By George Psyllides
PARTIES and trade unions expressed disagreement on Monday with a government bill designed to strengthen transparency in semi government organisations.
Finance Minister Harris Georgiades told the House finance committee that the aim was to improve financial management, accountability and transparency in semi state entities.
Serious dysfunctions have been observed in the financial management of state organisations, the minister said. The pension fund in one such organisation has a €100 million deficit while others had also accumulated millions in debt.
The bill provides for the introduction of a process that starts with drafting annual budgets and their timely submission in a unified form for all organisations.
It mandates an implementation plan, an obligation to inform officials about important events that could affect the budget and corrective action.
“This improved framework will facilitate proper financial management of these organisations,” Georgiades said.
The bill sets the qualifications, responsibilities, duties, and procedure to appoint and dismiss boards, and includes provisions about conflict of interest.
There are also provisions about the creation and abolition of public organisations.
“All these are put under an umbrella law that complements the other important law on fiscal responsibility,” the minister said.
The bill exempts regulatory authorities and universities.
Georgiades said extensive consultations had taken place with the organisations.
But unions demanded a dialogue before the bill is discussed in parliament with SEK saying they had not been asked to take part in any discussion despite important matters concerning workers.
SEK’s objections were echoed by PEO, which also said that the bill changed the philosophy governing the operation of the organisations by limiting their autonomy and concentrating power in the ministers’ hands.
Georgiades said there had been extensive discussions with the boards and there was no need for separate talks with unions since there was not a single labour matter raised in the bill.
The minister stressed there was nothing in the bill that changed the structure or ownership status of the organisations.
Acting committee chairman, DIKO MP Angelos Votsis, said the workers’ view must be taken into account and that was why they had been invited to the discussion.
Ruling DISY MP Prodromos Prodromou said the scheme was part of the wider policy to modernise public organisations and would improve accountability.
The lawlessness phenomena seen in recent years must be contained, he said, adding that the bill had nothing to do with denationalisation of public entities.
AKEL said the bill concentrated power in the hands of the finance minister and would create job security problems.
MP Pambos Papageorgiou said AKEL was in favour of accountability but inside a framework that prevented state arbitrariness.