Four advisors working for the government were unlawfully employed and procedures to end their employment should begin immediately, the Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides has said.

Neither the two advisors to the president nor the two advisors at the deputy shipping ministry had a university degree that was recognised by the Republic, a statement from the audit office said.

In three instances, the council for the recognition higher education qualifications (Kysats) needed to assess whether the advisors met the criterion of holding an accredited university degree.

“This does not mean we doubt the quality of their studies, but we do not have the necessary audit evidence to establish this for ourselves. This will have to be mandatory when the relevant bill becomes law,” the audit office said.

The recommendation to the presidency and the deputy shipping ministry was to terminate the services of the advisors that did not hold a degree from a recognized university, giving them a one month’s notice.

Should the advisors in question have the documentation for their studies, they should submit it to Kysats directly the audit office advised. According to the audit office, two advisors had also failed to submit documentation that they had not been fired from the public service and had no criminal record.

Appointing and promoting candidates in the public service is of paramount importance for the public good, while “using criteria which are not meritocratic to staff the public service harms the public interest,” the audit office said.

A number of court decisions show that public service appointments were a clearly administrative decision “and neither do the president of the Republic, house president, cabinet, ministers nor MPs have a say in who gets hired in the public service, said the audit office and added: “The constitution forbids involving any political body in the exercise of the function of staffing the civil service. The power to appoint civil servants is vested by the constitution in the Public Service Commission,” it added.

In any case, appointments of individuals who do not have specialised knowledge and expertise to justify their roles clearly violate values of equality and meritocracy, the statement noted.

“This is why we have expressed abject disagreement with the idea of expanding the scope of cases that can fall into exceptions – meaning secretarial staff, those handling social media or non-scientific staff.

According to the audit office, up until February 2013, it was primarily the presidents of the Republic and of the House of representatives who were hiring advisors – not ministers and deputy ministers as was the case now..

In May, the deputy tourism ministry decided to appoint a 19-year-old woman as an advisor, which prompted an outcry, while the audit service slammed it as wrongful. This sparked a debate about hiring of advisors by politicians, with Michaelides insisting that the government set criteria for these appointments. He also met President Nicos Christodoulides to discuss the criteria.

Earlier this year, it also emerged that a woman working at the deputy ministry of culture did not have a clean criminal record.