Accountability of Lebanese Civil Servants: An Overview of Disciplinary Mechanisms

also published in
Lebanon Beyond 2000, edited by Amin Saikal and Geoffrey Jukes, CMECAS Monograph, published by the Center of Middle Eastern and Cetral Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, 1997

Maroun Kisirwani *


    . . . and every civic officer must realise that he is not set above the people to devour them, as the hawk did the frogs and the thorn the shrubs in the fables, but to preserve them from being crushed and oppressed.

    Louseau, Cing livres des offices.1

Accountability and control of civil servants are integral concepts of the administration of modem society. In this context, the mechanism for disciplining officials who fail their professional obligations or violate public laws or any standards of conduct raises important questions as to how the exercise of power can be effectively controlled. Democracies have, over the years, developed an ethos of the public service in the form of values which are expected to govern the behaviour of civil servants. These values or principles vary with nations and cultures, but meet on the responsibility of officials to act in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law and to deal equitably, justly and responsively with all individuals or groups whose interests they may affect. Such standards of integrity, conduct and professional ethics would have negated the need for internal or external controls, if compliance had been observed. But these values have regularly been undermined by practitioners in developed and developing nations alike. Consequently, a search for effective and democratic mechanisms of control over government officials has been going on for several decades.

The formal and informal mechanisms of control were the subjects of valuable debate between Herman Finer and Carl Friedrich over sixty years ago. The essence of the debate remains significant, 'given the greatly increased size, complexity and pervasiveness of the institutions and activities of the modem state, and the concomitant difficulties inherent in the imposition of effective democratic control.2 Finer's and Friedrich's main concern was how to ensure that officials will act responsibly. The disagreement among them revolved around the appropriate and viable means to achieve this end. While Finer argued that application of external punitive controls was both essential and the only effective means, Friedrich advocated 'internal mechanisms of self-control-of ethics, loyalty and a sense of responsibility-developed with the administrative environment and guided by professional standards.3

Finer unequivocally believed that in a democratic government

    There is the dual problem of securing the responsibility of officials, (a) through the courts and disciplinary controls within the hierarchy of the administrative departments, and also (b) through the authority exercised over officials by responsible Ministers based on sanctions exercised by the representative assembly. In one way or another this dual control obtains in all the democratic countries, though, naturally its purposes and procedures vary from country to country.4

Finer, furthermore, distinguished between two definitions of responsibility, political and moral, and confirmed his faith in the efficacy of external controls and of the political, as opposed to the moral, element in responsible administration. While in the first definition the essence of responsibility is the externality of the agency or persons to whom account must be rendered, the second definition puts the emphasis on the conscience of the agent. Accordingly, he believes that '[w]hile reliance on an official's conscience may be reliance on an official's accomplice, in democratic administration all parties, official, public and Parliament, will breathe more freely if a censor is in the offing.5 Friedrich, on the other hand, believed that 'responsible conduct by officials is not something to be enforced-as is the assumption behind parliamentary and other external mechanisms of controlbut rather elicited and therefore, is largely determined by [sound work rules and effective morale].6

The debate which started over sixty years ago remains valuable, and continues to challenge contemporary scholars and practitioners who are still searching for institutional and procedural innovations to the demands of a responsible and responsive bureaucracy, which recognises the public interest as the essence for its existence. The first code of ethics for public administrators in the USA was adopted in 1924 by the International City Management Association (ICM), and 'reflected the anti- corruption and anti-politics values of the municipal reform movement of the period, rather than [being] a statement of professional ethics in the tradition established by the fields of education, engineering, law, medicine and other professions.7 By 1958, the US Congress imposed a code of ethics on federal administrators, and by 1978, it expanded the code and founded the Office of Government Ethics, which, however, seems not to have established a reputation for zeal in investigating. Only in 1984 did the American Society for Public Administration adopt a code of ethics for public-sector professionals . Other countries have shown similar concern with ethical or unethical practices of their public servants. In 1989 Australia established the Management Improvement Advisory Committee (MIAC), consisting of senior public servants, and commissioned to provide advice to the Management Advisory Board (MAB), which advises the government on significant management issues. Since its establishment MIAC has issued twelve papers, all aimed at improving practices in the public sector. Of particular significance to this study are the last two, which appeared in 1993 and are entitled 'Accountability in the Commonwealth Public Sector', and 'Building a Better Public Service' consecutively.8 Furthermore, the Australian Public Service Commission, recognising the need for ethical and professional behaviour by public servants, issued in 1987 detailed guidelines on the standard of conduct expected of officials in a range of situations. These cover responsibilities, conflict of interest, proper use of government money, property, goods or services, disclosure of official information, acceptance of gifts, dress and appearance,, outside employment, and employment after leaving the service.9

With similar concern for the integrity, responsibility and accountability of public officials, the Australian Commissioner of Taxation has provided a special code of ethics for his department's employees, emphasising the need to set a good example and demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and warning them that the consequences of code breaches might involve 'sanctions as provided within the Public Service Act or a penalty imposed by a court of law.10

In France, from which Lebanon borrowed much of its administrative structures, personnel regulations and control mechanisms, the Civil Service General Regulations do not provide a detailed code of professional ethics. They are, however, supplemented both by the general principles of public law and by case-law.11 The disciplinary system, however, and the sanctions for professional misconduct are spelled out in detail, and greatly resemble those currently applied in Lebanon. A bird's-eye view of the French control system therefore helps understand the Lebanese one.

