The Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) has filed lawsuits for over €10 million in counter-demands against private contractors who won SAPA contracts, according to Paphos mayor and ex-officio SAPA head Phedonas Phedonos.
Speaking to local daily Phileleftheros, Phedonos said the sewerage board’s legal advisors have “undertaken to file the lawsuits and pursue all legal routes, with a view to retrieving money paid by SAPA, which we believe should not have been paid”.
It is considered highly unlikely that SAPA will recover the full amount requested, given that the projects were constructed in full. A 500-page study was commissioned by the board and prepared by civil engineers and the Public Works Department’s quality-control lab records all instances that incurred unjustified cost to SAPA, whether in defects or excessive charges.
The report concluded that contractors, who paid kickbacks to various parties – former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas and former SAPA director Eftichios Malekkides are already serving six-year jail terms after confessing to bribe-taking – sought to cut their losses through overcharging the board, especially as quality control by SAPA’s engineers, as well as the board itself, was sub-par at best.
As a result, Phedonos said, lawsuits are also filed against SAPA’s engineers at the time, who were responsible for monitoring construction progress and signed off on payments.
“We have already filed counter-demands against [private contractors] Nemesis, and in the next few days we will file counter-demands against another contractor,” he said.
In attempting to demonstrate to prove defects in construction, SAPA submitted samples of the materials used to the Public Works Department’s lab.
Among such defects, engineers found a sewage pipe tilted the wrong way.
Another issue revealed on inspection was that contractors in some cases ignored their contractual obligation to place 40 centimetres of sand over the pipelines laid, instead using the soil they had removed in the first place.
It is believed this practice saved them money on several fronts: from buying, placing, and compressing the sand, to carrying and disposing of the soil that had been dug up.
Failure to compress the sand, in particular, is likely to incur further future costs, since it increases the chance of asphalt caving, leading to increased repair cost.
Phedonos had reported that SAPA had run up construction costs of €184 million – €52 million for Phase 1 and €132 for Phase 2.
Initially budgeted at €79 million, Phase 2’s cost skyrocketed to €109 million, with contractors subsequently demanding an extra €35 million, for which they settled at a later stage.