Cyprus Mail

‘Govt does not wish to solve problem’ of multiple pensions

comment ellinas auditor general odysseas michaelides
Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides

The government “does not wish to solve the problem” of multiple pensions being paid to government officials, the audit service said on Wednesday.

In an eight-point statement on the matter, they said it is “interesting that today the government and the legal service will explain to political parties why they are rejecting our recommendations in our absence and without any consultation whatsoever with us.”

They note that the government is putting forward two bills on the matter, one of which will see government officials’ first pension payment age raised from 60 to 65, and the other will replace regular monthly pension payments with one single payout.

They said the raising of the pension age is “unconstitutional” both for officials who have already left their posts and for those who are still working “for the portion of their pension they will have hedged by the time the law changes.”

“Now, the legal service admits the change is unconstitutional for former officials. In other words, there is an admission on the part of the legal service that the bill was sent to parliament with material which according to their own advice was unconstitutional,” they said.

They added, “despite the legal service’s admission of the above unconstitutionality and its recognition that there can be no interference with a pension which has already been established, the legal service continues to insist that incumbent officials [have their date of first payment changed].”

“Our view is still that, for example, a sitting MP who has already served for 14 years and is currently 57 years old, when he leaves office in two years’ time, will be entitled to a full pension once he turns 60,” they said.

They added that such a recommendation was not an “invention” on their part, but referred to a Supreme court case from August last year which drew such a conclusion regarding “expected” pension payments.

With this in mind, they also criticised the government’s “insistence on a bill which will impact incumbent officials”, saying that such a bill “will risk being invalidated the first time it is taken to court.”

They added that the current state of the bill “does not touch on the issue of suspending the payment of a civil service pension to a retired civil servant who assumes another office.

Basically, the bill does not deal with civil servants at all.”

The audit service concluded by calling on parliament to “exercise its sovereignty and take the initiative to finally remove distortions which are rightly considered provocative by civil society.”

The government had announced earlier this month its intention to abolish the payment of multiple pensions to government officials.

A source from the finance ministry told the Cyprus Mail at the time that the current state of affairs “leads to some people, who have maybe been in parliament, or been House President, or been a minister, and had a high-level civil service role, or been President of the Republic, picking up four, or five, or even six pensions.”

“We are at the first stage of this process at the moment. We are working out how we can bring to an end the practice of paying multiple pensions while not violating the constitution,” the source explained.

They added, “our goal is to see how we can do this while staying on the right side of the law.”

The constitution plays an emanant role in discussions surrounding multiple pensions, as it is constitutionally stipulated that various high-level government roles, including the titles of President, minister, and House president, bring with them a separate pension.

Changing the constitution is out of the question, as that would require the consent of the Turkish Cypriot community, which has not had access to the government of the Republic of Cyprus since 1963.

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