ISSUE 60
March 2004
 
 
   
    Botswana: Venson Calls for HIV/AIDS Wards
Nigeria: Hi-Tech:- Government/Private Sector Partner to Deliver E-Government
   
    Japan: Infighting May Delay Civil Service Bill
Viet Nam: ADB to set up Japanese Fund for Public Policy Training
China: Full Text of Premier Wen's Government Work Report
South Korea: CompTIA Helps IT Firms to Modify Public Policy
   
    Georgia: Georgia to Adopt European Model of Public Administration
EU: EU Commissioner Speaks on Information Society Policy in an Enlarged Europe
Italy: Public Administration: Online by End of Year
   
    Israel: Public Administration Employment Down in Q4
   
    USA: NJTC 'Good Government Fund' Sets Public Policy Agenda for 2004
USA: Revitalization Won't Come Through City Hall Alone, Expert Says
USA: Taking E-gov One Step at a Time - OMB Says Report Shows Early Progress
USA: E-Gov Act Implementation Picking up Steam
USA: Reform State Civil Service Law
USA: Nonprofit, Business and Government Leaders Create Partnership to Increase Recycling of Magazines and Catalogs
Canada: Disclosure Protection Legislation Introduced
   
    Banking on Public Service: Why the World Needs Its Own Bank
 
   
    South Africa: Home Affairs Working with NIA to Combat Corruption
Nigeria: Corruption is Anti-Democracy, Says Obasanjo
Zambia: We'll Conquer Corruption, Declares Nevers Mumba
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's Mugabe Pledges Crackdown on Corruption
Nigeria: Fighting Corruption in the Nation's Polity
Zambia: Forthright Attitude Towards Corruption
Botswana: Government Sits On Corruption Report
South Africa: Government Intensifies Efforts to Curb Fraud, Corruption
Nigeria: World Bank Tasks Obasanjo on Corruption
   
    Malaysia: 'War Against Corruption' an Election Ploy
Indonesia: Indonesia Tops Asian Corruption Survey
Malaysia: Corruption Our Biggest Worry, Say Malaysians
China: Institutional Innovation Vital to Fighting against Corruption
Australia: Health Watchdog Granted Anti-corruption Powers
India A Two-wheeled Campaign against Crime, Corruption
Australia: Call for Royal Commission into Alleged Vic Police Corruption
China: Beijing Reiterates Commitment to Host Corruption-free Olympic Games
China: China to Fight Against Corruption, Terror
Australia: Demand for More Power to Fight Police Corruption
China: Six Ministerial Officials Punished
China: China Attaches Great Importance to Anti-corruption: Senior CPC Official
Indonesia: Money Politics Breeds Corruption
Indonesia: Golkars Restriction to Speak on Corruption Shows Internal Conflict: Nurcholish
   
    Cyprus: Anti-corruption Bill Clears Last Hurdle
Switzerland: Anti-corruption Mission
UK: Policeman Held in Corruption Probe
UK: We All Have Role in Fighting Corruption
Russia: Corruption, Biased Media Turn Russian Election Into "Farce"
Yugoslavia: PM Backs Anti-corruption Team
Ukraine: Ukrainian Village Wakes Up to 6 Years of Regional Corruption
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Steps Up Corruption Fight
   
    Egypt: Catching Up with High-profile Corruption
   
    Canada: 'Servile' Service Abetted Corruption
USA: Official: More Funding Needed to Draw Callers to Corruption Tip Line
Mexico: Mayor Defends Corruption-tainted Administration
 
   
    South Africa: No More Free Rides for Civil Servants
Kenya: Kenyan Civil Servants Demand 600% Pay Rise
South Africa: Public Servants Be Neutral Or Resign: Moleketi
Ghana: Government Is Sympathetic to Civil Servants Agitations
Ghana: Civil Servants Establish Loan Scheme
Zambia: Civil Servants Face Source of Wealth Probe
Botswana: Civil Servants Get New Knowledge on Privatisation
Central African Republic: Civil Servants to Take Pay Cut As Bangui Goes Broke
South Africa: Public Servants Honoured
South Africa: Vacancies Are Crippling Public Service
Uganda: Civil Servants to Be Insured
South Africa: 12 000 Civil Service Jobs on the Line
Nigeria: Shake-up Imminent in Lagos Civil Service
   
    New Zealand: Former 'Rogernome' to Lead Public Service
New Zealand: Ombudsman Has Harsh Words for Public Servants
Japan: Civil Servant Held for Campaigning
Viet Nam: Vietnam Intensifies Fight against Police Corruption
Sri Lanka: Public Servants Should Maintain Good Rapport with People
South Korea: American Becomes 1st Seoul Civil Servant
Bangladesh: Move to Put Civil Servants in Defunct Local Government Units Slated
China: More Civil Servants Must Go
Singapore: Singapore Civil Service Warned It May Have to Shed Workers to Keep Costs Down
Brunei: Civil Servants Told To Adopt Strategies
Singapore: 'Mystery Callers' Keep Civil Servants on their Toes
Singapore: Government May Have to Trim Civil Service
Australia: Victoria Public Servants to Get 3pc Wage Rise
China: China Public Servants Ordered to Trim Fat
Australia: Pay Deal for Public Servants
China: Exam in 2004 Sets Standard for Civil Servant Neutrality
Malaysia: Civil Servants Urged to Give Full Support to PM
India: Civil Services (Main) Examination, 2003 - Written Results
Australia: Mature-age Plan for Public Servants
Philippines: DOTC-ARMM Employees Urged to File Case vs Civil Service Commission Ruling
   
    UK: Short Attack on Top Civil Servant
UK: Top Salaries for Civil Servants in Blair's Public Sector Jobs Bonanza
Ireland: Government Urged to Cut Public Servant Numbers
UK: Impartial Civil Service Law 'Essential' Ministers Told
Ireland: Civil Servant Jobs 'Will Be Moved'
Ireland: Suspensions Intensify Civil Service Pay Dispute
UK: Brown Targets 20,000 Civil Servants for Relocation
Russia: Fradkov Promises to Cut Civil Servants, Make Others Work Better
Italy: Civil Service: Cabinet Approves New Management Regulations
UK: Brown to Move 60,000 Civil Servants
Turkey: France Has 8 Public Servant Per 100 Citizens, Turkey Has 3
UK: Government Is Prepared to Sack Civil Servants
UK: Budget 2004: Brown and Public Services
UK: Civil Service Job Cuts Make HR Vital for Driving Change
   
    Israel: Public Sector Wages Still Sky High
Israel: Hundreds of Civil Servants Earn more than Ministry Bosses
Iraq: World Bank Trains Iraqi Civil Servants Ahead of Development Schemes
   
    Canada: Former Civil Servant Speaks
Canada: Sponsorships Government Priority: Public Servant
USA: Policy Changes Affect Civil Service Employees
Canada: NDP Wants to See Reasons for Civil Servants' Bonuses
USA: HPD Set to Give Civil Service Exam
USA: Time to Overhaul Public Service
USA: Longtime Public Servants to Be Honored
 
   
    Nigeria: N/Assembly Okays Downsizing in Federal Public Service
   
    China: China's Cultural Minister Calls for Tighter Internet Control
China: UN Public Service Awards to Be Presented at Annual Shanghai Forum
Pakistan: Punjab JI Marks 2004 as 'Public Service Year'
Brunei: Promoting E-government in Brunei
India: Microsoft Holds 5-City eGovernance Seminars
South Korea: Seoul to Freeze Public Services Fees
Brunei: Dialogue on e-Government
Malaysia: New Public Service Website
South Korea: Seoul to Freeze Public Services Fees
India: Only Ten States Are Active On E-governance Initiatives
Brunei: Thresh Out Problems in e-Government Launching
China: China Ponders Reform of Government-run Public Service Agencies
Malaysia: Awaiting Public Services Department Nod for PDC Restructuring
Singapore: Public Services and Private Expectations
China: Wong Snubs Civil Service Pay Rethink
India: IBM to Help Develop E-gov Interfaces in India
New Zealand: International Opportunities for Public Service Leaders
   
    Ireland: Jobs Transfer Plan 'Will Create Public Service Wasteland'
UK: Job Spec: Head of UK e-Government. Fancy Applying?
Switzerland: E-government Unpopular
Switzerland: Swiss Launch E-government Initiative
Ukraine: E-governance Strategy for Belarus: a Roundtable Discussion
Switzerland: Security Fears Cast Shadow over E-government
UK: Canadian Technology Powers Next Generation of E-government in the East of England Region
EU: E-TEN Programme Spproves €37.5M for Public-Private E-gov Initiatives
Ireland: Tánaiste to Make Speech on Future of EU Public Services
UK: Public Services Must Compete, Says Expert
UK: Brown's Public Service Pledge
Macedonia: VMRO and SDSM Argue About Software for Public Administration
UK: Public Services Fuel Growth
UK: Local e-Government Projects Win £6.2million E-innovations Funding
UK: PM Yet to Convince Electorate over Reforms
UK: IT Will Drive Civil Service Reforms
Netherlands: Dutch E-gov Visits Up by 50 Per Cent
   
    UAE: Heads of eGovernment Teams from Dubai's Government Departments Updated on www.dubai.ae's Offerings
UAE: Civic Body's e-Government Portal Reaches a New Milestone
Bahrain: Bahrain Government Invited GCC to Share e-Government Successes
Bahrain: Bahrain Takes Steps to Embrace E-government
Dubai eGovernment to Host the First Middle East eGovernment Summit in Dubai
UAE: Dubai to Host the First Middle East eGovernment Summit
   
    USA: Toledo, Ohio Selects Accela to Provide New E-Government Services to Citizens
USA: E-gov Officials Eye Grants, HR
USA: City Website Chosen as Best e-Gov 'Top Pick'
USA: CIOs Blame Slow Pace of E-gov on Funding Hurdles
USA: Interior Callers Willing to Pay for State Services
USA: Public Servants Helping Out Off the Clock
Canada: Public Service Must Brace for Cutbacks, Alcock Aays
USA: NYU Center to Study Public-Service Leadership
USA: Newport to Buy Property for Public Services Facility
Canada: Job Shuffling Begins in Civil Service
USA: Civil-service Members Are Key Players on Our Team
USA: 170 Systems Wins Major e-Government Contract With the Scottish Legal Aid Board
USA: Entrust Chief Executive Bill Conner Named FCW Federal 100 Award Recipient
Canada: Canadians Embrace E-government: Study
USA: BEA Forum to Address Large-Scale E-Government Initiatives
USA: E-gov: Four Measures of Progress
USA: OMB Wants More E-gov Users
USA: White House to Study Ways to Expand E-government
   
    UN Public Service Announcement to Promote Peace Earns Emmy Nomination
Global E-government
 
   
    Ghana: Public Accounts Committee of Parliament reacts to Misappropriation of Funds
Ghana: We`ll Ensure Effective Public Finance Management - Finance Minister
   
    New Zealand: National Rethinking Its Tax Policy
India: House Tax Policy 'Anti-poor', Says BJP
Malaysia: Affin Holdings to Privatize Finance Subsidiary
Australia: Latham Tight-lipped over Tax Policy
China: Hong Kong Trims Civil Service to Rein in Budget
New Zealand: National's Tax Policy U-turn
New Zealand: Tax Policy Political Rot
   
    Ireland: McCreevy Publishes 2004 Revised Estimates
Germany: German Opposition Forms Tax Policy
UK: Report Puts Case for Scrapping Council Tax
Yugoslavia: There Can Be no State without Good Public Finance Management, Finance Minister Says
UK: Ethnic Recruitment Drive in Public Finance Hailed a Success
UK: The Fund Should End Its Backroom Deals
UK: Assembly Jobs Move Across Wales
Yugoslavia: Public Finance to Stimulate Economic Growth
UK: Greens Unveil Land Tax Proposals
Slovakia: Slovak Public Finance Deficit Shrinks 50 % yr/yr
   
    USA: Corporate Rate Reduction and International Tax Reform: Best Options for FSC/ETI Replacement Legislation
USA: New Fitch Report Expresses Caution on Public Finance Credit for 2004
USA: Bank of America Creates Public Finance Position for Northeast
USA: Tax Policy Experts Warn of Federal Spending
USA: Banking on Public Service: World Bank as Down Payment
USA: Unsound Tax Policy Has Ripple Effect on Illinois Economy
USA: U.S. Files Case against China on Semiconductor Tax Policy
USA: Public-Finance Campaign System Pitched by Legislators
 
   
    Japan: Japan Postal to Move on Privatization
China: New Body to Monitor Privatization Policy
Japan: Koizumi to Appoint Postal Privatization Minister in Summer
Thailand: Thai Unions Want Government to Can Privatization Plans
Japan: Cabinet OKs Highway Privatization Plan
Pakistan: Privatization Minister Arrives In Germany
Thailand: Thai Utility Privatization Effort Hiked
Thailand: Resistance
Thailand: Thailand Electric Authority Privatization Plan Faces Stiff Resistance
Indonesia: Indonesia Pushes Privatization of Merpati Airlines
China: Hong Kong Government: Hopes For Airport Privatization Bill At End 2004
   
    Georgia: Georgia Suspends Privatization
Turkey: Sayin: Government To Use Its 1.5 Years Time In Privatization Of Ziraat And Halk Banks
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Privatization Body Reported 344 Deals over 2003
Turkey: I.M.F. Delegation Visits Privatization Administration Board
Poland: Privatization 101
   
    Israel: Treasury Officials Assail Privatization of Oil Refineries Without Dividing Them
Lebanon: Moody's Maintains 'Negative Outlook' on Lebanon, Recommends Privatization
Israel: Privatization Begins for Pension Funds
Israel: Government Sets Timetable for Discount Privatization
   
    USA: Middle San Pedro Partnership to Focus on Area's Water Use
Canada: Kofi's Choice: Paul Martin and the Privatization of Development
USA: No Child Left Behind: A Debate on the Privatization of Education
USA: Staff Members Protest Against Campus Job Privatization
USA: Bush Reaffirms his Desire for Privatization
Barbados: Public/Private Sector Partnership Made
USA: Privatization Worsens Outlook for Medicare and Social Security
USA: Partnership Calls for Internet Early Warning System
USA: Medicare and Social Security Successful Despite Privatization Rhetoric
 

Venson Calls for HIV/AIDS Wards

Parliament specially elected MP Pelonomi Venson has called on government to set aside some hospital wards exclusively for HIV/AIDS patients. She said when contributing to the debate on the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration's 2004/2005 budget allocation in Parliament on Friday that the move "is a necessary discrimination" just like it was done with TB patients in the past. "Our campaign should be looking more at people who are dying and we should not sit here and talk about AIDS because it is not going to get us anywhere." Venson called for a change in strategy in the war against HIV/AIDS, arguing that the campaign should hit directly on the disease itself. "Our children should be told to abstain or die because giving them options such as using condoms is not working." She expressed disappointment with the glamour and softness of the country's AIDS campaign, adding that it is not aggressive against the epidemic. Funding for the HIV/AIDS programme will be increased from P183 million to P415 million in 2004/5, Parliament was told.

Meanwhile, Daniel Kwelagobe, presidential affairs and public administration minister, categorically told the House that Radio Botswana programme, Dikgang Tsa Palamente, would not be reinstated until convincing reasons were advanced. MPs complained that the decision was punishing all MPs for the misdeeds of past MPs, adding that the public was anxious to have the programme reinstated. But Kwelagobe argued that until they acted responsibly in Parliament the status quo would remain. He reminded the MPs that the use of unsavoury language still persisted in Parliament and that one MP was thrown out of Parliament twice after he insisted that his church was capable of curing HIV/AIDS. The MPs were told that like in other countries Botswana did not have a broadcast policy that allowed parliamentary proceedings to be aired live on radio and television. Kwelagobe said that it was wrong to agitate for live television broadcasts "in order to expose MPs who sleep or abscond during Parliament sittings".

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 1 March 2004

Hi-Tech:- Government/Private Sector Partner to Deliver E-Government

Lagos - Determined to cut the bureaucracy that attend government business in the country, the Federal Government is set to launch an e-government initiative which will take government transaction online. The project is a joint initiative between private sector operators which operate under the nomenclature of National e-government Strategies Ltd (NeGSt) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. The overall mission of the National e-Government project is to improve organizational performance, service delivery and the participation of ordinary citizens in the day-to-day activities of government. The scope of the e-government project as envisioned by the NeGSt and NITDA is elaborate with virtually all government business put on the line for automation. The intention is to use Information and Communications Technology to improve efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability in government operations.

Amongst the deliverables of e-government as enunciated by the Minister for Science and Technology, Prof. Turner Isoun last week, are e-Tax, e-learning, e-Traffic, e-Procurement, e-Pricing, e-Mail, e-Tourism, e-Payment, e-Revenue, e-Legislature, e-Policing, e-judiciary, e-Health, e-Agriculture, e-Services, e-Kiosks, e-Buka and many more. The excitement about the e-Government project of the government is that even though the scope of the project is wide, government would spend virtually no money to put it in place. The bill for the project has been picked up by the private sector operators including reputable financial institutions, multinational IT companies and their local counterparts. On the roll call of banks that have lined up to bankroll the e-government project are City Express Bank Ltd., First Bank PLC, Gulf Bank Ltd, Oceanic Bank PLC, Standard Trust Bank PLC, and Zenith Bank PLC all of which are shareholders on National e-Government project.

There is also a consortium of non equity financial partners to the project which include Bank of the North PLC, FSB Merchant Bank, Habib Bank PLC, Trade Bank PLC, United Bank for Africa PLC, Universal Trust Bank PLC, and WEMA Bank PLC. The financial partners to the project would provide financial expertise and support the entire project life circle from planning to analysing, designing, building, testing, deployment, management and continuous improvement. Multinational and local IT companies which are also queuing behind the project which promises to revolutionalise the way government business is done in Nigeria include such giants as Microsoft Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Hewlett Packard, CISCO Systems, Accenture, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, UK amongst others. The local IT companies include JKK/Future Technologies, Zinox, Omatek, Beta and Unitec Computers, Progenics Corporation, SystemSpec Ltd., Econet Wireless, Globacom, MTN Nigeria and M-Tel.

These IT companies would provide the hub of ICT services on quality and architecture, project management, focus on Front-end service delivery, Backend integration, deployment, operation and maintenance. They would also ensure the development of streamlined and fully harmonized e-government programme for Nigeria so as to ensure government information is accurate, safe, reliable and protected as well as design content and integrate it. Prof. Ajayi, Director General of NITDA, says that while the private sector partners are engrossed in the technical management of the project, his agency would be involved in building capacity for the project and encourage the participation of the private sector. He contended that the interest of the private sector in the e-government project was rekindled by the seriousness of the government in improving the way government is run through the deployment of IT. He further explains that President Olusegun Obasanjo now has ICT as one of his priorities in line with his declaration at the WSIS last year and is personally involved to ensure the success of the National e-government project.

Prof Isoun thinks that with the calibre of reputable IT companies involved in the e-government project, he was optimistic about its success. He contends that this new initiative on e-government would see modern government practice in the country like is done in developed and developing economies of the world. He contends that it is the model for a government that wants to deliver development to its people. The fear in some circles is how the public service can adapt easily to the change that would be necessitated by e-government. How can employees in the public sector imbibe the culture of the computer age for instance after many years of moving files from one office to the other? Prof Isoun agrees that such fears could be genuine but quickly adds that people just have to adapt quickly or get shipped out. Said he : "I am on record to say that IT is for the 100 - 150 million Nigerians; not for experts. It is available for them to improve their economy; improve their health and improve their education.

Now if you are going to do that, you must do so through e-government. e-government is an effective efficient government. Government is not just there for itself, government is working for the people. And when the people are doing well, then government is doing well. E-government is to help us to drive that message home. And to deliver that message." Prof. Isoun further admonishes all Nigerians to prepare for the change that e-government would bring. He believes that since this change was inevitable, we all must brace up for it, stressing "Nigeria is about to witness is a hurricane. I must tell you that and this is purely patriotic. That nobody, not even a President can stop it. Can you see a president stopping a hurricane? He can't. No dictator, for instance, can tell you that you cannot send an e-mail. That is why I say you can't stop this change that is coming. So talking about change, we have started a process and instead of anybody trying to stop the change, he should better join the train now.

If you don't know how to send an e-mail, learn it now; if you don't know how to type learn now. So my advise is that instead of fighting change, please take advantage of change. The e-government project is part of the civil service reforms which are intended to make the Nigerian civil service proactive and respond quickly to the needs of the citizenry. It is a way of using modern tools to run government administration for more efficiency. Partners to the e-government project say that the project is to be gradually implemented and could run into years before completion. It is however expected that it would start with simple operations like e-kiosk, e-learning before the end of the year. It would then graduate into other complicated tasks. But with its full take-off, it would mean that Nigerians would be able to transact most government business on the internet without physical presence. This would no doubt save time and money but would also reduce the leakages that attend government revenue processes.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Godfrey Ikhemuemhe, 3 March 2004

 

Infighting May Delay Civil Service Bill

Renewed strife between the National Personnel Authority and a Liberal Democratic Party panel for leadership in reforming the civil service is apparently delaying the review of a public service reform bill the government hopes to submit to the Diet, according to sources. Though the government wants to submit the bill to the Diet by the end of the year, it is unknown when the submission will take place due to a dispute over the proposed new personnel evaluation system and measures to regulate amakudari (descent from heaven) - a practice in which retired bureaucrats take high positions with public or private organizations linked to their preretirement work. The most contentious issue is a proposed system in which government employees performance would be rated on a scale of 11.

The proposal was made by the government's secretariat for administrative reform promotion, which is under the influence of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. A ministry source said the proposal aimed to reduce the NPA's power over personnel management in order to ensure the right people are placed in the right positions. The authority reportedly is considering a counterproposal to reject the ranking system and set clear standards for promotion for each position. An NPA official said: "Every ministry and agency has different jobs and job slots. It's irrational to assign uniform 11-stage grades to all public servants." The LDP's secretariat for administrative reform promotion, however, plans to maintain the proposed ranking system, though it is considering simplifying the 11 stages.

Concerning amakudari, the bill's initial draft proposed that advance ministerial approval would be required for bureaucrats to seek such employment, thereby removing the authority's previous power of approval. But due to criticism that the proposal would encourage ministries to make decisions to suit their own interests, the government will propose that the Cabinet screen and approve all such appointments. Though the authority and the secretariat have basically agreed on the point, they may differ over which levels of bureaucrats will have to have their amakudari appointments vetted. The government and labor unions are still far apart on the issue of the basic workers' rights of bureaucrats, the sources said.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Yomiuri Shimbun, 15 March 2004

ADB to set up Japanese Fund for Public Policy Training

Ha Noi - The Asian Development Bank has approved the establishment of a Japanese Fund for Public Policy Training to assist institutions of ADB's developing member countries (DMCs) to build capacity for public policy management, initially concentrating on transiting economies. This was announced by the ADB's Viet Nam Resident Mission in a press release issued on March 12. The programme will be initiated in Viet Nam on a pilot scheme basis. It will help set up partnerships with local training and research institutions to enable DMCs to acquire assistance from foreign academics to jointly develop and conduct training programmes, primarily in local languages. The Government of Japan will provide 900 million JPY as an initial contribution to the Fund. The contribution will finance, on a grant basis, DMC-based public policy training institutions and/or capacity building activities. The ADB Institute, based in Tokyo, will manage the Fund and implement the programmes.

From Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam, 15 March 2004

Full Text of Premier Wen's Government Work Report

The official Xinhua News Agency released Tuesday, March 16, the English version of the government work report 2004. The report, made by Premier Wen Jiabao to the Second Session of the 10th National People's Congress, was adopted by the top legislature at Sunday's closing meeting. The State Council has made 19 amendments to the report after repeated deliberations of the views and proposals of lawmakers and government advisors, according to NPC sources.

From People's Daily, China, 16 March 2004

CompTIA Helps IT Firms to Modify Public Policy

When the government says it will only procure wordprocessing software from local firm Hangul and Computer, everybody loses, including the company itself. Not that the Hangul software is worse than those from Microsoft, although there may be an argument to be made, but because the restriction of choice usually pulls down productivity. "When choices are limited through public policy, consumers lose out in the end and we would like to play a role in preventing such unfortunate developments," said Robert Kramer, vice president for public policy at the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). Visiting Seoul to attract more membership in the organization by Korean companies, Kramer said in an interview with The Korea Times that all companies should compete on their own merits without arbitrary government requirements where state procurement is concerned.

"We are involved in educating policymakers and regulators about the value and importance of maintaining objectivity in procurement in order to best serve taxpayers and maximize future innovation," Kramer said. This activity of CompTIA, the world's largest trade organization in the information and communications industry, is increasingly gaining importance as it strives to promote the interest of its members. CompTIA has been serving this and other causes for more than 20 years, providing research, networking and partnering opportunities to its members, developing standards and best practices and influencing the political, economic and educational arenas that impact IT (information technology) worldwide.

And while CompTIA has been active in North America and Europe, it is working to enhance its presence in Asia, especially in Korea, which has emerged as a leader in various aspects of the IT world. "We have been working on the Japanese market for quite some time now and we are just now getting into Korea where we hope to become more visible in the near future," said Kramer. Indeed, while CompTIA boasts a membership of 19,000 in nearly 90 countries, there are just five member companies in Korea, including computer virus vaccine leader Ahnlab. "With additional efforts, we believe that we will be able to encourage more Korean companies to become members of CompTIA and benefit from the global partnership," Kramer said.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Nho Joon-hun, 17 March 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

EU Commissioner Speaks on Information Society Policy in an Enlarged Europe

Mr. Erkki Liikanen, Member of the European Commission, responsible for Enterprise and the Information Society, has made a speech on the role for Information Society Policy in an Enlarged Europe, at the European Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Budapest, on 26th February 2004. This is the text of his speech: "I'd like to discuss the reasons behind our commitment to developing an Information Society for all in an enlarged Europe. ICT and Productivity - Many economic studies have shown that welfare, competitiveness and employment can only be sustained in the long run if they are based on productivity growth and innovation. Over the years we have favoured, in Europe, a combination of economic and social progress, with built-in safeguards for equity. However, economists have recently been warning that Europe's model can only be sustained if we significantly increase productivity and innovation. Productivity is a key determinant of potential growth. Ironically, at the time of the enthusiasm for the so-called "new economy", economists disagreed on the potential of ICT for growth.

Nowadays, years after the debate around the "new economy" is over, most agree that the main source of the acceleration of productivity growth in the United States is investment in information technology. Since the mid-nineties, and for the first time in decades, the European Union is on a lower productivity growth path than the United States. Recent economic studies have shown that this is essentially due to the US' superior performance in a wide range of ICT producing industries and ICT using services. The contribution of ICT-producing industries to productivity growth in the European Union is not dramatically different from that observed in the United States. However, the ICT-producing sector in the European Union is much smaller, and its contribution to productivity growth is consequently lower. The United States appear to have largely benefited from investment in ICT-using service industries, such as wholesale and retail trade and securities markets. In terms of services, the European strength is in electronic communications. Not only does this sector outperform its American counterpart, but it is and has been the largest contributor to productivity growth in the European Union over recent years.

The electronic communication sector in Europe has benefited from competition and superior scale of operators, enabled by favourable regulation. Liberalisation in Europe has taken place within the right legal environment. The success of mobile communications is largely due to competitive markets and to the role of the single mobile standard, GSM. The role of ICT - ICT is therefore a critical enabler of productivity growth. The key question nowadays is not so much about how much we invest in ICT, but about how technology is used. We should not focus on technology just for technology's sake. To reap the benefits of ICT we need to invest, in parallel, in the reorganisation of companies and administrations and in skills. This is how ICT can provide a better recipe for combining labour and capital and make productivity grow. However, the diffusion of new technologies is often slow. Firms can take a long time to adopt them, changing organisational arrangements, implementing effective business processes. Considering that European economies have invested less and later in ICT than their American competitors, benefits in Europe are expected with a lag.

The Commission has recently adopted a Communication, "Connecting Europe at High Speed", that highlights the continued importance of ICT for growth in the European economy. To reap the benefits, the European Union needs to promote the effective use of ICT and create a favourable environment for the electronic communication sector to thrive. To achieve these objectives, further action needs to be undertaken in the pillars that constitute European information-society policy. Policy challenges - In Europe, Information Society policy is built on three pillars: Firstly, the new regulatory framework was designed to enhance competition and provide a predictable legal environment to stimulate investment in the market. It is based on a technology-neutral approach that takes account of convergence. Its built-in flexibility allows it to adapt to fast-changing markets. Effective and timely implementation of the new regulatory framework is crucial to the development of a modern communications infrastructure. This is important for existing Member States, but even more for Acceding countries. They need to bring their communication sector and their wider economies more in line with those of existing Member States.

Liberalisation and the implementation of the new regulatory framework can be expected to add significantly to the potential for growth in Accession countries. This is why these countries should make every effort to complete the process of adaptation of national laws and ensure transposition of the framework by the accession date. The second pillar of our work is Research and Development. This is a strategic activity, ensuring continued innovation and safeguarding long-term competitiveness. The efforts at European level are underway through the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Development, with a budget of more than 4 billion euros between 2002 and 2006. The Commission has just made its proposal for the Financial Perspectives for the period 2007-2013. It highlights the role of ICT in supporting growth, and the need to increase investment to stimulate the uptake of these technologies. The importance of research, and of ICT research in particular, is explicitly mentioned. This is the case for the Technology Platforms (relating to nano-technologies, mobile communications and embedded systems), but also for collaborative research in ICT and in research infrastructures such as Géant and GRID.

The emphasis of the Financial Perspectives is particularly important as it implies that research should receive an increased budget for the next EU Framework Programme for R&D. In our proposal for the Financial Perspectives we foresee that ICT research receives an amount proportionate to its role in ensuring long-term competitiveness. But industry and Member States also bear their own responsibility. We have been pushing for Member States to spend more than 3 per cent of their GDP in research. The third pillar of our work is an area known to all of you here today: it is eEurope, the instrument designed to stimulate use of ICT and spread of the information society. The current eEurope 2005 Action Plan is based on an interplay between promoting a secure broadband infrastructure and promoting more attractive content, services and applications in eGovernment, eHealth, eLearning as well as eBusiness. This should lead to a virtuous cycle and overcome the chicken-and-egg problem, that is, the situation where better content is waiting for faster Internet and vice-versa. eEurope 2005 is being reviewed at mid-term, following a wide public consultation that also took stake of the input from Acceding and Candidate countries.

The main outcome of the consultation was the confirmation of the relevance and adequacy of eEurope objectives to the challenges of the information society in the Acceding countries. Broadband - Widespread availability and use of broadband is one main objective of eEurope. Broadband impacts on productivity by providing the appropriate infrastructure for the delivery of advanced services that are necessary to the re-organisation of working and production processes. The rapid growth of broadband connections over the last year is encouraging: at the end of 2003 there were more than 20 million connections in the European Union. Several European countries are ahead of the United States, although well behind an Asian leader, Korea. To sustain growth, Member States committed to putting national broadband strategies in place by the end of 2003. Strategies are expected to propose actions on both sides of the market supply and demand. Concerns on the supply side relate to the enhancement of competition and to the need of increasing broadband coverage everywhere in the territory. This objective has been recently re-iterated in the European Initiative for Growth, which proposes Member States to implement digital-divide quick-start projects through the Structural Funds.

On the demand side, governments can play a role by connecting schools, hospitals and public administrations, by increasing government usage of broadband-enabled applications, and by fostering the development of new innovative content and services. We have now received national broadband strategies from most of the current Member States and already from some new ones. Given the importance of broadband for growth, I am certain that other Acceding and Candidate Countries will want to follow suit and I invite them to do so. Security - Broadband "always-on" connections make us more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Viruses, hacker attacks and spam are attracting more and more attention. This is why eEurope 2005 highlights the importance of network security and the achievement of trust between businesses and consumers. The legal basis for the new European Network and Information Security Agency is now in place, and the Agency will be set up in Greece soon. Acceding Countries, both their governments and their private sectors, will be able to participate in its work from the outset.

Content and services - Finally, investment in eHealth, eGovernment eLearning and eBusiness applications can play an important role in driving consumers demand for broadband. Development of eGovernment services can transform the way the public administration works. eGovernment services enhance the participation of citizens in public life, change the nature of the services offered, and potentially provide efficiencies to the public administration. The private sector is ultimately responsible for the development of new innovative content. Operators looking for revenues through the provision of new interactive services will have to find partnerships from outside the tele-communications sector to create and deliver these innovations. Partners will typically be from the multimedia community. But some challenges need to be overcome. For example, operators and content providers need to sit together and assess how DRMs can contribute to the efficiency of the distribution of content. That is why the Commission will soon set up a high-level group to address DRM issues.

Conclusions - eEurope+ has put the Acceding and Candidate Countries in a good starting position for joining eEurope 2005. Since the launch of eEurope+, these countries have made impressive progress in transforming their economies and their markets. Liberalisation has been achieved. It required major restructuring, including the separation of ownership and regulation, and the creation of independent regulatory authorities. Once the new regulatory framework is in place, Acceding Countries will be well equipped to facilitate the development of a modern infrastructure through improved certainty for investors. I mentioned broadband as a key element of eEurope 2005, and underlined the importance of the strategies that the EU 15 and some Acceding Countries have been drawing up. Again, I encourage all countries represented here today to follow suit. This means stimulating the supply so that broadband is available not just in our towns and cities, but right across Europe, even in the remotest of areas.

And it means stimulating demand for broadband connections with innovative services that people want. The investment we have seen in the Member States and in the Acceding and Candidate Countries in skills needs to continue. Basic skills are required if people are going to take an interest and become active in the Information Society. Investment in human capital is one crucial element to the realisation of productivity gains. With the strong traditions of many Acceding and Candidate Countries in applied sciences and mathematics, it is not unrealistic to expect these countries to become leading lights in ICT innovation. Together with the impressive statistics shown by the eEurope+ Progress Report, it is perfectly conceivable that new Member States may well start leapfrogging current Members in several areas of the Information Society. With this history, this determination, and the highest possible political commitment, I am confident that Acceding and Candidate Countries will be able to achieve great objectives in the area of the Information Society, improving social and cultural cohesion and strengthening economic integration. "

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 1 March 2004

Public Administration: Online by End of Year

Rome - By the end of the year public administration will be able to conduct all the necessary bureaucratic procedures online, making them directly accessible to people, according to the "Guidelines for the adoption of a computer protocol for the carrying out administrative procedures online". The Association for Rights of Users and Consumers (ADUC) reveals that the new feature will allow individual citizens and businesses to carry out bureaucratic tasks. "Now we need to take just one more step", said ADUC, "to provide a means of communication between the people and public administration in order to stimulate a two-way exchange. Pointless visits to offices and long lines can thus be avoided".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 23 March 2004

 

Public Administration Employment Down in Q4

Employment in public administration fell 1% to 103,800, the first drop in two years. The proportion of those earning low pay rose sharply. Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu's policy has scored a success a decrease in the number of public administration employees. Employment in public administration fell 1,100 to 103,800 in the fourth quarter of 2003, a 1% drop, compared with the third quarter, according to figures compiled by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Public administration employment rose by 1,700, from 103,200 to 104,900, in the first three quarters of 2003. From the first quarter of 2002 to the third quarter of 2003, the number of public administration employees rose 4,500, a 4.5% increase. The figures also show a 1.3% dip in salaries in public administration and government ministries. Employees earned an average salary of NIS 10,808 in the fourth quarter of 2003, NIS 138 less than in the third quarter. Average wages have tumbled by NIS 810 since the first quarter of 2002, a 7% decrease. Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il.

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein, 14 March 2004

 

NJTC 'Good Government Fund' Sets Public Policy Agenda for 2004

Mount Laurel, N.J. - PAC Seeks to Drive Continued Technology Industry Growth in State Policies - The NJTC Good Government Fund announced its Public Policy Agenda for 2004. The common thread through myriad initiatives is the emphasis on encouraging the NJ State government to create public policy that fosters growth of the technology industry. For 2004, the PAC has identified several key initiatives including: - Encouraging Trenton to direct the State pension investment Private, Equity Companies, creating a friendly environment for technology and R&D-based companies. - Drive enhanced tax benefits for NJ technology companies. - Increase funding for key growth programs including NOLs, BEIP and Springboard.- Support the expansion of health insurance coverage, especially the small group health insurance and individual health coverage programs. - Promote a formalized State CIO cabinet position and the creation of a "Technology" state agency (i.e. NJ Commerce).

"The NJTC is committed to supporting and growing the technology and life sciences community in NJ," said John Bailye, The NJTC's Chairman of the Board and CEO of Dendrite. "The agenda set forth by our Good Government Fund addresses fundamental issues that will help us achieve this goal." Launched in the fall of 2003 by the New Jersey Technology Council, with support from their 1,200 members, the PAC is represented by Princeton Public Affairs Group, a professional lobbying firm. Interested companies and individuals are urged to contribute to the PAC and to visit the NJTC web site, where they can email or write their local legislators and voice their opinion on issues regarding New Jersey's Public Policy. About The NJTC - The New Jersey Technology Council represents technology-intensive industries and the institutions and service companies that support them by providing: - Networking opportunities; - Access to financing sources; - Information; - Public policy advocacy; - Business support; - Recognition of the industries and their leaders. Founded in 1996, NJTC has more than 1,100 member companies. Each year the council offers its members more than 80 conferences, panel discussions, technology tours, and networking events throughout New Jersey.

From GoMemphis.com, TN, 11 February 2004

Revitalization Won't Come Through City Hall Alone, Expert Says

Private and public sectors implored to strike balance that will redefine what a downtown is all about. Anyone who thinks the answer to the rebirth of downtown Wilkes-Barre can be found in City Hall has another thought coming. At least that's what Mary Means says. And, Means should know. As one of the founders of the National Main Street Project, she's helped hundreds of cities and towns emerge from despair to find their niche in the era of big-box stores and shopping malls. "You'll find very few cities where city government plays that role effectively," Means said Monday night during a public lecture at the historic First United Methodist Church in Wilkes-Barre. "There's got to be a focused, third-sector group." Means, one of the nation's premier experts on downtown planning, was the first guest speaker in a free lecture series hosted by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of The American Institute of Architects.

After her speech to an audience of about 55 people, Means expressed her optimism about downtown Wilkes-Barre. "I'm very hopeful for Wilkes-Barre," Means said. "Finally, it seems the sun and moon are aligning for this city. I am optimistic." But, to get there, public and private forces must strike a balance, Means said. "It can't be all the private sector or all the public sector. It's like a dance. Sometimes one leads, sometimes the other." The Diamond City Partnership, Means said, plays the role of the third-party sector she believes is necessary for success. The partnership is a volunteer group of citizens and business and community leaders. Her firm, Mary Means & Associates of Virginia, has been hired to develop a concept for the Susquehanna River Landing Project.

The proposal includes a science and history museum and learning center in an expanded Irem Temple building and an activity area across River Street and along the Susquehanna River. On Monday night, Steve Barrouk, president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, said the conceptual plans for the multimillion-dollar river landing project may be released this spring. "I think people will be surprised," Barrouk said. Means, in her presentation, said all of the downtown projects her group worked on followed this four-point approach: o Organization: People in the private and public sectors must work together. o Promotion: Main Street must be seen as a destination. o Design: Attention must be paid to every signal the downtown sends. o Economic restructuring: Planners must find a new niche, a new role for the downtown. "They're not what they used to be, the Main Street of old," Means said. "It many cases, specialty stores set the tone and there are more arts and entertainment."

From Wilkes Barre Weekender, PA, by Renita Fennick (renitaf@leader.net), 2 March 2004

Taking E-gov One Step at a Time- - OMB Says Report Shows Early Progress

Agencies are showing steady progress in many areas of the E-Government Act of 2002, laying the foundation that will later demonstrate the benefits of the law's provisions, administration officials and experts said last week. The Office of Management and Budget submitted a congressionally mandated report to lawmakers quantifying the progress agencies have made in meeting the 18 provisions of the law. Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and information technology, said agencies are making strides but still have room for improvement. "It's the first step of many," she said. "It's learning to walk before you run. This clearly demonstrates they are moving in the right direction."

Some e-government activities are further along than others, but on each provision, agencies showed improvement, said Dan Chenok, former OMB branch chief for information policy and technology and now vice president and director of policy and management strategies at SRA International Inc. "In virtually every area, OMB and/or the agencies have made progress in pulling together committees, putting out guidance, furthering Web site work," Chenok said. "The act was fairly ambitious, and I think OMB has demonstrated in the report [that] they are well on their way to achieving the provisions of the act."

The OMB report also details the status of the central e-government fund and agencies' accomplishments in e-government activities. The report is based on information agencies submitted to OMB last December. Many of the activities highlighted in the report were well underway before the act was passed in December 2002, said Theresa Pardo, deputy director of the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has had an information-sharing initiative in place since 1988. Nonetheless, the E-Government Act provided the framework for agency officials to focus and share their efforts in that area and on e-government initiatives in general, she said. "The report shows that a lot of the agencies have been investing in e-government using these standards before the standards were expressed in the E-Gov Act," Pardo said. "The E-Gov Act institutionalizes some of that good thinking."

Agency officials have taken the initial steps outlined in the act by changing the way they think about the business of their organizations, Pardo said. It takes time to see the real benefits and they will likely be demonstrated in future OMB reports. "Over time, [agency officials] can speak more specifically to how individual agencies are adhering to the various frameworks and standards and the benefits in terms of their accomplishments," she said. "I's nice to have the whole picture, but we're not there yet." Bruce McConnell, president of McConnell International LLC and former chief of information policy and technology at OMB, said he was impressed with the amount of e-government activities underway. "For the first time, one can go and look in one place and see something about all of it. [OMB officials] did a good job collecting and painting the big picture about what's happening."

The report also details how the central e-government fund has been allocated, which McConnell said could help Bush administration officials make a case to Congress for increasing funding. 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 their own resources. For fiscal 2005, the administration asked for $5 million, supplemented by $40 million from a fund of agency-collected fees. "This is a much smaller amount of money than they wanted, but I think they are off to a good start showing they can manage the money in an effective way," McConnell said. Evans said officials decided to provide the extensive details to show how the fund is used. The details also show that the fund was useful in helping get projects started. "This is a great way to get a project going while we have the traditional budget process catch up, and agencies can do adequate planning for the future of the initiative," she said.

According to the report, $4.9 million of the $5 million appropriated for the e-gov ernment fund in fiscal 2002 went to nine initiatives, with the remaining money carrying over to fiscal 2003. The General Services Administration's E-Authentication initiative received the largest chunk of the fiscal 2002 money - $2 million - to develop an automated risk assessment tool for governmentwide use, and to certify and accredit the E-Authentication Gateway. Other initiatives received $100,000 to $800,000 each. In fiscal 2003, OMB received $500,000 of the nearly $5 million appropriated for the first phase of an initiative to analyze IT investments across specific lines of business and identify opportunities for common solutions.

OMB received an additional $600,000 for the second phase of the project, which involves continuing development in four areas: financial management, human resources management, case management and federal health systems architecture. These lines of business have been considered the next phase of e-government. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the act's co-author, said he plans to ask the General Accounting Office to review the government's compliance with the act. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee and a sponsor of the law, said the report shows significant agency progress in complying with the law's provisions. "We knew as soon as the legislation was enacted that persistent congressional oversight would be required to ensure completion of the initiatives," said David Marin, spokesman for Davis. "Davis is committed to providing that oversight."

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 15 March 2004

E-Gov Act Implementation Picking up Steam

The Office of Management and Budget by the end of the month is requiring agencies to reference www.regulations.gov on all Federal Register notices and on each agency's Internet home page. In a memo from OMB's e-government and IT administrator Karen Evans and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator John Graham, the administration last week asked agencies to make the public more aware of the online rulemaking site and the ability to comment on it. By encouraging more public participation in E-Rulemaking, one of the 25 Quicksilver initiatives, OMB completed another of its goals under the E-Government Act of 2002. In the report to Congress on the implementation of the law, OMB deputy director for management Clay Johnson told Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), chairwoman and ranking member of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman and ranking member of the Government Reform Committee, that the act has been "extremely valuable" in helping to promote e-government.

Lieberman, the co-author of the law, said much work remains to be done, and that he will request a General Accounting Office report on how agencies have complied with the requirements in the act. In the report, OMB detailed how it used the E-Government Fund, how it complied with the act's 17 provisions and included an agency-by-agency breakdown on their e-government accomplishments. The administration spent almost $3.6 million of the $5 million E-Government fund on five e-government projects and the two phases of the lines-of-business consolidation project. OMB spent $1.1 million on analyzing IT and assessing the lines-of-business projects as well as developing business cases for each of the five areas-human resources, financial management, case management, health infrastructure and grants management. Three of the four E-Payroll agencies received $510,000 to help agencies migrate to the common system.

The Office of Personnel Management received $200,000 to expand the E-Training project management office to assist agencies to migrate to the GoLearn.gov site more quickly. OMB also earmarked $540,000 to the General Services Administration's Office of Citizen Services to develop a governmentwide content management strategy. Recreation One-Stop, managed by the Interior Department, received $800,000 to develop the request for proposals for a single agency recreation reservation system, transition agencies to the new system, and buy hardware, software and telecommunications services. The USA Freedom Corps received $250,000 to enhance its site, and the Small Business Administration's Business Gateway project collected $1.6 million for the creation of a project management office and other support program activities, such as a solution architecture guide. Agencies made significant progress with posting and sharing geospatial information, the report said. OMB said that 24 agencies have posted more than 214 data sets to www.geodata.gov, and 18 states have posted 213 state records and 2,126 local jurisdiction records.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 11 March 2004

Reform State Civil Service Law

After 86 years, some rules are meant to be re-written. Colorado's civil service laws, which were progressive and necessary when they were first written, largely have outlived their usefulness. That's why it's important that lawmakers approve two pieces of legislation working their way through the statehouse that will create new, workable rules for the 21st century. The laws primarily guide the hiring and firing of the state's massive workforce, roughly 40,000 employees, and protect against political patronage. When they were written in 1918, the state didn't have anti-discrimination laws or restrictions on official misconduct to prevent a spoils system. Constitutional protection was needed. But times, and laws, change. Last fall a bipartisan commission produced a set of thoughtful and reasonable changes to the rules, making it easier to hire, fire and discipline state workers. The recommendations became House Bill 1373 and HCR 1005, the latter of which would amend the state's constitution if passed and approved by voters in the fall.

The legislation wisely leaves the core of Colorado's civil service laws intact: Promotions and hires must be made according to "merit and fitness." But it adds some flexibility to the process, allowing managers to consider all qualified candidates for a job, not just the top three. Under the current system, the state must spend money to develop and administer tests to evaluate job candidates. Meanwhile, jobs go unfilled for months, and good candidates find work elsewhere. And qualified candidates who test poorly also are given the boot - even though they may be the best for the job. Critics worry the changes would create a political patronage system because Colorado's governor would be able to appoint more people to jobs than now. To allay some of those fears, bill sponsor Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, amended her bill to say the governor can appoint only one-half of 1 percent of the state's workforce, not 1 percent as originally proposed.

That total, about 200 jobs, is just a few dozen people more than what the law already allows. Yet Pete Maysmith with Common Cause says the changes will allow the appointments to go deeper into state government. Rather than having the governor just pick department heads and cabinet members, he or she would be able to appoint deputies and what are called "loyalty staff." "This would allow political people to be put deeper into the personnel system," he says. "It runs the risk of taking jobs that are merit-based and opening them up to being political positions." It's true, but most of these positions are deputy directors and what Marshall calls "loyalty staff." A new director should be able to appoint his or her deputy director. Inheriting one from the old regime doesn't always work. Citizens often have asked for government to work more like private enterprise. This would help do that. The changes are long overdue.

From Denver Post, CO, 21 March 2004

Nonprofit, Business and Government Leaders Create Partnership to Increase Recycling of Magazines and Catalogs

Boston Program to Become Model for U.S. Cities - Building on its strong recycling record and its high magazine readership, the City of Boston today launched a unique campaign with business and nonprofit partners to increase recycling of magazines and catalogs. This first-of-its-kind partnership includes the National Recycling Coalition, Time Inc., International Paper and recycler FCR, and creates a model for magazine and catalog recycling in cities across America. o (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20020701/IPLOGO).

Designed to inform residents that magazines and catalogs can easily be included with other paper recycling, the "Recycling Magazines is Excellent" campaign, or ReMix, will help divert magazines from landfills and provide an economic benefit for the city. "Recycling improves the environmental and economic health of Boston," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "The City gets paid for recycling paper products. So, the more our residents participate, the more the City benefits. It's easy to recycle magazines and catalogs because we already accept both with our curbside recycling program. We are honored that the partnership has selected Boston for this program based on our comprehensive efforts to make recycling part of our everyday life."

Mayor Menino asked residents who are not already including magazines and catalogs in their paper recycling to begin by simply putting them with their other paper to be recycled. For the ReMix partners, the environmental benefit was a key factor in the decision to sponsor the public awareness program. "As a committed steward of the environment, International Paper partnered with Time Inc. to research current trends in magazine recycling, and we discovered tremendous opportunity to divert used magazines and catalogs from landfills," said David Struhs, International Paper vice president of environmental affairs. "When a joint study suggested that one out of six magazines sold gets recycled, we partnered with Time Inc. to develop this ReMix campaign to promote the ease and benefits of magazine and catalog recycling." International Paper and Time Inc. joined with the National Recycling Coalition to research major U.S. cities' recycling rates and infrastructures to determine the ideal location for the launch of the ReMix program.

"Boston is a city known for its long-term, effective recycling program. It is a great place to kickoff the ReMix partnership," said National Recycling Coalition Executive Director Kate Krebs. "According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 2 million tons of magazines are produced each year in the United States, but only about 32 percent are recycled," Krebs said. "Our national research shows that Americans support recycling, but they are often uncertain about what can be recycled. That's why it is so important for all of us - government agencies, leading companies and advocacy organizations - to work together to educate the public. ReMix is a wonderful example of how the public and private sectors can work hand-in-hand to increase recycling, not only in Boston, but nationwide."

The program not only benefits the city of Boston, but also is based on the core environmental values of its major sponsors. "Our employees use renewable resources to make products people depend on every day, including the use of recovered paper fiber for the manufacture of a variety of products," Struhs said. "International Paper is committed to raising public awareness about the value of recycling all kinds of paper products, and communities benefit when we can partner with a customer like Time Inc. to pursue this common goal." David Refkin, director of sustainable development at Time Inc., said, "We're excited to be part of this effort to promote and increase the recycling of magazines in Boston. This initiative ties into the primary goals of sustainable development - economic and environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Boston will save money, and waste will be diverted from landfills and recycled into new paper products. Additionally, Boston will be playing a leadership role in finding creative methods to increase the benefits of recycling." "The environment has been an important topic for TIME magazine for many years," said Eileen Naughton, president of TIME magazine.

"Our editors believe this is an issue that TIME's readers care greatly about. In addition, a growing number of advertisers have been promoting their environmental efforts in our magazines. This initiative in Boston to increase recycling of magazines reflects our editorial and business values. TIME magazine is proud to be associated with this partnership." The partnership members, along with recycling processor FCR, developed public service advertisements to encourage curbside recycling of magazines and catalogs. The ads, which appear in various magazines, including TIME and Sports Illustrated, specifically target Boston-area residents, thanks to Media Networks Inc., a marketer of local advertising in national magazines. Boston will continue to promote public awareness of magazine and catalog recycling through outreach activities to residents. "FCR has been in the business of processing recyclables for more than 20 years, so we know the value of public education in making curbside recycling programs successful," said Jim Bohlig, president of Casella Waste Systems, Inc., the parent company of FCR.

"We are excited about the ReMix campaign and its potential to increase magazine and catalog recovery. This groundbreaking partnership will add to Boston's already successful recycling program." The partners will measure the recovery of magazines and catalogs throughout the region. The city will work to help residents take advantage of this convenient disposal of used reading material that can be recycled into newspapers or other paper products. International Paper, the National Recycling Coalition and Time Inc. will showcase the ReMix program as a model for other U.S. cities and towns. Currently, paper represents about 75 percent of the residential tonnage that is recycled by the City of Boston and the surrounding region. However, with magazines and catalogs making up less than 6 percent of the paper tonnage, the ReMix partners see a clear opportunity to create an exemplary program that other cities will want to emulate. The progress of the ReMix program will be presented in late August at the 23rd Annual National Recycling Coalition Congress and Exposition in San Francisco.

For more information on the Boston ReMix program or to learn more about magazine and catalog recycling, call 617-635-4959. About the partners: Time Inc.'s more than 130 magazines reach total audiences of more than 300 million readers. In 2003, the company's magazines accounted for nearly a quarter of the total advertising revenue of U.S. consumer magazines. PEOPLE, Sports Illustrated and TIME were ranked one, three and four in ad revenue respectively. Time Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., the world's leading media and entertainment company. Its businesses include interactive services, cable systems, films and entertainment, television networks, and publishing. For more information, visit the Time Inc. Web site at www.timewarner.com. Founded in 1978, the National Recycling Coalition, Inc. (NRC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization representing all the diverse interests committed to the common goal of maximizing recycling to achieve the benefits of resource conservation, solid waste reduction, environmental protection, energy conservation, and social and economic development.

Its 4,000 members include recycling and environmental organizations; large and small businesses; federal, state and local governments; and individuals. The NRC is dedicated to the advancement and improvement of recycling, and also source reduction, composting and reuse, by providing technical information, education, training, outreach and advocacy services to its members in order to conserve resources and benefit the environment. For additional information about the NRC, please visit www.nrc-recycle.org. International Paper (http://www.internationalpaper.com) is the world's largest paper and forest products company. Businesses include paper, packaging and forest products. As one of the largest private forest landowners in the world, the company manages its forests under the principles of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (R) (SFI) program, a system that ensures the continual planting, growing and harvesting of trees while protecting wildlife, plants, soil, air and water quality.

Headquartered in the United States, International Paper has operations in over 40 countries and sells its products in more than 120 nations. FCR, Inc. (FCR), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems, Inc. designs, builds and operates materials recovery facilities (MRFs) that sort, process and market recyclable materials including newspapers, corrugated cardboard, office paper, aluminum and steel cans, plastic, glass and aseptic packaging containers. These materials are then sold to various end users/manufacturers and recycled into new products. FCR provides quality processing and superior marketing of recovered materials in safe, clean facilities. The division employs about 1,000 people and processes over one million tons per year of recyclables at 22 facilities in 14 states. Mayor Thomas M. Menino made recycling one of his priorities when he first was elected.

The City of Boston (http://www.cityofboston.gov) built its recycling program from a drop-off program in 1987 to a citywide, weekly curbside collection of 30 household materials in 1996, including large apartment and condominium buildings. Televisions and computers are also collected curbside. Boston collects and composts leaf and yard waste and provides it to community gardens at no cost. Boston residents recycled 2,760 gallons of paint and 1,200 gallons of used motor oil in 2003 through the surplus paint and motor oil recycling program. The annual household hazardous waste drop-off day gets dangerous materials out of the home for proper disposal at no cost to residents.

From Yahoo News (press release), 22 March 2004

Disclosure Protection Legislation Introduced

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, today introduced in Parliament legislation to establish a mechanism for the disclosure of wrongdoing in the public sector, and to protect persons who disclose wrongdoing. "We encourage federal public servants to come forward and disclose possible serious wrongdoing and whenever they do, I expect them to be treated fairly," said Minister Coderre. "This government came to office with a commitment to change the way things work. The actions we are taking today reflect that commitment." The bill balances the need to encourage and support good faith disclosure, while acknowledging that existing procedures and authorities can effectively handle many issues of reported wrongdoing.

The bill is part of the government's broader commitment to ensure transparency, accountability, financial responsibility and ethical conduct. "The vast majority of public servants serve Canadians with honour, integrity and excellence," said Minister Coderre. "And we have heard the concerns of Canadians. This bill is one of a number of measures that we are implementing to affirm that this government acts with integrity." The bill covers all federal public sector employees, including those in Crown Corporations, and requires heads of federal organizations to establish an internal disclosure mechanism. In addition, the bill calls for a code of conduct and establishes an office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner who has the power to investigate and make recommendations on corrective measures. The bill also provides substantial protections in law from reprisal for good faith disclosure. Please refer to the attached backgrounders for further details regarding the bill. Related documents are also posted on www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pshrmac-agrhfpc/.

From Government of Canada Newsroom (press release), Canada, 22 March 2004

 

Banking on Public Service: Why the World Needs Its Own Bank

Los Angeles - At a conference in Prague several years ago an irritated World Bank president sort of lost his cool. Snapping at those who likened his Washington-based international anti-poverty bank to a walled-up country club for dilettante economists and bumbling bureaucrats, James D. Wolfensohn thundered that the bank's 10,000 employees were not evil: "They do not get up every day and say, 'How can we screw the poor?'" But that's more or less what some of the extreme critics had suggested: If the World Bank has been doing such a great job, why is there still so much poverty? The question is demagogic, of course. The World Bank does have an impact: It's the globe's leading source of anti-AIDS funding, and much more. But given the enormity of the earth's poverty, environmental and developmental problems, it falls far short of being a cure-all.

Even so, if the World Bank didn't exist, as it has since 1944, we would probably want to invent it. For it has become increasingly obvious that the only thing worse than a world with a World Bank, creaky or bureaucratic or whatever it may be, would be a world without it. When the more relaxed Wolfensohn spoke privately to a small group of faculty and students at the University of California at Los Angeles last week, he expressed an appropriate annoyance at wealthy countries for not accepting more responsibility for the dimensions of the poverty bomb that their shortsighted policies are fusing. The world needs that perspective. The Australian-born lawyer and investment banker, whose World Bank career winds down next year, noted that the world's wealthiest nation commits much less than 1 percent of its budget to worldwide poverty relief.

Before too long, he said, "We will go from a world of 6 billion people, to a world of 8 billion people - with maybe over 6.5 billion living in the developing world." Although public service has fallen somewhat in disrepute these days, international institutions such as the World Bank do considerable good by raising such big questions. Even after more than eight grinding years as the WB president, at the ripe young age of 70, Wolfensohn caught the idealistic eye of the half-dozen UCLA star students in the room who are considering public service. He spoke of his staff's efforts to get out of Washington to work with civil-society actors in their own countries to develop appropriate programs, such as in war-torn Sri Lanka: "People in poverty know what to do with developmental money a helluva lot better than us bureaucrats in Washington. We need to be listening to them." Is this the true face, students wondered, of the allegedly cold-blooded, bureaucratically indifferent World Bank?

Wolfensohn didn't realize it, but he probably sealed the deal with some of these young citizens about a public-service career. That's a good thing. But how can first-rate minds remain motivated and committed with a negative media harping at every public-sector miscue and a private-sector salary structure that embarrasses anything governments ordinarily can offer? It's surprising, therefore, that many young people still elect public-service careers at all. Since Colin Powell became secretary of State, 65,000 Americans applied to join the U.S. Foreign Service - a record. Some of those applicants graduated from U.S. public-policy schools, a notable innovation in higher education that took place decades ago.

From Harvard to Berkeley, from Duke to UCLA, public-policy schools teach young people to pose the question: Ask not what is in your personal interest, but what is in the public interest. Why should MBA-business schools have any interest in that? Alas, symbolizing our times, now one of the nation's premier public-policy schools is under major attack for abandoning the internationalist vision. The Robertson family, whose huge 1961 grant launched Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, is asking the courts to force Princeton University to return its money. Its foundation is claiming it is deeply disappointed that so few Woodrow Wilson School graduates elect to pursue public-service positions in international relations (the primary inspiration for the initial grant).

