Cyprus Mail

Auditor-general demands probe into two doctors’ political roles

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides

Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis confirmed on Thursday that Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides has asked for a disciplinary probe into two state-employed doctors who sit on main opposition party Akel’s central committee.

Politis newspaper had reported on Thursday morning that Michaelides sent a letter last week to Pamboridis asking him to launch an investigation into the doctors – Chrysanthos (Athos) Georgiou and Soteris Koumas – on the grounds of conflict of interest. In addition to their central committee roles, Koumas is the head of state doctors’ union Pasyki and Georgiou leads Akel’s office dealing with health.

“I confirm that the auditor-general has addressed a letter to me concerning two doctors who hold political office,” Pamboridis said.

Responding to a question on whether there is a disciplinary issue concerning the two doctors, he said he would have to look into it.

This is the second time Michaelides has requested disciplinary probes into public servants who also hold political office.

In March, he asked Finance Minister Harris Georgiades to investigate Savia Orphanidou, an official within his ministry who is also member of ruling Disy’s political bureau. In that case, Michaelides also requested a report into how Orphanidou came to be seconded to the European Investment Bank, a move widely seen as being politically motivated.

Michaelides justifies his requests by citing a 2015 law stating that all civil servants over the A7 pay scale need to obtain permission from the Public Service Commission (PSC) before they can accept party posts.

Georgiades’ response that there had been no conflict of interest for Orphanidou because her election to the party’s political bureau had preceded the 2015 law led to a public argument between the two state officials over its interpretation.

Since then Georgiades has asked Attorney-general Costas Clerides to give his opinion on the matter. Clerides said last week that any civil servant who held any post in any political party from 1991 to 2015 had been in violation of the law, and that if civil servants on the A8 pay scale or higher since 2015 hold party posts without permission they continue to be in violation.

Georgiades said the relevant authorities must now order disciplinary probes into all such cases that come to their attention. He also said he would ask for clarification on the handling of potential cases as the ruling could affect a large number of civil servants, and that he would take it to the cabinet for discussion.

The issue is to be also discussed at the House watchdog committee next week.

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