ISSUE 48
February 2003
 
 
   
    South Africa: IT Governance in Its Infancy
Nigeria: Tinubu Calls for True Fiscal Federalism
   
    Philippines: Pimentel Bats for Federalism to Solve Muslim Rebellion
   
    UK: Chancellor to Champion Increased Private Funding for Public Sector
UK: Government Gives Online Security Advice
Italy: Federalism is an Irreversible Process
Italy: Federalism Must Be Founded on the Italy of 100 Cities
   
    USA: Bredesen Sets Ethics Policy - Most Items Based on Policy He Had as Mayor
Canada: It's Time to Reinvent Federalism
USA: California Officials Say Bush Policies Hurt State, Defy Federalism
Canada: Human Resources Development Canada - Government of Canada funds literacy project in Rimouski
 
   
    Kenya: Kanu MPs Lecture Narc On Governance, Secrecy
Nigeria: Youth Leader Urges Continuity in Governance
Nigeria: 'Good Governance is Critical to Development'
Nigeria: Must Governance Be This Expensive?
Kenya: Kenya President Opens Parliament; Promises to Fight Corruption
South Africa: DA Calls for an End to 'Corruption Circus'
Zimbabwe: ZCTU Tests Government on Good Governance
   
    Japan: Okuda: No Rush for Japan to Adopt New Governance Structures
Pakistan: Punjab Local Government (First Amendment) Bill
India: Andhra STD Booths Are E-governance Delivery Points Now
China: Chinese Official Vows to End Corruption
   
    Greece: Reppas in Favor of a Democratic Global Governance
Italy: Public Administration - Fini, Spoil System Is Legitimate
Italy: Public Administration: Berlusconi, We Need Team Work
Italy: Anti-Corruption Meeting to Be Held on Thursday
UK: Corruption in UK Motoring Industry and Inter-Governmental Collusion
EU: Plan for Corporate Governance Close
   
    Jamaica: The Policy Guiding Local Government Reform
USA: Local Government Officials Showing Improved Attendance
Jamaica: Elections Revive Debate on Reform of Local Government
USA: Ethics Need Rejuvenation
USA: Tribal-governance Bill To Be Introduced in Senate
Canada: Information Session - First Nations Governance Act (Bill C7)
 
   
    Nigeria: Civil Servants as Party Members
Angola: Fiscal Transparency to Top Agenda at Donor Conference, Analysts
Gambia: Civil Servants Clamour for Tobaski Loan
Kenya: Two Top Civil Servants Charged with Corruption
Nigeria: NLC to S/Court: 'Civil Servants Participation in Politics Commendable'
Kenya: New Public Service Boss Sworn in
Kenya: More Top Civil Servants in Moi Government in Court Over Graft
South Africa: Government Tightens Servants' Belts
Ghana: Civil Service Training Scheme To Be Launched
Ghana: Head of Civil Service talks to Civil Servants at Sekondi
Nigeria: Osoba Absolves Civil Servants of Corruption
Nigeria: Civil Servants As Members of Political Parties: Government Disagrees With Supreme Court
Zambia: Government Won't Effect Salary Rise for Civil Servants, Says Deputy Finance Minister Mutati
South Africa: Government Spells Out Plan to Trim Public Sector
South Africa: Public Service Tackles Challenges of Gender Equality
South Africa: Government Must Close Loopholes Within Public Service
South Africa: Excess Public Servants to Go
South Africa: Major Challenges Face the Public Service, Says Report
South Africa: Corruption in Public Service 'Serious'
   
    Japan: Strike Earns Kochi Civil Servants Pay Cuts, Reprimands
Australia: NT Government Aims to Reduce Violence Towards Public Servants
China: Chinese Premier Greets Public Servants, the Disadvantaged in Beijing
Japan: Public Sector Cut of Savings on Rise
Korea: Ambiguous Supervisor Explanations Upset Public Servants: Survey
Malaysia: Be Fair to Civil Service, Media Urged
Korea: Civil Servants Made to Polish up Ethics
Malaysia: Tests to Decide Pay and Promotion for Civil Servants
Hong Kong: 1,656 HK Civil Service Posts Substituted by E-government
Papua New Guinea: 'Merged Entity was Overstaffed' -PNGBC's Public Service Mentality to be Replaced
Malaysia: Take Up More Sports, Civil Servants Urged
Indonesia: Mega Slams Civil Servants Again for Bad Work
Singapore: Star Service Awards for 180 Civil Servants
Australia: Public Service 'Reform' to Cost Thousands of Jobs
China: Hong Kong to Cut Civil Servants' Pay in Two Phases
Malaysia: Minor Offenders May Do Public Service
China: Hong Kong Civil Servants Agree to Pay Cut
Australia: Opposition Blames Population Drop on Public Service Cull
Korea: 4% of Petitioners Offered Valuables to Public Servants
Korea: Survey Shows 1 in 25 Offers Bribes to Civil Servants
   
    Germany: Attack on Civil Servants' Privileges
UK: UK Shares Poised for Public Sector Boost on Monday
Ireland: 'Reliance on Public Sector to Continue'
UK: Government Attracts 12,000 for Civil Service Jobs in the North
Germany: Civil Servants Make Offer
UK: The Civil Service Riding Club, Which Was Based at the Royal Mews, Has Closed After 20 Years
Italy: Public Accounts: Civil Service Expenditure Did Not Go Over 50 Pct.
Italy: Stamp Dedicated to Civil Service
UK: Ministers 'Abusing Civil Service for Party Cnds'
   
    Israel: Treasury to Propose Slashing 60,000 Jobs in Public Sector
Israel: Survey: Israelis' faith in the public service
Israel: Number of Public Sector Employees Rose 2.1% in 2002
Israel: Israeli Lawmaker Opens Door to Gays in Public Service
   
    USA: Two-thirds of City Employees Sign Petition Asking Civil Service Board Members to Resign
USA: Put Ethics in Forefront of Public Service
USA: Selectmen Pay Tribute to Valued Public Servants
Jamaica: Public Sector Downsizing to Cut Costs - PM Appoints Team to Examine Restructuring Proposals
USA: Bill Aims to Overhaul Public Service Group
USA: New Head of Public Service Commission Is Quickly Confirmed
Canada: Ottawa to Revamp Civil Service
Canada: Federal Executives Welcome New Public Service Legislation
USA: Senator to Kick Off Public Service Stint
Barbados: Mr. Comissiong's Actions Reflect Badly on the Public Service
USA: Public Administration Receives $1.7 Million Gift
USA: Council to Hear Presentation on Civil Service, Merit Systems
Canada: More Immigrants and Anglos Needed in Civil Service: Facal
 
   
    Botswana: Privatisation to Increase Efficiency in Service Delivery, Says Nkate
   
    Australia: Australians to Receive Anti-Terror Kit from Government
India: Wipro Joins Global Think Tank On US E-governance Road Map
Japan: Okayama Tries Out 'e-Government'
India: Government to Start Rs 20,000 cr e-Governance Plan
India: Oracle India, H-P Set up e-Governance Centre of Excellence
   
    Malta: e-Shore Delivers First e-Government Service Developed by Private Company
UK: E-Government Global e-Government
EU: Focus on Citizen is Needed: e-Gov Report
EU: Businesses Reap Rewards of e-Government
UK: UK Ranked Eighth in EU e-Government Survey
Bulgaria: Establishment of E-government Discussed in Sofia
Italy: E-Government: Italy Forced to Innovate, Says Stanca
Ireland: Hanafin Acknowledges e-Government Delays
Slovenia: Government Aims to See 60% of Slovenian Households Online by 2006
UK: E-security Boost for Small Firms
Ukraine: Parliament to Discuss Privatization February 26
UK: Study Reveals Support for e-Government Services
UK: UK Playing e-Government Catch-Up
Ireland: Ireland Leads the Way With e-Government
UK: UK e-Government Falling Behind - European Neighbours Well in the Lead
UK: UK 'Lags in e-Government'
UK: Marginal Improvement for UK e-Gov Sites
Italy: Government: Stanca Says Bureaucracy Limits Growth
   
    Jordan: Minister of ICT Congratulates 450 Government Employees
UAE: Ministry, Dubai e-Government Sign Deal
UAE: Emphasis on Evaluating Next Step in e-Government
   
    Canada: Vaughan Tries e-Government
USA: Progress on e-Government Moves Slowly
USA: Online Calculator Computes Incentives
USA: Citizen 2010: Leading for Results, Governing Through Technology
USA: Personal Web Use at Work Offset by Online Office Work at Home
USA: Online Government Growing in Acceptance, Decreasing Costs
USA: Lieberman, Burns Seek Refunding of E-Gov Bill
USA: E-gov Projects to Get 24 Percent Less Funding in 2004
USA: Citizens League Report: E-Government Touted as Good for Budget
USA: Sugar Land Moves to E-government
USA: White House Comes Calling With Dollars for e-Government
USA: Congress Allocates $5 Million for e-Gov Fund
USA: Labor Launches E-Gov Plan
USA: Federal Government Gets Serious About e-Gov Wizdom Provides FEA Business Training for FEAC
USA: OMB Reads Business Cases for Next Wave of e-Gov
USA: Labor Unveils e-Gov Strategic Plan
USA: SEAGULL to Showcase E-Gov Solutions at Georgia's High Tech Day at the Capital
USA: Global e-Government 26 February
USA: Government Takes Piracy Web Site
 
   
    Malaysia: Mayban Research Maintains Buy Call on Public Bank, Public Finance
New Zealand: Deal Gives Some Relief from Double Taxation
   
    Italy: Public Finances: Baldassarri Dismisses Catastrophic Scenario
UK: Online Tax Returns Start to Take-off
UK: Huge Rise in Online Tax Returns
UK: UK Public Finance Figures In-line in January
   
    USA: Cultural Groups Vie for Millions in City Funding
USA: Reform on Tap for City Finance Laws
USA: Lawmaker Revives Water-Storage Proposal
USA: Report Calls for Wider Use of City Campaign Finance Law
USA: Protecting Seniors from Double-Taxation
USA: Duracell, Red Cross in Joint Public Service Effort
 
   
    India: Performance Governance, Self Appraisal Mooted For Better CG Standards
India: Government Body To Consider MTNL's Privatization
Pakistan: PC Realizes Rs 2.5 Billion Privatization
India: Oracle, HP To Set Up E-governance Centre
Pakistan: Government Gears Up Efforts for Privatization, Rs 2.7 Billion Realized in Five Weeks
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka DFCC Bank/Earnings: SLT Privatization Helps
India: Government Rules Out Privatization of Public Sector Banks
   
    Bulgaria: IMF Hopes Bulgaria to Close Key Privatization Deals by End-2003
Bulgaria: Rightist Opposition Wants Re-voting of Changes to Privatization Act
Bulgaria: Cabinet Troubled Bulgaria's Privatization, President Says
Bulgaria: Opposition May Approach Constitutional Court over Privatization Changes
Bulgaria: Parliament Moves to Override Privatization Act Veto
   
    Israel: Finance Ministry Proposes Sweeping Privatization Plan
   
    USA: Weighing Privatization - Critics Say Private Drug Plans Leave Seniors Paying More for Less
USA: Shuttle Disaster Came Amid Privatization Debate
USA: Firefighters Wavering on Privatization
USA: Pondering Privatization - Honolulu Considers a Private-Public Partnership to Manage the City Zoo
USA: NASA Privatization Raises Questions
USA: Duracell, Red Cross in Joint Public Service Effort
USA: Privatization Eyed for School Cleaning
 

IT Governance in Its Infancy

Johannesburg - IT governance is still in its infancy, with companies only now starting to understand its importance, says IT governance specialist Dr Marthi Pohl, who is working with professional services firm Analytix to offer IT governance assessments. Pohl says IT governance audits have mainly been conducted in major corporations so far, and many companies are still lagging in the process. "They need to understand the cost and performance benefits of properly aligning IT initiatives with business objectives." Pohl says good IT governance should encompass the strategic alignment of the IT processes with the business objectives, the delivery of value to the business, ensuring that all risks are addressed and ensuring that IT is managed effectively and efficiently. "In many cases, decisions relating to IT systems are still made by technical people, rather than including business management," says Pohl. "Communication between business and IT is not at the level it should be." Pohl explains that this often leads to IT systems not fully supporting the strategic objectives of a business. "IT has come from supporting business to enabling business."

She says Analytix will play a role in conducting comprehensive IT governance assessments and making recommendations. "Taking an enterprise-wide view of IT governance, we address the strategic business/IT alignment and look at what extent IT delivers business value, thereby complementing the COBiT framework. The IT governance audit also addresses the synergy between the critical IT processes. We also assist companies with their IT balanced scorecards." Leading South African companies are adopting the balanced scorecard methodology in the process of becoming more strategy-focused, reports Analytix. The IT balanced scorecard serves as a strategic management framework for IT governance. Analytix says IT governance is critical to an organisation's success; being fundamental for enterprise resource management and customer relationship management, key to recording and disseminating business information and ensuring that IT delivers quality solutions on time and within budget. The company's approach to IT governance audits is to optimise the cost and benefit of the IT governance process to companies by determining the level of IT governance in the company and ensuring that cost and investment is targeted at supporting the aligned business and IT objectives. For more information, contact Pohl at (011) 771-5580 or marthi.pohl@analytix.co.za.

From ITWeb, South Africa, 3 February 2003

Tinubu Calls for True Fiscal Federalism

Lagos State Government yesterday restated its call for the country's restructuring to pave way for the enthronement of true fiscal federalism. The renewal call came on a day the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na'abba lauded the matured manner the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Dr. Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora, had conducted the affairs of the legislative chamber in the last three and half years. Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who made the call at the public presentation of the book, "Mr. Speaker Sir!" a reporters diary, written by Vanguard's John Ighodaro to mark the Speaker's 50th birthday anniversary said only true federalism would promote the rapid growth and progress of the state considering its near-mega status. Tinubu, who was represented by his deputy, Femi Pedro, said the state was particularly lucky that people like Dr. Mamora were vying to represent the state at the Senate in the next dispensation, against the backdrop of what he considered Lagos State's neglect by the federal government since the relocation of the nation's capital to Abuja in 1991. He described the Speaker as a man of destiny, as he remained the only speaker of the State House of Assembly to have completed his tenure. Giving his brief remarks at the ceremony, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na'abba, praised the maturity of Dr. Mamora in his conduct of business of Lagos State House of Assembly.

He recalled the prominent role played by Mamora in his capacity as Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of the 36 states of the federation in resolving the contentious tenure of the immediate past local government chairmen. Na'abba, who wrote the foreword of the book, recommended it for policy makers and parliamentarians in the country. Reviewer of the 164-page book, Chairman of Guardian Newspapers Editorial Board, Dr. Reuben Abati, described the book as "a delightful and engaging" one, which is a human angle representative of Lagos State House of Assembly. "It is also a reflection of the many contradictions at the heart of the nation's question," he said of the book he equally classified as well organised book packaged in a reader-friendly manner. Dr. Abati recommended that a similar book be written about other state legislatures in the country, even though he noted the book should have integrated such monumental legislative events as the House probe of Governor Tinubu's certificate scandal and oppositions that greeted Dr. Mamora's elections as the House speaker in 1999, which were left out of the book. Among dignitaries present at the book presentation were Afenifere leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, Dr. Bode Olajumoke, Rivers State House of Assembly Speaker, Mr. Rotimi Amechi, Ogun House Speaker, Muyiwa Oladipo, Ondo House Speaker, Kenneth Olawale, Delta House Speaker, Basil Ganagana, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye and Night Shift Coliseum proprietor, Ken Caleb Olumhese, amongst others.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Kenneth Ehigiator, 18 February 2003

 

Pimentel Bats for Federalism to Solve Muslim Rebellion

Davao City - Opposition Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. Tuesday batted for a federal government to speed up economic development and to solve the recurrent Muslim rebellion. In a forum on Federalism held at the waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City, Pimentel said the shift from the existing highly-centralized unitary system to federal system would give the Bangsa Moro an opportunity to promote its identity and culture and economic development at its own pace without the need of seceding or declaring their independence from the republic. "Federalizing the Philippines is the biggest single push that we need to shorten the time to bring about peace and development among Moros and Christians more fully, comprehensively and substantially in our beloved country," Pimentel said. The senator said past and present governments tended to "oversimplify" the Muslim problem that has resulted in "shallow solutions that scratch the surface of, but do not address the fundamental issues inherent in the problem". "Our experience as a nation in dealing with the Muslim rebels teaches us that the use of all-out force against Moro arms has never brought and will never bring peace to Mindanao unless a comprehensive plan is put in place that would address not the seasonal, tribal complaints of the Tausugs, or the Maranaos or the Maguindanaos or any other Moro group but the fundamental grievances of the Bangsa Moro as a people," he said. The senator from Mindanao said the ultimate solution was for the Philippines to adopt a federal system of government and offer to the Bangsa Moro a federal state that would remain part of the federal republic. "The proposal to adopt the federal system of government is not meant only to provide the foundation for a just and lasting peace but also to provide an equal opportunity for the development of the other regions of the country to counter the perception, if not the reality, that Metro Manila the seat of the unitary system of the government today, is favored over the other regions in matters of development," Pimentel said.

From Philippines Daily News, Philippines, 18 February 2003

 

Chancellor to Champion Increased Private Funding for Public Sector

Gordon Brown today will champion the case for increased private funding of the public sector as he seeks to reassure markets that the economy and public finances can survive the recent collapse in equity prices. The chancellor, in a speech in London, will confound PFI critics within the Labour party and the trade unions who prefer to believe he is less enthusiastic about such private funding than the prime minister. Mr. Brown will, in fact, lay out plans to extend the PFI programme, with more decentralisation to remove restrictions from private funding, stating: "There should be no principled objection against PFI expanding into new areas such as the provision of employment and training services, the renovation of schools and colleges, major projects of urban regeneration and social housing." Mr. Brown, who is known to have opposed the establishment of foundation hospitals and the introduction of top-up fees for university students, will attempt to assure cabinet colleagues that he is not intent on asserting Treasury control on every aspect of public sector spending. He will also give a confident assessment of the UK's economic prospects, although independent economists predict his confidence may be misplaced, and back the market economy to help "us achieve our goals of a strong economy and fairer society". The chancellor, under pressure to maintain his reputation for prudence while the world economy is buffeted from economic shocks, will set out to demonstrate that he understands the difficulties facing "investors and consumers alike". He will say: "Indeed it is because we have always understood that monetary and fiscal regimes must work well in challenging times as well as good times that we sought to ensure that Britain is better placed that we have been in the past to deal with economic shocks of this kind and the ongoing risks to the global recovery."

From The Glasgow Herald, UK, by Catherine MacLeod, 2 February 2003

Government Gives Online Security Advice

New website for SMEs offers guidance, testing and free publications - Britain's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are being offered free IT security advice and publications at a new government website. The site, www.ukonlineforbusiness.gov.uk/infosec, offers general advice on security issues such as virus and hacking attacks, employee misuse, and security standard BS7799. It also links to Department of Trade and Industry security studies, free government publications and an online survey to determine how prepared a company is for electronic attacks. "We've aimed this at smaller companies as large organisations tend to have a more coherent security strategy already in place," said a spokesman for the Stationery Office, which developed the site. "While the site is structured broadly around the BS7799 standard it is meant as a starting point, and we will develop case studies, online forums and more help as time goes on," he added.

From VNUNet, UK, by Iain Thomson, 18 February 2003

Federalism is an Irreversible Process

Vicenza - House president Pier Ferdinanco Casini feels there is no need to fear federalism. He made this remark yesterday evening in Vicenza, during the commemoration of Mariano Rumor. "It is an irreversible process - said Casini - but it needs to give new power to cities and not just the regions. It would be problematic for it to create a new regional centralism, that would just create new obstacles".

From AGI, 18 February 2003

Federalism Must Be Founded on the Italy of 100 Cities

Rome - "The new Federalist state system, if it is going to stand on its own, must be founded, before the Italy of 20 regions, on the Italy of 100 cities", said Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, intervening in the 2002-2003 academic year inauguration of the Interior Superior school of Administration this morning along with Vice Premier Gianfranco Fini, and Virginio Rognoni, Vice President of the Magistrates Governing Council. "These are the pillars on which the modernization of administration in this country rest - underlined the Minister - And the goals of simplification, efficiency, and improvement of the quality of services rendered to the collective have taken on an instrumental nature in the action of our government and those of other European nations". The effort, concluded Pisanu, must be that of "managing to transform public opinion from handicapped to strong point to be able to compete in the global economy". It is on this matter that "the Ministry is called to carry out its institutional missions guaranteeing civil liberties and affirming democratic legality, valuing the various territorial autonomy and social forces particularly through the actions of prefects and regional government offices".

From AGI, 21 February 2003

 

Bredesen Sets Ethics Policy - Most Items Based on Policy He Had as Mayor

Nashville - Gov. Phil Bredesen on Monday signed three executive orders to implement what he called "the toughest ethics policy in the history of Tennessee" for top-tier government officials in his administration. The orders require disclosure of some financial interests while prohibiting a wide array of activities ranging from such broad generalizations as anything "affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of government" to the acceptance of gifts except under circumstances Bredesen listed in considerable detail. The governor also created a five-member ethics committee, which he will head, to review potential policy violations. He is requiring that an ethics "compliance officer" be designated for each department of state government. "Establishing a strong ethical code is the first step to rebuilding Tennesseans' faith and trust in state government," said Bredesen. "These new rules put in place a system that will help us prevent conflicts of interest." The new rules replace an executive order on ethics that was put in place by former Gov. Don Sundquist in April 1995. The orders Bredesen signed are the first that he has issued. The Sundquist policy was far less comprehensive than that ordered by Bredesen, involving just over a page of text versus eight pages for Bredesen.

But Sundquist did require disclosure of some financial interests that are not covered by Bredesen's policy. Sundquist required disclosure of all companies in which an official held $5,000 or more worth of stock or other business ownership interest. The $5,000 disclosure threshold also applied to "any business real estate" owned by an official. Bredesen requires disclosure only if the official's interest in a business or property exceeds 5 percent of the company's worth. The same threshold applies to real property. Thus, a person with a $1 million interest in a $100 million company would not have to disclose that interest under the Bredesen policy. Under Sundquist, the $5,000 threshold would apply. The Bredesen policy, however, goes beyond Sundquist to require an official to divest himself or herself of a business interest that "conflicts substantially or appears to conflict substantially" with state government duties. The policy includes holdings of more than 2 percent of a company's outstanding stock. Bob Cooper, legal counsel to Bredesen, pointed out that Sundquist's policy had no prohibitions at all - only disclosure requirements - while the Bredesen policy flatly forbids many questionable activities in broad terms. - Cooper, who drafted the executive orders, said they are based on actions Bredesen took as mayor of Nashville that proved to work well over time. Bredesen, whose net worth has been estimated at over $100 million, has placed his personal holdings in a "blind trust."

The new executive order exempts those with blind trusts from disclosing financial interests, so long as a copy of the trust agreement is provided. The policy applies to all commissioners, along with their deputies and assistant commissioners as well as the governor and 13 members of his staff. Other provisions of the Bredesen ethics policy include: Requirement that officials provide a copy of their basic federal income tax form 1040 or, in the alternative, a document stating their taxable income, including the amount that comes from property ownership, and the aggregate amount of income from non-governmental positions. Disclosure of any felony convictions within 20 years or any role in a lawsuit involving the state. Disclosure of debts of $5,000 or more, except those to established financial institutions or a relative. A prohibition against using any information obtained through government employment for private gain. A prohibition against use of government property for personal purposes unless "incidental" or available to the general public. A general prohibition on receipt of gifts valued at more than $50 from those involved in government actions with several exceptions, including "circumstances where refusal or reimbursement of a gift may be awkward and contrary to the larger interests of the state." In such a case, the gift must be disclosed within 14 days. Tom Humphrey may be reached at 615-242-7782.

From Knoxville News Sentinel, TN, by Tom Humphrey, Tomhumphrey3@aol.com, 4 February 2003

It's Time to Reinvent Federalism

I am surprised the media were surprised. That Wednesday's first ministers meeting on health continued past lunch, that is, and extended past some evening deadlines. And no one should have been nonplussed when Jean Chrétien and the premiers emerged without a signed agreement, in disagreement on the amount they had agreed to - and with dissenting territorial voices to boot. True, over the past fortnight, federal officials had been spinning the meeting as a slam-dunk, in light of the billions Ottawa would be dangling. And provincial sources, who usually serve as reporters' checks and balances at such gatherings, had been singing from the same song sheet. Premiers had divined that, except in extreme circumstances, they would not have the option of walking away from the table. A positive approach was more likely to increase the pressure on Ottawa to be generous; it would also create an image of reasonableness in the event of disagreement. But a formal agreement was never in the cards, even had Mr. Chrétien been less niggardly this week. On the eve of the last federal election, the Prime Minister handed more than $21-billion to the premiers, with virtually no strings attached. Several insisted they had struck no agreement, and still do. While this may strike many people as lacking in gratitude, it's the way Canada works. For the premiers to sign on the dotted line would be to end their dispute with Ottawa over the adequacy of health funding. And it would make them accountable for the quality of service. How much better to take the money and run, and promise to come back for more. For all their differences over health care, the provinces and Ottawa share one common interest: avoiding political accountability.

Had voters been present, Senator Michael Kirby's excellent suggestion to set maximum waiting times for various medical procedures would not have fallen off the federal-provincial table so quickly. While it's easy to blame them for our predicament, shed a tear for politicians at both tiers of government. They have seen the problem, and it is us. Health care, our top priority, is hugely expensive. Canadians want Cadillac service when we need it but are not prepared to pay the true costs. Each of us would pay an infinite amount to save his own life, yet we balk at paying the taxes necessary to provide the same level of care for our neighbours. While it's true we are committed to public health care, I doubt altruism motivates most Canadians. True, for some it's a question of (left-wing) ideology; academics make a strong theoretical case for health care as an important component of solidarity; and trade unions have a direct interest in a public monopoly. For most Canadians, however, the self-interest is less direct, though no less substantial: Each of us makes an intricate personal calculation, and we'll support the status quo only as long as there is no alternative that would serve us better. Aside from being their largest cost pressure, therefore, health care is a minefield for provinces. Roy Romanow, as Saskatchewan premier, paid a dear price for closing small, rural hospitals. Even changing service levels can be hazardous, as the case of a soon-to-be-recalled B.C. MLA demonstrates. For Ottawa, there is political opportunity in health care. Cuts in transfer payments are the provinces' problem, and federal ministers can pose as friends of medicare.

Officials, such as those who brought you the billion-dollar firearms registry, can prepare long wish lists without having to worry about accountability. Canadians who face long lineups, meanwhile, are worried sick that services may not be available when we need them.The time has come to consider radical proposals - a "grand bargain," if you will. The provinces should assume total responsibility for the system, and be permitted to innovate subject to the Canada Health Act. Ottawa should transfer the necessary tax points, equalized to support the have-not provinces. In return, Ottawa should take over responsibility for funding universities, and for the construction and maintenance of highways that are part of the interprovincial and international network. Both are vital for our prosperity, and spending has been crowded out for the past two decades by health-care cost pressures. Ottawa would still be able to spend voluntarily on health, including for medical research, while provinces could endow university institutes to reflect their special priorities. But the responsibility for providing service, and accountability for results, would be clearly defined. Dissatisfied voters would know where to turn. And, best of all, the exchange of responsibilities could be accomplished under the existing Constitution, thus sparing us additional first ministers meetings of interminable length. enspector@hotmail.com

From The Globe and Mail, Canada, by Norman Spector, 7 February 2003

California Officials Say Bush Policies Hurt State, Defy Federalism

Across most of the West, conservative Republican officeholders are applauding the Bush administration's proposals to open federal land to more local control, new roads and additional logging in the name of fire prevention. Not so in heavily Democratic California, where officials say the administration has repeatedly undermined the state's stricter environmental standards on everything from low-polluting automobiles to offshore oil drilling. They were particularly incensed when the administration helped prevent oil drilling off the coast of Florida, but tried to block California's review of 36 offshore leases because, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said, "Florida opposes coastal drilling and California does not." "Unfortunately, the Bush administration just doesn't understand California," said Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. "We believe you can have a strong economy and a clean environment. We refuse to sacrifice one for the other. We believe in protecting our magnificent coast, clean air, clean water, and a sensible approach to protecting our forests." Much of California's criticism echoes that of environmental groups that accuse the Bush administration of rolling back or proposing rollbacks of environmental rules, regulations and laws enacted by presidents as far back as Theodore Roosevelt. "You name it: forests, wildlife, water, energy, wetlands," ticked off state Resources Secretary Mary Nichols. "It's an odd blend of wanting to defer to the states, but in reality we have less influence." They say the administration is challenging decisions that previously had been left to the state, in what they call a perversion of the federalism usually championed by conservatives. "Ironically, this was a president who ran on states' rights - but it's states' rights unless they're different than what he wants," complained Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. She hosted a recent hearing of her Natural Resources Committee on the growing divide between California and the federal government.

The White House and other Western officials contend it is California that is out of synch, as the Bush administration tries to streamline regulations and find a balance between protecting the environment and the economy. "There's a very deep divide between that rhetoric and the reality of what we've been doing," said James L. Connaughton. The chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality dismissed much of the criticism as "politics as usual." Yet California officials are reflecting a more urban population and diversified economy than other Western states, which have long been dependent on resource extraction to drive their economies, other observers said. Wyoming and Alaska are thus more appreciative of administration proposals to open federal land to oil and gas companies to promote energy independence. In Alaska and Utah, officials cheered an administration proposal last month that could open certain federal land to new roads sought by state and local governments. Montana lawmakers are debating whether their state's environmental protections went too far in driving out mining and logging companies. And Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico and South Dakota see value in Bush's Healthy Forests initiative after watching devastating wildfires sweep through tinder-dry forests last summer. "I think most of the states in the Intermountain West disagree with California officials on a lot of things," said Jim Sims, executive director of the Golden, Colo.-based Western Business Roundtable. "I think there is broad and deep support across the West generally in the Bush administration's environmental policy."

Politics may play a role as well. Bush seems unlikely to win a re-election fight in California, but he needs to keep the votes of the other western states, which for the most part are Republican bastions. Paul Beddoe, who oversees public lands and Western issues for the National Association of Counties, said rural Western counties were delighted that Bush's latest budget chops money for federal land acquisition while boosting payments to counties with federal land. "All those little red counties that voted for George Bush couldn't believe what they were seeing," said Beddoe, referring to media maps showing Republican support in the last election. "This year, there's been a 180-degree turnaround." California has long prided itself on leading the nation on environmental issues, and part of state officials' frustration is with what they say is Bush administration interference with that effort. The federal government for the first time is siding with the automotive industry in opposing California's effort to raise fuel economy and air pollution standards with new requirements for zero-emissions vehicles. And California is among six states suing the administration for rolling back new energy efficiency standards for air conditioners and heat pumps. "This state is no different than any other state in picking and choosing when they like federalism. It's whose ox is being gored, frankly," said Robin Rivett, an attorney with the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation who often intervenes in environmental decisions on behalf of private property owners. "I think the average Californian would welcome a return to balance and common sense."

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA, by Don Thompson, 10 January 2003

Human Resources Development Canada - Government of Canada funds literacy project in Rimouski

The Honourable Yves Morin, Senator, on behalf of the Honourable Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada, today announced $28,665 in supplementary funding to the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR) through the National Literacy Secretariat. UQAR will be carrying out research to identify the factors that stop adults with low literacy levels from participating in learning activities. The organization will conduct individual, semi-directed and group interviews, and will identify three groups of interviewees: adults who have never participated in training, adult learners and literacy professionals. The results of this research will enable literacy organizations to improve their recruitment strategies and adult education practices, and establish organizational conditions making it more conducive for people with low literacy levels to participate. The supplementary funding will be used to include in the sample a dozen or so people who, through their work or their interest in job entry or re-entry, will add another facet to the information gathered from the interviewees. "Literacy has a big role to play in understanding the world around us. It also promotes personal growth and fulfilment," said Senator Morin. "The Government of Canada is proud to support this organization in its efforts to make people aware of literacy issues."

Literacy skills are linked to work skills, health and self-esteem. Higher literacy skills among Canadians enable them to participate more fully in our economy and our society. For instance, literacy skills help determine the kinds of jobs we find, enable parents to read to their children and help us understand technical jargon, allowing us to use tools and equipment safely. The National Literacy Secretariat works in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, business, labour and the volunteer community. The goal of these partnerships is to increase public awareness of literacy, help people share information, improve access to literacy programs, develop learning materials and advance research on literacy. This project support the Government of Canada's Innovation Strategy and more specifically "Knowledge Matters", a policy paper that addresses the national challenge of ensuring that Canadians possess the skills and knowledge required to fully participate in the knowledge-based economy. Funding for this project was provided for in the February 2003 federal Budget. This project has been reviewed to ensure compliance with the Department's administration of its grant and contribution programs.

From Canada NewsWire, CA, 27 February 2003

 
 

Kanu MPs Lecture Narc On Governance, Secrecy

Nairobi - Seven Kanu MPs and the party's Secretary-General, Mr. Julius Sunkuli, have accused the Government of witch-hunting. They accused the Government of selective exposure of those implicated in corruption over the years. They also said that Narc was running the Government through the Press with ministers revealing State secrets in complete disregard of their oath of office. The Official Opposition party officials said the Government was targeting Kanu leaders yet there were several people in Narc who are known to have been involved in dubious dealings concerning public funds. "The handling of the Land Rover scandal in the military was terrible with the minister concerned failing to consider the Armed Forces as an extremely sensitive department whose affairs are highly classified," Sunkuli, a former Minister in the Office of the President said. The MPs were Anthony Kimetto (Sotik), Nick Salat (Bomet), Jimmy Choge (Aldai), Charles Keter (Belgut), Gideon Ndambuki (Kaiti) and Patrick Muiruri (Gatundu North). They were speaking at the Machakos home of Mr. Mutula Kilonzo during a party the MP hosted to celebrate his nomination. The occasion was also attended by the Machakos Kanu branch chairman, Mr. Mulu Mutisya, and party officials Johnstone Muthama and Isaac Kalua.

Salat said the on-going purge on corruption seemed to be targeting the Kalenjin and that the move was aimed at intimidating and harassing the community. Keter said that the way the Government was cancelling title deeds was as if the previous government, which issued them, was illegitimate. He added that the on-going moves will lead to a crisis in the Judiciary due to an excessive workload. Muthama told the leaders that land grabbers were to be found in both Narc and Kanu and therefore the Government should not be selective as they go about exposing the culprits. "A thief is a thief irrespective of his/her party affiliation and the Government should stop targeting those in Kanu alone," Muthama said. Mutisya stunned the crowd when he told them that he had received orders from lawyers to surrender the Machakos Kanu office claiming that the property was not owned by the opposition party. "Former President Moi's government did not harass anyone and Narc should stop this witch-hunt targeting Kanu leaders and party property," Mutisya said. Former Nominated Kanu MP Grace Mwewa said Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile (Narc) had already starting sabotaging the projects she initiated and was now interfering with education in Kibwezi. She claimed that Ndile and his youths uprooted the sign board of Moi Girls Secondary School in Kibwezi prior to marching to the institution's offices demanding to see their books of account.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Wambua Kavila, 3 February 2003

Youth Leader Urges Continuity in Governance

Abuja - Nigerian masses have been told of the importance of continuity in governance. The explanation was made in Abuja at the weekend by a youth leader and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart, Mr. Josiah Damsam, at a youth seminar held to sensitise the masses on the importance of continuity. Mr. Damsam explained that "such development will allow for completion of ongoing projects set up by the incumbent governor and local government chairmen." Explaining further, he said if continuity is not allowed in the society, then there will be a lot of abandon projects in the country as according to him, "incoming politicians may not recognise the ongoing projects started by the predecessor." Mr. Damsam, who congratulated the PDP for its successful primaries, specifically lauded the efforts of Governor Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State. He praised him for setting-up a university in the state as announced in his budget speech last week. He also urged the people of Kaduna State to embrace peace at all time and to resort to dialogue instead of wanton destruction of properties when there is misunderstanding. The youth leader then advised Nigerians to vote for the right candidates irrespective of religion or tribe, noting that, "what we need is quality governance and accountability."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 4 February 2003

'Good Governance is Critical to Development'

Lagos - The United Nations has initiated plans at achieving widespread reforms and also the millennium goals in Nigeria. Etim Imisim spoke with Mr. Finjap Njinga, the Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Abuja on the issues arising. What is the new UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Nigeria about? Before now, each UN agency acted on its own and did not relate with what other agencies were doing. As a result, you could find different UN agencies doing the same things maybe in the same geographic area without a central coordination or collaboration. You could find an agency involved in a health project in a local area and another agency involved in another health project in the same area without knowing what the relationship is between the two projects. And yet these were limited resources being dispersed. So the need for joint efforts now is timely. First of all, what the UN brings into this country is principally expertise and the good will of the international community. Resources available to the UN are diminishing. Resources contributed by government either in its regular contributions or through voluntary funding are on the decline; the best way to use these resources is for UN agencies to get together, look at the areas they have identified that they want to work, look at the resources available and see how they are going to make use of these for maximum impact. The challenges of development are getting greater and greater. To meet these challenges in a world in transition UN has to re-engineer and overhaul it machinery of delivery. What specific areas will the programme focus on? The framework covers three broad areas. These are the promotion of good governance and human rights; reducing poverty; and reducing the incidence and impact of HIV/AIDS, malaria , tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

The issue of good governance and human rights in critical to development. Good governance is indispensable to creating an environment that can create any meaningful development. That is why the UN agencies in Nigeria are focusing on strengthening national capacity for promoting good governance and human rights and gender equity. It is hoped that this present efforts will use strategic means such as assisting towards legal and institutional reforms, promoting gender and female participation in governance, peace building and using information and communications technology in promoting popular participation. The main goal of good governance and human rights is to promote institutional reforms, support national initiatives to promote accountability and transparency in government and promote the enabling environment for sustainable development, including promoting dialogue, peace building and conflict resolution as well as the capacities of government institutions and the civil society, whose role is important in these key areas. The problem of HIV/AIDS is quite a serious case in the African continent. And in Nigeria there is great deal efforts to educate, sensitize and hopefully these efforts will lead to preventing the spread of the disease in the country where it was estimated in 1999 that 2.7 million people are living with the virus. How was the programme developed? Who were those involved in its design? I will give some background on how the UN Organisation had been perceived in he past within this context. For the past 15 years the involvement of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the work of the UN has been increasing. The series of major conferences that took place in the 1990s have benefited a great deal from NGO participation. This is primarily because these are organisations that have emerged from the grassroots. And they contributed a lot to the results of these conferences.

Much of the plans of action and programmes that these conferences adopted had a lot of NGOs inputs. This made Secretary General Annan to encourage governments to involve this sector in their development efforts. Generally the UN is viewed as an organization of governments. But it is generally accepted that governments alone cannot undertake the major development challenges that our countries face. And so more and more we look at the NGO sector as having a vital role to play. NGOs are generally independent of government. But being independent of government does not mean being against government policies. On the contrary, the benefits that this process can have is that the policies that government develops, either through the UN or not, have to be implemented. Government is a machinery but in the implementation process, if it is to succeed, has to involve those who are to benefit from the development effort. Citizens have to have a role to play in shaping this process so that when it comes to implementation, they will feel that they are as responsible as the government is. The same applies to the private sector. The UN used to be seen as an exclusive club of governments, a political organization that deals mainly with the big, visible things. But in our societies, both developed and developing, businesses are very important assets in development a country. They produce and provide jobs and they pay taxes. The laws that are made apply to them as much as they apply to other sectors and groups. And some of the rule and laws that are made at the UN apply also to the business sector. So there has been efforts by the UN in the last five to ten years to engage the private sector, make them aware that they also have a stake in the success of what the UN does either internationally or at the national level.

Take the issue of the environment, which is a pressing problem, be it pollution, erosion, or the depletion of the ozone layer, it is in the private sector that you have industries that produce and emit greenhouse gases. You have to make them understand the impact of the industrial activities they are undertaking. So we cannot look at the environment as something that affects governments alone. The environment belongs to everybody and all those whose social and economic activities affect the environment have to be involved in efforts to have a safe and sound environment, not only for ourselves today but for future generations. Why does Nigeria need this package now? Nigeria has gone through a lot of trying period in the last 15-20 years. The country has suffered from years of poor governance as a result of military rule. Years of military rule has resulted in the deteriorated capacity and weakened institutions. A lot of institutional mechanisms and also the capacity that should be in place to cope with the implementation of this kind of framework so it can be result-oriented have to be resuscitated and rebuilt and, where it exists, enhanced, strengthened. The three broad areas reflect the priority areas that have been chosen in Nigeria. These priorities vary from country to country. Look at the issue of good governance and human rights. You have a lot of human rights groups that have been involved in the struggle for the enjoyment of human rights. It is important that the institutions that have the responsibility to protect human rights be revamped.

They judiciary is one that needs assistance from the UN High Commission for Human Rights. The various government bodies responsible for either combating drug abuse, accountability in the financial and other sectors are areas that need a lot of work to bring the country up to a level where democracy will be strengthened and sustained. Poverty reduction is a broad area. There is the question of education - child education, girl child education. How will the programme be monitored and evaluated? UNDAF is a framework that will run from 2002 to 2007. During that five-year cycle there is going to be a mid-term review late in 2004 and early 2005 to see how well we are doing in implementing the contents of the new guideline. Has the UN collaboration been in tandem to have enough impact on Nigeria's development problems? Has the government continued with its commitment and readiness to work with the UN agencies along this line? How has this motivated other bilateral donors to assist in areas we are putting our meager resources? And of course within the UN system, and between the individual agencies and their government partners, there is going to be constant monitoring and evaluation of what is being done. At the end of the cycle of this first framework there is going to be another evaluation of how the framework has worked. And the lesson that would have been learned with the first framework will guide us in the second one.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 13 February 2003

Must Governance Be This Expensive?

The astronomical cost of democratic governance, especially in Nigeria for the past four years has been a source of serious concern to many observers. Discerning Nigerians are worried too, that despite the anti-graft stance of the federal government we fear that the system still permits many avenues for graft and waste. Though the machinery of government is oiled by top bureaucrats and seasoned administrators, the menace of hangers-on has resulted in bloated overhead costs. Too many committees established at the National Assembly without a commensurate output in terms of passage of bills, is one such problem. The other is the unwieldy number of supporting staff to ministers, and special assistants to members of the Executive. It is not surprising therefore that the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Committee (RMAFC) gave an indication of a possible downward review of the unjustifiably huge pay package of political office holders. RMAFC which is a federal government agency constitutionally empowered to determine appropriate remuneration for this category of officers says the review would affect office holders at all levels and tiers of government. RMAFC has taken the bull by the horn apparently bowing to public outcry. It should go the whole hog, considering the series of complaints it has been inundated with since the release of the excessive pay package. The National Assembly job for instance is, and should be seen as part-time. The members sit for at best, only 181 days in a year. That should inform policy makers to see the need to cut down drastically on its running cost. In this wise, we applaud the recommendation by the National Assembly Service Commission that the two legislative chambers should reduce their staff strength.

The planned restructuring workers at the National Assembly will in the long run, bring sanity to its spending. And it will be at par with what obtains in other countries where legislative houses work with small number of committees to save cost. For instance, in Argentina there are 41 senate committees while the lower chamber has 38. Canada has 13 senate committees to 20 for the lower house. In France, there are six senate committees and six for the lower house. The situation is similar to what obtains in Germany, Russia, the UK and in The USA. But in Nigeria there are 64 senate committees and 30 for the House of of Representatives. These, the Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission, Ishaya Akau has recommended should be reduced to 22 and 30, respectively. We see much reason in this because during the Second Republic, the Senate had 34 committees, while during the Third Republic it was downsized to 31. We hold the view that the time has come for our political office holders to face the reality of our prevailing economic situation and make the needed sacrifice. The culture of monetising the polity, encouraging fat pay packages and sustaining large number of supporting staff run counter to prudence and productivity. To effectively deliver the dividends of democracy to the electorate, all loopholes of waste must be plugged. There is no more auspicious time to do so than now.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria, 18 February 2003

Kenya President Opens Parliament; Promises to Fight Corruption

Kenya's new president, Mwai Kibaki, opened Parliament by outlining his government's ambitious plans for national renewal. He promised to personally lead the fight against corruption and restore Kenya to glory. Hundreds lined the streets leading to Parliament, festooned with Kenya's red, black and green national flag, cheering in support of President Mwai Kibaki. Kenyans have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the ninth Parliament so their new National Rainbow Coalition government can set about implementing the ambitious pledges on which it was elected just more nearly two months ago. In his speech, President Kibaki reiterated his commitment to creating a culture of zero tolerance toward corruption in Kenya. "In the past, some of those widely perceived as most responsible for the vice of corruption sat in this very house or occupied other positions of public trust," he said. "This is going to change. As president I intend to lead this change. Corruption, they say, starts at the top. Now the fight against corruption in Kenya will start at the top." Three anti-corruption bills are among the first pieces of legislation the government is expected to bring to the House.

Mr. Kibaki also promised to reform the judiciary, which is notoriously corrupt. "The integrity and the effectiveness of key institutions like the judiciary are essential to Kenya's economy," he said. "They are critical to the restoration of the rights and freedoms of our people. We shall therefore fundamentally reform the judiciary to ensure that its integrity and independence is once again guaranteed." One of the main reasons Kenyans were so excited about the opening of Parliament was to see President Kibaki walk and to hear him speak. There have been serious concerns about the 72-year-old president's health since he was injured in a car accident in December. Parliament was due to open last month, but it was delayed when Mr. Kibaki was admitted to hospital because of blood clots and high blood pressure. He has not made any public speeches since then, fueling rumors that he had had a stroke. The official opening of Parliament marked the first time that President Kibaki has been seen walking normally since the crash. But his sometimes faltering speech shows he has not fully regained his health.