In fact, many of today's young people - at Princeton or elsewhere - are lured upon graduation into high-paying law firms or businesses that reflect our culture of materialism. Neither Princeton nor the Woodrow Wilson School created that culture, but certainly our universities could wage a more vigorous fight against it. For if our young people are not being actively inspired by their faculty and universities to take the global view, what chance do the Wolfensohns of the world have - much less the globe's poor? Without more students inspired by the idea of public service, and without even our public-policy schools trying harder to inspire them, what's to stop our MBA-culture (to borrow Wolfensohn's phrase) from getting up every day and saying, "How can we screw the poor?"(Tom Plate - Professor at University of California, Los Angeles, Director of Asia Pacific Media Network).

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Tom Plate, 9 March 2004

 
 

Home Affairs Working with NIA to Combat Corruption

Barry Gilder, the director-general of home affairs, says the department has been working with the national intelligence agency (NIA) in their attempt to combat corruption. Gilder says what he indicated in a report submitted to Parliament was that the department needed to intensify efforts to stop corruption. He says the NIA, the police, the Scorpions and other roleplayers have put together a plan to tackle corruption decisively. Gilder says the department needs to transform its systems to make it more difficult to cheat. He says it is not enough to find corrupt people and lock them up. He says the problem is that the department of home affairs provides an essential service to criminals. He says various syndicates need documents from the department in order to be able to commit their crimes swiftly. Therefore, he says, "the department is under constant corrupting pressure especially from organised crime syndicates".

From SABC News, South Africa, 1 March 2004

Corruption is Anti-Democracy, Says Obasanjo

Lagos - President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday that corruption was anti-democracy and blamed government auditors for aiding frauds in government establishments. Speaking at the opening of a three-day workshop of the federal and states auditors in Abuja, he regretted that auditors have not done enough to stem corruption in public businesses which are characterized by over-invoicing, ghost workers and outright theft.

Said the president: "Anything that impedes an honest, straightforward and sincere approach to the performance of an audit will reduce public confidence in the audit as well as in governments. "To separate accountability and service improvements is an inherently elitist and anti-democratic approach. To link them is to use audit as a tool for improving governance and promoting a society that is more effectively engaged in democracy. "Only in a democracy is auditing a genuine product of the powers of control of the people's representatives. It is only under democratic conditions that the people can carry out unrestricted investigations into the use to which the tax payers' monies are put. Unfortunately, many in your profession have not lived up to their responsibilities. "They have taken advantage of the weaknesses in the system, poor technology, and limited access to information to engage in so-called "creative accounting" which is very detrimental to the profession and the nation's economy."

This situation, he said, was responsible for the on-going reforms in the civil service, to eliminate waste and inefficiency; privatization of public enterprises; and above, all the current anti-corruption campaign to promote transparency, accountability and prudent deployment of resources. According to president Obasanjo, "the auditing profession has a major role to play in eliminating waste, improving governance, eliminating ghost workers from payroll and ensuring that Nigerians get value for money." If auditors conducted effective periodic checks of all statutory corporations, commissions, authorities and agencies, at both federal and state levels, they would have been saving huge sums of funds in public interest.

"You must all rededicate, refocus and redirect yourselves away from the past and look towards a professional future anchored on honesty, efficiency, diligence and patriotism", the president charged. He assured that with the recent establishment of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) committee, revenue generation, particularly from oil and how it is utilized would be done in such an open manner that no one would be left in the dark. Earlier in his welcome address, the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. James Ajiboye, underscored the need for auditors to improve on their statutory duties and responsibilities in order to contribute more positively to the on-going campaign for accountability in the public sector.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Emma Ujah, 3 March 2004

We'll Conquer Corruption, Declares Nevers Mumba

Lusaka - Vice-President Nevers Mumba yesterday declared that Zambia shall conquer corruption the same way colonialism was conquered. And the US government has committed US $1 million to enhance Zambia's fight against corruption. Officiating at the Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) stakeholders' workshop on a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy, Vice-President Mumba said the hour had come for Zambia to get rid of corruption. "This is our hour of visitation. The sun is shining on Zambia right now. This is the time to reap justice and those who plundered this country will definitely pay for it," he said. "Zambia is a fighter. We have fought colonialism and helped our neighbours win their freedom, we have been fighting HIV/AIDS, and now we are fighting corruption. We shall conquer corruption the same way colonialism was conquered."

The Vice-President Mumba said the government's anti-corruption drive was not mere political rhetoric aimed at broadening its support base. "We are totally committed to the fight against corruption because we want to leave the country better than we found it. Our fight is not based on political expediency but on honesty," he said. Vice-President Mumba assured that all those implicated in the plunder of the national economy would be accorded just and fair trials. "We want to win the fight against corruption at all costs but we will also ensure that fair justice is given to those implicated. We want justice in our fight against corruption and our men and women in the courts of law are aware of the challenge," he said. Vice-President Mumba noted that in line with the government's zero tolerance on corruption, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) was developing a long-term plan to fight corruption that would focus on public education, successful prosecutions and networking among stakeholders.

He hailed TIZ for hosting the workshop because it provided a forum for dialogue on how corruption can best be tackled. "This workshop presents an opportunity for the government to listen to the views and expectations of civil society as regards the fight against corruption as well as inform civil society about the various initiative being undertaken by different wings of government against corruption," Vice-President Mumba noted. "It is therefore my hope that by the end of the workshop, some consensus would have been reached at on what would constitute an effective anti corruption strategy for Zambia. The development of a comprehensive anti corruption strategy for Zambia will not only provide an effective system of combating corruption but will also provide a conceptual framework for an intelligent reform of existing institutions and practices in order to create a just and honest government." Vice-President Mumba challenged civil society not to leave the monitoring of corruption to law enforcement agencies alone saying they needed to participate fully in the process.

He reiterated the government's conviction that the anti corruption fight was crucial to the country's sustainable development. "My government is firmly convinced that no matter how much resources are available to a country, if it exhibits high levels of corruption, no meaningful development can be attained. Indeed, this is even made worse when a country has serious economic difficulties as we presently have," Vice-President Mumba said. "Our efforts to attract assistance from our co-operating partners will indeed be vain if we cannot win the battle against corruption. Even as we are determined to reach the HIPC [Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative] completion point, we must be equally resolved to fight corruption." And US deputy chief of mission Dan Mozena said the fight against corruption had transformed Zambia into a land of more opportunities and has created an unprecedented opportunity to change the country's future.

Mozena said the hope arising from Zambia's commitment to fighting corruption would not yield benefits if it was not accompanied by impatience "to reap the anti corruption harvest before the weather changes." He, however, advised that such impatience should be accompanied by patience because it would take time to dismantle the complex structure of the matrix of plunder. Mozena said in recognition of Zambian's commitment to fighting corruption, the US government would continue providing technical assistance to the Task Force on Corruption. "So far, our commitment to Zambia's fight against corruption has amounted to over US $2 million to support investigations, prosecutions, legal reforms and workshops such as this one," Mozena said. "We have also made future commitment of at least US $1 million to support institutional changes that will help Zambia prevent future corruption even as it deals with the consequences of past corruption."

Speaking earlier, TIZ president Dr. Alfred Chanda noted that corruption could not be effectively fought by proscribing it alone and stressed the need to identify and address underlying issues promoting the scourge. "There is need to deal with the underlying causes and not only symptoms of corruption by developing a long-term multi-faceted and comprehensive strategy that has complimentary preventive and enforcement approaches - legal, social and economic," Dr. Chanda said. "Building coalitions between civil society, the private sector and government wings is also an important step in fighting corruption as it will open channels through which all can demand greater accountability from each other. "Civil society, the private sector and the government should therefore take up the challenge to raise consciousness and change attitudes. In order to succeed, it is important to understand vulnerabilities, fortify systems, improve information and provide incentives."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Mwila Nkonge, 8 March 2004

Zimbabwe's Mugabe Pledges Crackdown on Corruption

Harare - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has promised a broad crackdown on financial crimes and corruption, warning that nobody involved in such activity is immune from arrest. The president told a group over the weekend that it does not matter if suspects are prominent business executives or even his relatives. He said they will be arrested. He also said even those who have fled the country would be arrested and tried. This was a reference to the growing number of financial institution directors who have left the country fearing arrest for alleged financial misconduct. The state-owned Sunday Mail reports an increase in visa applications to the British Embassy by business executives fearful they will be the targets of investigations. Some bank executives are under suspicion for dealing currency at black market rates. The crackdown on corruption started late last year with the appointment of central bank manager Gideon Gono, who promised to clean up the financial sector.

Since then, some senior managers at financial institution have been arrested, including members of Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party. Last month, Mr. Mugabe introduced new regulations under which a person suspected of having committed financial crimes or corruption can be arrested without a warrant, and be detained and denied bail for up to twenty-one days. A member of Mr. Mugabe's party central committee and prominent businessman, James Makamba, has been held in custody since February 9 for allegedly failing to properly deposit foreign currency in Zimbabwean banks. One of the bankers who is alleged to be on the run in London wrote a letter to the governor of the central bank that was published in the weekly newspaper, The Tribune. The letter says he and his colleagues are not fugitives from justice but are worried that under the new regulations they would assumed guilty until proven innocent. He dismissed the charges against his bank as a politically motivated witch hunt.

The anti-corruption campaign has been met with mixed feelings by Zimbabweans, with many waiting to see how much will actually be done. But the Zimbabwe office of the anti-corruption group Transparency International, which has been critical of President Mugabe in the past, says this time he is on the right track. One of its program officers in Harare is Idaishe Chengu. "We would like to commend what the government has done we feel that what the government is doing is right but we would like to see the government do more, there is corruption in other sectors of our economy as well," she said. "So whilst we commend what President Mugabe has done we still think there are other strategically placed people who have a case to answer." Meanwhile, Mr. Gono, the central bank governor who is close to the president, says he has received what he calls "serious death threats." He says they come from corrupt bank managers, politicians and business owners who blame him for the anti-corruption drive. An independent weekly newspaper, The Standard, reports that Mr. Gono is now under round-the-clock police protection.

From Voice of America, DC, by Tendai Maphosa, 8 March 2004

Fighting Corruption in the Nation's Polity

Like an untamed monster, corruption has continued to rear its ugly head in the nation's political arena and virtually in all sectors of the economy. Various efforts have been made to tackle it but all to no avail, it reigns as the undisputed heavyweight of our time. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo on assumption of office in his first tenure placed the war against corruption as his topmost priority. He quickly set up the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to prosecute the war. But, alas! ICPC was made a mockery of, because those who are the champions of corruption were too strong for it. Since its inception, ICPC had not made any breakthrough or made any impact. In its attempt to penetrate the rank and file of the last National Assembly to try the former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim and former Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na'Abba, for alleged corruption, the body was almost demised as the duo fought it with the tool of repealment of the act that set up ICPC.

To complement the effort of ICPC, the Federal Government also set up the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), but what has the new body done? The issue, as many political analysts said, is that EFCC has found itself in a difficult situation as ICPC. According to the President of African Citizens Development Foundation (ACDF), Otunba Dele Ajayi-Smith, "there had been many embarrassing situations that should have been handed by ICPC, yet, nothing was done, what then could EFCC do? We see the move of establishing EFCC as a means of creating avenue to further entrench corruption". Ajayi-Smith lamented that corruption remained the umbrella that provides comfort and shelter for the evil striving of all other problems in the country. "As a non-governmental organisation with a mandate to encourage a cultured society, our research has shown that corruption is a deadly scourge that breeds other incurable diseases in a society.

"In recent times, we embarked on an opinion poll were in Nigeria, we published an article: Why Nigeria nay Africa is not growing; Our concern at ACDF, surprisingly, we have received over 100 responses, some expressed their dismay on the efforts of the government to tackle the problem of corruption while many believe that the government and the citizens are responsible for the failure of the efforts put in place by this same government thereby promoting corruption and crises", he said. To him, the war against corruption as currently put in place by the Federal Government can never be won nor effective except our government displays sincerity of purpose towards getting to the root of it, adding, "we want to tell the world that efforts by various governments to fight corruption are mere cosmetic actions to deceive the people".

He argued that Nigeria remained poor because of the high rate of corruption in governmental circles, which had never been tamed. Ajayi-Smith faulted the general axiom that poverty bred corruption, saying, "We stand in the conviction that corruption breeds poverty. Therefore, a corrupt free-society is poverty free society". Recently, the Director of the Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, made a storming revelation. At a lecture on "Good governance", in January, Ransome-Kute, said $200 billion, representing about N27 trillion was lost to corrupt practices in the country between 1970 and 1993 when oil emerged as dominant source of foreign exchange. If this money stolen by mostly men in top governmental positions had been channeled judiciously into all sectors of the economy, Nigeria would have been a force to reckon with in the comity of nations, but for the selfish aggrandizement, these leaders have thrown the nation into a perpetual abyss of poverty, despair and even to the extent of being ranked as the second most corrupt country in the world.

According to the CCG boss, a nation that is embedded in corruption can never make progress. He said the country had been swimming in corruption and the implications were overwhelming. "A corrupt system can never enjoy stability. It will rather continue to face threats of overthrow, because such a system cannot guarantee its own security", he added. Furthermore, Ransome-Kuti said, "this is the reason incessant crisis, political insecurity and impending threats of violence continue to stare us in the face", stressing that the breakdown of law and order was borne out of frustration by the governed and the loss of confidence in the ruler. "Corrupt leadership cannot command and sustain the confidence in the ruler". A cleric, Reverend Moses Adedipe of the Universal Christian Ministries, Ejigbo, Lagos, traced the causes of corruption to fear of the unknown. According to him, in those good old days, when one finished his course of study, he is sure of a good job.

He said the reverse was the case now, where to get job was even more difficult. Because of the fear of the future, Adedipe said people engaged in corruption prac tices to salvage situations. Aside those, Nigeria seems to be a country where political leaders embezzle money or engaged in act of corruption and go scot-free. Rather, such people are regarded as heroes and role models and given the highest awards in the land. The question now is, what happened to the corrupt practices levelled against Anyim and Na'Abba by ICPC? What happens to the bribery allegation against Senator Arthur Nzeribe over attempt to bribe his colleagues to the tune of N500,000 each to support the move to declare a state of emergency in Anambra State, in the aftermath of the Dr. Chris Ngige saga? Certainly, those issues seemed to have been swept under the carpet and still, corruption reigns on and waxes stronger.

Many Nigerians, political gurus and others have suggested the way forward on how to tackle corruption. They all agreed that ICPC or EFCC cannot do the magic. What then is the solution? The ACDF president spoke out again. Ajayi-Smith believed that the establishment of an Independent National Discipline Commission (INDC) would do the magic. The INDC is, according to Ajai-Smith, supposed to involve all citizens of the nation as stakeholders. "This is the way the commission will work; if for instance, I am doing something evil, you don't need to come to me, just send the comprehensive information to the website of the commission even if I am the president of the nation, the details about the report will be read by all the stakeholders, I will be forced to resign and then be tried", he explained.

According to him, "I can tell you without apology that every programme by the government will fail for the very reason of culture of indiscipline and corruption and until we imbibe the culture of discipline, we will continue to deceive ourselves. If our leaders are not disciplined, how can they sustain any programme? The society is degenerating on daily basis for lack of discipline. The moment indiscipline sets in, every other evil will follow". In his opinion, the CCG Director, Ransome-Kuti said that for corruption to be checked there must be adequate practical societal mirror that would checkmate the excess of those in power and empowering the people so that they could hold the leaders accountable. To him, the lack of transparency and good governance is as a result of inadequacy of this societal mirror to expose the dubiousness of political leaders. Adedipe, however, added that, "sadly, corruption is now widespread and resulted in the present dismal level of the nation's economy.

Of course, it was the military, who legalised corruption, particularly during the Babangida/Abacha regimes. Corruption is likened to a deadly virus that needs to be tackled with vigour. And, to me, curbing corruption in the land at the moment has to start from the top". "People must see those at the top declaring their assets and then, others must also follow suit. In this way, corruption can be curbed, moreso, if those found to have fraudulently enriched themselves are brought to book. I was in Japan in 2001 when President Obasanjo's visited. Most of those issues were raised by Nigerians there and extensively discussed. Surprisingly, to date, nothing has been done and no one has been brought to book. Nobody's ill-gotten wealth has been confiscated for the use of the nation, hence, corruption is still endemic", he stated.

Moreso, the cleric said the nation needed a leader that could lead by example, one that is highly charismatic and visionary, and who could steer clear of tribal sentiments, acrimony and self-centredness, while decrying that it was a pity that this nation still awaits such a leader. It is noteworthy that there must be a pragmatic effort to curb corruption in the nation's polity. As the ACDF boss has said, the root of corruption, which is indiscipline, must be uprooted. Most leaders are not disciplined coupled with their greed and avarice for wealth. Setting up an ICPC or EFCC to tackle corruption is like putting the horse before the cart. If in four or five years, the ICPC cannot boast of having sanctioned any corrupt person in the political scene, when cases of corruption in high places are glaring, then, the body is not competent to continue its operation because it will amount to waste of precious tax payers' money.

There should be an independent body, autonomous of the Federal Government and with men of proven and tested integrity set up to fight corruption. But then, one must take into cognisance that those championing corruption will not just fold their arms and allow their unscrupulous trade to be taken away from them. They will put up strong resistance, and owing to the fact that these people occupy the highest position in the land; it becomes difficult to fight this omen. But, should we fold our hands and allow corruption to reign and put the future of the nation and the coming generation into jeopardy? No, both government and the people must relent in their efforts to exterminate the evil-corruption until the victory is won and the sign of a better tomorrow is enhanced.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, by Kazeem Ugbodaga, 12 March 2004

Forthright Attitude Towards Corruption

Lusaka - Secretary to the Cabinet Leslie Mbula's honest admission that there's still corruption in government is highly welcome. We say this because the attitude - that is to say, the seriousness of purpose - of any institution is measured, basically, by the attitude it takes towards its own weaknesses and problems. When weaknesses or problems are acknowledged, they stand a better chance of being overcome or solved. There's need to take a forthright and serious attitude towards our country's problem of corruption. Whereas in the past, there used to be vehement denials of the existence of corrupt officials in government, today our Secretary to the Cabinet is publicly saying "not everybody in government is clean". This is the forthright attitude the nation needs from its leaders, especially those in government. Corruption in Zambia has become very deep-rooted and will not be easy to uproot. Whereas in the past one could point at a few corrupt politicians, civil servants, military officers or businessmen, today corruption permeates all levels of government and business.

Over the last decade, under the Chiluba regime, corruption started at State House, it ran through Parliament and the Judiciary to the church pastor and village headman. Today it is very difficult to single out an institution in our country that has not been touched by this corruption. Our societal morals have tremendously declined to the extent that the Nichekeleko is now an accepted norm - and appears to be part of our people's culture. Even our understanding or definition of corruption has changed. For example, former president Frederick Chiluba didn't see his abuse of state resources through the presidential discretionary fund as a corrupt practice. Our whole social, economic and political system has been left reeking of corruption. And no matter how many institutions we create to stamp out corruption, nothing will be achieved if our entire inherently corrupt social, economic and political system is not totally uprooted.

It's impossible to avoid corruption in a social system where no one cares for the other, where the strong are not there to protect and advance the interests of the weak. It's impossible to avoid corruption in an economic system which promotes and deepens social inequalities; an economic system that is run on similar rules as those in gambling houses where the winner takes all - sweepstakes winner. It's impossible to avoid corruption in a political system where money is everything; where those with deep pockets use their wealth to gain or maintain political power; where those without money can't set themselves any political goals, because they are excluded and eliminated. It was much easier to deal with corruption when it involved just a few politicians, civil servants or businessmen than when almost the entire population - from a president to the lowest citizen - of our country has been corrupted in all sorts of ways. To stamp out corruption in Zambia will certainly require well thought out and intentional measures.

Combating corruption under a system that is corrupt to its very core is not an easy undertaking. Fighting corruption in a system where embezzlement and graft are the common way of living from the office orderly right up to the top officials of the state requires a general clean-up in public administration. Today even the Church is contaminated with corruption. After preaching about the ten commandments, including that which says 'Thou shalt not steal', the pastor or priest goes straight to steal or to receive money from some politician as a donation which he knows very well has been stolen from public coffers. What are things coming to? On the one hand, people are struggling for higher consciousness, dignity and virtues while destroying it with vanity on the other! Clearly, in a situation where the whole political, social and economic system is inherently corrupt, corruption can only be addressed by destroying the inherently corrupt system and replacing it with a more morally upright, fairer, more just and humane one.

In Zambia, petty dealers of all hues are today the ones running government and key political parties. Even judiciary officers have become businessmen, dealers of one sort or another. Military officers and soldiers, policemen and intelligence officers have also become dealers - suppliers of this and that. Chapels have become collection points for money; churches have become businesses for pastors and reverends. Even some traditional rulers are busy exchanging their subjects' land for gifts and money. We believe that the endemic corruption everyone is complaining about in Zambia today is the result not just of personal greed but of the weakness of our country's political and economic system and without addressing this, everything else is pure illusion - it would be to underestimate the challenges that lie ahead of us. We say this with confidence because we believe that all structures of our society - from villages, chiefs' palaces, Parliament, Judiciary to State House and opposition political parties - are all, in one way or another, reeking of corruption.

In our fight against corruption there's need for us to start paying more and more attention on correcting the political, social and economic system that breeds corruption, vanity and other vices in our country. And this will require more than extraordinary measures; it calls for a complete removal of the corrupt political, social and economic system. The degree of corruption that we have reached where it is not only some top government officials who are corrupt but the entire system of government, including the opposition, it may seem an impossibility to eradicate corruption. But there should be no room for despair. We can draw some inspiration from an ancient Chinese fable called The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains. It tells of an old man who lived in northern China long, long ago and was known as the Foolish Old Man of the North Mountain. His house faced south and beyond his doorway stood the two great peaks, Taihang and Wangwu, obstructing the way. With great determination, he led his sons in digging up these mountains hoe in hand.

Another grey beard, known as the Wise Old Man, saw them and said derisively, "How silly of you to do this! It is quite impossible for a few to dig up these two huge mountains." The Foolish Old Man replied, "When I die, my sons will carry on; when they die, there will be my grandsons, and then their sons and grandsons, and so on to infinity. High as they are, the mountains cannot grow any higher and with every bit we dig, they will be that much lower. Why can't we clear them away?" Having refuted the Old Wise Man's wrong view, he went on digging everyday, unshaken in his conviction. God was moved by this, and he sent down two angels, who carried the mountains away on their backs. Similarly, today a big mountain of corruption lie a dead weight on the Zambian people. Like an increasing number of Zambians, we have long made up our mind to dig them up.

We must persevere and work increasingly, until we, too, can touch God's heart. Our god is none other than the masses of the Zambian people. If they stand up and dig deeper together with us, why can't this mountain be cleared away? It is not hard for one to do a bit of good. What is hard is to do good all one's life and never do anything bad, to act consistently in the interest of the broad masses, the young people and the nation, and to engage in arduous struggle for decades on end. That is the hardest thing of all. We believe we should do things honestly, for without an honest attitude, it is absolutely impossible to accomplish anything meaningful in this world. This is why we welcome Mbula's honest and forthright attitude towards corruption.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 15 March 2004

Government Sits On Corruption Report

The government is still sitting on the report of the committee of inquiry, which investigated allegations of corruption at the Department of Student Placement and Welfare. The committee chaired by Southern District Council chairman Peter Siele was appointed two years ago, following a motion by the MP for Sebina-Gweta Oliphant Mfa. It submitted its report to the Minister of Education, George Kgoroba sometime back. "The committee completed its investigations a long time ago," Kgoroba said adding that the report still has to be approved by the cabinet before it could be discussed in Parliament. "The report is ready. Once cabinet has dealt with it, we will pass it to parliament," he said. Kgoroba said the committee submitted specific recommendations, which have to be addressed by the government. But he also expressed concern that it has taken a long time for action to be taken on the report. "We would have to speed it up as much as possible. This report really is not for us but for parliament. We are also concerned about the delay," said Kgoroba.

Mfa also told the Monitor that he was concerned about the delay to produce the report in parliament. The MP however, had refused to make submissions to the committee during its sittings after he was appointed an Assistant Minister. Mfa said he did not want to appear before the committee because he felt that it was going to be biased. His gripe was that the committee was mostly composed of officials from the Ministry of Education. "I made my position clear that I could not appear before people that I did not trust," he stated. The Leader of the Opposition, Nehemiah Modubule hinted this was not the only report that the government was sitting on. "There are several other reports. This is a matter of great concern to us as MPs," he said. Modubule who is also the MP for Lobatse, said even when such reports are presented to parliament, they could not be debated. "

We want the reports to be tabled in such a way that they could be debated in parliament," said the MP, adding that this was why they were calling for parliament to be independent. When he was tabling his motion, Mfa claimed that there was corruption in the Department of Student Placement. He said some children who did not qualify for bursaries, were granted scholarships to study overseas. He said some of the beneficiaries were children of prominent individuals. He cited a case in which a scholarship for a Nata young man who was meant to go and study medicine was withdrawn and given to a child of a University of Botswana lecturer. Mfa crossed swords with Kgoroba when the motion was being debated after the Minister said the MP wanted to blackmail him. He said Mfa offered to withdraw the motion if his daughter could be sponsored to go and study in the United States. However, Mfa denied the accusations.

From Mmegi, Botswana, by Lekopanye Mooketsi, 15 March 2004

Government Intensifies Efforts to Curb Fraud, Corruption

Pretoria - Government has taken a major step to discourage fraudsters making illegal claims from social security benefits, with the launch today of a National Social Security Fraud and Corruption prevention facility. The latter will serve to enhance government's fight against corruption in this sector, says Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya. Speaking at this morning's launch in Parliament, the minister said the facility would consist of a toll free hotline, an email address and free call fax number, as well as a Fraud Register Database. At least 24 trained call center operators would staff the toll free national social security hotline, which would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "This toll free number 0800 60 10 11 should be used by anyone in the country to report information or suspicions about fraud and corruption," the minister said.

The email address is <mailto:fraud@socdev.gov.za> fraud@socdev.gov.za and the free call fax service number would facilitate electronic reporting of fraud and corruption. Dr Skweyiya explained that a Fraud Register Database would give statistics on the number of fraud cases and their monetary value. "This national facility to combat fraud and corruption will be linked to all the provincial departments and information will be accessible from the provinces," he said. The campaign slogan is 'Fraud costs you money. See it, Report it, Stop it'. The minister said fraudulent claims from social security benefits currently total over an estimated R1.5 billion annually, describing the losses as unacceptable. There are currently more than 7.7 million social security beneficiaries in the country. The National Social Security Fraud and Corruption Facility would cost R8 million in the first year, and R32 million over the next three years. The minister said it was immoral for people to claim social security grants if they were not entitled to it. The department is also looking at amendments to the country's existing Anti-Corruption legislation. This he said would enable the department to "tighten the screws" on those people involved in fraud and corruption.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Karen Pretorius, 16 March 2004

World Bank Tasks Obasanjo on Corruption

Abuja - *Could spend $1.5bn in Nigeria in 3 years - The World Bank President James Wolfensohn yesterday urged President Olusegun Obasanjo to intensify the war on corruption and build a judicial system which would protect peoples rights. Speaking at a joint press briefing with President Obasanjo after a brief meeting yesterday, the World Bank boss said a clean financial system and an independent judiciary was essential to the success of the ongoing reforms in government. "The fundamental issues are to build capacity in government and in the private sector. To allow people to be trained to do things effectively and to build a judicial system that protects rights. And to have a clean financial system and finally fight corruption because it is the greatest cancer you have on the continent," the World Bank president said.

He commended the reform programmes put in place by President Obasanjo and the implementation of the reforms by the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEED) adding, "what you are doing here is commendable and absolutely crucial. For me, what you are doing is crucial to Nigeria and is also crucial to Africa." He argued that because of its strategic position, success in Nigeria's reform programme would change the face of Africa and pledged the support of the World Bank and other financial institutions for the success of the ongoing reforms. "Nigeria has the potential of being the jewel of Africa. I can speak for the bank and all other international financial institutions that we will assist Nigeria. This is the moment we have been waiting for, it is a moment that I think we should be held accountable. I hold myself accountable and next time, you can arrest me if I don't deliver. I commend what you are doing naturally, regionally and internationally," he told President Obasanjo.

Wolfensohn said of Nigeria's huge debt profile that he would push for the fulfillment of past promises to Nigeria by the bank and other international financial institutions. "(Nigerians) have taken the steps internally, now let us make sure that external support is there in terms of debts, assistance and trade. It is an agenda that is not external, this is your own agenda. There is no one that ensures the success of Nigeria, it is the Nigerians," he said. Visibly elated by the World Bank commendation, President Obasanjo said that Nigeria needed political support for its reform programmes. "We need political support and backing for the reforms. I believe we are building that. Not only political, we need general support, we need reorientation particularly among those of us who are key stakeholders in this reform agenda in the public service, civil service, parastatals and civil society," he said.

Mr. Wolfensohn later told a press conference that the World Bank could spend about US $1.5 billion to subsidise government finances in the next three years if Nigeria dealt decisively with the issues of effectiveness and transparency in governance. Mr. Wolfensohn who made this known at a press conference in Abuja also said, although the World Bank had spent more than $1.1 billion to finance health, education and other projects in Nigeria in three years, she was prepared to do more if the present reforms in the Obasanjo government continues. He said Nigeria had demonstrated she wants to change for the better based on what he described as a first class reform team that was purposeful, honest and transparent, and admonished all Nigerians to support President Obasanjo's new economic reform programme, NEEDS as it was capable of revamping Nigeria's economy and reduce poverty. He said although the privatisation programme has some bumps, it was a right step in the right direction to create an enabling environment for foreign donors and bodies to patronise Nigeria. He denied romancing with Shell Development initiatives in the Niger Delta but confirmed that the World Bank was also embarking on some projects to better the lot of the people of the area, and also refuted reports that the World Bank advised Nigeria to turn Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Plant to an energy plant.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Reuben Yunana & Christopher Agabi, 19 March 2004

 

'War Against Corruption' an Election Ploy

It amuses me so much when I read letters in malaysiakini and articles in mainstream papers which try to understand and dissect this so-called 'war against corruption' which the prime minister has embarked on. Even foreign publications are analysing the latest developments as proof of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's commitment to cleaning up the government. All I can say is - puh-leeze! Isn't it glaringly obvious already why he has embarked on this anti-corruption adventure now? He is not starting an anti-corruption drive at all! This is an election ploy, pure and simple. So the new PM agrees to the ACA taking Eric Chia and Kasitah Gadam to court - and that makes him what? Committed to ridding the country of corruption? No! The fact that he has decided to take action only now shows that his first and main commitment is to winning the elections. That's all that is.

Malaysiakini readers and voters should be aware of this - let's not get over-excited with two arrests and expect to see more 'big guns' in the dock. The so-called 18 other big names awaiting to be charged could remain just that after the elections. Let's see the charges against Chia and Kasitah for what they are - merely pawns in the election tactic. Let's not be stupid and expect to see more arrests after the elections - you won't see Rafidah Aziz, Nazri Aziz or Najib Abdul Razak being dragged to court next. In fact, I won't even be surprised if, after the elections, Kasitah gets re-instated to his position. He may even be aware that this is all just an election ploy. There is no 'war against corruption' going on in this country. Let's not fool ourselves. It's like George Bush's 'war against terrorism' when what he rally wants is Saddam Hussein's head and Iraq's oil. What our new PM really want in this war is your votes and five more years in power. But, just as Bush's war will not bring an end to terrorism, Abudullahi's war will not bring an end to corruption.

From Malaysia Kini, Malaysia, by Marissa Dell, 1 March 2004

Indonesia Tops Asian Corruption Survey

Jakarta - For the third year running, Indonesia has come out at the top of a survey of perceived corruption in 12 Asian countries. The survey is further evidence of why so few foreign investors are putting money into the country. On the face of it, Indonesia should be one of the most attractive destinations in Asia for foreign investors: huge natural resources, a large and developed domestic market, and ample room for expansion. But potential foreign investors say that corruption makes it all but impossible to do business in the country. One exasperated American businessman has described Indonesia as "so corrupt that it violated even the norms of corruption." In the recent survey carried out by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, Indonesia scored 9.25 points out of a possible 10. By comparison, Singapore was at the other end of the scale, with a score of 0.5. Joel Hellman is an advisor to the World Bank in Jakarta.

He says that politicians in Indonesia have acknowledged that the problem needs to be tackled. "It is widely recognized that issues about legal uncertainty, policy uncertainty, concerns about corruption and governance are among the leading factors that shape the decisions of business people whether or not to invest, not only here but in all countries, and these things have had a very, very strong effect on Indonesia's foreign direct investment profile," he said. Other countries in the region, such as Vietnam, are tackling their corruption problems, and are attracting much needed foreign investment. The Indonesian economy is growing, driven by domestic demand, but it is not growing fast enough to absorb the millions of people who join the workforce each year. Economists say that without foreign money the economy is unlikely to recover any time soon. Countries such as Burma and Bangladesh, which are consistently rated as more corrupt than Indonesia by the anti-corruption body Transparency International, were not included in the latest survey.

From Voice of America, by Tim Johnston, 3 March 2004

Corruption Our Biggest Worry, Say Malaysians

Petaling Jaya - Almost 80 per cent of The Star's survey respondents point to graft, followed closely by crime, as serious problems - Just weeks before the country's general election, Malaysians have singled out corruption as the country's biggest problem, with crime coming in a close second. Seventy-nine per cent of 3,720 respondents polled by The Star newspaper's General Election Survey 2004 agreed that corruption was a serious issue for the country. However, 55 per cent said Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was capable of tackling corruption, the survey said. Since taking office in October, Datuk Seri Abdullah has won kudos from Malaysians for going on a anti-corruption drive. But opposition politicians claim that he is not doing enough to weed out the problem. Out of the survey's 3,720 respondents, 1,511 were surveyed on national trends or current issues. The other respondents were polled for four separate surveys for Kedah, Terengganu, Selangor and Penang.

The survey - which was conducted last month - grabbed headlines recently, after it showed that 57.1 per cent of the Malay voters in Kedah backed Umno and only 38.8 per cent backed PAS and other opposition parties. The survey's findings on corruption echo a series of street interviews done by reporters from the paper. The upshot of the interviews: Malaysians want, among other things, a clean, efficient and transparent government which is free of corruption and gives priority to the people's welfare. Those polled also said that crime was becoming a pressing problem. 'The increasing crime rates are worrying and can be seen as the second biggest problem in the country after corruption,' said Universiti Sains Malaysia's Professor Johan Saravanamuttu. He was speaking at a workshop on Wednesday held to study the survey. Other issues raised by the survey included Malaysians' views on the country's future, discrimination against women and the national service programme. - The Star/Asia News Network.

From Straits Times, Singapore, 5 March 2004

Institutional Innovation Vital to Fighting against Corruption

A number of major corruption cases were uncovered before the NPC and CPPCC sessions, netting quite a number of corrupted officials to the satisfaction of the people. A number of major corruption cases were uncovered before the NPC and CPPCC sessions, netting quite a number of corrupted officials to the satisfaction of the people. The move reflects the determination of the government and the result of institutional innovation over the past few years. All the cases revealed institutional flaws and a strong interest chains behind the money-power trade-off, said NPC deputies from Northeast China.

Without smashing the interest chains and removing the institutional flaws, it would be impossible to curb corruption that has assumed an almost endemic proportion. The Chinese government is on the right track when it has decided to curb corruption institutionally, said Zuo Lianbi, an inspector of the Central Disciplinary Commission of the CPC central committee and CPPCC member, adding that the promulgation of the intra-Party supervision regulations is a case in point.

The accelerated reforms of the financial and administrative systems, redefinition of the government roles in social and economic development and the evolution of a more scientific approach to development that places people above everything else - all these constitute part of the efforts by the country to fight corruption. These reforms have minimized the space for the survival of corruption, said Xie Yong, a CPPCC member and deputy president of the Higher People's Court of Hunan Province.

The future political stability depends on the ability of the ruling party to strike a complicated and delicate balance among people groups with conflicting interests, said Zuo Lianbi. It would be too pessimistic or too optimistic to place hopes of eliminating corruption on political reform only. It is not realistic to put an immediate end to corruption as soon as a sound political system is put in place. The fight against corruption requires a breakthrough in political reform and the support of economic measures and the coordination of social reforms, Zuo added.

From People's Daily, China, 5 March 2004

Health Watchdog Granted Anti-corruption Powers

More senior bureaucrats will lose their jobs and the healthcare watchdog will be given greater powers as part of the Carr Government's shakeup in the wake of the Sydney hospitals crisis. Under the proposed changes before cabinet, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission will be given the same clout as the state's Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Police Integrity Commission and the NSW Ombudsman. It will have new powers to conduct preliminary investigations to determine the seriousness of claims, and will also be able to launch investigations even without a complaint being made. The move comes after the acting head of the HCCC, Bill Grant, pointed to a lack of investigative powers as one of the key reasons for a backlog of more than 600 complaints - 143 of which are at least three years old.

The war of words between the federal and state governments over hospital funding also escalated yesterday, a day after Premier Bob Carr accused John Howard of being a "serial burglar" for a $105 million cut over five years to healthcare funding. The Prime Minister hit back on Sydney radio, saying the term "serial burglar" was a metaphor that might come to Mr. Carr's attention "seeing that he's in more trouble than Ned Kelly regarding the hospital system of NSW". NSW Health Minister Morris Iemma admitted yesterday that the HCCC backlog was so bad some complaints might never be resolved - but he declined to discuss the prospect of compensation for families or victims who never received an outcome.

The HCCC - the state's healthcare watchdog - was at the centre of the Sydney hospitals crisis. HCCC commissioner Amanda Adrian was sacked over the failure to properly act on allegations of shocking patient care at Campbelltown and Camden hospitals in Sydney's southwest. The Carr Government set up its own commission of inquiry headed by Bret Walker SC, which reports back to Mr. Iemma next month. It has referred 19 patient deaths to the NSW Coroner. Other changes flagged yesterday include three senior HCCC bureaucrats losing their jobs and being replaced by a deputy commissioner who has yet to be appointed. District Court Justice Kenneth Taylor has been appointed as an independent acting commissioner for the next year, while an additional 15 investigators will be employed to help clear the backlog.

From The Australian, Australia, by Megan Saunders, 8 March 2004

A Two-wheeled Campaign against Crime, Corruption

Patna, Satyendra Dubey, Sarita, Mahesh Kant - icons of social justice - are dead but their cause lives on in a group of youngsters cycling through rural Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to battle crime and corruption. The 20 youths, including activists and students, began their journey last month in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, to mobilise the people against criminalisation of politics. They will stop cycling when they reach Shabdo village in Bihar's Gaya district Friday. Shabdo is where Sarita and Mahesh Kant, the two activists from the Institute for Research and Action (IRA), were shot dead in January. Just two months earlier, Satyendra Dubey, a young engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, working in the national highways project in Gaya, was killed for exposing corruption in a letter to the Prime Minister's Office.

From Keralanext, India, 10 March 2004

Call for Royal Commission into Alleged Vic Police Corruption

The former head of the National Crime Authority (NCA), Peter Faris QC, wants a police royal commission into allegations of corruption in Victorian police. Mr. Faris, who is a practising Melbourne barrister, says an independent inquiry will help clean up the force. He says limited powers by the Victorian Police Ombudsman have restricted investigations and he says internal police investigations are not satisfactory. "Internal investigations you can count out right away because it's police investigating police and they just don't have any real powers - nothing like a royal commission and the ombudsman has limited powers but very limited resources," he said. "A royal commission or a police integrity commission in New South Wales particularly is public and can subpoena witnesses and force witnesses to give evidence." Mr. Faris says a public inquiry will help tackle the problem that has been going on for years. "I think it's time to clean out the police - it needs to be done openly and independently and I think if it is done we would have a much better police force," he said.

From ABC Online, Australia, 10 March 2004

Beijing Reiterates Commitment to Host Corruption-free Olympic Games

Beijing - Beijing organizers on Monday voiced their determination here on Wednesday to curb corruption in the construction of facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games. "Projects for the Beijing Olympics should be projects 'in the sunshine'," said Wang Jun, vice-minister of the State General Administration of Sports (SGAS). Wang made the remarks at a meeting held here on Monday, underlining the importance of supervision and auditing to ensure the Beijing Games "clean". Of 20 competition venues to be built for the 2008 Olympics, the SGAS will undertake the construction of the Beijing Shooting Rangeand Laoshan Cycling Velodrome, while the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympics (BOCOG) handles the rest. Apart from the shooting and cycling venues, the foundation of which were laid last December, the SGAS will also build a total of33 training venues and renovate six existing ones. All these projects are expected to cost 3.8 billion yuan (about460 million US dollars).

Wang said a supervision and audit office has been set up as a part of the drive to stage a corruption-free Olympic Games in 2008. "Every aspect concerning the Olympic construction projects is subject to the monitoring of the supervision and audit office," said Wang. The office has worked out relevant rules and regulations to prevent any possible corruption. "Such matters as financing, procurement and tendering will be closely watched," said Chen Shuxian, head of the supervision and audit office. And some other measures have been adopted to guard against unhealthy tendencies concerning the projects, Chen said. "All the major preparations will be made public on the Internet and the process of preparations will be transparent," he said. A total of 35 venues will be used during the Beijing Olympics, including 30 in Beijing and five in other cities - Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Tianjin and Shanghai. Beijing has promised to complete the construction of Olympic venues by the end of 2006.

From Xinhua, China, 10 March 2004

China to Fight Against Corruption, Terror

Beijing -China vowed Wednesday to intensify campaigns against crimes both against and within the government, claiming progress in fighting corruption and in rooting out terrorism, Falun Gong activities and other "evil crimes." The country's top judge and top prosecutor, in reports before the National People's Congress, acknowledged the problems that face their changing society but insisted the government had matters well in hand. Chinese leaders fear growing anger over official corruption might trigger unrest and threaten their grip on power. "China's legal system has persisting problems of inefficiency and there are a handful of cases of corruption," Supreme Court Chief Justice Xiao Yang said. "We will take further effective measures to increase our supervision, strengthen our forces and spare no efforts to solve the problems." Jia Chunwang, the country's chief prosecutor told legislators that China had ``advanced our fight against organized and evil crimes.'' "We have resolutely attacked ethnic separatists, religious extremists, violent terrorists and Falun Gong and other types of criminal organized movements," Jia said.

The Falun Gong spiritual movement has been banned by the government as an "evil cult." The twin reports came as China fights the unwanted side effects of its booming economy - a surge in corruption as well as violent crime and what the government considers terrorism. Fighting those is a top priority for the leadership, which is particularly sensitive about charges it is corrupt. "We are paying more and more attention to controlling it," said Yu Baofa, a congressional delegate from the eastern province of Shandong whose given name means "protecting the law." Xiao said six "ministerial-level officials" had been sentenced in 2004 for "job-related crimes," including a judge, a former governor from southwestern China and a top banking official. He said various departments of government had "worked together to come up with the results." A total of 22,986 government officials at all levels were convicted of "job-related abuse," Xiao said without elaborating.

An easing of social restrictions that have helped to boost economic growth have contributed to a sharp rise in crime and corruption in recent years. In response, China launched a "Strike Hard" campaign against crime in the mid-1990s. "We will persist under the guiding principle of 'Strike Hard' and punish severely according to the law all sorts of crimes in order to preserve national security, social stability and the security of life and property for the masses," Xiao said. For the Chinese government, efforts against terrorism typically mean fighting Uighur separatists in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang in the northwest as well as members of Falun Gong. China stepped up its suppression of Xinjiang's separatist movement following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. The government asserts that some Uighurs maintain close ties to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network. The United States agreed to place a Xinjiang independence group on its list of terrorist organizations two years ago. But many in Xinjiang, whose 11 million Muslims are the region's majority, claim their struggle for independence has no links to terrorism.

From Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA, by Alexa Olesen, 10 March 2004

Demand for More Power to Fight Police Corruption

The Police Ombudsman has called on the Government for extensive new powers to help stamp out corruption - including the ability to start investigations, search homes and compel people to answer questions that might incriminate them. And the Law Institute is in favour of a royal commission into police corruption. Senior assistant ombudsman (police complaints) Brian Hardiman, who is supervising the Ceja taskforce investigating corruption among former drug squad members, said the powers were needed to break a "wall of silence".

He said the ability to make people answer questions that could incriminate them had previously been granted to the royal commission into the Longford gas explosion and should be extended to the deputy ombudsman (police complaints). "Corrupt police can hide behind the fact that key people won't be forced to talk and potential informants will be reluctant to come forward with allegations if they believe we have insufficient power to gather evidence to corroborate their claims," he said. "Even when a matter is being investigated by the deputy ombudsman, people will continue to call for a royal commission because of its greater powers."

The Law Institute yesterday called for independent judicial supervision of corruption investigations within Victoria Police. Institute president Chris Dale said the institute felt "that there probably needs to be some independent judicial overlay across the whole matter to ensure independence and integrity in the process". Mr. Dale said the Law Institute's aims could be met by a royal commission, a judicial inquiry or the appointment of a retired judge to oversee investigations. "We are not necessarily wedded to a royal commission. That is one model," he said. Mr. Dale said he sympathised with police concerns that a royal commission could interrupt general policing, but commission witnesses could be compelled to appear and give evidence.

Police spokesman Steve Linnell said the force opposed a royal commission because it would cost millions of dollars and would not guarantee convictions. Mr. Hardiman said there remained a negative public perception about police investigating other police. Some informants in the Ceja investigation would talk only to the Ombudsman's office because they did not trust the police ethical standards unit, he said. Under present laws, Mr. Hardiman can only respond to complaints and cannot start his own investigations. A spokesman for Police Minister Andre Haermeyer said the police ombudsman's powers were being reviewed as part of a revamp of the Police Regulations Act.

From The Age, Australia, by Misha Ketchell, 10 March 2004

Six Ministerial Officials Punished

Six former ministerial-level officials were sentenced on charges of job-related crimes last year, China's chief justice Xiao Yang said Wednesday, pledging intensified efforts to continue cracking down on corrupt officials according to law. The six former high-ranking officials included three provincial governors or deputy governors, one president of provincial higher court, a vice chairman of a provincial committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and the former president of the China Construction Bank. The penalties on them range from death sentence with a reprieve, life imprisonment, to 12 and 15 years behind bars, according to previous reports. They were among of a group of 458 government workers sentenced on the same charges, said Xiao, president of the Supreme People's Court. The courts of the country handled a total of 22,986 cases involving government workers' job-related crimes last year, he said in his report on the Supreme Court's work at the annual session of the National People's Congress, the Chinese version of parliament.

The fight against corruption was intensified this year. In the latest case last month, former deputy governor of Anhui Province Wang Huaizhong was executed for accepting more than five million yuan of bribery and another 4.8 million yuan of assets which he could not offer legal claim. Within the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), six former ministerial-level officials were also punished by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. What awaits them is punishment according to law. Procurator-General Jia Chunwang said in his report to the parliament that 39,562 job-related cases were prosecuted last year, involving 43,490 suspects, and 4.3 billion yuan of economic losses were recovered. The procuratorial organ "is determined to strike hard against corruption in law-enforcement and judicial areas," said Jia, adding that last year 9,720 law-enforcement and judicial workers were investigated as suspects who took bribes and bent the law to serve friends or relatives.

Last year, said Xiao, Chinese courts at all levels concluded investigation into 5,687,905 cases which involved a sum of 768.5 billion yuan, up 0.78 percent and 8.33 percent, respectively, from the previous year. Of the total, 735,535 criminal cases were handled and 933,967 criminals were sentenced, a rise of 1.21 percent and 1.51 percent respectively. Corruption remains a top concern for many Chinese. Xinhuanet. com, China's largest news website, found in an on-line investigation that anti-corruption is the number one concern for respondents. China's leadership has been aware of the situation. Premier Wen Jiabao acknowledged in his government work report to the parliament that "it would be an arduous task for the government to rectify itself and fight corruption." "Corruption still remains a major problem and the seedbed and conditions apt to lead to corruption still exist in China," said Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee at meeting of the CPC discipline watchdog in February last year.

"The anti-corruption situation in the country still remains grave and the fight against corruption still remains an arduous task," said Hu, who also serves as state president. Official statistics show that from 1992 to 1997, a total of 669, 300 CPC members were punished for corruption, and the number rose to 846,150 in 1998-2002, a hefty increase of 26.4 percent. The CPC published its first ever internal supervision regulations earlier this year to intensify the anti-graft campaign. The 47-article, 10,000-word Regulations of Internal Supervision of the Communist Party of China (Trial) put all the 68 million Party members under public supervision.

"The promulgation of the regulations means the Party has decided to base its anti-corruption efforts on stringent disciplinary rules rather than the political will of leaders," said Li Yongzhong, a research fellow for the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection who participated in the 13- year drafting process. Legislators and members of the CPPCC National Committee, usually critical of the reports by the Supreme Court and Supreme Procuratorate, agreed that China still has a long way to go in the fight against corruption. "The fight (against corruption) has been intensified over the years and corruption has been checked to some extent," said Zuo Lianbi, member of the CPPCC National Committee and an official with the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. "But it is equally undeniable that the anti-corruption situation is still quite grave in some places and sectors."

From China Daily, China, 10 March 2004

China Attaches Great Importance to Anti-corruption: Senior CPC Official

Beijing - The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government attaches great importance to anti-corruption work, said a senior CPC official here Monday. Wu Guanzheng, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, made the remarks at a meeting with a Vietnamese delegation headed by Nguyen Van Chi, chairman of the Control Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee. Briefing the delegation on China's domestic situation, Wu said China has taken a series of effective measures to fight corruption and explored a path suitable to its own conditions. Nguyen said he hoped to further bilateral exchanges and learn from each other to push forward overall development of relations between the two parties and the two countries. The delegation is here as guests of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

From Xinhua, China, 15 March 2004

Money Politics Breeds Corruption

Up until the 1870s, vote buying in the United States, especially in state assemblies, was rampant. The corruption reached such a point that future U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt lamented that New York assemblymen "had the same idea about public life and civil service that a vulture has of a dead sheep." This fact is recounted here to show the perennial involvement of money in politics. It is relevant to the elections in Indonesia as it strikes at the heart of our problem of so-called "money politics." The term "money politics" rings awkwardly. If politics is about power, and if money has always been one of the most important sources of power, then "money politics" is simply a term pointing to the power of money or to the corruption of politics by money. Either way, we may be deceived. Talking about the power of money in politics is rather like stating the obvious, as money has always been part of politics. In olden times, money would have been called gold. That's why there is a dictum, "Those who have gold make the rules."

In turn, both gold and money stand for other concepts of capital and property. This is as true for the colonial conquests of the past as it is for the globalization power struggles of today. If the term "money politics" is used to refer to the problem of corruption in the pursuit of public office through money, then we seem to have a strange idea about politics. As we have stated before, money is one of the most important sources of power. Meanwhile, the public-spirited "politics," is derived from the ancient Greek word polis, which has to do with the struggle for power to advance the public interest. Chiefly then, among the many problems involved in the derogatory term "money politics" is perhaps our Manicheian and spiritualistic notion of politics. That is, politics is understood as an activity, area and arena of the power struggle involving the strength of spirit, principle, conviction and courage that transcends the material force of money, wealth, property or riches. So, when we are faced with the political reality of the importance of money in the pursuit of office, we are stranded in a quandary.

Apart from the Manicheian misconception of politics, the key to unraveling the puzzle seems to be the way we have been deceived by a conceptual Tower of Babel that gave rise to the sharp divide between the notion of "property" and that of "power." The divide has unfortunately given rise to a blunder. Having been sundered from the notion of power, "property" (money or wealth) is sometimes deemed a non-power, non-political issue. It is through this Lockean route (from political philosopher John Locke) that the force of money, property, wealth and riches have been separated from the realms of public accountability. By a series of strange conceptual twists, the term "power" has in turn been attributed only to the activity, area and arena of statecraft. It is through this process that the term "politics" is made identical with "statecraft".

This blunder is earnestly embodied in mainstream political philosophies, in which agencies whose powers are based on money (a business or corporation) are given little public responsibility or accountability, whereas agencies whose powers are founded upon legal-administrative niches (government offices) are assigned public responsibility. This conceptual blunder is self-defeating, as if we continue to view politics and power as a dichotomy we will fail to understand the perennial involvement of money in politics, let alone solve the potential problems it causes. The fact is, "power" and "property" (money, wealth, riches) are like Siamese twins that cannot be separated by any surgery. The fact contenders for state office need to use the power of money shows it has always been indispensable in politics. This is more than simply stating a truism: That in today's increasingly commercialized world there is hardly any human activity that does not involve the use of money.

What it illustrates is that our noble crusade to detach the pursuit of administrative office from the corrosive force of money must confront the fact that money has, is, and will always be, a power in political life. The actual amount of money is, of course, never made public. Golkar urged its candidates for the legislature "to give about 100 million rupiah to the party." Can we read that as the amount required for the candidacy? The PDI-P "has reportedly provided 100 billion rupiah" for its race. We may read this as only half of the actual amount, as many sensitive issues have been conservatively reported in this country. The Indonesia Corruption Watch has also discovered rampant attempts at vote buying, saying amounts from 35,000 to 100,000 rupiah are regularly paid to campaigners. So, given the perennial involvement of money in politics, is the current crusade against the corrosive force of money in elections simply "much ado about nothing?" Absolutely not.

Or, is the issue economic, as many economists insist? On this question, James Tobin, that economist whose name is immortalized in the term "Tobin Tax," made a pun in 1970: "Any good second-year student in economics could write a short examination paper proving that vote purchase increases the welfare of the sellers as well as the buyers." What is the issue then? The high degree of money power used in determining the candidacy, campaign and the outcome of the elections is a commodification of our vote. It is a way of turning the "one-person-one-vote" tenet into the "power-of-money, number-of-votes" rule. Presidential and legislative candidates, who gain office mainly through the route of money power, are more likely to produce an administration that breeds kleptocracy, or government by embezzlement. The ancient Greeks had many words for money. One of them is "chrema," bribe money. With the rampant involvement of the rule of money in the current elections, are we going to produce a chremocracy, or government by bribery? The writer is a postgraduate lecturer at Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta.

From Korea Herald, South Korea, by B. Herry-Priyono, 24 March 2004

Golkars Restriction to Speak on Corruption Shows Internal Conflict: Nurcholish

Jakarta - The Golkar Party`s restriction on its presidential aspirants to raise the issue of corruption in their campaign speeches indicates there is an internal conflict and intense rivalry in the party, noted Indonesian Moslem scholar Nurcholish Madjid said here Wednesday. "Yet, the issue of corruption is very important and should not be treated lightly. This country is at the brink of destruction because of corruption," Nurcholish said.

From Antara, Indonesia, 24 March 2004

 

Anti-corruption Bill Clears Last Hurdle

The House yesterday unanimously approved anti-corruption legislation concerning the acquisition of property with unlawful means by public officials and declaration of their assets. The legislation includes three bills with provisions on the acquisition of property with unlawful means by public officials, compulsory asset declaration by the President of the Republic, ministers and deputies, and compulsory asset declaration by other state officials including mayors and local councillors. State officials will be checked by a committee made up of the auditor-general, the Internal Revenue Commissioner and a retired judge that would preside. Inquiries will be launched in the cases where someone does not file a declaration or when a citizen made a sworn statement that a state official has avoided stating all his assets.

Under the new law, state officials and deputies are not obliged to state their spouses' assets or those of their adult children. The law takes effect on September 1, 2004 to give the necessary time to officials to prepare their declarations. Sanctions for deputies would be decided in accordance with Parliamentary regulations while the President of the republic will decide on cases concerning ministers. Lifting bank confidentiality during the investigation of a case would be allowed only when the relative constitutional provisions are observed and with the approval of the affected individual. (Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2004).

From Cyprus Mail, Cyprus, 5 March 2004

Anti-corruption Mission

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor, Valentin Roschacher, has held talks in Romania, Serbia and the Czech Republic in a bid to combat corruption and money laundering. Officials said the aim of Roschacher's visit was to increase international cooperation in the crackdown on human trafficking and the illegal drugs trade. The Prosecutor's Office said Romania would improve legal assistance based on an agreement signed with Switzerland three years ago.

From swissinfo, Switzerland, 5 March 2004

Policeman Held in Corruption Probe

A serving police officer was suspended from duty after being arrested on suspicion of corruption, a force spokesman said today. The 43-year-old was one of six men arrested by Warwickshire Police on Wednesday and yesterday in a planned operation in Rugby. The officer, based in the north of the county, was detained in relation to the unauthorised disclosure of information and conspiring to commit burglary and arson. Another man, aged 29, was also arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit burglary and arson, and on suspicion of corruption. Four other Rugby men - aged 17, 19, 23 and 24 - were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit burglary and a force spokesman said all six remained in custody.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Alex Thompson, 5 March 2004

We All Have Role in Fighting Corruption

You did not need to read a single word on page 2, 3, 4 or 5 of the News Of The World yesterday to form a very jaundiced view of both racing in general and Kieren Fallon in particular. "The Fixer" is the sort of headline that will catch anyone's eye, even if they have simply nipped into the newsagents' for a Kit-Kat. Closer inspection of remarks attributed to Fallon, whose controversial defeat on Ballinger Ridge at Lingfield last week prompted a Jockey Club inquiry, suggests that it was a somewhat brash way to head up the story, but that is almost irrelevant. Over the last five years, race-fixing stories have appeared with such frequency that the pattern is set. It is a sequence that leads inexorably towards a section of the public consciousness marked "interesting, but too bent to bother with." And once you are in there, you'll never come out. Ask a cyclist, a weightlifter, even a boxer. The great problem for the sport's regulators, though, is that any meaningful attempt to arrest this slide requires a wholesale change in attitude throughout the industry.

It is easy to point to betting exchanges, which allow punters to profit by laying losers, as the source of all the trouble. Yet while exchanges do make it much easier than ever before to exploit non-triers, it is the attitudes that allow that to happen in the first place that are more pernicious. Most decent citizens who saw someone throw a brick through a jewellers' window and make off with a bagful of diamonds would certainly think twice about attempting to apprehend him themselves. Yet you would still expect them to supply the police with as much detail as possible about his appearance, his getaway car and which way it was heading. This is a mindset that does not exist in racing, and one that the Jockey Club needs to encourage with the utmost urgency. Serious breaches of the rules - persistent non-triers being an obvious example - are not seen as crimes against racing, but simply as part of the game.

The Club has already made one important step forward by employing the former policeman Paul Scotney as its new head of security. He takes his mission seriously, and the first tangible result of his efforts is expected later this month in the case of Miles Rodgers, an owner who is accused of laying his own horses to lose on Betfair. The fact that the Club has put together a strong case against Rodgers even though the Betfair accounts involved were not in his name is a sign of a sound investigative process at work. Yet the fact remains that odd betting patterns are there for anyone to see on Betfair most days of the week. Many are simply the result of the strange ways markets can work. Others most certainly are not. Betfair itself should have a major role to play, beyond the information it already supplies to the Jockey Club on irregular betting patterns.

It is in its long-term interest, too, since integrity is a powerful stick for Betfair's enemies in the traditional bookmaking industry to wield. The "irregular patterns" that should now be the focus are the month-to-month ones, that show exchange clients with a supernatural success-rate when they back, or lay, horses from a certain yard, or ridden by a particular jockey. The trainer or jockey concerned may have nothing to do with the bets involved. Tough. Josh Gifford didn't dope Lively Knight at Plumpton seven years ago, but as the licence holder at the yard, he was still fined £200 when it tested positive. If a yard or rider features from one month to the next, step one could be a private warning that he or she is under scrutiny. Step two, a final private warning. Step three, a summons to Portman Square when their licence is next up for renewal, in the knowledge that a rubber-stamp is far from assured. If nothing else, everyone in a yard would know that fiddles could have an impact on their own job security. It could be enough to persuade them to do what any decent citizen should, and pick up the phone.

