The police force has ‘fully complied’ with the recommendations of the auditor-general and is taking steps to reduce wasteful spending, justice minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Thursday.
“Certainly there remain some problems, as it is not possible for everything to go like clockwork. But there is a decisiveness and a will to rapidly address these problems,” Nicolaou said after a session of the House watchdog committee discussing the audit office’s special report on the police.
One of the auditor-general’s key recommendations to the police force is to cut down on costs by housing police stations and services in self-owned buildings rather than in rented premises.
Every year the force spends some €23 million on renting buildings.
MP Zacharias Koulias said this was a waste, considering how much real estate is state land.
According to the justice minister, three police headquarters are currently being constructed – for Morfou, Paphos and Famagusta.
In addition, by the end of the year police services and departments will be moving into the premises now housing the National Guard General Headquarters (Geef), while €300,000 has been set aside for improvement works on the GHQ building.
In the switch to self-owned buildings, priority will be given in cases where the rents currently paid are the highest, Nicolaou said.
Regarding the problem of understaffing, the minister said a study is underway to identify tasks which, strictly speaking, should not be under control of the police – such as ensuring compliance with smoking regulations.
There are currently around 850 vacant positions in the force. About 250 police officers were hired recently, but they are still in training.
Koulias said steps should be taken to take non-essential work, such as the monitoring of poachers, away from the police.
“In 1974, there were 100,000 registered vehicles and we had 350 traffic police officers. Today we have 900,000 cars and maybe 250 traffic police,” he said.
Another task that is unnecessarily using up police resources is monitoring whether establishments have permits to sell alcoholic beverages. This could be assigned to other services, Koulias said.