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05 March, 2021
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Our View: Auditor’s actions lack moral compass

Public officials should protect and defend the rights of the individual whilst conducting regulatory checks

The publication of information concerning the numbers and composition of the Cyprus National Guard as well as the reserve forces compliance by the Office of the Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides has had jaw dropping consequences that threaten the freedom of movement and liberty of Cypriot men who do not wish to (re)join the military reserves.

As a consequence of Michaelides actions, an angry mob-minded public discourse ensued with the public, journalists and politicians accusing each other of being traitors and freeriders, facing threats –printed in the islands largest newspaper by circulation- to seek to fine, arrest, and restrict the right to travel abroad, for thousands of men the military lost track of due to studies or work abroad.

But political actions have political consequences and Michaelides does not have the mandate nor the right to determine the freedom of tens of thousands of people.

What the Auditor General fails to understand is that efficiency in and itself is not a moral act, it does not contain morality a priori. Efficiency is a function that ensures optimal allocation of resources and is an important indicator in determining the effectiveness of a policy.

A policy however can be ill conceived or have detrimental effects on a society. No other institution in Cyprus has a more long lasting and negative effect on Cypriot society than the National Guard. If you find yourself faced with bickering and plotting, bad mouthing and skimming, aggressiveness and violence, nepotism and abuse of power, know this: the National Guard has been a breeding ground for these behaviours.

As an independent public official Mr. Michaelides should have recommended reforms and demanded changes to an institution that has failed, an institution that does not contribute to the wellbeing of a society, that does not reflect contemporary needs or aspirations. 

If it is not his job to change, abolish or create new institutions then why does Mr. Michaelides insist on prompting up compliance to an admittedly failed institution?

It should be made abundantly clear, what is already known by many to be true, that the effectiveness of the reserve military forces, rests on maintaining a nationalist ideology about the superiority and historical infallibility of the Greek nation. No subterfuge to call upon ''legal obligations'' changes the fact that the Cyprus military needs drastic reforms in order to cope with modern challenges of asymmetrical terrorism, cybersecurity and unmanned technology systems. 

Instead the Office of the Auditor General has reinforced the standing of a failed institution that has no function when the stated ultimate objective of our political leadership is to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible.

If the Auditor cared about efficiency and effectiveness he should have called for the disbanding of the reserves and to invest those billions of euros into highly trained and professional security forces; but also in quality education, a strategy that has higher chances of securing our future, rather that practice shooting with FN P90 or G3 rifles to prove our nationalist manhood.

Recalling 'name and shame' as standard practice employed by ombudsmen around the world in order to spur compliance does not change the fact that some laws need to be changed for a society to move forward and as paradoxical as it may sound, the consequences of the actions of the Auditor General will reinforce the Cyprus establishment.

This is however not the first time the Auditor confused morality with efficiency. Michaelides investigated the Cyprus Theater Organization after a performance of the Ancient Greek play Antigone which was held for the first time in the ruins of the Ancient Greek city of Salamis in the Turkish occupied north. Michaelides sent threatening letters and his staff to search the Cyprus Theater Organization premises following a request by DIKO President Nikolas Papadopoulos, who opposes a viable solution to the Cyprus problem and viewed re-approachment efforts such as the theatre performance as a threat to the status quo.

Independent public officials, however, endowed with the powers Michaelides has, should exercise better moral judgement –they should be able to foresee the consequences of their actions on society and evaluate the merits of their interventions.

We commend Michaelides for his resolute efforts to root out corruption. He has done so competently, by forensically locating hundreds of instances where public funds or property had been wasted or mismanaged and brought them to justice.

Our view is that ensuring due process whilst exercising regulatory checks is of paramount importance for a free and democratic society. Public institutions should be mandated to protect and defend the rights of the individual whilst conducting compliance checks unless our aim as a society is to turn our tourism and services economy, both of which depend on maintaining peace and an outward looking perspective, into a place where dissension is penalised and rational discussion is put aside in order to satisfy the legality of self-righteous policies.

Public  |  Policy  |  Efficiency  |  Michaelides  |  Justice  |  Institutions  |  Military

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