ISSUE 63
June 2004
 
 
   
    Public/Private Sector Partnership Law Underway - Atiku
Ppp, New Vehicle for Infrastructural Provision (1)
Public Administration Ministry Promotes Seminar
   
    British, Chinese Policy Makers Share Experience on Public Policy Development
Media Discuss Possibilities for a Gender-Sensitive Ethics Code
Public-private Partnership to Create Health Research Precinct
   
    Public Administration: Agreement Reached on 2004 Hiring
   
    Role of public-private partnership highlighted - Bahrain
   
    G-8 Plan of Support for Reform
Legislature Wrap: New Loophole in Ethics Bill
 
   
    UCZ Joins War Against Corruption
PS: Grand Corruption Back in Government
Anti-Corruption Commission Bill Sails Through
How Deep is Corruption in Africa?
   
    Local Govts 'Should be Probed for Corruption'
China is Just Catching Up
Corruption Watchdog Uncovers Pacific Concern
Brunei Muara Officials And Village Heads Briefed On Corruption
NSW Government Examines 'Damning' Corruption Report
Victorians Want Corruption Commission, Poll Finds
Solomons Corruption at Crisis Point
Anti-Corruption Investigation Agency to Have Limited Power
Corruption Still A Problem in Asia
   
    OAS to Probe Aristide Ouster, Fight Corruption
Burlco Toughens Ethics Policy
City's Ethics Law to Get Reworked
Officials Deemed within Ethics Law
 
   
    Civil Servants Locked Out
Commissioner Warns Civil Servants
Government Tinubu Asks Civil Servants to Audit Him, Nominate Next Head of Service
Civil Servants Appeal for Restoration of 'Cap 30'
Judge Censures Civil Service Chief
Stage is Set to Retire 21,000 Civil Servants
'Nation's Civil Servants Aging'
Senior Civil Servants Warn Against Planned Amendment of Trade Unions Act
Civil Servants Demand 100 Percent Cost of Living Adjustment
Mfa Closes Ranks With Civil Servants
Shocker for Civil Servants
Bayelsa to Prepare Civil Servants for Retirement
   
    BSN Gives Out RM317Million to Civil Servants
Manmohan Interviewed 10 Secretaries for Top Civil Service Job
Competitive Ratio of Civil Service Examination Exceeds 100-1
Koizumi Urges Review of Public Servants' Pay
Public Servants' Pay Offer to be Put to Vote
ACT Government Set to Secure Public Servants Pay Deal
Civil Servants May be Sacked for Drunk-driving
Public Servants to Take Two Saturday Off per Month
More Funds Need Pouring into Public Service Sector: Experts
Ministers, Top Civil Servants to Have Pay Cuts Restored
The MIC Wanita and Youth Movements Want to See More Indians in the Civil Service
New Civil Service System to be Adopted
SEECAP Holds Seminar on Civil Services
   
    No Forced Move for Civil Servants, Says Ahern
Civil Service Spending Slammed
Civil Servants Threaten Action Over Jobs Cull
Civil Service Crisis 'Must End'
Ahern: Civil Service Modernization Succeeding
Blair and Howard Hang Hopes on Public Services

Germany Plans to Extend Working Hours for Civil Servants
Civil Servants Will 'Hot Desk' to Cut Costs
   
    Thousands of Baathists Return to Civil Service
   
    Dr. Phil in Town to Train Civil Servants
Lake Station Lawyers Will Study Legality of Ordinance Deemed Unconstitutional
 
   
    State Slow Off the Mark with E-Government
Overhauling Government Operations
Government to Support E-governance
One Public Service for All
Key to the Success of Nepad is Public Service
Minister Commends Innovation in Public Service
   
    Toppers Set Eyes on Medicine, Civil Services
E-governance Must for Better Services
Government Offers Brunei New Form Of Governance
Building E-government to Serve Community Better: Official
Private Capital Dabbling in Public Service Sector in China
Cost-based Pricing for Public Services
Brunei And Korea Expect Dramatic Changes from e-Government
Chinese Expects Fewer Bureaucrats, More Public Servants
China to Promote Innovation in Public Service
Minister Outlines Public Service Reforms
Government May Fix Cost-based User Charges for Public Services
e-Govt Starts With Korean Seminar
The President Outlines His Government's Priorities
Inertia an Obstacle to E-government Transformation
Slow but Steady Progress Expected of Thailand's E-government
|Public Servants to Set IT Training for Improved Efficiency
   
    Pay Rate Recovery Threatens E-gov Work
E-gov Initiative onto Next Phase
Closer Look at E-government
A New Approach to the Delivery of Public Services
Public Service Choice is a Left-wing Concept, Says Reid
Public Service Staff Reach out to Community
EU to Lunch Europe-wide Public Services Portal
E-gov Spending Will 'Keep Going'
E-government Site Proves too Ambitious
Swiss Scale Down E-government Plans
London's E-government Launches IT Project 'Library'
Effective E-gov: Think Customers
E-government Systems Present New Ways to Uncover Fraud
e-Envoy Office Moves to e-Government
Blair and Howard Rethink Public Service Reforms
E-government 'Not Yet Serving Citizens'
EU consumers Favour Competition but Want Guarantees on Public Services
Kennedy Rejects 'Empty Rhetoric' on Choice
Blair's Pledge on Public Services
   
    UAE E-government Initiative Moves into Second Phase with Focus on New Financial Management Information System
Dubai e-Government to Take Part in DSS with Major Events
ACI Inmates Perform Needed Public Services
Public Services Have Fewer Employees - but They Earn More
   
    ALBANY - Rensselaer County's Former Civil Service Administration System was Called "Unsatisfactory" by State Civil Service Commission President
Maryland Public Service Commission Weighs In
Two Western PA Salvation Army Sites to Revamp; Public Services Will Continue
Civil Service Tests to be Given by City
E-gov Services Go Unused
E-gov Fellowship Open for Applications
FBI Public Servbant Receives Top Award
Users Increasingly Return to E-government Sites
Board Considers More Computer Use
Congress: Bye-bye, E-government
 
   
    MMC Scandal Shows Need for Corporate Ethics
House OKs Bill on Management of Public Finance
   
    IMF Gives Report without Question Marks
Public Finance: Maroni, Buttiglione Should Play Lotto
Bank PKO BP Maintains Its Privatization Plans
Finance Reform Appears in Doubt
Ministers Resolute Over Council Tax
Public Finance: Buttiglione Skeptical over Short Term Answers
   
    New Century Financial Corporation Receives Ethics Award
Banc of America Securities Opens New Public Finance Office in Phoenix
Perry appoints Ellis to Texas Public Finance Authority
   
    World Bank Loans USD 150 M to Bulgaria
 
   
    Government Hasn't Ruled out Privatization
   
    Gov't to Map out Postal Privatization Plan in Aug-Sept
   
    Commissioner Still a Believer in Privatization
In France, Protesting Privatization
   
    Privatization of KESC Govt's Top Priority Transaction: Hafeez
Fueling the Privatization Fire
Port Authority Chairman: Privatization Legislation "Declaration of War"
   
    Economy Minister Outlines Privatization Policy
Report Favors Privatization of NASA
 

Public/Private Sector Partnership Law Underway - Atiku

An enabling law to provide security and regulation of private and public sectors partnership is in the works. Vice President Atiku Abubakar disclosed this yesterday in his address at the opening ceremony of the Delta State Economic and Investment Forum held in Asaba, Delta State. Atiku therefore urged the organized private sector (OPS) to ensure that they participate when the National Assembly subjects the bill to debate. "The good news is that we have a law in the National Assembly that will provide security and regulation of the partnership between the private and public sectors," he said. He also called on Nigerians to show faith in the country if they wish to attract foreign investors.
He said no foreign investor would come into the country if Nigerians themselves did not show ennough faith in the economy of their own country. He said records from the World Bank had shown that the investments of Nigerians outside the country were much more than the country's external debts. "There is need for Nigerians to have faith in their own country. Through the World Bank,we have now come to know that Nigerians have foreign investments more that the debts we are owing.And these people we are asking to come here from Europe, from America, from Asia know this fact. If we do not have faith to invest in our country, they will not come here to invest," he said. He said contrary to what obtained in the First Republic, the private sector would now take the commanding heights of the economy. While conceding that the number one social cancer in the country was corruption, Atiku said when the private sector takes over the economy, about 70 to 80 percent of the corruption in the public sector would be reduced. The vice-president also appealed to Nigerians to ensure that there was peace and stabililty in the country so that the economic and political reforms of the Federal Government could be sustained.

"In implementing political and economic reforms, you need peace, you need stability, you need continuity, you need sustainablity for those reforms. Nigerians will be wiser by making sure that these reforms are sustained by whoever is coming after us. They must make sure that their mandate is to sustain these reforms we are beginning," he said. While commending Delta State for putting this type of forum together, which he said synchronized with the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS), the economic programme of the Federal Government, he urged the private sector to leverage on the provisions made available in the forum to invest in the state. This, he said, will help achieve the desired objectives of using agriculture to stimulate economic growth and development. "If we are talking about investments, we must first of all invest in our own economy, have confidence in our economy before we expect foreigners to come and invest," he added. "This has been the thrust of the economic reforms being implemented by the Federal Government. The focus of the reforms rest on the necessity of efficient and manageable public sector and energized private sector, and fostering a culture of more responsive governance and social responsibility. I believe these are the principles that underline this forum. "A notable encouragement in this consideration is the willingness and resolve of the state government to commit itself into partnership with investors while leaving sufficient legal space for the resulting companies to operate on purely business standards. In the absence of a strong private sector base, such an initiative is commendable," Atiku said. He expressed the hope that more and more state governors are taking necessary steps to pursue the diversification of their economies to promote job creation by stimulating the growth of the organized private sector.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Amarachukwu Ona And Jaiyeola Andrews, Asaba, This Day (Lagos) - 8 June, 2004

Ppp, New Vehicle for Infrastructural Provision (1)

THE debate as to what should be the role of government in the provision of infrastructure is an aged long one. Economist in the late forties attempted to draw a line on what should be the role of government in economic activities. To the economist then public goods were better provided by government. Such goods which usage by one person can not preclude others from using them. Such goods include security. If there is security and peace in an environment no one single person can be prevented from enjoying such peace. On the other hand private goods are those whose usage others who did not pay for them can be ecluded from the benefit. Such goods that people can be excluded were regarded as private goods that are better left in the hand of the private sector. But all that has changed as more and more countries are partnering with the private sector in the provision of basic infrastructure through Public Private Partnership (PPP). The Nigeria Public and private sector managers on Monday sat together to brain storm on how to fashion a way forward in public private sector partnership in Nigeria in the provision of public goods. The talk shop was put together by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), and sponsored by several multilateral agencies. PPP as it is popularly referred to has become the most widely used vehicle for social economic transformation of society both in the developed and developing economies. In Britain, the system was introduced in 1992 and since then several social infrastructure have been developed through it. Incidentally, one of the chief success factor of the scheme in Britain is a Nigerian, Mr. Wale Shonibare, a Director of KPMG in London. He has travelled to almost all the continents of the world consulting for governments on PPP.
Governments across the globe have come to terms with the fact that public sector alone can not provide the needed infrastructure and have come to the conclusion that private sector participation in the provision of infrastructure is inevitable. The concept is not entirely novel in Nigeria. Some element of it are found in the Independent Power Plant arrangement made with some private companies to generate power supply, The Lagos State government arrangement with some firms on waste collection and disposal, the Federal Government arrangement with Solgas to get Ajeaokuta Steel plant in operation etc are some of such project already in operation. What is new how ever is that a formal frame work that will ensure transparent and competitive bidding is being put in place by the government to ensure successful take off.
Experts have suggested that partnership between the two sectors should be central to any government's aim of establishing first class public services and infrastructure and promoting economic growth and regeneration. The aim of the partnership it suggested should always be to make the best use of what both sectors have to offer to deliver higher quality and cost effective public service. The World Bank it said has also recognised that the public sector engaging the private sector in a kind of partnership to fund public projects is a favoured option for solving the increasing demand for services. This is said to be particularly urgent for a developing country like Nigeria that require new infrastructure in its bid to alleviate poverty and infant mortality. The World Bank studies have shown that within this decade, developing countries alone will need to invest over $200billion per year in basic infrastructure, $2trillion by 2005. Over $1.2 trillion is said to be needed in East Asia alone, which implies about 7 per cent of the region's GDP.

According to Dr. Kassim Gidado, another Nigerian who is Head of Construction Research Team, Faculty of Engineering School of the Environment, University of Brighton, UK, there are variety of concession and partnership arrangements in PPP. Some of the most commonly used are Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and Public/Private Partnership (PPP). The advantage of these two methods of procurement is that almost all the risk lies with the private sector and therefore ensures project delivery and compliance to international standard. It is arguable that with this benefit, the PPP and PFI methods of procurement are the solution to the problems faced by governments like Nigeria, that are trying to provide or fulfil the demand for services and infrastructure. There are various types and forms of public-private partnership currently used around the globe. These are:

- Service contract, where the government awards a private party the rights and obligation to perform a specific service , within well defined specifications and period. Government retain ownership and control of all facilities, capital assets and properties.
- Management contract, where responsibility and control over a departmental function is transferred to the private party who is generally not expected to invest in the facility.
- Lease, where the private party becomes the asset manager and operator of an existing publicly owned facility and pays a specified lease payment to the government. The operator collects the authorised tariff and earns profit but not expected to invest in the facility improvements.
- Concessions, where the private party takes over all aspects of facility management and operation from the government, often on a long-term basis.
The private party responsibilities include maintenance and specified rehabilitation and capital investment in facility upgrades and enhancement. The private party is fully responsible for raising the required capital. This may take the form of build-operate-transfer (BOT), Build-operate-own (BOO) or build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT), design-build-operate-transfer (DBOT), design-build, finance and operate (DBFO). Other less common variants include BRT or BLT (build, rent/lease and transfer and (BTO) build transfer and operate.
- Private finance initiative (PFI), a concept where the private-sector provides the government a complete scheme or a project that the government would be interested in. The private party fully funds the development and operates it for an agreed period, during which the services produced are to be purchased by the government or other stakeholders. It is important to note that PPP or PFI differs from outright privatisation in that the public sector retains substantial role in PFI projects, either as the main purchaser of the services provided or as an essential enabler of the project. It equally differ in contracting out in that the private sector is involved as a provider of the capital asset as well as a provider of services. The main aim of the initiative is to bring private sector skills and finance into projects that would have previously been wholly or mainly provided by the public sector. The projects could range from financially freestanding projects, where the private sector takes on various risks associated with such projects, to joint ventures between the private and public sectors, where the risks are shared.
The desire of the Federal Government to follow global trends in the provision of basic infrastructure led to the idea of port concessioning and the unbundling of NEPA. If the current thinking in government is anything to go by the government must go beyond rhetoric and show the political will and commitment to ensuring that PPP is a reality in Nigeria. The Federal Government must equally develop a transparent, competitive and succinct bidding process devoid of under the table dealing.

Alluding to the essential ingredient for PPP success Shonibare said that government must develop a framework for prioritising projects that would be undertaken as well as gather and disseminate the required information. Government he continued must ensure that it gets value for taxpayers money in projects that are undertaken through PPP. Further Shonibare stressed that both the public sector and the private sector operators involved in PPP project must learn to manage and influence public opinion to favour the PPP project. For a successful PPP in Nigeria he said that government must encourage the development of a deep and innovative capital market for long term lending as money markets are in the habit of short term financing. He also suggested that Nigeria should develop appropriate legal and regulatory framework for the PPP projects and maintain economic and political stability as well as promote value for money audits of signed projects.
Siting the experience of Britain, Shonibare said that since the scheme was introduced in 1992 over 600 deals have been signed which included 34 hospital and over 200 new and refurbished schools. He disclosed that there are over 70 more projects being negotiated with captive value of approximately #24.8billion pound sterling. According to him survey result has shown that 89 per cent of projects are delivered on time or early, all such projects in the survey delivered to public sector budgets, 77 per cent of public sector managers stated that projects were meeting initial expectations. He said that private sector investment now accounts for 10-14 per cent of total investment in public infrastructure in Britain. Projects in the pipeline he said includes, prisons, schools, hospitals, roads, courts, IT, government accommodation, light rail, defense, energy etc. Sharing South Africa experience with PPP, Mr. Uven Bunsee said that South Africa in providing a regulatory framework for PPP entrenched it in the constitution act 108 of 1996 section 217(1) which states that "When an organ of state----contracts for goods or services,it must do so in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective. He further disclosed that regulation 16 of South Africa requires that all PPP project deals to obtain treasury approvals for affordability, value for money, and appropriate allocation of risk. Mr. Bunsee said that certain inception steps were taken in all PPP projects in South Africa. They include:

* Register the project with the PPP unit, which was in the office of the National Treasury.
* Appoint project officers who reports to the accounting officer/Accounting authority
*Do an initial options assessment
*Draft terms of reference for transaction advisor team,
* Identify budget available and add PPP schedule to MTEF budget plan. He said that Transaction advisor are necessary in PPP to assist institutions to bring PPP from concept through feasibility, bidding, negotiation, award, to execution. According to him the transaction advisor is appointed based on reports to project officer, who reports to accounting officer. Such persons or firm is appointed through open bid, with bidder's conference to clarify terms of reference. Such a body is a consortium that must include financial, legal, technical and empowerment skill and experience.

Such advisor is selected on technical, empowerment, price criteria. He said that sector specialist are beginning to emerge in PPP transaction advisor market in South Africa. Mr. Bunsee said that in South Africa the selection of transaction advisor must ensure that the technical part of the bid show the company and individual PPP and sector experience as well as key individual availability. The empowerment part of the bid he stressed must show strong black equity in consortium and strong levels of black professionals on the team. The price of the bid he disclosed is in two parts, -retainer fee (paid at deliverables in PPP project cycle) and - Success fee (paid wholly or in parts from the PPP itself at financial closure. Dr. Julius Bala Director General Bureau of Public Enterprises in his presentation argued that empirical evidence on relationship between infrastructure and economic development shows that efficient infrastructure creates employment, develops human capital, promotes local and foreign investment, raises standards of living, and improves access to critical services. Continuing Dr. Bala said that developing countries need to strengthen and expand dramatically their physical, economic and social infrastructure. He told participant that government lack the significant investment capital required to develop infrastructure in power, telecommunication, water, sanitation, education etc. He said that the mismatch between investment needs and available resources has resulted in the reliance upon PPP. Dr. Bala said that the private participation in infrastructure grew in LDCs from $16billion to $120billion between 1990 and 19997. According to Bala, trends in cumulative investment in infrastructure projects with private participation by region show that in the Middle East investment stood at 3 per cent, Sub-Saharan Africa 3 per cent, South Asia 5 per cent,Europe and Central Asia 13 per cent, East Asia and Pacific 28 per cent while Latin America and the Caribbean has a record figure of 48 per cent. Dr. Bala further disclosed that in social statistics the average for six African countries; Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda indicate that paved road person is 0.01 while that the average for non African developing countries is 4.49 per person. In the case of electricity, while the average for African countries is 118.5 KWh, that of the non Africa developing countries stand at 1,227.9 KWh per person.

Public health spending per person he said has a record of $6.2 per person in Africa and $87.5 per person elsewhere. In primary education, Africa countries have on the average 44.7 pupil-teacher ratio while others have 27.6. Mr. Bode Augusto the Director General, Budget office of the federation see the PPP as a vehicle to strengthen NEEDS. He said that over dependence on the federal government has stifled economic growth and private investment. According to him government has embraced privatisation, liberalisation, and deregulation. He disclosed that government preoccupation now is to concentrate on services in the key priority areas and capacity building while partnering with private investors to develop and maintain infrastructure in priority areas. Government he said will continue to provide the enabling environment for investors to operate in a free market place. Analysing the Nigeria economic environment he stated that over three quarters of government revenue comes from crude oil coupled with high government spending and high level of debt, high inflation and nominal interest rates, high unemployment rate and low income levels, high dependence on government for services and infrastructure. He said with this militating factor Nigeria is regarded as a high risk area that is not attractive to foreign investors. In order to encourage investors, he said there is the need to provide fiscal incentives that will help mitigate commercial, financial, country , performance and market risks. He said that government in order to make the Nigeria competitive in PPP will provide take-off grants to induce private sector to invest, adopt ring fence cash flow from PPP related projects for use to service project obligations. He said that government would also ensure that private sector operators are given the freedom to charge fair economic rates and that a review of property ownership rights for adequate protection of PPP related properties is done. Bode disclosed that government is ready to consider projects for PPP in the following priority areas; Power, Roads, waterways, Railways, Refuse collection and disposal and any project that meets the aspiration of the needs strategy.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa,by Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor, Vanguard (Lagos) - 18 June 2004

Public/Private Sector Partnership Law Underway - Atiku

The Ministry of Public Administration, Employment and Social Security (Mapess) is holding today in Luanda, a seminar on technical promotion and appointment for management posts, in the ambit of the administrative reform, in force in the country. The session was opened by the Deputy Minister of Mapess, Sebastiao Lukinda, and count on the participation of managers and chiefs of human resources departments of central and local administration organs, general-secretaries of the Ministry and other individualities. The event is taking place in the Polyvalent Center for Professional Training of the institution and will discuss themes related to promotion, qualified staff, vacancies, budget system, the assessment of performance, terms of category, quotas and the draft decree on promotion and projection.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Luanda Luanda, Angola Press Agency (Luanda) - 24 June, 2004

 

British, Chinese Policy Makers Share Experience on Public Policy Development

BEIJING -- The UK's Geoff Mulgan, head of policy in the prime minister's office and director of the British government's Strategy Unit, lectured in Beijing Thursday to an audience of Chinese policy makers from within and outside the government. Speaking on "Strategy in Government: the UK Experience", the British policy head discussed with these Chinese policy makers on UK approaches in developing strategic policy.
Mulgan was invited to China as the UK's keynote speaker at a Strategic Policy Seminar at China's National School of Administration in Beijing. He also gave a lecture to students at Qinghua University on Wednesday. Mulgan said that through these events, he can showcase the UK's experience of innovation in public service delivery and the role of the Strategic Policy Unit in delivering innovation. Mulgan was previously director of the Performance and Innovation Unit in the Cabinet Office in the UK, and the prime minister's senior adviser on social policy. Before 1997, he was the founding director of Demos, an independent cross-party think-tank, rated the UK's most influential think-tank by the Economist magazine. The talk by Mulgan was organized by the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy and the International Cooperation Department of the Development Research Center of the Chinese StateCouncil, aiming to strengthen links between senior policy officials in China and the UK. "Through this and other similar projects, we are sharing the UK experiences in public policy and working in partnership with Chinese think-tanks to share experiences about reform priorities,"said Gary Hallsworth, head of Governance and Development Services at the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy. Hallsworth said that in July 2004, to underpin the theme of public policy and the policy process, the Cultural and Education section of the British Embassy will issue a special publication with contributions from Mulgan and other members of the UK's Cabinet Office.

From Xinhua, China - 10 June, 2004

Media Discuss Possibilities for a Gender-Sensitive Ethics Code

Media professionals in south Asia and representatives from groups working on gender issues gathered in Pakistan on May 26 and 27 to discuss the possible creation of gender-sensitive code of ethics for print media in the region, reported the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC). Participants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka traveled to Islamabad to discuss how gender was portrayed in the region's print media. They also explored possibilities for an ethics code for media that is sensitive to gender-related issues. The participants worked in separate groups to draft ideas for the code; the first group looked at strengthening and supporting women in print media, while the second and third groups focused on the impact images have in reinforcing gender biases. Each group presented their ideas, and organizers promised to compile the proposals into a single draft code and to evaluate whether it can be implemented in the region. The Uks-Research, Resource and Publication Centre on Women and Media, based in Pakistan, organized the event in collaboration with the British Council's Gender Equity Project. For more information, contact the BCDJC at bcdjc@citechco.net, telephone 880-2-8620539, fax 880-2-861697753 or visit http://www.bcdjc.org/.

From International Journalist's Network - 18 June 2004

Public-private Partnership to Create Health Research Precinct

The New South Wales Government and the Federal Government have combined with three premier research institutes to create a $46 million health research precinct in Sydney. The Federal Government has contributed $10 million. The Garvan Institute, St Vincent's Hospital and the Victor Chang Institute have raised $11 million for the combined research centre. The Minister for Science and Medical Research, Frank Sartor, says the State Government will provide $25 million for the biotechnology research centre. The centre will be situated in Darlinghurst.
"What we have here is the largest medical research and biotechnology precinct in New South Wales," Mr Sartor said. "The building we're in will be virtually doubled in size by the expansion. "It will involve achieving about 800 researchers and what it will do is strengthen our research capacity."



From ABC Online, Australia, 29 June 2004

 

Public Administration: Agreement Reached on 2004 Hiring

An agreement was reached, in the Unified Conference, on the hiring of new personnel, region by region, in the NHS and relevant local agencies for 2004. That's what a statement of the Public Administration reported. The new agreement improves the 2003 one, as it gives large offices the possibility of organising themselves, within the limits set by the 2004 budget. The agreement allows the region to hire personnel within the limits of the gross annual expenditure, corresponding to 50 pct of employment terminations in 2003, plus the possibility to set general rules for the region. The regional governments may authorise the regional NHS bodies to hire personnel with permanent full-time contracts within the limits and criteria set by article 3, law 24/12/2003 n.350, and within the limits of the financial resources allocated by the agreement between central government, regions and autonomous provinces of the 8th August 2001.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy - 21 May, 2004

 

Role of Public-Private Partnership Highlighted - Bahrain

The Undersecretary at the Ministry of Finance and National Economy (MoFNE), Shaikh Ibrahim bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, has highlighted the crucial role of public-private partnerships (PPP) in the services sector. Shaikh Ibrahim, who yesterday opened the first seminar on the PPP organised by the MoFNE, Ministry of Electricity and Water and the Economic and Trade Department at the French Embassy said that public-private partnerships are not the same as privatisation. "Privatisation involves the transfer of ownership rights from public to the private sector whereas PPP generally involve to private sector operating public sector assets for a fixed period of time. They involve the contracting out of services to a professional operator while ownership remains with the public sector," he said, adding that under the system private sector operators take the responsibility for delivering the service at an agreed level of standards. "The public sector retains responsibility for shaping the public service mission which the private operators deliver. The public sector is also free to exercise its role of regulatory oversight," he said. He also affirmed that public private partnership, if handled correctly, should speed up the implementation of new projects. "The added dynamism which this achieves will help stimulate economic modernisation more widely. New infrastructure gets built faster and new technologies are introduced to facilitate or support their operation. Public-private project partnerships should serve to attract high-level experts who have already acquired broad international experience: builders, operators, along with specialists and consultants in the engineering, finance and legal fields.

The French Ambassador to Bahrain, Anita Limido, said that the seminar was the result of an excellent cooperation among the MoFNE, the Ministry of Water and Electricity as well as the embassy's Economic Department and close collaboration with the local section of the French Foreign Trade Counsellors. "I seize this opportunity to hail the presence of its President Jean-Christophe Durand. I would like to praise the contribution of the French Bahraini Business Club, whose newly-elected President, former Minister of Electricity and Water, Abdallah Juma, also attended the opening session. "None of us would have any doubt about the importance of this seminar in this very important moment when a reflection on the role of the state and public finance in the economy is on the way. In France, we have been working on this kind of issue for a long time and have therefore, acquired a great deal of experience and know-how in this domain. "As in the other countries of the region, the concern of providing necessary amounts of water and electricity needed in Bahrain for the forthcoming years, is an issue of prime importance. The population growth on the one hand, and the continuation of economic development in the Kingdom on the other hand, are the two determining factors of these needs and are also crucial for the creation of wealth... In this context, we can but stress the importance of the papers that will be presented during this seminar, and the debates that will follow them. "France has committed itself to accompanying the modernisation of the Kingdom and has the intention to develop its cooperation with the government and the enterprises of Bahrain whether in the field of water and electricity or in other fields. "The French enterprises have a great deal of interest in the sector of water and electricity and I am convinced that the present and future projects of development in the Kingdom will open to them large horizons of potential partnership. Being among the leading companies world-wide in this field, the French Enterprises, as you may know, have a well-renowned technical competence and know-how.

"The French banking sector, which is already well-represented here in Manama, holds an indisputable financial expertise and has the intention to fully take part in the development of the above mentioned sectors," the ambassador said. "This event is being held ahead of two important exhibition/conferences in Bahrain later this year. The first is entitled 'Water Middle East', and the second 'Power Gen. Middle East 2004'. Many French enterprises have already announced their participation in these two international conferences," she said. The Trade Commissioner at the French embassy, Alain Boutebel, welcomed the participants and said the participation was a proof PPP's importance.
He said that Bahrain could reap numerous benefits by adopting the PPP initiative. In his presentation titled 'Private Power Generation and Involvement of EPC Contractor in IPP,' Wolfgang Fischer, Executive Sales Manager of Alastom, said that contracting for investment in power generation was a very complex matter, especially if a power generation project is to be developed, built and operate by a private company.
"The essential thing to note is that the two parties involved have often conflicting objectives. On the left hand side stays the state representing its public interests to get reliable and economic power with long-term price stability combined with the lowest impact on the country environment, means clean power. On the right hand side is the private power generation company with its strong focus on high return on investment satisfying its shareholders ensured by guaranteed payments and lowest possible business risks. So what finally works is a framework that is balanced for both sides and not for one side alone, because in many cases it was excellent for the private power generation company but bad for the country utility as power purchaser," he said.

From MENAFN, Middle East - 14 June 2004

 

G-8 Plan of Support for Reform

We welcome the desire and commitment to continue reform and modernization expressed by leaders in the region. Through consultation and dialogue with leaders and peoples in the region, and in response to reform priorities identified by the region, including by the Arab League, we have developed an initial plan of support for reform. The initiatives herein offer a broad range of opportunities from which governments, business, and civil society in the region can draw support as they choose. This will be a dynamic process based on mutual respect. It builds on our already strong bilateral and collective engagement with the region and is intended to expand and evolve over time. Today, in the spirit of partnership and in support of reform efforts in the region, we commit to:

1.1 Establish together with our partners a Forum for the Future to:
" Provide a ministerial framework for our on-going dialogue and engagement on political, economic, and social reform in a spirit of mutual respect; " Bring together in one forum foreign, economic and other ministers of the G-8 and the region on a regular basis; " Serve as a collaborative vehicle for expanding our engagement in support of the region's reform efforts, in particular toward the enhancement of democracy and civic participation, rule of law, human rights and open market economy; " Be accompanied by parallel business-to-business and civil society-to-civil society dialogues, whose participants will provide input on reforms and work with the Forum's member governments on implementation; " Encourage cultural exchange and cooperation. The inaugural meeting of the Forum for the Future will be held in the fall of 2004.

1.2 Launch a microfinance initiative to expand sustainable microfinance in the region and increase financing opportunities for the region's small entrepreneurs, especially women, including by: " Establishing a Microfinance Consultative Group, managed by the World Bank's Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), that would include G-8, regional, and other donors and partners, who would meet regularly to review microfinance progress, coordinate efforts, set benchmarks, help governments in the region establish a policy environment conducive to sustainable microfinance institutions, and exchange best practices; " Working with CGAP to establish in the region a Best Practices Training Center, which will concentrate on improving the policy and regulatory framework, disseminating best practice materials, building management capacity, and training a new generation of professional microfinance managers. The Center would draw from the Microfinance Consultative Group's experience and guidelines; " Launching pilot programs in the region to help small entrepreneurs open or expand their businesses and create new jobs; the microfinance institutions would use the best practices center's training opportunities to train local managers, staff, and, if needed, government officials in "best practices;" " In conjunction with the countries of the region, pledging to help over two million potential entrepreneurs to pull themselves out of poverty through microfinance loans over five years. Jordan has offered to host the Best Practices Microfinance Training Center, and Yemen has offered to host the first microfinance pilot program.

1.3 Enhance support for efforts in the region, including through the appropriate multilateral institutions, to impart literacy skills to an additional 20 million people by 2015 with the aim of assisting governments in the region to achieve their objective of halving the illiteracy rate over the next decade (a target consistent with a goal of the January 2004 Beirut Conference on Education for All) including by: " Training teachers in techniques, including on-line learning, that enhance the acquisition of literacy skills among school-aged children, especially girls, and of functional literacy skills among adults; " Working to train, including through appropriate multilateral institutions, 100,000 teachers by 2009, with a particular focus on high-quality literacy skills; " Providing teacher training through existing institutions and employing guidelines established in the "Education for All" program administered by UNESCO; " Setting up and maintaining a regional network for sharing experience and best practices; " Expanding and improving education opportunities for girls and women, including by providing assistance to help local communities have access to learning centers and schools; " Supporting community-based, demand-led adult literacy programs and programs outside the formal education system that couple literacy courses with lessons on health, nutrition, and entrepreneurial skills.
Algeria and Afghanistan have offered to sponsor the literacy initiative.

1.4 Enhance support for business, entrepreneurship, and vocational training programs to help young people, especially women, expand their employment opportunities, including by: " Carrying out programs, in alliance with business partners in our countries and in the region, to provide 250,000 young people with hands-on entrepreneurial training; " Sponsoring or supporting seminars for outstanding executives, especially women, to enhance their skills through short-term business programs and more focused, industry-specific sessions;
" Carrying out or sponsoring corporate apprenticeship programs, in cooperation with local businesses and chambers of commerce, to increase internship opportunities for the region's young men and women; " Encouraging exchanges of engineers and support for vocational training initiatives. Bahrain and Morocco have offered to sponsor the entrepreneurship and vocational training initiative.

1.5 Establish with willing partners in the region a Democracy Assistance Dialogue that will, under the auspices of the Forum for the Future, bring together in a collaborative and transparent environment willing governments, civil society groups and other organizations from G-8, EU and others, and countries in the region to: " Coordinate and share information and lessons learned on democracy programs in the region, taking into account the importance of local ownership and each country's particular circumstances; " Work to enhance existing democracy programs or initiate new programs; " Provide opportunities for participants to develop joint activities, including twinning projects; " Promote and strengthen democratic institutions and processes, as well as capacity-building; " Foster exchanges with civil society groups and other organizations working on programs in the region. " Turkey, Yemen, and Italy will co-sponsor the Democracy Assistance Dialogue and host the first meeting later in 2004.

1.6 Establish a Broader Middle East and North Africa Private Enterprise Development Facility at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to assist the region's efforts to improve the business and investment climate and increase the financing options for the region's small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), including by: " Combining and expanding in terms of funding and geographic reach the IFC's two regional facilities to create a new USD$100 million facility that will cover the entire region, funded by contributions from G-8 countries, countries within the region, and other donors. Our Finance Ministers will convene a meeting to this end with interested countries; " Leveraging existing expertise, experience, and financial resources of the IFC; " Providing technical assistance to interested countries working on improving their business and investment climate; " Encouraging the IFC to increase the focus of its regional investment portfolio on SMEs;
" Providing an appropriate mix of technical assistance and financial instruments.

1.7 Establish a regional "Network of Funds" that would bring together representatives from development institutions based in the region and from international financial institutions for the purposes of: " Coordinating better existing programs and resources; " Supporting through technical assistance regional efforts to build institutional capacity and improve the investment climate; " Exploring the voluntary pooling of new and existing resources to target financing to SMEs and large cross-border projects.

1.8 Establish with partners in the region a Task Force on Investment, comprised of business leaders from the G-8 and the region, including from the Arab Business Council, to assist the region's efforts to improve the investment climate, including by: " Identifying impediments to investment; " Recommending concrete proposals for change, and quantifying where possible likely benefits; " Working with countries in the region interested in pursuing reforms and supporting their reform efforts; " Reviewing and reporting on progress of reform in the region.

