The auditor-general has targeted him in an obsessive manner, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said on Thursday, arguing that audits are welcome and essential but cannot be used as an excuse to target or slander a minister through the media.
Hasikos was lashing out at a statement issued by Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides on Wednesday regarding the process followed by the Civil Aviation Department in deciding to recommend the rental of a building part-owned by the minister, which he considered a personal attack against him.
Although not mentioning Hasikos in his statement, Michaelides said he would be recommending that the Civil Aviation Department not rent this particular building due to improper procedure, instead look for another.
Earlier, Michaelides had reported Hasikos to the Conflict of Interest committee, a cabinet-appointed body created to look into possible conflicts by government officials, over a law prohibiting financial dealings between government ministers and the state.
Speaking to reporters, the Interior minister repeated that, with regard to the Conflict of Interest committee’s investigation, he has appointed former attorney-general Alecos Markides as his lawyer.
“I insist that there is no conflict of interest, but I don’t want to say too much on this, nor to influence the committee in any way,” he said.
“I, too, am waiting for the committee to convene and let me know what information it wants from me.”
But now, he added, the auditor-general continues.
“What I saw in the papers today is that the auditor-general is calling on the body responsible for renting properties to house government departments to not rent Hasikos’ building,” the minister complained.
“There is an institutional body tasked to carry out this function, and it will make the decision, but it’s clear that the auditor-general, in obsessive manner, exhibiting obsessive behaviour, has essentially targeted the Interior minister.”
Though he preferred to remain calm, Hasikos said, he would like to “send out a message”.
“However, much he digs, which he has – five or six reports on issues relating to the Interior minister have already been released, and who knows how many haven’t – he has found what? An Audit Service official spent a whole month in an office at the Interior ministry, going through files. To find what?”
Auditing is always welcome, and even essential, the minister said.
“But auditing can’t be used as an excuse to target a minister, or defame a minister through the media,” he said.
In a statement of response, Michaelides repeated his report findings, laid out the dictionary definition of the word ‘obsessive’ and said he had “no further comment”.
“Besides, the public has judgement,” he said.
“However, the auditor-general’s remark in a recent speech on the level of ethics has been confirmed. In any case, the behaviour of government ministers is judged by the public and the remit of the President.”
In the “recent speech”, Michaelides had claimed that “we grow up in a society in which a minister can simply deem the ethics rules that ban him and his companies from doing business with the state ‘shenanigans’.”