ISSUE 66
October 2004
 
 
   
    South Africa: Multi-Billion Rand Funding Programme for Johannesburg
   
    Asia: Indo-ASEAN Relationship Should Lead to an Asian Economic Community
   
    Public and Private Partnerships
 
   
    Liberia: Corruption Widespread in Liberia - U.N. Panel Observed
Papua New Guinea: Corruption A Major Deterrent to Growth: Potts
Papua New Guinea: Government Serious in Fighting Corruption, Says Prime Minister
Sierra Leone: MRU Journalists Team Up Against Corruption
Sierra Leone: Local Governance: Curbing Or Fostering Corruption?
Malawi: Norway Resumes Aid to Malawi
Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone and the AU Convention On Corruption
Kenya: State Moves to Freeze Stolen Billions Abroad
Kenya: Corruption: Kibaki Pleads With Donors
Kenya: Kenya Reacts Angrily to UN Corruption Survey
Africa: Corruption Sucking Africa Dry, Says African Union (AU)
Zimbabwe: NGOs Craft Code of Ethics
Nigeria: Nigeria Refutes Global Corruption Watchdog's Report
Uganda: Uganda Corruption Rate Improves
Uganda: Minister Blames Corruption On IMF
Kenya: Kenya, World Bank Take New Steps Against Corruption
Nigeria: Nigerian Parliamentarians to Take Lead in Fighting Corruption
   
    FijiI: Corruption Trend to Continue
Indonesia: Many City Projects Remain Unfinished, Officials Say
Bangladesh: Bangladesh Rejects Corruption Perception Report
Philippines: World Bank Grant to Sharpen Skills of Government Anti-corruption Body
Vietnam: Asia to Establish Anti- corruption Agency: Prime Minister
North Vietnam: Voters Petition NA to Establish Proposed Anti-corruption Agency
   
    Turkey: Turkey Corrects Its Corruption Report
Serbia-Montenegro: Montenegro Holds Conference on Combating Regional Corruption
   
    Kuwait: Kuwaiti Prime Minister Hits out at Corruption, Red Tape
   
    Trinidad & Tobago: Government to Tackle Organised Crime, Corruption
Trinidad & Tobago: Trinidad & Tobago Falls Lower in Global Corruption Ratings
Central America: The High Cost of Corruption
   
    Corruption Axe Growth in Developing Countries, Says WB
Asian Development Bank Alleged to have Ignored Fiduciary Duty to Address Corruption Issues
Several Countries Lagging Behind in Governance - UNECA
Corruption in Africa
 
   
    Kenya: 'Changes to Civil Servants Pay Unlikely'
Kenya: Civil Servants' Pay is Too Costly, Court Told
South Africa: Civil Servants' Contribution to Pension Fund to Decrease
   
    South Korea: "No Right to Strike": Bill on Unionization for Public Servants Confirmed
   
    Ireland: 2,300 civil Servants Face Jobs Axe
United Kingdom: Government Programme Aims to Boost Civil Servant Skills
United Kingdom: Civil Servants Go on Strike
 
   
    South Africa: SA Taps India, Brazil on E-Government
Namibia: E-Governance the Latest Buzz
South Africa: Open Source Support Vital to Enhance E-government Initiatives
South Africa: E-Government Services on SMS
   
    India: E-governance Initiative for Filing of Returns of Income
India: E-governance Project to Connect Rural India
Singapore: Singapore Taking Big Steps to Upgrade E-Government Services
   
    EU: Report: Poor Infrastructure Hinders E-governmnet in New EU
France: French to Use E-Government to Slash Public Spending
Europe: IT Spending on E-government to Grow in Western Europe– Report
United Kingdom: Make Quality of E-government Services Your Top Priority, Councils Are Warned
United Kingdom: UK Public against Investment in Wider Access for E-Government Services
Central Europe: E-government in Central Europe
United Kingdom: Councils Promoting Efficiency Agenda in Wales: e-Government a Key
Germany: Standardization Cuts E-government Costs
   
    Dubai: Dubai e-Government & New Horizons Launch the e-Citizen Program under the e4all Initiative
United Arab Emirates: E-portal Launch Helps Realise UAE E-government Dream
   
    United States: United States Aims to Reduce Bureaucracy for Citizens
   
    Taiwan: Taiwan Ranks First in Global E-Government Survey
 
   
    Ghana: Procurement Act Accepted
Uganda: Uganda's Spending Priorities All Wrong
Nigeria: Electronic Tax Card: Lagos Projects N10 bn Revenue
Kenya: EU Decision on Aid Expected in November
   
    Philippines: RP to IMF: Ease Up on Fiscal Accounting
South Korea: Worsening Fiscal Soundness: Effective Mid-Term Policy Should Be Mapped
Vanuatu: Vanuatu Gets EU Vt240 Million Grant
Philippines: Government to Form Debt, Risk Management Agency
   
    United Kingdom: Regulation Undermines Finance Industry
 
   
    South Africa: Partnerships the Focus for Parastatals
Nigeria: Diplomat Tasks Government On Privatisation Gives Recipe for Poverty Alleviation
Uganda: Kagonyera Dismisses Privatisation
Nigeria: Where is the Rice?
   
    Thailand: Privatisation: University Plan Planned
Bangladesh: Cabinet Committee Decision Makes Privatisation Commission Jobless
   
    Bahrain: Cabinet Clears Proposal to Regulate Privatisation Steps - Bahrain
Bahrain: Privatisation Moves Are Praised
Iran: Iranian Govt Given Green Light to Proceed with Privatization
Iran: Expediency Council Passes New Decisions on Privatization Drive of Iran's Economy
   
    Research and Markets: Comprehensive Breakdown and Analysis of Privatisation and Public Private Partnership Activity
Snow Calls for up to 100 Percent Debt Relief for Poor Countries
Capacity-building Initiatives Can Spur Economies
Healthcare Privatisation Fuelling Asian Child Deaths: UN Report
 

Multi-Billion Rand Funding Programme for Johannesburg

The local government authority will be implementing a six-year funding strategy to the tune of R6 billion in the current financial year to support the City's capital investment programme. Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality Treasurer Jason Ngobeni said this will be executed through the Domestic Medium Term Note programme (DMTN). The programme will allow the city to issue unsecured and secured registered funding instruments of any nature with an aggregate principal amount not exceeding the authorised programme amount. The funding programme will run until 2010, and involves the issuing of institution and retail bonds, commercial paper with a maximum maturity of one year and bank loans. "Joburg will use this funding approach instead of the regular issuing of debt on a project by project basis," he said. DMTNs are regarded as far cheaper to use as a debt raising mechanism compared to conventional outright bond issues.

Given prevailing market and interest rates, they are likely to give the City greater flexibility in issuing appropriate debt instruments. The programme as well as notes issued under it will be listed on the Bond Exchange of South Africa.An important aspect of the programme is its greater level of transparency, which according to Mayoral Committee Member of Finance and Economic development, Parks Tau, eliminates the surprise element because investors will know upfront the funding needs of the City. "We will be appointing advisors, market makers and other specialists, but are also considering other forms of funding such as public private partnerships, securitisation and other forms of balance sheet funding for capital projects. "As leader and innovator amongst municipalities, Joburg is also in compliance with all underlying principles of the Municipal Finance Management Act 56 of 2003," he said. He added that numerous well-known business institutions were currently making use of the DMTN programme in South Africa.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Clive Ndou (Johannesburg) of BuaNews, Pretoria, South Africa, 19 October 2004

 

Indo-ASEAN Relationship Should Lead to an Asian Economic Community

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh affirmed the Government’s commitment to intensify the process of regional cooperation and integration between India and ASEAN. Inaugurating the Third India-ASEAN Business Summit here today, Dr. Manmohan Singh envisioned an Asian Economic Community, which encompasses ASEAN, China, Japan, Korea and India. The Prime Minister referred to the Early Harvest Programme, which provides for immediate tariff concessions through trade liberalisation. He also underlined the Government’s objective of stepping up the rate of growth of Indian economy to 7 per cent to 8 per cent over the next decade and to make efforts to promote such investment and to create a conducive climate for investors and entrepreneurs. Dr. Manmohan Singh emphasised the fact that Indian economy could absorb up to $150 billion of foreign investment in the infrastructure and invited the ASEAN businesses to invest in India. The Prime Minister also advised the State Governments to be proactive in developing mutually beneficial co-operation with the ASEAN region. He also called upon the Indian business community to invest in South East Asia. ASEAN Secretary General, Mr. Ong Keng Yong, President-elect, CII, Mr. Y.C. Deveshwar and President, FICCI Mr. Yogendra Kumar Modi were among the delegates. The following is the text of the inaugural address made by the Prime Minister: “I am indeed very happy to have this opportunity to inaugurate the 3rd India-ASEAN Business Summit in our capital city of New Delhi. I extend a warm welcome to all delegates, especially our friends from ASEAN countries. I wish you all a fruitful and a very pleasant stay in India.

Deliberations at the annual India-ASEAN Business Summits have enriched the deliberations at the Heads of Government level meetings. This is natural, since today economic and commercial contact increasingly determines the nature of state to state interactions. The movement of people, capital, goods and services is playing an increasingly important role in establishing a framework for governments to define relations among nations. Therefore it is fair to say that economic engagement has an impact on political relations between nations. In this context, I am confident that your deliberations will have a beneficial and a powerful impact on our deliberations at the India-ASEAN Summit in Laos next month. The intensification of India’s relationship with ASEAN is a vital element of our government’s foreign policy. It is very important to note that our traditionally friendly relations have now acquired a multi-dimensional and multi-faceted character. This is the logical culmination of the process begun in 1992, when India first became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN. A decade ago we unveiled our “Look East” policy. This is more than a mere political slogan, or a foreign policy orientation. It has a strong economic rationale and commercial content. We wish to “Look East” because of the centuries of interactions between us. This tradition, and our faith in the principles of democracy and pluralism, bring all of us together. We also share a desire for a stable, secure and equitable, new order. The question of achieving stability and security in our region is also a common factor, particularly as we collectively face a threat from similar foes, who oppose our core values. Therefore, as we ‘Look East’ and you ‘Look West’, it is natural that we look at each other in this enterprise of restoring to Asia its rightful place in the comity of nations.

Today, India and ASEAN have joined hands on a whole array of issues, ranging from regional trade and investment cooperation, to interaction on regional security. Our partnership is expanding to exciting new fields of science, technology and services. We are finding new ways to share our experiences and areas of expertise. There is a broad recognition of the enormous benefits flowing from greater integration between India and ASEAN. The encompassing vision of such a closer integration is set out in the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Co-operation between India and ASEAN. What was envisaged was the creation of an India-ASEAN Regional Trade and Investment Area, which would include a Free Trade Area in goods, services and investment. This is to be achieved through progressive elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers in substantially all trade in goods, progressive liberalization of trade in services, with substantial sectoral coverage, and the establishment of a liberal and competitive investment regime that facilitates and promotes investment. I would like to take this opportunity to affirm once again that our Government will intensify the process of regional cooperation and integration between India and ASEAN.

Integration is a process that is being driven today, both by the technological revolution that shrinks distances, and by interconnected population. This is visible in the proliferation of regional co-operation mechanisms across the globe, including in our own region. Therefore, it is only inevitable that we seek to take the existing India-ASEAN relationship to a higher level, where we envision an Asian Economic Community, which encompasses ASEAN, China, Japan, Korea and India. Such a community would release enormous creative energies of our people. One cannot but be captivated by the vision of an integrated market, spanning the distance from the Himalayas to the Pacific Ocean, linked by efficient road, rail, air and shipping services. This community of nations would constitute an “arc of advantage”, across which there would be large-scale movement of people, capital, ideas, and creativity. Such a community would be roughly the size of the European Union in terms of income, and bigger than NAFTA in terms of trade. It would account for half the world’s population, and it would hold foreign exchange reserves exceeding those of the EU and NAFTA put together. This is an idea whose time is fast approaching, and we must be prepared for it collectively.

In preparing ourselves for this ambitious goal, there is much that we have already undertaken. We have embarked on projects to interconnect existing roads and rail links, we are striving to increase flight services and destinations, to provide multi-modal transportation linkages and to provide optical-fibre supported communications. We are attempting to expand our partnership in the new knowledge economy, which dominates the world, covering areas such as information technology, communications and biotechnology. These new initiatives will bring us closer - physically and virtually - and create the necessary linkages, which will further bind our countries together. However, we need to find ways of emphasizing the logic of such partnerships within our own countries. One such example of such an effort is the India-ASEAN Car Rally, which I hope to flag off next month from Guwahati. This rally will run through ten countries before finishing in Indonesia. It will dramatically symbolize the effort to forge new linkages, while embodying the spirit of our cooperation. We are working towards completion of FTA negotiations between India and the ASEAN. A balanced expansion of trade will provide the best argument for local industries to embrace the potential benefit of these arrangements. Only if we exhibit pragmatism, flexibility and courage will India-ASEAN trade relations grow in a manner commensurate with its vast latent potential. In last year’s business summit, we have already set ourselves the target of raising our trade to US $ 15 billion by the year 2005, and to US$30 billion by the year 2007. These are achievable targets, if we focus on commodities, which show great potential for trade, as some recent studies have clearly shown. We must ensure that our trade baskets increase qualitatively, in value terms, and in terms of the diversity of products in the trade basket.

The first fruits of trade liberalization will be available through the Early Harvest Programme, which provides for immediate tariff concessions. This is a confidence building measure and a harbinger of changes, which will follow in years to come. I sincerely hope that the chambers of commerce will effectively disseminate information on the concessions so that trade and industry in our countries, particularly small and medium enterprises, can take full advantage of the benefits available under the Scheme. At the same time, it is essential to recognize that our different historical experiences, and our differing levels of development provide us with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge of integrating economies at differing levels of development is evident, but the opportunity of learning from each other’s experiences is also an investment in our future. We must therefore set ourselves the target of working with each other for our common, collective benefit. Investment, as I have always said is, in the final analysis, an act of faith. The growing linkages between India and South East Asia are signs and symbols that mutual benefit and faith is growing. But I think it is evident to all that we can certainly do much better in this regard and we must commit ourselves to that noble goal.

As you know, our Government has set itself the objective of stepping up the rate of growth of our economy to at least 7 per cent to 8 per cent during the next decade. This acceleration of economic growth will require a substantial increase in the volume of investment in our economy, both domestic and foreign. We shall make every effort to promote such investment and to create a climate conducive for investors and entrepreneurs to use the productive capacities and resources of our people.
I recognize that for investments to flow improvements are required in our physical infrastructure and this area I assure you, will receive the highest priority of our Government. We have to create the right environment in which public-private partnerships can thrive, resulting not only in the efficient use of our resources but also in the efficient management and running of infrastructural services. We are now working towards the creation of a regulatory framework in infrastructure sectors that would be transparent and independent and which would be based on international best practices. Our equirements of capital in infrastructure are indeed very large. The requirements of our airports and railways will alone amount to over $55 billion in the next ten years. Our power sector needs $75 billion and the telecom sector $25 billion over the next five years. We believe the Indian economy can absorb up to $150 billion of foreign investment in the infrastructure sector over the next ten years. There is, therefore, a large window of opportunity for ASEAN businessmen to invest in our country.

Equally, Indian business must invest in South-East Asia. We have some attractive examples of successful Indian enterprises in the region. But we need more, especially in the newly industrializing economies of ASEAN where opportunities for new investment are presenting themselves. Indian businessmen must be more proactive in exploring markets and investment opportunities in South-East Asia and to build long-term durable relationships across the countries of the region.
Our State governments should also be proactive in developing mutually beneficial cooperation with the ASEAN region. The development of ports in West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu can re-build maritime links of the Coromandel Coast with South-East Asia. While in the North-East, the Central government is committed to developing the infrastructure of trade and development, there is much that our State governments can do to promote trade and commerce with countries of South-East Asia. It is interesting to note that the eminent maritime historian, Sinnappa Arasaratnam, recalls in his classic work on “Maritime India” how “India benefited from the liberal regime that all Indian states permitted along the coast, and the autonomy they gave to the communities that dwelt there. This enabled the littoral states to develop in a fashion complementary to the interior and to function with little interference from groups that would not have understood the needs and demands of the predominant activity of commerce.”

There is a lesson in this for all of us today. I would like to affirm that our government will be committed to policies that enable us to work more closely and more intimately with our neighbours, and to support the efforts of State governments in promoting business to business links between India and South East Asia. It is such mutually beneficial business links that will, in the final analysis, give meaning to our “Look East” policy. Moreover, it is this that will eventually give shape to the idea of an Asian century. With these words, I wish your deliberations all success.”

Press Information Bureau (press release), India, 19 October 2004

 

Public and Private Partnerships

A Chinese official Tuesday reiterated that protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is a priority in addressing the challenges brought by China's economic growth, saying that European Union (EU) and Japanese efforts to strengthen IPR protection in China are welcome. At a seminar on industrial design protection jointly conducted by China, the EU and Japan in Beijing Tuesday, Li Ling, director-general of Treaty and Law Department of Ministry of Commerce, said intellectual property rights protection is a right of all companies in China, including domestic business people and foreign investors. China has made continual progress in its IPR administrative capacity and enforcement systems, thanks to a past decade of legislative efforts. The challenges brought by increasing economic growth have posed a higher demand on the Chinese government, said Li. "We welcome the efforts of the EU and Japan to strengthen co-operation and partnership in all fields of IPR protection,'' Li said.

The seminar was held to bring together the governments from the three nations to discuss the issue of protecting industrial designs in China in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international standards. European officials encouraged China to stay on course with initiatives to further strengthen IPR protections. Globalization and trade liberalization are bringing WTO members and multinational companies closer together. Nowhere is this more apparent than in China - the world's largest recipient of foreign direct investment, said Paul Vandoren, director of trade at the European Commission. While China has made progress in international trade co-operation, without effective nationwide anti-counterfeiting measures, it will be difficult to maintain the attractiveness of the Chinese market for foreign and domestic investors or encourage innovation and protect consumers from safety hazards. "We welcome the opportunity to establish public and private partnerships involving European and Chinese governments and their industrial circles in order to beat the counterfeiters,'' he said.

Japanese officials stressed the need to strengthen dialogue and technical co-operation with China particularly in IPR field, in order to further strengthen relationships. "We see trade co-operation between Japan and China as a long-term strategic partnership. Trade has been supported by technical exchanges, training, and dialogue in the area of IPR protection. The Japanese Government welcomes the initiative to work with our European counterparts and the Chinese Government to make efforts in improving the standard of IPR protection,'' said Makita Shimokawa, director of Economic Integration Division from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the seminar, specialists said that as foreign investment continues to flow into the Chinese market, industrial designs, which create the unique "look" of a product and allow a brand to be easily recognized by consumers, must be better protected.

China Daily, China, 19 October 2004

 
 
Corruption Widespread in Liberia - U.N. Panel Observed

Says NTGL Efforts Not Far-Reaching for Lifting of Sanctions
In June this year, the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, NTGL, Charles Gyude Bryant, requested the Security Council to assess the compliance of the NTGL with the sanctions regime imposed on the country under the regime of Charles Taylor. Bryant argued that his administration had done all that was possible under the prevailing economic and security conditions following a decade of devastating warfare in the country and urged the Council to lift the sanctions on humanitarian grounds if not the strength of what his administration had achieved. The Council conceded and set up a panel of experts to find out within 90 days whether Liberia met the benchmarks for the lifting of sanctions. Now the panel's findings are out, but they are a wide shot from the expectations of the NTGL. Even ordinary Liberians are divided over what the findings would mean for the nation. The Analyst's Staff Writer looks briefly at key issues noted by the report.

The UN Panel of Experts established pursuant to Resolution 1549 to conduct preliminary assessment of progress in Liberia has reported to the Security Council that NTGL has more to do in order to meet standards for the lifting of sanctions on diamond and timbers. In a letter to the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1521 (2003) concerning Liberia, dated September 13, 2004, the Chairman of the Panel of Experts on Liberia, Atabou Bodian, noted, "On behalf of the members of the Panel of Experts on Liberia, we have the honour to enclose the report of the Panel, prepared in accordance with paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 1549 (2004)." Even though the Panel acknowledged in its reports that "there is widespread compliance with timber sanctions," and that there are hopeful signs of recovery, it contended that "few of the necessary reforms have been implemented." Key amongst what have been achieved, according to the Panel, is the establishment of a system for depositing all forestry revenues in accounts directed by the Ministry of Finance at the Central Bank of Liberia. Besides, the Panel noted the NTGL's role in amending the new Minerals and Mining Law, part 1, title 23, by adding thereto a new chapter 40, providing for controls on export, import and transit of rough diamonds to the National Transitional Legislative Assembly of Liberia. Notwithstanding these gains, according to the Panel, the diamond and timber industries of the country remain vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous in light of UNMIL's lack of security regulation powers.

Noted the reports: "Corruption remains widespread, and the humanitarian situation is critical. There are serious concerns regarding food security - recently the World Food Programme almost ran out of relief supplies. Likewise, there are serious health concerns. Liberia still has no public electric, water and sewage utilities, even in the capital, Monrovia, where more than 1 million people live. Most border crossings remain under the control of the forces of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) remains hampered by the Security Council mandate, which does not provide the Mission with the full executive authority that allows, for example, the arrest of those undermining peace or failing to disarm." Describing the security situation in Liberia as "calm but unpredictable," the Panel concluded: "Without sufficient security, timber companies will provide their own protection forces, and conflict could resume. Without financial oversight, misappropriation will facilitate corruption. And without enforcement, timber companies may violate regulations with impunity. To avoid the mistakes of the past, reform is necessary." It then recommended that the sanctions should stay on until noticeable progress, especially in the capability of FDA to manage forest exploitation and use, was recorded.

From AllAfrica.com, from The Analyst, Monrovia, 1 October 2004

Corruption A Major Deterrent to Growth: Potts

The World Bank has identified corruption as the single greatest obstacle to economical and social development in Papua New Guinea and other developing countries, Australian High Commissioner Michael Potts has said. "Corruption distorts the efficient allocation of resources and impacts negatively on sustainable economical growth, income equality and poverty reduction. "It has been estimated to cost PNG and these countries up to a sixth of their gross domestic product and as much as half of their tax revenues. But World Bank research shows that countries that tackle corruption and improve their rule of law can increase their national incomes by as much as four times in the long term and child mortality can fall as much as 75%." Mr Potts, through his representative Steve Hogg, made these revelations at the opening of the new National Fraud and Anti-Corruption office in Port Moresby on Friday.

The Australian government, through the AusAID Incentive Fund, has provided more than K7.3 million over three years to fund the building, training programmes and capacity building efforts of the Royal PNG Constabulary. "In PNG, the challenge of corruption will require enormous political resolve at all levels of government, as well as the private and public sector," Mr Potts stated, pointing out that Australia's support to the law and justice sector is being delivered in two ways. "Firstly through AusAID support for the law and justice sector, where more than K330 million will be provided over the next five years to promote the rule of law and to strengthened the efficiency and effectiveness of PNG's law and justice system. This building is one part of the sector addressing this priority. "The second is through the Enhanced Cooperation Programme, which will provide additional support to PNG to promote economical stability and growth."

From The National, Papua New Guinea, by Clifford Faiparik, 3 October 2004

Government Serious in Fighting Corruption, Says Prime Minister

A budget increase for the Ombudsman Commission and the joint policing partnership package with Australia are proof that the government is serious in fighting corruption at all levels. "Despite our limited resources, we have given the Ombudsman Commission their largest budget ever in the last two years to enable them improve their efforts in dealing with corruption," Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said on Friday. "We have also implemented with Australia the Enhanced Cooperation Package (ECP), which will see a slight increase in police manpower with the input and support of the Australian police personnel," he added. The Prime Minister was speaking at the opening of a new police fraud and anti-corruption office in Port Moresby, funded by the Australian government. The funding also covered the purchase of three new cars, 17 new computers and accessories, two photocopying machines and office furniture and equipment. Also in attendance was Australian High Commission representative Steven Hogg and Commissioner of Police, Sam Inguba. "The opening of this building is timely; I am sick and tired to hear of high profile cases being dismissed in the courts due to lack of evidence," Sir Michael said. "People who hamper investigations must be dealt with or removed from office. They are blocking transparent investigations into cases that had allegedly caused sufferings to the majority of the silent hardworking people." He said misappropriation and fraudulent use of public funds by those in positions of trust are still rampant and continue to go unpunished. "Despite the efforts of bodies like the Ombudsman Commission and commissions of inquiry, very few people have been charged or prosecuted. Reports of illegal activities being protected by authorities are widespread. We are all fed up and have had enough." Coincidently just last week, the Waigani Committal Court acquitted two lawyers implicated in the NPF scam from four counts each of conspiracy and four counts for misappropriating more than K40,000 belonging to NPF (now NASFUND). This decision had turned sour with Transparency International (TIPNG) and police chief of prosecutions, Superintendent Thomas Eluh.

