WE HAVE often applauded the actions of Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides who generally speaking has done many commendable things since his appointment such as uncovering shady deals, exposing scandals and reporting violations of procedures or irregular dealings in the state sector. This is his remit and nobody doubts that he has done a good job showing a dynamism and commitment rarely displayed by any of his predecessors.
At the same time however, he has allowed his successes and the public praise these earned him go to his head. He has lost all sense of measure, shows lack of judgement and is exhibiting autocratic tendencies. He does not tolerate anyone standing up to him and regularly resorts to intimidation tactics either with public announcements or by sending his minions to government offices to demand documents and seek explanations. Accountable to nobody he seems to have assumed the roles of investigator, prosecutor, judge and executioner.
He performed all these roles, plus that of avenger, in his latest public spat with interior minister Socratis Hasikos, who could justifiably claim he was a victim of persecution by Michaelides. Hasikos had made the mistake of standing up to Michaelides in the past, publicly criticising his constant interfering in the workings of government that had paralysed the state sector. Since then, Michaelides has vindictively been looking for ways to show up Hasikos and ‘prove’ that he was guilty of some wrongdoing. We doubt this is in his remit.
First Michaelides decided to investigate Hasikos’ alleged conflict of interest in relation to media ownership – he never sought the minister’s version – and found nothing against him. However he did not deem it necessary to make his findings public. Then he decided to investigate another case of alleged conflict of interest against Hasikos. The minister owned a 60 per cent stake in a company that was renting office space to the Civil Aviation Department. The office space had been rented 10 years ago, six years before he was appointed minister. When he was appointed in 2003, Hasikos stepped down as chief executive of the company and declared his interest in the company in the capital statement he submitted to the legislature. He had not tried to hide anything.
Last week, however, Michaelides leaked to Phileleftheros his report accusing Hasikos of a conflict of interest – he said the contract had been renewed while he was minister. Without seeking the minister’s side of the story, he had declared him guilty of conflict of interest, made his verdict public and referred the matter to the Committee for the Investigation of Conflict of Interest. What happens if the committee, which met to discuss the matter for the first time yesterday, decided the minister was not in breach of any rules? Why did Michaelides not wait for the committee’s decision before declaring Hasikos guilty?
There is something wrong with a constitution that enables an auditor-general to abuse his power with impunity. And it is quite worrying when the man in this position seems more than happy to do so.