Belated criteria for hiring consultants

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The House on Thursday launched a discussion over a bill proposed by the Nikos Christodoulides’ administration to regulate the hiring process of government consultants.

The bill was tabled following a public outcry over recent appointments of seemingly unqualified people.

Presenting the bill, the Deputy Minister to the President, Irene Piki, said the regulations aim to ensure that consultants hired will not be regarded as civil servants with an open-ended contract with the state.

She said that salaries would not depend on civil service pay scales to avoid any possible confusion that these positions are part of the public sector.

Salaries will begin at €25,000, equal to an A8 scale civil servant pay.

Under the bill, the President of the Republic, ministers, deputy ministers, and the Government Spokesperson can conclude a private law employment contract with a fixed duration of up to five years.

Applicants must be Cypriot citizens or holders of an EU passport and permanent residents of the country.

They must be at least 21 years of age and hold a university degree accredited by the Republic of Cyprus.

Candidates must also have a clean criminal record.

Male candidates must have completed their military service or have been legally exempted.

According to the legislation, candidates must not be related by blood or marriage (up to a third-degree) with the government member for whom they will work.

They must also not have been fired from a public service post in the Republic or any EU member state due to a disciplinary offence.

Opposition AKEL submitted a bill that, as the party’s spokesperson George Loukaides said, makes it clear that consultant contracts end when the government’s term expires.

Loukaides said his party’s proposal also sets a ceiling for the salaries of consultants and their minimum qualifications.

The government’s proposal comes after several appointments of people who did not meet the criteria expected for key positions.

One incident causing public outrage involved Junior Minister of Culture Michalis Hatzigiannis, who found himself in hot water over hiring a 42-year-old female associate with a prior conviction.

The woman was given a suspended prison sentence for selling counterfeit concert tickets.

She met the requirement for a clean criminal record, as her conviction was expunged under the Law on the Rehabilitation of Convicted Persons.

She was appointed an advisor to Michalis Hatzigiannis, responsible for press and social media matters.

Outrage over highly paid appointments of assistants and consultants to ministers and the Presidency intensified when the deputy ministry of tourism appointed a 19-year-old student to handle its social media accounts.

The 19-year-old was a staffer of Christodoulides’ presidential campaign.

The Presidency was also in trouble when a beautician was appointed secretary at the Presidential Palace.

She, too, helped in Christodoulides’ election campaign.

The previous government abandoned regulations on hiring consultants, leaving a criteria vacuum on such appointments.