From Voice of America, 18 February 2003

DA Calls for an End to 'Corruption Circus'

The government lacks ethics, moral authority and the political will to act against corruption, the Democratic Alliance has charged. The DA's Raenette Taljaard has urged President Thabo Mbeki to act decisively. "Sweep away the cobwebs of corruption and conflicts of interest that blight this government," she said on Monday in reply to Mbeki's state-of-the-nation address. Taljaard, the DA's finance spokesperson, said the president had emphasised the need for moral renewal, but all the public saw at the opening of parliament was "moral and ethical turpitude". 'The opening of parliament resembles an identification parade at a criminal investigation' - "They see at least four people brushing with the law or grabbing the limelight due to corruption charges and/or criminal investigation," she said. These included former Afican National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni, ANC Women's League president Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Deputy President Jacob Zuma. There was also New National Party leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk, whose party members accused him of knowing about a R300 000 "donation" from a golf estate development. "What type of society are we, and what values do we embody when the presidential ceremonial entourage at the opening of parliament resembles an identification parade at a criminal investigation?" Taljaard asked. This comment was later retracted. Yengeni has been convicted of fraud and has misled parliament; Madikizela-Mandela has been on trial for fraud and theft, and Zuma is facing allegations of soliciting a R500 000 bribe from a company involved in the arms deal. '

When the corruption circus rolls into town, everyone wants to get in on the act' - Taljaard said at least three cabinet members had been implicated or had been under investigation for suspected corruption - former defence minister Joe Modise, former transport minister Mac Maharaj, and Zuma. There were several other instances of irregularities in the public service, including claims against Civil Aviation Authority chief executive officer Trevor Abrahams, and the housing scandal involving Spoornet CEO Zandile Jakavula. "It is clear that when the corruption circus rolls into town, everyone wants to get in on the act. "But, instead of having an iron-fisted approach of cracking down on corruption or dubious practice, most of these cases were dispensed by a limp-wristed rap on the knuckles or inaction," Taljaard said. The NNP and the ANC accused the DA of cheap, political point-scoring, saying that its own house is not clean. ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said: "The corruption charge against Yengeni has been set aside. All the (other) cases are allegations until the courts have made their judgment." National Assembly Speaker Frene Ginwala told MPs on Monday that she had written to parliament's ethics committee "requesting to resume without delay their consideration of complaints against Mr. Yengeni, which they have suspended with the approval of the house pending the outcome of the court case".

From Independent Online, South Africa, 18 February 2003

ZCTU Tests Government on Good Governance

The Kadoma Declaration reached by the government-business-labour Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) last month and committing the state to good governance is yet to be signed because workers first want to test the government's sincerity on the deal, meeting officials said this week. The officials said a similar document should have been signed in November 2001, but was held back at the last minute after the government differed with labour over the issue of the rule of law. They said the state objected to proposals by labour that it should undertake to enforce the rule of law over a six-month period that could be renewed on expiry. "Everyone's view in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) is that they are afraid that government would not be keen to sign at the last minute, like what happened in 2001," an official at the umbrella Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) told the Financial Gazette. ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo and his secretary general Wellington Chibhebhe refused to comment on the matter, saying all parties to the TNF negotiations had undertaken not to discuss the Kadoma Declaration in the Press. Labour Minister July Moyo could not be reached for comment on the issue. An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however said leaders of Zimbabwe's labour watchdog were holding consultative meetings on the draft agreement with workers around Zimbabwe and would gauge the government's commitment to the Kadoma Declaration from its reaction to the labour forums. The government has used its draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to virtually place a blanket ban on any meeting or gathering by opposition and civic groups to discuss the country' political and economic crisis.

Although under POSA, institutional member organisations such as the ZCTU do not need prior permission to hold meetings, the police have in the past prevented such gatherings. "If the senior ZCTU members are not arrested, then most likely they would come back and sign the agreement," the official said. He added: "What labour is doing is they are trying to test government sincerity on the agreement. If leaders are not arrested under POSA, then the agreement will be signed." Trade union leaders have already met workers in several major cities including Gweru and Mutare and will today be meeting workers in the country's second city, Bulawayo. In the draft Kadoma Declaration, dated January 27 2003 and entitled "Towards a Shared National Economic and Social Vision," the TNF says the country's perceived high risk factor is blocking efforts to turn around the economy. A country's risk factor is the premium attached by local and foreign individual and corporate investors on the real or perceived risks or dangers of doing business in that country. The TNF said fuelling Zimbabwe's high risk factor was the failure by some institutions of government to function effectively, the mismatch between policy and action and delays in implementing agreed policy. A high level of corruption, inflamatory utterances by political leaders and lack of political tolerance also contribute to the country's negative and hostile image, the document says.

In order to promote good governance, the state is required under the Kadoma Declaration to "ensure the application of the rule of law and depoliticising of the institutions of governance". "(There should be) no selling of political party cards in government offices and (the government should) ensure that civil servants do not wear party regalia at work places," part of the declaration reads. Labour and business are also similarly tasked with ensuring factories and offices do not become political arenas. To project a positive image to the outside world, the government is required under the agreement to embrace political tolerance and to punish all those who use violence to advance their political cause. "The government must apply the law on those who incite and perpetrate violence," the draft declaration notes. The agreement says labour and business must also promote political tolerance and urges the three parties to uphold human rights. The state must under the agreement crackdown on corruption and blacklist perpetrators of corruption while at the same time improving working conditions and remuneration for its civil servants to reduce the temptation of corruption. The government's National Economic Conduct Inspectorate and other organs fighting against corruption also need to be strengthened, the draft Kadoma agreement notes. The country's high risk factor negatively impacts on society on a wide scale, including fuelling poverty levels and widening the gap between the rich and the poor the TNF says in the Kadoma declaration.

From Financial Gazette, Zimbabwe, 27 February 2003

 

Okuda: No Rush for Japan to Adopt New Governance Structures

Tokyo - The chairman of Japan's biggest business lobby said Monday that he was not aware of any rush by Japanese companies to adopt U.S.-style governance structures. "There aren't many firms that have adopted executive-officer structures. I don't think we will see any flurry of companies adopting the new method," Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, said in a news conference. Big-name companies such as Sony Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. have said that they planned to abolish their Japanese auditing systems and set up a U.S.-style corporate governance model with an in-house committee structure using independent directors. Japanese companies will be allowed to make the switch under a revision to Japan's Commercial Code due to take effect in April. "It's up to each company to make a decision," said Okuda, who also is chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's biggest car maker. He said that Toyota was not planning such a change.

From Automotive News, 10 February 2003

Punjab Local Government (First Amendment) Bill

Lahore - The Punjab Assembly on Saturday passed Punjab Local government (First Amendment) bill 2003 which disallows no-confidence motion against any district Nazim in the province till June 30 next. The bill was presented by Punjab Law minister Raja Muhammad Basharat before the House. The House rejected all the three motions presented by the opposition members which suggested that opinion be elicited by March 15 and that the Bill should be referred to the select committee of the House for further discussion. Members from the treasury benches opposed the motions. Law Minister Raja Basharat while highlighting necessity of the amendment said that the government wants to introduce the bill to strengthen the new system of local governments. He said that in the absence of the said amendment a `flood gate' of no-confidence motions against the Nazims would open up, as a result the people would be deprived of benefits of devolution of power. Raja Basharat stressed that the amendment was not geared towards providing a cover to any mis-governance or corruption of local governments.

He said that he had repeatedly assured the MPs that any misdeed or corruption of the local government functionaries will be taken seriously and dealt according to the law. Earlier, Acting opposition leader Rana Sana Ullah presenting his views regarding the bill said that the no-confidence motion was the only check against District Nazims and its removal or suspension would make the Nazims all powerful. He said that the Nazims have executive and magisterial powers, besides powers to write Annual Confidential Reports of District Coordination Officers, District Police Officer (DPOs) ,all Executive District Officers, besides giving recommendations for transferring these officers out of the district. The Law Minister while highlighting role of provincial government in monitoring the performance of district governments, referred to clause 4 of the Local Government Ordinance and some other relevant clauses. He said that the district governments would have to work under the frame work of provincial governments. The opposition walked out while the House passed the Bill with a clear majority through voice votes.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 8 February 2003

Andhra STD Booths Are E-governance Delivery Points Now

Hyderabad - In a last-ditch effort to offer good-governance at its citizens' doorsteps, the Andhra Pradesh government is spearheading the concept of converting STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing) booths into 'Service Delivery Points' (SDPs). The state government has recently issued an e-government order (e-GO Ms No.13) with an administrative sanction of Rs 3.75 crore offering either 15 per cent of the cost or a maximum of Rs 7,500 per unit as subsidy towards the cost of conversion. According to All India Sanchar Seva PCO Society president G Satyanarayana Reddy, Andhra Pradesh will have about 10,000 SDPs operational by March 31, 2003. "The state government is extending the subsidy to 5,000 rural SDPs and in urban areas, the society has taken up the work to convert another 5,000 STD booths into SDPs," Mr. Reddy told eFE. To offer G2C (government to citizen), G2B (government to business) and B2C (business to customer) services, a sum of Rs 50,000 is required towards new hardware and software, thus converting the STD booths into full-fledged 'service delivery point' envisaged by the government.

While the Andhra Pradesh government is extending the subsidy for conversion of rural STD booths, urban booth owners have themselves decided to set up SDP centres without the subsidy. The likely boom in operations is expected to make the project profitable. "We have already approached the banks and about 33 banks in the state have come forward to provide loan facilities irrespective of subsidy and there is no need for the STD booth owner to bring any collateral security," Mr. Reddy said. The society has, so far, enrolled over 400 representatives to organise groups in each urban locality having a population of over 1 lakh, he added. Each rural STD booth owner has to invest about Rs 7,500 and the remaining Rs 42,500 will be funded through a state subsidy of Rs 7,500 and bank loan to the tune of Rs 35,000. The SDPs will offer services to the customers through a revenue-sharing arrangement with government portals like APOnline, eSeva and eProcurement. The state government will issue guidelines on service charges to be collected by the SDPs. The SDPs may also be allowed to offer services for private portals and a separate revenue model may be worked out for those services, officials said.

From Indian Express, India, 16 February 2003

Chinese Official Vows to End Corruption

Wu Guanzheng was elected in November's Congress meeting - A senior Chinese Communist Party official has warned of the "extreme danger" posed to the Party by corruption. Wu Guanzheng, chairman of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, urged committee members to seek new ways to fight the problem. "All commission members must realise the difficulty, and raise their vigilance and awareness of the extreme danger of corruption," Mr. Wu said on Tuesday, according to the official newspaper People's Daily. There is mounting concern in China that official corruption is eroding the Communist Party's authority. In late January, a meeting of the party's key Politburo reportedly decided that officials at all levels should submit to public supervision. 'Harsh punishment' - Tuesday's meeting was the commission's second since Mr. Wu - also a member of the Politburo - was named as its head at a key Communist Party congress last November. "We must adhere to the rule of honesty and self-discipline," Mr. Wu told the assembled committee members. He urged them to "harshly punish corrupt officials" and "deepen anti-corruption work within organisations and enterprises." But he also warned them to "recognise that the struggle against graft is a long-term, difficult and arduous task," the official newspaper said. Despite the clear pressure on party officials to rid the administration of corruption, correspondents say that many within the party do not want the problem to be tackled in public. In his key speech to the November congress, President Jiang Zemin said that China would never adopt a Western-like system with separate organs capable of checking the main party.

From BBC, UK, 18 February 2003

 

Reppas in Favor of a Democratic Global Governance

The need for a new democratic global governance in which strategies at an international level will be combined with policies at a regional, national and local level, was underlined by Greek Labor Minister and EU Labor Ministers Council President Dimitris Reppas. Mr. Reppas addressed a conference organized in Brussels by the European Commission and the World Committee on the Social Dimension of Globalization. Mr. Reppas stated that such a governance will be able to face issues like the widening gap between the poor and the rich, the destruction of the environment as a result of the uncontrolled development, the cultural conflicts and the immigration flow increase. Referring to the world economy, he said that it should become viable mainly in its social and environmental dimension.

From Macedonian Press Agency, Greece, 3 February 2003

Public Administration - Fini, Spoil System Is Legitimate

Rome - The spoil system "is legitimate in that it is functional to the good progress of the institutions". This is the conviction of the Deputy Prime Minister Fini, who in his speech at the First National Conference of the Top Managers, emphasised that the spoil system is useful for institutions "only if practiced by those who holds posts of administrative responsibility with a distinct political valency, and in the functions of general coordination of the activities singled out in the ministerial directives or by the top political authorities." For Fini the political authorities have the "right and the duty" in relation to the programmes that the electoral consensus have assured them, to "indicate the aims of the administrative actions". But at the same time there is a "need for a reasonable degree of managerial autonomy for the various leaders called on to carry out the directives without the constant interference of political leaders."

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 4 February 2003

Public Administration: Berlusconi, We Need Team Work

Rome - The first aim of the Centre Right Coalition mission is "to change the state and therefore the public administration". Silvio Berlusconi confirms "the will to change" in the executive but to do so team work is necessary. The Premier during his speech at the first State Management National conference sent out an appeal: "It is necessary that the political side collaborates with the public administration and that you collaborate with us". Berlusconi says that he is willing to exchange opinions to make the public administration more modern. "We want to make your professionalism count more, eliminate bureaucracy, the excessive regulations, procedures so as to make the processes more modern and help speed up decisions and applications". Berlusconi defines this a "great challenge". "For this reason we need team work. Political opinions are not a part of this what really counts is that we are all part of the State". Berlusconi asks the managers to cooperate "so as to reach the results we promised" and that "this job is a mission and it is a socially important duty to be part of the active part of the State". For this reason Berlusconi is "sure" that "this great challenge" will be dealt with and there will be no "resistance to change". Berlusconi asked the managers "to help for nothing can be done without a vital public administration". The Head of Government once again stated his will to "work on the public administration structure" but asks that "all parts of the State cooperate".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 6 February 2003

Anti-Corruption Meeting to Be Held on Thursday

Rome - On Thursday morning, the board of directors of Anas (the Public Works Authority) will meet to discuss the anti-corruption measures to take following the latest string of scandals that upended the management of a few important regional departments. The intention expressed by the chairman, Vinecenzo Pozzi, in agreement with the Minister of Infrastructures, Pietro Lunardi, is to arrive at placing most of the Anas departments in receivership and to set up a sort of task force made up of 11 super-inspectors to control the structures and guarantee the correct proceedings of bids and their management.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 18 February 2003

Corruption in UK Motoring Industry and Inter-Governmental Collusion

We have just read the BBC Panorama article on corruption in the UK motoring industry and the failing government transport plan. We own 8 registered designs for UK number plates, which include flags and country indicators, they have been registered at the UK Patent Office in Newport Gwent since 4th.October 1995, the certificate of registration was issued on 12th. February 1996 -included amongst these designs is the Euro symbol and GB indicator Registered design 2053070 currently being mass pirated by the UK motor industry with the full knowledge of the UK government, we have written to all ministers including Tony Blair - who has spoken directly with us on 1 occasion. We can tell you more about corruption than you would ever believe - because, believe me if you own something that the government or motoring industry wants they will stop at nothing to get it. We have had our liberty and financial stability stolen because of these registered designs. We have taken our complaint to the EU, using the European Human Rights Act; The EU have taken the UK to court over this but the UK authorities are seeking to hush up what could in our opinion turn into one of the biggest scandals in their history, this is not of our doing, but it has simply evolved into this because they sought to take from us the registered design without any recompense, reward or recognition. Remember of course they consider that Labour is the anti sleaze party- and because of the corruption involved and collusion between government parties and the motoring industry, this matter could bring down this government, who would trust them once all the facts are in the public domain.

Below, is a copy of the latest correspondence to the EU officials dealing with this matter, you can speak with our advocate in Brussels (Jim Crocker on 00 34 646 856 390 )ref this if you wish to confirm the content of this email, but even as we send this we understand there are tracers trying to serve papers to prevent us from naming names in this disgusting business; You can try to reply to this email but our two previous accounts have been hacked into so I don't suppose it will be long before they hack this one too - please believe us that this is one huge sorry tale of corruption on a scale that is incredible to an ordinary family who simply came up with a good idea for a registered design. We of course now are painfully aware, after 6 years of hell what the consequences are if you dare to challenge the government and the motoring industry; we were simply a family who came up with a good business idea ref flags and symbols on number plates and those in power in industry and government have stopped only short of disposing of us, but I don't even doubt that as an option open to them now. Please check out the design registry ref to the designs in particular 2053070 you will find that we are genuine (David and Nansi Mottram).

For the attention of Sr. Martinez Godin; I have been advised that you are now handling our complaint and I write to confirm that the UK authorities have and are to this day encouraging mass piracy of our registered design no; 2053070 GB identifier and the European stars on UK vehicle registration plates. An associate of yours at the EU - Sr. Diego Canga Fano wrote to us after we had forwarded our written complaint to the EU commission, advising us at that time that we should await the outcome of an investigation into the matter by the British authorities. We abided by this and our only reply from the UK was that the Secretary of State (then Stephen Byers) did not agree that our design was the same as the one quoted in their Statutory Instrument 526 of 2001 - notwithstanding this is the wrong SI and relates to the creation of The Enfield Health Trust, the design now being produced on UK vehicles is identical to our registered design. Bear in mind also, that Robert Pick of the DVLA - I understand he is a policy advisor has clearly laid the blame at the door of the EU stating that the DVLA "were only following a European Directive". This is indeed after 5 years of reciprocal correspondence with his predecessor Stephen Clarke, senior policy advisor to Lord Larry Whitty who kindly legalised our design without any reference to us, and without our permission, in SI 561/2001. In fact Stephen Clarke always referred to the GB indicator and EU stars on vehicle number plates to us as "your design". He requested 2 sets of samples of our plates to be presented to the Transport department along with our business plan -all of which we complied with only to find at a later date that the consultation document prepared by Stephen Clarke reference to the UK voting for GB and the EU symbol mirrored in parts that very same business plan.

When the policy part of the Dept of Transport was moved to DVLA, it appears all the previous correspondence was buried in the archive system - along with us being buried in the Criminal Justice system in the UK to hide what was happening and indeed what happened. The design is a registered design and registered at the UK Patent office since 1995, it is shameful that one UK government department entices you to part with money and lures you into a false sense of security by claiming that your design is "safe" if it is registered then another UK government department comes along and clearly pirates that design - inter governmental collusion is what appears to have occured here to deliberately and dishonestly acquire something that belongs to us for their own gain and benefit. We understood that piracy and theft were criminal offences for which a prison sentence would result -misrepresentation too, in that one party fraudulenty misrepresents that a design is Crown copyright when it in fact belongs to another party. What we have here is clearly as has already been stated INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE involving the UK authorities. With the DVLA belief that the problem is "down to the EU and they were only following a directive" and their insisting on their website that our property is in fact Crown copyright (which it cannot possibly be) we believe that the EU should withdraw its directive Council Regulation No; 2411/98 with immediate effect and should consider the issue of an in, junction to prevent the further pirating of our design no;2053070 by the UK authorities and their select band of chosen operatives.

I am in the process of writing a book about this -PATENTLY CORRUPT- and it was via our personal experience and at a considerable personal cost not only financial but of liberty and life of the corruption that abounds if you hold something that a government department wants, or that will benefit financially a member or members of a select band to line their own pockets notwithstanding the abuse of system that occurs during the course of such action. It will also cover the use of European Human Rights Act to protect ones basic rights and property. In a nutshell this situation is the same as you or I setting up a business or website or other vehicle to offer for sale an item, say for example "Disney" or "MacDonald" characters or products in the full knowledge that they are protected by copyright; In short you would expect to be dealt with according to due legal process if caught doing this. Our Intellectual property is of a high value and as a consequence of all that has occurred we have and are suffering substantial financial losses; in particular 2,400,000 new cars are registered in the UK each year - and there are currently around 29,000,000 vehicles on the road. The normal royalty based on previous contracts that we hold awarded 1,60 euros per number plate produced. This is aside to the loss of rights and liberties that have been affected upon us by the actions of individuals caught up in this matter. We expect as European citizens that the EU commission prevent the UK authorities abusing our rights any further from immediate effect. A copy of this email has been sent by recorded secure mail to EU commissioner, with whom I have spoken and is aware of the matters recorded here (David Mottram).

From Pressbox.co.uk, UK, 16 February 2003

Plan for Corporate Governance Close

Brussels - As Scandal Unfolds at Ahold, EU Says Proposals for Tougher Corporate Governance Close - As one of Europe's worst corporate accounting scandals was unfolding Monday, a top European Union official said he was close to proposing tougher corporate governance and accounting rules. In a speech to the European-American Business Council in Washington, EU internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein insisted that the EU has not been slow to react to the string of scandals that hit U.S. companies such as Enron and Worldcom. "We are neither complacent nor arrogant enough to believe that they could not have happened in the EU," he said, according to a text released in Brussels. Bolkestein's speech was written before Dutch-based supermarket giant Ahold NV announced its earnings for the past two years had been overstated by $500 million, prompting the resignation of its chief executive and chief financial officer. In the wake of the U.S. accounting scandals, an EU advisory committee made some 20 specific proposals in November, including that companies should make their boards legally responsible for publishing accurate financial results. However, the committee chaired by Jaap Winter, former legal adviser at Unilever, stopped short of recommending that Europe adopt a single corporate governance code to replace the 40-odd systems in the EU, because of divergent legal codes around Europe. It proposed relying instead on best practices, hoping that the market would drive down the price of shares in companies that didn't comply. In Washington Monday, Bolkestein said he was "close" to issuing his proposals, but did not provide details.

He has said recently that self-regulation, "combined with disclosure and transparency obligations should be the guiding principle for any initiative in corporate governance." But he also suggested a "limited number of made-to-measure rules might ... be necessary, so markets can play their disciplining role in an efficient way." Euroshareholders, a lobby group that represents shareholders in 23 countries, presented its own proposals Monday to the European Commission, including stricter rules for analysts and stock exchanges, greater controls over the short-selling of stocks and more investigative resources for financial crime authorities so that they can crack down on insider trading. "It's naive to think that this is only a U.S. problem," said Peter Paul de Vries, Euroshareholders vice president. "European companies are also overstating earnings. Just look at Ahold." Julian Franks, a professor of finance at the London Business School and fellow at the European Corporate Governance Institute, said the fact that there have been fewer scandals in Europe does not mean Europe's rules are "hugely better" than in the United States. "The only difference is our incentives for these things is probably less than in the United States," he said, since pay and use of stock options is far less for European execs. However, a spokesman for the Dutch Foundation for the Investigation of Corporate Information in Amsterdam noted Monday that "Ahold is also one of the first big (Dutch) companies with big options schemes for managers." "They have an incentive to make nice figures," said Pieter Lakeman. Bolkestein is in the United States to push for adoption of new international accounting standards and to discuss the implementation of new U.S. financial regulations in Europe. The European Commission has proposed that all publicly listed companies in Europe be required to adopt international accounting standards by 2005, and has been working to promote convergence with U.S. standards.

From ABC News, 25 February 2003

 

The Policy Guiding Local Government Reform

Local Government Minister Portia Simpson Miller last week tabled in the House a ministry paper outlining her administration's local government reform policy. Today, we publish highlights of her presentation. The Vision - The vision is the creation and establishment of a new framework of governance for the management of the modern Jamaican society, with the following features: . Participatory: It will create the space for our citizens to become involved in the affairs of their communities as a right, thereby establishing a firm and transparent basis upon which our societal arrangements may be made to flourish. . Autonomy: There would be a clear defining line between the roles of central government and local government. . Accountability: The citizens themselves would constitute a mechanism to ensure efficiency in the use of financial and other resources that are available to address the economic and social development of specific localities. . Developmental: It will facilitate a process of development that makes for the creation of wealth and the reduction of poverty. . Empowerment: It will empower citizens and communities to take responsibility for the management of their economic, health, educational, cultural and recreational needs. The policy objective - The objective of the policy is the implementation of mechanisms to ensure the effective delivery of service to the citizens of the communities on a financially sustainable basis with the active involvement and participation of the citizens in keeping with the vision.

The policy provisions - The ministry paper proposes five (5) policy provisions: 1 Requires the local authority to create municipal management mechanisms to provide more effective management for discrete urban and rural areas (development areas) that have emerged over time within parishes across the country. These mechanisms would reflect, but not be limited to, one of the following forms and would be established based on the approval of the respective local authority. 1.1 Municipal status - 1.1.1 Municipality conferred by way of amendment to the Parish Councils Act to give the minister authority to approve the establishment of a municipal corporation for a specifically designed area, subject to affirmative resolution in Parliament. 1.1.2 The minister would act on a petition from the citizens of the area that has been endorsed by the local authority. 1.1.3 The instrument effecting the establishment would be a Municipal Charter, which would contain the rights, powers, duties and rules regarding the composition and operations of the municipality. 1.1.4 The municipality would be governed by a Municipal Council which shall be composed of the following: 1.1.4.1 A mayor, who shall be directly elected from the eligible voters who appear on the list of registered voters of all polling divisions, which fall within the approved boundaries of the municipality. The mayor shall not represent any individual electoral division. 1.1.4.2 A deputy mayor, who shall be elected from among and by the councillors who comprise the Municipal Council. 1.1.4.3 The mayor and councillors shall be registered voters who are eligible to vote in the municipality. 1.2. Town and area councils - 1.2.1 Establishment of Standing Committees of the Councils by way of resolution (As per city council procedure). 1.3 Business improvement districts - 1.3.1 Establishment of structures to manage business improvement districts and designated Special Improvement Districts (SIDs). 2. Specific definition and rationalisation of the roles and functions of central government and local government. This includes the establishment of clear rules of engagement and co-ordination between the two.

3. The establishment of dedicated financial resources to support the work of the local authorities. This will include the specific commitment of central government and the conditions that would trigger that support. 3.1 Dedicated resource Base, 3.1.1 Property taxes, 3.1.2 Motor vehicle licence fees, 3.1.3 Local rates, 3.1.4 Trade and spirit licence fees, 3.1.5 Building and sub-division approval fees, 3.1.6 Fees from other regulatory functions, 3.1.7 Municipal bonds, 3.2 Central government grant mechanisms - Example: Capital grant for public cleansing, fire brigade, welfare-related grants, etc., 4 All the management mechanisms must create space for the participation and representation of civil society on all local government structures. 4.1 Parish development committees. 4.2 Community development committees. 5 To initiate national discussions in order to determine whether the existing 13 local authorities should be rationalised or consolidated in response to the proposed new municipal structures and also in order to achieve economies of scale and greater efficiency. Operational plan - 1 Within 12 months, all local authorities will be required to develop a reform plan in accordance with the new policy guidelines. If this plan is not forthcoming from the local authority, at the expiration of the agreed time period, the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development & Sport reserves the right to intervene to establish such a plan. 2 Implement a pilot project of the municipality in Portmore in 2003. 3 Establish appropriate civil society mechanisms, inclusive of parish development committees, community development committees in the financial year 2003/4.

4 Restructure the ministry of Local Government, Community Development & Sport, within the financial year 2003/4, to: a) Co-ordinate the Local Government Reform Process islandwide. i) Reconstitution of the Local Government Reform Unit within the Ministry. ii Re-establishment of a National Advisory Council on Local Government Reform b) Facilitate islandwide consultants on the reforms, specifically the number of local government jurisdictions and their roles and functions. c) Facilitate the definition of the roles and functions to be carried out within the sphere of local government. d) Facilitate the capacity development of local authorities. i Refocus the Parish Infrastructure Development Programme (PIDP) to ensure that the infrastructure projects help to support the capacity development of local authorities and the civil society processes. e) Facilitate the process to establish agreement with the Ministry of Finance on the financial framework to support the local government system. 5 The Ministry of Local Government, Community Development & Sport will evaluate this programme annually and the policy reviewed at the end of three years. From Jamaica Observer, Jamaica - 08 Feb 2003 Governance - Tuckey urges local govts to monitor petrol prices - A federal minister has called on local government to take control of the rising petrol prices in country areas. The Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Wilson Tuckey, says fuel companies are now more transparent, displaying purchase prices on the Internet. Minister Tuckey says local government authorities can now work out the freight costs, and should act if outlets are charging too much. "It's now a local issue and I've been saying to local government in small towns, go and talk to your resellers, put this formula in front of them, assist them if they need a bit of phone conversation or something to tee up a freight contract to bring the fuel to them direct and get the price down," he said. "If the local resellers refuse then I think it's time the local government authority put a fuel pump in their depot."

From ABC Regional Online, 10 January 2003

Local Government Officials Showing Improved Attendance

The results are in: Government officials for the most part filled their seats at board meetings last year. The Observer-Dispatch's year-long look at meeting attendance in the Mohawk Valley showed there were many full seats. Members of village, town, city and school boards had the best records. Lagging behind, however, were members of some economic-development authorities. First, give credit where it's due: - Winter, spring, summer and fall, Whitesboro Mayor Richard Pugh and Trustee Margaret Stephenson made all 39 of their village meetings. Herkimer Mayor Mark Ainsworth and Trustee Katie Nichols missed just one of their 39 meetings. - Whitesboro Board of Education member Alan Swierczek provided stability on a school board that dealt with a lot of transition during the year. Four new members joined the board just since June. Swierczek was there through it all - getting to all 32 meetings. - Frankfort Supervisor Joseph Kinney and councilmen Emil Streeter and Joseph Annese each went 31-for-31. Councilman Michael Testa missed only two meetings. John Wallace, despite being struck by a car in May, missed a few meetings but came back strong, attending every meeting during the last part of the year. - Four of the nine Utica Common Council members and its president had perfect attendance. Four of eight Rome Common Councilors had p

erfect attendance. - On the Little Falls Common Council, three aldermen attended all 14 of the meetings, including Mark Ruffing. "This was my first time running for office and (perfect attendance) was one of my goals," said Ruffing, alderman for little more than a year. "I think its important for the people who voted for me to represent them." Utica Board of Education member Louis D. LaPolla made all 28 meetings. Five-year board member John Longeretta missed seven meetings, but said the information packet board members are given before the meetings is helpful for keeping abreast of what's been missed. "There are always issues (so) the big communication tool is e-mail," Longeretta said. "I can send messages to and (get them from) the superintendent. We also have the advantage of weekly packets sent to our home." He said that way he can form ideas for questions when he's not there. Board meetings are aired over Adelphia cable Channel 10, another good way of reviewing discussions, Longeretta said. More empty seats are found on the Griffiss Local Development Corp. and Oneida County Industrial Development Agency. In a couple of instances, board members showed up for barely half the meetings. Scheduling conflicts involving business trips or vacation time usually account for board members' absences, GLDC Chairman Fred Tillman said.

Some GLDC board members include Rome Mayor Joseph Griffo, Oneida County Executive Ralph Eannace and U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-New Hartford, officials who sometimes send replacements in their absence who are then considered voting board members. "Occasionally, people sit in on a conference call and are considered present," Tillman said. "Everyone is sent a packet regarding the agenda and other detailed information. We have to have a quorum, but we haven't had much of a problem with that. I can't recall a time we had to postpone voting." A number of people missed meetings because of illness. Ilion Village Trustee Lois Manley missed meetings for that reason, and Herkimer County Community College Trustee Robert Jones stepped down due to illness. The accessibility of modern technology plays a more significant role now than it did years ago, said David Treacy, assistant director of the New York State Committee on Open Government. But bodies right there in their seats are still key, especially when it comes time to vote, Treacy said. "Greater attendance is beneficial for the public, and the effective function of the public body," Treacy said. "The more members (present), the easier it is for boards to function and make decisions by a majority vote."

From Utica Observer Dispatch, NY, by Leha Byrd, 8 February 2003

Elections Revive Debate on Reform of Local Government

Montego Bay - The debate over the best way to make local government effective has been renewed here ahead of local elections scheduled to be held by the end of March. A perennial shortfall in revenue, the impacts of the downsizing of local authorities, and disputes over divvying up political powers are all contributing to revive a discussion that first began a decade ago. ''Local government as it's presently structured in Jamaica today is not being given the playing field that is required for it to work, and with the bureaucracy that is there, the local authorities find it impossible to do what is necessary to generate the funds that are needed to make it viable,'' says Desmond McKenzie, a local government representative from the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and a party spokesmen on local government. Many critics agree with McKenzie, and point to poor services like rough roads and extinguished streetlights as proof of the system's failure. But those in the midst of the process say reform is neither easy nor quick. Reform is happening, although the process may seem slow, says Andrew Farncombe, director of programming at the non-profit Canadian Urban Institute, which is working with the Jamaican government on a project to strengthen local authorities. ''I think that there have been significant strides forward. You see town hall-style meetings happening ...local governments are taking their budgets to the people for the first time, and ... the establishment of parish development committees, has meant that the average Jamaican has a better voice in local affairs,'' says Farncombe, an international expert on urban management.

Reform of local government started in 1994 under the ruling People's National Party (PNP), and included the creation of a Parochial Revenue Fund to channel dedicated funding to parish councils. Jamaica is divided into 14 regions or parishes, each governed by a parish council. But nearly 10 years after the reform process began, delivery of services through local government authorities remains uneven, and money is still lacking. The problem is not local authorities, says the government's senior consultant on local government, Keith Miller. The real impediment, he argues, is the continuing over-centralisation of governance. ''One of the reasons why the parish councils can't function is that too many of the decisions and resources and whatever they need to function are controlled by central government. When that manifests itself, we turn around and say, 'See, the local government authorities can't function so let's further centralise the process','' Miller says. The local government debate is not new. For decades, Jamaica, like many other countries, has been struggling to find a satisfactory method of administering and financing local government. Prior to 1973, local services were financed via local rates, which included separate taxes for water, fire, sanitation, a parish rate for administrative costs, and municipal improvement rates for special projects like road construction. In 1973, the government consolidated all those taxes except water rates into so-called property taxes. But rates failed to keep pace with increasing costs, resulting in ''the tax yield remaining flat for extended periods and declining in real terms over time'', according to one government analysis.

As a solution, the central government has proposed re-introducing local rates to fund fire services, waste management, and street lighting, on top of property taxes, and talks of introducing new loan facilities. But while the government has to help citizens understand that services are costly to deliver, higher taxes do not necessarily lead to improvements, says opposition spokesman on local government, Pearnel Charles. ''The record of not only the parish council but other areas of government has not proven that higher taxes give better service. What we have to look at is whether or not we are using increased rates to subsidise inefficiency,'' says Charles, a former JLP minister of local government. Part of the problem facing parish councils is the effects of the downsizing of local government under the JLP government of the 1980s, says Helene Davis-Whyte, general secretary of the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers. The JLP says that its decisions during the 1980s were a reaction to the built-in inefficiencies and lack of accountability and management capacity in the parish councils, but Davis-Whyte is one of many critics who charge that the capacities of local government authorities were severely eroded during that period. ''The service was practically decimated in 1985, and it's an uphill battle to try and bring it back to some semblance of what it was in former days,'' she says.

Even before 1985, adds Davis-Whyte, local authorities had financing problems because of the elimination of local rates in favour of property taxes. ''The problem with the local authorities began when the ability to raise revenue was taken from the parish council and given to central government to fund their operation à None of it is coming back to the local authorities and the parish councils are now having to bear the brunt of the citizens' concerns,'' she adds. Last year the government unveiled a controversial proposal to reduce the number of local government authorities as one way of increasing efficiency and cutting costs. Adding to the on-going debate, Local Government Minister Portia Simpson-Miller announced recently that each parish council will now have a year to choose its own plan for reform. Jamaica is just one of many countries debating the issue of local government reform. In New Zealand, for instance, a reform process begun in 1989 has reportedly improved the responsiveness of local organisations, while reducing the number of councils from 675 to 86, and the number of employees from 44,200 to about 35,000. In the U.S. state of New York, a task force is at work examining suggestions for local government reform. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the government of Guyana is working with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to improve municipal leadership and management, service delivery, governance and other matters.

From Inter Press Service, by Dionne Jackson Miller, 20 February 2003

Ethics Need Rejuvenation

As recent media coverage of Wall Street scandals suggest, ethics in America seem to be in a state of advanced decay. Reasons behind this deterioration are many, but some of the failure bears upon one of the weaknesses in ethics training. Ethics are perishable. In a way, ethics are like strawberries - a highly perishable commodity. Without refrigeration and quick field-to-market delivery, strawberries spoil. Likewise, ethics need constant restoration and reinvigoration to be effective. Without revitalization, one's personal commitment to ethics fades, and this lapse creates outcomes where people are harmed, reputations are sullied and society is ill served. Consider the results of a survey that looked at what individuals are willing to do in return for $10 million: 25 percent would abandon their families, 23 percent would become prostitutes, 7 percent would kill a stranger, and 3 percent would sell their children. Without rejuvenation, strange things begin to happen to the way ethics are perceived. Questions about ethics that were forthrightly answered in the past become the subject of intense debate. Should there even be a debate about whether misappropriation of funds is really stealing or whether under-the-table payoffs during business negotiations are really bribes? What about the common annual workplace solicitations for charities? "And what can we put you down for this year?" supervisors may ask. In some places a response of "Nothing this year, thank you very much" would be honest but unwise. Are such practices coercive or simply part of the give and take of business culture?

Many of us would appeal to the "Go along to get along" principle, going along with policies or practices that we sense are wrong, but offering no objection for fear of rocking the boat. We might gripe to coworkers but refrain from formally complaining. Others might also "go along," but they would retaliate against the perceived coercion, bringing home office supplies equal in value to the "forced" donation. Forced giving is not the only example of cutting ethical corners. Familiar business practices frequently cross the line into unethical behavior: o Violating client privacy through lax or faulty management of confidential information. o Looking the other way when executives or major clients disregard ethical standards. o Accepting gratuities from vendors with the silent expectation such favors must be repaid. o Ignoring offensive or hostile comments as harmless workplace chatter. o Covering up for fellow employees who are chronically late, lazy or wasteful. When combined with yet-to-be uncovered ethical dilemmas in new frontiers like global economics, Internet communication or science innovations, the challenges in ethics appear overwhelming. However, when well-intentioned and informed citizens come together for the common purpose of discerning and doing what is right, significant progress can be made. The mistake is permitting ethics to remain static. Like strawberries, unattended ethics turn dormant, lifeless and unresponsive. In some ways, it is worse than no ethics at all. With persons or institutions totally lacking in ethics, there are no expectations of moral virtue.

With those who pretend to be ethical, there is a greater chance for deception. For the first time, a national convention devoted to ethics is coming to Charlotte. The Association for Practical and Professional Ethics will hold its annual convention Thursday through Sunday at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. Between 400 and 500 ethics trainers, practitioners and professional ethicists from across the country will meet to hear presentations from experts and discuss common concerns in practical and professional ethics. The convention is hosted by UNC Charlotte and its Center for Professional and Applied Ethics. Holding a major ethics convention in Charlotte is a visible sign that ethics is not static here. It is not that Charlotte is more ethical, rather that Charlotte has a network in place to rejuvenate our commitment to ethical values. The fact that all our hospitals have well-functioning ethics committees is old news. Ethical lapses of public officials are not tolerated. Our churches, synagogues and community groups regularly devote educational programs to ethics. It should surprise no one that officials at Charlotte's public university decided to establish a Center for Professional and Applied Ethics. University leaders believe it is the responsibility of a university to provide the community it serves with not only technical skills but also the kind of values that contribute to the creation of a just and compassionate society. Thus, the APPE convention is simply the next logical step in the ethics rejuvenation process for Charlotte.

From Charlotte Observer, NC, by John M. Lincourt, 25 February 2003

Tribal-governance Bill To Be Introduced in Senate

Washington - Sen. Daniel Inouye said Tuesday that a bill would be introduced before the Senate as early as next week to better protect tribes' right to self-governance. "This bill will reaffirm the sovereign nature of tribes and will allow tribes jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases and laws," Inouye, D-Hawaii, said in a news release, adding that it could take several years to get the proposed law passed. He made the announcement during the midwinter conference of the National Congress of American Indians this week in Washington. Law enforcement in Indian Country has long been a complicated patchwork of federal, state, county and tribal jurisdictions where it is not always clear who can enforce the law. The bill is also aimed at circumventing recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that experts say have undermined tribal sovereignty, a tribe's right to govern its land and people. "We are deeply concerned about recent Supreme Court decisions which have clouded these historical relationships and blurred the lines of jurisdiction at the borders between the state and tribal lands," Tex Hall, National Congress of American Indians president, said. The bill offers hope of easing jurisdictional disputes, Hall said. "This is a great moment for American Indian nations," Hall said. "The NCAI has been calling upon Congress and the president to work with us to develop legislation over the past year." Contact Jodi Rave Lee at (402) 473-7240 or jrave@journalstar.com

From Rapid City Journal, SD, by Jodi Rave Lee, 27 February 2003

Information Session - First Nations Governance Act (Bill C7)

National Aboriginal Women's Association (NAWA) is hosting this information session so that you will be: - knowledgeable on the contents of Bill C-7; - able to partake in discussions and, - empowered to create your own position on the issue. Confirm your attendance with Shirley Gagnon by March 9, 2003 at 1-866-467-2522, ext. 29 Non-Political question & answer forum. (Mileage and daycare will be paid).

From Canada NewsWire, CA, 27 February 2003

 
 

Civil Servants as Party Members

The concurrent judgement of Justice Niki Tobi in the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court on January 24, 2003, has given civil servants in the country the leeway to be bonafide members of any of the thirty registered political parties. The Supreme Court judgement was consequent upon an appeal filed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against the judgement of the Court of Appeal which voided some INEC's guidelines. Specifically, Justice Niki Tobi ruled that guideline 5(b) which states that "a person shall not be eligible to be registered as a member of political association seeking to be registered as a political party if he/she is in the civil service of the federation or a state" is unconstitutional because it "offends the provisions of sections 40 and 222 (b) of the 1999 constitution." Section 40 reads: "every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests." Whereas section 222 (b) provides that no association by whatever name called shall function as a political party, unless-"the members of the association is open to every citizen of Nigeria, irrespective of his place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or ethnic grouping;" We agree with the reasoning of the Supreme Court on the subject matter especially as it allows all citizens to freely assemble or associate with any political party of their choice as enshrined in section 40 of the 1999 constitution.

We acknowledge also that section 222 (b) also mandates that no association may be so referred to as a political party except its membership is opened to every Nigerian citizen without prejudice to his "place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or ethnic grouping." Surprisingly, this important sub-section cited by the Supreme Court does not talk about the type of work a citizen does. We know that certain class of jobs are so sensitive and central to continuity of government that they could not be left in the hands of politicians. Civil Service job among a few other jobs is one of those jobs. We know that three uncompromising features of the civil service the world over are anonymity, neutrality and permanence. If Nigerian civil servants should become partisan, then, these features would no longer be sustained as civil servants will owe their loyalty and continuing stay in service to the government in power. Before now, some civil servants have been accused of partisanship. This judgement serves as an open licence to brazenly fraternise with parties and jeopardise the ideals of the civil service. According to section 1 (3) of the 1999 constitution, "if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void." We agree with the Supreme Court that guideline 5(b) is inconsistent with section 40 of the constitution. We humbly disagree that section 222(b) emcompasses civil servants or any other type of sensitive job officials as it is not expressly stated in it. Vanguard believes that since the decision of the Supreme Court is final, in the interest of good administrative governance in Nigeria, national assembly members should consider an amendment to this provision.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Chidi Nkwopara, 3 February 2003

Fiscal Transparency to Top Agenda at Donor Conference, Analysts

Angolan authorities would have to show a greater commitment to financial transparency at an upcoming international donor conference if it is to succeed in securing the external support needed to kick-start its national reconstruction programme, analysts said on Monday. Although an exact date for the UN-backed conference has yet to be announced, sources told IRIN that the appeal would likely take place at the end of March in Brussels, Belgium. Given the devastating effects of almost three decades of civil war that virtually destroyed most basic infrastructure, the government is now faced with the monumental challenge of rebuilding the country, a task requiring significant international aid. But analysts said that despite a broad international commitment to assist reconstruction efforts, donors were less likely to be as generous without clear signs of an improvement in transparency in public sector expenditure. "Donors will be looking at the government's reconstruction plans very closely. Of course, the reintegration of ex-soldiers and the resettlement of IDPs [internally displaced persons] are important elements, but certain macroeconomic issues need to be addressed before donors are called to the table to discuss financial assistance. Also, donors would like to see some improvement in the relationship between the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the government before the conference," Roger Gartoft, Sweden's ambassador to Angola told IRIN. Last year a leaked IMF document found that nearly US $1 billion disappeared from government coffers during 2001. The report added that there had been little progress in the areas of governance and fiscal transparency in Angola - especially over its oil accounts - despite encouragement and assistance from the IMF.

Joao Porto, a senior researcher at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies agreed that the government would be assessed on its efforts to curtail alleged corruption and graft. He told IRIN: "This time around the donors are likely to look at how much the government has contributed so far to its own economic recovery. On a macro-economic level, the donors will have to be satisfied with the government's commitment to transparency and good governance. Last year the reshuffling of key government posts perhaps signalled a shift in attitudes towards accountability." One shortcoming, however, was the lack of a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the government's programmes. "At present there does not exist any human rights framework in Angola to assess good governance. The best option right now is perhaps to leave it as the responsibility of parliamentary oversight. A closer engagement with parliament could serve as an effective monitoring mechanism," Porto added. Together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Angola and the World Bank, the government has been finalising its interim poverty reduction strategy programme which is expected to provide the overall framework for the conference. "Donors will respond to well-planned programmes. At the last conference in 1995 donors responded very positively. So although it is difficult to predict, we could see more than just 50 percent of the requested funds being met," UNDP Assistant Resident Representative Francisco de Almeida told IRIN. At the Brussels's donor conference in September 1995, the international community pledged over a billion dollars towards reconstruction. However, partly as a result of the country's return to war, donations were meagre.

From UN Regional Information Africa, 3 February 2003

Civil Servants Clamour for Tobaski Loan

Banjul - The annual one-by-six Tobaski loan scheme for civil servants is not yet in the offing, official sources have revealed to the Daily Observer. Speaking to this reporter at the Treasury Department in Banjul, an official, who preferred anonymity, told our reporter that they have not yet received directives from the Finance Department concerning payment of the annual Tobaski one-by-six loan to civil servants. Civil servants across the board are apprehensive that they would not benefit this year from Government's annual loan to settle their domestic needs. Burama Kinteh, a middle level civil servant, said the one-by-six loan scheme would help him offset pressing family problems. "I would be appreciative if I can get the one-by-six loan because I have a large family," he said. Alieu Njie, a junior level civil servant, told our reporter that without the one-by-six loan, most of them would not be able to buy Tobaski rams. He said the low salary they earn and the depreciation of the Dalasi has hit most of them, the civil servants, very hard. "We are appealing to Government to consider the one-by-six loan to help us meet the Tobaski expenses." A security officer, who preferred anonymity, said they are in dire need of the one-by-six loan and would be happy if it is made available. "We hope the Government will help us as the price of ram continues to increase." Several other civil servants also expressed concern about the development and called on the Finance Department to expedite the one-by-six loan scheme as the Tobaski comes in by next week.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 4 February 2003

TwoTop Civil Servants Charged with Corruption

The Anti-Corruption Police Unit went into action, hauling to court two senior civil servants and a contractor this morning. They faced varied counts, all connected to a multimillion tender for repair of a road in Busia District between 1998 and 1999. The former Busia District Commissioner Mr. Ezekiel Machogu Ombaki, now based in Mombasa, and Public Works Engineer Sammy Kiprotich Tangus, were charged with abuse of office. Mr. Jacob Juma, a director with Juma Construction company, was accused of forging official tender documents. The Anti Corruption Police Unit was also allowed to summon former Public Works and Housing Permanent Secretary Samson Teela Akute when he failed to appear in court. He will also face charges of abuse of office. The three presented themselves at the anti-corruption court in Nairobi to face the charges connecting them to the Sh166,330,424 tender for gravelling of Kiamaeti-Mungatsi-Buyofu Road. The DC was alleged to have informed the Busia District Tender Board that a waiver to engage in selective tendering for gravelling of the road had been obtained from the finance permanent secretary, and that the board was at liberty to award the contract. He allegedly committed the offence on October 5, 1998 in his capacity as the board chairman.

