ISSUE 61
April 2004
 
 
   
    Angola: Seminar on Public Administration Continues
Angola: Labour Ministry on Meeting About Public Function
Angola: Public Administration Ministry to Organize Technical Workshop
Angola: Malanje: Public Administration Ministry Bets On Professional Training
   
    Brunei: Public Administration in Brunei Highlighted at UBD Thursday Club
   
    Bosnia and Herzegovina: Project "Public Administration Reform in BIH" Presented
Italy: Public Finance: Court of Accounts Sceptical about Outlay Cuts
Yugoslavia: Strategy for Public Administration Reform to Take Priority
Yugoslavia: Serbia, France to Continue Cooperation in Public Administration Projects
   
    USA: Congressman Wants to Create Public-Private Nano Partnership
USA: Officials Discuss Public Policy
USA: Freeways, Seismic Upgrades 'Deprive Public of Splendid Buildings'
 
   
    Zambia: Anti-Corruption Commission Needs More Financial Allocations, Says Mutti
Uganda: Government to Fight Corruption - UIA
Zimbabwe: Women and the Anti-Corruption Debate
Uganda: Lawmaker Alarmed By Corruption in District
   
    Indonesia: Tackling Corruption in Indonesia
Bangladesh: New Law Soon to Empower Anti-corruption Body
Kazakhstan: Basic Directions of the New Corruption Control Commission
Viet Nam: Administrative Reform Asked to Link with Fighting Corruption
China: Prosecutors Team Up to Snag Corruption
New Zealand: Immigration Service Facing Wave of Corruption
Australia: Opposition Wants Corruption Watchdog to Stay Independent
Pakistan: NAB Remains Successful in Combating Corruption: Munir Hafeez
Philippines: Anti-Corruption Report: $1-Trillion in Bribes Paid Each Year
Pakistan: Pakistan Faces Corruption Problem
Pakistan: Corruption Can Not Be Challenged Without Participation Of Society
Uzbekistan: Uzbekistan's Corruption-ridden Educational System Seen as a Source of Frustration
Azerbaijan: Public Awaits Serious Steps Against Corruption
   
    Yugoslavia: Mixed Results for Serbia-Montenegro in Corruption Study
Georgia: President Demands to Curb Corruption in Customs
EU: EU Refuses to Fund Sierra Leone Local Elections over Corruption Claims
Russia: Putin Attacks Corruption by Hiking Public Pay
Vatican: Encounter with Government over Public Ethics
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Urges Probe About Alleged Corruption in Choosing Contractor to Build Nuclear Plant
   
    Trinidad and Tobago: More Women, Less Corruption?
USA: Pizza, Public Service Don't Mix Well, Ethics Commission Says
   
    Jamali to Inaugurate International Conference on UN Convention Against Corruption
Even Democracies Need 'Sunshine' Against Corruption
Fighting Corruption
 
   
    Kenya: Government Should Tame Civil Servants, Says Kivuitu
Kenya: Ndwiga Says Civil Servants Are Corrupt
Zambia: State Rolls Out Housing Allowances for Civil Servants
South Africa: MPs, Civil Servants Reminded of Duty
Kenya: Civil Service Salary Review Out by June
Zambia: Resign And Then Join Politics, Mbula Tells Civil Servants
Ghana: Civil Servants Advised To Stay Away From Partisan Politics
Nigeria: Government Sets Guidelines for Civil Servants' Promotion
Africa: Promoting Ethics, Integrity and Professional Standards in the Public Service
   
    Australia: Draft Extends Disclosure Guidelines to Public Servants
Singapore: Top Civil Servants to Retire Young
South Korea: Public Servants Set to Raise Voice for Political Freedom
Australia: Public Servants Put to the Test
Malaysia: Reshuffle of 14 Senior Civil Servants
South Korea: Civil Servant Community Worries about Post-election Shakeup
Pakistan: Promotion Policy Changes Proposed
Malaysia: Reshuffle of 14 Senior Civil Servants
Malaysia: Sting Ops 'Can Boost Productivity in Civil Service'
Pakistan: Civil Service Academy to Train 11 Diplomats
Australia: Public Servants Seek Wage Offer Vote
   
    Russia: 20% of Civil Servants Face Ax
Russia: Public Servant Prefers Local Work
UK: Try Living on Our Wages, Say Civil Servants
UK: Pregnant Civil Servant's 'Salary Cut Threat'
Ireland: Ex-civil Servants' Jobs in Private Sector under Fire
Ireland: Civil Servants March to Demand More Pay
UK: Civil Service Winning Battle for Diversity
UK: More Women Appointed to Top Civil Service Jobs
UK: Top Civil Servants Attack Public Service Measures
UK: Civil Service Continues to Grow
Italy: Privacy Watchdog Blames Civil Service Short Comings
Ireland: MPs to Probe Sickness in Public Service
   
    Yemen: Initiatives to Upgrade Civil Service Taken
   
    Canada: Cut Civil Service to Save Millions
Canada: School for Squelching Scandal: Civil Servants Back to the Books
Canada: Civil Servants Fear Exposing Wrongdoing
Canada: 90 Political Aides Jumped PS Job Queue
Canada: Flunking French Tests a Trap for Civil Servants
Canada: Newfoundland Premier May Legislate Striking Public Servants Back to Work
Canada: Public Servants Put to the Test
USA: Mayor Filippi Proposes Civil Service Exam Changes
USA: Civil Service Reform in Danger
USA: After More than 30 years, County Axes Civil Service Commission
Canada: Public Servant Faces Firing for Sovereigntist Association
USA: Guiding Kids to Succeed is Music to Public Servant
USA: New York Congressman Receives Faith and Public Service Award
 
   
    Nigeria: IPMN Defends Civil Service Reforms
Botswana: BULGSA Branch Not Happy with Public Service Reforms
Uganda: 'E-Governance Can Cut Government Costs'
South Africa: Strategies for E-Government: Lessons Learned
Uganda: 'E-Governance Can Cut Government Costs'
Botswana: e-Government Transforms the Public Sector
   
    Viet Nam: Joint Venture Set up to Provide Public Service Solutions
Australia: Corruption in Firing Line, Says Police Chief
India: Government Seeks World Bank Funding for E-governance Projects
China: Nation Quickens Spread of E-government
India: Andhra to Link E-gov Portals
India: More Jobs Via E-governance
Australia: Rann Seeks 'Responsive' Public Service
India: E-gov Spend Seen at Rs 15,000 crore in 5 Years
Australia: Few Chances Left to Restore Public Service Integrity
Malaysia: Monthly Check on Complaints Against the Civil Service
Australia: Few Chances Left to Restore Public Service Integrity
India: IBM Gateway to E-governance Overdrive
Kazakhstan: The Government Deliberates on E-Government Concept Draft
Malaysia: Room for the Civil Service to Improve
India: E-gov Spend Seen at Rs 15,000 cr in 5 Years
India: Government Seeks World Bank Funding for E-governance Projects
India: 'I Want...A National Mission For E-Governance'
India: E-governance? Ward Computers on the Blink
Kazakhstan: The Government Deliberates on E-Government Concept Draft
Bangladesh: BOI to Go for E-governance
China: Nation Desperately Needs more CIOs to Develop E-government: Expert
   
    UK: Byers Pushes for more Choice in Public Services
Italy: Civil Service: Customer Satisfaction and Work Environment
UK: Local Authority Website e-Government Project Rolls out Toolkit
UK: Offering Real Choice on Public Services
UK: Howard Slams Failure to Improve Public Services for Firms
UK: Public Services not Delivering Choice, Says Report
UK: Personalise Public Services - Report
EU: E-government Helps EU to Manage Animal Movements & Prevent Spread of Disease
UK: Personalise Public Services -Report
UK: Howard Slams Failure to Improve Public Services for Firms
UK: Public Services not Delivering Choice, Says Report
UK: July Date Set for Head of E-government
UK: E-Government Priorities Identified
UK: Guardian to Launch Standalone Public Services Magazine
UK: Letwin Asks for Meeting on Public Services 'Spin'
UK: Blair Gets Jitters on Public Services
   
    Lebanon: UN Report - E-government in Region Faces Multiple Snags
UAE: Dubai Ranks Among Top 10 Digital Cities in E-government Privacy and Security
   
    USA: E-gov Efforts Moving Forward? Depends Who You Ask
USA: Wisconsin Public Service Customers in Greater Debt
USA: Georgia Commissioner Releases Public Service Announcement Educating Residents on Dangers of Bogus Insurance Companies
USA: Citizen's Council Tapes a Great Public Service
USA: Aberdeen: How Public Sector Agencies Innovate with E-government
USA: E-Government? Be Patient
USA: Barrington-area Man Remembered for Public Service
USA: At the Local Level, There Is Still Public Service in Government
Canada: Revive Public Services, Union Urges
USA: Civil Servants Weigh in Against CAPPS II
USA: Downsizing Now a Painful Reality for Civil Services
USA: Ideas Wanted for E-gov Business Lines
USA: Public Service Commission Rejects 10% Increase in Water Rates
USA: Downsizing Now a Painful Reality for Civil Services
USA: Ideas Wanted for E-gov Business Lines
USA: New Mexico E-gov Marches On
USA: E-gov Effort Seeks to Pare Redundant Spending
USA: White House to E-gov Vendors: Give Us Your Best
USA: Lee County Looking for Money to Help Public Services
Canada: Canadians Want Public Services Free from Private Sector Involvement
Canada: Revive Public Services, Union Urges
   
    More than 10 Worldwide E-gov Case Studies to Be Presented at GCC E-Government and Telecom Forum
 
   
    Mozambique: Jumbe Apologises to Civil Servants
Ghana: We'll ensure effective public Finance Management - Minister
Ghana: Directors Educated on New Financial Administration Laws
   
    Thailand: Tax Policy to Shape Society in Thailand
Malaysia: Public Bank-Finance merger by June
Viet Nam: Viet Nam Determined to Drive Back Corruption, World Bank Official
China: Auto Tax Policy Attracts Students in Shanghai
   
    Italy: Tremonti, Public Finance Excess Very Slight (2)
Slovakia: Finance Ministry Improves Outlook for 2004 Public Finance Deficit
Czech Republic: Sobotka Expects Czech Public Finance Gap to Fall Below 4 % of GDP in 2007
UK: Concern over NHS Financial Management
Italy: Public Finance, Revenue Up 0.2 Percent in Q4 2003
Bulgaria: Public Finance School Opened in Sofia
   
    Palestine: World Bank Launches Multi-donor Trust Fund to Support Reform Program
   
    USA: Fitch: U.S. Public Finance Credit Continues to Decline Through 1st Quarter 2004
USA: Public Policy Group Favor Tax for Schools
USA: Legislators Look to Privatization to Help Ailing County Budget
USA: Advocates Rallying Support for Public Finance Bill
USA: Analysis: Tax Policy and Reality, a Primer
USA: S&P Reports on U.S. Public Finance Market
USA: Building Owners Make Case for Preserving Tax Reforms
 
   
    Azerbaijan: Azerbaijani Privatization Revenues Up 10% in 2003
Japan: Public Opinion Sought on Postal Privatization
Thailand: Thai Cabinet OKs New Privatization Rules To Ease Protests
Pakistan: Trans Asia of UAE Shows Interest in OGDC, PPL Privatization
China: China Pushes Privatization
Japan: Japan Post Privatization Committee to Meet April 26
Indonesia: Indonesia Starts Merpati Privatization
South Korea: KT a Privatization Model
Thailand: Thai EGAT Privatization Halted Pending New Regulation
China: China Airlines Privatization Set for Year End, Officials Say
   
    Hungary: Privatization Agency Approves Business Plan
Russia: Government to Consider Privatization on April 22
Poland: WSE Moves Slowly to Privatization
Russia: Stepashin: No Major Revision of Privatization
Russia: Russian Oligarchs Were Recommended Pay more for Privatization
Bulgaria: Austrian Airlines Keen on Bulgaria Air Privatization
Russia: Russian Government Approves Privatization Plan for 2004
Yugoslavia: Ministry to Develop Guide for Privatization
Russia: Economic Ministry Proposes Amendments to Law on Privatization
   
    USA: Corporate Governance Task Force of the National Cyber Security Partnership Releases Industry Framework
USA: Candidates Oppose Social Security Privatization
USA: Time to Give Privatization Another Look
 

Seminar on Public Administration Continues

Luanda - The presentation of the Public administration schools of Cape Verde, Portugal and Brazil constitutes the main points of today's working agenda in the seminar on perfection of the managing system. The seminar is taking place under the support of the Italian Government in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Undesa). It aims to gather experiences for the selection of a model for the transformation of the National Institute of Public Administration (INAP) in public school. Its fulfilment is framed in the programme of institutional reinforcement of the Angolan management (Reforpa), sponsored by Italy and executed by the United Nations. The event counts on the participation of national and foreign experts.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 30 March 2004

Labour Ministry on Meeting About Public Function

Luanda - A technical meeting to discuss legislative matters in the field of public function will happen on Thursday, in Luanda, organised by the Ministry of Public Administration, Employment and Social Security (Mapess). According to a document sent to Angop, during the meeting it will also be discussed themes relating to the diploma about the assessment of employee's performance, recruitment of personnel, contract and transference from one province to another and other diplomas related to the Angolan public function. The meeting will be attended by officials from the ministries of Employment, Finance, Territory Administration, Health, and Audit Court judges, as well as provincials directors, heads of human resources working in governmental departments, communal administrators, directors of local services and health delegates of municipalities, education and social reintegration.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 14 April 2004

Public Administration Ministry to Organize Technical Workshop

Luanda - A workshop on technical updating of civil servants will take place on March 29 to April 01, 2004 here, organized by the Ministry of Public Administration, Employment and Social Security (Mapess), a press note announces. The document delivered to Angop also says the gathering aims at integrating to the Angolan public services the better practices and innovations being in force at the international level. Summoned for the meeting are responsibles of human resources department with Ministries and organs of administration, training Governmental agencies, Government high ranking officials and representatives of the National Assembly. Representatives of Canada, Brazil, Cape Verde, Tanzania and international donors and other partners are also invited for the workshop.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 29 March 2004

Malanje: Public Administration Ministry Bets On Professional Training

Malanje - The Angolan Public administration, Employment and Social Security Minister, Pitra Neto, ensured on Thursday, in northern Malanje province, that his sector will soon develop actions to promote the professional training, specially for the youth in the region. Speaking to the press at the end of his few hours visit to Malanje, the incumbent Minister of Public Administration, did not give more detail on the progress of this project, adding only that this matter was analysed during the meeting that he held with the local governor, Cristóvão da Cunha.

Relatively to the enrollment of new staff of the public service, Pitra Neto, said that the process is being taken with normality, having enrolled this year about 2,700 workers in the province, most of them in the education, health and administrative sectors, due to the opening of public services in the districts. Mr. Pitra Neto has just ended his working visit that aimed to witness the inauguration of an arts and professional training centre located at Maxinde. During his stay in the province, the minister held meetings with the local governor, employees of the provincial Management of Public Administration, Employment and Social Security Ministry and visited the central hospital, among other organisms of the state.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 23 April 2004

 

Public Administration in Brunei Highlighted at UBD Thursday Club

TIssues pertaining to the need of government officers to address and adjust themselves to the prevailing global changes were touched upon during the recent informal discussion of UBD Thursday Club held on April 1 and organised by Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of UBD. Facilitating the discussion, entitled 'The Public Administration in Brunei Darussalam: A Perspective', was Hj Duraman bin Tuah, Senior Training Officer at the Institute of Public Administration. Hj Duraman has rich experience as he has written many papers and delivered several talks on public administration in Brunei Darussalam. Chairing the discussion was Dr. Mataim bin Bakar in his capacity as the Deputy Chairman of UBD Thursday Club and his position as the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UBD.

Also present was Dr. Hjh Hairuni Hj Mohamed Ali Maricar, Chairperson of UBD Thursday Club and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. During the discussion, Hj Duraman touched on various aspects in relation to public administration in Brunei Darussalam which included the expansion of bureaucracy, suitable emplacement of experts, discipline of government officers, financial management, and maximum utilisation of human resources, among others. In general, Hj Duraman envisaged several aspects in public administration to be improved and he rendered a few suggestions, which were believed to be a prerequisite and mechanism to improve the situation. His discussion stimulated the attendees in voicing out their own experiences, views and vision for effectiveness in maximising the achievement of objectives of the public service which undoubtedly manifests a very efficient form of public services in the country. Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin.

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, by Maya Salleh, 9 April 2004

 

Project "Public Administration Reform in BIH" Presented

Brcko - Representatives of European Commission and Ministry of Justice of BiH organized today in Brcko presentation of the project " Public Administration Reform in BiH". On the occasion the member of the European Commission, Alexis Liepen, spoke on importance and goals of the project. He pointed out that one of the goals of the process is to develop a consistent approach for the entire country, adding that reform of civil service and reform of administrative procedures do not go in the same direction. Mediator of today's presentation was Saša Leskovac, the state coordinator for public administration reform at the BiH Ministry of Justice.

He explained all advantages and necessities of public administration in BiH, what, as he said, had become a permanent practice in most transition countries. Mayor of Brcko District, Branko Damjanac, said that Draft Law on Civil Servants was being prepared and Drafat Law on Public Procurements, which should be adopted in next months. According to his words, these laws should improve work of Government and its servants. Besides members of Brcko District Government, those present on the occasion were deputy supervisor Gerhard Sontheim, representatives of international organizations, Chamber of Commerce, and Trade Unions of Brcko District.

From FENA, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 31 March 2004

Public Finance: Court of Accounts Sceptical about Outlay Cuts

Despite recognising the effectiveness of the outlay curtailment bill approved in 2002 and its "significant effects" with regards to cutting back on public expenditure, the Supreme State Accounting Court expressed scepticism as to it generating long term virtuous effects. According to the Court's September-December 2003 law enactment report recently submitted to parliament, indicates that cuts in outlay during 2002 have succeeded in two ways: firstly by fixing maximum 85 percent threshold on allotted funds granted cash and by barring all state funding departments from granting pledges submitted after December 31. During 2002 such measures "are thought to have been responsible for savings of 6.4 and 2.3 billion euro".

This has led to net savings on PA debt in excess of 0.2 pct. The Court indicates that a "non negligible quota of expenditure foregone in 2002 was deferred to 2003". Budget trimming measures for 2003 have led to requests of just under 1 billion euro, so as to provide funds for PA departments deprived of resources in 2002. In 2003 such a scheme has led to "an increase in intermediate outlay, up 21 pct compared to 2002". According to the Court demonstrates how difficult "it is to achieve veritable outlay cuts", with regards to which "there is scant satisfaction confronting the reasons put forward by the administration on the issue of its drive towards rationalising outlay". "Temporary measures necessarily lead to a rebound which has a one year lag, and lead to the adoption of further extraordinary measures which, second time round, have to contend with excess outlay as well as having to compensate rebound".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 12 April 2004

Strategy for Public Administration Reform to Take Priority

Belgrade - Serbian Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Zoran Loncar said today that his ministry's top priority is to draw up a strategy for public administration reforms by the end of the year, along with a detailed action plan and accurate deadlines for its implementation. Loncar also announced the writing of a series of system bills as well as serious work on improving Serbia's voter registers, to make sure that no eligible voter is registered for more than once. Loncar told a press conference he is not satisfied with the public administration reform conducted by the previous government in the past three years, and he announced that a new strategy will seek to make the public administration free of political influence, more professional, and decentralised.

According to him, the reform must have an institutional and legal basis, as until now, nobody knew who carried out the reforms or who was responsible for results. The Serbian government will assign this task to the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, said Loncar. Loncar said the passing of legislation on conflict of interest is among short-term priorities in creating legal conditions for public administration reform. He also announced legislation on civil servants, which should contain a code of conduct, as recommended by the Council of Europe. Another novelty to be introduced in Serbia's the public administration is a change of the remuneration system, in order to make it more stimulating through performance-based incentives. This project, managed by World Bank representatives in Belgrade, is in its first stage, which should be completed by the end of the year, he said.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 16 April 2004

Serbia, France to Continue Cooperation in Public Administration Projects

Belgrade- Serbian Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Zoran Loncar and French Ambassador to Serbia-Montenegro Hugues Pernet have reached an agreement on further cooperation between the Serbian government and France in the field of public administration. At a meeting yesterday, the two officials agreed on cooperation between the ministry and the French government and removed obstacles that existed in the past.

From Serbia Info, Yugoslavia, 29 April 2004

 

Congressman Wants to Create Public-Private Nano Partnership

Washington - Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., is working on legislation aimed at helping to fill the gap between federal nanotechnology research and efforts to bring new nanotech advancements to market. The bill, which Honda is still in the process of drafting, would create a public-private partnership to address what Honda sees as the funding gap between nanotechnology research and commercialization. The bill would create a nanomanufacturing corporation within the Department of Commerce that would oversee this partnership. The legislation would authorize $750 million for this partnership and would be complemented by a $250 million investment from the private sector. Honda is still in the process of seeking advice from scientists and others on such issues as what "parameters would make such a program attractive to private investors," according to spokesman Jay Staunton, who said he did not know when Honda may introduce the legislation.

Honda introduced legislation last year that called for creation of a board to advise the president on nanotech issues. A similar provision was included in nanotech legislation enacted late last year. When asked whether current government programs such as the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program (ATP) already provide similar help to what would be created under Honda's new bill, Staunton said ATP "may not be specific enough for nanotech." The program was conceived as a pseudo-VC firm for the federal government, focusing on emerging technologies that were too risky for private investors, but held great promise for commercialization and society.

But some industry representatives say that given the politics surrounding the program since its creation and the yearly effort by critics in Congress to kill it, companies looking for help in commercializing promising nano-related breakthroughs can't count on the program surviving in years to come. President Bush did not propose any funding for the program in his fiscal year 2005 budget proposal. And Josh Wolfe, managing partner for Lux Capital, a nanotech venture capital firm, said he believes the ATP program "for all intents and purposes is dead." Still, he said there is a need for something like the public-partnership envisioned in Honda's upcoming bill to fill the void. "There will be far more science created from the nanotech bill (passed last year) than there will be companies that will be founded" to take advantage of the research, Wolfe said. He said while venture capital companies will help bring the most promising technologies to market, "there are technologies that will be left on the shelf (that)…could also come to market and create jobs and improve lives."

From Small Times, by Juliana Gruenwald, 9 April 2004

Officials Discuss Public Policy

Government officials stressed to students that knowledge is power, and that the first step in changing the world around them is voting at Monday's Six O 'Clock Series, "Public Policy and Public Service." The government helped provide a safety net for his family in their time of need, said Dave Reed, state representative for the 62nd District. The good experiences he had with the government influenced him to run for office. Reed (alumnus, mathematics/economics) ran for office when he was 24. He attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for graduate school and campaigned on days he didn't have classes. "I knocked on 11,000 doors," he said. "My age was never a negative factor." The older people were enthused to see someone so young running for a political office, he said. A person doesn't have to have a seat in office to care about what's going on. You have to open your eyes.

No one is going to tell you what's important. County auditor Patricia Evanko also shared her story. Evanko was a housewife before she got involved in politics. She took her responsibilities as a housewife and mother very seriously. Her paramount priority, she said, were her children. After her husband got ill, she started working, and she earned much of the family's income. She distributed information about political parties and candidates as a first step into the political arena. She was then offered a position as an auditor in which she had big decisions to make, she said. Evanko is currently in her third term as Indiana County auditor. Evanko advises those considering running for office to ask themselves three questions: Why do I want this position? Am I qualified for this position? Do I have my family's support?

Scott Harshman, government affairs consultant, was also in attendance. He graduated from IUP in 1992. Although he never ran for office, he was involved in all aspects of government. He moved to Washington, D.C., where he interned for a state representative. Now he works for GSP, a consultation firm in Pittsburgh. He deals with elected officials and meets with constituents to discuss their issues and concerns. Harshman said it doesn't matter what your major is, anyone can get involved in politics. The first step, they all agreed, is getting involved in campaigns in one's community. Young people have to step up to the plate. It doesn't help to sit around complaining about things if you aren't going to try and change them, Reed said. "If your name isn't on the ballot, then you'll never win an election."

From The Penn Online, by Latoya Parks, 7 April 2004

Freeways, Seismic Upgrades 'Deprive Public of Splendid Buildings'

(Part two of a three-part series. See Part 1) Last time, we recounted how landmarks such as New York City's Penn Station and San Francisco's Fox Theater were lost to development pressures during the early1960s. In fairness, preservation and profit sometimes coincided splendidly even then, as they did at San Francisco's pioneering Ghirardelli Square or at Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Yet for the most part, developers then and now have had neither the foresight nor the monetary incentive to be entrusted with preservation-worthy buildings. It shouldn't surprise us that the private quest for profit often tramples the public good it's both obvious and understandable that, for developers, the bottom line controls all else. What's more inexcusable is that our public servants are often equally clumsy stewards of our architectural legacy.

To cite the most egregious example, one could hardly hazard a guess at the number of preservation-worthy buildings not to mention whole neighborhoods that have been destroyed directly or indirectly by our government's postwar obsession with urban freeway building. Initially, there were good reasons to improve the nation's transportation routes. Eventually, however, this freeway program simply became a juggernaut, with state engineers aiming to entangle every major city in an ugly and brutally conceived web of concrete and asphalt. For three decades, the heart of San Francisco's incomparable waterfront was blighted by just such a structure. It took an earthquake to accomplish what public protest had failed to do: destroy it. Dozens more American cities remain saddled with freeways that slash through their down towns, dividing and devastating everything in their path.

Even our sensible neighbors to the north were not spared from postwar freeway mania: In Toronto, the elevated, rusting hulk of the horrendous Gardner Expressway still chokes off the city's dazzling view of Lake Ontario, an insult that residents are forced to resign themselves to. But urban freeways haven't been the only disaster foisted on us by state planners. As freeway building has mercifully declined, they've found other ways to kill us with kindness. In California, for example, scores of superb school buildings dating from the 1920s and early '30s have fallen victim to a well-meant but blundering campaign to ensure the seismic safety of public schools. In 1967,the state passed legislation requiring all pre-1933 schools to be examined for seismic safety. Unfortunately, officials took the path of least resistance in effecting this worthy goal.

Rather than retrofitting these lovingly crafted Revivalist buildings, which ran the gamut from Medieval to Gothic, Tudor to Spanish Revival, wholesale demolition ensued. Almost without exception, the hurriedly built replacements for these grand old buildings were bland stucco boxes that mayor may not be seismically safer given what we've learned about earthquakes since. In the short term, this campaign produced plenty of feel-good press for officialdom. In the long term, it deprived the public of splendid buildings harking from an era of unmatched civic pride, and condemned generations of students to school careers spent in tawdry, third-rate surroundings. We may shrug off these losses as the lingering planning biases of the Modernist era, confident that such things could never happen in today's preservation-savvy climate. Not so: Fine architecture remains just as much at risk today as it ever was. We'll see why next time.

From Mortage 101, by Arrol Gellner, 2 April 2004

 
 

Anti-Corruption Commission Needs More Financial Allocations, Says Mutti

Zambia (Ndola) - The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) says the political will so far exhibited by Government in the fight against corruption should be matched with the budgetary support to achieve desired results. ACC chairperson Nellie Mutti said fighting corruption was an expensive undertaking which needed more financial allocations. Ms. Mutti said this yesterday during the official launch of the ACC 2004-08 strategic plan and unveiling of the commissions' new logo at Lusaka's Hotel Intercontinental. "Fighting corruption is an expensive undertaking. In countries where success has been recorded such as Hong Kong and Singapore, there have been no miracles but huge financial outlays committed to the task. "It is our hope that the political will so far exhibited by the Government will be translated into actual adequate budgetary support to the commission," she said.

Ms. Mutti said it was common knowledge that corruption in Zambia was no longer a secret and that serious allegations which tended to question the integrity of senior leaders were currently the order of the day in newspapers. "Allegations bordering on the integrity of public officers should not only be condemned but also investigated to their logical conclusion and the commission shall not relent in this," she said. Ms. Mutti said she wanted to head a clean institution with high levels of integrity and stressed that no person shall be treated as a sacred cow in the commission's quest to rid Zambia of corruption.

The new mission statement reads: 'To effectively spearhead the prevention and combating of corruption in order to promote integrity, transparency and accountability for the attainment of zero tolerance of corruption, good Governance and sustainable development for the benefit of all in Zambia." She said in order to achieve such objectives, the commission would review and strengthen the legal framework. Permanent Secretary for Management Development division Mukuka Zimba urged ACC to circulate its new plan to all districts and relevant stakeholders as it played a vital role in the fight against corruption. In statement read for her by Management Development division director, Kashell Mwenya, Mrs. Mukuka said Government attached much importance to the fight against corruption.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 9 April 2004

Government to Fight Corruption - UIA

Kampala - Introduction of electronic governance (E-government) is one of the ways the Government is planning to curb corruption. However, establishing the new system requires a public/private partnership. John Musajjakawa, the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) in-charge of information, communication and technology (ICT), said the Government considers the private sector as the main driving force for building a robust ICT sector. "If the new system is developed, you fill passport forms on-line and pensioners will get their pay on-line. It will be hard to ask for a bribe," he said.

From All Africa. Com, by David Muwanga, 5 April 2004

Women and the Anti-Corruption Debate

Harare -"Countries that promote women's rights and improve their institutional frameworks have seen a marked decrease in corruption and their economies have actually boomed " says Idaishe Chengu and Maud Mukwamba. While corruption is evidently the talk of the day and infuriating everyone given its socio-economic implications, what is not easily appreciated is the fact that women and children are more affected by the scourge. Women are short changed in aspects of service delivery as they do not have the same economic clout to negotiate for qualitative services as their male counterparts. Ironically this falls against a background where women have been shown to be less corrupt than men, at least not the insidious acts that can ruin a nations' social and economic fabric as shown by the unraveling cases of corruption reported in the local press.

While the nation at large has benefited greatly from Transparency International-Zimbabwe's (TI-Z) efforts to mainstream anti-corruption dialogue into the national agenda, there has been a notable gap on issues for discussion and this relates to how corruption impacts on gender relations and linkages of issues of good governance and the attainment of a satisfactory framework for women's human rights in Zimbabwe. TI-Z acknowledges that the exclusion of this very crucial dimension has tended to narrow perspectives on developing sustainable strategies to combat corruption. Developments globally and locally have prompted TI-Z to seriously consider spearheading formally, the debate on the impact of corruption on gender relations and good governance in Zimbabwe. Globally major trends thrust towards the exploration of the link between high corruption levels with a poor structural framework for the realization of women's social and economic rights.

Several countries have already undertaken researches to establish the link with the hope of recommending appropriate national structural reform programmes. Locally, the content of the subject, and issues for recommendation have remained largely couched in neutral language, with the assumption that corruption impacts on all sectors of the society in the same way. As such not much has been done to actively seek and incorporate the contribution of women as a separate constituency. The call is to shift from neutral centered approaches in the anti corruption struggle has been influenced by the findings of international institutions such as the World Bank which has commissioned surveys to establish how nations can improve on governance issues in relation to issues of corruption. The World Bank report "Engendering Development-Through Gender Equality, Rights, Resources and Voice" (March 2001) reveals the link; that in nationalities were there are gender disparities in national and legal frameworks, good governance was better achieved by narrowing gaps in the positions of men and women.

Countries that promote women's rights and improve their institutional frameworks have seen a marked decrease in corruption and their economies have actually boomed. If a country were to lobby for the inclusion of more women in the economic and social participation of a country, that is if women constituted a larger proportion in parliament and public and private offices, then that country would experience lower levels of corruption since women have higher standards of ethical behaviour. Where the influence of women in public life is greater, the levels of corruption are lower. Women in business are less likely to succumb to bribery, perhaps because women have higher ethical standards. According to local press reports monitored since January 2004 only one woman has so far been implicated in all reported corruption cases compared to males. If the statistics are anything to go by then there is a definite need to review the place of women in governance.

Therefore a fully-fledged anti corruption strategy that would include the mainstreaming of gender by clearly articulating these links would be a powerful strategy to improve national governance. Another interesting link that is influencing the anti-corruption debate to actively promote and prioritise the gender dimensions of the phenomenon is the need to compliment the efforts of the women's civic groupings to fight for a more enabling framework for the accessing of women's rights. It is increasingly clear that while women are less involved in corruption themselves, they are even more disadvantaged from consequences of a corrupt system. Research shows that that corruption decreases national budgets. Where there are not enough resources, the government is less likely to spend on health and social security which affects women and children more.

A gender sensitive budget analysis of most developing countries reveal that men actually profit more from public expenditure than women. Therefore apart from the fact that the allocation for programmes focusing on women is only a fraction of the of the total national budget, a cut in public spending caused by corruption means that maternal and child health services are more likely to be worst affected. Corruption pervades every aspect of women's rights and since it impacts on men and women differently on law enforcement mechanisms, a corrupt legal system for instance reinforces existing gender discrimination in many countries. In Zimbabwe for instance, women's civil rights are grossly unfair with regards to marriage/divorce, family, child custody, financial independence and inheritance and property rights. Therefore as in other developing countries, it is often the norm that those that win cases, usually men tend to bribe judges and prosecutors.

At a time where political instability and polarization has not been seen to be promoting good governance, TI-Z intends to maximize on the experience of other jurisdictions and actively promote the eradication of corruption whilst at the same time actively supporting the cause for women rights. Transparency International Zimbabwe has established a gender desk, which will come up with a conceptual framework or needs analysis on which direction the gender dialogue should take and how it should address the needs of the Zimbabwean situation. At the moment the initiative is unique in that this is the first attempt by civil society to link a weak framework of women's rights to high corruption levels and the existence of high corruption levels to a lack of participation by women in governance issues.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Idaishe Chengu & Maud Mukwamba, 12 April 2004

Lawmaker Alarmed By Corruption in District

Masaka - The MP for Bukoto South, Dr Herbert Lwanga, has criticised the District Council here for failure to deliver services paid for by the central government. Addressing his constituents at Kiwangala trading centre, Sunday 18, he said that most of the buildings and roads built recently - under supervision of the district Council were sub-standard and not worth the money spent on them. He cited two roads that had been constructed this year; Kyanukuzi - Nakawanga road and the Kaboyo - Kibale road. He said they are so bad - that even people who walk along them keep falling down.

He said much of the money given to the district by the central government to render such services is lost through corruption at district level. Lwanga lamented that the electorate subsequently gets the impression that the central government does not provide enough funds. He said the amount of corruption within Masaka District Administration is so high that the local people are bound to start hating the movement system. He criticised the chairman of Kisekka sub county, Mr. Davis Lubega, for causing financial loss when he sued the former chairman, Mr. Joseph Mutyaba. He lost the case, and the sub-county had to pay out millions of shillings in legal costs.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Michael J. Ssali, 21 April 2004

 

Tackling Corruption in Indonesia

For the past eight months, Joel Hellman, one of the Bank's leading anti-corruption experts, has been in Jakarta coordinating an ambitious program to tackle corruption in Indonesia from the ground up. The Jakarta team is attempting to recruit local governments to a good governance initiative that may pave the way for a major improvement in accountability, transparency and participation at the local level in Indonesia - and it is hoped the economic and poverty reduction performance in the selected regions. Hellman says there is a strong demand from both the general Indonesian population and foreign investors to see concrete results in reducing corrupt practices in the country. Corruption is widely seen as endemic and "extremely difficult to eradicate", Hellman, the senior governance advisor, to the Bank's Indonesia resident mission says. "Corruption is often said to be ingrained at all levels of the system in Indonesia. Even Government ministers talk openly to the press of the problem of corruption," Hellman says. "There has been a general feeling of where do you begin?"

The Bank is moving to capitalize on Indonesia's current program of decentralizing power to the country's more than 400 local governments. The Jakarta team's anti-corruption campaign has focused on finding local administrations that are receptive to improving their governance outcomes and tackling systemic corruption. "We have been concentrating on finding those who are committed to improving accountability, participation and transparency and finding ways to help them achieve their goals," Hellman says. "We hope that a reform-minded group of regions will pull away from the pack and that their performance will begin to attract investment and other advantages." Hellman says corruption has been one reason Indonesia has struggled to mobilize domestic investment and attract foreign investment. The country has not been seen as ready to take the next step in terms of governance.

The Bank has made governance the centerpiece of its most recent Country Assistance Strategy for Indonesia and tried to mainstream governance issues in all of its activities in Indonesia. The strategy makes the crucial link between governance and weaknesses in the investment climate and public service delivery that hinder growth. Hellman says the Bank has been attempting to make service providers more accountable to the poor and the operation of public services more transparent. The Bank hopes to work with 50 to 60 of the best local governments for the time being. Early work has involved boosting the capacity of the regions to improve financial management and public procurement by bring greater participation and openness to these processes.

Hellman says ultimately those areas which are committed to good governance and anti-corruption initiatives will receive more assistance from the Bank in terms of investments in infrastructure and other sectors, such as roads and health facilities. "It makes sense that our sectoral investments will be more effective in reducing poverty where the funds are spent in line with the demands of the clients, so we need to link our governance capacity-building and our traditional sectoral investments in a more coherent program at the regional level". There have been some hopeful signs to date. The team is finding many leaders of local administrations in Indonesia who are very interested in improving their governance outcomes, creating accountable and transparent public services and engaging with civil society and non-governmental organizations.

These regions are attempting to build their reputations through demonstrating progress on the tough governance issues. Hellman says he hopes the anti-corruption initiative will also strengthen a new generation of political leaders who will make their own political reputations on improving governance and stamping down on corruption. These efforts at the local level are being combined with new initiatives on legal and judicial reform, support for Indonesia's recently established Anti-Corruption Commission, more forthright dialogue with the government and the public on corruption issues, and enhanced outreach with organizations in civil society dedicated to fighting corruption. After eight months in Indonesia, Hellman is optimistic. But he concedes that change will not happen overnight. "We have a long way to go."

From World Bank Group, DC, 9 April 2004

New Law Soon to Empower Anti-corruption Body

A new law will be enacted at the end of the current month to make the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) effective. Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Moudud Ahmed, now visiting the United States of America (USA), said this while talking to US Under Secretary of State and Interim Chief of Millennium Challenge Cooperation Alan Larson Wednesday. The minister informed Alan Larson that discussions would continue during the next two to three years for approving limited trade union (TU) activities in the export processing zones (EPZs) of the country. In this connection, Alan Larson stressed the need for dialogues between the USA and Bangladesh.

From Financial Express.bd, Bangladesh, 9 April 2004

Basic Directions of the New Corruption Control Commission

Astana. Kazinform - The first sitting of the Corruption Control Commission at the President of Kazakhstan has taken place today in Astana under the chairmanship of State Secretary Oralbai Abdykarimov. President Nazarbayev signed the Decree providing change of the Commission staff on March 26, 2004. At the first sitting the new staff of the Commission specified the principal directions of activity and adopted the plan of work for the current year. The main goals of the Commission are propaganda of anti-corruption policy, introduction of modern approaches in the struggle against corruption, perfection of legislation in the sphere of legal regulation of economic processes.

The members of the new staff of the Corruption Control Commission are Deputy Director of the Presidential Administration and Director of State Legal Administration Igor Rogov, secretary of the Commission - Viktor Fedotov, Agency for State Service Affairs Chairman Gabidulla Abdrakhimov, Senate Deputy Kabdygali Akhmetov, Minister of Public Health Yerbolat Dosayev, the President of Kazakhstan republican TV radio corporation Galym Dosken, the Minister of Justice Onalsyn Zhumabekov, the Chairman of Economic Corruption and Corruption Crime Control Agency Sarybai Kalmurzayev and others.

From Kazinform, Kazakhstan, 7 April 2004

Administrative Reform Asked to Link with Fighting Corruption

Ha Noi - Linking administrative reform with fighting corruption, negative phenomena and bureaucracy is one the three government's focal tasks set for this year's administrative reform programme. Reforming cumbersome administrative procedures which hinder business operations and publicising regulations on customs, tax, infrastructure construction investment, and land-use certificate granting are most important measures to be implemented soon. Another key task is to promote socialised public services, especially in healthcare, education, culture, and sports in an effort to reduce the government's subsidy. Implementing a programme to modernise the administrative system, focusing on computerisation of State administrative management, is an important task the Government has set for itself in 2004. These three key tasks set for the government's administrative reform this year were unveiled in a directive signed by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai on Tuesday.

From Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam, 7 April 2004

Prosecutors Team Up to Snag Corruption

Beijing - The Supreme People's Procuratorate of China has established a national-level "talent bank" for public prosecutors to assist in cracking down on dereliction of duty and rights infringements by crooked public servants. The move is being made to help guarantee judicial fairness and social stability, the procuratorate said. About 200 excellent prosecutors were selected from more than 10,000 nationwide and accepted into the "talent bank," who now can be called upon to take charge of investigating major malfeasance or rights infringement cases, officials said. Similar personnel banks are being established at provincial and prefectural people's procuratorates, according to authorities.

Judicial supervision departments will also enhance their efforts against the violation of citizens' civil and democratic rights by judicial and administrative personnel. Judicial and administrative malfeasance and rights infringement problems have been on an upward trend in recent years, in nearly all the nation's sectors and regions, officials said. According to Chinese law, procuratorate departments can directly set up and investigate 35 kinds of crimes involving dereliction and six types of infringement acts by public servants. Yet due to lack of corresponding punishments, many criminals have turned a deaf ear to procuratorates' warnings and have even collaborated with other lawbreakers in corrupt activities, such as soliciting or collecting bribes.

Such crimes are most often combined with corruption, or trading one's power for money, said the official. Through collaborating with others, criminals has become more cunning and difficult to discover. Prosecutors are ready for the challenge, officials said, targeting individual areas for major pushes. Such crimes have been concentrated in sectors such as land approval departments, and the production and sale of fake products. Song Hansong, an SPP official in charge of malpractice and infringement acts by civil servants, said procuratorates will target supervision of urban construction among other main fields this year. In Central China's Hubei Province, for example, procuratorates have cracked down on 942 cases during the past three years, punishing as many as 1,086 civil servants who committed illegal acts.

From Xinhua, China, 12 April 2004

Immigration Service Facing Wave of Corruption

The Immigration Service is struggling to cope with mounting cases of fraud and corruption, according to the service's records. Briefings to new Immigration Minister Paul Swain show that the service laid 248 charges for fraud or other crimes last year as immigration applications increased. Mr. Swain said these charges did not relate to service staff. Last week, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters called for a clean-up of the service, after a review of its staff revealed a series of fraud allegations. Between 2001 and last year, there were 78 allegations of fraud involving 49 staff. Twenty-one cases were substantiated and 17 remain open.

In other material released under the Official Information Act, the service painted a grimmer picture still. "As immigration work pressures have increased, the risk-management issues associated with fraud and staff integrity have also increased," the papers said. "Additional investigation resources permitted 248 charges to be laid during 2003 under the Immigration Act and the Crimes Act. "Of the 89 cases that have reached court, 50 have been dealt with, resulting in sentences ranging from fines to two years' imprisonment. Mr. Swain said in a clarifying letter that the 248 charges were not related to staff. "Please note that this figure refers to fraud by immigration applicants or agents." Mr. Peters said the main driver behind the fraud statistics was the "unprecedented" numbers of immigrants. "It has now been revealed that immigration staff were themselves involved in corruption and fraud," he said. "This raises serious questions about the type of people who have been allowed into the country by corrupt officials."

Mr. Peters called for a major review into all applications for residency or citizenship handled by the officials found to have failed their duty. The papers released to NZPA said there had been a significant increase in the resources deployed to combat fraud, with many decisions subject to audit. The previous minister, Lianne Dalziel, had ordered a review of internal investigations and these were being beefed up. The findings of the review included: * The service took allegations seriously and investigated all reports of such activity. * Further training and skilled resources were needed for the service to carry out investigations effectively. * There is no overall fraud management plan. * Pre-employment checks could include police background checks. The report suggested the development of a fraud policy and a fraud control plan.

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, 12 April 2004

Opposition Wants Corruption Watchdog to Stay Independent

The NSW Opposition reiterated its support for an Independent Commission Against Corruption functioning in its own right, the shadow attorney-general, Andrew Tink, said yesterday. Mr. Tink said that while he also backed "robust" parliamentary oversight, amalgamating ICAC with another body, such as the Police Integrity Commission or the Ombudsman's Office, should be resisted. Mr. Tink said the parliamentary committee on ICAC had called for a review of the commission's role and relevance. This threatened to water down the anti-corruption watchdog, he said. He echoed the feelings of the four Coalition members of the committee - Barry O'Farrell, Anthony Roberts, John Turner, and Jenny Gardiner - who were outvoted by other members. On March 10 the committee passed a resolution to send a letter calling for the review. The letter is understood to have suggested amalgamating ICAC with a body such as the Police Integrity Commission.

Mr. O'Farrell said the Coalition members of the committee were committed to ICAC. "We were sceptical of the motives of the majority of the committee and voted against the resolution," he said. The Premier, Bob Carr, had received the letter only on Thursday last week, said his spokesman, Tim Gleason. The Government would consult with "all agencies that would be affected" before deciding on such a review. "The committee itself could carry out a review but their preferred position is to have an outsider," Mr. Gleason said. In the meantime, the search has begun for a replacement for ICAC's commissioner, Irene Moss, who retires in November. Mr. Tink said he supported the commission despite criticisms he had previously made about ICAC's operations, in particular decisions of the first ICAC commissioner, Ian Temby, QC.

