Cyprus Mail

MPs concerned about cost of legal overlap

By George Psyllides

LAWMAKERS want the government to explain why there were no apparent plans to scrap two authorities whose powers would be supposedly taken over by a new administrative court.

The issue emerged on Wednesday, after MPs were told that the creation of the administrative court, designed to relieve the Supreme Court’s caseload, did not mean the simultaneous abolition of the tax council and the review authority for asylum seekers.

Beyond the potential conflict, taxpayers would also have to foot the bill.

The members of both authorities had been appointed in 2013. Their contracts expire in 2019.

MPs heard that it would take a separate bill to abolish the two authorities.

The House Legal Affairs Committee said it would ask the ministers of justice, finance, and interior, to attend the next meeting to explain whether taxpayers would be saddled with additional expenditure.

As the bill stands, the administrative court would adjudicate on cases that these two authorities look into, committee chairman and DISY MP Soteris Sampson said.

“It is a matter we need to examine,” he said.

AKEL MP Aristos Damianou was highly critical of the apparent mix-up.

He said no government official had informed the government of any other intention concerning the two authorities apart from their abolition.

“In fact, to convince the House … the basic argument were the savings by abolishing the tax council and the review authority,” Damianou said.

He said he was surprised to hear that staff at the authorities had contracts “possibly with significant salaries” until 2019.

The least the government could be charged with is miscommunication between officials, or sloppiness, Damianou said.

“But I must be less lenient, we could possibly speak of misleading parliament,” he said.

The issue of the administrative court has been lingering for over a year as MPs had expressed misgivings over its creation. It is expected to handle appeals concerning government decisions, including asylum applications, public sector jobs and promotions, and tax matters.

Such cases are currently handled by the Supreme Court, which is inundated.

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