The taxpayer is burdened with a bill of €5 million a year for the services of advisors/assistants employed by the presidential palace and the House of Representatives, according to figures released by the Accountant-general’s office.
President Anastasiades had come under criticism in the past for this practice, which was exposed as thinly-disguised cronyism when it was announced that the wives of two political journalists would be hired. The uproar led to the cancellation of the hirings, but other relatives of high-profile journalists are employed by the presidency. What they do nobody really knows because these posts are not advertised and there are no job descriptions. The hirings are the prerogative of the president and there is no transparency in the process.
There were also some 25 advisors working for ministers; each minister has at least two. The question is why these advisors are not recruited from the overstaffed public service at zero extra cost to the taxpayer? It is not as if they bring great expertise to the job, because if they did, they would command higher remuneration than what they receive. Like the advisors of the presidential palace, nobody knows what these so-called advisors, hired without transparency, are supposed to do.
Four fifths of the budget for advisors and assistants goes to the legislature. The President of the House has 16 advisors, which seems excessive considering that he has no executive powers and his main responsibility is to arrange the agenda of the plenum and chair its sessions. There is no shortage of public servants employed by the legislature to support the House president so why are 16 advisors needed to support this position? We can only speculate that this is another case of thinly-disguised cronyism.
The 55 deputies are entitled to an assistant each as are the three representatives of religious groups, but there are also 50 people working for the parliamentary parties at the taxpayer’s expense. This is a scandal, which the auditor-general had quite rightly described as indirect funding of the eight parliamentary parties, and should stop. The taxpayer spends millions funding the parties every year, so why is he also picking up the bill for party employees at the legislature? The irony is that our deputies performed their duties much more competently in the days when they had no assistants.
The sad reality is that the parties and the government are constantly coming up with new ways to provide employment to supporters and hangers-on at the expense of the taxpayer. There is a long tradition and it will continue long as the people that are left to pick up the bill say nothing.