In addition to the foregoing initiatives, we will seek opportunities to increase coordination of our respective ongoing activities that are available to support reform in the region. We commit to intensify and in partnership and dialogue with governments, business, and civil society, expand these already strong individual and collective engagements. These activities respond to reform priorities identified by the region, including by the Arab League Summit Tunis Declaration, the Alexandria Library Statement, the Sana'a Declaration, and the Arab Business Council Declaration. Deepening Democracy and Broadening Participation in Political and Public Life. Tunis Declaration: "We...assert our firm determination... to pursue reform and modernization in our countries and keep pace with rapid global change by fostering democratic practice; by broadening participation in political and public life; by strengthening the role of all components of civil society, including NGOs; by envisioning the society of tomorrow; by expanding women's participation in political, economic, social, cultural, and edcational fields; by enhancing their rights and status in society; and by pursuing the promotion of family and the protection of Arab youth." Alexandria Library Statement: "Democracy is a system in which freedom is both fundamental and paramount. As such it yields true sovereignty for the people who govern themselves by means of political pluralism, ensuring regular transition of governing authority. It is a system that is founded upon a total respect for the rights of the people to freedom of thought, organization and expression." Sana'a Declaration: "Democratic systems protect the rights and interests of everybody without discrimination, especially the rights and interests of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups... The basics of democratic systems are reflected in periodically elected legislatures, representing the citizens in a fair way and ensuring their full participation, in executive bodies that are responsible and committed to principles of good governance and in an independent judiciary..." Arab Business Council Declaration: ". . . Improving the standards of living in the Arab world necessitates focusing on . . . Respecting the rule of law and enhancing transparency . . . reducing red-tape and corruption . . . Promoting adequate institutional and legal mechanisms . . . Developing the Arab judicial system . . . [and] Activating the role of women and youth in society."

2.1 Supporting efforts to ensure free and transparent elections by cooperating with willing countries, including by assisting independent election commissions, and voter registration programs and supporting civic awareness programs, with a particular emphasis on women voters. Representative G-8 activities include: " Canada is supporting preparations, including voter registration, for free and transparent elections in Afghanistan. " The European Union is supporting the preparation of Palestinian elections by providing international elections experts and financial assistance to the independent Palestinian Central Election Commission. " France is providing support for parliamentary elections in Yemen in order to assist the authorities in strengthening the democratisation process in the country. " Italy provides technical assistance to, and support of, electoral processes in Afghanistan and Yemen.

2.2 Supporting and encouraging parliamentary exchanges and training to build the capacity of the region's parliaments and consultative bodies, particularly with regard to drafting legislation, implementing legislative and legal reforms, and representing constituents. Representative G-8 activities include: " The United Kingdom has a three-year project in Bahrain to improve the capacity of parliament, including a youth parliament.

2.3 Supporting regional efforts to expand women's participation in political, economic, social, cultural, and educational fields and by enhancing their rights and status in society including by supporting training for women interested in running for elective office or establishing or operating an NGO; and bringing together women in leadership positions from G-8 countries and the region, including in workshops. Representative G-8 activities include: " Canada supports Egyptian organizations working on issues of basic education and employment to include focus on the fuller participation of girls and women. " France supports the development of women's rights in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Palestinian Territories and Lebanon in cooperation with UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), in order to strengthen efforts to develop their participation in society and to make them aware of their rights. " Germany is supporting partners in Jordan, Morocco, and Yemen in promoting gender equality, including through increasing women's access to professional opportunities and participation in public life. " Japan is providing support to empower women in Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Territories in order to enhance their leadership role in the society. " The United States is funding regional women's campaign schools in North Africa, the Levant, and the Gulf that provide political skills training and assist women who wish to enter into electoral politics.

2.4 Assisting the region in pursuing judicial reforms and in ensuring an independent judiciary, including by: supporting judicial exchanges and workshops as well as training for judges, attorneys, and law students; providing technical assistance for judicial administration and legal code reforms; and the establishment of grassroots legal aid centers. Representative G-8 activities include:
" The European Union is supporting the establishment of a Palestinian Constitutional Court and a National Legal Training Institute, thereby contributing to judicial reform. " France is developing a specific co-operation program in Syria in order to respond to the demand of the authorities to reform the administrative and judicial systems. " Italy supports in Afghanistan reconstruction of the judicial system, a survey on the state of law, establishment of itinerant courts, and training of judges and lawyers. " The United Kingdom is strengthening the capacity of Jordanian national institutions, including the judiciary, to tackle family violence, child abuse, and sexual assault through a rights-based approach.

2.5 Supporting the region's efforts to reinforce the freedom of expression, thought and belief, and to encourage an independent media, including by: sponsoring exchanges, training, and scholarships for journalists. Representative G-8 activities include: " France is helping to modernise the national radio in Lebanon through training and scholarships for journalists and to create a specific academic program in the Egyptian university to train young journalists. " The United Kingdom is supporting a three-year media training project with BBC World Service Trust in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Morocco.

2.6 Encouraging the region's efforts to foster the democratic process, promote good governance, transparency and anti-corruption efforts, including by: encouraging adoption and implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption; technical assistance for the reform and modernization of public financial management and procurement practices and for efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist finance. Representative G-8 activities include: " Italy supports electronic government, including the development of e-procurement and e-accounting systems in public administration in Jordan and Tunisia. " Germany is supporting partners in Yemen and Mauritania in reforming and modernizing public financial management systems including through capacity-building of national, regional, and local government and parliamentary bodies. " Japan is providing assistance through UNDP for the capacity-building of the administration of the Palestinian Authority, including its Prime Minister's Office. " The United Kingdom is supporting a major program of public administration and civil service reform for the Palestinian Authority, which aims to restructure and streamline the Palestinian Authority to meet the needs of a modern democratic state.

2.7 Supporting efforts to strengthen the role of all components of civil society, including NGOs in the region's reform processes, including by: providing assistance to strengthen the participation of all segments of society, supporting the efforts of institutions to strengthen the foundations of citizenship; encouraging exchanges among civil society organizations, including labor unions and collaborating on cultural projects and programs. Representative G-8 activities include: " The European Union supports the Arab Women Organization and the Jordanian Women's Union. " France is financing social development funds in Morocco, Tunisia, and the Palestinian Territories, specifically designed to help NGOs, associations, and communities, to develop small social development projects that respond directly to the basic needs of the population and enhance their capacities to play a leading role in the development of the country at local level.

Building a Knowledge Society to Combat Illiteracy and Advance Educational and Technological Systems. Tunis Declaration: "We also assert our firm determination...to...intensify efforts aimed at the development and progress of educational systems, at disseminating knowledge and encouraging its acquisition, and at combating illiteracy in order to ensure a better tomorrow for future generations of Arab youth. Alexandria Library Statement: "Participants recommend . . . eradicating illiteracy - especially among women - within a ten-year period... acquiring, spreading, and producing knowledge... to achieve (the building of) a society of knowledge... revitalize civil and governmental translation institutions on two fronts: translations from Arabic to all recognized languages and from all languages to Arabic... modernize the information technology infrastructure in the Arab world." Sana'a Declaration: "The practice of democracy and human rights and enhancing their understanding require overcoming potential threats to the form and substance of democracy, including... inadequate education."
Arab Business Council Declaration: "Governments need to take additional measures to improve the efficiency and quality of the education offered in their educational institutions... better align the knowledge and skill outputs of their educational systems with the changing and evolving needs of the global economy... Expand the capacity for knowledge acquisition by greater investment in IT infrastructure... "

3.1 Assisting countries interested in improving and reforming their education systems, including by: supporting efforts to improve the quality of education, fostering community participation in education, increasing the planning capacity of education ministries, facilitating community partnerships; and supporting construction and rehabilitation of schools. Representative G-8 activities include: " Canada supports the education reform strategy of the Jordanian Ministry of Education to re-engineer primary and secondary education to meet the needs of the knowledge economy. " Germany is assisting partners in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and the Palestinian Territories in improving national basic education systems, including through the enlargement of existing and the construction of new elementary schools. " Italy supports a development programme for promotion of Education for All, and training graduates in Afghanistan and Libya. " Japan is providing support to construct 30 primary and secondary schools in Yemen, which will benefit about 18,000 children. " The United Kingdom has provided long-term support to the Egyptian Government to help them re-orientate their nation-wide adult literacy program toward a demand-driven community-based approach. " The United States is sponsoring "partnership schools" to enhance the quality of primary and secondary education, and conducting teacher training and providing classroom materials for early childhood education in Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, and Qatar.

3.2 Building on the rich cultural heritage of the region, increase availability of and access to textbooks and regional and world literature, including by: supporting local capacity in textbook publishing and translation; training teachers in new methods; and supporting the re-issuing of the region's classic texts. Representative G-8 activities include: " Japan is supporting school textbook publishing in Yemen, through providing printing equipment which has capacity to print 10 million textbooks a year. " The United States is funding the translation of eighty children's book titles and accompanying teachers' manuals for school libraries in Jordan, Bahrain, and Lebanon, as well as American book translation programs in Egypt and Jordan.

3.3 Assisting the region in enhancing its digital knowledge including by public-private partnerships to provide or expand computer access, supporting the introduction of innovative teaching methods to classrooms, integrating computer-based technology into curricula, and supporting "e-government" initiatives. Representative G-8 activities include: " Canada supports the efforts of the Jordanian Ministry of Education to introduce and integrate information and communication technology into the national education system.

Accelerating Economic Development, Creating Jobs, Empowering the Private Sector, and Expanding Economic Opportunities
Tunis Summit Declaration: "We also assert our firm determination...To endeavor to pursue the upgrading of Arab economies...in such a way as to strengthen the competitiveness of the Arab economy and empower it to establish a solidarity-based partnership with the various global economic blocs." Alexandria Library Statement: "In a young and rising Arab world, employment of youth, quality of education, social services and programs supporting SMEs should be basic elements of the concept of reform...Develop SME and micro credit programs to deal with unemployment giving females the full opportunity to access financing... Modernize Arab financial sectors generally, and banking sectors specifically, encouraging the establishment of large banking entities and modernization of Arab capital markets... Resolve problems that hinder investment and remove obstacles to Arab and foreign investment... enable Arab countries to effectively join the World Trade Organization [and] positively integrate in the global economy by increasing exports of goods and services..." Sana'a Declaration: "The private sector is a vital partner in strengthening the foundations of democracy and human rights; it has a responsibility to work with governments and civil society to enhance progress."
Arab Business Council Declaration: "In order for entrepreneurship to thrive, policy makers need to create environments that allow market forces to freely interplay, foster stability, and a high degree of predictability in order to enable investors to make long-term decisions... [including by] Enhancing accountability and securing full protection of property rights... Removing restrictions on foreign investment... Attaining a higher degree of global economic integration through trade liberalization schemes, both in goods and services [and] adopting trade policies that are based on internationally-agreed rules and practices..."

4.1 Supporting vocational training programs to expand job opportunities for the region's youth, including by: sponsoring continuing education programs and training for workshops instructors and master craftsmen. Representative G-8 activities include: " Canada supports the development of centers in the Palestinian Territories providing a range of technical and vocational training opportunities for Palestinian women to improve their economic situation. " The European Union supports the Euro-Med Youth Program, which has funded more than 600 projects and enabled 14,000 young people and youth leaders to participate in international youth mobility activities in the region. " Germany is assisting partners in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, and the Palestinian Territories in developing new job-oriented approaches for apprenticeship training to enable the region's youth to acquire better qualifications for wage-based or self-employed activities.
" Japan is providing technical assistance for an automobile maintenance project in Saudi Arabia contributing to building capacity for 600 workers. " The United States is supporting nine Junior Achievement student chapters, directing the business internship program for Arab women, and administering seminars for executives and mid-level managers in Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Lebanon, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Morocco.

4.2 Supporting development of small and medium-sized enterprises, including through: assistance programs, targeted loan programs, and technical assistance to improve the policy and regulatory framework. Representative G-8 activities include: " Germany is supporting Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen and the Palestinian Territories in enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium sized enterprises, including through loan programs, training and the improvement of regulatory frameworks. " The European Union supports a social fund for development in Egypt, assisting 25,000 new enterprises creating 95,000 jobs and helping 2,100 individuals with micro-credits for income generating activities. " Italy supports financing for Small and Medium Enterprises in the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Tunisia, and Pakistan.

4.3 Facilitating remittance flows from communities overseas to help families and small entrepreneurs, including by: encouraging the reduction of the cost of remittance transfers, and the creation of local development funds for productive investments; improving access by remittance recipients to financial services; and enhancing coordination. Representative G-8 activities include: " Italy supports remittances transfer facilitation in Morocco.

4.4 Supporting efforts in the region to create fair, secure, and well-functioning property rights systems, including by: technical assistance for policy and regulatory reform and the improvement of property registries. Representative G-8 activities include: " Italy supports projects for social and economic reform with the involvement of local authorities in the Palestinian Territories.

4.5 Promoting financial excellence and supporting efforts in the region to integrate its financial sector into the global financial system, including by: providing technical assistance to modernize financial services, and to introduce and expand market-oriented financial instruments; working with financial authorities to support good economic governance, including anticorruption and anti-money laundering efforts. Representative G-8 Activities include: " The United Kingdom is strengthening economic and financial management in Yemen by helping the Ministry of Finance implement a new budget formulation, execution, and monitoring system. " The United States, through the Partnership for Financial Excellence, is training bank supervisors, placing resident advisors, and supporting private-sector volunteers providing technical assistance to commercial banks, central banks, and capital markets in Morocco, Jordan and Egypt; regional activities are open to all cooperating countries in the region.

4.6 Assisting regional efforts to remove barriers to investment, increase investment, and stimulate economic reforms, including by: providing technical assistance to improve investment climates; offering training for officials on investor rights; facilitating investment opportunities, including through investment treaties; and supporting work under the new OECD/UNDP Middle East-North Africa Initiative on investment. Representative G-8 Activities include: " In the context of the Barcelona process, the European Union supports the establishment of a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Agreement with a view to fostering regional economic integration, enhanced trade flows and increased investments towards and within the region. " Canada supports Tunisia and Algeria in their efforts to advance strategic regulatory reforms and to promote private sector and investment infrastructure as they develop open economies.

4.7 Supporting the region's efforts to achieve economic integration, promote intra-regional trade, and expand trade opportunities in global markets, including by: providing technical assistance for accession to the WTO; supporting intraregional trade agreements; sponsoring regional programs on trade facilitation; and facilitating development of local chambers of commerce. Representative G-8 Activities include:
" France, together with the European Commission, supports the Euro-Mediterranean Action Plan on Trade and Investment Facilitation established in March 2002 that aims to modernize customs, promote foreign investments, assist applicants in the WTO accession process, and support a regional free trade agreement before 2010. " Germany is supporting partners in Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and the Palestinian Territories in implementing free trade agreements, facilitating WTO accession or supporting local chambers of commerce. " Japan is assisting the Foreign Trade Training Center in Egypt, which has been established to provide trade-related capacity building of business people. " The United States is providing technical assistance to: reach the goal of a Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013; support the accession of Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen to the WTO; aid seven countries in complying with Trade and Investment Framework Agreement; and enable Jordan, Morocco, and Bahrain to take advantage of their free trade agreements with the United States.

From Whitehouse.gov (press release) - 10 June 2004

Legislature Wrap: New Loophole in Ethics Bill

BATON ROUGE (AP) -- Members of a House panel were willing to add a new exemption to the state ethics code - to allow local school boards to employ family members as guidance counselors - but only after they limited it to sparsely populated parishes where often there is only one person qualified for the job. The state Senate approved the bill with statewide implications, but members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday said they had concerns about allowing the exemption in large parishes where many people were qualified to become guidance counselors and could obey the current ethics guidelines. "Personally, I'm not prepared to vote for a bill that allows this for every school system in the state," said Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans. The committee then amended the bill to apply to parishes with a population less than 30,000, according to Rep. Charlie Lancaster, R-Metairie, chairman of the committee. The bill (Senate Bill 261) by Senate President Don Hines, D-Bunkie, was designed to address a problem in Allen Parish, where there was a shortage of guidance counselors, according to lawmakers. The school board member or superintendent is required by law to recuse himself from decisions involving the promotion or assignment of a family member.

The bill moves next to the House floor for debate. Lawmaker Backs Off. The sponsor of a bill vetoed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco refused Tuesday to ask lawmakers to override the governor's decision, despite goading by some House members. Rep. Gil Pinac, D-Crowley, said he thought the concerns by the governor had been addressed before the bill finished sailing through the Legislature. "It was a situation I thought had been worked out. It had not," Pinac told House members before asking them to uphold the veto, done in an 86-3 vote. Blanco said she thought the bill gave the tourism industry too little input into tourism activities. The bill would have given away her authority over a tourism development board to the lieutenant governor, who oversees the state's tourism efforts, but Blanco said she didn't have problems with that portion of the measure. She said, instead, she was concerned about provisions involving the Tourism Promotion District, which receives some sales tax proceeds up to $17.5 million each year to promote Louisiana as a tourist destination. The bill would change the transfer of money from the tourism district to the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Currently, the tourism district determines how much money to transfer, but the bill would have transferred all the money to the tourism department.

"That part was troublesome," Blanco said. Bill Bans Butts: Louisiana's Capitol hallways are on track to become smoke-free, if the House agrees to a resolution that is speeding through the Legislature to outlaw smoking inside the building. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously agreed to the resolution on Tuesday. It already has sailed through the Senate. Although most public areas are already smoke-free, the resolution is aimed at curbing smoking in a heavily trafficked ground-floor lobby near a bank of elevators where lobbyists and politicians often can be seen puffing on cigarettes. Supporters of the ban said the second hand smoke that's produced is unhealthy and that the practice sets a bad example for the thousands of schoolchildren who pass through the lobby each year while visiting the Capitol. "It's not our intent to deny anybody the right to smoke. In fact, we have designated areas outside the building for people to smoke. That's where the staff has to go. Lobbyists should have to go out there, too," said Sen. Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, who sponsored the legislation (Senate Concurrent Resolution 132).

Quotable:
"We've had some bills come through that House that were absolutely ludicrous and this is not one of them." -- Rep. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, talking about her legislation to ask the state Department of Public Safety to look at the possibility of using "truth serums" to force confessions out of some convicted criminals. "I know you don't like this bill. You didn't like it last year." -- Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, speaking about his bill to Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans. "You can't outfish James David Cain. If you catch a four-pounder, he'll catch a six-pounder." --Rep. Billy Montgomery, discussing the Dry Creek state senator's oratorical skills.

From KATC, LA - 20 - 9 June 2004

 
 

UCZ Joins War Against Corruption

The United Church of Zambia (UCZ) has introduced corruption training programmes for its leaders and members to complement Government efforts in fighting the scourge. Copperbelt Presbytery Bishop Committee Njase said in Ndola yesterday that UCZ felt that it was the responsibility of the church to help Government fight corruption. Bishop Njase said UCZ on the Copperbelt had been organising training seminars and workshops in conjunction with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to educate church leaders and members on how to bring down cases of corruption. "As a church we have made a deliberate move to involve the Anti-Corruption Commission officers whom we are inviting to speak to our members here on the Copperbelt," Bishop Njase said. Bishop Njase was speaking at the UCZ induction church service for Reverend Simon Kasanga at Lubuto congregation. He said the first seminar was held in Mufulira last week and the second one would be held this weekend in Luanshya. The ACC had been invited to lecture to the Bible seminar.

The bishop said the training programme with the ACC for the members would continue as officers from the commission had been working well with the church so far. "We look forward to continue working with them on the fight against the scourge and make Zambia a reputable country," he said. He said the church and Government had a common goal of ensuring that people were taken care of socially and spiritually. The church and the State are two sides of the same coin, he added. The church, he said, was following with keen interest how the MMD Government was running the affairs of the nation. "In spite of the poor economy, the Government is trying its best to see that people have food. Food is very important and it is number one human right," he said. He was sad that there were certain sections of society which were castigating Government leaders unnecessarily. "The language used by some people of this country is a sad development which worries the UCZ a great deal. People of this country should see an error as error of civilisation and not the error of darkness," he said.

He appealed to people to respect each other and give respect to the head of State and other Government leaders. Speaking later, Copperbelt deputy Permanent Secretary Mulonda Mulonda said Government always appreciated the church's effort in uplifting the social life of people.
Mr Mulonda said the church had been helping Government improve living standards of the people by offering skills such as tailoring in certain institutions. And speaking later, Lubuto congregation secretary Edwin Sikazwe said members were elated to have Rev Kasanga as minister in charge of the congregation. Mr Sikazwe said the members would give Rev Kasanga the support required so that the congregation could move forward in spiritual and other assignments.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by The Times of Zambia, 14 June 2004

PS: Grand Corruption Back in Government

The Government has admitted that there is a resurgence of corruption in high places which is proving a difficult monster to fight. Answering questions from participants of a seminar in Mombasa, Ethics and Governance PS John Githongo said corruption "has regrouped again and fights back like dangerous worms". In its 18-month reign, said Githongo, the Narc Government had learnt some lessons as far as fighting the vice was concerned. "We have learnt that corruption when dismantled does not die, but it regroups again and fights back," he said.
Individuals and groups linked to the vice were massively endowed with resources and were a tremendous stumbling block in the fighting, Githongo told the participants. "These individuals are stinking rich. They engage the best lawyers around and wrap the Government in endless court battles. The State does not have that kind of money which makes the fight hectic," he added. Mombasa deputy mayor Ali Sheriff Shekue had earlier challenged the PS to explain what the Government was doing to stamp out corruption from the top to the bottom of society.
"We are not convinced yet that the fight is vigilant. Graft and inefficiency are still rife at the Kenya Revenue Authority, especially at the Long Room, VAT officers still take bribes and traffic police are as corrupt as ever," he said. Shekue and his Ganjoni ward counterpart Margaret Olang' said the Government must clean its house first before moving to the grassroots. The seminar, on corporate governance, brought together council chief officers and civic leaders from Mombasa and Taita Taveta districts. It ends today. Miritini ward councillor Kombo Mzee said corruption could not be curbed before the police force undergoes "surgical" reforms. Githongo admitted that the vice was still persistent at the KRA's customs and VAT departments and Kenya Ports Authority but added that the issue was being addressed "effectively".
"Once the ambitious KRA computerisation programme is complete, it will drastically reduce the stages of documentation which will in turn remarkably bring down the corruption level," he said. He said more changes would be effected in the police force, which would include the sacking of several officers. Bofu ward councillor Ali Salim Mwakunyapa challenged Githongo to say what criteria was used to appoint him and members of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission. To this, the PS said it was the President's prerogative to appoint and he had no idea how he did it. "Like all other civil servants, we were appointed at the pleasure of the president. We will serve under the pleasure, wisdom and advice of the president", he said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Daniel Nyassy - 10 June 2004

Anti-Corruption Commission Bill Sails Through

STEPS to establish the Anti-Corruption Commission took a giant leap forward on Thursday after Parliament passed the proposed law seeking to establish the commission, which will be a high-profile body to spearhead the battle against corruption and provide mechanisms to investigate graft at all levels of society. The original Anti-Corruption Commission Bill has been replaced by a new consolidated text.
The Bill now awaits President Mugabe's assent before it becomes law. The proposed law received enormous support from both Zanu-PF and MDC legislators. On the same day, Parliament also passed three other Bills, the Administrative of Justice Bill and Financial Laws Amendment Bill and the Securities Bill. In his second reading speech on the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, said corruption had reached unprecedented levels in both the public and private sectors hence the need for a commission to fight the graft. He said the liberalisation of the financial sector had created opportunities that were being exploited by criminal elements involved in corrupt activities. "We commend the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for coming up with a monetary statement directing financial institutions to stick to their core business," he said. Unemployment problems had resulted in the mushrooming of a black market for foreign currency. Cde Chinamasa said corruption was condemned world-wide and this was demonstrated by various instruments put in place to deal with the vice such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the African Union Convention for the Prevention and Combating of Corruption. At the regional level there was the Sadc Protocol Against Corruption, which Zimbabwe had ceded to.
Hatfield MP Mr Tapiwa Mashakada (MDC) said the opposition party was fully behind the proposed law. However, he said the establishment of the commission was not synonymous with fighting corruption as there was need for political will in combating graft. "The environment in which the commission will operate is vital in fighting corruption and you can not isolate this with the prevalence in the rule of law," he said.
In response, Cde Chinamasa said there was political will in fighting corruption and this was demonstrated by the arrests of high-profile people so far in connection with corruption.

The commission, he said, would not duplicate the duties of the police as it would specifically deal only with serious cases of corruption.
The minister said the commission would draw its financial resources from the exchequer and not from individuals or organisations as this would compromise its operations. The commission shall be a corporate body capable of suing and being sued in its corporate name.
It will be tasked with promoting investigation of serious cases of corruption and promoting awareness among the public of cases of corruption and its effects in the society. The commission shall consist of at least four and not more than nine members appointed by the President. The passing of the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill by Parliament comes at a time Government has stepped up efforts in the fight against graft, with high profile people such as Finance Minister Chris Kuruneri and businessman and Zanu-PF Central Committee member James Makamba having been nabbed for allegedly being involved in corrupt practices. Parliament also passed the Financial Laws Amendment Bill which seeks to amend various Acts of a financial nature such as the Exchange Control Act and the Income Tax Act to bring them into conformity with the monetary policy announced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last December. The Administrative of Justice Bill seeks to confer on all persons the right to administrative action that is reasonably and procedurally fair and the right to written reasons for administrative action. It provides for relief against administrative action contrary to its provisions, which includes review of administrative decisions by a competent court. The Securities Bill seeks to protect investors dealing in securities through the establishment of a regulatory authority, the Securities Commission. The commission will regulate capital markets so as to provide for investor protection, reduction of systematic risk, reduction of financial crime and investor education.


From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 18 June 2004

How Deep is Corruption in Africa?

In Nigeria, the international oil giant Shell admitted that it inadvertently fed conflict, poverty and corruption through its oil activities in the country.
Nigeria contributes to about 10% of Shell's global production and is home to some of its most promising reserves, yet the country is steeped in poverty and conflict. According to Shell, it has been difficult to operate with integrity in areas of conflict like Nigeria. In some Cameroonian public hospitals, patients say they have to put some money in the doctor's consultation book before they are attended to. And in some schools, a student cannot pass examinations without bribing the teachers. In Zambia, former President Fredrick Chiluba is facing corruption charges for offences he allegedly committed during his term in office. But Kenya seems to be turning the tide, with President Mwai Kibaki making the fight a central part of his time in office. How far does the culture of corruption go in Africa? Is it only perpetuated by big business, government officials or does it start with you?

From BBC News, UK - 18 June 2004

 

Local Govts 'Should be Probed for Corruption'

A political expert and an anticorruption activist said Saturday that heads of local government administrations may also be involved in the recent spate of corruption cases committed by local legislative members. They called for an investigation into the governors and regents as well as mayors in the areas where the legislators had been charged or sentenced in corruption cases. "It is very possible that corruption committed by legislature members at the local level also involved governors or regents or mayors," political analyst Andi Mallarangeng told the Jakarta Post on Saturday. He said that if those in the administration were not investigated, state prosecutors were actually not being serious in combating corruption at the local level. Over 250 legislators across the country have been charged with corruption, with dozens found guilty.

In West Sumatra, three leaders of the provincial legislative council - Arwan Kasri, Hasmerti Oktini, Masfar Rasyid - were found guilty of corruption involving Rp 6.48 billion of the taxpayers' money. They were sentenced to 27 months in prison and fined Rp 100 million each.
Prosecutors and police investigators are currently looking into corruption cases against local legislators Banda Aceh in troubled province Aceh, Garut in West Java, Pontianak in West Kalimantan and Bandar Lampung in Lampung. Andi went on to say that corruption committed by legislators indicated that political parties that got enough votes in 1999 had chosen the wrong people to be representatives. "Those legislators had no intention of working for the people's interests, only their own," he said. He added that poor supervision at the local level, particularly during the autonomy era, had further increased the possibility for those in power to commit corruption. "All the auditing agencies are toothless," he said. Anung Karyadi of Transparency International (TI) Indonesia concurred with Andi. "The widespread corruption is the result of a broader problem in the legislature and ineffective supervision," he said. "But legislators can't commit corruption alone, they must have partners in the regional administrations to do so."

Andi expected that new legislators in the 2004-2009 period would seriously improve their image in combating corruption. Supervision from the central government and local administration must be made effective to help save the people's funds from being stolen, he said. A commitment from the president to eradicate corruption should also be implemented in a real way, he added. Meanwhile, Anung said the death sentence against major corrupters might be the best thing for this country as the shock therapy might teach people that it is wrong to steal. "Most of the action we've taken against corruption just does not work and it frustrates people, we should try the death penalty against corrupters," he said. Several cases probed by Attorney General's Office in 2004

From Jakarta Post, Indonesia, by Moch. N. Kurniawan, 14 June 2004

China is Just Catching Up


It is becoming all too fashionable these days to blame China for many of the world's problems. When it exports, China exports deflation to the rest of the world. When it imports, it exports inflation. If it uses its substantial foreign exchange reserves to purchase US treasury bonds, it is trying to gain control of US financial markets. If it contemplates selling its US treasury holdings, it is financial blackmail. The list goes on.
The world is anxious about China, sometimes understandably so. The main reason is probably rooted in the sheer scale of the country and its dizzying pace of change - 1.3bn people with a real per capita income in 2003 that was seven times the level in 1978. Another reason for global unease is that China is the only country that simultaneously competes with the US and Africa. In human resources, it is rapidly developing formidable research and development capabilities and producing high-quality graduates. Yet its vast and low-cost labour pool makes it one of the most cost-competitive business locations in the world.There is clearly a need to put the so-called "rise of China" into appropriate perspective. First, the idea that China has "risen" is quite misleading; in fact, China has resurrected itself after being the world's largest economy throughout much of history. According to Angus Maddison, an economic historian, China accounted for one third of the world's gross domestic product in 1820 and in the 13th century was ahead of Europe in per capita income terms. Even in 1960, China was just a few years behind Japan in its technology for the machine tools industry. The point here is that China's economic achievements have not matched its vast economic potential. This is not to detract from its remarkable progress of the last 20 years, but to say that China is simply catching up with, rather than increasing, its economic potential. In 2002, in purchasing power parity terms, China's GDP accounted for 12 per cent of global GDP. In terms of exchange rates, however, this falls to 4 per cent - less than the 5 per cent claimed by China in 1952. For economic historians, one puzzle is not why China has grown so fast but why it is so poor in the first place. In Asia, China is conspicuously absent from the postwar economies that caught up with the west's living standards. This says something about the current outcry in the west over "job losses" to China. In many ways, China "lost" many of these jobs to east Asian neighbours because its leaders made terrible policy choices, embracing central planning and economic autarky before market reforms in 1978. While this does not soothe the pain of the adjustment, it clarifies why the current generation of western workers - rather than their parents - are bearing the adjustment costs associated with China's rise.

China's rapid growth has clearly brought benefits worldwide, not least the revival of Japan's economy on the back of China's surging demand. Yet western analysts remain fixated with the cost side of China's rise. This lopsided view arises partly from the difficulty of seeing the benefits while the costs remain highly visible. Take trade. Beyond the question of whether America's huge trade deficit with China actually hurts the US, China ploughs back much of its trade surpluses into US treasury bonds, which contributes to a low US interest rate environment. But few US homeowners would toast the rise of China when signing their closing documents and many would denounce China for playing unfair in its trade policies. The third point is that China's rise is fundamentally complementary, rather than competitive, with western interests. Unlike some of its neighbours, China has chosen to rely on foreign investment more heavily than on nurturing domestic private companies as a source of development and trade. The protracted negotiations over China's accession to the World Trade Organisation and Beijing's occasional nationalistic outbursts mask the huge economic positions that foreign companies have established in China's economy. In the first three quarters of 2003, total profits from US companies' greater China operations exceeded those from Japan. In 2002, five of the top 15 exporters in China were foreign - among them, Motorola, Logitech and Dell Computer contributed to what is often billed as "China's export miracle". FDI illustrates why the benefits of China's rise are often hidden while its costs are often exaggerated. Through FDI, China runs a huge processing operation for the world on behalf of multinational corporations. This is one reason why its trade/ GDP ratio is inordinately high for a continental economy - more than 40 per cent compared with about 20 per cent for the US. While the nationality of a finished product is easily discernable, that of its individual components is not. In this regard, "Made in China" is fundamentally misleading; "Processed in China" is more accurate. All the above points to the continuing "rise of China," but western countries could prepare better for this through rational analysis rather than hysteria and exaggeration. The writer is associate professor, MIT Sloan School of Management and author of Selling China.

From Financial Times, by Yasheng Huang, 7 June 2004

Corruption Watchdog Uncovers Pacific Concern


Corruption watchdog, Transparency International says it has uncovered general concern in the Pacific region at the prevalence of official corruption.
Twelve Pacific Island countries have joined Fiji and Papua New Guinea in coming under scrutiny by Transparency International.The results of the broader corruption study are being presented to Pacific Islands Economic Ministers, at the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting this week in Rotorua, New Zealand. The director of Transparency International's Papua New Guinea chapter, Peter Aitsi, says there is general community concern throughout the Pacific at the effect corruption has on the ability of a country to perform economically."Issues such as the abuse of travel by government officers and also ministers; issues of nepotism - appointing political cronies into state-owned enterprises and state-owned businesses or associated businesses - these we will be pointing out to the ministers," he said.

From Radio Australia, Australia, 9 June 2004

Brunei Muara Officials And Village Heads Briefed On Corruption


Bandar Seri Begawan - The Brunei Anti Corruption Bureau held a talk on corruption at the Brunei-Muara District Office yesterday morning.
The talk was attended by over 140 participants comprising the heads of mukim and villages in the Brunei-Muara district and officials from the Brunei-Muara district. The talk was designed to educate the heads of villages and mukim as well as government officials on the definition of corruption and its implications. They also learned the many forms of corruption like favours, money or gifts. Present to deliver the anti-corruption talk was Awang Selamat Liman, Special Investigator from the Community Relation Section of the Anti Corruption Bureau.
Also present were Haji Abd Raub bin Haji Mohd Yassin, Senior Special Investigator from the Community Relation section of the Anti Corruption Bureau, and Awang Haji Jamain Momin, Assistant Brunei-Muara District Officer. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

From Brunei Direct, Brunei Darussalam, by James Kon - 17 June 2004

NSW Government Examines 'Damning' Corruption Report


The Carr Government says it is examining the corruption watchdog's recommendation that ministers be banned from starting private consultancies straight after leaving politics. New South Wales's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) made the call after its damning report into the actions of former Cabinet minister and former Charlestown MP Richard Face. The ICAC investigated the former gaming and racing minister over claims he had used his taxpayer-funded staff to help set up a private consultancy for life after politics.The fact he lied to the watchdog about his actions has seen him declared corrupt and could result in criminal charges. But the ICAC has also urged the Government to bring in new rules restricting the range of employment that ministers can take up immediately after leaving office. Acting Premier Andrew Refshauge says the Government is closely examining the recommendations, which include mandatory cooling off periods for ministers going into an area of work similar to their ministerial portfolio. "We'll consider them and respond accordingly," he said. The NSW Opposition wants a cooling-off period of at least 12 months. The Greens say the report sends a clear message that the Parliament's code of conduct for MPs carries no real weight. Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon says she is stunned by the findings. "This report has serious implications for any future cases of misconduct against MPs," she said. "ICAC's findings send a clear message to MPs that their code of conduct doesn't carry much weight. "MPs need boundaries, they need to know what is right and wrong. At the moment the code of conduct is a guide and we are being told effectively by the ICAC report that it isn't that important."

From ABC Online, Australia - 17 June 2004

Victorians Want Corruption Commission, Poll Finds


A new survey shows Victorians overwhelming support a royal commission into allegations of police corruption. An ACNielsen poll for the Age newspapers shows 81 per cent of those surveyed are in favors of a royal commission or similar independent inquiry. Only 16 per cent are against the idea. The poll also reveals 67 per cent of Victorians believe corruption in the state's police force is "limited to a few bad apples" while 73 per cent think police corruption in Victoria is about the same as in other states. Victorian Police Minister Andre Haermeyer remains adamant the state does not need a royal commission into the allegations. State Opposition leader Robert Doyle says there is mounting pressure for the Government to act. But Mr. Haermeyer says a royal commission would be expensive and could compromise ongoing investigations. "We are determined to ensure that crooked police, that gangster are put behind a bar which is where they belong," he said.
"The processes we have in place, the independent ombudsman and the new powers that he has will help us to ensure that. A royal commission will make sure that doesn't happen. "A royal commission is a guaranteed way to cost the public a lot of money, make a lot of lawyers very rich and see crooks and corrupt police walk off scot-free." The new poll also reveals that support for the Bracks Government has risen. The survey indicates the Government could have a won a June state election with 56 per cent, in a two party preferred vote. Labor's primary vote has risen from 41 to 44 per cent and the combined vote for the Liberals and Nationals has slipped by one percentage point to 40.


