Theodosis Tsolias, the finance ministry’s directorate of growth head and former cabinet secretary, has rubbished claims he should quit after taking leave to work in Luxembourg.
Tsiolas took leave without pay to work as the head of the office of the new member of the European Court of Auditors, Lefteris Christophorou, in Luxembourg, and is now under investigation by the audit service.
He told the Cyprus Mail on Friday that the relevant law stipulated that if a civil servant is called to the European Union, the set remains vacant in Cyprus and the employee takes leave without pay.
Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides had told the house audit committee on Thursday that the Republic of Cyprus should not grant unpaid leave to general directors of ministries, as their position is extremely important and cannot remain vacant.
Michaelides added that normally Tsiolas should resign.
“If he wanted to go to the Court of Auditors, he would have to resign,” he said.
Tsolias refuted this claim, saying “my experience in the EU will be invaluable. The attorney general has issued a decision saying it was for the public good for me to go to the EU.”
“My contract was signed by the EU Court of Auditors. As auditors, would they sign off on something illegal?” he asked.
He added, “as the Republic of Cyprus there are very few people from the civil service in the EU and at the end of the day, we go to serve our country in the EU. Instead of it being positive, some media have put news out without even asking me and it was negative.”
Michailides on Thursday had confirmed that the legislation allows the granting of leave without pay, but said that as the director you are the cream of the crop. In fact, he noted that the position of Tsiolas will be frozen for a period of five years.
Currently, Tsiolas is being replaced by the Director General of the Ministry of Labour Andreas Zachariades.
The members of the audit committee requested further information on this particular case. The grant of leave without pay was made by the Council of Ministers in September 2022, initially for a period of three years, i.e. from November 2022 to November 2025, without, according to the audit service, exhausting the rest leave he had.
Based on a report by the audit service, the proposal of the finance ministry to the cabinet stipulated that the employment of Tsiolas was for a period of six years, the same as the duration of his term, i.e. from November 2022 to November 2028.
The reported noted that Tsiolas’ salary will be paid from the budget of the European Communities. In August 2022, the attorney-general stated in his opinion that the ministry has the ability to grant leave without pay, while the legal service did not identify an issue of irreconcilability.
The audit service found the handling of the issue by the cabinet shows that they did not understand the importance of Tsiolas’ position at the ministry as the director of the directorate of growth and decided to leave his position empty for three years, and find only a seconded replacement.