Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides warned the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (Thoc) on Thursday that if it refuses to handover by Friday documents concerning all performances of Sophocles’ Antigone, including the one staged in the north, he would seek the involvement of the attorney-general.
Michaelides’ warning was a response to the refusal of Thoc to present to the audit office, all documents concerning this year’s performances of Sophocles’ Antigone, including the minutes of the meeting of its board on staging the play in Salamis in the north.
The probe was launched following a request by Diko chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos last week into the procedures preceding the staging of the ancient Greek tragedy in Famagusta, which turned out to be a huge success, attended by some 4,000 people.
The play, staged by Thoc, the National Theatre of Greece and the State Theatre of Northern Greece, has caused a political storm in the Republic, with detractors claiming it constitutes a form of recognition of the breakaway regime in the north.
Thoc’s board sent a letter to Michaelides on Wednesday informing him that they would not give him the documents he had requested, citing the directive of the European Union on statutory audits of annual accounts and consolidated accounts.
In the letter, parts of which circulated in the media, according to Thoc, national legislation violates the directive as it is not being applied “with respect to carrying out the statutory audit of annual and consolidated accounts insofar as this is carried out by the auditor-general of the Republic”.
The chairman of Thoc, Yiannis Toumazis, in the letter, reportedly casts doubt on Michaelides’ capacity as an auditor-general as he is not a certified accountant, and that the organisation intended to seek the opinion of the attorney-general on the issue. Michaelides is a Civil Engineer.
In addition, Thoc said it believes that it is not among the powers of the auditor-general to investigate whether it received permission from the antiquities department to use the ancient theatre of Salamis. This question, the letter said, does not concern Thoc but the bi-communal technical committee on culture.
The Antigone production, just like the Hippolytus play last year, was staged under the auspices of the committee in question.
The decision of Thoc to stage the play at Salamis, it said, were completely legal.
Toumazis reportedly put forward the argument that the audit service was not entitled to request the financial data for 2016, when last year’s financial data has not been submitted yet to the same service.
The EU directive in question, Michaelides said, refers to private businesses and not state audit services.
“The directive applies only to auditors and audit firms that must be authorised by the (EU) member state which requires the audit, and has nothing to do with supreme state audit institutions, let alone with the control exercised by those institutions to public bodies not governed by company law, such as the Thoc,” Michaelides said in his answer to the organisation.
He added that when the directive in question was transposed into national legislation a clause was included which excludes from the application of this law, audits conducted by the auditor-general of the Republic.
The directive itself, he said, allows for member states to “impose more stringent requirements”.
A recent opinion of the attorney-general concerning the powers of the auditor-general over the Cooperative Central Bank, stipulates that the incumbent has all the rights, powers and obligations towards all bodies controlled by him, including the authority to conduct audits.
“In the exercise of these powers, he has the right to require, if he deems appropriate, any information, in whatever form, which can assist in the implementation of the audit,” Michaelides said.
He added that on Friday at noon officials of his service will be at the Thoc premises to collect all requested documents, and informed the organisation that if it was deemed as necessary, the attorney-general’s office would be informed.
Michaelides also said in the letter that Thoc’s board is constantly exhibiting “unacceptable contempt” for the country’s legislation.