The row between the attorney general and auditor general heated up on Friday as the two are locked in a fundamental disagreement over their respective roles.
A spokesman from the auditor general’s office told the Cyprus Mail that the case which reignited the latest flare up is allegations of cronyism and corruption within the defence ministry – with accusations that cushy roles are handed to the sons of influential families.
But the essence of the argument is centred on whether the auditor general is overstepping his bounds, or whether the attorney general’s role of public prosecutor and state legal advisor are incompatible.
Indeed, Attorney General Giorgos Savvides claimed that Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides is accusing him of covering up crimes.
Michaelides replied that: “Never have I accused you of covering up crimes, but what we have said – and I repeat – is that the facts of the current incident show once again the issue created by the attorney general’s dual role as legal advisor to ministers and the civil service while also acting as public prosecutor… undermines the rule of law.”
The claim is that officials are required by law to hand over data to the audit office when requested, but that officials can illegally dodge this after advice from the attorney general to not hand over the required information.
The auditor general’s spokesperson said that a 2021 supreme court ruling stated that the attorney general has ‘uncontrolled powers’.
The audit office argues that this prevents it from being able to do its job.
That friction was explained through the details of the latest case, centred on allegations of corruption in the army, first reported by Politis.
It is claimed that well-connected national guardsmen are being handed cushy positions during their service – dodging some of the more taxing tasks and posts, instead ‘making coffees’.
The auditor general’s office then reported the case to the anti-corruption authority.
Crucially, however, it also requested a list of names of conscripts who served at the defence ministry and the national guard offices for the year 2022. Those two places are typically viewed as the ‘best’ or most cushy locations to be sent for national service.
Michaelides has previously stated that his office is aware that the son of a state official was ‘serving’ at the defence ministry offices and was simply making coffees. The son’s first cousin then got the post afterwards.
The auditor general’s office spokesperson on Friday said the defence ministry has refused to hand over a list of names and the corresponding criteria for why each person was handed the assigned role.
The spokesperson added that the defence ministry acted on the advice of the attorney general, who claimed that he himself had reviewed the matter.
The Politis report was met by many with cynicism, with commentators on social media asking “how is this news?” – stating that this is widely known to have always been the case.