ISSUE 62
May 2004
 
 
   
    Ireland: Minister Moves Forward on Review of Public Administration
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Terzic: Public Administration Reform Is a Requirement on the Road to European Integration
   
    USA: America Online, College Savings Plan Announce Partnership
   
    World Experts Unite in Urgent Effort to Fight Deadly Disease
 
   
    Sierra Leone: Spotlight Falls on Corruption in Sierra Leone
South Africa: ICC Promises Corruption-Free World Cup
Kenya: Heads May Roll in Government Attack on Corruption
Mozambique: Parliament Reexamines Law Against Corruption
South Africa: Anti-corruption Act Is Inspiring
   
    South Korea: Major Parties Sign Pact to Boost Economy
India: NDA's 5-Year Rule Full of Corruption: Sonia
Bangladesh: Form Independent Anti-corruption Commission: B Chy
Pakistan: Kutchery Culture Paints Judicial Corruption
Bangladesh: Bangladesh to Set up Anti-corruption Commission
Sri Lanka: Commission to Probe Fraud and Corruption in Samurdhi
Australia: Anti-corruption Body Chiefs Revealed
China: Chinese Local Government Asks Children to Turn in Corrupt Parents
   
    USA: AP Interview: Connecticut Governor Says Corruption Probe Overshadows His Good Actions
USA: Corruption Fallout
 
   
    Kenya: We'll Shape Up the Civil Service, Says Minister
Ghana: PSC Will Organize Annual Lectures
South Africa: Unions Table Civil Service Wage Wishes
Zimbabwe: Arbitrator Awards Civil Servants Pay Increase
Zimbabwe: State Awards Civil Servants Additional 50 Percent Pay Rise
South Africa: 10 Eastern Cape Civil Servants Nabbed for Fraud
   
    China: Beijing Civil Servant Delegation in Hong Kong for Exchange Program
Pakistan: Chief Justice Questions Civil Servants Income
New Zealand: Public Service Boss Sounds Warning on Hikoi Participation
New Zealand: Public Servants and Political Demonstrations
Malaysia: Massive Transfer of Civil Servants Soon
Brunei: Over 50 Civil Servants Take Part in Adat Istiadat Course
Singapore: Civil Service Flexi-hours Get More Flexible
Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur's Great Civil Service Reshuffle
Malaysia: MM Focus: Shake-up in Civil Service
India: Topper of Civil Services Examination Wants to Remove Poverty
India: Utkal University Student Tops Civil Services Exam
Singapore: Top Civil Servants Use Luxury Cars for 'Practical Reasons'
   
    Ireland: Civil Servants Asked to Be a 'Sport' and Decentralise
UK: Fraser in Civil Servants Broadside
Italy: Mazzella, Increase in Citizen Confidence in Civil Service
Italy: Civil Servants: Maroni, Raising Public Spending Would Be Suicide
   
    Canada: Civil Servant Fired Over Quebec Seperatism
Canada: Civil Servants Punished for Taking Gifts
USA: Downsizing Now a Painful Reality for Civil Services
USA: Harvard Receives Gift to Promote Public Service
Canada: Quebec to Cut 16,000 Jobs
USA: Civil Service Nomination Refused in Interest of Diversity
USA: Washington Mall Hosts Annual Salute to Public Servants
USA: Voters Support Civil Service
 
   
    South Africa: E-Government Systems Help Deliver Essential Services to the Poor
Nigeria: FG Inaugurates E-Government Board
South Africa: Computer Virus Hits Public Service
   
    New Zealand: NZ Can Learn from Singapore E-government
   
    Ireland: Hanafin Publishes Upbeat R-gov Report
Ireland: Open Source 'Too Costly' for Irish E-gov
UK: UK Head of E-government to Be Announced Soon
UK: Whitehall Softens 2005 E-gov Targets
Netherlands: Netherlands Climbs Global E-gov Rankings
UK: UK E-gov 'Needs Shaking Up'
UK: E-gov Website for Small Businesses Launched
UK: Tories to Fight on Public Services
UK: Milburn: Let Charities Run Public Services
UK: UK 'Slips Down E-government Table'
UK: Survey Shows E-government Development Slowing
Italy: Public Administration: Sicily Wins Award
Italy: Public Administration Forum Prize to Veltroni for Efficiency
UK: Public Services to Organise Annual Lectures
EU: Europe Connects E-gov Good Practice
UK: Peer Welcomes Public Service Proposals
   
    UAE: UNDP Lauds Dubai Municipality's e-Government Initiative
UAE: Success of E-governments Is Linked to Implementing the Right IT Platform, Says BEA Systems
   
    USA: E-gov Must Get Market Savvy, Survey Says
USA: Study Finds E-government Progress Has Leveled Off
USA: Parran Wraps Up Public Service
Canada: Study: Canadian E-gov Maturity Ranks First Globally
USA: Havelock Launches E-government
USA: Santa Rosa, California Utilizes Accela's E-Government Solution to Provide On-line Services to Citizens
USA: This Is the Week to Honor Public Service Employees
USA: Rice Alumnus Pushes Public Service in Commencement Address
USA: Kerry Urges Public Service
USA: WPPI and Wisconsin Public Service Sign Long-Term Power Supply Agreement
   
    E-gov Entering Adolescence - Initiatives Worldwide Mature, Focus on Serving Citizens
 
   
    Ghana: Civil Servants' Savings Loans Scheme Disburses 1.7 Billion Cedis
   
    Europe: European Public Finance Banks Likely to Post Healthy Q1 Results
Slovakia: Ruling Coalition Agrees to Increase 2005 Public Finance Deficit
UK: Tax Avoidance 'Robs Public Services'
   
    USA: Brown Says Davison Also Backed Sales Tax
USA: Dismantling California's Public Services: Budget Crises Hit State, County and City Governments
USA: Tax Policy Focus of MSU Forum
USA: Sound Budget Key to Sound Tax Policy
 
   
    Nigeria: Privatization of NEPA: Where Do Workers Stand?
   
    Pakistan: Workers Termed Prime Stakeholders in Privatization Policy
Thailand: Bangkok Power Privatization Protests Held
Uzbekistan: Uzbekistan to Speed up Uzbekneftegaz Privatization
   
    Iraq: Privatization of Warfare
Israel: Discount Privatization to Continue
Israel: The Privatization of the Supreme Court
Israel: Discount Employees to Hold Emergency Conference Before Privatization
   
    Canada: Quebec Shelves Privatization Plan
USA: Private-public Partnership Brings Back Shovelnose Sturgeon after 50-year Hiatus
USA: Public-Private Partnership Hopes to Revitalize Downtown
 

Minister Moves Forward on Review of Public Administration

NIO Minister, Ian Pearson today stated that responses to the recent consultation on the Public Administration (RPA) review, demonstrated a strong desire from the people of Northern Ireland to see the number of public bodies here cut significantly. His comments followed a series of meetings held with the main political parties, to update them on the themes emerging out of the Review. Outlining the next steps in the Review of Public Administration process, Mr. Pearson said: "I am committed to delivering a more effective and efficient system of public administration to the people of Northern Ireland."

The Minister said, whilst a considerable degree of work still needs to be done to flesh out the proposals, he saw the final model including: o A significant reduction on the numbers of public bodies, including Health Service bodies; o Local councils being reduced from 26 to single figures, but having more powers, and boundaries that are fully aligned with other service providers in their locality; o Arrangements at a local level to ensure the maintenance of local identity and community input to decision-making; o Robust governance arrangements to ensure transparent decision-making, fairness and the protection of minority interests. The Review of Public Administration consultation document was launched last October with over 4,500 copies being issued. Mr. Pearson has already met with representatives of the DUP, UUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance parties last week. Further meetings are planned in the coming months.

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 4 May 2004

Terzic: Public Administration Reform Is a Requirement on the Road to European Integration

Sarajevo - A conference titled "Reform of public administration through functional reviews" was held today in organization of the EU Project "Systematic Review of Public Administration in BiH" and with support of BiH Council of Ministers. "Aim of the conference is to inform the workers in administration, politicians and BiH public about the process of functional reviews of public administration through experiences of other countries, with accent on the EU requests for advancing and enhancing institutions and administration", said BiH Council of Ministers Chair Adnan Terzic in making the opening remarks at the conference. Public administration reform is, according to him, a clearly set goal, condition and a requirement of our country on the road to European integration.

Administration must not be a factor of slowing down development, stressed Terzic. In mid November last year, the European Commission had signed the Memorandum of Understanding worth over five million euros with the State and the Entities, which is aimed at helping BiH authorities implement functional reviews in eight key sectors (police, ministry of justice, economy, health, education, refugee return, agriculture and environment), said the EC Delegation to BiH Head, Ambassador Michael Humphreys. These functional reviews will assess whether the tasks and duties in these sectors are being conducted at the relevant authority levels and in the appropriate manner.

Functional reviews, added Humphreys, have nothing to do with firing people, or with financial auditing, but with assessing whether the authorities in certain key sectors are prepared to be active partners of the EU on the road towards its membership. He underlined the necessity of applying the recommendations. Functional reviews are in short the studies of the current situation with recommendations for development and advancement. Two kinds of functional reviews are planned for this year - systematic and vertical (sector) reviews. The conference was also an opportunity for promoting the UNDP book on functional reviews "Rebuilding State Structures - Methods and Approaches", which is financed by the EU.

From FENA, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 5 May 2004

 

America Online, College Savings Plan Announce Partnership

Needham, Mass. - It is now easier for parents to save for their children's college education under a new partnership between Internet giant America Online and the college savings plan, Upromise. AOL members can earn double contributions for Upromise eligible purchases at participating grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurants. "For AOL members, saving for college just got twice as easy," said Jonathan Miller, chairman and chief executive of Dulles, Va.-based AOL. Upromise is the nation's largest, privately funded service that helps families save for college while making routine daily purchases at thousands of outlets nationwide. More than 4.5 million families have signed up to save for college through Upromise, based in Needham.

More than 1 million AOL users have already joined Upromise, and by simply linking their existing accounts the extra savings will be automatically credited. AOL members who are not already Upromise members can join up online. "Today's commitments from AOL, and other Upromise participating companies ... underscore the extent of the college savings crisis in America; but more importantly, they demonstrate that families can overcome the tuition burden through their own savings efforts and help from the many Upromise companies who are willing to support them," said Upromise president and chief executive George Bell. Average college tuition and fees rose 47% at four-year public colleges and universities, and 42% at private colleges over the past decade, far outpacing inflation, according to The College Board. Seventy percent of Americans have saved less than 10% of what's needed for their children's college education.

From USA Today, 3 May 2004

 

World Experts Unite in Urgent Effort to Fight Deadly Disease

Up to One Million Child Deaths are Preventable - New Evidence Shows HIV-Infected Children & Infants are Particularly Vulnerable - Helsinki, Finland - Leaders in the fight against disease today emphasized the importance of preventing unnecessary child deaths from Streptococcus pneumoniae - a disease currently responsible for killing between 800,000 and one million children every year, mostly in developing countries.(1) The reaffirmed consensus on the need for new interventions to fight the disease came on the eve of the fourth International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD-4) in Helsinki. The 2004 symposium is being organized by the National Public Health Institute of Finland and attended by 600 experts from around the world.

The week-long symposium will review and discuss the consequences of Streptococcus pneumoniae - A common, serious, yet preventable disease. Dr. Tore Godal, Executive Secretary of the Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunization (GAVI), Dr. Hanna Nohynek, member of the local ISPPD-4 Scientific Organizing Team, and Dr. Orin Levine, Executive Director of PneumoADIP, issued this statement: "The need to assure access to safe, effective and affordable pneumococcal vaccines for children in the world's poorest countries has never been greater. However, the timely introduction and use of these vaccines in developing countries will require a coordinated effort by leading public health institutions and partnership with vaccine manufacturers to ensure a sustainable, affordable supply of vaccine for developing countries."

The Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium causes a variety of diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis and ear infections. "Acute respiratory infections, especially pneumonia, are the leading infectious cause of mortality world wide," stated Dr. Thomas Cherian, of the World Health Organization. "The increasing incidence of HIV makes the problem even more urgent as HIV-infected children and infants have a 20-40 fold increased risk of contracting pneumococcal disease." New vaccines to prevent deadly pneumococcal infections are now available and widely used in rich countries in North America and Europe. As Dr. Orin Levine, Executive Director of GAVI's PneumoADIP explained, "These vaccines are both safe and highly effective.

The routine use of these vaccines in developing countries could substantially reduce infant and child mortality from pneumonia and other serious infections." "Importantly, it is our collective belief that routine vaccination against pneumococcal disease in developing countries could contribute to achieving the United Nations' ambitious goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015," commented Dr. Hanna Nohynek member of the local scientific organizing team of ISPPD-4. Over the past four years GAVI's and the Vaccine Funds efforts will have contributed to save over 500 000 lives of children - equivalent to saving the entire population of Helsinki - and eight million children now have access to immunization for the first time.

"GAVI's future ambition is to save the lives of another one million children between 2004 and 2006 by providing the poorest countries with new vaccines and funding to strengthen infrastructure so that millions more children will be full protected," explained Dr. Tore Godal, Executive Secretary, GAVI. GAVI recently selected and awarded a grant to the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to serve as the host for its Pneumococcal Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan (PneumoADIP) team. Notes to Editors - The International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD-4) ISPPD-4 is the forum that brings together leading experts from around the world to learn and exchange methods of combating this serious disease in children, but also in adults.

Many of the delegates attending ISPPD-4 come from the developing countries where pneumococcal disease causes the most deaths and disability. These are the individuals who work on the front line and who will be instrumental in the fight against the disease. The Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunization (GAVI) - The GAVI alliance was launched in 2000 to increase immunization rates and reduce widening global disparities in access to vaccines among the world's poorest countries. It is a unique public-private partnership between developing country health ministries, donor countries, vaccine manufacturers, NGOs, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank.

Thanks to its rapid start-up and early achievements, and its working private and public partnership model, by the end of 2003 GAVI has committed about 95% of its available resources. Since 2000, GAVI and the Vaccine Fund have disbursed $236 million to 69 countries, with eight million more children reached with basic vaccines(2) and 35.5 million more children reached with new vaccines.(3) The Vaccine Fund's goal is to raise $400 million annually from government and private sources to fully fund GAVI's commitments to the poorest countries.

Pneumococcal Vaccines Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan (PneumoADIP) PneumoADIP is proud to be a sponsor of ISPPD-4. The goal of PneumoADIP is to shorten the time between the use of a new vaccine in industrialized countries and its introduction in developing countries by reducing demand uncertainty and achieving an affordable, sustainable supply of vaccines. This novel approach is funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) through its partner the Vaccine Fund. PneumoADIP is located at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The mission of PneumoADIP is to improve child survival and health by accelerating the evaluation of and access to new life saving pneumococcal vaccines for the world's children. For more information, please visit: http://www.preventpneumo.org Pneumococcal Disease - Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. When these bacteria invade the lungs, they cause the most common kind of bacterial pneumonia and can then invade the bloodstream (bacteremia) and/or the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). According to WHO, pneumococcal pneumonia and meningitis are responsible for 800,000 to 1 million child deaths each year and more than 90 percent of pneumococcal pneumonia deaths in children occur in developing countries.

From PR Newswire (press release), 10 May 2004

 
 

Spotlight Falls on Corruption in Sierra Leone

Freetown - A government survey in Sierra Leone has revealed that the West African country's public sector is still riddled with corruption, despite warnings from international donors that they would slash much-needed aid if the scourge was not tackled. The report released last week by the office of Vice President Solomon Berewa said "corrupt practices in Sierra Leone are widespread... and service delivery by the public sector is generally marked by irregularities and bribery." According to the survey, two-thirds of users of public services, from telephones to banks to schools or hospitals, reported having to pay bribes to use the service. Forty-two percent of public officials have admitted to mismanaging their institutions, including misappropriating budgets, usually by drawing on international aid earmarked for rebuilding the west African country after its decade-long civil war, which ended in January 2002.

Some suggest that corrupt practices by a string of military governments fuelled the 1991 uprising by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) against President Joseph Momoh. That rebellion plunged the country into a civil war marked by widespread amputations, rape, murder and the forcible conscription of children as fighters. Five months after the war ended, a civilian government was installed after elections generally described as fair. Hopes were high that the new administration of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah would finally bring an end to the bribery and graft that characterised previous governments. But despite repeated warnings from donors and oversight by a UN peacekeeping mission, there has been little progress in ridding the country of the corruption scourge.

"The government has an uphill task to fight corruption in the country, which is now regarded as the second war to be fought after the end of the 10-year rebel war," a western diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "If it does not distance itself from corrupt officials or put them on trial, it faces the risk of losing the lucrative economic and financial support of the international community." In November last year, a delegation of British lawmakers visited Sierra Leone to drive home the urgency of ridding the country of corruption. "The government of Sierra Leone must do everything within its power to stop corruption," said British MP Win Griffiths, who led the parliamentary delegation. "There is in existence a 10-year agreement between Britain and Sierra Leone under which London gives development assistance to Sierra Leone," said Griffiths.

"We are watching how the Sierra Leone government is putting such assistance into practice... We give you some help, but you have got to show us how it is being spent." But Sierra Leone has continued to fall short on promises to curb corruption, and that has begun to have an impact on the money flowing into the country of 5,4 million people, many of whom live on less than a dollar a day. The European Union has withheld two million euros that were to be used to fund local elections set for May 22, citing among its reasons the fact that the electoral commission has not accounted for how it disbursed funds for the 2002 presidential and general elections. The EU is also sending an audit team this month to the capital Freetown to see just how the millions it has contributed to help rebuild the country have been spent. The World Bank last month announced a $25 000 (about R170 000) grant for the local elections, roughly half of which, it stipulated, was to go to ensuring good governance in the run-up to the vote.

From Independent Online, South Africa, by Rod MacJohnson, 6 May 2004

ICC Promises Corruption-Free World Cup

Paul Condon, head of the International Cricket Council's Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), is confident next year's World Cup in South Africa will be free of any match-fixing. "I am very confident that the measures being put in place in South Africa and around the cricket world will ensure that the World Cup will be a tournament played entirely on merit,'' Condon told journalists. "There will be a sensible but stringent security regime in place, which will act as a major deterrent to would-be corrupters. "At the same time it will be as unobtrusive as possible as far as players and spectators are concerned.''

Condon is at the desert venue to review security measures recommended by the ACU last April to eliminate widespread corruption from the sport. The move follows the ban imposed on several Test players - including former South African captain Hansie Cronje - for their links to illegal bookmakers. The proposals include strict controls on access to players' dressing rooms and team hotels and restricting the use of mobile phones by players during matches. "There is now a much greater awareness of the problem among cricket authorities and players,'' Condon, the former head of London's Metropolitan Police, added.

"That, combined with the work of the ACU and the series of preventative recommendations accepted by the ICC, has made significant inroads into the problem.'' The ACU has undertaken an intensive programme of briefings and security audits in preparation for the World Cup. Following Condon's visit to Sharjah, there will be a complete security review of all venues in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya which are due to host World Cup matches in 2003. Next month, the ICC is also expected to appoint an anti-corruption coordinator and five security managers, who will be responsible for liaising with the Test-playing nations, as part of the battle against match-fixing.

From Caribbean Cricket, Caribbean, 10 May 2004

Heads May Roll in Government Attack on Corruption

Nairobi - Elected 18 months ago on an anti-graft platform, President Mwai Kibaki's government is facing its first major test over the suspended Sh2.7 billion passports contract that could have far-reaching repercussions. The scandal raises the prospect of a major shake-up in government ranks over corruption. Alarm bells are ringing both in government and in civil society at the grim prospect of a return of "the corrupt networks that held the State hostage under the former regime which have started attempting to regroup", in the words of anti-graft czar John Githongo. Mr. Githongo's remarks were a veiled reference to the re-emergence of names such as those of the people who were behind the shady purchase of the infamous Mahindra jeeps for the police a number of years ago.

Along with this has been talk a number of businessmen and senior officials colluding on corrupt deals mainly related to procurement in government departments. Says Mr. Githongo, the Ethics and Governance Permanent Secretary: "Anecdotal evidence would now suggest to me that we now have within ourselves an administration, possibly at high levels in government as well as individuals - a few of them - who may have become captives of of these corrupt networks that are trying to regain their hold on the state." Other senior government officials have made pronouncements on the issue and action has already been taken on figures at permanent secretary level and there are hints that even ministers could soon be called to account for their actions if found to be corrupt.

Treasury PS Joseph Magari and his home affairs counterpart, Mr. Sylvester Mwaliko, have both recorded statements with anti-corruption detectives in connection with the passports deal. It's the first time in Kenya that such senior government figures have had to write statements to the police on such matters. And in a speech to an international business conference in Nairobi, Mr. Githongo gave the strongest hint yet that big heads could roll in the war against corruption. Said he: "The Government is aggressively investigating all serious allegations of corruption even in its own ranks." He said there would be no favouritism and that the Kibaki administration was "willing to pay the political price of fighting corruption in its own ranks, no matter how high that corruption reaches."

A well-placed government source told the Sunday Nation: "The fact that people at the level of permanent secretary have recorded statements with the police on corruption means the President is showing which side he is on in this matter." The same source suggested that though it was the President's prerogative to reshuffle the Government: "There could be a shake-up on the way. But it will have to be done all at once, with a coalition you cannot take a piecemeal approach to such matters." Since the Narc Government came to power after the December 2002 General Election, eyebrows have been raised at the sudden wealth exhibited by some public officials who had hitherto been labouring under the cloud of pecuniary embarrassment.

Said Githongo of such officers: "And so for those who believe they have finally joined the gravy train, those public officials who would appear to have suddenly won a secret lottery to which wananchi were somehow unable to participate - their days are numbered." There has been mounting public criticism of the contract for the purchase of passport issuing equipment which was inflated from a Sh800 million project to one costing Sh2.7 billion and then awarded to a French firm without competitive tender. On Wednesday, the Government halted the controversial contract and National Security Minister Chris Murungaru pledged to Parliament that investigations into the project would be completed by the end of the week and the outcome made public "at the earliest possible time."

On Thursday evening, the two businessmen mentioned in connection with the deal, Mr. Jimi Wanjigi and Mr. Deepak Kamani, recorded statements in Nairobi with anti-corruption detectives who wanted them to explain their role in the affair. This followed the recording of statements by PSs Magari and Mwaliko on Tuesday. Mr. Wanjigi, who during the last General Election and for a brief period shortly after the Narc Government came to power, was an aide to Education Minister George Saitoti, was named in Parliament as having "solicited funding for the project".

This was in a statement read a fortnight ago by Vice-President and Minister for Home Affairs, Mr. Moody Awori. Earlier, the Kamani family had been named when the man who exposed the whole deal, Mr. Maoka Maore, the Kanu MP for Ntonyiri, had said that the passport deal had been brokered by the same company behind the purchase of the unsuccessful Mahindra Jeeps for the Kenya Police some years ago. The company was Kamsons Ltd, which is owned and run by the Kamani family. And on Friday, Mr. Githongo laughed off allegations making the rounds that he has been compromised in the fight against corruption. Answering a query about documents in possession of the Sunday Nation that purport to show a transaction between the government of Kenya via the Central Bank and the internationally recognised asset recovery firm, Kroll Associates and to link Mr. Githongo with a bank account at the British bank Lloyds, the PS said the document was piece of disinformation and that Kenyans should expect to see more of such.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Mwangi Githahu, 10 May 2004

Parliament Reexamines Law Against Corruption

Maputo - The Assembly of the Republic, the Mozambican parliament, started on Tuesday to debate the report of that organ's Commission for Juridic Affairs on the Law Against Corruption, with all discussions focusing particularly on article six, concerning applications and petitions to any institution. This law had been passed by the parliament and submitted to the President for promulgation, but the President sent it back to the Assembly of the Republic, after finding that it contained some unconstitutionalities. The President found irregularities in article six and 20, the later concerning the competences of the Central Office for the Fight Against Corruption.

In article six, the parliament had approved that any application not replied within the legally established period of 30 days it should be automatically be considered as turned out "indeferimento tacito". "In my point of view, acknowledging the insufficiencies of our public services, such a presumption (of indeferimento tacito) will put the citizens in serious disadvantage in presence of the public service", reads the president's document that accompanied the returned law. The document explains that this would represent a serious disadvantage to the public, because of the known delays, particularly within the state apparatus.

The document adds that this matter should be dealt with in a law of administrative procedures, not in the law against corruption, which is a special legislation On this matter, Maximo Dias, of the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition argues that this article "is essential in the law of fight against corruption because this kind of delays is usually the first step of corruption and extortion". He explained that very often applications and other papers are held and not replied, expecting the applicant to disburse money or other goods if he wants his papers to be worked on. However, he proposes a change: Instead of "indeferimento tacito", he suggests it to be "deferimento tacito", which means that after the expiry of the legal deadline, if there is no reply, the applicant should consider his request automatically satisfied.

The opposition says that in view of the evident morosity in the institutions' procedures, one should give lengthier deadlines, suggesting 60, rather than 30 days for an institution to reply to any application. On the other hand, the parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo party argues that since "indeferimento tacito" was found to be impracticable, then this article should be simply scratched from that law. The parliament's chairperson, Eduardo Mulembue, decided that the matter be again put to discussion by the Commission, that should bring a report on Wednesday for further debates.

Mulembwe also suggested that if the commission thinks that the article in question must remain, then it should also consider extending the deadline, not to 60, but to 90 days, because of the acknowledged constraints in public services. As for article 20, the president's document says that it interferes with the powers of the judges, by giving the Anti-Corruption Unit power to "demand people to present in written information on their property (including bank account reports and other records), in an initial stage of investigations, when there are not yet any incriminating evidence". "I believe that competence to order searches in any place, to detain people or obtain incriminating evidence should not be done by nobody with no jurisdictional powers", reads the document. This article is yet to be debated before the closing of the present session, that ends on Thursday.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 11 May 2004

Anti-corruption Act Is Inspiring

South African companies and organisations affected by economic crime and bent on vengeance are going to be delighted with certain provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which came into effect on Freedom Day. White-collar criminals face the bleak prospect not only of life imprisonment and harsh fines but also, in some cases, blacklisting. And those who do not want to get involved have no escape. The act introduces a ground-breaking feature that overrides common law - the onus on "persons of authority" to report corrupt activities. This feature comes into effect on July 31. Previously, no one had an obligation to report any offences. An inspired provision of the act provides for a public Register of tender defaulters, under the auspices of the national treasury. In addition, provision is made for the treasury to terminate agreements with blacklisted individuals or entities, subject to commercial considerations.

