Cyprus Mail

Lawyer calls on AG to overhaul social insurance fund

Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides

Lawyer and civil activist Michalis Paraskeva, who has been charged for refusing to pay social insurance contributions, has urged Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides to force the finance and labour ministers to table a bill for better management of the social insurance fund.

In an open letter published in Simerini, Paraskeva urged Michaelides “to take penal or other action” against the two ministers, “if they refuse to apply the law, as required”.

Paraskeva got himself in legal trouble with the government last year after refusing to pay social insurance contributions as someone who is self-employed. He considers his refusal an act of civil disobedience in response to what he claims is a plan by the government to write-off a €7.2bn debt to the Social Insurance Fund (SIF).

The massive debt to the SIF is the result of years of governments borrowing from the fund to plug holes in public finances. The troika of lenders requested in 2012 for that debt to be written off, although the state has yet to do so.

He believes that the state will trigger the collapse of the SIF if it writes off the debt and that the banks and the state are to blame for the financial meltdown and considers taking money off the SIF as an attack on the people.

In the letter, Paraskeva said that Cypriot citizens are dragged to court according to the law on social insurance and at the same time a blind eye is turned for violations of other relevant law articles by “those who control the state and not by citizens”.

“I expect that you promptly proceed with these actions otherwise the only conclusion that can be drawn is that you simply refuse to fulfil your obligations, for reasons known only to yourself,” the letter said.

Citing the auditor general’s report for 2013, which expressed concerns over the government’s practice to borrow money from the SIF with favourable terms as it does not ensure the interests of the fund, Paraskeva said that this is a direct violation of the law by the state, “therefore, a direct violation of the right to a decent existence and social security of Cypriots”.

He urged Michaelides to “serve without exception” as his position as auditor general is an institution and “it is not up to his discretion when to exercise it and when not”.

Paraskevas’ court case was adjourned last week to September 8.

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