"It seems to me that one of the problems speculating on the future of ICAC is that it might discourage good applicants putting up their hands for the job," Mr. Tink said. "I utterly refute this idea that because of the PIC, we don't need ICAC. There are 15,000 police and a quarter-million public servants. The idea that there should not be an oversight of the public service I utterly reject. "As for this business of absorbing ICAC in the Ombudsman's Office, this was tried a while ago [when Irene Moss wrote to the Premier in 1999 seeking such an amalgamation]. "They did get some 'success' in incorporating the Community Service Commission into the Ombudsman's Office. The Community Services Commission had a broad power to look at community services complaints. Since then, it has sunk without trace.

[A body amalgamated like this] loses its independent standing. It loses any idea of what it is. "Because of its enormous power ICAC will always be controversial. It does not mean its powers can be taken away. Does anyone seriously think the Rockdale Council inquiry, to pick a recent one, was not in the public interest? "If someone is within the sights of ICAC, they should get on with their job. If someone is not [and ICAC targets them anyway], then the oversight process has to come into process." The concepts of independence and a parliamentary oversight always operated in tension. But the system was workable and necessary, not only with ICAC but bodies such as the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

From Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Malcolm Brown and Sean Nicholls, 12 April 2004

NAB Remains Successful in Combating Corruption: Munir Hafeez

Islamabad - The Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Lt. General Munir Hafeez has said that the NAB made successful efforts to combat corruption during the last four years. Addressing press conference here Monday, he said although NAB has been successful to in its efforts but it is facing major problems to get back looted money or absconders who take refuge abroad. He said Pakistan signed a UN convention against corruption in December last which would help us expedite investigative process against the corrupt elements.

He said the UN Convention which has been signed by over one hundred countries will help take effective measures to control corruption with the help of international community. General Munir Hafeez said with the ratification of the UN convention it will become difficult for foreign companies to bribe officials in Pakistan and the third world. One of the clauses of the convention calls for termination of a contract on the proof of bribery he said. He said an international conference on the UN Convention against corruption is being held in Islamabad from today (Tuesday). He said the conference aims to increase awareness about the UN convention findings against corruption in the region and facilitating the member countries to take decision for its ratification.

He said the primary purpose of this conference is to identify issues that would either facilitate or hamper Pakistan decision to ratify the UN convention. He said with the help of this convention the government will be able to take solid steps for further legislation to control crimes and corruption. He said the conference will provide a good opportunity to analyze the advantages and dis-advantages of the convention. The Chairman NAB said with the ratification of this convention who will be able to bring back the criminals sitting outside the country even without formal extradition treaty with other countries. He said about thirty two delegations and participants will attend the three day conference including Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, Switzerland, UK, US and International Agencies.

From Pakistan Link, CA, 19 April 2004

Anti-Corruption Report: $1-Trillion in Bribes Paid Each Year

Manila - More than $1 trillion in bribes is paid worldwide each year in both rich and developing countries, according to an ongoing research at the World Bank Institute (WBI). Calculated using 2001-02 economic data, the figure compares with the size of the world economy estimated at over $30 trillion and does not include embezzlement of public funds or theft of public assets. According to the Transparency International, an international non-government organization devoted to combating corruption, former president Ferdinand Marcos, the late Zaire dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and Nigeria's former military head of state Sanni Abacha have embezzled up to $5 billion each while former Indonesian leader Suharto embezzled between $15 billion and $35 billion. The same study shows that countries that tackle corruption and improve their rule of law can increase their national incomes up to four times in the long term, and child mortality can fall as much as 75 percent.

According to the global corruption watchdog, a country with a per capita income of $2,000 could expect to see its income rise to as much as $8,000 in the long run if it addresses corruption. "Fighting corruption is a global challenge," Daniel Kaufmann, Transparency International's director for Governance, said. Countries like Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, and Slovenia, which have curtailed corruption to levels comparable with those of many wealthy industrialized countries, are now challenging the popular notion that a country needs to become rich in order to address corruption. Research utilizing a comprehensive governance data from 200 countries shows that higher national incomes per capita result from improving governance, rule of law, and corruption control. The main challenge lies ahead though and will require enormous political resolve by national governments, the private sector (including multinationals), and international bodies.

From Philippine Headline News, Philippines, by Ted Torres, 14 April 2004

Pakistan Faces Corruption Problem

Islamabad - Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said on Tuesday Pakistan has been facing corruption related problems like other developing countries. "However, steps for improvement have been and are still being taken," the Prime Minister was speaking at the inauguration of an International Conference on UN Convention against Corruption in Islamabad. The Prime Minister said the conference is manifestation of the fact that corruption has become a priority with the world community. He expressed his government's firm resolve and commitment to contain and eradicate corruption. "To eradicate this menace, the international community will have to put up a collective front and help less developed countries to eliminate it". He said Pakistan will remain a front runner in the global effort to fight this menace fulfilling its obligations as part of the comity of the nations.

Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said there are factors which contribute in strengthening corruption in a society including faulty governance and development policies along with poor management and lack of proper checks and balances. 'We have initiated civil services reforms. There is now increased accountability. Comprehensive capacity building programmes for the civil services have been launched to raise their performance. The devolution plan has introduced participatory governance down to the grass roots level. The National Reconstruction Bureau is reforming key institutions within the good governance. The Bureau has adopted a comprehensive approach to combat corruption. The State Bank of Pakistan has taken stringent measures to plug illegal channel of money transfers and laundering. The Prime Minister said with the Access to Justice Programe, we plan to provide inexpensive, quick and transparent justice to the common man by revamping the existing judicial system.

He said the UN Convention against corruption is a great leap forward. He said Pakistan has taken active part in formulation of the UN convention against corruption incorporating perspectives from the developing world in the final document. Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said without collective and concerted efforts this menace will not be controlled. The Prime Minister said it is unfortunate that national wealth from the developing countries has been plundered and moved to economically more stable countries. Siphoning of much needed resources has had adverse effect on sustainable economic growth. It is a tough task but corruption can be combated with consistent and considered remedial measures. Earlier, the NAB Chairman Lt. General Munir Hafeez speaking on the occasion said government is committed to eliminate corruption from the society.

He called for increased cooperation between the international communities to eliminate this menace. He said corruption is a bane of development. He emphasized cooperation among the law enforcing agencies of the region to fight corruption. He said corruption has always been a global phenomenon and in the barb of culture corruption has been justified. The NAB Chairman said in Pakistan billions of dollars of foreign aid could not help ameliorate the lot of the common man and fruits of development could not reach them. He National Accountability Bureau after its establishment has been striving to eradicate corruption in all its forms and manifestation from the country. The UN representative speaking on the occasion praised Pakistan for its contribution in the formulation of the UN Convention against corruption. He said there are hundred and seventy six signatories on the Convention and it would be ratified soon.

From Pakistan Link, CA, 21 April 2004

Corruption Can Not Be Challenged Without Participation of Society

Islamabad - Minister of State for Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan has said that the curse of corruption cannot be successfully challenged with out educating the larger society. The Minister expressed these views while addressing the concluding session of International Conference on UN Convention against corruption, here on Thursday. He said Pakistan is probably the first among the member states to take an active step like convening this Conference for firming up its decision to ratify the Convention.

Pakistan is already way ahead of other member states in terms of establishing various institutions and legislations in keeping with the requirements of the Convention. Government of Pakistan has already initiated actions regarding anti-money laundry law in conformity with Article 14 of the Constitution. We are ahead of the Convention in terms of putting in place the preventive anti-corruption policy and body. The Minister said that NAB has drawn an elaborate and well thought out programme of Awareness and prevention, but it is to note that no anti-corruption effort could succeed without active involvement of the informal segments of the society, which includes NGOs, professional organizations, trade unions and community groups.

In this regard, we need to provide enabling environment to the CSOs, so that they can contribute effectively in combating corruption through informing and mobilizing the public and advocating with the government to change the laws and systems, which encourage corrupt practices. He further said that media can play in fighting the menace of corruption. It can help the fight in terms of identifying, in an objective and dispassionate manner, the issues of corruption, process of investigation and prosecution and unearthing of financial wrongdoings, both in public and private sector.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 23 April 2004

Uzbekistan's Corruption-ridden Educational System Seen as a Source of Frustration

Uzbekistan's corruption-ridden educational system is a source of widespread discontent among the country's youth. Steadily decreasing government funding has sharply reduced access to higher education. And many of those who can afford comparatively high tuitions complain about a lack of interesting career opportunities. Increasingly, higher educational opportunities are available only to children of Uzbekistan's economic and political elite. Tuition ranges from $200-$800 for the academic year. While such a price tag may be low by international standards, in a country where the average citizen makes roughly $1 per day, the cost is beyond the reach of most. Today, government grants for university education only cover about 38 percent of a student's total education expenses.

Bank loans introduced to help plug the state-funding gap have little appeal for students, given that interest rates run as high as 20 percent. Consequently, university enrollment has significantly declined since 1991. According to a 2003 World Bank report on Uzbekistan, enrollment shrank from 14 percent of Uzbekistan's university-age group in 1991-1992 to only 6.4 percent in 2000-2001. "Even students supported by their parents financially have serious difficulties [paying for their education]," said one Uzbek woman, whose daughter studies at the National University of Uzbekistan. "For this reason, many students, even the brightest, often have to quit [their studies]. They cannot pay so much for their education." The shift in educational opportunities has hit women the hardest.

Many Uzbeks cling to a traditional view, in which success for a woman is based on a good marriage, rather than on a good education and career. As one Tashkent resident said; "My daughter's husband is going to demand that she stay home and look after the children anyway. Why spend so much money on education?" The decrease in government support not only has caused a drop in the quantity of students, it has eroded the quality of instruction. Monthly wages for professors are relatively low, about $50. This has prompted a large number of experienced professors to leave academia in search of better-paying jobs. In addition, many higher educational institutions are struggling with shortages of equipment and Uzbek-language textbooks. Internet-equipped computers remain a rarity. The Tashkent Pediatric Medical Institute, for example, has only 12 Web-enabled computers for more than 1,000 students.

Students additionally complain that instruction often depends on rote learning. In-class discussion or criticism is discouraged. Corruption, fueled by underpaid staff, is rampant. University applicants can pay thousands of dollars to gain admittance to Uzbekistan's most exclusive universities and institutes. Once enrolled, students often find out that good grades are available at a price. And for those not wanting to attend class, a bribe can obtain an unofficial attendance waiver. "[Students] can pay for each class separately or 'wholesale' at the beginning of each term," said Olga, a student at Tashkent¹s Financial Institute. "Those who want to buy a good grade simply pay a bribe through a special person, usually from among the student body, who is an intermediary between the teachers and us. These people walk the institute's corridors with lists of bribe givers, how much they paid, and what grades they want."

Many teachers rely on bribes to augment their official salaries. Dismissals for accepting bribes occur rarely, and then often only because of an in-house dispute or a raid by police needing to meet a monthly quota. Even students at the top of a class may find that they cannot pass their exams without paying bribes. One recent graduate of the University of World Languages, now a junior manager at a foreign company, still harbors bitter memories of his university days. "We were expected to shut up and do what [the professors] told us to do. They did everything to kill initiative in us. All we saw was discipline and drills from old books, or [President Islam] Karimov's books," said Dmitry, who, like all students interviewed, did not want to give his last name out of fear of government harassment. Out of the more than 120 students with whom he graduated, only a few managed to find good jobs, Dmitry claimed.

Given that approximately 60 percent of Uzbekistan's 26 million citizens are under the age of 25, the failure to expand educational opportunities and provide better instruction could have a destabilizing effect on Uzbekistan's development. The Asian Development Bank has made $100 million available to Uzbekistan from 2002-2004 to address structural problems in the Uzbek education system. However, Uzbek officials have not demonstrated a keen interest in grappling with the issues. An existing educational reform blueprint provides only a vague framework for the publication of new textbooks and the development of new curricula. At the same time, authorities have shown no desire to relinquish the state's monopoly over education, and refuse to register private institutions of higher learning.

Uzbekistan's non-governmental sector had been providing considerable support to education-related projects. Since late 2003, however, the Uzbek government has become increasingly suspicious of NGO activity, calling into question the ability of NGOs to continue funding education-related projects. In recent months, the government has forced NGOs to go through a re-registration process. In mid April one key supporter of Uzbek education, the Open Society Institute-Uzbekistan, received notification that it would not be re-registered, effectively forcing it to cease operations. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. EurasiaNet operates under the auspices of the New York-based Open Society Institute. Editor's Note: Esmer Islamov is the pseudonym of a freelance journalist specializing in Uzbek political affairs.

From Eurasianet, NY, by Esmer Islamov, 29 April 2004

Public Awaits Serious Steps Against Corruption

An article on bribery and corruption issued last week in the official state-run "Azerbaijan" newspaper - a publication of the Milli Majlis (parliament) - has drawn public approval. An overwhelming majority of citizens are waiting for the President, who stated during his inauguration that, "I will be the President of every citizen of Azerbaijan", to take serious measures against high-ranking corrupt officials. Everybody is sure that the article by the young contributor Ikhtiyar Huseynli was written on the recommendation of those on high. Without it, the newspaper, which usually issues articles full of praise, wouldn't have given coverage to the corruption prevalent in the law-enforcement and judicial bodies, as well as at the ministries of Health, Education, Internal Affairs, and Social Security.

Recalling Aliyev's statement "My team is Heydar Aliyev's team… However, the future activity of each of you will depend on the results of your work" made during his meeting with members of the former government, the author of the article particularly stresses that the President has already replaced the ministers for communications and foreign affairs with more skilled men. With this fact, the author emphasizes that those, "who fail to fulfill their duties", will be replaced. The article says that 3,312 people filed complaints to the permanent parliamentary commission on human rights in 2003. The majority of the complaints suggest that an "unhealthy atmosphere" exists in the relevant state bodies that are being administered improperly.

Ordinary people - the disabled, war veterans, intellectuals, the unemployed, those whose rights have been abused and who have been subjected to violence, complain about corruption existing at the ministries of Health, Education and Social Security, as well as at the Traffic Police, district executive bodies and the Baku Mayoral Office. They say that they have to pay bribes to get documentation from these authorities. A few years ago Azernews issued an article, saying that corruption was usual at the Ministry of Public Health and, citing an MP, disclosed the exact amount of the bribe that health institutions in Ganja gave monthly to Health Minister Ali Insanov.

However, at that time neither the minister nor the authorities reacted to the article. Income from medical services reached $14 million in 2002, 8 times as much as in 1994. Moreover, funds allocated from the state budget were increased and grants and assistance from humanitarian and financial organizations were stepped up. Unfortunately, much of these funds are not being used to develop health and services but rather are 'stolen' in different ways. Although the 'Azerbaijan' article mentions shortcomings, it doesn't name any top officials. However, the instructions given by President Aliyev lately to settle all problems give people hope that personnel reforms will be conducted successfully.

From AzerNews, Azerbaijan, 29 April 2004

 

Mixed Results for Serbia-Montenegro in Corruption Study

Belgrade - Serbia-Montenegro ranks number 10 out of 26 countries in transition in a study of business corruption published today by the World Bank. The study ranks 26 European and Central Asian countries based on the influence of corruption over business dealings. Serbia-Montenegro performs worse than Slovenia, but better that Croatia, Poland, Slovakia and Romania. One of the criteria was the extent to which individuals or groups are able to influence the adoption of regulations to suit their business interests, Vesna Kostic, spokeswoman for the World Bank office in Belgrade, told B92. Here, Serbia-Montenegro ranked number 21, ahead of Albania, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Macedonia.

From B92, Yugoslavia, 7 April 2004

President Demands to Curb Corruption in Customs

President Saakashvili raised concerns on April 5 over the high corruption rate at the customs, saying that he has given a week term to the Interior Ministry and the General Prosecutor's Office to study the situation there. "As far as I know, particular officials still continue taking bribes there. It seems, they fail to understand our attitude in this regard. I demand to arrest those persons, who still take bribes at the customs," President Saakashvili said at a government session on April 5. He welcomed the activities of the law-enforcements agencies "against criminals and corrupted officials," however added "much is still to be done in fighting corruption."

From Civil Georgia, UK, 5 April 2004

EU Refuses to Fund Sierra Leone Local Elections over Corruption Claims

The European Union has told Sierra Leone it will not help fund May local government elections due to still unanswered questions about corruption during previous ballots, a government minister said Monday. "The EU wrote my ministry that they are not in the position to fund the elections, even though the request was made eight months ago," Sidique Brima, the minister for local government, told reporters. "They stated, among other reasons, that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has not accounted how it disbursed funds for the 2002 presidential and general elections and that the time frame for the (May 22) elections would not enable them to release funds for such an exercise."

Although 2002 elections that returned President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power were considered free and fair, allegations about improprieties by high-ranking members of the NEC elicited stern warnings from Sierra Leone's donors that funds would not flow as freely this time unless the charges were addressed. Local press has reported that fraudulent behavior by former NEC officials, including the purchasing of vehicles for vastly over-inflated sums, reached the highest levels during the run-up to the vote. Observers suggested in February that the threat by both the EU and the United States was an attempt to pressure the national anti-corruption office and the attorney general into re-examining the alleged financial abuses.

Some eight million dollars are needed to run the first campaign in three decades to choose representatives to local government councils for the west African state's 390 electoral wards, the United Nations has said. Some 2.27 million of the country's 5.4 million people registered to vote, according to provisional figures released Monday by the NEC. Candidate nominations wrapped up Friday and a provisional list of candidates is expected to be released this week. Sierra Leone emerged in 2001 from a decade-long rebel war that was considered among the most brutal in modern history. As many as 200,000 people were killed and thousands more left without arms or legs, ears or noses.

From EUbusiness, UK, 19 April 2004

Putin Attacks Corruption by Hiking Public Pay

Russian President Vladimir Putin, re-elected last month on an anti-graft agenda, has given state officials a hefty pay rise aimed at ensuring them a decent income without having to resort to bribery. In an April 10 decree disclosed by the Vedomosti daily, Mr. Putin increased the average state salary of about 35,000 workers in his reshuffled federal government to the equivalent of $500 a month from just over $100. Higher wages are meant to discourage public servants from taking bribes in a country ranked 86 on a public probity index - alongside Mozambique - out of 133 countries studied by independent graft watchdog Transparency International in 2003. Corruption - widespread among officials of all levels - costs Russia around $30 billion a year, or about 10 per cent of gross domestic product, according to some estimates. "This is definitely a very good sign," said analyst Yevgeny Gavrilenkov of Troika Dialog. "This is just the beginning, Mr. Putin's first step, or at least one of his first steps."

But one analyst said the move's impact could be limited as it only affects the top 10 per cent of 350,000 civil servants in the government. "International experience shows there is no statistical correlation between civil servants' pay and the level of corruption," Georgy Satarov, head of think tank Indem, told Ekho Moskvy radio. "Russia's history has shown that." Mr. Putin, who seeks to eliminate poverty and double the size of the economy within a decade, raised his own pay to about $4,300 a month - equivalent to that of the Spanish prime minister, Vedomosti said. Mr. Putin's current pay is not clear. Ministers' pay would rise fivefold to about $3,000 a month, while their deputies will get about $1,600. "This important reform is a necessary, though not, of course, sufficient, component of the fight against corruption," commented analyst Christopher Granville of UFG brokerage.

Graft-related arrests and prosecutions are frequent in Russia, but do little to eliminate corruption in the world's second-largest oil exporter. On Friday, a senior labour department official was caught red-handed by Moscow police receiving $5,000 from a construction executive. Anecdotal evidence of far larger kickbacks abounds, but the big fish are rarely caught. The move to raise salaries follows a major government reshuffle last month when Mr. Putin, days before winning re-election by a landslide, cut the number of ministers to 17 from 31 in a first step to streamline a bloated state apparatus. Russia's fading Communist Party, which has long accused Mr. Putin of failing to fight corruption and poverty in the world's biggest country, was outraged by the latest move. "When average monthly pay is $40-$50, it's a disgrace to pay thousands of dollars to ministerial managers," Oleg Kulikov, a senior Communist Party official, told Vedomosti.

From Valletta Times, Malta, 19 April 2004

Encounter with Government over Public Ethics

Vatican City, The Holy See and Italian Government want to decide together how to promote "a public administration which is not only efficient and well organised but also ethically motivated and culturally prepared". This, the Vatican states, is the aim of seminar organised jointly by the Papal Justice and Peace Council and the Public Office Department of Berlusconi's Government. The meeting, which will take place the 28th April at Palazzo San Callisto, will see the participation of scholars, academics, diplomats, politicians and union leaders and will be introduced by the Cardinal Rafafele Martino, President of the department, and the Public Office MInister Luigi Manzella. The speakers will be the rector of the Salesiana Pontifical University, Mario Toso, and the head of the Public Administration Training College, Angelo Maria Petroni.


From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 23 April 2004

Bulgaria Urges Probe About Alleged Corruption in Choosing Contractor to Build Nuclear Plant

Sofia - The Ministry of Energy urged Thursday a probe about allegations of corruption a Canadian company has made in Bulgaria's selection of a contractor to build its second nuclear power plant. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has turned over to police and its internal auditors an unsigned letter saying Bulgarian government officials want bribes of US$40 million to US$80 million in return for approving the project, Canadian daily Globe and Mail reported. "It is of Bulgaria's best interest to clarify the case and if there is an attempt of abuse of powers it will be punished," the ministry said. It said it would continue talks with AECL on the project.

The daily quoted the letter as saying that some of the money would be funneled to the officials through overpayments that would be made to local Bulgarian subcontractors chosen to work on the project. Other payments would be made to agents working on cementing the deal, the letter said. AECL is part of an international consortium interested in working on a mothballed Bulgarian nuclear power station worth an estimated some US$1 billion at a site near the Danube port of Belene. Bulgaria suspended the project in 1990 for cash reasons and environmentalist opposition, but the government of Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha wants to restart construction. The government has to chose between two basic options for the plant _ an AECL-made CANDU heavy water reactor or a VVER-1000 type of reactor proposed by other international bidders including U.S. Westinghouse, Russian Atomexportstroy and Czech Skoda.

From Bulgarian News Network, Bulgaria, 29 April 2004

 

More Women, Less Corruption?

Does increasing the numbers of women involved in the operations of Government and public sector organisations see a simultaneous drop in the levels of corruption in any nation's public sector? The verdict is still out, according to data contained in the recently released Global Corruption Report 2004. In a section of the Report entitled "Gender and corruption in the public sector," the hypothesis is advanced that "if men are inherently more corrupt than women, increasing women's participation in public life would seem likely to reduce the incidence of corruption." However, information unearthed by researchers Ranjana Mukherjee and Omer Gokcekus suggests that this statement is not as cut and dry as it seems to be. This information was derived from a survey done of 4,000 public officials in 90 public sector organisations in Guyana, Argentina, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Indonesia. The respondents were questioned about their institutional environment, including the severity of corruption and the probability of it being reported.

Those responses were then used to calculate corruption indicators for each public organisation and the organisation's corruption level was checked against the percentage of women it employs. Mukkherjee and Gokcekus stated: "We found that a statistically significant relation exists between gender and corruption in public sector organisations. The level of corruption declines initially as the percentage of women in an organisation increases, but only if women continue to be in the minority. In other words, having too few or too many women is associated with an increase in the severity of corruption. Rather a balance between women and men appears to minimise corruption in an organisation."

Their research showed that in the public sectors of Argentina, Bulgaria, Guyana and Indonesia, organisations "with lower-than-average numbers of women had higher levels of corruption than organisations with a higher-than-average proportion of women" while the reverse was true in the public sectors of Bolivia and Moldova. However when all 90 public sector organisations - from all six countries - were pooled, it was discovered that "organisations with lower representations of women had more corruption than organisations with higher representations of women. The research also said that countries with low proportions of women in the workforce may benefit by increasing the proportion of women in public organisations but in nations were the reverse applies, "recruiting more women might increase corruption in public organisations" Mukherjee and Gokcekus added that "a possible explanation for this conclusion is that corruption levels may have more to do with group dynamics than with gender." The current PNM Government of Prime Minister Patrick Manning arguably has the largest number of women holding Cabinet posts. Nine of the 28 ministerial portfolios are held by women.

From Newsday, Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago, 12 April 2004

Pizza, Public Service Don't Mix Well, Ethics Commission Says

North Port - City Commissioner Vanessa Carusone says her only goal was to peddle cheap pizza to city employees, but a state agency might serve her with an ethics violation for her troubles. State Commission on Ethics spokeswoman Helen Jones said Thursday that Carusone, co-owner of Slice of New York pizza at the corner of U.S. 41 and North Port Boulevard, may have violated the state's ethics law when she placed the city's official seal on a discount card for her business. Carusone, elected to the City Commission in 2002, said she has offered a 25 percent discount to city and county employees since Slice of New York first opened in North Port six years ago. But this year, she decided to slap the city's seal, which depicts a fish next to a map of Florida, on a card to hand out to employees.

Carusone said she began handing out the cards last weekend, and about 200 have circulated. Jones said that could be a violation of state ethics laws. Those laws state: "Arguably, use of the city seal … even on stationery not paid for by city funds constitutes a use of public position that may be violative." The nine-member state commission would need to receive a formal complaint and review the case before a violation could be handed down, Jones said. State ethics violations carry penalties ranging from a public reprimand to a $10,000 fine. Jones added that the commission could investigate to see if it is inappropriate for Carusone to offer the discount to city and county employees. Carusone, who co-owns Slice of New York with her husband, Joe, said she didn't believe using the city seal on the coupon posed a problem because it is not a trademarked logo.

Slice of New York reopened in North Port this month after moving to Venice in 2003. "A lot of these people, we've been giving them a discount since (we opened) and we were just looking to give them a card to put in their wallet that they could feel good about," she said. Jones said whether or not the use of the seal constitutes an ethics violations depends on whether Carusone benefited from its use, what her intent was in using it, and whether using it was inconsistent with her responsibilities as a commissioner. "There's a section of the law that says you can't misuse your resources," Jones said. "Whether or not (the coupon) is a violation is up to the commission when it's got the facts."

From Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL, by Patrick Whittle, 23 April 2004

 

Jamali to Inaugurate International Conference on UN Convention Against Corruption

Islamabad - Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali will inaugurate a three-day International Conference on UN Convention Against Corruption, beginning here on Tuesday. Officials told APP that delegates from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Maldives and experts from around the World including Europe, Far East, Asia and Western countries will participate in the Conference. Renowned lawyers, UN's representatives and other civil and government officials are attending the International Conference on UN Convention Against Corruption. Delegations from abroad would hold meetings with their counterparts in Pakistan for devising the strategies to combat corruption especially in the third world countries. Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lt Gen Munir Hafiez will address a Press Conference on Monday to inform the media about the importance and objectives of the Conference.

The UN Convention Against Corruption would help the signatories in adopting measures such as the establishment of anticorruption bodies to enhance transparency in both the public and private sectors. Prevention of corruption in the judiciary and in public procurement is also the main concern of the UN convention. The Convention calls on countries to actively promote the involvement of non-governmental and community-based organizations, as well as other elements of civil society, to raise public awareness about corruption. Recovery of plundered money is an important issue for many developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered the national wealth, and where resources are badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of societies under new governments. Measures include the prevention and detection of transfers of illicitly acquired assets, the recovery of property, and the return and disposal of assets. Pakistan was amongst the first group of 15 countries to sign the UN Convention Against Corruption in Merida, Mexico last year.

From Hi Pakistan, Pakistan, 19 April 2004

Even Democracies Need 'Sunshine' Against Corruption

Washington - Vibrant democratic countries are still far from immune to corruption or abuse of power, and offer little protections for whistle-blowers, says a report released Thursday. Not one of 25 democratic nations studied in the unprecedented report on government accountability got top scores in stopping or checking corruption, according to the Washington-based Centre for Public Integrity, a non-profit research group that monitors political spending. "This study shows that no country - regardless of wealth, size or population is immune from corruption," said Centre Executive Director Charles Lewis. Argentina to Zimbabwe, every one of the 25 countries we studied is susceptible to abuses of power, whether from a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability from an independent agency overseeing the electoral process, or having no disclosure requirements or limits on money from individuals and corporations flowing into the political system," he told a media briefing Wednesday. "Incredibly, not a single country in our sample achieved a 'very strong' ranking on the public integrity index," Lewis added.

The centre's 'Global Integrity Report' was compiled by more than 150 social scientists and took two years to finish. Its authors say the tool aims to gauge a country's commitment to the rule of law, press freedom and transparency of government decision-making. The index judges the 25 countries in six broad areas: civil society, public information and media; electoral and political processes; branches of government; administration and civil service; oversight and regulatory mechanisms; and anti-corruption mechanisms and rule of law. It awards five rankings - "very strong", "strong", "moderate", "weak", or "very weak" - to the countries surveyed. Only six countries received a "strong" score: the United States, Portugal, Australia, Italy, Germany and South Africa.

Seven nations - the Philippines, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Venezuela and Ghana - received "moderate" rankings, while Nigeria, Panama, Nicaragua, Ukraine, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Turkey, Russia and Kenya got "weak" scores. Guatemala and Zimbabwe finished in the "very weak" category. The report, which also ranks the largest democracy on each continent, says the United States ranked first in two of six broad areas studied, including "very strong" ratings in the civil society and branches of government category, but was low in other areas. It was ranked 19th for oversight and regulatory mechanisms, for example, in part because - unlike other countries studied - "the United States has no national ombudsman, whose role is to make the government more open and accountable to members of the public". According to the index, 18 of the 25 countries did not have adequate laws or regulations to protect whistle-blowers from recrimination or other penalties.

It singled out Portugal as the only state where government officials who report corruption are "often" protected from recrimination or other negative consequences. Of the 25 countries, 23 received "very weak" rankings for their protection for those who report corruption. Punishment and retaliation against people who investigate corruption is also widespread and extends to journalists and writers in many parts of the world, the index found. In 15 of the countries surveyed, journalists probing corruption had been imprisoned, physically harmed or killed. In three states, Guatemala, Mexico and Zimbabwe, both journalists and judges have been physically harmed in the past year, it added. "Fact is, beyond actual war coverage itself, investigating political corruption is the most dangerous task today for journalists and other truth-tellers," Lewis said.

In 14 of the nations, the head of state cannot be prosecuted for corruption, while in six countries the ruling party controls two-thirds or more of the seats in the national legislature, restricting the opposition's ability to monitor official accountability. Money also plays a role in political abuse of power. The report found that political donations were used in all countries surveyed to win political favours. The report cites how U.S. energy giant Enron, which was one of President George W Bush's top donors over his career, spent millions of dollars on politicians and parties from the late 1980s to the time of its collapse in December 2001. As a result, the now shamed company received billions of dollars' worth of "favourable treatment from federal and state government officials on no fewer than 49 occasions", it adds. Political party finances remain secret in 10 of 25 countries, the report found.

Fourteen of those states permit limitless contributions to parties by corporations, and 17 countries have no laws capping the amount parties can spend to manipulate elections. Four countries - India, Japan, Kenya and Zimbabwe - had no independent agency to watch over political party finances. "Let's be blunt here. In far too many instances, in virtually every country we examined, to some degree, power is neither trusted nor accountable," Lewis said. "And in a democracy in the 21st century, anywhere, regardless of geography, that is simply unacceptable." The report authors conclude that corruption cannot thrive in a milieu where the public is in the know about the nature of abuses of power. "Sunshine is the best disinfectant, as the saying goes," they write. "A free press and access to information are critical in holding government accountable - if corruption is to be addressed, it must first be exposed. Similarly, government officials must be accountable to the law."

From Inter Press Service, by Emad Mekay, 29 April 2004

Fighting Corruption

Corruption enriches the venal, but hurts everyone else. Can it be curbed? Out of every dollar Uganda allocated to education in 1995, just 20 cents reached the country's schools. The rest was lost to local patronage politics. In Zhanjiang, one of China's coastal cities, a smuggling ring wrested control of the city's customs house and port authorities. About 100 officials, including the vice-mayor, were implicated in the ring, which smuggled goods worth more than $7 billion past China's borders in the 1990s. In Russia, the infamous loans-for-shares scandal in 1995 allowed the state's biggest firms to fall into the lap of some of the government's biggest bankrollers. Yukos, an oil company worth as much as $40 billion last year, was forfeited to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oligarch, for little more than $300m. From dodging duties to grabbing state assets, corruption comes in many forms, petty and grand.

It can be immensely lucrative and hugely damaging, corroding the rule of law, the legitimacy of government, the sanctity of property rights, and incentives to invest and accumulate. In a paper for the Copenhagen Consensus project*, Susan Rose-Ackerman of Yale University documents corruption's ill-effects; she also evaluates some attempts to fight it. A mechanical analysis of costs and benefits fails to do justice to the problem. A bribe, for example, might be deemed a mere transfer from the bribe-payer (who counts it as a cost) to the bribe-taker (who welcomes it as a benefit). The net cost may be zero. Funds diverted from their proper uses often earn lower rates of return of course: the money devoured by Ugandan politics would have been better spent on Ugandan schools. But this is not always true. A firm that evades onerous taxes might make better use of its money than the government it has cheated.

Countries perceived to be largely free of corruption, according to Transparency International's worldwide surveys, do tend to be richer. But countries that suffer quite high levels of corruption range quite widely in income, from the poor (Ethiopia) to the quite well off (Argentina). Is clean government then a luxury good; something that richer people demand, but poorer people can do without? Such a conclusion would be too complacent. Corruption is a drag on growth, even if many other factors also intervene. According to one study, Colombia's GDP would rise by as much as a fifth if corruption there fell to British levels. Some forms of corruption are more damaging than others. Political scientists, adopting terminology coined by the late Mancur Olson, divide extortionists into two types: the "roving bandits", who steal everything they can, then move on to their next victim; and the "stationary bandits", who monopolise theft in their domain.

Roving bandits are more damaging to investment and commerce. The stationary bandit knows that a thriving economy, fleeced lightly and regularly, has more to offer than an economy killed off by extortion. At worst, the bandits can capture the state itself. Instead of bending or breaking the rules for private gain, the state's captors can, in effect, buy the rules they want. In some cases, such as Russia under the oligarchs, wealth captures power. In others, power captures wealth. Indonesia's long-standing dictator, Suharto, also had many business interests. One student of corruption tracked the fortunes of the listed firms that enjoyed his patronage. Shares on the "Suharto Dependency Index" fell whenever he was rumoured to be in poor health. Can dirty hands wash themselves? Those who benefit from corruption will resist efforts to curb it.

Thus, reformers must ally themselves with those who lose out from corruption, or have no stake in perpetuating it. Such allies might be found at the "grassroots", Ms Rose-Ackerman suggests, among the local people whom the government is ultimately supposed to serve. After discovering that it was losing 80% of its education spending to corruption, the Ugandan government started publishing the amounts due to each school in the local newspapers. With this information, local teachers and parents made sure that as much as 80% of the allocated funds actually reached the schools. Ms Rose-Ackerman warns that not every example of local engagement is as encouraging. Devolving power to the grassroots often simply devolves corruption to a more local level. Another, opposite tactic is to enlist the help of disinterested outsiders.

The World Bank, for example, has set up an international advisory group and an independent watchdog to ensure that revenues from a lucrative oil pipeline between Chad and Cameroon are well-spent. Sometimes, exposing governments and businesses to international shame is enough. That is the rationale of Transparency International's worldwide campaigns against corruption. Anti-corruption reforms need to make self-dealing more costly, and honesty more rewarding. Customs officers and taxmen, for example, might do their job more diligently if permitted to keep some of the revenues they collect.

Tunisian cities have gone one step further, charging private firms a fixed sum for the right to raise taxes on their citizenry. Governments can also discourage tax evasion by lowering and simplifying their tax rates, Ms Rose-Ackerman suggests. Russia's tax revenues have improved as a result of its flat, 13% tax rate. But helping governments raise taxes effectively makes little sense if they spend that money wastefully. An old World Bank project to improve the tax-raising apparatus of Mobutu Sese Seko, the kleptocratic former ruler of what is now Congo, invites Ms Rose-Ackerman's deserved scorn.

She also describes how some governments deliberately pursue white elephant projects, bereft of public utility, but rich in opportunities for graft. A country's taste for such boondoggles shows up clearly in its demand for cement, she notes. Italy consumes three times as much per person as Britain. Ms Rose-Ackerman proposes creating benchmarks for the efficient use of capital to help expose such wastefulness. Corruption per se does not do as much harm as poverty or disease, Ms Rose-Ackerman admits. But no public effort to cut poverty or curb disease can hope to succeed if its energies and finances are dissipated in bouts of self-dealing and embezzlement. Curbing corruption, Ms Rose-Ackerman suggests, is not an alternative to tackling any of the other global ills. It is a precondition for doing so.

From Economist, UK, 29 April 2004

 
 

Government Should Tame Civil Servants, Says Kivuitu

The Electoral Commission yesterday criticised Narc for allowing civil servants to participate in party politics. Chairman Samuel Kivuitu said the ruling party had ignored calls to rein in civil servants, and recalled that its predecessor Kanu "quickly withdrew civil servants when warned about their participation in politics". He said the law was clear that it was illegal for government workers to double as politicians and warned the State to "follow the law or remove the law". At the same time, Kivuitu called on the Attorney General to advise the Government on the matter. "We call upon the AG to advise the Government correctly. We are ready to supply him with the results of a survey we carried out on the matter in 2002," he said. The commission gave details of who a public servant is and why they should avoid politics. "The AG must remind public officers of the law barring them from participating in party activities."

A public officer, he explained, was any person paid from the public coffers. "It does not matter whether the emoluments they receive are called salary, allowances or honorarium. Such persons commit a crime by involving themselves in party politics." Politicians allied to the Liberal Democratic Party have accused National Alliance Party of Kenya's secretary-general Fidelis Nguli of participating in party politics, yet he is a civil servant. Yesterday, Kivuitu said public officers should choose to commit themselves to their work or resign and join politics. Meanwhile, the chairman expressed satisfaction with electioneering in the countdown for the Kisumu Town West by-election, but warned against bribery. "We are happy so far," he said, adding that irregularities should be minimised as they could not be eliminated altogether. "They are the spice of the game, unless they lead to violence or are too vulgar." The seat fell vacant following the death of Mr. Joab Omino in February. Three aspirants from Narc, Kanu and Ford People will battle it out in the April 21 poll.

From East African Standard, Kenya, 7 April 2004

Ndwiga Says Civil Servants Are Corrupt

Nairobi - There is corruption in Government, Co-operative Minister Peter Ndwiga said yesterday. He said, however, that those responsible for corruption were civil servants that the Government inherited from the former regime. Ndwiga said there was no way the Narc regime could have done away with all the civil servants when it took over, as they were also Kenyans. Ndwiga who was contributing to the Motion on the presidential address also disclosed that for the first time in 15 years, milk producer prices would not fluctuate. The minister noted that the milk proceeds will not be reduced and farmers have every reason to smile. He added that what the present Government has achieved in the last one year could be equaled to what was achieved in the country for the last 15 years put together.

He said he was shocked to hear the previous day of some MPs questioning where the 500,000 jobs Government that were promised are. He said job creation must not be seen in the context of people being employed in clerical tasks as jobs can be found where people reside. He said that Kenya Co-operative Creameries had for instance created 100,000 jobs alone in the last one year. Ndwiga, whose job creation remarks were challenged by MPs Njenga Karume and Simeon Nyachae, said local businessmen were now getting credit from banks at low interest rates. He argued this had reversed the former position and that now it is banks that are chasing after customers to offer them credit. Chepalungu MP, John Koech said there was need for Parliament to reassert itself.

Koech noted that though quarrels have dogged previous parliaments, there was need for leaders to consider what was good for the nation by doing away with political expediency. He said he was delighted that dairy farmers are now getting value for their money as KCC was back in their hands. He said he is happy these days whenever he sees dairy farmers getting dues for their products. He pointed out that when he as in Government during the 'Goldenberg days' as an assistant minister for finance, he used to be grilled for mistakes that were not of his own making. He appealed to his colleagues to work towards attaining a consensus for the constitutional review process and advised against being guided by emotion.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 2 April 2004

State Rolls Out Housing Allowances for Civil Servants

Government through the Ministry of Finance has began releasing money to pay housing allowance to civil servants as provided for under the 2003 collective agreement. Secretary to the Cabinet Mr. Leslie Mbula said on Thursday that the amounts released would cover all civil servants starting with the highest category of K900,000. Mr. Mbula who was addressing civil servants and Government department heads at Kambule technical secondary school said modalities were being worked out to settle the 40 per cent housing allowance arrears for the April, 2002 to March 31 2003 agreement. "The Ministry of Finance has undertaken to pay for civil servants who are eligible and has began releasing the money," he said.

He said the Ministry of Finance had assured him that civil servants would be paid before Government effected the reduced rates for housing allowance in September 2004. He said the Ministry of Lands was negotiating with the councils to set aside land for civil servants wishing to build houses. Mr. Mbula said Government was also examining ways of improving the retirement package so that civil servants do not turn into destitutes. He urged civil servants not to be influenced by political forces. He said Zambia enjoyed peace since independence 40 years ago because of a dedicated civil service. He admitted that Government employees worked under difficult conditions and assured that the situation would improve once Zambia attained completion point under HIPC. Mr. Mbula said civil servants had no choice but to work with the Government of the day. Mr. Mbula was later scheduled to tour the flooded parts of Kalabo and Mongu. (The Times of Zambia (Ndola).

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 3 April 2004

MPs, Civil Servants Reminded of Duty

President Thabo Mbeki issued a stern warning to underperforming elected representatives and civil servants on Sunday, reminding them that they were in office to serve the people of South Africa. Mbeki said the African National Congress did not want "a president and councillors who do not understand that the reason they were elected is to serve the people of South Africa." He said no pensioner should be unable to receive his or her grant because of poor performance from civil servants. "We must reduce the levels of poverty among our people. "We must improve the lives of the people for the better," Mbeki said. His message resonated among the 80 000-strong crowd in the FNB stadium near Soweto. Many watched proceedings on a big screen as the stadium was packed to capacity. "The stadium is too small to contain the supporters of the ANC in Gauteng," Mbeki said.

Security officers dealt swiftly with a man who rushed onto the stage immediately after Mbeki ended his address. The man was hustled off the field by a posse of security guards, his blue T-shirt nearly torn off. Programme chair and Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa soon had the situation under control again, with Mbeki and Deputy President Jacob Zuma dancing to loud music. Gauteng MEC for safety and security Nomvula Mokonyane said there had been no problems, and people moved freely around the packed stadium. From the approval of the crowd, one could believe the ANC had 80 000 definite votes on April 14 However, one rally attender, Jabulani Mconcoza said he was still "doing research". "I go to lots of these things," said the 26-year-old student at Vaal University of Technology.

Mandela defends Mbeki - Mandela defended Mbeki from people who, he said, wanted to cast aspersions on Mbeki's integrity by saying that the president would want a third term. "We publicly express our surprise at such rumours, confirming our faith in the integrity of a man we know better than any of those critics or rumour mongers," he said. "Yet they persist with their efforts. Now that the president has answered in the most unequivocal terms, we have not heard any one of them apologising to the president, or to ourselves for that matter." It was the second time Mandela has supported Mbeki on the third term question, which Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon has consistently wanted Mbeki to answer.

Mandela said South Africans would go to the polling stations for the third time on April 14 to celebrate the past decade of freedom. "We can now with some assurance and confidence claim that out democracy is firmly established. "A democracy does not only consist of the five-yearly acts of going to the polls, but participating in those elections remains the most emphatic manner in which the citizenry can express its will," he said. Leaders support ANC - Leaders of the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the SA Communist Party and the SA National Civics Organisation expressed support for the ANC. Mbeki said the rally did not mean campaigning had ended, urging party members to continue visiting the people to ensure they vote on election day. "After this rally we must continue to talk to the people, tell them on April 14 they must vote for the ANC." Mbeki said other political parties were contesting the election to become the official opposition, not to become the government. "When you say you want to be opposition, it means you are already defeated," he said.

From IAfrica South African News, South Africa, 5 April 2004

Civil Service Salary Review Out by June

Nairobi - Salaries for civil servants will be reviewed by the end of June. Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Kiraitu Murungi said the Government was sensitive to discontent among various cadres in the Civil Service occasioned by the disparity in their pay package. Murungi, however, said donors wanted the wage bill cut and resources used to reduce poverty. Murungi who was speaking in Meru said Kenya last week had received Sh200 billion in grants and loans from the World Bank to construct the northern corridor highway from Mombasa to Malava which he said will extend to Ethiopia.

