ISSUE 59
February 2004
 
 
   
    South Africa: Public Service Strives to Replicate Excellence
South Africa: R20m Health Partnership Launched in Eastern Cape
Malawi: Malawi Takes Public Policy Measures Against HIV/Aids
   
    Guam: Partnership Marks 5 Years
India: Problematic Partnerships
China: Rule Opens More Data to the Public
India: Public Private Partnership Needed For E-governance'
India: 2004 is E-governance Year for State
Pakistan: Government Is Implementing Business Friendly Policies
   
    Georgia: Georgia to Adopt European Model of Public Administration
Ireland: Public Service Management Bill a recipe for policisation of civil service - Rabbitte
UK: Blair Signals Radical Reform of the Civil Service
   
    USA: California Partnership for Long-Term Care Announces MetLife as a New Partner
USA: River Management Pits Science Against Public Policy
USA: Public-private Partnerships Dull 'Sunshine'
USA: HealthPartners Releases Public Policy Platform on Health Care Reform
USA: Public Policy's David Kirp on Marketing Higher Education
USA: Public Policy Arm Added to Legal Firm
Bahamas: Partnership for Pre-school Education Imperative
USA: Centre to Monitor AIDS Public Policy
 
   
    Cameroon: Supreme Court to Strengthen Fight Against Corruption
Rwanda: Rwanda Cracks Down on Corruption
Zambia: Fight Corruption, All COMESA Members Urged
Zimbabwe: Tender Board Members Fired Amid Corruption Allegations
Nigeria: Be Sincere with Anti-corruption Crusade, Government Advised
Kenya: In Corruption Push, Kenya Trying Judges on Bribery Charges
Zimbabwe: Mugabe's 'War Cabinet' to Fight Corruption
Zimbabwe: New Ambassadors Hail Anti-Corruption Drive
Kenya: Kenya Re-invents Corruption
Nigeria: IG Warns Cadet Officers Against Corruption
South Africa: NCOP Passes Anti-Corruption Bill
Ghana: NPP: From "Zero Tolerance" To Official Corruption -What went wrong?
   
    India: SC Notice to State on Corruption
Malaysia: Malaysia's Anti-corruption Officers Arrest Former Perwaja Boss Eric Chia
Malaysia: Abdullah Shows He's Serious about War on Corruption
Indonesia: Mega Urged to Act on Police Corruption
Brunei: Sabah Umno Lauds PM Move in Tackling Corruption
Malaysia: Malaysia Keeps Up Anti-corruption Drive
China: Party Corruption Fight Gets Tougher
Malaysia: Abdullah Opens Pandora's Box of Corruption
Bangladesh: Bangladesh to Set up Anti-Corruption Commission
China: CPC Regulations Raise Confidence in Corruption Fight
China: Gift Recycling: Convenience or Corruption?
India: 'Politics Is The Fountainhead Of Corruption'
Philippines: Villanueva to Use 'Modern Devices' to Solve Corruption
   
    Georgia: Saakashvili Declares War on Corruption
UK: English Transfer Corruption 'Rife'
Armenia: Armenia Struggles to Stamp Out Corruption
Russia: Administrative Reform Must Focus on Corruption
   
    USA: GOP: Probe 'Corruption'
USA: Voters May Have Say on Civil Service Law
USA: Study Links Corruption with Job Losses
USA: Probe Is Sought on Potential Corruption
 
   
    Ghana: Make 2004 an Action Year -Civil Servants Told
Ghana: DCD Advises Civil Servants Against Partisan Politics
Kenya: Civil Servants Spoiling for War over Pay
Uganda: Free Aids Drugs for Civil Servants
Botswana: Government Loses to Civil Servants
South Africa: 'Excess' Public Servants to Keep their Jobs
South Africa: Public Service Bursary Fund to Be Established
Uganda: Civil Servants Amass Wealth Amidst Poverty
Zambia: Zambia to Freeze Wages of 100 000 Civil Servants
Zambia: Clergyman Urges Government to Stop Taxing Civil Servants Highly
South Africa: Public Servants to 'Toe the Line'
Ghana: A Non-Political Civil Service: Myth or Reality
Malawi: Civil Servants in Politics Face the Chop
Kenya: PS Tells Civil Servants to Expect Salary Increment
Nigeria: Monetisation: Top Civil Servants Corner Vehicles
Ghana: Civil Servants Urged to Lead in Fight against HIV/AIDS
Nigeria: Oyo Sacks 92 Civil Servants
Nigeria: Civil Servants Urged to Ensure Standards
   
    China: Civil Servants Began to Receive Mobile Communications Allowance this Month
China: 6,000 Civil Service Jobs Set for Axe
Australia: South Australian Government Unmoved on Public Servants' Pay Offer
Papua New Guinea: Public Servants Walk Off Jobs
Malaysia: Avoid Being Caught in Embarrassing Situation, Abdullah Tells Civil Servants
Malaysia: Strive Harder, PM Tells Civil Servants
India: SC: Birthdays of Public Servants Cannot Be Corrected
Malaysia: Civil Servants May Lose Extra Rest Days
Australia: Public Servants Reject 3% Wage-rise Cap
Malaysia: Handphone Ban for Civil Servants
Indonesia: 700 Civil Servants Face Dismissal
South Korea: More Scientists and Engineers Among High-level Civil Servants
China: Civil Service Chief Reveals Fall in Graft
Australia: Pay Offer to Public Servants Welcomed
Malaysia: Civil Servants Must Change Attitude, Says Samsudin
Pakistan: Transfers and Postings in Federal Bureaucracy
Japan: Local Public Servants Get Shorter Work Hours
Philippines: 'Policemen Are Public Servants, Not Bosses'
Singapore: Civil Service Payout Capped
Australia: Public Servants Better Off than Private Sector Workers
   
    UK: Dewar 'Let Civil Servants Deal with Holyrood Project'
UK: Civil Service Jobs Target
Ireland: No End in Sight to Bitter Civil Servants' Pay Row
Malta: White Paper on Public Service Is "Written by Bureaucrats for Bureaucrats", Says the GRTU
Ireland: DUP Condition for SF Part in Government
UK: Howard Vows to Cut Back Civil Service
UK: Politicians Pass Buck to Civil Servants
Canada: Civil Servants Given Orders: MP
UK: MPs and Top Civil Servants to Get 2% Pay Rise
UK: Senior Civil Servants Win Inflation-busting Pay Rises
UK: Civil Servants' Action Continues
UK: Bosses Unhappy with Public Services
UK: Moves to Slow Growth in Civil Servants' Pay
   
    Canada: Newfoundland Premier Sounding more Conciliatory about Civil Service Wages, Pensions
USA: Civil Service to Keep Economic Development Jobs
Canada: Quebec Freezes Hiring in Public Service
USA: Joe DeCuir Has Set Example for Public Service
USA: Know your Public Servants: Planning Commission Chairman John York
Canada: Martin Seeks Immunity for Civil Servants
Canada: Liberals' PR Strategy Includes Civil Servants
Trinidad & Tobago: Furlonge: A Victory for Public Servants
USA: Politicians Aim to Save at Civil Servants' Expense
 
   
    Nigeria: Bayelsa to Train Civil Servants On IT
Nigeria: Abia State Civil Service and the Emerging Order
South Africa: E-Government Revisited
South Africa: Aids 'Eroding Public Service'
South Africa: E-Gov Portal up and Crawling
South Africa: Commission Releases the State of Public Service Report
South Africa: Forum to Improve People's Access to Basic Services
Botswana: Many Public Facilities in Poor State - Kwelagobe
   
    Japan: Government Promotes IT-oriented Public Services
Bangladesh: Improvement and Re-orientation of the Civil Service
India: e-gov to ease tax payment in K'taka
Philippines: City to Strengthen E-governance Project
Myanmar: Myanmar's E-government Is a Sham
China: Leopard Capital, Inc. Acquires Large Scale China E-Government Network Infrastructure Company To Expand Business
Pakistan: Jamali Urges Politicians to Focus on Public Services
India: Government Approves Action Plan for E-governance
India: Pant invites Investment from World Bank in E-governance
India: WB Keen to Fund E-governance Steps
India: World Bank Keen to Fund E-governance in India
India: PM Sets Rs 25bn for E-governance by FY05 ( 1435 hrs)
Malaysia: E-governance and the Subang Jaya Story
New Zealand: Appointment of Director, E-Government Unit
India: "India Is a Leader in E-governance Initiatives"
   
    Europe: E-gov Slows in Europe
Are Public Services Improving?
UK: Blair Wants Better-off to Pay for More Public Services
Italy: Forum P.A.: Italians Prefer Public Services
UK: 'Time to Focus on Boosting Public Services'
Ireland: Meat Plants Face Shutdown in Civil Service Pay Dispute
UK: We Are Good Enough for Civil Service Say Experts
Ireland: Cullen Unveils 'Exciting' E-gov Project
Italy: E-government, UIL Requests Investment and Personnel
EU: Growth of E-government Slows
UK: London's eGovernment Plans To Be Unveiled Today
Sweden: Sweden Leads the Way in E-government
UK: £10 Million for Welsh Civil Service Perks
UK: Local Authorities On-line for e-Government Funding Boost
UK: Civil Service Dispute Takes Bitter Twist
UK: Blair Appeals for more Time to Deliver on Public Services
UK: UK Political Battle Lines Drawn over Waste
EU: E-government - Electronic Government
Malta: UHM Calls for Consultation on Civil Service White Paper
UK: Extra £220 Million Made Available for Local e-Government
EU: e-Government Has more Impact if You Re-organise Entirely, Says EU
Ireland: Minister Publishes Public Service Superannuation Bill 2004
EU: EU Sets Proposals for Funding of Public Services
Finland: European Parliament Elections: Public Services Key Issue for Finnish Voters
UK: E-government: How Councils Can Get IT Right
Europe: Growth of E-government Slows in Europe
UK: E-government Cash Bonanza
Europe: European Public Administration Exhibition
UK: SOCITM Local Authority Survey Shows Scale of 2005 e-Government Challenge
Greece: Easier Online Transactions for E-government
   
    UAE: UAE Gets Top Rating for E-government Readiness
UAE: Bahrain's e-Government Initiative Gains Momentum
UAE: Dubai eGovernment Introduces Free Online Payment Facility for Public Services Through ePay
   
    USA: E-gov Fund Ambition Shrivels
USA: GSA Bolsters E-gov Fund
USA: E-gov Requires Teamwork
USA: President's Plan: Funnel GWAC, Schedule Fees to E-Gov Fund
USA: White House Expands E-government Initiative
USA: 2004 Public Policy Initiative, Week of February 5-11, 2004
USA: The States and Outsourcing
USA: E-Gov Fund Request Shrinks
USA: Public Service Commission Reforms OK'd
Canada: N.B. Confirms Budget Cuts Will Impact Public Service
USA: Keynote Launches E-gov Transaction Index
Mexico: E-government Bill Fails
USA: A Need for Public Service, Community Partnerships
USA: Officials Ask Public for Input on Efficiency
USA: PDF Facing New Accessibility Challenges at some Government Web Sites
USA: Keynote Launches New E-Government Web Transaction Index; Government Computer News to Publish Weekly
USA: $5 Million Project Envisions Student Public Service Hub
Canada: Reclassification Freeze Lifted for Public Service
   
    UN Report Gives UAE Top Rating in Middle East and Africa Region for E-government Readiness
 
   
    South Africa: No Growth without Democracy
South Africa: State to Unveil New Economic Reporting Format
Zambia: Increased Tax Will Breed More Corruption - Mususu
Angola: Modernization of Public Finance Worth Usd 6 Million
   
    New Zealand: Government Must Acknowledge Failed Policies
India: Clarify BPO Tax Policy: Narayana Murthy
Malaysia: Public Bank Posts Record RM1b Profit
Australia: Family Tax Policy a Graud: Labor
Australia: Government to Still Chase Overpayments
   
    Bulgaria: Ministry of Finance Issues Euro-denominated T-bonds to Public
Canada: Review of Financial Administration Act
Hungary: January Budget Deficit, IMF Report Provoke Concern
EU: Briefly International: Eurostat Sets Partnership Rules
UK: Letwin Shows His Hand on Tory Tax Policy
Ireland: Public Servants' Pension Age to Go Up
Yugoslavia: Finance Ministry Presents Magazine "Finansije"
   
    Iran: MP Warns Against Bank Privatization
Israel: Finance Ministry Offers Eilat Port Workers Slice of Privatization
Syria: Dialogue Session for Public, Private Banks in Damascus
Israel: Finance Ministry to raise NIS 3.5b from public in March
Israel: Limit the Damage to Public Services
   
    USA: New Fitch Report Expresses Caution on Public Finance Credit for 2004
USA: Administration Seeks to Use Surplus GSA Funds for E-gov Initiatives
USA: Candidates Disagree on Education Funding Fix
USA: Tax-free Internet Days Numbered
USA: Eudora Officials Want in on School-finance Sales Tax
USA: Pin the Label on Tax Policy
USA: Greenspan Backs Bush's Tax Policy
USA: Financial Services Instant Messaging Association Press Release
USA: Mayor Says City of Pittsburgh Could Go Broke by Summer
 
   
    South Africa: Africa's Private Sector Also Needs to Clean Up Its Act
Botswana: US Committed to Private Sector Growth
   
    Indonesia: Government Hopes To Earn RP5 Trillion from State Enterprises Privatization
Indonesia: Economists Oppose Privatization Plan
Indonesia: Anti-privatization Group Needs Wake-up Call
Sri Lanka: Full Freedom Alliance Support for Private Sector
Kazakhstan: Privatization receipts triple in Kazakhstan in 2003
Philippines: 13 Philippine Power Plants up for Privatization
South Korea: Golden Share Rule Sought for Privatization
Pakistan: Privatization Commission Has Realized 42b Rs
Pakistan: Privatization Minister Hafiz Pasha To Visit China
China: Analysis: Privatization of China's Banks
   
    Bulgaria: Russia and Bulgaria Discuss Privatization of Bulgarian Energy Grids
Ukraine: Kuchma Criticizes State Property Fund for Faults in Privatization
Turkey: 2004 Privatization Programme Announced
Turkey: Turkey Unveils 2004 Privatization Plans
Turkey: Privatization Brings in US$7,5 Billion in 18 Years
Germany: German Military IT Privatization in Doubt
   
    Lebanon: Lebanon Postpones Planned Telecom Privatization Again
   
    USA: Mayor Rethinks Privatization
USA: Results of Government Privacy Trust Survey Revealed by Ponemon Institute and CIO Institute
USA: Clean Diesel Joins EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership
USA: Bush Getting a Game Plan for Privatization
USA: Privatization Has Several Consequences
USA: U.S. Drops Iraq Privatization, Focuses on Investors
USA: State Jobs Cut by Privatization, But Costs Saved?
USA: Privatization Fight about to Get Very Public
USA: More Firms Announce Moves Toward Privatization
 

Public Service Strives to Replicate Excellence

Alide Dasnois, in her analysis "Public servants need more than helping handbook" has failed to fully understand the context of the briefing given to the portfolio committee for public service and administration. I wholeheartedly agree that public servants need more than a helping handbook. The public service is a massive organisation employing well over a million people. Yes, there are still challenges of inefficiency, poor systems and commitment in certain quarters. But Dasnois has misread the minutes when she says that "coaching and training" (in her words) were said to be non-existent. What the minutes reveal is that deputy director-general Odette Ramsingh said that "coaching and mentoring are both non-existent". Training is a separate issue. Indeed, each and every public servant is required to compile a personal development plan, which informs workplace skilled plans and is a component of the performance management system.

With regard to efficiency, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group minutes (and I must stress that these are observations of an independent monitor, not the official record of the committee) reflect that Ramsingh said "there is little record of inefficiency at this stage". However, any organisation as vast and complex as the public service is not homogenous. Excellence and inefficiency coexist. The challenge is to identify areas of inefficiency on the one hand, and models of excellence on the other. We must then build on and replicate the models of excellence, while recognising the differences and complexities of the institutions that make up the organisation. We have implemented various tools to achieve this - more effective planning and reporting processes, and a performance management system are examples that are beginning to bear fruit. We are developing a monitoring and evaluation system for indicators of service delivery.

Our public service is well skilled. The great majority of senior managers have two degrees or more. We are dedicated to building the public service as an organisation of lifelong learning. Our initiative to this end include an annual learning academy, where senior managers are examples of success, where best practice is discussed and where we develop solutions to shared challenges Public servants are afforded opportunities for training and development from a range of institutions, and the South African Management Development Institute offers a raft of training programmes. You are invited to visit the institute's website, www.samdi.gov.za, for details. Yes, there are challenges of long pension queues, but government is consistently working to address this through improved systems, training, and developing new methods of delivery.

The department of social development is introducing a private-public partnership with banking institutions where social grants will be paid directly by banks, either in cash or electronically into bank accounts without the burden of bank charges. In the area of procurement of services and products such as medicines for hospitals and maintenance and repairs, treasury has introduced flexible procurement arrangements to enable service delivery institutions to address problems much faster. Tender procedures have been simplified to speed things up. There may be schools waiting for textbooks and hospitals without medicines, but what government needs is specific feedback, not generalisations, so the problems can be tackled on the ground.

We are under no illusion that a handbook or a best practice guide will resolve the challenges in ensuring efficient delivery of services. But we do know that civil servants, like any worker in any sector, benefit through the provision of tools and systems. They are an empowerment tool, and give consistent guidance on best practice and shared systems. Our public servants request consistent guidelines and tools, and we find there is a high level of demand for these. I would recommend that Dasnois peruses those available on our website and I would welcome her opinion with regard to their design and accessibility.

From Business Report, South Africa, 20 February 2004

R20m Health Partnership Launched in Eastern Cape

A R20m hospital-sharing partnership between the Eastern Cape health department and the private sector, the first of its kind in South Africa, was launched this morning. The "co-location" agreement will see Afrox, South Africa's largest health care provider, and its empowerment partner Metropole pump some R15m into the expansion and upgrading of the existing Humansdorp hospital. The rest of the money will come from the province. According to Michael Fraser, the acting head of the department, both public and private patients will be treated, in some cases sharing wards, and will receive the same level of service. He said the concept was being investigated for extension to other provinces and also outside South Africa as a model for delivery in the health sector. Both parties score - The advantage to Afrox was that it had an opportunity to create a private health facility at considerably reduced investment compared to building a stand-alone facility.

For the department, the agreement meant upgrading of the public facility at very little or no cost to the province. "At the same time we harness the skills of our partner Afrox and their medical personnel and management," Fraser said. "What we are really doing is creating synergy between the public and private sectors. For the first time, public and private patients will enjoy exactly the same service in the same facility." The partnership agreement had been four years in the making. Though construction had already started, today's laying of a cornerstone by Bevan Goqwana, the Eastern Cape health MEC, marked the formal commencement of a programme that would see the hospital extended and existing facilities upgraded. Fraser said construction should be complete by the end of this year and the upgraded facility would go into full operation next year.

From SABC News, South Africa, 20 February 2004

Malawi Takes Public Policy Measures Against HIV/Aids

United Nations Development Programme (New York) Malawi is building measures into all facets of public policy against HIV/AIDS in an effort to stem the spread of the virus and improve treatment and care for the 14 per cent of its population living with the disease. A national policy President Bakili Muluzi launched earlier this month in Blantyre would require legislative changes to promote prevention and better protect those living with HIV/AIDS, including invalidating infection as grounds for job dismissal and offering tax incentives for employers who provide comprehensive HIV/AIDS programmes. President Muluzi urged Malawians to go for voluntary HIV testing and counselling as he had, noting that so far only 3 per cent have done so. He also called for openness, including disclosing AIDS as a cause of death, to reduce the social stigma. "Let us come out in the open. My young brother Dickson, who died two years ago, died of HIV/AIDS," he said. "We can only tackle the problem if we are open. It is a serious problem. Why hide it?"

UNAIDS and UNDP provided technical and financial support for the National AIDS Commission for preparation of the policy. UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said that his organization is fully committed to ensuring that access to effective HIV treatment becomes a worldwide reality. UNAIDS, working with the World Health Organization (WHO), is campaigning to put at least three million HIV positive people in developing countries on anti-retroviral treatment by 2005. Dr. Piot noted that HIV prevention is bearing fruit among young people, with HIV infection rates falling. "These efforts need to be redoubled to ensure that our children remain HIV-free," he said, urging everyone to "stick to ABC - abstinence, be faithful and use a condom." He commended President Muluzi for leading the response to the epidemic, making it the country's number one challenge. The President pointed out the need to revise or repeal a number of laws to implement the policy and protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.

He has asked the Minister of Justice and the Law Commission to review to criminal, labour, public health, customary marriage and divorce, and taxation laws. He noted, for example, that the policy calls for amending the Employment Act to include HIV status among the reasons that do not constitute valid grounds for dismissal. Janet Kayuni, chairperson for the Youth Council and a law student at the University of Malawi, said that existing legislation to protect children and young people against abuse, harassment and exploitation needs to be strengthened and enforced to ensure that the policy is effective. Many girls, especially orphans, are sexually abused by their guardians and even teachers, she asserted. Ms. Kayuni said that very few young people have access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services appropriate for their age and needs. She added that young people have been denied the right to "full participation on matters affecting them," and urged that the new policy involve them fully. In the past three years, the HIV infection rate among those 15 to 24 has stabilized at about 14 per cent. Only 2 per cent of children ages 5 to 14 are HIV positive, a prevalence Ms. Kayuni described as a "window of hope" for an HIV-free country in the future.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 25 February 2004

 

Partnership Marks 5 Years

Gov. Felix Camacho has stressed privatization of more utility services this year, and officials yesterday said the partnership between Guam Power Authority and Marianas Energy Co. offers proof that privatization does work. The company marked yesterday five years of working with the power agency under what they call a "public-private partnership." Four years ago, the company's 87.5-megawatt Piti Power Project plant started operating. The plant's two power generators generate almost a third of the island's peak power demand. The project cost $155 million, states a company fact sheet. The power agency buys electricity from the company under a build-operate-transfer agreement that also transfers ownership of the plant to the power agency after 20 years. The power agency buys more than $20 million worth of electricity from the company every year, company General Manager Rino Manzano said.

GPA General Manager John Benavente said without MEC's reliability, there would have been rolling blackouts for the past three years. "Also, every time a generator goes down, it costs the agency $20,000 a day to repair it," Benavente said. "For the generators not going down, it saves us a lot of money." GPA is saving $15 million a year because of the availability of electricity from the privately run plant, which is fuel efficient, Manzano said. Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, said MEC's efficiency for the past five years meant fuel cost savings to the power agency. "The more efficient the generator, the less fuel is burned," Sanchez said. "This will allow us to lower the fuel portion of the bill."

The power agency's savings on fuel costs may translate into reduced power bills for island residents. Fuel costs take up 40 percent of a resident's power bill. Sanchez said with Public Utilities Commission approval, residents can expect lower power rates by April 1. Sanchez said another reduction on top of that can be expected in October. Sanchez said a Request for Proposals to privatize the management of Cabras Units 3 and 4 may be issued by March. The Cabras units are the last two GPA baseload generators to be privatized. Manzano said the company is interested in participating in the competitive bid process. Enron Development Piti Holdings Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Enron Corp., co-owns Marianas Energy Company with Fortpoint Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Arclight Capital. The two have 50-50 ownership in Marianas Energy Company. Fortpoint's stake was acquired from Tomen.

From Agana Pacific Daily News, GU, by Gene Park (epark@guampdn.com), 4 February 2004

Problematic Partnerships

Finance Minister Jaswant Singh has been a proponent of the idea of public-private partnership in developing big infrastructure projects. Indeed, in his Budget speech last year, he envisaged over Rs 60,000 crore of roadways, airports, seaports and other such projects coming up in this manner. So far, however, there has been more of public than private funding in the infrastructure sector, even in the Prime Minister's fairly successful highways programme, where the part that involves risk-taking by the private sector (that is, without government funding being involved) is quite small. Indeed, the dilemma of India's infrastructure sector, right from the time Dr Manmohan Singh began withdrawing the public sector from it, is that the private sector has refused to step in, in any meaningful manner. So, what's a finance minister supposed to do under the circumstances?

In this interim Budget, though he lacked the power to grant any concessions, Jaswant Singh has sought to assure potential private sector investors in the power and shipping sectors, for instance, that the government will extend tax and other sops to them. In the case of power, he's proposed that, if the NDA comes back to power, tax holidays available for new projects be extended to 2012, from the present 2006, and that this should also be available in cases of transmission/distribution networks bought from existing state electricity boards (SEB). He's also promised to consider solutions proposed by the N K Singh Committee on power reforms. And in the shipping sector, the minister has said he is in favour of considering a tonnage tax scheme for Indian shippers - which will dramatically lower tax rates for the industry.

But while the measures will be welcomed, once they are actually notified after a new government comes in, it will take a lot more than just tax breaks to get investors to invest in high-risk long-gestation projects. For that, you need certainty of policy, and the correction of distortions. Not pushing open access in the power sector, for instance, is something that will make investors wary, as it leaves them open to the mercies of changing government policy. Getting the right to distribute electricity in new areas, for instance, is not going to be automatic without open access being an integral part of the law. Similarly, unless SEBs are brought in line, there is going to be precious little investment. In Kerala, the newly appointed regulator created history when he allowed a manufacturing firm to buy power from a private firm, bypassing the SEB, but the SEB retaliated by imposing such a high "wheeling charge", that the project doesn't make sense any more.

From Business Standard, India, 4 February 2004

Rule Opens More Data to the Public

A new local regulation will come into force on May 1 to ensure the public get greater access to a host of governmental information. Local authorities will review the scope of information that was once defined by some officials as State secrets, therefore becoming inaccessible to the public, experts said. Under the regulation, governments at all levels are expected to provide the public with timely information that is closely related with the latter's life and work. "The regulation is a significant move that helps the Shanghai government create an open approach to its performance," said Tang Xiaobo, an expert of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences who tracks China's public administration reforms.

While the new policy is expected to help keep the governmental power under public check, it will also spur local officials to change their practices, especially those using State secrets to protect their own interests, both on a personal and departmental level, she said. "Some officials' awareness of secrets led to the fact that public check was shut out," said Tang. The new regulation, the first in China that is issued by a provincial-level government, will hopefully change that situation, according to Tang. The information covered by the policy includes local governments' regulations and rules, economic and social development plans, urban planning outlines, epidemic or disaster situation and emergencies.

The expected contents also include information on education, social security, housing relocation, public bidding, auditing of fiscal budget and accounting as well as recruiting of government officials. Information is supposed to be disclosed through varied media channels, local citizens, corporations and other organizations are also able to apply for access. Although the regulation still specifies confidential data, including State secrets, it will enable the public to obtain a wider scope of governmental information, experts said. In experts' eyes, the new regulation co-insides well with the Law on Administrative Licensing that will be enforced nationwide since July 1. "Like the law, the policy is in line with the general trend after China's WTO (World Trade Organization) accession, which calls for more transparency in government," said Chen Qixing, expert of Shanghai Administration Institute. Prior to Shanghai's move, the regional governments of Guangzhou and Shantou, all in South China's Guangdong Province, began in 2003 to adopt similar regulations.

From China Daily, China, 4 February 2004

Public Private Partnership Needed For E-governance'

Mumbai - The need to transform moribund government systems and processes came through loud and clear during a discussion on e-governance at Nasscom's India Leadership Forum in Mumbai on Thursday. From the banker who gave examples of projects funded by his bank to the bureaucrat who pointed out that e-governance was not about the 'e' but about governance and the academician who showed the link between productivity and cost of acquisition, the consensus was that the focus should be on the consumer - the citizen. Department of information technology joint secretary R Chandrashekhar, who chaired the session on 'E-governance: Building public private partnership', said e-governance was not part of the bureaucratic agenda; it had become a part of the political agenda. "Politicians have seen the high political dividend from low capital investment," he said, adding that the tide was turning in favour of public-private partnerships (PPP).

He said the strategy for PPP couldn't be laid down by the government but needed to be jointly evolved. ICICI Bank head of government banking (north & west) Ajay Chaudhry reeled off examples of projects across Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh (AP) where "people are willing to pay for good services". He said, "We are willing to fund such projects." ICICI Bank is currently working with the AP government on a project to set up networked kiosks across the state to be run by local entrepreneurs who will offer a wide array of services ranging from e-governance, crop and weather information to payment of utility bills. Reliance Infocomm senior vice-president Ashwani Dhaul said e-governance could be hampered by redundancy of efforts and costs. Lack of coordination could result in duplication of efforts leading to redundant spending on similar projects and equipment or software licences.

Mooting a PPP unit or cell under the ministry, he stressed the need to evolve clear frameworks and policy level guidelines to institutionalise the process of government partnering with the private sector. Professor BH Jajoo from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad pointed out that the cost of access devices would need to come down drastically if productivity was to be enhanced significantly. He said government spending on IT had almost tripled over the past couple of years to 15 per cent of the total domestic market. IL&FS Infrastructure Development Corporation senior vice-president Sujatha Srikumar said like telecom operators, governments face customer (voter) churn if they don't deliver.

From Financial Express, India, 5 February 2004

2004 is E-governance Year for State

Year 2004 has been declared as 'E-governance Year" in Gujarat, chief minister Narendra Modi said. Opening a 2.7-km-long flyover that connects Varachha Road in Surat with the National Highway Number eight, here on Monday, Modi emphasised on harnessing information technology for effective governance. "Gujarat tops in e-governance. On the fourth Saturday of every month, under the 'Swagat' programme, complaints of people are solved on the spot on-line," Modi said. Modi called for preparing a 'Vision 2020' document for the development of Surat. "The document should cover all aspects of planning and development that a city like Surat would require in the years to come," he said. The flyover is constructed by the Surat Municipal Corporation at a cost of Rs 29.50 crore. Modi also handed over modern fire fighting and rescue equipment worth over Rs 1.20 crore to the SMC.

From Business Standard, India, 2 February 2004

Government Is Implementing Business Friendly Policies

Lahore - Chairman Senate Muhammad Mian Soomro has said that the government is implementing business friendly policies to attract maximum foreign and local investment to make the country economically strong. Addressing the members of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tuesday, he said maximum attention is being given towards private public partnership for the revival of industry.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 11 February 2004

 

Georgia to Adopt European Model of Public Administration

Tbilisi - Georgia will adopt the European model of public administration, President Mikhail Saakashvili told a news conference on Thursday. In accordance with this model, parliament will have more powers and the president will give up some of his, Saakashvili said. "Our model is close to the Western European one. It is very close to the French [model] and is very far from the models currently existing in the countries of the former Soviet Union," he said.

From Interfax, Georgia, 5 February 2004

Public Service Management Bill a recipe for policisation of civil service - Rabbitte

Statement by Pat Rabbitte, leader of the Labour Party - I believe the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Bill 2003 to be a recipe for the politicisation of the civil and public service. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as re-politicisation. It is part of a package of change - another key element of which is the form of decentralisation settled on by government to which I will return shortly - whose principal purpose is to copper-fasten the hold on office of a particular political party. It is of a piece with other changes that government has brought in, and would like to bring in - the emasculation of freedom of information; the threat to put a government-appointed press council in place to regulate such issues as journalistic standards; the desire to eliminate election spending limits and the need to publicly account for such spending; the unseemly and inappropriate grabbing of the dormant accounts fund to help swell the political war chest. The longer the controversy about Electronic Voting goes on, indeed, the more one has to wonder who really intends to exercise final control over how votes are counted in future elections. It is not that long ago in our political culture since an entire range of public service appointments were filled on the basis of a single criterion - how you voted at election time.

Throughout the country, rent collectors, rate collectors, post office officials, a number of different grades in the civil service all had one thing in common they all belonged to one political party. They represented a grace-and-favour network of patronage, and they repaid the favour by representing a kind of embedded front-line of troops for the political party in question. We don't need to name the political party here. We do need to point out that the system gradually came to be recognised as a Corruption of the entire ethos of public service. "Who you know, not what you know" became the basis of doing business with the public service. It affected every aspect of life - the installation of a telephone, the procuring of a bed in a county home for an elderly relative, the landing of a public service job for the son or daughter, the ability to jump the queue in respect of local authority housing - all of these, and more, were areas of life where merit or need had nothing to do with it. It was all down to how well connected you were with the local party representative. The public servants you dealt with acted in all too many cases as nothing more than channels to the real decision-makers. We never called it Tammany Hall in Ireland, but that was what it was.

One of the key things that brought that system to an end, over time, was the development and gradual extension of the remit of the Civil Service Commissioners and the Local Appointments Commission. Now we see the beginning of the dismantling of that system and its replacement by a system which will once again facilitate the development of an underhand and wrongly motivated approach to recruitment in the public service. It is a dangerous and sinister development, on a par with many of the other innovations brought in by this government. No other explanation is possible. Let me illustrate what I mean by applying the Government's own standards - their ostensible standards as opposed to their real ones. A few weeks ago the Government published a glossy White Paper called "Regulating Better". Its purpose was stated to be to contribute to improving national competitiveness and better Government by ensuring that new regulations are more rigorously assessed in terms of their impacts, more accessible to all and better understood. This White Paper identifies what the Government sees as the six principles of good regulation. The first is headed "Necessity" - is the regulation necessary?

Can we reduce red tape in this area? Are the rules and structures that govern this area still valid? The remaining principles include Effectiveness, Proportionality, Transparency, Accountability and Consistency. Let's apply these principles then to the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Bill 2003. Is the Bill necessary? Its purpose is described as being "to provide a modern and efficient framework for public service recruitment which will allows for increased flexibility while maintaining the current high standards of probity". Cutting through the jargon, the Bill certainly allows for "flexibility" but who was complaining about the rigidity of the present system? The integrity of a system and its flexibility in response to the demands of those in power are competing values; integrity is the more important. Can we reduce red tape in this area? The Civil Service Commissioners Act 1956 has 32 sections and two schedules. It is proposed to replace it with a Bill more than twice its size and at least five times as complicated. Are the rules and structures that govern this area still valid? Again, no-one has yet come forward to explain to us what precisely they think is wrong with the present structure. The White Paper on regulation lists better than we could other questions that arise when presented with this Bill.

Is it properly targeted? Is it going to be properly complied with and enforced? Are we satisfied that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Is there a smarter way of achieving the same goal? Have we consulted with stakeholders prior to regulating? Is there an effective appeals process? Will it give rise to anomalies and inconsistencies? Are we applying best practice? Again, according to the White Paper, "the Government will make better use of evidence-based policy-making. This means making better use of research and analysis in both policy-making and policy implementation. Regulation is an expression of policy and Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) is an evidence-based approach that allows for the systematic consideration of the benefits and costs of a regulatory proposal to the economy and society". So, where is the regulatory impact analysis - or any evidence upon which to ground an evidence-based policy approach - that leads to the conclusion that the Civil Service Commissioners should be broken up? In short, as I said, I fail to see any point to this Bill other than to facilitate the re-politicisation of the public service.

The Bill is lengthy and elaborate but its essential features are that it allows for the break-up of the civil service commissioners; their replacement by a new supervisory authority, the commission for public service appointments (with 3 ex officio members but up to 6 additional Government-appointed members); and the mechanics of recruitment services to be performed by any one of a number of competing recruitment agencies, each selected by a departmental secretary general or Head of Office, who will soon each be in charge of their own decentralised bailiwick. The explanatory memorandum specifically acknowledges that, "the flexibilities being introduced in this Bill will support the Government in its decentralisation programme". It is difficult to envisage a more obvious recipe for disaster - the progressive dismantling of the structures, Independent of the Government of the day, that were put in place to guarantee the effective and disinterested performance of public duties by an impartial public service, appointed according to open and transparent selection criteria. And let me repeat, the government has openly acknowledged that "the flexibilities being introduced in this Bill will support the Government in its decentralisation programme". One might at this stage begin to ask what Decentralisation programme?

Ø Fás staff have recently decided they will not leave Dublin. Ø The staff of the Department of Arts Sport and Tourism are determined to resist being forced out of their homes. Ø Huge majorities in the Departments of Agriculture and Communications have declared they are simply not interested. Ø Almost 90% of the staff of the Tánaiste's own Department have objected to the move of that Department. Ø Seven out of every eight senior civil servants in the Department of the Environment have no intention of going anywhere. Ø Higher civil servants in general have reacted with dismay and anxiety at the plan to break up the coherence of the civil service. Ø The public service Unions, especially those representing specialist grade, have unanimously predicted that ad hoc and unplanned Decentralisation will have a disastrous effect on every specialised agency for years to come. These are the cases that have attracted publicity, but I understand that throughout the civil service there is growing opposition to the upheaval that will be involved on a personal basis, and a growing recognition that the immediate consequences of this mass, unplanned exodus will be administrative chaos. So far the Government's response has been a mixture of threats and wheedling.

The Tánaiste is quoted as saying that civil servants are obliged to implement government policy, while her Junior Minister, the man who delivers, says that he believes that far more public servants will want to move once the daffodils are in bloom and the sound of the first cuckoo is not too far away. Meanwhile he has invited every property owner and developer in the country with an office block or a plot of land to sell to apply to him, so the Office of Public Works can spent hours of useless time and hundreds of thousands of euro deciding whether they will buy properties in every marginal constituency in Ireland. He is going around the place announcing that he has 700 potential customers who are willing to make a buck at the state's expense. I'd be ready to make a small wager that not one of those customers will be told that their properties are unsuitable or too expensive before the local and European elections are out of the way. Of course, nothing is sacred to Junior Minister Parlon. I understand he is willing to consider Ronald McDonald as the anchor tenant in the Custom House, provided of course that the branding is subtle and not too overstated.

The Department of Enterprise, once vacated, will be sold to Dunnes Stores, the better to be able to provide bargains in lingerie and underwear for those members of the House who feel an urgent need. Whatever needs to be sold to finance this grandiose scheme will be sold. And the overall consequence of this ill-thought out, unplanned break-up of the civil service will be to greatly increase the cost of running the service, while at the same time damaging the coherence of a source of Independent advice and careful management that has been built up and nurtured since the foundation of the state. I have always believed that a rational and well-planned approach to decentralisation could have hugely beneficial effects in terms of a wide range of social and economic issues.

The better distribution of public services throughout the country, especially by careful location of discrete agencies and sections of departments, would have positive impacts not only on the delivery of services but also on such things as traffic, house prices, development of education infrastructure, and so on. But this crazy scheme will only result in chaos, in the wholesale disruption of people and services, and in disgruntled local communities over time. The lack of planning and consultation over Decentralisation has almost certainly doomed it to failure. In the context of what we are discussing, however, the rationale behind it ought to be worth remembering. Let there be no doubt in anyone's mind that this is much more than a political gimmick. This government has become so arrogant, so power-driven that it is prepared to do whatever it can get away with it. The combination of Decentralisation and locally controlled recruitment to the public service is a recipe for politicisation of the service. As such, it is a recipe for disaster.

From Politics.ie, Ireland, 18 February 2004

Blair Signals Radical Reform of the Civil Service

Tony Blair yesterday outlined plans for a sweeping overhaul of the Civil Service to recruit more professionals from industry and force bureaucrats to deliver better results. In a keynote speech to mark the 150th anniversary of the modern service, Mr. Blair said it was his duty to leave the Civil Service in a better state than he found it in 1997. While Civil Service values of "integrity, impartiality and merit" were timeless, the prime minister said, "the world has changed and the Civil Service must change with it". The main challenge was to shift the focus from the traditional Whitehall role of policy advice, to that of delivering "outcomes", and removing barriers between departments. That had already happened, said Mr. Blair, within the Home Office dealing with immigration, or the New Deal programme for the jobless. However, Mr. Blair continued: "Too many of these lessons are learnt in crisis. For example, I learnt much from the ghastly foot-and-mouth crisis. "Civil servants worked in heroic fashion, and scientific advice was vital. But the blunt truth is that it was the armed forces' intervention that was critical to delivery. They didn't take no for an answer. If something failed, they didn't waste time with a committee of inquiry, they tried something else. They had a remorseless focus on delivering."

Sir Andrew Turnbull, cabinet secretary and head of the home Civil Service, will report next year on progress with reforms. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: "Reform should not be an excuse to slash and burn jobs and privatise functions." Tony Blair yesterday outlined plans for a sweeping overhaul of the Civil Service to recruit more professionals from industry and force bureaucrats to deliver better results. In a keynote speech to mark the 150th anniversary of the modern service, Mr. Blair said it was his duty to leave the Civil Service in a better state than he found it in 1997. While Civil Service values of "integrity, impartiality and merit" were timeless, the prime minister said, "the world has changed and the Civil Service must change with it". The main challenge was to shift the focus from the traditional Whitehall role of policy advice, to that of delivering "outcomes", and removing barriers between departments. That had already happened, said Mr. Blair, within the Home Office dealing with immigration, or the New Deal programme for the jobless.

However, Mr. Blair continued: "Too many of these lessons are learnt in crisis. For example, I learnt much from the ghastly foot-and-mouth crisis. "Civil servants worked in heroic fashion, and scientific advice was vital. But the blunt truth is that it was the armed forces' intervention that was critical to delivery. They didn't take no for an answer. If something failed, they didn't waste time with a committee of inquiry, they tried something else. They had a remorseless focus on delivering." Sir Andrew Turnbull, cabinet secretary and head of the home Civil Service, will report next year on progress with reforms. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: "Reform should not be an excuse to slash and burn jobs and privatise functions." Tony Blair yesterday outlined plans for a sweeping overhaul of the Civil Service to recruit more professionals from industry and force bureaucrats to deliver better results. In a keynote speech to mark the 150th anniversary of the modern service, Mr. Blair said it was his duty to leave the Civil Service in a better state than he found it in 1997.

While Civil Service values of "integrity, impartiality and merit" were timeless, the prime minister said, "the world has changed and the Civil Service must change with it". The main challenge was to shift the focus from the traditional Whitehall role of policy advice, to that of delivering "outcomes", and removing barriers between departments. That had already happened, said Mr. Blair, within the Home Office dealing with immigration, or the New Deal programme for the jobless. However, Mr. Blair continued: "Too many of these lessons are learnt in crisis. For example, I learnt much from the ghastly foot-and-mouth crisis. "Civil servants worked in heroic fashion, and scientific advice was vital. But the blunt truth is that it was the armed forces' intervention that was critical to delivery. They didn't take no for an answer. If something failed, they didn't waste time with a committee of inquiry, they tried something else. They had a remorseless focus on delivering." Sir Andrew Turnbull, cabinet secretary and head of the home Civil Service, will report next year on progress with reforms. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: "Reform should not be an excuse to slash and burn jobs and privatise functions." (Copyright © 2004 Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited. All Rights Reserved).

From The Herald, UK, by Deborah Summers, 25 February 2004

 

California Partnership for Long-Term Care Announces MetLife as a New Partner

Sacramento, Calif. - An innovative alliance between the California Department of Health Services' California Partnership for Long-term Care (CPLTC) and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife) will provide Californians with more options to plan ahead for their potential long-term care needs, Dr. Gilberto F. Chavez, chief medical officer of the California Department of Health Services, announced today. MetLife, a leading international provider of insurance to individuals and institutional organizations, has been approved by the CPLTC to offer group and individual long-term care insurance through California employers.

The company serves approximately 12 million individuals in the United States and companies with 37 million employees. "We're pleased to be working with MetLife to develop a special long-term care policy that matches the needs of the employer, the employees and the employees' extended family, particularly their parents and parents-in-law," said Chavez. "Employers have a real stake in informing their employees about long-term care issues, options and opportunities." The CPLTC provides Californians with affordable, quality, long-term care insurance protection. CPLTC-certified polices are designed to help protect the financial independence of Californians who need long-term care services and are the only policies sold in California that contain a special "lifetime asset protection" feature. This feature assures that Californians will not be forced to spend everything they have worked for on long-term care.

The asset protection feature enables Californians to purchase a policy with coverage equal to the amount of assets they wish to protect with the assurance that these assets are protected for life no matter what their long-term care needs may be. Without a Partnership-certified policy, Californians can only achieve lifetime asset protection by purchasing lifetime or unlimited long-term care insurance coverage, something many Californians may not be able to afford. "MetLife is honored to be selected to design a CPLTC-endorsed, long-term care insurance program for California employers," said Joyce Ruddock, vice president of MetLife's Long-Term Care. "The State of California is helping to lead the way in developing innovative solutions that rely on the public and private sectors working together to address the need to finance long-term care costs. We look forward to working with the state to address this challenge as well as to help employers manage costs associated with lost productivity."

From Business Wire (press release), 4 February 2004

River Management Pits Science Against Public Policy

Vermillion - There's rarely just two sides to an issue, especially one as controversial as management of the Missouri River. In a Wednesday evening presentation at the University of South Dakota, as part of the Missouri River Institute Forum, an internationally known law professor discussed ways to resolve river management issues by forgoing political and personal agendas, and relying on policies based on proven science. "How are we to apply what science teaches us to the management of our rich heritage and natural resources, including prairie, air, water, forest, wildlife?" said keynote speaker John Davidson, USD law professor and curriculum designer of the nation's first agricultural and natural resources law. "There's an inevitable tension between the process by which scientists reach these decisions and the process by which public policy decisions are reached." Scientific facts are born from assumptions and experiments. Theories are then verified through a rigorous and unforgiving process of open criticism, revision and attempts at proving the facts wrong, he said. By comparison, public policies are, in essence, compromises between competing special interests, Davidson said.

While both public debate and proven science are necessary in developing fair and balanced regulations, Davidson said government agencies must incorporate more science into all public policy - not just management of the Missouri River. "Science is what we can reliably know," he said. "The question is, how can public policy make use of this?" The river serves so many interests - drinking and household water, hydropower, irrigation, navigation, recreation, wildlife conservation, he said. Each use of the river has its place in providing a comfortable life for thousands of Americans, although many are in direct conflict with each other. Because of the many consituents involved in the river issue, Davidson said a partnership between science and public policy is especially important in an attempt to reach a workable resolution. "The complexity of the situation seems to create an invisible, yet inpregnable, wall that separates us from the decision-making process," he said. "Nonetheless, those decisions touch most of us in many ways." Davidson said the Missouri River became an issue in 1944-45 when Congress authorized the building of dams along the river.

The purpose of these dams were to serve as a "giant jobs program" for the soldiers coming home from World War II; to control flooding in cities bordering the river, such as Kansas City and Omaha, Neb.; and to bring irrigation and hydropower opportunities to the upper basin. All were valid reasons to build the dams, Davidson said, but the trouble started when complete control of the river management agenda was given to the Corps of Engineers, which based scientific reasoning only on the civil engineering sector. Through the years, the Missouri River offered more opportunities for American economy, recreation and livelihood - inviting an increasing number of special-interest groups. "Despite the increase in management pressures, the Corps succeeded in operating the river," Davidson said. "They did this because they controlled the decisions, they controlled the science, they controlled the money. "The standard scientific process did not apply. There was no role in the Corps for other types of science, such as ecology, biology and wildlife management."

When the Corps of Engineers relinquished its complete control of the management of the Missouri River and other agencies became involved is what started the current conflict, he said. In the 1980s, the Corps agreed to reconsider their river management, and now numerous agencies and constituents are fighting for a way into the management manual. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department demands lower river flows to save endangered species, the least tern and piping plover; while the barge and recreation industries demand maintained high river flows. "The process of reviewing the manual requires the Corps to be attentive to outside science," Davidson said. What has been learned since science has joined the management ranks is that "the natural river worked well," he said.

The development of the river eliminated natural components of the river's environment, such as sand bars and riverside wetlands. "The development of the river is inevitably leading to the extinction of species," Davidson said. "Not only that, the river itself is in danger." Scientists then created a management theory called the "flood pulse," in which the natural ebb and flow is simulated on a smaller scale. With this, dams would increase and decrease the river flows to replicate the ecological environment - and, therefore, benefits - of the natural river. Even from the economic side, experts could see the benefits from the "flood pulse." But, because White House administrations "have dragged their feet" on this issue, the "flood pulse" theory wasn't implemented until 2003. There are many more management issues to be addressed, Davidson said. Davidson said he was concerned about the lack of concern politicians seem to have about the management of the Missouri River. "River scientists are still knocking on the government's door and are still being rebuffed," he said. "The life of this river is beyond the crisis stage, and we have yet to be taken seriously about what science is telling us."

From Yankton Daily Press, SD, by Rita Brhel (rita.brhel@yankton.net), 5 February 2004

Public-private Partnerships Dull 'Sunshine'

Ocala - It's getting harder to tell where government ends and the private sector begins. Marion County, for instance, has three charter schools, a public hospital managed by a nonprofit foundation, and The Villages, part of a massive, tri-county residential development where internally elected boards oversee services such as fire protection, water and sewer utilities and even a school. Kids Central, a consortium of nonprofit child-welfare groups, planned to take over local foster care services this month for the state Department of Children and Families. The Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corp., funded partly by taxpayer money, uses public funds to lure companies to the county to create jobs and help expand the tax base. In an unusual shift the other way, the once-private countywide ambulance service has become a public-private partnership, the EMS Alliance, overseen by a board comprised of government officials and hospital administrators. The reins of government are more frequently being handed to private or nonprofit firms. While it might be less costly, one effect of such transitions is that people unfamiliar with government operations are increasingly serving as the custodians of information that, for example, indicates how taxpayer money is spent, or who is hired to care for our children and manage public safety.

For that reason, some open government proponents say, the public needs to become more diligent in protecting its access to that information. Florida's Sunshine Laws, the statutes covering public records and open meetings, are among the most liberal in America. Yet state lawmakers have carved out more than 700 exemptions. Those, coupled with the increasing privatization of services, can leave the vendors, the public and the media confused about what information they have access to, advocates say. The picture appears even gloomier when one considers that a recent investigation led by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and joined by the Star-Banner revealed that only 57 percent of more than 200 government agencies spread across 62 Florida counties complied with the public records law. Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee, said economic development agencies and hospitals resist most frequently. But there are others, experts say. They cite community development districts, some education institutions, employment contractors and, in certain situations, the Salvation Army or the Humane Society as groups that don't understand when they must comply. "Compliance is the weakest part of the law," Petersen said. "They pretend they are not subject (to it), but they are supposed to know the law, too."

The test for whether a private group must comply is relatively simple, said Gregg Thomas, a media lawyer in Tampa and expert on Florida's open records law. If the group "steps into the shoes of government," it must adhere to the law as if it were a government agency, he said. "We find resistance to access all the time. But without access to this information, we might as well be living in Cuba." When that resistance is challenged, these groups always object that they are the private sector and should not face the same requirements as the government, said Pat Gleason, general counsel for the state attorney general's office. In a recent interview, Daytona Beach lawyer Jon Kaney Jr. acknowledged that is a valid point. It was, after all, the core argument made by a hospital that Kaney sued when he litigated the landmark case cited by those trying to pull down barriers to public information erected by private groups. Memorial Hospital-West Volusia in DeLand had shifted from public to private control and was trying to block access to hospital board meetings and records. Kaney's client, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, filed a lawsuit, arguing that the hospital must open up because it remained athe public hospital by the care it provided, and as such performed a government function.

According to Kaney, the hospital's lawyers countered that granting access to files and meetings would expose vital business plans to competitors. Kaney said that's a good reason for an exemption, such as the one health care providers are granted to protect patient medical records. But, he added, it should not serve as the shield behind which the hospital could hide all its information. In January 1999, the Florida Supreme Court sided with the News-Journal and ruled that the hospital must provide access like any other government agency. Gleason called that the landmark case in public records law for two reasons. It was the first time that the high court had subjected a private entity to the public records law. Moreover, it signaled to private groups operating on behalf of the government that they could no longer make the argument that they, as the private sector, were exempt. Despite the victory, conditions are far from perfect, Kaney said. "It's not a bright line. It can be difficult to police because the case turns on its own twists and turns," he said.

"But the more that we privatize the higher is the need to have sunshine and public records accountability because we can't get at those people through elections." Gleason agreed. "Private entities are most likely to question how the public records law works. It's a more common problem than it used to be as the government is increasingly looking to privatize functions it had done on its own and one that's not easy to resolve," she said. She said one answer may be for lawmakers to revamp the law to follow the model of state agencies. Currently, when the state contracts with a private vendor to handle one of its duties, such as foster care, the agreement specifically spells out that the company will comply with the Sunshine Laws. If they violate them, the contract is voided. There's no such provision for local governments, Gleason said. Petersen has another suggestion for private business and non-profits. "In accepting a public trust, they are receiving public funds and they have an obligation under the law and the Florida constitution. Otherwise stay in the private sector and don't take our money." Bill Thompson covers county government and can be reached at 867-4117, or at bill.thompson@starbanner.com.

From Ocala Star-Banner, FL, by Bill Thompson, 9 February 2004

HealthPartners Releases Public Policy Platform on Health Care Reform

Bloomington, Minn. - Platform Calls for Universal Coverage - HealthPartners today released its public policy platform outlining principles aimed at reforming Minnesota's health care system. The principles include providing universal health care coverage in Minnesota, reforming health care financing to reward improved health outcomes rather than volume of procedures and giving consumers access to health plan comparisons on cost and quality of care. "These principles are based on three groundbreaking reports from the Institute of Medicine," said Mary Brainerd, HealthPartners CEO and President. "The reports challenged health care organizations to transform health care delivery to provide care that is safe, timely, efficient, effective, equitable and patient-centered," she added.

HealthPartners public policy platform consists of the following principals: 1. Policies should result in patient-centered care. HealthPartners will support policy initiatives that are based on the six aims outlined by the Institute of Medicine to provide care that is patient-centered, safe, timely, efficient, effective and equitable. 2. Universal coverage. Every Minnesotan should have health care coverage, and that coverage should be affordable. 3. Pay-for-performance. Health care purchasers should pay for performance, quality and results. The current approach provides incentives for volume, production, procedures and technology use. 4. Transparency. The performance of medical groups, hospitals, and health plans in achieving quality should be made available publicly from a single, credible source. 5. Regulatory reform. The state should reform health plan regulations to promote competition, provide more choices for consumers and employers, and ensure the financial viability of health insurers. 6. Health promotion. State policy should promote healthy lifestyles. HealthPartners will advocate for policies that support health with a focus on tobacco use reduction, weight management and promotion of physical activity. 7. Public health goals.

The state should lead development of public health goals, and the role of the public health system, and work in partnership with the private sector to improve public health. In 2002 HealthPartners received a $2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to transform its health care system to ensure that care is patient-centered, safe, timely, efficient, effective and equitable. Brainerd said the initiative has become a cornerstone for HealthPartners. "I am confident that by working together, we can reform the health care system so that every Minnesotan has health care that is affordable, provides choices and is based on national standards for best evidence," she added. The public policy platform, including specific policy recommendations for each of the seven principles is available at http://www.healthpartners.com/Menu/0,1598,18061,00.html .

From Yahoo News (press release), 6 February 2004

Public Policy's David Kirp on Marketing Higher Education

David Kirp is just the sort of author Berkeley Writers at Work coordinator Steve Tollefson likes to feature: He has written a prodigious amount - 15 books and more than 100 articles - and undoubtedly will have a lot to say about the writing process during his March 30 interview. This excerpt is from the introduction to Kirp's latest book, Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education. "The two campuses are a half hour's drive and a psychological light year removed from one another. Between them, they mark the outer boundaries of the new higher learning in America. One is a modern rendering of the ivied college, a place of learning set apart from the humdrum world. The verdant landscape, camouflaged from neighboring office parks, is a real park that's dotted with ponds and meandering trails, a setting that invites conversation among students and teachers. The buildings are unobtrusively contemporary, and the classrooms, many of them seminar-sized, are wired for the electronic age.

This is a highly selective school, which draws its students and its faculty from around the globe. Students report that they are pleased with their education as well as with the opportunity to make the kinds of contacts that make careers. The other campus is a faux-Gothic refuge from a dicey urban neighborhood, Oxbridge amid the ghetto. But until recently the telltale signs of neglect were everywhere evident, from the physics labs, state-of-the-art circa 1950, to the swimming pool used to train competitors for the Olympics - the 1908 Olympics, that is. Throughout its history, the institution has regularly been in financial trouble. Twice in earlier years it came close to moving away; and its annual deficit, projected to run ten million dollars, was eating away at its relatively modest endowment. While its alumni have always been fiercely loyal, many were saying that the place was so brutal that they wouldn't send their own children there.

Attracting new students had become harder and harder - more than 60 percent of those who applied were admitted to the Class of 2000, and fewer than a third of those who were accepted actually enrolled. The second of these schools is the University of Chicago. The first is Hamburger University, McDonalds' corporate training headquarters. To speak of McDonalds and the University of Chicago in the same breath is blasphemy, at least in Hyde Park. But both the rise to prominence of schools like Hamburger U. - not your father's higher education, certainly, but an accredited institution nonetheless - as well as the hard choices that confront a quintessential institution of higher learning like Chicago are evidence of a much larger phenomenon. For better or worse, American higher education is being transformed by both the power and the ethic of the marketplace. It is this story that succeeding chapters recount: the strategies devised to navigate this complex market terrain, as well as the values to academic life that those strategies place at risk."

From Berkeleyan, CA, 4 February 2004

Public Policy Arm Added to Legal Firm

Baker Donelson taps local politician for new venture - Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz has restructured its Baker Donelson Public Strategies subsidiary by bringing the group in house. Now known as the Public Strategies Group, the Nashville-based division will handle state-level public policy issues in Tennessee and other states in the region. And the recent addition to the firm's litigation department, Buck Wellford, will bring his experience as a two-term Shelby County Commissioner to the newly formed practice. The new area of practice, along with the public policy work at Baker Donelson's Washington office, will better position the firm to serve clients at the state and federal level. "In an effort to continue providing excellent and seamless service to our clients, we are pleased to re-establish a state public policy group within the firm," said senior shareholder Lewis R. Donelson.

While he has been involved in politics on behalf of Republican candidates, Wellford said it's his years as a county commissioner that will be of greater use to the law firm. "That really brought me into contact with elected officials and also with the administrative staff in city and county government," Wellford said. He learned how to work through "the administrative maze," about land use issues and government funding. "I've learned how things are done, I've learned how to work with people," he said. As part of the firm, he will also work with Betty Anderson, chair of the public strategies group in Nashville, on matters that involve Shelby County he said. "I've always really wanted to do a multi-state public policy venture and Baker Donelson really offers a unique opportunity to do that," Anderson said. With founders like former Tennessee senator Howard Baker, the firm has always understood the value of public policy work to its clients, she said.

The new practice area will benefit clients operating within the region in more than one state who need pubic policy services, Anderson said. The firm has also hired Brent Alexander in its Jackson office as a senior public policy adviser. He's the first for the group outside of Washington and Nashville. "I think Baker Donelson is one of the top law firms in the country and I think they've got a very strong public policy practice," Alexander said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to work with some of the top government relations and public affairs professionals in the nation. And I think we've got a great opportunity to expand our public policy practice throughout the Southeast." Rolling the public policy business into the firm strays from the trend law firms have for creating separate businesses, said Sandra McQuain, partner with Howell McQuain Strategies, a legal marketing firm. "For them, trying to market all of the government relations, public policy experience under one umbrella is probably a very smart move," McQuain said.

From GoMemphis.com, TN, by Linda A. Moore, 12 February 2004

Partnership for Pre-school Education Imperative

Although it is the government's intention to give priority to pre-school education, it recognises that its delivery cannot be supplied exclusively by the government alone, and it is therefore imperative for the Ministry to forge a meaningful and productive partnership with the private sector to ensure that pre-school education is given top priority, said the Minister of Education, Alfred Sears on Thursday. Minister Sears was speaking at the 7th annual preschool and day-care directors' conference at the Wyndham Nassau Resort, held under the theme "Maintaining Professional Standards in Your Centre." The conference ran yesterday and will end today. The Education Minister highlighted that pre-school teachers have "pioneered" pre-school education in The Bahamas, some being "under funded and un-resourced," while others work under tremendous difficulties and at times without charge. He said however, that such teachers should not bear this burden alone and the government must be prepared to assist. Government proposals - According to Minister Sears, the government is prepared to put "its money where its mouth is" and structure a proper programme for pre-school education.