Some interesting categories of occupations have been targeted by the act. MPs who agree to do or not do something or accept gratifications in a wide range of circumstances, can now be investigated. The prosecuting authorities will ensure, no doubt, that MPs will be far more scrupulous in their dealings and business interests. There is evidence of international pressure informing the act, in its attempt to regulate the conduct of South Africans and corporate entities that use improper business methods abroad. Such persons are liable to be prosecuted in South Africa for activities that fall under the act's definitions of corrupt activities, even if these activities are not illegal in the foreign country.

This is a commendable initiative to become part of the international war on corruption and to hold South Africans to international standards of conduct. Another feature is the wide powers of search and seizure afforded to prosecuting authorities. The provisions allow the authority to apply to a judge in chambers to initiate an investigation This will enable crime-fighting units, such as the Scorpions, without notice, to enter premises, search and examine, remove property and effectively close down a business. This gives enormous power to crime-fighting units but tempers it with judicial intervention. By contrast, similar powers of search and seizure possessed and often exercised by customs and excise are not subject to any judicial process whatsoever. In this respect the act sets the example as to how the state should deal fairly with wrongdoers.

But it is not all good news. There are some vague and overly ambitious provisions that may create opportunities for misguided prosecutions and witch-hunts. There are onerous obligations on persons who hold "positions of authority" to report not only activities falling under the legislation but also any suspicious activity, otherwise they too will commit an offence. Although the offence must involve more than R100 000 before the duty to report kicks in, a "position of authority" is very widely defined. The effect of this section is that every director of a company, every member of a close corporation and every sole proprietor will be co-opted into becoming a police informant.

Perhaps this is an inevitable reaction to the South African mind-set of not assisting the police, the origin of which is not hard to identify. Nevertheless, the duty to report seems far too wide. Not only will this force your everyday businessman into becoming a whistle-blower but it will place huge pressure on an already overburdened criminal justice system. As it is, white-collar crime is not being prosecuted because of lack of capacity and resources. Finally, it is still hard to think of corruption without thinking of cricket. It seems that certain of the act's provisions were directly informed by revelations at the King commission. A striking example is the prohibition of the defense that the acceptor of the inducement failed to perform his side of the bargain! With the current act in place, Herschelle Gibbs' defense would have been found wanting. (Alex Eliott is the head of forensic services and investigation at Knowles Husain Lindsay).

From Business Report, Africa, 11 May 2004

 

Major Parties Sign Pact to Boost Economy

Bipartisan Committee on NK to Be Launched - Leaders of the two major parties on Monday agreed to make bipartisan efforts in encouraging economic recovery and political reform. During the first one-on-one meeting since the April 15 general elections, ruling Uri Party chairman Chung Dong-young and opposition Grand National Party (GNP) chairwoman Park Geun-hye signed a three-point accord under which the two parties promised to join forces in order to prop up the sagging economy, fight corruption and strengthen the Assembly's role in setting and achieving a national agenda.

"We have agreed to bring an end to political wrangling in South Korea from today and pursue policies that cater to public welfare and establish a framework for political co-existence and harmony," Chung and Park said in a joint statement after their meeting at the Assembly. As part of a joint action plan, the two agreed to establish Assembly committees responsible for creating more jobs and strengthening future-oriented human resources and infrastructure. They also reached a consensus on the establishment of a special standing committee for political reform allowing the participation of figures besides just lawmakers in order to speed up the stalled drive for political reform.

Regarding North Korea, the two agreed to introduce a special supra-partisan parliamentary committee to enact laws aimed at speeding up inter-Korean reconciliation. The leaders also agreed that the incoming parliament should legislate for the so-called lawmaker recall system to allow the removal of corrupt legislators in order to curb the privilege of exemption-from-liability. Under their accord, the parties will also consider producing legislation to force the return of illegally-raised political funds to the national treasury. The meeting came at the request of Chung, who initially proposed a round of talks that included the impeachment motion against President Roh Moo-hyun. This was rejected by Park, however, who called for the exclusion of the impeachment case. The GNP, which is the biggest political party in the outgoing Assembly, was relegated to second place with just 121 seats due to backlash against the party's leading role in impeaching President Roh Moo-hyun.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Yoo Dong-ho, 3 May 2004

NDA's 5-Year Rule Full of Corruption: Sonia

Thiruvananthapuram - Lashing out at the BJP-led coalition government at the Centre, AICC president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday said corruption was rampant during NDA's five-year rule, even at the cost of nation's security. Addressing her first election meeting in the state here, Sonia said not a single day passed during the five years of the BJP-NDA rule without scam involving the BJP-NDA leaders. "Even the defence sector, most sensitive area has not been spared of corruption", she said. "You all must remember the coffin scam and Tehelka tape, and the CAG report which showed how attempts were made to make money at the cost of the life of jawans and interest of the nation's security", she said.

One of major scams was the UTI involving Rs 25,000 crore of middle class and small investors, she said. Terming the five-year rule of NDA as one of the worst in the independent history of country, she said the internal security of the country had been worsened. "Terrorist attacks took place as never in the country during the past five years," she said. Assailing the economic policies pursued by the NDA government, Sonia said all indicators of good governance had shown a downward trend. "Growth rate has fallen, purchasing power of the people had come down and prices of agriculture inputs of farmers have gone up due to the economic mismanagement", she said.

The public sector undertakings developed with the strength of the people after Independence have been dismantled indiscriminately and "some of them are sold for dubious price", she said. The farmers of the country were facing severe crisis due to the wrong policies of the Centre, she said. Sonia said Prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee failed to fulfil the promise of creating one crore job during the NDA rule. "On the other hand, employment opportunities in the country has come down even in organised sector and the government also did not address the issues in the unorganised sector", she said. Urging the people to vote for her party candidate, she said a strong Congress-led government at the Centre was essential for the development of the state. The BJP-NDA rule has shaken the foundation of the country built by the successive Congress governments, she added.

From Indian Express, India, 5 May 2004

Form Independent Anti-corruption Commission: B Chy

Convenor of National Committee of Bikalpa Dhara (NCBD), AQM Badruddozza Chowdhury has asked the government to form an independent anti-corruption commission through amendment of the anti-corruption law. "The government must amend the anti-corruption law and declare a selective body for an independent anti-corruption commission. They can form the independent commission within two months if they work to that end," said Badruddoza while addressing a joining ceremony of 100 new members at KC Memorial Clinic yesterday. "The donor countries are also pressing the government with the same demand," he said, adding, "You've already heard allegations of embezzling thousands of crores taka by ministers, their family members and the people of ruling clique."

From The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 6 May 2004

Kutchery Culture Paints Judicial Corruption

Islamabad -The litigation process in Pakistan is complicated by the pervasive corruption in the thana and kutchery. The problems are exacerbated when judicial proceedings are held in the lower courts. The premises of the kutchery, which houses the district and lower courts, offices of district administration and police and chambers of lawyers, presents a chaotic picture of the judicial system. Besides the litigants in civil and criminal disputes, there are many other visitors to the kutchery, who come for different purposes associated with the judiciary. Some come to purchase stamp papers, for property transactions, for attestation by oath commissioners or notary publics, to surrender, sell or purchase deeds, affidavits or attestation. All these tasks are apparently very simple, but there is a mafia that makes all this impossible if members of the public do not give them money.

Zaman Asghar, a 72-year-old stamp paper dealer, said he had been doing business in the kutchery for the last 40 years. He said that mismanagement and chaos has been routine in lower courts since the emergence of Pakistan. "We have not been able to remove corruption or organise our system in the lower courts and this mess is worsening day-by-day," he said. Litigants and other visitors generally complain of misguidance, black-marketing, commissions and kickbacks and financial harassment by lawyers and other court functionaries. "I have just given Rs 500 to the reader of a senior civil judge to get an adjournment in a civil suit," an old man told Daily Times. These complaints have become normal and the objectionable practices have been taking place for many decades.

"I am looking for the stamp paper of Rs 100 denomination. Dealers say they are out of stock, but the same is being sold for Rs 125 in the black market," Shafi Muhammad, who came there to execute a surrender deed, told Daily Times. There are agents available in the district courts who work as impostors and testify for a small amount of money. "You can hire a phoney witness for Rs 200 to 500. However, the price varies with the worth of the case," lawyer Jamshed Alam said. The irony is that even in front of the offices of the district coordination officer and district police officers, one can easily come across people who will ask if you need an official seal on your papers. Such impostors fool litigants and other members of the public out of their money. The district administration has failed to stop this practice. According to a report from the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, the trend of litigation is increasing in Pakistan.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, by Mohammad Kamran, 6 May 2004

Bangladesh to Set up Anti-corruption Commission

Dhaka - Bangladesh, branded by an international watchdog as the world's most corrupt country for four years in a row, has moved to set up an independent anti-corruption commission. The government Sunday formed a selection committee, headed by a Supreme Court judge, to pick commissioners for the independent anti-graft body. The move came on the second day of the Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF), a three-day annual meeting here with aid donors. The donors in the World Bank sponsored meeting expressed discontent over the corruption and the dipping law and order. The Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based private global corruption watchdog, named Bangladesh as the world's most corrupt country for the last four years successively.

The Bangladesh parliament passed the Anti-corruption Commission Bill, 2004, in February this year, but the government did not form the selection committee in the last three months. The proposed commission will have three members, who will be picked for a four-year term by the Bangladesh president from a six-member panel chosen by the selection committee. The World Bank anticipated Bangladesh could increase its GDP growth by one to two per cent if corruption were curbed. The country's present GDP growth is 5.5 per cent. The World Bank, in a document presented at the BDF meet Monday, termed the TI's corruption rating "unjustified" as it reflected "subjective perception". But the document said, "Endemic corruption in Bangladesh is undeniable". The Financial Express published from Dhaka Monday reported Bangladesh failed to qualify for a $1 billion Millennium Challenge Assistance (MCA) plan of the US for the current year because of chronic corruption.

From New Kerala, India, 10 May 2004

Commission to Probe Fraud and Corruption in Samurdhi

The Government has decided to appoint a Commission to investigate irregularities, corruption and frauds amounting to over rupees three billion under the Samurdhi Programme during the previous UNF regime. The Commission is to be chaired by a retired Supreme Court Judge. The Commission will be empowered to probe divers irregularities including illegal transfer of funds to private financial agencies, donation of Samurdhi Lottery Funds to various organizations and staking funds for political gains. Alleged irregularities include payment of Insurance Premium at the rate of Rs. 150,000 in respect of a car purchased for a film actress and expenditure incurred in respect of a famous female athlete. These facts were revealed by Samurdhi Minister Pavithra Vanniarachchi when she addressed the opening ceremony of Samurdhi Bank at Hambegamuwa in the Divisional Secretariat Division of Thanamalwila, as her first official outing.

From Daily News, Sri Lanka, by Gamini Rupananda, 11 May 2004

Anti-corruption Body Chiefs Revealed

Western Australia's powerful new corruption watchdog yesterday introduced six new directors who bring with them high-level experience in the military, law enforcement and academia. The six directors of the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) are expected to take up their positions by mid-June. Commissioner Kevin Hammond said they were chosen from a field of 100 candidates drawn from WA, interstate and overseas applications. "The standard and level of experience of the applicants was extremely high and it is very pleasing that we have been able to attract people of this calibre from other agencies," Mr. Hammond said. "The competition for experienced managers in the law enforcement area is keen and growing rapidly so the nation's newest anti-corruption agency is fortunate to get people with such sound track records."

Mike Silverstone will take up the role of executive director, responsible for implementing Mr. Hammond's strategic directions for the CCC. Mr. Silverstone comes to the WA anti-corruption body from the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), based in Canberra, after a long career with the defence force. Nick Anticich, the current general manager of Australian Federal Police (AFP) operations in WA, will take up the role of director of operations. WA lawyer Michael Cashman, who previously worked for the royal commission into the WA Police Service, has been appointed director of legal services. With a background in setting up and running covert operations for WA, NSW and federal police, Ian Jackson, who presently works with the CCC, will become special operations director. Edith Cowan University academic Irene Froyland has been appointed director of corruption prevention, education and research, while Vanessa Grant was named director of business services.


From NEWS.com.au, Australia, by Holly Nott, 11 May 2004

Chinese Local Government Asks Children to Turn in Corrupt Parents

A district in Guangzhou has launched a "Small Eyes Watch Big Eyes" campaign, asking children to turn in their parents if they are involved in corruption. Fangcun district government recruited 12 primary and secondary schoolchildren whose parents are ranking cadres for the campaign. The children were issued certificates designating them as "graft inspectors" on 27 April, Southern Metropolis Daily reported. Other districts in Guangzhou are being encouraged to study the campaign. Experts were enlisted from the courts and government to train the children on the values of honesty, integrity and hard work, and to provide them with basic legal knowledge and other skills they would need to check on their parents.

Some people complained that the initiative was too similar to Cultural Revolution campaigns in which children were encouraged to denounce their parents. The newspaper surveyed 25 people and found that 17 objected to using children as informants. They said the campaign destroyed family ties, was unethical and would be ineffective because the children were too young to tell right from wrong. Those in favour said family pressure made it easier for a corrupt official to change his or her ways, while children were taught to respect the law. It is not unusual for mainland authorities to mobilise young people to influence their parents' behaviour - often for relatively innocuous things like quitting smoking.

The Guangzhou Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection - a Communist Party body responsible for supervising anti-corruption efforts - said the campaign was innovative. The commission said it had collected information about the programme and was distributing it to other districts for them to consider. Sun Yat-sen University political science lecturer Zhang Haiqing said the campaign would lead to conflicts within families. "During the Cultural Revolution, family ties were destroyed. Superficially, it was the right thing to do but in reality, it was not the right thing to do," the assistant professor said. "China has a tradition of mobilising the family to conduct state affairs but this time they are destroying the tradition. "The graft problem is systemic. The system has to change but it has not changed, so officials who are thinking hard about how to push forward the fight against corruption turn to using the family," he said.

From Xinhua, China, 12 May 2004

 

AP Interview: Connecticut Governor Says Corruption Probe Overshadows His Good Actions

Hartford, Conn. - Gov. John G. Rowland said he is frustrated that all his official actions these days are being dismissed as an attempt to divert attention from both the federal corruption investigation and the legislative impeachment he faces. Whether it's visiting a burned homeless man in the hospital, brokering a deal with a Hartford developer, or calling on Democrats to avoid spending the state's surplus in the new budget, his every move is being second-guessed for possible motives, Rowland said. "When I go to events and people are there, I know there is no interest, unless they can find a person who can say something bad," Rowland said of journalists. In a rare interview since admitting last December that he accepted gifts from state contractors, Rowland told The Associated Press last week he will not resign, and hopes to weather the corruption and impeachment investigations.

He maintains he has done nothing wrong because he has not given any state work in exchange for the presents. "People say, 'Oh, he's done things wrong. He's taken gifts.' OK, let's assume half of the stuff is true. I think the more important point is, the reason I don't resign is I haven't compromised this office," Rowland said. The governor blamed his dismal poll ratings - the latest University of Connecticut poll shows a record low 20 percent job approval - on negative media coverage. He said news organizations have a vested interest in continuing the scandal, making the news rather than reporting it. Rowland, 46, said people enjoy watching someone like himself fall from grace.

"Because people are generally unhappy in their lives, if they see someone successful fail, that gives them a little joy, it makes them think that their unhappy life isn't so bad," Rowland said. He bristled at the notion he's soliciting gifts - whether it be improvements on his Litchfield cottage or gift certificates for shirts - in exchange for state favors. "I'm not going to sell my integrity or my 25 years of public service for a box of cigars. I mean, it's silly to even think that," he said, referring to a state contractor's claim he gave Rowland boxes of Cuban cigars to help speed up payments to his electrical firm. Rowland admitted it would be easier on his family if he were to step down and escape the continuing drumbeat of the corruption and impeachment probes. Federal investigators are looking into allegations of bid rigging and the governor's acceptance of gifts, among other issues.

On Friday, the state House Select Committee of Inquiry asked its lawyer to draft one or more articles of impeachment because Rowland allegedly is not fully cooperating with the investigation. Rowland and his lawyers maintain they've turned over all the personal financial records they have. Despite complaints about the committee's tactics, including the committee's decision against setting a hard and fast standard for impeachment, Rowland said he has faith in the panel. Meanwhile, he said he continues to find strength in his job, which he loves and hopes to keep. "If you sense that I am OK with everything, I am. I am," he said. "I am not making complaints. I am not making excuses. It's trying, it's difficult, it's hard. But you know? Everything happens for a reason. Everything is going to work out all right."

From San Diego Union Tribune, CA, by Susan Haigh, 3 May 2004

Corruption Fallout

Sheriff Harry Lee fired three deputies Friday whose names had been linked to a scandal involving corrupt bail bondsman Louis Marcotte III. According to the sheriff, a fourth deputy linked to the scandal is abruptly retiring. Sheriff Lee wouldn't say whether he fired the deputies because of their alleged dealings with Mr. Marcotte, but that certainly seems to be the case, which makes the sheriff's move a good one. The sheriff fired Capt. William Giangrosso, Sgt. Landry Forges and Deputy Myrtle Randall. Sgt. Paul Laborde is expected to retire Saturday. All worked at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna. The four deputies have not been charged with crimes, but investigators say that in exchange for cash and gifts, they helped Mr. Marcotte maintain his stranglehold on the Jefferson Parish bonding business.

Without elaborating, Sheriff Lee said the deputies violated his department's code of conduct, and that's why he fired them. But he left little reason to doubt that he fired them because of the Marcotte scandal when he pointed out that the firing of a fifth deputy "had nothing to do with the federal investigation." Jefferson Parish stands out as a place where bonding practices favored a large, aggressive company like the one owned by Mr. Marcotte. He crossed the line when he dispensed bribes so that even more business would be steered toward his company. Sheriff Lee is right to get rid of deputies who may have abused their positions of authority to enrich themselves and help build up Mr. Marcotte's empire.

From Times Picayune, LA, 6 May 2004

 
 

We'll Shape Up the Civil Service, Says Minister

Nairobi - The Government will ensure that the Civil Service and Judicial reforms are carried out successfully, a Cabinet minister has said. Planning and National Development Minister Anyang Nyong'o said the reforms were aimed at checking the misuse of power. "We can only enhance accountability and transparency by putting in place the reforms. This is one way to attract investors," he said. He said the Government would clean up the judicial system to gain public confidence. Nyong'o said failure to put community development service into government development agenda had resulted in its abuse and endemic corruption.

He said this led to many harambee projects, which had failed. The minister was speaking during an International Scientific Conference at the Tropical Institute of Community Health and Development in Africa (TICH), in Kisumu. Present were the Institute Director, Dr Dan Kaseje, and visiting US don, Prof Jack Byrant. "The Government did not have proper mechanism to regulate abuse of community development service. It was a source of wealth and power to some people," he said. He said in the previous regimes there were no clear cut distinctions between community development and national development. He said Narc government had banned harambees because it was abused and used for personal and political gains by certain interest groups.

Nyong'o said the country made great economic leap in the first 10 years of independence but later faltered. "We are engaging the community in development and making them understand the need for their participation in the projects," he said. He added that the government had also developed a policy on human resource development. This, he sai, was the reason behind universal free primary education and other reforms currently being undertaken by the government. Nyongo said the government was committed in lowering taxes to lure investors into the country. "At the moment taxes are high and many people end up evading it. The only solution is to lower it," he said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Anderson Ojwang, 3 May 2004

PSC Will Organize Annual Lectures

Accra - The Public Services Commission will on May 19, 2004 organize the 7th in the series of their Annual Lecture in Accra. This was contained in a statement issued and signed by Mr. Mike Gabah, Secretary of the Public Services Commission. The statement said, this years lecture will be under the chairmanship of Mrs. Emma Mitchell, Member of the Council of State, Professor Gyimah Boadi, Executive Director, Centre for Democratic Development, who will be the guest speaker for the occasion will speak on the topic; "The Quest for a Developmental Public Service in Ghana: challenges and prospects". Mr. Joseph Henry Mensah, Senior Minster and the special guest of honour for the occasion will deliver the keynote address under the theme: "National Stability, Democratic Governance and Economic Development".

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 3 May 2004

Unions Table Civil Service Wage Wishes

Johannesburg - The public service bargaining council had 18 days to table its counteroffer to wage demands put forward by several public sector unions, Fikile Hugo, the chief negotiator of the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), said yesterday. The unions tabled their demands when the parties met in Centurion last Friday. Sadtu has 220 000 members. Other unions that attended the meeting included the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA, with a membership of 80 000, and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), which represents about 180 000 members. Hugo said: "We will reconvene for three days from May 25 to hear the bargaining council's counteroffer. Only then will serious negotiations begin. We have geared ourselves to get the best deal for members."

The current agreement between public sector unions and the bargaining council expires at the end of June. The unions' demands were a 10 percent across-the-board increase for the first year of a three-year agreement. They want to negotiate further increases in 2005 and 2006. The unions want management to increase its contribution to a universal medical aid allowance to all civil servants in line with inflation. Labour also wants a housing allowance to enable members to qualify for a bond of up to R200 000. On pensions, unions want those who have been medically boarded due to HIV/Aids to have their benefits increased as though they would retire at a normal age.

They want the pay progression for people moving between grades to be increased from 1 percent to 5 percent. On restructuring, the unions demanded that the 12 000 excess employees be retrained so that they could be absorbed into the civil service. The government has indicated that excess civil servants could lose their jobs come June 30. Hugo said unions also demanded that maternity leave be increased to six months and three months in the case of a stillborn baby. Salaries in the education sector range between R5 000 and R15 000 a month. Pay scales for members of Nehawu are from R3 500 to R16 000 a month. Pay scales for general assistants, including cleaners, range between R2 000 and R2 500 a month. The bargaining council refused to be drawn into discussions about its expected counteroffer to the unions.

From Business Report, South Africa, by Mokgadi Pela, 6 May 2004

Arbitrator Awards Civil Servants Pay Increase

Harare - A neutral arbitrator in a pay dispute between civil servants and the Government has recommended that civil servants be awarded an additional 50 percent salary increase backdated to January this year, but the Government is still weighing the affordability of the rise, The Herald has learnt. The dispute followed the rejection by civil servants of a 250 percent salary increase awarded by Government early this year. The arbitration process, concluded on Wednesday, was presided over by an independent arbitrator, Mr. Lawrence Gabilo. The workers had demanded a 600 percent pay rise, but the Government awarded them 250 percent in January. In a letter that was copied to the chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council, Government and the Apex Council, Mr. Gabilo said he had arrived at the 50 percent salary increase after analysing submissions by both parties.

"The rate of inflation has reasonably come down to a figure below 600 percent and the 600 percent demanded by unions was set at the inflation rate in the previous month," read part of letter. "That figure being demanded by the unions would be difficult to implement as this would trigger the inflation to go up considerably and force prices of goods and services to rise in response." The 600 percent demanded by the workers, he said, was not sustainable bearing in mind that the Government was battling to turn the economy around and stabilise prices. "The demands by the unions would send a wrong signal to other sectors that are currently engaged in collective bargaining for salaries and wages for 2004," Mr. Gabilo said.

However, he said although the rate of inflation was coming down, prices of goods and services had not shown the same movement. In some instances, prices for certain goods and services, such as bread and school fees respectively, had actually gone up and this was impacting negatively on the workers' salaries, Mr. Gabilo said. "In view of the foregoing, and having critically weighed all the factors, variables at hand and granted the need for a fair balance between the two positions, I have been compelled by events to grant a 50 percent on basic salaries. This award will come into effect from January this year," he said. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Cde Paul Mangwana said the Government was still consulting with other sectors on the issue.

"We only got to know about the outcome of the arbitration process this afternoon (yesterday) and we are going to consult with other line ministries such as the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and give our position," he said. The acting executive secretary of the Public Service Association, Mr. Emmanuel Tichareva, gave a qualified welcome to the outcome of the arbitration process. "We appreciate the ruling by the arbitrator as the 50 percent will bring the total salary increment to 300 percent and we have requested that the new salaries be paid with effect from this month," he said.

However, Mr. Tichareva said the additional 50 percent salary increase would have brought relief in the past two months but there was still need to cushion workers. "We are going to engage the Government in July with the view that it cushions workers from the rising cost of living," he said. When the arbitration process commenced in February both parties agreed to abide by the outcome. The Government went on to implement the 250 percent salary increase pending the outcome of the arbitration. In addition to the 250 percent pay rise, Government workers also had their housing allowances increased by 100 percent while transport allowances were increased in terms of bands. Civil servants who fall in bands A and B were getting allowances of $88 500 per month. Those in band C were being paid $280 000 monthly, while those in bands D and E were getting $560 000 a month.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Tandayi Motsi, 7 May 2004

State Awards Civil Servants Additional 50 Percent Pay Rise

The Government has awarded civil servants an additional 50 percent salary increase backdated to January this year. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Cde Paul Mangwana said yesterday that the Government had agreed with the decision of an arbitrator to award public servants the additional pay rise. This follows a dispute between the Government and the civil servants in which the workers had rejected the 250 percent awarded by the State early this year while demanding a 600 percent pay rise. "Government has agreed with the arbitrator's decision that a 50 percent wage increase be granted to the civil service as a top-up of the 250 percent which was granted in January to bring it to 300 percent," he said.