Disciplinary power may be exercised either by the hierarchical authority or by an administrative body independent of it, which may or may not be legal in character, or by a combination of both. France is among those countries which opted for a multiple control system, which exposes civil servants to sanctions for professional misconduct imposed by different disciplinary authorities, depending on the nature of the violation. Thus a civil servant who fails in his professional obligations without infringing the criminal law may be disciplined by hierarchical or administrative authorities. But if the civil servant, in the exercise of his duties or outside them, commits breaches of the penal code, he will be liable before the criminal courts. Furthermore civil servants face civil liability towards private citizens when the 'injured party has only come into contact with the offender as a result of service circumstances. 12 The injured citizen may then sue either the official himself before the civil courts, or the Administration before the administrative courts.13

The French disciplinary measures were copied nearly verbatim by the Lebanese legislature. The scales of penalties, as prescribed in the French General Regulations and defined in the Ordinance of 1959, article 30, are as follows:

Article 30 - The disciplinary penalties shall consist of
(a) Caution
(b) Censure
(c) Striking off the promotion roster
(d) Postponement of increment
(e) Loss of increment
(f) Compulsory transfer
(g) Downgrading
(h) Compulsory retirement
(i) Dismissal without suspension of pension rights
(j) Dismissal with suspension of pension rights
Temporary exclusion may be imposed as a principal or subsidiary sanction for not more than six months. It shall involve stoppage of all or any remuneration.14

The underlying assumption for establishing a disciplinary system and imposing penalties is to empower a person in authority to enforce respect for his directions. Hierarchical sanctions, therefore, are to ensure compliance with regulations, and smooth working of the public service, and differ from sanctions at criminal law, which are based on concern for public order and social defence. The distinction between the two has an important consequence in that, 'while at criminal law action may only be taken against specified offences defined in specific legislation, the notion of misconduct is, instead, left to appraisal, under the supervision of the administrative courts, by the holders of hierarchical authority.15 This, in many ways, corresponds to the practices employed in Lebanon, as will be explained later.

It is important to note that concern with morality in public life and with control mechanisms over behaviour of politicians and civil servants is gaining new momentum recently, with the apparent increase in unveiling of corrupt actions by them in several countries. Italy, France, Britain and Australia, to name a few, have recently witnessed scandals involving corruption at the highest levels. These developments in the public life of Western nations, though uncommon, seem to confirm what Ferrel Heady, Gordon Tullock and Dwaine Marvick observed some time ago in separate studies on the public administrator's relationship to the public interest. While their observations vary in substance and implication, they meet in essence. Tullock's implication that bureaucrats give public interest only incidental consideration, and Marvick's assertion that bureaucratic behaviour is a matter of conscious or sublimated self-interest, agree with Heady's conclusion, with French and German experience chiefly in mind, that bureaucrats have obediently and subserviently responded to whatever political leaders have gained power.16

If compliance with rules is frequently undermined, and public interest sacrificed in Western nations with a long tradition of democracy and control mechanisms, the situation is far worse in developing nations, where bureaucratic abuse of power and administrative and political corruption have become epidemic. Where Lebanon is concerned, bureaucratic behaviour is motivated more by 'financial' than 'political' self-interest, which aims at rising in the bureaucratic hierarchy.17 Accordingly, financial corruption constitutes the most formidable obstacle to administrative reform in general, and to accountable compliance in particular. Without effective control mechanisms, efforts to build a rational bureaucracy would be in vain.

The following pages will examine the disciplinary system in Lebanon, in particular the efficacy of a specific external control mechanism-he General Disciplinary Council (GDC), a central body responsible for disciplining civil servants who fail in their professional obligations. The GDC is, however, only one system of a larger package of controls over public officials employed in Lebanon, such as the Central Inspection Commission (CIC) and the Bureau of Accounts (BOA) which were treated separately elsewhere in this project.

