Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides and ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottidou are each asking the attorney-general to prosecute the other, the former for not cooperating in providing data, the latter for interference in her work.
The two officials have been at loggerheads for about two years but have now amped the ante, the one accusing the other of breaking the law.
On November 29, Michaelides asked the attorney-general to initiate a prosecution against Lottidou over her failure to hand over information requested.
Michaelides wants data on the number of complaints filed to Lottidou’s office over the period 2015-2018, and an account of how many of these complaints were investigated, in an ostensible bid to gauge the productivity of the ombudswoman.
A day earlier, November 28, Audit Office officials had paid a visit to the ombudswoman’s office to pick up the information previously requested.
Lottidou refused point blank, instead handing the officials a letter in which she explained why she was not obligated to comply.
In his letter to the attorney-general, Michaelides noted that refusal to furnish information to the auditor-general constitutes a criminal offence punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine not exceeding €1700.
Lottidou argues she is not legally obligated to cooperate, because Michaelides’ request has no legal basis.
What Michaelides wants, she says, effectively amounts to an administrative audit over her office. However, the auditor-general only has the authority to perform financial audits.
Hitting back, she accused Michaelides of seeking to interfere with the work of an independent official.
In a letter copied to the attorney-general and President Nicos Anastasiades, Lottidou cited the relevant law, which states that anyone who obstructs or harasses any independent official, or any person working on an investigation, is liable to a prison sentence of up to one year and/or a fine not exceeding €5000.
Lottidou also says that Michaelides is trying to interfere with her work in another way.
Michaelides had earlier asked her to cease looking into a complaint filed to her by deputy auditor-general Kyriacos Kyriacou.
Kyriacou has complained that he should be paid the same wages as the auditor-general. As deputy auditor-general, his salary is €86,624 gross per annum; by comparison his boss Michaelides earns €123,088.
Michaelides argues that the ombudswoman’s office does not have the competency to investigate this particular matter.
But Lottidou begs to differ, and has accused Michaelides of attempting to obstruct her work.
She has also cited a letter of support she recently received from the International Ombudsman Institution.