The audit service and the presidential palace got into a row on Wednesday after reports indicated that an announcement is due to be issued on President Nikos Christodoulides’ overtime hours and stipends paid to him from 2013 to 2018, when he was serving at the presidential palace on secondment from the foreign affairs ministry.

The issue arose when reports emerged that the presidential palace had been handed a draft announcement that the audit service is planning to release at the beginning of December on its inquest into the stipends and overtime paid to Christodoulides from 2013 to 2018 when he was on secondment at the presidential palace.

The audit concerns the entire salary package received by Christodoulides at the time, as it was not limited to the salary of the permanent advisor – Consul General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (A12 pay grade). The salary and benefits package included the salary of the director of the Diplomatic Office of the President of the Republic, the appearance allowance of the government spokesman, an official vehicle, and security officers. When he travelled abroad, he received the foreign allowance as an official and not as a civil servant, whose salary was higher.

On Tuesday, Michaelides confirmed that a letter had been sent to the presidential palace requesting a response to the issue by December 4, before the announcement is issued on December 7.

Speaking to radio Politis on Wednesday morning, the director of the president’s press office, Victoras Papadopoulos, said that claims of overtime payments to Christodoulides when he served at the presidential palace under former president Nicos Anastasiades are “fake news.”

“President Christodoulides never received overtime pay while performing the duties of government spokesman,” he said.

However, in a comment on X, formerly known as Twitter, Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides said that the audit service would not comment on the reports at this stage, which he said originated from sources inside the presidential palace. But he said that Papadopoulos’ comments were a “shame” as Papadopoulos claimed that the whole issue reeked of political machinations and fake news.

“For now, we will not respond to the merits of the case. However, we reserve the right to respond if the representatives of the government continue to falsify the truth,” he said.

On the leak of the information, Michaelides said that Alithia, the newspaper that first published the report, had not seen a draft of the announcement sent to the presidential palace. He added that someone from the presidential palace overheard that the letter had been sent for the palace to respond and fed the story to the newspaper.

“It is obvious that someone in the Presidency, who simply listened to general discussions on the matter, whistle-blew it to them,” he said.

The audit service had launched an investigation into the matter in September 2023, after it emerged that former deputy government spokeswoman Doxa Komodromou had claimed overtime pay for attending events.

The complaint against Christodoulides is cantered 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.”