He added that the Ministry will be in consultation with pre-school teachers and has scheduled a meeting for Monday with pre-school leaders. Minister Sears also pointed out that the Ministry is finalizing the legislative framework that would allow private and public daycare centres and pre-schools to be expanded in The Bahamas. He mentioned that the Bill for an Act to provide for the regulation and management of day-care centres and pre-schools contains a broad set of requirements, which will address: Licensing and registration of operators and facilities, standards for equipment and furnishings, staffing requirements, health requirements for staff and homecare, sanitation requirements and building codes. So far, he said the bill has been circulated amongst The Bahamas Childcare and pre-school Association and other stakeholders have proposed certain amendments. Minister Sears said amendments have been drafted and were forwarded to Cabinet last week for approval.

The main purpose of the amendments he said, are to provide for the registration and licensing of existing operators who do not qualify under the Bill. Such persons will be allowed two years in order to become fully compliant. Access to quality education - Meanwhile, Minster Sears said the government wants every three-year-old child, irrespective of socio-economic background, to have access to quality education in an affordable pre-school programme, and the Ministry of Education is moving quickly and purposefully to achieve this goal. "We know from the best research, that when children receive the necessary foundation for learning, they are able to participate not only more effectively in the educational system, but they also will achieve more post their formal education as citizens within our society," he said. Minister Sears concluded that last year; the Ministry was determined to expand the pre-school facilities of the public educational system to include three-year-old students in two pilot programmes at Tiny Tot and Willard Patton Primary.

New pre-schools - He announced on Thursday that 11 new pre-school units are being opened this year, some of which include: Columbus Primary, Stephen Dillete Primary, Carlton E. Francis Primary, Palmdale Primary, C.W. Sawyer Primary and Fresh Creek Primary Schools. He added however, that it was not enough to simply expand the Primary School facilities in some of our public schools, but they needed to demonstrate its commitment to pre-school education by appointing someone at the highest level of leadership in the Ministry of Education. "It was this thought in mind that Mr. Cecil Thompson, a veteran educator serves as Deputy Director of Education for pre-schools and special services development to ensure that within the Dept. of Education, there is someone at the highest level who will be focused on this area in terms of the formation of policy and the execution of policy and most significantly, forging the partnership with the private sector in the delivery of day-care pre-school and education," he said.

Mrs. Roxanne Chapman, Vice President of Bahamas Childcare and Pre-school Association outlined that the Association recognises the importance of providing quality standards and care to the children they serve. It's vision, she said, is to provide a supportive network of people, whose primary purpose is to invest in the care and education of young children holistically and to bring about long lasting influence on the development of children. Mrs. Chapman mentioned that individuals from the private sector have been invited to share their talents and ensure that quality standards are maintained. "It is our hope that at the end of this two-day conference, you will make every effort to continue to expand, enrich and foster the quality of standards in your childcare centres," she said.

From Nassau Guardian, Bahamas, by Tamara McKenzie, 20 February 2004

Centre to Monitor AIDS Public Policy

The fight against HIV/AIDS will enter a new phase as social scientists and medical researchers join forces to combat the spread of the illness. A new think-tank, unveiled on Friday at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, will try to develop social and policy alternatives to combat the spread of the disease. "During multiple-perspective research on the social problem, we aim to figure out the obstacles for HIV/AIDS control and prevention, and then raise suggestions for the government to make or change polices," said Xia Guomei, director of the Research Centre for HIV/AIDS Public Policy. As a social science researcher, Xia has focused on HIV/AIDS and related social problems for over 10 years. "The crucial chain to improve HIV/AIDS prevention is to change the public policy makers' attitude and opinions," she added.

Meanwhile, experts from legal and medical circles said that raising the level of public awareness, fighting discrimination against victims and reducing unsafe activities are crucial to HIV/AIDS prevention. Within two years, the centre will help the city government revise its regulations on HIV/AIDS prevention while identifying patient's rights, privacy protection and other controversial problems. "The regulation will back up prevention from the legal angle. Meanwhile, some successful practices in foreign countries will be explored in Shanghai such as the use of condoms among high-risk groups and safe injections among drug users," said Zhu Huimin, an official from the city's Health Bureau. By the end of last year, Shanghai had reported a total of 911 HIV/AIDS patients. But the metropolis is facing an increasing threat from the epidemic due to its large floating population, more than 4 million among its 17 million residents. And it will get huge numbers of visitors by 2010 when the city hosts "World Expo." Medical experts also fear the serious challenge the city will face. "Sex will become the main channel to spread HIV while most of Shanghai's flowing population, young or middle aged people, are very sexually active but with comparatively poor education," said Kang Laiyi, professor of Shanghai AIDS Surveillance Centre.

From People's Daily, China, 20 February 2004

 
 

Supreme Court to Strengthen Fight Against Corruption

Yaoundé - The Attorney General at the Supreme Court in Yaounde, Rissouck a Moulong Martin, has called on the judiciary to resist the malpractices which hinder the smooth functioning of the system in Cameroon. This was amongst the major recommendations made by Chief Justice Rissouck, last Friday, at the main hall of the Supreme Court where members of the judiciary met to present New Year wishes to him. According to the Attorney General, the quest for justice is a fundamental need for every human being. It is in this light that he called on the judiciary to respond to the expectations of the public for equitable, responsible and rapid justice.

The Chief Justice condemned the ills that plague the judicial system such as corruption and the slow implementation of the laws, for these are obstacles in their mission. He reiterated the necessary qualities required in the proper functioning of the judicial system in Cameroon: competence, integrity, impartiality and an independent spirit. "The best law is that which is properly applied," he added. Taking the floor earlier, the president at the administrative bench of the Supreme Court, Minlo Daniel, read a summary of projects carried out last year. He said that thanks to the efforts of the Chief Justice some offices have been renovated and the judiciary provided with vehicles. Meritorious staff and workers going on retirement where honoured.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Brenda Yufeh, 4 February 2004

Rwanda Cracks Down on Corruption

Politicians and civil servants in Rwanda have been asked to declare their wealth in a campaign against corruption in government. Rwanda's newly appointed Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara has told the BBC those who do not comply will be prosecuted. Starting this week, leaders, who include President Paul Kagame, will fill in forms stating what they own. Rwanda's constitution adopted last year requires public office holders to declare their wealth. Tainted image - Mr. Rutaremara told Focus on Africa programme the new government drive will promote transparency and prevent people from acquiring wealth fraudulently." The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) political programme stresses that we fight corruption and malpractices so we will be applying what we have been teaching" said Mr. Rutaremara. Rwanda enjoys a reputation of low rates of corruption, but its image was recently tainted by media reports that accused senior government officials of using their positions to acquire large bank loans.

From BBC News, UK, 4 February 2004

Fight Corruption, All COMESA Members Urged

Lusaka - The 20-member regional trade bloc, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa, has urged member-states to weed out corruption from public institutions if development is to take root in the region. In a speech read on behalf of Comesa secretary-general Mr. Erastus Mwencha on Monday at the grouping's secretariat in Lusaka, he said corruption had to be eradicated with a view of creating good systems that promote principles of good governance, adding that good governance would in turn foster competition, transparency and accountability. This was at the opening of the Third Sub-Regional Training Seminar on public procurement. "Corruption needs to be fought at all levels and, if necessary, to change the way every institutional structure carries out its duties with a view to creating good systems that promote good governance, principles of competition, transparency and accountability," he said.

Mr. Mwencha observed that corruption promoted illegal channels of public procurement systems in governments and, hence, the need to come up with a coherent and uniform procurement procedure. He said this was so because it would encourage and enhance fair competition in both public and private procurement among Comesa member states. Said Mr. Mwencha: "As Comesa gets more integrated and trade more liberalised, the need to ensure fair and open trade becomes greater by the day. It is, therefore, necessary to develop harmonised procurement laws, regulations and procedures across Comesa." Mr. Mwencha stated further that public procurement arrangements also needed to be improved.

"Fortunately, these reforms are coming at a time when governments in the region are calling for a revamp of their procurements systems that have, in most cases, failed to deliver the appropriate goods, civil works and the services required to fulfill government missions," added the secretary-general. Meanwhile, International Law Institute executive director Mr. Swithin Munyantwali said the training would greatly assist the Comesa trade bloc attain transparency in public procurement. Mr. Munyantwali said: "There is need for Comesa to hold similar workshops in the future before introducing a uniform public procurement system that you are deliberating on today." The training seminar will run for three weeks and is being attended by participants drawn from Malawi, Sudan, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Sanday Chongo-Kabange, 4 February 2004

Tender Board Members Fired Amid Corruption Allegations

Eight senior employees from the State Procurement Board were last week fired by Executive Chairman, Charles Kuwaza, on allegations of gross corruption, StandardBusiness has learnt. The eight are Faith Mafukureni Mawoyo, Baisai Mudzengerere, Paschalina Dhlakama, Kumbirai Mutemararo, Francis Hoko, Gift Makoto and Tendai Chimombe. The State Procurement Board falls under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and is involved in the processing of government and all parastatal tenders. All the fired employees have since been reassigned to the treasury said Kuwaza. It is alleged that some of the officers were involved in serious corrupt deals during their stay in office, which has led to a number tenders being delayed or even mismanaged.

The State Procurement Board, formerly known as the Tender Board, was re-launched in March 1999 and the new board of directors retained most of the senior employees for "the sake of continuity". However during their stay in office they have proved to be liabilities to the organisation than assets, said Kawaza. "After retaining most of the workers in 1999, we have been assessing their performance since then. Their performance was very much behind our expectations. The work was very much behind,"he said. He, however, said he was not putting all the blame on them but said they contributed to the delays which the organisation experienced during their reign. "One tenderer once came to me and told me openly that one of the officers had actually asked for a Peugeot 406 vehicle so that his papers can be processed as matter of emergency,"said the tender boss.

"There were a number of serious allegations of corruption from most departments headed by these senior officers and we decided we could not move on well under such conditions,"he said. Meanwhile, following the firing of the senior employees the board has since appointed Eppie Muchaneta Ushewokunze as the Principal Officer. The State Procurement board last year awarded tenders to two Chinese construction firms in unclear circumstances much to the surprise of many local companies who had also submitted their bids. The government has also been blamed for interfering with the business of the board to make sure that companies owned by senior Zanu PF officials receive tenders even when they do not have the capacity to do the job.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Valentine Maponga, 9 February 2004

Be Sincere with Anti-corruption Crusade, Government Advised

The Federal Government has been advised to be more sincere with its anti-corruption crusade so that the impression was not created that "some secred cow" would always be spared no matter the seriousness of their offence. The Technical Manager (Administration) of Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, Femi Kila made the remark at the 6th triennial delegates conference of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) held in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital at the weekend. Said he: "Government anti-corruption crusade is a mere hoax. How many people today have been sentenced? Even if they do, I tell you with all sense of seriousness and truthfulness that it is a question of time. They will be released soon." He averred that based on government's attitude towards corrupt officials it would be difficult to fight the menace to a standstill. Kila who was former president of the then Senior Staff Consultative Association of Nigeria (SESCAN) before its name was changed to TUC also flayed some government's policies saying since government is sovereign, no serious President in Nigeria would open the doors of the nation to all sorts of bastardisation of the economy.

He also spoke on the controversial labour reform bill saying the registration of TUC is going to be an arduous task because of the monopoly being enjoyed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) which is seriously lobbying to ensure that the TUC is not registered as a labour centre. He, however, canvassed for unity between both TUC and NLC to ensure that government did not divide labour. Also speaking on corruption at the weekend, the Primate of the Church of the Lord (Aladura) worldwide, Dr. Rufus Ositelu said he was surprised that despite the fact that the country was rated as the second most corrupt nation in the world by Transparency International, the political leaders were not doing anything to change the situation on ground. The Primate who was on a tour of the Lagos West Diocese of his church, noted that until corruption is fought and won in the country the nation would not move forward.

The clergyman, who also accused some ministers of God in the country of aiding and abetting corruption, decried that instead of preaching righteousness and salvation, most of them concentrated on preaching prosperity. "Some religious leaders in the country have failed the nation by leading their congregation astray, instead of preaching the Kingdom of God, they concentrated on materialism," he said. He, however, said that the war against corruption must be fought in every home in the country, saying that the battle must not be left in the hands of the government alone, even as he called on the political leaders to seek for divine direction from religious leaders in order to bail the nation out of the many woes. Ositelu, advised Ministers of God in the country not to seat on the fence in the issues affecting the nation, and asked them to criticise any bad government policy constructively and Give praise when it was desirable.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria, 9 February 2004

In Corruption Push, Kenya Trying Judges on Bribery Charges

Nairobi - An appeal court judge in Kenya accused of having links with suspected drug traffickers appeared before a special tribunal yesterday, the first of a series of trials aimed at tackling corruption in the judiciary. Philip Waki is one of eight of the country's most senior judges accused of taking bribes. President Mwai Kibaki's government was elected in December 2002 on a platform of zero tolerance for sleaze, and this purge of the courts is seen as crucial to its campaign to clean up public life. Under the former president, Daniel arap Moi, the judiciary was regarded with cynicism by Kenyans, who joked that it was "cheaper to buy a judge than hire a lawyer."

Gladwell Otieno of Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organization, said: "The new government found itself being stymied in their fight against corruption by the judiciary. Prosecution is one of the more difficult ways of fighting corruption, but it's what the public wants to see. I think the government has made a political decision to go and do one-off radical surgery." Waki, who was appointed to the high court in 1995 and became an appeal court judge last year, denies the charges and has vowed to prove his innocence. The outcome of this first tribunal is expected to influence whether the trials of the other seven judges will go ahead, and there are fears that the judiciary may close ranks. Otieno said: "Kenya is a small country, and they definitely all know each other. These are colleagues trying each other."

From Taipei Times, Taiwan, 11 February 2004

Mugabe's 'War Cabinet' to Fight Corruption

Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday said his newly appointed Cabinet remained "a war Cabinet", but this time to fight an internal war against corruption. "It's still a war Cabinet," Mugabe told reporters shortly after a ceremony to swear in the newcomers to the Cabinet at State House, his official residence. "The war is getting less and less political, that is vis-a-vis the British and vis-a-vis the Americans, those I think we have defeated now," he said referring to the political differences his government has with the West, particularly over Harare's controversial land reform programme. "It is now the internal war to fight the evils within our system, to fight corruption, to fight tendencies to amass wealth at the expense of the nation, to fight indiscipline, to fight crime," he said. Mugabe created a new ministry of anti-corruption and anti-monopolies programmes to be headed by a veteran politician and ruling party stalwart, Didymus Mutasa. The president on Monday night conducted his first re-shuffle of a "war Cabinet" he appointed in August 2002, following his re-election in controversial polls in March that year.

He dropped Mines Minister Edward Chindori-Chininga but kept most of the other ministers from the old Cabinet. Mugabe elevated Deputy Finance Minister Chris Kuruneri to head that ministry - seen as key in attempts to turn around the economy which has been recession in recent years. Outgoing Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa has been re-assigned to the ministry of higher and tertiary education, a portfolio he has held once before. Mugabe said he also shuffled his cabinet with the aim of correcting the damage resulting from a famine that has hit the country over three successive years, and sanctions imposed by the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United States. "We want to enhance the capacities of our own people to build their own country, to reverse the damage that has been done by a combination of drought and sanctions. "This means of course that our agriculture has got to be propelled, it has got to be supported effectively," he said. Mugabe also split the former ministry of Land, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement into two.

From Mail & Guardian, South Africa, 11 February 2004

New Ambassadors Hail Anti-Corruption Drive

Harare - Newly appointed ambassadors to Zimbabwe yesterday praised the Government for embarking on an anti-corruption drive. The new ambassadors were speaking in separate closed meetings with President Mugabe at State House after presenting their credentials. Sources who attended the meetings said the ambassadors singled out the formation of the Ministry of Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies as a correct move. "The Anti-Corruption Ministry was mentioned, especially by ambassadors from Kenya and Zambia," said a source. "The ambassadors from these countries indicated they were also fighting corruption in their own countries." Kenya and Zambia have embarked on programmes to clamp down on corruption in their countries. The new ambassadors who presented credentials were Professor Maria Nzomo of Kenya, Mr. Mothusi Nkgowe of Botswana, Professor Elizabeth Mumba of Zambia, Mr. Pak Kun Gwang of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Mr. Amin Al-Yousfi of Yemen.

While all other ambassadors would be operating from Zimbabwe, Mr. Gwang would be based in South Africa while Mr. Al-Yousfi would be in Ethiopia. The ambassadors discussed many issues with the President, including the land reform programme. On Botswana, the sources said President Mugabe told Mr. Nkgowe that the two countries shared a lot in common and were inseparable. The President told the Zambian ambassador, Prof Mumba, that Zambia and Zimbabwe were like siamese twins and geography and rivers could not separate them. After meeting the President, Mr. Nkgowe told journalists that he was interested in improving relations between his country and Zimbabwe. On reports that some Zimbabweans were recently flogged in public in Botswana, he said flogging was part of that country's culture.

"It is not only done on Zimbabweans but on many other people where certain crimes are committed," he said. "For instance, young people are whipped if they commit crime." Prof Mumba said she would work to enhance the bilateral relations between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Prof Nzomo of Kenya said she would do her best to represent Kenyan President Mr Mwai Kibaki. Sources said President Mugabe congratulated her in the closed meeting for being the first Kenyan ambassador to Zimbabwe. Diplomats from Commonwealth countries ceased to be called high commissioners when Zimbabwe pulled out of the club at the end of last year. Mr. Gwang said he hoped Zimbabwe would continue supporting his country's position regarding nuclear programmes. He said there was also need for support for the reunification of North and South Korea. Mr. Al-Yousfi said Yemen wanted to continue enjoying good political and economic relations with Zimbabwe.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 20 February 2004

Kenya Re-invents Corruption

Dressed in their ceremonial navy blue uniform, Ezekiel Oduor and John Ogutu were admitted to the corporal ranks of Kenya's police force. The two former police constables were being honoured by their chief, Jambeni Bakari, for rejecting bribes. But is this act of honesty an isolated one - or part of a change of culture under way in Kenya? Well, a just released survey by Transparency International shows that since President Mwai Kibaki came to power in 2003 corruption levels have been falling in several areas. Among Kenya's police, who have become infamous for their sharp practices, the number of bribes being sought or accepted have dropped dramatically. However, it appears the cost of these bribes has jumped, suggesting that despite the greater risk the practice still flourishes if the rewards are large enough. There also appears to be another form of corruption emerging for Kenyans seeking services from inefficient government departments - something called "corruption in kind".

Justice - Offering bribes and kick backs had become a tradition in almost every sphere of operations in Kenya for the past two decades under the rule of former President Daniel arap Moi. A recent purge on the judiciary made a major impact in the government's massive anti-corruption crusade. Nearly half of the Kenyan judges were suspended from duty after a probe into allegations of corruption in the judiciary. A price list was published detailing how much it cost to bribe which grade of judge. That and repeated pledges by the government to observe zero tolerance on corruption has instilled fear among civil servants and even ordinary Kenyans who have been joint players in the "kitu kidogo" (something little) game. As it is now, it is becoming difficult to openly offer a bribe to avoid arrest or to gain a favour in the murky waters of service delivery. 'Bribes in kind' - It is now being argued that corruption is re-inventing itself in Kenya as a game for the "big fish". "What is happening is that bribes are being offered in kind.

Even key government officials are involved here," political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi told BBC News Online. Mr. Ngunyi says offers of company shares, or positions as directors in private and government companies have replaced the previous exchange of cash in return for favours. He says this is part of a new style of corruption that is now taking root in Kenya under the guise of repairing injustices committed by the previous regime. Bribes are now allegedly being given in secret and within cartels making it less obvious than in the past, observes Mr. Ngunyi. Living standards - The government says it is trying to address the root causes of corruption in the public sector. For instance, a recent huge salary increase for police officers. Security Minister Chris Murungaru says raising their salaries from $75 to $130 is part of a wider initiative to fight wide spread corruption in the force.

But critics claim the increment was never enough to change behaviour in the force since their salaries had fallen way below the required living standards and it does not make a difference. That said, it must be good news that police now seem far more wary of seeking the many small offerings of ordinary poor Kenyans. Donor confidence - But what seems clear is that there remains a lot of work to do. Professor Makau Mutua, the chairman of the Kenya Human Rights Commission holds the view that the zero tolerance on corruption campaign by the government has not been working. "Government officials are still looting from the public till and are not being questioned," he says. Political pundits argue that President Kibaki's "hands off" style of rule, is derailing his aim of removing the corrupt elements within his government. Although his recent crackdown on official corruption has restored donor confidence the task remains daunting.

From BBC News, UK, by Noel Mwakugu, 23 February 2004

IG Warns Cadet Officers Against Corruption

Lagos - Inspector General of Police (IGP), Tafa Balogun has enjoined new Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and cadet Inspectors to shun corruption for them to have fulfilled career with the Nigeria Police Force. Speaking at a Dinning-out ceremony in honour of the 473 graduating Cadet ASPs and Inspectors, at the Police Academy Wudil, Kano, Balogun reminded the graduating cadets of the anti-corruption stance of his administration, recalling that over 800 policemen were dismissed from the Force between 2002 and now, for extortion from members of the public and other corruption related offences. The IGP, in a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, Chris Olakpe, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), advised the Cadets, who had the intension of corrupting members of the public, to honourably resign rather than wait to suffer the ignoble consequences of arrest and prosecution. Balogun disclosed that there were many highly disciplined officers in the Force, who the Cadets could always look up to as models of moral rectitude and honest servants.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Yemi Akinsuyi, 25 February 2004

NCOP Passes Anti-Corruption Bill

Cape Town - The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Bill yesterday, intensifying the fight against corruption in the country. The National Assembly approved the Bill in November last year. The Bill seeks to replace the Corruption Act of 1992 and it also endeavours to reflect government's broad strategy to combat corruption at all levels of society. Deputy Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Cheryl Gillwald said the Bill made provision for the protection of witnesses from undue influences and compelled individuals holding position of authority to report corrupt activities. "The Bill seeks to codify the offences of corruption and bribery and will extend in its application from offices of corrupt public officials to the equally insidious corrupt activities that can and do occur in corporate boardrooms." She said this provision in particular ensured that senior managers in government, parastatals and the private sector blew the whistle on corrupt.

According to her, failure to report corrupt activities carried a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment. The deputy minister also said clause 10 of the bill replaced the common law crime of bribery and creates a general corruption offence. "This clause prohibits both the receipt and offering of unauthorised gratification by or to a person within employment relationship, whereas the common law crime of bribery applies only to persons in the public sector," Ms Gillwald said. The deputy minister said the Bill reflected a political will by government to change its approach to combating and preventing corruption. "Left unchecked, corrupt practices can easily become a bad habit and soon become accepted as the norm," she said. Ms Gillwald also urged the public to instill an unequivocal intolerance for corrupt practices and to create a culture of clean corporate and public sector practices. "Neither is corruption limited to any specific sector, it preys on government and business on a wide front and finds its home in both the informal and formal sectors.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Seshoane Masitha, 25 February 2004

NPP: From "Zero Tolerance" To Official Corruption -What went wrong?

The month of February has already shaped up to be a horrifically bad one for the President and his ruling National Patriotic Party. There is a lot of hoodoo about official corruption which has so far culminated in the dishonorable resignation of a member of Parliament and a deputy minister of Presidential Affairs (hmmmmmmmmmmmm one such proliferated ministries under this President who solemnly vowed to trim the pork, wastage, inefficiency and eradicate official corruption if voted to power!). In fact, Motcha Mamba (the disgraced MP) is now the poster boy for all that is stinkingly corrupt about this government and our dear country. What this President and his party are doing to our country should be of grave concern to all peace loving Ghanaians. We should not allow them to do further damage to our already tarred institutions. This government's inaction and complicity in encouraging the scourge of corruption in our country is mindboggling. Am I saying that this government is mugging our fragile democracy? You betcha!! Isn't the NPP the "zero tolerance" party? Didn't they come to power on the wave of anti-corruption sentiment in the country? Do they have any clue why they succeeded in demonizing the NDC as the most corrupt party ever to rule Ghana? I personally think they hit a home run with that electoral theme or strategy of "zero tolerance".

No wonder Ghanaians were filled with so much hope and aspiration when the NPP took over the reins of government. Ghanaians of all social, political and economic strata were prepared to give this government the benefit of doubt. This undiluted goodwill is easily verified in their resilience in enduring the economic pain brought on by the historic price/rate increases in petroleum products, electricity, water, school fees, rent, etc. For all we know our streets would have been in undated with big time demonstrations if the NDC had implemented those historic price or rate increases. What the masses have received in return is more and more naked corruption in high places. To some of us the Mamba's case is just the tip of the iceberg. MAMBA AND NPP OFFICIAL CORRUPTION! o Talking about Mamba, how does this government expect to restore and build confidence in the integrity of our institutions of government while confessed corrupters like him roam free? o Is this such a complex case that the government is still searching for evidence? Or is this one case the President and Parliament are blatantly refusing to act because Mamba is one of their own?

o Is Mamba more of a Ghanaian than Tsatsu Tsikata or Serlomey or Peprah? Is that the President's understanding of democracy and "zero tolerance for corruption? o What is going on in our country? o What puissant message is the President and his advisors sending to the armed robbers and white collar criminals? o That it is morally and legally right to rob the country and nothing will be done to you? o Isn't there a law on our criminal statute that punishes any public officer for "corruptly or dishonestly" abusing his/her office for "private profit or benefit"? What is most astounding is that the President as our chief law enforcement officer has done his damnable best to keep his distance by pretending to be dead on this national disgrace. o Shouldn't he be the one leading the charge against official corruption? o Shouldn't the President have used the Mamba case to reassure the nation that he and his party are on top of the fight against official corruption? o It is really depressing that the NPP is even encouraging Mamba to stand for re-election as if what he did was politically and morally right for the party and the country! Why are they paralyzed to speak up against the criminal conduct of Mamba and many others in their ranks?

o Are they scared of the skeletons in their closets? What classless act! To put it blandly, this government is setting a very dangerous precedent for the country which will eventually destroy our democracy (if not arrested immediately). THE NRC, OFFICIAL CORRUPTION AND ANARCHY. The sad truth is that these same people who profess to be "lovers" of the rule of law will be the first to cry foul if anarchy breaks out and the country is hijacked by "revolutionaries". And, we all know the attendant tragic footwork of anarchy - torture, mayhem, executions, political murder, destruction of Makola market, curfews, rapes etc; etc; The civil liberties we now take for granted become practically non-existent in times of anarchy (lawlessness). In due time those same individuals and their cronies would turn around and establish bodies like the National Reconciliation Commission while they conveniently forget their own political and economic perfidies (crimes) that led to the lawlessness!

In fact, no matter what political stripes we wear, we should have the decency to intelligently and patriotically ask and demand answers to questions like; 1. Why should state money be used to renovate a President's house OR at what point in time should state money be used to renovate a President's house? And, if so used, should it qualify as a loan or a gift? 2. Why should our leaders shield their assets/financial declaration forms from the public eye? Why is Article 286(3) still embedded in our constitution when these same individuals now in power riled against it while in oppostion? 3. What has happened to Article 128(1) of the constitution? Didn't the NPP talk so much (and rightly so) about the sacredness of the independence of the judiciary while in opposition? How can they reconcile the stacking or packing of the Supreme Court with judicial independence? 4. Why have the NPP leadership placed the patronage and the spoil systems on a higher pedestal? Aren't they adding to the corrupt image of our system of government? How many ministries do we have now? Special assistants? This is indeed a bankrupt system designed to artificially create some money for the "boys" simply because they were in the economic doldrums for too long!

5. Why is it that after three years, the 10%, 15% or 20% (depending on the size and amount involved in a contract) kick-backs still pervasive in our country? Please, don't reproach me with the "put up or shut up" official line counter-argument because the unfortunate truth is that those who unofficially make these scandalous accusations want to remain annonymous for obvious reasons! 6. Why are our big political guns enjoying excellent health coverage including health care trips abroad while our hospitals and clinics continue to be depleted of the simple, basic medical equipments and medicine? 7. Why should the NPP be hiding behind the Supreme Court to save face in the EC's controversial decision to reshape our electoral landscape? If the President and his men are really against this proposal they can easily "rope" in the opposition for the needed votes to torpedo the EC's wholly unwarranted proposal. 8. Why can't the government tell us how much it has borrowed on our behalf from international financial institutions since it came to power?

We will continue to punctuate these and many other national issues not because we hate the NPP but simply because we want the best for our country and deservedly so. Need I state that our development as a nation is being hampered more by official corruption and overweening hypocrisy than anything else? So far as our leaders continue to turn a blind eye to sordid official corruption which is suffocating our country and condemning millions of our country folks to agonizing poverty, our democracy will remain fragile. What is going to concretize our democracy is not how well we equip private armies or how much money we spend on our security forces. Rather, our leaders should start cleaning up their dirty, criminal tricks from within and start playing selflessness and doing what is conscienable. Among other things, this means that they can't indulge in the same undemocratic practices they rightly preached against while in opposition. Democratic values don't change simply because we are in power. They remain the same at all times! Let our leaders for once listen to the pangs of reason and do the right thing for our nation because we have all it takes to be a great and prosperous nation. God bless our nation.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 27 February 2004

 

SC Notice to State on Corruption

New Delhi - A PIL alleges continuation of officers facing corruption charges and their promotion in connivance with a UPSC member. The reward - prime land allotment. A public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court on Tuesday alleged that corrupt officials of doubtful integrity are not only allowed to continue and occupy highly responsible posts in Karnataka but also promoted to IAS cadre in connivance with a member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), office of the Lokayukta and Chief Minister S M Krishna. The PIL by Abdul Latif also alleged that the State was allotting land worth crores of rupees at nominal prices to a Union Public Service Commission member in return for promoting certain corrupt officials. "The extent of corruption in Karnataka has reached such a level that for the promotion of officials of doubtful integrity, the Chief Minister is offering prime sites under 'discretionary quota' to the members of the UPSC," the petitioner said. "In the instant case, S M Krishna, in order to please and manage a member of UPSC, Subir Dutta, allotted him a site of Bangalore Development Authority in Sector IV of Hosur-Sarjapur Layout in May last year for a nominal price of Rs 18.92 lakh when the actual value of the said plot is about Rs 10 crore," Mr. Latif alleged.

The petitioner, who sought cancellation of the allotment, said subsequently Mr. Dutta came to head a Committee which screened officers of State Civil Services for promotion to IAS and "selected officials of doubtful integrity". The PIL also pointed out that criminal cases against several officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act, for acquiring disproportionate assets worth several hundred crore, were pending for about ten years, but no action has been taken so far. The PIL also named some of these officers against whom the Lokayukta initiated investigation: P B Ram Murthy, I R Perumal and M Maheshan (all IAS), S K Lakshman, C Somashekar and A Marigowda (all KAS), S Shantappa (IFS), C Chenniah (RTO), Kempaiah (IPS) and M Basappa Reddy, Director (Mines and Geology). Citing how some of these corrupt officials were rewarded, the PIL said Mr. Somashekar, who has since been elevated to IAS cadre, was booked for amassing disproportionate assets worth Rs 72 lakh on December 21, 1999; Mr. Maheshan, who was booked in a case of disproportionate assets on June 7, 1994 as Commissioner of Textiles, has since retired; Mr. Kempaiah, booked for disproportionate assets on May 13, 1993, was made to head the Special Task Force to nab forest brigand Veerappan.

From Deccan Herald, India, 4 February 2004

Malaysia's Anti-corruption Officers Arrest Former Perwaja Boss Eric Chia

Kuala Lumpu - Anti-corruption officers on Monday arrested a former top business leader after an investigation lasting years into million dollar losses by a steel giant, the official Bernama news agency said. Eric Chia, 71, was the former managing director of Perwaja Steel Sdn Bhd, which was established in 1982. Perwaja was the cornerstone of the industrialisation drive that former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad began in the early 1980s. The plant processed iron ore but faced problems, leading Japanese shareholder Nippon Steel to abandon the project. Bernama, citing a statement by the attorney-general chambers, said Chia was detained by anti-graft officers at his residence in Petaling Jaya, west of the capital Kuala Lumpur and would be charged in a sessions court on Tuesday. In 1996, parliament was told that Perwaja Steel was insolvent and had losses totalling 2.9 billion ringgit (US$763 million). Bernama said the Perwaja fiasco has been under investigation by the anti-corruption agency and the police since 1996 and more than 50 witnesses, both locally and overseas, including Chia and a number of other Perwaja staff were called up. The probe order was issued by the government after a report by audit firm Coopers and Lybrand that described Perwaja as insolvent.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 9 February 2004

Abdullah Shows He's Serious about War on Corruption

Big fish or small, it does not matter. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi yesterday told Asian editors that he would continue to cast the anti-corruption net wide. He showed he meant business this week. On his 101st day as premier on Monday, 'big fish' millionaire entrepreneur Eric Chia was arrested by Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) officers in connection with millions of dollars in losses by steel giant Perwaja. The former managing director of the troubled company was charged yesterday with embezzling RM76.4 million (S$34 million) after an eight-year investigation into what is Malaysia's biggest financial scandal. 'Small fish' former Kangar Municipal Council president Baharudin Ahmad was charged on Monday with four counts of corruption totalling RM387,500. The new Prime Minister has made fighting corruption one of the priorities of his administration. Sipping Malaysian coffee, he spoke about his crackdown on corruption when he met editors of the Asia News Network (ANN) at a closed-door discussion.

A relaxed Datuk Seri Abdullah said he had instructed the Attorney-General that he should attend to old corruption cases that were still unresolved, saying this was what law enforcement was all about. 'It doesn't matter if it is big or small,' he said. 'You cast the net.' 'You can't worry about the political backlash; if you are frightened, you can't do it (fight corruption),' he added. He also commented that the Attorney-General should not be pressured into bringing corruption cases speedily to the courts if there was insufficient time to gather enough evidence. Datuk Seri Abdullah made it clear that the anti-corruption campaign would be a comprehensive one directed at all levels of Malaysian society and not a political gimmick to win votes in forthcoming elections reported to be planned in May or June. 'People talk about corruption as something relating only to government officials, but I am also acting against corruption in the private sector,' he said. Earlier, he had made the keynote speech at the Agenda Asia conference, jointly organised by the ANN and the Konrad Adenauer Siftung at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Malaysian capital.

The ANN is a network of 14 major national daily newspapers in the region, including The Straits Times of Singapore, The Star of Malaysia, The Nation of Thailand, Viet Nam News and the Yomiuri Shimbun of Japan. Asked about the resolution of outstanding issues with Malaysia's neighbours, including Singapore, he said he would like to settle them 'as speedily as possible'. 'Policies are not cast in stone; if they have to be changed, then they must,' he said. 'We must be dynamic enough to make changes, we can't remain static.' Datuk Seri Abdullah also reiterated his tough stance against Islamic extremism. 'I can't accept any form of extremism, religious or ethnic,' he said. 'If extremism leads to terrorism, we must strongly reject it.' On whether he was still labouring under the shadow of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he replied that he benchmarked himself against the job he had to do and not against what his predecessor had done. 'Being soft or using the sledgehammer is only the means to achieve the end,' he commented. 'I don't want to compare - Dr Mahathir is a big pomelo but I am just a mandarin orange,' he joked.

From The Straits Times, Singapore, by Felix Soh, 11 February 2004

Mega Urged to Act on Police Corruption

Jakarta - In a bid to combat corruption within the National Police, the Police Staff College (PTIK) urged President Megawati Soekarnoputri on Thursday to immediately issue a decree establishing an independent police monitoring institution already mandated by law. The demand was revealed in a paper Strategies to Combat Corruption within the National Police written based on data gathered from 19 provincial police stations by 157 PTIK researchers. The paper said such an independent body had already been mandated by Articles 37 and 40 of Law No. 2/2002 on police. The law stipulates that institution be named the National Police Commission. However, such a commission has not been established yet, because the President has failed to issued a decree on it. According to the articles, the commission would be independent, with some of its members chosen from the public. Its tasks would include giving the president advice for establishing an independent and professional police force. The council is also expected to receive advice and complaints from the public regarding police performance and to forward those to the president.

From Jakarta Post, Indonesia, 12 February 2004

Sabah Umno Lauds PM Move in Tackling Corruption

Kota Kinabalu - Umno Vice President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government's war on corruption has created an impact on the public's perception of the present government administration under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The Prime Minister, after taking the helm had stated clearly that among his policies were to eradicate corruption within the government. Muhyiddin said that it is very important for the integrity of the government that the people irrespective of his or her position in society, to what the premier means in his policy speech. "The recent two cases of high profile people for graft charges that Abdullah had brought to court, I think, is proof of his intention in wiping out corruption which is mushrooming," he said. According to Muhyiddin, it is the wish of everyone to see a more transparent government which serves the people with honesty and integrity. He therefore believes it will give a better motivation for the people to support the BN because it shows it has the potential to implement policies like what BN intends to do.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin also assured that the crackdown on corruption by the government would not in whatever way affect the performance of the ruling BN. This is because what the government is doing is also the wish of the people. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim had revealed that the government would soon give the green light to the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) to move in to nab another 18 'high profile' personalities for similar corruption offences. Meanwhile, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said he is confident that corruption charges against Tan Sri Kasitah and former Sawit Kinabalu Managing Director Wasli Said will not have any impact on the BN government's credibility. "In fact it clearly reflects the transparency and accountability of the BN government and there is nothing to hide," he said.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, by Arman Gunsika, 17 February 2004

Malaysia Keeps Up Anti-corruption Drive

Two ex-civil servants charged with embezzling funds - In A signal that corruption at all levels will be targeted, two former senior officers of a Malaysian government investment agency were accused in court yesterday of embezzling state funds. The former chief executive officer of Perbadanan Nasional Bhd (PNS), Shaharin Shaharudin, 46, was charged with criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving RM460,000 meant for the purchase of vehicles. He and the agency's former corporate services general manager, Mislina Hanim Ibrahim, 44, were also accused of CBT in connection with the purchase of gym equipment worth RM2,900. The offences were said to have taken place in 2001. Both accused pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at RM15,000 (S$6,632) each, and trial was fixed for Aug 16 to 20. The CBT charges yesterday followed two high-profile cases last week involving a serving minister and a former industrialist who once ran a government steel mill.

PNS, an agency under the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development, is tasked with helping to nurture bumiputera businessmen in the country through franchise schemes and investments in their companies. It embarked on commercial operations in 1997 with a paid-up capital of RM751 million, according to its website. Although the sums involved are relatively small, the PNS case reflects the government's intention of keeping up the momentum of its anti-corruption drive by bringing before the courts cases which it believes will stick. It also sends out the signal that even the most senior officials will not be spared if they fall foul of the law, no matter the size of their transgression. Other cases brought before the courts in recent weeks included one involving former Kangar Municipal Council president Baharudin Ahmad, who was charged with four counts of corruption, and another involving Negeri Sembilan assemblyman Kamarudin Mohamed Din, who was alleged to have received RM3,000 as payment for his help in a project.

De facto Law Minister Rais Yatim said last week that the government was looking into 18 more corruption cases involving 'high-ranking individuals and decision makers'. His comments have fuelled speculation about which ministerial head will roll after Land and Cooperative Development Minister Kasitah Gaddam was charged in court last week. The rumours have prompted two Cabinet members to deny that they were the targets of investigation by the Anti-Corruption Agency. International Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz last week blasted opposition leaders for claiming that she was implicated in dubious dealings, and threatened to sue them if they did not drop the allegations. Entrepreneur Minister Nazri Aziz too denied his name would soon be up, saying these were election games played by the opposition.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Reme Ahmad, 17 February 2004

Party Corruption Fight Gets Tougher

Experts Tuesday lauded the newly released internal supervision rule of the Communist Party of China, calling it a major step forward in institutionalized anti-corruption efforts. Cheng Wenhao, director of the Anti-Corruption Research Centre of Tsinghua University, hailed the regulation as a milestone in the Party 83 years of history. The rule represented the first time the Party has come up with a systematic set of rules on internal supervision since it was founded in 1921. The regulation, promulgated by the Party's central committee, was released in full text to the public Tuesday. Another regulation on disciplinary penalties will be published today, party officials said. Cheng said the regulation, when strictly enforced, will be an effective tool to check corruption from the source. The regulation attaches great importance to carry forward democracy and strengthen supervision within the Party, while safeguarding Party unity and advancement. It puts emphasis on the supervision of leading officials in checking corruption.

Cheng said the regulation will help curb abuse of power by leading officials as they make important decisions, especially those involving the distribution of huge amounts of public resources that can lead to grave losses to the country. "The new regulation reinforces current supervision by moving forward to the decision-making stage,'' he stressed. Fang Ning, deputy director of the Institute of Political Science of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the regulation fairly summarizes the Party's experience in fighting corruption in the past. Party leaders including Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Party's central committee, have repeatedly sworn they would do all they can to weed out corruption without mercy. Over the past year, 13 officials at provincial and ministerial levels were disciplined for corruption. Wang Huaizhong, former vice-governor of East China's Anhui Province, was executed last week in Jinan, the capital of East China's Shandong Province. Wang was sentenced to death in December for taking bribes valued at 5.17 million yuan (US$623,000) from 1994 to 2001 and possessing 4.8 million yuan (US$580,000) from unidentified sources.

He lost his an appeal of his case last month. Wang was the third corrupt official at the provincial or ministerial level to be sentenced to death since 1978. The previous two were Hu Changqing, former vice-governor of East China's Jiangxi Province and Cheng Kejie, former chairman of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. China also signed the UN Anti-Corruption Convention at the end of last year, indicating its resolute conviction to solve corruption problems through more comprehensive co-operation with the world. "Anti-corruption is a gradual process and the rule offers clearer guidance and makes future initiatives more practical,'' Fang said, while noting the crux of the problem is still linked with the quality of officials, improved awareness of the people and society. The Party's central committee has issued a notice urging its members at all levels to strictly implement the regulations. An annual survey conducted by the Research Department of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Party's Central Committee found that more than half of respondents were satisfied with the Party's efforts to fight corruption last year. The survey polled 12,000 respondents in 10 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, including Beijing and Sichuan. About 60 per cent said the government has already stepped up tough measures against corruption.

From China Daily, China, 17 February 2004

Abdullah Opens Pandora's Box of Corruption

Penang - With a general election looming, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has been eagerly promoting his government's recent crackdown on corruption. But he may have opened a Pandora's box, with demands for further action increasing and getting more vociferous. The premier, who recently completed 100 days in power, seems only to have whetted the appetites of Malaysians after the arrests last week of a former industrialist and a relatively little known serving cabinet minister. As part of Malaysia's stepped-up attempts to crack down on corruption, the government last week charged Lands and Cooperative Development Minister Kasitah Gaddam, and tycoon Eric Chia, the former head of troubled steel giant Perwaja, with graft. Both cases date back to the time when Mahathir Mohamad was in power, and their arrests seem to provide evidence that Abdullah is serious about rooting out corruption. Many Malaysians are now demanding more corruption-related arrests, and this time they are calling for the arrests of more prominent figures in the cabinet and the business world associated with the administration of former premier Mahathir. On a popular weblog, Malaysians are calling for the heads of several of Mahathir's senior cabinet ministers, a couple of whom are now serving in Abdullah's own cabinet.

As a result, Law Minister Rais Yatim recently announced that the Anti-Corruption Agency has completed investigations into 18 more high-profile corruption cases, which are currently with various authorities and awaiting further action. These cases, Rais said, involved "high-ranking individuals and decision makers". But the ties to corruption seem endless. In coffee shops and homes, the question each time an arrest is made is, "What about this cabinet minister or that tycoon"? At times, the questions get a bit more uncomfortable: "How could Mahathir have allowed all this to happen in his administration?" Mahathir's history of corruption - It was Mahathir who handpicked Eric Chia to head ailing steel giant Perwaja Steel. Even when it was clear that Perwaja was sinking, the firm was allowed to accumulate losses totaling RM11 billion (US$2.9 billion). "There is a very strong prima facie argument that the previous administration had protected Eric Chia all this while," said one political scientist, who declined to be identified. During Mahathir's tenure as well, Bank Negara lost RM20-30 billion as a result of foreign currency speculation while Bank Bumiputra (now merged into Bumiputra Commerce) had to be repeatedly bailed out.

The previous administration also did not believe in calling for open tenders for many major infrastructure projects, preferring to hand them over to a coterie of politically well-connected tycoons and firms. With this in mind, there is still considerable mainstream support for Abdullah's crusade, boosted by glowing editorials in the mainstream press. But as the days pass, it is anyone's guess whether the public will be satisfied unless the crusade goes all the way. And if the public isn't satisfied, it could mean trouble for Abdullah - who is expected to call for a snap general election soon to legitimize his position ahead of United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party elections, expected to be held in the middle of the year - particularly when the split in Malay voters and disquiet in the Malay heartland still lingers. On February 11, opposition sources said a crowd estimated at close to 20,000 packed the obscure village of Kota Sarang Semut in Kedah, Mahathir's home state, for the launch of the joint manifesto between Keadilan and PAS (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia), the two remaining parties in the opposition Alternative Front. (A third party, the Democratic Action Party, pulled out of the alliance soon after September 11, 2001, citing differences over PAS's goal of setting up an Islamic state.)

Difficult negotiations over seat allocations between Keadilan and the DAP (Democratic Action Party) - to ensure straight fights between the ruling coalition and the opposition and prevent a split in votes for the opposition - are continuing. Abdullah needs to lead the ruling coalition to a comfortable win in the coming general election to ward off potential challengers for the UMNO leadership. He has correctly identified a couple of the main issues that sowed the seeds of discontent in the previous administration - corruption and abuse of police powers that provoked outrage on the streets during the heyday of reformasi demonstrations. Before his first 100 days were up, he set up a Royal Commission to look into police operations and he is now in the midst of his anti-corruption crusade, steps that seem to be moving him in the right direction. However, critics say he has merely deflected some of the heat these issues have generated and deferred the real action - the outcome of the Royal Commission's inquiry and court decisions on the corruption cases - until after the general election. In addition, questions are still being asked about the role of Scomi Group, controlled by Abdullah's son, which is alleged to have produced delicate parts needed to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs.

One opposition party official told Asia Times Online he believes that it was more than just a coincidence that the two corruption arrests last week, aimed he said "to deflect public attention", came at a time when the United States had pointed an accusing finger at Malaysia for its alleged role in a wider nuclear smuggling network. In response, Abdullah has denied the US claims and Scomi threw open the doors to its factory in a bid to clear its name. Meanwhile, Scomi Group Bhd has just reported a pre-tax profit of RM21 million on sales of RM162 million for the year ended December 2003. Critics also point out that Abdullah's treatment of the individuals implicated in the Scomi uproar differs from his treatment of alleged Jemaah Islamiah militants. As Home Minister, Abdullah is responsible for their detention without trial and continued incarceration - some of them for more than two years - under the harsh Internal Security Act. Others, like Keadilan Youth leader Ezam Mohd Nor, have not failed to notice that the duo arrested for corruption last week were allowed bail, while ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, who is serving 15 years in prison on corruption and sodomy charges, has failed in his bail applications since his arrest and jailing in 1998.

Anwar may have added to Abdullah's agenda - Pro-reformasi activists say the pro-democracy movement that was unleashed following Anwar's ouster in 1998 must take some credit for pushing corruption, abuse of power and cases of police brutality to the top of Abdullah's agenda. After all, they say, it was Anwar who revealed in Parliament in 1996 that Perwaja was bleeding heavily. During the heyday of reformasi in 1998-2001, the demands for an end to corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations reverberated on the streets. A tearful Mahathir announced his resignation to his party's general assembly in 2002, never really explaining the real reasons for his emotional decision. He finally handed over power to Abdullah in October 2003. When Anwar was ousted in 1998, ethnic Malays, who make up just over half the population, deserted the dominant United Malays National Organization in droves. The opposition Islamic Party, PAS, riding on the wave of outrage, proved to be the biggest winner in the 1999 general election.

But through it all, UMNO has cast a wary eye on Anwar's fledgling political vehicle, Keadilan. Key second-echelon leaders - the vital link between the party leadership and the grassroots - were detained without trial in 2001 under the Internal Security Act. They have since been released. And once again the reformasi movement has taken to the streets to demand Anwar's freedom before the upcoming general elections. They staged a rally on Saturday night in front of Anwar's family home in Cherok To-kun on mainland Penang. One speaker said the reformasi movement's rallying cry should now include "Tangkap Mahathir, tangkap!" (Catch Mahathir), apart from "Reformasi!" and "Bebaskan Anwar!" (Free Anwar!). Several independent observers present estimated the turnout to be at least 10,000. But the pro-establishment New Straits Times cited police as saying that only 2,300 had turned up. But judging from the crowd's response, Anwar could remain a central issue in the next general election.

Almost all the politicians present made frequent references to his plight and there was little talk about the Islamic state issue. The crowd sat glued to a large screen, on which were projected videos of Anwar's arrest in 1998 and his rallying speeches. They chanted "reformasi", waved placards, and bobbed candles in the night air as leaders declared Anwar a political prisoner. One opposition party politician present told Asia Times Online that he disagreed with the Alternative Front's bid to make Anwar's plight the central theme of its campaign. He said what was more important was for grassroots issues and the people's struggle for human rights, economic empowerment and social justice to be highlighted. An independent media analyst, on the other hand, felt that the reformasi movement, like similar movements elsewhere, still needed an icon or a rallying symbol like Anwar to keep the struggle for democratic reforms alive. (Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

From Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, by Anil Netto, 17 February 2004

Bangladesh to Set up Anti-Corruption Commission

Dhaka - This week, the Parliament in Bangladesh - labeled one of the world's most corrupt nations for three consecutive years - finally passed a bill to form an independent body to fight corruption. The commission has the powers to initiate steps against ministers, state ministers, Members of Parliament, other public representatives and government officials of any tier. Currently, any such move requires the Prime Minister's approval. But watchdog Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB) rejects the Anti-corruption Commission Bill, 2004, saying it lacks impartiality, as the Prime Minister will have a role in appointing its chairman. It also points out that the bill lacks powers to probe scams in the defense sector, which is prone to high levels of corruption. "We are disappointed with the bill, as we fear it will not let the commission work freely and neutrally as the nation expected," says TIB Chairman Professor Khan Sarwar Murshid. TIB member Professor Muzaffar Ahmed, though highlights one of its more positive aspects, "We had nothing of this kind before, so it is better than nothing. It may have some positive impact."

Significantly, if the government had made further delays, it would have found it difficult to muster funds to run the impoverished nation. Various donors including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, European donors and others have stressed that aid would not be forthcoming if the bill was not introduced. Dragging its feet on the issue for the last two years, seven months ago the government had proposed a bill for forming a toothless anti-corruption body. But opposition from pressure groups helped refine the draft, but the government again secretly incorporated clauses disallowing it from investigating army corruption and independent investigation against bureaucrats. Incorporating the contentious clauses, the bill was all set for approval Tuesday, until a press report exposed it a day earlier. Under sustained pressure from different UN bodies, donors like USAID, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and TIB - the ruling party hurriedly deleted the clause stipulating that the Commission needed the Prime Minister's approval to investigate against bureaucrats.

The bill was hurriedly approved amid boycott from the Opposition parties. The sole exception - Opposition lawmaker Kader Siddiqui - walked out in protest aafter the rejection of his amendment proposal. "This day will be remembered as a black day in the chapter of fighting corruption," comments Siddiqui, who's demand for seeking public opinion on it was turned down. For his part, Law Minister Moudud Ahmed promises that the anti-corruption body will be truly independent. "This commission will have three members for a four-year term, none of whom can be removed by the government," he promises. "Their removal will follow the same process applicable to Supreme Court judges," he asserts. Ahmed adds that the Commission will be financially independent, and will not require the government's approval to begin an investigation. He promises to nominate persons with 20 years experience in education, judiciary or law practices to the commission. But as TIB member Mozaffar Ahmed stresses, "The chairman of the committee will be nominated by the President - who is constitutionally bound to consult the Prime Minister on this issue."

In addition, the Commission lacks the powers to prosecute offenders. Says Prof Murshid, "As the proposed selection body, chiefly consisting of government officials, does not include any representative from the Opposition, it may be biased in its appointment of members for the commission." The Commission has been granted powers to investigate corruption, file and conduct cases, institute suo moto inquiries on the basis of applications from aggrieved persons, review existing anti-corruption arrangements and make recommendations to the President for their effective implementation. Corruption cases will be tackled in special judge's courts. The investigation officers of the commission will enjoy the authority of an officer-in-charge of a police station. Immediately after the law's enactment, the government will establish an Anti-Corruption Commission, dissolving the Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAC) formed a decade ago. The BAC is regarded as a toothless watchdog, which mainly serves as a political weapon for the ruling party against the Opposition. Since 1991, after the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh, over 200 graft charges were filed against ex-ruling party politicians, including the president, prime minister, ministers and MPs.

But there was a final verdict in only one graft case, with the remaining cases consigned to dust. Amid the witch-hunting, the real issue - curbing corruption - remains unaddressed. Demanding the government take immediate steps against it, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) says, "Foreign and local investors do not wish to invest in the country because of corruption and the cost of bureaucratic harassment." In an official communique to the government this week, the FBCCI says, "Corruption has eroded values at all levels of society. Underhand payment is demanded openly in government offices. without any bribe, it is not possible to get telephone, electricity, gas and water lines " TIB figures on Bangladesh between January and June 2003, show a total of 874 corruption related press reports - 216 of them specifically mentioning the financial losses caused by such corruption. The accrued losses over six months total US $one billion or one percent of the GDP. In its annual international report, Transparency International ranked Bangladesh as the most corrupt country for the year 2001, 2002 and 2003. Unfazed by these findings, the government continued to reject them, ironically issuing warnings to the TIB instead. Now it has finally made a beginning.

From OneWorld, UK, by Sharier Khan, 20 February 2004

CPC Regulations Raise Confidence in Corruption Fight

Beijing - The newly-issued Communist Party of China (CPC) regulations on internal supervision and disciplinary penalty have raised heated discussion among common people, who mostly believe they will lead to another bright stage for China's anti-corruption move. A random street survey by Xinhua indicated that more than 80 percent of the interviewed held that the regulations would enhance efforts against corruption and be fruitful. "They surely will raise the public's confidence." said Yang Yong, a Beijing newspaper reporter. "The publication also shows that the Party has recognized the significant role of mechanisms in Party building." The regulations established 10 kinds of punishing mechanisms for acts of Party members that violate political, personnel and financial regulations and involve in bribery, malfeasance and infringement of others' rights could also invite Party internal penalties. Those who seriously violate socialist moral ethics such as by having illicit lovers and participate in immoral activities will also receive stern penalties ranging from serious warnings and removal from Party posts to being expelled from the Party.

Many consider the mechanisms a signal that China has shifted its anti-corruption supervision style from political reliance to mechanism based. "Using means of political power can be loose, at will and without a fixed form," said Prof. Li Zhongjie, a noted expert on Party history. "In comparison, a mechanism-based one will be standard, stable and long and remain the same irrespective of the case that is involved." "A mechanism can also erect a defense line in the minds of the Party members, and ward off some potential violators." said Li. "Supervision not guarded by a mechanism is always weak. We wantan armed one," Yang said, "and the regulations get it." Prof. Li viewed the adoption of the regulations as another big stride forward in moving the CPC's anti-corruption move efforts toward a legal system. An early survey by the Academy of Social Sciences showed that over 70 percent of the respondents would pay continuous attention to the Party's anti-corruption results. "Any measure by the Party against corruption would draw powerful support from the general public," Yang Yong said. One media commentary said that the support for the regulations would come from all social strata, but it also warned that the actual effect will eventually hinges on the common efforts by all the Party's 67 million-strong members.

From Xinhua, China, 20 February 2004

Gift Recycling: Convenience or Corruption?

Beijing - Giving gifts at Spring Festival is an old custom in China. Here, as everywhere, people often receive items they don't really need, so selling the goods for cash has become quite popular. In response to demand, the number of gift recycling outlets has mushroomed. But this new growth industry is causing concern: it upsets the normal market order and provides a breeding ground for corruption. Nowadays, gift recyclers are ubiquitous in major cities and are plentiful even in smaller towns. Most of them operate under the cover of licensed tobacco and alcohol shops. In Jiangxi Province's Nanchang City, for example, there are some 13 recycling outlets along a single one-kilometer stretch of Yuzhang Road. For customer convenience, some of the bolder proprietors even post their mobile phone numbers on their shop signs, offering door-to-door service.

Most of the recycled gifts are high-grade tobacco and alcohol, which are resold for prices far lower than normal. One operator boasts that he can purchase recycled luxury-brand Zhonghua cigarettes for 450 yuan (US$54.4) per carton, while the normal price in a Beijing superstore is over 650 yuan (US$78.5). Another recycler purchases his leading brands of liquor, Wuliangye and Maotai, for 220 yuan (US$26.5) and 140 yuan (US$16.9). The average retail prices of Wuliangye and Maotai are 350 yuan (US$42.2) and 320 yuan (US$41.1). The people selling their gifts to these shops seldom haggle. According to the owner of one licensed alcohol and tobacco franchise outlet, there is an unwritten rule that they refrain from asking about the sources of the gifts. But frequently, the items have come from people seeking to curry favor with those in positions of power, so no matter how low the offer to buy the unwanted gifts, the sellers don't complain.

Gift recycling has become a headache for local administrators of industry and commerce. The Nanguan Office of Industry and Commerce in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, has temporarily closed six licensed alcohol and tobacco stores that are suspected of dealing in this business. It has told them to correct irregularities in their retail operations. According to Dong Hongjun, an official with the office, the gift recycling business disrupts order in the market as well as in the tax base, since all transactions are conducted under the table. While some of the people selling goods in the shops are simply getting rid of a few items sent by friends and relatives, Jiang Jinshi, a professor at Shaanxi Normal University, says that the majority are corrupt individuals who are converting property bribes to cash. The gift recycling business is no more legitimate than money laundering or fencing stolen goods. (China.org.cn)

From Xinhua, China, 23 February 2004

'Politics Is The Fountainhead Of Corruption'

The Cabinet Secretary who worked under three Prime Ministers, and also acted as the chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, and more recently author of Journeys through Babudom and Netaland on how the people can try to get rid of corruption. The Full transcript of the BBC Hindi special programme, Aapki Baat BBC Ke Saath with the former top bureaucrat of India, TSR Subramanian who served as the Cabinet Secretary under three Prime Ministers, was the chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh and has recently written a book, Journeys through Babudom and Netaland. The topic of the programme: Why is it not possible to eradicate rampant corruption from public life in India? BBC: Is there any way to eradicate the rampant corruption in public life ? T S R Subramanian : You have asked a difficult question to begin with. I am a natural optimist by nature, but to be hopeful on this issue at the moment is difficult. There is no doubt that corruption is on the rise and incidents, instead of coming down, are showing an upswing.

Having said this, let me tell you by my experience that the common man in India is honest, this is due to traditions and culture, but certainly there is no driving force to check corruption. I have no hesitation in saying corruption is a way of life in India today; common man has accepted it as fate. Politics has become a big business, a spreading one, which has assumed gigantic proportions, and is giving entire patronage to all sorts of corruption today. BBC listener from Aizwal : Corruption today is a way of life, public representatives in scandals - the list is too long from Bofors, Hawala, Tehelka, Taj corridor to fodder scam ... the list is endless. But people do not have any choice, so much so that the President of the country had to mention in his Republic Day address as to how could India progress with so much corruption. But can anything be done or do we just keep on talking?

T S R Subramanian : I think before talking about eradication, if we concentrate about its roots and its growth that would help us to move in the right direction. Political patronage of corruption has led it to spread its roots in administration. Three-four decades back, there used to be cases of minor corruption at the lower level, now one can see it easily even at the top level. Similarly, business houses now know how to get their deals through. Coming to eradication, the solution would have to be found at many levels. Firstly, judiciary would have to play an active role, at the moment it is not doing so in dealing with the menace of corruption. The quality of investigation and trial of cases would have to improve and show a sense of urgency. Secondly, we need an open and transparent administration, keeping in mind the welfare of the country's citizens. Thirdly, there is the role of watchdogs in democracy which includes you - the media and the intelligentsia.

But all these can be done if and only if there is political will. Is there any single force, any segment of population, that has directed its energies on corruption eradication - politicians, bureaucracy, industry? As I said earlier that the honesty level in India is high, what is required is public awareness. Once a people's movement is launched, I see the order of the day reversed in not more than three years. BBC: Mr. Subramanian, you said that the judiciary has not been able to play an active role in eradication of corruption. Has its independence been undermined? T S R Subramanian : See I do not wish to make any adverse comments against the judiciary. I also do not wish to pass any judgemental comments on any politician. But how is it that the cases of corruption against Laloo Yadav, Amma (Jayalalitha) Sukh Ram, Antulay etc. continue for years and decades.