At the same time, Murungi said the contentious Media Bill 2001, which sought to control the media, will not be implemented. He said the law would be taken back to Parliament and amendments made on it "to make it more friendly and accommodative to the growth of a vibrant media industry in the country". He said the Bill was oppressive to the freedom of the Press but urged the media to be self-regulatory and responsible. Murungi said the Government is liaising with media players with a view of establishing a media council that aims at promoting Press freedom and making the media responsible.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 5 April 2004

Resign And Then Join Politics, Mbula Tells Civil Servants

Civil Servants wanting to join politics have been warned that they risk losing their long and hard earned benefit packages. Secretary to the cabinet Mr. Leslie Mbula informed civil servants intending to join politics that they should first resign from their professional jobs before entering the political arena. Speaking to Southern province provincial heads in Livingstone Mr. Mbula advised that sometimes it was better to remain as a civil servant because politics were temporal. He disclosed that some former civil servants who are now politicians have been struggling in vein to get their benefits from government, adding that this was a sad development because any one who takes up politics is told what is at stake. He warned that no serving civil servant should double into politics as it was illegal, and added that those in politics now should thank Zambians for being too passive as in other countries the situation was difficult. Mr. Mbula asked civil servants to study carefully all circulars given out and know what was demanded of them at a given time. He said civil servants were better as professionals in their jobs. (The Times of Zambia (Ndola)).

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 12 April 2004

Civil Servants Advised To Stay Away From Partisan Politics

The office of the Head of Civil Service (OHCS) has asked all civil servants who intend to take part in active politics during this election year to resign. "Civil servants who may be tempted to engage in any overt political activity, such as campaigning openly or contesting primaries for the selection of parliamentary candidates, are hereby requested, in their own interest, to resign from the Ghana Civil Service before they engage in such activities", it said. The Head of the Civil Service, Dr Alex Glover-Quartey, who gave the directive in an interview, said by virtue of the traditional role of the Civil Service to serve the government of the day loyally and to maintain the confidence of any future administration, civil servants are not to engage in partisan politics.

According to him, information reaching his office indicates that some civil servants are engaged in active politics, to the extent that some are currently contesting primaries in all parts of the country and queried, "How can people have confidence in you if you do that"? He said even if a civil servant was contesting only at the primary, he should resign because he had openly demonstrated his affiliation with a particular political party. Dr Glover-Quartey reminded all civil servants that the Constitution provides that a civil servant may not accept any office, paid or unpaid, permanent or temporary, in any political organisation as well as declare himself or herself openly as a registered member of a political party or association.

He said the Constitution further provides that it was wrong for a civil servant to publicly indicate his support for any political party, candidate or policy, make speeches or join in demonstrations in favour of any political party, among others. However, he stated that a civil servant was entitled to his views on political matters and if so qualified, may vote at elections. He, therefore, reminded all civil servants to maintain their political neutrality and impartiality so as to sustain the confidence members of the public had in the Ghana Civil Service. Dr Glover-Quartey expressed the hope that no civil servant would give cause for the OHCS or the public to doubt his or her loyalty to the government.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 14 April 2004

Government Sets Guidelines for Civil Servants' Promotion

Awka - Anambra State Government yesterday set fresh conditions for top civil servants in its employ who craved for promotion from one grade level to the other. The state Governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, who spoke yesterday at the opening of a workshop for directors and deputy-directors in the state civil service, said all officers from the rank of Assistant-Directors seeking promotion to the next cadre would be required to pass an aptitude test. He directed the immediate introduction of computer education courses for civil servants, whom he believed would benefit from professional training in such places like the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) Badagry, and the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, near Jos.

Stating that the new measures were aimed at re-invigorating the state's civil service, Ngige described training as a necessary ingredient for manpower development. He pledged to do everything within his powers to bring the Anambra State civil service to enviable heights, charging workers to help complement government efforts by putting in their best in addition to being punctual at their duty posts. Ngige frowned at high level corruption in the state's civil service, and threatened to prosecute at least three persons, whom he said flouted governments financial regulations to serve as deterrent to those opposed to government's financial prudence. "If you come to work at 11 a.m. and close at 2 p.m. This is corruption. There should be a change of attitude to work. My government is prepared to help workers in all way possible," he said, requesting that they reciprocate the gesture.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Charles Onyekamuo, 20 April 2004

Promoting Ethics, Integrity and Professional Standards in the Public Service

London - To assist member countries of the Commonwealth in developing their public service sector by promoting integrity and high ethical standards, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are holding a five-day meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, this week, from 26 to 30 April, that will culminate in a Meeting of Ministers of Public Services in West Africa. The meeting, with the theme 'Trust in Government - Promoting Ethics, Integrity and Professional Standards in the Public Service', reflects the Secretariat's aim of assisting member governments in promoting and monitoring ethical conduct and professionalism in their public services.

Professor Victor Ayeni, Director of the Governance and Institutional Development Division of the Secretariat, said: 'The Secretariat is committed to advance the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development initiative, including through working with and helping to strengthen ECOWAS as a critical regional organisation." He said apart from imparting skills that are critical for advancing the implementation of the

The participants at the meeting comprise representatives from the 16 ECOWAS member states (Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, which are also Commonwealth members, and the 11 non-Commonwealth states - Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo), as well as some regional organisations. The first four days of the meeting involves the presentation of country reports by senior government officials including discussions on building trust, accountability and integrity in public services. On Friday, 30 April, the strategies proposed by the senior officials will be reviewed for adoption by the Ministers of Public Services.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 29 April 2004

 

Draft Extends Disclosure Guidelines to Public Servants

Federal Government departments and agencies, including the corporate and competition watchdogs, will be required to keep the Australian Stock Exchange informed of price sensitive information about listed companies under draft guidelines released yesterday. Ross Cameron, the parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer, has asked for public comment on the guidelines that seek to ensure public servants update the market on any information that could trigger a rise or fall in a company's share price. The move comes after the 2003 Pan Pharmaceuticals debacle, when the Therapeutic Goods Administration cancelled the company's manufacturing licence and forced a recall of Pan products - the biggest recall of medical products in Australia's history.

Shares in the company continued to trade while only a handful of investors were aware of the action by the health authority. The draft guidelines said that, according to the Australian Stock Exchange, neither Pan nor the TGA informed it of the action. The final guidelines will ask government departments and agencies - including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission - to use their "best endeavours" to keep the market, including the Bendigo and Newcastle exchanges, informed of price sensitive information. But listed companies will continue to have primary responsibility for ensuring information is provided to equities markets under the continuous disclosure rules. "Adoption of the guidelines would not reduce the obligation on the listed entity to release the required information or involve the disclosure of information which a listed entity would not itself be obliged to disclose," Mr. Cameron said.

From Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Gabrielle Costa, 6 April 2004

Top Civil Servants to Retire Young

New blood can then move up the ranks, says service chief - Retiring young will become the norm for top civil servants as the service seeks to rejuvenate itself and pave the way for younger officers to move up. While it can recruit talent aggressively, it must also ensure that new blood gets a chance to go to the top of its ranks, said Mr. Lim Siong Guan, the head of the civil service. 'If you want to keep a continuous flow of these people, you need to have a flow out,' he told The Straits Times. 'Otherwise, you will jam up the whole system and all the effort you've spent to bring in the young people is going to go to waste because the guy is going to quit.'

Given that the civil service is structured on the basis of a continual inflow of talent, it needs to open up. It is all part of the rejuvenation of the service's leadership, said Mr. Lim. So, former permanent secretary Peter Chan's retirement from the Ministry of National Development (MND) yesterday at the relatively young age of 56 should not be all that surprising. His successor - Mr. Tan Tee How - is 44 years old. Mr. Chan, who joined the civil service in 1970, was permanent secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry from 1987 to 1993. His last posting since 2001 was as MND's permanent secretary. 'We are all going to retire young,' said Mr. Lim, who is 57.

The Government has a 'flow-through' mechanism in place to ensure adequate renewal in key public sector positions. Under this system, which was introduced in 2000, those holding top jobs will relinquish their posts after fixed 10-year terms. Before that, Administrative Service officers appointed to 'public sector leadership' positions - permanent secretaries, deputy secretaries, chief executives of major statutory boards and heads of key departments - were expected to be able to stay on in these jobs until they retired. After completing their leadership appointments, officers can opt to stay on in the public service. They will be offered non-leadership jobs if available. They can either serve in these jobs until retirement at 62 years or be granted early retirement.

From Straits Times, Singapore, 1 April 2004

Public Servants Set to Raise Voice for Political Freedom

As the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), which advocates workers' rights, produced successful results in Thursday's elections, unionized public servants and teachers are expected to accelerate their struggle to gain political freedom. The Korean Government Employees' Union (KGEU) and Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union (KTU) had officially announced their support of the progressive party ahead of the general election. However, their statement came under fire as it conflicted with the Constitutional Court's decision that public servants, including teachers, must remain neutral in politics. The authorities declared their actions a violation of the election law and began to take punitive action against the two unions. Kim Jung-soo, vice president of the public workers' union, was arrested on April 6 on charges of violating the election law and the laws on public servants by leading the union's political engagement. The prosecution also plans to arrest the union's eight other directors including its president Kim Young-gil.

The KGEU, which was organized in March 2002 but still remains outlawed, has struggled to secure their political freedom as well as to obtain their rights to form a legal union. The progressive teachers union also has called for a revision of the laws, which prohibit teachers from political activities. For those groups, the DLP is expected to cast new light on making their move come true, as one of the policies that the DLP puts strength in is guaranteeing public servants' and teachers' political freedom as well as legalizing the government workers' union. After the unions' leaders were arrested, the progressive DLP urged the authorities to halt suppression of public servants and give them political freedom. "The laws are violating freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. They should be revised as they were legislated during the era of military dictatorship to maintain its political power," said Lee Yong-kil, DLP branch office head in South Chungchong Province.

The two unions plan to submit a bill calling for revision of the laws that ban government workers' political freedom, expecting the progressive party to give practical help in the legislative procedure. They also plan to hold a forum with civic activists on the political freedom matter of public servants, while filing a petition to the Constitutional Court. "The court ruling that banning public workers' participation in politics is constitutional, only applies when they join political parties or campaign for specific parties. The decision didn't say preventing their expression of political opinion is also constitutional," KGEU spokesman Jeong Yong-hae said. "As obtaining public servants' political freedom was one of the DLP's pledges, we hope the party can reflect our demands on revising the laws," Jeong added.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Kim Rahn, 15 April 2004

Public Servants Put to the Test

Thousands of public servants are being put through a "strenuous" review of their customer service performance. The move follows a damning evaluation of the key government service provider, the Department for Administrative Services. Staff are being assessed under a program called Interact after a highly-critical 40-page report on the department's service standards. "No one is excluded from this," the department's acting chief executive, Barry Miller, told The Advertiser. The customer service test, which Mr. Miller described as "comprehensive and substantial" covers public servants in 20 business units.

They include Fleet SA, Contract Services, Land Services, Building Management and Maintenance, Real Estate Management, Major Projects, Forensic Science, Government Information and Communication Services, State Records, Service SA, State Procurement, Business Development and Workplace Services. "The Government needs to improve performance right across these areas," Mr. Miller said. "Interact is putting people through a very strenuous review of their customer service performance and the way we actually deliver our services to government agencies. "Obviously there are some people who are just not suited to customer service and who should be doing a different type of role, and we have identified that."

Mr. Miller said former Administrative Services Minister Jay Weatherill had made customer service a high priority, and his successor, Michael Wright, had done likewise. He was responding to questions about an April, 2002, report on the need for DAIS to develop a strategic approach to managing customer relationships. The report, obtained by The Advertiser, calls on the department to "refresh" its attitude towards its customers and "tenaciously" build a culture of responsiveness. Customers complained of being frustrated, and in some cases "fearful" of the potential consequences of the department's failure to deliver. The report said that if there were an alternative service provider, customers would walk away from DAIS. The Interact program is teaching public servants how to consult customers, understand their needs, communications and interpersonal and inquiry skills. The report, prepared by Margaret Howard Management Services, nominated the most frequent criticisms of DAIS as lack of consistency, timeliness, information provision and service attitude.

From South Australia Advertiser, Australia, by Craig Bildstien, 19 April 2004

Reshuffle of 14 Senior Civil Servants

Kuala Lumpur - Former Selangor state financial officer Datuk Mohamed Adzib Mohd Isa, who was appointed Selangor state secretary, was among 14 senior civil servants involved in a reshuffle effective between April 1 and tomorrow. In a statement issued yesterday, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said Mohamed Adzib, 55, succeeded Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, who was appointed Internal Security Ministry secretary-general. Former director of the Research and Planning Division of the Public Services Department, Dr Malek Shah Mohd Yusoff, 52, was made the new National Institute of Public Administration director, replacing Datuk Zulkurnain Awang who was moved to the Federal Territories Ministry as secretary-general. Former Ipoh Datuk Bandar Datuk Sirajuddin Salleh, 52, was made deputy secretary-general (management) of the Defence Ministry, taking over from Datuk Siti Azizah Sheikh Abod who was appointed Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry secretary-general.

Former secretary of the Health Ministry's Human Resource Management Division, Dr Mohd Nasir Mohd Ashraf, 51, was appointed the Higher Education Ministry's deputy secretary-general I. Dr Nasir's previous position was taken over by former deputy director (administration and security sector) of the Organisation Development Division in the Public Services Department, Ahmad Kabit, 50. Senior director of the Management Services Division in the International Trade and Industry Ministry, Datin Rodiah Meor Sulaiman, 52, was moved to the Higher Education Ministry as the deputy secretary-general II. Former senior principal assistant secretary of the Communications and Multimedia Division in the then Energy, Communications and Multimedia Ministry, Mohamad Nadzim Shaari, 54, was made Perak deputy state secretary II (administration), succeeding Datuk Mahsun Taib who had retired.

Former deputy director of the Policy Planning branch of the Research and Planning Division in the Public Services Department, Thomas George M.S. George, 52, was made the division's director. Former special duties officer to the Chief Secretary to the Government, Mohd Ibrahim Abu Bakar, 52, was appointed deputy secretary-general (resources) in the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry. Federal Territory and Klang Valley Development Division secretary in the Prime Minister's Department, Abu Bakar Abdullah, 49, was made deputy secretary-general in the Federal Territories Ministry while former Management, Development and Finance Division secretary in the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry, Patimah Zohro, 52, was made the ministry's deputy secretary-general II.

From The Star, Malaysia, 16 April 2004

Civil Servant Community Worries about Post-election Shakeup

The civil servant community is being perturbed by rumors which claim that there will be a massive reshuffle after the 17th election. The reason for the rumors is that a shakeup will follow when the Uri Party become the majority of the National Assembly as a result of the April 15 elections and when President Roh Moo-hyun is back to office after his impeachment is rejected in the Constitutional Court. "The presidential office and the ruling party believed that their earlier attempts at reshuffling were stymied because they were a minority regime," one top official said. "It appears certain that the governing party will become a majority party, a post-election shakeup will be inevitable." The rumors are gaining credibility since Acting President Goh Kun has said long before the impeachment that he would resign after the election.

Time is ripe for reshuffling at government departments as many vice ministers have been in the post for more than a year. While the civil servant community is increasingly admitting the rumors as an immovable fact, all eyes of senior officials are fixed on the results of the elections. "The depth and width of the post-election shakeup is at the center of attention," said a Grade 2 official. "General expectations are that more than 50 percent of Grade 1 officials should retire in an unprecedented shakeup that is only on par with the one that took place at the start of the new government a year ago."

Some officials predict that the shakeup will affect presidential advisors and government ministers. "There are many officials who believe that presidential advisors and ministers would follow the pattern set in the previous government and show their willingness to resign regardless of whether the ruling party becomes a majority party or falls behind expectations in the elections as a way to refresh government discipline," another Grade 1 official said. "If the reshuffle affects ministers, it will be like a bombshell," he said. In the face of the massive shakeup, senior officials remain very cautious. They canceled golf trips and refrained themselves from having simple gatherings with friends. Some of them are reportedly attempting to pull strings to keep their jobs.

From Donga, South Korea, by Hyun-Doo Lee (ruchi@donga.com), 13 April 2004

Promotion Policy Changes Proposed

Islamabad - The Establishment Division, in its proposed amendments, suggested that the Central Selection Board (CSB) should not follow the "best of the best policy" when recommending officers of BS-19 and above for promotion to the next grade. "The Establishment Division in its revised promotion policy for the civil servants of Pakistan has recommended that the CSG should not follow the best of the best policy when it recommends officers for promotion to the next grade," official sources told Daily Times here on Monday. These sources further said that Establishment Division recommended that the seniority of officers should be the prime criteria for promotion to the next grade. "After the military takeover in October 1999, the restructuring process was initiated in all government departments and reforms in the civil services of Pakistan were also introduced," sources said.

Sources added that under the civil service reforms, the government introduced a policy of the best of the best while promoting the officers. These sources said that under the best of the best policy, only those officers were promoted who were recommended by the board as the best according to their wisdom. This spread disappointment among the bureaucracy of the country. "So the Establishment Division has proposed that the best of the best policy should not be adopted while recommending officers for the next grade," sources added. Sources added said it was also recommended that the CSB give priority to the seniority of officers along with their threshold. "This was suggested to avoid cases of superseding. "It was also suggested that the CSB, while recommending officers for promotion, also analyse the leadership quality of officers," sources said.

"It was also recommended that the CSB consider the decision power of the officer, meaning what kind of decisions the officer previously made, when recommending him for the next grade," sources said. Sources added that it is also recommended that the CSB consider the previous postings record of the officer when recommending promotion. Sources said that the Establishment Division was seeking time from the president and the prime minister to made a comprehensive presentation regarding the revised promotion policy and the civil services reforms, but had not been given time with either. The presentation was initially scheduled to be held last month, but was cancelled.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, by Mohammad Imran, 19 April 2004

Reshuffle of 14 Senior Civil Servants

Kuala Lumpur - Former Selangor state financial officer Datuk Mohamed Adzib Mohd Isa, who was appointed Selangor state secretary, was among 14 senior civil servants involved in a reshuffle effective between April 1 and tomorrow. In a statement issued yesterday, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said Mohamed Adzib, 55, succeeded Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, who was appointed Internal Security Ministry secretary-general. Former director of the Research and Planning Division of the Public Services Department, Dr Malek Shah Mohd Yusoff, 52, was made the new National Institute of Public Administration director, replacing Datuk Zulkurnain Awang who was moved to the Federal Territories Ministry as secretary-general.

Former Ipoh Datuk Bandar Datuk Sirajuddin Salleh, 52, was made deputy secretary-general (management) of the Defence Ministry, taking over from Datuk Siti Azizah Sheikh Abod who was appointed Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry secretary-general. Former secretary of the Health Ministry's Human Resource Management Division, Dr Mohd Nasir Mohd Ashraf, 51, was appointed the Higher Education Ministry's deputy secretary-general I. Dr Nasir's previous position was taken over by former deputy director (administration and security sector) of the Organisation Development Division in the Public Services Department, Ahmad Kabit, 50. Senior director of the Management Services Division in the International Trade and Industry Ministry, Datin Rodiah Meor Sulaiman, 52, was moved to the Higher Education Ministry as the deputy secretary-general II.

Former senior principal assistant secretary of the Communications and Multimedia Division in the then Energy, Communications and Multimedia Ministry, Mohamad Nadzim Shaari, 54, was made Perak deputy state secretary II (administration), succeeding Datuk Mahsun Taib who had retired. Former deputy director of the Policy Planning branch of the Research and Planning Division in the Public Services Department, Thomas George M.S. George, 52, was made the division's director. Former special duties officer to the Chief Secretary to the Government, Mohd Ibrahim Abu Bakar, 52, was appointed deputy secretary-general (resources) in the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry. Federal Territory and Klang Valley Development Division secretary in the Prime Minister's Department, Abu Bakar Abdullah, 49, was made deputy secretary-general in the Federal Territories Ministry while former Management, Development and Finance Division secretary in the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry, Patimah Zohro, 52, was made the ministry's deputy secretary-general II.

From The Star, Malaysia, 16 April 2004

Sting Ops 'Can Boost Productivity in Civil Service'

Kuala Lumpur - Stings or undercover operations can help improve efficiency and productivity in government departments and agencies, a former senior civil servant said. Datuk J. Jegathesan, the former Malaysian Industrial Development Authority deputy director-general who is now attached to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) as a senior investment adviser, said that undercover sting operations would provide feedback to the Government for it to improve inefficiency in departments and agencies. He made this proposal following a call by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for civil servants to be sincere and serve the public better.

Jegathesan said he had been hearing complaints from members of the public and businessmen on delays in the processing of applications. Some complained that transactions with the Government had taken from days to several months, he said. "To increase productivity and improve customer service," he said that sting operations would help determine whether there was any truth in the complaints. Recalling a sting operation, Jegathesan said that Unctad, using a fictitious US company's e-mail address, sent out enquiries on investment opportunities to 113 countries by fax and e-mail. "Of the 113 countries, only 36 replied. Some replied a month later while others replied within a week," he said.

From The Star, Malaysia, 21 April 2004

Civil Service Academy to Train 11 Diplomats

Lahore - The Civil Services Academy in Lahore will train 11 diplomats from the Association of South East Asia Nations and other developing countries in May. The Foreign Services Academy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Islamabad trains diplomats every year and part of their training is to tour other Pakistani cities. This time the ministry will send 11 diplomats to Lahore on a study tour starting on May 19. The diplomats are Mohammad Murad Haji Paijan from Brunei, Suos Sophal and Preap Pintheary from Cambodia, Arif Hidayatullah from Indonesia, Khamsouay Keodalavong and Houmphanh Soukprasith from Laos, Amjad Aref Younes Ahmed, Hassan Al-Ghanem and Khaled Ibrahim from the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Alfeine H Amina from Comros and Dr Dave Tan Hon Kiat from Singapore.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 29 April 2004

Public Servants Seek Wage Offer Vote

The South Australian Public Service Association (PSA) has challenged the State Government to conduct a ballot of the entire public service over its long-running wage dispute. PSA general secretary Jan McMahon says all public servants, not just association members, should be given a vote on the Government's final pay offer. The offer falls short of what the union wants. She says if Industrial Relations Minister Michael Wright believes his offer is fair, then he should not be afraid of putting it to the test in this way. "The Minister, as he stated through the media and today through the Government negotiators, [says] 'this is a final offer'," she said. "Our message to the Minister is put it out to vote... let the democratic process work." Mr. Wright, has responded by announcing the Government has moved to apply for the dispute to be arbitrated and it will not be swayed by industrial action.

From ABC Online, Australia, 27 April 2004

 

20% of Civil Servants Face Ax

The federal bureaucracy will undergo a 20 percent cut and salaries will be raised to attract top managers under plans discussed Thursday by a Cabinet that has been ordered by President Vladimir Putin to slim down and shape up. A debate Thursday over how to define ministries' main functions "is the beginning," Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said as he opened the Cabinet meeting, in remarks posted on www.government.ru. Cabinet Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak on Thursday submitted this first step toward reform, which, together with a second phase on the staffing of the new government, will be hammered out over the course of April. Kozak, who heads the commission on administrative reform, has until May to come up with a final strategy on how to divide some 3,000 functions among the nine ministries, 20 services and 25 agencies overseen by the prime minister. Answering skeptics, Fradkov said the changes "don't amount at all to moving an apparatchik from one seat to another." The plans have been in the works since Putin drastically reconfigured his Cabinet on March 10.

They follow through on promises to slash the number of deputy ministers, cutting them from about 250 to 18, or two per minister in Fradkov's nine ministries. "In the tsarist era, deputy ministers were called 'ministers' comrades,'" Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told reporters. "These comrades will be named soon," likely within the next week. The 250 departments once headed by deputy ministers will be slashed to 100 and put in the care of department directors, a new position. Each department will have 80 to 100 staffers. Kudrin said department directors will be the "top 100" of the country's managers. To attract the most qualified, he said, salaries will be raised to compete with the private sector thanks to money saved by the 20 percent staff cut. He promised "concrete proposals" on salary incentives within five days. Kozak, speaking to the same news conference, said similarly sweeping reforms await the five so-called power ministries that answer directly to Putin - Interior, Defense, Foreign, Justice and Emergency Situations.

These lie outside the White House's - and Kozak's - purview. Later Thursday, Justice Minister Yury Chaika announced that his staff will also be slashed by two-thirds, from 1,700 to 560, and the number of ministry departments will be cut from 26 to nine. Government commissions, which now number 220, will be sheared to "no more than 10," Kozak said. Kudrin has bemoaned the fate of his ministry, which will shrink from 1,700 to 1,370 as its departments halve to 10, since the work burden will remain unchanged. It could be worse: the Economic Development and Trade Ministry is set to have 42 departments cut to 16. But Fradkov reassured any nervous underlings dreading pink slips that "those who work in good conscience have nothing to worry about." The new federal bureaucracy is a three-tier system of ministries, agencies and services. In a division of powers that reformers hope will reduce corruption, ministries are to draft guidelines, agencies are to oversee their implementation, and services are to take care of enforcement.

Part of the task for April will be to eliminate the gray and overlapping areas among them. For example, it remains to be formally decided who will be responsible for licensing media outlets, a function previously held by the now-defunct Press Ministry: the Culture and Press Ministry or the Federal Press and Mass Media Agency. Kozak insisted that disagreements over authority have been smoothed over. "All these questions have been resolved," he said. Sorting out staff structures is one giant project, physical property is another. A mass inventory of the property belonging to the reshuffled ministries is also likely to keep Kozak's assistants working late at night, as they catalog the office space belonging to past and present ministries to determine what money can be saved on rents and utility bills. The part of that money that does not go toward raising salaries will be redistributed to bolster the two-month severance pay offered to those who are fired, Kudrin said.

Kozak said that two to three years from now, citizens will be able to sue public officials to compel them to fulfill their duties. Foot-dragging has long been a way for bureaucrats to solicit bribes. Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst at the Mercator Group, said beneath all the restructuring hype, the government is likely to remain isolated from the public. "The government's the same, only the shape has changed," he said. "It's like pouring wine into a new bottle." He added: "These reforms strengthen the hierarchy, so commands from the top-down will be more quickly and strictly implemented. But as always, bureaucrats will work to please their supervisors, not the people." The country employs about 1 million civil servants on the federal, regional and municipal levels - a number critics say has swollen beyond Soviet-era bounds.

Kozak said the government won't demand that regional and municipal authorities launch similar efficiency drives within their own administrations. "We don't have the right to foist [this on them]," he said, adding, however, that he hoped to set a good example they would follow voluntarily. All this is only a start, and the reforms so far amount to only 10 percent of those yet to come, Kudrin said. President Vladimir Putin has appointed Dmitry Kalimulin as chief of the presidential office for speechwriters and Simon Kordonsky as senior speech writer, Interfax reported Thursday. He appointed as speechwriters Olga Anchishkina, Natalya Krivova, Larisa Mishustina, Yaroslav Shabanov.

From Moscow Times, Russia, by Caroline McGregor, 1 April 2004

Public Servant Prefers Local Work

Grigory Dvas, Leningrad Oblast vice governor responsible for economics and investment, seems quite happy working in the same office with almost the same staff for more than eight years in a row. In 1996, the year after he got his PhD in business administration from Kennedy Western University through a distance learning course, he went to work as chairman of the oblast's committee on economics and investment under then-governor Vadim Gustov. Since that time - and after his new boss, Governor Valery Serdyukov took the helm - Dvas has continued to help draw foreign investment to the region. Foreign direct investment last year, for example, amounted to $118.2 million.

Dvas is well connected with the federal authorities, but although he has been offered positions in Moscow several times, Dvas prefers to stay in the Leningrad Oblast government building located on Ploshchad Proletarskoi Diktatury near City Hall. "What is a career? It doesn't mean running at a gallop through your career. I work here, quietly, and this is a career for me," Dvas said in an interview with The St. Petersburg Times last week. "I had offers to work in the federal government. Once I was offered the position of first deputy minister for tax collections, [but refused] because it is impossible to work in Moscow as effectively as outside of Moscow," he said. Dvas does not try to be cunning. Over the years he succeeded in implementing major new investment legislation offering tax breaks for investors planning to organize production facilities in the Leningrad Oblast.

The legislation introduced in 1997 garnered much criticism from opponents who tried to convince the public that the budget would lose revenue urgently needed to finance the oblast's social system. "We won, but it is not an easy subject to talk about because rules of the game are being changed every year and not by us, but by the federal government. Unfortunately, that's why we can't say that we have a range of comparable indicators because [the government] constantly changes the types of taxes transferred to the oblast budget and the amount of taxes distributed between oblast and federal budgets," Dvas said. In many ways thanks to this legislation, the Leningrad Oblast succeeded in attracting such multi-million dollar investment projects as the Philip Morris cigarette plant in Izhora, the Caterpillar parts plant in Tosno, and the Ford assembly plant in Vsevolozhsk.

The biggest foreign investor in the region, the Philip Morris factory, will pay more than 7 billion rubles ($245 million) in taxes this year, but the oblast budget will only see 300 million rubles ($1.05 million) of this amount, Dvas said. "Let's look at the figures ... Industry has more than doubled since 2000, and agriculture has grown a bit - by 14 percent. Transport has grown 7 times and investment 7 times. The gross regional product has about doubled in four years, which was reflected in the amount of taxes transferred to the budget. The total amount of taxes has increased by 4.2 times, but at the same time the amount of taxes in the oblast budget increased by only 94 percent," he said.

Dvas said the picture would have looked much better if the federal budget code had been changed back to the conditions of 2000 when 40 percent of regional taxes were sent to the federal budget and 60 percent came to oblast accounts. Now, when the oblast is left with only 39.6 percent of taxes, the system works in the opposite way. "And this is happening in conditions when tax breaks in the first quarter of the year were not working for hardly anyone," he said, "That is why it is wrong to say that it is the fault of tax privileges that we don't have something that we expected ... It is clear that thanks to tax privileges we increased production values and tax payments, but unfortunately the fruits of our work are not at our disposal, but at the use of the federation."

While high oil prices are an obvious advantage for the country as a whole, they are not in regions' favor, Dvas said, adding that if prices drop, more money will come to regional budgets. "It's because in this case companies will be stimulated to refine oil not abroad but here, and we would get more taxes from our biggest taxpayer, Kirishnefteorgsyntez, which would pay 1.5 billion rubles ($52.4 million) to the oblast budget," Dvas said. Others confirm the impression that Dvas, who was born in Leningrad, is a dedicated public servant. "It's very easy to work with him. He is very open and accessible. He describes his position very clearly all the time. Dvas is one of those people thanks to whom the oblast has success with investments," said Natalya Kudryavtseva, executive director of the St. Petersburg International Business Association, in a telephone interview last week.

Even the vice governor's hobbies reflect this dedication. According to a committee spokesperson, Dvas enjoys picking mushroom and collecting old postcards of nothing other than his native city and region. The collection now exceeds 1,000 cards, the source said. Before getting his U.S. on-line degree, Dvas gained some experience in business working for RSP, a Soviet Bulgarian joint venture, NOBL, a trading company and in Rusinvest, a consulting company. The future vice governor did not spend more than two years at either place. "There are only 10 percent of people in the world that have a talent to run business. Dvas may have understood that business is not his way. And is there not a need for good authorities?" Kudryavtseva said. "We have been in constant contact with him since the time when we began our investment project of Philip Morris Izhora. We always appreciated him as a professional who has very deep knowledge and is a very skillful specialist in economics," said Guy Goeffers, director of operations in Russia for Philip Morris Izhora. "We don't want to compare, but Dvas is one of the most professional authorities we have had the experience to be in contact with," he said.

From St Petersburg Times, Russia, by Vladimir Kovalev, 19 April 2004

Try Living on Our Wages, Say Civil Servants

As thousands of civil servants stage a strike over low pay, some of those who forfeited their wages to voice their discontent told BBC Online what drove them to do so. Civil servants have sometimes been accused by the media of creating red tape and wasting tax-payers money. But those facing hardship point to their work on the frontline, insisting they are carrying out an essential public service. Some of them work at the job centre in the busy West End of London and say they find every week a struggle to make ends meet on a wage of just over £15,000-a-year. They say it is only fair they should expect an annual pay rise at least in line with inflation for a job in which there is the constant threat of assault and often verbal abuse.

Performance pay - But they say a new performance pay directive only a small proportion of staff receive a yearly salary increase which even equals the annual rise in inflation. One of those workers led the picket outside the Jobcentre in Soho, amid the trendy bars and restaurants of London's West End. "I don't think there could be a more justified strike," said Rob Bryson. "One of the reasons we are striking is because of a recent pay award scheme which has been imposed despite opposition by 94% of union members. "The deal means a pay rise for the majority of staff which is below inflation. "We already have entrenched poverty pay - we're the worst paid in public sector." He went on to say: "Arguably we have to deal with the most difficult customers - staff assaults are very common. "We are also extremely short-staffed which brings the morale of the staff down.

Mr. Bryson described the latest scheme for performance-related pay as "fundamentally flawed". "But overall it's an accumulation of issues - we're being assaulted on all fronts. "We've been threatened with disciplinary action and the management have been trying to intimidate us into not striking but we won't budge - we've had enough." He added the Department for Work and Pensions should set a good example by paying reasonable wages in line with the soaring cost of living. The DWP's management have said the pay offer on the table is a "substantial" one - worth an average 5% - targeted towards more junior and less well-paid staff. Patricia Downer, who has two children and one grandchild to support, said she was forced to choose between television rental and paying her council tax.

Dead end' - The single mother, who says she cannot afford to own a mobile phone, said: "I've had to get part-time jobs in the evening just to make ends meet and I know many other people who do so." Gus Sivyer, who recently graduated, says he once thought going into the civil service was a good career move but now thinks it's a "dead-end". "My girlfriend is a teacher and we live together in a one-bedroom flat. "We use all my wages just paying the rent and bills and her salary just covers our living costs. At this rate we are going to have to leave London just to get a mortgage." But he added: "We've had tremendous support from the public."

From BBC News, UK, 13 April 2004

Pregnant Civil Servant's 'Salary Cut Threat'

Health chiefs in Northern Ireland have been accused of sex discrimination after threatening to cut the salary of a civil servant who had suffered two miscarriages. In a landmark case supported by the Equality Commission, Stella Stacey alleged she was discriminated against by the Department of Health because of her difficult pregnancies. Mrs. Stacey (41), from Lisburn, Co Antrim, had taken off a total of 57 days from her post in the human resources department after having a difficult first birth and two miscarriages. When she returned to work in 2000, she was told that if she took another nine days off, her pay would be reduced to pensionable rate - a quarter of her salary.

The hearing before an industrial tribunal in Belfast was adjourned yesterday to allow the Department's lawyers to seek a High Court injunction to prevent a letter acquired by Mrs. Stacey being used in evidence. Francis O'Reilly, counsel for the Department, successfully argued that the letter from the Departmental solicitor's office dated March 30, 1999, contained legal advice on the case and was therefore privileged. Mrs. Stacey, speaking outside the tribunal, said she had been shocked by the Department's attitude when she returned to work. Pregnant at the time with her second child, she said she felt forced to remain at work despite feeling ill. "I spent most of the time throwing up in the rest room because I wasn't able to take sick leave. "I was really angry at the way I was treated. I had just come back to work after a miscarriage and this happened with no warning."

From Belfast Telegraph, UK, by Gary Kelly (newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk), 20 April 2004

Ex-civil Servants' Jobs in Private Sector under Fire

Assemblyman hits out at lack of oversight -Stormont was today slammed over the process by which former Northern Ireland civil servants can accept private sector jobs. The Belfast Telegraph has discovered that ex-officials in the province can secure approval to take up company posts without any independent oversight of the decision. An Assemblyman today called for a rethink, while stressing that he is not criticising any individuals. The situation here contrasts sharply with Great Britain, where an independent body has a key role in the process. Ex-civil servants normally have to receive Government permission before accepting private sector jobs in the first two years after they have left Government departments. The approval process in the Northern Ireland system is entirely in-house with decisions taken at the top level of the Civil Service.

In Great Britain, however, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments makes recommendations to Government on applications from ex-officials. Established in the 1990s, the body also publishes reports on its verdicts. A spokesman for Stormont's Department of Finance and Personnel said: "Proposals for the establishment of a Business Appointments Committee for Northern Ireland were being considered when devolution was suspended. "It would be for a local Executive to approve the form and membership of such a committee. "In the interim, applications from retired civil servants are considered using the same principles and criteria used by the Appointments Committee in London."

Assemblyman John Dallat today said: "It is unacceptable that we still do not have independent scrutiny and oversight built into the system. "I am not casting aspersions on any individuals who have moved into private sector jobs. I simply believe an advisory committee would enhance openness." The issue of retired Ulster civil servants and private sector posts was in the news last month. Northern Ireland Civil Service head Nigel Hamilton confirmed that he granted approval last year to his predecessor Sir Gerry Loughran to accept a boardroom position with Phoenix Natural Gas. Sir Gerry was in charge of the Department of Economic Development (DED) in 1996 when it granted Phoenix a licence to supply the Greater Belfast area. In a further irony, he was also the DED's top official when it appointed energy regulator Douglas McIldoon, one of Phoenix's strongest critics in the recent gas price rise controversy. The Belfast Telegraph is still awaiting a reply from Phoenix to a request to interview Sir Gerry.

From Belfast Telegraph, UK, by David Gordon (dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk), 19 April 2004

Civil Servants March to Demand More Pay

Almost 1,000 civil servants who attended a lunchtime trade union rally defied management threats to cut their pay, it was claimed today. Members of the Civil Service trade union NIPSA packed into the Ulster Hall in Belfast to hear calls for the Government to negotiate to end the 19-week dispute. NIPSA vice-president Jim Welsh accused senior management of trying to bully trade union members to prevent them attending. "Management have tried all sorts of intimidatory tactics. They withdrew flexible working hours if you went to the NIPSA rally. If you wanted to play tennis for two hours you were all right. "This is typical of what we have been facing. People who have been trying to work to rule have been threatened with suspension."

Several hundred civil servants marched through the city centre to the Ulster Hall to demand more pay. From the platform, NIPSA general secretary John Corey said selective strikes would continue until a fair settlement to the dispute was negotiated. "The Executive Committee of this union running this dispute is not going to flinch from its task to deliver an outcome that is acceptable to our members," he added. From Monday staff at all vehicle licensing offices in Northern Ireland will go on strike. The action will also involve staff from rate collection agency offices. Mr. Corey said the union would be announcing further strike action involving teacher salaries and pensions staff and health service pensions staff.

He was joined on the platform by Mark Serwotka from the PCS union who pledged his support. Mr. Serwotka, whose 150,000 members have been involved in a similar pay dispute in Great Britain, accused the Government of trying to force civil servants to accept poverty pay. "Our message has to be from Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff and London that it is not acceptable. Enough is enough. We want a proper wage to recognise the fantastic job that civil servants are doing," he added. The dispute in Northern Ireland has been going on since December with the Government imposing a pay package which will add 3.67% to the wage bill. However, union officials say that this was part of a pre-agreed increment and takes no account of the rise in the cost of living.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Gary Kelly, 19 April 2004

Civil Service Winning Battle for Diversity

The senior levels of the Civil Service are becoming more diverse, according to new figures released today. Improvements have been made covering representation of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds and the number of women employed in top management posts. Civil Service staffing figures for October 2003 and Cabinet Office data (October 2003) indicate that: - 23.9 per cent of those in the very top management posts are women (up from 12.7 per cent in April 1998); - 27.5 per cent of the senior staff are women (up from 17.8 per cent); - 3.2 per cent of staff at senior levels are from minority ethnic backgrounds (up from 1.6 per cent); - 1.7 per cent of staff at senior levels are disabled (up from 1.5 per cent). The Government has made a commitment to ensure the Civil Service becomes more open and diverse to reflect all UK communities and to build better leadership capacity. Sir Andrew Turnbull, head of UK-based civil servants, said: "Increasing diversity is a crucial ingredient in building our leadership capacity. I am pleased the senior Civil Service continues to become more diverse, which further adds to our capacity to deliver the challenging results that the Government and the public expect of our public services."

From PersonnelToday.com, UK, 22 April 2004

More Women Appointed to Top Civil Service Jobs

Nearly one in four of the most senior management posts in the Civil Service are held by women - double the proportion six years ago. However, figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the Government is still well short of its target of filling one third of the top jobs with women by next April. The latest figures show that 24 per cent of the top management posts - pay Grade Two and above - are held by women, an increase from 12 per cent in 1998. Around 28 per cent of the Senior Civil Service, which comprises Grades Five and over, are women. This compares with Labour's target of 33 per cent to be achieved in the current financial year.

There are still just three women occupying the highest rank of permanent secretary: Mavis McDonald, 59, holds the post in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister; and Sue Street, 54, is permanent secretary at the Department for Culture Media and Sport. Dame Juliet Wheldon, 54, the Treasury Solicitor, is on the same level as a permanent secretary. Other women holding senior ranks include Alice Perkins, 54, wife of Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who sits on the Civil Service Management Board as director-general with the Corporate Management Group at the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office said comparisons with the private sector "show that the Government is doing well covering representation of women at senior levels". Around one quarter of the board members in main Civil Service departments are women compared with around nine per cent of the seats on the boards of the FTSE 100 companies.

There has been a slight increase in the number of senior civil servants who are disabled, up from 1.5 per cent in 1998 to 1.7 per cent against a target of three per cent. The proportion of senior posts held by people from ethnic minority backgrounds is 3.2 per cent, double that of six years ago. The Cabinet Office said specific programmes were in place to improve the representation of women at the top. Separate figures on Civil Service staffing levels until October last year show that the number has risen by more than 17,000 in just one year to 516,990. In his Budget, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, promised to reduce the staffing levels by 40,000. The two departments with the biggest staff rises were the Home Office - an extra 1,330 to deal with immigration and asylum applications, and the Treasury, where a further 1,500 were recruited.

From Telegraph.co.uk, UK, by Philip Johnston, 23 April 2004

Top Civil Servants Attack Public Service Measures

Civil servants in public service departments said yesterday that official measures of productivity were misleading and needed revision before the next election. The disputed estimates, put to the cabinet on March 4, show a 10% productivity fall over the past seven years. Giving evidence to the public accounts committee, the civil servants said the electorate did not, in general, believe public services had improved. The admission came after the Sunday Times published a leaked account of a cabinet committee meeting which it interpreted as proving that £20bn of public spending had been wasted.

The claim was seized on by the Conservatives as evidence that extra taxes have not improved the quality of public services. The debate on the public sector is likely to be central in the election. The government has already set up an inquiry headed by Sir Tony Atkinson, warden of Nuffield College, Oxford to look into measuring public service productivity. Its report is due in January. The Sunday Times said the memorandum showed a 20% increase in resources led to only a 2% rise in NHS productivity. Sir Nigel Crisp, the chief executive of the NHS, told the committee his department was looking for a more accurate way of measuring performance.

He ridiculed measurements which found the NHS was doing better if it kept an elderly patient in her home in winter rather than in an NHS facility. David Normington, the Department for Education's permanent secretary, said the government was going to be "miles off" meeting its targets for literacy and numeracy for 11-year-olds by 2004. He said contradictions in measuring productivity meant "if I wanted to increase productivity I would double class sizes. It takes no account of the improvements in exam results which is how I think in the school system productivity should be ... measured." Gerry Steinberg, the Labour MP for Durham City, accused the media of misleading the public about improvements in public services. "They told people that things are bad," he said, "but things are not bad".

From Guardian, UK, by Patrick Wintour, 26 April 2004

Civil Service Continues to Grow

The number of civil servants continued to rise last year even though swingeing cuts are expected to be announced this summer. Releasing official staffing figures on Thursday, the Cabinet Office confirmed that in the 12 months to October 2003 the employee count reached 546,670. The number of permanent public servants employed by the government increased by 17,370, or 3.5 per cent. The news is embarrassing for ministers who are set enforce wide ranging cuts in staff levels. A report for the Treasury from Sir Peter Gershon is expected to conclude that huge efficiency savings can be made in Whitehall. A leaked copy of his draft report earlier suggested up to 80,000 jobs could go. Chancellor Gordon Brown has already announced that the Department for Work and Pensions will shed 30,000 staff, Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue 10,500 and the Department for Education one third of its workforce by 2008.

Explanations - The Cabinet Office said the rise in numbers was justified. Principal among the departments which went up in size was the Home Office where 1,330 civil servants were brought in to deal with "operational needs" within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate as applications went up. The Prison Service also took on almost 1,000 staff to cope with the rise in the jail population. And the Pension Service swelled by 1,560 workers as Pension Credit was introduced. The Conservatives have tried to make political capital out of the growing civil service under Labour. Shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin has promised a recruitment freeze and wider ranging cuts in staff than Gershon is expected to recommend. The Tories claim Labour is unable to control growth in the public sector and direct increased spending to frontline services.

Diversity - However there was good news for the government as targets on civil service diversity were achieved. Since April 1998 the proportion of women in the highest management echelons has almost doubled from 12.7 to 23.9 per cent, while the level of women within Whitehall as a whole has gone up from 17.8 to 27.5 per cent. Ethnic minority staff numbers have also doubled from 1.6 per cent in April 1998 to 3.2 per cent now. And the proportion of civil servants with disabilities has risen from 1.5 to 1.7 per cent. Cabinet Office minister Douglas Alexander said the government would continue to seek further progress.

"The government is committed to making the civil service more reflective of the communities we serve and recognises the need for sustained work to achieve this," he said. "I am pleased that the civil service continues to make progress in addressing the under-representation of women and minority ethnic staff at senior levels of the civil service." And Cabinet secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull said the diverse workforce would also be more efficient. "Increasing diversity is a crucial ingredient in building our leadership capacity," he said. "I am pleased the senior civil service continues to become more diverse, which further adds to our capacity to deliver the challenging results that the government and the public expect of our public services."

