Cyprus Mail

Law on civil servants switching to private sector reviewed

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said special committees might have to be set up to oversee the employment of lower ranking former civil servants

Parliament is reviewing the law regulating the employment of former public servants in the private sector in light of the recent transfers of the Limassol and Larnaca harbour masters to companies with related activities.

House ethics committee chairman, Disy MP Zaharias Zahariou, said it appeared that the law passed in 2007, though groundbreaking at the time, needed to be amended so that it covered more state officials.

“What is important, however, is people leaving the state sector normally or early, receiving a handsome lump sum or a retirement package, should not have the right to go to a competitor of the state or someone related to the state, so that the businessman in question exploits the employees’ previous position,” Zahariou said.

He told reporters that the committee will ask the attorney-general whether the two former harbour masters were covered by the current law.

“If they are not, it is necessary to amend the law,” he said.

The 2007 law provides that state officials, especially permanent secretaries, heads of departments and public organisations, must be granted permission before joining a private company within two years of their departure from the state sector.

The requests were studied by a special committee made up of the three most senior state attorneys.

Without that they would be committing a criminal offence.

The issue of the two harbour masters was being reviewed by the attorney-general.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said if MPs decided to extend the law’s terms of reference then special committees could be set up at ministries to handle applications from lower ranking civil servants so as not to overload the main committee.

The head of the committee, Louiza Zanettou, said they examined applications within three months but had no authority to review cases on their own initiative.

In the past two years, the committee examined 11 applications – six in 2016 and five the previous year. None were rejected.

A finance ministry representative told the committee that their position was that the law should not be extended to cover more officials.

Akel MP Irini Charalambidou said a stop must be put to all this at some point.

“You cannot continuously have cases where high ranking officials of the civil service of semi government organisations switch hats from one day to the next and while participating in negotiations with private businesses move to the other side of the table,” she said.

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