Mr. Kiprotich faced six counts of inviting selective bidding for the project, preparing two separate bills of quantities, clearing unqualified bidders, handing over the project to the company, issuing it with a certificate for payment of Sh23 million and uttering the same document to the ministry. The offences were allegedly committed between June and December 1998. Mr. Juma was accused of forging the same certificate. He also allegedly forged and uttered a bid document claiming it had been filled and submitted by Kondele and Sons company. The accused walked into the court at 10 am after being summoned by the ACPU. The were charged before newly appointed Chief Magistrate Wanjiru Karanja and denied the accusations. It was the first case of corruption that was being brought before Ms Karanja who has been transfered from Kibera law courts to head the Anti-Corruption court. There was an uproar among defence lawyers when the court ordered that each be released on a Sh10 million bail and a surety in a similar amount. Lawyer Patrick Kiage termed the bail as exhorbitant and the highest in Kenya's history. "Such a thing has never happened before. In fact no Kenyan can raise such an amount to stand surety for my clients," Mr. Kiage said, to which the magistrate responded: "You know there is the beginning for everything."

The lawyer argued that the bail term was even stiffer than the sentences they were likely to face if convicted. He said the accused were responsible people who would always avail themselves in court and appealed that they be released on personal bond. Mr. Juma was arrested on Friday and locked up at Kileleshwa Police Station in Nairobi. He was later released on a police bond and asked to present himself to court yesterday. When the court read the charges, the contractor who was dressed in a black stripped suit responded: "That is total insanity and uncouth". For his part, Mr. Machogu said "I am not guilty and it's going to be prooved soon," when charged. Chief Inspector Muriithi Mate said he was not opposed to the released of the accused on bond. He applied for one, uninterrupted week of hearing, saying he intended to call 40 witnesses. The case was set for hearing between March 31 and April 4 and will be mentioned on February 18. It was the second time that Mr. Akute was being charged with abuse of office. In December 1999 he was accused of having allowed the same company to commence construction of Lugulu/Makuselwa and Misikhu/Naitari roads between 1994 and that year, without a genuine performance bond.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, by Wahome Thuku, 4 February 2003

NLC to S/Court: 'Civil Servants Participation in Politics Commendable'

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has lauded the judgement of the Supreme Court that civil servants can be members of political parties of their choice. In a release made available to THISDAY and signed by Comrade Owei Lakemfa, NLC's head of information, the union said the judgement was a landmark that gives opportunity to civil servants and other public workers to actively determine their destiny politically. "It strengthens the democratic structures because the political actors now know that unlike in the past, civil servants are no longer going to be passive on-lookers." "This judgement will widen the frontiers of democracy in the country, expand the democratic space and ensure a level playing field for all Nigerians irrespective of gender, ethnic origins or means of income," the statement noted. It stressed that workers over the decades have always held that electoral guidelines such as the just nullified INEC guidelines, which barred civil servants from holding membership of political parties, is a denial of fundamental human rights. "Civil servants are first citizens with basic rights before they are workers, so they have the fundamental right to belong to associations including political parties of their choice as guaranteed under sections 40 and 222(b) of the Constitution." "The voice of labour which has been muffled by narrow political interest until now is, why should politics be the exclusive domain of self styled "professional politicians", businessmen and employers to the exclusion of workers. If an employer can form or belong to a political party of his choice, why not the employee? Why is it only the employer or jobless that can vote or be voted for while the civil servant can only vote but not be voted for?" it queried. NLC said the judgement is memorable and has demonstrated that the apex court is courageous and inventive, noting that the Supreme Court has shown a marked departure from the past that is "replete with injustices wrapped in precedents."

From This Day, Nigeria, 4 February 2003

New Public Service Boss Sworn in

Nairobi - The swearing in of Ambassador Francis Muthaura as head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, was officially conducted today at State House Nairobi. The ceremony was witnessed by the Head of State, President Mwai Kibaki. Ambassador Muthaura becomes the new head of public service and secretary to the cabinet after Dr Sally Kosgei, following the recent changes effected by President Kibaki in strengthening his government. He was the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, incharge of Provincial Administration and National security. President Kibaki had promised that merit and professionalism will be the guiding factors in the selection of individuals who will be charged with the responsibilities of running the government.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Keya Lucas, 5 February 2003

More Top Civil Servants in Moi Government in Court Over Graft

Charges of abuse of office were today prefered against former Kenyatta National Hospital Director, Dr Hosea Waweru and a former permanent secretary Samson Akute. This was the second time the two former top officials were facing similar charges. The previous day Mombasa District Commissioner Ezekiel Machogu Ombaki, a senior engineer in the Ministry of Roads and Public Works Sammy Kiprotich Tangus and a construction company director Jacob Juma were charged in the same court with abuse of office and forgery of documents. Dr Waweru who was sacked on March 9 last year, was charged with another case of abuse of office, a similar offence which he is already being tried in the anti-corruption court. Mr. Akute, a former Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Housing was brought to the anti-corruption court and also faced charges of abuse of office. The former PS had earlier been summoned by the Anti-Corruption Police Unit to the Integrity Centre, Nairobi, where he recorded a statetement before being taken to court. Dr Waweru appeared in court charged together with the former KNH chief legal officer Joram Mwenda Quantai. The two presented themselves before Chief Magistrate Wanjiru Karanja and denied seven counts linking them to a Sh256,471,921.84 ($3,206,250) tender awarded to Philips Medical Systems Nederlands. Dr. Waweru was accused of authorising the payment of Ksh 34,587,628.80 ($312,500) to the company for supply of hospital equipment, disregarding government audit regulations. He allegedly authorised payments of another Sh4,103,212 ($51,250) to Achelis Kenya Ltd. The court heard that Dr Waweru also irregularly, signed the contract between the hospital and the first company for supply of medical equipment, and that the payments were paid while an appeal against the awards were pending in the Public Procurement Complaints Review and Appeals Board. The offences were allegedly committed between October and December 2001.

Mr. Mwenda faced three counts of facilitating the signing of the contracts and the payments. In the first case filed on June 25 last year, Dr Waweru is charged alongside four other senior managers of the hospital. He is accused of authorising payment of duty and Value Added Tax of Sh5,328,667 ($66,250) to High Voltage Communications in February 2001. He is also alleged to have signed the contract between KNH and the company for supply of laundry machinery, and making an addition that provided payment of 80 per cent to the firm. The matter will be mentioned on February 17. Defence counsels John Mureithi and Anthony Lubellela pleaded with the court to release the accused on free bond. Mr. Mureithi who represented for Dr Waweru, said his client had obeyed all the court orders in the first matter and has reported promptly in court for all the hearings. "He is out on a substantive Sh2 million bond and two sureties in a similar amount, and the court terms have even allowed him to travel abroad," Mr. Mureithi told the magistrate. The lawyer added that Dr Waweru had cooperated fully with the investigating officers and honoured all police summons. He was out on Sh10,000 police bond. Mr. Lubullela argued that Mr. Mwenda was an advocate of the High Court and he was not likely to abscond. The prosecutor, Chief Inspector Muriithi Mate did not oppose the bail. He appealed to the court to set aside two days for the hearing, saying he would call 22 witnesses. The two were released on Sh2 million ($25,000) bond and one surety in a similar amount. The hearing was set for April 7 and 8. Mr Akute who looked dejected, was taken to court by the ACPU officers who had earlier interogated him at the Integrity Centre headquarters.

He denied having irregularly issued a letter awarding a Sh166,330,424 ($2,078,700) tender to Juma Construction Company for gravelling of the Kimaeti-Mungatsi-Buyofu Road in Busia District. The offence was allegedly committed on October 14, 1998. The case will be heard alongside that of three others who on Tuesday denied various charges linking them to the same contract. The court released each of the three on Sh10 million ($125,000) bond causing an uproar among the defence lawyers. They termed the bond as exorbitant and the the highest in Kenyan's history. Chief Magistrate Wanjiru Karanja however overruled them and maintained that they pay the bond or remain in custody. She also allowed the police to summon Mr. Akute when he failed to appear in court with the rest. However, his lawyer Mr. Mohammed Nyaoga claimed that the former PS had never been notified of the pending trial. "My client only received a phone call from the police," he told the court. "He was upcountry and only learned of the summon through the media." He said his client had never disobeyed police or court orders before, and pleaded that he be released on bond. Ms Karanja observed that the accused was only facing one charge and ordered that he be released on Sh2million bond with one surety in a similar amount. The case will be heard from March 31 to April 4.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, by Wahome Thuku, 5 February 2003

Government Tightens Servants' Belts

Pretoria - Public servants could work for up to 16 years to reach the highest scale in a salary bracket, and will not be able to pocket more money unless they are appointed to more senior positions. These scale promotions will no longer be automatic, as in the past, but will be considered on the grounds of an individual's number of years in service and performance. The regulations are included in the public service's new salary increase system that will be implemented on July 1. Public service labour unions were notified of the decision last week. Earlier talks between public service unions and government about the new system deadlocked. Government decided to unilaterally implement its last offer under the Civil Service Act because it does not reduce existing benefits. The regulations are applicable to all public servants, members of the defence force and employees of the department of correctional services. This system will replace the rank and file promotion system that was scrapped about three years ago. This means that the once-off bonus of R850 that public servants received over the past two years to compensate for the lack of a promotion system will also fall away. Officials will be evaluated every year from April 1 to March 30 to determine whether they are eligible for a scale increase. This means officials appointed on May 1 would have to wait 23 months before they are eligible for an increase. The departments involved reserve the right to apply salary increases through a service delivery system on condition that their salary accounts do not increase by more than 1% per year. Officials, whose current salary levels are higher than the top of their salary bracket, will not be considered for salary increases. They will receive only the annual public service increase.

From News24, South Africa, 10 February 2003

Civil Service Training Scheme To Be Launched

A Civil Service Scheme meant to take care of the training of civil servants is to be launched this year. It is aimed at improving the outlook of the civil service, increase productivity and improve conditions of service. Dr. Alex Glover Quartey, Head of the Civil Service announced this at a forum organised to interact with civil servants in the Western Region. According to him, the service had been bedeviled with problems as a result of lack of training and other negative practices.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 12 February 2003

Head of Civil Service talks to Civil Servants at Sekondi

Dr Alex Glover-Quartey, Head of the Civil Service, on Monday reminded civil servants that they formed part of the government and must therefore actively support the implementation of national policies. Speaking at a meeting with civil servants at Sekondi, he noted that civil servants determined the failure and success of government policies and advised them to do everything within their power to ensure that policies achieved desired objectives. Dr Glover-Quartey said ''If Ghana is to develop, workers, particularly civil servants, must positively change their attitude to work and learn to use available resources for the benefit of the country.'' The Head of the Civil Service said he was determined to build a new image for the Service and to improve the conditions of workers and their remuneration. Dr Glover-Quartey said ''I am going to launch a training scheme for all categories of civil servants, who would be placed in positions where they would be useful to the public after their training.'' He said he had the welfare of the civil servants at heart and would not allow workers to go on strike before meeting their legitimate demands. The Head of the Civil Service, however said, ''those who continue to be lazy, absent themselves from work and get drunk while on duty would be dealt with.''

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 12 February 2003

Osoba Absolves Civil Servants of Corruption

Lagos - Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba has absolved civil servants in the state of involvement in bribery and corruption. Speaking during an Ogun Radio and Televison programme "Ona Abayo," the Governor said that he has never received any report of civil servants soliciting gratification on the performance of their duties particularly relating toe payment of goods and services. The Governor however said that there was nothing wrong for anybody to show appreciation or extend goodwill to civil servants who they feel assisted them in one way or the other. Chief Osoba said that he has enjoyed enormous co-operation from the civil servants in all we have been able to achieve in office stressing that workers in the state have shown dedication to duty. On his part the governor said that he was not owing any worker in the state adding that he had paid arrears of leave bonus dating back to 1997 till 2001 for which he said he has just released N35 million. He said that the government would lift the embargo on employment after full computerisation of the service record of all civil servants to prevent the incidence of "ghost workers" and promote efficiency.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 13 January 2003

Civil Servants As Members of Political Parties: Government Disagrees With Supreme Court

The Federal Government insisted yesterday that civil servants were barred from joining political parties, contrary to the judgement of the Supreme Court that gave them (civil servants) the nod to do so. The apex court had, on January 24, 2003, ruled that civil servants were free to join any political party of their choice. But addressing newsmen in Abuja, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Godwin Kanu Agabi (SAN), stated that even the Supreme Court conceded the fact that the public or civil service was entitled to regulate its affairs to the extent of restricting civil servants from participating in politics. His words: "The Supreme Court recognised that the public service is entitled to regulate its affairs and acknowledged that it had done so by placing some restrictions on public office holders including civil servants with regard to participation in politics or political activities. "In his judgement, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Hon. Justice M.L. Uwais quoted rules 04421 and 04422 of the current Federal Government Civil (Public) Service Rules which provide as follows: '04421: No officer shall, without express permission of the government, whether on duty or leave of absence: (a) hold any office, paid or unpaid, permanent or temporary, in any political organisation; (b) offer himself or nominate anyone else as a candidate for any elective office including membership of a Local Government Council, State or National Assembly; (c) engage in canvassing in support of political candidates.

Nothing in this rule shall be deemed to prevent an officer from voting in an election. '04422: Resignation necessary before seeking elective public office. albeit, any officer wishing to engage in partisan political activities or seek elective public office shall resign his appointment forthwith.'" Agabi went further to explain that the issue of eligibility of a civil servant to be a member of a political party was not even raised or pleaded during the proceedings of the matter before the apex court. "The chief justice of Nigeria went on to say 'it is important to mention that the provisions of the civil (public) Service Rules have not been challenged in this case and, therefore, their validity is not an issue for determination by this court. Reference to the restriction had been made merely in passing by Defendant/Appellant in order to canvass the validity of section 79 sub-section 2(c) of the Electoral Act, 2001'," Agabi explained. Consequently, the attorney-General of the federation said: "civil servants or public officers are enjoined to comply with the rules which forbid their participation in politics in order to be a more useful member of the public service." He pointed out that "membership of the public service is so demanding as not to afford its members the time to devote to politics which is just as demanding, adding that "the rules of the service are intended to protect its members and assist them in the performance of their duties. Fortunately, these rules have not been set aside," he concluded.

Fielding questions from newsmen thereafter, Agabi could not rationalize why he decided to make reference to the minority judgement of Justice Uwais (CJN) instead of the lead judgement prepared by Justice Emmanuel Ayoola which is binding on all parties. In Ayoola's lead judgement, he held that it was not "reasonably justified" in democracy to forbid civil or public servants from joining political parties. His judgement: "In terms of section 45(1)(9) of the Constitution, there is nothing reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health in prohibiting a member of the public service or civil service of the federation, a state or local government or area council from eligibility to be registered as a member of a political party." He, however, noted that the registrations on civil servants by the Service Rules may be intended to foster public confidence in and a healthy public perception of the public service, adding that the issue of party membership of civil servants was not an issue before the court.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Lemmy Ughegbe, 11 February 2003

Government Won't Effect Salary Rise for Civil Servants, Says Deputy Finance Minister Mutati

Lusaka - Government will not effect salary increments for civil servants until it reduces the excessive workforce and consolidates all allowances into wages. Deputy finance minister Felix Mutati was responding to a press query in Livingstone on what amount had been allocated for salary increments in this year's budget. Mutati said salary increments would be there but this would only be effected after government reduces the workforce including eliminating all ghost workers. "We shall engage co-operating partners and carry out a head count of the civil service and then arrange to retrench the excess staff," Mutati said. He said there were situations where government did not even know the exact number of teachers working at given schools. "There are many on the payroll and we do not even know how many are working," he said. Mutati said government would then consider retrenching workers that had worked for many years and engage them into economic activities. Commenting on the remarks president of Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (CSAWUZ) who is also president of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Leonard Hikaumba in an interview said the union had not accepted the medium term pay reform strategy suggested by government.

He said this was what Mutati was referring to when he said government sought to consolidate all allowances into wages before effecting any increments. Hikaumba said government in the strategy would adopt an effort to rationalise the salary grades and move towards a more unified salary structure while reducing the number of allowances. He said the CSAWUZ and other public service unions have not accepted this strategy in its current form because in 1993 housing allowance was fused into the salary but today it is difficult to justify this. He also said that the strategy sought to marginalise the role of collective bargaining so that there would be no negotiation over salaries as government will be increasing salaries automatically. "This violates the right of workers to collective bargaining besides the unions are not ready to suspect government of being deficient," Hikaumba said. He said government did not involve the union to incorporate the interests of labour and that the strategy mirrored the interests of capitalists and in particular the IMF whose interests were to suffocate labour.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ruth Banda, 18 February 2003

Government Spells Out Plan to Trim Public Sector

Cape Town - The government has spelled out a course of action and tight time frames for resolving the festering problem of superfluous public servants in the Eastern Cape that will include "enhanced incentives for terminating the service of excess employees". The Eastern Cape government has been saddled with thousands of "staff in excess of complement" or supernumaries since 1994 at a cost estimated by Premier Makhenkesi Stofile to be R1 billion a year, while national government has dithered over the finalisation of an exit strategy. Speaking during the debate on President Thabo Mbeki's state of the nation speech, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said departments in the Eastern Cape were "extremely vulnerable to corruption as a result of poor leadership and internal controls and inadequate systems, and the culture of non-accountability is widely evident". Fraser-Moleketi said the interim management team (IMT) appointed by the president and premier of the Eastern Cape was "looking at handling our primary concerns - concerns where we acknowledge that unions have had undue influence over managers and their decisions". She said that in terms of the changed management strategy "we are dealing with how we balance the short-term crisis issues while addressing underlying systemic problems. We are dealing with how to restore the culture of responsibility and accountability; how to focus on massive administrative and financial challenges, while attending to critical service delivery needs".

The minister said the objective of the IMT was to break the cycle of continuous human resource backlog claims and to settle the matter once and for all. There was a plan for that and it would be seen rolled out. The IMT was looking at the implementation of Public Service Bargaining Council Resolution Seven of 2002 and this would be fast-tracked. Spelling out the time frames, Fraser-Moleketi said that by the end of this month, departments would be required to have their staff establishments finalised and person to post matching would be completed. Once this was done a provincial circular would be issued advertising vacancies for internal recruitment. At the same time the IMT "will develop alternatives for retrenchment and proposals for enhanced incentives for terminating the services of excess employees. "The advertising and filling of critical posts will be fast tracked and unfunded vacancies will be abolished as and when the establishment needs are finalised." Fraser-Moleketi said in terms of leadership requirements the performance agreements for senior management service members for 2003/4 would be finalised by the end of March and would include the turnaround plans as a major element for this agreement.

From Dispatch Online, South Africa, 18 February 2003

Public Service Tackles Challenges of Gender Equality

Pretoria - Women are set to benefit from various programmes to be rolled out during the year, aimed at their advancement in the public service. Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi told the media, during this morning's parliamentary briefing of government's Governance and Administration cluster in Cape Town. 'Steps will be taken this year to ensure that the performance agreements of the heads of public service institutions include the attainment of gender representation targets,' she said. 'I will be approaching Cabinet soon with new targets for the representation of women, black people and people with disabilities in the public service.' The announcement comes shortly after President Thabo Mbeki in his State of the Nation Address last week accused society of lagging behind with actual implementation in terms of gender equality. 'In the private sector and civil society, the campaign on the rights of women has started to at least form part of the national discourse. But society still lags far behind, in terms of actual implementation, particularly in mainstreaming gender issues on development and poverty eradication,' he said. The President added that government would continue to insist on the implementation of the National Framework for Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality. 'Concretely, we will soon introduce a system through which gender representation targets and content of programmes become part of the core performance criteria of every government institution and manager.' The challenge we all face as South Africans is to put our shoulder to the wheel to accelerate the pace of change, the President said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Candace Freeman, 19 February 2003

Government Must Close Loopholes Within Public Service

Pretoria - A culture of entitlement, corruption, lack of professional ethics as well as the capacity to deal with disciplinary cases, is hampering government's principle aim of first-rate service delivery. Releasing its annual report on the state of the public service sector in Parliament, Cape Town, today, the Public Service Commission (PSC) said despite government's good intentions to improve service delivery, it was faced with major challenges in the implementation of its policies, especially at the provincial level. 'Many provincial administrations (where 70 percent of the employees are stationed) are still vulnerable and need support, although there are cases of excellent administrations,' said a report by the Pretoria-based commission, which is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the public sector. The report is the second by the Commission. The Public Service has at least a million employees, making government the largest employer in the country. PSC chairperson Stan Sangwane said corruption, especially around the procurement of goods and services, as well as filing and record keeping, remained a major risk area that needed to be closed, as it created opportunities for corrupt practices. According to a corruption report released by the public service and administration ministry this week on business perceptions on corruption in government, at least 15 percent of businesses said they were approached by officials to pay bribes with seven percent ending up paying to clinch deals.

However 35 percent believed that government was doing well to fight corruption. At least 28 percent of businesses fingered police, local government employees, home affairs, customs and senior government officials as being the most corrupt. The most shocking was the agreement by business (62 percent) that 'bribery was accepted business practice' especially amongst the construction, agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. The PSC recommended as part of the sector's remedial treatment, the tightening of loose bolts and closing down of loopholes to back-up the Public Finance Management Act and other anti-corruption measures tailored to address corruption. 'The PSC recommends that departments ensure that they have a minimum anti-corruption capacity working according to standardised reporting areas. Also a training on integrated ethics management should be developed and should be a standard requirement for all public managers,' said the report. The report also suggested the ironing out of outstanding issues in the new human resource management policy and for the provision of more extensive training to public sector managers on some challenging areas including discipline, sick leave and suspension.

Asked about the deep-rooted corruption in the Eastern Cape administration, the commission, which has deployed two of its top officials to the region to help with administration as part of government's intervention, said the problems there were serious. It noted that amongst others, there prevailed a culture of entitlement. 'The kind of culture that has emerged within the amalgamated (Transkei, Ciskei and Cape public service) administration is a very unhealthy culture..it is an unethical culture....there is a culture of entitlement in the province,' said PSC acting director general Richard Levin. Prof Levin said the Bisho-based provincial administration, which he described as 'unaccountable and irresponsible' further fuelled the situation by failing to act against corrupt officials. Earlier this week, Public Service and Administration minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, who also committed her director-general to the region to oversee the work of the task team deployed there, described the attitude of some officials towards service delivery as 'devil may care.'

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 21 February 2003

Excess Public Servants to Go

Cape Town - The public service is to complete its restructuring by June this year with public servants having to be matched against posts. Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi told the media during parliamentary briefing week that only those who are not matched will be made redundant. She noted that the public service had dropped from 1.2 million in 1994 to 1.049 million now. She did not provide numbers of "supernumeraries" - which she said are now called "excess" staff. "Only those public servants who cannot be accommodated in the matching process will be made redundant," she said, noting that in terms of a Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council agreement the process must be completed by June. Meanwhile she said that the first phase of the "e-government gateway" will see a portal launched and branded to the general public. "A call centre with 24-hour access will be established". As part of phase two of the project, the capacity to conduct two-way transactions online will be developed so that citizens may make applications for documentation for ID books, birth and death certificates and social grants online "and make payment for violations such as speeding offences". She did not provide timeframes for the gateway project.

From News24, South Africa, 19 February 2003

Major Challenges Face the Public Service, Says Report

Cape Town - Major challenges face the public service in the implementation, co-ordination and integration of services to endusers, according to the Public Service Commission report on the service for last year. Challenges included improving the evaluation system, the management of discipline, adjusting work organisation, improving the use of information technology (IT) and supporting clearer job pathing, commission deputy director-general Richard Levin told a parliamentary briefing on the report on Friday. The report noted that the use of IT in the public service remained problematic and often inadequate, particularly in poorer provinces, while promotions and other elements of career pathing had still not been adequately addressed. There was a need for more training of public sector managers in the areas of discipline, sick leave and suspensions. Levin said many provincial administrations were still vulnerable and needed support although there were cases of excellence in provincial administration. "Good governance is an overall challenge," he said. Improved performance management, innovative service delivery partnerships and better use of human resources were needed, said Levin. More training was also required on the responsibilities of public managers in terms of the Access to Information Act and the Administrative Justice Act "both of which are sophisticated and challenging pieces of legislation". While conceding the seriousness of corruption, the commission said it was virtually impossible to provide accurate statistics. The procurement of goods and services was a major risk area, while weaknesses in basic procedures such as filing and record-keeping also created opportunities for corrupt practices.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Linda Ensor, 24 February 2003

Corruption in Public Service 'Serious'

A report dealing with transformation in the country's public service since 1994 has described the extent of corruption in government departments as "definitely serious", while also slamming the practice of suspending government officials being investigated on full pay. The hard-hitting document was drawn up by the public service commission and cited an example where a national government official was suspended for three years while earning his full salary. The commission, which is the public service's watchdog, said in the report that there have been "impressive and far-reaching" changes in the service since 1994, but that transformation had also opened the door to corruption. This was because black people had historically been excluded from the public service and it now presented one of the few opportunities for enrichment. A lack of experience in the public service, as well as its closer connections with the corporate world also contributed to corruption, said the report. However, in his foreword to the report, public service commission chairperson Stan Sangweni said the foundations had been laid over the last 10 years for a public service which would give shape to the country's democratic principles. Although the commission said it was impossible to measure the extent of corruption in the public service, the situation was "definitely serious". The most illegal activities in the public service happened in the awarding of tenders and buying of equipment and other goods and services.

The report said the mechanisms which had been put in place to stop corruption were time consuming when it came to tenders and the buying of goods and services, which also contributed to shortcuts being taken. And according to the report the situation in the country's nine provinces, where 70 percent of government officials work, is even worse than at national level. Provinces which had to employ officials from former homelands were especially vulnerable to corruption, said the report. It said further that although provinces spent huge amounts, the results were often unsatisfactory and that steps should be taken to ensure that the public got value for their tax money. Other points included: The practice of suspending government officials with full pay while they were being investigated was unacceptable. It created the perception that government was not serious about rooting out corruption. The commission was unhappy with the annual reports handed in by government departments. Only 11 percent of national departments handed in their reports before the deadline last year. The police service's annual report was singled out as one of "a very low standard", because it contained very little information. Job descriptions are vague in the public service and job candidates' references were almost never followed up.

From Independent Online, South Africa, by Ashley Smith, 27 February 2003

 

Strike Earns Kochi Civil Servants Pay Cuts, Reprimands

Kochi Prefecture on Monday punished 2,649 prefectural workers who took part in an hourlong strike in November. By law, civil servants do not have the right to strike. According to the prefecture, the stiffest penalty was handed to the employee union's secretary general, who was suspended from work for one month. Another 113 senior union members were slapped with pay cuts and reprimands, while rank-and-file union members and senior members who did not strike received strict warnings. Union Chairman Akira Hamakubo was not punished as he is not a prefectural employee. The strike was to protest the prefecture's decision to cut pay retroactively from April 2002. The union said the cut should not be retroactive. Immediately after the strike, during which participants did not work for one hour at the start of the workday, Kochi Gov. Daijiro Hashimoto said he would severely penalize those who took part. "It lacks common sense (to strike) at a time when most people in the prefecture are suffering under severe employment situations," he said. In December, Hashimoto called on strike participants to return a portion of their winter bonuses referred to as a "diligence allowance." The union also organized a strike in 1996 over revisions to the wage system. At that time, around 3,900 people who took part were given pay cuts or written warnings, but the punishments handed down Monday were generally more severe, the prefecture said.

From The Japan Times, 4 February 2003

NT Government Aims to Reduce Violence Towards Public Servants

Northern Territory Employment Minister Syd Stirling says committees are working on awareness programs to help reduce violence directed at public servants in remote communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) northern zone commissioner Kim Hill has called for his organisation to have closer ties with groups such as nurses in a bid to ensure their safety in remote communities. Mr. Stirling admits more work needs to be done with cross-cultural awareness training before workers arrive in the communities but he says the issue is being addressed. "Working groups and committees at the local level being drawn together to address those situations as far as we possible can," Mr. Stirling said. "Certainly a concern to government at any time that our public servants are placed in a threatening situation, be they teachers, nurses, clerks, transport and works people whatever."

From ABC Online, Australia, 31 January 2003

Chinese Premier Greets Public Servants, the Disadvantaged in Beijing

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji spent the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year Saturady visiting and extending his greetings to workers on duty and the disadvantaged in Beijing. Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji spent the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year Saturday visiting and extending his greetings to workers on duty and the disadvantaged in Beijing. He began by visiting traffic police in Wangfujing, a commercial street in Beijing's downtown area which has been compared to Paris' Champs-Elysees. The police stationed there have been directing traffic and providing security during major events and VIP visits, and also for the national flag raising and lowering ceremonies. Zhu wished them a happy Spring Festival on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council. Guan Ziwu, an unemployed resident living in Ganyu Lane, also received warm greetings from the Premier. Guan and his wife, both ill, currently live on government assistance. Their son has been able to continue his education free of charge, aided by the local government. Zhu said the establishment of the public assistance system in urban areas was an important measure taken by the CPC Central Committee and State Council. It is intended to assist all persons in need and to help the unemployed find new employment. Zhu then visited some of the 80,000 bus drivers and train conductors who were on duty during the festival. He said that the expansion of the public transportation network is an essential solution to the urban transportation problem, adding that the use of environmentally-friendly buses will help improve air quality. He then boarded an 18.5-meter-long bus to learn about how it functions and about its emissions standards. When speaking with taxi drivers Saturday, the Premier said that their work was important and honorable, and that it is appreciated by the society as a whole. He called for further improvement in management of the taxi industry and increased protection of the taxi drivers' legal interests and rights.

From People's Daily Online, China, 1 February 2003

Public Sector Cut of Savings on Rise

The amount of household savings that the government and its special-status public corporations are diverting from the private sector has grown by 70 percent over the past 11 years, a group of economic advisers to the prime minister say. The four private-sector members of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy said in a report that postal savings, postal insurance and public pension plans were attracting more household savings, which they were pumping into public bonds and the government's fiscal investment and loan program, or zaito. The zaito program is often referred to as the nation's second budget. The writers of the report said that if the trend continues, the public sector will continue to grow while the private sector shrinks.The four members-two university professors and two business executives-are calling for a thorough reform of public-sector financing, including the privatization of the postal services system. They submitted the report, which is based on the Bank of Japan's regular flow of funds reports and other statistics, to the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy on Thursday. The 11-member council is chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The report compared the situation at the end of March 2002 with that at the end of March 1991. It said the amount of money from households tied up in postal savings, postal insurance and public pension plans nearly doubled to 516 trillion yen over the period. Of that amount, 370 trillion yen flowed into the public sector, such as the central and regional governments and special-status public corporations, through the purchase of central and regional government bonds and zaito bonds. During the same period, the sum of deposits households held at private-sector financial institutions grew by 49 percent. But those institutions cut back their lending by 21 percent, and their stocks and corporate bond investments by 25 percent over the same period. The institutions increased their investment in government and zaito bonds by 112 percent.

From Asahi Shimbun, Japan, 31 January 2003

Ambiguous Supervisor Explanations Upset Public Servants: Survey

Public officials feel most unsatisfied when a supervisor gives work without sufficient explanation, while they feel happy when they receive work-related complements from their supervisors, a survey showed. The survey, conducted among 412 Seoul officials by an online magazine run by Seoul City Hall, showed public servants are displeased when their supervisors make excuses for giving jobs. As far as the most unhappy instances at work, some 87 percent of the respondents said it was when they receive orders from supervisors without enough explanations. Many of the supervisors tend to claim the instructions come from those in higher positions. Lack of respect for their position (29 percent), scolding for their lack of wit (16.7 percent) and comparison to others (9.4 percent) also made them feel bad, according to the survey. The public officials hear those kinds of remarks most frequently from supervisors (53.9 percent) and those who make civil petitions (28.2 percent). ``Thank you'' was found to be what public officials want to hear the most (44.9 percent) while the majority of respondents said they feel happy when supervisors express gratitude or compliments for their work. Complimentary remarks come mostly from coworkers (67.9 percent) while 17 percent said they hear such comments by supervisors. jj@koreatimes.co.kr

From Korea Times, Korea, by Na Jeong-ju, 4 February 2003

Be Fair to Civil Service, Media Urged

Putrajaya: The media should be more balanced when reporting on misbehaviour of government servants so as not to affect the morale of the whole civil service, Chief secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said. He said the number of bad hats was small compared with the total number of civil servants. "Most of the time, when we receive a complaint on misbehaviour of civil servants like graft, the number of officials involved is very small compared with the strength of the particular department. "If there are 100 staff, maybe only one or two are involved. "Because of this one complaint, the whole department is tarred with the same brush. "I think the media also needs to write about the successes of government departments so that people can get a more balanced perspective of our civil service," he told reporters after the launching of the Putrajaya 2003 International Invitational Canoe competition at Putrajaya Lake yesterday. Samsuddin was asked about steps taken by the Government to clean the civil service of graft. He said the fight against graft in the civil service was an ongoing exercise that would continue until a bribe-free culture became a norm among them.

From Star, Malaysia, 6 February 2003

Civil Servants Made to Polish up Ethics

The government announced yesterday a new code of conduct for civil servants in an effort to stamp out corruption and recover the public's confidence. Officials expect the new rules to work more effectively than the ones they are replacing due to a clearer definition of punishable behavior and stricter disciplinary measures. "The new code of conduct will heighten the ethical standards of public servants throughout the nation as it provides clearer, more detailed guidelines on their behavior," said an official with the Ministry of the Government Administration and Home Affairs. Jointly drawn up by the ministry and the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC), the nation's top anti-graft watchdog, the new regulation will come into effect in May as a presidential decree after an approval by the cabinet next Tuesday. It will replace a 10-point ethical guideline currently set down for civil servants, which was established in 1999 as a directive of the prime minister. The current rules are not legally binding. Under the new code of conduct, public servants will face discipline if they or their relatives are found to receive cash, gifts, real estate, or various forms of entertainment from business affiliates, whether they translate as rewards for favors or not. They will also be punished if they are found to profit by exploiting job-related information. Civil servants will be required to report to their supervisor when they deliver outside lectures for more than three months a year or eight hours a month and when lecture fees exceed 500,000 won ($425).

To prevent high-level officials from abusing their authority, the code grants public servants the right to turn down orders from their superiors that are deemed inappropriate. It also encourages them to report to the KICAC when organization leaders or the vice-minister or higher level officials violate anti-corruption rules, while guaranteeing their anonymity and not disclosing the contents of their report. Government officials are also required to report to their boss if they are asked to perform favors by political parties or politicians outside their official duties. Critics say, however, that the new ethics code is more lenient than a draft drawn up by the anti-corruption body in July last year. Civil servants complained that stringent rules in the draft lowered their morale. In the face of staunch opposition, the government changed or removed some controversial provisions in the KICAC draft. For example, the draft required officials to report to their boss when moonlighting in a second job that pays over 30 percent of their annual salary, and prohibited them from giving debt guarantees to those who are not their immediate family members. It also banned officials from receiving gifts above a certain amount from individuals, even though they may be unrelated professionally. All those clauses were eliminated. (jjhwang@koreaherald.co.kr) By Hwang Jang-jin Staff reporter.

From Korea Herald, Korea, 07 February 2003

Tests to Decide Pay and Promotion for Civil Servants

Kuala Lumpur - Complaints of bias prompt adoption of new system designed to raise skills and knowledge - From next year, half a million civil servants in Malaysia will find themselves sitting for examinations which will determine their salary increments and promotions. Increments and promotions for the country's nearly one million civil servants, under regulations enacted in 1992, have been based on the recommendations made by the heads of departments. The system, which continues in the current year, resulted in numerous complaints about biased assessments. This is set to change with the introduction of the Malaysian Remuneration Scheme, which came into force last November. Only confirmed employees with three years of service are eligible to take the courses and examinations. The president of the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Service (Cuepacs), Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam, said: 'Some 500,000 of the almost one million civil servants will be eligible to sit for their departmental skills courses and examinations next year.' The compensation system is also meant to boost competence within the civil service, he said. The civil servants will be motivated to take courses and 'acquire knowledge and skills to improve their work, besides being trained in information and communications technology'. Cuepacs will conduct courses from next month to inform them on what to expect under the new system.

From The Straits Times, Singapore, 10 February 2003

1,656 HK Civil Service Posts Substituted by E-government

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said that with 81 percent of e-government targets reached at the end of 2002, as many as 1,656 civil service posts have been saved. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said that with 81 percent of e-government targets reached at the end of 2002, as many as 1,656 civil service posts have been saved. The number of posts saved through staff redeployment and cutting positions amounted to 1,345, and those saved through natural wastage and voluntary retirement and others amounted to 311. Up to 624 million Hong Kong dollars (80 million US dollars) has been saved, a document issued Monday by the HKSAR Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau said. Stephen Mak, deputy director of the HKSAR Information Technology Service Department, said, "We have set an overall e-government target to provide e-option for 90 percent of public services amenable to the electronic mode of service delivery by the end of 2003." Among such services, the e-options for the search of cases of bankruptcy and compulsory winding-up of companies, submission of application for civil service posts in government recruitment exercise and search for job by disabled job seekers were rolled out in the second half of 2002, said the document presented to theLegislative Council's Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting by Michael Stone, e-government coordinator of the HKSAR government.

The HKSAR government also has a target on e-procurement to carry out 80 percent of government tenders through the electronic means by the end of 2003. In view of the current personal computer penetration rate and internet penetration rate standing at 54.4 percent and 44.2 percent respectively in HKSAR's business sector, the HKSAR government will beef up efforts in promoting the use of IT, particularly in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), according to another document released by the HKSAR Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau. "The survey conducted in 2002 revealed that only 3 to 4 percentof the establishments not using PCs or the Internet had planned toinstall PC or connect to Internet, and the most commonly cited reasons for not planning to do so were no business benefits to do so (70 percent of those establishments) and lack of personnel familiar with PCs/Internet (30 percent)," it said. W. H. Cheung, chief systems manager of the HKSAR Information Technology Services Department, said the government will rigorously pursue a series of funded projects, including setting up IT promotion and support teams, provision of hotline advisory services, and publishing an IT solutions directory for SMEs to popularize the use of computers amongst the SMEs.

From People's Daily Online, China, 10 February 2003

'Merged Entity was Overstaffed' -PNGBC's Public Service Mentality to be Replaced

Bank South Pacific managing director Noel Smith said the amalgamated BSP-PNGBC entity was overstaffed and had to do away with PNGBC's public service mentality and become more commercially-oriented. Mr. Smith said that it was only after the amalgamation that he became aware of the need to reduce staff strength. He also said that he came to know of PNGBC's voluntary exit scheme after reading transcripts from the Commission of Inquiry. He said he was impressed with the PNGBC staff but it was inevitable that after the amalgamation, there would be reductions in staff strength and most of them would be PNGBC. He said PNGBC-trained staff members were very good in the area of information technology and many have been retained. Two of the PNGBC staff now holds general manager positions, he said. The PNGBC branches at Boroko, Rabaul, Lihir and Madang have been closed. Branches at Kokopo, Wabag and Mount Hagen will also be closed leading to a further reduction in staff numbers. Mr. Smith said that while this is not being done with any urgency, the "normal natural attrition" was far greater than they had anticipated and BSP was now recruiting staff.

He said attrition was due to people leaving on their own accord, pregnant women not returning after giving birth and some staff members having been terminated during the last 10 months for fraud and dishonesty. He said it's also not too difficult to tell who the real workers and who are not within the amalgamated entity. "A lot of people think it's okay to take Monday off because they like extended weekends," he said. Mr. Smith said that BSP had a normal staff turnover rate of 15 per cent that he admitted was high in contrast to only 10 per cent in PNGBC. "I wonder if we were too commercial and put too much pressure on them to perform," he said. Mr. Smith told the inquiry that he had visited every branch and talked to staff individually to assure them that they would not be affected unnecessarily. He said prior to the amalgamation, he got Garth McIllwain to write to all staff members advising that everything would be all right and that a transition committee had been put in place to address issues concerning the staff members. "I don't want to be seen as dictatorial. But if we were going to make the new entity work, there had to be a significant reduction in staff strength," he said. Mr. Smith said another factor that needed to be looked into was that salary levels in PNGBC were much higher than BSP.

From The National, Papua New Guinea, by Colin Taimbari, 13 February 2003

Take Up More Sports, Civil Servants Urged

Putrajaya: Civil servants must take part in more sports activities to give them the physical, mental and spiritual strength needed in carrying out their daily duties. Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said outdoor activities and sports also allowed civil servants to be strong enough to face challenges. "I hope more sports and games can be organised in future to fulfill our need for a committed and dedicated civil service," he said in his speech at the Malaysian Government Services Sports Council (Maksak) annual dinner here on Saturday. The event also saw the launching of the Maksak official song, Maksak Gemilang, and the presentation of awards to the year's top sportsman and sportswoman. Prisons Department director-general Datuk Mustafa Osman, who is also the annual dinner organising committee chairman, said sports would enable government servants to socialise outside office hours. "I hope this feeling of goodwill and friendship, which allows us to exchange frank opinions and ideas, will continue after the activities are over," he said. On another matter, this year's Larian Perdana organised by Maksak would be held at the new federal administrative centre on April 6. Around 15,000 participations are expected to take part in the 12km run through some of the city's most impressive landmarks. The total cash prize for the run is RM25,000. The Star and Sin Chew Daily are the media sponsors. Entry forms are available at Maksak (03-9287 4491), Armed Forces Sports Council (03-2071 5662) and Putrajaya (03-8887 7012). The closing date is March 26.

From Star, Malaysia, 16 February 2003

Mega Slams Civil Servants Again for Bad Work

Jakarta - Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri yesterday took civil servants to task again, saying they performed badly and were frequently absent from work. Her comment followed a proposal for a rise in civil servants' salaries to up to 10 million rupiah (S$2,000) a month. 'I want it too,' she said, referring to the salary raise. 'But what about their performance and working spirit? I observe that they have trouble being present at work,' she told a meeting on the empowerment of the civil service. 'So how can we have a better life if we keep complaining but refuse to roll up our sleeves?' she asked, the Detikcom news portal reported. State Apparatus Minister Feisal Tamin had earlier suggested that the government raise the monthly salaries of civil servants to up to 10 million rupiah to bring them closer to the private sector. In her speech, Ms. Megawati also called for the establishment of a new bureaucratic system which was clean and accountable. Civil servants are poorly paid and some resort to charging illegal fees to supplement their income. Last year, she had delivered a stinging rebuke to the bureaucracy, describing her administration as a 'trash can' and telling officials to go out and check reports instead of staying desk-bound. She complained on another occasion that they were a fawning lot who got on her nerves. Some of them, she said, had developed a habit of asal ibu senang or 'keeping Madam President happy'. Last March, she also asked for drug tests to be administered to officials and warned them that the results could affect their performance appraisal.

From Straits Times, Singapore, 18 February 2003

Star Service Awards for 180 Civil Servants

Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged civil servants to be more responsive to their customers. "When a Singaporean comes into contact with the public service, how he is treated and the quality of service he receives, would affect the extent to which he feels valued as a citizen and at home in Singapore," he said. Mr. Lee was speaking at the first Star Service Awards ceremony, which honoured 180 public service officers for their excellent services. You can't miss Dennis Scheidegger's intense focus, but don't mistake it for unfriendliness. In fact, his friendly service impressed Ms Lee Seow Li so much that she wrote to the swimming complex about it, and that led to a Star Service Award for Mr. Scheidegger. Ms Lee visits the Ang Mo Kio pool three times a week. She has a spinal condition that affects her balance, and swimming therapy helps stabilise the condition. Ms Lee said: "When he's on duty, without fear he will approach me and help me, even to this main pool, you can tell it's so difficult, you have to bring me down the steep slope, he's very willing and ready to help me." Mr. Scheidegger, who is a Senior Lifeguard at the Ang Mo Kio Swimming Complex, believes the disabled should not be denied good service.

"They're also human beings, so they are entitled to the care and service given to any normal human being," he said. He is constantly watching as Ms Lee sometimes suffers an attack and loses balance. Ms Lee said: "If it's not for his kindness, his friendliness, the number of times that I visit the pool will be impossible, because in some ways, in fact in many ways, I really need assistance." The ramp may not look spectacular in anyway, but as Ms Lee Seow Li would put it, it's the result of the spectacular care of the lifeguards. When she became a more regular visitor, the lifeguards realised that without a ramp there, it was very difficult for the wheelchair-bound to gain access into the complex, so they suggested it to the management, and the ramp was built two years ago." It has been a three-year-long ride for them, from the ramp, to the pool, and even to hailing a taxi. Ms. Lee said: "A very big thank you for all the help that he has rendered to me, and I sincerely hope that he will continue to help the other needy people like me." Mr. Scheidegger said: "I enjoy doing it, and I think when you enjoy doing something, it never stops."

From Channelnewsasia.com, Singapore, by Fiona Tan, 18 February 2003

Public Service 'Reform' to Cost Thousands of Jobs

Brisbane - In 2002, the Queensland treasury announced plans to strip state government departments of corporate support staff and place them in five departments. These departments would then sell corporate support services back to the other departments. Part of the plan was the standardisation of all corporate support computer systems and processes across all departments. The program is called ASAP (Aligning Services and People). The price of this proposal? A steal at only 2000 jobs lost and massive savings from systems standardisation. It seems, though, that the only taker is the Queensland Labor government. There is almost universal disapproval of the proposals from those most likely to be affected. Treasury officials were so confident of that their proposal would be accepted that they initially felt they did not have to provide any costing for it. When pressed, they replied that it would "save hundreds of millions" of dollars. Information on how the proposal will work has been vague at best, and only provided to affected employees at a trickle. When the Queensland Public Sector Union (QPSU) called an information session to share what it had with its members, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said that any session held during work time would be considered strike action and anyone who attended would have their pay docked. The union called off the session. In early November, lunchtime information sessions for union members were organised and were well attended. Unfortunately, the quality of information provided to the union by the treasury was poor and many public servants left not much better informed than when they had arrived.