From ABC Online, Australia - 17 June 2004

Solomons Corruption at Crisis Point


Corruption in the Solomon Islands is reaching crisis point, despite the security situation gradually improving, officials say. The warning from aid and security workers in the Solomons comes as a joint New Zealand-Australian mission to the nation winds down. New Zealand policeman Graeme Cairns is part of the push now cleaning up business, politics and the civil service. "To prevent the the place sliding back into where it was, it is necessary to address the wider corruption problems that are here." The widespread corruption even spreads to the local police. In recent times 500 officers have quit and 400 complaints against the force await investigation.The news is no better in the money stakes, with two-thirds of the police budget disappearing without a trace last year. Solomons mission leader Nick Warner says corruption is a serious issue facing the nation. "It's one of those elements that has brought this country to its knees, and it's one those elements that has to be stamped out." Even New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff takes no chances that aid to the Solomons could be diverted. New Zealand is buying the text books for local schools then sending them over, rather than handing over aid money directly.
Solomons Foreign Minister Lawrie Chan says beating corruption will be no easy job. "I personally don't feel confident, it just takes time, it just takes time." There is also concern from locals that as foreign security assistance is scaled down, the fragile peace could be shattered.
New Zealand police are staying on on the islands, but the army's commitment finishes next month and villager Morris Roni says he is worried about the future of the islands without them. "If they don't stay here, some people will continue to do some criminal activities such as killing," he says. There's no political indication yet how long our police will stay, but fighting corruption will keep them busy for a long time.
One bright spot for the beleaguered islanders, however, is the success of their soccer team. The Solomons team is in sight of the next Soccer World Cup and it has united the country as never before.
.

From TVNZ, New Zealand - 18 June 2004

Anti-Corruption Investigation Agency to Have Limited Power


Prosecutor General Song Kwang-soo said on Tuesday a new investigation agency to be set up under Chong Wa Dae to handle corruption cases involving civic servants would not have the right to bring charges. ``The Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC), the Justice Ministry and the prosecution have agreed not to give the envisaged investigation agency the right to indict,'' Song told reporters, as he was heading to a meeting at Chong Wa Dae to discuss the plan. Song's comment comes as the government is conducting a feasibility study for the creation of the investigative body under the presidential KICAC, which prosecutors worry will undercut the role of the prosecution in the investigation of government officials. Ministry officials have said the presidential investigation body will be helpful in raising the integrity of officialdom. Prosecutors, however, speculate that the move is politically motivated, aimed at giving Roh and his close aides the means to tighten their grip on high-level officials. Despite such skepticism, KICAC officials explained the creation of a presidential investigative body is inevitable at a time when most Koreans perceive that the level of corruption is seriously high. The KICAC was created in January 2002 to improve the legal framework for anti-corruption activities, formulate and enforce anti-corruption laws and policies, and respond to whistle-blowing. The body currently has no investigative or prosecutorial powers, but if an investigative body is set up under its wing, the KICAC will play the role of the prosecution in the investigation of public officials. But civic groups are skeptical as to whether the presidential body, if established, will be free from political intervention. ``Past governments have had their own investigative bodies for similar operations, but misused them to monitor political dissidents,'' said Lee Min-u of the Citizen's Coalition of a Participatory Democracy. ``We should first install some legal means to prevent those in power from influencing the body.'' Some civic groups, including the National Solidarity for Judiciary Reform, have called on the government to allow the investigative body to indict officials involved in corruption cases. On Monday, the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) said in a statement that the body, if created, should have the rights to investigate and indict corrupt officials. The PSPD also said that the body should be an independent agency in order to guarantee neutrality, fair investigations and efficient operations, opposing the government plan to create the body under the wing of the presidential KICAC.


From Korea Times, South Korea, by Na Jeong-ju, Staff Reporter - 29 June 2004

Corruption Still A Problem in Asia


Corruption in Asia has remained largely static or in some cases it has got worse over the past decade, global watchdog Transparency International has said. The group said corruption poses risks to economic growth and social stability and said more needed to be done to engage businesses and civil society to help eradicate the scourge. The groups director Paul Rooke said: "I would say that overall corruption levels (in Asia) are not much different and in some cases they may be worse compared to a decade ago. "But there is much more recognition to talk about the issue. Ten years ago people didn't even talk about it." Many Asian countries were now paying more than just lip service to battling corruption, which added 20 to 30% on to the cost of goods and services in badly affected nations. But it was getting worse in Bangladesh and Cambodia amid a dearth of initiatives to tackle the problem, he said. Bangladesh has been named the world's most corrupt country for three years in a row by the independent anti-graft pressure group, followed closely by Nigeria and Haiti in 2003. Cambodia did not appear in the group's latest Corruption Perceptions Index published this year. Among the Asian nations or territories that had made startling progress over the past two to three decades were Singapore and Hong Kong while Malaysia and Pakistan had seen real improvements in recent years.

From TVNZ, New Zealand, 29 June 2004

 

OAS to Probe Aristide Ouster, Fight Corruption

Quito, Ecuador- Despite initial objections from the United States and Haiti, the Organization of American States opened the way for an investigation into the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The OAS General Assembly also called for elections in Haiti as soon as possible. But the debate over a probe into Aristide's ouster went for hours on Tuesday night until the body finally approved a resolution allowing an assessment of what occurred. Aristide accuses the United States of forcing him from office - a charge Washington denies. A U.S.-supplied jet flew Aristide to the Central African Republic on Feb. 29 as rebels advanced on the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and he is now in asylum in South Africa after spending several weeks in Jamaica. Foreign ministers from around the Americas also declared war on the deeply ingrained corruption in the region at the end of a two-day meeting in this Andean capital. The ministers committed their nations to undertaking "all the diplomatic initiatives necessary" to promote democracy in Haiti. They also urged "the transitional government in Haiti to create conditions conducive to the holding of free, fair and democratic elections in Haiti as soon as possible." In Haiti, the government didn't immediately respond publicly to the OAS decision. But Gilvert Angervil, a former legislator from Aristide's party, welcomed the decision to start an investigation. "No one really knows what happened," he said. "What is clear is that democracy took a hard hit. . . We hope this will be a serious inquiry."

From Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH , by Monte Hayes, Associated Press - 10 June 2004

Burlco Toughens Ethics Policy

The Burlington County Board of Freeholders strengthened its ethics policy Wednesday by imposing a partial ban on the holding of two elected offices. The change allows a freeholder to remain in a local government or state-elected office he already holds but only until the terms of those other offices expire. A freeholder would not be able to seek re-election to either a state or local office while a freeholder. The reform, adopted unanimously by the all-Republican board, changes the county ethics code, which did not address dual office holding. None of the five freeholders now hold another elected office, though some have been local officials previously. Freeholder-Director Vincent Farias said the proposed reform shows the freeholders' commitment to the "highest ethical standards." Democratic freeholder candidate Chris Fifis has been calling for more far-reaching ethics reforms for months. He also wants the county to ban nepotism and no-bid contracts for itself and agencies it appoints, such as the county bridge commission. The reform is a "step in the right direction," Fifis said in a statement Wednesday. Farias said the county decided to begin strengthening its code after the Legislature failed to adopt ethics reform last week. Rather, the state Assembly has appointed a commission to study the issue.


From Cherry Hill Courier Post, NJ, by Courier-Post staff - 10 June 2004

Burlco Toughens Ethics Policy

The Burlington County Board of Freeholders strengthened its ethics policy Wednesday by imposing a partial ban on the holding of two elected offices. The change allows a freeholder to remain in a local government or state-elected office he already holds but only until the terms of those other offices expire. A freeholder would not be able to seek re-election to either a state or local office while a freeholder. The reform, adopted unanimously by the all-Republican board, changes the county ethics code, which did not address dual office holding. None of the five freeholders now hold another elected office, though some have been local officials previously. Freeholder-Director Vincent Farias said the proposed reform shows the freeholders' commitment to the "highest ethical standards." Democratic freeholder candidate Chris Fifis has been calling for more far-reaching ethics reforms for months. He also wants the county to ban nepotism and no-bid contracts for itself and agencies it appoints, such as the county bridge commission. The reform is a "step in the right direction," Fifis said in a statement Wednesday. Farias said the county decided to begin strengthening its code after the Legislature failed to adopt ethics reform last week. Rather, the state Assembly has appointed a commission to study the issue.


From Cherry Hill Courier Post, NJ, by Courier-Post staff - 10 June 2004

Officials Deemed within Ethics Law

Cleveland's Law Department says two top airport officials who spent a night at a consultant's California home did not violate ethics laws.
The two officials - Port Control Chief of Staff Candace McGraw and Chief Financial Officer Susan Kopinski - stayed at the home of consultant Bill Reed in April during a side trip while traveling to conferences. State ethics laws prohibit public officials from receiving something of significant value, including lodging, from contractors that their agency does business with, unless the public official has paid full market value for it. The Ohio Ethics Commission advises officials against receiving anything of significant value from a contractor, to avoid any appearance of impropriety. And David Fitz, a spokesman for Mayor Jane Campbell, said Monday that the mayor has reminded members of her administration that she expects them to comply "with both the letter and the spirit of the Ohio ethics law" and to "endeavor to avoid any negative appearances." In finding that the one-night stay did not violate ethics laws, the Law Department noted McGraw and Kopinski:
Paid their own way, including airfare, on their own time for the side trip. Bought lunch and breakfast for themselves and the Reeds.
Helped Reed's wife prepare the home-cooked dinner during their stay. The report, released Monday by the mayor's office, also said Kopinski had a long-standing business and social relationship with Reed. She had prepared dinner for him at her home, and he had extended an open invitation for her to visit his home. It also noted that, "out of an abundance of caution," McGraw and Kopinski each paid Reed the market value of a night's stay at an area hotel. The payments were made while the department was investigating. "We're very happy it's over with, and Susan is moving forward," said Ken Myers, Kopinski's lawyer. McGraw said the Law Department's report speaks for itself. Reed & Associates, a San Francisco-based financial consulting firm, was hired by the Department of Port Control in April 2003 and was paid $550,000 in the first year of a three-year contract.

From Cleveland Plain Dealer (Subscription), OH, 29 June 2004

 
 

Civil Servants Locked Out

Civil servants in Ebonyi State were yesterday locked out of their offices following the strike embarked by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to protest the recent hike in the price of petroleum products by the Federal Government. The main gate to some of the ministries visited, including the state secretariat and the Ministry of Finance, were under lock and key with official bulletin from the state chapters of NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) pasted on the gates and walls of the premises, directing workers to commence a home strike protest. The notice did not go down well with some of the displaced workers who appeared eager to do their work. Some of them however expressed dissatisfaction over the increase in the price of petroleum products.

The chairman of the NLC in the state, Comrade Kinsley Ogba could not be reached for comments, but his colleagues declined comments too on the on-going strike in the state. The chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Comrade Douglas Ogbonna, said members of the union will not increase transport fares but will only be forced to withdraw their services should the Federal Government fail to revert to N38 per litre as being demanded by NLC. Ogbonna said that frequent hike in the price of petroleum products has spelt doom to the masses. Meanwhile, all the commercial banks in the state closed their doors to customers as they also downed tools. But commercial activities in Abakaliki, the state capital, particularly the major markets were going on as usual with people busy with their daily duties.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa - 10 June, 2004

Commissioner Warns Civil Servants

Staff of Sokoto State Ministry of Information have been advised to be serious with their jobs or get sacked. Giving the advise at the award/send off ceremony of the ministry yesterday, the Commissioner of Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Gidado, reminded them of the need to reciprocate the good gesture of the state government, adding that to whom much is given, much is equally expected. His words, "we will continue to watch your performances with a view to rewarding hardwork and penalising indolence." The commissioner commended his staff for punctuality and expressed satisfaction, saying the ministry now has one of the best records of staff attendance. While thanking the retired staff for their services, Gidado called on the awardees to do more so as to earn recognition for more awards. He said he was happy that one of the recipients was a corp member, adding that the development showed that there is no discrimination between regular staff and NYSC members serving in the ministry.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ahmed Oyerinde - 8 June, 2004

Government Tinubu Asks Civil Servants to Audit Him, Nominate Next Head of Service

GOVERNOR Bola Tinubu of Lagos State is asking the state's civil servants to assess his government and the civil service in a unique government auditing. Besides, the civil servants have been given a chance to nominate the next head of the state's civil service who will take over from the incumbent, Alhaji R.A. Tinubu. He is due to retire next month. Governor Tinubu in a June 14, 2004 letter to individual civil servants said: "The incumbent Head of Service, Alhaji R.A. Tinubu, will be retiring from the Lagos State Civil Service in July 2004, after numerous years of meritorious and selfless service and highly commendable and extremely laudable contributions to Lagos State Civil Service, the most vibrant and progressive civil service in the country. "Meanwhile, a new head of service is to be appointed and it is my desire as the executive governor of Lagos State to appoint the best and most suitable person from the existing body of permanent secretaries to this very pivotal and important position. "In the spirit of our democracy and my commitment to ensure transparency and meritocracy in the appointment of the head of service, I have decided to give you the unique opportunity via this letter, to nominate the person who in your opinion qualifies as the most suitable candidate for the position of head of service. "The candidate of your choice who should be a serving permanent secretary in the state civil service must possess amongst others, the following attributes:

lA person of impeccable character who will loyally serve the interest of the state, and is capable of strengthening and developing the civil service. lPossess excellent leadership qualities and display a high level of professionalism and competence and is revered by his/her peers and the entire public service of Lagos State. "I will urge that you kindly disregard sentiments of state of origin, local government, tribe and division as well as the traditional practice of considering only persons within the administrative cadre, that is, the position is open to all serving permanent secretaries irrespective of prior deployment within the Lagos State civil service. "After making your choice in the page overleaf, kindly also let me have your opinion on several issues of relevance to our state. In particular: lYour opinion and comments on the state of the Lagos State civil service and ways of improving it. lYour comments and criticism of our administration, highlighting issues of concern to you and possible solutions. Identify the failures and weaknesses of the political leadership, and in particular of myself, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and suggest ways of improvement. "This questionnaire is strictly confidential and should be completed anonymously (do not reveal your identity) and must be typed and returned to me through the deputy governor on or before 3.00 p.m. on Friday, June 18, 2004 in a sealed envelope marked 'Strictly Confidential, To be opened by He, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu only.' "I thank you for your continued support and contributions towards ensuring the successful implementation of the programmes of this administration.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Vanguard (Lagos) - 17 June 2004

Civil Servants Appeal for Restoration of 'Cap 30'

Accra, GNA - The Civil Servants Association of Ghana (CSAG) on Thursday renewed its call on government to start discussions on the restoration of the Cap 30 pension scheme for its members who go on retirement. Addressing a press conference in Accra on Thursday, Alhaji Yakubu Ziblim, president, of the Association said tension was high in the industrial front because government was refusing to address the issue. Alhaji Ziblim said the association had explored and exhausted several avenues to resolve the matter but "all the efforts have not been fruitful. When one travels this length in search of a peaceful resolution without success, you are compelled to take actions which may not be palatable to both parties". He said the association would refer the matter to its National Executive Council for a decision to be taken if government refused to act on the matter within one week. Alhaji Ziblim said the association was disappointed at Government's position on the matter since most government officials were making contradictory statements on the restoration of Cap 30. He said it was a common knowledge that civil servants receive the lowest salaries in the entire public service adding, "our consolation was in the pension, which was a motivation to perform well."

The president noted that the demand for the restoration of the pension scheme to its members was just and legitimate adding," the increasing level of destitution among retired civil servants creates conditions of desperation, reduces commitment and induces the temptation to be corrupt." Alhaji Ziblim stated that until the introduction of the Social Security Scheme, Civil Servants as well as the Army, the Police and Fire Service, enjoyed the Cap 30. He said the enactments, which placed some public servants on pension Cap 30 and denied others did not only contravene the constitution but "a breach of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions which Ghana was a signatory". "We believe that this is the time to halt the injustice and insanity that has convulsed the award of pensions in the public sector", he said. Mr. Smart Chigabatia, Executive Secretary of the association said the restoration of Cap 30, would not be a drain on the government budget, adding, "Government must sit down with us so that the matter is resolved".

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 17 June 2004

Judge Censures Civil Service Chief

The Judiciary yesterday censured the Head of the Civil Service Mr Francis Muthaura over a directive that a university don be surcharged for Sh1.2 million paid out to a contractor. Muthaura had last year ordered Maseno University to recover from zoology Professor Ochong' Okelo Sh1,238,698 that had been erroneously paid out to Fahari and Civil Engineering Contractors and Urban Construction Limited. Muthaura's directive to the university, through Education Permanent Secretary Professor Karega Mutahi, was a reversal of his predecessor's directive that the more than Sh1.2 million be recovered from Fahari's Sh25,034,394/80 pending bill with the Ministry of Agriculture. Dr Sally Kosgei, then the Head of Civil Service, had in 2001 recommended that the money erroneously paid out when Okelo was acting Deputy Principal be recovered from what was due and owing to the contractor from the Ministry of Agriculture. Kosgei left office in 2002 before her directive was implemented. Acting High Court judge, Justice Mohammed Warsame, said Muthaura's decision amounted to a dereliction of duty and utter contempt for the institution which empowered him to make the decision. "Decisions made by persons endowed with authority must be certain, reasonable, predictable and show a sign of continuity but not to smack confusion and contradiction," ruled the judge. "It is clear that the current Head of Civil Service, without due regard to Dr Sally's decision and the interest of the good professor, made an unreasonable and illegal decision," Warsame said. In a 36-page ruling, the judge said Muthaura's directive was not capable of being implemented because he had no authority or powers to investigate a matter, which was already decided by his predecessor.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Nyakundi Nyamboga, Nairobi, The East African Standard (Nairobi) - 17 June 2004

Stage is Set to Retire 21,000 Civil Servants

The Government yesterday gave out guidelines on retrenchment programme, setting the stage to retire more than 21,000 Civil Servants from next month. The Directorate of Personnel Management (DPM) got Sh1.4 billion in the current Budget for the voluntary early retirement scheme, to be carried out in three phases until 2008. According to the guidelines, a copy of which was obtained by the Nation, ministries and departments will identify staff in over-manned areas. Those performing non-core functions will be candidates for the axe.
The departments will then list all identified cadres and posts, and forward them to the administrators of the retirement schemes. Work improvement teams will analyse and list all applicants (for retirement) for consideration and approval by the ministerial civil service reform committees. Administrators will consider the staffing levels of each cadre before approving them for retirement. But only the Public Service Commission, on receiving the application forms, can approve those to be retrenched, says the guidelines. "The DPM will process the benefits and notify applicants through their departments," say the guidelines. The DPM will then release the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIEs), together with the list of those retiring, to the ministries for payment. Permanent but non-pensionable employees will be paid a golden handshake of Sh80,000, a three months' severance pay for every completed year of service and three months' salary in lieu of notice.
But pensionable employees will receive a severance pay equivalent to their 15 days' basic salary for every completed year of service, three months' basic salary in lieu of notice and pension. They will also get a handshake of Sh80,000. While awaiting approval, ministries are expected to get all the documents for preparing the pension papers. They will processing the terminal benefit papers and submit them to the pensions department or the NSSF as appropriate. "Upon receipt of the approval from the DPM, ministries or departments will delete the names of all the retired officers from the payroll," the guidelines say. The document proposes that a special section be created to speed up payment. Retirement will be coordinated, at the apex, by a national steering committee of permanent secretaries chaired by the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, Mr Francis Muthaura. It will ensure that the scheme is objective, transparent and timely.
Already, training for senior civil servants on how to prepare people for retirement has started.


From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by The Nation (Nairobi), Samuel Siringi, Nairobi - 18 June 2004

'Nation's Civil Servants Aging'

Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, yesterday in Abuja described the Nigerian Civil Service as an aging institution with 60 per cent of serving officers falling within the age bracket of 40 years and above. Ahmed who spoke at a press conference at the commencement of a week-long celebrations by the Civil Service attributed this phenomenon to the freeze on employment. He also said the service suffers from capacity deficit, with about 70 per cent of civil servants belonging to the unskilled group of grade levels 01-6. Ahmed, however, disclosed that the general ban on recruitment into the service over the years would be over as soon as the exercise conducted to know the exact strength of the service is completed. Stating that the recruitment exercise will be highly competitive to employ only the best, he however said "before we do that, we must put in place the best for those coming to work in government." He said the reforms in the service would extend to the overhaul of registries and data systems, so as to institutionalize a framework of data culture, the introduction of specialist cadres and the professionalisation of human resource management. The Head of Service said the Federal Government decided on the monetisation policy with a view to reducing the cost of governance. He said that based on the high cost of monetization only the core arm of the service, including ministries and extra ministerial departments are fully covered to take off from January 1, 2004. "Parastatals are not going to be involved because of the cost of monetization this year. It is hoped that by the year 2005, parastatals will also be included."

Stating that all the variables of monetization ranging from the benefits of transportation, accommodation and utilities are included in the 2004 budget, he appealed to Ministries whose allocations do not meet their demands, to immediately raise the issue with the Budget Office. Stating that through monetization, the actual take-home pay of public employees will be determined, Ahmed revealed that the result of a pay reform study soon to be commissioned would be used to determine what is an economic wage for workers as a basis for reform. He added that five ministries including that of Finance, Federal Capital Territory, National Planning, Education and Works as well as the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Federal Civil Service Commission and the State House are currently undergoing reforms in the pilot phase to elicit medium term changes in the Service. On pensions reform, Ahmed said over N37 billion has been paid to retired officers, while the new pensions bill the National Assembly will soon pass into law. Loans worth N708 million have also been granted 1,336 officers and 12 buses acquired to convey staff to and from the satellite towns.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Iyefu Adoba in Abuja - 18 June 2004

Senior Civil Servants Warn Against Planned Amendment of Trade Unions Act

ASSOCIATION of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), has warned of dire consequences for the nation's political and socio-economic stability if the bill sent to the National Assembly by President Obasanjo to amend the Trade Unions Act is passed. In an analysis of the new draft bill, ASCSN Secretary General, Comrade Solomon Onaghinon argued that the new bill had exhibited uncontrollable degree of hypocrisy and therefore would not achieve any useful purpose, but chaos and instability. According to him: "When the President initiated the amendment of the Trade Unions Act through an earlier proposed bill, the argument of labour was that the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), a tripartite body, made up of Government, Employers and labour, was already working on the proposed amendments and that Mr. President should be patient enough to allow the tripartite body to complete its work. The advantage of this was that all parties would have been sufficiently consulted, particularly when a stake holder's meeting would have been held to capture the feelings of all interested parties. More importantly, the new amendment being proposed by NLAC was to ensure that the Trade Unions Act, the Trade Disputes Act and if possible the Labour Act would be combined into one body of law. Alongside all these, the institutions like Michael Imoudu Institute of Labour Studies (MILLS), Industrial Arbitration Panel (lAP), National Industrial Court (NIC), Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity (FMLP) etc that would ensure that the laws are properly implemented to meet international requirements would be modernised, reshaped and given enough facilities to operate as contained in the Nigerian Declaration Project (NIDEC)".


The Association lamented that, from the cancellation of Part 111 dealing with the Central Labour Organisation, voluntary membership of a trade union, conferment of discretionary powers on the Labour Minister to approve the formation of Federation of Trade Unions and affiliates to "International Labour Organisation (ILO)" and Trade Secretariats and planned removal of automatic deduction of check-off dues from the wages of workers smacked hypocrisy and posed potential dangers to industrial and political stability. On the part dealing on strike by Trade Unions, said: "A new subsection (6) which makes it mandatory for a trade union to first secure a resolution passed by at least two-third majority of the members of the trade union approving a strike action before it could embark on any strike is to be inserted. The hypocrisy of those who drafted the bill has further been exposed by this clause. First, all the unions in the country are national unions and have members in all nooks and crannies of the country. For example, the People Democratic Party should enshrine in its constitution that two-thirds of its members should attend its national conferences because we now practice democracy. This will just be impossible because of so many factors including insufficient funding, organizational problems, other logistics etc. The Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) declared strike action to be a right as one of the principal means by which workers and their associations may legitimately promote and defend their economic and social interests". "For the new subsection (6) to be regarded as reasonable, all the national officers elected to run the affairs of the union as members of the Central Working Committee are those to take such decisions. After all these are the people voted for by all the delegates at the last national convention. The PDP does not invite two-thirds of its member to take decision of the party no matter how important it may be. The same is applicable to trade unions and the present situation should not be an exception". In conclusion, ASCSN argued that, "the new bill has exhibited uncontrollable degree of hypocrisy and therefore will not achieve any useful purpose. Rather it will introduce and sustain: Slave labour, cultism in trade union administration, the hijacking of trade unions by political parties and wealthy individuals and foreign interests etc. It will also make Nigerian trade unions as mere Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and Nigerian trade unions as stooges in international labour arena".



From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Victor Ahiuma-Young Lagos - 23 June, 2004

Civil Servants Demand 100 Percent Cost of Living Adjustment

Civil servants are demanding a further 100 percent cost of living adjustment with effect from next month to cushion them from the rising cost of living. The Government workers were in May awarded an additional 50 percent salary increase that came as a result of arbitration, taking their increment to 300 percent over the December salaries. The Herald understands that civil service representatives submitted their position paper demanding the 100 percent pay increase last Friday at a National Joint Negotiating Council meeting. The NJNC comprises Government and civil servants representatives. Public Service Association acting president Mr Maxwell Kaitano confirmed that they had formally presented their demands for a further increase to the Government and the issue would be discussed at the next NJNC scheduled for next month. "Yes, we presented our position paper at the NJNC that was held last Friday and we are asking for a reasonably huge percentage. But I am not at liberate to disclose the percentage as this may jeopardise our negotiations," he said. Mr Kaitano said while the association appreciated the 50 percent that was recently awarded to the civil servants, there was need to further cushion them as the majority were struggling to survive because of the harsh economic environment. "Prices of basic commodities have gone beyond the reach of most civil servants while transport fares and health services have also shot up," he said. "There is need for Government to urgently further cushion the workers because the poverty datum line now stands at $960 000 while the lowest paid civil servant earns a gross monthly salary of $220 000." The Government, Mr Kaitano said, had started paying civil servants the 50 percent cost of living adjustment backdated to January.
"This month they will be paying the education sector while other sectors will be paid next month," he said.

The Government decided to stagger the backpay because it was practically impossible to clear the salaries at once since more than $150 billion was needed for the purpose. Mr Kaitano said the NJNC agreed that both parties must present their position papers for the 2005 cost of living adjustment by August this year so that the issue would be included in the national budget. It was also agreed that negotiations for next year's cost of living adjustment should be concluded three weeks before presentation of the national budget. Efforts to get a comment from the Public Service Commission were fruitless as senior officials were said to be locked up in a meeting for the greater part of the day.
Prices of basic commodities such as cooking oil and sugar have gone up, while transport fares have been increased by at least 100 percent resulting in most workers struggling to eke out a living. Parliament last week adopted a motion calling upon the Government to urgently review the tax-free salary threshold to cushion workers from the rising cost of living. The tax-free salary threshold is $200 000 a month while the highest tax rate of 45 percent applies to salaries above $375 000. The motion, moved by Makokoba Member of Parliament Ms Thokozane Khupe (MDC), also tasked the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development to make recommendations on progressive taxation reforms. Ms Khupe said the tax-free salary should be pegged at the same level with the poverty datum line of at least $960 000 a month. She said the tax-free salary threshold of $200 000 a month and the highest tax rate of 45 percent applying to salaries above $375 000 a month had resulted in narrow bands that had pushed most workers into high tax bands, eroding their net salaries.



From AllAfrica.com, Africa - 22 June, 2004

Mfa Closes Ranks With Civil Servants

The outspoken Assistant Minister has been addressing civil servants across the country, to hear their grievances about poor working conditions. Mfa said he felt he should address the public officers because he had realised that they have no forum where they could air their views. He feels that public officers should be taken on board if the Performance Management System (PMS) is to become effective. His meetings, he said, have taken him all over the country even to the remotest areas. He will be addressing his last meeting in Gaborone on Friday. Mfa confesses that his fact-finding mission is an eye opener. He said he has unearthed many things about the difficult conditions that public officers worked under, especially in the rural areas. Some of those problems are lack of accommodation and overstay in one station without transfer. He said some of the officers have served in the rural areas for up to 15 years. He observed that in some cases, supervisors used transfers to punish junior officers. The Assistant Minister said he has instructed the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) to draft transfer guidelines. He said promotions are done irregularly and he will look into this matter to see if government could come up with a system that could avoid favouritism. "Some of the promotions leave much to be desired. We have supervisors who have been given responsibilities but they are failing to perform," he said. Mfa added that the relationship between some supervisors and junior officers is strained. "There are some supervisors who frustrate their juniors, therefore making them unproductive at work," he said. He applauded some officers for good service even when they are working under difficult conditions. "My view is that the minister responsible for the public service should make it a habit to visit civil servants at least every second year," he said adding that he is not happy about the performance of senior civil servants. He asserted that all the senior public officers should be political appointees. He believes there are some senior civil servants who deliberately sabotage government efforts because they belong to the opposition. "I am saying this out of frustration. Government projects are sabotaged by some senior officers. If I had my way, I would appoint senior officers along political party lines. If they are political appointees, they would be well aware that if the ruling party loses elections, then they are all going to sink. But in this current set up, the officers are well aware that if we lose elections, they would serve the next government. I feel the civil service needs a major shake-up so that those who are not competent should be off loaded." He lamented that there are some public officers who are not interested in serving the public. "We still have old age pensioners who are not paid in time. We still have materials for drought relief projects which are not delivered in time." He added that there are some senior officers who do not know what is happening in their departments. Mfa also expressed concern about some officers who issue contractors with certificates of payments when they have not completed projects. "This is why we have so many unfinished structures that have been lying around for a long time." The acting President of the Botswana Civil Service Association (BCSA), Phineas Pheto commended Mfa for his efforts. He said Mfa consulted BCSA last year before he went on the tour. Pheto said they hope the meetings Mfa addressed would yield positive results. He said this was the first time that a cabinet minister had toured the country extensively to address civil servants.



From Mmegi, Botswana by Lekopanye Mooketsi - 28 June, 2004

Shocker for Civil Servants

The government has abolished security allowance and quarter per diem paid to Civil Servants as part of the measures aimed at reducing its wage bill. At the same time, the government has embarked on a crackdown on thousands of civil servants who have continued to enjoy certain allowances long after they ceased to be entitled to them. The order stopping the allowances and detailing the crackdown is contained in a confidential circular signed by Public Service head Francis Muthaura. The abolition of allowances will come as a shock to civil servants who rely on them to embellish their meagre pay. Hardest hit will be those on duty outside their stations for they will no longer be paid per diem to cater for their incidental expenses. Per diem is paid as a residual allowance to assist officers traveling on duty or on courses to meet incidental expenses where all traveling, boarding and lodging expenses have been met in full or where subsistence allowance has been paid. The new policy, which is one of the desperate attempts by the government to manage its recurrent budget, becomes effective July 1.
Muthaura, on June 18 ,wrote a confidential circular to permanent secretaries, the Attorney General, Public Service Commission Secretary and the Comptroller of State House breaking the sad news for public servants. The circular which was received at the Principal Administrative Secretary on June 23, also broke the news that the government was cracking down on thousands of civil servants who may have continued to enjoy such allowances as hardship, rental, commuted mileage and transfer long after their entitlement ceased. Other allowances targeted for streamlining in their management include acting, entertainment, uniform, extraneous and general expenditures on training allowances.
Scrapped security allowance has been paid to clerical officers deployed to work in secret registries in accordance with Regulation J7 of the Code of Regulations.

In his Budget speech, Finance minister, David Mwiraria lamented that the cost of travel and accommodation has been rising, adding that controls were now necessary. He said beginning the next fiscal year, journeys outside office will be curtailed and where externally funded, no supplementary allowance will be given by the government. "This restriction applies to all levels of government officers including those in public enterprises. For these reasons, provisions for this item have been adjusted downwards to the bare minimum," said Mwiraria.
As anticipated, Muthaura's circular has already triggered panic among all the cadres of the Public Service because of a perception that it now opens a door through which the government will cut down the number of civil servants. The fear is compounded by the fact that few civil servants have taken the government offer for early retirement because of the feeling that the so-called "golden handshake" package is too little. "It has been observed that expenditure on several remunerative allowances continue to escalate, while many officers to whom they do not apply are reflected as recipients," says the circular. Muthaura is his circular is directs accounting officers to take personal interest in the control of and management of the allowances to stamp out wastage. "Those suspected to have colluded to defraud the government through irregular payments and or receipt of the same should be appropriately dealt with," Muthaura warns. He says some officers have continued drawing higher housing allowance without authority, even after being transferred from regions with higher allowances to those with lower rates. He says there are also those who receive both rental and owner-occupier house allowances simultaneously contrary to official government policy.

Muthaura warns that although the cited irregularities may not be exhaustive, "prudence and diligence must be exercised by all leaders in order to eradicate irregular payment of allowances, thus arresting the escalating public service wage bill". Muthaura says the government has in the past one decade carried out reforms in the Civil Service focusing, among other measures, harmonisation of the pay and benefits and putting in place interventions to enhance efficiency. "Despite these reforms, the Civil Service wage bill has remained high in relation to the gross domestic product (GDP) while the average pay for individual servants has remained low. This has resulted in low productivity and low level of service delivery," he says. Muthaura believes that these cost containment measures will attract and retain skilled personnel, improve remuneration in the Civil Service and ultimately enhance service delivery. The recurrent budget for the ending financial year was estimated at Sh333.9 billion, including the Sh22.9 billion financed through appropriations-in-aid and payments financed directly from the Consolidated Fund Services amounting to Sh130.2 billion. According to the government sources, the estimates left Sh180.8 billion for discretionary expenditures. The gross development expenditures for the 2003/4 fiscal year were estimated at Sh54.9 billion, including Sh13.7 billion as project grants and Sh8.4 billion as project loans.



From East African Standard, Kenya, by Kipkoech Tanui and Ken Ramani - 27 June, 2004

Bayelsa to Prepare Civil Servants for Retirement

Bayelsa State government has said it would fashion our strategies designed to prepare its workforce for retirement. The state Deputy Governor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, disclosed this recently while speaking at a state dinner organised as part of activities slated to round off this year's Nigeria Civil Service Day celebrations in the state capital, Yenagoa. He added that for the training and re-training of civil servants, the state government would henceforth, organise periodic seminars to mentally and psychologically prepare its workforce, within the last five years of their service, for retirement. "Just as it is done in the military, it is imperative for the head of service to organise seminars and workshop for those due to retirement," he said. He also noted that government would continue to do everything within its powers, to ensure prompt payment of salaries to workers and pension entitlements to pensioners as well as the regular promotion of civil servants,
The deputy governor, who said government would not condone indolence within the rank and file of its workforce, warned against the falsification of age and date of first appointment, all in the name of trying to remain in the service longer than necessary. Condemning the antics of some civil servants, Jonathan wondered how government could employ new hands if those in service engage in the unwholesome practice of falsification of documents to perpetuate their stay in the service.



From AllAfrica.com, Africa by John Iwori Yenagoa, This Day (Lagos) - Jun 28, 2004

 

BSN Gives Out RM317Million to Civil Servants

BANK Simpanan Nasional (BSN) has given out a total of RM317mil in personal loans to 22,000 civil servants in the country from Aug 19, 2002, to May 30, 2004. Deputy general manager II, Juariah Azahari, said that BSN had also allocated RM500mil for car loans for teachers at Government schools. Up to April 30, it had disbursed RM148mil, she said after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between BSN and Menara Kuala Lumpur Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lumpur.

