By Elias Hazou
The House education committee on Tuesday did not look into a request from the rector of the Cyprus University of Technology (TEPAK) for the release of additional transportation funds, after being instructed that a supplementary budget needed to be first submitted and approved.
On the committee’s agenda had been a request by TEPAK rector Elpida Keravnou for annual funds amounting to €18,600 for a chauffeur to drive her from Nicosia to Limassol and back.
Keravnou resides in Nicosia, and has to travel to work to TEPAK, which is located in Limassol.
The arrangement for a personal chauffeur dates back to 2009.
As part of broader cutbacks, parliament has slashed by half the transportation stipend. Keravnou is now asking that the other half of the amount be reinstated.
After lobbying the ministries of education and finance, Keravnou succeeded in getting a preliminary OK for the release of the full amount, and got her request on the House education committee’s agenda.
But during Tuesday’s session of the House committee, MPs received a letter from the finance ministry saying that normal procedures should be followed: an official request for supplementary funds must be made through TEPAK.
Keravnou’s justification for hiring the services of a chauffeur – all paid by the taxpayer – may be described as flimsy at best.
Apparently the reason she gave is that she has ‘difficulty’ driving on the motorway, although the Cyprus Mail understands that Keravnou suffers from no physical disability.
The chauffeur issue was raised in the auditor-general’s latest report, which highlighted two concerns: first, there appeared to be no approval either from the education ministry or from the finance ministry for the hiring of a chauffeur; second, the chauffeur was hired without a tenders process.
Moreover, Keravnou’s chauffeur resides in Limassol, meaning the driver has to make the Limassol-Nicosia-Limassol trip twice daily.
And according to the auditor-general’s report, covering the period up until March 13, 2013, up until that time no contract had been signed for hiring the chauffeur.
Financial irregularities and waste at TEPAK – particularly the leasing of buildings at exorbitant rates – typically take up a large chunk of the auditor-general’s report every year.