The interior ministry on Sunday criticised the audit office for not following prescribed procedures in requesting files.

The announcement came a day after the audit office tweeted that it had been waiting three and a half weeks for a file relating to a case involving the citizenship by investment scheme.

The tweet said the file concerned a group of people collectively naturalised without meeting the investment criteria.

Responding on Sunday, the interior ministry said the audit office was well aware of the intra-government procedures involved in requesting information from another service or department and had not taken that route.

The request should have been made by the auditor-general to the permanent secretary of the ministry.

Instead, the ministry said, audit office officials had made requests via phone calls and emails “which is not good practice, a fact that has been repeatedly pointed out”.

“The permanent secretary has a legal responsibility for the processing and disposal of any data concerning the ministry, something that was recently pointed out again by the Commissioner for the Protection of Personal Data,” the ministry said.

“Despite the fact that access to this file was not requested in an appropriate manner, however, instructions were given to grant the requested access,” it added.

The ministry said that in any event the particular file was at the disposal of the auditor -general in the context of his recent investigation into the citizenship scheme as well as having been examined by the relevant investigative committee and there were no comments or suggestions either in the auditor-general’s report or in the report of the investigative committee related to the case.

The audit office then hit back in a new tweet later on Sunday saying that according to the official procedures, requests could be made verbally, adding that the announcement by the interior ministry was unacceptable.