The attorney-general Costas Clerides has once again rejected the auditor-general’s demand that a criminal investigation be conducted against ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottidou over her refusal to allow an administrative audit of her office’s affairs.
In a legal opinion dated January 8, the attorney-general reconfirmed that whilst the auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides had the authority to carry out a financial audit, this did not extend to an administrative audit.
In his legal opinion the attorney-general made express references to the Venice Convention and the letter by the president of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI), Peter Tyndall, who emphasised that any audit beyond a financial one is impermissible.
In the letter, Tyndall explained that the proposed audit by the auditor-general into the administrative affairs of the office of the ombudswoman was contrary to the Venice Convention and that such actions would constitute an impermissible interference in the independence of the ombudswoman’s authority.
The attorney-general noted that the information requested by the auditor-general formed part of the annual reports submitted by the ombudswoman to the president and the House of Representatives. As a result, “the issue of whether the information should be provided to the auditor-general was raised unnecessarily and deems no further legal interpretation”.
The ombudswoman’s office confirmed to the Cyprus Mail that her annual report for 2017 had been delivered to the president and parliament and that she was awaiting an appointment with the president so that her 2018 report could be delivered.
In December 2019, Tyndall sent letters of support for Stylianou-Lottidou to the president, the parliament and the attorney-general criticising what he described as the auditor-general’s continuous interference into the affairs of the ombudswoman in breach of the principles of the Venice Convention.