Cyprus Mail

2023: President’s new broom failed to sweep clean

Υφυπουργείο Πολιτισμού – Τελετή παράδοσης παραλαβής
The short-lived Deputy Culture Minister Michalis Hatzigiannis

Amid great fanfare and pledges of transparency and change, 2023 saw a new president elected. And though the ‘new broom’ promised to sweep clean, Nikos Christodoulides’ administration soon became clogged by a parade of confusing, baffling appointments and jaw-dropping gaffs.

Since Christodoulides’ election, the presidential palace has increasingly been at odds with the country’s audit service over issues about employees paid on the taxpayer’s dime.

From pop singers in cabinet, to ministerial advisers with criminal records, scandal after scandal fed criticism on social media and within opposition parties that the new president would be no different to his predecessors after his narrow victory over opponent Andreas Mavroyiannis.

Almost immediately after appointing a new cabinet, issues with his selections for several other public service positions and advisers emerged.

Notably, one of his first appointments to the public service commission (Edy) was an individual who had bought his master’s degree online, from a disreputable institution that gave a degree to a cat in the past.

The man, Michalis Michael, resigned a day after being appointed saying he did not want to be a reason for the public to criticise Christodoulides.

Events continued to spiral, with auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides weighing in on other appointments. He focused especially on the now former deputy government spokeswoman Doxa Komodromou, who retained her post at the University of Cyprus when she took on her new role at the presidential palace. This is considered a conflict of interest and not allowed.

It degraded into a back-and-forth exchange between the government and Michaelides, with the former saying Komodromou would not be giving up her position.

Komodromou chose to stay in her position as deputy government spokeswoman but did eventually resign, after it emerged that she had requested overtime pay for attending events as spokeswoman.

Next in the hot seat, was former Deputy Culture Minister Michalis Hatzigiannis, who is a well-known singer in Greece and Cyprus, an appointment which raised a few eyebrows in Cyprus.

It wasn’t long before he too made a blunder, when someone from his team used official deputy culture ministry social media accounts to post him singing at Diko head Nicholas Papadopoulos’ birthday party.

Although, Hatzigiannis is well within his right to do this, customarily in Cyprus, ministers shouldn’t mix their personal lives with professional ones, meaning that official social media accounts can’t be used to show support or celebration for any party leader.

The deputy minister continued on a shaky path, when it emerged that he appointed an adviser to his ministry with a criminal record.

Eventually, Hatzigiannis resigned as well, vexed by the scandals and gaffes.

Had the scandals been reserved to just the government officials, it would be commonplace as previous governments had clearly abused the system and changed ministers like shirts.

However, similar patterns with the previous government emerged with the appointment of dodgy advisers.

The government appointed advisers with unrecognised university degrees, an aesthetician and a teen to the deputy tourism ministry.

Issues with these advisers were also raised by the audit office, even after the teen resigned from her position.

The audit office maintains that these advisers were problematic because an adviser to a government official must be able to provide specialised knowledge in relation to their position and education.

Many times, the service has questioned what knowledge people with unrecognised degrees or an aesthetician can provide in their role as adviser.

As the uproar continued, the government attempted in May to save face, by proposing a bill should be created to set out criteria for the advisers appointed to the presidential palace.

Of course, though the government proposed the bill, once it started to be discussed by MPs in the house, everyone had an opinion. Some parties attempted through machinations to grandfather in already existing advisers, in a move that seemed fishy.

Again following a stink, the government back tracked, and the MPs fell in line and it was agreed that if the new law passes, it would include all existing advisers and new ones to come.

Now, at the cusp of the new year, the state is still yet to pass the bill.

The bill is set to go to parliament at the beginning of January, but it is surely a wonder if this government, with its promises of change and its promises to accept criticism can truly be any different than what Cyprus is already used to.

Currently, the state has lashed out when its dodgy dealings over the appointments was exposed, inconsistencies have been brushed off, and the new president has failed to fire incompetent individuals that are being paid by the taxpayers.

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