ISSUE 79
February 2006
 
 
   
    Kenya: Civil Service Needs More than Contracts
Uganda: Public Servants Warned on Politics
   
    India: Stage Set for MPSC Examinations Today
New Zeeland: Public Servants Step Down in Solomon Islands to Pursue Election Campaigns
Philippines: CSC: Luz Transfer 'Mockery' of Civil Service
Australia: PM Defends Decision to Gag Public Servants
Vietnam: Lawyers Should Not Be Public Servants: Vietnam MPs
Thailand: Public Policy Forum Plans 'Second Chance' for Young Offenders
   
    France: French Civil Servants Plan to Strike Tomorrow for Pay Increase
Italy: E-Government, Stanca 60M to Rescue Civil Service's Projects
   
    Iraq: Iraq Issues Ban, Public Servants Gagged
   
    Canada: Shift Powers to Restore Trust in Government: Gomery
USA: Google Searches for D.C. Presence
   
    MSU Awards 2006 Fellowships to 24 Public Service Leaders; Former National Party Chairs to Speak at March Events
Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance
 
   
    South Africa: S. Africa to Host Progressive Governance Summit
Nigeria: Corruption, Bad Governance Bane of Economic Woe
Sierra Lione: Sierra Leone Hosts Regional Workshop on Conflict Disaster And Governance
Mozambique: Norwegian Ministeron Governance and Budget Support
Nigeria: 'Good Governance, Essential for Dev'
   
    Nepal:Security, Governance, Improved; General Polls by mid-April Next Year - HM
India: Awards for E-governance Initiatives Given Away
Philippines: Mayor Elevates Campaign for Good Governance
Pakistan: Model Reforms Package Finalized for Introducing Concept of Good Governance
China: CPC Seeks to Improve Governance by Appointing Younger County Heads
   
    Malta: Internet Governance: The Way Forward
United Kingdom: Call to Simplify London Governance

United Kingdom: CIPFA Governance Website
   
    United Arab Emirates: The Institute for Corporate Governance Established by DIFC and International Organisations
Bahrain: Metito Urges Private Management of Water
   
    Cayman Islands: Cayman Eyeing Bermuda's Model of Governance
United States of America: Water a Symptom of California's Governance Crisis
   
    UNESCO Supports E-governance Project in the Caribbean
 
   
    Kenya: Civil Service Needs More than Contracts
South Africa: Civil Service to Be Overhauled, Says Minister
Nigeria: Efficient Civil Service, An Asset, Says Ex-SSG
   
    India: MPSC Examinations Held Amid Tight Security
South Korea: Seoul Warns on Civil Service Unions
India:India Emerging As a Major Global Power: PM
Nepal: Nepalese Civil Service Positive Discrimination Needed
Georgia: Corruption Is Going Down, Georgian President Claims
Bangladesh: Corruption Remains Undiminished Despite ACC
   
    Italy: E-government, Stanca 60 M to Reuse Civil Service Projects
United Kingdom: A Modern British Civil Service: The Fusion of Historic Values with 21st Century Dynamism
Scotland:Move to Win 1600 Civil Service Posts
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Faces Uphill Fight Against Corruption
   
    United States of America: Is 'civil rights' confused with 'civil service'?
United States of America: Hurricane Victims in US Contributed to Corruption
   
    World water crisis worsened by corruption, repression: UN report
Taking on Corruption
Wolfowitz's Corruption Agenda
 
   
    China: China Gets E-government Boost from EU
Philippines: Filipino Government to Re-design Portal Site
India: Indian Government Partners with TCS for E-government Project
Vietnam: Step Taken on Path to E-government
India: e-Governance Initiative Makes Waves
   
    Ireland: Irish E-government Needs IT Graduates
Isle of Man: Isle of Man to Make Savings with VoIP Nnetwork
Ireland: Irish Customs Officers Get Mobile Scanner
UK:UK MPs Approve Controversial ID Card Scheme
Macedonia: Macedonia Launches Online Jobs Service
Belarus: Belarus Issues Regulations for Government Websites
   
    Dubai: Dubai Citizens Unhappy with Online Services
Saudi Arabia: Oracle Promotes Saudi Arabia's e-Government Initiatives
   
    USA: Colorado Readies Open Source E-government System
   
    E-government in Europe Should Adopt Narrow Focus
EU Commits to Safer Use of the Internet via Safer Internet Day 2006
Microsoft Outlines E-government Strategy
EC to Step Up E-government Services
Smart Cards & e-Government Conference
 
   
    South Africa: Billy Nel tears into Fellow MECs
Sierra Leone: Profiling Henry Fergusson: Former Freetown City Council Chairman
South Africa: ANC Quashes Probe into Phumzile's Flight
   
    China: Economic Outlook for China Remains Benign: WB
India: Open Source Convention Concludes in Delhi
India: M Govinda Rao: Budget tips for Chidambaram
   
    Romania: CEC Needs €200 mn for Recapitalization
UK: Transforming Government
Slovenia: Bajuk Defends Decision to Let DARS Take Out Huge Loans
Romania: IMF Officials Evaluate Romania's 2006 Projected Deficit
   
    Bahrain: Inaugural Government Technology Conference & Exhibition Attracts Public Sector and Technology Leaders in Bahrain
   
    Canada: Kickback Scheme Alleged in Quebec Wine Scandal
 
   
    India: Left Set to Limit Airport Rreforms
Philippines: Government Sets Privatization of Legazpi Airport
India: Government to Help Set up Terminal Market Complexes for Perishables
Pakistan: CCOP Approves Secondary Public Offering of 10pc Shares of UBL
   
    Ukraine: UkrTelecom Attractiveness To Be Enhanced Before Holding Its Privatization
Bulgaria: Sofia Nods Bulgaria Air Privatization Strategy
Turkey: ERDEMIR's Sale to OYAK Annulled
Romania: Government to Keep Control of Gas Market
Turkey: Foreign Interest in $4 Billion Hospital Project
   
    Canada: 'Privatization' A Misnomer for P3s, Official Says
USA: Democrats Decry Onward March of Privatization
USA: Privatization Is No Answer to Improving Education
 

Civil Service Needs More Than Contracts

President Kibaki spoke eloquently yesterday about the need for a vibrant public service. The President wants to create a competitive public workforce, where performance of leaders is empirical and observable. The reasoning here is that by signing performance contracts, Permanent Secretaries, and later Cabinet ministers, will put public interests first and rejuvenate the much-maligned core system of governance.

In theory, this is a brilliant proposal and a step in the right direction to meeting Narc's pre-election pledges of good governance and zero-tolerance to graft. However, it would be naive to pretend that this will come close to addressing the profound structural, political and management problems afflicting the Government. That performance contracts will end poor delivery of services, boost economic growth and reinforce good governance. The problems choking the public service are too many to be solved by top public servants merely putting pen to paper. Some of them are not only historical, but also anecdotal and functional and cannot be solved without effecting radical changes in the sector.

We believe that President Kibaki is sincere when he says that Kenyans deserve better service than they have been getting, but he is racing against time, resources and old habits. Time in the sense that by October next year when the PSs will be due for appraisal, the tenure of his Government will be coming to an end. Cabinet ministers and others charged with the duty of appraising them will be busy politicking for re-election. That is why we believe that it may be too ambitious to think that a President with about 22 months left in power can make substantial changes to the bureaucracy that is the civil service. But the President, if he truly wants to take this on, can lay the foundation for a competent public service.

First, he must tackle the politics. Senior civil servants in Kenya are not appointed on merit. Politics plays a very big role in deciding who becomes managing director of which parastatal or Permanent Secretary in which ministry. When politics come to shove, as was the case when some MPs declined Cabinet positions, competence counts for very little.

Therefore, it is self-defeating to place such officers on performance contracts when their hiring was flawed from the start. Essentially, performance contracts imply merit, competitive appointment, security of tenure and definite targets. What measures has the Government put in place to ensure that this system is not flouted? The onus is on the President to nurture meritocracy and protect the Civil Service and State corporations from political expediency. Then there is the issue of working environment. Continuous reshuffles, where PSs have no security of tenure, do not provide an enabling environment for measurable results. We believe that even as the PSs signed their contracts yesterday, most of them were not sure whether they would be in office next month.

At the end of the day, the Government must know that performance contracts are not an end in themselves. It is true that we need to fight corruption and other malpractices in the system, but this cannot be achieved overnight — it takes time, planning, resources and political goodwill. There is urgent need to institutionalise checks and balances that will put the process on track so that it does not come a cropper like other ambitious plans mooted by Governments over the years.

From Standard Nairobi, February 7, 2006

Public Servants Warned on Politics

THE head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet, Henry Mitala, yesterday warned pubic servants against engaging in partisan politics under the multiparty dispensation. Addressing a workshop for Permanent Secretaries and senior public service officers, Mitala said public servants were meant to serve the government of the day without being partisan. "Under the multiparty political dispensation, the people in the public service implement government policies and advise the government on key policies. That is why they were asked to resign 90 days to the elections (if they are to participate in politics)," he said. Permanent secretaries and presidential advisors are attending the four-day workshop at the foreign affairs ministry offices. Mitala said the public service had improved during the last 20 years.

The deputy secretary to cabinet, Opio Lukone, said the public service in a multiparty setting was there to implement the policy priorities, which have been debated and voted on by the public during the campaigns. "We should be ready to serve the government that wins the February 23 presidential and parliamentary elections," he said. The workshop was organised under an administrative memorandum of partnership between Uganda and the government of the province of Ontario (Canada) and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. He said the workshop aimed at sensitising public servants to advise the Government on the most pressing issues and provide ministers with packages for making decisions.

From New Vision, February 15, 2006

 

Stage Set for MPSC Examinations Today

With the threat of All Manipur Muslim Students' Organisation having been relaxed after an understanding reach today Manipur Public Service Commissioner (MPSC) is all set to conduct the Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive (Preliminary) Examination 2005 tomorrow. A total of 12,300 candidates would be appearing in the preliminary examination for recruitment to the posts of Manipur Civil Service (MCS), Manipur Police Service (MPS), Manipur Finance Service (MFS) and Sub-Deputy Collector (SDC). The total number of posts for MCS is 25 including 8 reserved for ST, 32 posts including 11 reserved seats for MPS, 31 post for MFS which include 11 reserved seats for ST and 1 for SC and 40 posts for SDC including 14 reserved for ST.

An official source from MPSC said that the highest recruiting body of the State Government would go ahead with the much awaited, but delayed combined examinations as scheduled tomorrow. All necessary preparation for the smooth conduct of the examination have been made, the source said, adding examination would be conducted in 44 designated centres located in different parts of the twin capital districts. Apart from 44 supervisors in each of the centres, 782 invigilators in the ratio of 20:1 (one invigilator for every 20 candidates in consonance with the UPSC pattern) would be pressed into service to ensure smooth conduct of the examination. Moreover, necessary security measures have been taken up and restriction under CrPC 144 have been imposed within 1/2 km of all the examination centres as pre-emptive measures from any untoward incident during the examination.

According to orders issued by the District Magistrates concerned parking of vehicles and assembly of people within a radius of 1/2 km from the examination centres has been prohibited from 7 am to 5 pm tomorrow. In the preliminary round of the combined examination, the candidates would be writing two papers, one optional subject which is chosen by the candidates themselves from the listed optional subjects on offer and the General Studies which would be common for all. The forenoon session of the examination would be held from 9 am to 11 am and the afternoon session from 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm. The examination was earlier scheduled to be held on Jan 8, but had to be posted due to certain inconveniences. The MPSC is conducting such a combined recruitment examination after a gap of 7 years. The last MPSC conducted recruitment examination was held in 1999.

From e-pao.net, February 4, 2006

Public Servants Step Down in Solomon Islands to Pursue Election Campaigns

A number of Solomon Islands public servants have resigned from their positions to stand as candidates in the upcoming general election. The permanent secretary of the public service department, Ishmael Avui, says although total numbers are not yet known, he believes it to be at least ten. In Solomon Islands, public servants must resign three months before an election in which they wish to stand. Mr Avui says it's a big decision to run for office, particularly as they may not win.

From Radio New Zeeland International, February 5, 2006

CSC: Luz Transfer 'Mockery' of Civil Service

Chairman Karina Constantino-David of the Civil Service Commission said that Malacanan's transfer of Education Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz is undermining the security of tenure of career officers and "making a mockery" of efforts to uplift government service. "The message that is being sent is that career officials better tow the line set by the political leadership, no matter what, lest you be another Luz," David said in her dissenting opinion concerning the decision issued by the commission on the appeal filed by Luz regarding Malacanan's order transferring him from the Department of Education to the labor department.

Luz lost in the case after Commissioners J. Waldemar Valmores and Cesar Buenaflor voted to dismiss his appeal, saying the commission had no jurisdiction over the case. David was the lone dissenter in the three-man panel, which decided the case. She contended that the commission had jurisdiction over the case being the central personnel agency of the government tasked to handle cases involving personnel actions such as transfer, reassignment, demotion and separation. She believed that Malacanan's order was prompted by political motive following Luz's refusal to accept three checks worth P15 million from the President's Social Fund for the supposed scholarship program of Rep. Antonio Diaz of Zambales.

"If a career official can be taken out of the department [either by termination or by other means such as reassignment], for no apparent reason, then the 'insecurity' of the rest of the career bureaucracy, is a reality," David said. She said Luz's reassignment to the DOLE "was tainted with bad faith and was not done in the interest of public service." He position was backed by the CSC Office for Legal Affairs, which recommended the grant of Luz' appeal. Luz sought the CSC's help after Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita issued a memo on October 4, 2005, telling him that he was being reassigned to DOLE. David said while Luz can be transferred to another department, he being a career executive officer, there is no vacancy for an undersecretary in the labor department, a requirement under a resolution by the Career Executive Service Board.

She found out that all three undersecretary positions at the DOLE are occupied and Luz would probably be placed at a lower position with diminution in his rank and salary. "Or worse, he might even end up on 'floating' status, which is a violation of [CESB rules]," David said. The commissioner said President Arroyo's power of discretion to reassign an official is not absolute since "there are conditions that must be met." She said Malacanan tried to transfer Luz after it failed to terminate his service since Luz is a career executive officer. "Obviously, the reassignment option was reached because the first option, that of removal, did not work," she said. The other thing that convinced David that Luz's transfer was done in bad faith was that the Office of the President failed to submit to the commission the November 12, 2002, appointment of Luz, a crucial evidence in the case.

"The inescapable conclusion is that the Office of the President wants to suppress this piece of evidence," she said. The November 12 appointment assured Luz of his security of tenure as education undersecretary, David said. She said the transfer "was not done in the interest of public service" as Malacanan claimed, since Luz's position as undersecretary for administration and finance "is particularly crucial." "Definitely, his reassignment would unduly derail the smooth operations of the department, which will ultimately prejudice the service," she said. David said Luz would be more needed at DepEd, a department with close to 500,000 employees, than at the labor department, with only a little over 7,000 employees.

From ABS CBN News, February 5, 2006

PM Defends Decision to Gag Public Servants

A cabinet decision to gag officials at Senate estimates committees from commenting on the AWB Iraqi wheat bribes scandal is entirely appropriate, Prime Minister John Howard says. Finance Minister Nick Minchin told an estimates committee today that public servants had been directed not to answer questions about the Cole inquiry. Senator Minchin said the government had directed public servants not to answer questions in relation to the alleged $30 million in kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein's regime by the wheat distributor under the United Nation's disgraced oil-for-food scheme. Opposition leader Kim Beazley today asked Mr Howard who had made the decision to gag officials from answering Senate estimates questions about the AWB scandal, and when that decision had been made.

Mr Howard replied that it had been a cabinet decision. "This was a decision of cabinet and it was an entirely proper decision," Mr Howard said. Mr Howard said gag was in line with a similar decision made by the Hawke government in 1989 over the Coronation Hill uranium project, which was at the time under cabinet consideration. "There was a decision taken by the cabinet that officials in an entire department could not answer any questions on a subject called Coronation Hill - not because there was a royal commission into Coronation Hill but simply because the matter was subject to cabinet consideration," Mr Howard said.

"We have a commission with royal commission powers looking into every aspect of this matter and it is entirely appropriate that public servants will be allowed to appear before that commission. "They will be, they won't be hindered and the decision by the government, by the cabinet, is entirely proper and indeed not out of line with the spirit of decisions taken by the former government."

From Australian Financial Review, February 13, 2006

Lawyers Should Not Be Public Servants: Vietnam MPs

Lawyers working for state agencies should not be considered civil servants, Vietnamese National Assembly deputies said during a debate in the house on the draft Law on Lawyers. During the discussion Thursday deputy Nguyen Ngoc Minh from Ninh Thuan province said: "As civil servants such lawyers may not be unprejudiced when representing clients in cases involving State agencies." "It is better for lawyers to work on contracts with specific terms for state agencies," Minh suggested.

From Thanh Nien Daily, February 16, 2006

Public Policy Forum Plans 'Second Chance' for Young Offenders

A pubic policy forum will be organised to mobilise pubic participation in responding to Thailand's rising juvenile delinquency, as more than 30,000 offenses a year are now being committed by Thai youths. The forum entitled, "Open Up Your Heart and Give a Second Chance to 'Mistepping' Minors", is scheduled for Feb 23, from 9am- 5pm at the Chulabhorn Research Institute and is jointly organised by The National Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Justice, and the National Health Foundation (NHF), according to NHF executive board member Dr. Choochai Supawongse. The forum is intended to attract public support in forming a national policy response to provide solutions to Thai juvenile delinquency, he said.

"We want to encourage the public to help think what should be done to help our minors who have 'mistepped' and fallen into wrongdoing to normalise their lives after detention and redemption," said Dr. Choochai. Figures for January - November 2005 indicated 32,767 offenses committed by Thai minors throughout the country, including boys being put on trial for rape and for selling methamphetamines, girls
brokering prostitution for school friends, and the like. Overall, 5,329 cases were committed by children aged 7 - 14, and 27,438 offenses were committed by teenagers aged 15 - 18. Sentencing young offenders in not necessarily the solution, according to Dr. Choochai.

"Sending young offenders to detention centres for custody or redemption [through penitence] is not enough. Correcting and rehabilitating young wrongdoers needs more comprehensive measures that cannot be designed by an individual but [which need the help of] the entire society," Dr. Choochai said.

From Thai News, February 17, 2006

 

French Civil Servants Plan to Strike Tomorrow for Pay Increase

France is bracing for a national public servants strike tomorrow, with unions planning marches throughout the country to demand higher wages. At least seven unions have called for public workers, ranging from nurses to teachers, to walk out tomorrow after the government granted them a 0.5 percent increase for the year, compared with forecast inflation of 1.8 percent. ``We're losing 1.3 percent,'' said Elisabeth David, secretary general of the civil servants' federation within Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes. ``For us, it's unacceptable, this situation has repeated itself for several years.'' The strike, to be followed next week by student protests against the government's attempt to further deregulate the labor market, is putting pressure on Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who may run in next year's presidential election.

The government decided to go ahead with the pay raise last week after three unions agreed on a package of social and statutory matters that unions say were independent of salary talks. The walkout may also be followed by flight controllers, possibly cause traffic delays and possibly cancellations, the French civil aviation office said. Long-Haul Assured - France has five flight control centers. Florence Legrin, a spokeswoman for the Direction Generale de l'Aviation Civile, said it would be up to each airline to decide which flights would be canceled. Air France in a faxed statement today said all its long- haul flights will be maintained and forecast ``a few cancellations'' of middle-haul flights.

Employees at Reseau Autonome des Transports Parisiens, the operator of the capital's public transport system, and at railway operator Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer will not take part in the protest because the companies have their own wage negotiations. The government sees growth accelerating between 2 and 2.5 percent this year after 1.5 to 2 percent in 2005 as prospects for economic expansion improve throughout the euro region. The Organization for Economic expects 2006 to be the first year in nine France will not outpace the euro region, with growth of 2.1 percent in both economies.

Public workers obtained a 1.8 percent pay raise last year, said Marie-Claude Kervella, secretary general of the Confederation Francaise Democratique du Travail's public- employee group. Unions had then failed to agree on an increase for 2006, she said. The government had granted the increase two weeks after a nationwide strike to protest stagnant wages. Unions have also called for protests next week to ask for the withdrawal of de Villepin's plan on youth employment. The new measures, which are being discussed in Parliament, will allow companies with more than 20 employees to fire workers aged 25 or younger within their first two years on the job with little notice.

From bloomberg.com, February 1, 2006

E-government, Stanca 60 M To Reuse Civil Services's Projects

To shorten times and costs of the projects to boost the diffusion of the e-government in local bodies, with the reuse of technological solutions that have already been used by other bodies to modernize the civil service, was the goal of the announcement promoted by CNIPA, the national centre for informatics in the civil service, on behalf of the innovation and technology ministry. The innovation and technology minister, Lucio Stanca, spoke about this project in Milan this morning on the occasion of the presentation of the Forum PA 2006. The project is funded with 60 million euro. The announcement will be published in the gazette within a few days.

This money will finance regions and local bodies that will use programs that have been already made by other local governments during the first phase of the e-government plan that has involved around 4000 civil service offices in Italy. The minister said that this financing would move over 200 million euro of resources and would produce savings not only economic but also on the times that are necessary for the planning and development phases of the e-government projects. Stanca said that this initiative would involve around 2000 towns. He also stressed this is a new further step of the government policies on the civil service that must be considered a real reform of this sector.

From AGI Online, 20 February, 2006

 

Iraq Issues Ban, Public Servants Gagged

The Howard Government is appealing to Iraq to reverse its suspension of business with AWB — which has cut Australia out of the running for a $200 million wheat contract. As AWB announced its latest disaster, the Government put a gag on public servants revealing "who, what, when and where" in relation to the AWB scandal during the Cole inquiry. AWB's share prices plunged more than 8 per cent yesterday, closing at $4.30 after AWB told the Stock Exchange yesterday that the Iraq Grain Board had suspended business with it until after the Cole inquiry, which reports at the end of next month.

Australia's ambassador to Baghdad, Howard Brown, has been ordered to make representations. Iraq is due to announce the result of the tender imminently, so his work is unlikely to have any effect. In other developments: ¦Opposition Leader Kim Beazley claimed that as more information emerged "it's less and less believable" that Trade Minister Mark Vaile and Agriculture Minister Warren Truss "hadn't had some knowledge that AWB was paying unlawful fees". ¦The Opposition said the Government must have been alerted by a US Defence Department 2003 report, which accused AWB of overpricing 500,000 tonnes of wheat "to the tune of $14.8 million". The report was handed to the Iraqi coalition provisional authority, which included Australian officials.

¦BHP planned a $135 million loan to Saddam Hussein's regime, to curry favour for contracts, the inquiry heard. The inquiry is investigating $300 million in kickbacks paid to Saddam by AWB via the United Nations' oil-for-food program. Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said Australian wheat farmers "are now paying the price for the Howard Government's failure to pick up warning after warning about the AWB's activities in Iraq". At a Senate Estimates Committee hearing, enraged Opposition senators declared the Government directive gagging officials, made by cabinet, a "despicable cover-up". "Here we have the real rub of what government control of both houses of the Australian Parliament means," roared Labor Senator John Faulkner.

Mr Howard and Government Senate leader Nick Minchin claimed a precedent for the extraordinary ban, although Senator Minchin later contradicted himself under fire. They compared it to a Hawke government 1989 order stopping a public servant from answering Senate questions on the Coronation Hill mine proposal, then before the cabinet. "The decision taken by the Government … is entirely proper," Mr Howard said. But Senate clerk Harry Evans insisted Coronation Hill was not a precedent, because cabinet confidentiality was shielded in a way that commissions were not. His office was unable to find any precedent where a royal commission was invoked to ban questions, he wrote to Opposition Senate leader Chris Evans.

During hours of hostile questioning, Senator Minchin moved repeatedly to stop officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet answering questions. "The Government has made a decision not to answer questions about who, what, when and where," he said. A spokesman for AWB, Peter McBride, said: "Growers can be assured we are continuing to sell abroad while the Cole inquiry goes on."

From theage.com.au, February 13, 2006

 

Shift Powers to Restore Trust in Government: Gomery

The federal government should take power away from cabinet ministers and their political staff, and beef up the ability of MPs and civil servants to keep Ottawa clean, the Gomery commission recommended Wednesday. Justice John Gomery's second and last report into the sponsorship scandal is a set of four volumes called Restoring Accountability. It serves as a road map for future governments to ensure public money is spent wisely and whistles are blown if something goes wrong. For details: http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2006/02/01/gomery-second-report-060201.html.

