In a special session on Thursday, the House plenum gave the nod to urgent spending items for several government departments and agencies while also releasing funds allowing for the operation of several public bodies which had not submitted their budgets on time.
The body had to convene in an extraordinary session as parliament is officially in recess due to the upcoming presidential elections. Parliament will resume normal business in March, after the elections.
Parliament had to approve spending by a number of semi-governmental organisations and public bodies which did not have their budgets approved when the state balance sheet was passed back in December.
Parliament has a back-up system where, for organisations without approved budgets, it can authorise such organisations to make expenditures based on what they spent in the corresponding timeframe during the previous fiscal year. Known as the ‘twelfths’ system – referring to the months of the year – it allows public bodies without approved budgets to make critical payments such as for payroll and benefits.
This interim arrangement can only last for two consecutive months, after which the organisations in question must submit and have their budgets approved by parliament in the normal way.
Included among the 23 public bodies for whom parliament approved expenditures on Thursday were: the Cyprus University of Technology, the Cyprus Sports Organisation, the Fiscal Council, the Land Development Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Housing Finance Corporation.
The plenum also approved urgent spending items for a number of agencies and ministries. The main item consisted of €3.7 million earmarked for the attorney-general’s office. The amount was released to pay experts and law firms overseas who represent the Republic in international arbitration cases – such as over the dispute at the port of Limassol, and the dispute between the government and Hermes Airports.
In addition, parliament gave the thumbs-up to a €100,000 spending item for the finance ministry, relating to the purchase of specialised legal services.
It also released some €800,000 earmarked for the foreign ministry, for the purchase of vehicles for diplomatic missions abroad, for the cost of various services, and the payment of contract workers.
The ministry of agriculture got the nod for €270,000, covering the purchase of services for inspections at mines and quarries, and for leasing storage space for explosives.
Also on Thursday, MPs held a one-minute silence in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on January 27. Present in parliament was the Israeli ambassador to Cyprus.
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