Sunday,19 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)
Sunday,19 August, 2018
Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Parliament approves new Civil Service Law

MPs and the government reach common ground over regulations governing the work of public employees, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

A revised Civil Service Law — the initial draft was rejected by MPs in January — was approved by parliament this week. The vast majority of the revised law’s 76 articles were approved on Sunday, with amendments proposed by MPs debated on Monday.

Following a lengthy debate which stretched into Sunday night a majority of MPs sided with the government over article 37 which now stipulates a seven per cent increase in the salaries of state and government employees.

The government’s original draft had set the annual increase at five per cent. This was rejected overwhelmingly by MPs in January. Led by the small 25-30 group of opposition MPs, they argued salary increases significantly below inflation rates would fuel unrest in the street. 

“If the government is serious about achieving social justice it must ensure state employees receive an adequate increase in their pay every year,” argued leftist MP Haitham Al-Hariri.

According to Minister of Planning Ashraf Al-Arabi, the government had hoped salaries could be raised by 10 per cent but this was not done due to the severe financial squeeze we are facing”.

Opponents of the original draft also complained that it stripped up to five million public employees of reasonable financial bonuses and made it easy for the authorities to dismiss employees on flimsy grounds.

Al-Arabi insists the new Civil Service Law focusses mainly on fighting and reforming Egypt’s antiquated administrative system.

“This law seeks to overhaul administrative systems and the organisational structure of state authorities,” he said. “It will help government departments streamline their performance and guarantee ordinary citizens receive quality services.”

“It incorporates a follow-up system to allow corruption in government circles to be tracked, raise the quality of public services and build new bridges between the state and its citizens.”

It will also, added Al-Arabi, ensure that public appointments go to the most capable candidates “by ensuring strict employment criteria are applied”. 

The new law will cover 6.3 million employees in state departments. “These include government ministries, public authorities and city councils but exclude autonomous entities like the Suez Canal Authority, the Egypt Railway Authority, the Television and Radio Union and Cairo and Alexandria’s Public Transport Authorities,” said Al-Arabi.

Deputy Finance Minister Ahmed Al-Sayed reports that the cost of state salaries rose from LE207 billion in the 2014/2015 budget to LE218 billion in the 2015/2016 budget.

“Despite the huge costs of salaries, which gobble up third of the budget, the government has agreed on an increase in the annual pay rise for state employees from 5 per cent to 7 per cent. This will cost an additional LE2 billion which is the maximum the government can afford,” said Al-Sayed.

Al-Sayed noted that the new law also places restrictions on government departments hiring costly private consultants,” he said.

Al-Wafd and Free Egyptian Party MPs joined the pro-regime ‘Long Live Egypt’ bloc in saying they fully understood a seven per cent increase was the most the government could afford.

“We want the annual bonus to be set at more than 10 per cent per year but we know the government is facing severe financial stress and the budget deficit cannot be allowed to spin further out of control,” says Ayman Abul-Ela, parliamentary spokesman of the Free Egyptians Party. But Abul-Ela warned “the seven per cent bonus cannot be kept in place for years but must be revised annually in line with inflation”.

MPs also approved article 38 which regulates incentive payments available to public employees.

The article stipulates that “employees receiving such payments must be rated highly efficient for two consecutive years and the incentives will be restricted to one year out of every three”.

“The number of employees eligible for the incentive should not exceed 10 per cent of the total number of state employees in any single year.”

The leftist 25-30 group had also raised objections that the new law “leaves government employees at the mercy of senior officials,” according to leftist MP Khaled Youssef.

Mohamed Gamil, chairman of the Central Apparatus for Regulation and Management, insists “penalties allowed under the new law are gradual and aim only to ensure discipline among state employees.”

“Employees failing to meet the requirements of their job will first receive a warning. Should the situation not improve they might lose part of their salaries or be suspended for a period of up to six months. They could also be stripped of any promotion,” says Gamil.

Article 58 requires employees facing disciplinary measures to be given the chance to defend themselves before the relevant committee. Article 59 specifies that the Administrative Prosecution Authority (APA) be entrusted with questioning senior officials implicated in any financial or administrative irregularities.

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