From CBC News, February 1, 2006

Google Searches for D.C. Presence

Google. It's a noun. It's a verb. It's what people do before they do anything else on the Web. Google, it sometimes seems, is everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except Washington. Although the company has morphed from a two-man startup working out of a small garage into a multibillion-dollar company whose footprint stretches around the globe, its profile in the nation's capital has remained almost invisible.

That seems about to change, though. With its stock trading well north of $400 a share, the search-engine giant is gobbling up competitors and diversifying into a wide array of e-commerce, threatening the financial interests of entities from Amazon to eBay to Comcast. And while those companies may be in danger of being outflanked on the Internet, they hold a distinct advantage in the corridors of Congress. "Google has lived in a completely unregulated space for an eternity," says Jonathan Askin, a former Federal Communications Commission lawyer and general counsel at Pulver.com. "Whether they like it or not, the ugly face of regulation has reared its head, potentially laying down the law on Google."

The company likes to champion its motto of "Democracy on the Web." But when it comes to democracy in Washington, Google essentially remains a startup. Perhaps as a result, today, Google faces a raft of high-profile lawsuits, public relations battles, and looming legislation that could dramatically change the company's fortunes. How the company responds to those challenges, and, in particular, whether it can learn to play the Washington power game, may go a long way toward determining whether Google truly becomes the next Microsoft or just another dot-com boom tale gone bust.

THE WORLD'S INFORMATION - Perhaps the most pressing battle facing Google is its ongoing fight with the Justice Department. Just last week the DOJ filed suit against Google for its refusal to comply with a subpoena requesting 1 million Internet addresses accessible through its search engine and a random sample of 1 million search queries submitted to Google over a one-week period.

The subpoena is part of an effort by federal prosecutors to enforce a controversial Internet pornography law. Microsoft, Yahoo, and America Online received identical subpoenas and have complied with them. Google refused and has retained Perkins Coie attorney Albert Gidari of Seattle to fight the subpoena, citing customers' privacy rights and the broad scope of the data requested.

Though Google has won praise in many quarters for resisting the government's investigation, for others the dispute reveals inherent problems with the company's business practices. "A key issue of our criticism is their tendency to hold on to data indefinitely," says Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet nonprofit that focuses on civil liberties. "The DOJ subpoena highlights some of the risks of holding on to [information]. If you build it, they will come."

The company is also facing another highly publicized lawsuit, stemming from its controversial program, Google Print. Google plans to scan books from five major libraries, making the company the sole owner of the digital versions. Publishing companies and some libraries cried foul, citing copyright infringement. After discussions with interested parties and Google collapsed last fall, the Authors Guild and McGraw-Hill filed separate actions. Kilpatrick Stockton's Joseph Beck is acting as lead counsel for Google.

Beyond its legal battles, Google has also been facing tough criticism from consumers over its recent decision to self-censor its search-engine content in China. The Chinese government had previously censored Google's site. The company says it complies with local laws in other countries such as the United States, France, and Germany.

PRIORITY ACCESS - The lawsuits come as Google has decided to substantially bolster its presence in Washington. Up until the spring of 2005, Google's investment in K Street was limited to a $100,000 retainer with Furman "Trey" Barnes of Public Policy Partners. Barnes has represented Google since 2003 on issues including privacy, copyright, and patent reform. Last year the company also invested in-house, adding Andrew McLaughlin, who works out of New York, as a senior policy associate. "Google has been woefully underrepresented in Washington," says one telecom industry lobbyist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The company tried to change that last summer when it hired longtime tech guru Alan Davidson. Formerly of the Center for Democracy & Technology, Davidson was well known as a policy wonk in tech communities who specialized as a privacy expert and who testified on Capitol Hill. Davidson's former boss at the CDT, Jerry Berman, says that setting up a Washington office is a sign that Google is beginning to understand that, however brilliant its technology and whatever its goals, "they realize now that policy is made in Washington and that has an enormous impact on what they are doing."

Since June, Davidson has been moving full speed ahead, opening an office at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., above the swanky restaurant Ten Penh, making Google a neighbor of heavyweights such as the Carlyle Group and the law firm Crowell & Moring. Davidson says his operation flows from Google's mission of organizing the Internet. "Google takes the policy issues very seriously, and that's why we have a presence in Washington and why we're so engaged in representing our users' interests in Washington," he says.

But Davidson's goal to represent Google in Washington has remained relatively low-key. He's made the rounds at the tech associations and engaged in a debate on Capitol Hill this past fall with Allan Alder, the general counsel for the Association of American Publishers. But he hasn't launched the typical meet-and-greet sessions with lawmakers, hired any additional in-house help, or even set up a political action committee -- actions that are typically viewed as politics 101 in the lobbying community. Industry insiders say it is widely known that Google has been trying to land a senior Republican lobbyist, likely from the FCC or the Senate, but Davidson declined to discuss the issue.

In an effort to fill out Google's outside lobbying operation, Davidson hired tax specialist Capitol Tax Partners last month, putting it on a $20,000-a-month retainer to lobby on corporate tax issues. Google's exertions to expand inside the Beltway come just as the public policy debate on telecom reform is ramping up; this is potentially a key issue for the company, as it is looking at offering Voice Over Internet Protocol service to its users. Lawmakers are expected to take up telecom legislation this year, with pieces of it potentially passing by the end of the session. Drafts of the reform bill have included a section on net neutrality, which will be of key importance to Google as it explores providing more content for users.

Although content services such as Google Video are still fledglings, some companies may be looking to kill them in the nest. Old line telecoms including BellSouth and AT&T are pushing Congress to allow network operators to charge a fee for priority access to the network, especially for bandwidth hogs like digital television. Google has balked at the idea of one company having priority or faster service over another on the Internet. AT&T and BellSouth maintain that in order to be profitable they need to charge a fee for priority service as they move into the digital-television market and compete against cable providers.

"We're entering a world with two very established types of companies able to give broadband to a consumer," says Kim Bayliss, a telecom lobbyist at Dutko Worldwide. "What types of controls are the carriers going to have? ... There's a feeling [on the tech side] that there's not sufficient rules to the extent of net-neutrality enforcement." Davidson declined to get into a detailed discussion about Google's legislative priorities. "There are a large number of issues that we are following and involved with," he says. Among those he mentioned are content regulation, spyware, patent reform, and privacy rights.

THE MICROSOFT MODEL - Google's approach to lobbying has been strikingly different from that of one of its closest competitors, Yahoo. While both search engines have sought to diversify by partnering with old-guard media, they haven't been using the same playbook in Washington. In 1998, after the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed, Yahoo hired John Scheibel, formerly the vice president and general counsel for the Computer and Communications Industry Association. The company was just three years old and had yet to go public.

Yahoo's lobbying presence remained largely in-house until 2003, when the company received more support to hire outside shops. Since then, its presence in Washington has grown quickly. According to lobbying reports, Yahoo spent $1.08 million on lobbying for the first six months of 2005. The company's lobbying arm includes five in-house lobbyists and five more lobby shops on retainer.

Tech companies have long viewed Washington with suspicion. The most famous example, of course, was tech behemoth Microsoft, which publicly shunned the arena for years -- that is, until it became apparent that the software giant lacked the political clout to head off the antitrust lawsuit brought by the DOJ. It had little muscle beyond lobbyist Jack Krumholz and its membership in the Business Software Alliance. But that has changed dramatically in the past six years. During the first six months of 2005 alone, Microsoft spent $6.2 million on lobbying.

"Ten years ago, Microsoft had one person. Now it's a very big operation," says Berman of CDT. "The Internet is growing up. I think [Google] understands that they've got to make a larger commitment." So is Google taking a lesson from Microsoft and trying to stay ahead of trouble? "This has been an evolution and will continue to be an evolution as Google gets more involved in policy issues," says Davidson. "Was public policy on the minds of our founders in the garage when they founded Google? Probably not."

From New York Law Journal, February 3, 2006

 

MSU Awards 2006 Fellowships to 24 Public Service Leaders; Former National Party Chairs to Speak at March Events

Contact: Barbara Knuth or Amy J. Baumer, Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, (517) 353-1731, baumeram@msu.edu; or Geoff Koch, University Relations, (517) 432-0924, kochg@msu.edu. 2/10/2006 [Editor's note: For a list of fellows and their hometowns, visit http://www.ippsr.msu.edu/MPLP/CurrentFellows.htm]. EAST LANSING, Mich. - Twenty-four individuals have been awarded the Michigan State University 2006 Michigan Political Leadership Program fellowship - a 10-month program valued at $12,000 that incorporates personal leadership development, public policy process and analysis, effective governance and practical politics.

"We're excited about the bright, talented group of future leaders who will be participating in the 2006 program," said program co-director James G. Agee. Besides representing various fields of political leadership and professional backgrounds - ranging from a retired U.S. Marine to a pastor to a Spanish immersion teacher - the fellows represent a wide spectrum of political viewpoints. "Narrowing the field of candidates becomes more challenging each year," said program co-director Anne Mervenne. "This year's selection process included over 100 candidates from across the state."Two upcoming program fund-raising events are expected to draw some of the year's largest multi-partisan crowds of any event in the state. Top political commentators and former party chairs Terry McAuliffe and Ed Gillespie will be the featured speakers March 2-3, as follows:


MPLP 11th Annual Fund-raising Dinner, 5-8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at the Laurel Manor in Livonia. MPLP 4th Annual West Michigan Breakfast, 7:30-9:30 a.m. Friday, March 3, at Noto's Old World Italian Dining in Grand Rapids. The pair will provide commentary on current state and national political issues, covering both sides of the political aisle. Gillespie served as chair of the Republican National Committee for the 2004 election cycle. He was the first RNC chair in 80 years to preside over the re-election of a Republican president while retaining Republican majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate. McAuliffe served as chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005. He is widely credited with rebuilding, re-energizing and revitalizing the party, using state-of-the-art technology to connect grassroots activists with the party's new information infrastructure. Tickets, at $125 ($100 of which is tax deductible), and sponsorships at all levels are available by contacting MPLP at (517) 353-0891, or by visiting http://www.ippsr.msu.edu/MPLP.

From MSU Today, February 10, 2006

Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance

Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance, By Darrell M. West, Publisher: Princeton University Press, $29.95 hardcover. Reviewed by Tod Newcombe: For those of us who cover electronic government daily, it's sometimes difficult to gauge exactly what is working and what isn't. We're too busy investigating today's solution or tomorrow's trend. Occasionally we're asked whether e-government has been successful, and suddenly it becomes hard to summarize exactly what is taking place. Too often there are contradictions in what we cover. What appears to be successful at first glance is often more ambiguous when viewed and analyzed a second or third time.

Fortunately we have people like Darrell West to help clarify what all the data and studies on this subject mean, and what the ramifications of digital government will be for society, the economy and democracy. West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, has conducted extensive studies on e-government at the local, state, federal and global levels. Now he's written a book on the subject, which sifts through reams of surveys and studies in an attempt to answer three fundamental questions: How much are the Internet and other digital delivery systems transforming the public sector? What determines speed and breadth of e-government adoption? What consequences of digital technology exist for public-sector performance, political process and democracy?

In a detailed and well written analysis of current e-government practices, West looks at a series of factors that have helped or hindered the growth and adoption of public-sector online services. He explains how the current citizen mistrust of government has given rise to the philosophy known as new public management. The Clinton-Gore period of the National Performance Review epitomizes what this has meant, as does the Bush administration's heavy emphasis on Harvard Business School management models to improve and streamline the federal bureaucracy.

But better management techniques coupled with technological changes haven't ushered in a new era in government quite yet. Many issues, from bureaucratic fragmentation, scarce budgetary resources and group conflict to political fighting - and even critical media coverage -- have exposed the limitations of government transformation via technology.These aren't theories. West provides chapters of empirical data on everything from the content of today's government Web sites to citizen use of, trust and confidence in e-government. He uses solid evidence to show how money is the key to performance when it comes to e-government, and dissects online tax filing - the poster child for e-government services - to show both the opportunities and ongoing challenges government faces when melding technology with public service.

West gently chastises e-government proponents for being far too bullish on how quickly and comprehensively technology would enable government to change for the better. He rightly points out the factors that have limited this transformation have "more to do with organizations, financing and political dynamics than with technology, per se." Another problem is the adoption curve for new technologies. It can take decades before an innovation such as the Internet becomes a utility as commonplace as electricity or the telephone.

Coupled with that issue is the problem of the digital divide. Without universal accessibility to the Internet at an affordable rate, those who could benefit the most from online public services are the least likely to use them.To take full advantage of the Internet, West calls on government to streamline its technology offerings, increase cooperation among agencies to boost integrated services, publicize the existence of government portals and to appoint a high-level administrator - especially at the federal level - with independent resources to take charge of electronic governance. E-government has been over-hyped, unduly criticized and simply misunderstood. The result has been a lack of vision of what e-government can and will be for the country and the world. Fortunately Darrell West has done us all a service by putting the evolution of online government into clear perspective backed by solid evidence.

From Public CIO, February 10, 2006

 
 

South Africa to Host Progressive Governance Summit

South Africa said on Wednesday that it will host a progressive governance summit in the country later this month. Mamoepa Ronnie, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, told Xinhua that he yet could not confirm that British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. president Bill Clinton are to be among 15 leaders who will take part in the summit. The progressive governance network set up in 1999 to promote center-left policies will be holding its seventh summit on February 11 and 12 in a luxury game lodge in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria. It marks the first time that the gathering will be held in the developing world, following on the heels of summits ofleft-leaning leaders held in Hungary, Florence, Berlin, Stockholm, London and New York.

Diplomatic sources said that New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, her Swedish counterpart Goeran Person along with World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy are also scheduledto take part in the gathering. Deep in the South African bush, the leaders will ponder "what progressives can do to ensure the success of WTO negotiations" and "what is happening to the center-left across the world and how to respond", according to the summit's website. Since the last summit in October 2004 in Balatonoszod, Hungary,German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was voted out of office but Blair secured a historic third term in elections in May. Republican U.S. President George W. Bush was reelected to a second term in November 2004. Membership in the progressive governance network changes with the outcome of elections. Current members include Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Canada, theCzech Republic, Chile, Ethiopia, Hungary, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain and Sweden. Enditem

From Chinaview.cn,February 01, 2006

Corruption, Bad Governance Bane of Economic Woe

Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation Chief Richard Akinjide yesterday blamed the mismanagement of the economic opportunity that accrued from oil monies on bad governance and corruption by successive administration in the country. Chief Akinjide who spoke in Akure at the 30th anniversary of Ondo State regretted that the country was unable to manage the economic opportunity and extract the maximum return from it. According to him " Even if the price of oil were to reach a thousand US dollar per barrel, Nigeria would not fare any better. Only waste, misappropriation of public funds and mass poverty would continue to grow. "

Speaking on "Good Governance, Oil and Gas, and National Development" Chief Akinjide said that "Good governance is all that would be required of this country to extract the best out of this unique and perhaps last chance to establish sustained, durable and diversified economic development. The former Attorney General pointed out "forty years of oil and gas production would have done marvels in Nigeria if the rent obtained from the export of oil and gas had been correctly managed and efficiently invested Said he; "Natural capital would have been efficiently transformed into other forms of capital; into productive investment aimed at developing the economy and into quality investments aimed at educating, protecting and cementing society (intangible assets).

"If such had taken place, oil would today play a much smaller role in the Nigeria economy. A number of economic sectors would have emerged, benefitted and developed and Nigeria would be a prosperous nation with diversified economy, a solid infrastructure, a strong currency and jobs for everyone. "But oil has done none of the above. Rather, it has exacerbated greed and raised unreasonably high expectations of private appropriations of the unearned rent the (national cake) to the point of strongly eroding personal, ethical and social values thereby dislocating the cohesiveness of society. confront the associated political risks, manage the economic opportunity and extract maximum return from it.

Regrettably, he said that the country "was unlikely to be able to confront the associated political risk that had already been playing itself out with the events in the Niger Delta area. He however said "a successful implementation of the present reforms and crusades of the Federal Government, under President Olusegun Obasanjo was the only solution to the problem at hand. According to him, the presenting souring price of oil at the international market had provided opportunity for the country to source for money to develop its economy and the country. The legal luminary, however, advised the country to ensure that it diversified into viable ventures that could help in developing the nation. He criticized the moves by government to" invest in tourism at a time when high and growing oil prices were likely make air transport increasingly expensive. This according to him "would dampen tourism demand and reinforcing an already tight competition among many destinations that were better equipped than that of Nigeria.

From Vanguard, February 23, 2006

Sierra Leone Hosts Regional Workshop on Conflict Disaster And Governance

After years of war the coastal West African state of Sierra Leone is now trying to come to terms with normalcy and it recently played a leading role in providing ideas at a regional workshop in Freetown on conflict disaster and good governance Pan- African Institute for Development (PAID-WA) in the West African zone of Commonwealth Countries. A two-week discussion on conflict disaster and governance was held in the capital Freetown and commenced on January 25th 2006 at Hill Valley Hotel , Signal Hill west of Freetown. Representatives from various countries in the sub region took part in the workshop.

The Chairman of the summit Albert Bockarie who doubles as Deputy Development Secretary in the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning in Sierra Leone explained reasons why empowering people in various walks of life was necessary and enlightening them on conflicts and disaster solutions so as to enhance a conducive atmosphere for development. Conflict disaster and governance, Mr. Bokarie stressed, are the most topical issues that should be addressed when dealing with issues affecting contemporary nations. He also pointed out that terrorism, earthquakes, floods, climate changes have also created negative impacts on the lives of the people in West African.

He said in order to meet good governance criteria; recommendations for solutions to most of the problems or crises engulfing Africa must be proffered. He added: " Sierra Leone is just emerging from war. But we are gradually moving away from a conflict situation to development". He said structures were been put in place to promote governance and disaster preparedness. With the pace at which the country was moving, he said the prevailing situation in the sub-region, made Sierra Leone been chosen to host the PAN African Common Wealth Summit. Deputy Minister of Development and Economic Planning Mr. Ibrahim Sesay said the workshop was timely and Sierra Leone should take cognizance of it especially now that the country "is rich with socio-economic prospects and undergoing social change.

The Deputy Minister pointed out "the change from conflict to peace-concerted efforts in Sierra Leone's strides for economic development and poverty reduction". He stressed that conflict results to human suffering, material destruction, excessive dislocation of economic activities and increased poverty. Mr. Sesay pointed out that the current level of development in the sub-region and the promotion of good governance and democracy is crucial adding that if these were not addressed, achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the objectives of NEPAD would be far- fetched.

Explaining further the minister said one of the ways the proposals could be tackled was through understanding of the nature and causes, management and prevention of conflicts and disasters. The deputy minister said, "We need the conceptual technical and inter-personal competence to proactively handle situations relating to governance as well as natural and man- made conflicts and disaster situations" The minister opined that Sierra Leone would need partnership for development including the private sector to inter face and influence development policy processes for effective service delivery and promotion of good governance.

From allAfrica.com, February 02, 2006

Norwegian Ministeron Governance And Budget Support

The Norwegian Minister of International Development, Erik Solheim, on Friday stressed that dealing with corruption "is very important for development and for budget support". Norway is one of the 17 donors who give at least part of their aid to Mozambique through direct support for the state budget. Speaking to AIM immediately before leaving Maputo, after a two day visit, Solheim was positive about budget support, since this is a mechanism that allows the government to set its own priorities, albeit in consultation with the donors. "We want to develop this form of aid, and we shall evaluate it after some time", he said.

Solheim stressed, however, that it depended on good governance. "If Mozambique does not perform well in governance and democracy, it will be very difficult to continue with budget support", he said. "We don't expect Mozambique to become a paradise from one day to the next, but the direction should be towards reduced corruption", Solheim added. During his visit Solheim signed a memorandum of understanding with Mozambican Foreign Minister Alcinda Abreu, pledging Norwegian annual aid of 330 million crowns (about 50 million US dollars) for the next four years - the first time Norway has entered into such a multi-year undertaking.

Solheim added that he had spoken with Energy Minister Salvador Namburete and the Minister of Mineral Resources Esperanca Bias, about possible future Norwegian support for the petroleum sector and for the development of hydro-power. Norway also granted Mozambique 13.5 million dollars in debt relief. This money is to be used to buy back debt owing to private creditors at about half its original value. Solheim said he had "a good feeling" about Mozambique.

"There's so much negative news from Africa these days that it's good to be in a place where there's a sense of optimism", he declared. During his discussions, the row over cartoons of Mohammed, the founder of Islam, regarded as a prophet by his followers, was brought up. The cartoons were originally published in September by the main Danish daily paper "Jyllands-Posten". After an artificial fury about the cartoons was stirred up in late January by certain Arab regimes (notably the Saudi Arabian and Syrian dictatorships), several other European papers, including a couple in Norway, republished the cartoons in solidarity with Denmark.

Solheim said he explained "that those cartoons were published in fringe media", rather than in any of the main Norwegian dailies. "We understand that moslems may feel affronted by the cartoons and we regret that", he said. "But we don't have state media. We can't tell the papers what to print". "We are strong supporters of the right to freedom of expression", he added, "which is not the same as an obligation to print what would be considered offensive by any group".

As for the destruction of the Norwegian embassy in Damascus, in an operation suspected to have been orchestrated by the Syrian regime, Solheim stressed the basic principle of diplomacy that host nations are responsible for protecting embassies. "We have made it clear to the authorities in Syria that it is their responsibility to protect embassies in Damascus, just as it is the Norwegian authorities' responsibility to protect embassies in Oslo", he said. As for any possible compensation to be paid by Syria, that matter "will be discussed", Solheim added.

From allAfrica.com, February 10, 2006

'Good Governance, Essential for Dev'

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, has described transparency, peace and security as necessary ingredients that would guarantee good governance and sustainable development. The British Foreign Secretary who was in Port Harcourt yesterday as part of his three-day visit to Nigeria stated this during a joint press briefing with the state Governor, Dr Peter Odili, at Government House, POrt Harcourt. Mr Straw said the extractive industry transparency initiative has been critical in ensuring that the citizens know where monies released by the oil companies are channelled to and advised that such measures should be translated to every state of the federation.

He acknowledged that fundamentally what is happening in the Niger Delta region and the insecurity shows the level of poverty and deprivation, noting that his visit to Nigeria and indeed the Niger Delta was to enable the British government help in tangible and significant ways towards proffering solution to the issues. The British foreign secretary said the British government would support projects that has direct bearing on the people through its aid programme and that of the African Commission, stressing that he has realised that the Niger Delta is responsible for 80 per cent of Nigeria's export in terms of government revenue.

He commended the Rivers State Government for setting an agenda that raised the confidence and transparency in government which helps in strengthening good governance in the Niger Delta area. Commenting on the Avian bird flu he said "there has been no report of it in Rivers State but there are reports of bird flu in some parts of Nigeria as a worldwide problem, however, the British government has made an initial donation of 15000 personal protective equipment against the disease for those in contact with affected birds.

The foreign secretary who said he visited some projects embarked upon by Governor Odili, lauded him for the great efforts in governance since assumption of office in 1999, and described it as a step in the right direction. Also speaking, Dr Peter Odili said the state government finds synergy between the millennium development goal and the programmes of his administration, maintaining that sincerity on the memorandum of understanding between host communities and oil companies has been the bane of discord in the Niger Delta region.

From The Tide Online, February 16, 2006

 

Security, Governance, Improved; General Polls by Mid-April Next Year: HM

Observing that security and governance has improved over the year, His Majesty the King has stated that parliamentary elections will be held by mid-April next year. His Majesty stated this in his address to the nation on completion of the royal proclamation of February 1 last year on Wednesday. Stating that multiparty democracy has been proved the best system in the world, the King has also drawn attention to the fact that unity of all patriotic Nepalis alone provides the roadmap for respected and meaningful democracy, sustainable peace and prosperity for all Nepalis.

His Majesty has noted that people themselves are actively taking part in the polls to re-energize democracy, and appealed to all those not willing to take part in the elections to join the election process, which will be "free and fair". "Democracy can win only through the vote of the people. When democracy wins, democrats don't lose," the King said, adding that attempts to disturb law and order in the pretext of democracy will not benefit anyone. His Majesty recalled that the royal move was essential to save the country from becoming a failed state. "We don't have any aspirations besides welfare of the country and the people," His Majesty asserted.