From Guardian, UK, 8 March 2004

Corruption, Biased Media Turn Russian Election Into "Farce"

Washington, DC - The upcoming presidential election in Russia on March 14 will not bring about any significant political change in that country, a panel of Russia experts told a recent RFE/RL audience. The panel, which included Dr. Robert Orttung of American University, RFE/RL Senior Analyst for Russia Julie Corwin, and RFE/RL Communications Director Donald Jensen, concluded that the election will be managed by an increasingly corrupt political elite, which in turn decreases the level of voter participation and democracy in Russia. Orttung addressed what he sees as the "failure" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "anti-corruption" policy, reflected in the gradual decrease in the level of voter participation. Orttung argued that presidential policies such as media restrictions serve to increase corruption by stifling the growth of civil society.

He noted that a "link [exists] between participation in elections and fighting corruption and economic inequality." Furthermore, according to Orttung, inequality is growing among Russia's regions is increasing, the state has few prosecutions and mutual interest in corruption exists. This rise in corruption has helped to turn the election into a "farce," according to Corwin. Corwin pointed out that the Kremlin's "recruitment and creation" of opposing candidates to run against Putin, the nomination of "3rd-tier candidates" by both the Communist Party and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party and the existence of a "biased" media environment that fosters a belief by the opposition that "there is no hope that [it] will get their message across" all add to a widespread perception that the election result is a foregone conclusion. Corwin added that the presidential election is only the latest example of a long term trend in Russia toward "decorative democracy."

The high level of corruption and biased electoral system have served to restrict the number of choices available to Russian voters in this presidential election, Jensen said. He argued that the elections must be viewed from a "Russian paradigm" that is "full of informal connections" and characterized by a "very elite based game, with free flowing alliances" centered around financial interests. Jensen argued that while the election will legitimize the right of the winner to rule, the electoral outcome serves primarily as a way to gauge the relative power of competing elites. Jensen also noted that the current elite-based political system in Russia is unstable and will give the winner of the presidential election very little room to rule on the basis of any perceived electoral mandate.

From Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic, 10 March 2004

PM Backs Anti-corruption Team

Belgrade - Tuesday - Serbia's new prime minister yesterday ruled out any personnel changes in the state Anti-Corruption Council. Vojislav Kostunica said the composition of the Council would remain unchanged and announced it would analyse the draft law on conflict of interests and performance of state functions, the government said in a statement yesterday following a meeting of the Council and senior cabinet ministers. Council president Verica Barac said the first meeting with the new government had gone well. "We got the impression that this government understands that it won't be able to do anything without fighting corruption," she told B92. Barac said that among the Council's priorities this year is an assessment of legislation on bankruptcy and access to information.

From B92, Yugoslavia, 16 March 2004

Ukrainian Village Wakes Up to 6 Years of Regional Corruption

Citizens of Odesa city are not fully wise to the results of the General Prosecutor's investigations concerning corruption in the 2002 Ukrainian general elections. Similarly, no one is any the wiser, across the regions. In the village of Sverdlove, however, there remains an election issue with a slight difference: it dates back 6 years, and only now is it beginning to effect the villagers. Sverdlove village is in the Kominternivsk region of Odesa and next year celebrates its bi-centennial. It's famous for its old church built by its peaceful settlers, and is known for little else. Simmering below the surface of the peaceful mindset of today's everyday folk, however, is a shared long-standing discontent which has been shamefully ignored by the Ukrainian establishment. In 1998 one of the villagers, Yevhen Holovyn, was elected to stand in the regional council having won his seat by a clear majority. His victory, however, was over-ruled by the courts, and the reasons have remained unclear.

Despite numerous letters of protest to the Head of Odesa's regional administration - Serhiy Hrynevetskiy, nothing was ever done. Speaking of the current unrest, the head of Sverdlove village's Greek community Tetyana Renyavska said: "It all goes back to 1998 and due to the social conditions we find here today, the villagers will not tolerate any more. There's a discontent wherein no one believes in the promises of any government officials any longer. There is no financial help for the benefit of the village, and we've long resigned ourselves to terrible hardship". A meeting was arranged to take place on 14 March in Sverdlove's Hall of Culture. As with many similar events across Ukraine, permission to hold a meeting in the desired place was not granted, so the locals had no choice other than to move ahead with a meeting outdoors.

Speaking at the meeting, Dmytro Shuta, a member of Ukraine's National Union of Journalists said: "I believe this meeting is now on solid democratic ground [...] and the court rulings appear to me to be illegal." To uphold the just demands of the villagers a number of opposition activists arrived. Included among them were the head of Odesa's All-Ukrainian Union "For Yushchenko-For Ukraine" - Vyacheslav Aseyev, and one of Viktor Yushchenko's personal assistants - Viktor Mykhailyk. Mr Aseyev pledged legal support for the villagers, and reminded them that their situation was not much different to that in Mukachevo [Transcarpathian Ukraine] where a court of appeal was currently ruling on a similar situation. The matter would be handed to Viktor Yushchenko and to a group of national Ukrainian MP's. After the meeting, the visitors further associated with the villagers and reassured them that they would keep an active and watchful eye over their situation with a view to upholding their social rights.

From Ukranian Archives and News, Ukraine, by Ihor Stoliarov, 16 March 2004

Bulgaria Steps Up Corruption Fight

Bulgaria held Friday a special conference aimed at stepping up anti-corruption fight. The forum was opened by the country's Justice Minister Anton Stankov, and joined by top judiciary officials and Government employees involved with anti-corruption combat. Participants shared with each other their experience in the crusade against bribery, and pledged to boost further cooperation. Corruption has been pointed as one of the main problems Bulgaria faces en route to European integration. According to recent surveys, more and more Bulgarians are losing trust for state officials, and suspect them of corruption instead.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 19 March 2004

 

Catching Up with High-profile Corruption

Gamal Essam El-Din looks at draft laws submitted by three independent MPs aimed at fighting corruption in high places - The recent spate of high-profile corruption scandals, combined with a rise in MP accusations against cabinet ministers, has prompted three MPs to submit draft laws to the People's Assembly aimed at clamping down on government corruption. The current law regulating legal proceedings against cabinet ministers suspected of illegal activity dates back to the 1958-1961 Egypt-Syria union. Although previous legislative attempts to change the law have gone nowhere, the attention being given to the three bills by both Parliamentary Speaker Fathi Sorour and Prime Minister Atef Ebeid have generated optimism in the assembly that things might be different this time. Sorour wholeheartedly welcomed the three bills, giving the assembly's complaints and proposals committee instructions to examine them as soon as possible. Ebeid asked Justice Minister Farouk Seif El-Nasr to attend the committee's discussions and assure MPs that the government is serious about combating high-profile corruption.

The authors of the three bills - independent MPs Kamal Ahmed, Ayman Nour and Abdel-Moneim El-Oleimi - agree that bringing corrupt ministers to justice is a basic component of true democracy. "The rule of law, a cornerstone of true democracy, can never be attained without cabinet ministers being on equal footing with ordinary citizens when it comes to implementing justice," El- Oleimi said. Nour said the 1958 law "has been paralysed for more than 45 years, with the public wrongly believing that cabinet ministers are immune against justice so long as they are in office." In 2002 alone, as many as 48 high-ranking officials - including former cabinet ministers, provincial governors and MPs - were convicted of influence peddling, profiteering and embezzlement. As a result, "the public wonders why corruption charges only hover over cabinet ministers when they leave office, rather than while they are still in office," Nour said. At the same time, it is clear that other countries have no problem investigating high- ranking officials, and even presidents and prime ministers, while they are still in office.

According to Nour, the lack of attention given to fighting high-profile corruption was a major reason why Transparency International - a German-based organisation tracking corruption worldwide - ranked Egypt a dismal 63 out of almost 120 countries. At the 23 February complaints and proposals committee meeting, Seif El-Nasr told MPs that the "government is committed to battling all forms of corruption." He said the existing law (no.79/1958), which was passed to fight ministerial corruption in both Egypt and Syria during their three-year union, is still applicable in Egypt. "This law was abrogated by Syria, but it is still valid in Egypt," Seif El-Nasr said. He promised, however, that government legal experts would examine the three new bills in a month's time, and provide MPs with their opinion. "I promise that the three bills will not be left to freeze in the government's desk drawer," Seif El-Nasr said. According to Ahmed, the existing law is anti-constitutional.

While the constitution authorises the president as well as the People's Assembly to initiate the necessary procedures for bringing a cabinet minister to trial, the Egypt-Syria law calls for the establishment of a mixed Egyptian-Syrian court, "which has been impossible since the break-up of the United Arab Republic in 1961," Ahmed said. "It is unacceptable that the Constitution would rely on a suspended law that is also impossible to enforce. Remaining silent on this matter is a major sham, as well as an insult to the Egyptian people." The three bills all confirm that the president and the People's Assembly must be authorised to bring a minister to trial for crimes committed while serving in his or her post. The draft laws also stipulate that at least one-fifth of the assembly must agree on a proposal to begin impeachment proceedings against a minister.

"No verdict or indictment shall be issued except by a two-thirds majority of the assembly's members," the draft further reads. Nour's bill also states that special courts be formed for putting ministers on trial. A 12-member panel - featuring six MPs and six judges from the Court of Cassation (Egypt's highest judicial court) - would preside over the courts. Other features of Nour's bill include probhibit ministers from staying in their posts while their case is being decided, and that the prime minister is not exempt. The three bills agree on the grounds for impeaching a minister; these include manipulating the prices of goods to personal advantage, using their position to acquire personal privileges, violating laws to the detriment of the state's finances; and intervening in general elections and national referendums by issuing illegal instructions to their subordinates.

Penalties stipulated by the three bills range from hefty LE100,000-LE1 million fines, depending on the crime, to dismissal from the cabinet, life imprisonment, and the death penalty (for grand treason). A minister who is proven guilty will also be stripped of his political rights forever, including his membership in the People's Assembly, if applicable. According to Ahmed, penalties for guilty ministers must be both criminal and political "because the minister's responsibilities are primarily political". Ahmed said a change in the law was overdue since "in the last few years we have been taken aback by an unexpected wave of well- documented accusations swirling over cabinet ministers, provincial governors, ministers' deputies and MPs."

From Al-Ahram Weekly, Egypt, 5 March 2004

 

'Servile' Service Abetted Corruption

Avert your gaze, if you can, from the spectacle of VIA Rail chair Jean Pelletier losing his $200,000-plus a year job for the double blunder of chauvinism committed in full public view and, even more surprisingly for an old political smoothie like him, for giving Prime Minister Paul Martin the chance to do exactly what he's been aching to do: fire someone connected with the sponsorship scandal. Consider, instead, the sight of Ranald Quail. Never heard of him, most readers will respond. Understandable. A federal civil servant for 43 years, Quail's career has proceeded much like a duck, without making any waves and without leaving behind a trail. Nevertheless, Quail made it to the top rank of deputy minister. His department was public works. It's neither glamorous nor powerful. A good place, though, to put in time until retirement, which Quail now enjoys.

Then in the mid-1990s, public works suddenly becomes the hottest spot in town. The prime minister, Jean Chrétien, personally signs - as he's never done before or since - a request to Treasury Board for more money to be allocated instantly to a new public works program. Trendy types, no doubt dressed entirely in black, begin showing up at the Public Works Department for hurried conferences about the exciting projects they are doing, that is, all the advertising campaigns (one of them a documentary of hockey icon Maurice Richard) to appeal to the hearts and minds of Quebecers. Most of this work, though, was being done without any tenders, often without any invoices, and with no reports to show that the work had actually been done. And former political aides turned civil servants were handling it all. So what does Quail do? Nothing.

He's near retirement; he's made it to the top, so why cross the prime minister and all his powerful aides? "Obviously this is a very difficult situation for a deputy (minister)," Quail told a Commons committee in his appearance before it this week. He could have said to his boss, "Minister, you have to come through me every time you want to talk to them." But, "I did not do that," he said. The reason? His boss, Alfonso Gagliano, now fired as ambassador to Denmark, "wanted to have these discussions, he wanted to be involved." We're still a long way from knowing who did what to whom in the $100 million sponsorship scandal. It's clear enough already that Liberal apparatchiks and Chrétien's aides were primarily responsible. It's also becoming clear, though, that those responsible as well, if in an indirect way, were those who didn't do anything. Liberal malfeasance is scarcely new. But civil service co-operation in this malfeasance - more accurately, a career-calculating acceptance of it - is new.

It's deeply disturbing because it means that all the controls and traditions that ensure that the civil service is impartial, non-partisan and concerned with the public's good rather than that of the political party in power, can, scarcely without effort, be broken or evaded or ignored. In his announcement of Pelletier's dismissal for his gross chauvinism in describing as "pitiful" his one-time employee Olympian Myriam Bedard, a single mom, Martin made one statement of exceptional importance. "There is a cultural shift required in Ottawa," said Martin, adding that it was required both within the civil service proper and within the supposedly independent crown corporations like VIA Rail. (Three such corporations, including the RCMP, are involved in the scandal.) The key cultural shift that's required is within the Liberal party itself.

Such a shift can only be achieved by a true two-party system in which the Liberals actually can get heaved out of power now and thus behave, while in power, with that expectation in mind. The other cultural shift affects civil servants. Of course it can be tough for them. One mid-rank official in public works, Allan Cutler, who complained about the waste, and worse, of public money, could not win promotion. Bedard was forced out of VIA Rail. But civil servants who do not fulfil their roles as servants of the public are not merely guilty of tolerating corruption; they make corruption possible, since Liberal aides and ministers have no money to throw around - it's all in the various departments. Quail has stepped into the spotlight entirely by accident. No evidence whatever exists that he was in any way involved in wrongdoing. He did initiate an audit, which found only "administrative errors." Effectively, though, he did nothing, as did a lot of other civil servants. Without them, the scandal couldn't have happened.

From Toronto Star, Canada, 3 March 2004

Official: More Funding Needed to Draw Callers to Corruption Tip Line

The state's anti-corruption telephone tip line, created three months ago to encourage whistle-blowers, has yielded paranoid rants from the mentally unbalanced, irate complaints about a zoning board decision - and some seemingly legitimate tips, officials said. Of the 72 calls received by the 24-hour line, about 14 appear to be worth scrutiny, and four cases are being investigated, Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano said. The other calls were not legitimate or were referred to the appropriate departments or law enforcement agencies, Morano said.

No arrests have resulted from any of the tips, he said. "We're not going as quickly as we want because I don't have the funding to do it," said Morano, who said he transferred staff from other units to create the Public Integrity Bureau's office of five inspectors and two prosecutors. More funding is needed to keep pace with demand, Morano said. He has asked the Legislature for $1 million to increase the bureau to 10 inspectors and five prosecutors. More staff is needed to ensure that callers receive an immediate response, he said. "When people who are in the system finally get the nerve to call, they need to have reinforcement that those calls have made a difference," Morano said. "If it sits too long, they are discouraged."

Most callers are greeted by a machine, though a worker sometimes staffs the line. Messages are checked daily, and if the caller leaves a number, they always receive a call back, Morano said. The tip line was established in response to a wide-ranging federal corruption investigation that involves Gov. John Rowland and some of his former top aides, which has led some to nickname the state "Corrupticut." Public and personal records of the governor and his wife, Patricia, have been subpoenaed since Rowland admitted that he lied to investigators about gifts and favors he received from friends, politically appointed employees and a major state contractor. On Jan. 26, the House of Representatives met in special session to appoint a 10-member bipartisan committee to investigate whether Rowland should be impeached. If the panel recommends impeachment and a majority of the full House votes in favor, a trial would be held in the Senate.

From Stamford Advocate, CT, by Christina S. N. Lewis, 8 March 2004

Mayor Defends Corruption-tainted Administration

Mexico City - Stung by televised videotapes showing one aide stuffing his pockets with apparent bribe money and another playing $300-a-hand blackjack in Las Vegas, the mayor of Mexico City mobilized tens of thousands of people Sunday in a show of support for his corruption-tainted administration. Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who was far ahead of other likely presidential contenders in opinion surveys until the scandal erupted, declared that he had been set up by federal officials and other "perverse forces." He said one of the tapes came from a construction tycoon who had himself filmed while making a $45,000 payoff after the city had begun investigating him for fraud. Raising his fist and striking a messianic tone, the most popular public figure in Mexico battled for his political life in one of the country's most riveting scandals in recent years.

Even as two more city officials resigned Sunday, he described himself as "a ray of hope" for a better society. "Those who staged this scandal do not have the least intention of combating corruption, but the deliberate and perverse purpose of damaging me politically," the mayor told about 50,000 cheering, angry supporters in the Zocalo, the city's vast central square. "To the devil with these tricks!" Mexico still is struggling to stem official malfeasance nearly four years after President Vicente Fox ousted the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had developed a reputation for corruption during its seven decades of rule. In recent weeks, hidden cameras have given Mexicans a rare look at corrupt acts and shown that graft spreads across party lines.

The first video, televised last month, showed the leader of the Green Ecological Party of Mexico, Jorge Emilio Gonzalez, negotiating a $2 million bribe for intervening in favor of a port development project in an environmental reserve near Cancun. Next to air was footage of Mexico City Finance Director Gustavo Ponce gambling far beyond the limits of his salary at a casino in Las Vegas. News reports and mini-bar receipts showed he spent lavishly on 17 trips to Las Vegas in recent months. In the wake of that scandal, Rene Bejarano, the mayor's party whip in the city assembly, appeared March 3 on a popular public affairs TV show to demand honesty from public officials, only to be confronted by a surprise.

"What about this?" asked the TV host, a green-haired clown called Brozo, who aired a video featuring Bejarano taking stacks of U.S. bills from the construction tycoon, Carlos Ahumada, and methodically packing them into a briefcase. When the briefcase filled up, Bejarano stuffed the remaining cash into his suit pockets. Lopez Obrador has fired Ponce and obliged Bejarano to leave the assembly pending an investigation. On Sunday two borough presidents - one who took cash and one who got death threats for denouncing graft - stepped down. All four officials belong to the mayor's leftist Democratic Revolution Party, the third-largest party in Mexico after the PRI and Fox's center-right National Action Party. Fox has called the scandals a healthy result of a freer press in the post-PRI era. "Today there is nowhere to hide," he said recently. "We are living in a glass box. Everything is seen, everything is heard, everything is read. This is democracy. This is change."

From Contra Costa Times, CA, 15 March 2004

 
 

No More Free Rides for Civil Servants

The days are numbered for errant civil servants who illegally use government cars for unofficial trips with family and friends, costing taxpayers millions of rand every year. In a drastic move to curb rampant misuse of official vehicles, the entire Western Cape government motor transport fleet is to be fitted with a new highly sophisticated computer tracking system. While the Western Cape is the first province to take this far-reaching step to curb costs, sources say such a system could in time be installed in all government vehicles across the country. The government fleet in the province consists of 4 000 vehicles, excluding emergency vehicles, which travel a staggering 86 million kilometres every year, much of which is unauthorised. The new tracking system is so sophisticated that controllers will even be able to send warning beeps to drivers telling them to slow down if they are speeding. If drivers do not comply immediately, their vehicles' engines will be turned off the moment they stop.

Chris Koole, spokesperson for provincial health minister Piet Meyer, said the new system was incredibly hi-tech and sophisticated. Koole said all drivers would need to pre-book cars and register what route they would be taking, which would be punched into the car's computer. "For instance if they are going to Mossel Bay but detour from the pre-booked route zone the car will become immobilised. And if a driver is speeding he or she will be bleeped and told to slow down; if they don't comply, the engine will cut off the minute the vehicle stops." He said the system was intended not only to cut down on fraud and misuse but to protect drivers in the event of theft or hijackings. "It's a bit like a big daddy looking over your shoulder all the time." Koole said members of the public routinely reported misuse of government vehicles which were easy to spot because they had "G" for government on their number plates.

He said the bulk of reports were about cars being used for private use like shopping trips and taking cars home at night. Sunday Argus was told this week about an ambulance from the Retreat area which routinely picks up crayfish and seafood in Hout Bay while on duty. Under the new system such misuse will be stopped. The system will allow communications command and control centres to pinpoint the location of any government vehicle and track its movements on road maps or aerial photographs at all times. Koole said the government was in the process of calling for tenders but the system was expected to be in place during this year. The emergency vehicle fleet had already been fitted with the computer system which was demonstrated by Meyer on Friday.

It is expected to reduce call-out response times by 25 percent in all areas of the province and also be a deterrent to would-be hijackers. Meyer said it would now be possible for the closest emergency vehicles to disaster areas or accident scenes to be re-directed to those scenes. "These vehicles can be monitored and guided along the shortest and best routes. The exact status of government vehicles can also be monitored. "Travel speeds, road violations, routes travelled and every possible vehicle movement can be monitored and recorded." He said the system would greatly reduce kilometres travelled, reduce travel times, improve efficiency and prevent vehicle abuse. Incidents of hijacking and rape have highlighted the need for staff safety," Meyer said.

From Independent Online, South Africa, by Helen Bamford, 29 February 2004

Kenyan Civil Servants Demand 600% Pay Rise

Nairobi -Civil servants in Kenya have threatened to go on their first-ever strike at the end of March if the government fails to award them a 600% pay rise. The Kenya Civil Servants Union, which has been in existence for a year, says it has been negotiating with the government on behalf of about 250 000 workers - but that that little progress has been made concerning wage increases. The last meeting between the two parties took place in November last year, although the union has invited authorities to another round of talks next week. "If there is no positive response from the government by that time [March 30], I assure you there will be no more talking," said the union's secretary general, Alfayo Nyakundi. "Government authorities only say they are looking into the matter. For how long are we going to wait? For how much longer are we going to continue being demoralised? It seems that the only language understood well by government is when workers take to the streets to demand their rights," Nyakundi added.

In recent days, union representatives have been travelling around Kenya to prepare members for a possible stayaway. But, those civil servants interviewed appeared to need little incentive for downing tools. "If by striking we will earn salary increments, we are ready to do it - because at the moment what we are earning is a mockery of justice. The living standards are going up day by day and yet we are on the same salary scale we had upon employment," said Leonora Achola, who starting working for the government 15 years ago. Workers have also criticised the disparity between salaries earned by senior officials and those at lower levels of the government. The union says permanent secretaries can get paid as much as $8 000 a month - while junior doctors make do with $53. The lowest-paid civil servant is said to earn just less than $35 a month. "This is gross injustice," said Ali Sokoro Mohammed, the union's national organising secretary. "We want to see this gap narrowed. We also want to be treated as human beings."

Efforts to get hold of the head of the public service, Francis Muthaura, for comment on the threat of strike action were fruitless. Critics have long maintained that poor pay for civil servants has contributed to the substantial levels of corruption in Kenya, which have seen the country isolated by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. President Mwai Kibaki's government came into power with pledges to put an end to graft - something that has led to a resumption of contact with donor institutions. Earlier this week, the Kenyan chapter of anti-corruption group Transparency International (TI-Kenya) reported that levels of bribery in the East African country appeared to be decreasing.

TI-Kenya said its bribery index for last year showed that small-scale bribery was on the wane; however, officials wary of being caught in the act were also demanding larger inducements to bend the law. "The government must sort out its workers adequately if it is serious about doing away with corruption," said Mohammed, adding: "Our newly registered union will continue fighting for rights of civil servants, addressing all ills affecting us including the issue of retrenchment." Last November, the World Bank advised Kenya to trim its civil service, saying the organisation was bloated. Under the government of former president Daniel Arap Moi, civil servants were denied the right to belong to a union. The Kenya Civil Servants Union was formed when Kibaki took over power in December 2002.

From Mail & Guardian, South Africa, by Joyce Mulama, 1 March 2004

Public Servants Be Neutral Or Resign: Moleketi

Pretoria - Public servant who intend standing as candidates for the national or provincial governments during the country's third democratic elections on April 14 have been advised to resign their positions to comply with the Public Service Act. Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi has informed all executing authorities and heads of national and provincial departments in the public service to comply with the Act. The minister said in a statement that the measure was underpinned by the country Constitution that stipulates that state employees should not contest for parliamentary elections unless they resigned their positions. "The conditions in the Public Service Regulations regulating the rights and conduct of persons, employed in terms of the Public Service Act, require that an employee must resign from the Public Service beforehand if she or he intends to stand as a candidate for election to the National Assembly or any provincial legislature," said the minister Fraser-Moleketi.

The set requirements dictates that an employee has to resign not later than the date on which the employee is issued a certificate by the Independent Electoral Commission stating he or she is a candidate for elections to the National Assembly or a provincial legislature. With regards to nomination to the National Council of Provinces, an employee who is nominated by a political party as permanent delegate to that Council, is to resign not later than the date of such nomination. The provisions of the Act and Regulations also applies to persons employed, in terms of their own respective employment legislation such as the SA Police Service (SAPS), the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), SA Secret Service (SASS) and the Department of Correctional Services and teachers in provincial education departments.

"Employees of SAPS, NIA and SASS are specifically disallowed by their respective employment legislation from becoming candidates in elections and such employees will also have to resign before becoming a candidate," said Fraser-Moleketi. However, the minister said the requirements to resign don't limit the rights of employees in the public service to be members of political parties and to attend meetings of any political party. Employees are however not permitted to preside or speak at such meetings and may not draw up or publish any document or deliver a public speech to promote or prejudice the interests of any political party.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Richard Mantu, 1 March 2004

Government Is Sympathetic to Civil Servants Agitations

Sunyani - Dr. Alex Glover-Quartey, Head of the Civil Service on Tuesday said in Sunyani that the Government was sympathetic to agitations by civil servants for the enhancement of gratuity and pension benefits. He said he was also a sympathizer of their agitation and had presented their concern to the government. Dr. Glover-Quartey was addressing the opening of the 2003 three-day meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Civil Servants Association (CSA) of Ghana. The theme for the meeting is "Organized Labour Collaborating with Government for a Peaceful Industrial Atmosphere - The Civil Servants Association (Ghana)" The head of the civil service noted that for the past three years public servants, including civil servants and staff of the Ghana Education Service (GES) had clamoured for the restoration of the Cap 30 Pension Scheme "because benefits under the SSNIT Pension Scheme have been found to be far inferior".

Dr Glover-Quartey recalled the abolition of Cap 30 under the Supreme Military Council (SMC) regime when a decree (SMC Decree 8) was passed, using January 1, 1972 as the cut-off date for the de-application of Cap 30 to civil and other public servants and their compulsory placement under the SSNIT Scheme. He urged civil servants to direct their efforts towards the securing of a pension scheme, which would be similar or equal to Cap 30 and not solely for Cap 30. "As a father I wish to urge that rather than clamour in uncompromising fashion for a wholesale return to Cap 30, civil servants should direct their efforts towards the securing of a pension scheme, which is similar or equal to Cap 30 and not solely for Cap 30".

Dr Glover-Quartey said he was distressed and saddened by "unfortunate developments" between the leadership of the Association and some civil servants some of whom, he said described themselves as "concerned" civil servants and appealed to the leadership of the Association to give a serious thought to complaints and concerns of the rank and file. Mr. George Dorsaah, Brong-Ahafo Regional Chairman of CSA expressed dissatisfaction with disparities in government rent deductions of officials in government quarters and bungalows. "Some workers who are still occupying such residential accommodation are paying rent based on 1992 salaries, whilst others are paying the same percentage based on current salaries", he said. Mr. Dorsaah announced that over the years the regional leadership of the Association had initiated moves to establish a health insurance scheme for its members and their dependants. To this end, a committee has been tasked to develop a constitution for the proposed scheme by the middle of March for the consideration of members and subsequent promulgation.

He announced: "I want to mention that barring any un-anticipated situation, the scheme will take off latest by July this year". Mr. Dorsaah noted that the regional association was not happy about the re-introduction of salary disparities some years after the introduction of the Ghana Universal Salary Structure. He complained about promotions in the Service, saying while their counterparts in some institutions were given automatic promotions after serving a specific number of years on their grades, "we in the civil service are denied such a facility". Mr. Dorsaah appealed to the government to seriously put all civil servants on Pension Cap 30 without further delay to ensure better living conditions for members after pension. He questioned the rationale behind a section of Ghanaian workers benefiting from Cap 30 at the expense of others and appealed to the government to restore that facility.

From IrishExaminer.com, Ireland, 1 March 2004

Civil Servants Establish Loan Scheme

Sunyani - The Ashanti Regional branch of Civil Servants Association (CSA) of Ghana has established a loan scheme to offer financial support to members. Mr. Kwame Asamoah Dwomoh, Chairman of the branch, told the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday at the opening of the a three-day 2003 national executive council meeting at Sunyani. He said the scheme aims at enticing young graduates of tertiary institutions to join the civil service. Mr. Dwomoh said the scheme was started last year with a compulsory monthly contribution of 20,000 cedis per member and a maximum voluntary contribution of 200,000 cedis a month per member.

The Regional Chairman said the scheme yielded 170 million cedis monthly and as at the end of last year, 600 million cedis was given out as loans to members to purchase durable goods including televisions sets. Mr. Dwomoh said the regional executive would monitor or supervise the accounts of the districts to ensure sanity in their operations. The regional chairman said the Association had planned to institute a housing scheme under which members would be assisted to acquire and given loan to develop it. He said the Association, under the loan scheme, has plans to establish its own banking institution in future. Dr. Alex Glover-Quartey, Head of the Civil Service, who was the guest speaker at the opening of the meeting commended the regional branch for its foresight and initiative and appealed to the other regional branches to follow it.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 3 March 2004

Civil Servants Face Source of Wealth Probe

Lusaka - Vice-President Nevers Mumba yesterday warned senior civil servants that government would soon visit them to counter-check their wealth in relation to their earnings. Addressing Ministry of Finance and National Planning workers, Vice-President Mumba said they could not afford fighting corruption merely on the mouth. He warned the officers that in the next few months, civil servants would feel the heat because government wanted to clean up the system of corruption. "We want to fight corruption with you and not just those that had stolen, we are moving in our own structures of administration because that's where the paralysis of corruption is," Vice-President Mumba said. "I challenge those in management positions, get your receipts ready because we will come down to find out about your assets, whether they're correlated with what you get. We want the issue of corruption to be dealt with decisively. Don't say you were not warned, so get your receipts ready." Vice-President Mumba said government would find out how civil servants have accumulated their wealth and ensure they stayed within the civil service regulations.

He said his only frustration was that punishment for those found wanting on corruption was too slow. Vice-President Mumba said because of bureaucratic gymnastics, people found wanting on corruption were let to continue working and continued stealing. "Justice delayed is justice denied. Law enforcement agencies should move quickly whenever reports are made to them," he said. Vice-President Mumba vowed that the new deal administration would fight corruption to its logical conclusion and leave government better than they found it. He urged the civil service to join the corruption fight that President Mwanawasa initiated. He said President Mwanawasa's performance on corruption was unparalleled on the African continent and that unless they all got involved, the civil servants may not even get the increments they were crying for. Vice-President Mumba also bemoaned bureaucratic tendencies within the civil service. He said government was concerned with the efficiency of the public service.

He advised the workers not to treat every person coming to seek a service from the ministry as a bother to them. Vice-President Mumba said it would be a disservice to the people if those in management told people who sought help from their offices to see them on the day they knew they would not be in the offices. "Your flippant attitudes would affect a dozen other people. We need to find ways of dealing with challenges affecting our people. Every person coming to the ministry is important and they are the reason we are in these offices," he said. Vice-President Mumba urged the workers to treat their jobs with the importance they extended to their own businesses. He told the workers that the country had been removed from the programme with the International Monetary Fund because it failed to meet the benchmarks last year due to the salary increments awarded to civil servants. Vice-President Mumba said if the country succeeded in meeting the benchmarks this year, close to US $3.8 billion would be freed which would be pumped into the productive sectors of the economy and the social sector.

He said it was for that benefit and the need to better the lives of Zambians through a better budget next year that government had taken steps to ensure it attained the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point. Vice-President Mumba said people were now tired of being told to tighten their belts and were now demanding salary increments. "Our children will not forgive us if we don't pay the necessary price to create a better country. We have to take these steps," he said. Vice-President Mumba commended workers in the ministry for not participating in the February 18, 2004 countrywide strike action called by the labour movement. He reiterated that Pay As You Earn (PAYE) had not been increased. "I was shocked, what happened on the 18th is a miracle. It was the first time that people demonstrated against reduced taxes. All they wanted was PAYE to go higher," he said. Vice-President Mumba said civil servants reacted in the absence of information. He said the temporal non-adjustment of salaries was meant for eventual improvement of the quality of life for Zambians.

He said government wanted a way of dialoguing with civil servants who made government tick. Vice-President Mumba said government had most often found itself in trouble when it failed to communicate with those that make government function. "In the absence of information, people resort to strikes," he said. Vice-President Mumba said Zambia had the most educated civil service and advised the workers to first analyse issues before joining a strike action. And responding to the workers' concern of inflated house rentals, Vice-President Mumba advised house owners to take a look at civil servants' salaries before they hiked rentals. He said government had been observing with concern the trend by house owners to increase house rentals. Vice-President Mumba said he was totally opposed to the astronomical rentals asked by house owners because they were not justified. Finance minister Ng'andu Magande said one problem he found when he assumed office was that people had lost confidence in government. He said some people had approached him to complain over delayed processing of their pension cheques and his response to the workers was that the best thing in life was to make friends with people.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Speedwell Mupuchi, 5 March 2004

Civil Servants Get New Knowledge on Privatisation

Gaborone - A group of civil servants ended a three-day outsourcing workshop at Boipuso Hall with new knowledge about the government's planned privatisation. The workshop, which was organised by Public Enterprise Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) in partnership with the London based Adam Smith Institute (ASI) attracted participants from government institutions like roads department and Botswana Police Services (BPS). Some representatives, who attended the workshop, said it was an eye opener. "We learnt that in tendering we do not need to block innovations. Tender documents should not kill innovation and contractors should be allowed to be innovative," Sonny Mogojwa of Botswana Police said after the workshop.

The Police Service is one of the government institutions that have been outsourcing their services and facilities to locally registered companies. Some of the services that have been outsourced Mogojwa said included cleaning, laundry, landscaping and supermarket services. "I will be clear on the development of ITT and we will try our best to share sufficient information with prospective tenderers," Mogojwa said. Some government departments that have been outsourcing their services to the private sector include Central Transport Organisation (CTO) and Roads Departments. "We have to merge what we got from the workshop and see what to improve," Judith Ngwako, who heads maintenance division at the Roads Department, said. She said that they have been outsourcing their services as evidenced by work currently carried out by private companies for government.

Ngwako was not impressed because the workshop missed out some aspects of the privatisation process. "The workshop did not discuss contracts themselves, but outsourcing. Contracts are currently a major problem," she said. Some participants expressed concern at the roles of other institutions that are engaged in the procurement processes. They singled out the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB)-whose role is not clarified. They said that there must be a regulatory body that would monitor the overpricing of services they offer. The workshop was attended by over 40 representatives and covered privatisation overview, evaluation of prospects of contracting out services in different organisations, implementation of outsourcing transactions, structuring of agreements and the contract management and the monitoring of private sector service providers.

Another workshop is expected in the future for local government authorities in a bid to sell the privatisation policy to them. The role of PEEPA in the privatisation process would be more pronounced after the government and parliament finished looking at the privatisation master-plan that PEEPA presented. The blue print would pronounce enterprises that are earmarked for sale. Currently, government is in the process of selling its 45 percent stake in national airline Air Botswana (AB). The process is going through turbulent times as companies have not shown interest in the purchase.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Kabo Mokgoabone, 5 March 2004

Civil Servants to Take Pay Cut As Bangui Goes Broke

Bangui - Salaries for civil servants in the Central African Republic (CAR) will be reduced, at a rate yet to be determined, in a bid to slash state expenditure that has gone beyond the government's capacity to meet, a government minister announced on Thursday. Finance Minister Jean Pierre Lebouder said the move would not affect civil servants in lower pay categories. Currently, the highest pay category for civil servants is about 3.5 million francs CFA (US $6,776) while 17,000 francs ($32) is the lowest. Despite its huge mineral and timber resources, the CAR has failed to pay civil servants for four months. Lebouder made the announcement at a four-hour meeting called by CAR leader Francois Bozize with the country's stakeholders. Vice-President Abel Goumba, Prime Minister Celestin Gaombalet, National Transitional Council Speaker Nicolas Tiangaye and his deputies Charles Massi and Justin Ndjapou were among the senior government officials who attended the meeting held in the capital, Bangui.

The UN Secretary-General's representative to the CAR, Lamine Cisse, also attended. "The sacrifice must be proportionate with the earning of each civil servant," Lebouder said. He added that the government's salary expenses had nearly doubled with the integration of thousands of former exiles "in the name of national unity and reconciliation". He said the administration had paid 1.8 billion francs CFA ($3.5 million) to reduce salary arrears inherited from former President Ange-Felix Patasse's administration and was yet to clear civil servants' salary arrears amounting to three billion francs ($5.8 million). Bozize ousted Patasse on 15 March 2003. Lebouder said the meeting was held to explain to the country's stakeholders the measure taken by the government to stabilise the country's finances.

In this regard, the government announced in February that salaries for ministers and senior parastatal officials would be reduced by 30 percent. "We have reached the bottom of the pot," Bozize said at the meeting. Lebouder said the government had reduced the number of its missions abroad and was urging all business people to conduct their financial transactions through local banks as part of its efforts to cut costs. The government's measures follow recommendations by a delegation of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank that toured the country from 17 January to 1 February. The team had advised the government to decrease its expenditure, fight corruption in financial services and in the mining and timber sectors in order to increase tax revenue. Gaombalet said that since March 2003, the government had paid civil servants salaries for eight months using two billion francs ($3.88 million) from its own internal income and 11 billion francs ($21.3 million) from loans and foreign donors. (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks).

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 5 March 2004

Public Servants Honoured

Civil servants have been honoured for their outstanding work. The fifth annual Impumelelo Awards ceremony for the most creative and effective examples of service delivery in the public sector were held in Cape Town, in the Western Cape province, last night. "This is one of the ways poverty can be alleviated - by government providing funding for projects and the community doing it for themselves." said Franklin Sonn, the chairperson of Impumelelo Trust. The public works department of the Limpopo province walked away with the platinum award. It gave unemployed people jobs to maintain its roads.

Collins Chabane, the Western Cape Transport MEC, said: "We trained about 24 contractors, each employing about 100 people; that means we created 4 000 jobs." The top award went to a project that is fighting the scourge of Aids deep in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal. Community nurses put together a network of home-based caregivers for Aids patients. "There is one thing that I've learned and this is that if you are dedicated and you have perseverance you will succeed," said Ruth Maoela, the project co-ordinator. Over the past five years Impumelelo have rewarded more than 100 such projects and have injected R5 million into these enterprises.

From SABC News, South Africa, 7 March 2004

Vacancies Are Crippling Public Service

Top-level vacancies in government departments are crippling service delivery, says Auditor-General Shauket Fakie. Last year government departments underspent to the tune of R6,6-billion, mainly because they lacked the capacity to provide their designated services. And the situation is getting worse. In his overview of government's adherence to audit procedures and assessment of how government has moved to minimise risks, Fakie says one in five senior management posts is vacant in 11 departments. He warns that the number of vacancies at senior management level is increasing, and that this would further undermine government's ability to provide efficient service. The biggest shortages were shown to be in the department of social development. In the 2001/2002 year it had a vacancy rate of 36,6 percent; today, according to Fakie, it is working with vacancies in 49 percent of its senior positions.

The disbursement of grants has been affected, with pensioners waiting in queues for hours and the department unable to implement a plan to pay money directly into pensioners' accounts. In Public Works, nearly 36 percent of posts are vacant. Yet this is the department which must soon implement the R15-billion jobs programme in a bid to create one million job opportunities for people in the lower end of the jobs market. Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi last month said government accepted that it was not entirely possible to have a vacancy-free public service. She said a vacancy rate of about five percent was acceptable and departments whose vacancies were over 20 percent needed to fill the posts as this undermined the quest to deliver quality public service.

However, Fakie's report also lists her department as one of those where vacancy rates are unacceptably high - at 24,2 percent at the end of the 2002/3 financial year and an increase of two percenton the previous year. The A-G also decried the 1 885 vacant posts, mainly for nursing staff, psychologists and IT staff, in the correctional services department. "The number of posts may impact negatively on the ability of the department to maintain the safe custody of inmates and rehabilitate inmates. The prison population has increased at an average rate of 6,5 percent over the past seven years, while the number of personnel and available prison accommodation have increased at an average rate of 1,9 percent and 1,5 percent respectively," wrote Fakie.

He said the 40 percent vacancy rate in the Department of Communications was due to, among other reasons, "no succession planning and no skills retention policy". Fakie's report lists the other departments as health, arts and culture, provincial and local government, foreign affairs, national treasury, public enterprises and science and technology, which has 66,7 percent of top posts vacant. Of these departments, those whose capacity slipped further, according to the report, are Public Enterprises (32 percent to 33 percent), National Treasury (12,5 percent to 41 percent) and Provincial and Local Government (13,9 percent to 39,3 percent).

From Independent Online, South Africa, by Makhudu Sefara, 4 March 2004

Civil Servants to Be Insured

Kampala - All civil servants will soon be insured against injury and death while on duty. The decision comes after the state has lost a number of cases to litigants seeking compensation for injury, disease and death of their relatives suffered while on duty under the Workers Compensation Act, 2000. The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Gerald Ssendaula, (pictured right) said government would also insure all its assets as soon as the review process is completed. He was speaking at a dinner to mark the end of the 36th Annual General meeting of the Uganda Insurers Association at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel on March 8.

The review process is to in place stringent use and control mechanism of government assets as well as to establish the insurable risk. "Government recognises the profession of insurers as managers of risk and although the government's major role is to create a conducive, social, economic and political environment, it must be seen to be pro-active and participating in the promotion and expansion of the insurance industry," the minister said. An official with the Ministry of Finance said that government had paid a lot of money to workers who would have been compensated by insurance companies if they had been insured.

Government's plan to insure all its workers comes at a time when employers are complaining that some sections of the Act are stringent and unsustainable. They particularly cite a section of the Act that requires employers to pay up to three-years wages to dependents of a deceased worker. Employers also want a clause that states that a worker is also presumed to be on official duty while on his way to and from work to be revised. According to the same law, any person who gets three payments consecutively is deemed an employee and can therefore be compensated, even if they do not have a letter of appointment.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Isabirye Musoke, 12 March 2004

12 000 Civil Service Jobs on the Line

Johannesburg - Close to 12 000 civil servants could find themselves without jobs after June 30 because they do not possess the skills required for available posts, Kenny Govender, the department of public service and administration's senior manager, said yesterday. The June 30 date has been set to intergrate excess employees through the restructuring of the public service. Govender said the main problem facing the government was matching skills to available posts. "The process is not about reducing the size of the public service, but rather about ensuring the right people are in the right jobs," he said. At the same time, Govender said there were 16 188 vacancies in the public service.

These were positions for highly-skilled people that did not form part of excess employees. "With the target date fast approaching, we are looking at all possible avenues of absorbing those excess employees in and outside the public service. "These include training and redeployment. In the Western Cape, the department has started a programme that will see employees being trained in marketing and basic financial management. "In North West, in service training is being provided to employees in the office of the premier. In the department of agriculture, accredited service providers have been identified to offer training in technical and life skills," Govender said.

He added that several departments had indicated that all employees who had been redeployed underwent in-service training. Addressing parliament on February 6, public service and administration minister, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, said 109 449 appointments had been made between July 2002 and September 2003. These comprised internal redeployment of personnel, new appointments and promotions. Govender said: "While we are committed to ensuring the continued employment of these people, we are not sure how many we will take as we do not know how many will opt for severance packages. "As they are still in our employ, we have budgeted a full salary for the year. It is out of that money that we will pay severance packages." He said another dilemma facing government was that most of the jobs on the line were low level employees.

These included cleaners, clerks and messengers. An additional problem was that those employees did not want to be relocated. Govender added that the department wanted to stem the tide of nurses leaving the country, saying most leaving the public sector were highly-qualified. "There is a shortage of nurses and the department is addressing it in two ways. "The first was through the intake at nursing colleges over the last three years. "The second level involves the agreement reached between the public health and welfare bargaining council that deals with scarce skills. This includes the nursing staff and seeks to recruit them to rural areas and grant them a special allowance based on the skills they possess. "These measures are part of a long-term strategy to encourage nurses not to leave the public service and also recruit them to areas where their services were needed," he said.

From Business Report, South Africa, by Mokgadi Pela, 11 March 2004

Shake-up Imminent in Lagos Civil Service

A shake up is imminent in the Lagos State Civil Service, as Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu has ordered the immediate verifi-cation of all government employees. The exercise, the government said, was meant to wipe out corruption and indiscipline in the civil service, while it is feared that many workers might lose their jobs in the process. According to a statement from the Lagos State civil service commission, the exercise would cut across all cadres of serving officers especially the newly recruited ones.

The statement, signed by the Public Relations Officer of the Commission, Mrs Demuren Ilori said the exercise was necessary because "It has been observed, over the years, that a few officers have come in without the requisite qualifications." "It has been observed that some officers who have been transferred from one sector of the public service to another, have not gone through the proper channels or observed due process for transfer of service. "It is important to note that the exercise will also help to discover those officers who hitherto were not properly placed based on their qualifications", it explained. For the purpose of the exercise, all officers are expected to bring along their updated record of service, passport photographs, original of their degree/professional certificates, a copy of the year book or convocation journals or programmes containing the officers' names and letter of attestation from the institution attended among others.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, by Kazeem Ugbodaga, 16 March 2004

 

Former 'Rogernome' to Lead Public Service

The bureaucrat Helen Clark derided as an "apostle of the new right" before adopting him as her right-hand man is now set to become the country's top public servant. State Services Minister Trevor Mallard announced yesterday that Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet chief executive Mark Prebble will be the new State Services Commissioner. He will replace Michael Wintringham when he retires in May after seven years. Dr Prebble, a career public servant, recently took three months' leave and Helen Clark said he would not give interviews on his new position until in the job. His most prominent positions before gaining his present post in 1998 included deputy secretary to the Treasury and acting secretary to the Treasury. His seniority in the Treasury during the economic reforms of the 1980s led to Helen Clark as Opposition Leader denouncing him as the "high priest of Rogernomics". He was reappointed with her blessing in 2000.

Dr Prebble's desire to remain the archetypal invisible public servant was destroyed a year later when controversy erupted over his statements about former Work and Income chief executive Christine Rankin before the Employment Court. "Every time she moved, I found I was having to see an embarrassing amount of her breast," Dr Prebble said. He also admitted telling her the right colour for a public servant was grey and buying "from a chain store is always the safer option". Last year he hit the headlines again during "Corngate" for failing to release crucial memos on GM during the election, which limited the attack on Helen Clark. They both admitted that had been a mistake.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that despite her 1998 comments "I have found him a very, very acute analyst of what happens on policy issues and he has been of invaluable assistance to me". "I have made it clear that I would have been very happy for his appointment to continue to be rolled over. I have known for some time that he had an interest in this job and I would not discourage anyone from pursing their dream in a career. I'm very, very pleased for him." But Opposition parties had reservations. National MP Murray McCully said Dr Prebble's "partisan performance" in Corngate meant he would have a huge task ahead to rebuild National's confidence. Act deputy leader Ken Shirley raised concerns about his roles in both the Corngate and Rankin affairs. He said Dr Prebble's "very close association" with Helen Clark would also create problems. A statement by Dr Prebble said the public service was characterised by high integrity, commitment and performance. "As State Services Commissioner, I intend to maintain and continually improve the performance of the state sector."

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, by Ruth Berry, 1 March 2004

Ombudsman Has Harsh Words for Public Servants

Ombudsman Mel Smith has warned public servants that they should heed the lessons from his scathing report into the Immigration Service. Mr. Smith yesterday found that one Immigration Service official concealed from him a memo that could have been embarrassing for the official, the service or Cabinet ministers if it were made public. Another staff member consciously chose not to hand it over. The Ombudsman said his report should act as a warning for people in Government departments. "I consider the circumstances of this investigation provide a salutary warning to all persons who may be subject to requirements by an Ombudsman, that their functions should be undertaken with the greatest of care." Mr. Smith said the Official Information Act was an important element of a democracy, and provided "a bulwark against the opportunity for corruption".

He stopped short of saying the officials lied to him, but said although they gave evidence to him under oath he did not find it credible. Neither of the staff members has been sacked, but Opposition MPs yesterday called for heads to roll. One senior official, communications manager Ian Smith, is facing disciplinary procedures but remains on the Immigration Service payroll. He was on leave yesterday. He wrote a memo soon after asylum-seeker Ahmed Zaoui was detained in December 2002 which suggested Immigration Service staff had agreed to "lie in unison" about the Algerian, who authorities suspected might be a terrorist. Ian Smith and an unnamed woman staff member experienced at handling Official Information Act requests for the Immigration Service denied the memo existed and did not give it to the Ombudsman when he asked for it, although that was against the law.

The National Party had been trying to get the memo under the act. The Ombudsman's inquiry started after the Herald published the memo to prove it did exist. Mr. Smith said yesterday it "grieved" him to express adverse findings about the credibility of public servants. In his report, he said several times he found Ian Smith's evidence "unconvincing" or "difficult to accept". Some evidence was "consistent" with an attempt to deflect attention from the "lie in unison" memo. He believed Ian Smith knew what his office wanted, but "deliberately dissembled". The memo would have "difficult consequences for the author and the Department of Labour if it reached the public domain, and indeed could be a cause of embarrassment to relevant ministers". Mel Smith said the woman also knew what was being asked for and had "consciously" failed to provide it. He cleared the two officials of conspiring to deceive him because he could not find sufficient reliable evidence that they had done so.

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, by Helen Tunnah, 26 February 2004

Civil Servant Held for Campaigning

Tokyo police on Wednesday arrested a civil servant employed by the central government on suspicion of distributing fliers on behalf of the Japanese Communist Party last year. Such behavior would violate a law restricting political activities by civil servants, police said. Akio Horikoshi, a 50-year-old employee of the Social Insurance Agency, was arrested Wednesday. Horikoshi allegedly distributed JCP fliers at more than 100 locations in Tokyo between Oct. 19 and Nov. 3 last year, ahead of the Nov. 9 general election for the House of Representatives. He has owned up to the charge, they said.

From Japan Times, Japan, 3 March 2004

Vietnam Intensifies Fight against Police Corruption

Hanoi - Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security has established special teams across the country to prevent local traffic police from taking bribes. The teams have been set up in every city and province to supervise traffic policemen, and impose fines on corrupted ones, Vietnam News quoted Deputy Minister Le The Tiem as saying on Monday. Those caught red-handed extorting money from violators of traffic law would be sacked, he said, adding that severer cases would be punished by the criminal law. Violators who give bribes to police will also be punished.

On Feb. 28, a special team caught three traffic policemen in the central province of Da Nang taking bribes from a local truck driver. All of the policemen have been suspended. A number of local people tend to break the traffic law such as driving too fast and passing the red light if they see no traffic policemen around. When stopped by policemen, they often give moneydirectly to the policemen. Vietnam reported 20,734 accidents, which claimed 11,764 lives and injured 20,701 people, between January and December last year. Meanwhile, the country's traffic police dealt with over 3 million cases of traffic violations, imposing a total fine of nearly 400 billion Vietnamese dong (25.6 million US dollars).

From Xinhua, China, 8 March 2004

Public Servants Should Maintain Good Rapport with People

"It is the supreme duty of the public servants and officials to know the important personalities and higher officials in the area where they work. If any of them do not know the Government Agent, senior citizens and senior members of NGOs in the area, it is best for these public servants to leave the area," Ven. Nugetenne Pagngnananda Thera, chief priest of Anuradhapura Jayanthi Vihara said, addressing the monthly meeting of the Anuradhapura sub-committee of the prisoners welfare society held at Anuradhapura prisons. Some government servants are least concern for the people. They should adopt more positive thinking when no service will last long if it does not go hand-in-hand with the people," Thera added.

Today the stich-craft centre in the Anuradhapura prisons is closed and the four serving machines provided have been taken away by the Rural Development Unit of the Provincial Department of Small Industries, due to lack of a trained instructress. The sub-committee unanimously moved to have the centre re-established. It was also decided to give publicity to comport manure packets produced by the inmates of the prison so as to strengthen the funds of the welfare society. Another proposal to start projects to make cement blocks, bake bricks and to run a hairdressing saloon was also passed. R. M. Abeyratna, retired director of education was elected to start a literary improvement class inside the prison. Ratna B. Ekanayaka and Victor Marambage were entrusted with strategic planning for the ensuring year. Nelson Abeydheera, SP and S. Hanisdeen, welfare officer were also present at the meeting.

From Daily News, Sri Lanka, by Victor Marambage, 5 March 2004

American Becomes 1st Seoul Civil Servant

An American woman started work at the Seoul Metropolitan Government Tuesday as the first foreign civil servant at City Hall. The city government announced on Wednesday it has employed Leslie Joanne Benfield as a contract worker. Coming to Korea December 1995 under a Christian mission, Benfield has taught English at private institutions and Hallym University in Kangwon Province. "I applied for the civil servant position as I wanted to do something challenging in which I'm able to leave something behind," Benfield said in an interview with The Korea Times.

The 35-year-old American was selected among eight applicants, all of whom were foreigners, owing to her fluent Korean. Benfield will take charge of supervising documents and publications written in English and supporting international exchange and cooperation affairs at the Advisor for International Relations Bureau. "It is an honor as well as a burden to be Seoul's first foreign public servant. I'd like to contribute to introducing Seoul and Korea to foreigners both at home and abroad," she said. Seoul City plans to increase the number of foreign employees for its foreigner-related affairs if Benfield's employment proves successful.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Kim Rahn, 10 March 2004

Move to Put Civil Servants in Defunct Local Government Units Slated

The Municipal Association of Bangladesh (Mab) yesterday expressed concern over a recent cabinet decision on appointing government officials in different local government bodies after abolishing those units. Mab members at an emergency meeting said the decision contradicted Article 59 of the constitution and also a High Court verdict, a press release said. Urging the government to withhold its decision, it further said the measure would cripple local government units instead of strengthening. It also threatened to organise a rally of elected public representatives of various local government bodies in the capital and seek legal redress if the government sticks to its stand, it added. Azmat Ullah Khan, president of the Mab and chairman of Tongi municipality, chaired the meeting. The cabinet at a meeting on Monday decided to appoint civil servants in different local government units after abolishing those.

From The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 10 March 2004

More Civil Servants Must Go

The government plans to slash the number of civil servants in two years, it was revealed yesterday. According to a paper issued by the Civil Service Bureau to the Legislative Council, it is to cut numbers by 6,300 before next March. In the 2006/07 financial year, a further 6,500 positions will be cut. The total cuts represent about 7.4 per cent of the current 172,000 civil servants. The government said it could meet the target through internal transfers and a voluntary retirement scheme, the third of its kind. About 5,200 civil servants opted for early retirement in the second round last year, helping the government to trim about HK$1.6 billion from its annual budget. However, the president of the Hong Kong Clerical Grades Civil Servants General Unions, Leung Chau-ting, said the government was moving too swiftly in reducing the size of the civil service.

It should not cut more than 4,000 positions a year, he said. "Cutting 6,300 positions in a year is too much. Our colleagues need time to adapt to the cut. "Staff morale will be affected," he said. "In addition, the move will spark fears that if the government fails to achieve its target, it may resort to lay-offs and sackings." Leung said the civil service was not a drag on resources. "Public demand for services provided by the government has increased as has the workload of most civil servants." General Civil Servants' Union chairman Cheung Kwok-biu said the planned reduction was too drastic and he feared that the quality of the civil service could be affected. He wanted the government to at least consult civil servants before drawing up its reduction plan.

From The Standard, Hong Kong, 10 March 2004

Singapore Civil Service Warned It May Have to Shed Workers to Keep Costs Down

The Government is tightening its belt, and the Singapore Civil Service has been warned it may have to shed staff. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this in his reply to MPs at the end of the debate on the Budget Statement on Wednesday. There are now more teachers, but this is one increase Mr. Lee said was necessary. Across the board, however, the Civil Service had grown 17 percent since 1996, and Mr. Lee plans to put a stop to this.

Mr. Lee said: "Going forward, we will have to be more stringent on headcounts...government departments and statutory boards must restructure and sometimes shed staff. "One of the ideas we are thinking of is to impose a headcount tax. So if we think that's what you should have and you have more than that, I am going to levy a tax on you. If you do not want to pay, then you bring your headcount down." And while PAP MPs understand the need to keep the Government trim, Mr. Lee feels Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang does not. Mr. Low had questioned the need for the 2 percent cut to ministry budgets, opposed the use of means testing in general hospitals and did not support the rationale to charge university students more. Mr. Lee said: "These are easy, populist demands to make. But supposing we agree, who will pay? We are already drawing on the returns on our reserves up to the Constitutional limit. Is Mr. Low suggesting a further increase in GST? Or should we raise income taxes? Instead, the Government has opted for low taxes and low expenditure. And even though there was no cut to personal taxes this year, Mr. Lee said the target of 20 percent has "not been mothballed".

He said he was determined to make the necessary cuts as soon as they are feasible. As for corporate taxes, it is already down to 20 percent but even this is not a sacred cow. Mr. Lee said: "If it should become necessary to cut the corporate income taxes again, we will have to do so. If the Americans bring the rate down, if the Europeans bring the rate down, we have to do so. But remember, it will mean we have to make up the revenue in some other ways, some other tax will have to go up."

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, by S. Ramesh, 10 March 2004

Civil Servants Told To Adopt Strategies

Bandar Seri Begawan - Government workers must have strategies for themselves in order to achieve improvement and excellence by putting more effort and not just leaving it to fate. Doctor Haji Ismuhadi bin Haji Abdullah, invited lecturer from Islamic Dakwah Centre, stressed this at the Ma'al Hijrah 1425 ceremony which took place at the ministry's building in Berakas. He said government servants should look back on how Prophet Mohammad S.A.W was successful in migrating Muslims from Mecca to Medina and implied the migrating or "Hijrah" was well planned and, if followed, would definitely give a fruitful return in their career. Present at the ceremony were Dato Paduka Awang Haji Idris bin Haji Belaman, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, and other senior officials and staff of the ministry. The function s also coincided with a 'Doa Selamat' or thanksgiving for the safe return of the staff of the ministry from Haj pilgrimage early this year. The Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) organized the said function. - Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, 12 March 2004

'Mystery Callers' Keep Civil Servants on their Toes

The audit, started last year, vets counter service and e-mail replies, and one such 'tester' is the DPM - The civil service has a 'mystery' tester who occasionally checks on the ease of its online services and he is Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. When he finds 'something not quite right', he tells the agencies so and hopes the public will do the same, he said in Parliament yesterday. He revealed this 'mystery role' during the debate on the Budget for the Prime Minister's Office, which oversees the civil service. Replying to Dr Tan Boon Wan (Ang Mo Kio GRC) who asked about the state of public services, he said that since last year, the service has had in place a 'mystery customer audit' system. It vets a slew of service standards for, among others,telephone calls, counter service and e-mail replies. During the first mystery checks last December, 42 agencies were paired off, with officers from one agency posing as customers for the other.

In an e-mail reply to The Straits Times, a Public Service Division spokesman said: 'Agencies selected are those that have interactions with the public, and officers included in the audit are those providing counter services, handling phone calls and replying to mail and e-mail messages.' Results from the audit are being compiled. Human-resource consultants interviewed said the service audit is a good move. Kelly Services managing director Dhirendra Shantilal, who oversees the global recruitment firm's Asia operations, said the mystery audit would allow the service to change immediately 'rather than wait for a complaint from the public, which is more embarrassing'. Mr. David Leong, managing partner of recruitment firm ManpowerCorp International, added: 'Singaporeans are becoming more educated and particular about service standards, so the audit is the civil service's way of adapting to these higher expectations.' Dr Tan, in his question to DPM Lee, had noted that automated answering systems were sometimes user unfriendly.