The Disciplinary System in Lebanon: An Overview


Long before Lebanon's independence in 1943, public sector employment was popularly considered a satisfying source of a living, implying both a steady and predictable income from a tenured job, and an arena for power and prestige. The security of tenure which bureaucrats enjoyed, coupled with the absence of effective accountability instruments, contributed to development of a general attitude of laxity and the spread of corruption. The first post-independence regime (1943-1952) collapsed under charges of favouritism, corruption, and laxity in administering and executing justice. In an attempt to redeem the situation, the Bureau of Accounts was created in 1951 to exercise financial control over all public spending, but the move was too little and too late to salvage the regime. The new administration, pledged to control corruption, introduced from 1953 a number of significant control measures, some of which were never implemented, while others were poorly managed. A law, for example, was issued in 1953, authorising penal courts to investigate the sources of excessive wealth accumulated by public officials among others, and to prosecute for corruption and abuse of office those who fail to justify their wealth. The law, which came to be known as the law of ... where did you get this wealth?', has never been implemented, despite persistent appeals by some members of parliament, the mass media and intellectuals. 18

Other reform measures introduced in this period, however, were implemented, but their effectiveness in changing officials' behaviour remained questionable. Of these measures, two stand out; a new and modem personnel law, and the introduction of disciplinary councils. The new personnel law replaced two Decrees which had regulated personnel matters since 1925, when employees, including public school teachers, totalled only 3749.19 Likewise, several categories of external disciplinary councils were established for the first time, and authorised to impose penalties on bureaucrats who violated their professional obligations.20 These councils complemented the already existing hierarchical disciplinary system. Over the years, the system was modified more than once in structure and functions until 1965, when the GDC was created.21

Exercise of disciplinary power was also entrusted in 1964 to the CIC, created in 1959.22 Its original duties and responsibilities were restricted to inspection, reporting of violations, guidance and coordination of the activities of public institutions and municipalities to achieve the most effective results.

A fourth and last, ad-hoc and high-powered disciplinary instrument, so far used only twice, is the Unified Committee (UC). In 1965, and again in 1993, a special committee was formed of high ranking officials and heads of both the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the CIC for the sole purpose of nominating employees for discharge on grounds of incompetence, improper behaviour, or ill-health.

In sum, the mechanisms available in Lebanon for imposing sanctions on civil servants are of four kinds; three permanent instruments and one ad-hoc system. They are the hierarchical authority (the only internal device), CIC, GDC and UC. Each is empowered to impose certain degrees of sanctions, depending on the gravity of the violation. In ascending order, the mildest sanctions are imposed by the hierarchical authority, the most severe by the GDC and UC.

Sanctions and Disciplinary Authorities

Disciplinary systems exist in every organisation, and are essential in the public services for insuring their proper functioning, maintaining their integrity, and protecting citizens' rights. The sanctions inflicted have varied from mildest, such as a reprimand, to most severe.

The sanctions inflicted on civil servants in Lebanon were first codified in 1953, and modified in 1955; those currently applied were spelled out in 1959. The modifications dealt primarily with the authority entrusted with the various degrees of penalties. These penalties are divided into two broad categories: first degree, relatively mild, and second degree, which include immediate discharge. The disciplinary penalties are as follows.

First degree: 1. Reprimand. 2. Deduction of salary for a maximum of 15 days. 3. Deferment of an increment within the grade for a maximum of six months.23

Second degree: 1. Deferment of an increment within the grade for a maximum of thirty months. 2. Suspension without pay for a maximum of six months. 3. Forfeiture of one or more increments within the grade. 4 Demotion. 5. Dismissal without suspension of pension rights. 6. Discharge with suspension of pension rights.24

The types of sanctions inflicted by each disciplinary authority are accordingly detailed in article 56 of Legislative Decree No. 112/59.

Most civil service systems recognise the right of a superior to penalise subordinates, or at least to recommend sanctions. In fact, some systems prefer disciplinary power to be exercised by the hierarchical authority rather than by an independent administrative body which usually is to a greater or less extent legal in character.

Lebanon, however, seems to believe that an independent disciplinary body is more in conformity with the prevailing culture, social behaviour and norms. External independent tools tend to be theoretically more objective and dispassionate, and their penalties will be imposed without excessive severity or indulgence, or fear of reprisals. Accordingly, the hierarchical authority is empowered to inflict only very light sanctions. The minister, upon the recommendation of the Director-General or the head of the CIC, can impose any of the first degree penalties, the third penalty only after an employee has received two consecutive reprimands within a year.25 The Director-General, on the other hand, can impose only reprimand and deduction of a maximum of ten days' salary, provided that the employee's immediate superior has so recommended in writing. The Director and the Head of a Service, the second highest officials in the Lebanese bureaucracy, can impose a reprimand and deduction of salary for a maximum of six days. Lastly, the head of an administrative unit, a grade three employee, has the right to impose a reprimand and deduction of up to three days' salary.26

It is clear from the preceding account that hierarchical disciplinary authority, including that of a Minister, is limited. The sanctions are mild, and the system has never been effective. In addition to the general attitude of laxity which prevails among officials in general, and the reluctance of senior officials toinvolve themselves in difficulties with subordinates and their patrons, the CSC observed long ago that 'collaboration between superiors and subordinates exists for the accomplishment of improper activities which generates a loss of respect by the latter to the former.27 The Lebanese legislature was certainly aware of these and other social problems when it reserved imposition of the more serious penalties to external and independent disciplinary instruments.