"Due to commitment of patriotic Nepalis, self confidence and self-dignity has been restored within a short span of one-year," His Majesty said. The King also noted that terrorism is now limited to a few sporadic crimes. Without naming Maoists, His Majesty added that alert Nepali people have understood the Maoist ploy to plan more violence in the pretext of temporary truce. But, at the same time, His Majesty once again offered the olive branch to those involved in terrorist and destructive activities. Stating that if they want to come to the peaceful mainstream and serve the people they should opt for democratic practice, the government was ready to provide necessary security and opportunity if they want to make it to the helm of power as people's representatives.

His Majesty expressed hope that the collective wisdom of all Nepalis would put an end to murder and violence that had put multi-party democracy in danger. His Majesty also informed that now there is clarity and stability in Nepal's foreign policy, adding that foreign policy was guided by mutual interest. The King reiterated that Nepal will not allow her soil to be used against any of her neighbor. Nepal's respect has been restored in the international arena, the King added. His Majesty stated that making Nepal a transit point between India and China will be beneficial not only for the three concerned countries but the entire region.

His Majesty further informed that government's road map to peace and prosperity continues unabated. His Majesty also pledged effective anti-corruption drives, stronger financial reforms and accelerated economic growths. Another salient feature of the royal address was the plan to create better employment opportunities in the country as well as abroad.

From Nepaleyes, February 01, 2006

Awards for E-governance Initiatives Given Away

Awards for exemplary initiatives in e-governance were given away at the national e-governance conference here on Thursday. Kerala Public Works Minister M.K.Muneer distributed the awards in various categories. There were Golden, Silver and Bronze icons in each category.

In the process engineering new entrant category, Himachal Registration Information System (HIMRIS) won the Golden icon award. `Koshwahini' project of Financial department, Government of Maharashtra, was awarded the Silver icon. Assam Government's `Dharitree,' the first web-technology based land records computerisation project of the country, won the Bronze icon award. A special award was won by GAIL (India) Limited for reforming business processes blended with information technology to connect and serve stakeholders.

Under the process re-engineering professional category, the golden award was given to Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad for the Hyderabad First e-enabling MCH to reach out project. Gujarat Government's e-Nagarpalika project got the silver award and Haryana Government's Dynamic Integration of Property Registration and Land Records Administration (HALRIS) won the bronze award.

The Assam Government's Small Farmers' Agribusiness Consortium, ASHA, won the golden icon award in the exemplary leadership & ICT achievement new entrant category. The project of Datamation Foundation, New Delhi, for e-inclusion of women of Seelam-Zaffrabad, won the silver award while REACT (Recruitment and Application Processing System) of Kerala Public Service Commission got the bronze award.
Rural multipurpose ICT centres of AISECT, Bhopal, won the golden award in the exemplary leadership and ICT achievement professional category. The Kerala government's IT@School project won the silver award and the Directorate of Education, Delhi, won the bronze award.

The golden award in the innovative operations and best practices new entrant category was given to the Forest department of Andhra Pradesh for the project on site suitability for water harvesting structures in reserve forests. The e-immunization project of the Khammam district administration in Andhra Pradesh won the silver award. The bronze award was also bagged by the district administration of Khammam for the health call centre offering emergency helpline for the Rural Life Line project.

The e-pension project of Himachal Pradesh won the golden award in the innovative operations and best practices professional category. Indian Railways won the silver award for the unreserved ticketing system. Haryana Government's RTB (result through binocular) won the bronze award. Lokvani project of Sitapur Collectorate, Uttar Pradesh, won the golden award in the outstanding performance in service delivery new entrant category. Vahan, the computerisation and networking of Transport department of Jharkhand Government, got the silver award.

The bronze award was bagged by Aarakshi, the online FIR system of the Rajasthan Government. The golden award for outstanding performance in service delivery professional category was given to Directorate of Income Tax (Systems), New Delhi. The silver award was bagged by the Khajane project of Directorate of Treasuries, Karnataka and the bronze award went to Gramdoot mission of Maharashtra.

From The Hindu, February 03, 2006

Mayor Elevates Campaign for Good Governance

While this city celebrates its fifth anniversary in becoming a city, local officials continue with their work to achieve a harmonious public-private relationship in mapping development goals. City Mayor Oscar S. Rodriguez on Saturday hosted a multi-sectoral governance summit in relation to the Public Governance System (PGS) being pushed through with the City Government and the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA).
The city, he said, has embarked on the PGS as a strong indication of its commitment to be a model of good governance in this part of the country.
PGS is a management tool that needs the participation of both public and private sectors in drawing up their community's vision, mission. and direction.

So far, the City Government has conducted several consultations and workshops for its working departments, offices and units as well as for the representatives of the different sectors in the city, to formulate the city's charter statement, vision, and mission. Saturday's summit was attended by representatives of various sectors including business, academe, farmers, bankers, youth and subdivision homeowners, among others. The keynote speaker was former Finance secretary, Dr. Jesus Estanislao, president and chairman of ISA. Estanislao said the City of San Fernando is one of the few local government units that have adopted the PGS system.

With the PGS system, Estanislao explained, an LGU could design programs based on ideas collated with other sectors. Participating sectors rate the city's performance through scorecards to help the officials in determining the LGU's strengths and weaknesses. "Investors could then gain insights of the city, which may lead to the pouring of investments for San Fernando," Estanislao said. The summit comes with the hope that Fernandinos will actively share in the efforts to bring about effective governance through their responsible participation in the workings of government, particularly in setting and carrying out objectives that will redound to the benefit of the many, particularly the marginalized, in this city, Rodriguez said.

ISA Fellow - Estanislao also invited Rodriguez as one of the ISA Fellows. The distinction will be conferred at the National Conference on the PGS on February 28 in Makati City. Estanislao said the choice as ISA Fellows has been made on the basis of Rodriguez's demonstrated commitment to significant improvements in public governance. "Your adoption of the PGS for your city as well as your oversight in ensuring that the city roadmap be pursued with active involvement of citizens were taken into account," Estanislao told Rodriguez in reference to the mayor's choice as ISA Fellow.

From Sun Star.com, February 05, 2006

Model Reforms Package Finalized for Introducing Concept of Good Governance

The Federal Minister of Law, Justice and human rights Wasi Zafar is finalizing a model reforms package for introducing the concept of good governance in the country. The spokesperson the Minister of Law, Justice and human rights said it is a common perception that public sector suffers from extensive misadministration, adhering to the existing rules earnestly would be sufficient to curb misadministration but the culture of recommendation is spoiling the system and induction are not made on merit, therefore the ministry is evolving mechanism and suggesting rules, to rehabilitate and gain credibility for the system in vague.

It is recommended that culture of recommendation should be checked in public sector, for this enforcement of strict merit would be ensured, also the ministry is making the moral code for holders of public offices, which says that recommendation of any kind direct or indirect, implicit or explicit is prohibited, the violation of which will have consequences like removal from the office. The draft also suggests that complaints and grievances of citizens should be redressed promptly similarly frivolous complains and false acquisitions should be checked with consequences of fine and compensatory costs.

Complete automation and monitoring systems in public offices through the use of information technology and website function of ministries would be ensured. The good governance concept suggests mechanism that are available, pragmatic and implementable and the ministry is working on comprehensive model reform package utilizing the most modern concepts to introduce good governance in eth country.

From Onlinews.com, February 24, 2006

CPC Seeks to Improve Governance by Appointing Younger County Heads

The Communist Party of China (CPC) will appoint younger and better educated county heads in a new round of power shuffling due this year to consolidate its ruling power at the grassroots level. The young cadres, around the age of 45 and all holding bachelor's or more advanced degrees, will become secretaries of CPC county committees, or county-level Party chiefs, in China's 2,861 counties for five-year terms of office. Along with the appointment of new county Party chiefs, heads of county governments will also be elected this year and in early 2007, according to a schedule made by the National People's Congress in March 2005.

"We should carefully test possible candidates before they replace the current leaders," He Guoqiang, head of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, said in a recent speech. The organization department has issued a document requiring that new county heads, both Party chiefs and county magistrates, selected should be around 45 and at least have a bachelor's degree to ensure the new grassroots leadership is capable of leading the nation for another five years of rapid but sustainable development. They argue that candidates meeting these standards have a better chance of promotion, though another clause in the document states "other experienced cadres also have the possibility."

A deputy county head from northeast China's Liaoning province said in an interview with Xinhua that he "worries" about his career prospects since he is already 49. "The chance is slim for me to be promoted," he said. However, ability is more important, said Wang Changjiang, professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee. "In terms of political structure, the county is an important base for economic development, social progress and political stability," he said."The ability to solve social problems has become another important criterion for the selection of county heads."

China is witnessing many new social problems result from factors like the widening income gap between Chinese people in these years. "It is against this backdrop the document was issued, " he said. Before the Fourth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee was held in September 2004, a survey by the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee showed that 35.7 percent of officials above the county level confessed they are "not competent enough to solve complicated problems." The organization department will also take specific measures to prevent officials from seeking promotion through what it calls "irregular approaches", such as bribery. In 2005, 334 officials were punished for seeking promotion illegally.

From People's Daily Online, February 22, 2006

 

Internet Governance: The Way Forward

An international conference entitled "Internet Governance: The Way Forward" is being organised by DiploFoundation in co-operation with the Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Malta Communications Authority and other international partners, to provide a forum for discussion of the establishment of the Internet Governance Forum. Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Frendo will open the conference, which will be held at the Radisson SAS Baypoint Resort from Friday to Sunday. Dr Frendo will also be hosting a reception to launch the publication entitled Multistakeholder Diplomacy: Challenges and Opportunities.

A precise definition of Internet governance has long been debated and perhaps a simple version does not exist. The report of the Working Group on Internet Governance, published in June 2005, provides the following working definition: Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.

Discussions on Internet governance have been taking place for several years and pre-date the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). To a large extent, global debate on the subject grew in volume due to the technology boom of the late 1990s and the heavy involvement and interest of the ICT private sector in the process. The boom not only suggested the apparent emergence of a new economy but also the enormous social and political transformation power that the Internet and related new technologies could deliver into the hands of citizens around the world.

On November 11, 2004, Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the establishment of the Working Group on Internet Governance. The task of this Working Group was to organise an open dialogue on Internet governance among all stakeholders, and to bring recommendations on this subject to the second phase of the WSIS which was held in Tunis last November. The WSIS - Tunis resulted in the decision to establish an Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Dignitaries attending the summit endorsed a plan to create a global forum to discuss public policy matters and other issues related to the deployment of the Internet worldwide, under the auspices of the UN. The new IGF, in which participation will not be limited to governments, will be launched early this year, according to the summit resolution.

The IGF must be different from existing international initiatives and organisations. It should accommodate specific working methods and approaches practiced over the years by Internet developers. At the same time, the IGF also has to be linked to existing international policy and legal systems. The decision taken by parties at the WSIS indicates what the forum should do and who should be involved. However, it remains to be seen how the forum will be organised.

Malta has been participating in negotiations on Internet governance through its diplomatic channels. DiploFoundation, a non-profit organisation based in Malta, has also been active in the discussions on Internet governance. Its director, Dr Jovan Kurbalija, was a member of the Working Group on Internet Governance. Diplo has organised various capacity building and awarenessraising initiatives.

Panellists represent stakeholders who have been active in the IG discussions to date. Some of them include Professor Wolfgang Kleinwäechter (University of Aarhus, Denmark), Dr George Papadatos, (Internet Governance Forum, Greece), Markus Kummer (the Internet Governance Forum and former head of the Secretariat of the WGIG), Ayesha Hassan (International Chamber of Commerce, Paris), Karen Banks (Association for Progressive Communication) and Eskedar Nega (UN Economic Commission for Africa).

The methodology of the conference can be explained through an analogy with the computer game SimCity. While SimCity simulates the building of a city, the conference simulates "building" the Internet Governance Forum. The construction process will be organised through eight panels. Each panel will begin with three to four introductory remarks. Like SimCity, experiences, rules, and existing principles will be taken into account.

The aim of the conference will be to contribute to the IGF process by facilitating an informed and constructive discussion. This will be achieved through the participation of all the major actors in the IG field and by using available knowledge, expertise, and experience as inputs to the policy process. Given Diplo's mission to assist countries with limited human and financial resources to participate meaningfully in international affairs, specific emphasis will be placed on the developmental aspects. The conference will be of interest to anybody in the fields of ICT policy, law and international relations, academics, NGO representatives from developing countries and international organisations in the field of IG. For more information or to register send an e-mail to conference@diplomacy.edu

From Sunday Times, February 05, 2006

Call to Simplify London Governance

A new report has called for a major shake-up in the way London is governed. The commission on London governance, a cross-party body set up by the London assembly and the Association of London Government, said current structures were too confusing. At present, services are run by a mixture of local councils, the assembly and central government quangos. This has produced a "clutter of institutions running London's services", said Monday's report. The effect of this is to "undermine attempts to engage communities with service providers". And it identified a democratic deficit, with more services being provided by central government agencies of which Londoners have no direct control.

Among the report's recommendations was a call for a "dramatic reduction" of central government's role in the capital, and power for mayor Ken Livingstone over the capital's five Learning and Skills Councils. Councils should have a greater role in health provision and all providers of public services should be compelled to consult local councillors, added the study. It also called for greater flexibility for London boroughs to raise revenue through setting their own business rates.

And London bodies should also have appointment powers in the arts. Hugh Malyan, chairman of the commission, said: "A new roadmap to improve the quality, efficiency and value for money of public services would give Londoners more influence over the services they use. "London faces many opportunities and challenges in the years ahead of the 2012 Olympics, but the capital's governance is in need of reform. "Public services are life changing and life enhancing and it is only right that people have a say in how they are shaped and delivered."

From ePolitx, February 13, 2006

CIPFA Governance website

Patrick Clackett of CIPFA tells us about the CIPFA Governance website and it's importance as a platform to access information on public sector governance. Governance in the public sector is a broad topic. At its widest, it is about the way in which public service organisations manage themselves to deliver services to the public. A lot has been written about governance and there is a lot happening, but it is sometimes difficult to find out everything that's going on. For this reason, earlier this month the CIPFA Group has created a website: www.CIPFAgovernance.net to bring together everything on public sector governance, both inside the group, and outside, as a knowledge base for everyone to use.

The impetus for the website was a recognition that although CIPFA and IPF had produced much material about governance, and had access and knowledge of governance issues across the public sector, it is not easy to find information quickly or in one place. Governance is a multi dimensional topic - ranging from qualitative issues such as behaviours, values and standards to the disciplines of risk management, audit and financial control. Many different organisations are involved in developing guidance and advice on governance - regulators, think tanks, royal commissions, professional and public service delivery bodies and academics. No single organisation has a monopoly on governance. The website provides the opportunity for users to look across the public sector to explore what is happening and to learn and share from others.

The website has news about current governance issues, and links to organisations across the public sector and outside it related to governance. It contains details of courses, events, conferences and publications about governance. To handle the vast amount of material on governance, and to enable it to be used selectively, CIPFA identified the following themes under which information is grouped and can be accessed:

Process- Making governance work well in practice; Value for money- Delivering services effectively and governing in and efficient way; Accountability- Accounting for decisions to those who receive and pay for public services; Outputs- Demonstrating that governance has a purpose; Scrutiny- Examining and challenging decisions and assessing whether outcomes reflect purpose; Qualities and values- Ensuring that leadership and behaviour promote high standards of conduct, good ethical values and quality outcomes; Transparency- Making decisions and governing in an open way; Controls- Putting in place frameworks to support good governance; Risk management- Safeguarding resources and enabling organisations to take decisions that make best use of resources with minimum risk; Visitors can also explore the website through the CIPFA Statement of Expertise (SoE) categories: www.cipfa.org.uk/members/expertise.cfm.

Searches can be refined by looking for specific activities such as a particular part of the public sector or geographic area. But the site assumes no prior knowledge about governance. Given the pace of change in governance, it is important that the website is always up to date with the latest news and developments. The news section, for example, carries the latest on the review of the CIPFA/SOLACE framework for governance in local authorities.

Views are just as important as news. CIPFA will therefore be developing the site shortly to introduce a discussion forum where people in and outside the CIPFA group can exchange experiences and knowledge, and can take part in debates on the wide range of governance themes. The links to other websites will be constantly revised and updated, so that users can spot the latest that's happening. This is an exciting new development not just for CIPFA, but also for all those concerned with the best standards of governance in the public sector.

The Audit Commission commented: "The way that organisations are governed can have an enormous influence on their success. Poor governance can lead to confused objectives, wasted energy and low morale. Very badly governed organisations put themselves at risk of fraud and service failure. Most organisations, and their governors, work hard to ensure that the right governance procedures are in place, including systems of internal control, scrutiny, internal audit, risk management and policies of behaviour and ethics. This CIPFA website does much to bring together our understanding of good governance and will be an important repository of information for those in the public sector."

From eGov Monitor, February 20, 2006

 

The Institute for Corporate Governance Established by DIFC and International Organisations

The Institute for Corporate Governance is being set up by a group of international institutions, including the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), UAE Ministry of Finance and Industry, Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Union of Arab Banks (UAB), Dubai School of Government (DSG), Young Arab Leaders (YAL), and theInstitute of Management Development (IMD). Hawkama aims to promote corporate sector reform and good governance, assist the countries of the region in developing and implementing sustainable Corporate Governance strategies, with the aim of facilitating the economic and financial integration of the region with the rest of the world.

Corporate Governance codes and standards will be adapted to national requirements and objectives, and will foster regional co-operation which in turn will facilitate exchange of knowledge and allow countries to learn from successful experiences. Dr Omar Bin Sulaiman, Director General of DIFC Authority, commented: 'The establishment of Hawkama - The Institute for Corporate Governance in the DIFC is a matter of immense pride for us all. It is our key objective to work towards regional development and diversification. This is a major step forward towards achieving this goal.

'Optimizing the performance and health of corporations and their contribution to their economies and societies in today's global business environment is dependent on implementing sound governance practices. Laws, regulations and standards, institutions, and enforcement mechanisms are the core constituents of a robust corporate governance system. It helps build confidence in a business organisation and its host economy and provides strong incentives for international trade and investment in both.'

The mission of Hawkama is to assist countries of the region in developing sound and globally well integrated corporate governance frameworks. It will facilitate efficient coordination and the designing, planning and implementation of corporate governance reforms. It will also provide assessment of the outcome of the corporate governance policies at the private sector level. Hawkama will target key sectors such as the capital markets and regulatory authorities; banks, funds and financial institutions; private sector enterprise which include family owned business, small and medium enterprise; public sector; and the media for raising awareness of corporate governance.

From AME Info, February 12, 2006

Metito Urges Private Management of Water

Metito, the international desalination, water, and wastewater treatment specialist, made a strong case for greater private sector involvement in the water sector, at a public-private partnership conference in Dubai. "The demands for water and wastewater treatment are growing tremendously with the growth of the economies of the Gulf and Middle East, with $120 billion to be invested over the next decade. Historically, the governments have held monopolies on supplying water and treating wastewater. Many of the government utilities across the region are not able to install capacity fast enough to cope with the growth," said Rami Ghandour executive director of Metito Group.

"The government monopolies are often overstaffed, have high water losses in their networks, and have not always completed full environmental impact assessments. By privatising the utilities, the government can better ensure capacity is installed in time, operated at a lower cost and in an environmentally friendly manner." The World Bank has strongly suggested that governments should give more space for private companies to manage public utilities. We encourage the governments of the Middle East to spend the time now to forward plan such socially responsible actions.

Rami presented the three largest privatised water utilities in the world, Jakarta, Manila and Buenos Aires, and extrapolated the lessons learnt as applicable to the Gulf and Middle East. "As a result of World Bank and World Trade Organization pressure, the economies of the region are opening up to private sector participation. We are on the verge of a great wave of privatisation across the Gulf and Middle East. Metito has played a key role in developing public private partnerships in areas as diverse as Abu Dhabi and Sharm el Sheikh, and is looking forward to this exciting concept spreading across the region" Added Rami.

Public-private partnership has been successfully implemented to initiate and finance project development in many parts of the world. In the Middle East the potential for PPP development is unlimited. Public-private partnerships create jobs in the private sector; provide quality services and facilities for citizens and stakeholders, and lift much of the burden of development from the already overloaded shoulders of the public sector.

The congress objective can be summarised in three main points: understand the full potential of public-private partnership for developing infrastructure; upgrading services and expertise, creating jobs and promoting inward investment interact with leading PPP experts from around the world; and discuss partnership options available for the Middle East and learn the history of PPP, its international track record, as well as its penetration in the MENA region and successful ventures to-date.

From Trade Arabia, February 04, 2006

 

Cayman Eyeing Bermuda's Model of Governance

When Bermuda's Premier Alexander Scott speaks at this weekend's People's Progressive Movement (PPM) annual conference in Red Bay, members will be listening hard.Leader of Government Business, Hon Kurt Tibbetts, told a press briefing on Monday 13 February that the Cayman Islands wants to know more about Bermuda's constitutional arrangement with the United Kingdom. "They in Bermuda have had their own experiences with their constitutional arrangement with the UK being at a certain level. Somewhat, to most Caribbean overseas territories, the envy of the territories with regard to that arrangement," he said. The single member constituency adopted in Hamilton will also come in for close scrutiny from its counterparts in George Town, according to the PPM leader.

"They have also gone through the exercise of moving from multi-member constituencies to single member constituencies," he said. Mr Tibbetts said the Bermudan leader's guest presentation would "certainly be informative" as the Cayman Islands is going through a process of political modernisation. "So there will be relevance to the substance of his delivery and I think it will be of interest to the public and members of the party," he added. The PPM leader said the attendance at the one-day conference by rank and file members of the organisation is crucial. "One of the planks of our platform was not just openness but we wanted to have a Government in which the people could participate in the decision- making process.

"The annual conference is one of these times when the public is allowed to participate and it's important for members because at that point in time, members participate in the election process," he said. Mr Tibbetts is not being challenged for the party's leadership, however, Education Minister Hon Alden McLaughlin has declined nomination to continue to serve as General Secretary. Twelve other posts will be contested for the PPM executive: Deputy General Secretary, Treasurer, Chairman, three Vice Chairs and six general officers. There will be no further nominations for executive positions since the District Committees have already submitted nominees by a stated date, the party said.

Another important aspect of the annual conference is the opportunity afforded to members to set policies for the party through approved resolutions. "Members have the ability to put forward their thoughts and ideas through resolutions. "Once these resolutions are approved then organisation is bound to move forward with those resolutions literally as a matter of policy," Mr Tibbetts said. Also present at the media briefing was Education Minister Hon Alden McLaughin, Communications and Works Minister Hon Arden McLean, Health Minister Hon Anthony Eden and Tourism Minister Hon Charles Clifford. Chairperson of the annual conference organising committee, Vanessa Godfrey-Banks, gave the media an insight into preparations and plans for Saturday's event.

The conference is divided into two sessions: The first session beginning at 1:30 pm and is open to members only, while the second session starts at 5:00 pm and is open to the public. In the first session, the General Secretary's Report, the Treasurer's Report, Amendments to the PPM Constitution, Election of Officers and Resolution will take place. Bermuda's Premier, Alexander Scott, will deliver his guest presentation in the second session followed by the swearing-in of the new executive and an address by the political leader. The annual conference, which is under the theme 'PPM - Moving the Cayman Islands forward', is scheduled at the Mary Miller Memorial Hall in Red Bay.

From Cayman Net News, February 16, 2006

Water a Symptom of California's Governance Crisis

As expostulated in this space previously - perhaps ad nauseam - California faces any number of long-range political issues that stem from its rapid population growth and equally dramatic social and economic evolution, but those same factors also block responses to those issues. California's growth and ever-increasing diversity - it's already the most complex society in the history of humankind - dissipate social cohesion and undermine the consensus necessary for political decision-making. When journalists and academics talk or write about California's crisis of governance, they're not referring to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's up-and-down governorship or the antics of legislators, but about the sclerosis that's afflicted the entire system of political government and made Californians increasingly cynical about those whom they elect to public office.