Since then, the QPSU has taken treasury to the arbitration commission to get it to release what information and costings it has. It is unclear if the proposal will proceed in its current form. A further hearing is under way at the Industrial Relations Commission at the moment. However, a number of departments are making arrangements for the initial transfer of staff to the core service-providing departments on July 1. Cabinet has approved funding for more than 1000 voluntary early retirements in preparation for the scheme going ahead. This in addition to the 1000 voluntary early retirements that the government funded last year under the guise of getting rid of "bludgers". Those affected by this proposal are administrative staff and others at the lower end of the pay scale. Treasury argues that services to the public won't be compromised and large savings for the taxpayer will be made. In its propaganda, treasury states that the proposed administrative support arrangements are common internationally. The real reason for the wholesale attack on public service jobs has to do with the continuing poor credit rating the Queensland government has received from Standards and Poor's. S&P's latest report identifies key problems with the Queensland economy and its management. Beattie is keen to show international creditors and investors that he has their best interests at heart - and will throw 2000 public servants on the scrap heap to prove it. [Bryan Sketchley is a member of the Socialist Alliance and of Workers Liberty.]

From Green Left Weekly, by Bryan Sketchley, 19 February 2003

Hong Kong to Cut Civil Servants' Pay in Two Phases

It gives in to pressure from government workers, despite business sector's call for an instant 6 per cent reduction - The Hong Kong government said yesterday it would cut civil servants' pay by 3 per cent next year and by a similar percentage the year after, as a concession to government servants who oppose the business community's call for an immediate pay reduction of 6 per cent. The arrangement, to take effect on Jan 1 next year, was reached after talks spread over several months with eight major civil service bodies. The two-phase pay cut will save the government HK$12.2 billion (S$2.7 billion) for the next three fiscal years, instead of HK$21 billion if the businessmen had their way. The government is under pressure to cut spending and eliminate annual Budget deficits by 2005-06. Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa said yesterday that the agreement underlined 'the willingness of the civil service to help actively resolve the deficit problem which we all face in a very responsible manner'. In another concession to civil servants, the government also agreed to defer the completion of a pay-level survey from September to next year. The survey, last done in 1986, is to ascertain the gap between civil service and private-sector remuneration. Welcoming the agreement, Ms Cecilia So, chairman of the Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said: 'This will provide a basis for cooperation.' Government Disciplined Services General Union chairman William Chiu said: 'We will use the next two years to improve our pay adjustment mechanism.' The total pay cut is limited to 6 per cent to bring civil service pay back to 1997 levels. Under Hong Kong's Basic Law, civil servants' remuneration should not be less favourable than what it was before Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Ms Yvonne Law, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu's senior tax partner, said that government savings lost by implementing the pay cut in phases represented a small sum in relation to the total government spending of HK$260 billion a year. She said that the savings foregone 'can be made up elsewhere and would not make a big impact'. However, HSBC chief economist George Leung said that implementing the pay cut in two stages meant that the government would be hard-pressed to look for alternative revenue. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, which has been calling for an immediate 6-per-cent pay cut for the civil service, did not comment on the issue yesterday. Last week, it released survey findings showing that civil service pay was 17 to 264 per cent higher than the remuneration received by the private sector's most well-paid. Yesterday's announcement is expected to draw criticism from the public which sees as unfair the government's plans to slash social welfare allowances and the pay of foreign domestic helpers by 11 per cent. However, Civil Service Secretary Joseph Wong said: 'Let's look at it this way. The civil service received a pay reduction as late as October last year. To implement another pay reduction in January 2004, I don't think it is a very generous proposal as far as the government is concerned.' Underscoring the government's difficulty in negotiating with the unions on the issue, he said: 'What is actually most important is that we are able to reach this proposal by consensus... I don't believe phasing this in two years is a price which we could not afford to pay.' Last year, more than 30,000 civil servants took part in a street march to protest against a pay cut of 1.58 to 4.42 per cent last Oct 1.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Mary Kwang, 21 February 2003

Minor Offenders May Do Public Service

Penang - The Prisons Department's proposal is aimed at easing the strain on Malaysia's overcrowded prisons - In a bid to reduce overcrowding in Malaysian prisons, those sentenced to a jail term of less than six months may only need to do community service. Under a proposal submitted by the Prisons Department to the Attorney-General's Chambers, Prisons director-general Mustafa Osman said they were ready to implement the community service system this year. 'We are waiting for a decision from the Attorney-General... if it is accepted, those sentenced to a prison term of less than six months for small offences such as not possessing identity cards or stealing bicycles need not serve time,' he said on Thursday during a visit by Deputy Home Minister Chor Chee Heung to the Penang Prison. 'They will have to register with the prison and then do community work.' Mr. Mustafa said the move would help reduce congestion as 2,672 of the total 34,550 inmates in the country were serving jail terms of less than six months. In that way, they would also not be cut off from their families. Datuk Chor pointed out that one of the main causes of overcrowding was the rapidly rising numbers of foreigners jailed following tough immigration laws.

He said of the 34,550 prisoners, including those under remand, 9,156 or 26.5 per cent were foreigners. 'Our prisons can take a total of 23,914 prisoners,' he told reporters after a Chinese New Year lunch with inmates. He said the overcrowding would be alleviated once three new prisons in Tapah (Perak), Kluang (Johor) and Pokok Sena (Kedah) were completed this year and next year. Each will have a capacity of 2,000 inmates. 'We are also proposing to the authorities to introduce a parole system of our own, which will alleviate the problem by about 10 to 15 per cent,' added Datuk Chor, who has led a prisons delegation to study parole systems in the United States and Australia. 'We will present a report to Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. It will take a year or two before it can be implemented. 'Our parole system will be different in order to suit local requirements and will only be applicable to those who have committed certain offences and those with good behaviour.' Datuk Chor said other short-term measures being implemented included dedicating prisons for various categories, for example, women and juveniles, as the present practice of segregating them from other prisoners required the allocation of separate blocks.

From Network New Straits Times, 21 February 2003

Hong Kong Civil Servants Agree to Pay Cut

Hong Kong's civil service unions reached an agreement with the government Friday to cut the salaries of the territory's 178,000 bureaucrats to 1997 levels to help ease the chronic fiscal deficit problem. "We have agreed that the salaries of the civil servants should be reduced to the cash level of the salaries in 1997," Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong told reporters after a meeting with the union leaders.

From Japan Today, Japan, 21 February 2003

Opposition Blames Population Drop on Public Service Cull

The Northern Territory Opposition has raised claims the loss of almost 500 public service jobs is partly responsible for the region's population decline. It is estimated millions of dollars in Commonwealth funding will be lost because official figures showed the population dropped by 260 in the year to September. One of the Territory's two House of Representative seats will also be lost. The Shadow Employment Minister, Terry Mills, told parliament official figures confirmed the job cuts in September. "That's a loss of 458, how many of those lost jobs have resulted in Territorians and their families leaving the Territory," he said. "Chief Minister will you admit that your own policies and cutting of the public service has been sufficient to see our population fall."

From ABC Regional Online, Australia, 25 February 2003

4% of Petitioners Offered Valuables to Public Servants

Out of 100 people who filed complaints with authorities, four gave money and other valuables or special treatment to public servants regarding service, and more than half of them have provided cash over 300,000 won, according to the "Public Institution Anticorruption Index" released by the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) yesterday. The KICAC conducted a survey on the level of corruption among people who filed civil applications with 71 public institutions, including 33 state administrative organizations, such as the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, between June and September. Among the people questioned, 4.1 percent said they have provided money, other valuables or special treatment to public servants in charge, with self-governing bodies ranking the highest with 5.6 percent, followed by public enterprises with 4.3 percent and central government organizations with 4 percent. The office of education had 3.1 percent corruption. Out of people who made civil applications, 7.8 percent provided money, other valuables or special treatment for the construction business. The communications service and warehouse business recorded 4.7 percent, and education and research was lowest with 1.7 percent. In terms of scale, less than 50,000 won was paid by 7.5 percent, whereas over 1010,000 won was reported by 26.8 percent. The highest percentage ranked in over 310,000 won. Some 15.5 percent of those surveyed paid over 2,000,000 won. The KICAC said out of 10-point scale, the corruption level was 6.43 in 71 public institutions. This is in between "average" and "rather clean-handed" the commission said. (tksung@koreatimes.co.kr)

From Korea Times, Korea, by Sung Tae-kyung, 23 February 2003

Survey Shows 1 in 25 Offers Bribes to Civil Servants

Four out of every 100 Koreans who contacted civil servants in recent years offered bribes to them at least once, the top anticorruption panel said yesterday. The Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) said in its report that more than half of the bribes were valued above 300,000 won ($251), and that 74 percent of those who provided such financial sweeteners did so more than twice. KICAC said the "white paper" on corruption was compiled based on its survey of people who sought services from 33 central government agencies, six state firms, 16 local governments and 16 local education authorities from May 2001 to April 2002. The poll showed that 4.1 percent of those surveyed offered money or entertainment to the civil servants responsible for the service they requested. The rate of bribes offered was concentrated in the 16 municipal and provincial governments with 5.6 percent, followed by state firms with 4.3 percent, central government ministries with 4 percent, (central) lower government offices with 3.5 percent and education authorities with 3.1 percent. Construction-related services registered the highest bribery rate at 7.8 percent, followed by transportation, warehouses and communications with 4.7 percent and wholesale and retail services with 3.8 percent. More than 26 percent of the respondents said they paid over 1 million won, while 14.9 percent paid between 510,000 and 1 million won, and 12.7 percent between 310,000 and 500,000 won. Up to 14.7 percent said they offered bribes more than six times, according to the survey. Last year, Transparency International (TI) ranked Korea 18th among 21 countries in terms of its bribery payers index (BPI), which showed that bribery was still rampant in the nation despite its economic and social development. KICAC said it also drew up a "clean index" for each public service office, with 10 representing the ideal level of integrity. "The 71 agencies surveyed earned an average of 6.43 points out of 10, which implies that they are generally quite clean," the report said. Education authorities in 16 cities and provinces were deemed the cleanest with a score of 7.22, followed by ministries with 6.52, lower offices with 6.33, state firms with 6.08 and local governments with 5.74. (jihoho@koreaherald.co.kr).

From Korea Herald, Korea, by Kim Ji-ho, 23 February 2003

 

Attack on Civil Servants' Privileges

North Rhine-Westphalia commission says they should get the same deal as ordinary public employees - Germany's traditional distinction between ordinary public employees and a more privileged class of permanent civil servants has come under direct challenge in the country's most populous state, where a government-appointed commission has called for an end to all distinctions between the two groups. North Rhine-Westphalia Premier Peer Steinbrück predicted that the report would "spark a groundbreaking debate" with the potential to lead to a major reorganization of public service throughout the country. It "breaks with taboos that have blocked progress," he said on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, the organization representing civil servants, or Beamte, was less enthusiastic. Its national chairman, Erhard Geyer, dismissed the report as "one-sided and hostile to civil servants," and he suggested the state government was trying to make his members responsible for its financial woes. The status and employment conditions of permanent civil servants in Germany - a 2.2-million strong group - have long been a source of resentment among many members of the general public, in part because of the civil servants' ironclad job security but mainly because of the benefits that are a major attraction of Beamtentum. Notably, civil servants do not contribute toward their pensions or unemployment insurance, and receive generous health insurance subsidies that encourage most to opt for private insurance rather than the country's increasingly overburdened public health funds.

Private insurance comes with numerous perks, including the most senior doctors, private hospital rooms and more expensive dental work. The benefits also cause strains between civil servants and the public employees who often work beside them, according to the commission. "Even if the gross pay is the same, the net pay is different," commission member Monika Böhm, a law professor at the University of Marburg, told F.A.Z. Weekly. "It can be a considerable difference, a few hundred euros per month for two people doing the same job. That creates tensions." Certain employment categories in the public service, including some ranks of government administrators and police officers, are either exclusively or overwhelmingly made up of civil servants. But inside many occupational groups - including teachers and administrative personnel - civil servants work alongside regular public employees who, unlike civil servants, are not guaranteed regular advancement and must give up more than 15 percent of their pay toward pension and other benefits. According to economists' estimates, if civil servants were required to pay into the state pension system, their contributions would total at least 6 billion annually. "That's why the civil servants earn more in the end. We find that unjust," said Böhm, adding, "There's no reason to treat them differently." Proponents of forcing everyone on the public payroll to pay into the pension and unemployment funds say that would allow lower premiums for other workers.

Although the commission made no recommendations in this regard, Böhm said Germany's ongoing financial woes made "the timing very favorable" for change. Still, she acknowledged that past calls for a radical shake-up of the public administration have gone nowhere. Not only would removing the category of civil servant require a constitutional amendment, but civil servants are well represented in state and federal parliaments, Böhm pointed out. The civil servant association's Heyer said it was an old myth that eliminating civil servant status would save taxpayers' money. The current system "guarantees no strikes, fair and impartial administration and a universally high standard of public services," he said. The retired Oxford University political science professor Nevil Johnson, a commission member, said the distinction between civil servants and ordinary employees was "out of date." While the German public service is relatively efficient, it is over-regulated and too heavily weighted toward seniority, he said in a telephone interview from England, adding that it would benefit from a more performance-related system that would allow gifted or harder-working to move up faster. Johnson predicted, however, that the civil servants would put up a major battle to resist such changes. "The Beamte will be very reluctant to see their caste removed," he said.

From Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany, by Michael Gavin, 30 January 2003

UK Shares Poised for Public Sector Boost on Monday

London - Relaxed solvency rules for insurers and soothing words expected from Britain's finance minister should help get the London stock market off to a better start in February after one of its worst months on record. Combined with a 1.4 percent gain on Friday from New York's sentiment-leading Dow Jones <.DJI> index, analysts expect Britain's benchmark FTSE 100 index <.FTSE> to make solid gains on Monday, its first day of trade in February. The FTSE plunged 9.5 percent last month, making for one of its worst January performances since the index began in 1984. It closed on Friday at 3,567.4, down 0.3 percent on the day. The heavy losses have led to fears that insurance companies, who invest heavily in the stock market, might be forced to sell their equity investments to keep their finances in order. Since insurers are among Britain's largest companies, declines in their own share prices only make the problem worse. But Britain's Financial Services Authority said on Friday it would consider granting waivers to life insurers to prevent them from dumping equities if they risked breaching their regulated solvency margins. "The last thing you want is insurers being forced to sell, so that the market goes down even further," said Hilary Cook, director of investment strategy for Barclays Private Clients. Looking Cheap - Worries about heavy selling by insurers were one of the technical factors that kept buyers sitting on their hands as the FTSE 100 dropped below the key 3,600 level, Cook added. "Below 3,600, the market is unequivocally cheap," she said.

As for the government's financial health, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown will seek on Monday to calm fears about the British economy after research last week showed taxes would have to rise again in coming years to make up for slower growth. In a speech to the Social Market Foundation in London, Brown will say that while no economy is immune to global turbulence, Britain is better placed than most to survive unscathed, according to one of his aides. One stock market analyst, who declined to be identified, said any sign that Brown still had the best interests of companies at heart would be positive for the market. Britain's insurers, including Aviva Plc <AV.L>, Legal and General Plc <LGEN.L>, Prudential Plc <PRU.L>, Friends Provident Plc <FP.L> and Royal & Sun Alliance Plc <RSA.L>, have all lost about a fifth of their value in the past four weeks. Fears about their financial strength have bitten into consumer confidence in pensions, savings and insurance policies. Current rules mean life insurers must maintain a "minimum margin over solvency" - meaning firms feel under pressure to sell equities as markets fall, even if it is against their commercial judgment. The FSA said to be eligible for a waiver, insurers would be considered on a case-by-case basis and it would depend on them being financially sound.

From Forbes, by Braden Reddall, 2 February 2003

'Reliance on Public Sector to Continue'

Northern Ireland's dependence on the public sector to bolster its economy is likely to continue for some time, it was claimed today. Bank of Ireland warned that transforming the Ulster economy into one driven by a robust private sector could take a generation to achieve. A new report from the bank, 'The Northern Ireland Economy 2003 and Beyond', also forecasts the local economy will grow at a slightly faster rate in 2003 - buoyed up by higher public spending. The document, published today, points out: "For the next 12 months we can be confident that Northern Ireland as a regional economy will follow the pattern of GDP fluctuating around the UK level with forecast growth this year of around 2.5% as against 2% in 2002. "With less sensitivity to the global economic cycle, Northern Ireland may outperform the UK slightly during economic downturns but may be unable to capitalise fully during the upswings." Prepared by Alan Bridle, Bank of Ireland's Head of Research Services in Northern Ireland, the report said that while some growth was better than none, it seemed that Northern Ireland would continue for some years to rely on its traditional supports, such as public spending. He said over the coming years it will be necessary to build the foundations that will enable the economy to lift off when the economic cycle turns up again. "The idyll would be an economy driven by a robust private sector, rising profitability and business investment, and an expanding export base. "But the transformation will be a struggle and could take a generation to achieve." Mr. Bridle also said hopes that the global manufacturing recession had passed its lowest point remained only tentative and news from the jobs market either side of Christmas had been negative. Mr. Bridle said one disappointing feature of the labour market was that Northern Ireland's economic activity rate overall remained the poorest of the UK regions. "We still have the highest number of adults neither in employment or unemployed," he pointed out. He insisted the core issue both now and in the future was the quality of employment in Northern Ireland. Of the net increase of some 18,000 jobs in the past three years, two-thirds of them related to part-time female employment, often in lower paid occupations.

From Belfast Telegraph, UK, by Nigel Tilson, 5 February 2003

Government Attracts 12,000 for Civil Service Jobs in the North

A massive Government recruitment campaign in the North East has exceeded all expectations - with more than 12,000 people applying to work for the civil service. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) launched the campaign in an effort to recruit 2,000 staff for Jobcentre Plus offices, the Child Support Agency and the new pension service. The huge volume of applications were processed through a specially set-up hotline and the department is currently sending out information packs to applicants. More than 100 unemployed people have been on pre-employment courses to demonstrate what the work would involve and support them through the application process.

From PersonnelToday.com, UK, 7 February 2003

Civil Servants Make Offer

Faced with a government commission's recommendation that their special legal status and privileges be scrapped, Germany's civil servants have offered to accept a reduced "13th month" payment. Their federation, the Deutsche Beamtenbund, said it was prepared to accept a lower total sum for the extra month's pay - common in Germany's private sector as well, and usually paid as a bonus or "Christmas money" at year's end - if it was paid out in monthly installments instead. The DBB chairman, Erhard Geyer, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the offer would mean the civil servants' bonus would total 70 percent of a month's salary, instead of the current 86 percent. The German government did not make any immediate reply to the offer, which Geyer said would save taxpayers some EUR1.3 billion annually. Civil servants in Germany pay no pension premiums and enjoy other benefits not extended to ordinary public employees. Last week, a commission appointed by the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia said that the distinction between the two groups was unfair and should be eliminated.

From Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany, 6 February 2003

The Civil Service Riding Club, Which Was Based at the Royal Mews, Has Closed After 20 Years

The Civil Service Riding Club (CSRC) has closed following the loss of its base at the Royal Mews in London. The club which has nearly 400 members and supporters now plans to form a Saddle Club where it will organise rides at other equestrian establishments. The CSRC has kept its horses at the Royal Mews for nearly 20 years and enjoyed their facilities including the indoor school. Members could enjoy escorted, early morning hacks round Hyde Park, evening lessons and weekend trips away to compete and hack. Most of its members are civil servants but it did offer membership to other people too. The Crown Estate gave the club's committee notice when wear and tear meant that the stables needed a complete makeover. Although efforts were made, alternative accommodation for the horses could not be found in central London. A former member said: "It's now virtually impossible to ride in central London, and Hyde Park has become less horse-friendly, too. Most members rode in the evenings, so to finish work and travel outside to ride would be too much." The Club is not presently accepting applications for membership, and there are presently no membership details available but more details on the Saddle Club will appear on their website www.csrc.org.uk as they become available.

From Horse & Hound Online, UK, 17 February 2003

Public Accounts: Civil Service Expenditure Did Not Go Over 50 Pct.

Rome - Civil service is expected to contain its expenses in the first trimester of the year within 50 percent of what was expected for all of 2003. This was defined in the "spending cut" law that has just been sent to Parliament. Restrictions on payments and obligations within fifty percent were accomplished, explains the government in the document approved on February 7 by the Council of Ministers, "waiting to be able to acquire reliable elements of evaluation on the evolution of various balances, which is the target of public finance." The administrative action of each ministry in 2003 "will be marked by the most rigorous control of expenditure."

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 18 February 2003

Stamp Dedicated to Civil Service

Rome - "A choice that can change life. Both yours and that of other people". The slogan conceived by the Civil Service National Bureau and used in the information campaign is now on a stamp that the Italian Mail dedicated to the national civil service, to be presented officially on the 25th February. This year, the civil service will include 15,000 voluntary girls, plus the 55,000 conscientious objectors employed in several projects in Italy and abroad. The stamp (worth 0.62 euro) represents yet another recognition for the civil service, not only for young people, but for everyone, for peace values, solidarity and social commitment. The presentation (25th February at noon, at Palazzo Chigi's press hall) will be attended by the minister for relations with the parliament Carlo Giovanardi, the president of Italian Mail Enzo Cardi, and CNESC president Cristina Nespoli. During the press conference, the director of the national civil service bureau, Massimo Palombi, will present the results of a telephonic survey made in January on a sample of Italian women aged between 18 and 26 to verify the efficiency of the information campaign. Among the interviewed, 80 pct declares it knows about the possibilities offered by the civil service, whereas 92 pct saw the TV spot broadcasted over the past months.

From AGI, 21 February 2003

Ministers 'Abusing Civil Service for Party Cnds'

The Civil Service in Scotland was at the centre of a pre-election row yesterday after opposition parties claimed that Executive ministers were abusing their impartiality for political purposes. The dispute arose after the Executive published guidelines on the conduct of civil servants from when the Scottish Parliament is dissolved on April 1 to election day on May 1. The guidance instructs civil servants not to undertake any activity that could call into question their political impartiality or lead to claims that public resources are being used for party political purposes. To the fury of the Scottish National Party and the Conservatives, however, one section appeared to suggest that while the Labour and Liberal Democrat Executive coalition parties would be able to have their pledges costed by the Civil Service, the two opposition parties would be denied any such facility. The paragraph in the guidance read: "Officials are sometimes asked by ministers to cost party policies and pledges . . . there is no objection to officials providing such factual information at any time in relation to devolved matters. Ministers have agreed that this will apply on the same basis to the policies and pledges of the two coalition parties."

Fiona Hyslop, the SNP's Shadow Minister for Parliament, claimed that this was "a blatant attempt by Labour and the Lib Dems to abuse the impartiality of the Civil Service for electioneering purposes". She said that not only did it mean that ministers would be able to cost their party's pledges, but they could also cost the pledges of their opponents. John Swinney, the SNP leader, has now written to Jack McConnell, the First Minister, asking for an explanation and calling on him to ensure the political impartiality of the Civil Service by barring politicians of every party from using it for election purposes. An Executive spokeswoman pointed out that another section of the guidance said that civil servants should answer requests from candidates and from any of the political parties "for factual information in the possession of the Executive". She said that all parties would have the same access to factual information held by the Executive and that the paragraph at issue had been worded to take account of the Labour-Lib Dem coalition. The 22-page guidance was circulated around the 5,600 Scottish Executive, Scotland Office and Crown Office civil servants. It also applies to agencies and quangos such as the Scottish Prison Service. Civil servants in Whitehall will also be told to keep a low profile on Scottish matters during the election campaign.

From London Times, UK, 27 February 2003

 

Treasury to Propose Slashing 60,000 Jobs in Public Sector

The Finance Ministry will shortly propose to the prime minister that the government reduce the number of workers in the public service in 2003 by 10 percent, that is, by around 60,000 people, and to slash wages for those remaining by up to 10 percent. This would fall in line with the treasury's plans to cut the state budget for 2003 (although it has already been passed) by a further NIS 7-9 billion. The proposed wage cut and layoffs should save the state NIS 4-5 billion. This dramatic chop of the public service would be carried out even without the agreement of the Histadrut labor federation and the various workers' committees. Sources in the treasury believe that given the continued fall in collection of taxes as a result of the recession, the government will have little choice but to slash its budget by NIS 7-9 billion, if it intends to meet its deficit target. But the government has already reduced its current spending in the past two years, making it very difficult to make any further cutbacks in everyday government expenditure. The treasury therefore has decided that the next step is the drastic one, cutting back on workers and wages in the public sector. A total of 650,000-700,000 people work in the public sector, including government ministries, state-owned companies, the National Insurance Institute, public bodies, local authorities and health maintenance organizations. Israel stands out among the industrialized nations for the size of its public sector.

The broad public sector (which includes central and local government, NII, national institutions, non-profit organizations which receive most of their income from the state - such as HMOs - universities etc.) reached 55.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2002. This is an international record. Among the OECD nations (an organization of the 29 developed states), the average public sector stands at 42 percent of GDP. Israel's position was not always at the top of this list: Up until 1967, the weight of the public sector in Israel was only 35 percent of GDP. The size of Israel's public sector has been a matter of concern not only to locals but to foreign observers too. The influential International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the international credit rating agencies frequently berate Israeli governments' sluggishness in cutting the public sector. Many independent bodies have suggested that there is much waste and spending on non-constructive items (payments to political parties is just one such item mentioned) by the government. Though Israel managed to trim the size of its public sector from 1993 to 2000, from 57.2 percent GDP to 52.7 percent, the workers' committees have much clout and the politicians enjoy their control over many appointments. Governments in the past have talked of cutting back the public sector but have taken few practical steps toward this goal. In some ways it is viewed as a "sacred cow" in Israeli society. But this time, the treasury is suggesting radical positions: an irreversible 10 percent cut in wages, that will not be repaid even when the economy recovers.ext Here

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Moti Bassok, 4 February 2003

Survey: Israelis' faith in the public service

According to a citizens survey conducted by Drs. Eran Vigoda and Fany Yuval of the University of Haifa's Center For The Study of Organizations & Human Resources Management - not very well. The public's faith in the public service is eroding, the researchers found. The survey covered 502 people, representing Israel's adult population. It shows that satisfaction with public sector performance in 2001 and 2002 was medium to low. The only divisions to enjoy rising satisfaction in 2002 were the police force, hospitals, and HMOs. All the rest showed eroding satisfaction, in particular service from the Israel Electric Corporation and the Bezeq (TASE: BZEQ ) phone company. The press was not favored, either, with faith eroding from 2.96 out of 5 in 2001, to 2.75 in 2002. The Israel Trains received the highest grade, 3.87 out of 5. The dubious distinction of the lowest grade went to the Religious Affairs Ministry, which got 2.42 out of 5. The paper also describes how the public's faith in public institutions has been waning. It never was high, and worsened in 2002, particularly in the Finance Ministry, the Bank of Israel, and the banks. While the public's faith in Bank of Israel officials plunged from 3.05 in 2001 to 2.54 in 2002, they still beat the ministers hands-down. Only 14.2% of the respondents felt the civil service has a generally positive image in 2002, compared with 27.5% in 2001. Yet 40.8% said they'd like a job in the civil service, compared with 32.5% in 2001. In 2001, 20.6% of the respondents felt the civil service tries to amend problems, but only 12.4% felt that way in 2002. In both years, 73% of respondents felt that civil service promotions are motivated by politics and pressure, instead of merit. The public's grades: 0-5

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Eynav Ben Yehuda, 4 February 2003

Number of Public Sector Employees Rose 2.1% in 2002

The number of business sector employees fell 0.5%, while their average wage plummeted 5.7%. There were reports last week about a confidential Ministry of Finance plan to fire 60,000 public sector workers, including 6,000 civil servants. It now turns out that the number of public sector employees rose 2.1% in 2002, while the number of business sector employees fell 0.5%, according to a Bank of Israel research department analysis of Central Bureau of Statistics figures. Most of the increase in public sector employees was in health and welfare services, which grew by 5.8%, or 5,000 people. Most of these new employees were hired at very low pay scales. The fall in business sector employees includes a reduction in the number of Palestinian employees, who lost their jobs during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002. The hiring of thousands of Israelis as security guards prevented a sharper fall in business sector employment, though it did not prevent a faster rise in unemployment to 10.6%. The Bank of Israel reports that the average salary fell in 2002 in real terms, for the first time in many years. The average business sector salary fell 5.7%, and 3.6% in the public sector. Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein, 9 February 2003

Israeli Lawmaker Opens Door to Gays in Public Service

15-Week term in parliament breaks ground - At least Uzi Even didn't have time to get bored with life as an Israeli legislator. The 62-year-old chemistry and physics professor - Israel's first openly gay parliament member - spent a week recently speaking to Bay Area groups about his groundbreaking term in the Knesset. His tale is also one of regret, however, because he will have lasted only 15 weeks in parliament once his term ends Monday. His abbreviated stay in the Knesset may yet mean more to his country than previous members' multiyear terms, because his presence there advanced tolerance toward homosexuality, he said last week at a University of California-Berkeley presentation. "It was kind of a liberating experience for many of my gay friends," said the Tel Aviv resident, adding that he saw a marked decrease in prejudice during his term. "I think once you put a face on something you hate, it is difficult to continue hating it." Even admits his obstacles were not as challenging as they would be in other parts of the world, even though some highly religious Israeli legislators made it clear gays were not welcome in the Knesset. Conservative lawmakers refused to share an elevator with Even and publicly lambasted his lifestyle, but Even says he received hundreds of congratulatory calls - and no hateful ones - after he was sworn into office in November. Some of Even's ease may be attributed to his years of groundbreaking work. In 1993, 10 years after military officials demoted him because of his sexual orientation, Even convinced officials to end the military's ban on gay and lesbian soldiers.

Then he sued his university to obtain spousal benefits for same-sex couples, winning a landmark decision that led to changes at institutions across Israel. He and his partner also became the first same-sex couple to adopt a child, winning the right to take in a 15-year-old gay boy rejected by his family. The series of victories has helped end years of prejudice in Israel, Even said. Being gay is "like saying I have blue eyes," he told the Berkeley audience. "So what?" That relatively accepting attitude is far from the intolerance that marked Israel's past, some say. Marcia Freedman, a Berkeley resident who served in the Knesset in the 1970s, came out as a lesbian after her legislative term ended. She was not sure of her sexuality while she was in the Knesset, she said, but probably wouldn't have admitted being a lesbian even if she had been sure. "People lived extremely closeted lives," Freedman said. "I would have been the only out person in the country, literally." Although homosexuals began admitting their orientations publicly more than 20 years ago, it is Even's accomplishments that have advanced tolerance most significantly, she said. "Uzi, being an ex-military man and professor of chemistry, has all of the credentials for normalizing homosexuality," Freedman said. "I do see long-lasting effects. You don't put us back in the closet so easily once we're out."

From San Jose Mercury News, CA, by Matt Krupnick, 16 February 2003

 

Two-thirds of City Employees Sign Petition Asking Civil Service Board Members to Resign

Talladega - Two-thirds of the city's employees have signed a petition asking all four members of the Civil Service Board to resign and are petitioning the state Legislature to rewrite the rules for board appointments. Currently, two board members are appointed by the council, two are elected by city employees, and the fifth is appointed by the other four. The petition requests that board appointments be made by the governor, as they are in Sylacauga and several other jurisdictions across the state. The letter cites the board's frequent cancellation of meetings and long delays in hearing employee grievances as justification for reform. Two of the current board members have said they will not resign. The petition, penned by Police Chief Alan Watson as head of the city's employee committee, circulated in every department of the city last week. Out of 157 current employees in classified service, 105 chose to add their names to the petition. This number represents solid majorities in every department except the Municipal Court office, which has only one classified employee, and the Fire Department, where no one signed. "My guys just said they had no problem with the current board," Fire Chief K.D. Dickerson said. "I had no problem with the petition, I took it down and posted it myself. That's the way a democratic society works. Watson brought it to me and I brought it to my employees. Shift after shift, they said they didn't have a problem." The Fire Department has 24 employees. Civil Service Board chairman William Wynn said Wednesday that "the information provided to the employees on the petition is a fabrication of the highest level, as far as allegations made by Watson regarding his inability to promote, hire and conduct disciplinary actions.

The statements that the board is not meeting or having timely hearings is untrue." At a previous board meeting, Wynn said that recent hearings had been canceled due to the death of Municipal Court Clerk Willis Whatley, who had several grievances pending, and the illness of board attorney Rod Giddens. "If the employees were told the truth, and not coerced by Watson as chairman of the employee committee, while on the taxpayers' time using city letterhead and postage, most probably would not have signed," Wynn said. "Not if they had been provided with the correct information." Wynn's comments echoed those made by Councilman Eddie Tucker at a City Council meeting last week. "I will not be resigning," Wynn said. "I was appointed by the council, and it would be up to the council to remove me." Short of impeachment, there is no legal provision for the City Council to remove any appointed board member once they are seated. "Regarding Watson's request to the legislative delegation to change how board members are appointed, I have talked with Rep. Steve Hurst and the office of Rep. Barbara Boyd," Wynn said. "The same numbers he has (for the delegation) are available to me as well. We as a board, as well as the employee committee and Watson, are both on a quest to receive justice in this matter." "I am disappointed in Wynn," Watson said. "With the numbers we have, I feel that he should follow the wishes of the city's employees," who Wynn ostensibly represents. "Obviously he has the right," Watson added. "He's one member. But my position remains support for the majority of the city's employees." Wynn's allegations of "arm-twisting are absolutely untrue," Watson added. "The petition was given to the department heads and shift supervisors, and the employees were given an opportunity to sign if they wanted to. No one was coerced." Watson also said that Wynn was "wrong about the board's inaction not holding up any promotions."

Specifically, Watson said the termination last year of Lt. Pat Carney, which is still on appeal, had created a serious problem. "I would be foolish to promote someone to that position without getting a final ruling on my decision to terminate. We're also talking about a high level promotion, which means that not only is that position held up, but the position of the person below him is held up, and the position below that as well. Any manager in any department of this city understands that." As far as circulating the petition while on the clock, Watson said this was both part of his duty as chairman of the employee committee and as chief of police. "I have a responsibility to make sure the Police Department is run properly and efficiently," he said. "The petition stems from that responsibility." City Clerk Sue Horn, who also serves on the employee committee with all of the city's other department heads, backed up Watson's assertion. "The board members are very much incorrect in saying that the petition should have been done off duty. State law creates the employee committee, just as it creates the CSB. The committee is required by law to advise and consult with the board, the mayor, the City Council and the legislative delegation in all matters regarding classified service. Certainly under this mandate, the law could not be construed as taking place after hours. It's part of the committee's job. "As personnel officer," she continued, "I can certainly say that I have had problems in the past with the board not meeting or conducting business in a timely fashion. The law says that they shall fix a regular monthly meeting date, and this board chose the second Monday of every month.

Just like the council sets their meetings for the first and third Mondays so that the citizens can approach them with requests or grievances. But how can city employees approach the board if they are not there when they're supposed to be?" As for the issue of coercion, Horn said that there was none to her knowledge. "The petition was presented to all employees, to sign if they agreed with it. I will say, however, that I am aware of some city employees who did sign receiving intimidating telephone calls from board members, some of whom may have also been working on the taxpayers' time. "I certainly don't have all the answers," Horn concluded, "but the system we have in place now has not worked for some time. The city and the employees have both had problems, so it may be time to try something new." Public Works director James Swinford also said his employees were allowed to sign the petition or not, with no coercion. "I put it out on the table where everyone could read it. Those who wanted to sign did, and those that didn't, didn't. No one asked me any questions about it, and I did not try to encourage anyone either way. I don't know of anyone else who did either. They can read it for themselves, and make their own decision. "It's not just the current board," Swinford said. "We feel that the board is simply not doing its job, and hasn't been for a while. I consider all of the current board members my friends, and I feel no hardness toward any of them. They are just not efficient. I'm not sure that some of them even understand the rules and regulations themselves. Maybe changing the appointments might help. Sylacauga does theirs this way, and from what I can tell their board works and ours doesn't."

Parks and Recreation director Dorman Hughston said that none of his employees were "tricked or forced into signing anything either. This board just doesn't seem to be able to get anything done, and I think there needs to be a change made, if possible." Board member Benny Embry, who holds one of the employee seats, said he thought "Wynn explained why the board has not been meeting, as referred to in the letter. There are more things I have to say as well, but I want to discuss them with the other board members, so that we can make a statement as a whole." Rick Nixon, the newest board member and second employee representative, declined to comment immediately, but said he would make a public statement at a later date. Duryea Truss, who was elected by the other board members, said he respected "Chief Watson's position, and the position of the employees. But I have no intention of resigning at this time." Wynn was appointed to the board by the council in 1996. The second council appointed position has been vacant for six months, due to a lack of interested, eligible candidates. The only Talladega resident who has applied for the position is former Mayor Larry Barton. Current Mayor Charles Osborne said he felt "If the city is to have a Civil Service Board, it should function on a monthly basis, be fair to all concerned, and hear grievances as soon as possible." Councilman James Armstrong, as the board's liaison, said, "It appears to me that the employees have spoken through the numbers on the petition. If the employees feel that the board is not serving their needs or the needs of the city, then a change needs to be made."

From Daily Home Online, AL, by Chris Norwood, 30 January 2003

Put Ethics in Forefront of Public Service

Voters must be wondering to what degree conflicts of interest help shape public policy decisions in Shelby County. Local politicians, appointed officials, government contractors and lobbyists surely have had enough exposure in recent years to the consequences of large-scale public corruption to gain a general understanding of the concept. The notion that the size of a gift or favor to a public official from someone who does business with government makes a critical difference seems to have distorted understanding of the ethical principle. A politician or public employee who accepts a small gift from a contractor or vendor but wouldn't think of taking something of great value still has made the wrong choice. To paraphrase the punch line of an old joke, it's only a question of price. "It's just an old bus," Memphis Board of Education member Hubon Sandridge told The Commercial Appeal after he first denied, then acknowledged, accepting a gift from one of the school district's largest contractors on behalf of the church he pastors. "They allow us to use (the bus) to transport people to church or civic events," he said. "I don't see how it's a question of ethics if you're trying to help people." How gifts are used, however, is not mentioned in the school board's policy on conflict of interest, which reads: "I will avoid being placed in a position of conflict of interest, and will refrain from using my board position for personal or partisan gain." Sandridge's church received two used buses from Laidlaw Transit Inc., which has a $15-million-a-year contract to transport Memphis public school pupils. Like Sand ridge, Laidlaw manager Ronald Thornton, initially denied knowledge of the gifts, and later dismissed them as trivial. No gift is unimportant, however, when government institutions expect public servants to subordinate personal goals to the pursuit of public goals and require the confidence of citizens to function effectively.

The use of public power to pursue private interests corrodes the democratic system. Without disclosing his conflict of interest, Sandridge voted to renew Laidlaw's contract with the city schools last May. That was six months before Sandridge's Thomas Chapel Missionary Baptist Church received its second bus from the contractor (the first bus was delivered in 1998). City school board members have been criticized sharply - and properly - for their cozy relationships with lobbyists and questionable spending decisions. As makers of policy for the district, they preside over a long list of schools whose poor scores on standardized tests have put them in jeopardy of state takeover. Revelations of such matters as a board member's ties to a major contractor strengthen the case for Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton's campaign for forfeiture of the city schools charter. That action would put the city school board - and the city district - out of business and place control of city and county schools under a unified countywide system. Such disclosures also contribute to growing public disaffection with local officials - elected and appointed - whose use of government-issued credit cards for personal purchases, extravagant travel at public expense and personal interests in private companies that do business with public bodies suggest they disdain Jeffersonian ideals of selfless service. Political officeholders can contribute much to the restoration of trust in government by learning and observing ethical rules that were supposed to have swept out the dirty corners of public service after the Watergate scandals of the 1970s. In cases that don't rise to the level of government prosecution, it is up to public institutions to enforce strictly the codes of conduct that most have adopted. And if that doesn't happen, ultimately it is up to voters to make clear that ethical violations have consequences at the polls.

From GoMemphis.com, TN, 31 January 2003

Selectmen Pay Tribute to Valued Public Servants

Shirley - Family members and friends were at this week's Board of Selectmen's meeting to see five well-known former town employees join the ranks of the retired. The employees actually retired as of Dec. 31, 2002, but official recognition for their service to the town took place this week. Lee A. Farrar was a Highway Department worker for 32 years, starting here in August 1971. According to a personal notes page provided, Farrar "enjoys working outside, landscaping and cultivating his gardens." Shirley Ambulance EMT Scott Coates retired as a school custodian after more than 29 years on the job, since December,1973. Judith Stanislaw had been the School Librarian at Lura A. White School since September 1976, over 26 years. She also served as a Hazen Memorial Library Trustee for 16 years and, according to the notes about her, "had a large impact on encouraging the building of the new library." Stanislaw also volunteers for the public library's Home Work Study Program and takes part in Book Discussion Groups. Married, with one son, she looks forward to being a grandmother "any day," she said. The Shirley Police Department said farewell to 28-year veteran Lt. Leon Avey, who joined the department in December,1974. Described as an "avid hunter and fisherman," Avey also enjoys woodworking. He is also a licensed mortician and now works for the Shirley Funeral Home. DPW Director Albert Chevrette left the town's employ after more than 23 years. Born and brought up in Shirley, he was a Groton Police officer for 15 years before landing the job here. According to his biopic, Chevrette "loves to work outdoors and continues to assist the town during snowstorms" as well as "upkeeping his own grounds." He and his wife intend to spend some retirement time visiting relatives in Canada, where Mrs. Chevrette was born. Each of the five retirees received a Belair watch inscribed "With appreciation" followed by his or her name and date of retirement, 12/31/2002. In other business, the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee presented its recommendations with the intent of drafting Warrant Articles for a Special Town Meeting, tentatively scheduled for April 28.

Specifically, the following (summarized) changes are proposed to Shirley's protective bylaws. * Shared Residential Driveways. A departure for Shirley, this bylaw applies only to residential property and is restricted to three lots or less. The intent is to offer developers a "minor option" to conventional subdivision rules, allowing development of "some backland lots while preserving the rural quality of the area," taking into account increased front yard setbacks, landscape maintenance and natural features. * In-Law Apartments. This bylaw allows a portion of a single family home to be used as a so-called "in-law apartment" for family members only, related by blood or marriage. It applies only to an attached part of the dwelling that shares common access areas. If modification is necessary, only "limited and modest" structural changes are allowable under the restrictions of this bylaw. And it works both ways. The changes are also supposed to be minor enough to terminate the "in-law" arrangement and the home to revert back to single family use "without substantial hardship in reconstruction." * Mixed Use Zoning Overlay District. This would permit a mix of residential and commercial uses and varied building types in an area designated as "C-1 Commercial Village." This type of development would require site plan approval by the planning board and a special permit for a specific land tract. * Fences. Robert Frost has said that good fences make good neighbors, and this bylaw seeks to define that poetic premise, detailing how and where fences will be built, permit required. Fences must conform to state building codes as determined by the town's Building Inspector and be within provable property lines.

The bylaw also specifies when a fence must be erected, such as for public safety during construction projects and to surround a swimming pool, public or private. * Water Supply and Wellhead Protection Overlay District. This bylaw seeks to "protect, preserve and maintain present and potential sources of groundwater supply within the town for public health, safety and welfare," according to the summary. The question then becomes, how does this differ from the existing bylaw? According to the Selectmen's Executive Secretary Kyle Keady, who spoke briefly with an Oracle reporter at the Town Offices Tuesday morning, the selectmen still need to review the multi-page document presented with this summary, detailing each proposed bylaw, including the one involving the water supply. As he explained the process, after the proposed changes are reviewed by the BOS, they will be sent back to the Planning Board, which must then schedule Public Hearings, after which, and after making any necessary changes, the final draft version is resubmitted. The first Public Hearing on proposed changes to the zoning bylaws is set for Feb. 27. In order to have the warrant ready for an April 28 STM, including two-week lead time required for posting, the articles must be submitted in final form by the end of March, Keady said. Planning Board Chair Lisa Marino was appointed to the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee, and School Building Committee member Eric Olson was appointed Construction Advisor on the project. Also, a one day liquor license was granted to the Shirley Rod & Gun Club for an event, and Camper's Inn renewed its Class I license to sell second-hand RVs at its current location on Great Road. The next selectmen's meeting will be on Monday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. at the Shirley Town Offices.

From Harvard Hillside, MA, by M.E. Jones (mjones@nashobapub.com), 30 January 2003

Public Sector Downsizing to Cut Costs - PM Appoints Team to Examine Restructuring Proposals

The Government has appointed a team to examine the merger and closure of some of its existing agencies, as part of a restructuring drive to improve cost efficiency, Prime Minister P. J. Patterson disclosed yesterday. In addition, the Ministry of Finance and Planning has been asked to present a submission to Cabinet on a programme to lengthen public sector wage and fringe benefits contracts from the current two years to three years or longer. Speaking at a post-Cabinet retreat press briefing at Jamaica House, the Prime Minister said Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Carlton Davis, and Financial Secretary, Shirley Tyndall, were mandated to lead a team to examine a number of recommendations to restructure the public sector through mergers and closures "by taking others to the final stages of divestment and, wherever possible, for the sharing of services between ministries and departments." Although he did not elaborate on the move, the Prime Minister said the team is expected to report to Cabinet in time for the presentation of the Throne Speech when Parliament opens for the 2003/2004 Financial Year in April. Mr. Patterson also announced that the Ministry of Finance would be presenting proposals as to how best to contain wage increases below the level of inflation. "We will be seeing which other bargaining units can move from two years to three years as the period of wage contracts," he said.

He also said the Government would be re-examining the pension arrangements of civil servants "in the light of some changes that have taken place for new recruits." However, he cautioned that all of that would have to be discussed with the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) and the various unions that represent different groups in the public sector. The Prime Minister also said the Ministry of Labour reported that applications were now in for a team that would constitute the leadership of a new productivity centre, to be sited in the Ministry of Labour and that would allow for productivity-linked pay increases and production incentive schemes to be encouraged. Earlier, Mr. Patterson said that in so far as the fiscal budget was concerned, the retreat received proposals as to how best to contain expenditure. "This would have to be done in respect of the management of debt, in controlling the levels of increases in public sector wages and the proper management of pensions," he said. "We also have to make a determined effort to avoid over-runs in terms of our capital projects." The Prime Minister, in making reference to the upcoming budget, would not say if there would be increased taxation as that "is something the Ministry of Finance holds close to his chest." However, he said that in order to increase revenues "we have to widen the tax net and we also have to look at the proper charges by way of fees for the services that have to be rendered by the state and its agencies."

From Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica, by McPherse Thompson, 4 February 2003

Bill Aims to Overhaul Public Service Group

The S.C. Public Service Commission, which oversees the state's utilities, could be overhauled by bills pending in the General Assembly. The seven-member commission approves rate increases for power companies and regulates the telecommunications industry. Its members, appointed by the General Assembly, are each paid more than $75,000 a year. The commission came under fire last year. Questions were raised about the qualifications of candidates for the commission and its ability to look out for the public's interest. A bill being considered in the General Assembly would: Prevent family members of legislators from being elected to the commission; Require commissioners to have a college degree and experience in a field related to regulating utilities; Create a separate office within the commission to act as an advocate for the public. The Public Service Commission deals with complex issues that directly affect residents, said state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, sponsor of a reform bill in the House. High standards should be set for its members, he said. "The public ought to have confidence that we are appointing the most qualified and best candidates we can to fill those positions," Smith said. Last year, appointments to the commission were held up as questions were raised about family ties and qualifications. Four commission candidates were related to members of the General Assembly. Also, Mignon Clyburn, chairwoman of the commission, is the daughter of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. Legislators also questioned how the commission is structured. The staff for the commission acts as both advocates on issues and advisers as the commissioners try to make decisions. Lawmakers asked the S.C. Legislative Audit Council to determine whether the staff and commissioners improperly talked with companies being regulated. The report is expected to be made public Tuesday. A report produced by the commission last fall recommends creating separate staffs to advise commissioners and to act as advocates for parties petitioning the commission.

From Myrtle Beach Sun News, SC, by Joe Guy Collier, 3 February 2003

New Head of Public Service Commission Is Quickly Confirmed

Albany - William M. Flynn, a politically well-connected former prosecutor, sailed through the Senate confirmation process today to become the chairman of the Public Service Commission, after Republicans cut off questions about his record during his confirmation hearing. Gov. George E. Pataki nominated Mr. Flynn, who has close ties to many Republican politicians in western New York, for the $127,000-a-year post two weeks ago. He will succeed Maureen O. Helmer, who stepped down last month after several disagreements with the administration over energy deregulation. Several lawmakers said Mr. Flynn's confirmation hearings made a mockery of the Senate's role in appointments and highlighted the lackluster committee system in the Legislature. The Republican-controlled Senate overwhelmingly approved Mr. Flynn's appointment after a 40-minute committee meeting in which Democrats were not allowed to ask Mr. Flynn about his role, as deputy attorney general, in dropping manslaughter charges against an Elmira pipe company with a poor safety record. "Sometimes I feel like we are just making believe we are having confirmation hearings," Senator Thomas Duane, a Manhattan Democrat, said after he was told that he could ask no questions about the 1995 case. During the hearing, Mr. Flynn gingerly sidestepped questions about whether he considered garbage incinerators a form of renewable energy and how he would handle the siting of new power plants, both critical issues for the commission.

He gave a vague promise to listen to all sides before making a decision. Asked if he considered burning trash a renewable energy source, he said, "For me to come in front of this body and prejudge an issue as important as that would be irresponsible." The Public Service Commission is a powerful and ostensibly independent board that oversees utilities and the telecommunications industry, though in practice the governor controls it. It regulates the electricity market, some telephone rates and some mergers of utilities. The commission also directly oversees the construction of new power plants. During the confirmation hearing, the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Owen Johnson of Long Island, cut off questions from Senator Duane about Mr. Flynn's role in dropping manslaughter charges against the Kennedy Valve Company in connection with the 1995 death of an employee, Frank J. Wagner, who was killed in an explosion after being told to incinerate hundreds of gallons of paint. "I believe you are asking questions that are not relevant," Senator Johnson told Senator Duane. Later, Mr. Flynn said through a spokesman that the Kennedy case had been handled appropriately. Asked if the governor took into account Mr. Flynn's role in the Kennedy Valve case in nominating him, Lisa Stoll, Mr. Pataki's chief spokeswoman, said, "The governor knows Bill Flynn is highly qualified and has confidence he will do a tremendous job." Some environmentalists regard Mr. Flynn as a good choice, notwithstanding his long career as a political appointee.

His most recent job - also an appointment by the governor - was as president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, where he won the respect of some clean-air advocates through his administration of energy-conservation programs. In the attorney general's office, Mr. Flynn was responsible for the hiring and firing of more than 100 lawyers, even though he himself failed the bar exam seven times in five years before receiving his law license in 1992, court papers show. Many environmentalists predicted that Mr. Flynn, with his political debts to the governor, would be less independent than Ms. Helmer, who has feuded with Mr. Pataki over his desire to roll back some parts of the state's free-market energy policy. Specifically, she fought a recent proposal to let electric companies enter long-term contracts with power generators. In 2001, she also disagreed with the governor's proposal to finance conservation programs through an extra surcharge on electricity bills. "Bill Flynn will be much more receptive to energy efficiency and environmental concerns," said Ashok Gupta, an expert on air quality with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Other environmentalists, however, were troubled that Mr. Flynn would not take a public stand on incineration before the Senate committee. The governor has said he wants a quarter of the energy sold in New York to come from renewable sources like windmills and solar cells by 2013. Current state regulations do not define garbage-to-energy incinerators as a renewable source, but when he was asked his opinion at the hearing, Mr. Flynn would not rule them out as a possible part of the governor's plans.

From New York Times, by James C. McKinley Jr., 5 February 2003

Ottawa to Revamp Civil Service

Ottawa - The federal government plans to change the way its workers are hired and promoted with proposals it says will save money and reward good employees. Legislation was tabled Thursday that will affect more than 160,000 public servants, streamlining the way managers recruit people for certain projects and changing the way labour disputes are resolved. It's time to get rid of the "obstacle course" said Treasury Board President Lucienne Robillard. The proposals include: - Giving managers more freedom to assign employees to some tasks, based on experience, ability and departmental needs; - Letting workers appeal to an independent tribunal if they feel they're being treated unfairly; - Improving labour relations by expanding mediation and conciliation procedures; - Allowing some workers, such as government lawyers, to consider unionizing. Robillard called the reforms ambitious, noting that it's been more than 30 years since such sweeping change has been attempted in the civil service. She said the proposals are intended to open a "dialogue" with public servants on how the system can work better. Critics wasted no time pointing out what they consider flaws. There are no measures to protect whistle-blowers, they said, and increasing the power of managers could erode safeguards against favouritism and political interference. They also argued that speeding up hiring, transfers and promotions may leave the best people on the sidelines because there won't be enough time to evaluate individual candidates thoroughly.

From CBC News, Canada, 6 February 2003

Federal Executives Welcome New Public Service Legislation

Ottawa - Canada's public service executives have expressed support for legislation tabled yesterday by Treasury Board President Lucienne Robillard to modernize human resources management in the federal public service. Bill C-25 reflects many of the recommendations made by the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX) contained within a detailed position paper, developed after extensive consultation with its members. "We applaud Minister Robillard for protecting the non-partisan nature of the Canadian public service and for putting authority and accountability where it should be - in the hands of managers," said Robert Emond, President of APEX. A key aspect of the legislation is increased staffing flexibility. Managers will be able to hire based on the applicant's competence and qualifications, rather than on how that person compares to all other potential candidates. A streamlined hiring process will help make the federal government more competitive in a tight labour market without compromising the professionalism of the Public Service that has served Canadians so well. The proposed legislation is comprehensive and offers many positive changes such as a streamlined grievance process, and a clarification of roles and responsibilities within the federal public service. "Canada's public servants are being asked to deliver increasingly complex services in an environment of technological change and social engagement.

A revamped management approach is crucial to making this happen," said Emond. "We are excited, but make no mistake - the real work is ahead of us," said Pierre de Blois, Executive Director of APEX. "The legislation represents a significant shift in how the federal public service operates. Implementing it will take cooperation and time. We anticipate constructive debate among our members and others within the public service to create a better working environment." In anticipation of the legislation, APEX held consultations in more than 17 centres across the country to gather the views of public servants on reforming the public service. This process resulted in a detailed position paper entitled, Reforming Human Resources Management in the Public Service of Canada (available at www.apex.gc.ca). APEX is a national association of federal government executives dedicated to advancing management excellence and professionalism within the public service. Founded in 1984, its members represent a cross-section of disciplines and functions from federal departments and agencies in all regions of Canada.

From Canada NewsWire, 7 February 2003

Senator to Kick Off Public Service Stint

Washington - U.S. senator available for dishwashing, serving meals, other chores on weekends. Interested schools, hospitals, community service organizations and businesses should contact Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn. Oh, and no salary required. Applicant independently wealthy. It's part of a "Make Mark Work for You" campaign that Dayton kicks off this Sunday, when he'll wash dishes at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis. "It allows people to see a side of me that people don't see or usually associate with me," said Dayton, a Yale-educated multimillionaire department store heir. "It makes me more of a human being. But the real benefit is to be with people, elbow-to-elbow in the sink, as opposed to sitting around a table." Dayton plans to donate two hours each weekend he's back in the state, as well as a couple of days a week during congressional recesses. "It fits my idea of public service," said Dayton, 56. Dayton has worked as a New York city schoolteacher and counselor for a Boston social service agency.

From Guardian, 6 February 2003

Mr. Comissiong's Actions Reflect Badly on the Public Service

Persons employed in the public service make very significant contributions to the governance of a country. Barbados has been fortunate in that it has always had a disciplined public service, which in large measure explains the steady progress that has been made in the economic, social, cultural and political life and development of this country. It is important that the same discipline be maintained for the sake of preserving good governance. However, there have been some warning signs that we cannot afford to ignore. The political content in some of Mr. David Comissiong's weekly columns in the Press, his lead role in the recent public demonstration against the Embassy of the United States and his threat of similar action against the office of the British High Commissioner are causes for serious concern. They indicate early signs of a creeping breakdown of discipline in the public service. As director of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs, Comissiong functions in the Office of the Prime Minster. The Constitution of Barbados is enshrined in The Barbados Independence Order 1966. Chapter 3 outlines the Protection of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the individual and included among them is the protection of freedom of expression in Sections 20(1) and 20(2). Section 20(1) states, "Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, and for purposes of this section the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with his correspondence or other means of communication".

It is important to note that Section 20(2)(c) states, "Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision that imposes restrictions upon public officers or members of a disciplined force." It is my understanding that restrictions in the Constitutional provisions quoted, that deal with freedom of expression along with the General Orders for the public service of Barbados, do not apply to Comissiong, because he is neither a public officer nor a civil servant as defined by law. I would certainly like to be informed otherwise if my understanding is incorrect. It is also my understanding that he was appointed by the Prime Minister under contract to the position of director of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs and he is only bound by the terms and conditions of his contract. This is surely a very strange arrangement. How can Comissiong be paid by taxpayers' money out of the Consolidated Fund, yet he is not to be restricted as to what he may publicly say and write, even to the extent of being able to criticise publicly the Prime Minister and Government that employs him?

This makes absolutely no sense to me, but I must remind your readers that I am not an attorney-at-law. In the interest of good governance in Barbados, I have repeatedly written to the Press about various issues raised by Comissiong in his weekly column. While I have received many expressions of encouragement and support from a wide cross-section of Barbadians, not once has anyone indicated to me that my position on any issue that I have raised was indefensible. I must admit that a few persons have suggested to me that I should "lay-off" trying to do publicly what the Prime Minister has the capacity to do in relation to Comissiong. As a concerned citizen, I have not been able to oblige them as I attach too much importance to good governance. Do we have to wait for Comissiong to comment publicly and negatively on topical local issues like the Greenland Landfill project, Hotel and Resorts Limited or the Urban Development Commission or a fishing agreement with Trinidad and Tobago before appropriate measures are taken against him? How many more times will he be allowed to criticise the Prime Minister publicly and with apparent impunity? What else do we have to take from Comissiong as he continues to function in the Office of the Prime Minister? Finally, the fundamental question to be addressed is this - by his words and deeds, does he preserve or damage essential elements of good governance in Barbados?

From Barbados Advocate, West Indies, 7 February 2003

Public Administration Receives $1.7 Million Gift

The public administration program received a $1.7 million gift from the late Thomas Page and Barbara Kester Page, both University of Kansas alumni. The money was part of a $2.3 million estate gift to the University. John Nalbandian, chairman of public administration, said the money would go primarily for scholarships to support doctoral students. The program is ranked 14th in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report. In the field of city management and urban policy, it´s ranked No. 1. "I think we´re going to be very competitive with this money in attracting the best students nationwide," Nalbandian said.

From University Daily Kansan, KS, 13 February 2003

Council to Hear Presentation on Civil Service, Merit Systems

Talladega - A discussion between members of the City Council and representatives of Citizens For Good Government committee concerning the job description for the position of city manager sparked a renewed debate Monday night on the future of the city's Civil Service Board. The council eventually voted 3-1 to have Auburn city manager Doug Watson give a presentation on both the civil service and merit systems, with a possible second presentation on how Talladega's civil service rules and regulations are supposed to work. Councilmen Eddie Tucker and James Armstrong had drawn up a description for the new position, which was submitted to Citizens For Good Government for additional scrutiny. Committee member Frank Hubbard said the description had been sent to Watson, who had recommended minor revisions. Committee member Bill McGehee said he had a copy of the Auburn recommendations, most of which he characterized as "house-cleaning issues." He said Watson "felt it was overall a very strong document, but felt it could be tightened up, made more concise. We would be glad to try and make arrangements to bring him up here to consult, if that is the council's pleasure." Councilman Dr. Horace Patterson suggested that while Watson was in town to consult with the council regarding the job description, the council might also take advantage of his knowledge of the merit system, under which Auburn has operated for many years. "At our last meeting," Patterson said, "I voiced frustration with our Civil Service Board, saying that the system we have in place is not best either for the employees or for the city. I know there is some trepidation among the employees, but Auburn has had a merit system for some time. From what I understand, such a system would allow the city to deal with problems and go through the entire procedure in about a month. Our system now is so tedious, drawn out and contradictory, I feel this might be a good opportunity to get some outside input."

Patterson added that such a presentation might "make the employees more comfortable with knowing that a merit system can be adjusted to protect their rights and needs. And we need to take away this whole business of talking about people, not about the system." The Civil Service Board has been the center of controversy for the past several weeks. Last month, more than two-thirds of the city's employees signed a petition requesting the current board members to resign and asking the legislative delegation to make positions on the board gubernatorial appointments, as they are in many other cities. Currently, two board members are elected by the city's employees, two are appointed by the council, and the first four elect the fifth. One of the council appointed seats has been vacant for several months for lack of applicants. Previously, Patterson had suggested the council study the option of doing away with civil service altogether and reinstating the merit system, which the city operated under until 1989. Although there is support for reforming the civil service system in some way from both council president Travis Ford and from Armstrong, Tucker remained a staunch defender of the status quo. "The system is not the problem," Tucker said. "The problem is the people trying to interpret the system. It's the employees' way of interpreting the rules and regulations.

"There are several copies of the personnel manual floating around," Tucker continued, "and most of them are not legal. Most employees don't even have the education or training to know what's in the manual. Most companies, when you go through the personnel or human resources department, someone explains the rules to you, and you sign for a copy of the manual. We don't do that, but we need to. "Civil service can be changed," he said. "We just have to do it. The manual has not been changed since its inception. We're the problem, not civil service." "I can live with the current system if that is the wish of the remainder of the council," Patterson responded. "I agree there is a problem," Ford said. "I personally believe it would be in the best interest of the city to move to a merit system." "We're talking about using the job description to market ourselves to an expert manager," Patterson said, "one who will help bring this city to a new level. If we want to see him fail, we should give him this albatross around his neck and watch him drown. This council did amend the manual eight years ago, and we put a lot of work in to that effort. Still, we will be asking the manager to come in and master a system that we cannot." "Civil Service is a good document," Tucker said. "It needs some changes. The state law needs some changes. The constitution needs some changes, too, but we can work with them. The old changes you were talking about, those were never incorporated. ... The problem is keeping up with the times. It's not civil service or the Civil Service Board or the handbook. "There are problems with the merit system, too," Tucker added.

"It's not a panacea, it has inherent problems that need to be taken into account. We had it before, and if it worked then we would still have it. We need to try and fix the rules and regulations before the change" of government in October. "My experience is not consistent with it being a good document," Patterson said. "I don't think we can fix it. I may be the only one of us who feels that way, and if so, we'll end the dialog here. But I believe this is something we need to do to make the manager successful. "Be assured," Patterson continued, "I'm talking about making a presentation to the employees. I will not support any change without them." "Then we should do the same with civil service," Tucker said. "Let the employees choose the system they want." "Fine," Patterson said. "We should do this when we get the manager in here," Tucker then replied. "He's the expert, let him decide. That's what he's getting paid for. Some of us are psychologists, some are teachers. He's the government expert." "I support Patterson's idea of a presentation," Armstrong said. "We should give the manager the tools he needs to carry this city forward, and not be saddled with our current problems. And we have had more turnover on the Civil Service Board than a Seven-11. There have probably been 30 people serving on that board in the last seven or eight years. Both systems will have problems, but we as a council and the city's employees need to make a decision now." Tucker said the council should not "have that man from Auburn come here and talk about the position and civil service at the same time. Each is a giant subject by itself. Both is just too much if anything is going to be ready by October."

The Rev. Bill Gandy, also of Citizens For Good Government, said "the perception is out there in the community that the current system just does not work. I think it would be wise to examine the possibilities." Hubbard added that Watson is also a government professor at Auburn, and would be qualified to discuss both systems. "A question and answer session could resolve some of these issues," he said. Mayor Charles Osborne pointed out that he had worked under both systems as mayor. "I agree that the city must take steps now to move forward with the new government. The system needs either to be repaired or replaced. Me, my predecessors, my department heads through the years, have all run into the same problems. We need a system where the CEO can run the city, and operate fairly with everyone involved. We've had situations where things needed to be done, but never got done. Either system can be modified to add protections, but we have to do one or the other now." Tucker again pressed for separate presentations on the two systems. "If Auburn is already under the merit system, he (Watson) obviously likes it, and his presentation will be slanted." Hubbard pointed out that Watson is "a government expert. Talladega has a unique system, so he's as qualified as anyone." "This guy doesn't really care what we do in Talladega," McGehee added. "He could just give a fair assessment." "I don't know what the problem is now," Tucker said. "The system wasn't that broke three years ago."

Talladega Police Chief Alan Watson explained that he had circulated the petition specifically in response to the termination of a police lieutenant, whose appeal hearing has been pending for eight months. "I can't replace him before he gets a hearing," Watson said. "That's a shift commander position. It's not fair to my officers not to be able to fill that position for this long. And the former employee now has been out of work for eight months with no pay, so it's not fair to him, either." Patterson asked Tucker who he would recommend as a civil service expert. Ford suggested "respectfully asking Circuit Judge Julian King. I don't know if he would consider that, but he has certainly studied it long and hard." "I was a councilman when King represented the board," Patterson said. "I know the situation frustrated him also." "So how many hours is it going to take for this guy to discuss the manager position and the merit and civil service systems?" Tucker asked. "He will only need to fine tune the excellent instrument you and Armstrong created," Patterson responded. "It shouldn't take long at all." When Ford eventually called for a vote on the presentations from Doug Watson, not surprisingly, it passed 3-1, with Tucker dissenting. "It is the position of most of the council that we want both presentations," Ford said. "He's the expert," Armstrong added. "I'll listen to what he has to say."

From Daily Home Online, AL, by Chris Norwood, 19 February 2003

More Immigrants and Anglos Needed in Civil Service: Facal

More immigrant and anglophone civil servants will be recruited because the Quebec government doesn't reflect the province's cultural and linguistic makeup, Treasury Board President Joseph Facal said Monday. Current methods aren't succeeding in attracting these candidates, Facal said. "If we want the civil service to represent modern Quebec, there's still plenty of work to do,'' Facal told a news conference. "Despite plans adopted in the past, the quantity of civil servants who come from cultural communities, from the anglophone community, from aboriginal nations, and from the handicapped, is completely insufficient.'' Only 3.4 per cent of the province's 60,000 civil servants are anglophones, immigrants or natives. Meanwhile, those groups represent about 18 per cent of the provincial population, according to the 2001 federal census. Facal announced precise recruitment targets Monday. Immigrants, anglophones, natives and handicapped people must represent 33 per cent of new government hirings in Montreal, 25 per cent of hirings in Quebec City and eight per cent elsewhere in the province. In departments failing to meet those targets, deputy ministers could be called to justify themselves before a legislative committee. The government will also provide better French-language instruction and, to encourage people to move to Quebec City, will help candidates finding lodging there. Government officials are partly to blame for past recruiting failures, Facal admitted. He said some might not be "open'' to minority candidates. "I'm not talking about discrimination, but of a certain insensitivity,'' he said. Other factors have hindered efforts to recruit more minority employees. First, non-francophones live mainly in Montreal but most government jobs are in Quebec City, the provincial capital. Also, many potential candidates are self-conscious about their French and decline to apply, Facal said.

From Canada.com, 25 February 2003

 
 

Privatisation to Increase Efficiency in Service Delivery, Says Nkate

Trade and industry minister Jacob Nkate says if executed properly "privatisation, will increase efficiency in the delivery of services, promote competition, and increase productivity of enterprises for the development and growth of the citizen business sector". He said privatisation would also raise the country's growth potential by securing stronger flows of foreign direct investment and technology transfers. Nkate was speaking at a seminar for government, private sector and labour movement representatives who met in Gaborone on February 20 to discuss "Privatisation and contracting out of services and activities of government". The minister explained that government was eager to increasingly move away from owning and operating productive activities and to play a co-ordinating and facilitating role. "The challenge, therefore, is to balance the respective strengths and limitations of government and private sector so that they complement each other to the maximum advantage of our country," he said. The minister urged that the workshop, organised by the Public Enterprise Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA), would provide an opportunity to nurture the indispensable ingredient for successful privatisation, which needs effective interaction between government and private sector.

He said the establishment of PEEPA was a sign that government "is committed to implementing the privatisation policy as soon as possible". PEEPA was expected to perform the tasks of effective evaluation of the performance of parastatals and to advise on the commercialisation and privatisation processes. "We will be vigilant in developing safeguards and mechanisms, such as robust contract management systems that will protect the interests of our citizens," Nkate said. The minister explained that although private sector ran businesses for profit, government did so as a guardian of public interest. He however, said "we now regard our citizens as 'customers' for public services who have the same rights and expectations of value for money from the taxes they pay as from services they currently buy directly from the private sector. "I expect to witness even better results from services and activities contracted out to the private sector, as I am not prepared to protect inefficient business operations. "Privatisation will not involve government discarding any of its core responsibilities for the safety and welfare of its citizens," he said.

The minister explained that privatisation could be an effective vehicle to assist in the economic empowerment of Batswana through, inter alia, the promotion of shareholding by citizens in share offerings of public enterprises, the use of pension and other funds to buy shares for the benefit of members. Examples of services that could be contracted out, which are currently being provided by the public sector and could give opportunity to small business ventures, included cleaning, catering, gardening and maintenance. "It is quite possible that there may not be enough local corporate investors with the financial resources and management skills to acquire large state-owned enterprises. In such cases, foreign participation will become necessary," Nkate said. The approach to privatisation would follow alternative methods such as commercialisation, concessions, franchises, leases, management contracts, stock market flotation and contracting out (out sourcing) of public services to the private sector.

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 25 February 2003

 

Australians to Receive Anti-Terror Kit from Government

Sydney - Every Australian household from this week will receive a government-sponsored anti-terrorism kit designed to help citizens identify terrorists, under a scheme launched Monday, February 3. The kit, which also contains tips on how to survive an attack, forms part of the government's 15-million dollar (8.85 million U.S.) anti-terror campaign launched in the aftermath of last October's Bali bombing in which more than 190 people died, including 88 Australians, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Security at airports, Parliament House in Canberra and foreign embassies has been increased and television advertisements urge people to be alert to possible terrorists in their neighborhoods and to report suspicious behavior. The kit also includes a fridge magnet listing emergency telephone numbers and a glossy, 20-page information booklet which explains what the government has done to protect the country and outlines what citizens can do to protect themselves. It contains tips like having latex gloves, a first-aid kit, a battery-operated radio and a torch on hand, explains how to properly bandage a wound and details how to identify and report suspicious behavior. The Australian Federal Police, the defense department and Australia's main intelligence agency all contributed to the booklet.

Terrorism "expert", Professor Ross Babbage, told the Australian newspaper the kit represented the biggest home defense mobilization since the government's call to arms against Soviet attack during the Korean War. "You could go the whole hog and follow the example of Israel and issue everyone with gas masks and suits, but that would be expensive and probably isn't warranted here yet," Babbage said. But the kits have drawn criticism, particularly from the main opposition Labor Party which has also spearheaded opposition to the government's staunch support of the U.S. stance on Iraq. However, the kit is not the first anti-terror measure adopted by the Australian government. On Wednesday, January 29, Australia began using an electronic photo-matching technology to quickly scan travelers at customs controls, a new high-speed weapon in its anti-terrorist arsenal. The SmartGate system, claimed as the fastest automated border control system around, is to initially be used at Sydney airport to process enrolled crew members of the Australian carrier Qantas. It will eventually be expanded for general use to catch travelers using false documentation, said AFP.

Earlier in December, Australian Prime Minister John Howard unveiled a controversial government advertising campaign informing the public how to spot and report on who they think are terror suspects. Howard said the campaign 'Look Out for Australia' urged people to report suspicious behavior that was "clearly out of phase, out of sync" to a telephone hotline. Australian PM to Visit U.S. Over Iraq. In another development Howard announced Monday, that he would visit the United States next week for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush on the looming war in Iraq, AFP reported. Howard will also go to New York for talks with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and push the case for a second Security Council resolution on Iraq before flying to London for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Australia and Britain are the only two countries to join the United States in formally deploying troops to the Gulf as pressure builds on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to fully disclose any weapons of mass destruction. Howard, facing a growing public and political backlash over his strong support for the U.S. campaign to disarm Iraq, told reporters he had accepted an invitation from Bush to meet him for talks next Monday. The trip will be his third to the United States within the last year.

From Islam Online, UK, 3 February 2003

Wipro Joins Global Think Tank On US E-governance Road Map

Hyderabad - Wipro Technologies has been selected by a US nodal agency along with six other global tech players to draw up a clear strategy and standards for e-governance activities of the US government. The Federal Enterprise Architect (FEA), a US government nodal agency, has set up a standards committee comprising seven big IT companies including Wipro to draw up a comprehensive strategy for e-governance activities. The project is expected to be monitored by US President George Bush, to whom the committee's recommendation will be submitted for final approval, according to Dr Kalyan Chakravarthy who is the e-government evangelist of Wipro Technologies. Wipro Technologies is the only company from India to join majors like Booze Allen Hamilton, a leading US-based strategy management company, to become a member of the standards committee, he pointed out. Speaking with eFE, Dr Kalyan Chakravarthy said, "Wipro is one among the seven top companies assigned to develop a clear strategy for the federal government's e-governance activities including Government to Citizen (G2C), Government to Business (G2B) and Government to Government (G2G) activities." Dr Chakravarthy, who was in Hyderabad in connection with the three-day 'India IT Forum' conference, said: "Our job is to create an interactive networking system wherein all the local governments, governmental bodies and other related players would work in tandem with the federal government." "Our job is also to interact with various programme management officers, private corporates, suppliers, government bodies and local government officials for necessary inputs and suggestions before finalising the standards for G2B, which include e-procurement of all the departments and local governments," he said.

Apart from drawing up the blueprint, the committee has been entrusted with the job of assisting the officials on how to integrate various existing applications which would be made in line with the federal policies and strategies, he said. Following the collection of various inputs and suggestions, a Business Reference Management (BRM) document would be prepared and circulated widely for Request for Comment (RFC). Once the RFC is over over, the committee would make another Technical Reference Management (TRM) document, which would be sent to FEA for approval. Once the TRM document is accepted by the US President, it will be sent for Congressional hearing and would be finally notified and become mandatory for all the local governments and government bodies, Dr Chakravarthy said. Since it is a long process, the actual investment in the project had not been computed, Dr Chakravarthy said. "Although the project was assigned three months ago, Wipro started work only this month. By June or July BRM document would be made available for Request For Comment and after that TRM would be developed," he said. Although he said there were no revenue gains for Wipro Technologies from the project, Dr Chakravarthy said: "We are proud to join the big league in developing standards for US governance initiatives and we see gains for the company in understanding the problems while implementing such big project." Nearly 50 senior professionals from the seven companies including Dr Chakravarthy and two other senior Wipro executives are engaged in this project.

From Financial Express, India, by R Ravichandran, 27 January 2003

Okayama Tries Out 'e-Government'

The Okayama Municipal Government launched an "e-government" trial service Thursday that allows residents to apply for and receive official forms via the Internet. It is the first time a local government has issued official certificates online. The city's move is in line with the national government's "e-project," in which Japan aims to lead the world in information technology by 2005. The new service is provided through a high-speed fiber-optic network the city government built along its sewer system. About 220 residents have applied for the trial project that runs until the end of March, city officials said. Residents will access the Internet using the IPv6 next-generation Web format, they said. The public forms available under the service include certificates for tax payments and income, among others. Certificates of residence or copies of family registers, however, cannot be obtained online, they said.

The Japan Times, 7 February 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 February 2003

Oracle India, H-P Set up e-Governance Centre of Excellence

New Delhi: Oracle India and Hewlett Packard India would jointly set up a e-governance Centre of Excellence in Gurgaon to support and provide a platform for e-governance applications in the country. The centre which will be located at Oracle's office premises in Gurgaon will be up and running from April 21, Sekhar Das Gupta, MD, Oracle India told newspersons here. CMC, NIC, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ram Infoteck are the partners with Oracle and H-P for deployment of the solutions, he said. Both the partners, however, declined to comment on the quantum of investment put in by each of them in the centre. The centre will support initiatives by central, state and local governments in India and provide a platform for development of model applications and will also showcase them, Baly Doraiswami, president, H-P India said. It will also offer technical consultation and, proof of concepts of the models, Das Gupta said, adding it has currently taken up projects related to revenue collections and VAT, citizen services delivery, workflow-based applications in government's security and wireless technologies. On the issue of manpower of CoE, Derek Williams, executive vice president, Asia Pacific, Oracle, said since the centre is virtual in nature and could be accessed from any H-P or Orcale centres globally, it is difficult to put a number to the experts involved in it.

From Times of India, India, 10 February 2003

 

e-Shore Delivers First e-Government Service Developed by Private Company

Minister for Home Affairs and Environment Dr. Tonio Borg launched on Thursday an online application which will allow the public to order Public Registry Certificates over the Internet. The service which is available at certifikati.gov.mt is another in a series of government services which have become accessible online over the last months. Minister for Justice and Local Government, Dr. Austin Gatt, who is responsible for the e-government initiative, also addressed the press and pointed out that this was one of the most important e-government applications to go online. He also noted that this was the first e-government service which was developed by a private company and that although it was a complex application was developed in a very short period. "This is in line with Government's declared policy of working closely with the local ICT sector in order to make Malta a center of excellence for ICT" he concluded. The application was developed by e-shore, one of the leading Internet development companies in Malta, and recent winner of the 2002 Web Awards with the Airmalta web site. E-shore CEO Keith Fearne commented that "e-shore is proud to have delivered the first e-government service application developed by private enterprise. The solution was developed within very tight deadlines and to tough guidelines. Since it was the first time this has happened it was a bit of a learning experience for everyone, but the full co-operation of the respective departments, the Ministry of Justice and Local Government and MITTS ensured that this project was completed on time and to spec. We also are proud to have proved that the local IT sector can deliver if asked to and hope that more projects will be entrusted to the local industry so that it can continue to grow its expertise." E-shore is the corporate Internet business arm of Terranet Ltd, a subsidiary of Maltacom plc.

From di-ve.com, Malta, 3 February 2003

E-Government Global e-Government

UK public in favour of entitlement cards, says poll: Eighty percent of the British public is in favour of the introduction of a so-called entitlement card, which could also be used as proof of identity, according to a new survey. The study was conducted by SchlumbergerSema, a technology services company that is in favour of such cards and has been involved in several smartcard projects. In response to the question, "Please tell me how strongly you agree or disagree that all people throughout the UK aged over 16 should be required to hold an entitlement card," 60 percent of over 1,000 adults questioned "strongly agreed," while 20 percent "agreed." At least two-thirds of respondents said they would be happy if such cards carried driver's licence number, passport number, national insurance number, health service number and emergency medical information. However, the findings of the survey differ from the views expressed by Home Secretary David Blunkett, who said that most people are confused about the proposal, and by civil liberties groups, who say that only 2 percent of the population is in favour of national ID cards. Wales sets up on-line learning resource: An education Web portal aimed at teachers and students has been launched in Wales. The National Grid for Learning Cymru Web site is a public private partnership project funded by the Welsh Assembly and managed by Curriculum Data Wales. CDW is a consortium involving the Welsh Joint Education Committee, the 22 local education authorities in Wales, BT Education and e-content provider Learnthings.

Among the bilingual site's features are a database of schools, a guide to Web sites useful to students and teachers and a support centre for parents of schoolchildren. Scotland trials virtual interpretation service: Cantonese patients have been invited to participate in pilot project to test out virtual interpreting services at a doctors' surgery in Scotland. Cantonese patients attending the Polwarth Surgery in Edinburgh can use two-way videoconferencing equipment to speak with an interpreter based at the Interpretation and Translation Service in Edinburgh's Central Library. Patient confidentiality is ensured because the interpreter is alone in the videoconferencing room and the conversation is not recorded. The service is designed to enable interpreters to provide services to more people by reducing the time they spend travelling to appointments. The project is being funded by the Scottish Executive through the Modernising Government Fund and run by the City of Edinburgh Council, in conjunction with BT Scotland and Lothian Primary Care NHS Trust. Mobile phones ease Finnish traffic: Finland is hoping that mobile phones will be able to assist in the management of traffic, reports the BBC. The transport ministry is organising a series of trials that use the signals sent from mobile phones to base stations to calculate the time it takes to drive from one point to another. Finnra, the Finnish Road Administration, says that monitoring which phones communicate with which base station and how long it takes the phone to reach the catchment area of a new base station will enable it to work out how long a trip is taking.

Finnra can then use the information to find out where traffic jams are building up and to warn drivers to expect delays. US program brings buyers and suppliers together: The US Small Business Administration has set up an on-line matchmaking system aimed at helping small businesses win government contracts. Small enterprises and government buyers fill out an on-line profile, detailing their services and requirements, and the Web-based Business Matchmaking Program matches buyers with suppliers and schedules face-to-face appointments. Company and government representatives then meet up during two-day regional events due to take place in 15 cities across the US. The events, which are sponsored by HP, will also feature seminars for small businesses on topics such as government contracting and business planning and marketing. Washington State offers permits on-line: Five cities in Washington State have come together on the Web to make it easier for citizens to obtain building permits for work on their homes. The cities of Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish, Mercer Island and Kirkland have set up MyBuildingPermit.com, with help from eCityGov.net, an alliance of local governments. Homeowners in these cites can apply on-line for electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits, which are usually required for even minor repairs on the home. The permit can be paid for on the site and printed off from the screen. A number of other cities in the state are expected to join the initiative in the near future.

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

Focus on Citizen is Needed: e-Gov Report

European countries have made progress in on-line public services, especially for business, but researchers say more buy-in is needed at the highest levels. The third survey of electronic public services in Europe, conducted by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young on behalf of the European Commission, examined the progress made between October 2001 and October 2002. Researchers found that Ireland and Sweden are now offering the most sophisticated services on-line, including transactional services that allow full electronic case handling. Overall the on-line sophistication of public services has grown from 45 percent to 60 percent in one year. Researchers analysed 10,500 individual public service providers across 18 countries and found that 86 percent of these are on-line, an increase of 12 percent in one year. On-line services fall into four general categories: income-generating services for items like taxes and social contributions; registration services, related to recording data for events like births, deaths, marriages; public services funded through taxation (such as public libraries); and permits and licences, granted by public bodies to allow the construction of a house, establishment of a business and so on. Income-generating services have become the most developed on-line across Europe, but researchers said that substantial improvement is needed in the area of permits and licences.

A worrying gap is also growing between on-line services aimed at businesses and those aimed at citizens. In nearly every country surveyed, the sophistication of the services for business is greater than that of services for citizens, and the number of business services available on-line grew 19 percent during the year, compared to just 12 percent growth for citizen services. "Further growth beyond the stage of interactivity requires a clear political vision and committed leadership to e-government as an integral part of a national governmental change programme," the researchers concluded in the report, noting also that a greater emphasis on the citizen was also required. The goal is not just to make services available on-line, but to accomplish a more fundamental shift toward government that is focussed on citizens and organised according to their needs, rather than bound by traditional ways of working. "E-government in Europe should now focus more closely on the transformation of government authorities into customer-oriented service providers," said European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, commenting on the report.

From The Register, UK, 7 February 2003

Businesses Reap Rewards of e-Government

Businesses in Europe are increasingly using the Internet to access public services, but private citizens are being let down, says a new survey - Europe's citizens are still getting a raw deal when it comes to e-government - although businesses are now able to take advantage of an increasingly sophisticated array of online services throughout the European Union (EU). Cap Gemini Ernst & Young today released the latest results of its third survey on electronic Public Services in Europe, which is conducted on behalf of the European Commission (EC). It looked at the progress Europe is making in providing online services to both citizens and businesses. The measurement criteria cover the level of online interaction and the overall availability of public services online. For the 20 public services analysed across the 15 EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, the online sophistication has grown by 15 percentage points in one year, from 45 percent to 60 percent. Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Finland showed particularly good progress, as they have developed services which go beyond the level of two-way interaction, the report states. In almost every country, public services for businesses score significantly higher than those for citizens - and this gap is widening. Country-wise, Sweden and Ireland show the highest level of online sophistication, although in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany, the online presence of service providers such as towns, cities, universities, and libraries is above average. Their level of sophistication online is less developed, however. Stanislas Cozon, vice president, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, said in a statement: "The results show that in the past year significant progress has been made by European governments in providing strong online services around income-generation. European governments now need to focus more on the other services, particularly those most relevant to citizens - and overall ensure that they have the right approach to implement successfully." European commissioner Erkki Liikanen added: "E-government in Europe should now focus more closely on the transformation of government authorities into customer-oriented service providers."

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, 7 February 2003

UK Ranked Eighth in EU e-Government Survey

Research conducted on behalf of the European Commission by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young found although narrowly trailing France and Spain in the sophistication of its online public services, the UK is lagging far behind Europe's e-government leaders. The report shows Sweden and Ireland heading the league table of nations, closely followed by Denmark and Finland, representing the only countries whose online services have generally progressed beyond two-way interaction towards the level of transactional e-government. The findings were based on analysis of 20 common public services, such as car registration and tax payment, across the 15 EU Member States and Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Researchers concluded that while online public services in the UK have improved since the previous report in October 2001, the majority of these have not yet matured beyond the stage of one-way interaction. A notable exception singled out as an example of best practice in e-government is the Passport Service, which is praised for being "simple and convenient" and helping to reduce paperwork for applicants to a minimum. The report highlights that in almost every country examined, including the UK, online services for businesses are becoming significantly more advanced than those for citizens. The authors also claim this gap is widening, with the availability of business services increasing 19 per cent last year compared to 12 per cent growth for those aimed at citizens. Developing services beyond the stage of interactivity, according to the report, requires a combination of clear vision, a greater emphasis on the customer and "committed leadership to e-government as an integral part of a national governmental change programme". Commenting on the findings, European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Erkki Liikanen said, "E-government in Europe should now focus more closely on the transformation of government authorities into customer-oriented service providers."

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 12 February 2003

Establishment of E-government Discussed in Sofia

An international conference in Bulgaria's capital Sofia sheds light on the country's e-government strategy. The forum "E-Local @uthorities" that takes place February 13-14 focuses on the interaction of Bulgaria's Cabinet and the local administrations as well as on the experience in the establishment of municipal informational systems. With the assistance of the US Agency for International Development, the organizers from the Foundation for Reform in the Local Self-government in Bulgaria have gathered experts, government representatives, mayors and NGOs. On February 13, lecturers from the Netherlands, Poland and Romania presened their experience. The E-municip@lity prize will be awarded by the foundation for achievements of in the field of municipal informational and communicational systems. At the end of the conference, the participants will issue a declaration addressed to the central government that contains the recommendations of Bulgarian municipal administrations for the establishment of e-government in Bulgaria.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 13 February 2003

E-Government: Italy Forced to Innovate, Says Stanca

Rome - A country such as Italy, that wants to be a modern and economically advanced one, is forced to be innovating if it doesn't want to lag behind. Only a growth based on innovation can lead to skilled employment and modernise the country. This is what Lucio Stanca, minister of innovations and technology, said at the Formez convention 2003 in Fiuggi. Stanca stressed that "the government is highly committed in carrying out a modernisation programme, in which public administration has a key role. Today, IT and network systems can truly transform public administration through the e-government process, heading for a new model of services".

From AGI, 18 February 2003

Hanafin Acknowledges e-Government Delays

Minister for the Information Society, Mary Hanafin, TD, has admitted in a new progress report that delays have hampered a number of e-government services. Following up on the publication of the e-government strategy document "New Connections" almost 10 months ago, Minister Hanafin said in her update that parts of Ireland's e-government roll out are on target. But other parts have been delayed. The most visible impediment which the report noted was the delayed establishment of a public services broker (PSB), a key underlying mechanism that is to serve as a kind of nervous system for many other on-line government services. Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, KPMG Consulting, Logica, PA Consulting and Siemens are all thought to have made the shortlist to build the PSB, although the tendering process to build the e-clearinghouse was expected to be completed months ago. "The slow delivery of the Public Services Broker is the biggest issue in the development of e-government, and its continued delay will adversely impact on the development of on-line service delivery in agencies awaiting the shared components that comprise the broker (registration, authorisation, personal data vaults, process flow etc.)," Monday's report from the government said. "In tandem with the development of the broker, there is also an urgent requirement for common standards (interoperability, security, registration and authentication) to enable service delivery by departments and agencies through the broker," the report added. Apart from the PSB, other delays highlighted in the e-government update were in the provision of on-line maps and the construction of a database of adult learning programmes.

Indeed, the government's entire strategy of delivering all relevant public services on-line by 2005 appears to be at risk. "Regarding the target of 2005 for the delivery of on-line services, there is now a need to refine this target to ensure that optimum results are achieved in terms of effectiveness and impact," the report said. "Over the coming months, the Assistant Secretaries Implementation Group will be focusing on the identification of key services to the citizen, and time-lines will be set for specific deliverables over the next three years." The only specific holdups that were noted in the Minister's commentary, which accompanied the report, were delays that came as a result of changes in the make-up of particular departments. However, without being specific, Hanafin did accept that there were problems that now require a "more concerted effort." She continued, "Today's publication sends out a clear signal to all of us responsible for its implementation, to focus on minimising delays, and ensure the continued delivery of our action plan. We are committed to this," Hanafin said. Despite these apparent glitches, much of the remainder of the report was optimistic, including its observations on broadband rollout. The report said that "broadband remains the top Information Society priority" and that further progress on Metropolitan Area Network rollout in key locations nationwide has been underway. Other optimistic messages were conveyed in regard to systems such as the e-passports system, e-courts, the e-cabinet and a litany of other services.

From Electric News Net, by Matthew Clark, 17 February 2003

Government Aims to See 60% of Slovenian Households Online by 2006

The Slovenian government has adopted a new Information Society strategy, which aims to see 60 per cent of Slovenian households online by the end of 2006. Information Society Minister Pavel Guntar has outlined plans to cut internet access prices so that by 2006, 20 hours of internet access will cost E15, as opposed to the E22.16 it now costs. The strategy also promotes greater usage of IT in schools, highlighting in particular the need to ensure that as much digital content is available as possible in the Slovenian language. By the end of 2001, Slovenia topped the regional league in terms of internet penetration, reaching 31 per cent. Stay updated with Van Dusseldorp's pan-European sector reports: 1. Broadband Landscape Europe - Market Assessment and Forecast to 2003. Get the detailed market-by-market breakdown, current operator market share, and read expert analysis of broadband access technologies, the economics of broadband and the European regulatory environment. More info and to order 2. European Broadband Content Directory - A directory of 400 European broadband content companies which design and produce content such as streaming media (audio and video), interactive gaming, virtual reality and 3D animation, interactive TV programming, interactive advertising, video on-demand, webcasting and multimedia.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 18 February 2003

E-security Boost for Small Firms

The government has introduced a new online service to school small businesses about the benefits of protecting themselves against technology (IT) breaches. Technical jargon can be a little too much - According to the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) information security breaches survey, 44% of companies were targeted by cyber criminals on at least one occasion last year. To address the problem, the government's online business support service, UK online for business, has created a new advice section on its website. It says this provides jargon-free information on how to avoid becoming a victim of online raiders and system failures. The new section of the website, which is directed at small firms in particular and is the first of its kind in the UK, is live now at: www.ukonlineforbusiness.gov.uk/informationsecurity. DTI Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "Technology is becoming increasingly fundamental to the running of businesses. But as this happens, the impact on business of virus attacks, hackers and inappropriate use of IT systems by employees grows. "Businesses therefore need to minimise risks associated with security breaches. Just as a business will protect its premises with strong locks and security personnel or alarms, it should also look at protecting its ICT systems." UK online for business says its site reviews the likely causes of a security breach, including viruses, theft and system failures. The site also allows visitors to test how vulnerable they are to such a breach. Other features include a glossary of terms relating to IT and security, advice pages and links to other helpful sources of information and advice.

From Business Europe, UK, 18 February 2003

Parliament to Discuss Privatization February 26

The Ukrainian parliament plans to hold parliamentary hearings on Feb. 26 to sum up the consequences and prospects of Ukraine's privatization over the recent years, the parliament information department told ForUm. According to the chairman of the parliamentary special commission for privatization, Valentyna Semeniuk, the parliament approved the concept of privatizing state-owned enterprises, land and housing in 1991, providing for privatizing 40 percent of state-owned property. Based on this concept, the parliament passed a set of laws on privatization, according to which small-scale enterprises were to be privatized during one to one and a half years, and medium- and large-scale ones during four to five years. However, according to Semeniuk, despite this concept, the government began the privatization not from the small-scale enterprises, but from the large-scale ones, yielding profits in hard currency. Moreover, the government reconsidered its approaches to privatizing land and housing. Semeniuk said that the recent years' experience shows that the idea of changing the national economy through privatization was inappropriate and has gained no support of the society, and its social and economic consequences are very poor.

