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Our View: Audit chief’s row with the AG should be resolved in court

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides

Retired attorney-general Costas Clerides has decided to act as mediator in the ongoing dispute between his successor and the auditor-general which is putting at risk the approval of the 2021 state budget. It was a very surprising move, Clerides, openly undermining his successor by disputing his decision regarding the citizenship files that Odysseas Michaelides has been demanding from the government.

He completely ignored Giorgos Savvides’ decision not to hand over any files while an investigation into the matter, which he ordered, was in progress and came up with a half-baked proposal that has no basis in the law, but is primarily geared to help Michaelides and his political backer, Diko, save face. Clerides proposed that Michaelides be given access to the files he wants, in consultation with the investigative committee to ensure he would not be affecting its work.

He was acting more like a teacher settling a playground row. He proposed, that for Michaelides to get his way he must promise to behave. “The audit service must pledge in public that it will not draft an interim report on any of the cases until the investigative committee completes its work and issues its report,” proposed Clerides. But if the committee issued an interim report, then the audit service would also be entitled to publish its own findings, he added.

He did not explain on which law or provision of the constitution his mediation proposal was based. Is there a law that says that there are no limits to the auditor-general’s powers and that all his demands must always be satisfied? Shouldn’t a former attorney-general be proposing that any solution between state official should be based on the rule of law rather than some half-baked compromise?

The current attorney-general, the legal advisor of the state, has decided the auditor-general should not be given citizenship files while an investigation into the granting of passports is in progress. The auditor-general has repeatedly challenged this decision, but seems reluctant to take the dispute to the supreme court for a ruling on the scope and limits of his powers as well as those of the attorney-general. The dispute would thus be settled in a legal way and not through Diko blackmailing the government about the budget or a childish arrangement, based on Michaelides making a pledge in public.

The president of the Disy legal council, Christos Triantafyllides, hit the nail on the head when he said, “in a state with rule of law, institutional issues are not settled through arrangements. Solutions are given by the Court of the country, based on the Constitution and the Law.” Michaelides, who always cites the law in his announcements and reports, should have no qualms about resolving this dispute in the court.

 

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