In the end, acting deputy government spokesman, Doxa Komodromou, helped President Nikos Christodoulides out of a tight spot by submitting her resignation and returning to the job at the University of Cyprus that she had refused to give up.
The intervention of auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides completely destroyed the president’s plans for Komodromou. It was Michaelides who 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 got round this problem 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.
The way the government tried to get round this was unlawful. It advised Komodromou to put in overtime claims that would take her pay to the level stipulated for the acting government spokesman. Again, Michaelides stepped in to point out that a state official was not entitled to overtime pay, recalling that never in the history of the Republic had a state official put in an overtime claim.
Komodromou had submitted claims – amounting to €2,486 for her first three months in the job and €3,000 for the subsequent three months – only because she was told she could do so by the presidency. Her claims were signed off by the government spokesman and the under-secretary to the president, neither of whom would have done this without the approval of the president.
In fact, Michaelides last week said that in May he had told Christodoulides that, legally, Komodromou could not be paid overtime, but he was ignored. Now he has demanded to see the terms of employment of the 153 people that have been given jobs by the presidency as advisors so he can inspect their contracts. Will these contracts be given to the audit office?
Meanwhile, on Monday, the House finance committee blocked the release of €6,800 that would have covered the overtime pay until the end of the year and due to a CyBC journalist, who was seconded to the palace as the personal assistant of Mrs Christodoulides. Was she entitled to make overtime pay claims? Not according to the auditor-general whose advice was adopted by the deputies.
Komodromou may have bailed out Christodoulides with her resignation on Monday, but the affair could only have harmed the president’s standing. People do not want a president that blatantly disregards the law, behaving as if it should not apply to him.