Cyprus Mail

Tax payments of public officials to be investigated

Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides

By Angelos Anastasiou

Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides will instruct the tax department to investigate the income and tax returns of former public officials, House Watchdog committee chairman Georgios Georgiou said on Tuesday.

“This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, I would say with some delay,” he said.

The DISY deputy said that uncollected taxes for 2013 added up to a total of €1.96 billion, including interest.
Of this, Georgiou added, €671 million is considered doubtful, meaning it is unlikely to be collected.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Paphos Sewage Board scandal, Georgiou said the committee is preparing a bill mandating that the budgets of municipal sewage boards be submitted to the House for approval, and overhauling the tenders invitation, review and awarding procedures.

“Authority should be passed to the central government, so that control can be centralised,” he said. “Municipal councils cannot be allowed to handle contracts worth hundreds of millions because they are elected officials and not technocrats.”

Georgiou said the committee will start its review of the Auditor General’s 2013 report on February 25, which will cover all ministries, semi-state organisations, public organisations and nine municipalities audited by the service.

AKEL deputy Irine Charalambidou said the state is losing a lot of revenues due to corruption and must find ways to recover them.

“In his report, the Auditor General makes extensive references to the Central Bank, raising the issue of its two executive board members, whose duties remain unclear,” she said.

“However, the issue of excessive remuneration and perks at the Central Bank remains”.

She added that, according to what the committee was told during the session, the group of those under scrutiny for unjust enrichment will be broadened to include football referees.

“Recently, we sent a letter to the finance ministry inquiring about the procedures it plans to implement to investigate those suspected or found guilty of corruption or tax evasion, and are still waiting for a response,” Charalambidou said.

The Greens deputy Yiorgos Perdikis said the probe to be launched by Michaelides in the coming days regarding waste management is of paramount importance.

“We are certain it will reveal big scandals and mismanagement of almost every waste-management area – domestic waste, medical waste, animal waste,” he said.

He said that a file has already been forwarded by the interior ministry to Legal Services for the case of the Larnaca-Famagusta waste-management plant in connection with possible criminal liability of public officials, but added that this issue seems to have stalled.

“While these companies are accused of bribery, they are bidding for other major projects,” he said.

Perdikis added that he tabled a proposal for the Auditor General to be bestowed with the right to issue administrative fines on public officials, organisations and authorities that fail to implement his service’s recommendations.

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