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Our View: Local government is wasting taxpayers’ money

Odysseas Michaelides

Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides said nothing new or anything we did not know about the dysfunctional system of local government, the main role of which is to squander the taxpayer’s money on the salaries of unproductive staff, councillors that have only contempt for their duties and big pensions for mayors that are not entitled to them. Michaelides’ report at least acted as a reminder of this ongoing scandal of mismanagement designed by the political parties and sponsored by the state.

We have written on countless occasions over the years about the absurd system of local government with its ridiculously big number of municipalities (39), that also includes the occupied municipalities (7), that pay councillors and mayors for doing nothing practically meaningful. The auditor-general’s report pointed out that the ‘extremely large number of local authorities was in conflict with the principles of economy and efficiency’, which is a mild way of describing this financial crime perpetrated by the party establishment against the taxpayer.

There is only one reason for having so many municipalities serving such a tiny population – the creation of as many public posts as possible for purposes of nepotism and the maximum number of municipal council seats to distribute among party members. Councillors are paid in the region of €800 plus a month to attend a municipal council meeting every four or five weeks, if they can be bothered. It is good money for doing very little and a smart way for party leaderships to reward party hangers-on and members.

This is the only reason for the existence of so many municipalities. It is why the parties passed legislation a while back stipulating that any village with a population of more than 5,000 could become a municipality. Thanks to this idiocy, Levadhia, Sotira, Yeri, Athienou, Aradippou, Peyia and Dherynia were elevated from communities into municipalities, with mayors, paid councillors and dozens of permanent posts, which the taxpayer is funding.

If it had not been for the bailout and the arrival of the troika the politicians would have carried on pretending there was no problem. Under pressure from the troika, the government brought in experts to advise how the system could be reformed and, inevitably, chose the most half-baked proposal that would stir the least resistance. The bills envisaged a small reduction in the number of municipalities, streamlining services and creating district authorities to do the work of groups of municipalities. The reform bills submitted by the government were rejected by all the parties, except Disy, because it could not go against the government.

Michaelides, included a long list of irregularities and illegalities in his report, sent a large number of cases to the attorney-general for further investigation and concluded that ‘measures ought to be taken’, because the ‘current situation is not sustainable’. His only omission was that he failed to identify the root cause of the scandalous waste of public money – the political parties.

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