From The Star, Malaysia - 10 June, 2004

Manmohan Interviewed 10 Secretaries for Top Civil Service Job

Now that its inaugural Parliamentary session over, the Manmohan Singh government will step up the gas on bureaucratic placements at home and abroad. Up for grabs are slots ranging from key secretaries to government, ambassadors, and political appointees like members of the Planning Commission, to more lowly slots of personal secretaries of ministers in the council. An announcement regarding Yojana Bhavan is planned on Saturday. In the Foreign Office, now that Shyam Saran, a 1970-batch officer has been made foreign secretary, various supercessions involved and ambassadorial positions traditionally given to political appointees-in Washington, London, Colombo, Moscow, Kathmandu and the United Nations-are being fitted: Ronen Sen, Nirupama Rao, Kanwal Sibal, SM Mukherjee and Nirupam Sen are expected to occupy the slots. The imminent reshuffle of secretaries involves the unusual bunching of retirements over the next three months, besides the signal implicit in replacing cabinet secretary Kamal Pande (Uttaranchal, 1965) despite his efforts to regain political neutrality. Mr Pande had a special 2-year tenure or "until further orders" term after retiring from the IAS last year. He stands shifted to the Inter-State Council.
Pande's replacement, Bal Krishna Chaturvedi (UP, 1966), was due to retire and set up his flat in Noida with wife Vibha next month. But after the PM's phone call on Friday morning, Chaturvedi has to put off the plan "to lecture on energy issues and teach children for free" by two years. Signalling trouble for secretaries who had drifted close to the BJP, Chaturvedi has been told to hop on to the hot seat straightaway from Monday.

In this, the government dispensed with the nicety of retaining Pande and placing his successor as an understudy "officer on special duty" in the Cabinet Secretariat first. Outlining the Prime Ministerial mandate, Chaturvedi talked to FE on implementing the common minimum programme and ensuring a clean and responsive administration. Predictably, he denied that "cleaning up" was a mere homily in today's political environment. "It can be done," he said. New fitments may repeat the pattern set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his choice of cabinet secretary. Singh personally interviewed the top 10 contenders for the job for 10-15 minutes each. Those turning 60 include the entire 1966 batch of the IAS. Personnel secretary Arun Bhatnagar, Delhi chief secretary Shailaja Chandra and commerce secretary Dipak Chatterjee, retire this month. In the 1967 batch, discounting those who haven't yet made it to the Centre, Kuriakous Roy Paul, P Dinannath Shenoy, DC Gupta, Samar Ballav Mohapatra, Rathi Vinay Jha, VS Lakshmi Ratan, Binoo Sen, and P Madhvan Nair retire between now and October. From this batch, Ajai Vikram Singh, M Shankar, and Nripendra Misra and Rajeeva Ratna Shah of the UP cadre are among those who have some tenure left for the coming year.

From Financial Express, India - 11 June, 2004

Competitive Ratio of Civil Service Examination Exceeds 100-1

As the problem of young unemployed people becomes serious, relatively secure civil service jobs continuously win popularity. A total of 80,073 people took the civil service examination for recruiting 788 Seoul public servants held in 52 examination rooms in Seoul, showing a competitive ratio of 101.6-1 on June 13. On this day, examinees are leaving examination rooms after taking the exam in Kyongshin High School in Jongno-Gu.

From Donga, South Korea - 13 June, 2004

Koizumi Urges Review of Public Servants' Pay

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has instructed the Cabinet Secretariat and other concerned government entities to consider a system in which national government employees are paid salaries that vary depending on the region in which they work, government sources said.
Through the system, the prime minister aims to help curb overall salaries of national public servants. The plan will help ensure that the basic salaries of national public servants will differ among each of the 11 regions. Koizumi wants to make sure that the plan will be reflected in a recommendation to be issued by the National Personnel Authority on pay hikes for national public servants in summer. National public servants' basic salaries currently are set according to a nationwide pay scale. Under this system, those who work in major cities where the cost of living is higher than provincial areas are paid allowances to make up the difference among the salaries. But for national public servants who work in provincial regions, salaries are said to be much higher in general than those of private sector company employees in the same regions. According to the NPA, the level of national public servants' salaries is highest in Tokyo's 23 wards, standing at 107 against a national average of 100.

The lowest is 95 in Hokkaido. In the private sector, the figure in Tokyo is 116. However, the amount registered 87 in the Hokkaido and Tohoku regions. The difference in pay between company employees in the private sector who work in cities and those in more sparsely populated areas is larger than the difference between national public servants in the cities and those in the provincial regions. To curb an increase in the total salary of national public servants, the prime minister has decided the system should come under review. Through such an action, Koizumi aims to make the salary levels of public servants in provincial regions the same as the level of those who work in the private sector. Koizumi said the basic salaries of public servants should be adjusted to reflect this difference, and that pay levels should be corrected as they currently are basically set according to a nationwide basis, according to government sources. The new pay scale will be based on variations between salaries in the private sector. It is likely that the basic salaries of national public servants will be lowered in the regions of Hokkaido, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Shikoku and Kyushu, where the difference is significant, under the review.


From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Yomiuri Shimbun - 14 June 2004

Public Servants' Pay Offer to be Put to Vote

The State's 26,000 public servants will have the chance to vote on a Government pay offer after a legal ruling yesterday aimed at ending a protracted wages dispute. The State Government was sent back to the negotiating table by the Industrial Relations Commission, thwarting its efforts to have a new award set and imposed on its employees. Describing the decision as a "victory for workers", the Public Service Association said Industrial Relations Minister Michael Wright should "finally get the message that he needs to sit down, talk about these issues and help resolve this dispute". The stand-off, which has resulted in a series of snap strikes, prison shutdowns, bans on speed camera operations and revenue collection, has dragged on for more than six months. The Government forced the matter to arbitration in April after its offer of an 8 per cent pay rise over two years to workers on less than $43,000 and 7 per cent for those above this amount was rejected by the PSA. Yesterday, IRC deputy president Peter Hampton said the parties should attempt to negotiate an enterprise agreement and put it to a vote of the workers "at the earliest opportunity". He also urged the PSA to halt any industrial action and take part in "expeditious and constructive" negotiations ahead of the ballot. Mr. Hampton said it was possible he would ultimately have to arbitrate to end the dispute since the position of both parties was "entrenched". Mr. Wright welcomed the commission's insistence there be no further industrial action while negotiations continued. "The PSA's decision to disadvantage South Australians through industrial action has always been a major concern to the Government," he said.

From South Australia Advertiser, Australia - 9 June, 2004

ACT Government Set to Secure Public Servants Pay Deal

The ACT Government is confident it can secure a deal with public servants to increase pay rates by 13 per cent over the next three years.
Unions have praised the terms of the new enterprise agreement, which offers a range of family friendly employment benefits. Industrial Relations Minister Katy Gallagher says it will help attract and retain quality staff. "Increases in casual loading, increases in access to leave, particularly around adoption and primary carers leave and we think the whole package positions us very well in our need to be competitive with our Commonwealth partners," she said.

From ABC Online, Australia - 7 June, 2004

Civil Servants May be Sacked for Drunk-driving

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- Civil servants in this Chinese capital may lose their jobs if they are found drunk driving, reported Thursday's Beijing Morning Post. The paper said the city's traffic police are stepping up supervision and punishment over drunk-driving and other violations of traffic rules. When a drunken driver is stopped by police, they will first ask where the driver has drunk, and which institution is the driver's employer. If a restaurant where the driver drank is found to have no sign warning against drunk-driving, the restaurant will be punished.
If the drunken driver is a civil servant and the case is serious enough, the driver will be dismissed from the government department.
In addition, the leader of the department may also be held responsible for negligence.


From Xinhua, China - 17 June 2004

Public Servants to Take Two Saturday Off Per Month

All public servants, except those involved in special sectors such as fire fighting and police training, are earnestly taking two Saturday off per month from next month until June 2005, when the five-day work week comes into effect for public sectors. According to the Ministry of Finance and Economy, Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, and other ministries, the revision resolution on the "regulation on service of public servants" was passed, stipulating such change, on last Tuesday at a Cabinet meeting which was presided over by President Roh Moo-hyun. The revision bill stipulated that the shortening of one-hour service during winter, from November 1 to February 1, will be abolished and the days off will be reduced by one or two days according to period in which they are in office, in exchange for taking two Saturday off per month. The government also decided to revise the Fair Trade Law, according to which voting rights of financial units within conglomerates will be reduced from the current 30 percent to 15 percent by cutting five percent per year for three year from April 2006.
In addition to it, by enacting a "special law for operation of foreign schools in free trade zone and international free city in Jeju," the government decided to enable school principals to determine how many Korean students are allowed to enter into foreign schools in the international free city in Jeju and free trade zones such as Incheon.

From Donga, South Korea, by Chi-Young Shin - 16 June, 2004

More Funds Need Pouring into Public Service Sector: Experts

BEIJING, (Xinhuanet) -- The priority of China's public fund allocation should switch from the economic sector to the public service sector, as a move to improve the country's public service, said Chinese experts. "Faced with pressing issues like unemployment, population agingand urban population increase, the Chinese government should reform its public service to enhance the service function," said Li Junpeng, associate professor with the National School of Administration. Li held that China should increase its expenses in public service sectors like education, social security, public health, environmental protection, science and technology. "The experience of developed countries showed the government's main responsibility usually switched to public service with the continuous economic development," said Li. "In this process, the national financial expenditure for the economy decreases while that for public service increases." But in China, things seem to be going the other way, said Li. Authoritative statistics showed that in 2001, China's financialexpenditure for the economy totaled 647.3 billion yuan (78 billionUS dollars), or 6.7 percent of the total GDP, while that for social, cultural and educational causes stood at 521.3 billion yuan (62.8 billion US dollars), only accounting for 5.4 percent ofthe GDP. Within the public service sector, insiders held that China should first develop science, technology and education, which are closely related to human development. Then the country could consider public services which are entirely consumption, like pubic health and a subsistence allowances system for the poor. Li raised that the ideal mode to promote public service in China is through both the government and public institutional forces. With the growth of non-governmental organizations, community construction and non-public economy, China now boasts the public resources to carry this mode, said Li. Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed that by the end of 2003, China had 137,000 social organizations, compared to 4,000 organizations in 2002. China had about 2.44 million private enterprises, with some 34 million employees. "The government should mobilize the whole society to participate in public service, making it diversified and socialized," said Li.

From Xinhua, China, by Han Qiao, Li Jianmin - 17 June 2004

Ministers, Top Civil Servants to Have Pay Cuts Restored

As the economy has recovered and is growing again, the Government is restoring the pay cuts that ministers and top civil servants took in 2001 and last year. This will be done in two steps, next month and Jan 1 next year. There will also be a revision in how their pay is pegged to that of the private-sector, as adjustments will no longer be done automatically each year. Instead, the adjustments will take into account not just the latest benchmark figures, but also the broader state of the economy. These changes were announced by the Public Service Division (PSD) yesterday. They follow last month's announcement that, given the rebounding economy, the wage freeze most civil servants had over the past one year will be lifted, along with better bonuses. Yesterday, the PSD noted that in November 2001, because of the highly uncertain economic outlook after the Sept 11 terror attacks, the Government reduced the monthly salaries of political, statutory, judicial appointment holders and officers from the Administrative Service by up to 10 per cent. The cut was meant to last 12 months, but was extended for another year until December last year. But before it could be restored, in July last year after the Sars outbreak, the Government again cut their pay by up to 10 per cent. As a result, overall, the annual salaries of these appointment holders and senior civil servants went down by between 24 and 29 per cent. Said the PSD yesterday: 'The economy has recovered and is growing again. The Government will therefore restore the salaries of the appointment holders and the administrative officers to their levels before the Nov 2001 cuts in two steps.'

The November 2001 pay cut will be restored on July 1, while the July 2003 cut will be restored on Jan 1 next year. Another major change announced was a revision to the way in which public-sector pay is pegged to private-sector benchmarks. When the Government introduced the benchmark system in 1994, the intention was to adjust public-sector salaries to the benchmark automatically every year, to keep them competitive. But it has made this adjustment in only four out of the 10 years that have passed. 'This is because economic conditions have been unstable and private-sector incomes have been more variable than we had expected,' PSD said. In light of this experience, the Government will do away with the automatic adjustment annually. It will continue to track the private-sector benchmark annually, and will still set public-sector salaries that, over time, match this benchmark. 'However, in deciding on salary adjustments each year, it will take into account not just the latest benchmark figures, but also the broader state of the economy,' said the PSD.


From The Straits Times, Singapore - 18 June 2004

The MIC Wanita and Youth Movements Want to See More Indians in the Civil Service

Both wings are expected to push for this at their general assemblies at the Putra World Trade Centre on Sunday. Wanita head Senator Jaya Partiban said 550 delegates and 200 observers would be attending the one-day assembly. "We hope to pass 10 resolutions on various subjects, including the need for the Government to increase the allocation for single mothers and the number of Indian students in matriculation courses," she said. Both assemblies will be jointly opened by party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu. For the first time, divisional and national wanita leaders will be wearing their new blue saris. Youth chief S. A. Vigneswaran said this year's assembly, to be attended by 550 delegates, would be more meaningful to the movement following its success in the March 21 general election. "For the first time in 50 years, MIC Youth was given a chance to field three candidates. It is also a first for an elected MIC youth leader to hold a Federal position." Vigneswaran has been made Parliamentary Secretary to the Youth and Sports Ministry. The resolutions to be endorsed by the Youth wing include giving Indian youths more educational and employment opportunities.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia - 18 June 2004

New Civil Service System to be Adopted

The government plans to abolish its current grades and original work schedules for senior public officers and establish a new system of "senior civil service corps" by the year 2006. Under this new system, senior officers will be given posts in accordance with their ability and performance, regardless of their grade differences. This would cause a stir in the civil servants society, as different posts will mean different wages and compensations. The Civil Service Commission announced Friday that this new system will be put to legislation and enforced beginning in the year 2006. The commission said, "The old system that guaranteed automatic promotion of civil servants according to their seniority has caused ministerial selfishness and bureaucratic ineffectiveness... The enforcing of the new system will enable capable individual workers to be more easily promoted."

From Chosun Ilbo, South Korea - 18 June 2004

SEECAP Holds Seminar on Civil Services

Chandigarh: THE Society for Excellence in Education and Career Planning (SEECAP) today organised a seminar on 'Preparing for civil services.' Addressing the participants, Dr S M Sardana, president of the society, said the three-stage examination, conducted by the UPSC every year, was the best possible method to evaluate all aspects of the candidates. He was critical of the system followed by the AIEEE in which students were tested by just a multiple-choice paper. Highlighting the weaknesses in the Indian education system, Dr Sardana said the poor examination system was the root cause of the prevailing rot. The examination system in the universities did not focus on all dimensions of learning, recollecting and recapitulating. He also criticised the policy of taking back question papers of various entrance tests as it was contrary to the spirit of openness and caused blemishes on the evaluation process. ''The aim of our society is to highlight various problems which plague our education system and to help the talented students who are ignorant of the career options after Class XII and graduation,'' Dr S M Sardana said.


From Indian Express, India, Express News Service - 28 June, 20044

 

No Forced Move for Civil Servants, Says Ahern

Civil servants who want to stay in Dublin will not have to move under the Government's decentralisation programme, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said today. Mr Ahern said workers who did not want to leave the capital would have control over their futures and be able to apply to stay in Dublin. He said: "The future of those who choose to stay in Dublin is also being secured. "I appreciate that there is a great deal of uncertainty among the many thousands of public servants who, though they wish to stay in Dublin, their jobs are being decentralised. "I understand the concern of these people but I want to reassure them that they will have control over their futures," he added at a reception at a football club in Dublin's Cabra.

The Green party yesterday accused the Government did not use the decentralisation programme to win votes in the forthcoming elections. Environment Minister Martin Cullen today said all the opposition parties have changed their positions over the planned movement of thousands of civil servants. "Just as Fine Gael and Labour have performed a spectacular U-turn on the subject of decentralisation, now it is the turn of the Greens to get in on the act," Mr Cullen said. The Greens yesterday attacked the Government's plans to move over 10,000 civil servants from the capital and said it was clearly not aimed at balanced regional development.

From Ireland Online, Ireland - 7 June , 2004

Civil Service Spending Slammed

Nothern Ireland Government departments are repeatedly breaking the rules while splashing out millions on consultants, a damning report revealed today. The facts were uncovered by the Northern Ireland Audit Office in a major investigation into the Civil Service's use of private consultancy firms. The watchdog voiced concern at the numbers of contracts awarded without competitive tendering. It also highlighted other problems, including charges soaring above original prices and firms being hired without the need for the work being established. The report concluded there was "considerable scope" for procedures to be followed "more rigorously". Northern Ireland Civil Service expenditure on consultants rose from just over £10m in 1998/99 to some £18.6m in 2002/03. Departmental spending over the last five years came to around £68m. This does not include expenditure by health trusts, education boards and many other taxpayer-funded bodies.

Detailed guidance on the use of consultants was issued in 1995 by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP). The Audit Officea assessed compliance with the rules in a random sample of 85 consultancy contracts. The 1995 guidelines stressed the need for competitive tendering. But 35 of the contracts investigated were awarded without any competition, today's report revealed. The Audit Office said it was "surprised" at this finding. The 1995 DFP document also stated that the need for consultancy work should be formally examined in advance.
The Audit Office today reported: "Our sample of 85 consultancy projects indicates that Departments are failing to produce the business cases required by the guidance and consequently are undertaking inadequate appraisal of their spending on consultancy. "We found that 74% of contracts, with a total spend of £2.1m, did not have a formal business case." The Audit Office said it had also found "very little evidence" that guidelines are being followed. It suggested that Government here is spending around £17m a year on work that is not formally assessed afterwards. "We also found limited evidence as to whether consultants' recommendations and advice were accepted and implemented," the report said. In 45% of cases examined, the final payments exceeded the original contract. "In our view, large-scale increases of this nature raise doubts as to the standard of project appraisal, management and control."

From Belfast Telegraph (subscription), UK, by David Gordon - 10 June 2004

Civil Servants Threaten Action Over Jobs Cull

A civil service union today warned the government of industrial action if there are any compulsory redundancies involved in its plans to slash up to 80,000 Whitehall jobs and accused ministers of playing party politics with their lives. On the first day of the annual meeting of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which has more than 300,000 members in more than 200 Whitehall departments, delegates voted against any job cuts and attempts at privatisation. They also agreed they are prepared to take industrial action "as a last resort" to defend members' interests. A national demonstration and a lobby of parliament are also possible in the future, delegates decided. The general secretary of the PCS, Mark Serwotka, speaking at the conference in Brighton said ministerial talk of job cuts without any detail on where the axe would fall has left members in limbo. The union is willing to discuss government proposals, which also include relocating Whitehall departments out of London but it will oppose compulsory redundancies, he said. Mr Serwotka warned : "If these negotiations result in the government saying there will be 20,000 job losses in this or that department, regardless, we will be vigorous in our campaign to protect those services and jobs. Campaigning, using everything in our armoury including the very last resort of industrial action." He described as "disgraceful" the scene earlier this year in the House of Commons when MPs cheered on the chancellor, Gordon Brown, as he announced proposals to get rid of 40,000 civil service jobs. Mr Serwotka added: "We are all in favour of more frontline resources but to think you can do it by arbitrarily cutting the back line without there being any affect on frontline service delivery is naive." Recommendations by Sir Peter Gershon in his efficiency review report for the government which include bringing together support services such as IT, human resources, may sound good, he admitted but added: "Our fear is that this is simply a way of creating ripe cherries for the private sector companies to pick."

From Scotland on Sunday, UK, by Debbie Andalo - 9 June 2004

Civil Service Crisis 'Must End'

THE Government was today called upon to intervene over pay disputes within the Civil Service. Northern Ireland Minister Ian Pearson has now been urged to help resolve the crisis now facing the Civil Service. Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney said if the the issue is not resolved, a knock-on effect will cripple other industries, including Derry's taxi fraternity. Mr McCartney stated: "Due to the ongoing dispute between the British Government and civil servants, we are now starting to see a knock-on effect on other industries. "Taxi drivers and hauliers who cannot access MOT certificates will not be able to either tax or PSV their vehicles, therefore forcing them off the road. "Small garages who depend on preparing cars for MOT's are also beginning to feel the pinch because no cars are coming forward to have their MOT. "Most of these are small self-owned or self-employed businesses which depend on a daily amount of work to keep their heads above water." Mr McCartney added: "With the current dispute, these people are finding that their livelihoods are being put under enormous pressure in not knowing when the dispute will end or when business will get back to normal. "If these small businesses get down any further, many will never recover and Ian Pearson must carry some of the responsibility to ensure that this does not happen. "I am calling on the British Government to meet immediately with the NIPSA Union and resolve this matter so that not only can the civil servants return to work but that other people can secure their businesses and livelihood."


From Belfast Telegraph (subscription), UK, by Brendan McDaid - 5 June, 2004

Ahern: Civil Service Modernization Succeeding

The Taoiseach has said improvements are being made in the modernisation of the public service. Bertie Ahern has said reports compiled for his department show that significant progress is being made. Speaking in the Dáil, he said all areas of the public service are becoming more efficient. Mr Ahern said: "These reports will record progress across a wide range of areas including, for example, more use of competitive promotions and greater open recruitment of staff, development of new information systems and recent evaluation of the performance, management and the development system in the civil service. "A quality customer service system is another aspect of the modernisation programme and good progress in this area continues to be made."

From Ireland Online, Ireland - 15 June, 2004

Blair and Howard Hang Hopes on Public Services

THE battlelines for the general election were drawn yesterday by Tony Blair and Michael Howard as both sought to put their European election setbacks firmly behind them. The two leaders will thrust reform of the public services to the centre of their parties' campaign as they vie to convince voters to trust them more on health and education. Mr Blair's and Mr Howard's proposals appeared at first to be remarkably similar, with both promising to extend "choice" by expanding the number of schools and broadening access to health services. However, the Labour version of choice on offer to the electorate would see an increase in investment in the state sector while the Conservative vision would see voters being given vouchers to allow them to pick and choose between state provision and the private sector. Mr Blair, speaking at his monthly press conference in Downing Street, said his proposals were "a change of gear" in public service reforms and he promised ministers would now move "further and faster" to improve schools and hospitals and other services. Despite trailing in third place in the local council elections - the worst result ever recorded by a governing party - Mr Blair said voters did not want the government to change direction. The Prime Minister said he believed people actually wanted reassurance that it was on track to deliver the promises it offered in 1997. He said: "Now is not the time for a change of direction, but it is the time for a change of gear." John Reid, the Health Secretary, is expected to lead the charge for Mr Blair when he publishes his department's plans for the next five years in the middle of next week. His vision for the future of the NHS in England will trigger the publication by other ministers of five-year plans for other major spending departments which will flesh out the next steps in reform. Mr Blair said: "We want to take all of this further ... we have laid the foundations and it's precisely because of that success that we can go further and faster and the agenda now is to base these services around the needs of those who use them.

"Put the patient first, put the law-abiding citizen first, put the parent and child first." Adding: "No politician can afford to be deaf to the voice of the electorate, there are clearly big challenges ahead for the country." Mr Howard's decision to announce changes to his social policies came a day after he reshuffled his shadow cabinet. He said the Tories were to drop the terms "patient's passport" and "pupil's passport" and rebrand their policy package to offer greater flexibility "the right to choose". Under a Conservative government, patients would be able to choose which hospital they were treated in and parents would be given a far greater say over the school their children attend, said Mr Howard in a speech in London. He said the Tories would invest hugely to ensure the reforms, pledging an extra £34 billion a year into the NHS and an extra £15 billion a year into schools every year over the next parliament. The name of the new Tory plan is deliberately borrowed from Margaret Thatcher's famous right-to-buy policy, which gave council tenants the chance to buy their homes.

From The Scotsman, UK, by ALISON HARDIE POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT - 15 June, 2004


Germany Plans to Extend Working Hours for Civil Servants

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's cabinet is planning to extend weekly working hours for federal government-employed civil servants to ease pressure on a budget strained by dwindling tax receipts and rising welfare costs. Interior Minister Otto Schily, 71, will scrap a 14-year-old regulation governing hours for 300,000 federal government staff. The decision, yet to be formally endorsed by the cabinet, will extend the working week to 40 hours from 38 1/2 hours. ``Over the longer term, we're aiming to cut positions by limiting new hiring,'' Schroeder's spokesman, Bela Anda, told a regular government press conference in Berlin. Germany's budget deficit, about half of which stems from federal government funding shortfalls, has exceeded European Union limits for three years. Almost half of Finance Minister Hans Eichel's 258 billion-euro ($312 billion) draft 2005 budget, published today, is assigned to debt servicing and pension costs.
Schily's plan, which doesn't need parliamentary approval, follows a decision in March by Germany's TdL public sector employers' group that scrapped agreements governing weekly hours for civil servants employed by the 16 regional governments. The southern state of Bavaria has since raised weekly working hours for government staff to 42 from 40. Personnel costs account for 41 percent of all state spending, the TdL said.


From Bloomberg - 23 June, 2004

Civil Servants Will 'Hot Desk' to Cut Costs

Sir Humphrey and hundreds of his civil service chums are to lose their desks as part of a new government cost-cutting initiative. In a scheme that could be rapidly rolled out across Whitehall, all civil servants at the Department of Trade and Industry are to "hot desk", a process beloved of management consultants, which will see mandarins of all ranks move from desk to desk throughout the department. Hot desking - also known as "location-independent working" - derives its name from the naval practice of "hot bunking", where sailors on different shifts would share the same bunk to save space. "The strategy is all part of the efficiency savings at the department," explained the DTI's head of communications. But, somewhat strangely, the DTI will provide enough desks for only 80 per cent of the staff. Workers who arrive too late to claim a desk will have to cram into meeting rooms. "There shouldn't be a problem, when you take into account holidays and meetings," the official said. The DTI also plans to save money by closing five of its London offices - including its office in fashionable Belgravia - and consolidating all staff in its headquarters at 1 Victoria Street. The cost-cutting plan comes amid speculation that the DTI will be radically restructured. Some observers even suggest that it could be axed altogether. A "floating policy pool" of senior civil servants will be created to operate on a range of issues within the department. A Treasury spokesman denied that desk space was a central theme of the Government's efficiency review, which is being spearheaded by Sir Peter Gershon, the former GEC executive. "Departments are expected to share schemes which help save taxpayers' money," said a Treasury spokesman. "If this works at the DTI, other departments will look at it seriously."
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From Telegraph.co.uk, UK, by Robert Watts - 26 June, 2004

 

Thousands of Baathists Return to Civil Service

TBAGHDAD - More than 12,000 former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party will be reintegrated into public service one year after losing their jobs under a policy to punish those loyal to the ousted regime, a senior official said yesterday. In a backtrack on its once hard-line stance, the national de-Baathification committee - a body created and headed by ex-Pentagon favorite Ahmad Chalabi - reinstated the public servants. "Our committee, which fired 30,000 people, has decided to reintegrate 12,000 who have appealed the decision," committee director Mithal Allussi said. "They are from a range of sectors, for example the Interior Ministry, or education or electricity departments," he explained. "Some decided to restart active work and others chose retirement." The Iraqi media yesterday released a list of people who have already returned to work. In a statement, signed by Chalabi and released in Iraqi newspapers on the same day, the committee said it has "accepted the request for certain sections of the Baath party to be reintegrated into public office and in business and the state." They will be on a one-year probation, the document explained, adding that "certain people in the number released by the newspaper must appear before the de-Baathification committee and finish preparing the necessary paperwork before they can restart work."

Some 694 names released by the media were all teachers from Baghdad and the Sunni region of Al-Anbar to the west, notably Ramadi and Fallujah, which saw heavy fighting in April. The reinstated workers, however, were all low down in the Baath party and Allussi said no members of the party's top three ranks would ever work in the civil service again. The softer stance on former Baathists followed Chalabi's fall from favor in a head-on collision with his former US allies last month. US and Iraqi forces raided Chalabi's offices amid a swirl of allegations that the political leader had handed US spy secrets to Iran. Even before the run-in with Chalabi, US overseer Paul Bremer reversed the policy in late April, after deciding Chalabi's de-Baathification committee had been too severe in handing out judgments. Bremer said the coalition would rehabilitate government functionaries and military veterans.

From Agence France Presse, Arab News, by Fatima El-Issawi, 12 June 2004

 

Dr. Phil in Town to Train Civil Servants

OTTAWA -- Television's Dr. Phil will be part of a seminar in Ottawa Friday for about 45 Canada Revenue Agency employees. But the Canadian Taxpayers Federation doesn't think Ottawa should be kicking in $40 toward the $229 ticket price for each civil servant. A spokesman says training for government employees is a great idea -- but he doesn't believe Dr. Phil should be the teacher.

From Ottawa Citizen, Canada - 17 June 2004

Lake Station Lawyers Will Study Legality of Ordinance Deemed Unconstitutional

LAKE STATION -- Citing legal problems with the city's ethics ordinance, City Attorney Ray Szarmach urged the City Council to revisit the document and make sure potential violators are given due process. Szarmach said in its current form, the ordinance is unconstitutional.
In a special work session following its regularly scheduled meeting, the City Council decided to have Szarmach and City Council Attorney Mike Deppe research legal aspects of the document. Before that, a majority of the council said they supported the ordinance and its mission, but weren't opposed to tweaking it.
The topic of ethics in the city has been a hot button issue since the city's Ethics Committee asked for a City Council investigation of Mayor Shirley Wadding and asked Fire Chief Ron Good to resign from one of his positions. Good is also a city councilman. Good told the council he took the issue very seriously, but didn't comment further. While Wadding said the ordinance had its merits, she said it needed additional work. While Councilman Rick Long, D-5th, said he understood some of Szarmach's interpretations, he said the Ethics Committee shouldn't be confused as a judicial body, but rather a body that makes recommendations to the City Council."We're not a court of law and we're not trying to be," Long, also a committee member, said. "We're just trying to hold people to a higher standard of living. If things are wrong or unethical, they need to be corrected." Councilman and committee member Keith Soderquist said the ordinance was enacted to set ethical standards and raise issues. "I agree nothing is perfect, but we have to at least test the ordinance," Soderquist said. "We have to start somewhere. It's a good start and a positive step." Ed Charbonneau, executive director of the Northwest Indiana Local Government Academy, also attended Thursday's council meeting and commended city officials for adopting an ethics ordinance and creating a discussion. "You're the first of the cities and towns in Northwest Indiana to have raised an issue," Charbonneau said. "It's an uncomfortable learning curve, but it's a cultural change we have to go through." The seven-member committee found Wadding violated two sections of the ethics ordinance by accepting two box-seat tickets to a May 6 Chicago Cubs game from Rieth-Riley, a contractor that does business with the city. The committee relied on an untested state law to say that Good has a conflict of interest by holding an elected office and also being a department head. They recommended he resign from one of them. Good previously told The Times that legal research was completed when he first took a council seat in 1996 and indicated no conflict existed.

From Munster Times, IN, by GINA CZARK, Times Staff Writer - 18 June 2004

 
 

State Slow Off the Mark with E-Government

Efforts by government to make its services more accessible over the internet have made little progress in the past year, with SA static at position 22 in a global scale of egovernment maturity. Government has not improved much in any of the categories used to rank the countries its best progress being a 9% improvement in the area of customer relationship management. Its score for depth of egovernment services inched up only 2%. The international rankings are compiled by Accenture. Government's goals are to supply services to citizens from cradle to grave, and to make those services accessible to everyone, at anytime and anywhere, through different access devices. "Under the current action plan, the e-government strategy is set to be implemented in six phases over a 10-year horizon," says Accenture SA senior manager Isabel Malheiro. Government already considers the first two stages to be complete, after it set up its www.gov.za central government website. A priority for this year is to reorganise service delivery into "one-stop shops" by adding government-wide information and some transactional capabilities. However, Accenture has found that citizens rarely take full advantage of online government services anywhere in the world. Most users visit government websites only for information on topics such as tourism or health, rather than online transactions such as tax submissions and applying for passports. In most countries surveyed at least 75% of respondents said that they would use e-government more if it saved them time, and 70% said they would if it saved them money. But they complained it was still too difficult to find the correct site, and easier to conduct business by telephone or in person. Online privacy concerns and internet security issues deterred 17% of people from using egovernment services. "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," says Stephen J Rohleder, CE of Accenture's government operating group. Countries leading the way in e-government, including Canada at the top, are achieving tangible savings by delivering better services and cutting their operating costs.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Lesley Stones, Business Day (Johannesburg) - 10 June 2004

Overhauling Government Operations

The Ministry of Administration and Manpower Development (MAMD) is looking to streamline government operations with a major review of the Public Service Orders. Governing the conditions of service for all government employees the PSO last came under review in 1996 and have been deemed ready for another over haul. "There is a high level of bureaucracy and too much responsibility for the Ministry (of Administration and Manpower Development)," said Marie-France Mein, Public Relations Manager at MAMD. Ms Mein said that MAMD is hoping that the PSO review will allow responsibility for certain labour issues to be delegated to the relevant ministries and divisions, rather than being referred up to MAMD. Under the review process all government and parastatal employees are being asked to contribute their suggestions for improvements to the PSO. Questionnaires currently circulating throughout the ministries ask staff to suggest any changes they feel should be made to update the PSO, as well as any additions that ought to be made.

The questionnaires are due to be returned to MAMD by June 21, with the lengthy process of compiling all of the findings giving a scheduled November release date for the first draft revised PSO. One of the issues to be addressed by the PSO review is the current 21 days annual leave system, which sees employees restricted to taking a minimum seven days leave at a time and incorporates weekends and any public holidays which fall within the leave period. MAMD is asking for the views of government workers on the possibility of changing this to a 15 working days leave system. The ministry is also asking government workers to comment on the allocation of the current 30 days sick leave, the opportunity of accumulating leave beyond 42 days and the possible allocation of 28 days unpaid leave. In addition to the issues surrounding leave MAMD is hoping for feedback on any other aspects covered by the PSO that could be improved both for individuals and for the smoother running of entire divisions.

From Seychelles Nation, Seychelles - 8 June, 2004

Government to Support E-governance

Accra - GNA - Mr Samuel N. Woode, Chairman of the Public Services Commission (PSC), on Thursday called for the strengthening of the capacity of the Commission to ensure sustainable development of the country. Mr Woode said with the Government realising that the PSC could be used as a centre of excellence to enhance public administration and good governance decided to organise a workshop to discuss modalities and to make recommendations that would be used for soliciting financial support for projects in that direction. Mr Wood was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at the ongoing workshop on E-Governance at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), near Accra. Government is to use recommendations made at the consultative workshop to solicit for financial support to continue the country's E-governance programme. Consequently, Senior Public administrators from various State Institutions taking part in the review discussions were to come out with modalities for the draft proposal, he said. The workshop, which is being organized by the PSC in collaboration with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) of the United States of America (USA), is on the theme: "Information Technology and Governance". Mr Woode said the aim of the consultations was to explore how information technology could be used to enhance human resource administration and social capital formation. Ms Valerie Lammie, Vice Chairperson of NAPA, said the discussions were to strengthen the collaboration between the two institutions and also strengthen their official partner agreement signed in January 2004. She said the workshop would help participants to explore opportunities and possibilities of using E-governance to promote transparency and accountability in public management. Ms Lammie said citizens' participation in the delivery and evaluation of public services was a positive way of ensuring responsibility. Participants included personnel from the Ministry of Communications and Technology, PSC, National Governance Programme, Ghana News Agency and Ministry of Information.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana - 3 June, 2004

One Public Service for All

Local government officials will become part of a single public service across all three levels of government, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said on Monday. Speaking after her budget debate in the National Council of Provinces, she said although talking about a single public service was "a bit of a misnomer" because the different tiers of government would still be respected, her department was looking into creating "seamless government". "People don't come to access a service from local government. They come to access a public service so for them it doesn't matter whether it's in the local government sphere, provincial or national. For them, the service is important. As we review the overall regulatory framework, we will have to take that into account." During her department's budget debate, she said a review of the public service was currently under way by the department, Treasury and the South African Local Government Association and would be finalised next month. The areas being scrutinised included corporate governance, human resources and procurement practices and the classification of public entities, she said. The department was also looking into drafting legislation to standardise conditions of service in the local government sector. "Creating an effective and professional public service requires a focus on both management and administration. Public management is mastering the art of governance, while administration is about the day-to-day systems and procedures that make governance work," she said. Last week, during the department's budget debate in the National Assembly, Fraser-Moleketi said it had become increasingly apparent that public service delivery via separate agencies with a specialised focus often did not work. Poor communities often received an "incomplete package of services" because many services like grants were accessed only through other services like identity books. She said a review was needed to make the different public entities accountable to government. A regulatory framework for public entities would be developed out of the project findings.

