Don Quixote chasing windmills again

2 mins read

The financial oversight of the public sector in every democratic country is as important as the political oversight itself. That’s because public trust in state institutions, the pillars of any democracy is at stake.

Citizens expect independent state agencies to do their job and ensure that their money is put to good use and to advance legitimate social objectives such as public education, security, justice, public health and human rights, to name just a few.

When these institutions fail to deliver we can only expect an erosion in public trust and the Auditor General of Cyprus did just that when he failed to spot the elephant in the room.

Since the island gained independence more than 60 years ago, there has been no greater public sector scandal than the Cyprus Investment Programme, where billions of euros have been invested often from questionable sources. There’s no question about the magnitude of this scandal nor the possible ramifications in the future arising from the reputational damage to the country.

Yet, Odysseas Michaelides, the notorious auditor general, missed it. So far, there has been no independent internal investigation by the agency that would have provided some degree of public accountability regarding this massive failure.

Instead, what we have witnessed in the past few years was a series of theatrics that aimed to divert public attention into minor or trivial issues with infinitely lesser importance.

Now, a new round of theatrics has been staged against the incumbent administration and the president himself. Among other things, Don Quixote is targeting the Christodoulides family allegedly because the president’s security detail is escorting his underage children to school as if the children should be walked to school by their parents rather than the police.

Abuse of power?

According to a recent report by the Auditor General’s office this practice constitutes abuse of power.

We have yet to identify a country where underage children of any president are not afforded such security. After all, it doesn’t take a great deal of common sense for any serious professional to figure out that the president’s immediate family is afforded a high level of secure transportation for obvious reasons.

But Michaelides is not acting as a serious professional, but rather as a populist politician who craves for public attention. He wants to be seen as someone who is fighting corruption wherever he sees it.

Unfortunately, his performance has been less than stellar. Ironically, his recent show revealed that he is actually undermining public trust in the agency that is supposed to watch public money.

According to the Institute of Internal Auditors, “Public sector governance encompasses the policies and procedures used to direct an organisation’s activities to provide reasonable assurance that objectives are met and that operations are carried out in an ethical and accountable manner. In the public sector, governance relates to the means by which goals are established and accomplished. It also includes activities that ensure a government’s credibility, establish equitable provision of services, and assure appropriate behaviour of government officials — reducing the risk of public corruption.”

Michaelides’ poor performance and lack of professionalism has demonstrated that he is abusing public trust and eroding the very confidence he is supposed to protect.

Perhaps this is the time for the Attorney General and the President to consider his replacement on the basis of gross incompetence. After all, public trust is a very serious job to be left to a Don Quixote.


Michael Olympios is Editorial Consultant for the Financial Mirror