By Andria Kades
The spat between Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides and Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos showed no signs of ending as the bickering continued on Saturday, with the audit service accusing the minister of trying to intimidate them.
“The continuous effort by the interior minister, for months now, to prevent (the audit service) from carrying out their work” is a serious cause of concern as is “the minister’s effort to intimidate the service,” it said in an announcement.
Calling on Hasikos to understand “the more he tries to frighten the audit service the stronger its efforts will be to send a message to citizens that no one is above the law,” it said the practise of trying to intimidate auditors is a tactic applied across the world but his efforts would yield no results.
The heavy words come after a tumultuous week in which Hasikos responded to a letter from the audit-service to the transport ministry asking for explanation why 20 new state cars were not uniformly coloured, per original agreement.
The cars, 20 Audi A6s with 2-litre diesel engines, were ordered for use by government ministers and other officials.
Eight cars were received in Tornado grey metallic paint, eight coloured Moonlight blue metallic, two Dakota grey metallic, and two Floret silver metallic.
On Friday night, Hasikos reiterated comments outlining he did not want a state car and would pay his own petrol but “there are more serious matters for the audit service to delve into than the colours of the ministers’ cars.”
The auditor did not let it go, saying the procedure was not adhered to properly as the Electromechanical Services Department violated the original agreement and two limos worth €50,000 were idle at their parking lot – a matter he still wanted an explanation for.
Saturday’s announcement said “contrary to the wrong message the minister is trying to send out, it is important for the public to know every public contract, regardless of its size, is subject to a strict legal framework and yes, contracts with a value of less than €50,000 allow for more flexible procedures but it always remains the responsibility of the administration to maintain principles of good administration and transparency.”
Getting personal, the announcement went on to say that for several months, every time the audit service brought to light issues where the minister seemed to defy the law in serious matters –Kofinou slaughterhouse, Bangladeshi students and Koshi waste treatment plant – Hasikos would throw fire against them and claim they had overstepped their responsibilities.
As his efforts to try silence them did not reap any results, “it seems he decided to change his approach and uses a matter which does not even concern his ministry.”
The audit service called on Hasikos to review the 650 pages of the its last report where he could easily find a series of cases they had brought to light including SAPA, Turkish Cypriot property, co-op, the veterinary services and the customs department over tobacco products.
“The minister can also, in the 27 pages that concern his ministry, and the 100 pages which concern local governance which he oversees, find dozens of problematic serious issues… and the public waits for his public word to explain how he plans to resolve these problems.”