New technologies will be explored, replied DPM Lee, citing recent research in the United States in which a computer system can now detect the tone of the caller's voice and transfer him to a human operator if it senses anger. 'So the problem now is people may pretend to get angry, just to get a real human being,' he quipped. Having a good Internet interface is also very important, he said, as many services and transactions are now offered and completed online. 'And (as) one of the mystery customer auditors on the Internet interface once in a while, when I have time, I visit it,' he said. 'From the point of view of the agency doing it, they know where they want to go, so they know to click down there, there and there, and after five clicks you arrive. 'But for the person going in from the start, it may not be so easy to navigate.' Still, he noted that public feedback showed that most people were happy with the quality of service in the public sector. Figures from the Service Improvement Unit's Political Supervisory Committee showed that for the financial year 2002, the ratio of compliments to complaints was 13 to 1. Said DPM Lee: 'This shows that quality of services is generally good, but I know that there's always room for improvement.'

From The Straits Times, Singapore, by Tee Hun Ching, 12 March 2004

Government May Have to Trim Civil Service

The Government is tightening its belt and the Civil Service may have to shed staff, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lee Hsien Loong in response to MPs' reactions to the Budget. There are more teachers now but this is one increase Mr. Lee said was necessary. Across the board, the Civil Service has grown 17 per cent since 1996 and Mr. Lee plans to put a stop to it. Mr. Lee said: "We will have to be more stringent on headcounts ... government departments and statutory boards must restructure and sometimes shed staff." The Government is thinking of imposing a headcount tax. "If you do not want to pay, then you bring your headcount down," Mr. Lee said.

From Today (Singapore), Singapore, 10 March 2004

Victoria Public Servants to Get 3pc Wage Rise

Victoria's public servants will get a 3 per cent pay rise each year for the next three years as part of a new enterprise bargaining agreement. It is the first pay increase the state's public servants have had since July 2002. Under the agreement, public servants have agreed to recognise ordinary working hours as being between 7:00am and 7:00pm to reduce overtime payments. The state's 25,000 public servants will get a 3 per cent pay rise per year for the next three years, and a further 1.5 per cent in 2007. The Government has agreed to 14 weeks paid maternity leave.

Karen Batt, from the CPSU, says the union will recommend an end to industrial action. "As a result of reaching the heads of agreement with the Government, we will be recommending to our members [that they] consider the lifting of the industrial action," she said. The state's Industrial Relations Minister, Rob Hulls, says the agreement should serve as an example to teachers and nurses, who are seeking pay increases of up to 30 per cent over three years. "This is in line with Government's wages policy and I think it also sends a pretty clear message to teachers, and also to nurses, that our wages policy is flexible enough to ensure that there can be appropriate benefits to employees," he said.

From ABC Online, Australia, 8 March 2004

China Public Servants Ordered to Trim Fat

Beijing - China's communists began as a guerrilla movement in a cave, promising to wrest the country from corruption's clutches and deliver it to the peasants and the workers. But over the decades, by the party's own admission, the road to utopia became a little too carpeted. Official cars and drivers were depleting local budgets. "Long-winded" meetings, often over lunch and liquor, were undercutting productivity. In 2002, according to state media, the government spent $12 billion in public funds on banquets. This week, as a new generation of Chinese leaders caps its first year by coining a new slogan of "putting people first," the push to trim fat and eradicate official waste is becoming ever more urgent - because of both money and simple public relations. "We must persist in doing down-to-earth work, seek practical results, conserve manpower and refrain from `vanity projects' that waste both money and manpower," Premier Wen Jiabao said last week in his state-of-the-nation speech to the National People's Congress, the figurehead parliament. In recent months, the government has told state media to reduce coverage of official ceremonies.

Leaders have been ordered to cut foreign travel and, when they had to go abroad, eliminate the nationally televised handshake-fests that accompanied their departure. Foreign dignitaries have lost the motorcycle escorts that guided them through Beijing traffic. Still, for the communist leadership, heirs of an insurgency directed by Mao Zedong from the catacombs of northern China in the 1940s, the challenge is daunting. Decades of harsh top-down governance left public servants afraid to put results over process. As the bureaucracy bloated, paper-pushing - duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate - became a haven for those trying to do their jobs without taking any risks. At the same time, "cadres" - the Communist Party's foot soldiers - grew accustomed to the perks that accompanied even meager power, and the Chinese culture of eating and drinking offered a convenient outlet for excess. The new leadership, under President Hu Jintao, is desperate to change such perceptions as it struggles to convince the people it is worthy of their trust.

Even as the government pushes the boom economy for the country, it is preaching the ethics of self-denial within its own ranks. "Pleasure leads to demise," the government's official Xinhua News Agency warned in one recent commentary. In another, it emphasized the necessity "to firmly investigate and deal with leading cadres who are deeply interested in ostentatiousness." Since former Premier Zhu Rongji upbraided wastrels in the civil-service ranks - "This must stop," he said at the 2002 congress - a plethora of proclamations have targeted public officials from the loftiest leaders to the lowest-paid parking attendants. Now, anyone with government plates who uses a siren to bypass clogged roads faces punishment, and civil servants outside law enforcement have been barred from sporting "police-style outfits" at work.

A circular from both the central government and the Communist Party last year recommended videoconferencing to "reduce the number of face-to-face meetings." Municipal governments swung into action, limiting meetings to 90 austere minutes - or so they said. "Cadres have to attend all large, medium-sized and small meetings. Everyone says something and wastes their breath," said Zhou Yongkang, then a top official in the southwestern province of Sichuan. His efforts were rewarded; he's now the country's public security minister. Even the congress itself - an annual junket that lavishes attention and comfort upon far-flung delegates - is feeling the pinch: This year's session, delegates say, is being held to 10 days because of belt-tightening efforts. For the more than 5,000 delegates to the congress and its companion advisory body, that means less pampering with limousines and hotels, fewer banquets and shorter bursts of VIP treatment in the carpeted halls of communist power.

No one's complaining publicly, and some delegates are praising the efforts to make sure officials live like the people they rule. "Everybody should be equal, so I'm glad to see government made simpler," said delegate Fan Mingwu, 60, an Oxford-trained physics professor. He runs the particle accelerator at Huadong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, in central China. While most acknowledge that waste remains widespread, for the first time in years leaders are back to trumpeting the notion that their legitimacy is based on earning public trust and acting like the country's stewards rather than its overlords. "The accumulated problems of the government itself have become serious," said Wu Aiming, a public administration professor at People's University in Beijing, reflecting the official line. "The government has no alternative but to undertake reforms."

From Kansas City Star, MO, by Ted Anthony, 12 March 2004

Pay Deal for Public Servants

Victoria's 25,000 public servants will get a three-per-cent pay rise from this month and a further three per cent in October under a new wages deal announced today. The in-principle agreement, announced by the Victorian Government and the public sector union, is worth 13.5 per cent over four-and-a-half years. The deal was announced in a joint communique from the State Government and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). Both sides maintained it was within the Government's wages policy, which states that public sector pay rises will be limited to three per cent a year.

However, Industrial Relations Minister Rob Hulls said the Government had acknowledged that public servants had not received a pay rise since July 2002. "We believe that it is appropriate that public servants receive their first pay increase virtually immediately, and each financial year there will be a further three per cent pay increase," he said. The deal also provides for an increase in paid maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks, pro-rata long service leave after seven years, and better management of accumulated recreation leave. It will end months of industrial action by public sector employees which has disrupted courts, prisons and other government agencies. It will also set a precedent for the state's nurses and teachers, who are pursuing their own wage claims with the Government. CPSU Victorian secretary Karen Batt is due to comment on the agreement later today.

From The Australian, Australia, 8 March 2004

Exam in 2004 Sets Standard for Civil Servant Neutrality

Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen said yesterday that the 2004 presidential election has set a standard for administrative neutrality for civil servants. During the previous Kuomintang administration, Yao claimed that government agencies often used public resources to campaign for party candidates and that individual civil servants also frequently canvassed votes for KMT candidates during office hours. Since the Democratic Progressive Party won the presidency in 2000 in Taiwan's first-ever transition of power between different political parties, Yao said, the DPP administration has spared no efforts to push for administrative reform, with priority being given to administrative neutrality.

Throughout the presidential campaign over the past year, Yao said, the government has not used national resources to finance the DPP presidential ticket's campaign programs. Moreover, he said, all civil servants have refrained from campaigning for party candidates during office hours. "This marks an encouraging progress in administrative reform," Yao said, adding that the Examination Yuan, which is responsible for the nation's civil service system, will continue to push for administrative neutrality and other reforms to upgrade administrative efficiency. The Examination Yuan oversees civil servants' examination; qualification screening, security of tenure, pecuniary aid in case of death, retirement and other relevant affairs.

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan, 20 March 2004

Civil Servants Urged to Give Full Support to PM

Kuala Lumpur - The almost one million civil servants were today called to give their full cooperation and undivided support to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to realise his Barisan Nasional manifesto 'Towards a Malaysia of excellence, glory and distinction." Adviser to Cuepacs Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said: "There is a need for a mindset among civil servants to work hard, increase productivity, attain new skills and knowledge and keep abreast with global changes." He said civil servants played a vital role in helping the government among many others to implement economic growth strategies to achieve vision 2020 and enhance national competitiveness and foster a business-friendly environment.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Annie Freeda Cruez, 22 March 2004

Civil Services (Main) Examination, 2003 - Written Results

The Union Public Service Commission have announced the results of the Civil Services (Main) Written Examination, 2003. The Roll Numbers of 1179 candidates, who have qualified for interview on the basis of the written results for appointment to Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service and other Central services Group 'A" & 'B' have been declared. The Commission have decided to commence the Personality Tests of qualified candidates from 5th April, 2004. The date and time of Personality Tests will be intimated to the qualified candidates individually. No change in the date and time intimated to the candidates will be allowed.

In case the short-listed candidates do not receive the summon letters for Personality Test by the last Week of March, 2004 they may contact the Commission immediately. The candidature of all these candidates is provisional subject to their being found eligible in all respects. The candidates would be required to produce the original certificates in support of their claims relating to age, educational qualifications, caste etc. at the time of the Personality Test. They are, therefore, advised to keep the said certificates ready. The candidates are also advised to intimate change in their address, if any, to the Commission immediately on Phone no. 011-23381056 and FAX Nos. (011) 2338 5345 or (011) 2338 7310 to facilitate prompt delivery of summon letters to them. The Personality Tests would be held in the office of the UPSC, Dholpur House, Shahjahan Road, New Delhi.

From Press Information Bureau (press release), India, 15 March 2004

Mature-age Plan for Public Servants

Federal public servants will be encouraged to stay on after 55 under a plan released today. The plan followed Treasurer Peter Costello's announcement of a policy to boost the number of mature-age workers and reduce the long-term drain on the federal budget. Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson said her department (FACS) would pioneer a plan to remove barriers to mature-age public servants. FACS is unique in that almost 38 per cent of its 1,800 staff are more than 45 and a fifth are aged more than 50, making its workforce comparatively older than the overall labour market. "This strategy has been developed after surveying more than 100 mature-aged workers in the department to determine their retirement intentions and identify barriers to their continuing work beyond the age at which they would normally retire," Senator Patterson said in a statement. "Not only is it a priority for FACS to retain its mature workers - it is committed to recruiting older workers."

More than 10 per cent of the department's recent intake from its recruitment program were over 40. The department will work to break down cultural barriers, so-called ageism, in the workplace and offer mature-age staff part-time work, movement to other sections and personalised leave entitlements. It will also explore ways of allowing staff to access their superannuation while working, a policy being encouraged by the Treasurer. Labor has described the coalition's strategy as "work till you drop" and released its own package of reforms to pensions and superannuation. Senator Patterson also this week launched a new guide, available through Centrelink, to encourage people aged more than 50 who want to get back into the workforce or use their skills to help the community. She said the prime minister's Community-Business Partnership Committee was also investigating how to remove barriers for mature workers and increase their participation.

From The Age, Australia, 17 March 2004

DOTC-ARMM Employees Urged to File Case vs Civil Service Commission Ruling

Cotabato City - The Director of the Department of Transportation and Communications in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DOTC-ARMM) has urged grumbling employees to file appropriate charges in court if they feel the recent ruling of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) does not conform to the laws. DOTC-ARMM Director Abdul Nasser Mohammad Issa who was appointed only last January this year said the CSC resolution "was binding, thus should be followed by everyone in the department." The resolution issued on March 8 this year stated that the only appointing authority "acceptable by law" is DOTC-ARMM Regional Secretary Camid Gandambra. Gandambra's authority was "even more strengthened" after the Regional Legislative Assembly, ARMM's highest legislative body, confirmed his appointment as DOTC-ARMM secretary, said Issa. This as DOTC-ARMM employees who complained of not receiving their salaries since October 28, 2002 submitted letter of complaint to RLA's Blue Ribbon Committee and appealed the issue be investigated.

The 27 employees were all appointees of Director Pama Potre Dimapanat - who claims to be the rightful head of DOTC-ARMM. The complainants, led by a certain Captain Dialoson Amil, officer-in-charge of Marine Transportation Industry (MARINA), told RLA that the fund amounting to about P5 million allotted for payments of their salaries was used for other purpose. Other than salaries, the employees were not given benefits due them. Their Government Service Insurance System premiums were not also paid. Issa said the reason for not giving these employees their pay and benefits "is because they do not report for duty." "So, how can they be paid?" he asked. The office of DOTC-ARMM is located inside the compound of the Office of the Regional Governor (ORG) along Governor Gutierrez Avenue, this city. The employees, however, report for work in another building along Sinsuat Avenue, a few kilometers away from the ORG compound. It is also where Dimapanat has been holding office since 2002. "If they don't follow rules, let them file their complaints in court and let the court decide on it," Issa said.

From Minda News, Philippines, by Malu Manar, 24 March 2004

 

Short Attack on Top Civil Servant

Former International Development Secretary Clare Short launched a blistering attack on Britain's top civil servant after he ordered her to end her claims over UN bugging. Ms Short said Andrew Turnbull had allowed Britain to "rush to war" in Iraq without the proper preparations. She said the Secretary of the Cabinet and head of the Home Civil Service had neglected his duty to ensure key meetings took place. And she blamed him for allowing Alastair Campbell to chair the Joint Intelligence Committee. Mr. Turnbull had allowed the Government's decision-making system to "crumble". Her attack came after Mr. Turnbull ordered her not to re-open the row over her UN bugging claims.

She told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme: "He allowed us to rush to war in Iraq without defence and overseas policy meeting, looking at all the military options and the diplomatic options and political options. (He) allowed the Joint Intelligence Committee to meet with Alastair Campbell chairing it. He has allowed our decision making system to crumble." She revealed a letter from Mr Turnbull sent to her on Friday telling her not to do any further interviews on the subject. He said he reserved the right of the Crown to take "any further action as necessary". He said he was "extremely disappointed" that she saw fit to make claims which damaged the country's interests. She defended her decision to defy his demand saying: "So much smearing is going on I just want to give my account of events."

From ic Wales, UK, 29 February 2004

Top Salaries for Civil Servants in Blair's Public Sector Jobs Bonanza

In a submission yesterday ahead of this month's Budget, the Institute of Directors forecast that by 2006 the Labour Government will have created an additional 650,000 public sector jobs. If current growth rates are maintained, by the end of the decade public sector employment, excluding nationalised industries, will be back above the level of 1979 when Margaret Thatcher came to power committed to cutting down the size of the state. What are all these new jobs? Are they needed and what are the costs involved? Philip Johnston reports - Every week, The Guardian publishes a public sector jobs supplement that sometimes runs to 100 pages or more. It advertises a bewildering array of posts that, until a few years ago, few people realised were needed. The Adam Smith Institute, a Right-of-centre think tank, monitored the supplement for a month and found that 2,315 jobs were advertised offering a combined salary of £63.7 million, equivalent to an average of £27,522 per job. This figure was 10 per cent higher than the average salary for jobs across the whole economy.

The boom in public sector employment has been one of the most startling social changes of recent years and the salaries have grown along with the jobs. Where, once, work in the public sector was less well paid than in the private sector, this was offset by the greater job security and the enhanced pensions. But senior public servants now earn salaries that would not look out of place in the corporate world. Sir Andrew Turnbull, the head of the Civil Service, who has been drawn into the public eye by the row over Clare Short's disclosures of Government bugging, earns £210,000 a year - considerably more than the £175,000 Tony Blair takes in salary. Local authorities and other non-Whitehall public bodies commonly advertise management posts commanding salaries of more than £50,000, or even £100,000. The new head of the Audit Commission - the body that monitors the value-for-money performance of the public sector - was recruited last year for a £200,000 salary.

Among the current vacancies on the official local government recruitment website are: a head of methodology for the Commission for Social Care Inspection for £85,000; the London borough of Islington wants an Assistant Director (Customer Focus) for between £61,000 and £72,000; a chief executive is being sought for the Walsall Regeneration Company on a £137,000 package; Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS trust will pay £120,000 for a new chief executive; Wokingham district council wants an Assistant Chief Executive (Learning and Care) for up to £105,000; Southwark council is after a Street Scene and Transport Infrastructure Services Manager at up to £56,000 a year; Bedfordshire county council will part with £150,000 for a new chief executive; and social care regional directors in the South-West can pick up £85,000. In addition to attractive salaries, the pension and security advantages of working in the public sector, by and large, remain. When did we last hear of a permanent secretary in Whitehall being sacked for failing to deliver better services?

How many senior public sector managers have lost their jobs because a computer system they ordered failed to work or their council was judged to be performing woefully? There remain, of course, many poorly-paid administrative jobs in the public sector and front-line workers such as teachers and nurses may wonder why they have not shared in some of the taxpayers' largesse, although good salaries are available for top jobs. Head teachers of an infant and nursery school are being sought in London for up to £55,000; a senior school head can command up to £80,000. When Labour took office in 1997, it inherited a public sector workforce of 4.9 million. By June 2002, the last date for which figures are available, the total was 5.3 million. In a report last September, the Office for National Statistics called this increase "a clear break from previous trends when jobs in this sector had fallen for over 15 years in a row... This increase in employment is in line with the faster rate of growth in public spending." The highpoint of public sector employment was in the Seventies, when the level rose to 7.4 million.

Under the Thatcher government's privatisation drive, many formerly public jobs were transferred into the private sector and the numbers on the state payroll fell to below 5 million when the Tories left office. The fastest growth has been in health and education, reflecting the Government's priority spending areas. Employment in National Health Service trusts has gone up by 200,000 and in local government by 150,000. Together, health and education now make up half of total public sector employment compared with two fifths 20 years ago. But while taxpayers may want their money spent on these services, questions are raised about the use that is made of the extra funds. There are now more administrators in the NHS than hospital beds. More than 60 per cent of NHS employees are bureaucrats, only seven per cent are doctors and under one third are nurses. The system is run by 750 boards, committees, councils and other quangos. Although jobs have grown throughout the economy, the rate of increase has been much faster in the public sector.

In 2002, the public sector matched job creation in business one for one; but as the public sector makes up just 20 per cent of total jobs, the growth was far greater. Furthermore, private sector job creation was faster in the final five years of the last Tory government than it was in the first five years of Labour's. After the recession of the early Nineties, private jobs grew by more more than 2 million. Growth continued under Labour, but at a slower pace with 800,000 new jobs between 1997 and 2002. By contrast, during the last five years of John Major's administration, the public sector saw a loss of 800,000 jobs; Mr. Blair's Government created almost 400,000 in its first five years. The central Civil Service has shared in this bonanza. The last figures published in the autumn showed that numbers have risen by more than 11 per cent, to 542,770, from a low point in 1998. The biggest Whitehall employers are the Department for Work and Pensions, with 137,680 staff, the Ministry of Defence and its agencies, with 93,450 and the Inland Revenue with 82,840.

The Government would argue that the growth in the public sector at a time when the private sector has created relatively fewer jobs has helped to keep down unemployment. But business groups fear that the extra taxes that are needed to bolster the public sector is a brake on general economic performance. Graeme Leach, the Institute of Directors' chief economist, said: "Many of these new jobs are essential but a large number are not necessary or are simply not producing what we want to see." Jonathan Woolham, who carried out last year's monitoring exercise for the Adam Smith Institute, said trawling through The Guardian's public sector jobs pages was "like entering another country".

He added: "One leaves behind the wealth-creating process which sustains our present and future livelihood and enters instead a world of public sector services some of which seem to be of dubious, if any, economic value. "Money collected in taxation is used to employ people to do things which are considered important, not by citizens themselves, but by various layers of government and officialdom." The Conservatives claim that much of the extra spending on public services has not gone into the front line but into bureaucracy and have pledged to freeze Civil Service recruitment. The Government has taken some of the criticism on board. Peter Gershon, the head of the Office of Government Commerce at the Treasury, is heading a review of administration costs to release more funds for front line services. A separate team under Sir Michael Lyons, which has been examining overall numbers and the potential for transferring civil service posts outside London, is due to report at the end of this month.

From Telegraph.co.uk, UK, by Philip Johnston, 1 March 2004

Government Urged to Cut Public Servant Numbers

The employers organisation, IBEC, is urging the Government to seek savings of over €850m by cutting the number of public service workers. IBEC says there should be a reduction of 15,000 public sector staff over three years, three times the target set by the Government. It says of the 26,000 new jobs created in the nine months up to September of last year, 20,000 were in the public sector.

From RTE Interactive, Ireland, 2 March 2004

Impartial Civil Service Law 'Essential' Ministers Told

A former head of the home civil service urged the Government today quickly to fulfill its promise to introduce legislation to underpin the impartiality of the service and limit the role of political advisers. Lord Wilson of Dinton, Cabinet Secretary from 1998-2002, told peers: "If leaders promise action and do nothing, people draw their own conclusions. "The question why the Government has still not produced a Civil Service Bill is becoming deafeningly loud. I hope the minister will tell us the date the Government will bring forward a Bill." The crossbench peer was speaking during the second reading debate on the backbench Executive Powers and Civil Service Bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat QC Lord Lester of Herne Hill.

The Bill was due to receive an unopposed second reading, as is customary in the Lords, but is unlikely to become law. Ministers will argue that the Bill is premature, while the Government prepares its own draft legislation. Lord Wilson said: "I see a Civil Service Bill on the lines before us today or of the kind proposed by the (Commons) Public Administration Committee not as a means of protecting vested interests or stalling reform, but as an essential component of any continuing reform programme." While the UK civil service was "the finest in the world" there was a "wide perception that the civil service has become politicised". "Whether one believes it or not, it is a perception which has now to be addressed," he argued. "At a time of rapid change, Parliament and the public are entitled to be reassured that those characteristics of the service which should remain unchanged do indeed remain unchanged. "The legislation required to do this is not earth-shaking. It is not really very difficult."

From The Scotsman, UK, by Andrew Evans, 5 March 2004

Civil Servant Jobs 'Will Be Moved'

The Government's commitment to decentralisation remains absolute, the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis heard. Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy told delegates nothing would deflect the administration from relocating over 100,000 civil and public servants to over 50 locations around the country. "Nobody should be in any doubt about the government's resolve to implement this decentralisation programme in full," he said. "Contrary to some media and opposition suggestions, this programme will proceed, there will be no rolling back of the plan. "Fianna Fáil is the party of decentralisation, our record demonstrates that, we have delivered and we will deliver this programme." Social Welfare: Up to €1m is to be provided to family and community groups this year to mark the 10th anniversary of United Nations Year of the Family, the conference heard.

Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Coughlan said she would be inviting groups to apply for individual awards of up to €2,000. "Families still remain the basic units in our society forming a crucial social safety net for improving the well-being of individual family members and promoting social cohesion more widely," she said. Ms. Coughlan said community groups, support groups, a street full of families, a parish council or any such group could apply for grants to assist them in celebrating the family in their area. "More substantial awards will also be available to larger regional or national groups for once-off events or projects focussing on families and family life in today's Ireland," she said. "Preference will be given to support projects of lasting value." Ms. Coughlan said each application would be judged on its own merits. "I say to families, it's your day, celebrate your family."

Transport: A €600m upgrade to the M50 which rings Dublin has been approved by the Government, Transport Minister Seamus Brennan told delegates. Mr. Brennan said the project would help solve congestion at Ireland's busiest road junction, the Red Cow Roundabout and add an extra lane to the motorway. He said work on the first phase of the scheme to improve the roundabout would begin by the end of the year and be complete by 2006. "It will end the nightmare that has been the Red Cow Roundabout," he said. "It will allow for free-flowing traffic and will dramatically reduce the numbers of cars crossing near the Luas." Mr. Brennan said completing the M50 was an urgent priority. "There have been obstacles put in our way and as a result 80,000 cars a day are caught in congestion," he said. "I am confident that we have now overcome almost all the obstacles. We will complete the motorway."

Defence: Almost 10% of Ireland's total defence force is currently on peacekeeping duty in trouble spots across the world, the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis heard. Defence Minister Michael Smith said the 800 Irish men and women working abroad marked one of the biggest proportionate commitments of any nation to UN peacekeeping. However, Mr. Smith said there remained a greater need for the international community to anticipate conflict and humanitarian crises before they take on monumental dimensions. "I intend to use the current Presidency of the EU to explore how a more refined early warning and rapid response capability can be put in place by the EU in support of the UN," he said. "It's no longer good enough for us to be going in after crises have erupted."

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 8 March 2004

Suspensions Intensify Civil Service Pay Dispute

A pay dispute which has plunged Northern Ireland's civil service into disarray intensified tonight after Jobcentre staff were suspended without pay. Workers at a benefits office in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, involved in the strike action were sent home for allegedly refusing to answer telephones. With social security and tribunal offices due to shut down tomorrow, the suspensions threatened new talks to end an increasingly bitter stand-off involving up to 20,000 civil servants. John Corey, general secretary of public service union NIPSA, which has been driving the wage demands, hit out at Department of Employment and Learning chiefs for punishing staff. He said: "It is disgraceful that the government department responsible for industrial relations in Northern Ireland are now suspending staff for taking legitimate industrial action to secure a fair pay increase. "Their action is also hypocritical. It is now government departments that will be denying the public the facility to apply for benefits."

NIPSA has already called out thousands of workers across Northern Ireland on two days of mass strike action since the row flared last year. Individual demonstrations have continued at vehicle licensing centres, social security branches and other offices in a bid to ratchet up pressure on the Government. It is understood the six members of staff in Newtownabbey were warned over allegedly refusing to answer telephones. With management claiming the service provided to the public had been hit, they took action today. A DEL spokesman confirmed: "We have temporarily suspended without pay six of our staff based at the Newtownabbey jobs and benefits office. "The suspension follow further industrial action by the staff concerned, leading to a disruption of business which was considered to be a breach of their terms of employment."

He also warned that department chiefs were considering taking other steps to minimise the impact if any further illegal strike action occurs. Among the measures open to management are possible withdrawals of flexi-hours and refusing annual leave. The suspensions came ahead of industrial action tomorrow that is expected to force the closure of social security offices in Lurgan, Co Armagh, and Newry, Co Down. The office of Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunals in Belfast are also due to shut down temporarily. With vehicle licensing branches in Londonderry and Enniskillen already closed, along with a pensions centre in Derry, both sides have resumed negotiations to end the row. Although he pledged to enter talks in good faith, Mr. Corey saw little hope of an early breakthrough. He added: "This dispute cannot be resolved without addressing the issue of a fair cost of living increase for members from April 2003. "So far we have seen no evidence that the minister and the management side are prepared to accept that critical point in this dispute and therefore all industrial action will continue."

From The Scotsman, UK, by Alan Erwin, 8 March 2004

Brown Targets 20,000 Civil Servants for Relocation

At least 20,000 civil servants could be moved from London and the crowded south-east to other parts of Britain as part of Gordon Brown's drive to make more efficient use of taxpayers money, ministers will be told next week. The Lyons report on the decentralisation of Whitehall will be published on the eve of the chancellor's budget next Wednesday to boost Mr. Brown's credentials for prudence. It comes at a time when public sector debt is ballooning and he faces new anti-waste campaigns by both the Tories and Liberal Democrats. The report by Sir Michael Lyons, the Birmingham academic, businessman and ex-city councillor, follows leaks of a wider survey by Sir Peter Gershon, head of the government's efficiency review, which suggested that between £10bn and £15bn a year could be saved through the redeployment of 80,000 civil servants - one in five - and their traditional functions.

The Lyons report is a parallel but separate exercise, initiated by Mr. Brown as part of his quest to improve efficiency and cut costs in a civil service which is constantly being urged by both him and Tony Blair to adapt to the consumer-orientated expectations of voters in the 21st century. There have been reports of semi-public rows as Sir Michael, who lists "street trader" among his past occupations, told Whitehall permanent secretaries to try harder. A target figure of 20,000 was given to the Lyons team. But there were hints last night that Sir Michael, who has already rejected as too timid suggestions made by Whitehall departments themselves, may double the target of 20,000-plus civil servants to be eventually moved away from the high-price south-east to areas where the jobs are needed and costs are lower. But talk of 60,000 jobs being moved was being privately discounted. "We cannot comment until it is published and it's not published until Monday," a Treasury spokesman said.

What is not in doubt is that Mr. Brown is keen to burnish his credentials as a famously prudent chancellor. Though he has repeatedly wrong-footed critics as the economy grew without a recession during his seven-year stewardship, high spending on the NHS and other public services are alarming the City. The budget red book is likely to show that the outturn for borrowing in 2003-4 will be £35-40bn and the projected outturn for 2004-5 will be closer to £30bn than the £10bn being predicted just a year ago. As well as rising spending, falling tax receipts have proved a worse-than-expected problem. The shadow chancellor, Oliver Letwin, has announced plans to cut £35bn over a parliament, much of it by eliminating waste. Labour is already targeting "Tory cuts" on key public services - including £1bn from the police, Mr. Blair warned yesterday, and even more from defence. The Liberal Democrats, much mocked by ministers for their reckless tax-and-spend pledges, also believe they can reduce Whitehall ministries and even disperse most Treasury staff to Liverpool.

From Guardian, UK, by Michael White and Larry Elliott, 10 March 2004

Fradkov Promises to Cut Civil Servants, Make Others Work Better

Moscow - Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has promised to cut the number of civil servants and to make those who retain their jobs work better. As he opened the first meeting of the joint commission for the system and structure of federal bodies of executive power on Friday, Fradkov said the army of civil servants must be slashed. "There must be fewer civil servants and they must work better," Fradkov said. It must be ensured that functions declared redundant at the federal level should not be handed over to the local levels. "The main task of the administrative reform is the implementation of decisions contained in the presidential decree of March 9. We have two months at our disposal to finalize the statutes of government ministries. This requires fundamental redistribution of functions."

Proposals must be formulated clearly, so that government ministers can properly arrange their work on legal and regulatory acts regarding the functions of federal ministries and the federal services and agencies subordinate to them, Fradkov said. The decision to establish a joint commission for administrative reform under Deputy Prime Minster Alexander Zhukov was made at a meeting of the Russian Cabinet on Thursday. The commission comprises representatives from government ministries and the presidential and government staff. Speaking earlier today Alexander Zhukov said the commission would be meeting in session once or twice over a week. "The government ministries and agencies will have two weeks to present their proposals as to the strength of their staff and the size of the wage fund." After two days of work the commission will present its results to the Cabinet, Zhukov said.

From ITAR-TASS, Russia, 12 March 2004

Civil Service: Cabinet Approves New Management Regulations

Rome - The Cabinet has approved regulations concerning civil service managers as a result of recent service amendments. Management roles will differ according to function and department. In principle regulations will apply to civil servants in their current functions. Managers without office are to be reassigned to their administrative department of origin. Managers on short transfer will be reassigned to their administration of provenance without this leading to a change in role or function. New assignments are to be granted within number limits. Excess numbers will be allowed for as part of the transition process from prior to updated management regulations. Further assignments in the presence of excess numbers will be made available pending requirements.

From AGI, 4 March 2004

Brown to Move 60,000 Civil Servants

Plans to shift up to 60,000 civil servants out of London are to be unveiled today in the latest bid to ease the strain on Government spending. The move, which could save as much as £2bn over the years but which could be unpopular among many of those involved, is a critical component of Gordon Brown's Budget on Wednesday. But the Chancellor was under renewed fire today amid charges that this week's package hides a tax timebomb - with hefty rises to come after the General Election expected next year. Suspicions were fuelled after Labour's chairman, Ian McCartney, refused to rule out tax increases if Labour gains a new term of power. And former Treasury minister Geoffrey Robinson said it was simply not 'real world' for a party to go into an election campaign admitting taxes would climb if it won. The big migration from Whitehall is spelled out in a Government commissioned report from Sir Michael Lyons.

He calls for 20,000 jobs to be shifted out of London and the South East over the next five years, rising to 60,000 over the next decade and a half at a saving of £2bn. The sting in the tail is that, for the first time, there could be real pressure for the change to extend further up the senior Whitehall ranks. The backers of the plan, including the Chancellor, point out that with 240,000 posts based in London and the South East, there is plenty of room for savings and that new technology makes it easier for senior civil servants to move and still keep in close touch with the centre. Brown, with an election looming, was widely predicted to steer clear of obvious large-scale tax rises in the Budget. But he was under heavy pressure to find revenue wherever possible to close a gap in his finances claimed by the Tories and others to amount to some £10bn.

One planned money raiser was an unprecedented clampdown on tax avoidance, given added bite by plans to merge the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise into the most powerful tax-grabbing organisation Britain has ever experienced. The CBI and others were already warning the Chancellor against moves to change the rules retrospectively to catch thousands in the tax net for actions to protect benefits for their children or other legitimate arrangements suddenly thrust outside the law. Plans were also due to be confirmed today to raise the minimum wage by well above the inflation rate as well as bringing in a minimum wage for the first time for 16 and 17-year-olds in a move set to please Brown's Old Labour supporters. Meanwhile, there have been suggestions the Budget will see another increase in stamp duty, currently 3% on the sale of properties worth between £250,000 and £500,000, and 4% on properties above that level. Putting an extra 1% on the top rate would raise £400m for the Treasury.

From This is London, UK, by Charles Reiss, 15 March 2004

France Has 8 Public Servant Per 100 Citizens, Turkey Has 3

In Turkey, there were three public servants for every 100 people at the end of 2003. The average of the countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) has double the rate of Turkey. Though critics say that the Turkish government has too many employees, the government employs only 14 percent of the general working population, relatively low compared to the rate in other countries. According to the data taken at the end of 2003, there are 2,175, 996 people employed by the government a rate of three government employees for 100 citizens. In Italy, the rate is four per every 100, five per 100 in Germany, seven in the U.S., eight in France, and 10 in Finland. The rate of governmental employment to general employment is approximately 14 percent. That number is 15,6 percent in Germany and 25 percent in France. Turkish public sector Confederation General Director, Bircan Akyildiz, said yesterday the government has chosen to solve the economic problems by increasing the number it employs. Akildiz said: "Turkey has one of the lowest rates of public employment among the OECD countries. But, there are efforts underway to increase it and at the same time, to make it faster, and provide better service."

From Zaman, Turkey, 22 March 2004

Government Is Prepared to Sack Civil Servants

Ministers set on axeing 40,000 jobs - Anger among Whitehall's trade union leaders mounted last night when they faced separate warnings from Andrew Smith, the work and pensions secretary, and senior officials at the Cabinet Office that the government would sack civil servants if it could not get a deal to shed the 40,000 jobs announced in the budget. Gordon Brown, the chancellor, also promised to create a super job - at a salary of up to £300,000 a year - for a "captain of industry" to head the department created by the merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise. The new person would get performance-related pay dependent on delivering the 10,500 redundancies announced in the budget and reorganising the merged department. The Treasury is indicating it wants a high-profile business person rather than an existing permanent secretary to get the job, which suggests that it wants to introduce tougher private sector practices.

Requirements for the post include experience of leadership in a large organisation and proven ability to manage major change. However, Tony Blair and Mr. Brown yesterday defended the plans for job cuts alongside the promise of more investment in public services. Mr. Blair said it was important to have a "slimmed down centre of government". The chancellor insisted that while it was "regrettable" that such a large number of jobs had to go, new technology meant that many clerical posts were no longer needed. The number of redundancies is expected to more than double next month when Sir Peter Gershon, the outgoing head of the Office of Government Commerce, publishes his report on reorganising Whitehall. The Treasury has indicated that there could be more than his initial estimate of 80,000 job losses. Mr. Smith warned of compulsory redundancies in an interview with BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

He said he could not rule out compulsory redundancies. "One figure it is important to bear in mind in all of this, 9,000 of our staff leave every year anyway, changing to other jobs. I'm not saying that all of this reduction can be accomplished through that natural turnover, but a substantial part will be. "I haven't ruled out the possibility of some compulsory redundancies. Obviously, it is something we want to avoid if we can, and that is why we will be very closely consulting with our trade unions and our staff about how we carry this forward." In a meeting with union leaders, senior officials at the Cabinet Office were unable to say how the cuts would be implemented. Instead, they promised a further meeting with civil service minister Douglas Alexander.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said after the meeting: "We were told further details of the cuts won't emerge until July, leaving thousands of public servants in limbo, unable to make plans for the future, not knowing where the axe will fall. "These are not faceless bureaucrats whose lives can be kicked around in a game of political football. They are real people ensuring people get their benefits and back in to work, that people get their tax credits and tax evasion is stamped out, that we win the war against drugs and that people get first-class education." Paul Noon, general secretary of Prospect, said: "If a private sector employer behaved in this way and announced 40,000 job losses without consultation there would be uproar." The chancellor said that all government departments would have to cut budgets by at least 5% by 2008. At the Department of Work and Pensions, back-office functions would be streamlined, leading to the loss of 30,000 posts by 2008. Some 31% of posts at the headquarters of the Department for Education and Skills will go.

From Guardian, UK, by David Hencke, 19 March 2004

Budget 2004: Brown and Public Services

The chancellor has repeated his pledge to increase public spending. Total managed expenditure will increase from £459 billion this year to £579 billion by 2007-8, Gordon Brown told MPs on Wednesday. In his eighth Budget he reaffirmed a real terms increase in health spending of 7.2 per cent, along with an increase in medical research spending within the NHS to £1.2 billion a year by 2008. Defence, transport and Home Office budgets would also increase, he said. In education, primary school heads would directly receive £55,000 in 2005-6, the chancellor, confirmed, while those in secondary schools would receive £180,000. By 2008, the education settlement will increase by 4.4 per cent, he said, while capital investment in schools will increase from £6 billion in 2005 to £8.1 billion in 2008.

There would also be real terms increases in spending on higher education, as well as early years education and childcare, he said. Education secretary Charles Clarke is due to announce the creation of 1,700 new children's centres across the UK. Cuts - However, Brown also announced that cuts in staffing and administration costs would be made across the board, in reaction to publication of the Gershon review of government efficiency. Although all departments will see a five per cent reduction in their administration budgets, the chancellor was also specific about where jobs would go. The Department for Work and Pensions will see a five per cent cut in its budget by 2008, redeploying 10,000 staff and cutting 40,000 jobs by 2008. The Department for Education and Skills will also reduce staffing in its London headquarters by 31 per cent by 2008.

From ePolitix, UK, 17 March 2004

Civil Service Job Cuts Make HR Vital for Driving Change

The Government must invest in public sector HR if its proposed reforms and job cuts announced in the Budget are to succeed. This is the view of senior HR figures who are convinced that HR will have a crucial role in managing the 40,000 job losses announced by the chancellor last week. Gordon Brown wants to improve efficiency in the public sector and will axe thousands of civil service jobs as part of the streamlining exercise. These cuts, coupled with large scale relocation plans proposed by the Lyons Report will place huge importance on HR professionals in the Civil Service.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said civil service mandarins must now invest in HR to ensure the changes are managed effectively. "In his response to the Lyons and Gershon reviews, the chancellor talked about considerable investment in IT to allow objectives to be achieved. Investment in HR should also be prioritised if the objectives are to be delivered," he said. Philpott said the Government must now learn the lessons of similar experiences in the private sector and recognise that the 'people' element of any change is crucial. "When undergoing major change it's important to win hearts and minds to ensure the remaining workforce is motivated. In the public sector, where the pace of change is traditionally slower, this will need particular attention," he added.

The cuts will come primarily from the Department of Work and Pensions where around 30,000 staff will go and through a merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise, which will shed 10,000 workers. However, the Public and Commercial Services trade union (PCS) and the TUC both criticised the job cuts and the way they where announced to staff. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka believes the swinging cuts will also damage services. "For thousands of hard-working staff to hear that they are losing their jobs totally out of the blue, without consultation, is unacceptable," he said. The Budget also contained a range of employment changes including tax-free childcare vouchers, measures to drive up skills and more investment in education.

From PersonnelToday.com, UK, 22 March 2004

 

Public Sector Wages Still Sky High

Commissioner of Wages Publishes Second Civil Service Report. Despite recent improvements, taxpayer still footing bill for absurd wages. The Ministry of Finance's Commissioner of Wages, Yuval Rachlevsky, on Monday presented his second report on payroll spending in the Civil Service for 2002. The report contains data on payroll spending on 56,753 employees at ministries, government hospitals, the defence establishment and court system as well as 82,490 teaching employees in the civil service. he data indicates that the Ministry of Defence has 65 employees with a monthly pay packet exceeding that of a director general. Altogether 582 civil servants earn a salary higher than that of a ministry director general.

The pay packet for this list of employee's ranges from NIS 70,000 for a research assistant at the Ministry of Defence to NIS 29,600 for an office-holder at the Prime Minister's Office. The highest salary paid to any civil servant stands at NIS 58,000 a month, going to the director of the Tel-Hashomer Sheba Hospital. The Ministry of Justice tops the list with a salary of NIS 50,800 going to Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein in 2002. State Attorney Edna Arbel earned NIS 48,400 a month. At the treasury itself, Budgets Commissioner Uri Yogev, and Customs and VAT Commissioner Eitan Rov end of the list with salaries of more than NIS 30,500 per month. The figures moreover indicate that the average gross salary per month in government ministries and government hospitals stood at NIS 10,792 in 2002. The average gross monthly salary of pedagogic employees in the civil service stood at a mere NIS 7,277.

From Maariv International, Israel, 1 March 2004

Hundreds of Civil Servants Earn more than Ministry Bosses

More than 500 senior civil servants earned more than the director-general of a government ministry, according to the first official report on civil service and defense sector wages, published yesterday. The report, released by the Finance Ministry's wages director, Yuval Rachlevsky, said that 65 of the 582 top earners are employed at the Defense Ministry. Twenty-two of these workers made more than NIS 50,000 a month, Rachlevsky disclosed. The report also revealed the pay practices at government hospitals, which have long been suspected of extreme generosity. Up until now, the taxpayer's only source of concrete information about civil service and defense sector wages was the State Comptroller's Report, which periodically slammed government institutions for exorbitant spending. Previous treasury wage reports covered state-owned corporations, the local authorities and independent agencies such as the National Insurance Institute, but not the civil service or the defense sector.

The report covers 56,753 workers at government ministries and another 82,490 people employed in education. It reveals that 582 ministerial employees earned more than a ministry director-general, meaning more than NIS 33,000 gross a month. The highest-paid public-sector worker is the director of the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Mordechai Shani, who earned NIS 58,000 a month in 2002, or NIS 720,000 for the year. The director-general of the defense ministry, Amos Yaron, earned NIS 44,768, considerably more than his peers, while Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander's check stood at NIS 42,126 before taxes. Rachlevsky himself earned NIS 29,962 per month. Altogether there were 87 ministerial employees whose wages ranged from NIS 40,000 to NIS 50,000 a month in 2002. They were followed by 359 people who earned between NIS 20,000 and NIS 40,000 a month, Rachlevsky found.

A total of 2,503 people worked in the Defense Ministry in 2002, and 40 of them had personal contracts. Five of these were found to be earning more than NIS 50,000 a month. The highest paid employee was a research assistant costing about NIS 70,000 a month, or NIS 843,000 a year. The wage cost of 18 other top Defense Ministry employees ranged from NIS 40,000 to NIS 50,000 a month in 2002. The average wage cost at ministries and government hospitals was NIS 10,790 a month in 2002, Rachlevsky concluded. But the average wage cost in the defense sector that year was NIS 14,800 a month, the report said. On the other hand, teachers earned an average of only NIS 7,300 a month, the report noted. Other top wage earners included Antitrust Commissioner Dror Strum, who grossed NIS 30,300 a month in 2002; the treasury's budget director, Uri Yogev, who made NIS 30,500 a month; State Prosecutor Edna Arbel, who made NIS 48,800 a month; and former attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein, who received NIS 50,800 a month. The wages of the two top Justice Ministry officials are linked to those of Supreme Court justices.

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Moti Bassok and Amir Teig, 1 March 2004

World Bank Trains Iraqi Civil Servants Ahead of Development Schemes

Amman - Seventy-five Iraqi civil servants completed here a training course organised by the World Bank ahead of implementing emergency development schemes in the war-battered country, a bank official said Monday. For three weeks staff from a dozen Iraqi ministries were trained "on the implementation of projects, the international practices in procurement and in financial management related to projects," Faris Hadad-Zervos said AFP. "These staff will be implementing projects in rural infrastructure and emergency education rehabilitation and textbook provision in the next few months," said the World Bank's Iraq representative. "We hope to follow them up with a much wider scope of projects in the few months after that," he added from his base in Amman. On January 29 the World Bank announced plans to launch a programme for Iraq operated from Jordan for security reasons.

The plan allows the World Bank to manage, with the United Nations, the International Trust Fund in Iraq which is expected to receive contributions from donors who promised in October to give 33 billion dollars toward Iraq's reconstruction. Also in January, the World Bank gave the go-ahead to an initial interim multi-million operations programme for development, rehabilitation and infrastruture projects for Iraq. Staff from Iraq's interim planning, health, public works and other ministries took part in the course that was completed late last week - marking a milestone in resuming Iraq-World Bank ties which were severed 25 years ago. "Iraq is a founding member of the Bank and continues to be a member, but the last project we had was in 1973 and the last visit we had was in 1979," Hadad-Zervos said.

Relations picked up following the end of the US-led war in April. "Since then we have been having a lot of dialogue with the Iraqi counterparts but this is the first technical level training at such a wide scale that we have had in many years," he said. Hadad-Zevros said that additional courses were expected to start as early as next week somewhere in the region, adding that the World Bank's immediate concerns were three-fold. "We are tackling three things simultaneously: essential and necessary capacity building of Iraqis to allow them to take the lead in the projects; the emergency projects that we need to move very quickly in implementing (and) to start as soon as possible addressing the medium-term issues, putting the groundwork for policies," he said. (Iraq-WBank-Jordan).

From MENAFN, Middle East, 15 March 2004

 

Former Civil Servant Speaks

A former civil servant says he would have done things differently if he knew of financial irregularities with the federal sponsorship program. Ronald Quail says he wasn't aware of the scope of wrongdoing in the program when he was deputy minister of public works between 1993 and 2001.An auditor general's report showed upwards of 100 million dollars was spent by the program with little paperwork and almost no work being done. The retired minister told the sponsorship scandal Commons committee he was bypassed when it came to deciding who would receive money.

From 580 CFRA Radio, Canada, by Josh Pringle, 1 March 2004

Sponsorships Government Priority: Public Servant

Ottawa - The Chretien government took a hands-on approach to its controversial sponsorship program, a retired senior public servant told a Commons committee yesterday. During explosive testimony at public accounts committee, Ran Quail, former deputy minister of public works, said the cash that flowed for the controversial program, while other budgets were being cut severely, signalled its importance to the Liberal government. "It's not every day that you end up with a Treasury Board submission ... and you find rare hard dollars in order to support it, and it's signed by both the minister and PMO," Quail told MPs. "That's an important issue. I don't have to be hit in the head." 'Very tight' relationship - Quail said Alfonso Gagliano, who headed the Public Works Department from 1997 to 2002, had a "very tight" relationship with the former sponsorship program director general Chuck Guite. Gagliano bypassed Quail and other deputy ministers, opting instead to talk directly to Guite. Quail said Gagliano had a direct hand in deciding which sponsorship requests got federal funds.

"There would have been a great deal of discussion about the background, events that were going to be sponsored," he said. "The (public works) minister wanted to have these discussions, he wanted to be involved." Guite was promoted four times since 1993, even after a 1996 audit found he was breaking the rules by retaining the power to call for tenders and award contracts. Quail and former public works deputy minister Janice Cochrane told MPs in hindsight they see grave problems in the sponsorship program. Cochrane said she was "never able to receive a satisfactory answer" to why the program was being run outside the normal checks and balances. Conservative MP John Williams, who chairs the committee, said he's convinced Gagliano was responsible for promoting Guite and giving him free rein. "It seems to me that the minister was far more involved than he should have been in the daily administration of this program," Williams said. The committee has agreed to call Guite, and his successor, Pierre Tremblay, this month. Gagliano is scheduled to appear March 18 at the earliest.

From Winnipeg Sun, Canada, by Stephanie Rubec, 2 March 2004

Policy Changes Affect Civil Service Employees

Randolph AFB, Texas - The 2004 National Defense Authorization Act put in to motion changes to civilian pay, overtime and leave. The legislation also launched the National Security Personnel System, the biggest overhaul of the government's civilian personnel system in decades. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called the changes "transformational." President George Bush agreed. "This bill also advances the vital work of transforming the personnel system for civilian defense workers so we can put the right person in the right job to meet the challenges we face," Secretary Rumsfeld said. Changes include: - National Security Personnel System: The secretary of defense and the director of the Office of Personnel Management now have the authority to establish a new human resources management system. This includes a new labor relations system for Department of Defense employees.

The act also provides the secretary of defense with the authority to establish separation and retirement incentives and additional staffing flexibilities. For more information on NSPS, go to www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps/index.html. - Modification of the overtime hourly pay cap: The act modifies the hourly overtime pay cap for certain federal employees who are exempt from (not covered by) the overtime pay provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. For FLSA-exempt employees entitled to receive overtime pay, the hourly rate of overtime pay is either the greater of one and one-half times the minimum hourly rate of basic pay for GS-10 or the employee's own hourly rate of basic pay. These include any applicable special salary rate, locality rate of pay, or special pay adjustment for law enforcement officers. The OPM is amending its regulations to reflect this new provision in the near future.

The changes became effective Nov. 24. - Military leave for mobilized federal civilian employees: Employees who perform full-time military service, as a result of a call or order to active duty supporting a contingency operation, are now entitled to 22 days of military leave each calendar year. An employee is entitled to the greater of his or her civilian or military pay, not both; however, an employee may choose to take annual leave instead of military leave to retain both civilian and military pay. The amendment applies to military service performed on or after Nov. 24. - Senior Executive Service Pay: The act establishes a new performance-based pay system for members of the Senior Executive Service, ends locality-based comparability payments for senior executives, and changes the threshold for imposing post-employment restrictions on certain senior executives. A memorandum on the new SES pay system is available online at www.opm.gov/oca/compmemo/2003/2003-19. More information on entitlements is available at local base civilian personnel flights.

From The Beam, DC, 5 March 2004

NDP Wants to See Reasons for Civil Servants' Bonuses

NDP Justice Critic Kevin Deveaux says that the NDP intends to appeal the results of a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy request that reveals twenty civil servants were paid a total of $208,959.59 in performance bonuses last fiscal year. The Treasury and Policy Board has made the amount of the bonuses available to the NDP, but withheld information on both the amounts given to individuals and the criteria on which the performance pay was awarded. "The amount is interesting," says Deveaux, "But what would be even more interesting is the information that has been denied this office." "What were the performance criteria? What did these public servants have to do to earn this money?" Deveaux adds that the list of good performers itself is intriguing. For example he notes the inclusion of two senior officials in the Department of Community Services. "Does this mean that some Departments, like Community Services, are doing a better job in cutting costs?" asks Deveaux. The NDP Caucus Office, which filed the original request asking for information on bonuses and performance pay for senior officials, has two months to request a review of the information received.

From Halifax Live, Canada, 8 March 2004

HPD Set to Give Civil Service Exam

The Huntington Police Department is looking for men and women interested in a possible career in law enforcement to take an upcoming civil service exam. The Huntington Police Civil Service Commission set a date Friday for the next exam, which will be used to hire HPD officers in the future. The exam is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 4, at Huntington High School. Huntington City Council recently approved the hiring of four HPD officers to boost its staffing level to 88, including Chief Arthur E. "Gene" Baumgardner. The new officers should be hired in April, which will deplete the HPD's current list of candidates from a previous civil service exam, said Lt. Mike Davis. The Police Department had 103 budgeted positions in 2001.

After massive layoffs in 2002, staffing fell to 75 officers. Only 54 people took the previous exam, which was given during the uncertain budget times. The department is hoping to increase the number of people taking this year's exam. "Things are on the mend with the city, and I think people will look at it as a good place to work with a bright future," Davis said. Davis and other current officers will speak to neighborhood organizations and other groups to recruit candidates, he said. The HPD has no current openings, but it must maintain a list of candidates from the civil service exam to fill unexpected vacancies, such as retirements, Davis said. "We have several officers of retirement age that could go at anytime, so we always have to have a list on file," he said.

From Huntington Herald Dispatch, WV, by Rebeccah Cantley-Falk, 12 March 2004

Time to Overhaul Public Service

It's time to view the proposed cuts to county clinics, libraries, schools, city police and firefighters in a realistic way. These reductions in service are primarily due to public employee wage increases that have risen beyond inflation over the past five years. As our story last week by staff writer Troy Anderson revealed, some have risen by more than 37 percent. It's simple math. Salaries and benefits are the major expense in any organization. With politicians giving away the store to curry favor with public employee unions (read: big campaign donations) there is little wiggle room in shrinking budgets. In other words, there was a lot of spending during the fat years with little including foresight for the inevitable lean times. Those who benefited the most were public safety employees who, in a lucrative domino drive, cashed in on a precedent- setting promise to the California Highway Patrol and state correctional officers by then- Gov. Gray Davis.

Those overly generous contracts in turn spurred increases across the public sector. Who can blame them? We don't. But we do blame the local and state officials who rolled over to the demands. It's clear proof that politicians, as we've said many times before, see no farther than the next election. Worse, it validates the criticism that these powerful unions now constitute a shadow government calling the shots behind the scenes, even more so than the lobbyists who line the halls in the Capitol. So when the pols tell you they have no option but to fold social programs to the poor, cut medical care to the elderly and children, reduce hours of operation, close libraries and levy still more taxes call their bluff. Tell them to trim salaries and renegotiate those overly generous retirement packages. That, or reduce the work force. Despite their claim to do what's best for members, public employee unions would rather see layoffs than rollbacks.

Reductions in already negotiated wages and benefits weakens the union's power. Those sacrificed for the greater union good haven't weighed in on the subject. No one wants a cut in pay and that's why Gov. Schwarzenegger and local governing agencies focus on pensions. Some are eyeing a two-tiered wage structure, mirroring the grocery strike settlement. But this overspending through ever-increasing public compensation didn't just happen overnight, wasn't the result of the dot-com boom going bust. Economists have over the past three decades warned that public sector salaries were beginning to outstrip private. No one listened. The excuse for higher pay and better benefits has always been that to enhance the overall performance of public agencies, they had to compete with private industry to attract the very best employees.

Has it worked? DMV employees selling driver licenses to illegal immigrants; public health nurses and doctors who kill patients through neglect and substandard treatment; a penal system where the guards are forming their own gangs; public employees using computers to view pornography; those entrusted with the welfare of foster children spending work hours off the job and a civil service system that protects the grossly incompetent and rewards criminal behavior ... If this is the best, we don't want to know about the worst. What we do want is a complete overhaul from city hall to Sacramento. That means merit pay, where performance, not longevity is rewarded. Protection for whistle-blowers to facilitate removing those who game the system at all levels of government; either public employee unions or civil service protections, not both. Add to that a return to employee contributions to retirement plans and maybe, just maybe the result will be fewer service cuts backed by a more efficient system where we all benefit.

From Pasadena Star-News, CA, 21March 2004

:Longtime Public Servants to Be Honored

Members of the Anderson family have been part of the Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co. since it was founded in 1922, Cos Cob Chief Tom Anderson said. The 36-year-old electrical contractor has volunteered with the department since 1983, when his father, also Tom Anderson, served as chief. Anderson's grandfather, Nelson, served as chief during the 1940s, and was a charter member of the department. "It's become a family tradition," Anderson said. Chief Anderson is one of more than 100 Greenwich volunteer firefighters who will be honored today in Danbury, at a ceremony led by Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, with public service awards recognizing volunteer fire personnel in the 4th Congressional District with 20 or more years of service.

The ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Ives Concert Hall at Western Connecticut State University will recognize more than 800 firefighters from 11 towns, including Stamford, Norwalk, Fairfield, Monroe and Ridgefield. "It's nice for them to get the recognition because they aren't paid to do it, but it means a little bit more when it comes from the state of Connecticut," Anderson said. Bysiewicz said she started the Public Service Awards program in 2000 to laud state residents who served their communities for many years. Fire companies were canvassed and asked to list members with 20 or more years of services. Ceremonies will be held for volunteer firefighters in the state's other five congressional districts, she said.

"It comes from the fact that a lot of people who have helped to make their communities better have never formally been thanked and were very grateful for a formal thank you," she said. In addition to the Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co., members of the Glenville Volunteer Fire Co. and the Volunteer Hose & Chemical Co. in central Greenwich will be honored. James Yerks Jr., a 92-year-old member of the Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co., will receive a separate award for his 70 years of service to the company, Bysiewicz said. A Greenwich resident since 1919, Yerks joined the Cos Cob department in 1933 at the age of 21 and served as an active firefighter until 1965. Today he continues as the company's treasurer, a post he has held since 1953. "I've had a wonderful life and enjoyed every minute being a fireman," Yerks said. "I'm looking forward to the ceremony." Copyright © 2004, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

From Greenwich Time, CT, by Martin B. Cassidy, 24 March 2004

 
 

N/Assembly Okays Downsizing in Federal Public Service

Abuja - In anticipation of the planned 40 per cent job cut in the Federal Public Service, the National Assembly has made provisions in this year's budget for the payment of those to be affected. The assembly also made provision for the implementation of the monetisation policy, in the Appropriation Bill. The Senate, which reconvenes on Tuesday after a retreat in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, will receive the budget report from its standing committees as compiled by the Committee on Appropriation and Finance. Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator John Azuta Mbata, told reporters that his committee would submit the budget report to the Senate on Tuesday.

He said this year's budget was predicated on $23 per barrel of crude oil, saying that about 2.2 per cent deficit would be recorded on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to harmonise areas of discrepancies before transmitting to Mr. President for his assent. The earlier total package of the budget presented by the President was N1.16 trillion, but additional input increased the budget by more than N65 Billion. Although the senate said it is yet to receive the increase.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, by PAUL MUMEH, 2 March 2004

 

China's Cultural Minister Calls for Tighter Internet Control

Beijing - China's cultural minister has called for tighter controls on the Internet including 24-hour surveillance and urging people to tell on each other. During a recent national meeting on "rectifying" Internet bars or cafes, Sun Jiazheng hinted that the government's efforts to manage soaring Internet use had not been sufficient, the Xinhua state news agency website said Friday. And in a sign that authorities are finding it hard to keep a grip on the almost unlimited opportunities provided by the Internet, Sun asked Chinese people for help. "Managing Internet bars requires centralized measures, the people's prevention and monitoring and thorough control," Sun was quoted as saying by Xinhua. Despite government restrictions, China is second only to the US for the number of people online. The number of users rose to 79.5 million by December 2003 from 59.1 million in December 2002 - up by 34.5 percent. Sun said regional cultural, finance, police, industry and commerce departments were to reward people for reporting about illegal Internet use.

