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Cyprus

Experts berate no progress in PEPs’ asset declarations

plenum 960x720
The House plenum

A group of experts on Monday decried the “complete lack of progress” from government and parliament alike in bringing forward new legislation to overhaul the current system – deemed ineffectual – of checking the wealth statements of political exposed persons (PEPs).

In a statement, ‘Pothen Esches Cyprus’ noted with regret that “nothing has been done to date to effectively confront this huge problem, which has embarrassed us internationally.”

The group added: “In fact, we believe that the legislative proposal, which is currently before the competent legislative committee of the House of Representatives, will perpetuate (rather than resolve) the problem.”

The outfit went on to recall that it has been over a year since they published on their website (https://www.pothen-esches-cyprus.com) a ‘white paper’ on tweaking the way in which PEPs’ asset and wealth declarations are formatted and audited.

“Unfortunately, despite the stated intentions of the politicians to press on with the adoption of our proposals, the progress which has been attained so far is negligible and the prospects of resolving the problem in a manner that will allow, at last, clarity and transparency to shine are particularly poor.

“The ‘castration’ of the system has lasted 17 whole years,” the statement noted. “The time has come to combat corruption, collusion and the lack of transparency with actions, not with words. This goal will be attained, only if unbearable pressure is brought to bear on politicians by civil society.”

The statement is signed by certified public accountants Christos Panayiotides and Nicos G. Syrimis, and Nobel laureate Christopher Pissarides.

Many see the current legislation on officials’ asset declarations as laughable, as it does not compel politicians to disclose all their assets nor explain where they came from. Often the statements are filled out by hand, making them illegible.

Critics point out the declarations as submitted are unauditable and propose that the checking be outsourced to professionals. As it stands, the checking is done by MPs who – critics say – are either unqualified to perform such a task, but also unlikely to report a colleague in the unlikely event they spot an irregularity.

Amid the usual derision accompanying the latest publication of wealth declarations in early September, the government pledged to set up a ‘National Service of Integrity’ that will look at the capital statements of the president, ministers, deputies, state officials as well as those of their spouses and children. Meanwhile the House ethics committee said it would work on drafting a legislative proposal on the matter.

Scant progress has been made on either front.

 

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