventures, Origin Partners, Silverton Partners, AV Labs, and other private investors. Waveset and the Waveset logo are trademarks of Waveset Technologies, Inc. All other company and product names may be trademarks, registered trademarks, or service marks of the company with which they are associated.

From PRNewswire, 3 June 2003

Grads Advised to Engage in Civic, Public Service

Erin McCloskey is aiming for med school, then Doctors Without Borders - Erin McCloskey is celebrating more then her recent graduation. She's relishing the victory of being alive. After battling breast cancer for six months, the University of Western Ontario student crossed the stage at Alumni Hall yesterday to receive her bachelor of science degree. It's a long-awaited victory after months of intensive chemotherapy and surgery that kept her out of 95 per cent of her classes last semester. "It was pretty frustrating," said McCloskey, who is now in remission. "But it makes me all the more proud to make it through to the end." Yesterday she joined 500 other graduates from the faculties of science and graduate studies at Western's 280th convocation. Shirley Tilghman, president of Princeton University, addressed the new grads. Her message: Use your knowledge of science to "become engaged in civic affairs and public service."

It was something that McCloskey, who spent her Western days volunteering with the Women's Issue Network and acting as vice-president of education for the school's student council, could appreciate. "(Tilghman's) address was inspirational," she said afterward, a bouquet of flowers and her diploma in hand. "She's inspiring a generation of young female scientists." McCloskey plans to spend next year focusing on her health and working in a federal government office. Then it's off to medical school and a career -- hopefully, she said, with Doctors Without Borders. Her parents, Judy Archer and Rick McCloskey, are pleased with what she has accomplished. "It's overwhelming," said Archer. "Given her health situation and what she has accomplished, it's beyond words to me." Convocation ceremonies conclude today with rower Marnie McBean scheduled to address graduates.

From London Free Press, Canada, by Monique Beech, 6 June 2003

E-gov Leader Says Trust Is Key To Online Government

Government agencies must foster trust in order to reach the average citizen and business via information technology, a top White House official said on Friday. "Getting agencies to use modern, trustworthy technology is critical," Mark Forman, e-government administrator at the Office of Management and Budget, said at an e-government conference. "Business won't take it up unless they trust it. We must make it much simpler for the business community." Once that relationship has been established, Forman said government and businesses must work together on making their online efforts "responsive to the citizen's needs." "We have got to do a better job at simplifying federal government by reducing paperwork," he said. This will help with "how we interface with business. Simplify and unify [are the words that] really define this." Forman's comments reflect the second version of OMB's business-reference model, which officials expect to release next week. That model is one of five interrelated reference models designed to help OMB and other federal agencies keep tabs on federal IT investments and formulate the fiscal 2005 budget. The first version of those models was released in July 2002. Tad Anderson, OMB's manager of government-to-business (G2B) online initiatives, outlined the agency's plans for the future.

He said the short-term focus will be on simplifying technology, and the mid-term emphasis will be on information sharing by "leveraging XML," an Internet platform that allows communications between agencies that do not have common systems. "In the long term, we'll be focusing on the reengineering of government," Anderson added. That includes looking at what information the government collects and why, how to collect that information, and ways to consolidate and streamline efforts around customer needs, he said. "The reality is that we have to work through as a community," Forman said. "It's about architecture, it's about focus on the customers, and it's about results," he said. One way to get those results is to request audits from all federal agencies, said Clay Johnson, who President Bush has nominated to be OMB's deputy director. "Twenty-one of 24 federal agencies have had clean opinions this last year," he said, "and we think everyone but the Department of Defense [will] have clean audits by the end of this year." Forman closed his comments by stressing the need to evaluate other successful business models. "There are good solutions out there, and we don't have to come up with totally new solutions," he said. "We can build on what's out there."

From GovExec.com, by Chloe Albanesius, 6 June 2003

The Slow and Steady Rollout of E-Government

This is the second of a three-part series exploring transformational changes in government IT practices. Part one looked at the changing role of the public-sector CIO. This piece examines the 24 E-Government initiatives currently underway and administered by the General Services Administration (GSA). These initiatives bear watching because of the impact they may have on the internal workings of government as well as on the delivery of government services to end-users (i.e. citizens). The objectives of the E-Government initiatives are not all that different from the goals first envisioned back in the Information Highway days. The E-Government program as currently conceived was initiated in July 2001 with the intent of using information technology to "eliminate billions of dollars of wasteful federal spending, reduce government's paperwork burden on citizens and businesses, and improve government response time to citizens." Sounds great, but to many of us who have been around, it sounds like much of the same. This time, however, things are looking a bit different. The funding for these initiatives and the administration's backing of them are real and ongoing. This is especially noteworthy when considered alongside the spending and management focus afforded IT spending on homeland security and defense.

A status report, released in April, provides a list of the milestones achieved to date as well as future objectives. Just as Steve Cooper is driving many IT changes in his role as CIO of the Department of Homeland Security, Mark Forman is out front in addressing IT efficiencies in government as part of his role as Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Some of the projects are targeted at citizens (GovBenefits.gov; Recreation.gov; Volunteer.gov), others at businesses (BusinessLaw.gov; Regulations.gov), and still others at government users (DisasterHelp.gov; vital records sharing). Another group of projects addresses internal government operations (consolidating federal payroll, travel management, and clearance programs). One of the more prominent initiatives is the FirstGov portal. This portal is meant to serve as the official U.S. gateway to all government information. Currently, it provides access to more than 180 million pages of government information in more than 22,000 federal and state web sites. Originally introduced in 2000, the site was relaunched in 2002 and recently went through its third major upgrade.

The strategy as outlined by the administration calls for increased use of industry best practices and components. The GSA recently awarded a $525,000 contract to Vignette Corp. for software to manage content within the FirstGov portal. Half a million dollars is not a lot of money, especially in government contracting, but the visibility of the portal plus its role as touch point for a host of other federal, state, and local sites, makes it a project worth watching. (And Vignette is a company worth a second look, especially in light of its Epicentric purchase.) Most people who pay attention to government spending know how the game is played. For every action aimed at reducing costs and eliminating waste, there is another action (driven by elected representatives) that begins another program and awards another contract. But this time may be different. There may be enough energy (and backbone) behind these initiatives to come close to their promised goals. But even if the goals are not completely met, the effort to bring a bunch of legacy operations out of the back-closet and into the light-the attempt to make them enterprise-worthy-is highly welcome indeed.

From Always On, by Ken Fromm, 9 June 2003

MapInfo Helps Government Focus on Citizens; Introduces e-Government Grant Program

Program to Assist Municipalities and Small State and Federal Agencies Helping to Streamline Communications and Improve Services with Businesses, Citizens and Other Government Agencies to Save Taxpayer Dollars. Washington, D.C. - E-Gov 2003 Conference - June 10, 2003 - MapInfo Corporation (Nasdaq: MAPS), the leading provider of location intelligence solutions for the enterprise, today announced its e- Government Grant Program. MapInfo will award a suite of its location-based software and data, powered by Geographic Data Technology, Inc., to 50 municipalities and government agencies in the United States for the development and deployment of e-government initiatives. The MapInfo e-Government Grant Program enables recipients to improve service by disseminating important information to citizens, businesses and other agencies via the Web as well as integrate agency operations and information technology investments. Visit MapInfo on June 11-12 at the E-Gov 2003 Conference, booth #324 to learn more about the program and see real-world demonstrations of MapInfo e-government applications. To date, numerous state, local and national municipalities rely on MapInfo to create e-government applications that benefit citizens and businesses. For instance, the City of Tulsa used MapInfo to create a Web site that visually shows local construction and traffic accidents.

The site is used by citizens and media outlets providing them with up-to-the-minute information on traffic conditions around the city. In addition, the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal turned to MapInfo to create a Web site for citizens to access important information about available housing and services like day care, schooling and public safety. "The establishment of the e-Government Grant Program reflects MapInfo's deep commitment to providing small municipalities with access to critical technology that they could not otherwise afford," said Sabby Nayar, strategic industry manager, Government, at MapInfo. "Budgets continue to be tight for municipalities largely due to reduced revenue and increased spending on homeland security measures. With this grant, MapInfo is enabling municipalities to provide citizens and businesses within their jurisdiction with an easier and more efficient way to access important information." "We are ecstatic to receive this grant. Part of our mission involves working with communities to build strong neighborhoods through the strategic investment of public resources," said Larry Braman, manager of Mapping and Data Services, Department of Neighborhood Development, City of Boston. "Mapping helps us target these investments properly, and the grant will enable us to work more effectively with constituents, local stakeholders and other agencies by using MapInfo(r) Discovery(tm) to share these maps interactively via the Web. It should also reduce the volume of phone requests for map products, which will allow our staff to operate more efficiently."

Municipalities with populations of 150,000 or less are given preference for MapInfo's e-Government Grant Program, which runs through December 15, 2003. To qualify, applicants must submit an e- government plan for the use of MapInfo software and data. Please send an email to government@mapinfo.com for more information about MapInfo's e-Government Grant Program. Additionally, MapInfo will offer three additional grants for the use of MapInfo MapXtreme(r), its powerful mapping application server. These grants are specifically for municipalities that require a more flexible and customizable e-government solution and that can allocate funding for the custom development needed. About MapInfo - MapInfo Corporation is a global software company that integrates software, data and services to help customers realize greater value from location-based information and drive more insightful decisions. MapInfo solutions are available in 20 languages through a network of strategic partners and distribution channels in 60 countries. Headquartered in Troy, NY, MapInfo Corporation is on the World Wide Web at http://www.mapinfo.com. MapInfo is a trademark of MapInfo Corporation and/or its subsidiaries and affiliates.

From DirectionsMag.com, IL, 10 June 2003

Using a Little Creativity on the Civil-Service Front

As Finance Minister James Smith indicated recently on a radio talk show, our huge civil service establishment - some 20,000 people -is basically a social welfare front. He noted that calls to cut the civil service overlook the fact that The Bahamas has no real social safety net and thousands of people would be on the streets with little prospect of supporting themselves if cuts were made. This could lead to social instability or oppressive taxation or both. We commend this view to the public-service unions and others demanding pay rises despite the prospect of an economic crisis that would ensue, according to no less an authority than Prime Minister Perry Christie himself. Outside of the barely functioning government offices, we can assure you there is very little sympathy for pay rises for civil servants. For the most part, they are seen as people who obstruct our lives by playing petty bureaucratic games, who abuse their positions in many indirect ways (such as subsidised transportation and other unwarranted perks), and who have a job for life whether they perform a useful function or not. You all know the score. We arrive at work to read the paper. Then we have breakfast. Then we talk about what to have for lunch. Then we have lunch. And then we go to pick up the kids. Another day, another dollar. We are sure that the hard-working Bahamians out there who haven't seen a pay increase in years would like to see this gravy train stopped.

