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Audit office under microscope over bullying claims

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides

Fresh allegations have surfaced against a member of the audit office, who is said to have engaged in sexist behaviour and bullying toward a colleague.

The case relates to the April 2015 timeframe, when Audit Office employee Andreas Hasapopoulos (now director of technical audit) was accused of intimidating and displaying homophobic behaviour against a co-worker.

According to the complaint filed with the ombudsman’s office, an employee was waiting outside the office of Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides to meet with him.

Hasapopoulos then showed up, demanding that he enter the auditor-general’s office first. When the other employee protested, saying he was there first and had a pre-arranged meeting with the auditor-general, Hasapopoulos allegedly insulted him, using remarks construed as homophobic.

The offended employee, who belongs to a sexual minority, then reported the incident to the ombudsman’s office, which also acts as the Anti-Discrimination Body.

When then-ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou requested information on the episode, the auditor-general responded that she had no jurisdiction over his office.

The matter was referred to the attorney-general, who opined that although the audit office is an independent agency, it is not exempt from the jurisdiction of the ombudsman.

As such, the ombudsman requested Michaelides to carry out a disciplinary probe into Hasapopoulos’ conduct.

The auditor-general did conduct a probe, the outcome of which was to reprimand Hasapopoulos.

According to Politis, a month later Hasapopoulos was promoted to the position of director of technical audit.

The daily, which of late has been panning the auditor-general for his ostensible heavy-handedness, remarked that Michaelides first tried to cover up the affair and, when he could not, handed his subordinate a slap on the wrist.

It’s understood that, from the moment the auditor-general agreed to conduct a disciplinary probe, the ombudsman’s involvement ended there.

Eliza Savvidou, who headed the ombudsman’s office at the time, told the Cyprus Mail her office issued no findings and did not interview witnesses. They would only have done so had Michaelides refused to investigate his own department, she said.
Michaelides could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in late April of this year, Christakis Hadjiosif, a senior officer at the audit office, wrote a letter accusing his colleague Hasapopoulos of other instances of improper conduct.

Two of these related to Hasapopoulos allegedly verbally abusing co-workers.

In another incident, according to Hadjiosif, Hasapopoulos is said to have insulted a police officer during a meeting at the justice ministry.

Hasapopoulos allegedly called the policeman “a thief,” causing the man to threaten to have him arrested for insulting a police officer.

The police chief at the time demanded a disciplinary probe, which then auditor-general Chrystalla Georghadji carried out, exonerating Hasapopoulos.

For his part, current Auditor-general Michaelides has defended Hasapopoulos, calling him a valuable asset who has helped expose several scandals in the public sector.

Michaelides believes a concerted mudslinging effort is underway – including by certain media outlets – to undermine his staff as a means of getting to him.

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