The minister said the Government had also approved recommendations by the Wages and Salaries Advisory Board to increase domestic workers' minimum wages. A grade one gardener now earns $83 000 a month, up from $12 000; a grade two cook/housekeeper now earns a monthly salary of $90 300, up from $13 060; and the salary for a grade three child/disabled or aged minder has been increased from $15 800 to $109 245 per month. Disabled or aged minders with a Zimbabwe Red Cross certificate now earn a monthly salary of $131 094, up from $18 960. Transport and accommodation allowances for domestic workers have also been increased to $40 000 and $18 000 per month respectively. For all employees in unclassified operations, the minimum wage shall be $145 000 per month. The new increases are with effect from next month.

The arbitration process between the Government and the civil servants that was conducted by an independent arbitrator, Mr. Lawrence Gabilo, was concluded last Wednesday. Mr. Gabilo said he had arrived at the 50 percent salary increase after analysing submissions by both parties. He said the rate of inflation had reasonably came down to a figure below 600 percent and the 600 percent demanded by the unions was set at the inflation rate of the previous month. "The figure being demanded by the unions would be difficult to implement as this would trigger the inflation to go up considerably and force prices of goods and services to go up in response," Mr. Gabilo said. The demands by the civil service unions would send a wrong signal to other sectors that are currently engaged in collective bargaining for salaries and wages for 2004, he said.

However, Mr. Gabilo said although the rate of inflation was coming down, prices of goods and services had not shown the same movement. In some instances, prices for certain goods and services, such as bread and school fees respectively, had actually gone up and this was impacting negatively on the workers' salaries. Public Service Association acting executive secretary Mr. Emmanuel Tichareva said although the additional 50 percent brought relief to the workers there was still need to further cushion them. The Government went on to implement the 250 percent salary increase pending the outcome of the arbitration. In addition to the 250 percent pay rise, Government workers also had their housing allowances increased by 100 percent, while transport allowances were increased in terms of bands.

From Harare Herald, Zimbabwe, 11 May 2004

10 Eastern Cape Civil Servants Nabbed for Fraud

The Eastern Cape joint anti-corruption task team has arrested 10 civil servants in connection with corruption and defrauding the department of social development of millions of rands. The suspects were arrested in various towns in the Transkei. Corruption is still a thorny issue in the Eastern Cape government. The Joint Anti-Corruption Task Team was established to stamp it out. Among those arrested are three police officers. Mzukisi Fatyela, a police spokesperson, said: "Those people we have arrested today, we have arrested them for fraud and corruption that emanated from different accounts and monies were paid to certain people. Our operation is continuing because there are also people in Lady Frere, Cofimvaba and other areas that they should be arrested today, we are intending to arrest 14."

The Nyandeni municipal manager, is alleged to have stolen nearly R1 million in a roadworks tender scam. Documents were confiscated and he was arrested. Another man, a prison warder, who is also alleged to have defrauded Absa bank of more than R60 000. One of the two police officers arrested is alleged to have defrauded social development of over R5 000 over five years. The men appeared briefly in court on bail applications.

From SABC News, South Africa, 13 May 2004

 

Beijing Civil Servant Delegation in Hong Kong for Exchange Program

Hong Kong Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong Monday welcomed the first delegation of civil servants from the Beijing Municipal Government under the Hong Kong - Beijing Staff Exchange Program. The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Personnel's Deputy Director Huang Qiang led the delegation of five professional officers from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning, Transportation Committee and Health Bureau. They will spend three months with their Hong Kong counterparts. In the coming months, four Hong Kong civil servants will spend time with their counterparts in Beijing.

The first staff exchange program with Chinese mainland cities started in 2002 when Hong Kong and the Shanghai Municipal People's Government signed an agreement under which both sides arrange professional officers to attach to the other government for about three months. The program's main objectives are to widen the exposure of participating staff, facilitate cross fertilization of experience and expertise and help foster closer partnership and communication between both sides. In the past two years, Shanghai and Hong Kong have each sent eight officers to join this program. It has now been expanded to cover Beijing and Hangzhou. Exchange programs with Hangzhou and Shanghai will follow later this year.

From Xinhua, China, 3 May 2004

Chief Justice Questions Civil Servants Income

Islamabad Chief Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui on Friday questioned the accumulation of massive assets by civil servants when the existing salaries and pay scales were insufficient to allow them to even bear routine expenses. "How can a public servant raise properties worth million of rupees when government employees, including the judges of the superior courts, can barely meet their financial needs," observed the chief justice while hearing a bail application by Laiq Khan, former secretary of the Peshawar local council board.

Mr. Khan is being tried for amassing wealth beyond his known sources of income. He is being tried on the charge of possessing assets worth Rs 51.15 million. The bench of Chief Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui, Justice Javed Iqbal and Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar dismissed the bail application and upheld the order of the Peshawar High Court, which had denied bail to the accused. Advocate Abdus Samad, counsel for the accused, maintained in court that his client wanted bypass surgery. Doctors have also recommended an angiography for the accused.

The Supreme Court bench asked Mr. Khan to approach the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) if he wanted such treatment. NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Peshawar Faseehul Mulk expressed NAB's willingness to arrange the treatment at Mr. Khan's expense because the provincial government lacked funds. Counsel for the accused told the bench that his client was also suffering from diabetes and blood pressure, but the chief justice said 80 percent of the population suffered these maladies. He asked why whenever a plunderer of public money faces a court of law he falls ill and complains of all sorts of diseases. With this observation the bench dismissed Mr. Khan's bail application and directed him to defend himself in the trial court.

From Daily Times, Pakistan, 1 May 2004

Public Service Boss Sounds Warning on Hikoi Participation

Senior civil servants have been given a clear warning by State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham that they, and their staff, should not take part in the hikoi protesting the government's seabed and foreshore legislation. While Mr. Wintringham preferred to describe the letter he sent to government department heads as guidance, the message was clear - that government departments should maintain their position of political neutrality. "The particular consideration in this case is that the hikoi is a public protest against a government policy which is now contained in legislation before parliament," Mr. Wintringham told National Radio today. "It's not a generalised protest. It's a statement about a government policy."

Mr. Wintringham said there was a balance to be found between an individual's right to express their views and their obligations as employees of public service departments to maintain standards for their employer. "There is a very fine balance to be struck between the two." However, he denied his advice was particularly directed towards those government departments which were involved in formulating the seabed and foreshore policy. "What I have given is guidance about the principles (of the public service), and my views." In some cases, the chief executives should consider the possibility of a blanket ruling on participation in the hikoi, Mr. Wintringham said. If a public servant defied his or her boss' ruling, it would be considered a breach of the department's code of conduct and would be a disciplinary matter, he said.

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, 29 April 2004

Public Servants and Political Demonstrations

The key issue facing public servants when deciding whether to join political demonstrations is the balancing of the responsibility of public servant obligations and the rights of employees to freedom of speech and expression, PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said today. "It is the PSA's view that the right to participate as a citizen in an open, democratic society is paramount. PSA members have often been at the forefront of movements for social change, and have a keen interest in the issues facing New Zealand. "Therefore, we believe that public servants must be able to attend political demonstrations unless good reason exists that such attendance will be in contradiction to their employment obligations." Richard Wagstaff said the right to participate must be balanced with the particular employment obligations which cover public servants. "We have advised our members to read the New Zealand Public Service Code of Conduct before making up their minds. Those who do attend demonstrations are obliged, of course, to do so in their own time."

From Scoop.co.nz (press release), New Zealand, 3 May 2004

Massive Transfer of Civil Servants Soon

Kuala Lumpur - A massive transfer of civil servants will be under way soon, as the Government moves to prevent corruption, misuse of power and misappropriation. Those who have served more than three years and less than five years in "sensitive" departments are likely to be the first to be transferred. Public Service Department Director-General Tan Sri Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri said the transfers could be initiated by heads of department or by the staff themselves, on condition that departmental operations are not affected. ("Sensitive" sectors are those involving law enforcement, such as the police, Immigration and Customs departments. Other government sectors are classified "non-sensitive".)

The transfer exercise will not affect those who have served less than three years, or who have been recently promoted, or were going on leave for not less than six months, or were due for retirement in less than a year. "Department heads must also ensure proper replacements for officers transferred, and also sufficient funds to carry out the exercise," Jamaluddin said in a circular dated April 26 and released yesterday. "Consideration should also be given to staff with family problems, such as parents who need care. "They should also have no relatives working as superiors in the places to which they are transferred." Jamaluddin said disciplinary action would be taken against those who refused to be transferred.

He also advised affected staff not to seek outside influence to block their transfers. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had announced after his first 100 days in office that a massive transfer exercise would be undertaken to streamline the civil service for better efficiency. Jamaluddin said the exercise was also aimed at providing staff an opportunity to widen their network for better performance. "The transfers will offer the staff an opportunity to look at their job scope from a wider and different perspective. "With that they will be encouraged to adopt new approaches, which will improve the performance of the organisation and themselves." Jamaluddin said some staff had been in the same department for far too long. He said the tranfers would enable staff to settle down in jobs that matched their interests, capabilities, training and experience.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by M.K. Megan, 7 May 2004

Over 50 Civil Servants Take Part in Adat Istiadat Course

Bandar Seri Begawan - A total of 51 Penghulus, officers and staff of various government departments took part in the three-day course on Adat Istiadat which ended yesterday. The course aimed at preserving the culture and customs of Brunei Darussalam under His Majesty's leadership. A certificate presentation was held at the Department of Adat Istiadat Negara in the capital. Present at the ceremony was YAM Pengiran Lela Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pengiran Anak Haji Abdul Aziz, Chief of Adat Istiadat Negara. The Civil Service Institute and the Department of Adat Istiadat Negara jointly organised the activity. (Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei).

From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, 8 May 2004

Civil Service Flexi-hours Get More Flexible

A new pro-family scheme open to all officers allows them to work just 11 hours a week - down from at least 21 previously - Former President's Scholar Dawn Yip clocks in only 11 hours a week in her civil service job and is confident her career will not be derailed by her flexi-hours. Officers like her are taking advantage of a new scheme the Government started this year that allows them to work 11 hours a week, down from the previous options of either 21 or 28 hours a week. Also, all civil servants can now apply for such flexi-hours. In the past, only married female officers with children and retirees who were re-hired could do so.

A Public Service Division (PSD) spokesman said that so far, four men and a handful of single women, whose numbers it could not confirm, have flexi-hours work arrangements along with married women who make up the majority on the scheme. For Ms Yip, 32, working 11 hours a week has been ideal. An adjunct fellow at the Civil Service College, she prepares case studies for civil servants in training. But she is also a mother of two babies, aged one and two, and chose the 11-hour option in March after two years of no-pay leave to start a family. She used to be a coordinator (projects) of the Scenario Planning Office in the PSD. 'The main plus is to have time with my kids,' she said. 'I'm nocturnal, so it helps to be able to work late into the night, and not always have to worry about being somewhere by 9am the next day!'

Her 11-hour work week is a talking point among her friends, she said. 'Some do express envy. Quite a few are surprised by how enlightened the civil service is.' Her career will go back on track in a few years when she returns to full-time work, she said, adding that for now, her bosses and colleagues have helped her stay 'quite engaged' in her work. Others on the scheme are also happy with their shorter hours, saying they actually get more done. Mrs. Tan Huey Ling, 41, an assistant commissioner of labour with the Manpower Ministry, is expecting her third child and works 21 hours a week. She said: 'I've learnt how to manage time more effectively. As a full-timer with more time on your hand, you tend to drag your deadlines and take things for granted.'

Ms Jane Lee, 40, a social assistance policy officer at the Ministry of Community Development and Sports, said that for flexi-work arrangements to succeed, there must be a mindset change. 'There should be a greater move to measure performance through the quality of output achieved, rather than the Singaporean obsession with number of hours spent in the office,' said the mother of two who works 28 hours a week. The new arrangement is part of the civil service's moves to retain talent and take the lead in creating a pro-family work environment. '

Without the scheme, the service will lose good people who might not be able to work full time,' said the PSD spokesman. Part-time work in the service has grown. In 1999, 100 officers worked shorter hours. Last year, the number of new applicants was 210 and as of this March, it stands at 90. These officers, who can have flexi-hours only if their department heads approve, are in a variety of jobs, from frontline work to management positions. Part-time employees get pro-rated salary and benefits, said the PSD spokesman. They can earn 25 per cent to 50 per cent of the salary of a full-time officer. For example, a frontline counter person working half-time could draw a gross monthly pay of about $800 and a middle-to-senior level officer could earn $1,750.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by M. Nirmala, 6 May 2004

Kuala Lumpur's Great Civil Service Reshuffle

Kuala Lumpur - Police department is one of first to be reshuffled in moves to prevent graft - There will soon be a massive transfer exercise in Malaysia's civil service as the government moves to prevent corruption, misuse of power and misappropriation of funds. First to be shuffled will be those in 'sensitive' sectors such as the police, Immigration and Customs departments. Officers who have served more than three years and less than five years in these sensitive departments will be affected by the exercise. Public Service Department Director-General Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri said the transfers could be initiated by heads of department or by the staff themselves, on the condition that departmental operations are not affected.

'Department heads must also ensure proper replacements for officers transferred, and also sufficient funds to carry out the exercise,' he said in a circular dated April 26 and released on Friday. 'Consideration should also be given to staff with family problems, such as parents who need care. 'They should also have no relatives working as superiors in the places to which they are transferred,' he said. He warned that action would be taken against those who refused to be transferred. Affected staff have been advised not to seek outside influence to block their transfers, he added.

The move is in line with the pledge by the Badawi administration to fight graft and improve efficiency in the civil service. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had announced after his first 100 days in office that a massive transfer exercise would be undertaken to streamline the civil service for better efficiency. Tan Sri Jamaluddin said the exercise was also aimed at providing staff an opportunity to improve their performance. 'The transfers will offer the staff an opportunity to look at their job scope from a wider and different perspective. 'With that they will be encouraged to adopt new approaches, which will improve the performance of the organisation and themselves.'

From Straits Times, Singapore, 8 May 2004

MM Focus: Shake-up in Civil Service

A massive transfer of civil servants will be under way soon, as the Government moves to prevent corruption, misuse of power and misappropriation. Those who have served more than three years and less than five years in 'sensitive' departments are likely to be the first to be transferred. Public Service Department director general Tan Sri Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri said the transfers could be initiated by head of departments or requested by the staff themselves, on condition that departmental operations are not affected.

However, the transfer exercise will not affect those who have served less than three years, or who have been recently promoted, or were going on leave for not less than six months, or were due for retirement in less than a year. "The heads of department must also ensure that there are proper replacement for officers transferred, and also sufficient funds to carry out the exercise, Jamaluddin said in a circular dated April 26 and released yesterday. "Consideration should also be given to staff with family problems, such as parents who need care.

There should also be no relatives working as superiors in the places to which they are transferred. Jamaluddin said disciplinary action would be taken against those who refused to be transferred. He also advised affected staff not to seek external influence to block their transfers. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had after his first 100-days in office that a massive transfer exercise would be undertaken to streamline the civil service for better efficiency. Jamaluddin said the exercise was also aimed at providing staff an opportunity to widen their networks for better performances. "The transfer will offer the staff an opportunity to look at their job scope from a wider and different perspective," he said.

From Malay Mail, Malaysia, 7 May 2004

Topper of Civil Services Examination Wants to Remove Poverty

Bhubaneswar - Rupa Mishra, the topper of the annual examination for the country's niche administrative posts, says she would like to banish poverty and backwardness from her home state of Orissa. "I do not dream of ushering in a revolution but I would like to make my poor and backward state prosperous," said Mishra, the first woman topper of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) examination from the state. The 27-year-old postgraduate in business administration from Utkal university has been busy receiving greetings from her friends and relatives since the results were announced Friday.

She believes that officers in the country's administrative services can play an important role in ridding the country of social and economic backwardness. "A civil servant can make a huge difference to society by displaying commitment to his or her job," said Mishra. Asked why she did not go for a career in the corporate sector, she said: "A civil servant is the greatest and most important manager in India." Her father, Dandanirodh Mishra, is a civil servant while mother Usha Rani Mishra is an academician.

Her husband, Ansuman Tripathy, is pursuing a fellow programme at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. "My husband inspired me to prepare for the civil service," Mishra told reporters Saturday. Preparing for the country's most sought after job was not easy, she said, and it required more than just burning the midnight oil. "Discipline, persistence and planning are very important for success in these exams," she said. Mishra moved to New Delhi with her husband after finishing her studies in 2002 for attending a coaching programme for the civil services exam. "We are proud of her achievement," Mishra's father said.

From New Kerala, India, 8 May 2004

Utkal University Student Tops Civil Services Exam

Roopa Mishra, an MBA from Utkal University in Bhubaneswar, has topped the Civil Services Examination while Ashima Garg from Delhi University stood second out of 413 selected candidates. This was Mishra's first attempt. Seven of the first twenty in the merit list for the 2003 batch are women. Over 300,000 candidates had applied for the exam out of which over 100,000 actually appeared for the preliminary test. Among them, 5,973 qualified for the main exam and 1,179 were called for an interview for the final selection.

Of the 413 candidates recommended for appointment to government jobs, 184 belong to the general category, 129 to Other Backward Classes, 67 to Scheduled Castes and 33 to Scheduled Tribes. Four physically disabled candidates are also in the final list. They would be drafted into the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Central Services Group 'A' and 'B'. The Union Public Service Commission conducted the written exams in May 2003 while the interview and personality tests were held in April-May 2004.

From Rediff, India, 7 May 2004

Top Civil Servants Use Luxury Cars for 'Practical Reasons'

Top civil servants using big official cars like the Mercedes-Benz or Audi claimed Tuesday the choice was not a matter of extravagance but for practical reasons. The government officials were responding to public suggestions that they use less costly autos or their own vehicles. The proposals were submitted to the Cut Waste Panel, set up by the Singapore government to reduce excessive costs in public services. Using the Honda Accord, Nissan Cefiro or other less luxurious brands were among the suggestions. Others wondered why some drive the official cars home and even use them to ferry their families around. The queries were submitted to the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), Foreign Ministry and the police force. The two ministries, in responses published in The Straits Times, said there were practical reasons for allotting high-end models to some officials. The police said they only used Honda Civics.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei Darussalam, 11 May 2004

 

Civil Servants Asked to Be a 'Sport' and Decentralise

Discover decentralisation - that seems to the Government's approach to selling its ambitious plan to persuade more than 10,000 public servants to move outside the capital within the next three years, writes Carl O'Brien. With surveys showing a lukewarm response among staff to decentralisation, Government agencies are producing brochures detailing the many amenities of destination towns such as trout-fishing, pitch and putt courses and historic attractions. Staff at Bord Bia and Bord Glas, who are due to move to Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, are told the town is located in a county "renowned for its warm climate, scenic mountains, valleys, rivers, and beaches spanning 200km of coastline".

It also helpfully points out that Enniscorthy has a well-developed crafts industry, with local companies offering hand-crafted garden, patio and conservatory pots. "Bellefield Design offers a variety of handmade goods from hand-turned lamps and tables in native hardwoods to bean-bags, rosettes and reflective wear. Picture framing is also available for that special photograph, painting or tapestry." In another "fact sheet" produced by the Department of Agriculture, which is to decentralise 70 posts to Mallow, Co Cork, it describes the location as an attractive town "nestling in the beautiful countryside of the Lee Valley". The area contains "a large collection of housing to support all budgets", and points out that the River Sullane offers "abundant trout fishing" which proves a draw to fishermen and anglers from far and wide. (The riverbank is also adjoined by an 18-hole pitch and putt course.)

The Department of Defence, which is seeking to move 200 posts to Newbridge, Co Kildare, also talks up the leisure facilities in the town. It singles out for mention the jacuzzis, steam rooms and saunas available at the Hotel Keadeen Leisure Centre and the Stand House Hotel. The timing of the fact sheets is not surprising as thousands of civil servants prepare to list their preferences for decentralisation locations under an application system expected to be finalised this week. The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Mr. Tom Parlon, is upbeat about the level of interest in the plan. "In my view what makes the civil service great is integrity, independence and a real sense of public service. None of these things depend on working in offices in Dublin," he said recently. Notwithstanding the lure of fishing opportunities and golfing amenities, it remains to be seen whether the masses of public servants feel the same way.

From Irish Times, Ireland, 3 May 2004

Fraser in Civil Servants Broadside

Civil servants have been accused of misleading MSPs over the cost of the new parliament building by the head of the Holyrood Inquiry. Lord Fraser said they concealed higher cost estimates when control of the project transferred to MSPs in 1999. He said the higher figure - prepared privately by a cost consultant - should have been disclosed to late Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar and MSPs. This was particularly crucial as there was a tight vote on the issue. Civil servants adhered to a lower figure, arguing that they could manage the extra costs out. Lord Fraser was speaking as the inquiry into the spiralling cost of the new Holyrood parliament reconvened to take evidence from two witnesses. Turning to the first witness, the project's chief architectural adviser, Dr John Gibbons, Lord Fraser said: "It doesn't look very good, does it?"

The project team of civil servants told Mr. Dewar in the middle of 1999 that the construction cost of the building had risen from £50m to £62m. However, he was not advised that cost consultant Hugh Fisher had estimated the construction cost at £89m. Mr. Dewar gave the £62m figure to the Scottish Parliament in a debate in June 1999. On that occasion, MSPs narrowly voted to press ahead with the building which had then been transferred to their control. Lord Fraser said: "It looks rather as though those who were involved in this were determined to keep the figure down as low as possible even to the point of concealing it from the parliament in the hope that the project would go ahead. "It was a very narrow vote on this in the Scottish Parliament in the middle of 1999.

"Would it not have been appropriate to put the secretary of state in the position that he could tell parliament that the figure he had in front of him of what it was going to cost was £89m?" Lord Fraser said he believed that Mr. Dewar had referred to the £62m figure "in good faith", unaware of the additional £27m. He said: "I have to tell you, Dr Gibbons, that I have done this job in the past and if people or civil servants generally take out professionally assessed figures, that would at least have been signalled. "I have read the reports to the secretary of state and there is no mention whatsoever that Mr. Fisher thinks this is going to amount to a construction cost of £89m. "He makes an evaluation of the figure and this wasn't reported to the secretary of state and never allowed to go before parliament. It doesn't look very good, does it?" Laura Dunlop QC, counsel for the Scottish Executive, offered to answer Lord Fraser's concerns in written submissions.

But he said: "I don't want submissions, I want evidence." Dr Gibbons stressed that the project team removed the £27m from the estimate because they believed the costs could be "managed out". He said: "Whilst it is true that quite a lot of the risks identified in the £27m came about, I would argue that a lot of them didn't have to come about if what should have happened had happened; namely very firm cost control. "We were definitely trying to reduce the cost of the project." Dr Gibbons said that Mr. Fisher was aware of the £62m figure and added: "What they did believe was that Mr. Fisher was with them at the time of that figure." The inquiry saw a minute of a meeting in July 1999 in which Mr. Fisher stressed that he would stick to the £89m figure "from our professional and insurance stand point".

Original cost - Dr Gibbons said: "I don't recall him expressing that concern, I recall he was fully aware of the £62m put forward." The chief architectural adviser will be followed in the witness chair by David Lewis, from structural engineers Ove, Arup & Partners, who will give evidence on Friday. The £431m parliament is due to be officially opened in October. Its cost was originally estimated at £90m back in 1997. The appearance of Dr Gibbons and Mr. Lewis marks the end of evidence to the inquiry. Towards the end of the May there will be closing speeches from the inquiry's counsel, John Campbell QC, and advocates representing other parties. Lord Fraser hopes to deliver his substantive report at the end of the summer.

From BBC News, UK, 6 May 2004

Mazzella, Increase in Citizen Confidence in Civil Service

Rome - Civil Service Minister Luigi Mazzella, in his opening speech at the Civil Service Forum stated that "there is a genuine relationship of confidence between public administrations, citizens and business". According to a survey carried out in the first three months of 2004, 21.4 percent of Italians believe the civil service has "improved, while 19.2 percent find it "worse" and 80.8 percent find it "the same or better". Of the sample 48.6 percent appreciated the "simplicity and rapidity of procedures" and 46.4 percent said they noticed a "better and greater use of technology". The negative judgement of the civil service disappears among citizens who have had at least one contact over the last year. Mazzella said, "the surveys award carabinieri, police and the head of state in particular, but the civil service in general must improve more. We need to look to the technological revolution which is changing the way of learning and working. It is a priority for the civil service to keep up with the changes in order to be an essential part of the development of the country".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 10 May 2004

Civil Servants: Maroni, Raising Public Spending Would Be Suicide

Rome - Welfare minister Roberto Maroni believes that "it would be suicide" to increase spending for the renewals of the contracts of civil servants "with all the problems we have with Brussels". "We have all been asked to make sacrifices and so the renewal of the contracts, with an early warning underway - Maroni said during the Public Administration Forum - must take into account these ties. A wise financial policy would be to contain the renewals of the contracts".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 11 May 2004

 

Civil Servant Fired Over Quebec Seperatism

A federal civil servant who heads a Quebec separatist group has been fired from her job with Canadian Heritage. Edith Gendron worked on official bilingualism in the department, at the same time she was heading "Quebec, un Pays." Her bosses had demanded she resign her presidency of the group, claiming a conflict of interest, otherwise, she'd be fired. Gendron and the Public Service Alliance of Canada have filed several grievances over the issue. The union says the situation is no different from those of other public servants who may belong to political parties.

From 580 CFRA Radio, Canada, by Norman Jack, 30 April 2004

Civil Servants Punished for Taking Gifts

Public Works Minister Stephen Owen said Thursday several bureaucrats who accepted gifts and benefits from a government supplier seeking a $1-billion federal relocation contract have been punished after an internal probe. "An internal investigation was done with respect to employees in Public Works. There was disciplinary action taken," Owen told the Commons. He made the remarks during the daily question period in reply to a question from Alberta Conservative MP Leon Benoit. Owen did not say how many Public Works employees were punished or when they were punished. Nor did he identify any of the employees by name.