It explains why the governor and lawmakers this year are publicly acknowledging the ill repute in which they are held and are pledging to work together on universally recognized problems, such as the state's chronic lack of investment in highways, levees, schools and other forms of public infrastructure. Whether they succeed is, in effect, a test of whether California's political system is irretrievably broken and the state has, as many suggest, become ungovernable, or whether there is hope for resurrection. There are any number of examples of how cultural and economic diversity interact with the "checks and balances" of American-style government to create political gridlock in California, but few are starker, or more important, than an adequate supply of clean water, on which the state's human and economic well-being depend.

As with highways and other infrastructure systems, California is living off the decisions that earlier generations of voters and politicians made on water during the two decades that followed World War II. We have one of the planet's most extensive systems for moving water from where it originates - in the mountains of Northern California, mostly - to where it's needed and used. The federal government, the state government and local water agencies operate pieces of the system.

It has, for the most part, served us well, but with age, changes in the farm economy (which consumes much of the developed water), population growth and other factors, the system needs expansion and upgrading. A major problem is that the State Water Plan, first written nearly a half-century ago, has never been completed. Most of the water that's being shipped from Northern California to Southern California via the California Aqueduct is still being pulled out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is suffering much environmental degradation as a result, rather than being routed around the Delta, as the Water Plan envisioned.

The Department of Water Resources has just unveiled a new version of the Water Plan, emphasizing regional cooperation on water-related issues, a more activist approach by the state government (including a big chunk of Schwarzenegger's infrastructure bonds) and a fresh look at the Delta's problems. It's a welcome start after decades of wheel spinning, but water, like government in general, suffers from a lack of broad consensus.

Those who want to develop more water and reservoirs to hold it have been locked in an epic, decades-long battle with those who believe that water development despoils the environment and encourages more population growth. In the 1980s, the clash derailed the Peripheral Canal that was supposed to carry water around the Delta, and later it stalled the much-trumpeted "CalFed process" that was to find cooperative solutions to the Delta's problems without a Peripheral Canal. On those and other water-related issues, the lack of consensus led directly to political stalemate.

DWR director Lester Snow, a veteran of the CalFed wars, is still hopeful that with a carrot-and-stick approach, the state can persuade local and regional water agencies to come together _ but he and Schwarzenegger must first persuade the Legislature to even try to resolve its own conflicts, as well as those of outside interest groups. Water is, indeed, symptomatic of California's larger crisis of governance.

From Shns.com, February 17, 2006

 

UNESCO Supports E-governance Project in the Caribbean

UNESCO, in collaboration with the Caribbean Centre for the Development Administration (CARICAD), and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) launches a series of electronic governance related capacity development activities in Caribbean.
This intervention included the staging of three in-country workshops in Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines with the final two day workshop that starts today in Grenada.
The three in-country workshops on the development of national e-Government policies, strategies and action plans for CARICAD member states, highlight issues of local governance and citizens' participation in policy development process.

30 participants from different backgrounds, including local government officials, policy makers and citizens will gather today in St. Georges, Grenada, to examine and discuss the use of an 'evidence-based policy making' approach as a system in formulating public policies that are transparent, relevant, effective and citizen-centred. These activities are being implemented within the framework of UNESCO's project "ICTs as Tools to Improve Local Governance in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean" supporting the implementation of e-governance components of the action-oriented e-government strategies dor countries of the Caribbean Region.

Other activities involve the promotion and launch of the related aspects of the work of CARICAD's Technical and Advisory Support Facility aimed at policy makers: ministers of government and senior administrators in the CARICOM. In addition, a Handbook in print and in multimedia format on the use of evidenced based policy formulation is under preparation as the basis for the development of national e-government polices and action plans, in order to achieve citizen centric online service delivery. Finally ; the project foresees the review of national e-government policies, strategies and action plans that have been adopted by Member Countries, with a special focus on the extent to which e-governance dimensions have been addressed.

This partnership with CARICAD is a follow-up to collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI) in the promotion and launch of a virtual electronic local governance specialization course for the Caribbean aimed at directors, managers, local politicians and community leaders in the CARICOM. The first cohort of 30 trainees has completed the course while UWI recruits for the second cohort.

From UNESCO.org, February 21, 2006

 
 

Civil Service Needs More than Contracts

President Kibaki spoke eloquently yesterday about the need for a vibrant public service. The President wants to create a competitive public workforce, where performance of leaders is empirical and observable. The reasoning here is that by signing performance contracts, Permanent Secretaries, and later Cabinet ministers, will put public interests first and rejuvenate the much-maligned core system of governance.

In theory, this is a brilliant proposal and a step in the right direction to meeting Narc's pre-election pledges of good governance and zero-tolerance to graft. However, it would be naive to pretend that this will come close to addressing the profound structural, political and management problems afflicting the Government. That performance contracts will end poor delivery of services, boost economic growth and reinforce good governance.

The problems choking the public service are too many to be solved by top public servants merely putting pen to paper. Some of them are not only historical, but also anecdotal and functional and cannot be solved without effecting radical changes in the sector. We believe that President Kibaki is sincere when he says that Kenyans deserve better service than they have been getting, but he is racing against time, resources and old habits. Time in the sense that by October next year when the PSs will be due for appraisal, the tenure of his Government will be coming to an end. Cabinet ministers and others charged with the duty of appraising them will be busy politicking for re-election.

That is why we believe that it may be too ambitious to think that a President with about 22 months left in power can make substantial changes to the bureaucracy that is the civil service. But the President, if he truly wants to take this on, can lay the foundation for a competent public service. First, he must tackle the politics. Senior civil servants in Kenya are not appointed on merit. Politics plays a very big role in deciding who becomes managing director of which parastatal or Permanent Secretary in which ministry. When politics come to shove, as was the case when some MPs declined Cabinet positions, competence counts for very little.

Therefore, it is self-defeating to place such officers on performance contracts when their hiring was flawed from the start. Essentially, performance contracts imply merit, competitive appointment, security of tenure and definite targets. What measures has the Government put in place to ensure that this system is not flouted? The onus is on the President to nurture meritocracy and protect the Civil Service and State corporations from political expediency. Then there is the issue of working environment. Continuous reshuffles, where PSs have no security of tenure, do not provide an enabling environment for measurable results. We believe that even as the PSs signed their contracts yesterday, most of them were not sure whether they would be in office next month.

At the end of the day, the Government must know that performance contracts are not an end in themselves. It is true that we need to fight corruption and other malpractices in the system, but this cannot be achieved overnight — it takes time, planning, resources and political goodwill. There is urgent need to institutionalise checks and balances that will put the process on track so that it does not come a cropper like other ambitious plans mooted by Governments over the years.

FromThe Standard Online, February 08, 2006

Civil Service To Be Overhauled, Says Minister

Public Service Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi describes the situation in the civil service as a serious managerial problem. This follows President Thabo Mbeki's criticism that lethargy, a skills shortage, lack of co-ordination and inefficiency in government departments were impeding service delivery. Addressing the media during the ministerial briefings on Tuesday, Fraser-Moleketi said the president wanted an overhaul of all departments, starting with key ones that will contribute towards faster growth. "The cabinet decided that, in future, revisions to departmental structures could be made only after consultation with the minister of public service and administration. "The (department) will develop guidelines on organisational matters, and departments will develop staffing norms in accordance with (these) guidelines by December."

The minister also said that apart from the salary bill problem, the other common headaches were departments' failures to recruit and retain staff, as well as lack of skills. The government was still working on the salary package to address the brain drain in the civil service, to be completed later this year. Other problems identified in the audited departments included: Public hospitals being highly stressed due to staff shortages, unmanageable workloads and management failure, with the nursing situation acute. The government had now decided to empower hospital executive officers, instead of provinces, to take key decisions regarding staffing and other key issues. Schools did not get enough support from districts due to lack of staff.


Vacancies for judges and magistrates were higher than average, and the Department of Justice had a very high proportion of staff on contract. Vacant middle managerial and advisory posts in economic cluster departments were also high, and skills shortages existed in key policy areas. Lack of skills was attributed mainly to irrelevant training programmes, often facilitated by people with a very limited understanding of the public sector.
Fraser-Moleketi said monitoring and evaluation systems to assess and improve performance would be implemented.

From Independent Onlin, February 08, 2006

Efficient Civil Service, An Asset, Says Ex-SSG

A competent and highly professional public service has been described as a prized asset to the political class and not a threat. Former Secretary to the Lagos State Government (SSG), Deaconess Adefemi Taire, said this while delivering a lecture on maintaining A Delicate Balance; Public Administration and Political Expediency, as part of activities marking the retirement of the Head of Service, Sunny Ajose. She decried prevailing attitude among elected public officials who would rather deal with private consultants at the expense of the civil servants in the quest to achieve results. She added that with little money expended on training, public servants would achieve better results at a lesser cost to government.

Taire said since independence the fortune of the public service has witnessed a rise and fall. "It started strong, stout and proud and fell victim of reforms directed in part at neutralising its perceived undue influence in the political power play." According to her, if the civil service must regain its glory as a vibrant, result-oriented, effective and progressive service, and if it must arrest a looming slide into extinction, it must install a self-propelled internal system of continuous change. She added that the framework for such a change is already in place via operational rules and regulations and especially through planned and consistent manpower training and reorientation.

Such internal mechanism, Taire pointed out, must involve a deliberate measure to ameliorate the debilitating effects of earlier purges that have left the public service in a quagmire of insecurity, demoralisation, over- politicisation and lack of career prospect. In his own remarks, Ajose called for understanding between government and those in public service, adding that for efficiency, there is the need to allow things to work in line with rules governing the civil service since they are met to achieve the general good of all. He said it was because of the need to achieve this understanding that he organised a retreat for permanent secretaries and members of the state executive council. He noted that if the civil servants and elected officeholders understand that the rules are meant for the good of all, they would work together without any suspicion.

From Daily Independent, February 09, 2006

 

MPSC Examinations Held Amid Tight Security

The civil services combined competitive examinations (preliminary) conducted by the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) began today morning amid tight security. MPSC officials said the examinations were conducted in 44 centres and about 12,300 candidates had appeared. The government had relaxed the age of candidates by five years this time as the examination was not held for a long time due to ban on appointment. The combined examination was held to recruit 25 Manipur civil service, 32 Manipur police service, 31 Manipur Finance Service and 40 sub deputy collectors. About 782 invigilators were pressed into service and the prohibitory orders have been clamped around the examination centres.

From WebIndia 123, February 05, 2006

Seoul Warns on Civil Service Unions

The government issued an ultimatum to members of illegal civil servant unions yesterday, warning of stern punishment. The central government said local governments that engage in collective bargaining with unregistered unions will lose state subsidies in return.
Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae, Government Administration Minister Oh Young-kyo and Labor Minister Kim Dae-hwan jointly issued a statement criticizing the decision of two public servant unions to stay outside the law to protest newly established laws governing civil servant unions. The laws took effect on Jan. 28, providing public servants the rights to organize and to bargain collectively. The right of collective action, however, was not granted.

The Korea Government Employees Union and the Korea Federation of Government Employees declared that they would stay outside the law and did not register their organizations with the government. "We will sternly punish illegal organizations, as well as illegal activities of legalized labor unions," the three ministers said in the statement. "All organizations involved in union activities without registering their labor unions after the law took effect are illegal, and no agreements should be forged with such illegal labor unions."The government also said it will bar illegal unions from having full-time staff or deducting membership fees from their members' salaries. Providing offices to such illegal organizations is also forbidden.

The statement said the government will try to persuade public servants to stay away from such illegal unions, warning that no exceptions will be given for violators. The ministers encouraged the unions to register, promising support if they chose to do so. The government also said it will strictly enforce laws governing public servants' political neutrality during the May 31 local elections, warning that it will bar illegal unions from siding with political parties in an attempt to reinforce their position.

The Korea Government Employees Union last month joined the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a militant nationwide umbrella union. It also declared that it would encourage its 140,000 members to support a political party that promised backing for the union's decision to stay unregistered. The government also warned of punitive actions, such as cuts in financial subsidies and disadvantages in state-run project bidding, against local governments if they participated in bargaining with the unlawful unions.

From Joongang Ilbo, February 09, 2006

India Emerging As A Major Global Power: PM

There are enormous opportunities. The world has changed a great deal in the last 15 years and in the process there are new opportunities, there are new challenges. I do believe that the outside world today is more receptive to India emerging as a major global power than at any time in the recent history and it is for us to seize those opportunities to ensure new pathways in which we can realize our chosen destiny. There is a unique combination of talent, dedication and commitment in the Foreign Service community," said Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh on Wednesday. He was speaking at the launching ceremony of Indian Foreign Affairs Journal' published by the Association of Indian Diplomats at a function on Wednesday.

Dr. Singh said that, "I have often felt that there is dearth of strategic long-term thinking in our country. I have often wondered why that is the case and I am led to a conclusion that this is partly because of the absence of a class, which in some other countries can be described as an establishment." He further said that, "By an establishment, I mean a group of people who have a long-term stake in the system, may be whose place in their society is secure enough, so they have reasons to worry about the future direction of changes. All modern societies have such a group of people who debate, who discuss, who shape and re-shape public policies in diverse fields. We lack that tradition, partly because we don't have an establishment in the proper sense of the term."

"In my earlier speech, I said that we are living in an age where human knowledge is increasing at an unprecedented pace, a pace, which was unthinkable even two decades ago. India has therefore to flourish and survive in a world where there is explosion of knowledge and therefore it is incumbent on all thinking segments of our society to take full advantage of the opportunities that arise in the process of this knowledge explosion. There are challenges, there are opportunities and it is essential that our thinking population, the intellectuals, other stakeholders should be able to analyze these developments in as objective a manner as possible," he added.

Dr. Singh further added, "Our Civil Service was designed and created by the framers of our Constitution to believe that the Civil Services in our society will play that role as an important stakeholder having stake in the evolution of our system along healthy lines, and they would make a very valuable contribution. They have, I think, under very difficult conditions, our Civil Services have performed outstandingly well and particularly, our Foreign Service has given an exceedingly good account of itself. But it is also a fact that political processes sometimes have created conditions in which there has been discouragement to long run independent thinking in the Government."

He said that, "A tendency has developed whether in the domestic policy matters or in other policy matters - I think the Civil Servants end up picking up the last file that lands on their table. I think that is not good for the growth of our country particularly the growth of a country, with our ambitions, with our potential, with our possibilities and opportunities, and I am therefore very happy that a new Journal is being born to debate issues relating to India's foreign policy."

"I see here assembled some of the most distinguished sons and daughters of our country who have held high the traditions, the doctrines which have guided our foreign policies. But I do feel that we have not made full use of their talent also. In Japan, I believe, any retiring officer does not fade away. He remains active - the system finds ways and means to take advantage of their wisdom, of their knowledge, of their experience and I sincerely hope that this Journal would do precisely that - enable the younger people to debate issues of contemporary relevance, not go by the conventional wisdom - ask difficult and unconventional questions, not be afraid of seeking new pathways to chart out a course of action suited to the genius and the needs of our people. I sincerely also hope that the Journal will provide space to take full advantage of the knowledge, wisdom and experience, enormous amount of experience that exists among the ranks of our diplomats who have served our country with great distinction." he concluded.

From India Infoline News, February 16, 2006

Nepalese Civil Service Positive Discrimination Needed

The popularity of a democratic government is based on the principle of pluralistic representation. Government services should represent the microcosm of the total population so as to act in an effective and responsive manner in a complex and multicultural society. Democratic Pluralism - The emergence of values such as social equity, social justice and non-discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin and culture started making inroads into the monolithic world of administrative culture. Democratic pluralism demands that all sections of society have unfettered access as well as fair representation in all government services.

Such access and representation become more important in increasing the responsiveness to citizen needs as well as nurturing and promoting the groups lagging in mainstream public affairs and generating a requisite attitude on the part of public employees to ensure effective service delivery. So, necessary policy and instruments should be devised to include the underprivileged communities and groups without undermining meritocracy and preserving the attraction and prestige in public service.

Nepal is a country of diverse cultures, ethnicity, languages and racial origins. Diverse ethnic communities constitute a significant segment of Nepalese society. But these communities, including the dalits, have been isolated and have fallen behind the mainstream in terms of economic, social development and public affairs. Similarly, women that comprise half of the total population share less than 10 per cent of the civil service positions. In addition to the under-representation in the public services, these groups and communities are stuck in extreme poverty and have been socially, economically and educationally oppressed since long. The need of the hour is to identify the root cause behind this situation and address the issue properly to enhance their participation in the policy and decision levels.

There are various laws and policies to ensure the empowerment of women, ethnic communities and dalits and give access to various opportunities. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 2047 BS has a provision of positive discrimination for the upliftment of those who are lagging in every aspect of life.

Similarly, in accordance with the Civil Service Act, 1993 and other policies, the government has made such provisions for better participation of women in the civil service. Age bar to enter the civil service for women has been increased to 40 years against 35 years for the male counterparts. Similarly, the probation period for women is six months less than for men. Likewise, the eligibility period for promotion is less by one year for women compared to that of men. In the same manner, transfer policy has given priority to women, ethnic and dalit communities in placement and transfer. Moreover, the government is helping them by conducting special coaching classes to enhance their competency in the competitive examination of the Public Service Commission.

The second amendment of the Civil Service Act, 1993 has introduced the provision of reservation for women, ethnic communities, dalits and persons with differed abilities for A period of five years. The percentage of allocation for the respective groups is to be determined in the forthcoming amendment of the Civil Service Regulations. The pros and cons of such a policy initiation is, thus, being discussed in academic and other spheres of public life.

Appointments in the Nepalese civil service are made in accordance with the principle of merit, which is conducted by an independent constitutional body - the Public Service Commission. Opportunities for government employment are open to all provided they meet the requirements, but the question remains on equity. Thus, the competency of these backward communities and groups should be raised to compete with other candidates having better opportunities and family background.

No one can deny that special considerations are needed to uplift the weaker sections, but reservation has led to the fear of loss of meritocracy. The move to recruit less qualified and incompetent people might be counter productive and erode the competency and prestige of the civil service. Moreover, the reservation policy may be beneficial only to the well-to-do people from these communities and groups, leaving the real victims at the bottom. Furthermore, the sunset clause practised while introducing the system might invite the interplay of political interests. It is feared that such privileges granted once would turn into rights for those communities and groups for generations to come.

The government and other partners should concentrate their efforts on a long-term solution for the better access of these underprivileged to education opportunities and promote the standard of living of the poor. Combating the problem from a holistic approach is essential. Moreover, the provision of positive discrimination should be based on the level of economic condition, not merely race and gender. Programmes relating to capacity enhancement by introducing coaching classes and training programmes should be extended in the district headquarters.

Boosting the confidence levels is a must for the talents who are ignorant about the examination process, time table and courses. Concerned stakeholders should use their expertise to find a way out to solve the problem of under-representation without disturbing the communal harmony and merit system, which is the essence of the Weberian bureaucracy till date. Good Results - The Tenth Plan's objective of inclusive bureaucracy can be achieved only when the stakeholders mutually shoulder to solve the multi-dimensional issue. They should focus their efforts on establishing a system that uses the strengths, balances the under-representation and helps in the enabling, empowering and mainstreaming of the under privileged community. The Scandinavian countries demonstrated good results in the Sixties by adopting such a policy. This needs to be replicated in the Nepalese Civil service, too.

From The Rising Nepal, February 24, 2006

Corruption Is Going Down, Georgian President Claims

Georgia is only behind the European countries with regard to level of corruption, Mikheil Saakashvili said during his meting with the newly appointed judges in the State Chancellery on Wednesday. According to him, sharp decline of level of corruption in Georgia was a result of the expedient policy of the present administration. Mikheil Saakashvili claimed that if five years ago Georgia was close to the top of list of the most corrupted countries, now even Germany and France are considered more corrupted than Georgia.

From Prime News, February 24, 2006

Corruption Remains Undiminished Despite ACC

Of late, the World Bank (WB) has threatened to exclude Bangladesh from its future aid programmes if unbridled graft remains an albatross around the nation's neck. The fact that the Bank had already cancelled 14 road contracts on the ground of corrupt bidding has strengthened suspicion that Dhaka could forfeit its eligibility for future lending on infrastructure projects. A World Bank official lamented recently that such corrupt practices could not go unabated. If the government turns a deaf ear to the Bank's call for curbing corruption, the country may see its aid squeeze in near future, he said. During his visit to Bangladesh, WB President Paul Wolfowitz said lavish election financing comes from corruption in large infrastructure projects, with the power sector becoming 'a tempting target'. Citing the latest inclusion of Congo on the Bank's corruption watch list, the WB official said it should serve as an eye opener for Bangladesh as the country's fight against corruption remains more or less confined to rhetoric.

Since independence in 1971, the socio-economic development of Bangladesh has been hindered by the addition of newer problems to existing ones. It has failed to achieve the cherished goals of development due to a dearth of resources, political unrest, lack of good governance, as well as widespread corruption in all offices, departments, institutions of the government and at all levels of society.
At present, the country has a parliamentary form of government but lack of transparency and accountability, authoritarian rule and despotism is observed in all departments of the government. These multifarious reasons - together with the absence of free flow of information -- mean that corruption is spreading in Bangladesh on a massive scale.

Almost all problems in Bangladesh are linked to corruption. The whole society and all activities of the state are tied to a vicious circle of corruption. The conscious citizens of the country have realised after a long time that progress at state and national level is not possible if corruption is kept at its present level. The magnitude and scale of corruption in the country can be gauged from various surveys and illustrations. In a survey carried out globally by Transparency International (TI), Bangladesh topped the list for the fourth consecutive time, demonstrating the scale of its administrative and political corruption. Absence of good governance encourages corruption, yet political and administrative corruption spreads on a massive scale if the administrative systems are not properly developed.

Curbing this corruption is urgently needed for alleviation of poverty. A large segment of country's population lives below the poverty line. All the governments since independence sanctioned huge sums of money in the budget for poverty alleviation. A major portion of the money allocated for poverty alleviation has been obtained from foreign aid and grants. But 75 per cent of this allocation has been siphoned off, thus the desired level of poverty reduction has not yet been attained. A WB report on 'Country Procurement Assessment' states: 'Files do not move in a government office without bribe. Bribery has reached such a level that it has become a part of the salary'.

Now nobody bothers to keep corruption a secret. From the Corruption Database Report published by the TIB, it is evident that corrupt tendencies exist in all classes of officers and employees. All officials, from the lowest classes to the highest ones, are more or less engaged in corruption. Thus the alarming scale of corruption in the country is plain to see, and it is recognised that the efforts for combating corruption
in Bangladesh has remained surprisingly inadequate. Here, the country's institutional failures deserve special mention. Against this backdrop, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was formed with a good intention of dealing firmly with the unbridled corruption that is so deeply embedded in the country's socio-political and administrative systems. A series of problems afflicted the launching of the commission at the initial stage. Of late, the ACC seems to be gearing up its operations with a renewed vigour.

The ACC is an upgraded organisational version of the now-defunct Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAC). It was expected to be run more effectively with sufficient funds and manpower at its disposal. The government had committed several times that the ACC would have unlimited power to execute its day-to-day affairs. Media reports suggest that the commission was still having problems in running its daily operations. Thus, for lack of necessary funds and manpower, the ACC has dropped the idea of setting up two cells at the country's two ports -- Chittagong and Benapole. It is widely known that the country's ports and customs houses are plagued by unbridled corruption. The practice of open bribery on the table is a common phenomenon in the port and customs houses and it is also largely prevalent among the related service-users. The Bangladesh chapter of TI in its report found that Tk 8.01 billion was being transacted in the Chittagong port and the customs house as inducements on an average every year.

If branch offices could be established in Chittagong port and Benapole, the ACC could have an opportunity to give an effective check to the bribery and other malpractices there. But now this is not going to happen. An ombudsman's office, to act effectively as the watchdog against corruption, is yet to be set up. There is no denying that the corruption is rampant in Bangladesh in most sectors. Tax and customs administration is at the top of agenda. Country's banking system is plagued by default. Bribery and thefts in utilities such as power, ports and telecommunications are rampant. The human development services are also subject to poor governance. This 'systems loss' appears to be present in all sectors of the society.

Added to this, lack of institutional reform, severe confrontational politics, 'criminalisation' of politics and deterioration of law and order are hindering the country's sustainable economic growth. The failure of the political elite to address the socio-political causes of corruption and to bring the bureaucracy under political control helped corruption to take a firm root. Even popularly elected representatives are unwilling to take effective measures against large-scale corruption.An anti-corruption strategy should thus be developed in order to bring about a reform in the public sector. There is a need for proper use of information technology (IT) that provides opportunity for increasing transparency. Therefore, all government offices should be run through online multi-media. The people must have channels to report corruption that should be readily accessible.

