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AG supports Michaelides in spat with finance minister

Former attorney-general Costas Clerides

 

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades must launch a disciplinary probe against ministry employee Savia Orphanidou, who was found in violation of the law on holding party office, attorney-general Costas Clerides told him in a letter of response on Friday.

Georgiades had addressed a letter to Clerides last week, seeking an opinion to settle his public row with auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides, who insisted that the finance minister was obliged by law to launch a probe against Orphanidou.

The minister had countered that the state had always turned a blind eye to civil servants holding party office.

A 1991 law banned civil servants from being members of any party.

This was amended in 1997, when they were allowed to be a party member only.

In 2015, civil servants became eligible to hold any party office without restraint, unless they were on a A8 pay scale or higher, in which case they could only hold party office with permission from the “competent authority”.

“Therefore, since she has held party office other than that of member, the ministry employee has been breaking the law,” Clerides said.

The AG also rejected Georgiades’ argument that, because the 2015 law made no mention of the need for civil servants who already held party posts – like Orphanidou – to apply for permission, they were under no obligation to do so.

“This interpretation of the law would lead to the most perverse of results, the complete inability to effectively implement the law, and the rewarding and legalisation of illegality,” Clerides said.

“The reason the law makes no mention of employees that held party posts at the time when it was enacted, can be none other than the fact that, if some employees held such posts at the time, they did so illegally.”

In summary, the AG told Georgiades, if any civil servant held any post in any political party from 1991 to 2015, he or she had been in violation of the law, and if civil servants, serving at the A8 pay scale or higher since 2015, hold party posts without permission, they continue to do so.

“These violations of the law undoubtedly are reasons to launch a disciplinary probe,” Clerides said.

“This principle certainly applies to all authorities where civil servants may be found in breach of the law.”

Requesting the AG’s opinion as a means to end the row with Michaelides, Georgiades had pledged to respect his decision, whatever it might be.

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