By Maria Gregoriou
THE Technological University of Cyprus (TEPAK) chairman Demetris Kontides yesterday fended off criticism alleging years of financial waste at the Limassol-based university.
Kontides held a news conference to answer allegations in the wake of an auditor-general’s report, which noted that a number of rental deals made by TEPAK lacked good governance practices.
Kontides made it clear that when he took over as chairman in March 2012, the university was faced with “suffocating economic constraints”. Since he has taken charge, he has taken on the challenge to correct the mistakes of the past, he said.
He compared the state funding budget of 2008, which was €70 million, with that of 2012, which was €40 million, to press home TEPAK’s current situation.
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.
Referring to the proportion of the budget spent on rent, Kontides said that around €4.2 million was spent on teaching spaces, workshops, and officess. Also €800,000, which was half funded by students and tenants, was spent on apartment rentals that were given to poor students.
“So in total, €5 million was spent on rent while the state funding was at €40 million or 12.5 per cent of the state sponsorship,” Kontides said.
“Without wanting to belittle the actions of the previous administration of the university, who were in charge during the first difficult years, I would like to speak with honesty by first saying that 15 out of the 43 buildings being leased were delayed in being used,” he said.
The committee tried to make use of two of these buildings until the termination of their leases at the end of January, 2015. This was not possible due to the creation of new circumstances in the meantime, Kontides added.
He said under pressure over the whole leasing situation, the university decided to stop renting the two buildings as of October 1, 2013, although it was likely to lead to legal proceedings.
“The board has not rented any new buildings, with the exception of a small building with a two-year lease, at a 50 per cent decrease from the original rent amount,” he said.
Further leases will not be taken on without indepth discussion and research, Kontides added
Kontides said the board had gone through negotiations with all of the owners of the buildings to reduce the rent, freeze increases until the end of 2014, and reduce increases by two per cent.
“Strict limits and controls on all expenditure have also been set,” Kontides said