The next higher body with disciplinary authority, is the CIC. It was empowered in 1964 to apply sanctions on offending employees of public institutions, independent agencies and municipalities,28 but in 1977 the municipalities were excluded from its control, a measure conceived as promoting decentralisation.29

The CIC or its Inspectors can impose penalties under two conditions: when a violation occurs in an Inspector's presence, or when a civil servant obstructs the inspection function. The penalties vary according to the ranks of the officials involved, the rank of the CIC Inspectors, and in the degree of sanctions. Inspectors-General, for example, can impose a reprimand and deduction of up to 15 days' salary on employees of Grade Two and below. Inspectors-who themselves are Grade Two-can impose the same penalties on Grade Three employees and lower, provided exercise of this right does not conflict with the prerogatives of Directors and Heads of Services. Both InspectorsGeneral and Inspectors are entitled to recommend to their superiors higher penalties than they can impose themselves.

The CIC itself can impose only first degree penalties on Grade One civil servants, and the first two of the second degree penalties on all others. These relatively mild sanctions do not deter employees from violating their obligations. However, the CIC can also refer offending employees to the GDC, the Bureau of Accounts or the penal courts, depending on the nature and gravity of the violation.

The disciplinary authority entrusted to a special and ad-hoc unitary committee, established twice so far by Lebanese governments to recommend to the Council of Ministers the dismissal of employees, cannot be counted among the permanent disciplinary tools, but has acquired de facto permanency since governments, by special authorisation from Parliament, can resort to it anytime. The disciplinary powers enjoyed by unitary committees exceed and differ from those of the GDC, whose composition, functions and responsibilities will be separately discussed later in detail.

The UC of 1965 was, by far, the most powerful disciplinary tool, since the declared reason for its establishment was to recommend dismissals on grounds of incompetence, unethical conduct or ill- health.30 The committee which included the heads of the CSC (as Chairman), and of the CIC, along with senior civil servants and judges, and, when dismissal of judges was discussed, the Head of the Judicial Investigation Board, was not required to provide reasons for its recommendations. The government, in turn, denied discharged officials the right of appeal.31

As a result of Law No. 54/65, which removed the immunity normally enjoyed by civil servants, and because of the unlimited authority granted to the UC, supported by strong political determination for reform, the largest number of senior civil servants in Lebanon's history was purged. The total of around 250 discharged included 8 Ambassadors and 9 Grade Two Foreign Service Attaches. A number of other Foreign Ministry employees resigned rather than face a humiliating discharge. The figure for senior officials discharged from all other ministries and public institutions was relatively small, considering their total number, ,then around 3000.32 Of 63 senior officials discharged, 9 were Grade One employees, 19 Grade Two and 35 Grade Three.33

The disciplinary powers granted to the 1993 UC were generally similar to those of the 1965 Committee, except that discharged employees were not denied the right of appeal. After 450 employees, none of them of Grade One, had been dismissed, the Council of State nullified the Council of Ministers' decision and reinstated them all, on grounds of violation of due process.34 The 1993 purge was therefore a total failure, frustrating to the citizen who cherishes the rights of employees and principles of due process, but also values more his right to be served by a civil service which exhibits high standards of probity, integrity and conduct.

In sum, occasional resort by governments to special ad-hoc disciplinary tools is effective as a deterrent only during the brief period when the committees are preparing the list of employees recommended for discharge. Once the Council of Ministers has taken the decision, the remaining public officials feel relieved, and many whom the public believe to be worse than those discharged are practically given the go-ahead for more unprofessional and unethical behaviour. For this reason there -is no substitute for a permanent, powerful and effective disciplinary system, if permanent and drastic change in bureaucratic behaviour is desired.

The General Disciplinary Council

As mentioned earlier, the GDC was created in 1965, following three earlier attempts35 to establish an effective, impartial and independent disciplinary system.36 Its authority covers all government employees other than Judges, members of the Boards of CIC and CSC, or military or civilian employees in the armed, internal security and general security forces. The GDC's organisational structure is simpler than that of the preceding councils. It consists of a Chairman, two members, and an InspectorGeneral from the CIC who serves as Government Commissioner.37 Referral and Adjudication Procedure

An employee is referred to the GDC for professional violations, either by the appointing authority, or by the Board of the CIC. Upon receiving the file, the Government Commissioner begins a process which is to be completed within three months. He investigates, prepares his assessment, and delivers the complete file to the Chairman of the GDC within one month. The Chairman, in turn, convenes a meeting of the Council within one week to start the adjudication. Deliberations are confidential, and the meeting not legal unless all members are present. The offending official has the right to read all the documents in his file, make copies of whatever he deems necessary for defending himself, and seek the help of a lawyer or an employee of his own rank to defend him. He is required to attend in person; if he does not attend after two notifications, the council proceeds without him and renders its decision, by majority vote, within two months from the time it received the file from the Government Commissioner.

