Over the years, past presidents have made a habit of creating new public posts for their cronies. This is why we have ended up with a glut of commissioners, most of whom have little to do other than make a public statement every few months to show that they exist and are making a useful contribution to public matters, in order to justify their hefty salaries and benefits.
Nothing illustrates the practice better than the so-called ‘commissioner of the citizen,’ a post that is currently vacant. Initially, former president Nicos Anastasiades had created a post for the commissioner of volunteerism and appointed a Disy hanger-on, Yiannakis Yiannaki, who was forced to step down after it transpired that his qualifications were fake. The post was renamed ‘commissioner of the citizen’ and was given to another Disy crony, Panayiotis Sentonas, who had served for a while as deputy government spokesman.
This post, that of the presidential commissioner and the ludicrous commissioner for development of mountain communities are currently vacant and President Christodoulides, according to his government spokesman, was considering scrapping them. In early March, his spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis, said the president was “evaluating the institution of commissioner” and if “after his evaluation he saw that a position of commissioner was unnecessary, he could abolish it.”
No decision has been announced, but it would be a surprise if any of these superfluous posts were scrapped. There are too many people in the parties that backed Christodoulides’ election now angling for well-paid public posts in which they would have very little work to do. In fact, the president, following his predecessor’s example, set up a new commission. As soon as he took office, he established the commission for gender equality and appointed a member of his campaign team and former advisor of his as commissioner.
Most commissions were set up for buddies of the serving president and the bill for these meaningless posts is picked up by the taxpayer. The health supervision commissioner, for example, whom nobody had heard of until recently earns 20 per cent more than a minister, taking a net monthly salary of €6,931. The commissioner for the protection of the rights of the child and the law commissioner earn as much a minister, for what is, essentially, a leisure job; the commissioner for the protection of personal data earns more than a minister for identifying alleged violations of personal data.
Can anything be done to end this waste of the taxpayer’s money? We doubt it as the political system will always need public posts to distribute among loyal supporters. It would however be a start if Christodoulides, after his evaluation, decided not to appoint a commissioner for the development of mountain communities and a commissioner for the citizen. Limiting the number would be something.