He did not specify what illegal use was, but in China it covers a broader spectrum than other countries, with people being jailed for posting essays calling for democracy and political reform on the Internet. Sun also called for "using long-range computer surveillance systems to carry out 24-hour, real-time monitoring of the Internet bars," Xinhua said. He said Internet bars should be "standardized" by establishing chains, instead of the small, difficult-to-regulate, hole-in-the-wall cafes that have popped up all over China - even in remote reserves for giant pandas. Illegal Internet cafes, those that allow minors to enter, and those that let people spread "harmful" information were the three most serious problems, Sun said. The ministry would send out inspection teams to ensure local governments are performing their duties, the report said, and set up monitoring systems for industry and general society. He added that managing the Internet was a "long-term" and "arduous" task. Local governments are reluctant to shut down Internet cafes - which are popular with a young clientele who make friends and play games online - as they generate tax revenue.

From Yahoo News. Com, 1 March 2004

UN Public Service Awards to Be Presented at Annual Shanghai Forum

Beijing - The United Nations Public Service Awards to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions in local government applications will be presented at Shanghai, sources said here Friday. The awards will be presented by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA) at the fourth Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region (CIAPR IV)to be held in China's largest metropolis Shanghai, from May 20 to 22, 2004, said the sources with the organizing committee. More than 20 international organizations and 50 cities will attend the forum, which would attract about 800 foreign politicians and business leaders and technical professionals worldwide, said Yang Xiong, vice major of Shanghai and also the president of the forum.

Titled "Information and Communication Technology for Development: City Information", the CIAPR IV will focus on the global trends of information technology for development and its applications, and the information development strategy of China, said Yang. The CIAPR IV will be composed of a plenary session and a number of parallel sessions and workshops concerning the hot topics as well as knotty problems, such as e-government, e-business, development of information industry and technology and its applications, and information policy and cyber laws, according to Yang. During the forum, an information technology expo will be introduced to provide a wider, freer and more fruitful platform for all stakeholders to jointly face the challenges and the future with shared expertise and experiences.

The CIAPR is co-sponsored by the UN organization, Chinese central departments and the Shanghai Municipal People's Government. The CIAPR was an initiative taken by the Shanghai government and the UN/DESA, in response to the call for bridging the digital divide of the UN Millennium Summit. The CIAPR I was held in Shanghai in June of 2000 and the last three annual forums attracted about 2,400 delegates from 108 cities in 105 countries and regions. The objective of CIAPR is to provide a platform for government leaders, decision-makers and policy developers, business leaders and technical professionals worldwide to exchange visions, technologies and products, practices and experiences on city information.

From Xinhua, China, 27 February 2004

Punjab JI Marks 2004 as 'Public Service Year'

Islamabad - Baloch announces new strategy to mobilise public opinion for next elections - The Punjab Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leadership has decided to contest the next general elections on the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) platform and has dedicated 2004 to serving people more effectively for the cause, a press release quoted JI Punjab Ameer Liaqat Baloch as saying on Monday. "Under the new organisational plan for 2004, the JI Punjab activists would become more active to serve the people of their respective areas and expand the JI ideology to prepare them for the next election," said the statement. The statement said that the JI would further enhance the public welfare programme in Rawalpindi, Sargodha and Gujarat districts while political committees would be constituted at districts level in Punjab to prepare a comprehensive programme for the preparation of the next local bodies and general elections.

The JI statement also urged upon its activists to bring prominent Punjabi clerics and youth into the MMA ranks. According to the new strategy, JI leaders at district level would hold meetings with members of JI sister organisations like the Islami Jamiat Talaba and the Jamiat Talaba Arabia to bring them into the JI fold. "JI women circles would be formed throughout the country and the activities of the women would be increased to motivate the women of the country to play their due role," said the press release. The statement further said that the JI Punjab would establish permanent Quran Centres in Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Multan in which short and long courses would be initiated regarding the learning and teaching of the Quran. 100,000 sets of Islamic books would also be distributed among the Punjabi general public. The new JI Punjab office would be set up in Lahore before June with a Rs 1,000 contribution from every JI activist, said the statement.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 1 March 2004

Promoting E-government in Brunei

Around thirty IT experts from ministries, BIT, government offices and private sector attended the I-Tea@UBD: Strategic approach to e-government forum yesterday afternoon at University of Brunei Darussalam. The forum was held to promote and enhance awareness in e-government for the region, with specific focus given to discussions relating to some of the success stories in Singapore and their contributing factors. A specially invited speaker from Singapore's Crimson Logic, Mr. Tan Sian Lip, the Business Development Director of Crimson Logic delivered a comprehensive presentation on the approach to e-government. Mr. Tan started the presentation with a background of Crimson Logic detailing the company's objectives and successful IT projects that they have undertaken. He proceeded to touch on issues of e-government where he said that e-government in Brunei and Singapore are similar but with a different path.

He added that Singapore had introduced e-government project for the past two decades and now Brunei is embarking on the same project. He said that in these age of technologies and benchmarking with other successful e-government projects, Brunei could find a better and smoother approach to e-government and achieve an even better result. He then outlined some of the many opportunities and issues relating to e-government. The talk ended with a discussion session. I-tea@UBD is a series of forums aimed at sharing of best practise, enhancing awareness and discussing issues related to ICT development within and outside Brunei Darussalam. The co-ordinating committee (ictcoff@ictc.ubd.edu.bn) always welcome suggestion and topics for the forum and look forward in hosting more forums in year 2004. Also present at the talk was Mr. Yong Chee Tuan, Director of ICTI, UBD.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, by James Kon, 5 March 2004

Microsoft Holds 5-City eGovernance Seminars

Mumbai - Microsoft Corporation India today extended its role of a technology provider and e-governance consultant for Indian governments by flagging off a series of five-city e-governance seminars. Targeted at the key bureaucrats and government officials, the seminars will be conducted across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Orissa and West Bengal. The seminars are aimed at creating awareness on the benefits of IT adoption in the governance process with sharing of benchmark IT applications as well as best practices for e-governance.

The daylong seminars will be a mélange of interactive sessions by Microsoft Technology experts for e-governance and independent industry experts coupled with a products and solutions showcase by partners. Vijay Kapur, national technology officer, Microsoft Corporation India, said, "We believe that technology holds tremendous potential for ushering in a more transparent, accountable and participative form of governance, while empowering the government administrative machinery to deliver a superior level of citizen-centric services." "With this overriding belief, we are conducting these multi-city seminars specifically focused on e-governance. Drawing from our global knowledge pool on e-governance, we aim to share our international expertise on the subject with key government decision-makers in India," added Kapur.

Microsoft has been working closely with the Indian government at various levels for the last 13 years now. With a critical role to play in every major e-government initiative in the country today, Microsoft is presently working with various departments of the Central government, and has undertaken several projects and initiatives with states like Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Chandigarh, Orissa, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal and Rajasthan, the company stated in a press release.

From ChannelTimes.com, India, 10 March 2004

Seoul to Freeze Public Services Fees

The Korean government will freeze public services fees during the first half of the year to restrain consumer prices gains to the 3 percent level, officials said yesterday. The decision comes amid rising consumer prices triggered by a shortage of raw materials due to increasing global demand. Further aggravated by soaring crude oil prices, prices for steel and lumber have been climbing steadily since the beginning of this year, giving rise to concerns of a supply shortages at companies using the materials for construction and other manufacturing. At the meeting presided over by Vice Finance Minister Kim Wang-lim, officials from the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and other related ministries agreed to freeze public utilities fees levied by the central government during the first half.

Local administrations will soon be asked to follow suit in the provinces, Kim said. As other ways to keep consumer prices in check, the government will seek to lower health care costs and mobile telecommunications fees by June, and also keep closer tabs on the prices of agricultural products. Meanwhile, to prevent rising raw material prices from harming the corporate sector, the ministries said they would crack down on illegal hoarding of scrap metal and steel reinforcing beams used in buildings. The Public Procurement Service will import about 30,000 metric tons of steel to add to the local supply. On Monday, the Commerce Ministry's temporary monitoring on steel exports to restrict their outflow for an initial six months went into effect.

From Korea Herald, South Korea, by Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldm.com), 11 March 2004

Dialogue on e-Government

Frequently asked questions and related issues to the planning and implementation of the e-Government in the Sultanate, were brought to the table during yesterday's dialogue session, which was co-organised by BIT Secretariat, e-Government Procedural Work Group and the University of Brunei Darussalam. The one-day dialogue session, held at the Chancellor's Hall, UBD, was to review how far the development of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has progressed, focusing on the e-Government project which was envisaged for ministerial departments to be a paperless government by the end of 2005. Hj Sulaiman bin Hj Ismail, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, as the Chairman of the Committee of the e-Government Executive Strategic and Policy Programme (EgSPEC), who was a member of yesterday's panel brought up two main points; whether the e-Government projects' timeline was on track and the issue of the budget. Also amongst the panel were Pg Dato Paduka Hj Abd.

Hamid, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, in his capacity as a member of the Executive Committee of e-Government Programme (EgPEC), Awg Hj Mahmud, the director of Information Technology and State's Store Department in his capacity as the Secretary of EgPEC, Ministries' IT senior officers and representatives from OIWG, AGC (Attorney General Chambers), and BIT (Brunei National Information Technology Council), ISD, ITSSD, JPKE, and LTN. The dialogue session functioned as a platform for exchanging ideas to examine the root of the system and to identify proposals for new policies and directives and best practices. Several participants, comprising officials from various government departments, still lacked an in-depth understanding on the benefits of paperless government and thus inquired on the procedures of projects approval and implementation process.

There was also a call to break through the traditional approach by changing the mindset. The e-Government programmes/ projects' approval and implementation procedures was the main topic discussed. The process runs through four subsequent phases - Planning, Project Initiation & Contract, Delivery and Payment & Reporting. Each phase has to deal with relevant authority agencies for consultation and approval. The processing for implementing and approving e-Government projects could take several months, depending on the accurate information handed by the respective Ministry departments to the relevant authority agencies. The e-Government project, with its budget under the 8th National Development Plan for ICT amounting to more than $500 million including e-business and e-Brunei, has been progressive however there are some issues that still need to be overcome.

Yesterday's dialogue session was thought to be an effective medium to smoothen the implementation process in a faster and efficient way. It was also timely as the deadline of the e-Government implementation process is next year. The mission stated for e-government programme is to establish electronic governance and services to best serve the nation, with the vision to be an e-smart Government in line with the 21st Century Civil Service vision. The morning session focused on the operational and short-term implementation of e-Government initiative while the afternoon session focused on the discussions of strategic issues and their implications in the long term. Facilitating the sessions were Dr CT Yong from UBD, Pg Kashmir Han from AGC and Major (U) Amir Hamzah.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, by CT Hj Mahmod, 16 March 2004

New Public Service Website

Kuala Lumpur - A new Malaysian government public service portal, which aims to be the single gateway for citizens and businesses to gain access to information and services provided by the government, is now online. Known as myGovernment, which is the abbreviation for the Malaysian Government Public Service Portal, it is located at http://www.gov.my/MyGov/Home. The site links to government agencies' websites nationwide. The website is developed by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit. It will initially focus on providing information and services to the ordinary citizens. In the next phase of development, it will include businesses.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Sarban Singh, 16 March 2004

Seoul to Freeze Public Services Fees

The Korean government will freeze public services fees during the first half of the year to restrain consumer prices gains to the 3 percent level, officials said yesterday. The decision comes amid rising consumer prices triggered by a shortage of raw materials due to increasing global demand. Further aggravated by soaring crude oil prices, prices for steel and lumber have been climbing steadily since the beginning of this year, giving rise to concerns of a supply shortages at companies using the materials for construction and other manufacturing. At the meeting presided over by Vice Finance Minister Kim Wang-lim, officials from the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and other related ministries agreed to freeze telephone, electric and other public utilities fees levied by the central government.

Local administrations will soon be asked to follow suit in the provinces, Kim said. As other ways to keep consumer prices in check, the government will seek to lower health care costs and mobile telecommunications fees by June, and also keep closer tabs on the prices of agricultural products. Meanwhile, to prevent rising raw material prices from harming the corporate sector, the ministries said they would crack down on illegal hoarding of scrap metal and steel reinforcing beams used in buildings. The Public Procurement Service will import about 30,000 metric tons of steel to add to the local supply. On Monday, the Commerce Ministry's temporary monitoring on steel exports to restrict their outflow for an initial six months went into effect. (jemmie@heraldm.com).

From Korea Herald, South Korea, by Kim Ji-hyun, 11 March 2004

Only Ten States Are Active On E-governance Initiatives

Kolkata - How long will India take to create full-fledged transaction-based e-governance services for its citizens? And when will states cross the boundary from website-based information to an interactive government-to- citizen or G2C payment and commerce information portal? Most of the people who were posed these questions by The Financial Express believe that the country has a long way to go. In fact, they feel that all grand plans could fizzle out in the absence of a definite goal. Firstly, not more than 10 states are active with e-governance initiatives.

Of these, even much-hyped states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka have very little to do with an interactive G2C commerce planning and implementation even though some have started delivering services to citizens by introducing cash payment points. According to Mr. Roopen Roy of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the states that are implementing e-governance projects are still at the 'brochure ware' stage - the information availability closely resembles their printed brochures. "Some departments have websites with good front-end applications delivering public utility services, but we have not reached a stage where the governments are providing transaction-oriented interactive services to citizens," he said.

From Financial Express, India, by Indranil Chakraborty, 17 March 2004

Thresh Out Problems in e-Government Launching

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei is set to launch the e-government initiative by 2005, yet to date, only a few projects towards this end have been completed. A dialogue session was held yesterday in an effort to adopt appropriate steps to tackle any difficulties that may arise in the adoption of e-government. The Brunei Darussalam National IT Council Secretariat, the University of Brunei Darussalam and the e-Government Procedure Working Group jointly organized the dialogue session. The meeting discussed and identified issues relating to the planning and implementation of the e-government initiative.

The session was open to senior government IT officers from various ministries. One of the concerns raised during the session was whether or not the implementation of e-government would actually facilitate a more effective government and whether or not relying on technology and "paperless communication" would complicate the functions of government. The panelists included members of the e-government program executive council and the e-government strategic policy and coordinating group. They explained that the focus of the e-government initiative is to facilitate the exchange of information. E-government would still recognize the contribution of the conventional system in the daily chores of the government, they added. - Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei.

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, 15 March 2004

China Ponders Reform of Government-run Public Service Agencies

The Chinese government is considering an overhaul of its public service agencies, a move that may affect tens of millions of employees on the pay roll of the government. The Chinese government is considering an overhaul of its public service agencies, a move that may affect tens of millions of employees on the pay roll of the government. Li Shenglin, vice minister in charge of the State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC), told an international forum here Tuesday that the reform of public service units (PSUs) is yet another major task that China will face following the reform of state-owned enterprises and a streamline of governmental departments. The central government has given full support to study and preparation for the reform of public service units, Li said at the International Seminar on International Experience with Public Service Reform and China's PSU Reform.

China's public service units are mainly responsible for the provision of such public services as education, medical care, research and development, cultural activities, entertainment and sports. The PSUs are a major source of jobs and share a major part of the social service functions of the government and enterprises. Official statistics show that China now has more than 1.3 million public service units, employing over 29 million staff members and managing nearly 300 billion yuan (36 billion US dollars) worth of state-owned assets. Over 70 percent of scientific research personnel and over 95 percent of teachers and doctors work for various PSUs. The government spent more than 30 percent of its budget on this sector. However, Li said the PSUs developed under the planned economy system no longer fit into the growing market economy due to heavy overstaffing and inefficiency. Since a lot of PSUs exert the authority of government, they mix government jurisdictions and thus incur poor administration, low efficiency and bloated budget expenditures.

Li said various PSUs belong to different governmental departments, thus exacerbating government monopolies in certain public service sectors and leading to market partition and waste of resources. The aim of the reform is to develop a streamlined, highly efficient public service system that fits into the market economy, Li said. Local expert Fan Henshan said the country should reduce the total number of PSUs. He said the country should adopt a new governance system and introduce a competitive employment system into the PSUs. Fan said the reform of PSUs is a complicated work of high risks and cannot be completed overnight. He said the reform should proceed with other complementary reform measures such as social security. The two-day seminar is jointly sponsored by the SDRC, OECD and World Bank.

From People's Daily, China, 24 March 2004

Awaiting Public Services Department Nod for PDC Restructuring

Penang - Development Corporation (PDC) is awaiting the nod from the Public Services Department (PSD) before proceeding with its proposed restructuring exercise. Its general manager Datuk Ahmad Fuad Ismail said the corporation had submitted a proposal on the matter to the department recently. "It will take the department some time to review our proposals before the restructuring exercise can begin," he told reporters here today.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Audrey Dermawan, 24 March 2004

Public Services and Private Expectations

After leaving it to the private sector for years, multilateral development banks may need to step up infrastructure lending in East Asia again - In the early 1990s, the then World Bank chief economist for East Asia, Vinod Thomas, drew attention to what could happen if the region failed to raise investment in infrastructure services such as power, transportation and communications needed to maintain economic growth. He assumed that governments would provide such facilities, and noted the fiscal implications. But then came the so-called private sector 'revolution' in infrastructure and his warnings were not heeded. Now, more than a decade later, the challenge has come back to haunt Asian governments. They are once again being forced to confront the basic truth that infrastructure services are public goods with a strong social as well as economic component, and that the community at large may need to subsidise poorer users in some cases. The profit motive which drives private sector provision cannot easily be reconciled with these truths.

The chief reason why the infrastructure 'crisis' predicted in the early 1990s did not materialise was not that the danger had been exaggerated but rather that the Asian financial crisis in 1997 slowed economic growth dramatically across much of the region and thereby reduced strains on infrastructure facilities. Now that quite robust growth has returned, with recovery in the United States and with China as a locomotive, those strains are beginning to reappear. The Asian financial crisis is also blamed by some for the fact that private sector funding of infrastructure in Asia has fallen far short of targets. But the real problem, says former World Bank senior official and now private consultant Ernest Kepper, is a 'conflict of interest' between private investors who look for at least a 20 per cent return on infrastructure investment and governments that are anxious to obtain low-cost provision of basic services.

Initial soundings for a tripartite study on East Asian infrastructure by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), which began last September and which is due for completion next January, suggests that the balance between public and private sector provision of infrastructure in East Asia will need to be re-examined in the light of significant deficiencies in hoped-for private investment. The study also suggests that the issue of infrastructure service subsidies will need to be revisited, and that governments may need to look afresh at fiscal positions and tax policy in the light of probable demands on the public sector for infrastructure funding. Multilateral development banks may need to step up infrastructure lending again, and development of local capital markets in East Asia will need to be prioritised to help finance infrastructure. For purposes of the study, 'economic infrastructure' includes electric power and piped gas, transport, information and communications technology, and water and sanitation - in both urban and rural areas.

The countries covered include Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vietnam and the Pacific Islands. Of these, only in China, where the state (municipal authorities, in particular) has been heavily involved in building new infrastructure - including some 30,000km of new highways over the past decade or so - has infrastructure provision taken place on a major scale, and even in China future demands are such as to threaten fiscal positions. Elsewhere, in the region, there has been a major slowdown in infrastructure provision, caused partly by the 1997 crisis but mainly by a severe shortfall in expected private sector investment. The three institutions involved in the tripartite study believe that a 'new framework and approach' is required in order to prevent the potential infrastructure gap growing to the point where it threatens economic growth and poverty reduction.

The study hopes to identify such new approaches, including possible 'public-private sector partnerships' that bridge the ideological divide as well as the physical gap in terms of infrastructure provision. Countries in East Asia and the Pacific will require at least US$200 billion a year 'and perhaps a lot more' to meet their infrastructure needs over the remainder of the decade, according to the World Bank vice-president for East Asia and the Pacific, Jemaluddin Kassum. Yet global private investment in infrastructure, which peaked at US$120 billion a year in 1997, has since fallen back to under half that level. Many governments have meanwhile had to reduce unmanageable levels of debt, which means that public funding has fallen sharply. ADB vice-president Geert van der Linden noted recently in Tokyo that, after peaking at over US$40 billion in 1997, private sector investment in infrastructure in East Asia has fallen now to around US$12 billion.

This compares with what he called 'conservative estimates' for required infrastructure investments of US$180 billion or 6-7 per cent of GDP annually from 2005 to 2010, to cover new infrastructure assets and the maintenance of existing assets. The World Bank, ADB and JBIC - the main providers of multilateral infrastructure funding in East Asia - are together supplying only around US$8 billion a year in total for infrastructure investment. Funding from private sources (defined as public projects that have a private sector component) amounts to around US$12 billion a year in East Asia at present, which means that only around 10 per cent of estimated future annual expenditure is assured at present, according to former World Bank official Mark Baird, who is leading the tripartite study. The perception of Asian risk is high as far as many private investors are concerned and the ability of the region to manage risk successfully is correspondingly low.

As Mr. Kassum put it, those private investors who are willing to provide funds for Asian infrastructure in future are 'likely to be much more cautious about country and contractual risks than in the past'. Asia will need to adopt a much more sophisticated 'risk-management culture' to cope with this situation, says Mr. Kepper. Local currency financing is also seen as a key element in solving this problem but this in turn will require development of long-term local capital markets - bond markets, in particular - and the need for new infrastructure facilities is expected to run ahead of the development of such markets. Another major obstacle to greater private sector participation in supplying 'greenfield' infrastructure projects in East Asia is the lack of a suitable legal and regulatory environment governing contracts and the regulation of markets.

From Business Times Singapore, Singapore, by Anthony Rowley, 23 March 2004

Wong Snubs Civil Service Pay Rethink

Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong yesterday insisted the government would proceed with its 3 per cent pay cut for civil servants and dismissed a call for a pay freeze by a civil service union as being ``totally unrepresentative''. Wong was responding to a call from the 40,000-strong Hong Kong Civil Servants' General Union which said it was planning to petition Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. The 3 per cent pay cut, effective early next year, is part of a two-tiered agreement reached with civil service unions during protracted negotiations early last year. Legislation allowing the reduction - 3 per cent from January 1 this year and another 3 per cent from January 1 next year - was passed last year.

Union chairman Felix Cheung said that since the economy was improving, the government should rescind the plan. "Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Stephen Ip has called on employers to share the fruits of prosperity and increase the pay of their staff," he said. "I agree with this totally. Since he made the call, the government should lead the way by first helping the civil servants." However, Wong stood firm, saying "there's absolutely no intention on the part of the government to propose any amendment to the legislation". He went on: "It's my firm belief that the vast majority of civil servants understand the reasons for the pay reduction last year. They understand that the pay reduction will continue and I am sure they will not put up any unreasonable demand in this respect."

Wong described the proposal as "a storm in the teacup'', and claimed it was only the view of a very small number of people. He urged civil servants to consider the overall interests of the civil service when expressing their views. "It's a view expressed maybe by one or two persons," Wong said. "I firmly believe this is not the view of the vast majority of the civil servants. "This sort of demand and opinion is totally unrepresentative of the vast majority of civil servants. "They should really take full account of the interests of the community as well as the interests of the entire civil service and the image of civil servants in the eyes of the public."

From The Standard, Hong Kong, 24 March 2004

IBM to Help Develop E-gov Interfaces in India

Information technology major IBM will invest in the localisation initiatives of Indian universities, developers and scientists for developing e-governance interfaces and applications around Linux, a company official said on Wednesday. "We are thinking of investing in the localisation efforts of Indian universities, scientists for developing e-governance applications and interfaces around Linux for enabling larger population to use the online citizen services," Satish Kaushal, country manager, government software group, IBM, told PTI on the sidelines of a seminar in New Delhi.

He said the company was already investing a lot in the e-governance area setting up e-governance centres of excellence, working with Indian Universities. "Since Linux is our preferred operating system, we would like the e-governance applications to be developed around it in local languages which would help such interfaces to be used by everybody," he said. Some of the applications IBM would want Indian universities and academia to develop are - municipal services applications for birth and death records, property tax, smart card based applications, social security among others. IBM is involved in e-governance projects like an integrated project of NIC, a "pro-poor" citizen service project of Uttranchal government, the online citizen services of Maharashtra government in land records, police and treasury, he said.

From Rediff, India, 24 March 2004

International Opportunities for Public Service Leaders

State Services Minister Trevor Mallard today presented two public service leaders with grants for international study in public management. Trevor Mallard said the Leadership Development Centre Fellowship Awards are a great opportunity for talented senior public service managers to develop their leadership potential through exposure to cutting edge education programmes. "This government is committed to strengthening the public service. I believe New Zealanders are best served by a strong and effective public service that is well led by capable and effective managers. These awards are part of this work," Trevor Mallard said. "The award grant allows talented managers to study at leading international institutions where they can learn more about local and global issues in public management. "Our goal of strengthening the public service requires leadership - both from government, chief executives and from the people who staff and manage the many departments and ministries."

Award recipients each receive a grant of up to $40,000 to attend an international programme of their choice to enhance their ability to bring about change and improvements in leadership and management practice in the New Zealand public service. Kathy Spencer (Ministry of Health) will attend the 'Senior Executive Fellows' course at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She will also attend the Canadian Association for Health Services Policy and Research Conference. Stephen Cunningham (Ministry of Social Development) has chosen to attend the High Performance Leadership course at Cranfield University and the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme. He will also be undertaking research at the Working and Age Pensions Department while in England. "I wish both Kathy and Stephen well on their international studies. The public service will benefit from their increased knowledge and new insights on their return to New Zealand," Trevor Mallard said. (Press Release: New Zealand Government).

From Scoop.co.nz, New Zealand, 24 March 2004

 

Jobs Transfer Plan 'Will Create Public Service Wasteland'

Radical plans to transfer 10,000 civil servants to regional offices across Ireland will create a "public service wasteland" in Dublin, it was claimed today. A detailed report published by the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS) raises serious reservations about the government plan and highlights multiple difficulties with its implementation. Finance minister Charlie McCreevy has promised the scheme is entirely voluntary and insists there will be no redundancies but he is facing increased pressure with only one in five reportedly interested in moving away from the capital. At a delegate conference in Dublin the AHCPS - which represents 3,200 senior members of the civil service - warned the government its plans would not work and urged them to extend the negotiation period from three years to up to 15.

They accused ministers of adopting an unrealistic time frame in order to impact on local and general election deadlines. Many members expressed anger at Mr. McCreevy's acknowledgement that the Government faced "catastrophe" if the plan was not fully implemented by the next general election in 2007. The report emphasises that relocation plans will not only affect the civil servants involved, but their partners and children who have their own commitments and lifestyles. It says the Association "deplores" the fact that this aspect of the programme has not been acknowledged from the outset. Another serious flaw surrounds the negative impacts expected to hit the 53 new "host locations" throughout Ireland, the report claims. House prices, electricity and water supply, traffic volumes and education facilities will be affected but the government plans to address such problems only as they occur, the AHCPS says, rather than resolve them at the initial stages of the planning process.

The report also expresses concerns about the breaking up of specialist pools of expertise and says technology could not replace the personal contact central to the role of public servants. It claims just 20% of staff in any one government department are willing to move and that decentralisation would affect over 60,000 people. AHCPS general secretary Sean O'Riordan said in terms of the delivery of public services as well as human resources, the current plans will not work. "No private sector organisation would run the risk of having a situation over three years where they would have 80% of people moving out and lose that corporate group skill," he said. "Will a minister with a little office in Dublin be effectively able to administer a department way down the country? We don't think he will." He described the lack of negotiation as appalling and called on staff to articulate their concerns within the system. Delegates at the conference debated 65 motions on the plans, the majority of wwere highly critical and raised major reservations about the plan, officially announced during the Budget in December.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Victoria Ward, 1 March 2004

Job Spec: Head of UK e-Government. Fancy Applying?

Term: Permanent. Job Description: Head of UK e-Government. It's a role which a lot of people would die for, and it's now being recruited for, in advance of e-envoy Andrew Pinder's departure from the Office of the e-Envoy. Fancy applying? This is a new role at the heart of Government, created to give strategic leadership across the Civil Service on the application of ICT in Government. The role will focus on how ICT can transform public services and deliver efficiency in operations. The Head of e-Government will also take on the new position of Head of Profession for IT in Government, as well as being responsible for the security of critical ICT infrastructure for the UK. The role is analogues to that of a CIO in a very large and diverse conglomerate. The job is in the Cabinet Office, reporting directly to the Head of the Civil Services, it's key relationships will be with other central Government units working on public service efficiency and reform, other Government departments and agencies, and major IT supplies to Government.

It will be a high-profile role operating at the highest levels in Government and the ICT industry. The role is to define and drive Government wide IS/CT strategy, standards, and technical architecture, and embraces security and resilience issues. It will influence policy and service development and implementation from the perspective of the potential impact of ICT. It will lead the Government's strategic relationships with major ICT suppliers and the Government IT community in responding to the challenges of the transformation and efficiency programmes. Sp who will get the job? The Cabinet Office is looking to recruit someone who is naturally influential, with skills honed at the highest organisational levels. Candidates must have an intimate understanding of the strategic direction in which information technology is moving, coupled with a high level of market knowledge.

Candidates must be senior IT leaders, likely to be group ClOs of major organisations or senior partners with wide experience in IT oriented consulting firms. The bob spec also asks for communication and presentation skills of the highest order for this highly visible role - there's some senior politicians and Civil Servants needing to be influenced. Candidates should be entirely comfortable working through the exercise of influence, and have the personal impact to enthuse and drive step change improvements. It's true to say that this is one of the most influential roles in the world of IT today, demanding candidates of the very highest calibre. The scale of the challenge is extensive and the consequent opportunities for personal development and career enhancement are correspondingly great. The post is being offered for a fixed-term period of 3 years (with the possibility of an extension or conversion to permanency). Arrangements for a long-term secondment are also being considered. Because of the responsibility for security of UK critical ICT infrastructure, the successful applicant must be a UK national.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 3 March 2004

E-government Unpopular

Only 12 per cent of Swiss make use of online facilities provided by local, cantonal and federal authorities, according to a new survey. The study - published on Tuesday - found that people recognise the advantages of communicating electronically with the authorities but are concerned about security and data protection. The survey also found that one of the main reasons for the low take-up of e-government was a lack of information about the services offered. Several e-government projects have already been launched, including the online administrative information portal, www.ch.ch, while e-voting experiments have taken place in canton Geneva.

From swissinfo, Switzerland, 2 March 2004

Swiss Launch E-government Initiative

The Swiss could soon be benefiting from better government services over the internet, thanks to an initiative to develop e-government. The project aims to cut down on bureaucracy and boost Switzerland's e-government ranking compared with other European nations. On Monday, a national project was launched to better coordinate the internet activities of Switzerland's vast patchwork of cantons and communes, which are currently responsible for their own websites. The economics minister, Joseph Deiss, said the initiative, eVanti.ch, would not only boost Switzerland's image as an internet-savvy nation, but would also help ease collaboration between the government, cantons and communes at very little cost. Deiss added that the standardisation and improvement of e-government services would ensure the smooth running of Switzerland's federalist system and would lead to a cheaper, more user-friendly service.

The finance ministry, which is coordinating the project, said it planned to rapidly increase the number of services in a bid to cut down on bureaucratic paperwork, to the benefit of the population, the economy and of the government itself. The news is likely to be welcomed by the Swiss who, in a study released in August, said they would like more public services to be available online. Some 83 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed said they would use the internet for everyday administrative tasks such as registering a change of address or searching for jobs. Cyber image - During Monday's launch, eVanti.ch organisers said the initiative was also designed to make Switzerland a more attractive place for investors and help it climb up e-government rankings.

Switzerland is currently languishing at number 15 out of 18 countries in European e-government rankings. The finance ministry said it aimed to move the country up into the top third of the rankings by the end of 2005. It plans to create an online databank of information relating to e-government, encouraging visitors to the site to put forward suggestions. The ministry said it would also monitor Switzerland's e-government progress more closely. The Swiss government has already launched several projects in the domain of e-government, including the online administrative information portal, www.ch.ch, and has experimented with e-voting in canton Geneva.

From swissinfo, Switzerland, 3 March 2004

E-governance Strategy for Belarus: a Roundtable Discussion

The second roundtable discussion within the framework of a partnership programme between United Nations Development Programme-Belarus and the Belarusian government programme 'ICT Support to Parliament' devoted to the issues of ICT and public administration and of e-governance strategies development took place in Minsk on Wednesday. Belarusian and foreign experts, including Alexander Danilin from Microsoft Russia and Andrei Marusov, director of the Ukrainian Information Development Agency, participated in the discussion. Belarusian President Assistant Secretary Valery Tsepkalo informed participants about e-government initiatives within the E-Belarus programme framework. Vladimir Novosiad, a member of the lower chamber of Belarusian parliament, shared his views on the role of parliamentarians in the development of e-governance strategies.

The participants agreed that political will, adequate resources, appropriate changes in legislation and citizens' access to new ICTs are the major prerequisites for e-governance strategy development, and that the Belarusian parliament must play the leading role in e-governance strategies development and implementation. The participants of the discussion supported a proposal to create a kind of 'expert council', which was originally put forward by Mr. Novosiad. Such a body would provide information and analysis on e-governance issues for legislative and executive authorities and would monitor e-governance developments in the country. It was emphasized by the participants that development of a comprehensive programme for government portals creation and initiating the appropriate changes in laws and regulations are the first steps towards e-governance project implementation.

From DMeurope.com, Netherlands, 5 March 2004

Security Fears Cast Shadow over E-government

The Swiss would like more public services to be available online, according to a new survey. But three-quarters of those questioned said they would not give out personal details over the Internet unless security were guaranteed. Most of the 1,000 Swiss adults interviewed by the GfS research institute - 83 per cent - said they would use the Internet for everyday administrative tasks such as registering a change of address or searching for jobs. Meanwhile, 72 per cent said they would be prepared to vote online: 52 per cent said a definite "yes", and 20 per cent said they would probably do so. The Federal Chancellery, which commissioned the survey, said it was encouraged by the findings. "We are happy about the results," Hanna Muralt Müller, who heads Switzerland's e-government programme, told swissinfo. "They show we're on the right track."

Voting online - The government is currently testing various forms of e-government. Trials include an e-vote in the town of Anières in canton Geneva in January, and the launch of a website - www.ch.ch - which functions as a virtual office counter. But the survey showed people would be wary of giving out personal details over the Internet without a security guarantee. Some 76 per cent said they would only use online public services if there were no risk of exposure; while 60 per cent were concerned federal employees would be able to access their private information. "E-government is not very common or well known, and people hesitate," Lukas Golder, who was involved in the survey, told swissinfo. "People who don't have access to the Internet are especially sceptical."

Better information - But Golder says better information on how people use the Internet has shown where their priorities lie. "We see now that the information has to be simple, safe and good quality," he said. "It's not about offering something spectacular, it just has to be safe." The public's preference for simplicity when it comes to the Internet should help shape the government's long-term strategy for its online services. "People should start with something that is widely accepted and raises no concerns about security," Golder said. If these prove popular, more complicated services involving secure information can start to be introduced, he adds.

Public hesitancy - For now, the Swiss public seems hesitant about online administration. So far, only one per cent of the population has used the new e-government website. But the Federal Chancellery's Hanna Muralt Müller insists the benefits of e-government are manifold. E-voting, she says, will make life easier for voters in a country whose direct democracy means citizens are called to the ballot box on a regular basis. Swiss living abroad will also find e-voting useful, she says. "There's not always enough time for them to receive all the documents in the post and send their vote," she said. Muralt Müller also points to significant costs savings once e-government becomes established.

From swissinfo, Switzerland, 5 March 2004

Canadian Technology Powers Next Generation of E-government in the East of England Region

The first wave of fully automated local government land search systems in the East of England, capable of reducing the land search procedure from two weeks to less than a quarter of an hour, will soon be fully operational. MacDonald Dettwiler Ltd (MDL), a subsidiary of Canadian firm MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd (MDA), is entering the final stages of the implementation phase of the Local Authority Modernisation Programme (LAMP) in South Norfolk District Council and Slough Borough Council and is working on a study with Waveney District Council. The Slough contract is worth £1.1 million and the South Norfolk one stands at £1.2 million. Discrepancies are partly down to the number of departments the councils wish to automate and both work on standard contracts that do not require payment until the service has been installed and made live. A contract for the Waveney project, which is for a much more comprehensive service than South Norfolk, could be ready to sign by the end of March.

LAMP is a part of the National Land Information Service (NLIS) programme. It is ultimately a managed services facility, with investment funding provided by MDA under the auspices of the Local Government Information House, enabling local authorities to reach level three of NLIS and meet the Government's 2005 e-government targets in that sector. The underlying intention of NLIS is to automate land and property searches from solicitor's offices right through to local authorities, enabling property searches to take less than a quarter of an hour rather than 10 working days. Solicitors and licensed conveyancers will ultimately be able to retrieve land and property title information from the Land Registry and conduct local authority searches, as well as searching for other information like environmental or geological data relating to the property. MDA's areas of expertise are impressively diverse. It principally operates under two groups, Information Products and Information Systems. Products provides legal and asset information in the US as well as UK and Canada, accessing current and accurate information on millions of properties.

The Systems group monitors the planet, including orbiting optical and radar satellites, sensors mounted in aircraft, and ground-based systems that acquire, process and distribute image information. The depth of MDA's expertise is apparent in one of its subsidiaries, MDA Robotics, a world leader in space robotics which developed the Canadarm for use on the Space Shuttle.

Andy Moreton, LAMP programme manager, said: "The idea behind LAMP is to help the local authorities automate the entire land and property search process within the local authority. We identify and supply the hardware and software that will do the process for them and join-up the departments holding the data required to complete the search. "All the data held by the departments needs to be digitised and entered on the system so that the whole process can be fully automated. "There is normally a big paper trail exercise within a local authority to complete a property search, involving planning and building control, highways, environmental health, etc, basically any information that a house buyer may need to know about their potential property. "When we first go into a Local Authority we spend three to four months on a LAMP study looking at all their systems and data and advise on what would be needed to automate their processes and advise them what it would cost to implement the necessary system. "When we enter full implementation, it covers all the hardware, software and data required and on the standard contract, seven years management of the system once it is operational. "MacDonald Dettwiler provides the investment funding for the implementation of the system. When the systems are in place, MDA then manages the system and the councils pay a monthly service charge over the seven years of the contract - seven years is the standard contract length."

When MDA won the NLIS contract from Whitehall, it was one of the Government's first PFI e-government initiatives and over 90 companies expressed an interest. As part of the contract, MDA won the right to offer local authorities the LAMP service. Moreton said: "The ultimate objective is for all services to go through NLIS. There are now literally thousands of searches being made every week via NLIS. "The LAMP team are based in Cambridge, which is a great location at the moment. We see a lot of potential for LAMP in the Midlands and the East of England and have another four possible projects in the pipeline." o The technology was showcased in a visit to MDA's offices in British Columbia arranged by the Canadian High Commission for an elite band of European journalists. It was part of a three-city tour highlighting Canadian innovation. Business Weekly was invited to represent Britain in the venture.

From Business Weekly, UK, by Lautaro Vargas, 5 March 2004

E-TEN Programme Spproves €37.5M for Public-Private E-gov Initiatives

The European Union is to provide €37.5m in funding, as part of the E-TEN programme, to new public-private projects that offer public-interest electronic services. These projects cover, for example, e-government services, such as e-procurement and the provision of on-line services for citizens, or e-health services that make use of electronic health records and smart cards within healthcare systems. The E-TEN programme runs until 2006, providing €72.5m over four years. The projects were selected following a call for proposals in May 2003. This resulted in proposals submitted involving over 1000 participants from 27 countries. The call focused on proposals that would help make new on-line services available across the European Union.

Proposals were invited in five areas: e-government, e-health, e-inclusion, e-learning; and trust and security services. The E-TEN programme's level of funding varies depending on the nature of the project. Up to ten per cent of the initial deployment costs involved in starting up a service can be covered. In the case of demonstrations of the technical and economic feasibility of a service, up to half the costs concerned can be covered. Proposals were selected in all areas of the call. The selected e-government services address electronic procurement services and services to citizens, e.g., in the area of e-democracy. The selected e-health proposals include tele-medicine (transfer of data through telecommunication channels), electronic health records and the use of smart cards in health services.

In the area of e-inclusion, the selected proposals include services for elderly and disabled citizens, and measures to overcome problems created by geographic isolation. The e-learning proposals cover education services provided over the web, and trust and security proposals include biometrics technology (like facial recognition) and measures to ensure the security of electronic transactions. E-TEN is the European Community Programme designed to help the deployment of telecommunication networks based services (e-services) with a trans-European dimension. It focuses on public services, particularly in areas where Europe has a competitive advantage. The programme aims to accelerate the take up of services to sustain the European social model of an inclusive, cohesive society.

From DMeurope.com, Netherlands, by Leigh Phillips, 5 March 2004

Tánaiste to Make Speech on Future of EU Public Services

The Tánaiste, Mary Harney, is due to make a speech on public services to the National Forum on Europe in Dublin today. Ms Harney is expected to discuss the impact that the proposed EU constitution would have on essential public services throughout the EU. Trade unionists and other lobby groups have claimed that the proposed constitution would lead to the widespread privatisation of public services, including health and education.

From Ireland Online, Ireland, 3 March 2004

Public Services Must Compete, Says Expert

Scotland's public service sector, particularly the health service, needs a greater element of competition in order to deliver improved productivity and a better return on investment, according to one of the UK's leading economists. Professor Nicholas Crafts, a world-renowned expert in public sector economics, last night expressed his surprise that the provision of services in Scotland still was based on the premise that more people employed equals greater productivity. The country's system of measuring success was too conservative and compared unfavourably with the latest methods adopted south of the border, he said. More than that, quality of service was poorer here than in many other countries.

Presenting the fifth in the Allander series of seminars, which bring together some of the world's leading economists in Glasgow to assess how Scotland can best respond to the challenge of globalisation, Professor Crafts delivered a hard-hitting and objective view on the way the devolved government handles its public service commitments. His analysis of Scottish initiatives in health and education provision suggested to him that the methods used to define targets and improve the quality of service should be reviewed and updated. The system of measurement was too weighted towards inputs, rather than towards the real outcomes that benefited the consumer, in this case the patient and the pupil. He said: "In the future, incentives must be designed to put the interests of the users first. Too often better services are held back by a combination of unclear objectives, weak incentives, a lack of competition and poor information and monitoring."

He was specific about the form of competition to which he alluded - a not-for-profit competition, where schools and hospitals competed with each other for excellence, specialisation and quality of service. As an example, he cited Sweden, a country of a roughly similar size to Scotland, where anyone can establish an independent school and receive state funding, provided it delivers the recognised curriculum. There are no tuition fees and no selection of students. "The result of this reform has been to raise test scores for those who remain in state schools with no adverse effect on weak students," he said. Professor Crafts went on to talk about the "principal-agent" problem, stressing the importance of ensuring employees perform well and have incentives to do a good job. In general UK terms, this had been tackled by New Labour by a heavy reliance on performance targets.

There were differences in Scotland but, broadly speaking, the Scottish Executive followed similar lines. "Performance targets are a potential response to the principal-agent problem. "My brief is not to say that performance targets are wrong, but we have probably got too many of them. They are not well prioritised and there is too much reliance on them," he added. He said performance targets and facilitating competition among potential providers were alternative ways of addressing the issue. However, the executive was giving great weight to the former - 153 targets in its last draft budget, and more than 1500 targets covering Scotland's health boards - and neglecting the possibilities of the latter. A Scottish Executive spokes-woman said: "A central theme of the white paper, Partnership for Care, is devolving power to front-line staff to redesign services in consultation with patients. "That's already delivering better and more efficient services." "Best practice should know no boundaries and the Centre for Change and Innovation has a number of initiatives to support this across Scotland."

From The Herald, UK, by Allan Laing, 10 March 2004

Brown's Public Service Pledge

Aspirations of a new generation can be met, chancellor tells Labour's spring conference - Gordon Brown yesterday held out an optimistic and self-confident prospect of a third-term Labour government offering a tailored personalised welfare state with extra cash targeted at science, skills, education, childcare and geriatric care. The chancellor was speaking at the Labour spring conference in Manchester where divisions over tuition fees and Iraq are largely being set aside as the party gears up for the local, European and general elections. At the conference today Tony Blair will pick up the theme by saying Britain is winning. "Every day its prospects get better, its hopes better able to be fulfilled. We should be proud of the country, proud of its people and proud of what together we are achieving. Now is the time not to lose heart. We should have confidence in the difference we are making." Mr. Blair will say: "We have not won yet. Life is a perpetual struggle. That is the fate of humankind, but in this insecure and uncertain world Britain is will placed not to survive but to thrive."

Party strategists have been repeatedly struck by the personal optimism of British people, contrasting with the national pessimism. The Blair and Brown teams want to inject some of the optimism that marked out John Edwards' Democratic presidential campaign in the US. Mr. Brown promised the budget would set out a 10-year plan for science and see an expansion of the new deal for the unemployed so it becomes a new deal for skills. His last speech to a Labour conference in October in Bournemouth caused anger among Blairites by highlighting his own unifying qualities. But yesterday he lavished praise on Mr. Blair and his cabinet colleagues as he set out a choice between public service investment and Tory cuts. He promised: "The next stage of our plans for public investment and improving public services will be a demonstration that public service free at the point of need can meet the aspirations of a new generation, collective provision offering personalised services to all."

He said public provision should offer a greater diversity of childcare and education to suit both children and parents seeking to balance work and family. He promised to provide a range of services that offered "choices not just in provision but in the hours on offer from early morning to after school care". He also promised a far wider range of provision for the elderly to meet individual needs. He vowed to invest to allow the elderly to spend more time at home and not be shunted into institutions, often far from their neighbourhoods. He said the human genome project would allow the NHS to provide individualised services that could prevent early in life diseases to which earlier generations were disposed, but science could not cure. He also promised a more individualised education service to enable pupils to develop at their own pace, some moving faster in some subjects than others.

He said greater collaboration between schools, greater use of the internet and more a flexible teaching profession would transform schooling. Mr. Brown also set out the kernel of the Labour election attack on Michael Howard's Conservatives, describing the party's leader as the high priest of old Tory dogma. He described the shadow chancellor, Oliver Letwin, as "essentially extreme", and as the senior economic adviser during the Tory boom and bust years. Referring to Mr. Lewtin's soft-spoken style, he said: "Extremism, even when spoken softly, is still extremism" He reeled off a list of Tory plans to cut £18bn from public spending and raised the familiar bogeys of charges and privatisation. "They are not proposing to take Britain 10 years forward, their dream is to drag Britain 10 years back," he said.

From Guardian, UK, by Patrick Wintour, 12 March 2004

VMRO and SDSM Argue About Software for Public Administration

Macedonia's anti-corruption Committee this week will discuss the contract which the Macedonian government made with Microsoft for software valued at $3.9 million. This initiative of the Committee is coming after VMRO-DPMNE complained about the way in which the contract was made. The opposition party said that the contract was made by personal agreement, not by public tender. VMRO-DPMNE thinks that the contract which the government made with Microsoft for its Windows operating system is not transparent and bad for the state. "Certain annexes of the agreement are not transparent and are secretive, and the government is buying something it already has," said spokesman Vlatko Gorcev at a press conference Saturday.

The biggest opposition party thinks that the agreement will also be useful for the wife of Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, who is owner of 30 percent of the shares in Semos, a Skopje company concerned with maintenance of the [Government's] computer systems. To all these charges from VMRO-DPMNE, a response was made by SDSM parliamentarian Jani Makradouli: "Semos is a company that has existed sine the 1980's, and with Microsoft they have had a contract since the 1990's. That is a choice of Microsoft, the government did not make a choice for anyone. According to him, it's obvious that Microsoft is the only company that has this right, and because of that the government made a contract with that company and not with one from this country." With this agreement with the Microsoft Corporation, the government will receive $3.9 million worth of software packets for public administration (6,200 in all).

From Reality Macedonia, Macedonia, 17 February 2004

Public Services Fuel Growth

Double-digit growth in IT spending this year and last in the public sector will drive it to overtake the production sector in 2005, according to the latest Computer Weekly IT Expenditure Report. The services sector is set to remain by far the largest spender on IT, with an expected £47.9bn spend in 2005. Planned projects at the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Work and Pensions, and in the criminal justice system, as well as the NHS national programme, are factors behind the increased spending in the public sector. "Although business surveys show increased activity in manufacturing, the growth is not enough to hold back the tidal wave of investment in IT for public services," said Kris Wicka, managing director of Kew Associates, who produced the report. Richard Steel, head of IT at Newham Council, said although the figures surprised him, the increase in spend by local authorities was driven by central government's efforts to provide local services electronically. "IT is now so much part of the strategic agenda that it is used to drive down costs in other areas," he said. "In any kind of service improvement you have to invest up-front to achieve efficiencies." Overall, the report predicts that 2004 will see a rise in IT expenditure of 8.4%, the strongest since 2000.

From ComputerWeekly.com, UK, 8 March 2004

Local e-Government Projects Win £6.2million E-innovations Funding

Thirty-four projects to develop Local e-Government beyond the 2005 target have successfully won a £6.2m share of the e-innovations fund. This funding is part of the wider £675m Local e-Government Programme, and £14m of support is being made available to local government over the financial years 2004-06. The winning ideas range from a project that offers 'virtual tours' of vacant council homes, parks, local shops and other community facilities to another project that aims to use SMS text-messaging technology to improve access to services for people living in rural areas. The local authorities will receive a share of£6.2m match funding to deliver their innovative ideas by March 2005. The e-innovations fund, worth £14m overall, was announced last September and following on from this first round of winners, the second bidding round will begin in the Autumn.

Announcing the first-round winners, Local e-Government Minister Phil Hope said: "E-Government is not just about computers or websites. It is about improving the way people use their local services and improving their experience of dealing with Government. "I welcome these projects that complement the work of individual councils, Pathfinders, National Projects and Partnerships already being carried out under the Local e-Government programme. The innovation, creativity and cutting-edge nature of these winning projects is encouraging and demonstrates how e-Government can be a driving force for real change in people's lives. "I am particularly pleased to see the how these projects can be 'rolled out' to other councils, saving them time and money".

The first round of support for e-innovations targets the following four themes: E-Learning - This theme includes the internal sharing of information and good practice, staff development and better use of e-government to assist service transformation (i.e. not mainstream education/schools). e-Learning - 5 bids, totalling 675,700. Bridging the Digital Divide - This includes using e-government in ways that help services to reach those socially excluded and in particular addressing the concern that e-government might lead to some people being further isolated from the support and services they need. Digital Divide - 11 bids, totalling 1,477,500. Emergent technology for better government - Innovative use of ICT to improve services. Emergent Technology - 11 bids, totalling £3,099,000. Local authority e-business. Better use of ICT to improve internal business in councils, including service planning and performance management. e-Business - 7 bids, totalling 930,320.

The successful e-innovation bids: Camden LB - Virtual Viewing - Extending Choice Through Virtual Tours - £200,000. Chiltern DC - Seeing The Divide - A Picture Paints A 1000 Words - £62,000. Derbyshire CC - Helping Older People Bridge The Digital Divide - £152,500. Kings Lynn and West Norfolk BC - Community Heritage Stores - Engaging The Wider Community Online - "78,000. Manchester CC - The Manchester E-Markets - Mems - Project - £100,000. North Cornwall DC - Rural E-Champions - Bridging The Digital Divide - £50,000. Preston CC - E-City Preston - Bridging The Digital Divide In England's Newest City - £300,000. Sandwell MBC - Authentication To Enable Personalised Access To Local Authority Services - £250,000. Sutton LB - Widening Community Access To Services - £125,000. West Devon DC - SMS Access Channel In Rural Areas - £50,000. Woking BC - Trusted Partner Access - £110,000.

E Business: Cambridgeshire CC - Local Operational Partnership Scheme (Lops) - £200,000. Caradon DC - Local Authority E-Business - £62,320. East Sussex CC - East Sussex In Figures - £130,000. Knowsley MBC - Exploiting Information Management - £75,000. Lewisham LB - Electronic Invoicing - £135,000. Uttlesford DC - Uniting Services For Our Community - £78,000. West Sussex CC - The Mysociety Partnership - £250,000. E-Learning: East Northamptonshire DC - Elp (E Learning Programme) - £75,000. Lambeth LB - Web Wise And Web Watch - £150,000. Lancaster CC - The Learning Ladder - £50,000. Tameside MBC - Knowledge Management - £350,000. Teignbridge DC - Prince2 - Practitioner 'E' & Distance Learning - £50,700. New And Emergent Technology: Colchester BC - Questions On The Move - £90,000. East Riding of Yorkshire Council - The East Riding Digital Learning Community (Dlc) - £125,000. Hammersmith and Fulham LB - Using New Technology To Improve Parking Services To The Motorist - £335,000. Liverpool CC - Text2CityofLiverpool - £200,000. Merton LB - Enhance The Level Of Domiciliary Monitoring And Emergency Support By Using Chromatic Technology In The Homes Of Elderly, Disabled And Newly Discharged People - £214,000. Newham, LB - Regentv - £460,000. Rossendale BC - Open Source Software - £502,500. Somerset CC - Self-Service In Libraries Using RFID - £112,500. South Lakeland DC - 3d GIS Virtual Town Planning Model - £66,000. Test Valley BC - Local Services Link - £494,000. Westminster LB - Soho Wireless Technology - £500,000.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 22 March 2004

PM Yet to Convince Electorate over Reforms

Tony Blair is in a race against time to ensure that a majority of people believe that public services are improving before the general election, a new opinion poll suggested today. The MORI survey for The Independent found that 55 per cent of people do not believe that the Government's policies will improve the state of public services, while 37 per cent think they will. But the poll suggests that the billions of pounds pumped into services is starting to convince a sceptical public that things will "get better", as Labour promised in 1997. The poll of 831 people gave a mixed response to last week's Budget. Thirty-four per cent of people think that Gordon Brown's package is a good thing for them personally but 39 per cent do not, while 45 per cent believe the Budget is good for the country as a whole, and 34 per cent believe it is bad. Labour strategists believe that public opinion on the state of public services will hold the key to the election expected in May next year.

Mr. Blair has contrasted the personal optimism of people about the quality of their local services with a mood of national pessimism about the general state of the country. His advisers hope that a "feel-good factor" will emerge by winter, but the MORI survey suggests that the Government may struggle to achieve this before a May 2005 election. Labour has to recover a lot of ground to turn around voter scepticism. Immediately after the last election in 2001, 54 per cent of people believed the Government's policies would improve public services and 32 per cent did not. But Mr. Blair can take comfort from the trends on education, health, transport and policing, which have moved in the right direction in recent months. Education is the Government's strongest area, with 38 per cent expecting it to get better during the next few years and 23 per cent expecting it to get worse - a positive net rating of 15 points, up from seven points in December.

MORI's delivery index showed that 33 per cent expect the NHS to get better but 35 per cent believe it will get worse. The net rating of minus two is an improvement on the minus-five rating in December and the minus 12 in September. People are upbeat about possible improvements in the way their area is policed, with 31 per cent thinking it will get better and 20 per cent worse - another advance on MORI's recent findings. On public transport, 32 per cent think it will get worse and 27 per cent better, but the net rating of minus 5 points is an improvement on the 11-point gap in December. The Government fares less well on the environment, on which people have become more pessimistic. Only 24 per cent think its quality will improve, while 41 per cent believe it will get worse. The Budget does not appear to have improved people's optimism about the economy.

Some 38 per centthink the Government's policies will improve the economy, while 49 per cent do not; a net rating of minus 11 points - unchanged since December. The Chancellor's personal ratings are similarly unaffected. Some 46 per centare satisfied with his performance, while 38 per cent are not. MORI found that men are more optimistic than women that public services and the economy will get better. While 42 per cent of men think that the Government's policies will improve the economy, only 33 per cent of women do. Four in 10 men believe public services will get better, compared with a third of women. Women are more likely to say the NHS will get worse (39 per cent) than men (32 per cent). Labour supporters were found to be more upbeat than other voters. MORI interviewed 831 British adults, aged 18 plus, by telephone between Thursday and yesterday. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

From Independent, UK, by Andrew Grice, 24 March 2004

IT Will Drive Civil Service Reforms

The government wants investment to make back-office efficiency savings of 2.5 per cent a year - Technology is at the heart of Gordon Brown's plans to cut Whitehall costs. The Chancellor wants back office efficiency savings of 2.5 per cent by 2008, boosting front line service delivery funding by £20bn. According to last week's Budget, the Department of Work and Pensions is to cut staffing levels by 30,000 over the next four years. The Department for Education and Skills will cut jobs by 31 per cent. And the merger between the Inland Revenue (IR) and Customs & Excise (HMCE) will also cut staff by 40,500 by 2008. The Chancellor was explicit that IT is crucial to these plans. 'We are investing over £6bn in modern technology - creating the potential for greater economies in back office and transactional services,' said Brown in his Budget speech in the Commons.

There is potential for efficiency improvements, but not just by putting in IT, says government technology expert Jim Norton. 'It is crucial to get staff on side because if they are universally opposed to a technology programme it will go nowhere,' he said. 'Simply putting IT in to replicate old job roles will be disastrous - first we need to look very carefully at what is being achieved in these roles, then re-engineer the business processes and have a constructive dialogue with trade unions. The IT is not the place to start,' he said. Technology is now at the heart of government policy, says Eric Woods, government practice director at analyst Ovum. 'The gloomy side is that government doesn't have great track record with technology and there will need to be a quantum change in the way government approaches IT management,' he said.

'But the positive view is that this puts IT much more at the forefront of central government policy. It is not a question of throwing the problem to IT to deliver, government is saying this is core to how it is going to invest in public services over next five years.' Plans to merge IR and HMCE were not included in the £3bn Aspire deal for the Revenue's IT systems, won by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young from incumbent EDS in December. The merger will mean even greater care needs to be taken over the transition, says Woods. 'Going forward, government IT will increasingly be about linking multiple systems and multiple suppliers. These kinds of departmental changes have to be built into how contracts are negotiated and how systems are built in terms of flexibility. Our existing infrastructure is not in a state to do that,' he said.

From VNUNet.com, UK, by Sarah Arnott, 24 March 2004

Dutch E-gov Visits Up by 50 Per Cent

Visits to the Dutch government's electronic service-counter, overheid.nl, have increased dramatically since last March. During this period, the e-government portal was accessed some 3.8m (versus 2.5m in the previous period) times, reports ICTU, an agency founded by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Affairs to oversee information and communication technology in the public sector. Overheid.nl, an initiative of this ministry, is a simple gateway to government information. It currently has links to more than 1,300 websites and databanks associated with central, provincial and local government organisations such as ministries, agencies and authorities. Official publications, the state directory and details on legislation and procedures score high marks for popularity. In addition, information over subsidies, taxes, social benefits and licences are also accessed frequently.

Figures released, however, do not contain an accurate number of first-time users. Determining and tracking first-time visitors is a problem for two reasons, according to programme manager Erik Hup. Firstly, some of the visitors are civil servants accessing the internet through so-called proxy servers (local computers that regulate and secure access to the internet) that do not 'disclose' such user information. And secondly, 'cookies' (bits of intrusive software placed on the user's hard disk by the website accessed) that could provide such information are considered too sensitive to use because of privacy considerations. Encouraged by its success, overheid.nl has future plans to publish local, provincial and water-board procedures, and other information, including lists of licences issued to businesses. (Source(s): Planet News).

