ISSUE 49
March 2003
 
 
   
    Kenya: Poverty Index Records Rise
Zimbabwe: Economic Revival Plan Launched
Ghana: How To Reduce Poverty in Ghana
   
    Cambodia: Cambodia Launches Anti-Poverty Drive
China: China Boosts Poverty Alleviation Program in Tibet
India: Can ICT Be India's Growth Engine?
Philippines: A Government Roadmap for the Information and Communications Technology Industry
Singapore and Thailand: Singapore, Thailand To Work Together in IT Industries
Pakistan: 'Government Preparing Plan for Coastal Areas Development'
Sri Lanka: International Constitutionalists Here to Hold Seminars on Federalism
   
    EU: New Report Examines the Overall Social and Economic Dimension of FP5
UK: New Laws Urged to Fight Rural Poverty
Italy: Public Administration from Single Text To Sectors' Code
   
    USA: Senate Passes Economic Development, Public Service Commission Bills
USA: Forman Tapped For New e-Gov Office
 
   
    Nigeria: Save Local Government System From Collapse, Nigerians Urged
Nigeria: Now, We Can Fight Corruption
Nigeria: How to Promote Good Governance
Zambia: Zambia's President Criticizes Party Dissidents on Corruption Probe
Nigeria: Nigerian Parliament Debates Anti-Corruption Law
Ghana: Local Government Act To Be Amended
Zimbabwe: Zvobgo Blasts State Corruption
Uganda: Corruption Isn't About Personal Morality
Ghana: NPP Is Offering Good Governance - UK Sec. of State Observes
Kenya: Corruption Will Be Wiped Out in a Year, Says PS
Nigeria: Cultures, Democracy and Environmental Governance
Ghana: NPP is Offering Good Governance
Ghana: Transparency Is Crucial To Good Governance
Ghana: AMA's Problems Are Due To Type of Governance
Tanzania: Local Government Reform Challenges Identified
Nigeria: Obasanjo's Aide Assures on Good Governance
   
    India: India Facing a Crisis of Governance: Modi
Japan: Nomura Names New CEO, Plans New Governance Model
China: Chinese Legislature Meets to Appoint Leaders
India: BJP Praises Mayawati's Governance
Vietnam: Vietnam Aims to Build Democratic Administration by 2010
Pakistan: NRB Briefs IMF on of Local Government System
India: India Plumbs New Depths Of Corruption: Survey
Malaysia: Governance Becoming a Big Issue in Banking
China: Chinese Premier Vows to Fight Against Corruption
Malaysia: Start Early To Tackle Corruption, Says Rais
India: Fight Corruption, Says Ex-CBI Chief
   
    UK: NHS and Local Government Employees Are Most Stressed Out Workers
Switzerland: Swiss Say No to US Corporate Governance Law
UK: Corruption Probe Leads to Shake-up at Development Company
Slovakia: Slovak Politics Riddled with Corruption
Georgia: Georgian Local Governance Bodies Urge for Reforms
   
    USA: Superintendents, School Boards Applaud Local Governance
Haiti: EU Calls on Aristide to Restore 'Good Governance' in Haiti
USA: Lawmakers Consider Bill To Target Municipal Corruption
Canada: First Nations Vow to Fight Governance Act
 
   
    Kenya: Bar Public Servants From Business to Curb Graft, Urges Envoy
Zimbabwe: Civil Service Job Evaluation Complete
Tanzania: Steer Clear of Partisan Politics, Civil Servants Told
Kenya: Crackdown On Incompetent Public Servants Still On, Says Minister
Central African Republic: Commission Set Up to Rehabilitate Returning Civil Servants
Africa: Civil Service Reforms a Nig Flop - IMF
Uganda: Public Service Blamed Over Pension Flaws
Kenya: Revise the Ethics Bill or We Reject It, Members Demand
Kenya: Anti-Graft Bills Will Give NARC Government Legitimacy
Zambia: Levy Warns Civil Servants Frustrating Government Programmes
Kenya: Achieving the Goals of Good Governance and Ethics
South Africa: Department Demands Stiff Sentences for Arrested Former Civil Servants
   
    Malaysia: Civil Service Succession Plan
Sri Lanka: All Policemen to Adhere to Code of Ethics - Minister of Interior
Philippines: Rody Says No to Federalism
Malaysia: CUEPACS Wants 13-Month Pay a Year for Civil Servants
Singapore: Early Retirement Available to Civil Servants
Malaysia: Civil Servants Must Support Change For Excellence
Sri Lanka: Private Practice for Government Servants Runs Into Snags
Papua New Guinea: PNG Leader Takes Over Public Service
Malaysia: Civil Servants Must Aim Higher
Malaysia: Few Non-Malays in Civil Service Byproduct of Recruitment Policy

Australia: Women Dominate in Public Service
Brunei: More Women On Month-To-Month Basis In Civil Service Than Men
Indonesia: Corruption Has Worsened Despite Reform Pledge
Malaysia: Malaysia's Malaise Begins and Ends With Its Civil Service
China: Civil Servants Singled Out For Higher Taxes After Pay Rise
Pakistan: Government to Start Public Sector Development Programme'
Fiji: Public Sector Reforms Difficult'
   
    UK: How to Pay for Public Services Is Real Test for Government
Ireland: Job Vacancies Higher in Public Sector
UK: Doubles Decisive for Civil Service
Ireland: Civil Servants to Explain Proposed FoI Restrictions
UK: BBC Scales Back Public Service Sites
Ireland: A Distinguished Career on Both Sides of the Public Service Fence
   
    Israel: Rachlevsky: I'll cut salaries of top civil servants
Lebanon: Minister Calls for More Efficient Public Service
   
    Canada: Geneva Civil Service Office Hours Slashed
USA: Volcker Commission Finds Support for Civil Service Changes
Canada: Renewing The Public Service Is Top of Government Agendas
USA: Owens Wants Civil Service Changes
USA: Guam: Civil Service Commission Already Taking in load of Complaints Due To Workweek Reductions
Canada: Civil Servants Have Jobs for Life: Landry
USA: Some Tech Workers Turning to Careers in Civil Service
USA: Senate Judiciary Approves Public Service Commission Overhaul
USA: Senate DFLers Propose Sweeping Changes to State Administration
 
   
    South Africa: E-government Could Aggravate SA's Identify Fraud Problems
South Africa: State to Reboot PC Deal for Public Servants
South Africa: Security in E-commerce, E-government, E-contracting Boosted by Tamino XML Server 4.1
   
    Philippines: Government Allots P4B for Online Services
Australia: Australian Government Under Pressure to Clampdown on Online Filth
India: AP Keen To Help Other States In Taking Up E-governance Projects
India: Government to Start Rs 20,000 cr e-Governance Plan
China: HKSAR Lacks e-Gov Focus
Brunei: Envisioning a Successful e-Government
Australia: The Remedy for Sick Public Service
Korea: Saving Time and Spending Less With e-Government Services
Korea: Korean e-Government Gets in Full Swing
Brunei: Islamic IT Network Launched
India: Agility Scores Over Economic Might In E-readiness Test
Malaysia: Oracle: The Next Phase of e-Government Needed
'Need To Associate Media And Public In Disaster Management'
   
    Ireland: Agenda for NI e-Government Set Out
UK: Local Council Races to Beat e-Gov Deadline
UK: Preparing The Way for e-Government
UK: Global e-Government
UK: UK's e-Government Is a Waste of Money
UK: Council uses CRM in e-Gov Deadline Race
Ireland: Irish Forge Ahead With e-Government
Italy: E-government: Stanca Says 82 Pct of Italians Aware of Benefits
   
    Bahrain: BD280,000 Boost for e-Governance
UAE: Dubai e-Government and eHosting Centre Sign MOU to Host Data Centre
Egypt: MCIT Signs Agreement With Oracle Corp For e-Government Projects
Egypt: E- government in Egypt Is On Its Way
UAE: The 9th GCC e-Government, Telecom and Internet Forum
   
    USA: Miner & Miner Implements ArcFM™ at Arizona Public Service
USA: E-Gov Will Go On, Staffers Pledge
USA: Administration Officials Weigh Six New e-Gov Initiatives
USA: White House Updates Federal e-Gov Site
USA: Lawmaker Says e-Gov Projects Could Get Supplemental Funding
USA: Budget Constraints Will Mean Less 'E' In E-Government
USA: FirstGov.gov Selected as Finalist In Innovations in American Government Awards Competition
USA: Web Portal Sole Federal Finalist for Public Service Award
USA: Progress on e-Gov Projects Varies Widely
USA: Success Varying for e-Gov Initiatives
USA: More Oversight Urged For E-Government
USA: Budget Constraints Will Mean Less 'E' In E-Government
Canada: Municipal e-Government Information is Now Just a Click Away!
USA: More Oversight Urged For E-Government
USA: Setting a Standard In E-Government
USA: Agencies Work e-Gov Health Standards
USA: Ron Miller to Help SBA e-Gov
   
    Microsoft Continues Global e-Government Conquest
Global e-Government
Global e-Government
Global e-Government
 
   
    Zambia: MPs Bemoan Low Tax Free Income Threshold
Gambia: SoS Finance Explains New Tax Policy
South Africa: Treasury Told to Address Finance Crisis
Namibia: New Measures to Improve Financial Management
South Africa: Who Should Oversee Parliament's Spending?
South Africa: Government Financial Management Still Problematic
   
    China: Government Under Pressure From All Quarters
China: China Budget Gap Set to Soar
Malaysia: 21 Public Finance Branches to Merge with Bank Next Month
Korea: SK Scandal Spurs Call for Reforms in Korea
Hong Kong: Hong Kong Receives Corruption Complaints Against Financial Secretary
   
    UK: Council Tax Bills Soar By 12 Per Cent
EU: Budget Will Set Out Measures for Greater Economic Flexibility
Germany: German Business Urges Tax and Welfare Reform
Turkey: IMF Warns Against Turkish Government Policies
Russia: Russian Finance Ministry Offers to Take Riches from Oligarchs
Poland: Rate-Council Member Grabowski Denounces Fin Min's Public-Finance Reform Plans
Poland: Finance Minister Kolodko Threatens to Resign If His Public-Finance Reform Is Cast Aside
EU: Tremonti, Pensions Are Public Finance Issue For EU
   
    USA: Bush Tax Plan Would Provide Much-Needed Short-Term Boost to Economy, Builders Say
USA: Tax Policy Group to Talk Mobilization at Meeting
USA: Pataki Budget Director Gets Federal Recognition
USA: OMB Prepares to Align Financial Systems
Brazil: IMF Krueger: Tax, Pension Reform Key To Brazil's Growth
USA: Treasury Department Hails New Tax Treaties
USA: Education Officials Tout Financial Management Achievements
USA: Governor Wants Revenue Bills to Cover Spending
USA: Alabama Public Finance Survey
USA: John Williams Promoted to Senior Vice President, Public Finance at Radian
 
   
    Philippines: Privatization: Pros and Cons
China: Defense Ministry Launches Privatization Plan
Philippines: Government to Push for Privatization of Petron
India: Sanjoy Favours Privatization of Education
India: 'Family-Owned Businesses Focussing on Governance'
Pakistan: Advisor To PM On Privatization, Investment Sworn In As Member Senate
Azerbaijan: Government Endorsed New Schedule for Privatization of State Banks
Indonesia: Indonesia Says Iraq War Could Hurt Privatization Plans
Pakistan: Privatization Yields Rs 2.8b in Two Months
Asia: ADB, WB Back Water Privatization
   
    Ukraine: Budget Committee Head Criticizes Privatization
Ukraine: State Property Fund Anticipates Successful Privatization in 2003
Bulgaria: Privatization Act "In No Danger of Revocation"
UK: British Bosses Slam Governance Report
Russia: Post Service Privatization on Track
   
    Iran: Privatization a Necessary Step for Profitability
Israel: Netanyahu Intends Privatization Through Stock Market Plan
Israel: 'Public Sector Cuts, Privatization and Reduced Income Tax'
   
    USA: DP Partners Forms Strategic Partnership With California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS)
USA: Survey: Private Companies React to New Governance Standards
USA: Business Group Pushes More Privatization of State Services
USA: Insurer Drops Privatization
USA: SEC Asks Markets to Review Governance
 

Poverty Index Records Rise

Nairobi - Poverty levels rose up from 52 per cent in 2000 to 62 per cent in 2001. Nyanza Deputy PC, Mr. David Andany said the increase was due to the high rates of deaths due to the HIV/Aids menace. He said the scourge was killing productive personalities who would have improved the economy of the nation. He accused parents of abandoning their responsibilities of educating their children on sexual matters. He said thousands of orphans left behind by the deaths was another major problem that needs to be tackled. Andanyi urged the Government to look into ways of helping the orphans to make them productive. "These children are our future leaders and we need to teach them on how to take up responsibilities.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Lilian Museka, 3 March 2003

Economic Revival Plan Launched

Harare - The Government has launched the much-awaited National Economic Revival Programme, which seeks to promote economic growth through home-grown solutions to various challenges facing the country. Speaking at the unveiling of the policy document in Harare yesterday, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Herbert Murerwa said the new measures were a sign of Government's comprehensive response to its obligations under the Tripartite Negotiating Forum. "This is a full and broad-based programme that was produced in full consultation with business and labour and we hope that it will slow down the negative growth in our economy," he said. The Secretary for Finance Mr. Nicholas Ncube said the new measures were expected to boost production and slowdown the negative economic growth by at least two percent from the projected 10,3 percent for this year. Speaking at the same occasion, the Minister of State for Information and Publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo said the political environment in the country was conducive for the success of the revival programme. He said that a lot of people who had been predicting and working to ensure a political and economic meltdown were now agreeing that the Government had managed to ensure stability and security in the country. He said that if the country had not been stable, it would have been impossible for the three social partners to come together to produce the revival programme.

The multi-sectoral economic plan supercedes all other programmes introduced over the past couple of years such as Zimcord, Five-year Transitional National Development Plan, Esap, Zimprest and the Millennium Economic Recovery Plan. According to the 49-page document, the country was facing severe socio-economic challenges. "These have been compounded by a hostile external and domestic environment, arising from our detractors' opposition to our Land and Agrarian Reform Programme. "Sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe have seen important sources of foreign exchange - donor funding for development projects, banks' lines of credit, foreign direct and portfolio investment - dry up. "This, coupled with worsening export performance, has heightened failure to adequately provide for fuel, electricity, food, drugs as well as spares, capital and equipment, among others. If not urgently addressed, foreign exchange unavailability will lead to national instability and pose a threat to national security," reads the document. The ten-point-plan enunciated by President Mugabe sets the tone for the sectoral driven economic revival growth strategy. "This, however, needs to be complemented by measures that enhance the country's capacity to generate foreign exchange. These measures are also central to the success of agrarian reforms - the cornerstone of Government's economic and social transformation." The plan comes against the background of a deteriorating economy that has declined a cumulative 19,3 percent over the past three years.

The rapid expansion in money supply to around 150 percent by December 2002, a result of increased bank lending to the public sector, was also a major cause of concern. The plan notes that the unsustainable high inflation, which accelerated to 208,1 percent in January 2003, remained Zimbabwe's prime macro-economic challenge. According to the policy document, the Government will introduce a number of programmes to boost production in the agriculture, manufacturing, mining, tourism, transport, energy, science and technology sectors. The Government, through the Reserve Bank, will avail $50 billion to exporters and producers on a revolving basis under the Productive and Export facilities while the financial and banking communities were expected to mobilise an additional $50 billion. As an additional measure to prop up production, the Government, in conjunction with its social partners has launched the National Productivity Centre at the Scientific Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC). Furthermore, the Government was resuscitating the Business Linkages Programme in partnership with interested business organisations to address de-industrialisation in the country. The new policy which hinged on the success of the agrarian reform will see the Government through the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement announcing viable pre and post planting producer prices of key commodities while post-harvest prices were going to be announced where necessary. In addition, a Dairy and Livestock Development Programme would be introduced to revive and enhance growth in the two industries through the establishment of financial facilities with the banking sector.

Other measures include the introduction of seasonal contract farming for agro-processors and seed houses in conjunction with farmers. In tourism, the Government will promote the development of the sector through the introduction of urban centre duty-free shopping malls, agro and eco-tourism and tourism development zones which enjoy similar incentives as Export Processing Zones enterprises. The new policy framework was also geared at supporting the Small-to-Medium-scale enterprise sector through the introduction of new legislation and the reduction of import duties to encourage the growth of cross border traders. Other measures outlined in the policy document include the scrapping of duty on buses and spare parts. In the entertainment industry, the Government will facilitate duty free imports of music, film and video equipment and studios for music and film recording. Scrap metal exports have been banned as all aluminium and copper waste scrap are now being reserved for local foundries.

The Government will also narrow the current high spreads between deposit and lending rates in line with international practices, review upwards deposit interest rates for the benefit of savers and review upwards rates on consumption and speculative activities as well as review the proliferation of service charges levied on depositors. Individuals will be allowed to import a maximum of 200 litres of fuel per vehicle at entry provided they comply with safety regulations. As a temporary measure to alleviate the plight of commuters, rural bus operators and non-commercial transport owners will be allowed to carry passengers to and from work between Monday and Friday during peak hours. To support its initiatives to fight hunger, the Government will review upwards import thresholds so that individuals can import foodstuffs such as maize-meal, flour, rice, cooking oil among others without having to pay for import permits. The Government has already adopted a two-tier exchange rate policy, which would see exporters getting $800 for every US$1 that they remit to the Reserve Bank.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 5 March 2003

How To Reduce Poverty in Ghana

Poverty, it is often said, is caused by poverty itself . Poverty comes about as a result of the lack of access by the poor to productive assets and economic resources needed to enable them escape from this state of continual disadvantage. Britain's Social Security Secretary, Alistair Darling, thinks that poverty is not simply the lack of money, but a lack of opportunities. Poor housing, poor health, and poor education are key elements of poverty. People born to poor parents are placed at a serious, lifelong disadvantage emanating from the legacy of poor education and health, coupled with limited access to only the bare minimum of assets. This condition is the major problem facing economies of the Southern Hemisphere or developing countries. This is not to rule out the fact that poverty is a universal problem. Findings from a study undertaken in Britain in 1997 reveal that poverty is not a phenomenon with only developing economies, but developed nations as well. Twelve million people of Britain's 59 million population are poor. This represents 20.3% of the population. Again 13.5% of Britons are said to live below the poverty line set by the UN, that is $4 a day. These revelations came out despite a healthy economy, low inflation rates, and low unemployment. Developing economies, on the contrary, are saddled with pauper-causing conditions, thereby fostering the poverty problem. If developed and under-developed (developing) economies face similar problems as far as poverty is concerned, what could be its cause and the possible solutions to correct the anomaly? Some schools of thought think people are poor because they are lazy.

Others think that it is due to the socio-economic marginalization of the people. Yet another group believes that the poor are just unlucky. Some of these assertions have their source or root in the English Poor Law Act of 1834. This Act did not only label people as poor, but also categorised them as lazy. This came about as a result of abled-bodied people seeking indoor relief in the Poor Law Institutions instead of finding work to do. Even though to some extent the Act's label may be true, it gives the erroneous impression that people are poor because they are unwilling to work. This opinion, when held high, can be a disincentive to any poverty alleviation programme in any country. Poverty alleviation in Ghana has been the major concern of government and non-governmental bodies over the years. Diverse efforts and attempts have been made to address the problems caused by poverty. Findings by the Ghana Living Standards Surveys over the past decade show that poverty is more pronounced in rural Ghana. One discernable feature of poverty in Ghana is non-existent sustainable and continuous economic growth. This growth, when present, provides opportunities and resources for poverty alleviation. Macro-economic policies that aid such growth are not treated with the seriousness that they deserve. Agricultural sector policies targeted at high productivity, until recently, were not anything to write home about.

Health education, accelerated participation by the poor in market and non-market consumption are issues relevant to poverty alleviation that have been side-stepped for far too long in Ghana. It is therefore not surprising that as part of measures to eradicate poverty in Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government has among other things improved the health and education standards of the people. The social bomb which manifests itself in poverty and unemployment has replaced the atomic bomb with the demise of the cold war. It is a major security problem for developing economies and the world at large. This means that poverty issues go beyond national borders and assume an international dimension. The poorest 20% of the world's population control only 1.4% of the world's wealth, and the richest 20% of the same population handles 83% of this wealth. Thirty years ago this used to be 2.4%. The world's population in the last century was equivalent to those living in poverty today. What makes the situation a bit scarry is the rate of the marginalization of a majority and the concentration of wealth in a few hands. With the world's population in the area of six billion, if it is not checked, the future can only be viewed and discussed with great pessimism. Interventions by the international community comes in various forms. United Nations-organised conferences like the Cairo Conference on Population and the Conpenhagan Conference on Social Development have discussed poverty and its alleviation extensively.

Contributions made by developed nations towards the solution of the problem during these conferences were to devote 0.7% of their GDP to development assistance to poor nations. This, regrettably, they have failed to honour. There has been an attempt by the UN to have the so-called 20/20 agreement on poverty reduction on course. Under this agreement 20% of all assistance from industrialized nations is to be devoted to social spending. Developing economies are also to allocate an equal percentage (i.e. 20%) of their budget for the same purpose. On the national front, government is seriously collaborating with partner institutions like the UNDP and NGOs to handle the issue of poverty reduction. The Programme Action For Mitigating Social Cost of Adjustment (PAMSCAD) District Assembly Common Fund, Poverty Alleviation Programme, Poverty Reduction Fund by UNDP and the Social Investment Fund (SIP) are put in place to fight the poverty cycle. Some of these institutional programmes, factors and distributive changes are required for a very effective poverty reduction initiative. The proper and effective management of these programmes would create a platform for dealing with the bottlenecks of social relations embedded in different forms of modes of production and employment and how they affect the creation and distribution of income and poverty. This will help establish a linkage between well-established institutions and the poor communities, thereby, opening the latter up to opportunities for development. The latest programme by government towards poverty alleviation, the SIF, has very heart-warming things to offer.

The programme has as its objectives supporting social and economic activities of poor communities, and supporting individuals and groups through micro-loans for income generating ventures. For these laudable objectives to be achieved, the social functioning vis-à-vis the poor must be strengthened. The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kwamina Ahwoi, could not help but agree with this when he intimated that government programmes henceforth will be targeted at the poor in a speech read on his behalf during the recent launching of the SIF. According to Ahwoi, government directives are that the formulation and implementation of all projects and programmes by ministries, departments, agencies, and district assemblies should have the poor as specific targets. The aim of this policy is to ensure general prosperity, since the poor constitutes the majority of Ghana's population. In the view of the Executive Director of the SIF, social services to be provided towards poverty alleviation under the fund include rehabilitation, expansion, and construction of schools, health posts, water supply and sewerage systems. The provision of service centres with private sector, market linkages, training and development of the human resource base of poor communities and improving their entrepreneurial skills are some of the economic services envisaged under the SIF. This would no doubt act as a catalyst to rural development leading to economic and social prosperity for the poor, with its trickle-down effect on the well being of the entire economy.

Such interventions are vital, as they have the power to curb and exterminate violence, armed robbery, corruption, etc. in society which have been caused by poverty. When people have something productive doing, they will have no time to scheme any malicious deed or intent. But where poverty is left unattended to for too long, it breeds social upheavals and insecurity for all, the rich not exempted. The successful implementation of these social and economic assistance programmes means delinking them from political concerns. All assistance and their benefits on the poor and vulnerable should be based on fiscal and poverty concerns and nothing else. The phenomenon of wrong targeting has been raised by certain people as ample indication that it is not the less needy groups who gain from such packages, but the vocal and organised few who wield political influence. The real needy poor are left out. Even though it may be true that politics affects the sustainability of assistance programmes, it should not be the overriding consideration in the administration and implementation of these programmes. The fight against poverty is not being fought by government alone. Other players like NGOs (both local and international) are seen to be doing their best to improve the lifestyle of the rural poor. In the area of sustained employment creation, much is being done by these NGOs. They have set up small-scale enterprises and have expanded their rural development programmes in the remote areas. They have also realised that improving the skills and quality of the labour force will enable the rural workers take advantage of the opportunities offered by the general economic growth.

One such training programme for rural groups to equip themselves with the tools required to manage whatever resource they receive was organised by Technoserve, one of the leading rural development-biased NGOs in Ghana. This training which took place last year was meant for executives of the Co-operative Oil Palm Millers Association (COPAMA). The sessions dealt with rural savings mobilization and credit management. The aim of this training was to assist the association to mobilize funds for setting up a revolving loan scheme. This approach adopted by Technoserve is to encourage communities to provide safety nets for themselves instead of solely relying on public safety nets. Leadership skills and governance, savings mobilization and credit management and debt recovery were some of the topics taught. This training should be emulated by other organisations, governmental and non-governmental alike. The COPAMA, with total membership of 695 as at last year, has begun implementing the rural savings scheme. If members honour their monthly obligations of ¢2,000 as outlined in their policy document, they would be able to mobilise ¢16,680,000 per annum. This will be enough to set up the loan scheme. Such a system invariably will bring some improvement to the lives of the patrons of the scheme. Income levels will increase and employment created as projects will be set up requiring the services of additional hands.

Through the establishment and growth of sustainable enterprise in poor or rural communities, access to vital services like health, education, transportation, credit, etc. will be enhanced. Not only will household purchasing power increase, food production, storage, and marketing practices will also improve. Another area that is contributing positively to poverty reduction in Ghana is the agro-food processing sector. Farmers in the Central, Eastern and Ashanti regions have had improved revenues and have subsequently increased the cultivation of kola trees, which hitherto grew in the wild. This is as a result of the introduction of dry kola processing techniques by Technoserve. Kola has become a major non-traditional agricultural hard currency earner. In 1993 it earned over $1.6 million. This figure is expected to rise up to $21 million over the next five years. If such ventures form the core of poverty reduction programmes, the rural sector alone can make a tremendous contribution to the socio-economic development of the nation. The institution of poverty reduction programmes without tackling the food security needs of vulnerable groups makes the attempt incomplete. Food security, viewed from a USAID perspective, is when all people at all time have both economic and physical access to sufficient food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life. What is worth-noting is that food security improvement should be tackled with a market-oriented and a business-like attitude.

Incentives should be given to target groups to stimulate productivity, leading to profitability. Such exercises should have as target areas the most food insecure zones; and the expansion of on-going projects (more importantly) in the agricultural sub-sector. It is not enough creating only the enabling environment for increased performance for rural enterprises, small and micro enterprises (SMEs). Findings from the Research and Development Department of Technoserve agree that there should be a corresponding development in market linkages. Research indicates that very few small and micro enterprises in Ghana have any definite market linkage with larger domestic and export firms. This has created the situation where farmers still live in deplorable conditions even though they experience increased productivity. They can be turned into reliable suppliers of raw material and semi-processed products to larger firms. Income accruing from such business links will affect their economic and general life positively. If the much-trumpeted Vision 2020 ideals are to be achieved, such linkages cannot be compromised. The bulk of Ghana's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is supplied by the rural economy. This trend is expected to continue for the foreseeble future.

From Business Watch, Ghana, by Samuel Benagr, 19 March 2003

 

Cambodia Launches Anti-Poverty Drive

Cambodia has officially launched a $1.5 billion national poverty reduction strategy aimed at trimming the ranks of the poor to 31 per cent of the population by 2005 and 19 per cent by 2015. According to the government, an estimated 36 per cent of Cambodians currently live below the poverty line. Cambodia, wracked by decades of civil war, is seeing its first years of relative stability in over a generation, but remains one of the poorest countries in Asia. The money will be used predominately by the ministries of education, development and agriculture.

From GoAsiaPacific.com, Asia, 3 March 2003

China Boosts Poverty Alleviation Program in Tibet

The Chinese government allocated nearly 300 million yuan (36.1 million US dollars) last year to the poverty alleviation program of west China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The Chinese government allocated nearly 300 million yuan (36.1 million US dollars) last year to the poverty alleviation program of west China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Besides the 267 million yuan (32.2 million US dollars) earmarked by the central government, the regional authorities arranged 38 million yuan (4.6 million US dollars) to support the program. Thanks to this spending, 256 projects concerning production and the daily lives of farmers and herdsmen in Tibet were completed, including on energy, water conservancy, road construction and drinking water. Last year in the region, more than 11,300 people got power for their daily life, an additional 18,523 hectares of farmland were irrigated, 66,300 people were given access to better transport conditions, and 13,700 people began to have drinking water. Tibet witnessed its 15th consecutive good year for both agriculture and animal husbandry, increasing its grain and grass production by 1.105 million kilograms and 114.07 million kilograms respectively. Last year Tibet also established poverty-relief facilities for 8,816 people in 1,603 households. The poverty alleviation program is entering a new stage in Tibet, according to Zhao Xianzhong, a local senior official in charge of the program. In the past, the program mainly targeted meeting basic requirements of food and clothing for Tibetans suffering extreme poverty. Now it aims to focus on the social and economic development of the agricultural and pastoral areas and the overall improvement of the living standards and comprehensive quality of farmers and herdsmen in the areas, Zhao said. Over the next three years, the Chinese government intends to meet the basic requirements for food and clothing for more than 50,000 extremely poor Tibetans.

From People's Daily Online, China, 3 March 2003

Can ICT Be India's Growth Engine?

Can information and communication technology, or more specifically software, deliver for India when all other models have failed? Is India witnessing, or about to witness, ICT or IT or software led growth the same way as the Asian Tigers rode on export led growth? This was the subject of an Indo-US workshop organised by the department of management studies of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Of all the papers, one of the most esoteric was one by Govindan Parayil (National University of Singapore) who saw two contradictions of ICT-led development, digital divide and increasing returns. The digital divide is not an accessibility issue but an equity issue. There is an asymmetric relation between traditional modes of production (manufacturing, etc) and innovation and knowledge-based production. There is now a dual economy, primary and industrial on one side and information-based on the other. It is constant/decreasing returns versus increasing returns. The divide between these two modes is the digital divide. Under informational or digital capitalism increasing returns are not an anomaly. But they create an instability. They have been marked by the most unequal distributions of income and wealth in human history. His conclusion: development theories of the industrial age are inadequate to explain the ground realities of the information age. K J Joseph (Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum) feels there is an adverse impact of the strategy of excessive export orientation. The contribution of the ICT sector can be viewed at two levels, direct and indirect effect. The direct effect is in employment, income and export earnings from ICT. The indirect effect is in enhanced productivity, competitiveness and growth of other sectors on account of IT diffusion, emergence of altogether new services enabled by ICT and spillovers.

He argues that the direct benefits are laudable. The ICT sector itself has shown remarkable vibrancy in terms of output and export growth as well as technological dynamism. These are often cited as the outcome of the export-oriented growth strategy that was followed. But the economy as a whole seems not to have benefited because of high regional concentration of ICT activity and low diffusion of ICT to other sectors of the economy. Because of the ICT boom, other sectors of the economy which compete with it for skilled manpower would have been adversely affected. There are also adverse implications on other services like teaching, training, research and development. These are bound to have long-term implications on the overall growth of the economy and as well as in sustaining the current competitive advantage of ICT. Joseph calls for a national policy on ICT diffusion which could mitigate the adverse effect of 'excessive' export orientation. Tojo Thatchenkery et al (George Mason University) address some very basic questions. Does ICT lead to economic development? Has it led to investment in infrastructure, institutions and individuals? What are some of the shortcomings of ICT as a development tool and what policy implication does this have? ICT reduces barriers to knowledge and information asymmetry. It has a large potential for infrastructure, institutional and human development. It increases transparency in institutions, promotes efficient market outcomes and can create jobs and generate incomes.

The paper notes several examples of developmental use of ICT. Eye care is delivered in Mettur district in Tamil Nadu through web cameras and the Net. The National Dairy Development Board in Gujarat is digitising milk collection and thereby helping farmers. Under the Gyandoot scheme in Madhya Pradesh, 20 villages have been wired to the central database for access to both government and agricultural information. SEWA provides women in Gujarat with basic computer education to help them manage micro enterprises. What are the problems? Uneven regional development leading to greater inequality between states and also greater rich-poor, urban-rural inequalities; and lack of absorptive capacity standing in the way of knowledge filtering to other sectors of the economy. Importantly, there is poor domestic demand for ICT as it remains outward looking. The paper concludes that ICT can be the answer to unmet demands and needs of Indians. It has already started to improve infrastructure, education, health, gender, private enterprise, governance, rural development and public services. And there is enormous potential for future development. We can turn to T T Srikumaran (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) for some hard evidence on the ground.

He examines the Gyandoot in Madhya Pradesh, village knowledge centre in Pondicherry (IVRP) and TARA kendras in Punjab. The model is of multipurpose kiosks in rural areas catering to specific local and clientele-based packaging and delivery of information. Gyandoot has wider coverage and strong social roots. There are clear signs of empowerment, though still partial and limited. There are instances of local power relations being reinforced. However, there is relatively better local use because of the unique set of services the project offers. In Pondicherry, the kiosks which rely heavily on local resources offer highly uneven facilities. Critically, communities which are backward and poor are unable to acquire the infrastructure required to set up the kiosks. The reality is that though massive job creation and poverty alleviation may be the lofty goals, it is extremely difficult to pursue them with an overemphasis on the potential of new technologies. Both the state and social enterprise models have systematically overstated their achievements leading to a glorification of the potential of ICT based initiatives.

From Rediff, India, 12 March 2003

A Government Roadmap for the Information and Communications Technology Industry

Like most countries in the world, the Philippines aspires to enter more markets in the global network of the information and communications industry. Each day tens of millions of Internet users send each other electronic mail and surf around the net, all from their personal computers. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Internet which has been open for business for decades and the markets for on-line services and information providers have become more populous than many countries in the world. It has become imperative for the Philippine government to create an exhaustive government roadmap for the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, one which indicates where the country stands and how it should proceed in the global ICT market. Such a plan was recently made public during an information technology outsourcing conference-exhibit held at the World Trade Center Manila. During the meeting, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called on all local and foreign corporate companies in the country, to source all corporate solutions from local information and communications technology software developers and solutions providers, to hasten the growth of the local ICT industry.

The blueprint of the ICT roadmap made by the Information Technology and E-Commerce Council (ITECC) has the specific vision, success indicators, strategic directions for the year, and priority projects or recommendations that make up the ITECC - e-government, human resources, business, legal and regulatory, and information infrastructure. The implementation of the e-government plan is expected to result in improved efficiency, accessibility, accountability, and transparency in delivering basic services to Filipinos on line. The human resource plan aims for a reliable and sustainable source of information on existing IT skills in the country, while the draft for business development is focused on positioning the country as a world-class ICT services provider that creates jobs and spurs the growth of dollar revenue inflows into the country. Foremost in the agenda of the legal and regulatory environment, the ITECC's aim is to create a new Cabinet-level agency to oversee all ICT-related policies and programs of the government. On information infrastructures, the ITECC's plan is to provide affordable Internet access to all segments of the population. Ultimately, all these initiatives aim to realize the Information Technology and E-Commerce Council's vision of an e-enabled society where empowered citizens have access to technologies that will provide quality education, efficient government, greater source of livelihood, and a better way of life. We congratulate our government for developing this roadmap and look forward to its realization.

From Manila Bulletin, Philippines, 13 March 2003

Singapore, Thailand To Work Together in IT Industries

Singapore and Thailand are set to work together in strengthening their respective information technology industries. Thailand hopes to improve its IT sector while Singapore is looking to widen its already strong market. To fully develop its IT industry and infrastructure, Thailand has just set up an Information and Communication Technology Ministry. Since Singapore is already one of the kingdom's closest partners and biggest investors, it is not surprising that Thailand would turn to this ASEAN neighbor for insights on how to nurture its burgeoning IT sector. A delegation led by Singapore's Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, David Lim is in Bangkok to lay the ground work for further cooperation in the IT industry. Thai Minister for Information and Communication Technology, Surapong Suebwonglee, said: "Minister Lim and the government of Singapore have done ICT development before us such as e-governmemt or e-commerce or some kinds of e-learning. They have much experience and we should learn from them. We can collaborate together."

And the rejoinder from his Singapore's counterpart: "Minister Surapong and I shared our experience and how we approach the development of ICT. I'm struck by the similarity of how we think about the development of this industry." Currently, Thailand's mobile phone industry caters to some 20 million people. With appropriate policies and development, experts believe this figure can double within the next few years. It is a target Thailand hopes to achieve by working with Singapore. "Singapore companies, having been through some product cycles, have the technical know-how and they will benefit from collaborating and partnering with Thai companies who have user know-how and vice versa," said Mr. Lim.While in Thailand, the Singapore Minister also launched the "Made in Singapore Roadshow" organized by the republic's IT Federation. Mr Surapong is scheduled to visit Singapore in June and may hold further discussions with Mr. Lim. The closer cooperation in IT and communications enhances already strong bilateral ties between the two ASEAN neighbors.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, by Sarosha Pornudomsak, 12 March 2003

'Government Preparing Plan for Coastal Areas Development'

Karachi - Advisor to Prime Minister for Privatization and Investment Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh has said, the government is preparing a plan for the development of coastal areas and to attract investment locally as well as from abroad. The plan envisages massive coconut plantations, which will not only beautify our coastline but also help save Rs 32 billion in foreign exchange presently being spent on the import of edible oil. He was speaking as the chief guest at a reception, hosted by the Pakistan Coconut and Oilpalm Plantation Society (PCOPS) said sources on Saturday. Dr Sheikh said, "The government is keen to attract foreign investment in various projects for the country's long coastal line and to develop it on the pattern of Sri Lanka and Malaysia." Earlier PCOPS Chairman Kaukab Iqbal recalled the services of Mr. Sheikh as finance minister of Sindh and said his success in the Senate elections was a manifestation of the confidence of people in him. The members of PCOPS, farmers and investors also attended the reception.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 15 March 2003

International Constitutionalists Here to Hold Seminars on Federalism

Two eminent federal constitutionalists of the Canada-based Forum of International Network on Federalism who are now in Sri Lanka on the invitation of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) will hold seminars among Tamil parliamentarians on federal concepts, SLMC sources said. They will be joined by a team of experts of the Forum, for extended seminars and workshops among members of local government bodies and university students in the North and East. They will also educate prominent Muslim citizens of the Eastern Province on federal concepts, the sources said. SLMC leader Minister Rauff Hakeem accorded a reception last week to Chairman of the Forum, Bob Rae, and his colleague Prof. David Camaron at "Dharusalam", the party headquarters. Speaking at a well attended discussion that followed, Bob Rae disclosed that the Forum is made up of senior academics and former politicians who work on federal constitutions around the world. Bob Rae said that although there were different examples of the federal concept, neither he nor Prof. Cameron were in a position to indicate any particular form of federalism as a solution to the Sri Lankan conflict and that it would be inappropriate for them to do so. "It is very much for the people of the Island to decide what form of federalism and what form of constitution would be needed. We can provide the expertise on federalist concepts throughout the world", he said, explaining that they would like to be looked at as a very useful resource towards evolving a suitable model of federalism for Sri Lanka. Minister Rauff Hakeem presented a detailed account of the peace initiatives undertaken over the past two decades. He explained the outcome of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of July 1987, peace efforts of successive governments under the leadership of President R. Premadasa and President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. He said that they are happy since the Muslims' aspirations and their right for independent representation at the peace talks have now been recognised.

From Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka, by P. Krishnaswamy, 22 March 2003

 

New Report Examines the Overall Social and Economic Dimension of FP5

A new report by the Commission's DG Research into the overall socio-economic (SE) dimension of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) concludes that the general SE relevance of FP5 projects is high, and that further action is needed to enhance the social and economic impact of research. 'When looking at future prospects (...) it is not so much on increasing the amount of SE-related research where efforts appear necessary, but rather on the enhancement of the SE value that can be drawn from research programmes,' states the report. This leads to a distinction between the SE dimension of a project (the inputs) and its SE impact (the outputs). In order to effectively maximise the impact of Community research on the economy and society, the report first identifies the need for qualitative and quantitative tools to measure such impacts. Any attempt to measure societal and economic changes is described, however, as 'an extremely challenging exercise'. One example of the difficulty of assessing the SE impact of a project is defining a time frame in which to do so: 'The SE effects of a given research activity may not be visible in the short term, and their materialisation may depend on the deployment of further targeted initiatives: impact assessment should be carried out within a time frame which can be extended accordingly,' states the report. On a quantitative basis, the report admits that no systematic impact assessment can be credibly carried out at present due to the lack of appropriate datasets. Under FP5, however, significant progress has been made towards developing methods and tools for general impact assessment, which should facilitate the future creation of SE-specific datasets.

A qualitative approach to impact assessment, on the other hand, can be attempted using the 'citation index' method. This method involves analysing instances where research activities have directly inspired policy actions (such as legislation and directives). A quantitative analysis of the SE dimension of research programmes is more straightforward, using, for example, a measurement of the amount of resources that are explicitly committed to SE-relevant objectives. Using such a method, the report analyses the level of dedicated funding for socio-economic research activities within the main SE-focussed programme of FP5 (Improving Human Potential). It puts this figure at around 190 million euro, with SE-related elements in other programmes putting the final amount well over 200 million euro. It also calculates that in the citizens and governance, support for the coherent development of policies, and science and society programmes of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the level of core SE-related funding will rise to 355 million euro. This figure will again be complemented by socio-economic research carried out within the other thematic and horizontal priority areas. Regardless of the levels of dedicated funding for SE-related research, the report stresses the importance of this aspect of the framework programmes: 'Socio-economic impact should not be considered as just one among other components of a multi-criteria evaluation framework, but rather as the criterion by which to assess the ultimate success (or failure) of research activities; whereby societal problems drive the identification of research needs.'

From EU Business, UK, 25 February 2003

New Laws Urged to Fight Rural Poverty

The Government must introduce urgent legislation to prevent Northern Ireland's countryside sliding into a state of deep crisis, two leading rural organisations warned today. As the Belfast Telegraph launches a major series highlighting how an Ulster way of life is under threat, the Rural Development Council (RDC) and the Rural Community Network (RCN) both warned that Government must make a firm commitment to improve the rural dwellers' lot. As farm incomes slump to their lowest level in living memory and up to 1,500 farmers each year are forced out of the industry, both bodies are calling on Government to produce a Rural White Paper paving the way to greater stability. According to rural leaders, the way of life for thousands of people is under a huge threat due to lack of investment and facilities. Among the issues are: -proper health provision; -full school provision; -access to transport; -access to proper facilities such as banking and libraries. Today new research from the RDC reveals how the slump in farming has had a devastating effect on Ulster's rural population and how many aspects of country life are affected. Chief executive Martin McDonald told the Telegraph: "Government introduced the concept of 'Rural Proofing' which was not only difficult to explain but was difficult to implement across all Government departments. "If we are not to undermine the place and importance of rural areas for the whole of Northern Ireland we need the certainty that comes from a Rural White Paper."

Niall Fitzduff, Rural Community Network director, said: "Less than 6% of the workforce is involved in agriculture, 22% of the population lives in the open countryside and 43% in settlements under 10,000 people. "Service centralisation and rationalisation have left many rural communities without adequate health, transport and education provision. "Rural areas hide poverty among plenty - 30% of rural households are without access to a car. "Fatal accidents happen on rural roads - 73% of all fatalities in Northern Ireland during 2000. "The Regional Development Strategy sets out a rural dimension incorporating 60% of the population. What does not exist is a policy for the future of rural society. "This should be framed within the context of a Rural White Paper following the broadest possible public debate. "Rural communities need to be at the heart of any restructuring process." Agriculture Minister Ian Pearson said:"There are many issues affecting the Northern Ireland countryside and the rural community itself will have a strong view on the priority which should be afforded to each. "I have given a clear indication of my commitment and absolute determination to deliver to Northern Ireland's agriculture industry by taking forward initiatives in many areas."

From Belfast Telegraph, UK, 3 March 2003

Public Administration from Single Text To Sectors' Code

Rome - The goals of the law proposed by the Minister of Public Administration, approved yesterday by the Senate, are to make legislative procedures more simple, drastically reduce the number of laws, provide the citizen with an easy consultation tool: the code. "The single text - informs a statement of the ministry - will be replaced by the code, which will gather all the norms regulating the various sectors". The first sectors that will be included in the code are: drawing up of norms, simplification and quality of norms, security on the work place, insurances, incentives for enterprises, production and marketing of foodstuffs, safeguard of consumers, legal appraisals, the internationalisatio n of enterprises, restructuring of the firemen corps, increase of IT in public structures and in administrative documentation. Other measures involved by the law are the modification of the regulation of labour in public administration, particularly regarding: the acknowledgement of seniority for some categories of state employees who carry out activities in public or private bodies, even international, different from the original one; the introduction of an autonomous contracting area of some state employees and the clarifying of the inclusion of professional workers who carry out technical and scientific tasks in specific sectors.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia - 20 March 2003

 

Senate Passes Economic Development, Public Service Commission Bills

Cheyenne, Wyo. - The Wyoming Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would create a consumer advocacy office in the state Public Service Commission and would fund economic development grants for local communities. The Public Service Commission has the responsibility to make sure Wyoming consumers are receiving fair utility rates and high quality service. Advocates of House Bill 143 said the bill would give consumers a voice in commission hearings and would help them navigate the complex commission process. The bill would allow the commission to expand by up to six staff members to help staff the new consumer advocacy office. The cost for those staff members would be tacked onto fees consumers pay on their utility bills. Sen. Bill Hawks, R-Casper, speaking against the bill, called it ''one of those typical politically correct feel-good kind of bills.'' Another senator questioned the expansion of the commission's personnel, saying she was not convinced the move will improve representation for consumers. Sen. Irene Devin, R-Laramie, also said it will cost a lot to expand the commission to small companies. But Sen. Rich Cathcart, D-Carpenter, said the office is necessary to help consumers through a complicated process. ''The average citizen cannot go down to the Public Service Commission and intervene in rate cases,'' he said. ''The bill will give average citizens access to people who can help them.''

The Senate passed the bill on a 18-12 vote. Later Tuesday, the House approved changes made to the bill in the Senate. It now heads downstairs to the governor's office. The Senate also approved a bill meant to spur economic development across the state by creating an $8.4 million ''Business Ready Community Account.'' Under the bill, the Wyoming Business Council would review grant requests from communities for infrastructure improvements, then recommend what grants to fund to the State Land and Investment Board, which would make the final decision. Later Tuesday, the House voted against changes made in the Senate so the bill goes to a conference committee to work out the differences. Other bills approved by the Senate include: -HB300, which would allow the state to pursue legal action against the federal government over endangered species issues; and -HB305, which would create a medical malpractice panel, giving parties in medical malpractice claims a way to resolve their disputes outside court. The House agreed with Senate changes to HB300, sending the bill to the governor. The House did not agree with Senate changes to HB305, so that bill heads to a conference committee.

From Wyoming News, WY, by Suzanne Bates, 5 March 2003

Forman Tapped For New e-Gov Office

President Bush on March 4 announced his intention to appoint Mark Forman as director of the new Office of Electronic Government at the Office of Management and Budget, fulfilling a requirement of the E-Government Act of 2002. Forman currently serves as assistant director for information technology and e-government at OMB, a position Bush created in June 2001. His responsibilities would not change significantly because the E-Gov Act's co-sponsors deliberately fashioned the language about the new office based on Forman's current position. However, the term of the new position will now outlast the Bush administration, a key consideration as agencies continue to move forward with e-government efforts.

From FCW.com, 6 March 2003

 
 

Save Local Government System From Collapse, Nigerians Urged

Deputy Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. Pally Iriase, has called on well meaning Nigerians to rise up to the defence of the local government system in Nigeria. Speaking with newsmen in Benin-City recently, Iriase, who is also the Owan West Local Government chairmanship candidate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), stated that the elimination of the local government system would lead to estrangement of Nigerians at the grassroots from democratic governance, thereby undermining democracy in the country. Said Iriase, inter alia: "It has become urgent and important to alert all discerning Nigerians that the Constitution Review Committee of the National Assembly and the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly have concluded arrangements to remove local governments as the third tier of government and reduce them to glorified departments of state ministries of local government and chieftaincy Affairs through an on-going charade called constitutional amendment process.

He posited that any constitutional amendment not predicated on a National Conference will be, at best, a caricature; "Submissions by most Nigerians to both the presidential panel on the Review of the 1999 Constitution and the National Assembly Joint Committee, for the same purpose, clearly indicated that Nigerians prefer even stronger local government system than was stipulated by the 1999 Constitution under review", he said. The chairman noted that all ambitious but democracy-sustaining amendments proposed in the Original Draft Bill for an Act to Amend the 1999 Constitution have been jettisoned by the National Assembly Committee following still opposition by speakers of some state Assemblies acting purely from the angle of sectional, religious or ethnic interest; "There are so many provision of the 1999 Constitution begging for urgent review in the interest of sustainable democracy and true federalism, which the on-going egoistic and self-serving process by the National Assembly does not posses the will-power to address," he said. Iriase dismissed the grounds on which the attempts to axe the local government system were being made, including financial allocation from the Federation Account, saying such issues have adequately been accommodated under Section 162 (sub-sections 3 and 5) of the 1999 Constitution.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Omon-Julius Onabu, 6 March 2003

Now, We Can Fight Corruption

The Senate might be accused of ulterior motives for passing into law a new Bill that repositions the organisation and functions of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). However, whether by commission or omission, the new law approximates better to a good law than what we currently have. And that is why we vehemently dissociate ourselves from a reported recent statement issued by the Smart Adeyemi-led Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), which described the repeal of the existing law by the Senate as an act that is liable to drive away investors from Nigeria. I wonder who Adeyemi and his bedfellows in the National Executive Council of the NUJ think they are fooling. Did I hear you say: "here they come again"? It was this same NEC of the NUJ that, in an unprecedented move, connived with the Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, to carry out a most laughable Media Tour a couple of years ago in which governors played host to the tourists, with varying degrees of generosity. These governors got awarded marks with which some of them have justified their second term ambition. People have insinuated in many quarters that some of the tour participants walked home highly solvent. Put that aside and consider that the basic work of journalists is that of a "watchdog" not only on society but more importantly on government. Imagine keeping a dog at your doorstep to guard your house. How would you feel if the dog welcomes every stranger into the house with a wagging of the tail and sniffing for gifts! Some watchdog.

No matter some media houses refrained from participating and instead sent their own reporters to make independent assessments. Many of these professionally-minded newspaper houses made sure to equip their reporters very well financially, to give no room for comments possibly based on executive inducement. In the same vein, Smart Adeyemi's NUJ and their peers, Adams Oshiomhole's Nigeria Labour Council (NLC) were not able to provide convincing explanation on how the repositioning of the anti-graft law could drive away the teeming investors who have been knocking on the door of Nigeria on account of the existing law. All I know is that Obasanjo's anti-graft law, the very first legislative proposal which he sponsored to the National Assembly on assuming office, is almost four years. In spite of that, Nigeria has been rated among the most corrupt countries in the world by many credible international concerns. These include Transparency International (TI), of which General Olusegun Obasanjo was a Board member before he fell foul of General Abacha's political interests and was sent to jail. In addition, President Obasanjo sent an audit visitation to the various arms of government, including the Legislative, Executive and Judicial arms under the headship of the former Acting Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Vincent Azie. The Azie team returned a verdict that roundly indicted the reckless and anything-but-proper spending of public funds in all branches of the government at the centre. Rather than letting the verdict sober them down and set machinery in motion to comprehensively tackle the reported financial leakage, the Federal Executive Council reacted rather like a person bitten by a mad dog (if not a watchdog, which an auditor is supposed to be).

It is this type of discovery and the negative reaction by government that drives investors away. Corrupt spending of public funds at such a huge scale that attracts negative comment from another international watchdog such as the TI and others also keep investors at bay. These are the things that guide investors to know where their money is safe. And I daresay that the so-called anti-corruption crusade by the Obasanjo administration has flopped more as a result of the law's nature and purport than as a consequence of its scrapping or amendment. The law that has been repositioned gives the President the power to appoint the Chairman and members of the Board of the Commission, subject to the screening and approval of the Senate. This made it look like a typical military law. The only difference between it and a military law is that the President has been unburdened of the powers to make the law, as this is now vested on the Legislature. It resembles a typical military law in that many people have seen it as an instrument of executive dictatorship and witch hunting of political opponents. In most cases when we hear of the ICPC swinging into action, it is invariably hunting down one enemy of the President or the other in the House of Representatives or the Senate. The Speaker of Reps, Alhaji Umar Ghali Na'Abba and the President of the Senate, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, are among those who have tasted the ire of the ICPC, and many blame it on the power struggle between the President and these leaders of the National Assembly.

Their point is justified by the fact that when the going was smooth between the President and these legislative leaders, the ICPC never had occasion to look into the widely reported allegations of corrupt deals between the Presidency and the National Assembly. Both the federal legislature and the executive were accused of midnight briberies, especially when Obasanjo desired the removal of one leader of the Assembly or the other. Retired Justice Mustapha Akanbi's ICPC simply looked the other way, until fights broke out between the legislature and the Presidency. For instance, there was nothing Anyim did to merit a visitation of ICPC operatives, acting alongside Senator Arthur Nzeribe's thugs when the impeachment saga was going on, that he had not done when he was still an obedient errand boy of President Obasanjo. So, this left many people wondering whether corruption only comes alive when a person offends Obasanjo or disagrees with him or engages him in a legitimate struggle for power. The new Bill passed by the Senate has a lot of advantages over the one it modifies. The biggest advantage is that it has been thoroughly depoliticised. It has also been institutionalised.

By vesting the power of appointment and sanction on the supreme organ of the Judiciary, the National Judicial Council, subject to the two-thirds approval of the Senate, the war against corruption is no longer a pet property of politicians, who are invariably after other ulterior motives than fighting corruption. The Senate is a better guarantor of national values than the executive. I am not talking about the present crop of senators. I am talking about the Senate as an institution. The Senate is made up of politicians representing various political parties in Nigeria, as well as ethnic and sectional interests. Laws pass through due processes before they become law, and even this is not completed until the intervention and approval of the President (or the override of a presidential veto) has taken place. As soon as the new law comes into effect, it will be a perpetual federal property, functioning autonomously and automatically, much like say, the police force (even though the police is still politically subjected). We don't have to depend on neo-military public messiahs to wage this war. Messiahs are righteous people. The wars of righteousness (or sanctimony, if you like) are targeted at others. Most messiahs carry heavy logs in their eyes and yet are fiercely after the mote in the eyes of others.

That is the type of messianism that Obasanjo and his old school military prototypes are famous for. The new law will visit the legislative, executive and judicial functionaries. It will visit me, whether the President loves me or not, and irrespective of my own personal feeling on the President. It will visit the President when he has come down from the high office to which we appointed him. Let's be reminded of how former Premier of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, had to answer for alleged corrupt practices when he became an ordinary Israeli. That is the type of law operation that impresses investors. All we will need is for the judicial officer prosecuting it to do it the Dora Akunyili way. Remember "the NAFDAC woman"? That is what I mean. And I think that Justice Mustapha Akanbi should read the handwriting on the wall. He has become embroiled in the politics of the ICPC and he should just take his things honourably and go home before he has to be checked out by force. Now that the ICPC law has been stripped of its political toga, I believe that we are now ready to fight corruption.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Ocherome Nnanna, 6 March 2003

How to Promote Good Governance

The All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Senatorial Candidate for Edo North, Mrs. Remi Agbowu, has observed that the best way to ensure a truly egalitarian society is a complete overhaul of the 1999 Constitution. Mrs. Agbowu, who contested and won the senatorial seat of the same district on the platform of the United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP, is of the view that "unless and until the 1999 Constitution is thoroughly reviewed, the crisis within the polity would continue to plague the Fourth Republic. Mrs. Agbowu lamented that the people of Edo North are fed up with a situation where their representative refused to identify with them for all of three and a half years only to return now to seek their votes. She roles out her plans in this presentation. THE history of this country has been dominated by long years of military rule. Out of the 42 years of post independent Nigeria, the military ruled for about thirty years. The military also implemented a long and windy transition process to civil rule. In 1998, I presented myself for election into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a representative of Edo North Senatorial District. The people voted for me overwhelmingly and I was duly elected but the transition process was truncated. Another programme was initiated which led to the successful hand over of power to civilians on 29th May 1999. We have all seen the performance for the past three and half years which have been characterized by lack of proper focus, mission and direction. There were so many promises and so little delivery.

