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Finance minister will deal with audit spat on return from US

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said the properties were worth €82m

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said on Friday that he would send Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides the findings of the disciplinary probe into ministry employee Savia Orphanidou’s appointment to the European Investment Bank (EIB) when he returns from his trip to Washington.

Georgiades was responding to a statement by Michaelides that his office had yet to receive any response from the minister as to the report concerning Orphanidou – a finance ministry employee and a member of the Disy political bureau – on how she came to be selected for appointment to the EIB and for the fact that she may have been violating the law by holding posts in a political party and the public service, without the legally required permission of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The minister had said earlier in the week that he had ordered a probe into the matter which has been completed and that he would submit the findings to Michaelides.

“The auditor-general has yet to receive an answer because I haven’t sent it to him yet. This will be made on my return from Washington, where unfortunately I will deal with less important issues, like meetings with the International Monetary Fund, rating agencies, and investment banks,” Georgiades told CNA sarcastically.

The dispute between the two men began last month following a probe by the audit office, acting on a complaint filed by Akel MP Irene Charalambidou, concerning Orphanidou, and neither Michaelides nor Georgiades mean to back down in their ongoing quarrel.

The audit office said on Thursday that unless it is satisfied with the findings of a disciplinary probe to be carried out into the appointment, it will refer the case to the attorney-general.

Earlier, in a letter to Georgiades, Michaelides asked the former to launch a probe into Orphanidou’s appointment to the EIB in January, and likewise to explain how she came to be selected for appointment to the bank, a move widely seen as being politically driven.

Georgiades had replied that Orphanidou had been in no conflict because her election to the party’s political bureau had preceded the 2015 law that made PSC permission for political and public-service office mandatory. Orphanidou has held the Disy post since 2012.

The finance minister argues that several people – thought to be in the hundreds – have this dual identity. Based on that, he accuses Michaelides of having singled out Orphanidou and that he has become a tool of the opposition by targeting the civil servant in question in cooperation with an Akel MP.

Charalambidou had asked the auditor-general not to look into Orphanidou’s dual identity, but rather to probe whether Orphanidou’s appointment to the EIB was above board.  The matter of Orphanidou also being a Disy official subsequently emerged almost as an afterthought, but has become the main issue.

It’s understood that Orphanidou landed the job without the finance ministry first having circulated a memo to ministry employees who might be interested in working for the EIB.

Disy said in an announcement earlier in the week that because many public servants also hold political offices, it was not right for one to be targeted.

“Any review process should be comprehensive and cover all cases,” the party said, adding that it was also the obligation of those affected to obtain the necessary permission from the PSC, and urged those who still had not to do so.

 

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