By Jean Christou
Legislation to reform the public service into “something not experienced until now in Cyprus” is in its final stages and will be submitted to parliament at the end of the year at the latest, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Monday.
“It will be a completely different system of public administration to the one we have experienced so far,” Anastasiades during the swearing in of the new Public Service Commission (PSC) at the presidential palace.
The president said Cyprus was going through a difficult transition period of restructuring its institutions, “a period in which, rightly, the demands of society and the public are becoming greater for those institutions when it comes to meritocracy, good administration, fairness, transparency and accountability of the state to its citizens”.
“Our goal is to implement a new, more efficient public administration system, a system in which positions of responsibility will be awarded to the most worthy, that will be fairly awarded through written exams and a modern system of assessment,” Anastasiades said.
Decisions would be taken in accordance with objective and measurable criteria rather than by arbitrary oral examinations and seniority “because otherwise there can be no meritocracy”.
“It will be a system that will take into account the needs of society rather than political or other interests.”
Anastasiades outlined the provisions of a new code of principles for the operation of the PSC, especially when it comes to recruitment and promotion, which he said was the most important part of the commission’s work. The code was something that has never been implemented in Cyprus before, he said.
It provides tools for appraisals and transfers, a points system for candidates based on specific criteria relating to the results of written examination, additional academic and professional qualifications, experience, performance evaluation, the recommendation of the relevant department head, and an oral examination before the PSC.
The oral examination, which has proved problematic in the past where some excluded candidates have charged that others were given jobs entirely based on the interview irrespective of qualifications, will be revamped entirely, Anastasiades said.
He said it would include a more structured interview, to be conducted on the basis of a questionnaire, which will be prepared in cooperation with the relevant department, and be based on the requirements of the position on offer.
During the oral interviews the members of the PSC will be required to record their comments in the questionnaire, which can be used as a reference point later in case of a challenge to the awarding of a particular position.
As a failsafe, random checks will be carried out on an ongoing basis by the Ombudswoman’s office to make sure that all the correct processes and methodology have been followed.
Anastasiades said the new members of the PSC had already signed a declaration pledging they would not engage in any conflict of interest which could affect the performance of their duties.
The new members were named as Giorgos Papageorgiou as president, Antonis Vassiliades, Heliodors Heliodorou, Panayiotis Antoniou and Andreas Papadopoulos.
Anastasiades said all were persons of recognised standing and unquestionable morals.
“And I want to make clear that no party leader has contacted me on the issue of appointments of these members to the PSC,” he said.
“What people expect today, is not only the appointment of honest and ethical persons to such important posts but they expect change and modernisation of the system.”
He said new PSC members had between them a range of legal and human resources experience. “But the most important thing of all is that they have the will for change,” he added.
New PSC president Giorgos Papageorgiou said structural changes and reforms were needed to make the public service more flexible, more efficient and effective, “and certainly friendlier and more responsive to citizens’ needs”.
“A pivotal part of any effort in this direction is certainly the civil servant himself who must who must be part of a system which promotes and rewards hard work and efficiency and lets go of the disincentives which characterise the current system,” he said. “We are ready to roll up our sleeves and begin work.”