Vote on anti-corruption agency looms

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Plans to establish a national anti-corruption agency to conduct real-time audits on politicians and their asset declarations will be voted on by MPs on Thursday.

The move comes just weeks after MPs approved legislation protecting people who blow the whistle on corruption.

The new law creates a five-member committee tasked with monitoring state officials assets, dealings, and vested interests.

It establishes an advisory board with a retired judge appointed by the Supreme Court, presidents of the Cyprus Bar Association, Association of Certified Public Accountants, and university rectors.

Chair of the House Legal Committee, ruling DISY MP Nikos Tornaritis, said the agency would have the power to carry out inquiries.

“I believe that with the passage of this bill, we are sending a very important message both to the people on the island and abroad.”

H” added the proposed legislation is a prerequisite for Cyprus to be eligible for the next instalment of the EU Recovery and Resilience Fund.

“Cyprus is now in full harmonisation with modern states and especially with EU laws.”

Another bill, accompanying the corruption legislation, which regulates lobbying, will also be put to the vote, scrutinising politicians links to interest groups.

These bills attempt to rid Cyprus of the ill-repute tied to the lavish way golden passports were dished out.

Some damning reports tie Cypriot officials to international scandals like the Panama and Pandora papers.

Cyprus has been sliding down corruption and democracy indices in the past years.

Corruption watchdog Transparency International says Cyprus has lapsed in its battle against sleaze, making little progress over a decade, despite recent measures ushered in by Parliament.

In its Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 (CPI), Cyprus slipped 10 places.

It is now ranked 52 among 180 countries, falling from 42 in 2020.

In addition to the rankings, countries also receive a score of 0 to 100, where zero means highly corrupt, and 100 means very clean.

Cyprus’ 2021 score was 53, dropping from 57 in 2020 and 58 in 2019.

In recent years, the government and the political system have been accused of sweeping corruption under the carpet following revelations of sleaze in high places.

In November 2020, Nicosia dropped its golden passport scheme after Al Jazeera aired a documentary showing reporters posing as fixers for a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport despite having a criminal record.