AUDITOR-GENERAL Odysseas Michaelides appears to have added a new responsibility to his job description – carrying out persecution campaigns against ministers he does not like, sometimes at the behest of others with an axe to grind – simply because he can.
In fact, he can do anything he likes because not only is he unaccountable to anyone and untouchable – in his position until retirement age – but also because he has used the good things he has done to develop an image as the infallible, virtuous avenger, who will chase the corrupt from office and clean up Kyproulla. His clever use of the media through selective leaks of his reports has also helped.
What is admirable is that he has achieved all this despite having a terrible dress sense – those checked cowboy shirts he sometimes wears with a suit and tie, make him look more like a farmer out on the town rather than the stern and unforgiving grand inquisitor. To his credit he has given a high profile and a touch of glamour to auditing – one of the most boring jobs in the world.
This could be the reason he has unilaterally added the conducting of personal vendettas against people that do not bow to his diktats, to his job description. It provides him with some excitement and an excuse for publicity, which he loves. It is pleasant break from the mind-numbing tedium of sitting behind a desk and going through thousands of pages of government documents.
IN THE LATEST installment of his vendetta against interior minister Socratis Hasikos, the wily Odysseas tried to shame his adversary by leaking a report about conflict of interest to Phil about 10 days ago. He had not bothered to seek the minister’s version before releasing the report, which said Hasikos was renting office space in a building owned by a company in which he had a 60 per cent stake to the Civil Aviation Authority.
The office space had been rented in 2007, long before his appointment as minister, but Odysseas objected to the renewal of the contract while Hasikos was a minister. Whether he had a point or not will be decided by the committee of conflict of interest, to which he referred the matter. Why had he chosen to declare the minister guilty in public before the relevant committee had investigated it?
He does not like Hasikos, with whom he has fallen out publicly on several occasions, and wanted to embarrass him, because there was a danger that if he waited the committee’s investigation may have found the minister had not acted improperly or that his offence was not very serious.
But the proof that the holier than thou Odysseas’ main motive was vindictiveness was his failure to seek the minister’s comments in drafting his report of guilt. In his investigation of his friend and fellow prig (not with ck) Giorgos Perdikis’ chauffeur scam (see below), Odysseas on Friday told Tass news agency that he had drafted his report and sent it to the green rejectionist for his comments, “in accordance with established auditing procedures”. He also followed the other established procedure of not leaking the report to the press.
In the case of Hasikos, “established auditing procedures” – to ask for his comments and refrain from leaking the report to the press – were suspended because he does not like him and wanted to shame him publicly. And as we know the auditor-general can do whatever he wants, including changing the established procedures to suit his personal agenda.
ALL THIS fuss was instigated by the owner of Kathimerini newspaper Demetris Lottides who had fallen out big time with Hasikos and had been using Perdikis and Odysseas to get at him. Lottides, who has become a top courtier of Prez Nik and has been granted many favours in return, first got Perdikis to report Hasikos to Odysseas for conflict of interest with regard to his media ownership.
Hasikos has a big shareholding in daily paper Alithia and radio station Supersports FM. Odysseas’ investigation found there was no conflict of interest, but he never leaked his findings to any newspaper nor released the report because he did not want anyone to know that the minister had done nothing wrong and as auditor-general he can do whatever he wants.
Having failed to hurt Hasikos in this way Lottides then reported him about renting office space to the Civil Aviation Authority and Odysseas wasted no time in carrying out an investigation and declaring the minister guilty. Once the minister hit back in public, Odysseas sent his minions to the Authority with instructions to take all the documents available in the hope that something damning would be found.
Why he was prepared to go to such lengths to please Perdikis acting as Lottides’ agent and then Lottides directly, nobody knows. But he is auditor-general who can do whatever he wants because he is accountable to nobody and has declared himself an agent of virtue.
APART from his franchise weekly newspaper Kathimerini, Lottides also operates the franchise television channel Mad TV which plays back to back music videos. Mad TV is obliged by law to pay €50,000 licensing fee to the Television and Radio Authority, something Lottides had been refusing to do, believing that because he enjoys the patronage of Prez Nik he can do as he pleases.
Hasikos, however, has been insisting that Mad TV must pay its licence, pissing off Lottides who thought he would have got away with not paying the 50 grand. Interestingly, Odysseas never issued a report about the channel not paying its licence. Nor has he thought the fact that the taxpayer was inexplicably subsidising the channel to the tune of 90 grand a year worthy of an investigation.
The 90 grand was granted by Lottides’ great friend Nik, despite protests at the council of ministers by Hasikos and is also given to another three small TV channels. It goes towards paying half the annual fee of €180,000 for use of the Velister television platform. Why the taxpayer is obliged to subsidise a franchise TV channel playing canned music and offering nothing to the taxpayer only our Prez can tell us.
You cannot even blame it on the forthcoming election because the decision was taken two years ago.
FEARING the rift between his minister and his favourite courtier could get out of control, Nik has been trying to broker reconciliation, but Hasikos has ignored repeated presidential exhortations to forgive and forget. After Friday’s decision by the Council of Ministers the rift will deepen.
