By Andria Kades
Public transport companies are not violating legislation on state subsidies, the ministry of communication and works said on Wednesday, following calls for it to investigate several such allegations, including conflicts of interest.
In a letter to the ministry, commissioner for state subsidies Theofanis Theofanous addressed the long-standing issue following complaints by lawyers for the Federation of Cyprus Tourism Buses that public transport companies were “squandering public money through procedures that were not transparent”.
The ministry however insisted that checks to date showed no evidence of any violations and if ever there was such a case, they would take immediate action.
“The ministry carries out continuous checks on all matters pertaining to contracts governing public transport,” it said in a statement.
The first allegation by the federation was that shareholders in bus companies had conflicts of interest as they also owned or were affiliated with, through relatives, private businesses in the same sector. Theofanous said this was not prohibited as long as their contracts did not state otherwise.
However he called for a government investigation to ensure that company decision-makers were not sharing resources between their personal businesses and their transport services such as staff and buses paid for with state subsidies.
In a response to complaints the federation made that managers received extortionate salaries that did not reflect the efforts or hours they worked, Theofanous specified that the ministry was responsible for ensuring that the grants did not go to wages.
It was twisted, he said, according to daily Politis that employees received salaries that did not reflect private sector earnings.
He called for greater transparency when choosing bus carriers or maintenance services that should be in line with the standing conventions, adding that expenses should not exceed the norm and such decisions should be taken with the mindset of maximising profits.
“In order to reach this goal, it is recommended that control mechanisms should be put in place from the ministry as it is the relevant body, like monitoring activities and invoices.”
The federation lawyers sent their letter to auditor general Odysseas Michaelides in January.