President Nikos Christodoulides

President told to return thousands in overpay

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Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides will be forwarding to the island’s Legal Services a damning report by Auditor General, Odysseas Michaelides, claiming that he must pay back thousands in overpayments received when he was spokesman in the previous government.

As per the audit service’s report released on Thursday, Christodoulides is urged to return over €55,000 to the state, which he should not have received between 2014 and 2018.

A long-term diplomat and close associate of President Nicos Anastasiades, he later served as Foreign Minister from March 2018 to January 2022 in the second Anastasiades administration.

In response to questions about returning the money mentioned in the audit service report, Christodoulides said that, “as President of the Republic, I have to ensure the credibility of the institutions. I am not going to make any public comment; I will send the report to the Attorney General and wait for his opinion.”

The report underscores legal and procedural shortcomings in the decision-making process regarding special allowances and salaries, emphasising the necessity of adhering to established criteria.

Prompted by an anonymous complaint, the investigation into payments to Christodoulides by the state revealed major discrepancies, leading the audit office to request the repayment of thousands of euros.

Specifically, the report calls for the return of €20,804 from the foreign maintenance allowance, €24,995 from the rest leave amount, and part of the €38,990 related to transportation in an official vehicle, deducting kilometres travelled for official purposes.

President Christodoulides is shown to have received additional gross amounts beyond his regular salary during the specified period, raising questions about the legitimacy of these payments.

Christodoulides’ exclusive use of a car during the period in review is considered irregular, as relevant legislation did not permit such privileges for his position.

Personal mileage

Over three-and-a-half years, the car at Christodoulides’ disposal, travelled 172,861 km, averaging 138 km per day. This includes public holidays, weekends, and days when Christodoulides was abroad or on leave. The report highlights the necessity of calculating how much of the mileage was for personal use.

The presidency declined to disclose any data, leading to the audit’s calculation of €38,928 that the state should seek back after deducting Christodoulides’ service use.

The report also scrutinises the overseas travel allowance of €41,024 that Christodoulides received for official travel abroad, pointing out discrepancies in the calculation and disbursement processes.

At the time of the trips, Christodoulides held a position in the A12 salary scale as a civil servant.

According to a Ministry of Finance circular, a civil servant of this scale is compensated with 40% of the maintenance allowance approved for the country, increasing to 45% if accompanying the President. According to the Auditor General, Christodoulides should have been paid €20,220 instead of €41,000, resulting in an overpayment of €20,804.

An amount of €18,176 paid to Christodoulides as the equivalent of 75 days’ rest leave upon retirement was also flagged as irregular due to non-compliance with leave approval procedures.