The committee charged with investigating potential conflict of interest among public officials said on Tuesday that it will look into the participation of the president and other members of the board of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), which oversees the general health scheme (Gesy). It did not specify which members.
This is the latest twist in a tetchy row over who can participate on the HIO’s board, sparked by cabinet’s decision to appoint and then, amid protracted public uproar, rescind the appointment of the president of the Cyprus Medical Association Petros Agathangelou.
The appointment had prompted the resignation of one HIO board member and led to veiled threats of further resignations and strident objections from two former health ministers, patients’ groups and trade unions on the grounds that Agathangelou, as head of a professional body of health providers, had a conflict of interest.
The government had said at the time that the attorney general had found no conflict of interest.
For its part, the committee on conflict of interest said that there appeared at first sight to be an issue and asked Agathangelou to submit the necessary documentation, while the Chamber of Commerce and Industry withdrew the nomination citing competing interpretations of the law as regards conflict of interest, opening the way for cabinet to change its mind.
As the row simmered, the private doctors association Enik muscled their way into the debate, arguing that it was the HIO president who had a conflict of interest because his wife was a health services provider who worked with Gesy.
It went further to argue that others represented on the HIO board, such as trade unions, which operate pharmacies, and of some patients’ groups which offer medical care, also had contractual agreements with Gesy, suggesting that, there too, there may be conflict of interest.
Thought this was denied by the HIO, the auditor general said that he would be looking into the issue.
On Tuesday, it emerged that his office will not be the only one investigating, with the conflict of interest committee announcing that it was ending its probe into Agathangelou’s appointment since this was no longer going ahead but launching a new one.
“The committee, however, decided to go ahead with investigating the possibility of conflict of interest concerning the president and other members of the board of the HIO, based on responsibilities it has under the relevant law,” it said.