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Cyprus

Modernising declarations of wealth top priority for House committee

The House of Representatives

The top priority of the House ethics committee is to work towards the modernisation of the law on officials’ declaration of wealth, it announced on Tuesday a day after all sitting MPs declared their assets.

As after every such declaration, many of the statements were met with sneers by those questioning their accuracy, citing lack of adequate checks.

Though MPs’ declarations of wealth will be checked by a special ad-hoc committee, consisting of deputies, and chaired by the House president, many feel additional checks are necessary to ensure everyone’s true assets are declared.

By law, once elected deputies must file their declarations within three months of taking office. The latest parliamentary elections were held at the end of May.

Head of the House ethics committee, Disy MP Demetris Demetriou told state broadcaster CyBC that their top priority was to work on the modernisation of the law on the declaration of wealth so that the bill can be tabled to the plenary soon to vote.

“All committee members are willing to proceed the soonest possible,” Demetriou said.

He admitted that there was no consistency in the way MPs filled out their declarations – which were posted on parliament’s website on Monday.

Demetriou said some MPs declared their immovable property based on 1980 prices, others based on 2018 prices and others based on current ones.

The same was true on the value of vehicles with some MPs declaring the purchase price and others today’s estimated value.

Elam MP Andreas Themistokleous declared in his assets his family burial plot, stating that it “was under eternal mortgage” as he would be put in it when God summons him.

Demetriou said the updated bill will also tackle the issue of immovable property donations from family members with MPs having to provide more information on where they came from and when.

He also said it might include the obligation to declare movable property of large value such as artworks and jewellery. Demetriou also said that regulations will be more specific so that officials must state not just the number of shares they own in businesses but also information on the value of the shares, among other things. The bill will also tackle the issue of deposits abroad.

Demetriou said the aim was to have external checks, and this could be done with tenders so that specialised audit houses can check the data officials submit.

He said that for the audit process to be meaningful, a comparison of the statements of the officials before and after taking office should be made, to determine whether there was unjustified accumulation of wealth.

Edek, that said that the existing law on officials’ declaration of wealth was “a parody”, suggested that each year along with their declarations of wealth officials should also publish their tax statements. The party said these statements should be based on accounts checked by licensed audit firms to see where each person’s assets come from.

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