An ongoing dispute between attorney-general George Savvides and auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides continued Thursday when the latter said that he did not publicly slam the proposed plan for a new attorney-general’s building.
The latest statement released by the auditor-general’s office said that the letter containing observations about the new building had been forwarded to the attorney-general’s office and that it was not made public.
“On September 18, exercising our constitutional powers, we submitted a letter with our observations on the new legal service building, which is currently under consideration for tender,” the statement said.
“Due to extensive reasons, we recommended the cancellation of the tender. Yesterday [Wednesday], in yet another unprovoked attack, the attorney-general confidently accused the auditor-general’s office of leaking the letter to the public. Furthermore, he implied that this was done with the intention of targeting the attorney-general himself, a claim that has been consistently made in his recent statements.”
Michaelides further said that the letter in question was not classified, and that the auditor-general’s office could have made it public if deemed it necessary.
“However, we did not find any reason to do so. Consequently, the letter was solely transmitted to the designated recipients, as indicated in the document, and no one else. Therefore, we are genuinely surprised by the attorney general’s certainty that it was the auditor-general who made the letter public,” the statement said.
The dispute started when Michaelides said that the new building to house the legal service would stand at 13 floors in an area where only six are permitted.
He also added that based on the cost of the project and the number of legal service personnel, the capital cost including VAT amounts to €133,875 per employee.
“The above constitutes a misuse of the requested areas, exploiting the cost of the building to unnecessary heights, a practice that does not ensure the public interest,” he said.
He also pointed out that instead of preparing an environmental study, as requested by the environment department, the public works department “illegally promoted the project and issued a call for tenders”.
Later, the legal service issued a statement penned by the attorney-general in response.
“The design and specifications for the new legal service building were drawn up by the legally competent department of public works, which, with the know-how and expertise of its officials, plans and supervises the implementation of this type of development project,” Savvides said.
He added that he has been informed that the public works department will respond to each point addressed in the auditor general’s letter and will be shared with the finance and transport ministers, and officials in the environment and town planning departments.
“It saddens me to note that once again, before hearing back from the relevant government services and departments, the auditor general is following his favourite tactic of making public his reports, letters and observations presenting only the views of his office, in a way that negatively shapes public opinion to the detriment of those it occasionally targets,” Savvides said.