From ePolitix, UK, 22 April 2004

Privacy Watchdog Blames Civil Service Short Comings

Rome - Shortcomings in the processing of personal data are most frequent in the Italian civil service, claims Privacy Watchdog Stefano Rodota commenting on his annual report. "The civil service is doing even worse than the private sector when it comes to respecting personal privacy", he said. "This is true of many aspects, from lack of compliance with safety norms to gathering of personal data for administrative purposes. A lot has yet to be done in this respect. We are seeking to duly inform civil servants on how to manage personal information". Mr. Rodota also commented on internet security, which he claims to be "an unequalled model of respect of individual rights. It allows people to have access to a wide range of information, and to take part in online discussions. However", he warned, "even the internet has its own risks and requires constant supervision. To this regard we are drawing up an online behavior code which we are hoping to present shortly".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 22 April 2004

MPs to Probe Sickness in Public Service

MPs were today seeking answers on alarming public sector sick leave rates in Northern Ireland. Senior officials from the Department for Regional Development (DRD) were due to be grilled by a powerful Commons watchdog on absenteeism levels within two agencies. The Public Accounts Committee hearing will investigate the findings of a Northern Ireland Audit Office report published last year. This study revealed that manual workers in the DRD's Roads Service had each missed an average of 22.5 days in a single year. The average sick leave figure for Water Service manual workers in the same year was 17.6 days. The Audit Office said the "excessive" rates within the two agencies had cost the public purse more than £2m over the 12 month period.

Today's PAC hearing was originally scheduled to take place at Stormont. However, this plan was put on hold and the committee now intends to visit the province later in the year. A number of Northern Ireland public sector workforces - including civil servants, police, firefighters, teachers and local council staff - have had significantly higher sick leave rate than their counterparts across the water. The PAC last year lambasted the Department of Education over the fact that teacher absenteeism in the province was 40% above the English level. The MPs said the Northern Ireland figures were "alarmingly high" and a "a culture of high absenteeism" had been allowed to develop in some parts of the profession. The committee said savings of £10m could be achieved by reducing sick leave rates to English levels.

From Belfast Telegraph, UK, by David Gordon (dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk), 28 April 2004

 

Initiatives to Upgrade Civil Service Taken

Sana'a - Preliminary estimates and statistics on the program of modernizing civil service presented at the ministry consultative meeting on 27 July revealed that the number of employees who do not perform jobs and employed by political organizations and parties are amounting to 35.643, i.e. about 9 percent of the total number of government employees. The program indicated that those employees occupied more than one job at governmental bodies or the private sector and this phenomenon would be dealt with. The upgrading program of the civil service has made it clear that rectification of these dysfunction is considered a major part of the financial and administrative reform program. The program of upgrading civil service includes bureaucratic surplus, moonlighting and employees who do not perform heir jobs at the present.

From Yemen Times, Yemen, by Yasser Mohammed Al-Mayyasi, 11 April 2004

 

Cut Civil Service to Save Millions

Manitoba's cash-strapped NDP government could save millions of dollars a year by slashing the size of the civil service - which has continued to grow despite promises of a hiring freeze, says Tory Leader Stuart Murray. Increasing Bureaucracy - "There's no reason to be hiring more people, that much I can tell you," Murray said yesterday. "What this government is doing is increasing the bureaucracy and eating up millions of dollars." Murray urged the NDP government to adopt a 1999 Tory plan to cut the civil service by 10% through attrition. At the time it was estimated the cuts could save Manitoba taxpayers $80 million a year. Finance Minister Greg Selinger said he's looking at "managing personnel costs" as he tries to produce a budget on April 19 that's in the black.

However, increases to the size of the civil service have been minimal since the NDP government came to power in 1999, he said. "It's one of the many things we have to look at to balance the budget," Selinger said. The province's civil service grew to 13,588 employees in 2002/03 from 13,305 in 1998/99, according to provincial figures. An increase of 283 employees. In that time, salaries and benefits grew by $59 million a year -- to a total of $714 million from $655 million four years earlier. The boost comes despite a 1999 promise Premier Gary Doer made to implement a hiring freeze. "We have sent out instructions to departments - all non-essential staff positions are frozen," Doer said in November 1999, shortly after coming into office. Selinger said many of the new hirings have been in essential areas, such as staff for the Headingley Correctional Centre. He also said the province has "slowed down" hiring. There are currently 913 positions being kept vacant, up from 834 empty positions in 2002, according to provincial figures.

From Winnipeg Sun, Canada, by Frank Landry, 7 April 2004

School for Squelching Scandal: Civil Servants Back to the Books

Ottawa - The Canada School of Public Service is open, ready to upgrade the administrative skills - and if necessary the ethical antennae - of the country's federal bureaucrats. The school, which officially opened April 1 under last year's Public Service Modernization Act, combines three organizations: Training and Development Canada, Language Training Canada, and the Canadian Centre for Management Development. Without specifically mentioning the sponsorship scandal which has engulfed the government, Privy Council President Denis Coderre observed in declaring the school open that "recent events have underlined the importance of having a modern, professional and highly ethical public service." Bringing the three institutions together will allow a unified approach to training civil servants across Canada, using existing offices as well as online courses, webcasting, videoconferencing, meetings and distance learning. "The government's agenda for change relies on a well performing, professional and non-partisan public service," stated Coderre, and the new school is "the ideal vehicle to instil a shared sense of values among all public servants and to promote a basic understanding of modern financial and human resources management practices."

From Canada.com, Canada, 4 April 2004

Civil Servants Fear Exposing Wrongdoing

A Federal Government survey finds new whistle blower protection would not have been enough to persuade employees in the Privacy Commissioners Office to report wrongdoing. 63 per cent of employees survey in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said they didn't think it would protect them because they didn't trust their managers. Thirty-eight per cent said they thought confidentiality would be breached, and the same percentage didn't think protection from reprisal was possible. The polling firm Leadership Unlimited Inc. surveyed 48 of 108 employees in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for the government between July 30 and Aug. 19, 2003, just weeks after Mr. Radwanski resigned in disgrace.

From 580 CFRA Radio, Canada, by Josh Pringle, 9 April 2004

90 Political Aides Jumped PS Job Queue

Long-condemned priority policy has its busiest year in a decade - Ninety political aides bypassed the burdensome application process for public service jobs to seek senior postings in 2003-04, using a controversial policy that was condemned two years ago. Canada's top public servants were advised that the policy allowing political staff to parachute into senior positions in the public service should be scrapped, new documents show. Yet the program has just recorded its busiest year since the sweeping defeat of the Conservative government in 1993, according to statistics compiled by the Public Service Commission. The 90 applications are more than double the annual average of 39 requests since the commission began tracking the program in 1987. Only the 113 applications in 1993-94, following the election in which Kim Campbell's Tory government was reduced to a mere two seats in the House of Commons, surpassed last year's figures.

Successful applicants are placed on a waiting list for one year to be hired "in priority to all other persons" for jobs that meet their described areas of interest. Of the 90 political aides who applied for "priority consideration" in the past year, 71 have been approved so far and 16 rejected. In the past year, 38 staffers were actually placed in government jobs. Most of the staffers received mid-level jobs in the $61,000 to $74,000 salary range. One of the most high-profile examples of a political aides crossing over into the public service is Pierre Tremblay, who in 1999 left his job as chief of staff to then-public works minister Alfonso Gagliano to take over from Charles Guite as the executive director of the federal sponsorship program. As part of a sweeping study of governance issues requested in 2002 by Alex Himelfarb, the Clerk of the Privy Council, a report was prepared for the powerful committee of deputy ministers on ways to reduce cynicism and mistrust of public institutions.

In the report to deputy ministers from the federal government's Canadian Centre for Management Development, the senior mandarins were urged to consider a comprehensive statement on what constitutes a professional non-partisan public service, mandatory "public ethics" training for all federal managers and executives and "terminating the staffing provision that gives 'priority consideration' to political exempt staff to enter the public service after three years." The report was obtained by CanWest News Service through access to information. The program continues to be criticized and was linked to the sponsorship scandal in a recent report by Universite de Montreal professor Denis Saint-Martin called The Groupaction Affair: a case of the politicization of the federal public service? In the report, Mr. Saint-Martin calls for the priority consideration program to be "abolished." Last year, then-Public Service Commission president Scott Serson urged MPs to give the commission the power to reject placements that were deemed too political, for example, a staff member who moves directly from a minister's office into the same government department. "In some cases, such an appointment could be perceived as impairing the political impartiality of the public service," Mr. Serson said.

However, his recommendation was ignored by the committee studying the bill, known as the Public Service Modernization Act. Conservative MP Paul Forseth said Canadians applying for government jobs will be upset to see how often this avenue is being used to bypass the normal hiring process. "I guess in the past the argument was that it wasn't used all that much, but I would say probably it's time for it to go," he said. "Certainly there shouldn't be any barrier to political staff, but if the competition process is truly open and truly based on merit, then the talent will land on its own feet without any additional affirmative action." Mr. Forseth said he suspects Prime Minister Paul Martin has ignored the recommendation to shut down the program because he wanted to get rid of the dozens of political staffers who were loyal to Jean Chretien throughout the bitter Liberal leadership battle.

"It was trying to keep the peace. You don't want to come in and find you have a lot of senior people who have loyalties elsewhere and they're not really going to work in your interests, so you buy them off. You've got to keep peace back on the farm. The more I hear and understand, the more cynical I get," he said. NDP MP Pat Martin described the program as "outrageous" and called on Mr. Martin to follow the advice of the Public Service Commission. "This is certainly one of the most offensive aspects of the areas in most need of reform. Everyone sees what's objectionable about exempt staff being able to slide into the public service without any deference to seniority or even merit frankly," he said. "It certainly speaks volumes that the incidents of those availing themselves of this opportunity has escalated in what may be seen as the twilight years of this government. It's like rats on a sinking ship. "Even the top mandarins, the deputies of this country, have identified that this is just fundamentally wrong and yet we're seeing its use escalating and more people availing themselves of it."

From Ottawa Citizen, Canada, by Bill Curry, 12 April 2004

Flunking French Tests a Trap for Civil Servants

Ottawa - Anglophone government executives are finding themselves trapped in language training, unable to return to their federal jobs as the failure rate in mandatory tests continues to grow, reveals a new government report. A Public Service Commission report, obtained by the Ottawa Citizen, showed the percentage of anglophones passing their French oral tests at level C, required to hold bilingual jobs, has dropped to 38.7 per cent in 2002-2003 from 54 per cent in 2000-2001. Meanwhile, there has been no change in the number of francophones taking a similar English oral test, with about 80 per cent continuing to pass. Katharine Trim, a spokesperson for the commission, said data from the testing continues to be tracked to pinpoint the problem.

Overall, she said over the past four years the passing rate for anglophones has dropped about 15 per cent while remaining at the same, higher level for francophones. "There is no question we are concerned about the test results and we want to make sure that it is not the test (that is the problem)," said Trim. At the same time that the number of anglophones failing the tests has increased, the percentage of francophones in the public service, at about 41 per cent, participating in the national capital region has jumped ahead of their overall representation in the overall population, at about 34 per cent in the region. The report said the commission has received an increasing number of complaints over the past six months that anglophone executives in language training are having greater difficulty passing the oral French test than in the past. It added complaints from non-executives in language training have also been received.

A spokesperson at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages said they are not familiar with the report, which has not yet been released to the public. The Martin government has indicated that it remains dedicated to a new mandatory bilingual policy brought in by the Chretien government that makes fluency in English and French a requirement to apply for one in three jobs, but it wants more "ongoing evaluation" to ensure the policy is being upheld. Privy Council President Denis Coderre said he backs more rigourous testing of federal bureaucrats in bilingual jobs to ensure they are keeping their language skills up to scratch. The new bilingualism policy has also come under fire over concerns that it would close the door on federal jobs for Western Canadians and get in the way of the prime minister's promise to recruit more westerners to senior decision-making roles in the public service.

From Regina Leader Post, Canada, by Jack Aubry, 14 April 2004

Newfoundland Premier May Legislate Striking Public Servants Back to Work

St. John's - Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador said his government will have to legislate striking public servants back to work as talks with union leaders failed Wednesday afternoon. The back-to-work bill could be introduced as early as Thursday. Williams said the two sides couldn't reach an agreement on reducing sick leave for new employees or on guaranteed hours of work for school board workers. "There's a fundamental disagreement in principle here on these particular issues," Williams told reporters. The provincial government had said it wouldn't resort to legislation unless the health and safety of people in the province was put at risk.

The premier and Finance Minister Loyola Sullivan met for more than 90 minutes with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees president Leo Puddister and Dave Reynolds, chief negotiator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Puddister said the premier hasn't bargained in good faith since he announced on January 5 that a two-year wage freeze was coming. Reynolds described Williams as a "tyrant," and said the PC government would use the power of the legislature to take what it wanted from workers. The meeting was in response to an offer the unions presented to the government Tuesday afternoon. About 20,000 health care, school board and government employees have been on strike since April 1. Emotions have been escalating in recent days and on Tuesday, brawls broke out on the picket line.

From CBC New Brunswick, Canada, 21 April 2004

Public Servants Put to the Test

Thousands of public servants are being put through a "strenuous" review of their customer service performance. The move follows a damning evaluation of the key government service provider, the Department for Administrative Services. Staff are being assessed under a program called Interact after a highly-critical 40-page report on the department's service standards. "No one is excluded from this," the department's acting chief executive, Barry Miller, told The Advertiser. The customer service test, which Mr. Miller described as "comprehensive and substantial" covers public servants in 20 business units. They include Fleet SA, Contract Services, Land Services, Building Management and Maintenance, Real Estate Management, Major Projects, Forensic Science, Government Information and Communication Services, State Records, Service SA, State Procurement, Business Development and Workplace Services.

"The Government needs to improve performance right across these areas," Mr. Miller said. "Interact is putting people through a very strenuous review of their customer service performance and the way we actually deliver our services to government agencies. "Obviously there are some people who are just not suited to customer service and who should be doing a different type of role, and we have identified that." Mr. Miller said former Administrative Services Minister Jay Weatherill had made customer service a high priority, and his successor, Michael Wright, had done likewise. He was responding to questions about an April, 2002, report on the need for DAIS to develop a strategic approach to managing customer relationships.

The report, obtained by The Advertiser, calls on the department to "refresh" its attitude towards its customers and "tenaciously" build a culture of responsiveness. Customers complained of being frustrated, and in some cases "fearful" of the potential consequences of the department's failure to deliver. The report said that if there were an alternative service provider, customers would walk away from DAIS. The Interact program is teaching public servants how to consult customers, understand their needs, communications and interpersonal and inquiry skills. The report, prepared by Margaret Howard Management Services, nominated the most frequent criticisms of DAIS as lack of consistency, timeliness, information provision and service attitude.

From CBC New Brunswick, Canada, by Craig Bildstien, 21 April 2004

Mayor Filippi Proposes Civil Service Exam Changes

Erie Mayor Rick Filippi is proposing changes to the civil service process designed to bring more diversity to the police and fire departments. Filippi says police, fire, and union leaders, and the civil service board have all agreed on the changes. Police candidates will have to get training in basic police work before they can take the civil service exam. All fire candidates will have to be certified as emergency medical technicians before they can take the test. The administration is also working on special incentives to attract minority candidates, such as scholarships for certification training. Filippi is also proposing an oral exam that would make up 30% of the total test score. City council will consider the changes at Wednesday night's meeting.

From WJET, PA, 21 April 2004

Civil Service Reform in Danger

Colorado lawmakers forged an important compromise on the Senate floor this week to save a much-needed overhaul of the state's civil service laws. Or so we thought. One day after the Senate approved on second reading two proposals that would change the way the state hires and fires its workers, the legislative process stalled. The hang-up was a provision that likely would make Colorado the first state in the nation to ban giving state contracts to offshore businesses. Deciding how our state dollars are spent, and where, is an important issue, but it shouldn't derail weeks of negotiation and be allowed to threaten two crucial pieces of legislation that address much broader issues. If lawmakers can't find room for additional compromise on this provision, it should be discarded and left to debate another day. Colorado's civil service laws, largely written 87 years ago, need to be changed.

Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, spent more than five weeks negotiating with representatives of the state's personnel department working on a compromise. He thought they'd struck a deal, with both sides conceding major points. The personnel department "proposed the exact language that we accepted," Hagedorn says, regarding the offshore ban. "We naturally assumed the governor bought off on it." But rather than approving the two bills on third and final reading in the Senate on Wednesday, lawmakers are now in a "holding pattern," he says, apparently because Gov. Bill Owens doesn't like the offshore ban. We think both sides need to get back to the bargaining table. The compromise they forged earlier this week took into consideration many of the concerns labor unions and civil servants had about the two measures. Yet it also retains necessary changes, such as allowing non-state residents to apply for state jobs, that would allow government to work more effectively.

Opponents had been concerned the changes would create a spoils system. Preventing just that is one of the reasons the laws were first written. The proposals, which must be approved by two-thirds of the legislature and eventually ratified by voters, also would prohibit age and sex discrimination. Under the compromise, the number of appointments that a governor can make would be more limited than in the original plan, which allowed for the governor to appoint 1 percent of all state employees, roughly 300 people. Now an administration will be able to appoint one-half of 1 percent. Other changes to the bill would make it harder than previously proposed to fire and discipline employees and would keep state auditors in the civil service system, rather than making them gubernatorial appointees. Changes to Colorado's civil service laws are long overdue, and legislators have come too far to abandon them now over a somewhat tangential issue - no matter how important it may be.

From Denver Post, CO, 22 April 2004

After More than 30 years, County Axes Civil Service Commission

The Mower County Sheriff's Civil Service Commission is no more. It was dissolved Tuesday by formal action of the Mower County Board of Commissioners. In its place are labor union contracts protecting Mower County Sheriff's office employees. The idea that a civil service commission was needed to protect deputies and jailers has come and gone. Garry Ellingson, 5th District county commissioner and a member of the county board's personnel committee, explained the demise of the commission Tuesday. "It started in 1968 or '69 at a time when deputies and jailers still served at the pleasure of the sheriff," said Ellingson, who helped create Mower County's own commission. Before the commission's creation, deputies did, indeed, serve at the pleasure of the elected sheriff.

However, both deputies and jailers could lose their jobs when the incumbent sheriff - the man who hired them - lost an election and was replaced by a new sheriff who wanted his own people on the job. "Now, we have labor unions and bargaining contracts which protect those county employees," Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi told the commissioners. "Getting rid of the commission avoids a lot of duplication in this area." Craig Oscarson, county coordinator, said the applicable unions, representing sheriff's office employees, have registered their approval of the disbanding of the commission. Ellingson made a motion to dissolve the commission and Ray Tucker, 2nd district, seconded it.

Before the vote was taken, Ellingson explained one provision if the commissioners approved the dissolution of the commission. "This doesn't prevent the sheriff from choosing the chief deputy or the senior deputy to serve that purpose," he said. Alan Cordes, county human resources director, said deputies and jailers would be hired under the same process all other county employees are hired. Dick Lang, 4th District county commissioner, worried aloud, "What's to prevent the sheriff from hiring whoever she wants? I think we need a check and balance here."

Cordes said, the top five candidates for the sheriff's office position would be submitted to the sheriff after they meet all other requirements for the job. That satisfied Lang. "As long as there is a check and balance system in place, that's all I ask," he said. Ellingson said incorporating deputies and jailers into the county's hiring process will "ease the responsibility for choosing somebody on the sheriff and give you another check and balance system." Lang added his "Aye" vote to four other commissioners' and the commission's dissolution was approved unanimously. Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at lee.bonorden@austindailyherald.com.

From Austin Herald, MN, by Lee Bonorden, 29 April 2004

Public Servant Faces Firing for Sovereigntist Association

Ottawa - A federal public servant, who also leads a sovereigntist group, will find out if she can keep her job when she attends a disciplinary meeting at the Heritage department Thursday. Canadian Heritage has threatened to fire Edith Gendron if she refused to relinquish her position as president of "Le Quebec, un Pays." Gendron had until last Friday to step down as head of the group. She refused. On Wednesday, Gendron was called to a meeting at which Canadian Heritage Assistant Deputy Minister Eileen Sarkar read a statement and asked Gendron to step down one last time.

"Cold," was how Ed Cashman of the Public Service Alliance of Canada described the meeting. "It was like a military court. And there was certainly no opportunity to ask questions. It was very sad because you're supposed to be able to talk to your managers and find solutions. This was not a solution-based meeting." After Sarkar read the statement, Gendron said she still didn't understand how her after-work activity conflicted with her job. Gendron is a mid-level program officer who supports French in Atlantic Canada. Sarkar's read statement said Gendron's work as a sovereigntist might skew her ability to negotiate with governments and other groups. A few hours after the meeting Gendron received a letter saying the disciplinary ruling would be given at a meeting Thursday afternoon.

From CBC Ottawa, Canada, 29 April 2004

Guiding Kids to Succeed is Music to Public Servant

For her dedication to the community and the young people in the Alcy-Whitehaven Area Orchestra, The Commercial Appeal recently presented Michelle Mason Johnson with the Jefferson Award, a "Nobel Prize" for public and community service. In addition, the American Institute for Public Service selected Johnson to attend a special Celebration of Service in Washington. Johnson is known to many for her musical talents that enabled her to receive a full music scholarship to college. What many don't realize is that in 1992, Johnson returned to Memphis with the dream of giving back to her community through her musical talents.

Volunteering her time and talent, Johnson started an after-school program to help others achieve the same musical success she had been so blessed to receive. Johnson's style, dedication and love for music paved the way for children, some of whom other music teachers had refused to teach, to be a part of this new orchestra she was forming. "It's not about me. I want the children to do well and be afforded the same opportunities I had," said Johnson. When a student had an offer of a full college scholarship contingent on an audition and no way to get to the audition, Johnson took time off work to drive the child to Jackson State, where the student performed and won the scholarship.

When another student couldn't afford to rent an instrument, Johnson loaned her own instrument and often provides personal and paid transportation to and from events to ensure her students arrive safely and on time. The Commercial Appeal joined the Jefferson Awards program in 2000, partnering with the American Institute for Public Service to find and honor ordinary people doing extraordinary things. By the Feb. 6 deadline, 83 people had been nominated. A panel of 10 judges narrowed the list to 32 finalists, then selected 10 2004 winners. Every year the Board of Selectors for the American Institute for Public Service invites one of the 10 winners to attend a special Celebration of Service in Washington to meet and hear the winners from other areas. This year, Johnson will accompany 84 others in the expense-paid trip.

From GoMemphis.com, TN, by Yvonne Nelson, 25 April 2004

New York Congressman Receives Faith and Public Service Award

Members of Congress and the Washington community came together April 28 to honor Congressman Amory Houghton Jr., as the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold presented him with the Presiding Bishop's Award for Faith and Public Service. Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia were guest speakers at the ceremony. The Presiding Bishop's Award for Faith and Public Service is given to a lay member of the Episcopal Church who, in his or her public life, has demonstrated the profound influence of faith as shaped by the Anglican tradition. The award was last given in 2000 to Pamela P. Chinnis, president of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies from 1991 to 2000. Houghton was elected to Congress for the state of New York in 1986, following a long career with Corning Glass Works (later Corning Incorporated).

Well known as a moderate Republican, he is a founding member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which fosters centrist values within the party. He is also, along with Lewis, co-chair of the Faith and Politics Institute, an organization created to support and empower political leaders through spiritual reflection and discernment. Houghton announced in early April that he will retire from public office at the end of this year.Among those attending the ceremony were Episcopal members of Congress, members of the New York congressional delegation, Faith and Politics Institute, and the Republican Main Street Partnership, as well as family and friends. Fresh Start Catering, a non-profit organization that trains the traditionally unemployable for careers in food services and uses its profits to support the DC Central Kitchen for the homeless, catered the reception.

Always building bridges Shaw, a longtime friend of Houghton and his wife, Priscilla, opened the ceremony at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation. "His kindness, his pastoral care, his sense of fairness, his civility...all of that Amo Houghton learned from the master, our Lord Jesus Christ, in inviting Christ deeper and deeper into his life," Shaw said. He also addressed the importance of recognizing Houghton's commitment to dialogue in government and beyond. "We so deeply need, with all the polarization in the church, in government, in our society, an icon like Amo, who is always building bridges, always trying to get people to talk to one another and come together," Shaw said. Lewis, who met Houghton in 1987 when they were both freshmen representatives, spoke eloquently of his work in Washington.

"I believe Amo sees his involvement in politics as an extension of his faith. He is a believer that...we come into this world to make a contribution, to do some good," he said. Houghton told of passing the Lincoln Memorial on the way to an orientation meeting, and asking Lewis if he, too, had been there the day Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in 1963. He recounted his chagrin at discovering that Lewis, a civil rights activist from an early age, was actually one of the speakers that day. The congressmen have worked together often, most recently in co-chairing the Faith and Politics Institute. "When historians pick up their pens and write about this period in our history," Lewis concluded with obvious emotion, "they will have to write that a man - a gentleman, a leader, a friend...tried to make a difference, tried to bring people together."

Griswold then presented the award - a garden statue of St. Francis of Assisi--to Houghton and also read letters of greeting from Bishop Jack McKelvey of Rochester and former president Bill Clinton. "You have been a beacon for both your commitment to the faith of Christ and for the many ways it can be lived out in real life," McKelvey wrote. Griswold explained to the audience the philosophy behind the award and Houghton's appropriateness as a recipient. "The Anglican tradition has at its heart...the diverse center... It is able to contain divergent points of view and seeks to bring those points of view together in creative tension that serves the common good," Griswold said. "That Anglican consciousness is perfectly embodied in Amo." Houghton accepted the award and accolades of his peers with characteristic modesty and humor. Thanking Griswold, he said, "Bishop, you're our leader--outgoing, far reaching, gutsy, strong. I'm so honored to be part of your flock, so I thank you."

From Worldwide Faith News (press release), by Nicole Seiferth, 29 April 2004

 
 

IPMN Defends Civil Service Reforms

Abuja - In an apparent defence of the on-going civil service reform, the Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (IPMN) has said the Federal Government embarked upon the restructuring, to professionalise the public service and not just to retrench workers. Vice Chairman IPMN Abuja Chapter, Prince Tayo Haastrup expressed the Institute's support when its Executive visited the Abuja office of THISDAY yesterday and said, "government is trying to put the right people in the right places for things to move forward. The government is not actually using retrenchment, it is right sizing, that is professionalising everything about the service." "We have so many people that are redundant. So many people who are not professional and for the economy to do well, we need professional people to manage that aspect of the system."

He said the Institute on a regular basis had been discussing issues that affect human capital development in the system. Haasstrup who represented the President, Abuja Chapter, Mrs. Modupe Abiodun-Wright however noted that there has been improvement in human capital development in Nigeria relative to the past. While indicating that human capital development improved in the private sector, he also said in the public sector, the federal government was putting up a policy that encourage human capital development especially with the reforms that are on-going. According to him, "there is an improvement from the past experience on human capital development in this country because globally, organisations know that they have to promote the aspect for effective performance. You know these days, organizations want to have the best in terms of productivity, in terms of turnover."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Kunle Aderinokun and Iyefu Adoba, 9 April 2004

BULGSA Branch Not Happy with Public Service Reforms

Ghanzi - The Ghanzi BULGSA branch has criticised the manner and frequency at which public service reforms are introduced in Botswana. Branch chairperson Desmond Tshotelo said during a meeting addressed by assistant minister in the Office of the President Olifant Mfa that the practice derailed the implementation of some of the good reforms. He said before the second phase of the Performance Management System (PMS) could be implemented, another reform, the Performance Based Reward System (PBRS) was introduced. Tshotelo said his association's was convinced that PMS would not become a reality, unless and until the conditions of service and the welfare of employees were improved.

Conditions of service for public employees, he said, should be improved to motivate them so they could effectively perform their duties. Tshotelo said as it had become the norm, local authorities where left behind when PBRS was introduced. He charged that reforms are first introduced to central government officers, before local authorities are considered and said it remains to be seen if PBRS will bear fruit. The branch chairperson also criticised government for lack of extensive consultation before reforms are introduced. He criticised policy on Rural Areas Development Programme (RADP) which bars officers working in remote areas and settlements from rearing livestock.

Meanwhile, other associations said some heads of department did not visit outstations and complained of shortage of accommodation, unfair transfers and promotions, lack of training and shortage of transport. Minister Mfa said demand for more money should be matched by productivity. Members of the public, he said, were always complaining about poor services rendered to them by the public service. Mfa said he was currently consulting with the Minister of Lands and Housing, Margaret Nasha, on shortage of staff housing. He explained that funds meant for the development projects had been diverted because to disasters like HIV/AIDS, adding that the remote area service allowance (RASA) "has not been cancelled but is currently under review".

From Republic of Botswana, Botswana, 9 April 2004

'E-Governance Can Cut Government Costs'

Kampala - Expenditure on local government affairs can reduce by 10 percent if e-governance is promoted in all the 56 districts. E-governance is a computerised administration of government affairs between various administrative levels. Currently, there are only four districts in Uganda that have access to e-governance; Kayunga, Mbarara, Mbale and Lira. Speaking at a one-day workshop themed: Enabling E-governance in Uganda on April 6 at the International Conference Centre in Kampala, Dr Maggie Kigozi, the executive director of Uganda Investment Authority said that e-governance is the most effective way of reducing costs in running public affairs from the lower levels of government to the central government. "If e-governance is put on board in all the 56 districts in Uganda government expenditure may lessen by about 10 percent," Kigozi said.

She asked government to speed up the process of e-governance in every district and caked on district leaders to embrace the system to cut cost and time. She added said that e-governance will also lead to skill development on Information Communication Technology. Mr. Reza Bardien, the Microsoft education programme manager for Africa and Middle East, said that most governments in Africa do not have budgets for ICT. "As such ICT development and usage is still very low and isolated in the continent because the initiatives being undertaken to develop ICTs in the entire continent of Africa are largely in the hands of NGOs and foreign missions," Bardien said. He said that Microsoft has made a budget of $250 million for human resource development worldwide in countries that have signed memorandum of understanding with Microsoft. The programme helps countries to put infrastructures like schools and training institutions for ICT.

The Minister of State for Communications, Mr. Michael Werikhe, said government is to use online systems to promote e-governance and computer use in the country through public-private partnerships. "This partnership must start at the lower levels and through education for effective use of on line e-governance. An integration of labour market services enabling citizens to benefit from one stop center service," he said. He said that government's strategy in the promotion of e-governance, based on Customer Resource Management strategy, will transform Uganda into a customer centric country that delivers services tailored specifically to the needs of its citizens and serve as the foundation on which e-governance models will be based. The partnership of the public and the private will provide answers to challenges of lack of suitably qualified staffs and financial constraints. "It can also provide a significant increase in the demand for labour market services particularly with regards to the services rendered by the private sector," he said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Martin Luther Oketch, 12 April 2004

Strategies for E-Government: Lessons Learned

Johannesburg - As the focus of government increasingly turns to harnessing technology in order to deliver better services to more citizens, it is becoming apparent that leaping headlong into 'solutions' must be tempered with an awareness of the environment and the ultimate goals of e-government. That's according to Dumisani Mtoba, senior systems engineer at Sun Microsystems SA. "There has been considerable progress made by governments around the world in terms of establishing e-government infrastructure. As a result, many lessons have been learned by solution providers and vendors participating in such projects - which can be extended to expedite the process in countries such as ours," Mtoba says. He defines e-government as the transformation of internal and external public sector relationships using technology to optimise government service delivery, constituency participation, and governance.

"The key goals of e-government include modernising public administration and eliminating islands of information, reducing paperwork, and delivering solutions that can be reused, thereby reducing the investment required to provide technological answers," Mtoba notes. The first of the lessons that have been learned is that governments must harness information to deliver services to all. "Providing specialised services to the fortunate few is not a success. All the people of a constituency should have equal access to services, which essentially means the careful application of technology to deliver an overall improvement," he says. Design of systems is critical in providing technology services at government level: because people are reliant on government services for their very survival, disruption is unacceptable.

However, robust e-government has to be achieved in a situation where funding is scarce. Hence reliable and secure - yet inexpensive - open source solutions are often preferable. The concept of solutions as opposed to technology has dominated purchasing in the corporate world for some time. It should apply equally to e-government, continues Mtoba. He adds that e-government is a process. "Don't try to do too much at once: the litmus test is always the question 'does the citizen really need it?'." Making e-government work as a reality requires that governments develop cooperative IT architectures among the various agencies. E-enablement to a large extent depends on the unfettered exchange of information that comes with integration of previously siloed data.

"Also important is the establishment of an extra-agency view of governance, which includes constituents, partners and advocacy groups, who together can provide an objective exterior view of the progress being made and provide suggestions on the way forward," he notes. Above all, e-government initiatives must be executed with a laser-like focus on the 'customer' - the citizen. "That requires understanding the wants and needs of the citizens of the country, empowering them to be able to interact with government agencies faster and with ease, while minimising resistance to change. Just as the private sector has discovered, initiatives must be people driven with technology as an enabler; ease of use will bring in the masses, so complexity has to be hidden," Mtoba concludes. (Dumisani Mtoba is Senior Systems Engineer, Sun Microsystems).

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Dumisani Mtoba, 21 April 2004

'E-Governance Can Cut Government Costs'

Kampala - Expenditure on local government affairs can reduce by 10 percent if e-governance is promoted in all the 56 districts. E-governance is a computerised administration of government affairs between various administrative levels. Currently, there are only four districts in Uganda that have access to e-governance; Kayunga, Mbarara, Mbale and Lira. Speaking at a one-day workshop themed: Enabling E-governance in Uganda on April 6 at the International Conference Centre in Kampala, Dr Maggie Kigozi, the executive director of Uganda Investment Authority said that e-governance is the most effective way of reducing costs in running public affairs from the lower levels of government to the central government. "If e-governance is put on board in all the 56 districts in Uganda government expenditure may lessen by about 10 percent," Kigozi said.

She asked government to speed up the process of e-governance in every district and caked on district leaders to embrace the system to cut cost and time. She added said that e-governance will also lead to skill development on Information Communication Technology. Mr. Reza Bardien, the Microsoft education programme manager for Africa and Middle East, said that most governments in Africa do not have budgets for ICT. "As such ICT development and usage is still very low and isolated in the continent because the initiatives being undertaken to develop ICTs in the entire continent of Africa are largely in the hands of NGOs and foreign missions," Bardien said.

He said that Microsoft has made a budget of $250 million for human resource development worldwide in countries that have signed memorandum of understanding with Microsoft. The programme helps countries to put infrastructures like schools and training institutions for ICT. The Minister of State for Communications, Mr. Michael Werikhe, said government is to use online systems to promote e-governance and computer use in the country through public-private partnerships. "This partnership must start at the lower levels and through education for effective use of on line e-governance.

An integration of labour market services enabling citizens to benefit from one stop center service," he said. He said that government's strategy in the promotion of e-governance, based on Customer Resource Management strategy, will transform Uganda into a customer centric country that delivers services tailored specifically to the needs of its citizens and serve as the foundation on which e-governance models will be based. The partnership of the public and the private will provide answers to challenges of lack of suitably qualified staffs and financial constraints. "It can also provide a significant increase in the demand for labour market services particularly with regards to the services rendered by the private sector," he said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Martin Luther Oketch, 12 April 2004

e-Government Transforms the Public Sector

Gaborone -E-government itself (or even e-Business) is supposed to save costs while improving efficiency. In fact a formal definition of e-government is the application of electronic means in first the interaction between government and citizens, second the interaction of government and businesses, and third to internal government operations, all with the aim of improving efficiency, improving transparency and reducing costs. This definition offers two perspectives of e-government - an external and an internal perspective. From an external perspective the objective of e-government is to fulfil the public's needs and expectations satisfactorily. By using Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), government is able to improve its speed of delivery of services, its transparency and even its accountability when dealing with the public and with businesses.

This is commonly known as Government to Citizen interactions or G2C and Government to Business interaction or G2B. From an internal perspective, the objective of e-government is to facilitate a speedy, transparent, efficient and effective processes for performing government internal activities. These internal interactions are commonly referred to as Government to Government interactions or simply G2G. Both perspectives offer significant improvements in customer service as well as significant reduction in costs. From this definition it is clear that the objectives of e-government have to do with improving efficiency, effectiveness, customer satisfaction, transparency and even democracy. Efficiency as automated processes will be quicker and be less prone to errors. It will improve effectiveness and customer service as customers will receive the right goods when they want them and not when government wants to give it to them.

It will improve transparency and democracy as electronic transactions can be viewed by more people and give more people access to information. No more paper files locked away in somebody's office. These objectives are very similar to the objectives of public sector reform. In fact I believe that e-government is not a new tool or a new fad or even a new concept. It is simply a better tool to achieve public sector reform. While this idea may be obvious the implications are great as e-government is no longer seen as being in competition with other development needs such as health or education. E-overnment is now seen as an enabler of better health and better education. If we can improve our efficiency and effectiveness as a government by using ICT then the benefits to all other sectors are huge. Health will benefit. Education will benefit. Local Government will benefit.

All sectors of government will reap huge rewards and hopefully at the same time see a reduction in their costs of service delivery. E-government then is really about public sector reform and reform we know is never easy. The slow success of WITS, PMS and other reform programmes point to the challenges involved in forming the public sector. And when ICT is involved more concrete challenges are raised such as shortage of funds, and even inadequate infrastructure such as electricity and telephones. I believe the biggest challenge however is our own thinking! This challenge is both political and social. Many of our lawmakers know so little about ICT that they leave the thinking and the debates to the ICT professionals. As such the thinking is never subjected to the same level of scrutiny and rigor that thinking on other topics may receive. This attitude needs to change.

Lawmakers must be educated as it is through education that they can begin to embrace new technology. And as citizens we must also begin to accept the changes that will be brought about by the new reformed government. These changes mean less face to face interaction and more online interaction. These are difficult changes but we must prepare ourselves. As the great economist John Maynard Keynes once said: "The difficulty lies not in accepting the new ideas, but in letting go of the old." As citizens, we must be prepared to let go of the old way of operating and embrace the new way which could include electronic signatures, citizen smart passports and even on line voting. In next week's article we examine what other governments are doing in terns of e-government. In particular, I will focus on South Africa and Mauritius and how they are using e-government to reform their public sectors.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 23 April 2004

 

Joint Venture Set up to Provide Public Service Solutions

THa Noi - Three companies - Hyundai of the Republic of Korea, SAP AG of Germany and Bearing Point of the US - have announced the establishment of a joint venture to provide public service solutions in Viet Nam. The first focus of the joint venture, named SAP/Hyundai, will be placed on a project for managerial reform of public finance of Viet Nam's Finance Ministry. Krish Data, SAP Executive Director in Indonesia, the Philippines and the Indochina, said that the joint venture's public service solution would benefit the finance sector. Young Chun Cho, Deputy Director of the joint venture, said that Viet Nam's rapidly eveloping economy could not avoid conflicts and his company's solution service would help mitigate them.ext Here

From Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam, 9 April 2004

Corruption in Firing Line, Says Police Chief

Cutting short her Bangkok holiday, Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon returned home yesterday to insist she was tackling corruption and organised crime "in a way we have never done before". Ms Nixon confirmed The Australian's reports that a suspended detective was being investigated over allegations he provided the weapon used in one of the city's nine gangland murders in the past year.

The detective, who faces corruption and drug-related charges, is alleged to have supplied the gun used in the murder of Housam Zayat, a violent criminal who was ambushed in a paddock on Melbourne's southwest outskirts in September. "There are certainly allegations that have been made, and they will be investigated throughly," Ms Nixon said. "I think we're on track here to make this organisation ... the best organisation in Australia, but we have to clean out those who are corrupt and we have to get on with the organised crime issue and solve it. We are at a point where we are making maximum impact on this organisation, working on organised crime in a way we have never done it before, working on corruption in policing in a way we have never done before. "We've had a large number of allegations made and we're working through those. Some of them were malicious, some were not, (but) it takes time."

Ms Nixon said recent leaks to journalists about sensitive investigations showed some of her colleagues were trying to undermine her. "People are attempting to undermine me and, I believe, undermine the organisation and its focus on (corruption)." Ms Nixon continued to dismiss calls for a royal commission into the gangland murders and allegations of links between criminals and corrupt police officers. She said there were other ways of dealing with the situation, including extensions of the state Ombudsman's powers and using the Australian Crime Commission's coercive powers to break down the underworld's wall of silence. "Royal commissions are expensive, they're a one-off, often short term," she said. "A better option might be for us to think of other kinds of powers ... such as extending the Ombudsman's powers ... it would deal not only with criminals, it would deal with police officers who are criminals as well."

Premier Steve Bracks indicated yesterday his Government was on the verge of giving Ombudsman George Brouwer fresh powers to investigate allegations of police corruption. The Police Association confirmed yesterday that it had decided not to continue funding the defence of three officers and a former officer. Detective Sergeant Glenn Saunders, detectives Peter John Alexander and Stephen Russell Campbell, and former detective sergeant David John Waters are charged over the alleged theft of a $100,000 cannabis consignment. The association paid their costs for preliminary hearings but its executive decided this week not to pay their costs at trial.

From The Australian, Australia, by Daniel Hoare, 7 April 2004

Government Seeks World Bank Funding for E-governance Projects

New Delhi - The Government is in talks with the World Bank for technical and financial assistance for overall e-governance projects in the country. It is also considering addition of two more Mission Mode projects to the existing 22 such projects under the National E-governance Action Plan. "We are in dialogue with the World Bank for overall e-governance projects in the country both at the State and the Centre level for technical and financial assistance in the areas of guiding in project management as well as lending on soft rates, Mr. R Chandrasekhar, Joint Secretary, IT Department said today at an e- governance seminar.

He said technical assistance from the Bank would be in the form of seeking consultancy in project management of large scale projects of e-governance and preparing project structure. As part of financial assistance, the lending could be in the form of grants and loans on softer interest rates. Mr. Chandrasekhar said government is also mulling addition of two more Mission Mode projects - e-procurement and courts - to the already charted 22 such projects under the National E-governance Action Plan. A core group led by Cabinet secretary would decide on the matter. Out of the 22 projects, eighth are in Centre, nine in the State and five are the integrated level.

From Business Line, India, 24 March 2004

Nation Quickens Spread of E-government

The government staff still love to work in the real world despite mounting calls for e-government services. A State Council report shows that government services are still delivered mainly face-to-face or on paper, despite the mushrooming number of governmental websites in recent years. The findings obtained after a three-month study show that only 5.2 per cent of China's government websites are frequently used. Nearly half of the 11,764 governmental websites are simply one-way mirrors, the State Council Informatization Office said in the report, meaning that more interaction is badly needed. Facing the situation, the State Council will take the lead in e-government service. A State Council official who wanted to remain anonymous, said that central government departments will deliver documents and meeting notes through the web by the end of this year while a long-awaited central-government portal will be launched this year.

China had approximately 600,000 approved websites by the end of 2003, up 60.3 per cent from 2002, said the report on Internet resources in China, which was produced by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) with authorization from the central government. However, about 90 per cent of the websites are in the more developed provinces, showing a growing gap between rich regions and less developed regions, the report said. Beijing, South China's Guangdong Province, East China's Zhejiang Province and Shanghai are the top four for the number of websites, accounting for 56.8 per cent of the total. In western China, however, many governmental officials face cyber difficulties. Wang Gang, a 30-year-old assistant for a county head in Sichuan Province said his daily business has always been done face-to-face or on paper. "I have no basic knowledge of the Internet and I cannot e-mail," Wang told China Daily when asked to conduct an online interview this week.

The report also showed that all government websites are in Chinese while only 14.8 per cent have English pages and 3.0 per cent include Japanese. The lack of content in foreign languages has also brought complaints from foreigners. Canadian businessman Mark Justine, said there is no English version in some websites of cabinet departments, not to mention agencies at provincial or local levels. "That makes it difficult for me to read them," said Justine. But some cities are leading the way. Northeast China's coastal city of Dalian has set up Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean versions of its governmental website. Zhao Xiaofan, director of the State Council Informatization Office said the Internet in China has developed rapidly despite its late introduction. Even in the early 1990s "Internet" was still an alien word to the public.

Zhao said the e-government initiative would promote democracy by providing residents with more digital connections, such as e-mail, and simplifying election procedures by, for example, allowing voting online. "What's more, they can make administrative work more transparent and efficient by networking government departments and introducing Intranets and so on," said Zhao. He said the Chinese Government has shown great enthusiasm for information technology as part of the country's modernization drive. The government also set ambitious goals for Internet usage and information technology development in the 10th Five Year Plan (2001-05). By the end of 2005, China should have a broadband network that combines Internet, telephone lines and cable TV networks while the number of Internet users will reach 150 million or more than 11 per cent of the population.

From People's Daily, China, 5 April 2004

Andhra to Link E-gov Portals

Hyderabad - It is one more step towards e-governance. After full computerisation and independent portals for each government department, the Andhra Pradesh government is now embarking on bringing interoperability across platforms. "We are now working towards establishing a common language platform for all kinds of government services, be it obtaining certificates, registration of real estate, besides providing citizens information," a senior official told FE. The project, a first for the country, would integrate all the e-governance solutions thus enabling registered users to access any kind of government information and service by using a single login address. The project is expected to be completed in two years, by when all the departments involved in offering these services can be brought under a single portal. The portal site, aponline.gov.in, is already operational, being supported by Tata Consultancy Services.

