Deputy government spokeswoman ‘has no intention’ of foregoing second job

Deputy government spokeswoman Doxa Komodromou said on Friday that she has no intention of resigning from her position at the University of Cyprus, while the auditor-general and university rector clashed over a report the former filed to the house audit committee on frivolous spending at the educational institution.

“I have no intention of resigning from the University of Cyprus if it is not requested of me by the attorney-general,” she said.

Komodromou also rubbished claims by Auditor-General Odysseas Michalides at the House audit committee meeting on Thursday, where he said that she had also worked at a private television station without having received the proper approval from UCy.

However, things took a turn, when University Rector Tassos Christofides weighed in on the matter on Politis radio, saying that Cypriot society made Michaelides “into a saint” and that the auditor-general adds “seasoning” to things that he presents and are “half-truths”.

“[Saying] half-truths and being believed is worse,” Christofides said.

Talking about Komodromou and Foreign Minister Constandinos Kombos, Christofides said that as of March 1, both are off the payroll of the university.

He did not clarify though if Komodromou resigned from her position.

“Therefore, any decision on their resignation or sabbatical, will be taken by the respective authority of the university, which is the board that will meet on Monday,” he said.

The rector added that he disagrees with the fact that the university officials should resign, as is prescribed by the law, since there are professors from private universities that hold positions in the public sector.

He said that this was not fair for UCy staff, and he fails to understand why a UCy employee is not allowed to leave on sabbatical and serve in a public office and then return after the term has ended.

“We split hairs in this country,” he said.

Christofides pointed out that on the house education committee, a professor from a private university serves along with another member, who owns private lessons institutes and advertises them, when he appears on television.

“This, however, does not bother anyone. It is bothering people that someone can leave on sabbatical and serve in a public office and return to their position after,” he said.

Commenting on Komodromou working at a private TV station while at UCy without permission, Christofides said that she had received permission from the university’s board, and that she only worked at the station part-time (ten hours a week, specifically) and for a pittance of €45 per week.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail on Thursday, Michaelides’ spokesman Marios Petrides said the auditor-general would refer the matter to President Nikos Christodoulides.

He added that on February 28 the position at the university should have been vacated, as in the case of Foreign Minister Constandinos Kombos, a professor at UCy, ahead of taking on the position at the ministry.

“We do not understand how it can be in effect for one person and not the other,” he said.

The university also came under fire at the committee meeting on Thursday for its frivolous spending by keeping a Nobel laureate on the payroll.

Michaelides flagged a series of irregularities – including the university keeping Nobel laureate Christopher Pissarides on the payroll.

Michaelides presented the findings of his special report on the state-funded university for the years 2019 and 2020 at the House audit committee.

Pissarides, who in 2010 won the Nobel Prize in Economics, is listed on the faculty as Professor of European Studies.

But according to the auditor-general, in 2015 Pissarides (whom he did not refer to by name) retired from the university at the age of 67.

His contract then got renewed – unlawfully according to Michaelides – until the year 2026.

But essentially Pissarides has little to do with the university – he gives one lecture per semester and doesn’t participate in any research programmes.

Firing back on Friday, Christofides said that Michaelides’ report “does not reflect reality”.

The rector said that Pissarides contract was renewed after retirement based on a finance ministry circular, which stated that in special circumstances a contract can be extended by a public sector body after the age of retirement, if they inform the minister.

Christofides said that they followed this exact procedure for Pissarides.

“The extension of his contract is completely legal, and I don’t believe that there is a university in the world that would not do the same thing,” he said.

He claimed that Pissarides was also a mentor, on the board of the economics department, he holds lectures, and he is a world-renowned academic.

Christofides said that Pissarides had given a lecture just the other day at the university, to a packed lecture hall.

“I told the [audit] committee, but I was not believed,” he said, adding that this is do the “saint-like” status given to Michaelides.

In his comment following Christofides rant, Michaelides said he was “surprised” to hear the rector “spew so much bile.”

The auditor-general’s office said that the rector was caught in a lie the day before, and instead of taking corrective measures he chose to mud-sling.