Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides has raised a stink about the allowances given to employees of the state power company, after it emerged that he was being hoodwinked by its directors.
While in recent months Michaelides was urging the board of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) to review its allowances regime, with a view to reducing some and scrapping others, at the very same time the board were closing a deal with trade unions to restore some of the perks that were nixed during the austerity drive of 2013.
According to daily Politis, both in 2017 and this year the auditor-general wrote to the EAC board recommending – yet again – the immediate review of all the allowances.
In both cases, the EAC boss wrote back to Michaelides assuring him that the company was indeed ‘reviewing’ the allowances.
Except it turned out that the EAC board had a different understanding of the word ‘review’. Rather than slash the perks, the company was negotiating with the unions to either reinstate certain axed allowances or, in other cases, to restore allowances to their 2013 value.
Some allowances were brought back following pressure from EAC staff, for example through work-to-rule actions.
The syndicates argue that the agreement of 2013 to slash and/or suspend certain allowances also stipulated that these would be restored once the EAC made an economic recovery.
The auditor-general sent his allowances recommendation to the EAC a few months ago, while he was compiling his draft report on the organisation’s expenses.
Draft reports are disclosed to the affected governmental organisations, so that they may provide their own feedback and remarks. Once these remarks are received, the auditor-general writes the final version of the report.
According to Politis, Michaelides was none too happy with the EAC pulling the wool over his eyes.
But he has not taken it sitting down: he wrote to the finance minister urging him to withhold approving the EAC’s budget for 2019 until and unless the ministry has scrutinised the allowances situation.
The Audit Office’s report on the EAC for 2017 was published last week.
The cost of allowances came to almost €5.8m, compared to €5m the year prior and €4.7m in 2015.
Overtime pay clinched the top spot, costing €2.137m in 2017, compared to €1.446m in 2016.
In total, the EAC had 19 types of allowances, including the infamous ‘out-of-office meal allowance’.
Michaelides felt particularly strongly about this perk, insisting that at least the technical personnel should not be eligible for it.
Last year the state-run power utility employed 1,976 full-time staff, just 10 people fewer than in 2016.
In 2017 the average annual wages of EAC full-time employees came to €32,989, compared to €32,238 the year before.