From Outlookindia.com, UK, by Nagendar Sharma, 27 February 2004

Villanueva to Use 'Modern Devices' to Solve Corruption

The spectacle of an all-seeing "Big Brother" in the government looms in the presidency of evangelist and presidential candidate Eddie Villanueva as he says he will use "modern electronic devices" to "eliminate the evils of corruption in government." "We will use modern electronic devices to gather intelligence to eliminate the evils of corruption in government," he told a conference of rural bankers at the Shangri-la Hotel in Makati City. Villanueva also enumerated other programs in his platform of government, which he said was anchored on "education, economic priorities, and government reforms." "We will upgrade the incomes and benefits in the government services, particularly in the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the (Philippine National Police) to a level that is dignified," Villanueva said. "But there will be no sacred cows. The unabated gargantuan corruption is a social volcano that may erupt any time," he added. Villanueva also said, "Narrowing the widening gap between the rich and the poor is an urgent necessity that needs to be addressed seriously."

Villanueva said all government transactions would be transparent. "We will have new measures in procurement, accounting, and auditing of government transactions. Everything will be transparent. There will be no under-the-table deals," he said. He said his first 100 days would be spent gathering "the best Cabinet team" and telling them and their families that their appointment to the top government positions was a call to "sacrifice, not a license to take advantage of government to enrich them and their families." He said the appointment of his Cabinet, whose members he still refused to name "because (he) still has to talk to them," would be "strictly based on competence." "It will be a leadership by example. The new Cabinet will have a timetable and will be results-oriented. We will make them understand the blueprint for our nation's progress and the timetables to accomplish their jobs. They must be ready to resign if they cannot accomplish these," he promised. Villanueva also put forth the idea of a "revenue-based" budgeting system to reduce the country's massive deficit.

From Philippines Daily News, Philippines, by Veronica Uy, 27 February 2004

 

Saakashvili Declares War on Corruption

Tbilisi - Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has declared war on corruption. "A real war against the mafia is underway in Georgia, and it will be completed," the president told journalists in Tbilisi following the detention of former Transport and Communications Minister Merab Adeishvili. "Georgia belongs to the Georgian people, rather than to bandits and bribers, he said. "Tens of millions of lari were stolen from the railways every year," the president said. "Everybody who looted money will be arrested," he said. Moreover, Saakashvili tasked the interior minister with conducting raids to detain and disarm criminal elements. "If bandits resist, they will be eliminated on the spot," he said. Saakashvili ordered the reinforcement of personal protection for Prosecutor General Irakly Okruashvili and Interior Minister Giorgy Baramidze. "My actions are as good as my words, which is different from the previous government," he said.

From Interfax, Russia, 4 February 2004

English Transfer Corruption 'Rife'

London - Transfer regulations are routinely broken by agents and players in England, according to a BBC Sport report. Quoting an anonymous high-profile agent, the report claims that players are often approached before a deal has been agreed between clubs, as FIFA transfer rules demand. "The reality is that players have often been tapped up before a transfer bid," said the agent. "That means the buying club already have a pretty good idea of whether the player will go or not before they make their offer. "As licensed agents we're not supposed to enter into any discussions with or on behalf of players contracted to us unless we are specifically authorized to do it by the club that has him. But it goes on all the time. It's been going on since time began." Graham Bean, the former head of the Football Association's compliance unit which monitors transfers, agreed that the system was almost ungovernable. "Every time you think you've tied the loose ends up, you always find another loophole," Bean told the BBC. "Irrespective of how much you want to window-dress it, you cannot get away from the fact that the world of agents is a very murky one."

From CNN International, World, 4 February 2004

Armenia Struggles to Stamp Out Corruption

Striving to enhance its business environment, Armenia has unveiled a high-profile government strategy to stamp out corruption. Though ambitious in scope, some civil society advocates in Armenia caution that vague implementation mechanisms could cause the anti-corruption drive to stall. Like many former Soviet republics, Armenia has struggled to overcome corruption as it strives to reconstruct its economy. In 2003, the international corruption watchdog Transparency International gave Armenia one of the best ratings among CIS members, but noted that corruption was "pervasive" throughout the country. Along with other factors, corruption has damaged Armenia's ability to attract foreign investment, which is needed to maintain economic growth. According to government statistics, the Armenian economy expanded at a 13.9 percent rate in 2003. Pressured by international financial organizations to address its graft problems, Armenia began work in January 2002 on an anti-corruption blueprint.

Experts from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe consulted on the policy, and the World Bank extended a $300,000 grant to finance preparatory work. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian made the final, 70-page plan public on January 17. It envisions a three-year implementation period. A wide-ranging legislative agenda lies at the core of the program. By 2007, over 90 proposed pieces of legislation are expected to be in place, guiding anti-corruption efforts. Among the envisioned laws are acts to establish a witness-protection program, rate the creditworthiness of financial institutions, block money-laundering, and promote a transparent judicial system. Some anti-corruption measures - such as rules for state tenders, and an independent commission to oversee most civil service appointments - have already been enacted. Political corruption is addressed only sparingly in the government plan.

After charges of vote-rigging marred parliamentary and presidential elections in 2003, this is a sensitive topic for Armenia's government. Two new measures call for enhanced responsibilities for local representative bodies, and the reform of the election system. A third measure on campaign finance reform was passed last year by Armenia's National Assembly. The plan has received skeptical reviews from civil society activists. Some observers say the program's lack of provisions for implementation represents a serious handicap. It is also vague when it comes to ensuring proper oversight of state-agency actions, Amaliya Kostanian, director of the Center for Regional Development, a Transparency International partner, told the ArmInfo news service. Some officials have called for the establishment of a special anti-corruption agency. But many NGO activists and others question the need for such a state body. The government plan foresees only a limited role for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the anti-corruption drive.

Only a handful of the anti-corruption programs allows for NGO involvement, drawing criticism from Kostanian and other civil society activists. Other observers are also questioning the government's selective definition of corruption. For example, Armenia's army escapes all mention in the government blueprint, noted Noyan Tapan news agency analyst Robert Yegian. Meanwhile, bribe-taking for admission to university or to a state-run hospital is given particular attention. Kostanian also questioned the program's priorities. Its focus lies primarily on customs, tax services and the courts, Kostanian said. No attention has been given to the use or misuse of government funds during elections. The program additionally does not address the possibility of corruption amid a response to a natural disaster. Given that the country is earthquake prone, such contingency plans should be in place, NGO representatives say. In unveiling the program, Prime Minister Markarian stated that the government recognizes the threat that official corruption poses to Armenia's stable development.

But some high-placed officials appear reluctant to risk publicly acknowledging that corrupt practices are pervasive in government. In an interview published in the Haykakan Zhamanak daily, Armenia's prosecutor general, deputy head of police, National Assembly vice-speaker and other influential government officials all maintained that corruption does not exist in their areas of government. At present, there appears to be little domestic stimulus that would force President Robert Kocharian's administration to undertake efforts to investigate and eliminate official corruption. Armenia's political opposition, though vocal, has proven fractious, and thus unable to exert steady pressure on the administration. At the same time, Armenia's government is facing growing pressure from outside to root out corruption. On January 17, Armenia officially joined the European anti-corruption organization GRECO.

In June, the EU is expected to mull whether to include Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in a group of countries with which it is stepping up trade and investment ties as the bloc pushes eastward. Many Armenians doubt whether the full-extent of the program will ever be implemented. A poll conducted in 2003 by Transparency International indicated that 67 percent of Armenians consider corruption a widespread problem in everyday life. Public cynicism about correcting existing problems remains high. "Armenia's tragedy has not been the adoption of laws," commented Hranush Kharatian, board member of the National Civil Initiative, a non-governmental organization, "but the fact that many of them do not work."Editor's Note: Haroutiun Khachatrian is a Yerevan-based writer specializing in economic and political affairs.

From Eurasianet, United States, by Haroutiun Khachatrian, 12 February 2004

Administrative Reform Must Focus on Corruption

Moscow - Drafting measures against corruption will be a priority of the administrative reform for two years to come, First Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Mikhail Dmitriyev said Wednesday. He was speaking at the forum Administrative Reform and Small Business. He said the struggle against corruption in Russia was about to begin in earnest and for drafting anti-corruption measures it would be crucial to thoroughly inventory the existing legislation and the yet-to-be enacted laws from the standpoint of anti-corruption struggle. Alongside this it will be necessary to highlight those spheres of government activity where corruption is the worst, and to apply effective anti-corruption procedures being used the world over, Dmitriyev said. Prime-Tass quotes Dmitriyev as saying it will be necessary to draft a whole series of legal acts geared to waging a systematic struggle against corruption. For this amendments must be made to the Criminal Code and a law on lobbying drafted. The administrative reform must bring about transparent rules for all civil servants to follow, including the rules of licensing and declaring.

From ITAR-TASS, Russia, 25 February 2004

 

GOP: Probe 'Corruption'

House Republicans seek hearings on FSSA, BMV; Dems say charge 'borders on the silly.' Indiana House Republicans called for the legislature to investigate what they called "a culture of corruption" in the governor's office - a charge Democrats blasted as election-year politics. House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and other GOP leaders are asking for hearings in the House Ways and Means Committee into problems in both the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Family and Social Services Administration. In addition, Republicans want to amend a bill that establishes an Indiana bicentennial commission to also create a "Legislative Office of Accountability." It would audit and review state agencies and would have subpoena power, Bosma said. State Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, cited numerous Indianapolis Star articles about problems in state government, including driver's licenses being given to people with fraudulent identification; and problems at FSSA that involved both improper spending of taxpayer dollars and the failure to protect at least some children.

He dismissed former U.S. Marshal Michael Carrington, whom Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan appointed to investigate the BMV problems, as "a crony of his from South Bend" and added "maybe the FBI should investigate." House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, labeled the GOP charges as "exaggeration that borders on the silly." With about 35,000 state employees, Bauer said, there are bound to be problems at times. House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, said the GOP proposals were unprecedented and an attempt to "use the General Assembly mechanism to score political points." Tina Noel, press secretary to Kernan, called the Republicans' proposal "more of the same political attacks." Scott Downes, spokesman for Kernan's campaign, blamed Mitch Daniels, the former White House budget director running for the GOP nomination for governor, for orchestrating the attacks. Daniels' campaign manager, Bill Oesterle, said Daniels hadn't known about the GOP proposal.

From Indianapolis Star, IN, by Mary Beth Schneider, 17 February 2004

Voters May Have Say on Civil Service Law

Seguin - Seguin voters may have the chance to decide whether or not to adopt the Municipal Civil Service Law. Monday, the Seguin Professional Firefighters Association, which does not represent the Seguin Fire/EMS Department, presented a petition to City Secretary Kathy Contreras. However, it was determined some of the packets containing signatures were not filled out properly and must be resubmitted by 5 p.m., today. If the petition gets validated, it will go before Seguin City Council at its March 2 meeting. Nearly half of Seguin's firefighters are members of the association. Matt Bushnell, vice president of the Seguin Professional Firefighters Association, said adopting the law would reduce turnover in the department and take politics out of human resource issues. "Seguin loses firefighters to other cities," Bushnell said. "Our department is sometimes used as a stepping stone. Our goal is not to cause trouble. We believe in our department and our chief. We just want to improve our working conditions and make sure the city doesn't lose good firefighters to other cities."

The Municipal Civil Service Law, Chapter 143 of the Local Government Code, is designed "to secure efficient fire and police departments composed of capable personnel who are free from political influence and who have permanent employment tenure as public servants." The law's purpose goes against the city's at-will employment policy. Under current rules, the city and individual firefighters have the right to terminate employment at any time. "I'm disappointed the firefighters are trying to set up a (separate) process from other city employees," said City Manager Jack Hamlett. "This is a step backwards, especially after the city passed two bond referendums for improvements at the (fire) department." In addition, if Seguin adopts the law, an unpaid three-member civil service commission would be formed to oversee hiring, promotion, discipline and firing of firefighters. Members of the commission must meet criteria set in the law, including a three-year absence from elected office.

"We want decisions in the hands of qualified people chosen by the city manager, not one person behind closed doors," Bushnell said. "If the city manger doesn't have confidence in people he chooses to serve on this commission, there is a problem." The association and the city disagree on the potential costs to Seguin taxpayers. Hamlett showed concern about a big price tag attached to enacting the Municipal Civil Service Law. Bushnell said added costs would be minimal. "We've never denied that it would cost a little more, but it's a nominal cost," Bushnell said. "It's a drop in the bucket. There's no way it would increase people's property taxes." A petition spurred a Sept. 13, 2003 election in Cedar Park to adopt municipal civil service for both its fire and police departments. Director of Civil Services Brenda Evans said the city is still too early in its implementation process to determine any positive or negative effects. "Everything is driven by statute," Evans said. "Chapter 143 is very specific about what needs to be done and when it needs to be done." Georgetown voters elected to implement a similar system in 2002, with an effective date of Oct. 1, 2003. Other cities among the more than 70 under civil service law are San Marcos, Round Rock and Alice.

From Seguin Gazette Enterprise, TX, by Chris Chase, 25 February 2004

Study Links Corruption with Job Losses

Hartford, Conn. - Political corruption has a greater effect than tax increases on a state's job market, according to a study released Tuesday. The study, which covered a 10-year period, concludes that for every conviction per 100 elected officials, job growth declines by 1.1 percentage points. The effect of corruption was 30 percent greater than that of raising taxes, the study found. The study was conducted by the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut and published in The Connecticut Economy. It concludes that honest government may be even more important than a favorable tax environment in sustaining strong economic performance. The study acknowledged the difficulty of quantifying political corruption. It looked at the federal conviction and job growth rates in each state from 1986 through 1996. To determine the effect of corruption on economic performance, the analysis also looked at other possible influences on job growth, such as taxes, wages, education and population changes.

The findings come in the wake of a series of political scandals in Connecticut at the state and municipal levels. Two mayors and the state treasurer were convicted, while Gov. John G. Rowland is the subject of a federal corruption investigation. "The evidence suggests that could cost us some significant economic growth and performance," said Steven Lanza, executive editor of The Connecticut Economy Corruption creates an environment of uncertainty for businesses, Lanza said. "It means the rules of the game are not the same for everyone," Lanza said. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is investigating allegations of corruption in the Rowland administration, called the findings "startling." "This kind of analysis provides very strong justification for this kind of investigative effort," Blumenthal said. Connecticut ranked 29th in a state-by-state comparison for the period 1986-1996. The state's record of 1.08 convictions per 100 elected officials over that period compared to the 2.12 convictions average across all states.

To avoid a repeat of the scandals in Connecticut, the study recommends requiring elected officials to regularly make their personal finances public as a way to detect early warning signs of potentially unethical or criminal behavior. The Connecticut Economy also reported an improving outlook for jobs in Connecticut, citing positive signs such as factory workers clocking longer hours, continued hiring of temporary workers and more activity at Bradley International Airport. It predicts jobs will grow at a 0.5 percent rate, or 8,000 jobs, in the next year. But the report also warns that outsourcing abroad puts Connecticut workers in direct competition with foreign labor. Despite its large budget deficits in recent years, Connecticut is among 21 states whose projected shortfalls are less severe than the other states. The report also focuses on falling crime rates in Connecticut, but notes that the trend has come with higher costs for prisons. Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press.

From Stamford Advocate, CT, 25 February 2004

Probe Is Sought on Potential Corruption

Wolf Cites Reports on Lobbyists, Casinos - A member of Congress has asked the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate two instances of what he characterized as potential corruption involving Indian tribes and casino gambling. In letters to Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) cited an article published in The Washington Post on Sunday that detailed how a Washington lobbyist and a public relations executive with ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) have charged a handful of tribes more than $45 million in the past three years to influence public policy. A second article cited by Wolf, reported Monday by the Associated Press, described how officials at a regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs allegedly padded the membership rolls of a tiny tribe with their own names and those of scores of family members.

The Ione Band of Miwok Indians in California has swelled from 70 to 535 members, according to the AP, and is seeking to build a casino with 2,000 slot machines that could bring in an estimated $185 million a year. A spokesman for the Interior Department inspector general's office said yesterday that the office opened an investigation earlier this month into possible wrongdoing at the BIA regional office in relation to the Ione tribe. "This is shocking," Wolf scribbled across the bottom of his letters to Mueller and Ashcroft asking that they examine whether laws have been broken. The articles, Wolf wrote, "point out how the Indian gambling issue exploits Indians and potentially corrupts government officials." The FBI has questioned members of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Mount Pleasant, Mich., in recent days about the $3.9 million the tribe spent to hire Greenberg Traurig lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the $10 million it has paid public relations executive Michael Scanlon.

Some tribe members have complained that they have gotten little for their money, and that Scanlon's firm helped engineer the election of the tribal council that awarded the contracts. Federal law requires that casino proceeds benefit tribes as a whole, not individuals. Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said his department "will review Chairman Wolf's request." Wolf, who chairs a House Appropriations subcommittee on the judiciary, said in a telephone interview he is deeply concerned that there is minimal regulation of Indian casinos even as they are proliferating around the country. "It's like robbing a candy store without anyone there to get it stopped," Wolf said. "I personally feel the Indians are being exploited." Jill Perry, a spokeswoman for Greenberg Traurig, said her law firm is reviewing Abramoff's work for the Indian tribes. "As is our normal practice in circumstances like this, we will follow up with our clients to directly determine their views and review our services with them," she said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

From Washington Post, DC, by Susan Schmidt, 25 February 2004

 
 

Make 2004 an Action Year -Civil Servants Told

Obuasi - The chairman of the Adansi West District Civil Servants Association (CSA), Mr. John Baidoo, has urged Civil Servants to declare this year an action year for extra dedication and hard work at all workplaces. "This year must be declared an action year for civil servants. We must put in extra effort and work harder than before", he stressed. Mr. Baidoo, who was addressing an end-of-year meeting of staff of the Adansi West District Assembly at Obuasi at the weekend, added, "2004 is a year for Civil Servants, a year of increased productivity to attract its corresponding remuneration". He reminded Civil Servants of the Vice President's campaign against indiscipline and appealed to them to display a high sense of discipline at their workplaces.

Mr. Baidoo further drew the attention of Civil Servants to the code of conduct of the service, which included punctuality at work, transparency, accountability, integrity, justice and fairness. The District Chairman declared, "let us cultivate these virtues to enhance our image and the image of the ruling government". Mr. Baidoo appealed to Civil Servants to register massively when the voter registration exercise begins but advised them to remain politically neutral. "We should not involve ourselves in party politics. The Civil Service regulation is emphatic about it, we are implementers of the policies, programmes, plans and activities of the government". He urged them to support and co-operate with the government of the day. Mr. Baidoo advised them to strive to be computer literate and appealed to the management of the Assembly to revisit the existing training programme.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 2 February 2004

DCD Advises Civil Servants Against Partisan Politics

Nkoranza - Mr. Anaclatens Fakoo Dorzie, Nkoranza District Coordinating Director, has advised civil servants to guard against partisan politics to avoid differences amongst them that could affect the manpower development of the state. Addressing the staff of the Nkoranza District Health Service at an annual get-together, he deplored the practice by some workers to engage in political arguments at workplaces. The Coordinating Director advised health officials to be punctual and regular to work in order to save lives. Mr. Dorzie urged the staff to respect authority, be law-abiding and work as a team to be able to provide quality health delivery service to the people. Mr. Kwame Ampofo-Twumasi, District Chief Executive, commended the District Health Management for organizing the get-together to review their activities in the past year and also to initiate plans to enhance their activities. He called on the management and leadership of the health services to listen to the views and advice of their subordinates to improve their work "since two heads are better than one."

The DCE expressed gratitude to them for working under trying conditions and assured the nurses of the district assembly's support in all their activities. In a welcoming address, the District Director of Health Services, Dr. Emmanuel Lawrence Anaglate, announced that arrangements were being made for more nurses from the Ministry of Health to augment the staff at Nkoranza. He urged nurses in the rural areas to have focus and study prevalent health problems so that immediate attention could be taken to protect the people. Mr. James Kwasi Donkor, District Health Accountant, who presided, called for the collaborative efforts of health workers and the people in order to ensure the provision of quality health delivery services. He advised nurses not to refuse postings to rural or deprived areas to conform to their vow to work to save people's lives. At a forum, Miss Susana Achiaa, a health staff midwife called on her colleagues to share ideas for effective work.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 1 February 2004

Civil Servants Spoiling for War over Pay

Nairobi - Anger is mounting in the Civil Service over the pace and mode of implementing the salary harmonisation programme. There are fears that the public service may turn into the Government's worst nightmare as various groups intensify demands for better pay. The demands are expected to be fuelled by the piecemeal implementation of salary increases in some departments, which has led to discontent among the groups have been left out. However, sources at the Treasury and the Directorate of Personnel Management say the much-anticipated 100 per cent pay rise in the civil service may not materialise in the near future - at least not in the next two financial years. Many senior Government officials have now found themselves in awkward positions, with some of their juniors earning twice as much. The situation in the Provincial Administration is the clearest example. Many District Officers now find themselves in the uncomfortable position where their drivers earn twice their (DOs') salaries.

Newly recruited DOs earn Sh8,500 as basic salary, yet most of their drivers are experienced Administration Police constables who now earn a basic salary of Sh16,080 after the recent pay rise. Further, the AP inspectors who report to the DOs in divisional security meetings now earn basic salaries of up to Sh34,460. There is also the issue of qualifications. Last year's recruitment of DOs netted 210 recruits, with some 50 of them in possession of Masters degrees, and two with doctoral degrees. The rest had first degrees with postgraduate qualifications. A number of DOs have complained that it is "very irresponsible and insensitive" for their employer - Office of the President - to put them in such a position. "How do they expect us to command respect from people earning salaries three times higher?" one of them asked. But the tale of the DOs is just the tip of the iceberg that threatens to sink the Narc administration into more trouble. Striking a balance between the huge public sector wage bill and the lofty promises made during election campaigns might be a nightmare that will not go away easily.

At the moment, the wage bill stands at about 9.6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Any increase in the wage bill could lead to some negative economic consequences such as a rise in inflation rates and general price levels of goods and services. At the same time, donors have stated clearly that they want the wage bill to go down. In fact, they want about 23,000 civil servants retrenched. For their part, civil servants are getting bolder in their demand for better pay. The Union of Kenya Civil Servants has been consulting senior Government officials over the remuneration issue. After a consultative meeting with UKCS officials late last year, the Permanent Secretary and Director of Personnel Management, Mr. S P Njau, said the money was safe at Treasury, adding that modalities were being worked out on how to pay it. However, investigations now reveal that the recent hurried reforms at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) are aimed at raising money for any major pay rise in the Civil Service. At the moment, the coffers are dry and any extra pay-out is expected from increased revenue collection. Sources say there is a general agreement between the Government and donors that any pay increase should only come after revenue collection has improved.

During the 2002 election campaigns, then Opposition candidate - now President - Mwai Kibaki said that if leakages in the tax collection system could be sealed, State revenue would rise by Sh50 billion a year. Based on that estimate, Narc went ahead to give specific promises of pay rises. But after slightly more than a year in office, it has become apparent that improving tax collection is easier said than done. Despite all the corrective measures taken by KRA, the taxman missed Finance minister David Mwiraria's first six months' target. A total of Sh105.9 billion was collected against a target of 107.1 billion. However, Mr. Michael Waweru, KRA's commissioner-general, still believes that after the teething problems, revenue collection is expected to rise from the current target of Sh219 billion to Sh228.6 billion next year, an increase of about Sh9 billion. The adjusted figures fall short of the Sh50 billion that Narc pledged to collect. This has raised fears that civil servants may never get a pay rise soon. At the same time, the focus is now likely to shift to what action the civil servants will take in order to force the Government to implement this promise. Whatever happens, the Government will still be haunted by a huge public sector wage bill and the promise to double it.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Gordon Opiyo, 2 February 2004

Free Aids Drugs for Civil Servants

Kampala - Government employees will soon start getting free Aids drugs, a senior health official has said. The Director General of Health Services, Prof. Francis Omaswa, said the civil servants will benefit from a scheme that will offer free anti-retroviral drugs, which extend the lives of people living with HIV/Aids. "We got a special request from the permanent secretary ministry of Public Service; he had initially written to all permanent secretaries in the various ministries to cater for their staff but we said once the ARVs are here, everybody will benefit," Omaswa said yesterday. He was opening a workshop for hospital superintendents and senior district health officials at Hotel Africana in Kampala. The official said that teachers would also benefit from the scheme - but advised that they have to channel a request through the Education ministry.

Omaswa said the first batch of the drugs will arrive this month. "We are getting drugs to the tune of $3 million [Shs 6 billion] as part of the global funds for fighting HIV/Aids," he said. US President George W. Bush pledged $15 billion in January 2003 to help 15 countries in Africa and the Caribbean critically affected by HIV/Aids over five years. He said the drugs would be distributed to all district hospitals in the country. He hailed the Joint Clinical Research Centre [JCRC] for spearheading the fight against HIV/Aids. "Today JCRC is the best ARV centre in the world; anyone who refutes that should provide evidence challenging it," he said. Dr Elizabeth Namagala of the STD Aids Control Programme said more than 17,000 Ugandans are receiving anti-retroviral treatment across the country.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Patrick O. Jaramogi, 3 February 2004

Government Loses to Civil Servants

The Court of Appeal has slammed the government for introducing a scheme of service without consulting the concerned civil servants. Subsequently, it dismissed with costs a case filed against a High Court decision which rejected attempts by the government to start promoting civil servants on the basis of their academic qualifications instead of experience. When the government mooted the changes in 1998, long serving civil servants took the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) to the High Court to seek redress. The officers complained that they were not consulted in the process leading to the new changes unlike before. Ultimately, Justice Peter Collins of the High Court ruled in their favour. Through the Attorney General, DPSM challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal but failed to make headway. The Attorney General's Chambers came out badly when the Appeal Court made it's ruling last Friday. The court dismissed a request by the state to be excused for filing its papers late. "The rules of this court provide that a notice of an appeal against a judgement must be filed within six weeks of the date of such judgement. Applicants therefore, had to file their notice of appeal on or before 20 December 2002. They failed to do so, only filing such notice on 21 February 2003...," said Appeal Court President Justice Patrick Tebutt.

He dismissed as flimsy the excuse that consultation between DPSM and the AG's Chambers was a valid reason for disobeying court rules. "This explanation I find to be totally unacceptable. The office of the Attorney General is an important one in the structure of the administration of justice in Botswana and I find it difficult to believe that the work, operations and activities of this office comes to a halt over the public holiday period. "I also find it difficult to accept that the Attorney General's operations ceased while it was relocating to new premises. This too seems to me to be a spurious reason why consultations ceased. They could have been held elsewhere. Attorney General's staff surely know the Rules of Court and that appeals must be noted within six weeks of a judgement, in this case within six weeks of 8 November 2002," said Tebutt. Even in the High Court application, the AG's Chambers apparently behaved negligently and almost abandoned the case. It filed no opposing affidavits dealing with the arguments raised by the civil servants. The parties entered into negotiations for settlement in March 2001 but these bore no fruit. In the end, the officers' lawyers proceeded with their case and gave the AG's lawyers 30 days to file a responding affidavit.

They failed to do so and when the case came up for hearing, they told the court that they were unable to argue without the affidavit. In the end the government has once again been ordered by the Court of Appeal to spend taxpayers' money because it messed up. Attorney Kgafela Kgafela represented the workers in the case whilst Attorneys Molodi and Moffat Lubinda represented the state. Meanwhile, the state has succeeded in an appeal against Onalenna Paya who was dismissed for allegedly stealing government funds. "Here the respondent (with the advantage of representation), has accepted that she was guilty of misconduct warranting her dismissal. I do not see how in these circumstances any need for the formal institution of disciplinary proceedings could have arisen. "In any event Regulation 11 permits the summary imposition of an appropriate penalty for misconduct, where in the Permanent Secretary's view, the facts are straightforward," ruled Justice Plewman. The Court ruled that Paya's attorneys were empowered by law to act on her behalf to agree with government that she be dismissed from work. She was represented in the matter by Attorney Phazha Kgalemang whilst the state was represented by Attorney Tshepo Motswagole.

From Mmegi, Botswana, by Letshwiti Tutwane, 4 February 2004

'Excess' Public Servants to Keep their Jobs

The number of public servants declared redundant has shrunk from 25 000 to 11 500. And there is good news, too, for public servants with an axe hovering over their heads. It was announced yesterday that no employee would be retrenched as they would undergo further training and be accommodated within various departments before June 30. Government chief negotiator Kenny Govender said: "Basically, our structured training in various fields has ensured that we drastically reduce the number of redundant public servants. "In September last year, the figure was significantly dropped to 13 800 redundant public servants." He said the continuing training and redeployment process would hopefully be completed by June. "We look at available skills and profiles before we train them and it is not possible to find suitable skills training resources for all of them at the same time," Govender added.

Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi earlier gave an undertaking that the original 25 000 civil servants deemed surplus in various government departments would be reskilled and not be retrenched. Most of those employees who could not be absorbed were then considered for the government's programme of labour-intensive projects. Public Servants Association chief executive Anton Louwrens expressed labour unions' gratitude for the government's restructuring process. He lauded the ministry after the unions' meeting with Fraser-Moleketi for honouring the promise to retain public servants deemed excess. The Democratic Alliance, however, claimed that the government had failed to give clarity on the fate of 15 000 excess public servants. The DA said they had a right to know what the future held for these employees. DA spokesperson on the public service Richard Ntuli said: "While 15 000 excess public servants occupy positions in the civil service, skilled and qualified people cannot be employed in their place, and this inevitably leads to poor service delivery."

From The Star, Africa, by Mziwakhe Hlangani, 3 February 2004

Public Service Bursary Fund to Be Established

Johannesburg - The Public Service and Administration department intends to establish a bursary fund that would benefit the children of public servants, the department said on Thursday. This was discussed at a meeting earlier in the week by the trade unions that are part of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council and Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi. Spokesperson Tsepiso Matela said employees made a proposal to the minister that the department should establish a bursary fund, with contributions from them. At the meeting, Fraser-Moleketi put the idea before the trade unions.

She told them that children of the public servants who had performed well at school and wished to follow careers that were in demand in the public service and who were in need of financial support would be the beneficiaries "I put the idea to the meeting, and I was delighted that it was well received. We agreed to begin to develop a comprehensive proposal," the minister said. The meeting also focused on broader policy issues, with a bias towards the improvement of service delivery. Issues that were discussed included strengthening the partnership between the employer and labour and a survey by the department that deals with achievement and challenges. Matela said the partnership would focus on taking forward the transformation and restructuring of the public service within the context of improving service delivery and the lives of public servants.

From Independent Online, South Africa, 5 February 2004

Civil Servants Amass Wealth Amidst Poverty

Munyonyo - Public servants are growing richer even as the average income of Ugandans falls. This revelation left delegates to a World Bank summit on poverty, wondering how civil servants could do so well yet poverty has gone up from 35 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2003. The three day conference: The Challenge of growth and poverty reduction, attended by World Bank managing director, Mr. Shengman Zhang, and executive director, Dr Louis Kasekende comes ahead of a major World Bank summit in China, in May, expected to showcase Uganda. It started on Friday. "According to statistics, poverty declined, especially among the government sector," Dr John Okidi, executive director, Economic Policy Research Centre told the conference. He however said that according to further analysis, property income had increasingly become a crucial part of individual incomes. "Probably some of this is contributing to the wealth of the civil servants," he said.

Later, Okidi could not explain the actual increase in wealth by civil servants. He said that the report, funded by United Nations Development Program (UNDP), is still a draft. But the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Daouda Toure wondered: "I am hearing that the wealth of civil servants is increasing rather rapidly. I don't know how, but I think we would do better to have an efficient civil service." When later asked by Sunday Monitor if he was defending the wealth of civil servants, Toure said: "What I know, you need to have the civil service to do well in order to be able to deliver services." However, the minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Mr. Gerald Ssendaula, told this writer that the increase in civil servants' wealth was also the in findings of the poverty survey of 2000. Dr. Marios Obwona said that civil servants are possibly doing more than one job.

Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu said that reducing poverty would require deepening democracy. "[Currently] the more you move away from the centre of power, the poorer you get. In the long term, if poor people govern, they will use that power to protect their interests, including reducing poverty." Striking an optimistic chord, Uganda Investment Authority chairman, Dr William Kalema said there is usually a five-year time lag between investment and the time we should expect to see poverty going down. But Economics don, Dr Gemina Ssemwogerere said that it may be important to revert to an informal discussion forum as was the case during Museveni's first five years in power. The summit that ends on Sunday has brought together ambassadors of the US, Italy, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, China, Japan, and the EU.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Badru Mulumba, 9 February 2004

Zambia to Freeze Wages of 100 000 Civil Servants

Lusaka - Zambia would freeze the wages of its 100 000 civil servants and public workers this year to keep government spending within limits agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), finance minister Peter Magande said at the weekend. He announced the step late on Sunday, two days after he released an annual budget that pledged fiscal austerity and a smaller deficit this year. Zambia Congress of Trade Unions opposed the wage freeze. The Zambian supreme court ruled in 1988, when the government took similar action to plug a widening budget deficit, that a wage freeze was illegal. Magande hoped to persuade the IMF to resume lending to the impoverished country after it cut credit lines last June. Most western donors followed suit - a big blow to Zambia, which relies heavily on aid for its budget. In the past decade, aid, grants and loans accounted for 40 percent of budget spending. The budget deficit widened to 5.1 percent of gross domestic product last year from a forecast of 1.55 percent. Wage increases and housing allowances for civil servants were responsible for most of the overshoot.

From Business Report, Africa, 9 February 2004

Clergyman Urges Government to Stop Taxing Civil Servants Highly

Lusaka - Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) Executive Director Bishop Paul Mususu has called on government to desist the temptation of raising the tax on civil servants but should instead strive to broaden it. Speaking in an interview with ZANA in Lusaka, Bishop Mususu said it was saddening to see that government has insisted on raising the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) on already strained workers while others were left to go without being taxed. "The concentration on civil servants was unfair because it was meant to squeeze them even taking away the little they have remained with", he said. "I feel sorry for workers, it's really terrible for them. But what government should do now is to broaden the tax base and to avoid unnecessary expenditures, but it should not rise the tax base," he added. Bishop Mususu however welcomed the commissioning of Finance Minister Ngande Magande by President Mwanawasa to monitor movements of all ministers in the quest of cutting down expenditures.

He said the move was good saying the monitoring should not only be done on ministers alone but also the other public officers as well including the president himself. "President Mwanawasa should emulate Kenyan President Mwayi Kibaki, six months after his elections he refused to go anywhere not even for important meetings like COMESA. President Mwanawasa should also stay at home until things are alright," he said. Meanwhile, Bishop Mususu has disagreed with the calls by first republican president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda that the wage freeze though painful was one way of reaching the HIPIC point. Bishop Mususu said sacrifice on the part of civil servants has been going on for the past 10 years and that the issue of the HIPIC completion point was not new to the government. He said pouncing on civil servants was not the only way unless government was willing to sacrifice also by scraping the office of the District Commissioner and cutting on the excessive cabinet ministers.

"A better solution should be devised not to hang civil servants, they have sacrificed for 10 years and now they have nothing more to sacrifice", he said. "If government will tell us that they will do away with DC and other Cabinet Ministers and ask us to meet them half way we will understand otherwise their stance now is unacceptable". Bishop Mususu said there was need to balance this time around that the government should lead the way in sacrificing so that others could follow. "HIPIC has not come yesterday, what has led to the failure to reach the HIPIC point is because of poor handling of resources especially last year otherwise we should reached this point already," he said. Bishiop Mususu attributed the failure to reach the HIPIC completion point to unnecessary expenditures especially on by-elections among others. Meanwhile, Bishop Mususu has commended this years 8.3 trillion budget presented to parliament by Finance Minister N'gande Magande. Bishop Mususu said it was generally a good budget because it has good ideas and has covered some of the important sectors of the economy like agriculture. He has however advised the minister to stick to the budget in all the deliberations in order to avoid over expending.

From Zambia News Agency, Zambia, 11 February 2004

Public Servants to 'Toe the Line'

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the public service and administration minister, says there is to be a drastic change of culture in the department. She says this is going to be implemented as part of a planned overhaul of public service delivery procedures. "We need to ensure that people understand that their role as public servants is to serve the public... that first and foremost, they need to ensure that they provide the customer service required and that they do it in a friendly, effective and transparent way," Fraser-Moleketi says. The department has long been stung by allegations of poor performance, corruption and inefficiency. Yesterday Fraser-Moleketi disclosed that it was planning, amongst other interventions, a corruption information management system, that is being developed in partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Dealing with corruption - "We have put in place a framework to deal with corruption. We want to create an environment where there are controls that are not overly cumbersome, but will ensure the accountability of public servants," she says.

She says they are also setting up a database where all information about instances of corruption will be collected for disciplinary purposes. Fraser-Moleketi says not all parts of the public service are running inefficiently, but "any part that does run ineffectively impacts on the citizen negatively". She says the new system will also look at reducing "red tape", thereby removing aspects of the public service bureaucracy that impedes effective service delivery. Fraser-Moleketi also says the department will put in place a back-up system that will make it easier for public servants to deliver in an effective way. She says information technology is one of the solutions. "We are looking at a gateway project, where citizens will be able to access more than 4 000 services online." She says public servants are being trained to use this technology.

From SABC News, South Africa, 12 February 2004

A Non-Political Civil Service: Myth or Reality

In recent months there have been growing calls for various institutions in the country to be non-partisan. Dr Alex Glover-Quartey, Head of Civil Service, has urged civil servants to be non-partisan, especially during this election year. He urged them [to] exhibit selflessness and render loyal service to the nation (Ghanaweb Jan 3 2004). A similar call has been made by Mr. Anaclatens Fakoo Dorzie, Nkoranza District Coordinating Director. Nana Asiama Poku-Afrifa II, chief of Toase, near Nkawie in the Atwima district, has also advised his traditional rulers to stay out of partisan politics and to be as politically neutral as possible (Ghanaweb 9 Feb). The Armed Forces Personnel have also been advised to avoid partisan politics. The call for a non-political civil service is not new. It is made every time elections are approaching. It is therefore important to examine whether it is possible for a non-partisan civil service to exist in Ghana. The civil service as we have it now is a replica of the colonial system. The colonial masters introduced the system to help with their administration. At that time, its role was the maintenance of law and order.

It was a politically disinterested and permanent civil service with core values of integrity, propriety, objectivity and appointment on merit, able to transfer its loyalty and expertise from one elected government to the next. Since independence the civil service in Ghana has gone through numerous reforms but has largely stuck with the bureaucratic structure set up by the colonial masters. However, the core values of integrity, propriety and appointment on merit have largely disappeared. The civil service as the administrative arm of government is there to provide high quality advice and provide support for both the government of the day and the Parliament and play a major role in the legislative process. The civil service is supposed to faithfully carry out the policies of the Government of the day irrespective of that Government's political complexion. At the same time it is expected to maintain its independence. The Westminster system is based on the idea that ministers come and go, but the civil service is a constant. In this respect the advice given by civil servants is supposed to be given fearlessly and impartially. In theory, civil servants do not work for a particular political party's interest but for the public.

Political neutrality is therefore the bedrock of most civil services. However, it appears that the nature of our constitutional arrangements makes it difficult to maintain a non-political civil service. The politicisation of the civil service in Ghana and indeed in most western democratic countries can be found in the constitutional structure which provides for both separation of powers and checks and balances. The civil service reports to the executive but also has strong linkages with the legislature because of the latter's appropriation function and the fact that Ministers are also in Parliament. There are also limits placed on what information civil servants can give to the political opposition. It may be argued that this is done to protect the government of the day and that civil servants have the convention of Ministerial responsibility to safeguard them from blame. The convention of Ministerial responsibility covers such things as policy errors, mishandling of policies and personal conduct. While it may be true that the purpose of the convention is to protect civil servants, it appears to me that the convention has become diluted and politicised because ministers are reluctant to accept responsibility for the failing of their ministries.

Usually what happens is that if a ministerial mistake or misappropriation is brought to the attention of a minister, he/she usually denies any foreknowledge thereby throwing out of the window the principle of ministerial responsibility. The maintenance of the neutrality of the civil service further becomes difficult with the employment of politically appointed special assistants/advisers. These appointments contain potential to undermine the independence of the civil service. In most cases these appointees tend to be on higher salaries and appear to be enjoying privileges that are not available to other civil servants. Whether you like it or not there can be a damaging perception that there is one law for special assistants/advisers and one law for the rest. The gap between the traditional theory of a career civil service and the reality on the ground needs to be bridged. In my view it is still possible for the civil service to maintain its political neutrality. To achieve this, however, requires a legal separation of functions of politicians (who decide policies) from those of civil servants (who implement such policies). This also means that we should limit the number of politicians on public sector boards of government businesses and corporations.

In some cases their presence on such boards may raise issues of conflict of interest. It is also of paramount importance that Ministers accept their responsibilities as Ministers and give accurate and truthful account to Parliament and the people, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. There are many Parliamentarian and some Ministers who have abused their offices or misled Parliament and should have either resigned, been dismissed or sacked but are still holding on to their positions. The government must realise that democracy is more than just voting in elections - it is also about government accountability, ministerial responsibility and transparency. The government needs to establish a system that allows civil servants to impartially perform their duties, independent from powerful political parties or from fear of being dismissed by an incoming government eg Apollo 568 - Sallah case of 1971) or being victimised for taking a non political stand to a policy proposal.

In the advanced democracies some political opposition to government policy is tolerated but this seem not to be the case in Ghana where it is a case of if you are not with us then you are against us. There is anecdotal evidence that many people in the civil service or some government business enterprises who were of a different political persuasion from the present government lost their positions merely because of their political affiliation. Whether this is true or not the perception can be damaging to the maintenance of a professional, non-political civil service. It takes two hands to clap so civil servants must also play their part in maintaining the neutrality of the civil service. Civil servants should realise that they are there to provide continuity in government business and so leave political decisions to politicians and provide advice without fear or favour. The civil service should also take responsibility for its failings and must be seen to be politically neutral.

This neutrality will be demonstrated and maintained if civil servants, especially those who hold high offices in the service, refrain from active participation in politics. They should not attend political rallies nor should they be seen wearing party colours. They should as much as possible not openly support the policies or pronouncements of a particular political party. When civil servants openly participate in political activities they compromise the neutrality of their offices and put themselves at risk of losing their jobs if the political party they openly support fail to win office. Dr Glover-Quartey is making some welcome progress towards explaining the vision of the civil service but I am yet to see a coherent framework for action. The civil service ethos needs to be renewed, nourished, cultivated and strengthened to meet the society's aspirations for its civil service. It should include the standards to be reached in ethical behaviour, service delivery, administrative competence and democratic accountability. The civil service core values of integrity, propriety and appointment on merit must not only be promoted it must be put in practice. I wait with bated breath.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 14 February 2004

Civil Servants in Politics Face the Chop

Government is probing civil servants who are participating in politics, especially those that have contested in party primaries and it has since fired one civil servant and forced another one to retire. Deputy Secretary to the President and Cabinet Bright Msaka said on Thursday his office already wrote a memorandum to all civil servants on December 2 last year asking those who wanted to go into active politics to resign by December 31. "But if there are some who have not resigned and we have conclusive evidence that they have participated in politics, we will have to let the law take its course," said Msaka. He said Section 193 of the Constitution clearly bars civil servants from politics unless they resign from the public service. And asked to comment on the involvement of Director of Government Contracting Unit Respicious Dzanjalimodzi in politics, Msaka said he is going to institute a probe in the matter. Dzanjalimodzi won as opposition MCP candidate for Lilongwe City South East constituency.

But Dzanjalimodzi said he does not feel bound by the government memorandum because although he goes to the government office, the Public Appointments Committee rejected him and that he is only waiting for his replacement. "I retired from the civil service in 2000 and I was working on contract. But my contract ended last year and although it pleased [President Bakili Muluzi] to appoint me to head the unit, the Public Appointments Committee rejected my name," said Dzanjalimodzi. A lot of civil servants, including teachers, have been contesting in primaries for various political parties. In the 1999 elections, high ranking servants notably former Education Secretary Sam Dumba Safuli, Commissioner for Disaster Preparedness Lucius Chikuni, former Deputy Secretary for Relief and Rehabilitation Humphrey Nthara and former District Commissioner for Machinga Austin Mtukula competed in the UDF primaries for parliamentary candidacy. The civil servants were ordered to retire but those that were contesting for UDF but failed were spared while those that contested as opposition or independent candidates were fired.

From The Nation, Malawi, by Pilirani Semu-Banda, 19 February 2004

PS Tells Civil Servants to Expect Salary Increment

Civil servants' salaries will be raised immediately the review board finalises its report, an assistant minister has said. The assistant minister of State, Mr. Maurice Dzoro, said the board was working on various sectors within the civil service. "Since the Government increased police officers' salaries, civil servants should know there are plans to upgrade their pay too," he said. He said the Permanent Public Service Remuneration Review Board report would be ready soon. "The board is trying to work as fast as possible to bridge the gap between regular police and Administration Police," he said. In the new package for police officers, chief inspectors now earn between Sh23,920 to Sh34,460, while a senior District Commissioner one in job group P gets a minimum of Sh23,100 and a maximum of Sh28,435 per month. Speaking in Nairobi, Dzoro said the Government was committed to improving the welfare of the public servants.

However, Dzoro declined to comment on the ultimatum issued by the Civil Servants Union. On the bribery report released by Transparency International, Dzoro said Kenya would succeed in stamping out corruption before 2007. "It is good that in the last one year, the Narc Government has been able to reduce the rate of bribery to 57.2 from 69.4," he said. He told civil servants to provide selfless services to people as per the code of conduct. Dzoro said the Government had struck off public servants, who had not declared their wealth, from the pay roll. "For the few who have not declared their wealth, appropriate sanctions have already been instituted against them including deletion from the payroll," he said. The Government is now in the final phase of the civil service reform programme, which focuses on performance and improvement.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Evelyn Kwamboka, 23February 2004

Monetisation: Top Civil Servants Corner Vehicles

Kaduna - "In the final analysis the main goal of the Reforms (monetisation) is the resolution of the human problems, the reconciliation of conflicting interest and the harmonisation of the nation's resources for the common good (including government vehicles)" That was Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, Head of the Civil Service of the federation earlier this year. He was addressing an audience of appointed ambassadors at the Protea Hotel. At the end of the speech he left no one in doubt as to the direction the federal government has charted for itself in the coming years, especially regarding the civil service. Already the close to 200,000 workforce in the public service was beginning to generate inherent 'human problems' and varied manifestation of conflicting interest. Even more daunting perhaps was the waste and the leakages presented by the almost white elephant like project called the civil service. The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo made a note of this from inception and in his inaugural speech he confessed that "our infrastructure and other social services were allowed to decay and collapse." He might as well be referring to the hundreds of government vehicles that now littered the whole of the Nigerian landscape.

From Limousines to other vehicles of all shades and colours, political officeholders and their counterpart career civil servants have over the years enjoyed the services of government vehicles. The decay and collapse referred to by the President probably becomes more meaningful on closer examination of the vehicles themselves. Government was spending a reckless sum in procuring, maintaining and keeping state officials in affluent transportation. Between 1999 and 2002 only, there was massive increment in recurrent expenditure as it rose from 499.67 billion naira to an aggressive 696.78 billion naira in 2002 (in other word, from about 47.45% to 68.44%). These figures, even to the uninitiated in the science of economy show that there was more money going into consumption than it did real capital expenditure. Some people it would appear were definitely having a picnic. According to one highly placed civil servant who spoke in anonymity "government and its civil service became a bonanza, an arena of those who could eat their cake and have it."

The cake of course refers to the various fringe benefits which had always been a integral aspect of the remuneration. These include: residential accommodation, furniture allowance, utility allowance, domestic servant allowances, motor vehicle loans, fuelling, maintenance and transport allowance, leave grant, meal subsidy, entertainment allowance, personal assistant allowance and, in the good old days, bush allowance at the expense of the tax payer. There was therefore, deducing from the ongoing, a grain of truth in the President's accusation of decay in the properties of government. Today, however there does not appear to be any visible different from what obtained in the past and the present realities. The first challenge was probably confronted when the vehicles were eventually monetised and removed from the hands of the reckless users. The wisdom of the whole exercise is perhaps truncated in the present dilemma government is facing with the vehicles gathering dust in strategic corners of most ministries. "Where is the wisdom," an aged driver who spoke with Weekly Trust asked "there were good reasons to take these vehicles away from those big men.

But what can you say about the way they are been handled now?" The way the vehicles are handled now is that many of them retrieved from the drivers and their erstwhile passengers are lying all over the place with the dust mounting with the passing of the day. In the Federal Capital Territory most of the vehicles are seen precariously packed at the Eagle Square area. The FCDA also parade an array of these vehicles in its premises. Around the water resources and agriculture ministries the sorry sigh of waster and decay confronts one. The negation of the reform objective is glaringly in display as rows after rows of abandon vehicle dot the landscape. It clearly send a signal of profligacy in expenditure and a less than prudent approach to the challenges of changes and reform. Government is equally guilty of waste. "The reforms of monetisation should have been in stages" said one of the government ministry's spokesperson. Analysing the cost of monetisation itself, the press secretary observed that an amazing amount of money will have to be expended on all the facets of the monetised benefits.

Stressing the need for tactical and scientific approach to matters affecting the public, he noted that "monetisation of fringe benefits has the capacity to help matters especially in checking corruption and sundry practices. The confusion will arise in implementation. Take the vehicles, you can't just take them away from people without an institutional frame work for either rehabilitating the people or putting the vehicle to productive use." There are many challenges and confusion arising from the issue of the government vehicles. In the blue print of the Reform policy the government plan was to monetise the vehicle with the provision of motor vehicle loan of 300% of annual basic salary in conformity with the provision of "certain political, public and judicial officeholder Act 2002." The whole idea was to provide loans recoverable in six years for both public servants and political officer holders. According to the document, in granting the loan, government is retaining the existing interest rate of 4% on motor vehicle loans. Even more daring was government directives to ministries to desist from further purchase of vehicles. And where it was necessary to buy one, Mr. President will have to give the approval. It was that serious. Officers who were keeping many vehicles were asked to return same to the presidency for "disposal or pooling in the CVU as may be appropriate."

Perhaps, as a cushion to the effect of the mass withdrawal of vehicles, the directives also required each ministry and agency to keep a specific number of utility vehicles including buses for essential office services ('out of station duty tours and meetings). The big question arising from the above supposition is: how do you dispose of government vehicles? Though the policy allows an entitled officers to purchase one or two attached to him for his use to and from the office at the approved book value, it was still a welcome task as to the modalities, guidelines, control and appraisal of the whole exercise. More disturbing was the issue of personal drivers. As government will no longer provide chauffeur driven cars to its officials, they were required to use their personal drivers for private and official assignment when in Abuja. Also to go was the use of pilot vehicles and siren by political office holder. Raw nerves were greatly touched by these new direction. Officials who before now have developed a big appetite for chauffeur driven cars bawled in annoyance and frustration. Reputation, ego and status were at stake here.

Permanent secretaries and the hordes of directors were especially piqued by this attempt at enforcing a regimented and austere lifestyle. For a people used to ostentations and flagrant display of state power and affluence, the withdrawal of pilots vehicles and sirens did damage for the political office holders. It was a double edge policy. On one hand, ordinarily Nigerians thought it was better to have a sane highway without the loud punishment of the sirens. "The sirens were something else. These officials, don't just rob us of our common wealth, they must also announce it to us" said one respondent. The new challenge however was what to do with the growing army of drivers who had entered the civil service through the channels of the public and political office holder. "That was what swell the numbers of the drivers" said one of the drivers in the federal ministries whose fate hangs by a hair strand. "These new driver came in and foul the water for us. When the political office holder eventually left, they leave their drivers behind without proper documentations." But according to Chief Ufot Ekaette, secretary to the federation, there are clear steps to be taken in addressing the fate of the excess drivers in the system.

First, those with relevant and adequate qualification would be rationed and redeployed appropriately. Confusing as that sounds, it probably made lot of sense as the drivers deserve humane treatment. In practical terms however, this is almost failing. Keys have been taken from the drivers with most of them greeting each day with forlorn sense of uncertainty. The policy says that those who will not be deployed will be rationalised but would be assisted by the NAPEP or allowed to buy the vehicles subject to payment. The vehicles in question are presently in all sort of conditions. James Odoh one of the driver said "they are asking us to buy some of the vehicles. But the vehicles are not in good conditions." Some of the vehicles are near scraps from all indications." Others suffer from long histories of misuse. In the absence of the maintenance culture, some of the vehicles are shadows of their original self. Then the cost. Even some of the directors and permanent secretaries have raised eyebrow at the proposed price of some of the parked to-be-auctioned vehicles. A 406 Peugeot car for instance has a market value of about 4 million naira "tell me,: a director told Weekly Trust "how can a civil servant afford that without the ICPC or the EFCC paying you a visit."

The other thing is the maintainance of the these vehicles. The reform policy has provided for an allowance, in line with the economic realities, a 10% of annual basic salary for fuelling/maintenance of their vehicle. "The amount is very small" said a civil servant "if you know how much the parts of a Peugeot 406 or any of its variants costs in the market, you'll probably understand my observations." From all indications, the government will have to assist the civil servants to be able to acquire and keep the vehicles. Recently, the amount of the vehicles were slashed by 50% of their actual market value. "We still can't afford it" cry out one respondent. Another rather disturbing news making the rounds however indicated that the vehicles are suffering another type of fate as parts are getting missing. An anonymous respondent at one of the ministries commented that "most of the vehicles have been vandalised for parts" with such assault, the motor vehicles are said to be in poor conditions for any meaningful bargain.

Still confusing is the empowerment of the drivers themselves whose pauperised conditions might not place them in positions to buy the government vehicles. "Is it not the money they will give us they still expect us to buy these vehicle. That's like robbing Peter to pay Paul" said an aggrieved displaced driver. Charasteristic of the Nigerian spirit, reports are already making the rounds of some crookish top civil servants who are buying up the vehicles as peanuts. According to a reliable source, "in a shameful display of corruption some of the cars now go for as low as N40,000 and even less. What do you expect when the vehicles are no longer needed by government or even monitored. I really don't blame anyone." In the final analysis, the decay and waste government so strongly wish to stop might have just worn a new toga. An old mournful tune is being played by the same orchestra howbeit with new musical instruments. And as more dust cover the parked vehicle, the shroud of confusion deepens with more people wondering if the present fog will ever disappear.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Emmanuel Bello, 24 February 2004

Civil Servants Urged to Lead in Fight against HIV/AIDS

Mr. Paul K. Djan, Central Regional Population Officer, has urged civil servants to play a frontline role in the fight against the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in line with their role as implementers of government policies. He was addressing a workshop on HIV/AIDS for civil servants in Ekumfi Traditional Area organised by the Mfantseman District AIDS Committee. Mr. Djan admonished them to lead morally upright lives to put them in a good stead to spearhead the campaign against the spread of the disease. He expressed disappointment about the lifestyles of some persons who profess to be engaged in educating the public on the dangers of HIV/AIDS and cautioned peer educators to be role models in their communities.

Mr. Djan also urged traditional rulers to modernise and re-introduce the virtually abandoned traditional puberty rites for girls as a way of stemming teenage pregnancies and discouraging children from leading promiscuous lives. Miss Christine Antor, Principal Nursing Officer and Mfantseman District HIV/AIDS co-ordinator urged the people to treat their relatives living with HIV/AIDS with care and compassion to help them to live longer. Mr. Reemans Osei Bonsu, District Schools Health Education Programme Officer, urged the youth to abstain from premarital sex to avoid contracting the disease.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, by Mr. Ekumfi Essarkyir, 25 February 2004

Oyo Sacks 92 Civil Servants

Ibadan - The Oyo State government has relieved no fewer than 92 workers in the state public service of their employment in a spate of retrenchment which swept through one of the ministries. Sack letters dated December 15, 2003, DAILY TIMES gathered, were distributed to the affected workers last Thursday. Our correspondent reliably learnt that workes' whose appointments were terminated were those employed on grade level 04 step 1 in December 2002 for the pilot scheme of the state environmental sanitation corps (ESC). The sack letters entitled "termination of appointment" from the Ministry of Environment and signed by Mr. Jide Adesola on behalf of the commissioner had been distributed to the affected workers. The letter reads: "As a result of the completion of the pilot scheme of the environmental sanitation corps for which you were appointed, your appointment has been terminated with immediate effect. "I am to inform you however, that the Executive Governor of Oyo State has been implored to extend the scheme and that you may be re-appointed whenever approval to that effect is granted."

From Daily Times of Nigeria, by Tunji Omofoye, 25 February 2004

Civil Servants Urged to Ensure Standards

Ada,awa - Public officers in Adamawa State have been urged to abide by their oaths of office to ensure standard in the running of government affairs. Governor Boni Haruna, said this while swearing in two commissioners, two speciall advisers and two permanent secretaries at Government House, Yola. Haruna charged them to be strict with their oath of office and secrecy and avoid acts that will ridicule government. He congratulated the officers, urging them to be loyal and dedicated to their duties at all times, saying, the running of government for positive result calls for individual and co

llective efforts. The governor expressed appreciation to the entire citizens of Adamawa, for their enthusiasm and confidence in government. He promised to continue serving the state with total commitment, stressing that nothing brings him joy and fulfillment than seeing to the problems of people of the state. Haruna, therefore, appealed to the people of the state to reason and extend their cooperation, support and understanding to his administration in order to enhance durable dividends of democracy. Those sworn in include Mr. Jonathan Sunday Lamurde, Commissioner for newly established Ministry of Integration and Border Area Development, Abudl Nasir Abba Maiha, Commissioner for Rural Development and Ms. Titi Malik, special adviser on Higher Education.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Abel Orih, 27 February 2004

 

Civil Servants Began to Receive Mobile Communications Allowance this Month

Civil servants of China's central government and national agencies began to enjoy allowance for their mobile communications for business purpose. Civil servants of China's central government and national agencies began to enjoy allowance for their mobile communications for business purpose. This is another salary rise for civil servants working at the central government agencies since December last year. As learned mobile phones and beepers at public expense are not allowed to be provided to civil servants at the central and national government agencies from this month.

Any expenses related to this are paid by the owners of the mobiles and beepers. Relevant persons pointed out the promulgation of the measures on communications allowance was a further step taken to regulate the administrative behaviors of the government, improve the communications management system and working efficiency and make the spending more transparent. It is also a reform on the irrational salary structure of the civil servants. It is also learned that the salary increase for public servants comes with stricter supervision of departments from discipline inspection, supervision, and auditing on any breaches of the regulation. Units found to continue to buy communications equipment and pay for relevant fees at public expense will be criticized and the leaders of these units will be held responsible for such violations. Retired civil servants will stop enjoying the mobile communications allowance. (From Southern Metropolitan).

From People's Daily Online, China, 1 February 2004

6,000 Civil Service Jobs Set for Axe

The government plans to cut approximately 6,000 civil service jobs by the end of the 2004-05 fiscal year. To achieve this target, the government will encourage civil servants to retire early or to further their studies. "We think we can trim the civil service size from about 173,000 to 167,000 by the end of March 2005 through voluntary retirement and natural attrition," Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong said yesterday at a spring gathering with the media. The ultimate goal is to reduce the civil service size to 160,000 by 2006-07, he added. In October 2003, Wong asked heads of bureaus and departments to submit manpower forecasts to ascertain if there are any manpower surpluses or mismatching. The first round of forecasts has been returned.

After analyzing the data, Wong felt that drastic action is not necessary. "Since there is still a dispute with the financial secretary over the financial arrangements in 2006 and after, I will explore with him what job grades and job ranks will be involved and when the headcount exercises are to be launched," he said. As part of measures to tackle the manpower surplus, 50 clerical staff members from various departments have arranged to assist in the Legislative Council election for six to nine months. This will eliminate the need to employ temporary staff, Wong said. Leung Chau-ting, chairman of Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions, said not many staff would like to retire early if the conditions were not attractive enough.