The National Post reported last summer secret allegations of misconduct and conflict of interest involving several Public Works employees, triggering an ethics investigation and forcing the government to cancel and re-tender a $1-billion contract for moving and relocation services. Senior government officials were concerned bureaucrats who accepted the gifts, including what Benoit described as free cruises, were "biased."

From Calgary Herald, Canada, by Andrew McIntosh, 30 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

Harvard Receives Gift to Promote Public Service

Hoping to draw doctors, lawyers and businesspeople into public service, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the owner of U.S. News & World Report and The Daily News, said yesterday that he was giving Harvard $10 million to support professionals who pursue public health, education and government degrees. "I've always believed in public service," Mr. Zuckerman said. "The question is how do you attract people to it? Public service doesn't attract a lot of wealthy alumni, I'll tell you that." Given the pressures of student debt and the promise of lucrative careers in the private sector, many would-be public servants steer clear of careers in government, school or nonprofits, officials say. Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard's president and a former treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, said: "If you think about the magnitude of the challenges we have in our public schools, in public health, in the public sector, they require people of the highest quality of experience."

With the gift, Harvard will award fellowships to about 25 students each year who are working toward, or already have, degrees in business, medicine or law and want to add one in public health, education or government. While Harvard officials describe all their graduate schools as competitive, some attract more attention from applicants than others. Harvard's Graduate School of Education, for example, receives about two applications for every slot in its master's program; the medical school, about 30 for each seat. Neither Mr. Zuckerman, a graduate of Harvard Law School, nor Mr. Summers expects the fellowships to inspire students to abandon more material pursuits. "If they get into that public service world early enough," Mr. Zuckerman said, "you have to believe that at some point in their lives they'll find it as important as financial income."

From New York Times, by Greg Winter, 29 April 2004

Quebec to Cut 16,000 Jobs

Cuts over a decade will come through attrition, official says - The Quebec government announced today it plans to abolish 16,000 jobs by 2013 in efforts to streamline services and reduce the size of the bureaucracy. The downsizing, what Liberal Premier Jean Charest has called the modernization of the provincial government, was central to his election platform last year. The measures will eliminate about 20 percent of the 74,000 civil servants in the province, Treasury Board president Monique Jerome-Forget told a news conference. The cuts will save the government $700 million over a decade, she added. "The modernization of the state isn't an accounting exercise," said Jerome-Forget. "It's an architecture project. We're fixing the house."

However, she said the government will respect collective agreements with its unionized employees. She promised the job cuts will happen by attrition. About 32,000 civil servants will retire over the next 10 years and the government will only replace one in two. "Slowly and gently, we're going to reduce the size of the government." The Liberal plan, unveiled while Charest is visiting France, will put a heavy emphasis on private-public partnerships to provide services. Among the first projects under consideration are major highway projects in the Montreal area. "But the government will maintain control over work in these arrangements," Jerome-Forget said. "We won't be doing everything in private-public partnerships. If it's the best formula, we will take it."

A long list of government services and departments will be combined or eliminated in the plan. About 162 programs aimed at small and medium-sized businesses will be reduced to 10. Jerome-Forget also said Quebec will increase its online services. She said the government will make it easier for the almost 1 million Quebecers who move annually on July 1. They will be able to telephone or go on the Internet to let the government know their change of address. That one step will automatically result in the address being changed, for example, on their health cards and driving permits and the province's voting list, she said. Jerome-Forget said she does not know how much money all of the combined measures will save. "There will be savings, but at this point I can't tell you which measure will save how much," she said.

From Toronto Star, Canada, 5 May 2004

Civil Service Nomination Refused in Interest of Diversity

Gautier - In a move to add a minority or woman to the Civil Service Commission, Gautier officials last week refused the nomination of longtime educator and former supervisor Carroll Clifford. Councilman Billy Sanders nominated Clifford. "With all due respect to Mr. Clifford, you've got vast experience, but we need to look at trying to get members that come from our newly annexed area," Councilman Jim Savage said. "We also need to try to look at a representative of the population that includes the minorities here."

Mayor Ken Taylor said he was surprised by Sanders' nomination since city officials had talked informally for a month about their intention to add a minority to the commission. The volunteer commission has been made up of white men since it was formed in 1974. Sanders said that he had asked Clifford to serve before the subject of diversity was discussed. "As far as the diversity, I feel we need it, but I already had asked Carroll, and I wasn't going to go back on my word to him, and I went ahead and nominated him." Councilman Hurley Guillotte also supported the nomination. Taylor said other choices for the vacant position on the Civil Service Commission would be ready by the next City Council meeting May 18.

From SunHerald.com, MS, by Vivian Austin, 8 May 2004

Washington Mall Hosts Annual Salute to Public Servants

Washington - Federal, state and local government employees - including military members at home and overseas - are selflessly performing vital and important work for a better tomorrow, a senior U.S. official said here today. Kicking off this year's Public Service Recognition Week exposition held May 6-9 on the National Mall, Eduardo Aguirre Jr., director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, noted that public employees are committed to selflessly "serve and uphold a greater cause" than themselves. Public service, Aguirre observed, "gives our nation hope and optimism about building a better, safer, fairer and more just society." And Aguirre specifically cited U.S. service members "for serving heroically to protect our freedoms here and overseas."

Respect for all public employees, "especially those who wear military uniforms, must be a basic value of our community," Aguirre noted. Public service, he said, "is a high calling and I salute those who have responded." Myriad displays were on hand for public perusal at the mall event, including military high-tech gizmos, weaponry, helicopters, divers and more. For example, "Matilda" is a remote-controlled robot system used successfully in explosives disposal and cave and urban reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, noted Army Sgt. Jerry Freeman, 28, a combat engineer from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Freeman observed that camera-equipped Matildas used overseas have saved soldiers' lives.

Army Sgt. Ryan Pavilanis, a Ranger with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga., has served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now stateside, he was showing mall visitors some Ranger exotic weaponry, like the .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle. A four-year Army veteran, Pavilanis said he believes the public is supporting the U.S. military's overseas efforts, noting, "They treat us with respect." The 22-year-old infantryman said it's important to find and stop terrorists overseas before they can mount another 9/11-type attack on the U.S. homeland. "It's very important that we stop them - over there," he emphasized. Korean War veteran Jesus Garcia, 72, and his wife, Judy, 64, quizzed Army Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Briggs near the OH-58D Kiowa reconnaissance helicopter exhibit.

Briggs, a Kiowa pilot, noted that the diminutive aircraft - which can carry Hellfire missiles - has proven its worth in Afghanistan and Iraq. Garcia, a former infantryman, said he had fought in Korea in 1951. He praised U.S. service members' efforts in today's global war on terror, adding his wish "that they all come back in one piece - like I did." Venues like Public Service Recognition Week, Briggs noted, can improve public- military relations. For example, he described some civilians' reactions after he answered their questions about military hardware. "Their eyes open up and they're like, 'Oh, my gosh. I can't believe the technology that we have,'" Briggs said. Public Service Recognition Week, celebrated the first Monday through Sunday in May since 1985, honors the men and women who serve the United States as federal, state and local government employees.

From Defenselink.mil, by Gerry J. Gilmore, 6 May 2004

Voters Support Civil Service

Firefighters are one step closer to being included in Civil Service, a move they say will offer its members added employment protection. Town Meeting unanimously gave the association's campaign a boost on Tuesday (May 4), with the next step going to the State Legislature. State Rep. Robert J. Nyman, D-Hanover, says he supports the firefighter's request. "The State Attorney General has to certify the Town Meeting vote," said Nyman. "It's a home rule petition and it won't offer a number of objections because it only effects Hanover." The Hanover Professional Firefighters Association says Civil Service protection will offer its members; o a right to appeal a reprimand/firing by a department official or selectmen to the commission, o eligibility to be hired in any community where Civil Service coverage is provided, o an exam by the commission to determine an applicant's competency for promotion within the fire department.

Hanover firefighters will not have to take an entrance exam to qualify for Civil Service if the legislature approves the measure. The association is seeking to have its members "grand-fathered," into the coverage under proposed legislation. A nine-member Civil Service study committee urged Town Meeting to approve the coverage for the firefighters. Committee Chairman Donna Buckley said the group eyed the legalities and practical implications of Civil Service during a year long study. "We did not discern a negative cost difficulty to the town by having Civil Service," said Buckley during Town Meeting. She urged Town Meeting to approve the association's request for Civil Service to attract qualified applicants, especially paramedic trained job seekers.

"The committee is concerned if the town fails to adopt Civil Service it will create an unstable personnel situation," said Buckley. She said applicants with paramedic training will apply elsewhere and leave fire officials with a diminishing pool of job seekers to choose from because Civil Service offers greater job protection benefits. The fire department has six paramedics on its 23-member staff. Fire Chief Stephen Tucker says he prefers having 10 paramedics on his staff . care with two medics on duty at all times. shift. There is currently one paramedic serving on each work shift. Fire officials hope to have two paramedics on duty at all times after more personnel received advanced life saving education. The department's paramedic service has been functioning since Jan. 1.

South Shore Hospital previously provided paramedic units to Hanover but discontinued the service after local medics began providing the service. Former Advisory Committee Chairman James Rodriguez said he hopes local residents won't face a tougher time getting hired by fire officials under Civil Service. "Does Civil Service allow Hanover residents preferential treatment while hiring firefighters?," asked Rodriguez during Town Meeting. Tucker said fire officials can request a list of local applicants from the Civil Service Commission to fill vacancies. "If a call firefighter goes to paramedic school, that individual has an advantage as long as they have successfully completed the (Civil Service) exam," said Tucker. Call firefighter Matthew Tucker, 21 said many of the call personnel support having Civil Service. "I'm in paramedic school right now," said Matthew, son of Chief Tucker.

Matthew said a select core of call personnel support efforts by the Firefighters Association to get Civil Service protection. The campaign for Civil Service by the firefighters strained relations with the call personnel, a year ago. Many call firefighters campaigned vigorously against the association's quest to get Civil Service coverage at the ballot box. Call personnel stated they opposed the association's petition because it would hinder their opportunities to get hired. The voters turned down the association's request by 158 ballots last year. Nyman said the tensions between both groups appear to have eased considerably since then. Professional Firefighters Association president Fred Freeman said the call personnel are a "valuable force in the town," in an April 21 Mariner report.

Freeman's remarks were in response to a charge by resident Kevin Zygadlo. He said the Professional Firefighters Association opposes the call personnel because they deprive overtime pay to the fulltime employees. Freeman said Zygadlo is misinformed during an interview with a reporter. "The call firefighters are a valuable force in this town," said Freeman. "We have worked with them for many years although we have gone through some difficult times regarding the Civil Service article. But we have never taken the position that the call men have eaten away at our overtime." Freeman said the association is grateful to the voters for their decision to petition the legislature for Civil Service. "We are very grateful for the support of the townspeople," said Freeman. "We've always enjoyed the support of the community. We are also grateful to the (Civil Service) study committee. They worked hard during the past year. They met with many boards and committees. It was great to get the support of the Advisory Committee and selectmen."

From Hanover Mariner, MA, by Ed Baker (ebaker@cnc.com), 13 May 2004

 
 

E-Government Systems Help Deliver Essential Services to the Poor

Johannesburg - Local government authorities can deliver essential services to poorer people by implementing e-government systems. Sybille McCloghrie, director of Tilos, says this is because such systems improve efficiencies and thereby save money. E-government technology systems increase efficiency and reduce duplication of processes, thereby delivering cost savings to local authorities. This has an impact on the delivery of services to poorer people. Because these departments operate more efficiently, they have more money at their disposal to provide essential services, such as water, electricity, sewage and rubbish removal. E-government is the transformation of government communications and systems to online services, to meet the needs of the business community, citizens, non-government organisations, government departments, employees and legal entities, in innovative ways, using technologies like the Internet, interactive voice response (IVR), kiosks, and other means.

TWeb reports Jack Shilubane, acting government CIO, as saying that development work on the national e-government project is complete. Some municipalities have already launched enhanced customer service portals. Shilubane says all government information will be integrated on a single portal. Some departments, provinces, and municipalities have been doing e-government projects, begun before the government gateway was established. They will ultimately fit into the national process. One such local authority that has begun e-government initiatives is Potchefstroom City Council (PCC). To ensure it keeps tabs on all business processes arising from incoming and outgoing documents and delivers the service its public requires, the city's officials have implemented a Web-based document management, workflow and portal solution. The implementation at Potchefstroom creates a solid foundation on which to expand to a full e-government service.

The system is paperless. All documents are routed via the workflow engine, so there is no movement of paper documents between and among people and departments. Even older employees, who are usually scared of technology, love the system, as they don't have to trace their documents and write notes to each other anymore - everything they need is stored in a place that is convenient for everyone to access. Interaction among the fire, electricity and land departments is starting to happen. Getting documents to another department used to be an issue - now they are all connected via a LAN and have access to all the documents they should. The departments are operating more cohesively. Ratepayers are also enjoying enhanced service - they are no longer pushed from department to department when they have a query, as all documents are at the fingertips of any PCC official.

Efficiencies are up and customer service is improved. Documents such as applications for rezoning, agendas and meeting minutes, are no longer lost. This helps the council deal with compliance issues. If the mayor uses the system's push function to tell someone something must be done by a certain date and time, there is a pull function that alerts him if the job is not completed on schedule. He can then find out why it is not done, allocate it to another person, or allow more time for the task to be completed. There is also an auto schedule function that can be set to alert a specific person that a job done six months ago is up for review, for example. All documents are now scanned as they enter the council.

The paper document is then stored in the central archives, the department tasked with holding and managing all physical documents for the council. The image is saved in PCC's workflow system and routed to the city secretary, who assigns each document to the appropriate people and departments. Staff in the workflow process can add notes to the documents without affecting the original, keeping everyone updated as to what has occurred since the document entered the system and highlighting any problems or anomalies. Recurring errors, such as a staff member continually returning a document or forwarding an incomplete document, are a warning beacon that additional training is necessary, allowing PCC to plan for corrective action targeted at real problems that employees experience in their day-to-day routines.

Should a member of the public call in to find out the progress on a letter sent to the council, for example, the council can immediately provide all pertinent information, such as what still needs to be done and by when the process should be finished. The system intuitively and constantly improves productivity and the way things are done. This helps PCC deliver on its commitment to good governance for all its stakeholders. Such a package can be used by even the largest metropolitan municipal regions, as it eases communications and control across a dispersed organisation. It is the first step in helping local authorities to meet national e-government requirements ahead of the government's plan.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, Sybille Mccloghrie, 5 May 2004

FG Inaugurates E-Government Board

Abuja - Federal Government yesterday inaugurated the Board of Directors to oversee the activities of the National e-Government Strategies Limited (NeGSt). The board is chaired by the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Ajayi. Inaugurating the board in Abuja, Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Turner Isoun, noted that NeGSt has within a short time, been able to help increase productivity, institutional transparency, accountability, and efficiency resulting in unprecedented and radical economic and technological growths. President Olusegun Obasanjo launched the first National e-Government stakeholder's forum on March 8 2004. The strategy is to apply ICT to government processes so that transparency, accountability, efficiency and productivity are enhanced. Addressing the new board, Isoun reminded them that NeGSt is positioned to bring about radical attitudinal change that will positively impact not just in governance but also on Nigerians as a whole. "

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Julcit Onigbogi, 5 May 2004

Computer Virus Hits Public Service

The Sasser virus hit the public service just as it was closing up on Wednesday afternoon. A total of 25 government departments were hit by the virus, with the main network shutting down, but government IT specialists were confident they would have the country's cyber administration up and running by this morning. They said service delivery had not been affected by the virus as it only wormed its way into the system when most departments were closing their doors to the public. The Sasser worm has also infected thousands of computers in corporate South Africa and in other countries. The communications manager of the South African State Information Technology Agency, Wandile Zote, said only three government departments survived the attack - the South African Police Services, Defence and Transport.

This was thanks to sophisticated firewalls. But a government IT expert on Wednesday night said there was no way the department of transport could not have been affected. He said it was the "security cluster" of government departments - police, defence, intelligence and justice - which escaped because they have their own networks. On Wednesday, the South African State Information Technology Agency (Sita) informed all the affected departments that their computer systems would be shut down. They were also disconnected from the government's core network. According to Sita, technicians were to work through the night if necessary to solve the problem.

Zote said mandatory counter-measures to protect the government's system would be put into place. Zote said as an interim measure, all the departments were disconnected from the government's core network in order for Sita to clean the network of the virus. He said they anticipate that the system will be reconnected on Thursday. Microsoft South Africa's technology and security manager Colin Erasmus believes that although the virus is irritating, it does not pose any serious danger. He said Sasser could be prevented with the installation of a firewall or a Microsoft patch. For more information log on to www.microsoft.com/security or call Microsoft's SA call centre on 086 022 5567.

From Independent Online, South Africa, by Themba Sepotokele, 6 May 2004

 

NZ Can Learn from Singapore E-government

Citizen ID scheme "makes it easier" - Despite the differences in Singapore and New Zealand's styles of government, there are things this country can learn from Singapore's e-government experiences says Li-Wee Chew, a principal consultant with Singapore Computer Systems. Chew was speaking at last week's local-government-focused Web and Mobility Symposium, in Wellington, organised by Computerland and the Association of Local Government Information Managers (ALGIM). Her company has assisted many of the Singapore government's ICT plans. She acknowledges that the very different culture and style of government in Singapore and New Zealand limits the extent to which the practice of e-government in her homeland can be of benefit to the practice of the discipline in New Zealand.

But many of the aims and strategies of e-government are similar in most parts of the world, she says. "I hope there is still material that you can pick up and adapt." One of the chief differences is Singapore's use of a numbered identity card for each individual, something that most of New Zealand's population has resisted. "It does make things easier", says Chew. Singapore is strong on the perspective of "many agencies, one government", expressed through a portal giving the "e-citizen" ready centralised access to services, and on the need for standards to be decided in advance on everything from the way central government agencies computerise to the broadband networks it has extended to schools and libraries.

New Zealand has favoured competitive bids for the Probe network, set a standard for such infrastructural elements as meta data and secure email and fell into an ill-fated attempt to enforce software compliance with the GoProcure e-procurement system. The stages of Singapore's development reflect an international best practice also visible in New Zealand's e-government strategy, from a static web presence to frequently updated information and interaction via email, then to transactional services for the citizen and finally to "seamless cross-agency integration". There has also been a move from "agency-centric" to "citizen-centric" services, a need which New Zealand's new e-government head, Laurence Millar, emphasises.

Chew says Singapore has had a plan for the role of ICT in the life of the country since the original National Computerisation Plan in 1980. The latest, fourth version of the strategy is labelled Infocomm 21 and is intended to cover the period from 2000 to 2010. The plan is co-ordinated by a committee chaired by the head of the civil service and including the permanent secretaries of all ministries. There is a separate committee to monitor and advise on global ICT trends and their potential benefit to Singaporean e-government. An online consultative mechanism is evolving, says Chew; under the slogan "your opinion counts", the e-government apparatus provides a facility for public debate of issues. Online polling is earmarked for the future.

From Computerworld New Zealand, by Stephen Bell, 3 May 2004

 

Hanafin Publishes Upbeat R-gov Report

The government has published an upbeat report on recent ICT and e-government initiatives in Ireland. On the telecoms side, the report also did not specify whether the government expects to hit its previously stated target of affordable, always-on broadband Internet for businesses and consumers throughout Ireland by 2005. The report did however note that several projects are underway to help boost broadband in Ireland, including the construction of 19 regional metropolitan area networks (MANs), community based broadband schemes, the awarding of fixed-wireless broadband services, and several pilot initiatives to test broadband technologies like power line communications (PLC).

In the next eight to 13 years, the government aims to ensure that home and businesses in the country will have a 5Mbps connection to the Internet, another aim that the latest report notes, but offers no detail of whether the target will be met. "This progress report is timely, coming at the conclusion of eWeek, and merging into tomorrow's historic 'Day of Welcomes' to mark the enlargement of the European Union," Minister Hanafin commented. "The deepening of European integration will enable new social and economic connections between 470 million citizens across the enlarged EU," Minister Hanafin said. "Ireland is on the geographical periphery of the European Union, but, through a coordinated implementation of policy and enterprise in the wider ICT area, in particular, we have proved beyond doubt that we are capable of being at the very heart of developments and progress."

From ElectricNews.net, Ireland, by Matthew Clark, 30 April 2004

Open Source 'Too Costly' for Irish E-gov

E-government in Ireland will be built using open standards technology, which may not be open source software such as Linux, Ireland's e-minister Mary Hanafin has confirmed. Speaking at the Irish Software Association's 16th annual conference, sponsored by Microsoft, O'Donnell Sweeney and ACT Venture Capital, minister Hanafin gave a brief overview of the state of Ireland's e-government plans and said that an update to the government's ICT strategy document "New Connections" would be published before May. "The use of open standards is critical to the government's plans," she said. "But it is important to remember that open standards are not the same as open source." Minister Hanafin indicated that Ireland's e-government system, once fully constructed, needs to last for several decades and must therefore be upgradeable.

"Using open standards gives us that option." She added that the government had looked into the long-term cost of various architectures and had determined that using only open source software could, in the long run, be more expensive. "The long-term cost of open source may outweigh the short term savings," she said. Open standards software products are designed to be interoperable with software from other manufacturers, but can be proprietary technologies. Companies like IBM and Microsoft - huge advocates for strong intellectual property law and by extention proprietary software - are supporters of open standards, particularly Web Services architectures.

The pair, along with BEA Systems and Verisign, even founded the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), which promotes the technology. Microsoft - perhaps the staunchest supporter of proprietary software - recently announced the release of WSE (Web Services Enhancements) 2.0 to give software developers support for Web Services specifications, including WS-Security, WS-Routing, WS-Addressing, WS-ReliableMessaging and WS-Attachments. The open source software movement, meanwhile, is not focused on pushing common technical standards, although many in the movement support such initiatives.

Open source backers aim to create a market where software code is open to development and modification, which can in some instances undermine interoperability. The question over open source or open standards in Irish e-government is especially pertinent now that work on Ireland's long-awaited Public Services Broker has commenced after BearingPoint won the contract. When completed, the Public Services Broker - which is also now called reachservices - will serve as a kind of central nervous system for Irish e-government services, linking practically all government departments and agencies so that information on citizens can be shared. Minister Hanafin said on Thursday that phase one of the PSB should be completed by June 2004.

From The Register, UK, 30 April 2004

UK Head of E-government to Be Announced Soon

Brief: The successor to e-envoy Andrew Pinder should be unveiled before the summer - The identity of the UK's first head of e-government could be known as early as next month, although the successful candidate isn't expected to begin work until the summer. The appointee will effectively be a chief information officer for the UK, replacing the position of e-envoy. His or her primary responsibility will be to build government services around citizens rather than around departments, and to use technology to improve service delivery. E-envoy Andrew Pinder said on Wednesday that he expects to leave his post before the end of July. The process of replacing Pinder has already begun, and a shortlist of candidates has just been drawn up. Interviews will take place in May. An announcement could come within the next month, according to one source, as the government is keen that there is as short a gap as possible between Pinder's departure and his successor's arrival.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, by Graeme Wearden, 28 April 2004

Whitehall Softens 2005 E-gov Targets

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has reduced the number of mandatory e-government targets local authorities have to meet by 2005 in a new set of guidelines published last week. The policy document sets 14 minimum requirements for e-government, including basic CRM, greater use of websites by the general public to support self-service outside office hours, and support for teleworking by local authority staff. Other minimum requirements include establishing links to "live" systems for interactive journey planning, direct telephone or web-based access to information on all local authority services, and support for e-consultation.

There is no requirement for e-voting. Public sector IT directors' organisation Socitm has been one of several groups to call for more appropriate e-government deadlines. Glyn Evans, director of business solutions and IT at Birmingham Council, who chairs the Socitm Information Age Government group, welcomed the news. "What we have now is much more achievable," he said. Evans said the paper from the ODPM would encourage politicians and local authority leaders to see the value of e-government in improving local government services.

From ComputerWeekly.com, UK, 4 May 2004

Netherlands Climbs Global E-gov Rankings

Thanks mainly to an improved web portal, the Netherlands has leaped four places up to ninth position in the world rankings on online government services, reports global consultancy Accenture in an extensive survey. Following major changes in March, 2003, Overhieid.nl - an initiative of the Dutch interior ministry - now offers some 2,500 e-government services to the public and private sectors, and a search engine that covers 1,200-odd government websites in the Netherlands. Accenture's latest report is a complete reversal of its 2001 edition, in which it criticised the Dutch central government's portal for its lack of utility - viewing brochures online was one of the few functions then available - and recommended changes.

Unsurprisingly, its publication coincides with a reported rise in Overheid.nl visits, from 2.5m in 2003 to 3.8m this year, and the recent announcement by Thom de Graaf, minister for government reform and kingdom relations, of his new goal to have 65 per cent of government services online by 2007. On the other hand, a study conducted jointly by The Economist and IBM on 'e-readiness' - a measure of a country's e-business environment and how amenable it is to internet-based opportunities (gauged by, for example, the level of e-government services) - has just revealed that the Netherlands has slipped to eighth place worldwide (from a tied-for-third position in 2003).


From DMeurope.com, Netherlands, by Joe Figueiredo, 4 May 2004

UK E-gov 'Needs Shaking Up'

The UK has slipped one spot to ninth place in an annual global ranking of e-government maturity. Canada retains its place at the top of the table, with a "maturity rating*" of 80 per cent. Singapore and the US followed with 67 per cent each. The report, produced by the consultancy firm Accenture, found that the UK's progress last year was limited. However, the fact that France is ahead of the UK for the first time should not concern Tony too greatly: the UK is the 'one to watch' next year. Accenture identified a large number of maturing e-governments. As the existing services mature, the improvements made will be smaller, meaning that place rankings at the top of the table are not as important as they were in previous years, the report's authors said. The authors also note that little has changed in the UK the last year, apart from a revamping of the government gateway.

