By George Psyllides
The current local authority model has come to the end of its lifespan, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said on Tuesday, as he called for radical reforms.
“The time has come for a radical, pioneering, and courageous reform of the institution,” the minister said in a speech before the union of municipalities AGM.
The island’s numerous municipalities are feeling the brunt of the economic crisis with some having difficulties in making ends meet.
Together, local authorities owe some €600 million, which are guaranteed by the state.
Hasikos said the debt was worrying and should make everyone wiser.
He agreed that the money was spent on development projects “but the management should have been better.”
Hasikos highlighted the need for supervision and stamping out corruption.
Local government must clean up its act but and agree to an effective mechanism for supervision and auditing to replace the current one, which proved to be unsuitable.
“Taxpayers must know exactly, where, how, and through which, fully transparent procedures, their money is used,” the minister said, adding that it was only way to avoid phenomena like the ongoing scandal surrounding the Paphos municipality and mayor Savvas Vergas who is being investigated for corruption.
The government has drafted a bill to reform local authorities but it prompted heavy criticism from parties and municipalities alike.
“It would not be an exaggeration to say that some sides do not even accept it as a basis for discussion,” the minister said.
Acknowledging the opposition, Hasikos said the government would not insist on keeping it on the table.
But all sides agreed it included positive elements, and the government accepted many proposals submitted by parties and local authorities.
“Our intention, is putting all these together … so that we come to a conclusion and propose a single copy,” he said, hoping that it will be the draft of the final bill put before the cabinet for approval before going to parliament.
Municipalities expressed their readiness to hold talks to find common ground on a new draft.