Under pressure from the media, some parties and the auditor-general, the government has decided to rationalise the law surrounding multiple pensions. Permanent secretary at the finance ministry Giorgos Panteli said on Thursday that a policy framework had been decided and a draft bill should be submitted to council of ministers for approval in the next few weeks. The main concern for the ministry was that the policy framework would be “constitutionally compatible.”

About 160 state officials, retired and currently serving, are on multiple pensions. For example, there are state officials like the president and four ministers that are collecting a state pension while also collecting a state salary, a situation that many consider unacceptable. Although there had been an attempt by the legislature to end this state of affairs, the law it passed was ruled unconstitutional by the courts, on the grounds that a pension was the property of its recipient and could not be taken away.

Meanwhile, adding pressure on the government, Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides, sent a letter to the accountant-general’s office, demanding that payment of pensions to serving state officials should be immediately stopped because these were illegal. In his letter, Michaelides cited the laws from 1980 and 1997 which barred an official from carrying on collecting a state pension after being appointed to a state post. These laws had not been considered by the court ruling of 2014 and a subsequent opinion of the attorney-general, said Michaelides.

He may be correct, but as auditor-general he does not have the authority to issue legal opinions which state services must follow. This was why the accountant-general has asked for a legal opinion from the attorney-general who is the legal advisor of the state and the only official qualified to provide such advice. It would be no surprise to find out that the older laws governing the matter, which Michaelides referred to, had been ignored by the courts, the lawyers and the former attorney-general. Such ineptitude in dealing with important matters is not unheard of.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Will the attorney-general give an opinion that supports the auditor-general’s interpretation of the old laws, or will there be a need to approve the bill that has been prepared by the government, which could subsequently be deemed unconstitutional if there is an appeal by one of the recipients of multiple state pensions?

Former Disy leader, Averof Neophytou hit the nail on the head on Thursday, in a tweet on X, in which he said the issue of multiple pensions is not legal. “It is par excellence political – and above all ethical. Nobody who served as an official should accept multiple pensions. Nor should serving officials also benefit from state pensions.” This what the issue is about, however hard self-serving public officials try to hide their greed behind the laws.