Akel deputy Christos Christofides has written to the auditor-general asking him to examine the data of the Independent Social Support Agency, which is under the authority of the president’s wife, Philippa Karsera. The agency had been set up in 2013, when the economy collapsed, to provide financial support to university students who were unable to complete their studies because they or their families had run out of funds.

In the letter, which was published by Phileleftheros, Christofides asked Odysseas Michaelides to investigate whether the operation of the agency was in violation of the legislation which set it up. The deputy based his suspicions on a newspaper interview given by Karsera in February, in which she spoke about broadening the agency’s criteria of eligibility for help, as well as a statement she made to a House committee. She had cited examples of other categories of students that would be eligible for assistance, said Christofides in his letter to Michaelides.

His main concern was that the law’s criteria for assistance were very specific and that new criteria could not have been introduced without the law governing the operation of the Social Support Agency changing. Christofides also complained that the last accounts the agency submitted to the legislature were for 2018, without the accounts including a breakdown of the payments. He expressed concern that there was no transparency regarding the donors.

That Christofides addressed his letter to the auditor-general is bizarre. He was raising law-related issues, so why was he asking the Audit Office to investigate? Did he go to the Audit Office because this would suggest there was corruption? If the law was being violated, he should have reported the matter to the attorney-general’s office, which is responsible for dealing with law-breaking. In fact, he could have investigated the agency himself, if he was so concerned – a deputy can demand information from state services in the same way the Audit Office could. He could use his parliamentary assistant, for whom the taxpayer pays, to do the legwork if he was too busy.

Interestingly, the money used by the agency is from private donations and therefore not subject to audits by the Audit Office. Was an experienced lawmaker like Christofides not aware of this? Probably, but his real intention was to create a stir by involving Michaelides who has made himself the go-to official for everything without any limits to his authority. That politicians are happy pander to this regime for their own ends is rather worrying.

In his letter, Christofides goes on to say that “for us the most important thing is for the state to cover the needs of students for their studies and not for our children to depend on private initiatives and charity.” Is it the responsibility now of the auditor-general to decide how students will be financially supported? This is certainly not within his authority, and if he were the stickler for correct procedure that he claims to be, he should inform the Akel deputy that his questions about the social support agency should be directed at the Legal Service or investigated by the House ethics committee.