From Forum, Ukraine, 18 February 2003

Study Reveals Support for e-Government Services

Public enthusiasm for the Government's £6bn scheme to launch public services online does exist, according to a new survey. Conducted by Adobe, the research showed 43% of people interviewed have or will use online educational resources, 37% would vote online and 32% are in favour of internet-based health and social services. 1,000 people were interviewed. Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office yesterday said the government is in danger of excluding older people from access to its digital services.

From NetImperative, UK, 21 February 2003

UK Playing e-Government Catch-Up

Work cut out to meet 2005 deadline, says Cap Gemini Ernst & Young report - The UK is in the chasing pack of European nations striving to deliver public services electronically, according to the latest league tables from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (CGEY). But although the proportion of online public services has increased by 12 per cent to 62 per cent since October last year, analysts have warned that the UK will have its work cut out to meet its "tough" 2005 deadline. Graham Colclough, global e-government head at CGEY, explained that the issue is now more about usage than availability. "It will be a challenge, and opinion suggests that there will be some organisations that will struggle to achieve [the deadline]. The number one issue is about changing hearts and minds," he said. The research, conducted on behalf of the European Union, compared the performance of 18 countries including the 15 European Union members. It identifies four stages of development: available information online; one-way interaction; two-way interaction; and full electronic case handling. The lead group, comprising Denmark, Ireland, Finland and Sweden, has already reached stage three, and has achieved over 75 per cent availability of services online.

"The first tier contains four countries that are more nimble with smaller populations, and the internet is more urgent because their populations are more geographically dispersed," said Colclough. The UK has reached stage two of the adoption model, alongside countries including Spain, France, Norway and Portugal. But CGEY indicated that almost all countries had moved on a stage compared to last year. The UK's Office of the e-Envoy insisted that a focus on the citizen, and not just the technology, would help boost the uptake of services in the future. "By putting citizens at the heart of this transformation, designing services around their needs and requirements, we will see a rise in levels of use of e-government services," said a spokesperson. But a spokesman for the Local Government Information Unit suggested that ensuring that organisations are properly equipped, and staff properly trained, are bigger factors in adoption. "All of us should lead by example in our various roles in public service by pushing e-government forward wherever the opportunity exists, even if to begin with it has a minority audience," he said.

From VNUNet, UK, by Karl Flinders, 21 February 2003

Ireland Leads the Way With e-Government

Ireland provides more sophisticated e-government systems than the UK, according to IDC Research. Citizens can pay tax and social security contributions online in the Irish republic, which IDC names alongside France and Finland as one Europe's e-government leaders. All member states should have half of government transactions online by 2005, to comply with deadlines set by the European Union. But the UK is lagging behind other European nations so far.

From Internet Magazine, UK, 25 February 2003

UK e-Government Falling Behind - European Neighbours Well in the Lead

The UK government is falling behind its European counterparts when it comes to providing its citizens with e-government services, according to a report form research firm IDC. Ireland, France and Finland were voted the top three countries when it came to providing easy-to-use systems to enable people to contact and interact with their government. Although Ireland's population has been fairly slow to take up the services, those on offer enable citizens to apply for jobs online as well as pay tax and National Insurance contributions. But the UK is nearer the bottom of the table with a long way still to go before meeting its 2006 deadline for getting all services online. The results will come as a blow to the government which was criticised just six months ago by the Treasury in its so-called Green Book report. The study found the government's targets and cost estimations were far too optimistic and attacked certain government sites for being poorly maintained. "We are working to make services as accessible as possible, this comes through trial and error and public feedback," said a spokesman at the Office of the E-envoy, the department responsible for bringing government services online. "We are still on target for our 2006 deadline." IDC predicts European e-government services will grow by 13 percent to $2.8bn (approx £1.7bn) in 2003. "In a soft IT market, e-government services are growing fast. From broadband to tax returns, this is an opportunity for service providers to transform Europe's public services," said IDC's Weir.

From PC Advisor, UK, by Wendy Brewer, 25 February 2003

UK 'Lags in e-Government'

Ireland is beating the UK when it comes to providing citizens with useful e-government services. According to research firm IDC, Ireland alongside France and Finland are leaders in Europe when it comes to providing sophisticated systems allowing citizens to transact with the government on the net. Services such as paying tax and social contributions as well as applying for jobs online are all available in the Irish Republic, despite a fairly low number of internet users. By contrast, analysts say the picture in the UK is far more patchy. Officials accept that Britain is lagging behind other countries but say they are working to improve the situation. European league - "Central government is making good strides but there is a lot of work to be done on the backend systems," said IDC analyst James Weir. "But at local government level e-directives are being pushed out in a very fragmentary way and is therefore very patchy. Some of doing well, while others are not even on the page," he said. The UK is near the bottom of the European league table when it comes to readiness for e-government. Scandinavian neighbours Denmark, Sweden and Norway are the closest to delivering online government to citizens according to IDC's research.

"The UK is well down both in terms of the sophistication of its systems and country readiness," said Mr. Weir. 'Strategy for reform' - The European Union has set deadlines for member states to have half of government transactions online by 2005. The UK is aiming to have all government services online by the same date. But these objectives need to be put in perspective, said Mr. Weir. "You have to be careful how government presents this. Online also includes telephone calls and can just mean presenting information to citizens rather than transactional services," said Mr. Weir. A spokeswoman for the Office of the e-Envoy acknowledged that the UK was lagging behind other countries. "We recognise that British citizens and businesses are not yet using government services online in the numbers that match the best in the world," she said And more is being done to create a coherent policy across all government departments. " We are working with departments to agree a strategy for reform, designed to improve the development, delivery and communication of our online services," she added.

From BBC, UK, 25 February 2003

Marginal Improvement for UK e-Gov Sites

It would appear that UK local authorities still have much work to do if they are to meet the 2005 deadline for offering full e-government services. A survey of every UK local authority Web site has revealed some movement towards offering more than just promotional sites, but only 2 percent of authorities currently have transactional sites. According to the survey by the Society of IT Management, the number of transactions available through UK local authority Web sites has increased by more than 50 percent since 2002, but just 10 out of 467 Web sites managed by local authorities are offering e-payment services such as paying for a driving licence over the Internet. All local authorities have a Web site, noted the report, with 20 percent having a promotional site, 49 percent having content sites, and close to 30 percent having "content plus" sites. The latter were defined as sites having sophisticated information and some interaction with features such as A-Z service listings and search facilities, as well as on-line feedback available. The survey also revealed that local authorities in the UK have become more responsive to e-mail queries in the last year. Nearly 80 percent responded within 10 days, which was up from 41 percent in 2002, and 67 percent within three days, compared to 34 percent a year ago. Although these findings would seem to indicate slow progress by local authorities in meeting the 2005 deadline set by the UK government for them to become e-government enabled, the Society of IT Management said there was grounds for optimism from the report.

"These results show that local authority Web sites have improved steadily since 2002. For instance, more than one in three has moved up a place in our ranking system. This indicates that Web sites are continuing to improve their ability to answer questions and perform typical functions users require," said the Society in a statement. Martin Greenwood of the Society said the findings might appear to show that many local authorities in England might not meet the deadline, but this may not necessarily be the case because they do not have to use their public Web sites to deliver services. "Services can be available on-line under the official definition without being made available on the Web site (e.g. business conducted via a call-centre with staff using Intranets). Also, a site with transactions on it (and therefore appearing to fulfil the 2005 criteria) is not necessarily what we would deem a transactional site, i.e. one that is truly focused on customer needs," commented Greenwood. He added that what the report did show was the "striking" correlation between good Web site performance and excellent management systems. Among the top ten sites were Camden, Birmingham City, Sunderland and Wrexham. No Northern Ireland local authority featured in the top 20. The survey also found that around 20 percent of UK Internet users visited a local authority site in the last year, compared, for instance, with the 13 percent who accessed the NHS's on-line service, and those using such sites for the first time tended to be "significantly impressed" with what was on offer. The Society of IT Management said that every local authority Web site was reviewed and assessed against relevant e-government and good practice criteria for its survey, which is in its fifth year.

. From Electric News Net, by Andrew McLindon, 27 February 2003

Government: Stanca Says Bureaucracy Limits Growth

Rome - "In the Italian system, the complexity of the public administration persists in such a way that it limits democratic and economic growth. Therefore, a reason to hope for the technological revolution for the modernization of the country could be the role of young people, the first ones who understand the essence and, above all, the benefit of innovation applied in the Public Administration, and, therefore, (they are the first ones) to transform it so that it is a place of excellence." The statement was made by Lucio Stanca, Minister of Innovation and Technology at the meeting on e-government and the "Young Persons' Club of Rome," stimulating young people to become protagonists in the digital revolution and the process of inclusion in progress. Citing data from the OCSE, the minister said that e-government, or technological innovation applied to public administration, "with on-line access could eliminate or drastically improve the 'hidden tax' that the bureaucracy makes European businesses pay. An iniquitous tax that burdens 4 percent of the value of European industrial production."

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 27 February 2003

 

Minister of ICT Congratulates 450 Government Employees

Amman - The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MoICT) today announced the completion of the first phase of ICT Literacy Training Programme, with graduation of 450 government employees. The ceremony, held under the patronage of H.E Dr. Fawaz H. Zu'bi Minister of ICT, is the culmination of the three months of IT skills training, building a significant foundation for the Jordan e-Government programme that will touch up to 20,000 staff in public sector over the next three years. "Our main goal is to empower government employees and enhance their skills in IT, in order to prepare them for implementing the e-Government programme," said HE Dr. Zu'bi Minister of ICT. "This will play a key role in increasing their productivity and at the same time enable them to provide faster and more professional services to citizens and various business sectors. This will make the government a model user of technology, as we are aiming to increase the IT expertise of up to 20,000 government employees by the year 2005. I call on governmental institutions to contribute heavily in this national vision in order to achieve the different goals set for each and every sector". In June 2002 the Ministry of ICT signed a partnership agreement with UNESCO Cairo office (UCO) to provide IT training to Jordanian government employees. From August to October around 1000 employees attended the training and received exams on the four modules of ICT literacy. The Ministry contracted nine IT training centers to implement the first phase of the programme and has increased the number to become 14 centers for the second phase. "The participation of 19 governmental institutions in this project indicates how far reaching Jordan's e-Government programme is and how serious the commitment is to equip employees with the right skills for the new governmental practices," said Dr. Amr S. Azzouz, ICDL Project Director, UNESCO Cairo Office. "Jordanians are more aware today of the developed services which are provided throughout the world by depending on enhanced IT skills and how this will contribute towards making Jordan a regional ICT hub."

Last month saw the start of the second phase where up to 1500 employees are taking the training, and up to 300 have opted to test their basic IT skills without instruction. In addition, the syllabus has been expanded to include a pilot phase of the Abu Ghazaleh Cambridge programme which up to 200 employees will be receiving. There are also future plans to include a self-learning programme, where candidates can learn and be tested on their skills and capabilities without leaving their own PCs , making the scheme more accessible and convenient to those involved. "The success of the first phase of the project has demonstrated to other employees the value of participation. To increase the ease of receiving the training the Ministry will be launching Computer Based Training (CBT) in the future where the ICT literacy training curriculum will be available on a CD," said Dr. Nabeel Al-Fayoumi, e-Gov. ICT Literacy Program Coordinator, MoICT. "Through distributing CD's to different governmental institutions, employees will be able to receive individual training whenever and wherever they are. Once the CBT initiative achieves a positive outcome the project will be expanded to enable more employees to benefit from this initiative and at the same time reduce cost of training." The USAID-funded AMIR Program, through its Information and Communications Technology Initiative, has provided management support, which included; technical assistance by developing a web-enabled management tool that will enable e-Government ICDL training to be managed and monitored effectively, devising and implementing plans, monitoring the roll-out of the first phase and reviewing the business plan. AMIR program's training department also contributed in building the capacity of MoICT ICDL management personnel.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 3 February 2003

Ministry, Dubai e-Government Sign Deal

Dubai - The UAE Ministry of Finance and Industry has signed an agreement with Dubai e-Government to extend the use of the e-Dirham to a centralised electronic payment system for the e-services offered by government departments in Dubai. The agreement was signed by Dr. Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, Minister of State for Financial and Industrial Affairs, and Dr. Khalifa Mohammed Ahmed Sulaiman, Head of the Ruler's Court, who signed on behalf of Dubai e-Government. The e-Dirham was launched about two years ago. The agreement lays down regulations on how the two government bodies will work together to incorporate the e-Dirham into the e-Government payment gateway, in order to ensure maximum benefit for the users. While the ministry retains the authority to produce and distribute the e-Dirham cards and provide programs to link the e-Dirham with the payment gateway, Dubai e-Government will work towards the integration of these programs on their internal systems. The technology, including the telephone lines required to link the ministry's e-Dirham programmes into the system, will be provided by Dubai e-Government, which will also upgrade and enhance the system periodically, in addition to overseeing its maintenance. "This agreement between a Federal Ministry and Dubai e-Government to introduce a uniform and systematic mode of payment for e-services is a significant step in the UAE's move towards greater automation and is in keeping with the norms of the new economy," said Dr Sulaiman.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, 1 February 2003

Emphasis on Evaluating Next Step in e-Government

Dubai - The UAE at this phase needs to evaluate all the steps it undertook for the implementation of a comprehensive e-government project and examine all what it needs to make it successful. For the success of an e-government project, the UAE needs a secure infrastructure for the flow of information and ensure that the public are aware of its importance, says a report by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Business in Dubai monthly magazine. Regionally, added the report, many GCC countries began working on a regional e-government system and establishing a comprehensive vision on the project. But for this to happen, the social, economic and political circumstances of the targeted countries, should be examined. Citing a report by the UN on the classification of global e-government programmes which was released last May, the magazine said the UAE ranked the first among Arab countries and the 20th globally in the list of e-government promoters. Kuwait was second with 2.12 points, Bahrain followed with 2.04 points and Lebanon at 2.00 points, added. Internationally, the UAE recorded 2.17 points before Japan with 2.12 points and Ireland with 2.16 points. The UAE also ranked before Austria which recorded 2.14 points and Russia at 1.89 points. UAE points were very close to those of Italy at 2.21 and Luxembourg at 2.20 points.

The UAE, with Dubai in particular, has taken confident steps towards adopting e-services in all government authorities, said the magazine. While the UAE is still in the elementary stage of a long path, the Dubai Government has proved through its e-government project, a continuous ability to create and upgrade the performance of government authorities, said Salim Al Shair, director of e-services, Dubai e-Government. "Dubai e-Government is looking forward to unifying the data sources and the government e-services within one frame, which will be completed within small time lapses till the merger is complete," it added. "In this way, the national or expatriate, or even the visitor, will be able to complete any governmental formality by using only one electronic resource and one user name and password in an easy manner. "The government services will be available round-the-clock, and this will eliminate long queues at government authorities and will also cut costs, whether in the public or the private sector." The federal e-government project, on the other hand, will be implemented in three stages with the first already approved and due for completion in the current year.

The second phase includes examination of proposals by specialised companies and launching the tenders while the third if for implementation , monitoring the start and progress of project and educating the staff of the new technology. Al Shair, meanwhile has indicated his willingness to help all Arab countries to start using the e-services by copying the experiment of Dubai in this regard, which will save them a lot of time and effort. "The vision of Dubai e-Government, which is shifting to a digital society, was put into effect by unifying the government services in order to make these operative through its unified gate." "Dubai e-government is trying to secure all the factors for success, in order to implement the e-government project gradually. It exerted a lot of effort towards generating awareness about e-services among all segments of society, by launching a series of seminars and workshops." Among the practical steps which have been taken in this regard is the establishment of a government communication network, which covers all of Dubai government authorities. "Dubai e-Government has adopted a clear strategy, based on concentrating on adopting a comprehensive financial system, which will be financed by governmental resources and other external resources in order to prepare it for being self-financed in future," added Al Shair.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, 13 February 2003

 

Vaughan Tries e-Government

Vaughan unveiled its new website Monday as a first step in what Frank Miele, Commissioner of Economic and Technology Development and Communications, called a move to e-government. Mr. Miele said the revamped website, available in seven languages, will make it easier for Vaughan residents to access information at four levels of government, not just the municipal level. "Consider this," he said, noting the process had involved moving 2,800 pages from the old website. "The old site was like a house. The new site is like a big warehouse." Using a large screen powered by a laptop computer, Mr. Miele illustrated for council members how the new site can be used to obtain information about business, education and health services, as well as expanded information about the city's government. Two weeks ago, Mr. Miele said Vaughan is using new technologies to make it easier for residents to deal with city hall by including on the website transit route maps, interactive surveys and on-line forms and applications. "We want to make it possible that you don't have to come to city hall anymore," he said. He said the new website is part of the development of a Smart Community which eventually will allow every home, business and institution to use a computer, or possibly a cell phone or interactive cable TV, to access information from any source hooked up to the network. For example, residents will be able to search for library books, buy groceries and pay property taxes from their own homes. The website can be accessed at www.city.vaughan.on.ca

From York Region Era Banner, Canada, by Roger Varley, 30 January 2003

Progress on e-Government Moves Slowly

The departments of Education and Veterans Affairs had the biggest jumps in their overall progress on e-government since November, according to the latest Office of Management and Budget grades on the President's Management Agenda. Both agencies moved from red to yellow, joining nine others, for their work in e-government. No agency dropped a grade under e-government. OMB officials today discussed the agencies' progress toward all five agenda items during a press briefing. The administration releases a scorecard every quarter and these changes are compared to the last rating OMB handed out in November. "President Bush has insisted that we and each of his appointees take equally seriously the job of making government run better, serve citizens more effectively and leave it in better shape than we have found it," said Mitchell E. Daniels, OMB director. "This is a most unnatural act particularly for the political appointees of administration who often find the problems, the waste, the inefficiency too daunting to tackle and are easily consumed by other agenda items." OMB gave 27 agencies red, yellow or green scores for their efforts to meet the goals of five agenda items: human capital, competitive sourcing, financial management, e-government and budget and performance integration. Green means an agency has met all of OMB's standards; yellow means it has met some of the criteria; and red means it has serious problems. OMB also graded agencies' progress in meeting the goals. The National Science Foundation continued to receive the only green grade for its overall e-government work and 14 agencies still were in the red. Interior, NASA, Social Security Administration and Veterans improved to green from yellow on their progress toward getting to green overall. The State Department also improved, to yellow from red.

Overall, 18 agencies received green grades for their progress and seven received yellow. Homeland Security Department did not receive any grades for their progress on meeting the agenda items. Mark Forman, OMB associate director for e-government and IT, said agencies that earned yellow or red scores for their overall e-government did so because they submitted business cases for their IT projects that were deficient in at least two of three areas: security, project management or outlining how the IT project relates to its mission. "Certain departments that show up as yellow or red or status or yellow on progress, they need help in closing the gap of needing project managers or solutions architects," Forman said. "We told them we would support them through the CIO Council or OMB works on E-Training project. We want to make sure people get trained. We will not release the funds to a project without a world class project manager." Agencies overall made limited progress in getting to green scorecard. Two agencies improved to yellow in financial performance and budget and performance integration, while one agency reached yellow in the Human Capital area. NSF received the only other green for its work in financial performance. All agencies remain in the red for competitive sourcing, even though NASA met OMB's goal of competing at least 15 percent of all commercial jobs. Angela Styles, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said NASA did not move to yellow or green because it did not compete those positions. It used the direct conversion method, which lets agencies go to contract without competition if there are 10 or fewer positions involved. The scorecard will be released in the president's fiscal 2004 budget request Monday.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 30 January 2003

Online Calculator Computes Incentives

Companies trying to decide whether to remain in or relocate to lower Manhattan have two new online tools - a space finder and a calculator that computes the savings from the government incentives they would receive to move or stay downtown. "We're hoping the tools will increase the number of companies leasing space downtown," said Shirley Jaffe, vice president of economic development at the Downtown Alliance, which created the incentive calculator and space finder. They are available on the alliance's Web site, www.DowntownNY.com. The calculator allows firms to list such things as the number of workers, the desired rent range and their corporate tax rate. They must specify if on 9/11 they were in or out of the zone designated for certain types of grant eligibility, bounded by Chambers and Rector Streets, Broadway and the Hudson River. Ms. Jaffe gave as an example a 50-employee company seeking 12,500 square feet for five years at an annual rent of $27 a square foot. If that company moved from outside to inside the downtown restricted area it would get government incentives totaling $579,451 over the term of the lease, an annual savings of $11.11 a square foot. If it is already inside the restricted area and remains, the incentive totals $645,418, or $12.31 a square foot.

From New York Times, 3 February 2003

Citizen 2010: Leading for Results, Governing Through Technology

Folsom, CA - The Center for Digital Government and the Council of State Governments Issued a Transition Document That Outlines the Benefits and Advantages Technology Has on the Entire Operation of Modern Government and Its Citizens - Citizens are choosing to meet their government online. Almost half (43 percent) of all Americans sought online government information or services in 2002, an increase of nine percent from the previous year. The cost to governments in providing a unit of service on the Internet is as much as 75 percent less than through conventional delivery channels. Those are among the statistics outlined in "Citizen 2010: Leading for Results, Governing through Technology." The 22-page document takes stock of the first generation of online government services and suggests a path forward in meeting the aspirations of citizens in the opening decade of a new century. "In an era of scarce public resources, digital government holds particular promise in helping public entities executive more effectively in producing priority-driven results," says author of the document, Dr. Paul W. Taylor, chief strategy officer at the Center for Digital Government. "Our goal in publishing this work is to set forth a vision for governing through technology, provide solid context for producing results that matter, and offer a call to action for completing the transformation to digital government."

The document consists of three major sections: The new civic engagement (vision), purpose-driven government (analysis and context), and toward 2010 (call to action). It also offers the top 10 actions for the first 100 days, an annotated list of priority actions recommended for new public sector leaders. "Citizen 2010 sketches out an agenda for governing for governments in transition - politically, fiscally, and technologically," says Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. "Much has been done, but there is much more to do. Now, the leadership opportunity as government finds its footing in the 21st century is to institutionalize the early wins during the formative years of the e-government experiment, help to further develop the practices around a new way of conducting the public's business, and complete the transition to digital government." The Center for Digital Government is a division of e.Republic, the nation's leading publishing, event, and research firm focused exclusively on the public-sector IT market. For more information on Citizen 2010 or to obtain a copy, contact Rhonda Wilson at 916/932-1321 or rwilson@centerdigitalgov.com.

From Internet Wire, 4 February 2003

Personal Web Use at Work Offset by Online Office Work at Home

College Park, Md. - National Survey Also Shows Significant Growth in Many e-Service Activities - American workers spend more of their personal time using the Internet to do office work at home than they do using the Web for personal purposes on the job, according to the 2002 National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS), co-sponsored by the Center for e-Service at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and Rockbridge Associates, Inc. The survey, conducted in December 2002, found that employees with Web access at both the office and at home, spend an average of 3.7 hours per week engaged in personal online activities while on the job, but they spend more time - an average of 5.9 hours per week - using the Internet at home for work-related purposes. "Businesses often clamp down on personal use of the Internet at work, citing concerns about productivity, but this study indicates workers more than make up for it at home," said Roland Rust, director of the Center for e- Service at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. "The survey suggests companies should accept some personal use of the Internet at work as not only inevitable, but as positive to the organization. Totally segregating work from personal activities might result in a net decline in work performed, not to mention lower workplace morale." Fully 85 percent of survey participants with online Web access at work admitted using the Internet on the job for personal purposes.

The survey found that workers who do not have Internet access at home spend more time doing personal Web business at work - an average of 6.5 hours per week compared to the 3.7 hours per week spent online by those who do have home access. "The Internet gives people more freedom and flexibility, allowing a busy person to leave the office on time to have dinner with the family, and then finish up work-related loose ends using the Internet at home," said Charles Colby, president of Rockbridge Associates, Inc. "Many people conduct personal business on the Web at work to take advantage of high-speed Internet access. As we see better infrastructure introduced at home, we may see less workplace time spent on personal Internet activities." Other Findings - 18 percent of adult Internet users conducted a transaction on a federal government Web site during the previous 12 months, up from the 11 percent reported in 2001. - 22 percent of adult Internet users checked account information with a telephone, gas, or electric company, up from 13 percent in 2001. - 20 percent of adult Internet users paid a credit card bill online, up from 15 percent in 2001. - 23 percent of adult Internet users paid a bill, other than a credit card, online, up from 16 percent in 2001.

About the National Technology Readiness Survey The National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS) is co-sponsored by the Center for e-Service at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland; and Rockbridge Associates Inc. (http://www.rockresearch.com), a technology market research firm. The study, founded by Center for e-Service senior fellows Charles Colby and A. Parasuraman, tracks beliefs about technology and key behaviors related to e-service. Conducted for four consecutive years, the study is based on a random sample of U.S. adults (18 years or older), and is administered by telephone. The sample size was 501 in December 2002. The statistical margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for questions based on the full sample. NOTE: The 2002 National Technology Readiness Survey results, including detailed tables, can be viewed online at http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/ntrs2002. Contact: Jeff Heebner of the Center for e-Service, Robert H. Smith School of Business, +1-301-405-9469, or jheebner@rhsmith.umd.edu.

From Yahoo News, 4 February 2003

Online Government Growing in Acceptance, Decreasing Costs

Americans are increasingly using online government services, a trend that promises significant savings to the public sector. In a report called Citizen 2010: Leading for Results, Governing through Technology, the Center for Digital Government says that 43% of Americans sought government information or services online in 2002, up 9% from the previous year. The cost to governments of providing information or services can be as much as 75% less than conventional delivery channels, says the report. "In an era of scarce public resources, digital government holds particular promise in helping public entities executive more effectively in producing priority-driven results," says Paul Taylor, chief strategy officer at the Center for Digital Government.

From Betterhumans, 5 February 2003

Lieberman, Burns Seek Refunding of E-Gov Bill

The co-sponsors of the E-Government Act sent a letter Monday to the Senate Appropriations Committee seeking to restore the $40 million funding slashed from the legislation last week. The Omnibus Appropriations Resolution passed by the Senate last week contains only $5 million of the original $45 million slated for the legislation. Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) and Conrad Burns (R. Mont.) authored the bill passed last November and signed by President Bush that would provide seed money for interagency e-government projects. The bill seeks to make government online services and information more helpful to constituents. "One of the most frequently cited impediments to e-government progress is the lack of funding mechanisms for interagency projects in information technology," the senators wrote. "Collaboration on advanced IT systems can make complex government operations much more effective, particularly when these activities involve multiple agencies or levels of government." The senators added the original $45 million request represents a small fraction of the total spent on e-government initiatives each year. In addition to the $45 million requested in funding requested for 2003, the Bush Administration hopes to increase spending on e-gov initiatives to $150 million in by 2006. The House already has approved spending of only $5 million on E-Gov initiatives in 2003. Whatever number the Senate ultimately approves for e-gov spending will go to a conference committee to work out differences between the budgets approved by both chambers. The Electronic Government Act also establishes an Office of Electronic Government, headed by a presidentially-appointed administrator within the Office of Management and Budget. The administrator will implement e-government initiatives and oversee agencies' compliance with relevant statutes.

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

E-gov Projects to Get 24 Percent Less Funding in 2004

The Office of Management and Budget carried through on its drive to consolidate IT investments among the 25 e-government projects. Exhibit 53, OMB's breakdown of the fiscal 2004 IT budget request that went to Capitol Hill earlier this week, gave significant increases to E-Training, E-Payroll, E-Rulemaking and E-Clearance. In the past 12 months, OMB has issued Clinger-Cohen letters for all of them to consolidate redundant IT investments. In all, 13 projects received more, nine projects less and two the same amount for fiscal 2004, compared with the 2003 request. Overall e-gov requests fell by nearly 24 percent, to $173.9 million. Those figures do not include IT investments by the Defense Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency. OMB said those reports will be issued next month. The Office of Personnel Management's E-Payroll project came in as the big winner with a boost of more than $22 million coming from three agencies, including $32.5 million from the Agriculture Department. E-Training, also led by OPM, is earmarked for an increase of more than $9 million from 10 agencies, including nine that did not request funding for the initiative in 2003. E-Rulemaking project leaders could see $2.9 million more in 2004 for a total of $3.6 million. After requesting $4 million in 2003, OPM plans to allocate $4.3 million to its E-Clearance project next year. Nine projects came out on the short end of the funding stream, with Integrated Acquisition, E-Travel, Enterprise Human Resources Integration and E-Authentication seeing hefty decreases in the 2004 request. OPM's EHRI initiative would receive only $2 million next year, down from $24 million requested in 2003. Three other projects, all managed by the General Services Administration, also might get less economic support. E-Travel and Integrated Acquisition could see double-digit decreases next year, with agencies offering $16.2 million for IAE, down from the $33.1 million request in 2003, and $6.8 million for E-Travel, a $14.5 million decline. E-Authentication, which OMB officials consider the underpinning for all the other e-government projects, is scheduled to receive only $8.1 million, down from $12.4 million in the 2003 request.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 7 February 2003

Citizens League Report: E-Government Touted as Good for Budget

Even with a $4.5 billion state budget deficit looming, Minnesota needs to put more money and effort into making state government services accessible through the Internet, a Citizens League report released today says. The report, "Getting Online Government Back on Track," says the deficit actually presents an argument for adopting more electronic automation. Examples of "e-government" services include Minnesota's online vehicle license tab renewal and its "e-file" system that lets people pay their taxes using their credit cards or an electronic fund transfer from a bank account. The technologies behind these online services allow government to provide faster, better and cheaper services to its citizens and businesses, just as they do for the private sector, like when airlines save money by issuing electronic tickets over paper ones, the report argues. "It's very timely," said the study's co-author, John Gunyou, a former state finance commissioner under Gov. Arne Carlson. "This is an area where the state can expand services and save money." The study puts no price tag on the improvements, however. The cost would depend upon what transactions the state decides to make electronic, Gunyou said. The Pawlenty administration is interested in expanding its e-government offerings and believes that recent software improvements to state computer systems will allow it to add more electronic services without additional cost, Finance Commissioner Dan McElroy said.

With a recent software upgrade, for instance, the state no longer prints out paycheck stubs, saving it $500,000 a year, he said. Employees cash their checks electronically and visit a Web site to print out their stubs, he said. Next year, the state plans to send out its W-2 forms electronically, saving $40,000, and the Department of Administration is putting together a team of experts to target more e-government opportunities. "So we're making some progress," McElroy said. Steven Clift, a Minneapolis technology consultant who helped create the state's North Star Web site in 1995, believes that expected slashes to services make more e-government "absolutely essential." "Offices are going to close, hours are going to be shortened; citizens are going to have to change their behavior and go online to get the services they want and need," said Clift, who has chided the state for dragging its feet on upgrading its e-government offerings. He was not part of the Citizens League study's 27-member group. Only 4 percent of all state government transactions are online, the Citizens League said. In the 1990s, Minnesota used to rank in the top 10 among states using innovative technologies such as the Internet, but it slipped to the middle of the pack, mainly because it stood still while other states like California and Washington raced ahead.

From St. Paul Pioneer Press, MN, by Leslie Brooks Suzukamo, 6 February 2003

Sugar Land Moves to E-government

Sugar Land residents, by the end of the month, can begin paying their water bills on the city's web site at its new, simpler domain, www.sugarlandtx.gov. Residents may also view their billing history, service and consumption summaries. Other new services that will be available on the Sugar Land web site include an online map room to access current city boundaries, a City Council map to view in which district residents reside, zoning designations, parks locations and infrastructure data north of U.S. 90A.Also, permit applicants can view their permit online, schedule inspections and monitor inspection results. In Spring 2002, the city re-launched its web site with a new look and streamlined navigation. The city continues to capitalize on technology to improve service delivery and make government more accessible to the public. Currently, viewers can fill out and submit job applications, pay traffic fines, view jury summons information, access city bid information and watch live broadcasts of City Council and Planning and Zoning Commis- sion meetings, plus access numerous city forms. The previous address www. ci.sugar-land.tx.us will remain and continue to function, translating automatically for the user. The change has a corresponding effect for e-mail addresses, which will also continue to function and translate automatically. (i.e. gmcfarland@ci.sugar-land. tx.us changes and automatically translates to gmcfarland @sugarlandtx.gov). More e-government initiatives will follow later this year.

From Fort Bend Southwest Sun, TX, by Andrea Brockman, 11 February 2003

White House Comes Calling With Dollars for e-Government

President Bush's point man on information technology and e-government programs is coming to Silicon Valley Feb. 11 to urge local companies to participate in the feds' $60 billion program of modernizing its software and hardware. Mark Forman, who heads President Bush's federal IT strategies board, plans to meet with Silicon Valley executives - including a private meeting at Sun Microsystems - that morning. In the afternoon he is slated to meet venture capitalists and others in finance and banking at Cisco Systems headquarters. Silicon Valley companies historically have been reluctant to work through the federal government's red tape, says Jim Kane, president and chief executive officer of Federal Sources Inc., which works as a broker for private companies looking to do business with the federal government. "There is an awful lot of misinformation about dealing with the federal government, and until recently Silicon Valley hasn't been a great player in that market," Mr. Kane says. But there is a growing interest, says William Archey, president and CEO of AeA, the nation's largest high technology trade association. As traditional revenue sources have dried up, more and more high-tech companies are looking at the government as a potential customer," he says. "This is an excellent opportunity for our members." While Silicon Valley in the 1980s rose to prominence in part because of big federal contracts, the 1990s boom here took place largely without assistance from the federal government, Mr. Kane says. "The federal government only grows 5 to 6 percent a year, so it wasn't attractive to [Silicon Valley] businesses," he says.

Likewise, the federal government was not that interested in what the valley had to offer, Mr. Kane says. All that has changed since the September 2001 terrorist attacks and resulting investigations that revealed longstanding communication problems among different areas of the federal government. "At the time of 9/11, most people in the FBI didn't even have Internet access," Mr. Kane says. "They are still in the green-screen era over there." A big chunk of the $60 billion IT and e-government budget includes establishing the Homeland Security Department, which will bring 22 existing government agencies and 170,000 federal workers under one umbrella. The IT budget alone for this is $2.8 billion. Another $10 billion is budgeted for the National Immigration and Naturalization Service project to track every person entering or leaving the country. Still another $5 billion has been designated to prevent hacker attacks on federal Web sites and other programs. This is the second time in less than a year that the Bush administration has approached Silicon Valley. Last fall the administration came to the valley urging businesses to beef up their cybersecurity efforts for the sake of the national economy. The president has also proposed establishing a certification program for IT security companies and in-house IT employees.

The federal government hopes to create a Cybercorps program that would help stimulate research into more secure high-tech products, networks and systems, White House officials say. A big emphasis is on making wireless technology more secure, as well as protecting software from invasion from outside sources. That includes more effective firewalls for high-speed Internet connections that are always on. A new industry report on cybersecurity underscores the need for computer system operators to remain vigilant. A Symantec Internet Security Threat Report released Feb. 3 shows that the volume of attacks on computer networks dipped by 6 percent in the last six months of last year, compared to the first six months. But it says the potential for attacks continues to rise. A separate federal report shows that businesses lost more than $15 billion involving cyberspace incidents just in 2001. The report from Symantec Corp., of Cupertino, shows that the number of known vulnerabilities in software that cyberattackers can exploit rose 81.5 percent in 2002 from 2001. The Symantec report also shows that only 1 percent of cyberattacks start from countries on the U.S. Cyberterrorism Watch List such as Iran, Indonesia and Libya. More than one-third (35.4 percent) originate within the United States. ANDREW F. HAMM covers sports management, energy issues and transportation for the Business Journal. Robert Mullins is a member of the Business Journal's technology team.

From San Jose Business Journal, CA, by Andrew F. Hamm and Robert Mullins, 15 February 2003

Congress Allocates $5 Million for e-Gov Fund

The administration's e-government fund felt the pinch of the budget crunch last night as Congress allocated only $5 million for the account in the final agreement on the fiscal 2003 civilian budget. Appropriations conferees from the House and Senate approved civilian discretionary funding at $397.4 billion, about $7.4 billion above the White House's original request, which was subsequently increased. The House will vote on the spending bill today and the Senate later this week. The White House had requested $45 million for this year to help the 25 Quicksilver projects. But when the conferees finally agreed on the budget, the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees the projects, came away with just $5 million. The General Services Administration will manage the fund that OMB will dole out to projects in need of a boost. Last year OMB gave three projects between $700,000 and $2 million from the fund. "It was not well justified, it was duplicative, and we had scarce resources," said John Scofield, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee. The administration also has asked for $45 million in e-government funding in the 2004 request sent to Capitol Hill last week. For 2002, Congress approved $5 million after the administration requested $20 million. Other highly visible IT projects did receive significant funding. The Immigration and Naturalization Service's Entry-Exit System received its full request of $362 million. Congress allocated $313 million for the Customs Service's Automated Commercial System modernization project and $366 million for IRS modernization. Lawmakers also approved tighter oversight of the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness program. The conferees approved the program for deployment at operating bases in the United States to assist in foreign intelligence gathering against noncitizens, but they called for DOD to submit a report to Congress on the project 90 days after the bill is enacted. The Justice Department also received $45 million more than its $170 million request to continue to modernize the FBI's IT infrastructure and increase its counterterrorism capabilities.

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

Labor Launches E-Gov Plan

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao yesterday unveiled the department's strategic plan for electronic government, as a move toward creating a "digital department," she said. The plan links with the administration's management agenda and chiefly includes existing electronic government initiatives or IT management steps required by law, such as the Government Information Security Reform Act and the Clinger-Cohen Act. However, Labor has repackaged its electronic government initiatives under four headings: - Customer relationship management; - Organizational capability; - Enterprise architecture; - Security and privacy. Labor's strategy cited the activities of existing projects such as the govbenefits.gov and disabilityinfo.gov Web sites as examples of the customer-oriented systems it seeks to achieve via the plan. The strategic plan recognizes that Labor's ability to create a digital department ultimately depends on congressional funding. "Therefore, the department will continue to work closely with [the Office of Management and Budget] and Congress to ensure support for the e-government framework," according to the document. Under the plan, Labor will implement a public-key infrastructure across the department to replace existing methods of encryption and authentication. The PKI implementation will require smart cards as the storage medium for digital certificates. The plan does not describe a schedule for implementing PKI at Labor. The plan also states that the department now relies on three e-mail systems: Novell Groupwise, Unix Sendmail and Microsoft Exchange. Conflicts among the systems lead to delays of up to four hours in message sending, as well as difficulty in sending attachments. The plan calls for an integrated e-mail system without specifying a schedule for its implementation. "Our plan provides the blueprint for transforming the Labor Department into a digital department," Chao said in a statement. "We are leading the way into the 21st century by offering American citizens an easy way to interact with the federal government."

From GCN.com. by Wilson P. Dizard III, 21 February 2003

Federal Government Gets Serious About e-Gov Wizdom Provides FEA Business Training for FEAC

Under the Bush administration, a major effort is underway to greatly streamline all aspects of how the Federal Government does business. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is leading this effort through the implementation of the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA). The FEA serves as a reference both in terms of how Government business processes should be described and integrated and as a guide for Frameworks, tools and methods acceptable for building enterprise models. While this concept serves as the necessary "how to" for Federal Agencies and Departments, OMB also has mandated that all IT, and now all program expenditures must be supported with both business process (an Enterprise Architecture - EA) and economic models (related to the CPIC) prior to approval of FY2004 funds. Wizdom pioneered the predecessor efforts to the FEA through the IDEFs, the MINERVA methodology and the how-to book BPR Wizdom: A Practical Guide to Planning and Managing BPR Projects. As a result, Wizdom has assumed a key role with the Federal Enterprise Architecture Certification (FEAC) Institute (www.feainstitute.org) under the leadership of Dr. Beryl Bellman of California State University, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Mr. Felix Rausch, FEAC Executive Director in Washington, DC.

The FEAC Institute is a not-for-profit organization initially established under the auspices of UCLA to provide Certification Program courses to the Federal Government and Contractors in EA, which result in certification of the student and also satisfying requirements for Continuing Education Units (CEUs). "We are quite proud to have Wizdom play a key role in the development and execution of our Certification Program," said Felix Rausch. "Wizdom adds a dimension of reality based experience that is simply not equaled elsewhere." FEAC offers a 25 CEU professional Practitioner's Enterprise Architecture Certification program which covers Enterprise Architecture as mandated, used and applied in the Federal Government. This mandate also applies to all supporting contractors and state and local Government entities. In addition, FEAC offers a Certification program geared specifically to DoD employees and contractors based upon the requirements of the DoD Architecture Framework (DODAF). In both certification programs, Wizdom (as faculty) presents Advanced Architecture Methods, Modeling, and Performance Analysis.

A consistent business process is used for all formal exercises. Students cover the life cycle of business modeling and analysis from AS-IS process identification to development of TO-BE solutions consistent with OMB guidelines. "I applaud the efforts of the FEAC Institute in creating and managing a University approved certification and hands-on training program," said Dennis E. Wisnosky, Wizdom founder and lead Wizdom instructor for FEAC. "The FEAC program is demanding for both students and faculty. We are proud to be part of the program and to be able to participate in the process of greatly improving the operations of our Government." About Wizdom - Since 1986, Wizdom has been a recognized leader in providing clients with innovative process-based business and software solutions for improving performance. Wizdom's integrated software, training and consulting enables our clients to communicate, plan and execute a unified corporate strategy. Wizdom helps businesses grow by aggressively pursuing new opportunities and employing the best business practices. Wizdom's corporate headquarters is located in Naperville, IL, a western suburb of Chicago.

From PR Web, WA, 20 February 2003

OMB Reads Business Cases for Next Wave of e-Gov

The Office of Management and Budget is lining up support from the top for its next wave of e-government projects. Officials said they will brief the President's Management Council twice over the next two weeks with their plans to address six areas of redundancy: financial management, human resources, data and statistical development, public health information, criminal investigations and public-health monitoring. "We have put together six analysis teams to identify consolidation opportunities that will close the performance gaps," said Norman Lorentz, OMB's chief technology officer, at an Enterprise Architecture Conference sponsored by Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va., and Potomac Forum Ltd. of Potomac, Md. "We met with the E-Government subcommittee, and they suggested we take our plan to the full committee." The six analysis teams will identify the lines of business, work out a parternship with the CIO and chief financial officers councils and gain commitments from every agency that has an interest in the line of business being studied. Then the teams will develop interim business cases to reduce the number of duplicated projects, Lorentz said. OMB will recommend to the management council that the consolidation work begin in October, at the start of fiscal 2004. The analysis teams are made up of agency officials, CIOs, solution architects and program managers, Lorentz said.

From Norfolk Eastern Daily Press, by Jason Miller, 20 February 2003

Labor Unveils e-Gov Strategic Plan

Labor Department Secretary Elaine Chao announced the department's e-government strategic plan today, electronically signing the initiatives into action. The plan's goal is to make products and services more customer-friendly and make the department a government leader in implementing e-government initiatives. It is transforming the department into a "digital department," Labor officials said. "We're spelling out how we intend to operate," Labor's chief information officer Patrick Pizzella said. "This is the first time since the [E-Government] Act of 2002 that we've put everything in one place." The plan, based on the President's Management Agenda, is divided into four components: customer relationship management, organizational capability, enterprise architecture, and security and privacy. Within each area, the department has outlined more than a dozen programs to be completed during the year. The department is nearing the final phase of implementing a common e-mail system, which should be completed by May or June, Pizzella said. The first phase of another major initiative, the GovBenefits Web site, is expected to be complete by April, offering citizens access to every government benefit program. The site will then provide information and determine benefits eligibility for more than 300 programs.

The department also has implemented the DisabilityInfo Web site, which brings together all government information for people with disabilities. "The Department of Labor is one of the first agencies to take the president's blueprint and run with it," said Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census. The department received high marks on the Office of Management and Budget scorecard released last month, demonstrating the greatest level of progress in implementing the President's Management Agenda. Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government at OMB, said the department was at the forefront of the e-government initiatives. "I like the Department of Labor's e-gov strategic plan," he said today. "It's clearly focused on the customer." E-government funding took a hit in the fiscal 2003 budget bill, receiving $5 million of the $45 million requested, but Pizzella said that wouldn't have a major impact on the department's initiatives. "It just makes us have to review our priorities and see how we can best deploy the resources we have," he said. "Our plan is flexible enough to figure out you may not get all the funding you request." Other initiatives in the plan include: * A Web-based time and attendance system. * A privacy Impact Assessment Program. * A common office automation implementation. * Initial launch of e-procurement. * Public-key infrastructure network or e-Authentication.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 19 February 2003

SEAGULL to Showcase E-Gov Solutions at Georgia's High Tech Day at the Capital

Atlanta - Georgia-based SEAGULL (AEX: SEAGULL), the leader in legacy evolution software solutions, today announced that it will participate in the High Tech Day at the Capital, being held February 26, at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot in Atlanta, GA. Hosted by the American Electronics Association's Technology Leadership Coalition, the event activities include a legislative briefing, meetings with state leaders and a reception for technology executives and leaders, state legislators and elected officials to network and share how state policy impacts technology. "A strong tech sector benefits not only the local technology companies, but also the state, the economy and the people who chose to live in Georgia," said Don Addington, President and CEO of SEAGULL. "We are proud to participate in this year's High Tech Day and support Georgia's continued growth as a leading high-tech state." SEAGULL will be exhibiting at the event, showcasing its LegaSuite software solutions for integrating legacy applications with Web-era architectures. SEAGULL solutions are in use by local, state and federal government agencies across the United States, helping to improve citizen services, reduce administrative costs, integrate disparate systems and meet security and disaster recovery requirements. For more information on SEAGULL or case studies of e-government successes with SEAGULL solutions, please visit www.seagullsw.com/solutions/industry/government.html.

From Yahoo News, 26 February 2003

Global e-Government 26 February

US launches emergency advice Web site | Ghana to launch e-government portal - US launches emergency advice Web site: The US Homeland Security Department has unveiled Ready.gov, a federal Web site that provides advice on what steps to take in the event of a terrorist attack. The site, which received 2.5 million hits in its first 24 hours of operation, provides tips on assembling an emergency supply kit and planning for an emergency situation. Also featured are sections providing information on biological, chemical and radiation threats and on how to proceed in the event of an explosion or nuclear blast. The site was in development for more than a year but was launched one week ahead of schedule due to the increased risk of terrorist threats. UK terror network plan stalled: The UK's Cabinet Office has said that work on a computer network designed to respond to terrorist attacks has been halted indefinitely, according to E-Government Bulletin. The "Hazmod" extranet, originally intended to go live in October 2002, was established with the aim of enabling councils and emergency services to co-ordinate their responses to major disasters and civil emergencies. The Cabinet said work on the project has been stalled due to internal management changes but denied that the scheme had been abandoned. However, some local government planners involved in the project called it a "disaster " and blamed lack of funding and technical problems for the delay in its development.

