[Chapter Two] | [Contents]
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The main purpose of this concluding chapter is to
highlight, on the basis of the findings of this study, some of the
important issues of public service accountability in Lebanon and to
recommend some possible improvements.
Political Pressures and Interferences
This study clearly reveals that political pressures and interferences
constitute one of the most important problems that impede and
undermine the work of central control agencies in Lebanon. Various
governments have on many occasions resorted to bypassing, pressuring,
overruling and even intimidating central control agencies. Although
the Council of Ministers is legally empowered to overrule decisions of
some central control agencies in certain instances, it has on many
occasions attempted to influence their decisions or even to bypass
them completely. It must be pointed out that there is no uniform
pattern in this respect since some governments, have shown a much
greater inclination respect the integrity and independence of these
One of the main objectives of the Chehabi reform of 1959 was to
insulate the public service, as much as possible, from such political
pressures by establishing some central and independent agencies such
as the Civil Service Council and Central Inspection and entrusting
them with important powers relating to personnel and disciplinary
matters which they were supposed to exercise independently of any
political considerations. But the experience of Lebanon in the past
few years clearly indicates that some governments reject the basic
assumptions underlying the Chehabi reform and believe that ultimate
authority for decisions relating to administrative matters belongs to
the political leadership.
The problem of ensuring the necessary independence and immunity of
central control agencies against political infringements is a very
difficult and complex issue since it is, to a great extent, a function
of the political system that exists in Lebanon. But some improvements
are nevertheless possible and desirable within the existing political
context and could be summarized as follows:
- The authority of the Council of Ministers to overrule
decisions of the Civil Service Council and the Court of Accounts
should be abolished. The decisions of the Council of Ministers are
often motivated by political considerations which undermine the
principle of merit in the civil service.
- The immunity against possible arbitrary transfers originally
accorded to the members of the Civil Service Council and the Central
Inspection Board and which was abolished in 1976 should be restored.
This will ensure the necessary independence for these two agencies
without which they cannot effectively discharge their functions.
- The heads of central control agencies should have a limited
term of office rather than an indefinite one, as is the case now. A
term of five or six years would be a reasonable one.
- The authority of ministers to force their subordinates to
implement improper or illegal orders and which has often been abused,
should be abolished. In some countries even the military forbids its
soldiers to follow illegal orders.
Court of Accounts
The financial pre-audit conducted by the Court of Accounts is totally
unjustified since it duplicates to a great extent the pre-audit of the
Ministry of Finance and results in cumbersome and unnecessary delays
in government work. We also believe that the dispersion of the
disciplinary function among three different agencies, the Court of
Accounts, Central Inspection and the General Disciplinary Council is
unjustified and contributes to a weakening of the whole disciplinary
process. In the light of these findings it is recommended that:
- The financial pre-audit of the Court of Accounts should be
abolished as soon as possible.
- The disciplinary role of the Court of Accounts in financial
matters should be abolished and entrusted to Central Inspection.
- The Court of Accounts should focus its attention on the
post-audit of all government accounts and its jurisdiction in this
respect should be extended to include all public and autonomous
Ministry of Finance
The financial pre-audit of the Ministry of Finance is a slow and
complex process which involves a number of repetitive and duplicate
steps and a high degree of centralization. The simplification of this
process could have a noticeable effect on expediting government
transactions. It is recommended that:
- The pre-audit of the Ministry of Finance should be simplified
and streamlined by eliminating some of the duplicate and repetitive
checks and by decentralizing the pre-audit both in terms of operating
ministries and the regions.
Criminal Prosecution of Civil Servants
Lebanese law stipulates that civil servants whose acts on the job
constitute a violation of the criminal code are liable for criminal
prosecution in addition to administrative disciplinary sanctions. But
the law provides that criminal prosecution in such cases is dependent
on the prior approval of the superiors of the offending civil servant.
This is an odd provision, to say the least, since it violates the
principle of equal treatment of all citizens before the law, and has
been used in many instances to prevent the justifiable prosecution of
some offending civil servants. As a result it is recommended that:
- The legal provision that the criminal prosecution of offending
civil servants is
subject to the prior approval of his superiors should be
abolished as soon as
Parliamentary Oversight of the Public Service
The present system of public service accountability in Lebanon relies
primarily on a number of central control agencies which are located
within the executive branch and whose effectiveness has often been
inhibited by the undue influence that the Council of Ministers can
exercise over their work. The Lebanese Parliament, for a variety of
reasons discussed earlier, has not been able so far to play a
significant role in holding the public service accountable for its
With the recent strengthening of Parliament following the Taif
Agreement and its increasing awareness of its important oversight role
of the public service every effort should be made to encourage
parliament to exercise this role and to become a key player in the
area of public service accountability. The oversight role of
parliament could be enhanced through the following possible changes:
- The Court of Accounts should be transferred from the executive
branch to parliament, and should become the main instrument of the
latter in checking the use of public funds throughout the public
- The investigative powers of parliamentary committees should be
extended to enable them to conduct investigations of improper
activities in the executive branch. If the existing parliamentary
committees are too pre-occupied with legislative work, some special
select committees should be established and entrusted with
- There is an urgent need to significantly increase the
professional staff of parliament to enable it to effectively discharge
its legislative and oversight functions.
- There is an equally urgent need to provide parliament with
adequate and timely information about the activities of the executive
branch. This could be done through regular periodic reports submitted
to parliament by all ministries and government agencies about their
Accountability of Ministers and Members of Parliament
One of the most serious gaps in the system of accountability in the
Lebanese government is the almost total lack of responsibility of
Ministers and members of parliament for misconduct and violations of
existing laws and regulations. As was mentioned earlier the Supreme
Council for the prosecution of offending presidents and ministers
which was provided for in the 1926 constitution is not yet operative.
The 1953 law relating to the illicit wealth of public officials,
including ministers and deputies, has never been applied.
It is quite obvious that Ministers and members of parliament cannot be
expected to hold civil servants responsible for misconduct and abuses
unless they are themselves held responsible of these same issues. A
system of public service accountability cannot be taken seriously if
it is applied only to civil servants and does not include their
overseers, the ministers and members of parliament. As a result the
following immediate measures are recommended to help rectify this
- A comprehensive code of conduct that regulates the behavior
and actions of ministers and members of parliament should be
formulated and put into effect as soon as possible.
- The Supreme Council for prosecuting presidents and Ministers
should be activated as soon as possible.
- The existing law on the illicit wealth of public officials
should be updated and applied as soon as possible.
- A special parliamentary committee on the ethical conduct of
deputies should be established as soon as possible.