TI's successive branding of the country as the 'most corrupt' should raise alarm bell for the government. The ACC should make coordinated efforts to help the government undergo drastic reforms in every sector. Implementation of the reform agenda is a fundamental need for helping the nation recover from the social vices. But it is well-nigh impossible for an incumbent government to push through such an agenda at the fag end of its periodic electoral cycle. So for all practical purposes, hard actions for institutional reforms of the government will have to wait until elections are held. Until then, ridding the country of corruption will remain a hope against hope under the given circumstances in the country.

From Financial Express, February 26, 2006

 

E-government, Stanca 60 M to Reuse Civil Service Projects

To shorten times and costs of the projects to boost the diffusion of the e-government in local bodies, with the reuse of technological solutions that have already been used by other bodies to modernize the civil service, was the goal of the announcement promoted by CNIPA, the national centre for informatics in the civil service, on behalf of the innovation and technology ministry. The innovation and technology minister, Lucio Stanca, spoke about this project in Milan this morning on the occasion of the presentation of the Forum PA 2006. The project is funded with 60 million euro. The announcement will be published in the gazette within a few days.

This money will finance regions and local bodies that will use programs that have been already made by other local governments during the first phase of the e-government plan that has involved around 4000 civil service offices in Italy. The minister said that this financing would move over 200 million euro of resources and would produce savings not only economic but also on the times that are necessary for the planning and development phases of the e-government projects. Stanca said that this initiative would involve around 2000 towns. He also stressed this is a new further step of the government policies on the civil service that must be considered a real reform of this sector.

From AGI Online, February 06, 2006

A Modern British Civil Service: The Fusion of Historic Values with 21st Century Dynamism

This article is about the fusion of the Civil Service's traditional values with 21st century dynamism - the old with the new - to maintain and strengthen an excellent civil service for generations to come. The traditional core values of honesty, objectivity, integrity and impartiality drive pride and professionalism across the Civil Service. These values are as integral to its work now as they ever were. But they are not enough on their own to meet the delivery challenges of the 21st century. A stronger, more professional civil service is needed - one capable of responding to the global challenges of the 21st century. Challenges such as the emergence of China and India as low cost producers, demographic changes at home in the UK and greater expectations of what public services should deliver.

The Civil Service Code - The current Civil Service Code uses the Northcote Trevelyan report of 1854 as its inspiration and is quite clear about values. Specifically, it is not just a civil servant's right but his or her duty to ask 'why' of Ministers as well as 'how' - to challenge them to make the best decisions. These values are fundamental to the ongoing success of the Civil Service and the trust that Ministers, Parliament and the wider public have in it. But they do not exist in isolation from the challenges outlined. They must be developed in a way that allows them to be applied the 21st century.

The proposed new code sets out the values that are common to all civil servants wherever they might work and whatever grade they are. It is about the high standards of behaviour expected from all civil servants. Importantly, it strengthens the framework for policing the Code by proposing that the Civil Service Commissioners can, if they choose, consider complaints about breaches of the Code. It shows that the Civil Service wants to make sure that it does all in its power to keep public confidence in its values and standards.

So what? What does the new code really mean? The new code is intended to be a living document, to be read and understood by all civil servants. The current code begins with a 68 word sentence. The new one starts with an 11 word sentence. It is designed to be useful guidance for real-life situations and to be much more user-friendly for all civil servants. It should also connect with civil servants so they are aware that it is an explicit part of their employment contract. But the code is just a beginning, not an end to the values of the civil service. The new code signals an outward-facing civil service, frequently delivering with and through others in the rest of the public sector, and with the voluntary and private sectors, all of whom are key partners.

The Code also signals to the citizens who fund and use public services that civil servants know they expect the best from them and that it is the duty of every civil servant to strive to meet their expectations. In practice that means that civil servants must adhere to their traditional values, but recognise that on their own they are not enough to meet the new challenges.

Flexibility, Creativity, Passion - One of our traditional values is impartiality but this has mistakenly led some to argue that civil servants must not be passionate. Passion is not only possible, but necessary. Civil servants are not robots - they are here to use their intelligence, skills, judgment and commitment to deliver good policy advice and good public services. Lessons must also be learnt from others. People at the BBC, for instance, walk a similar tightrope to civil servants. Over the years the BBC has won much admiration for its ability to combine independence and passion. It also debates its values regularly and adjusts to changing circumstances.

But while the Civil Service's values are non-negotiable, its relationships and methods and language must be flexible. It must be flexible enough to meet the needs of whatever democratically elected Government it serves. It is the absolute right of the Government of the day to challenge what it may see as settled ways, and it is the Civil Service's duty to be efficient, effective and passionate in meeting those challenges. It is right to have values and it is good to be trusted - but what are these values for? They are a means to an end and the end is improving policy formulation and the quality of the services delivered as a result of those policies.

If the Civil Service isn't delivering what the public and Ministers expect, it isn't going to remain relevant and it will not be able to retain confidence. In the modern world the civil service has no automatic entitlement to a monopoly on either policy advice or service provision. The public have seen and grown used to improvements in the way the private sector serves them as customers, and it is reasonable that they have the same expectations of the public sector. The wider public sector has an added challenge in meeting such expectations - that it cannot pick and target its customers. It often has to deliver for all, including the most vulnerable and hard to reach people in society.

The fact that citizens are required to fund public services through taxation puts a moral duty on civil servants as well as a governing duty on Ministers to use those resources effectively. This is particularly so at a time of increased public spending. This is, in effect, a huge productivity challenge for the public sector. It will become even more important to meet this as the rate of growth in public spending slows, as the British Government has indicated it will. Being efficient and customer focused is at the core of the public sector ethos because it results in better policy and better services.

Diversity - Part of that effort is increasing diversity in the Civil Service. Diversity is more than a moral imperative - it is also a business imperative. On both counts, diversity matters. Allan Leighton of the Royal Mail has overseen some fascinating research demonstrating that diversity has added £32bn to the bottom line of the 113 members of the 'Race for Opportunity' alliance he heads. The civil service already does much better than the private sector on diversity, with, for example, three times as many women in senior leadership posts - 29.1% compared to 9%. Diversity is about getting the best people in the right jobs: bringing in and bringing on talented people from a wide range of backgrounds.

The Civil Service is rightly proud of its tradition of fair, open competition and appointment on merit, but it hasn't yet achieved sufficient diversity in top jobs. There is no skirting around that fact. By improving diversity the talent pool is broadened and greater insight is gained into the society being served. The Civil Service, and civil servants, need strong and clearly articulated values to believe in, ones they can be proud to uphold. Without that sense of purpose it is much harder to deliver anything that is asked of them. This is a fast changing world. We need strong values and stronger capability to deliver if we are to ensure the sort of dynamism that will keep the Civil Service strong and relevant in the 21st century.

From New Matilda, February 08, 2006

Move to Win 1600 Civil Service Posts

A NEW attempt is being made to attract a major share of 1600 civil service jobs to Glasgow and the Clyde Valley. Sightseeing trips are being organised and help in finding new homes is part of a package which has been put together by council chiefs. They hope to secure all if not most of the jobs as part of decentralisation plans by the Scottish Executive and UK Government. A glossy brochure which promotes the area has been produced and copies have been issued to politicians and government agencies. The Clyde Valley has so far attracted 556 jobs from a total of 2000 relocated by the Scottish Executive. Glasgow also landed 759 out of a possible 785 other jobs which are being moved by the Executive. The new National Transport Agency is to create 200 jobs in Glasgow, it was announced last year and hundreds of jobs in NHS Health Scotland, NHS Quality Improvement Scotland and NHS Education Scotland have been promised to the city within the next two years.

From The Evening Times Online, February 14, 2006

Bulgaria Faces Uphill Fight Against Corruption

Boris Velchev took over as Bulgaria's senior prosecutor yesterday, with a brief to reduce corruption in the police and judiciary and tame organised crime. Unless Bulgaria makes significant progress on tackling crime and corruption, its membership of the European Union may be delayed. Mr Velchev, an academic specialist in criminal law who has not previously worked in the judicial system, says his priority will be to tackle corruption. He says he will "investigate current flaws andsupport any change thatwill make the prosecution process more transparent". The extent of Mr Velchev's task was highlighted by the killing in a Sofia suburbyesterday of Ivan Todorov,a prominent underworldfigure known as The Doctor. Mr Todorov was under investigation for money-laundering. Gunmen opened fire on his car beforeescaping, according to witnesses.

Sergey Stanishev, the prime minister, has pledged to clean up the administration and crack downon criminal gangs thathave made Bulgaria a channel for east-west trafficking in weapons, drugs andpeople. But Bulgaria's failure to win convictions against high-profile criminals raises doubts about the Socialist-led coalition government's capacity to deliver on its promises. "There's some progress on corruption, mostly related to a much better action plan for 2006, but results are still some way off," says Ivanka Ivanova of the Open Society Institute in Sofia.

The death last October of Emil Kulev, a prominent Bulgarian banker shot while driving to work in the centre of Sofia, prompted a sweep of alleged gangsters in the capital. Operation Respect, co-ordinated by the interior and justice ministries, led to a sharp fall in street killings, which averaged one every two weeks in 2004, but Mr Kulev's attackers are still at large. Nikola Filchev, the outgoing senior prosecutor, who faced criticism for allowing several cases against high-profile alleged criminals to be dropped, made headlines this week by leaving behind a list of allegedly corrupt officials, including the president of the supreme cassation court, a senior legal body with the power to overturn decisions made by lower courts.

Bulgaria's parliament approved last month the first reading of proposed amendments to the constitution that would limit lawmakers' immunity from prosecution. The proposals came in response to accusations that some deputies were on the payroll of business groups also involved in illegal activities such as smuggling of fuel and cigarettes. Rightwing parties are pressing for deputies' immunity to be fully lifted, but so far the Socialists have proposed only a narrowing of the terms of immunity, on the grounds that freedomof speech needs protection.

"After some 15 years of peaceful co-existence bet-ween politicians and criminals, it becomes very hard to make a start on eradicating organised crime networks," says Ognian Shentov of the Centre for the Study of Democracy in Sofia. Daniel Morar, Romania's young anti-corruption prosecutor, has unnerved the political establishment with his criminal investigations, as Brussels warns that Bulgaria and Romania must speed up reforms.

From Financial Times, February 23, 2006

 

Is 'Civil Rights' Confused with 'Civil Service'?

The recent transit strike in the City of New York, also known as the Big Apple, was another eye opener directed at labor and capital. As most civil service workers who go on strike operate, invariably, the issues revolve around salary and benefit disputes. That strike did not differ with those that have taken place elsewhere in the nation. Roger Toussaint, president of the striking Transport Workers Union (TWU) even went to the extent of invoking the memory of Rosa Parks, an icon of civil rights. A number of civil rights advocates did not side with Toussaint in that regard. One voice said the remark was an "irresponsible distortion."

The working people are quick to come out as one when they believe their civil rights are being trampled upon. Why shouldn't they resort to vocal protests? They are everywhere. Who drives the buses and other means of public transportation? Who picks up the garbage? Who enforces the law? Who fights the fires? Who works in public education, specifically, to help the young read and write? Who considers it their job to see that the sick and the elderly are tended to? Great numbers of people in this equally great country fill up civil service positions. Without them, how would metropolitan centers in particular, continue to thrive?

The New York transit strike, the second time in a quarter of a century, proved how crucially important the workers' role can be. As aptly described by the Philippine News' correspondents, Lenn Almadin-Thornhill and Rita Villadiego, it was a "three-day nightmare." Providing transportation, which is known to number "seven million rides" each single day, the TWU strikers could not have chosen a more paralyzing scenario, when at dawn on December 20, they chose to stop working.

Mercifully, for New Yorkers, thanks to the decision of the State Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones, the strike ended after three days. TWU was found in "contempt of court." The fine of $1 million for every single day the workers stayed off the job was meted out by Justice Jones. Every day showed how much was lost in terms of business and what deprivations ordinary wage earners who depended on the trains had to undergo. Civil service workers who claim their strike found its roots in civil rights did not get the message right. I don't believe their civil rights were disregarded. Nothing of the sort seemed to surface.

How I wish there should be some kind of enlightenment about the difference between civil service and civil rights that should come from the TWU leadership. Toussaint, having been chosen as the TWU's leader and their "main mediator," should have taken the first step to right a wrong impression. But subsequent acts indicate he didn't. What he did was deplorable. As reports indicate, instead of promoting calm and preventing the strikers from proceeding with their wishes, he pushed for what he deemed was the "best offer," far from what the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) could meet at mediation time. The people of New York saw the picture very clearly. Whether they are civil service workers or civil rights' activists, it is comforting to note that the strike did not last any longer.

I like to recall what true leaders have said about striking units. Some disclosed that the majority of strikers do not belong to the downtrodden, they who have been categorized as "have-nots." The reality is the same group belongs to the "haves." It just happens that when they do strike, they represent voices that shout: we "want more" despite knowing massive numbers of the population would undergo unjust and untold suffering.

From Philippine News, February 08, 2005

Hurricane Victims in US Contributed to Corruption

Apparently victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which slammed the United States in the second half of 2005, are involved a million dollar corruption scandal to receive government aid. According to research conducted by an independent institution that controls the government's expenses, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), about 900,000 of the 2.5 million disaster victims who applied for financial aid after the hurricanes were dishonest on their applications. Since the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) implemented insufficient measures to identify and prove the identity of victims; applicants easily lied in order to receive the $2,000-aid. FEMA contributed $5.5 billion in aid to hurricane survivors. In another report by GAO, George W. Bush's government spent $1.62 billion in 2.5 years on advertising and public relations.

From Zaman Online, February 15, 2006

 

World Water Crisis Worsened by Corruption, Repression: UN Report

Corruption, restricted political rights and limited civil liberties are all factors that lie behind the planet's growing water crisis, says a new UN report that focuses on the precious resource of fresh water. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said Monday that the second edition of the UN World Water Development Report shows the global water crisis is largely a crisis of governing systems that "determine who gets what water, when and how, and decides who has the right to water and related services." The report will be released on March 9 in Mexico City by Gordon Young, Coordinator of the UN World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), and Cristobal Jaime Jazquez, Director-General of the National Water Commission of Mexico, a press release issued by the UN Information Center (UNIC) said here Tuesday.

Entitled "Water, a Share Responsibility," the report builds on the conclusions of the first water development study published three years ago. It presents a comprehensive picture of freshwater resources in all regions and most countries as it tracks progress towards the water-related targets of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Known collectively as the MDGs, these targets were set at a 2000 UN Summit and aim to reduce major global ills such as poverty, illiteracy and hunger by 2015.

The report examines a variety of key issues, including population growth and increasing urbanization, changing ecosystems, food protection, health, industry and energy. It also looks at risk management and how water is valued and paid for. A set of conclusions and recommendations to guide future actions and encourage the sustainable use and management of the world's increasing scarce freshwater resources are also included.

The UN World Water Development Report is a joint undertaking of 24 UN agencies in partnership with governments and other stakeholders and is produced on their behalf by the Water Assessment Program, whose secretariat is hosted by UNESCO. The second edition will be launched one week before the Fourth World Water Forum that will be held in Mexico City from March 16 to 22. The report will be formally presented by UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura.

From Islamic Republic News Agency, February 21, 2006

Taking on Corruption

The World Bank's board faces a decision on debt relief today that has broad ramifications for development. The Congo Republic, a small oil state, hopes to win approval of a reduction in its debt , and by some measures it may deserve that. Under the rules governing debt relief, a country whose debt is worth 2 1/2 times its government revenue qualifies for forgiveness, and a team from the International Monetary Fund has determined that Congo meets this standard. But Congo's corrupt government keeps part of its oil revenue from showing up on its books, raising questions as to whether it deserves forgiveness. The World Bank's president, Paul D. Wolfowitz, rightly argues that debt relief should be delayed. The governments that sit on the bank's board, including African representatives and the Europeans who often support them, should accept Mr. Wolfowitz's position.

Congo's efforts to hide oil revenue have been amply documented. The British watchdog group Global Witness has described a network of shell companies established to keep money away from creditors. KPMG, the auditor of Congo's state oil company, has refused to sign off on its accounts three years running. In a memo explaining the finding that Congo met the test for debt relief, the International Monetary Fund concedes that "oil revenues continue to be diverted for other uses and do not reach the treasury." Congo's supporters on the World Bank's board argue that the country has met the objective test for debt relief and should not be kept waiting. It's hard to take this seriously.

Mr. Wolfowitz's proposed remedy is moderate. He suggests that Congo should adopt measures to reduce oil corruption, a position with which even Congo's defenders concur. But rather than having this trigger an immediate and irrevocable $2 billion worth of debt relief, Mr. Wolfowitz wants Congo to implement the anti-corruption measures for three years before getting full debt reduction. In the meantime, relief would flow into a carefully monitored poverty-reduction fund. This would allow Congo to reap some development benefits while maintaining incentives to fight corruption, at least for three years. Given that Congo is benefiting in the meantime from high oil prices, this hardly seems draconian.

The larger issue behind this fight is the seriousness with which donors are willing to take on corruption. Big strides have been made over the past decade in acknowledging that corruption is a problem, but, too often, corrupt countries have been indulged by donors. If Congo's allies on the World Bank's board get their way today, the see-no-evil faction will have won. Better to proceed slowly on Congo - and send a needed wake-up call to other corrupt countries.

From Washington Post, February 24, 2006

Wolfowitz's Corruption Agenda

In a commentary published in The Washington Post (02/20), columnist Sebastian Mallaby writes that nine months into his tenure as President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz has made headlines mainly by provoking a staff backlash. Meanwhile, the staff backlash is obscuring something interesting. In the past few months, there have been hints of fresh thinking on corruption. Now the evidence has reached critical mass: The change appears to be genuine, writes Mallaby.

The Bank has held up $800 million in lending to Indian health projects. Indian politicians were said to have their hands on the health funds, so Wolfowitz blocked the loans. The Bank has frozen lending to Chad, whose government had reneged on a promise to spend its oil revenue on poverty reduction. It took some courage to admit that the curse of oil remained unbroken. The Bank has canceled 14 road contracts in Bangladesh because of corrupt bidding. Two government officials have since been fired, and Wolfowitz plans to ban the private firms involved from future World Bank contracts. The Bank has frozen five loans to Kenya because of corruption, though it did go ahead with a project to improve Kenya's financial management. The Bank has interrupted a project in Argentina that topped up the wages of poor workers.Some of the money seems to have greased the ruling Peronist Party's electoral machine before elections in 2003, and the government has brought charges against one senior official and fired 10 others.

Finally, the Bank has postponed debt relief for Congo. A team from the International Monetary Fund had certified that the country deserved relief, and the Bank was supposed to fall in line last Thursday. But a newspaper report about the Congolese president's extravagant hotel bills was passed around by Wolfowitz's top staff, who noted that KPMG, the firm that audits Congo's state oil company, had refused for three years running to sign off on its financial statements. On Tuesday Wolfowitz called the IMF's boss and asked whether Congo really merited debt relief. On Thursday he refused to go ahead with it. In sum, Wolfowitz's World Bank presidency, which had seemed to lack an organizing theme, has acquired one. The new boss is going to be tough on corruption, and he's going to push this campaign beyond the confines of the World Bank; on Saturday he persuaded the heads of several regional development Banks to join his anti-corruption effort.

From Noticias.info, February 20, 2006

 
 

China Gets E-government Boost from EU

The European Union is to help the Chinese government to develop online government services, reports Headstar's E-Government Bulletin. The assistance is part of a four-year, EUR15 million EU-China Information Society project. The initiative will see EU member states showcasing five best-practice e-government projects across the country. The projects will highlight the integration of service delivery in a big city, the joining up of police and health services for a unified emergency response, the use of smartcards to access welfare services, the provision of services to citizens in remote areas, and changing the administration procedures for pensions. The e-government programme forms one element of a three-part effort to help the Chinese government to make better use of information and communication technologies. The other two elements involve the establishment of a legal framework to support electronic transactions and training civil servants to use ICT.

From ElectricNews.net, February 1, 2006

Filipino Government to Re-design Portal Site

The government of the Philippines is set to re-design its portal site, www.gov.ph, reports Filipino newswire INQ7.net. The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) has allocated PHP110 million (EUR1.8 million) for the site re-design and the development of a payment gateway for the portal. The National Computer Center (NCC) is now accepting private sector bids for the re-design contract; a PHP60 million contract to develop the payments gateway was awarded to the Development Bank of the Philippines-Data Center Inc (DBP-DCI) last year. Until now, private sector volunteers have been maintaining the government portal for free. The e-payments system is expected to launch this month, and the re-designed site is due to be finished "within the year", according to a government official.

From ElectricNews.net, February 15, 2006

Indian Government Partners with TCS for E-government Project

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has announced that the Ministry of Company Affairs in India has formally launched MCA-21, which the ministry claims to be India's largest e-government programme. The project, which is being carried out under the Indian government's national e-government initiative, was launched on a pilot basis with a comprehensive online portal to enable e-filing.

The MCA-21 programme is being executed by the Ministry of Company Affairs in partnership with TCS on a BOOT (Build, Operate, Own and Transfer) model. Under the project framework, TCS will be responsible for designing and implementing the project and will then own, operate and maintain the system for a period of six years after successful roll-out at all sites. Within the next two months, TCS aims for the MCA-21 project to be launched nationwide across 20 offices of the Registrar of Companies, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad.

TCS claims that the system is secure and has a good deal of redundancy built in to make sure that services are continuously available 24/7. To take care of any contingencies, there is a separate and fully functional disaster recovery system being implemented along with the primary data centre. In the event of a man-made or natural disaster, the system is designed to switch over to the disaster recovery system within 12 hours.

From Digital Media Europe, February 21, 2006

Step Taken on Path to E-government

VietNamNet - Vietnamese government officially launched its web site to offer information online about Vietnam, the government's first step toward working online with residents and implementing e-government. Vietnamese government officially launched its web site to offer information online about Vietnam. The website at, www.vietnam.gov.vn or www.chinhphu.vn, has been developed by the Government Office and will provide online transactions for residents and government agencies. It will also provide information on government management, economic and social reports, and gather information from lower-level government agencies.

."The government web site is also a focal point for information-sharing activities of administration at all levels, aiming at government services online and interaction online between the government with citizens and businesses as part of the implementation of public administration reform, pursuing transparency and openness in service to citizens and businesses," said Prime Minister Phan Van Khai. PM Khai said the site aims to promote dialogue between the government, Vietnamese people and investors in and out of the country to find the best solutions to develop the country. The site will also help the international community understand Vietnam.

Doan Manh Giao, head of the Government Office, said the site will have live Q&A sessions with government officials and lodge specific motions from citizens in June after the office finishes the first phase of site development focusing on uploads Vietnam's monthly socio-economic development information. The web site showed commitment by the government to improving the efficiency of the government apparatus and performance. Optimising the use of information resources will help the government achieve specific outcomes. "The site will help build greater trust from local residents in the government through promoting policy transparency and openness, as well as in clarifying the accountability of government agencies - the objectives of good governance," said Giao.

The site has a database of 20,000 pages and links to several sites, including: more than 30 ministries and agencies; 60 provinces and cities, including their geographic information systems; 20 large enterprises, both domestic and foreign-invested; and the web pages of foreign embassies based in Vietnam. There is also information on key national programmes, major national economic zones and industrial parks and export processing zones in Vietnam. The site will be available in English as of September once the site enters the second phase of its projects. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the public administration reform program, which started five years ago, still has not fixed problems in government transactions with citizens and enterprises.

Most public administration procedures are illogical and are not of the most pressing importance to the government, which includes the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Giao said the government understands e-government is more about government than technology. That means that following the public administration reform agenda, the government has been working on improving efficiency, fighting corruption, better coordination among government organisations at all levels, streamlining administrative procedures, reducing red tape, institutional reform, and strengthening the capacity of human resource. "These are the conditions for e-government to be useful for the citizens," Giao said.