From DMeurope.com, Netherlands, by Joe Figueiredo, 24 March 2004

 

UAE: Heads of eGovernment Teams from Dubai's Government Departments Updated on www.dubai.ae's Offerings

The Heads of eGovernment teams from various government departments in Dubai were urged to make optimum use of the online learning opportunities available on Dubai eGovernment's portal (www.dubai.ae), at the recent annual meeting convened by Dubai eGovernment. This will further accelerate integration of their services with the eGovernment initiative. The department heads were also updated on the various eServices offered on the portal. Welcoming the IT heads from 15 departments, Salem Al-Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment, commended them for their active participation and support of eGovernment initiatives: "With your continuous effort and feedback we have achieved a lot and have overcome many challenges. Dubai eGovernment is constantly striving to bring about further improvement in eServices. We have just moved to a new, more advanced application platform and we are confident this will lead to higher standards of eServices delivery. We firmly believe the choice of the right IT system holds the key to e-governance success."

During the meeting, the Dubai eGovernment team, consisting of Hisham Al Amiri, Development Manager; Rehab Lootah, eServices Provisioning Manager; Mahmood Al Bastaki, Business Process Re-engineering Consultant; Okan Geray, Strategic Planning and Implementation Consultant and Marwan Al Naqi, Community Outreach Officer - Government Sector, briefed the attendees on the latest developments in eServices such as eLearn, eEmployee, mDubai, eJob, ePay, AskDubai, eJawaz, e4all magazine, and the steps taken to market eServices to the government departments. Hisham Al Amiri, Development Manager, highlighted the projected developments in IT for the year 2004. "In order to keep ahead with the latest offerings in technology, we are in the process of exchanging the application servers to a more advanced system. After almost three years of working with our present set up, we feel the time has come to move to a more compatible and user friendly system".

Al Amiri explained the new system is more flexible especially in service upgrade and security issues. "The new system is scalable to support more government department users. Flow of information between departments will be smoother and faster, leading to improved delivery of eServices." Rehab Lootah, eServices Provisioning Manager, highlighted the strides made by Dubai eGovernment's eLearn in online courses provided on the portal. "We offer more than 3,000 courses not just in IT, but in diverse fields such as self development, skill enhancement and sales & marketing, in association with leading training institutes. These courses are ideal for government departments because they offer the Learning Management System (LMS) which allows the Human Resources Manager to monitor the employee's learning progress." Lootah also focused on eEmployee, a double certification program that combines ICDL-Start certification with three additional courses of instruction selected by Dubai eGovernment, to meet the specific needs of government departments. "These online courses are conducted on global standards and are designed to provide government employees mastery in computers upon completion of all the courses."

To encourage further growth and e-learning, Dubai eGovernment has introduced eEmployee Plus, designed for directors or employees who have already completed at least three online courses. "If the participants complete the three additional courses, they become eEmployee Plus, which certifies an advanced level of expertise in computers." Lootah briefed government departments about the latest figures of mDubai, the service that has, to date, enabled, over 20 government departments to deliver more than half a million messages to customers through mobile phones. eJob, which allows job-seekers searching for job opportunities in the public sector to submit their CVs electronically, was also highlighted. This service can be accessed by all government departments seeking to fill vacancies, and the response can be tracked by the applicant. Lootah urged all government departments to use eJob to manage their recruitment needs and to give young nationals the opportunity to work.

Mahmoud Al Bastaki, Business Process Re-engineering Consultant, highlighted the benefits of using ePay, an integrated payment solution which allows general public to pay for government services using major credit cards or the e-Dirham. "For the participating departments, ePay brings several benefits. It helps minimise running costs, transactional errors and manpower by automating the systems. Government departments can also save on costs of maintaining individual online payment facilities," said Al Bastaki. "Moreover, it offers citizens the option of making online payments for public services at no additional cost, by simply using the ePay facility on Dubai eGovernment's integrated portal." AskDubai, the eGovernment unified call center launched in June 2003, is an advanced system that brings great benefit to government departments. "Each government department can track the exact breakdown of calls, complaints, or queries received in relation to their own services, helping them identify areas of improvement. Monthly statistical reports are also available upon request," added Al Bastaki.

Okan Geray, Strategic Planning and Implementation Consultant, informed the heads of the eGovernment teams about the latest developments in eJawaz. "We are presently working closely with the Ministry of Interior on the National Identity project. eJawaz will unify and consolidate the provisioning of identity services to access Dubai eGovernment services. It is a long term process as it involves specific authentication and authorisation procedures, to avoid misuse of eGovernment applications " said Geray. He asked government departments to nominate a representative to finalise the policies and technical guidance documentation. Marwan Al Naqi, Community Outreach Officer - Government Sector, revealed that the e4all monthly magazine of Dubai eGovernment is an excellent marketing tool, as it features in depth articles about the various eServices available, in addition to articles related to egovernance in general. Of the 30,000 copies printed, 70 per cent are distributed among government departments, 15 per cent among the private sector, 10 per cent among educational institutions and 5 per cent to business executives residing overseas. There are plans to convert e4all into an online magazine soon.

From Dubai Interact, United Arab Emirates, 3 March 2004

Civic Body's e-Government Portal Reaches a New Milestone

Dubai Municipality's e-Government portal reached a milestone when the site recorded its 300,000th online transaction last week, barely five months after passing the 200,000 e-transactions milestone, and little more than two years after launching its first batch of online services. According to Abdullah Al Shaibani, Assistant Director-General of Dubai Municipality for Technical Services, it took the municipality 18 months to achieve its first 100,000 e-transactions when e-services were first introduced. He added that the weekly average number of e-transactions recently increased from 4,000 to 6,000. "This is an indication of the ever increasing degree of e-service adoption by municipality customers - both individuals and businesses," he said.

Statistics also show that the most widely used online e-services are those of Dubai Central Laboratory (DCL - 85,981 online transactions), Medical Certificates (57,388), Food Certificates (51,148), No-Objection Certificates (28,257) and Demarcation Certificates (12,075). "The latest statistics strongly indicate that the level of e-service adoption is increasing at a very rapid pace" Mr. Al Shaibani commented. "It is obvious that our customers have become used to dealing with the municipality through the Internet and that online interaction has become the norm rather than the exception for many services. In fact, several services have completely moved to the Internet, with almost no customers submitting requests over the counter any more," he added.

Abdulhakim Malik, Director of the Information Technology Department said: "The IT Department at Dubai Municipality has been working very closely with other departments and customers to promote its online services and convince more customers to use them; as they provide visible benefits compared to over-the-counter services such as reducing number of customer visits, tracking transaction progress over the Internet, online payment, etc." According to Ahmad Bahrozyan, Head of e-Government Services Section at the department, the municipality currently offers over 300 online services where 76 are primary services while the remaining cover informative, procedural and easy access to various forms required for applying for municipal services. It has also recently introduced an Online Payment Service that allows customers to pay their transaction fees through the Internet using credit cards or the e-Dirham Card.

From Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirate, 8 March 2004

Bahrain Government Invited GCC to Share e-Government Successes

Bahrain's Central Informatics Organisation (CIO) invited e-Government team leaders from around the GCC who attended a one-day conference in Manama and shared global and regional e-Government experience. The conference, was held under the patronage of H.E. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Ateyatalla Al Khalifa President of CIO, was the first step in an initiative to drive the integration of a common and unified e-Government strategy for the GCC. The conference was jointly held by the CIO, IBM and GBM and took place in Manama on the 10th March 2004. Speakers at the event included representatives of the British, German and Bahraini governments.

'The UK and Germany started out on the road to e-Government well before we did and we believe that this is the right time for us all to take the opportunity to share their experience and compare it against our own,' said Sheikh Ahmed Ateyatalla Al Khalifa, Undersecretary of the CIO. 'We invited teams from around the GCC to attend this event because we think there is a critical opportunity now for us to unify our work and benefit from the economies of scale that can work together in servicing all our citizens. We believe passionately that we can work together for the benefit of all and this event will be a key step in bringing us together.'

The conference was launched at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Bahrain and speakers included Tom Francese, vice president EMEA of IBM's Software Group, Chris Hancock from the UK's office of the e-envoy, Jeff Rogers, vice president of worldwide government solutions at IBM, Mr. Meyer-Jaekel, development manager at the City of Dortmund and a speaker from the Bahraini e-Government team. Invitations were extended to e-Government teams and stakeholders from Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 'IBM and GBM are pleased to be able to support this important event,' said Bashar Kilani, IBM Software Group manager, Middle East Egypt and Pakistan. 'We are working extensively with governments in the region to develop national e-Government initiatives, utilizing global, European and regional expertise. It has the potential of forming the basis for bringing the GCC countries closer together to gain new insight into e-Government approaches, challenges and opportunities.'

From AME Info (press release), United Arab Emirates, 10 March 2004

Bahrain Takes Steps to Embrace E-government

Bahrain is well-positioned to switch over to the digital economy, Microsoft's Solutions Partner Account Manager for North Gulf (Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait), Monzer Tohme, has said, writes Mehmood Rafique. He told the Tribune that Bahrain has taken various steps to embrace e-government. "A lot of things are happening, paving the way for digital economy or e-government. Since this requires legislation and tackling of other issues, it would be appropriate that Government officials announce the exact timeframe," he said.

He said that Microsoft has been at the forefront since the Bahrain Government showed keenness to embrace e-government. "We are working on various projects in Bahrain but I don't want to release any details prior to the completion of the actual project," he said, adding that there would be numerous economic benefits once the technology is fully transferred at various ends. Tohme, who is Bahrain to conduct Microsoft Business Solutions Customer Relationship Management (CRM) 1.2 presentations, said that with the launch of CRM 1.2 businesses would be able to take control of their customer relations.

Tohme said that CRM 1.2 was Microsoft's flagship CRM product solution. "This offers businesses with a powerful solution to build and maintain the customer relationships. The CRM has become one of key goals for companies to succeed in their businesses in such a highly competitive environment," he said. Samir Benmakhlouf, Business Development Manager for Microsoft in Bahrain said: "Businesses in Bahrain deal with large volumes of customer information and often have very little time to process it. If they are not able to manage their customer data in an efficient and timely fashion, this can mean that allocating the right resources for the right customers at the right time becomes a challenge. CRM provides an affordable and flexible solution to this problem, by cutting out the trail of paper notes, card files, ledgers and spreadsheets, and giving businesses a powerful tool to manage customer data in a meaningful and efficient way."

From MENAFN, Middle East, 12 March 2004

Dubai eGovernment to Host the First Middle East eGovernment Summit in Dubai

Dubai eGovernment will host the first Middle East eGovernment Summit at the Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai, on April 26 and 27, in association with ITP Events. The event will bring together senior decision-makers from the region's governments, including GCC e-government teams, and organisations from across the region and the globe. The event will discuss crucial topics related to e-governance, such as the Future of eGovernment in the Middle East, Business Integration in eGovernment, Better Return on IT in eGovernment Operations, Public and Private Sector Partnership as Strategy for eGovernment, Improving Content Management Capabilities to Exceed the Expectations of Citizens and Internal users.

In addition, there will be e-government Country Focus Reviews. 'The hosting of the first Middle East eGovernment Summit will lead to an exchange of ideas and pooling of resources as the region's governments step up measures to adopt e-governance,' said Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. 'E-Government is a system whose success is closely linked to the exchange of experiences between various countries. This summit will present the right forum to gain new insights and open doors for interaction that will help individual governments to speed up their e-government programmes.' The first Middle East eGovernment Summit 2004 follows a series of successful e-government roadshows organised by ITP Events in different countries in the region in the past. Among those attending the event will be IT directors, CEOs, CIOs, HR managers and all those with an interest in the growth of e-government in the Middle East.

The different sessions of the Summit will be moderated by officials and experts from the GCC countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. In addition, there will be experts from Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom and other countries presenting papers on various aspects of e-governance. 'The presence of foreign experts, including those from Europe, will enable the participants to measure their progress against developed countries. The case studies presented by these speakers will provide direction for some of the region's e-governments and pinpoint their drawbacks,' added Al Shair. 'It is a well-known fact that much of the Middle East is well behind the global benchmarks in e-governance. This forum can help them move along the right track.' 'Having reached an advanced stage of development, Dubai eGovernment is now poised to move to the next level. The first Middle East eGovernment Summit will reinforce our standing as pioneers in the region, and help us share our expertise with the rest of the countries, with special reference to the cultural and historical profile of the region,' Al Shair added.

From AME Info (press release), United Arab Emirates, 16 March 2004

Dubai to Host the First Middle East eGovernment Summit

Dubai eGovernment will host the first Middle East eGovernment Summit at the Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai, on April 26 and 27, in association with ITP Events. The event will bring together senior decision-makers from the region's governments, including GCC e-government teams, and organisations from across the region and the globe. The event will discuss crucial topics related to e-governance, such as the Future of eGovernment in the Middle East, Business Integration in eGovernment, Better Return on IT in eGovernment Operations, Public and Private Sector Partnership as Strategy for eGovernment, Improving Content Management Capabilities to Exceed the Expectations of Citizens and Internal users. In addition, there will be e-government Country Focus Reviews.

"The hosting of the first Middle East eGovernment Summit will lead to an exchange of ideas and pooling of resources as the region's governments step up measures to adopt e-governance," said Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. "E-Government is a system whose success is closely linked to the exchange of experiences between various countries. This summit will present the right forum to gain new insights and open doors for interaction that will help individual governments to speed up their e-government programmes." The first Middle East eGovernment Summit 2004 follows a series of successful e-government roadshows organised by ITP Events in different countries in the region in the past. Among those attending the event will be IT directors, CEOs, CIOs, HR managers and all those with an interest in the growth of e-government in the Middle East.

The different sessions of the Summit will be moderated by officials and experts from the GCC countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. In addition, there will be experts from Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom and other countries presenting papers on various aspects of e-governance. "The presence of foreign experts, including those from Europe, will enable the participants to measure their progress against developed countries. The case studies presented by these speakers will provide direction for some of the region's e-governments and pinpoint their drawbacks," added Al Shair. "It is a well-known fact that much of the Middle East is well behind the global benchmarks in e-governance. This forum can help them move along the right track." "Having reached an advanced stage of development, Dubai eGovernment is now poised to move to the next level. The first Middle East eGovernment Summit will reinforce our standing as pioneers in the region, and help us share our expertise with the rest of the countries, with special reference to the cultural and historical profile of the region," Al Shair added.

From Dubai Interact, United Arab Emirates, 17 March 2004

 

Toledo, Ohio Selects Accela to Provide New E-Government Services to Citizens

Dublin, Calif. - On-line Portal Allows Development Community To Apply and Pay for Building Permits On-line - Accela, Inc., the leading provider of government enterprise management software solutions, announced today that City of Toledo has launched Accela VelocityHall®, a public access portal that enables citizens and businesses to access many government services on-line. The Building Inspection division of the City's Economic and Community Development Department now offers building, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and demolition permits on-line. The portal increases access to the City's building and planning management activities by allowing citizens and businesses to apply and pay for permits, schedule inspections, check the status of a permit or inspection, or print an approved permit directly from the Internet, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By allowing citizens to complete the entire process on-line, the City is able to streamline the process for obtaining simple permits and free up valuable staff time to process more complex applications.

"One of the major goals for this department has been to provide a one- stop-shop for accessing government services on-line," states Dr. Patsy F. Scott, Director and CIO at Toledo. "VelocityHall helps us meet this goal with a solution that was easy to implement and flexible enough to work with our existing business procedures." "Accela's software solutions are designed to provide government agencies with an easy way to provide more citizen-centric services to their community," stated Robert P. Lee, Accela president and CEO. "VelocityHall allows agencies to communicate and coordinate more effectively with citizens, saving everyone both time and money." The City of Toledo is located in Lucas County in northwestern Ohio, approximately 75 miles east of the Ohio-Indiana border. With a population of just over 310,000, Toledo is the fourth-largest city in Ohio. The City joins several other jurisdictions in Ohio who are already using Accela solutions. These include: Hamilton County, Carlisle, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Forest Park, Kettering, Mason, Montgomery, Oxford, and Wilmington. For more information on Toledo, please visit http://www.ci.toledo.oh.us/

From Yahoo News (press release), 1 March 2004

E-gov Officials Eye Grants, HR

Orlando, Fla. - The next phase of e-government will move forward after a government task force meets to examine consolidation opportunities in grants management and human resources management, an administration official said today. Grants management and human resources, along with public health information systems, criminal investigation and financial management applications, have been identified as the next focus for e-government beyond the first 24 initiatives announced so far. Office of Management and Budget officials will look for ways agencies can collaborate in these areas, said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for information technology and e-government. "We want to bring in the people we need to bring in, ask the questions that we need to ask," Evans said, speaking at the Information Processing Interagency Conference sponsored by the Government Information Technology Executive Council. "It has to take into consideration consolidation and cost savings. This is giving everyone the opportunity to look at that and come up with a common architecture."

The task force is focusing on grants and human resources management because there are several opportunities for collaboration that officials have already identified during the initial e-gov efforts, Evans said. OMB officials plan to reach out to industry with a request for information about the best way to approach consolidation efforts, she said. "We're looking forward to working with industry on what you see is the best way for us to move forward," Evans said. The fiscal 2005 budget process outlined for the first time the extent to which agencies were investing in development and modernization efforts in these lines of business. By outlining how agencies are spending money, officials can find areas for potential collaboration. Also, Evans announced that OMB will release a memo today telling agencies how to move forward in the governmentwide SmartBuy enterprise licensing program. Since its announcement last summer, the program has moved slowly, causing some analysts to wonder what is the next step. The guidance is expected to inform agency officials on how to proceed in managing their SmartBuy efforts and avoiding duplication of the investments made in the 24 e-government initiatives, Evans said.
"This memo has specific guidance in there for agencies on how to proceed," she said.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 1 March 2004

City Website Chosen as Best e-Gov 'Top Pick'

The City of Gaithersburg website has been selected as a Best e-Gov Services 2003 "Top Pick" by MuniNet Guide at MuniNetGuide.com. Budget and financial information, economic development, materials, meeting minutes and agendas, service delivery and opportunities for interaction between residents and government have become staples on city and county websites. The City's website was selected for its extraordinary comprehensiveness of content, overall sophistication and focus on citizens as valued customers. MuniNetGuide.com is an online guide and directory to websites for state, county and local governments and other municipal-related matters, including municipal investment and research, municipal bonds, regional economies, urban development and local public policy. This is the seventh annual Top Picks for MuniNetGuide.com.

From City of Gaithersburg, MD, 3 March 2004

CIOs Blame Slow Pace of E-gov on Funding Hurdles

Federal CIOs are frustrated with the pace of e-government and funding continues to be a thorny issue, a new survey by the Information Technology Association of America concludes. In the 14th annual Federal CIO Survey released today, IT managers reported that funding is a problem within agencies, with the Office of Management and Budget and with Congress. Within agencies, the difficulty is making the case to agency executives for e-government money when projects are pitted against agency mission needs, the CIOs told ITAA. Additionally, because the budget cycle and the development of e-government projects have been out of sync, agencies have been forced to contribute to the projects from other parts of their budget instead of getting direct funding for the initiatives, CIOs said.

ITAA, a trade association in Arlington, Va., surveyed 40 CIOs, OMB officials and congressional staff members between August and December. Another reason for the slow implementation of e-government has been the constant focus on improving IT security and the difficulty in figuring out how to handle e-authentication, CIOs said. E-authentication remains a complex issue with no clear resolution, respondents told ITAA. The survey also included a special focus on issues at the Defense and Homeland Security departments. DHS directorate CIOs said Homeland Security needs better standards, systems integration and information sharing. Defense CIOs said network-centricity is their focus and cited the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet and Army Knowledge Management Portal as examples of progress. Like their Homeland Security counterparts, DHS' systems chiefs said a common taxonomy is necessary for DOD to succeed at its Business Management Modernization.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 3 March 2004

Interior Callers Willing to Pay for State Services

Juneau - It came as no surprise to state legislators when almost three dozen people from the Fairbanks area asked them Thursday night to add money to various parts of the proposed state budget. What surprised some of them was how many people said they were willing to pay for it. Out of 35 people who testified before the House Finance Committee via teleconference from Fairbanks Thursday night, 17 urged the state Legislature to look at an income tax, the use of permanent fund earnings, or other means as ways of paying for adequate state services. "The percentage of people articulating their desire to pay their way through an income tax was surprising, it really was," said committee member Rep. Hugh Fate, R-Fairbanks. Almost all 35 callers had a specific request for increased funding. Many asked for an increase in spending on K-12 education. "If Alaska is to move forward, we must have an educated populace, and that starts with K-12," said Thomas Walker, University of Alaska Fairbanks student body president, who also spoke in favor of university funding.

Elementary school teacher Marilyn Russell noted that education spending has been growing more slowly than inflation, and districts have already had to make substantial cuts. "What an insult it is to be told to tighten our belts," she said. Others asked the committee to fully fund the university's requests for a $10.6 million budget increase and $8.8 million more to cover increased retirement costs. "If we aren't going to get either of these two funding sources from the state, that could severely hurt the operation of the university," said UAF student Ian Michael Hebert. Several callers spoke in favor of increased funding for Community Matching Block Grants, which fund nonprofits in Fairbanks and Anchorage. A House Finance subcommittee has recommended funding those programs at $1 million, the same as last year, but Taber Rehbaum of Arctic Alliance for People noted that that would actually mean a cut for Fairbanks because the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is also eligible for the grants this year.

Other callers asked the committee to get rid of a proposed $36 million cut to state Medicaid spending; to restore a proposed cut of all $125,000 in state funding to the Alaska Legal Services Corp., a Fairbanks-based group that provides legal help to poor people in civil cases; and to put back a proposed $648,000 cut from shelters such as the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living. Other cuts also came up during the 2 1/2 hour teleconference. In a marked change from last year's House Finance teleconference--during which few people brought up revenue - many people urged the Legislature to come up with new income to support the spending, even if it affected them personally. "I would be happy to pay an income tax, and contribute to a state that I truly love," said Hebert. "A tax is not a penalty," said 83-year-old Nancy Baker. "It's a privilege to pay your own way in life."

Of the callers, only one opposed looking to taxes or permanent fund earnings for money, while about half didn't weigh in on revenues. Of those that did, almost all supported an income tax, several mentioned fund earnings, and a couple mentioned sales taxes or higher taxes on oil companies. Longtime committee member Rep. Richard Foster, D-Nome, said he had never before heard so many from Fairbanks express a willingness to chip in. "I've seen years where I've sat here, and not heard one person say they're willing to pay anything for their services," he said. While the Legislature is taking a serious look this year at the use of some permanent fund money to pay for government, the idea of new taxes, especially an income tax, have largely been anathema. Thursday night's hearing was one in a series of statewide teleconferences giving residents a chance to weigh in on the $2.1 billion 2004-05 state budget, which Gov. Frank Murkowski introduced in December.

From Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, AK, by Tom Moran, 5 March 2004

Public Servants Helping Out Off the Clock

Ah! Back at the Monday's People desk at last! After a five-month stint on the police and fire beat, I'm back, looking for more tales about decent people doing decent things. While covering "day cops," as we call it in the newsroom, I met a lot of dedicated men and women doing decent things every day. But I also heard stories about how these folks don't stop caring once they get off the clock, like Milwaukee police Detective Kim Englebart. Kim has graced this column before, as the singing cop member of the Tropical Heat band. Though Kim is hungry for both fame and money, she's donating her cut of a March 27 benefit gig for retired Menomonee Falls police Officer Jim Stanek. Jim, now living in Hudson, needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

Though he has a matching donor (his sister, Terri Smith), his insurance company won't cover the $350,000 surgery and the hospital wants the dough up front. "I'm just a cop trying to help another cop in need," the singing detective says. The fund-raiser for Stanek will take place at the Milwaukee Elks Lodge #46, 5555 W. Good Hope Road. For more info, call (262) 251-8299. Helping out kids - Then there's Milwaukee Fire Department Capt. Rick Rodriguez and his wife, Maria Castaneda-Rodriguez. Rick has spent much of the last 24 years eating smoke and pulling people out of burning buildings. A lot of those people were kids. And, unfortunately, too many of these kids have had to live with the physical and psychological scars of devastating fire injuries.

Enter the Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety Summer Camp for Burn Injured Youth. It offers young fire victims a place where all the other kids look just like them. It's just like a regular camp, and the kids can feel just like regular kids, partaking in tons of activities under the supervision of people like Maria and Rick. "We have a lot of fun," says Maria, a bilingual teacher at Milwaukee's Loyola Academy. Maria and Rick made their first trip to the camp near East Troy last year and plan to return this summer. Rick says the scars borne by the children don't really matter. "The kids," he says. "They're what matters." Quick response - Then there's the story about the two cops playing pick-up basketball with the firefighter. One of the cops collapses at the beginning of the third game. "He was shaking violently," says Detective Moises Gomez about his former colleague, retired Milwaukee police Detective Al Gutierrez, who was overcome by a hereditary heart condition.

Gomez (cops like to be called by their last names) and Milwaukee firefighter/paramedic Rodrigo "Fritz" Castaneda (yeah, he's Maria's brother) rush over to the fallen detective. While Gomez is holding Gutierrez and clearing his airway, Fritz is checking his vitals. They start CPR, but the cop stops breathing. Then the Fire Department arrives. "Fritz grabbed the (defibrillator)," Moises recalls. "He's a firefighter/paramedic and he was already on (Al)." After a couple jolts of juice, Gutierrez starts breathing. He found out later that he had actually "flat-lined." He also found out that the quick reaction from his public safety colleagues had a lot to do with his survival. "I was really lucky to have those guys there," Gutierrez says. "The bottom line is their experience helped out tremendously." Contact Jesse Garza at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, P.O. Box 371, Milwaukee, WI 53201-0371, or e-mail him at jgarza@journalsentinel.com.

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI, 8 March 2004

Public Service Must Brace for Cutbacks, Alcock Aays

Cuts to the federal public service are inevitable, but they will be conducted after the information systems are in place to allow the government to recognize inefficiencies, Treasury Board President Reg Alcock said yesterday. "There will definitely be cuts," Mr. Alcock told The Globe and Mail's editorial board. "But they will be on a rational basis." Efficiencies will be found within departments by eliminating unnecessary levels of bureaucracy and between departments by cutting redundant operations and developing better ways to buy goods and services, he said. Nycole Turmel, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said her union met with the minister Wednesday and heard a similar message. "The public sector is right now overloaded, the stress is really high, the morale is really low and when he is sending messages like that he is just adding to the stress of the public workers," she said.

From The Globe and Mail, Canada, by Gloria Galloway, 5 March 2004

NYU Center to Study Public-Service Leadership

New York University's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service is opening a research center for the study of leadership in public service. The Research Center for Leadership in Action, which has gotten $1.36 million in seed funding from the Ford Foundation, will study and develop leadership theory, based on the real-world experiences of those working in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. It will be co-led by Wagner associate professor Sonia Ospina, and Marian Krauskopf, a former coordinator at the Ford Foundation. "By capturing the insights of people who are succeeding as leaders, this new research will not only enrich the scholarly discourse, but also give all of us a better understanding of what constitutes and sustains effective leadership," Susan Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation, said in a statement. Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc.

From Crain's New York Business, NY, by Miriam Kreinin Souccar, 5 March 2004

Newport to Buy Property for Public Services Facility

Newport will spend $287,500 to buy a 1.64 acres in the shadow of the Licking Valley Girl Scout Bridge where it plans to build a public services facility, city commissioners decided Monday. They voted 4-1 to buy the property just north of the bridge from FGH Enterprises that occupies the area "generally around and about 11th, Brighton and Lowell streets," according to the legislation's description of the site. Commissioner Beth Fennell voted against the purchase. "We need a new public works facility, but I'm very concerned that we can't afford it at this time." Commissioner Jerry Peluso said he has had concerns for some time about the city's ability to afford the proposed facility, but supported the purchase. "I think it's a great location." City Manager Phil Ciafardini said low bids earlier this year for the proposed two-story, 40,000-square-foot facility came in just under $3 million, but the city wants to negotiate with low bidders. "We're trying to knock it down to $2.2 million, $2.3 million at this point."

From Kentucky Post, KY, by Mike Rutledge, 9 March 2004

Job Shuffling Begins in Civil Service

Charlottetown - In a lead up to what could be serious job cuts when the budget is tabled, some shuffling has begun in the provincial civil service. The provincial Learning Centre, which co-ordinates skills training for government employees, will have 10 people cut from its staff of 17 at the end of the month. The workers will be transferred to vacancies in other government departments. "Changes at the Learning Centre are one of the cost control mechanisms that we put in place as part of the budgetary process," says Provincial Treasurer Mitch Murphy. Murphy has already said that the civil service is an obvious target for saving money to steer clear of a deficit that is threatening to pass $100 million. o From March 4, 2004: Deficit just keeps growing - "We will have a number that will be absorbed back into the system to fill essential services," says Murphy, "but we will have some people if services are cut, and there's no opportunity to be absorbed back into the system, that will no longer be employed." Murphy says no departments in particular will be targetted, but maintaining services in health and education remain a priority. With 8,600 full-time positions in the civil service, the 10 positions cut at the Learning Centre won't have a big impact, but they are an indication of what's to come.

From CBC Prince Edward Island, Canada, 10 March 2004

Civil-service Members Are Key Players on Our Team

The civil-service workforce has an important role to play in our Air Force. These men and women provide continuity, experience and expertise in ensuring mission accomplishment. When I first came into the Air Force, I was impressed by the dedication and commitment my civilian co-workers demonstrated every day. I had a civilian supervisor who was the base architect, a master at his craft, and who inspired me over time to become just as skilled. I met foremen, craftsmen and technicians who were experts on maintaining base-utility systems and managing offices, and who diligently passed on their knowledge to the airmen, junior noncomissioned officers and officers in the unit. It was clear to me then, as now, that these men and women knew the importance of their individual contribution to mission accomplishment.

We always worked together to get the mission done. Each civil service member has a specific role to play in the unit. That role is spelled out in the core-position description or the COREDOC. This document identifies the key tasks the member is expected to be able to perform and the capabilities he or she brings to the team. The COREDOC was written for a reason: to meet a distinct and discrete need for a particular capability or set of skills. I rely on each civilian member of my team to master their tasks specified in the COREDOC. Each individual's contribution is vital to the team's success. If you supervise a civilian, I encourage you to read their COREDOC. If you are a civilian and you haven't read your COREDOC or position description lately, read it and re-commit yourself to mastering the tasks critical to your position -- your role in the unit. Do your best to accomplish your tasks well.

Then, look for ways to improve how you do your job. There is a lot happening on our Air Force bases and in our lives. The pace of technological change and the high-ops tempo of the Air Expeditionary Force seems overwhelming at times. Sometimes we lose focus on just what it is we're supposed to be doing! Review your COREDOC and assess how well you're doing. Have you mastered your critical tasks? Civil-service members are absolutely necessary for the Air Force to function! We value the knowledge, skill and experience they have to offer, and we rely on them to be the experts at their tasks. Our civil-service members are committed to high standards of performance and mission success. These men and women are on the job day and night supporting us, supporting the mission and, most of all, serving a grateful nation. I am proud to serve with them and I thank every one of them for their service.

From The Beam, DC, by Col. Lemoyne Blackshear, 12 March 2004

170 Systems Wins Major e-Government Contract With the Scottish Legal Aid Board

Bedford, Mass. - Selects 170 MarkView Records Management for Its Move from Paper-based Legal Processes - 170 Systems, a leading provider of software products and services that streamline the business processes of ERP systems for Global 1000 enterprises, today announced that it has been appointed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to fulfil part of its e-government objective. 170 MarkView(TM) Records Management will help to improve the quality and consistency of decision making and the timeliness of handling cases for the Board, as well as dramatically cutting its response time for all communication with the public and legal advocates. 170 Systems was selected for the contract after a thorough European selection process. 170 MarkView will help fulfil the Board's obligations and commitments in terms of its ability to store and retrieve cases.

It will integrate with the other IT priorities of the Board, notably in e-business and case management and will also provide a solution that, through improved workflow and reduced paper storage, will deliver demonstrable improvements to the economy and efficiency of the Board's activities. The project will include the delivery of imaging technology and software within a solution allowing all correspondence related to a case to be scanned, attached to the case record and, where necessary, trigger a "workflow" event. The advent of e-business and document management offers considerable opportunities for the Board to move away from the current paper-based processes for handling legal aid. Document and records management is a key component of the Board's program for the implementation of electronic case management systems that will meet the 2005 Modernizing Government target of being able to electronically store and retrieve all newly created public records.

"We are improving the effectiveness and efficiency of legal aid in Scotland by implementing new technologies for the electronic delivery of legal aid," commented Diane Ireland, IS Project Manager for the Scottish Legal Aid Board. "I am confident that along with the completion of our eBusiness project, 170 MarkView is a worthy investment for the streamlining of this organization and will also result in lower costs in the long-term." The Board manages legal aid in Scotland. Its administrative role is essentially to apply statutory tests to determine applicants' eligibility for legal aid, to scrutinize accounts (invoices) submitted by the successful applicants' solicitors, and then pay them for the work done. The organization is based in Edinburgh and employs approximately 300 full time staff.

The Board processed 415,000 legal aid applications and 380,000 solicitors' accounts last year, and the cost of legal aid to the taxpayer was GBP 135 million. "We are looking forward to working with the Scottish Legal Aid Board and are extremely excited to be part of the overall move towards e-government," said David Ellenberger, CEO of 170 Systems. "Our system will allow the Board to streamline its critical processes while securing, tracking and managing the case records. Overall, our technology will help support the Scottish Legal Aid Board in their drive to become a more 'user-friendly' organization." Editors notes - The UK Government's white paper in March 1999 entitled 'Modernizing Government' set out a program of reform for the public sector, central to which was the use of improved communication with users of services and the need for all organizations to communicate and work together in an effective and joined-up manner.

About 170 Systems - 170 Systems, Inc. is the leading provider of software products and services designed to dramatically reduce enterprise costs by streamlining the business processes of large ERP systems, such as Oracle E-Business Suite. Since 1990, 170 Systems has provided its customers with products that optimise core business functions, generating cascading cost savings. 170 MarkView is designed to extend the functionality of existing enterprise applications for business processes such as accounts payable, expense management and records management by integrating the management of the unstructured data including electronic (EDI, XML, email, etc.) or traditional paper documents into ERP applications. 170 MarkView is deployed by Global 1000 companies in more than 40 countries. For more information about 170 Systems visit www.170systems.com.

About the Scottish Legal Aid Board - 1. Legal aid allows people who would not otherwise be able to afford it to get help for their legal problems. Legal aid and advice and assistance can only be accessed through a solicitor. 2. In 2002/2003 the costs of legal aid to the taxpayer (net Legal Aid Fund expenditure) was GBP 135.1 million. In 2002/2003 there were 317,042 advice and assistance intimations, 85,915 grants of criminal legal aid, 13,480 grants of civil legal aid, 3,118 grants of children's legal aid and 239 grants for contempt of court. 3. The Scottish Legal Aid Board was set up in 1987 to manage legal aid in Scotland. The Board employs around 300 full-time staff. Twelve Board members, appointed by Scottish Ministers, oversee the work. The Board's mission is to promote the development and delivery of appropriate access to quality legal assistance for those eligible, in a cost-effective manner.

The work of the Board includes: - advising Scottish Ministers on the current operation and development of legal aid provision, - managing the Legal Aid Fund, - investigating different ways of delivering a legal aid service, for example, by running pilot schemes, - developing operational plans and procedures, including eBusiness, to improve the delivery and administration of legal aid, - assessing applications for legal aid, - examining solicitors' and advocates' accounts for legal aid work, and paying them for the work they have done, - determining civil legal aid contributions and then collecting these as well as expenses, and money won or kept as a result of civil legal aid or advice and assistance, - registering firms and solicitors under the Board's Code of Practice in relation to criminal legal assistance, monitoring their ongoing compliance, - registering firms for civil legal assistance and inspecting firm's administration arrangements, - investigating and pursuing abuse of legal aid. 4. For more information, visit the Board's website www.slab.org.uk. Trademarks - 170 Systems and 170 MarkView are trademarks of 170 Systems, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

From Business Wire (press release), 10 March 2004

Entrust Chief Executive Bill Conner Named FCW Federal 100 Award Recipient

Dallas - IT Security Leader Joins Preeminent Group of Government Officials, Industry Executives and Academia Who Have Positively Transformed Government Technology and Citizen Services - Entrust, Inc. (Nasdaq: ENTU), a global leader in securing digital identities and information, today announced that its chairman, CEO and president, Bill Conner, has been named a Federal Computer Week (FCW) Federal 100 Award recipient for his leadership in improving government technology and services, and the company's role as a trusted public sector advisor in its delivery of identity and access management solutions. As a Federal 100 Award recipient, Conner joins a distinguished list of innovative and accomplished senior government officials, industry executives and academics that have helped to improve government information systems, management and citizen-centric services.

Over 65 United States federal government entities are Entrust customers, including recent engagements with the U.S. Departments of Energy, Labor and State. Entrust technology also helps power the Federal Bridge Certificate Authority (FBCA), a multi-agency information-sharing program that is now actively linking the U.S. Departments of Defense and Treasury, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) and the National Finance Center (USDA-NFC). Entrust serves as the technology solutions provider to three out of the four agencies that have achieved certification under the FBCA, with a number of other government customers slated to join in the near future.

"Entrust views its role as a trusted advisor to government, and we are extremely proud of the technological accomplishments and innovative programs that have been developed in partnership with our government colleagues," said Conner. "I am honored to receive this award, but note that it represents the result of the collective and dedicated working relationships the Entrust team has established with their peers in the government arena. "Entrust has established a large presence and body of expertise in the government arena, and we look forward to enhancing the productive partnerships we have developed to help make government information systems more secure, productive and efficient through the use of next-generation technologies and services," continued Conner.

For more information about the FCW Federal 100 Awards, please visit http://www.fcw.com/events/fed100/. Globally, Entrust serves more than 50 foreign governments. As ranked by the latest Accenture global e-government study, three out of the top four e-governments have standardized on Entrust security solutions. These include the national governments of Canada, Singapore and Denmark. About Entrust - Entrust, Inc. is a world leader in securing digital identities and information, enabling businesses and governments to transform the way they conduct online transactions and manage relationships with customers, partners and employees.

Entrust's solutions promote a proactive approach to security that provides accountability and privacy to online transactions and information. Over 1,200 enterprises and government agencies in more than 50 countries use Entrust's portfolio of security software solutions that integrate into the broad range of applications organizations use today to leverage the Internet and enterprise networks. For more information, please visit http://www.entrust.com. Entrust is a registered trademark of Entrust, Inc. in the United States and certain other countries. In Canada, Entrust is a registered trademark of Entrust Limited. All Entrust product names are trademarks of Entrust, Inc. or Entrust Limited. All other company and product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

From PRNewswire (press release), 15 March 2004

Canadians Embrace E-government: Study

We may complain about our government, but Canadians have embraced e-government with a passion. In January, 2004, about 10 million Canadians visited a government entity on-line, says comScore Media Metrix Canada, an on-line marketing firm. That number translates to 60 per cent of the country's on-line population, and about 33 per cent of the country's entire population. ComScore, which released its survey Monday, hailed the findings as "clear evidence that our government is getting closer to its constituents." Canadians also ranked first of four countries in e-government, comScore said, with each visitor spending 38.7 minutes at their government's website, and visiting 67 pages.

In contrast, users in Britain spent 19.5 minutes on-line and visited 33 pages; French users spent 19.5 minutes on 37 pages, and U.S. visitors spent 34.8 minutes on 50 pages. "This indicates that Canadians are interacting heavily with their government on-line, utilizing the sites frequently and looking deep into the information presented," the survey concluded. Canadians are also increasing their usage of on-line government. Leading the list of government agencies was Canada Revenue Agency (ccra-adrc.gc.ca), with a 155-per-cent increase in unique visitors in the period from November, 2002, to January, 2004. The government of Nova Scotia (gov.ns.ca) was second with a 95 per cent increase, and next was Human Resources Development Canada, with a 92 per cent increase.

The kind of people who use e-government are generally older than 35 years of age, and have household incomes of less than $60,000. "The Canadian government is definitely on the right path, and understands that the Internet is an important tool for reaching its constituents," comScore Media Metrix Canada president Brent Lowe-Bernie said in releasing the figures. "Information, and the power to obtain it on your own schedule regardless of social strata, is a mantra that government agencies are beginning to understand around the world," he added. "Canada is setting some of the precedents for others to follow."

From Globetechnology.com, Canada, by Jack Kapica, 16 March 2004

BEA Forum to Address Large-Scale E-Government Initiatives

San Jose, Calif. - 'Large Scale e-Government: One Enterprise' Conference to Include Speakers from BEA, Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget, and House of Representatives - Did you know? Collaborative planning among U.S. government agencies will become increasingly formalized during 2004/2005 in an effort to drive accountability, according to META Group, Inc. [John Goggin, META Group teleconference; Feb. 24, 2004]. Underpinning this trend is the ability for U.S. government agencies to identify redundant systems supporting common business functions across agencies. To overcome this redundancy, agencies have begun mapping their business functions to a cross-government model, one that incorporates common enterprise business architectures.

BEA Systems, Inc. (Nasdaq: BEAS - News) has played an important role in helping government agencies make governmental technology initiatives successful. Government agencies are using the BEA WebLogic Enterprise Platform(TM) to help improve operational efficiency, which can lower costs and help provide better services to their constituents. The BEA WebLogic Enterprise Platform is an integrated software offering that can unify, simplify, and extend the application infrastructure and enterprise business architecture of government IT organizations. BEA and the American Electronics Association are hosting a one-day conference entitled, "Large Scale e-Government: One Enterprise," where government agency executives can learn how to overcome challenges faced when transitioning from pilot programs to large-scale, e-government deployments.

The conference is scheduled to take place March 31, 2004, at the Amphitheatre, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, in Washington, D.C. In addition to a panel of IT executives representing both the civilian and defense communities, the scheduled list of speakers includes: o Tad Anderson, associate administrator for E-Gov and Information Technology, Office of Management and Budget o Alfred Chuang, chairman, founder and CEO, BEA Systems o The Honorable Tom Davis, chairman, Government Reform Committee, the U.S. House of Representatives o Mike Gilpin, vice president, research fellow and research director, Forrester Research o Priscilla Guthrie, deputy chief information officer, Department of Defense o Mike Krieger, director of information management, Department of Defense o Paul Patrick, chief security architect, BEA Systems o Dr. Anh Ta, federal chief scientist, BEA Systems. To view the conference agenda and register, visit www.bea.com/go/enterprise1 or call +1-703-288-1635. Members of the media wanting more information, please email prinfo@bea.com or call the BEA public relations hotline at +1-408-570-8004.

From Yahoo News (press release), 18 March 2004

E-gov: Four Measures of Progress

Under the E-Government Act of 2002, the Office of Management and Budget is required to report to Congress on agencies' progress in meeting each of the law's provisions. Here are some highlights from OMB's first report, which was released last week. Privacy - The act's privacy provisions cover issues such as machine-readable Web site policies, privacy impact assessments, use of tracking technology and designation of a privacy official. More than half of the 60 agencies reporting to OMB said they have or plan to soon have machine-readable privacy policies on their Web sites. Such policies are translated into a computer language readable by users' browsers. They alert users if a Web site's policy is not in line with the preferences set in their browsers. According to the report, "Other agencies were undecided [and] indicated they were either examining the field or they were awaiting a recommendation from OMB on what standard to use."

Although OMB does not endorse any standard, there is only one way to adopt machine-readable policies - by using the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. Agency officials are also improving their understanding of privacy impact assessments, and many plan to post the assessments on their Web sites, according to OMB's report. Eliminating paper - The E-Government Act reauthorized the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998 (GPEA), which requires agencies to offer the public the option of submitting government forms electronically. By the end of 2003, 57 percent of all federal agency transactions were available online, with hundreds more expected to be online soon, OMB officials wrote in their report. The law recognizes that in some cases an electronic option will not be feasible. (For example, airline travelers would not be able to complete customs forms electronically while in flight to their destinations.)

OMB officials said 32 percent of government transactions will not have an electronic option. Further, the Business Gateway e-government initiative, a Web portal that compiles business-related laws and regulations, has created an online catalog of electronic transactions to give the public access to forms that affect businesses and citizens and to help agencies manage those forms. Accessibility, usability and archiving - The Interagency Committee on Government Information was formed in June 2003, with a June 2004 deadline for making recommendations to OMB on deriving a method for establishing standards for agency Web sites and a directory of government Web sites. By the end of the year, the committee is expected to advise OMB and the National Archives and Records Administration on standards for categorizing and indexing government information and storing electronic records.

The committee comprises three working groups that will tackle the categorization of information, electronic records policy and Web content management. Geospatial standards - The E-Government Act mandates that agencies use standard protocols for geographic information systems. According to OMB's report, agencies are making progress, particularly through the Geospatial One-Stop e-government initiative. By the end of last year, 24 federal agencies had used the initiative's Geodata.gov Web portal to post more than 214 datasets. Eighteen states have also posted 213 geographic records, along with more than 2,000 records from local jurisdictions, according to the report. Geospatial One-Stop is intended to make it easier for agencies to share geographic data, and during the next six months, officials plan to enhance the portal's capabilities. Officials are also planning to create a contract for geospatial portal components, so agencies can buy interoperable, standards-based components to use in their own portals and other applications.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 15 March 2004

OMB Wants More E-gov Users

Officials at the Office of Management and Budget want to determine how to get more people to use e-government and see how results-oriented management affects federal workers. Merely building federal e-government initiatives is not enough to make citizens use them, and officials are trying to figure out what will, Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at OMB, said today at the FOSE conference in Washington, D.C. Within two weeks, the agency will start an effort with the Council for Excellence in Government to determine who is most likely to use each service covered by e-government initiatives, how to contact them, what information they will respond to and other issues.

E-government offerings don't have as many users as they should, Johnson said. He cited the Internal Revenue Service's Free File group as an example of an organization trying new things to reach its potential audience. This year, Free File is sending postcards to people who fit the general profile of eligibility for free federal income tax filing - about 60 percent of the U.S. population. OMB officials want outreach for each initiative. "There will be a different marketing plan for each one of them," Johnson said. Today also marks the beginning of an effort to establish how a results-oriented government affects federal employees.

OMB officials have been working with union leaders - including Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, one of the two largest federal employee groups - to determine how goals and results measurement affect the management and work environment, Johnson said. Officials expect focus groups to start this week at the departments of Transportation, and Health and Human Services, and next week at the Interior and Veterans Affairs departments. These questions feed back into the Bush administration's push for the Human Capital Performance Fund, Johnson said. Under that fund, employees will be rewarded for high performance, although agency officials are still struggling to learn to set performance goals and measure improvement. The bottom line, he said, is that "you don't improve your ability to perform every year just by working harder."

From FCW.com, by Diane Frank, 24 March 2004

White House to Study Ways to Expand E-government

Looking ahead 18 months to the fiscal year 2006 budget, which takes effect 1 October, 2005, the White House Office of Management and Budget has begun a government-wide analysis of five lines of business to expand electronic government, the US agency said this week. Over the next six months, interagency teams would examine business functions, data, and best practices for five lines of business - financial, human resources, grants, health, and case-management systems - to identify opportunities to reduce the cost of government and improve services to citizens through business-performance improvements.

After reviewing US federal enterprise architecture data provided by agencies, the administration recognided the need to re-evaluate planned investments in these five areas, said e-government and IT administrator Karen Evans, the US government's top IT executive. It's the administration's practice to designate one or two agencies to lead multi-agency teams for each e-government initiative. The lead agencies for the five initiatives are the departments of Energy and Labor for the financial-management initiative; Office of Personnel Management, human-resources management; Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, grants management; Department of Health and Human Services, federal health architecture; and Department of Justice, case management.

The five teams will draft and finalise common solutions and a target architecture reflected in business cases in order to be submitted for fiscal year 2006 budget review. The business cases might include a strategy for meeting the goal by the possible consolidation of multiple business processes that operated for each line of business, integration of existing operations, and/or a shared service provider arrangement, according to OMB. The agency said it and the line-of-business task forces would employ business principles and best practices to identify common solutions for business processes and/or technology-based shared services for US government agencies.

From iT News, Australia, by Eric Chabrow, 24 March 2004

 

UN Public Service Announcement to Promote Peace Earns Emmy Nomination

A public service announcement for television produced by the United Nations to mark the International Day of Peace last year has been nominated for a prestigious Emmy award in the United States. Entitled "One Day," the announcement features former boxer Muhammad Ali as a UN Messenger of Peace and a diverse mix of children and promotes the theme of non-violence on 21 September, when International Day of Peace is observed. The announcement - which was co-produced by the History Channel - was filmed in the General Assembly Hall and the Rose Garden at UN Headquarters in New York, as well as at Mr. Ali's ranch. It was filmed by the advertising agency DCODE.

A separate announcement featuring another UN Messenger of Peace, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, was also produced last year. The announcements were distributed to affiliates of the History Channel in more than 70 countries, as well as to television stations across the US. The Peace and Security Section of the UN's Department of Public Information (DPI) and the former Office of External Relations in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General developed the concept for the announcements in conjunction with the History Channel. The New York Emmy awards ceremony, which is organized by the New York chapter of the National Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences, will be held on 28 March.

From UN News Centre, 5 March 2004

Global E-government

Only two US agencies meet e-government standards: report: The first report to US Congress on the E-Government Act of 2002 has revealed that just two of 26 federal agencies met all of the stated standards for success set by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB): the National Science Foundation and the Office of Personnel Management. However, the report, published last week, showed that 19 other agencies are demonstrating "solid progress" in implementing their plans and achieving key milestones. The OMB's success criteria state that major IT investments should be within 10 percent of cost/schedule/performance objectives, that redundant IT spending should be reduced, and that e-government initiatives should yield actual benefits (such as lower costs, faster response times and improved citizen service). The NSF earned kudos for achievements that included processing 99.9 percent of funding proposals electronically, and a 23 percent reduction in its printing costs. The OPM, meanwhile, was recognised for projects including its overhaul of the retirement programme for federal employees.

UK local authorities commence digital TV services: Merseyside, South Yorkshire and Kent have gone live with interactive government services via digital cable television, through a partnership with Sky and Telewest. DigiTV, a national project to explore the viability of providing local government services via television, announced that NTL would be going live with services during April. Local authorities are provided with a Starter Kit, which was developed by Knowledge Network, that allows them to begin developing and publishing content and forms for their own micro-site aimed at the public. Public services planned for the pilot phase include abandoned vehicle reporting, streetlight failure reporting, waste collection, and various tools to request forms or brochures for council tax, housing benefit and consumer advice. More information is on-line at www.digitv.org.uk.

Bahrain gets dedicated e-government centre: The third IBM dedicated e-government centre is to be set up in Bahrain, following the establishment of similar centres in Germany and the US. The new centre, which was announced at the Bahrain conference on Open Government last week, is being set up by IBM in cooperation with the Central Informatics Organisation (CIO) and Gulf Business Machines (GBM) and will be aimed at creating a central platform to share e-government experience and technologies between countries. All e-government teams in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will be given access to the resources and the new expertise of the centre, according to CIO Under Secretary Shaikh Ahmed bin Ateyatalla Al Khalifa, and CIO employees will be based permanently in the centre.
Egypt launches e-government portal: Egypt has officially launched its e-government portal.

Egypt's prime minister, Dr. Atef Ebeid, launched the Web site alongside Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. The portal, www.egypt.gov.eg, was developed by LINKdotNET, a provider of Internet solutions in the Middle East, in association with Microsoft, under the auspices of Egypt's Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The site, available in Arabic and English, was designed for ease of use by citizens, foreigners and businesses, and offers services ranging from basic information through to on-line payments. Facilities offered include requesting a birth certificate, paying a phone bill and renewing vehicle licences. The government expects to have the majority of its 700 or so services on-line by 2007.

Vietnam brings Internet to schools: All high schools in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam will be connected to the Internet this year as part of a wider project to increase the use of IT throughout the region. Spending on the technology sector is to be doubled during 2004, public sector officials are to receive IT training, and the city is also aiming to put half of its administrative procedures on-line. The country's Deputy Minister of the Post and Telematics, Mai Liem Truc, said the city should also look towards developing a more comprehensive plan that would include schemes for software and high-tech parks, and attracting more foreign investment in the IT sector. The IT and telecoms equipment sector was among those listed in a new Foreign Direct Investment scheme that offers incentives to companies to locate in the region.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 18 March 2004

 
 

Public Accounts Committee of Parliament reacts to Misappropriation of Funds

Accra - The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament on Thursday recommended that public officers found to have misappropriated or embezzled funds should be made to refund the amount involved with interest in addition to the institution of the appropriate court action. The suggestion is contained in a report presented to Parliament by Mr. Alban Bagbin, Chairman of the Committee on the Auditor-General's Reports for the years ending 31st December 1998 and 1999. Mr. Bagbin said an accumulated amount of about 1.4 billion have been misappropriated or embezzled by public officials between 1997 and 1999. The Ministries of Education, Health, and Food and Agriculture "were the worst victims of this rape by public officials". He said for instance a total of about 993 million cedis and 93 million cedis were noted to have either been misappropriated or embezzled by officials of the Ministry of Health and Education respectively.

Mr. Bagbin who is also the Minority Leader, said the Committee noted that a major cause of the phenomenon was the lack of supervision over officers entrusted to handle public funds by their superiors to ensure that such moneys were either used for the purposes for which they were intended or paid into public chest. He explained that another cause of the high rate of misappropriations and embezzlements was that "officers with little or no knowledge in accounting or the rules governing financial administration in the public service are often made to take charge of such matters as a result of the absence of qualified officers. "This situation is particularly prevalent within the Regional and District Units. The few qualified officers in these Ministries mostly refuse posting to the rural and deprived areas".

The Minority Leader said in cases where lapses were detected there was the lack of commitment in applying the required sanctions while the sanctioning regime as stipulated in the FAD and Financial Administration Regulation (FAR) and the various finance and accounting instructions were outmoded and not deterrent enough. "What is more worrying is that, where these lapses were detected, the sanctions were either not applied at all, and in some cases the officers were merely transferred to another department to take charge of higher responsibilities." The committee, therefore, recommended that Internal Audit Units should be strengthened by appointing well-qualified officers and equip them with the necessary tools to enable them execute their task, adding that the powers granted these units should also be enhanced and backed by appropriate statute.

Mr. Bagbin said a total misapplications recorded by the Auditor-General in the reports was approximately 2.6 billion cedis and the committee noted with concern the way and manner the public funds were used for purposes not approved by Parliament. He said, notable among these include the misapplication of an amount of 1,462,134,658.99 cedis by the Judicial Service, which was withdrawn from the Service's Deposit Account and used in supplementing its subvention. Again, an amount of 958,145,464 cedis was withdrawn from the Guard Duties Account of the Ghana Police Service for the construction of residential flats. The Committee Chairman said the primary cause of this phenomenon was delays in the release of funds by the Ministry of Finance to meet programmed expenditure of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

He stated that sometimes this situation compelled public officers to compromise on the rules governing the financial management of their departments, in order to satisfy urgent and important expenditure. Mr. Bagbin said, for example as a result of delay in releasing funds to the Luanda Mission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to direct the Beijing Mission, to transfer a total of 50,000 US dollars from its locally generated revenue to the Luanda Mission instead of lodging that money into the Consolidated Fund. The Committee, therefore, recommended strict compliance with all the financial rules and regulations and desist from applying public funds for purposes not provided for by the Appropriations Act.

It also urged the Central Medical Stores in Tema to seek the appropriate approval before using money in the Drugs Account for non-drug related expenses in order not to abuse the Accounts. It further advised the Ministry of Finance to ensure the timely release of funds for programmed expenditures while entreating MDAs to effectively priorities their needs in the drafting and implementation of their budgets. Captain Nkrabea Effah Dartey (Rtd), NPP-Berekum said it was very interesting and sad to note that the period under-view saw rampant mismanagement and corruption in the former government of which the Chairman was a member. He said there was the lack of supervision of people in authority resulting in irresponsible acts costing government billions of cedis. Capt Dartey called on the Attorney General to persecute those who have gone contrary to financial rules and to make them pay for it.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 12 March 2004

We`ll Ensure Effective Public Finance Management - Finance Minister

Government says it is working out an effective public finance management system that will ensure sanity, productivity and accountability at all levels of local government operations. In this regard, an IT-based monitoring system that would track inflows against outflows in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; Ministry of The Interior and Ministry of Health would be ready by the end of the first half of this year. Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, announced this on Monday during a panel discussion dubbed: "Development Dialogue Series" organised by the World Bank on the theme: "Decentralizing the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy And Deepening the Involvement of Poor People in Problem Definition and Solution". The discussion was in honour of the visiting President of the World Bank, Mr. James D. Wolfensohn, whose three-day visit to Ghana ends today.

The visit also allowed him to participate in the recent ECOWAS Summit in Accra. The Finance Minister noted that the Ministry of Finance itself would be receiving information on the public financing operations of these Ministries, among other ministries. "What we intend to achieve is to prevent huge losses instead of finding out how the losses were incurred." He explained that the same situation is affecting the Auditor-General's Report where the Report comes out after two years; when persons who might have been involved in mismanagement of public funds would have left the country or be nowhere to be found. Mr. Osafo-Maafo said Parliament had passed three laws, including the Internal Law Agreement; to prevent people from embezzling instead of looking for them after the act had been perpetrated.

He called for a revision of the procurement procedures in the country, saying, the present procedure was flawed, and was happy that Parliament had taken it up for examination. Mr. Wolfensohn said the misconception of what the Bank stood for must give way to the new attitude of participatory approach that had been its hallmark in the last decade. "The World must look at the different projects and development patterns that we have advocated and make up their minds." He called for greater accountability and capacity building, especially at the grassroots' level where most of the Bank's projects were located.

Mr. Kwadwo Adjei-Darko, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, said getting the right calibre of people to take up positions at the lower ranks of the political ladder had so far been the bane of the decentralization process. He said for effective decentralization, the capacity of the people at the Districts Assembly and Unit Committee levels should be enhanced. Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, Lecturer at the School of Communications Studies University of Ghana, stressed the important role of the media in ensuring accountability. She also asked the State to encourage media forms that focused on the rural poor as a means of engaging them in social dialogue that would bring about development. Some participants asked for a more collaborative effort from all stakeholders involved in the fight against corruption, arguing that demand for accountability at the local level was too weak.

From Accra Mail, Ghana, 24 March 2004

 

National Rethinking Its Tax Policy

Fresh from its stunning rise in the polls on the back of a hard line on Maori policy, the National Party has been mulling over moderating some other policies. Sources say that in a caucus discussion on tax policy last month, MPs leaned towards gentler tax cuts than the party promised in the 2002 election. However, firm decisions will not be made until after the May Budget. In the 2002 campaign National promised to cut corporate tax to 30 per cent and the top personal rate to 35 per cent and lower both by 1 per cent a year during its first three-year term (that is, to 27 per cent and 32 per cent), with a 10-year aim of 25 per cent in each case. Leader Don Brash told the party's conference last year that the corporate and two top personal rates should be 30 per cent. Brash said in an interview that the 30 per cent corporate rate would remain official policy for the first term of a National government and the current 33 per cent rate (for incomes up to $38,000) would go to 30 per cent. Sources say MPs are leaning towards keeping the 2002 initial top rate of 35 per cent on incomes above $60,000, a 4 percentage point cut from the present 39 per cent.

But they also say that discussion leaned away from a commitment to cut the rates further during the first term of a National government, as in the 2002 policy, and also from a commitment to longer-term cuts. In part, these sources say, that is because MPs favour leaving in place Finance Minister Michael Cullen's planned Budget tax cuts and higher rebates for low- to middle-income earners, though a National government may not carry through Cullen's whole programme if it is uncompleted by the election. Current estimates are that Cullen's programme will be phased in over four years. Why the more cautious line? In part, one MP says, it reflects a lingering influence of the centrist "brat pack" MPs who dominated the leadership after 2001. And a softer stance on tax would make it more difficult for Labour to paint National as a bogey on the economy - and as just promising tax cuts for the rich - to counter its polling success on Maori issues.

