THE GOVERNMENT yesterday defended its decision to hire so-called special associates, saying it did not add any costs to the budget.
Main opposition AKEL, which tabled the issue for discussion before the House Watchdog Committee, insisted however that various questions were raised by the decision, which bordered on illegality.
The cabinet has decided to hire the services of seven special associates – one each for the ministries of agriculture, defence, justice, finance, and communications, and two for the labour ministry.
Defending the decision in parliament, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said it was not a hiring – no employer/employee relationship was created – but a purchase of services that was within the framework of the relevant law.
Georgiades said the administration had used the same procedure used by former interior minister Neoclis Sylikiotis for his associate.
AKEL insisted the decision was illegal, calling on the attorney-general to rule on the matter.
MP Aristos Damianou said the government that was espousing a restart on all levels could not break the law with cabinet decisions.
The AKEL MP also criticised the administration over hiring several advisers at the Presidential Palace, costing taxpayers €297,000 per year.
“We have more than double the cost only at the presidential palace and we are eagerly waiting the data regarding the ministries and other services,” Damianou said.
Undersecretary to the president Constantinos Petrides conceded that the eight associates working at the palace cost €297,000 compared with five who worked for the previous administration for €182,000 a year.
Petrides said the budget will not be exceeded, listing the cash saved from the cuts in the president’s and ministers’ salaries, and reductions in operating and other costs totalling around €185,000.