Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 October 2012
Issue No. 1118
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Choice of a clean slate

Mohamed Abdel-Baky reports on the new appointments at the Homeland Security Sector and the Central Agency for Organisation and Administration

Late last week, Minister of Interior Ahmed Gamaleddin appointed Khaled Tharwat the new chief of the Homeland Security Sector (HSS), an affiliate to the Interior Ministry, after Tharwat's predecessor reached the age of retirement.

Tharwat worked for 30 years at the dissolved State Security Investigation Bureau (SSI), which is now called the HSS. Over the past year, he was the sector's deputy chief.

Tharwat graduated from the Police Academy in 1978 and started working on the Cairo Security Directorate before joining the SSI in 1982. During his work in the SSI Tharwat worked on issues related to opposition political parties and their mouthpieces.

He also worked for several years in the department of labour unions and university student union affairs within the SSI.

It was not easy for the interior minister to appoint a new HSS chief; the minister was seeking someone who had long years of experience at the SSI with no hostile history with the Muslim Brotherhood.

"For the Muslim Brotherhood, Tharwat has a white page. Over the last 30 years, he never worked on the Muslim Brotherhood portfolio within the SSI. He was never involved in interrogating or torturing members of the Islamists groups like Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya or Jihad", security sources close to Tharwat were quoted in the press.

Immediately after Tharwat's appointment, President Mohamed Morsi and Tharwat discussed ways of restructuring the HSS and of fighting terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula.

The HSS was established in May 2011 following the dissolution of the SSI. According to the Ministry of Interior, the main responsibilities of the HSS are counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance. However, experts believe that the HSS does not play a major role in the ongoing battle against armed Islamist groups in Sinai.

Former Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Al-Kassas believes that the Muslim Brotherhood leaders played an important role in choosing Tharwat to head the HSS.

"The MB wants to control the Interior Ministry and its affiliated agencies by appointing officials from inside the ministry that used to have good relations with the group during Mubarak's rule," he added.

The appointment of a new chief for the HSS also came amid controversy that Morsi will transfer the jurisdiction of the HSS from the Ministry of Interior to the presidency. However, the presidency hurried to deny such a move.

Meanwhile, President Morsi made a big move on Thursday when he sacked Safwat Al-Nahhas, chief of the Central Agency for Organisation and Administration (CAOA), the country's administrative watchdog, replacing him with Gihan Abdel-Rahman, who was the CAOA's secretary-general.

Al-Nahhas said the president's decision to sack him came as a "surprise" and that he was unaware of the reasons.

"Gihan has long experience and great leadership skills. She has been serving the CAOA for decades and she deserves the position," Al-Nahhas said, denying that she has any affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood or any other political group.

"I known her as a polite professional expert and I never heard that she has any political activities," he added. Al-Nahhas had served as the head of CAOA since 2004 after a long career in Egypt's military apparatus.

Established in 1964, the CAOA is the government body charged with organising public administration and developing efficiency in government authorities.

As a new head of the agency, Abdel-Rahman is expected to soon announce a decision that would apply a new minimum wage system for government employees, following a court order in 2010 that forces the Egyptian government to raise the minimum wage to LE1,200.

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