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Cyprus

Auditor-general says impunity of civil servants waning

The impunity enjoyed by civil servants is waning due to the work produced by the prosecution authorities and the change in the mindset of the wider public that calls for zero tolerance as regards mismanagement, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said on Thursday after handing over his 2016 annual report to President Nicos Anastasiades.

Anastasiades congratulated Michaelides for the work produced by his service and stressed that severity is necessary when investigating misconduct.

“You know my views, my positions very well, strict attitude is necessary to fight any abuse of power or waste of public money,” Anastasiades said.

So far, he said, his cooperation with Michaelides has been excellent, despite some disagreements.
Michaelides said the volume of the audit report for 2016 has been greatly reduced following the suggestions of British experts called in two years ago to review the procedures of the Audit Office, and who proposed that the service prepares individual reports for each audit it completes instead of including everything in one report.

This also tackles the problem of leakage of the content of individual reports and makes the reports more user-friendly.

Therefore, he said, the 2016 audit report includes a list of the reports that have been issued as well as the audit report on the financial report issued by the state treasurer.

On criticism that the way he operates causes state services to paralyse, Michaelides said that “whoever in Cyprus claims today that there is more red tape than in 2011 and 2012 is not in touch with reality”.

The way to tackle red tape and inefficiencies in the public sector, Michaelides said, is not to ensure that employees are not accountable for violating their obligations but by setting clear goals which they must follow in the performance of their duties.

“These are the modern ways of increasing productivity rather than adopting a culture of impunity, and the civil servant thinking ‘no matter what I do it is a given that I will never be held accountable’,” Michaelides said.

He added that due to the work of the prosecution authorities and the change in the mindset of the wider public that calls for zero tolerance as regards mismanagement, “the sense of impunity that was embedded in the public service is waning”.

Citing data of European surveys on the bill taxpayers foot for corruption, Michaelides said that audits and control in general can only benefit the economy of a country.

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