By Angelos Anastasiou
A FOUR-YEAR long project to enhance the skills of 1,500 workers in local government, organised by the Cyprus academy of public administration (CAPA) and EU-funded by 85 per cent, has just been concluded.
Officials from CAPA and the Union of Cyprus Municipalities (UCM) and Cyprus communities (UCC) described the project – budgeted to cost over €2 million – as a “very important, groundbreaking initiative”.
CAPA’s project manager Antigoni Diakou explained that since 2009, when the project was undertaken, four strategic actions had been concluded successfully, two more were in the completion stage and a further one is due to be announced this year.
Attending the training were municipality mayors, community heads, secretarial staff and local counsellors, each assigned to programme modules designed to improve the skills required by their job roles.
Overwhelming interest in the various education activities saw 1,619 employees voluntarily attend, exceeding the target of 1,500 participants, recording an overall successful completion rate of 95.4 per cent.
Various project activities aimed to identify areas for improvement among local-government employees and officials, as well as identifying best practices from national systems in selected EU member states.
Local government structures were in the limelight last week following a preliminary report published by a British house – commissioned by the government to study reform options with a view to improving service to citizens and cost savings – proposing to cut the number of municipalities and communities from several hundred to just five administrative units.
The report sparked public debate on the need for radical reform and prompted UCM head and Famagusta mayor Alexis Galanos to dismiss the report’s assumptions and suggestions.
Asked to comment on the impact the employees’ enhanced administrative and leadership skills might have on the need for reform, in light of the reported need for improving services offered by local government, UCM general secretary Giannis Antoniades said that, although the need for training and education was a constant, it was unclear whether this particular project was included in the British house’s report research.
On the same issue, CAPA head Marios Michaelides acknowledged that better administrative and leadership skills would help improve the quality of services offered and actively engage everyone involved in restructuring efforts.
Panayiotis Damianou, the UCC general secretary, asserted that education efforts will help simplify labyrinthine procedures currently in place in local government, which will in turn generate cost savings, increase efficiency and improve quality.