Egyptian law to dismiss drug abusers from public services raises concerns over corrupt implementation

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A few days ago, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ratified Law No. 73 of 2021, regarding some conditions for holding or continuing jobs, which determines the penalty for dismissal from employment for employees who are proven to have used drugs.

The government sent this law to parliament two years ago, for discussion and approval, and the House of Representatives considered it in its previous formation before the expiry of its term, but it did not take a decision on it. Then, last January, the government demanded that the parliament, in its current formation, pass the law. After that, there were the train crashes, which were attributed to some railway workers’ drug use, so the parliament moved and passed the law quickly.

Major texts of the law

All employees in the units of the state’s administrative apparatus are subjected to the provisions of this law, including ministries, departments, government agencies, local administration units, agencies that have special budgets, public sector companies, public business sector companies, companies based on managing public utilities in the state, and other state-affiliated companies or in which the state contributes such as care homes, places of shelter, deposit and rehabilitation homes, nurseries, schools and private hospitals.

To occupy public positions in any of these places, whether through appointment, contract, hiring, promotion, delegation, transfer, secondment, or to continue in them, in addition to the other conditions included in the laws and regulations, it is required to prove non-drug use through a spot analysis conducted by employers.

According to the law, the sudden analysis of all workers in these entities is carried out by the competent authorities according to an annual plan prepared by these authorities, and the analysis in this case is an inferential analysis by obtaining a sample from the worker and conducting the analysis in his presence. The worker must disclose before conducting the analysis about all drugs he deals with.

In case the sample is positive, it shall be seized and the worker shall be suspended by law from work for a period of more than three months or until the result of the confirmatory analysis is received, whichever is earlier, with a suspension of half of his wages throughout the suspension period. The confirmatory analysis is conducted on the same sample in the competent authorities, and in this case, and at its own expense, a request may be made to the Forensic Medicine Authority, either to examine the sample within 24 hours from the time the result, or to sign a medical examination on the same day.

In the event of a negative result, the employer is obligated to refund the worker the value of the actual expenses incurred by the forensic medicine authority. The competent authorities or the forensic medicine authority are obligated to notify the employer of the result of the analysis within 10 days from the date of the sample. Termination of the worker’s service by force of law, and his rights, are determined after termination of his service in accordance with the laws, regulations or systems that govern his relationship with his workplace. All of this is in accordance with the rules and procedures specified in the executive regulations of this law.

In this case, if it is proven they have deliberately refrained from performing the analysis during a service or deliberately evaded it without an acceptable excuse, this shall be considered a compelling reason to terminate the service. Whoever deliberately cheats in conducting the analysis regulated by this law or gives a result contrary to reality shall be punished with imprisonment. The law gives workers in state agencies a grace period to quit using drugs, as it stipulates it will be implemented six months from the date the law is published in the Official Gazette.

Concerns over implementation

Several observers fear that this law will be a door to corruption and bribery by those in charge of medical analyses, especially considering Egypt’s decline in the global corruption index, where it ranks 117 out of 180 countries.

The draft law, in its current form, raises questions about the mechanism of financing the medical analyses that will be conducted, as hundreds of thousands of tests are scheduled to be conducted annually for workers in the state administrative apparatus, whose number exceeds 5 million employees.