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24 May, 2024
 
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Controversial appointments continue: Latest allegations spark public outcry

Intensifying criticism prompts measures, Auditor General's Office launches investigations

Pavlos Neophytos

The reactions regarding the appointments of the Christodoulides government are intensifying day by day, forcing them to take measures in order to address any lingering concerns that may provoke public sentiment. At the same time, the issue of the absence of a legislative framework covering the appointment of advisors to state officials or government positions has emerged, something that President Christodoulides provided assurances about last week. On its part, the Office of the Auditor General has begun investigations into the allegations concerning advisors, while the whole issue will be discussed in Parliament.

The third complaint in a row

The ongoing criticism regarding certain appointments to Cabinet positions, either due to perceived political inexperience or lack of knowledge in their respective fields, was followed by a recent outcry over the recruitment of a 19-year-old woman at the Deputy Ministry of Tourism. In addition, the headline of the newspaper "Alithea" highlighted the presence of an aesthetician working as a secretary at the Presidential Office. Today, an article in the newspaper "Haravgi" introduces another appointment that has triggered a fresh wave of reactions since this morning. Specifically, it pertains to the Deputy Ministry of Culture, where a 42-year-old woman has been appointed as an advisor to Michalis Hatzigiannis, responsible for press and social media matters. It is worth noting that she has a prior conviction, resulting in a suspended prison sentence, related to the distribution of counterfeit concert tickets. It should be mentioned that the advisor meets the requirement of having a clean criminal record, as her record has been cleared due to the expiration of the time period outlined in the Law on the Rehabilitation of Convicted Persons, as mentioned in the article. However, the author emphasizes the moral aspect of the issue, highlighting yet another controversial appointment. The Deputy Ministry of Culture promptly responded, stating that there was never such a contractual relationship and no payment was made to the individual in question.

It began at the Deputy Ministry of Tourism

As a result of the hiring of a 19-year-old woman without a degree as a consultant at the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, the matter of appointments came into focus. In response, the Audit Office intervened last Monday (May 8) and raised concerns about conducting an audit of all consultants employed by ministers and deputy ministers. The Audit Office emphasized its intention to disclose as much information as legally permissible, denouncing the situation as "manifestly illegal and abusive."

On Wednesday (10 May), the President of the Republic called for a meeting with Auditor General Odysseus Michaelides at the Presidential Palace to address the concerns that have emerged regarding the appointment of consultants to state officials and government positions. Following the meeting, Odysseas Michaelides stated that the President proposed several solutions that appear to be satisfactory to the Audit Office. Specifically, the President announced that the government will promptly draft a bill to establish a framework for the appointment of advisors to government officials, similar to the model for parliamentary assistants. This would effectively institutionalize the process and eliminate any ambiguity surrounding such appointments.

The controversy surrounding the appointment of a 19-year-old consultant at the Ministry of Tourism had no time to subside before a new complaint emerged yesterday (Wednesday, May 16). According to the front page of "Alithia" newspaper, there are allegations of a beautician being employed at the Presidential Office to carry out secretarial duties, who was previously a member of Mr. Christodoulides' staff. This issue was addressed on state television on Wednesday (May 8) by Marios Petridis, the spokesperson of the Audit Service, who confirmed that they have received the specific complaint and will investigate it. When asked if the Audit Service has obtained a list of the President's associates, he responded, "We have already obtained some names and contracts. We have no intention of concealing anything. Therefore, we will conduct an audit when the time comes for the Executive to respond, ensuring, assuring, and confirming that the criteria are met, at least for those working in the Presidency."

The Audit Service will also initiate an investigation into the State Ministry of Culture, following the report in today's Haravgi regarding the appointment of a 42-year-old woman as an advisor to Deputy Minister of Culture Michalis Hatzigiannis for Press and Social Media. The woman had been previously convicted, receiving a suspended prison sentence for circulating fake concert tickets. However, the Deputy Ministry later denied this appointment. Marios Petridis, the spokesperson for the Audit Service, stated in an interview on state television that they will investigate this case to determine whether the complaint mentioned in the publication or the denial by the Deputy Ministry is justified. He emphasized that a person whose sentence has expired meets the criteria and can be appointed to public service, and it is the responsibility of the person making the appointment to be subject to public scrutiny. He stressed the importance of establishing a legislative framework that covers the appointment of consultants to state officials or government positions. Furthermore, he mentioned the demand for transparency, stating that the names of consultants should be made public, just as all names of individuals appointed to the civil service are disclosed.

Why MPs voted to appoint consultants

The appointment of consultants by Members of Parliament (MPs) was the subject of discussion in the Institutions Committee of the Parliament, particularly in relation to the associates of the former President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades. AKEL MP Irini Charalambidou confirmed this during an interview with the state channel. She emphasized that the phenomenon of ministerial advisors is not a recent development but has emerged over the past decade. The decision to appoint them was based on the belief that ministers require assistance. However, along the way, inexperienced individuals or those chosen based on personal connections were appointed. Ms. Charalambidou expressed the desire for qualified individuals who can contribute to the progress of the country. She highlighted the necessity of establishing a legislative framework to regulate the appointment of consultants to government officials or government positions.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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