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New SGO appointments to be unveiled Tuesday

CyTA, one of the 'big three'

By Elias Hazou

THE NEW appointees to the coveted boards of semi-governmental organisations (SGOs) are to be unveiled on Tuesday, with all eyes on who will get to chair three of the entities – the Electricity Authority, the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority and the Ports Authority.

This time round the appointments are more than just business as usual; the people heading the three SGOs in question will be tasked with implementing government policy vis a vis the planned privatisations.

The privatisation of the EAC, CyTA and the Ports Authority is an integral part of the bailout agreement between Cyprus and its international lenders, under which the island must raise €1.4bn through denationalising these entities by 2018.

It’s understood that President Nicos Anastasiades’ intention is to appoint to these three key posts technocrats, more loyal to the government than to political parties.

The rhetoric from the Palace has been shaped to reflect that objective, with the President stressing that the appointments must be meritocratic – a break from the past where SGOs were used by parties to give jobs to the boys.

“No names have been given to me by the parties, nor would I tolerate such a thing, nor would I allow the imputation that the parties have foisted upon me names [of candidates],” Anastasiades told newsmen on Monday.

The names of the new SGO board members are to be announced today – the final deadline – following a meeting of the Cabinet.

It’s understood the President wants to appoint technocrats to three key SGOs: permanent secretary of the communications and works ministry Alecos Michaelides as head of state telecoms CyTA; finance ministry permanent secretary Christos Patsalides to the Ports Authority; and Stelios Himonas, permanent secretary of the commerce ministry, to the EAC.

In the event these three are appointed to the SGOs, they would keep their current posts in the civil service. It’s not clear whether they would also receive two salaries.

But there’s a legal snag: the relevant Civil Servants laws prohibit a public servant from “engaging in any work or in any business other than their work in the public service.”

At the same time the laws do not expressly prohibit a civil servant from occupying two posts in the public sector, and the issue is up for interpretation. But sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the appointment of already-serving senior civil servants to SGOs – also part of the public sector – might constitute a conflict and could be challenged at the Supreme Court. Should the appointments then be declared null and void, that might disrupt the government’s privatisations plans.

The Attorney-general was also due to deliver a legal opinion to the government on the matter.

Despite the President’s assertions to the contrary, reports have been suggesting that the ruling coalition parties – DISY, DIKO and the European Party – all submitted lists of candidates to the Palace over the weekend.

And on Sunday, the President met in Limassol with DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos.

Other reports speculated that DIKO has already ‘locked’ the chairmanships of five SGOs, including the EAC.

In all, some 140 persons are to be appointed to the boards of 16 SGOs.

In a purported bid to check party-political influence in semi-state enterprises, the government has drafted legislation that strips SGO boards of the power to make appointments or promotions. That power is to be transferred to the Public Service Commission; the bill is set to be tabled to parliament soon.

 

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