Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1304, (21 - 27 July 2016)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1304, (21 - 27 July 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Civil service law approved

Parliament has approved the controversial new civil service law in a bid to reform Egypt’s administrative sector, reports Nesma Nowar

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Parliament provisionally approved a watered-down draft of the controversial civil service law in its session on Sunday. The approval came after MP Gebali Al-Maraghi, head of the manpower committee, presented a report on the law in which some amendments had been made. MPs expressed their approval of the draft, despite reservations on some articles. 

Egypt’s parliament rejected the new civil service law in January after the majority of MPs voted against it by 332 out of 468. The law was ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in March last year in the absence of a parliament, with the aim of reforming Egypt’s administrative apparatus. 

The aim of the law is to encourage investment by curbing bureaucratic inefficiencies and streamlining hiring practices and wage structures in government.

Al-Maraghi said the amendments involved setting annual raises, due on 1 July, at seven per cent, up from the previous five per cent. The amendments set out a system for contracting temporary and seasonal workers, alongside a mechanism for appointing them.

The amendments further set out a minimum number of jobs for those injured during military and security operations and people with disabilities at five per cent of an administrative unit’s total personnel. 

Among other amendments were setting maternity and paternity leave, increasing wage increases for excellence from five to seven per cent of salaries, and decreasing daily working hours by one hour for employees with a disability or women breastfeeding their children until they were two years old.

Khaled Zakaria, a professor at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University and a member of the Ministry of Planning’s supreme committee of administrative reform, said parliament had yet to finally approve the draft law as it was still being discussed. 

He said that votes would be taken on every article of the draft law and then another vote on the draft overall. However, he said that the approval of the committee concerned, the manpower committee in this case, was a strong indication that parliament would approve the draft such that it could become law. 

The manpower committee had approved the draft law after discussion with the Ministry of Planning, he said, adding that the discussion had involved the government providing further information, after which the committee’s approval had been forthcoming. 

According to Zakaria, there are three main reservations regarding the new law. The first pertains to salaries, addressed by setting annual raises at seven per cent instead of five per cent. 

The second is on the reshuffling of employees, with some upgrading their educational qualifications in order to be transferred but adding to the public sector’s overmanning by creating additional echelons of highly qualified individuals who might not be needed. 

Zakaria said it had been agreed to make reshuffles after four years as a transitional period.

The third reservation is about penalties, which has been redressed by giving employees the right to make complaints and still preserve their rights, he added.

If passed, Zakaria said the new law would be a step forward in reforming Egypt’s administrative sector and was part of the administrative reform strategy put forward by the Ministry of Planning in 2014. 

“One pillar of the strategy is to deal with human resources in the state’s administrative apparatus, and this draft law is only part of this reform,” Zakaria told Al-Ahram Weekly. “For this reason, this law alone will not be sufficient, but it’s an important step nevertheless.”

Economist and former deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaaeddin wrote in Al-Shorouk that the law was a major step towards reform and a serious attempt to correct procedures for announcing vacant positions, testing applicants, appointing civil servants, measuring their performance, and regulating their promotion and end of service arrangements.

He said the law introduced a human resource development approach in government agencies, transparent announcements of vacant positions, standardised testing to fill them, and increases in the proportion of base pay to variable pay and a system of voluntary early retirement.

The law created a new post of permanent undersecretary in government ministries and put term limits on leadership positions, he said. It offered longer maternity leave and established a new system for assessing employee performance, allowing career advancement for those who excel, he added.

He was sceptical that certain classes of civil servants were excluded from the law, possibly entrenching job discrimination within the administration. Article one of the law stipulates that it applies to “ministries and their departments, government agencies, local administrative units, and public authorities, provided the laws and decrees establishing them do not state otherwise.”

This means that every government body or agency established by a special law is excluded from the application of the new law if their statutes exempt them from it. This contentious article was one of the reasons the draft law was previously rejected by parliament. 

Zakaria said he expected voting on the draft law to be completed this week, saying that the law was controversial because it pertained to the jobs of millions of public-sector workers and their wages. 

“That’s why these kinds of laws take time for discussion, as each article is carefully discussed in a healthy process,” Zakaria said.  

Egypt is among the world’s top-ranking countries in terms of the number of civil servants, and it has some 6.4 million state employees, or around 20 per cent of the total workforce in 2013-2014, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

Their salaries cost the government LE208 billion a year, or almost a quarter of public expenditure. Minister of Planning Ashraf Al-Arabi said that wages had cost the state LE207 billion in the 2014/2015 budget, and they had increased by LE11 billion in the 2015/2016 fiscal year to reach LE218 billion. 

In addition to the cost of salaries, corruption and inefficiency have been major negative traits of the public sector. Many employees seem to take their jobs for granted and leave upon retiring at the age of 60 with a guaranteed pension. 

Promotion in the public sector is also set by seniority and not by performance. 

 

 

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