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Our View: It was time someone looked into the ‘sham positions’ at the palace

The presidential palace

IT WAS ABOUT time the House of Representatives started asking questions about the farce of the political advisors that are hired on contracts by the government. This is a scam devised by President Anastasiades to create jobs, paid for by the taxpayer, that can be shared out as favours to political courtiers, party hacks and relatives of his friends.

According to the accountant-general there are currently about 50 so-called advisors employed by the government at an annual cost to the taxpayer of €1.2 million. Most are employed at the presidential palace where they have very little to do, while others, including pensioners, work as ‘advisors’ to ministers. Nobody knows what they actually do, other than collect a monthly salary, because the appointments are made by the president without these redundant positions being advertised.

Speaking about the matter at the House watchdog committee, the auditor-general said it was “inconceivable to employ as an advisor to the president, through the purchase of services, a person that was performing clerical duties.” If there was a need for a clerk at the presidential palace why hadn’t a public servant been taken there, asked Odysseas Michaelides, who added that one advisor did not possess a degree. What sort of advice was a clerk providing the president and what expertise was someone without a university degree offering?

Even Disy deputy Marios Mavrides spoke about “sham” appointments. As the taxpayer was picking up the bill for the ‘advisors’ anyone should be able to apply for these positions, he said. But none of these is advertised as they are given to people chosen by Anastasiades, who has created new positions for his entourage such as ‘deputy government spokesman’ and ‘Director of the press office of the President of the Republic’. At least they have titles, others that are employed at the presidential palace do not even know what advice they were hired to offer, but are being paid because they are related to journalists or were recommended by a friend of the president.

This is type of corruption seems to flourish under Anastasiades, who has been getting away with it for too long. As the legislature has finally decided to investigate the matter, it should seek a list of all the advisors, from whom the government is buying services, the monthly fee of each one and his or her area of expertise. Enough of Anastasiades arbitrarily wasting the taxpayer’s money on individuals labelled advisors for the sole purpose of being given a job at the president’s discretion.

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