Although some elected officials tried their best, many of them displayed lack of respect for due process, intolerance and ignorance. Furthermore, not much has been done to create and strengthen the institutions and mechanisms that could help to sustain democracy. More than ever before, there is the need for a crop of dedicated, committed and knowledgeable Nigerians with vision to lay a solid foundation for the democratic development of this country. It was the great philosopher Edmund Burke who stated that for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Good people of Nigeria must stand up to be counted among those who made sacrifice and offered selfless service for the betterment of this country. It is this zeal to contribute my quota to a better Nigeria that has made me respond to the call by my people to represent Edo North Senatorial District at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of our Great Party, the ANPP. As many of my people have argued, it is in a way revalidating the mandate, which was given to me in 1998. As I present myself to represent the people of Edo North Senatorial District, I come with a vision and a mission. I have a vision of Nigeria that is characterized by good governance, protection of human rights, protection of the rights and dignity of women and indeed all Nigerians in an environment that is devoid of degradation and violent conflict. My mission to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to contribute my quota to the making of laws and policies that will bring about consolidation of democracy, empowerment of women, conservation of the environment, infrastructural development and the promotion of good governance. I am seeking your support to go to the Senate with a ten point agenda. Constitutional Reform: The 1999 Constitution, which we are using presently, has been criticized by all strands of society.

There is unanimity that the constitution is an imposition from the military and does not represent the wishes and aspiration of Nigerians. Although the present Executive and Legislature recognized this, they have not put sufficient premium and commitment to it and so have not been able to make a new constitution for the country. I will give top priority to reviewing the 1999 Constitution to become a truly people's constitution. Women and Youth Empowerment: Women constitute 49.5 percent of the population (1991 Census). Women and Youth constitute about 70 percent of the population. If development is about improving the living standards and welfare of people, then women and youth should be given the importance that they deserve. Meanwhile, it has been documented that when the standard of education of women is improved, the standard of living of the whole family improves tremendously. Furthermore, if democracy is about participation of the people, then it will be undemocratic to leave out the majority (women and youth) in any democratic or development endeavour. I will give priority attention to issues that affect women and Youth. It is important to point out that there are women issues in every facet of life: education, economy, health, politics etc. Implementation of Infrastructural Development Projects: The state of infrastructural decay in Nigeria is lamentable. In the Senate, I will influence budgetary allocation for development of infrastructure especially electricity, roads, transportation, water and housing. More importantly, I will encourage my colleagues to beam a constant searchlight on the implementation process, so that budgets are not passed in vain as we have witnessed in the past 4 years.

Law Reform: I will work with other Senators for a comprehensive reform of our laws to bring them to modern reality. For instance I will work for the reform of any law that infringes on the dignity of women and support legislations on violence against women, child trafficking, women trafficking and protection of workers. Protection of the Environment: I will strive to bring laws that will protect our environment from pollution and desertification. I will give special priority to the protection of the ecosystems of the Niger Delta so as to halt further environmental degradation. Protection of Children and the Disabled: In every democratic set up there are usually interest groups that speak for and protect their group interest. Unfortunately, children and the disabled persons in our society usually do not have people to speak for them. In the Senate, I will be a spokesperson for children and the disabled. I will always analyse any policy to see how it affects children, the disabled, Youths and Women. Support for Good Policies: The conceptualization, formulation and implementation of good policies are a sure way of guaranteeing democracy and development. I will propose and support good policies that will benefit the people of Nigeria. I will encourage other legislators to support the making of laws and policies, not with selfish motive or calculation of personal gain but for public good. Institutional Development: The consolidation of democracy can only happen if there is in existence reliable and functioning institutions that are culturally valid. As a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will promote the building of institutions and the observance of due process. Specifically, I will contribute to the building of a virile legislature with competent and dedicated leaders and staff and an independent judiciary. Civil Service Reform: There is no doubt that the civil service is the bedrock of any government. I will support laws, policies and programmes that will lead to restore discipline and professionalism to the service and tackle corruption. I will also support efforts that will overtly help us to eliminate corruption from all facets of Nigerian life. We must rise above just paying lip service to the fight against corruption.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Remi Agbowu, 04 March 2003

Zambia's President Criticizes Party Dissidents on Corruption Probe

Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa has lashed out at dissident members of his ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy. The president Sunday said top party officials are working against him because they are opposed to his corruption investigations against former President Frederick Chiluba. Mr. Chiluba was arrested last month on charges he stole millions of dollars from the government while in office. His arrest came after a high court ruling upheld a move by President Mwanawasa to strip Mr. Chiluba of his immunity from prosecution. President Mwanawasa, handpicked by Mr. Chiluba to succeed him, is himself under scrutiny. The opposition has filed a lawsuit alleging state funds were used illegally to fund his presidential bid. Some information for this report provided by AP.

From Voice of America, 10 March 2003

Nigerian Parliament Debates Anti-Corruption Law

Nigeria's lower house of parliament opened a public debate Tuesday on repealing a law setting up the country's controversial anti-corruption commission. The upper house of parliament voted two weeks ago to repeal the law and replace it. Their new proposal would strip the president's authority to appoint the agency's top officials. President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the commission three years ago, promising to make the fight against corruption a priority of his administration. Many lawmakers have accused the executive branch of using the commission to intimidate political opponents. Meanwhile, several human rights bodies have criticized senators for repealing the law. They say the senators are trying to protect themselves against possible investigations. The work of the commission has not led to the conviction of a single senior public official.

From Voice of America, 11 March 2003

Local Government Act To Be Amended

Mr. Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (LGRM) on Thursday said the Local Government Act 462 is to be amended to broaden the scope of the local government structure. He said; "in addition the law on the minimum population threshold would also be amended to link the size of the district population to the national population in terms of percentage. "A new district would have about 0.06 per cent of the national population," Mr. Baah Wiredu stated at the third and last of series of roundtable discussion on: "Towards Election 2004: The Creation of New District Assemblies." The Act empowers the President to create new districts on the recommendation of the Electoral Commission (EC) based on their population threshold, economic viability of the area in providing basic infrastructure and had the potential for sustainable revenue generation. The requirement also includes the geographical contiguity and the ethnic homogeneity. Mr. Baah Wiredu said the amendment sought to address the lopsided development and lack of equity in the spatial distribution of service and infrastructure. He noted that an all-embracing policy for urban and human settlements development that would broaden programmes for the districts to the local levels would be introduced.

The Minister said the Sub-District Structures would also be strengthen to broaden the distribution of services in the districts with a formula for the Area, Town, Urban and Zonal Councils to have their share of the District Assemblies' Common Funds; Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Funds and other grants for development. Mr. Baah Wiredu said the government had also initiated actions to improve situations at the local level to stem the tide of petitions for new districts. They include streamlining the membership and numbers of the sub-district political institutions to make them more manageable and viable. It would also improve the capacity of Assembly functionaries and staffs to enhance their output and also facilitate the promotion of good governance and balanced development to enable the public to develop confidence in the local government system. The Local Government Minister said: "It is my expectation that when all these programmes are effectively prosecuted the local governments will be well positioned to effectively contribute to the total development of the country. The forum, which was attended by Political Party representatives, Members of Parliament, the Academia, Student Bodies, Journalists, Electoral Officials, Civic Educators and a cross-section of the public was organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development in collaboration with the Friedrich Nuamann Foundation. The participants called for the suspension of the creation of new districts and constituencies for Elections 2004. They expressed concern about the financial implications, the risk of being politicised to disturb the general election.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 13 March 2003

Zvobgo Blasts State Corruption

Eddisom Zvobgo, the Member of Parliament for Masvingo South, this week accused the government of condoning corruption, saying it was time to hunt down those spreading the "Aids of corruption". Moving a motion in Parliament on Tuesday for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission, he said government departments, politicians and parastatals were riddled with corruption and it was time for the "bigger hunt to commence". Warning that unbridled corruption would lead to the decay of the economy and social fabric, the ruling Zanu PF MP said corruption had permeated the institutions of government, parastatals and financial institutions. Zvobgo said: "Notwithstanding the economic difficulties that we have, if you visit some parts of our major cities such as Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru, and observe the buildings, the houses that are coming up - they are obscene. "They are clearly beyond their reach, beyond the means of those who are constructing them." Kumbirai Kangai, the MP for Buhera South (Zanu PF), seconded the motion. Paying tribute to the late Minister of Education, Edmund Garwe, for resigning following the leaking of an examination paper by his daughter, Zvobgo attacked the government's policy of sacking board members for corruption when ministers, and not the board members, ran the parastatals.

Witness Mangwende, the Minister of Transport and Communications, last month summarily dissolved the National Railways of Zimbabwe board and took over control of the parastatal. This came after one of the worst train accidents in the country, in Dete near Hwange, in which more than 50 people were killed with 64 others injured. Zvobgo said: "Corruption has rampaged through parastatals for almost a decade and a half. "The cure has always been one: You sack the board and yet they do not run the parastatal. The actual operatives and employees at the top level remain, let alone the fact that we are yet to have leaders such as ministers accepting responsibility and calling it a day, hence quitting because of the scandals or corruption. "The more responsibility of what has gone wrong is accepted, the more we will raise national consciousness about this scourge, this disease, this 'Aids' called corruption." On the chaotic land redistribution programme, Zvobgo said: "Some people have taken advantage of the exercise to seize two, three, four, five farms." Kangai said: "The motion before this House is long, long overdue. I do not want to bore you with my experience. I went through the grill."

He said Zimbabwe had the security apparatus capable of investigating anything that happened in and outside the country and did not see why corruption was continuing. Kangai was acquitted by the High Court last year of corruption charges involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Speaker of Parliament, abruptly adjourned the session. He deferred debate after Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, moved for an adjournment after both ruling Zanu PF and opposition MDC MPs continued to criticise the government for failing to deal with corruption. This prompted Bulawayo South MP David Coltart (MDC) to ask the Speaker to explain why he wanted to postpone the debate. "It is because there is no one who can relieve me in the House," Mnangagwa said, before shelving the motion to Wednesday. President Mugabe, addressing Parliament on 20 December 2001, said the government remained committed to the eradication of corruption resulting in the previous Parliament providing for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission following the passage of necessary enabling legislation. "We are now into 2003," Zvobgo noted.

From Harare Daily Newspaper, Zimbabwe, 14 March 2003

Corruption Isn't About Personal Morality

It all began with the NARC victory in Kenya. There was some panic in CCM about the repercussions in Tanzania. As leaders groped about for answers, it became increasingly clear that the desire for change was likely to come via corruption. This was the atmosphere at the time Dr Hassy Kitine, MP for Makete in Iringa region, decided to go public with the statement that the Cabinet and parliament had many corrupt members. First to respond was Philip Mangula, secretary general of CCM, who said Dr Kitine should have used party organs to air his views. What followed was a polarisation in which government and CCM officials voiced concern over the allegations while opposition figures cheered Kitine on. Wilson Masilingi, Minister of State in the President's Office in charge of Good Governance, challenged Kitine to produce evidence of corruption among ministers. The fiery Rev Christopher Mtikila, chairman of the Democratic Party (DP), then joined the fray, naming one of the highest officials in the land as the prime culprit. Mtikila twice promised to provide the evidence - a promise he had, by the time of writing, failed to keep.

Corruption is different things to different people. For the opposition, corruption is a potent weapon with which to bring CCM down. CCM, on the other hand, contends that it has internal mechanisms to deal with it, hence the encouragement of members to report cases of corruption for investigation. On the other hand, when demands are made for proof of corruption by individuals, there is a danger of the issue getting hijacked. If a particular official is proved to be corrupt and asked to resign, it may make the opposition and citizens feel good, but it also fosters the misleading notion that we are dealing with an isolated case. Corruption has little to do with personal character. It has everything to do with the system in place. If it were a matter of personality, there would be no corrupt people in President Mkapa's government. Remember Mkapa was first elected in 1995 on an ant-corruption ticket. Within a week of coming to office, Mkapa had declared his property. Within months, he had appointed the Warioba Commission to report on the state of corruption in the country. So you can't say there is lack of will here. It is just that the government is overwhelmed.

Pursuing the government would imply that those in power are a collection of corrupt individuals. By extension, a different collection of individuals would put an end to corruption. There is no denying that the CCM government should be held accountable. But that is not enough to cure the corruption cancer. Nobody has ever suggested the setting up of mechanisms that would compel individuals in positions of authority to behave in a certain manner. People are put in positions of power and society then sits back, relying entirely on their goodwill. There is an old Tanzanian joke about two politicians who went canvassing in the same constituency. One of them, the newcomer, made a lot of promises. Then the incumbent took the floor. "Ladies and gentlemen," he started. "In my first year as MP, I built myself a nice house. In the second year, I built one for my parents. Thereafter I took care of my family and clan. If you elect me this time, it will be your turn. But if you elect my opponent, he still has to worry about himself." After careful consideration, the people re-elected the incumbent.

From East African, Uganda, by Michael Okema, 17 March 2003

NPP Is Offering Good Governance - UK Sec. of State Observes

The United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Development, Clair Short, has noted that the hard work, coupled with social and economic justice taking place in Ghana now is creating better chances and high prospects for the next generation of Ghanaians. She said all indications in Ghana and Africa in general point to total socio-economic liberation of the people on the continent. She observed that many African countries have emulated the economic as well as the social development programmes and policies of Ghana and are making headway. Addressing a cross-section of Ghanaians at a reception at the British House of Commons, the Secretary of State was of the view that the present leadership of Ghana has a lot to offer the people by way of good governance. The meeting was at the instance of the Member of Parliament for Tottenham, Mr. David Lammy, in recognition of the immense contribution of Ghanaians in his constituency towards the socio-economic activities in the constituency. It is estimated that over 200,000 Ghanaians are living in Tottenham, in the Northern part of London, more than any other community in London.

It is also the oldest settlement of Ghanaians in London. Madam Short spoke in glowing terms of the relationship between Britain and its former colony and noted that such a relationship is an envy of many, and stressed the need to deepen it and make it more profound. According to her, Ghana is at the forefront of good governance and is showing to the world that it has actually embraced what it takes to improve the lot of its people. Claire Short, who preferred to be called Nana Ama Attaa III in the Ghanaian parlance, reiterated Ghana's distinguished hospitality - adding that as the first of Britain's African colonies to attain independence, Ghana made a unique impact on a generation of post-war Britons, who were impressed by the easy-going Ghanaians, their exuberant nature and their striking appearance in their traditional dresses. Their distinctive highlife music also caught the imagination, she added. She pledged her country's support and assistance for Ghana's fight for economic and social justice. The Secretary of State for the Treasury, Mr. Paul Boateng, observed that Ghanaians living in the UK have now become an integral part of the country due to their hardwork and the exuberance as well as high level of commitment that have contributed enormously towards the growth of the country.

He expressed the joy of seeing Ghanaians at almost all spheres of human endeavour in the UK and called for transfer of resources and skills back home to help move Ghana forward. Mr. Boateng, himself a Ghanaian, stated " the new wind of democracy and good governance blowing through Ghana now is a challenge to all of us. Our future is determined by what we do today and each one of us has something to contribute." He noted with satisfaction the level of commitment by the Prime Minister of Britain, the Chancellor, and the Secretary of State for International Development towards the development of Ghana. Ghana's High Commissioner to the UK, Mr. Isaac Osei said the recognition of the good works of Ghanaians by high senior and government figures in the UK should spur them on and make the illustrious and defined properties of the Ghanaian be exhibited everywhere. He announced that his out fit is working out plans to get the Ghanaian community a licensed radio station to help in the dissemination of information.

From Ghanaian Chronicle, Ghana, 17 March 2003

Corruption Will Be Wiped Out in a Year, Says PS

The Government will win the war against corruption within the next 15 months, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, John Githongo, said today. Githongo said that already corrupt interests have been disrupted by the changes at senior Government positions and in the civil service.He was speaking at a luncheon organised by the Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya (ICPSK) at a Nairobi hotel. The PS however said that some corrupt networks have been trying to re-organise themselves when they found themselves under siege. He however said that such elements will never succeed as there is political will in the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) Government to root out corruption in Kenya. "The fight against corruption has to be led and to be owned. There is now political will," Githongo said. Githongo said that as President Mwai Kibaki has taken the lead to fight against corruption it has become easier for others to fight the vice. He said the fight against corruption was going on well so far adding that the current style of leadership has managed to change the atmosphere.

The PS said there was now a new style of systemising change and what was remaining was making it operational. "What is needed is continued pressure from the public and the media," he said. He said the President's commitment to fight corruption is a factor in giving confidence to private investors. Githongo urged both foreign and local investors to speak to the Government and tell it the problems they had been facing and they still face so that the Government can take appropriate measures. "There is no more pecking order as it was in the previous regime. They should deal with institutions directly," he said. He said the Government has been dealing with the institutions that have been making it difficult for foreign investors to work like the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the Airports and the Immigration department among others. Githongo said that measures the Government has been taking to fight against corruption include changes and adjustments in the legal framework, creating and reforming institutions to fight corruption with the judiciary as the priority.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Athman Amran, 18 March 2003

Cultures, Democracy and Environmental Governance

Cultures, in its widest sense, is a people's way of life, their values, attitudes, beliefs and customs. Culturally, the Nigerian society is one which tends to neglect its surroundings in which they live. Thus, it is sad to continually see that all forms of dirty habits have increasingly become part of our cultural practices and this way of life has been with us now for a long time. A visit to the urban areas and villages in Nigeria shows that most people have been living and are still willing to live in dirty environments in this age when the environment forms an integral concern in development issues. Also, these habits have been consciously and unconsciously passed down from one generation to another one, going by the fact that there is great indifference in the attitudes of the young ones in the way they handle wastes and their lack of concern for the deteriorating environmental conditions in and around them. To make matters worse, most of our leaders at the different levels of government have travelled far and wide, around the world, times without number, but have not yet realized the need for a clean and healthy environment, strict enforcement of environmental laws and the importance of caring for the environment. As a result, much emphasis has not been put on environmental issues. However, the government has made effort in creating the Ministry of Environment both at the Federal, State and the local government levels.

Nevertheless, I would want to point out that the reasons why these bodies were created have not been achieved so far in the history of this nation. Secondly, I think that the workers in these agencies do not quite appreciate their duties to ensure a clean environment. Likewise, their active involvement in environmental management in the areas of public awareness and implementation of environmental laws are greatly lacking in professionalism. In addition, several Task Forces have been set up by the past governments, but the enforcement of simple environmental laws for ensuring clean and healthy environment has eluded us for a long time now in the country. It is quite disappointing to notice that with the passing of each day, our environment becomes worse than before, because we have since turned it into dumping sites, dustbins and therefore, all sorts of solid and liquid wastes are found everywhere in our surroundings, especially in the city of Lagos. Wastes of all sorts are seen littering almost all nooks and crannies, creating disgusting sites and horribly foul odours in the atmosphere. Nigerians are so dirty that having our immediate surroundings untidy has become a norm in our society, and it is so difficult for us to do away with this unprofitable behaviour and even to give a second thought to how to take proper care of the environment that houses us.

Moreover, the lack of public toilets in public areas, has led to continued defecation with faeces and urine on open fields, along the roadsides, market places, motor parks and drainages. The worst kind of scenario is seen whenever there is a heavy downpour of rains, everywhere becomes so flooded that walking across roads or even crossing paths becomes difficult because you many never be sure of what you could be stepping on. This kind of situation is seen in most market places such as Oshodi, Mushin, Idumota and several other markets in Lagos. Adeyemo wrote in from Lagos: In Oshodi market, for instance, rainwater becomes stagnated for days because of lack of proper drainage systems, bad roads and with the pockets of wastes here and there, the whole place has been turned into an eye sore. Similarly, these indiscriminate dumping of wastes, coupled with the high levels of smoke, soots and various poisonous oxides that are continuously emitted by the numerous buses and lorries that ply the ever congested Oshodi road everyday, have resulted to the persistent blackish and dirty stagnant water all over the market place. Meanwhile, the environmental health hazards of this kind of environmental condition cannot be overemphasized. The poor market sellers and pedestrians around these areas are daily being exposed to millions of germs that have multiplied and harboured by the dirts over the years.

This situation is so bad that when driving in an air-conditioned vehicle, the strong odours emanating from the degrading wastes around find their ways into the vehicle. This is to say that neither the poor nor the rich is immuned from the health risks that the present environmental condition poses. Furthermore, these dirty cultures have gotten into us to the point that whenever people eat while in motion, either in private or public cars, they easily feel free to throw left overs or wastes through vehicle windows onto the roads without caution or having a feeling of causing any harm to the environment. It is also in Nigeria that will find bus conductors, mechanic boys, market women in dirty clothes boarding the same bus with well dressed people without objection. Indeed, I feel many people seem to be comfortable to see the streets dirty and some how satisfied living in this awful condition of our environment. For example the traders and food vendors sell unprotected food items in the open areas and they still get people to patronize them who are willing to eat in these smelly places and even along with a large number of vector flying around their food. It is also necessary to say that market traders are the guiltiest of this unkind behaviour towards the environment. They generate inorganic wastes in large quantities everyday and they easily dump unbagged wastes on highways.

This dirty habit has also found its way into private hospitals, where waste bins are left uncovered and overflowing, thereby causing health risks to people living around the hospitals. In this case, a place that supposes to restore health to the sick has become a source of ill health to people. Finally, the government has failed so far to provide adequate number of street dustbins and an effective way of collecting and carting away of wastes from the cities to the various dumping sites. To date, past governments have used corrupt means of providing poor forms, non-durable dustbins and insufficient number of dustbins. Also, they have not been able to collect wastes as and at when due. This shows incapability of the government to carry out an efficient and effective environmental management of our wastes. Having listed a few of the dirty cultural practices amongst us, it is high time to give lasting solutions to solve specific problems of solid waste management once and for all in Nigeria.

I hereby suggest that the government should be more concerned about environmental issues so as to prevent the looming epidemic in the country because we may not have the financial capacity to arrest it if it should happen. The government needs to act fast in the following ways; everybody should be made to pay for the collection and disposal of their waste, that is to say that the government should no longer do it for free; paying of fines for indiscriminate dumping of wastes be enforced and probably arrest people that are found littering the environment with wastes. Environmental Day should be brought back so that people will have a sense of duty to their surroundings and lastly, the Ministry of Environment at the federal and state levels should engage in public awareness campaign about the environment. In conclusion, let us all protect our environment from further deterioration and let us make it environmentally safe for us to live in. (Oyenike A. Adeyemo, Africa Infrastructure Foundation, 13, Aba Johnson, Crescent, off Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos).

From Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria, by Oyenike A. Adeyemo, 18 March 2003

NPP is Offering Good Governance

The United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Development, Clair Short, has noted that the hard work, coupled with social and economic justice taking place in Ghana now is creating better chances and high prospects for the next generation of Ghanaians. She said all indications in Ghana and Africa in general point to total socio-economic liberation of the people on the continent. She observed that many African countries have emulated the economic as well as the social development programmes and policies of Ghana and are making headway. Addressing a cross-section of Ghanaians at a reception at the British House of Commons, the Secretary of State was of the view that the present leadership of Ghana has a lot to offer the people by way of good governance. The meeting was at the instance of the Member of Parliament for Tottenham, Mr. David Lammy, in recognition of the immense contribution of Ghanaians in his constituency towards the socio-economic activities in the constituency. It is estimated that over 200,000 Ghanaians are living in Tottenham, in the Northern part of London, more than any other community in London. It is also the oldest settlement of Ghanaians in London.

Madam Short spoke in glowing terms of the relationship between Britain and its former colony and noted that such a relationship is an envy of many, and stressed the need to deepen it and make it more profound. According to her, Ghana is at the forefront of good governance and is showing to the world that it has actually embraced what it takes to improve the lot of its people. Claire Short, who preferred to be called Nana Ama Attaa III in the Ghanaian parlance, reiterated Ghana's distinguished hospitality - adding that as the first of Britain's African colonies to attain independence, Ghana made a unique impact on a generation of post-war Britons, who were impressed by the easy-going Ghanaians, their exuberant nature and their striking appearance in their traditional dresses. Their distinctive highlife music also caught the imagination, she added. She pledged her country's support and assistance for Ghana's fight for economic and social justice. The Secretary of State for the Treasury, Mr. Paul Boateng, observed that Ghanaians living in the UK have now become an integral part of the country due to their hardwork and the exuberance as well as high level of commitment that have contributed enormously towards the growth of the country.

He expressed the joy of seeing Ghanaians at almost all spheres of human endeavour in the UK and called for transfer of resources and skills back home to help move Ghana forward. Mr. Boateng, himself a Ghanaian, stated " the new wind of democracy and good governance blowing through Ghana now is a challenge to all of us. Our future is determined by what we do today and each one of us has something to contribute." He noted with satisfaction the level of commitment by the Prime Minister of Britain, the Chancellor, and the Secretary of State for International Development towards the development of Ghana. Ghana's High Commissioner to the UK, Mr. Isaac Osei said the recognition of the good works of Ghanaians by high senior and government figures in the UK should spur them on and make the illustrious and defined properties of the Ghanaian be exhibited everywhere. He announced that his out fit is working out plans to get the Ghanaian community a licensed radio station to help in the dissemination of information.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Nana Sifa Twum, 19 March 2003

Transparency Is Crucial To Good Governance

Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Minister for Information and Presidential Affairs, has observed that one ingredient needed for good governance was transparency. He said this was because it enhanced the confidence that people have for their leaders, which in the long term made governance much easier and successful. Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey was speaking at the sod-cutting ceremony for the first phase of the three phase Ashale-Botwe /Nmai Dzorn Water Project in Accra on Saturday. Speaking on the need for good management of contributions of 500,000 cedis per resident towards the project, he said it would be best for residents to be well informed on every step concerning the utilization of the money. The Minister said this would enhance their confidence and also urge those who are yet to hand in their contributions to do so. He commended the people for their spirit of self-reliance and said it signified the re-awakening of people that they have to be involved in activities aimed at enhancing the well being of themselves and their communities.

In a speech read on his behalf, Mr. Yaw Barimah, Minister for Works and Housing, said by the development of new settlements, the capital kept expanding, which meant more investment into urban water supply, adding that worn out pipelines also needed replacement. He said although the government desired to solve the problem, that could not be fully achieved due to financial constraints, hence the need for the participation of the private sector in water distribution. The Minister congratulated the organizers of the project and said the Ministry of Works and Housing would ensure financial assistance for the project. One hundred million cedis have so far been received as contributions by residents towards the project which is estimated to cost about five billion cedis. Out of this amount, 90 million cedis have been used to purchase 155 eight-inch pipes to cover one kilometer out of the entire eight kilometers of the project. The project, a joint effort of the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), is to be completed by the end of the year.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 23 March 2003

AMA's Problems Are Due To Type of Governance

The Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu on Saturday observed that the problems of Accra Metropolis is due to the system of its governance. He, therefore, called on participants at a two-day seminar on metropolitan governance in Ghana to come out with 'down to earth' proposals for dealing with the seemingly ungovernable nature of the city. The Minister said in an address read for him at a seminar organised by the ministry in collaboration with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Institute of Local Government Studies and funded by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation at Cape Coast. It is being attended by members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Local Government and Rural Development, Members of Parliament from both majority and minority sides, key administrators from the ministry, public service providers including those from security and representatives from the Kumasi and Shama Ahanta East Metropolitan Assemblies. The seminar is under the theme "Accra Today and Tomorrow" and aims at examining problems of metropolitan governance, using the (AMA) as a case study.

It will seek to identity issues, derive lessons, distinguish between legislative and administrative requirements and propose action that may be considered by the Kumasi and the Shama Ahanta East Metropolitan Assemblies. The Minister was not happy that the three Metropolitan Assemblies are treated like any other district, which he said is unfair saying that there is the need to classify their chief executives into a different category. Mr. Baah-Wiredu advised the participants to come out with recommendations to guide policy makers in the city. He also urged them to come out with 'prescriptions on how to govern Accra more effectively, how to increase revenue for the metros, how to deal with the problem of sanitation and the constant floods'. The Minister assured them that the findings and recommendations would be submitted to the Cabinet so that the necessary legislative backup would be given for its implementation. Chairman of the Select Committee who is also the Member of Parliament for Bosome-Freho, Mr. Gabriel Amoah was of the opinion that at the end of the seminar, participants would be able to come out with recommendations that would help address most of the problems identified with the metropolitan assemblies.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 23 March 2003

Local Government Reform Challenges Identified

Dar es Salaam - The Government of Tanzania is in the process of reforming the local government system on Tanzania Mainland. The overall goal of the reform is to improve the quality, access and equitable delivery of public services across the board. This was revealed during a recent Breakfast Talks session at the Courtyard Hotel in Dar es Salaam. The event, which was jointly prepared by Business Times Limited, HakiElimu, and an NGO, Policy Forum, brought together a number of renowned academicians, senior Government officers, social activists and selected members from the general public. In his opening remarks, the permanent secretary in the President's Office, Deo Mmari, said the main strategy that is designed to bring about the required reforms is decentralisation. This will be in the form of devolution of powers, functions and resources from the central Government, as well as from higher levels in the local government to lower levels, including village councils. Mmari, who is in charge of the regional administration and local government portfolio at the ministry, said the decentralisation is not intended to end at the district/urban council level, but will extend to levels which are closest to the people. "In this context - and in order to infuse further in-built incentives for the attainment of the devolution objectives -deliberate moves are being taken to place service delivery outlets under direct surveillance of, and accountability to, the lowest local government levels," he said.

It was noted during the discussions that Tanzania has learned through previous decentralisation experience that it is not enough to have in place good and rational institutional and legal frameworks in order to achieve good local governance and improved service delivery. It was said that what is crucial is the development and systematic implementation of good governance mechanisms - particularly those relating to increased transparency and accountability at all local government levels, as well as enhanced devolution of effective power to the masses through grassroots local government institutions. Devolving functions and responsibilities upon grassroots local governance institutions is irreversible, since the reforms are generally accepted by the public who see in them the only viable option to bring about improved basic service delivery and sustainable development in their localities.

The main challenges for the devolution process, which has already been set in motion, include the ability to sustain the public enthusiasm that has already been generated - particularly at the village levels - through enhanced democratic participation, transparency and accountability. Also challenging is the willingness of upper level local government authorities to give up their powers and resources to the people through their grassroots local government institutions. Another challenge is the ability to change the mindset of leaders at the local government level - and, particularly, at the community level. The leaders have to put more trust in the people, letting them decide their priorities, and determine the manner in which they intend to deal with the challenges facing them, instead of continuing to take decisions on their behalf. Finally, they have to evolve and operationalise effective mechanisms to combat maladministration and all forms of corruption at the local level. The meeting concluded that, with the passage of time, continuing political goodwill and popular acceptance of the core values of the reforms, the Government is convinced that devolution of power functions and resources to the grassroots levels will be realised.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 21 March 2003

Obasanjo's Aide Assures on Good Governance

President Olusegun Obasanjo's Special Adviser on Political matters, Dr. Gbolade Oshinowo, has said that the political process is too important to be left in the hands of charlatans. Speaking at the award/induction ceremony of the Professional Forum in Lagos, Oshinowo said in his speech titled: 'The Importance of Professionalism in Nation-building' that every nation deserves the kind of leadership it gets adding that a nation is a reflection of the sum total of its citizenry. However, he noted that most Nigerians who criticise the state of the nation do not do so with the aim of changing or improving things. "A little thought will show us that Nigeria, our nation, is a reflection of our collective acts of commission or omission," he said. Gbolade added that the Nigerian project was born out of the hope that the synergy of diverse ethnic groups will result in a vibrant, dynamic nation. "There is the cynical view that the colonial government's main motivation was to balance its administrative account book"; he said, "The British might have laid the foundation of a new nation, but building it to our taste is our responsibility. We must appreciate that Nigeria is being created even now and we are its creator. The nation's future depend on our vision, passion, action and our sense of mission." According to him, nobody is exempted from this monumental duty, least of all Nigerian professionals from amongst whose ranks come the nation best and finest crop of men and women of ability. He described professionalism as single-minded dedication while persistent commitment to a vocation is its hallmarks. "nation building which is close to the realm of politics in Nigeria which is said to be dirty, violent and corrupt. etc., he stated. The argument for participating in the political process would determine the kind of Nation you would live in the greatest punishment to the wise who refuse to rule is that they will suffer the rule of idiots."

From This Day, Nigeria, by Mojisola Idris, 23 March 2003

 

India Facing a Crisis of Governance: Modi

New Delhi - Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that India was facing a 'crisis of governance' due to the 'indifference' of the educated elite, the non-participation of the deprived and the growing tendency of seeing things in a bad light. "The non-participation because of indifference or because of deprivation of a large number of our citizens in public life is the root cause of poor governance," he said speaking on "How can Indian states get their act together?," while participating in the India Today Conclave. Besides, he said what was affecting the governance was the tendency of not (not) seeing things in a proper perspective. "The habit of carrying flowerpots is fast diminishing and is being replaced by carrying dustbins," he said. "How could there be a feel good factor in the country if the states failed to emulate each others' best practices and achievements," he asked. Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna, who also spoke on the issue, underlined the need for the Centre and the states to build on each others strengths. Krishna, who dwelt on length on the need to keep pace with the strides in information technology in the knowledge age, regretted that both the Centre and the states were not using the technology to the maximum extent possible in governance.

Modi said real progress was not possible unless a political culture is evolved in the country under which there was a broad consensus among all political parties on the major problems facing the nation. "We will not be able to embark on a strategy of rapid growth if there was a lack of collective atmosphere and predominace of the political agenda," he said adding Konkan Railway was a shining example of how wonderful projects could be created if the states acted together. Krishna felt the difficult fiscal situation faced by the states was a problem that they would have to bear for a long time. Modi, however, was of the view that the state finances could be streamlined if they give up populist measures and instead opt for a growth-oriented economy. "Some people may not like it, but it is a fact that some budgets are made out of the fear of the media.....what media will say and how the Opposition will react." Answering a query, the Gujarat Chief Minister said there is a serious need for electoral reforms to reverse the trend in which a "good person is a bad candidate". He quipped, "If Mahatma Gandhi contests from Porbandar and Chatrapati Shivaji from Pune, chances are that they might not win."

From Sun Network, India, 3 March 2003

Nomura Names New CEO, Plans New Governance Model

Japan's biggest brokerage house, Nomura Holdings Inc, said on Friday it would switch to a U.S.-style corporate governance structure in June and announced a change of top management. Under the management structure due to take effect in April, Nobuyuki Koga, currently executive vice president of Nomura Holdings Inc, will become president and chief executive officer, replacing Junichi Ujiie, who will become chairman. Ujiie will brief on the change at 4:30 p.m. (0730 GMT).Nomura said in a statement that it plans to scrap its Japanese audit system and set up a U.S.-style corporate governance model, with an in-house committee structure using independent directors. In a move aimed at improving corporate governance, Nomura will make the switch after winning approval from an annual shareholders meeting due to be held in June.

From Forbes, 27 February 2003

Chinese Legislature Meets to Appoint Leaders

China's annual legislative session opened today, with personalities eclipsing policies for now as the country moved to formalize its first sweeping leadership transition in a decade. At the end of the session of the National People's Congress, in two weeks, a new group of men will officially rule China, led by the incoming president, Hu Jintao. This morning the outgoing prime minister, Zhu Rongji, opened the Congress with a report praising China's economic progress and future plans, But it is the behind-the-scenes dance of power between Mr. Hu, 60, and the man he will replace, Jiang Zemin, 76, that will determine this fast-changing country's future. Although Mr. Jiang is giving up his presidential duties, his broad power base assures that he will remain a potent unofficial policy maker for many years. He is also expected to retain his post as chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission. China faces a host of public policy challenges, including thorny diplomatic issues with the Koreas and Taiwan, a restructuring of its banks and plans to create a social welfare system that will care for its peasants and urban poor.

But as Mr. Hu juggles these problems, his first challenge in each case will be negotiating the approval of Mr. Jiang, who may have different priorities. "Hu Jintao is the nominal leader, but Jiang Zemin is the effective power," said Kang Xiaoguang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "That may create dangers in the future, especially in times of crises, although it is not a danger right now." Friction between the old and new leaders is almost certain to crop up in the next two to three years, academics here say, because of China's percolating social problems. There is rising discontent in the cities and the countryside among the poor, who have not shared in China's economic advances. Mr. Hu, who has already promised that his administration will focus on the needs of the "disadvantaged," will have the task of creating jobs and developing a social welfare system. But that could well create a drag on what has until now been China's top priority, economic development. "I think the relationship between Hu and Jiang is in some ways like that of a father and son, where the father gives the son a certain independence but there is also dominance," said a senior editor at a Communist Party newspaper who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But conflicts will appear, because to survive, Hu must make his mark with policy breakthroughs that may harm Jiang's policies and interests." For four months, Mr. Hu has been tentatively testing that relationship in speeches quietly defining the initiatives and leadership style that will mark his tenure.

The first step of the leadership transition occurred in November, when Mr. Jiang handed over to Mr. Hu his post as general secretary of the Communist Party. Domestically, Mr. Hu has set himself apart by highlighting the needs of farmers and laid-off workers, as well as re-energizing the fight against official corruption. He has made dozens of speeches on topics from press liberalization to the need for constitutional reforms - earning respect in particular from liberal intellectuals - although very few of these have been covered in the government-controlled press. But there are clearly many areas that President Jiang will not cede for now to the new administration, particularly foreign policy and the military. In his retirement speech when he left the party leadership, Mr. Jiang said he hoped that policies involving the United States and Taiwan would "continue as before." He also declared that there should be no attempt to reassess government decisions concerning certain sensitive issues: the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square and the suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which was banned in 1999. "On internal issues Hu and the new team have taken over more quickly and efficiently than anyone expected," said a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But in foreign policy, military and security issues, Jiang seems to be in charge."

From New York Times, by Elisabeth Rosenthal, 5 March 2003

BJP Praises Mayawati's Governance

Lucknow - A day after the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister expressed annoyance over Prime Minister's Office's clarification on "blessing controversy", state BJP on Monday gave a certificate to Mayawati's governance saying she "is doing a good job" and her government would last full term. Expressing satisfaction over the functioning of the BSP-BJP coalition government in the state, UP BJP spokesman Hridya Narain Dixit said, "The government is carrying out development work and construction of roads under the Prime Minister's Sadak Rozgar Yojana is an indicator to this." "The Chief Minister is doing a good job," he told a press conference here. Dixit said the allegations made by the Opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party and the Congress that no development work has been carried out by this government is a reflection of their frustration. "The Mayawati-led government will complete its full term," he said.

From Times of India, India, 10 March 2003

Vietnam Aims to Build Democratic Administration by 2010

With a ten-year administrative reform masterplan, Vietnam expects to strengthen the State administrative system, meeting the management requirements of a socialist-oriented market economy. The country will build a contingent of qualified cadres and public employees to carry out national construction and development. Reform of administrative institutions and policy mechanisms will help facilitate the national industrialisation and modernisation process. The new system will streamline and simplify administrative procedures. Functions, tasks and jurisdiction of agencies in the administrative system will be clearly defined. The government's organisational structure will simplify each ministry's multi-branch and sectoral management and aid macro-management of society by laws, policies, guidance and inspection. New regulations will be implemented by 2005 on the decentralisation of State administrative management between central and local levels and between local administrative levels. Functions, jurisdiction and administrative procedures in urban and rural areas will also be implemented by that year. The plan incorporates improvement of public employees' salary system by 2005. Financial mechanisms will be also renewed by 2005 similar to the administrative agencies, organisations and public services. State administrative agencies will be equipped with modern facilities and the Government will put its electronic information system into operation.

The first phase, from 2001-05, focuses on defining functions, tasks, jurisdiction and responsibility of administrative agencies at the Government and ministerial levels and for People's Committees; and finalising the decentralisation of functions and jurisdiction between the central and local State administrative agencies. It also concentrates on renovating financial management and operational mechanisms for administrative and non-productive agencies and completing salary reform for public employees. In 2006-10, the government apparatus and the State administrative management system will be fully perfected in conformity with the requirements of the country's socio-economic development. The plan will be carried out through different action programmes. The Ministry of Justice and the Government Office are implementing a 10-year programme to build and improve the legal system. The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government Office are jointly conducting research on the role, functions and structures of State administrative agencies. The Ministry of Home Affairs is implementing staff streamlining and salary reform programmes. The Finance Ministry is in charge of financial management mechanism reform for administrative and non-productive agencies. The Government Office will modernise the national administrative system.

From Voice of Viet Nam, Vietnam, 13 March 2003

NRB Briefs IMF on of Local Government System

Islamabad - IMF Staff Mission called on the Chairman National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) to discuss various aspects of Local Government System and devolution. Chairman, NRB dilated upon the historical as well as contemporary factors, which necessitated change in the government system in Pakistan. He informed the Mission that the progress on implementation of Local Government System, introduced in August 2001, was satisfactory. The objectives of administrative transition have already been achieved in a very short period of time. He said that a number of new institutions like the Local Government Commission and Provincial Finance Commission have been constituted and are functional. The Nazims at the three levels, viz., District, Tehsil and Union are now managing the administrative affairs. He said the Councils are taking decisions according to the local priorities. In the last 18 months the system has worked well and no major breakdown in service delivery has been noticed. "We understand that there is always room for improvement", the Chairman said.

The provincial governments and NRB are focusing on the problems, which need quick redressal for smooth implementation of the system. Civil Service Reforms are also required for the success of the Local Government System. Chairman NAB said Policing system in the District has also undergone fundamental changes through the promulgation of the Police Order 2002. The Public Safety Commissions at provincial and district level and the establishment of other institutions and committees under the Order will oversee the functioning of the police. About the relationship of the local governments with the newly elected Parliamentarians the Mission was informed that NRB is filling the knowledge gap through holding seminars and discussion meetings. The Mission was also informed about the developments relating to fiscal decentralization, role of Provincial Finance Commissions and the improvements in accounting practices at the District, Tehsil and Union Council level. It was mentioned that improvements in the accounting practices would also support the efforts being made under program like PIFRA.

The Accounts offices require capacity building for which training programs are the responsibility of PIFRA and the Controller General Accounts (CGA). It was point out that Provincial Finance Commissions had given an Interim Award for the local government in 2001. The Final Award by these Commissions are expected to be finalized by April 2003. The allocation to the local governments will be based on the criteria determined by each Provincial Finance Commission according to the requirements of the province. NRB is assisting the Provincial Governments in institutionalizing the process of distribution of resources to the Districts. The Mission was informed that the Citizen Community Boards would play an important role in the development of the country. It has been made mandatory for every local government to reserve 25 percent of the development budget for the schemes in which the public is willing to contribute through the CCBs. This process will also help in making serviced delivery and budgeting demand-based and not just allocate resources on the basis of historical requirements. Dilating upon the poverty reduction strategy, the Chairman NRB emphasized that governance reforms were essential for poverty reduction. He also emphasized upon the need for changing the prudential regulations to allow loaning facilities to the people living in rural areas so that they could have economic justice for those monies which belong to them.

From Pakistan Link, CA, 14 March 2003

India Plumbs New Depths Of Corruption: Survey

New Delhi - A survey conducted by foreign company executives pegged India as the second most corrupt country in South Asia. In its annual survey report, Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd (PERC) concluded that corruption was at a very low ebb in South Asia. It said, "Corruption has worsened as a problem in the past year in seven of the 12 Asian countries covered." The survey dubbed India as the second most corrupt country after Indonesia with a score of 8.25 out of a possible 10. However, PERC acknowledged that since it had only gauged people of the corporate sector, the survey might not necessarily be hundred percent accurate. Examining 1,072 expatriate executives working in India, the PERC deemed Indonesia the most corrupt nation with a score of 9.33, although it is better than last year' s score of 9.92. PERC also observed that graft in India told badly upon the general masses. " Corruption affects people' s daily lives in basic ways, including paying fees for admission to better schools and to get electricity installed," it observed. PERC traced a link between income levels and ratio of sleaze.

Corruption was found to be making a nasty dent into the economy of a country. Singapore, a developed country, was observed progressing well, while those found most graft-affected had the least developed economy. The city-state of Singapore was judged as the least corrupt with its best ever score of 0.38. Vietnam was rated as the third most corrupt. However, PERC said corruption in Asia should be seen against the backdrop of financial scandal that rocked some of the Western countries recently, including the Enron accounting scandal in the U.S. A few months back, Transparency International had conducted a survey on corruption levels in five biggest South Asian countries. It had caught India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal neck-deep into corruption. It had found police after judiciary as the most corrupt in all the four countries, except Pakistan. Its Asia program manager had suggested independent anti-corruption commissions, ombudsman and administrative reforms along with political will as the means to check the menace of graft in South Asia.

From Islam Online, UK, 14 March 2003

Governance Becoming a Big Issue in Banking

Governance is becoming a big issue in Banking, especially with the intense focus on anti-money laundering. Kai Nargolwala, Stanchart group executive directors (governance) Asia, shares his views on aspects of governance, and on banking as a whole. What does your portfolio on governance involve? It's interesting because for Stanchart, operating in 55 countries round the world and some very difficult countries, governance has always played an important role. It's probably quite difficult to explain to people what that's all about...however, after what happened at Enron, Worldcom and Ahold in Europe, there is no doubt what governance means. In our case, what we've done is we have clustered all our countries under two directors - the West (basically, Middle East, South Asia, all the way into Europe and the US) under Chris Keljik; and then myself who looks after everything that we have in Asia and India. The principles of governance are around good corporate citizenship ensuring that we operate to the highest ethical standards, are completely in accordance with all the regulations and deal with our employees and clients in a transparent way. We have to implement the various anti-money laundering regulations and know-your-customer procedures. It means having processes in place for dealing with clients in terms of reputational risks and environmental policies that are consistent with the policy that the bank has set. It means dealing with our employees in a way that we are seen as an equal opportunity employer not discriminating on any grounds except performance.

What is the growth potential in the banking sector? There is no doubt that topline growth for banks around the world over the next couple of years is going to be quite tough because the general conditions in the world economy are very uncertain right now and banks can only grow when customers grow. A number of countries in Asia which were predominantly export-led have realised that they need to broaden out the growth of their economies by not just relying on exports but also harnessing consumer expenditure. Korea did that very effectively, Thailand did it last year and so would Malaysia. The result is that you're seeing a growth in consumer expenditure which is more robust than the overall GDP growth. Banks that are focussed on consumer banking will see better topline growth than those just focussed on corporate banking. At Stanchart, outside of Hong Kong which has its unique problems right now, consumer banking grew last year by 19% which is incredible when you consider the sort of depressed conditions. In Malaysia, it grew 13% and that's about three times GDP growth last year. How do you see the potential for further growth of consumer banking? The overall banking revenue pool for Asia excluding Japan is about US$30bil. About US$5bil of that is in Hong Kong and Stanchart has 20% share of that US$5bil. In the rest of Asia, there's a US$25bil pool of revenue and Stanchart, a leading consumer bank in Asia, has only 4% share of that.

Banks that are focussed on consumer banking, good modern products and customer service are the ones that will see above average revenue growth. We want to be a well-balanced bank and if you look at our results as a group, it is almost 50:50 between consumer and wholesale. If you look at the growth opportunities, there are more in consumer banking. Last year, our consumer banking grew 19% out of Hong Kong and it would be very difficult to see that kind of growth in corporate banking as it is, in terms of Asia, a more mature business. Consumer banking is experiencing a surge in the middle class using consumer credit for the first time. Within wholesale banking, we have over 12,000 customers spread out over Asia and we are a leading bank in the debt capital market. In Malaysia last year, we were voted the loan house of the year as rated by IFR. We are a big player in local currency bonds in Thailand. Good customer service is a hot topic in Malaysia. Please comment. That is not just serving the customer with a smile and answering the phone politely. The fundamentals of a good customer service is understanding the needs of your customer and having information on him that allows you to focus your sales efforts on him.

So we have to look at the end-to-end process from how you acquire the customer, service him and deal with his problems. It is how we proactively sell to them. It needs huge investment in systems, processes and training. Looking at what we aim to do over the next two to three years, excellent customer service is the bedrock of that. So in the meantime, what do you do with customers who may be disgruntled? When you are dealing with consumer banking, there are hundreds, thousands and millions of customers. It is inevitable that you meet with problems. How do you deal with those problems is important. Most customers would expect that occassionally, things go wrong. They want to be able to, with one phone call, have their problem explained and the bank to respond. There are organisations that don't respond to the customer in a timely fashion or they ask the customer to call several places within the institution. We have a process where we have a great focus on customer complaints, we track them. We may not be able to solve your problems in 24 hours, but we at least respond and say we received your complaints and are dealing with it. We have different service standards for solving the problem in a few days, weeks or a month.

From Star, Malaysia, 17 March 2003

Chinese Premier Vows to Fight Against Corruption

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed to strengthen the effort to fight against corruption Tuesday. His cabinet is willing to put themselves under the supervision of the people and the whole society, Wen said. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed to strengthen the effort to fight against corruption Tuesday. His cabinet is willing to put themselves under the supervision of the people and the whole society, Wen said.

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

Start Early To Tackle Corruption, Says Rais

Kuala Lumpur - Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, Thursday called for anti-corruption education syllabus to be incorporated into the early years of education. Dr Rais said the country's anti-corruption syllabus should start at the kindergarten level because there was a lack of awareness on eliminating graft. "So I propose once again... actually it has been said earlier that the current education system should start teaching anti-graft philosophy and lessons in schools to create anti-graft consciousness in the country," he told reporters after opening a regional conference on Corruption and Development Aid here. He said that he would propose to the Education Ministry to increase anti-graft syllabus in the school curriculum as this was the only way the anti-graft spirit could be instilled in school children. On the meeting today, Dr Rais said, several issues were discussed and in particular corruption involving development aid to poor or needy nations in the African continent, other smaller nations and in West Asia that seek economic help and infrastructure for development.

He said the issues raised concerned corrupt behaviour, of both giving or receiving, and as a result not all funds were reaching the country it was intended for as other parties were profiting from it. As such, Dr Rais hoped the two-day meeting would enable participants to discuss issues on corruption and methods of overcoming it. Earlier, in his speech, Dr Rais said the problem of corruption is recognised widely and that there have been several high profile aid-related scams in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa over the years. "The World Bank clearly recognises the impact of corruption on its poverty alleviation initiatives. "As a result of the hard lessons learnt it has undertaken a comprehensive review of its compliance standards, intended to promote transparency and accountability, as it's also essential to good governance," Dr Rais said. Among other issues discussed at the conference were corruption among aid recipients, corruption among donors and response to the corruption challenge. The conference was organised by the Transparency International Malaysia, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 27 March 2003

Fight Corruption, Says Ex-CBI Chief

Pune - Urging citizens to take it upon themselves to fight corruption, former director of the Central Bureau of Investigations Joginder Singh, observed that if a simple letter about any wrong doing or injustice, sent to the people who matter would make all the difference. Releasing the Marathi translation of his book Inside CBI titled CBI chya Antrangat translated by sub-inspector Ashok Indalkar, Singh said even if citizens take up a small cause in their own locality, it would help in creating islands of excellence, which joined together will make this country as good as any other. ''A simple letter against a public servant involved in any irregularity does make a difference,'' Singh said, pointing out that the citizens are not raising enough noise to fight against corruption. Recalling his various experiences as CBI director, Singh said investigation of the cases was a painful job. In the fodder scam alone, 13 lakh documents were seized, and each had to be studied and fit in the complete chart of the scam. At times, one needs to get strict, even if there is pressure from high profile persons, he said.

From Pune Newsline, India, 27 March 2003

 

NHS and Local Government Employees Are Most Stressed Out Workers

The latest annual survey of employee attitudes from people management experts, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), shows that public sector workers are increasingly stressed and dissatisfied with their work. As many as 38 per cent of NHS workers and 30 per cent of local government workers find their work very stressful with nurses, doctors and teachers among those most likely to suffer stress. Employees say that the main causes of stress are high workload and long hours, which have contributed to the long-term decline in satisfaction in satisfaction among public sector workers. The survey is one of a number of reports suggesting that front-line public sector workers continue to suffer high levels of work-related stress. Despite this, public sector workers remain motivated, committed and loyal to their role and their organisation. Mike Emmott, CIPD Adviser in Employee Relations says, "The findings underline the huge task facing the Government as it attempts to reform and improve public services. Public sector workers are experiencing higher levels of organisational change than the private sector and this presents a further challenge for managers. The NHS uses relatively few HR practices. National and local governments need to pay more attention to the way in which people management policies are implemented." This is likely to put a significant strain on line managers who may not have the resources or support to deal with such change."

The CIPD survey, Pressure at Work and the Psychological Contract shows the psychological contract (the mutual expectations of employer and employees) to be worse in the public than in the private sector. Levels of satisfaction, trust and commitment are all lower in the public sector. For example, only 7 per cent of people in central government believe strongly that "the organisation cares about my opinions"; while 2 out of 5 feel fairly treated by their managers and supervisors compared with more than half in other sectors. This negative picture of the state of morale in the public sector reinforces that in the recent Audit Commission report1. Meanwhile, trust among workers in senior management is not particularly high across all sectors: only one in three people trust senior management "a lot" to look after their best interests. The CIPD survey provides a consistent baseline against which UK organisations can benchmark their own employee relations and explore trends in employee attitudes to work, and relationships with managers and colleagues. Mike Emmott, CIPD Adviser on Employee Relations says: "The general picture is that employee attitudes are fairly stable.

The relationship between managers and the people they manage is critical to organisational performance. Organisations need to devote more attention to earning and maintaining the confidence of their people. Although concerns about insecurity and dissatisfaction are often exaggerated, there are clear indications that trust levels need to be lifted and employee commitment is under pressure from long hours and work intensity." Key findings: * 38 per cent of NHS workers and 30 per cent of local government workers find their work either stressful or very stressful against an average of 25% for all workers. * 42% of employees are at least fairly confident about finding a new job if they get made redundant, while 72% say that it is unlikely that they will quit their job this year. * Over 75% of the workforce favour workplace legislation to introduce work councils, limit working hours or make the retirement age more flexible. * 84% are proud to say who they work for while 85% say that they are fairly motivated in their current job. Over half report loyalty to their organisation, with only 17% reporting no loyalty. * Only one in three people trust senior management "a lot" to look after their best interests. * Nearly 50 per cent of central Government workers say that "what happens at work isn't really important, it's just my job" - 3 times the percentage in the NHS.

From Online Recruitment, UK, 5 March 2003

Swiss Say No to US Corporate Governance Law

The legislation was passed last summer in the wake of accounting scandals at energy trader Enron and telecommunications giant Worldcom. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said all foreign companies listed would have to comply with the new regulations. This decision caused an uproar in Europe when it was announced. The German justice minister condemned the move, saying that American domestic laws should not be allowed to apply to other countries. Measured response The Swiss have so far given a more measured response to the American legislation. "We share the objectives of the law," said Hanspeter Tschäni, of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco). Tschäni, who headed a delegation that discussed the matter with the SEC this week, told swissinfo that recent events in Switzerland have shown that more oversight is needed in the corporate domain. "It is also our feeling in Switzerland that the state needs to play a role in this sector as well," he said. Tschäni said the real problem was the way the United States drafted its law. "It will create problems for foreign firms," he told swissinfo. "It will be difficult to comply with US requirements and there will also be conflicts with their domestic legislation."

