By George Psyllides
THE auditor-general did not know of the existence of a solidarity fund set up by former president Demetris Christofias in 2008 until a journalist told her in January this year, the House Watchdog Committee heard yesterday.
The committee discussed the controversial matter after it transpired that the former president handed out around €522,000 – mostly in cheques worth €1,000 each – just before the last presidential elections.
The fund’s charter stated that its books would be audited every year. But state auditor Chrystalla Georghadji told MPs that she only found out of its existence in January.
“It cannot be, even for the Presidential Palace, to create a fund and pick the auditor-general as auditor without her knowing,” Georghadji said.
The current administration has informed her that no accounts or books could be found at the presidential palace.
Georghadji said she asked for information regarding the criteria used to grant the assistance only to be told that who would be helped was at the president’s discretion.
Former Presidential Palace accountant Takis Christodoulou claimed that financial statements were kept and they were given to the auditor-general’s team who audited the presidency between 2008 and 2012.
This however was strongly rejected by Georghadji.
State treasurer Rea Georgiou said financial statements had not been kept as stipulated by law.
Niki Savva, the current Presidential Palace senior inspector, said no annual statements were found but there were records of the contributions and payments without however providing the reason for the assistance.
The cabinet had set up the fund on April 23, 2008, also chipping in the first €10,000.
Businessman Nicos Shacolas contributed €330,000, the Russian Commercial Bank gave €100,000, Nicolas Treppidis an additional €100,000, Politis said.
An anonymous individual paid €2,000 into the fund, Kimonas Developments Ltd, also gave €2,000 and Hariton Stamatiou, €7,985.
The director of Christofias’ office, Christos Christofides, said all the money came from contributions.
He defended the timing of the payments saying Christofias had decided that all requests made in 2012 should be recorded and all the money allocated at the end of his term.
Christofides said most of the individuals who received assistance had been unemployed for a long time, adding that he was prepared to hand over the details if it did not violate personal data laws.
Christofides told the committee that current and former MPs belonging to the ruling party had also sought the fund’s assistance for poor families.