All seven government bills aimed at reforming public service were referred back to the Legal Service by parliament on Tuesday, in order to establish whether they contain any unconstitutional provisions, meaning discussion at committee level can resume in September at the earliest, as parliament closes for the summer break this week.
Despite the government’s overtures to parliament for discussion and passing of at least two of the bills to be expedited, and if possible concluded this week, the House Finance committee effectively decided to push everything back to September, when parliament returns from the summer recess.
The decision followed yet more constitutional issues were raised by attorney-general Costas Clerides on Monday, when he told committee members that the pay of judges, as well as the attorney-general and his deputy, may not be included in the reform package.
Last month, Clerides told lawmakers that another provision in the package, introducing a mandatory bell-curve grading scheme in the public service, by which only a fixed percentage of civil servants in each department could be graded in the top or bottom brackets.
According to AKEL MP Stefanos Stefanou, Clerides’ views confirmed the lack of consultation by the government.
“It was confirmed that the much-touted reform is not comprehensive, does not touch on matters of efficiency and effectiveness, and is, in fact, patchy,” he said.
Stefanou added that this reform should be brought back to the House as a package after the recess, so that it can be discussed in its entirety.
DIKO MP Angelos Votsis said that the seven bills will be sent back to the Legal Service, so that it can advise on any unconstitutional clauses by the end of August, allowing the start of discussion.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou said the delay could prove damaging to the economy of Cyprus.
“These bills were tabled months ago, and should have been handled sooner,” Neophytou said.
“I hope the Legal Service reviews these proposals as soon as possible – there are certainly options to ensure their legality. The political proposals will not, should not, and need not change.”
Undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides, who authored the bills, said he will inform the cabinet of the development on Wednesday.
The government ranks public-service reform as one of its highest priorities, Petrides said, noting that Wednesday’s cabinet session will be followed by announcements.