When a public official, in the performance of his duties, commits offences contrary to public order, he is then liable to the Criminal Law. But he cannot in such circumstances be prosecuted without the approval of the public institution which employs him, whereas an employee committing an offence unrelated to the performance of his duties will be prosecuted like any other citizen. Where there is conflict over whether the offence was or was not committed in the course of duty, the Board of the CIC decides.

Finally, civil liability towards a citizen or institution wronged by an official in performing his functions is recognised in Lebanese law. In such cases the state is held accountable for compensation, but can prosecute the offending employee if it can show that the damage was avoidable.38

The several endeavours of the Lebanese state to construct an effective and equitable disciplinary system over a relatively short time reveal some disappointment with the earlier attempts. The apparent objective was to establish a disciplinary system which can guarantee both fair hearing and disciplining of public officials, and development of a civil service which embodies high standards of integrity and conduct. In assessing the current system, a wide range of issues arises. These include: has Lebanon achieved the dual purpose of having an effective disciplinary system and good employees? Do officials now act in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law? Do they avoid real- or apparent conflict of interest in performing their duties? Do they deal equitably, honestly and responsively with the public? To what extent has the GDC been effective, as a disciplinary tool, in changing the attitudes and behaviour of public officials in favour of complying with recognised standards of public service duties and values?39 Finally, how can the disciplinary system be made more effective?

Full discussion of these issues is beyond the scope of this study; however there are several unambiguous indications that the current system suffers from a number of drawbacks. The interplay between cultural, sectarian, political and professional considerations has been a formidable obstacle to development of an effective mechanism to tame unruly public officials. Knowing the expected values and duties of civil servants is essential for understanding the gap that exists between reality and practice.

Values and Duties of Public Officials

The duties of public officials derive usually from a number of sources: the penal codes by which some breaches of discipline peculiar to civil servants are classified as offences; statutes defining the position of the civil servant; and general principles of the civil service which the government is bound to apply. Although public officials' rights and obligations vary from one country to another, particularly in matters pertaining to the freedom and independence they enjoy, there are rules and values which are common to all. These constitute a moral code of behaviour more than a catalogue of legal obligations, as indicated by a Ghanain government White Paper:

Though it is necessary to make written rules and regulations governing the conduct of civil servants, in a healthy civil service traditions and convention to a large extent transcend the written codes, and provide an unwritten code of ethics and conduct for which the most effective sanction is the public opinion inside the service itself. It is upon the maintenance of a sound and healthy faculty of self- criticism within the service that its value and efficiency will in the long run depend.40 The role of legal obligations of civil servants in maintaining discipline is equally important, but legal obligations are easier to control than issues of integrity, extortion, corruption and trading influence, the most serious problems facing developing nations, including Lebanon. The Lebanese Personnel Law lists the limitations imposed on public officials. These include:

1. Indulging in any work which violates the constitution, laws and regulations.
2. Joining political parties, professional unions or organisations.
3. Engaging in or supporting strikes.
4. Undertaking a commercial, industrial or any other paid career, unless specifically permitted by law.
5. Serving on Boards of business corporations,' or having any financial interest, directly or indirectly, in any institution subject to their control or to the control of their department.
6. Soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, in the course of their official positions, gifts, bonuses or donations of any kind.
7. Divulging information which they have acquired in performing their duties, even after retirement, without written permission from the ministry which employed them.41

In addition to limitations imposed, there are general obligations which employees have to observe. These include:
1. Serving the public interest and implementing laws and regulations without violation or negligence.
2. Executing superiors' instructions, unless the instructions clearly violate the law; in such cases the subordinate should draw the superior's attention, and refuse to execute the instructions unless confirmed in writing. For his own protection, the subordinate should send two copies of all correspondence in such matters to CIC.
3. Employees are personally accountable for the orders and instructions which they receive from their superiors.
4. Employees should process transactions with perfectionism and without delay.42

