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Cyprus

Buses probe into subsidies fraud

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By Angelos Anastasiou

ROAD Transport department acting head Yiannis Nikolaides has advised the police chief that the Nicosia bus company OSEL has been withholding its revenues in order to increase the state subsidy it is entitled to.

In a letter dated July 8 to police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou, in which he attached payment receipts in corroboration of his claims, Nikolaides called for a police investigation to establish whether any offences against the state have been committed.

The district bus companies are entitled to an annual government subsidy, the level of which is established after all revenues have been declared to the Road Transport Department.

“A possible breach of contract is being investigated against OSEL for withholding revenues from services rendered, which were not declared to the Road Transport Department,” Nikolaides wrote. “Sufficient evidence has been established for withholding revenues from the delivery of mail and other goods in villages in the Nicosia district, and the use of OSEL facilities, fleet and personnel in conducting such business.”

Communications minister Marios Demetriades declined to comment on the issue, suggesting that investigations should not be made public until concluded.

“The Communications and Works ministry is working very hard to make sure that government spending is heavily scrutinised,” he said, adding that he was unable to offer more information on this investigation, other than that control was very tight.

OSEL’s personnel manager Tasos Michaelides denied any wrongdoing on the company’s part.

“The letter to the police appears to be true,” he said. “What is not true is that OSEL has withheld revenues.”

Michaelides also claimed that it would make little sense for OSEL to try and scam the government out of €12,000 or €15,000, when it runs an annual budget close to €25m, and blamed a rival bus company for making false accusations.

“This matter relates to revenues from the delivery of packages, parcels and envelopes undertaken by [bus company] ‘PEAL O Klarios.’ In addition to using its own facilities, Klarios has also been using some of OSEL’s. In this case, OSEL charges Klarios for the use of its facilities, and these revenues will be submitted to the Road Transport Department. There is no withholding of revenues – that would have been the case if OSEL had submitted its financials and omitted the money received from Klarios.”

“The Communications minister was very wise to avoid taking a stand on this non-issue,” Michaelides said.

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