Cyprus Mail

Our View: Deputies are always united when it comes to their personal interests

OUR DEPUTIES may be permanently seated on the moral high ground passing judgment on everyone and mouthing sermons about ethical behaviour, but we doubt there is a single citizen who believes they are fit to occupy such a lofty position. Too many of them are self-serving individuals who resort to continual moralising in order to hide their personal agendas which invariably take precedence over everything else.

We are not saying anything that people do not know, but we were reminded of their lack of principles, when it comes to their own personal interests, a couple of days ago, when the joke of a law governing professional conflict of interest of public officials was back in the news.

The law that was finally approved in 2008, after years of prevarication and dithering, was cut to the measures of deputies who did not want to lose their lucrative contracts or retainers with public sector or semi-governmental organisations.

The law was chopped and changed so that deputies that were lawyers by profession could carry on offering services as consultants and legal advisors to semi-governmental organisations and co-op banks. There was obviously no conflict of interest when a lawyer, in his role as legislator examined the budget of a semi-governmental organisation from which he collected a big annual fee as its legal advisor. Nor was there conflict of interest when he was debating bills directly related to his customer.

How ironic that these same deputies kicked up a big fuss a few months ago about the governor of the Central Bank, with regard to conflict of interest, and demanded her resignation. The governor did nothing more than what deputies had done in 2008. While she altered her work contract so as to avoid its stipulation about conflict of interest, deputies changed the bill so that the law would not be a hindrance to their earning power.

Now the president of the House will ask the University of Cyprus to put a team of experts together to study conflict of interest law in other countries and put together a new bill that will have no holes or weaknesses. A lawyer brought in to study the existing law found that it was full of holes and he advised that amendments to the constitution would be necessary for any law to be effective. This is what the team from the university would be looking into before it makes its proposals.

While this is a commendable initiative by the House president, we suspect that it will never come to fruition, because deputies will not allow it to happen. If there is one thing that unites our principled deputies it is a threat to their personal interests.

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