"Right now there's a greater move by government to ensure that there are integrated and co-ordinated services, so as we deal with a single public service we're also going to respond to those bottlenecks that slow down bureaucracy rather than make it more accessible," she said.She said the review of conditions of service pertaining to local government employees was needed to address "major disparities" between local government salaries and those paid to provincial and national government workers. "We also bear in mind that across local government there are disparities. We feel we need to work towards a situation where there is some level of uniformity," she said. She said CEOs earned considerably more than directors-general in some cases. Another problem was the different kinds of pension funds and medical aids that existed for different government employees. "Right now different sets of regulations govern the public service, as compared to local government, and we are looking at reviewing that to ensure a greater mobility of public servants because we feel people should be employed not to a post but to a service." "We want the service to cover local, provincial and national government so that if someone today is a director in a government department there's nothing that stops them from being moved to go into a municipality and vice versa," she said. - Political Bureau.

From Independent Online, South Africa by Sheena Adams - 29 June 2004

Key to the Success of Nepad is Public Service

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon has said that the African public service is key to the success of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and that civil servants should take the lead in implementing NEPAD's principles for growth. Speaking at the launch of a three-day Commonwealth Consultative Meeting on NEPAD and the Role of the African Public Service on 22 June 2004, organised by the Governance and Institutional Development Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Secretary-General stated: "African civil servants are at the heart of the effort to improve transparency and good governance. With such a major role to play, African public services must improve efficiency, deliver on better programming, and more effective implementation is required." Mr McKinnon said that NEPAD represents the boldest vision yet by Africans to tackle the challenges facing the continent and drive their own development. "It is an initiative owned by the African people and driven by the African people. NEPAD is also a basis for partnerships for countries outside Africa. Thanks to contributions from G8 and the EU, increased capital flows are being directed towards the African continent." The Secretary-General commented that the four pillars of NEPAD -- peace and security; democracy and good governance; regional co-operation and integration; and capacity-building -- parallel the Millennium Development Goals and the goals of the Commonwealth. "There is a growing partnership between NEPAD and the Commonwealth. Indeed at their meeting in Abuja, Nigeria in December 2003, Commonwealth Heads of Government reaffirmed their strong support for NEPAD. They requested the Commonwealth Secretariat to bring its various programmes in Africa within the NEPAD framework and strengthen its partnership with NEPAD. I've had meetings with Professor Wiseman Nkhulu, Chairman of the NEPAD Secretariat, to discuss issues and programmes of mutual interest and benefit to African member states. Following on from this, I have personally written to all G8 leaders to encourage them to support the African countries in advancing the goals of NEPAD."
Mr McKinnon expressed hope that this first Commonwealth consultation with the African public service will pave the way for closer collaboration and engagement in advancing the NEPAD agenda by focusing on one of the key areas of the Commonwealth Secretariat's mandate, which is reform and development of the public sector across the Commonwealth. Deputy Secretary-General Winston Cox said that the Secretariat is ready to share and transfer whatever knowledge it has gained in improving public service efficiency, so that the benefits of an efficient public service can have a positive impact on poverty eradication and sustainable socio-economic development. Professor Victor Ayeni, Director of the Governance and Institutional Development Division, reiterated the important need for African countries to align ongoing public sector reforms with the NEPAD agenda and that the Secretariat will continue to give high priority to assisting countries in this regard.



From AllAfrica.com, Africa, Commonwealth News and Information Service (London) - 24 June, 2004

Minister Commends Innovation in Public Service

Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser Moleketi has encouraged civil servants to strive for more innovation.
The minister yesterday celebrated the United Nations Public Service Day via a live video-link up to the UN headquarters in New York.
South Africa had been invited to celebrate the day along with Italy, Mexico, Morocco and the Republic of Korea in commemorating the value and virtue of public service to communities. The day's programme included the presentation of the UN Public Service Awards.
In this regard, a director in the SA Police Service (SAPS) in Limpopo received an award in the category of "Innovations in the Public Service", for the development of a Mobile Community Service Centre. Mr ML Wahab received the award for transforming a Casspir into the center, which does not only render police services but social as well as home affairs services. The project was initiated under the Department of Public Service and Administration's Integrated Provincial Support Programme. Ms Fraser-Moleketi said this development indicated the South African Public Service was innovative and able to develop unique solutions for unique problems. The minister said this innovation made government services accessible to rural communities.


From AllAfrica.com, Africa by Nombini Matomela, Cape Town, BuaNews (Pretoria) - Jun 24, 2004

 

Toppers Set Eyes on Medicine, Civil Services

TIMPHAL - For Debina Longjam of Little Flower School who topped the HSLC exam 2004, it was sheer hard work that brought her to the limelight. Her mantra for sucess is simple, a routine 4 to 5 hours study daily. With her aim focussed on a career in medicine and not IAS, she told IFP that she would prefer to pursue her further study at Central School,Langjing or Lamphel. Apart from her strict and tight study schedules, she is into reading novels, watching football and cricket and BBC news. She secured 592 marks getting star marks in English, Math, Science, Social Science and Higher math. She missed the star mark in Manipuri by a whisker securing 75 marks out of a total 100. Talking to IFP, the jubilant but shy girl said that she owed a lot to her school for the success. She had always demonstrated her calibre at school by topping her class without a break from Class II till class X. She is the youngst child of Longjam Dwijamani & Longjam ongbi Yumnam ningol Binodini of Keishamthong Longjam Leirak. Her father works as the joint director, Manipur Legislature Assembly secretariat while her mother is a lecturer of Ram Paul higher secondary school. She said she could not have reached the summit had not it been for the efforts put in by her parents, school and the valuable inputs given by her tutor Oja Meghajit, Rajen, Laxmikant, Nabakumar, Raghumani, Nilamani, JS Joseph and Birbal.

Second position holder, Lourembam Gayatri of Tiny Tots' School was not all too pleased with the second slot she has won. Like Debina, she too aims for a career in medicine and desires to continue her education at Central School, Langjing or Lamphel. Good parental care has been her biggest asset, she said. She had won laurels in several maths, science and quiz competitions. Her hobbies includes singing, listening to music, reading and TV. She secured 576 marks with star marks in Maths, Science, Social Science and Higher maths and came close to stars in English and Additional English too. The first child born to Dwijamani and Momola of Wangkhei Lourembam Leikai, she was brought up under strict parental care. Her father Dwijamani serves as AE in PWD and her mother Momola works as co-operative inspector.She started education from Nursery to Class VIII at Nirmalabas school topping all the way. After a threat of closure on all Catholic run schools, she shifted to Tiny Tots' Unique School. True to her spirit, she remained the topper in class IX and X in the new school too.The inputs given to her by oja Rajendro, Hera, Meghajit and Lakshmikant gave her the confidence, she said. Aiming to become a civil servant third position holder Takhellambam Kabichandra, youngest of the four children of retired post master Netrajit and housewife Damenti of Kwakeithel Khwairakpam Leikai put his labour four to five hours daily and extra effort during holidays. A computer savvy Kabichandra also hope to become a specialist in Physics before applying for the civil service examination. As a second topper in both class nine and ten in yearly examinations at his St Joseph School, Sangaiparou, Kabichandra also said he expect to come out with flying colours in this years Metric examinations but never expected of securing third position.

For Kabichandra's mother Damenti, his son's achievement is 'a bolt from the blue'. Filled excitements and emotions Damenti with sobs said she always expect something from his child as his son from his childhood posses some extraordinary senses and memories than his other children.The confident looking third topper Kabichandra also dedicates his achievements to his beloved teachers who were always ready to extend help when in need, parents, family members and friends who ever remained ready to extend cooperation.Giving messages to the younger generations, Kabichandra spoke of honouring and paying respect to elders and care for the ageing persons, hard work and maintaining discipline.Appealing younger generations to use their time economically, Kabichandra is also against excessive entertainments as did in this tiny state unabated round the year.

From KanglaOnline, by The Imphal Free Press, India - 13 June, 2004

E-governance Must for Better Services

Government has plans to establish wide area network in the country to achieve better result and services of the e-governance. "It is necessary to introduce the system in trade, licence, registration, legislation and other sectors", Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan said. The Minister was speaking in a roundtable on implementing e-governance system organized by Board of Investment (BOI) held at a city hotel here on Saturday.The Minister said e-governance is very important for better services, ensure transparency and enhance efficiency in the management at all levels. He said the present government is sincere to apply information technologies to all sectors. In this regard he mentioned that the government had taken programme to introduce computerization in land record and registration. The minister welcomed the BOI for introducing e-governance in the organization and hoped that foreign investors would be benefited from the system. Board of Investment (BOI) has introduced e-governance at its office in order to render better services to the investors and to ensure transparency in the organization. Executive Chairman BOI Mahmudur Rahman, president of different chamber bodies, representatives of development partners and foreign investors spoke at the conference, said an official release.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, by UNB, Dhaka - 15 May, 2004

Government Offers Brunei New Form Of Governance

Bandar Seri Begawan - With the arrival of e-government, we are at the crossroads of technological innovation and organisational change in governments. We also need to understand the evolving barriers and opportunities for further change. Shaping new forms of governance in the digital era requires knowledge of the dynamics of the electronic processes and structures in the government as well as an adequate insight in the capabilities of ICT technologies. Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hazair Bin Haji Abdullah made these remarks at the launching of the Brunei-Korea-e-Government Seminar held at the Civil Service Institute yesterday. Pehin Dato Haji Hazair said establishing an e-government provides a rare opportunity for all to scrutinise the current work processes in government. E-government will redefine how agovernment relates to citizens and businesses as well as how it relates internally to its own agencies and its own employees. He added that a successful e-government is expected to bring dramatic improvements in the coordination of government resources, better analytical tools to solve increasingly complex problems faced by modern governments and decision support tools to enhance effectiveness of public policy. Easily transmitted information can lead to the improvement in the dispensation of public services. Interactions with government will become much easier and convenient and extend beyond normal working hours.

He reiterated that e-government innovation will require addressing a broad array of issues, including organisation and policy as well as engineering practice and technology research and development. The Permanent Secretary also touched on the issue of leadership. He said any reform effort is doomed if the leadership aspect is not addressed. Much of the change or shift in paradigm will depend on how well leadership in public agencies perceived its role in bringing about effective change in organisations. Leadership elements in setting out the strategic vision and direction are extremely important. He added that we need a very strong commitment to make change. E-government requires not merely transforming a paper-based procedural system into an electronic system. The mission and the vision of what need to be achieved must be clear and stated. We must make sure we know who are to benefit and how they are going to benefit. At the same time, commitment from all levels is essential as well as continuous learning and assessment by all parties involved, as technology is not static but very dynamic. In the implementation of the e-government projects, he said due diligence has to be considered. This includes due diligence in socio-economics, business, technology, market and security. He also touched on the issue of security where it is becoming an extremely important element to the success of e-government projects as threats grow and expand on a daily basis. Therefore, it is imperative that e-government networks must be secured and be kept in pace if not ahead of the ever-evolving threats.

At the same time, Pehin Dato Haji Hazair said we should be aware of the distinctions between threat itself and the vulnerabilities within the system such as any design flaws and weaknesses in the legal framework which lead to the potential of the system being compromised. "Understanding the difference means that we will be more prepared in facing them". Learning from each other's experiences in the implementation of e-government projects should also be done. "We must gauge and see whether other countries' experiences can be applied and if so, we must take the best practices and apply it on our own. We are all fully aware of the degree of maturity in the development of e-government varies between countries where some are only at the beginning, some are evolving and some have matured." Pehin Dato Hazair urged all relevant organisations both in the government and private sectors to take advantage of this seminar, to learn something more so that missions can be furthered towards a better e-government. The seminar was co-organised by the Civil Services Institution and Brunei-Korea Association for Friendship (B-KAF) and supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. Also present at the event were Dato Paduka Awang Haji Alimin Bin Abdul Wahab, President of (B-KAF), Mr Woongnam Kim, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, government officers and invited guests. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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From Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, by Zal Zaini - 9 June, 2004

Building E-Government to Serve Community Better: Official

HONG KONG -- A small smart ID card with a computer chip inside has the capability to support other non-immigration applications, such as conducting electronic transactions and functioning as a Library Card, part of Hong Kong's E-Government efforts which have won international recognition. In a recent interview with Xinhua, the director of the Information Technology Services Department (ITSD) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, Alan Wong, said that the card has just won an international award in the United States last month in recognition of its promotion of smart technologies, after beating the employers' card of the US Department of Defense.
The E-Government Strategy, part of the Digital 21 Strategy which is Hong Kong's blueprint for IT development in the future, was initiated in 1998 and undertaken by the HKSAR government.

As an executive agency responsible for implementing the government policy on the development of Information Technology (IT) in Hong Kong, Wong noted that the department promotes and enables the extensive use of IT in government and in the community. "We also aim to enable individuals, businesses and the government to interact easily and securely through the use of IT,"he added. Up to now, some 200 websites have been erected involving 50 different governmental departments, with 90 percent of the government services amenable to the electronic mode of service delivery providing Hong Kong residents e-optition. Such kinds of service, ranging from registering for marriage license to filing tax return, total around 180. Wong pointed out with pleasure that of the 60 percent of the Hong Kong households surfing the internet, some 70 percent have enjoyed the services brought about by the E-Government Strategy. With the establishment of the various government websites, HongKong residents are bestowed with another way of communicating with government officials or bringing forward their suggestions, according to the officials, adding that WWW.gov.hk, the SAR government's information website, recorded a visit of 1.86 billionin 2003. To ensure the smooth operation of these E-Government services, the ITSD has sent 1,300 staff to these government departments to help safeguard the security of the system. In addition to the alert and experience of these technicians, electronic tools including gateway, firewall, intrusion detection system and intrusion prevention system were employed. The department also uses the platform of the E-Government to educate the public on computer security. Looking ahead, Wong said that his department is to be merged with other government departments on July 1 to oversee that e-option services of different government departments link on-line, so as to save the trouble for Hong Kong people of clicking into several websites.
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From Xinhua, China, 14 June 2004

Private Capital Dabbling in Public Service Sector in China

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- Beijing residents are aware that many new bus lines that opened in recent years are not operated by the city's only state-owned public transport company. Private capital is more frequently seen in public service sectors such as bus operation and sewage treatment, as the Chinese government gradually opens the long-state-monopolized businesses to private funds to improve their efficiency.
Beijing resident Li Lin told Xinhua that he feels there is better public service now than a few years ago. "They are more efficient and care more for our needs," he said. To provide efficient public service is one of the government's efforts to build its image as a public servant instead of a ruler,the image of "government" that deeply dwelt in Chinese culture andpeople's hearts. The government has to do so pressed by economic growth and social changes as well as the need to modernize itself, said Wang Yukai from the National School of Administration. "Without introducing more social funds, the government itself may not meet the growing demand for public service," Wang said. Monopolies and lack of policy transparency in old public service sectors caused low efficiency, misuse of government power and even corruption, he said.
The government expects market competition to improve the efficiency and quality of the services including heating, water supply, energy supply, sewage and rubbish treatment which are vital to citizens' daily lives. The country has restructured its power grids nationwide while it has welcomed foreign and domestic companies to invest in power plants and heating plants. "The reform in public service sectors will bring crucial changes to the administrative methods of Chinese government," saidProf. Qi Suyu from the National School of Administration.

From Xinhua, China - 11 June, 2004

Cost-based Pricing for Public Services

BNEW DELHI: The UPA government is keen to fix user charges for various public services. The objective of the exercise, according to official sources, is to set the standards for cost-based pricing of the services, which, in turn, would enable the government to determine the cost of subsidy or cross-subsidies among various income groups in providing these services. The cost accounting wing of the finance ministry has begun an exercise to set the user charges based on actual cost of various public services, including healthcare and postal services. It has already written to the department of post and health ministry wings such as the CGHS, asking for the requisite data. The move assumes significance against the backdrop of the UPA government's assertion in the common minimum programme that public spending in education and health would be raised. The CMP pledges to increase public spending in education to at least 6% of the GDP "in a phased manner" and that in health to at least 2-3% of GDP over the next five years with focus on primary health care. The administrative departments for health and post have been asked by the finance ministry to furnish the data in prescribed formats, sources said. The current assignment to the cost accounting wing of the ministry is only to fix the user charges in postal services and health.

However, the process of determining the user charges for public services is expected to be widened shortly, by including other public services such as quality basic education, which the CMP is committed to, and for which it proposes to introduce a cess on all central taxes. Currently, even after taking the subsidies into account, there exists a gross discrepancy between the user charges being levied on various services part-financed by the government and the actual cost of these services. While financing of the services is a drag on the exchequer, the utility of services is being questioned. For example, the central government employees, who are entitled for medical treatment at concessional rates at the CGHS dispensaries, are peeved at the fact that the CGHS units are not equipped to provide secondary or tertiary heathcare, practically nullifying the benefit of the services. This is despite the fact that an employee pays user charges for availing the CGHS benefit. A central government servant drawing a basic salary of Rs 6000 per month is required to pay Rs 70 per month for availing of the benefit. The current move to fix the user charges on the basis of the actual services is, therefore, expected to help both the government and the deserving beneficiaries of the public services.

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From The Register-Guard, Oregon, K G NARENDRANATH, Times News Network - 10 June, 2004

Brunei And Korea Expect Dramatic Changes from e-Government

Bandar Seri Begawan - Establishing e-government provides a rare opportunity for Brunei Darussalam and Korea to scrutinize the current work processes in government. The e-Government will redefine how government relates to citizens and businesses as well as how it relates internally to its own agencies and its own employees. Pehin Dato Awang Haji Hazair, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office was speaking at the opening of Brunei-Korea e-Government Seminar at the Civil Service Institute in Rimba Gadong yesterday. He said a successful e-Government is expected to bring dramatic improvements in the coordination of government resources, better analytical tools to solve increasingly complex problems faced by modern governments and decision support tools to enhance effectiveness of public policy.
The permanent secretary added that easily transmitted information can lead to the improvement in the dispensation of public services.
Interactions with government will become much easier and convenient and extend beyond normal working hours. The half-day seminar was attended by more than 150 participants from government departments and private sectors. The Civil Services Institute and Brunei-Korea Association for Friendship (BKAF) supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Brunei jointly organised the seminar. -- Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei

From Brunei Direct, Brunei Darussalam - 10 June 2004

Chinese Expects Fewer Bureaucrats, More Public Servants

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- Sixty-four-year-old Beijing resident Li Hua was surprised to find the other day that the community service center had set up a branch in his neighborhood, which saves him a lot of trouble. "I need not walk several hundred meters to the community office and elbow with others for tiny things," said the old man who has lived in Jinsong community in Beijing's Chaoyang District for years. Chaoyang District, like many other district governments in China, planned to set up many such service branches in blocks and neighborhoods. Experts are placing more significance on the new actions of communities, which are usually reckoned as the lowest reach of thegovernment. The Chinese government, from the lowest to the highest level, is trying to get rid of bureaucracy to serve people better, said Tang Tiehan, vice president of the National School of Administration. "Those now working in the community office have much better service and attitude than before," Li told Xinhua. Why things are improving is likely to be rooted in the fact that community heads, who were appointed by the local government for decades, are now chosen by direct vote. Last year about 20 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities carried out direct elections for community heads. In the countryside, China's 800 million rural residents have got used to voting for their village heads.

The government is pressed by dynamic economic growth and reformto change its administrative methods, said Li Jiangpeng with Beijing University. Under a planned economy, the government managed and distributedall the resources and now as the country seeks a market economy, the government needs to change its image from the one which grantsto the one who serves, Li said. China's new leadership has reiterated the political reform and improvement of service to the public. Chinese President Hu Jintao had said in a speech last year thatgovernments of all levels should play a better role in serving thepublic while Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had once admitted that thecountry's public service framework remains weak. The country has sped up updating its social security system, public health care framework and education. In 2002, China's government expense on education, culture and civil affairs reached 592.46 billion yuan, or 26.87 percent of thetotal, up over 14.7 billion yuan in 1978. Meanwhile more and more government officials are punished for dereliction of duty, especially in scandals where citizens' interests are seriously harmed. On Wednesday, nine officials were dismissed or received disciplinary penalties for failing to prevent a fake milk powder scandal which led to 13 deaths and malnutrition of 189 babies in Fuyang City, east China's Anhui Province. "The government is lowering its pose, but there is still a longway to go and persistent efforts to be made to reach our goal," said Prof. Qi Suyu of the National School of Administration.

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From Xinhua, China, by Wei Wu and Fu Shuangqi - 10 June 2004

China to Promote Innovation in Public Service

BEIJING (Xinhua) -- China will promote innovation in public service and exchange views in this regard with European countries, said State Councilor Hua Jianmin here Wednesday. Hua made this remark when addressing the opening ceremony of the China-Europe Senior Forum on Government Management. Hua, who is also secretary-general of the State Council and president of the Chinese National School of Administration, said the Chinese government has always attached great importance to innovation in government management. After some 20 years of opening-up and reform, China has basically set up a socialist market economic system and the functions of the governments have also changed greatly, he said. Last year the central government put out a new concept of comprehensive and sustainable development and urged local governments to promote the qualities of public service, he said. Hua said China and European countries have enjoyed sound relations and the European countries have explored government management and made fruitful achievements. China hopes this forum can be a jumping-off point to enhance bilateral exchanges and cooperation in this regard, Hua said. Before the opening ceremony, Hua met with foreign delegates of the forum. The two-day forum, with more than 200 officials and experts from some ten countries attending, is co-sponsored by the China National School of Administration and European Institute of PublicAdministration.

From Xinhua, China - 9 June 2004

Minister Outlines Public Service Reforms

FIJI needs to seriously look at reducing the size and cost of its public service, the country's Minister for Finance has said. Addressing delegates at the eighth Forum Economic Ministers' meeting in Rotorua, New Zealand, yesterday, Ratu Jone Kubuabola said this was one of the challenges Fiji was dealing with as it moves through public service reforms. He was presenting his paper on institutional reform on day one of the meeting in Rotorua, New Zealand. "The Fiji Government believes that successful public service reform can provide the catalyst, or indeed leverage, by which other institutions are strengthened in turn," he said. "The efficiency of the public sector has both a direct and indirect bearing on how effective other institutions can be." Ratu Jone said past efforts at public sector reform had been erratic. "The real push in this regard was made back in the late 1990s by the (Sitiveni Rabuka-led Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei) government, was rolled back soon after by the (People's Coalition) government and then reactivated when the present government came into power in 2001," he said.
The first of Fiji's reform measures has been its civil service reform programme, with current focus on the senior executive service scheme.
Secondly, various public service reform programmes need to be better co-ordinated by the Government's central agencies. The Public Service Act, the Finance Management Act and Public Enterprise Act need to be harmonised to ensure clear decision-making.

"Third, a partnership needs to be forged with Fiji's public sector unions to advance the reforms and ensure their sustainability. Lastly, the containment of the size of Fiji's public service and gradually reducing this to a level that does not unnecessarily hinder the provision of public goods and services, needs to be seriously addressed," he said. The FEMM will end today. FIJI needs to seriously look at reducing the size and cost of its public service, the country's Minister for Finance has said. Addressing delegates at the eighth Forum Economic Ministers' meeting in Rotorua, New Zealand, yesterday, Ratu Jone Kubuabola said this was one of the challenges Fiji was dealing with as it moves through public service reforms. He was presenting his paper on institutional reform on day one of the meeting in Rotorua, New Zealand.
"The Fiji Government believes that successful public service reform can provide the catalyst, or indeed leverage, by which other institutions are strengthened in turn," he said. "The efficiency of the public sector has both a direct and indirect bearing on how effective other institutions can be." Ratu Jone said past efforts at public sector reform had been erratic. "The real push in this regard was made back in the late 1990s by the (Sitiveni Rabuka-led Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei) government, was rolled back soon after by the (People's Coalition) government and then reactivated when the present government came into power in 2001," he said. The first of Fiji's reform measures has been its civil service reform programme, with current focus on the senior executive service scheme. Secondly, various public service reform programmes need to be better co-ordinated by the Government's central agencies. The Public Service Act, the Finance Management Act and Public Enterprise Act need to be harmonised to ensure clear decision-making. "Third, a partnership needs to be forged with Fiji's public sector unions to advance the reforms and ensure their sustainability. Lastly, the containment of the size of Fiji's public service and gradually reducing this to a level that does not unnecessarily hinder the provision of public goods and services, needs to be seriously addressed," he said.

From Fiji Times, Fiji - 10 June 2004

Government May Fix Cost-based User Charges for Public Services

NEW DELHI: The UPA government is keen to fix the user charges for various public services. The objective of the exercise, according to official sources, is to set the standards for cost-based pricing of the services, which, in turn, will enable the government to determine the cost of subsidy or cross-subsidies among various income groups in providing these services. The cost accounting wing of the finance ministry has begun an exercise to set the user charges based on actual cost of various public services, including healthcare and postal services. It has already written to the department of posts and health ministry wings such as the CGHS, asking for the requisite data. The move assumes significance against the backdrop of the UPA government's assertion in the common minimum programme (CMP) that public spending in education and health will be raised. The CMP pledges to increase public spending in education to at least 6% of the GDP "in a phased manner" and that in health to at least 2% to 3% of GDP over the next five years with a focus on primary healthcare. The administrative departments for health and posts have been asked by the finance ministry to furnish the data in prescribed formats, sources said. The current assignment to the cost accounting wing of the ministry is only to fix the user charges in postal services and health. However, the process of determining the user charges for public services is expected to be widened shortly by including other public services such as quality basic education, which the CMP is committed to and for which it proposes to introduce a cess on all Central taxes.

Currently, even after taking the subsidies into account, there exists a gross discrepancy between the user charges being levied on various services part-financed by the government and the actual cost of these services. While financing of the services is a drag on the exchequer, the utility of services is being questioned. For example, the Central government employees, who are entitled to medical treatment at concessional costs at the CGHS dispensaries, are peeved at the fact that the CGHS units are not equipped to provide secondary or tertiary healthcare, practically nullifying the benefit of the services. This is despite the fact that an employee pays user charges for availing of the CGHS benefit. A Central government servant drawing a basic salary of Rs 6,000 per month is required to pay Rs 70 per month for availing of the benefit. The current move to fix user charges on the basis of actual services is, therefore, expected to help both the government and the deserving beneficiaries of the public services. The government reckons that by imparting greater transparency into the system, misuse of the services could be reduced. This is more relevant as the public expenditure on these services is set to be raised.


From Economic Times, India, by KG NARENDRANATH - 10 June 2004

e-Govt Starts With Korean Seminar

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei Darussalam will move a step closer to implementing the nation's e-Government aspirations. Over 150 government officials and members of the private sector are expected to attend the upcoming Brunei-Korea e-Govemment Seminar tomorrow at the Civil Services Institution at Jalan Tungku Link. The Brunei-Korea e-Government Seminar, which is co-organised by Civil Services Institution and Brunei-Korea Association for Friendship (B-KAF), is supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. In a press conference, the president of B-KAF, Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Alimin bin Haji Abd Wahab disclosed to the media that the guest of honour who will be officially launching the seminar is Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato PadukaAwang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, the Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office. The seminar will explore ways that Brunei could improve its aspirations toward e-Government by learning from Korea, which is well-known for its IT development across the world. He added that B-KAF jointly organised the seminar to promote the friendship and cooperation between the people of Brunei and Korea as well as to assist government departments and other organisations with projects aiming at boosting the relations between the two countries. Dr Azaharaini Bin Haji Mohd Jamil, the Director of Civil Services Institute said that the Civil Services Institute is always keen on collaborations to act as facilitators to bring in new technology to Brunei Darussalam. The Institute also aims to promote cooperation between government and nongovernment organisations.
He added that the highlight of the seminar will be a MOU signing ceremony on IT Academic Cooperation between UBD and KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). The Director of the Civil Services Institute also introduced three prominent speakers from Korea, Professor Yeoul Hwangbo, Professor Soung Hie Kim and Mr Byung Eun Park, Deputy Director of e-Government Bureau, Korea, who will be presenting issues pertaining to implementation of e-Government. Lastly, the organising committee sent their heartfelt appreciation to the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information and Communication, Korea, Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, Korea, International Cooperation Agency for Korea IT, KAIST, UBD, Samsung SDS, LG CNS, E-prime networks and Probal Sdn Bhd. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

From Brunei Direct, Brunei Darussalam, by James Kon - 7 June, 2004

The President Outlines His Government's Priorities

The outcome of the 14th general elections in India has demonstrated the vibrancy of the world's largest democracy. It has also reaffirmed our country's yearning for a polity free from the forces of divisiveness and intolerance. The President, Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, underlined this in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament on June 7, 2004. This was his first address after the formation of the United Progressive Alliance government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The President emphasized the government's commitment towards preserving, protecting and promoting secular values and enforcing the law without fear or favour to deal with all obscurantist and fundamentalist elements that sought to disturb social amity and peace. He reiterated the government's resolve to ensure that the Indian economy grew by at least 7 to 8 per cent per year over a sustained period. This would generate assured livelihood for each family while improving the conditions of farmers, agricultural labourers and industrial workers. Empowering women and providing equal opportunities to those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and religious minorities are the other important goals of the government, Dr Kalam said. He said economic reforms would no doubt be speeded up. But such reforms must have a human face to ensure that their benefits reach the poor living in the cities and villages alike. In particular, the government stands committed to rural development by means of grassroots democracy through village panchayats and panchayati raj institutions, he said. The President added that the gram sabha would be empowered and the government would make sure that all funds for poverty alleviation and rural development are directly credited to the panchayat bodies. Dr Kalam said a substantial portion of public investments would be channelled to the villages with emphasis on bridging the rural-urban divide. The flow of agricultural credit would be stepped up and efforts made to cover more marginal farmers. The government would be especially sensitive to the debt-burden of farmers, he said.

The President stated that farmers would receive fair and remunerative prices for their produce and the government would protect their interests at negotiations in the World Trade Organization. There would be proper implementation of minimum wage laws for farm labourers, the process of land reforms would be speeded up and efforts to distribute surplus productive land to the landless would be redoubled. The environmental, ecological and techno-economic feasibility of linking the country's rivers would be carefully examined and steps would be taken to ensure that long-pending inter-state disputes on rivers, like the Cauvery water dispute, are settled amicably. He observed that the government would work with the States to draw up innovative schemes to harvest rainwater and de-silt ponds. In cities like Chennai desalination plants would be set up, wherever found viable, to tide over water shortage. With a view to providing guaranteed employment for 100 days in a year to at least one able-bodied person in each rural household, a national Employment Guarantee Act would be legislated soon and implemented in a phased manner. At least one industrial training institute would be established in each development block across the country through creative public-private partnerships and the government would earmark at least one-third of all funds flowing into panchayats for programmes relating to the development of women and children. The government would introduce legislation for one-third reservation for women in legislatures and enact laws against domestic violence and gender discrimination, Dr Kalam added. Nutrition programmes for girl children would be expanded, while a mid-day meal scheme, funded mainly by the Central government, would be introduced in a phased manner in primary and secondary schools. Schemes for the disabled and the senior citizens would be included as the government increases public spending on health to 2-3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product over the next five years.

Dr Kalam said the government would aim at increasing public spending on education to reach 6 per cent of GDP, with half the amount earmarked for primary and secondary education. A cess would be proposed on all central taxes to finance the commitment to universalise access to quality education at the base level. The government is also committed to preserving the autonomy of all institutions of higher learning, he remarked. No student would be denied professional education because of resource crunch. Academic excellence and professional competence would be the sole criteria for all appointments to bodies such as the Indian Council for Historical Research, Indian Council for Social Science Research, University Grants Commission and National Council for Educational Research and Training, the President said. Dr Kalam said the government would enact a model law to deal with communal violence and encourage the States to adopt it. The government would examine the question of providing constitutional status to the Minorities Commission and would strive for recognition and promotion of the Urdu language. On the Ayodhya issue, the President said the government would await the verdict of the courts while encouraging negotiations between parties to the dispute for an amicable settlement which, in turn, must receive legal sanction. The government is committed to implement the Protection of Places of Worship Act, 1992. The government also intends to initiate a dialogue with political parties, industry and other bodies on how best the private sector can fulfill the aspirations of the SCs and STs. Reservation quotas in government, including those relating to promotions, would be fulfilled in a time-bound manner and a legislation would be enacted to codify all policies on reservations, the President noted. Social security, health insurance and other schemes for unorganized workers, fisherfolk, toddy tappers, leather workers, plantation labour and beedi workers would be expanded. Public-private partnerships would be encouraged for expansion of roads, ports, airports, power, railways, water supply and sanitation schemes. Public investment in infrastructure would be enhanced and subsidies would be explicitly provided through the budget, he said.

To reduce regional imbalances, the government would alleviate the States' debt burden. All non-statutory resource transfers from the central government would be weighted in favour of poor and backward states and the government would consider establishing a Backward States Grant Fund, Dr Kalam stated. A new commission to look into centre-state relations would be established. The National Development Council and the Inter-State Council would be activated and made more effective instruments of cooperative federalism. The demand for Telangana State would be considered. Dr Kalam emphasised that the government would respect Article 370 of the Constitution giving a special status to Jammu and Kashmir in letter and spirit. Terrorism, militancy and insurgency in the North-East would be tackled as a matter of urgent national priority. The government would examine the question of declaring all languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution as official languages. Tamil would be declared a classical language, Dr Kalam said. The government would also establish an Administrative Reforms Commission, promote e-governance and make the Right to Information Act more progressive, participatory and meaningful. It would cut judicial delays, expand legal aid services, consider steps to introduce State funding of elections and introduce transparency in governance to curb corruption, he remarked. Dr Kalam said the government is committed to a strong and effective public sector that would be provided full autonomy. Chronic loss-making companies would either be sold-off or closed after workers got their legitimate compensation. Privatization should increase competition, not decrease it, he said, adding that there should be a direct link between privatization and social needs, like the use of revenues generated through privatisation for the designated social sector schemes. Public sector companies and nationalised banks will be encouraged to enter the capital market.

The President reiterated the government's commitment to repeal POTA. He said the government would support the peace initiative in Sri Lanka that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all sections of the people of that country while respecting its territorial integrity and solidarity. Outstanding issues with Bangladesh would be resolved. Trade with China would be expanded while talks on the boundary question would be pursued purposively. The President made it clear that India would pursue an independent foreign policy on all regional and global issues and reorient the role of non-alignment in a globalizing world scenario. Dr Kalam observed that the government is committed to fostering multi-polarity in the world's political and economic system. Dr Kalam concluded that democracy has been described as a periodic redistribution of power. The people of India have spoken loud and clear.