UK schools may install Webcams: England's Manchester City Council has applied for a government grant to install Webcams in five schools, according to a BBC report. The plan is aimed at highlighting the behaviour of disruptive students, whose parents often refuse to accept that their children misbehave in the classroom. A council spokesperson stressed there were no plans to make the images available to the public and said that Web cameras would be used instead of closed circuit television systems as they are cheaper and less obtrusive. Critics have labelled the proposal a "Big Brother" approach, and some say the cameras may make teachers feel uneasy. Finland tops IT league table: Finland is the number one country in a global IT league table, according to a new benchmarking report. The World Economic Forum's "Global Information Technology Report 2002-2003 - Readiness for the Networked World" assessed the performance of 82 countries using criteria including IT usage by citizens and businesses, Internet connectivity and e-government advances. Although Singapore is the leading nation for government IT usage, modernisation of internal processes and delivery of e-services to citizens, Finland topped the poll because of its widespread usage of technology by its businesses and citizens generally. The US was ranked second overall, followed by Singapore, Sweden, Iceland and Canada. The UK came seventh, while Ireland was ranked 21st overall. Singapore eases e-government access: The Singapore government is planning to introduce a scheme that will allow citizens to access all public services on-line using a single ID and password. Currently each government Web site requires a unique log-in.

The new SD5 million (EUR2.6 million) common authentication system, called SingPass (Singapore Personal Access), was developed by the pension fund management body the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board. At the moment, citizens can access around 100 government services on-line, but there are plans to increase this number to 400 by the end of 2004. Ghana to launch e-gov portal: Ghana's Kofi Sakyi-Armah, the chief director of the Ministry of Information and Presidential Affairs, has announced that an e-government portal will be launched next month. Speaking at the opening of the Ghana Web Awards, Sakyi-Armah said the portal would allow citizens to file tax returns, purchase customs and passport forms, register births and deaths and renew drivers licences on the Web. Another aspect of the portal will allow government ministries, departments and agencies to interact on-line with their regional or district offices. Alaska plans ambitious communications project: Alaska is undertaking a five-year USD92 million telecom development scheme that will see the state partnered with private enterprise, reports Government Technology. By the end of the project, 13 Alaskan executive agencies and several other local government participants will have an integrated voice and data system. The scheme proposes to distribute around 20,000 digital phones and to implement a statewide calling plan for public employees to eliminate most long-distance charges. Other plans include the installation of a converged voice, video and data network; enhanced mobile communications and satellite technologies; and enhanced video-conferencing facilities. Alaska Communications System is the state's private-sector partner for the project, and Cisco Systems has been subcontracted to build the IP-based system.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 27 February 2003

Government Takes Piracy Web Site

The Justice Department announced yesterday that it had seized a Web site dedicated to online copyright infringement that is used by tens of thousands of people every day - the first time the government has taken a domain name in a criminal piracy case. The takeover of the site, www.isonews.com, came as part of a plea agreement involving David M. Rocci of Blacksburg, Va., who ran the site and who pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to violating federal copyright laws. Officials described the site, with more than 100,000 regular users and more than 140,000 hits each day, as the nation's leading public Internet site dedicated to online computer piracy. The officials plan to post information about the criminal case against Rocci and about copyright infringement on the Web site, along with links to Justice Department sites. Rocci, 22, who used the online screen name "krazy8," pleaded guilty Dec. 19 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by trafficking in devices known as modification, or "mod," chips. Those are computer chips used to circumvent copyright protections in such game systems at Playstation2 and XBox, allowing users to illegally play pirated sports, racing and other games on their televisions. Prosecutors said Rocci used the Web site to market and advertise the sale of these chips, selling about 450 of them in the United States and overseas for two months starting in May 2002.

He made about $28,000. Because the Web site was "facilitating" the crime and because Justice Department officials wanted to send a message to other violators, they came up with the idea of seizing the site. Officials said this could be a harbinger of enforcement actions. "Piracy is not a game or a hobby; it is a crime," Paul J. McNulty, the U.S. attorney in Alexandria, said in a statement. "Whether you are engaged in conduct like David Rocci or you are purchasing mod chips to play pirated games, you should stop. As David Rocci and others have learned recently, the consequences of copyright infringement are very real." McNulty's office prosecuted the case with the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Officials would not say what triggered the investigation, though they acknowledged having been aware of the site because of its wide usage. The investigation is ongoing, but officials would not say whether Rocci's guilty plea means he is cooperating or whether others could face charges. Rocci faces up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine when he is sentenced on March 7. As for the future of his site, Justice Department officials said they intend to leave their messages on it for a number of days. It is unclear whether the site will be shut after that. Rocci and his attorney did not return telephone calls.

From Washington Post, by Jerry Markon, 27 February 2003

 
 

Malaysia: Mayban Research Maintains Buy Call on Public Bank, Public Finance

Mayban Securities Research has maintained its buy call on Public Bank and Public Finance at RM2.31 and RM7.70 respectively as their performances in FY02 were within expectations, with growth driven by strong loan expansion. Commenting on Public Bank's performance, it said earnings growth for the group was mainly driven by the strong loan growth of 21.1 per cent year-on-year (FY01 nine per cent) despite further pressure on margins. Segmental contributions dominated by retail operations with almost 85 per cent of pre-tax profit largely from motor financing and residential mortgages. "Asset quality for the group remained one of the strongest surpassing industry's average of 7.5 per cent while the risk weighted capital ratio (RWCR) remained firm at 12.8 per cent," it said. However, the group's performance was moderated by lower contributions of 11 per cent (FY01: 21 per cent) from its overseas operations mainly from higher loan loss provisions in its Hong Kong operations. "Going forward, the group is poised to benefit from the eventual merger between the commercial bank and finance company which is waiting legislative revision. Maintain Buy," Mayban Securities said. Analysing Public Finance's performance, Mayban Securities said that the improved result of the finance company was largely expected based on the anticipated loan growth of 42.8 per cent year-on-year. Public Finance is trading at a price to earnings ratio (PER) of 8.4 times while price-to-book value stood at 1.6 times. "We expect minorities to benefit from the privatisation play with a potential gain of 22 per cent based on our fair value for Public Bank of RM2.80 and special dividends of RM1 (net). Maintain buy," Mayban Securities said. The substantial growth rate was mainly contributed by motor financing (an increase of 91 per cent) and general commerce, wholesale and retail (an increase of 15 per cent). "Asset quality was not compromised in the quest for loan growths as non-performing loan declined further and significantly lower than industry average of 7.6 per cent," the research house said.

From The Edge Daily, Malaysia, by Jimmy Yeow, 6 February 2003

Deal Gives Some Relief from Double Taxation

A long-awaited agreement finalised yesterday between Australia and New Zealand has removed one of the thorns from the paw of CER. The two Governments took the opportunity of a visit by Australian Treasurer Peter Costello to announce a deal on "triangular" tax, 12 years in gestation, which partially removes the double taxation of profits of companies with operations and shareholders on both sides of the Tasman. At present if an Australia company pays company tax in New Zealand the imputation credits that would normally generate are wasted. Its New Zealand shareholders cannot claim them because it is an Australian company and its Australian shareholders cannot claim them because it is New Zealand tax. The new agreement removes the first of those problems. A New Zealand shareholder will be able to claim his or her share of the New Zealand tax paid, to offset the tax payable on the dividends he or she receives. Conversely the Australian shareholders in a New Zealand company making profits and paying tax in Australia will be able to claim franking credits pro rata. But the double tax will still apply where New Zealanders own shares in an Australian company with no New Zealand operations, and vice versa.

The limited nature of the relief is evident from the fact that the revenue cost to the New Zealand Government will be about $10 million a year and to the Australian Government about $A25 million. To put that in context, as at March last year there was $17.6 billion of Australian foreign direct investment in New Zealand and $8.6 billion of New Zealand FDI in Australia. However, PricewaterhouseCoopers tax partner John Shewan said the benefits were wider than the $10 million figure might suggest. It removed one incentive for a New Zealand corporates to move to Australia, he said. It would lower the cost of capital for New Zealand companies raising capital in Australia. And it would bolster the New Zealand tax base by reducing the incentive Australian companies have to finance their New Zealand subsidiaries largely through debt. It would be of particular benefit to companies like Tower, Telecom, Fisher & Paykel and Carter Holt Harvey which had operations and shareholders on both sides of the Tasman, Shewan said.

The measure allows, but does not require, companies to make the imputation or franking credits available. They will still have to decide whether the compliance costs are worth it. Kerry McDonald, a director of several companies with trans-tasman businesses, said the triangular tax move was a useful step forward but pretty small in the overall scheme of things. The Australia New Zealand Business Council has long called for a commitment to a single investment market in which investors from one country would be treated as domestic investors in the other. But that would require a degree of integration between the two countries' tax systems, McDonald said, and realistically New Zealand as the smaller partner would have to make most of the adjustments. "I think the decision [to tax harmonisation] would not be done on a fine calculation of the costs and benefits but done in terms of a big strategic judgment about New Zealand's future," McDonald said, "like the judgment which led to the original CER agreement 20 years ago." Tax was not a major impediment to investment, Shewan said. "I would describe it more as a frustration. What it does is delay investment and alter the form it takes."

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, by Brian Fallow, 19 February 2003

 

Public Finances: Baldassarri Dismisses Catastrophic Scenario

Rome - January revenue requirement figures prove "that public finances are under control despite the catastrophic scenarios portrayed in recent months", according to the deputy Finance Minister, Mario Baldassarri, who could not hide his satisfaction at national deficit figures which the Finance Minister is due to issue officially this afternoon. Baldassarri also added that "we must keep a close check on deficit". During a press conference the deputy Minister said: "I am cautious by nature, I am not going to seek penance nor am I going to toast on champagne. We cannot - he concluded - rely on one off measures: public finance must be kept in check".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italy, 3 February 2003

Online Tax Returns Start to Take-off

The Inland Revenue's online tax return filing system is growing in popularity, despite a number of glitches last year. According to figures released by the department, there has been a surge in people who deal with their own tax affairs filing over the net. There has also been an increase in accountants submitting their clients' tax returns online, although this figure was less significant. While the Revenue is celebrating and calling it a "mammoth increase", take-up is still way off its eventual target rate. 'Mammoth increase' - In 2002, just 76,287 people filed their tax return online. This year the number has risen substantially to 324,710. While the number of accountants who filed their clients' returns online increased slightly, from 343,009 to 364,625. A spokesman for the Revenue told BBC News Online: "We are delighted about the increase." He added: "There's been a mammoth increase between last year and this year and we are obviously hoping for a similar increase." Targets - By 2005, the government aims to have all of its services available online. The Revenue's target for online filing is 50% of its nine million self assessment customers by 2005. The system has not been without its glitches. In the run up to last year's 30 September deadline the system was blocking people from filing online at certain times of the day - and the Revenue advised people not to use the service between 7pm and 11pm. One advantage of filing online is that the system calculates your tax for you.

From BBC, UK, 3 February 2003

Huge Rise in Online Tax Returns

Self-assessment via the net jumps by 425 per cent - The number of self-assessment tax returns filed over the internet has shot up by 425 per cent, but experts say still more needs to be done to boost government services online. By 31 January this year the Inland Revenue received a total of 324,710 returns over the internet, while in 2002 the figure was just 76,287. This compares with approximately 7.4 million paper returns by 30 January this year. A spokeswoman explained that the increase in numbers was due to making the self-assessment site faster and adding improvements made on the basis of an online feedback form. "Each year we get feedback online," she said. "From April we have planned further improvements. "At the moment if you go into the Government Gateway you must come out again to get access to the Inland Revenue site. From April there will be a straight-through connection." Other features, such as online help for form-filling, have encouraged greater use, the spokeswoman added. While admitting that the figures are low compared with paper returns, she predicted that they would "creep up as more people get computers".

One satisfied customer, Peter Shearer, a technical services manager for offshore investment group Bermuda Advisers Limited, said: "I found it very straightforward and as easy to use as Amazon.com. "I have a 128k broadband connection so was not worried about staying online, but it only took me an hour to complete." But not everyone was happy with their online filing experience. One user complained that he had been issued with a penalty notice for non-submission when the service had broken down and gone offline. Jim Norton, independent policy advisor and former director of the Cabinet Office e-commerce team, called the upward jump in filing "not bad", but acknowledged that numbers "could be a lot better considering how many taxpayers there are". "Bigger incentives are needed," he said. "There's a big problem with very low usage of e-government sites. Much more boldness is called for." A spokeswoman from the Office of the e-Envoy said: "We recognise that British businesses and citizens are not yet using government services online in the numbers that match the best in the world. "We need to ensure that the most popular services are made available as soon as possible, to maximise the impact of e-government." The e-Envoy is working with departments to "agree a strategy for reform, designed to improve the development, delivery and communication of our online services", the spokeswoman added.

From VNUNet, UK, by Lisa Kelly, 10 January 2003

UK Public Finance Figures In-line in January

The UK budget deficit is broadly on track to meet Treasury forecasts for the financial year, official figures showed on Thursday. Public sector net borrowing in the ten months to January reached £16.7bn, compared with a surplus of £1.6bn for the corresponding period last year. Monthly public sector net borrowing was a surplus of £3.1bn in January, compared with a surplus of £7.2bn in January 2002.Analysts said that borrowing appeared to be moving in line with the Treasury's target of £20bn for the full financial year. In December, the figure of £21.4bn for the financial year to date overshot that target - although that month was a quiet one for tax receipts. January is the biggest month for income tax receipts, but they fell by about 5 per cent compared with the corresponding month last year. Analysts speculated that the Treasury might have to revise up its forecasts for borrowing next year in the March budget. Alan Castle, UK economist at Lehman Brothers, said: "The one thing we can say with confidence is that the Chancellor's budget numbers for the current fiscal year look set to be too optimistic." The CBI said that with tax returns coming in lower, it expected the government to raise borrowing by an extra £13.3bn over the next two fiscal years. It predicted borrowing would rise to £26.7bn in 2003-4, about £2.7bn higher than government forecasts. The CBI also trimmed its forecast for economic growth in the next two years, citing the weak global economy as suppressing a UK recovery. It predicted that UK growth would average 2.2 per cent in 2003, a downward revision of 0.2 per cent, and 2.4 per cent in 2004.Analysts had predicted a cash public sector net cash requirement surplus of about £9bn to £11bn for the financial year to date - the figure came in at £11.4bn.Some economists believe that falling share prices may cost the Treasury up to £2bn more in lost tax revenues next year. This could help push government borrowing towards £30bn in 2003-04, compared with the Chancellor's forecast of £24bn.

From Financial Times, UK, by Lydia Adetunji, 20 February 2003

 

Cultural Groups Vie for Millions in City Funding

Already facing a tight budget, city leaders now are receiving requests from arts groups for extensive renovations, new buildings and additional land. Over the next several months, politicians, arts leaders and corporate backers will decide which projects will get the limelight and which exit the stage. The arts groups, backed by cultural and corporate leaders including Hugh McColl Jr., are asking for major funding at a time when all city projects - from roads to public housing - face a budget crunch. Of the $45.4 million requested by arts groups so far this year, two projects have taken center stage. Discovery Place says renovations and an expansion of the 21-year-old museum will cost $40 million. N.C. Dance Theatre wants the city to chip in $1 million as part of a $6 million building project for rehearsal and office space. Those requests have been submitted as part of the city's annual planning for capital investments, which kicked off this month and culminates with approval of the city's budget by July 1. Meanwhile, arts and civic groups are working on a new, 25-year cultural master plan, which they hope will coincide with the city's budget. The city last year approved $2.7 billion in capital-improvement projects over five years - the bulk of those funds going to transportation, water/sewer, affordable housing and other projects unrelated to the arts. City Budget Director Ruffin Hall plans to work with city leaders and private groups to consider priorities, which will first be presented to the City Council in April. Arts leaders say their requests take the tight economy into consideration but still deserve funding. In some cases, facilities are wearing out. N.C. Blumenthal Performing Arts Center needs a new roof, says President Judith Allen. In other instances, things are already worn. Discovery Place President John Mackay says he's heard the complaints about the old building and the dated exhibits. "We're harder on ourselves than the public's ever been." The arts requests rolled into the city budget office this month.

They include: Discovery Place. Mackay says he needs a renovated, expanded building - not to mention new exhibits. He worries that the museum has become known more for a school field-trips than for cutting-edge technology. "It's not just a quick flash in the pan," Mackay says. "It would be comparable to an art museum having to go out and buy all new paintings." The $40 million price tag is the total cost for the building project. In the past, City Council and arts groups have split project costs 50-50, says budget analyst Phil Cowherd. The city last used this policy for the Discovery Place parking deck, approved in the 1994 budget. N.C. Dance Theatre, which performs at the N.C. Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. The group holds classes and practices across town because of its cramped College Street quarters, says Dance Theatre Chair Amy Blumenthal. McColl, retired Bank of America Corp. CEO and a Dance Theatre advisory board member, has started drumming up support for the project. But the group is still asking for some city help. McColl, who credits his wife, Jane, with sparking his interest in the group, says Charlotte has been lucky to have top-quality dancers and now needs to support them. Of the fund-raising effort, he says: "We've been well-received in places where it matters." Blumenthal hopes to have architects working on designs for the new building within four to six months. Incoming Executive Director LaRue Allen will help with the building project when she arrives next month. The Afro-American Cultural Center. It has put in a request for building improvements, as well as a new piece of land bordered by Parkside Terrace and Myers Street. The property is valued at around $800,000, but the final request is still in flux, city budget staffers say. N.C. Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

It is asking for $2.4 million for building improvements, including a new roof and a new orchestra pit ramp. "It has to be major" for the group to seek city help, says President Allen. "Otherwise, we do it ourselves." Charlotte Whitewater Park. The new kids on the block want $2 million as part of the $20 million construction costs. Of the projects on the table, Discovery Place seems to have the most momentum among city staff and cultural gurus. Cowherd, the budget analyst, says the facility has long been in line for renovations. "It's generally observed that Discovery Place needs an injection of funds to revive itself." Arts & Science Council President and Chief Executive Harriet Sanford, who is in the midst of meetings with community leaders and arts groups, says Discovery Place is a top priority because it serves a unique niche. "There's a high interest in having that done," she says. "Everything else is up for discussion." While the city budget process gears up, a new cultural facilities master plan is being crafted by the Arts & Science Council, the Foundation for the Carolinas and Charlotte Center City Partners. Sanford expects that plan to be in place by April 1 - around the time City Council will receive draft budgets from Hall's staff. Hall says the tight economy hasn't changed the building needs of arts' groups. The requests, part of the city's Capital Investment Plan, concern building needs, from roof repairs to full-scale renovations. Those five-year plans cover everything from sewer improvements to public housing. The arts groups' needs comprise only a small part of the overall requests. The city is involved in budgeting for arts groups when it has an ownership stake in facilities, as it does for Discovery Place, the Blumenthal and the Afro-American Cultural Center. Land acquisition, in the case of the Dance Theatre and the Afro-American Cultural Center, aren't unusual. Requests are nothing new, and they're not extraordinarily high this year, Hall says. For example, when Discovery Place wanted to build an aquarium, its request topped out at $90 million for the 2002-06 planning period, he says.

The 2001 arena referendum that failed to keep the Hornets in town also put a series of arts projects on hold. Discovery Place needed repairs then, the Mint Museum wanted to move uptown and the Carolina Theatre needed renovations. Funding for Theatre Charlotte and the Afro-American Cultural Center was also rejected. Sanford says the projects have been re-evaluated in the 18 months since the referendum. The current plan won't be a replay of the arena bundle. But some projects are still in discussion, such as the Carolina Theatre improvements. Sanford knows the renovation of the historic Tryon Street space will require a significant amount of money. "I'm not optimistic," she says. "But I've been wrong before, and I'd love to be wrong about this one." Sanford says her role is to gather data, find a consensus and put together a plan that will last a generation. She'll work with arts groups and city officials on budget constraints. "It's a reality check across the board," she says. "We'll try to temper our expectations." Bob Lynch, who leads the Americans for the Arts in Washington, says the tough economy has squeezed arts groups across the country. Lynch is familiar with Charlotte's enthusiastic participation in cultural facilities and the ASC. Sanford is on his board and Michael Marsicano, a former ASC president who now leads the Foundation for the Carolinas, is a former board chair. Lynch says arts groups typically rely on income from ticket sales, individual donors, foundations, corporate support and government. Each of those funding sources has been hit because of the recession, the Sept. 11 attacks and the sluggish stock market. "It's never easy for the arts," Lynch says. It's particularly tough now. Even ticket sales are down, especially advance sales. Candace Sorensen, executive director at Theatre Charlotte, says season subscriptions are down because people don't have the time or money to commit to shows. Thankfully, she says, many are still buying tickets at the last minute. "The country in general is having a problem with disposable income, and the arts flow under disposable income." (Research Director Amy Shapiro contributed to this report).

From Charlotte Business Journal, NC, by Jen Zoghby, 3 February 2003

Reform on Tap for City Finance Laws

Newly elected supervisors are set to sink their teeth into a major revision of the law that governed their campaigns - and in several cases, failed to govern their opponents'. The proposal from The City's Ethics Commission is a direct response to questionable campaign and fund-raising tactics since voters approved changes to the law in November 2000. While most of the changes are minor, a few represent significant changes to existing law and could alter how campaigns are financed and conducted. For example: Donors would no longer be able to make contributions through multiple companies to skirt contribution limits. Last year, businessmen from real estate brokers to porn bigwigs used their company names to direct large amounts of cash to favorite candidates. Surplus funds left in the campaign account of a candidate who took public funds for his or her campaign would be forfeit to the Ethics Commission. Candidates for major office would be able to make substantially larger loans to their own campaigns - Lawbreakers would be subject to larger criminal and civil penalties and fines - up from a $500 minimum to $5,000. Ginny Vida, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said the law needs just a bit of improvement. "I think it's a good system," Vida said. The changes will have to clear a few hurdles. At least four of the five ethics commissioners must approve (they have), then eight of the 11 Board of Supervisors members must sign off on them. If the commission is unhappy with the results, it can send the package directly to the voters.

While supervisors expect to approve the commission's work quickly, they do have some suggestions. Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose run in the District 8 race got nasty when outside groups pumped money into both sides during the December runoff race, said he's not in favor of limits on candidates that encourage others to spend on their behalf. "As we attempt to dump more and more regulations on political speech and conduct, it's like you are pushing down on mud and it's squeezing out in other directions," Dufty said. Dufty eschewed business and political club contributions and campaign street signs only to see those groups later pay big bucks to cover the Castro and Upper Market with placards on his behalf. Dufty also is likely to move to amend a provision that would allow some political hit pieces to remain anonymous. Give the voters the info and "they will make the right decision," Dufty said. Dufty shares that view with Steven Hill of the Center for Voting and Democracy, who said he favors most of the changes in the law but wants as many disclosure regulations as possible. "You want to lean on the side of openness and making the information easily available to voters," Hill said. Some conservatives and fiscal watchdogs have criticized the public financing program for subsidizing wannabe politicians at taxpayers' expense. Most supervisors however, favor the program - with a reasonable fund-raising threshold to deter frivolous candidates. A copy of the legislation is available at www.sfgov.org/ethics. The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee and Ethics Commission will take input on the law in the coming weeks. (E-mail: ahampton@examiner.com).

From San Francisco Examiner, CA, by Adriel Hampton, 3 February 2003

Lawmaker Revives Water-Storage Proposal

Finance experts say money isn't the real obstacle to building more water projects in Colorado. But that's not stopping a Littleton lawmaker from resurrecting a proposed law to give the state the power to issue up to $10 billion in bonds to build water-storage projects. State Sen. Jim Dyer, R-Littleton, said the bonding authorization bill is not about the money anyway. He said his bill will break the political logjam that he believes is responsible for a lack of water storage capacity in Colorado. A previous attempt to garner more financing authority was shot down during September's special session of the Colorado Legislature by opposition from environmentalists and Western Slope Republicans. But those involved in water issues say the state already has the authority to issue bonds to pay for water projects. That agency, the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, has concentrated on the smaller water projects and water treatment plans cities asked it to help build. So far, response from the traditional water interests in Colorado is lukewarm to negative to Dyer resurrecting his proposal. "Water projects are really easy to finance," said Vicki Mattox, senior vice presient of public finance for investment bank George K. Baum & Co. "The issue has not been the ability to access capital. It's not the money, it's all the other things." Dyer said his bill is supported by a wide range of business chambers, manufacturers and Front Range cities. He's been pushing his proposal with farming interests, cities and newspapers because he believes the current system is broken and can't be fixed. As proof, Dyer offers the fact that the state hasn't had a large water project get off the ground since Two Forks. The state, he said, needs a new system to fund water projects, a system his blueprint says will support a wider list of projects and be free from the geographic rivalries of Front Range vs. Western Slope. "I think it will pass and we'll get it before the people," Dyer said. "I don't think the Legislature can sit on its hands and do nothing when there's the worst drought in 300 years."

A safe investment - In the past, most water projects were built by cities and water districts, or with federal government tax money. Cities that turned to the marketplace found a warm welcome. Investors like water bonds because everyone needs water and raising rates to pay off the bonds is easy to do, said George K. Baum's Mattox, adding that she was speaking about water financing effort, and that she hadn't seen Dyer's proposal and had no opinion about it. "There's never been a default on a revenue bond. We don't have clients coming to us and saying 'oh gees, we want to do this project but we can't get the money,'" Mattox said. The ease of financing stretches from small districts to large cities, she said. Opponents: Proposal is redundant - Others point out that the state already has the power to issue bonds for water projects through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. The authority has already issued about $160 million worth of bonds for water projects. "We don't need it. We can already do it through the authority. He's trying to add another layer in there," said Sen. Lewis Entz, R-Hooper, who has served as a director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and is a former president of the Colorado Water Congress. Entz also is sponsoring another bill to expand the authority's ability to fund projects. He said he hadn't seen a copy of the current $10 billion bonding proposal. But Dyer says his proposal isn't about the money. He believes political leaders need a kick in the pants from voters to get moving on building new storage projects that would capture enough water to carry the state through future droughts. Thus the $10 billion bonding bill, which would require voter approval, much like the TRANS bonds voters approved in 1999 to build highway projects around the state. Dyer blames the current drought, and all its accompanying restrictions, on "political inertia" throughout the last decade or more that he says stymied efforts to build dams and diversions that might have carried the metro area through these years of sparse snowpacks. And he believes the water and power authority, which has the power to issue water project bonds, is a large source of that political inertia.

Dyer wants a statewide referendum in November in which the people of the state of Colorado would stand up and tell political leaders that planning for future droughts is important, so important they'd approve Dyer's new program. "I think it's critically important that the people make their voice heard," Dyer said. Water a top concern - The drought is climbing the list of issues voters are concerned about. In a survey that George K. Baum & Co. did for education associations, respondents were asked their highest priorities for state funding, Mattox said. Education, kindergarten through 12th grade, was listed first or second by 65.8 percent of the people. The next highest response was water issues, with 35.3 percent of respondents listing that as the first or second priority, she said. Dyer's new program also would make an end run around the water and power authority that runs the existing bond program, the agency Dyer blames for the political gridlock. The agency can issue bonds for governments, up to $100 million per government, for water projects. If two or more municipalities get together on a single project, they each can get up to $100 million, said Dan Law, executive director of the water and power authority. If the loan is more than $100 million, the authority has to defer to another state agency, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, for approval, although another bill, backed by Sen. Entz, would lift that cap. The water and power authority also can subsidize the cost of issuing bonds. Its staff has been reviewing water projects for more than a decade, Law said. Law said he hadn't seen a draft copy of Dyer's bill, and that the authority was neutral on the proposal during the special session, but, he noted "We already do 99 percent of what was in Sen. Dyer's bill." "The Colorado water and power authority has a good name in the market," Law said. "And Colorado doesn't issue a lot of tax-exempt bonds, so there's generally a good demand for that paper."

Yet Dyer said he believes the water and power authority isn't doing enough. "They're part of the problem, not the solution," Dyer said. He points out that the legislation that created the agency specifically calls for it to "simultaneously consider" three projects around the state. None of those projects, one of them being the controversial Two Forks Dam project, have been built. He also criticizes the authority because its money is restricted to governments. It can't fund private projects, or public-private ventures. Money from the authority's bonds can't be used to buy water rights or pay to protect agricultural or environmental losses, he said. Law said he believes the authority's tax-exempt bonds can be used to pay for those things if they are connected to a construction project. Dyer said he also believes the authority's board, appointed by the governor to represent the state's different river basins, is locked in the decades-old arguments of Front Range vs. Western Slope water usage. Dyer's solution is to create a new $10 billion in bonding authority for the state. He would allow the money to be used for an expanded list of projects, not only construction but conservation, environmental mitigation and compensation for the economic losses suffered by areas water is diverted from. Private groups and public-private partnerships would be eligible for the money as well as governments and water districts. And instead of going through the water and power authority, projects would be reviewed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board with final yes-no authority resting with the governor. Dyer chose the governor as the final authority, "because the governor is elected by everyone in the state and you need a firm executive decision." The governor would also be immune from the tug of Western Slope vs. Front Range arguements, Dyer said, as well as the politicalzation of issues in the state Legislature. "The give and take is a good thing, but there comes a point where there are things that should not be politicized," he said.

From Denver Business Journal, CO, by Cathy Proctor, 3 February 2003

Report Calls for Wider Use of City Campaign Finance Law

New York City's public campaign finance program remains one of the best in the country, but it faces threats from wealthy candidates like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, candidates who do not abide by its restrictions and independent groups that aid campaigns without reporting it, according to a report to be released today. The report, by the Center for Governmental Studies, a nonpartisan policy group based in Los Angeles, lauds the city's program, which provides $4 in public money for every $1 raised by candidates who agree to limit their contributions and spending and to participate in public debates. But the report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, also recommends that several loopholes be closed. Its central recommendation is that New York City apply its strict contribution limits and disclosure requirements to all candidates, whether or not they choose to participate in the city program. Right now candidates who choose not to participate are governed by state campaign law, which the report calls "among the weakest in the United States." That means participating candidates can accept individual contributions only up to $4,500, while those who do not can accept up to $45,400. Requiring all candidates to be bound by city campaign finance law would have little impact on candidates like Mr. Bloomberg who finance their own campaigns, because the United States Supreme Court has held that spending limits must be voluntary and prohibits limits on the amount candidates can contribute to their own campaigns. But it would require candidates like Mr. Bloomberg to disclose their expenditures more regularly, following the city's schedule rather than the state's.

Whether or not the city has the power to require all candidates to abide by its laws limiting contributions and requiring disclosure has been the subject of debate; a legal analysis in the report concludes that it would be possible. The executive director of the city's Campaign Finance Board, Nicole A. Gordon, said most city officials have assumed that candidates who do not participate in the program should be governed by state law, not city law. But she said that the report made some strong arguments that the city law could be applicable in such cases. "It certainly should be looked at closely," she said. The report does recommend changing the city program to aid candidates who face wealthy opponents who finance their own campaigns, as Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire, did in the 2001 election. Noting that Mr. Bloomberg spent more than four times as much as his opponent, Mark Green, in that race, the report recommends increasing public matching funds for candidates whose opponents do not abide by spending limits. The report recommends the matching funds double, to $8 for every $1 raised. The other major recommendation in the report concerns expenditures for things like mailings and posters made in support of candidates by third-party individuals, organizations and unions, which the report said can use them to exert influence beyond what contribution limits permit. "Two things are certain," the report says. "Substantial independent campaign spending is occurring in New York City, and the public has no means of knowing its extent." The report, which cites several candidates who admit that they were helped by independent groups, including unions, calls on the city and the state to adopt laws requiring disclosure of all independent election expenditures made in support of candidates.

Ms. Gordon said that the Campaign Finance Board had received "little evidence" of significant independent expenditures in New York City, but that the issue was worth looking into. The board recommended several changes to the program last fall, including reducing the city's matching rate, to $3 from $4 for every dollar raised. Some savings from the lower match, the board believes, could be used to increase the match for candidates who face high-spending opponents. All told, the board distributed $41.5 million in 2001. The City Council, whose members face re-election this year and are actively raising money, is considering the change to the matching system. Asked about the proposed change last month, Mayor Bloomberg said that he should probably stay out of the debate, given that he had paid for his own campaigns, and would do so again in any future elections. "Anything that reduces the city's expenditures is a good thing," the mayor said at a City Hall news conference. "On the other hand, I am sympathetic if you had to go out and raise money, how tough it is. And the fact of the matter is we live in a media age, where advertising in your newspaper or on your radio or television stations is phenomenally expensive." "One of the things that you could do, as good, public-spirited citizens, is to reduce your advertising rates," he said to his media audience. "And one of the ways you could do that would be to pay your reporters less."

From New York Times, by Michael Cooper, 10 January 2003

Protecting Seniors from Double-Taxation

Testimony given before the Special Committee on Aging - Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify. My name is Dan Mitchell and I am a Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Heritage Foundation. The views expressed here are my own. President Bush has proposed to eliminate the double-taxation of dividends. Under his plan, businesses will pay tax on corporate income, but individual stockholders no longer would have to pay a second layer of tax on that income when it is distributed in the form of dividends. This proposal is good for America, and it is good for seniors. The President is addressing a very serious problem. The internal revenue code routinely imposes extra layers of taxation on productive behavior such as saving and investment, and the double-taxation of dividends is just the tip of the iceberg. Capital gains taxes are a form of double-taxation, as is the death tax. Interest payments also are double-taxed, and the 1993 tax bill even instituted an extra layer of tax on Social Security benefits. Removing or reducing double-taxation will lead to more jobs and higher living standards. These policies will make America more competitive. Eliminating extra layers of tax will simplify the tax code. Perhaps most important, ending double-taxation is the right thing to do. People who contribute to our nation's prosperity by saving and investing - and this certainly includes many of the elderly - should not be punished by the tax code. Double-Taxation is bad for America - Tax policies that punish savings and investment are counterproductive.

Every economic theory (including Marxism) teaches that capital formation is necessary to raise wages and stimulate long-term economic growth. Policymakers who want to boost savings should eliminate the anti-savings provisions in the federal tax code, preferably by replacing the code with a simple and fair flat tax that would end multiple taxation of capital. To the extent that such fundamental reform is not immediately possible, there are a number of incremental steps Congress should take to alleviate the bias against savings and move toward a flat and fair tax system in the future: Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) should become universal, so that all taxpayers could save as much as they want without being taxed twice; The double taxation on non-retirement savings should be eliminated; The 1993 tax increase on Social Security benefits should be repealed; Tax penalties on dividends, estates, capital gains, and other forms of capital should be eliminated. This hearing is designed to address two issues. First, what is the impact on the elderly of the death tax, the Social Security benefit tax, and the second layer of tax on dividend income? Second, what are the potential economic benefits of the President's economic plan? Double Taxation and the Elderly - While certain taxes - such as the death tax and double-tax on dividends - are not explicitly designed to hit seniors, the elderly bear a disproportionate share of the burden. Seniors have higher levels of saving and investment. In part, this is simply because they have had the opportunity to accumulate capital during their working years. But there also are specific reasons why the elderly save, including the desire for economic security and the desire to provide a nest egg for their families. Unfortunately, these goals are sabotaged by the tax code.

Here are the specific forms of double-taxation that the committee is examining today, along with an explanation of why they are improper. Death tax - The death tax is imposed when a taxpayer dies and his or her assets are above a certain value. Yet since assets generally are purchased with after-tax income, the death tax clearly qualifies as double taxation. Indeed, many financial assets in a taxpayer's estate may already have been subject to extra layers of tax, so the death tax often is a form of triple - or even quadruple taxation. Tax on Social Security benefits - There is one form of double-taxation that specifically targets the elderly. Thanks to the 1993 tax increase, single retirees with income above $34,000 and couples with income over $44,000 now must pay tax on 85 percent of their Social Security benefits. Yet since Social Security taxes are only 50 percent deductible (the so-called employer share of the tax is paid in pre-tax dollars), it is double taxation to tax more than 50 percent of benefits. Dividend tax - Returns to corporate equity are subject to double-taxation. First, the income is subject to the corporate income tax - and the U.S. has the fourth highest rate in the industrialized world. Then the same income is taxed a second time at the individual level thanks to the personal income tax. Tax Relief for the Elderly - Fixing these flaws in the tax code is good for economic growth, good for American competitiveness, and good for the elderly. The White House has announced that "[a]lmost half of all savings from the dividend exclusion under the President's plan would go to taxpayers 65 and older. The average tax savings for the 9.8 million seniors receiving dividends would be $936." One of my Heritage Foundation colleagues has combed through the data and also found that the elderly are big beneficiaries of dividend tax reform.

Among post-retirement age taxpayers who receive dividends, the median taxpayers' (single, married, and combined) dividend income is $2,406, with an after-tax income of $35,544. The median single taxpayer in this group has a lower after-tax income of $21,844 and a higher dividend income of $3,184. The median married taxpayer in this group has an after-tax income of $44,921 and a dividend income of just under $2,000. The death tax is scheduled to disappear in 2010. That is the good news. The bad news is that it reappears in 2011. This tax reform must be made permanent to boost economic growth and to rescue older Americans from this pernicious form of double-taxation. Last but not least, the double-tax on Social Security benefits currently is part of the tax code and it does not appear that this black mark will be erased anytime soon. Good tax policy will Boost Economy and Increase Wages - Dividend Double-Tax - Many economists have long argued that the double taxation of dividends reduces the after-tax return on capital in the nation's economy and thus discourages corporate investment.1[1] This reduced corporate investment, such as purchases of new business equipment and machinery, weakens economic growth. Consequently, these economists would argue that eliminating this double taxation would spur corporate investment and improve the economy's long-term growth. Empirical evidence indicates that eliminating the double taxation of dividends would lower the cost of capital and, in turn, increase investment and economic growth.

Since the United States is one of only three developed countries without some form of protection from the double taxation of dividends, much of the empirical evidence examines the experiences of other countries. In 1987, New Zealand and Australia both implemented a dividend "imputation credit" mechanism to eliminate the double tax on dividends.2[2] This method, which has the effect of adding back the corporate layer of tax to the dividend received by the shareholder, was found to increase capital investment in both New Zealand and Australia.3[3] Furthermore, the imputation credit employed in Australia was found to offset the investment dampening effects of a capital gains tax increase.4[4] In a 1984 paper, James Poterba and Lawrence Summers tested several competing hypotheses regarding the economic effects of dividend taxation using data from Great Britain.5[5] Unlike the United States, Great Britain has experienced several dividend tax reforms since the 1950's, a condition which makes empirical testing more straightforward. The authors found that the double taxation of dividends in Great Britain did lower corporate investment and worsen distortions in the capital markets. One of the only recent U.S. tax reforms that lends itself to this type of empirical study is the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA86). A 1991 paper by Nadeau and Strauss notes that TRA86 significantly reduced the tax advantage of retained earnings over dividends.6[6] The authors' model estimated this tax reform reduced the cost of equity capital by about 30%.

Later, Cummins and Hassett (1992) studied TRA86 and found that it lowered the cost of capital and increased investment.7[7] Recently, Heritage Foundation economists simulated the President's dividend tax reform bill and found that ending the double tax on dividends would lead to higher investment and economic growth. It would: 1. Increase the employment level by an average of 311,000 taxpaying jobs per year; 2. Increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by an average of $40 billion; 3. Increase purchases of business equipment by an average of $32 billion. Interestingly, this added economic growth will generate revenue for the government. The revenue feedback - or supply-side effect - almost surely won't be enough to offset the static revenue loss, but my colleagues estimate that the President's proposal will reduce revenues to the Treasury by only 30 percent of the so-called static cost. Instead of a static cost of $367 billion, the ending of the double taxation of dividends so stimulates the economy that Treasury revenues only fall by $102 billion over 10 years. Death Tax - The death tax is imposed at death, but the actual tax burden falls on saving and investment. It is quite likely that no tax does more damage to the economy in comparison to the relatively small amount of tax revenue that is generated. This is because of the tax simultaneously discourages the accumulation of new capital and encourages the misallocation of existing capital. Repealing the tax therefore would have enormously positive consequences. Congress' Joint Economic Committee, for instance, estimates that the death tax has slashed available capital stock by $497 billion, or 3.2 percent.

Economists for the Institute for Policy Innovation project that annual gross domestic product would be $117.3 billion, or 0.9 percent, above the baseline and that the economy would create almost 236,000 more jobs than in the baseline. My Heritage Foundation colleagues estimate permanent repeal of the death tax this year would have the following beneficial effects by 2012: Add $14.7 billion (adjusted for inflation) to the GDP; Add 118,000 jobs to the U.S. economy; Raise U.S. personal disposable income by an inflation-adjusted $11 billion; Double-Tax on Social Security Benefits. Unfortunately, we don't have much economic evidence regarding the damage caused by the double-tax on Social Security benefits. But we can safely state that repeal will yield benefits. And while those benefits will be modest compared to death tax repeal and eliminating the double-tax on dividends, they should not be ignored. The double-tax on benefits is anti-growth because it actually falls on a senior citizen's non-Social Security income. In other words, the tax only takes effect if a Social Security recipient has a certain level of income from either providing labor or providing capital to the market. The tax on that behavior is high. The senior citizen is subject to regular tax rates plus the added tax burden that results from throwing more Social Security benefits into taxable income. And since the tax on Social Security benefits results in a high marginal tax rate for people with incomes above the threshold, this means a very high marginal tax rate on productive behavior.

Make America more competitive - There are a few other features of the Bush tax plan that are worth discussing, particularly the positive consequences of eliminating the double-tax on dividends. The Bush plan, for instance, would boost U.S. competitiveness abroad. According to a Cato Institute survey, only three of the world's 30 developed nations - America, Switzerland and Ireland - double-tax corporate income. And since Switzerland and Ireland have much lower corporate tax rates, this means America may have the most punitive and anti-growth dividend tax in the industrialized world. This is an embarrassment - and it clearly puts America in a disadvantageous position. About one-fourth of our competitors don't impose any double-taxation on dividends, while almost all the rest have policies that provide at least partial protection from double-taxation. Only Japan - which is hardly a role model - has a top dividend tax rate above America. Help Americans build wealth and save for retirement - Another benefit of eliminating the double-tax on dividends is an increase in wealth. The value of a financial asset is determined by how much after-tax income an investment will generate over time. Removing the second tax on dividends will increase that future income flow and therefore help the stock market. Financial experts say the stock market could expand by about 10 percent under the Bush plan, boosting national wealth by nearly $1 trillion - welcome news for workers who have watched their IRAs and 401(k) accounts shrink. Improve Corporate Governance - The Bush plan promises several other benefits.

Under current tax law, for instance, companies are encouraged to use debt, not equity, to finance investments. Why? Because dividends are taxed twice and interest on corporate bonds is taxed only once. If Mr. Bush's plan is approved, this bias disappears and companies will have a strong incentive to strengthen their balance sheets. This would mean fewer bankruptcies. The tax code also creates a perverse incentive for companies to hoard earnings. Why? Because the double-tax on the earnings they keep (capital gains) is lower than the double-tax on the earnings they distribute (dividends). The president's plan would end this anti-dividend bias, giving companies an incentive to attract investors by offering dividends instead of promising capital gains. This would improve corporate governance since firms no longer would feel as much pressure to boost share prices by making unwarranted claims about future revenue. Instead, investors would judge a company by the amount of cold, hard cash it pays its shareholders. Conclusion - The Internal Revenue Code imposes two layers of tax on corporate income. Companies must pay a 35 percent tax on profits. If the remaining after-tax income is then distributed to shareholders, it is subject to another layer of tax since individuals must include dividends in their taxable income. Depending on an individual's tax rate, the effective tax rate on corporate income can exceed 60 percent - even higher once state and local taxes are added to the mix. The Administration proposes to end the double taxation of dividends by allowing individuals to "exclude" dividends from their tax return, while preserving the current 35 percent corporate tax that is imposed on this income.

The President's plan recognizes that dividends are after-tax payments and puts an end to the discriminatory and unfair practice of making individuals pay a second layer of tax on this income. Eliminating the double tax on dividend income will increase growth by dramatically lowering the effective tax rate on business equity investment. President Bush understands that economic growth is the first priority. His plan to eliminate the double-tax on dividends is a bold and visionary step, and it is part of an overall economic plan will make our nation stronger and improve the living standards of all Americans. 1[1]For more on the economic effects of federal double taxation of dividends, see James M. Poterba, "Tax Policy and Corporate Saving," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity No. 2, 1987, pp. 455(515; Peter Birch Sorensen, "Changing Views of the Corporate Income Tax," National Tax Journal, Vol. 48, Issue 2 (June 1995), pp. 279(294; and James M. Poterba and Lawrence H. Summers, "New Evidence that Taxes Affect the Valuation of Dividends," The Journal of Finance, Vol. 39, Issue 5 (December 1984), pp. 1397(1415. 2[2] For a complete discussion of the imputation credit, as well as other methods for eliminating the double taxation of dividends, see Deborah Thomas and Keith Sellers, "Eliminate the Double Tax on Dividends," Journal of Accountancy, November 1994. 3[3] See Ervin Black, Joseph Legoria and Keith Sellers, "Capital Investment Effects of Dividend Imputation," Journal of the American Taxation Association, Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall 2000, pp. 40-59. 4[4] See Black, Legoria and Sellers, 2000. 5[5] See James Poterba and Lawrence Summers, "The Economic Effects of Dividend Taxation," NBER Working Paper, No. 1353, May 1984. 6[6] See Serge Nadeau and Robert Strauss, "Tax Policies and The Real And Financial Decisions of the Firm: The Effects of The Tax Reform Act of 1986," Public Finance Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 3, July 1991, pp. 251-292.

From Heritage.org, DC, by Daniel J. Mitchell, Ph.D., 12 February 2003

 
 

Performance Governance, Self Appraisal Mooted For Better CG Standards

Mumbai - The NR Narayana Murthy committee on corporate governance (CG) has received strong recommendations to make performance governance and self-appraisal of directors on board mandatory. The committee is expected to come up with guidelines in the next few weeks. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) had roped in Infosys Technologies chairman NR Narayana Murthy to head the committee on corporate governance to review implementation by listed companies. Earlier, the committee was headed by Prof JR Varma. While performance governance has been made mandatory in some countries, it is yet to be embraced by India Inc. "We have made recommendations to the Narayana Murthy committee that performance governance and self-appraisal of directors be made mandatory," said Mr. Shailesh Haribhakti, chairman - governance forum, Indian Merchants' Chamber. Mr. Haribhakti is also managing partner & CEO, Haribhakti Group. Broad parameters that govern self-appraisal and performance governance include attendance, quality of contribution and degree of preparedness. If adopted, the measure is expected to raise the level of performance among directors and, as a result, lead to an improved shareholder value creation. Performance measurement systems play a major role in corporate governance because their design affects the incentives of managers and thereby the firm's efficiency, said an industry observer.