From The National, Papua New Guinea, 3 October 2004

MRU Journalists Team Up Against Corruption

Sequel to a successful training of Journalists from across the Manor River Union (MRU) on corruption, accountability, budget processing and management, procurement rules and the role of the Civil Society Movements in effective local governance, journalists of the MRU have formed a Media Network. The workshop was organized by the National Accountability Group (NAG) - a non-governmental organization with 'transparency in service delivery' as its main objective and co-funded by the Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Decentralization Secretariat. The need to build coalitions became very ideal so as to reach a common consensus on fighting corruption. Recognizing the common history of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which in this case is a fundamental synergy and the fact that corruption and injustice are challenges in the MRU, a group of journalists (trainees) considered the occasion as an opportunity to unite the Union against the common forces of underdevelopment, conflicts and injustice in the sister countries. It is against this background therefore, journalists from the three countries pledged to form a Media Network in tackling corruption in the Union basin to ensure accountable, transparent and participatory governance through identifying constructive mechanism in engaging stakeholders. Tentatively Alphonsus Zeon, the Secretary General - Press Union of Liberia who is also the Editor Radio Veritas and publisher of 'The Vanguard Newspaper' would serve as the President, Ibrahima Kalil Diakite, Director Radio Guinee Internationale as the Deputy president and Albert Baron Ansu - Media Action Against Corruption & Injustice as the Executive Secretary.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Tanu Jalloh of Concord Times, Freetown, 4 October 2004

Local Governance: Curbing Or Fostering Corruption?

The linkage between local governance, which in most cases promotes participation and political inclusion through decentralizing government structures for equitable distribution of basic goods and services, to that of corruption cannot be overemphasized, especially when it comes to the reengineering of relationships within the context of local community development. This brings to focus the glaring challenges posed as a result of the marked absence of local government institutions over the past three decades. The adversity of it did not only incapacitate and alienate the people, institutionalize corruption making it systemic, entrenched and inevitably decreed by socio-cultural and political norms but also indoctrinated the fine breed of post independence political activists. As a result, for most people, the decentralization process will take some time to make the expected grip and impact despite the wider space it would create for active and participatory democracy. I think civil society organizations should consider the task of restoring that confidence and stimulate actions, as being a Herculean one. It takes a coalition with non-governmental organizations and the private sector to actualize such a wonderful dream. Similarly, there is need to establish a clear-cut definition as regards the responsibility of councilors and traditional heads, in our own case, the chiefs. You would agree with me that after the local council elections and the subsequent inauguration of councilors, there have been frequent instances of misunderstanding where paramount chiefs see councilors as either being subordinates or political rivals (SLPP elected Paramount Chiefs misconstruing the positions of both the APC and Independent candidates to mean otherwise) and definitely not as partners in development.

According to a Novascotian born adviser working with the Anti Corruption Commission, Donald Bowser, the interim period could have been constructively maximized in reengineering the relationship between the two (chiefs and councilors) or else it is even more likely that the entire process of decentralization might breed an obnoxious competition, instead of the desired goal. And if such intolerable atmosphere continues to exist, the question of accountability and transparency in service delivery at the council level might shoddily have an effect on development and subsequently the efforts of civil society organizations in accessing records on the activities of the councils could be hampered. This beyond every doubt is tantamount to corruption in the extreme understanding of the word from a development point of view. In some African countries notably Uganda, tradition heads must not be regarded as politicians or act as political heads. Paramount Chiefs are ceremonial or traditional figures that wielded authority and are respected by everyone including the president. They are always consulted whenever an important decision is to be taken in terms of development in the community.

In the case of Sierra Leone, the existing structures and mechanisms, upon the establishment of local governance, are bound to be intermittently affected as in most cases would exhibit features very similar to or that could probably be attributed to corruption. Efforts should therefore be made to checkmate the functions and activities of these institutions, even before they start full operations. To employ formidable strategies through watchdog agencies should however be considered a primary challenge owing to the lack of resources and proficiency. Civil society should therefore muster and marshal its entire fist in curbing the corrupt content of a genuine intention to enhance participatory democracy. They go a long way in filling the gap that was skipped by the local government Act. This implies that like ward committees, civil society must also be formed at ward level. The proximity of the two institutions within the local government structure would enhance transparency and accountability hence development. On the part of the central government, these institutions must not only be established but must also be seen to be supportive. It could only be worth benefiting if the responsibility of councilors and council chairmen is reflected by the active participation of the people.

The reintroduction of local government in Sierra Leone is modeled on the thriving Ugandan decentralization process for the past fourteen years. In Uganda for instance, governance is seen to be accommodating certain values, policies and institutions where society makes decision related to political, economic, social, cultural and environmental affairs through interaction with the state, civil society and the private sector. This implies that governance is not synonymous to government. The latter, however, holds complex mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and their groups articulate their interests, mediate their differences and exercise their legal rights vis-à-vis their obligations based on certain fundamental principles like political openness, participation and inclusiveness, respect of the rule of law, equality, accountability and transparency. In which case, the environment becomes very uncomfortable and inclement for corruption to flourish. Within the local government machinery women and the disabled are well represented. Unlike Sierra Leone, the ward committees, which must have at least 40% of women, are directly elected by the people, which indicate that the least component within the local government structure could only be established and supported by the people. This makes for proper inclusion and effective service delivery. Chiefs in Sierra Leone could appoint members of his choice to the ward committees, which makes them somewhat accountable to him and not the people. This aspect of the local government Act must be looked into as a matter of urgency.

In order to avoid complacency in the oversight and monitoring of these committees, with the single intent of minimizing corruption and misuse of office, laws binding authorities within the local government structure should be strong on councilors' willingness in making their activities known to the public including access to information on budget processing and, management. Within the budget allocation systems of any council, provision should be made for watchdog agencies including civil society organizations for effective oversight and monitoring. In Uganda 5% of the annual budget for any council is allocated for anti-corruption agencies. In most cases the central watchdog agency (it could be a coalition), could not successfully cover the whole country. It is against this background that civil society organizations are formed at ward level. Lack of resources for these agencies will create a clog in information gathering, allocating and coordinating reliable reports and could apparently generate incapacitation. On the contrary sufficient funding would promote effectiveness.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Tanu Jalloh of Concord Times, Freetown, 5 October 2004

Norway Resumes Aid to Malawi

Blantyre - Norway on Tuesday resumed aid to Malawi, saying the poor southern African country had made strides in fighting corruption and keeping public spending in check. Norway was one of several donors that suspended financial assistance to Malawi after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) froze aid in 2002 over concerns about overspending by the former administration of ex-president Bakili Muluzi. It announced $3-million (about R20-million) in aid to Malawi and said it was open to giving more in the coming months and in years to come if the new government of President Bingu wa Mutharika spends it wisely. "The government has shown credible fiscal discipline and scaled up the fight against corruption," a statement from the Norwegian embassy said. If development in Norway is "positive and the limited public resources are spent in accordance with the budget, the Norwegian government would consider additional budget support this year and the years to come," said the statement. Malawi is reeling under a domestic debt of $600-million and a foreign debt of $2,9-billion.
Mutharika's six-month-old government has pledged wide-ranging economic reforms to resurrect the sluggish economy, battered over the years by high-level corruption, interest rates and inflation. About 65 percent of the estimated 11 million Malawians live in abject poverty.

From Independent Online, South Africa, 6 October 2004

Sierra Leone and the AU Convention On Corruption

Perhaps one of the most appreciable developments that have taken place across the African continent could be the adoption in July 2003 of the African Union Convention Against Corruption during the Maputo Summit in Mozambique. Corruption is invariably the worst disease that has plagued the continent over the past decades. The AU's adoption of a convention to combat corruption in the continent may have come at the right moment especially at a period when the campaign against corruption has taken a universal dimension. No one would deny the fact that corruption has been the major cause of Africa's instability since independence. The convention is expected to strengthen existing clauses in individual state laws on corruption by outlining the nature of corrupt practices punishable by domestic legislation and further stipulates measures that would facilitate the detection and investigation of corruption and other related offences. The convention will determine the powers and duties of state parties; organizes mutual assistance in relation to corruption and otne5r related offences; encourages the education and promotion of public awareness on the devastating tendencies of corruption and establish a framework for the monitoring and supervision of the enforcement of the convention.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Right and other declarations motivates the African Union convention on Preventing and combating corruption and related offences, although some of these protocols could not explicitly mention corruption. It is from this point of view that corruption becomes a human right issue and therefore binding on all Human Right Organizations to join the bandwagon. It is against this background that Mr. John Caulker, Executive Director of Forum Of Conscience (a human right organization in Sierra Leone), who was also recently elected to lead the African Human Right Defenders Network at a Commonwealth seminar in Nairobi, Kenya has been calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to ratify the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Right that was adopted on the 9th June 1999 at the Summit of Heads of State and government in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Sierra Leone has signed virtually all the United Nations Conventions and African Union but is yet to ratify them.
Nonetheless, what is worth noting is the 28-article AU document started out as the convention on preventing and combating corruption, but discrepancies blotted a clear-cut definition in legal systems, which might have compelled the drafting committee to add such phrase as "and related offences". As a matter of fact, the document designed to be easily applied as a framework for any national anti-corruption strategy. However, the convention awaits fifteen ratifications before entering into force. Sierra Leone like other member states of the AU should set a bright example by demonstrating its willingness in the ratification and domestication of the convention. The setting up of the Anti-Corruption Commission, a central agent against corruption which Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and other countries in the West African Sub-Region are yet to create, is in line with the document's decision to enact selected provisions of the convention into national law. Sierra Leone stand to benefit a lot as the convention emphasized cooperation between signatories, encouraging them to 'promote and strengthen the development of mechanisms required to prevent, detect, punish and subsequently eradicate corruption and related offences in Africa while ensuring the effectiveness of these measures.

The convention further concentrates on four main approaches to combating corruption: prevention, punishment, cooperation and education. In particular, it strengthens the laws on corruption by listing offences that should be punishable by domestic legislation; it outlines measures to be undertaken to enable the detection and investigation of corruption offences; it indicates mechanisms for the confiscation and forfeiture of the proceeds of corruption and related offences; it determines the jurisdiction of state parties; it organizes mutual assistance in relation to corruption; it encourages the education and promotion of public awareness on the evils of corruption. With the proliferation of civil society organizations in Sierra Leone, for instance, the National Accountability Group among others that is a coalition of reputable national and international organization like the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Zero Corruption Coalition in Nigeria in quest of transparency and corrupt free society, domesticating the convention might not be difficult.

The convention also calls on signatories to introduce legislation on money laundry; which the Bank governor in Sierra Leone, J D Rogers agreed has perforated the fabric of the country's economy. Based on the flourishing participatory democracy in Uganda and other parts of Africa, it became the preoccupation of the government, after the 2002 presidential and parliamentary election, to decentralize power. As a result, the local government institution was modeled on the Ugandan type, which made provision for the fight against corruption. Designated public officials should declare their assets at the time of assumption of office, as well as during and after their term. This is in line with the leadership code operated in Uganda, which states that politicians declare their assets to the Media for publication every two years as stipulated in the 1995 constitution. Its thriving decentralization process owe much to some of these features, which Sierra Leone is yet to inculcate into its decentralization process. From all indication one can agree with me that the AU convention is very much in favor of countries and peoples that have experienced civil wars over the past three decades, seemingly with corruption so far been identified as the single most causative agent responsible for that. This is indicative in the fact that the convention provides that 11 members be elected for two-year terms by the executive council 'from among a list of experts of the highest integrity and recognized competence in matters relating to preventing and combating corruption and related offences'. The document also calls on the executive council to ensure that the board has 'adequate gender representation, and equitable geographical representation'. Board members are to 'serve in their personal capacity'.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), therefore, being the central agent against corruption in Sierra Leone and by virtue of its mandate might serve as the correspondent in relating corrupt issues based on national data regarding corruption in the country to the AU. "Apart from the monitoring process, national anti-corruption authorities are expected to send reports to the advisory board at least once a year, before the regular AU sessions." However, at this juncture, it must be made crystal clear that the AU has no means of sanctioning countries that fail to report, unlike in the reporting process of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Within the convention's monitoring framework, national authorities are designated for the purposes of " cooperation and mutual legal assistance, which foresees that they will communicate with each other directly. In addition, the convention advocates 'necessary independence and autonomy' for the national authorities. This perhaps is a golden opportunity in favor of the ACC to be identify within such an international interface, thereby comparing the scale, nature, and manner in which corruption has plague other countries of the AU and subsequently create a broader framework through networking based on a national consensus. The formation of the Manor River Union Media Network Against Corruption (MRU -MAC) consequently becomes a welcomed idea probably because it was formed at the nick of time and the spectrum from which it hopes to fashion a sub-regional focus in curbing corruption, injustice et al is invariably very comprehensive. Members are with the hope that the union will make a formidable partner not only with the ACC in the country but will also incorporate watchdog agencies including the private sector in Liberia and Guinea, basically within the MRU basin. As a member, I think it is ideal for a component of the AU mechanism in preventing and combating corruption.

"The convention also lays the ground for recognition by signatories of civil society and the media, committing signatories to 'fully engage in the fight against corruption and related offences and the popularization of this convention with the full participation of the media and civil society at large". To conclude the convention represents the first universal framework for the fight against corruption for member states of the AU. The challenge now is for African government to show political will to implement - and enforce - the AU convention against corruption.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Tanu Jalloh of Concorde Times, Freetown, 7 October 2004

State Moves to Freeze Stolen Billions Abroad

The Government has started freezing foreign accounts in which billions pilfered by top officials of the Moi Government are held. The accounts are thought to be holding about Sh80 billion. The move announced yesterday by anti-graft czar John Githongo forms the second phase of Narc's pledge to recover pilfered funds. Mr Githongo said the funds, tracked by an international investigation company - Kroll Associates - would be returned, adding: "We are in the process of beginning to freeze the accounts. Kroll Associates traced $1 billion (Sh80 billion) hidden abroad." The funds only form part of the assets illegally taken out of the country. The recovery could be expanded to expensive homes bought with stolen funds in European capitals, shares in two London hotels and cash generated through foreign exchange transactions at leading international banks.

Kroll Associates, a leading UK investigating agents, has also identified leading Kenyans who hold the accounts - some in the Narc Government. Said Mr Githongo at his Cooperative Bank House office: "Restitution of assets illegally taken abroad is on course. We have President Kibaki's support and we are going to succeed." Accompanied by Ms Lisa Karanja, an official in his department, the Governance and Ethics permanent secretary spoke during a briefing on tomorrow's international conference - New Anti-Corruption Governments: Challenge of Delivery - to be held at Safari Park, Nairobi. President Kibaki, who has pledged zero tolerance to corruption, is slated to open the two day conference to be attended by Norway and Georgia prime ministers. "The conference is meant to share experiences and difficulties that each country has faced while fighting corruption," he said. Nobel Peace Prize winner Prof Wangari Maathai will close the conference on Wednesday.

Mr Githongo said the freezing of accounts would block money transfers as the Government negotiated repatriation with foreign governments. The Government would avoid long drawn out legal battles by freezing the accounts, he said adding: "If you over focus on prosecution, the public will be disheartened because these people have enough resources to hire lawyers and cases will take too long." He said it would take at least 24 months before the war on corruption began to bear fruit. Narc's government period, he said, would be marked by the end of the year although he said the rate of corruption has reduced by 25 per cent. He listed creation of institutions to fight graft, a purge in the judiciary, reforms in numerous sectors and enactment of laws to curb the vice as achievements of the government in its pledge of zero tolerance.
They include the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), National Anti-Corruption Steering Campaign and a police force unit to fight corruption. "We are not experts but we are trying to learn ways of reducing the degree of corruption," he said. In addition to instruments to fight corruption, he said the move to recover Sh439 million lost through the Anglo Leasing scandal that landed Narc in bad books with donors and the public was a signal of the government's commitment. "We managed to recover nearly half a billion shillings in Anglo Leasing. It is a good show but the public still expects us to do more," he said. The scandal, which involved Sh7 billion, has haunted the government and placed it under scrutiny by the international community.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Bernard Namunane of The Nation, Nairobi, 11 October 2004

Corruption: Kibaki Pleads With Donors

President Kibaki yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to fighting corruption - and asked donor countries to be patient as he continued to wage war on graft. "Fighting corruption is not an event but a process: it is a war that cannot be won in a single battle," he told an international anti-corruption conference in Nairobi. "It involves changing people and systems, it involves changing culture and uprooting systems of patronage that have existed since before Independence," he said. President Kibaki together with Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Mr Peter Eigen, chairman of Transpareny International arrive at Safari Park Hotel to attend the anti-corruption conference, yesterday . Photo by Joseph Mathenge Mr Kibaki spoke out as the local branch of corruption watchdogs Transparency International complained that the urge to hold onto power coupled with a lack of political will was hampering Kenya's fight against graft. Local World Bank chief Mukhtar Diop, however, was quick to endorse the Government's efforts which, he said, were heading in the right direction.

The President said the Government should not be judged on perceptions but by the actions it was taking to fight the vice. He admitted that the public and donor countries had high expectations of his Government's ability to speed up the fight."They have sought to judge our policies on the basis of perceptions. We therefore plead to be judged by the actions we have and are continuing to take to eradicate corruption," he said. In his keynote speech, which opened the conference, the Head of State said the Government had not wavered in its resolve to fight corruption and he asked Kenyans and others not to expect him to "shout from the hilltops". The slow pace so far was because his Government needed time to reform institutions which had been compromised by decades of political influence. "We also realised, very quickly indeed, that we were engaged in an uphill task, because corruption fights back, and does so viciously," he said. He spoke as Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Kiraitu Murungi admitted that public patience was running out.

In the presence of anti-graft experts worldwide and his critics, President Kibaki said his resolve to fight corruption had not changed. "I as the President of the Republic of Kenya gave my commitment to provide leadership in the fight against corruption, and I will continue to do so," he said. "I say it here again, the war on corruption is very much alive. Only this time, we are taking it to much greater heights." President Kibaki said he would continue to provide necessary leadership - like a general in the army - for the war to be successful. ". . . the general must provide necessary leadership and show a commitment that flows through the ranks down to the foot soldiers," he added. The President also put on notice those who had looted public funds and stashed it in foreign accounts. "We remain steadfast in our pursuit of compensation from those who converted public resources into their own use." "Corrupt networks have at times regrouped and have waged a persistent campaign against the forces of anti-corruption," the President added.

The title of the two-day conference, attended by people from 90 countries, is New Anti-Corruption Governments: The Challenge of Delivery. Guests included the Norwegian Prime Minister, Mr Kjell Magne Bondevik, whose government has given Kenya Sh80m ($1 million) to strengthen the investigative capacity of Kenya's anti-corruption commission. "It is going directly to the commission," Mr Bondevik said at State House, Nairobi, where he met President Kibaki. Britain gave Kenya close to Sh1.4 billion last month to combat graft, with British high commissioner Edward Clay insisting the money would be entrusted to an independent manager. The conference was attended by Cabinet ministers and representatives of Transparency International from all over the world, including its chairman Peter Eigen.

The executive director of Transparency International Kenya, Ms Gladwell Otieno, listed major obstacles in tackling graft here as being the urge to hold onto power, a lack of political will and ineffective institutions. The public was slowly becoming disillusioned with the turn of events by a government that rode to power on the promise of zero tolerance of corruption. "We are afraid that the political class, with its short-sighted focus on clinging to power, is compromising the chance to implement real change," she said. The enthusiasm with which the Government embarked on fighting graft was gradually ebbing away and giving room to corrupt practices. "We may have been moving in the right direction but presently (we are) caught in the doldrums of political factionalism and internecine discord," added Ms Otieno.

As the Government laid out what it had accomplished during the past 20 months, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania spoke of recovering Sh40 billion within eight months of his government taking office. The money, Mr Zhvania said, was recovered from relatives of the former president, ministers and their allies. In addition, 35,000 police officers had been sacked, a stifling bureaucracy had been dismantled leading to increased budget revenue which translated into the immediate paying of pensioners. The move had restored public confidence in the government's fight against corruption, Mr Zhvania said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by David Mugonyi & Bernard Namunane of The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya, 13 October 2004

Kenya Reacts Angrily to UN Corruption Survey

The Kenyan government Wednesday challenged a U.N. survey that found Kenya is perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa. Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua told reporters in Nairobi the report by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa is way off-base when it comes to corruption in Kenya. "We find that report to be astonishing, because Kenya is actually becoming one of the least corrupt countries in the world, let alone Africa," Mr. Murua says. "We have initiated programs to fight corruption." Mr. Mutua said his country's corruption is negligible compared to the corruption in other African countries.

The Economic Commission for Africa survey, released Tuesday, is based on interviews with 50-thousand households in 28 African countries conducted within the last two years. The survey sets out to expose shortcomings in African institutions, create strategies to overcome these shortcomings and gauge public opinion on governance in African countries. Survey participants judged governments and institutions by a number of criteria, including political representation, economic management, respect for human rights, and corruption. Along with Kenya, the survey ranked Angola, Cameroon, and Nigeria as being among the continent's most corrupt countries. The four countries also scored poorly on the other criteria.

In Kenya, Ethiopia, Chad, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, participants said they doubt that government agencies "respect and implement the rule of law." In Cameroon, almost half of those surveyed indicated that public services there are "very poor." Meanwhile, participants in Burkina Faso were frustrated by the fact that it can take up to four years for a court case to be heard. There were some bright spots in the "Striving for Good Governance in Africa" survey. Overall, the electoral process is said to be more transparent, voter participation is high, political parties are getting stronger, and political systems are becoming "inclusive and diverse." But police and the military are perceived to violate citizens' rights, electoral commissions need more independence, and opposition parties often do not have access to resources and security. The survey results were released at the fourth African Development Forum, which opened Monday in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

From Voice of America, DC, by Cathy Majtenyi, Nairobi, 13 October 2004

Corruption Sucking Africa Dry, Says African Union (AU)

Report shows billions of dollars leave continent each year for secret bank accounts. Corruption is one of the main reasons Africa is so deeply in debt and poverty , and famine and deaths are increasing, Adama Dieng, a governance expert for the African Union (AU), said in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa yesterday. "A direct consequence of this is the emergence of a small, young class of billionaires while the vast majority of the population is wallowing in misery," Dieng said. Africa's foreign debt is estimated at more than 300bn. In a report prepared last year, but not made public, the AU estimated corruption on the continent increased the costs of goods by as much as 20%. "Billions of dollars leave the continent each year for secret bank accounts in countries of the north," Dieng said. The report, obtained by wire service AP yesterday, says capital flight from Africa is estimated to have reached 148bn since the end of colonialism to 2003.

In Uganda the civil service once had 42 000 nonexistent workers as officials creamed off the salaries, the report said. In the 1990s losses in customs and fiscal receipts that resulted from corruption were estimated at 9% of Gambia's gross domestic product. Meanwhile, the issue of corruption in Africa was also raised at Transparency International's conference, New Anti-Corruption Governments: The Challenge of Delivery, that ended in Kenya yesterday. Peter Eigen, chairman of the Berlin-based body, the world' s leading nongovernmental organisation fighting corruption, said in his address on Tuesday that corruption was the world's "main cause of poverty and underdevelopment". This leads "to the fatalism and despondency to which millions may find themselves hostage. This is, unfortunately, most true here on the African continent where inequalities are most stark, where the corruption often breeds the most persistent conflicts," Eigen said.

The conference was intended to help foster constructive dialogue on the anticorruption strategies open to new reformminded governments and to develop critical recommendations to support their efforts. The meeting included participants from Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Slovakia, SA, South Korea and Zambia. Georgia's premier said yesterday that every week counted for new governments wanting to drive through a reform agenda. Speaking at Transparency International's conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said: "Don't be afraid of your mistakes. Use your chance. Maybe you won't have another one." Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said new governments across the world had promised to eradicate corruption, but found it difficult. "Corruption has proved hard to kill," he said. "It hits back. And with the accumulated resources of decades it hits hard. Reform-minded nations have taken many knocks."

AllAfrica.com, Africa, Sapa-AFP AP, Nairobi Business Day, Johannesburg, 14 October 2004

NGOs Craft Code of Ethics

Zimbabwe's troubled non-governmental sector, jittery over a restrictive law the government has tabled in parliament to monitor its operations, has crafted a code of ethics as an eleventh-hour attempt to avert the impending control. The self-regulatory mechanism, adopted at the weekend by about 400 members of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), seeks to ensure accountability, transparency and good governance among members. "We, the NGOs operating in Zimbabwe recognise and affirm our commitment to be transparent in our actions and to be accountable to the public we serve, the government and donors. We reaffirm our commitment to attaining the highest possible standards and our recognition of the need for self-regulation," reads part of the preamble of the Zimbabwe NGO Code of Ethics. According to a draft made available to The Financial Gazette this week, the code of ethics would enable NGOs in the country to respond to "challenges that are constantly changing and arising". An NGO representative body would oversee the implementation of the code, working closely with the NGO Council and Registration Committee. The draft adds that the NGO representative body would ensure that NGOs avoided "conflict of interest between NGO leadership and staff in their political and NGO interests."