Unfortunately, the public service is the biggest employer in the country, but there are creative ways to address that. While we are selling off Batelco to raise revenue and increase competitiveness, so we should be thinking of transforming whole sections of the public service into private enterprise. Time for more than just talking of e-government and, when it is implemented, what about using those systems and operators to service other paying enterprises. Just laying off civil servants, or refusing to give contracted pay increases, are not creative solutions. We support the government's position and we were surprised that it had the political will to take it, though it left itself an out and hinted the increases could come by December, as though there's going to suddenly be a new source of revenue. (Junkanoo? Santa Claus?) We hope the government will find the political will to deal with other problems, such as defaulting students and other "untouchable" issues involving fish vendors, taxi drivers, work permits and Haitian immigrants (to name a few). We also note that the Christie administration has persuaded itself of the absolute necessity for inflows of foreign investment to maintain our prosperity. It is embarking on the same road paved by the Ingraham government in the '90s. We will not criticise the Prime Minister for that irony. It is the right thing to do, and it is the first real evidence we have had of new thinking in the so-called "new PLP."

From Nassau Guardian, Bahamas, 10 June 2003

U.S. Customs Service Receives E-Gov Award for Right Now's Customer Service Implementation

Customer Service Solution Dramatically Improves Quality, Satisfaction, and Cost Efficiency While Ensuring Resources are Not Diverted From Critical Interdiction Tasks - RightNow Technologies, the world's leading provider of hosted customer service and support solutions, today announced the U.S. Customs Service has received a 2003 E-Gov award for the productivity gains created by its implementation of RightNow. The U.S. Customs Service, which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, implemented RightNow in response to rapidly escalating email volume. As a result of that implementation, the U.S. Customs Service has been able to handle a growing number of information inquiries on its Web site without human intervention, as well as having customer service representatives leverage RightNow for phone calls to provide exact verbiage to questions. In addition, the speed, efficiency, consistency, and accuracy with which emails are being handled and answered have been vastly improved. In addition to improving the effectiveness with which the U.S. Customs Service communicates with its constituencies and reducing operational costs, RightNow has also helped to ensure that benign questions and situations do not divert critical resources from the U.S. Customs Service's critical interdiction tasks.

The E-Gov Awards are presented at the FCW Media's annual E-Gov Conference and Exposition. FCW publishes Federal Computer Week, the country's largest circulation government publication. "As an E-Gov Award winner, the U.S. Customs Service's implementation of RightNow has been judged to be among the most innovative E-Government applications in use today," Mike Smoyer, General Manager, E-Gov and FCW Media Group, said. "The improved responsiveness, efficiency, and security that have resulted from this initiative epitomize the benefits that E-Government can deliver." RightNow has been widely embraced by federal and state government agencies, because they want to leverage online channels and to address the growing use of the Internet by individual citizens, businesses, and other government agencies. The company's customers include more than a 100 state and federal agencies in the United States and many other national and local government agencies worldwide. "It's always gratifying when independent observers validate the effectiveness with which RightNow's technology addresses the most fundamental issues of customer service and knowledge management," Sean Forbes, vice president of marketing and business development at RightNow, said. "That validation is particularly gratifying in this case, because it is associated with the critical performance of our nation's homeland security."

RightNow has been received a variety of industry honors, most recently including Nucleus Research and Baseline Magazine's prestigious ROI Award and a 2002 Product of the Year award from Customer Interaction Solutions. About RightNow Technologies RightNow Technologies is the leading customer service and support solutions expert that radically and rapidly improves the effectiveness of service and support operations with easy-to-implement/easy-to-use technology, replicable best practices drawn from the industry's broadest base of successful implementations, and engagement terms that create accountability for delivering quantifiable results. RightNow delivers these benefits to more than 1,000 customers worldwide such as: Air New Zealand, Ben & Jerry's, Briggs and Stratton, British Airways, Cisco, Dolby Laboratories, Inc., Electronic Arts, Pioneer, Raymarine, Remington, Sanyo, Specialized Bicycles, and more than 100 public sector clients including the Social Security Administration and the State of Florida. Founded in 1997, RightNow has offices in Bozeman, Dallas, San Mateo, London, and Sydney, with an associated office in Tokyo. RightNow's products are available in 14 languages worldwide. For further information visit http://www.rightnow.com /.

From PRNewswire, 12 June 2003

Military Health System Tech Programs Win 2003 E-Gov Awards

The military health system's Tricare Online program and the Tri-Service Infrastructure Management Program Office received E-Gov Awards for excellence in innovation yesterday during a ceremony honoring 50 government agencies. James Reardon, the military health system's (MHS) chief information officer, said, "I am very pleased that these programs received recognition as best practice programs. This honor validates the department's continued goal of being good stewards of the American taxpayer's dollar, programs and protectors of health care information." Navy Capt. Brian Kelly, director of eBusiness, policy and standards, and Air Force Col. Elizabeth Cargo, Tricare Online program manager, accepted E-Gov's "Pioneer Award" on behalf of the military health system for its "Tricare Online" e-health portal program. The Pioneer Award is E-Gov's highest recognition. John Simmons, program management support, and Teresa Meyers, government task manager, Tri-Service Infrastructure Management Program Office (TIMPO), accepted the E-Gov "Trailblazer Award" for the MHS help desk program. Tricare Online (TOL) is a secure, medical portal for use by all Department of Defense beneficiaries, providers, and managers worldwide. TOL lets patients book appointments with their primary care manager online, create personal health journals for the whole family, search through an abundance of health and wellness information, and check for prescription drug interactions.

TOL is a cutting-edge medical, Web-based program that has received accolades from DoD beneficiaries, and has attracted great interest from other federal agencies and the civilian health care sectors. TIMPO provides the department with computing and communications infrastructure ranging from end-use devices at the provider's desktop to the MHS enterprise computing centers. TIMPO also offers around-the-clock and around-the-globe support to department users. The help desk effort is the first-ever performance-based, incentivized, shared-risk contract in the MHS information technology program. It consolidated functions in over 30 centrally managed information technology programs and eliminated duplication. This incentive also increased customer satisfaction and response times to within industry standards, while maintaining around-the-clock worldwide response capabilities and reduced costs by fifty percent. "This E-Gov awards selection is a clear indication that the military health system is in alignment with and supports the overarching e-government initiatives," said Reardon. The E-Gov's Government Solution Center has been recognizing and showcasing award-winning government programs for five years.

From Defenselink.mil, 13 June 2003

MapInfo Helps Government Focus on Citizens; Introduces e-Government Grant Program

Program to Assist Municipalities and Small State and Federal Agencies Helping to Streamline Communications and Improve Services with Businesses, Citizens and Other Government Agencies to Save Taxpayer Dollars - MapInfo Corporation (Nasdaq: MAPS), the leading provider of location intelligence solutions for the enterprise, today announced its e-Government Grant Program. MapInfo will award a suite of its location-based software and data, powered by Geographic Data Technology, Inc., to 50 municipalities and government agencies in the United States for the development and deployment of e-government initiatives. The MapInfo e-Government Grant Program enables recipients to improve service by disseminating important information to citizens, businesses and other agencies via the Web as well as integrate agency operations and information technology investments. Visit MapInfo on June 11-12 at the E-Gov 2003 Conference, booth #324 to learn more about the program and see real-world demonstrations of MapInfo e-government applications. To date, numerous state, local and national municipalities rely on MapInfo to create e-government applications that benefit citizens and businesses.

For instance, the City of Tulsa used MapInfo to create a Web site that visually shows local construction and traffic accidents. The site is used by citizens and media outlets providing them with up-to-the-minute information on traffic conditions around the city. In addition, the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal turned to MapInfo to create a Web site for citizens to access important information about available housing and services like day care, schooling and public safety. "The establishment of the e-Government Grant Program reflects MapInfo's deep commitment to providing small municipalities with access to critical technology that they could not otherwise afford," said Sabby Nayar, strategic industry manager, Government, at MapInfo. "Budgets continue to be tight for municipalities largely due to reduced revenue and increased spending on homeland security measures. With this grant, MapInfo is enabling municipalities to provide citizens and businesses within their jurisdiction with an easier and more efficient way to access important information." "We are ecstatic to receive this grant.

Part of our mission involves working with communities to build strong neighborhoods through the strategic investment of public resources," said Larry Braman, manager of Mapping and Data Services, Department of Neighborhood Development, City of Boston. "Mapping helps us target these investments properly, and the grant will enable us to work more effectively with constituents, local stakeholders and other agencies by using MapInfo(R) Discovery(TM) to share these maps interactively via the Web. It should also reduce the volume of phone requests for map products, which will allow our staff to operate more efficiently." Municipalities with populations of 150,000 or less are given preference for MapInfo's e-Government Grant Program, which runs through December 15, 2003. To qualify, applicants must submit an e-Government plan for the use of MapInfo software and data. Please send an email to government@mapinfo.com for more information about MapInfo's e-Government Grant Program. Additionally, MapInfo will offer three additional grants for the use of MapInfo MapXtreme(R), its powerful mapping application server. These grants are specifically for municipalities that require a more flexible and customizable e-government solution and that can allocate funding for the custom development needed.

From Business Wire, 10 June 2003

When or Will E-government Apps Pay Off?

Government and federal watchdog officials debated today whether e-government will prove to be a money-saver in the end or instead create new expenses because agencies must maintain electronic and paper processes. The Office of Management and Budget has advocated e-government as a cost-savings effort because agencies will be able to eliminate redundant systems. But some speakers at a Washington seminar sponsored partly by the Council of Excellence in Government said they aren't so sure of the payoff. "I think it's a slippery slope to say e-government is going to decrease costs," said Jim J. Tozzi, a former OMB IT official and now an adviser for the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness in Washington. "I think it's going to increase costs." Tozzi, president of Multinational Business Services Inc. of Washington, added, "The American public is going to have a lot more service and a better product," but that takes cash. The public likely won't immediately switch to online transactions simply because they're available, leaving agencies to budget for both Web and manual processes for a possibly long transition period, said Mark Luttner, director of the Office of Information Collection at the Environmental Protection Agency. "We are going to be in the mode of doing things both ways," he said. "All of the agencies using electronic dockets are maintaining paper dockets out of necessity."

EPA last year began offering electronic reporting for its Toxic Release Inventory program, Luttner added. Out of 20,000 reporting companies, 10 percent initially began using the online service. Luttner said the agency's working on bringing that up to 90 percent, which "will take some years." But 100 percent, he said, may be an impractical goal. Another agency official suggested that the biggest cost savings might stem from time saved-but no by the government. "The key metric is time saved," said Ron Miller, assistant administrator for e-government at the Small Business Administration. He said his staff has estimated that businesses could save $58 million annually by filling out joint forms for state registration and employee identification numbers online at SBA's Business One-Stop portal. The portal could also save the trucking industry $400 million a year, according to early estimates, he said. But Tozzi said agency budgets may not necessarily be the beneficiaries of those dollars. "There may be savings, no doubt, but it won't be in the appropriations accounts," he said. "It will be a person saving time filling out forms."