From China Daily, China, by Joseph Li, 4 February 2004

South Australian Government Unmoved on Public Servants' Pay Offer

The South Australian Government has no intention of offering a higher wage rise to public servants today, when the two parties meet again. The pay dispute has prompted widespread industrial action. The Public Service Association (PSA) is using work bans in prisons and hospitals to push the Government to lift its offer of a 3.5 per cent wage increase. But Industrial Relations Minister Michael Wright is pressuring the union to revise its claim. "I hope it is a genuine revised position, let's give them a chance to come forward with a genuine revised position, I don't know what it's going to be, but we will obviously take account of it," he said. PSA general secretary Jan McMahon says the union will not back down. "The Government should genuinely negotiate, put forward a realistic offer at the meeting, that's what the purpose of the meeting is, we've requested it," she said. But the Government says it will not revise its position at today's meeting.

From ABC Online, Australia, 5 February 2004

Public Servants Walk Off Jobs

Madang workers protest failure of Government to appoint administrator - The public service machinery in Madang has ground to a halt. Public servants in the province, who are members of the Public Employees Association, walked off their jobs on Monday in protest over the failure of the National Government to appoint an administrator for the province. They stayed away from work for the third day yesterday despite pleas by Secretary for the Department of Personnel Management Peter Tsiamalili and acting administrator Augustine Dunstan to return to work. The public servants had a lunch-hour meeting on Monday and resolved to walk off their jobs to live up to a threat they issued two weeks ago. Momase Regional PEA president John Bivi said the union was supportive of the action taken by its members and others who are non-members. Madang has not had a permanent administrator since the departure of Clant Alok almost two years ago, and the public servants are frustrated that the Madang Provincial Government, through the Provincial Executive Council, Department of Personnel Management and the National Executive Council, has failed to act on this vacancy.

The public servants see the appointment of a permanent administrator as crucial to stability in the public service, and the efficient delivery of goods and services to the people of Madang. "While I am Momase regional president, I give my full support to PEA members in Madang to do something about long standing issues affecting them, such as that of a permanent administrator for Madang," Mr. Bivi said. Since Mr. Alok left in 2002, there have been three different acting appointments to the position, inviting politics to penetrate into the process and causing anxiety and instability among public servants. Acting Administrator Mr. Dunstan issued a circular on Tuesday advising the public servants to return to work, saying he had been advised that the NEC would appoint a permanent administrator in mid February. Mr. Tsiamalili also sent a letter to Mr. Dunstan on Tuesday, advising that he was "totally disappointed and dismayed by the action taken by the PEA members, which is unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue".

He added: "The issue they have raised does not warrant such action. It is important that public servants be reminded of their obligation to serve the interest of the general public, as well as to maintain loyalty to the government of the day when discharging their duties as members of the civil service." The secretary said he was aware that there has been a "long delay" in finalising the appointment which may have caused some concern over the operation of the Madang provincial administration. He said the Minister for Public Service has cleared a submission on the appointment and it was now with the NEC Secretariat for Cabinet's consideration at its next sitting. "The minister has been informed of the situation with the view to have the submission presented to Cabinet as soon as possible," Mr. Tsiamalili said in his letter, which Mr. Dunstan conveyed to the striking public servants. But the striking public servants met again and resolved that they would continue to stay away from work until the appointment is made.

From The National, Papua New Guinea, by Pius Ikuma, 4 February 2004

Avoid Being Caught in Embarrassing Situation, Abdullah Tells Civil Servants

Putrajaya - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Thursday that civil servants must avoid being caught in situations which could cause them embarrassment and spark anger among the public through their involvement in practices like abuse of power and corruption. Abdullah said such practices would not only bring them shame and embarrassment but also ruin their career prospects. He said the hope behind the huge mandate given by the people to the Barisan Nasional (BN) was for the chosen government to implement various measures to ensure the country's prosperity and people's well being. "I hope that we can heed this message and respond to meet the aspirations of the people as best as we could," he said at the monthly gathering of the Prime Minister's Department here. Abdullah reiterated that civil servants in the front line serving the public must discharge their duties efficiently.

Public Service Department Director-General Tan Sri Jamaludin Ahmad Damanhuri said the various ministries and departments should constantly effect procedural improvement to reflect the required changes called for by the Prime Minister. He said civil servants should also be aware of the rakyat's high expectations of the Government. "If we remain stagnant, we will not gain the confidence of the people towards our service delivery system," he said after the gathering. Jamaludin said emphasis was being placed on the civil servants completing the tasks entrusted to them within a specified time. "There must be an element of certainty in undertaking tasks. If we say that a certain task can be undertaken in one week, we must deliver the service within a week as promised," he said. Jamaludin said the various ministries and agencies should instil this among their staff especially those dealing with the rakyat like officers and staff of land offices and local authorities.

Meanwhile, Abdullah reminded civil servants Thursday to refrain from becoming mere bystanders but to be totally involved in efforts by the Government to provide excellent service to the public in line with the quest to attain Vision 2020. He said civil servants must possess a deep sense of dedication and uphold the principle that all of them, including those in command position, should co-operate and work closely in striving to ensure they collectively achieve this objective. "Mistakes committed will always incur the wrath of the public, so we may as well do things right...this will always be remembered and appreciated by the public," he said at a gathering of state government support staff at the Sultan Ahmad Shah Silver Jubilee Hall, here. "In such co-operation, (I hope) there will not be groups who are onlookers, not making any contribution, not playing any role...who make criticisms, hurl accusations, undermine others," he said.

Abdullah said government officers who were mere bystanders or neglect in discharging their duties in serving the public would not only tarnish the image of their respective departments but also adversely affect the objective of Vision 2020. "Everyone must display efficiency. We do not wish to see in the Government, in our administration, efficiency embraced by only a few. A department cannot function at its best if only a few can be depended on to be efficient...," he said. He hoped that all government departments would strive to place emphasis on efficiency among their respective officers and staff as it was a vital factor in achieving excellence. Abdullah said that government employees serve as the frontliners in the implementation of government policies and they should carry out the responsibility entrusted upon them with dedication.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 6 February 2004

Strive Harder, PM Tells Civil Servants

Putrajaya - Civil servants in Putrajaya must strive to enhance their services and productivity to fulfil their role and position as employees of the Federal administrative capital, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today. The Prime inister said civil servants in the various ministries, departments and agencies must adopt and display good work culture and ethics in line with the first-class infrastructure provided by the Government. "We in Putrajaya work and live in a very comfortable environment, unlike civil servants of the past who had to work in rented buildings that were cramped. "You and I have moved here either to work or live. Let's ensure the environment has an influence on our work attitude," he said, stressing the need for civil servants, particularly those serving here, to be par excellence. Abdullah was speaking at the launch of Putrajaya's Third Federal Territory Day celebration themed "Putrajaya: Malaysia's Leading Water Recreation Destination" at the Lake Club here.

The Prime Minister reminded the residents here, the majority of whom are civil servants, that they must also possess a high level of civic consciousness to ensure that the administrative capital remained clean and safe. He said Putrajaya had gained fame as one of the most comprehensively-planned and developed administrative capitals in the world. "This is a result of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's vision. "Putrajaya is a futuristic garden city that was built according to specific features, structures and development-style, which gives it an edge over other towns. "It is also one of the favourite tourist destinations now, thus it is our responsibility to keep Putrajaya attractive and beautiful," Abdullah said. He said residents here should care for the beauty of the environment as Putrajaya was planned to include all the greens and lakes. Putrajaya Corporation president Tan Sri Azizan Zainul Abidin said the remaining core development projects were expected to be completed over the next six months.

Azizan said that by year-end, all the ministries and government departments which have been scheduled to move their operations here from Kuala Lumpur, would be able to occupy their respective buildings in Putrajaya. "It will be mission accomplished and a vision fulfilled," he said, adding that the main objective of Putrajaya as the Federal administrative capital was for the entire administrative arm to operate from here. Putrajaya Corporation, which is the local authority here, organised a host of activities in conjunction with the celebrations today. Apart from water sports, the crowd gathered along the banks of the lake was thrilled by the Fire and Rescue Department's Air Wing's search and rescue demonstrations. Also present were Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Tengku Adnan Mansor and Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Firdaus Abdullah, 7 February 2004

SC: Birthdays of Public Servants Cannot Be Corrected

New Delhi - The Supreme Court has cautioned courts and tribunals against issuing directions to correct date of birth of public servants in their service books. Unless a clear case on the basis of clinching material which can be held to be conclusive in nature is made out by the claimant and that too within a reasonable time as provided in the rules covering the service, the courts or tribunals should not issue directions to correct the date of births, the Court said. The ruling was handed down by a bench of Mr. Justice Doraiswamy Raju and Mr. Justice Arijit Pasayat while setting aside a judgement of the Punjab and Haryana high court directing the State Government to correct the date of birth of public sector officer S C Chadha from June 19, 1944 to December 13, 1945. The Court noted that in many cases, it was a part of the strategy of such public servants to approach courts and tribunals on the eve of their retirement questioning the correctness of their date of births in the service books. "By this process, it has come to the notice of this Court that in many cases, even if ultimately their applications are dismissed, by virtue of interim orders they continue for months after the date of their superannuation," the Court observed. The Apex Court said that courts and tribunals must, therefore, be slow in granting interim reliefs in such cases unless prime facie evidence of unimpeachable charater was produced.

From Sify, India, 10 February 2004

Civil Servants May Lose Extra Rest Days

Putrajaya - The Government may consider cutting down the extra rest days given to civil servants to replace two or more public holidays which coincide or those that fall on Sundays. Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsuddin Osman said there were complaints from certain parties that civil servants, particularly those working in the capital, were enjoying too many public holidays. "For instance, recently, the civil servants working in the capital were given two off days as replacement for the Federal Territory holiday and the Hari Raya Haji , both of which fell on a Sunday, while those in Selangor had only one day off. "If there are complaints that such a practice is hindering productivity, we may look into giving only one rest day in future," he told reporters after launching the Angling Competition at the Water Recreation Centre in Taman Wetlands here yesterday.

Samsuddin was responding to a statement by the MTUC that the numerous public holidays in a stretch - Chinese New Year, Thaipusam, Hari Raya Haji, the first and third Saturdays off for civil servants, Federal Territory Day and later, Awal Muharram - had affected productivity. The MTUC had concluded that February was not a very productive month as a result. Samsuddin said the Government would not be able to cut down on public holidays given to commemorate religious festivals as these had been fixed earlier and thus could not be changed. However, he said many of the civil servants seemed refreshed after their break and were eager for work. "We also found that according them every first and third Saturdays off has not affected productivity.'' "This is because to make up for these Saturdays, we merely prolong the working hours on normal days or shorten our lunch break," he said.

From The Star, Malaysia, by Sim Leoi, 15 February 2004

Public Servants Reject 3% Wage-rise Cap

The Victorian Labor government has offered its 25,000 public servants a pay cut (in real terms), and a reduction in working conditions, in the current round of enterprise bargaining. By scrimping on public servants' wages and conditions, the government believes it can fund its 2006 Commonwealth Games commitments and provide investment breaks for big business. The enterprise agreement covering the Victorian public service expired on October 31. The Community and Public Sector Union's (CPSU) claim for a new agreement includes: a service-wide union agreement that consolidates all conditions of employment; a 6% per annum or $52 per week wage adjustment to all rates of pay, or salary increases linked to state MPs' (whichever is the greatest); the next pay increase be backdated to November 1; a 35-hour working week; six weeks' recreation leave; long-service leave after seven years; 14 weeks' paid maternity leave; two weeks' paid paternity/partner leave; overtime standardisation across all agencies; standardisation of casual loading across the service; and, a central redeployment process. T

he union's 6% wage claim is thoroughly justified, as the consumer price index for the September 2003 quarter increased by more than 3% due to interest rate rises. Premier Steve Bracks' government has rejected the CPSU's wage claim and refused the backdating of any wage increase. The government has offered a 2.25% per annum wage increase, plus 0.75% for productivity increases (with trade-offs in conditions). Hard-won conditions are under threat, including the limiting of overtime payments and a withdrawal of the union's right to consultation on a range of issues. The government's refusal to standardise conditions of employment for all Australian Workplace Agreements still operating in the public service is particularly obnoxious, given that it was elected on a platform of abolishing individual contracts. Government departments are resisting the abolition of AWAs. The government is also threatening public services, because it has stated that if the CPSU is awarded a better wage outcome through the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), then the government will force agencies to fund the balance from their existing budgets.

While the Victorian government opposes the CPSU's wage claim, state politicians have awarded themselves a 4% pay rise, backdated to July 1. CPSU delegates and activists on December 17 voted to continue industrial action across the public service, call agency-specific days of action and work with public service unions in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia. State Labor governments are pursuing a common strategy of attempting to cap public-sector workers' wage increases at 3% per annum. Public servants in SA and WA are taking industrial action to break through this cap. In Victoria, the unions believe that the Bracks government is using its negotiations with the CPSU to set a precedent for future agreements with teachers and nurses. The government has also offered teachers a 2.25% annual wage increase, with an additional 0.75% dependent on productivity trade-offs.

Around 2000 public servants have been involved in work bans across the state. On February 2, bans by prison officers resulted in prisoners being locked in their cells for 23 hours a day. In response, the government applied to the AIRC for the bargaining period to be terminated. Under the federal Workplace Relations Act, industrial action is only legal and protected during the bargaining period. The AIRC recommended that prison officers lift their bans while arbitration was proceeding, and that the government withdraw its application to terminate the bargaining period. The government agreed, with the proviso that if the prison officers' bans were not lifted, it would reapply. The AIRC ordered that, while existing bans may stay in place in the public service, no new bans could be enacted. The union accepted the recommendations and the prison bans have been lifted, but it is obvious that the government is willing to concede little. All other bans are still being implemented. [Bryan Sketchley is a CPSU delegate and a Socialist Alliance member.]

From Green Left Weekly, by Bryan Sketchley, 18 February 2004

Handphone Ban for Civil Servants

All civil servants, especially those manning service counters under the Home Ministry, are prohibited from using their handphones during office hours to enhance efficiency, Sin Chew Daily reported. The daily quoted Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung as saying that the ban would affect departments and agencies under the ministry and that the relevant parties had agreed to it. He said officials should also check on their staff members to ensure that all public complaints were attended to. He added that the ministry would upgrade the computer system at the Immigration Department and National Registration Department (NRD) to enhance efficiency. Chor said his ministry would view members of the public as its "customers" who should receive the best service.

The daily said the ban on the use of handphones was decided at a meeting of the ministry's special operations team chaired by Chor. Members of the team, which is co-chaired by the ministry's other Deputy Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin, comprised representatives from the police, Immigration and Prison departments as well as the NRD and Registrar of Societies. Chor said the meeting also suggested that Federal Reserve Unit personnel be deployed to help traffic police to ease traffic congestion during peak hours, especially in Kuala Lumpur. On another issue, Sin Chew Daily quoted an Election Commission official as assuring voters that they could still vote in their original constituencies even though their applications to change constituencies were being processed.

From The Star, Malaysia, 20 February 2004

700 Civil Servants Face Dismissal

Surabaya - The government is processing the dismissals of some 700 civil servants for joining political parties, a Cabinet minister says. State Minister for Administrative Reform Faisal Tamin said in Surabaya, East Java, on Wednesday that the number of civil servants who had joined political parties was negligible compared to the total number of civil servants, which is about 3.5 million. "A civil servant has to make a clear choice between political parties and the bureaucracy. Once they become members of political parties, they immediately lose their civil servant status," Faisal said. Government Regulation No. 12/1999 says civil servants must resign if they wish to join a party. "That must be stated clearly because we do not want the bureaucracy to side with any party," he said.

From Jakarta Post, Indonesia, 20 February 2004

More Scientists and Engineers Among High-level Civil Servants

An Increasing number of civil servants in science, engineering, and technical fields are being promoted to higher positions in accordance with the government principle of preferred promotion for technicians. On February 20, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) explained, after the Participatory Government set out, 10 first class civil servants in technical field had passed the performance appraisal, an increase from the six people who passed during the same period in the former administration. In particular, public administrators or those who passed the national exam were usually appointed for jobs such as vice-chief of the Korea Forest Service, the assistant secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the commissioner of Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal, and deputy administrator of the Public Procurement Service.

However, in recent personnel shifts, expert technicians in fields of forestry, agriculture, marine science, and engineering had filled those positions. Civil servants in the field of science and engineering have also been appointed or nominated to be section directors or chiefs, such as the deputy minister of Planning and Management Office in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, the head of Civil Defense and Disaster Management in the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, and the director general of the Budget Management Bureau in the Ministry of Planning and Budget.

More and more people in science and engineering fields are being appointed to be the ministers or vice-ministers in state affairs as well, including Minister Oh Myung of Science and Technology, Minister Lee Hee-beom of Commerce, Industry, and Energy, Minister Chin Dae-je and Vice Minister Kim Chang-kon of Information and Communication, Minister Huh Sang-man of Agriculture and Forestry, Minister Kim Hwa-joong of Health and Welfare, Minister Kwak Kyul-ho of Environment, Vice Minister Kim Young-nam of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and Commissioner Shim Chang-koo of the Korea Food and Drug Administration. "Until recently, those who passed the national administrative exam recorded their administration-related graduate degrees instead of their undergraduate majors," said a CSC spokesperson. "Nowadays, the first thing they note is their undergraduate degrees."

From Donga, South Korea, by Hyun-Doo Lee (ruchi@donga.com), 20 February 2004

Civil Service Chief Reveals Fall in Graft

There is no evidence to suggest a resurgence of corruption within the civil service, Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong said yesterday. In a written statement to the Legislative Council, he said that while the number of cases referred to the government for disciplinary action had risen, the number of corruption reports received by the Independent Commission Against Corruption fell last year compared with 2002. "We have analysed the ICAC Operations Review Committee referrals in 2003 and found that the increase was attributable mainly to the presence of several group cases where a number of officers were implicated," he said. The number of corruption reports concerning the government sector dropped by nearly 6per cent, from 1,638 in 2002 to 1,541 last year, and the number of civil servants prosecuted for corruption offences dipped from 51 to 50. But officers who were referred to bureaus or departments for disciplinary or administrative action rose nearly 42 per cent, from 165 to 234.

The number of corruption reports involving the police dropped from 565 in 2002 to 532. However, the number of referrals involving members of the police force increased from 58 in 2002 to 96 last year. "The situation is being closely monitored", Wong said. "A large number of these allegations relate to acts of misconduct or non-compliance with police procedures rather than corruption or acts tending to suggest corruption." He said upon receipt of a referral, the department head will conduct an investigation on whether disciplinary action should be instituted. ``Should sufficient evidence exist to substantiate a disciplinary charge, formal disciplinary action under the public service [administration] order, or the relevant disciplined services legislation in the case of staff of certain ranks in the disciplined services departments, would be taken against the officer,'' he said. Investigations into 84 of the 234 officers who were the subject of referrals last year have been completed. Of the 84 officers, 32 have been disciplined with punishments ranging from written warnings to dismissal. Wong said 22 of the 234 cases involved suspected "dereliction of duty", and 30 concerned ``association with undesirable elements''.

From The Standard, Hong Kong, 20 February 2004

Pay Offer to Public Servants Welcomed

A $150 million pay offer for Tasmanian public servants received a warm welcome from unions yesterday. The deal, which involves a 14.75 per cent pay rise over three and a half years, was put to unions late on Wednesday by the State Government. It equates to a weekly increase of $86 for workers earning $30,000, rising to $142 for staff on $50,000. Union spokesman Chris Brown yesterday said the offer would be put to members of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, the Health and Community Services Union and the Community and Public Sector Union at mass meetings Statewide next week. "I don't anticipate any problems in them endorsing the agreement," he said. "It is a good agreement and we are quite happy to take it back to members and recommend it. "It works out to about 4.1 per cent per annum, which is more than other public sectors are getting on the mainland."

He said Queensland workers only managed to secure about 3.8 per cent heading into the recent state election. The deal follows six months of negotiations over a new State service wages agreement, which covers about 15,000 public sector workers excluding emergency services personnel, teachers and nurses. It also included important provisions to deal with other issues such as work overload and vacancy controls. Industrial Relations Minister Judy Jackson said public servants would receive a pay rise of 7 per cent this year and 3.5 per cent for the next two years on December 1 at a cost of $150 million. Unions were seeking an 18 per cent pay hike over three years. "This is the best offer that has ever been made to public sector unions in Tasmania," she said.

Asked if nurses, police, firemen and ambulance staff could expect a similar deal, Ms Jackson said they, too, would receive a "good offer" from the Government. "Of course, we value them too," she said. "We will be making them an offer, a good offer, and an offer that we can afford. "This offer that we have made to the public service we can afford. "It was within our Budget forecasts. "It is affordable. It is not going to affect the debt strategy one bit." She said it provided a good basis for negotiations with other public service workers. Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Damon Thomas said he hoped it would not impact on the State's aim to eliminate net debt by 2008.He also sought assurance that the pay offer would not be financed through increased taxation.

From Tasmania Examiner, Australia, by Maria Rae and AAP, 19 February 2004

Civil Servants Must Change Attitude, Says Samsudin

Kuala Lumpur - Although the Government has provided civil servants with a modern working environment, various facilities and benefits including better salary schemes, the public sector's achieve-ments are still far from excellent. This, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said, was mainly due to the attitude of civil servants. "There are civil servants who have still not changed their attitude. This is a small group of people, but they put their own interests above the nation," he said at the National Joint Council General and Support Group biennial delegates conference at a hotel in Taman Maluri, here. Samsudin's speech was read by Public Services Department directorgeneral Tan Sri Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri. This was distressing because complaints were still being received about civil servants who were underperforming, he said. "Complaints such as civil servants not being efficient, unfriendly, cor-rupt, untrustworthy and many more are tarnishing the image of the public service, although the number is small," he added. Samsudin said the Government had taken various measures such as making it mandatory for civil servants to declare assets, and organising activities to inculcate good and clean values, to fight corruption and other unhealthy traits among civil servants.

For Malaysia to be more competitive, the service sector must be more efficient, said Samsudin. "More importantly the service sector must be customer-oriented, bureaucracy-free and clean," he added. Samsudin said the public sector played an important role in the nation's economic growth. "Its role is to make it easier for growth," he said. He also stressed that investors and entrepreneurs would only invest in a country which was not only peaceful and harmonious but also had an administrative system that was capable, efficient and transparent. "That is why the Government is serious in improving the public ser-vice system," he added. He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had drawn up guidelines for the public service to ensure all its systems, regulations and working procedures were reviewed and improved. He urged all heads of department to take immediate action to realise the directives drawn up by the Prime Minister. He said the Government was willing and had proven its readiness to provide various facilities for civil servants to ensure they were more efficient and productive.

Besides providing a modern conducive working environment with sophisticated equipment, Samsudin said, the Government had provided other facilities such as housing with affordable rental, as could be seen in Putrajaya. "This is in addition to other facilities and improvements to salary scheme and services introduced," he added. Despite all this, Samsudin said the Government was still facing difficulties in developing the service sector - all because of the attitude of the civil servants. Samsudin hoped civil servants would give their undivided support to the Government in the fight against unhealthy traits prevailing among civil servants. The Government, he said, through various programmes organised by PSD, the National Institute of Public Administration and Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit, among others, would further boost public service to help it achieve a world class status. "Our public service has attained a standard praised by many a nation because of the worker-employer relationship, which is harmonious. "The Government works together with Cuepacs and other workers unions. We believe in meetings and discussions to resolve workers issues, thus preventing confrontations with the Government," he added.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Annie Freeda Cruez, 17 February 2004

Transfers and Postings in Federal Bureaucracy

Islamabad - The government on Saturday ordered a reshuffle of the federal bureaucracy and also announced the retirement of some senior officers from various groups of the civil services. The Establishment Division (ED) on Saturday announced many transfers, postings and the extension in the leave of some officers working in other organisations. Syed Masood Shah, a BS-22 officer at the Police Services of Pakistan and currently working as Punjab Police Inspector General, will retire form service on April 1. Maj (r) Mohammad Akram, a BS-21, will also retire from service on April 18. Another PSP officer of BS-20, Salimullah, who was officer on special duty, has been appointed National Police Bureau Director in Islamabad. Civil Services Academy Director General Abdur Rasheed Khan, who is a BS-22 officer at the Secretariat Group, will retire on May 30. Rao Ahmed Sheriff, a BS-20 officer at the National Savings and currently posted as joint secretary in the ED, has been transferred to the Finance Ministry. However, Nawaz Ahmed Sheikh, from the Secretariat Group, has been transferred and appointed as the joint secretary in the ED.

He was officer on special duty before this new appointment. Nawaz Ahmed Solangi, a BS-19 officer at the Secretariat Group, has also been promoted to BS-20 and appointed as the joint secretary and Management Services Wing director general in ED. Sultan Ahmed Khan, from the Secretariat Group, has also been appointed as joint secretary and Management Services Wing director general in ED. Mohammad Shah Zaman, a BS-19 officer at the Secretariat Group, has been appointed as Human Right Regional Office director in Peshawar. Faizan Safdar, a BS-18 officer at the PSP and currently posted to the NWFP, has been asked to report to the ED. The ED also notified the extension in the leave of two DMG officers of BS-18, Musharraf Rasool and Ali Tahir. Both are working in the Asian Development Bank on deputation. Asim Imdad Ali, a BS-18 officer from the DMG working as Civil Services Academy deputy director in Lahore, has been transferred to the Administrative Staff College in Lahore. Amana Hassan, from the Income Tax Group, has been transferred to the Civil Services Academy in Lahore under the Section 10 of the Civil Services. Usman Akhtar Bajwah, a BS-18 officer and posted as officer on special duty, has been given a one-year extension in his leave.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 21 February 2004

Local Public Servants Get Shorter Work Hours

The Public Management Ministry compiled a bill to allow local public servants to work fewer hours to attract a wider range of skills to jobs in local governments. The bill aims to revise the Local Civil Service Law so that regular employees of local governments, who currently are required to work 40 hours a week in principle, will be able to choose shortened work hours of at least 20 hours a week. The ministry plans to submit the bill to the current ordinary Diet session in March. Though the law stipulates that work hours of local public servants can be decided by local ordinances, all local governments set the standard at 40 hours a week, in line with the working week of national public servants. The bill aims to change the stipulation to allow shorter working hours. After the revision is made, the ministry will issue an administrative guidance for ordinances to local governments to set the minimum work hours at 20 hours a week. The revision will enable local public servants to participate in volunteer activities before their retirement, and to attend graduate schools to pursue studies related to their work in the future.

The ministry also plans to revise a law on employment of local public servants who are hired on limited term contracts so the system can be applied to general administrative posts. The revision aims to give local governments more flexibility to recruit workers to cope with temporary workload increases for hosting national sports festivals and other events. The administrative workers on limited term contracts also will be allowed shorter work hours, enabling them to work only in mornings or afternoons at service counters. The change is expected to make it easier for housewives to take the jobs. The ministry intends the weekly work hours of such administrative workers will be between 16 and 32 hours. The system of hiring people on limited term contracts initially aims to employ those with highly specialized knowledge from the private sector as public servants for up to five years. The law on limited term contracts for local public servants was enacted in July 2002. In this fiscal year, the Kanagawa prefectural government recruited a former employee of Ricoh Co. as a section chief for promotion of information technology under the system.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Yomiuri Shimbun, 22 February 2004

'Policemen Are Public Servants, Not Bosses'

Supt. Salvador Manga Jr., who has served a week as chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) 7, will be turning 49 this week. He is single. Manga succeeded Supt. Edwin Diocos, who led the unit in its share of sensational cases, one of those the arrest of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. in his turf in Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte. The CIDG also had a couple of brushes with other government agencies, such as the Bureau of Customs and the National Bureau of Investigation, in cases that raised questions of territorial jurisdiction. "I won't do that here," assures Manga, who was in the Directorate for Intelligence in Camp Crame, prior to this present assignment. He says his CIDG 7 will put crime syndicates on top of their OB (order of battle) files. With his men, he'll try to look for a pattern in the recent crimes in the region and see if a larger plot looms behind them. Meanwhile, he says, "I'll try to see if I'll spend my birthday here or at home in Bicol. My mother has called up to ask." During the Sunday interview, the PMA graduate (Batch 1977) had to wear his uniform on top of his shorts for the pictorials. "Akala ko interview lang," he says, and smiles.

Beside his office desk was his hamper, half-filled with freshly pressed clothes. "I reminded my officers that they are not bosses. They are public servants," he says. How was your first week in office? First thing, I laid down some of my policies. I exhorted my people here to extend the same cooperation they gave to my predecessor, Colonel Diocos. I gave them an idea of how I might conduct my office. In the first week, we already have three accomplishments. First, we arrested this rapist, who is charged with two counts of rape. He's been wanted since 2000. This boy is still 17 years old, and the case happened in 2000 yet, you can just imagine how young he was when he did it. The girl was about 10 years old. After that we applied for a search warrant for illegal drug violation. We were able to apprehend Lynn Anne Cabase, the owner of the house, and her brother-in-law, Inocentes Cabase, for violation of RA 9165. They've been charged in court. Then just two days ago, my team in Bohol implemented a search warrant for possession of ingredients for explosives, ammonium nitrate. We seized more than 60 packs. These packs were in a bag of a kilo each, ready for distribution.

We believe this ammonium nitrate will be used for blast fishing. What are these policies you laid down for your men? I reminded them that police operatives are not bosses, but servants of the people. The taxpayers are the ones paying for our sustenance. We give them service in return. I told them that we must be courteous and friendly to the people. You think the police needs constant reminding on this? Yeah, we really have to remind them. Because there are instances when some policemen act like bosses. So I reminded them that is not supposed to be the case. It came out in the news that you'll prioritize going against crime syndicates. How do you intend to conduct operations against crime syndicates? First of all, I've instructed my intelligence officers to update our OB (order of battle) files and then study all those incidents in Region 7 since the start of the year, the sensational cases. We'll try to study, analyze them, look for some pattern. We'll then identify all those suspects. We'll create special teams to go after them, to have some kind of concentration. We'll create special teams to go after criminal gangs in the area. You were into fraud investigations prior to this assignment? Yes, I was with the anti-fraud special crimes division in Camp Crame.

How was that job? I was only there for more than a month, and I was then assigned here in Cebu City. Somehow my stint there gave me more ideas on how to conduct such investigations. How do you look at intelligence work or investigation work in this country? What are the strengths and weaknesses? I really don't want to go into that, as it is the forte of the people who conduct intelligence work. Although we conduct intelligence work here also, criminal investigation is reactive, while the detection part is proactive. Ours is intelligence work in aid of investigation. That's why one of the instructions I gave my officers is to assess the incidents that have occurred in Region 7, try to look for some patterns and try to preempt their next move. That's actually intelligence. What were your experiences as far as fighting syndicated crimes is concerned? Actually, I don't have much experience as far as syndicated crimes are concerned, recently. Although I'm a balikbayan here in CIDG. I was assigned with the Criminal Investigation Service before, before my Cebu Metrodiscom assignment. Smuggling cases have been recurring in Cebu. Will the CIDG 7 under your leadership take part in the fight against smuggling? Smuggling is actually the primary turf of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

We're supposed to have some kind of Memorandum of Agreement with the BOC before we go into that. Although there are laws somehow related with the functions of the BOC, which we are mandated to enforce. How far will you go in apprehending smuggled items, for example? Probably, if we discover the violation after those goods already came out of the BOC area, and if we see them, we'll apply for a search warrant and implement it. But intercepting all those vans that come out of the pier area, that we won't do. We'll try to discover the contents of those vans, confirm them after they've been delivered to the warehouses, and if we discover that they've violated laws, then we'll have to take appropriate action, but not interception. These cases have caused clashes among government agencies. Yes, yes. That I wouldn't do here in Region 7, and besides, I've already received instruction from higher authorities to avoid getting into it. At what stage are you in terms of familiarizing yourself with Region 7? I'm still in the process of familiarizing myself with the area. One of my priorities is to visit my teams in Bohol and Negros Oriental.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Januar E. Yap, 22 February 2004

Civil Service Payout Capped

Limit on redress to government employees who resign under special scheme - The payout for government and statutory board employees who opt to leave under the Special Resignation Scheme (SRS) will be capped at 25 years of service. The new ceiling - one month's pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 25 years - which is already the norm in the private sector, will take effect for civil servants from Monday. The cap was one of several proposals made in 1997 by a tripartite committee which dealt with extending the retirement age in Singapore beyond 60. Firms began to implement it two years later. The recommendations came in the wake of the regional economic slowdown and private sector firms that needed to manage their costs applied the changes more immediately.

The civil service also accepted the recommendations but no time frame was set for when it would implement all of them. The Public Service Division (PSD) said in a statement yesterday it was aligning the formula under which SRS payouts are made to the committee's recommendations. A PSD spokesman acknowledged the time lag between when the proposals were made and yesterday's announcement, but said it was simply a question of scheduling its implementation. There is currently no ceiling on the number of years of service when SRS payouts are calculated. The scheme was introduced in April 1988. It allows civil service or statutory board employees who are made redundant and cannot be redeployed to leave their organisation with compensation.

Currently, under the SRS, affected employees with at least three years' service are paid one month of their last drawn gross salary for each year of service. Employees with less than 18 months of service before they reach the age of 62 are paid either one month for each year of service or the salary they would receive until they reach 62, whichever is lower. Revising the formula to calculate the payout will ensure it 'is aligned to private sector practices', the PSD said. It added that all restructuring exercises carried out after March 1 will use the revised formula. The civil service, at 60,000 strong, is Singapore's biggest employer.

From Straits Times, Singapore, 27 February 2004

Public Servants Better Off than Private Sector Workers

The average full-time worker in Australia now earns just under $940 for a standard week's work. The latest Bureau of Statistics figures for full-time adult ordinary time earnings, match yesterday's wage cost index and show the earnings of public sector employees continue to outstrip their private sector counterparts. The November quarter figures show public servants are now more than $116 a week better-off than privately employed workers.

From ABC Online, Australia, 25 February 2004

 

Dewar 'Let Civil Servants Deal with Holyrood Project'

Late First Minister Donald Dewar took a "step back" from involvement in the Holyrood project and handed responsibility to civil servants, the official inquiry into the spiralling cost of the building heard today. Mr. Dewar maintained only an "informal" system of keeping himself up to date about what was happening when he turned his attention to other affairs in 1998. Mr. Dewar's former principal private secretary, Kenneth Thomson, said the then Scottish Secretary did not regard the decision as unusual because he had plenty of other important matters to deal with. The latest revelation came as the official inquiry, led by Tory peer Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, reconvened following a six-week break. Counsel for the inquiry, John Campbell QC, asked Mr. Thomson whether Mr. Dewar had been kept informed after the selection of the Catalan designer Enric Miralles in July 1998.

Mr. Thomson replied: "Probably, in a general sense, there were informal contacts with key officials but in terms of formal input and reporting, the decision-taking process was that he had been involved in the decisions about the designer and he had then taken a step back." He said: 'There's the project, it's up to you officials to get on with it'. That is how most business gets done when you've got a minister with engagements across such a wide range of responsibilities." Lord Fraser later pressed Mr. Thomson, 41, on whether he had been made aware of "unease" following the resignation of project manager Bill Armstrong in late 1998. Mr. Armstrong quit amid increasing frustration over the performance of Mr. Miralles and the ability of his civil service colleagues to tackle the issue.

Mr. Thomson said: "I'm fairly confident that Mr. Dewar would have been in touch on general things, whether the project was either motoring ahead or facing difficulties. "He would have had a general flavour and he would have got that from discussions with the relevant officials on one of his visits." But Lord Fraser insisted that there was a "dearth" of minutes to and from Mr. Dewar about the Holyrood project around this time. Mr. Thomson replied: "Remember what other business was going on. It's not that these minutes weren't happening, it's just that they were not happening on this subject." The civil servant commented that it had been "unusual for Mr. Dewar to be so heavily involved in the process of selecting Mr. Miralles because he was so busy".

He added: "So it was unusual for Mr. Dewar to be so involved at the early stage - it's more a question of that than the absence of involvement at a later stage. "That's more routine." Apart from this issue Mr. Thomson generally defended his former boss and rejected suggestions that he had made up his mind to go to Holyrood before the announcement on January 6, 1998. Commenting on the late entry of Holyrood as a possible location, he said: "I'm clear that Mr. Dewar was adding another runner to the race not declaring that the race was over." Mr. Thomson also offered an amusing insight into the mind of Mr. Dewar, suggesting that he was well-informed on matters of high culture but less clued up about popular culture. He said: "I always thought he would have done well on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire as long as he could phone a friend on pop music. "He once referred to someone called Broccoli Spears". The inquiry at the Scottish Land Court in Edinburgh is trying to find out why the cost of the project has risen more than ten times to stand at more than £400 million.

From The Scotsman, UK, By Leigh Arnold, 3 February 2004

Civil Service Jobs Target

The prospect of thousands of civil service jobs moving from London to Liverpool has moved a step closer after the city performed well in a government-commissioned study. Property consultants King Sturge named Liverpool as one of the top locations in the country for the jobs if they are moved out of the overheated capital. The city is recommended for five out of six categories of public sector employment, in an analysis conducted for Whitehall. And the categories include the most highly-prized and highly-paid jobs - those in policy-making and science. The detailed study is a big boost for Liverpool's chances of grabbing the civil service jobs which are recognised as a key factor in stimulating economic growth. It will be used by all government departments who must meet Chancellor Gordon Brown's pledge to move at least 20,000 jobs out of the capital. Liverpool is also recommended for jobs in information technology and finance, as well as for basic and "interactive" call centre employment, on hotlines such as NHS Direct.

The study is also great news for Warrington, which is picked out as a strong contender in the lucrative fields of specialist science and policy-making. Wirral is recommended for clerical staff and for all types of call centre jobs. Knowsley, Sefton and Chester, however, have missed out on a recommendation. Mr. Brown pledged last year that at least 20,000 public sector jobs will move, to ease pressures in the capital and boost economic growth in the North. Around 230,000 civil servants - about a third of the total - are based in London and the South East, a tally that has grown by four per cent since 1997. The King Sturge study analysed 102 towns and cities with a population greater than 100,000 outside London and its wider region. The criteria used included unemployment, average earnings, catchment population, office stock, office rents and empty government buildings. Sir Michael Lyons, the former academic carrying out the review for the Chancellor, is expected to lean heavily on the King Sturge analysis, which he commissioned.

His report has already been delayed from last autumn because of a reluctance among civil servants to agree to a move. It is now expected to be published in March. A Treasury spokesman said: "It will be up to individual departments to look at which functions and staff can be moved to which locations." Back in October, the Town and Country Planning Association urged the Government to relocate the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - headed by John Prescott - to Merseyside. It said Liverpool would be the ideal home for the powerful department, because of its long history of driving forward initiatives to regenerate the city. How they scored: Liverpool: CC, ICC, HV, P, S; Warrington: P, S; Wirral: CC, ACC, BO. Key: CC = call centres (form distribution, data processing); ICC = interactive call centres (NHS Direct, Inland Revenue); BO = back office (clerical staff); HV = high value back office (information technology, human resources, finance); P = policy making (mostly staff with degrees and further education); S = science (mostly staff with degrees and further education); Knowsley, Sefton and Chester were not recommended.

From Icliverpool, UK, by Rob Merrick, 2 February 2004

No End in Sight to Bitter Civil Servants' Pay Row

Relations between Northern Ireland civil servants and their employers soured further today as a union leader clashed with a government department. NIPSA general secretary John Corey denounced the Department for Social Development (DSD) for threatening action against any staff member who refuses to undertake normal duties. The warning was issued after the union had asked civil servants not to answer phones in support of action by switchboard operators. A further one-day strike across the civil service is due to be held tomorrow, with no end in sight in the bitter pay dispute. Mr. Corey said: "The Northern Ireland Civil Service is now sinking to an all time low in its treatment of its staff and its conduct of industrial relations." But the DSD was insistent that it had to protect services to the public. A spokesperson for the department said: "Unfortunately we now find ourselves forced into a position where we must consider taking action, including sending home without pay any officer who will not carry out normal duties."

The DSD's responsibilities include social security and the spokesperson also said: "The public we serve are often the most vulnerable groups and individuals in our society and they depend heavily on the support and services provided by staff from this department. "This industrial action, which has been ongoing for eight weeks, has begun to impact significantly on services and we would ask our staff to think carefully before continuing to participate in this industrial action." NIPSA is seeking an increase on a pay deal package that will add 3.67% to the overall wages bill. The Government says no more money is on the table and is already in the process of implementing the package rejected by the union. NIPSA is asking its 20,000 members in the civil service to stage a full one-day strike tomorrow. Selective action by key groups of workers is also continuing. A three-day stoppage by switchboard telephonists at government departments will finish today. Next week, meat plant inspectors are due to go on strike.

From Belfast Telegraph, UK, by David Gordon (dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk), 5 February 2004

White Paper on Public Service Is "Written by Bureaucrats for Bureaucrats", Says the GRTU

The message that small enterprises are the backbone of the European economy is coming in loud and clear, says the Association for General Traders and Retailers (GRTU). The GRTU, which represents the largest number of shop owners in Malta, was expressing its opinion on the public service White Paper specifying areas that it claims have not been given enough attention. The association described the draft as being "written by bureaucrats for bureaucrats" due to the fact that it will not strengthen the public sector's "entrepreneurial spirit" and also that cost effectiveness has not been given the necessary importance. The proposed law is believed to have ignored the problem of financing public service. The nurturing of economic wealth remains the foundation for a better quality of life in Malta, said the GRTU, and therefore public service must be considered in terms of the country's economic success.

The association highlighted the fact that the social and economic sectors compliment each other and social cohesion must therefore be highly valued within Malta's economic development. Although the White Paper does have realistic goals for transparency regarding consultation, the GRTU expressed the need for a better understanding of consultation with all social partners at every stage prior to the approval of a document. It said that this is because Malta must recognise that there are no monopolies, in any sector, capable of autonomously deciding what is best for the country. The GRTU also noted the significance of the financial burden of public service being proportional to the production occurring within the sector. In its review of the proposed law concerning public service, the GRTU stressed the importance that any decision taken by the public sector be consistent with the criteria they have established.

From Malta Independent, Malta, 5 February 2004

DUP Condition for SF Part in Government

The Democratic Unionist Party has declared that it will go into government with Sinn Féin if the IRA puts itself out of business with significant acts of weapons decommissioning. At a conference to launch the party's proposals for restoring the power sharing government in the north, the Reverend Ian Paisley said the days of terrorism must come to an end for good. The party's deputy leader, Peter Robinson, told the news conference in Belfast that it would participate in a government with Sinn Féin only when it was clear that terrorist structures and weaponry had been fully addressed. The proposals were given to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at a meeting yesterday. Reverend Paisley described the meeting with Mr. Blair as a very profitable beginning. In another development, Maurice Morrow, the party chairman from Co Fermanagh, has emerged as the DUP candidate likely to run when Ian Paisley retires from his European Parliament seat this year.

From RTE Interactive, Ireland, 5 February 2004

Howard Vows to Cut Back Civil Service

Michael Howard yesterday branded the civil service a band of faceless bureaucrats and pledged to freeze recruitment if the Conservatives win the next general election. The Tory leader said the government had allowed the civil service to balloon out of all proportion and claimed that for every 1,000 people in Britain, two are doctors, three are police officers - but nine are civil servants. Mr. Howard, in the second phase of his push to reshape Tory policy, said the government should interfere less in the lives of the public, meaning that ministers had to find things their departments should no longer do. He said: "We have over half a million civil servants in the UK. That's seven times as many people as attended last year's FA Cup Final." The recruitment freeze would come into effect from the first day of a new Conservative government. "If we are to succeed in ensuring that government interferes less, ministers and senior officials must be forced to find things that their departments should no longer do," said Mr. Howard. "They should set fewer targets, write fewer reports, generate fewer initiatives, and circulate fewer circulars."

Oliver Letwin, the shadow chancellor, launched the policy yesterday alongside Mr. Howard, with both men standing in front of a board displaying images of blank-faced, bowler-hatted workers. He said that the freeze would affect only administrators and not other people employed by the state, such as in the health and teaching professions. Mr. Letwin said: "The administrative arm of government has acquired 62,000 more hired hands in the last four years. "On the first day after the next election, a Conservative government would freeze recruitment to the civil service across the board. "This freeze would apply to the civil service alone. It would not affect the recruitment of people to work as doctors, nurses or teachers. "One reason for doing this is to save money. But the main reason is to change the culture in Whitehall - to shift the emphasis away from identifying what else the government could do and towards identifying what it should not do." Mr. Letwin acknowledged that the policy, of itself, would not be a vote winner. "I have to say that I do not expect that this measure, taken in isolation, will achieve a single additional vote at a general election."

But he argued that changing the culture of government, so that it interfered less in citizens' lives, could help the Tories to win a general election. Following the announcement, Douglas Alexander, the Cabinet Office minister and Labour's general election strategist, was dismissive of the opposition leader's latest initiative. He said: "We will take no lectures from the man who helped bring us the Tory poll tax and Black Wednesday. Michael Howard's record on waste is a disgrace. He was an economics minister when the Tories wasted £1.5 billion on the poll tax and £4 billion on Black Wednesday. "Another £3.5 billion went on the cost of BSE. The Tories spent more on debt interest than schools." Matthew Taylor, the Liberal Democrats' parliamentary chairman, was also scathing about Mr. Howard's announcement.

He said: "Instead of new thinking, this is a recycled recipe for disaster from the last Conservative manifesto. "It didn't work for William Hague in 2001, and it won't work for Michael Howard in 2005 - all it would do is throw government into a chaos of unanswered phones and unreplied letters." And Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, branded Mr. Howard's announcement to freeze the number of civil servants as "impractical" and out of touch with the work of today's civil service. "This really is a tired old Conservative policy. Civil servants deliver vital frontline public services up and down the country. The fact is that we are not talking about tens of thousands of people earning huge salaries. "The latest statistics show that a quarter of the civil service earns less than £13,750. Rather than being the faceless, bowler-hatted bureaucrats the Tories claim, civil servants cover a huge range of jobs including coastguards, customs officers, immigration officials, issuing passports, tax collection, benefit delivery and driving examiners."

From The Scotsman, UK, by Alison Hardie, 11 February 2004

Politicians Pass Buck to Civil Servants

Lord Fraser's inquiry into the Holyrood scandal descended into bitter recrimination and buck-passing yesterday as MSPs tried to distance themselves from the problems that plagued the project as soon as they took it over. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie is trying to find out why the project is £350 million over budget and two-and-a-half years behind schedule. He is concentrating on the period between May 1999, when MSPs took control and the building was supposed to cost £109 million, to June 2000, when the cost had rocketed to £195 million. But yesterday's internal rows, between those most closely involved during this time burst into the open in the most spectacular fashion. The inquiry was shown a confidential letter earlier this week written by Barbara Doig, the civil servant in charge, in which she accused the MSPs on the Scottish Parliament corporate body of being lazy, forgetful and unable to do their jobs. Now it was the turn of those MSPs, who were supposed to be running the project for the parliament, to answer back.

Andrew Welsh, the SNP MSP who has been on the corporate body since 1999, made it clear that as far as he was concerned, it was Mrs. Doig and the project team who were responsible for the mistakes and problems during that first year. He argued the MSPs had done everything they could to keep the project under control and, in a particularly abrasive reply to Mrs. Doig's criticisms, declared that if she had thought them "too thick" to do the job, she should have told them that. This outpouring of vitriol from both sides demonstrates just how serious the problems were and how communication between those who were supposed to be working together had all but broken down. It will only add to the impression that neither the corporate body nor senior members of the project team had the experience, knowledge, advice or leadership to control a project of this size and complexity. Lord Fraser is trying to find out whether the civil servants were purely to blame for not passing on important warnings about cost increases or whether the politicians were to blame for not doing a better job of controlling the project. In evidence that was at times angry and irascible, Mr. Welsh insisted the MSPs were not to blame.

He said: "If she [Mrs. Doig] felt we weren't understanding then it was surely her duty to make sure we understood. And if she thought we were too thick to understand it was her duty to explain to us where exactly she thought we were getting it wrong." He fiercely rejected suggestions about poor attendance, insisting he and other MSPs attended all but one meeting. "Only one member had a patchy attendance and that was John Young and that was during a period when his wife was suffering from a fatal illness. So I totally reject that. "It's factually inaccurate and given the situation our colleague was in, it's very unfair and she should think about withdrawing that remark." Mr. Welsh also criticised Mrs. Doig for failing to pass on crucial information about cost increases and delays in the Holyrood project. "Did we receive good-quality advice? The short answer I think is 'no'."

He related how, during one meeting, he was so exasperated by the lack of information from the civil servants that he started a "dutch auction", rattling off a series of increasingly high figures from £120 million upwards, asking at each one whether Mrs. Doig could guarantee the final cost would not exceed it. Mrs. Doig was unable to give him the guarantees, a situation John Campbell, QC, the counsel to the inquiry, described as a "pantomime". Robert Brown, a Liberal Democrat MSP who was a member of the corporate body since 1999, was more diplomatic, but also criticised Mrs. Doig. He said: "There was something about her style which did not inspire confidence." He insisted that the "starting point" of the project should be measured from June 2000, when it was officially costed at £195 million, rather than the £40 million first mentioned in 1997, or indeed the £109 million cost which was published when MSPs took over in 1999. If this was taken as the starting point, it would vindicate all the decisions and changes made under the guidance of the corporate body. Mrs. Doig will get her chance to respond when she gives evidence today.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Hamish MacDonell, 12 February 2004

Civil Servants Given Orders: MP

Ottawa - Whistleblowers in sponsorship program point to PMO - One told to write $100,000 cheque for work not performed - Civil servants who worked on the scandal-plagued sponsorship program complained in the past that they were acting on orders from the Prime Minister's Office, an NDP MP says. New Democrat Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre), who was on the public accounts committee when the scandal broke in 2002, said he received "brown envelopes and warm-body whistleblowers" who felt uncomfortable with what they were being asked to do while working in the sponsorship program. "They were told that `Our instructions are coming directly from the PMO,'" Martin said. "We're hoping that these witnesses will now feel comfortable enough to come forward to the public accounts committee. All the arrows and the indicators point to the PMO being the architect of the whole sordid mess."

Martin said one person told him he was asked to write a cheque for $100,000 for work he knew was never performed. "When he objected, they brought in a lawyer who ordered him to sign the cheque. When he objected further, his boss told him, `We're taking our instructions directly from the PMO. Sign it.'" Eddie Goldenberg, Chrétien's former chief of staff, said he saw nothing that hinted millions of dollars were going astray. "I knew nothing about it. ... I had no indication of any problems," Goldenberg said. A day after Auditor-General Sheila Fraser released her scathing report on the sponsorship scandal, which saw millions of dollars funnelled to Liberal-friendly advertising firms, questions remain about who knew about the questionable financial transactions and other wrong-doing in government departments and crown corporations associated with the program. Conservative MP John Williams (St. Albert), who chairs the public accounts committee, has said he received an anonymous tip in the summer of 2002, alleging that the sponsorship program had been used to pay outstanding Liberal debts from the 1997 election.

Williams then sent the tip to the RCMP, who told him they would follow up. Williams said he received "a number" of tips at the time. Martin echoed Fraser's comments to the press following the report's release, saying he believes the vast majority of civil servants behave honourably. He also said he doesn't believe that senior civil servants would break rules unless they were pressured from above. "My theory has always been that senior civil servants don't break every rule in the book as the auditor-general said, unless someone directs you to do so. Why would you jeopardize your 30-year career by breaking rules, unless someone told you to?" Now that the curtain has been lifted on the scandal, a Conservative party official suggested that public servants are more willing to come forward with details about what transpired in the public works department. Interim Conservative Party Leader Grant Hill (Macleod) said several party MPs have received phone calls and e-mails from people claiming to have information about the scandal.

Martin said Chrétien should be held even more responsible for the scandal than former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano. "We believe it goes to the highest, highest level of the Prime Minister's Office, including the (former) prime minister. We're trying to deflect the attention away from the civil servants, many of whom I think were well-meaning people who were coerced, and put it back on the Liberal Party of Canada where it belongs." Martin stressed the need for whistleblower protection so that unanswered questions about the sponsorship scandal can be answered. "We need to grant them safety, amnesty if they will come forward. Because a lot of them knew full well they were doing things that were just clearly wrong and they were uncomfortable and they had to hold their nose and go to work." The need for whistleblower protection re-emerged last summer in the aftermath of the George Radwanski affair, in which the former privacy commissioner's lavish travel and dining expenses came to light partly because of a tip from someone in his office. Denis Coderre, the minister responsible for the Privy Council Office, plans to introduce legislation next month. (With files from Bruce Campion-Smith).

From Toronto Star, Canada, by Mary Gordon, 12 February 2004

MPs and Top Civil Servants to Get 2% Pay Rise

Senior civil servants, MPs and ministers are in line for a 2% pay rise, Downing Street said today. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the Government had accepted the recommendations of the Senior Salaries Pay Review Body which reported today. The increases will see Tony Blair's salary rise from £175,414 to £178,922. For the rest of the Cabinet the rise will see their salaries go from £127,791 to £130,347. Senior civil servants will also be in line for performance-related bonuses ranging from nil to 9%. At the same time, the worst performing civil servants will get a "real terms pay cut" with increases of between nil and 2%. Full details of the pay awards, as well as the pay increases for the armed forces and the prison service, were being announced later today.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Gavin Cordon, 12 February 2004

Senior Civil Servants Win Inflation-busting Pay Rises

Tony Blair's annual salary will rise to £179,000 in a pay round which will award above-inflation increases to senior civil servants, the Prime Minister announced yesterday. Mr. Blair said that from April, MPs and ministers will receive a pay rise of 2 per cent - below the retail price index of goods and services which is 2.8 per cent. However, senior civil servants will receive an average rise of 3.5 per cent. Performance-related pay could increase the pay of senior civil servants by up to 9 per cent, but colleagues deemed less successful could receive far less or even nothing. Senior military officers will receive 2.8 per cent, putting a four-star general on more than £130,000. The changes, recommended by a pay review body, will leave backbench MPs on £57,500, before the addition of expenses, supplements and a generous pension. Cabinet ministers will earn £130,347, less than their permanent secretaries.

The most highly paid member of the civil service is Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary, whose basic salary is £204,999. Advisers to the Prime Minister, permanent secretaries in Whitehall departments and heads of M16, M15 and GCHQ earn more than £125,000 a year. Judges, who currently earn up to £205,200 a year, will get a pay rise of 2.5 per cent. But Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, will take the same salary as other cabinet ministers. His predecessor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, was condemned for taking a 22 per cent rise in salary to £202,736 last year. Civil service unions expressed disquiet yesterday that although some top civil servants could see their pay increase substantially, others may see their pay decrease after the review. Jonathan Baume, general secretary of the FDA, which represents top civil servants, warned that the biggest pay rises could go to new recruits to the civil service from business, journalism and consultancy.

"Evidence is already emerging that senior civil servants appointed directly to post from outside the service are earning higher salaries than internal candidates and this award will only exacerbate this two-tier market in senior posts," he said. The annual report of the review body on senior salaries highlighted the inequality between men's and women's pay in the civil service. Women on average earn 5 per cent less than their male counterparts. But those who go part time after having a baby lose out the most. A review of pay found that the salary difference between those working part time was 13 per cent higher for men. Sandra Gidley MP, Liberal Democrat women's spokesman, said the Government should "be setting an example" to the private sector on equal pay for men and women. "Women who get a bad deal will eventually vote with their feet and go and work for an employer who values their contribution - even if it is a part-time one," she said.

From Independent, UK, by Marie Woolf, 12 February 2004

Civil Servants' Action Continues

Jobcentres and benefits offices in Tayside and Fife were again closed today, or had the services they normally offer substantially restricted, as hundreds of civil servants in both areas staged strike action for the second day this week, writes Ian Findlay, industrial reporter. A pensions call centre in Dundee and a Child Support Agency office in Kirkcaldy were among the premises affected today. A number of the Department of Work and Pensions offices involved were again picketed by members of the Public and Commercial Services Union as part of their industrial action over pay. It appears the strike was once more having a more severe effect in Fife, with the majority of DWP offices there closed completely. In Tayside, however, most offices were open, but offering varying degrees of restricted service. A DWP spokesperson said the department had been able to open Jobcentre offices in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, but both were offering only limited services. Offices in Cupar and St Andrews were both open and offering near normal services.

As far as Tayside was concerned, there was "less disruption" today compared to yesterday. An extra dimension was added today to the civil servants' ire over salaries when driving examiners across the UK staged their own one-day strike. Although technically a separate dispute, the examiners are also PCS members and their grievance is similarly centred on pay. John Miller, branch chairman of the PCS driving examiners' branch in Scotland, said this afternoon there had been "tremendous support" for the strike action. He believed most driving test centres in Scotland would be either closed, or at best offering only the most limited service. The Driving Standards Agency said up to 5000 tests could be cancelled across Britain because of the strike, including, in Tayside, four in Arbroath, six in Blairgowrie, seven in Dundee, and 14 in Perth, including four LGV tests. Meanwhile, Mr. Ali Arnott, PCS Tayside branch secretary for DWP members, said the effects of the strike action today were broadly similar to yesterday.

Mr. Arnott said further action by PCS members would now include a work-to-rule, a ban on overtime, and a policy of non-co-operation with a performance development system which the DWP was trying to introduce. The PCS staff in the DPW have been seeking a pay deal based around an 8% increase and a "catch up" element, which the union says is necessary to make up for the way members' pay has fallen behind in previous years. The union says what management has offered - in some cases, it claims, only between 2% and 2.5% in real terms - is wholly unacceptable. Mr. Arnott's counterpart in Fife, Brian Nairn, said he was not surprised by the continuing strength of support among the membership in the Kingdom. "The members are angry about the pay levels and the way the issue is being treated by senior management," he said. Mr. Nairn said there was considerable disparity in pay between staff in DWP offices and other Civil Service departments, despite the type of work being done by DWP staff being largely similar to work in other departments. "Obviously members are keen to give their full support for a campaign for decent pay," he said.

From Evening Telegraph, UK, 17 February 2004

Furlonge: A Victory for Public Servants

Dr. Colin Furlonge, Acting Medical Chief of Staff at San Fernando General Hospital, has hailed yesterday's landmark judgment which ruled that there must be no bias in the promotion of public servants. High Court Judge Peter Jamadar ruled that promotions must be based on reasons which are objective and solid and should not be misinformed, biased or frivolous and subject to whims and fancy of Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments. Furlonge had filed for judicial review when he was bypassed to act for Dr Boysie Mahabir, Medical chief of Staff, at the Port of Spain General Hospital. Furlonge said after the judgment: "The constitutional right of the individual in the public service has been upheld, and all public servants will feel more secure as a result of this landmark judgement."

The Medical Professionals Association of Trinidad and Tobago said in a statement it was concerned for Ministry of Health doctors who are expected to be transferred to the regional health authorities later this year. Those doctors are currently represented by the Public Services Association. MPATT said: "At present, doctors working in the RHAs have no such redress to an institution such as the Public Service with its rules and regulations to protect the employees. This is especially so when the doctors of the RHA function under a politically appointed board and managerial level and senior officers such as an executive medical director." It added: "This exposes all doctors to outside interference in their position, function and promotion." An official of the ministry said: "By September, all Ministry of Health workers will be transferred to the RHA in the region to which they are assigned."

From Trinidadexpress.com, by Louis B. Homer, 20 February 2004

Bosses Unhappy with Public Services

Business leaders have expressed "widespread dissatisfaction" with the standard of public services in the UK, with planning coming in for particular criticism. A survey of more than 500 members of the Institute of Directors showed that only 16% were happy with planning services administered by local authorities. A high level of discontent was also revealed with the condition of roads across the UK. Fire and rescue was the most highly regarded service, with three out of four business leaders polled describing it as good. There was also lacklustre support for devolved administrations, with 40% saying they were unhappy with the standard of services provided by the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland administration. Geraint Day, policy analyst at the IoD said: "This survey revealed vastly differing standards of service amongst key public services. "Overall, however, there appears to be widespread dissatisfaction with public services in general, with only the fire service being universally well-regarded. "Local government administered services such as planning and business rates come in for the most damming criticism. "The Government should take heed. "As far as business is concerned there is a feeling there is still a long road to travel before we see an improvement in public services."

