IT WAS a common secret that corruption was rife at the state body administering abandoned Turkish Cypriot properties in the Republic, but until a few weeks ago nobody ever dared mention it. This was because all the political parties were involved in the corruption, distributing properties among their supporters and ensuring very low rents.
In the end, what had been set up to help refugees make a new start was exploited by people with party connections for their personal benefit. There are now non-refugees using Turkish Cypriot properties, refugees sub-letting such properties and many tenants that have not paid rent to the Guardian for years. Total rent arrears are currently €4 million, while rents are still at 1980s prices and the state pays for repairs and improvement work to these properties.
The Guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties is the minister of interior, who is supposed to ensure that everything is done by the book. However, until the appointment of Socrates Hasikos a year ago, all his predecessors turned a blind eye to the dodgy deals and political favours carried out in the name of the Guardian. Incidentally, we never heard any deputies complaining about what was going on either, because they were part of the problem.
Hasikos was the first interior minister that refused to turn a blind eye to what was going on and openly spoke about the corruption. He has promised a shake-up and has already announced that many deals would be reviewed; those who had not been paying rent would be evicted, there would be a review of rents to reflect current prices, refugees would be offered land for farming and the guardian would pay for repairs to properties only in exceptional cases.
The most important decision Hasikos took was to ask for the transfer of the civil servants who had been working for the Guardian for years. Staff that were in the same job for too long created ‘relationships and dependencies’ with members of the public and were unable to perform their duties objectively. This is true of all government departments dealing with the public and a strong argument for regular transfers of civil servants. Of course PASYDY has for decades prevented the government from transferring civil servants, thus contributing to the cultivation of corruption.
Whether Hasikos will be successful in replacing the staff of the Guardian remains to be seen, because PASYDY is certain to resist. The truth is that Hasikos will make many enemies in his commendable effort to clean up the corruption at the Guardian, but if he succeeds it would be an astonishing achievement.