Cyprus’ Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides ruffled some feathers this week when he told a House committee hearing that some leadership positions in the civil service were filled by people who were incompetent.
Michaelides, who butted heads with government officials on many issues including the country’s golden passport scandal, appeared before a Watchdog committee this week where he said there were delays in getting responses from civil servants.
In one case, according to the auditor, he got a reply in July of this year in response to a letter dated back in 2016.
'I know department directors who are incompetent and should not have been in those positions' the auditor said
“The response was just four lines. If they had to obtain a doctorate in order to reply, I could understand that,” Michaelides remarked, adding that in other cases his office had to call directors to push things forward in their ministries. Specific examples were also discussed according to local media.
But the auditor also ruffled some feathers during the hearing, when he expressed the view that the civil service had some excellent staff, some who were average, while others were incompetent.
Michaelides said he believed these problems existed because some in leadership positions were average or below average and not fit to do the job.
“I know department directors who are incompetent and should not have been in those positions,” the auditor said.
House member cries foul over AG remarks
Michaelides’ comments drew a strong reaction from ruling party DISY MP Savia Orphanidou, who said she did not appreciate the comments against officials and departments without a chance to offer a counterpoint.
“There are insinuations against departments here but there is no response,” the MP said.
Orphanidou, a former finance ministry employee, was herself the subject of an investigation back in 2017 over questions about transparency concerning her secondment to a Luxembourg office of the European Investment Bank.
The issue had come out of a long and protracted public dispute over the interpretation of law between a DISY former finance minister and a current left party MP, who reported the case to Auditor General known in the media for his strict attention to rules and procedures.
But during this week’s hearing, Orphanidou cried foul over his comments and called on the head of the committee, center party DIKO MP Zacharias Koulias, to weigh in on the issue.
MP: not okay for AG to bring people down this way
“You are fair, chairman, and you have to acknowledge this,” referring to her view about Michaelides’ comments on civil servants, adding “I heard about unfit leadership and unfit staff. It is not okay for the auditor general to make such remarks, we cannot bring people down this way,” Orphanidou said.
But Koulias did not agree with Orphanidou, according to local media, with the chairman pointing out that members of parliament ought to ask questions and not make statements.