From icWales, UK, 15 February 2004

Moves to Slow Growth in Civil Servants' Pay

The Treasury is trying to cut growth in civil servants' earnings by a third this year - just at the time when a string of long-term pay deals aimed at boosting the quality and quantity of staff in schools, hospitals, local government and the civil service itself are taking effect. Guidance issued to departments, which the Financial Times has seen, sets a 3.5 per cent ceiling on earnings increases for the civil service and its agencies in 2004. That is 35 per cent lower than the 5.4 per cent rise that public sector workers had last year. The drive to rein in pay in order to control public spending and borrowing comes as Tony Blair is promising bigger rewards to the most able as part of a renewed civil service modernisation drive. On Tuesday, picking up key themes from the interim findings of Sir Peter Gershon's review of government efficiency, Mr. Blair called for a "smaller, more strategic centre". A string of departments would this summer produce similar proposals to the department of health's plan, which called for a 38 per cent cut in headquarters staff, he said. The number of senior Whitehall employees has jumped 15 per cent to 4,260 since Labour took power, the government revealed on Tuesday.

The Treasury's attempt to control earnings is colliding with its desire to modernise pay structures in order to get a more flexible workforce, according to Alastair Hatchett of the independent pay research organisation Income Data Services. "The government is trying to get pay modernisation within very tight limits, just at a time when it wants better quality staff," he said. The proposed limit on earnings growth covers not just basic pay, but the effects of progression up pay grades, the extra costs from some radical job restructuring, and a growing range of "golden hellos" and "handcuffs" aimed at boosting recruitment and retention in areas of skills shortages. One trade union official said: "This is the hardest line from the Treasury in all the times we have seen the pay guidance in recent years. It is very depressing." The Public and Commercial Services Union, the biggest civil service union, warned it would mean trouble ahead. A pay offer for the Department of Work and Pensions, capped at 3.7 per cent for this year, has already provoked the biggest civil service strike in 15 years.

From Financial Times, UK, by Nicholas Timmins, 25 February 2004

 

Newfoundland Premier Sounding more Conciliatory about Civil Service Wages, Pensions

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams is sounding more conciliatory when it comes to civil service wages and pensions. He met Monday with the head of the provincial federation of labour, Reg Anstey. The labour group has called on the Tory government to scrap its wage freeze and allow civil service pensioners to get their full increase. The province is suggesting it will only give pensioners a point-six per cent increase instead of a planned 1.2 per cent. The measures were imposed as the government wrestles with an $827 million deficit. The Newfoundland Association of Public Employees has threatened to ask its members to make nothing but essential purchases in the month of March as a protest to the wage freeze. Williams hinted that some of his controversial proposals are a bargaining ploy. He says some of them may be withdrawn. But Williams added that decision will come at the bargaining table.

From Canada East, Canada, 3 February 2004

Civil Service to Keep Economic Development Jobs

The state Civil Service Commission agreed Wednesday to continue 17 high-paying state jobs aimed at bringing new business to Louisiana and helping existing companies stay here. The new jobs were created in 2001 as part of an attempt by Gov. Mike Foster to reorganize the Department of Economic Development. Don Hutchinson, Foster's secretary of Economic Development, said Gov. Kathleen Blanco made it clear that she wants to continue the 17 economic development jobs, but she hasn't indicated to him whether she plans to make any big changes to the department. Three of the 17 jobs are now vacant, but Hutchinson said searches are already underway to fill them. Any final decision on candidates for the three jobs will be made by Blanco, Hutchinson said. Hutchinson said he's still hopeful that Blanco will retain him in his current post, even though she's indicated that she's looking at other candidates.

From Baton Rouge Advocate, LA, 4 February 2004

Quebec Freezes Hiring in Public Service

Sudden move fuels union suspicions - Effective immediately, the Liberal government last night ordered a freeze on hiring in the Quebec public service - a sudden move that sent a chill through already frosty relations with unions. Treasury Board President Monique Jérôme-Forget made the announcement late yesterday, in a statement issued just after the close of business. Between now and April 30, no new full-time civil servants will be hired, and departments will have to seek special permission to hire contract or part-time help - and then only if the job to be filled is indispensable. Although she won't comment further until this morning, Jérôme-Forget's statement said current government employees need not fear job losses. "I want to specify that no worker currently in the employ of the public service is targeted by the measure," she said. "This is not an exercise designed to cut the number of professionals we have, but rather a measure to halt the increase of professionals in the public service." The ban is temporary, she added, pending the drafting of a comprehensive human resources strategy for the Quebec government and its agencies.

But the president of the Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec wasn't buying it. Professing himself "perplexed," Michel Sawyer said the move came without warning, and no one can give him a number as to how many jobs are affected. "We can only conclude that the government is trying to give itself room to manoeuvre to eliminate posts without obligation," Sawyer said. "At this moment there's no guarantee that hiring will be unfrozen." Trust is at a low point between unions and the Liberal government after labour led the charge against the fall legislative agenda, including a loosening of laws permitting contracting out. Charest promised during the election campaign last spring that his plans to "re-engineer" the Quebec state would not mean cuts to the bureaucracy. Rather, he said, the main concern was retaining and recruiting employees, since 40 per cent of the public service is set to retire within a decade. But he has also pushed the idea of public-private partnerships in many state domains. "Certainly this (announcement) isn't going to improve our relations with the government," Sawyer quipped. (hanes@thegazette.canwest.com).

From Montreal Gazette, Canada, by Allison Hanes, 11 February 2004

Joe DeCuir Has Set Example for Public Service

There are people you never hear about until they stop doing what you never realized they were doing. And there are people you don't truly miss until they're gone. The Texas City Independent School District board of trustees, no, the entire community of Texas City, will soon learn that about Joe DeCuir. DeCuir has been involved in the school district in one fashion or another for 44 years, including eight as a trustee. He has worked quietly and conscientiously not only on the school board, but as a member of the Galveston Central Appraisal District's board of directors. DeCuir is not a man who blows his own horn and he seldom seeks the spotlight. But, he is a man who can be found doing what he believes is the right thing. He, by all accounts is a man who loves his community and does the best he can to serve it. De Cuir wasn't often quoted in the newspaper.

When he was approached for a comment he rarely answered quickly. He always gave questions some thought and he always tried to provide the best answer he could. But he did more than deal with issues and ideas. DeCuir always tried to keep lines of communication open between people. When he was approached by reporters, even on difficult or contentious issues, DeCuir maintained a positive and friendly demeanor. He is known by many, including many who gather news for a living, as a gentleman. While there are probably few people who know the full scope of DeCuir's work, that doesn't mean his work isn't appreciated. DeCuir has been honored for his commitment to public life. His most recent recognition was the Leslie Memorial Community Service Award which he received from the Texas City La Marque Chamber of Commerce. DeCuir said he would continue his work on the CAD board, and that's a good thing. Our community still needs people who care and are willing to work. Our community still needs people like Joe DeCuir.

From Texas City Sun, TX, by Michael Clements, 1 February 2004

Know your Public Servants: Planning Commission Chairman John York

York to retire after an 11-year tenure - Planning Commission Chairman John York has announced he is stepping down. "I'm quitting in July," he said. "I'm tired and I've had enough of it." York said he had an inkling when he was reappointed the last time that he wouldn't be able to finish his term. It will be councilman Eric Sklar's turn to appoint the next planning commissioner, which influenced his decision, he said. A planning commissioner for nearly 11 years, York has been chairman for nearly as long. "It's been a growth experience," he said. "People that know me and have seen me in action see that I've gotten a lot more patient, curbed my usual responses to what people say rather than let loose like I used to. Though I'm still a little volatile." York became the chairman after Chairman Jim Flannery quit at the end of a particularly difficult meeting. "It's tough sometimes," he said, referring to the challenges of keeping planning commission meetings in order. "I believe the word for it today is multitasking, that is, juggling all the balls in the air, keeping the meeting in order and remembering what you want to say." Keeping order, running the meeting, and finding your position is a trying task for anyone.

He said that former Planning Commissioner Joe Potter used to help as a sort of assistant sergeant-at-arms. After he moved to the city council, Potter's wife, and current Planning Commissioner Kay Philippakis has moved into the role. "And she's as sharp as they come," he said. York explained that he models his leadership style on that of former Planning Commissioner Mary Fryer. "I was taught to let people talk 'til they're done," he said. "People need to say what they're going to say and if you give them time constraints, tempers rise and it is unconstructive; only when people go too far, you have to intervene," York said. York said being chairman can actually detract from one's influence on the commission. "The chairman is the last to vote, the last to speak; that's something I'm not the most comfortable with. It can be restraining. By the time they get to hearing the chairman, most of their minds are already made up, so you don't have the influence of a normal commissioner," he said.

Questioned about specific projects, York said that the Highway 29 Specific Plan is the biggest project in town as it affects the layout of the whole town. He's not happy with the aspect that would allow a new upscale hotel to be built, in order to finance a portion of the project. It would involve raising the room cap, which was set forth by the general plan in 1993. "I don't see how it would do the community any good. This hotel would be part of the process that is wiping out local-serving services. It's nearly impossible to keep local-serving businesses. It's been an uphill battle, I've voted 'no' on projects" and have been overruled. "Seems to be less support for the issue on the commission compared to prior commissions." York said that the proposed Oak Avenue extension is problematic. When it was first put forward in the general plan, "people thought it would be wonderful to be able to drive to the high school without using Main Street. On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea. But there are two schools on Oak [Avenue]; we would have to widen a narrow residential street, trees would have to be removed. Right now we have a 15 mile-per-hour restriction in the area of the schools. There's too many complications."

He added that raising the level of Oak Avenue could affect the flood plain and make flooding around upper Sulphur Creek worse, not only around the city public work's corporation yard, but also at the We Care Animal Rescue, and his machine shop, which he said flooded three times in the past 20 years. He was generally in favor of the flood project, but didn't want to get into details, he said. "I'm not going to second-guess the hydrologists and engineers. The city knows their budget and so we'll get what we get," said York. York's family is a part of early St. Helena history. His great-great-grandfather John was among the first white settlers to ride into the valley from Missouri, in 1845. Chairman York was born in Napa, but moved to St. Helena in 1970. Since he moved Upvalley, he has occupied the York house, which dates from the late 19th century and is located on Dean York Lane, named for his great-grandfather, who was mayor of St. Helena in the 1880s. York has been married to his wife Sandy for almost 30 years; they have two daughters, Emily, 26 and Andrea, 22.

From St. Helena Star, CA, by Jacob Resneck, 12 February 2004

Martin Seeks Immunity for Civil Servants

Prime Minister Paul Martin is asking that immunity be given to civil servants who testify about the sponsorship scandal. Treasury Board President Reg Alcock relayed the request to the Commons Public Accounts Committee Tuesday. Alcock said immunity is necessary so that civil servants can be satisfied they will not lose their jobs or have their careers harmed for testifying before the committee as it investigates who was involved in funneling $100 million from the federal sponsorship fund. But Alcock added there will be no protection or amnesty for criminal activity. Alcock said Martin is asking for the protection arrangement in the absence of whistleblower legislation that has not yet been passed. Meanwhile, the National Post says former prime minister Jean Chretien is prepared to testify before a public inquiry into the case. The paper quoted unnamed sources close to Chretien who say the former leader is prepared to talk to the committee - if called.

His aim would be to show he was unaware of any criminal wrongdoing in the program, say the sources. As well, Chretien's former chief of staff, Jean Pelletier, says he's willing to testify at the inquiry. Pelletier, now the Via Rail chairman, says he's eager to give his side of the story - the sooner, the better. A spokesman for Canada Post chairman Andre Ouellette says the former Montreal Liberal MP is just as eager to testify about what he knows about the scandal. A CTV News/The Globe and Mail poll, conducted by Ipsos-Reid, found that most Canadians want Chretien to tell the inquiry what he knows. The survey found that 90 per cent of respondents said the ex-PM should testify at the coming inquiry, while only eight per cent said he should not.

The same poll also found that 29 per cent of respondents agreed Chretien is most to blame for the scandal, while 22 per cent blamed Martin. Sixteen per cent blamed Alfonso Gagliano, the former minister of public works, and 7 per cent said public servants were to blame. On Monday, Chretien bypassed a throng of reporters, saying he answered questions during his 40 years in politics, and now doesn't have to. Chretien is said to be furious that senior officials with the new Paul Martin government linked him to the sponsorship scandal. But he's not about to get into a war of words with the current PM. Martin, who has also said he's prepared to testify in front of the inquiry, has refused to say whether he believes Chretien should do the same. He says individuals have to make their own decisions.

From CTV, Canada, 17 February 2004

Liberals' PR Strategy Includes Civil Servants

Provincial tactics outlined in memo - Bureaucrats would float `trial balloons' - The provincial Liberals have launched a public relations strategy directing civil servants to float government-sanctioned "trial balloons" to reporters. In a move that critics charge is politicizing the public service, the 15-page secret directive talks about communications "tactics" and includes a how-to manual for bureaucrats to help Liberal MPPs deliver partisan messages. This new strategy was jointly written by the premier's office and cabinet office. The communications directive goes into great details about the "tactical roll-out" of new government initiatives, including softening up the media and the public. "Identify one or a series of tactics that will positively pre-condition media, the public and stakeholders in advance of the launch," the document states. These "pre-conditioning" tactics or opportunities, it says, could include: Floating trial balloons in a speech. Story placement in the media, through proactive "pitches." Highlighting prospective government policies at public events or announcements.

The document also directs civil service staff to "identify" government-friendly groups likely to support a particular announcement and assist Liberal MPPs to put out news releases and write opinion pieces. Tory MPP John Baird (Nepean-Carleton) said the deliberate attempt to get the civil service to do the government's bidding was "outrageous." "This is a politicization of the bureaucracy that is unprecedented," he said. "I've never seen anything like this. To actually codify political tactics in a public service memo is just unprecedented. To use words like trial balloon and political tactics is outrageous. "The public service is supposed to be neutral and non-biased. It's not supposed to be an arm of the Liberal party." Since the Liberal government has cancelled partisan advertising, it is fixated on getting so-called "earned media" with a special emphasis speaking to reporters beyond the Queen's Park press gallery.

David Guscott, deputy minister of communications and associate secretary of cabinet, sent the communication strategy on Feb. 11. Guscott insisted yesterday it is only a draft document, even though his own memo 10 days ago clearly stated: "Please use this template when preparing all communications plans starting today." The final document, he said, will clearly spell out what the domain of political staff will be and what civil servants will be required to do in assisting the government in its communications strategy. "The government has asked us to be very careful to separate the public service piece from the political side of it. I can assure you that no public servants will be doing the political side to the communications," Guscott said. He emphasized that "trial balloons" probably won't be in the final version. New Democrat MPP Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth) said the directive "crosses a very serious line." "This is taking civil servants, who are suppose to be non-political and give their best judgment, and turning them into political staff," she said. "They are asking civil servants to do their political dirty work for them."

From Toronto Star, Canada, by Richard Brennan, 19 February 2004

Politicians Aim to Save at Civil Servants' Expense

Longtime federal employees know that this is the time of year when bean counters - elected and appointed - present their laundry lists of ways to save money at the expense of civil servants and retired government workers. Most times those recommendations, such as proposals to boost tax revenue by eliminating the home-mortgage interest deduction, never come to pass. They permit the politician who proposes them to say he (or she) tried, they grab headlines, they justify the existence of some organizations, and they scare the liver out of whatever group is being targeted. It's a political dart game played with beanbags. Savvy civil servants learn not to lose too much sleep while horrible changes or cuts in pay, insurance or other benefits are being considered. But that was then, and this is now. This year active-duty feds, retired government workers and their spouses would be wise to stay tuned. Don't panic, but stay tuned. The reason is that some of the proposals that soon will come out of the Senate and House budget committees or the Congressional Budget Office will be considered seriously.

They will range from plans that would trim federal health costs, by trimming benefits or herding workers and retirees into different plans, to proposals that could tie federal pay to the cost-of-living index rather than the cost-of-labor yardstick now required. Federal retirees get raises based on inflation. This year, they got a 2 percent adjustment. Federal workers will wind up with a 4.1 percent raise, retroactive to January, for the year. Although many feds refer to their annual pay increases as cost-of-living adjustments, their politically controlled raises have far outstripped inflation in the past decade. Agencies that once spoke cautiously about maybe, possibly, perhaps, someday exploring the idea of pay for performance now assume they will be under it within two years. The pay-for-performance concept, which brings cheers from private-sector types, would base workers' pay raises on grades they get from their bosses.

Automatic January increases no longer would be automatic, and the within-grade longevity raises, worth 3 percent, that workers get every one, two or three years would be ended. The Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security are moving to set up those systems. Other agencies will follow. Feds fear it will mean a return to the spoils system. Contracting out, which has eliminated thousands of federal jobs, will continue with the blessings of the White House and many members of Congress from both parties. Political appointees like contractors, because they generally do good work and because they often are more responsive than tenured career civil servants. More agencies will be encouraged or forced to eliminate programs with the slack taken up by contractors. More agencies will be urged to make it tougher for federal workers - fighting for their jobs in competitive-bidding exercises - to win. o Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

From Washington Times, DC, by Mike Causey, 25 February 2004

 
 

Bayelsa to Train Civil Servants On IT

Yenagoa - In a bid to make the citizenry acquire the tools for globalisation and new information world order, the Bayelsa State government is to organise a seminar on Information Technology (IT). The seminar which will also involve members of the state Executive Council, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, top government functionaries and civil servants will be achieved with the Information Technology project currently being developed by government. This was disclosed by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Communication and Information Technology, Deacon Bea Kpou, shortly after the launching of the Bayelsa State website in Yenagoa. Kpou said Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is giving I.T the desired attention, and that the state cannot afford to be left behind in the new World Information order.

Apart from the seminar on I.T., she said stakeholders in the industry would be invited to Bayelsa State to display the Millennium Information Technology during the formal launching of DSP Information Technology later in the year. She called on the people of the state and others wishing to visit the state to log into the state website at www.bayelsagov.com to gather information about the state. According to her, the encouragement and attention the website is already receiving show that the investment tour of Governor Alamieyeseigha is beginning to bear fruitful results. Meanwhile, a new Chief Medical Director has been appointed for the State Hospital Management Board. He is Dr. Fabuku Singabele. His appointment followed the recommendation of the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Ayebapreye Baralatei. Singabele, a Consultant Surg-eon who has been the Acting Chief Medical Director for more than a year, was until his new appointment the Director of Me-dical and Dental Services of the Hospitals Management Board.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by John Iwori, 3 February 2004

Abia State Civil Service and the Emerging Order

There is no gainsaying the fact that a strong, virile, and well-motivated Civil Service is an important fulcrum upon which the machinery of government and governance rests. Any government that knows its onions will recognise the fact that the bulk of actions and policy implementation groundwork lay concretely within the conclave of a Civil Service structure. The administration of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu since coming on stream in 1999 has consistently carried out actions and reforms aimed not only at strengthening the state's Civil Service but also repositioning it towards properly imbibing the new spirit of leadership currently sweeping through Abia State. This administration is enforcing teamwork, efficient conduct of government business, and a high sense of activity. Government functionaries have joint and several responsibilities for the full control and supervision of materials and financial resources at their disposal. Their functions, which have been clearly spelt out, are being discharged with full and proper understanding of the mechanism, rules and regulations, guidelines, laws and other instruments covering all aspects of responsibilities assigned to them.

On a broader scale, the Civil Service is the hub of a nation. It is the bedrock of all political, economic and social policies enunciated of government. In many countries, it is a bulwark of stability and continuity. Thus even though governments come and go, the Civil Service continues to function like a well-oiled machine. For example, it is inconceivable to talk of an Italian nation without paying tribute to the stabilising influence of its Civil Service. Similarly, India has been able to withstand the buffeting of many political, ethnic and religious crises it has a responsible Civil Service that doggedly carries on with the job of serving the nation whilst politicians sort themselves out. The Orji Kalu-led administration, with its tripartite policy of probity, accountability and transparency otherwise known as PAT, is striving to return the business of governance back to the glory days of yore when superior financial management was the order of the day. Most things were obtained by requisition, not by paying cash.

Budgets were managed with great diligence and prudence so that it was a matter of great pride for an officer to return to the treasury, unspent monies at the end of every fiscal year. The reform policy is aimed at curtailing - if not totally eradicating - widespread corruption within the Civil Service. One of the attractions of the Old Civil Service was security of tenure. We witnessed the erosion of the independence of the Civil Service. Where intrusions undermined and demoralised the Service. The government is, however, trying to fashion out more subtle and creative ways of managing changes in the Civil Service with a view to ultimately strengthening the self-correcting procedures already in place within the Service rather than interfere with it. A lot of work is being done in re-orientating the existing workforce on the new wave of change going on in Abia State. The orientations are geared towards addressing a single factor - people and their roles in organisational development. Effective management of change calls for a dynamic human resources development and utilisation policy.

This underscores the emphasis the administration has placed on "training and re-training" to ensure that each civil servant in Abia State possesses requisite knowledge, skills, expertise and experience for the performance of his task. Indeed, target setting, performance measurement and monitoring will be beset with intractable problems without the impetus given to systematic basic education and professional and modeled training. It is pertinent to note at this juncture that the Civil Service Commission should not be seen as the enemies of state chief executives and heads of extra-ministerial departments. Rather, they should be friends and counsellors and they should be a tool for proper handling of personnel matters, consistent with the laid-down rules and regulations governing such actions. In this respect, the Commission serves as appellate bodies for all petitions from ministries and extra-ministerial departments, in respect of appointments, promotions and discipline. Remarkably least, this administration has identified teamwork, efficiency, hard work and transparent conduct as propelling factors for the rapid socio-economic development of Abia State. All hands must, therefore, be on deck as the administration cannot afford another round of institutionalised inefficiencies, corruption and lethargy. (Eke wrote in from Umuahia).

From Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria, by John Eke, 3 February 2004

E-Government Revisited

Is South Africa living up to the promise of e-government? Bianca Wright revisits the local e-government landscape and explores the present and future of this developing field. In an ideal e-government situation, this delivery mechanism should improve access to government services, speed things up, and make things more efficient. No more long queues at Home Affairs - e-government should mean you could apply for a visa, passport, or ID book online or through another technologically enabled delivery mechanism. Your driver's licence could be requested, your UIF payment requested electronically, and your pet licence renewed, all without facing a single queue. South Africa is not quite there yet, but it is making progress.

In the 2003 e-government newsletter of Hologram, the Horizontal Learning Programme, a partnership of the South African Local Government Association, the Department of Provincial and Local Government, the Local Government Transformation Programme, and USAID, Shanil Haricharan defines e-government as "the use of ICT to promote more efficient and effective government, facilitate more accessible government services, allow greater public access to information, and make [the] government more accountable to citizens. E-government might involve delivering services via the Internet, telephone, kiosks (self-service or facilitated by others), wireless devices or other communications systems." Already, there is no more dashing to the local SARS (South African Revenue Service) office to file your tax return - you can do that online now with SARS' free e-filing service, which was launched in June 2003. At the e-filing web site (http://www.efiling.gov.za/), you can submit your returns via the Internet and also make secure tax payments online.

SARS is confident that e-filing is the way to go. Its web site states: "As Internet usage in South Africa has soared (both domestic and in businesses), SARS' research clearly expects a high adoption rate amongst taxpayers." The site goes on to say that considering that the online target market of this service stands at approximately 2.5 million individuals, companies, vendors, and employers submitting in excess of 7.5 million returns per annum, and that the annual revenue collected in respect of these returns is R60 billion in VAT, R1.4 billion in SDL (Skills Development Levies), which was due to double in the 2001/2002 tax year, R90 billion in PAYE (Personal Taxes), and R30 billion in Company Tax, it is clear that the offering of this service could lead to a substantial migration from manual processing and payment to e-commerce submission and settlement. SARS lists the benefits of e-filing to the citizen as including a detailed record of all returns and payments submitted to SARS, quicker turnaround time on submissions and queries, additional three- to five-day window to submit certain payments, full support via the Web or dedicated call centre, 24-hours-a-day, all-year-round access to the online service and reminders via email or SMS.

From SA Computer Magazine, 6 February 2004

Aids 'Eroding Public Service'

The Aids pandemic is threatening to overwhelm South Africa's civil service, but government departments are by and large not implementing measures to tackle the problem, says the Public Service Commission (PSC). Presenting its "State of the Public Service" report to the media in Parliament on Tuesday, the PSC said Aids was eroding the public service workforce. "HIV/Aids threatens to place enormous pressure on the public service, both in terms of increasing demand for services, while eroding its work force through increased absenteeism and increased mortality," the report states. PSC director-general Mpume Sikhosana said although a comprehensive public service Aids policy had been adopted, the way government departments applied it was patchy and inconsistent. "Very few departments have adopted this policy. Our challenge in the next year is to ensure that departments implement this policy." The policy contained guidelines on sick leave management and the provision of medical aid to staff. "The policy makes managers aware of the trends. It's for them to monitor the situation... when someone is taking excessive sick leave they should suggest counselling, or encourage them to go for more check-ups."

Sikhosana said because the subject was such a sensitive one it was difficult to provide the actual number of civil servants who were infected. "People have TB or pneumonia ... we cannot say it is Aids, but the trend is there. Without testing them, all you can see is the trend... there is increased sick leave, there is an increase in people being medically boarded." He said the public service provided employee with condoms and information on how to prevent infection. However, this policy was about managing the disease, so that it did not overwhelm the civil service. Another problem was that many public servants could not afford medical cover, so the policy made recommendations on extending access to health insurance. "In many cases, the lower level workers do not have access to medical aid. Government has put a programme in place extending coverage to staff." Touching on corruption within government, PSC deputy director-general on good governance, Professor Richard Levin, said a national hotline would be put in place after the elections in April.

Levin said corruption had become a major concern after 1994. "Corruption was endemic under the previous government and was rooted in its unjust, exploitative character. The new government has made combating corruption and building professional ethics one its priorities." Levin said the public service and administration ministry had conducted a survey, largely perception based, where they questioned households and businesses. He said 42 percent of all households had said corruption was a major priority. The other concern of the PSC was overhauling the civil service to fairly represent the demographics of the country. PSC deputy director-general Odette Ramsingh said that while the "black/white" ratio had been met, there were still problems around female managers and the disabled. "Attracting disabled people to the public service is a big problem. The disabled are supposed to make up two percent of the service... currently they make up only 0.3 percent." There were also not enough female managers in the public service. Sikhosana said there were hidden factors and issues of culture that made employing disabled people difficult.

From South African News, South Africa, 17 February 2004

E-Gov Portal up and Crawling

Cape Town - The long awaited test site for the new e-government portal is up but it offers very limited functionality at this stage. According to a press release distributed by the Government Communication and Information Service (CGIS) yesterday, the Minister of Public Services and Administration Geraldine Frasier-Moleketi, says the site can be accessed on services@gov.za - however, this is incorrect - the correct link is: www.services.gov.za. The press release says that the e-Government Gateway portal will be made available through the existing www.gov.za site so as to build on the familiarity that South Africans already have with government information. The aim of the e-Government Gateway is to set up an integrated one-stop service centre, to allow the public a 24-hour incorporated access to a range of government services.

According to the official release, government aims to use the project to deliver optimised service delivery, public participation and governance through technology such as the Internet and new media. The Minister says the launch of the first phase would focus on improved information on services, while the second phase would provide a base for online transactional services. "The production site contains content regarding 4 600 services offered by government. The launch of the portal will coincide with the development team reaching the required target for data verification," the Minister says. Headings in the site are supposed to be intuitive. At the top of the page are headings titled "Services for People", "Services for Organisations," and "Services for Foreigners" and a search function.

On the left hand side of the page are various headings such as "Giving birth and caring for a baby", and "Politics and Citizenry". These headings have various other sub-headings that take the user to information on related legislation. Each page is subdivided into standard components that include the legislation, a link to relevant official forms and information on the costs involved for various applications. There are also links to government news sites and other state organisations such as the SA Police Service. Minister Frasier-Moleketi says additional service points benefiting from the central portal would be available in 55 sites across the country provided by the South African Post Office through Citizen Post Offices, Public Information Terminals and Internet Cafes. She also says that people will be able to access information from the portal, through the 1020 telephone number.

From ITWeb, South Africa, by Paul Vecchiatto, 17 February 2004

Commission Releases the State of Public Service Report

Cape Town - Despite the public service having achieved progress ten years ago, there are still many challenges a decade ahead. This is according to the Public Service Commission's (PSC) State of the Public Service Report: A Ten-Year Journey released to the media and the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration here today. The PSC is an independent body created by the Constitution to enhance excellence in governance within the public service by promoting a professional and ethical environment and adding value to public administration. The third edition report takes a view of what has been achieved over the preceding decade and what has changed during the ten years of democracy in South Africa. PSC chairperson Stan Sangweni said lessons learnt over the past decade should come in handy as South Africa faced another decade of public service reform. "The ten-year journey has been an intense one fraught with pitfalls, leaving the public service fatigued and stressed," Professor Sangweni said.

He added that another challenge that faced the public service, which employs more than a million people, is to unify the previously denationalised public service into a unified one. Professor Richard Levin, Deputy-Director General: Good Governance and Service Delivery said the report reviewed the nine Constitutional principles and what the new democratic government put into place to deal with the central pillars of good governance. He said the report identified key challenges as well as strategic priorities for the future. "The challenges we have identified upfront were performance improvement, inter-governmental relations and the impact of HIV and AIDS in the workplace within the public service," Prof Levin said.

He said the principle of the promotion of professionalism was linked to corruption and constituted the use of public resource for private gain. "In order to prevent corruption there is a need to instill an ethical culture and a wide-spread understanding of what constitutes conflict of interests," he said. Prof Levin also said people's needs should provide government with clear signals as to what it should be doing. "Public participation is essential if government is to properly understand what these needs are and expensive mistakes are to be avoided," he said. He added that Imbizos and public outreach programmes were examples of government participating with the people to improve service delivery. He said social grants had grown since 1994 from R10 billion to R34.8 billion in 2003, with number of beneficiaries increasing from 2.6 million to 6.8 million. Prof Levin concluded that public service leadership needed to be better fostered and nurtured with grater flexibility and creativity in contracting of top-level staff to avoid the drain of senior management to parastatals.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Seshoane Masitha, 17 February 2004

Forum to Improve People's Access to Basic Services

Pretoria - The Western Cape government has urged water services authorities, government departments and civil society organisations in the province not to rest until all people enjoy access to basic services. In his opening address to the Western Cape Water Services Forum earlier today, MEC for Local Government Cobus Dowry said such a gathering was designed to bring together all stakeholders to consult on how to improve services to the people of the Western Cape. The one-day forum was being held at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West. The forum was looking into ways to deal with major challenges of backlogs in basic services, poverty and unemployment as well as the transformation of organisations and society. It was also aimed at bringing those previously disadvantaged, particularly women, into the mainstream of political, social and economic life, said MEC Dowry. "I therefore encourage you to work together in this sector, and look for opportunities to develop even more multi-sectoral forums. Working together makes good business sense, saves resources and allows us to focus our energies on what is truly important," he said.

He said the main objective of local government was the provision of municipal services that were viable, affordable and sustainable. The MEC added that it was therefore government's aim to ensure that at least basic level of services was provided free to those households who could not afford to pay, thus contributing to the fight against poverty. He said all 30 municipalities in the Western Cape already supplied poor households with a certain amount of free basic water and electricity, in terms of Council resolutions. MEC Dowry added that the new water services sector strategy went a long way in focusing on key issues such as eliminating water and sanitation backlogs, improving sector collaboration and continuously improving on water services institutions.

In addition, he said the achievement of the strategic objectives and long term sustainability of services should take into account other success factors such as encouraging greater participation of civil society in the water sector, ensuring gender issues were given high priority in the sector's programmes and that their participation was entrenched in policies, practices and projects, amongst others. The other factors, he said, were to use appropriate approaches and technologies when planning and implementing water and sanitation projects as well as protecting precious water resources and the environment that sustained these resources. "I share with you the vision you have set for the sector, namely: All people in the Western Cape are provided with adequate, safe, appropriate and affordable water and sanitation services by a well-capacitated, vibrant, environmentally sensitive, accountable and unified water sector and institutions," he said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by David Masango, 23 February 2004

Many Public Facilities in Poor State - Kwelagobe

Parliament - Many public facilities in the country are in a poor state of disrepair despite the existence of Infrastructure Maintenance Fund, which is meant to keep them in good condition. Consequently, Molepolole MP Daniel Kwelagobe called in Parliament on Thursday for the "whip to crack" on inept administrators who are failing to utilise the funds. Contributing to the debate on the 2004/2005 budget, Kwelagobe lamented that many local and central government facilities, including schools and clinics were in shabby conditions even though funds were available to maintain them. He warned that unemployment and poverty would continue to haunt the country if the situation was left unchecked. Some ministries had not touched the vote in the past two years although they had many projects that needed rehabilitation.

District councils, except the North East, Kgalagadi and Ghanzi, were the worst culprits as they had only used seven per cent of their allocation, Kwelagobe told the House. The three councils have each used more than half of their individual allocations. Kwelagobe, who is Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, blamed the problem on laxity by administrators and called for the "whip to crack" on them. Despite the problem, the MP expressed optimism that the performance based reward system that is to be introduced in the public service will improve productivity. "This can only be achieved if those who implement it do their job without fear or favour," Kwelagobe cautioned. Still in Parliament, the MP for Bobirwa, James Maruatona, suggested that Performance Management System (PMS) be extended to parastatals and the private sector.

Also, he requested that border posts' operating hours be extended from 6am to 8pm to enable travellers, particularly business people enough time to conduct their businesses in neighbouring countries and cross back into the Botswana. Maruatona called on the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) to open offices in rural areas. He complained that the agency only has offices in towns and major villages, but none in rural areas where people still do not have information on how to access its services. Further, he said Lotsane, Thune and Ntimbale dams needed to be constructed quickly as the water situation in rural areas had reached worrying levels. Maruatona appealed to government to decentralise more services to districts to save time wasted when people travel to headquarters of departments and ministries for help.

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 23 February 2004

 

Government Promotes IT-oriented Public Services

The government plans to boost efforts to promote information technology-backed public services, including making medical certificates electronically available and issuing passports that contain integrated circuits, according to a general outline of the government's IT-promotion policy. The IT Strategy Headquarters, headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, is scheduled to finalize the policy Friday, with concrete dates scheduled for adopting specific IT-backed services, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Wednesday. According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, it is currently not allowed to make medical information such as medical certificates, medical prescriptions and birth certificates electronically available. Digitization of medical records mainly used within hospitals was approved in 1999. Under the new policy, the government envisages digitizing such medical information, thus making it possible for the information to be transmitted and received via e-mail between hospitals or between hospitals and pharmacies, under certain conditions.

Making the information electronically available can cut the time patients wait to have prescriptions filled, and may facilitate the transfer of medical certificates from one medical institution to another when patients change hospitals. It also is hoped that making information available this way will make documentation more transparent and more difficult to falsify, in, for instance, attempts to cover up cases of malpractice. The headquarters plans to work out concrete steps for these services by September, the source said. IC passports will make it possible to more quickly identify passport-holders, thus trimming time needed for immigration procedures. It also is aimed at preventing illegal entries into the country and at keeping terrorism at bay. The passports will be issued on an experimental basis in fiscal 2004, with full-scale introduction in fiscal 2005.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Yomiuri Shimbun, 4 February 2004

Improvement and Re-orientation of the Civil Service

Civil servants in Bangladesh form a privileged group in the sense that they feel accountable to none. Many of them look at their jobs as 'sinecures' really from where none can dislodge them. This mentality breeds both arrogance and indifference. The main cure to poor governance in the Bangladesh context can be no other than a system well laid in place to put the civil servants of any rank under compulsion to perform better. In other words, there must be instituted an 'accountability structure' to make the civil servants accountable for what they do or do badly and the penalties to be paid thereof. Simultaneously, there should be also devised a system to reward promptly and amply the civil servants for their good and exceptional performance. Such a framework of discipline and motivation respectively can work better than any amount of suggestions thrown at the civil servants to go for auto improvements of their performance. Individuals in most cases do not or cannot take the initiative to improve themselves.

However, if an effective system is in place to guard against their wrongdoings and slothful mentality, then the same undoubtedly delivers better results in all situations. Apart from systems to improve, the civil services are in need of deep and driving reforms in every department. A series of commissions and committees were set up by successive governments to study and recommend administrative reforms. But the study reports have been gathering dust and only a few out of the many hundreds of recommendations for administrative reforms have been actually implemented so far. Vested interest groups in the civil services themselves continue to be very alert to defeat any move for substantial reforms of the government departments that they perceive would undermine their prospects for bribery and privilege.

Therefore, the imperative is for the bosses of the civil servants, the ruling political party and its leading lights, to muster enough pluck and resolve to push through extensive reforms throughout the length and breadth of the civil services. If they really mean business, then they must attempt such reforms at the fastest. There is no need for the present administrative reforms commission to engage afresh in a dilatory procedure to complete its tasks. It would be enough to implement the main proposals of the previous administrative reform commissions for they are essentially similar and their implementation at an early date can achieve qualitative improvements in the functioning of the civil services. Good governance will not come about from wishing for it or urging the civil servants to that end. It can be attained only through purposeful actions to create a system and from reform activities.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, 8 February 2004

E-gov to Ease Tax Payment in K'taka

Bangalore: eGovernment Foundation, an NGO, plans to implement its modules across 56 towns, which it claims will help the state to almost double its revenue in property taxes alone - eGovernment Foundation, an NGO, plans to implement its eGovern platform and modules across 56 towns which it claims will help the state to almost double its revenue in property taxes alone. The eGovernment Foundation, a non- profit organization working to bring better technology to the country, will be implementing its platform and assorted egovernance modules in 56 cities in Karnataka by October 2004. The foundation, which was started eight months back with the personal funds of CEO of Infosys Nandan Nilekani, implemented its eGovern platform and property tax application in the Bangalore municipal corporation in October 2003. "We followed this up by working on a prototype at Byatrayanapura which could be replicated more accurately across other cities. This was inaugurated in November 2003," said managing trustee of eGovernment Foundation Srikanth Nadhamuni.

The organization will duplicate this module across the planned 56 cities of the state. The project, named Nirmala Nagara Project, is valued at Rs 40 crore and funded by the Asian Development Bank. "The modules will include property tax, public grievance and redressal, birth/death certification, ward works management, water tax and trade licenses application. eGovern GIS application, which goes a long way in capturing, storing and analyzing geographic data and is a necessity in the smaller cities where property records are ill maintained, will be implemented in 18 of these cities," he said. He also claimed that the modules would help in better revenue generation for the state and that just property tax collections alone can easily double just by accounting for existing property accurately. The eGovern platform is based on a 3-tier web native architecture and is developed over a J2EE application server.

It supports Linux and MS windows OS on the server. "Our platform and applications already offer local language support and data can be entered in both English and Kannada. Software development happens from Bangalore with around a dozen software engineers. The organization works mostly with volunteers of which we have a little more than hundred," said Nadhamuni. He also said that though several other states had approached the foundation, it had put them on hold due to lack of volunteers and the fear of biting off more than it can chew. "We would be glad to find some kind of implementation partners for our solution while we stick to the R&D alone. We might also be interested in a partnership that provides us PDA devices since that would help us in data collection and updation," said Nadhamuni. He also put in a fervent plea to relegate at least fractions of the software talent we dedicate to exports to develop our own country. The organization is debating on several ways to make itself self-sustaining including selling its products and services to clients in the US.

From CIOL, India, by Sathya Mithra Ashok, 5 February 2004

City to Strengthen E-governance Project

Mayor Luzviminda Valdez disclosed the City Government aims to strengthen its electronic banking (e-banking) facility through interlinking offices outside the Bacolod City Hall. Valdez said it is part of the city's completion program on electronic-governance. Valdez added e-banking will interlink all offices outside the City Hall such as the Accounting Office, Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO), General Services Office (GSO), and the Bacolod Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). Valdez also said the city will start encoding all resolutions and ordinances in the city's website, www.bacolodcity.gov.ph. "Our website got a lot of e-mails and queries locally and internationally," noted Valdez. Earlier, the City Government likewise introduced its on-line services as part of its e-Governance program. "This is for the benefit of the Bacoleños to enable them to find immediate and comprehensive information about our city's ordinances and resolutions," she said. Valdez added e-governance will also provide the e-mail directory of the city's public officials and organizations.

From Sun Star, Philippines, by Rema Annie Elisan, 2 February 2004

Myanmar's E-government Is a Sham

How can e-government work if the government doesn't? Myanmar has a recent history of bloodshed and one of the worst human rights records in the world. It's also in the process of developing e-government. The "government" - or militia junta that rules Myanmar by force - is rolling out seven e-government pilot projects. These include e-passport, e-visa, e-procurement, e-certification authority, smart cards, smart schools and trade e-data interchange, according to Myanmar's e-National Task Force (e-NTF). The Southeast Asian nation bordered by Thailand, China, India and Bangladesh is receiving assistance from e-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to develop its IT infrastructure. Myanmar was one of the first member countries to sign the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement initiated at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore in 2000, and, as such, it's formed the e-NTF to support its IT development. The government has also been trying to boost its software industry with the construction of two ICT Parks - the first in Yangon, and, most recently, a second in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city.

The government expects the two parks will help the software industry grow at a rate of 20 to 30 per cent. Now, forgive me if I'm just a little bit skeptical about all of this. Myanmar is a country where the average citizen doesn't even have access to the Internet. There is no such thing as a public kiosk or Internet cafe and, where computers are available, access is strictly controlled and e-mail usage monitored by the government-run ISP. Amongst all these pilot projects, I don't see anything that will provide ubiquitous computer access to the general populace. In this case, if we examine the services the government has chosen to "e-enable," we can see that they directly benefit the elite - the government itself - and not the average citizen. Take Myanmar's e-passport project, for example, which uses an RFID tag to verify a person's identity with technology from Malaysian-based Image Retrieval Identification System (IRIS).

Rather than investing in kiosks to help citizens access information and services, it appears the government is putting money into projects that will maintain the status quo and protect its own interests. E-passports and smart cards mean that Big Brother is watching; the government can keep better tabs on political dissidents, all under the guise of technological "development." It's interesting to note that IRIS Technologies is partly owned by the UN special envoy to Myanmar, Razali Ismail. He also heads up Leader Universal, another tech firm looking to expand into Myanmar, and is on the board of Wah Seong, a Malaysian engineering firm with interests in Yangon. So what about smart schools, a pilot project that is already operational? The government claims that 103 schools have an Internet connection - though Myanmar's Defence Ministry will "censor Web sites as it considers appropriate." Obviously, Myanmar is feeling pressure to keep up with the rest of the world and is jumping on the e-government bandwagon, particularly as a member of e-ASEAN. But while it's busy keeping up with the Jones', it's failing to see the true importance and relevance of e-government.

While Myanmar's e-National Task Force is busy drafting cyber laws and forming "action plans" for e-government implementations in accordance with e-ASEAN, Myanmar's elected leader remains unable to participate in all of this. It's been more than 10 years since Aung San Suu Kyi has been imprisoned or under house arrest - denied the right to govern the country as a democratically elected leader. After being temporarily released from house arrest, her convoy was attacked last May outside of the capital while she was visiting outposts of her party, the League for Democracy. The official version reports four dead and 50 injured. The unoffical version places this number between 70 to 80 dead. Offices of the League for Democracy have been shut down and opposition leaders detained. As a result, the U.S. has blocked the transfer of U.S. currency to Burmese banks and banned Burmese imports.

The European Union has imposed tighter sanctions, while Japan - Myanmar's largest donor - has suspended economic aid. This is the political climate under which Myanmar's so-called government is developing e-government. e-ASEAN, for its part, makes a point of not interfering in the internal affairs of its member countries. But it's naive to think IT development can exist in a vacumn, unaffected by political or economic events. Does e-government simply mean putting government services online? I see e-government as a natural evolution of government itself. If there are inherent faults within a system of government, there will be inherent faults within e-government. I'd like to think that e-government can encourage openness and fairness. But how can e-government work if government doesn't work? It's unlikely, however, that the colonels and generals that make up Myanmar's "government" will consider this in their race to keep up with technological developments in the rest of the world.

From ITBusiness.ca, Canada, by Vawn Himmelsbach, 4 February 2004

Leopard Capital, Inc. Acquires Large Scale China E-Government Network Infrastructure Company To Expand Business

Hong Kong - Leopard Capital, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: LPDC - News; the "Company") has announced that the Company has completed the acquisition of 100% ownership of China Expert Network Company Limited ("China Expert"), a China and Hong Kong based Company engaged in the business of providing large-scale network infrastructure construction (mainly e-government network infrastructure), business appraisal services for information technology companies in the PRC (apart from government authorities, China Expert is the ONLY foreign own corporation to obtain such authority in the PRC) and business consultancy services for communities and municipal governments in China. The acquisition was facilitated through a share exchange between China Expert and the Company. After the share exchange transaction is completed, all of the current officers and directors of the Company will resign, and persons designated by China Expert will be appointed as the officers and directors of the Company.

Kung Sze Chan, Chief Executive Officer of the Company, commented, "In order to cope with the economic growth and commercial needs in the coming years in China, IT and network infrastructure in China becomes more and more important as a basic infrastructure for communities and municipal governments and there is a tremendous need in China's governments and in the business sectors for network infrastructure services. China Expert has well positioned itself to capture these upcoming business opportunities. With the recent China government's national e-government infrastructure policy, the Chinese State Council's Development and Research Center predicts that e-government network infrastructure market in China will reach RMB 54.8 billion (US$6.7 billion) by year 2004. Therefore, we expect substantial growth of our business in the future, of our client base and revenue income" "While we are still reviewing our plan of operations budget for year 2004, we do expect our momentum will continue. Our state-of-the-art technology will capture more business to maintain the Company's revenue growth and profitability."

From Yahoo News (press release), 12 February 2004

Jamali Urges Politicians to Focus on Public Services

Islamabad - Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali Friday said that Pakistan Muslim League believed in politics to serve the people and rise above one's personal interests. "Politicians should come out of self-centered politics and focus their energies on public service," Jamali said talking to a delegation of Senators and MNAs from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), who jointly called on him at Prime Minister's House today. PML President Ch. Shujaat Hussain was also present on the occasion. Senators Engr. Rashid Khan, Mian Sajjad Hussain, Malik Ajmal Khan, Tahir Iqbal Orakzai, Hameedullah Khan and Pir Abdul Malik Qadri; MNAs Dr Syed Javed Hussain, Haji Munir Orakazai, Dr. Ghazi Gulab Jamal, Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri, Dr. Naseem Afridi and Maulana Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq attended the meeting.

The Prime Minister observed that development projects carried out for improvement of infrastructure and social services in FATA in the last four years are unprecedented in history. He said, the Federal Government is executing various projects for roads and infrastructure improvement, education, health etc. worth Rs. 11 billion in a comprehensive programme that is aimed at the uplift of this underdeveloped areas of Pakistan. This has already brought tremendous change in the infrastructure and social indicators of FATA, he added. During the meeting the Prime Minister renewed the government's commitment to further cement brotherly relations with Afghanistan. "We want peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and would play our due role in the reconstruction of this war-torn country", said Mr. Jamali.

He urged the elected representatives of FATA to devote their energies for redressing the public grievances especially with respect to the provision of basic social services. He pledged that due importance shall be given to the schemes identified by the elected representatives of the area. The delegation welcomed the democratic process and expressed full confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister. They said that tribal people fully support the policies of the present government and adhere to the principles of Pakistan Muslim League under the guidance of Ch. Shujaat Hussain. The elected representatives shared their views with the Prime Minister and the PML President regarding cabinet expansion and representation of FATA and took them into confidence on the matter. They invited the Prime Minister to visit tribal areas to meet the people there. The Prime Minister accepted the invitation and said the he would definitely visit the area in the near future.

From Hi Pakistan, Pakistan, 13 February 2004

Government Approves Action Plan for E-governance

New Delhi - Government has approved the National E-Governance Action Plan for implementation during the year 2003-07 for creating an institutional framework for the same. It has also identified over 20 Mission Mode projects at central and state levels to be taken up under the plan. The plan, which was presented to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in November last, has been approved in-principle and endorsement has been given to the overall programme content, implementation approach and governance structure, IT Department sources said.

The plan has approved a number of Mission Mode projects for implementation under the central government like income tax, passport, visa and immigration, DCA21, insurance, National Citizen Database, central excise, pensions and banking. Under the state government Mission Mode list, which is to be finalised after consultations with states, the Action Plan envisages to take up land records, road transport, property registration, agriculture, treasure, municipalities, gram panchyats, commercial taxes and police in union territories, initially for e-governance activities. However, for the budgetary outlays, separate approvals from Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance are envisaged. At present, concerned ministries and departments are working out budgetary requirements for priority allocations. While endorsing the plan, the key observations were that adequate weightage must be given for quality and speed of implementation in procurement procedures for IT services and services should be outsourced wherever possible. (PTI).

From NDTV.com, India, 14 February 2004

Pant Invites Investment from World Bank in E-governance

New Delhi - Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission K C Pant today invited funding from multilateral agencies for the government's e-governance initiatives. ''International funding organisations including multilateral aid agencies like the World Bank can play a a major role in financing initiatives like the National Action Plan of e-Governance,'' Mr. Pant said while inaugurating the national summit on ''E-Governance-Transforming India'', organised by Assocham and World Bank. The Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission said the Government was committed to implementing the national action plan and the Prime Minister has recently endorsed the plan for 2003-05 which was estimated to cost Rs 2,500 crore. ''The paucity of funds should not be allowed to come in the way of this programme, which has the potential to take the country on high growth trajectory on a sustainable basis,'' Mr. Pant said.

He said the Centre, State Governments and financial institutions would be partners in the action plan which will focus on areas like formulation of core policies, building of core infrastructure, support infrastructure, awareness and assessment and integrated services projects. To prepare the government sector for implementing e-governance services, various government ministries and departments have been advised to earmark two to three percent of their plan outlays for financing IT related expenditure, he said. Mr. Pant said India was in an advantageous position in Information Technology and Bio-Technology and its potential in these sectors has been globally acknowledged. The need was to use this tool to transform the life of the people and the government's endeavour was to facilitate accelerated growth of these sectors, he said.

Mr. Pant said e-governance has been considered vital for improving the social and economic growth rates in the States by the Commission. ''Special chapter has been included in the Tenth Plan document on the need to introduce e-governance national wide. The Southern States have already accepted the relevance of e-governance and the remaining part of India should follow them on priority.'' He said all the regions and sections of society will have to participate in the on-going information and communication technology revolution to sustain high growth and increasing welfare over longer period. ''The ICT based e-governance can provide us a major vehicle and tool to take decision making to the people. If effectively delivered, the ICT revolution will not only improve the efficiency of service delivery but also lead to marked improvement in transparency in government-citizen transaction that would lead to improvement in the quality of services delivered,'' Mr. Pant said.

From Deepika, India, 17 February 2004

WB Keen to Fund E-governance Steps

New Delhi - World Bank is talking to finance ministry for extending loan assistance for implementing e-governance programme for Centre and states, its country director, Mr. Michael Carter, said today. "We are in discussion with the department of economic affairs under the finance ministry for any help in this area," Mr Carter said on the sidelines of an IT seminar, organised by World Bank and Assocham here. Centre has charted an ambitious national action plan for e-governance which would require investments worth over Rs 2,500 crore during 2003-2005. Mr. Carter said the scheme envisages "inter-linking" of all the 35 states and union territories through the IT network. The scheme would cover 10 main areas including land records, property registration, transport and revenue collection. Apart from the Centre, states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttaranchal have evinced interest in getting World Bank assistance for implementing e-governance programme. Andhra Pradesh, for instance, has sought World Bank loan worth 50 million dollars for scaling up its existing e-governance programme.

The assistance sought by states vary between $10-$50 million, a World Bank official said. He said the bank would extend loans to private companies for commercial projects while states and Centre would be directly entitled for loans meant for social projects. Once government finalises the e-governance plan, it would take six months for the World Bank to extend the loan. Mr. Carter said IT, especially e-governance, was essential for India to attain high growth and reduce poverty. "Given the dramatic lead this country has already taken in information technology sector and with its vast human resource potential, I personally see no reason why India should not become the world's knowledge capital and why the lives of its citizens should not be transformed through the wider implementation of e-governance initiative," he said. Carter said e-governance can dramatically reduce cost of communication, improve access to technology and marketing capabilities for the rural poor, eliminate corruption and increase government's accountability. He said World Bank was in favour of a feasible and holistic approach to implement a nationwide e-governance scheme instead of doing it in bits and pieces.

From The Statesman, India, 17 February 2004

World Bank Keen to Fund E-governance in India

World Bank is talking to Finance Ministry for extending loan assistance for implementing e-governance programme for Centre and states, its country director Michael Carter said on Tuesday. "We are in discussion with the Department of Economic Affairs under Finance Ministry for any help in this area," Carter said on the sidelines of an IT seminar, organised by World Bank and Assocham. Centre has charted an ambitious national action plan for e-governance which would require investments worth over Rs 2,500 crore during 2003-2005. Carter said the scheme envisages "inter-linking" of all the 35 states and Union Territories through the IT network. The scheme would cover 10 main areas including land records, property registration, transport and revenue collection.

Apart from the Centre, states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttaranchal have evinced interest in getting World Bank assistance for implementing e-governance programme. Andhra Pradesh, for instance, has sought World Bank loan worth $50 million for scaling up its existing e-governance programme. The assistance sought by states vary between $10-50 million, a World Bank official said. He said the bank would extend loans to private companies for commercial projects while states and Centre would be directly entitled for loans meant for social projects. Once government finalises the e-governance plan, it would take six months for the World Bank to extend the loan.

From The Statesman, India, 17 February 2004

PM Sets Rs 25bn for E-governance by FY05 ( 1435 hrs)

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has endorsed Rs 2,500 crore investment for nationwide e-governance programme during 2003-05, which would be jointly taken up by centre, states and financial institutions. Planning commission deputy chairman, K.C. Pant said, "A national action plan on e-governance has been endorsed by PM for 2003-05. This action plan envisages an investment of over Rs 2,500 crore with participation of the centre, states and FIs." He said the broad focus of the plan envisages formulation of core policies, building up of core infrastructure, R&D, HRD and training, technical assistance to states, core e-projects and integrated service projects. "If e-governance is to be implemented as a national movement, the requirement of funds would be immense. It would require pooling of resources from all sides - government, private sector, NGOs and financial institutions," Pant said. To prepare the government for implementation of e-governance, he said "various ministries and departments have been advised to earmark 2-3% of their plan outlays for financing it related expenditure." The National Development Council, while approving the tenth plan, has set up an empowered sub-committee under the chairmanship of deputy PM for drawing up a consensus among centre and states for preparing a blue-print for carrying out governance reforms and implement e-governance.

From Business Standard, India, 17 February 2004

E-governance and the Subang Jaya Story

Petaling Jaya - Subang Jaya authorities have announced their aim to transform the township into a "smart township" by the year 2005. Internet access is only one aspect. The others include how Subang Jaya residents have taken to the Internet to build their community and take part in a more grassroots democratic process. Dr John Postill of the University of Bremen will this Saturday present a "field report" of his ongoing anthropological research on e-governance in Subang Jaya. The paper will outline the objectives of the study and discuss some of its preliminary findings. The research is part of a comparative anthropological study of local e-governance in three European countries and Malaysia. Dr Postill has a PhD in social anthropology from University College London. His doctoral work was on media among the Iban of Sarawak. He has published extensively on the anthropology of media and is currently completing a book entitled Media and Nation-Building: How the Iban became Malaysian (Oxford: Berghahn). His talk will take place Feb 28, at 9:30am at Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi. For more information, call (603) 8921-5254, fax (603) 8925-4698, e-mail pghatma@pkrisc.cc.ukm.my or point your browser to www.atma.ukm.my/.

From The Star, Malaysia, 25 February 2004

Appointment of Director, E-Government Unit

Press Release: State Services Commission - The State Services Commissioner, Michael Wintringham, today announced the appointment of Laurence Millar as Director of the Commission's E-government Unit. The E-government Unit works with government agencies to achieve the Government's vision for e-government. The Unit leads, facilitates and coordinates e-government activities. Mr. Wintringham says Mr. Millar has extensive experience in technology leadership, business transformation, and the application of electronic service delivery to the business of government.

Mr. Millar has undertaken strategic consulting and program management work for a range of government agencies and the private sector. He has recently completed a project for the Department of Internal Affairs relating to their involvement in the establishment of an authentication agency for all of government. Mr. Millar began his working career in England, where he worked for ANZ and General Electric. He came to New Zealand in 1983 with Databank Systems and in 1990 he joined the Department of Social Welfare as General Manager Information Technology. In 1993 Mr. Millar became a senior manager and consultant for Azimuth Consulting Ltd where he led information systems projects, including the development and launch of the first all of government web portal (a predecessor to http://www.govt.nz). During this time he worked in New Zealand, Australia and Asia. From 2000 to 2003,

Mr. Millar worked to establish and build Infrontier, Asian Supply Chain specialists, where he held the position of Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Millar has a Master of Arts in Mathematics (Honours) from Cambridge University and a Master of Science (Distinction) in Cybernetics from London University. "Mr. Millar has an excellent understanding of e-government and the ability to develop effective professional relationships with a wide range of stakeholder groups. He has the proven leadership skills and project management experience to maintain the momentum of the e-government programme. "I wish to thank Bethia Gibson for serving as Acting Director of the Unit. Mr. Millar will start as Director on 22 March 2004," Mr. Wintringham said.

From Scoop.co.nz (press release), New Zealand, 25 February 2004

"India Is a Leader in E-governance Initiatives"

People are sitting up and taking note of India's e-governance initiatives-where some projects have seen considerable success. RAHUL NEEL MANI found Dominic Scott, principal consultant, public sector, Asia Pacific, Cisco Systems, in an appreciative mood while on a recent visit to India. o What brings you here? We are here because Cisco is doing the second phase of a seminar series on e-governance. Cisco does it for different state governments in India. During the first phase we met with the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. This year we have organised a seminar in New Delhi for some north Indian states and also for central government agencies. We have also planned meetings with the West Bengal and Tamil Nadu governments. The purpose of these seminars is to share our e-governance thoughts and processes with senior-level government officials both at the state and central level.

o How do you see e-governance initiatives in India? As far as India is concerned, in a number of ways, it is leading in e-governance initiatives. For example, the e-Seva project in Andhra Pradesh is a very good example of a service which is clearly benefiting citizens. Why is it successful? There are three reasons: One, the concept was right. As a first step, you got to have a good plan. Second, it was well-implemented. If you look at e-governance around Asia and around the world, there are a lot of great plans but they do not get implemented well. Third, the government of AP marketed it very well. They promoted it so that people came to know how to use it. I have seen cases in some other countries in Asia: great concept, implemented well, but not marketed well, so the usage rate was very low. I think one area where India has been very successful is that the governments come up with some very practical projects and market them well, so they show good results.

o But what are the disadvantages or drawbacks if we compare India with other Asia-Pacific countries? It is difficult make a comparison because every country has a different governance model. While talking to a senior government official in China it came to light that the country has a lot of money but they are not using it. As opposed to that, people in India are using it wisely. Despite facing stiff financial challenges, some of the states in India have been very creative and innovative. Cisco feels that some great state-level initiatives have been taken in India. There may be a great opportunity for collaboration between the states here. Not every state needs to come up with its own licensing system. You might find some best practices like e-Seva and Bhoomi, which can be imitated by other state governments.

o Looking at the vast geography and democratic distribution of governments do you have any suggestions? If you look at the National Informatics Centre, there are a number of nationwide initiatives. I think it is also beneficial to have some small-scale, low-level community initiatives. For example, California city has created a wireless broadband umbrella over the whole city. They have done this by linking police stations, hospitals, schools-all with wireless access points. What this means is that in case of emergencies, police cars, fire-trucks and ambulances can receive a real-time live video over an IP network that is sent from inside the bank or inside the school directly to the receiver who is actually mobile. They can receive live images as they are approaching the site. This is an example of a community-wide network that has been put in place.

o How is Cisco getting involved in Indian e-governance? First of all, from the technology point of view, we are focusing on six core building blocks that are essential for a successful e-governance project. The first is integrating voice, video and data on a single network. This helps in achieving substantial savings in terms of telephone, administration and operation costs. The second thing is building up data centre networks. How can you have robust data centre networks that support all information? The whole issue is that when you are collecting all this data on land registration, bill payment, etc, you need to have servers that can consistently support all the information flow. The third area is storage. The fourth is cyber security and the fifth is physical security. Last but not the least is the area of mobility. o Where does India go from here? What we are witnessing is that governments who are very successful are the ones realising the importance of a safe, secure and reliable network infrastructure are now thinking of building applications and services on top of the networks-this is a healthy sign of growth.