They are defined as systems that make it possible for the firm's constituencies to gather and analyse information about the firm. The renewed interest in improving corporate governance of listed companies is perceptible given that rating agency Crisil has developed a model for corporate governance ratings in India. As a result, the overall level of compliance of corporate governance norms in the Indian industry is expected to improve, opine industry observers. This is also expected to bring into sharp focus the role of independent directors, and with improved vigilance lead to better governance. Market valuations would also be influenced by the quality of corporate governance practices of companies. Corporate governance is about the way an organisation is directed and governed. It deals with the policies and practices that directly impact an organisation's performance, stewardship and its capacity to be accountable to its various stakeholders. Considered and confident corporate governance enables directors, trustees and management committees to remain performance and outcome focused, while confused and uncertain corporate governance leads to a more cautious and compliance focused board.

From Indian Express, India, by Namrata Singh, 4 February 2003

Government Body To Consider MTNL's Privatization

New Delhi - The Indian government's privatization commission is to consider a status report and background details of India's state-owned telecommunication firms Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTE), or MTNL, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., the Hindu Business Line reports. The Department of Telecommunications forwarded the information to the Disinvestment Commission for consideration at the privatization regulator's next meeting to be held later this month, the report says. The newspaper, quoting unidentified official sources, says a previously touted merger of MTNL and the unlisted Bharat Sanchar is no longer a priority, though the new Communications Minister Arun Shourie has declined to comment on the issue. Experts have said the privatization of MTNL could progress following Shourie's appointment, although his predecessor, Pramod Mahajan, was opposed to any such move. Newspaper Web site: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com (By Himendra Kumar, Dow Jones Newswires; 91-11-2461-9426; himendra.kumar@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo News, 5 February 2003

PC Realizes Rs 2.5 Billion Privatization

Islamabad - The Privatization Commission has realized a significant amount of Rs 2.5 billion as privatization proceeds by floating some GOP owned shares in Pakistan Oil Fields, Attock Oil Refinery and DG Khan Cement in the country's stock market during a short period of past one and half months. Advisor to Prime Minister on Privatization and Investment, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh while speaking at APP Forum here on Tuesday said, "the utilization of stock market for a transparent privatization process will also help boost the country's capital market". Since 1991, the country has so far achieved an amount of Rs 98.8 billion in privatization proceeds including Rs 36.5 billion realized during three years of General Musharraf's government and Rs 2.5 billion during last one and a half months, he added. Dr Hafeez Shaikh further informed that the privatization of PSO was in process and the second pre-bid meeting has been fixed for February 19, adding, we will make every effort to complete its bidding by the end of March 2003, according to the schedule. Similarly, he said, the privatization of Pak Arab Fertilizers, SMES Fund of ICP and Faletti's hotel was under process. The Advisor said, HBL, OGDCL and PTCL are the major transactions on radar screen, which would be taken up by the third quarter of current calendar year.

To a question, Dr Hafeez Shaikh said, the privatization of state-owned enterprises was aimed at benefitting the poor, adding, there was a need to communicate this message to the people effectively that it's pro-poor and pro-people. "If we save worth billions of rupees per annum losses of public sector enterprises, we can raise the pace of economic development and growth in the country, which will benefit the poor", he observed. The Prime Minister's Advisor on Privatization, however, maintained that if the privatization process is to be made sustained and successful, people must be on board, adding, "that is what we are doing." Hafeez Sheikh also underlined political commitment, effective decision making, implementation and the good communication strategy as key elements for a successful pro-poor and pro-people privatization programme. While elaborating, he added, that the success of privatization programmes at world over is ensured through the political commitment at top level. Similarly, Hafeez Sheikh was of the opinion that an effective decision making apparatus was another element of a successful privatization programme, adding, it was the decision making which had large contribution in the process of privatization of an entity. He also stressed on the element of implementation through a transparent process for a successful privatization programme to allay the fears of people in this respect.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 5 February 2003

Oracle, HP To Set Up E-governance Centre

New Delhi: Oracle India Private Limited, a subsidiary of the Nasdaq-listed Oracle Corporation, and Hewlett-Packard India are jointly setting up an e-governance Centre of Excellence. The centre is likely to be up and running by April in Gurgaon (national capital region). Apart from research and development (R&D) activities on e-governance, the two companies plan to take up productisation of 'proof of concept' applications. "This is a virtual centre of excellence connecting all such centres across the globe, thus providing an access to all research work and innovation in e-governance to this centre," Oracle India Private Ltd managing director Shekhar Dasgupta said. The two companies are planning to work jointly with other organisations to focus on areas like revenue collection, work-flow based applications, security, wireless technology and people deployment. "We will bring in intellectual property rights (IPRs) to India and develop cost-effective applications. Following a merger of HP and Compaq, we are now in a position to effectively offer strategic solutions alongwith Oracle," HP India president Balu Doraisamy said.

The e-governance centre will also provide a platform to showcase Oracle and HP applications on e-governance as well as technical consultation and thematic presentations. The two are working with CMC, National Informatics Centre, PwC and Ram Infoteck at the e-governance centre. The companies did not share their investment and hiring plans for the centre. HP India Cuts Staff By 8% - As a result of the restructuring (post-merger with Compaq) Hewlett Packard (HP) India has undergone a reduction in staff by less than 8 per cent. HP India (both companies) now have a 700 people strong team. "We have laid off less than 8 per cent of our staff as part of restructuring operations in India. The restructuring activity for HP India is over now," HP India president Balu Doraisamy said. Oracle To Add 1,400 More - Oracle India Private Ltd, an enterprise software provider and a subsidiary of Oracle Corporation is planning to hire around 1,400 in a couple of years. "We already have 2,460 employees in India and have a built-up capacity of 4,000 people in India. We are looking at taking up the employee figure to 4,000 in coming years," Oracle India managing director Shekhar Dasgupta said.

From Financial Express, India, 10 February 2003

Government Gears Up Efforts for Privatization, Rs 2.7 Billion Realized in Five Weeks

Islamabad - Pakistan government attaches high priority to the Privatization Programme, which is a corner stone of its economic agenda. A spokesman of the Pakistan Privatization Commission stated that the long-term vision of the government focuses on good governance and regulation, while fostering conditions that provide incentives for the private sector to invest in providing goods and services efficiently. The government's primary focus will be to provide good governance and build an enabling environment for investments and economic growth. In this regard, the Government is focusing on providing a level playing field to all investors by ensuring continuity and consistency of policy and establishment of the requisite fiscal and regulatory framework to protect the investor and consumer interests. The spokesman stated that Privatization was continues to remain an important part of the economic reform process followed by the Government. As such there is continuity and consistency in the program. The process is dynamic and flexible and can cater for any exigencies as demonstrated in the recent past. The recent performance of the stock market and the improvement of the fiscal and monetary position of the Government auger well for the success of the Privatization process. A manifestation of this is the realization of Rs. 2.7 billion in the shortest span of time of just five weeks through the divestment of Government held shares in Attock Refinery Limited, Pakistan Oil Fields Limited and DG Khan Cement on the stock markets.

Appointment of Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, a renowned professional of international repute as Advisor to the Prime minister on Privatization & Investment as well as the Chairman of Privatization Commission is another manifestation of the continued government commitment to Privatization, he added. Privatization is a complex and demanding reform, and every stage requires utmost transparency and high level of managerial, financial and technical expertise. The bidding dates contained in the annual report are indicative only and dependant upon a number of factors including external geo-political environment and market appetite, he added. The focus of the upcoming transactions has shifted from the privatization of the more straightforward industrial transactions to those involving the transfer of management control in services such as banking, transport, and utilities. These require sensitive decisions on pricing, restructuring and rightsizing. As such a lot of preparatory work needs to be done in the form of improving the enabling environment and establishing and strengthening regulatory framework. It will be the endeavor of the government to speed up the Privatization process, it will ensure that all national and strategic interests are protected before the Privatization of these entities as the Government will not sell these assets in haste or at a throw away price. These interests will not be sacrificed for the sake of expediency. A number of major privatization transactions including PSO, OGDCL, PTCL, Habib Bank, KESC and Pak-Arab Fertilizer have been brought to a very advanced stage. These entities are expected to be privatized in the near future keeping in view the market conditions. Steps are also being taken for restructuring and revitalization of various units and liquidation of non-viable and sick units. These steps have curtailed losses and reduced financial hemorrhaging in the public sector and provided jobs where some closed units were reactivated, the spokesman concluded.

From Pakistan Link, 16 February 2003

Sri Lanka DFCC Bank/Earnings: SLT Privatization Helps

DFCC Bank (P.DFC) - Colombo 9 Months Ended Dec. 31: Figures are in Sri Lankan rupees (LKR).

  2002 2001
Revenue 3.03 bln 3.10 bln
Pretax Profit 1.14 bln 1.04 bln
Net Profit 826.0 mln 605.0 mln
Per Share Earnings 26.03 19.07
($1=LKR96.85)    

Figures are based on Sri Lankan accounting standards and are unaudited.
Sri Lanka's DFCC Bank (P.DFC) said Tuesday its group net profit for the nine months ended Dec. 31 was up 37% to LKR826 million from LKR605 million the previous year. Chairman Nihal Fonseka said in a statement the group's higher profit was mainly due to "gains on the sale of securities and the fee earned as financial adviser to implement the second stage of privatization of Sri Lanka Telecom." Contributions from both boosted the group's income by around 40%. Fonseka said a reduction in provisions due to the recovery of previously provided advances also helped lift profits. Moreover, DFCC Bank also benefited by the improved profits of its associate company - Commercial Bank of Ceylon - and higher contributions from its units, he said. DFCC has consolidated its activities to focus on project lending, investment banking and lease finance. DFCC and National Development Bank (P.NDB) are Sri Lanka's main channels for loans from several international funding agencies, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. DFCC has a strategic alliance with Commercial Bank of Ceylon (P.CEY) in which it holds a 40% stake. DFCC has also recently entered the stock brokerage business. Despite strong earnings, Fonseka said operating profit fell around 11% in the period under review due to falling interest rates. However, the group is likely to sustain growth "as a combination of a relatively low interest rate regime and the continuing progress of a peace initiative have created a climate where credit demand for new projects is increasing, albeit slowly," he said. (By Zaithoon Bin Ahamed, Dow Jones Newswires; 941-304 941, zaithoon.ahamed@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo News, 18 February 2003

Government Rules Out Privatization of Public Sector Banks

There is no move to privatize Public Sector banks in the country, asserted the Government on Wednesday. "No proposal to privatize Public Sector banks is under consideration of the Government," Finance Minister Jaswant Singh said during the Question Hour in Rajya Sabha. However, said an amendment to the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1970/1980 was proposed to modify the stipulation of minimum prescribed Government shareholding in nationalized banks from 51 per cent to 33 per cent. "This is to enable nationalized banks to raise capital from the market without affecting the public sector character of these banks," Mr. Singh said. The Finance Minister said accordingly the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) and Financial Institutions Laws Amendment Bill, 2000 was introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance in December 2000. The report of the Committee was still awaited, he said.

From India Express, India, 25 February 2003

 

IMF Hopes Bulgaria to Close Key Privatization Deals by End-2003

The International Monetary Fund hopes that the Bulgarian government will close the most important privatization deals by the end of the year, Piritta Sorsa, resident representative of the Fund told local radio NET. The Bulgarian government, led by Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg promised to finalize the key privatizations of the country's tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac Holding and the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company by the end of 2002 but was hampered by judiciary blocking. This week, Parliament passed at first reading amendments to the Privtization Act, according to which, twelve key privatization deals will be exempt of judicial control. The IMF official refrained from commenting the amendments to the act. Asked whether Bulgaria could sign a precautionary agreement with the Fund, Sorsa said that the Bulgarian economic performance was very good and that is why the country could decide any time to switch to the new agreement. The Board of Directors of the International Monetary Fund will discuss the second review of the stand-by agreement with Bulgaria and will most probably approve on February 7th. Sorsa projected economic growth of 5 percent for 2003 and 5.5 percent for the subsequent years provided good policies continue, structural reform is accelerated and there are no major external shocks at a conference organized on Saturday by German Konrad Adenauer foundation.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 1 February 2003

Rightist Opposition Wants Re-voting of Changes to Privatization Act

Rightist opposition United Democratic Forces want the changes to the Privatization Act, which were adopted at first reading on Thursday, to be voted again during the first day of coming parliamentary week. Right-wing lawmaker Muravei Radev claims that the Thursday voting was illegal and has to be annulled. He said that lawmakers from the ruling coalition voted with cards of colleagues of theirs who were either abroad or not in Parliament. He named the lawmakers who violated the parliamentary rules. The amendments were supported by 113 lawmakers, 97 voted against, while 8 abstained. Should the amendments be vetoed by President Parvanov, the majority in Parliament will override the veto, Plamen Panayotov, chair of the parliamentary group of the ruling party Simeon II National Movement, said. He underlined that the twelve companies to which the new rules will apply have been selected on the basis of Special Services report. Under the amendments the privatisation of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC), Bulgartabac Holding and another ten big companies will be through public biddings. The successful bidder will be named by the Cabinet and then approved by Parliament. Seven electricity distribution companies, arms traders Kintex and Teraton and the military works of Sopot are among the other companies to which the adopted procedure will apply.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 31 January 2003

Cabinet Troubled Bulgaria's Privatization, President Says

Bulgaria's President Parvanov criticized the economic team of the government for having troubled key privatisation deals. He called on the administration of Bulgaria's Economy Minister Nikolay Vassilev to publicly admit its mistakes. President Parvanov said that the planned amendments to the Privatization Act that he vetoed on Thursday would spell repulsing signals to the foreign investors. He once again stressed that the amendments projected to outlaw judicial control on key privatization deals were in breach with the Constitution. If passed, they will make Bulgaria look as a country that does not respect the rule of law, Parvanov said. In his remarks, the president mentioned that the ruling party Simeon II National Movement (SIINM) ascended to power by promising to usher in foreign investments. According to Parvanov, Bulgaria has not seen that happen. The president denied opposing solutions to the deadlock of Bulgaria's tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac deal except those that abuse the Constitution. He refused to shed light on his future moves if the Parliament, as expected, re-votes and passes the vetoed amendments. The president still has the option of approaching the Constitutional Court on the issue. Government officials and SIINM lawmakers pledged to override the veto in the Parliament. The ruling party holds enough seats in the one-chamber assembly to plan for such move.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 21 February 2003

Opposition May Approach Constitutional Court over Privatization Changes

The Union of Democratic Forces will back the President's veto on the amendments to the Privatisation Act, Nikolay Mladenov, spokesman of right-wing opposition Union of Democratic Forces said. Should the amendments be re-voted the rightist opposition will mull the option of approaching the Constitutional Court. Left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party also announced officially that it will support the veto. The decisions of the two parliamentary represented parties came as no surprise since they both voted against the amendments. President Parvanov returned for further consideration by the MPs the controversial amendments to the Privatisation Act February 20. The president was given a fifteen-day time window to veto or not the amendments. Should he have failed to exercise his right to return the bill for further consideration by the MPs, the government would have been able to get the act together and push with the sale of tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac. Fifteen key privatization deals in Bulgaria were exempted from judicial control when Parliament voted conclusively the amendments to the Privatisation Act February 7. Bulgartabac Holding Company, the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, seven electricity distribution companies, the Vazov Engineering Works of Sopot, Kintex, Teraton, Balkan Air Tour, the Bulgarian River Shipping Corporation and Navigation Maritime Bulgare are the companies to which the new procedure of privatisation will be applied. Under the cabinet-moved amendments to the Privatisation Act the Cabinet will select the buyers of companies relevant to national security, will set deadline for conclusion of the contracts, as well as their terms. The successful bidder will be named by the Cabinet and then approved by Parliament.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 25 February 2003

Parliament Moves to Override Privatization Act Veto

The parliamentary economic committee rejected Wednesday the veto of Bulgaria's President Parvanov on the recently passed amendments to the Privatization Act. The body recommended to Bulgarian lawmakers to defy the veto and pass again the legal changes at Thursday's parliamentary Session. The majority will re-vote the amendments to the Privatization Act, a top ruling parliamentary official said. "I am convinced that we will re-vote the act the way it was adopted because we are convinced in its benefit," Valeri Dimitrov, chair of the parliamentary economic committee said. Earlier on Wednesday, the president said that it was not yet clear if the amendments would be attacked in the Constitutional Court if the veto failed. Parvanov imposed it on February 20. Under the controversial amendments to the Privatisation Act, fifteen key deals in Bulgaria are exempt from judicial control. Bulgartabac Holding Company, the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, seven electricity distribution companies, the Vazov Engineering Works of Sopot, Kintex, Teraton, Balkan Air Tour, the Bulgarian River Shipping Corporation and Navigation Maritime Bulgare are the companies to which the new procedure of privatisation will be applied. The amendments envisage that the Cabinet select the buyers of companies relevant to national security, set deadline for conclusion of the contracts, as well as their terms. The successful bidder will be named by the Cabinet and then approved by Parliament.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 26 February 2003

 

Finance Ministry Proposes Sweeping Privatization Plan

The Finance Ministry has prepared a plan that aims to institute broad cuts in the state budget for 2003 while simultaneously encouraging greater efficiency and privatization. Among the ministry's recommendations is privatization of state-owned companies, possibly by selling them on the stock exchange, and implementation of policies that will promote the various provident funds' involvement in the capital markets. The Finance Ministry will also recommend that the system known as the "autopilot," according to which the budget of the Health and Education Ministries grows by 2.5 percent each year, will be terminated. The plan, which recommends budgetary cuts of between NIS 7 and NIS 9 billion, will also include a list of structural changes for the medium and long term, whose aim is to make the economy more efficient and to bring about financial growth. These changes include a plan for reforms in the capital markets, at the crux of which is the privatization of state-owned companies. Finance Ministry officials say that with the exception of the privatization of Bank Hapoalim in 1996, the government has often promised further privatization but in reality done little to implement any such changes. At the treasury, they maintain that the transfer of control of the Government Companies Authority (the body responsible for the state-owned companies) to the Prime Minister's Bureau was a mistake, and said this responsibility should be returned to them.

The authors of the proposed reforms insist that the move toward privatization must take place in the coming year, and that the sale of the companies should be through share issue on the stock market. Finance Ministry analysts insist that the dire economic situation demands that the government entice large institutions to invest in the stock market so that external sources may be attracted toward investing in infrastructure. As part of the 2003 budget, a multi-year transportation infrastructure plan is proposed in which investments in rail and highways are planned, but funding will only be alloted gradually - depending on availability of funds. The reform in the budget of the Education Ministry includes broad lay-offs that will be gradually implemented. Some 800 school inspectors are scheduled to be dismissed, because it is argued that their usefulness is limited. A program is already being implemented in which the ranks of school inspectors are thinned and their responsibilities are being assumed by school principals. The treasury would also like to see the recommendations of the Shoshani committee, from August 2002, implemented. Key among these is the budgeting of schools according to the number of pupils and not the number of classes, which is the method currently in use. The cancellation of the "autopilot" program for the Health and Education Ministries, which called for an annual increase in their budgets in accordance with the growth in population (about 2.5 %), is also expected to force the two bodies to become more efficient.

A source at the Finance Ministry said that if these recommendations are accepted, it will be the first time in decades that there will be a decrease in the government services provided in these various fields. As part of the cuts, the Finance Ministry will also recommend a relatively minor cut, of NIS 500 million from the Defense Ministry. The importance here would be in the message sent to the Defense Ministry - that its request for an increase of NIS 3 to NIS 5 billion in 2003 stands no chance of being accepted because of the economic emergency at hand. The Finance Ministry believes that any further cuts in the various social welfare grants will be untenable after the December cuts of NIS 8.7 billion. Another proposal is for dismissal of 10 percent of the total manpower in the civil service, and the reduction of the salaries of the remaining employees by 10 percent. Any cuts in civil service personnel will be gradual and coordinated with the various ministries. Among the suggested cuts are some involving complete divisions, such as Educational Television, the coalition of all neighboring local authorities, and the cancellation of five government ministries. The Finance Ministry insists that workers who are dismissed will receive all they are due according to law, "but not on the basis of the crazy agreements of recent years." A source at the ministry notes that while decisions for cuts in the civil service ranks were taken in the past, this time there is simply no choice but to carry them out.

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Moti Bassok, 6 February 2003

 

Weighing Privatization - Critics Say Private Drug Plans Leave Seniors Paying More for Less

Washington - Over the years, Diane Paulson has watched managed care plans promise seniors in Massachusetts cheaper health insurance complete with prescription drug coverage, only to pack up and leave. "It was a shame that so many people were misled. Misled by the plans and in some ways misled by the government - that this was the best thing since sliced bread," said Paulson, managing attorney at the Medicare Advocacy Project, a Boston- based program representing Medicare beneficiaries. "It's been a mixed bag. But mostly negative." Paulson, like many other advocates for seniors, doctors and some health experts, is now questioning why President George W. Bush would propose a plan that relies on private health plans to deliver a Medicare prescription drug benefit to seniors when the track record in an existing federal program, Medicare+Choice, has been shaky. Citing Medicare+Choice as an example, advocates argue that private plans have abandoned seniors, leaving them scrambling to find new health care plans or paying higher premiums and co-payments for fewer benefits. In some cases, seniors have had to return to the more costly traditional Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled, which doesn't offer drug coverage. "The whole privatization scheme is the wrong direction," said Don McCanne, president of the Phy- sicians for a National Health Program. "It will shift patients into an industry that has a much higher administrative cost ... and will do it at the cost of decreasing the benefit for Medicare beneficiaries." Bush and Republican lawmakers support Medicare drug plans that rely on the private sector to deliver benefits. They contend that competition would drive down drug costs and offer seniors more coverage and choice. "I believe seniors, if they're happy, should stay on the current Medicare system," Bush said last week in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he touted his plan. "Medicare must be more flexible ... They ought to be able to choose their own health care plan." In 1997, Congress approved cost-cutting provisions that allowed HMOs to provide health care benefits to Medicare beneficiaries.

Two years later, the program had enrolled 6.3 million people. But from 1998 to 2002, the number of managed care plans contracting with Medicare dropped from 340 to 147, according to the General Accounting Office, the government's investigative arm. By last summer, the number of enrollees had fallen to about 5 million, or 12 percent of the 40 million Medicare beneficiaries. As a result, 1.6 million beneficiaries had to switch plans or go back to traditional Medicare. Managed care plans complained that the federal government hadn't reimbursed them enough, leaving them with few options but to abandon unprofitable markets, reduce benefits or increase premiums. This year, 33 managed care plans withdrew from the program or reduced their service area, affecting about 217,000 people, according to federal figures. "We've been saying since 1997 there was a problem with the [funding] formula ... that led to unintended consequences," said Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, a trade group. Federal officials acknowledge the challenge is to attract more managed care plans and entice others to remain in some areas, particularly rural communities. Federal health officials are proposing that Congress increase reimbursements by 6.2 percent. In 1999, Congress increased reimbursements from 3 percent to 5 percent in some rural areas. HMOs complained that the reimbursements didn't keep pace with rising health costs. "These guys have been capped at 2 percent growth rate for a number of years," said Michael O'Grady, former senior research director at the Center for Health Affairs at Project HOPE, a health care think tank in Bethesda, Md. "Do they have something there? Sure. Both sides have their points." Still, O'Grady said, "We have to see how much money is on the table. There is only so much money."

With adequate federal reimbursements, Ignagni said, managed care plans would remain in the program, which she called effective. The American Association of Health Plans is calling for an additional $1 billion a year. "There isn't a problem in the delivery. There isn't a problem in the model. There isn't a problem in satisfaction," Ignagni said. "There is only a problem in the funding formula. And we know we can fix that." The administration recently contracted with 35 private plans, called PPOs, to offer seniors health insurance that allows them to go to other doctors within a network. Several are in New York, including Queens, but none are in Suffolk and Nassau counties. But consumer advocates and physicians say those private plans aren't very effective and emphasize there are more pressing issues, particularly restoring funding to doctors who treat Medicare patients. Some have stopped taking Medicare patients. "What we need to do is take care of the traditional program where we get the most value," McCanne said. The Bush administration, which has yet to outline specifics on its Medicare prescription drug plan, has tried to downplay concerns about his proposal in recent days. Already the plan has drawn fire from Democrats and key Republicans who worry that seniors who don't enroll in private health plans will not have drug coverage. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a moderate, said predicating prescription drugs on whether a beneficiary enrolled in a private health plan would exclude too many people, especially those in rural states like Maine where there are no managed care plans serving Medicare patients. "It makes me very nervous," Paulson, of the Medicare Advocacy Project, said of Bush's plan. "Folks have become skittish about relying on the [private] plans ... It hasn't worked so far." Staff writer Anne Q. Hoy contributed to this story.

From Newsday, by Deborah Barfield Berry, 3 February 2003

Shuttle Disaster Came Amid Privatization Debate

NASA was considering several alternatives for privatizing the space shuttle fleet-including shifting full ownership of the $3.2 billion program to private contractors-when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on Saturday. The options, outlined in a December 2002 report by a Rand Corp. panel, ranged from complete privatization to consolidating existing shuttle operation contracts under a single prime contractor. Ordered by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, the report was intended to explore whether the shuttle program could benefit from competitive sourcing, the administration's initiative to submit federal jobs to private sector competition. The panel recommended that NASA pursue competitive sourcing in one form or another, a finding that was factored into President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget proposal. "NASA is examining options for introducing greater competition for work that is currently performed directly by the federal government and federal contractors. A competition plan will be incorporated in next year's budget," stated the budget proposal. But on Monday, a NASA spokesman said the report's findings would be considered only after the investigation into the Columbia accident was complete. "At this point all resources are being focused on the recovery and the investigation into the Columbia accident, and any of the recommendations in the report would be considered after the determination of what happened and why," said NASA spokesman Robert Jacobs.

Private companies already perform many shuttle operations. In 1996, the Clinton administration transferred many shuttle operation and training duties to the United Space Alliance, a Houston-based partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. On Friday, NASA awarded the United Space Alliance a two-year, $2.9 billion extension to its contract, which will keep shuttle support at the company until September 2004. United Space Alliance has assumed more responsibility for safety in the shuttle program since 1996, as NASA has gradually reduced strict contractor oversight in many operational areas, according to the Rand report. But NASA still handles procurement of shuttle propulsion systems and retains oversight on some shuttle operations. "From a safety perspective, NASA is now straddling two worlds-the realm of operations and the realm of regulations," the Rand report found. Competitive sourcing would likely shift more operational responsibility for shuttle safety to the private sector, according to the report. Some NASA officials opposed this shift before the Columbia disaster. "Senior officials expressed the conviction to the task force that shuttle safety would be compromised by any competitive sourcing option that resulted in loss of NASA oversight or in the private sector playing a greater operational role," said the report. Other experts have cautioned against shifting more shuttle duties to the private sector.

Richard Blomberg, former director of the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, told Congress at an April 19, 2001 hearing that altering the current NASA/contractor relationship could increase safety risks. "If [the shuttle] were to be transitioned to a radically different operating posture without the traditional government/contractor checks and balances, I am convinced that risk would increase significantly at least for a time," he told the House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. But competitive sourcing could also improve safety in the shuttle program, according to the Rand report. Shifting ownership of shuttle assets to the private sector would likely help eliminate the $420 million maintenance backlog in the shuttle program, which includes physical infrastructure on the ground. "It is likely that a private operator of the shuttle system would be exceptionally rigorous in maintaining equipment and infrastructure to ensure safety," the report said. NASA contract management is still on the General Accounting Office's "high-risk" list of management challenges, even though contract oversight has improved over the last two years, GAO reported last week. Future decisions regarding shuttle privatization will be made in light of the Columbia accident, according to Jacobs and other experts. The 1986 Challenger disaster grounded the shuttle fleet for almost three years. Companies and the military were much less interested in using the shuttle to transport items to space following the Challenger accident.

From GovExec.com, By Jason Peckenpaugh, jpeckenpaugh@govexec.com, 4 February 2003

Firefighters Wavering on Privatization

Union representative alludes to ambulance vote connection - Four days after publicly declaring support for a campaign to defeat the city's utilities privatization efforts, Stockton's firefighters union appeared to retreat from that position Tuesday. On Friday, Dan Morriss, president of Stockton Professional Firefighters Local No. 456, said his organization would offer copying services to the anti-privatization group Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton as it campaigns against a proposed $600 million operations contract with private company OMI-Thames. Morriss said his union wanted to help save other union jobs that might be affected by the contract, specifically those in Stockton's Municipal Utilities Department. But late Monday, Mayor Gary Podesto, a privatization supporter, told The Record that the union would retract its offer of help to Concerned Citizens at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Morriss, however, did not appear at the meeting. Instead, Stockton Fire Capt. David Macedo told the council in a terse statement that The Record had "misrepresented" Morriss' comments and that the union's attorney had advised members to take no position on privatization. Macedo said he was speaking on Morriss' behalf. Contacted before Tuesday's council meeting, Morriss did not retract any of his prior statements.

He said he had spoken to the mayor and to Concerned Citizens about the issue. But he declined further comment, saying he wanted to find out what happened at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors hearing on ambulance service first. When asked what the connection was between ambulance service and privatization, Morriss said: "Some people think they are connected. I think they are connected." He did not elaborate. Stockton firefighters are battling a plan by supervisors that could give individual ambulance companies contracts to operate exclusively in specific county areas. The plan jeopardizes the Stockton Fire Department's recent entrance into the ambulance market, and Podesto unsuccessfully urged supervisors Tuesday to table the proposal. Concerned Citizens Co-Chairwoman Sylvia Kothe said the union's apparent retreat is baffling. Kothe said just last week, Morriss authorized Concerned Citizens to list the union as a supporter on a fund-raising letter. Kothe also said that Larry Long, the union's past president, had offered to host a barbecue or some other fund-raiser on her organization's behalf. Long referred all questions Tuesday to Morriss, who could not be reached for comment after the City Council meeting. "I'm not sure what's going on behind the scenes here, but it's very disconcerting," Kothe said.

From Stockton Record, CA, by Cheryl Miller, 5 February 2003

Pondering Privatization - Honolulu Considers a Private-Public Partnership to Manage the City Zoo

Honolulu could join cities across the country that have gotten out of the business of running zoos. "Many zoos are moving toward that now. Sixty percent of city-owned zoos are now run by nonprofit governing bodies. It is a trend that is happening," said Gigi Allianic, spokeswoman for the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. In his State of the City address last month, Mayor Jeremy Harris proposed privatization of the zoo, the Blaisdell Center arena, the Waikiki Shell and maintenance of a golf course and certain parks. "The potential of this is very exciting. They just have to make sure they do it right the first time - or not at all - or they could give privatization a bad name," said Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based pro-privatization think tank. The mayor called for the zoo to be privatized to save the city money. But how much savings will be realized remains to be seen. That's because one of the models being looked at would have the city continue funding for the zoo at its current level, said Barbara Thacker, executive director of the Honolulu Zoo Society, the nonprofit organization that supports the zoo. The zoo's operating budget for the current fiscal year is $3.5 million. The City Council Parks Committee meets Tuesday and the Budget Committee Wednesday on the zoo privatization proposal as well as some of the problems at the zoo, including the long-delayed construction of an elephant-mating facility and questions about halted construction projects. Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said that before any privatization plan can move forward, the zoo has to put its current affairs in order. "When you privatize, you usually turn over the function to the entity that wins the bid and then they in turn pay for all the operation and maintenance but they also keep ... all the revenues that comes from the gift shop and entrance fees," she said. "There's cost savings if everything's turned over to them, if it's a true privatization where they take care of everything."

But she said that if the city is going to continue with current funding levels to the zoo, it doesn't make sense because the city could continue paying while also losing revenue. Thacker said "privatization" is not an accurate term for what the society envisions in a new management arrangement. She said it's more like a private-public partnership. From Houston to San Francisco to Pittsburgh, Honolulu has models to follow when it comes to privatizing the zoo, including the Woodland Park Zoo, which just completed the transition from being managed by the city of Seattle to the private nonprofit Seattle Zoological Society. "My advice would be to take a slow approach and to make sure you build a process that's in the best interest of the zoo and the citizens and the staff who work at the zoo," said Deborah Jensen, president and chief executive officer of the Woodland Park Zoo. Based on Seattle's and other cities' experiences, transferring the management of the zoo could take years. Informal discussions with the city have been ongoing for several years, Thacker said. The society about six years ago conducted a study, which recommended that the nonprofit group operate the 42-acre city zoo in Waikiki. But critics have wondered whether the society is up to running the zoo. "We envision it to be a nonprofit. It would certainly not be the organization that is the zoo society today. It would be presumably made up of a board of directors that would have representation from the city, representation from the volunteers as well as others," Thacker said. The society reports for the 2001 fiscal year revenues of nearly $1.1 million that include $369,126 of noncash contributed services. Expenses total $869,000. Thacker said that 9 percent of society gross receipts goes into a fund that the zoo director can use for operations.

While the city operates the zoo, the Honolulu Zoo Society is in charge of education and volunteer programs plus fund-raising for zoo improvements, and city contractor Service Systems Associates runs the food and gift concessions. The city of Seattle continues to provide about a third of funding for the Woodland Park Zoo or $2.5 million. Another third will be coming from revenues generated at the zoo including admissions, food concessions and sales of educational material, and the final third from money raised from members and donors. Jensen said the agreement reached in Seattle allows the society to be more focused on the needs of the zoo including building new exhibits to meet current standards of care. So far, the zoo hasn't had to raise fees as a result of the switch that is more attractive to private donors. "We'd like to stay affordable to a wide sector of the community in the region. Some of our private supporters say they would rather support a private institution. They think it's easier to hold private institutions accountable," Jensen said. Mackinac's LaFaive said the Saginaw Children's Zoo in Michigan did not have to raise admissions prices because privatization resulted in increased attendance. "As a result of reorganizing zoo management, they have been able to dramatically improve animal health, numbers and types, the size of the zoo itself, attendance and their education program," LaFaive said. LaFaive suggested the city "break bread" with unions for a smoother transition.

Randy Perreira, deputy executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, said the city has drafted guidelines for future privatization ventures. "In those guidelines, there is an expectation that the mayor has that the privatization of services would result in services being done more cheaply and more efficiently and ensure that the public's interests were protected and there were provisions there that provided for retraining of staff," Perreira said. The city has started consulting the union over the guidelines. "We're concerned with the mayor's decision to consider privatizing some of these services and the impact that there will be not only the employees but on the service that's provided to the public," Perreira said. While Harris has said no city employees will lose their jobs in the process, Perreira said there may be some city employees - such as animal keepers who are covered by another collective-bargaining agreement - who may not have an easy time being retrained for other jobs. In Seattle, employee issues also arose. "We have represented staff here and we have crafted an employee transition plan with labor," Jensen said. "We're in the middle of conversations with labor about creating a new collective-bargaining agreement and we're still operating in the spirit of the existing city agreement until we have a final new bargaining agreement." Jensen said the management agreement allows the zoo to look forward to its future. "I think it's going to keep us one of the best zoos in the world."

From Honolulu Star-Bulletin, HI, by Crystal Kua (ckua@starbulletin.com), 10 February 2003

NASA Privatization Raises Questions

But no evidence so far points to contractor blame in disaster - NASA jumped aboard the privatization juggernaut sweeping the country nearly a decade ago and contracted out its day-to-day operations to a commercial enterprise, a joint venture known as United Space Alliance. Will Saturday's Columbia tragedy spark a reevaluation of the privatization, or commercialization, as NASA calls it? "I believe so," said William D. Kay, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston and an expert on NASA. "Again, if for no other reason than NASA might find it convenient to focus on the company. I always had a funny feeling that NASA wanted to have someone else to blame." Even before Columbia's final mission, the privatization drive stumbled, as NASA delayed its plans to turn the entire operation over to private companies early in the decade. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration later concluded that its own personnel cutbacks weakened its ability to perform ''adequate oversight'' of contractors like United Space Alliance, according to a 2001 congressional investigative report. United Space, which likes to call itself USA, is a partnership between the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., two of the biggest aerospace companies in the world. There is no evidence so far that errors by USA, by any of the other handful of subcontractors, or by anyone at NASA for that matter, contributed to Saturday's shuttle accident. Scrutiny -Supporters and critics of the privatization drive concurred that it would be good to focus some light on how the shuttle operations are run by the private partnership. The contractor receives almost half of NASA's annual $3.2 billion budget and has 4,000 on-site workers at its Houston headquarters and another 6,000 employees in Cape Canaveral. NASA has some 2,000 people working on the shuttle program, trimmed from 3,000 people in 1996.

While private contractors like Lockheed always played a role in the space program, things changed in 1996, when roughly a dozen contracts were rolled up into United Space, which acquired the personnel and the work from the previous contractors. United Space took over responsibility for maintenance and operation of the shuttle operations. NASA has oversight at key junctures of the operations. The privatization drive was rooted in the smaller role seen for government and the bigger role for private enterprise that took hold under former President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. By the 1990s, the belief that private corporations were more efficient and could control costs was firmly rooted in the public mind. Eyes on Future - Space also became a commercial frontier, on top of its military horizon. The Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration added the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and Commerce created the Office of Air and Space Commerce. Indeed NASA's goal was to turn the entire effort to explore the heavens over to the vast array of commercial aerospace corporations that build and maintain the space shuttles. The first phase of this privatization was deemed a success - more because of its safety record than any recorded savings, although NASA spokesmen say there were some. Daniel Goldin, the former NASA administrator, called for full privatization of the shuttle at the International Space Symposium in October 2001. But even Goldin complained about private monopolies for the USA contract. ''It would have been healthier for those to companies to have had competition,'' Goldin said. Goldin faced bitter opposition to privatization among NASA employees.

Norm Carlson, who retired in 1995 as the Kennedy Space Center's acting director of shuttle operations and now spends his time fishing in Florida, does not blame USA for the accident. But he was against the downsizing and commercialization at the agency. ''We had a system that worked wonderfully through Apollo. Why change that?'' Carlson said. Focus on Politics - Kay, a political science professor at Northeastern University who wrote Can Democracies Fly in Space?: The Challenge of Revitalizing the U.S. Space Program, has argued that the space program's failure has always been blamed on NASA, rather than on the country's political system, which failed to establish a clear and compelling agenda for the agency. Hence, the quick fix was to commercialize NASA. ''I didn't see how this was going to save any money,'' Kay said. "I dislike seeing technology, especially cutting-edge technology, forced into political fads. Contracting is not a magic wand." According to a 2001 report from the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress: "NASA believed that consolidating shuttle operations under a single contract would allow it to reduce the number of engineers, technicians and inspectors." But the report added, even NASA realized it had downsized too much. ''The agency later concluded that these reductions caused shortages of required personnel to perform in-house activities and maintain adequate oversight of the contractor,'' the report said.

A report issued by the GAO last week concluded, among other issues, that NASA oversight of its contractors was a mess. "NASA has not been able to effectively oversee contracts," the report said, noting computer programs in the sprawling agency are not compatible and financial information is not readily available on-line. Several calls to NASA in both Washington, where budget decisions are made, and at the Johnson Space Center, which oversee the USA contract, were not returned. A USA spokesman also did not return several telephone calls. Bottom Line - USA has said the savings to the agency since the start of the contract has been $1.1 billion. A congressional aide who is familiar with NASA said that savings can been seen in that the NASA budget has barely risen in real terms despite inflation and some upgrades. ''At least what they have done is steady the ship,'' the aide said. But there have always been questions raised regarding whether the agency and the contractor had sacrificed safety in cost cutting and management cutbacks. Even before the Columbia tragedy, NASA's shuttle budget was set to increase $700 million. Under the performance-based contract, any additional savings at shuttle operations go directly to the USA bottom line. For every dollar saved, USA receives 35 cents and NASA receives 65 cents. Kay said these problems with management oversight did not surprise him. ''One of the drawbacks to contracting that no one talks about is you've created another layer of bureaucracy in your program,'' he said.

From Miami Herald, FL, by Jane Bussey (jbussey@herald.com), 5 February 2003

Duracell, Red Cross in Joint Public Service Effort

Firm to donate $500,000 for disaster readiness - In a move that mixes public service and shrewd marketing, the Duracell battery division of Boston's Gillette Co. said yesterday it will help the American Red Cross launch a national awareness campaign to urge families to prepare for ''man-made and natural emergencies.'' Duracell plans to donate at least $500,000 to help the Red Cross educate the public and distribute guidebooks, both in printed form and on the Web, that will instruct families on how to put together disaster supply kits. One of many suggestions is to stockpile batteries. The guidebook bears both the Red Cross logo and the Duracell logo but includes no sales pitch from Duracell. The awareness campaign, titled ''Together We Prepare Safe Families,'' will be supported by Red Cross print and television ads that don't mention Duracell. ''Duracell is pleased to help bring this important safety information to consumers,'' said Duracell president Mark Leckie. Because the battery maker will have a presence in a guidebook that will provide information many consumers will deem as useful, this public service campaign also has the potential to be a good marketing vehicle that gives Duracell positive exposure, ad industry specialists said. The connection between batteries and an emergency kit is so natural, they said, that consumers are unlikely to take offense. For Duracell, ''it's a good idea,'' said Jack Trout, founder of the brand positioning firm Trout & Partners. But at a time when US officials have warned Americans to be on alert for a terror attack, the campaign also has the potential to be controversial.

Boston University communication professor Tobe Berkovitz said: ''Whether this is a good idea or a bad idea depends on how consumers and the media read it. Will it be seen as public service or will it be seen as Duracell capitalizing on fear and the Red Cross selling out?'' Because most consumers understand that the American Red Cross needs to raise money from corporate sources and because batteries are universally regarded as an essential item in an emergency kit, Duracell's role is likely to be accepted, said Jack Myers, editor of the Jack Myers Report, a media newsletter. ''Most consumers understand capitalism,'' Myers said. A company spokeswoman insisted that Duracell's motivation is pure. It opted to become the first corporate sponsor of the Red Cross preparedness campaign after a Duracell poll found that 74 percent of Americans did not have a disaster supplies kit stored in their home. Duracell has a long record of supporting the American Red Cross, said agency spokesman Phil Zepeda. In the past, the American Red Cross has received support from many big companies, including AT&T, Sony Corp. of America, and State Farm Insurance. Teaming up with the Red Cross can provide ''nice synergies'' for a corporate brand, Zepeda said.

If a war with Iraq breaks out, TV ads could be preempted by continuous news coverage, but companies would still need to promote their products. Duracell's alliance with the Red Cross might allow it to achieve that goal, analysts said. Even without a war, marketers face other challenges. In an era of the TV remote control, more and more consumers are tuning out hard-sell ads, forcing advertisers to explore other ways to communicate their messages. ''You've seen product placements in movies and TV shows,'' Berkovitz said. ''So it makes sense that product placement will become part of national security.'' Neither Trout nor Berkovitz was aware of other companies doing anything similar. In fact, most companies are being cautious in their marketing, not wanting to be associated with anything remotely connected to terrorism and not wanting to alienate consumers with antiwar sentiments, said newsletter editor Myers. Teaming with the Red Cross, a trusted icon, seems to resonate with Duracell's latest marketing message. Last year, Duracell unveiled an ad campaign with the message ''Trusted everywhere.'' Ads aim to establish an emotional bond between Duracell and consumers at a time when many see batteries as a commodity and when rival battery makers are engaged in price wars.

From Boston Globe, MA, by Chris Reidy, 21 February 2003

Privatization Eyed for School Cleaning

Setting the stage for the first substantial layoffs of city workers in more than a decade, Boston school officials plan to privatize cleaning services in 68 schools, a move that could cost dozens of custodians their jobs. School officials will meet with representatives of the Boston Public Schools Building Custodians' Association this morning to discuss the plan, which they estimate will save about $2 million. Union leaders say they were shocked when they received a letter last week informing them of the move. Many other cities have privatized some services, but Boston's strong unions, which are often backed by the City Council, have rebuffed attempts to do the same. ''As a union officer, I do understand that you have to make cuts. I understand we'll lose people,'' said Joseph Bagley, a custodian at the Thomas J. Kenny School in Dorchester. ''But there's a difference between cutting and privatizing - which I call 'union-busting.' '' Mayor Thomas Menino and Schools Superintendent Thomas Payzant have raised the possibility of teacher layoffs with the expected $120 million shortfall in the school department next fiscal year. The last time the school district faced a budget deficit that large, in 1981, it laid off 960 teachers. Menino has tangled with the custodians before: During contentious contract talks in 1995, he threatened to privatize school cleaning services as a way to pressure the custodians to ease their work rules.

The eventual agreement gave the city the power to privatize some positions, as long as it didn't lay off workers hired before 1999, according to Bagley. Menino declined to comment on the current privatization proposal. The letter to the unions says that the city will privatize cleaning services ''for all one- and two-person buildings and two three-person buildings,'' a total of 68 schools employing 92 custodians. Jonathan Palumbo, a schools spokesman, said officials estimate that only about 40 custodians will lose their jobs. Palumbo couldn't explain the disparity but said the details will be hashed out this morning. ''We're talking about a minimal amount of layoffs, and we're going to be able to save some money, which could go back in the pot and save jobs elsewhere,'' he said. Samuel R. Tyler of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a business-funded watchdog group, has long urged the city to privatize some services. ''Given the cuts the school department is facing, these are the kinds of initiatives that ought to be considered as a way to provide services more cost-effectively,'' Tyler said. He added that in some cities, unions have competed with private firms for service contracts.

Palumbo could not say whether Boston's plan would allow such competition. Bagley said it is unfair to target custodians, who make a starting salary of about $30,500, when the school department has not done enough to streamline its higher-paid, administrative work force. ''You're asking the fat to cut the fat,'' he said. ''When you hear that the principal at the early education center in East Boston has 55 staff members for 200 kids - come on, you don't have to be Einstein to understand that's ridiculous.'' City Council President Michael F. Flaherty, who met with the union leaders yesterday, said the privatization proposal is likely to face opposition on the council. Flaherty noted that he was a Teamster when he worked his way through college and law school as a driver for Airborne Express, and that many of his council colleagues are strongly pro-union. Last year, they rejected the mayor's attempt to privatize the city's towing service. ''This budget problem is real, and everyone realizes that cuts have to be made, including custodians,'' Flaherty said. ''But I'm saying we can't allow for the privatizing of services, especially if it cannot be demonstrated that there will be clear cost savings.'' (Scott S. Greenberger can be reached at greenberger@globe.com.)

From Boston Globe, MA, by Scott S. Greenberger, 25 February 2003