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Government denies dodgy dealings for special advisers

general view of the presidential palace in nicosia
File photo: Presidential Palace

The government denied accusations on Wednesday that it was engaged in behind-the-scenes dealings to try circumvent upcoming regulations over the appointment of special advisers.

The job of special advisers to the president, ministers’ and MPs, has historically been seen hand-in-hand with nepotism, with appointments often handed to friends, relatives or as a token of gratitude for a political favour.

Meanwhile, MPs at the House institutions committee were divided on whether advisers who will not meet the upcoming criteria – which will most likely include a university degree – should leave the post, or if the new rules will apply only to new appointees.

Based on the current framework, at least four special advisers will not meet the requirements as they do not have a university degree. Two are seconded to the presidential palace and two at the deputy shipping ministry.

Responding to questions by journalists during a press briefing, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said this is the first time this government has sought to regulate the appointments with a bill submitted to parliament.

It aims to set out specific academic requirements and stamp out nepotism.

Letymbiotis sought to stress that a number of advisers have not been appointed yet, until parliament passes the bill into law – thus seeking to assuage concerns there would be a rush to get some into the popular jobs before it was too late.

Nonetheless, commenting on the fact that the auditor general said he had received an assurance from the president that special advisers who do not qualify will leave the presidential palace, Letymbiotis said the government would comply with whatever provisions the law sets out.

“We as a government have expressed from the beginning our clear will to find a legislative regulation to end this issue once and for all, once and for all, and which will govern for the first time the qualifications of the advisers,” he added.

During the House institutions committee which discussed the bill regulating capital statements and special advisers, the matter remained stagnant though a few deputies shared a few ideas, which will resume in the next session next Wednesday.

Depa MP Marinos Moushiouttas said there were differences between lawmakers’ opinions on the salaries.

At present, the bill specifies a minimum salary at €25,000. The majority of MPs suggested including a cap of €31,000, however others countered it should stay open, as every ministry has a €62,000 budget and as such, can distribute the funds accordingly, which are subject to parliamentary approval in any case.

Where capital statements are concerned, the majority of MPs agree they should be published in the beginning and end of their tenure.

MPs are aiming to pass the bills into law in January.

Earlier this year, the government came under fire after the deputy tourism minister decided to appoint a 19-year-old without a university degree as his associate. The audit office described it as “illegal and wrongful”.

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