The NGO sector envisaged code of ethics comes after the crafting of the controversial NGO Bill that seeks to vet, register and monitor the operations of NGOs in Zimbabwe. It is expected to sail through parliament - in which the ruling ZANU PF has an overwhelming majority - in the next few weeks. The proposed law, viewed as draconian and in the same league with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), a restrictive media law that has been used to close three independent newspapers, also outlaws foreign funding of NGOs involved in human rights and governance issues. Self-regulation is more desirable than government regulation," Fambai Ngirande, an information officer at NANGO, told The Financial Gazette. "We have come up with a code of ethics to show the government that we are capable of regulating ourselves as the NGO sector. "The government does not have the capacity to ensure that the NGOs maintain best practices. We believe it is the players in the NGO sector that can play a role in making NGOs more professional," said Ngirande.
"We are trying to move away from the political realm. We believe if the government is the one that regulates the sector, the NGOs will end up being partisan. It should not be the government that sets standards but NGOs because they know the industry and its needs," he added. However, other players in the sector - which analysts claim would throw into the streets about 10 000 employees if the Bill is passed in its present form - believe the self-regulatory proposals have come too late to coax the government from passing the law. The Western countries to effect regime change in Zimbabwe, charges the NGO sector denies. Some independent observers however believe that government has a compelling case against some of the NGOs.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Njabulo Ncube of Financial Gazette, Harare, Zimbabwe, 14 October 14 2004

Nigeria Refutes Global Corruption Watchdog's Report

Abuja - The Nigerian government on Thursday refuted Transparency International's (TI) annual report, describing it as "fundamentally flawed, irrelevant and of little use to reforming countries or those interested in a genuine war against corruption." The Berlin-based graft watchdog on Wednesday released its 2004 report on global corruption index which lists Haiti, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Chad and Myanmar as the five most corrupt countries in the world. In a press release issued in the capital Abuja, Inyingi Dappa, spokeswoman for the Nigerian Ministry of Information and National Orientation, said the report was a defective one because "TI has consistently ignored the corruption inherent in its practice of using the opinions of its 1,000 or so respondents and a handful ofnations to draw conclusions about which nations are the most corrupt in the world."

Dappa said the Nigerian government has done a lot of work to crack down on corrupt practices and formulated "the toughest and most comprehensive anti-corruption laws in the world" since President Olusegun Obasanjo took office in 1999. In the past few years, she said, Nigeria has established a number of government bodies to crack down on corrupt practices of various kinds, including the Independent Corrupt Practices (and Allied Offenses) Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. The ICPC had arrested or prosecuted criminals and individuals including such high-ranking officials as "a serving minister, a former minister and a former national secretary of the ruling party (the People's Democratic Party)," she said, adding that "nobody would have contemplated such a thing 15 years ago." Nigeria would continue undeterred in its fight against corruption, she said. "Our modest progress will continue to benefit our people and impact positively on the many that do legitimate business with thenew Nigeria that is emerging," said the spokeswoman. Enditem

Xinhua, China, by Xinhuanet, Abuja, 21 October 2004

Uganda Corruption Rate Improves

Uganda's international corruption ranking improved over the last year, according to Transparency International's (TI) rating. Launching a new report at a press conference in London on Wednesday, Transparency International chairman Peter Eigen said, "Corruption in large-scale public projects is a daunting obstacle to sustainable development and results in a major loss of public funds needed for education, healthcare and poverty alleviation, both in developed and developing countries." TI is a leading non-governmental organisation which fights corruption around the world. The new Corruption Perceptions Index raises Uganda from the 113th place last year to 102nd alongside Eritrea, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia. However, TI said Uganda remained among the 60 countries around the world with rampant corruption. It said Uganda's public sector was plagued by bribery. It placed Uganda among the 106 countries out of the 146 surveyed, which scored less than five out of 10 on the index. Ten is a clean score and the lower the rating, the more corrupt a country is perceived to be. Kenya was 129, Tanzania came 90th while DR Congo was 133rd.

The least corrupt countries were Finland and New Zealand, which scored 9.7 and 9.6 respectively. Nigeria, the most corrupt in Africa, came third from bottom, with a score of 1.6. It fared marginally better than Bangladesh and Haiti which were at the bottom with a 1.5 score. Eigen said graft robbed countries of their potential and that the world's poorest countries needed support to fight the problem. "If we hope to reach the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people living in abject poverty by 2015, governments need to seriously tackle corruption in public contracting," Eigen said. TI estimated that bribery in government procurement around the world tops US$400b per year. Speaking from the Colombian capital Bogotá, TI vice-chair Rosa Inés Ospina Robledo said, "Across the globe, international donors and national governments must do more to ensure transparency in public procurement by introducing no-bribery clauses into all major projects." She said tough sanctions were needed against foreign and national companies caught bribing. She said these could include forfeit of the contract and blacklisting from future bidding.

In Kampala, the Inspector General of Government, Jotham Tumwesigye, said the report was a true reflection of corruption in Uganda, reports Emmy Allio. "It is an indication of what is on the ground. It is the effect of measures taken recently to fight corruption," he said. Asked whether his recommendations were respected by government departments, Tumwesigye said, "In some quarters our recommendations are now being followed. There is a positive trend in many aspects." He asked for greater effort by anti-corruption agencies and the Government "if the momentum is to be maintained."

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Stuart Price of London, for New Vision, Kampala, 21 October 2004

Minister Blames Corruption On IMF

Local government minister Tarsis Kabwegyere has criticised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, saying much of the corruption in Uganda stems from them. Addressing the national public dialogue on political corruption at Hotel Africana yesterday, Kabwegyere said 70% of the corruption in Uganda derived from the World Bank and IMF. He also clashed with the former state minister for ethics and integrity, Miria Matembe, who said there was no political will in the country to fight corruption. The dialogue is part of the activities to mark the anti-corruption week, running from October 25 to 31. Kabwegyere wondered why banks were charging high interest rates on loans. "The money we are getting is illegitimate. We go begging from sources elsewhere. Is it a legitimate way of living?" he asked.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Joyce Namutebi of New Vision, Kampala, 27 October 2004

Kenya, World Bank Take New Steps Against Corruption

The World Bank and the new Government of Kenya today committed to work closely together on additional measures to fight corruption in development projects, building on the recommendations of a forensic audit of the Kenya Urban Transport Infrastructure Project (KUTIP) delivered yesterday in Nairobi. The audit, initiated by the Government of Kenya with the full support of the World Bank following an investigation by the Bank's Department of Institutional Integrity, identified significant indicators of possible corruption and other control weaknesses in the management of the KUTIP project. The report is also being forwarded to the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) for follow-up criminal investigation. The $115 million KUTIP project, launched in 1996, provided infrastructure improvements to local communities in Kenya. Disbursements to Kenya for this project were suspended by the Bank in October 2001 after the Bank's investigation found evidence that the Project Director and a former Bank staff member were involved in bribery and bid-rigging with contractors. The lifting of the suspension was conditioned upon the completion of a criminal investigation and forensic audit of the KUTIP project. Since October 2001, the Project Director has been arrested and criminal proceedings are ongoing. Two Bank staff were earlier terminated and subsequently pled guilty in U.S. Federal District Court on charges related to KUTIP.

The World Bank Country Director for Kenya, Mr. Makhtar Diop, said: "We commend the government for its full cooperation with the auditors, which has produced a detailed overview of corruption within the KUTIP project. We deplore the diversion of funds from a project that had been meant to help the Kenyan people improve their lives. It is unacceptable. We also want to be sure that systemic problems identified by the audit such as fiduciary controls over procurement and financial management are addressed quickly." He noted that since the suspension of the KUTIP project in 2001, both the Government of Kenya and the World Bank have already taken a number of measures designed to prevent abuses of the kind that happened in that project, including reviews of procurement and financial transactions. The new government has pledged to act on the recommendations contained in the audit report in an aggressive and transparent manner, and to take appropriate legal action against those involved. The Bank and the government will be working very closely to ensure that the lessons learned and the recommendations contained in the audit are implemented, and the Bank will undertake a review of its current portfolio to ensure that all possible anti-corruption safeguards are in place.

Background Information - World Bank funds are provided to help developing countries reduce poverty. The World Bank has the responsibility to ensure that the loans and credits it extends, and the trust funds that it administers, are used for their intended purposes. This policy is enforced through a comprehensive array of rules and procedures aimed at ensuring high standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability in World Bank-supported projects. The procurement procedures for World Bank-financed projects are monitored by World Bank staff to ensure that the process is free from fraudulent practices and corruption. The World Bank Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) is charged with investigating allegations of fraud and corruption in World Bank-financed projects. The department reports directly to the President of the World Bank and is staffed by a multinational team of more than forty professionals, including investigators, legal specialists, forensic accountants, procurement specialists and experienced World Bank project managers. Additional information can be found at http://www.worldbank.org/integrity.

Allegations of fraud and corruption related to World Bank-financed projects can be reported to 1-800-831-0463 24 hours a day and an international AT&T operator with international translation is available. To reverse charges (collect calls) dial 704-556-7046. Reports may be anonymous, and can also be made in person or online at: investigations_hotline@worldbank.org. The sanctions process is an internal administrative process within the World Bank. It provides for due process to all parties involved in the sanctions process. For more information on procurement and sanctions, see: http://www.worldbank.org/procure.


AllAfrica.com, Africa, by World Bank, Washington DC, (Press Release), 28 October 2004

Nigerian Parliamentarians to Take Lead in Fighting Corruption

Members of the Nigerian National Assembly who met in the capital, Abuja, from 19 to 22 October 2004 agreed that parliamentarians must lead the fight against corruption. They resolved to work towards this goal with the country's executive, judiciary, political leaders and parties, civil society, donors and police. Around 30 Nigerian parliamentarians gathered to discuss parliament's involvement in poverty reduction strategies, combating corruption and ensuring accountability for public finances. Organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), the workshop was aimed at strengthening legislatures and promoting the professional development of parliamentarians. Participants considered ways to enhance Nigeria's pro-poor policies and discussed its national poverty reduction strategy. They examined budget processes; anti-corruption policies and parliament; and how Nigeria's public accounts committee deals with statutory and other government bodies.

Delegates drafted an action plan recommending that the National Assembly should re-examine and -- where necessary -- amend anti-corruption laws to reinforce the powers of anti-corruption agencies. They agreed that parliamentarians should monitor budget expenditure and approve additional appropriations; that the auditor-general should be autonomous and report to the National Assembly; and that the National Assembly should give prompt attention to the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, the Procurement Commission Bill and the Freedom of Information Bill. They also stressed the strong linkage between poverty and corruption, asserting that poverty helps entrench corruption while corruption exacerbates poverty. The workshop was one of five national meetings organised under the CPA's West Africa Parliaments Programme (WAPP). A similar seminar has already been held in The Gambia, with upcoming seminars to be held in Cameroon, Ghana and Sierra Leone. WAPP aims to provide parliamentarians with an oversight on the use of public funds to improve accountability; the prevention of the waste of resources; and to assist in combating corruption. The programme also examines parliament's involvement in poverty reduction plans.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Commonwealth News and Information Service, London, 28 October 2004

 

Corruption Trend to Continue

Civil servants will continue fraudulent practices, corruption and abuse unless a financial system is in place with powers vested with all chief executive officers to draw up their own budget, former Public Service Commission chairman Sakeasi Waqanivavalagi says. That financial system would be included in the Financial Management Bill that is before Parliament, he said. Mr Waqanivavalagi was replying to questions on what he thought was the underlying root cause of abuse, fraudulent practices and corruption that has continued to plague the public service sector. The Auditor-General's Report tabled in the Lower House last week highlighted corruption, abuse and fraudulent practices recurring in most government ministries. "These are not new things. It keeps appearing every year when the Auditor-General audits the financial statements of each ministry. And every year it gets worse," Mr Waqanivavalagi said. He said that was one reason the PSC had delegated the duties to the chief executive officers so that they could monitor and be accountable for their ministries. But the delegation of duties to the CEOs was not enough because they were not equipped with the working tools to draw up their own budget, he added. "This is the stumbling block because without the powers to draw up their own budget, civil servants will continue to practice corruption, abuse and fraud practices."

Mr Waqanivavalagi, who retired as commission chairman a month ago, said the channelling of money from one ministry head to another was a contributing factor to poor financial practices in the civil service. He said when a CEO was appointed he or she was given a corporate plan that they had to work within for 12 months. "Unfortunately sometimes when the CEO wants to complete a project within a time frame they have to seek the approval of the Finance Minister. "This takes about two to three weeks before the CEO gets an answer. In the meantime the clock is ticking and the CEO wants to complete the project. "This is where the alleged corrupt, abuse and fraudulent practices are said to have been committed by the officers and which is highlighted by the Auditor-General." He said if CEOs were given the power to draw up their budget, there would be a chance to minimise corrupt practices. "When something goes wrong with the budget it will be the CEO who will be taken to task and not the subordinates unlike before when something went wrong it was the officer responsible who took rap." He said CEOs were paid higher salaries because they would be held accountable should there be any mismanagement of public funds. The longer it took for the Financial Management Bill to be tabled and passed in the Lower House the more corrupt, abuse and fraudulent practices would occur. "Anyway, no matter how good the system in place, there will still be some evil civil servants who will do anything to undermine the system. This is not only happening in the public sector." Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party secretary Jale Baba echoed the sentiments. "The Financial Management Bill is good because it will mean efficiency and CEOs will be held accountable for their actions," he said. "You don't need to go to any other ministry to ask for funds to fund your projects because of the powers vested with the CEOs."

From Fiji Times, Fiji, 2 October 2004

Many City Projects Remain Unfinished, Officials Say

About 15 percent of last year's Rp 11.56 trillion (US$1.27 million) city budget was not absorbed by the administration due to the widespread practice of collusion, corruption and nepotism allegedly committed by city officials. The assistant to the City Secretary for Development Affairs, IGKG Suena, said over the weekend that unresolved disputes on city project tenders, combined with strong allegations of corruption, had slowed several development projects. He said many of the city's top officials in charge of the projects were reluctant to make decisions or take actions in fear of being implicated in graft allegations. "Interrogations into graft allegations by the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office regarding some officials have caused their performances to drop significantly," he said. The latest questioning is in regards an alleged markup in the procurement of buses for the busway project. The case is now being investigated by the Corruption Eradication Commission. As of April, the administration had spent only 60 percent of its Rp 2.24 trillion (US$263.53 million) development budget allocated for infrastructure projects.

This year's city budget is Rp 12.731 trillion. Governor Sutiyoso said earlier his administration would prioritize several stalled projects under the draft 2005 budget, which is set for about Rp 13 million. Among the projects are: land acquisition for the East Flood Canal, completion of overpasses and underpasses, low-cost apartments for the poor and waste management. The land acquisition for the canal project hit a serious snag when landowners demanded higher compensation than that proposed by the administration. The Rp 4.9 trillion canal is to help control five rivers in the eastern part of the city to ease annual flooding. The completion of planned overpasses and underpasses is another priority since the city, with the help of the central government, plans to build 17 overpasses and underpasses between 2002 and 2007. The administration will allocate about 20 percent of the draft 2005 budget on these projects. "Jakarta needs between Rp 30 trillion and Rp 50 trillion from the budget to complete all unfinished projects," Sutiyoso said. In an effort to procure more tax-based revenue from the government, the administration has submitted data on taxpayers to the tax office. The data will be synchronized by the tax office to collect more revenue. Director General of Taxation Hadi Purnomo promised that the administration would get at least twice its current share of revenue drawn from Rp 4.7 trillion in taxes.

From Jakarta Post, Indonesia, by Damar Harsanto, 6 October 2004

Bangladesh Rejects Corruption Perception Report

Dhaka -Bangladesh has rejected the Transparency International's (TI) corruption perception index (CPI) that ranks it as the most corrupt country for the fourth year. Bangladesh Law Minister M. Moudud Ahmed rejected the TI assessment, saying "we do not accept the criteria for such an index. There are other countries in the world which are much more corrupt than Bangladesh," reports Xinhua. According to the Daily Star, the CPI 2004 released by the Berlin-based organization lists 146 countries this year, showing Bangladesh at the bottom of the list along with Haiti. The TI assessed corruption in Bangladesh in 2004 through eight surveys compared with only three last year. Health Minister Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain also expressed his dissatisfaction, saying the government did not agree with the ranking as it was not based on "correct information." "They blow up small discrepancies in big projects. They also do not go to the bottom of media reports to judge whether the allegations are true," said Mosharraf, adding comparison with other countries is not realistic because of differences in social perceptions and definitions. TI chairman Peter Elgen said the poorest countries, most of which are at the bottom half of the index, were in the greatest need of support in fighting corruption. This year's CPI draws on 18 surveys provided to TI between 2002 and 2004 conducted by 12 independent institutions. The index includes only those countries that feature in at least three surveys. As a result, many countries, including some which could be among the most corrupt, are missing because there are simply not enough survey data available, explained the TI release.

New Kerala, India, by Indo-Asian News Service, Dhaka, 21 October 2004

World Bank Grant to Sharpen Skills of Government Anti-corruption Body

The World Bank has given the Philippines a 716,000-dollar-grant to help beef up the Office of the Ombudsman in its anti-corruption drive. The grant was funded by the Asian Financial Crisis Response Fund of the Asia-Europe Meeting Trust fund, which is administered by the World Bank. Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong and World Bank-Philippines country director Joachim von Amsberg signed the terms of the grant, which is called "Strengthening the Institution of the Office of the Ombudsman for Good Governance." The fund would be used to improve the knowledge and skills of field investigators in preparing and prosecuting corruption cases; to design and develop an electronic case monitoring and tracking system; and establish a data-banking system to facilitate the analysis of Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth of public officials and employees. President Gloria Macapagal-Arrroyo had said she wanted to reinforce the Office of the Ombudsman to make it as effective as Hong Kong's anti-corruption body. Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo said the grant would help boost their efforts to make corruption a "high risk, low reward activity." "Better detection will increase prosecution, greater efficiency, and case knowledge will make case preparation faster, and the prosecution of civil servants, if needed, will be faster using the lifestyle check system," he said.

INQ7, Interactive, Inc., Philippines, 21 October 2004

Asia to Establish Anti- corruption Agency: Prime Minister

Hanoi - Vietnam will set up an anti-corruption agency following a series of scandals involving government and other officials which had tarnished the ruling Communist Party's reputation, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai said. "It is expected that an agency specialised in fighting corruption will be established," the prime minister said in a speech to the National Assembly. "The agency will gather the will and the strength of the whole political system," he said. "Corruption cases, especially big ones and those with special links between degraded elements in the state apparatus and bad ones in society, must be immediately discovered and eliminated," he added.

Khai provided no details on the agency's composition but according to a report in the English weekly Vietnam Investment Review, the new team would investigate corruption in all major cities and provinces and report back to the government by the end of the first quarter of 2005. Vietnam's National Assembly opened a month-long session during which the issue of corruption is expected to be discussed. The Communist regime has vowed to punish corrupt officials within its ranks, but critics say the crackdown is selective and some high-ranking cadres have acquired de facto immunity from prosecution.

During the past year, the reputations of the government, the party and some state-controlled companies have been hit by damaging revelations of embezzlement and greed. The most recent scandal ensnared Mai Van Dau, the most senior of four deputy trade ministers, and included revelations that bribes were accepted from companies to secure quotas for garment exports to the United States. Four ministry officials have so far been arrested, while Dau has "temporarily stopped working," according to state media. In June, agriculture minister Le Huy Ngo resigned following another scandal.

Channel News Asia, Singapore, 25 October 2004

Voters Petition NA to Establish Proposed Anti-corruption Agency

Hanoi — Voters throughout the nation have asked the legislature to set up an anti-corruption agency to help alleviate the crime. The petitions come after the discovery of a series of corruption cases that aroused public concern. Citizens’ groups petitioned lawmakers at the sixth session of the National Assembly (NA), which opened on Monday in Ha Noi. Citizens also asked the NA to issue the anti-corruption law as soon as possible, given the rising number of corruption cases throughout the country. While many voters have faith in the assembly’s oversight powers to check corruption, voters have criticised the NA for not performing this function very effectively. Although the Supervision Law in 2002 empowered the NA to encourage transparency and fight crime among Government officials, it has yet to uncover a significant corruption case.

Leaders of Government agencies where dishonesty is discovered should face strict and public disciplinary action, the petitioners said. NA deputies need to put more effort into supervising law enforcement, the use of loans and land, planning bureaucracies, investment for infrastructure development, the oil and telecommunications industries, administrative reforms and human resources. Many voters are also worried about chronic delays in the planning and building of many urban areas, industrial zones and other infrastructure projects. The delays have caused huge capital losses and waste. They say the NA and Government should take action to accelerate the sluggish development of these projects and to ensure their transparency to the public.

Workers groups in the non-State sector suggest the Government issue regulations on democracy at the grassroots level for this sector in order to protect salary benefits. Workers complain that some foreign invested firms still apply the artificially-low exchange rates of around VND13,900 to the US dollar for salaries and benefits. In addition, private enterprise employees hope NA deputies will also consider other issues such as a lack of inexpensive living space, problems with social and health insurance and limited access to loans. Meanwhile, rural voters are concerned about the rising costs of agricultural production materials versus the decreasing prices for their products. Rural Vietnamese say the Government should tighten its control on the prices of agricultural materials and offer subsidies for their products. They also want easier access to preferential loans, improved funding for irrigation systems and better distribution of advanced agricultural technology. People from remote and mountainous regions are looking for more infrastructure investment and an extension of the State-funded Poverty Reduction Project (the expiring 135 Programme) for several years.

Voters also expressed concern about pollution from shrimp on-sand farms and the use of explosives for fishing along the coastal provinces in the central and southern regions. In light of a series of deadly landslides in the northern mountainous region and the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, voters asked the Government to take pre-emptive action to protect people in landslide-prone areas. In the 6th session, voters will continue to push the Government on issues like pharmaceutical prices, the decreasing quality of education, poor facilities in schools and universities and other policies directed at health workers in remote regions. Besides asking for more progress in the fight against social vices and a reduction in traffic accidents, petitioners also urged the Government to eliminate red tape in the administrative system.
They complain that the Government apparatus’ settlement of public grievances remains slow. As for the inner workings of the NA itself, voters demanded greater accountability for the assembly’s deputies and longer "question times" during legislative sessions.

Viet Nam News, Vietnam, 27 October 2004

 

Turkey Corrects Its Corruption Report

TTransparency International's (TI) 2004 Corruption Perceptions Index shows Turkey has made progress in combating corruption.
Turkey's downward trend on the Corruption Perceptions Index over the last four years has stopped. Its grade rose from 3.1 to 3.2 this year. Turkey remains at last year's place of 77th among the 146 countries within TI's 'clean score' range. One of the reasons for Turkey's progress is that the government has started to implement legal arrangements to combat corruption. Operations against organized crime unions have had positive impacts abroad. The Corruption Perceptions Index is based on a 10 point scale. High scores indicate that a country is perceived to be 'clean,' with low corruption levels.

In a survey conducted to build the Index, people with international commercial relations are interviewed to discover the degree of corruption perceived from the outside. 12 independent research institutions worked to prepare the Index and 18 distinct surveys were conducted. A total of 13 surveys were conducted for Turkey. According to the TI study announced by Transparency International's Turkish Chapter yesterday, the cleanest three countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index are Finland with 9.7, New Zealand with 9.6, and Denmark with 9.5 points. Haiti with 1.5, Bangladesh with 1.5, and Nigeria with 1.6 points ranked the top three in corruption. Transparency International's Turkish Chapter Chairman, Ercis Kurtulus, expressed that although Turkey's grade increase in corruption is a positive development, it is still in the lower ranks of the clean country ranking.

Zaman Online, Turkey, by Erkan Acar, Instanbul, 21 October 2004

Montenegro Holds Conference on Combating Regional Corruption

A two-day conference in Podgorica earlier this month focused on improving co-operation and exchanging information as part of the fight against corruption in Southeast Europe. A two-day conference on strengthening the fight against regional corruption was held in Podgorica earlier this month. The event was a joint effort of the Stability Pact Anti-Corruption Initiative, the OSCE Mission in Serbia-Montenegro, and the Montenegrin government's Anti-Corruption Initiative. The focus was on improving co-operation and exchanging experiences and information among countries in the region, with an eye to boosting the efficiency of anti-corruption efforts. The conference also discussed the elimination of shortcomings in penal legislation which pose an obstacle to investigative procedures and the provision of evidence. Participants included district attorneys, judges, police forces and intelligence personnel from Southeast European countries, as well as representatives of the EU, bilateral donors and a group that advises district attorneys in the region.

