It was astonishing that Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides felt obliged to issue a 3,000-word announcement on Tuesday to comment on the interim report by the Investigative Committee looking into granting of citizenships. Has the audit office been vested with the power to issue public approvals of reports drafted by investigative committees, appointed by the Attorney-general?
What aspects of its auditing responsibilities was the office exercising in scrutinising the findings of the investigative committee and issuing an eight-page report? Was there any suspicion that the committee mismanaged state funds, had the members been paid unauthorised expenses, had it bought tea and coffee without a public tenders’ procedure or had it hired clerical staff without advertising the posts?
The fact is that the Cyprus audit office under Michaelides does not restrict itself to auditing but has granted itself much broader powers, including the supervision of investigative committees, the issuing of good practices commendations and the release of legal opinions among other things. For instance, on the issue of whether the granting of citizenships was an ‘administrative act’, which the committee initially disputed, the audit office said:
“The abandonment during the course (of the investigation) by the majority of the Committee, of positions that obviously constituted legal acrobatics, constitute a serious indication that the reports of the Audit Service that came before, possibly also public debate of these issues which was sparked by the publication of our reports, contributed positively to the formulation of correct and safe conclusions by the majority of the Committee.”
This is an example of the Audit Service operating as a Legal Service. It also acted as a supervisory authority, declaring that the “investigative Committee produced very productive and worthwhile work.” Michaelides’ report also said the interim report provided “full confirmation of our Service’s findings relating to tens of illegal citizenships granted to company ‘A’, the company managing the casino resort and the company related to the Ayia Napa Marina.” It provided “full confirmation of our service’s findings relating to the illegal citizenships of the families of those granted citizenship…” The Committee also made similar findings to the Audit Service regarding five files of people that did not have a clean criminal record, we were informed.
There was, however, no apology in the Audit Service’s report to the members of the Investigative Committee whose integrity, competence and honesty had been openly doubted by the Auditor-general, which was the reason he decided to carry out his own investigation. He did not trust the committee members to do a good job, even though now he is using the committee’s findings as proof that he conducted a successful investigation. It was also a waste of the taxpayer’s money, considering Michaelides found nothing that was not included in the interim report.