For example, if a citizen wants to apply for an electricity connection, he has to apply to Discom, go to the municipal corporation to obtain proof of residence, go to a bank to pay the fees, etc. But all these processes can be offered through a single portal site, which will process the application online and deliver the end service. At present, through the e-Seva platform, the government is offering some of the services like birth and death certificates besides receiving utility payments. This initiative is aimed at bringing uniformity among the solutions by offering interoperable communication between the government applications, which would help the system improve the delivery of services.

The state government, in association with Centre for Good Governance, is designing the architecture, enabling each of the standalone portals to be linked eventually to the aponline portal. A two-day workshop for the benefit of the 'chief information officers' was organised by the state government recently to evolve the structure for the maintenance of these standards. Another portal, www.cgg.gov.in/egovstandards, is designed to develop schemes for various governmental data and to present comprehensive e-thesaurus and repositories of forms for the benefit of various users of government information inclu-ding the citizen, corporates, employees of various government departments.

"It would be a tremendous task as each of the departments has to participate actively in the project in providing information about the processes, which is necessary to draw up a common language," the official engaged in the project said. Andhra Pradesh has several IT projects operating independently for various departments, which need to be integrated. Therefore, there is a need for an effective 'metadata' (data of data) besides tagging an information tool to help users navigate through the massive electronic information sources. Initially, 15 out of 22 meta-data elements based on the Dublin Core format will be incorporated. Each of the data elements has to be examined and standards set on structure along with the semantically similar elements available.

From Financial Express, India, 5 April 2004

More Jobs Via E-governance

Thiruvananthapuram - An e-literacy project launched by the Kerala government promises great job opportunities for the rural folk through its various hubs, information kiosks and training centers. The second phase of Kerala's pioneering e-literacy program, Akshaya was launched by State Chief Minister, AK Antony last week at Chelembra Grama Panchayat near Malappuram. The CM said that the successful Malappuram model of Akshaya would be extended to all districts in the State. The second phase of the project would see the 620 Akshaya centers in Malappuram functioning as communication hub, information kiosk, e-transaction center, and training center for various government recognized courses.

Addressing the gathering, Antony said that the Akshaya centers will soon throw open windows of infinite opportunities for the people in the rural villages of the State. Akshaya centers would soon take up services currently undertaken through FRIENDS counters like remittance of tax and government bills, and the government would take steps to cut down power tariffs to Akshaya centers, he added. Minister for IT PK Kunhalikutty, who presided over the inaugural function, said that the Akshaya project has transformed the lives of people in Malappuram, enabling them to explore and benefit out of new employment opportunities and new business avenues.

While presenting a report on phase I of Akshaya during the inaugural function, the Secretary for IT Aruna Sundararajan said that basic computer training has been availed by 5.1 lakh people in the Malappuram district and the pilot project turned out to be successful in reaching out to 13 remote tribal colonies and 15 coastal villages in the district. On the innovative usage of IT in the rural sector, Sundararajan pointed out the venture by a group of entrepreneurs, who have created a health profile for 30,000 people in Cheakode Panchayat. Meanwhile, Local Administration Minister, Cherkulam Abdullah said that Akshaya has the potential to enhance social progress, development and opportunities in employment. He made this remark while inaugurating the state-level workshop of the Akshaya project at the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) recently in Kasaragod. The minister informed the gathering that Akshaya would be implemented in all other districts of the State in 2004.

From CIOL, India, 1 April 2004

Rann Seeks 'Responsive' Public Service

South Australian Premier Mike Rann wants a newly-created public sector reform board to crack the whip over the state's public servants. The unit will report on work being done by public service departments. Mr. Rann says the unit is not aimed at cutting jobs but at improving performance. He says he wants a more responsive public service that works for the state. "I'm sure there'll be people who will whinge about this [but] that doesn't concern me," he said. "Our job is to actually get on with performing in Government. "The people of this state are the people that I actually care about. Our taxpayers deserve and our citizens deserve a better and more efficient public service."

From ABC Online, Australia, 3 April 2004

E-gov Spend Seen at Rs 15,000 crore in 5 Years

State governments will spend close to a staggering Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) on computing their operations over the next five years, a Nasscom study has predicted. The government accounted for 9 per cent of the total IT spend in India in 2002, which is estimated to go up to 15 per cent of the total IT spend in the next five years, the study said. In 2003, the central government proposed a total outlay of Rs 2,550 crore (Rs 25.50 billion) for the national plan of e-governance. While Rs 1,485 crore (Rs 14.85 billion) had been allocated for the Centre, Rs 800 crore (Rs 8 billion) was earmarked for financial institutions and Rs 265 crore (Rs 2.65 billion) for state governments, Nasscom said. According to Gartner estimates the Indian government has spent around $1 billion on IT in 2002.

This includes the expenditure of the state and central governments on hardware, software, telecom equipment and services and IT. Though e-governance is still in infancy, over 20 states and Union Territories already have an IT policy in place. In terms of basic computerisation, police departments, treasury, land records, irrigation, and justice are seen as having the maximum potential, Nasscom stated. The launch of e-governance projects has resulted in an increase in the overall IT budget of state governments, sometimes by an order of almost 100 per cent. In terms of states' progress in e-governance, Andhra Pradesh takes the lead with projects like e-Seva, CARD, VOICE, MPHS, AP Online One-Stop-Shop on the Internet, Saukkaryam, Online Transaction Processing.

In Bihar, the key e-governance project is sales tax administration management information while Chhattisgarh has Infotech Promotion Society, treasury office, e-linking among the projects aimed at infusing technology in administration. Automatic vehicle tracking system, electronic clearance system, management information system for education are some of the e-governance projects of Delhi government. Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and north-eastern states have embarked on larger e-governance projects.

From Rediff, India, 12 April 2004

Few Chances Left to Restore Public Service Integrity

On Lateline in February, ONA whistleblower Andrew Wilkie was asked for an example of intelligence chiefs second guessing what the government wanted to hear. "During 2002 I was asked to prepare an assessment on the situation in Afghanistan. It was to feed directly into the Government's decision making in the situation in that country at about the time they were looking to start returning Afghans involuntarily to Kabul. I wrote it as I saw it. It was quite a damning assessment. The prognosis I developed was that the situation was dire and likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. "But, in fact, the senior management of the Office of National Assessments said that that assessment would not go out because it was just such a political hot potato to be saying that at the time the Government was saying publicly that it would start the return of asylum seekers." As far as I know, this allegation has not been denied, despite its horrific implications, that ONA bosses were prepared to allow the government to deport refugees to a country unsafe to return to on the basis of false intelligence assessments.

The government wanted to send them back to suit its domestic political agenda. And it did NOT want to be told that this would endanger their lives. Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins' allegations don't tell us much we didn't know about the government's deceit of the Australian people and betrayal of the East Timorese before the independence vote. At the time, the then Labor foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton got several leaks proving the government was well and truly warned of the disaster that would follow a successful independence vote. Howard and Downer brushed aside the leaks, and the government then tried to bug Brereton. ASIO said no back then, but you'd have to doubt whether they'd do so after five more years of no-holds-barred bullying of the public service by Howard and his henchmen. The thenLabor leader Kim Beazley had Howard and Downer on the ropes in parliament for days until Paul Keating went on the 7.30 Report to say Suharto had been the best thing since sliced bread for Australia, killing Beazley's attack stone dead.

Meanwhile, Australia's senior Defence Intelligence Liaison Officer in Washington Merv Jenkins committed suicide in Washington after intolerable pressure from Canberra for sharing our intelligence on East Timor with the Americans in accordance with intelligence sharing arrangements. Like Collins, the Americans were also concerned that a bloodbath in East Timor was on the cards without an international peace keeping force on the ground for the vote. Collins' correct intelligence assessments on the pending catastrophe in East Timor never made it to the government. They were blocked by senior 'public servants' who knew the government did not want to hear them, and presumably feared what would happen to their careers if they told them the truth anyway. Intelligence reports are supposed to reflect information gathered and honest assessments of likely consequences.

The government then weighs up the facts and the expert analysis against its political and strategic imperatives. That's honest government. That's government in good faith. That's government when politicians are prepared to take responsibility for their decisions, decisions which must sometimes be desperately difficult to make. We do not have such a government. We no longer have a public service prepared to force the government to take decisions with the facts before them. We no longer have a government or a public service we can trust. As I've written for a long time now, our nation is critically disadvantaged in conducting 'the war on terror' because of a collapse of trust in government. Our intelligence agency's dishonour is all the more frightening when we face constant attempts by the government to destroy our civil rights and greatly enhance state power to detain and question us on the basis of supposed independent and impartial intelligence agency and police advice.

A national leader acting in the best interests of our nation would do everything in his power to restore that trust; including calling a Royal Commission to investigate the systemic dysfunction of our intelligence agencies in the face of a government which wants to use supposedly impartial 'advice' as cover for pre-made political decisions. Of course John Howard would never act to restore our trust. His government is the problem, not the solution. What scares me is that if the crazy brave whistle blowers who keep telling us what's gone wrong don't get the public's attention soon, the destruction of our long tradition of a 'frank and fearless' public service will be complete and there'll be nothing left to save. Another bulwark of our democracy will be gone, and the corruption of what's left of our once proud democracy will be so entrenched we'll have run out of chances to save it.

From Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Margo Kingston, 14 April 2004

Monthly Check on Complaints Against the Civil Service

Kuala Lumpur - The Cabinet will now monitor complaints against the civil service every month to speed up the process of identifying the main grouses and resolving them. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said previously the Public Complaints Bureau would look into grievances collectively once a year. Since 1999, complaints against the civil service had been on the rise. There were 1,435 cases in 1999 but it was 3,190 last year. There were 728 cases registered in the first quarter this year. Dompok said the Government believed that dealing with and resolving the complaints monthly would improve public services and stop the same problems from happening again. "We will highlight some of the cases, especially aimed at identifying recurring complaints, for the ministers' attention.

The Cabinet will (then) know of the problems and resolve them quickly. "There is no need to wait for an annual report before taking action," he said after a visit to the Public Complaints Bureau's central region branch here yesterday where he was briefed by the bureau's director-general Datuk Mahadi Arshad. Dompok said the bureau was an important barometer of how the people responded to government initiatives to improve public services. The majority of the complaints were levelled at counter services, the land office, local authorities, the police and other government departments, said Dompok.

Topping the list of complaints were late responses or failure to take action. The other complaints were on unjust action, lack of enforcement, dissatisfactory services, misconduct by civil servants, lack of public facilities, abuse of power, failure to follow procedures and weaknesses in policies and laws. However, there were also many complaints found to be devoid of merit. Out of 14,066 complaints received from January 1999 to March, 43.7% or 6,153 cases were without merit, while 6,780 cases (48.2%) were justified. Mahadi said some cases were rejected because the documents submitted were incomplete and the complainant did not respond within two weeks.

From The Star, Malaysia, 14 April 2004

Few Chances Left to Restore Public Service Integrity

On Lateline in February, ONA whistleblower Andrew Wilkie was asked for an example of intelligence chiefs second guessing what the government wanted to hear. "During 2002 I was asked to prepare an assessment on the situation in Afghanistan. It was to feed directly into the Government's decision making in the situation in that country at about the time they were looking to start returning Afghans involuntarily to Kabul. I wrote it as I saw it. It was quite a damning assessment. The prognosis I developed was that the situation was dire and likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. "But, in fact, the senior management of the Office of National Assessments said that that assessment would not go out because it was just such a political hot potato to be saying that at the time the Government was saying publicly that it would start the return of asylum seekers." As far as I know, this allegation has not been denied, despite its horrific implications, that ONA bosses were prepared to allow the government to deport refugees to a country unsafe to return to on the basis of false intelligence assessments.

The government wanted to send them back to suit its domestic political agenda. And it did NOT want to be told that this would endanger their lives. Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins' allegations don't tell us much we didn't know about the government's deceit of the Australian people and betrayal of the East Timorese before the independence vote. At the time, the then Labor foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton got several leaks proving the government was well and truly warned of the disaster that would follow a successful independence vote. Howard and Downer brushed aside the leaks, and the government then tried to bug Brereton. ASIO said no back then, but you'd have to doubt whether they'd do so after five more years of no-holds-barred bullying of the public service by Howard and his henchmen.

The thenLabor leader Kim Beazley had Howard and Downer on the ropes in parliament for days until Paul Keating went on the 7.30 Report to say Suharto had been the best thing since sliced bread for Australia, killing Beazley's attack stone dead. Meanwhile, Australia's senior Defence Intelligence Liaison Officer in Washington Merv Jenkins committed suicide in Washington after intolerable pressure from Canberra for sharing our intelligence on East Timor with the Americans in accordance with intelligence sharing arrangements. Like Collins, the Americans were also concerned that a bloodbath in East Timor was on the cards without an international peace keeping force on the ground for the vote. Collins' correct intelligence assessments on the pending catastrophe in East Timor never made it to the government. They were blocked by senior 'public servants' who knew the government did not want to hear them, and presumably feared what would happen to their careers if they told them the truth anyway.

Intelligence reports are supposed to reflect information gathered and honest assessments of likely consequences. The government then weighs up the facts and the expert analysis against its political and strategic imperatives. That's honest government. That's government in good faith. That's government when politicians are prepared to take responsibility for their decisions, decisions which must sometimes be desperately difficult to make. We do not have such a government. We no longer have a public service prepared to force the government to take decisions with the facts before them. We no longer have a government or a public service we can trust. As I've written for a long time now, our nation is critically disadvantaged in conducting 'the war on terror' because of a collapse of trust in government. Our intelligence agency's dishonour is all the more frightening when we face constant attempts by the government to destroy our civil rights and greatly enhance state power to detain and question us on the basis of supposed independent and impartial intelligence agency and police advice.

A national leader acting in the best interests of our nation would do everything in his power to restore that trust; including calling a Royal Commission to investigate the systemic dysfunction of our intelligence agencies in the face of a government which wants to use supposedly impartial 'advice' as cover for pre-made political decisions. Of course John Howard would never act to restore our trust. His government is the problem, not the solution. What scares me is that if the crazy brave whistle blowers who keep telling us what's gone wrong don't get the public's attention soon, the destruction of our long tradition of a 'frank and fearless' public service will be complete and there'll be nothing left to save. Another bulwark of our democracy will be gone, and the corruption of what's left of our once proud democracy will be so entrenched we'll have run out of chances to save it.

From Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Margo Kingston, 14 April 2004

IBM Gateway to E-governance Overdrive

New Delhi - National Institute of Smart Government (NISG) and IBM India have joined hands to promote e-governance at the national level. NISG's mission is to deliver better citizen services, reduce operation costs, establish technology standards for application development and enhance the agility in the government. The Hyderabad-based NISG is a not-for-profit company incorporated in 2002 in a private-public-partnership mode, with the private sector having a 51 per cent equity. Currently, National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), central and state governments are the principal promoters. NISG has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with IBM to develop different e-government applications using open standards and IBM's e-governance frameworks. IBM will provide NISG with technology and services to enable the government to serve individuals or organisations better and promote partnerships between the government and private enterprises in implementing e-governance projects.

The infotech major that recently bagged a major outsourcing contract from Bharti, the leading mobile telecom operator, had acquired one of the biggest business process outsourcing company in India - Daksh. It will share with NISG its e-governance framework, which is based on platform independent, open-source and open standards technologies, including Linux. The framework, which IBM developed as a result of numerous engagements with governments around the world, combines IBM's services, offerings, research and experience, and makes them available to governments to infuse agility and enhance links with citizens and businesses. NISG chief executive J. Satyanarayana said, "Linux is increasingly being used in the e-government space worldwide. IBM supports and endorses the open-source community dedicated to Linux technology."

Under the terms of the MoU, IBM will set up a Linux and open-source practice at NISG to promote affordable computing and share its e-governance framework with the organisation to develop applications in a systematic manner. NISG will get the status of a strategic IBM technology partner under IBM's PartnerWorld programme. This will provide NISG access to the latest IBM software technology and solutions, for demo and evaluation purposes, as well as beta IBM software products of emerging technologies to prototype and develop new applications. IBM will share with NISG its experiences and practices and provide training to the NISG team. R Dhamodaran, vice-president and country executive, software group and developer relations, IBM India, said, "IBM recognises the strategic role that NISG performs in the evolution of e-governance applications and affordable computing in India. Industry and governments will be able to co-operate closely to create innovative and reusable solutions through open-source software."

From Calcutta Telegraph, India, 18 April 2004

The Government Deliberates on E-Government Concept Draft

Astana - Today the participants of the Government session chaired by PM of the country Daniyal Akhmetov considered the draft of the E-Government Concept, PM's pres service reports. President of Kazakhstan assigned this task in his Message to People of Kazakhstan for 2004. The idea of E-Government occurred within National Information Infrastructure Development State Program for 2001-2005. The Agency on Informatization and Communication informed the participants of the session about conceptual approaches to formation of E-Government infrastructure. The E-Government is called to enhance effectiveness, information openness and transparency of state management. The PM approved the work of the task group on development of the concept and assigned to complete it in a month in order to submit the document for final ratification.

From Kazinform, Kazakhstan, 20 April 2004

Room for the Civil Service to Improve

Musa said the State Government appreciated the commitment and loyalty of the civil servants in implementing the government policies, however, it also realised that there was still room for improvement for the civil service to bring positive effect to the development and prosperity of the State. He said the State Government was committed in finding ways to improve the delivery system to the people and that the public service is very relevant in the success of the halatuju that was being implemented aggressively. There is also need only to identify new growing sectors in the State to enable the high number of unemployed skilled workers and graduates to work and produce young entrepreneurs, he said.

However, he said the human resources development must be reviewed in terms of demand and supply for the long run. In relation to this, he said the recently incepted State Human Resources Development Council must find ways get around the problem of foreign labour dependency especially in oil palm plantation in the State. He said the sector in Sabah is estimated hiring about 200,000 foreign workers resulting in some RM360 million being taken out of Sabah back to these workers' country every year. "The dependence on foreign labours in various economic sectors like plantation, construction, wholesale and sundry including housemaids need to be reduced," he said.

Musa said it was timely that the State Government to have a re-look at programmes and scheme for the eradication of hardcore poor in Sabah with the view to boost its efficiency. He said the programmes and schemes implemented had cost millions of ringgit but the Sabah poverty rate at 16 per cent is the highest in the country. Musa believed only by giving education to the younger generation of hardcore poor people can they leap out from the poverty bracket while the State Government need to ensure that infrastructure and basic facilities reaches the people particularly in the rural areas. In the meantime, the State Government would be giving serious attention to the environment aspects in all development plans by taking into account the socio-economy needs of the local community and improvement of the people living quality in general.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 23 April 2004

E-gov Spend Seen at Rs 15,000 cr in 5 Years

State governments will spend close to a staggering Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) on computing their operations over the next five years, a Nasscom study has predicted. The government accounted for 9 per cent of the total IT spend in India in 2002, which is estimated to go up to 15 per cent of the total IT spend in the next five years, the study said. In 2003, the central government proposed a total outlay of Rs 2,550 crore (Rs 25.50 billion) for the national plan of e-governance. While Rs 1,485 crore (Rs 14.85 billion) had been allocated for the Centre, Rs 800 crore (Rs 8 billion) was earmarked for financial institutions and Rs 265 crore (Rs 2.65 billion) for state governments, Nasscom said. According to Gartner estimates the Indian government has spent around $1 billion on IT in 2002.

This includes the expenditure of the state and central governments on hardware, software, telecom equipment and services and IT. Though e-governance is still in infancy, over 20 states and Union Territories already have an IT policy in place. In terms of basic computerisation, police departments, treasury, land records, irrigation, and justice are seen as having the maximum potential, Nasscom stated. The launch of e-governance projects has resulted in an increase in the overall IT budget of state governments, sometimes by an order of almost 100 per cent. In terms of states' progress in e-governance, Andhra Pradesh takes the lead with projects like e-Seva, CARD, VOICE, MPHS, AP Online One-Stop-Shop on the Internet, Saukkaryam, Online Transaction Processing.

In Bihar, the key e-governance project is sales tax administration management information while Chhattisgarh has Infotech Promotion Society, treasury office, e-linking among the projects aimed at infusing technology in administration. Automatic vehicle tracking system, electronic clearance system, management information system for education are some of the e-governance projects of Delhi government. Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and north-eastern states have embarked on larger e-governance projects.

From Rediff, India, 12 April 2004

Government Seeks World Bank Funding for E-governance Projects

New Delh - The Government is in talks with the World Bank for technical and financial assistance for overall e-governance projects in the country. It is also considering addition of two more Mission Mode projects to the existing 22 such projects under the National E-governance Action Plan. "We are in dialogue with the World Bank for overall e-governance projects in the country both at the State and the Centre level for technical and financial assistance in the areas of guiding in project management as well as lending on soft rates, Mr. R Chandrasekhar, Joint Secretary, IT Department said today at an e- governance seminar.

He said technical assistance from the Bank would be in the form of seeking consultancy in project management of large scale projects of e-governance and preparing project structure. As part of financial assistance, the lending could be in the form of grants and loans on softer interest rates. Mr. Chandrasekhar said government is also mulling addition of two more Mission Mode projects - e-procurement and courts - to the already charted 22 such projects under the National E-governance Action Plan. A core group led by Cabinet secretary would decide on the matter. Out of the 22 projects, eighth are in Centre, nine in the State and five are the integrated level.

From Business Line, India, 24 March 2004

'I Want...A National Mission For E-Governance'

A couple of months ago Kiran Karnik, president of Nasscom, was adjudged the Forbes Face of the Year. The magazine noted, "If Nasscom is the self-proclaimed voice of India's IT industry, Mr Karnik is the man trying to direct the path of the offshoring tsunami." Little wonder he is getting busier and busier. He keeps on juggling the agendas he sets for the industry and the government. In an interview with Saikat Neogi, he sets the IT agenda for the next government. Excerpts: 1. E-governance: Launch a major national mission for e-governance. This should be aimed at increasing the efficiency of government and providing better citizen services. This must begin with a process re-engineering exercise, to improve procedures and even change policies, before computerisation. Training will have to be a key element of this-not merely about computers, but to change mindsets. Transparency and accountability will be spin-offs to increased efficiency and better revenue collection. We recommend an allocation of Rs 10,000 crore for a National Mission for e-governance in the Budget for 2004-05, and implementation, in mission-mode, through an empowered e-governance commission.

2. Competitiveness: Develop India's competitiveness through IT applications. Corporates around the world are using IT as a competitive edge, often based on expertise from India. It is ironic that this expertise is not being fully exploited for our own benefit. While the IT industry needs to market (domestically) its capabilities more aggressively, other impediments need to be removed and incentives put in place. We urge setting up of a modernisation fund for no/low interest loans to industry for introduction of IT. There should be 100 per cent depreciation per annum on PCs and related accessories. Custom duties, taxes and all levies on all IT equipment should be reduced to a total of 15 per cent.

3. National development: IT should be utilised for national development. A number of experiments and pilot projects have established how IT can be used for literacy, health, buying/selling agricultural produce and inputs, land records, market prices and a whole host of other relevant applications. IT also has vital utility in the creation of smart cards and citizenship or other records. While some of these can be covered under the e-governance mission, we recommend specific support for other initiatives. There should be budgetary support for computerisation of the agricultural extension network and of produce markets (mandis). Large scale expansion of advanced rural information centres, using models like Gyandoot, should be undertaken. There should be a five-year tax holiday for all profits from creation of Indian-language (excluding English) software, information content, and any translation software. A five-year programme for issuing smart cards, with citizenship and other defined data of Indian citizens should be undertaken. There should be support for developing the wherewithal to implement a time-bound project for embedding a smart chip in all vehicle registration plates.

4. IT-edge: The Indian IT industry is poised to dominate the world market. We are number one country for outsourcing, and the industry is well-placed for on-going robust growth. However, other countries are following the path that we have created. We must, therefore, ensure that we continue to retain our competitive edge. Supportive policies, and strengthening the close government-industry links are essential, as are other steps that will ensure India remains the destination of choice for IT software and BPO/services. We recommend a congenial tax and regulatory regime. Urgent steps should be taken to improve infrastructure, especially airports, roads, local transportation and international air traffic. A fund should be set up to support development in IT through setting-up of incubation facilities, grants for registering patents, etc. These steps will especially benefit SMEs, and help some of them become the giants of tomorrow.

5. Knowledge society: India's inherent advantage is the scalable skills it offers at attractive costs. Sustaining this requires that we produce ever larger numbers of ever better professionals in various fields. India's success in IT enabled services/BPO has demonstrated how a combination of domain skills with IT skills can be a huge advantage. The big opportunity for India is to build on this, not only to retain our edge in IT, but also for all other areas of the rapidly growing global knowledge economy. We recommend a substantial increase in the budgetary allocation for education for all levels. There should be an allocation of Rs 1,000 crore a year in each of the next five years to create a fund for loans to needy students in universities, at an interest rate of five per cent per annum or lower, and generous fellowships to research students (masters and doctoral level). Encouragement should be given to private Indian investment in education, particularly as international competition may soon be inevitable due to WTO agreements. There should be generous funding, where necessary, and complete autonomy to key centres of educational excellence.

From Financial Express, India, 10 April 2004

E-governance? Ward Computers on the Blink

Ahmedabad - It's difficult to access information when none of the computers in 43 ward offices are in working condition, say members of Standing Committee. E-governance is the watchword today. Yet none of the computers in 43 ward offices of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, installed over six months ago, are in a working condition. Bringing this to the notice of AMC authorities during the Standing Committee on Thursday, Kishensinh Tomar, senior Standing Committee member, informed that with this state of affairs it was just not possible to access information at any ward office.

Chairman Jayantilal Parmar assured members that work would begin soon. Water crises has become an every day issue for residents of the eastern part of the city. Opposition party councillors from areas like Odhav and Maninagar raked up the issue during the meeting. According to Jadgish Patel, BJP councillor from Odhav, approximately 30,000 residents of the area faced problems due to low pressure of the water. ''Odhav does not have a water-tank for storage of water. Hence, water is supplied on low pressure and is not enough,'' Patel said. The AMC has twice invited tenders for construction of two underground pipes at Odhav in the past six-months but the work has not yet begun. ''The authorities have been claiming that work will begin soon.

However, they are unable to start the project due to shortage of funds,'' stated Patel. Councillors of Maninagar, Vatva, Paldi and Maninagar also voiced their complaints on the water crises. Opposition leader Amit Shah brought to notice of the members that the UTI bank has been fined Rs 5 lakh for constructing a footpath near its new branch at Law Garden. ''AMC officials have accused the bank of using its land, while the fact is that the bank has actually done the job of the civic body,'' Shah said. He also opposed a proposal of building RCC houses for the needy under Vambe Yojana, which would add an expense of Rs 12 crore to the Rs 28-crore project.

From Indian Express, India, 23 April 2004

The Government Deliberates on E-Government Concept Draft

Astana - Today the participants of the Government session chaired by PM of the country Daniyal Akhmetov considered the draft of the E-Government Concept, PM's pres service reports. President of Kazakhstan assigned this task in his Message to People of Kazakhstan for 2004. The idea of E-Government occurred within National Information Infrastructure Development State Program for 2001-2005. The Agency on Informatization and Communication informed the participants of the session about conceptual approaches to formation of E-Government infrastructure. The E-Government is called to enhance effectiveness, information openness and transparency of state management. The PM approved the work of the task group on development of the concept and assigned to complete it in a month in order to submit the document for final ratification.

From Kazinform, Kazakhstan, 20 April 2004

BOI to Go for E-governance

The Board of Investment (BOI) is set to become the first government agency to implement e-governance in its day-to-day functions. The board has taken a year-long project to implement e-governance in its office and a proposal in this regard would be placed before the BOI's Executive Board's meeting for approval early next month. E-governance will allow the foreign and local investors to track the files, speed, whereabouts and decision of their requests, Board of Investment Executive Chairman Mahmudur Rahman told the FE. He said investors would be given a code no against their requests and a code number would allow an investor to track his files through online.

The BOI will implement the e-governance project in three phases and within a year the whole work of the BOI would be computerised and could be accessed via online. "It will help ensure total transparency in the BOI operation and eventually it will completely eradicate corruption," Rahman said. Under the programme, the BOI would also set up a complete databank and video-conferencing facilities for the investors. "The aim is to end the harassment that the investors face while processing their files in the board," Rahman said, adding that it would also reduce cost for the willing investors.

From Financial Express.bd, Bangladesh, 25 April 2004

Nation Desperately Needs more CIOs to Develop E-government: Expert

Local governments in China do not have enough technocrats to handle issues of information technologies and systems though the country reports the world's second largest number of Internet surfers, an information official said. Hu Xiaoming, director of the State Information Center, told a seminar on e-government that ended Wednesday in Shanghai that Chinese governments at local levels need a number of talents with professional knowledge and strategic vision to promote its development of e-government. Those officials with an IT and governmental working experience background, especially those Chief Information Officers (CIOs), are in great need among Chinese governments at all levels, said Hu, also executive president of the China Information Industry Association.

He said Chinese governments are facing a great challenge to behave according to international practice after China's accession to the World Trade Organization. "We need efficient e-governments to better communicate with the international communities and those CIOs are an important part of this process," Hu said. The number of Internet users, or netizens, on the Chinese mainland reached 79.5 million by the end of 2003, according to the statistics of the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). Computers linked to the Internet had totaled 30.89 million by the end of 2003, up 48.3 percent, according to CNNIC. Hu said China's e-governments should provide better public services to help shape a government image of transparency and high-efficiency in the future. Sponsored by the China Information Industry Association, the seminar featured three days of discussion on e-government's public services, integration and the development of e-government in China's underdeveloped areas.

From People's Daily, China, 29 April 2004

 

Byers Pushes for more Choice in Public Services

Stephen Byers, the former minister who has become a bellwether for Blairite thinking, will today defend the government's plans to offer voters greater choice in how they use public services. Addressing an issue which is fast becoming central to Labour's election manifesto, he will argue in a speech to the Social Market Foundation thinktank that citizens should be allowed to make decisions about subjects such as their child's school curriculum even if it means cutting the powers of local education authorities. All three parties are competing on the battleground of choice but Mr. Byers will admit today that the forces of opposition to choice are gathering within Labour. Arguing that the government has so far taken tentative steps, he will respond to recent private polling by the government which shows that voters are cautious about using new opportunities. The survey found that parents want their local schools to be decent rather than have a range of schools from which to choose.

Mr. Byers will say that "the forces of opposition to choice in our public services are gathering. They must be resisted. Choice must not be denied but its scope and scale needs to be expanded if we are to secure social justice. "At present choice is available to those who can afford it. It needs to be made available to all as part of a modern agenda of redistribution which includes choice and opportunity." Mr. Byers will say that parental choice of schools needs to be real and not just an opportunity to express a theoretical preference. He will say the government should scrap current controls, including the restrictions on pupil numbers in a school, on the admissions in any year group, and on opening and closing a school.

He will also say that the school curriculum needs to be more flexible to provide the choice of a distinct and personal programme of education and training for each child. David Willetts, the shadow pensions and work secretary, said at the weekend that the Conservatives would scrap "the surplus places rule and allow for an expansion of school places. We are providing the money so that what parents choose can be realised". Many in the Labour party see such moves as an intrusion by the free market into the public sector. They are likely to be alarmed by some of Mr. Byers's ideas, such as allowing elderly people to choose their home help and even the supplier of home-delivered meals and the time at which they want to have their main meal of the day. Mr. Byers denies that choice creates inequality, saying that such criticism "ignores the fact that the paternalistic model of public services failed to tackle inequalities. Indeed in many respects it reinforced them".

From Guardian, UK, 5 April 2004

Civil Service: Customer Satisfaction and Work Environment

Rome - Improving work conditions helps to improve productivity and efficiency. For the first time in its long history the civil service will adopt customer satisfaction parameters in its appraisals. Public Administration minister Luigi Mazzella has issued two official regulations which, purportedly, aim to "ensure physical and psychological wellbeing among employees, via the establishment of working environments that are conducive to better performance and overall wellbeing" and to "improve citizen's customer satisfaction with regards to services rendered and public admin". The public administration department holds that "the further development and efficiency within civil service effectiveness are helped significantly by improved working environments, an organisational atmosphere that stimulates creativity, ergonomic environments".

Great emphasis is placed on "fostering human resources", via schemes aimed at creating greater motivation among employees, improving liaisons between management and staff, an improved "sense of belonging and overall satisfaction with regards to their specific admin". Another aim is to attract "talented minds within public service bounds" as part of a more general pursuit involving the creation of a "culture of service". The issue is one pertaining to "a change of mentality" and that relies on identifying and then applying advanced methods. The end goal is to establish "healthy, comfortable and welcoming workplaces", appraising "employee skills and contributions", engendering a "terse working environments, clear and co-operative liaisons". All which must not forego an honest assessment of "threshold fatigue, both physical and mental, as well as stress".

Directives pertaining to citizen satisfaction are based on similar concepts. Despite a broad understanding as to the fact that satisfying customers - in this case citizens - is very much part of the process "uncertainty remains as to how to go about it". Administrations which will pursue customer satisfaction appraisal "will largely succeed in escaping self referential short circuits, and will gain a precious understanding of the end beneficiary in order to overhaul both general policy and services management criteria". The general concept is "to promote and implement systematic service appraisal in order to tailor service provision to actual requirements as a means of making the best use possible of available resources". The implementation of the two sets of regulations will be guided via the issue of two manuals titled "Organisational wellbeing. Improving work environments" and "Customer satisfaction applied to civil service. Assessing citizen satisfaction".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 7 April 2004

Local Authority Website e-Government Project Rolls out Toolkit

Having hit its 31 March deadline for completion, the Local Authorities Website national e-Government Project is now offering its range of free tools and products to the local government sector. Yesterday saw the release of latest version of the Local Government Category List developed by the LAWs Project to define the subject matter of local government and related community resources according to a common vocabulary. The list builds on the work of the prior APLAWS project and has been refined following extensive dialogs with users. The list is provided as a 'scheme' for populating the e-GMS 'subject.category' element. It also offers 'lower level' terms to make it suitable for powering search engines and populating 'subject.refinement'.

Category terms are mapped to Government Category List terms and to Local Government Service List services. What's the LAW project all about? To achieve the target of developing 100% electronically delivered or supported local authority services by 2005 will require that all local authorities should have access to appropriate technological solutions to enable transactions to be delivered online. Inherent in this facility is the requirement for a structured approach to information handling, publication and navigation. These solutions need to be customer focussed, standards based, easy to implement and use and relatively inexpensive. In addition, solution implementation needs to be supported by available and accessible skills, knowledge and best practice.

The LAWs national project aims to develop a set of assets that can be implemented on a modular basis depending on local technological and information management maturity. The five LAWs pilots are all well underway testing out various pieces of the LAWs architecture in a production environment. The LAWs National Project has agreed pilot programmes and objectives with five Local Authorities and the Sopra Group. The five authorities have agreed pilot content and objectives with a view to delivering case studies and relevant advice and guidance to other potential LAWs output adopters.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 1 April 2004

Offering Real Choice on Public Services

One of the remarkable aspects of Tony Blair's second term has been the government's conversion to voucher schemes. Yet the idea that citizens should decide where to take the government money allocated to them has been around since at least the 1960s. The parallel concept that government should therefore act as a funder, but not a provider, of public services is well established on the continent. But until a few years ago, Labour had always insisted on monopolies in health and education, giving people no choice over their hospital or school. The Prime Minister's conversion has been well documented, not least by Fraser Nelson in this newspaper. But it is still widely disbelieved, or ignored, even in his own party. In a 2002 pamphlet for the Fabian Society Blair said: "Choice is crucial both to individual empowerment and - by enabling the consumer to move to an alternative provider where dissatisfied - to quality of service." But don't just take his word for it. Look at his actions. Foundation hospitals are designed to be independent of government.

They will be paid according to how many patients they treat, and patients in England will soon be able to choose which hospital to use (they already can for some operations in London). More dramatically, Blair has encouraged private companies to set up their own hospitals to bid for custom along the same lines. These are currently limited in the operations they can offer, but that could be broadened in the future. Meanwhile similar changes are underway in education in England. Gordon Brown announced funding for a further 1,000 "specialist" schools in his Budget this month. Worryingly, there is no sign of the Scottish Executive following suit. We could be left with the last state-owned monopoly health and education systems in the West - a disaster for our healthcare and schooling. But this tardiness does offer Scotland an opportunity to improve what vouchers offer. For voucher schemes of the Blair kind have a very serious flaw: while they offer the benefits of competition on quality, they do not allow competition on price. The state will still have to decide how much to spend on health and education. Take utility deregulation as an example.

Imagine that we had introduced competition into the gas, telecoms and electricity industries, but fixed the amount they could charge customers for their services. We might have benefited from improved service, but would never have enjoyed the dramatic falls in our bills over the last two decades. Nor would they have been able to charge us extra to exploit new technologies such as the internet. So how can the Scottish Executive reform health and education so that we benefit from competition both on quality and price? In a paper just published by the Policy Institute, Beyond the New Consensus, I suggest that Scots should each be given a cash allowance with which to buy health and education in an open market. There is no need to privatise everything - the crucial thing is to get schools and hospitals competing, though private providers should be allowed to join in as well. We could then shop around for the best value health and education to suit our needs - and keep the change if we found a bargain.

The state would no longer fund schools and hospitals directly, though it could insist on certain minimum standards to begin with. A good analogy is the existing SERPS arrangements, where we can take our state pension money and invest it with a private provider of our choice. Eventually, as the market provided better quality, and people got used to making responsible choices, the state could regulate less and less, though it would continue to set the overall level of the allowance in our "Public Service Account". But even this allowance could be calculated automatically on the basis of average costs in the market. So overall public spending would fall, as providers became more efficient - or rise if they discovered new technologies to sell to their customers. The Scottish Parliament has full powers over health and education under devolution. The overall level of funding for these services is some 20 per cent higher than in the rest of the UK, yet both services are falling behind as reform atrophies. The Executive should use its power and money to put Scotland back at the forefront of health and education provision by moving beyond the new consensus.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Tom Miers, 28 March 2004

Howard Slams Failure to Improve Public Services for Firms

Michael Howard has accused the government of letting down business by failing to reform public services. The Tory chief used a speech in Birmingham on Friday night to lambaste Labour's record on crime, education and transport. In his address to company executives he accused ministers of ignoring the needs of firms by raising taxes without an accompanying improvement in the efficiency of the public sector. As the Tories attempt to reclaim the crown of the party of business, Howard said industry policy could not be de-coupled from other departments' work.

Companies bear the brunt of crime, he claimed. "It's difficult to run a business if your trucks are stolen on a regular basis, or if your shop premises are broken into every week, or if your employees have to take time off work to deal with their home being burgled or because they have been mugged," Howard said. Economic needs - Education policy also needs to be geared towards the needs of the economy, the leader of the Opposition argued, with more vocational courses taught. "In an increasingly global economy we need to give our children the best possible education to help them compete in the modern world," Howard said. "We need teaching that is rigorous, that suits every child's talents, that helps people to achieve their best." And the scale of Britain's transport crisis could not be overcome by taxpayer's money alone, he added. "The necessary investment levels will require private-sector money, and that is as important for roads as it is for railways and buses," he argued.

From ePolitix, UK, 16 April 2004

Public Services not Delivering Choice, Says Report

Public services are still not geared up to deliver personal choice, according to a report published today. The National Consumer Council said it backed the government's mantra of choice and voice to improve public services, but claimed outcomes remained patchy. Public service reforms needed to embrace the notion of "economic consumerism", the council's report said. The study is the result of an investigation carried out by the council's own policy commission on public services, set up in December 2002 with a nine-strong panel. The commission led a cross-section of seminars across four service sectors: primary care, personal social services, secondary education and physical urban regeneration. Respondents claimed that lack of information to support choice, rather than choice itself, tended to create problems for people trying to access public services, for example, direct payments for social care. The notion of "end users" needed to be replaced by the idea of public service "consumers" to help the government's desired reforms to become a reality, the report claimed.

Choice and voice should be extended as far as possible to generate responsive services, although the report conceded that there were limits. For the rest, rationing decisions should be open and transparent, it said. On the whole, the public backs the private sector's involvement in the provision of public services, according to the commission's findings, with the majority arguing that private sector companies should be allowed to run public services if they could do so more effectively. The report called for "diversity and competition of supply " to bring efficiency savings, raise standards and offer greater choice for consumers where regulation is effective. Increased choice in turn can empower consumers and result in more responsive services, it said.

Its authors also argued that best value should ensure consumer-led services are not unduly influenced by provider and commissioner interests, and these should be recognised as part of the comprehensive performance assessment. Stakeholder engagement and consultation processes needed to be improved and extended across the service delivery chain, including consumer involvement in commissioning. The commission's chairwoman, Sue Slipman, said: "People should be adequately supported to have a real say in how services are run and developed from day one when services are commissioned. Health and local authorities spend millions procuring services - this is one financial lever that could be used to great effect to ensure consumer involvement, engagement and satisfaction. "There is still a challenging distance to travel before services catch up with consumer expectation and we must build the user voice - real change will only happen when people have a real involvement in service design and delivery."

From Guardian, UK, by Hélène Mulholland, 19 April 2004

Personalise Public Services - Report

Government pledges to revolutionise public services should mean letting users design services themselves, according to a think tank. Personalisation down to turning schools into "access points" could radically improve services, says the report. It says consumers who tailor their own services would create a revolution comparable to 1980s privatisation. Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged more personalisation in health and education. According to the report by Demos, a centre-left think tank, the more personalisation offered in services, the greater the expectations of the public. This demand, coupled with the power to dictate exactly what services should provide, will force the pace of reform from the bottom, suggests the report. So instead of just being able to choose a school or hospital, people could choose exactly what service they get and how it is delivered.

'Access points' - In practical terms this could mean giving power to parents to choose a greater range of educational opportunities for their children, rather than simply choosing one school over another. In theory, parents could tailor their education child's education with some activities in school and others provided by outside organisations. Some schemes following these principles already exist for people with severe disabilities. In some circumstances, they can reject standard care packages and instead directly receive state funding to choose who to employ and when to fit in with their life. Charles Leadbeater, author of the report and an adviser to ministers, said the debate was now going beyond a simple consumer choice between different service providers.

"Once you start promising personalised services people will get an appetite for it and the genie will be out of the bottle," said Mr. Leadbeater. "Rather than containing this demand within existing services, the aim should be to shake up these models of public sector organisation and find new adaptive solutions. "The question is how far the government actually wants to go with personalisation." "Is it an attempt to woo middle class consumers to keep them loyal to public services by giving them more choice? "Or is it an idea that could eventually lead to more radical solutions?" Mr. Leadbeater said the level of personalisation proposed in the report would be labour-intensive - but the results would be better, providing the most disadvantaged were properly advised.

"Personalisation has the potential to reorganise the way we deliver public services," he said. "But to unlock that potential the idea needs to be taken much further than current government thinking seems to allow." The Demos report emerged out of a project with the Department for Education and Skills. Supporting the report, school standards minister David Miliband said: "High quality public services can provide liberation for millions of people. "Yet when public services fail to meet popular aspirations, their whole basis comes under threat." In a speech on public services in January, Prime Minister Tony Blair said service users with high expectations and the power to choose would be the drivers of reforms. "By arming the public with greater choice and by strengthening their individual and collective voice we are making them partners in service improvement," he said.

From BBC News, UK, By Dominic Casciani, 14 April 2004

E-government Helps EU to Manage Animal Movements & Prevent Spread of Disease

The European Commission has just introduced TRACES, a new IT system designed to improve the management of animal movements both from outside the EU and within the EU. TRACES will consolidate and simplify existing systems and create better tools for managing animal disease outbreaks. All those concerned by animal trade authorities and economic operators will benefit from this modern web-based system, the first EU-wide e-government application in the field of food safety. David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said "The new TRACES database will facilitate tracking the 50 000 animals transported in the EU each day.

This is a major innovation and will help in case of an outbreak of an animal disease like foot and mouth disease. The new database will reduce red tape for both economic operators and competent authorities. For example, a consignment of animals moving from Spain to Italy via France can be managed with TRACES using just one electronic form rather than the separate systems and paperwork that would previously have been involved." The TRAde Control and Expert System (TRACES) will create a single central database to track the movement of animals and certain types of products both within the EU and from outside the EU.

It is expected to: > Improve the amount and quality of information to trace animal movements; > Improve the exchange of information between national and EU authorities; > Provide a system of electronic veterinary certificates enabling trade operators to enter the relevant information online; > Manage lists of establishments in non-EU countries that are authorised to export products of animal origin to the EU; > Manage rejected consignments at EU borders; > Make it possible to target controls on public and animal health and on animal welfare, including verifying that animal transport rules are fulfilled; > Centralise risk assessments of potential disease outbreaks; > Overcome language discrepancies, making information from other countries more accessible; > Integrate all users involved by creating a workflow for the exchange of documents between economic operators and competent authorities.

