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Civil servants holding party posts blast finance minister (updated)

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades

Two Akel MPs, three opposition parties and the auditor general on Tuesday blasted Finance Minister Harris Georgiades for falsely accusing civil servants of holding party posts without permission, naming them in a list of 39 attached to a letter he sent the auditor-general.

In a statement, Akel MP Nicos Kettiros, a former journalist at the state broadcaster, said he had been wrongfully included in Georgiades’ list, with which the minister sought to demonstrate that targeting civil servant and Disy official Savia Orphanidou was unfair and misguided, as dozens of civil servants have been doing the same.

A 2015 law mandates that all civil servants over the A7 pay scale must request permission from the Public Service Commission before assuming a post in any political party.

Orphanidou, a member of Disy’s political bureau, had been found to have failed to request such permission by auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides, who censured Georgiades for failing to launch a disciplinary probe against her.

“In the list he sent the auditor-general, [Georgiades] included my name, obviously believing that when I worked at the CyBC I was not allowed to participate in Akel’s central committee,” Kettiros said.

“At the CyBC I was in the A4-7 pay scale and was thus exempted from the permission requirement.”
Kettiros demanded a public apology from Georgiades, warning that he reserves all his legal rights.

Another member of Akel’s central committee, Cyprus technical university professor Pambos Chrysostomou, said Georgiades should have refrained from making accusations in public before investigating the facts of each case.

“I applied to the appropriate authority on September 21, 2015, for permission to hold a party post, which I was given on October 10, 2015,” he said.

“I was elected to the party post I hold in a perfectly legal way, as I was entitled to by law.”
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said he was not too impressed with the list, hinting the minister’s move was merely a diversion.

Calling it a product of “shoddy work and expediency,” the auditor-general insisted the finance ministry should initiate a disciplinary probe into the root cause of the current controversy – whether proper procedures were followed for the secondment of Orphanidou to the European Investment Bank (EIB).

In a statement, socialist party Edek demanded that Georgiades remove the names of two party officials from his list, claiming one is employed at the E5 pay scale and is exempt from the permission requirement, while the second individual applied for permission in March 2017.

“Such reactions by government ministers, which aim to sensationalise and avoid responsibility are saddening,” the party said.
Georgiades had included far-right Elam leader Christos Christou in his list.

The party protested that prior to being elected MP its leader had been employed at the A5 pay scale, and thus “at no point did he break the law”.

“We sadly note that the finance minister is trying to muddy the waters, making inaccurate assertions to mislead public opinion and shed his own responsibilities,” Elam said.

Diko said that Georgiades’ list is full of inaccuracies since it includes people who are “no longer civil servants, or no longer party-post holders, or not required by law to request permission”.

“Senior Disy officials are also conspicuously absent from the list,” the party said.

The barb was aimed at Xenia Constantinou, leader of Disy’s women’s arm Godisy and member of the executive bureau – also a lecturer at the University of Cyprus – and Despo Sergiou, the schoolteacher who made headlines last September when partisan foul-play was alleged in her secondment to Cyprus’ permanent representation to the European Union in Brussels.

Sergiou is a member of Disy’s political bureau.

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