From VietnamNet bridge, February 11, 2006

e-Governance Initiative Makes Waves

The Rajiv Internet Village (RAJiv) Kiosk Initiative in the Ranga Reddy district of Andhra Pradesh has not only given practical shape to the Right to Information Act but has created employment opportunities for educated unemployed youth in the rural areas. It is a public-private partnership programme, which gives citizens an opportunity to interact with the Government without coming to the offices. Villagers in Ranga Reddy district can now confidently walk into the nearest RAJiv kiosk and send their grievances to the district administration for online redressal.

Registering grievance through the Prajavani initiative is a simple process.The petitioner walks into the RAJiv kiosk, the operator would log on to http://rangareddy.ap.nic.prajavani and file his grievance. Once this is forwarded to the call centre operating at the Ranga Reddy Collectorate, an acknowledgement is given to the petitioner. The system not only gives citizens an avenue to track the progress of their grievances but also provides the Collector a tool to monitor the performance of various departments.

From Digital Opportunity.Org, February 2006

 

Irish E-government Needs IT Graduates

A senior executive at Accenture has warned that the future development of e-government in Ireland is dependent on student take-up of IT and business courses. Speaking at a recent BIS seminar in Cork, Paul Duff, senior executive with management consultancy and technology services firm Accenture, highlighted Ireland's impending IT skills shortage and noted that the importance of IT and business graduates was not limited to the private sector but was inextricably linked to the public sector. "To ensure that our private and our public services can continue to function and develop over time, we need graduates with the skills to address and manage IT," Duff said. "It is a sobering fact that while we are slipping down the European ranking, the UK is predicted to rise from tenth place to first, and the Czech Republic is predicted to move to seventh and Hungary to ninth."

From ElectricNews.net, February 1, 2006

Isle of Man to Make Savings with VoIP Network

The government of the Isle of Man in the UK is implementing a STG4 million VoIP (voice over internet protocol) network to connect up its 4,500 staff, who are spread across 180 locations, reports ComputerWeekly.com. The network will enable the government's 3,500 civil servants to access voice, data and video services at a much-reduced cost, and another 1,000 staff in the education, health and social services sectors will also be connected up to the network. The government said that the move to an IP network from a conventional network is expected to save it up to STG1.4 million a year. The network, which is being managed by Manx Telecom and Dimension Data, will be used to roll out new e-government services later this year; the first services that are set to be deployed are online tax and VAT applications.

From ElectricNews.net, February 1, 2006

Irish Customs Officers Get Mobile Scanner

A mobile x-ray scanner is the latest high-tech development in the Irish government's fight against smuggling. The truck-mounted x-ray scanner, which can be deployed in 30 minutes, is suitable for scanning shipping containers, trailers, cars, vans and coaches and will be deployed across all Irish ferry terminals and ports. The device will be operated by two three-officer teams of specially trained Revenue personnel hunting for illegal drugs, contraband, explosives, firearms and stowaways. Revenue signed a EUR3 million contract with Chinese x-ray manufacturer Nuctech in December 2004 that includes device maintenance and training for customs officers. The system uses a high-energy linear accelerator to generate x-rays which are fed through imaging software. Officers then study real-time pictures to detect illegal cargos. For more on this story, see ElectricNews.net.

From ElectricNews.net, February 15, 2006

UK MPs Approve Controversial ID Card Scheme

The UK government looks likely to go ahead with its plans to launch compulsory identity cards for citizens. In the latest development in the controversial saga over the introduction of biometric ID cards, the House of Commons has voted to make it obligatory for passport applicants to also apply for an ID card from 2008. The Commons decision on 13 February saw MPs vote 310 to 279 in favour of making the scheme compulsory, overturning an earlier vote by the House of Lords to let citizens choose whether or not to apply for the cards. Under the plan, citizens who are renewing their passports will have to consent to having their biometric details registered in a central, national database. The ID card plan will now be returned to the House of Lords for approval, but commentators do not expect the bill to be blocked.

From ElectricNews.net, February 15, 2006

Macedonia Launches Online Jobs Service

The government of Macedonia has rolled out an online public sector recruitment service, reports online newswire Internews. The service is proving hugely popular among job applicants, with online applications doubling within two weeks of launch and around 75 percent of all job applications now coming in via the internet. The system was created by the Macedonian e-Gov/IMPACT Project, an initiative funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The system was specifically designed to be easy-to-use in order to encourage citizen take-up, which it was feared could be hampered by Macedonia's low internet penetration rate (just 19 percent). The cost of applying for jobs was also reduced for those using the online service, and a public awareness campaign was launched to promote the new service.

From ElectricNews.net, February 15, 2006

Belarus Issues Regulations for Government Websites

On 11 February, the Council of Ministers of the Repubbic of Belarus adopted official regulations on internet sites of national governmental bodies. The regulations provide general requirements for the websites and describe government officials' responsibilities concerning their functioning. According to the regulations, all government body sites should include basic information about the body such as how it is structured and a biography of the head of the department. Central governing bodies should include information about its activites, including legislative and other official acts. The sites should also provide practical information such as a schedule of activities, prices for government services and addresses and phone numbers of government officials. They sould also include a list of documents citizens should submit to get certificates, notes, references or other information, as well as a description of the terms of application procedures for such documents.

From Digital Media Europe, February 22, 2006

 

Dubai Citizens Unhappy with Online Services

Two government departments in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates have scored poorly in an online user satisfaction survey carried out by Dubai eGovernment. Around one-third of survey respondents said they were unhappy with the online services of the Dubai Police Department, while 41 percent said they were dissatisfied with the website of the Department of Health and Medical Services. The customer satisfaction survey, which is due to be extended to all government departments, is part of an effort to better understand user needs with regard to e-government services. "We are going to focus on transparency, quality control and increased customer focus in the new year, and such surveys will benchmark our approach in this direction," said Salem Al Shair, e-services director at Dubai eGovernment. In December, the Dubai government said it would re-evaluate its e-government services due to poor take-up by citizens. Around 84 percent of public services are currently available online.

From ElectricNews.net, February 1, 2006

Oracle Promotes Saudi Arabia's e-Government Initiatives

"Saudi Arabia's e-governance initiative focuses on enhancing the provision of access to government-related services and information for public use and knowledge," said Dr. Juan F. Rada. "The initiative also aims to enhance public services through online systems which assure affordability and accountability." In order to create knowledge societies that drive economic growth and development, Saudi Arabia must pursue its e-governance initiative and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the public and private sectors in the Kingdom, said Dr. Juan F. Rada, senior vice president, industries, Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). At meetings with senior government officials, from ministry of communications to information technology, Dr. Rada highlighted Oracle's commitment to training and human resources development in the Kingdom.

Support for Arabic software development is a key focus for Oracle, and the company develops products and applications specifically to serve the needs of users across the Middle East and North Africa region. "Saudi Arabia's e-governance initiative focuses on enhancing the provision of access to government-related services and information for public use and knowledge," Dr. Rada said. "The initiative also aims to enhance public services through online systems which assure affordability and accountability. By catering to the needs of both enterprises and consumers, Oracle solutions can provide decision-makers with accurate data at the right time to increase return on investment."

Dr. Rada also delivered a keynote speech at the recent 3rd Annual IT Managers Forum in Riyadh. Burgeoning Market
Rada took the opportunity to meet with a number of Oracle's key customers and partners on the sidelines of the three-day event in the Kingdom. The Saudi Arabian market is one of Oracle's fastest-growing geographies in the Middle East and Africa region, and is a critical element of its global strategy. "The commitment to e-government strategies and initiatives in the Kingdom across all of the ministries clearly shows the pace of growth in Saudi Arabia today," commented Abdul Rahman Al Theheiban, Oracle Saudi Arabia's managing director.
"Dr. Rada's visit is an opportunity for us to leverage Oracle's global expertise in working with process-oriented change in the public sector and apply it to specific examples in the Kingdom, to achieve the best results for the country."

From CRMBuyer.com, February 20, 2006

 

Colorado Readies Open Source E-government System

A number of local government organisations in the US state of Colorado are collaborating on an open source e-government system, with the first site due to go live in the Spring. Kent Morrison, the manager of information systems in Steamboat Springs and the manager of this project, told ZDNet UK in an interview published on Monday that beta e-government sites have already been developed for Steamboat Springs, as well as Craig and Moffat Counties, which are all in north-west Colorado. The Steamboat Springs site is due to go live on May 1, with the other two sites going public during the summer.

The egovernment system is based on open source content-management product Typo3 and runs on the LAMP stack. The e-government system will eventually offer the same services as are provided by town halls or county court houses, such as paying for a parking ticket or registering a dog. Morrison said Steamboat Springs has made the source code of the system freely available on the project Web site and hopes to get other organisations involved, who can contribute additional modules to the project.

"We would love to have other organisations using the product. For example, if a small rural community in Australia implemented the system and added an animal registration module, they could contribute that module back to the project and everyone else could use it," said Morrison in the interview. "That's the beauty of using public money to develop open source software. We're very grateful that our elected officials realise that's true and gave us some money to develop it."

From ZDNet UK, February 20, 2006

 

E-government in Europe Should Adopt Narrow Focus

E-government in Europe should adopt narrow focus - European e-government policy should focus on a small number of high-impact priorities, according to a new survey by the European Commission. In an online survey of 403 citizens and organisations across Europe, 92 percent of respondents backed the strategic approach of concentrating on a limited number of high-impact services in the years to 2010, rather than taking a broader approach to e-government. The most important high-impact services were deemed to be citizen mobility in relation to social services, such as pensions and healthcare; citizen mobility with regard to work; and public sector e-procurement. When asked about the most important objectives for a "more efficient and effective government", respondents cited an improvement in the quality of services for users, along with a reduction in the administrative burden on citizens and businesses. Lack of interoperability, organisational barriers and insufficient skills among government workers were ranked as the most significant barriers to achieving these objectives.

From ElectricNews.net, February 1, 2006

EU Commits to Safer Use of the Internet Via Safer Internet Day 2006

Yesterday, Safer Internet Day will be celebrated by 95 organisations in 36 countries across the world, including 24 EU countries, Russia, Argentina, New Zealand and the USA. Organised under the patronage of European Commission Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding, Safer Internet Day 2006, features a blogathon or "blog-marathon" during which wide range of organisations and special guests will promote internet safety by making postings and inviting comments from visitors, children, schools and parents. The geographical focus of the 24hr blog will move steadily westwards through the global time zones, and include content in different languages.

In her welcome message to launch the blogathon, Commissioner Reding writes "Just like in the real world, it is important that we respect each other - and the law - when we are online. The blogathon is an opportunity to discuss these issues". Although 50% parents in EU25 declare that their child has access to the internet, only 20% have set rules regarding its use. This is the first result of a Eurobarometer survey on Safer Internet run in December 2005 and which will be published at the beginning of March. Top rules mentioned by parents concern "not allowing access to certain websites" (55%), and "controlling time spent on the internet" (53%). Less frequent are parent's rules for "not allowing children to meet in person someone first contacted on the internet" (35%) and "not allowing downloads of music or films" (19%).

According to Commissioner Reding, "Parents need to teach their children to recognise the risks that can arise when using the Internet, and what to do when a situation makes them feel uncomfortable. This needs to become common sense, and as natural as teaching children basic road safety skills from the day the set foot outside of the home." The Safer Internet Day has become an annual event. Other activities this year include "I will teach you" events where pupils teach adults about their activities on the Internet and via GSM.

The Commission's Safer Internet Programme has been running since 1999, and aims to equip parents and teachers with the knowledge and tools they need to ensure internet safety. The current 4-year programme (2005-08) has a budget of € 45 million to combat illegal and harmful internet content. It also covers other media, such as videos, and explicitly addresses the fight against racism, and e-mail "spam".

Current projects and activities include:
> 21 hotlines for users to report illegal content. In 2005 in Spain, the hotline Protegeles led national police to carry out 37 operations, identifying over 1700 people handling illegal content. These led to arrests in Spain and information being sent to Interpol for further investigation.
> 23 nodes for raising awareness of safer use of the Internet, with coordination and training from the European Schoolnet, the University of Central Lancashire and the Norwegian Media Authority;
> a quality labelling scheme for Web sites;
> pilot projects in self-regulation, aiming to combat spam and to extend content ratings to online games
benchmarking of filtering software
> Safer Internet Forum: a platform of discussion between the industry, child safety organisations and public bodies. In 2005 the Forum concentrated on the emerging safety issues raised by the use of mobile phones by children.
> The Safer Internet Day is organised by the European internet safety network INSAFE, which is coordinated by European Schoolnet and co-funded by the European Commission's Safer Internet Programme.

From PublicTechnology.Net, February 8, 2006

Microsoft Outlines E-government Strategy

Software maker Microsoft has outlined a worldwide public services and e-government strategy to provide governments with the prescriptive guidance and technology to focus on seamless service deliveries for citizens. The strategy and solutions are designed to enable governments to reduce the cost burden of 'red tape' and allow technology adoption to stimulate economic productivity. The e-government strategy is part of Microsoft's plan to help governments develop sustainable IT infrastructures.

The strategy is based on the company's Connected Government Framework (CGF) blueprint. The CGF demonstrates how governments and public sector agencies can architect and implement a vision of seamless service through technology. It consists of a positioning white paper, a series of business and technical customer workshops, an architecture blueprint and reference implementations of the framework.

Accenture and Avanade, in partnership with Microsoft, recently released the next version of the Accenture E-government Accelerator, a solution for replacing paper forms with automated processes. The public services and e-government strategy will be discussed during Bill Gates' address at a Portuguese government event Tuesday and during the third annual GLF in Lisbon, a two-day event that enables government, industry and academics across Europe to explore the use of information and communication technology.

From Digital Media Europe, February 1, 2006

EC to Step Up E-government Services

European Commission (EC) Vice-President Siim Kallas is currently taking a three-day visit to Portugal to address the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in achieving the goals of the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs in Europe. During his visit, Commissoiner Kallas has reiterated the importance of the role of ICTs for the private and public sectors. Commissioner Kallas held a meeting with European ministers of ICT and education to discuss issues of transparency, security and interoperability with regard to e-government practices.

Commissioner Kallas has reaffirmed the EC's commitment to ICTs by unveiling its strategic framework for 2006-2010, which calls for the EC to step up its e-government policies to meet its standards for the rest of the region. The EC sees ICT as an indispensable method for making information accessible. 'E-administration is about communicating with citizens through all possible channels,' Commissioner Hellas said, 'so as to ensure inclusion and to provide services to simplify and improve their own lives.'

From Digital Media Europe, February 1, 2006

Smart Cards & e-Government Conference

Smart Cards & e-Government Conference - Consumer Choice and Accessing Public Services - The Role of Smart "Citizen" Cards & e-Government in Public Sector Reform, 14th - 15th March 2006. Consumer choice, market contestability, higher standards and per capita funding are at the centre of the new public service reform agenda. Labour's third term promises radical change on all these fronts. But, behind the headlines a quiet revolution in public choice and access is well underway. Local government already operates an array of smart cards, multi-functional e-purse payment and identity systems - enabling citizens to buy and access a variety of publicly funded services. The technology that drives this revolution is the smart card - now increasingly referred to as the citizen card.

This policy driven event examines how citizen cards and e-government technology can support public sector reform policy objectives. The conference will analyse a variety of local authority examples of where technology is delivering consumer choice and access to public services. This unique two-day conference builds on the first ground-breaking Public Sector Reform & Smart Cards conference organised by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) in 2004. This second SMF conference will bring together key policy makers, leading local authority practitioners, public sector strategists with smart card and e-government specialists. Delegates will hear from high profile and influential speakers on how central and local government can work with service and technology providers to deliver improved access, choice and higher quality public services. For more details; please visit site: http://www.symposium-events.co.uk/pages/attending/LA002/overview.htm

From Symposium Events Co UK, February 22, 2006

 
 

Billy Nel Tears into Fellow MECs

Bhisho - FINANCE MEC Billy Nel read the riot act to his fellow MECs yesterday over the implementation phase of the budget, which he said was often characterised by "poor, or no planning, cut- and-paste business plans and long delays in finalising the procurement phase". The result, he pointed out, when he presented his 2006-07 budget in the legislature, was that during the current financial year there had been "considerable underspending on infrastructure and some conditional grants. "A shortage on money is one thing, but an inability to spend the already inadequate allocation is unacceptable." Regardless of the causes, Nel said, it was necessary to address the problem of underexpenditure.

During the course of the next financial year, he said, the provincial treasury would carry out a comprehensive study on the causes of under-spending on infrastructure and conditional grants. And, he warned his executive council colleagues, until the pace and efficiency of spending improved, "the system of rollovers of unspent budgeted funds will undergo a serious review". The MEC said the treasury would "critically scrutinise" the pattern of expenditure during the year and progress of spending closer to the end of the financial year and would then "selectively approve rollovers. "I wish to emphasise that unspent recurrent funds will have limited chances of being rolled over."

Nel also issued a warning with regard to the two adjustments budgets that are tabled during the course of the financial year, saying they would "not be prepared for the purposes of creating an opportunity for departments to clean their books before the end of the financial year". That, he said, constituted an "abuse" of the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act. Departments were "encouraged to plan their expenditures and cash flows very carefully". Adjustments to budgets would only be done in "very special circumstances". Nel said the ideal of budget planning and management in the Eastern Cape "is rarely matched by the practices".

He said an analysis of the internal organisation of departments revealed that they were "extremely weak on economic analysis, policy formulation, planning, forecasting, monitoring and evaluation and effective service delivery". The MEC said the skills and capacity were generally lacking to embrace the new emphasis on, for example, strategic planning and the application of market principles. The treasury would design and implement a comprehensive "financial management improvement programme" in the next financial year. There was also a need to address cash management. He noted that a good cash plan "cannot compensate for an unrealistic budget".

From Herald Online, February 22, 2006

Profiling Henry Fergusson: Former Freetown City Council Chairman

Our discovered personality for this week is Mr. Henry Nathaniel Fergusson J.P., O.R., C.O., former Chairman of the Committee of Management of the Freetown City Council from 2001 to 2004. Mr. Fergusson was born in Freetown and was educated at the Sierra Leone Grammar School and the Cambridge Higher School from where he gained access to the Fourah Bay College and attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1964.

Instilled by the need to further his academic wishes, he ventured into more exploits. In 1969 he obtained a Diploma in Public and Social Administration from the South Devon Technical College. In 1981 he again obtained a Diploma from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and was certified a Municipal Clerk in 1985 and was admitted as a member at the Academy for Advanced Education at the Pasadena A.A.E. in the United States of America. In 1992 he also obtained a Diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties from the Dyslexia Institute in London. (http://news.sl/drwebsite/publish/article_20051622.shtml).

From awarenesstimes.com, February 13, 2006

ANC Quashes Probe into Phumzile's Flight

South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has quashed a resolution put to the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) calling for the auditor general to investigate the recent holiday jaunt to the United Arab Emirates by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. ANC MP and leader of the ruling party's caucus on the key fiscal watchdog body, Vincent Smith, said his party "won't accept" the proposal by the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

He said the Auditor General Shauket Fakie would in any event investigate directives regarding the trip - a holiday in December which the official opposition said cost at least R700 000 of taxpayers' money - "in the normal course" of his auditing of departments, in this case the presidency. The DA had wanted the AG to report to the committee within three weeks on whether there was fruitless or wasteful expenditure. The resolution was motivated on Wednesday by DA MP Eddie Trent who noted that there had been a raging debate in the media in recent weeks about the deputy president's trip. He asked for an investigation by Fakie in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.

ANC MPs pointed to the need for security of the deputy president whether she was on holiday or on official duty. While the debate is continuing in the committee, it looks set to be defeated by the ruling party majority on the committee. Smith said: "If the auditor general does what is expected of him, that [the financial details of the trip] will come out in the auditor general's normal course of business." Referring to the trip he said it was known that "the security of the president and the deputy president" was of "utmost importance". Emphasising the point, he said: "There is no distinction in terms of the security, whether private holiday or official business."

Mlambo-Ngcuka took a military aircraft on the trip to the UAE together with security detail and a friend - the wife of the Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya - and children of her personal assistant. DA MP Anchon Dreyer said the security issue "has nothing to do with the issue" and the call for an investigation was also not "an electioneering issue". She said the good name of the deputy president "has been tainted" and that was why there was a need for an investigation. "I would have thought the ruling party would welcome an investigation."

Trent asked whether one could take "all one's friends" on a holiday on an unlimited budget. "We need to lay the matter to rest. We have faith in the auditor general's impartiality. I rest my case, this is not a political matter ... but that money is spent in the best interests of the people of this country." Smith said the nature of the trip was a political matter and it had nothing to do with taxpayers' money, which was the brief of the committee. "The only thing that needs to be found out was whether there was a directive [sanctioning the trip]," he said. This was necessary in terms of the Public Finance Management Act. "One phone call will do that," he said. He emphasised that nothing was "being swept under the carpet" as directives were routinely investigated by the auditor general. He said if the committee demanded an investigation into this particular directive it would open the door to each and every flight directive being brought before Scopa.- I-Net Bridge

From Mail Guardian Online, February 1, 2006

 

Economic Outlook for China emains Benign: WB

The World Bank says the outlook for China's economy remains benign as it will benefit from solid export demand and profits and credit developments suggest that investment remains robust. The international setting is favorable, the bank said in its latest China Quarterly Update, which offers an update on recent economic and social developments and policies in China and presents findings from the ongoing World Bank work on China. "After a good outcome for the world economy in 2005, forecasts for the US economy in 2006 remain positive, Europe's growth prospects are strengthening somewhat, and in Japan domestic demand is perking up," the bank said.

The bank said external demand for China, therefore, is expected to hold up well in 2006, which should prevent a too abrupt a deceleration in exports stemming from negative domestic supply side effects - including a leveling off of foreign direct investment, some exchange rate appreciation, tax measures taken to discourage energy-intensive exports, as well as domestic demand recovery. The World Bank projects that international industrial commodities prices will ease in 2006. "While there are upward risks to this forecast, the rate of increase should decline considerably, which -- combined with a stronger exchange rate -- is driving our projection that increases of China's raw material prices should ease from 5.9 percent year on year in the fourth quarter to about 2 percent by mid-2006," according to the report.

The bank said that should mitigate inflationary pressures in China's commodity-intensive economy. But it warned of international risks, including a disorderly adjustment in global imbalances and trade tensions, even though China's trade surpluses are likely to come down. "The main domestic risk is that abundant liquidity will re-fuel credit and investment." It said domestic economic conditions favor "stable, relatively fast growth". The conditions include a favorable macroeconomic and financial setting and strong confidence. In this climate, and given solid profit growth - 20 percent year on year in the first 11 months of 2005, investment growth should remain strong, although probably not as high as in 2005, it said.

"We project GDP (growth domestic product) growth of 9.2 percent in 2006 (based on new data) and moderate inflation, with headline inflation depending on the possible adjustment of administered prices for public utilities (e.g., electricity, water, gas) and fuel planned for 2006. With export growth easing and domestic demand strong, the current account surplus should decline in 2006, although it will take a while before it declines substantially, it said. Changing the composition of domestic demand may take time. Household consumption will be supported by solid income growth, particularly in urban areas, some tax initiatives and other fiscal initiatives, including some further support for rural areas and an expected 15 percent wage increase for civil servants.

"But we do not see a dramatic pickup in consumption soon, largely because it is difficult to significantly boost rural income growth in China without much faster out-migration." Despite a favorable (one-off) impact of removing agricultural taxes and rural fees, real rural per-capita income growth declined in 2005 to 6.2 percent, and compared to 9.6 percent in urban areas, it explained. Rebalancing the composition of demand will have to hinge to a large extent on policies addressing structural issues, including public finance measures, financial sector reform, dividend policy and corporate governance, and these take time. Probably the most viable way to change the composition of demand towards consumption is to move ahead on a dividend policy for SOEs and to ensure the revenues go through the overall budgeting process so that they can finance reforms in education, health, and social security, said the bank.

From Xinhuia, February 13, 2006

Open Source Convention concludes in Delhi

The Education Forum drew healthy and vigorous debate at the three-day LinuxAsia 2006 convention, the region's premier Open Source conference and expo, which concluded in Delhi today. The role of open source solutions as a means of extending education to all and raising the standards necessary for India to be a human resource centre for the global Knowledge Society was highlighted. Successes, best practices, as well as challenges were raised by different speakers during the deliberations.

