By Andria Kades
Law Commissioner Leda Koursoumba has been using a work vehicle for personal use and illegally getting a messenger to be her driver, the auditor-general said on Thursday.
In an escalating spat between the two, Odysseas Michaelides in a statement said the matter came to his attention after a member of parliament, two superior government employees and several citizens passed on the information to his office.
Michaelides said he had sent Koursoumba a letter outlining that her use of a state vehicle for personal purposes was illegal as was using a messenger as a driver.
The messenger was paid monthly, further burdening state coffers, he said.
Michaelides said he followed procedure and sent the letter to the law commissioner “after the necessary data was collected and information was obtained from employees in her office, the accountant-general of the state treasury, which is also housed in her (Koursoumba’s) office, and the electromechanical services.”
He called on Koursoumba to return the money which was “illegally used” to benefit her.
In a statement, Koursoumba responded to the allegations saying Michaelides was resorting to unprofessional and intimidating tactics in carrying out his duties “demonstrating that his priority is not to serve the benefit of the state…but to feed society’s thirst for gossip.”
As far as his latest findings were concerned, Koursoumba put the word ‘audit’ in quotation marks saying it was carried out in record time and she had not been informed, nor had her opinion been asked, which violated the principles of the law.
No evidence was requested and she said she would be responding through the “proper and formal route.”
Koursoumba said Michaelides had used a populist tone and his priorities were “evidently” not serving the public interest.
She also specified she did not wished to comment on the auditor’s accusations “because my priority remains to serve the public interest.”
Michaelides’ statement also revealed that since 2002, Koursoumba receives a pension for the role of state attorney, which she previously held, as well as a monthly salary of €8,300. She is also allowed to have a second pension when her tenure as law commissioner comes to an end.
Koursoumba’s contract allowed her to use the service vehicle until 2014, a benefit that she continued to illegally receive when the benefits were terminated in 2014, Michaelides said.
The two have recently clashed after the auditor-general told lawmakers that Koursoumba squandered public money spending €463,000 in legal fees on one private lawyer who was tasked with overseeing the drafting of legislation as part of the procedure to solve the Cyprus problem.
Koursoumba said she was merely carrying out a decision taken by the cabinet in line with a finance ministry proposal.
According to Michaelides’ statement, after sending Koursoumba the letter on the vehicle she “sought to muddy the waters and issue an announcement accusing the auditor-general of supposedly disliking her.”
Instead of attacking those doing their job and auditing her service, she should return the money she illegally benefited from, Michaelides concluded.