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Tug-of-war over CyTA chair as Kittis hits back

Stathis Kittis

By Stefanos Evripidou

Embattled telecoms chief Stathis Kittis said yesterday he did not intend on staying at the CyTA helm for ever but that his possible resignation could paralyse the semi-government organisation.

The chairman is currently embroiled in the investigation of a land deal that has so far seen the arrest of two police officers and a businessman.

Kittis yesterday confirmed that he received a letter from Finance Minister Harris Georgiades on August 26 asking him to step down so as to facilitate ongoing investigations into CyTA and the smooth running of the company.

Georgiades invited his resignation in light of recent developments and Kittis’ testimony on August 5, 2013, before the investigative panel appointed to look into allegations that millions were given in bribes as part of a land deal involving CyTA’s pension fund, also headed by Kittis. The probe is ongoing.

“It is not my intention to remain tied to this chair. However, I do not accept the mud that has been thrown my way. If there is anything for which I am perceived responsible, then it should be examined through normal legal procedures,” he said.

Kittis appeared to be playing a game of tug-of-war with the government over the chairmanship of the semi-state company, saying that he would discuss the minister’s letter with his legal advisers before giving his response. He said the allegations against him were “unsubstantiated” and have served to undermine his “character and dignity”.

Kittis said he planned to inform the remaining members of the CyTA board- three have already resigned- about the letter in a meeting scheduled for yesterday.

He highlighted that should he take on board the minister’s advice, the entire board would have to step down.

“My resignation would mean the end of the functioning of the entire board,” he said, explaining that since the vice-chairman has already stepped down, there would be no one technically left to convene the board, since only the chair and vice-chair are permitted to do so.

“Since there is no vice-chairman, my resignation would affect the whole board and perhaps that is the target of the actions against me,” suggested Kittis.

The government, meanwhile, has made its intentions perfectly clear with Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou telling the press that once the CyTA chairman gives his reply, “cabinet will examine its intention to dismiss him”.

Also, on Thursday, a bill was tabled before parliament for discussion that would require the state telecoms company to seek approval before spending money.

The bill allows for freezing funds and requiring CyTA to seek the finance minister’s approval for their release.
Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said the bill aimed to better control and monitor expenditure and improve the management of CyTA’s funds.

Three CyTA unions have also called on Kittis to resign, going so far as to send a letter to President Nicos Anastasiades requesting his intervention to prevent the CyTA board from taking any binding decisions during yesterday’s meeting.

The president responded, sending a letter on Thursday evening to Kittis asking as much.

Displaying a slight air of willful ignorance or naivety, Kittis told state broadcaster CyBC yesterday that he wants to meet with Anastasiades to clarify the government’s intentions on ending his employment.

He suggested some union members might be trying to guide the government’s thinking as payback for the board launching disciplinary investigations against them.

One unionist of PASE-ATYK, Alecos Tryphonides yesterday warned of an effort to cover-up disciplinary and possibly criminal offences by the CyTA board regarding use of service cars and petrol consumption.

“I challenge the secretary of the CyTA board to make public the agenda of the board to see if there are any disciplinary issues against us. On the contrary, there are two investigations before the board that investigated disciplinary and possible criminal offences regarding irregularities in CyTA that have been on the agenda for months, and our reports are that they will cover them up,” he said.

He denied knowledge of a disciplinary investigation involving him personally but acknowledged that CyTA management has asked him to install a GPS device in his service vehicle.

“This department which has the GPS devices is the same department involved in various scandals which they are trying to cover up. Trust for these people has been shaken. We do not refuse to install GPS, but those who were there and were guilty of misconduct need to be transferred, they have to go.”

He added: “We do not refuse to implement any regulation but we do not agree to be under guardianship and control and surveillance.”

Adding to the sense of pending dissolution for the CyTA board, a third board member submitted his resignation yesterday.

Giorgos Haris cited recent developments, noting they “do not permit the useful and effective running of the board”.

He follows in the footsteps of the former vice-chairman Loizos Papacharalambous and Antonis Antoniou who resigned on July 6, citing the irreparable damage done to the reputation of the organisation, following allegations of a dodgy land deal.

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