From Express Computers, India, 27 February 2004

 

E-gov Slows in Europe

E-government continues to expand throughout Europe, but growth is slowing and businesses have a distinct advantage in accessing online services over citizens, according to a new survey by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. Only 45 percent of government services are fully available online, although 67 percent are at least offering two-way transaction, up 7 percent from 2002. That growth is much smaller than the 15 percent jump made from 2001 to 2002, according to the survey, which covered the 15 countries of the European Union, along with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The expansion of interaction with the private sector spread to more European countries, however. In 2002, only Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Finland showed progress in that area, but in 2003, almost all the countries surveyed made improvement. Government-to-business interaction is much farther along than government-to-citizen.

Twelve of the survey's 20 basic e-government services are for businesses, and approximately 63 percent of the services for businesses are fully available online, as opposed to only 32 percent for citizens. "Clearly Europe's nation states continue to make good progress in e-government," Stan Cozon, the company's public-sector global leader, said in a statement. "However, taking the measure of Europe's progress on services fully available online, the picture is rather pessimistic. The [European Commission] will want to encourage member states to enhance the number of public services fully available online, particularly those aimed at citizens." Cap Gemini Ernst & Young performed the survey on behalf of the European Commission. It is the fourth such survey, and a core part of the union's eEurope program, which the commission launched in 2002 to advance e-government by 2005. The commission plans to integrate the results of this latest study into its efforts to implement e-government metrics.

From FCW.com, 4 February 2004

Are Public Services Improving?

Malcolm Dean on the need to review how we measure public services - There was good news for managers at the Guardian's public service summit last week. A succession of senior Whitehall mandarins promised productivity measures would be improved. Relief from Tory and tabloid newspaper taunts about the unproductive nature of public services could be approaching. Belatedly, ministers have woken up to the dangers of the wrong messages that current measures send out. Indeed, the current measures could not be more inappropriate, inaccurate and plain misleading. In education, for example, improvements in pupil/teacher ratios are deemed a reduction in productivity. And forget the huge improvement in literacy and numeracy at age 11. In health, new drugs, such as statins, that have prevented large numbers from undergoing expensive hospital treatment, do not count. The number of statins, which help prevent strokes and heart attacks, have increased nineteen-fold since 1995, saving 6,700 lives a year and many more thousands from emergency treatment. But preventive programmes - and there are many more - are ludicrously seen as not down to the NHS.

The absurdities do not stop there. Fewer crimes have meant fewer arrests, which has meant lower productivity. In the fire service, productivity increased during the strike because of the current counting system. What was once regarded in government as a highly technical and complex area of statistical measurement from which several generations of statisticians have retreated, has become a deeply important political imperative as a chorus of public disenchantment with the results of Labour's record investments in public services grows louder. Britain is the only country in Europe that is raising investment in health and education as a share of national income. The current government is the first since the renowned Attlee administration of 1945 that has made the renewal of public services its first priority. Record amounts have already been invested and will continue through to 2006 in education and 2008 for health, giving managers an unprecedented opportunity for long-term planning. But the political reaction to this investment has come full circle.

The initial reaction from the Tories to the first signal in 1999 from Labour that public spending was going to rise was condemnation for an "irresponsible and reckless" change of course. But by the second comprehensive spending review in July 2000, they were promising to match Labour's spending "pound for pound". Labour became bolder and, in pre-election mood in November 2000, Tony Blair said what he should have said long before: "Who can seriously doubt that Britain has been chronically under-invested in for over 20 years? We have the fourth biggest economy in the world. Yet we do not have the fourth best public services. I lay the blame for that firmly at the door of under-investment." But, after four fat years of spending, the Tories have changed their tune, condemning tax rises, denying any public service improvement, criticising waste. In the run-up to December's pre-budget report, a succession of polls showed public attitudes had also changed.

They too are complaining about tax rises, a poor return for the extra money invested and a reduction in the economy's competitiveness. Yet the same polls found that roughly half the public accepted taxes should go up so long as services improved. Hence the importance of accurate public service measurements. This is an old problem. Moves were made in the 1940s and 1950s to improve the yardsticks, but then abandoned. The issue arose again a decade later when New York city was on the verge of bankruptcy, with public services being blamed. A US economist, William Baurol, raised an awkward conundrum: if productivity in industry can be dramatically improved by machinery, allowing higher wages for existing workers, what happens in public services - where the scope for machinery is so much less - when its workers want pay in line with average earnings? The Confederation of British Industry echoed the same thoughts in the run-up to its November conference, complaining that too much of the spending increase was being eaten up in pay.

It was ignoring 20 years of restraint, and the need for a pay correction to attract higher quality entrants to teaching, nursing and social work. The last calculations from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed spending on public services rose by 40% between 1997-2002, but output rose by only 14%. A recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report found "limited evidence of improvement in services", but both are based on inadequate measures. A review of these measures has recently been announced by the ONS. Led by Sir Tony Atkinson, a respected independent economist and warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, it will produce a final report next January. Meanwhile, get ready for more regular reports from the top of progress being achieved. Sir Nigel Crisp, head of the NHS, now issues six-monthly progress reports rather than an annual report. Stand by for other services to follow suit.

From Guardian, UK, 4 February 2004

Blair Wants Better-off to Pay for More Public Services

Tony Blair raised the prospect yesterday of the better-off being charged for some public services by extending the principle behind his proposal for university top-up fees. Questioned for two and a half hours by senior MPs, the Prime Minister admitted that "co-payment" - under which the Government would share with people the cost of new or expanded public services - was on Downing Street's long-term agenda. Behind the proposal lies a recognition the public is unlikely to back further tax rises. But extending charges would be controversial and would provoke criticism that people are "paying twice" for services already funded by taxpayers. Labour MPs fear "co-payment" will amount to a backdoor privatisation of state-run services if the party wins a third term. Mr. Blair's policy advisers are studying plans for a universal childcare scheme that would be free for the poorest families but would provide a paid-for service for others. The idea could also be applied to "lifelong learning", with people in work paying to upgrade their skills.

There are also plans for the employed paying more for, congestion charging and motorway tolls, while the elderly could pay for "premium services" such as takeaway food instead of the standard service of meals-on-wheels. The Prime Minister sought to reassure Labour MPs charges would not apply to education and health. He said: "I think there is an issue for the long term about how - not for core public services which, by tradition, we fund out of general taxation - but for other issues - like skills, for example - that we look at ... co-payment." He admitted he could have presented a better case for university top-up fees, which was approved by the Commons by a five-vote majority last week after more than 70 Labour MPs opposed the move. "In retrospect, it would have been better had we published a lot more information about the nature of the problem than we did. I accept that and one of the things I try to initiate internally in the Labour Party and then externally is to try to put more public information out on a policy like this. "So sometimes I have people saying to me, 'why didn't you tell us this about the universities and all that' going back a year. Actually we did but people were not terribly interested in it."

Giving evidence to the Commons Liaison Committee, composed of the select committee chairmen, Mr. Blair also conceded he should have held a consultation exercise before abolishing the post of Lord Chancellor and setting up a Department of Constitutional Affairs in his so-called "botched reshuffle" last June. He said: "I agree ... there were particular circumstances there, and I think probably, in retrospect, we could have done that better, I would accept that. On the other hand, I have to say I think the change was absolutely right." Mr. Blair faced a series of hostile questions from MPs worried about his "top down" style of government, with the main decisions being taken by Downing Street rather than Whitehall departments.

He said it was "difficult to have a completely open policy debate" when any idea that entered the public domain was seen as a "hard and fast policy" by the next morning. He argued plans for foundation hospitals had not come out of the Downing Street ether but from hospitals saying they wanted to be freed from bureaucracy. "I never understood, frankly, what the fuss was about on foundation hospitals," he said. The Prime Minister said that it would be wrong to see government-set targets for public services as a bad thing, insisting they had helped reduce NHS waiting times and waiting lists. But he conceded that they had had a perverse impact in some instances. He also said he believed global warming was the most important long-term challenge facing the world and said the two issues of meeting aviation demand and reducing pollution were potentially in conflict.

From Independent, UK, by Andrew Grice, 4 February 2004

Forum P.A.: Italians Prefer Public Services

Milan - Economically, and socially, Italians prefer public services and want more rules and checks. A survey carried out on behalf of Forum P.A. highlights a preference (61 percent) for public services, something which is definitely on the increase since the recent past. This trend is confirmed also by the role that citizens want to assign to public administration as a direct supplier of services for citizens (51 percent) compared to that of market regulator with direct intervention (20 percent) and that of controls without the imposition of rigid rules (24 percent). 80 percent of Italians prefer an always guaranteed access even if this means less efficiency and less freedom of choice. The sample interviewed declared itself in favour of the public management of services: 79 percent for school, 75 percent for pensions, 71 percent for social services, 68 percent for health, 63 percent for transport and 54 percent prefers public television instead of private television. This defensive closure translates into two attitudes, often combined.

On one side a loss of confidence in the institutions, and on the other a growth in demand for social protection and a concomitant growth of expectations as regard direct intervention, guaranty and control on the part of the public sector. 65 percent of the sample expressed itself in this way, maintaining that the introduction of rules in the market on the part of the public administration is a guaranty factor for all, even if it does bring about more bureaucracy; a minority (24 percent) on the other hand considers them a break on economic development. The role of controlling the public administration as regard the respect of rules on the part of private industry for 56 percent of Italians has to be strengthened, even at the cost of reducing the competitivity of businesses. Less clear-cut is which administrations should carry out this controlling role: 46 percent would like them to be at local or regional level, 45 percent at central level divided in a substantially equal way between government (16 percent), independent guarantee authorities (15 percent), pubilc safety authorities (14 percent).

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 2 February 2004

'Time to Focus on Boosting Public Services'

A Labour borough councillor hopes the debate surrounding the publication of the Hutton Report has ended. Justin Madders, his party's local Press officer, said: 'The tragic suicide of Dr Kelly led to this inquiry and, of course, we all regret that. 'However, the findings of the report were clear and a line should now be drawn under the whole affair. 'The inquiry has been a tremendous distraction for many months but now it is time to concentrate on the challenges that this country faces, particularly how we can invigorate public services.'

Cllr Madders took issue with the suggestion the report was a whitewash. He said: 'Lord Hutton is a well-respected judge who spent hundreds of hours considering the evidence and preparing his report. I really don't think this sits well against the suggestion that he had prejudged the issues. 'I recall that just about everyone welcomed his appointment at the outset as someone who was independent of mind and who would not shy away from criticising the Government. 'I think the reluctance to accept the findings in some quarters is more to do with a general feeling that politicians of all political persuasions cannot be trusted, though I hope the way the Prime Minister has laid open for scrutiny some of the most sensitive parts of Government and not been found wanting can begin to rebuild that trust.'

Cllr Madders hopes 'more traditional party issues' would return to the fore. He added: 'We could be 18 months away from a General Election and so far the new leader of the Tory Party has had an easy ride. I expect the spotlight to focus much more on what he believes is the alternative to Labour's investment and reform in public services. 'His record in Government is not good and he will need to do more than take out newspaper adverts containing vague statements about his philosophy to convince the public he is a credible alternative.'

From icCheshireOnline, UK, 5 February 2004

Meat Plants Face Shutdown in Civil Service Pay Dispute

Meat plants are to be the next target of industrial action by Northern Ireland civil servants, it was announced today. The move was revealed at the start of a three-day strike by telephonists, which threatens to bring serious disruption to Government department switchboards. Public sector union NIPSA is seeking to crank up the pressure in the pay dispute, with a series of stoppages by small key groups of staff. It has asked its 20,000 members in the Civil Service to support the telephonists by refusing to answer calls. Next week, over 20 Veterinary and Meat Inspection staff in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) are due to strike for four days. The action is expected to temporarily close meat plants at Ballymena and Crumlin. Meanwhile, a further one-day strike by all Civil Service staff is due to be held this Friday.

NIPSA representatives held discussions on the pay dispute last week with senior officials from the Department of Finance and Personnel. But there is no sign of an early breakthrough, with Minister Ian Pearson insisting that additional money is not on the table. NIPSA general secretary John Corey today dismissed as "fiction" claims that civil servants are receiving a 3.67% pay increase. He said: "This is another example of Government spin. I assure the public that the vast majority of civil servants have received absolutely no increase in their rates of pay from April 2003. However, all other public servants in Northern Ireland have received a 3% plus increase in rates of pay and that is why civil servants are so angry at this blatantly unfair treatment." Mr. Corey added: "I challenge the Minister to publish the April 2002 and April 2003 rates of pay for Civil Service grades so that everyone can see the true position." The striking telephonists marked the start of their action today with a picket at the Mary Royal Building in Donegall Street, Belfast.

From Belfast Telegraph, UK. By David Gordon (dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk), 3 February 2004

We Are Good Enough for Civil Service Say Experts

North Staffordshire remains well placed to land top-flight civil servants in spite of a report claiming the workforce only had sufficient skills for call handing and form filling. That was the view of two economists who highlighted the region's strengths as it undergoes slow transformation from a declining industrial heartland into a modern mixed economy. They argued that short-term efforts to bring new industries such as logistics and call centres were part of a far-reaching strategy to bring high-quality employment to the region. Their comments come after property consultants King Sturge last week snubbed the Potteries as a destination for top civil service departments because of the lack of suitable skills. The London-based consultancy's view will go to the Government as part of plans to shift 20,000 jobs out of London and into the regions. However Ian Jackson, senior economics lecturer at Staffordshire University, rejected the view that the region was lacking in skills, highlighting its two universities as motors for a future skilled workforce.

Mr. Jackson said: "I would dispute that in the strongest terms. What other centre has two universities? "What other centre has a science park like Keele's, the Octogon computer teaching centre down at Stafford, the Leek Road arts and ceramics centre, a business school and a law school? "That is misleading the local workforce to such an extent as to be unbelievable. "One of the problems universities have identified is we are not retaining graduates. The reason is there are not enough graduate level opportunities." King Sturge's report aimed to identify where 20,000 civil jobs could be relocated away from London. Its expert writers snubbed Stoke-on-Trent as a site for top jobs such as policy making in favour of 25 cities including Birmingham, Sheffield, Leicester, Nottingham and Manchester. They found the Potteries only good enough for call centre jobs and routine administration that does not require high-skill levels. The research is intended to help Sir Michael Lyons who has been charged to report to the Government - possibly in the autumn - on where to relocate key departments. Any final decision, however, will rest with the Government.

Mr. Jackson accepted that the regional economy presently faced a tough challenge in transforming itself, but said it should not stop aspiring to land a Government department. He argued the city could use its central location to draw people in from other areas if there was a temporary skills gap. "We should be chasing a government department. It should be incumbent on any Government to ensure the regions are level in terms of this type of employment. If we don't have the numbers, because of our location and relatively good infrastructure we can attract people. People will commute vast distances for this type of jobs." The report's highlighting of a local skills gap has led to concerns that the strategy of regional movers and shakers in attempting to land call centres and logistics operators could do little to lift the region's reputation as low-paid. But John de Kanter, chief executive of inward investment agency InStaffs, dismissed the suggestion and pointed to highly-paid high-technology centres such as those operated for Sainsbury's and Screwfix. Mr. de Kanter said: "In Cannock, Power Europe are running a distribution centre where the average wage is higher than the average for Cannock.

So it is likely to be the same in Stoke-on-Trent where they run Sainsbury's distribution centre." He also highlighted a cluster strategy drawn up by the Regeneration Zone to focus the area in developing strengths in high-value consumer goods - high-quality ceramics - building technology, medical technology and healthcare. Mr. de Kanter added that the process of changing the skills base of the region was a gradual one and the issue was not black and white. He said: "Even if we do bring in higher value employment in the longer term through jobs in say science, it's unlikely that everyone can be a nuclear physicist. "Not all the jobs in medical technology will be the top-end research positions but we will also need lab technicians as well as nurses and staff to service the National Health Service, particularly with the new hospital. "These will help lift wage levels. "As the years go by, focusing on what's being done to support those clusters will begin to emerge. It is not a black and white issue where we go from one type of industry one day and then change it overnight. "In the same way this is a long-term strategy to raise the levels of the types of activities that we have here." (david.elks@thesentinel.co.uk).

From The Sentinel, UK, 9 February 2004

Cullen Unveils 'Exciting' E-gov Project

The government has launched what it described as 'one of the most exciting e-government projects to date' - an on-line motor tax service. Did you know you can get the e-Government Digest sent direct to your inbox every week? Just email us to get your free copy. According to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, from 1 March 2004 it will be possible for Irish residents to renew their motor tax 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a new Web site, www.motortax.ie. To pay motor tax on-line, users will need a credit card or laser card and unique PIN number that will be sent to vehicle owners with the motor tax reminder notice. A new tax disc will be posted out to the user on the day after the tax is paid over the Internet. "At present the only way to renew motor tax is to use the postal renewal service or to visit a motor tax office during its opening hours," said Martin Cullen T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, at the launch of the new service. "From now on, it will be possible to renew your tax from the comfort of your own home, office, public library or indeed, anywhere in the world with Internet access. And, importantly, you can do this at a time that suits you. "

The minister went on to note that the growing computer literacy in Ireland, along with the 1.9 million vehicles driven by some 2.2 million licensed drivers, means that it makes sense to launch such a service. He said that each year there are over 3 million individual applications for motor tax and the annual revenue raised from the tax is EUR720 million. "Today's launch follows a very successful pilot in counties Clare, Galway and North Tipperary initiated last November, which attracted about 9 percent of motor tax renewal business," Minister Cullen said. "Paying tax is never the most enjoyable thing for people, so it's important to make the task as easy as possible." International Business Machines (IBM) also chimed in on the launch of the service, mentioning that it was the company that developed and put in the place the technology to make the service a reality.

IBM described the site and back-end functionality that it designed as "user-friendly" and "highly scalable" and said that its system allows transactions to be integrated and processed seamlessly in the Department's National Vehicle File. The system is also linked to the National Car Testing (NCT) database, ensuring that testing requirements are met for the vehicle. On-line motor tax payments are seen as a kind of fundamental e-government application, and the service has been used consistently to demonstrate the benefits that e-government can bring - making a government service more efficient and easier to carry out. It is anticipated that related services such as driver licensing and change of vehicle ownership will also move on-line in the coming months. In the state's original "New Connections" e-government strategy statement, issued in mid-2002, both motor tax and change of ownership were due to go on-line by the end of 2002, while driver licensing was due to go up by the end of 2003. All three have been seriously delayed, along with a litany of other e-government services.

From Electric News Net, by Matthew Clark, 9 February 2004

E-government, UIL Requests Investment and Personnel

Rome - UIL confederal secretary Antonio Foccillo has stated, "the UIL appreciates Minister Stanca's efforts to innovate reform in the civil service, in order to restore the sector to its primary role of locomotive for the entire country. Therefore we ask for investment in e-government, especially civil service personnel who need to work concretely with machines". He continued, "we agree with Minister Stanca regarding the need to innovate technologies in the civil service and we would like to discuss these issues, in order to improve efficiency and simplify administrative procedures". He concluded, "we need to find solutions which link the improvement of services for the people to innovative procedures concerning training and requalification of personnel, which the union has always supported and we appeal to Minister Stanca to set up negotiations on these issues".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 4 February 2004

Growth of E-government Slows

Cap Gemini Ernst & Young has released the fourth results of its ongoing survey on the adoption of electronic Public Services across Europe. Undertaken on behalf of the European Commission the report looks at the progress that Europe is making in providing online services at both the citizen and business level across the 15 EU member countries plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Whilst the adoption of e-government continues to grow, the pace of this growth slowed between 2002 and 2003. The level of online sophistication grew 7% points and is now at 67% as opposed to 60% in 2002 and 45% in 2001. Austria has made the most progress of any one country in the 12-month period. In 2003 progress has been such that the research can now focus on the number of public services that are truly fully transactional online. Taking this indicator to look at Europe's progress overall shows that only 45% of services are fully available on line. In this area Denmark, Austria and Sweden lead the way. Previously in 2002 only Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Finland showed progress towards two-way interaction, today almost all the countries measured have improved the average level of online sophistication of their public services beyond one way interaction, from the government to the users, towards two-way interaction in both directions.

Twenty basic public services have been identified, eight for citizens and twelve for businesses and the level of interaction ranging from simple online information provided to full electronic transaction based measured. The public services have then been clustered in four key areas: o Income-generating: services where payment flows from citizens and businesses to the government (mainly taxes and social contributions) o Registration: services related to recording data as a result of administrative obligations (births, deaths, marriages) o Returns: services provided by government to citizens and businesses in return for taxes and contributions (eg public libraries) o Permits & licences: documents provided by governmental bodies giving permission to build a house, to run a business etc. Once again in almost every country more progress was made by online services for businesses than those for citizens. Services for businesses reach an overall score of 79% for online sophistication, 63% for fully available online. The services for citizens stay at the level of 58% for online sophistication, and only 32% for fully available online.

But for both citizens and business services enabling the collection of taxes, are more sophisticated than those where the government is required to provide a service to the recipient (eg permits, registrations etc). Countries should be encouraged to do more effort to develop transactional eGovernment applications for non-return services. A higher level of online development of those services will enhance the adoption of eGovernment services by users. This survey only analyses the results of eGovernment efforts from the perspective of the online availability of public services . In the future the E.C. will make efforts to integrate the results of this study on into a broader perspective of various eGovernment measures: linking service availability; channel selection; back-office fulfilment capability; and service usage and impact of eGovernment. "Clearly Europe's nation states continue to make good progress in eGovernment. However taking the measure of Europe's progress on services fully available online the picture is rather pessimistic. The EC will want to encourage member states to enhance the number of public services fully available online particularly those aimed at citizens" said Stan Cozon CGE&Y's Public Sector Global Leader.

From InSourced, UK, 4 February 2004

London's eGovernment Plans To Be Unveiled Today

The London Connects Borough Programme of London-focused e-Government plans for 2004 / 05will be unveiled at a meeting today of the ALG Leaders' Committee, chaired by Valerie Shawcross, Chair of London Connects. London Connects is a London-wide agency bringing together local, regional, and central government to support the delivery of the e-government agenda across the capital. Partners include the GLA, the ALG, and London Boroughs; together with other cross-London service providers and agencies, including Health agencies, LDA, TfL, LFEPA, MPS, London Grid for Learning, London Libraries Development Agency, and the London Voluntary Services Council. It is generally understood that authorities who have provided a satisfactory IEG statement will each receive £200K for 2004/05. The Ministerial announcement is expected to announce how much extra funding will be available per authority in return for a commitment to delivering the defined priority outcomes.

London Connects has also received funding from the GLA, LDA, TfL, MPS and LFEPA. These organisations are being consulted for their requirements next year. Health agencies and the London Voluntary Sector Consortium will also be consulted as to how London Connects can best add value without the expectation of direct funding. The London Connects overall programme will therefore take into account all the interests of the public and voluntary sector. The lead officers for ICT or e-government in each London Borough were consulted in January 2004 for their views on a London Connects programme. Most boroughs have explicitly listed London Connects as a regional partnership in which they participate in their Implementing e-Government statements for 2004/05. There are two main themes to the meeting: 1) To consider endorsement of a London Connects response to the ODPM paper on proposals for defining priority services and transformation outcomes in 2005 as part of the Implementing e-Government (IEG) process; and 2) To consider proposals for funding a programme of work to assist boroughs in joining up and improving services using information and communications technology.

The committee has been recommended to: > Endorse a pan-London response to the ODPM paper which focuses on how London authorities can support the paper by collaborative action through London Connects. Individual authorities will also be providing their own responses according to their different needs and perspectives. > Agree that Borough funding for London Connects will be provided from each borough's flat rate 2004/05 grant from ODPM; > Indicate, the level of London Connects' activity the Committee wishes to support. London Connects recommends that the £35K per borough option is the best option for accelerating the production of a sustainable e-government infrastructure for Boroughs; > Note that the detailed priorities for the London Connects work programme will be kept under review, and revised as appropriate, by the London Connects Board and multi-sector Steering Group; > Encourage Boroughs to continue financial support for the sub-regional e-partnerships. Today a detailed project breakdown and work plan will be looked at in detail.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 9 February 2004

Sweden Leads the Way in E-government

A new study from IDC shows that Sweden is among the five leading countries in Europe in egovernment implementation. The market for solutions for electronic exchange of information between government and society is growing fast, despite the economic downturn in Sweden, and the market for egovernment solutions is expected to grow from SEK 1.7 billion in 2003 to SEK 2.8 billion in 2007. There is still some way to go, however, before citizens have a single point of contact with public administrations - data needs to be standardized, applications redesigned, automatic services developed, and work procedures changed. Stage one in the adoption of egovernment - the creation of portals for citizen and business contacts with public administrations - has been achieved and is now being followed by greater integration. "Future growth in egovernment will be in automatic and integrated services, and IDC believes that in local government this market will grow more than 25% annually in the next few years," said IDC Nordic Consulting Manager Mette Ahorlu. "There are several solutions in the marketplace for local government areas such as schools, care of the elderly, and institutions, but the market is still very open."

It is also very fragmented and, in contrast to other Nordic countries, there are no dominant suppliers. This makes the market very attractive to both existing players and newcomers. Leading vendors WM-Data and TietoEnator have market shares of just 15%, with the remainder taken by a large number of vendors with low market shares. This makes the market fairly easy to address for vendors that know what is on administrations' agendas. According to IDC, the focus has been on IT and, mirroring trends in other Nordic countries, this focus will shift to organizational development. Vendors that can combine an understanding and modernization of public administration processes with services will benefit most from this development. IDC believes this will be a key differentiator in the future, even though internal efficiency does not yet feature too highly on the agenda in Sweden.

From InSourced, UK, 11 February 2004

£10 Million for Welsh Civil Service Perks

A senior Welsh Conservative has called the Labour administration to account after it emerged that over £10 million of taxpayers' money has been spent on "perks" enjoyed by Assembly officials. Finance Minister Sue Essex was forced to admit that since the Welsh Assembly was launched in 1999, the travel costs, hotel accommodation, car hire and other subsistence bills for bureaucrats have totalled £10.1 billion. In 1999 the Assembly spent just under £2 million on civil servants expenses, since when the figure has climbed to around £3 million last year. Only last week it was revealed that £15,000 a year of public money is being spent on taxi bills for civil servants.

Protested Conservative Assembly Member Jonathan Morgan: "These figures are very worrying for the ordinary tax-payer. People need to ask questions about where and how their hard-earned cash is being spent. The number of civil servants working in the Assembly has doubled since Labour came to power we are now paying the price." He told conservatives.com: "Figures such as these would be much easier to swallow if we could actually see some good coming from the Assembly Government. All we hear about are lengthening waiting lists, higher council taxes and bigger Government." Cardiff-based Mr. Morgan declared: "This is not in the interests of hard-working middle Britain. People are being fleeced for ballooning council tax bills and are not seeing the rewards."

From Conservatives.com, UK, 12 February 2004

Local Authorities On-line for e-Government Funding Boost

£220 million of e-Government funding is being allocated today to support further local authorities in England to e-enable their priority services by 2005. An additional £28 million is to be allocated to specific projects focusing on the national roll out of the National Projects and the take-up of e-services. Announcing the allocations today, Local e-Government Minister Phil Hope said: "This money should assist all local authorities to deliver our shared target of e-enabling all priority services by end of 2005. We are beginning to see the results of the various projects across the country and this funding gives local authorities the support they need to deliver further improved e-services for the people in their area." "Local authorities have been developing and improving their services using IT to give their customers the modern services they want and need. This support will help them to continue to improve and increase the use their customers make of them."

All local authorities - the people on the front line delivering e-Government - will receive £500K over the next two years (£350k in 04/05 and £150k in 05/06 subject to submitting satisfactory IEG progress reports). In addition to these flat rate payments, there will be extra non-financial help available to councils to help them meet the target. Phil Hope added: "These next two years will be an exciting time. As the projects begin to deliver results, services begin to improve people start to benefit." "That is what e-Government is all about. I see this funding - the last allocations before the target - as helping local authorities get over any hurdles still ahead and allowing them to continue working with the determination I've seen first hand on many occasions."

From Tenders Direct, UK, 12 February 2004

Civil Service Dispute Takes Bitter Twist

The Department for Social Development (DSD) has imposed the first staff suspension in the increasingly bitter Ulster civil service pay dispute. It's understood a Child Support Agency employee was sent home from work yesterday for refusing to take part in a training programme. Members of the union Nipsa have been observing a work to rule as part of the ongoing push for a better wage deal. But the DSD last week warned that "Temporary Relief from Duty" - suspension without pay - will be imposed on staff who do not fulfil their terms of employment. The department cited ongoing disruption at the Child Support Agency and Social Security Agency and said services to customers were being "held to ransom".

Nipsa general secretary, John Corey, today said: "We deplore the suspension of any staff. We will be making urgent representations to the Child Support Agency to ensure the interests of staff are fully protected." The latest phase of the union's selective strike action campaign began today with vehicle licensing staff beginning a two-week stoppage. The strike is expected to cause a backlog in the processing of postal applications for car tax discs. MOT centres are believed to be in line for disruption in the next few weeks. Nipsa wants an increase on a 3.67% package, which it says offers its civil service members little more than their normal yearly salary progression increments.

From Belfast Telegraph, UK, by David Gordon (dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk), 17 February 2004

Blair Appeals for more Time to Deliver on Public Services

Tony Blair appealed to voters yesterday to give him more time to demonstrate that his government could deliver promised improvements in public services. After nearly seven years in Downing Street Mr. Blair acknowledged he still had to convince people that services were getting better. "We never said we could transform the public services in a few years. It takes time to reverse decades of neglect and under-investment," said Mr. Blair. His plea for patience contrasted sharply with the optimistic tone of Labour's manifesto at the 2001 election, when he said a second term in power would enable Labour to complete "a radical programme of British renewal". Mr. Blair sought to switch the political spotlight back on to the domestic agenda after months of controversy over Iraq by highlighting a big increase in the budget for refurbishing secondary schools in England. It will rise to £5 billion by next year, seven times the £700 million being spent on "mend and repair" of schools when Labour came to power in 1997.

Mr. Blair, visiting a city academy in Willesden, north-west London, said it would be a "once in a lifetime opportunity" radically to improve facilities over the next 10 to 15 years. Teachers were rising to the challenge to develop pupils to the full. And they rightly looked to the Government to give them the tools to do their job, he said. Seventeen English local education authorities, mainly in deprived areas, have been chosen to be in the vanguard of the rebuilding drive, which should see the first new schools opening to pupils in September 2006. Mr. Blair hailed the new academies, set up with the help of outside sponsors. Along with churches and charitable trusts, corporate sponsors are also involved in such academies, taking over the management of the schools. Earlier, during a two-hour political meeting of the Cabinet at Downing Street, Mr. Blair and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, urged ministers to do more to convince voters that they were improving the public services.

Their joint presentation underlined the dangers for Labour of the gap between public expectations and the Government's achievements on the ground, with a general election possibly little over a year away. They called for "more consistent communication" of what the Government had done and was doing to improve people's everyday lives. A Labour spokesman said that although individuals often found their school or hospital had improved, that had not translated into a more widespread public perception that services are getting better. "People think that their experience has been the exception, rather than the norm. We need to communicate the fact that that positive personal experience really does reflect the reality." He acknowledged that in the aftermath of the Labour backbench rebellion over university tuition top-up fees, there was a need to improve communication between the Government and its MPs, as well as with the public.

Ministers discussed the greater threat posed by the Conservatives since Michael Howard became leader. Labour officials acknowledged that the Tories "had got their act together" under Mr. Howard and there was now a clear dividing line between the parties. The Cabinet agreed on the need to expose what the Labour spokesman called the Tories' "extreme Right-wing agenda" and show how they pose a "genuine threat" to economic stability, personal prosperity, and a consistently improving health and education system through an agenda of cuts, charges and privatisation. Tim Yeo, Conservative health and education spokesman, accused Mr. Blair of "scratching around for headlines". "The British people are increasingly tiring of Labour's failure to move from eye-catching press releases to effective policy," he said.

From Telegraph.co.uk, UK, by George Jones, 13 February 2004

UK Political Battle Lines Drawn over Waste

British politics established a new consensus on Monday that billions of pounds could be saved by curbing waste in the public services, as the government and opposition agreed on the urgent need for reform. But Labour and the Conservatives laid the battle ground for the next election when they differed sharply over how the savings should be used. The backdrop to the sparring was the revelations in Monday's Financial Times that a confidential government review had recommended the biggest shake-up of public services in a generation. As Oliver Letwin, shadow chancellor, unveiled his six-year economic blueprint to cut taxes by slashing public spending by £35bn annually by 2011, Gordon Brown, the chancellor, accused the Tories of jeopardising crucial public services. But the Conservatives believe the scale of their ambitions has been endorsed by Sir Peter Gershon, who is heading the government's efficiency review. Sir Peter says that up to £15bn in annual public spending could be saved by cutting bureaucracy and purchasing government goods and services more efficiently.

Under his scheme, Labour would redirect the savings to frontline services, such as education and health. The early skirmish put tax and spending at the centre of the domestic political agenda in the run-up to the general election expected next spring. The Conservatives hope the savings will give them scope for a pre-election pledge to cut taxes at a time when the government is under pressure to raise taxation to fund its public service commitments. Mr. Letwin said yesterday he hoped to be able to cut taxes "even in the early years" of the next parliament but he could not make a firm promise. Kenneth Clarke, the Conservative former chancellor, said last night: "Most departments in Whitehall have money coming out of their ears. The public knows you can't continue year in year out to increase public spending faster than the economy is growing without doing damage."

Only the Liberal Democrats are resisting the urge to make a crackdown on bureaucracy an integral part of their plans. Tony Blair will next week underline the need for reform in an address to 200 civil servants. The prime minister is not expected to discuss the Gershon review as Sir Peter's final report will not reach the government until April 26. However, he will renew calls for the civil service to transform itself. Sir Peter's interim assessment, which would lead to up to 80,000 civil service job losses, yesterday received backing from the union representing top government officials. But Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents the civil service rank and file, reacted with fury. He wants a meeting with the prime minister and the chancellor over Sir Peter's proposals. The government was reluctant to be drawn on the leak of Sir Peter's review.

From Financial Times, UK, By Cathy Newman, Nicholas Timmins, and Jean Eaglesham, 17 February 2004

E-government - Electronic Government

In short: E-government is one of the key policy objectives layed out in the e-Europe 2005 Action Plan endorsed by EU leaders at the Seville Summit in 2002. The Action Plan's overarching aim on e-government is to bring administrations closer to citizens and businesses by providing modern online public services by 2005 - mainly through high-speed Internet connections (broadband). The aims are to boost the EU's competitiveness and administrative efficiency in order to reach the Lisbon targets. At the EU level, the Commission is monitoring and encouraging Member States' actions by financing projects and securing interoperability of e-government services across Europe from a technical point of view.

From EurActiv.com, Belgium, 16 February 2004

UHM Calls for Consultation on Civil Service White Paper

Government should discuss the white paper entitled Civil Service in the 21st century with the Union Haddiema Maghqudin, as the majority representative of civil service employees, before debating it in parliament, said UHM section secretary Mario Sacco yesterday. Addressing the media at the union's headquarters in Floriana, Mr. Sacco said the UHM expected government consultation on the white paper and expressed concern that the word "union" is not even mentioned in the proposed Act. He said that the UHM was insisting that government should not only discuss with the union, but should also negotiate, any clause which could directly or indirectly affect the working conditions of any civil service employee. He also said that, in principle, the name of the white paper was incorrect because, as it will also cover employees in the parastatal sector, it should be called the White Paper for the Public Sector in the 21st century.

Mr. Sacco made reference to recent new government posts and said although the union agreed that there should be a principal permanent secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister; the position should not have been filled before the issue was thrashed out and passed through parliament. He also said that although the concept of public private partnerships was mentioned frequently in the white paper preamble, no further mention was made in the actual draft text. The UHM also said that the 2002 Employment and Industrial Relations Act should also apply to all civil service employees. In short, said Mr. Sacco, the union agreed with many suggestions in the white paper, but disagreed with others. The union, he said, welcomed the thought of a ministry dedicated to the Civil Service and also welcomed the idea of a Code of Ethics and a set of morals and values for the civil service.

The union, as mentioned above, also agreed with the post of a principal permanent secretary, but expressed disappointment over the way the post was filled before the issue had been finalised in parliament. Mr. Sacco also pointed out that the union agreed with a Committee to run the Civil Service and a Commission for Protection of Merit. It also, said Mr. Sacco, agreed in principle with the protection of whistle-blowers, but on the other hand said the concept and extent of protection should be better defined. On the other hand, said Mr. Sacco, the union disagreed with breaches of collective agreements and the erosion of current employment conditions. The union was against the creation of more government agencies and a Senior Executive Service. However, the largest bone of contention on the part of the unions is the proposal for department heads to recruit people in a "position" rather than a "grade".

This, said Mr. Sacco, was in breach of all sectoral agreements brokered by the UHM and other unions with the government in recent years and such a move would also be in breach of the spirit and specific sense of EU employment related directives. "The move could also create an opportunity to abuse the system. It is useless having rules and regulations that will be detrimental to workers. Any such move will result in demotivation and tension," he said. Mr. Sacco said it would be useless to chop and change positions as there might only be a few who will be content with their role while the majority will be frustrated and demotivated. He urged the government to consult and negotiate with the Union Haddiema Maghqudin before discussing the bill in parliament and eventually passing it without having even spoken to civil service employees' representatives. Also attending the briefing were Public Entities section secretary Jesmond Bonello and Health Service section secretary John M Briffa.

From Malta Independent, Malta, by Michael Carabott, 19 February 2004

Extra £220 Million Made Available for Local e-Government

£220 million of e-Government funding was yesterday allocated via the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to support further local authorities in England to e-enable their priority services by 2005. An additional £28 million is to be allocated to specific projects focusing on the national roll out of the National [eGovernment] Projects and the take-up of e-services. Councils should be aware of the proposals to introduce major changes in the assessment of future years' IEGs. A recent consultation asked local authorities to agree a set of priority outcomes for e-government covering service and organisational elements. Once the list of priority services is agreed councils will be asked to report progress toward them in their IEG returns. The ODPM will also ask councils to complete a baseline assessment of their position in relation to priority services when they make their claim for IEG funding (£350k 04/05) at the beginning of the next financial year. They will also be required to submit a satisfactory IEG statement in Autumn 2004 to receive £150k in 05/06 and submit a further statement in Autumn 2005 reporting progress against the money spent.

Announcing the new £220m allocations, Local e-Government Minister Phil Hope said: "This money should assist all local authorities to deliver our shared target of e- enabling all priority services by end of 2005. We are beginning to see the results of the various projects across the country and this funding gives local authorities the support they need to deliver further improved e-services for the people in their area." "Local authorities have been developing and improving their services using IT to give their customers the modern services they want and need. This support will help them to continue to improve and increase the use their customers make of them." All local authorities - the people on the front line delivering e-Government - will receive £500K over the next two years (£350k in 04/05 and £150k in 05/06 subject to submitting satisfactory IEG progress reports). In addition to these flat rate payments, there will be extra non-financial help available to councils to help them meet the target.

Phil Hope added: "These next two years will be an exciting time. As the projects begin to deliver results, services begin to improve people start to benefit." "That is what e-Government is all about. I see this funding - the last allocations before the target - as helping local authorities get over any hurdles still ahead and allowing them to continue working with the determination I've seen first hand on many occasions." Funding is from two areas: The allocation of funds is supported by the programme dual key holders, HM Treasury and Office of the Envoy. It is also supported by the Local Government Association. The £220 million, for the two years up to and including the target year of 2005, is part of the £675 million total programme fund for delivering Local e-Government. Detail: Local e-Government Funds Committed For Financial Years 2004-2006 - Support for individual councils - Each local Authority in England, including submitting a satisfactory IEG statement in 2003/04, 2004/05 and 2005/06 will receive £500k capital grant (£350k in 04/05 and £150k in 05/06). The IEG assessment will include a section on councils' plans for e-enabling agreed priority service outcomes.

Councils not completing this section satisfactorily will be required to resubmit their IEG statement and risk losing the following year's allocation. Councils struggling with e-government will be offered support from the new Implementation Support Unit. The ISU will prepare an improvement plan with the relevant council which may then be allocated extra support to implement the improvement plan. £10m for each of the 2 years has been allocated for this purpose. Total support for individual councils: £200m IEG support, plus up to £20m support for struggling councils. Support for national projects - Phase 3 National projects covering Take-up and Marketing, Payments and Environmental Services. £20m is allocated to support the roll out of National Projects. Detailed allocation has yet to be agreed but it is likely to be a mix of support for individual national projects roll out, and support for national co-ordination and exploitation.

Total support for National Projects £28m - Support for Partnerships - No further direct support for local e-government partnerships although councils are expected to continue to work in partnership to deliver joined up services and exploit economies of scale. New regional partnerships will be supported. Total support for regional partnerships £4m. Support and capacity - To assist councils with the e-government agenda IDeA will continue to be funded to provide the Implementation Support Unit and Strategic Support Unit. Total support for support and capacity £6m - Support for e-innovations - Support for e-innovations has already been allocated £10m over the next two years. Support for pathfinders - £1m: Support for pathfinder dissemination will cease after 04/05. Useful pathfinder activity has been rolled up in National projects. Communications/programme support - £2m is allocated to support communications and marketing activity aimed particularly at council leaders (Members and officers) and service managers. e-Voting - £1m is allocated to support for e-voting quality assurance alongside the £12m allocation for 2005 e-voting pilots. Total support for e-voting £13m.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 12 February 2004

e-Government Has more Impact if You Re-organise Entirely, Says EU

Public administrations that combine substantial reorganisation of the way they work with the use of information and communication technologies to deliver new eGovernment services , get higher appreciation ratings from business and citizens, says the EU. This finding emerges from a recently published survey: "Reorganisation of Government Back Offices for Better Electronic Public Services European Good Practices". Better results are due to the fact that reorganisation reduces costs, increases productivity, and provides flexibility and simpler organisational structures. This also helps to improve how systems work together across the administration and can improve the working environment for staff. The practical results for the public and for businesses are fewer visits to administrations, together with faster, cheaper, more accessible and efficient services. Benefits are also reflected in fewer errors, more openness, easier to use systems and greater user control.

The European Commission's Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, said: "The success of eGovernment depends on the right combination of ICT, re-organisation and training. This survey provides a helpful guide for public administrations wanting to improve the quality and the take up of their own on-line public services through back-office re-organisation". Examples of good practice included substantial savings in enrolment in higher education in Finland and the UK. In the Finnish case, self-service by students accessing the on-line service has reduced the burden imposed by enrolment on administrative staff. In the University of Helsinki alone, this has reduced the number of desk visitors by about 16,000 per annum. The design of a Danish citizens' portal makes it easier to measure benefits. The most common result is that the technology itself may give 20% of a given saving while the redesign of organisational processes provides the remaining 80% of the saving.

The survey includes 29 in-depth "best practice" case studies. It was financed by the European Commission as a part of the 'benchmarking' of eEurope. It complements work which has focused on the roll-out of electronic public services (i.e. the so-called 'front-office' as seen by the user), by trying to look at the impact of reorganisation by government (in the 'back-office') to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by information and communications technologies. This study draws on a large scale survey of EU Member States (plus Iceland, Norway and the European Commission itself) looking at common list of 20 basic public services which under the eEurope Action Plan should be available on line. The 29 in-depth case studies provide an excellent basis for comparing and analysing good practice in eGovernment. The emphasis is on the exchange of experiences and good ideas rather than direct replication. The survey offers a set of recommendations to public online service providers for the further development of eGovernment.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 20 February 2004

Minister Publishes Public Service Superannuation Bill 2004

The Minister for Finance, Mr. Charlie McCreevy, TD, today, announced the publication of the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2004. The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the age related pension reforms for the public service announced in Budget 2004. Following Government consideration of the Report of the Commission on Public Service Pensions, the following age related reforms were announced in Budget 2004 for new entrants to the public service with effect from 1 April 2004: o the minimum age for receiving a pension should generally be 65, o for the operational reasons identified in the Commission's report, there should be a minimum pension age of 55 for new entrant Garda Síochána, Prison Officers, and Specified Fire Brigade Employees, and new pension arrangements for new entrants to the Permanent Defence Force, and o there should be no compulsion in the system for people to retire at a particular age if they are fit and willing to remain in employment.

Referring to the Report of the Commission on Public Service Pensions, the Minister said that, after careful consideration, the Government had decided to implement the bulk of the Commission's recommendations. The Commission had examined the position very carefully and had taken account of the position of the various occupational groups in terms of fairness, private sector and international comparisons and affordability to the taxpayer. Commenting on the Bill, the Minister said "It gives effect to the pension reforms for new entrants to the public service I announced in the Budget. This is a vitally important measure for Ireland's future. Public service and Social Welfare pensions now cost the Exchequer about 5% of GNP. Maintaining the present level of provision is expected to cost about 12.5% of GNP in 2056. We can't ignore this, we have to take measures now to prepare for the future."

From Accountingnet.ie, Ireland, by S Heaphy, 20 February 2004

EU Sets Proposals for Funding of Public Services

The European Commission has proposed new rules governing the financing of public services such as hospitals, transport and housing. The rules set out criteria for funding given to large projects, in particular how the costs of providing that service may be determined. Projects where the beneficiary of the aid is chosen by an open and transparent tender procedure will be exempt from scrutiny. Smaller public service companies and smaller projects will also be exempt from the rules. The Commission said: "The relatively small scale of this funding does not distort competition and trade to a degree that would be contrary to the EU goal of creating an internal market for goods and services." The Commission has decided not to set out thresholds for small-scale projects since this will be left up to member states. It also said it acknowledges that this could become a large part of its debate over the framework with the European Parliament and member states.

For cases that need to be notified, the Commission said they will not be considered for state aid if they comply with criteria set out in a ruling by the European Court of Justice. It said funding is not state aid if the beneficiary has a clearly-defined public service mission and the parameters for calculating the funding are established in advance in an objective manner. Funding must not exceed the cost of the public service and the beneficiary must be chosen in a public tender or the funding must not exceed the costs of an efficient management of the service. For cases that do not meet these criteria, the Commission said it has set out rules to determine the costs attributable to the public service to determine if over-compensation is taking place. Several sectors will be exempt from the rules, including hospitals and social housing. In the maritime sector, funding will be exempted from transport to islands in cases where annual traffic does not exceed 100,000 passengers. The proposed rules will now be discussed by the European Parliament and EU member states.

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 18 February 2004

European Parliament Elections: Public Services Key Issue for Finnish Voters

Finnish voters see the maintenance of social benefits and public services as a key concern in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament. Preserving social services was seen as the most important issue by respondents to a poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat and conducted by the polling agency Suomen Gallup. Other important issues were the rights and possibilities of Finns in the future EU, the promotion of Finnish interests, fundamental rights in the EU, the costs of EU membership, unemployment, the balance of power between the EU and Finland, and the clarification of the ground rules of how the EU operates. According to Juhani Pehkonen, head of research at Suomen Gallup, the responses indicate a concern over issues that affect the everyday lives of the people.

There was considerably less concern over questions such as Finland's position in a changing EU. "All issues that are felt to be of primary importance are linked in some way or another to personal interest. The results confirm those of other studies in which Finns are seen to hold on tenaciously to the position of security networks. Apparently the promotion of the national interest is linked partially with the fear that the safety nets would be taken away", Pehkonen says. There is a fear among voters that the EU could be used to change the welfare state. Most problematic for EU politicians and for parties drafting their election campaign themes could be the fact that decisions on social services are largely an internal issue for Finland, making it somewhat difficult to use the question as a major election theme. "It is fairly typical for Finns to fear that reforms bring on the danger of losing something, and that is why there is fairly strong resistance to change. Finns seem to think that reforms are OK as long as they are not affected themselves", Pehkonen says.

EU member states have wanted to limit the union's jurisdiction on social welfare issues. One perceived threat to the Finnish welfare state is that the free movement of labour combined with the increasing average age of the population would increase pressure on the social services system, while the free movement of capital and concern over international competitiveness would cut back on state tax income. Voters do not appear to be very interested in a number of issues that have featured prominently in EU debate. For instance, at the Inter-Governmental Conference there was debate as to whether or not Christian values should be mentioned in the EU constitution. Only 16% of respondents to the poll felt that the question was important. Other issues raising little interest include alcohol policy, the choice of a President for the European Commission, the election of a possible President for the EU, the development of the EU into a federation, as well as sports.

From Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, 20 February 2004

E-government: How Councils Can Get IT Right

Boardroom with a view - With the Government's 2005 deadline for achieving greater access to public services online looming on the horizon, the central question remains - is the public sector ready? With Downing Street's agenda firmly set on modernising the services offered by local and central government, there is little time left for those councils yet to embrace the challenges of delivering effective services online. For authorities on track to meet the deadline, there is no question that e-government will dramatically transform our daily lives. Councils now recognise that providing e-government does not just mean having a website with a list of contact numbers on it, but a service that offers greater access to a whole host of information. With the notion of being able to pay council tax bills or even monitor the progress of planning applications online fast becoming a reality, the potential benefits from e-government are great. But given the public sector's poor reputation for successfully delivering advances in IT, should we approach with caution?

The central challenge is essentially one of picking the right technology for the job. Get this right in the first instance and the rest of the initiative should succeed. Take the online services offered by the Inland Revenue or the Job Centre as an example. Not only do they provide an information source for individuals, employers and for businesses but they have helped to reduce the associated costs. By adopting joint partnership working, the private sector specialists can help to effectively drive forward e-government initiatives. It sounds straightforward, but the local government commissioning structure does not make it easy for smaller specialist suppliers to get onto tender lists. To ensure that public sector organisations maximise the benefits of working with the private sector, access must be improved. Councils must be given the opportunity to source IT support to match their specific needs and not rely on the traditional approach favouring standardised packages that provide limited benefit.

What we need to see is more projects handled by smaller, more agile companies bringing benefits in cost, specialist expertise and, crucially, time. Historically, government systems have not been set up to embrace the advances in the IT industry, but the introduction of standardised systems across the public sector offers a real step forward. The IT industry needs a common set of standards underpinning the development and enhancement of the service. These standards will aid the transfer of information and data and form a solid base upon which to build further intricacies as IT develops. The issue of so-called agile development and its associated benefits towards meeting the 2005 e-government deadline was raised at a recent Scotland IS conference.

It's a win-win situation - for the public sector, being able to harness the core skills and expertise in the private sector, without having to worry about compatibility issues would bring huge benefits, while for private companies, accessibility to government tenders means that more businesses are able to successfully provide the much-needed skills and expertise to bring government projects to fruition. With a £2.3 billion budget at the start of the e-government programme, public sector organisations can ensure they receive the best possible level of service. There is no doubt that the public sector is moving in the right direction in terms of IT outsourcing and it is slowly but surely proving that it is no longer a technology dinosaur. Given the clear commitment to delivering the e-government agenda, it is an encouraging sign that more and more local authorities are actively seeking out and working with specialist IT providers, ultimately bringing about wider benefits for taxpayers. o Tamlin Roberts is managing director of technology specialist MercuryTide.

From Edinburgh Evening News, UK, by Tamlin Roberts, 17 February 2004

Growth of E-government Slows in Europe

Cap Gemini Ernst & Young have released results of an ongoing survey on the adoption of electronic Public Services across Europe. The objective of the survey is to provide a benchmark for the different European countries to compare progress and share best practice. The survey, undertaken on behalf of the European Commission, looks at the progress Europe is making in providing online services at both the individual and business level across the 15 EU member countries, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The adoption of e-government continues to grow but the pace of this growth slowed between 2002 and 2003. The level of online sophistication grew 7% and is now at 67% as opposed to 60% in 2002 and 45% in 2001. Austria has made the most progress of any one country for the 12-month period. Due to progress in the last year, research can now focus on the number of public services that are truly fully-transactional online.

Taking this indicator to look at Europe's progress overall shows that only 45% of services are fully available on line with Denmark, Austria and Sweden the leaders. In 2002 only Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Finland showed progress towards two-way interaction, but today almost all the countries surveyed have improved the average level of online sophistication of their public services. Twenty basic public services have been identified, eight for citizens and twelve for businesses. In almost every country more progress was made by online services for businesses than those for citizens. Services for businesses reached an overall score of 79% for online sophistication, 63% for fully available online. The services for citizens stayed at the level of 58% for online sophistication, and only 32% for fully available online. It was also noted that, for both citizens and business services, enabling the collection of taxes are more sophisticated than those where the government is required to provide a service to the recipient (eg permits, registrations etc).

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 27 January 2004

E-government Cash Bonanza

But many resellers will struggle to grab a share of the public sector cake - A £220m cash injection into the public sector to help local authorities meet e-government targets is set to filter down to the channel, but many resellers will miss out if they are not already geared up for public sector work. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has revealed plans to provide £220m to help local authorities get their services online by 2005. Resellers, with their local contacts, are ideally placed to win local authority contracts, said John Griffiths, public sector consultant at reseller cScape. But winning these deals requires VARs to have experience of dealing with the public sector. "You're not just going to walk into the sector and take away deals just because there's extra money available," he said. Some VARs have been put off bidding for local authority contracts because of the high price of entering the market. According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), it can cost up to £500 in annual fees to become an accredited supplier to a council.

Tina Sommer, trade and industry chairwoman at the FSB, said: "Approved lists, excessive paperwork and a raft of different entry requirements puts another layer of bureaucracy and cost between councils and small firms." The government has tried to make it simple for smaller businesses to win government contracts through the G-Cat system. But not all local authorities will buy through G-Cat, said Glyn Evans, a representative for public sector IT group Socitm. "Some use their in-house procurement specialists for IT purchases," he said. But Griffiths warned that this round of public sector spending may not last. Once the 2005 targets have passed, local authority spending will return to "more sensible" levels, he said. "If you're looking at winning public sector deals, you have to consider your plans for the next three to five years and think about how the market will look over that time." Central government spending on IT is also likely to fall after the next general election. Anthony Miller, analyst at Ovum Holway, said most of the IT infrastructure work will have been done and spending would be on lower-value maintenance contracts. "I don't think the political willpower will be there to continue current spending levels on IT, whoever wins," he said.

From VNUNet, UK, by Gareth Morgan, 23 February 2004

European Public Administration Exhibition

The fourth European public administration exhibition (EuroP.A.), focussing on e-Europe and e-government, will be held from 24 to 27 March in Rimini, Italy. The exhibition gives European public institutions and private companies the opportunity to learn, compare and assimilate the instruments necessary for bringing about innovation in local administration. Participants will be able to demonstrate and discover a range of new products, services and technologies, and attend a programme of conventions and seminars featuring expert speakers from across Europe. For further information, please consult the following web address: http://www.euro-pa.it/english/index.htm.

From Cordis News, EU, 28 January 2004

SOCITM Local Authority Survey Shows Scale of 2005 e-Government Challenge

The Society of IT Management(SOCITM)'s sixth annual local authority web survey Better connected 2004 shows much improvement in local authority websites but highlights the sheer (and some might say daunting) scale of the e-Government task to be achieved by end 2005. Key findings of the report are: - 56 local authorities have promotional sites, (12%); - 209 have content sites (45%); - 177 have content plus sites (38%); - 23 have transactional sites (5%); - transactions offered up by more than 46% compared with 2002. - one third of sites have moved up a rank in the Better connected four rank system. - a user survey of nine sample local authority sites shows that 83% were likely to make the website their first port of call if looking for similar information in future. - performance in the ODPM's proposed 14 priority service areas is 'patchy' and some proposed 'mandatory outcomes' look certain not to be achieved by end 2005. - report includes findings in nine new topics including use of forms, search engines, and compliance with level A WAI accessibility standard.

The Better Connected survey provides a definitive snapshot of local government performance on the web. Every UK local authority website is reviewed and assessed against relevant e-government and good practice criteria and then ranked as - in descending order of desirability - a transactional, content plus, content, or promotional site. This year's results show that one third of sites have moved up a rank in status, that 23 sites are now transactional (up from ten in 2003), and that there has been an increase of 46% in the number of self-service 'transactions' (eg paying council tax or reporting a faulty street light) available through local authority websites since 2002. However, when the detailed survey findings are mapped against the mandatory outcomes in 14 priority service areas proposed by the ODPM in its recent consultation paper Defining E-government priority services and transformation outcomes in 2005 for local authorities in England, the results indicate the size of the e-government task local authorities are facing.

While the survey does show evidence of steady progress that, if maintained, should ensure local authorities achieve mandatory outcomes in some areas, like online library renewals (60% already), other services, such as booking sports facilities, have barely started - just 12 instances were found by the Better connected research team. Meanwhile major areas like social housing and benefits have recently been shown in the report Better connected: advice to citizens to be poorly catered for on local authority websites. In addition, the report is quite clear that the mandatory outcomes in two specific areas - conformance with Level AA of the WAI guidelines for accessibility, and the compliance with e-GMS for joined-up government - will not be achieved by all councils. In the case of the accessibility conformance, the report's conclusion is based on the fact that its accessibility survey carried out on all websites shows a compliance level to just Level A by only 18 councils. Better connected 2004 contains a wealth of other information, much of it positive, both from the 'mystery shopping' exercise which is the main element of the research and from nine other surveys carried out with a series of collaborators (see below for further information).

Key findings from the research include the following: - Comparison with CPA results in England shows that top-tier excellent councils have website rankings that are 16% higher than the rest (in shire districts the gap widens to 23%). - Although access to the Internet across the UK is not really growing very much, there is positive evidence to encourage local authorities to invest in their websites. - According to surveys carried out for Better connected, between 3.8m and 5.7m people visited local authority sites in December 2003, (8.2% and 12.3% of the population, excluding under 15s). - Feedback from a user survey at nine councils with well developed sites shows that 74% would make the website their first port of call if looking for similar information in future - The number of technical errors on local authority sites has halved during the year according to the SiteMorse tests.

The 23 'transactional' sites identified by Better connected 2004: > Barking & Dagenham > Birmingham City (from 2003) > Bracknell Forest > Brent > Brighton & Hove > Camden (from 2002) > Corporation of London > Durham CC > Hertfordshire CC (from 2002) > Hillingdon > Isle of Wight > Kensington & Chelsea > Kirklees MBC > Maidstone BC (from 2003) > Borough of Poole > South Tyneside MBC > Stroud DC (from 2003) > Surrey CC > Tameside MBC (from 2001) > Wandsworth (from 2003) > West Lothian > Westminster City (from 2002) > Wrexham CBC (from 2003). The most improved sites: The following had only a basic site 12 months ago and have gone up two ranks to achieve a C+ rating. If a local authority has the will to improve and makes good use of surveys such as this that help in the discovery of best practice, it is quite feasible to make this level of improvement. The potential for doing this, however, is less high than it has been as sites gradually move away from being purely promotional. This almost certainly explains why this list is over half the length of the similar lists in the past three years. > East Devon DC > Fermanagh DC > Fife > Newcastle-under-Lyme BC > North Devon DC > Sheffield City > Shrewsbury & Atcham BC.

According to Martin Greenwood, programme manager for Socitm Insight which produces the annual Better connected report, 'the next year, and the one after, will not be easy times for many local authorities implementing e-government, especially in England, where balancing local priorities against mandatory national priorities will be challenging. However, one way of maximising resources is to share lessons learned. The Better connected report is very efficient means of doing so.' How the research was done - This year's Better Connected survey was carried out between 15 November and 23 December 2003 and involved a team of reviewers visiting all websites managed by 467 councils throughout the UK. Using a structured questionnaire the team explored the ability of websites to respond to the sort of needs a range of typical local authority customers might have, and to test performance in the areas of joined-up government; interactive applications; currency of information; usability; and responsiveness to e-mail.