Hardly any public official in Lebanon is unaware of his rights, duties, obligations and the limitations imposed, yet employees' indulgence in offences and violations is phenomenal. Past and current studies show that Lebanese public officials are guilty of the three major categories of corruption; nonfeasance, malfeasance and misfeasance. The first is failing to perform a required duty, the second committing an act which is positively unlawful, and the third is improperly performing an act which one may properly do.43 A study conducted in 1971 revealed that most Lebanese citizens resorted to bribery and mediation to get official work done. This result was confirmed in the same study by the responses to other questions addressed to both citizens and officials.44 It also conforms to the pattern of behaviour resulting from the existence of what Gunnar Myrdal calls the 'folklore of corruption. Defined as 'people's beliefs about corruption and the emotions attached to those beliefs, as disclosed in the public debate and in gossip... it has a crucial bearing on how people conduct their private lives, and how they view their government's efforts to consolidate the nation.45

Many factors contribute to a 'folklore of corruption' in Lebanon. The most recent is the current public exchange of accusations between Ministers and Members of Parliament regarding tax evasion and manipulation of laws for personal interest.46 Excessive delay in executing official business is another factor. A CIC report points to 'noticeable and increasing delay in providing public services in most departments ... this yields resentments among the citizens, which prompt them to bribe officials to speed up their transactions, and some officials of poor social conscience and, will, and the needy among them, succumb to the temptations.47 After eighteen years of devastating war with consequences including the collapse of the economy and the Lebanese currency, and skyrocketing inflation without parallel rises in officials' remuneration, the 'need' has increased dramatically, the 'will' has weakened, and a high level of corruption prevails. In such societies, 'hardly any citizen can carry out his business, avoid trouble with the government, and generally get through life comfortably, without acquiescing to some extent at least in the prevailing corruption.48

It is evident from the preceding account that, regardless of who is the corruptor or the corrupted, the current situation in the Lebanese bureaucracy is pathetic, and that officials indulge excessively in violating both legal obligations and written and unwritten ethical values. It is also clear that the problem cannot be resolved by the GDC, unless fundamental changes are introduced to protect its members against financial need and to provide job security, and, at the same time, extend its jurisdiction to include the right to handle cases on its own initiative.

Limitations and Solutions

Agreeing with James Madison that 'men are not angels' the need is paramount in democratic societies for a balanced disciplinary system which can control officials, elevate public virtue, and guarantee services to citizens without humiliation and extortion. Lebanon's aspirations in this direction have resulted in dismal failure. The reasons for this are varied, but can be grouped into two broad and interrelated categories. The first, is the patron-client relationship which characterises the sociopolitical culture prevailing in Lebanon, and, second, is the organisational structure of the disciplinary mechanism which, among other things, does not recognise the correlation between the structure and patron-client relationship, and the impact of the latter on the former.

Studies of civil and military bureaucracies confirm the theoretical assumption that behaviour is not determined by attitudes alone, but also by external social and physical conditions. Such studies have documented the role of informal groups and social relationships in determining bureaucratic behaviour. In the words of Eric Wolf, these informal groupings 'cling to the formal structure like barnacles to a rusty ship.49 The Lebanese bureaucracy is one of the institutions in which at least three informal structures-kinship, friendship and patron-client relations-cling to the formal structure and inhibit rational behaviour. Influence exerted through kinship, friendship, sectarianism, parochialism and patron-client relations is the major cause of the weak performance of the disciplinary mechanism.

The impact of these forces is felt at all levels and stages of the disciplinary process, from the lowest level of hierarchical authority to the GDC and the unitary committees. No matter how firm and straightforward officials may be, their resistance to pressure weakens when resistance becomes a liability to their careers. They often succumb to pressure, sacrificing their honesty and integrity rather than lose their posts or deprive themselves of possible promotion. As a result of this insecurity, superiors are usually hesitant to penalise subordinates, and when they do, the sanctions tend to be mild. The same pattern of behaviour applies to Inspectors, Ministers and, occasionally, to Board members of the CIC, GDC and the unitary committees. All are constantly subject to varieties of pressures, and the outcome is nearly always the same; hesitation in inflicting sanctions, reluctance to refer to higher authorities, and mild verdicts only rarely commensurate with the offences. The sanctions applied in certain years, which are to some extent representative, confirm the above conclusions.

The CIC's achievements in referring offending employees to higher disciplinary authorities were not illustrious either, as Table 3 shows. Two observations are deduced from Table 3. First, the number of officials referred to the GDC has remained nearly constant since 1956, except for the war years, despite the great increase in the number of officials both in absolute terms and terms of those later subjected to the authority of the control agencies. Second, the number referred to the BOA for financial violations has constantly been rising. Even during the war this category of offenders was the highest, which indicates excessive indulgence

Table 1: Decisions of the Disciplinary Councils in 1956

Decision Number of Employees

Suspension 2
Demotion 2
Salary deduction 17
Delay of promotion 3
Acquittals 9
Dismissals 8

Source: Adnan Iskandar, Bureaucracy in Lebanon, Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1964, pp. 117-121. Figures for sanctions imposed by hierarchical authorities are not available. It should be remembered that the above figures represent all cases referred to disciplinary councils after the collapse of the post-independence regime, on charges of corruption, favouritism and patronage. The total number of civil servants was then around 15,000.

