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Our View: Auditor-general engaging in public intimidation

Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides

ONLY last month, Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides wrote to EU bodies, including the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), to complain that he was a target of “intimidation” by the media and point out that there were no mechanisms that would “adequately protect the audit service” from “illicit practices by specific mass media”.

He failed to mention that there was no mechanism to protect – apart from the mass media – officials from intimidation by the auditor-general, who has developed a tendency to pursue personal vendettas against officials, for the simple reason they have brushed him up the wrong way. The row he started last week with his former superior at the transport ministry – permanent secretary Alecos Michaelides – was another case of intimidation, verging on bullying.

The auditor-general always likes to carry out his intimidation in public, never satisfied to do this through correspondence like all other officials do. Last Saturday Phileleftheros published an insulting letter Odysseas had sent to the perm sec accusing him of being responsible for the overpayments to the bus companies and threatening to report him to the attorney-general. He had obviously leaked the letter to the newspaper, which has become his mouthpiece. The report said the auditor’s letter was in response to a letter he had received from the perm sec, without informing us what the latter had said.

On Tuesday, while on a radio show, the perm sec was asked about the spat and gave his version of events, explaining that the matter of the overpayments was not a recently discovered issue. The attorney-general had been asked for guidance and a meeting was held at the presidential palace, which decided to appoint people to establish the level of the overpayments. All bus companies were overpaid, he said but getting them to return the money was difficult.

As soon as he had finished Odysseas appeared on the same show, accusing him of being a liar and repeating his threat to report him to the attorney-general, as the perm sec had signed the orders authorising the overpayments in December 2013, despite objections voiced by Odysseas who was working at the transport ministry at the time. Surely, if there was criminal responsibility for the overpayments of more than four years ago, the attorney-general would have taken action. He did not, so one can only deduce that Odysseas’ threats, made in public, were intended to intimidate and perhaps embarrass his former superior.

This was the only reason he gave his letter to Phileleftheros to publish as the issue of the overpayments dates back to 2013, was public knowledge, the attorney-general was aware of it and it had been dealt with by the government, even if inadequately. Odysseas used it as a pretext for a personal attack on Alecos Michaelides. It was also grossly unprofessional of him to make official correspondence public, with the sole aim of belittling someone he has a grudge against.

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