By Stefanos Evripidou
THE NUMBER of public servants taking early retirement doubled in 2012 compared to the year before, while the figure for this year is steadily rising, said head of the Public Service Commission (PSC) Pavlos Papageorgiou on Monday.
Speaking after handing over the PSC’s annual report for 2012 to President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace, Papageorgiou said, despite the freeze on hiring and promotions in the public sector, the Commission still had plenty to do in 2012.
According to the PSC head, 23 positions, announced before the freeze, were filled, while 1,162 promotions were completed.
Retirements in the public sector increased by 75 per cent year-on-year due to the massive increase in early retirements, he said.
In 2011, 344 public servants took early retirement while in 2012, this figure increased to 734.
So far this year, retirements have already reached 730, meaning the final figure could top 1,000, said Papageorgiou.
“The problem with early retirements is that those leaving are not surplus to requirements. Competent, trained staff with a few years of employment to go are leaving, creating gaps in their department and problems in the functioning of the public service.”
The primary reason for the exodus is fear that the government will tax or terminate the lump sum public servants receive on retirement, based on salary and years of service.
“And unfortunately, according to the law, the department cannot refuse a request for early retirement to a public worker over 60,” he said.
For those under 60, a department head can refuse the request if the person’s leaving will create problems for the department.
The Commission is also responsible for handing disciplinary cases, of which there were 14 in 2012.
Papageorgiou noted that each cases takes a long time to process, giving as example one disciplinary case in 2013 for which, they had to call1six witnesses, many of whom came from abroad.
Appeals to the Supreme Court also saw a small increase, going from 11 filed in 2011 to 12 in 2012.
The public service chief also noted the increasing problem of appeals over transfers recently. As a result of the hiring freeze, departments are forced to cover the gaps by ordering more transfers from district to district.
“Employees are entitled to appeal and we examine those appeals,” he said.
The PSC itself saw its staff reduced by eight people in 2012, though productivity remained high thanks to a modernisation of the means used at the Commission, he said.