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Cyprus

Thoc to cooperate in Salamis saga after raid by auditors (Update)

Audit service officials arrive at the Thoc offices (Christos Theodorides)

THE Cyprus Theatre Organisation (Thoc) has backed down from its insistence not to cooperate with the state audit services, saying it will conform and officials from both sides will meet on Monday.

The breakthrough was achieved late on Friday after government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides summoned Thoc Chairman Yiannis Toumazis and Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides to try and mediate in the stand-off following the national theatre’s refusal to cooperate and hand over documents related to the controversial staging of Sophocles’ Antigone in ancient Salamis.

During the meeting, where the audit service’s mandate was discussed in relation to the oversight of state-funded bodies, such as Thoc, it was agreed that officials from both sides would meet on Monday, “considering an obligation to the law and there will be full cooperation.”

Earlier on Friday, state auditors raided Thoc’s offices in Nicosia demanding they be given accounts and board meeting minutes authorising the expenses of staging the play in the occupied north.

Audit service official Toumazos Georgiou told state broadcaster CyBC that Thoc’s refusal to deliver the requested documents was ‘an offence’.

Michaelides had warned Thoc on Thursday that his service would notify the attorney-general’s office if they did not comply and submit the data requested.

According to reports, cited by CyBC, Thoc spent €12,000 to stage the play in ancient Salamis – €7,500 for the free bus transportation of the public to Famagusta and €4,500 for the transport of stage props and staff – but that Thoc would not confirm.

The probe was launched by the audit service following a request by Diko chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos last week into the procedures preceding the staging of the ancient Greek tragedy in Famagusta, which was 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.

The Thoc board had sent a letter to Michaelides on Wednesday informing him that they would not submit the requested documents citing, among others, that the probe was politically charged.

The board “believes that the whole issue has only a political aspect and subsequently, any effort you make to disassociate the political aspect from your powers and duties as audit authority, to the extend they exist, are unfortunate,” it had said.

The letter said that they too would seek the opinion of the attorney-general, through the ministry of education and culture, under whose authority Thoc lies, as to the credentials of Michaelides as auditor-general since he is not a certified accountant as per the regulations of an EU directive. Michaelides is a Civil Engineer.

Michaelides had replied that the EU directive in question refers to private businesses and not state audit services, and that according to another ruling of the attorney-general over the powers of the auditor-general over the Co-operative Central Bank, the incumbent has all the rights, powers and obligations towards all bodies controlled by him, including the authority to conduct audits.

Education minister Costas Kadis said on Friday he had already forwarded Thoc’s letter addressed to the attorney-general’s office.

“These are legal issues and it is best that they are answered by the attorney-general,” Kadis said. “It is clear that the cultural aspect is gone,” the minister said.

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