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Our View: Political appointments can’t be back door entry to civil service

Φωταγώγηση Προεδρικού Μεγάρου // illu

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal filed by the President of the Republic against the House of Representatives, which had made additions to the law with which the State Budget was approved in 2022. The amendments to the law made by the opposition parties prevented political appointees being given the status of permanent staff.

The Court’s decision was based on a technical issue. It ruled that the president of the republic, having approved the budget law, could not subsequently appeal against provisions he objected to for constitutional or any other reasons. He had signed off the law, which was issued and published in the Official Gazette, and therefore the court concluded he had exercised his constitutional powers and carried out the necessary checks of the law’s constitutionality.

The appeal related to four individuals appointed by President Anastasiades, but there is a broader issue here which should be addressed by law. Political appointees should not be eligible to public employee status, regardless of how long their appointment lasts. They are hired for specific reasons – as an advisor, special assistant, spokesperson etc – and when these reasons cease to exist, because the state official they are offering their services to has left office, their service should be terminated. This is what sound administration and common sense dictate.

The alternative is to use the practice of political appointments as a back-door entry into the public service, without rules, procedures or even the pretence of meritocracy. It is licence for a president and his ministers and the House speaker to give public service jobs and pensions to whomever takes their fancy. In fact, the main criterion for hiring these people is their partisanship and allegiance to the official that appoints them. And the taxpayer carries on paying their wages, long after the official has left office, because of an EU directive about contractual staff.

Legislation should be drafted governing political appointments, the contracts for which should expire automatically when an official leaves office. Why should the overstaffed public service be lumbered with all the advisors and aides hired by Anastasiades during his 10 years in office? The reason for their employment ceases to exist when they can no longer serve the official. Some of these appointees even demand a state pension to accept a post, which is also out of order. There should be regulations governing the work terms of appointees and it should not be up to politicians to decide whether they will receive a state pension.

It is very easy to rationalise the system, but we suspect the political parties might lack the will to make it fairer and less of a burden on the taxpayer.

 

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