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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Deputies deny seeking new paths to perks ]

Deputies deny seeking new paths to perks

DEPUTIES presiding in the House Committee on Institutions, Merit and the Ombudsman deny that there is a tangible link between the conflict of interest law passed on Thursday and additional benefits which deputies may vote for in the future.
These benefits could include receiving a pension before the official retirement age and state-provided cars for all 56 deputies, according to an article published in Politis earlier last week.

The daily reported that some deputies were working on a new proposal for greater benefits to coincide with the new law on conflict of interest.

The purported link is that since this law deprives deputies of a source of income – by banning them from keeping parallel professional activities that could cause a conflict of interest – the introduction of another bill on benefits would be timely.

But the president of the House Institutions Committee, Rikkos Erotocritou, was adamant there was no such a connection.

“Some people are trying to connect the conflict of interest law with benefits that may be introduced.

“I categorically state that such a connection is unviable,” he told the Sunday Mail.
“Seeing links where there aren’t any creates the false impression amongst the population that the business of deputies is to barter bills to their advantage.

“Such an event is incomprehensible and unacceptable both from a political and a moral viewpoint,” said the European Party deputy.

Erotocritou advised that, “before any benefits can be proposed, studies have to be conducted so that we can establish if and which benefits would be warranted.”

DISY deputy Christos Pourgourides, who also sat on the House Committee responsible for the conflict of interest bill, gave his own opinion on the matter.

Although Pourgourides agreed that what was written in Politis made sense, he said that the conflict of interest law and the issue of benefits could not be directly linked.

He emphasised that deputies were elected officials. “The responsibilities are many and the distances we have to cover each day are great.”

At present, deputies are allowed duty-free cars, but they are not exempt from consumer taxes. The logic is that the former benefit of a duty-free car is now of little value since import duties have been reduced and deputies still have to pay consumer taxes.

Deputies had long been criticised for holding down a number of jobs while simultaneously acting as representatives of the people in parliament. But Pourgourides stressed the workload of a deputy was so great that, even before the law was passed, it was nearly impossible to practice two professions at once.

Another one of the proposals reported by Politis is to bring forward pension benefits so that a deputy can start receiving a pension from the moment they lose or vacate their seat in parliament.

The official retirement age remains 60 for deputies, but under the reported proposals, deputies could start collecting a pension as soon as they stop working in the plenum, regardless of their age.

“It is very hard for a 50-year-old deputy who stops being a lawyer to become a deputy for five years to then return to his old profession,” said a spokesman for Pourgourides.
Pourgourides stressed that if the proposals were passed the beneficiaries would not be the current holders of parliamentary seats, but the future holders who would be elected in 2011. According to the Constitution, deputies cannot reward themselves in the same parliamentary term.

“The Constitution is clear on the matter,” former Attorney-general Alecos Markides said. “The benefits can only be passed for the next batch of elected deputies.”

Deputies now get a monthly salary of around €2,905 and extra monthly benefits of €1,709 plus a monthly travel benefit of €684, independent of where they live. They also receive a €1,025 sum to cover secretarial costs.

According to Politis, after serving one term in parliament, deputies can either pick up a pension of €1,197 on reaching 60 or can opt for a reduced pension of €957 a month, plus a €51,282 golden handshake on vacating their seat.

These figures roughly double and triple if a deputy serves two or three terms as a representative of the House.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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