By Angelos Anastasiou
The government plans to offer financial aid through the newly-created Independent Social Support Fund only in isolated cases of a humanitarian nature involving individuals whose bank deposits have been seized, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said yesterday in a letter to House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou.
On Monday, members of the House finance committee heavily opposed a government bill allowing the funnelling of money from the state’s consolidated fund into the body, which plans to grant financial support primarily to poor students who would otherwise be forced to abandon their studies.
Committee members argued that using taxpayers money to conduct social policy should be in accordance with existing legislation, and not at the discretion of the First Lady. The ISSF is chaired by First Lady Andri Anastasiades, and the board comprises the State Treasurer, and the permanent secretaries of the education, health, and labour ministries.
In his letter, Georgiades noted that the proposal tabled at parliament would allow the government to offer financial assistance to very specific cases of a humanitarian nature.
“At times, such instances have been brought to light by deputies themselves,” Georgiades said.
“And anyway, such funding from state coffers would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, since the House’s approval would be required.”
But, the finance minister added, if parliament did not wish for such an amendment to be passed, the government stands ready to withdraw its proposal, in which case the Fund will receive solely private contributions.
He noted that the purpose of the Fund is to address cases that have fallen through the cracks of the social safety net.
According to Georgiades, the law founding the ISSF stipulates that financial aid will be granted after an application has been submitted and based on specific criteria, which will be posted on the Fund’s website.
Additionally, the State Treasury will prepare financial statements in accordance with international accounting standards, which will be forwarded to the Audit Service for auditing after approval from the ISSF’s board.
The board will then forward a copy of the audited results to the cabinet, the Finance minister, parliament, in addition to being published in the government gazette.
According to the law, Georgiades explained, the finance minister must provide the House with a detailed list of all entitlements approved and paid to beneficiaries.