The auditor-general and the rector of the state-run Technical University of Cyprus (Tepak) traded more barbs on Monday, the former describing the university as a den of “decay”.

Earlier in the day, Tepak rector Panayiotis Zafiris released a statement where he lashed out at auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides for misrepresenting the steps taken by the university to crack down on irregularities – financial and otherwise.

In particular, the rector referred to the case of a former Tepak professor, found to have been teaching at multiple academic institutions at the same time. According to Zafiris, the professor was summoned before the disciplinary committee at Tepak, and resigned in late 2020.

In addition, all open disciplinary cases continue to be under investigation. These concern less than five cases, not 40 as claimed by the auditor-general, said Zafiris.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing with shock a totally unjustified attempt to defame the university, through inaccuracies and disinformation,” the rector stressed.

Responding later with a statement of his own, the auditor-general unloaded on the rector and the university.

Michaelides said Zafiris’ remarks echo the vice-rector’s appearance in parliament last week.

“The problem of decay [within the university] is, therefore, a serious and systemic one,” stated the auditor-general.

Regarding the ex-Tepak professor who quit, Michaelides recalled that the man had also been employed on a full-time basis as an assistant professor at a university in Greece. A complaint about this had been filed in 2015.

The professor would furnish fraudulent medical certificates from doctors in Greece to justify his absence from work. In the winter of 2017 he was not even listed on the faculty at the programme he was in charge of at Tepak, he did not reside in Cyprus, and would falsely declare other professors’ addresses as his own.

“Instead of this professor being subjected to disciplinary and/or criminal sanctions, he was permitted to also work at the Open University of Cyprus,” the auditor-general said.

“And while in June 2019 the then-chairman of the council informed us that the case ‘is before the disciplinary committee for academic staff, which currently is examining and cross-examining witnesses’, ultimately the professor in question was allowed to leave the university without any consequences to him, nor even a report filed to police for possible criminal offences.”

Going on, Michaelides insisted that the cases before the university’s disciplinary committee are 40 – not five as cited by the rector.

“Even where cases are substantiated, the rector contends that these should be ‘covered up’ because the person filing the complaint decides to take a vow of silence.

“For instance, there are complaints about rigged electoral bodies [at Tepak] which the disciplinary committee never examined.”

The Audit Office said current regulations concerning disciplinary audits of academic staff at state-run universities remain woefully inadequate.

A major issue is that the disciplinary committee itself comprises academic staff – the very colleagues of professors facing accusations.

“We have proposed that investigations and thereafter any disciplinary proceedings be carried out by persons independent of the university.”