The cabinet on Thursday is expected to discuss whether to accept the resignation of the chairman of the board of the state health services organisation (Okypy), Sir David Nicholson, who has decided to step down reportedly because he is so fed up of constantly facing allegations of conflict of interest.
Nicholson, who assumed his duties as chairmen of the Okypy board little over a year ago, in December 2017, has already sent a letter of resignation to President Nicos Anastasiades, the Cyprus Mail has learned.
The cabinet, which appointed Nicholson and the rest of Okypy’s board members, is to discuss the issue during its next meeting on Thursday. Okypy is overseeing the implementation of the national health system (Gesy).
Nicholson has been under fire by opposition parties over alleged cases of conflict of interest concerning himself and his wife.
Auditor-general, Odysseas Michaelides, had also asked the cabinet earlier in the year to examine a possible conflict of interest citing the legal opinion by the attorney-general who said that at first glance there seemed to be a conflict of interest.
An audit service report showed that Nicholson had not stated all his business affiliations when applying for the position and as required by law.
The law states that Okypy members have a conflict of interest if they are linked to “any businesses dealing with health issues”. Okypy members are also required to state the interests of up to fourth-degree relatives.
The House watchdog committee on Wednesday asked the health minister to disclose to its members the final opinion of the attorney-general on the conflict of interest allegations.
Deputy head of the committee, Akel’s Irini Charalambidou, said that the health ministry had asked for a second ruling by the attorney-general after disagreeing with the interpretation of the law on conflict of interest in the initial one.
It seems that the second ruling, however, also refers also to a conflict of interest concerning Nicholson’s wife, Charalambidou said.
She called on the cabinet to take the necessary actions to restore legitimacy in connection with the appointment of the chairman of the board of Okypy.
The Greens’ MP Giorgos Perdikis welcomed Nicholson’s decision to resign.
“The cabinet ought to have dismissed him months ago,” he said.
An internet search by the auditor-general revealed that Nicholson – former chief of Britain’s NHS – had not disclosed that since May 2018, he had served as interim chairman of the board of the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which provides hospital services to three hospitals in Britain. On a Register of Interests for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals, Nicholson had listed a number of interests, such as “Chair of Impact Evercare, 1 Billion Healthcare Provider, Africa and South Africa (based in Dubai).”
It also transpired that Nicholson’s wife is “Chief Executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust”.
He had also said he was a senior consultant at KPMG on health schemes, which raised another red flag since KPMG Cyprus has won the government contract to make state hospitals autonomous as part of the health system.
KPMG Cyprus, however, clarified that Nicholson was not an employee of the local branch but had been an external associate of KPMG International between 2015 and 2017.
The government had at the time proposed that Nicholson could provide assurances that any companies he is or was linked with would not take part in any tenders conducted by the outfit he works for. The assurances will include companies linked with the official’s wife.
The auditor however said that excluding companies from any process would be unlawful.