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Ending the ‘gangrene of nepotism’ in defence

The patronage system present in the wider public sector does not leave the National Guard unaffected said Defence Minister Christophoros Fokaides

By Stefanos Evripidou

DEFENCE MINISTER Christoforos Fokaides yesterday announced a series of measures to tackle “the gangrene of rusfeti (nepotism)” in the defence sector.

The ten reform measures- that will come into immediate effect- aim to set the foundations for meritocracy and good governance, and will be followed by more measures, said the minister.

“Unfortunately, we all share responsibility- and I’m referring mainly to the parties and successive governments- for the symptoms and disease of the patronage system present in the wider public sector, and which do not leave unaffected the National Guard (NG),” said Fokaides.

It will take a great and sustained effort to change a decades-old culture, but “first and foremost it will require the support of all the parties, politicians and those with powerful positions in society”, he said.

Fokiades highlighted the contribution of the public, saying that fighting “the gangrene of rusfeti and cronyism is everyone’s responsibility”.

“Our sole criteria should be to reward those who excel and put the right people in the right jobs,” he added.

The first of ten measures announced yesterday starts with a limitation on the powers of the minister to decide on military issues without basing any decision on specific criteria and a committee proposal.

Until now, despite the good will of each minister, preserved a lack of transparency in decision-making and undermined the institutions, he said.

“Decisions should be made rationally and using objective criteria in a way which reduces the chances of political subjectivity.”

The second measure removes the power of the minister’s office to exempt reserves from military duty, transferring this duty to the National Guard headquarters.

Fokaides highlighted that the whole system of reserve duty was being revised to improve training and reduce unnecessary time wasting.

Other measures include: all requests have to be made in writing, including justifications for the request based on agreed procedures; and, strict criteria have been adopted for the postings of soldiers with new selection procedures established.

A fifth measure reforms the composition of the Committee on Social Problems, which examines requests for transfers and postings, in a manner to ensure greater objectivity in the process. It will no longer be made up of permanent members, but of senior officers who will be chosen by lottery a few hours before the regular session of the committee. The same method will be used to appoint a military doctor, psychologist/sociologist and representative of the Social Welfare Department to the committee.
The decisions of the advisory committee will be fully justified and submitted for final approval by the hierarchy at NG headquarters.

Another measure relates to the leave soldiers are entitled to. Starting with the next round of conscription, the amount of leave afforded soldiers will increase or fall depending on the difficulty of the unit they are assigned to. For example, those serving on the Green Line will be entitled to more leave than conscripts serving at the officers’ club.

Officers serving in ready-to-deploy units will be given certain incentives while credit will also be given to those serve in leadership positions and who acquire specific skills or knowledge.

Fokaides added that a series of bills will soon be sent to parliament relating to critical issues affecting the NG’s permanent staff, first and foremost promotions.

“Permanent staff should not be treated as public servants. Not filling vacant positions in the military not only causes dysfunction; in a predominantly hierarchical organisation like the army, this problem undermines the very structure and hence coordinated administration and execution of its mission.”

The final measure announced determines the maximum amount of time one can serve in the same position, particularly relating to the supply of equipment and materials.

The minister said it was his “deep conviction” that promoting a new system of values based on fairness and meritocracy was the foundation of success in the task to modernise and reorganise the armed forces.

The members of the armed forces, men and women, should be dedicated to the state and not to respective governments.

Fokaides expressed the wish to make the ‘who you know’ factor redundant in military decisions, and replace it with a sense of fairness in decision-making.

More announcements will be made in the coming weeks, he said.

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