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Our View: Okypy’s chief exec was fired unusually fast for a public entity

Just days after the launch of Gesy, chief executive of the state health services (Okypy) Nicos Polyzos was sacked

THE SACKING of Nicos Polyzos, the chief executive of the state health services Okypy, was not a surprise in itself as he had reportedly fallen out with staff, the board and the unions. It was the way it was done that caused surprise. On Tuesday it was reported that the head of Okypy’s financial department had written a letter to the board accusing Polyzos of bullying and bad behaviour and the next day his services were terminated.

This is not how things are done in the public sector, which cannot terminate the services of anyone for gross incompetence or ineptitude. Only corruption or gross violations of rules could lead to someone being sacked and this only after there is a full investigation in which the accused has the right to defend himself. Polyzos was sacked with immediate effect; there was no investigation nor was he given the right to defend himself.

Although Okypy is a public organisation, it is an independent legal entity, the employees of which are on contracts unless they were transferred from the public service and maintained their public servant’s status and right. Polyzos was on a contract with an 18-month probation period during which the board could terminate his services without notice. The board had many complaints against him according to press reports, including its own reservations about his job performance which is probably why it acted so swiftly.

After the departure of the chairman Sir David Nicholson, Okypy has now also lost its chief executive. The appointment of both had been declared irregular by auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides. In the case of Nicholson, he identified a rather dubious conflict of interest, while Polyzos, did not satisfy the job requirement of 15 years’ experience.  Michaelides also alleged the executive had given false information. At the most critical time for Gesy, the state health services lost their top executives, with Michaelides making his own helpful contribution.

Nicholson has been replaced, but how long will it take to replace Polyzos, who might not have been executing his duties very well. On the other hand, it is difficult for an executive in a high-pressure and demanding job who wants to get things done, not to ruffle some feathers. It suffices to say that a lot of the staff Polyzos was dealing with at Okypy were public employees, accustomed to working at their own leisurely pace. Both the nurses’ union, Pasyno, and the doctors’ union Pasyki, had complained about him. Pasyno claimed he did not treat problems placed before him with adequate seriousness, while Pasyki also had many complaints.

We cannot say how well or badly Polyzos performed his duties. What we can say is that it appears that public sector unions have the power to get someone fired when they don’t approve of them.

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