Cyprus Mail

Audit service probes Christodoulides’ pay as palace official

Christodoulides during his time as government spokesman

The audit office is investigating a complaint that claims President Nikos Christodoulides received substantial benefits past his post between 2013 and 2018, while he was working at the presidential palace.

Audit office spokesman Marios Petrides told the Cyprus Mail that the office has asked the foreign ministry for the salary details of Christodoulides. He said the ministry is required by law to do so and in a matter of weeks until there should be further clarity on the matter.

The audit office’s investigation was launched on Monday.

The complaint against Christodoulides is centred on the period between October 2013 and April 2018, when he was seconded from the foreign ministry – where he was being paid the salary of a general advisor – to carry out duties at the presidential palace.

The salary at the foreign ministry was on the A12 paygrade – ranging from between €47,463 to €62,933 gross, as of 2010 – Petrides said.

However, Politis reported that the complaint alleges that Christodoulides was receiving further benefits while working for the president which included the salary of the director of the president’s diplomatic office, representation allowance of the government spokesperson, a service vehicle, and police guards.

The complaint further claims that when Christodoulides was travelling abroad he received the allowance of an official and not that of a civil servant, which is higher.

It was reported that no audit was carried out back in 2013 to ascertain whether the arrangement was a violation.

Christodoulides was appointed foreign minister in 2018.

As for how far along the pay scale Christodoulides was at the time he was seconded, Petrides said this remains to be confirmed.

He reiterated that the initial investigation at the presidential palace began with Doxa Komodromou, who resigned as a spokesperson on Monday after the overtime scandal surrounding her deepened.

The audit office received the complaint against the president soon after and launched its investigation on Monday.

The audit office announced last week that it will check for overtime payments of all presidential palace employees.

Petrides explained that: “We then decided to investigate them all as when such systemic errors are found then the auditing standards clearly dictate that you have to expand your sample.

“But then where do you begin? So from the 140 or so people there may [only] have been ten receiving overtime – we don’t know yet, we haven’t received the information.”

He added: “And after that we received a complaint regarding Mr Christodoulides – so we will look at it.”

He noted, however, that had the previous issue not occurred – Komodromou’s overtime – they would have investigated the latest complaint in any case.

“We received a complaint and we must take a look at it,” Petrides added.

Government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis said on Tuesday the initial matter was a mistake and an error of judgement which arose due to the specific arrangement with Komodromou.

He told CyBC that there needs to be more clarity with such arrangements going forward. Asked to comment on the fact that he himself signed off on her overtime claims, Letymbiotis said that he did so in good faith.

She left after Politis published details of Komodromou’s overtime claims. Those included overtime filed for three hours one evening for attending a charity football event for children with cancer.

Komodromou’s appointment had been the subject of much scrutiny from the audit office from as far back as April, shortly after the new government came into power.

Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides highlighted the irregularity of making Komodromou a state official while she held on to her public service job at the university; a state official, according to the law, cannot have another job.

The government sought to bypass that by appointing her ‘acting’ deputy government spokesman. There was another issue highlighted by Michaelides: any public servant seconded to another part of the service would remain on the pay scale they were on. This meant Komodromou would be paid about half the salary the post of acting government spokesman was normally paid.

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