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Suspending pensions ‘unconstitutional’ treasurer says (Updated)

audit office

The treasury has referred the issue of multiple state pensions to the attorney-general for legal consultation, Cyprus’ accountant-general Andreas Antoniades said on Thursday.

His statements came days after his office was ordered to stop paying out multiple state pensions to individuals who are still in office by the audit office, which described it as a blatantly illegal practice.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides wrote to Antoniades on January 15 saying that after a sample inspection of 25 cases, the audit office found multiple cases where the law was not adhered to.

This is because Michaelides argues the laws dating from 1980 and 1977 stipulate when an individual takes up a state position, any pensions should be suspended, and people should not be receiving both a state salary and pension.

Going on for a decade

Nonetheless, the audit office argues this has been going on for a decade, and ordered the treasury to stop making the payments immediately.

Antoniades told CNA that he had studied Michaelides’ letter but sought to reiterate that “nothing has changed since the last legal opinion we had from the attorney-general in 2017.”

According to the audit office, a 2014 court ruling was used by the attorney-general to opine that state pensions could be paid out to people in office.

Antoniades said: “the opinion was clear in its conclusions that suspending pensions would be unconstitutional.”

He underlined that there could not be two different rules depending on whether someone was a high-ranking official or an employee.

Nonetheless, he said “I take the auditor general’s letter seriously and have sent it for legal advice to the legal advisor of the executive branch, the attorney-general, for his advice on how to handle the matter.”

Discovered by ‘sheer luck’

Spokesman for the service Marios Petrides told the Cyprus Mail the illegality has been ongoing for a decade now and was only discovered out of sheer luck during a recent House finance committee session.

The audit office sent a letter to the treasury earlier this week calling it to put an end to the ongoing practice. As things are currently, officials who are still in office receive multiple pensions along with their salary.

“This is blatantly illegal,” Petrides said.

According to spokesman, this was discovered coincidentally during a House finance committee in October, and the audit office has since moved to examine numerous cases.

 

 

 

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