The new government has put on hold a request for the release of around €3 million earmarked for the purchase of state vehicles, including 35 limos for officials, it emerged on Monday.
Media reported that the House finance committee was notified of the intention for withdrawing the request for the release of the funds.
That request had been made to parliament by the previous administration of Nicos Anastasiades, on February 24 this year.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, citing sources, President Nikos Christodoulides decided that the matter needs reconsideration.
Other media outlets suggested that the new president did not want one of the first acts of his government associated with the replacement of limos for state officials.
MP Christiana Erotokritou, chair of the House finance committee, later confirmed the reports.
“Today parliament received an email from the finance ministry notifying us of a postponement of the prior request to release the funds,” she told the Cyprus Mail.
Postponement is not the same as an irrevocable withdrawal of the request, she clarified in response to a follow-up question.
Filed by the finance ministry under the previous administration, the request (now withdrawn) had involved the release of €3.09 million in total – covering the purchase of 35 limos for state officials (worth €1.78 million), just over €1 million for the purchase of 32 electrical vehicles for government departments and agencies, plus €240,000 for the purchase of three tractors for agricultural purposes.
Dated February 24, the finance ministry’s request to parliament was tagged ‘Urgent’.
The funds in question are included in the 2023 state budget. Like many other items in the budget, they had been ‘crossed’ – marked as pending parliamentary approval.
The issue of limos for state officials has drawn a great deal of negative publicity in recent years.
As of the beginning of 2016, and following a new law passed by parliament, the number of officials entitled to using state vehicles around the clock was reduced to 28.
Those entitled to 24/7, unlimited use of limos are the president of the Republic, the House speaker, the president of the Supreme Court, the attorney-general and deputy attorney-general, the auditor-general, former presidents of the Republic and former House speakers (provided they have served in that office for at least 30 months).
Also entitled to the perk are ministers, the under-secretary to the president, the government spokesman, the chief of police, the commander of the National Guard, the head of the secret service, and the spouse of the president of the Republic but only during the same president’s term.
The remaining state officials were allowed the use of limos for official business only.
But in January 2022, the cabinet decided to reinstate the right of unlimited use for certain officials previously barred – such as for the permanent secretaries of ministries. The government then filed the relevant regulations to parliament for approval.
The partial reversal of policy drew the ire of auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides.
“We need to fight the mentality that civil servants are a burden to the public instead of servants, if we want healthy public services and a healthy state,” he said at the time.
Appearing on a news show, the auditor-general said the issue was not so much about whether the government can afford the expense, but rather a matter of principle.
“I can’t fathom why a civil servant should hold a vehicle, which the state bought, which the state fills up with petrol, so that he or she can go on excursions.”
The 2022 regulations brought by the government did not pass, so the status now in relation to unlimited use of state vehicles is the same as that introduced in 2016.