By George Psyllides
Staff at the state audit service told the government on Tuesday to let them do their jobs, as they expressed support for their boss, under fire from the interior minister.
“The entire audit service staff expresses its support for the auditor-general and wishes to state that it always works for the public interest, within the framework of the constitution and the laws passed by parliament, far from any expediencies, political and otherwise” a written statement said.
“Consequently, we call on the executive to allow the auditor-general and the staff of the audit service to do their work without hindrances.”
The statement came a day after the cabinet issued an announcement backing Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos in his long-running public spat with Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides
In a statement, the cabinet said it has “ascertained a series of actions on the part of the auditor-general which either fall outside his constitutional jurisdictions or which interfere with the role and the work of other independent officials or which constitute involvement in the role of the executive.
“At the same time,” the statement added, “there have been observed certain public behaviours by the auditor-general that undermine the serious and credibility of the institution.”
The statement, read out to reporters by alternate government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos, did not provide any details.
Michaelides himself released a lengthy statement of his own later in the day, dismissing the notion that he had overstepped legal boundaries.
Hasikos said he had provided Attorney-general Costas Clerides with “evidence” suggesting that Michaelides had exceeded the powers vested in him by the constitution.
Clerides’ first reaction was to censure the fact that the cabinet’s statement seemed to pre-empt his probe.
The AG “will perform his duty objectively and undistracted, independent of any statements, opinions or third party findings,” he said.
Political parties on Tuesday criticised the government, accusing it of intervening in the work of an independent official.
DIKO suggested it was a bid to put pressure on the auditor to avoid examining matters that bother the government and to obstruct an investigation into a case that concerns one of its ministers.
The fact that President Nicos Anastasiades has previously publically clashed with Central Bank Governor Chrystalla Georghadji and the AG, made parties even more suspicious.
Through an unprecedented clash with all the officials it appointed, the government is seeking to force independent officials into full submission, AKEL said.
EDEK said the power games inside the administration caused irreparable damage to the institutions and created a bad image as regards the quality and status of the state.
President Nicos Anastasiades said last night his trust in the auditor-general was never gone, nor had he retracted any of the words he said the day Michaelides delivered his report.
Last week, Michaelides presented his 2014 annual report to Anastasiades, and heard the President say the same thing he had told him months earlier – “stay uncompromising”.
Anastasiades said the cabinet statement on Monday concerned “certain instances where mandates were overstepped or executive power was interfered with”.
He added that his advice was that “every probe should be carried out thoroughly and supported by evidence, after all parties that could be involved have been heard, so that the auditor-general’s conclusions are robust and the incidents we sometime witness are avoided”.
He noted that the government’s goal was to have the best possible cooperation with all institutions.