By Stefanos Evripidou
THE CHAIRMAN of the House Finance Committee yesterday said there was clearly “abuse” of the system which provides luxury vehicles to former and present officials in the wider public sector after hearing that at least 117 officials enjoyed this privilege.
The committee yesterday continued its discussion on abolishing the privilege of providing state cars to a large number of former and present public officials. For those who will continue to enjoy state vehicles, parliament examined putting restrictions on engine size, pollution emissions and price, with only the president’s vehicle enjoying full exemption for security purposes.
Speaking after the committee meeting, where a full account of the exact number of state cars on Cyprus’ roads could not be given, its chair Nicolas Papadopoulos said: “It is now clear that this privilege is being abused.”
The committee was given two lists providing details of state vehicles enjoyed by state officials and those in semi-government organisations (SGOs) and local authorities.
It transpired from the incomplete list that at least 117 luxury cars were being enjoyed by state officials, independent officials and heads of services.
According to the state broadcaster, telecoms company CyTA has the most luxury cars, counting nine for its chairman and directors, compared to just two for the electricity authority (EAC).
From the local authorities, Limassol municipality has the most, with three luxury cars made available for the mayor, municipal secretary and chief financial officer.
The municipalities of Larnaca and Lakatamia have two luxury cars each, others have one, while some municipalities have none.
According to one of the lists published by Sigmalive.com, DIKO leader and former House President Marios Garoyian gets to enjoy a state car with one of the largest engine size: a Mercedes E500, registered in 2010. The German luxury car has a 5.5 litre engine size, with a capacity of 5,461cc, bigger even than the president’s Mercedes S450L which has an engine capacity of 4,663cc.
The finance committee yesterday called on cabinet to put down rules on who is entitled to state cars, and impose caps on horsepower, pollution levels and price.
In the meantime, the committee’s members vowed to proceed with passing legislation independent of government’s actions to abolish these privileges for the many.
Papadopoulos said only a limited number of state officials should continue to enjoy this privilege, a position which appears to be gaining ground among the majority of committee members.
The DIKO deputy questioned why the head of CyTA’s customer service needed to drive around in a luxury vehicle with a large engine.
He said all committee members agreed that reform of this policy was necessary to avoid similar abuse in the future, noting that agreement has been reached on a general framework, based on a DISY proposal.
Under the proposal, only specific state officials should have access to a state car, those clearly entitled to one in the constitution, though even in those cases, caps must be placed on engine size and carbon emissions, excluding the president’s car.
Regarding former presidents of the Republic and House, those who have already received a car will retain the privilege, which will no longer apply from 2014.
“All the remaining officials will not be entitled to a car,” said Papadopoulos.
Regarding releasing funds for the purchase of a car for former president Demetris Christofias, this will likely be done after new legislation has been passed, said the committee chair.
As for local authorities, SGOS and other services, under the draft amendments, they will only be allowed state cars for official business, which will be for common use and with clear stipulations on engine size and pollution emissions. These cars will not belong to these officials but to the authority or SGO.
DISY deputy Prodromos Prodromou said: “There is an important issue here: the state does not know at any one time, how many cars (it has given out) and to whom, and this is a further reason for comprehensive legal reform.”