The government will withdraw its request for the University of Cyprus to pay overtime to its seconded employee and current deputy government spokeswoman Doxa Komodromou and inform the university that it will have to claim the money back.
The money in question amounts to €2,486 and concerns overtime claimed by Komodromou between the months of March and May, filed to the University of Cyprus, which still pays her salary as a seconded employee.
The decision was heard on Monday by the parliamentary finance committee, which was informed by the government’s administration officer Efrosini Georgiou that the government’s request for payment had been withdrawn.
However, it is understood that Komodromou herself is yet to withdraw the overtime payment request she filed with the government.
In addition, Georgiou told the committee that members of the government “will not file similar requests for overtime pay again” and that the government “did not intend to pay a single cent unless it had the approval of parliament”.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides also spoke at the committee, saying “Komodromou is not a deputy government spokeswoman but performs these duties, therefore her secondment is legal”.
“Secondments in the public service concern positions in the public service and the seconded person cannot be a political official, since the constitution provides for the separation of political and administrative power”, he said.
He said that for this reason, “as is the case of Andreas Iosif in the previous government, they chose not to be officials but to exercise the rights and duties of the positions and be subject to the rights and obligations of the position they hold in the public service”.
He added that “the orthodox solution would have been for Komodromou to resign from the University of Cyprus and to be appointed as deputy government spokeswoman, and this ‘double door’ causes problem”.
“The existing solution was acceptable but it seems that things are being distorted. Komodromou doesn’t punch a card, so there cannot be any request for overtime [from her]”, he said.
Additionally, he said the reasons given for Komodromou’s overtime requests are “not acceptable”. “Among them, she requested overtime from 3pm to 12am to attend a cabinet meeting in Troodos, to attend a funeral or a memorial service, but also to attend the opening of an observatory”.
He added that the €2,486 were paid from the government and the university received a certificate of payment and “did not know what the nature of these processes was”.
He said, “the money must be returned, otherwise it would be pointless for the government to withdraw the request”.
“For the Audit service, the matter is closed. The money should be returned to the university”, he said.
In addition, he said the standard salary for a full-time deputy government spokesperson would be higher than the salary that Komodromou is currently earning, and that “if she wants a higher salary she will have to resign from her position at the university and be appointed by the President”.
“However, to keep her current position, she will have to stay on the same salary. It is not possible to have your cake and eat it”, he said.
He also took the time to speak about two separate cases, saying the Director of the President’s office is entitled to overtime as he is employed fully as a public sector worker, but that a CyBC editor who works as the First lady’s personal assistant is not entitled to overtime for preparing speeches at home or accompanying the First lady to social events.
“What can be done [in these situations] is to find some solution by granting some time off”, he said.
Disy MP Onoufrios Koulla said “obviously, the position held by Komodromou has a higher salary, but she chose to go into government on a secondment. As for the overtime pay, I find it hard to believe that Komodromou did not inform President Nikos Christodoulides. I wonder whose initiative it was to do something like that?”
Akel MP Christos Christofides said the issue was “a disheartening picture [which] in itself undermines our institutions”.
“For this fiasco and scandal the blame lies at the feet of the government and the President and his associates who handled the matter. After all, [Komodromou] is an official, an associate of the president”, he added.
He said “in addition to incompetence, there is apparently a lack of social and political empathy”.
Diko MP Chrysis Pantelides said “even if there had been previous errors, the government responded to the suggestions and comments of the Audit service. The auditor-general is listened to and respected, while raising all issues transparently”.
Dipa MP Marinos Moushiouttas asked that other postings which have been made over time and in other ministries be examined “to see if they are legal”.