From Press Information Bureau (press release), India , 10 June 2004

Inertia an Obstacle to E-government Transformation

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei Darussalam will move a step closer to implementing the nation's e-Government aspirations. Over 150 government officials and members of the private sector are expected to attend the upcoming Brunei-Korea e-Govemment Seminar tomorrow at the Civil Services Institution at Jalan Tungku Link. The Brunei-Korea e-Government Seminar, which is co-organised by Civil Services Institution and Brunei-Korea Association for Friendship (B-KAF), is supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. In a press conference, the president of B-KAF, Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Alimin bin Haji Abd Wahab disclosed to the media that the guest of honour who will be officially launching the seminar is Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato PadukaAwang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, the Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office. The seminar will explore ways that Brunei could improve its aspirations toward e-Government by learning from Korea, which is well-known for its IT development across the world. He added that B-KAF jointly organised the seminar to promote the friendship and cooperation between the people of Brunei and Korea as well as to assist government departments and other organisations with projects aiming at boosting the relations between the two countries. Dr Azaharaini Bin Haji Mohd Jamil, the Director of Civil Services Institute said that the Civil Services Institute is always keen on collaborations to act as facilitators to bring in new technology to Brunei Darussalam. The Institute also aims to promote cooperation between government and nongovernment organisations.
He added that the highlight of the seminar will be a MOU signing ceremony on IT Academic Cooperation between UBD and KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). The Director of the Civil Services Institute also introduced three prominent speakers from Korea, Professor Yeoul Hwangbo, Professor Soung Hie Kim and Mr Byung Eun Park, Deputy Director of e-Government Bureau, Korea, who will be presenting issues pertaining to implementation of e-Government. Lastly, the organising committee sent their heartfelt appreciation to the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information and Communication, Korea, Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, Korea, International Cooperation Agency for Korea IT, KAIST, UBD, Samsung SDS, LG CNS, E-prime networks and Probal Sdn Bhd. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

From Brunei Direct, Brunei Darussalam, by James Kon - 7 June, 2004

Slow but Steady Progress Expected of Thailand's E-government

Thailand is still trailing its neighbours in offering online services that best serve its people, according to Surapong Suebwonglee, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) minister. Singapore, Malaysia, China and the Philippines were all doing a better job of using electronic technology in providing public services, Dr Surapong said at a meeting yesterday on the e-government action plan. In a recent international survey of e-government performance, Singapore ranked second while Thailand had no place in the ranking, he said.
He said another survey by US-based Brown University ranked 2,166 web sites of 198 countries that offered e-government services. It ranked Thailand 42nd, while Singapore placed first, Malaysia eighth, China 12th and the Philippines 15th. Dr Surapong acknowledged that Thailand had little progress to show in the 14 months since the government began its e-government drive. However, he was optimistic that the pace of progress would improve as each ministry and each department had begun programmes at different times. He cited the Revenue Department as one of the top performers others should emulate in offering online services to best serve the people. According to a recent ICT Ministry report, most government agency web sites still offered information only and few interactive exchanges with users. Khunying Dhipawadee Meksawan, the ministry's permanent secretary, said the ministry had set a three-year target to provide comprehensive e-government services.
Details of the initiative, placing people at the centre of the e-government model, are available at www.ecitizen.go.th.



From Asia Pacific Media Network, by Komsan Tortermvasana - 7 June, 2004

Public Servants to Set IT Training for Improved Efficiency

The public will soon have the opportunity of obtaining documents such as copies of title deeds, birth certificates and marriage certificates from Kachcheris, 22 District Secretariats and 327 Divisional Secretariats within a few minutes as all District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries, Land Registries and their staff will be trained in Information Technology to deliver effective public service. The Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs, Amarasiri Dodangoda, told the "Sunday Observer" that his Ministry had formulated a plan to promote utilisation of modern IT at all Kachcheris, Divisional Secretariats and District Secretariats to improve the staff so they can deliver a better and effective public service. He emphasised that due to long delays in obtaining necessary documents from state institutions, many people are inconvenienced as they are forced to make several visits to these institutions to obtain their documents. Minister Dodangoda pointed out that apart from Sri Lankans, foreign investors had also been discouraged to invest in Sri Lanka due to persistent delays in obtaining the relevant documents from these institutions and added that the introduction of IT would eliminate unnecessary delays in issuing documents to the public. He added that he had taken the initiative to make the public service more efficient, catering to public development requirements.
The Minister further noted that his Ministry had prioritised the introduction of IT, which would ensure an efficient and effective public service, responsive to the aspirations of the people and national priorities identified by the UPFA government. According to Minister Dodangoda, after Independence the public administration machinery had proceeded without any changes, with obsolete rules and regulations and had become a barrier for the accelerated economic development process of the country. To successfully implement the programme, a committee comprising Director, Human Resources Unit of the Ministry of Public Administration, Director, Training Institute of the Ministry and Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration will be appointed shortly.



From Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka, by Don Asoka Wijewardena - 5 June, 2004

 

Pay Rate Recovery Threatens E-gov Work

Public sector could lose contractors lured back to private sector by better pay. The public sector could face a serious IT skills shortage if contractors working on e-government projects are lured back to the private sector by rising rates of pay. New research from payroll specialist Giant Group shows that the public sector is now the UK's second-largest employer of IT contractors. Giant Group's Contractor Confidence Index for the first quarter of 2004 found that more than a fifth (20.5 per cent) of contractors now work in the public sector, compared to just 12.4 per cent six months ago. The largest employer of contractors is the support services sector, which accounts for 22 per cent of the market, while financial services slips down to third position with 20 per cent. Matthew Brown, managing director of Giant Group, said: "The public sector traditionally employs a fairly low proportion of contract workers, but next year's e-government deadline has driven unprecedented demand for IT skills." But contractors were also confident about a more general pick-up in the market - particularly in the financial services sector, where respondents anticipate the highest growth in opportunities over the next 12 months.

"Contract positions in the public sector don't pay so well. As people are pulled back into the private sector, the public sector will find it much harder to attract the best workers. The only way they'll be able to do so is by increasing rates," said Brown. "The question is whether public sector organisations have factored this likely rate increase into their budgets. If they want the skills then they're going to have to compete. And if they don't compete, they won't get the staff." Two-thirds of contractors expect their earnings to increase this year, compared to just 45 per cent last year. Only eight per cent expect to earn less, in sharp contrast to 28 per cent a year ago. Overall, said Brown, the results were very positive for IT contractors. "Times are better to be a temporary worker. The chances of them being out of work between contracts has reduced significantly and there are signs of growth across the board. I'm normally pretty conservative, but I'd say we're definitely on the edge of recovery," he said.

From What PC?, UK, by James Mortleman - 11June, 2004

E-gov Initiative onto Next Phase

£240m available to local authorities for IT spending. A further £240m could become available to local authorities as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) looks to implement the next phase of its Implementing E-Government (IEG) strategy. Every local authority in England - there are about 480 - can claim an additional £350,000 this year and £150,000 next year as part of the fourth phase of IEG (IEG4). The public sector has been a huge source of revenue for the IT industry, and resellers have been cashing in on local authority e-government initiatives.
Rod Matthews, director of e-government programmes at Knowsley Metropolitan Borough council, said IEG4 will be more challenging than previous deployments. "IEG1, 2 and 3 were based around the achievement of 100 per cent electronic service delivery, but now it will be how you are doing in relation to primary objectives," he said. "The ODPM has not detailed what the latest funds will be spent on, but it has talked about them being earmarked for specific projects such as joined-up government." Paul Rennuci, managing director of public-sector VAR Damovo, said there is a lot of activity in the public sector. "Joined-up government is about linking databases and applications, but we are seeing a lot of demand for networking equipment to provide access to these," he said. Rennuci added that the channel has an important role in supporting local authorities. "IT is not something they want to commit too much of their resources to, because they are focused on services to citizens," he said. "We are seeing a lot of demand for managed services that are (predictable) regular investments."

From VNUNet.com, UK , by Karl Flinders, Computer Reseller News - 14 June 2004

Closer Look at E-government

Only five of the 26 councils in Northern Ireland are geared up to enable customers to make online payments, it was disclosed today.
The finding emerged in a survey carried out by the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA). The details were given at a conference at Craigavon Civic Centre on e-government, the initiative designed to use technology to improve the delivery of public services.
NILGA established that although every council had a website, and 17 published council minutes online, only five were genuinely interactive.
Heather Moorhead, NILGA chief executive, said: "Only five councils allow customers to perform full transactions online, including online payments, the rest forcing the customer to use post and traditional channels to deliver payments and forms - thus removing the main benefit of transacting online. "The results of our survey suggest that the various councils are placing a different priority on the issue of e-government, and that each is at a different stage in e-government adoption. "The truth is that most councils are developing their e-government strategies in isolation. "Given that many of e-government's major benefits will only be realised if councils work together, share experience, gain economies of scale and reduce duplication across the sector, it is clear than this situation must be addressed."


From Belfast Telegraph (subscription), UK, By Robin Morton, Business Correspondent - 14 June 2004

A New Approach to the Delivery of Public Services

IN all that has been written about the Review of Public Administration there is a risk that the single most important issue will become lost in the forest of words - why bother? Unless the outcome of the exercise delivers real and meaningful benefits there is a temptation not to engage in the process at all. The IoD's model for running Northern Ireland reflects the view of business people that what we need most is the efficient and effective delivery of public services based on sound business principles and good management practice. Not for the sake of it, but because it would bring better quality and more cost-effective public services. Our model assumes a stable devolved Executive. Central government would concentrate on policy and strategy and provide the necessary information to Ministers on the delivery of public services.
It seems inherently sensible that policy should be set for Northern Ireland by local Ministers rather than Direct Rule Ministers who will always have an eye on what is happening in Whitehall when shaping policy and strategy. Departments would set the strategy within which public services would be delivered. The services themselves would be carried out by the most appropriate body and organised on a more cost effective basis. The number of delivery bodies would be reduced to the minimum.

Organisations would deliver local services on a Northern Ireland wide basis, bringing economies of scale and a strategic approach across the province. Services should not be a public monopoly but involve a mix of public, private and voluntary sectors. Many great voluntary and community bodies (in social services, for example) already deliver services more cost-effectively and flexibly than the public sector can. This should be encouraged and extended. Also the private sector should be more involved in delivering services. Why can't garages, for example, do MOT tests or the private sector be responsible for waste management facilities? Organisations would be required to cost and reduce expenditure on "administration" and savings would be used to improve front line services. This means less money spent on "administration" and more money on direct services - hardly a bad thing. The review of public administration is not just about structures - the way business is done is extremely important. A closer scrutiny of the costs of service delivery would end, for example, the practice - pointed out recently by the Public Accounts Committee - of excessive sick leave (which in one Northern Ireland public body ran at 22 days per person per year). It would also allow for a more effective use of technology to deliver services to the citizen.

What does all this mean for the size of the public sector? In the first place it is important to recognise that public services come at a cost.
It is not sustainable to treat access to public services as one would a free bar at a wedding. The overall policy goal should be a reduction in the size of the public sector - and thus the "cost" of administration - and an increase in the size of the private sector in Northern Ireland - moving resources to front line services. While the number of Ministers could remain the same, our view is that the number of central government departments should decrease. In this situation Ministers would have a portfolio that cuts across more than one department (as is the situation in Scotland). Within the context of a strong Assembly, we do not believe that Northern Ireland needs - or the tax/rate payer should have to fund - a substantial layer of government at local level. People have a right to expect a common level of service provision and quality right across Northern Ireland provided by the most appropriate and cost effective organisation. The IoD model suggests that the 26 district councils would therefore be replaced by a number of consultative councils which would deliver few, if any, additional services. They would, however, appraise, scrutinise and provide public comment on public services at a local level. This means a rethinking of the role of "local" government. There is a need for a real debate here and the creation of "super councils" should not be taken for granted. The system of accountability we propose is for policy to be decided by Ministers and subject to the scrutiny of the Assembly and its committees.

Departments and service organisations would be answerable to Ministers and the Assembly committees. The consultative councils would bring to the attention of Ministers, MLAs and the Assembly any matters of local concern about the quality and performance of any service provider. Clearly, the importance of the public sector in the life of Northern Ireland cannot be underestimated - as an employer and as a key ingredient to the overall quality of life. The timescale for change will be long - possibly 5-10 years. The size of the public sector is an area that has been debated in Northern Ireland for many years. Now is the time to develop exact and specific ideas on how the transition in public services might be managed and to take action to implement them. Why bother? - because we cannot afford not to.


From Belfast Telegraph (subscription), UK - 14 June 2004

Public Service Choice is a Left-wing Concept, Says Reid

Ministers are preparing to release proposals to give people more choice in public services as they mount a fight back after Labor's poor results in last Thursday's local and European elections. A new round of reforms to deliver "personalized" public services for consumers will be the "big idea" in five-year plans for health, education, transport and the Home Office to be released in the next few weeks. The drive will be launched this week by John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, who will argue that "choice" is a left-wing, rather than a right-wing, concept. He will reject criticism by Labor advisers who believe that people are confused by "choice" and want good local hospitals and schools rather than the chance to shop around. Mr. Reid wants to create a key dividing line at the general election between Labor's offer of more choice to patients as to where they are treated - at NHS or private hospitals - and the Tories' plan to meet up to 60 per cent of the cost when people opt for private treatment through "patients' passports." In an article to be published by the Policy Review journal, Mr. Reid said the "left argument" for choice is that it already existed in health and education for those who could afford it. "A large check book not only buys you better provision but it also buys you the right to choose that provision," he said. "But most people are prevented from doing that by lack of wealth."

The Health Secretary cited Margaret Thatcher's comments, when she was Prime Minister that she went private to be treated at the time, by the surgeon and at the hospital she wanted. "What she wanted for her family, I want to make available for every family - without them having to pay," he wrote. Mr. Reid admitted some critics argued working people were not "up to" choice, adding: "They appear to believe that there is something inherently left-wing in telling working people what to do. They are wrong." The real left-wing argument should be about empowerment. But, he added, some critics wanted empowerment for everything except public services. "It would, quite frankly, be absurd for us to try to refuse to extend to the public services the benefits of consumerism that have been won by working people in many other aspects of their lives." Mr. Reid said such empowerment would also ensure that services were more likely to meet the needs of working people, retain their support and drive the improvement of services as people shop around. Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said the plans would ensure the Government continued "to improve the quality of public services so that everybody gets a better range of personal choice dealing with their own circumstances".

Fro
From Independent, UK, by Andrew Grice - 14 June 2004

Public Service Staff Reach out to Community

A £250,000 programme is to be launched in the North West to help change the way public services are delivered. The two-year initiative, entitled Western Area Statutory Outreach Programme, will involve the placement of statutory sector employees with community organisations for two days a week over a twelve-month period. Organisers hope that this will lead to greater partnership between the statutory and community sectors in the delivery of public services. The programme, funded by the Department of Social Development, will be co-ordinated by the Western Investing for Health Partnership (WIHP). WIHP Manager Brendan Bonner encouraged local groups to become involved.
"The programme's ultimatum aim is to try to change the way public services are delivered," said Mr Bonner. "We need to ensure that we can develop a strong ethos in the statutory sector to have a better understanding of the needs of communities and help to mainstream a community development approach across the wider statutory partners." Mr Bonner said the statutory sector often lacked the capacity or tools to work in partnership with their main partners and stakeholders. "Hopefully, this project will enrich the statutory sector capacity to support our community and voluntary partners," he added. The initiative will be supported by several community organisations, including the North West Community Network, Oakleaf Rural Community Network, Strabane and District Community Network and Omagh Forum.

From Belfast Telegraph (subscription), UK, by Ciaran O'Neill - Jun 9, 2004

EU to Lunch Europe-wide Public Services Portal

The EU has issued revised plans for the development of an online public services portal. The portal, to be known as 'Your Europe', is hoped to become the EU's main Web site offering cross border e-government services for businesses and citizens. A pilot version of the portal is to run until the end of 2004 after which the EU will launch a "fully operational" service, according to the plans. The EU is moving ahead with the portal despite earlier reports acknowledging the difficulties with the initiative. A report at the end of last year said: "Behind the political will, it should be noted that there are huge practical difficulties involved in coordinating such a type of portal. All EU national administration Web sites are structured in their own unique way, providing different levels of information on their public services, according to their importance and availability locally." The latest report signalled the intent to link with national governments. "What is envisaged is in fact a two-way relationship, whereby national/local portals will also be able to draw on the resources made available through the EU Portal (notably the information at EU level, the information and interactive services from the other administrations and even the information on their own national administration translated into the most commonly used EU languages)," it said. Services to be offered through the portal include VAT number validation, social security, guidance on education opportunities and employment information. The plans include a "multi-channel" approach with the possibility of offering services through kiosks, digital TV, call centres and mobile technology.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK - 10 June 2004

E-gov Spending Will 'Keep Going'

Public sector investment in IT will continue beyond the 2005 e-government deadline, helping to fill channel coffers, according to research from IDC. The analyst has claimed that spending on IT in local and central government, and healthcare in western Europe will be worth more than $58bn by 2008. Between 2003 and 2008 central government IT spending will increase from $22.4bn to $29.6bn, while the local government sector will rise from $15.9bn to $21.1bn, said IDC. In separate research IDC predicted hardware, software and IT services in the healthcare sector will be worth $8.8bn by 2008, compared with $6bn in 2003. Massimiliano Claps, senior research analyst at IDC, said spending is increasing as governments move towards "citizen-oriented and leaner organisations", with integrated e-government systems. "I don't think the 2005 deadline to have all services online will be met before mid-2006," Claps said. "But even when the targets are reached, investment will continue." Rod Matthews, director of e-government programmes at Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, agreed spending will continue. "The target will change to data sharing between public-sector bodies," he said. But Matthews said the view that the 2005 targets will not be reached until mid-2006 is pessimistic. "We expect to have an electronic system for all services by the end of 2005," he said. Dave Meaden, public-sector managing director of VAR Northgate Information Systems, said e-government is the first step in bringing disparate public bodies together. "We are seeing this in our work with local government, where county and district councils share information," he said.


From VNUNet.com, UK, by Karl Flinders, Computer Reseller News - 6 June, 2004

E-government Site Proves too Ambitious

The website, www.ch.ch, offer access to administrative services at a federal, cantonal and local level. It is available in Switzerland's four national languages and English. The federal authorities have made it clear they want Switzerland to set an international example when it comes to virtual government. Online strategy: In 2000, they came to an agreement with the cantons and the communes to develop the site as part of a long-term e-government project. Under the plans, civil servants would be able to access information held on the site using a password and contact different authorities on a whole range of issues. But in a review of the plans last autumn the cantons called for a re-think of the online strategy. Senior government official Hanna Muralt-Müller said the review had been undertaken because of the complexity and cost of the project. Reduced contribution: The cantons are opposed to an internet portal offering the possibility of interactive web services. They want to contribute a reduced sum of SFr1.2 million ($960,000) to the project out of a total budget of SFr3.6 million. Although there is disagreement about the content of www.ch.ch, Claudio Riesen of canton Graubünden said the cantons were fully behind the initiative. "The project is unique in its field and the cantons in particular are looking forward to it," he said. Pilot projects: Riesen said that though the site would not now have interactive elements, individual cantons could take part in other internet pilot projects run by the federal authorities.One project currently underway in canton Neuchâtel is aiming to identify who is most likely to use online e-government services. The second involves the Federal Court and envisages the automatic exchange of information between cantonal authorities. The two projects will be completed by the end of the year, after which the cantons will be able to decide if they wish to pursue them. "I am very happy because at least five cantons have already indicated they want to pursue the development of pilot projects leading to interactivity," commented Muralt-Müller. "It was always clear that we first had to pass the stage of a portal which only offered information," she added.


From swissinfo, Switzerland - 2 June, 2004

Swiss Scale Down E-government Plans

Swiss canton authorities are blocking central efforts to develop transactional e-government services. Switzerland is to scale down its e-government plans, offering only online information rather than transactional services, according to reports on 3 June, 2004. The Swiss Government's main website will not be as ambitious as originally planned, after some of the country's canton authorities refused to pay the full cost of the development. A review of the e-government programme was conducted after objections were raised over its cost and complexity. Cantons were opposed to the main portal offering interactive services and wanted to make a reduced contribution of SFr1.2m (£500,000) to the project out of a total budget of SFr3.6m (£1.57m). The Swiss federal authorities have been keen to make progress with e-government after a report earlier this year showed a lack of awareness among the public about the programme. The study, published by the Bern University of Applied Sciences, found that just 12 percent of the population are going online to communicate with the Swiss authorities. The federal government was aiming to move Switzerland up from the bottom of Europe's e-government rankings. Instead of offering e-services centrally, Swiss public authorities are to participate in a number of local e-government pilot projects. One project underway in the Neuchâtel canton aims to identify people most likely to use online e-government services, the Swissinfo news service reported. Another involves the Swiss Federal Court and concerns the automatic exchange of information between cantonal authorities.


From ZDNet.co.uk, UK - 3 June, 2004

London's E-government Launches IT Project 'Library'

London's e-government programme has launched a new Web site intended to act as an online "library" for IT projects in the capital.
The site, launched on Monday, offers e-government information, email alerts and extranet facilities for sharing data. It has been designed according to guidelines set by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The London Connects programme may have a new Web site but it is yet to set up a public services portal, first promised in 1998. The portal was intended to be a single entry point for all public and voluntary services in the capital. London Connects is now finally making progress on the £2m portal project. Potential IT suppliers have until 14 June, 2004, to submit tenders for the portal contract.

From PublicTechnology.net, UK , 9 June 2004

Effective E-gov: Think Customers

Customer-centred thinking, efficient processes and collaborative multi-agency working are the keys to effective e-government, according to new guidelines from the Buy-IT Best Practice Group. The joint user/supplier group, whose members include Rolls-Royce, Reuters, Nestl' and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, has published a nine-point framework for successful delivery of e-government projects and an e-government readiness checklist for public sector organisations. The effective reform of public services through IT requires an understanding of users' needs, delivery processes efficiently organised to meet those needs, and people, departments and organisations collaborating to deliver, says Buy-IT's report Framework for E-Government: Delivering E-Enabled Public Service Reform.

The nine elements of Buy-IT's delivery framework for this are:
" Having informed, business-savvy leadership
" IT must be put squarely in the context of the overall programme
" Deep understanding of who customers are and a compelling value proposition
" A clear funding and procurement strategy with inbuilt flexibility
" Identify and build stakeholders who will encourage use of a service
" Rigorous performance management
" Effective programme management - ie the ability to manage portfolios of projects
" Effective change management of culture and process through "change champions"
" Capability development through continuous coaching and mentoring.


From ComputerWeekly.com, UK - 14 June, 2004

E-government Systems Present New Ways to Uncover Fraud

The roll-out of electronic services will provide government agencies with new techniques to combat benefit, social security and tax fraud, according to the National Audit Office. Peter Lilly, audit manager at the NAO, said the roll-out of online services would present departments with new opportunities to check for fraudulent claims electronically. "When designing online services, there are opportunities for departments to build in processes to carry out checks on those transactions to identify patterns," he said. Fraud costs government departments billions of pounds a year. Customs and Excise loses about £12bn a year through VAT fraud and errors, and prescription, optical and dental fraud cost the NHS £100m a year. Data matching is already being used by several government departments to identify fraud, and this is likely to be extended in the future, said Lilly. For example. Customs exchanges information with the Inland Revenue to identify businesses that have disappeared into the shadow economy and are not registering VAT. "The next stage of development must be to bring data matching into the process as a matter of course, but departments will need to make sure they are complying with the Data Protection Act," said Lilly. This could be accompanied by increased data sharing between government departments and private sector bodies to identify potential fraud. "Collaboration does take place, but it is not as extensive as people might wish. There is collaboration on money laundering. It could be that more collaboration with the private sector takes place in future," said Lilly.

From ComputerWeekly.com, UK - 14 June, 2004

E-envoy Office Moves to e-Government

The Prime Minister Tony Blair, with the agreement of the Minister for the Cabinet Office, has recently welcomed the appointment of Ian Watmore as the new Head of e-Government. Ian Watmore will be accountable to Douglas Alexander, Minister for the Cabinet Office, and report to Sir Andrew Turnbull, Cabinet Secretary. The e-Government Unit, which will be based in the Cabinet Office, will work with departments to deliver efficiency savings while improving the delivery of public services by joining up electronic government services around the needs of customers. It will also provide sponsorship of Information Assurance. Andrew Pinder was appointed the Government's e-Envoy in October 2000. While much of the Office of the e-Envoy has made the transition to the e-Government Unit, Andrew remains in post as e-Envoy until the end of July. The role of the e-Envoy is to ensure that the country, its citizens and its businesses derive maximum benefit from the knowledge economy; working to meet the Prime Minister's target for internet access for all who want it by 2005; and supporting work across Government to develop the UK as a world leader for electronic business. The Government believes that major progress has been made towards these targets over the last few years, hence the change of emphasis to focus most future effort on helping the public sector make best use of imformation technology. This has led to the appointment of Ian Watmore as Head of e-Government. The major part of the Office of the e-Envoy was due to start its transition into the e-Government Unit from Wednesday 2 June in preparation for Ian Watmore taking up the post in September. Specific responsibilities of the e-Government Unit will be:

* strategy: developing policy and planning for ICT within Government and providing an element of programme management for implementation, to support the Government's objectives for public service delivery and administrative efficiency.

* architecture: providing policy, design, standards, governance, advice and guidance for ICT in Central Government; commissioning Government-wide infrastructure and services; and addressing issues of systems integration with other levels of government (e.g. EU, Devolved and Local).

* Innovation: providing high-level advice to Government bodies on innovative opportunities arising from ICT to improve efficiency.

* IT Finance: in partnership with OGC, monitoring major IT projects in Government and advising on major investment decisions.

* IT HR: Head of the IT Profession in Government and leading its professional development.

* Projects: undertaking ad hoc policy and strategy studies as necessary to support Ministers, the Prime Minister's Office, Cabinet Office or the Treasury.

* Research: identifying and communicating key technology trends, opportunities, threats and risks for Government.

* Security: overseeing Government IT security policy, standards, monitoring and assurance, and contingency planning for the critical national infrastructure (the functions of the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance, a responsibility of the current e-Envoy).

* Supplier Management: in partnership with OGC, managing the top-level relationship with strategic suppliers to Government and conducting supplier analysis.

From Managing Information, UK - 17 June 2004

Blair and Howard Rethink Public Service Reforms

Prime Minister Tony Blair today announced a "change of gear" in public service reforms, after the Tories also set out their chosen battleground for the next general election. Conservative leader Michael Howard joined the premier in citing public sector reform to be the key, promising patients and parents the "right to choose" in the NHS and schools. The premier and the opposition leader both sought to move on from their parties' poor showings in last Thursday's elections, Mr Blair holding his monthly No 10 press conference and Mr Howard making a keynote speech. The Prime Minister promised ministers would now move "further and faster" to improve schools and hospitals and other services. And he said voters did not want the Government to change direction, but wanted reassurance that it was on track to deliver the promises it offered in 1997. Mr Blair pointed out that although Labour had lost heavily in local councils, the Tories had not done well in Manchester or Birmingham - indicating voters did not see them as the next Government. And he dismissed Liberal Democrat gains, saying the party found it difficult to keep control of authorities and made "a mess" of government. Mr Blair declared: "Now is not the time for a change of direction, but it is the time for a change of gear." The Premier said the Government had laid the foundations for improved schools and hospitals. Ministers would set out the next steps to go "further and faster" in the coming months. Health Secretary John Reid is expected to lead the charge, publishing his department's plans in the middle of next week. Other ministers will follow, publishing five-year plans to flesh out the next steps in reform. Mr Blair said there had already been real progress in schools, hospitals, on reducing crime and tackling asylum.He went on: "We want to take all of this further ... we have laid the foundations and it's precisely because of that success that we can go further and faster and the agenda now is to base these services around the needs of those who use them. "Put the patient first, put the law-abiding citizen first, put the parent and child first." Mr Blair added: "No politician can afford to be deaf to the voice of the electorate, there are clearly big challenges ahead for the country."

He said: "What people want to know is the programme upon which we were elected in 1997, the values that underpinned that programme, the position that we have and I have personally as Prime Minister remains the same." They wanted to know that issues of a strong economy, public services, social justice, law and order "still drive me and get me up in the morning and want to do the job - and they are". Under questioning, Mr Blair said he did not think the drive for deeper reform would lead to further confrontations with his party. Mr Howard announced changes to his social policies today, accompanying his shadow cabinet reshuffle yesterday. His party is to drop the terms "patient's passport" and "pupil's passport" and rename the policy offering greater flexibility "the right to choose". Under a Conservative government, patients would be able to choose which hospital they were treated in and parents would be given a far greater say over the school their children attend, said Mr Howard in a speech in London. Mr Howard also outlined the investment to pay for the reforms. A Tory government would put an extra £34 billion a year into the NHS and an extra £15 billion a year into schools every year over the next Parliament.That was a direct attempt to counter Labour charges that a Tory government would cut public spending by £18 billion. The name of the new Tory plan is deliberately borrowed from Margaret Thatcher's famous Right to Buy policy which gave council tenants the chance to buy their homes. But Mr Howard anticipated Labour charges of privatisation, insisting this time round there would be no payment. "Our ambition is to give everyone the kind of choice in health and education that today only people with money can buy," said the Tory leader. "We will give parents and patients the right to choose because that is the only way to deliver first class standards in health and education. We will invest more to achieve that reform - investment to the tune of an extra £49 billion-a-year in health and schools. "And we will trust people, not politicians, to decide what is best for them and their families." Mr Howard said details of the new policy would be spelled out in the months to come. Liberal Democrat parliamentary chairman Matthew Taylor said: "Even Margaret Thatcher didn't dare to divert so much money from the NHS and local schools into the private sector. "Yet that is precisely what Michael Howard is doing, no matter what he cares to call it. "Michael Howard's policy amounts to taking millions out of the NHS and schools to subsidise those already wealthy enough to afford private healthcare and education." And on Mr Blair's attempt to kick-start public service reforms, Mr Taylor said: "The electorate are fed up with a Labour Government that won't listen. "So long as Tony Blair makes it clear that he will learn no lessons from Labour's election defeats, Liberal Democrats will continue to win in Labour heartlands."

From Belfast Telegraph (subscription), by Jon Smith, Political Editor, PA News - 17 June 2004

E-government 'Not Yet Serving Citizens'

E-government progress in this country still has much room for improvement, the chief executive of Citizens Advice claimed on 23 June, 2004.Speaking at the GCExpo conference, David Harker said current electronic services are neither user friendly nor customer focused.
"Much more needs to be done," he said. "There is a real danger of services only being used once, leaving the Government with the problem of trying to persuade users to return." Harker said electronic services need to be better, faster, and easier to use than traditional services. "The focus must be on people, not on technology," he commented. Citing the intermediary work done by Citizens Advice, he called for more assistance and clarity from central government as to how his organisation can better serve citizens. Harker said the Government's approach to using Citizens Advice as an intermediary with the public had been too cautious, although some good work had been done with the Department of Work and Pensions on disability claims. Leadership in the public sector remains weak in many areas, said Harker, but he added that there were many examples of good project management appearing across the public sector and "enormous potential to improve service delivery which can be combined with efficiency savings across departments". Citizens Advice is running a £20m, two-year project to create a Virtual Private Network infrastructure for more than 800 citizens advice bureaux in England and Wales. The award-winning Citizens Connect scheme is intended to provide an electronic case recording and filing system and provide wider general access to e-government services by October 2004.


From ZDNet.co.uk, UK - 24 June, 2004

EU consumers Favour Competition but Want Guarantees on Public Services

Two surveys published today provide for the first time both quantitative and qualitative data on consumers' satisfaction with services of general interest (such as telecommunications, energy, post, water, transport) in the enlarged European Union. The results depict a very varied picture of attitudes according to the services and countries concerned. The qualitative study conducted in the 25 Member States shows that access and quality are in general satisfactory. Consumers are less satisfied with prices for fixed telephone services, postal services (except ordinary mail) and inter-city rail services. Competition is seen as a tool for cheaper prices and better quality services. With the exception of water supply and urban transport, consumers want genuine and open competition which provides lasting benefits. In general, consumers expect public authorities to guarantee some aspects of service and to play a supervisory role. The Eurobarometer opinion survey of consumers in the EU's 10 new Member States shows a great similarity of attitudes with the EU-15 except for fixed and mobile telephone services which get a better score in the EU-15. Both studies are included in the Commission's report on the performance of network industries providing services of general interest, also published today. Key findings of the qualitative study The qualitative study was carried out in each of the 25 Member States in August/October 2003. The aim of the study was to better understand the factors underlying attitudes rather than to provide a statistical measure of them.

In general:
Price is consumers' main source of dissatisfaction. Consumers' want clearer information on tariffs and prices, especially to enable them to compare prices. There is a tendency to think that, for most services, lodging a complaint is useless and a waste of time.The pressure of competition on service providers is generally seen as a positive factor. The idea that public authorities should retain a degree of responsibility and a substantial supervisory and regulatory capacity is seen as a statement of the obvious. The image of postal services seems to be declining because of their "bureaucratic style". Fixed telephone services prices are seen as not being fair in most of the countries. Inter-city rail services are beginning to be seen as not always accessible to all Key findings of the Eurobarometer survey The Eurobarometer survey of consumers' opinions in the 10 new member States asks the same questions as a 2002 survey looking at the opinions of citizens in the EU15 about services of general interest.

From Noticias.Info (comunicados de prensa), Spain - 29 June 2004

Kennedy Rejects 'Empty Rhetoric' on Choice

Charles Kennedy has slammed the "empty rhetoric" of Labour and the Tories on public services. Delivering a keynote speech outlining Liberal Democrat plans to reform the public sector on Tuesday, the party leader said the government and Conservatives were offering a "false choice". The move came after heated debate between the parties last week over the provision of choice within the NHS. While the government has pledged to offer freedom of choice between hospitals, the Tories want to also subsidise private care. But Kennedy argued that "this certainly isn't choice for all". In a move to attempt to ensure his party is not excluded from the debate, or viewed as resistant to the modernisation of public services, he said the Lib Dems have been offering "real choice" for several years. "Choice is only relevant when quality and capacity are enhanced," he said. "What I believe people really want is quality public services available locally, not false choices."
Elderly care: Although saving his strongest words for Michael Howard's position, Kennedy also singled out the prime minister for labelling the Tory policy a "right to charge". Tony Blair could not credibly level the criticism while his government continued to charge for elderly care, he claimed. He also attacked Labour's "culture of targets and tick boxes" in the NHS, while saying the government had come to the choice and capacity debate "too late". Kennedy went on to propose his own reforms in health and education, such as funding free care for elderly through higher income tax rates for the rich and scrapping child trust funds and diverting the cash to early years services. The third party leader concluded that the term "choice" was a Labour and Tory "spin word". "Our mantra won't be choice. Our watchword is quality," he said.
"And our brand - fairer taxation for investment; a commitment to the integrity of our public services; and a true commitment to localism - sets us apart."



From ePolitix, UK , 29 June 2004

Blair's Pledge on Public Services

Tony Blair is preparing to delivering a speech outling his plans for "personalised" public services, the debate, he says, will form the "battleground" for the future of schools and hospitals. He will promise a "new generation" of public services designed to keep middle class support for New Labour and consolidate the coalition that brought the party to power. The Prime Minister's comments come the day before John Reid, the Health Secretary, is due to publish a White Paper on improvements planned for the NHS, the first of the five-year plans expected from all major government departments over the next few months. Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "He will argue that the extra investment and reform the Government has committed in recent years have brought real improvements in terms of capacity and performance across the public services." Mr Blair will argue that recent reports from both the health service chief executive and its modernisation board have shown waiting time reducing dramatically, and deaths from the "big killers" such as heart disease and cancer also dropping.
That provides the platform, Mr Blair will say, for the next stage of reform, introducing the "new generation" of services in health and across the public sector. Mr Blair is expected to say: "With growing capacity in our public services, we can now accelerate reform. "We have the opportunity to develop a new generation of personalised services, where equity and excellence go hand in hand - services shaped by the needs of those who use them, services with more choice extended to everyone and not just those that can afford to pay. "Services personal to each and fair to all. This is the battleground for the future of our public services." Mr Blair's spokesman said the Prime Minister will argue that the Government needed to reshape the 1945 welfare state to keep the principles of equality and access for all combined with excellence and high standards for all.



