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Finance watchdog says job impossible without increased budget

Financial ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou

The Financial Ombudsman on Monday complained that the agency will not be able to perform their functions after the government slashed their budget by a considerable margin.

Ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou appealed to lawmakers for backing during a discussion of the agency’s budget for fiscal year 2022.

The House finance committee decided to postpone the discussion and resume at another date when they will summon the finance minister to attend.

The budget cuts include funds allocated for the hiring of the services of financial experts.

In remarks later, committee chair Christiana Erotokritou (Diko) said her party supports the work of the Financial Ombudsman.

Until today, she noted, the agency “has rescued borrowers from the jaws of unfair organisations and the plundering of their assets.”

The agency needs the means to function properly, so as not only to protect cooperating debtors, but also reject those borrowers who seek to game the system.

For his part, Dipa MP Alekos Tryfonides asserted that the agency appears not to be truly independent.. He said the office of the Financial Ombudsman gets funding from banks, investment and insurance firms – who often are the very litigants in cases reviewed by the agency.

Tryfonides called on the government to table legislation rendering the Financial Ombudsman a genuinely autonomous agency.

“We want a state agency that is independent, both financially and institutionally, which can operate without bias or dependencies and whose decisions will be binding,” he stated.

The Greens’ Stavros Papadouris remarked that it appears the government seeks to “strangulate” the agency, because its decisions “vex certain quarters.”

He said the finance ministry wants to cut the budget by about half.

The agency’s budget as tabled comes to €1.2 million.

According to a memo submitted by Ioannou, from its inception in 2015 until the end of 2021, the agency received a total of 5,287 complaints.

Of these, to date 5,082 have had an outcome.

Of the 5,287 complaints, the examination process was halted for 2,387; of the 2,695 complaints that were examined, the Ombudsman found in favour of the complainant in 1,399 cases. Another 235 cases ended in an amicable settlement, and in 1,061 cases the decision went against the complainant.

 

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