The hope for the UK hinges on expected personnel changes: Andrew Pinder, the UK government e-Envoy's official tenure in the post ended this April. He is caretaking the role for now, but the government expects to announce his replacement later this year, probably during the summer months. Accenture suggests that the new appointee may shake things up a bit, and it expects "enhancements of a customer-focused citizen portal" and widespread promotion of the services to the general population will make the UK e-government programme one of the most interesting ones to watch in 2004. You can access the full report here. ® *This is a measure of how many of 206 services a government offers online, and they way the service is made available. For example, some points are given for publishing information online. If that service is interactive, i.e. Joe Public can contact the government and carry out transactions online, the government gets more points, and a higher maturity rating.

From The Register, UK, by Lucy Sherriff, 4 May 2004

E-gov Website for Small Businesses Launched

Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, today unveiled a new, one-stop Business Link website aimed at small-to-medium sized firms. Businesslink.gov.uk will provide free access to government information, advice, funding and training, and also aims to reduce the time that businesses spend on rules and regulations. The service is endorsed by all of the Government agencies and departments that deal with the 3.8 million small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK. Over the last six months the site has been refined by listening to feedback from those already in business, and those wanting to start up.

Hewitt said: "Whether it's help with starting up, improving your staff's skills or working out which regulations apply to your firm, businesslink.gov.uk should be the first stop online if you don't know where to go or what is available. "The website also provides firms with an ideal opportunity to access the new set of 10 business support products that the DTI is rolling out." The site includes a searchable database of over 2,500 government funded business support products ranging from grants and loans to consultancy support to help build businesses. There is also a training directory with over 500,000 courses, events and seminars to help firms develop staff skills. May 4 2004:UK e-government slips down world rankings; April 29 2004:BT and Microsoft launch 'one stop' SME service; December 18 2003:Internet training for London SMEs: http://www.businesslink.gov.uk.

From NetImperative, UK, by Robin Langford, 5 May 2004

Tories to Fight on Public Services

Tory leader Michael Howard has put the battle over the future of Britain's public services at the heart of his next general election campaign. Speaking at a lunch for political journalists in Westminster, the Tory leader called for a "grown up, mature debate" on health and education. And he pledged to offer the greatest opportunity for improvements in the services since the 1940s. He said he understood the prime minister wanted the next election to be about the public services, and he was eager to join that fight. "Let battle be joined. Let's argue our cases. "But let's, just this once, have the kind of grown up, mature debate on the subject that politicians always ask for but rarely deliver," he said.

Offer choice - "It should be an exciting election. There will be exciting choices for the electorate," he added. "Choice and competition drive up standards, they lead to improvements, they make things get better and that's what we have got to do if we want to improve our public services. "We have got to give people choice. I want to give everyone in our country the kind of choice that today only money can buy. "I want to put this issue, in health care and education, at the forefront of the political battlefield at the next election." And, highlighting the prime minister's claims that the Tories planned major cuts, he said: "Let's not belittle the electorate by distortion, misrepresentation and talk about non-existent cuts and privatisations."

From BBC News, UK, 6 May 2004

Milburn: Let Charities Run Public Services

Former health secretary Alan Milburn this afternoon called for voluntary sector organisations to be given the right to bid to run public services when they are contracted out, saying the sector offers "a new third way". Mr. Milburn, a leading Blairite understood to have a key role in drawing up Labour's plans for a third term, told a conference of charity leaders in central London today: "The government's reform agenda heralds a potentially greater role for the voluntary sector - and there is political commitment to making it happen." He set the new role of the voluntary sector in the context of the government's large-scale handover of public services to the private sector, stressing the need for "greater diversity in provision".

Mr. Milburn told delegates at the conference, organised by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo): "In local government, more services are now provided by the private sector. In social services, care for the elderly is now dominated by private providers. In education, the private sector now has a foot in the door in delivering school and local education authority services. "In health, the concordat I signed as health secretary with the private sector has increased usage of independent sector hospitals to treat NHS patients. New providers from overseas are now also being introduced." In a speech littered with references to the "next decade" and the "new era" he set out a vision for Labour's future public services policy.

"In this next period we need to move beyond an automatic assumption that the only alternative to the public sector is the private sector," he said. "The voluntary sector provides a new third way. Over this next decade it should become as integral to public service delivery in Britain as either the public or private sectors." He called on the government to give the voluntary sector new rights to encourage local public sector bodies to create a "level playing field" between private sector and voluntary providers. "First, where the running of a public service is to be let, the voluntary sector should in future have an automatic right to bid alongside public and private sector organisations," he said. Second, he urged, "every government department should be asked to develop a concordat with the voluntary sector to parallel the concordat I signed as health secretary with the private sector", setting out where the voluntary sector could best make a contribution to the delivery of public services.

He also called for a taskforce including the voluntary sector, central and local government and the NHS to examine areas where charities could bring their strengths to bear. Mr. Milburn urged a "drive to bring the voluntary sector in from the cold", tackling the "vicious cycle" of tentative, short-term contracts that prevented charities delivering services. But he stressed that the new agenda "cannot be about the voluntary sector replacing the public sector". Instead it should be about "forging a new partnership between them for reform". Echoing a call he made last November for "a voluntary sector equivalent to the private finance initiative - VFI alongside PFI", he backed calls for longer-term contracts for public service delivery by charities, similar to those drawn up with private firms.

They were often forced to "spend time and energy chasing dozens of short-term funding streams, rather than investing in staff development and service improvement". Local homelessness projects and drug treatment centres could be forced to close down just as they were starting to make an impact, he added. "Too many charities do excellent, important work but can't get the stable funding that would allow them to develop and expand their services." At the same time government agencies were nervous of contracting with charities that lacked the capacity to deliver, "micromanaging the relationship" in ways that in fact hindered capacity development in the sector. Mr. Milburn's keynote speech echoed the conference theme of "sure funding" for voluntary organisations delivering public services.

The idea has been strongly pushed by Acevo, which has set up a commission of inquiry, chaired by the chief executive of the National Consumer Council, Ed Mayo, to look at models for long-term contracting between public and voluntary sectors. But the extent to which charities and community groups should get involved with public service delivery has been contentious. Mr. Milburn's speech provoked the National Council for Voluntary Organisations to warn that it was dangerous for voluntary organisations to attempt to "replace the state" in public service provision. The NCVO's public policy director, Campbell Robb, said: "The voluntary sector has a unique ability to involve users and communities, utilising its specialist skills and experience to secure a better deal for its beneficiaries.

However, it is vital that voluntary organisations only enter into partnerships with government when there is clear evidence that it will directly contribute to meeting their users' needs. "Talk of new initiatives that will enable the wholesale handover of large sections of services to the voluntary sector is dangerous." He added: "It represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the principal reason why the sector welcomes the current government's efforts to lift the barriers to more service delivery by voluntary organisations. Namely, that it will provide opportunities for some, working in specialist areas, to widen their impact on the communities they exist to help - not fill gaps in service provision or replace the state."

Mr. Milburn, who as health secretary introduced foundation hospitals, also sought to identify a greater role for the voluntary sector with the government's policies of reform and localism. "I would like to see government at all levels focus more explicitly on helping local communities run things themselves," he said. "More direct elections to the boards of local services could take place, building on the NHS Foundation hospital model we have put in place." He stressed the strengths of the voluntary sector - its flexibility, personalised approach, roots in the community and "above all else, its local character". "Where government can sometimes be remote, the voluntary sector tends to be more sensitive to the specific needs of both individuals and communities," he said.

From Guardian, UK, 6 May 2004

UK 'Slips Down E-government Table'

Britain has for the first time dropped behind France in the world rankings of how well governments are using the internet. The e-government league table put the UK in joint ninth place in Europe with the Netherlands, and behind France and the Nordic countries. Canada, the US, Singapore and Australia were ahead of it in the rest of the world. Britain was previously in eighth place. The peak was in 2002, when the UK was ranked sixth. Accenture, the business services and consultancy company that ranks the governments, blamed the slower growth of the British government's online offerings compared with those of its competitors. It noted that only a few websites had the degree of interactivity that would allow citizens to use them to carry out transactions.

It suggested that the government made its websites easier to use, integrated services across agencies and better marketed its online presence. The research found that only four in 10 people had visited government websites - a significantly lower figure than in France, Sweden, Spain and Italy - but three-quarters would use them more if it saved them time and money. The most popular use for government websites was to obtain tourism information (62%) and health advice (39%). Other areas included jobs (19%), reporting a minor crime (12%) and determining eligibility for benefits (11%). Fewer than 5% had applied for a birth certificate, changed their address with a government agency or renewed a driving licence.

Accenture found the biggest barrier to UK take-up of e-government was the inability of users to find the correct website for what they wanted to do. Vivienne Jupp, managing partner of Accenture's e-government division, said online services had the potential to save governments money. "By extracting maximum value from every resource expanded, they transform service delivery. That is why e-government is such an important lever for delivering value," she said. The latest e-government initiative was the launch earlier this year of the Directgov portal, which sends UK citizens to services such as booking a driving test, checking the weather or reporting suspicious activity to MI5. Andrew Pindar, Tony Blair's e-envoy in the Cabinet Office, last week announced it would be rolled out to digital television.

His office today said the period covered by the report had seen a number of improvements, including Directgov and a 28% increase in the number of people looking at a government website. "Directgov aims to drive take-up by transforming the way government interacts with the citizen," a statement said. "It builds services around their needs, not the needs of government." In defence of its internet strategy, the government points to independent research indicating that four out of five users believe Directgov gives convenient access to public services and information. Nine out of ten users said they were likely to use the service in the future. The government hopes Directgov will eventually allow at least half the nation to book a hospital appointment, check benefit rights or do tax returns online. Local authorities are also developing their own platforms within the site with the aim of helping people find out about schools, dustbins and other services by keying in their postcode.

From GovExec.com, by Simon Jeffery, 4 May 2004

Survey Shows E-government Development Slowing

UK e-government initiatives do not appear to be hitting home as, according to a recent survey, the UK is slipping down the global internet league table. The annual survey by Accenture revealed that the UK e-government programme had slumped from sixth in 2002 to ninth position in the global league table. For the fourth consecutive year, Canada was ranked top out of the 22 countries evaluated in terms of the "maturity" of the e-government presence. Singapore and the United States shared second-place, followed closely by Australia, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, which were tied in fourth place. France ranked eighth, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom tied for ninth, and Belgium, Ireland and Japan jointly held eleventh position.

The study found that the pace of e-government development was slowing down with most countries reaching plateaus in terms of innovation, progress and impact related to the breadth and depth of services that were offered online. As a result, even the countries with the most-advanced e-government presences still have work to do to derive greater public-sector value. The quantitative and qualitative study of electronic government examined those governments providing information about services, as well as the ability to conduct government transactions, via the internet.

The fifth annual survey found that in global terms, the majority of regular Internet users visit government websites only to gather information on topics of interest such as tourism or health, rather than to conduct online transactions such as filing taxes and applying for passports. The Accenture study was based on a sample of 5,000 regular internet users in 12 countries in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as a quantitative assessment of the "maturity" of e-government services in 22 countries. People who use the internet said they would conduct transactions with governments online if it would "saving time and money". However, despite such interest in online government services, the study found that citizens rarely took advantage of them.

The top reasons that the Internet users surveyed gave for rarely or never visiting government Web sites include difficulty finding the correct site (up to 26%), ease of conducting business by telephone (up to 20%) or in person (up to 34%), on-line privacy concerns (up to 18%) and Internet security issues (up to 17%). "While there appears to be good understanding of the potential for e-government to save time and money, there is a considerable gap in citizen expectations that it can actually deliver on that promise," said Stephen J. Rohleder of Accenture. He said that this posed a challenge for those striving to become high-performance governments. "They need to find innovative new ways to market their offerings, improve citizen awareness of the benefits, and increase take-up of online services," he said.

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 7 May 2004

Public Administration: Sicily Wins Award

Palermo - The Sicily region has won the "Regionando 2004" award during the 15th Public Administration Forum in Rome. The winning project is called "Pir, networks for local development" and represents "good use of structural funds". The project aims to promote and coordinate a stable link between all local development initiatives. The winning project is part of Sicily's Pit (local integrated projects) and it has allowed the regional administration to set up constructive relations within the region, and improve cooperation between local and regional subjects. The aim is to increase the level of local projects to promote the use of Eu funds by supporting the efficiency of the local development system, to support good projects and to improve integration and quality and, finally, to improve the collaboration between public and private in the region.


From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 10 May 2004

Public Administration Forum Prize to Veltroni for Efficiency

Rome - The auditorium designed by Renzo Piano, the 060606 service, better known as "Chiama Roma", the offices open late and a useful web site. For these projects, made by the Council of Rome, mayor Walter Veltroni, received a prize. It was for efficiency in public administration, promoted by Assoindustria and given him by the minister for Public Function, Luigi Mazzella. "It is a prize" said Veltroni, "which I welcome especially because it comes from an evaluation of merit made by the government and not a question of political sympathies". Every day 168,000 calls reach 060606, with most between 3 and 4 at night.

"This shows" explained the mayor, "the function of social aid which these initiatives have, especially thanks to operators who establish a direct rapport with citizens, to be considered as people whose rights are to be listened to". Besides the mayor of Rome prizes also went to the Minister for Culture, Giuliano Urbani, for the re-ordering of the norms safeguarding the artistic and cultural heritage; To Girolamo Sirchia, Health Minister, for the anti-smoking campaign.; To the president of the Lombardy region, Roberto Formigoni, for the charter of services which within the year will be at everyone's disposal and to Riccardo Ventre, president of the province of Caserta, for the Mare Magnum initiative.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 10 May 2004

Public Services to Organise Annual Lectures

The Public Services Commission will on May 19, 2004 organize the 7th in the series of their Annual Lecture in Accra. This was contained in a statement issued and signed by Mr. Mike Gabah, Secretary of the Public Services Commission. The statement said, this years lecture will be under the chairmanship of Mrs. Emma Mitchell, Member of the Council of State, Professor Gyimah Boadi, Executive Director, Centre for Democratic Development, who will be the guest speaker for the occasion will speak on the topic; "The Quest for a Developmental Public Service in Ghana: challenges and prospects". Mr. Joseph Henry Mensah, Senior Minster and the special guest of honour for the occasion will deliver the keynote address under the theme: "National Stability, Democratic Governance and Economic Development". It said the lecture is open to the general public.

From Independent, UK, 6 May 2004

Europe Connects E-gov Good Practice

The European Commission has launched the first stage of a framework of 'good practice' in e-government implementation that aims to reinforce co-operation and knowledge sharing between EU member states. To mark the start of the new initiative, the Commission has produced a temporary website featuring summaries of relevant e-government projects and initiatives from the European public sector, which can be viewed by theme, service and country. A more in-depth, 'intelligent knowledge base' will be developed later, together with common EU criteria for evaluating what constitutes an exemplar project. E-government partnerships, initiatives and related events will also be able to apply for a 'Good Practice' label in recognition of their contribution to supporting the wider e-government effort. The moves are intended to take forward commitments agreed by EU Ministers to develop further the exchange of good practice in e-government.

From DMeurope.com, Netherlands, by eGov Monitor, 11 May 2004

Peer Welcomes Public Service Proposals

Leading charity campaigner Lord Ashley of Stoke has welcomed Alan Milburn's proposal for the voluntary sector to get more involved in the delivery of public services. In an exclusive interview with ePolitix.com, the Labour peer said the former health secretary was right to suggest the idea should form a key a part of the government's manifesto for a third term. "I think it is a very good and healthy sign. Charities can do more of that. I think people underrate charities and the extent to which they can provide these services," he said. Lord Ashley, who was last year honoured in the ePolitix.com Charity Champion Awards, was speaking as the 2004 awards were launched on Tuesday.

The president of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf argued that his charity had already shown the benefits of the voluntary sector working for the NHS. "One of the most striking things about the RNID is digital hearing aids, which are the best and most modern hearing aids," he said. "They cost in the private sector up to £2,000. RNID negotiated with the government - the Department of Health - and manufacturers, so that now they sell them for £75. Not privately, privately you still pay. "But from £2,000 to £75 is a remarkable change and that was a result of a charity acting on behalf of its members." Charities Bill - But he claimed measures contained within the draft Charities Bill would fail to get tough enough with charities which act outside the public interest.

"The government] say that if a charity is not seen to be acting in the public interest that they won't take action, they will try to persuade them," Lord Ashley said. "I think that is entirely wrong. I think they should take action and charities should know that action will be taken, that they will lose their charitable status, if they are not in the public interest." And he welcomed the return of the Charity Champion Awards, which are entering their second year. "These awards are a splendid thing. I am very much in favour of them because they do the right thing at the right time," he said. "I think the awards themselves are symbols of success and I think they deserve all the support they can get from parliamentarians and charities."

From ePolitix, UK, 11 May 2004

 

UNDP Lauds Dubai Municipality's e-Government Initiative

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has congratulated Dubai Municipality for winning the coveted Dubai Government Excellence Award for the Distinguished e-Government Department, which has been announced earlier this month. In a letter sent to Qassim Sultan, Director General of Dubai Municipality, Nadir Haj Hamou, Resident Representative of the UNDP, he said the municipality's feat could be attributed to the best management practices adopted by the civic body in integrating state-of-the-art technologies with the municipal services provided to the public.

Dubai Municipality's e-Government portal offers nearly 300 e-Services, of which 70 facilitate online transactions. The remaining services provide information and enable the customers to print manual application forms for different civic services. Late last year, the municipality introduced the online payment facility for a variety of services using credit cards and e-Dirham. The portal has almost completed 400,000 online transactions with an average weekly rate of 10,000 transactions. Since it is a convenient means of payment, the newly introduced e-payment service is getting an increased number of users. As a third phase of the e-Government initiative of Dubai Municipality, more e-Services will be launched soon.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 2 May 2004

Success of E-governments Is Linked to Implementing the Right IT Platform, Says BEA Systems

E-government is not an electronic version of existing documents, procedures and services, but a fundamentally new, integrated and complete channel of delivering services using all possibilities of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) according to Diyaa Zebian, Regional Manager, Middle East & Egypt, eSolutions BEA. 'It is not about government but about government customers, the citizens, companies and public servants,' he said. Zebian was addressing the two-day Middle East e-government Summit hosted by Dubai eGovernment in Dubai from April 26 to 27, 2004. 'e-governments have turned citizens into customers. Earlier administrations used to be structured around rules, and citizens were just part of the processes.

Today, administrations are reorganised based on customer needs and expectations. These customers demand total solutions; they are not interested in the different administrations and authorities that are involved. Instead, they need integrated services. e-governments should therefore evolve and work out new ways of doing things rather than limiting developments to the electronic delivery of services as they currently exist,' said Zebian. ICT represents just 20 per cent of the overall development of e-government oragnisations; the rest is business process reengineering, adapting procedures, regulations and structures. The key lies in implementing the appropriate software to make the complex job of e-governance simple and uncomplicated. e-government cannot be achieved if it is approached service by service.

It is about integrating the back office first, to offer a unified client view of all services. Zebian added that the absence of e-government architecture will bring about duplication of efforts and will fail to meet citizen's expectations for service delivery, thus resulting in complaints and wasted public funds. Therefore the role of e-government essentially involves automating end-to-end processes across applications, providing real-time access to applications and information and implementing an IT platform that can change at the speed of business. 'Simplification through standardisation holds the key to success in e-government.

BEA's WebLogic Enterprise Platform 8.1 the first truly integrated application platform in the industry, has solutions that help e-governments to migrate to the highest levels of efficiency. It is designed to help any developer build service-oriented, enterprise-class Web applications and Web services with high productivity levels,' commented Zebian. The BEA WebLogic Enterprise Platform 8.1 provides a unified, simplified and extensible application infrastructure that allows customers to realize significantly faster time-to-value on their mission critical business integration projects. It is a leading edge integrated development framework that empowers all application developers to rapidly create, test and deploy enterprise-class Web service applications on the BEA WebLogic Platform.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 3 May 2004

 

E-gov Must Get Market Savvy, Survey Says

Governments must do more than set up useful Web sites for their constituents. They also must market these sites to the public, according to a new report on global e-government issued this week by Accenture Ltd. of Hamilton, Bermuda. The company's survey of global e-government, "E-Government Leadership: High Performance, Maximum Value," found that one of the newer challenges that government agencies face is getting the word out about new electronic services. "Across the board in all the countries, the Number 1 reason people were not using e-government more is because they weren't aware that the sites were out there," said Derek Kearney, a member of the report's research team.

Marketing may involve advertising campaigns as well as other promotional gimmicks long used by commercial industry to spread the word on new products. Marketing also involves using polls and survey groups to determine what new products the public would find valuable. Some agencies are better than others at marketing their sites, said Steve Rohleder, chief executive of Accenture's government operating group. Rohleder pointed to successful efforts such as the marketing campaign for the IRS e-file service and the General Services Administration's FirstGov advertising campaign.

Canada has used polls, user groups and other forms of market research to reach its audience and then developed better e-gov offerings based on the results, Kearney said. "eGovernment Leadership: High Performance, Maximum Value" is Accenture's fifth annual progress report on how well selected governments are building electronic services. The report ranks the governments in order of how thoroughly they provide 206 services. In this year's report, Canada ranked first of 22 countries surveyed, with the United States and Singapore tied for second.

From Washington Technology, DC, by Joab Jackson, 5 May 2004

Study Finds E-government Progress Has Leveled Off

Federal technology officials have hit a plateau in their effort to implement wide-ranging electronic-government initiatives in the United States, according to a report released by consulting and technology services firm Accenture. In an interview Tuesday with Government Executive, Accenture officials said Cabinet-level officials must provide strong and uniform leadership to ensure improvement in federal e-government amenities. Accenture studied and ranked 22 countries on their e-government progress. Canada finished at the top, as it has since 2002. South Africa finished last, a position is has also held for the past three years. The United States was tied for second place with Singapore. That represents a slight improvement.

Accenture ranked Washington's e-government progress third in 2002 and 2003. "We saw patterns in which countries would introduce an innovation, make rapid progress and gradually level off as the amount of impact that could come from an unchanged strategy began to diminish," according to the report, Accenture's fifth annual global e-government study. "To jump to a new level of maturity, countries had to reassess their priorities and craft a new action plan. Few countries this year showed they had made a true jump in maturity." In the United States, the initial e-government push was a broad effort to put federal services on the Internet, and that manifested itself in widely varying degrees of usefulness, according to Accenture officials.

Federal technology managers must now distill the existing e-government services to present the public with a useful and refined product. "The next wave is going to be about high-performance government," said Stephen Rohleder, Accenture's chief of Global Government Practice. He believes, however, that the success of the subsequent e-government wave in the United States will depend on the leadership of Cabinet officials and the accountability of federal managers. E-government improvement will take place, Rohleder said, "if the person at the top says, 'This is my priority, I want to be measured on outcomes.' " Rohleder noted that such an emphasis on accountability and results would mesh well with President Bush's five-part management agenda, which asks agencies to improve performance in human resources management, competitive sourcing, financial management, electronic government and linking program performance to budgets.

To achieve those results, agencies must differentiate between simply putting information on the Internet and actually allowing citizens to conduct transactions online, according to one Accenture official. The report found that agencies are already saving money and improving their own efficiency through e-government efforts. Accenture officials cited the Internal Revenue Service's online tax filing system as a prime example of delivering actual e-government services to the public. Rohleder described the IRS success and other efforts as "flashes of brilliance," adding that it is the responsibility of top-level officials to gather and learn from the existing e-government innovations. "The key in the next two to three year is to have government executives recognize flashes of brilliance," he said.

From GovExec.com, by David McGlinchey (dmcglinchey@govexec.com), 4 May 2004

Parran Wraps Up Public Service

After more than a half-century of public service, John Thomas Parran Jr. is stepping down from his final posts. The 78-year-old former state senator and delegate, who helped found the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland in 1964, recently resigned from his position on the council's executive board because of his battle with Parkinson's disease. He also plans to step down from his position as a member of the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. He said his illness has made it increasingly difficult for him to speak and control his body. "It's not that I don't want to be there, because I do. It's just a matter of this disease is a progressive-type thing, and you don't anticipate there's going to be any real cure for it," he said. "I have not been able to keep up with the workload. Both of these organizations are very important to the counties."

Parran, who lives in Indian Head, served as the Charles County representative in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1955 to 1958 and moved on to the state Senate from 1959 to 1966. Along with his legislative colleague J. Frank Raley Jr. of St. Mary's County, Parran formed the Tri-County Council to move Southern Maryland's common agenda forward in Annapolis, he said. "You might say we have no power - we can't pass any laws - but we can pass information on to the legislature," he said. "The membership is all the state senators, House of Delegates, all the commissioners, so they get together and the whole purpose in creating the council was to get some power in Annapolis, by working together."

At the Charles County Democratic Central Committee's annual Truman-Kennedy dinner Friday in Waldorf, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) presented four John Thomas Parran awards to local residents for their public contributions. Hoyer described Parran as "such an extraordinarily good human being, such an extraordinarily visionary leader, and so committed to the people and the principles of our party. "John Thomas Parran is one of the great Democrats in this state," Hoyer said. Leonardtown Winners - Three candidates who say managing the town's growth will be a priority were elected Tuesday to the Leonardtown Town Council. Walter R. Gillette received 88 votes in the at-large election. Charles R. Faunce was right behind him, with 87 votes. Leslie E. Roberts came in third, with 75 votes.

Thomas R. Collier, who ended up with 53 votes, came in fourth in the nonpartisan election, so he will not serve on the five-member council. Gillette and Faunce are incumbents, and Roberts has been serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Gillette, who has spent six years on the council and serves on the Maryland Municipal League, said he wants to keep the "old hometown atmosphere" in Leonardtown. "We'll be watching out for growth and sprawl. There are several large projects going on in town, so we're keeping tabs and eyes on what's going on there." Faunce said he is worried about traffic in Leonardtown. "There wasn't hardly any traffic at all," when he first moved to town 14 years ago, he said. But with all the growth in the county, he wants to make sure that it is still safe for driving. He said everyone on the council wants to keep the old downtown like it is and build around it as growth occurs.

