By Staff Reporter
THE revamping of Nicosia’s Eleftheria Square is fast turning into a boondoggle, with MPs yesterday warning about the likely loss of EU funding for the project due to delays.
The cost of the project – which includes landscaping and the construction of a two-storey underground car park on Omirou Avenue – has shot up from €18m initially to €30m.
The project is 85 per cent funded by the EU, with the funding deadline on January 1, 2016 – just over a year from now. Only that part of the project which has been completed by that date will be eligible for EU funds, said MP Antonis Antoniou, chairman of the House communications and works committee.
“What really concerns this committee are the huge delays in implementing the project, Antoniou told reporters.
He said discussion of revamping the square – now a huge hole in the middle of the capital – first began way back in 1972, with Nicosia municipality putting out tenders in 2004 aimed at completing the project in time for Cyprus’ rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, in 2012.
“We are now in 2014 and no one knows how the project will move ahead,” Antoniou said.
Construction has been abandoned after repeated delays drove building costs up and led to a legal dispute between the contractor and the municipality. It was meant to finish last year.
According to DISY deputy Andreas Michaelides, the initial bid was for €20m plus VAT, the project got underway in February 2012, and by February of this year just 27 per cent of the revamping component, and 7 per cent of the car park, had been completed.
Michaelides said it would be naive to believe that, as it stands, the project can be completed on time.
“This is not Freedom Square, this is Captivity Square,” he added, suggesting the Auditor-general should investigate the whole venture.
Nicosia municipality is meanwhile mulling whether to scrap the tenders process for the car park component and initiate a new tender from scratch.
Parliamentarians said they expected the municipality to soon inform them of its intentions.
Under the best-case scenario, new tenders for the revamping component are set to be submitted by month’s end, after which it would take – assuming no further glitches – a year and a half for completion.
The contractor who won the tender in 2011, Miltiades Neofytou Civil Engineering Contractors & Developers Ltd, finally gave up on the works last year after repeated delays drove building costs up and led to a legal dispute with the municipality.
One important holdup concerned the bridge connecting Evagoras and Ledra streets and the underground parking which should have been ready by February 2013. The contractor asked for a one year extension but failed to deliver
The contractor had blamed the municipality and the architect for the delays and demanded a 552 day extension on the completion date and €3m in compensation.
Faced with the prospect of not finishing the project on time and losing the EU funds, the municipality recently settled with the contractor, paying the company €530,000.