The biobank.cy centre on Tuesday stressed it was autonomous as it sought to clarify the position of Andrea Christofidou, who became embroiled in the row between the auditor general and University of Cyprus rector Tasos Christofides.
Claims and counterclaims from both sides have added fuel to the fire, with both parties issuing statements on Tuesday.
For their part, biobank.cy’s announcement came after Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides claimed that Christofides failed to disclose a conflict of interest in the employment of his daughter.
In response, biobank.cy said that Andrea Christofidou had since 2012 been collaborating with the research laboratory of Konstantinos Delta to complete her PhD in molecular biology. The lab was then part of the biological sciences department of the University of Cyprus.
It added that thereafter Christofidou was employed in a non-tenured position as a research scientist, her salary paid through funds from the research and innovation foundation, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
With the establishment of biobank.cy – co-funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, the state, and the University of Cyprus, Christofidou continued to work as a research specialist, paid by these funds.
The announcement stated that the biobank.cy centre is temporarily housed in the buildings of the University of Cyprus Medical School until the construction of its building is completed.
It concluded that like all centres of excellence in Cyprus, it is autonomous and supervised by its board of directors.
But the audit office remains unconvinced, soon responding and clearly stating that “the rector’s daughter has been on UCy’s payroll since 2013 and UCy is her employer, as defined in the relevant social security and income tax legislation”.
The audit office also rubbished the claims that the centre is autonomous as the relevant parliamentary legislature stipulates that it is subject to the UCy, noting that the head of the centre in question is a professor from the medical school.
It further claims that there have been efforts to obfuscate the centre’s link to UCy.
The audit office concluded by vowing to conduct further checks into the funding made available to professors under such EU programmes.
The row between the university rector and the auditor general was centred on the audit service suggestion that a ceiling on remuneration medical school staff receive be placed, and allow more money to go towards young researchers.
But the disagreement appears to have become more personal from last Thursday after the audit service tweeted it had been informed that Christofides “did not disclose, as he should have, that his daughter is employed by the medical school. We are exploring further action”.