From GCN.com, by Vandana Sinha, 17 June 2003

 

UN to Recognize Exemplary Public Service

For the first time, the United Nations is set to observe an international day to commend and encourage exemplary public service. The world body will mark its first-ever "UN Public Service Day" on Monday at its Headquarters in New York, in an effort to recognize that democracy and good governance are based on a competent civil service. The Day will be inaugurated when public service awards will be announced for 14 government agencies or departments from around the world. "The Day recognizes that democracy and successful governance are built on the foundation of a competent civil service," said Guido Bertucci, Director of the UN Division for Public Administration and Development Management of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). "The ability of a society to maintain safety and essential public services, protect human rights, maintain an efficient framework for market activities and to hold free and fair elections draws on the skills and sense of purpose of public servants working as a team," he said, adding that without an effective civil administration, democracy and prosperity are virtually unattainable.

From UN News Centre, 20 June 2003

 
 

Finance Minister Promises Budget With Difference

Nairobi - Finance Minister David Mwiraria yesterday promised Kenyans a Budget with a difference today. "I am looking forward to reading the Budget as I will be presenting a Budget that is different from the ones that the previous Government presented and one that will give me an opportunity to explain how the Government wants to realise its vision for Kenya," he said. He said the new Government was determined to improve the lives of Kenyans and meet the promises made to the Kenyan people during the electioneering campaigns. Speaking after signing an agreement with the European Commission to release to Kenya a grant of Sh4.136 billion for budget support, Mwiraria also disclosed that the suspended International Monetary Fund (IMF) funding could be released in August. He however, hastened to add that the expected resumption had not been factored into the Budget. He said the Government had only factored firm commitments so far made by some of the developed partners. The agreement signed yesterday at the Treasury between Mwiraria and the European Commission Head of Delegation, Mr. Gary Quince, marked the release the Sh4.1 billion Budget support to Kenya to assist the Government in fulfilling its core poverty programmes.

Mwiraria said that the European Union's response to provide urgent budget support, came at an historical moment for Kenya - on the eve of presentation of the first Narc Budget. He said the action sent a strong message to the Kenyan public and to the rest of the international community that one of the country's development partners, the EU, is backing the Government in its efforts to create an enabling environment for economic recovery. The programme, he said, would assist the Government tackle economic recession inherited from the previous regime and to meet the promise made to the Kenyan people. The programme was made available following a request from the Government earlier this year. The minister said Kenya and the EU have jointly prepared a multi-billion plan for 2003-2007 in which about Sh9.6 billion had been earmarked for further budgetary assistance over the first three years, most of which was expected to be released in next financial year. Quince also hinted at the expected resumption of IMF support to Kenya. He said the Bretton Woods institution had given indications money could be made available in the next couple of months. He confirmed that the European Commission expected to provide additional budget support over the next three years subject to further progress in improving public financial management in particular, and in governance generally.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by John Oyuke, 12 June 2003

Icpak: Budget Ignored Civil Service Reforms

Civil Service reform was largely ignored during budget presentation, the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (Icpak) has said. The Institute's Chief Executive Mr. John Njiraini also accused the Government of sending wrong signals by failing to tax MPs salaries. He said the omission of civil service reform in the budget speech could negatively impact on the Government's efforts to create a business friendly environment. He said it was surprising that the Budget Speech did not mention civil service reform, yet it was crucial for the growth of the business sector in the country. He said the Government should have spelt out its policies on civil service reform, especially in a bid to improve efficiency and service delivery. " The civil service is in charge of public sector management and we wonder how the Government will deliver in its promises without addressing the management sector," he said.

He said Kenyans expected Finance Minister to address civil service performance, retraining and motivation to improve service. " Kenyans expected a clear direction and policy statement on the future shape of the civil service but the minister failed to address this," he said. Njiraini also said although the government gave a fairly balanced budget, it failed to address disparity in taxation. He singled out MPs pay and said the Government was sending conflicting signals by failing to tax MPs salaries. " It was an irony for Mwiraria to stand and talk about tax measures when he does not pay taxes. This is a serious ethical issue," he said. As leaders, the MPs should have been the first to show the way by paying, taxes, he said. He said the exclusion of MPs pay in the tax net was clear indication of lack of political will. Njiraini, however, praised the Government for its bold move on high bank charges. He said it was time Banks became partners in national development by giving Kenyans affordable services.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Franklin Awori, 16 June 2003

 

Public Sector Poses Threat to Fiscal Stability

Islamabad - The Ministry of Finance has reported a grim picture of the major public enterprises during the first three quarters of the year, threatening to create a large budgetary hole during the year ending June 30, 2003. According to an official document of the Ministry outlining numbers for the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, the government was able to rein in the budget deficit to 2.1 percent of GDP during July-March 2002-03, due to better resource availability, and reduced spending on debt servicing, defence and development. The Ministry had also marked a huge amount of Rs 24.2 billion as unidentified expenditure. However, the situation of the public sector enterprises (PSEs) had worsened further during the period that would neutralise gains on the fiscal front. The donors' community had also demanded an early settlement of the public sector difficulties that could easily undermine the fragile fiscal recovery. The worst performers include the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), registering a 2 percent increase in transmission and distribution losses to 27.4 percent, Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) losses climbed up by 3.4 percent to 41.2 percent, and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) borrowed money to buy new planes after scrutinising present and future receivables to the Middle East-based banks.

The financial improvement plan for end-March 2003 indicated that bills receivable of Wapda increased further by 7 percent. Wapda had faced serious difficulties in collecting bills from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) due to ongoing security-related military activity in the area. It appears that the government would find it increasingly difficult to enforce any stringent measure to improve the collection of bills in this area, unless there was any activity to nab Taliban and Al-Qaeda remnants. Besides FATA, the public sector agencies had also failed to pay their bills, and bills receivable spiralled to new highs. As a result, total transmission and distribution losses had increased by 2 percent, and actual losses were 27.4 percent. Wapda also ended up not servicing its debt to the government, non-payment of net hydel profit to the provinces and decrease in payments to the fuel and power suppliers and decrease in investment were the other problems. The losses of KESC also ballooned further due to increase in the transmission & distribution losses to 41.2 percent, about 3.4 percent higher than the previous quarter. Pakistan International Airlines had made provisions of Rs 2.33 billion, owing to revision suggested by the foreign appraiser in the useful lives of its aircraft and related equipment, for depreciation.

PIA had contracted short-term financing facility for remittance of first tranche of the advance payment to the Boeing Company for purchase of three Boeing 777 aircraft. The facility carried financing cost of libor+1.5 percent and participating banks were Saudi American Bank, Jeddah, United Bank Limited, UAE and Muslim Commercial Bank Limited, Bahrain. The facility had been secured by giving first charge against PIA's present and future receivables from Saudi Arabia and UK PAX and Cargo sales agents. PIA had pitched a target of Rs 15.3 billion for revenue receipts for the 1st quarter for the year 2003. The Corporation actually realised revenues of Rs 13.9 billion from its operations during the quarter registering decrease of Rs 1.4 billion due to non-operation of regional/Far Eastern routes. PIA had visualised the total operating cost of Rs 13.7 billion for the first quarter. However, due to various stringent cost cutting measures, the total operating cost of the Airline remained at Rs 12.34 billion, thereby showing a decrease of Rs 1.3 billion over the target. PIA had visualised a profit of Rs 1.6 billion in its overall operations for the 1st quarter. However, due to non-operation of Regional/Far Eastern routes, the Airline could only earn a profit of Rs 1.5 billion. PIA discharged its short-term bank debts/loans of Rs 8.7 billion owed to different banks out of amount raised through floating the term finance certificates (TFC) in the market. The Corporation issued 15.14 billion TFCs.

Pakistan Railways had shown mixed results. The Railways maintain that the trend of traffic was a little slack, especially in the area of passenger traffic, as most of the festivals had occurred in the 2nd quarter. In the revised FIP, the total revenue targets had increased from the original budget of Rs 14 billion to Rs 14.25 billion. It was expected that the 4th quarter would again be a busy quarter, as summer vacations would start towards the end of the quarter, therefore, more earning was envisaged in passenger sub-sector during the period. Pakistan Railways had accrual basis of accounting system. The expenditure incurred was not instantly booked to its final head of account, as it had to remain some time in suspense head for clarification of its final head. There was, therefore, no uniform booking of expenditure in the quarters. However, at the end of fourth quarter, all expenditure would be accounted for towards their final head of accounts. The actual expenditure was Rs 385 million less than set in the revised FIP targets during the 3rd quarter. Cash flow position during the third quarter showed healthy sign. The shortfall in cash was 23.72 percent less than that of the target.

It was mainly due to stable realisation of receipts and control over the expenditure. However, the trend of savings witnessed in ADP expenditure, both external and internal, during the first and second quarters, was reversed during the third quarter because the delivery schedule of the consignments were maturing during the 3rd and the 4th quarters. Provisional results had shown that Pakistan Steel Mills achieved the target of 97 percent for overall capacity utilisation of steel production during the quarter January-March 2003. This happened due to functioning of two blast furnaces after complete repairs. The production of major products increased as against the targets, except for two products, which registered some decrease. Overall revenue position also looked favourable. Overall, the situation of Wapda and KESC looked in bad shape, and if the government failed to address this problem area, it could adversely affect the budgetary situation as a whole. Almost all the losses were being met out of the budget, which was the hard earned money of the taxpayers. On the budgetary side, things appeared to be under control so far.

The budget deficit at Rs 86.39 billion, about 2.1 percent of GDP was well within the target. The government had a target of 4.6 percent for the year as a whole. The main reason for less than the projected level of the deficit was the less utilisation of funds under the development head, reduced debt servicing cost, and contained defence spending. Total defence spending at Rs 115.77 billion during July-March 2002-03 remained within the budgetary limits. The utilisation of funds under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) was a meagre sum of Rs 82.4 billion in three quarters, against the yearly target of Rs 134 billion. The budgetary position was strongly supported by Rs 30.7 billion Saudi Oil Facility, a total grant, and Rs 12.53 billion special budgetary grants from other sources, mainly offered in response to Pakistani support against the terror operation. However, sharp rise in the unidentified expenditure during the third quarter could also be a major problem for the government. The Ministry of Finance had reported Rs 24.2 billion unidentified expenditure till end-March 2003.