Using the research findings, the team then classified the websites as 'promotional'; 'content'; 'content plus' or 'transactional'. 'Transactional' means significantly interactive and is seen as the goal to which all local authority websites should be aspiring in order to meet the requirements of e-government. Additional methodology: Additional surveys built in to report: This year the 'core' Better Connected survey has been supplemented by several additional surveys, some carried out by members of the Better connected team and some carried out by other organisations: - user feedback (sample of websites only) - results provided by RedSheriff - use of content management systems - special survey by BC team - website accessibility - results provided by RNIB - various technical assessments provided by the SiteMorse benchmarking product - various tests on the quality of search engines provided by SciVisum - tests on website readability (involving a sample of websites only) provided by Emphasis Training - access to the Internet research from MORI - statistics on use of websites provided by Hitwise - survey of local authority switchboards to test whether website addresses were given correctly - special survey by BC team - survey of the use of forms by local authority websites - special survey by BC team - survey of response to an e-mail enquiry sent from the website - special survey by BC team - survey of participation - instances of the website being used for consultation and other forms of citizen engagement - special survey by BC team - survey of news value - special survey by BC team.

How the Better connected team rates websites: Socitm Insight has developed a rating system for local authority websites. This rating reflects the potential for local authority websites to pay a major role in the delivery of e-government. On this basis, all local authority websites should be aspiring to achieve 'transactional' status as soon as possible, with the steps along the way being the achievement first of promotional, then content, and then content plus status. Promotional sites provide basic promotional information about the organisation with very little scope for interaction. They might typically concentrate on tourism, economic development and basic departmental information, with limited information on individual services beyond an A-Z with telephone contact numbers. Little use will be made of e-mail or online feedback, although a few gateway links might be provided. Content sites provide useful content and encourage some interaction. They have more sophisticated promotional information (eg accommodation search, downloadable files) and include features such as What's New pages, A-Z service listings and keyword site search facilities. They usually include some basic user interaction (eg clicking on an area map to find details of local councillors) and make use of e-mail and online feedback on home pages.

Content plus sites provide very useful content and offer some examples of more advanced online self-service features. They allow individual users to define their own search criteria (eg search by postcode for service information, refine searches of local tourist accommodation by type and price), may include links to services such as Girobank for online payment and online databases for items such as library catalogues, planning applications, committee minutes. Service information is comprehensive and makes widespread use of e-mail, online feedback and even discussion forums. Such sites also typically host information on behalf of the wider local community. Transactional sites are accessible, complete, thoughtful and coherent. They have developed more than one type of online interaction (eg payment, applications, consultation, bookings) and also offer examples of customer recognition (eg ability to check outstanding Council Tax balance). They also provide specific email contacts for different service enquiries and make widespread use of databases, downloadable forms and online form filling (eg for service requests, appointments).

They routinely utilise the potential of the Internet for joined-up government (eg OFSTED reports listed alongside schools listings) and offer unique examples of the application of the medium in a local government context. The report contents: Better connected 2004 is presented in six parts: Part A Today's context - This section provides a reminder about the purpose of the survey and in particular the new criteria of 'useful, usable and used' published as part of the LAWs national project. the key points about the developing policies for local e-government implementation are summarised. Part B Overview of this year's results - The first part of the survey results looks at the national picture in terms of overall rankings and improvement trends and includes our lists of transactional sites, our Top 20 and other top groupings. Part C This year's results - useful content - The detailed analysis of the results. Firstly, we report here on five scenarios of typical visitors for information content and then focus on currency of information, use of links, response to e-mail, development of forms, provision of services and the practice of participation.

All these factors help develop the content of the site. Part D This year's results - usability. The second dimension of the results concerns usability. This covers ease of finding, use of navigational aids such as A-Z lists, search engines and locational data, general navigation, accessibility, readability and, finally, technical resilience. All these factors shape the user experience. Part E This year's results - usage. Our third perspective is focused on usage. We report the latest surveys about what people think about local authority websites in principle and compare this with what they actually think just after they have experienced using them. We also examine usage figures for the local government sector as a whole and provide advice about the way in which websites might be promoted, based on the evidence we have collated. Part F The future - Finally, we look to the future. Nationally, in England, outcomes against proposed priority service areas may well influence website developments. Locally, those councils that do not have the basics in place should learn from the case study of East Devon DC, one of our most improved sites. Those that have well-developed sites need to think about all the new pieces of evidence provided by this report.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 25 February 2004

Easier Online Transactions for E-government

They may be the future of e-government, but online transaction services have yet to realise their full potential. But the SMARTGOV platform helps public sector employees generate e-forms by simplifying integration with existing IT systems. Combining intelligent management of electronic services and knowledge about public services, the platform, developed by IST-project SMARTGOV, leverages the potential of open-source technologies to provide a set of tools to facilitate and maintain online transaction services over the Internet and to establish connectivity to governmental legacy systems.

According to project manager George Lepouras, the benefits for public authorities and service providers using the SMARTGOV platform include: o cost efficiency by utilising qualified open source systems to reduce deployment and operational costs; o quality of services via the automation and enhancement of the generation of services with data and logic validation rules in order to reduce submission errors and control transaction flow; o easy and enhanced development of transaction services with in-house rapid development of multilingual services and the ability to connect to IT legacy systems; o knowledge sharing by establishing a common pool of electronic resources and re-usability of knowledge and service elements to accelerate the service production process. Lepouras says the platform has been installed at the two participating public authorities (General Secretariat for Information Systems at the Greek Ministry of Finance (GSIS) and City of Edinburgh Council (CEC)) and has been 'successfully exploited' to build electronic services at these sites.

The service built for GSIS is publicly available to all registered users of the Greek Taxation system, while the CEC version is available to internal users of the Edinburgh City Council. As well as these successful trials, Lepouras says the project's 'Framework for e-Government Services' gives him confidence in future deployment and acceptance of the SMARTGOV technology. The framework, one of the main outcomes of SMARTGOV, documents how processes are carried out and who does them, taking into consideration organisational, business related and social aspects that become relevant when knowledge management is introduced, and deployed in the public sector. The framework encompasses models that support cooperation and models that support the acceptance of online transaction services, focusing on issues such as privacy, trust, and satisfaction. "All of the representations were built on and extended ontologies from business, process modelling and knowledge management," he says.

The project also sees EU law acting as a major driver in the adoption of online transaction services. Being the basis for realising most of the twenty public services that all EU member states have to provide to their citizens and businesses, e-forms will play a significant role in future e-government. And, as far as commercialisation prospects are concerned, "the consortium has come up with a business plan for the exploitation of the project's results and we are also considering the possibility of creating a spin-off company," Lepouras says, adding that one of the consortium partners has already had success in selling the SMARTGOV platform as the platform for developing e-services in a government ministry. Contact: George Lepouras, University of Athens, Department of Informatics and Telecommunications, 30 Panepistimiou St., GR-10679 Athens, Greece, Tel. +30-210-7275241, Fax: +30-210-7275601, Email: G.Lepouras@di.uoa.gr. Source: Based on information from SMARTGOV.

From Innovations-Report, Germany, 25 February 2004

 

UAE Gets Top Rating for E-government Readiness

Dubai - The UAE has been ranked by United Nations e-government report as the top performer in e-government readiness in the Middle East and Africa region, followed by Bahrain, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon and Qatar. The rankings were based on the three key indicators, government's aptitude to employ e-government as a tool to inform, interact, transact and network, telecom infrastructure and human capital index which took into consideration literacy rate and the overall school enrolment ratio. The survey entitled," World Public Sector Report 2003: e-Government at the Crossroads'' ranked countries in terms of e-government readiness as reflected in the aptitude of the public sector to use information and communication technology for encapsulating public services. Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment, said: "E-government is fast becoming the key driver of a country's economy.

However, certain countries have shown greater determination to transform themselves into knowledge economies within a stipulated timeframe. UAE is certainly one of them and the achievements have now been acknowledged by the UN report and several other studies." "The Dubai eGovernment has set the goal of migrating over 70 per cent of its public services to electronic channels by the year 2005, and we are on track to achieve that target," added Al Shair. The findings of the UN report, published by Madar Research Group in its latest Research Journal, give credit to some Arab countries for having "put tremendous efforts into developing their e-government programmes in recent years." According to the report, the United States has emerged as the world leader in e-government readiness, followed by Sweden, Australia, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Canada and Norway. South central Asia and Africa had the lowest e-government readiness in the world. Al Shair said: "In the case of Arab countries, concrete strategies for e-government are of recent origin. As for Dubai eGovernment, we are proud that we have achieved the status of a regional leader in e-governance. This will motivate us to accelerate efforts to raise our status at the global level."

From Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates, 4 February 2004

Bahrain's e-Government Initiative Gains Momentum

Dubai - In one of the latest contracts awarded as part of Bahrain's staggered e-Government programme, Microsoft has been chosen to provide the IT security platform for the 'smart card' initiative. Tenders for this project were called last November. The project will allow every Bahraini citizen to interact with the government, including making payments, through the multi-purpose smart cards. The Bahrain e-Government initiative has built up strong momentum, having initiated or completed major phases right through 2003. This year will see some of the multi-layer projects enter the decisive stage before being made available to a wider audience. The government programme has attracted some leading IT vendors for the various phases such as IBM and Microsoft. "Our approach is to work on fast-track projects that normally run for two to four months and can show tangible results rather quickly, and are part of a bigger project.

In the past summer, we worked jointly with Bahrain's Central Informatics Organisation to consolidate and set up a robust e-mail infrastructure," said Samir Benmakhlouf, business development manager, Microsoft Bahrain. "The project took less than two months to finish. Now many ministries and government agencies are ready to join this new infrastructure." Microsoft is already working on the 'e-investor' project in Bahrain that would be the foundation for all business interactions with the government, plus the 'Business Intelligence' project to create national data bases for the ministries of health, labour and commerce. The e-investor project is now in the second phase, and Microsoft has a consultancy agreement to deploy its solutions. The Business Intelligence programme will enable decision makers in the government to have the right information in the right format from many data sources in the government.

On its part, Microsoft will offer the tools to the government to enable decisions based on data analysis. Its technologies for this project are the on-line analysis services, the SQL database and Windows server. In Bahrain, Microsoft technologies are implemented on the desktop, back office as well as the platform levels at the government level. The Central Informatics Organisation, a key entity in the e-government in Bahrain managing the government-wide data network and infrastructure, has consolidated its servers on Windows 2003 and implemented Exchange 2003 for all government related online communication. "We are looked at as a strategic advisor by many entities of the Government of Bahrain. We get involved in projects ranging from setting up IT infrastructures and intranets to addressing some of the most strategic issues of the government business such as the design and development of business intelligence tools to help in addressing the labour market dynamics," said Benmakh-louf.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, by Manoj Nair, 6 February 2004

Dubai eGovernment Introduces Free Online Payment Facility for Public Services Through ePay

Dubai citizens can now make online payments for public services at no additional cost, using the ePay facility on Dubai eGovernment's Payment Gateway. The free service is provided by Dubai eGovernment as part of its goal of simplifying the lives of the people and the business community, by offering a unified mode of payment for public services. This will benefit citizens who had to previously pay a processing or user fee to make online payments for some government services. ePay is a highly secure online payment mode that allows registered users to pay for public utilities or fines using the eDirham card under approval of the UAE Ministry of Finance and Industry or a credit card. Among the earliest departments to offer the ePay services were Dubai Municipality, Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS), Electronic Total Quality Management College (eTQM) and Dubai Development Board. 'ePay has been well received by members of the public.

Dubai Municipality and DOHMS have reported that the number of customers using ePay for payment has seen a steady increase in recent months,' said Salem Al Shair, Director, eServices, Dubai eGovernment. 'We are delighted to offer ePay as a free service to online users and we expect more people to take advantage of this user-friendly facility.' 'The success has now prompted a number of other key departments to join the ePay network. In the coming months, most of the government departments will be offering online payment facility through ePay. This will truly take us to the most advanced stage of e-governance, bringing us closer to the ultimate advantage of online services,' Al Shair said. 'Dubai eGovernment has worked closely with banks, concerned departments, Comtrust and the eDirham portal to ensure that the system is foolproof,' added Al Shair.

'All security concerns have been addressed to offer citizens a secure and user-friendly payment mode, using two different payment options; eDirham or credit cards. Currently, 60 per cent of online transactions are done using eDirham, while the rest are through credit cards. Users have expressed satisfaction over the system and we are confident the number will increase dramatically as the advantages of ePay are realised by more departments as well as users.' 'ePay is the ideal payment mode for settling bills and other public services because it offers several advantages,' said Mahmoud Al Bastaki, ePay Project Manager, Dubai eGovernment. 'It is a centralised payment gateway that offers the unparalleled convenience of paying any time from anywhere in the world. It eliminates the need for over-the-counter payment, thus saving time and inconvenience. It is quick and allows multiple transactions at the touch of a key.' 'For the participating government departments, ePay brings several benefits. It helps minimise running costs by automating the systems. It saves them the costs of maintaining their own online payment facilities. It unifies the business agreements with all the concerned financial institutions such as banks and payment service providers. It also saves the government departments the trouble of selecting payment application development vendors, as they can directly use an integrated payment application managed by Dubai eGovernment,' Al Bastaki added.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 25 February 2004

 

E-gov Fund Ambition Shrivels

The administration is asking for a much smaller central e-government fund than in recent years. The fiscal 2005 budget request includes $5 million for the e-gov fund, down from the requested $45 million for fiscal 2004, and closer to the $3 million Congress granted for the fund last year. In addition to the $5 million, the 2005 budget proposal assumes $40 million for e-government from surplus revenues generated in the General Services Administration's General Supply Fund, which is made up of fees from agencies and vendors using GSA's supply services. When President Bush first proposed the fund in fiscal 2002, he committed to making available $100 million over three years, a goal he is far from meeting.

"Proposals for funding will be required to meet capital planning guidelines and include adequate documentation to demonstrate a sound business case, attention to security and privacy, and a way to measure performance against planned results," the budget documents state. "In addition, a small portion of the money could be used for awards to those project management teams that delivered the best product to meet customer needs." The E-Government Act of 2002, which is aimed at improving e-government management and establishes criteria for how the fund should be administered, authorizes $345 million over six years. For the past three years, the administration had requested $20 million to $45 million, but Congress continually slashed the fund, calling on agencies to find the resources to fund the 24 e-government initiatives.

David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), said that by now, $95 million should have been appropriated to encourage crossagency initiatives, but "instead, the total amount appropriated for the last two years has been a mere $8 million." "Given the present fiscal environment and the view of appropriators, I think that the administration feels they had zero chance in asking for more," he said. "On e-government issues in general, there's just no coordinated political constituency pushing appropriators to allocate money. They see no political benefit in targeting funds toward E-Gov projects, which would require taking away money from other pet projects. In addition, appropriators see the E-Gov fund as duplicative spending." Marin said appropriators need a longer-term view of the e-government initiatives, recognizing the need to invest money now to save money down the road. The fund is included in the GSA request. Also in this budget request, each agency was required to identify in their business cases how much money they would contribute to the e-gov initiatives in which they are involved.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 2 February 2004

GSA Bolsters E-gov Fund

The General Services Administration is proposing to bolster President Bush's $5 million e-government fund request in the fiscal 2005 budget with $40 million in fees collected from agencies that buy products and services off of GSA's purchasing vehicles. The $40 million would otherwise be returned to the Treasury Department, said Debi Schilling, GSA budget director. GSA projects a $75 million surplus in its general supply fund in 2005, so $35 million would still be returned to the Treasury, she said. Last year, Bush requested $45 million for the e-gov fund, but Congress appropriated $5 million. The fund is used to pay for some of the government's 24 cross-agency information technology projects. "The administration has not been successful in getting appropriated money, and with discretionary spending declining, this seemed to everyone to be a useful way to use funds that would otherwise go back to the Treasury," Schillling said. The idea to spend GSA fee money on e-government came out of budget discussions with officials at the Office of Management and Budget this fall, Schilling said. OMB officials would decide which e-gov projects would share in the $40 million, she said. Under law, GSA can use the general supply fund to pay for e-government projects that advance its work, such as e-travel and the integrated acquisition environment. Congressional approval will be required to spend the money on e-gov projects outside GSA's domain, Schilling said.

From Washington Technology, United States, by Gail Repsher Emery, 3 February 2004

E-gov Requires Teamwork

Technology managers can take cues from the Super Bowl champions. The New England Patriots exhibit many characteristics important for successful collaboration in e-government, according to Tad Anderson, associate administrator for e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget. "They recognized that great victories are not the stuff of individual efforts, but of great teamwork," Anderson said of the Patriots, referring to when the team entered the Super Bowl field two years ago as a single group, rather than having each player's name called. Similarly, managers continue to work toward viewing the government as a single entity, efficiently providing services to the citizen, Anderson said. He spoke today at the Enterprise Architecture conference sponsored by the E-Gov Institute. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick brought strong leadership, trust among teammates, focus on a common goal and a shared vision to be the best team, Anderson said.

IT managers can follow the same path for cooperation in e-government. "Web-enablement is not just a process," he said. "It's about people, too. Anywhere there is change, there is a need for cooperation." Anderson said officials at OMB are starting to see the fruits of agencies' efforts to collaborate on e-gov solutions. He highlighted examples of: o Intra-agency collaboration, such as the Treasury Department's recent efforts in enterprise licensing, led by chief information officer Drew Ladner. o Interagency partnership, along the lines of the E-Rulemaking initiative. As the managing partner, the Environmental Protection Agency has broken down barriers between partnering agencies for an initiative Anderson called "very promising." o Intergovernmental collaboration, exemplified by the Geospatial One-Stop work between federal, state, local and tribal governments. A governance board managed the program, designed to provide a single portal for map-related data, where all levels of government were represented. o Public/private partnerships, like share-in-savings initiatives. Both sides have much to learn and benefit from these collaborations, Anderson said.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 4 February 2004

President's Plan: Funnel GWAC, Schedule Fees to E-Gov Fund

The Bush administration is trying to make up for the $87 million shortfall in money appropriated to the E-Government Fund over the last three years by tapping fees generated by schedule and governmentwide acquisition contracts. The fiscal 2005 budget proposal the White House released today noted that the General Services Administration would pour into the fund $40 million in surplus revenues from the fees agencies pay when buying goods and services from Federal Supply Service schedule contracts and GWACs. Because of these funds, the administration is requesting only $5 million for the fund next year, down from a $45 million request for this year. The move is also defensive because Congress has repeatedly refused to approve the administration's E-Government Fund requests, OK'ing $3 million for this year and $5 million in 2003. The president had said he wanted to pump $100 million into the fund over the three years. Meanwhile, for two other major IT initiatives, the proposal seeks: o $36 million for the National Archives and Records Administration's Electronic Records Archive project. ERA is receiving the same amount this year. Bush had requested $22 million. o $300 million for the Human Capital Performance Fund, which agencies use to pay employees incentives for good performance. The fund is getting $500,000 this year, although the president sought $500 million.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 2 February 2004

White House Expands E-government Initiative

The Office of Management and Budget is drafting plans to expand the federal government's information technology blueprint to include five new business areas, an official said at an e-government conference on Monday. Tad Anderson, OMB's associate administrator for e-government and information technology, told reporters after his keynote address that OMB soon will convene task forces to develop details for "lines of business" on health, case management, grants, human-resources management and financial management. Anderson added that the e-government budget for fiscal 2005 is "not as much as we would like it to be," noting that Congress funded initiatives at less than the administration's fiscal 2004 request and that OMB will work with Congress toward adequate funding for fiscal 2005. In his speech at a conference on Web-enabled government services, Anderson touted broad and specific e-government accomplishments under the President's Management Agenda.

"Every person, every dollar, falls under the purview of the President's Management Agenda," he said, noting that the agenda "drives or influences every decision made in the federal government today." Anderson added that the agenda has brought greater cooperation among agencies, leading to progress on cost savings and efficiency. "In breaking out of one's silos, more is gained than lost," he said in a reference to the narrowly focused technology systems of some federal agencies. "Anywhere there is change, there is cooperation. Our government investment in technology is massive." The federal IT budget is about $164 million per day, Anderson added. He singled out a $30 million software contract negotiated by the Treasury Department that is expected to produce millions of dollars in future savings and praised the department for overcoming "issues of ownership, control, authority and investment." He also praised initiatives such as Geodata.gov, which houses 5,300 data sets compiled by 16 federal agencies and 18 states.

From GovExec.com, by Ted Leventhal, 4 February 2004

2004 Public Policy Initiative, Week of February 5-11, 2004

A commentary - Two decades ago, with the stroke of a pen, a federal judge unleashed the greatest technological and lifestyle revolution the United States has ever experienced. Before Jan. 1, 1984, Americans communicated much as we had for 50 years. Most messages, including data, went by letter. Phone calls were generally for urgent matters, with pink slips of paper marking missed connections. Long distance calls were expensive treats. And no one wondered who their communications provider would be. Judge Harold Greene's pen changed all that. Today, Americans enjoy a host of communications choices, affecting how, when, where and what we communicate. Nearly 200 companies are authorized to offer local phone service in North Carolina. They operate where they want and don't operate where they don't care to. While they don't all serve every town, you'll find in the phone book 29 serving Wilmington. Their industry association says they have 20,000,000 customers nationwide, including, according to the N.C. Utilities Commission, 475,000 in this state.

The communications revolution includes wireless, high speed internet and interactive pagers - technologies that barely existed in the R&D labs 20 years ago but are now part and parcel of daily life, as the FCC's number portability decision illustrated. Phones were first a luxury for the well-to-do, then standard equipment for homes and businesses. Now some customers have moved to a completely wireless environment. More changes are coming. Technology will continue to develop as customers continue to focus more on the services they need and less on the platform that carries them. The communications market will become even more competitive. At BellSouth, we're excited about that, for competition encourages quality. Our fiber optic network, especially during hurricanes, tornadoes, snow and ice storms, has given us a national reputation for quality service. Customers need dependable communications and we continually work to deliver. Competition also encourages innovative thinking.

That's why BellSouth offers creative bundles of services for consumers and businesses. All that said, I wonder why government treats BellSouth as though we were still a monopoly. Customers choosing BellSouth for local or long distance do so because they prefer our service, not because they lack choices. Some people claim customers might not be able to dial 911 or rural areas might not have phones if BellSouth were not heavily regulated. What nonsense. BellSouth, and Southern Bell before it, have been committed to public service for more than a century. We don't want to abandon that commitment or quarrel with appropriate regulations. But it is time to consider which regulations are truly needed in today's competitive world. Those that are not, and there are many, should be removed. America's cell phone industry struggled for ten years until the government decided to ease regulations, igniting a continuing flurry of competition in innovative services.

The Internet developed quickly because it got established before the government had a chance to regulate. Market-based competition works. It stimulates investment, creates jobs, and responds to customer needs. Government-managed competition, the economic regulation in place in our industry today, is a relic of the bygone monopoly era. Judge Greene understood that what was right yesterday is not necessarily best today or tomorrow. Congress concurred, in passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as did the NC General Assembly, which passed pro-competition legislation in 1995 and 2003. Ending AT&T's national monopoly seemed risky 20 years ago. But Greene was looking to the future. Now we understand the wisdom of his vision. The time has come for the next step on the journey. Ed Penny is Director of Regulatory and External Affairs for BellSouth.

From Yankton Daily Press, SD, by Ed Penny of BellSouth, 4 February 2004

The States and Outsourcing

The emergence of John Kerry as frontrunner for the Democratic nomination suggests that free trade might be off the table in 2004, at least as a national issue. It's certain to come up, however, in a number of congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial campaigns. And of course, as long as Lou Dobbs is still kicking at CNN, we'll continue to hear nightly nativist tirades against the loss of manufacturing jobs, the offshoring of tech jobs, immigration, and general alarmism about the "outsourcing of America." The truth of course is quite a bit more complicated than the simplistic picture painted by protectionists. The United States is still far and away the world's leading exporter of services. Direct corporate investment in India - generally the target of protectionist rants on tech jobs - actually declined from 2001 to 2003. As for manufacturing jobs, sure, it's likely that free trade agreements played a part in the loss of jobs in the last five years, but so too did a host of other factors, include exchange rates, changing consumer preferences, upgrades in technology and equipment, the recession, and new federal regulations. Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy, to cite just one example, estimated in 2002 that a federal appeals court ruling favoring procedural matters over hard science in federal environmental regulatory policy could cost the state as much as $2.6 billion, or about 10,000 jobs.

Which brings me to state policy. I'm not an economist, so the analysis that follows is largely anecdotal. But they're some awfully persuasive anecdotes. Time and again, when we look at the states attracting and retaining jobs, and we compare them to states losing jobs, we find that the states doing well are those with tax and regulatory schemes most friendly to doing business in the state. It's only when the cost of staying local becomes too burdensome that companies pick up and relocate elsewhere. Perhaps that doesn't surprise you. But just how strongly the data shake out just might. And the correlation isn't reported much in the press. For example, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the five states losing the most jobs between 1993 and 2000 were, in order, California, New York, Michigan, Texas and Ohio. According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts also rank near the bottom, particularly when you take jobs as a percentage of population. The left-leaning EPI blames these losses chiefly on NAFTA, and perhaps that's partially the case. But I'd suggest that aggressive tax and regulatory climates might play a pretty big role, too.

Every year, CFO magazine asks financial executives to assess the business-friendliness tax policy of their respective states, which the magazine then compiles and ranks. Ranking in the bottom ten? California, New York, Michigan, Texas, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts -- the very states that seem to be bleeding jobs. The most recent unemployment figures from the Labor Department put California, Texas, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan all in the bottom ten there, too, all with unemployment rates at 7.0% or higher. The Small Business Survival Committee also puts out a report ranking the states on business-friendly public policy. In the SBSC report, Ohio ranks 39th, New York 45th and California 46th. Oregon, also with one of the country's highest unemployment rates, ranks 41st. A 2003 ranking by the Tax Foundation focusing mainly on tax policy and business tells the same story. It puts California 49th, Ohio 47th, and New York 44th.

Only Texas and Michigan score relatively well on the Tax Foundation and SBSC reports, suggesting that at least in these two states, free trade may have played a more significant role in job loss than poor public policy (and when you think about what Michigan manufactures, and where Texas is located, that makes some sense). The Cato Institute's Alan Reynolds wrote recently about San Jose, California, a city which recently lost about 120,000 jobs over two years. Reynolds points out that despite the debacle in San Jose, the nearby communities of San Diego, Riverside and Orange County actually added almost as many jobs over the same span of time. San Jose was one of the first jurisdictions in the area to implement a so-called "living wage" ordinance, mandating that business contracting with the city pay their lowest-paid workers around $11 per hour, more than double the federal minimum wage. Of course, a living wage law in and of itself won't wipe out 120,000 tech jobs, but it's certainly indicative of the sort of "progressive" anti-corporate sentiment that might cause local businesses to pick up and spill out into friendlier communities. Protectionists often bring up Ohio as the prototype of a hard-working, breadbasket state whose manufacturing sector has fallen victim to free trade.

But Ohio's also a case study in how a state government hostile to business pushes jobs to more hospitable locales. You've read the numbers above. But additionally, in the last few years, Ohio legislators have begun to feel the hangover caused by big spending habits fomented back in the freewheeling 1990s. As of 2003, the state faced a $720 million deficit. Ohio governor Bob Taft has promised to shrink the deficit not with cuts in state spending, but with new taxes, tax hikes, and new fees, as well as rollbacks of promised tax breaks. Taft's tax happy policy earned the Republican condemnation from the Club for Growth's Steve Moore, who called him one of the "worst governors in America." The Buckeye Institute, an Ohio free market think tank, reports that Ohio's aggressive pro-labor policies cost the state jobs even during the relatively strong economic period from 1982-1998. Zeroing in on the effect of mandatory union memberships on state economies, the Institute emphasizes that during that sixteen year period, states that mandated union membership in the manufacturing sector lost a net 996,000 jobs, while "right to work states" gained 493,000.

Let's look at the flip side. How well are states with business-friendly public policy doing at attracting and retaining jobs? The anecdotal evidence suggests they're doing pretty well. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the only state that actually gained net manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2003 was Nevada. Nevada ranks 2nd on the SBSC's business-friendly list. It ranks 3rd on the Tax Foundation list. It ranks in the top four of CFO's list. Alaska lost only 900 manufacturing jobs over those same four years, which of course is likely due in large part to its population. Still, Alaska too ranked in the top four on the CFO list. Virginia made a big push in the late 1990s to attract tech firms to its D.C. suburbs and the Dulles corridor. Despite the tech bust, Virginia still has one of the lowest state unemployment rates in the country, and perhaps not coincidentally, ranks 14th on the SBSC list (and would likely rank higher were it not for Gov. Mark Warner's recent promise to raise taxes). South Dakota, which ranks number one on the SBSC list, also has one of the four lowest unemployment rates in the country, as of December 2003.

Again, this isn't a statistical analysis. But on its face, this cursory look at the data makes a lot of sense. For all the talk of offshoring, the cost of packing up a domestic plant and moving it overseas is pretty significant. Even outsourcing tech support and programming doesn't always make economic sense. American workers are still far more productive than, for example, Indian workers -- even when you factor in the lower wages. It's only when the onus of complying with federal, state and local tax laws and regulations becomes overly burdensome that it makes economic sense for a corporation to shop jurisdictions for a better deal. So the next time a local politician blasts NAFTA or greedy corporatism for the loss of local jobs, it might not hurt to take a look at just how friendly that politician's state's or city's tax, regulatory and labor policies are toward business. Check where his state ranks on the Tax Foundation, SBSC or CFO lists. If he's a governor, see how he did on the Cato Institute's Governor's Report Card. If relocation really is the cause of the job hemorrhage he's complaining about (and often it isn't), it's likely that same politician's policies are a big reason those jobs left.

From Tech Central Station, by Radley Balko, 9 February 2004

E-Gov Fund Request Shrinks

After seeing the central e-government fund slashed by Congress in the past, Office of Management and Budget officials took a new approach to asking for the money. In the fiscal 2005 budget request, the Bush administration sought $5 million to fund the 24 cross-agency initiatives, much less than the $45 million requested in fiscal 2004 and closer to the $3 million Congress actually allotted last year. However, the administration also sought to supplement that fund with up to $40 million from the General Services Administration's general supply fund, which is made up of fees from agencies and vendors using GSA's supply services. "The logic is the GSA supply fund comes from doing work for all the agencies," said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT. "Let's take the money from there and apply it to fund the e-gov initiatives because these go back to benefit the agencies."

Evans said she is hoping this reasoning will prompt appropriators to allot the money to the central fund. The onus, she said, is on OMB and the agencies to communicate with Congress to show lawmakers the value of funding the initiatives this way. When President Bush first proposed the fund in fiscal 2002, he committed to making available $100 million over three years, a goal he is far from meeting. For the past three years, the administration had requested $20 million to $45 million, but Congress continually slashed the fund, calling on agencies to find the resources to fund the 24 e-government initiatives. "Given the present fiscal environment and the view of appropriators, I think that the administration feels they had zero chance in asking for more," said David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), one of the authors of the E-Government Act of 2002, which established the fund. "In addition, appropriators see the E-Gov fund as duplicative spending."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) was also disappointed that the administration reduced the outright request rather than working with Congress to secure a larger sum, according to his spokeswoman Leslie Phillips. "The senator believes a well managed e-gov fund would achieve efficiencies and savings of its own," she said. Some analysts said they didn't see a need for a large centralized fund when agencies should be working together and budgeting for their share of the projects. "Agencies are supposed to be taking on the responsibility for the portfolios," said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of market intelligence and chief knowledge officer at Federal Sources Inc. "That's where the money should be. Congress has said the same sort of thing - what do you need that money for?"

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 10 February, 2004

Public Service Commission Reforms OK'd

Columbia - Elections for the Public Service Commission have been scheduled for March 3 after a two-year delay as the General Assembly argued about overhauling the panel that regulates utilities. The elections for seven seats have been delayed since 2002 as the Senate pushed for higher standards for commissioners and for barring legislators' family members from seeking the well-paying jobs. House Speaker David Wilkins said the bill came out of "perhaps the longest standing conference committee in the history of the state" before the House voted 107-1 to adopt it. The Senate adopted the compromise with a voice vote. The legislation requires commissioners to have college degrees and an applicable background. However, candidates already screened for those jobs won't have to meet those standards in the March 3 elections.

From Myrtle Beach Sun News, SC, 11 February 2004

N.B. Confirms Budget Cuts Will Impact Public Service

Fredericton - Finance minister holds meetings with union leaders - New Brunswick's public sector union leaders got bad news during a pre-budget session with provincial officials Friday, confirming that cuts by Premier Bernard Lord and his cabinet are likely to impact government workers. Tom Mann of the New Brunswick Public Employees Association (NBPEA/NUPGE) said following a private meeting with Finance Minister Jeannot Volpe that, while cuts seem certain, it's not clear how they will be implemented. "They said they hope the impact would be felt by as few people as possible," Mann said. Volpe has been travelling the province for the past two weeks, asking the public for suggestions to assist with a projected $300-million deficit. A new provincial budget is expected in late March. Mann said the unions presented Volpe with a long list of ways to save money and avoid cutting the public service. Suggestions included reducing tax breaks for corporations and industries, looking at highway tolls and spending less money on studies and consultants.

From National Union of Public and General Employees, Canada, 16 February 2004

Keynote Launches E-gov Transaction Index

(Web Host Industry Review) - Keynote Systems (keynote.com), a provider of Web performance measurement and management services, announced today that it has launched a new E-government Web transaction performance index. The company said the index is the first to measure government Web sites for their transaction performance (clicking through multiple Web pages) rather than just for home page downloads. According to Keynote's findings, the first week of official results showed that response times, defined as the aggregate time it took during the week to complete a multi-step transaction from the 10 US cities, for government sites ranged from 1.33 seconds (FDA Web site) to 16.88 seconds (Department of Transportation Web site). Success rates, defined as the aggregate number of times out of 100 that Keynote's measurement computers are able to complete the entire scripted transaction from start to finish, were at a high of 99.91 percent and a low of 91.08 percent.

The new index surveyed 12 federal government sites including the departments of homeland security and IRS. Keynote said that it will continue to publish the results of the index on a weekly basis. "Shedding light on the performance of leading government Web sites supports the federal government's online initiative to allow citizens to find services, do business and connect with their government with the click of a computer mouse. The new index helps fulfill that admirable goal," says Roopak Patel, senior Internet analyst at Keynote. "Currently, there is a surprisingly wide range of disparity in performance, some of the largest we've seen. Over time, we expect to see this disparity narrow, as the sites strive to bring themselves more in line with the performance expectations consumers have come to expect from commercially-based Web sites."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 17 February 2004

E-government Bill Fails

A proposal to establish an Internet system to provide access to public records for a fee never made it out of the Legislature. The measure would have permitted the state to contract with a private vendor to operate and upgrade a portal. It would have allowed individuals and businesses to access records and government information through the Internet. Fees charged for access to the records would have paid for the computer improvements and operation of the e-government system. The New Mexico Press Association and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government opposed the bill.

From KRQE, NM, 20 February 2004

A Need for Public Service, Community Partnerships

As you have heard and most likely have read about, I am the new Fire Chief for Hillsboro Fire Department. My background comes from a well-rounded response to, and mitigation of, a multitude of all-risk disasters. Therefore, for this article I would like to focus on the need to develop and/or strengthen the relationships between the community and public service. The damage caused by catastrophic earthquakes affects all elements of society and all segments of government. Survival, self-help, and mutual aid are all terms used to describe essential measures for individuals and neighborhoods to cope in the aftermath of a catastrophic event. Prevention planning is based on the assumption that such a catastrophic event will severely restrict and overwhelm our response resources, communications, transportation, electricity, and lifeline systems. This will leave many individuals and neighborhoods cut off from outside support, as well as restrict the access of emergency response organizations into critically affected areas. Households and neighborhoods may need to rely on their own resources for food, water, first aid, and shelter during the 72 hours immediately following a catastrophic event.

The ability of individuals and neighborhoods to fend for themselves during this crucial time period will be critical to their survival and recovery. Community-based preparedness planning presents, and has demonstrated, a viable means for responding to the anticipated disruptions and potential hazards, which will arise as a result of a catastrophic earthquake. Household and neighborhood hazard reduction and preparedness measures are cost-effective methods of reducing injuries, loss of lives, and property damage. Various studies of behavior following disasters document the emergence of effective groups of both friends and strangers to deal with immediate survival and relief problems. Further studies indicate that individuals and organizations perform more effectively in the disaster period if there has been prior planning for disaster response. Prevention that assists our neighborhood self-help preparedness will enhance the ability of individuals and neighborhoods to manage, as well as reduce some of their own emergency period needs.

Findings on the effectiveness of organized grassroots efforts to enhance preparedness indicate that such efforts are probably more successful if they are incorporated into the social and political fabric of the community - in the neighborhood, schools, work places, churches, etc. While existing disaster contingency plans are designed to coordinate the activities of governmental and quasi-governmental groups, the effects of a catastrophic earthquake will impact all elements of our society. Effective response will therefore require comprehensive planning and coordination of all who need to be involved - government, volunteer groups, private businesses, schools, etc. With the necessary training and information, individuals and neighborhoods may serve as a crucial resource, capable of performing many of the necessary emergency functions in the immediate post-disaster period. Therefore, public service agencies must continue to support programs such as the Community Emergency Response Team, as well as the newly formed Citizens Corp established by the Department of Homeland Security. You can contact Chief Gary Seidel at the Hillsboro Fire Department, (503) 681-6166, or send him an e-mail at garys@ci.hillsboro.or.us.

From Hillsboro Argus, OR, by Gary Seidel, 20 February 2004

Officials Ask Public for Input on Efficiency

Sanford - Town officials are looking for ways to make local government more efficient and are asking residents to share their ideas. A first-of-its-kind forum, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Sanford High School, was organized to tap what town officials say is a wealth of creative thinking by residents about how to improve the operation of town government. Elected and appointed town and school officials will be there to listen. "The idea is simple. If you have any good ideas the town should adopt, please stand up. If you are coming to the meeting to complain about your taxes, we don't want to hear," said James McLaughlin, chairman of the Finance Committee. It was Finance Committee vice chairman James Drummey who hatched the idea for the meeting. He says residents are constantly coming up to him with ideas about how to save money or run a service more efficiently. "Some people say to me, 'In Rochester, N.H., they do all their registrations and licenses online. Why couldn't we do that?' "Drummey says that for too long the town has neglected the expertise of residents who do not have a forum to express ideas.

He says just about everyone has some sort of idea about how to make town government run better. "Why not use this expertise? It is free," he said. Gordon Paul, chairman of the Town Council, says the meeting is part of a continuing effort to encourage public participation in town government, as part of the new charter that went into effect Jan. 1. "It will be interesting to see how many people show up," Paul said. He says the council has reached out by scheduling a public comment session at the beginning of each of its meetings and by asking residents to fill out questionnaires seeking ideas about the new town manager position. The council is scheduled to hire a manager in June. The new charter replaced the five-member Board of Selectmen with a seven-member Town Council, which has the authority to adopt ordinances, gave increased responsibilities to a town manager and pared down the 21-member Warrant Committee to an 11-member Finance Committee that makes budget recommendations.

A smaller, representative town meeting was given the sole task of approving the town and school budgets. Councilor Alan Walsh, who represents the council on the Finance Committee, urges people to participate. "Maybe they have policy ideas, such as purchasing or the way we go out to bid," Walsh said. Councilor Maura Herlihy says she hopes some of the forum can be used to lay out the budget process under the new charter, so both town officials and citizens understand the process. The forum comes as town departments are preparing their budgets for the coming year. The proposed budgets are scheduled for review by the Finance Committee in early March. (Copyright © 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.) Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 324-4888 or at: bquimby@pressherald.com.

From Press Herald, ME, by Beth Quimby, 23 February 2004

PDF Facing New Accessibility Challenges at some Government Web Sites

Adobe Systems frequently cites the significant use of PDF by government agencies worldwide, both for internal and external uses. Accordingly, Adobe has made a number of enhancements to its Acrobat software over the various years and versions to help address needs and requirements of eGovernment efforts. But a pair of recent news items from Ireland and New Zealand indicate that concerns remain in some quarters over the proliferation of PDF creation and distribution on governmental Web sites, particularly related to the need to make public documents accessible. The Irish Examiner reported recently in an article titled "Government websites inaccessible, says report" that the use of PDF is "undermining [Ireland] Government efforts to create an inclusive web presence and achieve full accessibility conformance." "More than 90 percent of Irish Governmental websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities, a new report has found. Initial results from the eGovernment Benchmarking survey reveals that overuse of inaccessible PDF documents is creating significant difficulties for people with disabilities."

The cited report, due to be published in late March, "aims to benchmark the performance of 40 public sector websites in Ireland and the UK." Meanwhile, an article titled "Govt forces web rules" posted on a New Zealand Web site reports that "Most government websites will have to be changed to meet new design rules, creating a potential bonanza for web developers." According to the article, a recently completed report concluded that "people who have disabilities, live in the wrong place, or can't afford the latest technology face difficulties accessing government websites." Among the revised guidelines - voluntary rather than mandated: "Any website document that is in the popular PDF format will have to be available in HTML code as well." A representative of the local IT community called the latter suggestion "narrow-sighted," adding that it would "increase publishing cost without necessarily creating extra benefits given that PDFs are easy to create and upload. Government departments will be forced to adopt content management systems or increase their internal Web development skills."

From Planet PDF, United States, by Kurt Foss, 25 February 2004

Keynote Launches New E-Government Web Transaction Index; Government Computer News to Publish Weekly

San Mateo, Calif. - First Web Transaction Index of its Kind; Results Vary Dramatically - Supports Government Initiative to Make Services Citizen-Centered, Results-Oriented and Market-Based - Twelve Leading Federal Government Web Sites on New Transaction Index Including Homeland Security and IRS Web Sites - Performance All Over the Map; From Slightly Over One Second to Over 16 Seconds to Perform Similar Transaction; Success Rates Range from 99 Percent to 91 Percent. Keynote Systems (Nasdaq:KEYN), The Internet Performance Authority(R), today announced a ground-breaking new Web transaction performance index that supports the federal government's initiative to make the "e" in e-government stand for easy. The new Keynote E-Government Transaction Performance Index is the first of its kind to measure how fast and reliable government Web sites are at performing transactions (clicking through multiple pages on a Web site), as opposed to measuring the success of home page downloads only. The new index sheds much needed light on the response time and success rate for performing typical transactions on leading federal government Web sites.

For the first week of official results index performance varied dramatically with response times between 1.33 seconds (FDA Web site) and 16.88 seconds (Department of Transportation Web site) and success rates between 99.91 percent availability (IRS and SEC Web sites) and 91.08 percent availability (Department of Transportation Web site). "Response time" is defined as the aggregate time in seconds it took during the week to complete a multi-step transaction from the 10 U.S. cities. A transaction consists of four components (that may represent four or more pages in an e-government transaction). "Success rate" is defined as the aggregate number times out of 100 that Keynote's measurement computers are able to complete the entire scripted transaction from start to finish. The top five index performers will be published weekly on Keynote's Web site at: www.keynote.com/solutions/performance_indices/government_txn_index/gov_txn_index.html. The URL to the index on Keynote's Web site will link to the top 5 performers on the index the previous week and the worst performer anonymously, while the full results of the weekly government transaction index (all 12 sites) will appear exclusively on the Web site of and in the pages of Government Computer News (NYSE: WPO), the leading technology magazine for government.

Click here for the complete results for the week of February 9: http://gcn.com/Resource/itinfrastructure/Web_Performance.html. "If the government truly wants to provide better service online, then consistent and fast Web site performance is crucial. This index will let GCN readers take regular measure of their own online health," said Thomas R. Temin, editor-in-chief of Government Computer News. "We're proud to work with Keynote to get this index before people who can do something about federal site performance." To illustrate the importance of the Internet to U.S. citizens and the high expectations they have, a recent survey of 1,023 adults, conducted by Hart-Teeter Research and underwritten by Accenture, showed that 74 percent of e-government users expect that the Internet will have a more positive effect on how government operates over the next 5 - 10 years. A separate study by Accenture found that the number one reason governments use the Internet is to improve customer service. Therefore, it stands to reason that assuring optimal e-government performance from the citizen's perspective (the goal for the launch of Keynote's new e-government transaction index) is one of the most critical components of every federal agency's Web mandate.

Keynote has historically seen an improvement in overall performance results, over time, whenever it has launched a new vertical-based Web transaction performance index; in this case the government sector. By increasing public awareness for the transaction performance of leading government Web sites, Keynote creates a benchmark for Web performance that government agencies (city, state and federal) can strive to reach. The new Keynote government transaction index gives government agencies a very useful and valuable tool to compare, contrast and improve their overall performance against both internal metrics and goals set for performance, as well as against one another. The overall goal for the index is to help e-government measure and manage the performance of their Web sites and optimize the experience citizens receive when searching for information or doing business with the government online. "Shedding light on the performance of leading government Web sites supports the federal government's online initiative to allow citizens to find services, do business and connect with their government with the click of a computer mouse.

The new index helps fulfill that admirable goal," said Roopak Patel, senior Internet analyst in Keynote's public services division. "Currently, there is a surprisingly wide range of disparity in performance, some of the largest we've seen. Over time, we expect to see this disparity narrow, as the sites strive to bring themselves more in line with the performance expectations consumers have come to expect from commercially-based Web sites." The Keynote E-Government Web Transaction Performance Index is designed to reflect on the speed and success rates for the top, most commonly accessed government related Web sites. Going beyond the home page performance, this index provides deeper insight into the performance of these high traffic Web sites. The methodology consists of three simple steps: accessing the home page, entering search criteria and selecting or clicking on a specific returned result. Here is the summary data for the first week's worth of results from Keynote's new E-Government Web Transaction Performance Index - Week of February 9, 2004, 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM Pacific Time:

Rank Site Response Time (seconds) Rank Site Success Rate (percent)
1 FDA 1.33 1 IRS 99.91
2 Homeland Security 1.56 2 SEC 99.91
3 SEC 2.13 3 FirstGov 99.82
4 U.S. House of Reps. .23 4 FDA 99.73
5 FirstGov 3.40 5 NASA 99.64
6 FAA 3.56 6 U.S. House of Reps. 99.64
KEYNOTE INDEX 3.92 7 Dept. of Veteran Affairs 99.20
7 NASA 5.56 8 NIH 98.84
8 NIH 6.41 9 FAA 98.36
9 Dept. of Education 6.49 KEYNOTE INDEX 98.23
10 IRS 7.69 10 Dept. of Education 97.84
11 Dept. of Veteran Affairs 10.52 11 Dept. of Home Security 94.70
12 Dept. of Transportation 16.88 12 Dept. of Transportation 91.08

The twelve U.S. federal government Web sites included on Keynote's e-government transaction performance index are: 1. Internal Revenue Service, www.irs.gov; 2. Food and Drug Administration, www.fda.gov; 3. Homeland Security, www.ready.gov; 4. National Institutes of Health, www.nih.gov; 5. NASA, www.nasa.gov/home/index.html; 6. Securities and Exchange Commission, www.sec.gov; 7. Veterans Affairs, www.va.gov; 8. FirstGov, www.firstgov.gov; 9. Department of Education, www.ed.gov; 10. Department of Transportation, www.dot.gov; 11.U.S. House of Representatives, www.house.gov; 12. Federal Aviation Administration, www.faa.gov. The data used to produce the index for a given week is taken from actual online transactions Keynote's automated measurement computers execute and measure from the 10 U.S. cities (Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston and Dallas) on an hourly basis Monday to Sunday from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. pacific time. About Keynote's E-Government Web Transaction Performance Index - Keynote pioneered the use of vertical indices and benchmarks for Web application performance over five years ago.

The new Keynote E-Government Web Transaction Performance Index is the federal government's most useful and accurate Web transaction performance benchmarking index for improving the online performance of government Web sites. Keynote measures e-government transactions from all the major metropolitan areas in the United States and places its transaction measurement computers on the most widely used, familiar and recognizable Internet backbone and service providers in the United States including Uunet/Worldcom, Sprint, AT&T and Qwest. Additionally, Keynote's global network of measurement computers run standard Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers on Windows/2000 to obtain the most accurate and representative transaction performance data possible today. For the first time government Web site operators have access to a useful and cost-effective benchmarking tool that provides real time, 24/7 visibility into the performance of their sites. The e-government transaction performance index allows government agencies to meet internal Web performance objectives and to compare and contrast their online performance to other government agencies.

Complete index data that includes not only the aggregated and limited time-frame results as published here, but every data point taken 24/7 along with page, network component, content and error detail, is available from Keynote on a subscription basis for $3,885.00 per month. An aggregate view of the data is available for $895.00 per month. Background on Keynote's Web Performance Indices - Keynote's Web transaction indices leverage Keynote's long history and experience developing Internet performance indices. Keynote launched the world's first Web performance indices that assess page download performance (as opposed to transaction performance), known as The Keynote Business 40 Internet Performance Index (measurements over T1 and T3 connections) and The Keynote Consumer 40 Internet Performance Index (measurements over dial-up and broadband connections). Keynote also launched the world's first transaction performance index, The Keynote Broker Transaction Index. All today are considered the 'gold standard' for Web performance benchmarking.

Now customers can use Keynote's growing line of industry-specific Web transaction indices to assess Web transaction performance against internal benchmarks and against competitors. Customers can then leverage Keynote's additional monitoring, performance management, load, content and usability testing services to improve the overall performance of their e-business applications and infrastructure. To build and maintain its growing line of Web performance indices, Keynote uses its unparalleled global infrastructure of over 1,700 strategically and statistically located measurement, testing and diagnostic computers representing Internet performance from 50 metropolitan areas worldwide. Information about all Keynote performance indices can be found at www.keynote.com/solutions/solutions_pm_performance_indices_tpl.html.

About Keynote - Founded in 1995, Keynote Systems, Inc., (Nasdaq "KEYN"), The Internet Performance Authority(R), is the worldwide leader in Web performance measurement and management services that improve the quality of e-business. Keynote's services enable corporate enterprises to monitor, benchmark, test, diagnose and optimize their e-business systems both inside and outside the firewall. Approximately 2,200 corporate IT departments and 18,000 individual subscribers rely on the company's easy-to-use and cost-effective services to increase revenues and reduce downtime costs, without requiring additional complex and costly software implementations. Keynote Systems, Inc. is headquartered in San Mateo, California and can be reached at www.keynote.com or by phone in the U.S. at 650-403-2400. Keynote, The Internet Performance Authority and Perspective are registered trademarks of Keynote Systems, Inc. Other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

From Business Wire (press release), 18 February 2004

$5 Million Project Envisions Student Public Service Hub

To entice more students to public service activities, several campus departments and student groups are joining together to create a $5 million center that could bring many of the campus's service and leadership student groups together under one roof. The UC Berkeley Center for Student Leadership and Public Service, which has been in the works for the last 10 years, is still in its preliminary stages. But campus officials are envisioning a center that would serve as both an umbrella group and a hub for various student service and leadership groups, although the project's organizers have not decided which groups will fall under the center's wing. "Our dream is to build upon what we have already created," said Dean of Students Karen Kenney.

A joint effort between the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Student Life and the Cal Corps Public Service Center, the goal of the project is to promote programs that develop student's leadership skills and prepare students for careers in public service based on its three "cornerstones": leadership, public service and values and ethics clarification. Some of the proposed services that the center would provide are leadership workshops and symposia and formal extracurricular transcripts for students who are heavily involved in clubs and societies. Many details of the project are still in the air, including how the $5 million project will be funded, what programs the center will provide, and whether the it will be an actual building or a simply a network between existing student programs and services that helps them coordinate projects together. "The big dream is to have a new space where all of these programs and services can be housed under one roof, in either a previously housed building or a new building," Kenney said.

The project's directors are currently working on a fund-raising campaign and putting together an advisory committee to help steer the direction the center will take over the next few years. The committee, which will comprise faculty, students, staff and alumni, will meet for the first time within the next month. "We are beginning to identify prominent alumni and community leaders who may be interested in helping get this project moving ahead," said Maryellen Himell, director of development and community relations for the Office of Undergraduate Affairs. Campus officials are looking at private grants and endowments to provide the funding for the center and its programs and are also considering dipping into student fees. Committee members hope to finish creating new programs for the center within the next two years. If plans for constructing a building go through, however, the project could last up to 10 years. "Right now we're dreaming big," said Megan Voorhees, director of Cal Corps. "It's just the beginning."

From The Daily Californian, CA, by Rachel King, 25 February 2004

Reclassification Freeze Lifted for Public Service

Ottawa - The Honourable Denis Coderre, President of the Queen's Privy Council and minister responsible for the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, and the Honourable Reg Alcock, President of the Treasury Board, announced today the immediate lifting of the reclassification freeze in the federal public service, imposed on December 16, 2003. "With the lifting of the freeze, a new framework based on accountability, increased transparency and policy adherence will be implemented," stated Minister Coderre. "We have held informal discussions with our union partners on this issue and will be consulting shortly with departments and agencies." As part of the new framework, the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada will exercise central oversight through regular government-wide reviews.

In addition, to ensure transparency, each department will post reclassification information on its Web site every three months. In this context, deputy heads will also be reminded of their responsibility in exercising their delegated authority. "When we took office, this Government took immediate steps to minimize disruptions during the transition," said Minister Alcock. "The Government acted to make certain every public service employee was protected and treated fairly during the transition of government announced on December 12, 2003. The lifting of the reclassification freeze demonstrates our commitment to public service employees and our support of the invaluable work they do every day to help Canadians."

The government restructuring announced on December 12, 2003 modified some existing departments and created new ones. On December 16, 2003, the Government ordered a freeze on reclassification, as part of a series of measures to facilitate a review of the current situation during the transition period. More stability and a clearer sense of direction within departments and agencies were required before reclassification action could be resumed. Today, to help support new organizational structures, classification action, including the reclassification of some positions, is required. Reclassification costs will continue to be funded from existing departmental budgets.

From Government of Canada Newsroom (press release), Canada, 25 February 2004

 

UN Report Gives UAE Top Rating in Middle East and Africa Region for E-government Readiness

A recent United Nations e-government report has ranked the UAE as the top performer in e-government readiness in the Middle East and Africa region, followed by Bahrain, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon and Qatar. The survey entitled 'World Public Sector Report 2003: e-Government at the Crossroads' ranked countries in terms of e-government readiness as reflected in 'the generic capacity or aptitude of the public sector to use Information and Communication Technology for encapsulating public services and deploying to the public high-quality information and effective communication tools that support human development.' The rankings were based on the three key indicators: governments' aptitude to employ e-government as a tool to inform, interact, transact and network; telecom infrastructure and human capital index which took into consideration literacy rate and the overall school enrolment ratio.

'Nations across the globe are giving top priority to making themselves e-government ready. E-government is fast becoming the key driver of a country's economy. However, certain countries have shown greater determination to transform themselves into knowledge economies within a stipulated timeframe. UAE is certainly one of them and the achievements have now been acknowledged by the UN report and several other studies,' said Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. The vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to establish Dubai as a leading economic hub is helping in bringing about the transformation of Dubai into a digital society. 'The Dubai eGovernment has set the goal of migrating over 70 per cent of its public services to electronic channels by the year 2005, and we are on track to achieve that target,' added Al Shair.

'Over the past three years, Dubai eGovernment has put in place a world-class infrastructure and integrated the offerings of all government departments into one platform. Our next step is to increase the use of electronic services by providing literacy and competency programmes to the community.' 'Our e4all project continues to assist thousands of citizens expand their computer skills with the help of competitive packages. We have 'eCitizen' designed to let the public better understand how eServices work and help move them away from the traditional methods of learning, and the 'eEmployee' programme intended for employees of Dubai Government Departments to enable them to deliver the highest levels of services,' commented Al Shair. The findings of the UN report, published by Madar Research Group in its latest Research Journal, give credit to some Arab countries for having 'put tremendous efforts into developing their e-government programmes in recent years.'

Among the Arab countries, the report ranks UAE at the top, followed by Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon and Qatar. According to the report, the United States has emerged as the world leader in e-government readiness, followed by Sweden, Australia, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Canada and Norway. South central Asia and Africa had the lowest e-government readiness in the world. 'The developed countries in North America and Europe had a headstart of several years in e-governance, and they have now reached a high state of e-readiness,' said Al Shair. 'In the case of Arab countries, concrete strategies for e-government are of recent origin. It is therefore commendable that, despite this disadvantage, some of them have been ranked above the world average score. As for Dubai eGovernment, we are proud that we have achieved the status of a regional leader in e-governance. This will only motivate us to accelerate our efforts to raise our status further at the global level.'

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 4 February 2004

 
 

No Growth without Democracy

Johannesburg - NEPAD and Development - During the1970s, reducing the size and influence of government and state institutions was the focus of development policy. A smaller and less interventionist state system would be less of a drain on public finances. This would free up resources and the market to generate trade and economic growth. An entrepreneur-friendly environment would trigger investment and economic activity, making citizens better off. The failure of this approach to alleviate poverty and unemployment significantly in the developing world led to a new approach in the 1990s. The now widely accepted view is presented by Nobel Prize laureate and former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz, in his claim that "it is not just economic policies and human capital but the quality of a country's institutions that determine economic outcomes". A strong governmental system, with capacity, resources and the expertise to formulate and effect policy, is seen as a significant catalyst for economic growth and socioeconomic development.

This thinking is at the heart of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and its African peer review mechanism, which aim to foster economic growth and democracy side by side. Africa ought to regenerate itself by good democratic and political, economic and corporate governance as well as socioeconomic development. But what is the connection between these areas and economic growth? The relationship between democracy and economic growth is controversial. Some point to the spectacular successes in east Asia as proof it obstructs growth. Democracy empowers citizens, making public and private institutions more transparent which allegedly creates an unfriendly investor climate. By contrast, Amartya Sen, also a Nobel economics laureate, has defended democracy's growth potential by declaring that "one of the remarkable facts in the terrible history of famine is that no substantial famine has ever occurred in a country with a democratic form of government and a relatively free press".

Sen argues democracy and human rights contribute to improvements in economic performance. They empower citizens to bring to the attention of policy makers failures and dysfunctions in programmes and institutions. Moreover, if a government is unresponsive to these concerns, it can be voted out of office and another party with alternative policies elected. In India, despite widespread poverty, democracy has contributed to growth, in contrast to Ethiopia in the 1970s, and Mozambique and Tanzania in the 1970s and 1980s. Revolutions, coups d'état and military seizures of power change governments and are prominent in Africa's recent history. However, their unpredict- ability has led to high uncertainty levels, negatively affecting investor sentiment. Democracy institutionalises and systematises political change procedures and timetables are clear and issues are debated in public so that citizens and investors know before an election result what parties intend to do once in power. This stabilises the environment and creates an investment-friendly climate.

Botswana's stable democracy since the 1960s goes some way in explaining its sustained economic success. Public service and anticorruption programmes, integral to Nepad, also add to economic growth. Clear regulations enforced fairly and efficiently create stability. This is particularly the case with tender processes, licensing applications for businesses, property zoning and vehicles. Complicated and unevenly enforced regulations invite corruption as investors seek short cuts and public officials take advantage of the situation. Bribery lifts investment costs and reduces profitability, thus inhibiting investment as suggested by the recent economic performance of Kenya and Nigeria. Economic governance in the Nepad framework focuses on a sound and predictable macroeconomic framework. In committing themselves to key indicators, governments are creating stable and predictable environments for investment. This is reinforced by sound public finance management, which ensures the efficient and effective expenditure of public money on services and infrastructure. Efficiency dividends can be used to lower debt and other costs that inhibit economic growth and development.

SA's macroeconomic policy and Public Management and Finances Act are models for the continent. While private companies and professional bodies establish codes and standards for the conduct of business, too much regulation deters investment. Moreover, there is little, apart from company and criminal law, that government can do to improve the way companies conduct themselves as illustrated in the recent Enron and Parmalat scandals. Corporate governance will have a mixed effect on investment in Africa. Strengthening controls on banking, finance, stock exchanges and corporate citizenship will favour long-term, valueadd investments but inhibit short-term, speculative investments in resources. Short-term reductions in investment and decreases in employment must be balanced against the longer-term goal of moving African economies away from volatile price-dependent sectors. The Millennium Development Goals and World Summit on Sustainable Development targets inform Nepad's socio- economic development policy.

