Cyprus’ legislation on asset statements by politically exposed persons (PEP) is a ruin which has not been restored, experts who have drafted a White Paper on the issue said on Wednesday as they urged MPs to adopt their proposals in order to reclaim the public’s respect.
The White Paper was penned pro bono by certified accountants Christos Panayiotides and Nicos Syrimis, Cypriot Nobel laureate Christoforos Pissarides, and a prominent legal expert who wanted to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Panayiotides and Syrimis appeared before the House Institutions Committee to brief MPs on their proposals. Pissarides is abroad and could not attend.
Syrimis said that the current law and the system had gaps and technical problems. Conflict of interest and lack of political will to tackle corruption should not be allowed to perpetuate the problem.
The necessary amendments must be made before the May parliamentary elections, and if time is inadequate, there parties should make a pre-election pledge, he added.
Syrimis said the proposal is for about 400 PEPs be required, as a first stage, to make an asset declaration and if the system is found to work well, the list can be expanded to cover several thousand people.
Asset declarations must be submitted yearly and not every three years, cover the immediately previous year and also include spouses and underage children.
The statements should be a joint one of both spouses so as to avoid publicizing personal data such as bank accounts and car’s number plates and should include items such as jewellery.
The declarations should be examined and validated by a certified auditor, and penalties should be balanced.
Syrimis anticipated objections and stressed the need that the issue not become subject to party infighting.
Added Panayiotides: “If you are to seek the vote of the people, show that fighting corruption is high on your list of priorities.”
There is a public uproar over corruption and the team was in a position to provide technical support for something to be done, he added.
It was essential also to work with other departments, and primarily the inland revenue, otherwise the work will only be half done, he added.
The team was also in contact with members of the Supreme Court to persuade them that there is no real obstacle as regards personal data.
Institutions Committee chairman Zacharias Zachariou said that both the committee and the experts had the same goals. But as regards calls for approval before the House dissolves on April 20 for the elections, he said that substance cannot be sacrificed in the interest of speed, although should it be possible, a vote could be taken before then.
MPs thanked the experts for their work.