How far a National government would go towards meeting Brash's challenge to the party conference last year on spending has also yet to be resolved. He challenged the party to "restrain government spending to grow by no more than the rate of inflation and the rate of population growth" which would, he said, reduce the proportion of GDP the government spent by 5 percentage points. Aside from tax, National is reported by some sources to be taking a less aggressive position on selling state assets than some of Brash's early statements implied and reconsidering its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. In any case Brash has been hedging some of his statements on Maori. In his Orewa speech he said the Maori parliamentary electorates would be abolished. He has since moderated that to a promise of a referendum (though a referendum would probably pass). He has backed off his earlier comments about "tangi leave" and about Maori graduates not being seen as equal to non-Maori because of the quota system of entry.

From New Zealand Herald, by Colin James, 1 March 2004

House Tax Policy 'Anti-poor', Says BJP

New Delhi: Delhi BJP president Harsh Vardhan today accused the Congress-ruled Delhi government of hiking property tax rates and said that the government was ignoring the interests of the middle-class. The house tax rates, as suggested in the final report of the Municipal Valuation Committee, has been increased from Rs 250, Rs 220 and Rs 190 per sqm in E, F and G category colonies to Rs 270, Rs 230 and Rs 200 per sqm respectively. ''In Delhi, there are nearly 1,950 colonies and out of these, nearly 1,520 colonies fall under E, F and G categories. These make up for about 75 per cent of the population,'' said the Delhi BJP chief.

He alleged that Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, under the garb of the new house tax policy, has tried to give monetary benefit of Rs 200 crore to the section of people which hardly forms two per cent of house tax payers. ''The Municipal Valuation Committee deliberately did not categorise farmhouses, hospitals, school and colleges. This is a well thought of plan to put them out of the property tax ambit,'' alleged Harsh Vardhan. ''In the name of Unit Area Method, poor and middle class property-holders living in resettlement colonies, unauthorised colonies and rural areas are being burdened,'' he said. Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in MCD Subhash Arya said that the O.P. Kelkar Committee had not taken cognisance of any of the recommendations made by chairman of the standing committee Mukesh Goyal on behalf of the MCD councillors. Arya said that it was mandatory for the committee to include the standing committee's recommendations.

From Delhi Newsline, India, 1 March 2004

Affin Holdings to Privatize Finance Subsidiary

Affin Holdings Bhd is privatizing its finance arm Affin-ACF Holdings. A detailed announcement on the exercise will be made today. Shares of both Affin and Affin-ACF will be suspended from trading today. "This is to facilitate the rationalisation exercise to be undertaken by Affin involving the proposed privatization of its subsidiary, namely Affin-ACF," Affin said in a statement to the Malaysia Securities Exchange Bhd (MSEB). Shares of Affin closed 0.6 per cent, or 1 sen, up at RM1.63 while Affin-ACF gained 2.6 per cent, or 5 sen, to close at RM1.99 yesterday. An analyst at a local brokerage said Affin's proposal to take its finance arm private is in line with Bank Negara Malaysia's financial masterplan that encourages the merging of bank and finance companies to make them stronger and better positioned banking franchises. "Affin-ACF will be the last of a string of finance companies listed on the MSEB to be taken private," he added.

Last Friday, AMMB Holdings Bhd announced it was taking its finance arm, AMFB Holdings Bhd private in a RM1.36 billion deal, to be paid in cash and stocks. AmMerchant Bank Bhd director and head of corporate finance Pushpa Rajadurai said that the reorganisation, scheduled to be completed by year-end, was to facilitate the merger of AMMB's commercial bank and finance company, as required under the Banking and Financial Instutitions (Amendment) Act 2003 that came into effect last month. "Under the Act, we have until January 2006 to complete the merger, but we want to finish it in nine months so that the merger can be completed well ahead of the deadline. "We will also be entitled to tax incentives in the form of exemption from stamp duty charges and real property gains tax," she added. The country's fourth largest bank, Public Bank, took its finance arm Public Finance Bhd private in November 2002.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Alice Chia, 3 March 2004

Latham Tight-lipped over Tax Policy

Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham has failed to rule out the introduction of new or increased taxes if he wins office later this year. Mr. Latham says it is impossible to make such a promise before seeing the details of Australia's financial position in the budget in May. He has told Channel Ninne that it is not a long time for voters to wait to hear Labor's economic policies. "In terms of the detail, ruling things in and ruling things out in detail, there wouldn't be an Opposition in the western world that's expected to do that prior to the budget that forms the financial figures for the next election campaign, so I don't think we can do it here," Mr. Latham said.

From ABC Online, Australia, 6 March 2004

Hong Kong Trims Civil Service to Rein in Budget

The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is taking firm measures to rein in its budget deficit which is expected to reach HK$49 billion (US$6.28 billion), or 4 per cent of its GDP in fiscal 2003/04. In what is widely seen as an acceptable maiden budget speech Wednesday, Financial Secretary Henry Tang proposed trimming government expenditures progressively to HK$200 billion in 2008/09 from HK$217.4 billion this fiscal year. The major reduction is the cut in the size of the civil service. Tang said the government will continue to reduce the size of the service from current 172,000 to 166,500 by the end of March in 2005 and further to 160,000 by 2006/07. "I fully agree that the government should first put its own house in order by containing expenditure stringently before considering tax increases," said Tang. But there may not be any need to increase taxes because of the strong recovery of the economy, which generates increased public revenues.

Hong Kong's economy is forecast to register a 6 per cent GDP growth this year, as compared with 3.3 per cent in 2003. Riding on a GDP growth of 3.8 per cent over a medium term, the government aims to eradicate the fiscal deficit and even generate a slight surplus of HK$6 billion by 2008/09. "In this year's budget, I propose no further increases in salaries tax, profits tax or any other tax," he said. "A substantial increase in profits tax and salaries tax simply for the sake of financing the deficit could lead to a drain on capital and talent instead, thereby undermining our competitiveness," he added. Instead, he proposed introduction of goods and services tax (GST) in three years. An internal committee has been set up to consider the implication of such a tax on the overall economy.

According to a rough estimate, each single percentage point in the rate of GST will yield revenues of about HK$6 billion a year. "As regards the impact of GST on the economy, experience shows that in places that have introduced this tax in recent years, its effects on prices are limited and short-term," Tang continued. He also proposed the issuing of government bonds to provide additional fiscal flexibility. A maximum of HK$20-billion government bond will be issued to finance infrastructure projects in 2004/05 financial year. Sources said that the HK$20 billion government bond would have a maturity of at least 5 years with a maximum coupon rate of 5 per cent per year. At these terms, interest cost would amount to about HK$1 billion per year.

From China Daily, China, by By Gang Ji (Chian Daily), 10 March 2004

National's Tax Policy U-turn

For a party that's been accusing the government of making U-turns, National has just done a pretty convincing about face on tax policy, according to United Future's revenue spokesman, Gordon Copeland. "Don Brash announced today that 'National's top priorities for tax reductions are tax relief for low-to-middle income families, and a cut in corporate tax rates to boost business investment.' Mr. Copeland said, "While I applaud this new tax policy, since it accords very closely to United Future's approach of putting more money back in the pockets of working families, I do wonder how long it will remain National's tax policy. "Until recently, Don Brash had made it pretty clear on several occasions that reducing the top personal tax rate was his top priority (see below). "Either he's had a Road to Damascus-style conversion in the last few months, or he has realised that the significant proportion of the voting public that have swung behind National following the Orewa speech would not be so keen on a tax policy of cuts for the rich.

"In stating now that 'Our first objective is to provide tax relief for low-to-middle income families' I assume that Dr Brash and National will support our pleas to the government to use the surplus available in the coming year to provide tax relief to working families. Should that be the case, I look forward to voting with National in supporting the Budget. "I can only hope that voters aren't faced with another U-turn back to tax cuts for the rich if National are ever in government - now that really would be a case of Dr Brash and Mr. Hide," said Mr. Copeland. Don Brash's previous utterances on tax: "National has made a commitment to reduce the company tax rate to 30 per cent, and the top personal rate to 35 per cent, from 1 April 2003, with subsequent reductions of one cent per annum on each rate so that, by April 2006, the top personal rate will be 32 per cent and the company rate will be 27 per cent. We have also set a medium-term target of 25 per cent for both the top personal rate and the company rate."

Speech on 'New Zealand's Tax System: Can We Make It Better?' to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, July 2002 "Some people have suggested to us that a future National Government should be looking to reduce income taxes on low income New Zealanders, or perhaps even reduce the rate of GST to achieve the same effect, instead of reducing the company tax rate and the top personal rate. We want to reduce the tax burden on all New Zealanders, but with limited scope to cut the total tax burden in the short term we will have to choose between providing further help to low-income New Zealanders and changing the tax rates in order to maximize future growth. Obviously, it would be possible to use available resources to reduce taxes still further for low income New Zealanders. The issue is what we want to achieve: modestly higher after-tax income for low income New Zealanders now or much higher after-tax incomes for all New Zealanders a bit further down the track, by using available resources to encourage additional growth.

There is no doubt which is of greater benefit, to New Zealanders of all income levels." 'Prosperity for All New Zealanders', National Party discussion paper, February 2003 "…the tax take has been distorted by the increase in the top personal tax rate. The government's operating surplus should be used to reduce the top personal rate to the 33c level of the company rate and, over time, both rates should be reduced to 30 per cent. Everyone earning more than $38,000 a year would be better off as a result. The biggest winners would be the rich, but that would be fair because they pay the lion's share tax. Most low income New Zealanders aren't paying much income tax, particularly if they've got dependents. The real choice is between giving low-income New Zealanders an extra $10 to $15 a week now or growing the economy faster so that all New Zealanders get more income".

From Scoop.co.nz (press release), New Zealand, 16 March 2004

Tax Policy Political Rot

ACT Leader Richard Prebble said ACT welcomed the National party leader's commitment to lower taxes but are disappointed that National's proposals are driven by politics and not sound economics. "National's proposals are also unfair," said Mr. Prebble. "There is no economic or fairness case to cut taxes for the low paid. "I remind Dr Brash that in June 2002 before he was an MP, he said `the tax system was skewed towards the low income earner rather than the higher earner. Someone on $100,000 with a dependent spouse and two children paid almost 100 times more tax than someone on $25,000 who, in the same circumstances, received family tax credits.'

The only thing that has changed is that Dr Brash has become a politician. "Most of the low income households in New Zealand are net receivers of cash from the government via welfare or family support payments. "Dr Brash's proposals are not economically sound. Most small owner-operator businesses pay little company tax now. "The taxpayers who paid the bulk of the surplus are middle income families who are now paying the 39 cent tax rate. "ACT's priority is to immediately reverse Labour's 39 cent tax rate. It is just an envy tax. "Tax on income is a penalty for working. Tax companies pay is the price for investing and creating jobs. "Sound economics say that to increase productivity, investment, growth and jobs we need to lower the marginal rate of tax as far as is possible. With a six billion dollar surplus, a 25 cent tax rate now still gives a healthy surplus," said Mr. Prebble.

From Scoop.co.nz (press release), New Zealand, 16 March, 2004

 

McCreevy Publishes 2004 Revised Estimates

The Minister for Finance, Mr. Charlie McCreevy, T.D., presented the 2004 Revised Estimates for Public Services and Public Capital Programme to Dáil Éireann today. The Revised Estimates reflect the spending totals announced on Budget Day together with some adjustments arising since then across a range of Departments involving a net decrease of €6 million and a gross increase of €123 million. Net spending in the 2004 Revised Estimates will therefore be almost exactly the same as that provided for on Budget Day. Total net voted spending in 2004 will be €32.9 billion (€27.4 billion current and €5.5 billion capital) an increase of 7 per cent on the projected outturn for 2003. Total gross voted expenditure in 2004 will be €41.2 billion (€35.6 billion current and €5.6 billion capital). The year-on-year percentage increase over 2003 is 7 per cent.

Adjustments since Budget Day - 1. An extra €58 million on the estimate for Social Insurance Fund expenditure will provide for higher trend numbers in the areas of old age and illness/disability payments. This additional expenditure will be funded by higher PRSI receipts and will not impact on the General Government Balance. 2. An extra €14 million is provided on the vote for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources for broadcasting, petroleum services and mining services. The additional expenditure will be fully offset by higher receipts (e.g. receipts from the TV licence fee to fund the extra broadcasting expenditure). 3. An extra €11 million is provided for the Justice and Garda votes for additional spending on asylum services, the Criminal Assets Bureau and a range of services on the Garda vote. The additional expenditure will be nearly fully offset by higher receipts and the net additional spending is €1 million. 4. Higher than anticipated EU receipts to be received in 2004 will fund €7 million in additional gross spending by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The additional funding is for capital expenditure in CLÁR areas, infrastructural works on Islands and capital development work in the Gaeltacht areas.5. In addition smaller gross adjustments of €33 million arise across a range of Votes. This includes additional provision for Forestry services, a €1 million allocation for the Abbey Theatre Centenary and €5 million for overseas allowances to reflect increased international peacekeeping activities. This additional spending will be fully offset by higher than anticipated receipts across a number of Votes.

From The Scotsman, UK, by S. Heaphy, 26 February 2004

German Opposition Forms Tax Policy

Frankfurt - Germany's Christian Democratic opposition is calling for tax rates to be dropped from between 15 percent and 42 percent to 12 percent and 36 percent. Those percentages were also recommended by the CDU, the largest faction of Germany's Christian Democratic Party, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. The Christian Democrats as a whole, are calling for taxes rates to be determined on a progressive scale between those percentages, at least in the short term. The CDU had pushed for a simpler three-step system of 12-, 24- and 36-percent tax rates. Tax breaks for commuters, which the CDU wanted to do away with and the southern German CSU aimed to maintain, will be part of the Christian Democrats tax policy. The policy will say, however, the breaks should be restricted. Details of the policy remained to be discussed and will be announced on Sunday.

From Washington Times, DC, 3 March 2004

Report Puts Case for Scrapping Council Tax

Abolishing the council tax in favour of a local income tax could generate £200m in extra council revenue while saving money for those on low incomes, a government-commissioned report being published tomorrow is expected to say. Ministers are set to consider the benefits of replacing the council tax with a new income-related tax following the launch of the report by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (Cipfa). The report will be discussed tomorrow at the fifth meeting of the balance of funding review, chaired by the local government minister, Nick Raynsford, which is debating the future of council funding. The prospect of a local income tax to generate more council revenue locally and diminish dependence on grants from central government is just one of four proposals being considered by the working group. The other options are a reform of the council tax, returning local business rate revenue in full to local authorities, and introducing new sources of local finance. Each option has prompted a report to explore its merits in full. Tomorrow's report is expected to say that replacing the council tax with a local income tax would save around £200m in collection costs, while reducing the contribution of those on fixed or low incomes.

This will be welcomed by pensioners around the country who are increasingly disgruntled by the regressive impact of the property-based council tax on their pensions. The average council tax increase for next year in England is around 6%, twice the rate of inflation. Cipfa's report is likely to say that a local income tax would need to be pegged at an average of 3.8p in the pound, and managed by the Inland Revenue. Local income tax is being forcefully championed by the Liberal Democrats, who argue that it would provide a fairer system than the existing property-based tax, which takes insufficient account of people's ability to pay. The cross-party proposal of the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities on the review pnael, prefers a combination of the options, including the introduction of an assigned share of income tax.

This would mean local authorities received a proportion of the national income tax revenue, rather than setting income tax rates locally. Chris Clarke, Liberal Democrat member of the balance of funding review, welcomed the outcome of the study ahead of its publication. He said: "I am delighted that the report broadly confirms the Liberal Democrat view that a localised tax on income could replace the unfair council tax and at a rate which means that most tax-payers would be better off." "There is real anger right across the country. People do not mind paying tax if the tax is fair. That's why support for a local income tax is growing every day. "Opinion polls show massive majorities in favour of a switch to local income tax. The government must listen to the public view, which is not about high or low tax, it is about fair tax." The study on the local income tax option follows the publication in January of thinktank the New Policy Institute's assessment of council tax reform, and the Local Government Association's report on the relocalisation of business rates. A final report, on new forms of local revenue, is expected to be published in time for the next balance of funding review meeting at the end of April.

From Guardian, UK, by Hélène Mulholland, 3 March 2004

There Can Be no State without Good Public Finance Management, Finance Minister Says

Belgrade - Serbian Minister of Finance and Economy Bozidar Djelic said that the Ministry has spent the past three years trying to reform public finance, stressing that there can be no state without good public finance management. Presenting a report on the Ministry's activities over the past three years, Djelic told a press conference on Monday that untransparent, unfair and unpredictable public finance in the 1990s led Serbia to its biggest economic downfall in the 20th century. Serbia, whose state treasury was empty in early 2001, now has a budget of some €650 million, with €200 million in hard currencies and the remaining €450 million in the national currency, said Djelic. The country's GDP rose form $9 billion in 2000 to $20 billion in early 2004, the Minister went on to say, adding that Serbia paid €525 million in debts to holders of frozen hard currency savings and settled its liabilities of €225 million with international creditors. The inflation rate was slashed from 113 percent in 2001 to 7.8 percent, said Djelic, noting that the highest average monthly salaries were lifted from €40 to some €200.

According to Djelic, Serbia has also become the regional leader in foreign direct investment, raising $1.3 billion in sell-off receipts. Three years ago, Serbia has embarked on the most thorough institutional reform of public finance since World War II. Stressing that international institutions rated the reform as excellent, Djelic said the parliament adopted 50 laws and 166 regulations over the same period. Noting that Serbia has adopted the four key laws that define public finance - laws on budget system, public procurements, taxing and tax administration, and customs, Djelic went on to say that the Ministry has prepared a further 32 bills, including bills on value-added tax, the conflict of interest, insurance and public debt. Serbia's tax system has been simplified with a number of taxes scrapped and certain tax rates trimmed to the lowest levels in Europe, said Djelic, noting that Serbia has the lowest income and corporate profit tax rates in Europe.

Good results in curbing smuggling and addressing tax evasion also helped boost public revenues, he said, adding that according to World Bank estimates, the gray economy accounts for some 30% of Serbia's GDP. The Minister recalled that monthly salaries in public companies have been brought closer to the average salary levels in economy sectors, while the foreign debt share in GDP was reduced over 2.5 times thanks to outstanding debt rescheduling and write-offs. Since Serbia joined the anticorruption initiative of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe in October 2001, the Ministry has had a prominent role in the fight against corruption and has initiated the setting up of the government's Anti-Corruption Council, Djelic noted. Concluding his report on the Ministry's activities over the past three years, Djelic said that the state should take urgent steps to carry out the third wave of public finance reform, step up public finance decentarlisation and control, optimise public expenditure, settle the remaining debts, resume restructuring of public companies and launch privatisation only when it is not damaging to the state interest.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 1 March 2004

Ethnic Recruitment Drive in Public Finance Hailed a Success

An initiative to tackle the under-representation of ethnic minorities in the local government finance sector has been hailed a success, with almost half the new recruits coming from ethnic minorities. The 'Be the future of public finance' graduate recruitment scheme, which was jointly launched by 21 London boroughs in September 2003, has recruited 29 trainees - 40 per cent of whom are from ethnic minorities. The trainees are employed by the local boroughs on a four-year fixed-term contract, and they will undertake a structured training programme leading to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy Professional Accountancy Qualification. It is the first time that London boroughs have come together to jointly recruit finance trainees into their organisations. Rob Whiteman, executive director for resources at Lewisham Borough Council, said: "We set out to attract graduates to work in public finance departments across London, with a specific focus on recruiting candidates from ethnic minorities. We are very pleased to have met our objectives."

From PersonnelToday.com, UK, 4 March, 2004

The Fund Should End Its Backroom Deals

The news that Horst Kohler, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is poised to become Germany's next president marks the end of a murky process that, according to insiders, would have led to his reappointment for another five-year term at the IMF. Mr. Kohler's current term was to expire in May next year and news of his early departure has triggered intense speculation about his likely successor. This should be the perfect opportunity to end the entrenched and opaque way that succession is managed at both the IMF and the World Bank. Mr. Kohler's appointment in 2000 followed a ferocious battle between member states - not least over the quid pro quo tradition of awarding the IMF job to a European and the World Bank to an American. In an organisation that purportedly champions transparency and good corporate governance, it is particularly ironic that the process of appointing - or renewing - a chief executive entails practices unacceptable to most large corporate boards and institutions.

In principle, there is nothing unusual about this at the IMF and World Bank - and that fact should be scandalous. Before news of Mr. Kohler's new job, the near-certainty among IMF officials that he would secure re-appointment showed that nothing had changed in the secretive and obsolete process. Mr. Kohler's very entry to the IMF symbolised the victory of tradition over reform. The US had vetoed the German government's first proposed candidate, Caio Koch-Weser, the deputy finance minister. For the first time, two non-European candidates had been proposed, a Japanese and an American. Surprisingly, the American candidate - Stanley Fischer, the IMF's respected deputy director - had been nominated by 20 African countries, while the Clinton administration refused to support him. Only the intervention of Gerhard Schroder, Germany's chancellor, ensured the success of a second German candidate: Mr. Kohler.

The arguments leading up to Mr. Kohler's appointment attracted media scrutiny that at least raised public awareness of what insiders had long known: the unacceptable procedures behind leadership selection at these critical international financial institutions. With Mr. Kohler's appointment, politics trumped due process and obscure backroom deals made a joke of the much vaunted transparency the IMF preaches to others. The only good news, it seemed, was that the process was such a public embarrassment that change looked virtually inevitable. Indeed, both the IMF and World Bank boards immediately created working groups to recommend internal reforms. They eventually issued a report containing rather obvious but still useful guiding principles, for example, that an external advisory group should help board members compile a shortlist, and that attention should be paid to transparency and accountability.

Buried in the report was an obvious, but revolutionary, principle: "A plurality of candidates representing the diversity of members across regions would be in the best interests of the Fund; the goal is to attract the best candidates regardless of nationality." This is perhaps why, in another illustration of their governance flaws, the IMF and World Bank boards formally endorsed the report while refusing to adopt it. The argument typically used to defend the secretive selection process is that, while defective, it is still better than the hyper-democracy that has crippled so many United Nations agencies. While this concern is valid, it is not true that eliminating some practices that contradict current governance standards would impair the functioning of the IMF and World Bank.

Their effectiveness stems not just from the financial resources at their disposal or the quality of their advice, but also (and most importantly) from their legitimacy. That legitimacy is severely undermined by a process that discriminates against the majority of nationalities when selecting leaders of organisations whose mandate is to serve the entire world. The major shareholders of the World Bank and the IMF will obviously continue to have the votes on leadership of these institutions. But they do not need to stick to a tradition that bans qualified candidates because of their nationality. The next chief executive of the IMF - and the World Bank - must be selected through a process that gives them and their institutions the legitimacy that only a competitive and transparent process can bestow. Their personal qualifications and not their passports should be the main criteria. The writer is the editor of Foreign Policy magazine.

From The Financial Times Limited (London, England), by Moses Naim, 5 March 2004

Assembly Jobs Move Across Wales

Hundreds of Welsh assembly jobs will be moved from Cardiff and spread across the south Wales valleys, mid and north Wales in a move to spread economic benefit, it has been announced. On Thursday, Finance Minister Sue Essex outlined details of the civil servants switch to a north Wales HQ along the coastal strip of Conwy, a mid Wales base in Aberystwyth as well as 300 jobs going to Merthyr. Exact details of locations are expected to be revealed before the summer with the offices opening in 2007.

Speaking in Conwy, Ms Essex said: "I plan to make a further announcement on specific functions for both offices by the summer, after consulting staff and partnership bodies. The North Wales office will provide a broad mix of functions and bring the Assembly Government closer to people in the area. "Preferred sites have also been identified for the Mid Wales office and I will announce the precise locations and sites for both offices shortly, when negotiations have been completed."

She said the new offices would give the assembly a "visible presence throughout the whole of Wales" to less affluent areas. "The location strategy is crucial to the Assembly Government's drive to bring the Assembly closer to the people we serve and will spread the economic benefits of Assembly employment across Wales. I am pleased that good progress is being made." Overcrowding - Around 3,500 staff are currently employed in the administration. It has also been revealed that the Welsh heritage body Cadw is to move to Nantgarw to ease overcrowding at Cathays Park in Cardiff. The decision has been welcomed by the Farmers' Union of Wales as the "logical next step in the devolution process".

The FUW called for this course of action when it published its manifesto for the rural economy before last year's assembly elections. "We made it clear in our manifesto that many people living in mid and north Wales felt frustrated by what appeared to be the remoteness of the assembly and by virtue of the fact that all the jobs and services were concentrated in Cardiff," said FUW President Gareth Vaughan. "As a keen supporter of devolution, the FUW called for key staff and services to be relocated in other parts of Wales because we could see the benefits such a move could bring for the entire economy," he said. "I am therefore delighted that the Welsh Assembly Government has decided to follow the course of action that we suggested."

From BBC News, UK, 10 March 2004

Public Finance to Stimulate Economic Growth

Belgrade - The main goal of the Serbian Ministry of Finance, headed by Minister Mladjan Dinkic, will be to use public finance for stimulating economic growth, which entails the adoption of new tax legislation, reduction of the existing tax rates, the abolishment of certain taxes and simplification of tax procedures, all with the aim of improving conditions for economic activities. The new Minister of Finance held his first press conference today to present the Ministry's priorities, plans and goals for the first 100 days in office, as well as his new team. Dinkic said that on March 3, 2004, €212 million were found in the Serbian budget, with last year's privatisation revenues accounting for €202 million of the sum and kept in the National Bank of Serbia in hard currencies. Of this sum, €160 million is available for spending, ie for the budget needs. The remaining €42 million belongs to the Restitution Fund, and will be used following the adoption of a law on denationalisation. Dinkic said that the remaining €10 million (736 million dinars) were found in Serbia's budget itself.

At the end of 2003, Serbia's internal and external debt stood at €12.6 billion, which is 73 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), the Minister said. He said that the debt will be serviced in the course of the year. Dinkic explained that €413 million will be set aside from the budget for servicing the public debt, of which €213 million will be earmarked for the payment of frozen hard currency savings. He said that the payment will begin on May 31, in accordance with the law, and that depositors of the Jugobanka Bank from Kosovska Mitrovica will receive their payments for the first time. Dinkic said that the Ministry will settle its obligations in a timely manner, adding that the funds for pension payment, scheduled for March 24, have been secured, with a 12.2 percent rise in pensions in line with a quarterly adjustment with salaries. Speaking about the goals of the Ministry, Dinkic said that public finances have helped secure macroeconomic stability so far.

Now that macroeconomic stability has been achieved, public finances should be used to stimulate economic growth. He added that such a policy could be the driving force behind the economic development, which must be encouraged since Serbia is in recession. The second goal of the Ministry is to develop the capital market and cut interest rates. Dinkic said that the annual interest rate of 23 percent on Treasury bills is unacceptably high concerning the fact that these are the safest securities in the country and are used for covering budgetary deficit. "In the upcoming months, we will try hard to develop the capital market and trim interest rates. Securities should not only be sold to banks and through brokers. We want to simplify their distribution and expand the circle of beneficiaries," Dinkic said, adding that these measures will slash interest rates on bank loans.

Dinkic said that the Ministry will work to develop mechanisms for securing bank loan insurance, especially for the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. The third goal of the Ministry will be the introduction of loan insurance in the fields of agriculture, housing, export activities and for underdeveloped regions. The fourth goal is to modernise and boost the efficiency of inspection services that are under the Ministry's jurisdiction, including the tax administration office, the customs office, the directorate for prevention of money laundering, the hard currency inspectorate and the budgetary inspection service. Personnel changes in some of these services will be undertaken with the aim of increasing their efficiency. The Minister said that the key element in the reduction of grey economy will be the modification of tax legislation and the reduction of tax rates. This will be followed by strict supervision, which is possible to carry out only with an efficient tax administration office, customs office, the foreign currency inspectorate and the directorate for prevention of money laundering.

The Ministry's major task in the first 100 days of work will be to pass a new budget law for 2004, said Dinkic, adding that the new budget will be development-oriented. Noting that a budget proposal will be forwarded to the government by the end of next week, Dinkic said he expects the parliament to approve the new spending plan by the end of March. Dinkic also presented a list of 17 bills which the Ministry plans to propose in the first 100 days of its work. The bills will be submitted to the parliament in two waves, the Minister went on to say, adding that the first part of the proposed legislation will be debated after the new budget is adopted, with the rest of the bills to be put on the parliament agenda by the end of the 100-day period. The first wave includes a bill on value-added tax (VAT) which should take effect on Jan 1, 2005, Dinkic said.

He stressed that the bill should be approved in the shortest period possible so as to prepare the grounds for its enforcement and train not only taxpayers but also the tax authorities. Experience of other countries shows that it takes at least six months to create the conditions for introducing VAT, which the Minister said will not exceed 18 percent, down from the initially planned 20 percent. The second package of laws to be changed targets reduced icome tax, Dinkic added. Noting that Serbia cannot kick-start its economic growth for privatisation receipts alone, the Minister said that the country needs greenfield investment. In order to attract investors that are leaving the South East European countries which are scheduled to join the European Union in May this year, Serbia must have a competitive edge over other EU hopefuls, he said. Serbia's tax system is only one segment that has a role in attracting foreign investment. The Ministry will make efforts to trim personal income tax by a third, a plan which Dinkic described as the Ministry's most radical move this year.

A lack of fiscal revenues that will come as a result of reduced income tax will be compensated from taxes on games of chance, he explained, adding that the government will also propose a law to regulate games of chance which are currently untaxed. The Minister said that a law on repaying the state's debt to citizens who lent their money for Serbia's economic recovery in the late 1980s will also be placed on the parliament agenda as part of the Ministry's first 100-day period. Dinkic went on to announce a law on insurance, as well as the setting-up of an agency for monitoring insurance companies whose work will be brought up to European standards. A new law on national corporation for housing loan insurance and a law on changes and amendments to the law on guarantee fund will have a more aggressive approach to bank loan insurance, said Dinkic, adding that the state will also provide insurance for agriculture lending and insure loans for underdeveloped areas.

The remaining 11 bills that the Ministry plans to propose in the first 100 days of work include a bill that will replace the law on financial transactions and a bill to replace the law on payroll taxes. The package also includes laws on changes and amendments to the laws on excise goods, property taxes, income taxes, corporate profit taxes, public revenues and spending, as well as a new bill on compulsory insurance contributions, and a law on amendments to the law on turnover tax. The Ministry also plans to scrap some taxes during its first 100 days in office. Financial transaction tax will be immediately abolished in certain sectors and cancelled altogether in 2005. Other taxes to be abolished right away include taxes on heating and engine oils, lubricants, agribusiness, non-alcoholic beverages, and capital gains. Dinkic recalled that March 15 has been set as the deadline for citizens who earned more than 867,255 dinars in 2003 to file their income tax returns, stressing that tax authorities have registered some 18,500 citizens with taxable income in Serbia.

The Minister also said he will ask the government to push back the deadline for fiscal cash register introduction and explained that a number of retailers have failed to meet the Feb 28 deadline due to delays in the establishment of the new government. Noting that there is a low supply of cash registers in the market, Dinkic added that the Ministry will also propose that the government issue cash register sale licenses to more firms. Dinkic also named his team which includes Deputy Minister Vesna Arsic, a former vice-governor in the National Bank of Serbia, and Ministry Secretary Vesna Kovac, a former secretary-general of the Serbian central bank. Vesna Dzinic, who worker with Societe Generale, in the Assistant Minister in charge of treasury, Goran Andjelic is the Assistant Minister in charge of finance, and Nebojsa Skoric the new Assistant Minister charged with property. Vladimir Ilic will head the tax administration office. Noting that the government will elect a new customs administration director and another assistant minister of finance at a session on Thursday, Dinkic stressed that strengthening the Ministry's organisation and personnel will be among his priorities.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 10 March 2004

Greens Unveil Land Tax Proposals

The Scottish Green Party recently expanded its number of seats in the Scottish Parliament thanks to advocating for serious land reform policies. Now the party is leading the way with specific proposals to make local taxes fairer. Here is a report based on BBC coverage. The Scottish Green Party has unveiled plans to scrap the council tax and introduce a levy based on land values. The Greens' land value tax would be paid locally and would be calculated on the value of land. Under the system the owners of prime locations would pay more than those owning marginal and run-down land. The tax could also boost re-generation as owners who develop their land would pay less compared to those speculators who sit on derelict and under-developed land.

Onus on owners - Under the new system, the actual bill would be sent to owners rather than tenants. Poor pensioners and those on low incomes who own wealthy properties would be able to defer payment and pay the outstanding debt when their property is sold or developed. The party's proposals are the latest initiative in a growing campaign to ditch the current council tax system introduced by the Tories to replace the community charge. Green finance spokesman Mark Ballard said Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs might back their idea, which would give it a majority in the Scottish Parliament. Mr. Ballard has lodged the proposal in parliament and now needs 11 signatures of support from MSPs before he can draw up a draft Bill and run a public consultation.

He said: "They know they have a problem defending the current council tax system but I think they want to keep a property tax that brings out social and economic benefits and that's where the land tax system comes in." The party also says the measures would help to cool the overheated housing market and help first-time home buyers. The proposal has already won the backing of Peter Gibb, the chief executive of social and economic think-tank, the Henry George Foundation. He said: "We have examined the different options for local government finance in Scotland and believe taxing land values would bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits." Similar systems of land taxation already operate in Denmark, South Africa, Jamaica and Australia. The Greens' move came the day after the Scottish Parliament refused to back a Scottish Socialist Party call to dump the council tax and replace it with an income-based Scottish service tax.

From The Progress Report, 14 March 2004

Slovak Public Finance Deficit Shrinks 50 % yr/yr

Slovakia's public finance deficit shrank 50 % yr/yr to SKK 42.6 bn in 2003, or 3.6 % of GDP, the Finance Ministry announced on Wednesday. The deficit was worth 7.2 % of GDP in 2002. "The lower-than-planned public finance deficit was achieved mainly thanks to unexpectedly high savings in the individual budget chapters. The funds which remained on their off-budget accounts and the finances that were not drawn for the financing of pre-accession funds improved the public finance balance by SKK 8.3 bn," said the Finance Ministry. The also credits spending cuts, saying it expected the 2003 deficit to be under 5 % of GDP. Falling liabilities of individual state organizations and institutions trimmed SKK 4.5 bn from the deficit, as did interest on funds deposited in a central bank account for pension reform. "These three factors combined represent SKK 16.7 bn, or 1.4 % of GDP," said the Finance Ministry. Slovakia hopes to cut its public finance deficit to 3 % of GDP within the next three years in order to meet Maastricht criteria for adopting the euro. This year, the deficit will hit 4 % of GDP.

From Interfax, Slovakia, 15 March 2004

 

Corporate Rate Reduction and International Tax Reform: Best Options for FSC/ETI Replacement Legislation

The World Trade Organization (WTO) repeatedly has ruled that provisions of U.S. tax law provide an impermissible "export subsidy." The WTO also has ruled that, beginning March 1, the European Union (EU) can impose more than $4 billion of taxes on U.S. exports unless and until these provisions, known as Foreign Sales Corporation and Extraterritorial Income Exclusion (FSC/ETI), are repealed. While lawmakers understandably are upset that the WTO is interfering with U.S. tax law, this dark cloud does have a silver lining. The FSC/ETI provisions are not good tax policy and the revenue generated by repealing those provisions can be used to finance much-needed changes in tax law. But not all tax cuts are created equal. To improve economic growth and competitiveness, policy makers should make changes that move the tax code closer to a simple, low-rate, consumption-base, territorial system. Competing Bills - Motivated by the importance of ending the EU tariffs on American exports, Congress is examining three major options.

Only two of these choices shift the tax code in the right direction. 1. Corporate tax rate reduction. Senators Don Nickles (R-OK) and John Kyl (R-AZ) have proposed to phase in a 2-percentage point reduction in the corporate income tax. This initiative is extremely attractive because it simultaneously lowers tax rates and reduces the double taxation of capital income. International competitiveness is one of the strongest arguments for corporate rate reduction. The United States now has the second high corporate tax rate in the world, second only to Japan. America's corporate tax rate is higher than the rate in every European nation - even socialist welfare states like France and Sweden. This creates a significant competitive disadvantage for U.S.-based companies. But even if the United States were the world's only nation, the corporate tax rate should be reduced. The CBO recently acknowledged that, "Marginal tax rates (the tax rate on another increment of income) are the rates critical to influencing growth and efficiency." Not surprisingly, CBO chose corporate rate reduction over a manufacturing tax preference, writing that, "In terms of economic efficiency, the proposed across-the-board 2 percentage- point rate cut is superior … It would not have the distortions associated with favoring exports, domestic production, or manufacturing. In addition, it would lessen all of the distortions associated with the corporate income tax."

2. International tax reform. The House Ways & Means Committee has a bill that seeks to mitigate the anti-competitive impact of America's worldwide tax system. This approach is very desirable since the current practice of imposing U.S. taxes on income earned in other nations is bad tax policy and makes it difficult for American-based companies to compete on a level playing field. Worldwide taxation subjects U.S. companies to higher tax rates than those paid by companies based in other nations. For example, an American-based company competing in Ireland is at a disadvantage since its profits are subject to the 35 percent U.S. corporate income tax in addition to Ireland's 12.5 percent corporate tax. The U.S. company generally can claim a credit for the taxes paid to Ireland, so the overall tax rate on Irish-source income should not exceed 35 percent. But this still means that the U.S. firm pays nearly three times as much in taxes as companies based in other nations, most of which have territorial tax systems. The Ways & Means tax bill has a number of important reforms that move the tax code toward territorial taxation. The onerous tax that is imposed when a U.S. subsidiary in one foreign country sells to a U.S. subsidiary in another foreign country would be reduced. Another positive reform is the amelioration of interest expense allocation, a policy that requires companies to pretend some interest costs are incurred overseas, thereby resulting in higher tax burdens.

3. Manufacturing tax preference. The Senate Finance Committee has produced a bill that replaces the existing FSC/ETI preference for export-oriented income with a preference for income derived from manufacturing. This idea, which also has support from a largely Democratic group of members in the House, does not move tax policy in the right direction and would make the tax code more complex. Proponents of the manufacturing preference generally are trying to achieve something desirable - a reduction in the tax burden on U.S. production. But good intentions are not the same as good policy. The tax code already is riddled with special preference and penalties that distort economic behavior. Lawmakers should be reducing social engineering, not making the problem worse. America will be much stronger if taxpayers make decisions based on economic factors, not tax considerations. The manufacturing preference also would create high compliance costs, as can be seen from this sentence describing the provision: "It allows a deduction from a firm's taxable income equal to 9 percent of the firm's net income from qualified domestic production multiplied by the ratio of the value added from the firm's domestic production to the total value added by the firm worldwide." While nearly indecipherable, this sentence means that U.S. companies would pay higher taxes if they successfully compete in foreign markets. Needless to say, this is precisely the wrong approach to take in today's global economy.

Why FSC/ETI should be repealed - By creating a special tax rate for a specific activity - producing for the export market - the FSC/ETI provisions artificially alter the allocation of productive investment. This is a form of industrial policy. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently noted: If taxes are imposed on one sector and not another, however, resources will be directed to the tax-favored industries. The results will be a contraction in the activity of those industries that are not favored and an expansion of the activity of those that are. Those …unequal before-tax returns mean that the allocation of capital is inefficient. In other words, economic growth is maximized when market incentives influence economic choices. Special tax preferences, by contrast, distort economic choices and cause a reduction in the economy's performance. The FSC/ETI provision should be repealed for a number of reasons, including the fact that it is bad tax policy and the need to put an end to the taxes that the EU has imposed on U.S. exports. But the biggest reason to repeal the FSC/ETI tax preference is that lawmakers can use the money - more than $50 billion over a 10-year period - to make much needed changes in tax law. Guidelines for incremental tax reform - The tax code is littered with bad provisions.

The good news, so to speak, is that lawmakers seeking to improve the tax system therefore have an abundance of options to pursue. As long as a particular reform satisfies one or more of the following options, it is a step in the right direction. o Does it lower tax rates? This is important because high tax rates discourage productive behavior. o Does it reduce the tax bias against saving and investment? This is important since capital formation is the key to long-run growth. o Does it simplify the tax system? This is important because complexity imposes enormous compliance costs on the economy. o Does it satisfy the common-sense principle of territorial taxation? This is important since governments should only tax income earned inside national borders. o Does it treat all economic activities in a neutral fashion? This is important because government should not use the tax code for industrial policy. Conclusion - Lawmakers have two attractive options for replacing FSC/ETI. Lowering the corporate income tax rate would boost economic growth and enhance U.S. competitiveness. Indeed, a 2-percentage point reduction should be viewed as just the beginning.

As the CBO wrote, "The inefficiency generated by the corporate income tax is large relative to the revenue it raises, and even small changes in the corporate tax rate can reduce that inefficiency substantially." Shifting toward a territorial tax system also would improve the U.S. economy and increase competitiveness. America's policy of worldwide taxation arguably is the worst system in the world. The former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Glenn Hubbard, noted that, "from an income tax perspective, the United States has become one of the least attractive industrial countries in which to locate the headquarters of a multinational corporation." Creating a special tax preference for manufacturing, by contrast, is not good tax policy. Supporters of this proposal have a good motive - reducing the tax burden on U.S.-based production - but government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers through the tax system.

If lawmakers want to adopt changes that are both consistent with good tax policy and disproportionately beneficial to manufacturing, there are other options. They could, for instance, replace depreciation with expensing, a reform that would significantly lower the tax burden on capital formation. The EU should not have attacked America's FSC/ETI law, and the WTO should not have ruled in their favor. By imposing tariffs, the EU risks an escalating trade war that will hurt all nations. Fortunately, U.S. policymakers can solve this predicament by doing something - corporate rate reduction or international tax reform - that would be worth doing even in the absence of the WTO's misguided decision. Daniel J. Mitchell is McKenna Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Heritage Foundation.

From Heritage.org, DC, by Dan Mitchell, 1 March 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.

From Business Wire (press release), 2 February 2004

Bank of America Creates Public Finance Position for Northeast

Bank of America, which is in the process of acquiring FleetBoston Financial Corp., has created a new position to oversee the public finance division for the Northeast region. Francis McKenna will work out of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC) New York City office. He was previously managing director for Merrill Lynch's public finance business in New York state and the Northeast. He has also worked for Empire State Development Corp., the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Bank of America's proposed acquisition of FleetBoston Financial remains subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. FleetBoston Financial has 43 branches in the Albany, N.Y., market.

From Albany Business Review, NY, 1 March 2004

Tax Policy Experts Warn of Federal Spending

Washington - Fiscally conservative organizations are urging President Bush to freeze spending, make spending cuts, or use his veto power if Congress refuses to become fiscally responsible. Groups that examine tax policy have released this week dueling reports on ways the federal government can address the growing deficit. Tax Foundation analysts Scott Hodge and J. Scott Moody urged lawmakers on Wednesday not to repeal the tax cuts if they wanted to attack the deficit, but instead cut federal spending. "As members of Congress debate the budget resolution for the FY 2005 federal budget, many lawmakers are convinced that the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts - especially for high-income taxpayers - are the principal cause of today's high tide of red ink," the two wrote in a report for the organization.

Their report shows that following a Democratic model of repealing the Bush tax cuts on upper-income Americans would pare down the deficit by only 10 percent, and "repealing all of the Bush tax cuts would cut the deficit by only one-third." They continued, "Bottom line, if our goal is to cut the deficit through higher taxes there is very little blood left in the stone of individual income to find new revenues. To put the $477 billion deficit forecast in perspective, it is well in excess of the $404 billion in income taxes that will be collected from every taxpayer making more than $200,000 this year. Thus to balance the budget on the backs of these upper-income Americans would require effective tax rates more than double what they are today, a level far beyond what they have ever been in our history."

They point to a need for spending cuts to solve the budget deficit. National Taxpayers Union Foundation Director of Government Affairs Paul J. Gessing agrees. He and his group are calling for a freeze on all spending - including Defense spending - to solve the deficit dilemma. "A budget freeze or a genuine budget cut may seem drastic, but with a $520 billion deficit and rumblings among some Republicans in Congress that a tax hike is in the works, an across-the-board strategy is long overdue," he said. Several military cuts are included in this fiscal plan including the F-22 Raptor, the Joint Strike Fighter, the Osprey transport, and the Virginia-class submarine, which would free up nearly $15 billion.

Gessing said, "In order to preserve the benefits of the Bush tax cuts and address other fiscal problems like the Alternative Minimum Tax, policymakers must go where the ducks are in hunting for ways to control federal spending. And, despite recent decisions to cancel systems like the Comanche helicopter, many of the fattest ducks can still be found flying around the Pentagon." Edwin J. Fuelner of the Heritage Foundation said on Wednesday that President Bush has missed some perfect opportunities to use his veto power. "The president ... signed a $180 billion farm bill two years ago," he said. "It locked us into 10 years of wasteful subsidies and corporate welfare. We would have been better served if Bush had vetoed the entire bill and told Congress to come back with a more modest, more focused bill."

Fuelner also commented in his report that the use of the veto power could have positive effects on lawmakers. He said, "It's always difficult for lawmakers to control their spending impulses during an election year. Still, with the deficit growing, President Bush must show lawmakers he's serious about sticking to a budget. The president has done the right thing by warning he will veto the Senate bill. Now, he must show he's truly willing to use his veto, if that's what's necessary to put the brakes on federal spending."

From GOPUSA, TX, by Charles Mahaleris, 11 March 2004

Banking on Public Service: World Bank as Down Payment

Los Angeles - At a conference in Prague, Czech Republic, several years ago an irritated World Bank president sort of lost his cool. Snapping at those who likened his Washington-based international anti-poverty bank to a walled-up country club for dilettante economists and bumbling bureaucrats, James Wolfensohn thundered that the bank's 10,000 employees were not evil: "They do not get up every day and say, 'How can we screw the poor?' " But that's more or less what some of the extreme critics had suggested: If the World Bank has been doing such a great job, why is there still so much poverty? The question is demagogic, of course. The World Bank does have an impact: It's the globe's leading source of anti-AIDS funding, and much more. But given the enormity of the Earth's poverty, environmental and developmental problems, it falls far short of being a cure-all. Even so, if the World Bank didn't exist, as it has since 1944, we would probably want to invent it. For it has become increasingly obvious that the only thing worse than a world with a World Bank, creaky or bureaucratic or whatever it may be, would be a world without it.

When the more relaxed Wolfensohn spoke privately to a small group of faculty and students at the University of California, Los Angeles, last week, he expressed an appropriate annoyance at wealthy countries for not accepting more responsibility for the dimensions of the poverty bomb that their shortsighted policies are fusing. The world needs that perspective. The Australian-born lawyer and investment banker, whose World Bank career winds down next year, noted that the world's wealthiest nation commits much less than 1 percent of its budget to worldwide poverty relief. Before too long, he said, "We will go from a world of 6 billion people, to a world of 8 billion people - with maybe over 6 1/2 billion living in the developing world." Although public service has fallen somewhat into disrepute these days, international institutions such as the World Bank do considerable good by raising such big questions. Even after more than eight grinding years as the World Bank president, at the ripe young age of 70, Wolfensohn caught the idealistic eye of the half-dozen UCLA star students in the room who are considering public service.

He spoke of his staff's efforts to get out of Washington to work with civil-society actors in their own countries to develop appropriate programs, such as in war-torn Sri Lanka: "People in poverty know what to do with developmental money a helluva lot better than us bureaucrats in Washington. We need to be listening to them." Is this the true face, students wondered, of the allegedly cold-blooded, bureaucratically indifferent World Bank? Wolfensohn didn't realize it, but he probably sealed the deal with some of these young citizens about a public-service career. That's a good thing. But how can first-rate minds remain motivated with a negative media harping at every public-sector miscue and a private-sector salary structure that embarrasses anything governments ordinarily can offer? It's surprising, therefore, that many young people still elect public-service careers at all.

Since Colin Powell became secretary of state, 65,000 Americans applied to join the U.S. Foreign Service - a record. Some of those applicants graduated from U.S. public-policy schools, a notable innovation in higher education that took place decades ago. From Harvard to Berkeley, from Duke to UCLA, public-policy schools teach young people to pose the question: Ask not what is in your personal interest, but what is in the public interest. Why should MBA-business schools have any interest in that? Alas, symbolizing our times, now one of the nation's premier public-policy schools is under major attack for abandoning the internationalist vision. The Robertson family, whose huge 1961 grant launched Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, is asking the courts to force Princeton University to return its money.

Its foundation is claiming it is deeply disappointed that so few Woodrow Wilson School graduates elect to pursue public-service positions in international relations (the inspiration for the initial grant). In fact, many young people - at Princeton or elsewhere - are lured upon graduation into high-paying law firms or businesses that reflect our culture of materialism. Neither Princeton nor the Woodrow Wilson School created that culture, but certainly our universities could wage a more vigorous fight against it. For if our young people are not being actively inspired by their faculty and universities to take the global view, what chance do the Wolfensohns of the world have - much less the globe's poor? Without more students inspired by the idea of public service, what's to stop our MBA-culture (to borrow Wolfensohn's phrase) from getting up every day and saying, "How can we screw the poor?"

From Seattle Times, WA, 11 March 2004

Unsound Tax Policy Has Ripple Effect on Illinois Economy

An intriguing aspect of the Springfield budget battle is the renewed emphasis on accountability. ''Accountability'' is a great word that resonates with voters. But what does it really mean in context of the Illinois fiscal system, which essentially does two things - generates money and then spends that money to deliver public services. To be accountable, both aspects of the fiscal system have to work. Of course, the state operates under a constitutional mandate that it produce a balanced budget annually. This mandate means failure to tax or spend accountably makes bad things happen - things like unfairly assessing the tax burden or underfunding important priorities such as schools, health care and the environment. Because you can't spend money until you raise it, the first inquiry is, does Illinois tax in a manner that is accountable - that is fair, sound and sustainable? The answer is a resounding no. The Illinois tax system is both unfair and unsound. It imposes a significantly greater tax burden on low- and moderate-income families than on affluent families, even though low-and moderate-income families fail to share in economic growth.

According to U.S. census data, over the last two decades, almost two-thirds of the population saw their incomes decrease, while the wealthiest 20 percent realized significant increases. On top of being unfair, the Illinois tax system is unsound because it fails to comport with the principles economists maintain are necessary to make a fiscal system work. The end result, a tax system that cannot produce enough revenue to continue providing the same level of public services tomorrow that it does today. Economists call this a structural deficit. Overtaxed low- and moderate-income families call it something more colorful, if not printable. Proposals to resolve this structural imbalance by cutting spending as revenue drops may be penurious, but are not accountable. They are based on the mistaken assumption that Illinois is a wasteful, profligate spending state (it's not - ranking only 41st nationally) and ignore the state's responsibility to produce public services.

If you think continued spending cuts will mean that only wasteful programs get the ax, think again. In the current budget, spending for successful and inexpensive programs, including the Open Lands Initiative and the Golden Apple Scholarship Program, were slashed. If elected officials want to strike at the real cause of our fiscal woes, they'll reform how the state imposes taxes. Tax reform is also necessary if the state is serious about funding schools more fairly. As it stands now, Illinois is the only state that received an ''F'' in school funding fairness from Education Week. The reason for this abject failure is the over-reliance on local property tax revenue to fund schools, and the concomitant under-reliance on state-based revenue. The only way to improve things is to implement fundamental reform by reducing property taxes, increasing income taxes, adjusting the sales tax base and shifting the tax burden from low- and middle-income folks to wealthier folks.

If the state continues to dodge tax reform, here's what happens. We'll continue to overtax low- and moderate-income working families while underfunding their schools. In the short term, their kids will receive an inferior education and fall further behind their more well-heeled counterparts. In the long term, Illinois will struggle to provide employers with a well-educated work force. All the national data demonstrate that business will notice our education ''deficit,'' and either not locate in the state, or move away. See, fundamental tax reform is not about the current fiscal year. It's about creating a fair, sustainable and reasonable way to tax, and then investing in the people of Illinois to build a bright future for the state. The proposed budget very well may be the best that can be done given the current fiscal system. But if so, then that budget itself makes a compelling argument to reform the Illinois tax system.

From Chicago Sun Times, IL, by Ralph Martire, 13 March 2004

U.S. Files Case against China on Semiconductor Tax Policy

Washington - U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick on Thursday filed the first case against China since it joined the World Trade Organization, charging that its tax policies unfairly limit U.S. semiconductor chip imports. "U.S. manufacturers of semiconductors and other products have a right to compete on a level playing field with Chinese firms," Zoellick said in a written statement. "The bottom line is that China is discriminating against key U.S. technology products, it's wrong and it's time to pursue a remedy through the WTO." The filing comes as trade and manufacturing employment are playing a major role in the presidential campaign. China posted a trade surplus of nearly $125 billion with the United States last year, and several industries have complained of unfair trade practices. Zhang Qi, a director-general at China's Ministry of Information Industry, told the Reuters news service before the case was filed, "If they want to lodge a complaint, let them go ahead.

"Last year, we imported more than 80 percent of our semiconductors, and I don't see how much more open our market could be," she said. Under fire is China's value-added tax system, which levies a 17 percent tax on imported U.S. semiconductors while offering substantial rebates to domestic manufacturers, leaving them with about a 3 percent tax, according to the U.S. trade representative's office. "This gimmick ... is absurd under the WTO," said Frank Vargo, vice president for internal affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers. "You can't say you've got to move to China to get this tax break. You can't treat foreign companies different from domestic companies for tax purposes. "We worked very hard to get China into the WTO and to get normal trade relations," Vargo said. "This isn't about semiconductors; this about the Chinese following policy."

Vargo said the association had been pushing U.S. officials to take action against China's tax policies for more than six months. The United States urged China in negotiations to comply with WTO guidelines, said Richard Mills, a spokesman for the trade representative's office. China's market for semiconductors is valued at about $19 billion, the office said, but is expanding rapidly as consumers there snap up personal computers, cellphones and other electronic products. Last year, U.S. chip manufacturers' exports to China were worth slightly more than $2 billion. Asian producers supply the bulk of China's imports. Thursday's action signals the start of a 60-day consultation period required by the WTO. The trade representative's office said it would prefer to continue discussions, but if no resolution is reached, it could request a panel be established under the WTO to determine whether China is meeting its obligations as a member. "As a WTO member, China must live up to its WTO obligations. It cannot impose measures that discriminate against U.S. products," Zoellick said.

From Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA, by Shweta Govindarajan, 19 March 2004

Public-Finance Campaign System Pitched by Legislators

Sacramento - Groups want measure put on Nov. 2 ballot - Bay Area lawmakers and good-government groups launched a bid Tuesday to pass a ballot measure aimed at cleaning up the runaway political money chase with a proven system that taps taxpayer funds for campaigns. But the effort to approve a bill putting the Arizona-style, voluntary public-finance proposal on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot was attacked immediately by Republican lawmakers as "absurd" in light of California's deficit. The "Clean Money and Elections" proposal - authored by Democratic Assemblywoman Loni Hancock of Berkeley and backed by Democratic Assembly members Gene Mullin of San Mateo and Wilma Chan of Oakland - could be passed out of the Legislature by majority Democrats alone. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has expressed interest in campaign finance reform, has yet to take a position on the proposal that was aired Tuesday during a news conference and informational legislative hearing.

If the legislative path to the ballot is blocked, government-reform organizations and others said they would collect signatures to place the proposal directly before voters as a constitutional amendment. Groups representing women and minorities said they back the proposal because it would foster greater diversity among officeholders. Supporters of adding the system to California's existing patchwork of campaign finance laws include the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Public Interest Research Group and the Greenlining Institute. Under the proposal, candidates for legislative or statewide office, who raise a minimum amount of "seed money" in small donations and agree to limit their spending, could obtain full public financing of their campaigns. The candidates would receive matching funds to keep pace with nonparticipating foes who exceed the spending caps and with expenditures by independent groups.

Though court rulings have struck down mandatory spending caps and other aspects of campaign finance reform as conflicting with First Amendment rights, the voluntary "Clean Money and Elections" system so far has withstood legal challenges in Arizona and Maine. In addition, supporters noted that five of the state's eight largest cities - including Oakland and San Francisco - have adopted programs to publicly finance local elections. "The increasing influence of money and special interests in campaigns is one of the biggest challenges facing our democratic system," said Hancock, the principal author of the statewide proposal. "As time spent on fund raising has increased, the public's opinion of government and confidence in elected officials has plummeted. "Voter anger with the current system has been fueled by the perception that everything in Sacramento is for sale ... (and) that major contributors have more access to legislators and influence over legislation than ordinary citizens do." The proposal would provide "the most substantial and comprehensive solution to the influence of money and special interests in politics," Hancock said.

Mullin, who is among the co-authors of the bill, said he was elected to the Assembly after one of the most expensive primaries in state history. Then he joined a Legislature whose members complain that too much of their time is consumed by the necessary quest for campaign donations. "This is a battle worth waging and a battle worth winning," he said. Marc Spitzer, a former GOP lawmaker in Arizona, led a parade of speakers from several California and national groups that support the system. Spitzer said candidates of both parties in Arizona have benefited, along with the state as a whole. Voter turnout has increased, less money has been spent on campaigns and public trust in government has grown, supporters said. "Ultimately, if we truly want a government by and for the people, our campaigns have to paid by the people," Hancock said.

Supporters said they are still weighing exact public-finance amounts for various offices and situations, and options for covering the cost, from tax increases to closing tax loopholes. Critics attacked the public-finance aspect of the proposal in particular. "With California's financial crisis, it's absurd to talk about giving tax dollars to politicians for their campaigns," said state Sen. Ross Johnson, R-Irvine. Johnson authored a ballot measure, approved by voters in 1988, that bans use of taxpayer funds for political campaigns. "Taxpayer financing of political campaigns would cost tens of millions of dollars and perhaps as much as $100 million per election cycle," he said. "This is money that could be used for police and fire protection, education and transportation." "Do California taxpayers really want to see their hard-earned tax dollars used for political campaigns? I think the answer is emphatically no," Johnson said. Contact Sacramento Bureau Chief Steve Geissinger at sgeissinger@angnewspapers.com

From Tri-Valley Herald, CA, by Steve Geissinger, 24 March 2004

 
 

Japan Postal to Move on Privatization

Tokyo - Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday he will appoint a special minister later this year to oversee privatization of the postal services. "It is a big reform. ... A minister in charge of it should be appointed," Koizumi told reporters. "I have several candidates in mind." While the prime minister would not provide any names of the special minister, there has been speculation that Koizumi may reshuffle his Cabinet after the July Upper House election, the Japan Times reported. The privatization of mail delivery, postal savings and postal insurance services, currently provided by Japan Post, is one of Koizumi's key policy initiatives. However, the special minister is expected to have a hard time because the ruling Liberal Democratic Party opposes the idea.

From MENAFN, Middle East, 3 March 2004

New Body to Monitor Privatization Policy

Civic committee aims to monitor rights of labor and society, improve welfare - Premier Yu Shyi-kun urged members of a newly formed civic committee to monitor state enterprise privatization projects to ensure that such programs can be carried out openly, fairly and justly. Speaking at the first meeting of the Executive Yuan State Enterprise Monitoring and Advisory Committee yesterday, Yu said his Democratic Progressive Party had "spared no efforts" to work for the transformation of long uncompetitive state companies into profit-making enterprises. Yu said his Cabinet aims to transform the organization and management structure of state enterprises, select chief executives of such firms through an open process to ensure professionalization, realize "industrial democracy" and expand labor participation in management, enhance the professional capabilities of workers in state firms and avoid conglomerate takeover of privatized state enterprises.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian promised labor union activists that his administration would form an independent commission to monitor state enterprise privatization and prevent the takeover of state firms by conglomerates or political parties and ensure the protection of workers' rights. But realization of the promise was delayed until last November 3 when Premier Yu Shyi-kun told leaders of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions that the Cabinet would form a monitoring committee with labor participation. The 15 - person "State Enterprise Privatization Monitoring and Advisory Committee" met for the first time yesterday with Presidential National Policy Adviser and sociologist Michael Hsiao as its convener. The new body is entirely composed of civic sector representatives, including five union leaders, five academics with specializations in economics, labor policy and privatization, and five "upright" civic persons, including Hsiao.

