Cyprus Mail

Govt ‘respects’ work of audit office, they should reciprocate, president says  

Photo: CNA

The government does support the auditor-general but he ought to respect the work of other institutions, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday.

He was commenting on a statement by the Contact Committee of the EU’s Supreme Audit Institutions that called on the government to respect the constitutional role of the Audit Office of the Republic and facilitate the implementation of its mandate in connection with audits of the Cyprus Investment Programme.

The EU Contact Committee statement said it was in support of the constitutional role, mandate and independence of Cyprus’ audit office, noting that it had “recently faced substantial difficulties when performing audits on the Cyprus investment programme.”

It said that the audit office faced restrictions regarding timely, direct and free access to all relevant documents and information deemed necessary for audits but also external attempts to influence its decisions concerning the publication of the corresponding reports.

To a remark by a member of the press that the Court of Auditors supported the auditor-general and expressed dissatisfaction with the attitude of the government, Anastasiades said he did not find that the statement expressed such a sentiment.

“It is not just the Court of Auditors, but also the government that supports the work of the auditor-general, as well as any independent official of the Republic of Cyprus,” the president said.

He added that every official has a constitutional framework within which they move and no one prevents the auditor-general from doing his job but that he also needs to respect the work of other institutions such as the attorney-general.

The president said that if the attorney-general gives an opinion to the government that while a case is in court or dealt with by a quasi-judicial committee no one is allowed to intervene, the government is obliged to follow and respect the opinion of the attorney-general.

“Besides that, I think that further discussion on this serves no purpose,” Anastasiades said. He was referring to Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides’ disagreement with the government position that he ought to halt his own investigation into a number of naturalisations of foreign nationals until the investigative committee on naturalisations completes its task.

Michaelides threatened last year he would take legal action against those refusing to hand over the files he had requested, citing obstruction of his mandate.

The four-member independent committee will investigate all citizenships granted to foreign investors, between 2007 when the scheme was launched and August 17, 2020 which is the date the new legal framework on Cyprus’ citizenship by investment programme was put in effect.

The Contact Committee said that the Cyprus Investment Programme allowed the Republic of Cyprus to grant citizenship in return for investments in Cyprus. “The programme is relevant not only to the EU as a whole, but also to individual member states, because of the internal market rules, notably those on the free movement of goods, capital, services and people.”

In order to ensure proper accountability, it said, it is important to make it subject to public audit. “The Contact Committee and its members therefore have a particular interest in the programme’s unobstructed and effective audit by the Audit Office of the Republic of Cyprus,” it said.

The acquis communautaire, it added, provides for an operationally, institutionally and financially independent external audit function, and this includes the right for any supreme audit institution in the EU to determine its audit programme, have unrestricted access to pertinent information, report on its work and decide on the content and timing of its audit reports and on their publication and dissemination.

The Committee said that it considers any attempt to prevent the Audit Office of the Republic of Cyprus from properly carrying out its audits to be contrary to the fundamental principles of the EU and the acquis communautaire, which places legally binding obligations on all EU member states.


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