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Parliament to discuss AG and audit office spat

Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides
Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides

The ongoing clashes between Attorney General George Savvides and Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides will be discussed at the parliamentary institutions committee, where two of the country’s top officials will be called upon to answer accusations of acting outside their remit.

The severity of the spats have become so apparent that MPs from the opposite ends of the political spectrum have come together to table the matter to the House committee: Akel’s Irene Charalambides and Disy’s Demetris Demetriou.

They said it was part of an effort “to find a solution so as to improve the cooperation” between Savvides and Michaelides.

It will be discussed at a subsequent committee meeting.

Questions of accountability

Spokesman for the audit service Marios Petrides told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday the development was not perceived either positively or negatively but the service would attend, listen, and discuss.

Asked if better cooperation can be achieved now that the relations between the two officials have effectively dragged the institutions through the mud, Petrides said “of course.”

It would however require that international recommendations are followed, he underlined.

This includes the Greco recommendation separating the dual role of the attorney general’s office, which currently allows him to be the state’s legal adviser and the state prosecutor.

A bill to regulate this is currently in parliament.

Additionally, Petrides called for “the removal of the lack of accountability in the powers and actions of the attorney general” who is the sole person that can decide whether proceedings for offences will be carried out at his discretion.

The audit service has raised the issue multiple times, arguing this has clashed with its work.

Length of term

One of the core components of the matter which was tabled on Wednesday, is the issue of a time limit for both officials’ terms as well as their deputies.

Currently, the attorney general and auditor general stay in their posts until retirement or voluntary resignation. The constitution does allow circumstances in certain cases where a Supreme Court can rule to terminate one’s tenure.

Petrides underlined the audit service was in favour of the idea, recommending 9 to 12 years of a continuous term. This is because if a term is up for renewal, an auditor may be more likely to be “kinder to a government so as to ensure they are re-appointed.”

A day earlier, Savvides was asked to comment over the ongoing spat with the auditor general, where he said he did not wish to comment. Nonetheless, he sought to stress that he had no differences with anyone and had not initiated any type of conflict.

In turn, the audit service responded saying it would not comment, and that society could see who was constantly attacking the other, patronise and repeatedly announcing a procedure to terminate the other’s tenure.

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