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Cyprus

Architect may have tricked state into paying for his house,  auditor says

Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides

By Angelos Anastasiou

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides has found evidence pointing to a suspected conspiracy between a contractor and an architect commissioned to build a government building, in which they appear to have sneaked a payment for €500,000 for the construction of the architect’s residence by the contractor in question.

Speaking on an ANT1 TV’s daily talk show, Michaelides said the Audit Service’s investigation has revealed attempted cover-ups of construction flaws and the authorisation of unjustified payments.

“Further investigation has uncovered that the contractor was also commissioned to build the architect’s home for no fee,” the Auditor-general said.

He added that the government complex the two were commissioned to build was worth tens of millions of euros.

“It was a large construction project, and the residence was worth around €400,000, and it was basically built for free,” Michaelides explained.

Daily Politis reported on Thursday that the architect authorised a payment for the sum of €500,000 from the government project’s budget, for which insufficient justification has been found, at roughly the same period when the contractor had undertaken the construction of the architect’s home.

The paper noted that the contract governing the project allowed the architect such authorisation rights, in contrast with other government contracts in which the release of funds would also require sign-off from the project’s quantity surveyor.

The Audit Service also found that, during the same period, the contractor filed for the return of VAT paid on the construction of the architect’s house, but no proof of payment from the house’s owner, meaning the architect, could be furnished.

And when the contractor was asked to explain the incident, he claimed that, in lieu of payment for the construction of the house, the architect had transferred building coefficients of commensurate value from a “preservable” building he owned, to his construction company.

Buildings carrying elements of Cypriot architectural heritage are categorized as preservable by the interior ministry, and may not be altered unless special permission has been granted. But as an incentive to maintain preservable buildings intact, owners may sell any unutilised building coefficient.

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