Auditorgeneral has become a tool of the opposition

first_imgAuditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said on Wednesday his office has so far dealt with three controversial cases concerning public servants who also hold political office.In his ongoing spat with Finance Minister Harris Georgiades over their interpretation of the law concerning the case of Savia Orphanidou, a civil servant and Disy party official who was also recently appointed to the European Investment Bank (EIB), Michaelides said that the minister was attempting to attack the independence of the Audit Office. He accused Georgiades of attempting to influence which cases the service should investigate, “depending on his own partisan or other criteria”.The dispute began following a probe by the Audit Office, acting on a complaint filed by Akel MP Irene Charalambidou, concerning Orphanidou.   Charalambidou argued that Orphanidou – a finance ministry employee and member of Disy’s political bureau – may have been violating the law by holding posts in a political party and the public service, without the legally required permission of the Public Service Commission (PSC).In a letter to Georgiades, the auditor-general asked the finance minister to launch a disciplinary probe into Orphanidou’s appointments and to also explain how she came to be selected for appointment to the EIB in January, a move widely regarded as being politically driven.Georgiades had replied that Orphanidou had been in no conflict because her election to the party’s political bureau had preceded the 2015 law that made PSC permission for political and public-service office mandatory. Orphanidou has held the Disy post since 2012.The minister said last week that Orphanidou’s targeting was “unfair” and “suspect”, and that he would not accept the targeting of a civil servant just because an opposition MP requested the auditor-general to do so. He added that instances of civil servants routinely participating in parties’ bodies abound.On Wednesday Georgiades told state broadcaster CyBC that the institution of the auditor-general had lost its independence and objectivity and that Michaelides had become a tool of the opposition by targeting Orphanidou in cooperation with an Akel MP. The minister said that he had ordered an administrative probe into the matter which has been completed and that he would submit the findings to Michaelides.In response, the auditor-general said in a statement that “the position of the minister that the Audit Office should not investigate reports submitted by opposition MPs is unprecedented, and equally alarming”.The statement also refuted Georgiades’ claims that the investigation of complaints filed by MPs “indicate the loss of our independence and objectivity”.“We didn’t hear him protest when we received reports from MPs of his own party,” it said.The Audit Office said it had dealt so far with three such cases, concerning public servants who may have been violating the law by holding party posts, and which it chose to announce “to prove that […] our service does not act selectively”.The first such case concerned a report filed prior to 2015 over a municipal secretary who was also a Diko official. It emerged that the person in question had first obtained a permit from the municipal council – the equivalent body of the PSC for local government – and then assumed political office.The second case concerned a recent complaint against a municipal employee who was also a member of an Akel district committee.The municipal council, it said, received legal advice which said that the office the person in question held did not fall within the definition of ‘party office’ as described by law.The third case, it said, was that of Orphanidou “for which the minister, instead of ordering a probe into the report we submitted to him, attacked us […] calling our intervention ‘suspect’ and adopting the logic that, since everyone breaks the law, the official of my own party can do so too”.In a statement on Tuesday, Michaelides rejected the finance minister’s arguments, saying that according to the 2015 law, PSC permission for civil servants to hold party posts may only be granted if “the duties of their post in public service are not, in any way, compromised or affected by holding the relevant office in a political party”.In any case, the law prior to 2015 only allowed civil servants to be “mere members of a political party, not hold senior posts” he said.In its own statement on Wednesday, Disy said that because many public servants also hold political offices, it was not right for one to be targeted.“Any review process should be comprehensive and cover all cases,” the party said, adding that it was also the obligation of those affected to obtain the necessary permission from the PSC, and urged those who still had not to do so.You May LikeFigLeaf Beta AppGet Maximum Privacy with Minimum EffortFigLeaf Beta AppUndoTruthFinder People Search SubscriptionOne Thing All Liars Have in Common, Brace YourselfTruthFinder People Search SubscriptionUndoTotal Battle – Online Strategy GameIf You’re PC User This Strategy Game Is A Must-Have!Total Battle – Online Strategy GameUndo Concern over falling tourism numbersUndoTurkish Cypriot actions in Varosha ‘a clear violation’ of UN resolutions, Nicosia saysUndoTwo arrested in connection with attempted murderUndoby Taboolaby Taboolalast_img read more