I’ve been following the saga of the auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides’ spat with finance minister Harris Georgiades over the secondment of a civil servant, and my opinion can be summed up as follows: Even if the auditor-general is right, he is also wrong.
Mr. Michaelides says that Georgiades didn’t follow the correct procedure. This is probably true, but it needs to be taken in context. Cyprus is clogged up with red tape and official procedures, it’s a reason why our public life is paralysed and nothing ever gets done. Laws seem to be drafted with extreme caution, conflicts of interest are always being found (unsurprisingly, in such a small country), and actions are forever being second-guessed.
All this on one side. On the other side is the fact that Harris Georgiades, in my opinion, has been an excellent finance minister. He kept his head after the haircut, and has taken some good decisions (he didn’t manage to reform the civil service but hey, this is Cyprus). Just last week, I read in your paper that our economy has now expanded by the biggest margin since 2008. His personal style is also humble, no mean feat in a country where most politicians are pompous. Finally, and most importantly, I’ve seen no previous indication that he abused his power or personally benefited himself through his job.
I believe the auditor-general has to be careful, or this case may end up backfiring against his office. He’s attacking a popular politician who has never carried any whiff of corruption, over something that seems quite minor. At best, Mr. Michaelides risks looking like a pedantic civil servant. At worst, he risks giving the impression that he’s working with Georgiades’ political opponents in order to discredit him.
It’s not enough to point out mistakes in procedure. It is also important to have good judgment and prioritise the real problems.
Jim Efstathiou, Limassol