By Angelos Anastasiou
Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis has illegally intervened and abused his power with regard to payments to contractors and other operations at the Larnaca Sewerage Board (SAL), daily Haravghi reported on Wednesday, citing a letter by Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides.
According to the paper, Michaelides’ letter, dated September 25, listed the findings of on-site checks conducted by the state audit service last August.
One of the findings was damning for Louroudjiatis, who – in his ex officio capacity as SAL board chairman – appears to have phoned the Larnaca Sewerage Board’s operations manager in May 2013, demanding that a cheque for €120,000 be issued to one of the project’s contractors.
In such a case, the Auditor-general argued, payments should have been authorised by SAL’s board, not the body’s chairman alone.
In another instance, the letter said, Louroudjiatis issued instructions for Grivas Dighenis avenue to be fully asphalted by one of the contractors engaged by SAL, with the cost being incorporated into the SAL contract.
This, too, should have been subject to board approval, Michaelides said.
“The payment to the contractor incident happened two months after the haircut – the contractor was telling me they didn’t have enough money to pay their workers, and it was Easter Thursday, so I asked SAL to pay them a part of what they were owed,” Louroudjiatis told the Cyprus Mail.
“And the second incident related to the asphalting of 30 metres of a central avenue in Larnaca. If, in four years, I am indicted for these matters, what can I say?”
In addition to Louroudjiatis, the letter also singled out DISY municipal councillor and SAL board member Afxentis Evangelou, who was allegedly found to have tried to intimidate SAL staff against reporting irregularities to the audit service, instead urging them to take such matters up with their superiors.
Audit service investigations, Haravghi said, revealed an email by Evangelou to the deputy director of SAL, dated July 26, in which the board member asked for an investigation into reports by SAL employees to the audit service – without informing their superior or the board – and, should such incidents reoccur, the employees involved to be brought before the disciplinary council.
Michaelides remarked that SAL staff have every right to report suspected irregularities, errors, or omissions, to the auditor-general, and interpreted Evangelou’s intervention as an effort to scare employees into silencing incidents of mismanagement.
His letter also lambasted a decision by SAL’s deputy director to decline authorisation of overtime by operations oversight staff, which essentially meant that contractors were allowed to work outside working hours unsupervised.
“We are forced to ask by what logic this practice was followed and how it served SAL’s interests, since contractors were allowed to work unsupervised, with all that this entails,” Michaelides said.