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Cyprus

TEPAK ‘wasteful’ rental agreements to be scrutinised

THE Technological University of Cyprus (TEPAK) board will forward an independent disciplinary probe on questionable rental agreements, which are set to cost €4.2 million alone this year, to legal services. 

TEPAK chairman Demetris Kontides spoke to state broadcaster CyBC yesterday after the latest series of news reports outlining years of waste at TEPAK.

Daily newspaper Phileleftheheros wrote about an auditor general report from September questioning the need to pay a chauffeur to transport members of staff to and from Nicosia and TEPAK’s premises in Limassol. The chauffer was paid €1,600 a month between February 2009 and February 2011, after which she was given a monthly raise of €400, Phileleftheros said.

TEPAK is not legally obliged to invite tenders for renting or purchasing premises but over the years the auditor general has noted that a number of rental deals lacked good governance practices. One building in Zakaki, far from the main campus, is mostly idle though a five-year rental contract from 2009 to 2014 is set to cost the taxpayer over €1million.

Kontides said they would be referring the matter of the rental agreements to the state’s legal services, but said the deals had been decided years ago by a previous board. “Every two or three months the same issue keeps getting raised, whenever a member of parliament or someone else wants to make a point,” he said.

The latest statement from an MP came from ruling party DISY member Efthymios Diplaros who said that with coalition partner DIKO, they would push to legally require TEPAK to have a board whose external members outnumber the university’s representatives.

Kontides said when he took over as chairman in March 2012 the board started taking action to correct a number of inherited problems to do with overpaying buildings’ owners for unnecessary rentals.

Back in July, TEPAK agreed to discuss with the state’s legal services contracts amounting to millions for the rent of half-used or empty buildings.

Lawmakers had frozen TEPAK’s budget but agreed to unblock 75 per cent during a tense five-hour long meeting. But lawmakers kept most of TEPAK’s transportation budget blocked. The budget in total came to €280,000 to cater to 65 members of staff who are being driven to and from their workplace in Limassol and homes in Nicosia between September and June.

TEPAK rector Elpida Keravnou told parliament the budget had been unchanged for years and was part of a package set when the university was founded in 2003. But she also said they had tasked a law firm to conduct an independent disciplinary probe on the matter of building rentals. Kontides said yesterday the probe was complete, and the board would be forwarding it to the attorney-general’s office.


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