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MARCH 2003

Number 7


Melbourne Conference

If you are attending the Conference or know of a public sector lawyer who is would you please let me know so that I can ensure that details of our Seminar are sent direct to you or them.



The primary purpose of this Newsletter is to provide all members of the Association, both individual and institutional, with the papers for the forthcoming General Meeting of the Association in Melbourne on Sunday 13 April. This will enable those who cannot come to Melbourne to comment, if they so wish, on the matters to be discussed so that I can ensure that their views are nevertheless taken into account.  Any such comments must be sent to me by no later than 31 March.  

If you or any colleagues are coming to Melbourne and intend to come to the Association Seminar which will precede the General Meeting, would you please let me know by 31 March, if you have not already done so, and I will ensure that you are sent further details about the arrangements for the Seminar. It will also be held at the Conference Centre starting at 0930hrs

We are still looking for one or two additional persons who would be prepared to contribute from personal experience to the seminar sessions. The three selected topics are:

Legal issues in out-sourcing government services

Private / Public Sector Partnerships

Ethics for Public Sector Lawyers

If you can contribute, please let me know.

This will be the final Newsletter that you receive from me as it is my intention to retire from the post of Association Secretary at the conclusion of the Melbourne Conference ?see below. I have much enjoyed my involvement with the Association over the years even if at times it has proved to be a somewhat frustrating occupation. I remain in absolutely no doubt about the need for such a body. I wish it well and will watch its progress with interest.


We are still without a firm nomination for the post of Secretary and consequently for the post of Treasurer who is required to be from the same jurisdiction. For more details about the Secretary’s job, please see below and consider whether you could take on the job. If the Association is to survive, then someone else has to take over. Any member, individual or institutional, prepared to consider taking up the post is invited to make contact with me as soon as possible. 

A brief outline of the key responsibilities of the Secretary is as follows:-

1.    Establishing and maintaining contact with related bodies.

2.    Promoting the Association generally.

3.    Recruiting and enrolling new members

4.    Maintaining the records of the Association.

5.    Maintaining the Association web site.

6.    Identifying possible successor chairmen.

7.    Supporting the Chairman.

8.    Organising with the Chairmen General Meetings and Seminars.

9.    Identifying a fellow national as Association Treasurer.

10. Securing, in liaison with the Treasurer, funding for the Association.

So far as Individuals are concerned, the post would particularly suit a recently retired public sector lawyer who is a good networker, is computer literate, has internet and fax access and has some time on his or her hands. It is difficult to estimate with any precision the time required for the post as the job is very much what the holder makes of it. Flexibility is perhaps the key. I would initially be available to advise and support the new Secretary and for a limited period would, if asked to do so, be prepared to continue to maintain this web site.


We extend a warm welcome to Tom Pauling, Solicitor-General, Northern Territories, Australia and Sonia Brownhill, Acting Crown Counsel in his Chambers; Helen Lynch, NSW, and Edwin Stone Victoria, Australia; Jonathon Penner, British Columbia, Canada; Janet Erasmus, Canada; Geoffrey Romany and Roy Lee, our first members from St. Kitts & Nevis and the Cook Islands respectively; Chaudary Javaid (UK) and Dr. R. Achara of Nigeria.


For anyone interested, I can provide by email a copy of an address given recently to the Oxford branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society by the retiring NGO Desk Officer in the Commonwealth Secretariat. The NGO Desk Officer is our official link with the Commonwealth network and is a useful person to know. I am now much better informed about the Commonwealth and its background than I might otherwise have been.


The Lawyer (2 December 2002) has followed up its earlier profiles - see Newsletter 6 - with a profile of David Pickup, currently Solicitor to Customs and Excise in the UK. The Customs and Excise Department is one of the oldest Government departments with 20000 staff and an annual operating budget of ?bn. His legal team is one of the biggest departmental teams with 128 lawyers and 361 staff in total. He controls an annual operating budget of ?0m and his staff prosecutes approximately 2000 cases a year, spending in so doing ?7m on counsel’s fees. Whilst the majority of the lawyers are kept busy with prosecutions, there are also teams dealing with general support litigation and advice. Some specialist work is contracted out to private sector firms, particularly on tax issues.


The Attorney General, when recently relaunching in London the Crown Prosecution Service, stressed that prosecutors must be "fighters for justice". He urged them to stop being the "backroom boys of the criminal justice system". He also floated the possibility of changing its name to the Public Prosecution Service and making it more like the US District Attorney system - though he drew a line at prosecutors standing for election. More controversial was his proposal that prosecutors should play a larger role in sentencing - "They ought already to be drawing to the attention of the judge all the aggravating features in a case but there is more that can be done to challenge mitigation which distorts the realities of the case before the court." However they would still not be expected to demand a particular sentence. (Daily Telegraph 30 January 2003)


For those public sector lawyers who feel increasingly that public bodies, however innocent, are always the prime target for those with lawyers who are looking for someone to blame for what happened to them, visit www.overlawyered.com  It could prove interesting. It chronicles current excesses of litigation culture within the USA.

The site's editor is Walter Olsen who has just published his new book "The Rule of Lawyers: How the New Litigation Elite Threatens America's Rule of Law", which apparently delivers a withering attack on lawyer greed. It follows the earlier publication of another indictment of the US legal system by Catherine Crier, a talk-show host and former judge, entitled "The Case Against Lawyers" As ever I am indebted to The Lawyer (20 January 2003) for drawing my attention to this US crusade.

