Irrespective of the outcome of the case brought against the auditor-general for inappropriate conduct, the government and the political parties should seriously consider ending the permanence of appointments to certain positions. It is absurd that, in this day and age, the auditor-general, attorney-general, deputy attorney-general are entitled to stay in their post until retirement age.

There is provision in the constitution for this, the idea being that the permanence safeguarded the independence and objectivity of these posts, by eliminating the executive’s power over these officials. A government could not use the threat of dismissal to force an official to take a decision in its interest or to cover up an illegality by the state. Permanence did not pose major problems in the past because the retirement age was 60 and seniority was the main criterion for appointment to one of these posts. This meant that an appointee would not spend much longer than 10 years in a post.

While the principle of seniority ensured against someone staying in a state post for too long it worked against the appointment of young and dynamic people, no matter how capable they were. This is why it is necessary to end the permanence and offer non-renewable contracts for the posts of attorney-general, deputy attorney-general and auditor-general. If renewal of the term was an option, then there would be dependence of the official on the government.

An eight-year term would probably be an adequate period for an official to be in a post, without the risk of becoming complacent and demotivated or the danger of engaging in ‘empire’ building. We should add to this the fact that all senior posts benefit from renewal and the arrival of new blood. If the petition to remove Odysseas Michaelides from his post is rejected he would have another nine years until retirement in a post he has already been in for 10 years. The deputy attorney-general Savvas Angelides, appointed in 2000, would have another 17 years in the job, if he stays put. The AG George Savvides will retire in a few years, but what if the president appoints a 40-year-old in his place? It would mean he would be in the post for 27 years.

No state official should stay in a post until retirement, on the grounds that it ensures his or her independence. Permanence does not guarantee anything if an individual is not up to the job. We could end up with an official who is neither independent nor competent in such a post for 20 years. This is why it is an imperative for the constitution to be amended, regardless of the outcome of the application against Michaelides. Some political parties have spoken in the past about replacing permanence with a fixed term contract. This must be pursued.