This study was conducted and prepared as part of the Joint Collaborative Program on Administrative Reform in the Public Sector of Lebanon between the American University of Beirut and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. It draws liberally on papers prepared during the past three years as part of this program.

Empirical work on Lebanon was conducted by faculty members of the American University of Beirut and Lebanese senior government officials. 'Me comparative research and analysis was conducted by the Harvard participants in the program. Although this report is based on the background studies prepared by the A.U.B. and J.F. Kennedy School research teams and on extensive discussions in working sessions held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the conclusions and recommendations presented here reflect mainly the views and opinions of the A.U.B. team which was responsible for field research conducted in Lebanon.



With the conclusion of the Taif agreement in October 1989 and the election of a new president following 15 years of civil strife, Lebanon began its slow march towards peace and normalcy. The prolonged period of violence and destruction had inflicted devastating damage on all sectors of the Lebanese state and society including the public administration.

It must be pointed out that prior to the civil war the public administration was facing a number of important problems which were aggravated over the years as a result of the failure of the government to deal with them. Actually, since the Chehabi reform movement of 1959, the government had not made any significant attempt to reform the public service and adapt it to changing conditions. On the contrary, some of the changes adopted since 1959 were intended to reverse or dilute some of the reforms introduced during the Chehabi regime.

With the end of the civil war and the election of a new president in 1989, the efforts of the government were inevitably focused on the task of rebuilding the Lebanese state and society. It was obvious to all concerned that such a task could not possibly succeed without a revived and effective public administration. The revival of the public administration was not only necessary for restoring the basic role and services of the state, but more importantly for restoring public confidence in government and promoting greater political unity and stability in the country. All of these considerations in addition to the fact that the aftermath of any major crisis provides a good opportunity for introducing basic changes and improvements, which could not otherwise be possible, combined to make administrative reform one of the top priorities of the new regime.

But despite the urgent need to rebuild and revitalize the public administration, the new regime of president Elias Hrawi was not able to devote much attention to this problem until 1992 because it was preoccupied with a variety of overriding political problems such as ending the mutinous regime of General Aoun, amending the constitution to incorporate the changes adopted in the Taif agreement, consolidating the fragile peace among feuding political groups, re-asserting and extending the authority of the state, disbanding and disarming the various militias, unifying and strengthening the army and internal security forces, passing a new electoral law, and holding parliamentary elections.

Following the parliamentary elections during the summer of 1992 a new cabinet was appointed in November 1992 under the Premiership of Mr. Rafic Hariri and entrusted with the main task of dealing with the rapidly deteriorating economic and social conditions which were among the main causes of the resignation of the cabinet of Mr. Omar Karami in May 1992. By this time, the mounting and widespread complaints about the lamentable conditions in the public service had reached an unprecedented level. Mr. Hariri, who is a highly successful entrepreneur, was keenly aware of the key role that the public service is supposed to play in any program for rebuilding and developing the shattered economy in Lebanon. His cabinet also included a number of professionals from the private sector who were equally aware of the need to rebuild the public administration and improve its capabilities as a precondition for the successful implementation of any economic and social development project and for attracting badly needed foreign investments.

In addition, a number of regional and international aid agencies that were approached by Lebanon for financial assistance, especially the World Bank, were urging the government to devote greater attention to improving the capabilities of public sector agencies that were involved in the reconstruction and development process.

Since it was neither feasible or desirable, for a variety of reasons, to implement a broad and comprehensive reform program throughout the public service, the government decided on a more limited and selective approach that would focus on a number of issues that deserve priority attention. Foremost among these issues was the revitalization of central control agencies which include the Civil Service Council, Central Inspection, the Court of Accounts, the General Disciplinary Council and the Ministry of Finance which exercises a central role in financial control. The priority given to reforming these central control agencies was mainly based on the following considerations:

  • The need to restore order and discipline within a public service which had been operating for years on its own practically outside the limits of state authority which was seriously weakened as a result of the civil war. There was an urgent need in Lebanon to re-assert the principle of civil service accountability which, to begin with, had never been strong and which had been seriously eroded during the war years.

  • The urgent need to deal with the problem of the increasing and widespread corruption which is generally considered as the single most important problem within the public service. Actually the first reform project undertaken by the Hariri cabinet was the "purging" of approximately 500 corrupt government employees through a special procedure approved by parliament. Unfortunately the decision of the government to dismiss these employees was overturned by the Council of State, the highest administrative law court, for lack of sufficient evidence.

  • The urging of some international aid agencies, notably the UNDP, the World Bank, the USAID, etc... which emphasized that the rehabilitation and reform of central control agencies is to a great extent a pre-requisite for the success of the whole reform effort. As an example, the first assistance provided by the USAID for administrative reform purposes was earmarked for central control agencies and parliament.

  • The pressures from many politicians, especially some of the pro-Chehabi ones who consider such control agencies as the Civil Service Council and Central Inspection as the cornerstones of the reform program of president Chehab in 1959. Actually, in a resolution approved by parliament during 1993, the government was urged to "strengthen central control agencies, protect them and respect their decisions and recommendations".

  • Many of the proponents of reform in Lebanon believe that the revitalization of central control agencies could have a strong multiplier effect on the whole process of administrative reform because of their key role that touches upon so many aspects of the public service. As an example, reform of the personnel system cannot succeed without the reform of the Civil Service Council which exercises a central role in this whole area.

The following study was undertaken with the hope of providing a timely and useful input to the reform efforts of the Lebanese government in dealing with the important issue of control and accountability in the public service. Its main purpose is to examine the various instruments of compliance accountability in Lebanon, to identify their main problems and, whenever possible to suggest possible improvements.

The concept of compliance accountability could be briefly and broadly defined as the policy of ensuring adherence by public agencies and officials to accepted laws, standards and regulations with a view to minimizing the abuse of authority and protecting the general interest of society. The main instruments of compliance accountability that will be covered in this study are the Ministry of Finance, the Court of Accounts, Central Inspection, the Civil Service Council, the General Disciplinary Council and Parliament.



Authors of Background Studies

Dr. Habib Abi Sakr, Director General of Finance, Ministry of Finance, Government of Lebanon.

Dr. Saad Andari, Assistant Professor of Money and Banking. American University of Beirut.

Dr. Michael Barzelay, Associate Professor of Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Dr. Adnan Iskandar, Professor of Political Studies and Public Administration, American University of Beirut.

Dr. Marun Kisirwani, Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies and Public Administration, American University of Beirut.

Catherine S. Moukhaibir, Lecturer, School of Management, Boston University and Consultant, Collaborative Research Project on Administrative Reform in the Public Sector in Lebanon, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Dr. Hassan Shalak, President, Civil Service Council, Government of Lebanon.

Robert Taliercio, Doctoral Candidate, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


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