2016 Activities

Skepticism and Doubt Surround Applying Government’s Decision Banning Second Jobs for Government Employees

Skepticism and Doubt Surround Applying Government’s Decision Banning Second Jobs for Government Employees

In light of the Palestinian government’s decision No.(m.w./r.h.17/120/11) issued on September 27, 2016, which prohibits public  sector employees, civil and military, from working second jobs, the Coalition for Integrity and Accountability-AMAN held a discussion workshop with a number of related parties.  The workshop aimed at scrutinizing the decision from a legal and economic point of view. It also intended to look into expected implementation challenges, and the government’s plan for applying this decision.  In order to respond to these concerns, AMAN contacted the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, in its capacity as the official party representing the government in cases such as this.  AMAN intended for the Secretariat to be a partner in this workshop by providing a platform to directly be in contact with citizens and to provide all information and background which formed the basis for taken the decision in question. Unfortunately, the government did not repost to this invitation.
Despite absence of the government, the workshop was held and attended by a large number of related and interested parties, including:  representatives from the State Audit and Administrative Control Bureau (SAACB), the General Personnel Council, Palestine Medical Association, Union of Public Employees, the Independent Commission for Human Rights, the Palestinian Preventive Security Agency. Also among those who attended were representatives from other institutions such as the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics,  Center for Democracy and Workers Rights, Miftah, as well as a number of representatives from the various media outlets; written, audio, and visual.  Participants of the workshop unanimously agreed that the decision is a subject of debate despite its multiple positive objectives and intentions. They were in agreement that it is marred with several problems some of which are related to determining the size of the issue and whether implementations of the decision would be taking into account the differences between the various groups of public employees.
In that regard, attendees recommended that it is important to have a clear government policy and plan in place to ensure application of the decision on the different groups; first and foremost to be applied on senior positions before going down the latter, while taking into account the scarcity of some jobs; social conditions, and low-salary jobs. In addition, attendees also recommended that the minister be given discretionary powers allowing him/her to assess each case and take the appropriate decision in its regard. Some participants suggested that the government should revisit the article in the old regulations, which regulated granting permissions to hold second jobs. They felt that implementation of these regulations have been neglected and or dealt with loosely, in the past.
Dr. Azmi Shuaibi, Adviser to AMAN’s Board of Directors on Corruption Issues, opened the session by pointing out that the workshop aims to better understand all aspects of the Decision and to come up with recommendations that serve the interest of everyone. He said it is the role of civil society organizations to create a balance between the interests of individuals and government policies and decisions, which is the same role played by the Palestinian Legislative Council prior to becoming dysfunctional in 2006.

Risks maybe massive if the Decision is applied if a clear government policy is absent 

Dr. Shuaibi attested that the Decision has positive and negative aspects, which pose many questions regarding its implementation and the feasibility of achieving desired goals.  This is especially true in light of the existence of Regulation No.45 of the Civil Service Law, issued in 2005, which defined mechanisms for granting public employees permissions to have second jobs. The Regulations also stipulated that holding a second job was the exception to the rule, and holding a full time public position is the rule. Allowing for an exception depended on the nature of the exception in question and the party responsible for granting the permission. He said that the problem at the time was in applying the regulations and in being committed to its provisions. This was the reason which drove the government to issue the decision, we are discussing today, aiming to achieve several objectives. Its main objective was to reduce the salary and wage bill and to provide job opportunities. It also aimed to minimize possibilities for conflict of interest to occur.
Mr. Jaffal Jaffal, Legal Advisor for SAACB, said that the Bureau had conducted successive audits on this subject. Results of these audits showed the following: in one institution, there were 461 employees who held jobs other than their official position, 103 of those had obtained permits and were listed under exceptions; some employees were granted exceptions but did not commit to regular work hours, and others who never received approval all together.
Mr. Jaffal showed concern indicating that applying the Decision as is holds many risks, although the Decision is directly derived from recommendations provided by the Bureau to the government.  The risks are real especially in the absence of clear government policies and implementation plan. He was concerned that the government would limit application of the Decision to marginalized groups, or to civil servants without including independent institution. He also worried that if applied on senior position, many violation committed by this group would be uncovered.  Nevertheless, Mr. Jaffal expressed his appreciation to the government for issuing this Decision, but at the same time hoping that it will entail further details that would simplify its application and facilitates its control.  
For his part, Director of Legal Affairs at General Personnel Council, Mr Lutfi Samhan, said that there are differences between holding a second job and engaging in work outside one’s official job; where the law stipulates it clearly according to him. He added that the Bureau received, since the beginning of 2015, 115 requests for permission to work additional jobs.  84 of those were granted approval, where 15 were rejected, and 19 are under review due to shortage of supporting documents.
Mr.Samhan added that a number of abuses were carried out by some employees who have been caught and legal action taken against them in accordance with the Civil Service Law. He also informed attendees of the workshop that no exceptions or permits were granted to employees beyond the date stated by the Decision, which is January 1, 2017. 

The Decision harms marginalized groups…Calls for taking the differences between the various groups into consideration

In a related context, Bassam Zakarneh, an activist, agreed that circumstances should be taken into account because it constitutes an important factor in determining the success or failure of applying the Decision. He said the Decision could be wrong if applied in an absolute manner across the board, and will harm the marginalized groups.  He added that in fact it would be better and more effective to apply existing regulations than to issue a new decision such as this.  It is also necessary to take into account all the various groups when applying this Decision as well as the scarcity of some jobs, in addition to granting the minister discretionary powers allowing him/her to assess each case and take the appropriate decision in its regard.
On the other hand, Dr. Qadri Daraghmeh, Chaiman of the Subcommittee of the Palestinian Medical Association (Jenin& Nablus), said that physicians have always been in favor of complying with the regulation of the one full time job until it was halted, hence unable to implement it. He said applying the Decision at the present time maybe too hasty if it does not take into consideration the nature of the current health system and the health situation in general, which is in dire need to have the private and public sectors linked together.  
For his part, the Secretary General of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Mr.Mahmoud Ziadeh, said that applying this Decision will not be effective if the main objective, target groups, and reasons for its issuance were not defined.  He also wanted to draw attention to the cost of lack of compliance with the law and consequent transgressions related to tax evasion and conflict of interest.
Similarly, Mr.Imad Al-Shahid, Legal Advisor for the Preventive Security Agency, confirmed that the Security Service Law does not permit dual positions/second jobs except in rare cases in accordance with the work needs.  It is clear, therefore, that the government’s decision was not based on a comprehensive study of the current situation in terms of public employment and employees. And despite its noble objectives, it is preferable at the present time to apply the current law and to comply with its executive regulations.

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