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Cyprus president steps up to the plate

President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades (Source: Cyprus News Agency)

President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades (Source: Cyprus News Agency)

EARLIER today President Anastasiades presented a package of measures for the modernisation of the institutions and state, assuring the citizens of his determination and that of his government to meet the expectations of the society for a new bold start.

The measures include the introduction of rules of good governance, combating corruption, collusion and established bad practices, promoting meritocracy and egalitarianism, and reforming public administration, with the active involvement of the citizens and a deadline for the implementation of the action plan expiring at the end of December 2013.

Presenting the measures, President Anastasiades said that it was imperative to restructure and modernise the state, and restore the trust of the confidence of the citizens in the institutions and especially in the politicians.

“Concepts, such as meritocracy, good governance, the liability of politicians, the obligations of the state towards its citizens, which were until recently meaningless declarations, today, due to the consequences of the financial crisis, constitute a national necessity,” he said.

The President pointed out that the measures announced today and any to follow would prove that he was sincere, and dismissed allegations based on the Eurogroup decisions that he had defaulted on pre-election commitments, calling on everyone to ponder if they preferred a leader to either be likable or take unpleasant but beneficial decisions.

“I would like to assure the citizens of my determination and that of my government to meet the expectations of the society for a new bold start,” he said.

Referring to the measures, which were discussed by the Council of Ministers, he said that with a proposal to amend the Constitution the offences for which a President of the Republic could be prosecuted are laid out and expanded.

Furthermore, the freedom of speech and the freedom of MPs to vote during their legislative duties, is secured, however their immunity for all forms of offences is lifted.

Criminal and civil liabilities of ministers and independent officers for actions or omissions during the carrying out of their duties will be regulated by law, and the list of officials who should present a statement of assets is expanded, while a special committee will be checking the correctness of the information supplied.

Furthermore, the House has already passed into law that the unanimous findings of investigative committees are binding for the official in question, while the Attorney General, apart from the Council of Ministers, will now be able to appoint criminal investigators.

Regarding good governance and the combating of corruption, the President said tenders awarded should be justified and also publicised, audit committees would be set up at each Ministry to monitor corrective measures for issues noted in the report by the Audit Office, and Ministries and public organisations must present reports on corrective measures noted by the Audit Office, along with the submission of their proposed budgets to the House. Similar measures will apply for municipalities and communities.

It will also be obligatory to keep detailed minutes of meetings in any public organisation or authority taking administrative decisions, and these will be publicised, except in the cases of national security, defence, and international relations, which may be confidential or concern personal data.

The law concerning the authorities of the Ombudsperson is amended, enhancing the institution’s role, and the civil and criminal liabilities of civil servants are set out for damage due to inexcusable negligence or fraudulent behaviour constituting collusion.

Regarding the combating of collusion and established bad practice, President Anastasiades said the provisions of the Constitution and the law would be amended so that it would not be possible to run for re-election to the post of President of the Republic for more than two consecutive terms in office, and the same would apply to mayors and community leaders, while the office of MPs, and municipal and community councillors would be restricted to three consecutive terms.

On meritocracy and egalitarianism, President Anastasiades said there would be criteria for any permanent position in the public or semi-governmental sector, and the boards of directors would be relieved of the responsibility of employing or promoting persons.

Regarding the reform of public administration, he said noted the appointment of a Commission for the Reform of the Civil Service, who would be submitting an action plan within three months, with specific proposals for the reform of the public sector.

Furthermore, the reform of the civil service would be regulated through legislation which will be sent to the House for approval, containing aims, ways to monitor developments, indices to measure the quality and effectiveness of the services, and ways to improve administrative procedures and simplify the issuing of decisions.

Another bill regulates the obligation of public organisations to submit to the Council of Ministers a strategic and operational plan, which will be compatible with government policy.

For the more effective and smooth functioning of the state, a proposal is included for the establishment of a number of Deputy Ministries. The relevant bill has been sent to the House for approval along with a fully justified report, the President said.

President Anastasiades also referred to the active involvement of citizens in policy-making, noting that measures enhancing immediate democracy have been introduced.

Furthermore, Administrative Courts will be set up to decongest the Supreme Court, departments of primary jurisdiction are strengthened, a Court of Arbitration will be established to try cases concerning bonds, a Banking Ombudsperson will be appointed to deal with cases so far of primary jurisdiction, and the state will fully comply with cancellation decisions by the administrative courts.

President Anastasiades said that all proposals should be ready by June 15 at the latest, and that the measures announced on Monday would be effective as soon as the House of Representatives approved them.

The Council of Ministers also decided on April 24 to set up a monitoring mechanism for the government’s programme. The President said the mechanism had already begun work and would be presenting monthly reports.

President Anastasiades said the need for a new model state was also the wish of the political forces, and thus called on them to give priority to the examination of the bills, in order “to jointly create the modern state we owe our citizens.”

Cyprus News Agency

Further reading

Presentation by the President of the Republic, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, of the Government measures for the modernization of institutions and of the state – 29/04/2013