From Washington Post, DC, by Joshua Partlow and Susan Kinzie, 6 May 2004

Study: Canadian E-gov Maturity Ranks First Globally

Canada has placed number one out of 22 countries globally in e-government maturity for the fourth consecutive year according to a research study released Tuesday by global management consulting firm Accenture Ltd. The study, e-government Leadership: High Performance, Maximum Value, found Canadian e-government practices ranked first in all categories including service breadth, service depth and customer relationship management, earning 80 percent out of a possible score of 100 - 13 percent better than its closest challengers Singapore and the U.S. Attributed to these gains, the Canadian government has continued to make large investments in IT thanks to e-government initiatives and good fiscal positions, according to a recent Forrester Research Inc. report.

According to Graeme Gordon, an Ottawa-based partner with Accenture's government practice in Canada, the nation has earned its top spot based on the fact that its e-government vision is predicated on customer centricity and a "whole of government" approach, which incorporates the different levels of government to deliver the best possible service to the user community. "Canada's action plan is built on a solid foundation of fact based on the known information from the customer base," Gordon said. "It regularly surveys citizens and businesses for indication of attitudes and needs, and the processes (Canada) has appear to be most extensive compared to other countries in the survey in terms of gathering and understanding the needs of the citizens."

However, despite Canada's leading role in e-governance, the study found that advances in maturity on the whole are slowing down around the globe and even countries like Canada - with the most advanced e-government practices - have a long way to go to achieve dramatic results. "When you look at how e-government has progressed, the ultimate goal is service transformation," Gordon explained. "If you look at the study this year ... many countries have definitely hit a plateau. The ones that are in the highest level of maturity at this point ... their challenge now is going from looking at services as Internet-type activities to a complete service transformation."

Essentially, leading countries like Canada have to make decisions in terms of how they are going to accelerate this service transformation, which involves both horizontal and vertical integration of services that better serve citizen and business transactions with government agencies. "I would suggest that Canada right now is on the doorstep ... but has not (yet) made the aggressive step toward service transformation," Gordon said. "The big challenge is integration across departments in the horizontal as well as vertical levels of government. We have come a long way but we are at a crossroads and the most challenging part of this service transformation is still ahead of us."

Gordon recommended that in order to reach that level of service integration, Canada will have to lay out a revised plan in which it rethinks and fine-tunes governance models and decision making practices. "The time is right to make the transition," he said. "Canada has reached the level of maturity but to move to the next level, it does need a new approach." Accenture studied the e-government practices of 22 countries including Canada, Australia, the U.S., the U.K., Singapore, Brazil, France and Germany. Researchers went online acting as citizens and based scores on the functionality, quality and maturity of services.

From IT World, by Carly Suppa, 5 May 2004

Havelock Launches E-government

Havelock - The city's new e-government Web site, launched last month, has enabled residents to pay water and sewer bills without leaving their homes, and will soon put a wealth of other services at their fingertips, including business licenses, pet licenses, permits and recreation sign up capability. "The Web site, as our citizens see it, has definitely changed," said Bob Maxbauer, Havelock's director of information technology. "The first step was literally made two years ago. That was the commitment to go e-government. Then we had to build the software infrastructure."

Maxbauer credits the foresight and dedication of the city's commissioner and manager for supporting his department in becoming among the first in the state to offer the services. "It was their response to their constituents, especially in the military community," he said. "It is a population that is subject to deployment for short and long periods, where they can't necessarily tend to business locally."

In addition to online billing capability, the system offers residents information that was not previously available, such as a graph of their water consumption over the past two years. "It was the toughest one to start with because of its complexity, and the fact that it changes moment by moment," Maxbauer said of the water and sewer payment program. "We have left as much to automation as possible, but not removed human monitoring. In fact, when any parameters move outside of the guidelines we set, the automation brings it to our attention." The first step involved bringing all of the city's software up to one standard. The city invested $44,000 - $20,000 from a Rural Internet Access Authority grant - to make that happen.

One of the most distinctive features of the Web site is that every piece of information that is entered becomes immediately accessible to the users. Maxbauer anticipates that the next program to come online will be one that enables residents to arrange for permits and inspections. "We will go through various stages of inspection, so that they can communicate with the inspections department by going online," he said. "They will see the progression of the inspection process, what stage they're at, and know what to do next." When the component that allows residents to license their pets is up and running, it will also allow them to check the shelter for a lost pet by simply sitting down at their computer.

"When the animal control officer picks up an animal and brings it to be impounded, it's photographed and made immediately available on the Web," Maxbauer said If the animal is not claimed during the window of opportunity provided by the shelter, the status of the animal changes to adoptable, and the automated system moves its photo to the adoptable category. Registration for recreation activities also is expected to be available online within the next three months. Right now, the recreation staff has to take time away from day-to-day activities to conduct registration for programs, limiting the time to small windows of opportunity.

Maxbauer said he and his staff are pleased with the number of residents who have already used the system, and the feedback they have gotten on the first phase. Letters with account and access numbers sent to the city's 4,500 utility accounts resulted in 10 percent account activations within less than 30 days of notification. Maxbauer said the Web site will be a consumer-driven work in progress for some time to come. The new Web site, www.havelocknc.us, offers detailed information about using the e-government feature. Maxbauer encouraged anyone who encounters problems, or has a suggestion to call him or his staff at 444-6444.

From New Bern Sun Journal, NC, by Pat Coleman, 7 May 2004

Santa Rosa, California Utilizes Accela's E-Government Solution to Provide On-line Services to Citizens

New Portal Allows Development Community to Apply and Pay For Building Permits On-Line - Accela, Inc., the leading provider of government enterprise management software solutions, announced today that the City of Santa Rosa is utilizing Accela VelocityHall(R), a public access portal that enables citizens and businesses to access many government services on-line. The Community Development Department now offers plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and simple re-roofing permits on-line.

The portal increases access to the City's building and planning management activities by allowing citizens and businesses to apply and pay for permits, schedule inspections, check the status of a permit or inspection, or print an approved permit directly from the Internet, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By allowing citizens to complete the entire process on-line, the City is able to streamline the process for obtaining simple permits and free up valuable Community Development Department staff time to process more complex applications. The City's success with VelocityHall has been immediate. Since launching the on-line portal, the City has processed over 550 permits on-line.

This figure accounts for 12% of the total building permits that the City would issue in an average year. "We are very pleased with the results we are seeing with the on-line portal and we are confident that the number of permits processed through VelocityHall will continue to grow in the coming months," states Daniel Dawson, Administrative Services Officer at Santa Rosa. "Our citizens, and in particular the development community, have embraced this new system because it provides them with an easy and convenient way to access government services. Accela's on-line capability is part of our overall Customer Service Improvement Strategy."

"VelocityHall provides a cost-effective way for agencies to move many of their traditional counter services on-line," stated Robert P. Lee, Accela president and CEO. "As a result, agencies can communicate and coordinate more effectively with citizens, saving everyone both time and money." With a population of just over 152,000, Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma County. The City joins hundreds of other jurisdictions in California who are already using Accela solutions. These include: Alameda County, Anaheim, Contra Costa County, Irvine, Los Angeles County, Modesto, Orange County, Pasadena, Placer County, Riverside County, Sacramento County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, Santa Barbara County, Sonoma County, Stockton, and Temecula. For more information on Santa Rosa, please visit http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us .

From PR Newswire (press release), 10 May 2004

This Is the Week to Honor Public Service Employees

It's a special week for government employees - To everyone who has chosen a career in public service, this has been your week. May 9-16 is designated as "Public Service Recognition Week." This time has been set aside to honor the men and women who serve America in federal, state and local government including, of course, the uniformed services. The highlight of this celebration is an awesome display on Washington's National Mall. An impressive showing of your tax dollars at work, it helps improve public understanding of the contributions made by government workers.

The Mall exhibition ends today, so if you want to participate in this celebration, it's not too late. If you are interested in a career with the federal government, the Office of Personnel Management and other federal entities will be on the Mall to provide information on job opportunities. In related hiring and personnel news, OPM is continuing efforts to prevent the federal government from employing individuals with bogus academic degrees from so-called "diploma mills." Recently, several troubling high-profile cases have emerged in which fake advanced degrees were used by employees in critical positions. In addition, a recent investigation by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee showed that the government may have paid several high-level workers to receive degrees from diploma-mill institutions.

OPM's crackdown will include enhanced resources for the Center for Federal Investigative Services and a review of the entire federal hiring process to ensure that no one can enter the federal work force with a degree from an unaccredited educational institution. Two weeks ago, I wrote about OPM's plans to include Health Savings Accounts in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. I reported that this change has caused concern among employee groups, especially the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, which fear that HSAs will weaken the future delivery of health-care benefits to workers and retirees. Fredericksburg-area Rep. Jo Ann Davis, who chairs the House civil service subcommittee, teamed up with Northern Virginia Rep.

Tom Davis, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, to write OPM and express many of these same concerns. In a letter to OPM Director Kay Cole James, they encouraged OPM to "continue to work with interested stakeholders to better understand their concerns" and cautioned that while HSA's "appear to be promising, we must prevent unintended adverse consequences to enrollees who remain in the traditional FEHBP plans." I, for one, am eagerly awaiting OPM's response to the Davis letter. Kevin Wilkinson of Spotsylvania County is a veteran federal employee. Write him c/o Federal Feedback, The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401. Or e-mail kwlknsn@yahoo.com.

From The Free Lance-Star, VA, 8 May 2004

Rice Alumnus Pushes Public Service in Commencement Address

Alberto Gonzales, a Rice University alumnus and White House counsel, stressed the importance of family and public service in his commencement address Saturday to more than 1,000 graduates of his alma mater. In his speech, Gonzales read from his May 1977 acceptance letter from Rice. He also told students about his humble beginnings, growing up in a family of 10 in a two-bedroom home in Aldine with no hot water or telephone. When he was 12, Gonzales said he sold soft drinks at Rice Stadium. From the upper deck, Gonzales would watch students head back to campus - and then dream. His dreams eventually led him to the White House.

"I wondered what it was like to be one of you, a Rice student," he said. "Twenty-five years ago I was sitting where you sit right now. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. But life cannot be scripted. I never knew I would be riding on Air Force One, going to state dinners or spending weekends at Camp David." Gonzales was the first Hispanic and only the second alumnus to give the commencement address. He kept to his message about overcoming economic hardships to achieve his dreams, staying away from mention of the war in Iraq or the controversy of Iraqi prisoner abuse. Even after the ceremony, Gonzales declined to answer questions about the war or his role in counseling Bush during this latest controversy.

Instead, Gonzales encouraged graduates to dedicate themselves to public service and family. "As you pursue your dream job, it is only a job, and like every other job, it is going to end one day," he said. "If I only knew at my graduation the joy of public service, I would have given more time to serving the needs of others." While Gonzales stayed away from politics, some graduates refused to ignore the issues of the day, albeit in silence. One student wrote "No War" on masking tape attached to his mortarboard. A few others placed brightly colored paper peace symbols on their mortarboards. Graduate Kat Messick, 22, wore a "John Kerry for president" bumper sticker. While she enjoyed Gonzales' speech, Messick said she would have preferred a speaker with no Republican or Democratic affiliation.

She was initially worried that Gonzales might make reference to the war. "I am just expressing my opinion where I'd like to see the country go," said Messick. "I would have preferred to have a nonpartisan speaker, but I'm pleased. It's directly related to us. I was glad that he didn't make a political statement." However, Crystal Su, 22, said she didn't mind Gonzales being invited to speak. She said he was a logical choice because he is a Rice alumnus. "It was very inspiring. He's a very successful person," she said. "He's an example of `this is what you could be.' The fact that he's from humble beginnings adds to it."

Mark Scheid, assistant to the president, said the commencement selection process began 13 months ago with a student committee submitting a list of potential speakers. Gonzales was on a list that included the Dalai Lama and Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser. Scheid said Gonzales accepted the school's invitation about six months ago. "It was a student choice," said Scheid. "We're not a very active political university. I know the students were more interested in hearing from Judge Gonzales. He's gone out in the world and he knows what it's like to get a Rice degree." At other commencements Saturday, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee spoke at Texas Southern University while Mayor Bill White addressed graduates of the Houston Community College System. (Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle).

From Houston Chronicle, TX, by Salatheia Bryant, 8 May 2004

Kerry Urges Public Service

John Kerry expounded upon the virtues of public service and the importance of protecting America's image before graduates of Southern University at New Orleans. John Kerry on Saturday urged college graduates to commit to public service, saying their participation in the Peace Corps and other programs can overcome the damage to America's image from the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq. ''America needs your generation to surprise those who underestimate the idealism and commitment of young people in the United States of America,'' the Democratic presidential candidate said at commencement ceremonies at Southern University at New Orleans.

''If there was ever a time when everyday people in the most deprived countries, cities and villages of the world need to see idealistic Americans working to help them, it is today, when we are engaged in a struggle to win the hearts and minds of people everywhere,'' he said at the historically black college, which awarded degrees to 670 graduates during the ceremony. The Massachusetts senator said the Peace Corps was ``the most powerful symbol of nonmilitary service in our history.'' Kerry acknowledged the reluctance of many young people today to enter public service but said he was confident that can be overcome. ''I know that many of you may be skeptical, and I don't blame you,'' said Kerry.

"It's hard to find faith and answer the call of citizenship and service when you believe today's call to arms may be tomorrow's broken promise.'' Kerry said the prison abuses in Iraq "have done enormous damage to our country. They've hurt us in our objectives in Iraq and empowered those who find fault with America.'' Kerry made the case for a new focus on the Peace Corps, noting the 6,700 volunteers around the world, much fewer than in the 1960s. ''Because of the day-to-day focus on just making ends meet, because of a culture that too often puts self over community, too many people have lost sight of a basic truth about America. The fact is, our greatest strength, our greatest responsibility and our greatest need today,'' Kerry said, are service and citizenship.

From Miami Herald, FL, 9 May 2004

WPPI and Wisconsin Public Service Sign Long-Term Power Supply Agreement

Green Bay, Wis. - Officials of Wisconsin Public Power Inc. (WPPI), headquartered in Sun Prairie, WI, and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, a subsidiary of WPS Resources Corporation (NYSE: WPS), recently signed a long-term agreement under which Public Service will provide a portion of the power supply for the WPPI System beginning in May 2006. Peter Steitz, WPPI Senior Vice President - Power Supply, signed the agreement along with Public Service Vice President - Distribution and Customer Service, Larry Borgard. "WPPI and WPSC have had a long and productive relationship," said Steitz. "This agreement provides WPPI with additional diversity and flexibility in its power supply resources. We expect it to help keep our power costs to our members competitive and stable.

It is an indication that Public Service has re-committed itself to the wholesale market." The agreement will initially provide 50 megawatts of electricity for WPPI and its member utilities with provisions that call for Public Service to increase its sales based on future plans for new power plants. The agreement is for about 15 years depending on the construction schedule of Public Service's proposed Weston 4 generating unit. "We remain committed to serve our new and existing customers in the wholesale marketplace," said Borgard. "Public Service intends to be very active in working with potential wholesale customers to provide reliable electricity at competitive rates. This is especially true in the communities within and abutting our service territories in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan."

WPPI is a statewide power company owned by 37 municipalities that operate electric utilities. These community-owned utilities purchase all of their electric requirements from WPPI and supply power to more than 141,000 homes and businesses throughout Wisconsin. WPPI member communities in or near the WPSC service area include Algoma, Eagle River, Florence, Kaukauna, Menasha, New Holstein, New London, Oconto Falls, Plymouth, Sturgeon Bay and Two Rivers. Other WPPI members include Black River Falls, Boscobel, Brodhead, Cedarburg, Columbus, Cuba City, Hartford, Hustisford, Jefferson, Lake Mills, Lodi, Muscoda, New Richmond, Oconomowoc, Prairie du Sac, Reedsburg, Richland Center, River Falls, Slinger, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Waterloo, Waunakee, Waupun, Westby and Whitehall.

From PR Newswire (press release), 11 May 2004

 

E-gov Entering Adolescence - Initiatives Worldwide Mature, Focus on Serving Citizens

E-government initiatives worldwide are becoming teenagers, at least in Internet time, according to a new survey. And countries are beginning to adjust their e-government strategies to better serve citizens, the survey found. Accenture officials issued the fifth global e-government study last week, ranking the maturity of programs in 22 countries and examining their status and future plans. Maturity is measured by a combination of the percentage of services online and the number of people using those services. For the fourth consecutive year, the company judged Canada as the most mature. The United States and Singapore tied for second in e-government maturity. But those rankings only scratch the surface of what is going on, experts said. Governments are shifting e-government efforts to focus on citizens, which will help agencies become more efficient, said Stephen Rohleder, group chief executive for Accenture's government operating group.

This year marks the next step in the evolution, Rohleder said. "We see a maturing in the e-government services, but we're also beginning to see the next wave of e-government," he said. "Government [officials are] beginning to realize they need to understand what citizens think of what they've done so far and to take action based on that." To help accomplish those goals, this year's report includes a new poll of citizens in 12 of the 22 countries. Accenture officials examined citizens' use of and satisfaction with e-government services, and they confirmed the findings of a study by pollsters Peter Hart and Robert Teeter and the Council for Excellence in Government last year. Both surveys found that people who use online government services have a much higher satisfaction rate than those who use traditional mechanisms, such as phone or in-person visits.

However, merely broadcasting that fact will not attract citizens to the Web, Rohleder said. "Citizens have been frustrated for too long by their interactions with governments, so even when the services offered are improved, citizens must be driven to the site," he said. Patricia McGinnis, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Excellence in Government, said governments need to accelerate the movement toward online transactions. "Part of it is promoting and letting people know what the benefits are, but part of it is also getting the infrastructure right" and making it easy for citizens to access all levels of government, she said. As the study shows, government officials are beginning to make this shift. Office of Management and Budget officials launched an effort last month to determine which marketing efforts would increase use of federal e-government initiatives.

Some agencies have already conducted user surveys and focus groups as they try to adapt their services and products to users. But others are only getting started, said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and information technology. Those types of initiatives are important to becoming what Accenture officials call a high-performance government, which meets citizen needs and desires in the most efficient and effective fashion, Rohleder said. Accenture officials have developed a tool, the Public Sector Value Model to measure progress toward that high-performance level. Executives at the company are already talking to OMB officials and others about integrating the model with existing measurement tools, such as the Program Assessment Rating Tool.

OMB officials use that as an essential part of the Bush administration's budget reviews, Rohleder said. Those same outreach and study efforts are occurring worldwide, according to e-government leaders from the United Kingdom and Canada, speaking at the Gartner Government Conference in Washington, D.C., last week. In the United Kingdom, the government portal that served as the centerpiece for the bulk of interactions with citizens has been replaced by a new portal, Directgov, which was launched in March and designed based on citizen feedback. U.K. officials discovered that citizens do not want to navigate government structures; they simply want to access government, said Bill Edwards, director of e-communications within the U.K.'s Office of the e-Envoy.

The Directgov Web portal is also moving to a multichannel offering to satisfy citizens' desire to use more sources than the Web, Edwards said. For example, officials recently launched a digital TV service connected to the site, and other services are planned, he said. "People are migrating to the forum that they're comfortable with, and there are a lot of different channels that people are comfortable with," Rohleder said. "Government has to be flexible and innovative, has to understand that phenomenon." In Denmark, nonelectronic and e-government services are designed to be provided governmentwide. Officials are even changing their political structure to provide better service, said Mikkel Hemmingsen, deputy director general of the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

He spoke last week at the META Group Inc.'s Government Enterprise Architectures Conference in Arlington, Va. The country has 14 counties and 274 municipalities of varying sizes, but a wide-scale reform effort will include consolidating those to five counties and 100 municipalities. Once that reform is complete, the goal is to "have a political structure that is suited to the services we want to deliver," Hemmingsen said. Denmark's enterprise architecture process, which focuses on everything from Extensible Markup Language to document management systems, is designed to include input from the private sector on every issue, he said. Although citizens are not involved, this process ensures that no government technology or IT policy goes forward without public input, he said.

From FCW.com, by Diane Frank, 10 May 2004

 
 

Civil Servants' Savings Loans Scheme Disburses 1.7 Billion Cedis

Kumasi - The Ashanti regional branch of the Civil Servants Savings and Loans Scheme set up in July last year, has disbursed 1.7 billion cedis to members, at an interest rate of seven per-cent. Mr. Kwame Asamoah-Dwomoh, Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Civil Servants Association, who announced this, said the loans were in the form of television sets, corn mills, cellular phones and cash. He was briefing a monthly meeting of the District Coordinating Directors and their deputies from all the 18 districts of Ashanti on the activities of the association in the region.

The meeting organised by the Regional Coordinating Council, was to enable the administrative officers to assess the performance of the various districts in the previous month and to plan ahead to enhance good governance. Mr. Asamoah-Dwomoh said the scheme had set aside 25 percent of the gross surplus of its interests for a housing project for members, adding that the national association had given 40 million cedis as a welfare package to members. The Regional Chairman said a committee had been set up to work out the modalities for the package.

He called on the coordinating Directors to get themselves seriously involved in the activities of the association so that they could move the association forward. Mr. Asamoah-Dwomoh told the meeting that a health insurance scheme established by the association two years ago was on course and it intended to go solo in spite of the coming into force of the district insurance schemes. Mr. Ernest Kwarteng, Ashanti Regional Coordinating Director, who presided, urged the officers to continue to work harder to enhance the systematic development of their districts. He expressed his satisfaction with the operation of the association in the region and expressed the hope that they would do more to uplift the welfare of members.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 10 May 2004

 

European Public Finance Banks Likely to Post Healthy Q1 Results

New York - Analysts at Merrill Lynch expect the European public finance banks to post healthy results for Q1. In a research note dated April 30 and published this morning, the analysts mention that the DEPFA's Q1 results are expected to be in-line with the consensus. DEXIA is likely to have witnessed a turnaround during the quarter, the analysts say. Both the public finance banks are poised to benefit from the expected high budget deficits of the developed economies in 2005, according to Merrill Lynch. DEPFA is likely to witness revenue growth ahead of DEXIA in the forthcoming quarters, the analysts say.

From New Ratings, 3 May 2004

Ruling Coalition Agrees to Increase 2005 Public Finance Deficit

The ruling parties agreed to increase next year's public finance deficit to as much as 3.4 percent of GDP, compared to the 3.2 percent planned by the Finance Ministry in its outline for the 2004 budget, news wire TASR wrote. However, none of the parties cast doubt on the plan to push the deficit in 2006 below 3 percent GDP, which is essential for the adoption of the euro, Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš told the press. The rationale for increasing next year's deficit to 3.4 percent, excluding expenses for the pension reform, was based on the demands of several parties to increase expenditures in specific areas. Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports. The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, 5 May 2004

Tax Avoidance 'Robs Public Services'

The Paymaster General, Dawn Primarolo, has claimed that tax avoidance 'robs our public services of billions of pounds' and another Minister compared the international cooperation needed to tackle it to that used to combat terrorism. There has been much discussion and comment on Shout99 about the shift in the language used by Government to imply that 'tax avoidance', technically a legal way of arranging your financial affairs, needs to be clamped down on or stamped out. To date this has focussed mainly on 'tax avoidance' by small businesses, which the Government has sought to address with IR35, Section660 (the married couple's business tax), the registration of 'tax avoidance' schemes and the most recently, the dividend tax, IR591.

Now the net has been thrown wider to catch bigger fish, as the Government announced a joint task force with Australia, Canada and the US 'to increase collaboration and coordinate information about abusive tax transactions following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in Williamsburg, Virginia on April 23, 2004.' The Government's announcement said that 'an initial focus of the work will include the ways in which financial products and derivative arrangements are used in abusive tax schemes by corporations and individuals to reduce their tax liabilities, and the identification of promoters developing and marketing those products and arrangements'.

Robbing the public service - Welcoming this collaborative initiative to counter tax avoidance, the Paymaster General, Dawn Primarolo said: "Tax avoidance works to the detriment of everyone who pays their fair share and robs our public services of billions of pounds. This agreement is further evidence of the seriousness of the problem and of our determination to counter it." Economic Secretary, John Healey, also continued the line that 'tax avoidance' needs stamping out, and compared the international cooperation needed to tackle it to that which exists for terrorism, organised crime, money laudering and fraud. He said: "Tax avoidance and the industry that drives it are increasingly an international phenomenon, and it is vital that we have effective international cooperation to tackle it, as we do for tackling terrorism, organised crime, money laundering and fraud. The joint task force is a real practical step forward."

Details - The joint task force will assist the respective tax administrations in addressing challenges arising from abusive tax transactions. The joint task force aims to enable the four countries to: o Share expertise, best practices and experiences in the field of tax administration to identify and better understand abusive tax transactions and emerging schemes, as well as those who promote them; o Exchange information about specific abusive transactions and their promoters and investors within the framework of the countries' existing bilateral tax treaties; o Carry out their individual enforcement activities against abusive tax transactions more effectively and efficiently. Officials of the tax administrations will work together in Washington DC during the initial phase of the task force's operations. Tax avoidance - There has already been much discussion on Shout99 about the Government's approach to 'criminalising' tax avoidance. See When a 'tax avoider' becomes an evader. If you wish to comment on this article, please log in and use the Reply button below. Registering is free and easy - see 'Join Shout99'.

From Shout 99, UK, by Susie Hughes, 4 May 2004

 

Brown Says Davison Also Backed Sales Tax

Helena - Republican candidate for governor Pat Davison, who has criticized opponent Bob Brown for supporting a sales tax 11 years ago, deceived voters by failing to mention that he also backed that tax, Brown charged Wednesday. Brown said Davison, who has repeatedly labeled himself the only GOP candidate opposed to a sales tax, owes the Brown supporters and Montanans' an apology, "for saying one thing and doing another." "A public figure has the right to change his mind, if he comes clean about it," Brown said. "Pat doesn't have much of a record, but his record - what little record he has - is a record of actively supporting a sales tax on the only occasion he ever had the opportunity to do so."

