By Angelos Anastasiou
EDUCATION Minister Kyriacos Kenevezos found himself in hot water yesterday at the House watchdog Committee where questions were raised over the tender procedures for a digital educational programme called ‘Aristotelis’.
It is a project undertaken by a private company to create electronic versions of school textbooks, which can then be viewed on tablet computers.
So heated did the exchange become between the minster and AKEL deputy Irini Charalambidou, that the committee chairman was forced call a time out to cool things down.
Auditor general Chrystalla Georghadji was also on the warpath over the tenders. She said while an invitation for expressions of interest for such a digital programme was issued at the end of October last year, Kenevezos had called an evaluation committee meeting to discuss ‘Aristotelis’ specifically in September, suggesting collusion between the minister and the private firm before the tenders process had even begun.
Kenevezos replied that the September session was not convened to evaluate the project, but was rather a “preliminary assessment” of ‘Aristotelis’.
Georghadji said the ministry had been asked to deliver all ‘Aristotelis’-related government documents to the auditing service for review but the minutes of the September meeting were missing.
Kenevezos claimed that the ‘Aristotelis’ document file had been lost and that he had ordered an investigation, but Georghadji said she had been told that she had all the files. According to the Auditor-general, if evidence was found to have been withheld, the issue would have to be referred to the attorney-general.
Charalambidou, with whom Kenevezos had clashed earlier, called this a “convenient disappearance.”
It was Charalambidou who had introduced the discussion. She accused Kenevezos of having pressured the ministry’s evaluation committee – a body of high-ranking ministry officials – into approving the specific project.
Following her damning introductory comments, Kenevezos reportedly said: “Now that the show has stopped, we can get to work”, which caused Charalambidou to erupt in protest, furiously asking that the minister retract his comment. At that point a break was called.
Kenevezos denied Charalambidou’s charges, pointing out that the ministry had not spent any money in this project, but merely evaluated the digital library as an educational tool that can be used by students at will outside school. The ‘Aristotelis’ material, the minister said, is freely accessible by the public from the ministry’s website.
He also denied having pressured the ministry’s evaluation committee. Members of the evaluation committee at the House confirmed the minister’s position, and claimed to have acted lawfully.