From Hi Pakistan, Pakistan, 1 June 2003

Budget Success Hinges on Governance, Law & Order

Budget friendly towards poverty reduction: FBCCI - The Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) yesterday said the government should establish good governance, improve law and order and check corruption to reap the benefit from the fiscal measures proposed in the budget for FY 2003-2004. The apex trade body said unless such issues are addressed the fruit of the budget could not be reaped. The FBCCI officials made the observations while giving their formal reaction to the proposed budget. The chamber said the proposed budget favours poverty reduction, export diversification and protection of local industries. FBCCI President Youssuf Abdullah Harun said goods worth around Tk 9,000 crore are smuggled to India and Myanmar a year. "So, without curbing smuggling local industries will not develop and the government's effort to achieve its revenue collection target will face setback." Harun said the government has suggested increasing supplementary duty on sugar, salt and powdered milk, which may fuel smuggling. "Limited income group people will face problem as prices of these items may go up." The apex body demanded withdrawal supplementary duty on salt, sugar and powder milk. The FBCCI chief criticised the government for reducing duty from hard drinks.

They said it will never raise the numbers of tourists. He demanded withdrawal of the proposal. Harun said the government has proposed ever-large annual development programme (ADP) of Tk 20,300 crore. "The government should start to implement this from the very beginning," he said. The president said the large ADP is based on assurance of foreign assistance in debt from different multilateral agencies. "If the government fails to implement the projects in time, people have to bear this huge loan," said the FBCCI president. He said implementation of the proposed ADP should be free from all political influences. Harun criticised the government for bringing businessmen under tax return system. "There are many government officials who have other income sources, besides government salary. So, they should also be brought under the process." As improved law and order is a pre-requisite to development, the FBCCI president urged the government to allocate more funds than what has already been allocated for the purpose. He hailed the decision of advanced income tax (AIT) exemption on 175 items. "The exemption should also be extended to raw materials," he said.

The apex trade body appreciated the proposal for duty reduction in the readymade garment and textile sectors. It also appreciated the government for extending its focus from roads and transport sector to railway and water transportation sector. "This will introduce multi-modal transportation system which ultimately help common people to get better transport services." Capital market will get a rhythm after the proposal for fixing different tax rates for listed and non-listed companies. "But to make the market more vibrant more reforms should be initiated," he added. The FBCCI president suggested rationalising the bank interest rate based on market demand, which is now controlled by the government. "If entrepreneurs fail to get long term loans for investing in large projects, industrialisation process will be halted." He praised the proposal of the finance minister to establish value added tax (VAT) commissionerate and amendment to VAT Act and Rules.

From The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 14 June 2003

Mazdoor Sangh Flays Tax Policy

Patiala - The Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh has flayed the new tax policy of the state government as well as the massive hike in power tariff. In a statement here today, sangh secretary Balbir Singh Negi said the state government should stop the misuse of power by industrial houses. Negi further stated that the decision to implement area development tax instead of octroi would make all commodities expensive by 2 per cent. He said this would affect businessmen, forcing them to move to other states. The sangh leaders also criticised the decision of the state government to hike college and university fee, which they said would deprive the economically weaker sections of society of the right to education. The sangh members also condemned the privatization move and demanded that the decision be revoked. Negi said the sangh members also sought bonus and dearness allowance. Meanwhile, the Patiala Beopar Mandal has also taken note of the new tax policy of the Punjab Government and has decided to oppose the decision tooth and nail. In a statement here today, president, Patiala Beopar Mandal, Nirmal Das Malhotra, said the state government's decision to abolish octroi and imposition of 2 per cent development tax was not in the larger interest of businessmen. He said the state government could earn a revenue of about Rs 550 crore from octroi.

From Chandigarh Newsline, India, 12 June 2003

Vietnam Formulates a Comprehensive System of Tax Policies

Taxation is an inseparable part of the country's financial system and a major source of State budget. Activities of the Taxation Office have greatly contributed to the stabilisation and development of the economy in line with Party and Government policies. Vietnam aims to formulate a comprehensive taxation system, in which taxes and charges are the tools for the State to manage and regulate the money supply and demand as well as to ensure social equality. A workshop on the renewal of the tax system and its reform strategy from now till 2010 was organized in Hanoi on Wednesday. During the seminar, participants discussed how to make tax and fee collection on effective tool enabling the Government to perform vital functions.

From Voice of Viet Nam, Vietnam, 18 June 2003

 

The Parable of the Unwise Spender

Official figures show rising costs and falling productivity - "New Labour will be wise spenders, not big spenders": that was the promise the government made in its 1997 manifesto. Half way through its first term, it changed tack and decided to be a big spender after all. And, on the evidence so far, it is not proving to be a wise spender, despite the talk of reform and the barrage of targets. A new analysis of government expenditure from the Office for National Statistics shows that much of the money pouring into the public services is being gobbled up in rising costs. But higher wages and more spending on other inputs are not making workers more productive. Quite the reverse: the public sector is becoming less efficient. As a result, the actual volume of government output has risen only modestly. Between 1997 and 2002, spending on public services rose by 40%.

However, the volume of output increased by only 14%. Last year, for example, total spending on public services rose by 9%, but real output rose by less than 4%. Much of the money is disappearing into the National Health Service, which is living up to its reputation for absorbing cash without trace. In 2001, for example, health spending rose by 11%, but health-service output increased by only 3%. Even allowing for possible quality improvements that are not being picked up in the output measure, the gap is an arresting one. And since health spending accounts for a third of total expenditure on public services, it is dragging down the whole of the public sector. According to the government, the NHS has now turned the corner and the money being poured into it is resulting in real advances. The waiting list for hospital operations has, for example, fallen below a million for the first time in ten years.

The NHS is also cutting maximum waiting times for operations. The conclusion that Sir Nigel Crisp, chief executive of the NHS, draws is that "the resources and reform are biting". But a report this week from the Audit Commission documents an array of quick-fix measures-like the use of hospital maintenance funds on patient care-that are likely to jeopardise longer-term improvements in the NHS. It says that the government has imposed too many targets, which can become "obstacles to change" if they are seen as inappropriate. The commission's auditors think that better management of resources, rather than more resources, is the key to cutting waiting times in hospitals. With the next election due by 2006, the government now has at most three years to deliver better public services from its huge spending spree. It will undoubtedly be able to point to some improvements by then. But on the evidence to date, it will be hard-pressed to argue that taxpayers are getting value for money.

From Economist, UK, 5 June 2003

Unions Oppose Public-Finance Cuts

Protesters say state plan helps the rich, ignores joblessness - The folk singer attempted to set a relaxed tone and government officials tried to mollify the crowd with their words, but the more than 10,000 people flooding Ostrava's namesti Masaryka would not be soothed. Those 10,000 were there to demonstrate against the government's proposals for finance reform, and they were angry. Protesters jammed the central square for two hours May 22 to protest the Cabinet's plans for reform and the region's persistent unemployment. They came from throughout the Czech Republic and neighboring Slovakia to join the largest demonstration in north Moravia since 1989. Unionists claim that the government's proposed reform measures will harm workers and won't affect high-income individuals. Jan Sabel, regional trade union council chairman, said the unions want to see a more radical and faster solution to the area's growing unemployment rate. High jobless rate - The Moravia-Silesia region suffers from persistently high unemployment, which currently stands at 16.1 percent of the work force. There were 102,495 people without work in the region at the end of April, said Svatava Badurova, spokeswoman for the Ostrava labor office. High unemployment means few opportunities. "In the region, every open position has 45 applicants," Badurova added.

Sabel said that the government's planned reforms would make the situation worse. For example, the Cabinet's proposal to postpone the retirement age until 63 would increase the jobless ranks and cost more money. According to official statistics, an unemployed person costs the state around 180,000 Kc ($6,700) annually in payouts and health- and social-insurance contributions. Meanwhile, the cost of supporting a retired person is much lower. "The government spent 80,783 Kc, on the average, per pensioner last year," said Jana Bondyova of the Czech Statistical Office. According to David Marek, chief analyst at Patria Online, large-scale protests such as the one held in Ostrava are counterproductive. "If [public finance] reform is postponed, the necessary steps would only be harsher," Marek said. The demonstration will not dramatically affect the government's proposals, he added. Those proposals aim to save 200 billion Kc during the next three years and count on increased revenue from tax changes, which will total 70 billion Kc in the same period. The biggest savings are expected to come from a cap on growth in public-sector wages, a reduction of annual increases in pensions and higher taxes for certain goods and services. The government claims that the modifications will fit the criteria for joining the European Union.

Chanting anti-government slogans and blowing on whistles, the protesters vividly expressed their dissatisfaction. Although folk singer Pavel Dobes attempted to set a cheerful tone when he performed before the demonstration, he did not succeed in cooling the crowd's hot mood. The protesters' anger grew when a letter from Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla was read. Spidla, who had been invited to witness the demonstration, wrote that the government would provide substantial funds in the future to help the region's economy. In the letter, he blamed regional politicians for insufficiently preparing special industrial zones, a lack that caused the area to lose out on investments. The region suffers from a chronic lack of investment. The controversial D47 highway is to be built in the area, and observers hope it will lure investment. But economists are pessimistic and have said that the region's economy needs more diversification. The strongest reaction from demonstrators came when regional governor Evzen Tosenovsky, from the Civic Democratic Party, addressed them. He said that tough measures were needed: "Belts will have to be tightened and it will be more difficult and ever more painful."

He expressed doubt that the unions really knew what they wanted to achieve. The government's reform measures moved a step forward May 22 when the Chamber of Deputies approved a law to move the current 5 percent value-added tax for services to the 22 percent bracket, effective Jan. 1, 2004. See related report, A9. The effective date for that tax increase had been expected to coincide with the country's EU entry, slated for May 1. According to government estimates, the higher tax rate will generate an additional 14 billion Kc, from which the state budget will receive 10.7 billion Kc. Unionists complain that discussions on public-finance reform have occurred only in the political sphere, without public debate. The limited debate, they argue, challenges the principles of a civic society. The Ostrava protest should give some weight to regional politicians in their negotiations with the government regarding the reform measures, observers said. Milan Stech, chairman of the Confederation of Czech and Moravian Trade Unions (CMKOS), said that more protests and larger demonstrations will take place if the government does not take unions' demands into consideration.

He said that some of those protests would take place in Prague. LABOR UNREST - Major labor protests since 1989: o March 1994 Demonstration at Prague's Old Town Square to oppose a draft of the Labor Code, an increase in the retirement age and the law on civil service; about 40,000 people participate; o December 1994 CMKOS calls a 15-minute general strike to protest a government-sponsored law on pension insurance; 4,600 trade union organizations and 500,000 unionists participate in the strike;o March 1995 Around 90,000 people take part in a demonstration on Prague's Old Town Square against social laws;o November 1997 CMKOS organizes a protest on Old Town Square against government economic and social policies; trade unions report 120,000 people in attendance while the police estimate 60,000 (Source: CTK).