The Forum began with a keynote address by Dr. M.S. Vijay Kumar, Director of Academic Computing at MIT, and an advisor to the National Knowledge Mission. Dr. Vijay Kumar said the power of Open Source as a collaborative platform was demonstrated by the "Open Courseware" project of MIT, under which a wealth of knowledge in the form of courseware had been made public.

The project had indeed become a model for different departments to come together rather than work in their own pockets. He revealed that the MIT courseware is even hosted in India on a mirror site (located at MIT's sub-campus within Anna University in Chennai), and that this could help Indian universities, colleges and schools get trained staff, the lack of which was hampering the widespread adoption of open source tools and teaching in education. The Education Forum at the conference also saw panel discussions on Open Source Solutions for Schools and Colleges, and on modernising the curriculum. Panelists and speakers included School Principals, administrators, University professors and representatives of industry.

Sadhana Bhatia, Principal of Mira Model School, Delhi, one of the panelists averred that the institutions were taking the OSS path in a big way, as there were no licencing issues and they were getting more choice. She said, however that they were hampered due to lack of availability of some school applications and of the trained teachers.

Easing these concerns were speakers from Red Hat Inc, and Google which have spearheaded numerous educational initiatives. RedHat Inc's "Lord of the Code" program for university students and Google's "Summer of Code" progra, both of which are worldwide programs that include Indian participation, were lauded. Ms. Zaheda Bhorat, Head of Open Source Programs for Google said "Of 2000 applications received last year for the Summer of Code program, only six were from India. However, all six passed the program." She added that this was probably a pointer that more mentors were needed at the college/university level who would act as evangelists for Open Source among the coming generations.

A major attraction of the day, was the presentation from V. Ponraj, Director of Interface Technology for the office of the President of India. Mr. Ponraj said that Linux and Open Source were being used to enable the President's initiatives in Education, Healthcare and e-Governance. He outlined the President's vision of the "World Knowledge Platform", a foundation for collaboration, resource sharing and real-time computation, that would create, disseminate and share/reuse knowledge across the world.

Linking it to the good of the common Indian, he said, "Knowledge-based systems and products have to emerge to take our over 500 million youth aged below 25 years to become engines for growth at a global level in the Knowledge Society". The President's office is actively pursuing and directing policy that would see Open Source solutions becoming the base for efficient delivery of e-government services and modern education and that will empower a human resource cadre.

The last day of the LinuxAsia conference had sessions running in two more tracks, in addition to the Education Forum. The Developer Forum had sessions hosted by Oracle and IBM, while the Technology Forum had workshops and panel discussions on Open Standards and some of the many distributions of Linux. Industry majors Oracle, Dell Computer, Intel, HP, IBM, RedHat, CDAC and several others continued to attract enthusiastic visitors to their displays and exhibits.

Giving a roundup on the convention at its conclusion, Robert Adkins, co-founder of Technetra, the Silicon Valley based technology consulting company that develops and promotes open source software and solutions for government, education, IT, telecom, banking and finance, and the organising force behind LinuxAsia 2006, said, "The LinuxAsia initiative has been gaining strength from year to year. This year, LinuxAsia 2006 brings into focus the ground that Linux has gained among all segments. We had speakers and delegates from the US, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, UK, Germany, Sweden, China, and many other places.

Such illustrious leaders as Mark Shuttleworth, Linux pioneer and Guru and the man behind Ubuntu, and Klaus Knopper, creator of the live distribution Knoppix were big draws at the conference. The gathering included persons from Government, industry and education. There were students, industry leaders, and civil servants all brought together by a shared passion for the advancement of India. The gathering was truly representative of the nature that the Open Source community has become around the world." Adkins reported that the number of delegates and visitors this year was nearly 4000, almost double that of last year, which makes it the premier open source conference in this part of the world.

From India InfoLine News, February 14, 2006

M Govinda Rao: Budget Tips for Chidambaram

The challenge is in resuming on the adjustment path set in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act - Come February, it is Budget time again. Elsewhere I have characterised the event as the "Great Indian Circus". Speculations on the policy changes, the entertainment and hype provided by both multiple audio-visual channels and print media and the galaxy of experts dishing out "instant analysis" and ready remedies for all economic problems make the event very lively. In fact, the Budget in India is not merely a fiscal policy statement and presentation of income and expenditure accounts of the government. It is a "nirvana pill" meant to provide everything for everyone. Forget that even fiscal policy initiatives are undertaken throughout the year without much notice. Forget also that the pronouncements made in the Budget may not be implemented during the year. In spite of the awareness that much of what happens in the Budget has become irrelevant, the show goes on.

The hype and hoopla is probably a legacy of history. The public sector dominance in the planned development strategy and the centrality of fiscal, financial, pricing and regulatory policies to economic agents placed enormous emphasis on annual Budgets as instruments to steer the policy mix in conformity with plan objectives rather than merely calibrating fiscal policy instruments. However, even as the planning process has receded, the Union Budget continues to be seen as setting the overall policy direction.

In this piece, important fiscal policy measures in the Budget are speculated on. The latest estimates indicate that the government is likely to adhere to the Budget estimates of revenue and fiscal deficits, contrary to predictions of many that the estimates were too optimistic. The revenues have been buoyant and expenditures seem to have been contained. Of course, revenue from excise duties has not shown the assumed buoyancy and there could be some shortfall also in non-tax revenues due to lower interest receipt from the states and lower dividends from oil companies. But the GDP estimates would be higher and that should take care of the ratios.

The challenge is in resuming on the adjustment path set in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBMA). This requires significant reduction in fiscal and revenue deficits in 2006-07, particularly after the "pause" in 2005-06. In normal circumstances, this would have been eminently feasible, but compulsions of coalition politics will require resources for additional spending on various schemes. Thus, financing the Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Bharat Nirman Programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, midday meal scheme and National Rural Health Mission - all these will require additional funding.

While in the medium term, a high buoyancy of direct taxes, seen in the last three years, may continue, this by itself will not meet the requirements. Additional resource mobilisation measures will be necessary. At the same time, increase in revenues by raising the rates of tax will be counterproductive. Any revenue mobilisation measure should be done within the framework of evolving a rational tax system in the country.

From the perspective of evolving a rational system of consumption tax in the country, it is important to transform the existing CENVAT into a manufacturing stage value-added tax on goods and services. This calls for extending the service tax to all services and ensuring a tax credit mechanism for taxes on both goods and services in the first stage and merging CENVAT with the service tax by having a common exemption limit and uniform rate in the second. This is an opportunity to extend the service tax base and raise revenues and move towards a more rational tax system. Another rationalisation measure to move towards a simplified and a rational excise tax is to convert the prevailing specific duties into ad valorem.

Another set of measures that the Budget should consider is to broaden the tax base further. One source that could bring in significant revenues is to levy import duties on all imports that are exempted at present, at 4-5 per cent. The list of exempted items runs into several pages and from the viewpoint of achieving convergence in rates, this is an important measure. Equally important is the measure to levy an additional countervailing duty on all imported items in lieu of sales taxes. At present, while excise duty is neutral between domestic production and imports, sales tax is not leviable on imports and therefore discriminates against domestic production. It is, however, important to ensure that this tax is eligible for CENVAT credit when the imported commodity is used in production or is resold.

Expanding the tax base and minimising distortions in tax system also call for doing away with various exemptions and concessions given both in corporation tax as well as excise duty. The exemption to small-scale industry with a turnover up to Rs 4 crore or tax payable up to Rs 1 crore is a major distortion as it only helps to split businesses. The revenue cost of this exemption is estimated at Rs 12,500 crore in 2005-06 in a recent NIPFP study. The area-based exemptions in excise duties and corporation tax are a significant drain on the exchequer (Rs 2,000 crore) and they also distort the investment pattern in a major way. It may not be easy to do away with these exemptions or advance sunset clauses, but this is an area that should be explored.

Another set of measures that should be undertaken in this Budget is to facilitate the evolution of destination-based value-added tax at the state level. An important measure in this direction is to reduce the central sales tax to 2 per cent. Surely, this involves a revenue loss of about Rs 9,000 crore to the states, and surely, some mechanism for compensating them will have to be put in place. Returning the additional excise duty items - sugar, textiles, and tobacco - to the states for the levy of VAT will have to be considered. At present, in lieu of this, the states receive 1 per cent of central tax revenues as per the recommendation of the 12th Finance Commission. They could continue to receive this and the three groups of commodities could also be given to them. What ultimately happens in the Budget will depend on the political manoeuvrability. Let us hope the government will be able to steer the fiscal policy back to conform to the FRBMA targets.

From Business & Standard. com, February 6, 2006

 

CEC Needs €200 mn for Recapitalization

The development strategy of CEC Savings Bank asks for a recapitalization of 200 million euros to increase the market share from 4.3% to 6.5% in the next two years, stated the president of CEC, Eugen Radulescu. Radulescu explained that this strategy does not exclude privatization as is the management's outlook for the next two years and has in view to reach a market share of 6.5% until the end of 2008.
The CEC privatization commission requested the bank management two weeks ago to present a restructuring and development strategy for the next two years.
The analysis was requested in the context of discussions in the privatization commission on the possibility to postpone the privatization of CEC by two years.

According to Radulescu, in the same period, CEC should make investments of over 300 million lei (about 100 million euros) for upgrading the network. In case the privatization is delayed, most of the recapitalization amount will be represented by funds allocated by the Ministry of public finance, the single shareholder of CEC. The members of the privatization commission have not established the date when they intend to make a decision. Premier Calin Popescu Tariceanu said in January that the variant of privatization according to BCR model was analysed.

Two years ago, in the absence of acceptable offers, they decided to begin the process by giving away some package of shares to EBRD and International Finance Corporation, the investment division of the World Bank. Later on, the privatization of CEC caught president Basescu's attention. "You will see press trusts fighting against other press trusts because they are backed by owners who either defend Rafo, or Rompetrol, or illegal deals of FNI, or they defend the vigorous actions of getting their hands on more SIFs, or we learn we learn we want to participate in the privatization of CEC since we control some SIFs", Basescu said.

Initially, the seven investors in the race for taking over CEC were invited to present their offers until November 28, 2005 but the deadline was postponed, the privatization of BCR being a priority.In October 2005 the privatization commission requested potential buyers to present their offers. The low offers represent the main reason why the privatization was inopportune. According to analysts, the offers indicated a price of 300 million euros for the majority package of shares of the bank. CEC is the last state owned bank and the credit institution with the largest territorial network in Romania with 1400 units. Until last year, the bank activated mostly on the saving segment, benefiting from the state guarantee for all deposits, while for the cash part it made investments at the National Bank and in state bonds.

This strategy led to the constant drop of the market share and the deterioration of financial performances especially when no personnel restructuring has been made. Once interest rates in the domestic market have been reduced, CEC registered losses at the beginning of 2005 and the bank management replaced by Eugen Radulescu. CEC intends this year to obtain a profit of 10-15 million euros, compared to 2 million euros in 2005.

From Reporter.gr, February 13, 2006

Transforming Government

Richard Sarson asks how the private sector can help the Government implement its new IT strategy, 'Transformational Government' - enabled by technology. By the end of 2005, it is claimed, central and local government had achieved 96 per cent of Tony Blair's target of 'e-enabling' all government services. In November, he and the Cabinet Office launched the next phase of its strategy to use technology to transform government services. This time around, the plan is 'to join up and share services rather than duplicate them', thereby unlocking around £1.4 billion (10 per cent of the current spend on technology), and releasing some of the 50,000 IT staff currently tied up in developing departmental computer systems. These savings will be on top of the 86,000 jobs supposed to be cut by Sir Peter Gershon's 2004 Efficiency Review.

This new strategy is needed because the 'e-enabling' of the last five years did little more than pick the low-hanging fruit: taking traditional paper forms and putting them on the web. Very little 'joined-up' Government has been achieved. The new strategy aims to replace many of these systems, which are also old and custom-built, use obsolete technologies, and are relatively costly to maintain. The strategy will deliver cross-departmental services, better tools and a better infrastructure to public servants from the back-office to the front line. And the citizen will have more choice of how to access services, now that half of UK households are on the internet.

New ways to access government - Now that new channels, like the web, are replacing form-filling, the strategy plans to take a hard look at those channels. It will reduce the number of government call-centres from 130. It will look at having a single telephone number for non-emergency calls. The 2500 separate government websites will be converged on DirectGov and Business Link, and made more consistent to navigate. Mobile phones and red buttons on TVs will be new ways to access government services.

The policy implies other transformations: 'professionalising' the IT staff in the public sector. As well as career development, professionalisation focuses on skills, which, although commonplace in the private sector, are relatively new to the public sector, like 'portfolio management', 'reliable project delivery' and 'supplier management'. This will be done through the Programme and Project Management Framework of the Office of Government Commerce, which provides centres of excellence across government, as well as the IT academy set up in the summer by Ian Watmore, then head of the e-Government Unit, with the support of the NCC, BCS and IEE.

Sharing services - Because each department has so far done its own thing, each has reinvented the wheel continually, and each has, for instance, its own Human Resources and Finance functions. There are rolls of fat in the duplicated departmental systems, and the strategy aims to reduce this fat. It aims to do this by using common infrastructure and common off-the-shelf software. Again, to reduce duplication of personal data, the strategy also calls for data-sharing between departments, recognising that this is a 'major cultural shift'. To drive all this through, a Shared Service Director has been appointed in the Cabinet Office.

Groups of citizens - A major innovation is the appointment of Customer Group Directors: to look after the needs of groups of citizens across departmental boundaries. To start the process off, the Government will initially appoint directors for one citizen group (e.g. older people), one policy group (e.g. offender management), and one business group (e.g. farmers). Other groups will follow, once the role of the Group Directors has been honed down by the experience of the first three.

Steering the Customer Group Directors will be a Service Transformation Board of officials from the wider public sector who run major services and have operational delivery responsibility. The task of the board will be 'to set overarching service design principles; promote best practice; signpost the potential of technology; identify common design and development needs; and challenge inconsistency or deviation from agreed standards or best practice.' It will be tough to find senior civil servants of sufficient clout with the necessary skill-set to achieve such tasks. The success of the whole strategy will depend on the effectiveness of the Transformation Board and the Customer Group Directors. They will be in a difficult position, with responsibilities crossing departmental boundaries. The strategy is attempting what the private sector refers to as 'matrix management', not something that the public sector has been very familiar with.

How the private sector can help - It is in this area that private sector training companies and consultants can help, to teach the planners how to find out the real needs of their end-users: businesses and citizens. They will have to teach the dark arts of market research. Lower down, they must teach the staff to operate outside their departmental silos, to implement the joined-up systems. This means not just the IT staff, as part of their 'professionalisation', but the regular civil servants in the departments as well. They need to be made much more aware of what computers can and cannot do, so that they can be more proactive partners than hitherto with the IT staff in the joined-up projects.

Finally they will have to teach the civil servants how to sell the new systems to the citizen. So far, the lack of these selling and marketing skills has meant that many of the expensive web-based systems written over the past five years remain under-used. The private sector will also have much to offer in advising on the right mix of channels; telephone, internet, mobile and new channels yet to come. The private sector might well run, as intermediaries, some of these channels itself. The joined-up strategy will depend on effective data sharing. But at the moment, according to the Council for Science and Technology, 'Personal data stored by government is often of low quality - both inaccurate and incomplete - and very expensive to keep up to date'. The Government will need help both in providing the database and information management technology, and in cleansing the data.

The strategy also calls for an holistic approach to identity management, based on a suite of identity management solutions that enable the public and private sectors to manage risk and provide cost-effective services trusted by customers and stakeholders. Much of this all-embracing identity management expertise will necessarily come for the private sector.

In return for these opportunities for the private sector, the strategy demands better 'supplier management'. This includes an agreed forward sourcing strategy, including action to ensure capacity and competition in the market, an agreed performance plan for each major supplier to improve that supplier's delivery, capability and partnering with current and future public sector customers, and the use of standardised contracts, services and service boundaries, and contracts and service management models. What seems to be intended is a more stable but tougher supplier regime.

A long and winding road - The transformational strategy will not be implemented immediately. There is still unfinished business to be completed from the last spending review and the massive programmes already under way, including the reform of the Criminal Justice System, and the troubled Connecting for Health project in the NHS. And, although government services have been e-enabled, not enough citizens actually use them. A massive marketing effort is still needed to popularise the e-services, and thereby release the Gershon 80,000 staff. The strategy foresees that these tasks will take the whole of 2006.

Therefore it will only be from 2007 onwards that the transformational agenda will kick in. The plan is to have embedded the new cultures, and to have made the process irreversible, by 2011. After 2011, ' the time will be right to roll out newer technologies', and 'the culture of government will have changed to one which embraces - rather than shuns - sharing, which will continue to breakdown the silos perceived today.' This is exactly the same aim as that held by the e-government pioneers who launched the 'government.direct' initiative way back in 1996. What has been achieved in the last ten years is the easy bit. The next steps are going to be much more difficult. The Government will need all the support it can get from the private sector and the NCC, if it is to implement its strategy, albeit 15 years late.

From Pricipia, February 13, 2006

Bajuk Defends Decision to Let DARS Take Out Huge Loans

Finance Minister Andrej Bajuk has spoken up in defence of the government's decision to allow the Motorway Company (DARS) to take out loans in excess of EUR 1bn until 2010. The government would like to conclude the motorway programme promptly, but it will also pay attention to Slovenia's public finance upon eurozone entry, he told the press as he presented the bill on state guarantees. The bill, which Bajuk presented at a press conference together with Transport Minister Janez Bozic in Ljubljana on Tuesday, 31 January, allows DARS to take out state-guaranteed loans worth EUR 1.03bn until 2010. According to Bozic, the bill ensures the funding necessary for the construction of 90% of the Slovenian motorway network, that is 516.5 out of 572.6 kilometres planned for construction.

As much as EUR 47.57m will be needed in 2006, Bozic added. The loans or guarantees will be repaid with licence fees, which he expects will increase in the next few years. Bajuk meanwhile stressed that DARS has been re-incorporated as a joint stock company and is entirely owned by the state, yet, is not a part of public finances. Therefore, Bajuk continued, its budget funds will drop by SIT 19.2bn (EUR 80.14m) in 2006 and by SIT 12.6bn (EUR 52.6m) in 2007. "We believe the same goals can be achieved with increased indebtedness," he added.

Bozic moreover announced that Slovenia intends to draw even more money from the EU's cohesion funds between 2007 and 2013, that is from EUR 250m to EUR 300m. The bill, which is scheduled for fast-tracking in parliament next week, was endorsed on Thursday, 2 February by the parliament's committee on finance and monetary policy despite protests by opposition MPs, who doubt DARS would even be able to repay the loans. The committee for transport endorsed the second piece of legislation required for the loans, the bill on state consent to DARS to take out loans and issue bonds for motorway construction.

From Slovania Press Agency, February 6, 2006

IMF Officials Evaluate Romania's 2006 Projected Deficit

IMF visiting officials met with the officials of the Romanian Public Finance Ministry to discuss the 2005 budget implementation, and after the Romanian officials gave details and analysed the substantiation of the budget revenues provided for 2006, IMF officials stated that the projected deficit for 2006 is within the observed trend, ACT Media news agency reports. The IMF technical officials first looked into the profit tax, also touching on changing the status of part of the companies from micro-enterprises that pay revenue tax to companies that pay profit tax. The Finance Ministry officials explained the grounds of the estimated impact of switching to the 16 percent flat tax on incomes and profit in 2005.

With regards to the tax on interest rate revenues and the revenues from the individuals' capital gains, the Romanian officials detailed the methodology for estimating the revenues. The two sides discussed the tax on land that currently is collected by the local public administration but it is transferred to the state budget. On direct taxes, the two sides discussed details of the calendar for the excise rises agreed with the European Union, its applicability and the potential impact on the costs sustained by the economic operators.

The two sides agreed that the projections for budget revenues made by the Finance Ministry and the IMF have close values. The capital expenditure will grow this year to 3 percent of GDP up from 2.4 percent in 2005, as a result of the enhanced investment in infrastructure set for this year. The IMF technical mission noted that the material expenditure has diminished and raised the question of the sustainability of such provisions. The Romanian officials underscored that last year, unlike in 2006, Romania sustained additional costs for fighting the effects of floods and for the payment of the arrears in the health care system. The Romanian and IMF officials discussed the salary rises planned for the state sector staff.

The Romanian side announced it sought to create 8,500 jobs in the public sector in a move meant to boost the absorption rate of the European funds allotted to Romania. The two sides agreed that the impact that the higher salary costs might have on the state budget following the creation of these new jobs will be entirely offset by diminishing the "salary bill" in the state sector, also by blocking the vacancies (included in the 2006 budget). On interest rate expenditure, the Romanian officials do not estimate savings to be as high as the ones recorded last year due to a favourable development of the exchange rate of the Romanian currency, which saw an appreciation against the euro and the U.S. dollar.

Also tackled were the transfers and subsidies set in the 2006 budget compared to the 2005 revised budget and the 2005 budget implementation. The Romanian officials presented the main legal provisions, already approved, that took force on Jan. 1, 2006 and that lay at the bases of the substantiation of the 2006 general consolidated budget revenues. Emphasis was made on the implementation of the 16 percent flat tax on personal incomes and corporate profit and on personal deductions in 2006. The talks will continue in the upcoming days with a view to analysing the evolution of the capital expenditure and material expenditure over 2004-2006, the changes in the tax legislation set for 2006 as well as the medium-term (2006-2009) fiscal-budget perspectives taking into account the plans of the Romanian government and Romania's pre- and post-accession budget needs.

From reporter.gr, February 1, 2006

 

Inaugural Government Technology Conference & Exhibition Attracts Public Sector and Technology Leaders in Bahrain

Convened under the official patronage of H.E. Dr Hassan Fakhro, Minister of Industry & Commerce, Kingdom of Bahrain, and supported by the Central Informatics Organisation, Government Technology Middle East (GOVTEC) is designed to bring the region's public sector IT decision-makers face-to-face with leading international technology vendors from around the world. Public sector enterprises have always been a key driver of the region's IT demand. As their technology requirements become more sophisticated, there is clearly a need for an IT event exclusively focused on this sector. GOVTEC is being launched to fill this important niche.

The launch of GOVTEC comes in the wake of rising technology investments by the region's public sector enterprises. 'With stronger emphasis on good governance, elimination of bureaucracy and transparency, the region's governments are investing heavily on upgrading their IT infrastructures and rolling out e-government programmes,' said Paul Stott, Managing Director of UK-based Media Generation Exhibitions Ltd, the event organisers working in association with the BCEB. 'According to IDC, the public sector will represent the region's second largest industry vertical after the finance sector in terms of overall IT investments over the next five years. It is estimated that public sector spending on IT will range between US$800 - US$900 million in 2005-2006.'

'Most government departments within the region outsource the bulk of the their IT projects. This translates into a huge opportunity for technology providers and makes the region one of the world's most attractive public sector IT markets.' GOVTEC will display a wide array of specialised technology solutions for the public sector, including CRM and contact centres; data protection; database tools and operating systems; disaster recovery and business continuity; GIS; information security; knowledge, records and document management; outsourcing; e-procurement, systems and enterprise application integration; web, Internet and ASP services; and workflow management, among others.

Running alongside the exhibition will be a prestigious conference, being produced under the guidance of Dubai-based ITP Events. Featuring over 25 expert speakers, this conference will focus on the most pressing technology challenges facing public administrators, including the creation of next generation government architecture; proprietary versus open source software; public sector IT governance; citizen-centric government; public private partnership; e-learning; e-health; mobile government; and security for government systems.

'While there are quite a few generic e-government conferences in the region, GOVTEC 2006 is the only integrated exhibition and conference on public sector technology. For technology vendors eyeing multi-million dollars worth of government contracts, this is an unrivalled opportunity to meet with and showcase their solutions to a highly qualified audience of public sector decision-makers,' said Paul Stott. Microsoft Corporation is the Headline Sponsor for the event. GOVTEC will run at the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre from 13-15 February, 2006 concurrently with MEFTEC, the region's largest dedicated IT event for the financial industry.

From ameinfo.com, February 14, 2006

 

Kickback Scheme Alleged in Quebec Wine Scandal

A scandal about overpriced wines may uncork political trouble for Premier Jean Charest's government. Opposition parties are calling for an inquiry into a price-fixing scheme, alleging illegal kickbacks may be involved. They accused the government of attempting to cover up questionable practices at the Societe des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) where a price-rigging system had been set up, according to a recent independent inquiry by the accounting firm KPMG.