According to the new corporate governance law, Swiss auditing firms are supposed to register with an oversight board. These firms are also supposed to submit all kinds of information. The Swiss particularly object to the inspections to be carried out by this American board. "Allowing such inspections in Switzerland would be a violation of national law," said Tschäni. Mutual recognition The Seco official said the best solution would the mutual recognition of corporate oversight. "In the European Union and Switzerland, there are moves underway to establish a similar board," Tschäni told swissinfo. "The most elegant solution would be to recognise that these different boards provide an equivalent level of protection for investors." Tschäni added that customer confidentiality would be protected, although Swiss corporate governance laws would have to be modified. "The secrecy relationship between the auditor and the client could be waived under certain circumstances," he said. The handful of Swiss companies listed on the NYSE seem less concerned about changes to American legislation. UBS, Credit Suisse, ABB, Novartis and Swisscom have already adapted or are modifying their accounting practices to US laws.

From Swissinfo, Switzerland, by Faryal Mirza and Scott Capper, 7 March 2003

Corruption Probe Leads to Shake-up at Development Company

There's been a big shakeup at a Connecticut development company under investigation for corruption. The New Britain Herald is reporting the Tomasso Group is changing its management. William Tomasso will no longer handle state contracts. Tomasso appears to be at the center of a federal corruption probe involving former members of the Rowland administration. Also, on Wednesday, Middletown officials delayed hiring Tomasso to oversee construction on a new high school.

From WFSB, CT, 13 March 2003

Slovak Politics Riddled with Corruption

Slovak politics is burdened with suspicious untransparent deals, opposition Smer party leader Robert Fico declared in a special session of parliament, which concluded that the cabinet must address bribery as a priority. Ninety-five out of 135 coalition and opposition MPs present approved a resolution binding the cabinet to submit to legislators a list of concrete measures aimed at rooting out corruption by May this year. Calls for the March 6-7 extraordinary session of parliament were initiated by Fico after questions arose about the influence of members of the business elite in political decision making. Apart from mentioning a number of corruption scandals currently dogging the government, in his speech to parliament Fico appealed to the US embassy in Slovakia to publish what it knows about an unnamed Slovak politician who allegedly has $40 million in a foreign bank account. The US embassy in Bratislava refused to comment on Fico's statements, telling the media that US authorities had complete trust in the Slovak authorities responsible for investigating the allegations. Slovakia's attorney general Milan Hanzel said he had scheduled a meeting with Fico regarding the information he presented in parliament. Prior to the parliamentary session, Fico also suggested that Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš was one of the richest men in Slovak politics. According to Fico, Mikloš allegedly gained wealth from various privatisation deals he participated in when he was deputy PM for economy under the previous Dzurinda administration.

Mikloš, however, denied the allegations, and said that his regularly updated property declaration was publicly available on the Internet. He said he would sue Fico over his statements. At a March 9 political talk show broadcast on the public Slovak Television, Mikloš said to Fico: "I have filed charges against you, suing you for one crown because that is how much I value your opinion. I did it so that you are obliged to explain your accusations in front of an independent court." Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, meanwhile, accused Fico of demagoguery and said that the parliamentary session had achieved nothing but to give the opposition leader a chance to bring what he called "political agitation of the lowest kind" onto parliamentary premises. "His demagoguery no longer works at his [party's] press conferences and so he has transferred it to parliament," Dzurinda said on March 8. Dzurinda, along with a number of his Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) party colleagues, said that a parliamentary resolution listing a number of laws the cabinet should prepare as part of its anti-corruption agenda was a waste of time. "The [parliamentary] resolution was redundant because all the tasks named in it are already part of the cabinet's legislative plan," he said. The resolution calls for the speedy preparation of a law on lobbying, revisions to the country's law on the financing of political parties, and revisions to the so-called conflict of interests law and a law on proving the origin of property.

But despite the PM's dismissive attitude towards the outcome of the parliamentary session, anti-corruption watchdogs saw the special session as a positive step. "If nothing else, the session helped to return the issue corruption to parliamentary territory, and the attention that it received could lead to a greater effort on the part of legislators to approve anti-corruption measures," said Emília Sicáková-Beblavá, head of Transparency International Slovakia. "If we look at the current situation regarding the approval of anti-corruption measures, some progress has certainly been made since the [former Dzurinda] cabinet approved a national plan to fight corruption in 2000. But despite that, the pace of approving the measures could be faster. We cannot wait another year until the cabinet decides what it is going to do about corruption," Sicáková said. Slovakia is expected to join the EU and NATO in spring 2004, along with other post-communist states. It is regularly reminded by representatives from both organisations that it needs to address corruption more effectively. During his March 10 visit to Slovakia, NATO's secretary general George Robertson said corruption was like a "cancer that preys on democratic governments", noting that Slovakia had to step up its fight against bribery. In numerous surveys Slovaks have said they are fed up with corruption.

According to one poll, carried out by the Polis Slovakia agency in January, 52 per cent of Slovaks were convinced that state corruption was negatively affecting their quality of life, and more than 80 per cent thought state bodies were not dealing with the problem effectively enough. The cabinet, however, says that all the ruling parties have a genuine interest in rooting out corruption, noting that the problems Slovakia faces are no different from those in neighbouring post-communist states. "It is true that we are no better off than the surrounding states when it comes to corruption, but we are not worse off than them either," said PM Dzurinda. Interior Minister Vladimír Palko added: "Corruption is a serious problem and no one is denying that. I can assure you that in the ruling coalition there is a genuine desire to fight it." Palko denied that the state would be reluctant to uncover bribery cases involving past or present state officials. He said dozens of former state functionaries were currently being prosecuted on charges of corruption, misuse of posts, and other untransparent practices. Palko also appealed to all those who care about eliminating corruption in Slovakia to assist the investigators, police, and other state bodies with uncovering such crimes. "All who say they care about fighting corruption must help," he said.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, 17 March 2003

Georgian Local Governance Bodies Urge for Reforms

Tbilisi - Representatives of the Councils' Associations and Union of Cities of Georgia met the Monitoring Delegation of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on March 12.The CoE's delegation pays fact-finding visit to Georgia to observe the development of the self-governance in the country. Representatives of the Georgian local self-governance bodies handed over to the delegation appeal which calls the Parliament and the Georgian central government to carry out reforms in order to improve local self-governance. The Councils' Associations and Union of Cities of Georgia urge to change in the current composition of the Central Election Commission and the District Election Commissions; to develop a program for determining the territorial-administrative arrangement of Georgia; to adopt the basic laws guaranteeing the independence of local self-government. The government's failure to address the above-mentioned points will impede the development of local self-governance, violate the basic principles of the European Charter on Local Self-Government (signed by Georgia), and create an obstacle to fair and democratic election conduct. Finally, it will undermine citizen confidence in democratic values and local governance," the appeal reads.

From Civil Georgia, UK, 14 March 2003

 

Superintendents, School Boards Applaud Local Governance

Springdale - Northwest Arkansas school board members and district officials said they were pleased Thursday with Gov. Mike Huckabee's decision to favor their remaining in control of their respective school districts. Local schools should remain under local control, they said, after the governor announced Thursday morning he had changed his mind regarding school governance. Local school boards would have been stripped of their authority to hire and fire superintendents and teachers, to set curriculum and to oversee district operations, according to the governor's original proposal. Huckabee backed away Thursday from making superintendents state employees and from eliminating local control of school districts. The plan was part of his school-restructuring plan to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling. The governor obviously listened to statewide complaints that local control of schools is more beneficial than a state-run system, area school officials said. School-board members and administrators across the state along with their respective associations have publicly opposed the governor's school-reorganization governance plan. They also said they were anxious to hear other parts of the governor's plan, including parent-advisory boards and strengthen curriculum standards. Fayetteville Superintendent Bobby New said, "The governor has come around to the understanding that local control is a valued part of our education system in Arkansas."

Pea Ridge Superintendent Virgil Freeman said Huckabee's new proposal will likely ease some of the concerns of members of his district about the loss of local control. "I think it's more positive than what we've been hearing," Freeman said. "I know the patrons of the Pea Ridge district want to make our decisions here, and it's really important to have those folks involved." Kathy McFetridge, longtime Springdale School Board member and Arkansas School Boards Association secretary, said she believes schools would be more successful with local control. "We would be able to recognize a problem much earlier than the state Department of Education in Little Rock," she said. Doylene Fuqua, Bentonville School Board president, said she was pleased to see in the compromise that local control is left with local school boards. "I think we've got to have local control of schools," Fuqua said. "That's what we're all about." School officials also said their districts based certain instructional programs on the needs of the community and business leaders, and their input into the local schools is strongly valued. "What would this school district be without the immense support from our local patrons?" said Jim Bradford, Springdale School Board vice president. "When you disconnect the school district from the patrons, the fear is that you lose that closeness with the local schools."

Bradford said patrons might have chosen to fund other organizations in the city because "they might feel closer to them" if school boards lost local control of the district. "I think its essential that the public remain connected with the schools; and, historically, the primary connection has been through the school board," said Springdale Superintendent Jim Rollins. "We just don't need to lose that. It's just a vital link that is essential not only now but in the future." Several members of the Rogers School Board raised concerns in the past few weeks about the loss of control for local school boards. Joye Kelley, the board president, said Thursday she was "very encouraged" to read Huckabee's new proposal. "It seems like there's some points in (Huckabee's) new draft that would be easier to live with for everybody in the state - big or small." Bentonville Superintendent Gary Compton said the overall goal with the educational overhaul is "more than tinkering. I think the goal in all of this is a fairly massive reorganization as a means to an end." "I hope, in (Huckabee's) mind, it isn't just about consolidation." Kelley said she is "anxious" to hear what local legislators say regarding the governance plan during a Saturday legislative forum at the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce.

New said there were parts of the governor's new plan that need closer examination, namely the creation of a parent advisory committee at each school, the school-choice procedures and the replacement of education service cooperatives with education service centers, which are to be part of the state education department. New said he is also ready to begin discussing how to improve educational quality in Arkansas. "I'm anxious to get past this and talk about quality education," New said. "I'm anxiously awaiting dialogue, conversation and leadership from the governor" on that aspect. Farmington Superintendent Ron Wright viewed the second draft of Huckabee's reorganization with mixed reaction. Wright said he was glad to see the governor had shifted his position on hiring and firing superintendents at the state level and that the authority of local school boards would remain as it is now, including employment of superintendents. The plan calls for the creation of a Parent Advisory Council for each school, which concerns Wright. "I'm concerned that we don't set up conflict," Wright said. "Another layer of governance is not necessarily for the good. It seems like there are a lot of gaps to fill in."

From The Morning News/NWAonline.net, 7 March 2003

EU Calls on Aristide to Restore 'Good Governance' in Haiti

The European Union is calling on Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide to help end violence and threats by armed groups in the Caribbean nation. The trade bloc issued a statement Friday, urging Mr. Aristide to work to restore "good governance" to Haiti. The statement said EU officials are "alarmed" by new reports of threats against journalists, human rights workers, political opponents and union leaders. It said armed individuals connected to mafia or popular organizations are responsible for the threats. The statement comes after Haitian radio station Radio Haiti Inter halted broadcasts last month to protest threats against its employees. The EU statement also called on President Aristide to help create a provisional electoral council to oversee future elections.

From Voice of America, 7 March 2003

Lawmakers Consider Bill To Target Municipal Corruption

Hartford, Conn. - Bill Presented In Wake Of Ganim Trial - As jurors deliberate in the corruption trial of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, state lawmakers are considering a package of bills they say will stamp out municipal wrongdoing. One bill would require municipalities in Connecticut to adopt codes of ethics and ban local officials from accepting gifts from people doing business with the city or town. Municipal officials also would be required to file annual financial statements. Another proposal stems from Ganim's corruption trial. It would establish a new system for recalling any local official with a term of four years. Rep. Jacqueline Cocco of Bridgeport said her city has been at a standstill for two years since the case first began. She said residents should have the right to recall the mayor. Even if the jury finds Ganim not guilty, Bridgeport Sen. Bill Finch said Ganim should be recalled from office. He said the mayor has hurt the public's confidence in elected officials. Lawmakers are planning a hearing on the bills in Hartford Friday and in Bridgeport March 20.

From WVIT, CT, 10 March 2003

First Nations Vow to Fight Governance Act

Winnipeg - First Nations in Canada will use civil disobedience and other tools to continue their fight if the proposed First Nations governance act becomes law, the woman who leads a council of 34 southern Manitoba chiefs said Wednesday. ''Gone are the days when governments are going to force us to do what we don't want to do,'' Margaret Swan said bluntly at a Commons committee meeting, when asked what would happen if Bill C-7 passes. She promised appeals to the international community and campaigns to bring mainstream public opinion onside but said it won't necessarily stop there. ''If we have to do something that's referred to as civil disobedience, like the Oka crisis, that's where we'll go.'' Others might suggest Oka was more than just civil disobedience. In 1990, armed Mohawks squared off against police and Canadian soldiers at Oka, Que., in a dispute over a land claim. Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault says the legislation will improve governance and transparency on Canada's First Nations but most native leaders reject those claims. Even more grating, however, has been the way Nault is attempting once again to tell First Nations what is good for them, said Swan. ''I would tell any other government to butt out, let us set up our own systems, we've adopted too many of yours and clearly they don't work for mainstream Canadians so how the heck are they going to work for first peoples.''

Manitoba First Nations are particularly angry since they were working with the federal government under the terms of a 1993 deal that was to lead to self-government. Alan Isfeld, a businessman and member of the Waywayseecappo First Nation in Manitoba, told the committee he also sees other subtle motives behind the legislation than the good governance being cited by the federal minister. He says it further erodes the ability of bands to get help from Indian Affairs in dealing with their debts and will only hurt their ability to work with private businesses. ''Every government in history has been dependent on the relationships and wealth and good faith of private industry and private business to govern their jurisdictions,'' he said. ''Without that credit base, First Nations people will never, ever see self-government, and Bob Nault knows that.'' Isfeld said private businesses like Wing Construction in northern Ontario have already felt the direction Nault wants to take the Indian Affairs Department. He said the construction firm from Thunder by has been financially crippled by the refusal of Indian Affairs to assume any responsibility for debts incurred by the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba in a partnership deal with Wing to build a new school. The deal had the blessing of former Indian Affairs minister Jane Stewart but Wing has been told to go to court if it wants the $3 million it is owed. It is suing but Sagkeeng is $17 million in debt and under third-party management imposed by Nault's department.

From Canada.com, Canada, 20 March 2003

 
 

Bar Public Servants From Business to Curb Graft, Urges Envoy

Nairobi - Civil servants should be barred from owning businesses as part of the Government's fight against corruption, United States ambassador Johnnie Carson said yesterday. It should also be mandatory for companies to disclose the names of all their shareholders to avoid officials hiding behind law and accountancy firms to conceal their identities, he said. Mr. Carson said the Ndegwa commission which had allowed civil servants to double as businessmen created conflicts of interest in their work. "No longer, for example, should a Permanent Secretary responsible for road contracts, housing or any other contract be able to sit as co-owner or partner in a company that routinely bids on and wins tenders overseen by his officials," said Mr. Carson. The Government should move quickly to put in place a public servants' code of conduct to stamp out corruption, Mr. Carson said. He added that he was optimistic about Kenya's success in fighting corruption because President Kibaki appeared to have the political will to tackle the problem. Offering suggestions about how to beat graft, the envoy continued: "As an interim measure and without waiting for legislation or constitutional amendments, the Government should adopt and widely publicise a new code of conduct for the civil service and Cabinet officials. The code should make it absolutely clear that such conflicts of interest would not be allowed and there must be zero tolerance for corruption in high places. He was speaking at a party at the United States International University in Nairobi to mark the end of American Black History Month.

Corruption was one of Kenya's most serious problems, he said. He urged President Kibaki publicly to pledge that any Cabinet member, senior civil servant or parastatal head indicted or taken to court on corruption charges will be dismissed immediately or at least suspended. Retaining such officers, Mr. Carson said, would tarnish Kenya's image at a time when the country needed to restore domestic and international confidence. "Never again should a minister accused and indicted for embezzling million of dollars in state funds ride to the courthouse in a Government limousine flying the ministerial flag. This type of behaviour is an insult to honest and law abiding citizens and demonstrates a lack of integrity in government," he said. He called for new laws requiring every registered company to list by name all its principal shareholders. Shell companies and proxy ownership should be discouraged through tough laws that insisted on full and unambiguous disclosure. He said President Kibaki should announce a major reform of the judicial system to introduce greater efficiency and higher ethical standards. "In Kenya, justice has become a commodity for sale, usually to the highest bidder," he added. Mr. Carson disclosed that the problem of corruption affected all US interests in Kenya. Although Kenya was a staunch ally of the US in the war against terrorism, it was corruption that had opened the door to terrorists attacks in the country. Corruption had not only undermined US investor confidence in Kenya but also eroded transport and communications affecting Kenya's ability to take full advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Mark Agutu, 28 February 2003

Civil Service Job Evaluation Complete

Harare - The Government has completed the job evaluation exercise, which it embarked on last year in an effort to rationalise grades, salaries and compensation structures for civil servants. Although efforts to get comment from the Public Service Commission were to no avail some senior Government officials confirmed that the exercise was completed on Wednesday and stakeholders were expected to meet next week to chart the way forward. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture, Dr Thompson Tsodzo, said the exercise had been completed. However, he declined to give details referring questions on the issue to PSC officials whom he said were the best to comment on the issue. The conclusion of the exercise means that teachers will soon enjoy new adjusted salaries as promised by the Government. The PSC last year embarked on a job evaluation exercise to grade all jobs in the Public Service and to breakdown grades into sub-grades in order to rationalise compensation. "We, therefore, hope that since the exercise has been completed the commission would be able to sort out the issue of salaries as they promised that they would be through with the exercise by the end of April," said Dr Tsodzo.

Contacted for comment, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, Mr. Leonard Nkala, said he was also hoping that the PSC would honour its promise of ensuring that, by the end of April, the adjustment of teachers' salaries was effected. "I hope all teachers, by April as per promise by the PSC, would receive their new salaries. The job evaluation exercise has been completed and there is no reason to delay," he said. Teachers have threatened industrial action saying their salaries had not been adjusted as per their educational qualifications as promised by the Government. Commenting at the launch of the exercise last October, the Secretary of the Public Service Commission, Mr. Ray Ndlukula, expressed the hope that the anomalies that had been vexing the Public Service would be resolved once and for all. "The exercise should provide a strong basis for the compensation of civil servants," he said then. It was meant to enable civil servants to focus on their core business. Last year the Government announced an all-round adjustment to teachers' salaries and that they would be bundled into salary grades to be determined by their qualifications. Some teachers, however, are yet to receive their new salaries as the PSC has not adjusted the salaries. Teachers, who were being paid as semi-skilled workers, would be treated as skilled officers and their basic salaries would be adjusted to the level of other officers with the same qualifications.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 28 February 2003

Steer Clear of Partisan Politics, Civil Servants Told

Gombe State Government has said its civil servants could not participate in partisan politics. The state's Head of Service, Dr. Ibrahim Jalo Daudu, in a report aired on Gombe Radio, advised civil servants in the state to steer clear of partisan politics. Daudu said although the state government was aware of a Supreme Court decision, there had been no circular to that effect. The Supreme Court had on November 8, last year decided that civil servants were entitled to be card carrying members of political parties in Nigeria. As part of the verification of its ruling on Independent National Electoral Commission's (INEC) guidelines for registration of political parties, the highest court declared that Section 5(b) of the Electoral Act 2002 and other regulations and conventions that barred civil servants from belonging to political parties were unconstitutional. Daudu warned civil servants "not to use the Supreme Court ruling which permitted them to participate in politics as a yardstick." He also advised civil servants aspiring to political offices to either resign their appointments or take a leave of absence. He urged workers to maintain their loyalty to government and discharge their civic responsibilities to the people in general. The state Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr. Ado Solomon, who described civil servants as vehicle of continuity, said it was not proper for them to hold party offices or be involved in political campaigns, irrespective of political affiliations. Solomon said civil servants' involvement in politics would erode their loyalty and obedience to incumbent administrations. He advised civil servants not to rush into politics at this premature period.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Saka Ibrahim, 3 March 2003

Crackdown On Incompetent Public Servants Still On, Says Minister

Nairobi - Senior civil servants sacked recently were incompetent, the government said yesterday. And the clean-up would continue until corrupt and unfit heads were removed, Minister of State in the Office of the President Geoffrey Parpai said. Speaking for the first time since 14 Kanu MPs cried foul, the government explained that previous appointments were haphazard. He explained that merit, professionalism and experience "has been and will be" the determining factor in appointments in the new administration. "Kenyans will no doubt recall from the President's pronouncements that merit and professionalism will be the guiding factors in the selection of individuals to serve in the public service," he said at his Harambee House office adding that they were not going to "please" a few individuals. He announced that more heads will soon roll in parastatals. "We are in the process of appointing executives to those parastatals." The government has promised to merge non-performing parastatals and re-orient others in its effort to make them deliver. Currently, the government was studying reports on parastatal heads who have been named in corrupt deals or are not qualified to head the organisations with a view of making changes. "If you are mentioned in corruption and investigations satisfy that what has been said is true, we have no option but fire you," he said. Ministries have been asked to identify suitable and qualified people to serve in the management of statutory corporations. Integrity of those who serve in the government will also be of paramount concern to the government.

Mr. Parpai said changes in the government were essential to achieve reforms and revive the economy owing to the fact that some of those who served in the Moi regime were unfit. He said those being removed were bound to resist "despite the substantial imbalances which were created during the long rule of the previous regime." He said the government was not going to compromise appointments to suit interests of communities. "The public must bear in mind that appointment of incompetent people to the boards or state corporations simply because they belong to one or other group has proved to be costly to the Kenyan tax payer." He said the government will still blend the young and old with a track record of good performance to ensure continuity. "The management of government requires continuity and continuous injection of new talents." A number of the old guard reappointed to the government, he added, were talented but were not given an opportunity to deliver. He defended the appointment of some civil servants saying they had a go track record. The public service will also be motivated by promoting senior servants to increase productivity. Mr. Parpai told Kenyans not to be drawn into "narrow, selfish agendas" advanced by some people. In the past two weeks Kanu MPs from the Kalenjin community have launched an attack on the government claiming that it was targeting its people for persecution. Some of them even threatened to fight for federalism if the government did not stop. He was accompanied by the head of the Civil Service, Mr. Francis Muthaura, the permanent secretary in charge of the Directorate of Personnel Management Simon Njau and assistant minister Morris Dzoro.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by David Mugonyi, 28 February 2003

Commission Set Up to Rehabilitate Returning Civil Servants

Bangui - UN Integrated Regional Information Networks - Central African Republic (CAR) President Ange-Felix Patasse issued a decree on Tuesday establishing a commission to rehabilitate former civil servants returning from exile, and to propose their reintegration, according to government-owned Radio Centrafrique. It reported on Wednesday that a magistrate of the Court of Appeal (Cour de Cassation) would head the commission, which is expected to complete its work in three months. Members of the commission will comprise the chief prosecutor and representatives from the defence and public service ministries, labour unions and the CAR lawyers' association. The decree indicated that the commission would be expected to submit a report to the president on completion of its mandate. The radio said the commission would "carry out a census of [former] civil servants returning from exile, check the circumstances of their going into exile, and ask them whether they wished to resume service [in their original departments] or be transferred to another service".

Intellectuals and civil servants fled the country due to internal conflict. Yakoma (former President Andre Kolingba's ethnic group) civil servants, intellectuals and about 1,500 soldiers fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo following Kolinba's 28 May 2001 abortive coup. More CAR nationals fled following the 2 November 2001 armed resistance and the 25 October 2002 coup attempt by the former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize. Most of those who left in 2002 were members of Bozize's Gbaya ethnic group. Troops loyal to Bozize have since been fighting the government's forces. Patasse has on many occasions urged Bozize's men to lay down their arms and rejoin the army. Analysts see Patasse's formation of the commission, which follows his call for a national dialogue, as a manifestation of a more positive attitude towards his opponents, who have used the non-rehabilitation of former civil servants as an argument against his leadership.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 6 March 2003

Civil Service Reforms a Nig Flop - IMF

Despite massive support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Civil Service reforms in Africa have failed, says an IMF report titled Civil Service the Reforms. The report says the reforms have not managed to reduce poverty and enhance government effectiveness in Africa, with the Bretton Woods institution warning that transformation of the Civil Service remains the most politically sensitive and difficult government reform in the continent. "Stakeholders have different perceptions of the benefits of Civil Service reforms. These reforms are often obstructed by influential persons with vested interests that do not see any immediate advantage from the reforms," says the report. The IMF adds that though reforming the public service is not a goal in its own right, the reforms must be justified to policy makers and the public by their impact on poverty and on the effectiveness of the government. In many countries, says the document, oversized public sectors arise from outdated government policies that have yet to address the changing orientation of Africa's economies. "In countries where public services are produced inefficiently or the government is excessively large, fiscal pressures may emanate from the wage bill or from inappropriate purchases of goods and services."

Drawing experience from 11 countries, including four from Africa (Benin, Mali, Tanzania and Zambia), the IMF says though the wage bill has contracted in the past in several countries, pressures remain to increase spending, essentially because of the low level of wages. Efforts to downsize the civil service have been met with limited success because of insufficient efforts to redefine the role of government and better organise the structure of government administration. In Kenya, public service reforms started in earnest in 1993, a year after the government and the donors, led by the World Bank, developed a comprehensive civil service reform programme under the Directorate of Personnel Management (DPM). The World Bank gave an initial credit of Sh19.4 billion (US$25.3 million) for the exercise, while the government contributed Sh1.4 billion (US$120.9 million). Britain's Overseas Development Agency, now DfID, gave another Sh823 million (US$10.7 million). By 1993, the government had 274,000 civil servants excluding teachers. Under the programme, the government aimed at reducing the force by 107, 836. Under the voluntary early retirement scheme, 42, 132 workers in job group A-G were targeted. Natural attrition and abolition of vacant posts was to release another 26,334 workers. Unfortunately, some departments including the Teachers Service Commission were still employing, thus undermining the process.

A 1997 Public Expenditure Committee chaired by Phyllis Makau from the Finance Ministry and Francis Were from National Planning said the programme was creating uncertainty, and the immediate benefits were not visible. "This continued uncertainty over the real value of the civil service reforms pursued to date can only undermine the support for the programme at the political level, within the civil service and among the donor community," said the committee. By the end of 1996, 30,081 civil servants in groups A-G had been retired but the benefits were still not clear, prompting the committee to ask for a definite assessment of the extent the reforms enhanced civil service pay and the overall process of fiscal adjustment. In 1997, J Ongwae, was elevated to head the DPM and the programme resumed in top gear. Unlike the first phase, former Civil Service heard Richard Leakey, issued very clear guidelines which also contained a time framework. "The programme was this time moved to a secretariat separate from any ministry to avoid interference from the ministries whose interests could differ from the targets and objectives of the programme," says G M Nzioka, the programme director. Nzioka defends the programme saying their mandate "is not to reduce figures for the sake of it but to meet all the objectives stipulated in the guidelines".

From Financial Standard, Kenya, by Benson Kathuri, 10 March 2003

Public Service Blamed Over Pension Flaws

Kampala - Former police and prison service employees have blamed the ministry of public service for failure to compile the list of all staff retired in 1992 and 1993. David Muwanga reports that the chairperson of the Government Retrenchees Savings and Credit society, the society that brings together all former government employees, Joseph Mpamya, said the Police and prisons staff who were retired were given peanuts ranging from sh42,000 to sh180,000 as packages. He said the Solicitor General has now consented to the payment of the ex-Police and prison officers but the Ministry of Public Service was delaying to compile the list. "The Solicitor-General has said the Government is willing to pay them between sh2m and sh4m according the rank, starting from the former Inspector General of Police to a sergeant," he said on Wednesday while addressing members of the society at City Hall.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 13 March 2003

Revise the Ethics Bill or We Reject It, Members Demand

MPs criticised the Public Officers Ethics Bill and said it had many loopholes. They threatened to vote against it if it was not amended. Mr. Mutula Kilonzo (Nominated, Kanu) accused Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Kiraitu Murungi of failing to draft the Bill professionally. Responding on behalf of the Official Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, he threatened to oppose the Bill unless the flaws he had identified were amended. The Kanu MP described the Bill as "shoddy, contravening, confusing and a half-hearted attempt to fight corruption". He said Kanu was opposed to corruption, but would not support poorly drafted Bills that would create more problems than they would solve. "The Ethics Bill must be ethical in the first place," he said, and asked Mr. Murungi, who was not in the House, why it did not have a commencement date. On the demands that public servants declare their wealth, the Nominated MP expressed fear that criminals would use such information to extort money by kidnapping victims as was common in the West. Attorney-General Amos Wako was also not in the House, but Justice and Constitutional Affairs assistant minister Robinson Githae entered the House during the debate. Deputy Speaker David Musila said though Standing Orders did not require a minister to attend debate on a Bill he had moved, it was desirable to do so.

But Public Works minister Raila Odinga defended Mr Murungi, saying as a member of the Front Bench, he was bound by collective responsibility to follow the debate "mentally" and get back to his colleague. Mr. Moses Wetangula (Sirisia, Narc) supported the Bill but said it should be amended to prevent it being declared unconstitutional by courts. Mr. Wetangula cited the clause dealing with declaration of wealth and accused the minister of discriminating against a section of society. He asked: "Why does the Bill deal with only public servants in job group P and above, yet we know that most corrupt officials are court clerks, constables and other middle-level employees?" Mr. Otieno Kajwang' (Mbita, Narc) told Mr. Kiraitu to amend the Bill and save his face, otherwise he would be embarrassed if the flaws were left intact. He recalled that when the same Bill was taken to the House last year, he told the AG that it had to target specific groups and not the entire public service. The Mbita MP said it was not practical to put judges, MPs and civil servants under the same Bill. He suggested that the best way to fight corruption was to ban all public servants from engaging in business. He described the 1971 Ndegwa Commission, which allowed civil servants to do business, as the cause behind corruption in public service.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, 19 March 2003

Anti-Graft Bills Will Give NARC Government Legitimacy

Nairobi - KPMG Kenya recently held a training workshop on fraud and corruption to empower leaders, both in the public and private sectors, to fight against the twin vices. VITALIS OMONDI spoke to ZAHIR SHEIKH, the firm's forensic partner for East Africa - Corruption and fraud are not new, nor is the waragainst them. What new insights emerged during your three-day workshop? The objective of the training was to look at fraud in both the public and private sectors. Basically, we set out to look at the strategies that can be used in the fight against corruption and fraud and the ethics of corruption and fraud in the workplace. We attempted to find answers to questions like: How do we detect corruption? How do we respond? How do we investigate it and to what extent? At issue was how corruption and fraud can be prevented in both private and public sectors. If we fail to prevent it and it happens, how do we detect it? Once we have detected it, how do we respond to it - what exactly do we do; do we prosecute? And how do we investigate the extent of fraud and corruption? This generally was the overall approach. We also looked at the different types of fraud - fraud in government, in the private sector, banks, cheque frauds, money laundering etc. Is this the first time you are running a workshop of this nature in East Africa? It is an East Africa-wide training. This particular training was first conducted in Uganda and our next stop will be Tanzania.

We solely provide forensic services by running forensic courses on a regular basis. In November last year, we ran courses on money-laundering in the three East African countries. We are in an organisation that provides services to combat corruption and we are committed to raising awareness in both the public and private sectors. To what extent have you met your objectives; what difference have the workshops made to the fight against corruption in the three East African countries? The courses are always intensive. For example, during the "Fighting Corruption and Fraud" workshop, we went through 346 slides. That gives some idea about the amount of content that was covered. We had 29 participants from both the government and private sector. We had representatives from the Anti-corruption Police Unit and Transparency International. We also had people from the private sector attending the course at a very high level. It certainly got the prominence it deserved in terms of attendance. One of the outcomes of the training we had in Kenya was the formation of a network of professionals and public-sector individuals. Through the network, they hope to share views and experiences to help them improve on the fight against corruption. We also received feedback from one of the companies, who straight after the course implemented central mechanisms to detect fraud in areas they believed to be most affected and they already identified certain controls in these areas of possible fraud.

This was an excellent move that needs to be emulated by other organisations. Would you elaborate on this network of professionals and public sector individuals? These were participants who shared a common interest. Their interest was, in sharing best practices in the fight against corruption. The three-day provided a unique opportunity for these people to share. There was so much experience that passed through the class. A lot of these people are already in the field of fighting corruption. There are officers who are charged in their organisations with these responsibilities and they see the network as a means of drawing from that experience. They also expressed a desire to be kept in the know about all future events on the same subject. Our next symposium will be held at the end of April and it will be on anti-money laundering, anti-fraud and ethics. In your first fraud survey for East Africa in October 2001 made public last June, you recommended the adoption of an anti-fraud culture within organisations by establishing corporate codes of conduct and fraud prevention strategies. Were these recommendations taken seriously? One of the findings of the fraud survey was that 70 per cent of respondents expected fraud to increase in the coming year (2003).

I feel confident that when we undertake a similar survey this year, it will tell us that fewer people expect fraud to increase. The government has taken the right steps and the president has already said he will spearhead the fight against corruption and that it will start from the top. These are the sort of things we need to hear. We want the government to launch a campaign against fraud and corruption similar to the HIV/Aids campaign. What the government needs is an aggressive public awareness campaign on the evils of corruption. It has already taken the first steps in the three bills - Constitutional Amendment Bill, Anti-Corruption and Economics Crimes Bill and the Public Office, Ethics and Code of Conduct bill. These three bills have been tabled in parliament and once they are passed, they will provide the framework for the government to put the fight against fraud and corruption into high gear. They will give the government legitimacy in the fight against corruption. What would you say of the impact of the report? The report measured people's perception at that time. The only way we can ascertain the impact is to do another survey. Our next fraud survey will tell how East Africa has fared in general.

Has fraud increased or decreased? What is the prevalence? Who is affected? What level of controls have been achieved? How do you compare severity of corruption and fraud across the three East Africa countries? The Corruption and the bribery indices of Transparency International present a more measurable picture. The three countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, are quite close together when it comes to severity of corruption. In last year's Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Kenya was ranked the fourth most corrupt country out of 102 countries. Uganda was sixth, while Tanzania was ranked the 12th most corrupt. Ordinarily, corruption involves much larger sums in Kenya compared with Uganda and Tanzania, because of the size of the economy. The three anti-corruption bills are not an end in themselves. What else should the government do in the war against corruption? The justice system is a key component in the overall equation. The government needs to ensure that it has a justice system that is going to uphold the rule of law and be just in all its undertakings. The police force also needs retraining. We need to address a serious crime with a serious punishment.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 20 March 2003

Levy Warns Civil Servants Frustrating Government Programmes

Kalulushi - President Levy Mwanawasa has warned civil servants frustrating government programmes that they risked loosing their jobs. The president said civil servants are in government to work and ensure that the programmes for the government of the day were implemented. He said he would not allow a situation where various activities for political party's were organised within the government. Speaking at an MMD meeting in Kalulushi today, the President said civil servants were part of government and therefore expected them to implement government programmes. He said by sounding this warning, he was not being political but merely trying to put things in order. He challenged all the civil servants who were not in support of the new deal government to leave. President Mwanawasa further said such people must go and government would show those who were reluctant the way out. He called on the members of the public to report on all civil servants who were frustrating government programmes.

From Zambia News Agency, Zambia, 23 March 2003

Achieving the Goals of Good Governance and Ethics

Nairobi - Experience from other developing countries in transition shows that upon the election of a new administration, an 18 to 24-month 'window of opportunity' opens up during which time public support and confidence about the future provides chance to implement a range of anti-corruption measures. One needs to recognise that with the election of Narc Government, corrupt networks have been disrupted. This disruption has been intensified by changes at senior levels in the civil service and the police force. Once again, experience in other countries in transition shows that this disruption does not last. In January, corrupt networks in Kenya started re-evaluating the situation, reorganising and realigning themselves to the new context and generally preparing to keep their systems working. The new government recognises that the most important battles of the war against corruption will be won over the coming 18 months. The fight against corruption, more than any other objective of the Narc administration, will affect its credibility and legitimacy. President Kibaki staked his reputation and name when he declared the fight against corruption during the State opening of the Ninth Parliament. There are seven critical pillars in the government's fight against corruption. The first one is political will. In this the President himself will take the lead in the fight against graft and this leadership informs the entire programme. The second is dealing with the past (also called transitional justice).

Past economic crimes, especially those that have led to the impoverishment of Kenyans need to be addressed in a systematic manner as part of a credible process. The third is legal Framework. The laws and regulations that allow political will to be implemented will be overhauled. d. Institutions: The institutions that implement the anti-corruption strategy will be more clearly defined. e. Private Sector: As a key stakeholder in the battle against corruption and the institutions that fight it, the private sector is fully integrated into the government's anti-corruption plan. f. Civil Society: The plan considers Kenyan civil society the engine of activism and the key to vigilance in the fight against corruption. The media in particular will continue to be the primary mobiliser of public opinion on corruption. g. The International Community: The international community is a key stakeholder in today's globalised world but especially in Kenya's anti-corruption plan since it contains many elements developed in partnership with the development partners already. A look at efforts to fight corruption - Several factors are in favour of a successful and credible official anti-corruption programme by the new government. First, the government is led by a President who recognises that the battle against corruption starts with him and success can only happen if this leadership role continues to be exercised, demonstrated and continuously reaffirmed before the people of Kenya.

The new government enjoys the good fortune of widespread public support and confidence which is essential. This is tempered by a recognition that Kenyan expectations are high where the fight against corruption is concerned. The new government can also look forward to the support of critical constituencies such as the media, bilateral and multilateral development partners, civil society and the private sector. This goodwill will form part of the foundation for the anti-corruption plan of the new government. The new government's anti-corruption plan is led by the President in word and by example. This leadership is the most critical pillar in any plans made for fighting corruption and it is what has been lacking in the past. To this end the President has promised to be the first to declare his wealth upon passage of the requisite legislation. The government has also created a Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to act as the executive arm in the fight against graft. My own office in the Office of the President is aimed at the same. Leadership - In the past 70 + days and taking the queue from the President a range of anti-corruption measures have been implemented administratively. On the leadership front many changes have been made that I do not need to go into. Members of the cabinet have also sustained a high level of anti-corruption rhetoric and made public demonstrations of their will to fight corruption in various government departments. The pressing issue of pending bills is being examined in various ministries.

The allocation and transfer of public land is also under sustained and systematic scrutiny by the relevant ministries. Legal & Institutional Reform - On the legal and institutional front the government has published three bills: The Public Officer Ethics Bill, 2003, The Anti-Corruption & Economic Crimes Bill, 2003 and the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill, 2003 meant to entrench the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission in the constitution. There are other pieces of legislation that would need review and others that need to be introduced. The judicial reform programme has started with the effecting of leadership changes while we now go into a systematic reform of the entire institution of the judiciary. The creation of the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in part serves as a demonstration of the government's seriousness in this effort. It is also born out of a recognition that of all the institutions in need of reform the judiciary is the most important because of its centrality to ensuring that the rule of law prevails in Kenya. The fair and predictable enforcement of law is one of the most important elements of a successful fight against corruption. Extensive judicial reform provisions are also contained in the draft constitution, in particular the proposed creation of institutions such as the: Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice; the parliamentary committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs; and, the Supreme Court.

The Public Officer Ethics Bill, 2003 starts to address the single most important ethical issue facing the Kenya government Ð conflict of interest. Since the Ndegwa Commission report of the 1970s civil servants have been able to engage in private business and this has redefined conflict of interest in Kenya. It has made public service an ethical minefield. Developing and internalising clear conflict of interest rules for public officials is therefore a key priority. With regard to public procurement which has corruptly abused in the past, the government is committed to reviewing of all appropriate laws and in particular the Exchequer and Audit (Public Procurement) Regulations of 2001 and the Public Procurement Complaints, Review and Appeals Board shall be given power to enforce its decisions. Current thinking within the government has been to separate out past human rights abuses from past economic crimes and deal with the two separately. Human rights abuses for which evidence is still readily available in the form of broken bones, scars on bodies and destroyed homes is better dealt with via an instrument such as a Truth & Justice Commission. Economic crimes on the other hand, a more complicated and evidence more troublesome to dig up and organise for criminal or civil prosecution.

To this end different instruments suggest themselves as the most appropriate for this category of past wrongs. The Goldenberg Commission is a good example. Had the assorted Goldenberg cases been allowed to trudge through the courts it is clear that at the very least they would have succeeded in confusing us still more and reducing the possibility that justice would be done in regard to the biggest single of set of scams ever perpetrated against the Kenyan people. Perhaps the principle of restitution should be the overriding one where economic crimes are concerned. It must be noted that one of the most important tasks in any anti-corruption effort is to ensure that progress is actually being made. Statistics by themselves are no reliable indicator of progress. A better form of measurement is the opinions of the people themselves. The ordinary man and woman knows his or her community, and has a pretty fair idea of what is going on. Corruption, particularly petty corruption, if rife, directly affects their daily lives. They have strongly held views on the question, especially its impact on the services that they are entitled to receive. Perhaps the best approach to date is simply to poll the public. If this is done at regular intervals, and in a professional way, it should be possible to monitor progress towards the eventual elimination of corruption in all of its forms. Mr. Githongo is Permanent secretary - Governance and Ethics, Office of the President.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by John Githongo, 21 March 2003

Department Demands Stiff Sentences for Arrested Former Civil Servants

Grahamstown - The Department of Social Development and the Public Service Monitor (PSAM) have expressed delight over the arrest by the Joint Anti-Corruption Unit of 19 people in Umtata, East London and Port Elizabeth this morning. The department this morning called for "stiff" sentences for officials or former officials convicted of fraud and corruption. Department Spokesman Gcobani Maswana told ECN it would be of great "comfort" to the department to see crooked civil servants convicted. ECN learned that most of those arrested were former department officials. Maswana said: "We are very happy about the arrests of officials defrauding the department, of any people stealing funds, and of any people denting the image of the department." He said that the government was making every effort to uproot fraud and corruption in the province. He said those arrested had been dismissed from the department months ago and reported to the criminal justice system by the department. This was an ongoing process and "hundreds" of people were being investigated. He also said most of the fraud against the department was carried out by members of the public who lied about their social position. "People wrongfully collect pensions.

They say they have children when they don't, or they say they earn nothing when they actually do (earn a wage)." He said the department's monitoring unit was exposing these social fibs by visiting families and checking with communities. Also, communities and NGOs were volunteering information to the department which were then followed-up. He said officials and members of the public had defrauded the department of a confirmed R21m between 1995 and 2002. PSAM director Colm Allan also welcomed the arrests. He told ECN this morning: "We congratulate the Scorpions and the anti-corruption unit for the increasing number of arrests which has set a precedent that corruption will not be tolerated. This is critical to demonstrating and promoting good governance in the province and ensuring effective service delivery." ECN learned that the PSAM has been assissting the unit, who are believed to making good use of PSAM's comprehensive website www.psam.ru.ac.za

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Taralyn Bro, 27 March 2003

 

Malaysia: Civil Service Succession Plan

State Secretary Datuk K.Y. Mustafa said the State Government's inaugural executive development programme is one of three levels which aim to facilitate a succession plan for senior civil servants to take over the administration in future. He said the residential training programme beginning this year is for 60 top civil servants, including women, while the second and third phases are for the middle management staff and induction level. The induction level is earmarked for people who begin their career in the civil service and lower rank officers. "The four residential programmes of three weeks each are very 'open' and experimental in nature. "The content of the programme is quite similar. It is more on learning together, and not just formal teaching. "They are spread out over a two-year period and the second batch is scheduled to attend the programme on March 9," he told a press conference at Pacific Sutera Hotel here Sunday. Towards this end, professionals and senior officers are invited to come and share their experience. According to Mustafa, one feature of the programme is the inter-faith dialogue where university lecturers and prominent speakers are invited to talk on Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. "This is because we appreciate our religious diversity," he said.

The training programme, mooted after discussions with civil servants over a period, is held at the Leadership Development Campus, Keningau, of the State Public Sector Training Institute (INSAN) under the Chief Minister's Department. Asked on the criteria for selection of participants, Mustafa said it is based on the officer's abilities, knowledge, work performance and experience. In his assessment, he noted that the participants have attained a high level of maturity, going by the way they asked questions during a recent dialogue with Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat in Keningau. "They will also be evaluated on their intellectual development, among other aspects." After the programme, the officers may be on attachment or given a special assignment, among other approved tasks. Earlier, in his keynote address at the opening of the 2003 City Women Forum dubbed Women's Agenda in 21st Century: Issues, Role and Hopes, he said the succession programme grooms top civil servants who will take over from him and City Mayor Datuk Abdul Ghani Abdul Rashid, among others, in the next few years. Consort to the Head of State, Datin Seri Dayang Hjh Masuyah bte Awang Japar officiated at the opening ceremony.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 3 March 2003

All Policemen to Adhere to Code of Ethics - Minister of Interior

A Code of Ethics to be followed by all grades of Police officers in the performance of their duties will come into effect from March 8 when all officers will take the oath to abide by the code, said Minister of Interior and Christian Affairs John Amaratunga when he inaugurated the work at the Kadawatha Police Station after it was re-developed and upgraded as a Model Police Station recently. The Minister said that the IGP Anandarajah has formulated the Code of Ethics for the first time in the history of the Police Department and this would be a guideline for Police officers in the future. Present on the occasion were Suranimala Rajapakse, Minister of School Education, Ravindra Randeniya, MP Gampaha district, Athula Nimalasiri Jayasinghe, PA MP for Gampaha district, several senior DIGs, SSPs and a cross-section of residents and business community of Kadawatha. Kadawatha Police station is the third Police station to be upgraded and developed to afford an efficient and courteous service to the public and tackling of crime and vices through introduction of new technology like computers, fax machines, communication facilities as well as providing special training to the Police officers in improving public relations and management techniques. Earlier Bambalapitiya and Maharagama Police Stations were upgraded as Model Police Stations.

Minister said that the idea of improving the services at the Police station was first mooted by the members of the Ministry's Advisory Committee headed by Mr. Mihindu Keerthiratne, a well-known architect cum entrepreneur who are offering their services free. Many of the Police stations are functioning with 18th century facilities and age old practices not suited to the modern day requirements. It is time the Police Department moved with the times and this was why they decided that at least a few Police stations should be developed as Model Police Stations for a start for others to follow. As the State did not have adequate funds, they thought of getting the assistance of the private sector to donate the required equipment and improve the buildings as well as train the Police personnel to meet the needs of the public and tackling crime. For example Police personnel are trained to receive all those coming to Police stations courteously and record the complaints on the computers and give a copy of the complaint immediately. Further with the computer network Police stations can liaise with each other in tackling crime and exchanging information.

The Minister said since he took over office several programmes were set in motion to develop police-public relations so as to dispel the fear in most people to go to a Police station. With normalcy in the country restored after a civil war there is a tendency for increase in crime and it is up to all Police officers to discharge their duties without fear or favour. With the appointment of the Police Commission there would not be political interference as in the past. He said that several Police posts are being set up according to the needs of the area such as concentration of population and occurrence of crime and vices and considering the distance of an area from the regular Police station. The presence of the Police in such areas goes a long way in tackling crime as well as prevention of accidents. He made a special appeal to the Police officers to crack down on illicit liquor manufacture, gambling and drug traffickers which pose a grave threat to society. It is with a view to act as a deterrent to committing crimes that they are contemplating re-introducing the death penalty. He said that the Government Parliamentary Group which discussed this matter recently is in favour of the proposal and it is intended to present a special motion in Parliament supporting the re-introduction of the death penalty to get the views of all sections. Once the motion is adopted it would be sent to the President who would be the ultimate authority in implementing it as legislation for death penalty is already on the statute.

From Daily News, Sri Lanka, 02 March 2003

Rody Says No to Federalism

With tension brewing all over the island, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said it is not yet the right moment to discuss the issue of converting the country's present status into a federal system of government. "It's not time to talk about federalism," Duterte said. "There is a lot of trouble brewing all over the country, and if you start to tinker with federalism, you might just by accident dismember this republic." Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who has been pushing for a change into federalism, was in Davao City last week to address the call for independence of the Moro people. According to Duterte, however, giving in to the call will not solve the armed conflict nor will it be a guarantee that the skirmishes in some areas in Mindanao will be stopped. The mayor said he believes it will just worsen the situation especially that there's a tendency that it might accidentally disintegrate the country. "I would be the last Filipino who would want to see my country torn apart," Duterte said. Duterte further vowed that he won't allow advocates of the federal system to succeed, especially in his own turf - Davao City. "In here, I won't allow it," Duterte said. "We have to be a united country, one people, maybe diverse religions but that is good." He added: "It would just be good if we can come to terms with anybody."

From Mindanao Times, Philippines, by Mic O. Villaflor, 25 February 2003

CUEPACS Wants 13-Month Pay a Year for Civil Servants

Kuala Lumpur - CUEPACS, the public sector umbrella union, would submit a memorandum to the government next week, asking for a 13-month pay a year for civil servants. Its president, Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said the move, if implemented, could help rejuvenate the country's economy especially the retail industry. "We want the government to pay the extra month and this should be divided into two payments, a half month before major festive occasions and another half month before school reopens," he said at a media conference after the CUEPACS Council meeting here Saturday. He said the extra month should not be considered as bonus, the payment of which would be at the discretion of the government and made when the nation's economy was healthy. Saturday's meeting, attended by some 200 affiliated members, supported wholeheartedly the 13-month pay proposal, he said. On another matter, the one-million strong CUEPACS also welcomed Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's call Friday for a student exchange programme between national type and vernacular schools. According to Abdullah, such programme could foster closer ties among the students of various races in the country. "This will no doubt help foster unity among students ... the older generation does not have problems of interacting with other races. The problem prevails among the young," Siva said.

He suggested that students in national type schools be given a month to study in vernacular schools and vice versa as this would help the students to learn the culture of other races in the country. "This should also include students from Sabah and Sarawak. This is one of the ways to create a genuine Malaysian society," he said. On the 2-sen fuel prices hike announced by the government Friday, he said the authorities must ensure that it would not lead to increase in the prices of other goods. "Sometimes when fuel prices go up, the price of a cup of coffee or even roti canai goes up ... we accept the increase but the authorities must ensure that prices of other goods do not follow upwards," he said. Saturday's council meeting also passed a resolution condemning the impending US attack on Iraq. It would submit a protest note to the American embassy here soon. Siva said an international panel of doctors had estimated that the war in Iraq would result in nearly 260,000 people losing their lives while 200,000 more would die due to deteriorating health. "We want the United States to know that we are serious on this and that Malaysia's civil servants are behind the country's leaders in wanting peace," he said, while thanking civil servants for turning up at last Saturday's Malaysians for Peace Rally, which was also attended by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Over 100,000 Malaysians, including 15,000 civil servants, attended the rally calling for a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil here.

From Utusan Malaysia Online, Malaysia, 01 March 2003

Early Retirement Available to Civil Servants

It has become easier for civil servants to choose to retire early with benefits and get re-hired on new contract terms. This is in line with changes the public sector has introduced to become a leaner organisation. It used to be seen as an "iron ricebowl", but events at PSA Corp and HDB have shown that lifelong jobs are no longer guaranteed. And those in the public sector are getting the same message. At a recent forum with public sector unions, the government said it was looking at early retirement schemes, like the Special Retirement Scheme and Special Gratuity Scheme, that come with benefits.As a first step, these schemes now come under what is called the Employment Adjustment Programme. Though the programme is not new, Channel NewsAsia understands there are significant changes which take effect this month. Previously, officers who took the payouts and retired early could not be re-hired. The difference is that now they can. But the re-employment is supposed to start off with year-on-year contracts, with terms similar to someone who has never been hired by the Civil Service before. The end result is probably more flexibility for the public service in not just letting go of officers gracefully but also in their hiring of new ones.

A statement from the Public Service Division sets out the background to the early retirement option. It says, "The Employment Adjustment Programme is not a retrenchment programme... the EAP allows a more structured approach for officers to apply to leave the Service early and for ministries to carry out organisation renewal." Unionists Channel NewsAsia spoke to see the changes as inevitable, and they now have to step up efforts to prepare their members for job losses. Ma Wei Cheng, Acting General-Secretary, Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, said, "The public sector has already shrunk over the years...The public service will continue to be leaner and that's a broad objective." Sim Boh Kwang, President, Amalgamated Union of Statutory Board Employees, said, "In the past...only not so good ones (were) sacked. Now, even good ones may have to go, if they don't need the section. "We have to prepare members for second jobs so that in any event, they can adapt to a new environment."

From Channelnewsasia.com, Singapore, by Asha Popatlal, 7 March 2003

Civil Servants Must Support Change For Excellence

Excellence in the public services will be easy to achieve if civil servants fully support new changes implemented by the government. Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali said these implements include the 'Pledge of Loyalty' enforced on all civil servants last year. He said these were not meant to pressure public services staff but to upgrade work quality. "For me this is a good effort to achieve high work quality by the targeted dateline. Through this the civil service will provide careful, earnest, honest, trustworthy and responsible service," he said. Tajol Rosli said this at the Perak state govenment staff and officers' Monthly Gathering Towards Service Excellence here Friday. New Straits Times Group Bhd Editor-in-Chief Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad presented an "Executive Talk" at the event. The government also launched MS ISO9000 accreditation to improve service quality in government agencies. "By adhereing to all the acrreditation requirement, a government agency may create a neat and orderly management system to upgrade service quality," he said.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 7 March 2003

Private Practice for Government Servants Runs Into Snags

The decision to permit public servants to engage in private practice has run into a series of snags with the six-member committee appointed by the Public Administration, Management and Reforms Ministry to formulate the necessary amendments to the Establishment Code failing to get off the ground as its Chairman who is also critical of the move, has retired from service. Chairman of the Committee, Ms. D. Wimalasiri who is also Secretary to the Ministry, retired from service last month after reaching the age of 60, leaving the committee, to face the barrage of criticism even without a single meeting. Minister of Public Administration, Management and Reforms, Vajira Abeywardena, recently decided to permit private practice to certain categories of public servants with the aim of helping the private sector harness the experience of the public servants and make them partners in the national economy. Former Ministry Secretary and ex-Chairman of the committee, Ms. D. Wimalasiri, admitted a committee had been appointed to formulate amendments to the Establishment Code, but said that it didn't favour private practice by the public servants as it would only result in government resources being misused.

She also said that new amendments were not necessary since public servants could engage in private practice under prevailing regulations after office hours with the written permission of the head of the department or the institute. The Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka (OPA) which also opposed the move has decided to submit its objective to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Minister Abeywardena. An official of the Public Interest, Protection and Ethics Committee of the OPA, said that the Association would put the pressure on the government not to extend private practice to further categories of public servants. He said that the OPA felt that the privilege now enjoyed by some categories of public servants should also be phased out because they could use state property, state resources, and official positions on private clients. He pointed out that the government would not receive the output expected from the public servants since it did not possess enough possibilities of neglecting official duties during working hours.

From Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka, by Deepal Warnakulasuriya, 10 March 2003

PNG Leader Takes Over Public Service

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, has assumed control of the country's public service after the incumbent minister's election was invalidated. Sir Michael will take over the role of public service minister, after Dr Puka Temu was ousted in a court ruling last week. Dr Temu is appealing the court decision which ruled his election invalid.

