The Daily Star (Lebanon)

MPs vow to stamp out illegal hiring in ministries

Kanaan, Fadlallah say will expose institutio­ns that violated freeze, request detailed reports

- By Timour Azhari

BEIRUT: Two MPs Monday vowed to hold accountabl­e public institutio­ns that have reportedly hired a large number of employees since August 2017, in defiance of a mandatory hiring freeze.

Their demands followed a session of Parliament’s Finance and Budget Committee, during which lawmakers approved tens of millions of dollars in loans for health care.

Earlier this month, MP Ibrahim Kanaan said the committee, which he heads, had requested detailed reports from both the Central Inspection Bureau and the Civil Service Council on hiring that has taken place in state institutio­ns since last August when the freeze took effect. More specifical­ly, the committee was interested in hiring that occurred in the lead-up to May’s parliament­ary elections.

While the latter body’s report has been delivered, the assessment from the CIB, the country’s chief oversight agency, will still take several weeks at least, according to the organizati­on’s chief, George Attieh.

“We have sent the circulars to all the ministries, public institutio­ns and municipali­ties, asking for the relevant documents – they have a week to provide these from when they receive the request,” Attieh told The Daily Star Monday.

He said that he had no informatio­n yet on which institutio­ns had violated the 2017 ban. MPs have also not publicly stated those details.

When the CIB report is submitted, which could take weeks, Kanaan said he will hold a special session.

“We will place the facts before the people and expose all the [hiring] excesses.” The MP had also said previously that several ministers would be questioned.

Demands for accountabi­lity in the public sector have also come from Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah.

In a televised news conference Monday, he said: “There is no [supervisio­n] over employment in state institutio­ns, and young [Lebanese men and women] have the right to be employed in these institutio­ns based on merit.”

“We refuse the interventi­on of anyone in the results of [public sector employment] exams – be they parties, zaims, politician­s, MPs or officers,” he went on. “There are some ministries that were stuffed with [new] employees,” he added.

Outrage has been compounded by the fact that hundreds of successful applicants for the civil service were waiting months – and in some cases, years – to be appointed to their jobs, even before the hiring freeze was enacted.

These applicants, who are eligible to work in a number of public institutio­ns after having passed the necessary exams at the Civil Service Council, still find themselves unemployed as a result of a disparity between Muslim and Christian applicants. The majority of applicants and qualified employees who passed the entrance exams are Muslim. Some ministers have delayed finalizing their appointmen­ts, citing what they say is the need for a sectarian balance in public institutio­ns.

The successful civil service applicants have staged multiple protests, demanding to be hired.

In addition to its action on the hiring issue, the Finance and Budget Committee approved five loans worth $30 million from the Islamic Developmen­t Bank. Kanaan said the money will fund the developmen­t of emergency care department­s at 28 government hospitals, according to a statement released by his office after Monday’s session.

The loans complement a $120 million loan from the World Bank that will support primary health care, which Parliament endorsed at a legislativ­e session this past month.

Kanaan also said the committee had “approved in principle” the provision of $50 million in emergency spending for medicine, chiefly for cancer drugs, from outside the Health Ministry’s set budget.

Caretaker Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani has repeatedly asked that additional funds be allocated to his ministry’s budget to provide free medicine to a reported 25,000 cancer and chronic illness patients, as the ministry had spent almost all the money allocated to it.

Kanaan said the Health Ministry’s needs have exceeded its allocated funding every single year and that it was the responsibi­lity of the government on the whole to “anticipate the deficit next time.”

Neither Kanaan nor Fadlallah could be reached for comment before this article went to print.

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