By Constantinos Psillides
FIFTEEN community councils and leaders are suspected of criminal behaviour, according to Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides who sent a letter to the Attorney-general asking why none had reached court.
The letter, dated May 6, lists 15 community councils and leaders all over the island that the office of the Auditor-general has reported for suspected criminal behaviour.
Most of the community leaders are suspected of embezzlement.
Michaelides writes in his letter that although his office provided the Attorney-general with paperwork to prosecute the community leaders, “we have not been informed of the results of your investigation, if any took place, or if you punished the people responsible”.
“We ask that we are informed on the course of your investigations, regarding possible criminal offences that were reported by our office, following the auditing of their financial statements,” the letter said.
Michaelides also asked to be informed about why a certain community leader had not been prosecuted, in spite of evidence that had come to light. “We realise that the decision to prosecute lies solely with your office but we feel that sharing your reasons with us will facilitate the handling of such cases in the future”.
Michaelides goes on to makes specific mention of community leaders whose prosecution has not yet been processed by the Attorney’s-general office. The Auditor-general recounts the story of the former community leader of Klonari village, who he says in 2013 admitted to embezzling €23,000 and staged a theft by breaking his own car window.
The Auditor-general also reported the case of Asomatos community leader, who he said admitted embezzling €83,000, returned €50,000 but has not accounted for the remainder.
There was also the case of the Mesogi community leader, who was found to be not issuing receipts when collecting taxes, and the case of Marathounta community leader who admitted taking €17,000 for the council’s coffers and returning only €8,000.
Not all cases brought before the Attorney-general have to with embezzlement. A community leader from Ergates village had been under investigation by the Auditor-general, after he was suspected of abusing his position. The community leader allegedly awarded a contract for garbage disposal to a close relative of his, without going through a tender process. The garbage was dumped near the community and not in Kotsiatis landfill and no invoice was issued, according to the Auditor-general.
The Attorney-general’s office has not officially responded to Michaelides’ letter.
The interior ministry is in the middle of overhauling the legal framework governing municipalities and community councils. Studies commissioned by both the government and the Union of Cyprus Municipalities concluded that the current situation is unviable and suggested cutting down the number municipalities (to 5 or 10 from 39) and that community councils are abolished. The Union called any effort to cut the number of municipalities down “a blow to local governance.
The communities mentioned in Michaelides letter are: Agios Therapon, Marathounta, Mesogi, Kalavasos, Asomatos, Fasoula (Pafos District), Kolossi, Psathi, Pigainia, Ergates, Stavrokonnou, Palaichori Oreinis, Troulloi, Pirga and Mari.