Table 2: Decisions of the GDC in 1972 and 1993

Decision Number of Employees 1972 Number of Employees 1993

Dismissal without pension or compensation 2 3
Dismissal withouth compensation only 9 -
Discharge with pension and compensation 21 5
Cancellation of 4,3 or 2 increments 3 5
Cancellation of 1 increments 22 1
Deferment of an increment: by 30 months 2 8
Deferment of an increment: by 24 months 3 17
Deferment of an increment: by 12 months 4 1
Deferment of an increment: by 6 months 10 -
Deferment of an increment: by 4 months 2 -
Deferment of an increment: by 3 months 2 -
Layoff without pay: for 6 months - 2
Layoff without pay: for 3 months 1 -
Fined 15 days' salary - 30
TOTAL 82 72

Source: Calculated from the reports of the GDC of 1972 and 1993. These two years represent the peak of the state authority before and after the war.

Table 3: Employees Referred by CIC To Higher Authorities

Disciplinary Authority Number of Employees referred in years


1965 1966 1967 1977 1978 1979
GDC 46 40 26 8 2 6
BOA 63 104 107 28 8 28
Penal Courts 29 145 11 3 1 2

Source: Reports of the CIC.

in theft of public funds. Such acts can neither be defended by the patrons nor dismissed by the disciplinary tools. In examining the sanctions imposed by the CIC, one is also surprised by their mildness and consequent ineffectiveness. The majority of them are reprimands, loss of pay for not more than 15 days or deferment of one or two increments. Such sanctions mean little to offenders who are making several times their salaries in bribes and extortions. Once again, this confirms that the CIC, like the hierarchical authority, is part of the patron-client syndrome.


In a nutshell, the existing disciplinary mechanism in general suffers from formidable obstacles dictated by the prevailing socio-political culture.50 The GDC's performance, in particular, cannot be fundamentally improved without basic changes which, among other things, emancipate its members from the patronclient grip. There is a dominating climate of fear from the repercussions of annoying any patron which, unless removed, would render structural changes useless. One reasonable and effective method to lift such fear pertains to the appointment and remuneration of members of the GDC. Consequently, the following proposal may serve as a starting point for further discussion:

Appointment and term of office. Members of the GDC should be appointed from amongst senior public officials with 25 or more years' service. Their term of office should be until retirement at 64.

Suspension or removal. On the recommendation of the Council of State and the Chairmen of the Boards of the CIC and CSC, the Council of Ministers may at any time suspend or remove a member for disability, neglect of duty, misconduct or bankruptcy.

Remuneration. The members' salaries should be commensurate with those paid currently to senior officers of the Central Bank.

Functions and Duties. The functions and duties of the GDC should include investigation and adjudication of any case referred to it by the appointing authorities. The GDC may investigate cases referred to it, or initiate investigations of its own volition as a result of information and documentation which it may acquire from any source within its jurisdiction. The GDC should submit annually to the Council of Ministers a detailed report about its activities, including the names of convicted offenders.

jurisdiction. All civil servants except the judiciary should, irrespective of rank, come under the authority of the GDC.

The above scheme needs probing, but may serve as a stepping stone towards creation of a disciplinary tool emancipated from fear of humiliation, subordination, transfer, downgrading or financial need. Only with a powerful disciplinary system can Lebanon expect to enforce a professional ethic in its public service based on dedication and loyalty to the public interest and maintenance of the highest standards of behaviour. Other organisational and procedural reforms pertaining to the adjudication procedure, rights of offenders, reward system and the format of the GDC become meaningful only after emancipation from fear is guaranteed.

* This paper was written as part of a collaborative program between the American University of Beirut and the John F. Kennedy -School of Government, Harvard University, funded by the Haini Foundation of Beirut. While gratefully acknowledging an intellectual debt to Dr. Hassan Chalak, Chairman of the Board of the CSC, I claim entire responsibility for my own judgments and interpretations. Back

