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Tales from the Coffeeshop: Audit office is now the custodian of diplomatic ethics

our new man in athens stavros avgoustides
Our new man in Athens Stavros Avgoustides

THE POOR guy had been in his new post just four days before he became the target of a character assassination attempt by the media.

Stavros Avgoustides took over as Kyproulla’s ambassador to Athens on Monday and on Thursday Alithia carried an indignant front-page report that he was selling scarves with his artwork, cutely labelled ‘Scarves of Maroullou’, on a website for about €300 each. It was presented as a big scandal and a breach of the high ethical standards of our political life.

The ambassador has a talent for painting and drawing and has produced many artworks that he has exhibited for charity purposes. He has made no money out of his art, giving the proceeds of sales to charity and had offered the rights to his artwork free of charge to a designer that has used these for scarves, handbags and T-shirts.

He has made this clear on his X account and when asked by journalists, but the moralising hacks would not let go. Why did he divert visitors to his Instagram page to the website that was selling the merchandise? Why did he not seek the permission of the labour ministry? Why did he allow his permission from the foreign ministry to expire?

 

HAVING failed to back their theories of a scandal with anything resembling evidence and make the dirt stick – not even being able to accuse the ambassador of greed – the newshounds started looking for some obscure diplomatic service rule that he had violated.

They even contacted our supreme governing body, the audit office, which can always be relied on to find some irregularity somewhere. Its spokesman, Marios Petrides, whose tone of moral superiority is as irritating as that of his boss, said the audit office was investigating the case, because “even if he gave the rights free of charge, he needed to secure special permission from the ministry of labour.”

What business did the audit office have investigating a case that did not involve the spending of public money? None, but it had to leave a cloud hanging over the ambassador once it got a request from hack. Perhaps now that it will investigate Avgoustides, it should include Prez Nik II in its investigation as he is selling the books he authored and pocketing the revenue. Does he have permission to sell books from the ministry of labour?

I am sure the audit office will shed light on this mystery.

one of the ambassador's pieces of art
One of the ambassador’s pieces of art

ATHENS is the most coveted ambassadorial post in Kyproulla’s foreign ministry and among presidents’ political hangers-on, so we can only guess that there were a lot of people feeling resentful that the post went to Avgoustides and wanting to embarrass him in some way.

Ironically, these custodians of diplomatic ethics said nothing about our previous ambassador, Kyriacos Kenevezos, who was in the post for eight years, not because of his diplomatic experience (he had none) or his cultural refinement (he had none of that either), but so he could have a high, steady income to repay his bank loans that were non-performing.

Thank the Lord Greece did not have such vigilante journalists and an unforgiving audit office back in the day when Nobel prize winning poet Giorgos Seferis was an ambassador and writing poetry which was published and sold. He may have been ineligible for the Nobel prize because he had not asked the ministry of labour for permission to write poetry and sell the books.

 

POOR NIK II must be cracking under the pressure. The week before last he was bullied by Odysseas into cancelling the construction of the legal service building because it would not be in line with the functional Soviet-style architectural design favoured by our supreme ruler.

Last week he had to manage the public uproar caused by the revelation that he had been collecting a state pension of €1300 since he resigned from the civil service aged 45. Even the usually supportive hacks of Phil were slamming his greed and suggesting that he should not be taking it as he was on a monthly salary of €8,700 plus a big allowances package.

He was legally entitled to the state pension, which was a case of legalised theft incorporated in the Pensions Law of 1997 by some devious public parasite and approved by our legislature which is not averse to plundering the taxpayer either for the benefit of its members.

Throughout his career as a public parasite the Prez has shown a talent for milking the taxpayer so why should he stop now, especially as he had done nothing wrong by being a little greedy.

 

GOVERNMENT spokesman Mini Me did his best to protect his boss, issuing written statements and defending him on radio shows with some hilarious arguments.

He gave a recital of lame excuses on Rik radio on Friday morning when he came up with the inimitable “there is no procedure for waiving your pension right.” The prez could not waive his pension right with a letter, he said, when told that Nik I did so. Then he came up with the icing on the cake, “nobody can waive his right to a pension because it is a property asset.”

Several ministers in Nik I’s government did this, despite their pension being a property asset. Were they breaking the law, or did they do this with a telegram as they could not do this with a letter?

All this nonsense, when Mini Me could have just said that the Prez is taking his state pension because he needs the money, but that would have been far too transparent which is not the government’s style.

 

IN WHAT could have only been described as self-inflicted embarrassment, the justice minister announced that the Prez would not be replacing the police chief, as he had been threatening to do for the last month. He had even leaked to the papers that he was considering appointing a civilian as chief.

And then on Thursday, the justice minister said: “There is no issue of sacking the chief. Consider the matter closed.” The decision was reached after the prez had read all the reports he had asked for, said Mini Me. Or perhaps once he realised he could not find a civilian stupid enough to take on the role of chief, not even from the pool of his supporters who are not renowned for their high intelligence.

Cue for more public criticism of the hapless prez. At least nobody is criticising his new look – with his jet black hair, beard, open-neck white shirt and dark suit he could be mistaken for a member of the Iranian government.

 

THE COUNCIL of Europe’s anti-corruption body, Greco, issued a report on Kyproulla, stating that the fight against corruption was compromised by too many institutional flaws.

Although the legislation had strong features, the report said, “its effectiveness is compromised by institutional flaws including the proliferation of committees with little coordination, resources, expertise and authority.”

How would these flaws be tackled? By the government setting up another committee. Mini Me said in a written statement that the government, “with the aim of the best possible implementation of the recommendations in their entirety, is pushing for the creation of a committee for thorough study of the recommendations and for monitoring the course of their implementation.”

It is time this government signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Committees.

 

RUSSIA’S foreign ministry called in Kyproulla’s ambassador, Kypros Giorgalli, to protest about the arrest of a Russian journalist in Nicosia and to seek explanations. Tass news agency (not ours) reported that excessive force was used in the arrest of the newspaper correspondent who injured his hand.

Who would have thought that the Russian government would ever come to the defence of a journalist?  It is a bit like the Saudi government making a fuss because a Saudi gay was mistreated abroad.

 

I AM OVERJOYED to report that I have come across a tashinopitta that I would recommend to all of Kyproulla’s tashinopitta lovers. It is not the traditional pie, as it is made with brown sugar and maple syrup, but it is delish. It is made by the Honest Bread bakery on Athalassa Avenue in Nicosia and at €3 is bit more expensive than what other bakeries are charging, but it is a bit bigger in size and definitely worth the money. The postmodern tashinopitta has arrived.

 

AS WE HAD been a bit uncharitable to our Prez I thought we could finish with an excerpt from his independence day address, which shows the country is in good hands.

“The strengthening of vulnerable groups of the population, the substantive support of the middle class, the improvement of the daily life of citizens and the effective tackling of the consequences of increased expense constitute the axes of a pioneering model of administration with a powerful social and developmental mark.”

Just for this he should keep the state pension we are paying him.

 

 

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