Deputy Prime Minister Dragan Djurovic, who is also Montenegro's interior minister, opened the proceedings. Other speakers included Executive Secretary of the Regional Secretariat of the Stability Pact Anti-corruption Initiative Veselin Sukovic and the head of the OSCE office in Podgorica, Rudolf Bogner. Djurovic said that countries in the region need to be resolute in taking measures to fight corruption, especially through continuous reforms of legal, economic and financial systems and the implementation of new laws. Montenegro is in the final phase of creating a legislative framework - including new laws on criminal procedures and the establishment of a special prosecutor for organised crime - which will help meet international standards for fighting these types of crime, the minister said. He also announced that the government will soon adopt a strategy - developed in consultation with the Council of Europe and the OSCE - for the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Sukovic, meanwhile, described corruption as a dangerous and complicated phenomenon which needs to be contained through co-ordinated activities of state organs, NGOs and civil society, accompanied by international co-operation. Bogner said combating high-level corruption is becoming a major challenge in Southeast European countries, especially since it is apparent that countries which are capable of successfully tackling this problem will experience faster progress on their road to EU membership. Efficiency in gathering evidence, prosecuting cases and holding trials constitute an essential test for verifying a country's institutional maturity, he said. Punishing corruption is not only important for a country's credibility, Bogner added, but also helps raise public awareness about the issue.

By Antonela Krstovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica, 25 October 2004

 

Kuwaiti Prime Minister Hits out at Corruption, Red Tape

Kuwait's prime minister has told top bureaucrats in the oil-rich emirate to fight corruption and to end red tape, both of which are obstructing economic growth, KUNA news agency reported on Sunday. "All senior officials are required to stop a state of regression in public jobs which have been mired in allegations and suspicion of corruption," Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah told a gathering of 300 senior state officials Saturday night. "I call on you to revise laws, decisions and procedures ... and propose modifications to catch up with modern management ... Upgrading government work is essential to achieve our ambition of rebuilding Kuwait," the liberal-leaning premier said. A survey by Berlin-based graft watchdog Transparency International released on Wednesday said a rise in perceived corruption had been observed in the past year in Kuwait, which slipped nine places from the 35th to the 44th position among 146 nations.

The premier said that following the favorable change in international and regional conditions, Kuwait should rebuild its economy. "We have highly favorable factors ... for rebuilding our national economy and modernizing our society. We have a long-term ambitious vision to re-establish Kuwait as a modern trade and financial center," he said. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq in April last year has freed Kuwait of security fears that overshadowed the emirate for 12 years. Saddam Hussein's forces occupied Kuwait for seven months until they were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in February 1991. Commerce and Industry Minister Abdullah al-Taweel said the coming period requires adopting "difficult and unpopular decisions but very essential and useful for future generations." He said the government planned to execute a number of mega projects with the aim of turning Kuwait into a major service and transit center for the northern Gulf region.

Daily Star, Lebanon, by Agence France Presse, 25 October 2004

 

Government to Tackle Organised Crime, Corruption

The battle against organised crime and corruption, particularly among those who hold public office, will remain a Government priority, according to one of the supporting budget documents presented on Friday. "Government is fully aware that corruption has the potential to undermine the fabric of society, create mistrust and disharmony among the population towards the State and State officials and, most importantly, to deprive the poor and needy of essentials to life and basic amenities," according to the Social and Economic Policy Framework for 2005-2007. In this regard, Government plans to continue its focus on combatting corrupt and fraudulent practices in both the public and private sectors, making major changes in the law and justice sector. Singling out the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau, an elite division in the Police Service dedicated to investigating serious white collar crimes involving State officials, the document noted that the unit had "been at the forefront of conducting investigations and gathering and producing admissible evidence that has led to the arrest of several persons who are alleged to have been involved in State-funded projects which experienced significant cost overruns".

The success in tracking, investigating and coordinating asset recovery action across the globe for the first time was also highlighted in the document. "As far as transnational organised crime is concerned, Government will continue to strengthen its capacity and structures to facilitate the fulfillment of the country's obligations under the various Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and to actively pursue extradition matters. Also, Government will seek to strengthen collaborative ties and working relationships with other countries in order to enhance the procedures which govern the sharing of relevant intelligence and information in the fight against the illegal drug trade and money laundering activities, and to deal with cross-country criminal and other illegal activities that have a negative impact on out society and those of other friendly nations," it added. Turning to the Administration of Justice, five new magistrate's courts in Siparia, Rio Claro, Arima, Sangre Grande and Chaguanas are to be built over the next three years. The new buildings will include computerised and state-of-the-art systems for court reporting, and proper and humane holding facilities for prisoners.

"Government is also pursuing the necessary arrangements for the preparation of the designs for a new South office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as a suitable location in Port of Spain for the new north office of the Director of Public Prosecutions," the document said. The Ministry of the Attorney General also proposes the introduction of an Electronic Monitoring Service Delivery System to track and manage legal matters for which the Ministry is responsible, which would enable a new specialised unit-the Process Review Team -to detect weaknesses and inefficiencies in the structures and systems involved in handling the legal matters. A recruitment drive to hire highly qualified and experienced legal, professional and technical staff, on contract, will be pursued to provide the necessary expertise for such services.

From Trinidad & Tobago Express, Trinidad & Tobago, by Daren Bahaw, 9 October 2004

Trinidad & Tobago Falls Lower in Global Corruption Ratings

Tinidad and Tobago yesterday slipped further in Transparency Institute’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), with the 2004 CPI giving this country a score of 4.2 and rating it fifty-third out of 146 nations ranked on the basis of perceived corruption. On the CPI, nations’ scores range from ten (least corrupt) to one (most corrupt). These statistics were revealed yesterday at a media briefing held by the TT Transparency Insitute (TTTI) in Port-of-Spain coinciding with the global launch of the 2004 CPI at Transparency International’s headquarters in Bonn, Germany. TT first appeared on the CPI in 2001 with a score of 5.3, and that score has fallen consistently to 4.9 in 2002 and 4.6 in 2003. Finland topped the CPI with a score of 9.7 with Haiti and Bangladesh in the cellar position with a score of 1.5. According to the Index, TI viewed TT as one of several countries, “that is perceived to be increasing in corruption.” Other nations in this category include the Dominican Republic (2.9), Jamaica (3.3) and Saudi Arabia (3.4.) In the Caribbean, Barbados was the least corrupt Caribbean nation for 2004, with a score of 7.3. Overall, the CPI indicated that “oil rich countries have very low CPI scores.”

TTTI director Petra Bridgemohan said, “On the basis of data from sources that were used for 2003 and 2004, TT is being seen as more corrupt. We therefore suggest to the Government, that based on these international, independent reports, the Government’s anti-corruption systems are not being perceived as effective.” She suggested that Government examine the reasons for this continuing decline with its anti-corruption expert Bertrand de Speville, who was brought in by former attorney general Glenda Morean in 2001 to guide Government’s anti-corruption strategies. On a paper about anti-corruption efforts in TT, de Speville said corruption had caused significant damage to nearly every aspect of life in the country over the last 20 years. He said any new anti-corruption strategy should include “action against corruption in politics,” and either a revamped Integrity Commission or a new commission that would play a pivotal role in fighting corruption. Government opted for the former after criticism from the Opposition.

De Speville also said a three-pronged strategy of enforcement, prevention and education could effectively deal with corruption in public life. Bridgemohan said questions have been raised in recent times about the effectiveness of the Auditor General’s reports and parliamentary joint select committees as anti-corruption tools. She also questioned whether the media had “a nine-day wonder” attitude where alleged corruption was concerned, and drew reference to charges that were recently levelled against the North-West Regional Health Authority. Bridgemohan also claimed Government might be sending the wrong signals to the population about its efforts to combat corruption by exempting organisations such as the Central Bank from the Freedom of Information Act. Her TTTI colleague, Johanna Koorn, said the CPI only shows perceived corruption and does not measure Government’s anti-corruption efforts.

Newsday, Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago, by Clint chank Tack, 21 October 2004

The High Cost of Corruption

San Jose - Corruption is one of the main obstacles to development in Central America, according to experts commenting on the recent series of scandals involving top-ranking officials in the region. ”It has been demonstrated that corruption in Central America affects the right to health and education, among other basic rights, and therefore contributes to fostering social exclusion,” said Jaime López, director of the non-governmental anti-corruption group Probidad, based in El Salvador. This happens because, among other reasons, ”corruption disrupts the laws of the market and affects consumers, contractors and the beneficiaries of development projects,” López explained to IPS. Those who are hardest hit by the consequences of corruption in Central America are the poorest, most vulnerable sectors, who represent half of the region's 38 million inhabitants, he added. Hans Quevedo, from the Guatemalan Association for Social Studies and Research, concurs with López that corruption particularly undermines the most vulnerable members of society. As an example, he referred to the tens of millions of dollars embezzled by high-ranking officials from the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGSS), which at the same time ”pays ridiculously meagre pensions to the elderly.” A number of officials are currently serving jail time for their participation in the fraud, including former IGSS director César Sandoval, who was sentenced to 15 years.

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, ”Democracy in Latin America: Towards a Citizens' Democracy”, points to corruption as one of the seven deadly sins in the region, and refers to the devastating effects of ”dirty money” on political institutions and leaders. For his part, former Costa Rican president Rodrigo Carazo (1978-1982) told IPS that corruption is a disease that has the entire planet caught up in its grip. According to López, human rights defenders and prosecutors in Central America are still not fully aware of the problem, and have yet to create mechanisms to systematically track the impact of corruption on the rights of the region's citizens. Studies conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) indicate that in Latin America as a whole, 20 percent of funds earmarked for government procurement are lost to corruption. In a report released in early 2004, Bernardo Kliksberg, general coordinator of the IADB's Inter-American Initiative on Social Capital, Ethics and Development, stated that corruption accounts for the loss of 10 percent of GDP in Latin America every year. It is crucial to promote a culture like that of the Nordic countries where this vice is not tolerated, he said.

Central America continues to be shaken by one corruption scandal after another. The most recent came to light in Costa Rica, where the French corporation Alcatel is accused of having given 2.4 million dollars to former president Miguel Angel Rodríguez (1998-2002) in return for winning the bid to install 400,000 telephone lines. Another former Costa Rican president, Rafael Angel Calderón, is currently being held in the La Reforma penitentiary, charged with accepting a kickback of 440,500 dollars from the Fischel corporation, as payment for having arranged the purchase of 39 million dollars worth of medical equipment for the Costa Rican social security authority. The Office of the Comptroller General of Costa Rica said it is the country's citizens who ultimately pay for kickbacks like these. The German-based global corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) concluded in its 2004 report, released last week, that there is a direct relationship between high levels of corruption and low levels of economic productivity. The lack of transparency that tends to go hand in hand with government corruption leads to a level of uncertainty that effectively discourages foreign investors, the report underlines.

And according to TI's 2003 Global Corruption Barometer, based on surveys conducted in 47 countries around the world, ”Two out of five respondents on a low income believe that corruption has a very significant effect on their personal and family life.” The inability of state institutions to confront corruption creates a climate of impunity that tends to make the problem especially widespread in the Central American region, according to López. ”The problem is that in our countries, it is the governments themselves who help to obstruct or delay legal action against those implicated” in acts of corruption,” he said. The stance adopted by the judicial authorities in Costa Rica, who have initiated legal proceedings against two former presidents and numerous high-ranking officials in less than a month, is highly atypical for the region, López believes. ”In many cases, the officials remain in their posts and nothing happens. What is significant in Costa Rica is not only the response of the prosecutors, but also the strong reaction of the public,” he added. Every year, TI releases its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which is based on surveys conducted with businesspeople and analysts around the world and rates countries on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the ”cleanest” and 0 the most corrupt.

The Central American country that fared the worst in this year's index was Guatemala, with a score of 2.2. It was followed by Honduras with 2.3, Nicaragua with 2.7, El Salvador with 4.2 and Costa Rica with 4.9. Guatemalan prosecutors are currently attempting to have former president Alfonso Portillo (1999-2004) extradited from Mexico. He is accused of links to drug trafficking and embezzlement. Carazo agreed with López that one of the key problems in Central America -- and in Latin America as a whole -- is the absolute impunity enjoyed by companies that pay bribes and kickbacks. In his opinion, the high levels of corruption seen today are linked to the headlong rush towards privatisation, with public assets being turned over to the control of foreign companies. ”They are trying to sell our institutions at any cost, no matter what the consequences,” he declared.

Inter Press Service (subscription), World, by José Eduardo Mora, 27 October 2004

 

Corruption Axe Growth in Developing Countries, Says WB

Muscat — While many investment climate improvements require changes to laws and policies, the World Bank’s annual World Development Report for 2005 has highlighted that bribes and corruption in developing countries play a key role in arresting economic growth. Majority of firms in developing countries report that they pay bribes when dealing with officials, and many rate corruption as their most pressing obstacle. Policies and their implementation are also distorted by the disproportionate influence exercised by politically connected firms. Governments should focus on improving the basic foundations of a good investment climate to benefit all firms and activities in the economy. Accelerating growth and poverty reduction requires governments to reduce the policy risks, costs, and barriers to competition facing firms of all types — from farmers and micro-entrepreneurs to local manufacturing companies and multinationals, the report said. The report calls on the international community to strengthen efforts to help developing countries improve their investment climates by removing trade restrictions, subsidies and other market distortions in developed countries that harm investment climates in developing countries. This can deliver benefits to developing countries worth more than four times the value of aid they receive to improve their investment climates.

Citing the success of countries such as China, India, and Uganda, the report emphasises that everything does not have to be done at once. Rather, significant progress can be made by addressing important constraints that face firms, and by sustaining a process of ongoing improvements. Improving property rights in China launched a process that lifted 400 million people out of poverty, with initial reforms followed by a succession of ongoing improvements covering most aspects of its investment climate. Because the main constraints facing firms can vary widely across countries, even in a single region, priorities need to be assessed in each case. A good investment climate is central to growth and poverty reduction. A vibrant private sector creates jobs, provides the goods and services needed to improve living standards, and contributes taxes necessary for public investment in health, education, and other services. But too often governments stunt the size of those contributions by creating unjustified risks, costs, and barriers to competition.

The report, ‘a better investment climate for everyone’, draws on surveys of over 30,000 firms in 53 developing countries, the bank’s doing business database, country case studies, and other new research. It highlights opportunities for governments to improve their investment climates by expanding the opportunities and incentives for firms of all types to invest productively, create jobs, and expand. Policy-related risks dominate the concerns of firms in developing countries. Uncertainty about the content and implementation of government policies is the top-rated concern, with other significant risks including macroeconomic instability, arbitrary regulation, and weak protection of property rights. These risks cloud opportunities and chill incentives to invest productively and create jobs. Nearly 90 per cent of firms in Guatemala, and more than 70 per cent of firms in Belarus and Zambia, find the interpretation of regulation unpredictable.

More than 80 per cent of firms in Bangladesh, and over 70 per cent of firms in Ecuador and Moldova, lack confidence in the courts to uphold their property rights. Improving policy predictability alone can increase the likelihood of new investment by more than 30 per cent, the report found. The policy-related costs shouldered by firms can also be substantial, and make many potential investment opportunities unprofitable. The world development report 2005 shows that regulation is part of a larger problem. Bribes average more than six per cent of sales in Algeria, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. Barriers to competition are also pervasive and dull incentives for firms to innovate and increase productivity-the key to sustainable growth. High risks and costs restrict competition, but governments also limit competition through policy barriers to market entry and exit, and through inadequate efforts to curb anticompetitive behaviour by firms. Nearly 90 per cent of firms in Poland report strong competitive pressure, more than twice the share of firms in Georgia. Stronger competitive pressure can increase the probability of innovation by more than 50 per cent, the report found. The level and composition of risks, costs, and barriers to competition vary widely not only across countries, but also within countries. This is true among states and provinces in Brazil, China, and India, but also across locations in smaller countries. National and sub-national governments each have important roles to play in improving the investment climate. Over 90 per cent of firms report gaps between policy and practice, and the informal economy accounts for more than half of output in many developing countries. Governments need to close these gaps and confront deeper sources of policy failure that can undermine the investment climate.

From Times of Oman, Oman, by Palazhi Ashok Kumar, 1 October 2004

Asian Development Bank Alleged to Have Ignored Fiduciary Duty to Address Corruption Issues

Continuing his testimony before the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee concerning the conduct of the Asian Development Bank, Bruce Rich, senior attorney with Environmental Defense, cited the recent study commissioned by the Bank Information Center in Washington and written by the lawyer Steve Herz. He found that the ADB almost never complied with the explicit policy requirement to address corruption issues in its reports, assessments and evaluations. A startling example of this came to light in the discussion of what happened at the Samut Prakarn wastewater project in Thailand when the location was shifted to a site other than that for which approval had been given. Even on the basis of the reassessed cost of completing the project, there was an overrun of nearly 90 per cent.

The BIC study found that whereas the bank's articles of agreement require it to take the necessary measures to ensure that the proceeds of any loan should be used only for the purposes for which it was granted, the bank's anti-corruption policy did not refer to this fiduciary requirement; instead it substituted a statement calling for "anti-corruption efforts in the pursuit of development effectiveness rather than the obligation to safeguard bank funds." The findings of this report, commented Mr. Rich, are a remarkable exposure of the culture of unaccountability and non-compliance in the Asian Development Bank. The study examined project evaluation reports for four of the ADB’s most at risk for corruption borrowers - Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and the Philippines. ADB was found to have a perfect score. In none of the 16 reports did its operations staff and performance auditors assess possible corruption in any respect.

'Disturbing record of poor performance'
Last year, Environmental Defense released an analysis of almost all publicly available performance audit reports of ADB projects in Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Of the outcome Mr. Rich said: "We found a disturbing record of poor performance, where project sustainability – whether or not a project provides lasting, long-term economic and social benefits – was lacking for the vast majority of projects: based on the sample of ADB publicly available audits at the time, 70 per cent of ADB projects in Pakistan and Indonesia were not likely to provide long-term benefits, and 78 per cent in Sri Lanka. "It should be pointed out", he said. "that in its 2000 assessment of multilateral development institutions, the bi-partisan U.S. Congressional International Financial Institution Advisory Committee (the Meltzer Commission) identified project sustainability as the key indicator for measuring these institutions’ performance.

"In a number of these projects, clear warning signals of fraud were identified – e.g. 'contracting irregularities' resulting in cost overruns and shoddy, sub-standard construction – without any mention or analysis of perhaps the most likely explanation: corruption. In the majority of the 49 project performance audit reports we analysed, project appraisal and preparation was also gravely deficient; most projects lacked coherent, measurable systems to measure the project's delivery of benefits. The lack of monitorable indicators in projects makes diversion of funds easier to perpetrate and harder to detect and prove." Mr. Rich went on to accuse the Asian Development Bank of negligence in investigating corruption in major projects. One of the most flagrant examples was the Samut Prakarn wastewater treatment plant for which the ADB approved a total of $230 million in loans.

When the original $150 million loan was approved in 1995, the project was appraised as placing industrial wastewater treatment plants on each side of the Chao Phraya River. Following the loan approval the Thai Pollution Control Board moved the site of the plant 20 km distant with the intention of building a single plant in the Klong Dan district. Only one company submitted a bid for the construction work, a violation of both Thai and ADB procurement rules. "Building the plant on the changed site resulted in a cost overrun of 87 per cent (from $507 million to $946 million; among other things, a pipeline had to be built to transfer the wastes from the industrial plants near the original site) and serious environmental, social and economic impacts on some 60,000 villagers living adjacent to the new site." To finance the cost overruns, ADB management asked for an $80 million supplemental financing loan. ADB policies and procedures clearly required reappraisal of the project at that time but this was not done. Nor were any of the requisite environmental impact or social studies conducted based on the new site. The Thai Government launched several investigations into corruption on the project. A special committee of the Thai Senate found corruption at every stage. The Prime Minister confirmed that the ADB project was riddled with corruption. This, said Mr. Rich, has become one of the most public corruption scandals in Thai history and more remains to be uncovered. According to reports in the Bangkok newspaper The Nation, evidence of collusive deals to inflate land values are only the tip of the iceberg. So how has the ADB responded to the corruption allegations on the Samut Prakarn project?

'Special Review Mission found no evidence'
Mr. Rich told the committee: "A June 2000 ADB special review mission to Klong Dan found no evidence of irregularities in the land acquisition process. The affected communities at Klong Dan then filed claims of violations of ADB policies before the ADB inspection panel and the ADB anti-corruption unit of the Office of the ADB Auditor General. "But the inspection committee of ADB's board, which has to approve inspections, refused to allow the panel to pursue the corruption allegation, arguing that it was outside the panel's jurisdiction and that the anti-corruption unit was conducting its own investigation. "The anti-corruption unit never conducted a full investigation, arguing that the Thai Government was already on the case. The ADB mainly examined the allegation that an ADB official involved with the project had a conflict of interest, and concluded by rejecting the allegation. "Meanwhile", he continued, "the ADB management's February 2002 response to the inspection panel investigation claimed there were no violations of ADB policy and procedures in the way the project was conducted."

The inspection panel's report however released the following month found violations of six major ADB policies, including management’s failure to conduct a complete reappraisal of the project when supplemental financing was requested." The board basically endorsed the report's recommendations for remedial measures to address the needs of the affected population, but did not address any internal issues concerning violations of policy and procedures, let alone corruption. Later, the Thai Government declared the contract for the plant null and void. The Pollution Control Department is pursuing legal actions against the contractors to sue for recovery of all funds paid under the contract and all consulting contracts have been terminated. Mr. Rich described the continued lack of a full investigation of the ADB's responsibility for not addressing the massive corruption and cost overruns at Samut Prakarn as a scandal. If that is true, one inevitably wonders why the U.S. Treasury should be so keen to protect this bank and others from examination by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

From CIOB International News, United Kingdom, 5 October 2004

Several Countries Lagging Behind in Governance - UNECA

Addis Ababa (IRIN) - Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Swaziland are lagging in good governance, according to a landmark United Nations survey of 28 nations on the continent released on Tuesday. The four countries fell short in areas like corruption, political representation, economic management and respect of human rights, says the report published by the African Development Forum. In the first ever evaluation of its kind, the 63-page UN report also showed that few Africans living in the 28 countries trust the police or think public services are efficient. "Police and prison services violate the rights of citizens with impunity in several countries," the report by the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, said. "These agencies, especially the police, engage in torture, extra-judicial killings and ill treatment of suspects awaiting trial." It also stated that in Kenya, Ethiopia, Chad, Zimbabwe and Malawi, "there are doubts about the commitment of government agencies to respect and implement the rule of law".

The pioneering study, Striving for Good Governance, reveals what Africans think about their own governments and their management of the country. Countries who agreed to the survey included Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Gabon, Lesotho, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal and Zimbabwe. The Economic Commission for Africa chose the 28 countries out of Africa's 53 nations because the governments agreed to be surveyed. The results also showed that a third of Africans quizzed say their parliaments are weak and fail to keep the incumbent political parties in check. In Cameroon, almost half of those questioned said public services were very poor, while starting a business in Mozambique can take a staggering 153 days because of red tape. Cameroon, Angola, Kenya and Nigeria are ranked as the most corrupt on the continent. Overall the African judiciary is seen as poor and in some countries like Burkina Faso, it can take up to three or four years before a case is ever heard at court.

Some 50,000 households were quizzed for the study, while 2,000 experts ranging from academics to members of civil society were questioned. The report was launched as a five-day gathering opened Monday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to discuss and examine ways of improving governance in Africa. The landmark survey, which took over a year to compile, addressed seven key areas that included political representation, corruption, human rights and economic management. The ECA hope to expand the survey to include 12 further countries. Kingsley Amoako, head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, called for an action plan to address governance weaknesses on the continent. "These findings underpin the need for a capable democratic state with strong institutions promoting the public interest," he said. "An action plan is called for to address the capacity deficits that currently so impede progress in Africa."

From Reuters AlertNet, 13 Oct 2004

Corruption in Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Mr James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, has told African leaders to do more in the fight to bring down corruption, which he said was the "single worst cancer" on the continent. He pointed out that although corruption was not exclusive to Africa, Transparency Report and the Bank's own research showed that it was more widespread and pervasive in sub-Saharan Africa than any other part of the world and said, "This is tragic". Mr Wolfensohn was speaking at a plenary session of the just-ended fourth African Development Forum (ADF) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Friday. The five-day conference brought together key political and traditional leaders, civil society organisations and development partners to discuss ways of enhancing good governance in Africa. It was organised by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank (ADB) and the African Union (AU) under the theme: "Good Governance for Progressing Africa". Mr Wolfensohn said it was important to ensure that structures put in place to fight corruption, promote accountability and transparency in public life were made functional. It should be recognised that if the results of a nation's hard work were diverted into individual private pockets through unfair means, it could erode the legitimacy of the State, as there would be a lack of trust and faith in the government. He called for legal and judicial reforms, capacity building, a strong civil society and a vibrant media to help stamp it out of national life.

