Utility reforms open

Efforts to coordinate the reform of public companies began in earnest yesterday as ministers met to discuss the way the firms would be run in the future, including suggestions of drastic salary cuts for their top management. An interministerial committee headed by Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis met for the first time yesterday, following parliamentary passage last month of government reforms for state companies and public utilities, known as DEKOs. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis and Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos attended the talks as they are responsible for certain utilities. It was decided that the companies should make public, within six months, a list of their obligations to citizens. Each ministry was asked to compile a list of all the utilities and any subsidiaries that fall under its authority. Financial data for each firm will be compiled and then supplied to the Finance Ministry, which in future will keep a close watch on the companies. The ministers decided that all the firms should change their charters by June 26 to reflect the recently passed law. By September 6, the firms will have to submit their new internal operating regulations and by September 27, the companies will have to supply a special DEKO secretariat with the rules of operation of their executive boards. The new law notably brought an end to jobs for life for new staff at utilities. It also decreed that utilities must report earnings under International Accounting Standards and when the state holds less than 50 percent in a utility, such as OTE telecom, then the state-controlled Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP) will not have a say in the hiring of personnel, who will be given jobs based on a six-month trial period. Alogoskoufis said the new measures would help create a process by which the corporate strategies of the firms could be monitored and their finances could become more transparent. A statement by Liapis saying he wanted to halve the salaries of the directors of the utilities under his jurisdiction also grabbed attention. The new law introduces limits on the wages that the heads of the firms can receive, with the ceiling set at the annual salary of the Supreme Court president.

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