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Cyprus

Presidency seeks to settle issue between minister and auditor-general

File photo of Hasikos (L) with Michaelides in parliament

The government on Thursday denied reports it was at loggerheads with the auditor-general following a public spat between him and the interior minister.

In a written statement, the Presidency said the government is providing the auditor with all the support and urged him “to be uncompromising towards any state official should an investigation showed that they were involved in acts of corruption.”

“The current government’s determination to stamp out corruption is a given, and cannot be disputed by anyone,” the statement said.

As proof of the support afforded to the auditor, the cabinet on Wednesday decided to reinforce the service with 10 additional staff in a bid to make it even more effective, the Presidency said.

The  intervention came a day after Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos suggested that Odysseas Michaelides had overstepped his mandate.

Hasikos said Michaelides’ behaviour could risk paralysing the state, because a climate of terror has been cultivated among civil servants due to his tactic of making everything public and criticising every executive decision.

“Civil servants are afraid to make decisions because the auditor-general bogeyman is always hovering over them,” he said. “Everyone should stick to their role, as prescribed by the Constitution.”

Hasikos became enraged by what he perceived as an effort by Michaelides to block a government decision to extend a waste-management contract at the Koshi site by seven more years – until 2027 – in exchange for substantially lower cost to the public – from €75 per tonne to €39.90.

The seven-year extension, Michaelides warned in a letter to Hasikos in July, could be deemed irregular by the European Commission, either on grounds of benefiting the site operator or simply because there is no legally prescribed way for the government to extend an existing agreement without asking for new bids.

Michaelides cited a legal opinion by the Attorney-general, dated May 27, 2014, to back his claim.

His recommendation was not for Hasikos to scrap the agreement, but rather, to include clauses protecting the government in the event of the European Commission deeming it illegal and fining Cyprus.

 

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