Increasingly one gets the impression that the UK is following the USA down this path as no doubt are other Commonwealth countries.


The UK Government Legal Service is currently engaged on an exercise to reduce its annual ?0million legal spend by creating panels of law firms. The starting point was the decision of the Treasury Solicitor's Department to set up its own panel following an independent review conducted by the Head of Procurement and Commercial Contracts. The panel firms will carry out the full  range of commercial work for the Department but the main work will be PFI and public-private partnerships.

The Department has since been working with two other departments to put together seven central panels for finance & banking; corporate & commercial; property; IT, telecoms & e-commerce; and construction, human resources & general commercial. The idea for creating such central panels is a response to a National Audit Office report in April 2000 which called upon Government to reduce by ?10 million the current budget for external professional services, by far the largest chunk of which went to accountancy firms. It was expected that the new legal panels would be in place by this March.


Those received recently include Clarion (Dec 2002 Vol. 4 No 3) which is devoted almost exclusively to the continuing problems in Zimbabwe: The Commonwealth Lawyer (Dec 2002 Vol. 11 No.3) which includes articles on 'Recusal of Judges: the UK Experience'; 'Judicial Accountability in India'; 'The Korean Constitutional Court and the Rule of Law'; 'Legal and Judicial Protection of Minorities'; and 'Compensation for Personal Injury in New Zealand': and Commonwealth Currents(2002 No.3) which leads with an article on the Commonwealth Secretariat's activities to promote democracy in the Commonwealth.


Commonwealth ministers and senior administrators with a leadership role in public service reform are meeting from 24 February to 8 March 2003 in Wellington, New Zealand, for the Commonwealth Advanced Seminar (CAS) 2003. 

The main goal of CAS 2003, 'Leading Public Service Innovation', is to identify national priorities and personal strategies for public sector reform within Commonwealth countries.The seminar is focused particularly on innovative service delivery, managing decentralisation and leading programmes of change. Reform is placed clearly in the context of the role of governance in national development. The seminar offers numerous opportunities to compare and contrast experiences with change and innovation in New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries. 

"Commonwealth assistance to member states in the promotion of good governance and accountable administration has been a priority area of activity since the Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991," said Tendai Bare, Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat's Governance and Institutional Development Division, which is organising this seminar. 


'Implementing eGovernance in Public Sector Organisations' was the theme of a recent three-day workshop in Cape Town, South Africa. It brought together more than 40 policy-makers and senior managers concerned with public service improvement within corporations or individual ministries largely from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). 

Rogers W'O Okot-Uma, Chief Programme Officer (Informatics) of the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: "It is an executive training programme that will focus on practical steps for getting effective and well-functioning eGovernment initiatives in place. Electronic Government (eGovernment) is about a process of reform in the way governments work, share information and deliver services to external and internal clients. Moreover, the activity contributes to the Commonwealth Action Programme for the Digital Divide's recommendation on 'eGovernment for Good Governance'."


Reconciling the interests of government, operators and investors was the focus of the Digital Africa Summit, recently held in Accra, Ghana. The summit's theme was 'Building Digital Opportunities Through Public Private Partnerships'.The summit provided the opportunity to examine several new public-private partnership (PPP) models, where the interests of three establishments intersect: the public sector, in the form of ministers, regulators and representatives of national telecommunications companies; the private sector, in the form of operators and vendors; and the financial services sector. The summit helped to develop greater appreciation among all three parties of each other's needs and requirements. 


The second Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) conference held recently in South Africa was hosted by Tshwane City Council, in partnership with the South African Local Government Association and the South African Department of Provincial and Local Government. The conference, which was opened by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and was addressed by Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon, brought together government leaders, ministers and senior officials and focused on local government partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors: how they operated; what led to success or failure; and the benefits of international partnerships. The programme offered a wide range of speakers from across the Commonwealth, case studies from South Africa and other countries, study visits to highlight key projects, and a trade exhibition to discover new products.

Speaking at the opening, President Mbeki said that the challenge facing the cities that belong to the countries of the Commonwealth is in identifying "what must be done to ensure that we use the advantage of modern technology to attract new generations of businesspeople, thinkers, politicians, community workers and trade unionists; and together with them form durable partnerships that are mutually beneficial so that our cities begin to develop into classic, creative and prosperous centres that would become the locomotives of economic growth for our entire countries." 

"Local government and local administration must be truly democratic," said Mr McKinnon who emphasised the key role of local democracy in all Commonwealth countries. "Local democracy must ensure that delivery reflects the priorities of the community and that it reduces poverty and promotes economic development," he stated, adding that it must also set realistic but high standards and ensure that they are met.  

"Making sense of the Internet for social scientists"

The Social Science Information Gateway (SOSIG) is a freely available Internet service which aims to provide a trusted source of selected, high quality Internet information for students, academics, researchers and practitioners in the social sciences, business and law. It is part of the Resource Discovery Network (RDN). It is run from:

Institute for Learning and Research Technology

University of Bristol

8-10 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HH

United Kingdom

Its web site can be found at http://www.sosig.ac.uk. It has a government and administration section which might on occasions provide an alternative route to the solution of a difficult problem

15 March 2003

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