Mr Wolfensohn maintained that good governance could make a difference in the fight against the unacceptable high level of poverty on the continent. President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, who also heads the AU, in an address read for him, stated that development could become "an illusion in Africa without peace, stability and security". He said there should be no doubt about the fact that true democracy and good governance were at the heart of sustainable development and poverty reduction and therefore "this should remain high on our agenda". Meanwhile, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene, who participated in the conference, at a dinner hosted for him by the Ghana Embassy in Ethiopia, said chiefs have a social contract with their people and "it is to help improve their lot". He said the effort he was making was therefore motivated by genuine desire to bring development to the people, saying, "I do not seek political power. I am comfortable with my position as Asantehene". Otumfuo Osei Tutu pointed out that chiefs have every cause to be concerned about the welfare of their people and that they should not leave the burden of improving social infrastructure and making life comfortable for the people to the government alone.

GhanaWeb, Ghana, by Kwaku Osei Bonsu, GNA Special Correspondent, Addis Ababa, 17 October 2004

 
 

'Changes to Civil Servants Pay Unlikely'

The recent civil servants salary review was fair and matched available public funds, the Industrial Court heard yesterday. "My lord, it is not possible for the State at this stage to make any other adjustments to those made," chief litigation counsel Muthoni Kimani said, as the hearing of a pay dispute between public workers and the Government started. The Kenya Civil Servants Union is challenging a pay increase of between 14 and 149 per cent awarded by the Government in August. This review gave heads of department in Job Group S Sh68,500 monthly, up from Sh27,471. Newly employed university graduates in Group J will earn Sh11,433, up from Sh10,000, while messengers and cleaners (Group A) have a minimum wage of Sh4,985. However, the union dismissed the increment. It accused the Government of discriminating against the low-cadre workers and demanded 600 per cent pay rise.

Ms Kimani said the increment, announcement by State minister in charge of Public Service William ole Ntimama, was based on budgetary provisions for 2004. Said the counsel: "The Government . . . has been reasonable and quick to act on the recommendations made by the reports commissioned to investigate salaries. It is alive to its obligations among its employees and is taking action towards this regard with salary adjustments made for various calibre of staff in various phases." Ms Kimani said the Government had harmonised the housing allowances and introduced new salary scales, which were being effected in phases. It had also met the demands of the union, which included its recognition. "My lord, the Government, which is only a year and a half old, has been implementing the scheme in phases according to the available resources from the exchequer," she said.

The court heard that the Government had set up the Permanent Public Remuneration Board to review the terms and conditions of the civil service and recommend improvements. But Mr Justice Charles Chemuttut told the State to list the three main issues in dispute and deal with one at a time. The issues in contention are salaries, terms and conditions - including house allowance - and retirement. Mr Otiende Amollo, for the union, said the issue of salaries was paramount. All memorandum of agreements should, therefore, be prepared and served to avoid adjournments. He argued that the Government had been given more than enough time to put its house in order and serve the documents on the other parties in the prescribed seven-day period. On August 31, the union called off a strike after the Government agreed to suspend a voluntary retrenchment scheme. The Government moved to court after attempts to reconcile with the union failed. The hearing was adjourned to Tuesday.

AllAfrica.com Africa, by Claire Gatheru of The Nation, Nairobi, 15 October 2004

Civil Servants' Pay is Too Costly, Court Told

Kenya spends 9.7 per cent of her Gross Domestic Product (GDP) paying civil servants, which is the highest level in the world. The Industrial Court heard that the Government has however devised a strategy to reduce the wage bill to about 7.2 per cent by the 2007/2008 financial year. State Counsel Muthoni Kimani told the court that despite taking about 10 per cent of the country's entire wealth - estimated at Sh100 billion - the civil servants pay remains low and uncompetitive. The reason for this, Muthoni says, is because the workforce is bloated especially in the lower cadres between job groups A to L. There are about 116,000 workers in this group that is targeted for reduction.

She said the Government's plan is to reduce them to about 8.5 per cent in the 2005/2006 financial year and further down to 7.2 per cent by 2007/2008. Justice Charles Chemuttut is arbitrating the salary issue that was filed by the Government to prevent a planned strike by the civil servants. The workers were demanding a 600 per cent pay increase. Muthoni defended the retrenchment programme, saying it is meant to create a leaner and a more efficient civil service that is well renumerated. She said the Government had approved a plan to reduce the workforce by 21,338 in the next three years. She said many civil servants had welcomed the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme initiated this year. Kimani said the voluntary early retirement scheme was implemented in 1994 and by 2000 a total of 65,620 civil servants had been offloaded.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Joseph Murimi of The East African Standard, Nairobi, 22 October 2004

Civil Servants' Contribution to Pension Fund to Decrease

Government has found a way to fund the public servants 6.2 percent wage agreement, which might have increased government's wage bill to hundreds of billions of Rands, thus deviating resources from other social priorities. In his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) delivered today in Parliament, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said government would decrease the public servants' contribution to their pension fund, in order to save about R2-billion to fund salary increases. Government signed a three-year wage agreement with public sector unions for a 6.2 percent increment in 2004, and increases of projected CPIX plus 0.4 percent in 2005 and 2006. Initially, public servants were demanding a seven percent increase while government was steadfast on six percent and ultimately the two parties settled on 6.2 percent. Mr Manuel proposal means that public servants would now contribute about 13.4 percent of their salaries to the Government Employees Pension Fund as opposed to 15 percent contributions. The minister, however, said the decrease in their pension contributions would not affect public servants' pension benefits in any way.

"The Government Employees Pension Fund is a defined benefit pension fund and the decreased contribution does not imply any change to pension benefits," he said adding that the sound financial health of the fund made it possible for government to make adjustments. The proposal takes pressure from the treasury, which was at pains to find funds available to keep public servants happy while also focussing on its social-economic priorities, infrastructure development and other government spending to increase investment in the country. The wage agreement signed in September includes the provision of housing allowance for people who don't benefit from the homeowners allowance, which is given to bond holders only. The allowance will now be available to people who rent accommodation and will be phased in from R100 a month in 2005 to R400 a month in 2008. This element of the agreement is expected to cost about R2.5 billion by 2008. The agreement provides for an additional increase for educators to compensate for the lack of pay progression between 1996 and 2002 and will cost about R800 million a year. The R2 billion to be saved from decreased pension contributions will be used to fund such increases to educators, housing allowance and other provision of the agreement.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Richard Mantu of BuaNews, Pretoria, 26 October 2004

 

"No Right to Strike": Bill on Unionization for Public Servants Confirmed

At a Cheong Wa Dae Cabinet meeting on October 19, the government finalized a bill regarding unionization for public servants, which places a ban on collective action (the right to strike), and decided to submit the bill to the National Assembly before the end of the month. In protest, the Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU), currently classified as an "illegal " organization, plans to begin an unlawful general strike for an indefinite period starting November 1, and clashes between union and government are expected to ensue. The finalized bill recognizes the right of association and collective bargaining but does not recognize the right to strike. Slated to go into effect in one year, the bill limits eligibility for joining a union to public servants of class 6 or lower in classified posts as well as in corresponding unclassified, contractual, technical, and temporary posts.

One of the key points of contention concerning the new bill is its designation of areas amenable to collective bargaining. The bill specifies "issues on wages, welfare, and other working conditions" as eligible for group negotiations, but adds, "The government does not recognize the validity of arrangements regarding ordinances, regulations, and budgets as forms of collective agreement, although it retains the responsibility to carry out such arrangements faithfully." In other words, on matters of wages and welfare for public servants, even if the government and the labor union reach an agreement, the National Assembly or the legislative body of a particular local government can prevent the agreement from being carried out since both areas directly pertain to the issue of the budget. Moreover, if the labor union strikes, the government can impose 50 million won or less in fines, or five years or less in prison. In response, KGEU announced, "We have no recourse but to strike if the government pushes through a bill that denies the three basic labor rights guaranteed by the Constitution," adding "Our strike fund has already surpassed the initial goal of 100 million won." The general strike will begin on November 1, with 20,000 union members from local chapters convening at the capital for protesting. The entire leadership appears ready to brave even criminal prosecution.

An official with the Ministry of Government Administration & Home Affairs stated, "An unlawful public servants’ strike which threatens to paralyze the country's functions will not be tolerated on any terms, and will be dealt with according to the law." He also explained, "A joint statement affirming that the minister of Government Administration & Home Affairs and the minister of Justice will respond firmly to the upcoming strike is set to be announced on October 25."

Donga, South Korea, by Jong-Hoon Lee, 19 October 2004

 

2,300 civil Servants Face Jobs Axe

Up to 2,300 jobs are to be cut as part of the biggest shake-up seen in the Northern Ireland Civil Service for years. The cuts, which are part of government spending plans for the next three years, will also see a further 3,500 civil servants redeployed or transferred to new bodies. NIO minister Ian Pearson unveiled the news during the launch of the 2005 – 2008 Draft Priorities and Budget at the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast. He said costs needed to be cut in order to free up more money for public services including health and education.

Spending will rise over the next three years, but not as quickly as in the past with spending on public services in Northern Ireland climbing to around £9 billion by 2007-08. “The proposals I am announcing today mean that spending on public services here will have risen by around 20% in real terms – which means over 36% in cash terms – between 2002-03 and 2007-08,” the Minister said. "In total, by 2007 departmental spending on public services will be almost £1.4 billion a year higher than it is this year and will total over £9 billion. That is a measure of this government’s clear commitment to delivering excellent public services in Northern Ireland." The Minister also pledged over 1,000 new frontline jobs in the health and education sectors, which would reaffirm the government’s commitment to positioning Northern Ireland as an effective international economic competitor, he added.

4ni.co.uk, UK, 12 October 2004

Government Programme Aims to Boost Civil Servant Skills

A new programme to develop and improve skills in the Civil Service has been announced by cabinet secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull. The 'Professional Skills for Government' programme aims to turn civil servants into experienced managers as well as experts in corporate service such as HR. Individuals will usually specialise in one area, but they will be expected to gain experience of other areas. “Professional Skills for Government will mean that as people rise to more senior positions in the organisation or we recruit people from outside, they will be much better equipped with key business skills, in-depth knowledge of their own professional area, and with experience across different areas of the business,” Turnbull said.

The three broad categories which the programme centres on are:
- Policy expert/analyst – individuals will have skills in economics or social/scientific research, they will have experience of managing the business of government and most importantly will make change happen.
- Operational delivery – people will be skilled in the design, management and direct delivery of public services and have experience of large-scale project management.
- Corporate services – experienced and professional people working in corporate functions such as financial management, HR and communications.


PersonnelToday.com, UK, 21 October 2004

Civil Servants Go on Strike

Civil servants in Cambridgeshire who say they are "tired of being kicked around" will take part in the biggest national strike in more than a decade. The action is in response to Government plans to axe 104,000 civil and public service jobs. Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union welcomed the overwhelming vote in favour of a one-day strike on Friday, November 5. PCS said the cuts will decimate public services and undermine services delivered to all sections of society, from winter fuel, pension and benefit payments to paying tax credits. The strike will involve several hundred PCS members in the region including those at the Government Office for the East of England (GoEast), DEFRA and Inland Revenue, all based at Eastbrook, Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge.

It will also affect the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) at Henry Giles House and other DWP offices and Jobcentres, PVS (Plant Variety Rights Office & Seeds Division) and other agencies in Cambridge and surrounding towns and villages. Mike Black, branch secretary of PCS Cambridge Revenue branch, said: "The parties are using us as a political football, competing as to who can announce the biggest job losses. "They are doing so quite recklessly, and cuts on this scale will undoubtedly destroy the quality of service to the public." The ballot came as civil servants face having to work longer to receive their pension as well proposals to change sick absence arrangements. A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for the civil service, said the moves were part of "essential efficiency measures" across the public sector.

Cambridge Evening News, UK, 25 October 2004

 
 

SA Taps India, Brazil on E-Government

The skills and experience of technicians in India and Brazil will help SA's government make information and services accessible to its citizens. Tapping into the technologies and experience of other emerging nations would boost an e-government initiative to put all its information and procedures online, Public Services Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said yesterday. The collaboration would also help the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) become a world-class operation within five years, she said. Sita was formed to supply and support the government's information technology systems, and to adjudicate tenders for goods or services it cannot supply itself. The e-government initiative is one of its major tasks, and the first stage has seen an overhaul of the government website with more information continually put online. "We want the citizens of this country to have a seamless access to government and its services using the technology available to them, be it computers or phones," Fraser-Moleketi said. A month ago the minister, Sita chairman Zodwa Manase, CEO Mavuso Msimang and some technicians went to India, and will soon go to Brazil for research. "We are collaborating with India and Brazil on e-government to take access to our services forward," she said . Sita would draw on the experience within those countries to drive its initiatives and to bring in skills it may not have. It could also identify useful software and adapt it for SA. Sita issued its annual results yesterday, showing revenue up 17% to R2,4bn and a profit of R35m, down 57% from R82m. The dip in profit was largely due to increased spending on training and research and development, which topped R61m for the year.

From AllAfrica.com, Business Day, Johannesburg, 1 October 2004

E-Governance the Latest Buzz

Windhoek - The draft of the Namibian Public Service's e-governance policy was the focus of a workshop organised by the Office of the Prime Minister in Windhoek last week. The three-day workshop brought together Government officials and representatives from the private sector to discuss e-governance - the use of electronic means to provide services to the public. The objective of the e-governance policy is to provide guidelines for an Internet-based system that would provide Namibians access to information about political processes and Government services. It also seeks to encourage active citizen participation by soliciting people's views and representing them in all forums where public opinion is essential. It would also simplify people's interaction with government and promises to provide speedy, transparent, accountable, efficient and effective processes for government administration.

The draft policy identifies essential elements that need consideration. "Training is an essential element in conceiving, implementing and maintaining the e-governance project," it states. The skills required include project management, understanding of business and procurement processes, end-user skills as well as high-level Information Technology skills. Experiences from other countries were widely utilised in drafting the policy and the framework was found to be in line with other e-governance policies elsewhere. The Deputy Secretary to Cabinet, Steve Katjiuanjo, said in his closing remarks that it was his sincere hope that participants would take ideas espoused during the workshop and use them in finalising the E-Governance Policy and Implementation Plan. "I am of the opinion that we as public sector managers are able to diagnose our environment and develop strategies to plan and direct change in line with Vision 2030's objectives to transform Namibia into an innovative, knowledge-based society supported by a dynamic, responsive and highly effective ICT sector governed by a comprehensive e-governance policy," Katjiuanjo said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, from The Namibian, Windhoek, 4 October 2004

Open Source Support Vital to Enhance e-government Initiatives

Over the last year the South African government has increasingly advertised its intentions and efforts to become more technologically enabled, with the aim to improve its internal operations, its service levels, and its accessibility to its citizens. To date, open source software seems to be its chosen technology. Government needs, however, to ensure that its open source software implementations are appropriately maintained and supported if its technology efforts are to succeed. In several white papers that government has made available on its websites, it lists the potential benefits that open source software and open standards offer to its internal projects and for its e-government initiatives. It states that: "Open source software is an especially useful tool to allow developing countries to leapfrog into the information age"; with the major benefits including reduced software and licensing costs; a decreased dependency on imported technology and skills; easy access to data without data format barriers; and the ability to customise the software to local languages and cultures. Open source software is available to anyone at little or no cost, it does not require proprietary licence fees, and may be freely re-distributed. It is largely error-free and resource-efficient; its security and reliability for mission-critical applications is established; it bridges the digital divide by ensuring affordable access to information and communication technologies (ICT); and it enables users to modify software to suit specific needs.


Don't burn your fingers - Regardless of how many advantages there are to argue the case for implementing an open source environment, the primary reason for government adopting open source software will be for the improvement of efficiency, effectiveness and economy of service delivery by government to its citizens. However, if government wants to avoid burning its fingers with its ICT initiatives, both in-house and e-government, maintenance and support must be key considerations. Outsourcing its maintenance and support requirements frees government workers of a high-level technical burden, making technology implementations more cost-effective and attractive; and it presents government with technical contractors who have access to a wide and interdependent open source development environment where all developers work together to find solutions and improve the software. Without adequate maintenance and support plans, government could find itself faced with a software infrastructure that stagnates; escalating problems as high-level issues go unresolved; and decreasing usage by staff and the population because the system does not operate effectively, if it operates at all. The government's key drivers of efficiency and effectiveness will slowly but surely become impossible to achieve if its chosen solution is not maintained and supported.

Inappropriate internal processes - According to a white paper released by the Eastern Cape Local Government ICT Council, a stumbling block in the way of government's ICT plans is its many varied IT infrastructures spread throughout its organisation. Each department and municipality is currently responsible for its own infrastructure. It is also a departmental responsibility to support and maintain these infrastructures. This has created a situation where some departments have little or no technology and others have ancient technology and hardware. When departments and municipalities do have technology, the systems are often so disparate that the departments cannot establish network communications between each other.

These problems can be addressed through outsourced maintenance and support for an open source environment. Government-wide issues of departmental integration and communication become less difficult to address, budget considerations become standardised across all the departments, and a well managed open source environment can be easily extended into any other e-initiatives being planned or implemented. The FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) factor often associated with open source can be made a non-issue with the support of open source partners. One of the most argued FUD issues rallied against open source is that there is little maintenance and support. Obviously this is not the case as a quick glance at the industry reveals the presence and accessibility of numerous companies that focus on promoting open source, and providing the highest levels of maintenance and support possible. Outsourcing maintenance and support requirements of the open source systems will ensure that there is uniformity and commonality throughout government, while each individual department and office has software that is customised to its specific needs.

From Tectonic, South Africa, by Michael Brunzlik, 6 October 2004

E-Government Services on Short Message Services

With ICT innovations simplifying all forms of transactions within the vertical markets, the public sector also stands to benefit immensely from technologies that will not only improve efficiencies for government departments and agencies but also save them hundreds of millions of rands. One of these technologies is short message services (SMS) that can be adopted to streamline internal processes and communications with the country's citizens. That's the word from Rob Airey, CEO of SMS Cellular Services, provider of CellSys SMS technology. Airey says the technology has proven itself in the private sector and is mature enough to support a host of public sector applications, cutting costs across departments and functions such as revenue collection, healthcare and justice. "Because of the high penetration of cellphones across all strata of society, GSM coverage in corners of the country that the fixed-line infrastructure doesn't reach and the ease of use of these devices, SMS technology offers one of the best ways for the public sector to roll-out e-government services to its citizens," he adds.

Among the benefits of SMS are that it can help reduce manual interventions by automating processes, slash telephone costs by using inexpensive text messaging in certain applications and allow government to improve communications with its citizens. Says Airey: "SMS technology has already proven its value to governments in other parts of the world. For example, Hong Kong authorities sent a blanket text message to some six million phones at the height of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) scare to defuse panic among citizens about a false rumour that their city had been declared an infected area. This sort of technology could quite easily be applied to things such as terrorist attack alerts." A few South African government departments are already experimenting with mobile and wireless technologies as they look for ways of containing costs while improving the services they offer citizens. For example, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police already uses a SMS service that allows officers to access a stolen vehicle database using standard cellphones.

"But the small pilot projects currently under way are just the beginning," says Airey. "The South African Revenue Service (SARS) could send reminders to errant taxpayers to get late tax returns in as soon as possible. The Department of Home Affairs could alert citizens when their passports or ID books are ready for collection, while local governments could alert ratepayers that their water and lights will be cut if overdue bills are not settled." Airey says government departments that want to leverage the true power of SMS need to be able to integrate their SMS communications systems with their other business applications. They need a system that is designed for openness and easy integration with existing infrastructure. This could allow them to deploy SMS-enabled applications quickly and easily, which could result in massive cost savings.
"As SMS grows in importance as a communications channel, the public sector will need to look for solutions that are robust and highly available. In many instances, companies will be replacing or complementing voice communications with SMS, so they need a system that is as reliable as the traditional Packet Switch Telephone Network (PSTN)," adds Airey. "South African companies in industries as diverse as air travel, financial services and IT services already depend on SMS for applications ranging from debt collection and customer relationship management through to alerting field service staff to service needs. We expect the technology to become as prevalent in the public sector over the next three years," concludes Airey.

From AllAfrica.com by Rob Airey of CELLSYS (Press Release), ITWeb, Johannesburg, 12 October 2004

 

E-governance Initiative for Filing of Returns of Income

As part of e-governance initiative for filing of returns of income, Government has authorized eligible categories of Chartered Accountants, Advocates, Employers responsible for deduction of tax from salaries and registered companies to function as e-Return Intermediaries. To begin with, in 60 specified cities, registered e-Return Intermediaries will be authorized to receive paper returns from taxpayers, digitize and electronically transmit the same to the Income Tax department through Internet under their digital signatures. For E-filing of returns by individuals, Central Board of Direct Taxes has notified a new scheme for filing of returns of income through Internet. Under this scheme, for assessment year 2004-05 onwards in specified sixty cities, individuals, who have been allotted PAN and have income from ‘Salaries’, but do not have income under the head ‘Profits and Gains of business or profession’, may file returns and enclosures electronically through Internet under their digital signatures.

Press Information Bureau (press release), India, 18 October 2004

E-governance Project to Connect Rural India

New Delhi - Communications minister Dayanidhi Maran is weaving a Rs 1,000-crore optic-fibre web for bring e-governance to the grassroots level, in line with the UPA government's agenda for governance. Called SWAN, or State Wide Area Network, the project is aimed at providing high-speed, high-capacity network connecting government offices down to the block level. Announcing the project on Wednesday, Maran said it would spur states to adopt e-governance faster for speedy and wider access to government services. He said network connectivity is a significant enabler of any modern, efficient administration. "In our country, the Development Block is the basic tier of the development administration, particularly for rural areas. Provision of reliable network connectivity, particularly for rural areas, is an imperative."

Some of the services that can be delivered electronically are: land and property records and transactions, agricultural information and credit-related services, payment of electricity, water and telephone charges, issue of various certificates like birth, death, caste, income, school etc., filing of applications for development schemes, pensions, grievances, driving licences, passports, etc. Education, health and veterinary services can also benefit from these delivery systems. Filing of various forms and returns by individuals and businesses for income tax and commercial tax purposes can also be enabled in this mode as also issue of various kinds of licences and permits related to trade, transport and business establishments. The Intra-State Network will be established linking the state headquarters right up to the block headquarters and the tehsil headquarters (if different from the block Hqs) through the district headquarters and the sub-divisional headquarters (as applicable). These networks would be connected to NICNET through appropriate interfaces in the form of gateways.

Times of India, 21 October 2004

Singapore Taking Big Steps to Upgrade E-Government Services

The Singapore government is taking bold steps to upgrade its online services. But instead of setting up even more websites, the government is merging many of them, especially for e-payment of bills. And it is also trying to make things more convenient for the public by involving private sector companies. Queuing up to pay your bills may soon be a thing of the past. Many government bills can already be paid online, but in the second half of next year e-payment will get a huge boost. At the moment Singaporeans have to visit different websites to pay different bills, like income tax, traffic fines or licences. But soon there will be a secure one-stop portal to e-pay all these bills. To take e-payment here one big step forward, the government wants the portal to include bills from private companies. These could be shopping and restaurant bills or even monthly insurance premiums.

This will be part of a new national electronic bill payment hub to reduce the inefficiency and cost of paying by cash or cheque. It builds on the new buzz in service - a partnership between the public sector, private sector and people. But the government is not just making it easier to pay your bills, it is also keen on returning any money that it owes the public. So from the end of next month, there will be a central website for unclaimed monies. It will list the names of people whom the government would like to return money to, but simply can't track down. Acting Second Finance Minister Raymond Lim said, "eGovernment is not a nice-to-have item. It is a national competitive advantage. There must be a sense of urgency in this. Starting with the user in mind must be the uncompromising principle. Change rules, change procedures, work together. See things from the user's point of view. Understand his needs, keep things simple for him." In line with this the government is also designing a "Moving House" portal to notify all relevant public and private agencies of your new address, without having to notify each one individually. - CNA

Channel News Asia, Singapore, by Julia Ng, 28 October 2004

 

Report: Poor Infrastructure Hinders E-government in New EU

While new European Union member countries must meet key requirements on e-government initiatives to fit in with the union's goal of creating an advanced information society, many of the countries are being hindered by poor communications and IT infrastructure, a new report claims. A survey of the 10 new Central and Eastern European member states and candidate country Turkey, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) this week, found that a lack of government commitment on e-government implementation, combined with a dearth of broadband and fixed-line telephone networks was slowing progress in the region. "Infrastructure is certainly a big problem with a lot of countries here," said Denis McCauley, director of global technology research at EIU. He added, however, that a lack of planning and commitment by government leaders is doing just as much to hinder progress in the region.

