Government advisors should not remain in public service after the end of their superiors’ terms, the House ethics committee agreed on Wednesday.

It was also decided that the discussion, tabled by Akel’s Giorgos Loucaides will resume in September.
Akel presented a proposal detailing several aspects of the appointment of government advisors, focusing on ensuring that they do not remain employed by the government after the official who employed them leaves their government post.

When the current government took over, the issue of advisors within the executive was established through specific provisions in the budget providing for the amount each minister and the president can allocate to these roles, undersecretary to the president Irene Piki told the committee.

This was also included in the budget memorandum and the contracts which were signed by all advisors currently employed by the presidency and ministries, she added.
She reminded that following recent public debate about some of the advisors, a bill was prepared by the legal service regulating the criteria candidates for these roles should possess.

Committee chair Demetris Demetriou accepted Loucaides’ suggestion that the committee prepare a text in which the provisions outlined by the legal service are listed alongside Akel’s proposal, as this would help them discuss more effectively and move forward on any of the provisions that are not identical.

Noting that the two texts have the same starting point, that is, how to avoid burdening the state budget through these appointments, he added that there is a legal difference between the services of the parliament and those who prepared the law on behalf of the government.

Demetriou also requested an investigation into what is being done in other European countries regarding the appointment of advisors.

In his statements after the session, Demetriou said that this is a discussion that should end in the fall and that the basic principle is that everything should be done transparently, with the qualifications and salary of appointees made public.

“I consider that the two texts have a lot in common, but also differences which we will discuss,” he said. “The important thing is that there should not be an employer-employee relationship with the public”.
We should not be left with an army of advisors employed indefinitely in the public service, he added, stressing that the issue of whether these posts should be fixed-term or zero-hour contracts “should be resolved once and for all”.

The issue of whether or not the full CVs of politically appointed officials should be published was raised during the debate, with Green Party deputy Alexandra Attalides saying that there is no other country in the world where officials would refuse to do so.
The government is wrong to omit professional experience and academic qualifications from published CVs, she added.

Addressing the above, cabinet secretary Penelope Papavassiliou told the committee that appointees are only asked to provide a summary of their resume which is then published online, noting that it is the government’s intention to make the data public, according to the submitted bill proposal.

There are many who did not finish university who have proven themselves over the holders of doctoral degrees, independent MP Andreas Themistokleous said, questioning why the president or ministers should not have the right to choose who they want to appoint if they have political experience over a degree.
Setting hard rules on qualifications would limit choice, he added.

On the subject of qualifications, Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides said that it is impossible not to include some minimum criteria for people who will have such a high responsibility, noting that people without a degree are not allowed to enter the A8 scale, as scientific staff in public service and questioned whether it is okay to consider someone as an advisor to a minister without a university degree.

On the issue of the terms of employment for advisors, he said that what his office supports is that the regulation of the fixed-term employee provides a better guarantee that someone will not remain for an indefinite period of time.

A representative for the legal service said the bill has been formulated specifically to avoid this issue, ensuring that an advisor’s term of service will end with their superior’s time in office.

Akel’s Andreas Pasiourtidis recalled that the debate was triggered by both the “unfortunate” appointments of some advisors by the current government, but also the “scandalous” case of the four associates of the former President Anastasiades, who remain in the public service.

He noted that during the session “we have all agreed”, both the executive and the legislature, that the original and main purpose of both the proposed law and the bill is that “no one who is appointed as an advisor shall remain employed after the end of the tenure of the official who hired them in any way that would burden the taxpayer, neither indefinitely nor as a civil servant”.

Diko deputy Zacharias Koulias said that advisors for the president and his ministers, “in essence constitute a shadow government”, because all of them influence those they have been appointed by, “so institutionally we have to find the right way for it to benefit the common good”.

On the subject of degrees, he said that should not be about how many degrees someone has, but how capable they are, and how much knowledge they have in the specific field to be hired.