FromGoAsiaPacific.com, Asia, 10 March 2003

Civil Servants Must Aim Higher

Civil servants must raise their benchmark to a higher level if they are not to retard the country's progress in a more globalised and competitive world. Group editor-in-chief of the New Straits Times Press Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad, in making the call, said there had been criticism of, and even cynicism against, the civil service, which largely comprised Malays. Contrary to the past record of the service, he said, critics would equate present-day inefficiency, tardiness, red tape, bureaucracy and corruption to a particular race and religion. "There is fear now that this could be misconstrued. Inefficiency, tardiness and corrupt practices are synonymous with the Malays and Islam," he said. Abdullah said this when addressing some 1,000 senior Federal and State civil servants from Perak, in conjunction with the monthly gathering of members of the civil service and executive talk themed "Shaping An Excellent Civil Service: Challenges Ahead" at the Bangunan Perak Darul Ridzuan today.Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali, State Secretary Datuk Dr Isahak Yeop Mohd Shar, State Legal Adviser Datuk Abdul Rahim Uda and State Financial Officer Datuk Shamsul Baharain Hassan were among those present. Speaking in Bahasa Malaysia, Abdullah lauded Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's concern about poor law enforcement, which, he said, was a weakness that was affecting society.

He said that in order to survive in the global village, the Malays and the Bumiputeras must equip themselves with information technology and become proficient in at least two languages, if not three - Malay, English and either Mandarin, Arabic, a major European language or even Tamil. "English is the language of communication all over the world, Spanish is the fastest growing language, Mandarin has the largest number of users, and Arabic because of the fact that Islam has become increasingly more important. "Unless we have these skills we will never be able to compete with others. The civil servants and the Malays must therefore change or perish," he said. Abdullah also said civil servants should be professional and government jobs made attractive to all races because even good Malays were no longer willing to join the service. Many, in fact, were avoiding government service for greener pastures in the corporate world. "Efforts must be made to attract them to be civil servants. If necessary, introduce a more attractive salary scheme." What will become of us if the government service of the future is manned by third raters?" he asked. "The real test of whether an individual is good, regardless if he is Malay or non-Malay, is when he is employable anywhere in the world," Abdullah said. He said the quota system had worked well for the Malays but they should get rid of the tongkat mentality and move out of their comfort zone.

Soon, he added, the Malays would discover that in the information technology age, the world did not owe them a living. "The fact that the Acting Prime Minister stressed this in his first keynote address yesterday in a talk organised by the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Malaysia, bodes well for the country. "What is needed now is to execute the policy without fear or favour," he stressed. Abdullah said the civil service could not be that bad, otherwise "we would not have what we have today". "But with less bureaucracy and red tape and better quality civil servants at all levels, imagine what we could have achieved. "We would have been nearer to achieving a developed nation status. The fact that we are an example to developing countries is not good enough because all the races could have done better." We have all the good qualities deriving from three great civilisations - Chinese, Indian and Islamic - but certain attitudes, particularly the bad ones, are blighting the country." We can attain much more if people are more focused in what they are doing... the examples are numerous." It is a miracle that we have achieved so much in so little time despite being ourselves, and suffering from malaise." Abdullah said the malaise must be got rid of quickly, especially by Malays, and not allowed to become as well known as that suffered by the British." Look what has happened to Britain. Less than 60 years ago the British controlled one of the biggest empires the world had ever seen. Their general malaise has debilitated them to a mere secondary power today."

Our neighbour Singapore, whether we like it or not, has achieved a lot in lesser time than us. Although Singaporeans are no better off than us, with hardly any resources, natural or human, they have done well because they utilised talented people." We too have talented people, but we are not tapping fully the talent of our people. "I know Singapore is suffering economic difficulty; they have no alternative but to overcome their kiasu attitude and besieged mentality." We have done well, should be doing better and must be doing even better. We have all the right ingredients." Abdullah said the two main criticisms of the civil service were that it was slow to solve the problems of the people and its generally indifferent attitude - not people-friendly. Civil servants, politicians and businessmen, besides being honest, must make decisions as quickly as possible and not wait for months to answer a simple letter. The attitude of a minority of civil servants have given the civil service and the country a bad name, although the majority were actually good, he added. "A way must be found to get rid of the bad apples and some of them are quite obvious." The civil servants must be impartial and support the Government of the day, and if they are not willing to do so they should resign and seek greener pastures elsewhere," he said. Abdullah said the present lot of civil servants were better educated than their predecessors but, "I can't say they are as good and as ethical". He said many former senior civil servants, when they retired, lived in terrace houses because they did not proft from ill-gotten gains. "But today some civil servants and law enforcement officers, as well as politicians, are living beyond their official salaries."

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, 07 March 2003

Few Non-Malays in Civil Service Byproduct of Recruitment Policy

I have been reading with amusement the statements made by ministers downwards about the reluctance of non-Malay Malaysians to join the civil service, including the teaching profession, the police, armed forces etc. Except for a little reluctance on the part of the Chinese community to join as rank and file in the police and armed forces, they generally have no problems joining these services at officer ranks and any level at other civil services. It is not that they do not and did not join but the byproduct of the government's recruitment policy from the time of 'Operasi Isi Penuh' when thousands and thousands of civil servants were recruited, and subsequent recruitment exercises were delegated to heads of departments, by-passing the various Service Commissions. It was not due to lack of interest on the part of the non-Malays but those jobs, deliberately or not, political or otherwise, went to Malays and the entire scenario of the civil service changed - teaching, public service, police force, nursing, etc. It is there for everybody to see. What was deliberately overlooked was that nearly 50 percent of our population, who the civil service is meant to serve, is non-Malay, and the bumiputera quota policy we are publicly told is 30 percent. Granted that our overenthusiastic recruitment agencies and heads of departments took in say 50-60 percent Malays and had they given the remaining 40 percent to non-Malays, say 20 percent Chinese Malaysians, 10 percent Indian Malaysians and 10 percent others, we will not be in our current scenario.

The government as a whole, and Umno, MCA and MIC, are all equally guilty that an issue of this importance to the nation was allowed to be implemented with absolutely no control, flying in the face of declared policy, which is unimaginable and unpardonable. To correct the present imbalance will take more than a generation. The other question to be asked is, once a non-Malay is in, how far he or she can go up the hierarchy in the civil service. They can only move up to a certain level and then they have to resign themselves to the fact that they have reached the end of the rope, with another 20 years before retirement! Even to reach that middle order, are the Malays and non-Malays competing on merit for promotions? I have just touched the main reasons for the "so-called" problem of lack of interest on the part of the non-Malays for the civil service. The notion should be emphatically rejected, as the seeming intention is to shift the blame. Set up a commission to study the reasons and recommend solutions. As a nation and as a matter of state policy, we should never forget that we are a multiracial nation and that fact should clearly be reflected in each and every sphere of our lives, not the civil service alone. Large establishments in the private sector, like banks, should follow suit. In other words, social justice and fair representation for all everywhere.

From Malaysia Kini, Malaysia, 12 March 2003

Women Dominate in Public Service

Women are taking over the state's public sector, with an average 2480 male jobs disappearing each year since 1995. Male employee numbers have dropped 14,622 from 45,745 in 1995 to 31,123 in 2001. In the same period, women's jobs have dropped only 5324 to 51,830. However, figures from the South Australian Public Employment Commissioner show the female dominance is not reflected in senior public-sector positions with 727 male and 286 females in the top brackets. Of the 286 women in senior positions, only 83 are in managerial posts earning more than $100,000 a year. There is only one female CEO of a government department - Kate Lennon in Justice. Public Service Association figures given to the Government show female workers accounted for 55.5 per cent of all public-sector workers in 1995 but by 2001 that rose to 62.5 per cent. "The decline in the number of public-sector workers in SA seems to have contributed to a feminisation of the public sector workforce," a Public Service Association report says. The loss of male jobs has been attributed to privatisation, with most of the government sectors privatised - such as water, electricity and transport - employing predominantly men and that women are more likely to work on a contractual basis.

The PSA study is part of its pre-Budget submission to Treasurer Kevin Foley. It is calling on the Government to develop a strategy to resolve the impact of demographic change and ageing of the state's public sector and to focus on the looming skill and capability shortages. It is also seeking the extension of the current youth training scheme in the public sector to provide an additional 500 places over the next three years at a cost of $15 million. The PSA says the Government should recognise that "further substantial reductions in public-sector expenditure and employment will harm the quality and integrity of core public services given sustained decline over the past six years". Figures in the report show there were 28,076 fewer full-time equivalent employees in the SA public sector in 2001 than in 1992 - a reduction of 28.1 per cent. PSA general secretary Jan McMahon said the experience level of the public sector had to be maintained and it could not afford any more job losses. Unless the losses were reversed, by the end of the next decade there would be no experienced public sector workers left to deliver essential services.

From South Australia Advertiser, Australia, by Greg Kelton, 13 March 2003

More Women On Month-To-Month Basis In Civil Service Than Men

The Brunei Civil Service employed 18,282 women compared 21,485 men in various civil service sectors last year, statistics show. The Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Education Ministry Pengiran Datin Hajah Mariam said this yesterday at the opening of the Joint Regular Training Programme on Agenda, Equity and Empowerment of Women through Vocation and Technical Education and Training. She added that women could not afford to be too selective on the types of courses and training as well as occupation they participated in. She added that in the public sector 12,425 women were employed on a month-to-month service including those in the open vote compared to 874 men. Human resource development in Brunei is given high priority, she added. His Majesty Sultan of Brunei has emphasised on the importance of education and training as a prerequisite for future development of the sultanate, she said. The two-week course involved 22 senior managers of vocational and technical education and training including directors and principals of VTT institutions, policy makers, curriculum developers, teacher trainers and teachers from Asean member countries excluding Singapore.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 17 March 2003

Corruption Has Worsened Despite Reform Pledge

Jakarta - Indonesian lawmakers, whose official salaries are around $3,000 a month, ride Jaguars and BMWs, and lunch regularly at five-star hotels near the parliamentary compound. Some have disclosed having millions of dollars in their bank accounts. Senior civil servants make less, officially, so they make do with Mont Blancs and Rolexes. Wealth-audit body KPKPN said 40 per cent of lawmakers failed to declare their assets last year. Only 35 per cent of 1,500 judges complied with auditors' requests. There is only one conclusion, experts say - the unresponsive ones have assets and deals to hide. Corruption is not a new game here. But if analysts in Jakarta are right, it has worsened since the so-called reform era began five years ago. President Megawati Sukarnoputri's campaign platform in 1999 included anti-graft moves. Now, many think the pledges were empty promises. Anti-graft protests are growing. Many are targeted at the President and her party. Even prominent PDI-P members are unhappy about the issue. Several have fired salvos at members of their own party. More and more politicians, analysts and foreign observers now say the problem is endemic in the bureaucracy. Nothing can happen here without some form of graft to grease it along.

A further observation is that within a bureaucracy this corrupt, the only way to advance through the ranks is to participate, directly or indirectly. It is an irony, therefore, that accusing somebody else of corrupt behaviour has become a part of Indonesian politicians' arsenal. They can sink rivals' political careers this way. Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung is a case in point - his dreams to be President have been dashed. Rivals within Golkar are also using the corruption charge to oust him from the party's leadership. The problem with the scenario is that almost everyone has some dirt on everybody else. Nobody wants to push for harsh punishment. For those not yet tainted, dishing out forgiving punishment for graft also sets a safe precedent, just in case the spotlight is focused on them. The lesson from Indonesia: Graft pays. Also, almost everybody gets away with committing some form of it. When Ms Megawati stands for re-election next year, she is sure to face tough questions about her government's anti-graft track record. But corruption is an issue that goes beyond the next election. The cheque that the government is writing by going soft on corruption today will be cashed years from now. Unfortunately, few think the country can afford to pay up when the time comes.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Robert Go, 18 March 2003

Malaysia's Malaise Begins and Ends With Its Civil Service

What can be done? Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's first address as acting Prime Minister to the Oxbridge Society on March 6 was a forthright indictment of what ails this country of 'First World facilities and Third World mentality'. The motif of the speech was the underside of the 'Malaysia Boleh' spirit of frenetic highway, high-rise and nation-building: Malaysian 'malaise'. In its literal meaning, the word is used to describe how we feel at the beginning of an illness. Malaise in Malaysia means exactly that: Although we may be in reasonable health today, gorging on the easy fruits of rapid development, there is a sense that we are on our way to getting sick; perhaps, because of over-indulgence. The question-and-answer session after the speech provided an unintended symbolism that would have delighted Freud: 'malaise' was consistently mispronounced as 'Malays'. Indeed, it was a conclusion that was hard to escape: The country's future global competitiveness depends on the transformation of the Malays, and nowhere will that be more decisive than in the performance of the central institution in which they are most tellingly represented - the government. Datuk Seri Abdullah reiterated what he has said from the beginning: that there won't be any change in our destination, which is to reach developed- nation status in 17 years. That goal is contained in Vision 2020, comprehensively set down by Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1991, and as worthy today as it was then.

Datuk Seri Abdullah's emphasis was on the means rather than the ends. It was on the execution and implementation of long-range policies, the continuity and consistency of which has marked Malaysia out as an outstanding exception to the general poverty and deprivation of the post-colonial Third World. Although the Prime Minister-designate's message has ramifications for all of Malaysian society, its thrust fell squarely on the government. The onus on the government is heavier now than when it took on the vastly enlarged burdens of state and the running of the economy with the formulation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the early 1970s. Much of what it then did was to command and intervene in the economy to produce a more equitable sharing-out of the nation's wealth and opportunities. To accomplish this, government grew by leaps and bounds, not just in sheer size but in reach, structure, outlook and philosophy. The civil service today has an entirely altered complexion from the lofty one I knew before and in the early years of Independence. The differences between then and now are fundamental, and not always desirable. Those differences were brought home to me a day after Datuk Seri Abdullah's speech, when I addressed federal and state civil servants in Ipoh on 'Shaping an Excellent Civil Service: Challenges Ahead'.

There were about a thousand of them, compared with the past when the entire Malayan Civil Service (MCS) could be seated in the entrance hall of Wisma Kera-jaan. Then, there was their 'look': They looked, in fact, like ordinary Malaysians. Unlike their aloof predecessors, who were a class apart, today's bureaucrats have become egalitarian. They signify the good as well as the bad in the society they hail from. Nation's standard-bearers - In the old days, the civil service was special. A product of the selective Colonial Service, it comprised high-calibre officers whose integrity and competence were respected and admired. Respect and admiration extended to the role and sovereignty of the government itself. Our civil servants were the unsung heroes of Independence. Umno was started, nurtured and led by either state or MCS officers: Datuk Sir Onn Jaafar (Johor Civil Service), Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra (Kedah Civil Service, then Legal Service), Tun Razak (MCS), Tun Hussein Onn (Johor Civil Service, then Malay Administrative Service), Dr Mahathir (Medical Service) and after October, Datuk Seri Abdullah (MCS, now renamed PTD or Perkhidmatan Tadbir dan Diplomatik). Our political class was recruited from them; they held the country together at a time when the future looked terribly uncertain. But democracy caused government to be brought down to the people, both literally and metaphorically. That government stands as a metaphor for the Malays is obvious, even in the past.

I said in Ipoh that 'critics equate inefficiency, tardiness and corrupt practices with the Malays and Islam', just as they saw what was best in the Malays in the refined meritocracy of the MCS. Comparisons are therefore inevitable. Understandably, however, senior civil servants, not least the Chief Secretary to the government, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman, believe such comparisons are specious. They are quite right, of course. In many ways, the government has changed so much that setting past against present would be like comparing chalk and cheese. At a meeting with New Straits Times editors recently, Mr. Samsudin said that when he joined the service in 1969, the entire federal machinery was housed in the four-storey Federal House. The government now resides in the township complex of Putrajaya. Nevertheless, the pressures and challenges imposed on the government are not due to any structural deficiency. The civil service is probably more hardworking now for the much larger responsibilities and services it undertakes. But the service of old had a cachet, built around a core of values and ethics, that their present-day successors have only partly inherited. Mr. Samsudin admitted that there is a lack of mentoring in the service. Departmental heads do not tutor their underlings into a tradition of public duty and honour.

A positive culture does not spread downwards. Instead, only bad habits become ingrained. Civil servants have been known to take leisurely tea breaks for as long as I can remember. Values and ethics, or the lack of them, were what Datuk Seri Abdullah was referring to. As I asked in Ipoh: 'What will become of us if the government service of the future is manned by third-raters?' It is a question Dr Mahathir, Datuk Seri Abdullah and Singapore's Mr. Lee Kuan Yew seriously understood. The short answer is that we will remain in the Third World of our collective mentality. Datuk Seri Abdullah envisaged a government that is less a provider than a facilitator - of individual enterprise, ability, self-sufficiency and talent. The gradual withdrawal of crutches employed for the socio-economic restructuring of the nation under the NEP will require a more adroit, capable and professional government than one whose cardinal function is to dole out concessions, favours and privileges. Malaysia's malaise begins and ends with the government. The government reflects the society it serves. Only the government can reform and change society. And it can only do that by first changing itself.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Abdullah Ahmad, 20 March 2003

Civil Servants Singled Out For Higher Taxes After Pay Rise

Guangzhou's civil servants have been singled out for higher income tax bills this year as part of a budget plan to increase revenue from income tax by 16 per cent to 737 million yuan (HK$694.47 million). The increases were announced by Guo Xiling, director general of the Guangzhou Municipal Financial Bureau, in the city's 2003 budget, Nanfang Daily reported on its website. Guo said as civil servants would receive a pay rise this year it was only fair that they paid higher tax. "Whoever has a pay rise deserves to pay more. [After the pay rise] I also have to pay more than 800 yuan tax a month," he said. The income tax rise, the main revenue-raising measure in the budget, would not have any impact on most people as it would only be levied on civil servants. Guo said the 2.8 per cent civil service pay rise would add 68 million yuan to government expenses and take the annual civil service salaries bill to 2.48 billion yuan. Public order, social security and education are the main expenditure items in the budget. Public order will see the biggest growth in operating expenditure, increasing 166.6 per cent to 48 million yuan. The major spending item is equipment for Guangzhou police. Social security payments are the second-biggest growth item, increasing 22.8 per cent to 604 million yuan. But Guo said other areas would show zero expenditure growth, with spending by administrative departments falling 5 per cent. He said the cutbacks would see less being spent on meetings, receptions, visits, overseas trips, ceremonies and allowances. The government has set a target of 12 per cent economic growth for this year. "In order to achieve the goal and keep the unemployment rate as low as possible, the government will spend 11.5 billion yuan on 30 infrastructure and industrial projects this year."


From The Standard, Hong Kong, by Olivia Chung, 24 March 2003

Government to Start Public Sector Development Programme'

Lahore: Adviser to chief minister Punjab on human rights Rana Ijaz Ahmad Khan on Sunday said that the Federal government is spending Rs 1145.67 million on law, justice, and human rights under public sector development programme which includes Rs 894.71 million in foreign aid. Addressing the students of the Quaid-e-Azam Law College, Mr. Khan said the government has given priority to the protection of human rights and in this regard Rs 24.935 million is being spent on mass awareness and education campaigns. He added that the government was also initiating a new project to ensure access to justice at the cost of Rs 774 million. The government has reserved Rs 200 million for the betterment of courts infrastructure. He added that Pakistan has obtained a loan of $350 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which would be spent on reforming the judicial, legal and police departments.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 24 March 2003

Public Sector Reforms Difficult'

Public sector reforms for the health services are going to be difficult, as professional ethics of health workers would be affected if it focuses on making money, rather than giving good health. Fiji Nurses Association general secretary Kuini Lutua said unlike the private sector where the objectives, primary purpose of companies and organisation is to make profit, the public service is primarily concerned with providing services to the general public such as health, education, water, power, transport and communications. "Nurses throughout the country need to know and understand the implications of health reforms on them, positive implications and negative ones too," she said. "It is imperative that all are aware of opportunities the reform brings to individuals in terms of professional development and career moves as well as the benefits and problems it would give the public or stakeholders in the health sector," she said. Mrs. Lutua said the shortage of health workers was a big problem, some ripple of which Fiji is experiencing now.

"The impact of nurse migration will have a profound effect on the numbers that remain in the system if retention strategies are not put in place early," she said. Mrs. Lutua said burn out effect and bad health would be the visible outcome not including social and family problems created on nursing families if nurses continue to try and solve shortage at their work place by extending "pull through techniques". Mrs. Lutua said physiological effects put pressure on the stressed out nurse who may "snap" at minor things and the attitude problem can slowly creep up to make working relationships bad. "Nurses must know how to handle stress. All these must be taken back to management level for review of work situation and discussions with the unit team or ward must be encouraged. "Nurses must learn not to point fingers at others but to take control of the situation and deal with what is at hand," she said. Mrs. Lutua said dialogue is healthy and must also be encouraged by all nurses, rather than letting them suffer silently.

From Fiji's Daily Post, Fiji, 24 March 2003

 

How to Pay for Public Services Is Real Test for Government

Public services and the economy, rather than Iraq, will be the decisive issues at the next general election. The outcome in Iraq may shake up British politics in the short term. But the impact may fade fast, as happened after the first Gulf War in 1991, when domestic issues were central to the elections in the following year in both Britain and America. So we should all look beyond the reports of the assiduous Hans Blix to what the International Monetary Fund has to tell us. Most of the coverage of the IMF's annual analysis of Britain has focused on what is said about the economic and fiscal outlook. But equally interesting are the fund's comments about public services. Despite the perverse moans of the Government's critics about services being neglected, we are now seeing a record increase in spending on services such as health and education - up 27 and 37 per cent respectively in real terms over the three years up to 2004-05. But is the money being well spent? The Conservatives have already questioned whether the additional money is producing a real improvement in services. IMF "staff also questioned whether it would be possible to raise public spending as rapidly as currently envisaged without risking inefficiencies". The issue is not whether spending needs to be increased in some areas, notably health and transport, but "the sheer speed at which spending" is rising. This goes back to the famine/feast problem of the austerity of the first couple of years followed by the current rapid expansion.

The IMF supports the thrust of the Government's reforms, but notes that "their effectiveness in improving public service delivery, especially at higher levels of spending, will not be known for some time". In other words, it will be a tight race to demonstrative measurable, and publicly recognisable, improvements by the time of the next election. The Government is still learning and adapting its approach, as Michael Barber, head of the delivery unit, recently told the Public Administration Committee. But the IMF emphasised that a lot more needs to be done to improve incentives on public sector pay. The Government has been slow to dismantle over-rigid centralised pay bargaining, as the fire service dispute shows. Moreover, the IMF said, "public spending could also be made more efficient through the broader application of user fees, to rationalise demand and avoid subsidising middle-to-upper-income users", partly offset by higher benefits for low-income groups. User charges already apply in transport and prescriptions (though with broad exemptions), and prospectively also with increased tuition fees. This is a highly controversial area as the fuss over Tony Blair's hint at experimenting with "co-payment" in the public sector showed. These will remain the central arguments of politics. Can the Government's mixture of centrally set targets and inspection work (however refined)? Or has there got to be a shift to much greater diversity of provision and consumer choice between public and private sector providers? This will not only be the battle within new Labour, as the foundation hospitals row shows, but also between the Government and the Tories.

From London Times, UK, by Peter Riddell, 5 March 2003

:Job Vacancies Higher in Public Sector

The public sector continues to provide more job opportunities than the private sector, according to a report published today by the Economic and Social Research Institute. The report said the vacancy rate in the public service is currently at 4%, with An Garda Síochana, the Defence Forces and the health service providing the most openings. Regional bodies such as county councils, urban district councils and tourist boards have also reported high levels of vacancies. In the private sector, the ESRI said the vacancy rate was 3%, with one-fifth of firms reporting vacancies during 2001/2002. Construction companies had the highest vacancy rate.

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 03 March 2003

Doubles Decisive for Civil Service

Civil Service have won Division 2 of the Exeter League. Ian Callard's explosive pace once again proved decisive as Civil Service defeated pre-season favourites ECC G 9-3 to secure the title with two matches to spare. A major contributing factor in their success has been their superb doubles play, winning 42 out of 48.Skipper Glen Mayhew (Coaver D) claimed his first maximum this season, coming back from 0-10 down in the third leg to win 21-18 against a gutted Dave Tregale as Coaver crushed ECC L.In Division 1, John Smithers (ECC A) inflicted only the fourth defeat this season on Daniel Mayhew as his side defeated Coaver A 8-4. ECC A need one win to ensure the title. ECC E deserved a point for effort in their 8-4 defeat by Coaver B which made sure they stay at the foot of the table. Their reserve, Tracey Lyon, was unlucky not to get on the scorecard against Paul Wood, Peter Forrest played exceptionally well for two singles and Max Schmider outplayed Kevyn Rice. In Division 3, St Thomas Methodist A were unlucky not to take a point from Coaver E in a 7-5 defeat. The Saints' doubles strength kept them in the match. Division 4 title contenders ECC Q won 7-5 against Coaver H. They secured the match early at 7-2, but battling Coaver did not lose heart. Division 4 champion John Maguire justified his status by claiming a maximum, helping Coaver to take the last three sets.

The closing date for the Exeter Championships and the Bill Spry Tournament has been extended until this Saturday. DIVISION 1: ECC E 4 (Forrest 2, Schmider 1, dbls 1) Coaver B 8 (Putland 3, Wood 2, Rice 1, dbls 2); ECC B 12 (Yardley 3, Snow 3, Burridge 3, dbls 3) ECC F 0; Coaver A 4 (Mayhew 2, Woodhead 2) ECC A 8 (M Bellingham 2, Smithers 2, I Bellingham 1, dbls 3); Brixham 2 (Pengelly 1, dbls 1) ECC D 10 (Davie 3, Finnimore 3, Tuckett 2, dbls 3).DIVISION 2: Civil Service 9 (Callard 3, Kavanagh 2, Crabtree 1, dbls 3) ECC G 3 (Ross 1, Back 1, Watson 1); Coaver D 10 (Mayhew 3, Grant 3, Flather 2, dbls 2) ECC L 2 (Devlin 1, dbls 1); ECC H 10 (Anniss 3, Mudge 3, Blatchford 1, dbls 3) West Exe A 2 (Hare 1, Mitchell 1).DIVISION 3: ECC M 9 (Spray 2, Whitehorn 3, Farmer 1, dbls 3) ECC P 3 (Yardley 1, Jones 1, Parkhouse 1); Mintoes 10 (Abouchaar 3, Warner 2, Brookes 2, dbls 3) Coaver F 2 (Hoare 2); St Thomas Methodist B 5 (Bradford 2, dbls 3) Coaver E 7 (Arnold 3, Hayfield 2, Freeman 2); ECC P 10 (Twitchen 3, Yardley 3, Spry 2, dbls 2) St Thomas Methodist B 2 (Bichols 1, dbls 1).DIVISION 4: QECC C 12 (Samson 3, Pearce 3, Kimber 3, dbls 3) ECC R 0; ECC Q 7 (Farmer 2, Corby 2, Wood 1, dbls 1) Coaver H 5 (J Maguire 3 M Maguire 1 dbls 1); ECC S against Ottery St Mary Barracudas; points awarded to ECC S.

From Exeter Express, UK, by Alan Spencer, 11 March 2003

Civil Servants to Explain Proposed FoI Restrictions

The Dáil's Finance and Public Service Committee is due to discuss the Government's planned restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act later today. The committee will hear submissions from the five civil servants who drew up a report recommending that the 1997 legislation be watered down to prevent the release of certain Government papers. The Government has proposed several major changes to the Freedom of Information Act, including an extension of the time limit on the release of cabinet papers from five to 10 years. The Fianna Fail-Progressive Democrats coalition also wants to withhold all communications between Government ministers and all documents relating to issues that are still the subject of "deliberations".

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 13 March 2003

BBC Scales Back Public Service Sites

The BBC is winding down websites dedicated to Crimewatch and Watchdog despite investing an estimated £500,000 of licence payers' money in developing the services. BBC insiders said both sites would effectively be closed later this year and that the BBC's Holiday, motoring and homes and antiques sites would be severely cut back. Insiders said most of the staff on the corporation's Holiday site faced redundancy after BBCi decided to scale back the amount of online support for the TV programme. "In the BBCi Lifestyle genre, only Food and Gardening will continue to be updated on a regular basis," claimed one insider. The high profile websites have been targeted as part of swingeing cutbacks ordered by Ashley Highfield, the head of the BBC's online arm, who is trying to cut spending by £6m to £68m this year. Although some form of service backing up Crimewatch and Holiday will continue, work on the Crimewatch site appears to have ground to a halt. There are no latest online appeals, despite the TV show's heavily touted reconstruction of the last moments of Marsha McDonnell, the student murdered near her south London home in February. And the latest information on the site simply says: "The latest appeals will appear here on Wednesday 26 February after 9pm." Sources say the BBC has spent about £250,000 developing each site over the last few years.

But it is probable the sites did not attract many users, as Mr.Highfield has hinted this week that unpopular sites would not survive. "We've got to work out what people look at and what they don't," he told MediaGuardian.co.uk. One BBCi insider accused the corporation of abandoning sites with a strong public service role. "At a time when there is a review about to start into BBCi, it [the BBC] is closing sites with a very public service remit or genuine reason to remain." A BBCi spokesman however denied Crimewatch and Watchdog would close down entirely. "Crimewatch and Watchdog will remain but their focus will change. Rather than supporting every programme, they will provide generic content that will be refreshed," he said. The spokesman also said the Holiday site would be integrated into a general lifestyle portal offering users a "one stop shop". Mr.Highfield denied the cuts were linked to the forthcoming DCMS review of BBCi ordered by the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, last December. Although the terms of reference for the investigation have yet to be revealed, it is understood the main thrust of the enquiry will be into whether the BBC is spending too much money providing web services in areas that are already catered for by commercial competitors. About 100 jobs are expected to go as a result of the cuts as BBCi diverts more of its resources into developing interactive television. "We have strategically positioned the move towards interactive TV because we've seen how popular it can be, and it reaches people that don't necessarily spend a lot of time on the web," Mr. Highfield said.

From Guardian, UK, by Dominic Timms, 14 March 2003

A Distinguished Career on Both Sides of the Public Service Fence

As a poacher turned gamekeeper, Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Kevin Murphy, who has announced his retirement, has been on both sides of the public service fence. He has in fact partially succeeded in breaking it down during his distinguished career. The 66-year-old Dubliner, born in the Dolphin's Barn area of the city, could not afford to attend university when he left school and instead joined the civil service, though he would later obtain a degree in economics. He rose steadily through the ranks , reaching the position of Secretary of the then Department of the Public Service in 1983, remaining in charge of the Public Service following that department's merger with the Department of Finance in 1987. As the Government's lead negotiator in public service pay talks for almost 20 years, he was responsible for bringing the trade unions into national wage agreements during difficult economic times. He also chaired the Top Level Appointments Committee which advised the Government on appointments to the highest levels of the civil service. In 1994, he succeeded Michael Mills to become the country's second Ombudsman, and quickly dispelled fears that his natural loyalties would lead him to be overly protective of the public service.

Despite a long history of shaping the very Government bodies and agencies about which he was now receiving complaints, he was not shy in speaking out about their shortcomings. In 1997, he criticised State bodies for failing to handle disputes in a non-confrontational manner, and warned that injustices which had become endemic in the public service were alienating citizens from the State. While still retaining the post of Ombudsman, he was appointed the country's first Information Commissioner in April 1998, to adjudicate in disputes over the then newly-enacted Freedom of Information legislation, to ensure public bodies were complying with the legislation in spirit and in practice. On his first day in office, he acknowledged that requests for access to records would present public bodies with "complex and difficult decisions", but warned that all refusals to provide information under the act would have to be fully justified. He controversially ruled in 1999 that details of expenses claimed by members of the Dáil and Seanad should be made public, and two years later expressed concern at the overall rate at which requests were being refused. Mr. Murphy is married to Kay, a native of Co. Mayo, and the couple have three daughters, a son and a number of grandchildren. He is an avid soccer and Gaelic football fan following Shamrock Rovers and also enjoys gardening.

From IrishExaminer.com, Ireland, by Caroline O'Doherty, 25 March 2003

 

Rachlevsky: I'll Cut Salaries of Top Civil Servants

Ministry of Finance director of wages Yuval Rachlevsky: There'll be an earthquake here. Ministry of Finance director of wages Yuval Rachlevsky predicts a wave of labor disputes arising from the ministry's plan to cut public sector salaries, enact structural changes and reduce the number of public employees. Rachlevsky told "Globes" that it was important to reduce public sector salaries in 2003-04. He called on the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) to reach an agreement with the Ministry of Finance. "It is still possible to reach an understanding with the Histadrut. We need to reach an agreement that will ensure the long-term interests of the Histadrut and those insured by pension funds on one hand, while enabling the government to cut salaries on the other. The measure is needed to meet the demands of the budget cut," Rachlevsky said. In response to a question about whether the Ministry of Finance's measures would "pass quietly", Rachlevsky answered, "There could be an earthquake here." Rachlevsky confirmed that Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a salary freeze at the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), and rejected at this stage the IEC's signed work and salary agreement. Rachlevsky said, "I read in the papers that I signed a salary agreement with the IEC chairman. Rubbish. I spoke with the chairman, but no salary agreement was ever signed, because IEC's management was absent. The minister of finance has now ordered everything halted." Rachlevsky added that he would act in 2003 to reduce the salaries of 725 highest-paid public sector employees, earning more than NIS 40,000 a month. "I consider it a problem that there are public employees earning NIS 40,000-50,000 a month without approved contracts. We'll thoroughly check the matter out, and the salary of any employee without an approved contract will be cut," he concluded.

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein, 13 March 2003

Minister Calls for More Efficient Public Service

Minister of State for Administrative Development, Fouad Saad, called for better public service at government departments, Thursday. Speaking at a workshop on public service, the minister said that the quality of the service provided to the public was "very important." He said that learning how to deliver a better service was one thing and actually delivering the service was another. The workshop was held at the UNESCO Palace in association with the TEAM International employment agency.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, 21 March 2003

 

Geneva Civil Service Office Hours Slashed

The number of days Ontario County's Human Resources office on Seneca Street in Geneva is open will be reduced from five to two, effective July 1. The Ontario County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution last night cutting the number of days the Geneva civil service office is open, citing a lack of use. Supervisors Patrick Crowley of East Bloomfield and Donald Leysath of Naples were absent. The full-time office was opened Jan. 1, 2000, in an effort to provide easier access for residents in the eastern part of the county; the main office is at the county complex in Hopewell. Recent figures show that an average of only two or three people a day visit the Geneva office. "I'm disheartened, but the numbers speak for themselves," said Geneva City Supervisor Rocky LaRocca, who lobbied to have the office in Geneva and noted that the number of days could increase if needed. "It seems appropriate from a business sense." John Garvey, county director of Human Resources, said one of the reasons for the lack of customers in Geneva could be the department's Web site, which has seen an increase in use.

People who want job information or to fill out an application can do so electronically, decreasing the need to actually visit the office. Garvey said the Geneva office will likely remain open Mondays and Wednesdays, which are typically the last days applicants are able to file for civil service exams. The full-time employee working at the satellite office will divide her time between Geneva and Hopewell, Garvey said. In other business Thursday night, the board: n LANDFILL OPTIONS - Passed a resolution authorizing county officials to send out a request for proposals for running the county landfill in Flint. LaRocca, vice-president of Seneca Meadows Landfill in Seneca Falls, abstained from the vote. County officials are looking at ways to increase efficiency at the landfill. Options include leasing it to a private solid waste management company or hiring a new director who would work for the county. One option supervisors don't support is selling the facility. APPOINTMENT - Unanimously appointed Robin L. Johnson, of Hopewell, as the county's director of Real Property Tax Services. Johnson has been serving as interim director since Linda Yancey retired last year. FLPAC MANAGEMENT - Transferred the operational, management and financial responsibility of the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center to Finger Lakes Community College. The step is part of a recommendation from an outside consulting firm hired to review the facility and suggest ways to make it more viable. Plans call for renovating the summer venue site, on the campus of Finger Lakes Community College, into a year-round cultural, educational and concert venue.

RECOGNITIONS - Presented three county employees with commendations for their military service: Thomas Rafferty, of Farmington, an engineer at the landfill; and correction officers Patrick Thorpe, of East Bloomfield, and Robert Morris Jr., of Richmond. Thorpe and Morris also were named deputies of the year by Sheriff Phil Povero. Several supervisors were presented with pins for five years of county service by Geneva City Supervisor Donald Ninestine, board chairman. The supervisors were Sam Casella of the town of Canandaigua, Richard Calabrese of Gorham, Charles Domville of West Bloomfield, Wayne Houseman of Bristol, Donald N. Jensen II of Seneca, Mary Luckern of the town of Geneva, Carmen Orlando of Phelps and Kristine Singer of Canadice. Ninestine also presented County Administrator Geoff Astles with a pin for 20 years of service. Astles previously served as the county's deputy administrator under the late Edward Grace and as director of planning.

From Finger Lakes Times, NY, by Andrea Deckert, 7 March 2003

Volcker Commission Finds Support for Civil Service Changes

Members of the House Government Reform Committee chewed over federal pay, political appointees and the civil service yesterday at a hearing focused on the recent Volcker commission report calling for a government-wide reorganization. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the committee chairman, used the Volcker commission report to signal that he plans to pursue fundamental changes to the civil service system. "The last thing we want to do is let this die in the dust," Davis told Paul A. Volcker, chairman of the National Commission on the Public Service and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve System. Rep. Jo Ann S. Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on civil service and agency organization, agreed, saying, "I see the Volcker commission report as a guidepost for Congress as we begin our journey of reforming the federal government." She pledged to hold hearings this year on federal pay, hiring and other issues. Democrats said no changes should be made that would undermine civil service protections for federal employees and expressed concern about Bush administration efforts to turn more federal work over to contractors.

But they did not reject Volcker's argument that key parts of the government are operating with outmoded rules, pay inequities and poor systems for recruiting top-notch talent. "Timing is everything, and it appears that now is the time to make constructive changes to the federal civil service and how it operates," said Rep. Danny K. Davis (Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the civil service subcommittee. Last year, Congress launched the government on one of its biggest reorganizations - the consolidation of 22 agencies into the Department of Homeland Security. That reorganization will allow the department to overhaul its pay and personnel rules. Other agencies also are proposing to modify pay and hiring procedures, including the Defense Department and NASA. Volcker told the committee that his bipartisan group started out to recommend changes in the federal personnel system but quickly shifted to the larger issue of how to restructure the government into super-departments that would consolidate the government's operations based on mission, eliminate overlaps and help employees focus on improving federal services and programs. Volcker was joined by Frank C. Carlucci, defense secretary in the Reagan administration, and Donna E. Shalala, health and human services secretary in the Clinton administration.

The trio testified in favor of giving the president expedited authority to recommend a government-wide reorganization that also would require Congress to quickly vote it up or down. As part of the reorganization, the trio supported cutting back on political appointees, perhaps by as much as half. They also suggested that Congress and the White House find a way to recommend significant pay raises for the judiciary and the Senior Executive Service, the top rank of the civil service. Volcker said judicial pay has not kept pace with inflation; Shalala said federal science agencies have trouble recruiting professionals; and Carlucci noted that the Defense Department has trouble finding experts in technical fields, and that when it does, it usually recruits people on the verge of retirement. Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) questioned Volcker's recommendation to immediately raise the pay of federal judges and top civil servants, saying it would create an "awkward situation" to pay them more than the "board of directors," or lawmakers. Putnam said he feared that paying judges more than lawmakers would make the judicial branch seem more important than the legislative branch. Volcker contended that holding down judicial pay would "do basic damage" to the courts. Carlucci said he fears an "erosion of quality" in the government and courts if steps are not taken to raise salaries.

From Washington Post, DC, by Stephen Barr, 7 March 2003

Renewing The Public Service Is Top of Government Agendas

Toronto - Public servants will soon be retiring in large numbers, and Canadian governments urgently need to recruit and train a new generation of skilled executives, a national survey has found. A survey conducted by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) revealed that senior officials at all levels of government believe that human-resource renewal will be their top priority for the next several years. The survey of deputy ministers and chief administration officers (CAOs) of municipalities found that their organizations face enormous pressures to deal with the "new 3 Rs" of government management - retirement, recruitment and retention. "During the next decade a significant portion of the public sector will retire," said IPAC President Alphonsus Faour, who is Chair and CEO of the Public Service Commission of Newfoundland & Labrador. "Managers will walk out the door with the organization's accumulated knowledge and experience still in their heads.

There is a pressing need to find ways to transfer essential knowledge and experience to new staff." Survey respondents emphasized the importance of making government organizations more attractive places to work. Competing for talent is becoming more difficult. One provincial deputy minister said his department expects to lose half of its management staff within seven years, adding, "Our organization must strive to improve our record regarding work-life balance while at the same time relay the message that the organization is a vibrant and exciting place to work." The IPAC Public Sector Management Issues Survey, the fifth since 1994, was conducted in December 2002 among senior public servants in federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments. It revealed that, since the previous survey in 2000, governments have come under growing pressures from fiscal restraints combined with an aging public service. Other pressures that continue to be of highest importance in setting government agendas include: public expectations for excellence in service delivery; technological change, especially the impact of the Internet, and global issues including international terrorism, trade and the environment. Deputy ministers and CAOs across Canada reported that they face a major management challenge in meeting high public expectations for service delivery when money is becoming tighter.

Compared with 2000, when balanced budgets were common, in 2002 many jurisdictions again faced fiscal constraints and cutbacks. All told, the survey revealed that Canadian public executives expect to focus their management attention on four major themes during the next several years: 1. Renewing and revitalizing the public service; 2. Improving services to citizens in a climate of fiscal restraint; 3. Expanding performance measurement, and showing accountability for results; 4. Rethinking government policies and programs within fiscal targets, as well as engaging citizens and rebuilding trust in government. The complete IPAC Public Sector Management Issues Survey 2002 is accessible on the IPAC Web site at: http://www.ipaciapc.ca/english/about/2002dm-survey.ppt IPAC is a non-profit organization, established in 1947, concerned with the theory and practice of public management. Its scope covers governance from the global to the local level. Based in Toronto, IPAC has 17 regional groups across the country providing networks and forums to exchange ideas on trends, practices and innovations in public administration.

From Canada NewsWire, CA, 12 March 2003

Owens Wants Civil Service Changes

Denver - Gov. Bill Owens signed an executive order Wednesday forming a commission on civil service changes, saying the current system causes waste and inefficiency in the state's work force. Representatives for the state's 47,000 state employees called it a thinly veiled attempt to get rid of employees as the state grapples with a budget crisis. ''It doesn't sound good. This bodes very badly for state employees,'' said Jo Romero, president of the Colorado Federation of Public Employees, which represents about 1,500 state employees. Romero said forming the commission was retribution after state employees persuaded a House committee to kill a bill that would have allowed state agencies to hire private contractors to fill vacant positions. Among those appointed to the 10-member commission were former Gov. Dick Lamm, state Personnel Director Troy Eid, Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, and Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver. ''Colorado's civil service system is one of the most archaic in the entire nation. I am convinced that we can and should have a better, more responsive system in place for our employees, as well as the citizens they serve. The time has come to modernize our state personnel system,'' Owens said. He directed the commission to determine how the state can address legal, regulatory, technological and business realities state government is facing. The current system is part of the state Constitution, making it impossible to change without asking voters. It makes a state job a property right, giving state employees the right to a job as long as they behave until they quit or retire. It also restricts state managers to considering only the top three candidates for a position instead of all qualified candidates. Romero said Colorado is one of only a few states with constitutional protections for state workers. Owens said the law was established before wage and hour laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans With Disabilities Act placed additional burdens on state employment.

From Wyoming News, WY, by Steven K. Paulson, 13 March 2003

Civil Service Commission Already Taking in load of Complaints Due To Workweek Reductions

With salary and work-hour reductions, plus furloughs and layoffs in the government, the Civil Service Commission is prepared to take on expected complaints from classified employees. According to Commission Interim Administrator Vern Perez, CSC has already begun receiving informal complaints regarding the 32-hour workweeks. Said Perez, "We've received some calls from people who feel that the way it's been applied to them may not have been comporting with fairness, what we've done is we've made sure to entertain those calls individually and individually entertain their complaints but there have only been several." Meanwhile, the Commission is working with departments and agencies in setting out proper guidelines for employee actions. "It's the CSC's job to ensure that all agencies have appropriate rules and regulations. We have worked with the Department of Administration to change those rules because of budget bill changes and get those out to all managers. Ultimately, all employees have the right to appeal to the civil service commission with respect to layoffs and furloughs," Perez added.

From KUAM-TV, Guam, 13 March 2003

Civil Servants Have Jobs for Life: Landry

Montreal - Liberals talk tax cuts, ADQ of accountability - Quebec Premier Bernard Landry promised yesterday that Quebec will reduce the size of its bureaucracy without cutting civil servant jobs. "We will achieve the plan in the coming years without touching job security - which we believe is sacred - by maximizing the use of modern information technology," he said, adding it will be done "without cutting jobs." Civil servants with permanent, full-time employment have their jobs for life. He also didn't rule out hiring more civil servants to provide services and didn't promise any tax relief before 2010. With 40 per cent of civil servants set to retire in the coming years, Mr. Landry said there is no need to follow the proposal of the Action democratique du Quebec to cut the bureaucracy or sub-contract services to the private sector. Quebec's public-sector unions have vowed to oppose the ADQ in the campaign for the April 14 provincial election over its threat to rewrite labour laws to revoke the status of guaranteed jobs and to trim the bureaucracy. "If there needs to be new hirings there will be," Mr. Landry said during campaigning in Montreal before heading to the Laurentians, north of the city. Mr. Landry said the province's only sub-contracting project would be for road work to a highway on Montreal's south shore.

The government has failed to reduce the size of the bureaucracy in recent years because of the transfer of 1,300 federal bureaucrats dealing with employment programs in 1999, he said. The Liberals are also counting on attrition and retirements to reduce the size of the 90,000-member provincial bureaucracy, which is larger than Ontario's despite having a smaller population. Hoping to tap into resentment that Quebecers are among the highest taxed in North America, Liberal Leader Jean Charest continued to press his tax-cut plan on Sunday. A Liberal government would cut Quebecers' tax burden by slicing income taxes and possibly eliminating the provincial sales tax. Finance spokesman Yves Seguin, a former revenue minister under Robert Bourassa, refused to reject the possibility of eliminating or reducing the 7.5 per cent sales tax. His party plans personal income tax cuts of $5-billion over five years, but Mr. Seguin said there are 680 different ways to achieve this. "Nobody can tell you in advance that we won't touch other things," he said.

The PQ has outlined a series of spending proposals since the election campaign started on March 12. But Mr. Landry dismissed on Saturday the likelihood of tax cuts or reduction of the $108-billion debt before 2010. Meanwhile, Mr. Seguin accepted an invitation from ADQ finance spokeswoman Diane Bellemare to participate in a debate about taxes with Finance Minister Pauline Marois. "I'm ready to debate now, in the coming 30 days, and any time later," he said. "We are over-taxed." ADQ leader Mario Dumont focused Sunday on the financial woes of pension fund manager the Caisse de depot, to hammer away at the Parti Québécois government's financial mismanagement. Mr. Dumont accused the government of interfering in the Caisse's operations during a campaign stop in front of its costly new headquarters being built near Old Montreal. "People are shocked and saddened to see their money wasted by the irresponsible," Mr. Dumont said in front of the $300-million building he called an ivory tower. Mr. Dumont said he would establish rules that would ensure transparency and autonomy in the Caisse's operations.

From National Post, Canada, 17 March 2003

Some Tech Workers Turning to Careers in Civil Service

Popular wisdom and statistical analyses have held that in a bad economy, people will flock to medical careers. The pay may not be as good as it is in general business, but it's a living wage and steady work. The same may now be said about civil service. Although telecom techs and engineers aren't stampeding toward jobs as police officers, firefighters and 911 operators, enough are testing for those positions to create a bulge of civil service exam takers with tech skills. The first step on the path to police or firefighting work is the civil service exam, said uniform services specialist Tamara Cottingham, human resources analyst for the city of Dallas. She said the city offers more than 60 exams, some given weekly. Dallas police Lt. Stan Kay, a department recruiter, said that Police Department candidates come from all backgrounds, but he's seeing more displaced technology workers. "From casually looking, I can say that there has been an increase," he said. Experts cite at least two reasons why tech workers might choose uniformed civil service jobs over white-collar desk positions. One is job security, after the collapse of a once-highflying industry. "Times are hard," said Ms. Cottingham, who pointed out that tech workers are also applying for engineering and other tech-related jobs with the city. "People from all walks of life are looking for work."

The other is a desire to protect the community, an outgrowth of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and ongoing threats against the nation. Patricia Marsolais, secretary to the Dallas civil service board, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of unsolicited applications since the attacks. "Applications have mushroomed since 9-11 because there's been a trend toward commitment to public service," she explained. Plano police Officer Dennis Grimes, a background investigator and recruiter, said his department tried to draft from the area's vast number of tech workers. "We were letting the displaced IT folks know that a police career may be something they want to take a look at," he said. The pitch has borne fruit, he said. In the past, 200 or fewer people took the civil service exam; in January, 300 people sat for the test. "It's not a career to dabble in," Mr. Grimes added. "We'll see if tech workers have [what it takes]." In Plano, applicants must be 21 to 45, with 30 semester hours of college credit. In Dallas, in addition to passing scores on the civil service exam and police recruit exams, candidates over 21 must have a minimum of 45 hours of college credit (those 19 to 21 must have 60 hours).

After eight months at the police academy, the newly transformed rookies are ready for patrol. Both Plano and Dallas require a clean criminal background. Ms. Cottingham said that a good example of a successful transition from tech to police work is Dallas Officer Minh Quang Tran. A few years ago, Mr. Tran was a vice president at Tech Sys Solutions. He and his wife attended the citizen police academy in Houston. "I decided then that I wanted to be a part of a police force," he explained. He was too old for police work in Houston, so he relocated to Dallas to fulfill his dream. A Vietnamese refugee who came to this country 23 years ago, Mr. Tran now works out of the central division as one of about 10 officers who are fluent in Vietnamese. Mr. Tran said he uses all his business skills in his new career. "Police work is not so different from tech service," he explained, "I've gone from working with clients to working with citizens and from presenting proposals to mediating disputes," he said. The officer is also handy at solving computer problems. He's the most popular guy in the squad when a colleague's laptop crashes. (E-mail businessnews@dallasnews.com).

From Dallas Morning News, TX, by Nancy Schaadt, 25 March 2003

Senate Judiciary Approves Public Service Commission Overhaul

Columbia State, SC - A bill overhauling the state Public Service Commission is headed to the Senate floor. Last year, the Senate held up elections for the commission as it sought changes in the way its seven commissioners were elected and how they interact with utility and telecommunications companies they regulate. Sen.s worried that some of the commission candidates didn't have enough education or that their family ties to legislators would influence elections. The House insisted that PSC elections should be held immediately and let the legislation die. The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted nearly identical legislation to that bill. It requires PSC members to have a bachelor's degree and relevant experience and bars some family members from seeking election. The committee's version of the bill puts those changes in effect with elections in 2004 and 2005.

From Columbia State, SC, 25 March 2003

Senate DFLers Propose Sweeping Changes to State Administration

St. Paul - Senate DFLers called for the removal of more than 80 of the highest paid public employees Tuesday, an act that could save the state more than $10 million a year. The Reform and Efficiency Act, authored by Sen. Jane Ranum, DFL-Minneapolis, would replace the 23 department heads that currently report directly to the governor with eight executive secretaries, who would oversee remaining committees and agencies. Although critics argued it might be too much reform too quickly and could keep more qualified Minnesotans from public service, Senate DFLers said they support the plan as part of the DFL's budget solution, which should come out in the next two weeks. "My colleagues standing with me are equally concerned about the commitment to funding assistant and deputy commissioners when all the folks below are getting pink slips," Ranum said. "We must have more efficiency and streamlining between the executive branch, the governor and his or her department heads." Gov. Tim Pawlenty has expressed interest in radical government reforms to deal with the state's $4.2 billion deficit and offered a phase I plan this month that merged department responsibilities and eliminated overlapping support staff with few immediate savings. The governor was intrigued with Ranum's plan and called his current cabinet structure "unwieldy," but said he was concerned about the senator's intention of implementing the changes so quickly. "We believe big elements of (the Senate plan) make sense," Pawlenty said.

"We're open to working with Sen. Ranum, but we have to be realistic over what kind of time period." Ranum would have the governor picking an essential team of eight secretaries from his almost established administration of 90 commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners, next January. "(The governor) is going to have to pick the best and the brightest of who is going to stay," she said. The bulk of intended layoffs would be top level officials, who earn an average of $144,000 a year, including benefits. According to the Department of Finance, the average commissioner - the governor has 23 - earns $108,388 a year, with a benefit package worth approximately $24,929. About 67 deputy commissioners would also lose their jobs. Proponents said they supported the layoffs only because departments employ too many of these high paid executives. Their salaries range from the Administration Department's inter-technology assistant commissioner, who earns $119,601 a year plus $27,508 in benefits, to the lowest paid executive assistant, the deputy commissioner of Human Rights, who earns $70,199 plus $16,146 in benefits. The proposal would also force the governor to consolidate support staff, reducing the number of scheduling, secretarial and other office assistants by about 30 employees. The eight executive secretaries would lead various agencies.

For instance, the head of the proposed Office of Transportation and Transportation Safety would supervise the current Public Safety, Transportation and Military Affairs departments. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, supported the proposal at first blush Tuesday, but had one hint of improvement. According to the senator's plan, the next commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board would no longer report directly to the governor, but to a new Executive Office of Business Development. While Senate officials said the IRRRB structure and the next commissioner's salary would remain the same - a total package of $117,651 - the agency could lose political clout if it needs a middle man to get the governor's attention. "The bill could change because this is a special committee that has no general fund dollars coming into the agency," said Rukavina, an IRRRB member who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee. "I would hope as this bill moves through the Senate that my Range colleagues in the Senate would be able to impress on their colleagues that there is no general fund money going into the IRRRB." Although the bill currently has no House companion, it is likely one would end in Ways and Means with Rukavina, Rep. Irv Anderson, DFL-International Falls, and the committee's DLF-lead Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids - all previous or current board members. Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, and future IRRRB member, serves on Ranum's State Budget Division and said he supported the bill but needed to look into the finer details.

Ranum, who said this would become the main staple of the Senate's government finance bill, plans to introduce the bill on the Senate floor today with the support of Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger, DFL-St. Peter. Besides adding plain accountability, supporters praised the plan cutting the more lucrative end of the income scale rather than eliminating services to the state's most needy populations. DFL Sen. Dave Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, said 1,400 public employees have already been laid off due to budget constraints. He said the Senate's proposal assures any economic crisis affects those on all plateaus of state government. "We've got to do it at both ends, don't you see?" said Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, who also stood with Ranum and Metzen to announce the bill. "This is just another road map down to this $5 billion deficit." But former IRRRB Commissioner John Swift warned the loss of such high paying positions could reduce the quality of public officials, who must be highly skilled to manage large operations. "It is something that requires someone who has some experience in the business world, someone who has some experience with a staff that size," he said. Those qualities don't always come cheap, he said in a telephone interview from his winter home in Arizona. Having not seen the entire proposal, he said the IRRRB could lose a direct link to the governor, but the proposal could also add efficiency to a project-approval process that can become laborious and difficult. "If you're not a part of the cabinet, obviously you lose some communication. You lose some of the ability of bringing the governor into a project," Swift said. "Ultimately, the commissioner has the interim step of reporting to the chief of staff as the go-between. If this is something where the chief of staff would no longer be involved - it might not be all that bad."

