Cyprus Mail

Public projects delayed due to contract scandals

Former Transport Minister Marios Demetriades

By George Psyllides

THE rate of completion of infrastructure projects was especially low in 2015, mainly because of problems with several of the contractors that had been implicated in the Paphos sewerage board (SAPA) scandal involving kickbacks to public officials in a bid to win contracts.

Presenting next year’s budget before the House Finance committee, Transport minister Marios Demetriades conceded that the completion rate was low this year because companies involved in the SAPA scandal were either excluded from tenders or other contractors complained when they were given a project.

In some of the cases, the companies were excluded by the contracting authority, prompting them to file appeals to the tender review board.

In other instances, companies that took part in the competition but lost, filed appeals because the tender had been given to a contractor involved in the scandal.

In the wake of the scandal there were calls for contractors who bribed public officials to win contracts to be excluded from future bids.

The Attorney-general said it was up to the contracting authority to examine cases individually and decide whether a company should be excluded or not.

However, it appears that either way delays will be the order of the day since the tender review board is taking its time in adjudicating on the appeals.

Demetriades said that apart from the projects stuck at the tender board, there was also a problem with bureaucracy. He said an effort was under way to simplify procedures and cut red tape.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides had described the SAPA scandal as a long “party” that went on for 10 or 15 years.

Earlier this year, the Paphos criminal court jailed former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas and former sewerage board head, Eftychios Malekides, for six years for corruption, offences committed during the construction of the town’s sewerage system between 1999 and 2014.

Vergas admitted to receiving €520,000 in bribes and Malekides pleaded guilty to receiving €498,000.

Both have returned immovable property and cash in a bid for leniency.

Five others, including EDEK MP and former mayor Fidias Sarikas, have been charged in connection with the same case.

The others are AKEL municipal councillor Giorgos Shailis, former DISY councillor Giorgos Michaelides, former DIKO councillor Eftathtios Efstathiou, and former AKEL councillor Vasos Vassiliou.

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