1 Roger Gregoire, The French Civil Service, Brussels: International Institute of Administrative Services, n.d., p. 315. A revised edition translated from French (after 1962) for the United Nations, of La Fonction Publique, Paris Armand Collin, 1954. Back
2 Ian Thynne and J. Goldring, Accountability and Control: Government Officials and the Exercise of Power, Sydney: Law Book Company, 1987, p. 23. Back
3 Thynne and Goldring, Accountability and Control. Back
4 Reprinted in Thynne and Goldring, Accountability and Control, p. 33. Back
5 Thynne and Goldring, Accountability and Control, p. 34. Back
6 Thynne and Goldring, Accountability and Control, p. 35. Back
7 Nicholas Henry, Public Administration and Public Affairs, New York: Back
Prentice-Hall Inc. 1989, p. 382. Back
8 Commonwealth of Australia, 'Management Improvement Advisory Committee', Paper No. 11, 1993; Commonwealth of Australia, 'Building a Better Public Service', Paper No. 12, 1993. Back
9 Commonwealth of Australia, 'Standard of Conduct', Information Brochure, 1992. Back
10 Australian Taxation Office, Code of Ethics, 1978, p. 13. Back
11 Gregoire, The French Civil Service, p. 317. Back
12 Gregoire, The French Civil Service, p. 334. Back
13 Gregoire, The French Civil Service, p. 334. Back
14 Gregoire, The French Civil Service, p. 321. Back
15 Gregoire, The French Civil Service, p. 319. Back
16 Henry, Public Administration, p. 384. Back
17 See M. Kisirwani, 'Administrative Ethics in Lebanon', al-Abhath (American University of Beirut) XXVII, 1978179, p. 53, and M. Kisirwani, Patron-Client Politics and Bureaucratic Corruption: The Case of Lebanon, Bloomington, Indiana: International Development Research renter 1974 4 Back
18 Legislative Decree No. 38, 18 February 1953, and the Law of 14 April 1954, which require all employees and public figures to declare their wealth. Back
19 George Grassmuck and K. Salibi, Reformed Administration in Lebanon, Beirut: The Catholic Press, 1964, p. 7. Back
20 Decree No. 13/53. Back
21 Law No. 54/65. Back
22 Law No. 5/64. Back
23 The Lebanese Civil Service is made up of five grades; Grade One is the highest. Grades are divided into steps, and each employee receives an automatic step every two years, which serves as a salary increment and an advancement step within his grade. Back
24 Legislative Decree No. 112/59, art. 55. Back
25 Legislative Decree 112/59, art. 56, item 4. The third penalty of the first degree sanctions; delay of an incremental step for a maximum period of six months, is itself very light and yet a minister cannot freely impose it. Back
26 Lebanese Civil Service Commission, Reports of 1966, 1967 and 1968, pp. 150-160. Back
27 Law No. S/64. Back
28 Legislative Decree No. 118/77. Back
29 Law No. 54165. art. 3. Back
30 Law No. 54/65, art. 11. Back
31 M. Kisirwani, 'Attitudes and Behavior of Lebanese Bureaucrats: A Study in Administrative Corruption', Unpublished PhD dissertation, Bloomington, Indiana University, p. 82. Back
32 Iskandar Bashir, Planned Administrative Change in Lebanon, Beirut: American University, 1977, pp. 34-35. Back
33 The major function of the Conseil d'Etat is to hear all administrative cases not assigned by law to another court. Such cases include suits for the annulment of administrative acts on grounds of illegality. Back
34 Legislative Decree No. 14/55. 35 Legislative Decree No. 112/59, art. 57. Back
36 Law No. 54/65. Back
37 Legislative Decree No. 112/59, arts. 56-62. Back
38 Accountability and control of civil servants are integral concepts of the administration of modern society. In this context, the mechanism for disciplining officials who fail their professional obligations or violate public laws or any standards of conduct raises important questions as to how the exercise of power can be effectively controlled. Back
39 For a detailed list of key public service values in Australia, see Commonwealth of Australia, 'Management Improvement Advisory Committee'. Back
40 A New Charter for the Civil Service, White Paper of the Ghanain government, 1960. Back
41 Legislative Decree No. 112/59, art. 15. Back
42 Legislative Decree No. 112/59, art. 14. Back
43 John Gardner and David Olsen, 'Wincanton: The Politics of Corruption', in The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, Task Force Report: Organized Crime, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1967, p. 67. Back
44 Kisirwani, 'Attitudes and Behavior', p. 159. Back
45 Gunnar Myrdal, 'Corruption as a Hindrance to Modernization in South Asia', in A.J. Heidenheimer, ed., Political Corruption, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970, pp. 231-232. Back
46 Serious accusations of all forms of corruption have been exchanged in all media as of I December 1994. As a result of these accusations parliament is considering implementing Decree No. 38/53 dealing with illegitimate wealth. Back
47 Lebanon, Annual Report of CIC, 1970. Back
48 M. McMullan, 'Corruption in the Public Services of British Colonies and Ex-Colonies in West Africa', in Heidenheimer, ed., Political Corruption, p. 322. Back
49 Eric R. Wolf, 'Kinship, Friendship, and Patron-Client Relations in Complex Societies', in M. Banton, ed., Social Anthropology of Complex Societies, New York: Praeger, 1966, p. 2. Back
50 For an informative analysis of the drawbacks of the disciplinary system, and for organisational recommendation to reform it, see Hassan Chalak, 'Administrative Reform in Lebanon', Unpublished PhD -dissertation, Beirut, Lebanese University, 1989.Back

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