From Hibbing Daily Tribune, MN, by K.C. Howard, 27 March 2003

 
 

E-government Could Aggravate SA's Identify Fraud Problems

The South African government already faces substantial identity fraud problems. Electronic government (e-government) - already big in Europe - will help crack down on this. But moving to an e-government platform could create problems of its own. The good news, however, is that business intelligence software can be used successfully for fraud detection and prevention in an e-government environment. "One of the largest growing crimes worldwide is the theft of personal identities," says Bill Hoggarth, managing director of SAS Institute, the leader in business intelligence. "Identity theft is a simple crime. The only information required is a name, identity number, credit card information, or other personal information. The data is taken without the owner's knowledge either in the form of stolen or discarded papers or information illegally acquired online." People from all walks of life and from all over the world are falling victim to identity theft. In SA already this year, several people have been arrested for crimes involving false identities. Six Eastern Cape government officials were arrested for stealing pension money and cheques using false documentation and ID books; three Umlazi teachers were arrested in connection with fraud totalling R2.9 million after diverting the salaries of more than 400 teachers into bank accounts they set up; and the director of the Home Affairs office in Johannesburg was arrested for allegedly helping illegal aliens get valid documents. Famous victims of identity fraud include Steven Spielberg, George Soros and former US presidential candidate Ross Perot. In the US, the FBI has hailed identity fraud as the fastest growing white-collar crime. The Aberdeen Group describes identity theft as "the $24 billion problem" in its 2003 IT Outlook report." The problem of identity theft will escalate in 2003.

Total economic losses to consumers, business, merchants, credit issuers and the financial industry are expected to increase approximately three-fold in 2003, to $24 billion. This compares with $8.75 billion in losses due to identity theft during 2002," according to the report. The theft of personal identities is also a growing problem in Europe. In the UK alone incidents rose by 55% in the first three months of 2002, to 10 057 cases - the fastest growing category of fraud. "SA is making progress on the road to e-government," says Hoggarth. "As well as the many benefits of offering public services online, however, moving to an e-government footing can create data protection problems." For example, if citizens are filling in forms relating to the registration of a new car or company, they will need to provide a level of personal information, which - if it fell into the wrong hands - could be used to create a false identity, adding to SA's fraud woes. Technology can play a significant role in fraud prevention and detection. Fraudsters rely on the transactions they carry out on - for example, a credit card in your name - looking normal. This is fine as long as they can control their greed. However, even the most careful cracker's trails can now be traced by using analytical technology. SAS is the leader in fraud detection and prevention software. SAS's fraud detection solution works on the basis of forensic data mining - analysing millions of pieces of data to formulate patterns for suspicious behaviour that can be used to detect and prevent future incidents. For example, data analysis allows banks to carry out 'velocity checks', where they can study the time and distance between transactions and question whether or not the transactions have been made by the same customer. Common purchase points can also be uncovered - is there a business providing a wide range of information about this credit card, such as a frequently visited restaurant? "SAS's fraud detection solution enables companies to identify and deter any form of fraudulent activity," says Hoggarth.

An integrated part of the SAS solution for CRM identifies factors that are difficult to detect manually, leading to reduced fraud and increased profitability. SAS's Fraud Detection SolutionFraud can take many guises such as trading fraud, money laundering, credit card fraud, and identity theft. Fraud has always been a risk to businesses but it is becoming infinitely easier to perpetrate fraud, as money is no longer pieces of paper but bytes of data. Fraud detection is therefore crucial to businesses to stay one step ahead of the perpetrators. It can be defined as the process of detecting and understanding fraudulent actions in order to take corrective measures before, during, or after fraudulent activity, thus reducing and, where possible, eliminating losses associated with fraud. SAS's fraud detection solution utilises a combination of data mining, data warehousing and exception reporting to allow IT departments to:* Identify suspicious activity.* Track intrusion occurrences.* Set appropriate sensitivity levels for online intrusion detection systems.* Automate the offline intrusion detection process.* SAS Fraud Detection Solution: components and capabilities. In order to solve these problems, the first step is to detect intrusions and formulate patterns for suspicious behaviour that can be used to detect future incidents - intelligent prevention is always better than a cure. Intrusion detection systems collect information from various vantage points within a computer system or network and analyse that information for symptoms of system breaches.

SAS software solutions help customers to maximise the potential of their data, and consolidate the individual sources of data contained in their information systems into an integrated data warehouse that can then be used to provide a complete view of the customer or user. The SAS solution allows organisations to carry out data mining techniques to identify and model suspicious conversations and addresses and illuminate areas of fraudulent behaviour. This data enables organisations not only to uncover patterns and occurrence of suspicious activity but also to identify potential areas of weaknesses across the enterprise infrastructure. Through the continual improvement of anti-fraud technologies and the tracking of intrusive events using data mining techniques, the fraud prevention teams within SAS's customers are able to build predictive models that track intrusive behaviour over time and enable them to develop models based on normal usage-trends. Based on SAS's prediction and analysis software, the fraud detection solution includes:* Fraud exploration: Companies can explore historical data to gain a better understanding of past fraudulent activities and transactions, defining the reasons for fraud. Combined with their expertise, this leads to more informed fraud prevention decisions.* Fraud prediction: Organisations can predict whether a transaction is fraudulent or not, or deduce the probability of fraud, which ultimately leads to a reduction in fraudulent activity.

From ITWeb, South Africa, 4 March 2003

Treasury Told to Address Finance Crisis

The Eastern Cape Treasury must address the financial management crisis in the province if it hopes to translate the 2003 budget into service delivery, the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) warned here yesterday. In the past six years R99,7billion out of R104,5bn (90percent) allocated to the province had not been properly accounted for and had been issued with audit disclaimers by the office of the Auditor-General (AG), said Xolisa Vitsha and Vuyo Tetyana of the PSAM's performance monitoring project. The audit disclaimers resulted from weak financial controls and a lack of supporting documentation, which is required to justify spending. They said if the 2003 budget was to be translated into effective service delivery the MEC needed to address: * The decentralisation of decision-making about the use of public funds from the Eastern Cape Treasury to departments themselves.

The PSAM pointed out that two years after Godongwana had announced the roll-out of the electronic financial information system within the province - aimed at giving departments more control over their budgets - the system had still not been implemented; * The implementation of proper financial management systems consistent with the AG's recommendations over the past six years. Weaknesses identified included a failure by departments to account for funds transferred to external organisations, failure to keep proper leave records, inability to account for money in departmental accounts, and an inability to reconcile the department's financial record system (BAS) with their personnel systems (PERSAL); and * The implementation of proper strategic planning processes by departments including translating community needs into operational programme objectives with proper budgets and realistic time frames. Denying this current state of financial management in the province would result in the MEC missing the opportunity to set out workable solutions, Vitsha and Tetyana said.

Godongwana and Premier Makhenkesi Stofile had to accept that due to the financial management crisis they had had to cede control of over 85percent of the province's budget to the Interim Management Team (IMT) deployed by national government earlier this year. "PSAM is of the view that the capacity-building exercises currently being undertaken by the IMT need to be extended and developed over a period of a minimum of three years. In this time primacy should be given to the appointment of experienced senior financial managers in the province." The second priority should be the extensive re-training of finance personnel. Over R100million is available for this purpose from the National Skills Levy.

From Dispatch Online, South Africa, by Adrienne Carlisle, 6 March 2003

State to Reboot PC Deal for Public Servants

Complaints that a project to offer cut-price computers to public servants was unfairly awarded to one firm have forced the initiative to be restructured as an open tender. Plans to offer affordable PCs to all of government's 1,1-million staff were driven by the public service and administration department in partnership with Hewlett-Packard (HP). The initiative included Telkom, CS Holdings, Standard Bank and Microsoft, but left no room for other manufacturers to offer rival PCs. That prompted other PC players to cry foul and, after months of wrangling the Golaganang project will now be opened up to all computer companies. Although the project was driven by HP, government should have gone through the official tender process if it was spending money with a private firm, said the spokesman for a rival vendor, which asked not to be identified for fear of jeopardising its chance of winning the new contract. The deal was announced last May by Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, with a target of supplying subsidised home PCs and internet access to 50000 staff within six months. The project won cabinet approval, but was shelved unexpectedly. One government source said it was halted amid protests from other manufacturers and over an alleged dispute when government declined to guarantee that HP's expected R700m bill would be met, even if staff defaulted on their payments. HP's country manager, Henry Ferreira, said it became clear that the best way to achieve its ambitious aims was to allow more players to participate. Rivals will have to match or improve on HP's initial plan of providing hardware, software and training worth about R15500 for R430 a month over 36 months. The fee would have fallen as subsidies kicked in for lower-paid staff, dipping to R99 a month for those earning less than R12000.

From Business Day, South Africa, 6 March 2003

Security in E-commerce, E-government, E-contracting Boosted by Tamino XML Server 4.1

Johannesburg - Electronic communication in e-commerce, e-government and e-contracting has just been made a whole lot more secure and user-friendly with Security Extensions, the latest component for digital signatures added to Tamino XML Server 4.1. Electronic documents - unlike printed ones - are relatively easy to manipulate. Although there is as yet no definitive solution to this problem, Software AG now has the technology to discover whether, and if so, when, an electronic document has been modified without permission. This is 'digital signature' technology, and it allows authors to sign their documents and check them later for changes. According to Software AG South Africa manager, Joe Curran, Tamino XML Server is Software AG's solution for signature validation and archiving. It stores XML documents natively in XML and verifies signatures during the database storage transaction for the signed document. By checking the validity of XML signatures, Tamino XML Server allows users to verify a document's authenticity.

Tamino XML Security Extensions allows users to confirm the content of documents, such as electronic orders, by appending their digital signature, which is essential for transactions conducted over the Internet to be considered legally binding. It also automatically checks whether an electronic document has been given a digital signature, he said. Curran pointed out that Tamino XML Security Extensions can be used in a whole range of applications: in e-commerce (virtual department stores or auction houses), e-government (completion of administrative processes over the Internet), and especially e-contracting. Tamino XML Security Extensions enables organisations to conduct legally binding business processes seamlessly over the Internet - this is particularly relevant for companies that conclude contracts electronically. Tamino XML Security Extensions make electronic communication between business partners much more convenient. E-commerce, e-government and e-contracting transactions can now be carried out securely thanks to Tamino XML Security Extensions, which not only verifies a document's authenticity, but also meets non-repudiation requirements, he said. A Developer Community download for Tamino XML Security Extensions is available at http://developer.softwareag.com/tamino/download.htm on 12 March.

From ITWeb, South Africa, 10 March 2003

 

Government Allots P4B for Online Services

In a bid to bring down the cost of doing business and at the same time simplify government procedures, the government has earmarked P4 billion to computerize government services through the adoption of an e-government. Speaking before Canadian investors Monday, Transportation Undersecretary Virgilio Peña said President Arroyo has directed the Department of Budget and Management to allot 2 percent of the national budget for the proposed e-government center. Peña, who is also executive director of the Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council, said the proposed e-government office would link up key government agencies to simplify government procedures. He cited the case of overseas Filipino workers who have to go to 12 government agencies and get 70 signatures before they are allowed to leave the country. He explained that the proposed e-government center inside the Fort Bonifacio Global City would seek funds for application development to help form an Internet database in which government information traffic would be centralized. According to him, the Arroyo administration is focusing on five areas of development in the ICT sector.

These include physical infrastructure, e-government, human resource development, legal and regulatory framework and business development. To date, only four government agencies have computerized their services. These are the National Statistics Office, Land Transportation Office, Land Registration Authority and Department of Foreign Affairs. He added that the government is now trying to improve the internet penetration rate in the country which is currently pegged at 3 percent. On the other hand, he added that the Philippines has one of the largest cellular phone subscriber base with over 14 million users as of last year. More than 10 Canadian companies are in the Philippines as part of the Canadian Wireless Trade Mission to Southeast Asia that would also cover Malaysia and Thailand. These include Nortel, Argus Technologies, Hickling International, LeBlanc International, Mobilair Integration Inc., Redknee Inc., Spectrocan SR Telecom, Superna Business Consulting, Telos Technology and Wysdom.

From ABS CBN News, Philippines, by Lawrence Agcaoili, 3 March 2003

Australian Government Under Pressure to Clampdown on Online Filth

Canberra - The Australian Government is under pressure to clamp down on internet sex following a new report's warning that the nation's teenagers are being exposed to violent and extreme pornography. Its author, Australian National University Centre for Women's Studies researcher Michael Flood, says evidence suggests violent and extreme pornography could encourage young men to pressure girls into sex. The report, based on a Newspoll of 16 and 17-year-olds, shows teenagers widely accept the viewing of pornography. Three-quarters of boys and 11 per cent of girls reported they had watched x-rated videos. Even more disturbing is the exposure to sex on the internet, the report says. It shows that 84 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls reported seeing pornography on the web, with two-thirds of boys admitting they sought out sex sites, 4 to 5 per cent of them on a weekly basis. Only 2 per cent of girls said they had looked for pornographic sites. The report draws a distinction between the "mainstream" sex of x-rated videos and the "proliferation" of violent and extreme material on the internet, including rape, sexual torture, bestiality, coprophilia and incest. "While violent and degrading depictions of women in particular are evident in some x-rated videos, they are widespread in internet pornography," it says. Flood identifies 31 websites specialising in rape - without any way of telling whether the assaults are real or staged - with the victims bound, threatened with a weapon, screaming or in pain. Half describe the victim as "young", "teen", "schoolgirl" or "Lolita". Other sites focus on sex with animals. Flood says there is little research on the impact on children, but one Canadian study of teenagers, average age 14, links frequent exposure to pornography with views that it is acceptable to force a girl to have sex. And studies of 18 to 25-year-olds show "consistent and reliable evidence that exposure ... to pornography is related to male sexual aggression against women". The report comes as the federal Government reviews laws regulating internet content. Australia Institute director and report co-author Clive Hamilton says the fact that children can see disturbing practices on computer screens, shows the system is failing.

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, by Greg Ansley, 3 March 2003

AP Keen To Help Other States In Taking Up E-governance Projects

Hyderabad - Naidu moots setting up of special technical committee - Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has proposed the idea of setting up a `special technical committee' to undertake replication of successful IT solutions initiated by some states in a bid to achieve good governance in the country. Speaking at a award distribution function organised by the Computer Society of India at the Administrative Staff College here on Sunday, Mr. Naidu suggested that the committee will have to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of a particular solution before recommending for replication. Some of the packages developed by the various state departments have international standards while some are below par. Mr. Naidu felt that the proposed committee should ensure that only best packages can be replicated thus avoiding chaos in the administration. Further, he said that there should not be any sort of ego problems among the states for implementing the best packages. With the Central government agreeing to allocate Rs 12,000 crore funds for taking up e-governance projects to all the state governments, the Union ICT ministry should better evaluate through a technical committee before duplicating the same, Mr. Naidu urged.

Mr. Naidu also assured the Union minister that Andhra Pradesh would extend total support in taking up the e-governance projects to various states. On behalf of state government, the Chief Minister received the CSI-Nihilent's 'Best e-governed state' award from Union minister of state for ICT Sumitra Mahajan. Earlier, while making the inaugural address, Mrs. Sumitra Mahajan said that the Union government would provide all necessary help to states in taking the e-governance projects in a big way. The Centre would also consider in replicating the best e-governance projects of different states among themselves so that they benefit at a sooner than later time, she said. The Union government would also set up an institute for technology development of Indian languages, which would assist and help states in providing the information to citizens on their local languages to make easily accessible. Earlier, the Union minister presented the Best Citizen-centric project award to Maharashtra's Project SETU and Gujarat's Mahila Shakti; Best Revenue System award to Maharashtra Project Sarita; Best Website award to Maharashtra PWD and Best Office Efficiency Project award to Mumbai Naval Dockyard.

From Indian Express, India, 09 March 2003

Government to Start Rs 20,000 cr e-Governance Plan

The Indian government is debating on plans to start a massive e-governance program that envisages a public-private partnership at a total cost of Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 200 billion) over the next five years. Termed the National e-Governance initiative, the program aims to bring in efficiency, transparency, cost effectiveness, simplicity into the government's operations while improving citizens' interface with the government. According to an approach paper drafted by the ministry of information technology, the programme would have a number of components each to be implemented in stages. Among the items on the agenda are defining a vision for National e-Governance, designing appropriate architectures that enable realisation of this, developing frameworks for resource mobilisation and implementation and implementing a set of core initiatives. An approximate assessment of the requirement of financial resources for implementation of e-governance at the state and central government levels has been pegged at an optimum figure of Rs 20,000 crore. "This kind of funding can't be by the government alone. There has to participation from private companies and financial institutions," said Rajeev Ratna Shah, principal secretary, department of IT, ministry of communication and IT.

According to the ministry's estimates, 60 per cent of the resources required could be tapped from the private sector. The government's share could be at 40 per cent or Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion). This could be further split roughly in half between the central and the state governments. Shah said that the e-governance initiative would among others look to set up a country portal, a citizen portal for both state and central levels so that all the needs of citizens could be transacted via it, an e-business portal which would act as a single window for all corporates that want to interface with the government and an electronic data interface for trade facilitation. The National e-Governance initiative has been sparked off after an announcement by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on August 15 last year. "Following the prime minister's announcement the National Development Council, a congregation of the prime minister, chief ministers of all states, chairman and vice-chairman of the Planning Commission and the Union Cabinet met to set up a committee that would look into the details of the project," explained Shah.

The committee then suggested holding a few workshops at the national, state and district levels to elicit the views of all the stakeholders before finalising the schemes. One of the workshops met a few days ago and is now scheduled to send its recommendations on the e-governance program to the prime minister. "Based on the recommendations that are sent, the e-governance initiative will be finalised by the government," says Shah. He, however, declined to put a time frame to the initiative. At the inaugural session of Nasscom 2003, Shah also detailed an e-learning project that is being supported by the government. The e-learning pilot project provides VSAT connectivity of 8 MBPS to 20 schools across 7 cities, along with 10 computers to each school to set up a computer lab. "The computers in these schools are to be used as a learning aid and we are creating content and multimedia modules to be used in education," says Shah. Called 'Vidyavahini', the pilot project will soon be formalized and rolled out to 60,000 schools over a ten-year period. The e-learning project will become a part of the government's e-governance initiative.

From Rediff, India, by Priya Ganapati, 12 March 2003

HKSAR Lacks e-Gov Focus

Hong Kong's e-government maturity trails Singapore, Australia and South Korea, according to a recent white paper published by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. The overall maturity was ranked according to the e-government services available online, the level of services and delivery channels. Hong Kong was rated three under a five-point scale. Singapore was rated five, while Australia and South Korea were awarded four. "Hong Kong is moving too fast to push all e-government projects at a time," said Balaji Bhoovarahan, manager of consulting technology practice at Frost & Sullivan. Unlike South Korea and the Philippines, Balaji said Hong Kong's e-government lack a specific focus on the e-government projections. He added that in the Philippines, the government put most of its budget and e-government initiation on tourism and to attract foreign investment. "If you have ten dollars and put them in ten projects, each project will get only one dollar," he said. "How much can you get from each project, as compared with putting five dollars in only two projects?"

Balaji noted that although most Asian countries started e-government projects about two years later than Hong Kong. But the HKSAR government relatively slow development was caused by a lack a focus. He said it is important for the government to first identify a focus, in order to allow several departments to stand out in the entire e-government projects. "There is a need for a benchmark," he said. "Others departments can then follow from the leading framework." In addition, Balaji said the HKSAR also lack "someone with the vision of the technology." He noted that a person with the passion and vision of how technologies can be applied in the government body is important. "Government bodies should act more like corporations," said Balaji. "The government should put pressure on officials for the implementation."

From IDG Communications, Hong Kong, by Sheila Lam, 13 March 2003

Envisioning a Successful e-Government

Governments around the world are striving to achieve more efficiency, faster delivery of service and in order to do that government departments are turning to the Internet as a way of developing e-Government initiatives. Brunei itself has embarked on an Electronic Government initiative forecasting the year 2005 as a deadline for the full implementation. In line with this objective, an e-Government Vision seminar focusing on trends, challenges and solutions was held yesterday morning at The Empire Hotel and Country Club. Hosting the event was a joint effort between Computer Associates (CA), popular for its state-of-the-art software solutions for government agencies as well as a local company known as ITIS Wescot Technologies - an integrator of technology and business solutions in Brunei. ITIS Wescot previously co-hosted a virtual library seminar to promote a more integrated library system. Giving the keynote speech on behalf of CA was Mr. Wong Bak Wei, the Consulting Director, Information Management of the South Asia, Field Services Group for Computer Associates. In his speech he explained that we were in the digital age of knowledge ERA and that Internet Technology was used to provide efficient and effective service as well as a tool to accelerate any business performance. He also made a presentation on 'Transforming Traditional Governments Into One That Is Electronic Based'.

He underlined the need for governments to make the transition for a number of important reasons. Besides improving integrated service delivery, citizens are also provided with access. The traditional government structures and processes may be enhanced which in turn can support new government products and services. Mr Wong Bak Wei also touched on the solutions that CA could provide to the public sector. Among those that were mentioned ranged from increased productivity and accountability, reduction of administrative costs by sharing information cross-agency, to better serve constituent needs by developing a more efficient and effective delivery of service and also to provide more holistic and tangible solutions. The e-Government Vision event had also lined up four other speakers from Mercatela, Borland, EIX Solutions and Computer Associates to talk about different areas of e-Government. Mr. Taranjeet Singh of Mercatela presented his talk entitled 'Change Management From a Practical Perspective' while Mr. Jacky Lee from Borland spoke on the 'Application Development on the Fast Track'. A representative of Computer Associates - Mr. Zainuddin Ali gave a presentation on 'Managing and Securing e-Government Infrastructure' and to end the event EIX Solution's Mr. Chew Seng Poh spoke on 'Building the Data Centre'.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, by Zan Hosni & Huraizah Ahmad, 13 March 2003

The Remedy for Sick Public Service

Shifting the focus from hospital funding and waiting lists to concentrate on building a system that meets the needs of the majority of people is vital to fixing an ailing system, argues Ruth Pollard in the Herald's blueprint for health. Supported by a complex web of state and federal funding and shared responsibilities, NSW's health care system provides shining examples of innovation and clear signs of strain. Rapid advances in health technology such as improved diagnostic tests, better drugs, new treatments and gene therapy have revolutionised the way the sick and injured are cared for. These advances have also outpaced governments' ability to afford them, and raised expectations that medical science holds all the answers. But in an election campaign dominated by calls to reduce hospital waiting lists and increase bed availability, and counter claims that waiting times have improved, it is easy to forget there is more to health than hospitals. More than 90 per cent of people's contact with the health system happens in the community - via community health centres, GPs and clinics. Redefining hospitals - Experts now talk about the "boundaryless hospital"; medical advances mean a significant portion of health care can be provided in specialised day clinics, leaving hospitals the domain of the acutely ill. This reduces pressure on the system by freeing up hospital beds and means health care moves to where the population is, rather than being tied to a hospital. But while NSW's public health system is increasingly moving in that direction, the public and health services are waiting patiently for similar changes in funding.

The question of "how much funding is enough" remains a vexed one. Australia spends 8.9per cent of GDP on public health, compared to 13.5 per cent in the United States and 6 per cent in Britain. Associate Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, from the Centre for Clinical Governance Research in Health at the University of NSW, describes health funding as "a bottomless pit", but says Australia's expenditure is in step with the average spent by other members of the OECD. "Our health system is not in bad shape," he said. "You could do what the US does and spend 13.5 per cent on health and still have inequities in the system. We have a system that is under stress, but it is not at all bad." It is more important, he says, to focus on the balance of what we spend and work out how the service could be improved. "Some would argue that moving money away from acute care to health promotion and prevention is the way to go," he said. The dual state-federal funding arrangement means the debate, at a federal level, on Medicare, bulk billing, the private health rebate, and the overall question of the way health dollars are distributed, will have an impact on state health budgets, whatever the outcome. Given the complex nature of state and federal funding of health and hospitals, it is beyond the scope of this blueprint to recommend an appropriate amount to be spent on health.

However, there is merit in arguing that the prevention and primary and community care sectors should be strengthened and properly funded to reflect what the majority of people use the health system for. Health services - Lynn Kemp is acting director of the Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation, also part of the University of NSW - an organisation that researches and reports on solutions to health inequality. "We are talking about moving to a system that invests in health rather than in illness," she said. "By health we are talking about health in its broadest sense - physical, mental and social wellbeing, not just absence of disease." For Dr Kemp, the job of improving people's health does not stop with the health care system - education, housing and transport also play an important role. "If you don't have appropriate housing and affordable transport to get to your job, then your health will be compromised," she said. Dr Kemp says that for "outpatient" services to be truly accessible, they must be based in, and accessible to, the community. She believes hospitals need to be seen as the last port of call, saying there is clear evidence that focusing on primary community prevention will improve health for the most people, including the disadvantaged. But it is not just politicians who need to change their attitudes to hospitals; the public does as well. "At the moment everybody - the system and consumers - views health as episodes of illness," Dr Kemp said. "We are talking about a different view of health. "You cannot improve the visibility of services without having in place a process for redressing the economic balance - it is a philosophical shift about where the power in the system is."

Dr Kemp stresses that people are still going to be sick enough to need hospitals - they will crash cars, break legs, have appendicitis. "For most people, the highest use of health care is in the six months before we die. So if ... people stay well up until that point, then the overall demand on the hospital system would be reduced." An added challenge, according to Professor Braithwaite, is that advances in technology are outstripping governments' ability to pay for them. "The genome project, new drugs, new technology, faster diagnostic capability - it is massively expensive and ... most people don't think about it much until illness affects them or their family," he said. "Then they want absolutely everything employed to help them ... but this desire then starts bumping up against budgets and affordability." Nevertheless, Professor Braithwaite says, it is imperative that governments keep up with the technological developments. "If the Government wants to run a sophisticated 21st century system, there will be high costs to meet," he said. It must realise, however, that rarely do the actual monetary benefits gained from, for example, a new diagnostic breakthrough, compensate for the cost of the technology. And very rarely does new technology or a new drug displace others. It gets added to the suite. Fair allocation of resources - Glenn Salkeld, a senior lecturer and health economist at Sydney University's School of Public Health, says there is "no strong case" for spending an extra couple of per cent on health care. "The Government could potentially spend a lot of money reducing waiting lists and find itself back at the same place in a year's time," he says. "A bed supplied is a bed filled and waiting lists would soon creep back up there - you could build 10 new hospitals and somehow all the beds would be filled in a short time."

The issue of waiting lists has followed the Premier, Bob Carr, since 1995 when he promised to resign if the waiting list of 45,000 was not halved within his first year in office. In December last year, the official waiting list stood at 43,151, but the Opposition claims the Government is fiddling the figures to hide the true number. The experts argue that the real debate should move beyond waiting lists towards what is fair. Is it fair for someone to wait six or 12 months for a hip replacement? Is it fair that people living in different area health services can wait different times for the same operation? This is where programs like the NSW Government's Greater Metropolitan Transitional Taskforce (GMTT) comes in. (See tomorrow's Herald for a report on GMTT.) GMTT is all about networking - if there is room for an operation in a hospital outside a patient's area health service, it is better to get them to travel a little bit further to where the room is, rather than have them wait. Doctors share resources rather than compete for them, and health responses to population needs are built from the ground up. Dr Salkeld said: "There is no compelling argument to change tack on that. But there is a good case for spending more money in neglected areas such as Aboriginal and indigenous health." Both Dr Salkeld and Professor Braithwaite believe providing more services outside hospitals is beneficial, suggesting most people would rather be treated somewhere other than a hospital, as long as their condition permits it. "People ... would actually prefer to have their chemo at a local outpatient clinic that might be in an old house nowhere near the hospital," Dr Salkeld said. "The funds should flow to where the services are provided - it just does not make good economic sense to offer all services in an expensive tertiary hospital."

The way to change consumer behaviour, Dr Salkeld says, is to change the way you fund and provide health services. "Unfortunately there is an aversion to dollars going outside the walls of the institution." Professor Braithwaite says the time of the huge, monolith hospitals that did not communicate very well with the rest of the health care system has long past. "Now, with technology, faster diagnosis, better treatments, people are being treated outside the walls of the hospitals," he said. "As long as we have maintained safety standards, this has got to be a good thing - most people would rather be treated where they can go home at night." Funding for community services - But there are criticisms of the push toward more out-of-hospital care, and allegations of cost-shifting to other services. According to Alan Kirkland, executive director of the NSW Council of Social Services (NCOSS), the main problem with the boundaryless hospital is a massive increase in demand for non-government organisations without a corresponding increase in funds. "Anecdotally we keep hearing about services - particularly home and community care services - closing their books," Mr. Kirkland said. "These are the services you would expect would be providing some of the follow-up assistance to people who have been discharged from hospital." NCOSS cannot quantify the numbers of sick and frail people missing out on home care, he says, because there is no effective government monitoring of the hospital discharge program. "We now have a new framework for discharge, with some good strategies for planning what people's needs are when they leave hospital ... what is missing is the monitoring," he said.

The NSW Government's program to discharge people from hospital earlier was a move towards care outside the hospital walls, driven in part by its desire to free up more hospital beds and save money. "But," Dr Salkeld warned, "there is an economic cost in that ... family members, friends, are taking time off work, or even leaving work, to care for someone." Meanwhile, at the other end of the health care spectrum, more than two million people now pass through NSW hospital emergency rooms each year. That a growing number of these visits are for simple problems that can be treated by GPs has prompted the re-examination of plans to locate GP-staffed medical centres at or near hospital emergency departments. But Ian Knox, president of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, warns that trials have shown these plans, while improving access to GP services, do not reduce pressure on emergency departments. "The fundamental problem in emergency departments is that there are not enough beds for those who need to be admitted to hospital - co-locating GP services will not solve that problem." While 100 per cent of the most seriously ill patients at emergency departments are treated within the required triage time, 27 per cent of patients needing admission to hospital have to wait longer than eight hours for a bed. The phenomena is known as access block. Health care professionals say the blockage has worsened with the nursing crisis. As more nurses leave the system, more beds are closed. Eventually, there are simply not enough beds to go around.

Combined with the shift to more "hospital in the home, community-based-nursing", the corresponding impact on hospitals has been enormous. Improving nurses' working lives - For the nursing workforce, on top of the dissatisfaction with low wages, the impact has been catastrophic. Brett Holmes, leader of the NSW Nurses Association, says nurses now work in an environment that is in perpetual fast forward. "It has got to the point where many nurses are saying it is going too fast and have decided that is enough," he said. When hospitals were the domain of many different types of patients, from the very ill to the not-so-ill, nurses cared for all. Now wards are filled with much more seriously ill people, most of them immediately post-operative, all needing a high level of care, Mr. Holmes says. And as hospitals increase same-day surgery, nurses often see the same bed used by three or four different people each day. "They have to go through the process of admission and discharge for many people each day ... when you have a turnover like that, everything is rushed, and nurses are thinking, 'I've missed something'." Nurses are voting with their feet - vacancies in the NSW health system are hovering just under 2000, although the State Government says it has managed to attract just over 860 back into the system in the last year. Beyond pay increases, recruitment and retention incentives, more flexible working hours, access to car parking and better career paths are needed to keep nurses in the system.

Professor Martin McKee, research director at the European Observatory on Health Care Systems, an organisation that looks at the best methods used in hospitals and health care systems around the world, says politicians, and often the public, simply ask the wrong questions about health service delivery. Professor McKee says a good, publicly funded health system would tackle the fundamental problem with health care - that those who can afford it need it least (the young and healthy) and those who can't (the elderly and ill) need it the most. "Obviously, over a lifetime, an individual will move between these categories, so it is in everyone's best interest to maintain collective funding," he said. For Professor McKee, the answer to the question of how much governments should spend on health is simple: whatever is needed to achieve the goals of the health care system. "Many people would go along with the World Health Organisation's ideas that the goals should be improving health, responding to legitimate expectations, and fair financing," he says. But he points out that the type and amount of health care provided depends on the health needs of the population. A population with a high level of smoking or a poor diet, for example, will require a lot more health care than one where smoking is rare and the diet is full of fruit and vegetables. There is no easy answer. Instead, it may be better to ask a different question. Are we delivering the health care our populations need? And if we are not, is it because the system is less efficient than it should be, or is government not spending enough?

Like most experts interviewed, Professor McKee sees an injection of funds into the system as the easy part. It is far harder, he says, to spend the money - hospitals take time to build and doctors and nurses take time to train. But he reserves his most cutting comments for the debate around public versus private health funding. "The debate about private funding is largely about how the rich can avoid paying for the poor. It is a luxury that can be indulged in by those who are secure in the knowledge that they will never be poor," he said. For Professor Bruce Armstrong, head of the School of Public Health at Sydney University, it comes down to the fairest and most economical distribution of health resources. "We have one of the most rapidly growing demands and utilisation of medical services in the world," he said. "We are an insatiable consumer of medical and to a degree hospital services. There must be a way of controlling this." He points to the so-called Oregon Experiment, which saw, in the early 1990s in the US state of Oregon, the distribution of health funds for essential services on a public needs basis - no expensive, complicated, one-off transplant operations, no medical heroics with rare illnesses. The philosophy was "the development of a cost-effective way of distributing these resources," Professor Armstrong said. Inevitably what developed was spending on child and maternal health and other major public health programs. "They banned the use of funds for transplant patients, on the grounds that this was not a cost-effective use of scarce funds. "It fell over very quickly ... because of a failure in that process to recognise the rule of rescue - we as human beings are not able to respond differently, there is a moral imperative to save lives."

Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett went down a similar path, and his changes proved unworkable, too, sparking protests. Professor Armstrong is critical of government debate on health funding, because there is no consideration of where the need is greatest, and where resources can be rationalised. "What we hear most about is new expenditures, we don't see ... rational decisions about what is working and what is not working," he said. "If you create a system where you have access to everything you consider to be essential health care ... the system will become increasingly inefficient and inequity will inevitably develop." Consumer participation - A catch-cry of all sides of politics is give those using health services a bigger say. But according to Mr. Kirkland, we are a long way behind Britain, which in January set up a statutory commission to deal with consumer participation in health. The government agency has clear responsibilities independent of the health system, with its own government resources. Mr. Kirkland said: "Its role is to resource consumers and facilitate their involvement and participation in the system, both in decision making about planning and how services are delivered, but also at the individual level." For him it is about accessibility and performance - it is difficult to assess whether a system is performing for health-care users if they do not have a body that gives them a voice in the system. "Consumer organisations play a role in early intervention, and they also play a role when people are discharged from facilities," Mr. Kirkland said. "It is an argument about where new money goes and the balance between community-based health care and acute care." The focus of new money, according to NCOSS, should be on building up our community-based care system. Mental health is a good example.

Money has been poured into this area over the last few years, and yet NSW has low rates of expenditure on community based mental health services, Mr. Kirkland says. Deborah Green, the chief executive officer of South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service and president of the Australian Health Care Commission, believes the participation of those using the health service in the health debate as vital. She points to the 400 people sitting on clinical divisions across her area health service, recruited via advertisements in the local paper, supported by a full-time staff member. "What we discovered in bringing the stroke specialists and the stroke sufferers together is that what happens after you leave hospital is often the hardest part of the journey," she said. "If we are going to improve the quality of life for people with chronic conditions, then this is the direction we have got to go." Despite the focus on hospitals, Ms Green points out they make up only 30 per cent of overall health expenditure. "The big growth area is pharmaceuticals, and the big drivers of change [are] technology and drugs," she said. The goal of the South Eastern Area Health Service, which covers residents from Sutherland to Rockdale to Randwick, is to reduce emergency admissions, improve continuity of care, foster fairer access to health care and create healthier communities. "We want people to have a good quality of life, and that means having access to the full range of health care, from health promotion to primary and tertiary care," she said. "We have a significant budget overall for the area health service, and most of what I am talking about does not cost a lot of money. "While the majority of what we hear about is access to emergency departments and waiting times, a very small part of a person's health life experience is actually in the hospital."

From Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, 17 March 2003

Saving Time and Spending Less With e-Government Services

With the launch of the e-government program in Korea, people and businesses have been receiving more reliable civil services more efficiently. The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) said the program aims to provide the best environment for convenient civil applications and document issuance, and for businesses, ultimately resulting in a productive, transparent and democratic government. All services are available through a single window on the Internet. For instance, by bringing most services for businesses to a single window that integrates services for government procurement, businesses can benefit from the enhanced convenience and transparency. All the procedures from export or import, loading and unloading, customs to delivery will eventually be brought online. Additional services such as patent application and payment will also be electronically processed for the purpose of protecting intellectual property rights of the businesses, which further contributes to their competitiveness. The MIC said the government can work more efficiently thanks to the digitalization of core work procedures. The time and money saved by this can further contribute to the improvement of civil services for people. Real-time open processing of civil applications and a bilateral communication system between the people and the government will develop a more transparent and democratic government, it said.

Among the services available includes the one-stop service system for export and import cargo (PORT-MIS). To provide a one-stop service in port logistics, information systems were to the entire port logistics process. This enables systematic information sharing among related agencies ranging from the arrival to departure of vessels and cargos. Due to separate, consecutive administration processes of customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) agencies, as well as ports suffered from chronic congested logistics costs soaring drastically. The entire workflow of import/export logistics needed to be re-engineered to reduce the logistics costs incurred in the import/export process and to mitigate the investment burden in social overhead capital (SOC). The computerization of port management systems was initiated in 1986. By 1992, Busan port started to process administration of shipping-in and shipping-out of vessels online. From 1993 to 1999, a total of 8.1 billion won was invested in implementing the information sharing system for CIQ agencies including the electronic data interchange (EDI) system. All required forms for vessels' entry/departure have been standardized and the clearance process can be completed with a one-stop declaration. About 10,000 companies including shipping companies and agencies are using the EDI system for import and export processes including the arrival and departure of vessels (5 million request per annum).

The PORT-MIS Web site (http://portmis.momaf.go.kr) integrates diverse information, which has been collected during the system operation on the arrival/departure of vessels, cargos and ships. This information is provided to domestic and global users in various languages (English, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, etc.) on the Internet. As revenue collection and port administration documents are now processed electronically, the number of required documents has been reduced to 16 from 75 and the processing time decreased to two minutes to two hours. One-time declaration is enough to complete the import and export process as related agencies now share necessary information through computerized networks, thus reducing the processing time to two minutes from the previous three hours. With the PORT-MIS system in place, the estimated cost saving is about 490 billion won per annum. To develop a paperless patent administration system to handle all IP-related administrative procedures including filing, examination, registration and payment of fees, and to improve the quality of service and operational efficiency, the Korea Intellectual Property Office has established a network (KIPOnet). With the establishment of the World Trade Organization in 1995, the international economy entered into the era of globalization. Accordingly, applications for patents and disputes on patent infringements are increasing greatly.

Therefore, more investments are made in technology development. In the 1990s, the number of intellectual property applications received at KIPO including patents, new utility designs, design rights and trademarks exceeded 200,000 per annum. It was 100,000 in 1989. KIPO realized that it could not handle the workload by the traditional method as response time lagged, efficiency dropped and publication costs increased. In 1992, KIPO mapped out the Patent Administration Informatization Plan and began to implement the KIPOnet system in order to streamline patent-related administration procedures. In 2000, the online fee-payment system was established and online services such as newsletter publication service and remote video consulting service were adopted to provide a wider range of online services. Applicants are now able to file their IP applications such as patents, new utility designs, design rights and trademarks online through KIPOnet in their living rooms or workplaces. KIPOnet set up an automated electric distribution and management system of documents ranging from online applications, internal documents and publications of official reports. Anyone can tap into and search through more than 20 million entries of both foreign and local IP information via the Internet for free. The international electronic exchange of patent related documents such as priority certificates was made possible through the networks interconnecting the world's top three intellectual property offices.

The usage rate of KIPOnet shows continuous growth due to thorough preparation in terms of laws and regulations, user-friendly applications, and a stable system from the outset. About 240,000 applications (81.4 percent) out of 290,000 were filed online in 2001. After patent-related information services were provided on the Internet in 1999 and became free of charge in 2000, the number of people using patent information increased by an average of 430 percent annually to 3.3 million users. All in-house IP administration procedure was computerized and a total of 1,650,000 applications out of 1,660,000 are being electronically approved (99.1 percent as of 2001) and the operational efficiency has greatly improved. The examination process has been reduced by more than six months from 28.1 months to 21.3 months. The e-government program also features computerization of customs administration. This is geared towards establishing information systems that streamline customs administration and establish effective smuggling interdiction, to reduce logistics costs in the import and export industry and improve the quality of services offered. Importers and exporters needed to appear in customs houses and financial institutions to clear their goods, pay customs duty and apply for tax refunds. Clearance, surveillance and control over airports and ports were not systematic and not efficient enough to cater to travelers' needs. In 1998, the entire procedure including customs declaration for import or export, port entry, unloading, transportation, storage and refunding activities were computerized.

In 1999, the EDI clearance system was interconnected to the networks of 64 import/export related agencies and 17 major banks to establish paperless clearance procedures that electronically processed cargo inspection and customs duty payments. To provide effective surveillance of illegal trading that takes advantage of simplified clearance procedures, accumulated information on clearance, refund and foreign exchange were automatically analyzed by computers since the year 2000. A total of 1,631 entities including 11,894 trading companies and 808 offices utilize the EDI clearance system to perform import/export clearance tasks. A network was established to interconnect 81 institutions including Korea Food and Drug Administration and quarantine offices for customs, Korea Apparel Industry Association for various kinds of tax and quota, and local banks. By establishing the world's first end-to-end import/export declaration, acceptance and release system, transparency of customs administration has enhanced and people can clear their goods at their offices with a simple click of the mouse. In the case of complicated import clearances, what used to require two days in the past requires only 2.5 hours now, four hours faster than the UNCTAD recommendation. It takes only eight days from port to entry for goods delivery at tax withholding areas, a huge drop from the previous 23 days; and the export clearance takes only two minutes compared to the previous four hours.

Annual savings of 2.5 trillion won was achieved by establishing the paperless clearance system and by interconnecting relevant agencies via networks, thus necessitating personal visits to customs offices and reducing the duration of clearance processes. The public cyber services also feature the government procurement services (G2B). When Korea joined the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) in 1994, there arose a need to overcome the inefficiency caused by redundant manual processing methods. Thereby, proactive adaptation to the rapidly changing trading environment has risen. Government procurement processes used to be time-consuming and painstaking as they required a lot of paperwork and involved multiple agencies. The number of paper documents processed reached 4 million in 1997. It took an average of three to four working days to process each document. The business culture that preferred personal contacts to electronic interaction has been pointed out repeatedly as a major cause of corruption and has impeded active use of procurement information systems. In 1997, exchange and authentication systems were implemented for the introduction of the EDI system. By 1999, the introduction of domestic procurement and accounting systems were completed. In 2001, electronic government procurement system was selected as one of the main pillars of e-government in Korea.

Strategies for government procurement, business process reengineering (BPR) and information strategy planning (ISP) for G2B were formulated. Development of a G2B portal was completed to serve as a single window that provides bidding information in the public sector and processes various operations from purchase requests to payments. Procurement processes that used to rely on mail registration and personal visits became computerized. This created a paperless government procurement system as convenient as the best e-marketplaces in the private sector. Procurement information including receipt of purchase requests, public announcement of biddings, award of contracts and contract status is provided real-time on the Internet. This insures fair and transparent procurement processes and provides services that are open to all. The G2B system is expected to play a key role not only in the public sector but also in the private sector as well as by stimulating online trading markets. The e-Government project also includes the national financial information system. The national treasury was not managed efficiently due to the lack of common standards for collecting financial information and the unavailability of real-time monitoring of financial activities.

With little or no sharing of information between financial agencies, certain information did not conform to each other and redundant work processes were handled manually. A total investment of 6.2 billion won was made from 1997 to 1999 to build a national financial information system centered on the single-entry bookkeeping on the cash basis. The government's accounting offices became connected to the central network of the Ministry of Finance and Economy for automatic summation and settlement processes. A new information strategy planning (ISP) was prepared in 2001 in preparation for accounting principle changes to a double-entry bookkeeping on the accrual basis in 2003. As stipulated in the current ISP, a total investment of 19.8 billion won will be made to build a national financial information system by 2003 to accomplish the following: Successful transition to the double-entry bookkeeping on the accrual basis, to streamline financial affairs ranging from budget allocation and settlement to audits and inspections that are being redundantly carried out by different agencies. And real-time management of national revenues and expenditures and electronic transfer and receipt.

The National Financial Information System in compliance with the accounting principle of single-entry bookkeeping on the cash basis has improved productivity by automating settlements. The entire administration process shows greater efficiency as the accounting period was reduced to a monthly basis from the previous yearly basis and all required reports now take one to three days to complete from the previous five to 10 days. Operation of the National Financial Information System in compliance with the double-entry bookkeeping on the accrual basis will enable the following: Real-time management of import, export, earnings and expenses, enabling the leveraging of unspent fund and thus realizing nontaxable earning of 200 billion won annually. Electronic notification and money transfer enabling citizens to pay taxes and fees at home or in the office. And to enable businesses to receive payments for goods and services in their bank accounts. Thus, through such system, the government aims to enhance efficiency, transparency and accountability of financial activities in such areas as budget allocation, execution, accounting, settlement and auditing through the construction of information systems that enable real-time management of national fiscal activities.

From Korea Herald, Korea, 17 March 2003

Korean e-Government Gets in Full Swing

The "dotcom" revolution has saved many companies time and money on office facilities and staff, with the Internet meeting many of the conventional requirements of businesses. Now the benefits of the online network are propping up the government's ambitious "e-government" project, which aims to free public servants and citizens from much administrative formality, including reams of paperwork. Last November, then President Kim Dae-jung officially announced the government's launching of e-government services after building the infrastructure required in 11 major areas. The major tasks included the so-called "G4C (government for citizen) system," which allows people home access to the civil service through the Internet, as well as offering other programs on tax, insurance, education and digital signature services. "E-government is the optimal strategy for providing quality user-friendly government services expeditiously without the constraints of time and space, improving administrative productivity with lower costs and higher efficiency," said Suh Sam-young, president of the National Computerization Agency. The G4C system, which is under the control of the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGAHA), is the core part of the $234-million project. Under the program, people can apply for a total of 393 kinds of official documents, such as certificates on resident and business registration, on a portal site (www.egov.go.kr).

To that end, five national database systems related to land and property, motor vehicle and licensing, taxation, resident registration and corporations have been interconnected across ministries and other agencies. The network has enabled people to apply for official dossiers by simply clicking on their mouse at home, but they still have to visit nearby government offices or use postal delivery to obtain the papers they requested. MOGAHA officials said they plan to build an advanced system within a few years under which people can use their personal computers to print out whichever documents they require, secure in the knowledge they carry full legal weight. "If completed, the new system would mark another step forward to a 'paperless administration,'" said Lee Sang-geun, a MOGAHA director responsible for online administrative service. Lee said the biggest sticking point in the planned project is how to guarantee an acceptable level of security in producing the legally binding papers without screening by the government officials responsible. "This requires state-of-the-art technology regarding security in cyber space," he said. "We plan to offer three kinds of services on an experimental basis this year to check whether the current security system has any serious loopholes. Then we will decide whether to offer full printing services or not." The three items have yet to be determined.

But officials said the certificates on land registry, planning of land usage and business registration make up a provisional list. People who want to print out these documents should first obtain certification by the Government Computerization Center (GCC). Another major goal under this year's e-government project is to complete the government intranet to enable "e-approval and e-document exchange" among government agencies. Ahn Moon-suk, the chief of the special state committee on e-government, said during a recent meeting with the press that interagency differences and discords were a major stumbling block in promoting the project. "There existed an uncooperative atmosphere in the government stemming from the conflict of interests among different ministries and agencies," Ahn said. Home Ministry officials acknowledge that they need to iron out such interagency differences and streamline administrative procedures in order to operate the e-approval system to maximum efficiency. One of the areas that could benefit most from the online document-exchange system will be transaction between government agencies, according to the officials. "We needed to reform routine, redundant and inefficient procedures in the old procurement system," an official said. Under the new program, government agencies, institutions, local governments and state-run corporations perform all procurement activities electronically, including online bidding, requisitioning, purchase and transmission.

It will also provide a nationwide market for suppliers and buyers, through which businesses can participate in all biddings. According to Ahn, one of the most daunting of the 11 tasks will be developing the National Education Information System (NEIS). The NEIS was established by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development to connect all elementary and secondary schools with education offices in local governments through the Internet. It offers a comprehensive list of educational administrative services, such as curriculum development and students' academic records. Counseling for students could also be available on the Web site. Some educational organizations, including the teachers' labor union, however, have fiercely protested the new system, raising the possibility that it could infringe on the privacy of students and teachers. But ministry officials suggest such concerns are groundless, arguing that they have implemented advanced security methods to prevent the leakage of internal information. Other plans under the e-government project include the "home tax service," which consolidates all tax services and related information on the Internet, making it available in one place around the clock. An integrated social insurance system, which has combined a health, pension, industrial disaster and employment insurance system, is also on the list, as are an innovative e-seal system and local government information base. An integrated personnel policy support network controls all related procedures, such as employment, examination and training, and personnel record keeping, on the Web.

History of e-government Korea's swing for the e-government began in the mid 1980s when the initiative for the "National Basic Information System" was first put in action. Under the project, the nation's basic administrative information, such as resident registration, real estate and vehicles, was compiled into government database systems. In the latter half of the mid 1990s, the "Korea Information Infrastructure" project was a major driving force for the online project. During the period, real estate registration, patent application and military administration services came online, while e-document approval and exchange spread rapidly within the government. In June 1999, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Information and Communication Ministry jointly worked out comprehensive e-government plans, which provided a more systematic framework for the project. Then came booming levels of subscription to the high-speed broadband. In terms of this accelerated form of Internet access, Korea ranks first among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members with nearly 10 out of every 14 households connected to the efficient Internet network. Known as the country with the highest degree of Internet penetration, Korea has given birth to a generation of Internet users who now exceed 25.6 million in number out of its 48-million population. The statistics of users have exploded since 1998, when the comparable figure barely scratched 3.1 million.

From Korea Herald, Korea, by Kim Ji-ho, 17 March 2003

Islamic IT Network Launched

A senior government official stressed on the need for officials to be proactive, committed, dedicated and to brush aside the 'couldn't care less' attitude. The remark was made by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Pg Dato Paduka Hj Yusof bin Pg Kula at the planning and implementation of Islamic Technology Network or 'e-rami' yesterday at the Islamic Dakwah Centre in Berakas. He made these remarks with reference to the several department committees set-up to look after information technology projects. "In line with the 8th National Development Plan (2001-2005), the Ministry of Religious Affairs through the Information Technology Service and Information Technology Committee has identified and approved four main projects implemented this year." "In view of this, several department committees have been set-up since last year. Unfortunately, based on my observation through IT committee meetings, which I personally chaired, some of the committees that had been set-up were ineffective in their roles and responsibilities, while others hadn't even organised meetings and planned their own respective e-governments. "Such 'malas ku ingau' or 'couldn't care less' attitude should be improved and brushed aside and the elected chairman of each committee should be proactive, committed and dedicated and must possess a high spirit in developing his respective organisation."

He hopes that the problem of "not knowing how to move or plan" should not arise, because in every respective committee, he had requested that the IT Centre Head would become the Assistant Chairman for such committee, and that officials from the centre become the joint secretaries or members in that committee. As representatives of the IT Centre they would be able to assist by giving ideas in technical affairs including planning and implementation. "I also hope that the problem of not having time to organise a meeting or lack of staff to act or initiate should not become the main issue for not moving the ITC plan and e-government," Pg Dato Paduka Hj Yusof said. "Every negative attitude towards the development and expansion of ITC should be corrected and that the mindset of every committee should be changed. They should instead think a lot to develop the organisation for future direction." The occasion was one of the programmes to initiate the task, role and responsibility of the IT committees which had been set-up in every department in planning and implementing the e-government IT plan.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei, by Azlan Othman, 20 March 2003

Agility Scores Over Economic Might In E-readiness Test

New Delhi - When traditional technology spenders such as banks are tightening their purse strings, governments all over the world are going all out for IT, wrote UK-based newspaper 'The Guardian' recently. There's evidence. The US has set November 2003 as the deadline for an e-compliant government. Several EU member countries are also on their way to launching e-governments. The UK has bought more time though. It plans to go the e-way by 2005. Others like Singapore and Australia have already achieved lots, with little loose ends left to tie here and there. Even India, which is nowhere on the global radar as far as e-readiness goes, has several of its states smartening up their governing processes. Last week, Tech 'n Biz had looked at how some of the Indian states are realising the power of linking the government and administration with the citizens. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and now Delhi too are on the online map. Even as there are complaints about some of these online initiatives not meeting the expectations of the people, India has made a start. In this issue, we are exploring governments across the world and how they are networked with their people, their businesses and their employees, offering them the best of services.

Even as it was a tough choice, eFE has picked up some of the top IT-inclined countries such as the US, UK, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, to see how the e-initiatives are doing in all these places. A recent e-government ranking survey conducted by consulting firm Accenture found Canada on top of the list. Singapore, US, Australia, Denmark and UK followed Canada in ranking. The survey tested online services offered by governments in 23 countries. But, despite all the enthusiasm about e-governments, there's an all-round debate on whether countries should invest so much on putting in place e-governments. Sample this. According to official estimates, the budget for the UK government's online initiative is 1 billion pounds over a period of three years. However, the real cost is expected to be higher. Also, the US government is spending billions towards its e-government project. The Accenture report mentions the cost factor in its e-ranking report. "Expectations that e-government would reduce the cost of service delivery have not been realised," it says. Reason: The system hasn't been properly tried and e-government is still in its revolutionary phase. Although e-government was expected to cut the cost of running public services, it hasn't so far. Says a media report: "Unlike banks or supermarkets, governments can't shut down their least productive branches." So, some of the e-governments have started charging a convenience fee.

Another e-readiness survey, this one by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in cooperation with IBM, talks about the relevance of such a study. "E-readiness is shorthand for the extent to which a country's business environment is conducive to the Internet based opportunities," EIU says. "It is a concept that that spans a wide range of factors, from telephone penetration to online security to intellectual property protection," it adds. In a survey of 60 markets, the EIU-IBM 2002 report has ranked the top countries as the US, Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Finland, Singapore, Norway and Hong Kong. This report puts India at the 43rd overall rank and 10th in Asia-Pacific. Neighbour Pakistan is almost at the bottom on 57th overall position and 16th on the Asia-Pacific list. Even as the US is on top, the study points out that the "rankings place a premium on agility rather than sheer economic might." It adds that so many smaller economies in Scandinavia and Europe score highly, while less innovative giants like Japan rank relatively low. Another interesting point that it brings out is that Internet business thrives when governments are committed to a clear and consistent strategy to develop IT infrastructure. Finally, something to gladden the hearts of those who feel they are not good enough. "No one's perfect," declares the EIU-IBM study. "Even in wealthy countries where the infrastructure is reliable and secure, there's tremendous room for improvement. And, no country entirely meets consumer demand for fast, cheap, secure and reliable Internet connectivity," it says.

From Financial Express, India, Nivedita Mookerji, 16 March 2003

Oracle: The Next Phase of e-Government Needed

Kuala Lumpur - Citizens today expect the same levels of service from government as they get from the private sector, and their demands keep increasing, according to Oracle Corporation Malaysia. The public and private sectors indeed have quite a bit in common, the company said in a statement. Both have employees in place to deliver products or services; have customers that consume these products or services; have a supply chain behind the delivery of products or services; and share a common objective in trying to reduce administrative overheads while improving core product/ service delivery. "Thus far, most so-called 'e-government' initiatives have been simply focused on Internet-enabling traditional processes and systems," said Peter Lim, industry sales director, public and financial services sectors, Oracle Malaysia. "This is a natural first step in the transformation, but the result has been a series of costly, overlapping, and uncoordinated projects," he claimed. "The next step in the transformation is to examine the inter-relationships between government agencies - both processes and systems. Only when this is viewed from the perspective of the citizens' experience will the true efficiencies of e-business be gained," he said.

