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Opposition seeks to rescind controls on co-op audits

By Evie Andreou

Opposition parties submitted two proposals on Monday to ease restrictions imposed by a recent law which limits the data the state audit office can access when auditing the Cooperative Central Bank (CCB).

Ruling party Disy told the House finance committee it too would submit a proposal this week, which would prohibit the publicisation of the findings of the co-op audit as well as penalties concerning information leaks.

Parliament had passed earlier in the month a bill tabled by Disy which limits what co-op data is available to the audit office and approved an amendment proposed by Akel and Diko restricting its audits to administrative matters with some restrictions.

This means that the audit service cannot exercise financial control over the co-operative bank as it restricted its responsibility to administrative audits in the state-owned lender.

Parliament also removed the CBB from the list of organisations subject to auditing by the audit office.

The two proposals on the auditor-general’s access to data, were submitted jointly, one by Akel and Diko, the other by the Citizens’ Alliance and the Greens.

Akel MP Giorgos Loukaides said that his party’s and Diko’s proposal aims to abolish the proposal tabled by Disy and which was passed into law and “which contributed to the audit service not being able to exercise neither financial nor administrative control over the cooperative bank”.

The Greens’ MP Giorgos Perdikis said that his party’s and the Citizens’ Alliance proposal aims to give the auditor-general “the same rights of access to data or information that the independent auditor (of the CBB) has, who has some form of access to these bank accounts and personal data”.

The committee agreed that it would table the Akel-Diko proposal to the House plenum on Friday to vote. The auditor-general, Odysseas Michaelides, according to the Cyprus News Agency, said that he agreed with the Akel-Diko proposal but raised an issue as regards some provisions of the proposal of the Citizens’ Alliance and the Greens’.

Disy leader, Averof Neophytou, said that his proposal on the non-disclosure of the audit office’s findings on controls concerning the cooperative bank, aimed to protect the organisation.

Over the past weeks, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades had battled with Michaelides over whether the audit office had the right to audit the CBB. For Georgiades, the CBB should be treated as non-state owned entity citing the need for flexibility dictated by competitive market conditions, and thus not audited by the state. Michaelides wants the opposite.

Attorney-General Costas Clerides entered the discussion arguing that based on existing legislation, Michaelides’s agency had the right to audit the co-ops, which are preparing for a listing and capital issue at the Cyprus Stock Exchange over the next years.

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