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Parliament rejects civil service reform (Update)

PARLIAMENT on Friday rejected five of six government bills on civil service reform.

The bill on secondment was referred to the House finance committee for further discussion, while four of the remaining bills only garnered the votes of 15 Disy MPs and three of Solidarity. The bill on increases of the state payroll was only supported by the 15 Disy MPs present.

Undersecretary to the president and reform commissioner Constantinos Petrides voiced his regret over the parliament’s decision.

“Without so much as an amendment from parties, the civil service reform was rejected in its entirety. It is really saddening that the current rotten system is perpetuated,” Petrides tweeted.

MPs who supported the bills stressed the importance of cutting back on public expenditure, while those against, justified their decision calling for amendments.

Opposition Akel MP Stefanos Stefanou had expressed before the vote his party’s intention to reject the bills as they feel, he said, they are not a “substantial reform”.

He added that it was Akel’s intention to support the reforms and had submitted their own proposals, but that “all our attempts were met with a brick wall”.

“There were some public statements by the government that were condescending and extortionate,” Stefanou said.

The civil service needs a reform bill that corrects the distortions and leads to a public service that will serve citizens with speed, quality and effectiveness and which should be by the side of the people, he said. The government’s suggested reforms, he said, were “of limited scope with some changes in the right direction and others in the opposite, but it does not change the system”.

Diko’s Marinos Mousiouttas said that his party rejected the bills because they did not live up to expectations. The main point was that the suggested reform “maintains the dominance in promotions and recruitment of a single body, the Public Service Commission (PSC)”. Human resources specialists, he said, maintain that different agencies must be involved in staff evaluation.

“The bills create a setting prone in interventions,” Mousiouttas said. He added that the government had ignored the suggestions for evaluation of superiors by their subordinates.

Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos said there should be a ceiling on civil service salaries, and he too stressed that the PSC would remain the dominant body under the proposed reform for staff evaluation and promotions. He added that there are inconsistencies regarding the bills for recruitment and assessments concerning hospital autonomy.

The Citizens’ Alliance MP Anna Theologou, said that her party has submitted an amendment on the bill on the evaluation of civil servants so that it can be carried out by a department with “the scientific background” and not the PSC. “There are departments which the PSC cannot evaluate”.

The head of the Greens, Giorgos Perdikis, said that the bills do not respond to the expectations of the political parties and of society, but that they serve the interests of civil servants’ union Pasydy. “Civil service belongs to the people and it is not a manor of Pasydy’s leadership. We don’t want a reform that will suit the high-ranking of Pasydy as it is tailored to their needs”.

Elam’s Christos Christou said that the government proposals were “timid and insipid” and that his party is willing to work with the rest of the political forces for “radical solutions and a substantial reform”.

“This is not a god day for the country,” Disy’s Onoufrios Koullas said.

He slammed the main opposition party for this setback as “Akel seems in favour of the reform, but as it turned out, Akel was and will be an obstacle in any effort for change.”

Koullas said that the outcome sends out “negative signals to the credit rating agencies and the international markets”.

Disy’s Marios Mavrides said that despite disagreements the cost of operation of the civil service cannot continue to grow. Today, he said, it is 40 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“Money doesn’t grow on threes. If payroll rises continue, there will be expenditure cutbacks elsewhere,” he said.

Michalis Giorgallas of the Citizens’ Alliance, the only other party that supported the majority of the bills, said that they did so not because they find the proposals without weakness, but because, in principle, they support the notion of the reform of the civil service.

Petrides had said in October that the current political environment is not supportive as the bills which aim at addressing hiring, evaluation and promotion of civil servants, their pay increase and the transfer of workers from departments with excess staff to others needing workers, “touched taboos”.

The parliament decision was not well received by the head of the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV), Michalis Antoniou. He said in an announcement that the national wealth is “once again sacrifice to the Moloch of the civil service”.



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