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Ombudswoman says auditor general unprofessional, desperate, malicious

Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides

Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottidou fired back at Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides saying his attempts to defend himself were “desperate”, after she received the support of the International Ombudsman Institute for denying him access to investigate her office.

She said his actions proved “his unprofessional approach, his targeting, his inability to evaluate, but also his malicious intent”.

Stylianou-Lottidou and Michaelides have been engaged in a spat over jurisdictions, with the ombudswoman refusing to give the auditor-general specific data on the operation of her office that he had asked for.

Attempting to prove his point, Michaelides published two graphs on Friday that he said showed the number of reports the ombudswoman’s office had prepared over the past five years, suggesting they might be the reason why she is so reluctant to provide him with the information he requested.

The graphs showed that the office had issued around 120 reports annually in 2014, 2015, and 2016, only to drop to between 20 and 30 in 2017 and 2018.

Stylianou-Lottidou said: “He has today publicly published graphs he made himself with ‘data’ intended to continue to intimidate the Ombudsman’s Office and the institution I serve.”

She added Michaelides’ insistence on investigating her office is void, as per the advice of the Attorney General on January 8, 2020.

In a legal opinion dated January 8, the attorney-general reconfirmed that while the auditor-general 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.

“I understand his [Michaelides’] desperate attempt to defend himself after yesterday’s announcement supporting me by the International Ombudsman Institute,” Stylianou-Lottidou said.

However, she added, he does not have the right to arbitrarily evaluate excerpts and a few pieces of data.

“It is also noted that he makes reports on areas that do not exist, while selectively silencing reports and data from all other areas of my competence, which he certainly does not even have the expertise to recognise and evaluate,” she added.

Michaelides’ current position also shows his inability to fully examine her office, she said, which has been set out by the state, including:

– (i) The main body of the Office of the Obudsman’s and Commissioner for Protection of Human Rights, consisting of the areas of Human Rights, Property, Development and Local Government, Social Security and Issues of an Economic Nature, Social Protection, Education, Employee Relations, and the Relations between State and Citizens

– (ii) The Equality and Discrimination Body

– (iii) The National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture

– (iv) The National Independent Human Rights Authority

– (v) The Independent UN Convention Promotion, Protection and Monitoring Mechanism on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

– (vi) The Monitoring Mechanism for the Compulsory Return of Undeclared Migrants

“Because, as I have repeatedly stated, it is my duty to safeguard the independence of the institution I serve from the interference of third parties with regard to the management of my office, I will not break down this data by producing the actual data, as he [the Auditor General] obviously seeks to do, through his insistence, leading him to reach the point of interpreting himself arbitrarily and selectively, whatever data is available to him as he sees fit, proving his unprofessional approach, his targeting, his inability to evaluate, but also his malicious intent,” she said.

She added she will not succumb to Michaelides’ intimidation and threats, and that she will continue to defend her institution and its independence.

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.

 



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