Oracle believes that there are four levels of e-business for government: 1) Connecting government (G2G) Government agencies that constantly face the dual challenge of achieving more for their constituents with smaller budgets will look for ways to increase efficiency and worker productivity. As the threat of the privatisation of government services looms large at many levels, agencies must be more accountable today than ever, and it is imperative that they quantify their performance improvements. 2) Connecting citizens (G2C) Citizens are demanding better service, more value and greater access to services for the tax dollars they spend. Private sector experiences are exerting pressure on public sector agencies to provide at least the same level of service, value and access, if not better. It is about putting people online, not in line, Oracle said. 3) Connecting businesses (G2B) Imagine the amount of money the government can save in reduced cost for goods and services from suppliers through more strategic vendor sourcing, e-processes like Internet procurement, online exchanges, auctions/ reverse auctions, and so on. Self-service efficiencies for suppliers will further drive excess cost out of government. 4) Connecting employees (G2E) Imagine a human resources organisation that is relieved of the daily transactional and compliance related tasks and is able to provide truly value-added strategic service to management and employees.

This would result in cost savings while improving service to employees. Lim said that governments have the ability to transform the way they are managed and how they conduct transactions by switching to an e-business model. "Through e-business, organisations can put their constituent management, supply chain, and internal operations online. This enables them to combine the wide reach of the Internet with products to run the organisation consistently and accurately," he said. Governments are embracing web-based applications to bring new solutions to knowledge-based communities. This literally means transforming themselves into e-governments focused on connecting citizens with federal, regional, state, and local government agencies. It is a model in which services are available from an integrated, seamless source, regardless of the agencies involved. "Governments want to use proven business applications that meet their unique requirements. As a longtime strategic partner of governments worldwide, Oracle has developed 100% Internet-based solutions to assist agencies ranging from law enforcement to public administration to national defence, in moving to efficient e-government operations," Lim claimed. Oracle Malaysia will be a holding an executive seminar for selected participants of the public sector on April 22 to further discuss the issues above.

From TechCentral, Malaysia, 19 March 2003

'Need To Associate Media And Public In Disaster Management'

Gurgaon - There is a need to associate media and public in disaster management. This was the sentiment echoed by speakers including LC Gupta of Indian Institute of Public Administration and divisional commissioner LMS Salins at the one day workshop on disaster management in Gurgaon. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Gupta called upon the people to learn from the earthquakes in Latur and Bhuj and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. He said had the authorities been ready with a disaster managament plan, the loss to human lives and property could have been minimised, if the tragedy could not be averted totally. Speakers noted that high-rise buildings, especially in Gurgaon city, were not conforming to the parameters to cushion them against seismic disturbances. They lamented that the public did not seem to be conscious about the vulnerability that life and property were exposed to during an earthquake.

From Financial Express, India, 27 March 2003

 

Agenda for NI e-Government Set Out

The future shape of e-government in Northern Ireland has been laid out at the Modernising Government workshop held in Belfast this week. At the event, organised by leading IT services company Newell & Budge, delegates addressed the challenges facing the public sector in the province as it strives to deliver the Northern Ireland Executive's target of achieving 100% of government services online. In his keynote speech, Professor Des Vincent said that the Modernising Government agenda would not be achieved through a "big bang" approach - developing e-government would be more of an "evolution" than a revolution. "Creating a joined-up government is not going to be an easy or cheap process, but there is no option," he said. "The benefits in terms of social inclusion and making government services more accessible and effective will far exceed the level of work required." He also said that good progress was being made in Northern Ireland and that e-government is providing an opportunity for the public sector in the province to be an exemplar in its application of modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to deliver customer focused services. The event, hosted by Newell & Budge, was attended by over 50 guests from across public sector organisations in Northern Ireland and took place at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. The company opened an office in Belfast last month and over 50% of its revenue comes from public sector work, with clients including the Northern Ireland Prison Service, the Scottish Executive and NHS Scotland.

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 28 February 2003

Local Council Races to Beat e-Gov Deadline

The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames has outsourced its IT to services company ITNET in a £36m, 10-year deal as it attempts to meet an early deadline for putting its services online. Under its Public Services Agreement (PSA) Richmond has to meet the 2005 e-government targets one year early to receive additional government grants. Mike Gravatt, assistant director of finance at the borough, explained that the council did not have the capital or skills to complete its ambitious e-government plans to meet its 2004 deadline. "We needed a private sector partner because we lacked the capacity to make the required investments and did not have the expertise to implement it," he said. ITNET will invest in the equipment and support the borough's IT infrastructure. Richmond will pay for the service yearly and hand over responsibility for its IT infrastructure to ITNET for the period of the contract. Pat Keane, head of IT at Richmond borough council, stressed that the outsourcing deal had not been a reaction to a shortfall in the current IT department but was in order to meet the authority's plans. Richmond's 12 full-time IT staff, along with its five contractors, will transfer to ITNET under Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment regulations. Julian Cook, account development manager at ITNET, said: "We will offer the workers the same terms and conditions of employment when they transfer, as we are a Government Actuaries Department-approved company." ITNET works with 37 local authorities on similar projects but this deal is its first to cover an entire local authority IT infrastructure and presents a working model for other authorities, said Cook. "The way Richmond has decided to reach its e-government target is a model that a lot of local authorities will follow," he added.

From VNUNet, UK, by Karl Flinders, 5 March 2003

Preparing The Way for e-Government

Local authorities continue to invest money in IT systems as they strive to meet the 2005 e-government deadline. But there's no point sinking large amounts of public money into new systems that don't deliver a return on investment. Successful e-government should concentrate on the benefits that can be delivered to the public through the use of IT. The technology itself is of secondary importance. But benefits to the public won't be achieved unless workers can use the installed technology effectively. There's no escaping the fact that all employees within the public sector will have to embrace technology to deliver central government's target of having all services online by 2005. Office and administration employees will already have had exposure to some IT, including Windows and email. But in the build-up to 2005 they will also have to use additional systems. Departmental staff will have to get to grips with the council intranet and new bespoke IT applications that have been implemented to help deliver 'best value' services to the public. Housing staff will have to use systems to input and process rents and repairs online, while finance employees will have to use revenues and benefits systems to process claims and monitor payments made online by the public.

However, administration workers aren't the only employees who will have to embrace new IT systems. Fieldworkers, such as verification officers and social workers, will not only have to adapt to new systems, they'll also have to adopt alternative ways of working if the true benefits of IT are to be achieved. Traditionally, fieldworkers have avoided the use of IT. Handwritten files from the field were passed to the back-office staff to be processed. But with the development of technology for mobile working, they can now input information on the move using PDAs and laptops. Meanwhile, at the tenant's premises, maintenance workers can process an initial assessment, order products and book a follow-up appointment. This can speed up the assessment and repair process. Social care workers can also access and update case files on the move, delivering efficiency savings across the department. For all of this to be achieved, local authorities need to make sure that the skills and training issues surrounding the use of technology are tackled upfront. A clear strategy is needed with regard to what skills are required to operate a specific system. The training should focus on the benefits to the user in embracing this technology.

Depending on the technology, the choice of training provider will also have to be considered when planning a user-training schedule. If the system is a bespoke application, then the software vendor should be charged with training the users because it will understand the full functionality of the system. However, local authorities should review the training programme to ensure that it is relatively straightforward. If the requirements are more generic, external trainers are likely to be the better option. Professional trainers should have effective presentation skills and also be able to overcome any cultural barriers. Following the initial training, local authorities must monitor the take-up of the technology, and then tackle any problem areas as soon as possible. Local authorities need to take into account the bigger picture when planning the introduction of an IT solution and address the skill requirements of potential users sooner rather than later. A training strategy is required in 2003 if workers are to be e-equipped to deliver e-government by 2005. John Eary is head of Skills Source at the NCC Group.

From VNUNet, UK, by John Eary, 6 March 2003

Global e-Government

UK to launch terrorist information site: The UK Home Office has announced that it is to launch a Web site dedicated to providing information on terrorism "and related issues" to the public. The Home Office said the site would be incorporated into the pages of its Web site, homeoffice.gov.uk, and would provide information ranging from "details of terrorist organisations to guidance on personal protection." Home Office Secretary David Blunkett said "I am committed to putting as much information as I can in the public domain, without compromising security." The new site will complement existing emergency information sites ukresilience.info and londonprepared.gov.uk but will focus more on providing straightforward advice to the public. Internet access to stretch across Cambodia: A US-funded project in Cambodia is bringing the Internet to more than 20 provinces and municipalities throughout the country. The Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-governmental organisation, is using USD1.2 million in US aid to establish a network of 22 Community Information Centres (CICs). Using wireless technology, the centres will provide Internet access, e-mail and other computer services to the local community, as well as a Khmer-language Web portal.

One of the aims of the initiative is to give Cambodian voters access to information ahead of the general election in July. However, some critics of the initiative have pointed out that maintaining high-tech equipment in remote areas of the country will be difficult and that the Cambodian media has a poor reputation for accuracy. South Africa studies SMS potential: The South African administration is examining the potential role of mobile phones in improving the accessibility of e-government services. Speaking at the recent "ICT in Government" convention near Johannesburg, Andile Ngcaba, the director general of the Department of Communications, said the government was considering the development of "mobile-centric" applications for the rollout of e-government. Ngcaba drew attention to the fact that only 3 million people have access to the Internet, whereas there are currently 14 million mobile phones in use in the country, with that figure expected to grow to more than 20 million in the next five years. SMS could be used extensively, said the director general, for example to remind people to collect official documents. Some delegates at the convention doubted the viability of Ngcaba's proposals, however. Queensland trials Wi-Fi hotspots: The government of Queensland in Australia is planning a 12-month trial of Wi-Fi in government buildings. Around 20 802.11b "hotspots" offering wireless Internet access will be installed in state buildings in central Brisbane.

Queensland Innovation and Information Economy Minister Paul Lucas said the hotspots would be in locations "where there will be significant public use" and would provide users with cheap mobile access to the Internet, as well as to e-government services. Lucas explained that users who visit government buildings will be able to log on to the Queensland government Web site, from where they will be able to connect to their own Internet service provider, on either a subscription or pay-per-use basis. China may favour local software suppliers: China is considering a proposal that would require its central and local governments to purchase most of their software from domestic vendors. According to media reports, China's State Informationization Leading Group made the suggestion at a recent meeting to discuss the government's target of helping domestic software manufacturers to achieve a 60 percent market share by 2005. The proposed initiative would allocate at least 70 percent of the software budget for China's multibillion-dollar E-Government project for local products.

The agency also recommended that 50 percent of nearly all other types of government software should be bought from Chinese suppliers. If the proposal is approved, it would be blow to non-Chinese software makers such as Microsoft, which recently agreed to show the Chinese government the underlying source code for Windows, in an effort to ease concerns about its security. On-line tax filing grows in Thailand: Filing tax returns on-line is gaining popularity among the citizens of Thailand. The government's Revenue Department is reaping the rewards of an aggressive promotion of electronic tax filing, under the auspices of the state's e-government initiative. The Revenue Department recently reported that the number of personal income tax returns filed electronically has reached 70,000 so far this year -- more than the 63,000 on-line returns submitted for the whole of 2002. By the end of 2003, the department hopes to have received 200,000 on-line returns. Still, this figure is only a small percentage of the 5 million returns the government receives annually.

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

UK's e-Government Is a Waste of Money

The British Labour government has lost more than 1.5 billion pounds (EUR 2.21 billion) in six years in pursuit of realizing electronic government, reports the Financial Times. And according to a survey the wastage is even accelerating. The survey was compiled by Computing Magazine. Figures show that the cost of cancelled projects or of projects that exceeded the budget stood at 1.5 billion pounds in 1997 and had risen by 500 million pounds since July 2001. The former Department of Social Security and a joint venture with the Royal Mail called Pathway were among the worst budget offenders. The government has accepted project failures but claims that new problems will be avoided in the future.

From Telecom Paper, Netherlands, 13 March 2003

Council uses CRM in e-Gov Deadline Race

CRM to be used as 'glue' for Knowsley Council services - Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council is planning to use its CRM system to glue together all its online services as it strives to complete the government's online services target a year before the 2005 deadline. The council wants to connect its e-government systems to other government agencies and will use E-Shop, its new CRM system, as the catalyst for its plans. Onyx Software and Deloitte & Touche will jointly develop the system, in a three-year, £3m deal. "The system will glue all services together with a citizen focus," said Rod Matthews, head of information society technology at Knowsley Council. The council is also looking at linking its housing benefits system to the Benefits Agency portal, because of the close relation between "housing benefit and services such as income support", Matthews explained. He pointed to an example of the advantages to be gained from this type of development. "In the past, citizens needed to tell 19 different people about a bereavement," he said. "But now, through systems such as CRM, you tell one and they all get to know.

All different departments in the council will be able to share the information, meaning citizens will find it easier to deal with them." Knowsley Council, which serves about 157,000 people, accepted a Public Service Agreement to have all its services online by 2004 rather than 2005, in return for additional funding. Matthews said the extra money added up to about £4m. He expressed confidence that the authority would meet its early target. Knowsley used a CRM Pathfinder, led by Brent Council in London, to learn from when developing its own CRM implementation. "Pathfinders have been successful because they put the experiences and knowledge of completed developments in the public domain," said Matthews. John Levell, a consultant at Deloitte & Touche, said Pathfinder projects had also given private organisations the confidence to invest in developing technology specifically for the public sector. "The government made it clear what it was planning to invest in and this acted as a carrot on a stick for technology companies," he added. Despite low national figures for online service usage Knowsley is confident of achieving high levels of uptake amongst citizens after seven years of investment. It has spent £30m since 1996 on a project to increase awareness to ensure citizens are ready and prepared to use e-government services. The council also already provides free internet access seven days a week in its libraries.

From VNUNet, UK, 17 March 2003

Irish Forge Ahead With e-Government

Dublin - Government makes plans for next 10 years - The Irish government is investigating how electronic services will change the shape of its public sector over the next 10 years. Earlier this month the European Commission ranked Ireland second only to Sweden in its delivery of online services. And now the Irish government is looking at long-term changes to the way it delivers services. Colm Butler, principal officer at the department of the Taoiseach and one of the key architects of the Irish government's e-strategy, told vnunet.com that it was working on a far-reaching strategy for further reorganisation. "What we are trying to do is explore what a transformed public service would look like," he said. Butler is currently in discussions with senior civil servants as to what such an organisation would look like. The plan is then to involve IT architects and human resources people, he explained. "Once you get agreement on the broad vision we will look at what the basic principles of a transformed service will be."

Butler added that he hoped to have agreement on the vision by the end of the year, but admitted it could take Ireland 10 years to get there. "One of the things that public services don't have is agility," he said, adding that Ireland would focus on services that are worth putting online. The Revenue Online Service (ROS) is regarded as one of Ireland's successes, reducing the time its takes to get a tax assessment from three months to two days. Margaret Whelan, ROS programme director, said gaining high-level ministerial support was vital and that projects should be implemented in short, aggressive phases. Sean Shine, partner at consultancy Accenture, said: "We're a smaller country so it's easier to make decisions because there are few levels. As countries get bigger things get more complicated." Shine added that Ireland had made some good decisions about its approach to getting services online. "From a distance it seems the approach in the UK has been to go for 100 per cent availability," he said. "The targets here haven't been quite so wide-ranging. There's been more of a focus on picking up particular services and focusing on them."

From VNUNet, UK, by Steve Ranger, 20 March 2003

E-government: Stanca Says 82 Pct of Italians Aware of Benefits

Rome - Italians no longer struggle with the concept of e-government: 82 percent of the adult Italians perceive the adoption of information technologies (ICT) as the most outstanding change in the quality of public administration services. The figures were provided by Minister for Innovation Lucio Stanca, who spoke at the Canova Club in Rome. "During 2002 - Stanca explained - governmental and PA sites in Italy have witnessed the largest affluence of web surfers in Europe, 25 percent more compared to 2001; e-government services are no the rise in Italy as highlighted by the latest survey on online public services in Europe. Italy went from 12th to 9th, marking a 20 percent annual increase. Thanks to e-government schemes - Stanca added - we are capable of providing a significant improvement in online services. We have involved public administrations at the local level and centrally with over 138 projects". Minister Stanca highlighted the government's policy with regards to information as part of society. The schemes focus on four areas: services to the public, innovation of public networks, modernising PA and promoting competitivity. With reference to the business world the Innovation Minister spoke of "delays in implementing the adoption of ICT ascribable to a lack of means, and a somewhat lacking culture in IT, which leads to the mere adoption of IT in automation rather overhauling the entire system".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italy, 25 March 2003

 

BD280,000 Boost for e-Governance

Cyber technology is speeding up communication between various government departments, with better services for customers. The first phase of a computer network upgrade has just been completed, at a cost of BD280,000. The project, undertaken by the Central Informatics Organisation (CIO), is part of a move to develop e-government in Bahrain. The new technology includes wireless communication to transport data from one location to another, said CIO computer operations director Mohammed Ali Al Qaed. The project was implemented for CIO by Fakhro Electronics and Almoayyed Telecom. Fifteen government applications will benefit from the project immediately. These include the immigration and passport system, Central Population Register (CPR), customs and ports, traffic and licensing, commercial registration, labour, financial management information systems (FMIS), Human Resources Information System, Health Ministry applications, government-wide email and portal, and government-wide secure Internet access. The Government Data Network (GDN) was first introduced in 1981, to allow ministries to share data and information.

"Bahrain was the first country in the region to implement a data communication network for intra-ministry communications," said Mr. Al Qaed. "The technology used has been upgraded on a regular basis. GDN connects various government ministries and directorates and enables them to access applications and data at any ministry, regardless of its location." The network has now been further upgraded with wireless technology. The second phase of the project has already been initiated and that includes broadband Ethernet technology, said Mr. Al Qaed. "This will enable ministries and government agencies to communicate faster than ever," he added. "The bandwidth capacity will increase more than 24 times compared with its present capacity." Also it will be widely possible to transfer not only the text at high speed but also other forms of data such as voice, video and multimedia. "The government-wide email system and Internet connections will become faster and more efficient," said Mr. Al Qaed. A total of 44 sites will be connected with the new technology in the second phase, which is expected to be completed in three months. It will start with a link between CIO and the Finance and National Economy Ministry.

From Gulf Daily News, Bahrain, by Soman Babyr, 4 March 2003

Dubai e-Government and eHosting Centre Sign MOU to Host Data Centre

Dubai e-Government, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the eHosting Centre (eHC), the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone's managed hosting subsidiary, to host Dubai e-Government's data centre. Under the agreement, the eHosting Centre, through its state-of-the-art hosting facility, will provide managed hosting services for the data centre that supports the e-Services of Dubai e-Government. Salem Al Shair, Director e-Service, Dubai e-Government and Ahmad bin Byat, Director General, Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone, signed the MOU at Dubai Internet City. The eHosting Centre, built by Dubai Internet City in partnership with IBM is one of a handful of facilities in the world that offers sophisticated managed e-Business hosting services. The eHosting centre will provide extremely reliable, competitive, high-performance and cost-effective managed hosting services to help Dubai e-Government provide e-Services for Dubai residents over the Internet. "We are pleased to sign eHosting Centre as our partner in this challenging task of providing world-class e-Services to the residents, business entities and government departments in Dubai," said Salem Al Shair. "This union between e-Government and the eHosting Centre will contribute significantly towards making e-Government's services highly reliable and secure, supported by the advanced system that is empowering the hosting facilities at Dubai Internet City."

"Our move to host our data centre at the eHosting Centre was preceded by an intensive evaluation of competing firms. We found that the eHosting Centre was best equipped to manage our e-Services and ensure secure and uninterrupted services, with advanced equipment that is designed to provide protection against all kinds of risks, including natural disasters like earthquakes. We are delighted to assign this complex task of managing integrated services involving so many different departments to the experts so that we can concentrate on our core activities," Al Shair added. "We are proud to partner with Dubai e-Government to provide the support and services necessary for ensuring smoothly managed hosting of their e-Services," said Bin Byat. "Dubai e-Government's pioneering initiatives have blazed a new trail in the region The eHosting Centre is keen to assist Dubai e-Government to ensure the success of its path-breaking initiatives." "The biggest advantage offered by the eHosting Centre is that companies do not have to physically move to a provider's facility to get the advanced services they need. eHosting Centre offers the performance benefits of a managed hosting environment in your own hosting facility. No matter where your current hosting operation resides, you gain the service capabilities of a fully managed hosting environment," Bin Byat added.

"The eHosting Centre will be working closely with the Dubai e-Government to ensure a smooth transition to managed services," said Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman, CEO, Dubai Internet City. "The eHosting Centre's facilities and services can meet and exceed Dubai e-Government's requirements. We can bring considerable value to the e-Government operations by leveraging our strategic relationship with global partners like IBM." "With the eHosting Centre's services, Dubai e-Government can focus on their core business with the knowledge that the availability and security of their valuable data and applications are being monitored round the clock," Dr. Bin Sulaiman added. The key aspect of eHosting Centre's managed services is the deployment of an infrastructure cabinet at the client's hosting facility. Once installed, eHosting Centre's remote cabinet, containing management servers, firewalls, switches and other network devices, allows remote management services to be delivered directly to the client's hosting facility from its central management site.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 02 March 2003

MCIT Signs Agreement With Oracle Corp For e-Government Projects

A cooperation agreement for introducing new e-government projects was signed recently between the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and Oracle Corporation. H.E. Dr. Ahmed Nazif, Minister of Communications and Information Technology and Mr. Juan Rada Senior Vice President Oracle EMEA, witnessed the signing ceremony. This protocol states that Oracle Corporation, the world's largest enterprise software company, will provide to Government organizations special pricing terms and technical consulting services for E-Government projects. As a result of this protocol, Oracle products such as Oracle Database, Application Server, Development Tools, Collaboration Suite classified under Information Infrastructure or Oracle Enterprise Resource planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM) or customers relationship Management (CRM) that is classified under the Ready Made applications will be available for Government entities.

By forging such agreements and alliances, MCIT creates the opportunity for other government entities to use powerful tools to achieve required information technology infrastructure needed for complete transformation towards an E-Government. This Agreement is the first of its kind to be signed between Oracle Corporation and a government in Europe, the Middle East or Africa. "Global presence is necessary," said Minister Nazif, "We have to position our products to be sellable, marketable and concentrate on certain niches. The partnership with Oracle is a real evidence of working towards this goal," added the Minister. Additionally, the Minister emphasized that the local industry should focus on producing high quality unique solutions and building a customer base to achieve the key goal of export. Prior to the signing ceremony, Minister Nazif inaugurated the three-day Industry Solution Days Exhibition and Conference, also organized by Oracle.

The Exhibition shows the applications created by Oracle Egyptian partners on the latest Oracle information infrastructure technologies and products. This event is set to form a communication link between information technology companies and users from the various industries. The Conference included several awareness sessions on different technologies presented by Oracle Corporation and its partners. Notably, for more than 25 years, Oracle has worked on ways to help its customers manage critical information. The Company has built the only unbreakable database, with 15 international security evaluations. Worldwide, Oracle is ranked the first company in the information infrastructure products, and the second in the ready made applications products. Oracle products and technologies were implemented locally in the project of renovating the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirate, 05 March 2003

E- government in Egypt Is On Its Way

The e-government project will pave the way for an informatics based Egyptian society, able to cope with the IT revolution and narrowing the digital divide between Egypt and the advanced countries, an IT expert told the Egyptian Mail. Egypt said: The e-government program manager at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), Ahmed Mahmoud Darwish, stresses that, like Toshka, the project is considered a national one that will have great economic benefits. It is expected to save about 900,000 working hours or LE9 million, based on the average Egyptian income, as well as some LE60 million in governmental purchases, he adds. Darwish, who refuses to say how much the huge project will cost, recalls that it actually started in 2001 when the MCIT signed a four-year cooperation agreement with Microsoft. By virtue of this agreement, Microsoft provided consultation services to connect government entities - that will provide services - through the main bawwaba (gateway), the government portal, the governmental sector manager at Microsoft, Sherif Bayoumi, told this paper. We created and developed this portal in cooperation with our local partners and it is ready to be launched whenever the government wants, Bayoumi explained.

A similar agreement was signed last Tuesday with Oracle Corporation, adds Darwish, indicating that both Microsoft and Oracle will make the necessary information infrastructure available for governmental entities. He also hopes that the project will be completed by 2007 as part of the government's current five-year development plan, while the executive development plan for the e-government project consists of five main axes that will be implemented simultaneously to make the national projects as efficient as possible. According to Darwish, the first axis involves creating the necessary infrastructure, comprising laws, regulations, technological specifications and a governmental Web site with appropriate rules and specifications. This axis also includes creating the government portal where citizens, companies and investors can get the-services they want. The second axis involves services such as electronic payment of telephone and electricity bills, Darwish explains, adding that the third and fourth axes focus on the automation of ministries and their affiliated authorities. Contracts have been concluded to implement applications in the fields of planning for resources and management, including inventories, governmental purchases, budgets, accounts and personnel affairs, Darwish says of the fifth axis. It is a project for the sake of citizens who should know how to use this new technology in order to benefit from the services it offers, Darwish adds.

However, users without access to the Internet don't have to go to the 'alhokoma' Web site for information. All the site's information will also be available through a proposed automated telephone service. (Dial 131). Though we still have a long way to go before we can start boasting about a full e-government service, other institution specific sites can help. There are now about 500 Egyptian government-related sites on the Internet, which users can access to get the information they need, although they still need to pay a visit to the Mogamma (the huge governmental complex in Midan el-Tahrir) or various ministries, in order to purchase and fill in the relevant documents. Once this giant program is fully operational, Egypt will continue to foster local competitiveness in the era of globalization and implement various international agreements successfully. Most importantly, the project seeks to involve the private sector, Darwish concludes adding that the authorities intend to reform the relevant legislation, with the issuing of a new E-signature Law and other concerned laws. In conclusion, the e-government project is one of the MCIT's major development projects that will eventually involve all ministries and governmental bodies.

From Arabic News, by Hala Fawzy, 10 March 2003

The 9th GCC e-Government, Telecom and Internet Forum

Dubai - The 9th GCC e-Government, Telecom and Internet Forum opening at Dubai from 10-14 May 2003 will discuss some of the pressing technology and implementation issues that are awaiting e-Government projects. With a focus on the skills, applications and technology needed for regional GCC e-government projects, this event brings together public sector and industry partners to identify opportunities, create innovative solutions and implement effective online citizen services. The forum primarily focuses on e-Government programs of GCC governments which are at various stages of implementation, while some claim that their efforts are on par with the developed countries of the world, there are many others who are in the very early stages of implementation. The e-Government projects are aimed to directly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the government's transactions through the use of improved technology. Once established these E-Government initiatives will eliminate redundant systems, and significantly improve the government's quality of service for citizens and businesses.

Some of the sessions that are coming up at the forum include: managing & implementing E-government projects, role of process re-engineering, security concerns & storage issues. "This forum focuses on educating attendees on the continuing developments in the e-Government infrastructure," said Ali Al Kamali, Managing Director Datamatix, and Organizing Committee Chairman of the 9th GCC e-Government, Telecom and internet forum. "The forum is committed to help various organizations entrusted with e-government implementation with a citizen-centered, results-oriented, market-based approach towards E-Government. The agenda offers attendees a range of options for coordinating trans-agency initiatives, resourcing mission-critical programs, and understanding the available technologies - all crucial components to creating a reliable infrastructure for e-government projects." The event is an excellent platform for senior government professionals to meet face-to-face with the premier vendors dedicated to delivering most modern e-government technology solutions that respond to near and long-term requirements. For more information and to register for the 9th GCC e-Government, Telecom and Internet Forum, visit http://www.datamatix-dubai.com.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 13 March 2003

 

Miner & Miner Implements ArcFM™ at Arizona Public Service

Fort Collins, CO - Implementation brings advanced GIS capabilities to APS's user community - Arizona Public Service Company (APS) has recently completed its geographic information system (GIS) implementation with Miner & Miner's (M&M) extended implementation services, deploying ArcFM and Conduit Manager along with ESRI's ArcGIS. With 50 users editing and maintaining the data daily, this brings meaningful benefits to their business operations. APS, the major subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (PNW), is Arizona's largest electric utility. It generates, sells and delivers electricity and energy-related products and services. Based out of Phoenix, APS serves approximately a million customers in 11 of Arizona's 15 counties, spanning a service area of more than 45,000 square miles. APS was looking to update its technology and automate its business processes, as well as provide the ability to support additional data and services for the complete APS service territory. Another major goal for APS was to be able to integrate the new ArcGIS/ArcFM system with its existing trouble-call management system. In March of 2002, APS rolled out into production with Feeder Manager, and few months later were editing with production data delivered from the statewide conversion effort. With these two important milestones met, APS was able to supply its Trouble Call Management System quick, accurate updates for its entire service territory throughout Arizona. ArcFM is now integrated with the trouble call system providing switch change status information as needed.

The final phases of the APS implementation were completed in November 2002, and APS is now in production for a variety of areas within Arizona, including the Phoenix Metro Area. As part of the many customizations required to support APS' business needs, M&M developed a variety of productivity enhancement tools to help the utility better enforce its business process. One such tool is the session manager custom tool, which allows APS to extend ArcFM's Session Manager so that users are able to conduct a batch reconciling post. This tool has helped APS enforce workflow management for editing. M&M's new QA/QC tools and the custom validation rules allow QA validation to become easier during data input. QA validation is quicker and more complete, allowing for more accurate data in the system. With ArcGIS/ArcFM technology in place, a more scalable solution is now available. Thus, APS is able to hire additional technical staff in order to reduce the backlog efforts. APS has already experienced decreases in both job checker and landbase entry times, expecting reduction in editing times as system familiarity increases. Currently, APS is conducting a pilot project to assess the potential benefits of implementing M&M's Designer application. About Miner & Miner - Miner & Miner (M&M) is a world leader in the development and implementation of GIS software for utilities. M&M's ArcFM Solution and extended services assist electric, gas, water, and wastewater utilities in increasing productivity, lowering costs, and improving services by allowing them to effectively manage spatial information.

Founded in 1946 as a full-service electrical engineering firm, M&M has been a business partner of ESRI since 1987. This partnership has enabled M&M to become the world's leading developer of ArcGIS applications for the utility industry. M&M services include implementation and customization of software to fit the needs of individual utilities. For more information, please visit www.miner.com. About ESRI - For more than 30 years, ESRI has been the leading developer of GIS software with more than 300,000 clients worldwide. ESRI also provides consulting, implementation, and technical support services. In addition to its headquarters in California, ESRI has regional offices throughout the United States, international distributors in more than 90 countries, and more than 1,400 business partners. ESRI's goal is to provide users with comprehensive tools to help them quickly and efficiently manage and use geographic information to make a real difference in the world around them. ESRI can be found on the Web at www.esri.com. Designer, Responder, Conduit Manager, and Network Adapter are trademarks of Miner & Miner, Consulting Engineers, Inc. ESRI, the ESRI globe logo, GIS by ESRI, ArcGIS, ArcSDE, ArcFM, ArcFM Viewer, ARC/INFO, ArcIMS, www.esri.com, and @esri.com are trademarks, registered trademarks, or service marks of ESRI in the United States, the European Community, or certain other jurisdictions. Other companies and products mentioned herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective trademark owners.

From DirectionsMag.com, IL, 6 March 2003

E-Gov Will Go On, Staffers Pledge

Orlando, Fla. - Two congressional staff members who worked on the E-Government Act of 2002 said March 5 that e-gov projects would continue developing despite the lack of funding from Congress. Although Congress earmarked $5 million in the fiscal 2003 budget for cross-agency programs instead of the requested $45 million, the staffers said there is still the momentum to create electronic government-to-citizen programs. "You are really talking about seed money," said Kevin Landy, who works for Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), author of the e-gov legislation. "A lot of the E-Government Act is about management." Landy and Drew Crockett, a staff member for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), another major backer of e-government initiatives, spoke on the third day of the Information Processing Interagency Conference meeting, the annual conference of the Government Information Technology Executive Council. Conferees were given clickers to underscore the day's theme - "Three clicks to service." Landy and Crockett said they hoped Congress would agree to provide the $45 million requested by the Bush administration in the fiscal 2004 budget. However, some congressional experts say this year's budget battles are expected to be as difficult as last year's, and discretionary spending is likely to face even more cutbacks in the fiscal 2004 budget. Crockett said it is important to educate lawmakers about e-government. He said few members of Congress actually "get it" when it comes to the issue. Among the few who understand the concept, he said, are Reps. Davis, Jane Harman (D-Calif.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Jim Turner (D-Texas), and Sens. Lieberman and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Nevertheless, both staffers said there is almost $60 billion in the fiscal 2004 budget for information technology, and several billion will be directed to e-government projects. "There's enough money out there," Crockett said. "We hope that in future years, appropriators will see the value of this approach," Landy said.

From FCW.com, 6 March 2003

Administration Officials Weigh Six New e-Gov Initiatives

Orlando Fla. - A council of budget officials within the Bush administration is weighing whether to roll out six e-government projects in areas that cut across several departments and agencies. The President's Management Council, comprised primarily of chief operating officers and budget executives at federal agencies, is studying six areas to determine whether they merit funding, Cameron Findlay, deputy secretary of the Labor Department, told people at the Information Processing Interagency Conference here. Those projects cover data and statistics, human resources, business-management systems, health monitoring, criminal investigations, and monetary benefits. They were chosen as the Office of Management and Budget began assembling the fiscal 2004 budget, Findlay said. OMB observed similarities in agency requests, he said. For example, the Justice Department asked to fund a system to enhance criminal investigation, and the Environmental Protection Agency sought financing for a similar system.

"These are not yet e-government initiatives. ... They are areas we want to investigate" to determine whether they should be, he said. "What money is available and who should manage [the projects] are still very much up in the air." The comments came as Findlay, who chairs the management council's e-government committee, explained the budgeting approach that OMB is now taking toward technology and e-government projects. As part of its budget proposal, OMB stressed to other federal organizations that the government cannot keep funding duplicative initiatives. But Findlay said administration officials are contemplating building teams of agency and OMB representatives around the six areas to evaluate whether they can receive funding to move forward. "The idea is to form teams that will include OMB as well as representatives from those agencies to perform the evaluation," he said. Findlay also offered advice to federal IT workers and managers on ways to navigate the budgeting system, and on ensuring that they can get the resources they need to meet e-government goals and speedy agency reform. "When you begin think about a new IT project, you should think, 'Are there other agencies already doing this and can we piggyback?'" with them, he said. OMB will not approve funding requests unless you ask those sorts of questions, he added.

From GovExec.com, by Maureen Sirhal, 6 March 2003

White House Updates Federal e-Gov Site

The White House today launched a revamped Web site for e-government projects, organizing information about the 25 Quicksilver initiatives under one portal. The site, at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/egov, provides details about all the projects, such as brief and in-depth descriptions, status, coming milestones and links to their sites. The Office of Management and Budget also has posted an events listing and information about the E-Government Act of 2002, the original e-government strategy and other related laws and regulations, such as the Government Paperwork Elimination Act. It also for the first time listed the Quicksilver portfolio managers, their e-mail addresses and phone numbers. The General Services Administration ran the original version of the site at egov.gov. The GSA has moved its site to www.estrategy.gov, which continues to provide information about the smart-card and public-key infrastructure work it is doing as well as other e-government information.

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

Lawmaker Says e-Gov Projects Could Get Supplemental Funding

House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., said Monday that lawmakers could move to increase funding for electronic government projects when Congress addresses an emergency spending measure later this year. In comments to reporters, Davis, a Virginia Republican, suggested that more e-government funds could become available during debate over a fiscal 2003 supplemental spending bill, but that it would require some leadership from the Bush administration. "The administration makes its priorities...if they really want it, they get it," he said. Separately, Davis indicated that he is readying legislation to reauthorize a federal law that would require more federal agencies to put reduce their paperwork load through new technologies. "We'll have a new bill," Davis said. "We'll pass that on schedule." The law is due to expire in October.

From GovExec.com, 11 March 2003

Budget Constraints Will Mean Less 'E' In E-Government

A lack of funds, especially among states, is likely to limit how governments address IT issues in the next few years, Meta Group analysts say. Government IT could have a much different look in five years, as the "E" in E-government disappears and technology becomes an integrated part of government services. Budget constraints will limit how government will address E-government in the coming year. "The 'E' in E-government will be downsized, as reflected in the downsizing of government budgets," says Carol Kelly, VP for government strategies at IT advisory firm Meta Group, which sponsored a teleconference Wednesday on public-sector technology trends. Lack of funds, especially among states, will force lawmakers to abandon time-honored appropriation practices and adopt those that allow cross-agency use of technology. "The shortfall in government revenues has the silver lining of moving government policymakers and legislatures to funding models that reflect technology advances," says Kelly, who sees greater use of off-the-shelf software and much less customization.

Amy Santinello, a Meta research analyst for government strategies, says governments will accelerate use of analytical and business-intelligence tools this year, initially focusing on savings and cost containment, such as reducing fraud in programs such as Medicaid and workers' compensation. Eventually, she says, the knowledge gained by using these tools will help improve applications aimed at serving citizens. But major changes will occur once the budget crises are resolved. One change will be the creation of business-relation managers, IT executives who are as conversant in the dialect of technology as they are in government programs, Santinello says. Today, most liaisons between the IT department and the agencies they serve are technicians. "By 2006-07, BRMs will evolve from unit-level IT account managers to the executive level, with 55% of jurisdictions using this role in the development of program policy as well as strategic and tactical planning," she says. Governments already are seeing a change in their culture, propelled by homeland security needs. "Homeland security initiatives will accelerate cross-jurisdictional collaboration efforts among federal, state, and local governments," Santinello says. "Initial implementations will focus first on public health and safety.

These efforts will form the basis for collaboration and information sharing across government agencies. The leadership provided in the creation and operation of the Department of Homeland Security will pave the way for broader cross-jurisdictional initiatives." Because of budget constraints, the transformation of IT in government is being slowed. In the coming year, governments will focus on providing citizens with the basics: food, housing, and education. Instead of developing new E-government systems, government will rationalize and improve existing ones as it develops an enterprise architecture for the future. "The focus will be on rationalizing and improving existing transactions--and their ease of use--across each jurisdiction," Santinello says. "By 2006-07, data sharing, ERP investments, and consolidation rationalization will provide a foundation for reinvigorating E-government service offerings. The refacing of E-government will allow time for establishing the foundation."

From Information Week, by Eric Chabrow, 13 March 2003

FirstGov.gov Selected as Finalist In Innovations in American Government Awards Competition

Washington - FirstGov.gov, the U.S. Government's official Web portal has been selected as one of 15 finalists in the prestigious 2002 Innovations in American Government Awards competition. For the second year in a row, FirstGov.gov has been recognized as one of the most innovative and effective government programs. FirstGov.gov is the "Front Door" to the Bush Administration's e-government initiative on connecting citizens with government. FirstGov.gov helps citizens find and do business with government online, on the phone, by mail, or in person. Through FirstGov.gov, citizens can download a passport application, apply for a federal student loan, file income taxes, file a patent, buy stamps and much more - all online. FirstGov.gov also connects its visitors to all of the 50 state government portals. The site connects visitors to a wealth of information, services and transactions from over 180 million pages of online government resources from federal, state, and local governments and is focused on customer channels or gateways for citizens, business and government. FirstGov.gov has been selected by Yahoo Magazine as "One of the 50 Most incredibly Useful Web sites", by PARADE Magazine as a "Site You'll Like" and most recently by PC Magazine as "One of Today's 100 Best Classic Sites."

FirstGov.gov is experiencing over 4.4 million unique visitors and 14 million page views a month. Now in its 16th year, the Innovations in American Government program is part of the Institute for Innovative Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The Council for Excellence in Government in Washington, D.C., administers the awards program. The competition recognized government programs at the local, state, and federal levels that are innovative, original, and effective. The 15 finalists, who represent roughly 1% of the initial applications, will make final presentations before a select panel on May 7th. The panel will announce their selection of the five winners on May 8th, 2003. GSA is a centralized federal procurement and property management agency created by Congress to improve government efficiency and help federal agencies better serve the public. It acquires, on behalf of federal agencies, office space, equipment, telecommunications, information technology, supplies and services. GSA, comprised of 14,000 associates, provides services and solutions for the office operations of over 1 million federal workers located in more than 8,000 government-owned and leased buildings in 2,000 U.S. communities.

From Yahoo News, 13 March 2003

Web Portal Sole Federal Finalist for Public Service Award

A Web site that gives the public access to a wide array of government services and information is the only federal project among 15 finalists for the annual Innovations in American Government Award. FirstGov, administered by the General Services Administration, and 14 other finalists were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants. Finalists will each receive a $10,000 grant to replicate their programs in other areas and are eligible to compete for one of five $100,000 grants. A selection committee will announce the five winners on May 8, one day after finalists deliver their presentations at Washington's National Press Club. Since 1986, the Innovations in American Government Awards, which are funded by the Ford Foundation and administered by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Council for Excellence in Government, have honored creative government programs that help solve economic and social problems. Winning programs must be original, effective and capable of being replicated nationwide. "Many applicants leveraged technology innovatively," said Patricia McGinnis, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Excellence in Government. "But these finalists represent the crème de la crème. They're terrific examples of how much more can be delivered in the era of e-government than electronics-efficiency, effectiveness [and] excellence." FirstGov is the central Web portal for information on the federal government.

The site is a gateway to other federal Web sites such as DisasterHelp.gov, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Recreation.gov, administered by the Interior Department. In addition, FirstGov has links to state and local government sites. Through FirstGov, citizens have access to services ranging from filing their taxes electronically to getting change-of-address forms from the Postal Service. They can also find information about the government's latest health research and reserve campsites at the National Parks link. The 28-month-old site is a finalist for the Innovations award for the second consecutive year. Since last year, FirstGov staff have conducted user surveys that have provided good feedback on what the public finds most useful on the site and would like to see in the future, said Michael Messinger, GSA's director of marketing and communications for FirstGov. The surveys have helped staff focus on areas of FirstGov that could be improved or expanded, enhancing the ability of the site to serve the public efficiently. The staff members are "ecstatic" to be finalists again, he added. The other award finalists were primarily state and local government programs. For example, a Rhode Island program helps children on welfare visit family members they are separated from by court order. Another program, in New York City, will enable first responders to view maps of the city's important physical features. A full list of finalists is available on the Council for Excellence in Government Web site.

From GovExec.com, by Amelia Gruber (agruber@govexec.com), 14 March 2003

Progress on e-Gov Projects Varies Widely

While the government is demonstrating progress in e-government, many of the initiatives championed by the Bush administration lack key oversight and that threatens the programs' potential benefits, according to a watchdog agency. While many of the 24 e-government initiatives are showing tangible results, not all of them have made the same progress, Joel Willemssen, managing director of information technology at the General Accounting Office, said in a hearing before the House Government Reform Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Subcommittee. According to GAO's study, Willemssen said, about half of the agencies involved in the e-government initiatives have altered their cost estimates for the projects by more than 30 percent. Additionally, several of the agencies neglected to consider the needs of prospective e-government users and failed to adequately coordinate projects with their federal partners. GAO also found "indications that important aspects of some of the initiatives had not been addressed and that for many of them, funding strategies and milestones were in a state of flux," he said. The fluctuations demonstrate a need for oversight, he added. Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), acknowledged that many of the e-government projects face challenges. But he said they "are headed in the right direction."

Forman told the House panel that the administration has made "significant" progress. He noted, for example, that 17 agencies scored high marks in the first quarter of 2003 for their progress in reaching e-government goals outlined in President Bush's Management Agenda. Additionally, dozens of Web sites have been launched to make it easier for citizens to find and obtain government services. New Web portals are helping businesses learn about and comply with regulations, and agencies are working to ease data-reporting requirements for businesses and state and local governments. And several cross-agency initiatives are helping to alleviate redundant government services and IT procurement. OMB also began taking steps to ensure that faltering IT initiatives will not be funded unless they begin meeting goals and agencies can justify the need for the projects. Forman said federal entities must improve efforts to modernize their business practices and not just automate them with new technologies. He also called on lawmakers to fully fund the president's fiscal 2004 budget request of $45 million for interagency e-government plans. Patricia McGinnis, president and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government, argued that the e-government agenda is in line with what citizens say they want. "What I see now is a lot of progress," she said. "This cluster of initiatives centered around individuals ... businesses ... and state and local governments makes a lot of sense."

From GovExec.com, by Maureen Sirhal, 14 March 2003

Success Varying for e-Gov Initiatives

The 24 e-government initiatives are experiencing varying levels of success, with several falling behind schedule and struggling to meet the 18- to 24-month time frame, officials said March 13. Almost all the initiatives have achieved at least the first goal of putting a tool or portal online, but that is the easy part, said Mark Forman, assistant director for IT and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget. The more difficult steps laid out in the E-Government Strategy are to re-engineer back-end processes across the agencies involved and to deploy a full working solution. That is where the difficulties often begin, Forman said, testifying before the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census. The initiatives that are trying to catch up ran into different problems, and OMB had to stop and reorganize a number of them, Forman said. The Online Access for Loans initiative "took a step back" early in the process when officials decided to flesh out the business case that lays out the project management plan, goals and milestones, he said.

The initiative should be moving forward quickly because now it has one of the best business cases among the initiatives, he said. The One-Stop Business Compliance was ahead early and has a good tool online (www.businesslaw.gov), but now OMB is concerned that the project management plan needs more work, Forman said. That not all the initiatives are on schedule comes as no surprise, said Joel Willemssen, managing director for information technology issues at the General Accounting Office. Projects that are focused mainly on reorganization and improved presentation of information are much easier to accomplish than projects that provide transactions or true transformation of processes, he said. Some of the latter likely will not meet the goal of completion within 18 to 24 months, such as the Wireless Public Safety Interoperable Communications program, or Project SafeCom, which is still working on a concept of operations, he said.

From FCW.com, by Diane Frank, 14 March 2003

More Oversight Urged For E-Government

A GAO official says Congress needs to keep a closer eye on the government's two dozen initiatives. The investigative arm of Congress called on the White House and Congress to provide better oversight of the government's two-dozen E-government initiatives aimed at simplifying the delivery of services through interagency cooperation. Before the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations, and the Census, Joel Willemssen, managing director of IT issues at the General Accounting Office, testified Thursday that fewer than half the initiatives addressed collaboration and customer focus despite the importance of these topics to E-government strategy and goals. In prepared testimony, Willemssen said 10 initiatives failed to identify a final completion date, resulting in inadequate information to determine if they're moving forward in a timely manner. In addition, he said, six programs weren't planned to be completed within the two-year period OMB established as a criterion for inclusion in its E-government effort. Willemssen also told the panel that accurate cost information was generally lacking.

From May to September 2002, changes in project budgets exceeded 30% in about half the initiatives. "These changes occurring within such a short period of time rendered the funding plans outdated soon after they were developed," Willemssen said. "This uncertainty about how much the initiatives would cost, combined with the fact that only nine of the 24 plans identified a strategy for obtaining these needed funds, led us to conclude that OMB wasn't receiving adequate information to properly oversee the E-government projects and ensure that they would have the resources their objectives efficiently and economically." Important aspects such as collaboration and customer focus had not been thought out for all the projects, and major uncertainties in funding and milestones weren't uncommon, Willemssen said. "Priority should now be given to ensuring that the agencies manage these initiatives, tackle these issues, and gain cost and schedule stability so that they can ultimately succeed in achieving their potential."

From Information Week, by Eric Chabrow, 14 March 2003

Budget Constraints Will Mean Less 'E' In E-Government

A lack of funds, especially among states, is likely to limit how governments address IT issues in the next few years, Meta Group analysts say. Government IT could have a much different look in five years, as the "E" in E-government disappears and technology becomes an integrated part of government services. Budget constraints will limit how government will address E-government in the coming year. "The 'E' in E-government will be downsized, as reflected in the downsizing of government budgets," says Carol Kelly, VP for government strategies at IT advisory firm Meta Group, which sponsored a teleconference Wednesday on public-sector technology trends. Lack of funds, especially among states, will force lawmakers to abandon time-honored appropriation practices and adopt those that allow cross-agency use of technology. "The shortfall in government revenues has the silver lining of moving government policymakers and legislatures to funding models that reflect technology advances," says Kelly, who sees greater use of off-the-shelf software and much less customization. Amy Santinello, a Meta research analyst for government strategies, says governments will accelerate use of analytical and business-intelligence tools this year, initially focusing on savings and cost containment, such as reducing fraud in programs such as Medicaid and workers' compensation. Eventually, she says, the knowledge gained by using these tools will help improve applications aimed at serving citizens. But major changes will occur once the budget crises are resolved. One change will be the creation of business-relation managers, IT executives who are as conversant in the dialect of technology as they are in government programs, Santinello says.

Today, most liaisons between the IT department and the agencies they serve are technicians. "By 2006-07, BRMs will evolve from unit-level IT account managers to the executive level, with 55% of jurisdictions using this role in the development of program policy as well as strategic and tactical planning," she says. Governments already are seeing a change in their culture, propelled by homeland security needs. "Homeland security initiatives will accelerate cross-jurisdictional collaboration efforts among federal, state, and local governments," Santinello says. "Initial implementations will focus first on public health and safety. These efforts will form the basis for collaboration and information sharing across government agencies. The leadership provided in the creation and operation of the Department of Homeland Security will pave the way for broader cross-jurisdictional initiatives." Because of budget constraints, the transformation of IT in government is being slowed. In the coming year, governments will focus on providing citizens with the basics: food, housing, and education. Instead of developing new E-government systems, government will rationalize and improve existing ones as it develops an enterprise architecture for the future. "The focus will be on rationalizing and improving existing transactions--and their ease of use--across each jurisdiction," Santinello says. "By 2006-07, data sharing, ERP investments, and consolidation rationalization will provide a foundation for reinvigorating E-government service offerings. The refacing of E-government will allow time for establishing the foundation."

From Information Week, by Eric Chabrow, 14 March 2003

Municipal e-Government Information is Now Just a Click Away!

Mississauga, ON - AMCTO Municipal e-Government Resource Centre Launched (http://egov.amcto.com) - The Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (the AMCTO) is pleased to announce the launch of the AMCTO Municipal e-Government Centre internet site. Developed with funding assistance from the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and technological assistance from ASi Technologies Inc., the site is another vehicle through which the AMCTO can promote effective and efficient municipal government and build a new knowledge base on leading e- government topics, in support of the Association's vision of being the leading organization in fostering and sustaining municipal excellence. The introduction of this publicly-accessible site also supports the AMCTO's and ministry's commitments to helping municipalities take advantage of e-government opportunities. The site addresses knowledge gaps that have been identified and will be a home for informal information and the discussion of ideas as they are developing. This site will be of use to municipalities regardless of their population size, geography or level of electronic service delivery or e-government experience.

Through the site, users will be able to: - Find links to existing municipal sites and sites in other jurisdictions to identify best practices and innovative initiatives in e-government; - Access a document library that reflects current e-government research, experience and best practices; and - Exchange information, get advice and ask questions through the e-government discussion forum. Currently, the site is organized on five leading e-government themes: - Citizen Engagement Facilitating two-way citizen engagement or digital democracy. - Connectivity and Broadbanding Ensuring the availability, inter-operability, consistency of networks, systems and processes. - Online Internal Services Streamlining and automating internal decision-making and program delivery processes. - Online Services Delivery to the Public Providing access to information and services by being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, using a variety of electronic channels. - Strategies, Policies and Plans Improving the ways business is conducted. Please visit the site http://egov.amcto.com to join a discussion forum, post a document or ask a question. Municipal e-government information is now just a click away!

From Canada NewsWire, CA, 17 March 2003

More Oversight Urged For E-Government

A GAO official says Congress needs to keep a closer eye on the government's two dozen initiatives. The investigative arm of Congress called on the White House and Congress to provide better oversight of the government's two-dozen E-government initiatives aimed at simplifying the delivery of services through interagency cooperation. Before the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations, and the Census, Joel Willemssen, managing director of IT issues at the General Accounting Office, testified Thursday that fewer than half the initiatives addressed collaboration and customer focus despite the importance of these topics to E-government strategy and goals. In prepared testimony, Willemssen said 10 initiatives failed to identify a final completion date, resulting in inadequate information to determine if they're moving forward in a timely manner. In addition, he said, six programs weren't planned to be completed within the two-year period OMB established as a criterion for inclusion in its E-government effort. Willemssen also told the panel that accurate cost information was generally lacking.

From May to September 2002, changes in project budgets exceeded 30% in about half the initiatives. "These changes occurring within such a short period of time rendered the funding plans outdated soon after they were developed," Willemssen said. "This uncertainty about how much the initiatives would cost, combined with the fact that only nine of the 24 plans identified a strategy for obtaining these needed funds, led us to conclude that OMB wasn't receiving adequate information to properly oversee the E-government projects and ensure that they would have the resources their objectives efficiently and economically." Important aspects such as collaboration and customer focus had not been thought out for all the projects, and major uncertainties in funding and milestones weren't uncommon, Willemssen said. "Priority should now be given to ensuring that the agencies manage these initiatives, tackle these issues, and gain cost and schedule stability so that they can ultimately succeed in achieving their potential."

From Information Week, by Eric Chabrow, 15 March 2003

Setting a Standard In E-Government

With a computer, a phone or a finger's touch on an electronic screen, you can pay your county taxes, renew a library book, find out when a case is scheduled in court or see what health inspectors found on their last visit to your favorite restaurant. Parents can track down a teacher, find directions to every county school and receive an e-mail message when there's a snow day or early dismissal. A traffic ticket can be paid with the keystrokes it takes to type a credit card number. The county budget (all 1,684 pages) is available online for the intrepid viewer. Signing up for camp, reserving a picnic area, scouting out the assessment on the house next door and even complaining to the Board of Supervisors no longer require a trip to the County Government Center or the post office. That's just the beginning of how technology is bringing Fairfax residents and their local government closer. Across the Washington area, local governments are building user-friendly, interactive Web sites for their residents. Fairfax has upped the ante, not only by improving its site but by installing electronic satellite governments in 25 kiosks, malls, libraries and county buildings. "The idea is for people to get to our services at their convenience, not when government is operating," said Wanda Gibson, director of the county's Department of Information Technology. Today, the county plans to unveil a redesigned home page, www.fairfaxcounty.gov, that, technology officials say, will make it easier for visitors to find services on its Web site.

The page displays local news bulletins, local weather and other features that guide users faster to such things as topographical maps that show aerial photos of houses on a county street. Last week, the county school system also revamped its home page, www.fcps.edu. Suzanne J. Peck, the information technology chief for the District, said local governments in the area "are all doing the same thing" by bringing technology to their residents. "But Fairfax does design, content and navigation better than anyone else," she said. The county's information technology program has won numerous awards from associations that monitor technology and public administration. In a county dominated by the technology industry, where nearly nine in 10 residents own a computer, the push toward electronic government is an obvious goal. Members of the county's information technology staff say they have also worked hard to give people without a desktop or laptop access to electronic services through an interactive, touch-tone phone system that also can provide a real person at the caller's request. "We are trying to balance how we deliver the services," said David Molchany, the county's chief information officer. "E-government" was launched out of necessity in 1996, when the Board of Supervisors closed its satellite government offices to save money in a tight budget year. Technology officials experimented with pilot Web sites, kiosks and touch-tone phone systems.