From Telegraph.co.uk, UK - 23 June, 2004

 

UAE E-government Initiative Moves into Second Phase with Focus on New Financial Management Information System

The meeting included discussions on Etisalat role as service partner for implementation of the project. ' After finalizing the overall strategy of the e-government project, we have brought into focus in the second phase the development of the Financial Management Information System (FMIS), the standards and policies which the implementation of the project stipulates, and the overall decision-making structure within the e-government project management,' said Ghobash. H.E. Khalid Ali Al Busatani, Assistant Undersecretary for Budget and Resources at the Ministry of Finance and Industry, said: ' The FMIS, being one of the most crucial steps in the second wave of implementation is a modern, comprehensive and integrated system that is capable of meeting immediate financial accounting and management needs. The system is designed to take full advantage of sophisticated communications infrastructures as well as Internet and intranet interoperability.' Al Bustani added that while the existing financial system was fully automated, it required enhancement in order to be fully integrated with the overall e-government project. The steering committee reviews and approves e-government projects based on defined criteria and in accordance with the e-government blueprint. It also sets guidelines for effective implementation of e-government project phases as well as reviewing implementation progress. The e-government programme implementation is structured in 'wave' stages whereby each wave has its own set of benchmarks, while several projects can work in parallel. The initiative was introduced as a tool to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the UAE Federal Government and is a key component in sustaining the country's competitiveness. It promotes greater transparency and facilitates the introduction of more liberal economic laws. The e-government project is just one of four initiatives being driven by the Ministry of Finance and Industry with a view to creating greater efficiency and effectiveness in government operations. Total quality management, performance-based budgeting and executive training conducted in conjunction with Harvard University, are also being implemented as part of the government's high performance programme. The e-government project draws from the experience of other countries that have implemented similar programmes including those in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates - 2 June, 2004

Dubai e-Government to Take Part in DSS with Major Events

DUBAI - Dubai e-Government announced its active participation in Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) 2004 - which will be held from June 17 to August 27, 2004 - by contributing in three major events focusing on Information Technology skills. The announcement was made during a Press conference held in Dubai on Monday. The key events are Bayt Al Khebra, meaning "House of experience", which aims to provide the necessary tools and resources to all government departments participating in DSS; e-Family, a programme targeting families living outside the UAE; e-Champ, an IT competition for youngsters and e-Star, a similar contest for adults. Saeed Al Nabouda, CEO, Dubai Summer Surprises, said, "We welcome the participation of Dubai e-Government in some of our key activities which we are confident will become regular features of Dubai Summer Surprises. It is a recognised fact that Dubai e-Government has created global benchmarks in its field of expertise. Global organisations have placed the Dubai e-Government model above some developed countries. "We are confident that Dubai eGovernment will demonstrate the same kind of excellence in the programmes it is organising during DSS," he said. "Each year, the DSS Organising Committee keeps raising the bar on quality in an effort to attract greater number of visitors and participants, especially families from the Gulf region," added Al Nabouda. "Our aim is to constantly come up with new events to prevent DSS from becoming a routine festival."

From Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates - 7 June, 2004

ACI Inmates Perform Needed Public Services

When day-trippers and fishermen come to Jerusalem this summer, they'll find a newly-refurbished state pier where they can safely set down a bucket of bait and cast their lines - or just sit on comfortable benches to enjoy the view. Even those confined to wheelchairs will be able to access the facility with a new ramp installed for their use. It's a dramatic improvement. The pier has been crumbling for years, with beams rotted through, holes gaping to the water beneath, and "no trespass" signs routinely ignored by those determined to bait a hook and drop a line in spite of very real danger. All the labor for the refurbishment is being provided by the Industries Division of the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston. While many are familiar with the sight of litter crews in bright orange vests cleaning the medians and shoulders of state and local roads, fewer realize that inmates in the minimum security prison also do a variety of other jobs, mostly under contract with municipalities and not-for-profits. They build and refurbish furniture for colleges and offices. They repair motor vehicles. They work on computers. And though they only earn $3 a day, the work is a source of pride, and it maintains their connection with a trade or skill they can hopefully utilize when they are released. Officials estimate the rebuilding of the Jerusalem pier might not even be happening were it not for the cost-savings involved in using inmate labor. Several months ago, state Rep. Robert McNamara introduced a bill that would have expanded the work of ACI prisoners to include helping in emergency environmental clean-ups, like the massive fish kill in Narragansett Bay last year. The bill died; unions oppose having anyone but their own people do the work - paid, of course, on generous union scale. We wish legislators would show some guts in standing up to union muscle. The fact is, almost everyone sentenced to do time in prison ultimately gets out of prison. The opportunity to do responsible work that benefits the community is a whole lot more preferable than just "doing time." The dock renovation project is a very fine, and very public, example of the benefits of inmate labor. Those involved - from workers to corrections supervisors to project directors from Coastal Resources - have earned public thanks, and public commendation.


From Naragansett Times, RI, by By: MARCIA GRANN O'BRIEN - 18 June 2004

Public Services Have Fewer Employees - but They Earn More

Public services continue to shed employees, in accordance with the policy of the Civil Service Commission of encouraging workers to take voluntary early retirement. The number of salaried employees in the civil service fell by a further 0.5%, or 3,800 employees, in the first quarter of 2004, to 787 thousand. Since December 2002, the number of salaried employees in the public services has fallen by 1.5%, or 12,300 employees, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data.
However, the average salary in the civil service continues to rise. In the first quarter this year, the average salary rose 8.1%, in terms of fixed prices, in comparison with the previous quarter. The salary rise is due to the rolling forward of special wage supplements, such as clothing allowances and the Jubilee Grant paid to long serving employees, from the end of 2003 to the beginning of 2004, and to early retirement, which has mainly been by workers on middle to lower salaries.
Within a year, from March 2003 to March 2004, the average civil service salary rose 10.8%. The average salary in the public sector, which was NIS 6,802 at current prices in March, is only 4% lower than the average salary for the economy as a whole (NIS 7,084), and only 6% lower than the average salary in the business sector (NIS 7,232).


From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein - 15 June, 2004

 

ALBANY - Rensselaer County's Former Civil Service Administration System was Called "Unsatisfactory" by State Civil Service Commission President

Wall's statement summarized an audit that listed long-term record keeping and staff resources as notable shortcomings. According to the state review, which was conducted at the request of County Executive Kathleen M. Jimino, "the level of merit system administration in Rensselaer County has, for more than 10 years, been seriously deficient in every major program area." The county's civil service responsibilities include the certification of payrolls, administering and overseeing exams taken by provisional public employees and maintaining roster cards for each of the more than 3,500 workers under its jurisdiction, among other tasks. The problem was that, under the former civil service system, a lot of these duties just weren't being completed. The report says that rehabilitating the county's civil service system will require a major commitment of staff and resources by the county, both immediately and over the long term. Jimino says that commitment has already begun by restructuring the civil service administration, among other efforts. The county Civil Service Commission's staff has also been increased from one employee - a personnel officer system fulfilled the same basic function between 1995 until late 2002 - to the equivalent of 2.5 full-time employees, Wall said. Jimino says these three commissioners meet every other week to keep up with a tidal wave of paperwork. The necessity of this change, which reversed a decision made by her predecessor, Henry Zwack, was apparent from the word "go," Jimino says. "Things were not getting done, that's clearly what this audit shows," Jimino said, explaining that an imbalance of work and warm bodies to perform it led to "a huge backlog" over the seven years the single-commissioner system was in place. The county's Civil Service Commission has jurisdiction over 3,513 employees, including 1,533 county employees, 520 town employees, 106 village employees, 1,049 school district employees and 305 special district employees.

From Troy Record, NY, 10 June 2004

Maryland Public Service Commission Weighs In

The Maryland Public Service Commission is asking the state's utility companies to shape-up. The Commission says companies can do better than they did when Tropical Storm Isabel swept the state last September. "We think the utilities did a pretty good job on pre-mobilizing and doing the restoration work," said one commission member. "What the utilities weren't as strong on was the need to get reliable, relevant information about restoration activity to the emergency folks so then can deploy their resources." The group wants companies to be better equipped to reduce damage and properly communicate with the public. As such, they suggest companies work with local government and homeowners to bury some power lines and create more reliable service. They are also ordering companies to issue a written plan on what to do with customers on life support equiptment. Pepco, which serves people in Montgomery and Prince George's County, will now be required to submit quarterly reports updating the commission on any changes and testing of their outage management systems. The first report will be due June 15. For their part, utilities companies say they did the best they could during Isabel. They say the commission's mandates essentially incorporates steps they began taking since they met before the council in December.Isabel left more than a million Marylanders without electricity -- some for more than a week.

From WJZ, MD - 8 June, 2004

Two Western PA Salvation Army Sites to Revamp; Public Services Will Continue

PITTSBURGH, June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Two Salvation Army Worship and Service Center buildings are slated to close on June 30th. The sites are located on West 10th Street in Tyrone and on Columbia Street in Vandergrift. "While we are saddened to close our doors at these current locations, we will continue our public service in alternate venues," stated The Salvation Army's Western Pennsylvania Divisional Commander, Lt. Colonel Joseph DeMichael. The Salvation Army's Western Pennsylvania Division covers 28 counties. It operates 48 Worship and Service Centers that offer a full complement of social and spiritual support programs. These facilities are headed by Salvation Army officers who are ordained ministers. Church services are held at these sites. The Division also has nine Service Centers. These locations are managed by a paid employee, supplemented by volunteers and deliver human service assistance. Service Units are strictly voluntary and can be located within a community church, police station or business. Currently there are 125 Salvation Army Service Units within the Western Pennsylvania Division. Similar to a Service Center, a Service Unit offers basic social services within a community. However, the location may change depending upon volunteer and building availability.

The Tyrone Worship and Service Center will become a Service Unit and the Kiski Valley site will become a Service Center. Each location is being handled differently, specific to the needs and participation of the individual communities. "Kiski Valley has a very active board and volunteer component," stated Lt. Colonel DeMichael. "Because we have a strong foundation, we can provide a permanent site with a part-time employee." DeMichael continued, "We are also fortunate to have a comprehensive Worship and Service Center in nearby New Kensington. This will allow the officer in charge to have oversight capability of the Kiski Service Center. Current church members at Kiski Valley will be invited to worship at New Kensington as well." Because Tyrone has a smaller volunteer base and board membership, a Service Unit is a practical alternative. "We want our donor dollars to be spent as wisely as possible," explained DeMichael. "Raising funds within Tyrone has always been challenging. We would prefer to use those limited resources for direct assistance, rather than spend them on operations and staffing." Members of the Tyrone church are welcome to attend either the Huntingdon or Altoona centers. The official closure for both locations will occur on June 30th, 2004. "The goal is to sell both buildings, said DeMichael, "but until that happens, service will not be interrupted. Our Kiski Valley building is in a state of serious disrepair. The expense to bring it up to proper standards is prohibitive. Consequently, we are currently looking for a new site within Vandergrift." While The Salvation Army is saddened to shift the Kiski Valley and Tyrone operations, the organization is pleased to be able to offer uninterrupted service to the community. "We are deeply grateful for the support that the people of Tyrone and Vandergrift have shown to us," said Lt. Colonel DeMichael. "The Salvation Army stands behind its promise to meet human needs in the name of Jesus Christ. It is our mission and it is exactly what we will do within these communities." Both a church and a social service organization, The Salvation Army began in London, England in 1865. Today it provides critical services in 109 countries worldwide. The 28-county Western Pennsylvania Division serves thousands of needy families annually through a wide variety of diverse support programs. This year, The Salvation Army is celebrating its 125th year in the United States. To learn more about The Salvation Army in Western Pennsylvania, log onto http://www.salvationarmy-wpa.org.


From Yahoo News (press release) - 7 June, 2004

Civil Service Tests to be Given by City

MANSFIELD -- the city will offer the civil service tests that will be used to hire entry-level police officers and firefighters for the next couple of years. It's anticipated those who put pen to paper will include young Mansfielders hoping to snag a career in service safety -- and some experienced police officers and firefighters laid off from Ohio cities that reduced their workforces this year. "So far we've got 70 some applicants, between the police and fire," said human resources director Jeff Fogt. But "we're just now starting to recruit. So we would anticipate a lot more," he said. Orlando Chatman, 25, of Mansfield, intends to take the police test. The 1997 graduate of Mansfield Senior High School returned to the city after a stint in the U.S. Army, taking a job as a corrections officer in the city jail. "I started working here and thought it was pretty cool," he said. After working there awhile, he decided he might like to become a police officer. "I guess it's the ability to make a difference," Chatman said. Fire Chief Michael Hartson said staff levels at both the fire and police departments are down. "We haven't hired since May 7, 2001," he said. The fire department is authorized to employ 103 to 108 firefighters. With budget cuts and retirements, "we're down to 94, I believe," Hartson said. But realistically, with the constraints on the city's budget, "I think both departments are probably looking at (hiring) five or six individuals," he said. Finance Director Sandra Converse said no money was set aside to increase the city's total workforce during 2004, because money has been tight. "As far as money for new hires, there is none." Still, some replacement hiring might take place this year -- since both the police and fire departments lost a couple of employees they had salaries budgeted, Service-Safety Director Ronald Kreuter said. "We hope to hire some because we're losing people. It's getting down to a crucial level," he said. A certified list of entry-level candidates may be made available to the city by the testing company about a month after the July 10 test date.

Fogt said he wouldn't be surprised if some applicants are police officers or firefighters laid off from other cities around Ohio after the economy soured. Those candidates are likely to hear through the union grapevines that Mansfield will be hiring, he said. But Fogt said if experienced officers from elsewhere are hired in, they'll be treated "the same as a new hire" regarding their starting salary. The city will charge applicants $20 to take the entry-level test, because of the limited budget. Such fees are "common in other cities," but hadn't been done before in Mansfield, he said. Promotional tests for existing employees also may be in the works -- but details haven't been worked out. "We haven't set a date yet because we're still shopping around (for a test)," Fogt said. "It's our intent to do them. Safety officials said there's a need:
The number of captains in the police department is down to one, where there had been three. And the fire department has been operating with two assistant chiefs, rather than three, Hartson said. Chatman is hopeful he'll do well on the entry-level test, given his experience working in the city jail. "We write reports just like the officers do," and corrections officers are familiar with procedures for working with inmates and the general public, he said. He's also hopeful there won't be so many applicants that his own chances are reduced. "Last time (the test) was free. But now they have a $20 fee," he said.


From Mansfield News Journal, OH, by Linda Martz, News Journal - 6 June, 2004

E-gov Services Go Unused

The federal government has a long way to go to sell e-government services to the public, according to a survey for the E-Gov Institute's Government Solutions Forum released today. In a study measuring the public awareness and effectiveness of three of the president's e-government initiatives, the nationwide poll found that most Americans do not turn to the government for information - not even for their hobbies. But when they do, they find the online services useful and are surprised at the depth of the information offered on the sites.
The E-Gov Institute is a subsidiary of FCW Media Group, publisher of Federal Computer Week and FCW.com. This summer marks the third year in the Bush administration's effort to rely on electronic government to improve services to citizens and make government work more efficiently. The survey found that most Americans had not yet visited some of the more popular government Web sites, including whitehouse.gov, NASA.gov, recreation.gov or IRS.gov. The public is even less familiar with the newer government Web sites created as part of President Bush's e-government initiative. Only one in eight said they have visited recreation.gov, despite the fact that more than half of the survey respondents said that they had visited a national or state park, or have been involved in an outdoor activity in the past year - activities about which recreation.gov offers information. In terms of sheer numbers, these government Web sites are not huge successes, according to Evans Witt, chief executive officer of Princeton Survey Research Associates, which conducted the survey for the institute. "There is a huge potential for these e-gov sites to be heavily used by Americans," he said. "But the government is going to have to find a way to tell Americans to come on over to these sites."



From FCW.com, by Judi Hasson - 2 June, 2004

E-gov Fellowship Open for Applications

The Council for Excellence in Government is currently accepting applications for its yearlong Excellence in Government Fellows and e-Government Fellows programs, which are designed to help career federal civil servants develop their leadership skills. Nearly 2,000 individuals have gone through both programs since their inceptions. The main Government Fellows program started about 15 years ago, while the e-government version began four years ago with the help of the National Science Foundation. "There was a recognition that the challenges of [e-government] were really going to test the mettle of leaders," said Judy Douglas, the council's vice president for leadership and performance. "There were some leadership skills that were required of folks who have been tasked with implementing e-government and technology in government that really needed to be supported and tended to." Both programs have common core competencies in leadership development. Although the main fellows program deals with technology and how that is spurring agency cross-collaboration, the e-government program goes more in depth and with more specificity. "Where it gets to be more challenging are in dealing with strategic issues, like investment in technology or is the government getting an appropriate return [or] are some of the technologies creating new challenges that confront citizen privacy," Douglas said. "There are, of course, security issues associated with implementation of technology."
The programs are open to federal employees at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels who are looking to take on executive positions. The council has a review process, but most agencies have their own to evaluate and identify those likely to go through the program, she said. Some individuals at the GS-13 level are also admitted after a more stringent screening process.

Fellows form groups of 22 to 25 and are assigned a professional coach throughout the year. They meet about three days at a time during seven sessions. Fellows also form smaller groups of between five to seven to work on a results-oriented project during the year. "It's really an ability to synthesize all of the learning that they're doing and gain a concrete result as part of the process," Douglas said. For example, one such group in the e-government program is working on creating a virtual governmentwide community. Participants are using portal software and created governance models to self-regulate the portal and communication among fellows and senior fellows, who are program graduates. "So that there could be an electronic place that all of them could communicate, share information, share practices and skills no matter where the fellows are," Douglas said. "We have fellows all over the globe and, frankly, being across town in Washington [D.C.] can be a bit of a barrier. So, they've undertaken that as a way to sustain the idea of cross-boundary community amongst the fellows."
Tuition is $9,400 for the year. The council does not try to turn qualified applicants away, but Douglas said resources are limited. The deadline for the 2004-2005 programs is June 18, but she characterized that as a rolling admission. For more information, visit the council's program.



From FCW.com, by Dibya Sarkar - 7 June, 2004

FBI Public Servant Receives Top Award

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller today announced that Legal Attache Robert Clifford was named as a finalist for the 2004 Service to America Medals, a national awards program that honors the outstanding accomplishments of America's public servants. "It is my esteemed honor to work with men and women of the FBI like Bob Clifford who have dedicated their lives to public service. Bob has spent his entire career in the fight against terrorism and it is with great honor that he be recognized by his peers. The men and women of the FBI also extend our gratitude to Bob for his tireless efforts against the "17 November" terrorist organization and the significant strides made in Greece since Bob's arrival in 2000," said Director Mueller. Special Agent Clifford was at the forefront of the reorganization of the joint Greek and U.S. efforts to combat "17 November." He initiated productive investigative leads and provided technical assistance and prosecutorial advice to the Greek authorities. Without these efforts, the faltering joint working relationship would not have significantly combated the threat posed by "17 November" in Greece. The forthcoming summer Olympic games poses a greatly reduced risk by "17 November" and to the Greek public due to his efforts.

Since it first attack in 1975, "17 November" has carried out more than 100 attacks, killing nearly two dozen people, including five U.S. embassy employees, wounding dozens more American and causing millions of dollars in property damage. Clifford's work with the Greek authorities has recently lead to the arrest of 19 key members of the organization. As recently as December 2003, 15 of those 19 were convicted with the main perpetrators receiving multiple life sentences. Bob Clifford is being honored as an outstanding federal employee who has made significant contributions to this country. Agent Clifford started his career with the FBI as a Special Agent in 1989 in the Washington Field Office and served as a member of the International Terrorism-Exterritorial Squad; A special assignment to the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia; Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters; Charlotte FBI where he supervised Foreign Counterintelligence, International and Domestic Terrorism investigations and more recently in 2000 he was assigned as Legal Attache in Athens, Greece. The finalists will be announced and honored at a luncheon today. The Service to America Medals program was created in 2002 to recognize excellence in the federal civil service and Atlantic Media Company by the non-partisan, non-profit organization, Partnership for Public Service and Atlantic Media Company. For more information on the Service to America Medals visit their website at: www.servicetoamericamedals.org


From FBI Press Room (press release) - 16 June, 2004

 

Users Increasingly Return to E-government Sites

The Bush administration's push for citizen-centered e-government may be paying off as more users find and return to government Web sites for information. Government Web site users are increasingly more likely to return to the sites and recommend them to other users, indicating an increased loyalty, according to a survey released last week. This loyalty is expected to continue as government officials focus on measuring and improving customer satisfaction online. "We're really talking about channel loyalty," or citizens choosing to access government information via the Internet rather than through a call center or mail, said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results Inc., a partner in the American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Government Index. "In some cases, there's not true competition, but there is always channel competition, and [agency officials] want to be able to meet needs and meet expectations."
The quarterly index is produced by the University of Michigan in partnership with the American Society for Quality, the CFI Group and ForeSee Results. The fourth installment, released last week, measured 53 federal sites. E-government sites scored 81 on a 100-point scale in the area of users' likeliness to return, and a 76 in likeliness to recommend - demonstrating high loyalty, according to the report. Scores have risen since these loyalty factors were first measured in the third quarter of 2003, indicating that government officials are building strong online relationships with citizens, Freed said in the report. "Over time, we expect to see continually rising expectations of citizens using government sites," Freed said. "The ability to get information and services from the government via the Web is still expanding and enhancing, so citizens are expecting more of it. Satisfaction is going to be a struggle going forward."

The number of sites represented in the index jumped 20 percent as more agencies have started to adopt the tool for measuring and improving the sites' customer satisfaction, officials said. Four sites showed significant increase in customer satisfaction compared to the September 2003 measurement, including the State Department's student Web site. State officials used the index during the site's redesign.
"We knew that overall from the survey that the site wasn't meeting satisfaction across the board," said Colleen Hope, State's director of the Office of Electronic Information and Publications. Improving customer satisfaction is an ongoing process, she said. The recent report showed deficiencies in the site's search engine, and therefore officials are planning to implement a new one in the coming year. Based on usability testing and user feedback, the index shows a comprehensive view of customer satisfaction, and the likelihood to recommend is an important factor for reaching the intended audience, Hope said. "If someone recommends your site to another person, that's a very good effort in our public affairs outreach," Hope said. Since the first e-government index, 67 percent of the sites measured showed an improvement in customer satisfaction, the survey states. This change can be attributed to using the index as a measurement and management tool. Agencies that use the index can get specific feedback on users' needs and focus their resources to improve the sites, said Anne Kelly, CEO and director of the Federal Consulting Group, a franchise of the Treasury Department in charge of purchasing the survey for agencies.
"Agencies are really focusing on making the Internet better in response to more traffic, more visitors," Kelly said.




From FCW.com - 28 June, 2004

Board Considers More Computer Use

La Crosse School Board members are wondering whether they should do more business over the computer. The board, whose members already have e-mail addresses, directed its newly formed Governance Commit-tee to study the issue after member Steve Kopp gave a presentation on e-governance earlier this month. Kopp said he makes weekly trips to the Hogan Administrative Center to pick up paperwork, in addition to checking his district e-mail regularly. He also receives packets of information that are hand delivered to board members weekly.E-governance could eliminate some of that paperwork, he said. Kopp said the district paperwork he receives was created on a computer, so it makes sense to send the items electronically. Kopp said the district already has wireless Internet access in the Hogan Administrative Center, where board meetings are held. Kopp said a few school boards in Wisconsin and Illinois have made the switch, and officials with the Kiel Area School District in Kiel, Wis., are willing to speak to the board about their transition. He said software also is available to help ease the switch. Member Connie Troyanek said she wouldn't support the transition if it involves purchasing laptop computers for board members because the district can't afford technology for its own students, let alone board members. Kopp said e-governance could improve efficiency because all documents would be at board members' fingertips during meetings instead of at home, at the office or in the car. Anastasia Mercer can be reached at (608) 791-8256 or smercer@lacrossetribune.com.


From Lacrossetribune.com, WI - 29 June 2004

Congress: Bye-bye, E-government

Lawmakers apparently have decided that Bush administration officials have not gotten the message. For three years running, Congress has slashed their proposed central e-government fund. So this year, officials decided to forgo a central fund and asked agencies to find e-government funds in existing budgets. Congress, though, is not buying it. Appropriators have started systematically cutting funds for specific e-government initiatives from agency spending bills. The House appropriations bill for the Interior Department includes language blocking funds for several e-government initiatives and strongly denounces the current approach to managing the initiatives. "To date, a lot of funding has been dedicated to these initiatives without a well-thought-out and reasonable approach to addressing requirements," states the bill, which the House passed June 17. Office of Management and Budget officials took a backdoor approach to funding the initiatives after officials failed to gather congressional support for a central e-government pot, said John Scofield, a House Appropriations Committee spokesman. In the past few years, Congress continually appropriated millions less than officials requested. In fiscal 2004, Congress allotted $3 million, much less than the requested $45 million. In response, the administration requested $5 million for fiscal 2005, which would be upplemented by agency services fees. "Because Congress was not appropriating meaningful dollars, OMB ... was taxing the agencies, which is in violation of the intent of Congress," Scofield said. "If we don't appropriate funds for something, you can't go around that [and ask] agencies to pony up. We've never been convinced it's a good idea. We've always viewed it as duplicative and unnecessary." Although the bill indicates that the funding can't come from Interior and related agencies, it sets the precedent for other appropriations subcommittees, said one Senate Democratic staffer. In fact, similar language was also included in the Agriculture Department's appropriations bill, and the committee plans to make a governmentwide statement in the Treasury-Postal Service appropriations bill, Scofield said. In the Interior bill, four of the 24 e-government initiatives were denied funding: Safecom, Disaster Management, E-Training and E-Rulemaking. The E-Rulemaking initiative is included in the E-Government Act of 2002, which requires all agencies to have an online docket system. If Interior and other agency officials choose not to use the governmentwide system, they will have to spend the money to develop their own, the Senate staffer noted.

Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and information technology, emphasized the need for agencies to work together to fund the initiatives. Pooling resources on these programs provides cost efficiencies governmentwide and value to citizens, she said, referring to the E-Training initiative, which brought costs for training materials down from dollars to pennies. "OMB and federal agencies will continue to work with Congress to highlight similar successes as well as future opportunities to make the federal government more cost-effective and responsive to the citizen," Evans said. Scofield said taking money from individual agencies is not the best way to find the money. "The better way would be to convince Congress to put money in a single fund," he said. "We don't have a lot of cash flying around this year to fund core programs, not to mention these new initiatives." This language suggests that the appropriations staff is not sure the current funding model is the right one, said Dan Chenok, former OMB branch chief for information policy and technology and now SRA International Inc.'s vice president and director of policy and management strategies. "The language isn't saying that Congress doesn't support e-government; it's saying the committee has concerns about the way these initiatives are being funded," he said. Bruce McConnell, former OMB chief of information policy and technology and now president of McConnell International LLC, said administration officials didn't do a good job convincing Congress why it needs to contribute to these projects. The reduction in funding can affect the future of these e-government initiatives, he said. "Obviously, nobody made the case that the mission of Interior is going to be performed better by these investments," McConnell said. "You have to spend a lot of time to do that, and OMB doesn't have a lot of resources." Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, raised concerns about this language and will continue to do so with other bills, said Davis' spokesman, David Marin. "On the one hand, we're not adequately funding [e-government] governmentwide," he said. "Then, we allow individual agencies, through their appropriations subcommittee counterparts, to dodge responsibility as well."



From FCW.com - 28 June, 2004

 
 

MMC Scandal Shows Need for Corporate Ethics

The recent unprecedented arrest of a former Mitsubishi Motors Corp. president over product defects has occurred at a time when there are growing calls for the business community to recognize its corporate social responsibility (CSR). While MMC's management lacked a sense of ethics, the attitude of the automaker's employees also should be called into question. In addition, other companies should not regard the scandal as being someone else's problem. CSR has been a topical issue recently, with seminars on the issue organized by auditing firms and others in various parts of the country becoming something of a boom industry. After the bursting of the bubble economy in the early 1990s, the phrase "corporate governance" came into vogue. Many companies established new divisions to introduce transparent corporate governance after seeing a lack of corporate ethics result in scandals and bankruptcies. In January 1998, MMC established a corporate ethics committee after its executives were arrested on suspicion of making payoffs to sokaiya corporate racketeers in October 1997. Katsuhito Kawasoe, who was arrested last week, became president in November the same year and was tasked with uncovering any illegalities, backed by the committee. MMC was found to have covered up product defects that required recalls in July 2000, after it developed rules concerning corporate ethics in March 1999. Kawasoe resigned in November 2000 to take responsibility for the scandal, becoming an executive in charge of corporate ethics. But while MMC had an ethics committee, it did not scrutinize the company's operations. The carmaker should examine why the committee failed to function properly--a situation that led to a series of irregularities. It is mind-boggling that MMC management had little sense of ethics or responsibility. It may sound harsh, but questions also should be raised over the employees' attitudes and their reactions to the scandals. Why did MMC cover up for such a long time various defects that caused serious accidents, resulting in death and injury? MMC also set up a counseling room to facilitate employee reports of activities that violated corporate ethics, but this also failed to function properly. One reason was that employees had an excessive sense of corporate unity under the so-called Mitsubishi three diamond brand, which has a long tradition and social status. Employees must have been blinded by tradition, making them follow precedent and act with a herd mentality, with the result that they believed ignorance was bliss and silence guaranteed job security for themselves. During the time when product defects were found, even if there were calls within the company for the release of information on the defects, MMC turned a blind eye to fatal accidents, providing they were not brought to light.

The Japan Productivity Center for Social Economic Development has released a disturbing survey on the issue of corporate ethics.
Its survey on new employees in fiscal 2004 identified a decline in moral standards. Asked if they would carry out instructions that were unethical if such actions benefited their firm, 43.8 percent of new employees said they would act as ordered, exceeding the 40-percent mark for the first time since the question was added to the survey in fiscal 1999. The survey also revealed a reversal of the previous year's trend concerning those who would seek to avoid such ethical breaches. In the survey held in fiscal 2003, those who said they would try as hard as possible to avoid such duties was about 15 percentage points higher than those willing to undertake such tasks in this year's survey.
It is not clear why young employees have become less ethical, but with an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent among young people, they may have placed priority on job security ahead of other issues. With the crumbling of the traditional Japanese labor practices of lifelong employment and seniority, new employees might be expected to feel less attachment and loyalty to their employers. Instead of their companies' reputation and future, they might have indicated that they were more concerned about themselves. Either way, the survey's results are disheartening. There is a need to examine the ethics of young people, as it is important to correct defective attitudes early in their working lives. At the same time, firms that wish to address their CSR should constantly remind and educate employees of the importance of such ethics. It is important to examine whether irregularities have arisen from firms' placing priority on protecting themselves, or from employees who have unknowingly committed illegal acts. In addition to employees' ethics, companies' public relations systems should especially be called into question. There are companies that believe public relations departments should keep irregularities under wraps to protect the firm. The key to fulfilling CSR will be whether public relations offices can act as windows into their respective firms in disclosing information.
We need to develop a system in which people can gauge the level and thoroughness of a company's CSR just by looking at its employees and public relations methods. Companies that lack CSR are not qualified to talk about competing internationally. Morimoto is a senior fellow at the Yomiuri Research Institute.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Mitsuhiko Morimoto - 18 June 2004

House OKs Bill on Management of Public Finance

TA lawyer voiced optimism about winning a court battle against the Indonesian affiliate of U.S. based PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) after gaining support from the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU). Wawan Iriawan, who represents accountant Eddy Pianto, said the recent ruling by the KPPU against PwC-affiliated accounting firm Hadi Sutanto and Associates, would strengthen his client's position in his legal dispute with the firm. "We shall present the KPPU's ruling as evidence in court," Wawan said. Eddy filed in March a lawsuit against Hadi Sutanto as well as state owned telecommunciation firm PT Telkom, the Capital Market Supervisory Agency (Bapepam) and accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu for illegalities that harmed his reputation and inflicted losses on him. He demanded compensation amounting to Rp 7.84 trillion (about US$834 million). Eddy was the former auditor of Telkom. The legal battle began after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected Telkom's 2002 financial report. Telkom later appointed Hadi Sutanto, the auditor of PT Telkomsel, a subsidiary of Telkom, to reaudit the financial report. The SEC rejected the Telkom 2002 financial report because it was considered incomplete as Hadi Sutanto refused to give a consent letter to Eddy to use its audit report on Telkomsel, Telkom's cellular subsidiary.
Aside from filing the lawsuit at the South Jakarta District Court, Eddy also filed a request for the KPPU to examine the case. Last week, the KPPU ruled that Hadi Sutanto had engaged in unfair practices and imposed a fine of Rp 20 billion. One of the reasons cited by Hadi Sutanto for his refusal to give a consent letter to Eddy to use the Telkomsel audit was that the former doubted the latter's qualifications to audit the company in line with SEC rules. Hadi Sutanto said it feared the potential risks of being implicated in case of any mistakes made by Eddy.
The KPPU insisted, however, that Hadi Sutanto had no right to judge the qualifications of Eddy. "The right to judge (Eddy's qualifications) lies with the SEC. Hadi Sutanto should have asked for clarification from the SEC. But, it did not do that," KPPU said. Hadi Putranto's office refused to comment on Monday. A secretary named Gesty failed to send a press statement which she promised on Monday.

From Jakarta Post, Indonesia by The Jakarta Post, Jakarta - 21June, 2004

 

IMF Gives Report without Question Marks

Economic reforms are on the right track and the Slovak business environment is improving, the International Monetary Fund said in its concluding statement to a staff visit, published at the end of May. The IMF commended Slovakia on its economic development and fiscal management, predicting four percent economic growth and a three percent increase of real disposable income for this year. Maintaining the trend of a gradually decreasing public finance deficit, and creating favourable conditions for entry into the European Monetary Union and the adoption of the euro will be the main challenges in the years to come, according to the IMF's report. Slovak Finance Ministry officials agree that this last IMF report was the most optimistic in the history of the fund's missions in Slovakia. "The previous IMF report issued six months ago was also positive. However, in the latest report there are no question marks. In the previous one, the question marks concerned tax revenues and the impacts of reforms. I think that the positive signal is very clear and the report is the most optimistic ever," Vladimír Tvaroška, the state secretary of the Finance Ministry told press. According to the IMF report, Slovakia's accession to the EU took place amidst promising economic prospects. Despite an adverse external environment, output has continued to expand strongly and exports have shown remarkable recovery.

"These positive developments reflect a number of factors - a strong competitive position vis-á-vis western Europe and neighbouring countries, the influx of past (mainly foreign) direct investments, skillful macroeconomic management, improvements in the business climate reflecting the privatisation of public enterprises, a strengthened legal framework, and labour market reform. Building on these successes to sustain growth will be essential to necessary job creation," the IMF report stated. The IMF foresees strong macroeconomic performance in 2004, with growth shifting gradually to domestic sources. The GDP growth of 4.2 percent in 2003 was driven by good performance of the export sector, which offset a significant decline in domestic demand. Fiscal tightening such as hikes in indirect taxes and administered prices, alongside the associated fall in real wages, dampened private sector consumption. Fixed investment, which had grown strongly in the past, declined modestly. Signs of a turnaround in domestic demand have emerged in the first few months of this year, and with an improving outlook for the EU as well, the fund projects GDP growth of about 4 percent in 2004. Consumption, supported by higher disposable income is expected to recover, and investment should also pick up in an increasingly favourable business environment. On the other hand, a more restrained recovery in the EU coupled with delays in large export-oriented investment projects would dampen growth through their effect on exports. Economists from the IMF project core inflation at just under 3 percent this year. Inflationary pressures have been mostly absent, and should remain so considering present expectations of restraint in wage settlements as well as continued high unemployment. The current account deficit is expected to widen slightly to just over 2 percent of the GDP this year.

Recent foreign direct investments (FDI) decisions and a sustained favourable business environment should provide the basis for further increases in productivity and rates of growth of over 5 percent in the medium term. Continued fiscal consolidation is needed in the coming years to provide for higher private investment and maintain the external current account deficit. According to the IMF, the 2004 budget target is well within reach, with favourable prospects for over-performance. The budgeted deficit (4 percent of GDP) would represent some expansion of last year's outcome of 3.5 percent of GDP, which was justifiable in light of the observed cyclical weakness of domestic demand and the stronger than expected external current account performance in 2003. "The IMF does not see any problems in reaching the planned budget results for 2004. It even sees the possibility to improve the results. However, at the same time it emphasises that the possible better budget performance should be used to decrease the public finance deficit rather than to increase budget expenditures," added Tvaroška.
The mission believes that the Slovak government goal to adopt the euro by 2009 is ambitious but feasible. The government needs to keep fiscal discipline and monitor budget expenditures to fulfill the Maastricht criteria. "The Finance Ministry suggests 2008 - 2009 as the year of entry in the European Monetary Union. We suppose that it will be August this year when we submit material with more concrete terms of euro adoption to the government," Tvaroška said. He continued: "I am confident that if Slovakia is prepared and can ably fulfill the Maastricht criteria, which will not be easy, it will be advantageous for Slovakia to adopt the euro as soon as possible. So far, I cannot answer the question as to when the criteria will be fulfilled. We will know more after our talks with the National Bank of Slovakia with whom we will co-operate in preparing the aforementioned material."