From Prague Post, Czech Republic, by Zuzana Kawaciukova, 29 May 2003

Czechs Head To Polls To Vote In Referendum, With A Few Twists

The weekend's almost here. That means there must be a referendum on European Union membership looming somewhere in Central Europe. This time, it's the Czech Republic's turn. It's a familiar story in many ways - Czechs are mainly pro-EU, although voter turnout may be sluggish. But there are also differences. The Czechs have no minimum threshold to validate their referendum. And they have a president who isn't saying how he'll vote - and who has warned of the dangers of a centralist EU. Among the tourist throngs on Prague's Old Town Square, a few demonstrators gathered recently to say "no" to the Czech Republic joining the European Union. "This bankrupt government is pushing us into the EU. What kind of EU is it? A bad EU! Again I ask you, 'Say no!' Long live an independent Czech state! Long live the Czech Republic! Thank you," said one speaker. It wasn't much of a crowd, just a few people with handmade banners and cheap fliers. By contrast, a pro-EU concert a few days later attracted a bigger audience. And that's roughly how things are expected to go tomorrow and Saturday (13-14 June) in the Czech Republic's first-ever referendum.

Surveys predict around 75 percent will vote in favor of EU membership, with only a few naysayers among the population. Still, polls also show many people feel they need more information about what EU entry will bring. Turnout may be under 60 percent. And some voters admitted this week they don't know where or how to cast their ballots. If the Czech government's pro-EU campaign has failed to excite, perhaps it's because there's a sense of inevitability about it all. Two neighbors, Poland and Slovakia, just voted "yes" in their own referendums. And the Czech Republic's other two neighbors, Germany and Austria, are already EU members. Voters interviewed by RFE/RL on the streets of the Czech capital, Prague, expressed a variety of viewpoints. "I intend to take part and vote yes because I think there's no other way out. [Standards of living] will stay the same for a while, but then there will be a progressive trend for the better," said one man. "It's not for me, not for poor people. They'll be as badly off as they were before. I won't be voting. I think it would bring more disadvantages. I'm not going to be well off," said another man. "I will go to vote for one reason only - there's no other way. We would be isolated, under a kind of trade and financial embargo," said a third man.

Unlike in other candidate countries, the Czech referendum is valid no matter now many voters show up at the polls. But a low turnout could be embarrassing. RFE/RL asked Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla what turnout he expects and what consequences, if any, there would be for the government if it's low. "I'm convinced that turnout will be bigger than 50 percent. It's very important for as many people as possible to take part, not for the referendum's legitimacy - because the legitimacy of the referendum comes from the basis of the law - but for the active participation of people in this great vote. I'm convinced that the bigger the turnout, the firmer and more convincing the decision will be. But I can't speculate on what consequences a certain percentage of turnout would have," Spidla said. Still, Czech political scientist Zdenek Zboril told RFE/RL a low turnout could spell trouble for the government, a none-too-strong coalition of center-left and center-right parties whose main point of agreement has been EU membership. It's already feeling the heat from labor unions threatening strikes later this month against austerity measures as part of public-finance reform. And the main opposition party has said the government should call a vote of confidence if turnout is low. "There could be two situations," Zboril said. "Either the coalition collapses because of public-finance reform but with the referendum result as an excuse, or there could be the breakup of the Social Democrats, a party that has internal problems. Some of its groups could use the low turnout to resolve [the party's] internal problems.

In both cases, it's bad news because no one ever wins internal party squabbles. It always weakens the party. And if the coalition runs into trouble, then everyone loses." The Czech referendum is different in another chief aspect - the Euroskepticism of the president, Vaclav Klaus. He has urged people to go to the polls but has refused to say how he himself will vote. Yesterday, he warned of the dangers of European centralism and said that perhaps Czechs need more time to enjoy their independence before joining the EU. His comments contrast sharply with those of his predecessor and longtime rival Vaclav Havel, who is firmly in favor of EU membership. Zboril said Klaus also doesn't want to be associated with the over-the-top optimism of the government's campaign. But he may still have a surprise up his sleeve. "I expect that just before the referendum he will come with a new statement, say on Friday morning, maybe a surprise statement. Because he's a big tactician and strategist and won't waste the chance to say something directed at a domestic or foreign audience. Also, he isn't a Euroskeptic but a 'Eurorealist.' And I would subscribe to his statement that joining the EU isn't a marriage of love but of convenience - feelings don't play a role," Zboril said. First results, expected on 14 June, will show how many of Klaus' compatriots feel strongly enough about that marriage - and how many are willing to give it their blessing.

From Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic, by Kathleen Knox, 12 June 2003

Spidla Puts Job On Line Over Public Finance Reform

Spidla's gamble could pay off - Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla raised the stakes - for himself and the coalition government - over the next major task it faces, public finance reform, even before the second day of voting in the EU referendum began Saturday. Spidla said in an interview for the daily Pravo that he will resign if the government's planned reforms fail to make it through Parliament. The government's ambitious plan is to reduce the fiscal deficit to 4 percent of GDP by 2006 compared with an expected deficit of 6.2 percent of GDP this year. This has already met with opposition from Spidla's own Social Democratic Party (CSSD), the Communist Party (KSCM) and the trade unions, who say it goes too far, and from the opposition center-right Civic Democrats (ODS), who say the reforms don't go far enough. Commentators praised Spidla for putting his job on the line on the issue. He had previously been widely perceived as a reluctant reformer. But they warned it may not be enough to save the reforms or his government.

The Prime Minister was clearly riding high on the success of the referendum vote at the weekend, and his decision to stake his own political future on the success of the government's reform package was unexpected, especially before the official results of the referendum were announced. "I was pleasantly surprised, but it's a fair approach because if the reforms do fail then what choice does he have," said Radomir Jac, a macroeconomic analyst at Commerzbank. "The reforms don't go far enough, but the unions are already up in arms so this is about the best he can hope for. It's not in the interest of the other coalition parties to vote against it and force early elections, so it's a pragmatic approach." The center-right Freedom Union, the smallest party in the coalition government, has a great deal to worry about from early elections as the party has failed to reach the minimum 5 percent threshold to obtain any seats in the lower house in recent opinion polls. "It's a fair approach, Spidla has been strengthened by the results of the referendum and he's looking towards the government's next big step," said commentator Jiri Pehe. "His chances of success are moderate given internal CSSD opposition, but because almost everyone realizes something must be done it's a smart strategy."

The question is how long Spidla's position and that of the government will be strengthened as a result of the referendum. Statements from Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda that the referendum result has given the government a strong mandate were scoffed at by the opposition and economists. They said Svoboda seemed to have forgotten the government still only has a parliamentary majority of one seat. "I think Spidla's decision to use the psychological boost of the referendum will be effective in the short-term as it's the strongest card he can play, but I don't think that it will last for too long," said Kamil Janacek, chief economist at Komercni Banka. "And while the reforms will be important, the key point for this government's survival will be the debate on the 2004 budget," Janacek said. The debate is expected in December after the final shape of the reforms is decided at the end of July. There had been speculation for months that the coalition government would not survive a "no" vote in the EU referendum, that it would fall if the reform package fails or if the 2004 budget debate ends in failure. Janacek said there is still at least a 50 percent chance that the EU parliamentary elections next May will be held at the same time as early Czech parliamentary elections. Spidla's high-risk bet of putting his job on the line could just encourage enough CSSD MPs to call his bluff, warned Vaclav Zak, editor-in-chief of the political bi-monthly Listy.

From Prague Business Journal, Czech Republic, by Nick Carey, 16 June 2003

Prague Agrees Finance Reforms

The Czech government yesterday approved a public finance reform package aimed at bringing the country's ballooning budget deficit under control. The Social Democrat-led governing coalition now faces protests from trade unions and a difficult time this summer as the proposal passes through parliament, where it has a majority of only two. The reform aims to cut the public budget deficit from 6.2 per cent of gross domestic product this year to 4 per cent in 2006. Expenditures will be cut by Kc200bn ($7.4bn, €6.4bn, £4.4bn) over the three years 2004-06, while higher taxes will produce Kc70bn in extra revenues.

From Financial Times, by Mark Andress, UK, 24 June 2003

IMF Cautions Russia Against Extremely Weakened Tax Policies

Moscow - '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 Rosbalt, Russia, 23 June 2003

 

House Votes to Study, Not Change, Corporate Tax Policy

BHRC records local representatives' votes on three roll calls from prior sessions dealing with the House version of the state's $22.5 billion fiscal 2004 state budget. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. CORPORATE TAX STUDY (H 4000) - House 91-65, approved an amendment creating a special seven-member commission to study the state's corporate tax policy and make recommendations by January 2004 about possible changes in the tax structure. The study commission would replace an original proposal requiring all banks, insurance companies and publicly traded corporations to annually file a report with the state disclosing extensive information from the companies' tax returns. The information would include the number of employees, gross and net income, tax liability, exemptions, deductions and credits. Supporters of the study commission said the disclosure proposal goes too far and noted the study is a compromise that will allow the state to look into corporate tax policy and gather appropriate information for possible future action.

They argued that the state recently closed many corporate tax loopholes and said that the disclosure proposal is anti-business and will discourage companies from remaining or locating in Massachusetts. Some opponents of the study commission said it is a cleverly designed amendment to kill the disclosure requirements. They argued that one-third of the state's top 50 companies pay only the minimum $456 annual corporate tax and said it is time to gather detailed information to see if the state should repeal some of the tax breaks given to big corporations over the past few years and whether these companies have kept their promises to increase jobs. Other opponents of the study said they oppose both the disclosure and the study and argued that companies are already paying their fair share of taxes and should not be harassed and driven out of the state. (A "Yea" vote is for the study commission. A "Nay" vote is against the study commission).

From Newton Tab, MA, by Bob Katzen, 28 May 2003

Education and Agriculture Share Tips for Improving Financial Management

The Agriculture and Education departments made substantial strides in financial management by creating new leadership teams, seeking help from outside experts and improving their accounting systems, agency officials told lawmakers Tuesday. In fiscal 2002, Agriculture received its first clean audit ever and Education received its first clean opinion since 1997. All but three of the 24 agencies covered by the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act received clean audits in fiscal 2002, up from 18 agencies in fiscal 2001 and fiscal 2000. Even so, the government still flunked its overall audit for the sixth straight year, and financial management is a continuing concern. "There are many of us in Congress who believe that a clean financial audit tells only a small part of the story," said Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Efficiency and Financial Management. "All too often we hear stories of agencies that achieve clean opinions only through last minute heroic efforts, or recreating their books at the end of the year." But Agriculture and Education received their clean opinions as a result of substantive management reforms, Platts said. "They have retooled business and accounting processes and placed greater emphasis on data integrity, internal controls and getting results from their programs."

Platts asked them to share their success stories with his committee, in hopes that they would offer useful advice to other agencies. The Education Department has a history of problems with estimating the extent of outstanding loans and the anticipated losses from defaults on these outstanding loans, testified Jack Martin, chief financial officer at the department. These problems stood in the way of a clean audit. To address the issue, President Bush appointed Martin, the agency's first chief financial officer in three years, and instructed his office to work with leaders at the department's offices of Federal Student Aid and Budget Service to root out problems. In addition, the department altered its leadership structure so that one person is in charge of managing the audit process. This person communicates with auditors and consolidates data gathered during the audit. The Education Department hired outside financial advisors from the Council for Excellence in Government and the National Academy of Public Administration. The department revamped its accounting system as well. Under the new system, called Oracle Federal Financials, managers receive more timely, accurate and reliable information, Martin said. Managers can now generate financial reports directly from the accounting system on a monthly basis.