Seven years later, the county Web site gets 625,000 visits a month, and 257,000 people have used the kiosks. The phone lines have received 819,000 calls. Requests for court data, library books and tax payments are users' most popular transactions. Still, the numbers represent a fraction of county business: 5 percent of the county's real estate and personal property taxes were paid electronically last year, for example. But 61 percent of the books library patrons put on hold so far this year were reserved online, up from a total of 47 percent last year, county statistics show. In the 13 months the Park Authority has offered online registration for summer camp, park tours and classes, 18,655 registrations have rolled in through cyberspace, bringing in $1.2 million in revenue, officials said. Colleen Blessing said she has bookmarked the schools' Web site, which became a constant companion this winter as snowstorms blanketed the county and as 10 snow days for her eighth- and tenth-grade daughters forced her and her husband to adjust their work schedules. "Every day it snowed, I went to the Web site for cancellations," said Blessing of Annandale, who tests Web sites for the U.S. Department of Energy. Lately she has been watching the schools' site for news of a decision by the School Board on how many days her daughters will have to make up at the end of the year. A week ago, the board decided to make April 7, originally scheduled as a teacher workday, a regular school day and to extend the school day by a half-hour from April 21 to May 16.

The information was posted on the Web site along with a revised school-year calendar. Ron Gird receives a weekly newsletter on e-mail from Woodson High School, which lets him know about basketball games, after-school clubs and other activities going on as his daughter, Michelle, finishes her senior year. In January, he looked up the assessment on his home in George Mason Forest to see whether the county had posted this year's values. The assessment increases came out Feb. 24, the same day County Executive Anthony H. Griffin proposed a new county budget. In addition to convenience, the Web gives Gird sensitive information that is public but that sought directly may represent a social taboo -- the assessments on his neighbors' homes. (Gird could snoop on other Fairfax residents as well. Colin Powell of McLean, for instance, lives in a home assessed at $1.4 million this year, the same as last year.) Assessment information is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/living/taxes/default.htm. "You can't really walk up to your neighbor and say, 'Can I see your assessment?' but you can go on the Internet," said Gird, who manages customer outreach efforts for the National Weather Service. The county is devoting $1.1 million of its $54 million budget for information technology to the e-government program this year, mostly to cover 13 computer experts who work full time at improving the flow of information from the county to constituents and back.

Budget cuts have forced the department to trim its spending request for the coming fiscal year to $800,000, a reduction that could slow new projects, Molchany said. He calls e-government a wise investment that ultimately will save the county government in labor costs, although he said the savings are hard to quantify. With technology improving constantly, Molchany and his staff are working to keep up. The focus this year is improving the county's system for online payments, adding debit cards as a payment method and allowing parents to pay for after-school child care electronically. A new vendor has been hired to process payments for parking tickets, and the county wants to broaden the system to allow builders to apply for permits online. Next, the county hopes to enter the age of wireless communication by displaying text messages on cell phones, beepers or hand-held computers alerting residents to traffic tie-ups, a plane crash in the area, a derailed train, fire or other emergency. Molchany calls this multiple delivery of messages "just-in-time" government, which he said "is the power of e-government." If all goes as planned, one day in the future someone tuned to the county's cable Channel 16 might even watch a public service announcement from the Park Authority and sign up for a class.

From Washington Post, DC, by Lisa Rein, 20 March 2003

Agencies Work e-Gov Health Standards

Several agencies are coordinating the use of the first set of uniform standards for the electronic exchange of health information to be used across the federal government. The departments of Health and Human Services, Defense and Veterans Affairs announced March 21 the effort to standardize the information exchange, part of the Consolidated Health Informatics (CHI) initiative, one of the Bush administration's 24 e-government initiatives. The standards, including privacy and security protections, will make it easier for health care providers to share patient information and identify emerging public health threats. It will also facilitate the creation of portable electronic medical records. "With appropriate privacy protections for personal health information, consumers and patients will benefit when their health information is available to their doctors and other health care providers when it is needed such as the emergency room," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a statement. Under the new standards, agencies will use a common coding system to coordinate care and exchange information. Currently, agencies use different coding systems.

"E-gov is focused on simplifying bureaucracy, and the CHI work in health data standards is an excellent example of how simplification can improve quality and reduce health care costs in America," Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and electronic government at the Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement. Under this announcement, all agencies will adopt the following standards: *Health Level 7 messaging standards to ensure each agency can share information such as order entries, scheduled appointments and tests, and coordination of admittance, discharge and transfer of patients. *Certain National Council of Prescription Drug Programs standards for ordering drugs. The standards were adopted under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and the new announcement will ensure that parts of the three agencies not covered by the act use the same standards. *Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 1073 series of standards to allow providers to plug medical devices into information systems. *Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine standards to enable images and diagnostic information to be retrieved from various devices. *Laboratory Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes to standardize the exchange of clinical results.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 25 March 2003

Ron Miller to Help SBA e-Gov

Ron Miller, the former chief information officer at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is moving to the Small Business Administration to help develop e-government programs. Miller was assigned to FEMA from June 2001 until August 2002, when he worked to help re-orient FEMA's technology operations to meet its evolving mission after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His performance warranted an offer to help the Homeland Security Office develop an information technology architecture for the new Homeland Security Department. Miller said he is moving on to become the senior adviser to the SBA administrator for e-government. As such, he will make sure SBA "is a participating, active partner in those e-government initiatives they have a role in." For example, he said disaster management is an important area for SBA, and it is important that both FEMA and SBA provide assistance to disaster victims "so the citizen only has one step, not two." Miller also will work to re-engineer and transform SBA so it "provides as many of its products and services to the citizens via the Internet as possible," he said. "Everyone I have spoken to from the [chief operating officer] to the chief of staff are committed to transforming the SBA," Miller said. "They want to become the single most valuable resource that small business has in the federal government."

From FCW.com, by Judi Hasson, 27 March 2003

 

Microsoft Continues Global e-Government Conquest

In short: Microsoft will team up with Beijing for e-government developments now that China has signed up to participate in the US software company's Government Security Programme. Brief news:China has decided to participate in Microsoft's new Government Security Programme (GSP), it was announed after a meeting on 28 February between Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Microsoft's Chairman Bill Gates in Beijing. Microsoft announced the GSP initiative in January in an effort to quell debates over whether open source code has a security advantage over closed code. GSP was created after government officials told Microsoft that security was a "primary concern" and that they wanted access to source code and Windows technical information and the ability to collaborate. China follows Russia, the United Kingdom and NATO in signing up to Microsoft's programme. Participating governments get online access to source code, an engineering-level understanding of Windows architecture, the ability to build more secure environments and access to cryptographic code and development tools. However, governments won't get the ability to alter source code. The programme covers current versions, service packs and beta releases of Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows CE. According to the company, Microsoft Corp. is engaged in talks with 30 other governments to sign the agreement. The agreement with China had been under discussion for several months. Microsoft has pledged to invest 750 million dollars in China over three years in an effort to embrace one of the world's fastest growing technology markets. In 2002, the open-source Linux system has an 8.8 per cent share of the global operating system server market. Windows' share was 69.1 per cent. Experts project these figures to change to around 30 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively, by 2006. Linux has encroached on Microsoft in France, Peru and Germany, among other countries.

From Euractiv, Belgium, 3 March 2003

Global e-Government

EU citizens to get electronic health cards | Librarians in Seattle provide on-line advice - Irish taxation agency automates data collection: Ireland's Revenue Commissioners, the government's tax collection agency, has implemented software to automate the collection of data from the more than 460,000 "P35" forms it receives every year. Cardiff Software's TELEform solution was proposed to Revenue by Dublin-based firm Inpute Technologies. The application can interpret handwriting, machine print, barcodes, circle responses and tick boxes from scanned forms and can check the accuracy of calculations. UK health staff to receive on-line training: The more than 1 million staff employed by Britain's National Health Service will have the opportunity to update their computer skills thanks to the launch of a dedicated Web portal later this month. The NHS Information Authority has announced that a European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) portal, www.ecdl.nhs.uk, will go live on 21 March. The site will give NHS staff, 12,000 of whom have already registered on the portal, the flexibility to study from home or in the workplace and to learn at their own pace. The initiative aims to raise the level of basic IT skills for NHS staff and to support the ongoing implementation of IT applications in the health service. EU citizens to get electronic health cards: The European Commission is planning to introduce a health smart card to replace a medical insurance form used by those travelling within the EU.

Currently, citizens of an EU member state who travel to another EU country must have an up-to-date E111 form if they want to claim free emergency medical treatment. The Commission wants to replace the E111 with an electronic card, roughly the size of a credit card, in all 15 member states, starting from June 2004. In a proposed second phase, the card will also replace medical forms for jobseekers, students and drivers, improving what the Commission calls "worker mobility" across the EU. Microsoft battles Linux for e-Japan project: Microsoft is making a last-ditch effort to persuade the government of Japan to use the Windows operating system, rather than Linux, for its planned expansion of e-government. Last week, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates visited government ministries and committees in Tokyo to present the case for Windows, which many commentators believe will lose out to the open source Linux system. As well as being less expensive than a proprietary system, Linux has the advantage that its underlying code can be easily modified, an attractive factor for local governments. The e-Japan project is thought to be particularly valuable because it is expected to stretch beyond e-government services into public institutions, such as hospitals and schools.

South Korea launches m-government: South Korea's Ministry of Information and Communication is gearing up to launch a series of "m-government" projects, providing government information and services via mobile technology. The push for m-government goes hand-in-hand with new president Roh Moo-hyun's ambition to decentralise the administration, and wireless technology is expected to play a major part in the way local and central governments interact. The initiative aims to enable citizens to access administrative documents and other public services through their mobile phones, PDAs and other wireless devices. According to local media reports, the ministry has said it will invest WON75 billion (EUR57 million) in new projects this year. Seattle librarians provide on-line advice: The Seattle Public Library has implemented an on-line "chat" service that allows library users to get real-time help from library staff. The "Live Help" initiative, funded by a USD30,000 grant allocated under the 1996 federal Library Services and Technology Act, was devised in response to the continuing fall in the number of users of the library's walk-in reference section. The service is also linked to specialist libraries the University of Washington Health Sciences Libraries and the King County Law Library, whose staff can also provide on-line advice.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 5 March 2003

Global e-Government

Lincoln launches emergency alert program: Residents of the city of Lincoln in Nebraska will soon be able to download a PC-based alert system aimed at improving public notification of local, state and national emergencies. The system is designed to warn Internet-connected computer users about situations such as severe weather conditions, abducted children and national security alerts. Once downloaded, the alert program resides as an icon on a PC user's desktop or task manager. When an alert is issued, the program sounds an alarm and opens a pop-up window describing the emergency and directing the user to specific Web sites for more information. Updated information will also scroll across the bottom of the user's screen as it is received. Terry Lowe of Lincoln's Information Services Division said there are plans to make the alert system available on PDAs and mobile phones. Georgia Web site publishes parolee details: Parole Board officials in Georgia have launched an on-line database that allows residents of the state to obtain information on parolees in their neighbourhoods. Accessible via the Board of Pardons and Paroles Web site, the database of 22,000 parolees is searchable by zip code, parolee name and prison ID number. Information available on parolees includes a physical description, home address, start date and end date of parole term and the person's "primary offence". Photographs of parolees are also supplied and, if the parolee has absconded from supervision, the site tags their record with a "Wanted" sign and provides the parole office phone number.

The database was established as a result of Senator Eric Johnson's Senate Bill 23, nicknamed the "Know Thy Neighbour Act". Johnson says the bill was "purely in the interest of public safety" and that the Web site will "allow citizens to have an 'electronic neighbourhood watch'". UK police say virtual line-ups a success: Trials of a new system of "digital identity parades" have been hailed as a success by police in the UK. The VIPER (Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording) system, housed in a datacentre in West Yorkshire, has been used to supply video clips of suspects and volunteers to 13 police forces across the UK. Drawing on a database of over 9,000 images, the system speeds up the line-up process, reduces the possibility of cancellations and lowers the cost of identity parades. The system also means that victims of crime do not have to be in physical proximity to suspects, as the digital parades can be burnt onto DVDs and shown to victims in their homes or in hospital. Over the past 12 months, the STG7.6 million VIPER system has compiled over 14,000 digital line-up videos. The VIPER Bureau was officially opened by Home Secretary David Blunkett on March 14. Saudi Arabia plans pilgrims' portal: Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Haj is to launch on-line services for Muslims who intend making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Speaking at a seminar about the ministry's e-government program, Dr Muhammad Saad Benton, the minister for Haj and Umrah affairs, said the government plans to establish a one-stop Web portal within the next six months to provide Haj and Umrah services. Haj and Umrah are devotional rites that form part of the pilgrimage to Mecca, which the Islamic religion requires all Muslims to make at least once if they are physically and financially able to do so.

Benton said that more than 4.2 million travel visas were issued to pilgrims during the last two years, and the new portal would enable prospective travellers to obtain a visa on-line. Access to travel agents and hotels will also be made available via the portal, along with general information pertinent to pilgrims. E-services gain popularity in Dubai: Three on-line services launched by the municipal government of Dubai are becoming increasing popular with citizens, according to the e-Government Committee. The three services, which have generated more than 60,000 on-line transactions, are all related to the planning process. One of the facilities is an SMS service that informs registered users about specific events related to planning. The second is an on-line demarcation service that allows contractors, consultants and residents to apply for surveys needed for construction projects. The third service provides information on-line for land owners, consultants and contractors about the zoning regulations for particular plots of land. Since its launch in October 2001, Dubai's e-government initiative has made more than 50 services available on-line. Web phones to boost e-gov in Malta: The government of Malta is hoping to boost public use of its e-government services with the rollout of Web payphones across the country. The first ten Web-enabled phones are about to be installed in public phone boxes, with plans to introduce 70 more throughout Malta. The project, a joint venture between the Maltacom Group and the e-Malta Commission, will offer Internet access for a fee, but all e-government services will be available free of charge. The initiative forms part of the government's stated aim of bridging the digital divide in the country.

From Electric News Net , by Sylvia Leatham, 19 March 2003

Global e-Government

Disease-tracking system rolled out in Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has launched a computer tracking system that will aid in the early detection of outbreaks of disease. The Syndromic Surveillance System can rapidly detect and analyse trends in illness, as hundreds of local doctors enter symptoms or diagnoses into patients' electronic medical records. While maintaining patient confidentiality, the system can provide information based on geographic location and time, indicating when and where unusual patterns of illness occur. The DPH said the system will help in the tracking of illnesses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), for which worldwide alerts have been issued. The system, which will be incorporated into a national early detection surveillance system, was funded by the federal government as part of the Center for Disease Control's program for bioterrorism preparedness and response. French civil servants given IT challenge: Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Prime Minister of France, has challenged his civil servants to brush up their IT skills. To that end, a Web site known as DEFI (Demarche d'Evaluation du Fonctionnaire Internaute) was launched at the Internet Festival in France last week.

Public servants who log in to the site can answer a series of self-assessment questions designed to test their IT skills, such as Internet navigation and use of e-mail, as well as on-line forms and Web publishing. The site also has sections to test users' knowledge of e-government, information systems security and data protection issues. Estonia to launch e-government portal: The government of Estonia has unveiled plans to launch an e-government portal. The "Citizen's IT Centre" Web site aims to provide a one-stop shop for people who wish to avail of new and existing on-line public services. "There will be no need to run around town to different public offices. You can do your running around on the Web," said Arvo Ott, head of the Informatics Department at Estonia's Ministry of Economics. The portal will enable citizens who have electronic identity cards to digitally sign all government forms, such as passport applications. Estonia has embraced the Internet since regaining independence in 1991, and now almost half of its population use on-line banking and bill payment services. In the World Economic Forum's recently published Global Information Technology Report, Estonia ranked eighth out of 82 countries in terms of "e-readiness" -- a measure of IT usage by citizens and businesses, Internet connectivity and e-government advances. Singapore encourages use of e-government by all: The government of Singapore is implementing a SGD1.5 million (USD850,000) project aimed at encouraging the use of e-government services by less tech-savvy citizens.

Under the initiative, businesses who participate in the scheme can earn subsidies each time they help someone to carry out an e-government transaction. So far, 22 community centres and two chain stores have signed up to the scheme. Staff at these centres and stores will help citizens file tax returns electronically, apply for passports on-line and avail of other e-government services. Each time a transaction is completed, the business earns up to SGD2 (USD1.10). "There is a group of Singaporeans who cannot cope with the Internet. They are mostly our older citizens," said Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister. "We must make sure they do not lose out on electronic access to government services." Malaysia and Thailand agree on e-commerce standard: Malaysian Certification Authority company Digicert has announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Thai Digital ID to improve secure e-commerce transactions between the two countries.

Digicert says the main aim of the agreement is to develop a secure and trusted infrastructure using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology for e-commerce and e-government transactions between Internet users in Malaysia and Thailand. PKI is used in the issue of digital certificates, electronic files that are used to verify the identity of individuals over the Internet and can be used to electronically sign documents. Speaking of the agreement, Digicert Chief Executive Officer Noor Azli Othman said it would "allow trade between the two countries to be done securely on-line, thus minimising costs and improving efficiency." Malta facilitates on-line fine payment: Malta's Ministry for Justice and Local Government has established a Web site to facilitate the easy payment of parking tickets and other fines. The Local Enforcement System (LES) site is part of Malta's e-Government Programme and is accessible via the government's main portal site. Citizens who want to pay fines on-line submit their "contravention reference number" on the site, which provides instructions for payment. If a citizen decides to contest a fine, the site can provide information on the tribunal hearing, such as date and the maximum fine that can be imposed.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 26 March 2003

 

MPs Bemoan Low Tax Free Income Threshold

Members of Parliament yesterday bemoaned the tax free income threshold which they described as too low to provide relief to workers in the low income group. Debating the Income Tax Amendment Bill which came up for second reading, both opposition and the MMD members urged Government to increase the threshold. In the budget, Finance Minister Emmanuel Kasonde announced that the threshold would increase from K1.8 million to K1.92 million per year which worked out to K160,000 per month from K150,000. Chifubu MP Matthew Mulanda (MMD) said the K10,000 increment was totally inadequate considering that inflation stood at 18 percent. He however, commended Government for introducing presumptive tax for public service vehicles, tax certificate for gemstone miners and tax for charitable organisations engaging in business as a way of broadening the tax base. Bweengwa MP Japhet Moonde (UPND) described the K10,000 increment as a mockery and said it would have been better if last year's figure was retained. He suggested that Government raised the tax free bracket to K500,000 and below or at least K6 million per year, reduce value added tax to 12 per cent from 17.5 and spread presumptive tax to the informal sector. Kafue MP Bob Sichinga (UPND) said the tax policy of deducting 30 per cent across the board from as low as K160,000 was too excessive and did not see how professionals could be attracted back to Zambia.

In response, Mr. Kasonde announced that Government would in next year's budget work out a new tax regime especially on Pay As You Earn (PAYE). "We want to bring a regime that will increase equity and fairness not like now when those that are lower feel the brunt of the 30 per cent and those at the top do not," he said. He said Government would also consider selling certain gemstone mining areas so that some revenue could be captured. The House also considered the Property Transfer Tax Amendment Bill which MPs supported but urged Government to check unscrupulous businessmen who were undervaluing property. The two bills will come up for committee stage on Tuesday next week. The Customs and Excise and Value Added Tax Amendment Bills also sailed through committee stage without amendments. Earlier, Commerce Deputy Minister Geoffrey Samukonga said Government was discussing with importers to buy local products to protect local industries. He was answering a question from Mwinilunga West MP Richard Kapita (UPND) on the fate of Mwinilunga pineapple cannery. Government has also spent K3.8 billion and K37.7 billion on pupils' requisites and construction of classroom blocks and teachers houses last year in promotion of free education. And Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa carpeted MPs for name-calling when Commerce Minister Dipak Patel stood up to speak.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 6 March 2003

SoS Finance Explains New Tax Policy

Banjul - The Secretary of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, Famara Jatta has said that the transfer of tax collection from the Immigration department to treasury is part of moves by Government to minimise its agencies's handling of monies to ensure easy information on the revenue collected by Government on daily basis. Jatta made these remarks in an interview with the Daily Observer in his office Tuesday. He said Government wants the revenue generating agencies to deposit monies collected at the nearest treasury or sub -treasury on daily basis. "Since September last year, Government has been operating on cash budget system and in order for the Department of finance to forecast expenditure out lay the Government needs to know how much money has been collected by contacting the treasury and sub-treasury in the country which will be able to furnish the revenue position on any given day", the secretary of state said. He added that this method will enable the Government to provide the required funds for various government departments to operate and not over spend. "If people can remember in the budget speech, I indicated that Government is operating on a tide fiscal discipline and this can only be done by running those who handle cash, besides I do not think it would create any problem for immigration's operations. "All they have to do is to provide citizens or aliens with the required documents they need based on an official Government receipt from the treasury or sub-treasury", he said. SoS Jatta said the changes was discussed with the Department of State for Interior before it's implementation and it was accepted by both the secretary of state and permanent secretary. It was after that discussions that a letter was issued. He said the same process will be extended to other Government agencies in order to eventually adopt the same system. He added that a change is difficult to accept initially but in the interest of the Gambia, only those who should handle money should handle it. Asked whether the change at Immigration has something to do with the alleged missing millions, he replied that he cannot comment on that as he was not aware of any money going missing.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa,by Chief Ebrima Manneh, 6 March 2003

New Measures to Improve Financial Management

Windhoek - Government has unveiled new measures to improve efficiency and financial management in the public service. When he announced the Main Budget for 2003-04 last week, Finance Minister Nangolo Mbumba said to prevent the need to bail out ailing parastatals, a Corporate Governance Agency was expected to come into operation this year. He said the Ministry of Finance was engaged in a major exercise to refinance foreign loan commitments into local currency, "where it is possible and appropriate to do so" to limit the exposure of Government and State-owned enterprises to exchange rate risks on loans denominated in foreign currency In addition, Finance is putting in place a new state-of-the art Integrated Financial Management Information systems together with a Payroll Deduction Management system designed to improve the management of public finances. Mbumba said the "full benefits" of the financial management approach will only be realised if resources allocated to various Ministries are used for the purposes intended. "That means that Ministries must not spend monies in excess of those voted by parliament since this will jeopardise the sustainability of our development efforts".

He also urged Ministries not to under-spend without surrendering surplus resources before the end of the financial year "since underspending ties up monies that could otherwise have been beneficially spent elsewhere". Diverting money intended for one purpose to some other use, "simply to cover for poor budgeting and financial management", will also jeopardise plans to improve financial management, Mbumba said. Mbumba said Government intended to launch a series of studies aimed at areas of substantial public expenditure. "Those studies will examine the extent to which changes in existing practices could free up resources for more developmentally beneficial purposes," he said. "We have adopted a modern and sophisticated approach to financial management in Namibia in order to achieve these objectives. The underlying principle involves linking allocation decisions to expected outcomes. As part of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, the Performance and Effectiveness Management Programme provides the data to help us to achieve this".

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Max Hamata, 11 March 2003

Who Should Oversee Parliament's Spending?

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) is facing the dilemma of who should oversee Parliament's own spending. Parliament's job is normally to oversee how government departments spend taxpayers' money. Parliament's managers have told Scopa that the Public Finance Management Act applies only partially to Parliament. If all the rules had applied, more than R17 million of Parliament's spending would have been regarded as unauthorised. The managers said the decision on drafting framework legislation for parliamentary spending rests with the two presiding officers, Frene Ginwala and Naledi Pandor. Bruce Kannemeyer, a Scopa member, has called for the process to be speeded up. He said the committee currently finds itself in an awkward position where Parliament is overseeing itself. "It's clear that the lack and the uncertainty relating to the legislative framework for financial management in parliament is creating a number of serious problems and tensions," said Kannemeyer. Meanwhile, it has emerged that several political parties are not providing Parliament with details of office staff paid for by Parliamentary funds. Parliamentary officials have told Scopa that current rules do not allow them to withhold payment to those parties.

From SABC News, South Africa, 14 March 2003

Government Financial Management Still Problematic

Government's financial management is still problematic. Shauket Fakie, the Auditor General, has expressed severe audit opinions on several government departments, including Public Works and Water Affairs and Forestry. However, in general, financial management has improved slightly. Maria Ramos, Director General of the Treasury, said managing money is a challenge for government's 34 national departments. "If you think about government departments, we run enormous budgets." Financial skills are stretched across many departments and parastatals. However, many government departments are battling to attract and retain skilled accountants and financial specialists. Many of them see the private sector as more attractive. However, despite this, some departments are shaping up, and management of finances across the board have improved slightly. Fakie said with the introduction of the public finance management act, there's been an improvement in terms of the culture and management around finances coming through slowly. However, not quickly enough though in some areas. He said while debt management is better, many departments are still weak in their control of accounting systems. In the provinces, the handling of health and education finances also needs a shake-up.

From SABC News, South Africa, 27 March 2003

 

Government Under Pressure From All Quarters

Cosmetics distributors and religious groups are the latest to lobby against new taxes as the government seeks way to resolve the deficit - A group of cosmetics distributors yesterday lobbied the government against imposing an import tax on cosmetics, a day ahead of Financial Secretary Antony Leung's Budget speech. The distributors are concerned that their products will be targeted for new taxes because one of Mr. Leung's fiscal priorities is to broaden Hongkong's narrow tax base in a bid to resolve the territory's pressing fiscal deficit problem. Mr. Jackie Choi, president of the Cosmetics and Perfumery Association, said that 1,000 people could lose their jobs if distributors, already hit by a retail slump, were to fold under additional taxes. Separately, a group representing 27 religious organisations, including Anglican and Catholic bodies, staged yet another protest yesterday against proposed cuts to welfare allowances. The two groups yesterday were the latest in a motley stream of transport operators, the elderly, the sick, foreign maids and academics who have protested against the Budget. Some of its details had been leaked several weeks ahead of today's speech to test public reaction. The government, which has reported a fiscal deficit in four of the past five years, aims to balance the Budget by 2006-7.

Mr. Leung's Budget speech today is expected to set out how this objective can be met. Attention will be focused on initiatives to boost economic growth and to restructure the narrow-base tax system. Calling for more strategic thinking, independent think-tank Civic Exchange said: 'There is a danger that the level of debate will focus mostly on issues such as cutting civil service salaries and headcount, whether to tax foreign domestic helpers, and getting students to pay more for their education.' Civic Exchange said the government had to think about issues such as how the shift of Hongkong businesses to China had affected or would hit the territory's public finance instead of focusing on how it could raise more taxes from the existing tax system. 'The inability to take a broader view of public-finance management in a world of dynamic change means that the administration remains stuck with looking at options in a static manner,' it said. Rating agency Standard and Poor's, which caused a stir last October when it changed Hongkong's long-term currency outlook from stable to negative because of the Budget deficit, urged the government to adapt its revenue policy to structural shifts in the economy. 'Further slippage in the government's fiscal performance could put pressure on the exchange rate, raising the risk of more economic instability,' it said.

As Hongkong explores ways to reduce the Budget deficit - estimated at a record HK$70 billion (S$15.6 billion) for the fiscal year ending March 31 - through increased taxes or new levies and reduced public spending, everyone has to bear some fiscal pain. Public confidence, however, took a hit when the government reached a politically-expedient compromise last month with powerful civil service unions to cut civil servants' pay by just 6 per cent over the next two years. On the other hand, welfare recipients will have their allowances cut by 11 per cent and foreign domestic helpers will see their minimum monthly wages slashed by a similar percentage. A survey of 4,000 respondents last month by the Association of International Accountants (AIA) showed 70 per cent said they were unconvinced that the government could solve the deficit problem. Mr. Tommy Tam, AIA vice-president, said: 'Hongkong people have been experiencing the economic downturn for some time now and have in fact given a vote of no confidence to the ability of the Hongkong government to solve the Budget deficit problem even before the announcement of the Budget for the next fiscal year.'

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Mary Kwang, 5 March 2003

China Budget Gap Set to Soar

Beijing Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng of China on Thursday forecast the budget deficit would widen to a record this year as the government raises spending by 7.7 percent to help cut the jobless rate from a 23-year high. The deficit could swell to 319.8 billion yuan ($39 billion) from 309.8 billion yuan last year as China builds roads, bridges and dams to create jobs, Xiang told 2,900 delegates of the National People's Congress in the Great Hall of the People. "The situation for employment is grim, bringing more pressure to find jobs for laid-off workers," he said. China's ability to control the deficit, which at 3 percent of gross domestic product is on a par with the United States, is hampered by the need to recapitalize state-owned banks and find jobs for 8 million people entering the work force each year. The urban jobless rate may be double the official estimate of 4 percent, economists say, while the top four state-run banks have accumulated 3.2 trillion yuan in bad debt. The government "has no choice" but to continue spending to stimulate the economy, said Joan Zheng, an economist for J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong. "Because of rising unemployment, social welfare costs are increasing." China will sell 615.4 billion yuan in treasury bonds this year, up from 592.9 billion yuan in 2002, Xiang said. That will help the government refinance 295.6 billion yuan of maturing debt.

China's top four lenders were bailed out in 1999, when the government completed their 270 billion yuan recapitalization involving the transfer of 1.4 trillion yuan of loans to asset management companies. The Chinese government is now considering a second bailout of Industrial Commercial Bank of China and its rivals in four years. "China will need to pay off part of banks' non-performing loans from the budget," said Wu Jinglian, a senior researcher at State Development Research Center and a delegate at the congress. "The debt accumulating on the government books isn't too big a risk." The most serious problem, he said, was the bad loans. Asia's second-biggest economy needs to expand by at least 7 percent a year to create enough jobs, the government estimates. Total spending and revenue for both central and local governments are each expected to rise 7.7 percent this year to 2.37 trillion yuan and 1.71 trillion yuan respectively, he said. "We have entered a peak period for debt repayment, and economic and social development makes more demands on public finance," Xiang said. "All this puts great pressure on both revenue and expenditures." For now, the government can count on banks and pension fund managers to buy the bonds it plans to sell to pay for the deficit spending. Chinese lenders have $1.2 trillion in savings deposits and are looking for investments that won't add to their bad debt burden."The government can always find enough buyers, especially banks and insurers, for its treasuries," said Zhou Bin, an investment manager at AXA-Minmetal Assurance Co. in Shanghai.

"There are too many deposits sitting on the banks' books that have nowhere to go, and buying bonds is much safer than lending to companies that are not of the best quality." The yield on the Chinese government's 2.93 bonds due in 2009 is 2.72 percent, down from 2.85 percent in December. That is higher than the 1.98 percent deposit rate on one-year savings. The government taxes interest earned on bank deposits at 20 percent, while interest earned on treasury bonds is tax free. Yet even if the government manages to bail out the banks, the government still faces unfunded pension bills for many of the 300 million Chinese the World Bank estimates will be over 65 by 2050. Wu of the State Development Research Center says the government will need to tackle a looming shortfall in pension obligations, which threatens to bloat the deficit in coming years. The Asian Development Bank estimates that between $500 billion and $1.5 trillion of pensions are either in arrears or cannot be honored with existing assets. To slow spending, Xiang called on government departments and institutions to reduce trips and conferences. Local governments "must work hard to reduce meetings, study tours abroad, business fairs and forums and symposiums, which produce no practical results," he said. "This has aroused strong resentment among the people." Growth in defense spending will slow to 10 percent, with 185.3 billion yuan budgeted, from almost 18 percent last year, Xiang said.

China's defense budget is less than 6 percent of the size of the Pentagon's budget for this year.Even as China is trying to slow growth in government spending to narrow its budget deficit, some taxes are being cut. Xiang said the business tax rate for banks and insurers would be reduced by 1 percentage point this year. In a separate speech, Zeng Peiyan, chairman of China's State Development Planning Commission, said retail sales would grow 9 percent this year, fixed asset investment 12 percent and consumer prices no more than 1 percent. The official urban jobless rate will remain below 4.5 percent, he said. Commerce Ministry planned China will merge a ministry and two high-level commissions to create a new super agency to handle trade and the economy. "The supervision of China's domestic and international trade used to be held under separate authorities," Cabinet Secretary Wang Zhongyu said in a speech to the National People's Congress. "This practice is no longer sufficient since China became a World Trade Organization member." The new Commerce Ministry will combine the Trade Ministry and the commissions for economic and state planning. Wang did not say who would head the new department.

From International Herald Tribune, by Michael Forsythe and Chi-Chu Tschang, 6 March 2003

21 Public Finance Branches to Merge with Bank Next Month

Twenty-one Public Finance branches will be merged with Public Bank branches by next month and 13 more will be converted into bank branches, according to Public Bank Bhd chairman Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow. "And more branches are in the pipeline for consolidation upon approval by Bank Negara," Teh said in his opening address at the Public Bank group management seminar in Petaling Jaya yesterday. There are currently 168 Public Finance and 213 Public Bank branches in the country. Their conversion and merger is part of the group's exercise to consolidate its banking and finance operations. Teh said the consolidation of the group's businesses started last July, and the integration of the head office backroom operations of the bank and Public Finance was nearing completion. He said the ongoing rationalisation exercise was a major step to prepare the group for consolidation of the businesses of the bank and Public Finance, which would allow it to enhance operational efficiency and achieve economies of scale.

From Star, Malaysia, by Liew Lai Jing, 14 March 2003

SK Scandal Spurs Call for Reforms in Korea

Seoul - The recent revelation that SK Global engaged in fraudulent bookkeeping will provide momentum for improving transparency and accountability in the South Korean market, Deputy Prime Minister for Finance and Economy Kim Jin-pyo said on Friday. Speaking to members of the foreign press corps in Seoul, Kim pointed out that significant progress has been made over the past few years in the financial, corporate, labor and public sectors, but conceded that illegal practices still remain, as demonstrated by the SK Global scandal. The deputy prime minister, however, added that the discovery of illegalities by one of the country's largest trading companies can be used as a way to push for greater market reforms and bring business practices closer to global standards. According to the senior economic policymaker, the SK Global scandal highlights the need for change, and the government believes securities-related class action suits will be incorporated into law next month. Such a legal option would make it harder for company owners and management to carry out false disclosures, stock price manipulation and false accounting. He claimed that both the ruling and opposition parties supported measures designed to clamp down on fraudulent accounting, and stressed there were no differences within the government on the direction and pace of economic reforms. He then said the government is in the process of making laws to tighten auditing practices, adding that the probe into SK Global was being expanded to determine whether there were any additional wrongdoings by the firm and its top managers.

Besides elaborating on the SK Global matter, Kim told the foreign correspondents that government policymakers were not considering the prospect of asking the National Assembly for a supplementary budget, but would make due by increasing government spending in first half by 6 trillion won (US$4.85 billion) compared with the same period in 2002. The head of the Ministry of Finance and Economy then said it was inappropriate for the government to reassess the 5 percent growth rate for this year because such a change could exert a negative influence on the economy. He argued that experts do not believe oil prices will remain high once the war in Iraq is finished and that this could help revive both the world and domestic economies. Kim emphatically denied any connection between what is happening now and what occurred in 1997 by pointing out that the financial sector remains stable and local companies strengthened their financial well-being and structure in the past five to six years. He also said there was no need to make use of the country's foreign-currency reserves to stabilize the foreign-exchange market. Commenting on efforts to privatize banks injected with public funds during the 1997-98 financial crisis, the deputy prime minister maintained the government was committed to continuing its selloff of financial sector holdings so public funds can be recovered and the development of a financial market led by the private sector can be speeded up.

"We plan to wrap up negotiations for the sale of Chohung Bank as soon as possible," he said, reiterating the official stance on an issue that is seen as a barometer of the new administration's policy on privatizing banks propped up by public funds. Related to labor matters, Kim put emphasis on minimizing social costs and building a labor-management relationship based on principles, trust and common sense. He said disputes should be resolved through dialogue and compromise between interested parties, stressing the authorities would strictly adhere to laws and regulations in dealing with illegalities, although making it clear that the Roh Moo-hyun administration will not lean towards labor or management. The deputy prime minister added that the government would ease the rigidity of firing and hiring in the labor market. On balancing growth and distribution, Kim said the focus of improving income distribution will be on creating new jobs and enhancing the quality of labor by providing better education and training. A comprehensive inheritance and gift tax system providing equitable taxation will be enacted, the senior economic policymaker noted. Touching on the country's growth potential, Kim emphasized that continuous streamlining of corporate-management regulations is going to be pursued, with the government and the private sector working together to identify and deregulate barriers to investment. He said plans for a free economic zone will commence this year, as efforts are made to transform the country into a market-friendly environment that is fertile for investment and future-oriented growth.

From Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, 14 March 2003

Hong Kong Receives Corruption Complaints Against Financial Secretary

Hong Kong's anti-corruption commission says it has received several complaints calling for an investigation into a scandal involving the government's financial secretary, Antony Leung. Mr. Leung came under fire this month after it was revealed that he bought a luxury car just weeks before he raised automobile registration taxes, saving himself more than $23,000. The financial official has offered to resign and to donate nearly $50,000 to charity, but chief executive Tung Chee-hwa has urged him to stay on. Mr. Leung was to appear before lawmakers Monday to explain his actions. He says he needed the car to prepare for his first child, born last month. Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.

From Voice of America, 17 March 2003

 

Council Tax Bills Soar By 12 Per Cent

Local government finance experts today predicted Council Tax bills will rise by more than four times the rate of inflation, taking the average property above the £1,000-a-year mark for the first time. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) put the average rise in Britain at 12 per cent, with English bills going up by 12.9 per cent compared to lower increases in Wales (10 per cent) and Scotland (4 per cent). The figures appear to confirm claims that traditionally Labour councils in the Midlands and the North have benefited from more generous Government support, at the expense of more affluent areas in the South-East, where the largest rises are concentrated. Coupled with a one per cent increase in National Insurance Contributions due to take effect on 1 April the soaring bills threaten to inflict damage on Labour's prospects in the 1 May local elections. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott last weekend threatened to cap the Council Tax of authorities imposing the largest rises, such as Wandsworth, in south London, where bills are expected to be 45 per cent higher. He insisted that Government settlements for next year had been generous, with all councils receiving increases in central support of more than inflation.

But his shadow David Davis accused him of "the ultimate stealth tax", claiming that additional burdens imposed by the Government on councils - and particularly education departments - far outweighed any extra funding they had received from Whitehall. "The facts speak for themselves," Mr. Davis said. "Labour have required good and efficient Conservative-run councils to spend more than they have received in funding. This has forced local councils to put up Council Tax. "The excuse that funding has increased above inflation is irrelevant when councils have been barraged by increasing burdens, national pay settlements, and increased NICs. "This is the ultimate stealth tax, engineered by the Government for their own politically-motivated deception, but with an attempt to make local councillors take the blame. "This fiddled funding has seen resources transferred from Conservative councils to Labour's heartland." CIPFA found that the average band D house would see a rise of £116 to £1,080 this year. In England the average is £1,102, while in Scotland it will be £1,009 and in Wales £839.

From Independent, UK, by Andrew Woodcock, 6 March 2003

Budget Will Set Out Measures for Greater Economic Flexibility

Next month's Budget will set out measures to make the economy more flexible, including reforms to unemployment benefit and moves towards "a major shake-up in skills training", Gordon Brown said yesterday. The chancellor also committed himself to resisting "inflexible barriers being introduced into directives like the European working time directive", suggesting for the first time that the government would fight to retain its opt-out from the EU's 48-hour working week. The opt-out, which gives employers the right to offer their staff the option of working more than 48 hours in a week, is due to be reviewed by the European Union later in the year, based on a recommendation from the European Commission. Speaking at the launch of a report on European economic liberalisation by the Centre for European Reform, Mr. Brown focused on his plans for Britain, promising to give more details in the Budget on April 9 and later in the year. He said: "To achieve full employment in Europe we have to learn from the best of American flexibilities and sweep aside the worst of European inflexibilities." Applied to Britain that meant improving workforce skills - "Britain's Achilles' heel, the most worrying inflexibility of all".

The Budget will give a progress report on the employer training pilot schemes, which offer companies incentives to give their staff paid time off for training. Early indications from Treasury officials have been positive, and it is likely the projects will form the basis of the "major shake-up" of training. Benefit reform is also on the Budget agenda. Mr Brown said the government "should consider" extending the area of job search for newly unemployed people and helping with their transport costs, to tackle pockets of high unemployment close to areas with high levels of vacancies. He highlighted the trials of a system for housing benefit that pays a flat rate based on location and household circumstances, saying it would "make it easier for the unemployed to return to work". Mr Brown gave the strongest indication yet of his ambition to increase regional flexibility in public sector pay. He revealed that the review of regional economic statistics - being conducted by Christopher Allsopp, who leaves the Bank of England's monetary policy committee in May - would "help inform the debate" over public sector recruitment and retention.

From Financial Times, UK, by Ed Crooks, 11 March 2003

German Business Urges Tax and Welfare Reform

Berlin - Europe's largest economy struggles - With Europe's largest economy verging on recession, top German industrialists urged Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder yesterday to introduce tax and social welfare reform when he makes a keynote speech on the economy later this week. Mr. Schroeder is to outline a plan of action in a speech before parliament on March 14 against a background of gloomy news for the German economy. Under intense political pressure as his popular support slips, Mr. Schroeder is trying to fill a budget gap and squeeze concessions from business and trade union leaders - to little avail so far. Mr. Schroeder failed to broker a deal with unions and bosses last week to deregulate the labour market and promised instead what he called "appropriate" reforms, without giving details. Bernd Pischetsrieder, head of Europe's biggest car maker Volkswagen AG, said tax policies were throttling growth and urged Mr. Schroeder to bite the bullet on reform. "We have a terrible problem with sentiment in Germany. That is linked to a range of unexplained structural problems. Politicians have to make clear decisions," Mr. Pischetsrieder told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "I want clear answers - how they plan to reduce the burden on the social welfare system and what the tax situation is going to look like," he said.

Mr. Schroeder has traditionally enjoyed close ties to the auto makers. He sat on Volkswagen's board when he was premier of Lower Saxony, where the firm is based. Ruediger Pohl, head of the Halle-based IWH economic think tank, one of the country's six main research institutes, said Mr. Schroeder needed more than window-dressing. "Germany's economy is suffering. This is more than just an economic low. Economic programs, such as debt-funded state spending, don't help poor growth," Mr. Pohl said, according to an advance copy of an article by the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.Bleak jobless data last week turned up the heat on Mr. Schroeder. German unemployment hit a new five-year high in February, and the country's leading economic think tanks slashed 2003 economic growth forecasts. German growth in 2002 was 0.2 per cent, and only marginal growth is expected this year. Moreover, the pessimistic growth outlook for 2003 from private forecasters suggests Berlin will not be able to keep its budget deficit within European Union limits this year. Industrial production figures for January tomorrow are expected to show a year-on-year decline of 0.5 per cent, while analysts expect factory order numbers on Friday to show a decline of 0.6 per cent compared with January last year.

The prospect of war in Iraq and widespread job losses means German consumers are not spending money at home. Exports, long the sole support for economic growth, are starting to feel the effect of the strengthening euro, which makes German goods dearer abroad."I expect the chancellor will present himself as a true chancellor of reform," Heinrich von Pierer, chief executive officer of electronics giant Siemens AG, told Welt am Sonntag. "We have to make it clear again that economic strength depends on our ability to innovate in this country. The government's statement must act as a signal for a new departure. It has to banish this downbeat sentiment," Mr. von Pierer said.Hans-Joachim Koerber of retail group Metro AG said time was running out for reform. "We can't wait any longer for these badly needed reforms. However, by reform I don't mean playing around with existing structures. We've waited too long for this operation," Mr. Koerber told Welt am Sonntag. "The measures must be put in place quickly. They must be decisive, they must be effective and in some places they are going to hurt," Mr. Koerber said. The Bundesbank urged fundamental reforms last week, saying Germany was suffering from a crisis of confidence and that only reform could lift growth and make it globally competitive. Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement signalled the government would try to break through the reform deadlock.

From The Globe and Mail, Canada, by Clifford Coonan, 10 March 2003

IMF Warns Against Turkish Government Policies

The IMF said that if Ankara met the preconditions of the stand by agreement the international lender's board would meet in early April to discuss releasing a tranche of $1.6 billion to Turkey. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has issued a warning to Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to adhere more closely to the terms of the economic austerity and reform program hammered out between the two. In a written statement released Monday after IMF officials reviewed the AKP's draft budget for 2003 and other government policies, the IMF said that economic targets for the year could not be met unless the program was strictly followed. The government should take a stronger stand in implementing the policies agreed on, the statement said. Among the preconditions set by the IMF were the passing of the 2003 budget by the parliament, tax reforms, cutting public employee numbers and privatisation.

From NTV MSNBC, Turkey, 11 March 2003

Russian Finance Ministry Offers to Take Riches from Oligarchs

Prime Minister Kasyanov is very unhappy about Finance Ministry's activity - Yesterday, the Russian government was going to discuss the future of the tax reform. As PRAVDA.Ru reported before, suggestions and calculations that were supposed to be prepared by adequate bodies according to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's instructions, were not ready. Finance Ministry, the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, failed to come to consent on the issue, so it was not possible for them to finish off with those preparations by February 15th. Mikhail Kasyanov had to state at the session that the government had lost any chances to run the tax reform in 2004. Prime minister's subordinates attempted to make some excuses about such a failure. This resulted in a conflict between Mikhail Kasyanov and Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin. The discussion of the reform as it is (the reduction of the value added tax rate in particular) was pushed into the background. The session turned to the pretentious discussion of several abstract issues. It is still unclear, what the Russian government is intended to do with taxes this year. As it turned out, the prime minister's unhappiness was caused with debaters' obscure and indefinite position concerning the further reduction of the tax burden.

The Ministry for Economic Development and Trade demands taxes should be reduced immediately, while the Finance Ministry is certain that it is necessary to adjourn that for a while. Mikhail Kasyanov scolded the two departments for their inclination to make statements instead of making certain plans with certain dates. In particular, Kasyanov reproached German Gref (the Minister for Economic Development and Trade) of the fact that the ministry did not have the precise opinion and calculations regarding what the tax reform might lead to in 2004. "Take a firm position, explain it, and keep it," Kasyanov said to Gref. Kasyanov also criticized the Finance Ministry for unprepared tax reduction calculations. "I am afraid of the fact that there were no forecasts and calculations for six months, although we suddenly learn that it is possible to reduce the value added tax rate," Kasyanov stated about Finance Minister's unexpected suggestion to reduce the VAT rate by two percent already in 2004. However, the discrepancy between the prime minister and Finance Minister, Aleksey Kudrin, turned out to be a lot more serious. Mikhail Kasyanov did not blur the disagreement, though. Aleksey Kudrin had a meeting with Russian reporters yesterday. During the briefing he offered to " expropriate expropriators." Aleksey Kudrin stated that the government is supposed to take a big part of oil companies' profit away from them. A big part of their profit means the extra that oil companies get over $25 dollars per barrel. "The state is supposed to be bolder in taking away petroleum extra-income," the finance minister told reporters.

Thus, as Aleksey Kudrin believes, it will be possible to restrain the inflation rate within the scope of the governmental forecast. One shall assume that there is no other way. By the way, Mr. Kudrin is absolutely not original with such a proposition of his. Russia's public opinion has been rather aggressive lately. They urge to reallocate oligarchs' extra-income in a more decisive way, in favor of socially unprotected Russian people. It is worth mentioning here that such an idea has a common sense to it. Aleksey Kudrin's suggestion is peculiar for the fact that he suggested to do so in favor of the government. Needless to mention that governmental officials do not have any needs. Yet, Kudrin never mentioned anything about children, pensioners and disabled people. It goes without saying that a statement of that kind released from a senior governmental official on the threshold of elections might be interpreted in the wrong way. Mikhail Kasyanov had to correct his colleague today. The prime minister stated that the final goal of the reform is to get rid of excessive functions of the state. As he asserted, "the state and law-enforcement bodies keep showing tough pressure on business, while nothing was done last year for solving the issue." The goal of the state is to create more favorable conditions for the business development. Yet, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov reminded with a reference to President Vladimir Putin that there are no untouchable fields in the country's life. Even small children see that there are a lot of untouchable fields in Russia. Officials did not say anything about taxes. What are they thinking about?

From Pravda, Russia, 14 March 2003

Rate-Council Member Grabowski Denounces Fin Min's Public-Finance Reform Plans

Warsaw - Current plans for reform of Polish public finances will likely be growth neutral at best and further run the risk of providing only short-term relief from fiscalism, Monetary Policy Council member Boguslaw Grabowski says in a full page interview for the Polish financial daily "Parkiet." A framework reform plan put together by Deputy PM and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko constitutes only "fragmentary steps that don't fulfil the criteria of deep reform in public finances," the outspoken monetary hawk says. The tax element of the coming Kolodko plan is "tragic," Grabowski says, noting that it retains a strong progressive element and puts potential tax cuts only where they will do the least good. "What do we see in the tax proposals of Minister Kolodko? A reduction of the tax burden only in those groups with low savings inclinations and which therefore do not invest," Grabowski said. At issue is an omnibus plan to be put by Kolodko to the leftist cabinet on March 19. Kolodko describes his plan as a middle-of-the-road effort to assure that the cash-strapped nation can afford its EU club fees while staying sufficiently fit to benefit from membership.

In 2004-2006, Poland must pay PLN 31 bln in fees, but can bring back up to PLN 62 bln in EU support. Grabowski suggests that Kolodko's plan may in fact be a middle road, but that is a road leading nowhere. "Honestly speaking, the reforms of Minister Kolodko do not lead to a slowing of growth, but they likewise give no impulse towards a quickening of economic growth," Grabowski says. The council member states his case clearly: tax cuts can come without budget revenue losses on tax base expansion and both spending and tax cuts can come without economic setbacks. Anything less runs the risk of providing only short-term budgetary and economic relief. While laying his criticism for the apparent flimsiness of the Kolodko plan, Grabowski admits that the political support has not been in place in recent years for the breadth of change that true reform would require. Looking forward, "there is no real chance for deep public finance reform in the nearest two years," he said.

From Interfax, Poland, 18 March 2003

Finance Minister Kolodko Threatens to Resign If His Public-Finance Reform Is Cast Aside

Warsaw - Polish Deputy PM and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko warned Monday that he would resign if too much of his public-finance reform plans were rejected, saying the plans were the best way for Poland to avoid a painful crisis. "If all of my proposals are approved except for liquidation of "powiaty" [mid-level local government administration], this won't be a defeat of the program. But if there are more such rejected proposals, if it turns out that what's necessary isn't possible to be done, then I'll say 'thank you,'" Kolodko said in an interview for the weekly "Przeglad" published on Monday. At issue is an omnibus plan to be put by Kolodko to the leftist minority cabinet on March 19. Kolodko describes his plan as an effort to assure that the cash-strapped nation can afford its EU club fees while staying sufficiently fit to benefit from membership. In 2004-2006, Poland must pay PLN 31 bln in fees, but can bring back up to PLN 62 bln in EU support. The plans so far released have been criticized by business groups and analysts, but members of the government have also heaped scorn on the reform proposals, with Economy & Labor Minister Jerzy Hausner and his deputy, Jacek Piechota, both saying the reforms do not go far enough. "I'm not saying that my program is the only one.

However, I don't know a better way and I forewarn: if we don't go this way, if there is no support from the government, the parliament, the president, the media and the majority of society, all of us will pay for it not being realized and the price will be higher than what we would have had to pay for its implementation," he said. "Then probably, with another government and without me, there will be no other way than to increase taxes in order to rescue in short term," Kolodko added. Kolodko also cautioned that if his program is not approved by the government later this week, the state budget may lack not only PLN 40 bln, like now, but even PLN 60 bln to PLN 75 bln. "We won't be able to use the EU's structural and cohesion funds while EU membership fees will have to be paid," he said. "If it [the reforms] would be delayed or disassembled, Poland will find itself in an extensive crisis, and not only on an economic order," Kolodko said. He added that if parliament rejects the reforms, Poland will definitely see early parliamentary elections since without reform the parliament will be unable to approve the state budget for 2004. Kolodko had said late last week that the minority government in which he serves would probably not last out its term, which is scheduled to end in 2005. Kolodko said that President Aleksander Kwasniewski supports the program. Assuming all is approved, the appropriate bills will be sent by the government to the parliament gradually in April, May and June.

From Interfax, Poland, 19 March 2003

Tremonti, Pensions Are Public Finance Issue For EU

Brussels - Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti stated that for the first time the European Union recognised that pensions are not only a Welfare issue but also a public finance one. In the final press conference following the European Council meeting in Brussels Tremonti said, "it seems that the Council document recognises that the pension issue is also a public finance one. We recognise this but for the first time it is the Council which imposes reforms by means of the balance clause".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 21 March 2003

 

Bush Tax Plan Would Provide Much-Needed Short-Term Boost to Economy, Builders Say

As congressional hearings continue on President Bush's 10-year, $665 billion economic growth package, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today reiterated its support for the plan, noting that it will move the economy forward by providing much-needed near- term stimulus to consumer spending and capital investment. However, NAHB voiced concerns that some aspects of the plan may need to be fine-tuned in order to avoid unintended consequences that could be harmful to the housing industry. "Prompt implementation of the economic growth package undoubtedly would give a welcome boost to both the economy and the housing sector at a time of substantial slack in the labor and capital markets," said Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of NAHB. "However, we are concerned about the possible long-term effects of eliminating the double taxation of corporate earnings, such as its impact on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). Noting that the complex tax package has far-reaching implications for many sectors of the economy, including housing, Howard said that NAHB remains actively engaged with top Administration officials and members of Congress in helping to refine the President's overall tax plan so that all segments of the housing sector can continue to lead the economy forward.

In meetings this week with Pam Olson, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, Ms. Olson told us, 'we don't want to do anything to damage the Low Income Housing Tax Credit,'" Howard said. Some housing groups have voiced strong misgivings over the Bush tax package after a new study by Ernst & Young concluded there will be a 35 percent reduction in the number of low income housing tax credit units built if the dividend tax plan is enacted as proposed. "The President's dividend proposal involves a series of very complex issues, and we believe it would be unwise to dismiss the entire Bush tax plan out of hand over this one study," Howard added. "That is why NAHB has discussed these issues this week with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R- Texas) and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, and has further talks planned at Treasury next week with Ms. Olson and Peter Fisher, under secretary for domestic finance, as well as with members of the congressional leadership." "On the whole, we believe the President's economic proposal is good for the economy and good for housing," said Howard. "As an organization that champions the broadest spectrum of the housing industry, NAHB looks forward to playing a leading role in representing all segments of the housing sector as the congressional debate on the Administration's economic package unfolds in the coming weeks."

From Yahoo News, 6 March 2003

Tax Policy Group to Talk Mobilization at Meeting

Ithaca - The County Legislature's Tax Policy Committee today will discuss ways to mobilize other groups and governments that share its concern about the state's role in the local property tax. The committee formed this year to address what they call unfair and unfunded mandates from the state, forcing local governments to raise property taxes or cut what are considered vital services. Its chairman, Legislator Tim Joseph, D-Town of Ithaca, said he supports the work of similar groups, like the Southern Tier Organization for the Reform of Medicaid, but wants his group to focus on property taxes, rather than exclusively state programs. The committee meets from 11:30 until 1:30 in the Scott Heyman Conference Room at the Old Jail building, 125 E. Court St., Ithaca.

From Ithaca Journal, NY, 26 February 2003

Pataki Budget Director Gets Federal Recognition

Carole Stone, Gov. George Pataki's budget director, has been recognized by a federal project that works to improve financial management practices and policies. Stone, who has served in the state Division of Budget for 25 years, was awarded the Donald L. Scantlebury Memorial Award by the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program. The award recognizes distinguished leadership in financial management. The Joint Financial Management Improvement Program is jointly operated by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of the Treasury, the General Accounting Office, and the Office of Personnel Management. The annual Scantlebury awards are intended to recognize public sector leaders with a record of making financial management improvements. The award will be presented at the JFIMPs Annual Conference on March 11, in Washington, D.C. Stone, who was named budget director in 2000, managed the overhaul and modernization of New York's financial management and personnel systems that have enhanced accountability and control in state government, the award citation says. She also spearheaded the automation of the state budget and financial plan, linking budget forecasts to actual accounting and payroll information. "Carole Stone has played a key role in our successful effort to restore fiscal responsibility to New York state government, reduce the tax burden on New Yorkers and secure our strongest credit rating in 24 years," Pataki said in a release.

