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Back to the drawing board for bill to create anti-corruption authority

A revised government bill to create an anti-corruption authority must be processed anew because of numerous problems, the House legal affairs committee agreed on Wednesday, following a detailed discussion of its provisions.

Committee chairman, Disy MP, Giorgos Georgiou, said MPs needed an hour for each article of the bill.
“This bill will be completed by the end of the next (parliamentary) term,” he said, of the time needed to go through it.

Georgiou said the bill would need an overhaul.

The consensus after the meeting was that in its current form the bill was problematic.

Concerns had been raised during the discussion on many matters ranging from the creation of the committee, the selection criteria of its members and their qualifications, as well as their powers.

“The bill needs a lot of work,” Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said.

The auditor censured the justice ministry for sending representatives to the meeting instead of either the minister or the permanent secretary attending when independent state authorities were represented at the highest level.

“It’s the ministry’s bill,” he said.

Akel MP Aristos Damianou said everyone agreed that the much-touted bill to fight corruption did not meet the expectations of society and the state in the slightest.

“It needs fundamental changes and is a painstaking and persistent effort,” Damianou said, adding that the responsibility was the justice ministry’s which had been given a grace period of nine months to review the initial problematic bill.

Similarly, the House ethics committee pushed discussion of an MP code of conduct to next year despite statements last month that their aim was to approve it this Thursday.

Committee chairman Zaharias Zahariou said they would probably manage to vote on the code in January, after incorporating party recommendations.

“The will is there from everyone and we are here to accept the recommendations,” Zahariou said.
He said the committee had pledged to complete the code and the bills on asset statements and lobbyists before parliament dissolves ahead of the elections, in around four months.
Zahariou said all the parties worked as a team irrespective of disagreements to send the proper message.

“That parliament has received the messages, it wants to become better, it wants to correct itself, become an example to follow and not an instrument that everyone curses,” Zahariou said.

Trust towards political parties, already in tatters, was dealt a severe blow in October after an undercover video showed former House president Demetris Syllouris and former Akel MP Christakis Giovanis offering their help to a fictitious Chinese businessman with a criminal record secure citizenship in return for cash.

The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (Greco) has called on Cyprus to fully implement its recommendations relating to corruption before May’s polls.

In its second compliance report for Cyprus published on November 17, Greco said full implementation of recommendations has become “all the more pressing” given recent “serious allegations of undue influence of third parties over some MPs”.

Of the 16 recommendations made by Greco in 2016 to Cyprus, seven have been fully implemented, six remain partly implemented and three have not been implemented, according to the compliance report.

The report stresses the need for a code of conduct for members of parliament to be adopted to prevent various forms of corruption, and to address issues such as conflict of interest and lobbying. MPs’ asset declaration should be more comprehensive, and control over such declarations needs strengthening, Greco noted.

 

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