Egypt’s House of Representatives approved on Sunday new legislative amendments that would see state employees automatically dismissed if they tested positive for drugs.
Parliament Speaker Hanafy El-Gebaly said the eight-article law would be put up for a final vote in a later session.
A report prepared by the House’s Labour Force Committee and the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee said the amendment of the Civil Service Law has become a necessity in order to protect society from the dangers of keeping government employees who administer drugs in their jobs.
MP Talaat Abdel-Qawi said the amended law should be part of a national war against the spread of drugs in Egyptian society. “But this amended law is still short of the required, as it does not extend to include private sector employees and civil society workers,” said Abdel-Qawi, also asking that the number of rehabilitation centres should be increased to treat the growing cases of drug addiction.
MP Ahmed El-Awadi said the legislative amendment should be considered a part of a greater administrative reform. “When you dismiss those who take drugs [in their] jobs in government offices and departments, this means you take a giant step towards administrative reform,” said El-Awadi.
MP Ashraf El-Shabrawi said the legislative amendment aims to protect all sectors of society from the danger of drug addiction in government circles. “It is also important that the amendment stipulates that persons seeking to have jobs in government offices should first test negative for drugs,” said El-Shabrawi.
MP Mohamed Salah Abu Himila said implementation of the amended law should be accompanied by an awareness campaign on the dangers of drug addiction.
MP Abdel-Fattah Mohamed said the amended law comes on the heels of three train accidents which hit Egypt last month, leaving more than 40 citizens killed. “Investigation showed that drivers of the trains were administering drugs and that this was mainly responsible for the fatal mistakes which caused the accidents,” said Abdel-Fattah.
MP Essam El-Omda claimed that 80 percent of the state’s employees administer drugs, notably hasheesh, which negatively affects their behaviour and leads them to commit fatal mistakes that can cause the loss of the lives of citizens.
“It was quite clear from the train accidents that many state employees, particularly train drivers, administer hasheesh and that was the main reason for their fatal mistakes,” said El-Omda.
MP Mahmoud Qassem proposed that government employees who drink alcoholics be also automatically dismissed from their jobs. The proposal was rejected by most MPs.
MPs Mohamed El-Wahsh, Hani Abaza, Mohamed Ezzat, and Atef El-Maghawry said they reject government employees who test positive for drugs being automatically dismissed.
“When you dismiss these employees automatically, it is like sending them to a death penalty,” said El-Meghawry, recommending that “state employees administering drugs should first be given a chance to rehabilitate and then return to their jobs.”
Adel Abdel-Fadil, head of the Labour Force committee, said the automatic dismissal of government employees who test positive for drugs means that they will lose their jobs without need for invoking judicial measures against them.
In comment, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Alaa Fouad said state employees who test positive for drugs will have the right to appeal the dismissal decision. “They will also have the right to resort to forensic medicine to have a final say on whether they administer drugs and whether they do this for medical reasons,” said Fouad, adding that “if an employee tested negative for drugs at the end he will be automatically [reinstated] in his job and get his full salary.”
Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine El-Qabbaq said the ministry is working to increase the number of rehabilitation centres dedicated to treating persons with drug addiction habits. “We have a Drug Addiction Treatment Fund that offers rehabilitation services to citizens free of charge. This fund has established 26 rehabilitation centres in all of Egypt,” said El-Qabbag, adding that “the media campaign by Egyptian football player Mohamed Salah has attracted 30 million views and led to a drop in addiction rates among young people.”
The amended law’s Article 2 stipulates that all those who seek jobs in state authorities, state administrative units, public sector companies, public utility management companies, rehabilitation centres, kindergartens, schools, and hospitals should test negative for drugs.
Article 3 states that “state employees and civil servants will be subject to annual random drug testing. Those who test positive will be fired at once without the need for judicial measures.”
“The law, however, gives state employees who test positive for drugs the right to appeal the dismissal decision by going to forensic medicine to give a final say on whether they really take drugs,” said Article 3.
Article 4 states that those who abstain or evade facing drug tests without a reasonable excuse will be also automatically dismissed from their jobs.
Article 5 stipulates that those who help persons administering drugs get government jobs will face the penalty of prison terms and hefty fines.
Article 6 states that those who conduct fake drug tests with the intention of giving false results will also face prison terms.