Davison, in a telephone interview, said "no comment" when asked about Brown's demand for an apology and would not say why he supported the sales tax proposal in the past. "What we're looking at is what's going on in the future," he said. Davison said his criticism of Brown's tax record goes beyond support for the sales tax. That is just part of what he sees as a trend in which Brown has favored tax increases as an answer to Montana's fiscal needs, he said. "Bob Brown has a history of always going to the tax trough as his solution," Davison said. Brown said that in at least five cases, Davison has assailed him for being a proponent of 4 percent general sales tax that voters soundly rejected by a 3-to-1 margin in June 1993.

However, Davison was among 28 people named by then-Gov. Marc Racicot to direct a campaign in support of the sales tax. The Tax Reform Action Committee was charged by Racicot to persuade Montanans to vote for the referendum. Brown, also a member of the panel, said finance reports at the time showed that Davison contributed $250 to the committee. "What Pat hasn't told you is that he was right there with me in 1993," Brown said. Although he has been repeatedly chastised by Davison in news releases and newspaper stories for backing the sales tax, Brown said Davison's own support for the measure in the past makes him a "sales tax flip-flopper." In his criticism of Brown, Davison has cited the sales tax issue as just one example of Brown supporting tax increases during his legislative career.

He listed other examples during Brown's legislative career, dating to 1971. The sales tax represented a net increase of $75 million a year for state government, after covering the cost of property tax cuts and administering the new tax. Davison said he opposes a sales tax now because "we know taxes are not solutions for better business strategies." "When I look at the tax situation today, we have choices between people, and I am the one who has committed not to raise taxes to balance the budget," he said. "I believe what we have is an opportunity to create a tax policy for the future of Montana, and I believe we can have a tax policy that builds job opportunities for the future of Montana."

From Billings Gazette, MT, 6 May 2004

Dismantling California's Public Services: Budget Crises Hit State, County and City Governments

Various state-funded agencies in California, as well as counties and cities throughout the state, are preparing for and implementing widespread reductions in public services. These measures are in anticipation of the looming impact of the state's $14 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Many are also the result of the billions of dollars in cuts made in state financing for social programs under the administration of the previous governor, Democrat Gray Davis. The recent passage of the Balanced Budget Act, which was approved by California voters on the basis of the combined support of the Democratic and Republican parties, mandates that state legislators pass a budget each June in which spending does not exceed revenues.

With the ongoing fiscal crisis in the state and the deep-seated opposition within the political establishment to any substantial raising of taxes on big business and the wealthy, the only way to bring California's budget into equilibrium is through extensive attacks on the social safety net and the public infrastructure. Local governments throughout California are facing multimillion-dollar fiscal crises, with counties being among the hardest hit. In part, the problems stem from the fact that since March, in order to shore up the state treasury, Sacramento has been withholding $1.5 billion in car-tax fee money that it normally gives to local governments. In addition, the counties must be prepared for the across-the-board cuts in state support for county programs demanded in Schwarzenegger's proposed 2004-2005 budget, even though the state legislature has yet to approve this budget.

Thus, in drafting their own budgets for the coming fiscal year, the counties are forced to take preemptive measures. The size of the current and anticipated deficits faced by just eight of the state's local governments gives one a sense of the scale of the crisis in California, whose economy is the sixth largest in the world:
* Los Angeles County-$269 million shortfall in the 2004-2005 fiscal year,
* City of Los Angeles-$250 million shortfall in the 2004-2005 fiscal year,
* San Francisco County-$300 million current shortfall,
* Ventura County-$39 million current shortfall and at least an $18 million shortfall in the 2004-2005 fiscal year,
* Riverside County-$145 million shortfall for this fiscal year and the next,
* Sacramento County-$50 million current shortfall,
* San Bernadino County-$248 million shortfall in the 2004-2005 fiscal year,
* Orange County-$62 million shortfall in the 2004-2005 fiscal year, and
* City of Richmond-$35.2 million current shortfall.

The counties and cities are addressing these massive budget deficits by gutting health and mental services, particularly those for the poor; freezing hiring at government agencies; shuttering libraries, parks and recreation facilities; reducing public safety and emergency services; cutting funding for education, the arts, youth programs, prisoner rehabilitation, drug prevention, and the court systems; and dismantling or reducing many other social services. For example, Los Angeles County is gearing up to close its 19 youth probation camps-halfway institutions designed to keep at-risk youth who have criminal records out of the state prison system while preparing them for a successful return home. The City of Los Angeles is poised to get rid of its drug-abuse prevention program for children, reduce enforcement of building codes, gut funding for arts programs, and eliminate one of the city's public-access television stations.

The City of Richmond in Northern California is closing all of its branch libraries and half of its recreational centers. Orange County supervisors have instituted a hiring freeze, are requesting that county employees no longer be allowed to "cash-in" their unused sick and vacation pay, and have suggested that all departments adjust their thermostats to reduce energy costs. Supervisors in San Bernadino County instructed all of their departments to draft plans for the implementation of a 21 percent cut in their budgets. While the specific programs and areas targeted for cuts vary by county and city, layoffs are a universal result in all these areas. The Department of Education in Orange County expects to lay off close to 450 teachers, which will result in the abandonment of a program to reduce class sizes in the region's schools.

San Bernadino County, which this past year fired 218 workers in its public health and social services programs, has said that it will be impossible to address the budget crises without additional layoffs because 83 percent of its general fund goes to pay salaries and benefits. The City of Richmond is getting rid of 213 workers by closing its branch libraries and several recreational centers. In Los Angeles, the mayor's office is planning to eliminate 1,000 city jobs through attrition. State-sponsored health care programs are also under attack. Though Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rescinded a threat to eliminate a program that provides services to severely developmentally disabled children in response to a widespread public outcry, two other programs that are designed to aid particularly vulnerable populations are either being cut or completely phased out.

California's Children's Services, which provides free care to severely ill children from low- and middle-income families, is being forced to trim its budget by $1.9 million through the imposition of an enrollment cap. Children suffering from crippling birth defects, cancers and other catastrophic illnesses, many of whose parents lack health insurance but make too much money to enroll in either the federally or state-funded programs Medi-Care or Medi-Cal, will be refused care, facing possible death. In a similar regard, the state-funded program for providing treatment to low-income men with prostate cancer, a disproportionate number of whom are African-Americans and Latinos, is being entirely dismantled. Dr. Mark Litwin, director of IMPACT (Improving Access, Counseling and Treatment for Californians with Prostate Cancer), was informed that he would have to choose which of his 320 patients would have their treatment end on June 30.

This is the first deadline for ending the program, which could continue until December 31, the date when IMPACT will be forced to shut down completely. California's public university system, widely regarded as the best in the nation, is bracing itself for severe cuts. Currently, administrators at two branches of the system-the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC)-are preparing to implement a $784 million reduction in their general funding and a 5 percent reduction in their funding for research. These plans are in response to the cuts demanded by Governor Schwarzenegger in his proposed 2004-2005 budget. In addition, administrators are preparing students at the CSU and UC schools for massive tuition and fee increases-40 percent for graduate students and 10 percent for undergraduates.

Those going to the state's two-year community colleges, the third branch of California's public university system, have been told to expect the per-unit cost of attending to climb from $18 to $26. The previous year, the cost was just $11. (Because many students going to community colleges only attend part-time, fees are assessed on a "per-unit" basis. A typical course is 3 to 5 units. Students generally take between one and four courses a semester.) These increases, if implemented as widely anticipated, come on the heels of a 40 percent increase in tuitions and fees the previous academic year for undergraduates. The CSU, UC and community college campuses have already been shouldering the burden of three continuous years of budget cuts. The impact of these has been the layoff of part-time faculty, the implementation of various hiring freezes, a failure to maintain competitive salaries for professors, the slashing of administrative positions, reductions in support staff, shortening of library hours, increased class sizes, reduced course offerings, fewer research opportunities, and the elimination of sports programs and scholarships.

For the 2004-2005 academic year, outreach programs, including the popular Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) aimed at helping low-income and first-generation immigrant students gain admission to the CSU and UC schools, are on the chopping block. The effect of the budget cuts has been exacerbated by the growing enrollment in the public universities and colleges, due in part to the state's expanding population. In the UC branch alone, over the past four years there has been a 16 percent increase in the number of students attending. In response to this situation, Schwarzenegger, who billed himself as the education candidate during his campaign to unseat Davis in the recent gubernatorial recall election, has demanded that for the first time ever administrators at the CSU and UC campuses refuse admission to some qualified students.

Even though the 2004-2005 budget has not yet been passed, because of the acceptance notification deadlines the universities are already determining which students will be denied admittance. Students from the CSU system have been staging rallies at different locations around the state to protest Schwarzenegger's proposed cuts and enrollment policy. On Thursday, April 29, 350 students demonstrated on CSU's Fullerton campus. Earlier that week, on Monday, April 26, 2,000 CSU students held a protest outside the governor's offices in Los Angeles. On March 15, 10,000 community college students descended on the state capital of Sacramento to protest budget cuts. At UC's Berkeley campus, 400 students staged a rally aimed at demonstrating the impact of the proposed cuts on the prestigious university's graduation rates.

From World Socialist, by Andrea Peters, 3 May 2004

Tax Policy Focus of MSU Forum

Tax research experts will focus on the state's tax structure, related public policy and the effect on Michigan's economy during a forum set for Wednesday, May 12. The session, "Trends and Prospects in the Michigan Economy: Tax Policy," will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Lansing Center, rooms 101-104, in downtown Lansing. A reception will follow from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The event is second in a series that hosts research experts from Michigan's universities on topics relating to the state economy, sponsored by Michigan State University's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR); the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP); and Wayne State University's State Policy Center.

Guest speakers and areas of expertise include "Michigan at the Millennium" book authors: o Ronald Fisher, MSU, fiscal relations among federal, state and local governments; o Lawrence Martin, MSU, miscellaneous taxes (sin, death and recreation); o Paul Menchik, MSU, personal income tax; o Charles Ballard, MSU, state revenue system; o Joel Slemrod, U-M, state and use taxes, single business tax; o Doug Drake, WSU, property taxes. "Michigan at the Millennium" presents detailed discussion of state economics and features university faculty authors' presentation of current policy relevant information for policymakers and community decision makers. The event is free, but registration is requested at (517) 355-6672, or ippsr-action@ssc.msu.edu. For additional information about the series, visit www.ippsr.msu.edu. (Contact: Annmarie Schneider, IPPSR, (517) 355-6672, annmarie@msu.edu; or Gisgie Dávila Gendreau, (517) 355-2281, gendrea3@msu.edu).

From Michigan State University (press release), MI, 10 May 2004

Sound Budget Key to Sound Tax Policy

Raleigh - There's a quote from James Madison opining against the idea of a "progressive" income tax that is worth quoting in full: "The moment you abandon the cardinal principle of exacting from all individuals the same proportion of their income or of their profits, you are at sea without a rudder or compass and there is no amount of injustice and folly you may not commit." Actually, my purpose here is not to make the case for the flat tax (though it is the only just and efficient one). Instead, I'd like to apply Madison's maxim to the spending side of the ledger. When politicians abandon the cardinal principles of fashioning sound budgets, they find themselves adrift on a sea filled with red ink and an ever-flowing current of special-interest demands. What are those cardinal principles? Well, for starters policymakers should err on the side of ensuring that existing governmental responsibilities are effectively discharged before creating new ones.

Second, and more fundamentally, they should limit their appropriations to true public services - to functions that private individuals and associations cannot perform for themselves - rather than seeking to erase the line between what is voluntary and private on the one hand and what is coercive and public on the other. They should favor those services for which outcome measurements can be devised, and then to examine them to discover if tax dollars are generating results of greater value. Without a firm set of priorities, including a general presumption in favor of activities that benefit all or most of the population rather than just targeted interests or regions, it is impossible for politicians to fashion sound budgets.

They end up saying "yes" or "maybe" to spending lobbies rather than saying "no," the latter being the response that ought to be virtually automatic (because if our society has survived until now without some great new tax-funded idea, it can probably survive a while longer). Consider what's going on in Raleigh as the General Assembly convenes for its 2004 session. Despite the appearance of a small budget surplus, funding current operations for the 2004-05 fiscal year and some normal expansion items such as enrollment increases in public colleges will likely require at least half a billion dollars more in revenues that is projected to come in at current tax rates. There is, simply put, no extra money to be found under North Carolina's collective couch to satisfy all the pent-up demands for new spending that both public and private lobbies are in the process of asserting.

Boosters of the state's motorsports industry, for example, want state taxpayers to help build a $50 million test track near Charlotte. Film-industry buffs want the state to pitch additional dollars to artists and movie studios in the Wilmington area and elsewhere. Biotech-bonanza hucksters want millions more for their dubious schemes. The UNC system wants tens of millions to build new research centers at East Carolina University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, and other campuses. State employees and teachers want raises. Juvenile-justice officials want to build new facilities to hold young offenders. And the list goes on and on.

No sensible list of priorities would have policymakers build a race track with tax dollars as long as legitimate needs exist in traditional state services such as law enforcement and corrections, education, or safety net programs for the mentally ill - not to mention the need to reduce North Carolina's tax rates to competitive and efficient levels. But Gov. Mike Easley and legislative leaders seem already to have agreed to at least $15 million for the NASCAR project. It's easy to be seduced by fake economic-development arguments, particularly when the dollar amount attached to each individual project is low. It's that element of human nature that also leads folks to eat too much fatty food when they ought to be dieting.

After all, what's one more ice-cream cone going to matter? Well, it matters quite a lot if you eat "just one more cone" of the creamy stuff every day - more or less the equivalent of what your elected officials are doing with your hard-earned money. From 1993 to 2003, state spending in North Carolina rose by more than 75 percent. Yes, service needs were growing, too, along with the state's population during this period, but the increase works out to be nearly 50 percent more spending per person. That's a rapid fiscal weight gain in just 10 years. Or to return to the original metaphor: without a rudder, without a compass, North Carolina's ship of state has been blown drastically off course. John Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of Carolina Journal.com.

From Kinston Free Press, NC, 8 May 2004

 
 

Privatization of NEPA: Where Do Workers Stand?

Abuja - The issue of unbundling of NEPA is part of a short and medium term strategic plan for the eventual privatization of NEPA. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with reforms in NEPA given the many decades of lack of maintenance; and such reforms ought to be operational, managerial, and technical. Without doubt, NEPA has been bedevilled with a myriad of problems this makes the reforms necessary. The crucial point however is what kind of reform is the government seeking for NEPA and where will it lead NEPA? where will it put poor Nigerian citizens and the NEPA workers? This is where there is a disagreement between government and the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) on one hand and National Union Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Nigerian people on the other. Privatisation is the foster child of unbundling. In other words, unbundling is meant to prepare the ground for privatisation.

But what does unbundling mean? Unbundling, simply put, means that the various sections of NEPA will be formed into autonomous departments with powers of decision making. Furthermore, they are to engage specialists/experts for the efficient operation and management of those departments. The key goals as set out by government in this regard are to ensure that NEPA is unbundled and privatized in such a way as to ensure technology transfer from abroad; ensure substantial Nigerian shareholding in the privatised companies and ensure "effective consensus building necessary for the success of reform". The major reason for unbundling is that the Energy sector, to use their phrase "is too capital intensive." If a government complains of a sector as being too expensive to invest in, then which private enterprise can therefore enter into such investment?

The truth is that government offers different and convenient reasons for wanting to privatize. At other times, they will say NEPA is corrupt. At yet another time, they will say NEPA's performance is poor or that NEPA is inefficient in service provision. But what government is doing through unbundling is actually to make the various departments in NEPA more efficient and operationally effective. The result of that are already being seen by the whole world. The question then arises, why privatize NEPA, if services could be offered more efficiently through a reformed NEPA? The true answer to this question is to be sought in the vested interest of some government officials who are captive victims of their foreign partners and their local fronts. We are aware and have been assured, that by the end of the second quarter of this year, NEPA should be in a position to supply efficient and uninterrupted power to those connected to the grid.

Then what is government objective in privatizing such an enterprise after this assurance? Many countries that have embarked in the privatization of their energy sectors have ended up subsidizing the private sector. Britain is a good case. Others had the private sector simply running high tariff rates and therefore were being attacked or chased away by the people, such was the case of ENRON in California. The case about the capital intensive nature of Power supply is not related to the developmental importance of Energy to Nigerians. Secondly it is also not equated to the social service role of the sector. Utilities such as electricity are not supposed to be meant for profit. They are inalienable social services without which basic life activities cannot be done. In other words, an enterprise can provide social service or operate as a profit venture. NEPA is meant to perform the former role.

Additionally NEPA can make profit if issues of vandalisation, non-payment of tariff by government departments and individuals, the and above all corruption are tackled, at all levels. There is need to contest the view that the Energy sector is capital intensive. The first question to ask is what amount of capital is needed in the sector? Nobody has done the arithmetic. Second, it should be noted that if the experience of NITEL and the MTN and ECONET saga are anything to go by, then foreign investors are more likely to come and raise loans from Nigerian banks or establish their companies in Nigeria and make super returns through profiteering. Either way, Nigerians are the losers. To summarise, I am arguing that unbundling is a clever attempt by government, to use public funds to bring NEPA to an effective and functional level only to privatise it. This is worse than what government has done to any other public enterprise in the history of privatisation.

This is why the move must be resisted. The privatisation of NEPA, even by the operating instrument, was supposed to be carried out by "consensus" of all stake holders by which I understand as the Nigerian people, NUEE, and the government. However, government has been going about it, all alone. Tactically, they withdraw from the battle front when there is pressure and resistance from NUEE and the Nigerian people; they withdraw and once they find new arguments, rationali-sations and excuses they regroup for a new offensive. This is why NUEE has to be constantly alert and mobilized so that it is not taken unawares by BPE, government and unrepentant apostles of privatisation of NEPA. Indeed, it must launch an offensive in the struggle against privatisation.

It is no accident that in the history of Nigerian legislature, the Energy Sector Reform bill was the first to go through all the processes, by default, and awaiting the accent of Mr. President, only to be withdrawn and for the entire process to be started all over the again. There is, in my honest view, a tacit acknowledgement that both the President and the past NASS were patently dishonest in the way and manner they pursued the Bill. A clause in the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) Policy document entitled "National Electric Power policy" states that the unbundling and Privatisation of NEPA shall be done through consensus. Where is the consensus in all this? NUEE is excluded in all ways and in all forms. Government through the BPE continues to use tax payers' money to wage propaganda against NEPA, they chastise it as being corrupt, inefficient and desirous of privatisation.

Yet, everybody can testify to the fact that the services of NEPA have improved by over 400% in the last six months. Again, the Energy Sector Reform Bill is being prepared and NUEE and the senior staff of NEPA are being excluded. The clear implication and indications are that the current bill is not fundamentally different from the previous bill. And this should not come as a surprise. For, the privatisation of the Energy sector is one major prerequisite for third world countries to qualify for any form of assistance from the World Bank and the IMF. No matter all the pretences of the government, that is the major drive for the current crusade against NEPA. There is no altruistic or patriotic reason for the privatization exercise. Government is merely doing it to meet not the national interest but the interest of foreign hawks and preys, many of whom landed us in the present economic crisis.

The current obsession with market theology and Harvard trained economists will not solve our current economic crisis neither will privatisation of NEPA. If any thing, these so called economic experts are trained on how to deepen and worsen the economic crisis of third world countries. If anyone doubts my claims as frivolous, I give Nigeria another three years and we can check the score card. This question has been asked before, but it has to be asked again and again. Who stands to benefit from the privatization of NEPA? Certainly, it is not the Nigerian people, it is not NEPA staff; rather it is the profiteers, speculators, so-called businessmen and women, fronts and ten per centres. NUEE must tell this to the world and it should constitute the core of its campaign slogan.

All over the world, the issue of development has once again come on the front burner, even in the west. It is no accident that socialists are once again winning elections even in Europe, not to talk of Venezuela, Brazil and so on. In the last and current U.S. Presidential elections, issues of unemployment, tax, and public utilities were/are serious matters in the elections. Why is this so? It is because there is a notion of the public good and the belief that national development must address human beings and social issues. The current government talks about NEEDS, NAPEP and Poverty eradication and all that balderdash, we do not know whether these programmes substitute for themselves or negate each other. The programmes are all rhetorics because in concrete terms what the government does, goes in very big ways to accentuate poverty-check the policies of government in ail sectors from Energy to education to health.

They can neither alleviate nor eradicate poverty. It is little wonder that 73% of Nigerians are said to live on less than $1 per day. That is gross poverty. This is happening in a country with oil, and with more than 70% arable land. Indeed, there is no part of Nigeria that cannot grow and cultivate one form of food or cash crop or another. Electricity is indispensable in any society worthy of developmental aspirations. About 70% of Nigerians are not in any way connected to rural electrification or the National grid. Yet we need energy for production, manufacturing semi-processing of raw materials, research, in hospitals, at homes, in the offices and so on. Energy cannot be over priced otherwise it will exclude majority from the developmental process. That is the key challenge the government risks and that is why the privatization exercise must be fought.

The NCP Policy document on the Energy sector states thus: "Government will have due regard for the interest of the staff of the companies to be privatised within the provisions of their conditions of service". Ever since there has been a frenzy about how many NEPA staff, both senior and junior, that will be retrenched. Several figures were quoted ranging from 20,000 to 30,000. For me, those are mere details. There are many things that need to be taken into account. The Pension scheme of NEPA is in tatters. At any rate, the struggle to make NEPA remain a publicly owned enterprise is a winnable one. NUEE should be thinking not narrowly about the fate of NEPA staff but about the fate of their unborn children and grand children.

As NUEE has repeatedly stated, privatization should be done in such a way that permits all kinds of competitors access to the industry-none of which should expect to criminally cart way government property. The private sector should bring their capital and invest in all sectors of the industry from generation to transmission to marketing and distribution. That is a fair deal. The Nigeria poor will prefer to have an epileptic and poor performing NEPA with moderate tariffs than to have an unbundled, privatized NEPA whose tariffs are prohibitive and unaffordable by poor Nigerians. The core problem with NEPA is corruption and bad management. This problem is not peculiar to NEPA. It is a Nigerian problem.

The problem is solvable and it can be solved. All we need is the correct leadership. Government is insisting on privatising NEPA and NUEE is insisting that it should remain a commercial venture. Who shall resolve this riddle or dilemma? We must take the issue to the public court. Let us not assume that the people know what is going on. They may well not know. At any rate, government propaganda in the news media has overshadowed NUEE's campaigns. We must get an upper hand in the media campaign and this will help us win the street and ideological battle. Dr. Abubakar Momoh of the department of political science, Lagos State University presented this paper at a one day conference organised by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) in Abuja. Excerpts.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Dr. Abubakar Momoh, 11 May 2004

 

Workers Termed Prime Stakeholders in Privatization Policy

Islamabad - The Government of Pakistan considers the workers as the strong stakeholders of the public sector entities being offered for privatisation and it is the prime objective of privatisation policy to safeguard the interests of the workers of the Public Sector entities in particular. Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh stated this in a statement issued on the observance of May Day here on Saturday. He said that as compared to any other international privatisation experience, Pakistan had the distinction of offering most generous schemes for the workers. Prior to privatisation of any such entity with the consent of APSEWAC the government offered Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) or Golden Handshake Scheme (GHS) to the interested workers to ensure that they should not be left high and dry, he stated.

The Minister added that as a result of these post privatisation benefits to the workers so far a huge amount of Rs. 6.032 billion had been disbursed as GHS/ VSS among 29970 employees of the privatised units. He assured the workers that no one could think of working against the interests of the workers of Pakistan in particular. Even in certain cases we appreciated the workers to become owners of the entities to be privatized and there was no embargo on them for taking part in the privatisation process. 10 % shares of each privatized entity is also meant for the workers, which is another effort to make them realize the feelings of ownership in these entities. Dr. Hafeez Shaikh further stated that Pakistan was proud of its workforce who with their devotion and commitment had made this country a hub of economic activity and were the purveyors of development and progress.

While commemorating the sacrifices made by the workers of Chicago who laid down their lives for the just cause of the legitimate rights and for the uplift of the dignity of labour in the world, we in Pakistan observe this day with a strong commitment to build our nation stronger with hard work and dedication for improvement and development in every sphere of life of our beloved country, he added. Dr. Hafeez Shaikh said that the on going privatization was a pro-poor and pro-worker process which had a binding on buyers to retain those workers for a period of one year who did not opt for GHS/VSS after the privatisation of any entity and not to expel these workers immediately even in case of excess work force or inefficiency. He further stated that Pakistan's Privatisation Program also envisaged that the privatized units should run more efficiently and profitably by the professionals to generate additional jobs in the private sector.

Our Privatisation program was not focused to associate private sector for making money or to make massive retrenchments in the public sector entities, he said. Our goal was to ensure low tariff through competition and to extend quality services, increase production and above all to give market based salaries, better working environment and facilities to our skilled and unskilled labour. The privatisation process was initiated in Pakistan in 1991. The break through could only be possible with the signing of APSEWAC Agreement in October 1991 between Ministerial Committee and representatives of All Pakistan Workers Action Committee (APSEWAC). The Agreement provided most generous scheme of VSS/ GHS for the workers.

Dr. Hafeez Shaikh while lauding the hard work being laid down by the Pakistani workforce within and out side the country said that the workers were the main force behind the economic development of our country. The privatisation program in Pakistan was a joint effort of the Privatisation Commission and our workforce, to get the private sector in for better wages, facilities, transfer and adaptation of latest equipment / technology for the speedy economic growth and above all for the expansion in these units by making fresh investments, he remarked. This activity would not only expand our industry but it would also generate more jobs for our unemployed youths, including skilled and unskilled workers, he stated. He added that in the presence of a comprehensive welfare and social security net being provided to the workers, the Privatisation Program in Pakistan is being conducted peacefully with the utmost understanding and cooperation between the government and the workers.