Last May, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia became the newest E.U. members, and with their membership they fell under European Commission directives to implement e-government initiatives such as creating online marketplaces and government services for citizens to interact with the state. The directives are aimed at meeting goals defined in the Lisbon Agenda for Europe to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. While Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia received high scores from the EIU for their advances on initiatives such as e-procurement platforms, the other countries need to implement a detailed development plan and work on rolling out core infrastructure, McCauley said. According to the report, only Estonia and Slovenia have broadband penetration of over 3%, although it is a key element in delivering two-way e-government services. The Yankee Group reported earlier this year that the overall household broadband penetration rate for the 10 new E.U. members stood at 1.9% at the end of 2003, compared to an average of 12% in the other 15 member states. Fixed-line penetration exceeds 40% in just three countries, according to the EIU report: the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Slovenia. And although Estonia leads in providing e-government services, its fixed-line penetration rate stands at 46%, the report says.

The EIU survey was sponsored by technology vendor Oracle. In a release on the report Oracle said that the countries falling behind needed to invest more in technology and communications. Many large IT vendors have set their sights on the developing EU markets, seeing a green field for technology investment and infrastructure. In fact, vendors expect to see around $2 billion in E.U. funds directed toward IT investments in the region over the next four years. But while IT providers focus on added investment, McCauley said that devising a development plan is the most crucial element for meeting e-government initiatives. "They need to put structural elements in place to support their plans, like creating departments to implement the development ... it doesn't make sense just to invest in infrastructure," McCauley said.

Some of the more successful countries, like Estonia and Slovenia, ran their infrastructure and development plans in parallel, requiring staged investment. These countries have even managed to exceed the progress of some of their more developed Western European neighbors because of sharp planning, McCauley said. In fact, Estonia's citizen Web portal and the Czech Republic's e-procurement platform are being studied throughout the EU for the lessons they can provide, according to Oracle. While the older EU states had the advantage of throwing money at e-government initiatives first, the new member states had just as much time to plan, and for countries like Estonia and Slovenia, it has paid off, McCauley said. "It's important to articulate a coherent strategy at the top levels of government and express commitment. A lot of the countries that fell behind just paid lip service," he said. In terms of e-government rankings, the EIU gave Estonia the top spot, followed by the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland and Hungary. Turkey came in sixth, ahead of Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia, while Romania and Bulgaria pulled up the rear.

From Network World Fusion, by Scarlet Pruitt, IDG News Service, 1 October 2004

French to Use E-government to Slash Public Spending

Up to half a million jobs will be cut from the French civil service over the next 10 years as part of a plan to use e-government technology to boost productivity and slash public spending, the country's minister for civil service reform Renaud Dutreil announced last week, according to a report in E-Government Bulletin. Dutreil made the remarks at the fifth Worldwide Forum on e- Democracy in Paris last week. New technology will help cut a growing public-sector wages and pensions bill that has expanded a national debt that will cost the government 1.63 billion euros to service in 2005 alone, he said. "Cutting jobs is something that we were previously too afraid to talk about. But this is an obligation, not a political choice," he said. Dutreil said the jobs would be cut by imposing a limit on recruitment which is far lower than the average rate at which people leave public jobs, according to the Bulletin. "Around 77,000 civil servants leave every year, and we must limit recruitment to between 30,000 and 40,000. How are we to maintain services? The e-economy is one of the keys," he said. The French government is also taking a serious look at increasing its use of open source software. Earlier this year, Dutreil said that cutting the software bill for the government by half is an achievable target, and that migrating some of the government's 900,000 desktop computers to open source technology is one of a range of options being considered reported the Bulletin. Dutreil urged French government agencies to face up to some uncomfortable truths about modern services. "There was a time when we felt French-style public services were best, but those times have gone. Now, others have gone ahead of us in modernisation," he said. "We've talked about modernisation for years. We've gone round and round the mountain, but not up the mountain. Now we need to go up the mountain."

From Government Technology, CA, by Tod Newcombe, 8 October 2004

IT Spending on E-government to Grow in Western Europe – Report

E-government IT spending in the top five countries in Western Europe is expected to increase over the next few years, according market advisory company IDC. The research firm analyzed IT spending on e-government in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Fewer budget constraints in the UK will enable the government to continue pursuing its e-government initiatives, resulting in total IT spending on e-government increasing from €675m in 2004 to almost €979m in 2008. The Deutschland Online and Information Society 2006 plans will sustain IT spending on e-government solutions in Germany in the medium to long term. Total IT spending on e-government will grow from €803m in 2004 to more than €1.1bn in 2008. IDC believes that the Italian government has made significant progress but still needs to increase investment to meet its e-government objectives. Total IT spending on e-government will grow from €303m in 2004 to more than €424m in 2008. Spanish IT spending on e-government solutions will increase above average, growing from €163min 2004 to more than €245m in 2008. The ADeLE plan is to drive French IT spending on e-government solutions in the medium term. Total IT spending on e-government will increase from around €799m in 2004 to more than €1.1 billion in 2008. "IT spending on e-government is expected to continue growing at uneven rates in Europe's top 5 countries," according to Massimiliano Claps, senior research analyst, IDC European Vertical Markets. "IT vendors that want to take advantage of these opportunities must closely monitor the new initiatives, understand the drivers of the various projects, and take advantage of growth at the local government level."

From DMeurope.com, Netherlands, by John Tilak, 13 October 2004

Make Quality of E-government Services Your Top Priority, Councils Are Warned

Local authority and public sector IT directors from across the UK gathered in Edinburgh this week for the Society for IT Management (Socitm) conference. Socitm president Chris Guest, speaking ahead of the event, said that driving adoption of e-government services among citizens would be the big challenge in the next 12 months for his members. Guest, head of technology and improvement at Flintshire County Council, said many local authorities were still too focused on delivering online services when the agenda has moved on. "I feel we should be focusing on how we can make the 'e' in e-government about effectiveness and efficiency. If we do not make our new electronic services effective and get our customers to use them, we will not deliver the efficiency gains, which now appear to be expected from the Gershon Review [the government's public sector efficiency review] and the government," he said. Increasing take-up has to be high on all agendas both locally and centrally, according to Guest. "This increase in take-up will only be delivered if citizens value and get real benefits from using electronic channels," he said. "They need to see greater convenience in accessing services, better response times and real improvements to service quality." This means an emphasis on delivering effective joined-up services based on citizens' needs, rather than organisation structures and boundaries, Guest added.

Local authority IT departments in particular could face budgetary constraints as central government funding for pilot e-government projects comes to an end. "As existing funding streams dry up, sustainability of e-government initiatives will be a challenge for many. Without funding, will e-government remain a priority for local councillors?" said Guest. "We have to demonstrate how IT and e-government makes a difference to our services and our organisations so they stay high on the political agenda." Other challenges for 2005 include the impact of devolved and regional government, but Guest insisted the main risk facing his members was providing the core systems that keep their organisations running. He said, "We have to be sure we are not distracted by the wider e-government agenda and, as a result, take our eye off the ball in terms of addressing key infrastructure issues such as resilience, availability, cost effective- ness, manageability and security."

Watmore's role
The new head of e-government Ian Watmore got the thumbs up from Socitm. Chris Guest said Watmore showed a good understanding of the role to be played by local government in the overall e-government process. One area Socitm wants to see Watmore take action on is the problem of the different timescales and priorities being pursued by different parts of government. Socitm also wants Watmore to tackle the legislative issues that appear to block effective information sharing, particularly between public sector organisations that are subject to service-specific legislation.

From ComputerWeekly.com, UK, by Arif Mohammed, 12 October 2004

UK Public against Investment in Wider Access for E-Government Services

The UK public want the Government to focus on rolling out useful e-Government services rather than worry about means of access. Research carried out by NTL shows that two-thirds of the UK public would like to make simple transactions such as tax and fine payments online. However, we're not bothered about creating alternative means of access other than via a PC. Making services available via mobile phones, interactive television and public kiosks were rated as some of the least important priorities. Clearly, though, those most likely to benefit from remote access to online government services are those least likely to own a computer with an Internet connection. Those receiving benefits, for example, will be far more likely to own a television than a computer, and may prefer being able to access online services from a local public terminal than queuing at council offices.

Bill Taylor, Chief Executive of West Lancashire District Council and Chairman of the SOLACE e-Gov panel agreed that different methods for access would be vital for these services and that in spite of apparent public indifference, they would remain high on the list. 'The e-agenda is about promoting choice, including how to access services,' he said. 'While Internet access is currently low, telephone access is at an all-time high reflecting the massive trend in customer-friendly local authority call centres and CRM systems. Over time, with improvements in transactional websites and shifts in customer culture I have no doubt that the current call/click/'come-in' formula will shift to some extent in the favour of more Internet access.'

Although those surveyed said they would prefer to access government services online, the evidence suggests that few realise this is currently possible. The Public Sector believes that 40 per cent of Internet-users are aware of electronic services, yet the NTL research revealed that only 8 per cent use services regularly at present. And indeed just 12 per cent of UK Net users are aware of the roll out of e-Government services. In fact, we're not even at the beginning of the roll out. As much as 98 per cent of Local Government organisations claim to be on track to meet the 2005 targets set by Central Government to get services online. So while two thirds excused themselves due to worries about data protection issues such as where records would be stored and who might have access to them, there's still a massive discrepancy between what's available and what's being used. Lucy Brown, Director of Sector Marketing in NTLs business division, said: 'e-Government has proved an enormous challenge for the Public Sector, from the commercial question of funding and the technical problems of implementation through to the social issue of bridging the digital divide. With 98 per cent of organisations on track to meet the 2005 deadline, the future for e-Government looks promising. There is still much to be done however and for the initial groundwork to deliver long-term and widespread benefits a comprehensive education programme is required.'

PC Pro, UK, 15 October 2004

E-government in Central Europe

In order to gauge the capacity of Central European countries to achieve the ambitious e-government goals set for them by the EU, and to gauge their progress to date, the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Oracle, has conducted a wide-ranging analysis of the e-government experience in the Central Europe region. The rankings cover the ten new and candidate EU members from Central Europe, as well another prospective member, Turkey. The key conclusions include the following:

- There's no e-government without connectivity. Poor ICT (information and communication technology) infrastructure in the home and workplace remains a serious impediment to e-government progress in the region. Sophisticated online public services count for little if people cannot access. Mobile services are well developed, but reliable broadband connections are limited and expanding only slowly.

- But vision and commitment count for something. Infrastructure aside, several of the region's governments receive good marks for e-government vision and commitment, as well as efficient strategy development and implementation.

- The region's e-government leaders are Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Although held back by connectivity problems, these countries have gone well beyond e-government window dressing, and compare favourably in many areas with the rest of the EU, particularly in shifting public service delivery online.

- E-democracy is part of the compact with citizens. E-democracy initiatives tend to take second priority to improving public services, but a few governments-notably that of Estonia-have scored significant gains in soliciting digital feedback from citizens.

Beware the 'e-elite' - The combination of growing online service sophistication with poor infrastructure creates a unique socio-political risk for the region: that the influence of the infrastructure "haves", essentially the current political and business elite, expands and becomes entrenched, effectively widening the digital divide rather than narrowing it.Lastly, smart government is not just digital government. Policymakers appear committed to delivering better public services via digital means. Given the infrastructure problems and countless other spending priorities, however, governments will be well-advised to focus digital initiatives on areas most in need of change. Traditional information and service delivery systems are likely to retain an important role in the foreseeable future.

Metamorphasis, Macedonia, by Economist Intelligence Unit, 15 October 2004

Standardization Cuts E-government Costs

The German Federal Association of the IT, telecommunications and new-media industries (Bitkom) demands that public authorities in Germany in developing e-government applications adhere to a greater degree to existing standards. In its capacity as the leading organization dedicated to standardizing e-business and e-government the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) had adopted the data model UN/CEFACT Core Components Technical Specification (CCTS) and the process model UN/CEFACT Modeling Methodology (UMM), the Association noted. Anzeige

Bitkom's demand was prompted by the fact that meanwhile about 1,000 different XML dialects are making data interchange increasingly difficult. This was also raising the costs of development, as programmers were not able to rely on code modules compiled beforehand, Peter Broß, managing director of Bitkom, emphasized. Mr. Broß would like the German public authorities to engage in a more forceful dialogue with the international standards-setting bodies, so as to open up an international market for solutions that have been developed in Germany, such as, for instance, the address-representation program X-Meld.

Heise Online, Germany, by Robert W. Smith, 29 October 2004

 

Dubai e-Government & New Horizons Launch the e-Citizen Program under the e4all Initiative

Dubai e-Government and New Horizons have introduced in Gitex 2004, the e-Citizen Certification Program as a result of their partnership under the e4all initiative. The program aims at increasing the level of awareness and usage of Dubai e-government online services among organizations and individuals in the UAE. Upon completion of the training and exams, candidates will be provided an e-Citizen Certificate from Dubai e-government. The e-Citizen program consists of 4 main modules, which are: Introduction to PC, Internet Fundamentals, Email Fundamentals and Utilization of online services provided by Dubai e-Government portal.

"We are glad to announce the latest achievement between the largest company in our group, New Horizons and Dubai e-Government and this is the e-Citizen Program. This program comes as part of the e4all initiative that was introduced by Dubai Government a while ago. We are proud to announce and launch this program, which will facilitate for companies and individuals the process of completing many formal government procedures online and without facing any difficulties, eventually saving time, money and effort and therefore, increasing profit," said Nadeem Younis, Country General Manager-HUMANSOFT UAE.

The e-Citizen Certificate will assist candidates in how:
• To learn about Dubai e-Government portal
• To know about the services provided by e-Government and Government Departments
• To learn how to take advantage of Dubai online services
• To facilitate your formal procedures with Dubai government departments

Government Services covered in the e-Citizen program include those which are provided by Dubai Police, Dubai Electricity & Water Authority, Dubai Naturalization and Residency Department, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Department of Health & Medical Services, Dubai Municipality and more. The strategic relationship between New Horizons and Dubai e-Government has started a way back when an agreement was signed under which HUMANSOFT E-Learning, a sister company of New Horizons hosted and managed the e-learning portal of Dubai e-government last year. This was followed by the e-Employee program to provide services for employees working at the Government Sector. Under the 'e-Employee Program', professional training services will be delivered for employees working at government departments; in addition, employees will receive training on services provided by Dubai e-government and how to use such services on line, in addition to other joined activities and programs during Dubai Summer Surprises.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 5 October 2005

E-portal Launch Helps Realise UAE E-government Dream

United Arab Emirates e-Government’s dream took yet another step towards realisation with the launch of a Web portal called ‘e-portal’. Chaired by H E Dr. Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Finance and Industry, this launch paved way for a number of governmental services to go on-line, creating a one-stop gateway for public access. The launch of the e-Portal confirms the position of the UAE in the top rank of countries offering advanced government services and was one of a series of key initiatives given the go ahead today by the top level committee. It also marked the initialisation of implementation of programmes such as e-Project, e-Expat, and e-Human Resources Management System. Initially, the site will be set up to provide current information on Government news and policies and will offer links to all sites with official information about the UAE Government.

“The e-Portal project will be the customers’ one-stop doorway to government services on the web. What we have achieved by implementing the e-Portal reflects the depth of the commitment of everyone involved and our determination to complete this project,” said Dr. Kharbash. The initiative is being driven by the Ministry of Finance and Industry (MOFI) and the portal itself was developed and is being managed by e-Company, the Internet and e-Business solutions unit of Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat). e-Expat system will provide a single entry-point for all expatriates in the UAE, allowing them to process their visa and residency services, labour permits, health cards, and other services. Once it becomes fully operational e-Expat will offer a one-stop service linking federal departments such as the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Interior. Effectively, there will be in place a common interface through which expats can identify and obtain all the information they need and even carry out the paperwork to acquire the permits, and approvals they need.

The e-Project programme is a budgeting and tracking tool for Federal Government projects and will enable the Federal government to access, monitor and manage infrastructure and building projects through a central system, will also enable it to accurately report on progress, management and financing. As for the e-Human Resources Management system, it will allow the government to better manage its human capital when it becomes fully operational. The system will macro and micro manage all aspects of employment, from demography to the mobility of the workforce and locating skill shortages.

CPILive.net, United Arab Emirates, by Masarat Daud, Deputy Editor, News Team, 28 October 2004

 

United States: United States Aims to Reduce Bureaucracy for Citizens

The US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is beefing up its efforts to reduce the burden of paperwork on the public. The OMB is asking all federal agencies to provide it with details of initiatives that reduce the number of hours it takes citizens and businesses to provide departments with information. In a memo issued to executives of the 26 largest federal agencies, the OMB called for a 1 percent reduction in the number of hours required for the provision of information to government bodies. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, agencies must obtain OMB approval for all information-collection activities, and any violations of the act must be reported to Congress. The OMB also wants agencies to submit proposed timelines for reducing their paperwork burdens, to identify barriers to making such changes, and to lay down measurable targets for achieving paperwork reduction.

ElectricNews.net, Ireland, by Sylvia Leatham, Global E-government, 28 October 2004

 

Taiwan Ranks First in Global E-government Survey

Taipei,(CNA) - Taiwan ranks first in the world in terms of government online services and information, according to the Cabinet-level Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS). Citing the recently released fourth annual Global e-Government Survey conducted by researchers at Brown University in the United States, DGBAS officials said that Taiwan topped the list of 198 countries around the world surveyed with 44.3 points in overall e-government performance, followed by Singapore with 43.8 points, the United States with 41.9 points, Canada with 40.3 points and Monaco with 39 points. The study reviewed 1,935 government Web sites in the 198 nations during June, July and August of this year. Among the sites analyzed were those of executive offices, judicial offices, Cabinet offices and major agencies serving crucial functions of government, such as health, human services, taxation, education, interior, economic development, administration, natural resources, foreign affairs, foreign investment, transportation, military, tourism and business regulations. Using the number of services plus access to information, disability access, privacy, security, and foreign language translation as the criteria, the researchers rated each country on a point scale of 0 to 100. Taiwan jumped to the No. 1 spot in this year's survey after ranking fifth overall last year.

From Taiwan Headlines, Taiwan, by Huang Kwang-chun, 3 October 2004

 
 

Procurement Act Accepted

A Procurement Consultant of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr. Victor Nortey, has described reaction, both internally and internally, to the Public Procurement Act 2003 (Act663) recently enacted by Parliament as good, saying its implementation has taken off well. He said the procurement act, together with the Internal Audit Agency Act 2003, (Act 658) and the Financial Administration Act 2003, (Act 654) would promote accountability, efficiency and transparency in public financial management. Speaking at a one-day workshop on the three Acts, Mr. Nortey noted: "Public officers must be accountable to the people of the country." He said unlike personal procurement under which corruption usually affected one or a few persons, public procurement affected a large number of people since usually, funds were drawn from taxes, loans and grants. Mr. Nortey said when the Act becomes fully operational, it would help reduce corruption, poverty and create wealth. Beside, both the executive and legislature would gain more confidence.

A Special Adviser to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Agartha Nketiah Gaizie said the comprehensive law enacted by government was as a result of the corruption that existed in the ministries. She noted that the Financial Administration Act 2003 had been enacted to address all revisions in other components of financial systems. Mrs. Gaizie said the Public Procurement Act was to streamline public sector procurement of goods, works, and services and establish an effective monitoring and tracking system while the Internal Audit Agency Act, with its new structures, regulations and procedures would promote the timely and effective audit of transactions to ensure that public resources were used for their specified purposes. She said the laws were reformed from a number of reviews on Ghana's public financial management systems since the 1980s. Some of the reforms she said were, Public Expenditure Reviews, Country Financial Accountability Assessment, Country Procurement Accountability Report and Accountability Action Plan. Another official of the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Maame Bartels Mensah also said the Public Procurement Act aimed at ensuring that public procurement was carried out in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner, using state resources in a judicious, economic and efficient way. She said the Act applied to the procurement of goods, works and services financed in part from public funds.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by George Kyei Frimpong of Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra, Ghana, 19 October 2004

Uganda's Spending Priorities All Wrong

The ministry of Finance and social sector ministries plus their civil society partners have locked horns in a fierce debate about the government's social sector spending. Finance maintains that social sector expenditure is inefficient and therefore does not deserve an increase in budget allocation. Social sector activists say the sector has been systematically under-funded through a long-term policy of arbitrary and unfair budget ceiling restrictions. Those who are familiar with this policy know this is coming from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, who have inculcated the idea that good expenditure is in the productive sectors and social spending by the government is generally a bad thing that must be minimized. If efficiency were the sole purpose for allocating public funds, the military (remember the junk helicopters and paymasters who have disappeared with huge sums of money?) and the energy sector (millions of US dollars have been wasted in a useless dam extension project at Owen Falls, Jinja) would have been excluded from public funding. But sure as day follows night, these sectors will be allocated even more money.

The efficiency debate cannot therefore be a genuine effort to address the problems of social services. It merely serves to detract and to rationalise an unfair economic policy, which severely restricts funding to social services, especially to the vulnerable people. These include children, the very poor, widows, the disabled, neglected communities like the Batwa, and displaced people. The idea of social service is to provide such people with basic requirements such as food, water, health care, and education; and to protect them from exploitation, violence and neglect by those in authority and by others. It is true social-sector spending, like any government spending, is not as efficient as it should be. This is due to institutional failures, which the government has been forced by donors to pursue for the past 15 years. Under these donor-engineered policies, there has been a deliberate policy for the government to withdraw from and to relegate social services to non-governmental organizations, the UN and the private sector. The results have been predictable: there is a looming collapse of nationwide social services and the emergence of highly inequitable, fragmented and uncoordinated social services in the country. There has also been relentless weakening of the social sector through staff retrenchment, and through reckless and excessive decentralisation.

As a policy, certain critical social expenditures have also virtually been banned. These include funding to build new hospitals (forget about the much hyped 240 mini-hospitals; these are merely old health centres which are not even optimally functional after renovation) to match the population growth; increased funds to hospitals for drugs and more staff; funds for countrywide re-equipment of maternity centers, which have been neglected for about 20 years; and funds to run probation/ welfare services to protect children against abuse, defilement and neglect etc. Yet huge sums of money have been spent on consultancies, administration, and unclear allowances, without anybody raising the efficiency question. With such a distortion in the social sector expenditure, the critical funding threshold to provide genuine but effective services has not been attained. This distortion and under-funding is deliberate and systematic. It is not because Uganda is incapable of providing such services. A number of poor countries at Uganda's level of economy provide fairly decent social services to their people. In the past, Uganda itself was able to provide better social services, within its small economy.

What should concern us as a country is the failure to meet the critical social-sector funding level, and not being allowed to spend on what matters most to the people. As a result of systematic and intentional under-funding, 2.5 million orphans and other vulnerable children have no basic requirements to survive and develop, and there is no large-scale government-funded program to support such children. Child and maternal mortality and malnutrition are increasing. Only 3.9% of health facilities meet the basic requirements to provide safe delivery of expectant mothers. Therefore, only 4% of women deliver in facilities. The rest prefer to deliver at home at the high risk of dieing in childbirth. In 1990, all health facilities could, if fully operational, only cater for 50% of the population. The facilities were however only 30% operational and are about 50% operational today. What makes these facilities only partially functional is lack of equipment, drugs and staff. At the same time, they have been outstripped four times by population growth, making them even less adequate today than in 1990. The majority of the population cannot afford private facilities that have mushroomed. All these problems plainly need more social sector funding.

To improve social services in the country will require rethinking the entire national institutional set-up and economic policy. It will require a set-up with a unified and long-term goal of universal social service provision. The narrow debate on efficiency of social sector spending is a waste of time - a detractor, a lullaby. A genuine debate on efficiency should transparently involve all sectors. In such a debate, we should all agree on the criteria for assessing budget allocation and efficiency of each and every sector, including the Finance ministry and so-called productive sectors.

AllAfrica.com, Africa,(opionion) by Sam Okuonzi, of The Monitor, Kampala, 25 October 2004

Electronic Tax Card: Lagos Projects N10 bn Revenue

Lagos State Government has said it hopes to raise its tax revenue from current N3 billion monthly to N10 billion by blazing the trail with the application of information technology to tax administration through the introduction of the electronic tax card and website for tax payers. Launching the first electronic tax card and tax website in Nigeria, Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu said it would harness the tax resources of the state and put tax touts out of business. He said Nigerians were willing to pay taxes if they are convinced that the taxes are being utilised for social services. The new initiatives include the electronic Tax Clearance Certificate (e-TCC) to replace the paper certificate, the Automated Revenue Receipt (ARR) and the Lagos State Electronic Banking website (lasg-ebs-rcm.com). He declared that the introduction of information technology has enhanced the capacity of his administration to launch a new revolution in the civil service, he said the administration met N600 million monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in 1999.

