By Evie Andreou
As of the beginning of next year, only 28 government officials will be entitled to use state cars round-the-clock.
The move, which was in the making for around two years, was voted into law a year ago, in November 2014. On January 1, a large number of officials, including commissioners, permanent secretaries at ministries, heads of semi-governmental organisations and mayors, will see a major job perk go as the transitional period on the unlimited use of state cars, expires.
The law amendment was deemed as necessary to reduce costs as the state was burdened with fuel costs, service and repairs for the vehicles, while it was not uncommon for some state officials to abuse this privilege and drive the cars for private use.
As per the new law, entitled to round-the-clock, unlimited use of limos are the President of the Republic, the House Speaker, the President of the Supreme Court, the attorney-general and deputy AG, the auditor-general, former presidents of the Republic and former House speakers (provided they have served in that office for at least 30 months).
Also entitled to the perk are ministers, the under-secretary to the President, the government spokesman, the chief of police, the commander of the National Guard, the head of the secret service, and the spouse of the President of the Republic but only during the same President’s term.
The remaining state officials will be allowed the use of limos for state business only. These include the spouses of former Presidents, the chief Greek Cypriot negotiator in the peace talks, the head of the Public Service Commission, the Ombudsman, and the permanent secretaries at the various ministries.
According to the new regulations, the heads of services and ministry departments who will be charged with overseeing the usage of the vehicles and users will have to file paperwork each month on fuel consumption and provide specific information on travelled routes.
Politis on Wednesday quoted a state official expressing his dissatisfaction over losing the perk, as he was “forced to buy a car”. He believes it is like losing a significant allowance – free fuel and maintenance that go with the car – which when he assumed his service duties was considered a given.
The law also stipulates that state cars that are to be bought after the law came into effect, should not exceed 2000cc engines and emit not more than 145 grammess per kilometre (145 gr/km) carbon dioxide.
Last year during the debate on the relevant law on the House floor, AKEL MP Stavros Evagorou likened the ever-changing list of eligible officials to an “accordion,” expanding and contracting depending on the behind-the-scenes lobbying.