Reforming the civil service is an effort on many fronts that will go on continuously, Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Friday, expressing hope that three relevant government bills will be approved this time round.
The minister presented the three bills before the House finance committee, six years after the first discussion of similar bills that were later rejected by parliament.
“Six years later, I hope that after a very good session in parliament, this Odyssey will reach its end and I expect the necessary majority will be secured,” Petrides said afterwards.
The minister emphasised provisions relating to the management of human resources, describing it as a very important pillar for the smooth operation of the civil service.
“It concerns promotions, hirings, the review system,” he said, adding that the current staff review system, which essentially rated the overwhelming majority as ‘exceptional’ could not continue.
The reform would also see a change in the way people are promoted, introducing objective criteria beyond the years of service or nepotism.
Petrides said the changes would boost productivity and stamp out nepotism and corruption.
“It is very important to correct this pillar that concerns how we manage our staff, not to wrong those who are worthy, to give incentives of development to civil servants who try, who work, who have the abilities,” Petrides said.
The minister said beyond the staff issues, digitisation was another big change, with government departments gradually going online.
Committee chairperson, Diko MP, Christiana Erotokritou, expressed regret that parliament was still discussing reform bills that were an obligation under Cyprus’ bailout programme in 2013.
“Society expects the reform to mean a faster, simpler, transparent and user-friendly provision of services,” she said.
Ruling Disy MP Harris Georgiades said it was a “collective failure” that reforms had not been approved all these years.
Georgiades said there was no perfect reform, adding that he disagreed with departments of the government that wanted to be exempted from certain provisions.
The departments in question are the audit service and the foreign ministry.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said staff at his service should be exempted from the new system of promotions that allows civil servants beyond a certain paygrade to apply for a job in a different department.
Michaelides said there will be a problem if those individuals are auditing a department where they applied for a job. In those cases, they would have to be removed from the audit until the process was completed, he said.
The auditor said 91 per cent of staff at the service agreed to be excluded from seeking higher posts in other departments provided others are precluded from applying to the service.
Petrides agreed it was possible for conflict of interest to arise, but the audit service had to find an arrangement that satisfied the civil service commission.
The finance minister however, said he was not aware of the same request being submitted by the foreign ministry when MPs said they had received a letter from its permanent secretary.