Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Laws in the pipeline

MPs face a heavy legislative schedule, writes Gamal Essam El-Din


Laws in the pipeline
Laws in the pipeline

The House of Representatives this week began grappling with a host of controversial issues. Independent and opposition MPs tabled several questions to cabinet ministers on subjects ranging from the human rights situation in Egypt to stripping those found guilty of terrorism of their nationality.

On Monday MPs began discussing amendments to the law regulating the Administrative Watchdog Authority (AWA). The draft changes, approved by parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Sunday, will update Law 54/1964 to reinforce the role of the AWA and ensure it operates in line with the 2014 constitution.

Bahaaeddin Abu Shokka, head of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, told MPs on Monday the amendments had been revised by the State Council’s Department of Legislation.

“It is high time this draft law was passed so we can step up the battle against corruption in government and administrative circles,” he said.

According to a report on the draft law prepared by the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, “Article 1 states that the AWA is an independent supervisory authority affiliated with the president of the republic in line with Article 214 of the constitution.”

Article 5 of the old law will be amended to oblige the AWA to submit an annual report to the president, parliament and cabinet. “This is in line with Article 217 of the constitution which states that the AWA must report on its activities fighting all forms of corruption and submit relevant recommendations,” says the report.

The changed law will oblige the AWA to coordinate with other watchdog institutions, including the Central Auditing Agency, to forge an anti-corruption strategy and improve transparency.

Other changes will mandate the president to name the AWA’s chairman, deputy chairman and board members, though only after parliamentary approval.

The AWA has uncovered many high-profile corruption cases.

“The amendments will allow the AWA to tighten control on corruption and help the government’s 2014 National Anti-Corruption Committee fight nepotism and reinforce accountability in government circles,” said Abu Shokka.

“We hope that strengthening the AWA will result in an improvement in Egypt’s position on Transparency International’s Perceptions of Corruption Index.”

MPs are also getting to grips with a new local councils law.

Salah Abu Himila, a member of parliament’s Local Administration Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly the new law seeks to improve the performance of local city councils.

“The draft law gives elected town councils greater powers to supervise executive local councils,” said Abu Himila. “It will turn elected local councils into mini-parliaments capable of combating corruption and withdrawing confidence from local officials, including the governor.”

The law will also regulate local council elections. It states that the poll will be conducted by a mixed electoral system with 75 per cent of candidates elected via a list system and the remaining 25 per cent as independents.

Preparation of the new draft law and security concerns have resulted in delays in holding local council elections. Local councils have yet to reconvene after being dissolved by the Administrative Court in June 2011.

“The draft law will spearhead a process of decentralisation, providing provincial governors with greater powers to enable them to implement government policies in coordination with the provincial development councils which are to be created in all governorates,” says Abu Himila.

Abu Himila revealed parliament also expects to discuss draft laws on labour conditions, trade union elections and the social insurance system.

Anew labour law will regulate relations between employers and workers. According to Abu Himila, “it will affect 26 million workers in the private sector and seeks to encourage young people to seek employment in private business rather than in government offices.”

A draft law revamping the social insurance system will increase pensions in both the private and public sector and, according to Abu Himila, ensure all employees are covered by health insurance.

“We are seeking to safeguard workers against any ill effects from liberalisation policies, particularly in the public sector,” Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said earlier this month.

Parliamentary committees also plan to discuss a new consumer protection law. “New legislation will control food prices,” said Abu Himila, “and comes after MPs complained the government has not been able to control inflation following the floatation of the Egyptian pound.”

Key draft laws covering criminal procedures, personal affairs, national press organisations and the Syndicate of Lawyers are also in the pipeline.

“All of these drafts could be seen as political legislation since they impact influential sectors of society,” says Abu Himila.

The list of government drafts to be submitted to MPs in the new session may also contain a controversial law that seeks to stem population growth.

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