Cyprus Mail

Rocky passage expected for public sector reform bills

Reform bills aim to improve efficiency in the public sector

Two government bills relating to the much-touted reform of the public sector will be taken to parliament’s final plenary session before the body adjourns for its summer break on July 14, it was announced on Monday.

One of the landmark bills links the government payroll with economic growth and the other allows for the secondment of civil servants and broader-public sector employees to other units.

According to DIKO deputy Marinos Mousiouttas, committee-level discussion of the two bills was concluded on Monday at the House finance committee, and the two bills will be put to a plenary vote next Thursday.

Monday’s session was attended by undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides, the government’s point-man on public-sector reform, who told reporters that it is now “up to parliament to decide whether it really wants to usher in a new era and modernise the public sector by approving the government-payroll proposal”.

He pointed out that for decades the political establishment has used the state payroll as an instrument for politicking, resulting in the highest percentage of GDP across the European Union and the Eurozone, without the service quality to match the cost, and noted that this was because pay-hikes, hiring and social benefits policies were often used by governments to serve political expediencies and fostering clientelism.

“This bill ends such practices once and for all, and streamlines the way in which pay rises, benefits and hiring are done,” he said.

Asked to comment on another of the proposed public-sector reform bills, introducing the mandatory bell-curve evaluation of civil servants, which was deemed unconstitutional by the Legal Service, Petrides said the unexpected issue came up after eleven months of deliberations, but the government has already drafted an alternative proposal.

Main opposition AKEL deputy Stefanos Stefanou said that “the grand announcements for public-sector reform has been reduced to two or three items”, as the rest were deemed unconstitutional by the auditor-general’s office.

But while the government payroll needs to reflect the state’s true capabilities, this need cannot be adjusted through legislation, as collective agreements are negotiated freely between the government and trade unions.

With regard to the bill on secondments, Stefanou accused the government of “aiming to sell off profitable semi-state organisations and move its employees to the public sector, so that their salaries burden the taxpayers instead of the private investor”.

The Greens’ deputy Yiorgos Perdikis charged that the government has made a mess of its public-sector reform policy.

“We believe the basis of the bill is wrong,” he said of the state-payroll proposal, noting that nearly every trade union disagrees with its clauses, and announced that his party will propose amendments.

But even as he declared the Greens’ “broad-strokes agreement” with the secondments bill, Perdikis said the party will propose amendments to this one, too.

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