By Angelos Anastasiou
Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides has asked the finance ministry to take a closer look at the allowances paid to former presidents and House speakers for secretaries and drivers, and to regulate their disbursement by asking recipients to evidence the employment of both, local daily Politis reported on Wednesday.
In a letter to Finance Minister Harris Georgiades, Michaelides referred to the new law restricting the number of former state officials entitled to a state limo with two policemen as drivers, and including gas, maintenance, washing and repair costs, as well as a monthly €2,832 allowance to former officials for employing a secretary.
All of the above has traditionally been paid out to officials under no obligation to evidence their expenses. Therefore, Michaelides urged the finance minister to install procedures that would require officials to evidence whether they do, in fact, employ a secretary before claiming the salary.
Along with a state car, former presidents and House speakers are offered two policemen who serve as drivers, but a recent government policy has discontinued the practice of replacing retired driver-officers. Instead, former officials are paid the sum of €1,200 monthly to pay for a private chauffeur, but are also not required to evidence such hiring before receiving the allowance. Michaelides proposed correcting this distortion using the same process as for secretaries.
And with regard to gas expenditure, Michaelides noted recently that the state spent €35,123 for 23 state officials’ gas in 2013. Of these, seven were used by former Presidents and House chairmen – the late former President Spyros Kyprianou’s wife Mimi, former House chairmen Alexis Galanos, Vasos Lyssarides, and Marios Garoyian, and former Presidents Giorgos Vasiliou, Glafcos Clerides (who passed away last year), and Demetris Christofias, who waived the use of a state car shortly after he left office.
To cut costs, in 2013 the finance ministry capped the maximum gas consumption for each state limo at 6,000 litres annually. Even so, Michaelides noted, the 6,000 cap is excessive and should be reduced.