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President denies orchestrating ‘attack’ on audit service

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President Nikos Christodoulides: Of course, if I have an invite from Mr Erdogan, I will visit him

President Nikos Christodoulides on Saturday denied allegations the government has embarked on an “orchestrated effort” to undermine the audit service.

He was commenting after the audit service had earlier published a lengthy statement, saying that ever since the presidency saw a draft statement on the report over Christodoulides’ illegal earnings, the president’s press director has been speaking in a “demeaning and offensive tone”.

The government spokesman and his deputy are also moving in the same direction, the audit service said.

“It is with sadness that we observe the continuously orchestrated effort from members of the government to undermine the audit service.”

But Christodoulides said “I do not adopt, nor have I ever adopted such practises,” stressing he had nothing more to say.

The audit service’s statement reiterated many of its findings from earlier in the week, which highlighted that while Christodoulides served as government spokesman, he illegally received €41,024, which is double what he was allowed to have received as part of his foreign travel stipend.

The report called on Christodoulides to return over €18,000 to the state that he should not have received in paid leave, and come clean as to how much of the almost €40,000 he used in car mileage was for personal use, returning it back to state coffers.

Christodoulides has said he referred to the attorney-general.

Saturday’s statement stressed the service “rejects the government’s claims that it received an opinion from Attorney General at the time Costas Clerides, over the legality of the sum and benefits that Mr Christodoulides illegally received.”

It highlighted in 2014 when Christodoulides was made spokesman, cabinet published over 1,200 decisions. “We do not understand why the government considers it our duty to examine all of them.”

Christodoulides’ appointment at the time was not seen as high risk as it was also deemed temporary, the audit service added.

Addressing the controversy over the president’s children transported by police brought to light by the audit service, it sought to highlight the matter was published in a manner that did not address security issues, but rather focused on periods where the president was abroad and the First Lady accompanied him.

“This then creates a twisted idea that the police, at the expense of the taxpayer, was made to take up parental duties.”

As such, the problem is much deeper and greater, and explains “the relentless attack, which has reached offensive levels from members of the government against the auditor-general and members of the service.”

The statement also reiterated the in spat over the presidential home undergoing renovations, it was the First Lady which forbade the audit service from entering the premises, despite a previously arranged time with the presidency.

“This is property of the state for which the taxpayer has paid more than €1.15 million for improving its energy efficiency and on top of that, amounts to the tune of €150,000 for renovation, so as to host the presidential family for free.

“To this day, taxpayers are paying to purchase new, and renovate existing furniture.”

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