Noting that with the new system, the revenue would move to N10 billion, Tinubu said in the past five years, the state's IGR moved from N600 million to N1 billion in six months and N2 million in the first 12 months and now stands at N3 million. Similarly, he remarked that although he met a N7 billion budget in 1999, his administration raised the budget to 14 million in 2000 and further to N48 billion in 2003. He said the increase in the budget showed massive investment of his administration in public infrastructure and announced that the United Nations just released a report which states that the Lekki Corridor in Lagos State is the busiest mortgage investment corridor in the world today. While warning tax touts to abandon their nefarious activities and approach the government so that they can be retrained for more legitimate vocations, Tinubu said the electronic tax card. The e-TCC is a hybrid card comprising a smart chip on the front, a magnetic strip at the back, passport photograph of the payer and their name, a micro tint text print of LASBIR, payer's thumb print, signature and PID and a hologram showing validity. The Automated Revenue Receipt (ARR) also replaces the old receipt except for payments below N2000.00 and has such features as a computer generated numbering and coding system, in-built facilities for controls and continuous transaction trail transparent print of the coat of arms underground micro tint text print of LASG and processor colour of the Coat of Arms.

Speaking at the launch at the Eko FM Multi Purpose Hall, Ikeja Tinubu described the initiatives as a great revolution that is capable of translating the processes of government and aligning it with the realities of the IT age while also leading to enhanced productivity and transparency. He said it was only through an efficient tax system, which is honest and open that the public can be convinced of the need to pay taxes adding too that the" payment of taxes is a necessary condition for development in a democracy." "It is only a deceitful politician who will pretend to people that they can have good roads, schools, qualitative healthcare and other facilities without paying taxes. We do not belong to that class. Tax, therefore, represents a critical pillar of public finance that must be strengthened for government to make the desired impact on the lives of the people. Even Awo urged the people to pay taxes that he imposed in the name of developm,ent just as I urge you todo today" he said.

Saying his administration had kept faith with the people in terms of the promises that he made, the governor said in the last five years he has ensure the transformation of the healthcare delivery system through such programmes asthe Blindness Prevention Programme, Free treatment for the elderly aged 60+, the under 12, and the pregnant women. In his opening remarks the Commissioner for Finance Dr. Ismaila Adebayo Adewusi described the introduction of the new internally gnerated revenue security document as part of the administration's plans to institutionalize "e-governance in the Lagos State and also set clear example of transparency and accountability in the management of the resources of the state.' According to him, apart from being the first of its kind in the country, the e-TCC will not only enhance revenue (IGR) through the efficient management of the PAYE and the direct assessement but also widen the tax net while providing a tax history of the payer. He further said a 24 hour online facility for the verification of the e-TCC has been put in place by the state government. Presenting an overview of the documents, the Managing Director of Alpha Beta Consulting Ltd. Mr. Olumide Ogunmola said the state has through the new initiative created a revolution which has led nine other states in the federation to sign on to implement. He said the e-TCC will serve as a personal identification card, with high level of the data integrity which not only eliminate doubts but ensure prompt processing of certificates adding that with his high caliber features the taxpayer's interest is assured.


This Day, Nigeria, by Shaka Momodu, 31 October 2004

EU Decision on Aid Expected in November

A European Union meeting to decide on releasing withheld budgetary aid to Kenya is expected late in November, and not last Friday as local currency market players had been expecting, an EU official said. The EU deferred a decision on a Sh12.5 billion (125 million euro), 3-year budget support in July due to concerns over corruption in President Mwai Kibaki’s government. A local media (not The Standard) had said that the bloc’s European Development Fund Committee (EDFC) would meet on Friday last week to decide the fate of its programme with Kenya. Dealers in the currency market have said the market has been trading cautiously this week, awaiting the outcome of the meeting. But an EU official based in Nairobi said the meeting would be held around November 25. "There will be a decision taken this month, late November," the official said. He said the release of the EU’s fund to Kenya could happen in early 2005 if the outcome of the EDFC is positive. This was because the EU would still want to see Kenya "demonstrate progress" on strengthening public financial management, drawing up a budget that is focused on fighting poverty and showing progress in delivering priority economic reforms it has promised in its Economic Recovery Strategy.

The EU’s budget support is to be disbursed in tranches of 50 million euros in the first two years, and 20 million euros in the third year. The remaining 5 million euros is to help strengthen Kenya’s public finance management and national statistical system, the official said. A delay by donors in the release of budgetary support to Kenya has forced the government to borrow from the domestic market 10 billion shillings (US$123.1 million) more than it had planned in its budget for 2004/05 (July-June), sparking a steep rise in interest rates on short-term government paper. The EU is one of Kenya’s leading donors. It released 51 million euros to Kenya in September 2003. —Reuters

Eastern African Standard, Kenya, by David Mageria, 31 October 2004

 

RP to IMF: Ease Up on Fiscal Accounting

The government wants the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to relax its strict fiscal policies to give countries like the Philippines greater access to loans and investments. Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong made this appeal during her speech at the IMF’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Monday. “We urge the Fund to remove expenditures on productive infrastructure from the definition of ‘fiscal deficit,’ use ‘primary surplus’ as criterion and/or exclude the operations of commercially run public enterprises from the coverage of fiscal conditionality,” she said. A more relaxed definition of fiscal accounting will lower fiscal gap numbers and will improve the country’s bargaining position vis-à-vis international creditors and investors, which watch these indicators closely and use them as a guidepost for determining the country’s financial health. The IMF, in turn, indicated that it wants reforms accelerated in the Philippines. It urged the government to implement new tax policies and accelerate reforms in the banking and energy sectors so that it can achieve its economic targets. In particular, the multilateral institution warned that the recent acceleration in inflation rates stemming from adverse supply-side shocks, along with prospective increases in power tariffs and indirect taxes, risks breaching the official inflation target in 2005. See accompanying table, “IMF’s wish list for RP.”

Debates over IMF’s restrictive policies have raged in recent years as the 184-nation multilateral funding agency continues to insist on computing the government’s finances more conservatively. Government planners, on the other hand, contend that IMF’s methods needlessly portray the fiscal situation in a more negative light and have argued for more liberal policies, especially in the computation of the government’s consolidated public sector deficit. In addition, Amatong hinted that the government is suffering from a lack of funding, owing to IMF’s restrictive policies. “The Fund should pursue ways to redefine the public finance conditionality to avoid depriving developing countries of productive investments for future growth,” she said. Surprisingly, the finance chief also took a swipe at the IMF’s perceived lack of technical assistance for its less affluent member-nations. “While the Fund and the [World] Bank play an important role as knowledge disseminators, they have not played a more active role in assisting developing countries in coming up with policies steadfastly dedicated to growth and in ways that biases income gains toward the poor,” she said. “The only way this can be done is for developing countries to be given more voice in the policymaking of these institutions,” Amatong added. “This will give true meaning to ownership in Bank and Fund operations.” Her comments contradict the earlier statements of other economic managers who often complain that IMF officials nag them too much with policy advice, especially on the fiscal front.The Philippines subscribed to the IMF’s post-program monitoring facility and currently has no access to loans from the multilateral “lender of last resort”. The country has, however, an outstanding loan balance of about $750 million from earlier loan programs.


Amatong’s statement before IMF’s governors revealed that despite the cooling relations between the Fund and the Philippines in recent years, local officials are interested in having a financial “backstop,” owing to the brewing fiscal crisis. “In a borderless world, imbalances could occur and recur, intensify and spill over to neighboring countries with all its dire effects on growth and poverty,” she said. “We look up to the Bank and the Fund to provide the financial cushion and the policy advice during critical times in a timely, substantive and efficient manner.” Meanwhile, the 184-nation organization said that while the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 6.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of the year, overall growth is expected to moderate to 4.9 percent for 2004, while inflation will likely range from 4 percent to 5 percent. For 2005, the IMF said economic growth would slow further to 4.5 percent, while average annual inflation would pick up to 6.2 percent. “The inflation outlook appears uncertain at this juncture, particularly as regards to the potential impact of the reform package,” the IMF said.


The IMF supported the BSP’s plan to tighten monetary policy if it appears that inflation would exceed the target by more than what can be attributed to the first-round impact of the food and oil price shocks. “The economic outlook for the Philippines depends importantly on the pace of implementation of the authorities’ reform program,” the IMF staff said in a statement, following the conclusion of the postprogram monitoring discussions conducted by its executive board with Filipino officials. While the IMF executive directors welcomed the robust growth performance of the Philippine economy in the first quarter and commended authorities for maintaining economic stability during the preelection period, they noted that the pace of reforms has been slow over the past few years. “As a result, the large external financing requirements and high public indebtedness leave the Philippine economy vulnerable to a sudden deterioration of investors’ sentiment or a sharp increase in global interest rates, or both, with potentially adverse implications for access to capital markets and for the stability of the public finances and the economy,” the IMF said. With R. dela Cruz

From ABS CBN News, Phillippines, by Daxim Lucas, TODAY Senior Reporter, 5 October 2005

Worsening Fiscal Soundness: Effective Mid-Term Policy Should Be Mapped

The nation’s fiscal soundness is worsening at a rapid pace. According to recent data released by the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the nation’s debt ratio soared from 8.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1996 to 21.2 percent in 2002. The rate of increase in the nation’s debt ratio was the fastest among the 30 OECD member countries. The snowballing debt is largely attributable to the sharp rise in the issuance of national bonds and the injection of huge amounts of public funds into ailing financial institutions in the wake of the foreign exchange crisis, which battered the country in November 1997. The nation’s annual burden of interest payments following the issuance of national bonds has already reached 31 trillion won. In particular, as the public funds were converted into national debt, the nation’s total debt is expected to soar to 29.9 percent of GDP by 2006.
Meanwhile, the nation’s debt, now standing at 165 trillion won, is likely to snowball to 240 trillion won in 2008.

While announcing a plan for the operation of national finance, the government predicted it would suffer a deficit of less than 1 percent of GDP until 2007, but begin to keep a balance from 2008. As pointed out by the National Assembly Budget Office, however, the government’s forecast for a tax revenue increase of 8.3 percent annually until 2008 with an average year-on-year economic growth rate of around 5 percent seems to be too optimistic. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bank of Korea, and many private economic research institutes have also indicated that the national economy is unlikely to attain growth of 5 percent next year. As the government has pointed out, the nation’s debt ratio, standing at less than 30 percent of GDP, is much lower than the average level of 76 percent for OECD countries. However, we cannot simply maintain such optimism when we take into account that uncontrollable expenditure, including personnel expense, accounts for 70 percent of the total budget and that interest payments take 10 percent of annual expenditure. Moreover, if the deficit in the nation’s consolidated fiscal balance continues, the government will have no option but to depend on additional tax revenue. If it did so, people already suffering from the long-lasting economic slump will have to pay more taxes. To prevent such an undesirable situation, the government should map out an effective mid-term fiscal management plan and implement it faithfully.

Korea Times, South Korea, 21 October 2004

Vanuatu Gets EU Vt240 Million Grant

The European Union has agreed to support the Vanuatu Economic Reform Programme with about Vt 240 Million following the country’s good record on good governance, rule of law, human rights and democracy. “Vanuatu has achieved, these past years, a good reputation in Brussels that has helped the country to benefit from increased financial assistance,” the EC Chargé d’Affaires Mr Costas Tsiliogiannis told Foreign Affairs Minister Barak Sope Tuesday. The agreement was signed on behalf of the Vanuatu government by the Director General of Foreign Affairs Mr Georges Maniuri and Mr Tsiliogiannis, witnessed by members of the Diplomatic Corps. The assistance comprises two components, one of technical support in the form of a macro-economist to be placed in the Ministry of Finance, and an internal auditor for the Ministry of Education. (The Ministry of Education almost always gets the biggest portion of the annual government budget.) “The direct budget support amounts to just over Vt180 Million. This amount is to be released in two instalments; half of it before the end of the current year, and the other half before the end of 2005,” Mr Tsiliogiannis said.

The EU representative based in Port Vila cautioned however that each release is conditioned on the fulfilment of certain criteria. “The release of the second tranche will be conditioned on the outcome of an assessment of a number of indicators concerning Public Finance management and social aspects pertinent to the Millennium Development Goals,” he said. The European Union Commission expects also the government will pursue sound economic policies in line with relevant ternational Monetary Fund recommendations, and will also engage the European Commission in a constructive dialogue on macro-economic policies. “It is also expected that regular reviews of Vanuatu’s Public Finance Management will show that a proper, transparent, and effective system continues to be in place. This is a pre-requisite for such form of EU assistance,” Mr Tsiliogiannis.

NEWS.VU, Vanuatu, by Ricky Binihi of Vanuatu Daily Post, 25 october 2004

Government to Form Debt, Risk Management Agency

The government plans to set up an agency that will be solely responsible for managing the public sector debt and devising borrowing strategies, finance officials said Monday. The agency, to be called the Debt and Risk Management Office, attached to the Department of Finance will assume a supervisory role in the borrowings of both the national government and government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs), the officials said. It will also help reduce debts of the national government and GOCCs, they added. The plan is to bring down the national government debt from 78 percent of gross domestic product to 58 percent, and the consolidated public sector debt from 137.5 percent of GDP to 90 percent in six years, the officials said. The consolidated public sector debt includes debts of the national government, GOCCs, local government units, and government financial institutions. Debts of GOCCs have been found to account for almost half of the P5.9-trillion public sector debt as of last year. The national government also set aside a big part of its own borrowings to support GOCCs. "We want to formalize and establish a specific group of people whose main task would be to do just that [debt and risk management],"

Finance Undersecretary Eric Recto said. "We decided it's a better way to manage the situation." Another finance official said that at present no comprehensive risk analysis is done before public sector borrowings are made. The official added that while the Department of Finance is considered the head agency of GOCCs, its authority to intervene in their borrowings is not clearly defined. He said that with a debt and risk management office in place, the way GOCCs handle their finances would be scrutinized more closely. Recto said details of how the new office would be established had yet to be discussed but the finance department hoped to put it up "as soon as possible." He said creation of the office might not need legislation and an administrative order would be enough.

Creation of the Debt and Risk Management Office would be done together with the reorganization of the Department of Finance, he said. The department, like other government agencies, is discussing a rationalization of its organization structure, including the functions of its attached agencies, Recto said. "We need to reorganize ourselves to better address the demands of the economic agenda that has been set forth by the President," he said.

INQ7 Interactive, Inc., Philippines, by Michelle V. Remo of Inquirer News Service, 26 October 2004

 

Regulation Undermines Finance Industry

London - A wave of regulation is burdening Britain's financial services industry and threatening its ability to compete internationally, the UK's biggest business group has said. In the next two years, more than 20 European Union measures will be imposed on companies, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said in a report on Monday. The CBI called for a moratorium on new rules, to let firms concentrate on their businesses. "Companies are being battered by the impact of relentless new legislation," CBI Deputy Director John Cridland said in a statement. "It's forcing a dramatic and wasteful diversion of effort away from the daily battle to keep the UK ahead of its competitors." Britain's finance industry employs more than 1 million people and contributes 5.3 percent to gross domestic product, the CBI said. The EU measures include directives on occupational pension funds, consumer credit and marketing. They are part of a plan to create a single European market for financial services. Companies also have to cope with new bank capital rules, international accounting standards and, for those with U.S. listings, new public accounting measures under the Sarbanes- Oxley legislation.

The UK's approach to regulation threatens its position as Europe's main financial centre, the report said. The UK Financial Services Authority often applies rules more strictly than other regulators, and there are multiple inquiries into matters such as credit cards, the CBI said. The result is that management spends time and effort coping with rules rather than managing and investing in its business, the CBI said. The CBI's retail banking members will spend 15 percent of technology budgets for 2004 and 2005 complying with legislation, the report said. HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, spent $400 million (217.8 million pounds) globally last year on complying with rules. Barclays, the No.3 UK lender, has said spending on regulation will be more than 140 million pounds in 2004 compared with about 30 million last year. The UK financial services industry has faced criticism and a series of probes after the worst bear market for a generation undermined consumer confidence. Firms have been fined for selling inappropriate products, and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has overhauled rules to protect consumers from disasters like the near-collapse of insurer Equitable Life. The CBI said the government should support the financial services industry and that consumer protection gets too much weight at the expense of promoting the industry. "Although the majority of the FSA's current policy effort is driven by European policy initiatives, our general approach is not to impose obligations beyond what is required by directives," the FSA said in a statement.

Reuters, UK, 25 October 2004

 
 

Partnerships the Focus for Parastatals

Cape Town - Public-private partnerships in Transnet, Eskom and Denel were now the key focus areas of the department of public enterprises after a major restructuring exercise under minister Alec Erwin, MPs were told yesterday. Director-general Eugene Mokeyane and his top staff were briefing the portfolio committee on public enterprises on their 2003/04 annual report and plans for the year ahead, saying all three parastatals needed heavy injections of capital but, after the disastrous hedging experiences at SAA, any form of offshore funding was being closely monitored. Committee chairman Yunus Carrim said parliament would like to be kept informed of funding options used, and losses incurred, by parastatals as and when they happened. It did not want to get involved in "micro-managing" the parastatals, but wanted to be kept informed of key decisions that would show up in their annual reports. The department had kept most of the deadlines on delivery set for it by President Thabo Mbeki this year and had received a month-long extension on the detailed infrastructure investment plans that had been due at the end of September "to add value to the plans", Mokeyane said.

On the preparation of shareholder compacts with the various parastatals, he said the department was now finalising "the most meaningful method of interacting with state-owned enterprises", which would include these compacts. Mokeyane's team told the committee that Denel needed to be recapitalised after years of neglect and being forced to face international competition prematurely. It was, in the meantime, weeding out non-core assets and selling or removing loss making operations from its balance sheet, renegotiating subcontracts at more favourable prices and developing partnerships with Brazil and other countries. In the energy sector, the department was exploring various options for raising funds to build the first pebble bed modular reactor to generate nuclear energy. The department was also helping Transnet separate its infrastructure and operations divisions with the aim of drawing in private sector partners into the operations units, including the National Ports Authority. Mokeyane said the department was building up a strong brand image on the local market and with foreign investors, based on the strong investments it had made in key strategic sectors in the economy.

Business Report, South Africa, by Lynda Loxton, October 13, 2004

Diplomat Tasks Government on Privatisation Gives Recipe for Poverty Alleviation

President of the Nigerian-Finnish Association, Ambassador Peter Afolabi has tasked the Federal Government on the need to carry the privatisation exercise to its logical conclusion. Speaking at an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, Afolabi said the argument that some enterprises are too strategic to be fully privatised is flawed. He said the more strategic an industry is, the more rapidly it must be privatised in order to introduce greater efficiency, profitability and accountability. He added that "oil and gas, electricity, water, telecommunications and transportation companies must belong to the people, not in the nominal sense of being public utilities, but in the true sense of the word". In his view, the strategic goal of privatisation is for the government to withdraw from all the productive sectors of the economy, to concentrate on infrastructural development, education, health, law and order, and foreign policy, and to transfer to the shoulders of the private sector, the burden of economic development.

The diplomat added that "the oil and gas sector will continue to play a dominant role in our national economic fortunes. It is therefore an area in which privatisation must be accelerated". Afolabi also said privatisation programme must remove all obstacles to the full and unfettered movement of domestic investment capital to every nook and corner of the country. He noted that the practice of erecting state quotas and preferential allocations and limits severely restrict the flow of funds from areas of excess to those of scarcity while also sending the wrong message to foreign investors. He said the ultimate goal of privatisation is to transform the lives of the people positively and ensure national development. He said the government must strive to achieve the goal. "The fundamental benefit of privatisation of the widest possible share ownership in society is that, in the final analysis, these are the only guarantee for democracy and stability. Democracy will endure and flourish only when all citizens have right to ownership of part of the wealth creating machinery of the nation. This is the only way in which every citizen will have a real stake in the system and will be motivated to rise up and defend the system should it be threatened. A situation whereby the elite live like their counterparts in Paris, Geneva, New York and London, while the generality of the people wallow in poverty, disease and ignorance is inherently unstable and few will mourn its collapse", he said.

Commenting on the hydra-headed problem of poverty, Afolabi said there must be a distinction between poverty alleviation and poverty elimination. The diplomat, who commended the strategies of the President Obasanjo administration to tackle the problem of poverty frontally however noted that while the government should try to eliminate absolute poverty, it should reduce relative poverty. He noted that poverty lines vary between climates, cultures and social environments, and that the common practice of using dociles of income recipients has serious defects. Afolabi also commended the recent gesture of the Finnish government to reschedule Nigeria's debt and urged other members of the Paris Club to learn from Finland.

AllAfrica, Africa, by Tokunbo Adedoja of This Day, Lagos, 18 October 2004

Kagonyera Dismisses Privatisation

The Minister for General Duties in the Prime Minister's Office, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera has said the intended benefits of privatisation have not been achieved especially in the agriculture sector. "Recently, we were told that privatisation and liberalization of the economy would add value to Uganda's products, but in real sense, no value has been added on anything," he said. This is the first time a cabinet minister is casting doubt on the achievement of privatization. Kagonyera was last week addressing participants from Sub-Saharan Africa at the first Networking Symposium on innovations in Agricultural Advisory Services in Sub Saharan Africa held at Hotel Africana. He said coffee revenue had decline despite increased production. " Uganda used to produce less coffee and we could earn $500 million from the exports but now we export almost three times more but earning less," he said. He said some operators in the private sector are only concerned about making profits and paying taxes. " Some of them import fuel, sell and expatriate their profits. We need to see private sector involved in African growth," Kagonyera said.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, from Jane Fafula & Kelvin Nsangi of The Monitor, Kampala, 18 October 2004

Nigeria: Where is the Rice?

President Obasanjo, in 2000, stated that his economic policy was to create a private sector-led economy. That globally had meant that government would divest itself of participation and investment into those aspects of the economy that are best handled by the private sector. Food imports is generally recognised as one of those areas where the genius of the private sector has demonstrated the ability to provide superior services and products at the least possible price while meeting fully the demands of the people of Nigeria. The establishment of the Bureau of Public Enterprises and the National Commission on Privatisation also lent credence to government's sincerity of purpose. Granted, the two agencies have not achieved perfection, but they have moved in the right direction and government is gradually divesting from commercial enterprises.

It was therefore something of a shock to learn that the Federal Government has been importing N200 billion worth of rice every year in glaring contravention of its own stated economic policies. The announcement is even more startling given the fact that rice importation is one of those areas where the private sector has established an enviable record of meeting the demands of the people without government intervention. Furthermore, our historical experience since the Shagari administration has convinced us that rice importation by government has almost ended up being a racket from which only a few people benefit. Vanguard is unaware that this has changed. And for this reason, we want to know who was put in charge of importing the rice? What was the landed cost? How much was the selling price and to whom was it sold? In short we want to know: Where is the rice? Thereafter, we believe the government should henceforth stop the importation of rice or any other food item unless a state of emergency exists to warrant it.


AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Yetunde Arebi of Vanguard, Lagos, 19 October 2004

 

Privatisation: University Plan Planned

Lecturers, students fear higher tuition fees. University lecturers and students submitted a letter to the Senate, protesting against the government’s plan to privatise state universities, claiming the move would make education too businessoriented. Council of the University Faculty Senates of Thailand (CUFST) president Pisit Choteking said university privatisation would lead to a businessdriven education system, and students would suffer because they would have to pay the entire cost of tuition. Pisit and representatives from the Student Federation of Thailand submitted the letter to Pong Lenge, chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Religion, Arts and Culture, and Nirand Pithakwatchara, who chairs the Committee on Social Development and Human Security. Variations in salary would lead to a brain drain at smaller institutions, Pisit said, with lecturers moving to bigger employers in search of better pay. This could force small colleges to enter into business partnerships to survive, and would make them vulnerable to influence over study programmes, leading to the closure of less profitable courses. Individual university councils would have excessive power, while lecturers would become mere contract employees without legal or union protection, according to Pisit.

On the subject of the individual charters of the former state universities, Pisit urged a public hearing on each draft charter before implementation. Pisit added that the draft charter for Burapha University, which the senate was due to consider later yesterday, allowed political interference in the university’s administration. “Article 52 says if the university does not abide by the orders of the education minister, he can bring the matter before the Cabinet, and the university has to do what the Cabinet agrees,” he said. Pong said his concerns were similar to Pisit’s and he would carefully amend the draft Burapha University’s charter with these objections in mind.

From The Nation, Thailand, 5 October 2004

Cabinet Committee Decision Makes Privatisation Commission Jobless

The Privatisation Commission would have little work to do after privatisation of six state owned losing concerns. The situation has arisen due to a decision taken by the cabinet committee on economic affairs in June last year that it would privatise only losing concerns. The cabinet committee decided that the commission would privatise only those losing concerns, which were now in operation. The line Ministries would decide on the fate of the state owned enterprises that are not in operation. The privatisation commission lost power to privatise the closed state owned concerns due to the decision of the cabinet committee. The privatisation act and the privatisation policy empowered the commission to privatise both losing and profitable ones. In 2001, when the four-party alliance government took power, the privatisation commission selected 83 state owned losing and profitable enterprises for privatisation. Of those, 22 were in operation and 61 closed.

