President Nicos Anastasiades has intervened to scrap free, around-the-clock use of state luxury vehicles for top civil servants after criticism it was a “scandalous” waste of taxpayers’ money.
In a statement on Monday, Cypriot government spokesperson Marios Pelekanos said that Anastasiades instructed the finance minister to withdraw the plans after noting concerns that the use of such vehicles would extend beyond official duties to activities like family outings and shopping trips.
Pelekanos said cabinet approval earlier this month followed an agreement between the government and trade unions representing senior civil servants to gradually re-instate the privilege.
“Taking into account the concerns expressed over possible exploitation, and to satisfy the public’s sense of justice, the President of the Republic has instructed the finance minister to withdraw the regulation,” said Pelekanos.
High-ranking civil servants had enjoyed 24-hour access to luxury state cars for personal use until January 2016.
Parliament voted to strip them of their privilege following three years of fiscal belt-tightening after the 2013 banking crisis and the bailout from international creditors.
Pelekanos said the deal had been consulted with the parliamentary parties and did not have a significant fiscal burden on the state “as no new car was to be bought”.
Granting high-ranking civil servants unfettered access to luxury cars had angered state auditor Odysseas Michaelides.
He tweeted it is “scandalous for civil servants to use a state limousine for family trips.”
“The mentality of having the civil servant being a burden on the shoulders of citizens instead of their servant must be fought passionately if we want a healthy civil service and a healthy state,” Michaelides posted.
According to daily Phileleftheros, beneficiaries would have enjoyed privileges worth €6,000 to €7,000 a year, as the state covered fuel and maintenance for the two dozen vehicles.