By Elias Hazou
IN WHAT can only be described as kicking the can down the road – again –lawmakers yesterday passed a legislative proposal suspending the entry into force of a law they previously ratified on the use of state limos by public officials.
Under the bill co-drafted by the AKEL, DISY and DIKO parties, and fast-tracked to the plenum yesterday, implementation of the limos law is to be suspended until October 3.
When parliament passed a generic law back in January – and this after months of deliberations – they included a clause stipulating that it would not take effect until July 1, ostensibly to give the government time to flesh out the accompanying regulations, which must also pass parliamentary muster.
Since then, several lists of officials entitled to the limo perk have come and gone. The latest, submitted earlier this month, includes the President of the Republic, the House Speaker, the President of the Supreme Court, the attorney-general and deputy attorney-general, the auditor -general, former presidents, ministers, the government spokesman, the undersecretary to the president, as well as the First Lady.
The cabinet also included on the list – citing security reasons – the chief of police, the commander of the National Guard, as well as the head of the intelligence service.
For other officials currently using state-provided limos, the cabinet decided that these officials can keep their vehicles on a personal basis until their term is over, but no later than January 2016.
The cabinet said the use of a state car is allowed only for state business and that transportation to and from the official’s residence is not considered ‘state business’. How this can be verified is another matter.
Meanwhile about 101 officials – including mayors – get to keep being chauffeured around.
Under the previous deadline of July 1, certain officials would have had to surrender their limos, unless by that date the government brought regulations spelling out the use of the cars.
Although the government did in the meantime bring regulations, they were not to legislators’ liking – such as the contentious clause allowing officials to keep their vehicles only until January 2016.
And had parliament now put these regulations to a vote and rejected them, the affected officials would have had their limos taken away from them. Not wanting to do that either, MPs maneuvered their way out by making the law take effect as of October instead of July 1.
Nor is yet another postponement in October beyond the realm of possibility, should lawmakers once more be unsatisfied with the new regulations brought to them by then.
Greens MP George Perdikis said his colleagues’ latest move drags out the “scandalous privilege” of state limos.
“Enough with this story, which is a blemish on political life. It is high time that the clique of limo-goers must is defeated,” he told reporters.
Some commentators have even suggested that behind the cat-and-mouse games may be MPs deliberately keeping the matter in limbo, using their leverage on the legislative process to perhaps wiggle themselves on the list of persons entitled to limos.