On Friday the government decided to appoint Lottides’ sister-in-law, Maria Stylianou Lottides, who had worked as a lawyer at the state legal services, Ombudswoman. She was preferred to the official at the Ombudswoman’s office, recommended by Hasikos, who was absent from Friday’s meeting.
The appointment stinks of rusfeti from 100 miles away, another favour to Lottides by Nik, but we doubt Odysseas would be carrying out an investigation to establish whether this was a meritocratic appointment. One thing is certain – Kathimerini and Mad TV would be rooting for Nik’s re-election next February.
I CANNOT pretend not to have enjoyed the exposure of the insufferably smarmy and self-righteous Perdikis’ phoniness. It was high time his self-advertised moral purity and saintliness was punctured. Hopefully it would also temper his strong belief that he had a God-given right to issue daily sermons about good and evil.
The unlikeable green rejectionist, who regularly boasted that, unlike the other party leaders, he had declined the offer of a police guard on the grounds that his life was not in danger had arranged to collect a cash handout from the government for his well-advertised sacrifice instead. This was back in 2005 when he persuaded the Tassos government to pay him a thousand quid (€1,700) every month for not having a police guard and in order to hire a chauffeur. The amount was reduced to €1,000 during the economic crisis.
In short, the Greens took about 200 grand from the taxpayer as a result of this scam arranged by the saintly Perdikis supposedly to pay for the services of a chauffeur. It now transpires that Mr Morality only recently hired a chauffeur, which would suggest that in the past he may have been taking the taxpayer’s money under false pretences.
His main defence was from the Akel book of lame excuses. None of this money went to him personally but directly to the party, he said in a statement. He obviously espouses the Akel ideology which considers thieving from the taxpayer acceptable as long as the money goes to party coffers.
PERDIKIS’ real scam however was how he constantly advertised the fact that he was the only party leader that did not have a police guard, demanding public plaudits for not pretending he was in danger and therefore in need of protection. And he received the plaudits and positive write-ups he sought because nobody knew that he was receiving a monthly payment from the taxpayer, as compensation, for giving up his right to police chauffeurs. Nobody needed to know that he was milking the system while being hailed for saving the taxpayer money by not sharing the other party leaders’ disgusting sense of entitlement. It is what you would expect from a self-promoting, sanctimonious, populist, left-wing, nationalist masquerading as a tree-hugger.
THE GOVERNMENT appears to have recruited Phil in its drive to present the UN special envoy Espen Barth Eide as just another blatantly pro-Turkish facilitator hell-bent on screwing our side. This is part of Nik’s campaign to end the peace process and thus concentrate on the last thing on his mind – the presidential election.
The unsubstantiated, unsourced attacks on Eide published in Phil last week could only have come from the government because I cannot believe the paper could have made up such myths and put them on its front page without the slightest hint of evidence.
On Tuesday its front page headline said of Eide: ‘He wants to become arbitrator’, claiming he was ‘promoting change of methodology (of talks) seeking upgrade of his role.’ The government was allegedly against this and so was Akinci, the paper claimed. To support the government lie it was reporting without of course crediting it the paper quoted Eide as saying, “there is a need for a change of methodology.”
The report did not mention anything about the interview Eide gave to Tass a few days earlier in which he categorically ruled out arbitration, saying that even if the two sides asked him to arbitrate, he would turn down the request. Needless to say that after the publication of the fake news Nik defiantly declared he would never agree to arbitration.
THE FAKE news continued on Wednesday’s front page, under the banner headline ‘Eide’s personal agenda’. In this non-story, it was claimed the Norwegian wanted to “impose his own pace” on the talks, because he had a personal agenda.
He wanted to speed up the process because he wanted to achieve significant progress “or even an agreement” (was this such a bad thing?) because he wanted to be a Labour Party candidate in the September general elections in Norway and such progress “would constitute a strong card” for his election drive.
Phil’s government-inspired theory was too dumb for words. It said: “he would be able to use the achievement of a solution in Cyprus not only to win a seat in Norwegian parliament on May 9 but also to seek becoming prime minister of the country by leading a centre-left alliance.”
The change of methodology, aimed at upgrading his role, was part of his scheme to speed up the process, the paper unreliably reported, so he could become prime minister. Who comes up with these ludicrously lame theories at the presidential palace before they are fed to Phil? Nik himself, his spokesman Christodoulides, the assistant Victoria or the cleaning lady?
THERE was more fake news on Thursday but it was not the lead story. It was promoted on Phil’s front page but the story appeared inside. It claimed that Eide was going to Brussels next week to “lobby for the four freedoms for the Turks.”
Again the report did not provide a shred of evidence to support its claim. It did not quote anyone saying that Eide would “lobby in favour of the Turkish proposal for the granting of the four freedoms to Turkish citizens through the settlement of the Cyprus problem.”
The paper did not credit its fake news to anyone, not even “the cleaning lady of the presidential palace.” So how did it know that Eide would be lobbying for the Turks in Brussels? Was it perhaps, because it heard that Erdogan had promised to help Eide become prime minister of Norway?
I AM SORRY to have disappointed regulars that may have expected a rant about the demand by the obnoxious Glafcos Hadjianostos, for public parasites to have their monthly Gesy contribution paid by the taxpayer. In this case words fail me.
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