It seems only a matter of time before the Attorney-General George Savvides will submit the request to the supreme court to have Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides removed from his post for inappropriate behaviour. Although the Audit Office spokesman has criticised the delay in the submission of the case, implying that its announcement last Sunday by the deputy attorney-general, was an intimidation tactic, there can be no turning back for the state’s Legal Service.

There has been speculation from the auditor-general’s camp that the announcement was a negotiating ploy by the government, which plans to reform the Audit Office as well as the Legal Service. President Christodoulides announced this intention during a news conference, several weeks ago, sparking a negative response by Michaelides who argued that reform of the Audit Office would be unconstitutional. He had no objection to the reform of the attorney-general’s office, which he had been personally calling for.

The president, quite rightly, has avoided any involvement in the dispute, which he described as a “very unpleasant development.” He was right to keep his distance as the attorney-general is an independent state official who does not need presidential approval for his decisions. The Michaelides camp has tried to put the responsibility on Christodoulides by claiming only the president, who appointed him, could initiate action for the sacking of the auditor-general, entitled under the constitution to remain in the post until retirement age.

This, it was claimed, would be a pre-trial objection, although it seemed rather premature to discuss legal arguments, considering no case had yet been filed. There is a precedent. When Deputy Attorney-General Rikkos Erotokritou, was charged with inappropriate behaviour – he had publicly accused the attorney-general of corruption – it was the Attorney-General Costas Clerides who took action against him and not the president who appointed him.

It would be strange if Michaelides, who insists he had done nothing wrong and was the target of an act of vengeance by Savvides, would be content to win the case on a technicality rather than on the facts of the case. Then again, for him, this would be a fight for survival, which justifies the use of all legal means to achieve it.

In the end, a court case is necessary to clarify the limits of the auditor-general’s authorities. Michaelides, for years, has acted as if no such limits exist and that he can do pretty much as he pleases – issuing legal opinions, ordering the treasury not to pay pensions, blocking decisions taken by the executive, publicly intimidating officials and labeling them corrupt among other things. He saw the public approval he earned for good, anti-corruption work he had done as licence to interfere in everything, even issuing policy diktats to the executive.

The supreme court, probably, will now hopefully define the limits of the auditor-general’s authority. Whether it would consider his inappropriate behaviour justified his removal from his post is another matter.