According to a report by the Audit Office, it has been revealed that two Advisers to the President of the Republic and two Advisers to the Deputy Minister of Shipping do not possess a university degree recognized in the Republic, thus failing to meet the necessary requirement. The report highlights that the employment of these four individuals is illegal. The Audit Office strongly recommends that the Presidency of the Republic and the Deputy Minister of Maritime Affairs promptly terminate the employment of these four consultants who lack a university degree, following the one-month notice stipulated in the Standard Contract.
The report highlights the legal framework surrounding public appointments, which aims to ensure equality, equal opportunities, and merit-based staffing in the public sector. It emphasizes that the appointment of public employees is an administrative act, and political authorities do not have the power to make such appointments. The responsibility of appointing civil servants lies with the Public Service Commission (PSC), as mandated by the Constitution.
While acknowledging the need for capable individuals to support officials in their roles, the report emphasizes that political appointments should be exceptional, safeguarded by legislation, and subject to strict conditions. It emphasizes that appointments should be based on specialized knowledge and experience rather than political criteria or party affiliation. The inclusion of non-specialized personnel, such as secretarial staff or social media managers, in these exceptional appointments is discouraged.
The significance of advisor positions to the President and Ministers is highlighted by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, which consider them positions of influence, requiring asset declarations from the holders.
The report also provides historical background, noting that until February 2013, only the President and the President of the House of Representatives appointed advisors, not the Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Over time, this practice expanded. In 2014, the Audit Service expressed concerns about political appointments to advisory roles. The government responded by preparing terms of service to ensure consistency and clarity in the contract terms for advisors. However, specific criteria and employment terms were not determined at that time.
In contrast, the House of Representatives accepted the recommendations of the Audit Service and passed the Law on Parliamentary Collaborators and Related Matters in 2019, which outlines the criteria for appointing collaborators. These criteria include being a citizen of the Republic or another member state, having a recognized university degree, possessing a clean criminal record, fulfilling military obligations (if applicable), and not being a relative of an incumbent Member of Parliament or Representative.
Despite the government's rejection of the Audit Service's recommendations to establish a legal framework for the remuneration and benefits of advisors, the Council of Ministers approved a framework in 2019. However, this decision was later revoked without informing the Audit Service.
Under the current President's tenure, concerns were raised regarding the appointment of young individuals or those without a university degree as advisors, who did not fall within the exceptional cases justifying deviation from the general rule of PSC appointments. Additionally, these advisors were unable to meet the requirement of conducting research and preparing studies, as specified in their contracts.
The report indicates that the Auditor General met with the President on May 10, 2023. During the meeting, the President expressed a willingness to draft legislation based on the existing law for parliamentary collaborators. The audit to determine whether advisors meet the criteria specified in the law was initiated, and the Audit Office conducted its evaluation in early June 2023.
The report presents the audit findings, highlighting that two advisors to the President and two advisors to the Deputy Minister of Shipping do not hold a recognized university degree, rendering their employment illegal. In addition, there are cases where the required documents or certifications regarding termination from the Public Service, clean criminal records, and recognition of university degrees need further examination or submission. The report recommends terminating the employment of the four advisors without university degrees and requesting the necessary information to substantiate the fulfillment of all relevant criteria for the other individuals.
In conclusion, the Audit Service has uncovered the illegal employment of advisors to the President and Deputy Minister of Shipping who do not possess a recognized university degree. The report recommends the immediate termination of their employment and urges the verification of criteria fulfillment for other individuals. The President has expressed a commitment to draft legislation and initiate an audit to ensure compliance with the law for parliamentary collaborators.