[Chapter Two] | [Contents]





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.

  1. 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 control agencies.

    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:

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

  2. 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:

    1. The financial pre-audit of the Court of Accounts should be abolished as soon as possible.

    2. The disciplinary role of the Court of Accounts in financial matters should be abolished and entrusted to Central Inspection.

    3. 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 agencies.

  3. 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:

    1. 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.

  4. 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:

    1. 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 possible.

  5. 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 actions.

    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:

    1. 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 service.

    2. 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 investigative work.

    3. There is an urgent need to significantly increase the professional staff of parliament to enable it to effectively discharge its legislative and oversight functions.

    4. 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 activities.

  6. 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 situation:

    1. 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.

    2. The Supreme Council for prosecuting presidents and Ministers should be activated as soon as possible.

    3. The existing law on the illicit wealth of public officials should be updated and applied as soon as possible.

    4. A special parliamentary committee on the ethical conduct of deputies should be established as soon as possible.


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