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Is the Auditor General a good thing?

4 February 2017

 

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Odysseas Michaelides - Auditor General

If one is to make a balance sheet on the pluses and minuses of the Auditor General actions, we can say that he does more good than harm, but could the “harm” part be reduced/limited if we come up with some other idea, if for example we give the authority to the Government to decide on decisions of the Attorney General based on the public interest [both sides might be happy].

It is by general acceptance that the existing Auditor General is doing a good job. He seems to be very particular with details and he has no reservations to publish his findings (sometimes earlier and before the full investigation is completed) and referring cases to the Attorney General for legal action. As we said it seems that he is doing a good job and he is the only Auditor General that is exposing the wrong doings of the Republic over the last 58 years.

On the other hand, the constant threat of legal and other actions and the rush exposure of others, have caused a negative effect on decision makers, ranging from Ministers to Civil Servants, who are now “scared” to take any «innovative» decisions on many subjects. The impression that we get is that he is acting on some occasions like a Commissar which causes at times the non smooth functioning of the Government. We have now meetings on all subjects that concerned civil servants and the meetings invite the Auditor General to attend, so that they are sure that they are okay with the red tape. No one is without fault and recent Court decisions criticized the Auditor General on his stand on certain matters. Is it then a good thing to be so strict and particular on all subjects?

Let’s look at some of this disadvantages that we can remember:

  • The Pafos Desalination plant has been demolished, notwithstanding the shortage of water at Pafos and the original installation promotor might take the Government to Court for damages.

  • The refuge plant at Koshi, notwithstanding that it was a con job and notwithstanding that the ex Minister of Interior agreed to reduce the charges from €100/ton to €30/ton the A.G. objected and after paying for over 1 year the €100/cost it is now reduced at the end to €30 (figures are approximate).

  • The Troodos Theme park agreed with foreign investors on all details [save the rent] the objection of the Auditor General regarding the rental level be it that it was set on a temporary basis, it came to a halt. The project is now not on.

  • The Paralimni Marina has just been awarded to a single tenderer is now in doubt because the Auditor General finds the rent law!! [So can the A.G. become a valuer disputing the lands office etc.?)

  • The long awaited Larnaca Port and Marina which is under negotiations after 15 years of waiting and if a conclusion is made, will the Auditor General come back disputing the legality of the agreement or whatever?

  • The Opap lottery Firm is another issue, with some Governmental Departments saying that the agreement is correct and the Auditor General insisting that it is not. If the case goes to court the Government might stand to pay damages to the Firm being an inter country agreement.

  • The much needed Pafos-Polis road is now at a standstill at the point of non-execution due to the Auditor General objection (be it that he has certain points) and the project is not proceeding.

  • Can any group of people report all sorts of ill doings (in their opinion) to the Auditor General who most likely promptly “announce an investigation” - e.g. planning zones, licenses/permits etc. etc

If one is to make a balance sheet on the pluses and minuses of the Auditor General actions, we can say that he does more good than harm, but could the “harm” part be reduced/limited if we come up with some other idea, if for example we give the authority to the Government to decide on decisions of the Attorney General based on the public interest [both sides might be happy].

On the one hand we need foreign investment and on the other red tape and the constant investigations holds back development and interest from investors.

Food for thought?

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