Egypt’s mass poisoning scandal -- another sign of corruption

Fahmy Howeidy

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It is a good thing to hold officials to account for the students poisoning disaster at the University of al-Azhar. What would be even better is to consider that this disaster, which touched nearly 500 students, revealed the corruption and lack of responsibility among employees in government’s departments. The silver lining in what happened is probably the alarm that was sounded after this incident, placing the crisis of the deteriorating performance of the government sectors on the agenda of concerns that should witness reforms.

Since the eruption of the revolution, our main concerns were the employment and improving the working conditions and wages, among many other rights and grievances that should be treated. However, we hardly hear similar claims about the corresponding duties that should be performed in order to improve the performance. Consequently, claims became louder and louder, while no one mentioned the obligations that remained a silent subject. Thus, all the aspects of corruption remained unchanged, as they were prior to the revolution.

All the aspects of corruption remained unchanged, as they were prior to the revolution.

Fahmy Howeidy

I cannot underestimate the importance of providing the rights of the employees in the government sector, but I believe that their employment benefits would impose material burdens on the state budget that the government cannot handle at the moment because of the economic crisis that the country is enduring. However, adopting a policy that would gradually work on achieving that goal taking into account the possible measures is indispensable to reassure the employees that their hopes to improve their situations is taken into account. At the same time, the opportunity of improving the duties’ performance remains better, because it will impose a lower budget burden on the government. At least this is what the experience of other countries that achieved this goal like Turkey and Malaysia, suggests. I have received a letter from Dr. Rasha Mady, an expert in human resources and institutional development in Edinburgh in UK, stating that the two countries have treated the deteriorating control in governmental institutions through the establishment of new departments to fight administrative corruption within each institution. Both countries have also trained their staff on the use of modern tools to measure the resources and assets, reduce the excess, and activate the laws against the conflict of interests. In their commitment to transparency, the governments in both countries have set the standards of the citizens’ services quality on every institution’s website and provided the assessment tools to hold the staff accountable. This has necessitated the allocation of particular sections within each institution that follows up with the application of the performance quality standards.

Turkey and Malaysia as examples

Creating new sections and new culture, and providing training courses for the employees have relatively decreased the unemployment rates due to the new skills requirements in the appointments within these sections. As a consequence, the mechanisms progressed and the development rates in Turkey and Malaysia increased, especially that they took into consideration the specialization principle, so that all workers are related to the fields in which they work whether through their studies or experience, while providing a transformative training programs to those who want to work in a new field.

The two countries dealt with the claims and factional demonstrations problem by reviewing the wage structure of each institution, to reduce the gaps and this goes in line with the institution’s resources and the nature of the job, along with adopting financial policies that allocated part of the incentives to improve the career’s goals. This plan has been associated to parts of the productivity growth, performance improvement; it has motivated the employees to be part of the development and increased their enthusiasm regarding training courses. Thus, the economic performance was improved along with the Turkish and Malaysian citizen’s standard of living.

In parallel with all this, the public speech of both Tayyip Erdogan and Mahathir Mohamad has completely put aside the exaggeration policies, and focused on the formulation and clarity of the objectives; this took place in a scientific approach that sets digital economic and developmental goals that can be measured, and determines the time frame to achieve, apply and evaluate them.

Turkey and Malaysia did it, not by changing administrations and persons, but by managing the change through transparency and goal setting. Both countries have provided a lesson and a model for change that can inspire the countries that are serious about recovering from underdevelopment and go in line with the progress that this era is witnessing, but the question is: Who is understood the lesson and who is ready to learn from it?

This article was first published in Egyptian daily al-Shorouk on April 5, 2013.

Dr. Fahmy Howeidy has worked in journalism since 1958 for Egypt's Al-Ahram Foundation. He is currently the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Al-Ahram newspaper. Previously, Howeidy served as the Managing Editor of Kuwait's Al-Arabi magazine and of Arabia magazine, which is published in London, UK in English. He is now fully dedicated to contributing to Al-Ahram and has a column each Tuesday published in six Arab countries in Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Majalla, and Al-Wafd Newspaper. Howeidy has had seventeen books published, including: The Quran and the Sultan, Awareness Forgery, In Order Not to be A Sedition, Islam in China, Iran from the Inside, Taliban, Establishing Due Rights, and The Crisis of Religious Awareness.

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