The Agriculture Department built a leadership team to oversee financial management and ensure that team members felt invested in achieving "tangible results," Edward McPherson, chief financial officer at the department, testified. Agriculture also improved its financial management by creating a standardized accounting system. About 17 systems needed to be converted to the new, standard system. Agriculture also put pressure on the Forest Service, an agency within the department, to shape up its finances, McPherson said. As a result, the Forest Service made "significant progress" in fiscal 2002 and was able to better reconcile its financial statements with records kept at the Treasury Department. The Forest Service remains on the General Accounting Office's "high risk" list for management problems, but in a recent report, the watchdog agency praised its attempts at improving financial management. But the report added that these attempts sometimes came at the expense of other needed management reforms.

From GovExec.com, by Amelia Gruber (agruber@govexec.com), 10 June 2003

Bush Administration Tax Policy at a Crossroads

Washington - After the third tax cut in three years, some Bush administration policy-makers are pushing for a more fundamental overhaul of the system that would largely shelter investments from taxation, dramatically changing the way Americans are taxed and how the government is financed. But they're running into opposition from a surprising quarter: White House officials who fear such prescriptions could have dangerous economic and political consequences at a time of growing budget deficits. At the heart of the matter is an ambition of conservative tax theorists in and outside of the Bush administration to pursue tax cuts not only to relieve the burden on Americans, but to create a new system that they believe will make the economy stronger. Their ambitions outstrip what even some conservative tax-cutting Republicans think are feasible or wise. Until now, both camps have pursued tax-cutting in close alliance because they agreed that lower taxes were the right policy. But now, they've reached a crossroads and are divided about where to go next and why. "My look at tax reform tells me, I don't see it," outgoing White House budget director Mitchell Daniels said last week, referring to certain proposals crafted by the Treasury Department for another wave of tax-cutting. "The political problems are too intractable. ... Until (Bush) sees a system that has social justice and economic smarts, I don't think he'll spend any time on it."

Pamela Olson, the assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, said she doesn't see a division in the administration. She downplayed the significance of the next steps toward tax reform advocated by Treasury. "All we're doing is simplifying things, opening things up," Olson said. But tax theorists say they've achieved far more in three years than they'd expected. Since President Bush took office, this decade's federal tax bill has been cut by more than $1.7 trillion. That amount would more than double if tax cut provisions now set to expire are extended. Federal tax revenue, as a percentage of the overall economy, will fall this year to about 16.5 percent, its lowest level since the Eisenhower administration. The record federal budget surplus of $236 billion recorded in President Clinton's final year in office has turned into a record deficit now expected to surpass $400 billion this year, in part because of those tax policies. Specific changes to the tax code mean the government now depends more on taxing wages than investment income such as dividends, capital gains and interest. Because investment income and inheritances tend to flow to the very rich, the effective federal tax rate on households earning more than $416,000 will have fallen from 32.7 percent when Bush took office to 26.9 percent by 2010, while their share of federal taxation will have dropped from 24.3 percent to 22.8 percent.

The architects of the last three tax cuts in Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisers say their combined effect will be to push the United States toward the Holy Grail of conservative tax theory: a tax system that they believe would promote economic efficiency and growth by focusing taxation on consumption while rewarding investment. These administration officials argue that taxing returns on investment amounts to unfair and punitive "double taxation," since the income that was invested was taxed when it was earned. Critics have long held that such a system would unfairly shift the tax burden from the affluent to the working class, worsening income inequality. Besides, by granting businesses lucrative tax breaks on their income, then slashing taxes on dividends and capital gains, administration policy-makers are not ensuring that corporate income and investment gains are taxed only once, said William Gale an economist at the Brookings Institution; they are ensuring much of it isn't taxed at all. Glenn Hubbard, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that for the president, reforming the tax code to eliminate taxation of investments was never the primary motive. But to others in the administration, it was always a goal. "The discussions the president instigated will be a good precursor to tax reform," Hubbard said, "and that wasn't lost on anybody." Last year, Ernest Christian, a Treasury official in the Reagan administration and founder of the Committee for Strategic Tax Reform, devised a blueprint for stealth tax reform in "five easy pieces."

Placed against the tax cuts of the past three years, Christian's agenda is beginning to look like a road map: lower marginal income tax rates, including capital gains tax rates; eliminate taxes on dividends; accelerate the speed with which businesses can write investment expenses off their tax bills; expand the Roth Individual Retirement Account to all personal saving; and exclude export and other foreign trade income of American companies from taxation. The first piece, lower rates, has now been accomplished. The top income tax rate of 39.6 percent in 2001 has now fallen to 35 percent, while the tax rate on most capital gains has fallen from 20 percent to 15 percent. The second piece took a substantial leap toward completion when Washington slashed taxes on corporate dividends last month from a top rate of 38.6 percent to 15 percent for most dividends, and 5 percent for others. A year ago, the concept of the "double taxation of corporate earnings," as opponents refer to dividend taxation, didn't exist in the political lexicon. Now it's front and center. As for the third piece, tax cuts in 2002 and 2003 ramped up depreciation rates to the point where companies can now write off at least half the cost of their investments in the first year. And with his 2003 budget, Bush appeared to have followed Christian's fourth recommendation precisely by proposing "Lifetime Savings Accounts" that would allow every American, regardless of age or income, to shield $7,500 a year from investment taxation.

The accounts would be accessible at any time for any reason. A family of five could squirrel away $37,500 annually, a figure that very few Americans could even contemplate saving. "If you beat your breast, jump up and down, and come in with some revolutionary idea to change the tax code overnight, you're just going to scare the devil out of everyone; we don't do revolutionary things," Christian said recently "Now, the last stage, three years or so from now, is that we say we've done the substance (of tax reform) already, but the code is still complicated. Let's really simplify it a lot and finish the job." The current debate in the administration is centered on the savings accounts. Treasury's Olson and Andrew Lyon, Treasury's head of tax analysis, both highlighted the lifetime savings account proposals in speeches to two major financial trade groups earlier this month. Daniels, in an interview, dismissed the proposal as more of "a discussion piece" than a legislative initiative. It first appeared in the president's 2004 budget, described as a modest step toward simplifying the tax code by establishing a single, tax-favored savings account to replace existing medical, education and retirement savings accounts.

The broader ramifications of the proposal emerged only after the budget was released, Daniels said, and it took the White House by surprise. "I freely admit that I didn't and I don't think most people realize how fundamental a difference those proposals, if fully acted on, would be," Daniels said. He attributed the inclusion of the proposal in the budget to a "policy hitch," saying "pure tax policy tended to be sort of left at Treasury" and was not coordinated with the White House. A senior Treasury official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, strenuously disagreed and called the proposal "fully vetted and considered." The proponents of broad reform include academics for whom such theory is hardly radical, like Hubbard, who has returned to Columbia University, and his successor Gregory Mankiw, who is on leave from Harvard University. They also include tax lawyers like Olson and her predecessor Mark Weinberger, who both worked as advisers on a 1996 congressionally appointed commission that recommended the nation exempt investment income from taxation and tax all wages at the same rate.

Treasury's determination is giving conservative, anti-tax activists something to cheer for, and that may be the White House's intention, administration sources say. "In each of these fronts, we've found we've pushed and there's an open door," said Grover Norquist, an influential conservative activist at Americans for Tax Reform. "We'll keep moving forward as fast as we can. No one I have talked to has any expectation that we will have anything less than a tax cut every year of the eight years of the Bush administration." One Republican economist with close administration ties said White House officials have begun soliciting advice on tax proposals that could be sold as both reform and deficit reduction. The growing deficit and its potential impact on Bush's campaign for re-election is now drawing their attention. "If we ever reform taxes, in my judgment, you have to put all the chips on the table," said Daniels, specifically mentioning increasing capital gains taxes as an engine for balancing the budget.

From Detroit News, MI, by Jonathan Weisman, 13 June 2003

 
 

Arguments On Privatization

Lagos - Yes BPE says - Privatization will make the port more efficient and reduce the ports turn around time (A World Bank report last year noted that it takes an average of 33 days to clear goods from the nation's sea ports as against 48 hours and five hours spent at Cotonou and the port of Singapore respectively) - It will reduce the incident of too many government agencies in the ports, reduce red-tapism/bureaucracy. - Privatization will lead to eradication of pilfering and disappearance of cargoes at the ports. - It will also reduce the number of undesirable elements in the ports (A study last year by an international maritime consultancy Group said Nigerian ports are among the most porous in the world). - It will take away from the ports the ugly tag of the "most corrupt port in the world." - It will lead to the development of port facilities, acquisition of new equipment and general improvement making the ports more competitive and stemming the tide of desertion of Nigerian ports for neighbouring ports by importers and shippers. - The BPE is not transferring the ports to private owners; government will still remain owner of the ports but concession will be granted to the private sector to manage and develop the ports with private capital. NO - The Senior Staff Association of NPA, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and NPA Pensioners Association insist privatizing the ports is not necessary because: - The ports cannot be said to be inefficient because it is self-sustaining i.e. no subsidy is received from government to run the ports; - By virtues of the Port Act of 1954 and the Port Act of 1999, the BPE has no power to privatize the ports. Rather what is envisaged in the two acts is commercialization of the ports. - Privatization will lead to the transfer of important national heritages (the ports) into the hands of few moneybags. - It will put the security of the nation in jeopardy, as few individuals will be in control of important national gateways. It will lead to loss of jobs, and sufferings for the pensioners of the Nigerian Ports Authority.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Oluokun Ayorinde, 10 June 2003

Morocco Will Honor Commitment for Phone Operator Privatization, Minister

Morocco will live up to its commitment to sell 16% of Maroc Telecom' capital to French-American Group Vivendi Universal, minister of finance and privatization, Fathallah Oulaalou, told MAP. The minister denied news reported by Reuters that the cession of 16% of Morocco's phone operators would be delayed to 2004 after the success of the Moroccan state-owned tobacco company privatization. There is no link between the two privatization operations, Oulaalou insisted. French-Spanish group Altadis won last week the bid for the purchase 80% of Morocco's tobacco company for $160.8 million. Vivendi Universal had in February 2001 acquired 35% of Maroc Telecom's capital for $253 million.