Hsiao said the committee "will take the initiative in monitoring and provide advice when asked" on policy and implementation of privatization efforts. Hsiao noted that the Council for Economic Planning and Development originally had a committee to "promote and monitor" privatization efforts. "Promotion is promotion and monitoring is monitoring and monitoring should be carried out by civic persons and not by government officials themselves," Hsiao noted. CEPD Vice Chairman Hsieh Fa-tah stated that while the promotion committee did require state enterprises earmarked for privatization to certify prior consultation with their respective unions. But Hsieh acknowledged that "the combination of both monitoring and promotion functions in one committee led some people to feel that the process should be more transparent and that the monitoring function should be independent."

Hsiao said the two committees would have equal status and noted that final political responsibility for the implementation of the privatization of the remaining 18 state-owned enterprises rested not with the committees but with the Executive Yuan. Hsiao said the committee members can take an active role in pressing for clarification on privatization programs and that a motion by one member, seconded by two others, can become a case for report by the responsible agency and discussion by the committee. Hsiao acknowledged that state enterprise privatization is a government policy based on a legal statute to promote privatization. But the national policy adviser added that "what we want is privatization that will have positive results and can avoid the takeover of state firms by conglomerates, cheap sale of national assets and bureaucratization."

Hsiao noted that President Chen has stated that privatization is not the only choice if the competitiveness of state enterprises can be achieved through alternative methods. ?) noted that?Chunghua Postal Workers' Union Chairman Tsai Liang-chuan (? realization of the president's campaign promise "was a little delayed" but expressed support for its formation and said the new body "will help privatization become more transparent, prevent takeover by conglomerates and offer more guarantees of labor rights and welfare." Homeworkers' Union and Environmental Protection Foundation Chairwoman Chen Man-li (???) added that more attention to labor rights will help avoid resistance to privatization, but also added that the "responsibility to society and the environment should also be highlighted."

"Many state enterprises have neglected their responsibility to society or have engaged in severe environmental pollution and we hope that these issues can be included in the scope of monitoring," Chen added. Academia Sinica Institute of Social Sciences researcher Chang Chin-fen (???), a specialist on privatization issues, noted that the formation of the monitoring committee was the result of years of effort by labor activists and trade union leaders. "From 1989, labor unions and scholars have questioned the problems of privatization, but their voices were neglected by the media and government, thus leading to confrontation and resistance," she related. "We must express thanks to the sacrifices made by many union activists, often at risk of their rights, to press for the formation of such a committee," Chang stated.

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan, by Dennis Engbarth, 1 March 2004

Koizumi to Appoint Postal Privatization Minister in Summer

Tokyo - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday he plans to appoint a minister in charge of privatization of postal services this summer in the hope that the appointment will help complete the privatization in 2007. "This is a big reform. I think it better to install a minister" given a substantial amount of work related to Diet deliberations on relevant bills, the premier told reporters at his office.

From Japan Today, Japan, 1 March 2004

Thai Unions Want Government to Can Privatization Plans

Bangkok - Thailand's decision to shelve the privatization of the nation's biggest energy producer has failed to end protests from unions who demanded yesterday that the listing plans be abandoned altogether. Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej said the sale of 25 percent of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) would be postponed to allow for consultation with unions and the creation of a new power regulator. "The initial public offering of EGAT is postponed indefinitely and the government will not set a new deadline," he said Saturday, in a stunning reversal of government policy forced by mounting demonstrations. "I hope that overseas as well as local investors will understand the situation," he said, referring to fears that the postponement of the country's biggest ever float will hurt confidence in Thailand's economy.

But EGAT union chairman Sirichai Mai-ngarm said the backdown did not go far enough and that he would push ahead with plans for a huge rally tomorrow outside Government House which will cap two weeks of angry protests. "Postponement is not our goal because the government will carry on with the privatization plan anyway," he said. "Bringing EGAT to the stock market is not a good idea, the government should call it off and find another solution," he said. Government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair confirmed that the listing, which was originally slated for May, had only been postponed until the administration has consulted with all concerned parties. "The government will go ahead with the privatization plan, it has not changed its mind, the government has just made a postponement to make sure all requests can be discussed," he said.

Despite Thaksin's warning last week that the stock market and baht currency could crash if the privatization plan - a key plank in its economic policy - was abandoned, Jakrapob said he did not anticipate a slide on the bourse. "We can restore confidence with investors," he said. And after the unions were warned that their demonstrations would be closed down if they got out of hand, Jakrapob urged the protesters to ensure that tomorrow's rally did not become violent. "This is not the time to trying to win against the other side, it is time to turn towards each other and cooperate to solve the problem," he said.

Thaksin has taken a hard line against the tens of thousands of EGAT workers rallying outside the organization's headquarters, bolstered by other state employees who fear a sweeping privatization drive will cost them their jobs. But in his weekly radio address Saturday he admitted he had pushed the issue too fast. "I have asked my ministers why workers have had to rally and I found out that I myself must be blamed for rushing officials to privatize and that a lack of explanation to the public has caused misunderstandings," he said. Thaksin said the public had gained the wrong impression that the entire 25 percent stake would be sold to foreigners, but that in fact only about 2 percent to 3 percent would find its way to overseas investors.

From Taipei Times, Taiwan, 8 March 2004

Cabinet OKs Highway Privatization Plan

The Cabinet endorsed contentious legislation Tuesday aimed at privatizing the nation's four expressway corporations. The move paves the way for the new entities to repay combined debts worth 40 trillion yen over a period of 45 years, while pursuing planned road construction projects with borrowing backed by government guarantees. The privatization of the expressway firms is a pillar of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's structural reform drive. The legislation advocates establishment of six privatized entities via the regrouping of Japan Highway Public Corp., Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp., Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority, as well as a separate asset-holding and debt-servicing administrative organization. The privatized companies will be given special status and undertake expressway construction, maintenance and toll-collection while leasing expressways from the administrative organ. The latter will concentrate on debt repayment by using road lease fees from the expressway operators.

The central and local governments will own more than one-third of shares with voting rights that will be issued by the privatized companies. The process will therefore follow the same format used to privatize the former state-owned corporations that resulted in the creation of NTT Corp. If the legislation is approved by the Diet during the current session, which runs through mid-June, the expressway corporations will be privatized by the end of fiscal 2005, according to officials at the Land, Transport and Infrastructure Ministry. Although the privatization scheme was initially expected to prioritize debt repayment and halt the construction of unprofitable routes, some experts charge that the plan will have little impact other than reducing the cost of completing the planned 9,342 km expressway network. Under the current system, Japan Highway, the largest of the four expressway firms, undertakes expressway construction when issued administrative orders by the land, infrastructure and transport minister.

Upon privatization, this administrative order system will be abolished and the privatized entities are expected to act at their own discretion. They will apply to the land minister for new road construction projects after concluding agreements with the administrative organ. Critics doubt whether the privatized entities will be given real autonomy, as the companies will be able to raise construction funds by issuing bonds backed by government guarantees. All of these debts and completed expressways will be taken over by the administrative organ - and eventually by either the central or local governments. The legislation stipulates that the administrative organ will be disbanded after debt repayment is completed 45 years after privatization. The expressways will be toll-free thereafter. Toll-free expressways have been promised by the government for decades, though they have never been realized because of the so-called pool system, in which users of expressways whose construction costs have been paid off must continue paying tolls to cover the construction costs of unprofitable expressways in rural areas.

From The Japan Times, by Tetsushi Kajimoto, 10 March 2004

Privatization Minister Arrives In Germany

Islamabad, Pakistan - Federal Republic of Germany being the 5th largest importer of Pakistani products has emerged as an important trading partner of Pakistan and trade between Pakistan and Germany is being conducted in freely convertible currency under the terms of the Trade Agreement signed in 1957. The Minister for privatization & Investment Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has arrived in Germany to address tow-day Munich Management Colloquium being held from March 9. According to a message received here on Tuesday from Munich the theme of this year Colloquium will be "The Future of Growth". The moot will open today while Dr. Hafeez Shaikh will address the closing session tomorrow. In September last Pakistan Business Day was held at Berlin for the growth of Pak-German economic interaction in the private sector. A Memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Pakistan German Business Forum (PGBF) and its counterpart in Germany Deutsche-Pakistan Forum (DPF) was signed in this regard for promoting investment, trade and business relations with Pakistan during Investment moot held at Berlin.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 10 March 2004

Thai Utility Privatization Effort Hiked

Bangkok - The Prime Minister of Thailand has given his government one month to prepare the groundwork to privatize the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. Thaksin Shinawatra's order requires officials to prepare all legal and other documents for EGAT's initial public offering. Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej said the guidelines for the IPO must ensure a transparent process, in which every step will be open to examination. His ministry is considering allocating shares to all electricity users who want to buy them. Steps also must be taken to bar the allocation of shares to highly-connected patrons, the Bangkok Post reported. The cabinet's ruling on share allocation says foreigners will be permitted to hold no more than 25 percent in the new entity, with individual holdings for non-Thais capped at 5 percent. Meanwhile, protests against the privatization of EGAT were in their 17th-day Wednesday. The protesters want the proposal scrapped and the state enterprise capitalization law repealed. The Board of Trade of Thailand and the Federation of Thai Industries support the privatization plan.

From Washington Times, DC, 11 March 2004

Resistance

Bangkok - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is facing a major political test over plans to privatize the country's electricity authority. The government says the sales are necessary to raise capital, but state sector unions are calling for a halt, fearing higher electricity charges and job losses. The Thai government is facing stiff resistance from state enterprise unions that oppose plans to privatize the state-owned electricity generating authority or EGAT. Recent demonstrations by thousands of EGAT workers and supporters have stalled government efforts to start the privatization process and sale of shares on the Thai stock exchange later this year. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known for his CEO style of leadership in government administration, says he remains determined to press ahead with the program despite heavy resistance. The EGAT share sale is worth an estimated $1.8 billion, with other major state enterprises to follow, including the Mass Communications Organization of Thailand (MCOT).

The privatization of 59 state-owned enterprises was a key recommendation of the International Monetary Fund's rescue package to Thailand after the 1997 financial crisis. But while some progress was made among smaller state sector entities, union resistance has stalled privatization among the larger enterprises. Now Mr. Thaksin is seeking to have another try. In recent weeks state enterprise unions have staged rolling demonstrations with tens of thousands of protesters. The protests have led Mr. Thaksin to call for a short delay to ensure the legal and procedural groundwork for the EGAT share sale. He believes the almost $2 billion are needed to lift efficiency and investment to meet rising electricity demand. Anusorn Tamajai, a Bangkok economist, said while privatization may mean better public services, implementation is the key. "It can be bad if not transparent and can lead into more corruption or just the transfer of monopoly power from state to the large corporation," he said.

Labor and trade union groups remain determined to halt the share sales fearing state enterprise job losses and higher electricity charges. Protesters are calling for the privatization to be scrapped and the repeal of associated laws which they say Mr. Thaksin had promised to carry out in early 2003. Junya Yimprasert, a coordinator with the Thai Labor Campaign, said there is now a lack of trust between the government and unions. "I think at the moment the union doesn't trust and doesn't agree with the moves of the government, is not to solve the problem or not to listen to the union, its just to delay the process," said Mrs. Junya. "That doesn't mean it not come back." Both the government and unions have set entrenched positions. Mrs. Junya said the government is underestimating the demands of the union. "I think it will be a long battle," she said. "The government underestimates the demand and the seriousness of the demands of the workers of the state enterprise unions."

State enterprise unions are among the strongest in the labor movement in Thailand and represent one of the most significant challenges to Mr. Thaksins government since it came to power in 2001. Human rights lawyers believe both sides now need to be careful to avoid the threat of violence. Sunai Phasuk, from the rights group Forum Asia, says the political atmosphere could become highly charged. "The matters can become highly politicized and as it is highly politicized it will become very unpredictable," he said. "If both sides refuse to step just one step backward and try to establish a channel of communication it is hard to prevent unnecessary violence to happen."

But Bob Broadfoot, managing director of Political and Economic Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong, believes Mr. Thaksin will be more cautious with general elections just 12 months away. "I don't think you are going to want to see Thaksin really stir up a hornets nest in terms of pushing privatization in these industries like EGAT which can mobilize real opposition to him," commented Mr. Broadfoot. "I think his politics are going to say back off on this issue." Economists are calling on the government to proceed with caution including a public referendum and debate on the policy. But senior government ministers, including Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej, remain steadfast. Mr. Prommin says the protesters need to drop unconditional demands for talks to occur and that the focus will be on post-privatization issues such protection of the public interest and keeping energy prices fair.

From Voice of America, DC, by Ron Corben, 15 March 2004

Thailand Electric Authority Privatization Plan Faces Stiff Resistance

Bangkok - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is facing a major political test over plans to privatize the country's electricity authority. The government says the sales are necessary to raise capital, but state sector unions are calling for a halt, fearing higher electricity charges and job losses. The Thai government is facing stiff resistance from state enterprise unions that oppose plans to privatize the state-owned electricity generating authority or EGAT. Recent demonstrations by thousands of EGAT workers and supporters have stalled government efforts to start the privatization process and sale of shares on the Thai stock exchange later this year. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known for his CEO style of leadership in government administration, says he remains determined to press ahead with the program despite heavy resistance.

The EGAT share sale is worth an estimated $1.8 billion, with other major state enterprises to follow, including the Mass Communications Organization of Thailand (MCOT). The privatization of 59 state-owned enterprises was a key recommendation of the International Monetary Fund's rescue package to Thailand after the 1997 financial crisis. But while some progress was made among smaller state sector entities, union resistance has stalled privatization among the larger enterprises. Now Mr. Thaksin is seeking to have another try. In recent weeks state enterprise unions have staged rolling demonstrations with tens of thousands of protesters. The protests have led Mr. Thaksin to call for a short delay to ensure the legal and procedural groundwork for the EGAT share sale. He believes the almost $2 billion are needed to lift efficiency and investment to meet rising electricity demand.

Anusorn Tamajai, a Bangkok economist, said while privatization may mean better public services, implementation is the key. "It can be bad if not transparent and can lead into more corruption or just the transfer of monopoly power from state to the large corporation," he said. Labor and trade union groups remain determined to halt the share sales fearing state enterprise job losses and higher electricity charges. Protesters are calling for the privatization to be scrapped and the repeal of associated laws which they say Mr. Thaksin had promised to carry out in early 2003. Junya Yimprasert, a coordinator with the Thai Labor Campaign, said there is now a lack of trust between the government and unions. "I think at the moment the union doesn't trust and doesn't agree with the moves of the government, is not to solve the problem or not to listen to the union, its just to delay the process," said Mrs. Junya. "That doesn't mean it not come back." Both the government and unions have set entrenched positions.

Mrs. Junya said the government is underestimating the demands of the union. "I think it will be a long battle," she said. "The government underestimates the demand and the seriousness of the demands of the workers of the state enterprise unions." State enterprise unions are among the strongest in the labor movement in Thailand and represent one of the most significant challenges to Mr. Thaksins government since it came to power in 2001. Human rights lawyers believe both sides now need to be careful to avoid the threat of violence. Sunai Phasuk, from the rights group Forum Asia, says the political atmosphere could become highly charged. "The matters can become highly politicized and as it is highly politicized it will become very unpredictable," he said. "If both sides refuse to step just one step backward and try to establish a channel of communication it is hard to prevent unnecessary violence to happen."

But Bob Broadfoot, managing director of Political and Economic Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong, believes Mr. Thaksin will be more cautious with general elections just 12 months away. "I don't think you are going to want to see Thaksin really stir up a hornets nest in terms of pushing privatization in these industries like EGAT which can mobilize real opposition to him," commented Mr. Broadfoot. "I think his politics are going to say back off on this issue." Economists are calling on the government to proceed with caution including a public referendum and debate on the policy. But senior government ministers, including Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej, remain steadfast. Mr. Prommin says the protesters need to drop unconditional demands for talks to occur and that the focus will be on post-privatization issues such protection of the public interest and keeping energy prices fair.

From The Epoch Times, World, by Ron Corben, 16 March 2004

Indonesia Pushes Privatization of Merpati Airlines

Jakarta - The Indonesian government has submitted a proposal to parliament for the privatization of PT Merpati Nusantara Airlines through an initial public offering, the airlines' president director, Hotasi Nababan, said on Monday. "The pattern will be an initial public offering to a maximum of 51 percent, meaning it could be 20, 30 or 40 percent," Hotasi said. The plan to privatize the airline has been discussed by related ministries, Hotasi added. However, he could not give a deadline for the privatization, saying that it might begin in 2005 or 2006. "There is no deadline because if we set a deadline we could not get a maximum price," he said. On prospective investors in the privatization, Hotasi said many investors both local and foreign had expressed their interest. "Investors' interest is high because of [the] high return of investment, supported by favorable security conditions," Hotasi said.

Regional administrations, especially those in eastern Indonesia, could establish a consortium to participate in the privatization. According to Hotasi, the funds obtained from the privatization would be used mostly to change and increase the airline's fleet, making the airline stronger and more efficient. "We will increase the fleet from 40 units to 60 units, while the types of the aircrafts would be reduced from nine to four," he said. "The types of aircraft to be acquired would be those which can be operated efficiently with a seating capacity for 25 to 30 passengers because we serve routes to remote regions with small aircraft." Hotasi predicted that routes that could be served with small aircraft would undergo significant growth in the next few years, including routes over Java island. (Asia Pulse/Antara).

From Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, 16 March 2004

Hong Kong Government: Hopes For Airport Privatization Bill At End 2004

The government said Friday it "hopes" to present a bill to lawmakers for the privatization of Hong Kong's Airport Authority "around the end of 2004," leading to an eventual stock market listing. As a step toward that event, the government Friday published another draft law, the Airport Authority (Amendment) Bill, which will permit the operator of Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok international airport to return HK$6 billion of its capital to the government. The draft will go before lawmakers in the city's Legislative Council Wednesday, who will decide whether to allow the Airport Authority to return almost a sixth of its HK$36.6 billion in equity capital to the government.

The idea behind the capital return was, the government said in a statement, "to optimize the AA's capital structure through a reduction of its capital" to prepare it for listing. "We believe the capital restructuring plan proposed is the right step toward the eventual privatization of AA - it can bring value to the government and also to AA," a government spokesman said in a statement. "AA's financial strength should not be unduly affected by this exercise," the spokesman said. Lawmakers must first pass the bill to privatize the Airport Authority before it can be listed. In a proposal outlined in February, the government said it had opted for an initial public offering as the best way to privatize the airport, because it provides an opportunity for public ownership.

From Yahoo News, 19 March 2004

 

Georgia Suspends Privatization

Tbilisi - All dealings concerning privatization and rent of state property in Georgia have been suspended, Georgian Economy Minister Irakly Rekhviashvili said at a press conference in Tbilisi on Friday. "These processes will be resumed only after the ministry works out an efficient privatization policy, the absence of which resulted in the unfavorable situation in this sphere," he said. "The privatization process will be significantly adjusted taking into account the results of audit inspections of enterprises in which the state has an interest," which are underway at the moment and which should show their "real price, debts and prospects for restructuring," he said.

Rekhviashvili said he regards as justified the privatization of Georgian enterprises through the Georgian Stock Exchange, but this would call for substantial structural reforms, including the establishment of an investment bank. "Conditions must be created to ensure the people's access to privatization," the minister said. As was reported earlier, Georgian budget revenues from the privatization of state property in 2003 were 25.6 million lari, or 62% of the target (41.5 million lari). The failure to meet the target was prompted by the decision not to privatize a number of power facilities and several major enterprises before they have undergone international audit, including the Chiatura manganese works and the Madneuli copper concentrate producer. In 2002, Georgia's budget earned 8.7 million lari from privatization with a target of 15 million lari. The official exchange rate as of February 27 is 2.035 lari/$1.

From Interfax, Georgia, 1 March 2004

Sayin: Government To Use Its 1.5 Years Time In Privatization Of Ziraat And Halk Banks

Ankara - Zeki Sayin, the Chairman of Public Banks Joint Administration Board said on Sunday that they told World Bank delegation that the cabinet would use its 1.5 years of time (normal period) in privatization of Ziraat and Halk Banks. Responding to questions of journalists about the issue, Sayin said that the World Bank delegation would carry out studies for one week and the delegation told him that things were going fine in Ziraat and Halk Banks. Noting that the normal procedure about privatization of those banks continued, Sayin said that ''we told them that the Council of Ministers had 1.5 years of time more and it would use it. After finishing their study, the World Bank delegation will inform us about its result.''

From Turkish Press, Turkey, 1 March 2004

Bulgaria's Privatization Body Reported 344 Deals over 2003

Bulgaria's Privatization Agency (PA) completed a total of 344 sale deals on majority shares held by state-owned companies over 2003, PA's head Iliya Vassilev announced on Monday. State-held minority shares were sold through 228 deals and another 28 piecemeal deals saw a closedown last year. Iliya Vassilev informed that the receipt of payments under those sales amounted to BGN 454 M, as well as non-cash BGN 314 M payable by means of compensatory notes and investment bonds. The Privatization Agency has agreed fresh investments of BGN 23 M with the new owners, the report says.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 8 March 2004

I.M.F. Delegation Visits Privatization Administration Board

Ankara - Privatization Administration Board Chairman Metin Kilci said on Wednesday that there was no IMF pressure on them to speed up privatization. IMF delegation headed by IMF Turkey Desk Chief Reza Moghadam visited Privatization Administration Board the same day and met with Kilci. IMF Turkey representative Odd Per Brekk and Privatization Administration Board deputy chairman Hasan Koktas also attended the meeting. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kilci said that they assessed the recent developments in privatization and they explained the things done in that field to IMF delegation. He said that many projects started in the year 2003 were resulted in the first months of 2004. Kilci said that studies continued for privatization of Telecom. When asked how the IMF delegation evaluated the developments, Kilci said that IMF delegation was pleased with the developments in privatization.

From Turkish Press, Turkey, 10 March 2004

Privatization 101

Last week the current Minister of the Treasury, Zbigniew Kaniewski, announced the government's intention to privatize over 200 state-owned companies within the next nine months in an effort to raise zl.8.8 billion in revenue. "The pace of privatization has stalled in Poland... and the Polish authorities need to take decisive action to accelerate privatization." - EU Commission Report November 5, 2003 - Last week the current Minister of the Treasury, Zbigniew Kaniewski, announced the government's intention to privatize over 200 state-owned companies within the next nine months in an effort to raise zl.8.8 billion in revenue. The goal is ambitious, considering the government's track record. In 2003, only 86 state-owned companies were privatized. In 2002, the number was 98. According to the EU Commission's Report on Poland's preparation for membership, Poland must quickly restructure the "coal mining, gas, electricity, chemicals, steel and defense sectors."

No surprise then, that included in the list of 200 are Polish Oil and Gas (PGNiG), Southern Energy Concern (PKE), the Enea power plant group and vodka producer Polmos Bialystok. What exactly does privatization mean? The sale of state assets? Or does it mean the sale of shares? Or perhaps a combination of the two? The answers are found in the Commercialization and Privatization Act (the 'CPA'). The CPA defines privatization as either (1) "taking up shares in increased initial capital of sole shareholder companies of the State Treasury, established as the result of commercialization" or (2) "the disposal of all tangible and intangible assets of a State enterprise or company..." In other words, privatization can be accomplished by either selling shares of stock in a state-owned company to the general public (Indirect Privatization) or by selling the assets of a state-owned entity (Direct Privatization).

The choice of which method of privatization to use depends on the financial condition and size of the state-owned entity. Generally, state enterprises or companies which have less than zl.25.5 million (E6 million) in turnover in the preceding year and less than zl.9.5 million (E2 million) in cash are eligible for Direct Privatization. First, let's take a look at Indirect Privatization. Before shares of stock can be sold in a state-owned company, the company itself must first be established by means of a procedure referred to as commercialization. Commercialization, in the simplest terms, means the transformation of a state-owned enterprise into a company. It is at this early stage of the privatization process, during commercialization, that the EU Commission's report blames in part the Polish government for hampering the privatization process. Specifically, the report states that, "the insistence of the government on restructuring state-owned companies first before privatizing them limits the number of firms up for privatization."

Such is the case with the coal mining and steel sectors. Once a state-owned enterprise has been transformed into a company, shares of stock in the newly created company are then sold to the general public, or as is most often the case, to a strategic investor with the necessary capital and know-how to operate the company. The actual sale of shares may be accomplished by one of the following methods: by public announcement, public tender, by negotiation following a public invitation. Employees of the newly privatized company are entitled to receive up to 15 percent of the shares in the new company for free, as long as the value of such shares does not exceed the average monthly income of the employees increased by a factor of eighteen.

Additionally, farmers and fishermen may be entitled to receive 15 percent of the shares in a newly privatized food processing company if such farmers and fishermen supplied the company with produce for a period of at least five years leading up to the company's privatization. Direct Privatization, the sale of a state-owned enterprise's assets as opposed to the sale of shares, may be accomplished by one of the following methods: (1) the sale of the enterprise, (2) the contribution of the enterprise to another company or (3) the giving of the state enterprise as consideration. In addition to the zl.28.5 (E6 million) turnover threshold and zl.9.5 (E2 million) cash on hand limitations referred to above, the Council of Ministers may use Direct Privatization to sell larger state-owned enterprises, in particular if the financial condition of the enterprise is poor.

The sale of an enterprise may be accomplished by either a public tender or as the result of direct negotiations undertaken through a public invitation to bid. Similar to Indirect Privatization, employees, farmers and fisherman are entitled to receive compensation from the sale of a state-owned enterprise using Direct Privatization; however, the method of compensation is different, depending upon the manner of sale. For instance, if the enterprise is sold to a private investor, the investor is obligated to contribute up to 15 percent of the price paid for the enterprise to the employees' social fund. If the enterprise is contributed to another company, the State Treasury is obligated to give to the employees up to 15 percent of the shares obtained in the new company. Another important step in the privatization process, although not provided for directly in the text of the CPA, involves reaching agreement with the trade union(s) regarding employee social packages.

From Warsaw Business Journal, Poland, by Paul Fogo, 15 March 2004

 

Treasury Officials Assail Privatization of Oil Refineries Without Dividing Them

Former Treasury DG Morani appointed Chairman of the Board - Senior Treasury officials have labeled the decision to privatize the Oil Refineries (BAZAN) without dividing them "a terrible mistake" that would create a monopoly in the fuel industry and kill competition. The statement came in response to Finance Minister Netanyahu's suggestion that the breaking up of the Oil Refineries might be postponed. Government sources explained that the only alternative to dividing the Refineries is to issue the company's stocks on the exchange. This would allow the Israel Corporation, which already owns 26% of the Refineries' stocks, to acquire control without paying for it.

Although the Treasury established a team for considering ways to privatize the Oil refineries, Treasury officials are split on the issue. Government Companies Authority director Eyal Gabbai and budget director Uri Yogev are determined to divide the Refineries, while General Comptroller Yaron Zelika would prefer to sell it in one piece. Meanwhile, the Oil Refineries board of directors approved the nomination of Ohad Morani, former Director General of the Treasury, as its chairman. The decision came after the position had remained vacant for almost a year. Morani expressed his optimism about the future privatization of the Refineries, saying "it would be possible to find solutions on issues such as the principal agreement between the government and the Israel Corporation and privatization".

From Maariv International, Israel, by Lior Baruch, 3 March 2004

Moody's Maintains 'Negative Outlook' on Lebanon, Recommends Privatization

International rating agency Moody's said that privatization is one of few choices Lebanon has to reduce the public debt. In its credit opinion issued on Feb. 27, Moody's said the negative rating outlook for Lebanon reflects the severe constraints on the targets laid down in its economic program. Moody's has maintained its negative outlook of Lebanon due to the failure of the government to implement privatization and reduce the $33 billion public debt. "Moody's believes that the government economic program is admirable in view of the competitive and fractious nature of domestic politics. However, we note that the margin for error in achieving these targets is practically zero, and success hinges on the stop-gap financing provided by privatizations and leases of state-owned companies," the report said. The government of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri pledged to generate $5 billion from privatization in 2003 but the political discords in the Cabinet have spoiled these attempts.

Economists fear that the government may not be able to fulfill its pledges this year due to the political differences. Moody's added that the main source of financing in both foreign and domestic currencies is the domestic banking system, which has extremely large assets relative to the size of the Lebanese economy. "Increased dollarization of deposits has shifted banks' preference into dollar-denominated government paper, coinciding with the government's drive to obtain lower-cost, longer-term financing, but raising the vulnerability of the economy to pressure on the exchange rate." Moody's stressed that the highly speculative B2 ratings for the Republic of Lebanon's country ceilings for foreign currency debt and deposits and the B3 domestic debt rating reflect the country's significant public sector debt equivalent to 156.17 percent of GDP at the end of 2003 and the associated debt service burden.

"Furthermore, the structurally high level of the budget deficit is placing constraints on the private sector." Moody's notes that Lebanon's external liquidity has improved since the Paris II agreement in November 2002, as official reserves have increased while the fiscal deficit has decreased since 2001. Also, comprehensive tax reforms, financial sector reforms and the completion of the EU Free Trade Agreement represent a serious effort to regain control of the debt dynamics. It added that a continuous and sustainable decrease of debt-servicing costs linked to reforms being pushed forward especially in regard to privatization will improve the credit rating of Lebanon. "However, regional instability could result in a return of exchange-rate pressure, as was the case prior to the Paris II conference."

This means that credit ratings will go down. Moody's noted some improvement in Lebanon's economic situation in the aftermath of Sept. 11 attacks. It added that Lebanon has become the destination of some Gulf money, resulting in the balance of payments shifting from a deficit to a surplus. "Moreover, the number of tourists increased by 5.6 percent in the first nine months of 2003, Arab national accounting for 41.3 percent of visiting tourists during the year to the September period." Moody's said that reserves reached $12.17 million in mid-October (equivalent to 22 months of imports) against $4.125 million in October 2002 before the Paris II conference. Moody's said that Syria is not interested in blocking reforms in Lebanon. "Given the situation in Iraq and the United States' stance on Syria and Hizbullah, the Syrian government is not keen to witness further instability in Lebanon."

From MENAFN, Middle East, 5 March 2004

Privatization Begins for Pension Funds

The government began privatizing the three largest of the new pension funds on Tuesday, asking seven foreign investment banks with offices in Israel to submit bids for handling the process. The banks asked to bid are Merrill Lynch, UBS, BNP, HSBC, Lehman Brothers, Smith Barney (a Citigroup member) and Paribas S.A. The new pension funds were set up about a decade ago, when the government ordered all of the older pension funds closed to new members in an effort to control their spiraling actuarial deficits. Each of the new funds is effectively controlled by the old fund from which it was spun off. Thus, when the treasury confiscated control of the failing veteran funds from the Histadrut labor federation in July 2003, it effectively obtained control over the new funds as well.

The three funds whose privatization the government kicked off on Tuesday are the new Mivtachim (a spin-off of the old Mivtachim), Meitavit (a subsidiary of the Compensation Fund for Histadrut Workers) and Makefet Ishit (a subsidiary of the old Makefet). In a letter to the foreign investment banks, attorney Yaron Arbel, the treasury-appointed manager of the old Mivtachim fund, asked them to submit proposals for managing the sale of the three funds within 14 days. Arbel decided not to ask Israeli banks for bids since they are active players in the local pension industry - in some cases, by direct ownership of pension funds - and therefore have conflicts of interest. Pension industry sources said not only Israeli banks and insurance companies, but international investors would be interested in the pension funds. In addition, the Histadrut would like to join forces with a local insurance company to try to regain control of some of its former funds.

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Haim Bior, 3 March 2004

Government Sets Timetable for Discount Privatization

The board of directors of MI Holdings and Accountant General Yaron Zelekha yesterday approved the privatization framework for Israel Discount Bank. The framework includes the timetable, the Bank of Israel's preliminary review and the tender process. MI Holding's board also confirmed that the sale of the bank would go ahead without full due diligence, but decided to set up a team to review the option of providing information to contenders as a substitute for the due diligence process. At the same time, the Bank of Israel will conduct a review process vis-a-vis the contenders.

According to the board's decision, the management of MI Holdings and Zelekha will continue to prepare publication of the tender and complete the talks with the Bank of Israel. The board plans to publish the tender in the coming weeks. In keeping with the plan, the state will offer to sell 26 percent of the bank's shares to a controling shareholder, who will have an option to purchase the additional 25 percent. If one of the contenders chooses to purchase more shares and less options, the state will allow this. According to state regulations, when a government company is privatized, 10 percent of the shares sold - 5.7 percent of Discount's stock, in this case - are given to the company's employees at a 25-percent reduction.

Despite this regulation, Discount employees are demanding options for bank shares and to be a part of the sales process. On Wednesday, the bank's workers committee, headed by Ricky Bachar, declared a labor dispute because of the sales process. MI Holdings and Zelekha, with the consent of treasury director-general Yossi Bachar, will present the outcome of the labor dispute talks to the Finance Minister. Sources at MI Holdings said yesterday that the company and the accountant general were convinced that Discount's privatization would strengthen the bank as a central element in the Israeli banking sector and also benefit its employees. The state's representatives, the sources said, would continue to include the bank's management and staff in the privatization processes.


From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Shlomi Sheffer, 12 March 2004

 

Middle San Pedro Partnership to Focus on Area's Water Use

As future growth and an extended drought looms, there is one thing area residents do agree on when it comes to water use - they need to work together. City Manager Boyd Kraemer, Mayor George Scott, officials of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) and residents of Mescal, J-Six, Pomerene and St. David, have all said that to accomplish anything and to form a united front "we have to work together." Kraemer said Benson is ill prepared compared to incoming developers and other water organizations. "Developers like Diamond Ventures and the water resource groups are heading around third base - getting ready to score," Kraemer said. "Benson is still sitting in the locker room deciding if they want to play. We need to become more active in what is happening. The mayor and I have already held meetings with Pomerene Water and we are going to keep working together with all of the San Pedro Valley." But how do so many entities work together? That's a question several area residents and officials are working hard to answer.

One of those answers is to form the Middle San Pedro Partnership (MSPP), which Mary McCool, of the J-Six/Mescal Community Development Organization, said is a start. The first official meeting to form the MSPP was held last night, and while results of that meeting were not available at press time, McCool said the meeting would give an idea of who will be participating and what their commitment to the organization will be. On Monday, McCool said she expected participation from Cochise County, city, Pomerene and St. David water officials and residents. Last week, Scott said the city "should definitely participate" in the formation of the MSPP. "I don't know exactly what our role will be at this point," Scott said. "I think it is important to work together as a community, not just Benson, we need to work with Mescal, J-Six, Pomerene St. David and the county."

Officials said the purpose of forming the MSPP is to "facilitate cooperation and coordination among private landowners, governmental landowners and local, state and federal agencies having the regulatory or technical assistance responsibilities within the (MSPP). "The (MSPP) will identify natural resource issues of concern, analyze existing information relating to the location, extent, severity, causes and possible solutions to such issues, and make recommendations for further data collection or scientific study where needed." Sharon Reid, of the Natural Resource Conservation District, said she is initiating the MSPP. She said it was attempted once before but died due to a lack of interest, noting it appears that won't be a problem this time around. Is water a growing concern for residents of the San Pedro Valley? Judging from the 200 plus turnout at a recent water forum - all signs point to a resounding yes.

Among several speakers, including state representatives during the Feb.19 forum, Sandy Kunser, a retired geologist with the U.S. Bureau Reclamation, said water is "neither created nor destroyed, it is only changed in form." "The river gets its water from the aquifer," Kunser said. "In this area, I see (the river) dry more often than I do to the south of here. "The bottom of the valley (where water is stored) is not smooth and even. It is more like this," he said holding up and egg carton. Bill Steinkamph, a hydrologist for Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), told those in attendance the bottom line is all the "plumbing" in and around the San Pedro Valley is connected. "Every gallon of water you take out is a gallon that doesn't get somewhere else," Steinkamph said. "Depletion in the system is what happens. You need to keep in mind that it's one system, so it's not a good idea to think of each part separately. You need to strike a large-scale, work -together program."

Linda Stitzer, planning coordinator for ADWR, said she is currently heading a review of the Upper San Pedro Basin to determine if it meets the criteria for active management area (AMA) designation. If designated as an AMA, Stitzer said the area would be a geographic area requiring "active management of the groundwater," by ADWR officials. Active management includes: grandfathered groundwater rights, conservation requirements for large water users, no agricultural expansion, metering and reporting water pumped from large wells and an assured water supply program. However, not giving a date, Stitzer said the report should be available to the public "soon." District 2 Rep. Tom O'Halleran (R-Ariz.) also spoke during the forum about the importance of more communication. "Cities and towns don't have to talk to each other and you don't even have to report to the state," O'Halleran said. "That needs to change. There has been talk about the amount of water usage today, but what about the future? We are going to grow and we are going to grow fast. Sierra Vista has already been touched and your area is about to get touched."

O'Halleran estimated that in the next 20 years, "rural Arizona" is going to increase by 700,000 to 900,000 people, noting, "those numbers are conservative." "Today people are thinking about where is their water going to come from in 50 to 100 years," he said. "Rural Arizona has sat and basically done nothing to protect private property and its natural recourses. You don't have the tax base to conduct a lot of the needed studies and you don't have the studies necessary to go to court and stop someone from pumping water and building 2,000 homes." While he couldn't provide the specific bills, O'Halleran said he is working at the state level to pass water adequacy laws that will give city government more say in incoming developments along with well impact laws that would give property owners more rights.

However, O'Halleran wasn't very optimistic about the measures passing this year, but said he planned to work every year until more is done to ensure water rights and water conservation. Also in attendance at the Feb. 19 meeting were District 25 State Rep. Jennifer Burns (R-Tucson) and representatives from Sen. Marsha Arzberger's (D-Willcox) office and from U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe's (R-Ariz.) office. McCool said surveys were also conducted during the forum where residents indicated groundwater resources was the primary concern for watershed management, and that water stakeholders in the basin should understand scientific research on water issues. For more information on joining the MSPP contact Reid at 586-3347 or McCool at 520-647-3585.

From Benson News Sun, AZ, by Thelma Grimes, 3 March 2004

Kofi's Choice: Paul Martin and the Privatization of Development

As Paul Martin continues to struggle with scandals and scathing criticism, a Liberal saviour of sorts has set foot on Canadian soil. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has begun his first official visit to the country, at the earnest invitation of our eager prime minister. The Prime Minister had announced this gesture during the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, in a public reaffirmation of his self-declared commitment to world affairs. Martin made it clear that he had deliberately invited Annan before extending the honour to George W. Bush to prove "that Canada has a very important role to play in the world." That Martin wishes to demonstrate his assumed concern for global issues through symbolic means - as opposed to undertaking concrete, meaningful actions - simply reflects the long standing gap between his waves of populist rhetoric and the actual policies he implements.

Given that much of the criticism surrounding the new Prime Minister is tied to his cordial, if not deferential, relationship with the Bush regime, it comes as no surprise that Martin would go out of his way to dispel that notion by giving the Secretary-General figural preeminence over the American president. The PM's PR aside, however, there is a more troubling aspect to Martin's relationship with Kofi Annan, one that is far more relevant to the former CEO's first true love: big bad business. Last August, Paul Martin was named co-chair of the Global Compact, a major initiative that is supposedly designed to "advance responsible corporate citizenship" so that the "private sector…can help realize the Secretary-General's vision [of] a more sustainable and inclusive global economy." Members of the Global Compact include what corporate watchdog CorpWatch refers to as "notorious violators of UN values."

Infamous companies such as Nike, Unilever, and biotech giant Aventis have violated one or more of the Principles of the Compact since they signed on. Other corporations have milked their new relationship for promotional purposes, using the imagery of the United Nations to improve their reputations and hawk their products. One DaimlerChrysler publication featured the Global Compact logo, an "editorial" by the UN Secretary-General, and a photo of a smiling Daimler executive shaking hands with an equally enthusiastic Kofi Annan. One of the contradictions of the Compact, according to CorpWatch, is that it allows companies to "bluewash" their sullied images and reputations, "without committing to scrutiny, transparency or concrete changes." Indeed, this secretive organization - the UN refuses to name the companies involved with the project - has no intentions to monitor or enforce the principles of the compact. Despite the idealist rhetoric, the UN has yet to prove how forming unequal partnerships with known human rights violators and perpetrators of ecocide can contribute to sustainable human development.

This misleading legacy now includes the latest step in the corporatization of the UN, the Commission on the Private Sector and Development that Paul Martin chairs. In a recent report the Commission states that private sector growth is held back by "disabling business environments" and that governments must "avoid actions that impede" the private sector. Recent history has shown, however, that laws designed to protect the environment and guarantee a basic level of human welfare fall within this category of unwelcome government action. Considering the Commission's narrow-minded and self-interested solution to poverty and development, they may have found a perfect Chair in Paul Martin. While Martin was Canada's finance minister his company, Canada Steamship Lines, conducted business from foreign tax havens and removed the Canadian flag from the majority of his ships.

These actions were undertaken in an effort to avoid Canadian taxes and environmental and labour regulations - things that could be construed as contributing to a "disabling business environment". His ships' crews were often composed of foreigners desperate for work, despondent enough to accept the pitifully low wages and lack of job security offered by CSL. It is very likely that Martin's hiring practices contributed no more to international development than did his business dealings with Indonesian President Suharto, who is responsible for genocide in East Timor. Martin also worked hard at home, cutting social programmes ($25.3 billion in cuts in 1995) and corporate taxes (over $4 billion this year alone), in an effort to ensure that Canada's business environment was competitive enough to attract companies as indifferent to human welfare as his own.

If Kofi Annan and the United Nations wish to engage in a serious look at the relationship between private enterprise and development, they should begin by involving those who have proven their commitment to development and the human race. This excludes corporate criminals, multinational marauders, and those complicit in their crimes. Otherwise the exercise becomes futile and ineffective, marred by a void of integrity. While in Canada, Kofi may do well to give a good, hard look at the man he selected to head this commission, and whether his choice accurately reflects the image that the United Nations wishes to portray on the issues of responsible business and international development.

From PaulMartinTime.ca, Canada, 8 March 2004

No Child Left Behind: A Debate on the Privatization of Education

The Bush administration's aggressive support of school vouchers, the so-called faith-based initiative and the No Child Left Behind Act has drawn criticism from teachers unions across the country. We host a debate between Stan Karp, editor of the newspaper Rethinking Schools and a longtime school teacher and Howard Fuller, the chair of the Board of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and professor at Marquette University. Some of the main sources of criticism from the teachers unions are the administration's aggressive support of school vouchers, his so-called faith-based initiative and the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires mandatory testing and reporting, with schools that fail to show progress facing cut-offs in public funding.

At a meeting with the nation's governors last month, Bush's Education Secretary, Rod Paige, created a firestorm of outrage from teachers across the US when he called the National Education Association (NEA) a "terrorist organization" because teachers have been criticizing what they call Bush's broken promises on his education reforms. When Paige later "apologized," he accused the teachers of "obstructionist scare tactics." In response, the Campaign for America's Future and MoveOn.org have joined together to launch a petition calling on the President to fire Paige. Their website is www.firepaige.org. Some of the main sources of criticism from the teachers unions are the administration's aggressive support of school vouchers, his so-called faith-based initiative and the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires mandatory testing and reporting, with schools that fail to show progress facing cut-offs in public funding.

Bush gained bipartisan support for the reforms in part because the President promised a dramatic increase in funding to provide schools with the help they need to make the law work. Representative George Miller recently charged that the President has broken his promise on funding, falling more than $25 billion short on what he initially promised. Meanwhile, as states face their worst fiscal crisis in fifty years, the President pushed through his top-end tax cuts, while opposing any protection for school budgets. The resulting cuts across the country have made implementing the new law even more difficult. o Stan Karp, an editor of the newspaper Rethinking Schools. He has been a school teacher for 28 years.

He currently teaches at John F Kennedy High School in New Jersey. o Howard Fuller, the chair of the board of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. He is a Distinguished Professor of Education at Marquette University in Milwaukee and the former Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools. o Bill Graves, Republican state legislator in Oklahoma who has opposed the No Child Left Behind Act. o Phil Wilayto, a freelance investigative journalist. He is author of "The Feeding Trough: The Bradley Foundation, the Bell Curve and the Real Story Behind Wisconsin's National Model for Welfare Reform." To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (800) 881-2359.

From Democracy Now, 12 March 2004

Staff Members Protest Against Campus Job Privatization

Kathleen Cantly, a custodian for the Faunce Student Services Building, fought the cold Friday morning in front of the Bernhard Center carrying a sign that read "Western works because we do." Cantly was showing her opposition, along with about 20 others, to the possible privatization of 51 campus jobs. "Part of the reason Western has been here for 100 years is because we've been here all along," Cantly said. "You expect a certain quality." Cantly said students at Western Michigan University expect the university to maintain the quality they have been used to for more than 35 years. "I think they [private companies] can get the job done cheaper, but you're going to get what you paid for," Cantly said.

University officials sent a letter out to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in December explaining that up to 51 jobs currently held within the university residence halls could be eliminated. Tim Birch, president of Local 1668 of the AFSCME, Michigan Council 25, said Friday seemed logical for the protest because WMU was hosting the annual Michigan Organization of Residence Hall Associations conference. "We are trying to raise awareness of the issue," Birch said. "There's going to be a number of students who work in the residence halls at other colleges and universities across the state. We're just letting them know what's going on here at Western."

Birch said WMU officials received bids from five contractors and AFSCME has one month to go over the information and present its case to keep the work in-house. University officials are looking to make a decision toward the end of April or early May. AFSCME represents nearly 500 custodial and dining services, grounds and maintenance employees at WMU. Vernon Payne, associate vice president of Student Affairs, said he was aware of one demonstration happening on campus, but was not present. "All of our friends and colleagues of AFSCME have the right to express their views and we are very supportive of that," Payne said. Payne met with AFSCME on Friday to provide officials with information and data to assist them with their response to proposals.

From Western Herald, by Katie Marshall, 15 March 2004

Bush Reaffirms his Desire for Privatization

Gov. Jeb Bush is putting privatization on the fast track. Perhaps for the benefit of those not convinced by his three statewide campaigns, who dozed through both Bush inaugural addresses and managed to miss six State of the State speeches, the governor signed an executive order last week. It revealed that "it is a priority of this administration to improve the way state agencies deliver services to its citizens." So Bush gave marching orders for what will be the legacy of his second term. Clearly, he wants to leave behind a state government - he's already guaranteed it will be a smaller one - that is focused on the "core missions" of agencies, meaning as much privatization of support services as possible. But, perhaps belatedly, he wants to do it with a bit more formality than a choose-up softball game entails. Even the most enthusiastic Republican legislators would not say all past "outsourcing" initiatives were chosen wisely and run like a business.

But when Democrats (mainly Leon County legislators) offer amendments requiring agencies to demonstrate that privatization will be both cheaper and better, they get voted down every time. Bush's executive order stated that "it is the policy of the state that all agencies focus on their core missions and deliver services effectively and efficiently by leveraging the agencies' resources, and contract for services that can be more effectively provided by the private sector." But in contracting out for such services, Bush said, there need to be "uniform concepts and principles ... to review the planning, implementation and delivery of services." Without naming any lamentable past or current outsourcing efforts, Bush recently created a "Center for Efficient Government" in the Department of Management Services.

An oversight board made up of five agency heads is supposed to create "the enterprisewide gateway for best business practices," helping agencies decide what gets privatized and how to measure results. Bush and his private-sector acolytes like terms such as "enterprisewide," meaning all of state government, and "gateway," implying a sort of stop-and-think threshold before merrily pursuing what some call "big, hairy, audacious goals." His executive order directs the Center for Efficient Government to set five stages - gauging the "business case" for outsourcing initiatives, procurement, contract management, "change management" and measurement of outcomes. It also calls for a review of past outsourcing "for best business practices" and a review of all pending plans, to be sure they meet those five standards.

The efficiency center is to report to the Senate president and speaker of the House by July 1 with "an initial list of outsourcing projects and initiatives that can be developed over the next three years." Interesting - that covers the last 30 months of Bush's term and his successor's first legislative session. On an even faster track, the efficiency center is to give Bush - not the Legislature - a set of recommendations by May 1 for "a program to transition affected employees. "This program should recognize their contributions to the state and our commitment to minimize their personal impact while implementing beneficial programs that reduce the cost of government for all of the citizens of the state," Bush's executive order said.

From The Tallahassee Democrat, by Bill Cotterell, 15 March 2004

Public/Private Sector Partnership Made

The Barbados Government yesterday opened a window of opportunity for the private sector to partner the state in the future development of the country. In his opening presentation debate on the 2004-2005 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, Prime Minister Owen Arthur told the House of Assembly that Barbados is fastly approaching that juncture in its development where there must be increased reliance on new schemes to formulate new developments. One such scheme he related to the debate was a build, operate and transfer arrangement on projects. "There must be a willingness on the part of the government to treat areas related to the provision of private goods that historically were treated as exclusive spheres of the state, as areas that warrant private investments," he noted. "I say to this Parliament that over the course of the next three years there will have to be those changes."

The Prime Minister who spoke for the entire pre-lunch session, said for example, there are no good reasons why the government alone must build sewerage systems or even invest in the provision of water supply services. Maintaining that once the design and tariffs are set by government there is no reason why the private sector cannot undertake in such major projects. In a detailed look at the contribution of fiscal policy to the growth of the economic and development of the modern Barbados, the Prime Minister said that fiscal policy has been important source of capital, and that the development of this country with equity had rested on the state's sustained investment in social capital over an extended period of time. Barbados, Arthur said, has also become a high quality society because of the vast range of entitlements to services its citizens presently enjoy.

He reasoned that not many citizens in the developing world enjoyed such entitlements as education, health, unemployment benefits, and policy eradication. "These bear relationships to what obtains in the first world," the Prime Minister said adding that these are the ways win which fiscal policy has been used to good effect, and that it was important that this creative use of fiscal policy to build a more just society should continue. "But it is also true that we are quickly reaching a juncture in our development where certain things are also true," he stated. Explaining this the Prime Minister underlined that fiscal policy had done wonders for Barbados over the last 50 years by transforming the economy and providing such massive support to Barbadians unmatched in the developing world and only seen in the developed countries.

However, the Prime Minister said there are limits "to the carrying capacity of the state" in its provision of new entitlements. In addition, he went on, "we need to have new institutional arrangements by which historic entitlements are honoured." He said Parliament now has to preside over a large programme of fiscal reform and that the country's fiscal policy for the future must take into account the likely effect of trade liberalisation across four theatres in a way that it has never had to do. Arthur revealed that we in Barbados must either get it right or that the country will find itself in difficulties for a generation to come. He remarked that while his government intends to get it right, the House of Assembly, and indeed the country had to understand what is involved.

Saying these Estimates are a watershed in the move towards change, Arthur maintained that the way the country has historically provided infrastructural solutions in this country must also changed. "The reason is that we are now faced with the prospects of having to make large and lumpy investments to bring about relatively small infrastructural solutions," he noted. He remarked for example, that the experience of providing a sewerage system for the south coast of Barbados merely indicated how difficult it was given that there was disturbance to the already established environment. "In many respects that is causing projects by their very nature to be more expensive than they would have been," the Prime Minister said.

From Barbados Advocate, Barbados, 16 March 2004

Privatization Worsens Outlook for Medicare and Social Security

Americans are anxious about their retirement, and for good reason. Private health insurers are providing fewer benefits at greater costs, and private pensions are slowly eroding. The only place where retirees can find solace is in the guaranteed benefits of Medicare and Social Security. These tremendously popular programs have helped to lift millions of elderly Americans out of poverty and allowed them to retire in dignity and in decent health. Despite their success, however, Medicare and Social Security face growing threats from those who would use financial projections "to infinity and beyond" to justify an entitlement-cutting and privatization agenda. When the Medicare and Social Security trustees release their annual reports on Tuesday, much attention will be paid to their projected shortfalls. New long-term projections of 75 years or more - longer than the programs have existed - make the calculations very questionable.

(Because the future is so uncertain, Congress and the administration have already rejected 10-year budget outlooks in favor of five-year projections.) But even without these new "infinite horizon" projections, the outlook for Medicare will inevitably be worse than in recent years, whereas it likely will remain unchanged for Social Security. One reason for the growing shortfalls in Medicare is the ill-advised move toward greater privatization of the program, which was the centerpiece of the new Medicare law President Bush enacted last year. Thus, the trustees report should be a cautionary note for those who seek to privatize Social Security. Contrary to the original rationale for privatizing Medicare, the Medicare trustees' report will clearly demonstrate that privatization increases rather than decreases Medicare costs and thus worsens the program's financial outlook.

That privatization costs money, and lots of it, is not a secret. Private companies want to make a profit for offering health insurance. In exchange, they are supposed to offer their services much more efficiently than the government does. Medicare used to reflect that compromise by paying private health plans 95 percent of Medicare's costs. The private plans broke their end of the bargain and fled the program, arguing they were underpaid. In passing the new Medicare law, President Bush and Congressional leaders acquiesced to the private plans' demands, removing any pretense that privatization would save money. The new Medicare law dramatically increases payments to private health insurers. Even before enactment of the new law, private insurance plans were paid an average of 103 percent of what it would have cost traditional Medicare to care for their enrollees.

The new Medicare law has already increased those overpayments to 107 percent and may eventually lead to overpayments of 125 percent or more. The Congressional Budget Office said private insurance companies would gain an additional $14 billion from the new law, while the White House estimated they would gain $46 billion in the next 10 years. Though Congressional and administration officials differed in their precise cost estimates, they agreed on one point: Medicare's cost for beneficiaries in private plans "would be substantially higher than the cost of those beneficiaries" in traditional Medicare. Thus, the drive to lure seniors out of traditional Medicare and into private health plans will result in the deterioration of the Medicare trust fund. As the Medicare experience shows, there is no such thing as a free lunch. This also holds for Social Security.

Under the proposals for Social Security that President Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security put forth in 2001, part of workers' contributions could be invested in individual accounts. Taxpayers have to pick up the tab for the lost revenue to Social Security. Massachussetts Institute of Technology Professor Peter Diamond, together with Brookings' Peter Orszag, estimated that this could total $3.1 trillion in 2001 dollars, if up to 2.5 percent of payroll were allowed to be invested in private accounts. Additionally, individual account holders would have to start paying fees to private management companies for handling their money. Average fees of 1.4 percent of assets each year are typical.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimates that for a worker who placed $1,000 in an account every year for 40 years this would quickly lost more than $20,000 in lost savings. If President Bush has his way, and Social Security is privatized, its price tag will also skyrocket. Medicare and Social Security are enormously successful programs. Generations of Americans rely on them for their current and future retirement needs. Radical changes, such as privatization, are likely to increase taxpayers' costs and undermine the guarantees Medicare and Social Security are supposed to provide. That would be a case of missing the forest not for the trees, but for the infinite horizon. Terri Shaw is the associate director for Domestic Policy and Christian E. Weller is a senior economist at the Center for American Progress.

From Center for American Progress, United States, by Terri Shaw and Christian Weller, 22 March 2004

Partnership Calls for Internet Early Warning System

The internet needs an early warning system to avoid or better respond to major distributed security incidents, a partnership of the IT industry and the US government concluded in a report out yesterday. One of five task forces operating under the umbrella of what is now called the National Cyber Security Partnership, published recommendations for how an Early Warning Alert Network (EWAN) should be set up by the government-funded US-CERT. The report observes that there is a plethora of security information sharing alliances already (US-CERT, CERT/CC, various ISACs, CIAC, Infraguard, the NCC, to name only a handful) and that better coordination between them is needed. EWAN is described as "a meta-network of vetted existing and developing trust communities, such as ISACs and cyber security defense and response organizations and communities, which have member-vetting processes that meet minimum EWAN standards." The network will issue daily summaries and ad hoc alerts to its members in its own protocol. Requirements will be defined before July.

Beta testing is set to start October 1, with a production launch by December 3 this year, the NCSP said. The NCSP only announced its existence yesterday, launching a web site at cyberpartnership.org, but it springs out of the National Cyber Security Summit in December, which itself came out of the White House's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace. At the Summit, coordinated by US-CERT, early warning was one of five areas identified where work needed to be done. Task forces were created for all five, and yesterday saw the first two groups report back. Also reporting was the task force asked to look at ways to conduct outreach and education to internet stakeholders (see separate coverage in today's ComputerWire). Reports from the remaining three task forces will all be out by early April. The early warning task force report says EWAN should be operated by US-CERT, and funded by the Department of Homeland Security and private sector contributions.

The report says it expects "strong collaboration" between public and private sectors. US-CERT, which coordinated December's Summit and is the official bridge between the industry and the US government, is already funded by the DHS, and has Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center as an official partner. In a separate report from the same early warning task force yesterday, it is recommended that the government set up a National Crisis Coordination Center, to act as a real-world focal point for the public-private partnership. The report envisions a physically secure location, with a hot backup, funded by the government and staffed with a mix of government and private sector experts, who would each be provided and paid by their respective employers. The task force was chaired by Computer Sciences Corp's Guy Copeland, who is also a VP of the IT-ISAC, Suzanne Gorman, of SIAC and chair of the Financial Services ISAC, and Rich Pethia, Carnegie Mellon University and CERT/CC. About 30 other executives from well-known security and technology companies were also involved.

From Computer Business Review, UK, by Kevin Murphy, 19 March 2004

Medicare and Social Security Successful Despite Privatization Rhetoric

Today's retirees can find solace in the guaranteed benefits of Medicare and Social Security. These tremendously popular programs have helped to lift millions of elderly Americans out of poverty and allowed them to retire in dignity and in decent health. Despite their success, however, Medicare and Social Security face growing threats from those who want to cut benefits and dismantle large parts of these important programs through privatization. o The new Medicare law was the single biggest factor in the rapid deterioration of the Medicare trust fund. Administration officials tried to hide this fact by offering up a red herring, stating that the seven year deterioration in the Medicare trust fund was "not caused in any way by the creation of the Medicare prescription drug program." That statement deliberately ignores the effects of the rest of the new law, including dramatic increases in payments to private plans.

In fact, the new Medicare law accounts for two years of the seven year difference - as big a negative impact as the combined effects of lower revenues and higher health costs. o Privatization increases rather than decreases Medicare costs and worsens the program's financial outlook. The new Medicare law removed any pretense of privatization saving money. The new Medicare law has already increased overpayments to private insurers to 107 percent and may eventually lead to overpayments of 125 percent or more. Both Congression

o President Bush should abandon his radical privatization agenda. The trustees report clearly shows that the drive to lure seniors out of traditional Medicare and into private health plans results in the deterioration of the Medicare trust fund and raises costs substantially for seniors and tax payers. The president's ill-advised Medicare legislation should serve as warning that Congress needs to protect Social Security from a similar fate. In the wake of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, experts estimated that allowing workers to put 2.5 percent of payroll into individual accounts would cost Social Security $3.1 trillion in 2001 dollars. This shortfall would have to be covered by tax payers. Also, individual accounts would incur administrative costs that could deprive workers of tens of thousands of dollars in savings during their working lives. Daily Talking Points is a product of the Center for American Progress, a non-partisan research and educational institute committed to progressive principles for a strong, just and free America.

From Center For American Progress, United States, 24 March 2004