The audit service slammed President Nikos Christodoulides’ security detail on Wednesday, saying it should have been “significantly reduced” well over a month ago after he and his family decided to move into the presidential palace residence.
This is inextricably linked to higher state expenditures, the service said in a lengthy statement, while also revealing proper tender procedures had not been adhered to over the €150,000 renovation works that went towards the presidential palace residence.
“The president’s decision to move with his family to the presidential residence at the palace and leave his private property means the area that police guards on a 24 hour basis are reduced,” the audit office said.
“By definition, this should mean a significant reduction in the presidential guard staff.”
Nonetheless, despite moving in well over a month ago, no such decision has been made. The only response the audit service has been informed of is that an evaluation committee will carry out a risk assessment on the presidential palace security detail.
Based on the findings, the audit service will be subsequently informed on whether the number of guards will be reduced.
The service maintained the cut “should have happened as soon as they moved in”, and questioned the procedure, saying it appears the number of guards has been determined and the studies would be used to justify it.
“Our recommendation is that without any further delay, the presidential guard should be reduced to the appropriate degree so there can be a corresponding significant reduction of state resources.”
Additionally, the audit service sought to specify that neither the residence at the presidential palace nor the summer home in Troodos, should be considered as a legal right to any president of the Republic.
“There is no law or regulation saying the Republic is obliged to offer a residence and/or summer home to the president and their family,” the audit office said.
“What can be said is that the president has a customary right to use, without paying rent, the residences at the presidential palace and Troodos, while they are available.”
Consequently, reparation or renovation works are not necessarily required to be undertaken by state expenditure, the service highlighted. If they are, they must be to ensure the Republic’s property is preserved and must be sufficiently detailed in the state budget.
Where the €150,000 renovation works on the first floor of the presidential palace residence is concerned, the service specified it did not detect any works which should not have been carried out.
However “the works should have gone to tender by the public works department and assigned to a construction firm appointed by open procedures, in accordance with the public procurement law.”
Additionally the renovation works should have been extensively detailed in the accompanying note of the state budget or in a supplementary budget, so as to qualify for approval in parliament.
Christodoulides, his wife and four daughters are the first presidential family to live in the presidential palace permanently since George Vassiliou was president in 1988.