The resources for financing programmes in education, health, housing, information and communication technology and the provision of basic services cannot come from government alone. Partnerships with companies will inform these poverty alleviation strategies. In particular, the emphasis on public finance management in Nepad will contribute to the more effective use of resources. Nepad's emphasis on democratic governance implies the implementation of reform and the policy agenda for development cannot be implemented in a top-down, technocratic manner. To be effective, credible and legitimate, thereby contributing to stability, such programmes must include communities into decision making processes. While Nepad calls for participation, realising the goal of democratic development might prove harder to achieve. Dr Sarakinsky is an independent political consultant who helped draft policy documents for Nepad's African peer review mechanism.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ivor Sarakinsky, 12 February 2004

State to Unveil New Economic Reporting Format

Cape Town - Tomorrow's budget will see the unveiling of the government's new economic reporting format, which will replace the decades-old standard item classification system, it emerged yesterday. Hennie Swanepoel, the chief director in charge of public finance statistics in the treasury's budget office, said this year's budget, including prior years' data and forecasts through to 2007/08, will be presented using the new format. The new system is in accordance with the 2000 Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), which is the last in a long list of reforms started in 1997 with the introduction of the inter-governmental system, which governs the allocation of resources to provincial and local governments. In 1998 three-year rolling budgets, in the form of the medium-term expenditure framework, were drawn up. In 1999 non-financial information was presented with the budgets in the national expenditure survey. In 2000 the PFMA was passed by parliament and over the past two years departments have had to table strategic plans and objectives.

National and provincial government administrations will start using the new system from April 1. The new format is designed to increase the clarity and accessibility of public finance data. There will be two main differences. All capital expenditure will be allocated according to a standard set of definitions and the number of line items will drop from 2 million to about 9 000. The number of codes used to record personnel expenditure will fall from 150 000 to 800. Because all government departments will have to operate one standardised and clearly defined chart of accounts, there will be fewer misallocations and the consolidation of expenditure across different departments and levels of government will become easier. Users will be able to mine official data more easily, which Swanepoel said would facilitate better decision making. The top two tiers of government will shift to the new system this year, and Swanepoel said local governments and state-owned enterprises were expected to migrate within the next two to three years.

From Independent Online, South Africa, by Quentin Wray, 17 February 2004

Increased Tax Will Breed More Corruption - Mususu

Lusaka - Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Bishop Paul Mususu has said the newly increased taxes will increase levels of corruption in the country. In an interview yesterday, Bishop Mususu said those in business would be adversely affected by the newly increased taxes and may find ways of evading taxes since people would have less money to spend. "There are many people who will take shortcuts to cut costs and avoid paying taxes," he said. Bishop Mususu said the government would lose revenue through non-payment of taxes and consequently fail to reach the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point. "If we don't reach the HIPC completion point, we won't have the pledged donor funding and the people on the ground are the ones who are going to suffer," he said.

Bishop Mususu said the problem was not the lack of resources as claimed by the government, but rather a misappropriation of the available resources. He said the government should heed calls from the civil society that have recommended ways of reducing expenditure. "It calls for discipline, which is not going to be reached with major increases of tax, but by putting to good use these resources," he said. "The effects would be worsening on corruption and consequently government will lose revenue. And of course we won't reach the HIPC completion point we have been chanting about."

Bishop Mususu said it was sad that the government had decided to reduce expenditure on important social services such as health, which it should provide because it left people with less money to spend. "It's worsening the situation with all they are already taking away, because they are not only taking away the 35 to 40 percent," he said. "When I go to Shoprite, I pay VAT (Value Added Tax), for fuel there's fuel levy, and parking levy to the council, so at the end of the day I end up with only 30 percent." And Zambia National Students Union member Lloyd Matonka has commended the police service for allowing workers to go on with their peaceful demonstration without causing chaos. "We hope this will continue and they should not just be giving permits to MMD," he said. Matonka said the workers were fighting for a noble cause and should be allowed to express their displeasure.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Nomusa Maunga, 20 February 2004

Modernization of Public Finance Worth Usd 6 Million

Luanda - The Modernization Programme of the Public Finance, integrated in the Technical Assistance Project and Macro-economic Management "Enta", is estimated at USD 6.22 million, about USD 5.1 million from this amount will be made available by the World Bank (WB) and the rest by the Angolan Government. Angop has learnt on Thursday, in Luanda, from the coordinator of the Programme, Rosa Baptista, who was present at the seminar on the launching of the Technical Assistance Project and Macro-economic Management. Concerning to the Finance Ministry, it is being developed the computing programme of the State's financial management, which aims to interconnect the various components of the budget system - treasury, accountancy and property. The programme is divided into three main urgent areas: guarantee the training of staffs, the functioning of the computing system country-wide, in the measure that this is the component which feeds the various budgetary and accountancy systems of the country. The internal control, related to the inspection and the property matter constitutes other priorities within the programme. It is being implemented throughout the country and it has horizon of implementation which will go until the year 2006.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 20 February 2004

 

Government Must Acknowledge Failed Policies

The time has come for the government to acknowledge that it has been pursuing failed economic policies, New Zealand Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr said today. Mr. Kerr was presenting the Business Roundtable's submission on the Budget Policy Statement to the Finance and Expenditure Committee at parliament "The government's own projections make it clear that it will not achieve its 'top priority' goal of increasing sustainable growth and returning New Zealand to the top half of the OECD income rankings under current policies. "The key statistics are as follows. Over the ten years 1993-2003 (March years), real (production-based) GDP grew by 3.6 percent a year on average. Real per capita GDP growth averaged 2.5 percent. "These improvements, and improvements in New Zealand 's productivity growth rates, followed the economic reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s. "By contrast, for the period 2003-08, the projections underlying the Budget Policy Statement are for real GDP growth averaging 3.1 percent a year and average real per capita GDP growth of 2.2 percent a year. "This suggests New Zealand 's trend growth rates are declining, not rising."

"The finance minister has said that there would be evidence of his success or failure in raising the trend growth rate by the middle of this year. That was a realistic timetable, given that the government is into its fifth year in office and has enjoyed favourable economic conditions. Yet there is no evidence of such success. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its recent report confirmed that any improvement in New Zealand 's growth performance "is still not in sight". "While the government says its top priority is growth, large expenditure increases are planned. It is clear that 4 percent plus per capita growth (the rate needed to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD rankings in a reasonable time frame) cannot be achieved with total government spending (central plus local) at around 40 percent of GDP. The government is planning to spend a high and increasing proportion of the 'growth dividend, leaving little room for increases in after-tax wages and other incomes."

"Furthermore, its plans for the upcoming budget, which include tax cuts for low income earners, are focused on income distribution, not wealth creation and growth. "If the government were serious about growth, its tax policy should be directed at cutting high marginal tax rates and taxes on capital income, as the McLeod Tax Review of 2001 recommended. "The export sector is under pressure from the high dollar. Curbing spending and rising regulatory costs are clear options available to the government for improving export competitiveness. Instead, past and planned actions, like the proposed amendments to the Employment Relations Act, are adding to costs. "There is now ample evidence that the government's policies are not resulting in higher sustainable growth. It is time for that fact to be acknowledged, and for changes in direction, on the lines recommended by the OECD and business organisations, to be implemented," Mr. Kerr said. The NZBR submission on the Budget Policy Statement is available online as a PDF file on the NZBR website.

From Scoop.co.nz (press release), New Zealand, 11 February 2004

Clarify BPO Tax Policy: Narayana Murthy

New Delhi - Infosys chairman of the board and chief mentor NR Narayana Murthy has urged the government to clarify the new taxation policy on the foreign companies with core business process outsourcing (BPO) in India. "It is not very clear what are the core or non-core activities of foreign companies outsourcing their services to India. This must have happened by mistake and the concerned officials will take immediate action to correct it," he said. Commenting on the US backlash on outsourcing activities to countries like India, Mr. Murthy said, "This is an election year for most of the countries and we can expect all such issues to gain prime importance in a country going in for elections." Mr. Murthy was speaking to the media on the sidelines of 54th annual function of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the regulatory body for chartered accountancy in India.

From Indian Express, India, 4 February 2004

Public Bank Posts Record RM1b Profit

Public Bank Bhd has posted a record net profit of slightly more than RM1bil for its financial year ended Dec 31, 2003, on strong growth in loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and consumers. Earnings per share for the year rose to 16.5 sen from 13.3 sen in 2002, while revenue increased to RM4.32bil from RM4.05bil. Group profit before tax improved to RM1.46bil from RM1.24bil. final dividend of 11 sen per share less tax, amounting to RM503mil, has been declared - the highest payout by the group to date. "The improved revenue and profit were due to higher net interest income and financing income as a result of sustained increased lending business, strong growth in deposits, increasing shift to a lower cost customer deposit funding structure and higher fee income,'' Public Bank chairman Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow said in a statement yesterday. Teh said the group's full-year results, which marked the first time net profit crossed the RM1bil mark, also received a lift from Public Finance's earnings, which were fully attributable to the bank following the privatisation of the finance company in June 2003. Loans grew by 22% last year, which was more than four times the industry average.

Total gross loans increased by RM8bil to RM47bil. "The group's sustained strong loans growth was achieved as a result of innovative product packaging and pro-active product enhancement as well as improved loan service delivery standards, including fast approval turnaround time and efficient documentation and disbursement processes,'' Teh said. Last year, 89% of the group's loans and advances, amounting to RM42bil, were funnelled into financing the retail sector, in particular SMEs, and the purchase of residential properties and passenger vehicles. Loans to SMEs increased by 14% to RM11bil at end-2003. The group's non-performing loan ratio fell to 2% from 2.4%. Savings deposits increased by 19% to RM10bil while demand deposits grew by 16% to RM7bil. The group's loans-to-deposit ratio was 91%. Apart from the bank, all of the group's operations reported higher pre-tax profits. The pre-tax profit of Public Finance improved by 19% to RM440mil and its overseas operations, based predominantly in Hong Kong, registered a 25% rise in pre-tax profit to RM182mil.

Public Mutual, the group's unit trust and asset management company, posted a 25% increase in pre-tax profit to RM55mil. The net asset value of unit trusts under management of Public Mutual expanded by RM2.4bil or 41% to RM8.2bil last year. Public Mutual now manages 29% of the total funds in the country's private sector unit trust industry. Teh said the healthy growth of Malaysia's and global economies augur well for the bank although lending interest margins would continue to come under pressure due to competition. He said Public Bank was expected to continue performing satisfactorily this year. Public Bank's senior general manager of treasury and corporate operations, Leong Kwok Nyem, said loan growth for 2004, given the momentum built up over the past year, should record a good double-digit number. "A good mid-teens in very much on the cards,'' he said. Leong said the 250 branches that Public Bank intended to have following its rationalisation programme after the privatisation of Public Finance was an optimum number for the group.

From The Star, Malaysia, by Jagdev Singh Sidhu, 12 February 2004

Family Tax Policy a Graud: Labor

A leaked cabinet document acknowledged flaws in the family tax scheme and showed the government's tax policy was a fraud, Labor says. Opposition family spokesman Wayne Swan said a cabinet minute showed the government had been working on ways to address tax rates of more than 60 per cent for working families before last year's Budget. But no plan had ever been announced, he said. "This minute from the cabinet secretary (details) some positive changes to the prime minister's harsh taxation, family payment and industrial relations policy," he told the Nine Network. "This has been rotting in (Prime Minister) John Howard's bottom drawer for 14 months." Labor has promised to address high effective marginal tax rates caused by the withdrawal of government benefits when a mother or father returns to work after caring for a child. Studies have shown some families can lose more in reduced welfare benefits than they gain in income. Mr. Swan said the document showed the family tax benefits introduced along with the GST were a fraud. "His new tax package some years ago was a complete fraud and that's what this document shows," he said. The release of the document comes after Labor last week disclosed a cabinet-in-confidence submission urging the government to turn its baby bonus scheme into a form of paid maternity leave.

From The Age, Australia, 14 February 2004

Government to Still Chase Overpayments

Prime Minister John Howard has vowed to continue recovering money from families who were overpaid under the government's troubled family benefits system. Mr. Howard said he had never denied that there were problems with the $11 billion system but no responsible government could afford to wipe off the debt. "Sometimes these overpayments are by innocent misadventure, sometimes not," Mr. Howard told parliament. "Whatever the result is, no government of this country has ever in the past disavowed the notion of recovering overpayments of welfare benefits. "In the end, it is not in the interests of this country to have a system where an overpayment occurs and no attempt is made in a reasonable fashion to arrange for the refund of these overpayments." Under the complex system, families have to estimate how much money they will earn in the coming financial year. If they guess wrong, they are made to repay any overpayments, forcing some families into debt.

Mr. Howard said preliminary figures showed that the number and size of debts was beginning to fall, with 14 per cent fewer families incurring an overpayment last financial year. Despite the government identifying serious problems 14 months ago, no changes will be made to the system for at least another four months. Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson said a task force was streamlining the system and redesigning overly complex forms, but no changes would be made until the start of the new financial year on July 1. "It does take time because it's based on a whole financial year," Senator Patterson said. "I'm doing all I can by sending out information. I've got a task force reforming the forms. "I've got a task force looking at some simplified information to send to families at the moment so they can reduce their family payment for their second half of this year - or for the last part of the financial year - to reduce the likelihood of an overpayment."

Opposition family and community services spokesman Wayne Swan said one in three families was suffering, with $1.5 billion - or an average of $1,000 per family - being recovered. "(Mr. Howard) has had report after report on his desk that says the family payment system is a huge burden on struggling Australian families and he has simply sat on his hands and covered up," Mr. Swan told journalists. "He could have acted years ago. And if he would have acted years ago Australian families would not be under so much financial pressure." But Mr. Howard and Senator Patterson called on the opposition to stop blocking a government move to extend a top-up arrangement which would give families who overestimated their incomes an average payment of $885 a year. Labor senators have blocked the bill containing the top-up, saying it should be extended to give families extra time to lodge their claims.

From Ninemsn, Australia, 14 February 2004

 

Ministry of Finance Issues Euro-denominated T-bonds to Public

Sofia - The Ministry of Finance started Wednesday to issue to public an unspecified amount of euro-denominated treasury-bonds to yield from 4% to 6% per year. The bonds will bring to their holders fixed revenue in the form of interest rate payable every six months, the ministry said. There was no immediate word about the amount of the issue and the maturity of the bonds. The ministry said the issue would continue for the next five years. The minimum value of bonds allowed to be purchased will be EUR 10, the ministry said. The interest will gradually increase from 4% at the first payment to 6% at the last, the announcement said. The first batch of euro-denominated bonds will be offered until March 2, the ministry said. It said five similar issues would follow in April, June, August, September and November. The banks that will sell the bonds include the Bulgarian National Bank, Commercial Bank Biochim, SG Expressbank, Economic and Investment Bank, Eurobank. Brokerage houses Elana Trading and Eurofinance are also authorized to sell bonds of the issue.

From Bulgarian News Network, Bulgaria, 4 February 2004

January Budget Deficit, IMF Report Provoke Concern

Last week saw a large budget deficit being posted for January and a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressing concern about such matters - but no public details about the government's planned spending cuts. Preliminary cash flow data for January's budget deficit put the shortfall at a hefty Ft 218.6 billion (€825 million), though this was below the government's own target of Ft 230 billion- Ft 250 billion. Speaking at a press conference last Tuesday, Finance Minister-designate Tibor Draskovics said the government agrees with the remarks the IMF made in its report regarding the risks of meeting this year's - already revised - fiscal deficit target. He added that he believes these risks are manageable, and asserted that it is the task of the finance minister, and the government in general, to reduce or eliminate them. Cost-cutting measures which Draskovics presented to the various ministries last Wednesday have yet to be made public.

"It's the million-dollar question," said Miklós Losoncz, research manager at GKI Economic Research Rt, when asked where cuts might be made. "I would take this approach: First, official budgeting practices have to be improved. Second, major reforms are needed in healthcare, public administration and the military. Finally, the role of public spending and budget deficits in the business cycle needs to be reevaluated." The deficit in January was the result of one-off expenditures, the Finance Ministry said. The central budget paid out - as planned - Ft 60 billion on motorway construction, plus an installment on the country's lease of Gripen fighter planes, and agricultural subsidies. Losoncz suggested that savings could be made in expenditure, and said he agrees with some sections of a report which the State Audit Office (ÁSz) recently presented to the Finance Ministry on cost-cutting measures. "The report suggested that a 10% saving in running costs could be made through disbanding the large number of foundations running on public money," he said. "They have highly paid chairmen and board members, and their existence is not reasonable. They should be integrated into the public administration."

Losoncz added that the goal of reducing expenditure and increasing efficiency would require more than simple cost cutting. In this respect, he said that the ÁSz report had come to similar conclusions as the IMF, suggesting that caps should be put on public expenditure in certain areas. He speculated that the report might go some way toward ushering in a reform of Hungary's public administration. On the question of individual ministries' spending, Losoncz said that cuts can and will be made, but that this may not be sufficient to rein in the deficit. "If expenditures are slashed through job cuts, this also means a fall in revenues, as social security and taxes will drop slightly," he added. At last Tuesday's press conference, Draskovics said it is paramount that the government reach an agreement with public-sector trade unions regarding wage growth. The essence of that agreement, as he explained it, would be the unions accepting that wage growth limits set by the 2004 budget act cannot be exceeded. Assessing the January figures, Losoncz noted that GKI previously predicted a 2004 shortfall of 5.3% of GDP, compared to the government's own forecast of 4.6%.

While conceding that the government's target might well be met if further measures are implemented, he questioned the wisdom of some of the one-off expenditures. "Huge sums could have been saved," he asserted. "Hungary has a peacekeeping role within NATO, so you have to question whether we need fighter planes to carry out that task. The contracts have to be honored, but a few years ago, more emphasis should have been put on assessing the need." Losoncz added that the reason the spending cuts announced by the government are now closer to Ft 190 billion, compared to the original Ft 120 billion announced in Draskovics's first week, is that the Finance Ministry is trying to give itself room to maneuver. Losoncz said the end of this month will be a critical time, both for the government and its targets, and for the economic climate in general. "The recommendations to the ministries will not be made clear until the end of the month; then the evaluation can start," he said. "If at the end of the month the proposals seem credible, then the general economic situation will start to improve."

From Budapest Business Journal, Hungary, by Matthew Higginson, 11 February 2004

Briefly International: Eurostat Sets Partnership Rules

Governments will be allowed to finance some infrastructure projects without deepening their deficits after the EU statistics office said the assets of public-private partnerships could be recorded off balance sheet when the private company bears the risk. "In national accounts, the assets involved in a public-private partnership can be considered as nongovernment assets only if there is strong evidence that the partner is bearing most of the risk attached to the specific partnership," Eurostat said. Deficits across Europe have been expanding after the 12-country euro region grew last year at its slowest pace in a decade. The ruling is unlikely to reduce those deficits, though it will unblock some construction projects, Eurostat said. (Bloomberg) Safeway and William Morrisons Supermarkets' shareholders overwhelmingly approved the £3 billion, $5.6 billion, takeover of Safeway. (AP) Greece's economyexpanded by an EU-leading 5 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter on increased spending for the 2004 Olympic Games.(Bloomberg) Dresdner Bank will offer to buy out the contracts of the 4,700 employees whose jobs it is cutting over the next two years. Most of the job reductions are in back-office operations.(Bloomberg).

From International Herald Tribune, France, 12 February 2004

Letwin Shows His Hand on Tory Tax Policy

The Shadow Chancellor has shown his cards to Gordon Brown - and pledged to find the enormous cost-savings necessary to enable a Tory government to maintain investment in health and education, without raising taxes. Oliver Letwin has claimed that a Conservative administration would be able to cut around £35 billion from the public finances budget - and so could sustain investment in essential services. In a speech to the Bow Group in London, Mr. Letwin said that he could avoid tax rises by ensuring that overall state spending grows less quickly than the economy as a whole. The Shadow Chancellor said that he could cut back on bureaucracy and funds earmarked for other state services to make his proposed cost-savings. In about seven years time, this would mean that the proportion of GDP consumed by the public sector would fall from 42 to 40% - saving around £35 billion a year on Labour's current plans, he said.

Mr. Letwin said he would put the squeeze on tackling waste, and exercising firmer control over welfare, transport, defence, and environmental budgets. Once the efficiencies had been made the Tories could go about reducing official debt, and so create a sustainable basis for reducing taxes, he said. "A Conservative government, if elected at the next election, will take no risks with the public finances. A Conservative government, if elected at the next election, will maintain high levels of growth in spending on hospitals and schools. But if elected at the next election, a Conservative government will not rely on tax rises to fund structural increases in public spending as a proportion of GDP," he said. Mr. Letwin added: "No-one should be in any doubt about the radicalism of our ambitions in healthcare and schooling. We want to achieve nothing less than a transformation of the results by bringing about nothing less than a transformation of the methods."

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 16 February 2004

Public Servants' Pension Age to Go Up

Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has published the Public Service Superannuation Bill, which will see the retirement and pension age for new public servants raised. Under the terms of the Bill - first announced in the Budget - new entrants to the public service who take up employment from April of this year will work under new conditions: Civil servants, Health Board staff and Local Authority staff will work to a minimum pension age of 65, up from 60. There will be no compulsory retirement, at the moment all grades must retire at 65. Gardai and Prison Officers' retirement ages are up from 50 to 55 with compulsory retirement increased to 60. The Government has decided not to implement the recommendation from the Commission for Public Service Pensions to introduce a 1% increase in pension contributions from public servants. Since 1995, some public servants have had a contributory pension scheme.

From RTE News, 19 February 2004

Finance Ministry Presents Magazine "Finansije"

Belgrade - The Serbian Ministry of Finance and Economy presented on Tuesday the first issue of the magazine "Finansije" since the ministry took over the responsibility for its publishing. "Finansije" deals with all areas of finance, including macroeconomics, public finance, financial systems, accountancy, as well as their economic and legal aspects. Serbian Minister of Finance and Economy Bozidar Djelic told a press conference that there is an intellectual gap in the Serbian market, and explained that there have been very few theoretical works in the fields of economics and law. He added that in "Finansije," domestic as well as foreign experts will publish their comments and views of the current economic policies in the country and also their suggestions as to what needs to be done in this area. Djelic said that one of the objectives of the magazine is to publish works of domestic experts in the English language and across Southeast Europe, as well as to acquaint domestic readership with works of foreign experts. In this issue, an expert from the US Treasury speaks on pensions funds and their reforms across the world. The first issue of "Finansije" dates back to 1946. The Yugoslav finance ministry took over its publishing in 1949, while the current Serbian Ministry of Finance and Economy inherited the magazine from the finance ministry of the abolished Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in January 2003.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 25 February 2004

 

MP Warns Against Bank Privatization

Tehran - A lawmaker said here on Sunday that if more than half the shares of state banks are ceded to private sector, the prevailing financial difficulties will worsen and the usury-based banking system will expand. Hassan Sobhani, a member of the parliament's Economic Commission, added, "Private banks are now speaking of loans with low interest rates and without the need for deposit, which is against the non-usury banking system." Noting that the government can repay some of its debts to the banks by ceding their shares, the legislator said, "State banks to which the government owes more money are likely to encounter more problems in the process of privatization." Sobhani further said that the Third Development Plan (2000-2005) has not authorized the government to privatize state banks. "Once state banks are privatized, they will move towards usury," he stated calling on the parliament and the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) to supervise the performance of the private banks more scrupulously.

From IranMania News, Iran, 9 February 2004

Finance Ministry Offers Eilat Port Workers Slice of Privatization

The Haifa and Ashdod Ports workers are demanding first refusal rights for 51% of the companies for the two ports. The Ministry of Finance is offering the workers at Eilat Port a share of the revenue to be created when operation of the port is put into external hands. The share depends on the workers cooperating in the reforms, as the Haifa and Ashdod Ports workers are doing, and on streamlining and cutbacks, which will begin as soon as Eilat Port becomes a government company. Estimates are that the Eilat Port workers will receive the same benefits as the 2,000 Haifa and Ashdod Ports workers - NIS 130,000 apiece, in the form of discounts and grants for buying shares in the ports companies issues. The Eilat Port workers fear, however, that they will not receive the same amount, since the shares in Eilat Port will not be floated.

The workers are so far refusing to begin negotiations with the Ministries of Finance and Transport, according to advice they received at the recommendation of the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel). Several weeks ago, the Ministry of Finance notified representatives of the Eilat Port workers that structural change, making the port a government company, and the planned retirement would be carried out, even without the consent of the workers. As part of the reform, Eilat Port will immediately become a government company, which will be streamlined, and its workforce reduced to the minimum necessary to guarantee continued operation of the port. The goal is to eliminate the port's current deficit. It was learned yesterday that the Haifa and Ashdod Ports workers are demanding first refusal rights for any state issue of shares in the ports subsequent to the initial 49% issue scheduled for 2005. The demand was included in a Ministry of Finance report to the National Labor Court on the state of the negotiations in the ports.

From Globes Online, Israel, 9 February 2004

Dialogue Session for Public, Private Banks in Damascus

Syria's Finance Minister Muhammad al-Hussein on Sunday chaired a session of dialogue about the private and public banks' activities. The minister referred to the important progress achieved in Syria in the field of economy modernization and development in Syria through the efforts exerted by the government. The Government gives the priority to the economic reform, this reform is being implemented nowadays by different public establishments, economic and private sectors in a way to achieve economic progress in Syria with a rate of not less than 6 % in order to improve the economic situation and the living standards of people, the minister said. He added that the investment sector in Syria is continuously progressing through providing the suitable investment environment referring to the new measures, laws and decrees issued to encourage investments and tackle the difficulties which hinder its progress.

From Arabic News, Middle East, 23 February 2004

Finance Ministry to raise NIS 3.5b from public in March

The Ministry of Finance will have raised NIS 10.5 billion on the local capital market in the first quarter of 2004. The Ministry of Finance will raise another NIS 3.5 billion on the capital market in March to finance the 2004 budget deficit, the ministry Government Debt Management Unit announced today. The ministry will have raised NIS 10.5 billion on the local capital market in the first quarter of 2004. Under the government bond issue schedule for March, NIS 1.5 billion, or 43%, will be raised in unlinked, fixed rate bonds; NIS 950 million, or 27%, will be raised in unlinked, floating rate bonds; and NIS 1.05 billion, or 30%, in CPI-linked bonds. The March bond issue will take place on three dates: NIS 1.15 billion on March 1; NIS 1.2 billion on March 15; and NIS 1.15 billion on March 29.

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein, 25 February 2004

Limit the Damage to Public Services

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled out a surprise on Wednesday when he decided to reduce some of the sales taxes. In principle, a tax cut is always a desirable step, one that is likely to increase demand and contribute to growth. This one means a reduction in indirect taxes, and its main beneficiaries will be low-income earners. It also turns out that the Finance Ministry does not intend to utilize the extra revenue it expects to accrue this year to finance added expenditures in the state budget. In a problematic procedure, the government submitted for Knesset approval a proposed 2004 state budget that does not accurately reflect the make-up of planned expenditures. It was clear from the start that the security budget was under-funded; the same was true of the Interior Ministry and the local councils. Both the interior minister and defense minister were informed that as soon as the budget plan was approved by the Knesset, a decision would be reached as to the size of the budget supplements to be awarded to their ministries.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided last week to add NIS 1.6 billion to the defense budget. A similar sum is to be allocated to the Interior Ministry. The government reached a decision concerning a budget framework, and the finance minister - with the prime minister's support - insists this framework will remain intact. That is the correct position: Expenditures in the public sphere are high by any standard, and efforts should be made to reduce them, or at least to avoid, at all costs, expanding them. Thus, the additions to the defense budget and local authorities must be balanced by cuts in expenditures elsewhere in the budget. On Sunday, the finance minister is expected to submit to the government his proposal to cut NIS 3 billion from the budget to fund these additional allocations.

Many expect the proposal will call for NIS 1 billion to be taken from inflation reserves saved in each ministry, and for NIS 2 billion to be accrued via a 6-percent cut in the budgets of all, or most, government ministries. From the standpoint of proper public administration, one cannot be thrilled by the liquidation of reserves that accumulated as protection against unexpected developments, including inflation; the fact that this move could be made at the start of the year, and might necessitate further adjustments later on, is particularly worrisome. Yet without this move, cuts in important budget items would be much higher - by at least 50 percent. Likely to suffer the brunt of the budget slashes are the Education, Health, and Labor and Social Affairs ministries. The ministers in question have responded sharply to threats of continued budget cuts.

Education Minister Limor Livnat and her director general Ronit Tirosh have enumerated cessation of activity and other damages that will result in the education system. Similar responses came from Health Minister Dan Naveh, and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Zevulun Orlev. The budget cuts will hamper the work of the ministries. The prime minister, the finance minister and other cabinet members would be wise to direct the reductions toward budget items whose elimination will not harm services provided to the public: Such services have sustained enough damage in past years. After the government reaches its decision for more cuts, the ministers will face the responsibility of limiting damages to public services - alternatively, the ministers should step down, should they judge that these services will be so severely impaired that they will be unable to discharge their public duties.

From Ha'aretz, Israel, 12 February 2004

 

New Fitch Report Expresses Caution on Public Finance Credit for 2004

New York - In a new report issued by Fitch Ratings, 'Credit Trends in Public Finance - First Quarter 2004', Fitch expresses a cautious forecast for most of the municipal market, despite second half 2003 improvements in gross domestic product (GDP), and continued strength in personal income and housing starts. This view is based on fundamental analysis of the credits Fitch rates, a lack of growth in employment, and general observations that anti-tax sentiment and the need for increased spending in areas such as health care and retirement benefits will continue to pressure state finances and, consequently, local funding. At the end of 2003, Fitch had almost twice as many public finance credits on Negative Rating Outlook as Positive Rating Outlook, and it had 17 public finance credits on Rating Watch Negative vs. none on Rating Watch Positive.

The report also discusses Fitch's credit forecast specifically for the tax-backed, health care, higher education, and transportation sectors. GDP, and to a lesser extent personal income, consumption, and housing starts indicate an improvement in the economy. However, the somewhat improved economic picture is not complete, and the effects have not yet worked their way through the municipal sector. In particular, employment levels through December 2003 were relatively unchanged from the end of the third quarter, and have shown no significant growth since prior to the economic downturn in 2001. Fitch believes that credit has improved in certain municipal sectors such as acute health care and higher education.

However, without an increase in employment, Fitch believes that state and local finances will continue to be constrained, and a significantly positive trend in overall municipal credit quality may be sometime off in the future. Evidence that municipal finance lags the general economy can be seen by comparing corporate and municipal financial performance at the onset of the most recent recession. While corporate profitability (as measured by earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) divided by revenues) began declining after the first quarter 2000, it was not until third quarter 2001 that state tax revenues peaked. Furthermore, findings from Fitch's municipal default study showed that municipal default rates often peak one year after an economic slowdown hits bottom. The report 'Credit Trends in Public Finance - First Quarter 2004' is available at 'www.fitchresearch.com'. Here

From Business Wire (press release), 2 February 2004

Administration Seeks to Use Surplus GSA Funds for E-gov Initiatives

The White House has asked lawmakers to allow the General Services Administration to use some of its surplus funds for e-government initiatives, agency officials announced Tuesday. Bush administration officials sought more than $40 million last year for the Electronic Government Fund, but lawmakers appropriated only about $3 million for the fund. After consulting with the Office of Management and Budget, GSA officials decided to seek surplus money from the General Supply Fund, which would be used to fund "governmentwide e-gov projects," according to GSA budget documents. The agency is attempting this alternative funding approach "knowing that discretionary spending would be very tight," according to GSA Budget Director Debi Schilling. "Obviously, the administration has not been successful" seeking standard congressional appropriations for e-government initiatives, Schilling said.

The amount of surplus funding moved to the e-government fund would not exceed $40 million under the terms of the proposal. GSA can now use surplus funding for e-government projects that are related to the General Supply Fund. Under the new initiative, officials would be able to apply the funding to any federal e-government project, according to Schilling. GSA typically returns surplus funding each year to the Treasury Department. In fiscal 2002, for example, the agency returned $45 million. GSA officials have not finalized their accounting for fiscal 2003, but currently has $122 million in gross surplus funds. Some money might still be withdrawn from that amount for unexpected costs, such as vehicle replacement. GSA projects the fiscal 2005 surplus for the General Supply Fund to be $75 million. If Congress approves GSA's plan - and the current surplus is not drawn down - $40 million would be put toward the e-government fund and $35 million would be returned to the Treasury.

During a briefing Tuesday, GSA officials also said that more government agencies than expected are adopting the FirstGov.gov search engine. In fiscal 2003, 586 government agency Web sites used the search engine, and GSA estimated that the effort saved $21 million that would have been spent on purchasing search engine software. In the fiscal 2005 GSA budget proposal, the White House also is seeking $4.6 million to support identity management and electronic authentication efforts. According to budget documents, GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy "is working [toward] establishing cross-agency governance structure and process for e-authentication and identity management in order to unify government systems." The e-authentication request is an increase of $600,000 from fiscal 2004. Overall, the GSA budget request is about $24 billion, an increase of about $700 million. Almost all of this money, however, comes from reimbursements, sales or lease income, according to GSA.

From GovExec.com, by David McGlinchey (dmcglinchey@govexec.com), 3 February 2004

Candidates Disagree on Education Funding Fix

This is the second in a series of articles reflecting views on the issues as expressed by Texas Senate District 1 candidates Paul Sadler, D-Henderson, and Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, in answers to forum questions when the two meet in scheduled venues before the Feb. 17 election. A third meeting is scheduled Thursday in Tyler. Public education and the means to finance a rapidly growing and diverse population were addressed by state Senate District 1 runoff candidates at two public forums in Texarkana late last week. Both candidates agreed the state has major problems, but they differed in how best to address the issue, which has plagued lawmakers for at least half a century. "I think we have got to fix school finance once and for all," former Tyler Mayor Kelvin Eltife said before a Texarkana Chamber of Commerce audience. "We can no longer finance public education on the backs of property taxes; it's not working, and it's killing the property owners."

Both candidates agreed that a maintenance and operations tax capped at $1.50 per $100 valuation stretches the limits of local districts to maintain operations with high property taxes limiting school districts' abilities to pass bond elections. "In Tyler, we need a bond issue," Eltife said. "We can't get a bond issue passed because people are adversely worried about their property taxes going up." "We've got to do something to permanently fix school finance," Eltife repeated, interjecting that he believes that in Tyler he proved tax burdens could be shifted from the property owner by raising sales taxes. "I will look at all options in trying to fix school finance with the exception of a state income tax," Eltife said. Sadler did not express his views on a state income tax other than to say there is a Constitutional ban on an income tax. "Only you the voters can change it," Sadler said. "I will go down there and quit putting the Band-Aid on it, but fix it and find a solution," Eltife said, adding that the level of state funding is also not adequate with funding dropping from 60 percent to 40 percent since he was in school. "We've got to think outside the box," Eltife said, noting his work in Tyler.

As Tyler's mayor, Eltife lead an effort to use an economic development sales tax to fund infrastructure, which included building an airport, repairing streets and building parks. In turn, Tyler used other revenue sources, including the transfer of intergovernment funds, including an excess in the water and sewer fund, to pay down bonded indebtedness, according to information from a 2002 outside audit report. "Tyler will be debt free in two years," Eltife said. "The point is, we paid cash for everything, and there are not many cities in the state of Texas that can pay cash." The economic measure Tyler used in recent years is no longer available to Texas communities. The 78th Legislature passed a bill which narrows the scope by which economic development funds can be used. "Sen. (Bill) Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant, retired) has said the new legislation will not affect Tyler," Eltife answered to a question from the audience.

Sadler agreed that Tyler will not be affected by the law because Tyler passed the sales tax before recent legislation prohibited such use of economic development sales tax. "That is not the reason the bill was enacted originally," Sadler said of Tyler's use of the economic development tax. Sadler spoke about education finance. "You will not ever have a permanent solution to school finance," Sadler said in answer to Eltife's desire to go to Austin to fix the system. "We have been debating school finance for 150 years, and we are going to debate it for the next 150 years." There is no revenue source whose growth matches or is linked to the cost drivers in the public education system, Sadler said. "I spent 12 years looking for one, looking at every tax in Texas and almost every tax in the world for a tax that would do that," Sadler said. "It simply does not exist." Cost drivers include federal and state mandates, teacher salaries, inflation, and enrollment growth which adds 50,000 to 65,000 children each year to the system, Sadler said. "We will always have to monitor school finance and always have to adjust it to make sure it is equitable and adequate to meet our needs," Sadler said.

"No one in this room or in this state has advocated changing the system more than I have, but it is a matter of timing," Sadler said, stating that he believes the time is not right to do a major tax system overhaul, which he said would be required to make massive changes to current funding formulas. State leadership will need to get on the same page before work begins on school finance, Sadler said of what appears to be an impasse between Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick. "In the last legislative session, the Senate passed a bill and the House trashed it," Sadler said. Something along the lines of the Senate bill could be passed to lower property taxes, add more funding to public education and get the state by until the economy improves, he said. "My recommendation is a smaller package today that builds capacity into the system, that allows our economy to come out of the down time we have been in and to turn around and to have a time that we can better deal with this issue," Sadler said. "That's not a put off, it is simply a matter of timing," Sadler said, explaining that in 1997 when the legislature lowered property taxes, the state had a $5 billion surplus and used half the surplus plus almost $3 billion in new taxes to give only a slight property tax cut. When asked where the candidates' children attend school, Eltife said private and Sadler said public.

"My kids go to private school," Eltife said. "Me and my wife pay that tuition because we do want out kids to be able to pray in school." Sadler answered. "My children go to public school, and I expect them to pray in school," Sadler said. "Every child can pray in school, and if we as families don't teach them how they can pray in school, then we are not being the proper parents that we should be." The 78th Texas Legislature passed a law requiring a moment of silence in school each day as well as pledges to both the United States and Texas flags. Addressing higher education issues, both candidates were on the same page. Both favor the expansion of four-year colleges to include first- and second-year courses in communities which also have junior colleges. The measure increases enrollment capacity within the state. Both Sadler and Eltife said they would call on the Legislature to repeal deregulated tuition at four-year universities as well as legislation that guarantees enrollment to the top 10 percent of every high school graduating class, forcing, they said, many Texas students to seek education outside the state.

From Paris News, TX, by Mary Madewell, 9 February 2004

Tax-free Internet Days Numbered

Albany, N.Y. - Almost 20 years ago, Harley Duncan and the Kansas tax department he headed set out to encourage people to pay state sales tax on mail-order purchases, required by law but enforced only by a rarely used honor system. "Well, I was out preaching the sermon, and a reporter asked me, 'OK, what do I do if I want to pay the tax?'" Duncan recalled. "And I said, 'Hmm. Good question.' "Well, we didn't have any procedure," he said. With the growth of Internet sales taking out-of-state sales to a new level, Duncan, now executive director of the Federation of Tax Administrators, said states have a bigger stake in collecting sales taxes, estimated at $10 billion a year. Eighteen states and New York have added lines on their income tax forms for taxpayers to declare their owed sales tax from Internet and mail-order purchases with out-of-state firms. Three more have separate forms in their income tax packages. But revenue rarely rises above a few hundred thousand dollars as taxpayers ignore the law when ordering books, CDs, computers and gourmet food on the still mostly tax-free Internet.

New York's Legislature, for example, estimated last year that $25 million could be reclaimed, while the governor guessed it would be no more than $5 million. Ohio may have the best record in collections so far: $2.1 million in 2002 from 46,000 taxpayers, out of 5.7 million returns, said Gary Gudmundson, spokesman for the Ohio tax department. Revenue remains a fraction of the estimated uncollected sales tax: $497 million owed to the state, another $100 million owed to local governments. A TAXING CONDITION - The 18 states besides New York that have added lines on their income tax forms seeking to recover some of the estimated $10 billion lost nationally each year on uncollected sales taxes for purchases on the Internet and through mail order: Alabama, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin.

States with forms in their tax preparation instruction booklets: Georgia, Hawaii, also, the District of Columbia. Source: Federation of Tax Administrators. Yet the single line on a tax form forces a taxpayer to confront his or her liability or face an audit that could uncover credit card statements and mounting tax debt. The backlash has prompted a New York lawmaker to try to remove the line from the state's income tax form this year, the first time it showed up. "I believe it's unwieldy, totally unworkable, unenforceable and inadvertently we're going to make tax evaders out of law-abiding citizens and policemen out of tax preparers and accountants," said New York Assemblyman Ronald Tocci. Some states have had difficulty trying to force greater compliance. Maine created a "default assessment" in the 1990s of 0.04% of adjusted gross income if a taxpayer didn't fill in the out-of-state sales tax line either with a payment or a zero. "They did it for three or four years," Duncan said. "They left the line in, but eliminated the default assessment ... I think their participation dropped off." Maine tax officials didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

California, Minnesota and a few other states offer an allowance of a few hundred dollars before Internet and mail-order purchase would incur sales tax, as an incentive to report bigger ticket items and large tax liabilities. "Who the hell do you know who keeps tabs of what they buy on vacation in the Bahamas or Canada? Or anyplace? It's crazy, it's insane," said Tocci. Consumer groups say the effort represents overtaxation that threatens to end competition that keeps sales taxes lower, a closing of the free market, and even taxation without representation because firms would collect taxes for a state in which they have no voice. "The Internet is not at it's final stage yet," said Chris Kinnan of Citizens for a Sound Economy. "You'll stifle that and the competition of the Internet won't be realized." The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that consumers, not retailers, are responsible for paying state sales taxes on out-of-state buys. Of the 39 states with individual state income taxes as well as sales taxes, 18 call on taxpayers to pay taxes on out-of-state purchases and three have a form in their tax booklet on how to calculate tax liability, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators' study of 2002 data.

Despite the explosion of Internet sales - estimated to top $123 billion this year - a state rarely gets back all the sales tax it is due because of the lack of a way to enforce it. That may change as several states and major retailers are working on a system at the point of retail sale that Congress would establish nationwide, Duncan said. "That's the answer to it," he said. "To try to do it at each individual is simply not cost effective ... it would be possible, but the privacy issues are also immense." The multistate "Streamlined Sales Tax Project" seeks to simplify sales taxes and pave the way for Congress to permit states to require retailers to collect state sales taxes, said New York Taxation and Finance Commissioner Andrew Eristoff. He said Tuesday that the project will begin voluntarily when a consortium of 10 or more states representing at least 20% of the nation's population sign on.

Until then, "We are going to rely on New York state residents to be honest with us when filing their income taxes," Eristoff said. He admits few New Yorkers have reported out-of-state sales tax, although state law required it since 1965. "The pressure for doing something just keeps growing," said Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee and a tax policy expert. He said major retailers including Wal-Mart and trade groups support voluntary reporting, states are working together, and the courts await a challenge if Congress doesn't act. He expects the days of the virtually tax-free Internet will end in a few years. Contributing: AP writer Joel Stashenko contributed to this report from Albany.

From USA Today, by Michael Gormley, 11 February 2004

Review of Financial Administration Act

Backgrounder - The Report of the Auditor General tabled today identifies a number of issues involving the financial controls and application of the Financial Administration Act (FAA). Key issues identified by the Auditor General include actions by certain officials who: o Knowingly participated in the mismanagement of public funds; o Contravened rules and regulations stipulated by the FAA; and o Failed to take reasonable steps to protect the interests of the Crown. In response, the government has announced that it will review and strengthen the FAA as part of its efforts to increase oversight and accountability, identify problems earlier, and enhance its ability to take corrective and/or disciplinary action in cases where there is wrongdoing.

The review will seek to: o Clarify and strengthen administrative and criminal sanctions for wrongdoing; o Enhance administrative authorities to investigate cases of malfeasance. Current procedures must largely rely on the voluntary participation of individuals being investigated. The review will assess ways to strengthen investigative authorities, including examining options to obtain information from employees, codifying employees' obligations to cooperate in investigations, obtaining information under oath, and looking at rules to govern confidentiality during investigations; o Extend sanctions so that they apply to former public servants, employees of Crown Corporations and public office holders. At present, no action can be taken once the employment relationship has terminated, even for individuals in receipt of government pensions, other than penalties associated with criminal conviction; and o Strengthen provisions for financial recoveries. Current provisions are complex and difficult to successfully apply.

The review will also seek to determine whether Treasury Board policies, guidelines and the management framework governing discipline within the public service can be strengthened to ensure they are clearly understood, and better monitored and applied. This will be critical when provisions of the Public Service Modernization Act delegating authority for discipline to deputy ministers come into force. This review of the FAA will commence immediately and will be led by the President of the Treasury Board. The Treasury Board Secretariat has been directed to identify, as quickly as possible, any corrective measures that can be implemented in the short term through changes in administrative management policies. The Secretariat is to report on recommendations that require legislative change no later than September 30, 2004. In carrying out this review, the government will seek the views of parliamentarians, the Auditor General, unions, and other interested parties.

From Government of Canada Newsroom (press release), Canada, 11 February 2004

Eudora Officials Want in on School-finance Sales Tax

Eudora - School officials don't like the idea of boosting Douglas County sales taxes to help finance their operations, but there's still another prospect they favor even less. Lawrence could boost its own sales tax, for the sole use of the Lawrence school district. And that would leave Eudora -- and its residents who make the five-mile drive west on Kansas Highway 10 to shop -- without any payoff from the additional 5 cents that would be leaving their pockets for each $10 purchase. "Their money would go to support the students of Lawrence public schools, and, in turn, Eudora would get nothing back," said Marty Kobza, superintendent of Eudora public schools. "If this (sales tax) is going to happen, one way or another, we want to be a part of it. We want our citizens to get some return on their investment." At issue is a prickly political proposal making its way from Lawrence to Topeka. Lawrence and Douglas County commissioners, backed by school boards for Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin public schools, are lobbying legislators for permission to conduct a public vote in November.

The goal: Seek public approval for a 1/2-cent countywide sales tax, whose estimated proceeds of $5.9 million a year would be split among the three districts and others with students living in the county. Such a tax would generate an estimated $506,000 for Eudora public schools. That would be 248 times more than the $2,036 the district received this year from Johnson County, which generated $12.2 million from its 1/4-cent sales tax for schools. Eighty of Eudora's 1,207 students live in Johnson County. Kobza said his district needed more money simply to compete with his educational neighbors to the east. Eudora's entry-level teachers earn $30,154 a year, while districts in Johnson County - primed, in part, by an infusion of sales-tax money - pay anywhere from $32,000 to $35,000. Lawrence city commissioners already have said they would support passing a Lawrence-only sales tax for schools, should the county effort fail.

From Lawrence Journal World, KS, by Mark Fagan, 11 February 2004

Pin the Label on Tax Policy

Ashington - Whatever happens in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the general election campaign is shaping up as a showdown between candidates with competing philosophies on tax policy. President Bush pushed large tax cuts through Congress in each of his first three years in office. Now, although he says the country is on a wartime footing, and despite the largest budget deficit in history, he wants to make those tax reductions permanent and add several new ones. All the candidates for the Democratic nomination want to cancel at least some of the tax cuts enacted in the last three years. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the front-running Democrat, would repeal the cuts for taxpayers with incomes of more than $200,000 but retain those for people who earn less. Last week, voters got a preview of what to expect in the fall campaign when the president traveled to Springfield, Mo., to speak about the economy. "They're going to say, 'Let's not make the tax cuts permanent,' "Mr. Bush declared. "Now is not the time to raise taxes on the American people." "People have got to understand and listen to the rhetoric carefully," Mr. Bush added. "When they say, 'We're going to repeal Bush's tax cuts,' that means they're going to raise your taxes, and that's wrong, and that's bad economics."

Mr. Kerry responded in a campaign appearance in Memphis. "If George Bush wants to stand there and defend people who earn more than $200,000 a year getting a tax cut instead of giving health care to Americans and instead of investing in education and job training," he said, "that's the debate we deserve for this nation, and I think it's a debate we will win." Any candidate's specific campaign promises about taxes, of course, are a long way from becoming law. Bill Clinton built his successful 1992 campaign around the idea of the "forgotten middle class" and promised a middle-class tax cut. Once he was elected, he abandoned the tax cut and concentrated on reducing the budget deficit. The tax increases he won in 1993 were imposed largely on the wealthy, but at least two changes - a higher gasoline tax and income taxes on some Social Security benefits - hit middle-income taxpayers. Even if the winner of the election this November tries to fulfill his campaign promises, he may not be able to do so. Mr. Bush may not have the votes in Congress to make his tax cuts permanent over a likely filibuster in the Senate. If Mr. Kerry is elected, he may find it difficult to get any programs through Congress if it remains under Republican control.

Still, the difference in philosophies is important, because it establishes where the candidates intend to place emphasis if they are elected. Gen. Wesley K. Clark withdrew from the Democratic race last week, leaving only two other candidates besides Mr. Kerry who have received more than 10 percent of the vote in several primaries and caucuses: Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Dr. Dean would repeal all the Bush tax cuts and use most of the money saved to pay for universal health insurance. He has talked about but never specifically proposed a reduction in the Social Security payroll tax. Mr. Edwards, like Mr. Kerry, advocates canceling the tax cuts for the wealthy and retaining those benefiting the less affluent. Specifically, he would repeal the reduction in the top two tax rates and the new rates on capital gains and dividends for those with incomes of more than $240,000 and would retain the estate tax. He advocates new tax breaks to help middle-income families make down payments on homes and build private savings. The Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire toward the end of this decade.

The Tax Policy Center, a project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, calculated that if the tax cuts were extended, $4 trillion would be lost in revenue over the 10 years from 2005, when the new president will take office, through 2014. If tax cuts were canceled for those with incomes of more than $200,000, about half of that revenue would be retained, the center found. The details of Mr. Kerry's plan have not been spelled out. Presumably, for people who are not rich, he would retain certain tax breaks: The 10 percent tax bracket, which covers the first $7,000 of a single filer's taxable income ($14,000 for married couples filing jointly). The higher tax credit for children, now $1,000 a child but scheduled to drop to $700 for 2005 through 2008. The tax break that reduces the likelihood that a working married couple would owe higher taxes than they would if they were single. Mr. Kerry would certainly not allow the estate tax to be canceled, and he would return the top tax rate, now 35 percent, to 39.1 percent, where it was in 2001.

But it is not clear how Mr. Kerry would go about charging taxpayers with incomes of more than $200,000 a higher rate of taxes on stock dividends and capital gains than would be owed by people with smaller incomes. In addition to making permanent the tax cuts approved in 2001, 2002 and 2003, Mr. Bush wants to create two savings accounts in which the earnings would accumulate tax-free, allow taxpayers who take the standard deduction to take an additional deduction for at least part of their charitable contributions and prevent many taxpayers from being hit with the alternative minimum tax for another year. The savings accounts would have the effect of exempting from taxation a large portion of Americans' earnings from investments. These accounts would not lose much revenue for the government at first but would be very costly years from now.

Mr. Bush says that regardless of the budget deficit, now above $500 billion, his tax cuts are good for the economy. On "Meet the Press" last Sunday, the moderator, Tim Russert, noted that every wartime president since Abraham Lincoln had raised taxes to help cover military expenses, and he asked Mr. Bush whether he intended to do that. The president implied that he would not. "I believe that if you raise taxes as the economy is beginning to recover from really tough times, you will slow down economic growth," he said. How about, Mr. Russert continued, not cutting taxes further until the budget is balanced? Mr. Bush would not make that promise, either. Mr. Kerry labeled Mr. Bush's tax policies the height of folly. As for making the wealthy pay higher taxes, "he can call it what he wants," Mr. Kerry said last week, sharpening his argument for the fall campaign. "I call it fairness for all Americans."

From New York Times, by David E. Rosenbaum, 14 February 2004

Greenspan Backs Bush's Tax Policy

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on Thursday voiced support for extending US President George W. Bush's tax cuts, but told lawmakers they should reinstitute rules to ensure they don't drive up the country's debt. The influential central bank chief recommended finding savings on the spending side to pay for the cuts, and suggested Congress consider scaling back retiree benefits under Social Security and Medicare. "I am in favor ... of continuing the tax cuts that are in dispute at this particular stage," Greenspan told the Senate Banking Committee in answer to a lawmaker's question, wading into a contentious election-year debate. Since taking office, Bush has won tax cuts totaling some US$1.7 trillion over 10 years. Unless extended, the reductions will begin expiring at year's end, fully running their course by 2010. The Fed chairman said he would "argue strenuously" for saving on the spending side to fund an extension. The cost of making the cuts permanent could top US$1 trillion over the next decade.

Testifying for a second day on the Fed's semiannual monetary policy report, Greenspan twinned his backing for tax cuts with a call for renewing expired caps on government spending and so-called pay-go rules, which require tax or spending plans be paid for elsewhere in the budget. The Bush administration also supports pay-go renewal, but only for spending programs - not for tax cuts. Greenspan also urged lawmakers to look closely at Social Security and Medicare. Both programs will come under growing stress as members of the baby boom generation begin to retire. "I suspect ... we're going to have to relook at some of the entitlement spending outlays," he said. "What we have to do, as difficult as it's going to be, is to relook at some of these commitments that were made." Greenspan said Congress should consider raising the age at which benefits could be drawn under Social Security and Medicare and tie benefits to an inflation index that advances more slowly than the government's Consumer Price Index.

The Fed chief said he was aware politically difficult choices would be required to put the programs on a sound long-term fiscal footing, but added: "The other alternative is to have legislation which repeals the laws of arithmetic." Absent a fix, Social Security will begin to pay out more than it collects in taxes by 2018, exhausting its trust fund by 2042. The Medicare program faces similar pressure, with its hospital trust fund projected to run out by 2026. "Greenspan is more directly linking the trade-off between the tax cut on the one hand and Social Security benefits on the other than I think I've seen from him before," said Brookings Institution economist Peter Orszag, an adviser to the campaign of Democratic presidential front-runner Senator John Kerry. "The only way you could pay for these tax cuts through lower Social Security benefits would be to reduce benefits for current beneficiaries and those about to retire, a step the Bush administration has specifically ruled out," Orszag said. Bush's push to make the tax cuts permanent faces stiff opposition from Democrats who say they are skewed toward the wealthy. Kerry has called for their partial repeal. Greenspan echoed the White House's arguments that letting the tax cuts expire would amount to a tax increase that could hit economic growth.

From Taipei Times, Taiwan, 13 February 2004

Financial Services Instant Messaging Association Press Release

New York - In order to further promote the development and adoption of instant messaging (IM) technology in the financial services industry, the Financial Services Instant Messaging Association (FIMA) announced the expansion of the association to 21 financial firm members. FIMA announced the expansion of its steering group to 10 member firms with the addition of two key appointments, Bank of America and BNP Paribas. They join Credit Suisse First Boston, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS on the steering board. Graham Lawlor of Deutsche Bank and Ursula Mills of UBS are co-chairs of FIMA. Additionally, Andy Higgins of Bank of America has been appointed as chairman of the FIMA User Group. FIMA also announced publication of the two documents identifying key IM requirements shared by FIMA member firms. The FIMA Functional Priorities List v1.0 identifies a comprehensive, prioritized list of enterprise IM features required by FIMA member firms.

The FIMA Interoperability Definition v1.0 defines FIMA's position on specific requirements relating to interoperability between IM systems, promotion of which is a key FIMA focus. The documents were produced in conjunction with FIMA affiliated IM vendors and are intended to guide development of IM products and services towards delivering the needs of FIMA members and the needs of the financial services industry as a whole. Both documents and the list of FIMA affiliated vendors are available on the FIMA website -- www.financialim.org. FIMA is non-partisan and open to any participant that wishes to promote Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) IM standards and protocols within the financial services community. By endorsing IETF instant messaging standards, FIMA seeks to promote interoperability and beneficial competition among Instant Messaging vendors. For more information about FIMA, refer to the FIMA web site or contact Kris Kagel of UBS at +1-212-713-8703 or Ted Meyer of Deutsche Bank at +1-212-250-7253.

From Market Wire (press release), 23 February 2004

Mayor Says City of Pittsburgh Could Go Broke by Summer

Tells Act 47 advisers revenue, not cuts, needed - Mayor Tom Murphy, responding to state requests that he make "drastic" cuts to city spending, said the city has already cut all it can, and needs new revenue by the summer to avoid running out of cash. "Strict controls to reserve cash have and will continue to be maintained. But it is impracticable to believe that a $40 million cash shortfall can be mitigated through spending controls," Murphy said in a letter issued yesterday to the city's state-appointed Act 47 recovery team. Without new revenue, "simply maintaining basic safety and city services and fulfilling our contractual obligations will exhaust our cash well before the end of the year," the mayor wrote. The recovery team named under the state's Act 47 distressed cities statute - Pittsburgh law firm Eckert Seamans and Public Financial Management of Philadelphia - wrote Murphy and council President Gene Ricciardi Feb. 13 calling for interim cuts to city spending to save money through the rest of the year.

The team said the spending cuts, including a freeze on hiring and on spending on supplies and equipment, were needed because new revenues may not be approved in time to help the city this year. In a five-page response yesterday, Murphy said city departments have already cut most discretionary spending, other than required training and education costs; cut staffing, except for the Fire Bureau, which is shielded from layoffs; and trimmed capital spending from $30 million to $8 million annually. Lenders will not make loans to bridge the $40 million shortfall unless the city repays them during 2004, adding more pressure for new state revenue soon, Murphy wrote. The only new revenue the recovery team can recommend under Act 47, in addition to increases in existing city taxes, is an earned income tax on commuters. "The city's cash position now dictates that the remedy must be achieved before summer. Act 47 gives us the means to enact a recovery plan within months," he wrote. Murphy then asked for further clarification on interim city spending and services, which City Council also called for yesterday.

Council was poised to take final votes on issuing $450,000 in legal fees in a lawsuit filed by police officer Robert Swartzwelder, who successfully sued the city for civil rights violations, and $500,000 to the Kingsley Center to complete a new community center on the East Liberty/Larimer border. But council suspended the votes until today to make sure the costs are acceptable under the recovery team's guidelines. The recovery team is separate from a state-appointed five-member oversight board on city finances. That board has until mid-April to recommend budget reforms to the Legislature and is empowered to compel the city to adhere to spending plans for the next seven years. The Act 47 team will not issue its recovery recommendations until 90 days after it agrees to contract terms with the state. That contract is still not signed, adding more confusion to the mix for council members. "Is this to slow the process down, to allow the oversight board to catch up? Is there something going on in the background that we're not aware of?" Ricciardi asked. "Everyone should find it very strange and puzzling that there has not been a contract signed."

Once the recovery team gives council guidelines on spending, council's budget chairman Alan Hertzberg said, the pending payments for legal costs and the community center are likely to win final approval today. The vote to hold the bills was 8-0 with Twanda Carlisle absent. Carlisle, who represents East Liberty and Larimer, gave council a memo saying she had a previously scheduled appointment and could not make the regularly scheduled meeting yesterday. The Kingsley Center's $7.8 million office complex/gym/pool/classroom facility is about one month short of being completed, executive Malik Bankston said yesterday. The center advanced private funding with agreement from the city that it would provide some $1.2 million, most of it from Community Development Block Grant funds. Bankston said the city recently signed a contract to provide the first of two $500,000 allocations from community development funds for administrative, operating, maintenance and construction costs.

The Feb. 13 letter from the city recovery team said the city should spend capital funds only on emergency projects and invoke contract clauses for "emergency termination" of projects that are already under way. Council members have asked the coordinators to explain that request more fully today, but Bankston said the new community center should not be affected. The East Liberty/Larimer area has not had its own recreation center or pool since the late 1970s, he said, and the city started working on the new center long before the Act 47 process started. "I've been listening to the arguments about everyone biting the bullet and participating in re-prioritizing government. We have not been especially well-serviced for a very long time, and as far as I'm concerned we're paid up in advance. We gave at the office," Bankston said. Councilman William Peduto said the recovery team has also asked him to hold off voting on merging the city and Allegheny County 911 dispatching centers for one week, until March 3, to allow the team to review the plans. Council approved a resolution by Sala Udin in a 8-0 vote calling for more seats to be added to the five-member financial oversight committee, with requirements they be filled by black or female appointees. With all of the current members white males, it is "nearly impossible for the people of this city to honor the process," the resolution says.

From Pittsburgh Post Gazette, PA, 25 February 2004

 
 

Africa's Private Sector Also Needs to Clean Up Its Act

Johannesburg - Walking into the Southern African Development Community (SADC) offices in Gaborone, one is struck by the piles of paper everywhere collecting dust. A large number of the (mostly donor-funded) documents awaiting a creative filing plan seem dedicated to identifying problems and finding solutions to them. On paper, at least. Somewhere out there lies the white paper on economic policies in the region, outlining the problems identified by the private sector of doing business in southern Africa, and some suggestions on how to improve the situation. The document was drawn up by the Association of SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCCI), the region's umbrella private sector organisation founded in 1999 in Mauritius and endorsed as the official business advocacy body to SADC. Concerns raised in the document b