In the event of a disease outbreak, it is very important to be able to trace the movement of all possibly affected animals so that measures can be taken quickly to stop the further spread of the disease. In the wake of outbreaks of classical swine fever in 1997 and foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, new impetus was given to efforts to improve the computerised systems for tracing animal movements. TRACES will replace several previous systems (see Background below). Replacing these separate systems with the single TRACES system will avoid the duplication of data and make the tracing of animal movements both within and from outside the EU simpler and more efficient. The creation of a single database at a cost of 2.2 Mio € will also facilitate actions in the event of an outbreak of animal disease. TRACES is designed to be used directly by economic operators under the control of the competent veterinary authorities, so relevant information can easily be shared with customs authorities.

The TRACES system is being introduced from 1 April 2004, although Member States that are not ready at this date can continue to use the old system (ANIMO) until 31 December 2004. Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Finland joined the system from the starting date of 1 April, while the other Member States will gradually join in the months following this date. How does it work in practice? Trade within the EU: for example, a consignment of cattle being sent from Spain to Italy via France. If registered in TRACES, the dealer can fill in all details of the consignment online, sending this electronic form to the relevant Spanish competent authority. The electronic form is controlled and if the animals comply with the relevant requirements, the form is validated.

As soon as validation is given, TRACES sends the information to the competent authority at the destination, to the central competent authority in France and to all staging points, so that controls can be made en route and at the final destination. In case of a disease outbreak, it is easy to trace the consignment backwards and forwards. Import of products from outside the EU: for example, a consignment of products arrives in Antwerp. If registered in TRACES, the agent at the Border Inspection Post (BIP) will be able to fill in part I of the Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED) describing the details of the consignment. After controlling the products, the veterinary authority at the BIP will give or refuse authorisation.

If authorised, the CVED is sent to the competent authority at the destination. If the consignment is rejected, all BIPs within the EU will be informed via TRACES. TRACES will replace several separate previous systems, notably ANIMO and SHIFT. ANIMO was introduced to trace the movements of live animals and exchange information between national and EU authorities. To improve the health security for the import of animals and products from outside the EU, an information system entitled SHIFT was developed. SHIFT in turn included two other systems; the LMS system for managing lists of establishments authorised for exports to the EU and the RCS system for managing rejected consignments at the EU borders. Replacing these separate systems with the single TRACES system will avoid the duplication of data and make the tracing of animal movements simpler and more efficient.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK, 18 April 2004

Personalise Public Services -Report

Government pledges to revolutionise public services should mean letting users design services themselves, according to a think tank. Personalisation down to turning schools into "access points" could radically improve services, says the report. It says consumers who tailor their own services would create a revolution comparable to 1980s privatisation. Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged more personalisation in health and education. According to the report by Demos, a centre-left think tank, the more personalisation offered in services, the greater the expectations of the public. This demand, coupled with the power to dictate exactly what services should provide, will force the pace of reform from the bottom, suggests the report. So instead of just being able to choose a school or hospital, people could choose exactly what service they get and how it is delivered.

Access points' - In practical terms this could mean giving power to parents to choose a greater range of educational opportunities for their children, rather than simply choosing one school over another. In theory, parents could tailor their education child's education with some activities in school and others provided by outside organisations. Some schemes following these principles already exist for people with severe disabilities. In some circumstances, they can reject standard care packages and instead directly receive state funding to choose who to employ and when to fit in with their life. Charles Leadbeater, author of the report and an adviser to ministers, said the debate was now going beyond a simple consumer choice between different service providers.

"Once you start promising personalised services people will get an appetite for it and the genie will be out of the bottle," said Mr. Leadbeater. "Rather than containing this demand within existing services, the aim should be to shake up these models of public sector organisation and find new adaptive solutions. "The question is how far the government actually wants to go with personalisation." "Is it an attempt to woo middle class consumers to keep them loyal to public services by giving them more choice? "Or is it an idea that could eventually lead to more radical solutions?"

Mr. Leadbeater said the level of personalisation proposed in the report would be labour-intensive - but the results would be better, providing the most disadvantaged were properly advised. "Personalisation has the potential to reorganise the way we deliver public services," he said. "But to unlock that potential the idea needs to be taken much further than current government thinking seems to allow." The Demos report emerged out of a project with the Department for Education and Skills. Supporting the report, school standards minister David Miliband said: "High quality public services can provide liberation for millions of people. "Yet when public services fail to meet popular aspirations, their whole basis comes under threat." In a speech on public services in January, Prime Minister Tony Blair said service users with high expectations and the power to choose would be the drivers of reforms. "By arming the public with greater choice and by strengthening their individual and collective voice we are making them partners in service improvement," he said.

From BBC News, UK, by Dominic Casciani, 14 April 2004

Howard Slams Failure to Improve Public Services for Firms

Michael Howard has accused the government of letting down business by failing to reform public services. The Tory chief used a speech in Birmingham on Friday night to lambaste Labour's record on crime, education and transport. In his address to company executives he accused ministers of ignoring the needs of firms by raising taxes without an accompanying improvement in the efficiency of the public sector. As the Tories attempt to reclaim the crown of the party of business, Howard said industry policy could not be de-coupled from other departments' work. Companies bear the brunt of crime, he claimed.

"It's difficult to run a business if your trucks are stolen on a regular basis, or if your shop premises are broken into every week, or if your employees have to take time off work to deal with their home being burgled or because they have been mugged," Howard said. Economic needs - Education policy also needs to be geared towards the needs of the economy, the leader of the Opposition argued, with more vocational courses taught. "In an increasingly global economy we need to give our children the best possible education to help them compete in the modern world," Howard said. "We need teaching that is rigorous, that suits every child's talents, that helps people to achieve their best." And the scale of Britain's transport crisis could not be overcome by taxpayer's money alone, he added. "The necessary investment levels will require private-sector money, and that is as important for roads as it is for railways and buses," he argued.

From ePolitix, UK, 16 April 2004

Public Services not Delivering Choice, Says Report

Public services are still not geared up to deliver personal choice, according to a report published today. The National Consumer Council said it backed the government's mantra of choice and voice to improve public services, but claimed outcomes remained patchy. Public service reforms needed to embrace the notion of "economic consumerism", the council's report said. The study is the result of an investigation carried out by the council's own policy commission on public services, set up in December 2002 with a nine-strong panel. The commission led a cross-section of seminars across four service sectors: primary care, personal social services, secondary education and physical urban regeneration. Respondents claimed that lack of information to support choice, rather than choice itself, tended to create problems for people trying to access public services, for example, direct payments for social care.

The notion of "end users" needed to be replaced by the idea of public service "consumers" to help the government's desired reforms to become a reality, the report claimed. Choice and voice should be extended as far as possible to generate responsive services, although the report conceded that there were limits. For the rest, rationing decisions should be open and transparent, it said. On the whole, the public backs the private sector's involvement in the provision of public services, according to the commission's findings, with the majority arguing that private sector companies should be allowed to run public services if they could do so more effectively The report called for "diversity and competition of supply " to bring efficiency savings, raise standards and offer greater choice for consumers where regulation is effective. Increased choice in turn can empower consumers and result in more responsive services, it said.

Its authors also argued that best value should ensure consumer-led services are not unduly influenced by provider and commissioner interests, and these should be recognised as part of the comprehensive performance assessment. Stakeholder engagement and consultation processes needed to be improved and extended across the service delivery chain, including consumer involvement in commissioning. The commission's chairwoman, Sue Slipman, said: "People should be adequately supported to have a real say in how services are run and developed from day one when services are commissioned. Health and local authorities spend millions procuring services - this is one financial lever that could be used to great effect to ensure consumer involvement, engagement and satisfaction. "There is still a challenging distance to travel before services catch up with consumer expectation and we must build the user voice - real change will only happen when people have a real involvement in service design and delivery."

From Guardian, UK, by Hélène Mulholland, 19 April 2004

July Date Set for Head of E-government

'Most influential' role in UK IT to replace e-envoy - Whitehall officials will hold interviews next month for the 'most influential' job in UK IT - the head of e-government - with the appointee expected to start by late July. Outgoing e-envoy Andrew Pinder confirmed that his departure would "roughly" coincide with the appointee taking up their post. "I'm looking at some time around late July," he said. Cabinet Office officials have just finished short-listing the applicants for the post, and candidates will be invited to interview in May. The role was advertised as the "most influential in UK IT", but industry watchers have called for greater clarity as to whether it will have any clout. "Exactly how much power, rather than just 'influence', the new head of e-government will have remains unclear," said Eric Woods, government practice director at analyst firm Ovum. "But if the government really wants to achieve a step change in its e-government and IT programme it will have to ensure that this is a role with both power and responsibility."

From VNUNet.com, UK, by Gareth Morgan, 28 April 2004

E-Government Priorities Identified

Guidance defining what an e-enabled local council should look like has been published today by the Government. The final priority outcomes of the Local e-Government programme will support the delivery of e-services and help all local councils reach the 2005 target. The priority outcomes are closely aligned to the agreed shared priorities between central and local government outlined in the National Strategy and with the products and outcomes of the 23 National Projects. For example, e-Procurement - one of the agreed priority areas and a National Project - will now have required e-Government outcomes. These are that by 2005 appropriate e-Procurement solutions are in place, including as a minimum paperless ordering, invoicing and payment.

Authorities will be asked to show how they are achieving these priority outcomes when they submit their claims for the grant to be given against the satisfactory IEG statements they submitted in 2003. Local e-Government Minister Phil Hope said: "e-Government is a very important part of improving local services and the way local authorities interact with their communities. The local e-Government outcomes for priority services define how we will measure progress towards the December 2005 e-enabled target. "They are not a new set of targets, or additional requirements, but a robust and workable framework to help local government in its task to meet the target.

Most importantly of all, this framework will help the customer - the council taxpayer in that area - to understand what to expect from their e-enabled local council. "We have worked closely with local councils in preparing the outcomes and had a good response to our consultation. I am confident they will ensure that local authority services are e-enabled in a way that enhances their quality and availability." The set of e-Government priority outcomes announced today specifically defines what the Government means by the term 'priority service', to ensure councils are heading in the right direction with their e-government agendas and to make the monitoring process more efficient and straight-forward.

From Tenders Direct, UK, 29 April 2004

Guardian to Launch Standalone Public Services Magazine

London - The Guardian is to launch a new standalone monthly title, Public, building on its Wednesday Society Guardian supplement aimed at senior public managers working in the private and public sectors. The magazine will target key decision makers within public services across four core editorial areas of management, policy, finance and technology. It is to be published 10 times a year and edited by David Walker, The Guardian's specialist on the Blair government's "delivery" agenda and a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4's 'Analysis' programme. Formerly chief leader writer of The Independent, his career in journalism includes stints on The Times, where he covered Whitehall and local government, and The Economist.

The title will include an editorial mix of in-depth features, career support, analysis, interviews, books and conference reviews as well as case studies of work in the field. As well as drawing on Society Guardian, it will also will build on The Guardian's daily newspaper coverage of public services. Simon Waldman, The Guardian's director of digital and specialist publishing, said: "Public will combine the style, intelligence and authority of a national newspaper with the depth and understanding you expect from a specialist title." He added: "For the first time senior managers right across the spectrum of public services will have one magazine, which they can call their own. Given the wave of change happening across public services and The Guardian's proven expertise in this area, this is the right magazine for the right publisher at the right time."

The first issue of Public is currently under development and is likely to launch in June. The A4 title will be available on subscription through The Guardian and Guardian Unlimited and is aiming for a controlled circulation of 20,000 public service managers. Benjamin Wegg-Prosser will lead the commercial team as publisher. He was appointed last year as publisher of Society Guardian. Gavin Andrews will manage display advertising and sponsorship with support from Mark Lacey, public services business development manager. Guardian Recruitment Solutions will sell recruitment advertising. The launch is The Guardian's second standalone title following Money Observer, which launched in 1979. The Guardian's Society supplement celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

From Media Bulletin, UK, by Jules Grant, 27 April 2004

Letwin Asks for Meeting on Public Services 'Spin'

Tony Blair must be stopped from "spinning" statistics on public services, Tories warned today. Civil Service chief Sir Andrew Turnbull faced demands to ensure the Government figures are not fiddled. And shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin asked to meet Len Cook, head of the Office of National statistics, to receive reassurances. Mr. Letwin wrote to Mr. Cook after a leak suggested the way public sector productivity is measured could be changed. The memo, published by The Sunday Times, appeared to show public sector productivity has fallen by 10% in seven years, the shadow chancellor said.

"They also appear to show that a cabinet committee considered the possibility of changing the methods employed by the Officer of National Statistics to avoid having to reveal these embarrassing facts," he said. "I have asked Mr. Cook to see me and to assure me that he will not allow the methodology of the ONS to be influenced by political considerations in the run up to a general election. "I have asked Sir Andrew to see me in order to discuss what lies behind The Sunday Times reports and to give me reassurances about the enforcement of propriety in the conduct of Government." Mr. Letwin added: "There is now clear evidence that both the Government's ability to deliver public service improvement and the overall productivity of the economy are being compromised by reducing public sector productivity. "The taxpayer is being let down by Labour."

From Scotland on Sunday, UK, by James Lyons, 26 April 2004

Blair Gets Jitters on Public Services

Tony Blair does not believe he is persuading people that public services are getting better, a leaked Government document has revealed. The Prime Minister is so worried about the perception that health and education are not improving that he has ordered ministers to launch a new public relations drive. Minutes of a cabinet committee meeting last month also say he is keen for the Office for National Statistics to bring in quick changes to the way it measures public sector productivity, as the current method shows a recent decline. "Figures suggested that 60 per cent of the public believed they had not seen an improvement in public services," according to the minutes, quoted in a Sunday newspaper. Ministers agreed it was important for departments to develop "a proper system of rebuttal to address challenges on public sector performance". Oliver Letwin, the shadow chancellor, said: "The Government should be focusing on delivering real reform in Britain's public services rather than just playing with the way the figures are calculated to create the illusion of progress."

From Telegraph.co.uk, UK, by Andrew Sparrow, 25 April 2004

 

UN Report - E-government in Region Faces Multiple Snags

Beirut - Countries in the Middle East may talk the technological lingo, but just how serious most are about preparing, promoting and facilitating the use of electronic government and actual electronic participation remains to be seen. At least that was the underlying indication of the UN's latest report - the 2003 E-Government at the Crossroads, which assessed the electronic governance readiness and electronic participation of 173 countries worldwide, both on a quantitative and qualitative level. According to the report, the United Kingdom is the world's leader in e-participation and Chile is the highest ranked developing country. Forty countries tied for last place. In e-government readiness, the United States leads the world while Palau comes in last.

Among 15 countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), only the United Arab Emirates appeared high up on the list, ranking 38th worldwide and first in the region. "Moving toward e-government shows that you are committed to development," says Nassib Ghobril, a researcher at the Saradar Investment House in Beirut, who analyzed the UN Report, focusing on the results for the MENA region, including Israel and Iran. "The concept behind e-government is to speed-up actions, avoid middlemen and reduce the size and costs of governments," he explains. In addition, adds Ghobril, the aim of e-government is to improve services to the population at large, enhance interaction with business and industry, and empower citizens through access to information. "Bahrain and Oman are up and coming when it comes to e-government," Ghobril says, referring to his findings. "And the UAE has shown that it is serious about its commitment."

The UAE's high ranking is related in part to such online services as those offered by the Ministry of Finance and Industry where customers can register, fill out forms, upload documents and pay online. The UN report appraised the use of electronic government as a tool to provide services to the general public by assessing three main aspects: websites, telecommunication infrastructure and human resources. "Human capital is the most important thing to start with," says Ghobril. "In essence you need a population that can access and use the internet." A second 2003 UN report on information technology in the region supports the idea that development of skilled human resources lies at the core of any information and communication technologies strategy. The UN Regional Profile of the Information Society in Western Asia shows that Egypt, Jordan and UAE - although on the third level of a four tier system - are ahead in the region in terms of information and communication technology (ICT).

This indicator is related to levels of awareness, number of computers at schools and ICT training in university programs - key factors to make the transition to e-government. Countries on this third level are achieving significant output, as measured in terms of ICT-educated graduates. Recommendations for improvement include focusing on building local world-class ICT educational facilities, and transforming the education into an effective research development and innovation source, thereby enhancing growth and exports. According to the report, these countries should expand their partnerships to include other universities and research institutes. In terms of overall e-readiness, the study ranks the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan and Lebanon ahead of Indonesia, Belize and Guyana. However, all four are behind Fiji, St Kitts & Nevis and Costa Rica. Moreover, while most countries in the region have plans to move forward, only Jordan and UAE have adopted clear strategies.

Ghobril says that, in terms of telecommunications infrastructure - which covers personal computers, telephone lines, television sets, internet usage, on-line population and mobile subscriptions - the UAE is excelling, and Bahrain and Qatar are not far behind. "The primary factors contributing to a high level of e-government readiness are past investments in human resources and telecom infrastructure," says Ghobril. Despite a worldwide trend toward setting up national portal or gateway sites, the ability of individual governments to develop and present portals in an integrated fashion is uneven. There is a strong correlation between the existence of a formal e-government policy and the overall quality of a country's websites. "Government websites are being established in a haphazard manner," says Ghobril.

Then there is the quality of specific government electronic facilities and services, such as the relevance and usefulness of the information that a government presents on its websites. The UN report analyzes how the government interacts with people and encourages their input online, how it promotes e-government services, and the degree to which it encourages the public to participate in deciding public policy issues. "Jordan, despite limited resources, is ahead when it comes to both indices," says Ghobril. "King Abdullah has decided ICT and high-tech are a high priority to attract investors." Although most MENA ministries and government institutes are launching new and modified websites, as well as linking them to their databases when applicable, there are those countries - Iraq, Libya, Qatar and Syria - that scored zero on the UN's electronic participation scale.

Another key issue, according to Ghobril, is access. In countries like Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia or Syria, where you have large populations, this can be difficult. For many, lack of trust when it comes to dealing with the government is a stumbling point. "There are some cultural obstacles. People are suspicious about interacting online," he says. "In order for things to change there needs to be sustained information campaigns." The UN has recommended that governments in the region share information, rather than begin from scratch. They should also introduce administrative reforms to encourage transparency and accountability, as well as adopt an enabling fiscal environment that attracts investment. Additionally, some countries need to show they are serious about changes. Ghobril points to the fact that Lebanon has been paying lip service regarding laws on electronic signature for years. But "when a country like Dubai declares a priority area, things are done in record time," says Ghobril.

From MENAFN, Middle East, 6 April 2004

Dubai Ranks Among Top 10 Digital Cities in E-government Privacy and Security

Dubai has outranked several digitally advanced cities in the world, including Dublin, Paris and Copenhagen, in terms of privacy and security on its official portal, according to a new global survey that covered 100 major cities. The survey of the official city websites, conducted by Rutgers University (the State University of New Jersey), ranked Dubai in the 9th position, along with Auckland, scoring 7.86 out of 20 points, against the average score of 2.85. The survey ranked Dubai 11th worldwide in the service delivery category, ahead of Dublin, Helsinki and Tokyo, according to Dubai-based Madar Research Group, which has released the findings.

'Outranking highly developed countries is a commendable achievement for Dubai, and reflects the leading edge systems that have been adopted by Dubai eGovernment to ensure the highest levels of security and privacy,' said Salem Al Shair, Director eServices, Dubai eGovernment. 'This recognition is an indication that Dubai has laid the right infrastructure for e-governance and can now work towards encouraging wider use of eServices.' The security and privacy section of the survey examined the availability and quality of privacy policies, and looked at issues related to authentication, encryption, digital signature, data management and use of cookies.

According to the findings, only 17 cities showed that they identified the organizations collecting data on their websites and only 14 cities identified the kind of data being collected. Dubai was one of the 12 cities whose privacy policy identified both. In service delivery, Dubai was ranked 11th worldwide, with a score of 8.25 (out of 20) against the world average of 4.77. The report also cited Dubai as one of only 10 cities that have websites allowing citizens to pay 'fees' online. 'Service delivery is one area in which Dubai eGovernment has been making rapid strides, and this was recognized in earlier studies, including the one based on European Union standards last year,' said Al Shair. 'While these accolades provide satisfaction to us, the more important job is to strive harder to attain new benchmarks.

Dubai is a city that is never content to sit on its laurels. We will continue to achieve better standings in the future in all respects of e-governance.' The survey which used 92 key indicators to evaluate websites under five core parameters gave weighted scoring of 20 points each, to add up to a total score of 100. Taking all parameters into account, Dubai was ranked 18th , ahead of Sydney and Jakarta. The top five cities in digital governance were Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and Shanghai. Dubai was the only city from the Arab world to make the top 20 list. Other Arab cities figuring in the Top 100 list were Amman, Manama, Riyadh, Cairo and Beirut, according to the Rutgers University survey.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 26 April 2004

 

E-gov Efforts Moving Forward? Depends Who You Ask

Graduation day is coming for the 25 Quicksilver initiatives, and some projects won't be walking across the stage. Many of the Office of Management and Budget's e-government projects have failed to meet or have only partially met most of their objectives over the past two years, a senior General Accounting Office official told lawmakers last month. Because of that, the Quicksilver initiatives will fall short of full deployment this summer, said Linda Koontz, GAO's director of information issues. OMB and several e-government project managers disputed the GAO findings. Only two projects, Grants.gov and IRS Free File, have achieved all their objectives, Koontz said. Another five accomplished more than half. Of the 91 objectives originally set for the projects, GAO found 33 have been met; 38 have been partially achieved; and for 17, no significant progress has been made.

Auditors also noted that three objectives were no longer applicable to their projects. "We didn't see all positive progress," she said at a recent hearing of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census. "OMB and agencies are behind where they thought they were going to be, and some things will not be completed in their original time frame." Project Safecom, Consolidated Health Informatics and the Business Gateway are examples of slow-moving projects, she said.

Big difference - "There is quite a bit of difference in what the projects achieved," Koontz said. "Some were more clever than others in putting down achievable objectives for the two-year period. Other objectives were much harder and were never achievable." In an interview, Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT, said GAO's evaluation likely came before her staff analyzed the project plans to make sure they were in step with the 2002 and 2003 e-government strategy. "GAO's evaluation does not accurately reflect where we are today," Evans said. "We are working toward a technical deployment, which is a lot of what GAO looked at, but we also are dealing with [projects' adoption by users]. These mean different things for each project."

OMB officials and the CIO Council set Sept. 30 as a deadline for at least 80 percent of the projects to be fully deployed, hoping the initiatives would let agencies redirect $100 million in redundant spending. The administration also is requiring agencies to develop marketing plans, define full utilization and, for some projects, switch to a fee-for-service model. "We are on a death march to get these projects finished," said Mary Mitchell, the General Services Administration's deputy associate administrator for e-government and technology. "Every project manager is pushing their schedule as hard as they can to deliver on the promise." Evans said graduation day means different things for each project. For some, it means reaching the target audience and achieving the project's metrics. For others, it means defining standards and architectures and seeing results in procurements.

Although Koontz expressed concern over the initiatives, project managers told GCN they have achieved much success. Kim Nelson, CIO of the Environmental Protection Agency, said she is shocked by how much progress agencies have made. "Based on my state government experience, I would never have guessed we would have advanced so far," she said. "This is pretty remarkable, and we've done it without a blueprint to follow." Norm Enger, e-government project director for the Office of Personnel Management, said he had been skeptical that much would get accomplished on his agency's five projects. "We have been able to show change can take place," he said. "E-government broke the ice because of intelligent planning and leadership. We showed we can transform how government works."

Moving targets - Other project directors said GAO's concerns were unwarranted. "GAO looked at information from the business cases we submitted last summer," Mitchell said. "A number of initiatives supplied updates, but GAO has to have a baseline starting point for all the projects. We know they will never be perfectly accurate." Charlie Grymes, project manager for Recreation One-Stop at the Interior Department, said it is difficult for GAO to evaluate all 25 projects because they are moving targets. "We've adjusted our objectives because we are learning as we go," he said. Mitchell said the reason GAO and others believe some of the e-government projects are less successful is the lack of tangible evidence. "There is more progress than GAO said, but if you take a project like E-Travel, we have migration plans and are moving toward a common solution, but until you get major transactions running through this thing, it is really hard to prove your success," she said. "But the reality is in small cases we have proved a lot of these projects will work."

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 5 April 2004

Wisconsin Public Service Customers in Greater Debt

Post-winter period and high fuel are suspected factors - The government will not be alone in collecting payments this tax season; after April 15, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation will likely cut service to customers with accumulated, unpaid winter bills. More than 20,000 utility customers are falling behind in their bill payments, according to WPS which provides electricity and natural gas for 500,000 customers in north central and northeast Wisconsin and a portion of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In a news release on Monday, the company reported that the number of individuals missing payments has not increased, but the amount that customers are not paying has risen by 30 percent, an average of $600 compared to last year.

According to Jim Ollmann, WPS corporate credit administrator, creeping economic growth and skyrocketing fuel costs have contributed to customers' inability to pay bills. In the winter, the company cannot shut off services to those who do not pay their bills and many customers have allowed unpaid bills to accumulate. "We've tried and tried to contact most of these customers," Ollman said. "When we're able to make contact we can generally come to some agreement to keep service on, but when customers are avoiding us, there's not much we can do and it will take a substantial effort from those customers to keep service." After April 15, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin authorizes the company to discontinue service to customers who have not paid.

To arrange a payment schedule, customers must initiate contact with the company's communication center at 1-800-450-7260. Customers will confront significant downpayments if they made little attempt to pay winter bills and should expect to pay bills completely before the next heating season. Changes in staffing requires an individual to settle utility bills by phone and not in person at the company's walk-in centers. WPS promotes online services, such as energy cost predictions and energy-saving tips. Advisors can help households with special circumstances. WPS provides a budget billing option in which an average monthly bill accommodates for changing heating needs throughout the year.

From The Green Bay News-Chronicle, WI, 7 April 2004

Georgia Commissioner Releases Public Service Announcement Educating Residents on Dangers of Bogus Insurance Companies

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine announced the launch of a public service announcement (PSA) that will inform consumers of the dangers of purchasing insurance policies from unauthorized companies. "These bogus insurance companies sell policies that hold no value and pay nothing to the policyholder when a claim is made," Oxendine said. "Consumers may often see offers from these insurers on telephone poles, direct mail and non-prime time television." In Georgia, approximately 30 such companies have been reported to the Commissioner's office. Fraud investigations by Oxendine's office have resulted in closure of several of the bogus companies' operations.

The PSA is sponsored by the Georgia Association of Health Plans and will run on television and radio stations statewide until June 1. The members of the Georgia Association of Health Plans include: Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, CIGNA HealthCare, Coventry Health Care, Great-West Healthcare, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and United Healthcare. "The Georgia Association of Health Plans supports Commissioner Oxendine's efforts," said Kirk McGhee, executive director. "Our plans understand the need to provide Georgians with quality insurance coverage that meets their needs and upholds the standards of the Commissioner's office."

From Insurance Journal, 5 April 2004

Citizen's Council Tapes a Great Public Service

Truck mechanic Al Yenney and his hand-held video camera are showing Pasco residents what C-SPAN viewers learned long ago: There is no substitute to seeing for yourself. In January, Yenney bought two used Sony video cameras and began taping Pasco City Council meetings. Charter Cable last month agreed to air the tapings on its public access channel. Yenney's effort is open government in its rawest form - by and for the people. It's the next best thing to being there. And for some people, it's closest they will ever come to it. Viewers can tune in at 8 p.m. Wednesdays to find out for themselves whether the council debate was as heated as their neighbor said it was, or the public testimony as compelling as the media reported, or the councilman as off-base as the letter to the editor writer contends. In other words, Pasco residents can see unfiltered public process, get to know the personalities of their elected officials and make up their own minds.

Maybe then, with the process demystified and the conclusions theirs instead of someone else's, more people will be encouraged to voice their opinion. The more involvement, the better government gets. Kennewick has yet to televise its meetings, but Richland has done so since 1999. That city took a different tack, hiring its own video staff and using franchise negotiations with the cable company to wrangle a donation of $250,000 in video production equipment and the use of a devoted city government channel. Mike Charboneau, Richland's cable communications coordinator who spends about 30 hours a month taping and producing shows on public meetings for the channel, says it has been a success at encouraging public involvement. New people who show up to speak to the council come informed - they even know how to use the city's document reader for exhibits.

One big difference between the Richland and Pasco broadcasts is availability. Richland's meetings are shown on the city's government channel and therefore are available only to city residents. Because Yenney's tape is shown on the general public access channel, Richland and Kennewick residents can tune in too. That wider distribution is perhaps where the Tri-Cities should be headed. Few Tri-City residents are interested in the decisions of merely one city. We may live in Pasco, but work in Richland and shop in Kennewick. What happens in each of the three cities is everyone's business. It is fitting that Pasco - a city with a history of colorful characters - would be brought into the 21st century of open government by one. Yenney is performing an outstanding public service, and his fellow residents owe him their gratitude. Let's hope his enthusiasm is infectious.

From Mid Columbia Tri City Herald, WA, 6 April 2004

Aberdeen: How Public Sector Agencies Innovate with E-government

Aberdeen Group finds automation and networked computer systems on the uptake, as public sector organizations strive to fulfill new service initiatives. A new white paper by Katherine Jones, a managing director at Aberdeen, reviews the key issues and challenges that prevail as today's public sector organizations strive to meet e-gov initiatives. She focuses on how agencies and municipalities have viewed their charters, as well as how they have begun to address requirements to serve their citizenry. She also looks at how public service organizations have used collaborative control and distributed accountability, shared services, and provision of services via the Web to meet their initiatives and provide services to their constituents. Follow the link for the free white paper, E-government: Mission-Critical for the Citizen-Centric Public Sector.

From Tekrati (press release), United States, 1 April 2004

E-Government? Be Patient

Federal e-government operations not up to speed - Federal efforts to make government services more accessible to citizens by offering a wider range of services and information over the Internet are not going as well as hoped. Only two of the 25 "e-government" projects sponsored by the Bush administration last year have met their first-year goals, according to the director of information management for the General Accounting Office. Linda Koontz testified March 24 to the House Subcommittee on Technology that while the Internal Revenue Service's tax e-file and Health and Human Service's grants sites are measurably improving citizens' ability to work with those departments, the other 23 major e-government projects are coping with problems ranging from a lack of focus, wavering executive commitment and poor coordination with partner agencies.

From CityLimits.org, 5 April 2004

Barrington-area Man Remembered for Public Service

When it came to defending his country, Henry E. Cooke Jr. never questioned his duty. But when it came to spending Barrington Township tax dollars, he never stopped asking questions. "Hank," as friends knew him, a decorated World War II veteran who put in a half-century's worth of public service in the Barrington area, died last week at 83 at Rosewood Care Center in Inverness. On Saturday, family and friends recalled a humble war hero, smiling ski aficionado, hard-working professional and dedicated public servant whose career dated back to Barrington Township's rural post-war days. In his 58 years living in what is now Barrington Hills, he volunteered as marshal of the Middlebury Police Department and was among the early leaders of the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District.

From the mid-1980s through mid-1990s, he served as a Barrington Township trustee. Former township Supervisor Martha Rush said Cooke provided a voice of balance and responsibility to the board. "He'd pick into everything," she said. "He was extremely conservative with (money) and wanted to make sure that every dollar spent was a tax dollar that needed to be spent." Born in Geneva, Cooke enlisted in the Army in 1942. On Dec. 6, 1944, he was on a supply mission in Leyte, Philippines, when he heard combat in the distance. He and two fellow soldiers tracked down the fighting to a group of 30 lightly armed, leaderless Americans under attack by some 150 Japanese soldiers.

Lt. Cooke assumed command, acquired weapons and mustered an "effective defense" for the better part of a day before relief came, according to his commendation for heroism, which awarded him a Bronze Star. "He never bragged about any of that, but he was a very proud American soldier," Cooke's daughter, Muffy, said Saturday. After returning from the war, he married Debby Wilder and the couple built a house on land owned by Wilder's father, Emory. The couple lived there, had two children, and remained married until Wilder died in 2000. Muffy Cooke also recalled her father as a hard-working man. He spent 45 years with T.C. Industries Inc. in Crystal Lake before retiring in 1993 as vice president. In addition, he volunteered for Boy Scouts Troop 21, and saw his son, John, through as Eagle Scout. Cooke died from prolonged complications from a heart procedure done two years ago. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. May 15 at St. James Episcopal Church in West Dundee.

From Chicago Daily Herald, IL, by Dave Orrick, 4 April 2004

At the Local Level, There Is Still Public Service in Government

We've just spent several weeks interviewing candidates for political office, and, as in past years, we've been told "I'm running because I want to give something back to the community" so often that I've begun to hear it in my sleep. I've been sorely tempted, on occasion, to reply with one of two rejoinders: 1) Well, guess we can all expect to get checks in the mail when you give back some of the outrageous amounts you've been taking in taxes. Just kidding. Or, 2) What was it exactly that you took from the community, and aren't you ashamed that it's taken you this long to fess up? Just kidding. Actually, I'm not quite as cynical as I sound about that sentiment. I know some candidates express it just because it's the kind of thing you're supposed to say when running for office, right up there with "I will seek to build consensus" and "My top priority will be keeping the lines of communication open."

But many - maybe even most - of the candidates are quite sincere when they say they want to give something back. They are expressing a view of elective office that's almost been lost everywhere but at the local level: public service. You become a candidate because you believe government is the way we pursue mutual interests and because you believe you have something to contribute to the common good. Our representatives in city and county government and even, to a lesser extent, state government, are still our friends and neighbors, fellow church members and business associates. They aren't tunnel-vision functionaries hemmed in by a bureaucratic maze of rules and regulations. Here at the local level, government has not quite yet become an us-vs.-them pushing and shoving match. It's still possible to experience - and not be cynical about - government "of, by and for the people."

From Fort Wayne News Sentinel, IN, by Leo Morris, 17 April 2004

Revive Public Services, Union Urges

Toronto - OPSEU wants Tory cuts restored, but isn't prepared to absorb the cost all alone. Ontario's key public-sector union said yesterday it is putting the provincial Liberal government on notice that it's becoming more politically active. Leah Casselman, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, told about 1,200 delegates at their annual convention that if they want change, they will have to make it. Playing on last fall's Liberal election cry of "choose change," the theme of the three-day union convention is "make change." In her opening address, Casselman said the province must rebuild public services, but civil servants alone will not bear the brunt of that; taxes must be raised. In an interview, she said relations between OPSEU and the McGuinty government are "very positive." "We're having more meetings with this government in the last six months than I had with the Tories in the last eight years, which speaks volumes."

She said the union would keep pressing the government to rebuild public services downsized by the Harris and Eves governments. "People want to see people on welfare looked after. They want to see our hospitals working, our schools working, our communities . . . much safer." Despite warmer relations with the Liberals, Casselman said OPSEU would help the NDP rebuild the political left. She said that reflects the work done by OPSEU members. "They're working with people with development disabilities. They're working with people with mental illness. You don't hear about that in health-care arguments. "We need voices that understand the importance of that work and champion that work. I don' t hear that from the Tories, I don't hear that from Stephen Harper. I never heard that from Mike Harris or Ernie Eves."

From London Free Press, Canada, by Paul Cross, 16 April 2004

Civil Servants Weigh in Against CAPPS II

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has added its voice to the chorus of criticism over the Transportation Security Administration's Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) II. The program seeks to keep terrorists off commercial aircraft by enabling airport security officials to consult a list of potentially dangerous travelers and detain would-be airline passengers who appear on it. In assailing the controversial system, members of the civil service union pointed to what they view as glitches in TSA's hiring and grievance process, which began in 2002 when the agency underwent a massive federalization effort, in which it reviewed more than 1.7 million applications and hired more than 55,000 screeners. Allegations of improper hiring practices have yielded 841 complaints, plus about 45 others received by the House Government Reform Committee.

TSA officials have defended the legality of CAPPS II and say they have taken steps to rectify systemic problems, but the AFGE suggested that its members' experience could foreshadow screening problems. "TSA can't even take care of its own employees," federation spokesperson Diane Witiak argued. "If they can't do it internally, and there's no appeals process for workers who have been unfairly fired, how can they deal with the traveling public?" CAPPS II has drawn intense criticism from some members of Congress and a host of civil liberty groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a class-action lawsuit against TSA, charging that the program violates individual rights, including those of eight of its own members who found themselves on the so-called "no-fly list."

From FCW.com, by Sarita Chourey, 18 April 2004

Downsizing Now a Painful Reality for Civil Services

When President Bush was elected, many feds nicknamed his administration Bush II. They assumed it meant a continuation of the policies, from pay reform to courting the career Senior Executive Service, that endeared former President George Bush to many in the civil service. But after three years, some feds say a more correct description of this administration is Reagan III, the Clinton years being Reagan II. Aided by a less confrontational civil service and the first Republican-controlled Congress in decades, many of the reforms dreamed of by President Reagan's administration have come to pass. Congress has given agencies whose work force is more than half civil service the authority - and the blessings - to depart from civil service rules and procedures in areas of hiring, firing, pay, promotions, appeal rights and union representation.

Downsizing continues, though not at the brisk and expensive (more than 140,000 buyouts averaging $25,000 each) pace set by the Clinton administration. New, streamlined rules aimed at speeding up competition between federal workers and contractors bidding for their jobs are being used by more and more agencies. There is a pattern - presumably to keep federal workers happy or at least in the dark - of making a big deal when civil servants beat out contractors in relatively small, low-budget bidding battles, but not issuing press releases when contractors more often than not win bigger, more lucrative contracts from Uncle Sam. The Bush administration also has continued the Clinton policy of ignoring the 1990 Federal Pay Act (enacted by a Democratic Congress and signed by the first President Bush), and instead given civil servants smaller raises than promised under the pay formula and attempted to give them smaller percentage pay raises than those proposed for the military.

Normally, this kind of thing would be inside baseball, inside-the-beltway talk of interest only to the relatively small group of lawyers, lobbyists, policy wonks and reporters who follow civil service matters. But it has a direct bearing on even the lowest-ranking fed, in the remotest outpost of government. Unions that largely were silent during the 1990s downsizing - which eliminated thousands of promotion opportunities for rank-and-file feds - and a series of diet pay raises either found their voices or came under new management with new leaders. They are now blasting the Bush administration for just about every move it makes. Life in the civil service has always been about a lot more than pay, benefits and job security. Now many government workers who once read about private companies outsourcing and issuing pink slips realize that such news items are no longer confined to the business section of hometown newspapers. Many realize that they are now getting the business, too. (Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com).

From Washington Times, DC, byMike Causey, 21 April 2004

Ideas Wanted for E-gov Business Lines

The Bush administration seeks vendor ideas for the next phase of e-government - the line-of-business initiative. The General Services Administration, working with the Office of Management and Budget, released a request for information on the governmentwide consolidation efforts in three business areas: financial management, human resources and grants management. Vendors have until May 17 to submit ideas for a common solution and target architecture for the lines of business. The goal is to identify systems, best practices and migration strategies to develop common business processes, according to the RFI. Officials plan to begin the acquisition process in fiscal 2005. "This will enable the [lines of business] agency managing partners to incorporate strategies, alternatives, and experiences, representing best practices in developing and implementing transformational common solutions and a target enterprise architecture, into business cases for these lines of business in time for the [fiscal] 2006 budget process," the document states. The other two identified lines of business are case management and federal health architecture.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 16 April 2004

Public Service Commission Rejects 10% Increase in Water Rates

Ledgeview - The town can't raise water rates to users as planned, mainly because recent water system improvements were aimed at better fire protection and expansion for future users, according to the state Public Service Commission. The PSC recently notified the town that its proposed 10 percent rate hike for existing water users - amounting to about $40 per year - was inappropriate and said the cost of improvements including a water reservoir and pump house should be borne by all town residents. As the plan stands, $66,781 in infrastructure costs would go on the tax levy as part of a fire protection charge with PSC approval, according to Luann Pansier, clerk-treasurer for the sanitary district and town treasurer.

The increase is the subject of a PSC hearing April 30. If the proposal is approved by the PSC, property tax bills could go up 15 cents for every $1,000 of home value, or about $30 added to the tax bill of a $200,000 home, according to Pansier. About 1,080 homes receive water from the town sanitary district; some rural homes still have wells. To Ledgeview Sanitary District water user Max Frost, the stymied 10 percent rate hike and te new plan both seem like peanuts compared to his cost to connect to the sanitary district for water and sewer last fall. The homeowner in the Ridges of Dollar Creek subdivision racked up $20,667 in expenses to hook up to the system only about a year after he paid to dig a well and install a holding tank.

"What are you going to do? It's just money,'' Frost said. "If you don't use it, you're going to lose it. We're just using some of it.'' While he recognizes that Ledgeview water rates are higher than they were when he lived in De Pere, Frost said the small increase on his water or tax bill won't make a significant difference in the long run. Other water users might feel the same way, given that Pansier received only two calls when the initial hike was announced. "I thought … the phones would be ringing off the hook,'' Pansier said. She said Ledgeview's water rates are higher than several surrounding communities, including De Pere and Green Bay, but that they're not outrageous compared to other rates statewide.

The PSC ruling came recently after it completed a review of the rate hike request, Pansier explained. The new plan to raise revenues through all property taxpayers faces a public hearing by teleconference in Ledgeview and at the PSC offices in Madison at 9 a.m. April 30. Ratepayers may be heard at either of these locations: o The conference room of the Town Hall, 3700 Dickinson Road. o The Tomorrow River Conference Room at the PSC offices, 610 N. Whitney Way, Madison. Water users currently pay about $100 per quarter for water based on a typical 17,000-gallon usage. Users are billed $33 for the first 3,000 gallons and about $4 per 1,000 gallons for additional water use. In addition, a flat per-house bill of $52 for sanitary sewer service is charged.

From Green Bay Press Gazette, WI, by Jim Kneiszel, 20 April 2004

Downsizing Now a Painful Reality for Civil Services

When President Bush was elected, many feds nicknamed his administration Bush II. They assumed it meant a continuation of the policies, from pay reform to courting the career Senior Executive Service, that endeared former President George Bush to many in the civil service. But after three years, some feds say a more correct description of this administration is Reagan III, the Clinton years being Reagan II. Aided by a less confrontational civil service and the first Republican-controlled Congress in decades, many of the reforms dreamed of by President Reagan's administration have come to pass. Congress has given agencies whose work force is more than half civil service the authority - and the blessings - to depart from civil service rules and procedures in areas of hiring, firing, pay, promotions, appeal rights and union representation.

Downsizing continues, though not at the brisk and expensive (more than 140,000 buyouts averaging $25,000 each) pace set by the Clinton administration. New, streamlined rules aimed at speeding up competition between federal workers and contractors bidding for their jobs are being used by more and more agencies. There is a pattern - presumably to keep federal workers happy or at least in the dark - of making a big deal when civil servants beat out contractors in relatively small, low-budget bidding battles, but not issuing press releases when contractors more often than not win bigger, more lucrative contracts from Uncle Sam.

The Bush administration also has continued the Clinton policy of ignoring the 1990 Federal Pay Act (enacted by a Democratic Congress and signed by the first President Bush), and instead given civil servants smaller raises than promised under the pay formula and attempted to give them smaller percentage pay raises than those proposed for the military. Normally, this kind of thing would be inside baseball, inside-the-beltway talk of interest only to the relatively small group of lawyers, lobbyists, policy wonks and reporters who follow civil service matters. But it has a direct bearing on even the lowest-ranking fed, in the remotest outpost of government.

Unions that largely were silent during the 1990s downsizing - which eliminated thousands of promotion opportunities for rank-and-file feds - and a series of diet pay raises either found their voices or came under new management with new leaders. They are now blasting the Bush administration for just about every move it makes. Life in the civil service has always been about a lot more than pay, benefits and job security. Now many government workers who once read about private companies outsourcing and issuing pink slips realize that such news items are no longer confined to the business section of hometown newspapers. Many realize that they are now getting the business, too. (Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com).

From Washington Times, DC, by Mike Causey, 20 April 2004

Ideas Wanted for E-gov Business Lines

The Bush administration seeks vendor ideas for the next phase of e-government - the line-of-business initiative. The General Services Administration, working with the Office of Management and Budget, released a request for information on the governmentwide consolidation efforts in three business areas: financial management, human resources and grants management. Vendors have until May 17 to submit ideas for a common solution and target architecture for the lines of business. The goal is to identify systems, best practices and migration strategies to develop common business processes, according to the RFI.

Officials plan to begin the acquisition process in fiscal 2005. "This will enable the [lines of business] agency managing partners to incorporate strategies, alternatives, and experiences, representing best practices in developing and implementing transformational common solutions and a target enterprise architecture, into business cases for these lines of business in time for the [fiscal] 2006 budget process," the document states. The other two identified lines of business are case management and federal health architecture.

From FCW.com, by Sara Michael, 19 April 2004

New Mexico E-gov Marches On

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson apparently plans to move ahead with establishing a government e-portal to consolidate access to government services, even though the legislature earlier this year voted down a bill that would have authorized management and funding for the portal. The legislature opposed plans put forward by Richardson to fund the portal through user fees for certain government-generated records. According to critics, this would essentially turn publicly-owned records into a commercial venture. But according to an Associated Press report, Stephen Easley, New Mexico's deputy chief information officer, reportedly believes the governor can move forward with the e-portal without the legislature's backing.