From PakTribune.com, Pakistan, 1 May 2004

Bangkok Power Privatization Protests Held

Public labor unions and private businesses joined forces on May Day in Bangkok to fight privatization of state-run power and water services. Thousands of workers marked May 1, Saturday, by marching from Democracy Monument to Government House. The Labor Center Congress of Thailand, the Labor Organization of Thailand, labor unions of all electricity and waterworks authorities, and private industrial and financial companies have joined to fight the privatization plan, the Bangkok Post reported Sunday. The alliance opposes the plan to list the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and other state enterprises on the stock market. "The labor leaders of the private sector are with us now and will fight with us until we can stop the government privatizing Egat," said Banchong Bunrat, chairman of the Labor Center Congress of Thailand.

From Washington Times, DC, 2 May 2004

Uzbekistan to Speed up Uzbekneftegaz Privatization

Tashkent - Uzbekistan plans to speed up the privatization of the national holding company Uzbekneftegaz - a monopoly operator in the republic's oil and gas sector. A report from the Uzbek State Property Committee on the results of privatization in January-February 2004 and plans for the year says that "by the end of 2004 a an evaluation will be carried out a tender will be held to sell Uzbekneftegaz shares to foreign investors." Management at the State Property Committee and Uzbekneftegaz have neither confirmed nor denied this information. The national privatization program includes the sale of 49% of Uzbekneftegaz and shares in the company's subsidiaries to a strategic investor.

The financial consultant for the privatization is BNP Paribas and the company will be privatized with the help of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Preparations for the privatization of Uzbekneftegaz began in 2000. Subsequently, in 2002 management from the State Property Committee announced that the company's privatization may be postponed indefinitely due to the need to restructure the company. At the end of 2003 the Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers passed a resolution on improving governance structures at Uzbekneftegaz, aimed at restructuring the holding company. This resolution states that four of the company's current subsidiaries should retain their subsidiary status - Uznefteprodukt, Uztransgaz, Uzneftegazmash and the newly formed Uzgeoburneftegazdobycha.

The latter is being set up based on the drilling company Uzburneftegaz and the exploration and production company Uzgeoneftegazdobycha. The government has decided to dissolve Uzneftepererabotka and Uzneftegazsnabzheniye. Uzneftepererabotka companies will be transferred to Uznefteprodukt, with the exception of Shurtan Gas-Chemical Complex, which will be transferred to Uzbekneftegaz. The restructuring process may be completed in June this year. The structure of the company's charter capital may change during restructuring and this may bring about a review of the stake to be sold to a foreign investor. Natural gas production by Uzbekneftegaz in 2003 fell 0.3% to 57.481 bcm. Production of oil and gas condensate last year fell 0.9% to 7.134 million tones.

From Interfax, Uzbekistan, 11 May 2004

 

Privatization of Warfare

The situation in Iraq is going badly for the occupying American forces. Despite a staged-for-television proclamation of victory aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean last year, President Bush has recently found his policies, from spurious reasons for waging war against Iraq, to the badly bungled early occupation, to politically-inspired deadlines for handing over "authority" to an as-yet non-existent Iraqi government, criticized more and more frequently. We live in an age of television, and so it was a televised event that precipitated the current sense of political siege and crisis within the White House. Four Americans were ambushed as they drove through Fallujah in north central Iraq. They were dragged from their vehicle, killed, set afire, and dismembered. The charred remains of one body were hung from a bridge; those of another were dragged behind a car for 50 kilometres.

As the world knows, the aftermath was powerful and disturbing. Iraqis were emboldened to attack Americans all over the country, with Sunnis and Shias promising to aid one another in driving out the occupying aggressor. American troops, for their part, mobilized and both surrounded and penetrated Fallujah, with heavy and bloody casualties, mostly Iraqi citizens, not all of whom were in any way combatants. I want to look at one of the many issues that arose from that moment of violence in Fallujah when four Americans were killed. Why, Americans wondered at first, were there no American forces ready to intervene? Even if it is impossible to prevent or undo an ambush, it is certainly possible to move in militarily to prevent bodies from being dishonoured. The answer is profoundly revealing. The fallen men were not, in any real sense, their comrades. They were Americans, and they were soldiers of a sort, but they were not American soldiers.

They worked for a corporation, Blackwater Security Consulting, which supplies military personnel on a contract basis: these were soldiers for hire, or as they would have been called in a time when English had not been debased by the "spin" of political posturing, mercenaries. They were in Iraq not to fight for democracy or even domination, but because they were paid handsomely to be there - and paid by a company whose sole business is to make a profit. The existence of a privatized military industry was known to military leaders around the globe, to corporate executives of multinational companies engaged in business in "risky" areas, and to despots and insurgent militias all over the developing world. But, in general, the citizenry of the world, and especially the United States, was unaware that the nature of "warfare" is changing rapidly. Warfare is less and less the domain of states, and more and more an area for corporate investment, growth, and control.

Warfare, in blunt terms, is being increasingly privatized as we enter the 21st century. There is no arguing with economic facts. The privatized military "industry", in the words of Peter Singer, an expert on this new economic reality, "has several hundred companies, operating in over 10 countries on six continents, and over $100 billion in annual global revenue." Here is Singer elsewhere: "PMFs (privatized military firms) represent the newest additions to the modern battlefield, and their role in contemporary warfare is becoming increasingly significant. Not since the 18th century has there been such reliance on private soldiers to accomplish tasks directly affecting the tactical and strategic success of engagement...PMFs may well portend the new business face of war." Singer and I disagree about the importance of structure, since he maintains that PMFs are "fundamentally different (than mercenaries): the critical analytic factor is their modern corporate business form."

That modern mercenaries are employees of a modern corporation, hired through "conventional" hiring practices, serving in a hierarchical business administrative structure, generating returns for investors, does not mean that they are not fundamentally soldiers for hire, nor that those who supply them - as in former years Hesse in Germany, or Switzerland, or Nepal - are not in it for the money. Singer is remarkably cogent in his analysis (readers are referred to his "Corporate Warriors: The Rise and Ramifications of the Privatized Military Industry"). He points out that the market-based approach toward military services is as, "one analyst puts it, 'the ultimate representation of neo-liberalism.'" In particular, he sees PMFs as a logical consequence of the two major capitalist innovations of the late 20th century, outsourcing and globalization. The former anti-apartheid military and militias of South Africa are fertile hiring sources; so are not only former Soviet soldiers, but also the officers and operatives of the KGB.

Those who were behind the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) debacle are deeply enmeshed in arranging financing in the new military-for-hire industry, as are those who supplied illegal arms in the American Iran-Contra scandal. There are important reasons why the United States has depended heavily on privatized military firms to undergird the war and occupation efforts in Iraq. Most of them are not pretty - to my mind, some are actually corrupt. Let's look at those reasons. First, PMFs allow placing many of the costs of the Iraq occupation "off budget". In the US, as in all democracies, funding for government activities are ultimately in the hands of the people, through their elected representatives in legislative bodies. But the 20,000 international PMF employees in Iraq (equal to over 15 per cent of the official American military presence of 130,000 soldiers) are not listed as military defence. Instead, they are paid out of the money budgeted for Iraqi reconstruction.

Recent government estimates are that as much as one quarter of the $18 billion budgeted for reconstruction will be paid to those who perform military operations of one sort or another. Second, hiring private military firms bails out the questionable defence policies of Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. Contrary to the advice of his generals, the secretary insisted on downsizing the military. His vision is of a corporate military, and so he imitates the efficiencies put in place by modern multinational corporations. On one level, he is merely continuing what his predecessors in the Defence Department did, and indeed what every imperial power has done for many centuries: he has moved towards further mechanizing warfare. For Mr. Rumsfeld, the automated battlefield can work like an automated factory, so that less workers are needed. Mr. Rumsfeld has tried his utmost to privatize the American military. For him, following corporate strategy, downsizing means moving to "just in time" hiring, using private firms to provide what the military formerly did for itself.

He has insisted that it makes no fiscal sense to keep and pay for a well-trained standing army, when the US can purchase every sort of service on an "open market" whenever there is a need for military action. Why should soldiers, in Mr Rumsfeld's view, cook for themselves, move their trash, provide supplies, run and maintain their technology - why not privatize these activities? Even in the case of actually military duty - guarding public officials from hostile attack, fighting guerilla assaults - much of what soldiers traditionally do can be performed by the mercenaries hired by private firms. All of these services can be hired only when needed, and the army can be kept small, and hence inexpensive in terms of manpower. Weapons systems, produced at high profit by huge corporations, are another matter: cost efficiency here seems to be of little or no concern.

Mr. Rumsfeld's strategy may well be flawed, which is why the use of PWFs is so suspect. In Iraq today, American forces are stretched thin. That situation was highlighted recently when tens of thousands of soldiers slated to come home after a year's term in Iraq found those returns cancelled. Thus, the privatized military forces cover up the flaws in Mr. Rumsfeld's downsizing strategy. That privatized firms charge more for the activities is of no concern, even though the point behind downsizing was supposedly cost-efficiency. PMFs, have an additional "benefit" never mentioned by any American government official. If there is brutal military repression to be done, an ex-KGB agent or a man with a lifetime in the anti-apartheid forces in South Africa can work more brutally than an enlisted American soldier. Mr. Paul Bremer does not trust his defence to American soldiers.

Cadres of mercenaries guard him. If the American use of privatized military services in Iraq seems to transgress the boundaries of corruption to a rational mind, a mildly paranoid mind can have a field day with some established facts. The major subcontractor in Iraq is Halliburton; Halliburton provides extensive security and military support through its subsidiary, Brown & Root. Halliburton's former chief executive, of course, is the sitting vice president, Dick Cheney. Recent testimony before Congress and a startling new book by the journalist Bob Woodward indicates that Mr. Cheney was the single most influential force driving George Bush, and the America nation, into war against Iraq. From the most cynical angle, one might see the entire war and occupation as a business decision which provided huge contracts to the vice president's former company. The writer is professor of English at the University of Vermont. (http://www.dawn.com/2004/05/01/fea.htm#1) (http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_ 7101.shtml).

From Collective Bellaciao, France, by Huck Gutman, 3 May 2004

Discount Privatization to Continue

"Discount privatization to continue even if only one contender is left standing". The Knesset's Finance Committee will be asked to approve the deal expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2005. "We will continue the tender to sell the controlling interest in Bank Discount, even if we end up negotiating with only one contender," said Michal Abadi, Chair of the Board of Directors of M.I. Holdings, to Maariv in the first interview following the announcement of the tender to sell controlling interest in the bank. "When only one contender is left, we must adopt a different pricing mechanism. Being a government institution, the fact that only one contender remains in the sale of Discount is slightly problematic but we will operate in a way that will ultimately guarantee getting a fair price."

Unanimously elected to the position on 26 October 2003, Abadi says she works with the full and productive cooperation of Finance Ministry's Comptroller General Yaron Zelika, who accompanied the process for the Finance Ministry. For his part, Zelika emphasizes the cooperation with Abadi as well as her importance in advancing the process. In response to a question regarding the timetable she expects for completion of the tender, Abadi says, "Assuming that we stay on schedule, the tender is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2005, between January and March. One critical factor in this aspect is the Bank of Israel.

Once a buyer is selected, the Finance Committee will be asked to approve the completion of the transaction." Abadi is confident that Bank Discount management will fully cooperate with the process. This week, both she and M.I. Holdings CEO Yitzhak Klein, met with Bank CEO Giora Ofer in order to submit a report regarding the tender and to coordinate the use of the bank's information rooms. "Discount Management has cooperated with us every step of the way. The agreement stipulates that buyers are entitled to receive assistance in the form of additional information. I do not expect any problems in this regard."

Abadi also revealed that the original timetable for executing this tender had been shorter but a last-minute decision was made to extend it. In response to the question of how the price of the transaction was determined, Abadi clarified, "We are selling 26-26%-51% of the bank's shares. The price model obviously took into account the proposed price, the quantity of shares offered for acquisition and the quantity of options. Each of these comprises a factor in pricing. The tender will be executed without a propriety test. Leading to the pricing, we will prepare two value assessments that will help us to price the transaction."

From Maariv International, Israel, by Yehuda Sharoni, 6 May 2004

The Privatization of the Supreme Court

The frenzied debate that took place this week in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee over who was or was not fit to be a justice, must truly worry those who fear for the existence of democracy in Israel and the rule of law. Don't be frightened, dear readers. I have no intention of suggesting that we sell shares in the Supreme Court to the public. The title is meant to suggest that for too many years now, there is no lawyer from the private sector serving on the Supreme Court. These are the lawyers who have the strongest, closest and most important connection to the true Israeli experience and the consumers of the legal system. Indeed, the ones who are most critical to the national enterprise of justice and law, have not found their proper place on the Supreme Court. What a shame. This must change.

As I write these lines, the Judicial Appointments Committee is meeting in order to choose four new justices for the Supreme Court. I tend to believe that despite the fact that there are more than a few deserving nominees from the private sector, none of them will be chosen. If I'm wrong, it would be a nice surprise. The frenzied debate that took place this week in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee over who was or was not fit to be a justice, must truly worry those who fear for the existence of democracy in Israel and the rule of law. The Supreme Court may yet be the last bastion of national consensus, or the last institution that most of the Israeli public still has complete faith in. If that faith or consensus is harmed, democracy will be undermined and the foundations of the rule of law will be undermined as well.

This week's debate in that committee was definitely one more step on the path to undermining faith in the Supreme Court. A legislative committee is not the proper body to debate the specific question about a particular candidate to be a justice on the Supreme Court. The committee is made up of politicians with political agendas, strong impulses and huge egos. Some of them also have big scores to settle with the justice system. Still, it's not that hard to understand why the committee acted as it did. It should not be blamed entirely for what took place this week. The Judicial Appointments Committee is made up of three current Supreme Court justices, two ministers, two MKs and two representatives of the bar association. It is a sort of hybrid committee that has managed to justify its existence over the last 56 years of the State of Israel's existence.

Until now, nobody has come up with a better system yet for weeding out and appointing justices. In the past, the committee's activities were secret, as if they were discussing state secrets and the names of the nominees for judgeships were kept a secret from the public until they were actually appointed, as if we were talking about General Security Service or Mossad agents. The years have wrought their change. Transparency and rays of light have also penetrated the legal system, which is good. There's an ongoing debate in the legal community and the public in general, over whether the Supreme Court is a purely professional body, to which only the best professionals in the field should be nominated, or whether the makeup of the highest court in the land should reflect the makeup of the variety, ideas, beliefs and worldviews of Israeli society.

This debate has yet to be won by one side or another. The prevailing feeling of the public, even if it is sometimes mistaken, is that the three justices who sit on the committee, who are a minority, force their opinions on the other committee members, who are nothing more than a rubber stamp for the justices' wishes. Even if that really isn't the situation, it appears to be that way. Unusually, the committee is considering fourteen nominees today. The Minister of Justice, who is chairman of this committee, was quick, erroneously in my opinion, to say which nominees he prefers. His declaration also created the impression that there is a tacit understanding between the minister and the Supreme Court justices on the committee, about who has the greatest likelihood of being chosen.

If that is the case, then it is obvious that other members of the committee will feel frustrated and redundant and take out that frustration in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, among other places. It is not inevitable that the nominees put forth by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and supported by the Justice Minister should be the ones that will be appointed. It's proper and good to listen to the MKs, other ministers and the representatives of the bar association.

Despite the transparency of the appointment process, including publicizing the names of nominees and allowing every citizen the opportunity to register his complaint or objection to the committee, before the decision is made, members of the committee should bandy about the names of those they do or don't prefer, who is fit and who is not, to select members of the media. It cheapens the process. It might even be better to forbid committee members to discuss their support for one nominee or another until after the decision is made. Even if transparency is a necessary reality, there is still place to preserve the dignity and respect of the process. Unfortunately, that is not the way things are today.

From Maariv International, Israel, by Yehiel Gutman, 7 May 2004

Discount Employees to Hold Emergency Conference Before Privatization

Chairman of the committee: It seems like someone forgot that we are not dealing with a sale at a bazaar. An estimated 6,000 Bank Discount workers are expected to attend a national emergency conference tomorrow, before the privatization of the bank goes ahead. The conference, which is being organized by the national committee, will be attended by Chairman of the Histadrut, Amir Peretz. As a result of the conference, some of the bank's branches will close earlier than usual - mainly those in the north and south of the country. In March, Bank Discount's national workers committee decided to declare a labor conflict in the bank, following the Treasury and MI Properties' plans to hasten the procedure towards issuing tenders for the sale of the bank, without securing the workers' rights before doing so.

The workers committee explained that "after the workers felt that in the past few months, there was no real progress in securing their rights, we decided to organize an emergency conference with all the bank's workers". Chairman of the committee, Ricky Bachar stated that "someone obviously forgot that we are not dealing with a sale at a bazaar. We need to remember that we are dealing with the sale of a bank that employs 6'000 people who sustain families. If someone in the Treasury thinks that during the sale, the workers' rights will be destroyed, then there will be no sale. The Bank Discount workers committee has been and always will be a body that knows how to fight for workers' rights. We will not lose this battle".


From Maariv International, Israel, 11 May 2004

 

Quebec Shelves Privatization Plan

No drastic measures, government vows, but unions fear 'second wave' of program - Facing public protests and crippled by a record high disapproval rating, Premier Jean Charest's government has put the brakes on its controversial plan to privatize some public services in Quebec. The government is now saying it wants to proceed with caution and is reassuring Quebeckers that no drastic measures will be taken. The Liberals are hoping that over time, the public will embrace many controversial proposals. The opposition and political observers had expected to hear details of the entire plan yesterday. "If in five years our approach is not found to be legitimate, there is always the possibility of changing course," Treasury Board President Monique Jérôme-Forget said yesterday as she released the first part of the plan to modernize government. "What I did not want to do was to suddenly come up with a Draconian measure. We need to go softly."

The plan was the cornerstone of Mr. Charest's commitment to change how Quebec is governed. But, in recent polls, almost seven out of 10 Quebeckers said they are dissatisfied with their government. The Liberals are trying to avoid any immediate major disruptions. The government said it would lift its hiring freeze but replace only half of the 32,000 civil servants who will retire by 2013. The government estimates that in 10 years, it will save $700-million a year in salaries through attrition. But that was the only estimate Ms. Jérôme-Forget released. She refused to give a figure for the modernization plan's total savings. The minister acknowledged that accommodating corporations' need for less government was more difficult than she anticipated.

"The approach was much more complex than we expected," she said. What she called the "first wave" of the modernization plan will establish an agency to manage public-private partnerships in projects such as the building and management of roads, chronic-care institutions, a detention centre and a cultural complex in Montreal. "Partnership agreements do not constitute privatization," the minister's document argued. "The government retains authority over the operation at all times." Quebeckers have expressed concerns over rumours that the government wanted to privatize some services or abolish others. As a result, the Liberals will delay many projects in the plan until later in the mandate as part of so-called "second wave" of changes.

This may include revamping the province's unique tuition-free CEGEPs (Quebec institutions of postsecondary, pre-university education), partial privatization or user fees for municipal water and sewage systems (Quebeckers currently pay for these services through their property taxes) and a review of the universal public pharmaceutical drug plan. The original plan had promised to revamp the state-run television network Télé-Québec, but yesterday's document did not deal with it, leaving the network's future uncertain. Concerns are also being raised about the role private corporations may be asked to play in delivering health services. The government also intends to sell part of its $1.5-billion in real-estate properties and lease them back.

"The second wave represents a dark cloud on the horizon," Parti Québécois Treasury Board critic Sylvain Simard said. "The worst is yet to come." Labour leaders agree. They still plan to hold a 24-hour general strike next fall and will monitor what they call the government's pro-business hidden agenda. "You can't take the people to be nothing more than naïve spectators," said Claudette Carbonneau, the president of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux. "You can't say there will be fewer civil servants, less government agencies, fewer ministries and then say there will be more services." The union leader representing the province's civil servants, who are negotiating a new collective agreement with the government, said he fears that Mr. Charest's proposed restructuring of government services will weaken job security. "I have said it and I repeat it, job security in the public service is in danger," said Michel Sawyer, president of the Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec.

From The Globe and Mail, Canada, by Rheal Seguin, 6 May 2004

Private-public Partnership Brings Back Shovelnose Sturgeon after 50-year Hiatus

The month of May is a pivotal season in Ohio, the fulcrum from the cold, wet spring to the sweltering summer sure to follow. Dogwoods spatter their white blossoms across the hillsides, and the edges of upland streams are dotted with gravelly smallmouth bass nests. Turkey hunters take to the woods. It all happens about the same time every year - nature's clockwork. But this May, beneath surface of the Scioto River, something new may be going on for the first time in a half-century: sturgeon spawning. Thanks to a private-public partnership, shovelnose sturgeon have come back to the Buckeye state after nearly a 50-year hiatus. It's considered an endangered species by the state of Ohio. Water pollution and locks and dams eliminated the fish from the state.

Not only did dams in the Ohio River prevent these highly mobile sturgeon from getting to upstream spawning habitats, the flat water impoundments behind them offer no habitat. If form follows function, then the shovelnose sturgeon is the prototype for a body form shaped for fast water. The spindly body and flat wedge-shaped snout allow the fish to take up station in fast-flowing chutes as it peruses the bottom for insects, snails, mussels, and crayfish - prey quite vulnerable to water pollution. But opportunity knocks. According to Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) biologist Scott Schell, who is leading the effort to restore this native fish, the Scioto River is cleaner now than it has been in decades.

Moreover, the section of the Scioto where the shovelnose sturgeon were stocked has the largest number of fish and macroinvertebrate species in any Ohio stream, and that speaks to high-quality habitat. The first dam on the Scioto that can block fish movement is 153 miles above its mouth on the Ohio River in the city of Columbus, and that means the shovelnose sturgeon will have room to roam. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)'s Carterville Fishery Resources Office, located in Marion, Illinois, routinely monitors shovelnose sturgeon populations in the lower Ohio and Mississippi rivers, where the species is much more abundant and even affords commercial and recreational fisheries. It's these surveys that provide a source of sturgeon for the ODOW.

The five-year reintroduction effort is in its third year. Only 35 shovelnose sturgeon made it to the Scioto River in 2002; this spring 153 fish made the trip from near Paducah, Kentucky, to Circleville, Ohio. Last year the USFWS shipped sac-fry, recently hatched fish who still carried their yolk sac, to ODOW's Kincaid State Fish Hatchery, where the sturgeon were grown out to about six months old and stocked into the Scioto. Those young fish were the product of an unusual partnership involving state and federal governments, private enterprise, and academia. The USFWS provided adult fish to Logan Hollow Fish Farm in Murphysboro, Illinois, a private commercial hatchery working with Southern Illinois University on early life history studies of shovelnose sturgeon.

Some of the offspring went to university researchers, the others went to the ODOW. The partnership will provide more young fish over the next two years. All of the young fish put in the Scioto River will be marked with an injected liquid-plastic tag visible just under the skin on the snout. Three years from now, when biologists seek to measure success, they'll look for young shovelnose sturgeon without marks - fish spawned in the wild. "Biologists almost always want to get returns on tagged fish," said Greg Conover, the USFWS fishery biologist who leads sturgeon surveys on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

"But in this case, when shovelnose sturgeon show up without those little flourescent tags on their snouts, we'll know our partnership has paid dividends: wild sturgeon." While it may be a number of years before Ohio anglers can set a trot line or deadline fish for shovelnose sturgeon, this private-public partnership is large step forward. But first thing's first said Schell: "After five years of transplants and stocking, I hope a few adult fish find each other on a riffle and spawn. That's when we'll know things are working and we're on track." And that could be the fulcrum in returning this native fish to native waters and in providing an opportunity for Buckeye anglers to catch a swimming dinosaur. Craig Springer writes for the USFWS Fisheries Program, based in Arlington, Virginia.

From Environmental News Network, CA, by Craig Springer, 7 May 2004

Public-Private Partnership Hopes to Revitalize Downtown

Dave Garrett of Atlanta, Ga., says he sees so much potential in downtown Alexandria he wants to invest here. The developer talks of spending "whatever it takes" to infuse downtown with life and commerce. Just how much he's willing to invest could become clearer in the next six months. On Monday, Greater Alexandria Economic Development Authority board members approved an agreement with a new subsidiary of Mallory & Evans Development, the limited liability company Garrett chairs. Now the authority and Mallory & Evans Alexandria LLC will identify and invest in projects to revitalize downtown, Garrett and authority President Martin Johnson said. Expect new housing, retail and other commercial ventures, Garrett said.

The first project should take off within six months, he said. "We need to get started," Garrett said. "It's very important that people see something coming out of this and see it quickly." Johnson said the economic development authority's members preferred Garrett because he came offering to invest money instead of asking for consulting fees. Johnson also liked Garrett's experience in economic development and public-private partnerships. Garrett chaired the Georgia Chamber of Commerce twice, chaired the Economic Development Transition Team for Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and was active in Atlanta's efforts to redevelop downtown prior to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

The Mallory & Evans family of companies built the International Concourse at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport - a $300 million project. Garrett said redeveloping downtown Alexandria appeals to him because it could be fun as well as profitable. He suggested the city borrow ideas from Augusta, Ga., which also has the benefit of a river, but the challenge of a tall levee. Johnson said that as projects are identified, authority officials and Garrett's company will decide who should finance which ones. The authority may do some. Mallory & Evans may do some. The two organizations may do some together, and other investors are welcome to participate, Johnson said.

The authority recently began assessing a 3 percent tax on hotel-motel occupancy. The tax will generate about $560,000 annually, according to estimates from the Rapides Parish Sales and Use Tax Office. Johnson expects the authority to issue millions of dollars in bonds later this year. Several local investors attended the meeting, including Buddy Tudor, who's working to open the Diamond Grill restaurant in the old Schnack's building. Also there were Michael Jenkins, who is converting the old Masonic Building for a mix of residential and commercial uses; Gary Brown, who is working with his wife to open a new restaurant; and Rajesh Patel, the new owner of the Holiday Inn downtown. "I wish you all the best of luck," Tudor said. "More development downtown only enhances those of us who are already investing here."

From Alexandria Town Talk, LA, by William Taylor, 11 May 2004