By Elias Hazou
AN EMPLOYEE at the Department of Merchant Shipping appears to have been a little too cosy with individuals and companies bidding for public tenders, giving them inside information and even instructing them what they should do to win the contracts.
Daily Politis on Monday revealed emails sent through the public servant’s personal email (a Gmail account) to parties bidding for tenders put out by his department.
The emails, which the paper obtained, seemed to suggest a close relationship between the employee, a marine surveyor with the Department of Merchant Shipping, and the people bidding for the tenders.
“Girls, we have got the tenders,” he informs them in one email, the wording suggesting that they were all on the same team.
This is followed by instructions to the recipients, telling them how to proceed next, and who should do what – as if the successful bidders were working for – or with – him.
In the same email, the employee writes: “Opinion has won this tender, however, it has been agreed with Opinion that the work will be split and DOREA will get an invoice of 10K + VAT from Opinion.
“Opinion will do the facebook and the twitter and DOREA will do all the rest that is mentioned in the tender document.”
The company Opinion had bid for and won a tender worth €21,200 for promoting on social media a marine safety programme. The other company, DOREA, did not win the contract, but was to split the work with Opinion, as per the public servant’s instructions.
And in a previous communication, forty minutes earlier, the marine surveyor advised the same persons to avoid using the same stationery and handwriting.
The above tender is one of a series flagged by Politis as suspicious. The paper said the civil servant sat on the committee evaluating five tenders put out by the Department of Merchant Shipping. In all cases but one, his email correspondence reveals he was frequently in touch – via his personal email account – with individuals and companies bidding for the contracts.
The tenders all related to a programme called the ‘Mediterranean Decision Support System for Marine Safety’, funded by the European Union. The Department of Merchant Shipping secured the funding, and then decided to split up the programme into five tenders, dealing with such things as oil spills and marine accidents.
Contacted by Politis, the civil servant acknowledged that the email account was his, but denied ever using it for things related to his work – apparently hinting his email may have been hacked.
The case came to light last week, when Alithia first broke the story. The issue was raised by Georgios Georgiou, a DISY MP and chairman of the House watchdog committee.
Georgiou has since sent all the documents at his disposal to the auditor-general, who will investigate.
According to Georgiou, the scandal goes beyond the above tenders or the actions of a single civil servant.
“We have reasonable suspicion that this thing has been going on over the last two to three years at least,” Georgiou told the Mail.
Those implicated in what he calls a “tenders stitch-up” may include staff at the Oceanography Centre of the University of Cyprus and at the Cyprus University of Technology (TEPAK).
The matter was first brought to MPs’ attention by whistleblowers and “conscientious citizens”, he said.