The mission also praised the Finance Ministry for continued efforts to improve fiscal management and transparency. Besides the introduction of a three-year fiscal framework, they also welcomed the strengthening of the analytical capabilities at the ministry, and the enhanced reporting of public debt information. The IMF thinks that Slovakia can only benefit from staying the course of reforms. According to the fund, the main challenge now is to pursue a policy mix that will lead to a sustainable fiscal position and stave off inflation. "Such a policy, together with the completion of the unfinished structural reform agenda, particularly in the areas of healthcare, education, legal framework, and fiscal responsibility, would reinforce good economic prospects and confirm Slovakia as one of the most promising new members of the EU," stated the IMF. Slovak Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš pointed to the inevitability of further reforms at the seventh round table of The Economist conference in Bratislava on June 3. "We still have to accomplish important reforms in education, healthcare and fiscal decentralisation," the finance minister said. "Structural reforms are inevitable. They may be hard sometimes, but they are necessary." However, some economists pointed out that that the competitive advantages of Slovakia mentioned in the IMF statement are mainly based on factors that can disappear quickly. "We often forget that the competitive advantage of Slovakia in comparison to other countries often stands on the country's geographic location and its cheap labour," Miroslav Šmál, analyst with Poštová banka, told the Hospodárske noviny daily. He said that cheap labour is not sustainable if the living standard of inhabitants is supposed to be increasing. Jean-Michel Giovannetti, the president of the French-Slovak chamber of commerce and general manager of Credit Lyonnais Bank Slovakia, recently told The Slovak Spectator that the quality of human resources and its low price make Slovakia an attractive environment for investments, especially for an export-oriented business. But he added: "For the future, you would definitely need to find something else. You cannot base the whole strategy on labour costs". It seems that the Finance Ministry is aware of such an issue. Mikloš admitted that some investors might leave Slovakia as the living standard and labour costs increase, and he stressed the necessity to alter the country's strategy of attracting investment. "I have to say that we will lose some investors. It is natural that salaries will grow in the future, and thus it is important to build the economy with that in mind," Mikloš said.
The finance minister said that Slovakia will need to attract investors with more sophisticated production. Regarding such modes of production, Mikloš pointed to the recently expanding Slovak industry. "I do not think that the automotive industry is a branch of the economy that necessarily allows only low wages," he said.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, by By Marta Durianová, Spectator staff - 14 June 2004

Public Finance: Maroni, Buttiglione Should Play Lotto

(AGI) - Rome - To Buttiglione, who talked of an extra 7-8 billion euro of measures, unlike his colleague Tremonti, who has ruled this possibility out, the Welfare Minister, interviewed by Affaritaliani [Italian Business] says that "if Buttiglione is able to accurately predict matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the Economy Minister, I advise him to try playing the Superenalotto, which maybe he will get right and win. That way he could give half to public finance. If Tremonti is the person who controls the finance, I believe the Economy Minister and not Buttiglione, with the greatest respect".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy - 7June, 2004

Bank PKO BP Maintains Its Privatization Plans

Despite the fact that the privatization of the largest domestic bank, bank PKO BP might be delayed, the institution is nevertheless putting the final touches to its issue prospectus and is fighting to win clients from new sectors, such as SMEs. The management of the bank is fully aware that if Parliamentary election are held this year, then its privatization will be delayed. "We are still keeping to our plans. However, we are ready for any scenario," said Jacek Oblekowski, deputy president of PKO BP. According to analysts, the bank's 2004 profit will be around zl.1.5 billion, while a year earlier it amounted to zl.1.2 billion. PKO BP hopes that with the renewed focus on SMEs, the sector will increase the loans it takes from the bank from the present zl.8 billion to zl.10-11 billion. (Puls Biznesu, pp. 1, 6) M.M.

From Warsaw Business Journal, Poland - 17 June 2004

 

Finance Reform Appears in Doubt

The failure of the ruling coalition in the European Parliament elections significantly jeopardized future reforms planned to fix the quickly deteriorating economy. Experts say the fragile position of the ruling coalition led by the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) after the European elections is expected to distract the government from further pursuing the reform. Over the next two years, the government parties will most likely focus on improving their position with voters rather than pressing unpopular reform initiatives, Patria Online chief economist David Marek said. "The government will now be giving money to people rather than taking it away from them," Marek said. "As a result [public finance], deficits are unlikely to decrease in the next two years." Marek said that the government could in the short term be more generous in subsidizing salaries in the state sector and pensions at the cost of further increasing the state debt. The public finance gap rose to a record 12.9 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2003, the largest increase among the European Union member states. The Czech deficit totaled 956.2 billion Kc ($36.7 billion), roughly 38 percent of the country's GDP. In order to avoid economic collapse, the government introduced last year a project of public finance reform, including pension reform. And Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka recently declared that the public finance deficit should be below 4 percent of the country's GDP by 2007, down from almost 6 percent of GDP expected for this year.

Volksbank chief economist Marketa Sichtarova pointed out that should the state debt rise at the current pace, the country will not be capable of accepting the single European currency euro by the target date of 2009. According to EU criteria, a country's debt must not exceed 60 percent of GDP if the country wants to adopt the common currency. Sobotka said that although pension reform will need to be halted, he wants to keep state expenditures tight. "My goal is to make sure that the reforms continue," Sobotka said June 13, one day after the European Parliament elections, which resulted in a stinging defeat for the government coalition, which was able to win just four out of 24 available seats. Wood & Company economist Jan Sykora told Mlada fronta Dnes that he was skeptical about the government's pro-reform drive. "The government acts as if reforms have been made, but all that happened was an increase in taxation," Sykora said. "I've got no illusion that the government will take on any reforms."

From Prague Post, Czech Republic, by Frantisek Bouc, Staff Writer, The Prague Post - 17 June 2004

Ministers Resolute Over Council Tax

Council tax will remain the centrepiece of local government finance, the local government minister, Nick Raynsford, has pledged. Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy's annual conference yesterday evening, Mr Raynsford dropped a number of hints as to the future framework of town hall funding. The minister refused to confirm the government's stance ahead of the final report from balance of funding review group, which has spent the last year looking at how much council income should come from the government and how much should be raised locally. The review group was set up because the current balance of funding, which sees only 25% raised locally with the rest levied from central government grants, is putting undue strain on councils. Following a public consultation last autumn, the review was asked to consider four main options to replace the existing system: a reformed council tax; the relocalisation of business rates, a local income tax, or other sources of local taxation. Council tax retains "significant advantages", Mr Raynsford said. "There are many options for reforming council tax to make it fairer - for example, changing the bands, or the ratios between them, or introducing a regional element to reflect the differing movements in property prices when we come to revalue council tax in 2007," he said. Take-up of council tax benefit, currently unclaimed by 1.4 million pensioners, would be "absolutely crucial" to any future development of council tax, he added. Highlighting the division around one of the four options, the relocalisation of business rates that industry is lobbying against, Mr Raynsford intimated that business would win that particular argument, but should pay more overall. "I wonder whether there may at least be a case for looking at the balance between the contribution made by business - which has dropped from 28% in 1993-94 to 22% in 2003-04 because of the annual inflation cap - and from council tax, which has risen from 21% to 26% over the same period," he said. He reiterated the government's opposition to a local income tax. The fourth option, for other taxes set locally by councils, would only "provide some useful flexibility to authorities at the margin," he said. "I don't think anyone is suggesting that they could make a major contribution to shifting the balance of funding."

From Guardian, UK , by Hélène Mulholland in Brighton - 17 June 2004

Public Finance: Buttiglione Skeptical over Short Term Answers

(AGI) - Naples - Adopting comprehensive corrective manoeuvres prior to the Ecofin meeting, namely July 5, "is quite frankly impossible", according to EU Affairs Minister Rocco Buttiglione, according to whom, "what can be agreed to is the course of action to be taken. Are we to adopt corrective manoeuvres or not? Are we going to act one off or are we to propose something that fits in with more general economic aspects? Which would I prefer? Is it something that is coupled with a reduction in fiscal pressure? Do we have the resources?". If the answer is yes "we should privilege families and weaker economic subjects".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy - 24 June, 2004

 

New Century Financial Corporation Receives Ethics Award

IRVINE, Calif., June 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- New Century Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: NCEN - News), one of the nation's largest mortgage finance companies, announced today that it has received the Ethics in America Award co-sponsored by the Passkeys Foundation and the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Chapman University. The Ethics in America program award recognizes private and public companies in Orange County that each year demonstrate the highest standards of ethical integrity. Winners are chosen in three separate categories and are picked by a 10-member committee of Orange County business leaders. The selection criteria are based on an extensive examination of each company's policies and procedures governing their business conduct and ethics in the marketplace. New Century Financial Corporation received the Ethics in America Award for 2004 in the Large Public Company category. Prior winners in this category include Allergan Specialty Pharmaceuticals in Irvine, Calif., The Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, Calif., UNISYS in Mission Viejo, Calif., and Marriott in Anaheim, Calif. The Passkeys Foundation is a non-profit, publicly supported foundation, which serves children, youth, adults and the professional community locally and nationally with values education through its curricula publications, community and national character programs, workshops and writings. The Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Chapman University is a resource for entrepreneurial enterprises and offers various outreach programs to promote entrepreneurial capitalism and to foster ethical behavior.

From Yahoo News (press release) - 10 June 2004

Banc of America Securities Opens New Public Finance Office in Phoenix

PHOENIX, May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Banc of America Securities has opened a new Public Finance office in the Collier Building in downtown Phoenix. Rebecca Eickley is the new Public Finance Investment Banker for the Southwest region. Eickley will be responsible for providing public finance investment banking products and services to public sector clients in Arizona and across the Southwest region. "I am very pleased that Rebecca is assuming a key Public Finance leadership role to capitalize on the public sector opportunities in Arizona and the rest of the Southwest region," said Benito Almanza, President of Bank of America - Arizona. "Rebecca is an outstanding leader and her financial and management experience in the public sector will be of great benefit to our clients. The creation of a new Public Finance office in Phoenix underscores our commitment to Arizona and this very important sector." Prior to joining Banc of America Securities, Eickley served as finance and energy manager for the City of Scottsdale for more than a decade. As city finance manager, Eickley managed the process of funding city projects that required debt financing, managed the issuance of more than $590 million in municipal bonds and $460 million in refunding bonds. She has extensive experience as city liaison with bond rating agencies, financial institutions, citizens, advocacy groups, developers, boards and commissions.

Eickley has more than 30 years experience in financial management, including originating more than $1 billion of debt, obtaining financing arrangements and providing financial analysis of multiple projects in the public and private sectors. "I am excited to be joining the Banc of America Securities team," said Eickley. "I am looking forward to building on my experience as city finance manager and bringing my skills to the banking side of the financing equation." A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Eickley earned a bachelor of science degree from Duquesne University and a master of business administration degree from the University of Pittsburgh's Executive Program. Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC - News) is one of the world's leading financial services companies. The company's Global Corporate and Investment Banking group (GCIB) provides investment banking, equity and debt capital raising, research, trading, risk management, treasury management and financial advisory services. Through offices in 35 countries, GCIB serves domestic and international corporations, institutional investors, financial institutions and government entities. Many of the company's services to corporate and institutional clients are provided through its U.S. and UK subsidiaries, Banc of America Securities LLC and Banc of America Securities Limited. For additional information, visit www.bankofamerica.com .

From Yahoo News (press release) - 20 May, 2004

Perry appoints Ellis to Texas Public Finance Authority

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Mark Ellis of Houston to the Texas Public Finance Authority. Ellis is a certified financial planner and a partner with Ellis-Reisbord Financial Group. He serves on the Houston City Council and is a board member of the Houston Galveston Area Council, the Sharpstown Civic Association and the Institute of Certified Financial Planners. He is also a board member of the Sterling Bank Business Economic Development Board, the Greater Houston Southwest Chamber of Commerce and the University of Houston Alumni Association. His term will expire Feb. 1, 2009. Also appointed was Ruth Schiermeyer of Lubbock. The finance authority issues and sells bonds for designated state agencies in order to finance the acquisition or construction of buildings. These appointments are subject to senate approval.

From Houston Business Journal, TX - 29 June 2004

 

World Bank Loans USD 150 M to Bulgaria

The World Bank loaned USD 150 M to Bulgaria to emphasized reforms in public administration, the judiciary and anti-corruption. Bulgaria's Finance Minister Milen Velchev and World Bank Director for Bulgaria Anand Seth signed a PAL 2 loan agreement following a review of the government's program for reform and the bank's support. The signing ceremony was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Lidya Shuleva, Cabinet members, Members of Parliament, Ambassadors, representatives of non-governmental organizations and other guests. The World Bank approved the Programmatic Adjustment Loan (PAL 2) for Bulgaria on June 10. This is the second in a series of PALs that is providing a single umbrella of support to reforms across different sectors of Bulgaria's economy. PAL 2 will be disbursed in euros with 17 years maturity including a 5-year grace period. The total amount will be disbursed in two tranches. The amount - USD 150 M or EUR 123.7 M will be disbursed in two tranches. The first tranche would amount to EUR 103.7 M and the second one would be EUR 20 M.The PAL program is comprised of three loans for a total of USD 450 M. PAL 1 aimed to support the Government's program to sustain economic growth, create employment, and reduce poverty. PAL 2 will aim at strengthening public administration, the judiciary, and anti-corruption initiatives. PAL 3 will emphasize on building human capital and improving delivery of social services. The main objectives of the PAL program are the achievement of average annual growth rates of 4.5-5.0 percent during 2002-05, the reduction of the poverty rate by half by 2005 compared to 2001, and decrease in unemployment from 18.1 percent in 2001 to 12-14 percent in 2005, while making substantial progress towards EU accession. The PAL is key component of the Bank's assistance strategy for Bulgaria, which envisages financial support up to USD 750 M over a period of three years, together with a package of analytical and advisory services. Since Bulgaria joined the World Bank in 1990, the total World Bank-assisted program in the country comprises 34 operations totaling to USD 1,971 M equivalent. This includes twelve adjustment loans (USD 1,201 M), 19 investment projects (USD 751 M), two Global Environmental Fund (GEF) grants (USD 17.4 M), and one Prototype Carbon Fund grant (USD 2 M).

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 17 June 2004

 

Government Hasn't Ruled out Privatization

The government has not abandoned its policy on privatising state-owned enterprises (SOEs) via initial public offerings (IPOs), Minister for Public Enterprises Alec Erwin confirmed on Monday, but the government could not proceed without sound structures. Briefing the media at Parliament on Monday ahead of the Public Enterprises vote, Erwin noted that he was "not ruling out" IPOs for South African Airways (SAA) or other SOEs, but that it would take time to create sound structures before being able to undertake privatisation. "The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) is probably in the best position at this point, but it is under the control of the Department of Transport," he pointed out. "We would look at partners for SAA as we move forward." Regarding his upcoming budget vote speech, Erwin said he would spend some time outlining the government's definition of "privatisation", as he believed it was important for the public and the SOEs to have a clear understanding going forward. At the same, he would address the government's shifting emphasis regarding increasing the levels of investment in the key sectors of energy and transport.

"I will be dealing with what is required to raise investment in these sectors, such as improving the balance sheets of some SOEs like Transnet in order to create stronger corporate structures. Also we will be introducing more joint venture formats dealing with public-private partnerships and concessions, broadening the scope of instruments available to increase investment and efficiency levels, as well as management expertise." One priority for the year was the concessioning of the Durban Container Terminal via a public-private partnership, Erwin said. This was only one of many opportunities he believed would be available for further private sector investment, including private investment in the transport network. "The private sector contribution to investing in infrastructure development is likely to be very significant in the next five years," the Minister observed. A great deal of work for the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) would be in creating a comprehensive financing strategy for these investments. President Thabo Mbeki had given the Department until September to submit its proposals on this issue.

He added that the DPE, overseeing some 170 billion rand in state-owned assets, would be using its 75.9 million rand budget to continue to develop the skill levels of its staff, while structuring remuneration at the Department in order to be able to attract more skills as well. He said the DPE wanted to move quickly to deal with the technical issues surrounding the National Ports Authority bill so that it could be re-submitted to Parliament as soon as possible. Another priority would be to strengthen the position of state-owned arms and aviation technology group Denel. The DPE would also continue to meet with trade unions regarding the possible loss of jobs at the SOEs while continuing work on the National Framework Agreement. "I am confident we will make progress in this area - I expect unions to protect their members, but am confident we will be able to reach common ground," he concluded.

From Business Day, South Africa, South Africa, by Lynn Bolin - 14 June 2004

 

Gov't to Map out Postal Privatization Plan in Aug-Sept

TOKYO - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Sunday the government will formulate a basic policy on postal privatization during the August-September period. The comment, made during a program on public TV broadcaster NHK, apparently indicates Koizumi's plan to contain opposition from within his own ruling Liberal Democratic Party over the privatization issue by mapping out the basic policy at the same time as he reshuffles the Cabinet and appoints LDP executives, pundits said

From Japan Today, Japan - 27 June, 2004

 

 

 

Commissioner Still a Believer in Privatization

LISBON - Privatization of the county jail is expected to save $850,000 in 2004, according to county commissioner chairman Jim Hoppel.
Hoppel, who is up for re-election this year, performed the analysis in preparation for an appearance on a Youngstown talk radio show about a month ago. "I figured that question would probably come up, so I did some calculations," he said. Hoppel is the only commissioner remaining from when the decision was made to hire CiviGenics Inc. to run the jail starting in 1998. The contract was renewed last year for another six-year period. "You figure what we've saved over the first six years and it's substantial," he said. Hoppel said his analysis consisted of taking the number of CiviGenics employees (57) and then multiplying that by how much they would earn in salary and benefits were they county sheriff's deputies with an average of eight years' experience. Also factored in were figures he obtained from CiviGenics showing how much the company expects to pay in utilities and for feeding the 120 county inmates incarcerated on average per day. Based on all of this, Hoppel estimated it would cost the county $3.49 million to run the jail in 2004 compared to the estimated $2.64 million paid CiviGenics, which charges $48 a day per inmate, for a projected savings of $850,000. The last jail cost analysis performed by the Morning Journal for 2001 placed the estimated savings at $700,000 a year and dropping due to sharp annual increases in the occupancy rate. Hoppel last performed an analysis of his own several years ago and it showed the contract at that time saved the county $1 million a year.He conceded the biggest reason for the savings is the fact salaries, health insurance and retirement benefits are more generous for county employees than commonly found among private employers.

"It's not particularly a union versus non-union situation. It think a lot of it is government benefits," Hoppel said. County Sheriff David Smith has said the same thing. Smith had the opportunity to submit a proposal last year to resume operating the jail but declined to do so because he was unable to run the jail for less than what CiviGenics was charging because of salary and benefits. Commissioner Sean Logan, who also faces re-election this year, is of the opinion the county might be able to afford running the jail again under the right circumstances, such as if the guards were hired as corrections officers only instead of as deputies; and if the sheriff was able to negotiate a union contract that held the line on the types of issues that drive up personnel costs. Hoppel is particularly sensitive about the union issue since the county jail employees were unionized prior to CiviGenics taking over. Jail employees filed a petition last year to unionize but later withdrew the application. "They could have a union out there right now, so it's not a union and non-union issue," he said. Every election it seems jail privatization comes up, but Hoppel no longer sees it as much of a campaign issue since it has delivered as promised. "It'll always be a certain amount of an issue because we're the only county in the state of Ohio with a privatized jail," he said. Hoppel shudders to think how much worse financial shape the county would have been in between 2000 and 2002, when the commissioners struggled to maintain a balanced budget, had CiviGenics not been running the jail. "I think privatization has saved us money and CiviGenics has done an outstanding job for us," he said.

From Morning Journal News, OH, by TOM GIAMBRONI- 9 June, 2004

In France, Protesting Privatization

IN some countries, employees join companies in the hope that their new employer will soon sell stock to the public. In France, workers go on strike and engage in civil disobedience to prevent even the possibility of such a thing happening. Protests this week by workers at Électricité de France included ripping out wires to homes owned by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the prime minister, and his predecessor, Alain Juppé, on Tuesday. Yesterday, power was briefly interrupted at the Eiffel Tower, which said that it used emergency generators to assure that tourists were not trapped in the elevators; there were also power disruptions at other places, including the presidential palace and the United States Embassy. The workers were protesting the government's plan to convert the government-owned gas and electric utilities into government-owned companies, a step that could eventually lead to an initial public offering. The protests have had an effect, leaving an impression of a vacillating government. On Tuesday night, Nicolas Sarkozy, the finance minister, in what was seen as a move to delay and pacify workers, said a commission might be named to study whether a sale was truly necessary to raise capital for the utility. "Once the new law is voted, one could well imagine the state remaining a 100 percent shareholder for years," he said. "Nothing says the state needs to cede its stake."
But yesterday, he told Parliament that while no sale was likely before mid-2005, "Don't doubt for one minute that my determination to see through the reform is total." The government has tried to satisfy worker objections to an offering by assuring that it would retain at least 70 percent of the stock, that workers would be represented on the company's executive board and that they would retain their jobs and pension benefits. Those pension benefits, which allow the average utility worker to retire at age 55, are one reason the utility is likely to need new capital. The French government would face objections from the European Union if it simply put up more cash, and that is one reason a public offering is being considered.

In some other countries, employees of small companies hope that a public offering will follow because they are often paid in part with stock or stock options whose value could soar once the company goes public. But workers at Électricité de France fear their pay and benefits would be in jeopardy if outside investors came in. That might mean that management would be accountable to investors, not just to a government that in the past has not shown itself willing to resist union demands for long. The men who tore out Mr. Raffarin's electric meter, wearing masks over their faces and union emblems on their hard hats, were not arrested. The union position does not appear to be widely unpopular in France, where much of the public feels solidarity with workers resisting pressures on their incomes and standard of living. Some think resentment of the unions is growing, but complaints are usually muted if disruptions are brief, like the one that snarled rush-hour subway service in Paris last week. There is an innate suspicion of financial markets and the pressures they bring. Rather than seeing union actions as being outrageous attacks on public services, many view them as a defense of the principle that public services should remain public - not be privatized and put at the mercy of capitalists who would put profits ahead of quality service. Or, as the banners said as workers marched peacefully in Paris: "No to privatization. Yes to nationalized public services." If the privatization of Électricité de France is sidelined, the result will be another embarrassment for the government, which has shown a repeated willingness to back down when confronted by angry unions.
President Jacques Chirac might not mind so much, given that Mr. Sarkozy will have been the public voice both of the effort to win approval of a privatization bill and of the retreat from that plan. Mr. Sarkozy is widely seen as a possible challenger should Mr. Chirac seek another term.
For investors, it is another reminder of the difficulties and the ambivalence of the French privatization program. The motivations for the program include the need to comply with European Union directives and the government's need for cash but do not reflect a consensus that privatization is good in and of itself. It took years for the government to finally bring to market an offering of shares in Snecma, the state-owned aerospace company, but Mr. Sarkozy pressed to complete it after he took office this spring. The shares are expected to begin trading tomorrow after the offering is completed, with an announced price range of 15.45 euros to 17.20 euros a share. The sale will raise as much as 2 billion euros, less than had been hoped but enough to help the government's budget. If the sale of stock in Électricité de France does take place, the prospectus no doubt will detail the concessions already made to the workers, which included promises that they would own substantial stakes and that employment levels would increase. Investors reading that, and recalling this week's angry protests, might not be very eager to buy the stock anyway.

From New York Times, NY, by FLOYD NORRIS - 17 June 2004

 

Privatization of KESC Govt's Top Priority Transaction: Hafeez

ISLAMABAD: The privatization of KESC was top priority transaction for the government and full support was being extended to all potential bidders with a level playing field through most transparent process. This was stated by Minister for Privatization and Investment, Dr. Hafeez while chairing the first Bidders Conference on privatization of Karachi Electric Supply Corporation, held here to facilitate the bidders for better understanding of the transaction and the privatization process. Representatives of the Consortiums of the three international parties including Independent Power Corporation (IPC), UK, Kanooz Al Watan , Saudi Arabia, and Ranhill Berhad, Malaysia participated in the conference.

From GEO, World - 9 June 2004

Fueling the Privatization Fire

Ministers decide to split Oil Refineries' facilties and put it all on the market . Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have decided to approve the splitting and privatization of the two Oil Refineries facilities in Haifa and Ashdod. Contrary to the recommendation of the interministerial committee, headed by former budgets director Uri Yogev, the ministers decided Tuesday evening that the two refineries will be put on the market together. First, an attempt will be made to sell the refineries to investors in the private market; if that runs into difficulties, then they will be offered on the stock market. In April, the interministerial committee recommended selling the refinery in Ashdod first, and only afterward selling the Haifa refinery. The Israel Corp., which is controlled by the Ofer Brothers, owns 26 percent of Oil Refineries (also known by its Hebrew acronym Bazan) and has the right of first refusal. Israel Corp. sources told Haaretz that the company is considering the matter. The sale offer will soon be brought before the Knesset Economics Committee. Sources at the finance and infrastructure ministries believe the Israel Corp. will accept the proposed plans, which will replace the previous agreement with the government from December 2002; this assessment is based on the fact that, if the proposal is rejected, the government will be forced to take unilateral steps regarding the splitting of the company and relations with the Israel Corp., using all the legal means at the government's disposal. At Oil Refineries' request, Netanyahu met Sunday with its chairman, Ohad Marani, and the refineries management. On Monday evening, Netanyahu met with Paritzky in order to summarize their joint position regarding the company's future.

The two decided to consult with a London firm that advises the treasury on Oil Refineries matters, on the question of whether the Ashdod plant would be able to compete with Haifa and with imports after the split, and whether there would be demand for the refinery upon its privatization. The Ashdod plant has about one-third the refining capacity of Haifa. The London consultant replied that Ashdod would be able to compete with Haifa, despite the size difference, and with imports. The consultant said Ashdod would be able to justify its existence after the split and that the location of the refinery, adjacent to the sea in the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin, would ensure that buyers would be found. After receiving this opinion, the two ministers decided to implement the split and the privatization of the two refineries as soon as possible, and to even try selling the two refineries concurrently. Despite the April recommendation, the new decisions made by the two ministers do not contradict Yogev's recommendations, but rather complement them, apart from the decision to sell both refineries at the same time. Fuel companies express interest. Paritzky said a purchase offer will be issued for the Ashdod plant, while Haifa will either be privatized or will issue stock via the bourse. After a conversation with Israel Corp. CEO Yossi Rosen, Paritzky believes the company's position will be positive, since the privatization of both refineries will enable the Israel Corp. to receive what it is due sooner. According to Yogev's draft of the process, the Israel Corp. will receive approximately NIS 480 million for its holdings, depending on the exact sum obtained from the privatization.

Paritzky also said that after the privatization there will be no reason for the state to continue regulating Oil Refineries' product prices. He figures the two refineries will be sold to fuel or other energy companies, and will both be allowed to sell fuel products at filling stations. "I know that a few fuel companies in Israel have expressed an interest," said Paritzky. "If we can't sell - we'll privatize via the bourse." The sale of the Haifa plant on the stock exchange will include the state's holdings (74 percent) and those of the Israel Corp. (26 percent) in a "tag-along" procedure. The target date for the completion of the privatization of the two refineries has been set for the end of next year. Other recommendations of the Yogev committee stated: If the receipts from the sale of the two refineries is in line with the evaluation of Oil Refineries, the Israel Corp. will receive NIS 480 million, but if a lower price is obtained, the Israel Corp. could receive 2.5-5 percent less than this sum. If the sale price is higher than the evaluation, the Israel Corp. will receive 15 percent of the added value, up to a maximum total of NIS 570 million. l If the government is unsuccessful in privatizing both refineries by the end of 2008, the Israel Corp. will give up its right of first refusal on the state's Oil Refineries shares and the state will have the option of buying the Israel Corp.'s shares. Alternatively, the state and the Israel Corp. could issue offers to buy the other party's shares, but that at no time after the separation of the Haifa and Ashdod refineries could the Israel Corp. hold shares in both companies. The Israel Corp. would, however, be allowed to acquire a controlling stake in one of the companies. Reuven Schwartzberg, chairman of the Oil Refineries workers' committee, responded that the workers would not allow the government to destroy the refinery enterprise and harm their livelihoods.
"If someone at the Finance or Infrastructure Ministry thinks he can carry out all sorts of plans to dismantle Bazan at the workers' expense - he is mistaken."

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Amiram Cohen - 17 June, 2004

Port Authority Chairman: Privatization Legislation "Declaration of War"

Port Authority Chairman Dan Tichon labeled the initial stages of the port reform legislation in the Knesset Finance Committee "a declaration of war" and warned that the longshoremen will go on strike shortly. Tichon hinted that the recent cabinet standoff, which had led to the departure of the National Union party from the coalition, is delaying the approval of the reform in the Finance Committee. "A month ago, the workers and the Treasury nearly reached a compromise, but everything fell apart as a result of the political changes", said Tichon.
Last week, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon interfered personally in the ports crisis and promised Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu to speed up reform legislation. Meanwhile, the port workers union is planning to approach President of the National Labor Court judge Steve Adler with a request to allow them to strike, after the court forbade such a strike in May. However, should the Knesset proceed with the reform legislation, senior union officials threatened to go on strike even without the court's approval. At the same time, the Histadrut Labor Union Federation is unlikely to approve a strike against the court injunction. "The Treasury is purposefully dragging its feet. It had no intention of reaching an agreement with us", said David Peretz, chairman of the Haifa port workers union. "We will wait another week and give the Finance Committee a chance to resolve the crisis. If there will be no positive results, the strike will be likely renewed". However, government sources estimated yesterday that the Finance Committee's chances to meet the July 8 deadline are slim.

From Maariv International, Israel, by Lior Baron - 29 June 2004

 

Economy Minister Outlines Privatization Policy

Georgian Economy Minister Kakha Bendukidze, who advocates radical deregulation of the economy, said on June 9 that almost all the state-run facilities and enterprises including ports of Poti and Batumi should be privatized. Georgian-born Russian tycoon Kakha Bendukidze, who has been appointed as Georgian Economy Minister in early June, told the members of the parliamentary committees for finances and sector economy that the state-run enterprises should be sold "in as high price as possible." Later on June 9, Kakha Bendukidze told Rustavi 2 television that "the railway, gas pipelines and Enguri hydro power station will not be privatized." The Enguri hydro power plant, which lies at the administrative border between breakaway Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, is the largest in the country and produces 700 megawatt of electricity per day. Bendukidze said that like Enguri power station, other energy facilities, which are also located in the conflict areas, would not be privatized. Kakha Bendukidze, who has been recently granted Georgian citizenship but still retains the Russian passport, also said that it is no difference who will buy enterprises in Georgia. "It makes no difference who will buy Georgian state-run facilities - Russians, Americans or others. The important is to receive as much money as possible from privatizing these enterprises," he added. Kakha Bendukidze told lawmakers on June 9 that the Georgian economy "must be freed from Soviet mentality" and Georgian businessmen - "from high taxes."
He said the government will present a draft of the new liberal tax code by June 12. Bendukidze vowed that in case of radical and ultra-liberal reforms "economic growth in Georgia will reach annual 12% by 2007." "I will be happy if by the mid-2007 there will be no need of Economy Ministry and it will be disbanded," the Economy Minister said.

From Civil Georgia, UK - 10 June 2004

Report Favors Privatization of NASA

WASHINGTON -- The president's moon-to-Mars commission recommends turning all 10 NASA centers into contractor-run facilities, a move that could transform Langley Research Center and shift many of its 2,272 civil servants into the private sector. The report released Wednesday by the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond is not binding, and NASA didn't immediately endorse the commission's eight findings and 14 recommendations, which won't be put into practice without support from NASA and Congress. It's not clear how this would change Langley, but the hope is Langley would become more efficient if it were run by companies rather than by the government. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said the agency needs to start to talk about reorganizing NASA centers. "Let's go take a look," O'Keefe said. "We need to find out who is interested." NASA Langley officials said they will not comment about the report this week. There is no precedent for turning an existing, government-run center like Langley into an operation run by companies, universities or other nonprofit groups. NASA has created one of these centers from scratch - the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which successfully managed this year's Mars missions. It is operated by the nonprofit California Institute of Technology, with money from NASA. "This is the most dramatic recommendation of transforming the organizational structure of NASA since NASA was created in the period from 1958 to 1961," said John Logsdon, veteran NASA observer and director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. "It's going to be hard. There's lots of nitty-gritty issues that someone else is going to have to work on." For example, what will happen to the pension of a civil servant with 25 years of experience if he is suddenly forced into the private sector? The commission's report doesn't address that. NASA wants to reduce its civil servant work force and adopt modern business practices. While it's politically difficult for the government to lay off civil servants, a contractor-run facility would be better able to trim its work force when necessary, Logsdon said.

The recommendations might never take off. When former President George H.W. Bush formed a commission in 1990 to put humans on Mars, Congress never bought the idea, and NASA didn't implement the commission's recommendations. This time, the president's vision has plenty of skeptics and critics on Capitol Hill. The chairman of the House Science Committee declined to endorse the privatization idea Wednesday. "The privatization component is intriguing, but we need to review it more closely," said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y. The plan also is sure to unnerve local Langley supporters, who worry about the future of Langley employees and the health of aeronautics. "Any time you mention the word 'privatization,' fear is the first thing they feel," said U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Gloucester, whose district is home to some Langley employees. "I want to see the reasons behind it and what it means in the way of savings." Turning Langley into a contractor-run center is a bad idea, said Anna McNider, president of the NASA Aeronautics Support Team, which lobbies for more flight research at Langley to reverse Europe's dominance in aeronautics. "When you're running a research operation, it doesn't fit the business model," McNider said. Langley specializes in doing early, basic research in aeronautics that isn't meant to make a profit. The private sector doesn't want to invest in research until later, when it can be commercialized into an attractive product. Virginia Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Newport News, echoed that concern, saying he was skeptical that a privatization plan makes sense for NASA. "The purpose of NASA is to do research which will not be done by the private sector," Scott said. "The payoff can be decades away. It won't show up on the next quarterly report. That's why we have a government agency." The chair of the commission, Pete Aldridge, once led the Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit organization that runs several research facilities with funding from the Air Force. Aldridge conceded that turning NASA centers into contractor-run facilities won't be easy. "It's going to be a difficult job, there's no doubt about this," Aldridge said. "Each center has to look at as far as what its role is going to be."

The commission considered whether NASA even needs 10 centers to fulfill the president's goals of finishing the space station by 2010, phasing out the space shuttle, developing a new crew vehicle to the moon and eventually putting humans on Mars. But suggesting center closures would have overshadowed everything else in the report, Aldridge said. "The report probably would have been burned on the first day," he said. If the centers are turned into contractor-run facilities, NASA could "let the private sector decide the value and future of the center," Aldridge said. The report says NASA centers have "Apollo-era infrastructure that needs substantial modernization." Langley was an aeronautics research lab for 40 years before the birth of NASA. The center led research for the Mercury and Apollo missions and performed tests on shuttle structures and materials. According to the report, the centers sometimes duplicate each other's work, place insufficient priority on innovation and aren't flexible enough to reorganize when research goals change. Earlier this year, Langley Director Roy Bridges started several "kick-start teams" to change the center's outdated, inflexible ways. The teams, some of which will report this month, are planning how to reorganize management, modernize business practices and respond quickly to the needs of the exploration vision. President Bush created the Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond in January after his announcement of the nation's new exploration vision. He ordered the nine-member commission of scientists, retired military officers and contractors to provide recommendations and advice on how to implement the vision, although the plan lacks budgetary considerations and detailed timetables for achieving space milestones. Among the report's other recommendations: Establish a permanent space exploration steering council, chaired by a White House executive to make sure the vision endures. Let the private sector, not NASA, provide the technology for getting into low-Earth orbit. Start an independent cost-estimating organization within NASA to track and control expenses. Begin a NASA research and technology organization that sponsors high-risk, high-payoff technology and tolerates failures that could lead to future successes. Daily Press reporter David Lerman contributed to this report.

From Daily Press, bY DAVE SCHLECK - 10 June 2004