The administration plans to issue a request for proposals soon for private contractors to operate the portal. Easley thinks the portal could be online by the end of 2004. Calls to Easley's office were not returned by press time. New Mexico government agencies are under pressure to cut costs. Richardson recently mandated a hiring freeze for some IT-related jobs and ordered a consolidation of other IT operations with the aim of eventually saving some $30 million a year. The executive order also directed a reorganization in agency management to give the state's top IT officers a better idea of technology needs and how to more effectively spend money. Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

From FCW.com, by Brian Robinson, 16 April 2004

E-gov Effort Seeks to Pare Redundant Spending

Companies responding to the federal government's request for information for new e-government projects should provide ideas for systems that integrate existing initiatives whenever possible, said Norm Enger, e-government project director for the Office of Personnel Management. Enger and other government officials spoke today at an industry briefing in Washington about the government's April 15 RFI on systems that will handle federal agency needs in human resources, financial management and grants management. For example, the grants.gov Web site, which receives grant applications, will remain the storefront for the grants management initiative, said Mark Carney, chief financial officer at the Education Department. The new grants management solution will go beyond application intake to handle back-office functions for the government's 26 grant-making agencies, said Mary Santonastasso, director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Grants and Agreements.

With the new systems, Office of Management and Budget officials want to improve efficiency and cut millions of dollars in redundant spending across the agencies. Agencies are expected to spend $1.2 billion on development and enhancement projects in these areas in 2004 and 2005, according to OMB. The new initiatives are different than the government's initial e-government efforts because they will go beyond single functions, such as e-payroll, to cover the entire gamut of human resources, financial management and grants management processes, Enger said. Contractors have until May 17 to respond to the RFI by describing systems and implementation approaches. Contractors can submit ideas in one, two or all three lines of business, officials said. Contractors' ideas should comply with the federal enterprise architecture, said Richard Brozen, an assistant to Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT.

Officials clarified that they are looking for ideas from industry that will result in the procurement of several new systems in the three lines of business. Companies should not assume the government wants only one system in each area, they said. Business cases for the new systems will be prepared for the fiscal 2006 budget cycle; requests for proposals will be issued in 2005 and 2006, said John Sindelar, director of OMB's line-of-business project. A more specific schedule for procuring the new solutions and the methods of funding has not been established. Those details cannot be worked out until the RFI responses have been reviewed, said Sindelar, who also serves as deputy associate administrator for governmentwide policy at the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy. "We hope to have many successes in place by FY07," he said.

Sindelar said no decisions have been made about freezing agency spending on redundant systems, but he added: "We are not going to invest in systems that will be redundant with what we are trying to do in the future." Financial management solutions must include accounting; asset and liability management; payments; budget and finance; collections and receivables; and reporting, Brozen said. Grants solutions should handle the entire grants management process, from application through award closeout and financial reconciliation, Santonastasso said. Human resources systems should address 18 functions, including vacancy tracking, recruiting, security clearance processing, payroll and benefits administration, Enger said. Agencies that have not yet joined these new e-government efforts "will have to participate," Sindelar said. "Agencies have chosen to be a part of this, or they will join us later." More information on the three lines of business can be found at http://lobv.gsa.gov.

From Washington Technology, DC, by Gail Repsher Emery, 21 April 2004

White House to E-gov Vendors: Give Us Your Best

Bush administration officials expect vendors to present their best solutions to improve efficiency and business performance in three common lines of business. At an industry day event in Washington, D.C., officials presented their visions for common e-government solutions in the financial management, grants management and human relations business lines. The administration is leaving details of the solutions up to the vendors. "We need your innovative thoughts," said John Sindelar, director of the lines of business initiatives and the General Services Administration's deputy associate administrator for governmentwide policy. "This is a real opportunity to make the kind of changes we need to make." A request for information on a solution for each of the three lines of business was released last week. Vendors have until May 17 to submit ideas.

Two of the lines of business - case management and federal health architecture - were not included in the RFI. Rather than adopt a single system in each business area, officials are looking for a solution, which could be a set of systems, said Rose Parkes, chief information officer at the Energy Department. Vendors are expected to come up with a target architecture, identifying systems, best practices and migration strategies. "We need to have an architecture that works with our line of business, but also with the other lines of business - and it has to interface with the other e-government initiatives," Parkes said. Norm Enger, e-government project director at the Office of Personnel Management, echoed the need for an overall solution. "We're not talking about one system," he said. "We're talking about solutions that lead us to the vision. Whatever this vision is, it has to fit in with the federal enterprise architecture."

Enger also advised vendors to examine the current 24 e-government initiatives. However, where the first phase of initiatives adhered to the status quo, focusing on consolidation and what he called point solutions, this phase of e-government is moving toward transformation, Enger said. "We're looking for things that really are innovative and transformational that make a dramatic improvement in how we operate in these lines of business," he said. Another major difference between this wave and the initial Quicksilver projects is that these projects are embedded in the budget process, Sindelar said. These solutions will be incorporated into agencies' business cases in the fiscal 2006 budget process. Furthermore, the first initiatives were seen as technology projects where these initiatives are business processes supported by technology, he said.

"We're running this a little differently," Sindelar said. "We're focusing on the business process and the internal efficiency of government operations." Officials laid out the vision for each line of business and some of their expectations for vendors: o The financial management solution should improve business performance while ensuring integrity in accountability and financial controls. It will provide for the standardization of business processes and seamless data exchange between agencies. Vendors should outline where the solution will be hosted and what business processes will be provided. o The grants management solution should improve customer access to grant opportunities, improve decision-making and increase the efficiency of post-award actions. The solution should make the process transparent to the public and enhance reporting capabilities. o The human relations management solution should provide a common, standardized Human Resource Information System (HRIS) to improve government human capital management. Vendors should present a shared services solution that is scalable, portable and interoperable.

From Washington Technology, DC, bySara Michael, 21 April 2004

Lee County Looking for Money to Help Public Services

Lee County- You don't have to look far to find home construction in Lee County. Up to 1,000 people move to the county every year. That keeps builders busy nailing up new homes. "When I started about 21 years ago, we were building smaller houses here than what were in Dougherty County," said home builder Tommy Jowers. That's not the case any more. The homes keep getting bigger and people are demanding high end accessories like stainless steel appliances and hard wood floors. But it's getting harder for county and city governments to provide all the services people need. So Lee County, Leesburg and Smithville leaders are looking at impact fees to help with the problem.

"The theory behind an impact fee is that you charge new development their fare share cost of maintaining that level of service that you're already providing," said Lee County Administrator Langford Holbrook. Other counties in Georgia with a lot of new development use the fee. It's just that most of those counties are near Atlanta, and not South Georgia. "In the metro area where maybe all five core counties do, you can't just jump across the county line and get out of it. Here you could, so those are the kinds of things they're going to have to weigh as they make that decision," Holbrook said. Leaders are only considering the idea of impact fees right now. But as one of the fastest growing counties in the state, something will eventually have to be done. "When you get into that arena, you get into playing catch up with your governmental services and your infrastructure trying to catch up with your growth," Jowers said. After all, Lee County leaders want people to move here. They just want to be able to provide them with quality services.

From WALB-TV, GA, 14 April 2004

Canadians Want Public Services Free from Private Sector Involvement

Hamilton - According to an Ipsos-Reid poll released today, Canadians reject private sector funding of or involvement in key public services. Canadians somewhat agree or strongly agree that: - "Canada's public services should be delivered by public sector workers accountable to elected representatives and the public, not by corporations accountable to shareholders" (84%); - "Canada should rebuild its public infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, highways and water systems, through direct public investment and not through public-private joint ventures with corporations" (75%); - "Canada's health care system should exclude corporations that operate for-profit, and instead rely solely on public and not-for-profit health care providers" (64%).

This stands in stark contrast to the policies advocated by the federal and some provincial governments, which have been actively pursuing public-private partnerships (P3s) and selling-off public assets. "When Paul Martin starts talking about 'transformative change' of the health care system, look out," said Paul Moist, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. "The Liberals seem to be listening to their corporate backers rather than Canadians when it comes to the public services we all count on." "We're not surprised by these results because we work with the public every day and we see what they see," said Moist. "When you privatize public services, costs rise and corners are cut. You can't get service - or you can't afford it - and there's no one you can hold to account.

Public services are the glue that hold our communities together and we don't want them sold off." "Years of coordinated assaults on our public system by corporate forces - like the Canadian Council on P3s, right-wing think-tanks like the Fraser Institute and for-profit companies like Chubb Insurance Corporation - have failed to convince Canadians that for-profit health care is the answer," says Council of Canadians Chairperson Maude Barlow. "This poll is a wake-up call to all politicians: listen to the values of Canadians and stop privatizing our essential services," adds Barlow. "It is a message we will keep hammering home during the upcoming election and one that politicians will ignore at their own risk." The Ipsos-Reid poll was conducted with 1057 Canadian adults between March 30 and April 1, 2004 and was commissioned by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The results are considered accurate to within (+/-) 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, and are available at www.ipsos-reid.com.

From CNW Telbec (Communiqués de presse), Canada, 9 April 2004

Revive Public Services, Union Urges

Toronto - OPSEU wants Tory cuts restored, but isn't prepared to absorb the cost all alone. Ontario's key public-sector union said yesterday it is putting the provincial Liberal government on notice that it's becoming more politically active. Leah Casselman, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, told about 1,200 delegates at their annual convention that if they want change, they will have to make it. Playing on last fall's Liberal election cry of "choose change," the theme of the three-day union convention is "make change."

In her opening address, Casselman said the province must rebuild public services, but civil servants alone will not bear the brunt of that; taxes must be raised. In an interview, she said relations between OPSEU and the McGuinty government are "very positive." "We're having more meetings with this government in the last six months than I had with the Tories in the last eight years, which speaks volumes." She said the union would keep pressing the government to rebuild public services downsized by the Harris and Eves governments.

"People want to see people on welfare looked after. They want to see our hospitals working, our schools working, our communities much safer." Despite warmer relations with the Liberals, Casselman said OPSEU would help the NDP rebuild the political left. She said that reflects the work done by OPSEU members. "They're . . . working with people with development disabilities. They're working with people with mental illness. You don't hear about that in health-care arguments. "We need voices that understand the importance of that work and champion that work. I don' t hear that from the Tories, I don't hear that from Stephen Harper. I never heard that from Mike Harris or Ernie Eves."

From London Free Press, Canada, by Paul Cross, 16 April 2004

 

More than 10 Worldwide E-gov Case Studies to Be Presented at GCC E-Government and Telecom Forum

The 10th GCC E-Government and Telecom Forum organized by Datamatix to be held from May 24th - 26th at the prestigious Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai UAE will discuss reasons why, despite serious efforts, the region is far behind e-government achievements of worldwide countries. The forum is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority. At the forum, selected best practices (e-government case studies) show the clear evidence of the changes that Public Administrations are making in their own organization in order for e-Government to deliver its full potential. During the three day meeting participants work to highlight practical measures for an improved functioning of the public sector and testify to GCC's determination in carrying through the implementation of the e-government projects.

Apart from key worldwide experts who will speak at the forum, the list of e-government leaders who are set to present case studies include Dr. Salah Abdul Rahman Al Athl President King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology Riyadh KSA, Mr. Rafat Radwan Executive Manager Information and Decision Support Centre Egypt, Dr. Robert Hilty President E-com Trust Switzerland, Mr. Charles Havekost Acting Director Department of Health USA, Dr. Ahmed Hamed Al Mohannadi General Manager Qatar e-Government Project, Mr. Salem Al Shair Director Dubai e-Government, Dr. Khaled Al Khazraji Under Secretary UAE Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Dr. Khaled M. Al Tawil, Director General National Information Centre - KSA, and Col Saeed bin Bleila General Manager Dubai Naturalization and Residency Department.

The forum will provide real evidence that the development of e-Government requires a shared vision of public sector innovation, a major interoperability of public administrations information systems, a better coordination between central and local administrations, an exchange of experiences to assess the feasibility of emerging solutions for identification, security and privacy, the recognition of the importance of R&D and the need to create e-Government services and a system of portals. Mr. Ali Al Kamali Managing Director of Datamatix and the chief organizer spoke about the background and relevance of the event. He said 'There has been much interest in the GCC and abroad in utilizing the Internet to improve communications between governments and citizens.

The Internet has great potential in giving individuals greater access to their governments, while at the same time improving efficiencies and cutting bureaucratic delay. But the reality, despite several initiatives by the GCC governments there is a sizeable portion of society which lacks both access to the Internet and the skills to use it effectively.' More than 300 participants from 14 countries have already confirmed to attend the forum, among whom more than 8 Ministerial delegations tasked with e-Government issues, numerous representatives of the GCC local institutions involved in the e-Government sector and high level managers of GCC and Middle East ICT companies. The forum is supported by leading organizations like Dubai Internet City, Dubai Naturalization and Residency Department, Microsoft, ENOC, Dubai E-Government, Ducont, BMC Software, FourStars.net, and Al Amri Lawyers UAE.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 10 April, 2004

 
 

Jumbe Apologises to Civil Servants

Finance Minister Friday Jumbe on Monday extended an olive branch for government's failure to pay civil servants their March salary on time, saying the situation was regrettable and beyond "our control". He said the development arose from technical problems not carelessness. "We regret the situation. Government realises they (civil servants) are human beings who have got plans, obligations and commitments. But the situation was just beyond our control," said Jumbe. But Civil Servants Trade Union president Thomas Banda and political scientist Nixon Khembo have warned that the salary delay might influence the voting pattern among the civil servants on May 18. "Psychologically people have been affected by this and it may be reflected at the polls. These are some of the things civil servants might be thinking of when voting," Banda warned, saying this is not the time for the government to show any signs of mistreatment towards its employees because their vote is important.

Banda was asked if he thought the delay would affect the voting pattern during the presidential and parliamentary elections. Khembo, who is Head of Governance and Democracy at the Centre for Social Research, agreed with Banda's reasoning saying, " any civil servant who supports a party which starves him or her is a mad civil servant." "That electoral choice will be digging their graves twice if they made it," said Khembo. "This ruling party has been starving them for the past ten years, but they remained loyal to it. That was the first grave they dug. Now it has starved them again at the eleventh hour. If they maintain their loyalty to it, they will be digging the second grave." Khembo, who himself got his pay on Monday morning, described government action "as bordering on killing civil servants, their families, extended families and everyone who depend on them." "What they have done is murderous. How do they expect civil servants to survive in this sick economy when they themselves are flying around yellow bellies full of food and drink while the poor public worker, who produces what they eat, is going on an empty stomach?"

But Jumbe dispelled reports that the delay was caused by President Bakili Muluzi's trip to Mozambique. "Those are irresponsible statements emanating from people who just want to gain political mileage from the situation. The monthly wage bill is about K1.7 billion, how could the President go with the whole purse to Mozambique? Jumbe said president's trip was already factored in and could not affect the salaries. "Are the people who make those allegations not surprised that when the President was returning civil servants had already started receiving their salaries." Most civil servants had not received their pay as of Monday morning.

From Nations Online, by Gedion Munthali, 5 April 2004

We'll ensure effective public Finance Management - Minister

Accra - 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: 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, who is on the last day of his three-day visit to Ghana during which he also participated 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; where 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 situation was flawed, saying it was exciting that Parliament had taken it up for attention. Mr. Wolfesohn 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 rungs 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 GhanaWeb, Ghana, 22 March 2004

Directors Educated on New Financial Administration Laws

Accra- A Financial Administration Tribunal has been established to deal with, or prosecute any financial malfeasance that might take place in the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the public sector. The tribunal, set up under the new Financial Administration Act 2003, Act 654, is made up of a High Court Judge, a Professional Accountant, Chartered Accountant, Management Accountant and a Professional Valuer, would effectively, handle such issues to ensure that public resources were used judiciously and for specific purposes. Mr. Daniel Domelovo, a Director at the Controller and Accountant General's Department, announced this on Thursday at a workshop for Regional Directors of the Ghana Education Service (GES) in Accra.

The workshop, being attended by over 40 Directors of Education, including staff from the Headquarters of the GES was to educate participants on the new Audit Reform Act 658, Procurement Reform Act 663 and the Legal and Regulatory Framework Reform Act 654. Mr. Domelovo explained that, the specialised financial tribunals were set up because the traditional courts lacked the capacity to handle such issues effectively. He said it had been the wish of the Government to integrate financial management approach into the public financial system instead of the structural approach, which was currently in use and were full of improper accounting and auditing, weak budget formulation and preparation as well as weak expenditure monitoring and control.

He indicated that, the new system would aid in the decentralisation process, under which, financial management would become part of the approach in the mainstream activities of the MDAs. Mr. Domelovo said the revision of the legal framework for financial management would ensure transparency and accountability, while the Financial Administration Act would address other components of financial systems. He said the Audit Reform Act, would promote the timely and effective audit of transactions and the Procurement Reform Act, on the other hand, would help streamline public sector procurement of goods, works and services and establish effective monitoring and tracking system.

Mr. Charles Otto, Financial Controller, GES, said since the Services was the biggest organisation that absorbed about 22.6 per cent of Government's discretionary budget, it was proper that its Directors were educated on the laws that bordered on their work, adding that, participants would also be educated on their roles within the new laws. He said a similar workshop would be held for District Directors of education all over the country before the next academic year to educate them on the same issues to be able to critically improve upon their payrolls and general management.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 29 April 2004

 

Tax Policy to Shape Society in Thailand

The Revenue Department is preparing a "roadmap" outlining tax policies related to social development policy over the next five years, according to Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. "The tax structure and policies must support the country's long-term development and transformation into a modern economy better able to compete with others in the future," he said yesterday. "At the same time, policy must be aimed at supporting the betterment of society. It's a new direction for the country's tax policy." The government expects to post a budget surplus starting from fiscal 2005 beginning this October, the first full surplus since the 1997 economic crisis.

With economic growth projected as high as 8.1 percent this year, up from 6.7 percent last year, policymakers are increasingly looking beyond short-term stimulus programmes and toward long-term development needs. Dr Somkid said tax policy would be increasingly tailored to support social development goals. Tax incentives could be offered to encourage students to further their education, for example. "The government has three tools at hand - monetary policy, fiscal policy and tax policy. We can use all three to set the future direction for the country, to outline where we want to be five years from now," he said. Tax policies could be used to encourage companies to support schools, libraries or improve the quality and reduce the price of textbooks, Dr Somkid said.

From Miami Herald, FL, by Wichit Chantanusornsiri, 25 March 2004

Public Bank-Finance merger by June

Kuala Lumpur - The legal merger of the business of Public Bank and Public Finance is expected to be completed in June 2004, chairman of Public Bank Bhd Tan Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow said. Dr Teh said following the merger, the commercial banking business of Public Bank and the finance company business of Public Finance would be operated under a single entity. The privatisation of Public Finance was completed in June 2003 with Public Finance becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of Public Bank. Throughout 2003, the rationalisation of the branch networks of Public Bank and the Public Finance was progressively carried out, Dr Teh said. "This is scheduled to be completed by the first half of 2004, after which the group will have a more efficient and effective network of around 250 branches providing full-fledged banking and financing services to the public," he said.

Dr Teh said this when reviewing the group's performance at Public Bank's 38th annual general meeting, held here Tuesday. For the financial year ended Dec 31, 2003, the group's turnover stood at RM1.46 billion, higher by 17 per cent recorded in the previous year, while the group's net profit improved by 30 per cent to cross the first RM1 billion mark. The group has proposed a first and final dividend of 22 per cent for 2003. Its market capitalisation has doubled since the beginning of 2002 to stand at RM21.2 billion at the end of March 2004, making it the sixth largest company listed on the Main Board of the Malaysia Securities Exchange Bhd (MSEB), now known as Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd. Public Bank (local) shares and Public Bank (foreign) shares closed at RM3.10 and RM3.52 respectively on March 31, 2004.

During the year, Public Bank has further expanded its market share of loans in 2003, with the group's overall loan growth rate stood at 20 per cent in 2003, while its non-performing loans fell by RM240 million in 2003. "The group's lending activities continued to be focused on the retail consumer and middle market commercial enterprises, particularly the SMEs which together accounted for 77 per cent of new loans approved during 2003," he said. Meanwhile, the Islamic banking assets of the Public Bank group stood at RM6.5 billion at the end of 2003, making up 10 per cent of total group assets.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 21 April 2004

Viet Nam Determined to Drive Back Corruption, World Bank Official

Ha Noi - The Vietnamese Government has made strong progress in the fight against corruption, using modern international methodology and consultation to detect and tackle cases of this social evil. Martin Rama, Lead Economist of the WB's Viet Nam Representative Office, made the remark at a press conference that was held by the WB in Ha Noi on Tuesday to launch the latest biannual Regional Asia Regional Update report. To prove his determination, Rama said the Vietnamese Prime Minister has asked the State Inspectorate to work out a specific strategy to combat corruption and called for international assistance in this area.

The Ministry of Finance's public financial management reform project has proved efficient, creating a transparent environment for Viet Nam's financial organisations and contributing to restricting corruption considerably, the economist added. Rama elaborated that administrative reforms, particularly the ''one-stop'' mechanism, have been carried out in every field, reducing not only administrative formalities but also corruption. Another evidence that shows the Government's determination is its decision under which all candidates for the upcoming People's Council elections will have to enumerate all their assets, Rama said, adding that the draft Inspection Law being considered by the National Assembly bans several State agencies from carrying out inspections of enterprises.

On the International Monetary Fund's move to stop disbursements for Viet Nam's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) loans, WB economists said it would not affect the economy much because the IMF's lending is commonly aimed at complementing monetary reserves. Meanwhile, Viet Nam now has quite good monetary reserves. It is very important that Viet Nam continues pursuing reform policies and commitments that it has made to the international community, WB experts said. On Viet Nam's 4.9-percent inflation in the first quarter of this year, the highest rate over the past ten years, WB economists attributed the high inflation to the sudden rise in food prices resulting from the bird flu outbreak in the country and the increasing prices of building materials.

From Viet Nam News Agency, Viet Nam, 21 April 2004

Auto Tax Policy Attracts Students in Shanghai

The number of returned students who applied to Shanghai Customs to buy domestically made cars surged last month. They are taking advantage of the Chinese Customs policy making such purchases tax-exempt, the agency said yesterday. The number of returned students who applied to Shanghai Customs to buy domestically made cars surged last month. They are taking advantage of the Chinese Customs policy making such purchases tax-exempt, the agency said yesterday. Overseas returnees who applied to buy cars last month were up 68 percent from the same month last year to 106 or a daily purchase order of 3.4 units. "The big increase of orders is because more Chinese students returned during recent months, mainly attracted by a thriving domestic economy," said Yu Wujin, a Shanghai Customs official.

More than 400 Chinese students returned to Shanghai between September 1, 2003 and the end of last month, a fair increase from last year, according to Shanghai Personnel Bureau. "Shanghai government announced preferential policies last year to attract returned overseas Chinese which took effect last September," said Xu Hui, an official with the bureau. "The policies covering children's schooling and spouse's job arrangement have stimulated more Chinese students to return," he added. The Santana 3000 Conqueror, which was only introduced a month ago, with prices between 145,000 yuan (US$17,470) and 173,600 yuan, became the top choice for returned students last month, taking 70 percent of the orders, Shanghai Customs said.

"Although only a small number of parts are imported, this model is better equipped than previous Santana models with little price change," said Gu Qing, an analyst with Haitong Securities Co Ltd. Returned students who have studied abroad for more than a year can buy designated domestic cars without paying 10 percent purchase taxes and the tariffs on imported car components, if they returned within a year after graduation, according to a nearly decade-old policy published by the General Customs Administration. Purchases should be made within six months after they return. In addition, they can only buy cars made by a few designated domestic carmakers including Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Co Ltd and Shanghai General Motors Co Ltd.

From People's Daily, China, 12 April 2004

 

Tremonti, Public Finance Excess Very Slight (2)

Rome - Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti has little time for criticism of the commission and the possible slight exceeding of the rate set. He observed, "they say we will be at 3.2 percent, barely 0.2 percent over the legendary 3 percent. The truth is that all European countries are in a difficult situation, 85 percent of European GDP is outside the Maastricht parameters. Germany is at around 4 percent as is France, England is at over 3.5 percent and Holland is well over 3 percent. There is no need for over-reacting and we are not interested in political speculation which does no good to our country nor to Europe. We are serene and there are no problems". However Tremonti is not pleased with the way the early warning was published in advance on two important daily papers and he criticised the behaviour of the European Commission for Monetary Affairs and future Spanish Economy Minister Pedro Solbes for the "atypical announcement". He stressed, "in all other countries these things are.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 9 April 2004

Finance Ministry Improves Outlook for 2004 Public Finance Deficit

The Slovak Finance Ministry has updated its 2004 prognosis and is calling for a public finance deficit equal to 3.84 % of GDP, down from the original estimate of 3.9 %. Finances could develop better than expected this year, says the Ministry, citing the example of 2003, when the deficit amounted to 3.6 % of GDP instead of the predicted 5 %. Finance Minister Ivan Miklos attributed the improved forecast to positive developments of macroeconomic and fiscal indicators. "Signs of a reviving external environment are ever more visible and positive trends also continue in Slovakia," he told reporters. Should these positive trends continue, the government's goal - to bring the public finance deficit to 3.9 % of GDP by ESA 95 methodology - would be met. Slovakia has improved its tax collecting, and expects to bring in an additional SKK 3.72 bn this year. Lower interest on this year's state debt will save the government an additional SKK 1.6 bn.

From Interfax, Slovakia, 19 April 2004

Sobotka Expects Czech Public Finance Gap to Fall Below 4 % of GDP in 2007

The Czech Republic's public finance deficit should decrease to less than 4 % of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007, down from some 6 % of GDP expected this year, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists Friday. One of the main criteria for the adoption of the euro is a public finance gap of below 3 % of GDP. The Czech Republic will enter the European Union (EU) in May and it expects to introduce the single European currency at the end of the decade.

Sobotka expects that the Czech Republic will meet the deficit requirement for adoption of the euro in 2008. Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, put the Czech public finance gap at CZK 382.5 bn last year, or a record 12.9 % of GDP, while the Czech Finance Ministry, which uses a difference methodology and does not include state guarantees in the calculations, said the gap reached only CZK 134.2 bn. Sobotka said at a press conference Friday that the Finance Ministry would submit a proposal to the Cabinet that would ensure that the public finance deficit for 2007 would be lower than the limit set for 2006. Last year's record-high public finance gap was influenced by the CZK 166 bn in state guarantees provided for the bankrupt IPB bank, CZK 22 bn worth of guarantees for the Slovak bailout company Slovenska inkasna, and by the negative performance of the Czech bailout agency Ceska konsolidacni agentura (CKA).

From Interfax, Czech Republic, 19 April 2004

Concern over NHS Financial Management

The financial management capacity of most primary care trusts - the organisations that now control three-quarters of NHS funds - is inadequate to meet the challenges they face, the public spending watchdog has warned. In a report on financial management in the NHS, published today, the Audit Commission says that "overall, the basics of financial management are at most NHS bodies and provide effective financial control". But it warns that, based on current performance, some NHS bodies will struggle to meet the challenges thrown up by the government's NHS reforms, such as patient choice and the "payment by results" scheme where hospitals are paid according to the number of patients they treat. It adds that there have been "a small number of significant failures in stewardship and financial control", highlighting the £44m deficit run up by North Bristol trust last year. Auditors reported concerns about the financial element of local delivery plans at more than 60% of both primary care trusts (PCTs) and NHS trusts.

This "casts doubt on NHS bodies' ability to deliver the services they had planned", the commission said. The report highlights the problems facing PCTs, saying: "The current financial management capacity of most PCTs is inadequate to meet the challenges they face." It says auditors had expressed concern about inadequate financial staffing and management capacity in more than one-third of PCTs, along with over a fifth of strategic health authorities and 14% of trusts. About a half of all PCTs and SHAs had filed poor quality and late accounts in 2002-03. Top-ranking hospital trusts in line for foundation status are also warned against complacency. "Even those in line to receive foundation status may find that their current approach to financial management needs to improve," the report says.

The Audit Commission's managing director for health, Andy McKeon, said: "The NHS is going through an unprecedented period of change, with significant devolution of responsibility to frontline organisations and billions of pounds of new funding being invested over the next few years. "Modernisation is demanding excellence from the NHS and PCTs in particular are feeling the strain. It is essential that these relatively new bodies quickly develop the financial management capacity necessary to operate in this new financial environment, and that they are able not only to cope with, but make the best of, pay modernisation and the new system of payment by results." A chapter of the report outlining the current state of NHS financial management lists a catalogue of concerns raised by auditors, including "the view that exists in some NHS bodies that central government targets are in direct competition with the achievement of financial balance" - a reference to the pressure some NHS managers feel to meet waiting list targets regardless of cost.

In particular, there is "insufficient prioritisation of funding to support organisational aims and objectives", the report says. The clash between activity targets and financial planning is repeatedly highlighted, with "underdeveloped integration of financial and service planning" and "a lack of awareness among service managers of the financial implications of their actions". The report also points to a "lack of focus" on financial management during periods of restructuring and a reduction in the quality of financial management information as a result of the introduction of shared financial service organisations. Auditors have also raised concerns about the brokerage system used to bail out trusts in financial trouble. The report warns: "The re-allocation of funding around a health economy can mask underlying financial problems within an individual body and undermines sound financial management."

Nigel Edwards, policy director for managers' organisation the NHS Confederation, said: "This report confirms difficulties we were already aware of. PCTs are especially stretched, and even without the added problem of a shortage of qualified staff for dealing with financial issues, they have been handed a massive financial agenda, so consideration needs to be given to the scale of the challenge facing them." He added: "There are some possible steps to ease this position, such as better investment in training for the future and a greater sharing of resources between PCTs, but in reality there are no simple solutions to this complex problem facing the NHS." A Department of Health spokesman said: "All NHS trusts and PCTs have been asked to plan for and achieve financial balance in 2003-04. The year end position is still being finalised but we expect the majority of organisations and the NHS as a whole to achieve this. "If a NHS trust incurs a deficit it is required to produce a robust recovery plan in agreement with their managing strategic health authority. This must identify the cause and extent of the financial problem and the measures planned to address it."

From Guardian, UK, by Tash Shifrin, 20 April 2004

Public Finance, Revenue Up 0.2 Percent in Q4 2003

Rome - The quarterly economic public finance report published by ISTAT shows modest growth in current revenue in the fourth quarter of 2003. A reduction in direct taxes (down 4.4 percent) had a notable effect on revenue trends. Also in the fourth quarter capital account gains were up in the long term by 70.3 percent due to greater EU credit with structural funds for industrial intervention. Capital account gains also registered a drop in taxes received due to amnesties, the "safety net" and the once off contribution from banks in the fourth quarter of 2002. Taking into account the total figures for fourth quarter revenue, there is long term growth of 0.8 percent with a value compared to GDP equivalent to 53.2 percent. Total revenue therefore registered slower growth compared to the corresponding quarter in 2002, when the increase was equivalent to 1.1 percent.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 22 April 2004

Public Finance School Opened in Sofia

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Netherlands Gerrit Zalm opened a Public Finance School in Sofia. Zalm was on a one-day visit to Bulgaria on the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart Milen Velchev. The Public Finance Scholl was opened under the Budget Directorate of the Bulgarian Finance Ministry funded by the Matra programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The European Commission also contributed to the project. The general objective of the School of Public Finance is to establish a permanent and sustainable professional training facility. The Public Finance School (PFS) will provide all forms of training to civil servants working in the field of public expenditure management. The two finance ministers held a meeting before the opening. They discussed the latest budget and macroeconomic developments concerning Bulgaria, the Dutch Presidency in the second half of 2004 and the bilateral co-operation between the two countries.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 27 April 2004

 

World Bank Launches Multi-donor Trust Fund to Support Reform Program

With the aim of supporting the Palestinian Authority (PA) in sustaining public services in the face of a severe fiscal crisis, the World Bank announced today the Public Financial Management Reform Trust Fund. Created at the request of the Palestinian Authority with backing from the international donor community, the Reform Fund builds on the successful budget support mechanisms implemented by the European Commission since September 2000 and seeks to mobilize additional donor resources to support the PA's budget. The West Bank and Gaza continue to suffer from a severe economic recession in the wake of the September 2000 intifada. Per capita income dropped by half since the beginning of the intifada and is now approaching $900; and nearly half of the Palestinian population is currently living below the poverty line of $2 per day. As a result of the recession, the PA's estimated financing gap at the beginning of the year stood at $650 million.

Over the past three years, budget support from donors, totaling some $1.3 billion, helped meet part of the PA's recurrent expenditures, paying public servants' salaries, helping the PA repay some of its arrears to the private sector and providing essential services such as health, education, and water supply and sanitation to the Palestinian people. Budget support was also instrumental in preventing some 100,000 people from falling into poverty and in sustaining consumer demand for local goods and services. "We are very pleased with the establishment of this Fund, and grateful to the Bank for agreeing to administer it," said Palestinian Finance Minister, Mr. Salam Fayyad. "I believe that donors will have confidence that their support for this initiative will help advance the continuation of the PA's reform effort."

To appeal for sufficient budget support from donors for the 2004-2005 period and avoid the suspension of social and administrative services to the Palestinian population, the PA adopted a Public Financial Management Reform Program which builds upon the improvements made to date in its public financial management system. "The Trust Fund was established by the World Bank in recognition of the very positive developments in the Palestinian financial reform domain over the past two years," says Nigel Roberts, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank & Gaza.

Recent progress in financial management as well as the newly-adopted Reform Program will promote budgetary and fiduciary standards that will support the PA in administering donor funds in a transparent and accountable manner. In response to the outbreak of the intifada, the World Bank's strategy for the West Bank and Gaza shifted to maintaining a balance between short-term emergency and medium-term development assistance. The Bank also significantly increased disbursement of aid - both to help the Palestinian Authority sustain service delivery, and to slow the decline in Palestinian economic and social indicators. Since September 2000, the Bank disbursed approximately $260 million to the Palestinian Authority, including over $100 million on behalf of other donors. It is currently the fifth largest donor in the West Bank and Gaza.

From Electronic Intifada, IL, 29 April 2004

 

Fitch: U.S. Public Finance Credit Continues to Decline Through 1st Quarter 2004

New York - Given continued credit decline in the first quarter, Fitch Ratings' forecast for the U.S. municipal market remains cautious. During the first quarter of 2004, Fitch downgraded 18 issuers ($8.7 billion in municipal par) and upgraded 11 issuers ($7.2 billion). The downgrade to upgrade ratio of 1.6:1 is on an issuer basis and 1.2:1 on a par basis. The par amount downgraded was dominated by the State of Wisconsin, which accounted for over $4.7 billion, or over 50% of the total par downgraded. Fitch has downgraded nine states over the last two years, and upgraded only one. There were 18 credits on Rating Watch Negative as of March 31, 2004, up from 17 as of Dec. 31, 2003. During that period, three of these credits were taken off Rating Watch Negative in conjunction with a downgrade, three were taken off in conjunction with a rating affirmation, and seven credits were added.

One credit was placed on Rating Watch Positive, the only one currently listed. Furthermore, the ratio of the number of credits with a Negative Rating Outlook to those with a Positive Rating Outlook increased to 2.1:1 as of March 31, 2004, from 1.9:1 as of Dec. 31, 2003. In the tax-backed sector the downgrade to upgrade ratio increased in the first quarter to 1.1:1 (eight downgrades and seven upgrades), from 0.6:1 in the fourth quarter of 2003. Furthermore, the number of tax-backed issuers with a Negative Rating Outlook increased to 34 from 28 as of Dec. 31, 2003, and only 12 as of Dec. 31, 2002. In health care, there were nine downgrades and two upgrades in the first quarter of 2004, which was consistent with 2003, when there were 37 downgrades and 10 upgrades. In other revenue sectors, there was one downgrade in higher education, one upgrade in transportation, and one upgrade in water and sewer.

The negative credit trend at both the state and local levels largely reflects the prolonged economic downturn experienced throughout the U.S. in the 2000-2003 period, as well as the lagging effect economic cycles have on tax-supported credits. Therefore, even though most economic indicators have begun to pick up, municipal credit has continued to decline. March employment data indicates that the labor market may now be moving in the same positive direction as other economic indicators. However, the return to a more favorable forecast for state credits may be some time in coming as the improvement in the labor market will have to be sustained before states are able to grow their way out of current budget pressures.

Many local issuers rely predominantly on property taxes, which are less economically sensitive than income taxes, and where the strong housing market has buffeted revenues to some degree. However, local governments have faced decreased state aid as state budget pressures intensified over the last two years. At the same time, localities are also struggling with increases in pension funding requirements, health care, and other post-retirement benefits. For local tax-backed credits, a positive credit forecast is dependent somewhat on job growth and the subsequent economic activity associated with greater consumer buying power. Such improvement also could ultimately reverse the trend of state aid reductions over time. However, if weakness develops in the housing market, there could be a corresponding negative impact on local credits. Fitch will be publishing a comprehensive report on credit trends in public finance in mid-April.

From Business Wire (press release), 7 April 2004

Public Policy Group Favor Tax for Schools

Weslaco - A public policy expert said the best way for Rio Grande Valley educators to ensure enough school funding is through a personal income tax. But Center for Public Policy Priorities director F. Scott McCown said the option isn't politically viable. He made his comments Tuesday to the Rio Grande Valley Partnership of government and business leaders. The Texas Constitution prohibits a statewide income tax, so voters would have to approve one in a referendum. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has vowed to do away with the present share-the-wealth system of school finance. Richer districts have complained that the school formula isn't fair to their districts. Perry is expected to call a special session of the Legislature this month to come up with alternatives.

From News 8 Austin, TX, 7 April 2004

Legislators Look to Privatization to Help Ailing County Budget

An increase in the sales tax is not expected to be enough to bail out the ailing county budget so legislators are looking into privatizing some county-owned assets as well as eliminating some departments. The Andrew Michaud Nursing Home, the county airport, the transfer stations, and the asphalt mix plant are just some of the assets legislators have been considering for sale to private companies. Bids are now being sought for the nursing home while the asphalt mix plant was opened for bid in November. No bids were accepted on the plant because legislators were discussing the option of keeping the plant and selling blacktop to the towns. A decision has been stalled at the committee level. Should lawmakers decide to sell or lease the plant, new bidding will have to take place. The sale of the transfer stations would likely result in closure of the Energy Recovery Facility, according to some legislators who support the sale. Even with an increased sales tax, legislators claim they still need additional workforce reductions and budget cuts to avoid a property-tax increase.

Lawmakers are also considering elimination of several departments, including the health department, the promotion and tourism department, and even the sheriff's road patrol. None of those departments are mandated by the state. Legislators could also consider closing just the public heath nursing portion of the health department. While legislators have heard the public say they support the downsizing of government, it is not anticipated that there will be broad public support for the elimination of the road patrol. The airport has been under consideration in the past for privatization, but to do so could mean the return of thousands of dollars of federal grant funds, according to some legislators. The sale of the mixplant could double or even triple the cost of road paving, lawmakers have stated. Legislators are also looking at the potential sale of Camp Hollis.

Several majority caucus members said they received a letter recently from Majority Leader Barry Leemann outlining possible departments and assets to eliminate. If approved by the state, the sales tax proposal will need to return to the local level for final approval. If passed, it could go into effect as early as September. It is expected to generate an additional $1.6 million in revenue from September through December with $5 million anticipated annually thereafter. Further budget cuts are needed to balance the budget without another property-tax increase. The county will lose tax revenue next year because of the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements made with the energy industry. The cuts are expected to be discussed in upcoming weeks and months. A source inside county government said that 30 jobs have already been selected for elimination with as many as 100 anticipated. Some have predicted the number of layed-off workers to exceed 200 by the year's end.

From Fulton Valley News, NY, by Carol Thompson, 5 April 2004

Advocates Rallying Support for Public Finance Bill

Hartford, Conn. - Bill Would Establish System for Statewide Candidates - A bill that would set up a public financing system for statewide candidates died in committee earlier this week. But advocates said they are not relenting. A coalition is urging voters to contact their legislators and demand they pass the legislation, which creates a so-called "clean elections fund" by 2010. They want to pass the bill before the state Legislature adjourns on May 5. The proposal, which is a voluntary system that affects candidates running for top office such as governor, died earlier this week after lengthy debate in the Appropriations Committee. Proponents said they will try to amend another bill with the same proposal. Given the scandal surrounding Gov. John Rowland and his administration, advocates said this is the perfect year to pass such a bill. They also are lobbying for legislation that would allow people to register to vote on Election Day. They want the General Assembly to pass a package of ethics reforms that would rein in gifts to state employees and policy-makers from state contractors, among other changes.

From NBC30.com, CT, March 2004

Analysis: Tax Policy and Reality, a Primer

Washington - With all the focus on individual income taxes this time of year, it is easy for everyday citizens to forget the role that corporate America plays in the tax system. It is an important one - and as recent data indicate, a dwindling one - that should have taxpayers up in arms. Several pieces of recently reported data show that the tough talk from the Bush administration and U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about helping average working Americans, cracking down on corporate malfeasance and reducing out-of-control federal deficits is not what it may seem on the surface. Instead, all the promises serve mostly to hide the limited role corporations have come to play in directly paying government revenue in a system that protects their pockets over those of average Americans. According to analysis of Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service data by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse released Sunday, the IRS audited fewer businesses of all sizes and types last year - but audited more individual taxpayers.

The audit rate for businesses decreased slightly to 2.1 per 1,000 businesses, down 0.1 percent from 2002. The story is different for the individual taxpayer, with audit rates for individual tax returns up 14 percent to 6.5 audits for every 1,000 taxpayers in 2003. The findings track audit-rate data released by the tax agency last month. The researchers also found that criminal enforcement of tax laws is also at an all-time low, continuing a downward trend, with civil fraud and negligence penalties against corporations violating the U.S. tax code down even more sharply. The findings are more startling when taken into account with findings released last week by the U.S. General Accounting Office showing that more than 60 percent of U.S. corporations did not pay a single dime in federal taxes from 1996 through 2000, years that included the height of an economic boom. Of the 1.3 million U.S. companies analyzed, 63 percent had no federal tax liability in 2000.

While 31 percent had some tax liability, it averaged less than 5 percent of income, with only 6 percent having a liability of more than 5 percent of pre-tax income, despite a technical tax rate of 35 percent. Federal budget data show that corporate taxes amounted to only 7.4 percent of overall federal revenue in 2003, down from a peak of 32 percent in 1952, the second-lowest level since 1934 and lowest since 1983. With corporations being audited less and less and corporate tax payments near all-time lows, you may ask who is paying the difference. The answer is the everyday tax payer. While revenues from corporate taxes were about 4 percent of GDP in the 1960s and revenues from personal taxes about 8 percent, corporate tax payments have declined to about 1.5 percent of GDP today. At the same time, revenue from personal income taxes remains at about the same level.

Len Burman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a former deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis in the Clinton administration Treasury Department, told United Press International that the ability of corporate America to escape paying its fair share of taxes undermines everyone's position in the tax system - and erodes their faith in it. "It also means that everyone's taxes are higher than they have to be," he added. Although the downward trend in corporate auditing and tax payment began long before President Bush took office, what is the Bush administration and Congressional Republican response? Support further corporate tax cuts. And don't think it is a partisan view, because the stance is also supported by many Democrats. While the majority of Bush administration tax cuts have centered on individual taxpayers - the majority went to taxpayers earning more than $100,000 a year - a $123 billion three-year stimulus bill in 2002 increased business investment incentives through tax cuts.

All together, the Bush tax cuts so far have netted an estimated $175 billion in savings for corporate America through 2005. The Bush White House is pushing for yet more corporate tax cuts and doing next to nothing to address the problems of a tax code that allows companies to exploit the laws to reduce or eliminate liability. And despite the massive federal deficit, it looks as if Congress will follow suit, despite the fact that since Bush took office in 2001, federal spending has increased $436 billion. Federal spending is at 21 percent of GDP, only slightly lower than the 21.7 percent total when in 1995 the GOP took over both houses of Congress during President Clinton's first term. In the ensuing years before Bush's first federal budget for fiscal 2002, federal spending fell to 19 percent of GDP. The House version of a 6-year transportation spending bill approved earlier this month - which the Bush administration has threatened to veto for unrelated reasons - was amended at the last minute by GOP leaders to include unrelated cuts to the corporate alternative minimum tax.

A corporate tax overhaul bill with broad bipartisan support and White House backing that the Senate will return to debating after it returns from its spring recess includes millions in cuts for manufacturing firms. Burman noted that the Bush administration seems to think that people should pay taxes on anything but wages or earnings but has done little to address the other side of the equation on spending or the broader issue of who is really paying their taxes. "Their policies have been subtle," said Burman. "They have not proposed to replace the income tax with a consumption tax; they want to weaken the tax system." The one thing that those across the political divide agree on is that spending should be cut and that tax cuts for businesses are a good thing. If one talks to conservative tax reformers like Grover Norquist, it would seem the answer to the discrepancies lies only in cutting spending and implementing a flat tax, with the recent data on corporate tax payments and audits having no input on the problem.