From Arabic News, 16 June 2003

 

Rs 161bn for Public Sector Development

Islamabad - The federal budget for fiscal year 2003-04 envisages an allocation of Rs 161 billion for Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), 19.4 per cent higher than the PSDP size of Rs 134 billion originally budgeted for 2002-03 and 21.5 per cent against the revised PSDP of Rs 131.6 billion for the current fiscal year. The increase in the PSDP was made possible due to savings in debt servicing, largely because of debt rescheduling, reduced cost of borrowing and better management strategy. The development plan under PSDP has three major thrusts - poverty reduction, expansion in agriculture development trough storage capacity, building of new canals and rehabilitation of irrigation assets and infrastructure development. The provincial development programme for 2003-04 has been kept at Rs 47 billion, which is 6.8 per cent higher than the budget estimates of 2002-03. The share of federal ministries/divisions in 2003-04 PSDP is Rs 70.7 billion, showing a raise of 29.9 per cent over the budgetary estimates for 2002-03. The PSDP for corporations has been put at Rs 35.7 billion, indicating an increase of 36.5 per cent over the budget estimates of the outgoing year. A sum of Rs 6.6 billion has been earmarked for special programme in the PSDP, which is less by 30 per cent than the budget estimates of 2002-03.

The government kept Rs 4 billion under Tameer-e-Pakistan Programme, to be made available to parliamentarians. Electricity, gas, water supply and other schemes will be completed under this programme. Rs 2.5 billion will be provided for food support programme, which will be provided as subsidy to 1.2 million poor families. An amount of Rs 1.3 billion will be disbursed through Khushali Bank. Under Zakat programme, an allocation of Rs 2 billion has been made. Special importance has been given to agriculture and water sector. An amount of Rs 17 billion has been allocated for these sectors and greater emphasis would be laid on dams, new canals and lining of canals. In infrastructure sector, Rs 56 billion has been embarked for electricity, railways and roads. The government has allocated Rs 3.1 billion for education against an allocation of Rs 1.7 billion last year, which represents an increase of nearly 80 per cent from last year. For higher education, Rs 4.5 billion has been provided against the allocation of Rs 3.7 billion for current year, marking an increase of 20 per cent. Rs 700 million has been allocated for girls nutrition under Tawana Pakistan programme.

For development plan Rs 4 billion has been allocated against Rs 3.3 billion during the current fiscal year showing an increase of 20 per cent. For Tameer-e-Pakistan Programme an allocation of Rs 4 billion has been made. Under this programme small public works schemes such as development of farm to market roads, water supply, sewerage, garbage collection, spurs, culverts and village electrification will be undertaken on the recommendations of the parliamentarians. For Food Support Programme, the subsidy has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,400 per person and a total number of 1.2 million households will be benefiting from this scheme. For agriculture sector, an allocation of Rs 17 billion against Rs 10.9 billion has been made showing an increase of 60 per cent. The projects for expansion of water storage capacity through provision of new dams, new sources of irrigation through flood canals, drainage and rehabilitation of irrigation system are included in this plan. For Information Technology development an allocation of Rs 2 billion has been made. For physical infrastructure, Rs 31 billion has been allocated in power sector that would lead to new hydel projects, transmission lines and village electrification. In railways, Rs 8 billion have been allocated for up-gradation and expansion of assets. In roads sector, an allocation of Rs 16.7 billion has been made that would see completion of many roads as well as development of new roads such as linking Gwadar to Chaman and Rattodero.

For ports development, the work on phase-1 of Gwadar Port, comprising deepening of channel and construction of 3 berths, is proceeding apace and an expenditure of Rs 5.1 billion was incurred during the year on the same. In the budget, an additional expenditure of Rs 3.4 billion has been planned as work on phase-1 of this project will be completed by the end of 2004, which will prove a watershed in the economic history of Balochistan. Allocations for cabinet division have been estimated at Rs 44 million, Rs 575 million for PAEC, Rs 59 million for Commerce Division, Rs 3.89 billion for Communications, Rs 678 million or Sports, Tourism and Culture, Rs 678 million for Defence, Rs 7.58 billion for Education Division and HEC, Rs 556 million for Environment, Rs 77 million for Establishment Division, Rs 3.91 billion for Finance Division, Rs 1.5 billion for Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Rs 4.37 billion for Health, Rs 468 for Industries and Investment, Rs 546 million for Information Ministry, Rs 2.7 billion for Interior Ministry, Rs 9.36 for KANA & SAFRON Division, Rs 114 million for Labour, Manpower Division and Rs 2.12 billion for Law and Justice. An allocation of Rs 277 million for Local Government, Rs 172 million for Narcotics Control Division, Rs 3.15 billion for Population Planning, Rs 8.08 billion for Railways, Rs 1.25 billion for Science and Technology, Rs 14.68 billion for Water and Power Division, Rs 1.028 billion for Women's Development and Social Welfare Division and Rs 701 million for Housing and Works division have been made. For Wapda (Power Wing) an amount of Rs 12.36 billion, for village electrification Rs one billion, KESC Rs 3.67 billion and National Highway Authority Rs 18.39 billion has been earmarked. Under the special programmes, Rs 36 billion has been allocated for Tameer-e-Pakistan Programme, Rs 500 million for drought relief programme, Rs 2 billion for federal priority projects and Rs 500 million for Sasti Basti scheme.

From Hi Pakistan, Pakistan, 7 June 2003

Kazak PM to Leave Office Over Controversial Privatization Bill

Kazakh Prime Minister Imangali Tasmagambetov said he is stepping down in connection with a controversial government bill to privatize ownership of agricultural land in the former Soviet republic. Mr. Tasmagambetov announced his resignation Wednesday during a cabinet meeting in the city of Astana. The prime minister's position had been weakened by differences with parliament over the bill that would for the first time allow for private ownership of land in Kazakhstan. He called for a confidence vote and won, then declared the land bill had been passed by default. The measure has been sent to President Nursultan Nazarbayev for his signature pending a constitutional review. Mr. Tasmagambetov, a 46-year-old former Communist official, had served as head of the Soviet Komsomol youth organization before Kazakhstan's independence in 1991. He later served as the country's education minister prior to becoming prime minister last year.

From Voice of America, 11 June 2003

J-Power to Go Global After Privatization

Soon-to-be privatized Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power) cannot survive on domestic demand alone and should build up its presence overseas, the president of the state-affiliated power wholesaler said recently. On Wednesday, a revised Electricity Utility Law passed the Diet, finalizing J-Power's privatization plan. The corporation plans to go private as early as the end of the year. "We need to change our business model now that we can no longer expect continuous long-term growth in domestic energy demand due to Japan's anticipated population decline," J-Power President Yoshihiko Nakagaki said. "We want to grow our overseas operations to 10 percent of both our total sales revenue and pretax profits over the next 10 years," he said, adding that the company has experience doing business overseas, having taken part in 10 electric power development projects in Asia and other regions. "We want to increase the amount of projects and enter the U.S. and European markets," he said. The government decided in 1997 to privatize J-Power, a state-backed special public corporation, as part of administrative reform. Now that the revised law has passed, the 1952 Electric Power Development Promotion Law, which was the legal basis for establishing J-Power to overcome a nationwide electricity shortage, will be abolished.

Since its establishment in 1952, J-Power constructed and operated numerous large-scale dams for hydroelectric power generation and thermal power stations. The company operates power generation facilities in 66 locations with a combined generation capacity of about 16 million kilowatts, almost equal to that of Tohoku Electric Power Co. Two-thirds of J-Power is currently owned by the government, with the rest shared by nine electric power companies-the public corporation's sole clientele base up to now. "We never faced any risk, since we only sold a single product, electricity, to a limited number of clients," Nakagaki said. "From now on, we could be vying with these same companies for new projects." J-Power is expected to be listed late next year, and Nakagaki does not want electric power companies to remain as major shareholders. "That would go against the concept of privatization, so I'd like the companies to release their shares along with the government," he said. Meanwhile, Nakagaki said J-Power will stick with its plans to build a nuclear power plant in Oma, Aomori Prefecture.

From Asahi Shimbun, Japan, 12 June 2003

Privatization Decision Put Off

An interim report to be issued shortly by a government panel on deregulation represents a major setback for the panel's initial goal of ending restrictions on education and medical services after bureaucrats undermined some of the reform plans. As goals have been lowered significantly in many areas in the outlines mapped out on Thursday, private-sector members of the Council for Deregulatory Reform, chaired by Orix Corp. Chairman Yoshihiko Miyauchi, have voiced opposition to the outlines, which were compiled without their agreement. The action plan implemented in February by the council looked into the possibility of allowing joint-stock corporations to operate educational institutions accredited under the School Education Law, including universities, high schools and kindergartens. However, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry only said that it would conclude within this fiscal year a format on the private management of public night high school and high school correspondence courses.

The interim report will incorporate agreements of relevant ministries and agencies on the 12 priority areas. Nobuteru Ishihara, state minister in charge of administrative reform, gave the outlines on Thursday to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who basically approved them. The prime minister will meet with Miyauchi, probably on Monday to decide on the interim report. The outlines restricted private companies' operation of educational institutes - a key area for deregulation--to night high schools and high school correspondence courses. As many private firms are interested in operating primary and middle schools, some observers said night high schools and high school correspondence courses would not appeal to them. The entry of private companies into the hospital business met with strong resistance from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which said it would study the matter after evaluating the situation in the special structural reform zones, which only allows private companies to offer medical care that can be carried out using high-tech devices.

The ministry apparently used the deregulation in the special structural reform zones in specified areas as a reason to postpone a conclusion on the matter, the observers said. Private firms will be allowed to operate homes for elderly people requiring around-the-clock nursing care and to change the approval system for establishing universities, faculties and courses in the special zones to a notification system. However, relevant ministries and agencies shelved a nationwide deregulation plan similar to that for the special zones on the grounds that they would have to see how deregulation would work in those zones. Meanwhile, the health ministry has agreed to expand the categories job placement agencies are allowed to dispatch medical doctors and nurses under, as well as ease regulations on the fees private job placement firms can charge for their services.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, 13 June 2003

Small Business Told to Find Productivity Online

The federal government is pushing small business to get online but will not set targets for take-up rates. Last week, Communications Minister Richard Alston launched the e-business guide, which will provide small business with free information about how to get online. "Information communication technology has a dramatic transformational affect across all sectors of the economy," he said. He said that almost half of Australia's present economic growth was caused by communication technology. The government, Senator Alston said, wanted small business to benefit from these productivity gains. He said about 80 per cent of businesses were online but only about 40 per cent were using it for products and services. Senator Alston refused to set a target for small business online take-up rates. He said targets for take-up rates were "not the way to go" because they related to factors beyond the government's control.

The guide is designed to provide information for all sorts of small business, from those with no online presence to those that want to enhance their online capability. It is also trying to encourage small business to trust the internet. Small businesses and consumers are reluctant to conduct financial transactions on the internet because of a concerns about security. The e-business guide is part of a $6.5 million federal government package announced in 2001 that encourages small businesses to build online strategies. The other guides - as part of the funding package - relate to online security, broadband for small business, advancing e-business and the commonwealth electronic tender system. Also speaking at the launch in Melbourne were representatives of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Retailers Association, and Small Business Minister Joe Hockey. Mr. Hockey said the message to small business was that "information technology is as crucial to your business future as the telephone or a bank account".

