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17 July, 2024
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President's clash with Auditor General escalates

Auditor General's report sparks turmoil

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

When Nikos Christodoulides expressed bitterness and heartache after the publication of the auditor general's report on the benefits he received as a government representative and seconded civil servant, questions arose about the conflict between the president and the auditor general.

Some began to question the president's true intentions when, amidst his bitterness, he stressed his commitment to protecting the institution, prompting him to seek the attorney general's opinion. This statement brought back concerns regarding Nicos Anastasiades' contemplation of dismissing the Auditor General for inappropriate behavior.

If Nicos Anastasiades hesitated, Nikos Christodoulides seems ready to proceed, despite warnings that now is the opportune time. He aims to collaborate, acknowledging that such a conflict won't leave him unscathed, despite recent strains in the once invulnerable relationship between the auditor general and the president.

History of Relationships

Surprise emanated from the Presidential when Odysseus Michaelides began questioning the presidency, focusing on the Presidential energy upgrade, renovation costs, and benefits received as a seconded civil servant. Until recently, Odysseas Michaelides maintained excellent relations with Nikos Christodoulides, as noted in a July interview with CNA, highlighting a better understanding compared to the previous government.

And the Rift

The first blow to their relations occurred after advisers' judgment and concerns about their qualifications. Amidst the crisis, Nikos Christodoulides sought the auditor general's help, leading to a warm meeting where a solution was found. Odysseas Michaelides, mentioned in Parliament, was annoyed as the president failed to release unqualified personnel in the presidential office, and people were found working from home.

Combined with refusals to disclose details and recent revelations, such as Nicos Anastasiades possessing two pistols, tensions escalated. The auditor-general's proactive involvement in the presidential Energy Upgrade and renovation was considered unacceptable by legal circles, generating annoyance in the president's family environment for privacy violations.

The report that the auditor general examined the presidential couple's bedroom and bathroom, and the report on police actions, particularly the illegal transportation of the president's children in service vehicles, added to the strained relationship.

The Stain on Both

The question arises about whether institutions should focus on details like bedrooms, bathrooms, and child transport, or if the bigger picture has been lost in this history.

Regardless, public discussion has damaged the images of both the president of the Republic and the auditor general. The incident involving the president's children's movement and the examination of kilometers traveled with the service vehicle – unauthorized – conveys a message of formalism, obsession, and bad faith.

Nikos Christodoulides may operate within legal bounds, except for the use of a service vehicle, licenses, and allowances as a seconded civil servant, but the moral aspect is questioned. A president elected for radical change, standing against the establishment, refuses to leave the public service for governance, taking advantage of outdated benefits.

The Cessation and Role of the Prosecutor's Office

The question arises about whether this conflict is the entire issue or if there's more behind it. Nikos Christodoulides seeking legal opinions from the attorney general didn't escape the notice of the Audit Office, raising questions about applying to the attorney general while still an ordinary citizen.

Long-standing strained relations between the two institutions are known. Discussions during Anastasiades' administration about dismissing Odysseus Michaelides resurface, considering inappropriate behavior and clashes with institutions. The possibility of Michaelides' cessation process leading to heroization, as understood by the Audit Service, increases pressure on the president through recent publications.

The thought that the auditor-general has always operated similarly, revealing information even about officials with good relationships, is acknowledged. Recent pressure on the auditor general, following his complaint to the Anti-Corruption Authority about Assistant Attorney General Savvas Angelides, adds complexity. Whether the attorney-general proceeds with proceedings to dismiss the auditor-general for misconduct remains uncertain.

George Savvidis' retirement in three years and reluctance to enter such a process depend on actions by other institutions that broke with Odysseas Michaelides or if Savvas Angelides files a complaint upon acquittal.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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