From Albany Business Review, NY, 6 March 2003

OMB Prepares to Align Financial Systems

By month's end, the Office of Management and Budget will release for comment a document that describes an enterprise architecture framework aimed to align agencies' programs with their administrative systems. Jerry Williams, OMB's chief of federal financial systems, said yesterday that the draft version of the rewrite of the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program's framework document will be ready by the end of this month. "The current document lists core systems, but it doesn't show how the systems relate government wide or within an agency," said Williams, who moderated a panel discussion at a JFMIP conference in Washington. "This will be at a very high level and very generic." The draft document will cover all government financial management systems, from procurement to loans to human resources, and will set out how they should be integrated within agencies and government wide to share information and give a more complete view of financial positions. Williams also said the document would help vendors understand how information flows between programs and administrative systems, so they can write software to fit the architecture. The final draft version could be released to the public in early fall, Williams said.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 12 March 2003

IMF Krueger: Tax, Pension Reform Key To Brazil's Growth

Washington - Successful implementation of tax and pension reforms proposed by the Lula administration are "crucial" to creating economic growth needed to reduce poverty in Brazil, a senior International Monetary Fund official said Monday. "The new administration is moving decisively to deal with underlying vulnerabilities, demonstrating a commitment both to sound macroeconomic policies and to its ambitious structural reform agenda," IMF First Deputy Managing Director Anne Krueger said in a statement released Monday. On Friday, the IMF gave final approval to Brazil's performance under its $30 billion loan program, signed in September just before President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was elected. The decision triggered release of a $4.1 billion installment. Krueger, commenting on the IMF board's decision, said continued adherence to the IMF program would lay the foundation for sustained and equitable economic growth. "The government's initiatives in tax and pension reform are especially crucial," she said. She added that these reforms would free resources to reduce the debt burden over time. Krueger lauded the central bank's action to hike interest rates several times since October, and noted early signs that inflation is subsiding. She also praised the new government for its efforts to make social spending more effective. (By Elizabeth Price, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9295; Elizabeth.Price@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo News, 18 March 2003

Treasury Department Hails New Tax Treaties

(Will reduce withholding taxes on cross-border income) (400)The U.S. Department of the Treasury is hailing the Senate's approval of updated tax treaties with Australia, the United Kingdom and Mexico, saying these will reduce bilateral tax barriers to cross-border trade and investment. "These enhanced tax treaty relationships will foster even closer economic ties with the United Kingdom, Australia and Mexico, all of which we consider as true neighbors of the United States," Treasury Secretary John Snow said in a March 17 news release. Following is the text of the release: Treasury Applauds Senate Approval of Tax Treaty and Protocols - The Treasury Department welcomes the March 13th action by the Senate approving the new tax treaty with the United Kingdom and the protocols amending the tax treaties with Australia and Mexico. "The three agreements approved by the Senate will operate to reduce bilateral tax barriers to cross-border trade and investment between the United States and these three important partners," said Secretary Snow. "These enhanced tax treaty relationships will foster even closer economic ties with the United Kingdom, Australia and Mexico, all of which we consider as true neighbors of the United States."

Each of the agreements contains provisions that will further reduce withholding taxes on cross-border income. The three agreements are the first U.S. tax agreements to provide for the elimination of withholding tax on dividends arising from certain direct investments. All three agreements modernize the bilateral treaty relationships to take into account changes in laws and policies and bring the relationships into closer conformity with U.S. tax treaty policy. The new U.S-U.K. treaty replaces the existing income tax treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom, which has been in effect since 1980. The U.S.-Australia protocol amends the existing income tax treaty with Australia which was concluded in 1982. The U.S.-Mexico protocol amends the existing income tax treaty with Mexico which was concluded in 1992. The new treaty with the United Kingdom and the protocol with Australia each will enter into force when the required exchange of instruments of ratification is completed. The protocol with Mexico will enter into force when the ratification requirements in Mexico are completed and the required notification is provided.

From Washington File, 18 March 2003

Education Officials Tout Financial Management Achievements

Education Department officials got a chance to highlight their accomplishments in fixing the department's finances and addressing other management issues during a hearing Wednesday before a House subcommittee. Deputy Education Secretary William Hansen told the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Select Education that department officials recovered $450 million in missing grant money and caught a group of contractors who charged the department more than $700,000 in false overtime. The contractors also stole $300,000 worth of electrical equipment, including computers, scanners, printers, cell phones, digital cameras, CD players and a 61-inch television. Nearly 20 people either plead guilty or stood trial for the theft and in a February settlement, Verizon Federal Systems paid the Education Department $2 million to resolve the overtime fraud and other theft associated with the former employees. Another four people were indicted after allegedly stealing $1.9 million in funds intended for schools in South Dakota and spending it on real estate and luxury SUVs. "The department reached this point by setting out to accomplish three short-term and six long-term goals," Hansen said. He credited a task force of career managers with helping to set and accomplish the department's financial and management goals. "I am glad to hear that career folks at the department had a lot to do with this improved performance," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the subcommittee.

But following the recitation of accomplishments, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, questioned why department officials had imposed no other sanctions on the contractor whose employees were involved in the overtime fraud and other theft. "Somebody this neglectful in their responsibility and oversight…should be made to understand that we are serious about spending the money on children and should not be able to bid on these continuing contracts, at least for two or three years," Hinojosa said. Though Hansen said department officials felt "the punishment fit the crime," Hoekstra suggested that department officials consider adopting a policy of restricting businesses from bidding for federal contracts when their employees are involved in cases of waste, fraud and abuse. Education officials also reached a long-term goal in fiscal 2002, when the agency received its first clean financial audit since 1997. Though Office of Management and Budget officials have cautioned that sound financial management requires more than clean audits, Education officials pointed to the accomplishment as a "critical milestone."

From GovExec.com, by Tanya N. Ballard (tballard@govexec.com), 12 March 2003

Governor Wants Revenue Bills to Cover Spending

Santa Fe - Gov. Bill Richardson is applying pressure to the Legislature to finish work on two revenue-producing measures to help cover proposed spending in the budget. Richardson, at a news conference on Wednesday, said he might have to veto a budget package unless the Legislature soon gave final approval to a bill to increase the cigarette tax and a proposal to make more tobacco settlement revenues available for general government expenditures. "I am not a rubber stamp governor to a Democratic Legislature, as I think many are finding out. I am vetoing bills," Richardson said. He appealed to the Legislature "to fulfill its obligation to send me a balanced budget and one that addresses the pressing needs of New Mexico's children, our schools and our water planning efforts." The governor also is unhappy that lawmakers didn't provide as much money as he requested for several of his initiatives, including expanding child care assistance to lower-income families, creating a teacher incentive program, truancy prevention grants and new judgeships to handle water cases.

Richardson faces a Friday evening deadline to sign or veto the main budget bill, which allocates nearly $4.1 billion for public education and government programs ranging from courts to the governor's office. There's a Saturday morning deadline for a bill that provides for about $70 million in spending on programs and services this year and next year. Without the legislation to provide extra money, Richardson said, the budget is out of balance. Spending in the main budget bill exceeds projected revenues next year by about $60 million. The state would have to dip into its cash reserves to cover the proposed spending unless the revenue-producing bills are enacted or economic growth generated greater than anticipated revenue collections. The governor's top budget official, James Jimenez, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, said the problem was one of timing. The governor must make decisions on the budget before the Legislature adjourns at noon Saturday.

Lawmakers assembled the budget on the assumption that several tax and revenue bills would pass, providing as much as $107 million next year. "I don't know if I could recommend to the governor that we take it on faith that those things are going to happen because problems do arise from time to time right at the end of the session," said Jimenez. The cigarette tax increase would raise an additional $35 million for the state's general budget account. A proposal to change the handling of tobacco settlement revenues would provide $43 million this year and $37 million next year. Rep. Max Coll, D-Santa Fe, chairman of the House committee that handles the budget, said he expected the cigarette tax bill to win final approval. House and Senate negotiators are still trying to reach an agreement on a tobacco settlement revenue compromise. "What we have to do before we leave here is make sure that it all comes into balance. I think it will be," said Coll. However, Coll said Richardson may not get as much money as requested for administration initiatives. "You know, I didn't get everything I wanted. I don't expect the governor will get everything he wants either. We have to work these things out," said Coll.

From Carlsbad Current Argus, NM, by Barry Massey, 20 March 2003

Alabama Public Finance Survey

Alabamians overwhelmingly believe our current tax structure--which depends on a low property tax and high sales tax needs reforming. And two thirds support a lottery for education even though the measure has been defeated in the past. AEA's capital survey research center provided results of their poll of 500 registered voters. Respondents were asked questions about government and tax reform, the condition of state finances and their views of the governor's performance in office. According to this poll, voters are split on whether the state has enoung money to provide good basic services like running the prison system. And nearly 77-percent find that it's a "moral wrong" that our system of taxation makes those who earn the lowest wages pay a higher percentage of their income in state taxes than do people with higher incomes. The A-E-A has provided a copy of the public finance survey to governor bob riley who is in the process of overhauling the state's tax structure. Lawmakers will also have access to the poll. The poll which was conducted March 10th through 19th has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

From WAKA, AL, by Monica Allen, 21 March 2003

John Williams Promoted to Senior Vice President, Public Finance at Radian

New York - Radian Asset Assurance Inc. announced today that John Williams has been promoted to senior vice president, public finance. In this role, Williams will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the public finance group, including developing policy recommendations and effective ROE models and contributing to deal structures. Williams joined Radian in 1998 as vice president, public finance, and in August 2001, he was promoted to vice president and manager, public finance. Prior to joining Radian, he held similar positions with Credit Local de France and JP Morgan. Williams is a graduate of Haverford College and the Yale School of Management. Radian Asset Assurance Inc. is a financial guaranty subsidiary of Radian Group Inc. (NYSE: RDN - News), a global credit enhancement company headquartered in Philadelphia. With offices in New York City and London, Radian Asset Assurance is a direct writer of municipal bond insurance, insurance of asset- backed obligations and trade receivables, and other credit-related insurance products, which extend insurance benefits to an array of institutions and securities issuers. Additional information may be found at www.radianassetassurance.com.

From Yahoo News, 24 March 2003

 
 

Privatization: Pros and Cons

The recent announcement of the Department of Finance that the national government has P1.1-billion worth of assets to place on the privatization block this year is music to our ears, coming as it does amid concern that the government might not meet its tax collection targets for 2003. Last year it realized the same amount of money by selling the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corp. and a few "small" items. Is privatization of government-owned or controlled assets really good for the Filipino people? The answer is an overwhelming yes. Privatization is one of the best changes we have made in our government policies in recent years. The old policy was to set up agencies or corporations to carry out tasks perceived to be important to the public good and forever keep these entities in government hands. State assets, mainly in the form of corporations and agencies, are losing propositions, perpetually begging the government for subsidies to cover up losses. Under the leadership of technically incompetent political appointees, they bleed the budget of funds that otherwise would go to social programs and activities, e.g., education, health, nutrition. In due time they become hotbeds of crooks and grafters, havens for those who cannot be employed elsewhere, and targets of criticism both by well-meaning citizens and by those who have partisan interests to promote. In the immediate term, privatization not only makes available to the government additional money to fund the budget. It also saves the Filipino people the interest that will be paid on that money if it is borrowed from financial institutions. But the more substantial benefits pertain to the long term. Privatization relieves the government of the crushing burden of supporting perennial losers and liberates it from being identified with graft and corruption.

It yields the government much needed revenue at the time of the sale and substantial taxes on the operation of the enterprise every year after that. In other words, the government receives multiple benefits: stanching of the budgetary hemorrhage, freedom from association with corruption, receipt of a windfall, and enjoyment of a stream of income over the long haul. The one single difficulty arises from the employees in the affected state-owned or controlled entity. They are loath to accept separation from the service. Not that dismissal will necessarily happen but that they move heaven and earth to ensure retention. Often they sway to their cause popularity-seeking politicians and leaders of nongovernment organizations pursuing a hidden agenda, who therefrom hypocritically take up their cause to endear themselves to the "masses." Often they succeed in slowing down privatization. Fortunately, the government's response has been appropriate. Acknowledge the legitimacy of the employees' disquiet, pay the laid-off employees all the benefits and privileges accruing to them under the law without delay and extend to them assistance to remain in the new owners' employ. And then proceed with privatization. One can argue that privatizing the water system in Metro Manila has not been an unmitigated success, especially the part that went to Maynilad. That argument doesn't wash. In fact the system improved markedly after the transfer, as shown by the speed with which the concessionaire responded to calls for installation, repairs, etc.

The problem is not in the principle but in the actual implementation by the two parties of their obligations. The proposal to create a National Internal Revenue Authority in place of the current Bureau of Internal Revenue is meritorious and deserves to be approved at once. This authority will be run by the private sector with new personnel under a CEO answerable to the government and whose tenure will depend on his performance. There is reason to believe that this new arrangement will eliminate graft and corruption and achieve higher revenue targets. For the moment the government intends to dispose of the Philippine National Construction Corp., its 10-percent stake in Meralco, its 10-percent stake in the Malampaya natural-gas project, its stake in Eastern Telecommunications Philippines, and all of the Philippine Postal Corp. In addition, it has listed down for sale some 40 real estate properties, including the International School property in Makati City and the Food Terminal grounds in Taguig. It may realize more than P1.1 billion from these assets if the market perks up. The Department of Finance will carry out the privatization program, including enlisting the help of investment houses and bankers to do the valuation of assets. Among the investment bankers and managers being considered to do the valuation and, in a few cases, the revaluation are the American banking giant JP Morgan Chase and Co., RL Bernaldo and Unicapital Inc. At this point, we can only urge the Department of Finance and all the other agencies responsible for transferring public assets to private hands to proceed with greater speed. We can all benefit from an expanded development program underwritten at least partly with privatization funds.

From Manila Times, Philippines, 01 March 2003

Defense Ministry Launches Privatization Plan

Stimulus Package: The military wants to help the economy by having local companies maintain some of its equipment and by fostering an avionics industry - Defense economics - * The ministry aims to provide some NT$10 billion in business to the private sector over the next eight years. * The army has signed contracts with four companies for the repair and maintenance of its helicopters. * A new avionics research institute will be inaugurated tomorrow at the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology's Taoyuan branch. To help stimulate the economy, the Ministry of National Defense yesterday announced plans to release business opportunities worth around NT$10 billion to the private sector over the next eight years. The announcement was made at a regular ministry press conference, where representatives from the army and the military's Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) briefed reporters on the plan. The business opportunities include the privatization of the repair and maintenance for army helicopters and the establishment of the first avionics research institute in the country to push for the development of a local avionics industry.

The repair and maintenance business will cover the TH-67 training helicopter, OH-58D reconnaissance helicopter, UH-1H utility helicopter, AH-1W attack helicopter and the CH-47SD transport helicopter. However, such sensitive equipment as radar and electronic devices will not be included in the scheme. Major General Li Sheng-wei (§õ¸t°), chief of the logistics department of the Army General Headquarters, said the privatization of helicopter repair and maintenance will begin in May. "The TH-67 and OH-58D will be the first to be repaired and maintained by civilian contractors, starting in May. We have completed the selection of four civilian contractors and have signed contracts with them," Li said. "The UH-1H and AH-1W will be included in the project next year. In 2005, the CH-47SD is to be repaired and maintained by civilian contractors as well," he said. "Over the next eight years, the project is expected to generate business opportunities worth around NT$5 billion," Li said. Helicopters are not the only equipment that the army plans to let the private sector repair and maintain. Missile systems as well as artillery and armored vehicles will also be included in the scheme. The new avionics research institute is to be inaugurated tomorrow at a Taoyuan branch of the CSIST.

The CSIST will use the new institute to introduce technology from Germany's Becker Avionic Systems to promote the local avionics industry. Becker is providing financing for the new institute and will be the CSIST's partner in running it. CSIST representative Han Kuo-chang said the avionics research institute will be significant in that it could not only upgrade the local avionics industry but also generate huge business opportunities. "With Becker's assistance, we expect to establish a domestic certification mechanism for the avionics products. We have not acquired such capabilities. If we could achieve this, it would mean a lot to us," Han said. "The avionics research institute is only the first step. Our next step is to establish a company jointly invested by local firms to spearhead the development of the avionics industry," he said. "Becker has also promised to invest NT$320 million in Taiwan for the establishment of an avionics certification company. Such investment will help give local companies a chance to be involved in large-scale avionics developments in foreign countries," Han said. "Business opportunities that could be generated as a result could reach NT$5 billion," he said. "The joint venture with Becker might in some day challenge the world's two leading avionics companies - Honeywell and Rockwell Collins," he said.

From Taipei Times, Taiwan, by Brian Hsu, 5 March 2003

Government to Push for Privatization of Petron

Finance Secretary Jose Camacho said on Thursday he was keen on selling the government's remaining 40 percent stake in top local oil refiner Petron Corp. to raise cash and help fund the 2003 fiscal shortfall. "I would continue to push for the full privatization of Petron. I am not convinced it has any strategic value left," Camacho told reporters. The finance department estimates it could raise P6.5 billion ($119 million) from the sale of its 3.75 million Petron shares. Petron closed at P1.64 on Thursday, down 1.20%. The firm is considered the market leader in the local industry, accounting for about 40% of total petroleum sales. It was partly privatized in 1995 when the government sold 40% to state-owned Saudi Aramco, 19% to the public, and one percent to its employees. However, the Energy department and some legislators are opposed to the planned sale of the government's remaining stake due to concerns over local oil supply amid tensions in the Middle East. Some say the government can cap rising oil prices by tempering the climb of Petron's petroleum prices. But Camacho said pump prices were market-driven and Petron can only offer temporary relief. The government overshot three deficit targets last year, with the fiscal shortfall reaching P212.68 billion, or 5.6% of gross domestic product. This year, Manila wants to contain the budget shortfall at P202 billion, or 4.7% of GDP.

From ABS CBN News, Philippines, 6 March 2003

Sanjoy Favours Privatization of Education

Itanagar - Arunachal Pradesh Education Minister, Takam Sanjoy ha advocated for the privatization of education making it competitive,responsive and qualitative. Speaking at the Higher Education conference here today, Mr. Sanjoy said, judicious utilization of government resources both human and material is the hallmark of the present governance. Assuring his government commitment to streamline the entire gamut of higher education, the Education Minister said that the regularization of the offices of the principals, restructuring of Directorate of higher and technical education were under active consideration. Urging the academic community to play pivot role in improving quality of education, Mr. Sanjoy said higher education must dispel the ignorance through proper education, trainings, making the universities and colleges the medium to achieve the target fixed by policy makers in the state. Higher education needs further growth qualitatively to find that qualitative changes take purposive direction in managing the existing state's resources, he added. He also appealed the academicians to be pragmatic, honest in their efforts keeping in mind the problems, demands of students, the needs and necessities of higher and technical education in the state.

Director, Higher and Technical Education, Mr. Joram Begi in his key note address said that resource crunch has badly affected in creation of required facilities in the existing institutions of the state. Therefore, it is not possible to open new colleges, unless and until the existing institutions were consolidated. Keeping this in view, there has been a policy shift in higher education to encourage the NGOs and other private organizations to establish private colleges in the state, he emphasized Arunachal Pradesh has the lowest access rate of higher education in the country because of the fact that the institutions of higher learning are comparatively very less in the state, he pointed out. He said if elementary and secondary education is a basic need of a country, tertiary and higher education is essential for socio-economic and intellectual development of its people. Arunachal University, Pro Vice Chancellor, Prof. A. Mibang said that the quality of manpower, institutions, infrastructures and students is the demand of all the time. Mr. Mibang said "we can ensure quality of education in the state if infrastructural facilities and faculty members were adequate". Hinting at the consistent demands of establishing more universities, he said without assessing the ground realities, it would not be a prudent on part of the state government to set up more universities, which may prove suicidal for the people in long run.

From KanglaOnline, India, 7 March 2003

'Family-Owned Businesses Focussing on Governance'

New Delhi - Whatever your perception about Indian family-owned businesses may be, a Grant Thornton study has found they are hugely concerned about the corporate governance regulations that are emerging in the aftermath of major financial scandals worldwide. In fact, they are already taking steps to put their houses in order. Despite the new corporate governance proposals being aimed mainly at listed or public interest companies, nearly 40 per cent family-owned businesses surveyed felt the new guidelines will impact their businesses. The Grant Thornton International Business Owners' Survey (IBOS) in India was conducted among 504 mid-sized family-owned businesses (100 each in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore) employing 50-500 people. In fact, the Indian family-owned businesses have already acted upon the premise. More than 71 per cent, against a global figure of 66 per cent, have already tightened up internal controls as a safeguard. And about 25 per cent have already appointed non-executive or independent directors (against a global 28 per cent) on their boards and introduced formal policies on directors' pay. Not just this, as many as 46 per cent Indian family-owned businesses have already formed an audit committee against a much lower global average of 34 per cent.

And in the future, as many as 14 per cent Indian business owners said they plan to put tighter internal controls in place. Globally, the figure is 17 per cent. Also, 12 per cent of them plan to form an audit committee (against 13 per cent worldwide) and 8 per cent say they will be appointing non-executive directors (11 per cent globally). Vishesh Chandiok, India director for Grant Thornton, consultants in 110 countries on assurance, tax and specialist advice to owner-managed businesses said it is encouraging that many Indian independent businesses have pre-empted the impact of corporate governance on their businesses. "Indian businesses, along with Mexico, Singapore and the US, lead the tables in having already formed an audit committee on another line of defence," he says. The reasons for the pro-active response to corporate governance by Indian family businesses could be two-fold, says Chandiok. One, they feel they would be covered by the guidelines in the near future. Two, putting international best practices in place would give them a good standing in the current competitive marketplace and differentiate them in dealing with overseas associates or partners. IBOS, which was being conducted in Europe for the last 10 years, was extended worldwide by Grant Thornton this year, covering India in the process.

From Times of India, India, 11 March 2003

Advisor To PM On Privatization, Investment Sworn In As Member Senate

Islamabad - Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Privatisation and Investment with a status of Federal Minister has been sworn in as member of the Senate of Pakistan on Wednesday. Shaikh, an economist of international repute, took charge of the office of the Advisor to the Prime Minister on December 9, 2002. He has also taken charge of the Chairman Board of Privatisation Commission. Dr. Shaikh has over 20 years experience in policymaking and management. Before joining the Federal Government as Advisor to the PM, he was serving in the Sindh Government as Minister for Finance, Planning and Development. He remained country head of the World Bank in Saudi Arabia and also led assignments and advised more than 18 countries of Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa as senior World Bank official. Some of these countries include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Jordan, Qatar, Malta, Botswana, Tanzania, Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Romania, Czech Republic and Argentina. Before joining the World Bank, he worked at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has a Ph. D in economics and authored many publications including a book on 'Argentina's Privatisation'. He also led the teams for successful privatisation in many countries in the field of telecommunication, electricity, transport, aviation, banking and manufacturing. Dr. Hafeez Shaikh had a successful tenure as Minister for Finance, Planning & Development in Sindh Province. He was the architect of the financial recovery of Sindh, restoring financial discipline and reducing taxes, increasing revenues, paying over Rs. 20 billion of old bills, clearing the over draft of State Bank of Pakistan of Rs. 11 billion, increasing allocation for poverty alleviation, social sector and development and enhancing relationship of Sindh Government with international donor agencies.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 13 March 2003

Government Endorsed New Schedule for Privatization of State Banks

A government source said 20% of a 50.2% governmental block in IBA's working capital is scheduled for privatization until July 1 - Under the new schedule of privatization of state-run International Bank of Azerbaijan and the United Universal Joint Stock Bank‚ in 2005 Azerbaijan will have not banks with governmental share in banking capital. A government source said 20% of a 50.2% governmental block in IBA's working capital is scheduled for privatization until July 1 and the remaining portion by the end of 2003. Timing change is linked first of all with the fact that after PriceWaterhouseCoopers company completes the IBA audit‚ the bank's financial consultant KPMG will launch its work over information memorandum. On the basis of consolidated balance the consultant will assess governmental stake in the IBA in order to define finally with the EBRD‚ a strategical investor for purchase of 20% of the IBA stocks. Negotiations with the EBRD are being conducted in parallel with the pre-privatization preparing measures as the Azeri government and the EBRD are to sign a memorandum on further joint management with the bank. But the EBRD's demands to be given a veto in the IBA Board and access of foreign investors along with local ones to auction for sale of 25.2% of shares (remaining state stake part) that drags out its signing. The requirements have become once more one of the reasons for change of privatization timing established by the 1998 presidential decree.

The NB thinks the sides will achieve a compromise. Besides‚ it considers that equal participation of both foreign and local investors should not frighten the IBA as competition appearing in this case is only in favour of domestic banks. On the other hand‚ possession of Azeri banks' shares by the EBRD (it is ready to participate in privatization of other banks as well) sets before the EBRD the challenges on institutional development of a partner country in the medium-term prospect - sale of its stake in banking capital to local investors. In connection with formation of the declared IBA working capital of 50 bn manats‚ until this May the bank's shareholders should finish disbursement of their stakes in working capital. The Ministry of Finance has already added its share‚ and by the present the formed working capital makes about 35 bn manats. As the issues of stakes payment by other shareholders have not been solved‚ the government will hardly manage to sell 20% of its IBA shares stake in the 2003 first quarter (under the previous schedule). Under the new schedule‚ UUJSB privatization should be over in 2004‚ although earlier it was expected to launch this process only in late 2004 or early 2005. The new schedule was coordinated during the IMF mission's last visit and reflected in the joint letter signed following the review. Privatization of the IBA and the UUJSB is one of the IMF and WB requirements.

From Baku Today, Azerbaijan, 17 March 2003

Indonesia Says Iraq War Could Hurt Privatization Plans

Jakarta - The Indonesian government is concerned a war in Iraq will make it difficult to complete its privatization program this year, a senior official said Wednesday. But Machmuddin Yasin, a deputy minister at the state enterprise ministry, denied media reports the government is planning to put its privatization schedule on hold. "There is concern that if war occurs there will be no bidders," he told reporters. "But preparation for our privatization program remains on schedule." Indonesia plans to raise eight trillion rupiah ($1=IDR9,100) this year for the state budget from privatization. The government plans to sell around a 30% stake in PT Bank Mandiri, the country's largest bank, by June through an initial public offering. Foreign investors are concerned about coming to Indonesia if war breaks out in Iraq. Anti-U.S. protests - although still small - have been rising here in recent weeks against the buildup to war. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Machmuddin made no comment about ongoing efforts by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, or IBRA, to sell a 51% stake in PT Bank Danamon by April. The agency received interest from five consortia for the bank last week and plans to announce the shortlisted bidders Friday. IBRA has said Singapore's Temasek Holdings is among the bidders, but the city state's government investment company has so far declined to comment. It remains unclear as yet exactly which other bidders have shown interest. (djn.jakarta@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo News, by Linda Silean, 19 March 2003

Privatization Yields Rs 2.8b in Two Months

Lahore - Advisor to the Prime Minister on Privatisation and Investment, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh on Tuesday said that the privatisation of units carried out through stock market in the last two months had yielded an amount of Rs 2.8 billion. Briefly talking to the newsmen here at a seminar on 'Corporate Philanthropy for Social Investment', he said that the bidding for Pakistan State Oil (PSO) would be held on April 26 next to be followed by Habib Bank Limited (HBL) in a couple of months. He said that a comprehensive policy on investment had been formulated. Mr. Sheikh said that the Board of Investment (BoI) would be reconstituted in a couple of weeks. Responding to a query on the rising incidence of poverty, he said that the decline in the economic growth rate in 1990s was mainly responsible for the rising poverty level in the country. He said that the recent stability in the macro-economic conditions would help bring down the incidence of poverty. Mr. Sheikh said that the government was likely to achieve $one billion Foreign Direct Investment target this year.

"This will be for the first time in country's history to attract this much FDI after the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in mid-1990s," he said. He said that the annual FDI in the recent years had been around $500 million. About the sectors receiving FDI this year included oil and gas, financial services and telecom sector. Pakistan has so far received an FDI of $600 million during the first eight months of the current fiscal year. Mr. Sheikh hoped, despite the looming war over the horizon of Gulf, the Iraq issue would be resolved peacefully. "We pray, even if the war breaks out, it is short," he said. Earlier, speaking at the seminar on Corporate Philanthropy, Dr. Hafeez Sheikh urged the corporate sector to contribute to the socio-economic development in the country. "Government alone cannot deliver the goods," he said. He regretted that the financial haemorrhaging of Rs 90 billion being experienced by the government due to the inefficiency of the corporation had direct bearing on the poor socio-economic condition of the common man.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 19 March 2003

ADB, WB Back Water Privatization

Osaka - Despite reaping criticisms for their involvement in water privatization, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) announced they would continue pouring in money for projects that would ensure enough water for the world. Arthur Macintosh, an ADB consultant, said here Tuesday that the privatization of water utilities is only one of the options available, but it is not the only sole option offered to countries that would avail themselves of ADB assistance. Richard Uku, a senior communication specialist of the World Bank, agreed, stressing that they would listen to all sectors before making any decision. He added that privatization has been picked over the other choices after a careful study where it has been found that it is the best solution. Macintosh, on the other hand, emphasized that the real issue is the tariffs imposed by the governments and not the private sector. And to let people understand the real score on privatization, he disclosed that ADB would conduct more consultations with all sectors involved. He admitted that "we have to spend time talking to people." Their institutions would talk to unions, nongovernmental organizations and other sectors to ensure that these people understand what the bank is up to. Ed Haugh, ADB's social sector director for South Asia, pointed to "social issues" as being one of the top challenges they have to go through all these years in the implementation of water-related as well as other development projects.

He told Today that there is a need for consultation with stakeholders for them to understand what the key issues are. For example, he said, the people don't realize that those who have no access to water spend two to three times more than those who have access. He also said that they face a challenge on the sustainability of the systems. "Often, investments are made but the utilities are unsound, poorly managed, not sustainable. Utilities are not staffed with correct people. Some don't even have audit systems." The ADB and the UN-Habitat program inked a memorandum of understanding Tuesday which aims to build the capacity of Asian cities to secure and manage propoor investments and to help the region meet the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) of slicing to half the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Some P540 million in grants from the two institutions would be made available for the first two phases of the program while another P27 billion in loans would be extended for water and sanitation projects in the cities all over Asia over the next five years. ADB has poured in some P243 billion to the water supply and sanitation sector, most of which were for the construction of water supply facilities since its establishment in 1966.

The amount is close to 5 percent of its total lending. It has also provided technical assistance totaling about P4.5 billion to prepare projects and strengthen local water service agencies. But despite this strong support, it said that there are still an estimated 750 million people in Asia's rural areas and 100 million people in its urban areas who have no access to safe drinking water. The World Bank, meanwhile, renewed its call on developed and developing countries to work together to increase investments in water in poor nations and achieve better results on the ground because water is a key driver of growth. In its report titled, "Water A Priority for Responsible Growth and Poverty Reduction: An Agenda for Investment and Policy Change," the World Bank said investments in water in developing countries will need to increase from the current level of about $75 billion a year to $180 billion a year. It said that in water and sanitation sector alone, the existing amount of investments of $15 million a year will need to be doubled in order to achieve the MDG of halving the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation by 2015.

The investments, however, should go hand-in-hand with appropriate reforms and apply to all areas of water, including irrigation, water and sanitation, water resources management, hydropower and environmental services, the World Bank said in a statement. Ian Johnson, World Bank vice president for sustainable development, said that the 3rd World Water Forum "can be a milestone in launching a new approach combining sorely needed investment with improved governance to harness the potential of water as a driver of responsible growth and of a better life for billions of poor people." In a press conference in Kyoto, Johnson said, "let's be pragmatic." There is a need to "take action that suits the circumstances of each country. The time has come to move beyond the ideological frontier and look at mixed solutions involving all key stakeholders: governments, civil-society organizations, communities, private sector and development institutions. There is no universal prescription." Estimates peg at two billion the number of people who will be added to the world's population over the next 30 years. That's on top of another billion in the following 20 years, most of whom will be in developing countries. In these same countries, 2.5 billion to 3 billion people now live on less than $2 (roughly P100) a day.

The report suggests an action-oriented agenda focused on increased investments in water resources and services linked to poverty reduction and the achievement of the MDG and reform, which includes sound management policies, laws, regulations and efficient institutions. However, the Council on Canadians, a citizens group present here for the weeklong forum, has denounced privatization. It said that "water is a public trust, thus it belongs to everyone. No one should have the right to appropriate it or profit from it at someone else's expense. Yet that's what corporations and investors want to do." If we put profit first, people come second," said Maude Barlow of the Council of the Canadians in a forum on public and private partnerships on water. Her argument was that if freshwater becomes a commodity, water will go to those who can afford it and not to those who need it. Water management will be an increasingly challenging task in Asia and the Pacific because of the growth in both water demand and population. The region accounts for about 36 percent of global runoff, water scarcity and pollution. Of the available freshwater resources in the region, agriculture consumes 86 percent while industry eats up eight percent and domestic use, six percent. Today, one in three Asians does not have access to a safe drinking water source within 200 meters from home. One in two Asians does not have adequate sanitation facilities. Ninety percent of people deprived of immediate access to water or sanitation are in the rural areas and are threatened by drought, pollution and flooding.

From ABS CBN News, by Rexcel John Sorza 21 March 2003

 

Budget Committee Head Criticizes Privatization

Today's privatization of state-owned enterprises is obscure and inefficient, according to Our Ukraine's MP Petro Poroshenko, chairman of the Parliamentary Budget Committee and leader of the deputy group Solidarity. But, the problem lies not only in the personality of Oleksandr Bondar, chief of the State Property Fund [SPF], but also in the approaches used by many government officials involved in this process, as it is not the SPF alone that handles the privatization. Poroshenko told journalists on Monday that presently many government agencies, ministries and departments "sell state-owned property worth billions of hryvnias through opaque procedures, without appropriate estimations and under the influence of certain political parties and factions." In regard to this, he said, "We can observe today what officials and what parties have the opportunity to uncontrollably manage the state property." Poroshenko emphasized that his committee is dissatisfied with the plan of incomes from the privatization being constantly unfulfilled. According to him, the Government should take serious measures for improving the state property management system, in particular parts of state-owned enterprises' profits should be directed to the state budget. He also said that the government should speed up designing legal documents to regulate this mechanism and make state-owned enterprise directors bear strict responsibility for improperly performing their functions.

From Forum, Ukraine, 5 March 2003

State Property Fund Anticipates Successful Privatization in 2003

The year 2003 is a promising year for privatization in Ukraine, according to the first deputy head of the State Property Fund [SPF], Mykhailo Chechetov. "There are good conditions for that," said Chechetov at the news conference Tuesday in Kyiv. Firstly, according to Chechetov, the improving political situation in the country as a result of the parliament's normalizing its work promises that this year's privatization will be successful. Secondly, the parliament now carefully coordinates all the privatization issues in close cooperation with the Cabinet of Ministers and the SPF, which did not happen for a long time until now, said Chechetov. He said this year the budget may receive a large amount of money from privatizing some very important sites, such as the Black Sea Shipbuilding Plant (Hr200 million), the Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant, the Alchevsk By-Product Coke Plant and the Crimean Soda Plant. "The SPF is preparing for selling the Dzerzhinsky Steel Plant for about Hr500 million," he added. Chechetov said that the SPF designed and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers four plans of privatizing the ore concern UkrRudProm, and the Cabinet will settle this issue jointly with the parliament, as well as the issue of privatizing the largest oil company Ukrnafta. "In this case it is not enough to have a decision of the SPF and the Cabinet of Ministers," he said. "This issue requires the parliament's support. A serious investor will not come to buy Ukrnafta unless the Verkhovna Rada approves of it and stops criticizing the privatization." Finally, as far as selling the regional power distributing companies, the oblenergos, the SPF deputy chief believes that privatizing them is untimely. In particular, he said, "When the hullabaloo about the exchanges fades away, selling the oblenergos will be much easier."

From Forum, Ukraine, 6 March 2003

Privatization Act "In No Danger of Revocation"

The decisions of the Constitutional Court are not retroactive and cannot revoke laws over the misuse of electronic cards, Parliamentary Speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov said March 7. The comment came a day after President Parvanov filed a claim to the Constitutional Court with regard to the malpractice of Bulgarian lawmakers who vote with cards of their colleagues. It is the duty of every Bulgarian lawmaker to vote directly in Parliament, the president pointed out in the statement, circulated to the media. He underlined that the practice is regulated by the Bulgarian Constitution and requested that court rules on status of laws adopted by using more cards. In the words of Gerdzhikov the president's move is not an attack but a warning to the ruling majority. Earlier in the week Bulgaria's rightist opposition party sought Gerdzhikov's resignation over "a breach of the Constitution." The right-wingers from the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) say that Gerdzhikov tolerated misuse of electronic cards in the automatic ballot counting system during a vote on controversial legal amendments last week. They allege the speaker allowed lawmakers from the ruling party to vote several times by using the cards of absent colleagues. UDF insists that this made it possible for the ruling party to override the presidential veto on the amendments in the Privatisation Act.

From KanglaOnline, 7 March 2003

British Bosses Slam Governance Report

Britain's top business leaders are opposed to recommendations to strengthen the roles of senior independent directors at companies. According to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), 82pc of chairman of FTSE 100 companies agreed or strongly agreed that their role as chairman would be undermined if the extra powers for a senior non-executive director were enforced. The survey was conducted in response to a report on corporate governance by Derek Higgs, a non-executive director at AIB. He suggested that companies should appoint a senior non-executive director who could have two roles; as back up if talks between shareholders and the chairman and chief executive fail to reach a successful outcome, and as an observer at discussions between the board and shareholders. "Business backs the broad approach proposed by the Higgs report but chairmen have got to be allowed to run an effective unified board," said Digby Jones, director general of the CBI.

From Online.ie, Ireland, 10 March 2003

Post Service Privatization on Track

Russian Post, the nationwide postal service established last September, will become a joint stock company next year and will go public in 2007, Communications Deputy Minister Alexander Kiselyov said Thursday. The change in the company's structure is part of a planned reorganization adopted in June to increase efficiency, speed and quality of the postal services. Under the plan, Russian Post will consolidate the country's 40,000 post offices in 82 regional postal departments by the end of this year. The joint stock company will remain 100 percent owned by the government for 3 years, Kiselyov said. Once the company goes public, the government will keep a controlling share of the business, he added. The Communications Ministry plans to introduce the necessary amendments to the law on postal services later this year to allow the change to happen. Currently the law does not allow privatization of postal service companies. Revenues from postal services reached 29 billion rubles in 2002, a 29-percent increase from the previous year.

Profitability was low, however, and hardly covered operating costs. Average wages in the industry grew 39 percent to 3,040 rubles, still 50 percent lower than the nationwide average salary, Kiselyov said. The CyberPost program, which was started in early 2001, has opened more than 2,600 public Internet access points with some 2 million users. Revenues from the Internet service were 37 million rubles ($1.2 million) since August 2001. On average, 200,000 people a month use public Internet access points, spending about 3.5 million rubles. The ministry plans to increase the number of high-speed Internet access channels from 83 to 208 this year and open another 400 public access points. In addition to Internet access points, the ministry implemented a pilot version of CyberPress, a program allowing readers in remote areas to access 84 periodicals via the web in local postal offices. The ministry also plans to install more printing equipment needed for the service, officials said.

From Moscow Times, Russia, by Larisa Naumenko, 14 March 2003

 

Privatization a Necessary Step for Profitability

Tehran - 'Iran News' on Saturday wrote that the decision of the Ministry of Economy and Finance to privatize the shares of the Sepah, Saderat and Mellat banks and leave the Melli Bank as a state-owned body has raised the question whether these banks will be actually privatized or in the process of privatization, turn into semi-government organizations. The Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance and the Managing Director of the Privatization Organization, Mehdi Ali Akbar in a recently held press conference in Tehran announced that the shares of the Sepah, Saderat and Mellat banks will be privatized while that of Melli Bank will remain in the government's hands. "Privatizing banks is one of the major goals of the government to reduce its size and to privatize state-owned companies," noted the editorial in the English-language daily. It must be noted that prior to the Islamic Revolution, save Melli and Sepah banks, which were state-owned, all other banks in the country were private, the paper examined. However, following the victory of the Revolution, all the banks within the country were declared state-owned as per an article in the Constitution, it noted. Unfortunately, the daily regretted, the past 24 years have seen Iranian banks being unable to compete with international banking systems which have been steadily transforming and making great strides. This has rendered the Iranian banks into huge inefficient state-owned organizations, added the daily. "The heavy responsibilities and obligations which the government set for the banks in the country's big development projects transformed the banks into unprofitable organizations," it noted.

It is to be noted that the government's decision to issue licences for private banks has seen the establishment of only four banks in the big cities of the country, added the article. These banks did attract the necessary funds required but faced many difficulties when they began to operate, noted the daily. One such problem was the appointment of retired employees of the banks from the old governmental system, it criticized. The individuals who were accustomed to the systems of the government-owned banks found it extremely difficult to detach themselves from the old banking culture, the paper believes. Another problem in the way of state-owned banks is the problem of bureaucracy which, unfortunately, has been transferred to the new private banks, it regretted. The over 20 percent interest rate in state-owned and private banks has hampered efforts for job creation and production, it said. This profit can be explained only in the business sector, it added. In the business world, risk is very high, but due to a lack of transparency in legal security with respect to banking deposits, the level of deposits at these banks is not very high, it noted. Therefore, urged the paper, the ministry of economy and finance must specify the obligations of the above stated banks that are to be privatized, it urged. But the pressing question is whether the banks will be truly privatized or, in the process of privatization, turn into semi-governmental organizations, the paper wrote in conclusion.

From IRNA, Iran, 01 March 2003

Netanyahu Intends Privatization Through Stock Market Plan

The accelerated privatization will partly replace the budget cut, and bring institutional investors into the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu plans to submit a new economic plan as part of a package deal. The plan will center on a massive sale of government companies through the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) and capital market. Netanyahu is thus adopting the plan prepared by senior Ministry of Finance officials, as reported in "Globes" yesterday. The plan calls for the privatization of all government infrastructure companies to the public through the TASE within three years, by 2005, according to discussions Netanyahu and Minister without portfolio Meir Sheetrit held with ministry officials yesterday. The plan also includes a comprehensive pension and capital market reform. Netanyahu wants to see institutional investors - insurance companies and pension funds - become more active in the capital market and buy the shares of the government companies floated on the market. Netanyahu and Sheetrit are seeking ways to revive the capital market and economy, and avoid a overly-large budget cut that would depress economic activity and growth. Sources inform "Globes" that the Government Companies Authority will initially focus on privatizing Bezeq (TASE:BZEQ), Oil Refineries and El Al, which are ready for sale on the TASE. Other companies that will be offered for sale on the TASE are Israel Aircraft Industries, Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), and Mekorot National Water Company, the last probably in 2004. IEC will probably be floated in the second half of 2003, after the company carries out structural changes. Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein, 3 March 2003

'Public Sector Cuts, Privatization and Reduced Income Tax'

The economic program outlined by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday is based on two major precepts - cutting down the public sector on the one hand, and enlarging the private sector on the other. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was a full partner to the plan and would back it all the way, Netanyahu told a packed press conference in Jerusalem yesterday. The program will be brought to the government next week and immediately thereafter, it will be put before the Knesset. Yesterday's was Netanyahu's first budget speech as finance minister and it received wide coverage in the national electronic media. Netanyahu took the opportunity to address the public at large, disappointing the economic reporters and analysts who had hoped to hear more technical details on the extent of the cuts, the expected growth rate and the deficit target. Instead, Netanyahu spoke in general terms, many of them vague, saying how much worse the situation was than he had expected and how difficult things would be in the near future, adding, however, that there would be improvement in the long run. He stressed the need to trim the large public sector, which employs 55 percent of the country's workforce - more than the norm in other Western countries. The private sector, which employs only 45 percent of the country's manpower and is contracting by 1 percent annually, was finding it too difficult to carry the full burden of the entire economy on its own, Netanyahu said.

The finance minister proposed two ways of cutting the public sector - reducing the number of employees so that they will go over to the private sector, and an across-the-board cut in wages - averaging 8 percent. He said the wage cut would be graded: The top earners would face wage cuts of 21 percent, while those earning a minimum wage would not lose any pay. Netanyahu said he had proposed a five-point plan: l Income tax will be reduced to encourage people to work. l A plan to encourage investment will be presented to the government within 30 days. l A tax will be imposed on foreign workers so that it will become more profitable to employ Israelis. l Investments in infrastructure will grow. l State-owned companies will be privatized. "Our economy is very sick. I found out how sick only when I came to the ministry. There was no money in the coffers. We have a NIS 30 billion deficit and it is growing all the time. We are obliged, therefore, to take immediate and painful steps that will not be pleasant for the citizens of Israel. We will experience a difficult period, but after that, the economy will stabilize and a period of growth will begin." He said every effort would be made to get the cooperation of the Histadrut labor federation and talks with Histadrut secretary-general Amir Peretz would begin this week. But if the Histadrut did not cooperate, Netanyahu warned, the finance ministry would have to act unilaterally, through legislation in the Knesset. Sharon said yesterday morning that, "under the present economic and military reality, there is no choice but to take drastic steps in order to maintain economic stability."

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Moti Bassok, 18 March 2003

 

DP Partners Forms Strategic Partnership With California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS)

Reno, Nev. - Nation's Third-Largest Public Pension Fund Teams With Top-10 Industrial Developer - DP Partners, a leading private industrial developer, announced today that it has formed a strategic partnership with California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), the third-largest public pension plan in the nation. CalSTRS is acquiring the interests of a fund sponsored by Lazard Freres Real Estate Investors L.L.C., a former investor of DP Partners. The joint venture consists of a portfolio of 105 buildings comprising 17 million square feet and 415 acres of land. The new venture is called DP Industrial, L.L.C., which owns and operates industrial properties in its core markets: Nevada, California, Indiana, Georgia and Pennsylvania and will pursue development opportunities throughout the United States. DP Partners will retain a significant ownership position and responsibility for management, leasing and development. The new DP Partners/CalSTRS investment strategy will mirror DP Partners' existing strategy of development in locations adjacent to major metropolitan areas. Through the alliance, the partnership anticipates developing and leasing three million square feet of industrial space annually over the next five years. "We feel fortunate to become the strategic industrial partner with this well-managed pension fund. CalSTRS has built their success on a progressive real estate management strategy.

We appreciate the confidence they have placed in our organization," said Michael Dermody, President of DP Partners. This dynamic public-private venture is unique to the financial real estate world because it provides a solid investment for pension fund recipients and flexible real estate solutions for the real estate customer. Focusing on what he considers the cornerstone of his company's success, Mr. Dermody added, "The big winner is our customers who will benefit from the additional resources we will have to serve their national industrial facility needs. Our portfolio is attractive because of its diverse and long-term client base. This is the next step for us as a developer and builds on our team's prior successful partnership with Lazard." "We are very pleased to have completed this transaction which allows our investors to realize the significant value that we have created through our partnership with Michael Dermody and his team," stated Robert C. Larson, Chairman of Lazard Freres Real Estate Investors L.L.C. "Over the years we have enjoyed a productive and profitable partnership, developing more than 10.5 million square feet of institutional-quality industrial product and generating returns that exceeded expectations." CalSTRS was advised by CB Richard Ellis Investors. Banc of America Securities served as strategic financial advisor to DP Operating Partnership, L.P., the partnership between DP Partners and Lazard Freres Real Estate Investors L.L.C. Lazard LLC served as strategic financial advisor to Lazard Freres Real Estate Investors L.L.C.

From Yahoo News, 6 March 2003

Survey: Private Companies React to New Governance Standards

Menlo Park, Calif. - A recent survey of privately held businesses showed 58 percent of chief financial officers are implementing changes to their own accounting and internal audit functions in response to those being placed on public companies. Media, Pa.-based International Communications Research conducted the survey for consulting firm Robert Half Management. It included responses from 1,400 CFOs representing a stratified, random sample of private companies in the U.S. with more than 20 employees. CFOs were asked, "In light of new corporate governance standards, what steps has your company taken or does it plan to take to ensure greater control of accounting processes?" Among the 58 percent who cited a specific action:·44 percent will review or change current accounting procedures. ·36 percent will create or expand internal audit function. ·23 percent will hire an independent firm for consulting work. ·8 percent plan to restructure executive compensation plans. ·2 percent are taking some other step. Of the remaining CFOs surveyed, 37 percent indicated they are not taking any of the above steps, and 5 percent do not know what steps, if any, they would take.

From Electronic Accountant, 11 March 2003

Business Group Pushes More Privatization of State Services

Lansing - Small-business owners say the state should begin acting now to fill the financial hole it is in. Lawmakers have begun reviewing Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The $38.6 billion spending plan includes cutbacks meant to eliminate a $1.7 billion deficit. The Small Business Association of Michigan wants to ensure that as the economy rebounds, government doesn't return to "business-as-usual state spending," said Barry Cargill, vice president of government relations. "We think there should be serious discussions now about how to structure state government in order to support long-term economic growth and prosperity," Cargill told the Lansing State Journal last week. To small businesses, that means taking on more government duties now handled by the state, said Michael Rogers, the association's spokesman. Billing and human resources are among services that could be privatized, he said. "We've always felt that if something can be done more appropriately by the private sector, then it should be done," Rogers said. Privatization could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing overhead and labor costs, among other expenses, said Joseph Overton, senior vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank based in Midland. "Not only can privatization work, but today it's the obligation of any public official to examine privatization of services. It can lower costs and increase quality," he said. The benefits of privatization are not guaranteed, said Mary Ettinger, president of United Auto Workers Local 6000, which represents 17,000 state employees. "There have been a number of different contracts that the state has entered into that we have shown would have cost less if it was done by state employees," Ettinger said, adding that in some cases, privatization has taken jobs out of Michigan.

From WOOD-TV, MI, 17 March 2003

Insurer Drops Privatization

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the region's largest health insurer, decided not to appeal Maryland Insurance Commissioner Steven B. Larsen's rejection of its proposal to convert to for-profit status and merge with WellPoint Health Networks. CareFirst General Counsel John A. Picciotto told the Maryland Senate Finance Committee that the company wants to "move forward by discussing how our company should look and operate in the future." The company is seeking to head off portions of a Senate bill that would mandate changes to how it is governed, particularly measures that would increase government control over the makeup of its board of directors. Larsen rejected the CareFirst/WellPoint plan earlier this month, calling elements of the privatization plan illegal. Virginia - ServerVault founder, president and chief executive Patrick J. Sweeney II stepped down Friday and will be replaced by Mike O'Brien, former president and chief operating officer at ZoomTown, the wholly owned Internet broadband subsidiary of Cincinnati-based communications provider Broadwing Inc. Sweeney cited a desire to spend more time with his family, and will provide consulting services to the company and remain on its board of directors. The privately owned Dulles company provides network and Web site security services. Primus Telecommunications Group shares switched to the Nasdaq National Market from the Nasdaq SmallCap Market Friday. The McLean company had been trading on the SmallCap since May.

Officials said the move to the national market would broaden its investor base. Ntelos, a Waynesboro wireless company that is operating in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is seeking to sell for $6.9 million its Portsmouth building that housed a customer service call center. The telecommunications company plans to sell the property to Tri-City Developers, according to a motion filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond. Ntelos bought the property in early 2001 to operate a customer service call center for its wireless business and to house a small sales staff and retail outlet, the court papers said. SLM, the Reston education loan company commonly known as Sallie Mae, plans a 3-for-1 split of the its common stock, pending shareholder approval. Shareholders plan to vote May 15 on the split, which would distribute two new shares as a stock dividend. SLM stock closed Friday at $112.86 a share. Sunrise Senior Living said it will expand its McLean-based corporate headquarters on Westpark Drive and add more than 140 jobs to the facility. The additional space will allow for the relocation of off-site corporate employees, in addition to the new space requirement resulting from Sunrise Assisted Living's planned acquisition of Marriott Senior Living Services Inc. Maryland - Magellan Health Services asked a bankruptcy court to authorize the company to pay up to $3 million in fees to potential equity investors.

The Columbia firm, which manages mental health programs, said in a motion filed with the court that it wants to pay a $1 million breakup fee, $1.5 million commitment fee and up to $250,000 in expense reimbursement on an equity financing deal for up to $50 million from Amalgamated Gadget and Pequot Capital Management. Magellan has agreements with 52 percent of its senior note holders, 35 percent of subordinated note holders and 45 percent of senior debt holders to support its reorganization plan, contingent on the company selling at least $50 million in new equity. Black & Decker agreed to sell its European security hardware business to Assa Abloy for $108 million. The business, which includes the brand names DOM, Nemef and Corbin, had net sales in 2002 of approximately $102 million. The sale is subject to regulatory approval and is not expected to have a material effect on the Towson toolmaker's 2003 results, the company said. Maple Lawn, a new housing and business community at Routes 216 and 29 near Columbia, has received county approval for its first phase of development by Greenebaum and Rose Associates. Development of the 507-acre property is expected to begin this spring, with the first business and residential lots available early next year. Maple Lawn will be built in several phases during the next decade. When completed in 2012, it is to include more than 1 million square feet of offices and 1,116 new single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums.

From Washington Post, DC, 24 March 2003

SEC Asks Markets to Review Governance

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday asked the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and other marketplaces to review their corporate governance practices in the wake of company failures and arguments about directorships. The request comes amid a row over an invitation to Sandy Weill the chairman of Citigroup and one of Wall Street's most powerful figures to join the NYSE board. He declined after the intervention of Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general who has pursued malpractices at brokerage firms. William Donaldson, SEC chairman, said that in the light of the number of corporate scandals since the collapse of Enron, "it is now more important than ever that self-regulatory organisations [such as exchanges] be examples of good governance". The SEC has been concerned for some time about the clubby nature of directorships of securities exchanges, which are not listed companies. The NYSE recently introduced stringent new requirements for its listed companies concerning the independence of boards. But Richard Grasso, NYSE chairman, said the measures did not apply to the exchange itself. Its board, which has nearly 30 members, is largely made up of Wall Street figures, representatives of listed companies, and a small number of independent directors. Mr. Donaldson, making an apparent reference to the anomaly at the NYSE, said in his letter: "Bottom line, how do your governance practices reflect those expected of corporations traded on your market?"

Several recent NYSE board members have been tinged by scandal or the excesses of the bull market. Martha Stewart, the TV lifestyle guru, resigned after being engulfed in an insider trading scandal at ImClone Systems, a pharmaceuticals company. And Jean-Marie Messier, former chief executive of Vivendi Universal, stepped down after being ousted from the crisis-hit media giant. The NYSE said it had already started reviewing its corporate governance structure. "We will continue with that process and work with the SEC on its findings," it said on Wednesday night. Nasdaq said it also welcomed the SEC initiative. The number two US securities market is searching for a new chief executive to replace Wick Simmons, who is stepping down later this year. The appointment is likely to lead to a substantial restructuring of the exchange, which is struggling in the bear market. Mr. Donaldson's letter was sent to a total of nine US securities markets. Their boardroom practices have long been the target of criticism. Nell Minow, editor of the Corporate Library, a corporate governance watchdog, said of the NYSE: "It's the worst of both worlds. It is a private organisation that acts like a government agency and has the force of the government. But where? the accountability?" Mr. Donaldson is a former head of the NYSE and one of the founders of the brokerage firm Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette - now owned by Credit Suisse First Boston. He gave the exchanges until May 15 to present the SEC with reports on their findings and on any proposed changes that needed to be made.

From Financial Times, UK, by Vincent Boland, 27 March 2003