The Commission privatised only 1 enterprise in 2002-03 FY and 15 in the last fiscal year. Currently it has only 6 enterprises to dispose of. Commission sources said, if the cabinet committee does not revise its decision on their jurisdiction, the commission might be without work very soon. Sources said that, the different ministries hardly take opinion of the privatisation commission when they decide to privatise state owned concerns that stand closed. An official of the Commission said, privatisation regulations were awaiting approval of the Prime Minister in 1994. The commission sent it to the Cabinet Committee in 1992. The Government formed a committee headed by secretaries to review the proposal. After examining the privatisation regulation proposal the secretarys' committee sent it to the cabinet committee. " In the absence of the privatisation regulations the Commission cannot work properly," he said, adding, the regulation would strengthen the commission." It may be mentioned here that the government formed the Privatisation Board 0n 20 March 1993 following a prescription of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to privatise the state owned losing and profitable concerns. The Government renamed the organisation as Privatisation Commission on July 30, 2000. Since its inception, the privatisation board had privatised 12 enterprises up to June 1996. During the Awami League rule in 1996 to 2001, it privatised 28 state owned enterprises.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh, by Syful Islam, 12 October 2004

 

Cabinet Clears Proposal to Regulate Privatisation Steps

Bahrain - The Cabinet yesterday approved a proposal by the Chamber of Deputies to regulate the government's sale of its shares in Batelco. The Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, said that the proposal was compatible with the government drive to formulate the necessary regulations that ensure that all privatisation operations benefit the national economy. The regulations will also help preserve national capitals and energise the national economy, the Cabinet said. The government, which owns 36.6 per cent of the total shareholding of Batelco, has not decided yet to sell any of its shares. The Cabinet also discussed the actions taken by the government to privatise certain projects in which it had stakes in order to involve the private sector in reinvigorating the economy and fostering healthy competition. The move reinforces Bahrain's economic policies based on the values of free economy, anti-monopoly and attraction of foreign capitals.

The Cabinet reviewed a law draft to improve the current trust system as part of the strategy to consolidate the Kingdom's status as an international financial hub. The law was submitted to the legal ministerail committee for further study. The Cabinet also approved a proposal from the Chamber of Deputies to reduce waiting periods for housing units and loans applications and other housing services in order to help families with limited income. The proposal suggested increasing allocation for housing services and exappropriation of vacant lands to build houses. The financial increases will be reflected in the state budget 2005-2006. The ministers also approved a proposal from the Chamber of Deputies to offer increments to public sector employees after they reach the tenth grade. The move will stimulate employees and boost productivity, the proposal said. Also in line with the drive to help people with limited resources, the Prime Minister directed the Bahrain Development Bank to review all the cases of Bahraini fishermen facing problems and reschedule their loans according to their capabilities to repay. The cases will be assessed individually, and those deemed by the bank unable to repay will have their loans partly or completely cancelled. The minsiters were also briefed on the measures taken by the Ministry of Commerce to ensure adequate supply of food for the holy month of Ramadhan expected on october 15. The Cabinet also reviewed a decree draft to join the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which had been signed by Bahrain

From MENAFN, Middle East, from Bahrain Tribune, 4 October 2004

Privatisation Moves Are Praised

Manama - Bahrain has created a business climate capable of sustaining economic growth at three to five per cent a year, says a leading businessman. This is thanks to its liberalisation and privatisation policies, says Mashal International Group chief executive director Dr Yousef Mashal. Mr Mashal submitted a paper for the Seventh Inter-Arab Businessmen's Trade Forum, held in Sharjah, UAE, commending the steps taken by the Bahrain government. "It has been proven that over the last few years Bahrain has shown strengthened commitment to stabilisation and structural adjustment policies," wrote Mr Mashal in the paper. "The wide range of economic reforms had a positive impact on the economy." He emphasised the government's perspectives on the structure and direction of imports and exports, guided by a policy with a key trade objective of export diversification. The diversification has been into a wide range of products away from oil, targeting regional Arabic markets, as well as the European and American markets, said Mr Mashal. "Bahrain has significant non-oil and gas products either already exported or to be increasingly exported," he said. "Over the last two decades, manufactured products exports have become a major factor of economic growth. "Export expansion has become a national priority where expert promotion is perceived as the core of any successful policy to increase the number of companies able to export."

From Gulf Daily News, Bahrain, 11 October 2004

Iranian Government Given Green Light to Proceed with Privatization

Nicosia - Iran's supreme legislative arbitration body - the Expediency Council- which is headed by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has given the reformist government of the Islamic Republic the green light to proceed with the privatization of key sectors of the economy. These sectors include banking, insurance, foreign trade, telecom and postal services, airlines, railways, shipping, power generation, petrochemicals, lubricants and distribution of products. A few months ago, the Guardians Council, which is controlled by conservative hardliners, had managed to block key parts of the five-year development plan prepared by the government of reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

The Guardians Council claimed that ceding big industries to the private sector would be a violation of articles 43 and 44 of the Iranian Constitution. The dispute was referred to country's Expediency Council, which is the final arbiter of disputes between legislative bodies in Iran. The decision of the Expediency Council was taken on October 2 said that with a view to assisting economic development and preventing further losses to the Iranian economy, the government is authorised to cede large industries to the private sector. The oil and gas industries, as well as radio and television will remain in the hands of the state. It should be mentioned that the Iranian Parliament would have to approve the necessary legislation to facilitate the entry of private firms into the privatized sectors.(ANI)Manama: Bahrain has created a business climate capable of sustaining economic growth at three to five per cent a year, says a leading businessman. This is mber of companies able to export."

New Kerala, India, from (World News), Nicosia, 14 October 2004

Expediency Council Passes New Decisions on Privatization Drive of Iran's Economy

Tehran - The Expediency Council on Saturday passed new decisions to privatize national economy and help rid it of stagnation. "The new decisions will help speed up growth of national economy, boost efficiency and productivity of material and human resources and prepare the ground for competition in the economic sector," said a statement from the Expediency Council. The Management and Planning Organization (MPO) has drawn up a 20-year economic, social and cultural development plan (2005-2025) which requires privatization of major enterprises now being run by the government.

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei forwarded the long-term vision plan to the heads of the three branches of government in order to be put into effect and assigned the Expediency Council to remove any obstacle that the strategic plan may find with the articles 43 and 44 of the Constitution. The Constitution drawn up after victory of the Islamic Revolution has envisaged monopoly of government over national economy. But, experience of the past 25 years proved that the state monopoly has brought stagnation to the economy sector. The Expediency Council said that the government officials in charge of the economic affairs were present in the meeting and offered expert views about the topics being examined.

Payvand, Iran, 23 October 2004

 

Research and Markets: Comprehensive Breakdown and Analysis of Privatisation and Public Private Partnership Activity Over the Past 12 Months

Dublin, Ireland - PRNewswire - Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com) has announced the addition of Privatisation and Public Private Partnership Review 2003/04 to their offering. (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20040820/RESEARCH ) The new edition of the Privatisation and Public Private Partnership Review is a comprehensive guide to privatisation and PPP activity worldwide. As globalisation progresses and governments continue to redefine their roles to keep up with the pace of change, privatisation and PPP continues to be a driving force in the global economy going forward. The eighth edition of the Review provides a comprehensive breakdown and analysis of privatisation and PPP activity over the past 12 months, sector by sector and country by country. Contributors also look ahead to future projects and developments as well as discussing current trends and debates. The Privatisation and Public Private artnership Review is a "must-have" indispensable publication for international corporations, global investors, law firms, privatisation agencies, consultants and banks.

Implementing public private partnerships to deliver new public infrastructure: - DEPFA BANK plc

Contracting for health services - Private provision for public benefit - International Finance Corporation

Airport privatisation: Post 9/11 trends and strategies - Debevoise

Roads, congestion and private involvement: The future - IBM Business Consulting Services and Ministry of Transport

Key features of the London Underground public private partnership - Lovells

PPPs and public procurement in Europe: The process of reform - DLA Group

Banking privatisation in Central and Eastern Europe and South Eastern Europe
- WoldTheiss Attorneys at Law


Restructuring of state-owned enterprises in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa - Standard Bank Group

COUNTRY & LEGAL REVIEWS

Privatisation and PPP projects in Australia - Clayton Utz

Public-private partnerships in Canada - Staikemann Elliott LLP

Privatisation in the Czech Republic - Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Never say never again: French government gives decisive impetus to PPP - Landwell & Associates

Public private partnerships, private finance initiatives and privatisation in Germany - Simmons & Simmons, Dusseldorf

Public concerns about privatisation in Ghana - Ntrakwah & Co.

Privatisations in Indonesia in an era of change - Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy LLP

The "Italian way" to PFI: A case study in the public healthcare sector - Coudert Brothers

Privatisation and public private partnership in Jordan: A legal overview - Obeidat & Freihat

Private participation in infrastructure: International project finance in Korea? - Shearman & Sterling

PPP/PFI in the Netherlands: A practitioner's view on the development of the Dutch market for PPP/PFI - RebelGroup

Powerful legal developments in Dutch energy - Norton Rose, International Law Firm

The last remaining privatisation in Asia: Transco in the Philippines - Sherman & Sterling

Portugal - Football stadiums finance in public private partnership concept - Morais Leitao, J. Calvao Teles & Associados (MLGT)

South Africa - A land of opportunity? - Investec Bank Limited

Legal review of PPPs in South Africa - Bell, Dewar & Hall Inc.

An overview of the UK PFI/PPP market - Eversheds LLP

A US perspective of public-private partnerships - National Council for Public-Private Partnerships (NCPP)

Appendix

Directory - A comprehensive and unique directory of over 800 market players involved in privatisation worldwide completes this essential
guide. We include their names, addresses, complete contact details and a summary of market activities.

From Yahoo News (Press Release), 1 October 2004

Snow Calls for up to 100 Percent Debt Relief for Poor Countries

To break the ongoing "lend-and-forgive" cycle that heavily indebted poor countries face, the international community should "significantly" increase grants and debt relief, says U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow. In an October 2 statement, Snow said international funders should consider more options for ensuring long-term debt sustainability for low-income countries, including providing up to 100 percent debt relief from the international financial institutions. Snow's statement was issued in conjunction with the meeting of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) Development Committee. That meeting was part of the Bank/IMF annual meeting October 2-3 in Washington. Employing both grants and debt relief would give the poorest countries a chance to reach the International Development Goals of the Millennium Declaration signed at the United Nations in 2000, without adding to debt burdens, Snow said. The goals are to halve poverty and hunger and make progress in other areas of development by 2015. "Cumulatively, the effects of additional debt relief and increased grants, coupled with sound development policies should give the developing countries that are committed to reform a stronger basis for achieving needed economic growth," Snow said. The Treasury secretary said current negotiations of how much to replenish the funds of the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) provide a timely opportunity to discuss the merits of providing more grants and debt forgiveness. IDA provides interest-free loans and some grants to the world's poorest countries.

Following is the text of Snow's Development Committee statement:
This meeting of the Development Committee takes place at a time of considerable focus on the conditions necessary for meeting the international goals set out in the Millennium Declaration. Significant progress in meeting some of these international goals has been made -- approximately 70 percent of the developing world lives in countries on track to meet the reduction in poverty and hunger goal -- but gaps clearly remain. The Monterrey compact agreed to two years ago sets out a mutually reinforcing set of commitments. Developing countries agreed to strengthen policies, governance and institutions to generate growth and create an enabling environment for development. Developed countries pledged to provide additional resources to those countries that demonstrate a commitment to such actions. And the international institutions were called upon to complement and catalyze national efforts through financial support and technical assistance.

The United States has already followed through on the promise we made at Monterrey to substantially increase aid to those taking needed steps to promote lasting, inclusive development progress. The U.S. pledged to increased official development assistance by 50 percent over the 2000 levels by 2006. We met this commitment in 2003 and by 2006 U.S. ODA [official development assistance] is projected to be roughly 70 percent above fiscal year 2001 levels. This includes pledges to substantially increase our funding for the multilateral development banks, including IDA; implementation of the Millennium Challenge Account, and a plan to provide $15 billion for HIV/AIDS over the next five years. U.S. assistance is based on the concepts of transparency and measurable and monitorable development results on the ground. It is real money that is being provided now and will continue to be provided in a sustainable and predictable manner. It is assistance coming directly from the United States to the countries or institutions that can use it most effectively, as opposed to recent proposals to put in place complex global taxation schemes that would not be democratically accountable to the American people.

The U.S. contributes to development in other ways as well. U.S. growth for this year is strong and demand from the U.S. has been a major factor in growth in many other parts of the world. The U.S. is also a major source of remittances that fuel growth of incomes and small businesses throughout the developing world. Virtually all economies in the world are now growing, emerging market bond spreads are decreasing, and emerging stock markets have risen by around 40 percent since the beginning of 2002. But we realize more must be done to build on this success, particularly when it comes to trade. We are firmly committed to a successful outcome of the Doha Development Round and worked hard with other countries to reach an agreed framework that should lead to successful completion of the trade talks.

Role of Developing Countries and the World Bank
Increased resources from the United States and other donors are not enough. It is critical that developing countries put in place the policy frameworks that will allow them to use these and other resources effectively and to set the basis for sustainable financing for development needs over the longer run, in particular from private domestic and foreign resources. This includes putting in place transparent fiscal systems that can account for the receipt and expenditure of donor flows and other public revenues. The World Bank has a role to play in helping countries improve their own systems with a goal of bringing them up to world class standards. This will also require policies that promote a stable, growing economy and a sound business environment. The World Bank and other MDBs [multilateral development banks] can play an important role in helping countries adopt such policies. The World Bank has a wealth of expertise and information that it can utilize to help countries address barriers to both domestic and foreign investment. The Doing Business Report and Investment Climate Assessments are excellent tools for highlighting key barriers to private investment. The challenge is to coordinate with other donors on practical follow-up action to help individual countries undertake the necessary reforms.

The World Bank can also play a role in catalyzing private sector investment more directly. Its loans, grants, guarantees and other innovative programs can create successful public private partnerships that will create the missing infrastructure that is a major barrier to strong growth in many countries. The U.S. and other G-7 [Group of 7] countries have urged the Bank to ramp up its programs that support small and medium enterprises, which are a major source of employment and which face barriers that are in many cases different than those faced by larger enterprises. Improving remittances services directly benefits households and small businesses. The World Bank has played a critical role in examining remittance corridors in APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] economies, and more broadly, identifying barriers to the competitive provision of remittance services and developing strategies to address those impediments. To meet the Sea Island Summit [of the Group of 8 major economies] goal to `lower the cost of remittance services through competition, expand the use of and access to remittances services, and enhance the development potential of the flows', the US and the G7 have encouraged the World Bank to lead efforts, with the appropriate experts, to improve statistical reporting of remittance data. The World Bank can also expand its country work by designing and funding projects aimed to increase access and minimize barriers to competitive remittance services.

The World Bank needs to continue to improve its system of internal and external accountability. A transparent and comprehensive internal governance structure is critical to maintaining the ongoing support of its shareholders and to verify that its funds are used for the purposes envisaged. Similarly, a strong results measurement framework for its operations ensures that they lead to concrete outcomes that raise incomes and growth. This includes a transparent system for monitoring project and program results during implementation so that citizens in borrowing countries can hold their own officials and the Bank accountable for results. Over time, the world economy has evolved, and the Bank's governance should evolve accordingly so that countries' positions better reflect their global weights and so the Board can continue to discharge its duties effectively. Already, change has outpaced that at the Bank. Many fast growing emerging markets clearly are playing roles in the world economy, which far exceed their current IFI [international financial institutions] weights. Many parts of Europe have joined a currency union, while European representation accounts for roughly one-third of the Board's seats, and we are all watching moves toward further European integration. And, while many emerging markets are a now a much larger share of the global economy, other countries have fallen behind. We will need to consider how to address these interrelated issues in the coming years.

Debt Sustainability and Grants - Correcting the Past and Ensuring the Future
The international community needs to take prudent and appropriate steps to ensure long-term debt sustainability for low-income countries, which is essential for economic growth and poverty alleviation. The G-8 Leaders emphasized this issue in Sea Island and pledged to consider measures that can further help the poorest countries address the sustainability of their debt. To break the ongoing "lend-and-forgive" cycle, grants and debt relief must be significantly increased. We urge the international community to consider more options to do so, including those that would provide up to 100 percent debt relief from the international financial institutions. Employing both grants and debt relief together would give the poorest countries a chance to reach the International Development Goals of the Millennium Declaration, without adding to debt burdens. The IDA-14 [14th replenishment of funds for the International Development Association] replenishment negotiation currently underway provides a timely opportunity to discuss the merits of these objectives.

The low-income country debt sustainability framework as currently proposed by the Bank and Fund is inadequate to address the ongoing debt problem. The proposed debt thresholds guiding lending decisions are alarmingly high suggesting that poor countries can sustain debt-to-exports ratios of up to 300 percent or devote up to 40 percent of revenues to debt service. Instead of weighing developing countries down with unsustainable debt loads, the international community should move ahead with an approach that is conducive to economic growth and poverty reduction. Cumulatively, the effects of additional debt relief and increased grants, coupled with sound development policies should give the developing countries that are committed to reform a stronger basis for achieving needed economic growth and a better chance of achieving the international development goals by 2015.

From Arabic News, Middle East, 4 October 2004

Capacity-building Initiatives Can Spur Economies

Ventures should be adapted to the economic system of the country concerned - Expert Briefing by ESCWA - This is an excerpt from a report, called "Technology Capacity-Building Initiatives for the Twenty-First Century in the ESCWA Member Countries." The report was written by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and its full version can be found on www.escwa.org.lb.

Capacity-building initiatives can facilitate technology transfer, enhance high-technology dissemination and contribute to economic development, although there is no unique recipe that guarantees their success on these fronts in all countries. While ESCWA member countries have a good deal in common, their economic systems display some marked differences, especially with respect to state involvement in the planning and running of their economies. It follows that every national initiative should be adapted to the economic system of the country concerned and should focus on its development needs as expressed in its strategy and development plans. But there are important lessons to be learned from experience in the developed and newly industrialized countries, and it is possible to formulate criteria which, if properly applied, will give national capacity-building initiatives, such as technopoles and technology incubators, a better chance of succeeding.

In the following sections, criteria relevant to the ESCWA/Arab countries are discussed. They should be incorporated into those countries' planning, design and implementation initiatives, whether relating to policy or innovative institutional forms, in order to maximize the chances of success and reduce the risks of failure, taking into account each country's distinctive economic, social and political characteristics. Within the larger issue of capacity-building initiatives in general, the present framework focuses on Capacity- building through the establishment of institutional forms such as technopoles and technology incubators, given their importance in stimulating innovation and their proven effectiveness in technology transfer. Policy initiatives leading to the establishment of strategies for national capacity-building are of primary importance, and are discussed first. The promotion of innovation-friendly, dynamic environments through appropriate political, legislative and regulatory action is another road to success, and is included in this framework, as are financial aspects, which are essential for nurturing most capacity-building initiatives. Institutional Science and Technology (S&T) structures constitute the backbone of capacity-building initiatives, and their level of maturity is a crucial factor. The design and implementation of new institutional forms, including establishment, management and networking aspects, constitute an important part of the framework. Finally, specific roles for governments, civil society and UN/international organizations in introducing and sustaining various capacity-building initiatives are also set forth in this framework.

Policy Initiatives - While several important components of national S&T systems were created in all of the ESCWA members during the past two decades, S&T capacity-building in general has had to proceed largely without the benefit of explicit and comprehensive S&T policies. Comprehensive policies related to S&T and specific policies focused on technology and innovation diffusion constitute important initiatives that should be introduced in ESCWA member countries, with a view to: Establishing better coordination among the educational system, industrial institutions and financial markets. Strengthening technology diffusion mechanisms through well-designed programs. Removing obstacles to international S&T cooperation by, inter alia, adopting intellectual property rights. Reforming Research and Development (R&D) institutions to make them more flexible and adapted to rapid technological change with stronger links to industry. Increasing the public funding for R&D that offers prospects for long-term technological opportunities.

Comprehensive S&T policies should also be supplemented with innovation-promoting initiatives such as:
- Development of public/private partnerships in fields of technology that are deemed to merit priority.
- Encouraging private investment in and financing of innovation, especially by venture capital in any form, through tax exemptions or by other means.

Policy initiatives on science, technology and innovation, provided they are framed so as to take continuing technological change into account, and the promotion of new growth areas such as Internet-based services and environmental services, lead to favorable conditions for scientific and technological progress while increasing productivity and contributing to job creation. They can also minimize mismatches between demand and supply for scientific knowledge and technological skills. Furthermore, the creation of new technology-based firms and the growth of existing ones are likely to be facilitated by such initiatives through policy directives designed to promote technological entrepreneurship and to remove, or at any rate reduce, regulatory, information and financing barriers. It is therefore essential for governments in the region, with the assistance of concerned international organizations, UN agencies and regional institutions on the one hand and national non-governmental organizations on the other, to guide the public and private sectors in their quest for appropriate policy and strategy initiatives. Priorities for such initiatives should include the creation of synergy and encouragement for creative cooperative approaches by stakeholders with a view to accelerating growth and socioeconomic development on the basis of new technology inputs.

ESCWA/Arab economies will need to devote special attention to the task of developing policy regimes and related strategies with the aim of promoting greater involvement by private enterprise in joint initiatives with the public sector as a prelude to forging long-lasting partnerships in technological capacity building. Incentives aimed at encouraging the private sector to play an active role in providing a continuous stream of innovative inputs for socioeconomic development and environmental amelioration are of paramount importance. With the above in mind, national science, technology and innovation policies and strategies must be formulated by an organization that is affiliated to the central decision-making power, yet guided in its deliberations by an interactive consultation process in which private and public sector concerns and the institutions of civil society are closely involved. Since policies designed to revitalize national systems of innovation may contribute significantly to competitiveness and productivity, this bottom-up approach is likely to achieve results, provided it is illuminated by analysis and informed choices. It follows that mechanisms for securing effective involvement by professional and business associations and by chambers of commerce, industry and agriculture in the formulation of these policies and strategies are crucial for success.

In addition to comprehensive national S&T policies and strategies, governments should formulate specific policy and strategy initiatives aimed at developing sectors deemed to merit priority through innovation-promotion schemes based on new technologies, with a view to making those sectors more productive and more competitive on the global scene. Efforts to promote the establishment of regional associations of R&D managers and technical directors may be useful in this connection, and may lead to more responsive innovation policies and strategies. In seeking to develop national policies and strategies, the ESCWA member countries should also promote the creation and upgrading of basic technical infrastructures through the organization of services in such areas as metrology, standardization, certification, calibration and testing, in addition to their existing public utilities, technical centers and laboratories. Regional standardization and harmonization would then be attainable through networks of such infrastructures, enabling national firms to become more competitive in the international market.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, 5 October 2004

Healthcare Privatisation Fuelling Asian Child Deaths: UN Report

Bangkok (AFP) - The rising cost of privatised healthcare in Asia is behind a spike in child deaths in Cambodia and caused more than half the region to fall behind global goals to lower child mortality, a United Nations (news - web sites) report warned. Cambodia, where one in seven children die before the age of five, is the only country in the region where child mortality had risen since 1990, but others lag well behind death reduction goals set by the UN, the organisation's children fund (UNICEF (news - web sites)) said. After Cambodia, the fund's 'Progress for Children' report revealed that North Korea (news - web sites), Myanmar, Pacific island nations and Papua New Guinea fared the worst in the Asia-Pacific region, reporting little or no reduction in under-five mortality since 1990.

The transition from planned to market economies in many Asian nations was behind much of the problem with free state health services giving way to often costly private clinics, according to the fund. "Poor people are often unable to pay for those services and stop bringing children for treatment until the very last moment," UNICEF Regional Health and Nutrition adviser Dr Steve Atwood told AFP. "Vaccinations are also a major concern." He said where fees have been introduced for treatment, immunisation rates had fallen. High childbirth mortality rates, representing 45 percent of all under-five deaths, and poor sanitation in many nations added to the problem. After childbirth, diarrhoea was the second largest killer of under-fives at 17 percent followed by acute respiratory infections at 16 percent. Malnutrition was a contributory factor in more than half of all deaths, said UNICEF, warning that in some parts of Asia, malnutrition rates were almost comparable to sub-Saharan Africa.

The fund said the current slowdown meant that only 13 of 27 countries in the region, for which figures were available, would meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals, but said some countries, such as Malaysia, had bucked the trend. In 1990 Malaysia had a child mortality rate of 21; in 2002 it was recorded at eight, putting it just behind its target of seven deaths for every 1,000 live births. Brunei, South Korea (news - web sites) and Singapore also performed well, according to UNICEF. "The success of these countries has been due not only to their relative economic prosperity but also enlightened leadership and the political will to invest in providing basic healthcare for all citizens," said Atwood. UNICEF said Asia's overall child mortality figure has dropped by more than 75 percent since 1960, but that rates had dropped by less than two percent annually over the last decade, compared to five percent throughout the 1960s and 1970s. To meet the UN's goals, which all member nations have agreed to, countries must achieve a two-thirds reduction in their 1990 under-five child mortality figures by 2015. This requires an average annual improvement of roughly 4.4 per cent.

From Yahoo News, 8 October 2004