From Australian Financial Review, Australia, 17 June 2003

Japan Highway Boss Drives Out Pro-Privatization Staff

The president of the Japan Highway Public Corp. (JH) had ordered its personnel manager to demote four rivals who were supporting privatization plans, it was learned Tuesday. High-ranking officials of the JH compiled an internal document that backs up the allegation, a copy of which was obtained by the Mainichi, in their private capacity after interviewing officials of the sections affected by the personnel reshuffle ordered by JH President Haruho Fujii. Yukio Katagiri, 54, one of the four, who was transferred from the post of a counselor at the JH headquarters' general affairs department to vice manager of its Shikoku branch earlier this month, confirmed the allegations. "The document's description of my transfer is perfectly correct. I may have an opportunity to tell the truth in public," Katagiri said in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun. "It was clearly aimed at preventing me from voicing my support for privatization. I had thought about taking a comfortable position in Europe (as proposed by the president).

However, friends who knew his real intentions advised me not to play into his hands," he said. he document and the interview with Katagiri support the allegations that Fujii expelled reform-minded officials from influential positions in a bid to block privatization. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is pressing forward with his plan to integrate and privatize public corporations including the JH as part of his structural reform policies. The document says Fujii and top aides to him attempted to transfer Katagiri to either the Paris office of the Infrastructure Development Institute--Japan, Lyon University's traffic economy research institute or the Paris office of the Japan National Tourist Organization. After the top officials failed to persuade him to assume any of them, the president instructed the personnel manager to appoint him as vice manager of its Shikoku branch. The document says Fujii had instructed his aides to set aside the position of vice manager of one of its branches for Katagiri on the assumption that he would refuse to be transferred overseas.

Katagiri said Fujii summoned him to the president's office on the morning of May 8. During a 40-minute meeting, Fujii proposed that Katagiri assume a position at Lyon University's traffic economy research institute, but emphasized to him that the transfer was not compulsory. Katagiri told the Mainichi that he declined the offer saying that it would be better to dispatch younger people overseas. Fujii responded to him, "I understand," and did not urge him to go to Europe any further, Katagiri recalled. He said he agreed to assume the No. 2 post of the JH Shikoku branch because he thought he had no choice. "I was resigned to defeat. There was not point resisting him any further." Moreover, the internal document says the three others - former subordinates of Katagiri who had compiled financial statements in preparation for JH privatization, were transferred to its Shizuoka construction bureau, Kansai branch and Chubu branch, respectively, on June 16.Fujii had instructed the personnel manager to transfer the three to separate branches outside Tokyo by the end of June, the document says.

From Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, 24 June 2003

 

Privatization in Belarus Is Not Simple - Lukashenko

TMinsk - President Alexander Lukashenko believes that Belarussian businesses are not simple to privatize. "To think that privatization is a blessing is wrong, because at any enterprise, one must work and develop it," said Lukashenko while visiting the Svetlogork pulp and paper plant in Gomel region on Wednesday. Talking with workers, the head of state reported his intention to put the government in charge of the plant. "Only after this can a decision be made to finance construction of the second part of the complex, worth $15 million," said Lukashenko. He said the government holds a 47% stake and foreign investors, who hold 39%, "are not in a hurry to fund the upgrade." "This makes me adopt a forcible decision, solve the problem in terms of law, and make the choice in a civilized way," stressed the president. Lukashenko also urged the development of the pulp and paper industry and the rebuilding of its businesses. "We should subordinate the economy to forest resources," he said. He also suggested creating a timber ministry in the republic and putting the Bellesbumprom concern under its control.

From Interfax, Belarus, 25 June 2003

 

Systematic Approach Essential for Privatization

Tehran - Head of the Board of Directors of the Privatization Organization Ahmad Mir-Motahari said here Tuesday the government should pay more attention to a systematic implementation of confidence building measures in the private sector and liberalization of economy and prepare the social building-blocks of the policy. He also called the privatization policy as ineffective without proper planning, preparation and considering issues such as social security and labor rights. Mir-Motahari added the organization intends to focus on employment in privatized organs, 'while rendering support to the government in its overall employment objectives'. He called higher productivity, more competition in economy and reduction of the government's financial burden as positive aspects of privatization of the economy. He said the government should follow a least-cost policy while implementing privatization with special attention on efforts to curb unemployment from rising. He said that the organization is bent on reforming the states-affiliated organs, with an eye to boost employment and improve product quality.

Earlier Minister of Economy and Financial Affairs Tahmasb Mazaheri declared here last week that privatization is among the major national economic plans. Speaking at the ceremony to introduce Mir-Motahari as the head of the Privatization Organization, he said that the private sector's role and importance in national economic affairs is growing. Mazaheri added, "The privatization drive goes beyond merely selling shares of state companies." He noted that discipline in the sale of state companies shares, transparency in the volume of exchanges taking place in the past years either as direct sale via stock market or transfer of shares to other institutions such as the Social Security Organization mark the health and sincerity of the organization. He announced that rls 3,130 billion worth of shares were sold in the past Iranian year (1381), which shows a 15 percent growth over that of the 1380, which stood at rls 200 million.

Mazaheri hoped that once Mir-Motahari takes office, further privatization and a transparent economy will be materialized. "Despite serious measures taken by states organizations in telecommunication, bank, insurance and social security, a coordinated step is required to privatize the national economy. Meanwhile, the Privatization Organization is responsible for providing legal and executive grounds to the effect," he added. At the ceremony, outgoing head of the organization Mehdi Ali-Akbar, pointing to the transparent performance of the organization and the stock market, said that in the past five years, a tax of rls 640 billion has been paid to the Tax Organization from the revenues obtained. Referring to the objections made to privatization in the past, he noted that a proper atmosphere has now been provided to materialize it nationwide. Declaring the number of share-holding laborers at 370,000, he said that 52,000 of them became share-holders in the last Iranian year.

From IRNA, Iran, 10 June 2003

Students Against Privatization Plan

Tehran - Deputy governor general of Tehran province Ebrahim Rezaie Babadi said on Wednesday that the student demonstration in Tehran University dormitory last night had been in protest against a plan to privatize the universities. Asked about the number of those arrested during the demonstration, he said that he still didn't receive a report from police on the number of probable arrests. The students took to the streets on Tuesday evening with certain demands which turned political when others joined them. The demonstration lasted until late midnight and the police intervened to disperse the demonstrators. Minister of Science and Technology unveiled a plan to privatize universities requiring the students to pay tuition fees causing dismay among the students who could not afford to. The constitution has envisaged free education for the public and the government is responsible for running the administration of universities and provide fund for them in addition to benefits for the students.

From Irib, Iran, 12 June 2003

 

New films Exposes Effects of Privatization

Minneapolis - "The Navigators," a new film that chronicles the effects of rail privatization, is being shown through June 12 by the University of Minnesota Film Society. The movie is directed by Ken Loach, who has a long history of bringing worker issues to film. "The Navigators" follows the fortunes of a group of South Yorkshire rail track workers as the privatization of British Rail takes effect. The film shows the "view from below" as the workers have to "navigate" their way through the chaos and crises that follow privatization. The film screens each night at 7:15 and 9:15 at the Film Society's Bell Auditorium, 17th and University Ave. SE. Admission is $6, $5 for students and seniors.

From Workday Minnesota, MN, 9 June 2003

White House Threatens to Veto FAA Bill Over Privatization Language

The White House is threatening to veto the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill if it includes language that blocks the agency from outsourcing air traffic control jobs. Despite repeated statements that it has no plans to outsource air traffic controllers, the Bush administration is resisting a measure in the House version of the FAA bill, H.R. 2115, which would prohibit outsourcing. In a statement issued Wednesday, the Office of Management and Budget said the outsourcing provision, sponsored by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn. could derail the $58 billion reauthorization bill. "If the final legislation includes provisions that would inappropriately prohibit the conversion of FAA facilities or functions from the federal government to the private sector, the president's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," said OMB. The House passed the bill, which included the Oberstar measure, by a vote of 418 to 8 on Wednesday. Oberstar's provision is Section 434 of the bill. Trent Duffy, an OMB spokesman, said Bush officials are opposed to any legislation that would exempt certain groups of employees from its competitive sourcing initiative, which seeks to put 425,000 federal jobs up for competition from private firms. "There's a principle that once you permit any group to be blocked from being part of competitive sourcing, that would open the floodgates," he said. Congress should allow agencies to make their own determination of what jobs are eligible for competitive sourcing, he added. FAA officials have said that air traffic controllers are not candidates for competitive sourcing.

The agency included air traffic controllers in its most recent inventory of "commercial" jobs, required under the 1998 Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act, but used a clause in the law to exempt controllers from possible outsourcing. In a Dec. 19 letter to air traffic employees, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey stressed that controllers "will not be contracted out." Given these statements, backers of the Oberstar measure were surprised to see the administration threaten a veto over his provision. "I don't understand why they would be willing to veto a $58 billion bill over just that language," said James Morhard, Democratic spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "This suggests that they really are planning substantial changes to the air traffic system that they don't want us to forestall," he said. "Those concerns are unfounded," replied OMB's Duffy. "These [positions] are commercial and exempt [from possible competition] and everyone knows that so there is no need for additional legislative protections," he said. OMB's statement builds on a May 20 letter from Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to Alaska Republican Don Young, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in which Mineta expressed concern with the Oberstar provision. Mineta also protested separate legislation sponsored by Oberstar, H.R. 1711, that would protect all air traffic control jobs from job competitions.

Oberstar's bill would stop an ongoing job competition at the FAA that involves 2,700 flight service specialists. "The bottom line is that the legislation would stop this study-a study that encourages FAA managers and the FAA workforce to look for innovative ways to provide higher quality services at less cost," wrote Mineta. Mineta added that he would recommend a veto of the FAA reauthorization legislation if lawmakers tried to add language halting the flight service specialist competition to that bill. The FAA spends more than $400 million on flight service operations each year. Robert Poole, director of transportation studies at the Reason Foundation, a Los-Angeles based think tank, said some Bush officials remain interested in turning air traffic control operations over to a nonprofit entity, or creating a government corporation supported by user fees to handle the work. The Oberstar provision would bar these options, including the government corporation model, which was supported by the Clinton administration, according to Poole. John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said Congress would fight any effort to privatize air traffic control. "It's a bipartisan issue and we are confident members on both sides of the aisle understand the safety implications of what is being discussed," he said. Oberstar's provision would not affect the existing contract tower program, under which contractors staff 209 low-activity air traffic control towers.

From GovExec.com, by Jason Peckenpaugh (jpeckenpaugh@govexec.com), 12 June 2003