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15 June, 2024
 
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President's silent pension raises eyebrows

Hidden pensions and salaries exposed

Pavlos Neophytos

Both the President of the Republic and members of Parliament have emphasized the necessity of legislative regulation to put an end to the simultaneous receipt of public employee pensions and salaries by political officials.

This comes in the wake of reports indicating that the President has been receiving a pension for eight years without declaring it in his financial disclosures, raising ethical questions.

Simultaneously, the President has provided explanations to "K" regarding this issue, along with three ministers (Education, Agriculture, and the Deputy Minister to the President), who have similarly not declared their public-service pensions in their financial disclosures, as reported by Truth and Politi.

In Parliament, Andreas Kafkalias, Chairman of the Parliamentary Working Committee and member of the Finance Committee, stressed to "K" the importance of both the legislative and executive branches seeking constitutionally sound solutions.

This is to avoid regulations that might be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, as occurred in 2013. Kafkalias emphasized that it is difficult to justify a political official receiving both a salary and a pension simultaneously.

Deputy Government Spokesman Yiannis Antoniou, in statements to "K," explained that President Christodoulides and the three ministers did not disclose their public employees' pensions in their financial disclosures because these amounts were already declared by the General Accounting Office and were subject to taxation, making them transparent.

Moreover, it remains unclear in the "whence Thou hast" law whether civil service pensions should be disclosed. Antoniou highlighted that several politically exposed individuals, as in previous administrations, did not disclose civil service pensions in their financial disclosures for this reason.

The issue is currently pending in Parliament, with the responsibility lying with political parties to amend the existing regulations. Two bills introduced by Averof Neophytou in 2016 are still under consideration in the House Finance Committee.

The first proposal suggests that officials or retirees assuming public office receive their full monthly pension entitlement, as decided by the Supreme Court. Additionally, during their term in office, they would receive a reduced monthly salary compared to what they would receive without the pension, ensuring that the combined income matches what they would typically earn without a pension.

The second proposal seeks to end the privilege allowing ministers and parliament members to receive pensions from the age of 60 if they do not hold any other government position. It suggests extending the retirement age for MPs and ministers to 65, in line with other workers.

Andreas Kafkalias emphasized the urgency of resolving these issues within a constitutional framework, considering the Supreme Court's past ruling. He noted that there is no ambiguity about the obligation for politically exposed individuals to disclose their public-service pensions in their financial disclosures.

The Democratic Rally party acknowledged that the simultaneous receipt of salary and pension by senior state officials, regardless of age, presents a societal challenge and a long-standing distortion that needs correction.

They pledged to take initiatives to address this issue and stressed the importance of enhancing transparency, aligning with European Commission and GRECO recommendations.

AKEL has called for President Nikos Christodoulides to respond to reports suggesting he has been receiving a pension for eight years, starting from the age of 45, without declaring it in his financial disclosures. Marina Savva, a member of the C.E., highlighted the need for transparency in these circumstances, considering the current social context and expectations of a new political culture.

In a bid to enhance transparency in political life, Edek has proposed the publication of tax returns of state officials in accordance with European standards. This move aims to address public demand for information and combat the perceived obsolescence of political practices.

Edek also recommends disclosing state officials' involvement in companies as part of this transparency initiative. Despite past opposition, Edek is reintroducing this proposal to promote genuine transparency and meet citizens' expectations for open governance.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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