Dan Clifton, federal affairs manager for Norquist's conservative tax reform group, Americans for Tax Reform, stressed to United Press International that the data in the GAO report and the findings of the Syracuse report do not reflect Bush administration policy. Clifton cited data, sourced to the Congressional Budget Office, indicating that corporate tax revenues were up 51.3 percent this fiscal year. But CBO data show that for fiscal years 2001 and 2002, corporate income tax revenue declined to $51 billion from $123 billion. At the same time, withheld and non-withheld individual income taxes from 2001 to 2002 declined to $126 billion, but still totaled $868 billion. On the corporate tax payment issue, Clifton noted that companies pay "exorbitant" Social Security taxes, local property taxes and other government costs for doing business. "The idea that they are not paying anything is completely ludicrous," said Clifton. "The fastest-growing revenue source in the federal budget is corporate tax revenues."

But Clifton's analysis ignored the fact that everyone - corporations and individuals - pay taxes on their property, either directly as an owner of property or as a leaser as the cost is passed on. Other taxes considered the cost of doing businesses are added into the price of a product or service produced by a company, a criticism that conservatives often cite when fighting against an increase in corporate taxes because they say it will just increase costs for consumers. As to his argument regarding Social Security or other such taxes, it is generally accepted economic principle that salaries are adjusted to take such payments into account. Clifton also dismissed the corporate audit criticisms as "old news," claiming that the Bush administration is cracking down on corporate shenanigans.

But is that really the case? According to the Syracuse report, the findings show cracks in the Bush administration's tough talk on fighting corporate malfeasance. For instance, one area where audits have declined is in the use of shareholder income and tax distribution schemes that have been central in some of the corporate accounting scandals of the last few years. The IRS claims the decline in audits is attributable to the growth in tax shelter use by corporate America, which makes audits more intricate and time consuming. "Their approach to corporate tax shelters has been less than lackluster," noted Berman.

But that argument only reinforces the need for cutting back on such potentially illegal schemes, does it not? While some in Congress have been espousing fiery rhetoric on the subject, especially Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the Bush administration has done little to address the problem. Is their lack of response due more to an unwillingness to address the issue or the problem they face getting it past Congress? Maybe it is a bit of both. With lawmakers unlikely to take the steps needed to anger their corporate donors or voters that take the time to write letters to their offices, fixing the issue takes a measure of political will that seems terribly lacking these days. Not many voters or donors that simply pay their taxes and live their lives take the time to contact their congressmen and thank them for their tax bracket, much less request that something be done to make it fairer.

From MENAFN, Middle East, by Christian Bourge, 12 April 2004

S&P Reports on U.S. Public Finance Market

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) New York - The U.S. public finance market has traditionally possessed significant stability and sound credit characteristics, according to the results of Standard & Poor's Ratings Services public finance default and ratings transition studies documented in a report published today. The study tracked the behavior of unenhanced rated debt obligations (i.e., debt obligations not supported by financial guarantees, structuring techniques, multiple-party features, or other external credit support over the 1986-2003 period) and included aggregate and sector data. "Given the nature of public finance, it should come as no surprise that unenhanced debt rated by Standard & Poor's shows significant credit stability throughout a broad range of events ranging from changing economic times, federal government mandates, tax reform measures, and any number of influences on general credit," said Standard & Poor's managing director Colleen Woodell.

"The strengthening and clarification of the powers and relationships of government, improved internal and external financial reporting, and better overall risk disclosure have over the long term improved the transparency and overall credit of public finance issuers." During the 18 years (1986-2003) covered by the study, the distribution of Standard & Poor's public finance ratings increased at the highest end of the rating scale. In broad terms, this overall rise in public finance ratings reflects the overall resilience of the sector in the face of the national economic stress experienced in the mid-1980s, early 1990s, and the early 2000s, and the general economic prosperity and the strong track operating and financial performance of public finance credits.

The report, titled "U.S. Municipal Rating Transitions and Defaults, 1986-2003," is available on RatingsDirect, Standard & Poor's Web-based credit research and analysis system. If you are not a RatingsDirect subscriber, you may purchase a copy of the report by calling (1) 212-438-9823 or sending an e-mail to research_request@standardandpoors.com. Members of the media may request a copy by contacting Christopher Mortell at 212-438-2756 or by e-mail at christopher_mortell@sandp.com. Standard & Poor's, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, provides widely recognized financial data, analytical research and investment, and credit opinions to the global capital markets. With more than 5,000 employees located in 20 countries, Standard & Poor's is an integral part of the global financial infrastructure. Additional information is available at www.standardandpoors.com.

From Reuters, 21 April 2004

Building Owners Make Case for Preserving Tax Reforms

BOMA executive says market forces have driven down commercial real estate taxes more than legislative property tax reforms three years ago. Owners of commercial real estate are worried that state lawmakers could roll back some of the changes in the property tax reform of 2001. Last week, Kent Warden, executive director of the Greater Minneapolis Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA), sent a letter to Sen. Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis), chair of the Senate's Committee on Taxes, outlining BOMA's opposition to proposed changes. "Some have said that the property tax reform of 2001 was too generous and has resulted in an excessive shift from the commercial sector to the residential tax base. We disagree with that conclusion and maintain that the true reason has been declining commercial values due to the prolonged recession at the same time that lower interest rates and other factors have resulted in rapidly increasing residential property values," Warden said in the April 23 letter.

The current Senate tax bill includes two proposals that concern Warden. The 2001 property tax reform instituted a phase-out of the law capping increases for residential properties with one to three units, clearing the way for steeper increases in residential property taxes. The new proposal would stop the phase out. Warden wrote that the change would "shift [tax] burden to commercial property." BOMA is also concerned about proposed changes to the statewide commercial/industrial property tax, which they believe will cost owners more. Warden argues that once the market for offices turns around, commercial owners will again be paying more taxes. "Given the market cycles, commercial real estate will rebound," said Warden. "The market will take care of itself." Warden's letter to Pogemiller concluded, "This is not a good time to impair that growth by placing additional tax burden on commercial properties."

In preparation for the debate at the Capitol, Warden put together a fact sheet last week outlining the sharp drop in assessed values of some of downtown's premier buildings in recent years. Ten of downtown's top properties saw declines of 23 to 58 percent in assessed values between 1998 and 2003. Pogemiller, however, was not swayed by BOMA's concerns. "I think there's been a very significant shift of property taxes from commercial and industrial to homeowners because of the so-called reforms - a much more significant shift than anybody had anticipated," he said. Pogemiller said that within the city of Minneapolis this year, property taxes for homeowners are slated to go up 7 percent, while property taxes on commercial buildings will drop by about 3 percent. "I don't think that that's a fair distribution based on the state budget cuts," said Pogemiller. "We're supposedly in a shared pain situation here with the state."

Warden doesn't contest Pogemiller's statistics, but argues that a single year's data shouldn't be used to set long-range tax policy. Warden believes that commercial property valuations will begin rising again soon, while residential values may stabilize as interest rates start climbing. "You shouldn't make tax policy based on the extremes," said Warden. In a recent overview of the property tax picture, Minneapolis City Assessor Scott Renne wrote, "The impact of the changes has been, and will continue to be, a property tax shift from commercial to residential property." Renne's job isn't to offer opinions on politics or public policy - he was merely noting the trend. In 1996, within the city of Minneapolis, commercial properties accounted for 44.1 percent of the city's tax capacity. Industrial property stood at 10.6 percent.

Back then, commercial/industrial property accounted for a total of 54.7 percent of the city's tax capacity, contrasted with 33.6 percent for residential homeowners. For 2003, commercial property's share of the city's tax capacity had dropped to 33.2 percent, contrasted with 45 percent for residential property. By 2011, Renne's analysis projects that commercial property will only account for 24.4 percent of the city's tax capacity. By that time, residential property is expected to account for 59.2 percent of the city's tax capacity. Renne's analysis is based on current tax policy, assuming no changes to the law. In 1996, commercial property in Minneapolis accounted for 24 percent of the market value of real estate in Minneapolis, contrasted with 61.1 percent for residential real estate.

By 2011, commercial is projected to represent 15.1 percent of the city's market value, versus 71.1 percent for homes. But there may be an upside to the depressed value of Minneapolis office towers. Renne's report also noted, "The continuing weak demand for office space is only slightly affected by lower property taxes. Tenants base economic decisions on a total occupancy cost; thus lower property taxes may serve to attract new tenants into the central business district." The issue of tweaking the 2001 property tax reform is ultimately destined to be hashed out in conference committee at the capitol, where BOMA has more allies in the Republican-controlled House. "We worked too hard to the gains for commercial property that were included in the tax reform, and we think that restored a little more equity to our system," said Warden.

From Twin Cities Finance and Commerce, MN, by Burl Gilyard, 29 April 2004

 
 

Azerbaijani Privatization Revenues Up 10% in 2003

Baku - Azerbaijan's state budget revenues from privatization grew 9.9% to 110 billion manat in 2003, and exceeded the target of 100 billion manat, Economic Development Minister Farhad Aliyev said. The country privatized 143 joint-stock companies through cash and voucher auctions, and another six companies and government stakes in two joint ventures through investment tenders, he said. Aliyev said 976 small enterprises, facilities and nonresidential buildings were put into private hands last year. The privatization revenue target for 2004 is 160 billion manat, including 60 billion manat from the sale of a 20% stake in the International Bank of Azerbaijan to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

From Interfax, Azerbaijan, 6 April 2004

Public Opinion Sought on Postal Privatization

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to hear opinions from members of the public on postal privatization by creating an expert advisory panel to a government office planned to be set up with the Cabinet Secretariat later this month, sources close to the government said Monday. Koizumi aims to have the office lead the privatization of postal-related services, which he has initiated, the sources said. The preliminary office is expected to open on April 26 when the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy plans to reveal its interim report on the privatization process. Koizumi plans to start the office with a staff of about 20 and to expand it to more than 50.

The office will be led by Yoshiaki Watanabe, former vice minister of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry. Although Koizumi plans to appoint Shinichi Nabekura, former vice minister for policy coordination of the Public Management Ministry, for the second-highest position of the office, he wants to hire members of the public for other positions, the sources said. He plans to reorganize and expand the current liaison office on the privatization plan, set up with the Cabinet Office last year, as the advisory body to the preliminary office, with which the government would hear opinions from the public. Koizumi expects the office to draft a blueprint of the privatization plan by autumn when the council produces the final report. The office also will compile a bill to revise laws in line with the privatization plan, the sources said. Koizumi apparently wants to use public opinion to deflect forces opposing the privatization within the Liberal Democratic Party and the government.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Yomiuri Shimbun, 7 April 2004

Thai Cabinet OKs New Privatization Rules To Ease Protests

Bangkok - The Thai Cabinet approved new privatization regulations Wednesday proposed by the Finance Ministry in a bid to fend off opposition to the sale of stakes in state enterprises by their employees. The regulations involve stock benefits for state enterprise employees and the limitation of foreign holdings in state agencies after an initial public offering. "Many people worry that foreigners will become majority shareholders in state enterprises after their share sales. That is impossible," Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told reporters. He said foreigners are not allowed to own more than 25% in a state enterprise at any given time. The government will maintain a stake of no less than 50% in public enterprises that are being privatized. In addition, the state must own at least 75% of power and water utilities.

Meanwhile, a single institution or individual investor won't be permitted to hold more than a 5% stake in a state enterprise, unless the shareholder is a government agency or a special fund set by up by the government. Also, share allocation will favor retail investors, Somkid said. He said employees of state enterprises will be offered IPO shares at par value, while the number of shares will depend on their salary. He said the stock benefit, to be measured by the discrepancy between the IPO price and par value, will be eight times an employee's monthly salary. In a bid to prevent the state being burdened by debts of state enterprises, Somkid said the Finance Ministry will charge those agencies that ask for a government guarantee on their loans after privatization. The regulations are likely to settle many of the controversial issues that have slowed down privatizations and led to a delay in the share offering of Electricity Generating Authority, which was planned for this month.

However, Somkid wouldn't commit on the schedule of state enterprise IPOs set earlier this year. "Any enterprises can go public whenever they are ready," Somkid said. EGAT employees have been demonstrating since Feb. 23, urging the government to scrap plans to turn the agency into a public company and list it on the Thai bourse, because they fear the state utility will be taken over by businessmen with links to politicians or foreigners, causing electricity prices to rise. The government had earlier planned to launch an initial public offering of EGAT shares in late April but decided to delay the sale for at least two months to address the employees' concerns. The government has said it plans to sell shares of six state enterprises during 2004, but so far, only one offering - Airports of Thailand - has taken place. The others are EGAT, Metropolitan Electricity Authority, Provincial Electricity Authority, Mass Communication Organization of Thailand and TOT, formerly called the Telephone Organization of Thailand.

From Yahoo News, 7 April 2004

Trans Asia of UAE Shows Interest in OGDC, PPL Privatization

Islamabad - Trans Asia of United Arab Emirates (UAE) has expressed intention of participating in the privatization of Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL). Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Naurez Shakoor disclosed this in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing in ceremony between Trans Asia and a Pakistani Company, Interstate Gas System under which both the companies would be laying gas pipelines for the transmission of gas from Turkmenistan, Iran and Qatar to Pakistan through Afghanistan.

Chairman, Trans Asia, Abdullah bin Al-Ghaurair and the Managing Director of Interstate Gas System, Rashid Lone had inked the MoU. According to a survey of the Interstate Gas Company the yawning gap between the demand and supply of gas by 2009 would shoot up to 200 million cubic feet per day and by 2015, it might climb to 1500 million cubic feet per day adequately showing the dire need of the import of gas. Earlier, Trans Asia had also signed a MoU with Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) under which net-work of pipelines would be laid for supplying gas to the state of Ajman and SNGPL would be providing technical expertise besides the manpower.

From GEO, World, 10 April 2004

China Pushes Privatization

Beijing - China updated its economic priorities and at the top of the list is to change the ownership structure of its many floundering state-owned enterprises. Although private enterprise is credited for much of China's spectacular economic progress, with growth rates around 8 percent in recent years, it is still the state that dictates the priorities, as it did for 2004 in its Third Plenary Conference of the Sixteenth Party Congress. The No. 1 priority includes what was called adjustment and improvement of the ownership structure of state-owned enterprises, a new emphasis for their transformation into stock ownership structures and the integration of more foreign and private investment, the official Xinhua news service reported. What was described as mixed ownership is being "greatly encouraged." The state-owned enterprises are mainly in the areas of power generation, telecommunications, aviation, railroads and mail delivery. The No. 2 priority for the year is to deepen reform in rural areas, and No. 3 is to rebuild the nation's financial architecture, including taxation and banking.

From Washington Times, DC, 19 April 2004

Japan Post Privatization Committee to Meet April 26

The committee discussing privatization of Japan's postal service will meet on April 26, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters in Tokyo. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has promised to reveal a preliminary proposal for the sale of Japan's postal service, which holds about a fifth of Japanese household financial assets. The full privatization of Japan Post, the biggest buyer of Japanese government bonds, may take until 2017, the government has said. The sale of Japan Post is part of Koizumi's plan to reduce public spending through reforming state-owned corporations.

From Bloomberg, 19 April 2004

Indonesia Starts Merpati Privatization

Indonesia plans to sell a majority stake in its domestic airline, Merpati Nusantara Airlines, to a strategic investor this year to help finance the struggling carrier's operations, an official said on Wednesday. The sale, which Merpati said in a company statement would be done in October this year, would be followed by an initial public offering in January 2006 that would make the airline the first to be listed in Indonesia. "The privatization of Merpati Nusantara Airlines will be done by selling 51 percent of the company's new shares through a strategic sale," Ferdinand Nainggolan, a deputy state enterprise minister, told reporters. Neither the government official nor Merpati estimated the value of the sales. Nainggolan said the airline also needed to restructure its debts, which outweigh its assets, and that it was considering a 220 billion rupiah (USD$26 million) debt-for-equity swap. He said the state enterprise minister preferred to have a partner from the airline industry.

From Airwise, 14 April 2004

KT a Privatization Model

Following are excerpts from a speech at the Seoul Competition Forum made by Lee Yong-kyung, president and chief executive officer of KT Corp. Very simply, privatization is defined as the transfer of assets from the government to the private sector. This definition implies not only the transfer of ownership rights, as in issuing stock, but it also implies a transfer of the management rights. KT had several objectives it wanted to achieve by privatization. KT wanted to give back, to the general public, the company's accumulated value through a public offering of its stock. In addition, it was our belief that privatization would eliminate the inefficiencies inherent to a state-owned enterprise. Finally, we hoped to raise financing for the government. Privatizing this blue-chip government company earned the Korean government around $13 billion, of which 6.6 billion was in foreign currency inflows. The Korea Telecommunication Authority was set up in 1945, which allowed the government to run Korea's telecommunications business until 1981.

In December 1981, KT was established as a 100 percent state-owned enterprise. Between 1993 and 2002, the government started to sell off its government-owned stake. Disposal of the stake was made through competitive bidding, private contract, and through issuing depository receipts for overseas investors. After nine years of this process, KT's privatization was finally completed at a special stockholders' meeting in May 2002. Major achievements - As a result of privatization, KT was transformed into a genuine private enterprise run by a private management system. Unlike the previous system, which was directly controlled by the government under the provisions of the "Korea Telecommunications Authority Law," the new system was regulated by the "Commercial Law" and "Securities Exchange Law" just like any other private company. As a result, KT has now become capable of pursuing profit-oriented operations to maximize stockholders' profits.

Such a drastic change in the management principle resulted in a substantial improvement to our financial structure. Core indicators, such as our operating margin and EBITDA showed growing improvement after our privatization. Net sales were largely stable, mainly because the market had reached saturation in 2002. However, profitability ratios showed a steady improvement after the privatization. Transparent corporate governance - Privatization contributed to the realization of a responsible management system that is separate from and accountable to KT's ownership. To help insure that transparency and independence are not compromised by outside intervention, the CEO is now elected at a stockholders' meeting through the CEO Nomination Committee. And the CEO is not allowed to hold the board of directors chairmanship at the same time. Provisions for cumulative voting and retirement of shares were introduced to protect the minority stockholders' rights.

And since the largest shareholding stands at 5.76 percent at present, it is virtually impossible for any one stockholder to exercise any sort of management control. Another change is the enhancement of the board's oversight of management. Independent directors are nominated at a stockholders' meeting through an Independent Director Nomination Committee, which consists of four independent directors and one executive director. Currently, we have eight independent directors, two-thirds of the total of 12 directors. This ratio saw a strengthening at the last shareholders meeting over the initial three-fifths ratio. In short, much more authority has been given to the independent directors' opinions in the overall operation of the company. Moreover, independent directors were given the important authority to approve the CEO's recommendation for appointing or dismissing executive directors. Additionally, KT's Audit Committee is composed entirely of independent directors and functions with independent authority.

The Audit Committee members are recommended by the board and finally nominated at a stockholders' meeting. Through such improvements to its management system, KT became known internationally for its good corporate governance and transparent operations. Now, leading financial analysis firms such as Goldman Sachs, S&P and CLSA evaluate KT as a first-class example of a company in the Asia-Pacific region possessing ideal corporate governance. Fair competition measures - There are several measures that KT has undertaken to strengthen fair competition in the telecommunications market. KT is pursuing independent accounting for each service unit to eliminate internal subsidies much more aggressively than is required by government regulations. There are a total of 111 services within six divisions, which are individually examined by outside auditors to eliminate unfair internal transactions. KT has also carried out local loop unbundling to further promote competition among local phone service providers.

Also, this year, KT has introduced a local number portability service after a trial service provision last year. In addition, KT is playing a key role in providing universal services, which is faithfully promoting the public good and bridging the digital divide throughout the country. KT is taking active steps to improve the market structure by preventing the concentration of its corporate financial power. Instead of reckless business diversification, KT is focusing on its core competencies to enhance its competitiveness as a world-class telecommunication company. Lastly, recognizing that fair competition is essential to sound corporate management, KT has adopted an internal compliance program to secure fair competition. A clean, fair and effective KT - KT is always striving to build a clean, fair and effective company, and here I will explain four target areas for improvement. First, KT will continue to improve transparency in all facets of its business with the goal of becoming an international model company with the best in corporate governance.

Secondly, KT will initiate fair competition in the domestic telecommunications market by enhancing the efficiency of the compliance program. For example, we will foster a fair competition mind-set by carrying out enterprise-level indoctrination of the employees. We will also implement a standing monitoring system to strengthen deliberation to pre-empt unfair practices, internally and also among affiliates. Thirdly, we will strive to enhance management efficiency through management innovation and development of new business. KT will convert to a more customer-oriented management system by adopting the "6-sigma principles" to improve management processes. Furthermore, we will emphasize our corporate ethics to make a clean KT, and develop our ERP system to enhance management transparency. Developing new business will present superior objectives for the continuous growth of KT as well. As our final target, I would like to emphasize that KT will continuously endeavor to serve social and public interests.

From Korea Herald, South Korea, 21 April 2004

Thai EGAT Privatization Halted Pending New Regulation

Bangkok - The board of Thailand's Electricity Authority Generating Friday decided to freeze plans to privatize the agency until a new legislative and regulatory framework is introduced. The board's chairman Chai-anan Samudavanija told reporters at a press conference that the 1999 State Enterprises Act, which enabled the privatization of state enterprises and utilities, will be scrapped and new legislation will be drafted. He gave no specific timeframe for the process but indicated that it should be completed within a year. He said some initial guidelines for the new regulatory framework will be ready by the end of May. Chai-anan said the EGAT employees' union, which has strongly opposed the privatization, has agreed to the plan. EGAT's initial public offering, earlier scheduled for late April, was indefinitely postponed following daily protests since Feb. 23 by the agency's employees and employees of other state utilities.

The government had said it would delay the sale for a couple of months to introduce a regulatory framework that would guarantee electricity prices wouldn't rise after the privatization. However, EGAT employees have continued to stage demonstrations demanding the privatization be scrapped. "We are finding common ground. The union will participate in mapping the new framework," Chai-anan said after the board signed an agreement with EGAT union leader Sirichai Maingam. Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej later acknowledged the agreement. The actions Friday are likely to bring EGAT employees back into negotiations with the government after a standoff of several months. "The talks have been stuck because of the (government's) condition that EGAT has to raise funds via a share sale. Now we have to study other options as well," said Chai-anan, who was appointed EGAT chairman by the Cabinet earlier this month.

According to the agreement, the EGAT board and the union will draft guidelines to improve the efficiency of state enterprises without selling them to the public, and suggest other possible ways to raise funds for expansion. "The draft is likely to be ready by the end of May, or around May 15," Chai-anan said. In the meantime, the two parties will collaboratively draft a bill to replace the 1999 State Enterprises Act, which has been criticized by opponents of privatization over possible loopholes on foreign holdings in a state enterprise. Chai-anan said the agreement Friday could lead either to the listing of EGAT on the stock market as a majority state-owned company, or to keeping it as a state enterprise. He denied local media reports that he wanted EGAT to become a corporation next month.

Earlier this week, the Thai-language newspaper Post Today quoted an unnamed source at the Finance Ministry as saying that Chai-anan had proposed to the ministry a plan to register EGAT as a corporation by May 31. Corporatization would be a precondition for listing EGAT on the bourse. Before the protests by EGAT employees became large-scale and persistent rallies, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had said it was "impossible" for his government to scrap the planned EGAT share sale. "If the PM really wants EGAT to go public, he may probably have to wait after the next election," Chai-anan said. The next general election is expected early next year, assuming Thaksin doesn't decide to dissolve parliament before the end of its term.

From Yahoo News, 23 April 2004

China Airlines Privatization Set for Year End, Officials Say

The Taiwan government, the largest shareholder in China Airlines, will launch the first phase in the carrier's privatization at the end of this year with a share sale, officials said yesterday. The China Aviation Development Foundation, which comes under the transportation and communications ministry and owns 70.05 percent of CAL, aims to sell a 36 percent stake before the year's end, foundation secretary general Lin Chun-cheng told AFP. The foundation will target institutions with annual sales of NT$25 billion (US$760 million) and a share capital of 10 billion dollars as qualified strategic investors for the initial offering, he said. "The government will cease to be the biggest share holder of CAL after selling the 36 percent stake," which is expected to be completed early next year, Lin said.

An official announcement on the plan is expected later this year, pending cabinet and parliamentary approval of a package meant to guarantee employee interests and a recovery in the carrier's share price to above net worth, he said. The foundation plans to sell the remaining 34.05 percent share to institutional investors, the general public and company employees starting June 2005, he added. CAL said parent pretax profit in the first quarter to March rose to NT$750 million from 460 million in the same period last year, with revenues up 12.6 percent year-on-year to NT$21.6 billion. The carrier attributed the better-than-expected performance to strong passenger and cargo demand, and effective cost controls.

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan, 29 April 2004

 

Privatization Agency Approves Business Plan

Budapest - The board of Hungary's privatization agency APV has approved a business plan for 2004, according to the information of the daily Magyar Nemzet. The plan includes the sale of shares in pharmaceutical producer Richter, for an estimated HUF 80 billion. The value of the 25% stake in Richter is valued at over HUF 104 billion at Monday's closing price of HUF 22,400. The original plan was to sell the shares prior to EU accession - hardly a possibility now, the daily said. Revenues from the remaining state shares in oil company MOL are now planned to boost 2005 revenues, at least in part, according to the daily, because of the delay in the planned sale of MOL shares in December 2003. APV will sell its remaining 12.6%, of which an expected 11.91% would go on the block this year. APV plans HUF 70 billion from the sale.

In all, APV expects HUF 230 billion (USD 1.2 billion) in privatization revenues this year, and there are 45 transactions in which APV expects revenues of over HUF 1 billion (USD 5 million), according to the report. Total revenues are seen at HUF 334.9 billion (including a dividend of HUF 44.3 billion from the Hungarian Post). The two main guiding principles for sales this year are maximizing revenues and minimizing state guarantees related to privatizations, said the daily. Reportedly, among the privatization goals is the sale of agricultural companies this year, and the Volan network of 24 local long-distance bus companies in 2005. There is still no government decision that would allow the sale of broadcasting and telecom company Antenna Hungaria, but APV has three privatization concepts, says the report - sale entirely on the stock exchange, entirely to a strategic investor, or a combination of the two. APV plans HUF 13 billion from the sale of its 73% stake in Antenna. APV would pay HUF 146 billion into the state budget in 2004, rising to HUF 200 billion in 2005, the daily said.

From Interfax, Hungary, 5 April 2004

Government to Consider Privatization on April 22

Moscow - The Russian government will consider housing privatization issues at a meeting on April 22, 2004, First Deputy Property Minister Alexander Braverman reported today. According to him, the Cabinet will consider a report on privatization results for 2003 and plans for 2004. The Property Ministry submitted an additional list of facilities that are planned to be privatized in 2004 and that are not included on the main list. According to him, there quantity amounts to 964 facilities. He reiterated that there were 1800 facilities on the main privatization list for 2004 and 1488 facilities on the so-called "advanced list." Therefore, if the government approves the additional list for 2004, 4252 facilities will be passed to the Russian Fund of Federal Property (RFFI). The preliminary privatization plan for 2004 was approved by the government on August 15, 2004. The budget is expected to receive not less than 40bn rubles (about $1.4b) from the privatization.

From RosBusinessConsulting, Russia, 7 April 2004

WSE Moves Slowly to Privatization

The Warsaw Stock Exchange's (WSE) plan to link up with other European bourses has been hindered by the government's reticence over the exchange's privatization. Over the last year, the WSE has had plans to privatize and, at the same time, begin co-operation talks with European exchanges, such as the London Stock Exchange (LSE), in the hope of integrating products and services. But the Treasury Ministry has kept mum about when WSE executives can begin seeking a privatization advisor - a piece of information that would be a veritable green light for the bourse to begin internationalizing its operations. "The next step is that we need to decide on a privatization advisor," says Piotr Shelia, WSE vice president. "We are waiting to hear from the Treasury Ministry about opening the process of privatization."

But, Shelia rationalizes, the government has put the interests of the exchange on the back burner, owing to events such as the resignation of Prime Minister Leszek Miller last month. "The situation is not good for these decisions." He doesn't expect the Ministry to be forthcoming anytime soon, saying that he understands that privatization is politically difficult to decide on. But, he adds, "there is never a good time for such decisions." In that milieu, the government's usual foot-dragging policy on privatizations - whether or not it will change under a new cabinet - would put on hold the WSE's much-lauded policy of joining forces with other exchanges to stay competitive when the country joins the EU.

Shelia points out that once he gets the green light from the Treasury Ministry, the WSE would begin courting the LSE, Euronext and Deutsche Bourse. He said he would seek investments from the three European exchanges as well as technology sharing and outsourcing agreements. Shelia is still eager to pursue the international strategy, even though last week, the WSE, in a consortium with Euronext, lost out to Scandinavia's OMHEX in a bid to buy a 54.5 percent in the Lithuanian stock exchange (NSE). But any move toward internationalization is welcome news for the exchange, according to analysts. Once the country enters the EU there has been debate as to whether the WSE would be able to survive, given the lifting of restrictions on Poles who want to invest abroad.

From Warsaw Business Journal, Poland, by Timothy Sifert, 5 April 2004

Stepashin: No Major Revision of Privatization

Russian tourists spent as much money abroad last year as the state made over an entire decade of privatizations, Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin said Saturday. Speaking at a round table with a number of high-profile international and domestic speakers, Stepashin said that the sale of some 145,000 state enterprises yielded the state a mere $9.7 billion in 10 years, or about as much as Russians now spend on foreign vacations annually. Yet despite the gross violations of the law and vastly undervalued state property that characterized the privatizations of the 1990s, Stepashin reiterated that renationalization is out of the question. But he did not exclude revisiting certain deals "so that there are no longer surprises like the ones in relation to the Apatit joint-stock company" - the dubious privatization that is at the heart of the legal cases against Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Just a week after President Vladimir Putin invited some of the world's leading practitioners of free-market reform to his residence, Stepashin was attending an event billed as "a high-level retreat with internationally renowned experts in economics and policy analysis." "There will be no mandatory requirement for the results of privatization to be reviewed," Stepashin was quoted by Interfax as saying. "An assessment will be made regarding some facilities, but no one is going to take those assets back." The imperfect privatization practices are to blame for the emergence of "oligarchic" capitalism with its "over-concentration of wealth in the hands of the few," he said, which is slowing down growth and limiting foreign investment. "This is why we should dot the i's on the privatization issue by the end of the year. This is both an economic and political decision."

Stepashin received support from Arkady Volsky, head of the powerful business lobby the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. "Sooner or later the state should know how much of its money was spent on privatization honestly, and how much was stolen," he said, adding that a careful evaluation could result in the creation of mechanisms to "compensate the state for money that was lost." Among the foreign experts invited to the conference were Harvard University economist Marshall Goldman, Dmitry Simes, president of the Nixon Center in Washington, and Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank. "I proposed something like a privatization amnesty: Calculate what the companies should have been worth and the amount by which they underpaid, and ask the owners to make up the difference voluntarily,"Goldman said in an interview.

The Audit Chamber hosted the round table, but mysterious Swedish-born, London-based financier Peter Castenfelt helped organize it. In the early 1990s Castenfelt served as an intermediary between Russia and the International Monetary Fund, and as an economic adviser to President Boris Yeltsin. In May 1999 Castenfelt reportedly helped end NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in behind-the-scenes talks with Slobodan Milosevic on behalf of the Russian leadership. Stepashin was prime minister at the time. Staff Writer Caroline McGregor contributed to this report.

From Moscow Times, Russia, by Denis Maternovsky, 19 April 2004

Russian Oligarchs Were Recommended Pay more for Privatization

During privatization, Russia earned only the fraction of the money it was supposed to. Russian Accounting Chamber discovered that the budget of Russia gained only $9.7 fr?m privatization of 145,000 Russian state enterprises. This is little money, only in 2003 Russian tourists spent the same sum abroad. This is the data from the analysis of the privatization results for 1993 - 2003 conducted by Russian Accounting Chamber. Last week Nobel laureate Josef Stiglits was in Moscow to provide his recommendations on correcting the mistakes of the past. The former Chief Economist of the World Bank said that the oligarchs - owners of the major companies dealing with natural resources - must make additional payments to the state budget.

Mr. Stiglits recommended the government to take over 90 per cent of the profit earned by the companies exporting natural resources (currently the oligarchs receive 40-50 percent of the profit). Owners of the big companies privatized for little money, could be taxed by "10 per cent of the net profit from initial investment". Josef Stiglits offers to mpose this tax on the businessmen selling companies" assets. Chairman of Russian Union of Industrialists and Businessmen Arcady Volsky believes that privatization should be made legit through "paying taxes from the property obtained in a dishonest way". One option for oligarchs is directing this money to fighting poverty. Josef Stiglits objected to Mr. Volsky by saying that the recently introduced "social responsibility of business" would not compensate the unfair deeds of the last decade". Chairman of Accounting Chamber Sergey Stepashin is not ready for such radical conclusions. He says that the fact that the country earned little on privatization, does not mean that "the money should be taken back in some way".

From Pravda, Russia, 19 April 2004

Austrian Airlines Keen on Bulgaria Air Privatization

The Austrian Airlines are interested in the privatisation of Bulgaria Air, according to Vagn Sorensen, Chief Executive Officer of the air carrier. Leaders of biggest Austrian companies such as OMV, BAWAG, Soravia Group, Erste Bank, have held meeting with Bulgaria's Economy Minister Lidya Shuleva in Vienna. Minister Shuleva is taking part in the investment forum dedicated to Bulgaria, which attracted numerous Austrian companies, including Raiffeisen Bank, Bank Austria, Alstom Power, Neumann Communications, Telecom Austria, etc. The forum visitors were interested to know more about the investment climate in Bulgaria, the state of real estate market and the Bulgarian economy perspectives en route to the EU. Austria ranks fourth in investments to Bulgaria. Bilateral economic relations have intensified reaching last year its highest peak for more than a decade now. Minister Shuleva stressed specifically on the potential of Bulgarian spa tourism.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 14 April 2004

Russian Government Approves Privatization Plan for 2004

Moscow - The government of the Russian Federation has approved on the whole the privatization plan for 2004 drawn up by the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov declared at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the main task of privatization in the country "is economic restructuring and boosting its growth." The process of privatization must fit in the active economic policy pursued in the country, the Prime Minister said. In this connection, the government conducted on Wednesday an in-depth analysis of the privatization issue, although this issue was considered as routine in the preceding years, the prime minister noted. Fradkov said "obvious problems" come to light in the course of conducting privatization in the Russian Federation.

He pointed out that it was necessary to sort out these problems thoroughly. "It is not our task to simply get rid of state-owned property," Fradkov underscored. "We must make all our property work effectively," said he. Fradkov thinks that it is necessary to give up a quantitative approach to privatization. The privatization program must take into account the fact that property in general and state-owned property "is a most powerful resource at the disposal of the state". This resource must be used to achieve a maximum effect, Fradkov said. He called on the government to consider the privatization issue "from the viewpoint of critical analysis."

He said it was baffling that Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, who was the main reporter on the issue under discussion, had arrived late at the Cabinet meeting and did not hear the prime minister's introductory statement. He expressed the hope that the presentation of German Gref's report would be adequate. At present, Russia has many outdated laws that hamper the privatization process, said Gref. He stressed that 60 Federal laws and 16 presidential decrees are at variance with the existing conditions for privatization. It is necessary for the government to adopt a resolution on a revision of the law on privatization of state-owned property, Gref believes.

Along with that, he noted that in order to upgrade effectiveness, the government must "approve a privatization program for two, not one year." In Gref's opinion, this approach will enable the country to "attain a qualitatively new pace of privatization" from 2006 on. It will also help create a transparent system." Gref said, "It is hardly plausible to sell all the properties listed in the privatization plan for this year." "It will be very difficult," he added. The Economic Development Ministry will submit to the government before September 1 a list of state-owned properties that should not be sold off so as to ensure the performance of the state functions, Gref said. Along with the list, the ministry will submit to the Cabinet proposals concerning ways of privatization of all the other state-owned properties. The ministry will seek to take into account the proposals made by other ministries while selling off the designated properties, German Gref said.

From ITAR-TASS, Russia, 21 April 2004

Ministry to Develop Guide for Privatization

Kragujevac - The Ministry of Culture and Media is preparing a guide for the privatization of media, in hopes of coming to an agreement on a system that will first and foremost guarantee that the media will respect the interest of the citizens. At a roundtable discussion held in Kragujevac, entitled "Privatization - Now or...," experts came to a general consensus that the main problem is that the government can not come to an agreement over the way in which to carry out media privatization. The Secretary for the Council on Broadcasting, Slobodan Djoric, said that the movement for the privatization of Kragujevac Television was rushed because the ministry hadn't come up with a plan on how to go about the privatization process. Another problem Djoric said was encountered was that within the privatization process, the jobs and salaries of the current workers were not guaranteed. The forum was attended by members of the Association of Independent Electronic Media, the Agency for Privatization, several nongovernmental organizations and representatives from most of Serbia's leading media organizations.

From B92, Yugoslavia, 29 April 2004

Economic Ministry Proposes Amendments to Law on Privatization

Moscow - The Russian Economic Development and Trade Ministry will submit for the government's consideration, amendments to the existing procedure of changing state representatives in boards of directors of state-owned enterprises. The amendments suggest that state representatives will be changed, if it is necessary, without holding an extraordinary shareholders meeting. According to Deputy Economy Minister Andrey Sharonov, the government is currently considering the proposed amendments.

From RosBusinessConsulting, Russia, 29 April 2004

 

Corporate Governance Task Force of the National Cyber Security Partnership Releases Industry Framework

TWashington D.C. - Public-Private Partnership Issues Call to Action for CEOs and Boards of Directors to Incorporate Information Security as Part of Corporate Governance Policies and Management - The Corporate Governance Task Force of the National Cyber Security Partnership (NCSP) today released a management framework and call to action to industry, non-profits and educational institutions, challenging them to integrate effective information security governance (ISG) programs into their corporate governance processes. The NCSP Task Force report identifies cyber security roles and responsibilities within corporate management structures and references and combines industry-accepted standards and best practices, metrics and tool sets that bring accountability to three key elements of corporate governance programs and information security systems: people, process and technology.

Although information security is often viewed as a technical issue, it is also a governance challenge that involves risk management, reporting and accountability. As such, it requires the active engagement of executive management and boards of directors across all industry sectors and among non-profit organizations and educational institutions. By using the ISG framework and assessment tools, organizations can integrate information security into their corporate governance programs and create a safer business community for themselves and the enterprises that interact with them. In addition to the recommendations and tool sets contained in the report, the NCSP plans to assist organizations seeking to meet the Task Force call to action by promoting ISG implementation through an awareness and rollout campaign in the coming months.

"In this era of increased cyber attacks and information security breaches, it is essential that all organizations give information security the focus it requires," said Amit Yoran, Director of the National Cyber Security Division, IAIP, at the Department of Homeland Security. "Addressing these cyber and information security concerns, the private sector will not only strengthen its own security, but help protect the homeland as well. The Department of Homeland Security supports the Task Force's call on organizations to make information security governance a priority and to use tools such as the ones described in this report to develop effective information security governance programs."

The recommendations that follow are designed for broad application to private sector businesses across all sectors, non-profit organizations and educational institutions: - Organizations should adopt the information security governance framework described in the report and embed cyber security into their corporate governance process. - Organizations should signal their commitment to information security governance by stating on their website that they intend to use the tools developed by the Corporate Governance Task Force to assess their performance and report the results to their board of directors. - All organizations represented on the Corporate Governance Task Force should signal their commitment to information security governance by voluntarily posting a statement on their website. In addition, TechNet, the Business Software Alliance, the Information Technology Association of America, the Chamber of Commerce and other leading trade associations and membership organizations should encourage their members to embrace information security governance and post statements on their websites.

Furthermore, all Summit participants should embrace information security governance and post statements on their websites, and if applicable, encourage their members to do so as well. - The Department of Homeland Security should endorse the information security governance framework and core set of principles outlined in this report, and encourage the private sector to make cyber security part of its corporate governance efforts. - The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) should revise the Internal Controls-Integrated Framework so that it explicitly addresses information security governance. "It is the fiduciary responsibility of senior management in organizations to take reasonable steps to secure their information systems. Information security is not just a technology issue, it is also a corporate governance issue," said Art Coviello, president and CEO at RSA Security, and co-chair of the Corporate Governance Task Force.

"This call to action is the work of many competing institutions coming together with common purpose - to develop a framework that is easy to understand and still leads to improved security; to develop a tool-set that organizations of all sizes can implement; and to deliver recommendations that will help get this done on a voluntary basis across many sectors of the economy. We have done our job and now we encourage CEOs and Boardrooms across this country to do theirs." "We cannot solve our cyber security challenges by delegating them to government officials or CIOs. The best way to strengthen US information security is to treat it as a corporate governance issue that requires the attention of Boards and CEOs," said Bill Conner, chairman, president and CEO, Entrust, Inc. "Today's call to action delivers the necessary framework, and the process to de-risk cyber security, corporate governance and our economy. As we implement these recommendations, we will reap the rewards of productivity growth, customer satisfaction and improved competitiveness, and gain the larger reward of enhanced homeland security." A full copy of the report can be downloaded at http://www.cyberpartnership.org/init-governance.html.ext Here

From PRNewswire (press release), 12 April 2004

Candidates Oppose Social Security Privatization

Sioux Falls - The two candidates for the vacant U.S. House seat agree on at least one thing: The Social Security system should not be privatized. Republican Larry Diedrich and Democrat Stephanie Herseth spent 90 minutes Wednesday night discussing issues at a forum sponsored by AARP South Dakota. They are running in a June 1 special election for South Dakota's vacant House seat. Diedrich said he has never backed the privatization option, offered by supporters as a way to assure younger contributors that a Social Security program will be there for them. "We do not want to privatize the system," he said. Diedrich also does not want to see benefits reduced, opposes increases in the tax people pay into the Social Security system and opposes raising the age eligible to participate.

Herseth, a Democrat, also opposes privatization, promising that if she is elected, she will work to protect the system. "I oppose any plans to privatize and hope the administration doesn't go forward with it," she said. "That is a bad idea. We need to protect the trust fund." Herseth also said she "flatly disagrees" with Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Board chairman, who wants to "take aim at Social Security to deal with the deficit." Diedrich applauded AARP for supporting a Medicare reform package approved by Congress that includes a provision allowing rural hospitals to be reimbursed "at the same rate as their urban cousins." He said it also helps take care of people with the lowest incomes. Herseth said she is concerned about the cost of prescription drugs and the availability of information about them. "We need to ensure a level of accountability in the prescription drug industry," she said. "They need to tell us how the drug performs against others."

From Rapid City Journal, SD, 23 April 2004

Time to Give Privatization Another Look

Is it time for the Greenville City Council to revisit the issue of privatizing the Greenville Water Utility portion of city government? Probably. What can it hurt, given the situation the utility area finds itself in at the present time? With more than $400,000 in delinquent water bills owing to the city right now, that should be reason enough to look at something new that will address systemic problems in the Greenville Water Utility. Even more so since the current system hasn't responded well despite increases in the deposit amount for new customers and an increase in water rates several years ago. When government becomes more inefficient than private enterprise in providing important services to its citizens, then one must question whether city funds are being used wisely and in the most efficient manner.

Former Greenville Mayor Paul C. Artman Jr. tried to move the privatization issue forward in 2002 but the City Council wouldn't even listen to the pros and cons on the issue. And in case one has forgotten, the water bill isn't just for water but also for garbage collection and sewer service. Garbage collection and sewer expenses have to be paid each month, so if the water bill is delinquent, then, so are garbage collection and sewer revenues which means that both those accounts are in arrears, also. Unfortunately, Greenville is saddled with inherent problems, such as many customers of a transient nature or who simply don't want to be good citizens and pay their water bill, many who are elusive and move off and are gone for good, many who simply move from one residence or apartment to another and get the water account put in someone else's name or water meters running inefficiently when they should have been changed out 20 years ago.

Some would offer that a private company might cut some jobs from the water utility area. Maybe. Maybe not. The Greenville Water Utility's main responsibilities include seeing that water meters are installed or removed, billing and collecting, which is handled by less than 10 employees right now. The Greenville Pubic Works Department works with the water utility with water line improvements, meter installation or removal and needed construction activity. That may be another 10 or so employees depending on who is assigned to do what task. The former City Council, and some on the current council, were apprised of the continuing water utility collection problem through monthly city Finance Committee meetings. Those minutes, then, went to the City Council for approval.

Then they were made available for public information. What is known from both fiscal and performance audits of the water utility is that the record has shown no missing funds, embezzlement or other hanky-panky, but rather a continuing problem of inefficient collection of city water revenue. What is also known is that government is neither known for its speed nor for its efficiency in getting needed things done. In looking at the big picture, private enterprise has to make things work in a cost-efficient manner or else it won't stay in business. Now is not the time to hide like ostriches and think the problem will be solved, then just go away.

Private enterprise operates many municipal water systems across the country and does so quite efficiently in most cases. So if private enterprise can do the job better then why not - at least - entertain some discussion on the matter? Right now, at the rate the city is going, much of the outstanding balances owed the city water utility will never be fully collected nor will lost funds be made up. Maybe a private water utility can do a better job on behalf of the citizens of Greenville who deserve to know that city funds are being managed effectively, efficiently and in the most cost-effective manner possible.

From Delta Democrat Times, MS, 29 April 2004