From globeandmail.com, February 13, 2006

 
 

Left Set To Limit Airport Reforms

The government may drop Kolkata and Chennai from the list of airports to be modernised in an attempt to appease the Left Front and employees' unions, which appear to have eaten the humble pie in calling off their agitation on Friday. Instead of the privatisation model being followed for the airports in Delhi and Mumbai - which triggered the agitation - the government may adopt a model of public-private partnership for the other two airports. Another option is to ask the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to undertake the modernisation. Kolkata and Chennai are part of the long list of airports - which also has 35 non-metro ones - that the government plans to modernise in phases. "The AAI has the reserves, but these have to be used wisely. We can look at public-private partnership for developing the other two (metro) airports," said a civil aviation ministry official.

In addition, the government has assured the Left and the employees' unions that no matter the way airports are modernised in the future, AAI employees will not lose their jobs and there will be no change in employment conditions. As part of the compromise formula, a tripartite committee, with representation from the civil aviation ministry, the government, the AAI and airport employees, will take key decisions regarding the status of AAI employees after handing over the Delhi and Mumbai airports to private companies. This committee will also discuss the possibility of increasing the employee absorption ratio with private companies. The government today issued letters of intent to consortia led by GMR and GVK, awarding them the contracts to modernise the Delhi and Mumbai airports, respectively, in accordance with a decision of the Cabinet on February 1.

The Sterlite-Macquire combine, which was also in the fray, has protested against its exclusion from the financial bids, claiming that its offer was higher than GVK's. It has said in a letter to the members of an empowered group of ministers that the government, in choosing GVK for Mumbai, stands to lose Rs 2,000 crore in revenue share. The Sterlite-led consortium has questioned why its bid was considered for Delhi but not Mumbai, adding that it is also exploring the legal option. "We wish to place on record that our consortium has submitted a bid for the modernisation of the Mumbai airport, which is substantially higher at 43.04 per cent than that of the revenue share offer of the successful bidder," said the letter.

The GVK-South African airports combine bagged the contract for Mumbai as it emerged the top bidder among the four whose financial bids were opened on January 31. It offered to share 38.7 per cent revenue with the government. Meanwhile, air passengers today walked into clean airport terminals. There were also people to handle luggage and baggage trolleys. During the four-day strike, the terminals had begun to resemble and smell like garbage bins and there was no one to attend to basic functions. According to AAI officials, employees today reported to work as usual. Scores of employees at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai airports were busy cleaning up the mess. AAI employees had resumed work shortly after the strike was called off on Friday, following an assurance from the government on job security.

From Business Standard India, February 5, 2006

Government Sets Privatization of Legazpi Airport

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday told Bicolanos that the present Legazpi City airport will be privatized to pave the way for its conversion to an international airport as part of the government's tourism and economic development program for Bicolandia. Speaking at the launching of key infrastructure projects in Bicol, the Chief Executive said the upgrading of the Legazpi City airport will bolster foreign and domestic tourism and the overall economy of the Bicol region. The upgrading and modernization of the Legazpi airport to meet international standards is estimated to cost P5 billion. "What we will do is privatize the present Legazpi Airport so we'll have the new Legazpi International Airport in Barangay Alobo in Daraga , Albay that would speed up the development not only of Albay, Sorsogon but of the entire Bicol region," she said.

The President said that she had discussed the privatization plan with Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza. At the same time, she has ordered the facilitation of the approval of the financing scheme for the project under the Official Development Assistance (ODA) package. With the President during the simple program were Albay Governor Fernando Gonzalez, Albay 3rd District Representative Joey Salceda, and Polangui Mayor Jesus Salceda. Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) general-manager Robert Dean Barbers said the airport privatization plan will not only attract more tourists to Region V but help the overall development of the entire Bicol region.

In 2005, Bicol posted a 19 percent increase in foreign and 6 percent local tourist arrivals for an estimated P35 million contribution to the Philippine economy. Prior to the Polangui interaction President Arroyo inaugurated two major bridges in Albay province with a combined cost of P90.52 million. The two bridges are the P65.88 million Basud Bridge in Sto. Domingo town in the outskirts of Legazpi City, and the P24.64 million Quinale bridge in the municipality of Polangui. With the President during the inaugural drive through the Basud bridge were Albay Governor Fernando Gonzalez, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, Sto. Domingo Mayor Herbie Aguas and British Charge d'Affaires and Chief of Mission Robert Fitchett.

The longest span built under the British-assisted President's Bridge Program, the 96-meter Basud bridge forms part of the eastern backbone of the Albay road network. It is a vital link between the northeast Bicol municipalities, including Sto. Domingo, and the province of Camarines Sur. From Basud Bridge, the President motored to Polangui, Albay to inaugurate the Quinale Bridge, also a British government-assisted project, which is a vital link between the municipalities Polangui, and Libon to the national highway. The 66-meter and two-lane, single span steel-truss bridge plays a big role in the promotion and development of industries and agricultural activities in the area.

The President said that she will be back in Bicol in March this year to inspect the on-going construction of the Ligao-Pio-Duran road in the province of Albay. In an interaction with local media, President Arroyo said that "we are bold in the pursuit of infrastructure projects because we have the revenues. The road to progress is paved with the good intentions of honest taxpayers". She stressed that public infrastructure is dependent on taxes. "Tax evaders as well as smugglers must go."

From Phillipine Information Agency, february 8, 2006

Government to Help Set Up Terminal Market Complexes for Perishables

To ensure premium prices to the farmers based on quality in a competitive environment and transparent manner, the Ministry of Agriculture plans to promote the setting up of state of art Terminal Marketing Complexes for perishables on the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
The Agriculture Ministry in consultation with State Governments has initially identified eight important centres in the country, where in terminal markets for fruits, vegetables, flowers, aromatics, herbs, meat and poultry are planned to be established and operated in PPP, official sources said here today.

The 8 identified markets will be located in Mumbai, Nasik, Chandigarh, Rai (Haryana), Patna, Bhopal, Kolkata and Nagpur. Agriculture Minister has convened a meeting of all State Governments and other interested parties at the national level on February 20 to discuss the issue of setting up of such markets throughout the country. Detail project reports for these identified markets have been ready and would be submitted soon before the Cabinet for approval, sources said. Envisaging an investment of over Rs 550 crore, these identified markets would be operated professionally in a manner that integrates domestic production with food processing industries, retail chain and emerging global markets, offering premium prices to farmers for their produce.

Besides, private entrepreneurs, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have also shown keen interest in setting up of such terminal markets for the benefit of end consumers as well as the farmers. These markets are envisaged as alternate competitive markets which would auction independelty of the existing government regulated markets. The markets would also provide facility of electronic auction, grading, washing and packing lines, packaging, banking, processing and exports. The backward linkages of these markets with the farmers would be through collection centres, located conveniently in the producing areas and forward linkage through wholesalers, distribution centre supported retail and cash and carry stores.

The terminal markets will not be allowed to take user charges from the farmers more than one per cent of the value of produce for offering these services. The award for setting up of markets will be through bidding process to maintain transparency at each and every step. Such markets will provide multiple choice to the farmer for sale of his products. The modalities for the acquisition of land for the market, construction, financing and O&M of these markets in PPP mode would be worked out with the active involvement of the interested entrepreneurs, concerned State Governments and other stakeholders. The Ministry of Agriculture would serve as a facilitator, and if need be a partial financier of the venture.

From webindia123.com., February 10, 2006

CCOP Approves Secondary Public Offering of 10pc Shares of UBL

ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet Committee on Privatization (CCOP) on Saturday approved the secondary public offering of 5 percent shares of United Bank Limited with another 5 percent green show option and offering will be carried out in the next eight weeks for general public in the market. The decision was made in the meeting of the cabinet committee on Privisation held under Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in chair. (CCOP) was informed that the shares would be offered to the general public in two lots of 500 and one thousand shares and the offering would be brought t the market in the next eight weeks.

The CCOP was informed that eight parties had been pre-qualified for participating in the bidding of Pak American Fertilizer Company Limited and the bidding for the company would be held on Feb 28. The committee was informed that bidding for Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan State Oil had been scheduled in early March 2006.The CCOP was also briefed on the upcoming transactions up to 30 June 2006 namely SNGPL, SSGCL, NIT units, Jamshooro Power Company, IPOs of SLIC and PAARCO.

From Pakistan Tribune, February 19, 2006

 

UkrTelecom Attractiveness To Be Enhanced Before Holding Its Privatization

This was noted by Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov at a session of the investment council under the Transportation and Communication Ministry. The Cabinet of ministers filed a bill with the Verkhovna Rada, aimed at unblocking the privatization of the public joint-stock company UkrTelecom. According to the bill, the UkrTelecom privatization will be held under the same scheme as the KryvorizhStal. UkrTelecom controls more than 80 percent of the Ukrainian telephone communication market, servicing 9.3 M. users

From NRCU Ukrainan Radio, February 2, 2006

Sofia Nods Bulgaria Air Privatization Strategy

Bulgaria's Cabinet approved Thursday the strategy for the privatization of Bulgaria's flag-carrier Bulgaria Air. Bulgaria will offer 99.99% of national flag-carrier for sale in 2006, Transport Minister Peter Mutafchiev explained. Bulgaria Air will be sold out at a public two-stage tender, which is open to strategic and financial investors, only if the company, which owns no less than 5% of the partnership, is Bulgarian or European. The investor is expected to be known by June this year, the minister said. Bidders can be air carriers, only if the company, which owns no less than 51% of the partnership, has posted EUR 150 M of revenues in aviation services for the last two years and have flown 750,000 passengers for the same period.

Financial investors are required to manage over EUR 250 M in assets or to hold stakes in other companies in excess of EUR 150 M. The requirement for sales exceeding EUR 150 M practically leaves out local companies. The state-owned company succeeded bankrupt Balkan Airlines in late 2002. Minister Mutafchiev underlined that the strategy is to be approved by the Parliament in two weeks. It will then be handed to the Privatization Agency. The sale process will then go on at least three months.

From Sofia News Agency, February 2, 2006

ERDEMIR's Sale to OYAK Annulled

After the Council of State rejected the sale of TUPRAS state-owned refineries, ERDEMIR, the state-run Turkish iron-and-steel company, is now in line for the legal actions brought against privatizations. The Chamber of Mechanical Engineers brought a case to the State Council against The Supreme Council of Privatization's approval of ERDEMIR's stay of execution, because the Chamber thought the sale constituted a major contradiction to public interest as well as the law. OYAK, the Retirement Pension Fund, made the highest bid for the 46.12 percent sale of ERDEMIR on October 4 with its $2.77 billion offer. On Thursday, head of Chamber Emin Koramaz argued the tender was carried out in violation of Article 167 of the Constitution.

From Zaman Online, February 3, 2006

Government to Keep Control of Gas Market

Authorities have decided against the privatization of the national gas producer and supplier Romgaz by keeping at least a 51% share of the company. The government announced that the re-organization of Romgaz will carry on, in accordance with proposals submitted by a consultant within six months. The decision to abandon privatization was made after a report of the Ministry of Economy and Trade showed that such a move would have been unfavorable for Romania. Romgaz is the main gas producer in Romania and holds the largest quantities of gas stored in Romania. President Traian Basescu discussed the sale of the gas producer with members of the government at the beginning of the year and established that the employed method should carefully consider all the effects on the market. Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated at the time that Romania should benefit from its own natural gas deposits.

The minister of Economy and Trade, Codrut Seres, stated last November that the privatization of Romgaz would be completely different than that of local oil company Petrom, which was sold in 2004 to the Austrian group OMV. "Blocking dues for a long period of time is unnatural and unfair," said Seres in a press conference. The Petrom privatization was at the center of attention for a long time after fuel companies increased prices several times last month over a period of one week. The media reacted, prompting authorities to interfere and find solutions to temper Petrom's commercial policy. The privatization contract was also brought to public attention, and the president requested to see the contract for analysis. Moreover, President Traian Basescu invited the heads of the main oil groups to Romania to find common grounds for pricing policy, which would take into account Romania's own oil resources, and develop a strategy based on this.

Basescu stressed that oil groups could make a significant contribution in accomplishing objectives of the development program, such as reducing the inflation rate and decreasing the trade deficit, given the scale of the damage caused by floods and the unpredictable price hikes of oil on international markets. Referring to the privatization of Romgaz, Seres stated that the authorities will not privatize gas providers in such a manner as to make the population dependent on one investor for natural gas. His point of view was supported by Tariceanu and Basescu.
Seres believes that Romgaz could be privatized through the stock market, a policy which has been adopted by other companies.

The minister did not offer further details, as the strategy should be developed by the consultant. "I do not want to steal glory from the consultant," stated Seres. The consultant to the Romanian government is a consortium created by Credits Suisse First Boston, Linklaters and FRAI. The Hungarian company Mol expressed its interest in participating in the privatization of Romgaz, as did Gaz de France, the German company Lukoil and the British company Wintershall. Romgaz's turnover amounted to approximately 648 million euros at the end of last year.

From Bucharest Daily News, February 5, 2006

Foreign Interest in $4 Billion Hospital Project

The Turkish Ministry of Health will make investments in the private sector. Preparations for the hospital and all the building needs have been completed based on a European model. The ministry has also allowed for the possibility of renting a "hospital" in July 2005. According to the new model, the private sector would build a "hospital campus" on predetermined state lands. The campus will include a hotel, cafeteria, bank and shopping center. Once the nearly $4 billion-project is complete, the ministry will lease the premises for 49 years. The officials highlight the system has been successfully implemented in Europe and make the following assessment: "Public lands were rented out formerly. We will rent out land to successfully requesting the use of it, but we will also rent out buildings on the land, too. We will thus obtain the new hospitals we are in need of."

Companies from the UK, Spain, Germany and US presented have their proposals to the ministry. There are also offers from Kuwait and Dubai. The project the Ministry of Health is working on has been implemented in Europe as a model of "public-private partnership." The first projects will be realized in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Antalya. The "hospital campuses" in these four provinces are expected to cost $2 billion. The same model also involves constructing "regional hospitals" with a total investment of $2 billion in 20 Turkish cities. The regional hospitals to be modernly equipped will be better equipped than other hospitals in the region, and patient transfers will first be made to these regional hospitals. With this, the ministry aims at preventing the transfer of patients from regional areas to Istanbul and Ankara.

The Turkish Ministry of Health completed the investment of 88 hospitals, 33 additional premises, six health centers, 162 outpatient clinics, and 16 health houses between 2003 and 2005. The ministry conducted a health inventory in 2003 for the first time in Turkey. The profile of the health facilities in 81 provinces and all institutions and establishments affiliated with the ministry was made in the survey. In the light of the data obtained, 395 investments found unnecessary were annulled and an economy of YTL 300 million was realized. However, as the budget was not able to meet the new investment needs despite the measures taken, the legal arrangement "allowing the renting out of hospitals" was made. The ministry taking action after the arrangement prepared the "Public-Private Sector Partnership Investment Model" project. The project allows companies to build hospitals and to rent them to the state.

The model involves building hospitals with all the necessary technical equipment in accordance with the agreement provisions on the land given to the investor. The Ministry of Health will rent the completed building in line with the conditions for 49 years. The fully equipped hospitals to be built by the private sector will be operated as state hospitals by the Ministry of Health. The rent will be paid from the circulating capital of the hospital. Investors are not allowed to use the land they receive from the state for any other purpose; they cannot transfer it to a third party without permission from the ministries of Finance and Health. All hospitals will be built according to the decision of the High Planning Board and the approval of the Ministry of Health. The company that wins the project will start construction this year and is expected fully complete its investment within 36 months.

From Zaman Online, February 16, 2006

 

'Privatization' a Misnomer for P3s, Official Says

Open house on Whistler sewer upgrade planned tonight - aforsythe@whistlerquestion.com - A group calling itself Whistler Water Watch Committee has started a petition in opposition to what they refer to as the privatization of Whistler's wastewater treatment plant. But on the eve of today's (Feb. 2) public open house on plans for a $24 million upgrade of the plant, an official with Partnerships B.C. this week said the word "privatization" is a misnomer which has been erroneously applied to P3s. "There is a large difference between the two," said Steve Hollett, who is overseeing the project for Partnerships B.C., a provincial Crown corporation. "Under privatization the assets, the operation and complete control goes to the private sector. Under a P3 contract the public partner, in this case the RMOW, sets rates, standards and still owns the plant."

He said the advantage is the company that gets the contract integrates design, construction and operation of the plant under one roof, which is more efficient than a more complex arrangement combining public operation with multiple contracts for the design and construction of the plant. He cited several examples of P3 contracts for wastewater plants or similar operations in B.C. and Alberta that have resulted in significant savings for the municipalities involved. "Jasper's plant, which was a very similar situation to what Whistler is undertaking — a plant upgrade — saved 37 per cent on construction costs and, to date, 20 per cent on operating costs. "Sooke on Vancouver Island completed their water treatment plant 18 months ago and saved 33 per cent on capital costs," said Hollett, who named several other examples of wastewater or water treatment plants done as P3s that have resulted in similar savings in construction and operation costs.

Hollett said that in his capacity as assistant deputy finance minister for 12 years, he has overseen spending for roads, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure projects. "I've looked at many models of finance and seen what works and what doesn't," he said. Hollett says P3s are by and large an efficient model that works to the advantage of all parties involved. "In essence, it's a long-term contract that pays for performance and penalizes non-performance," he said. The Whistler Water Watch petition urges the Mayor and Council to impose a moratorium on the bidding process "until thorough public consultations have been conducted." It states that the partnership "will not be subject to the Freedom of Information Act," and will make Whistler's wastewater treatment services vulnerable to the disciplines of trade agreements under NAFTA, GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades) and the World Trade Organization.

Hollett, though, pointed out that the proposal for Whistler's wastewater treatment plant has been studied by the accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers from the financing point of view and the technical analysis is being done by Associated Engineering, who have done technical analysis of similar projects across Canada. Both are recommending Whistler proceed with the P3 contract. An RMOW-appointed blue-ribbon panel made the same recommendation. "The due diligence done on this project is as great if not greater than any I have been involved with," Hollett said. The open house takes place today from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Spruce Grove Field House.

From Whistler Question, February 2, 2006

Democrats Decry Onward March of Privatization

INDIANAPOLIS - State Democrats, including one local legislator, expressed concern Thursday over Gov. Mitch Daniels' plan to privatize the administration of state welfare programs and health care services for the poor and elderly. This effort entered the final stage this week, with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration asking private firms to submit proposals for what could be a 10-year contract worth more than $1 billion. State officials say the winning bidder would create faster, more accurate electronic systems for processing applications for food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the formal name for welfare. The contract also would cover myriad Medicaid programs that provide health care for low-income children, the chronically ill and fixed-income seniors.

"We're doing this because we're terrible at eligibility intake," Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Mitch Roob said Thursday. "We have very dedicated workers, but we deal in a very antiquated system." Democrats have opposed every effort to privatize state services, including last year's reorganization of unemployment services and, more prominently, Daniels' current push to lease out the Indiana Toll Road and use the profits to prop up Major Moves, his statewide road construction plan. "It appears to be the motus operandi of this administration to try to run state government like the corporate world and here's another example," state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said.

"The Major Moves is one and now this -- to say that the people who are the neediest, we want to turn that over to a private concern that will, naturally, want to make a profit on the backs of the folks that are in the greatest need for social services from the state." Unlike the Toll Road lease, the social services administration contract does not require input from the General Assembly. Neither effort was put before a public hearing, though, Roob insists that his agency sought a wealth of public input. The Senate, meanwhile was expected to consider legislation Thursday night that would allow the state to privatize Bureau of Motor Vehicles branches. It's unclear if that measure has the governor's support. "The biggest concerns are the jobs Hoosiers are losing," said House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend.

But Roob said bringing in a private firm to overhaul the administration of social services won't result in pink slips for the 2,300 state employees now doing the work. Most will be able to take a job with the private firm at the same pay and similar benefits, he said. About 700 employees could move to the state's child welfare division and any remaining displaced workers will be offered jobs elsewhere in state government, Roob said. And a private company will not decide whether a single mom qualifies for food stamps or if the state will pay for an aging Hoosier's nursing home stay, Roob said. The firm merely will modernize the paper trail. "At a conceptual level, we are captive of a really antiquated system," he said.

"Our employees are captive of that system, and the people we're trying to help are captive of our system. That's why we're doing this." Today, it takes about a month for the state to process an application for most of these services, Roob said. The goal is to cut the wait time to about a week. Firms must submit their privatization proposals to the state by March 15. The losing bidders will not be made public until after the state signs a contract with the winner, likely sometime this summer. Roob said that stipulation reflects the typical process for outsourcing state services.

From Munster Times, February 3, 2006

Privatization Is No Answer To Improving Education

One of the most contentious issues in the school funding reform debate has little to do with finances. Sure, critics maintain that schools don't need more money to provide a better education. Increasingly, however, the main argument against reforming public education funding focuses on how broken the system is, rather than the cost of fixing it. In essence, critics claim the public school system is a bureaucratic dinosaur so stifled by regulations and lack of innovation that it's incapable of delivering a high-quality education, regardless of funding level.

Under this line of thinking, privatization is the key to better schools. Since private schools compete for students, they're compelled by the market to provide the quality education consumers demand. To support their claims, privatization advocates note that private-school students consistently outperform public school students on National Assessment of Education Progress tests. So, rather than waste additional revenue on enhancing public education, the most efficient use of taxpayer money is supporting more school choice, through public funding of private and charter schools. The resulting competition will force public schools to improve.

But what if the theory's fundamental premise - that private schools outperform public schools - is wrong? Christopher and Sarah Theule Lubienski, University of Illinois professors, recently tested that premise in the most comprehensive study of relative performance of public vs. private school students. The full study, which analyzed National Assessment of Education Progress math test scores for fourth- and eighth-graders, is available online at www.ncspe.org. What separates this study is that for the first time, the research controlled for the role demographics such as student socioeconomic status, English proficiency, disability, race/ethnicity, gender and school location play in student achievement.

The study's main finding is eye-opening: Demographic differences between students in public and private schools more than account for the relatively high raw scores of private schools. According to Christopher, after factoring in demographic differences, ''the advantageous private-school effect completely disappears, and even reverses in most cases, seriously calling into question the common wisdom that private schools provide a better education than public schools.''

Sarah notes the research team didn't expect this result. ''I went to a private, conservative Christian school and had no preconceived bias on the issue. I just wanted to mine the data to create an accurate, comprehensive picture.'' Mission accomplished. The study analyzed more than 190,000 fourth-graders in 7,485 schools and more than 153,000 eighth-graders in 6,092 schools. In each instance, the number of students studied was 10 times greater than previous research. The study analyzed math rather than reading scores, because children primarily learn math in school, whereas most learn some reading at home. Hence, math better isolates the impact of the school on achievement.

The bottom line is clear. Private schools have students that come from better backgrounds, more affluence and have more home academic resources than public school students. Once those factors are considered, public school students outperform their private school peers. This means public schools are especially adept at educating the students who are most difficult to teach. It also means the fundamental basis of the argument in favor of privatization - that the competitive market produces a better education -- is wrong. Yet, the assumption that market forces compel private schools to demonstrate better academic performance than public schools remains valid. That's how a private school differentiates itself and attracts tuition-paying students.

What proponents of privatization failed to consider is that private schools can attain better test score results in two ways. First is doing a better job of educating children. But it's very difficult (and expensive) to educate at-risk kids who come from concentrated poverty, have special needs, or aren't fluent in English. Far easier and much less expensive to attract students who are more likely to achieve academically and avoid those difficult to teach. Effectively, private-sector forces compel private schools to recruit top students, because it is the most cost-effective way to produce top scores. There's no incentive to design an education that can reach students who are difficult to teach, because there's no profit to be made from teaching poor kids.

Ironically, this was predicted by Adam Smith, the father of capitalism. In his seminal work, The Wealth of Nations, Smith called for the public sector to assume responsibility for educating the general public. In Smith's words, ''The education of common people requires, in a civilized and commercial society, the attention of the state.'' Smith supported public education for ''common'' folks because they couldn't afford private schools. He contrasted that with the position of individuals of ''rank and fortune,'' because their parents are ''willing enough to lay out the expense necessary'' to educate them. The data show that Smith was right. When it comes to educating the public, nothing works better than public schools.

From Chicago Sun Times, February 4, 2006