By Angelos Anastasiou
Despite heavy criticism by the EDEK leader, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides on Wednesday defended his decision to forward the case file of a €20,000 donation made to the party in 2009, which was linked to a Tender Review Authority (TRA) member and EDEK official, to the attorney-general for further investigation.
Addressing the House finance committee, Michaelides said there is no implication of bribery as the donation was perfectly legal, but EDEK official Loizos Kappas’ capacity as member of the TRA, coupled with the fact that the consortium making the donation had a special relationship with the party, could signal a conflict of interest.
The TRA examines appeals by companies who have unsuccessfully bid for public projects.
The law governing the TRA’s operation, Michaelides added, clearly stipulates that members who have a “special relationship” with the subjects they are examining are obliged to recuse themselves from the proceedings.
Instead, Kappas cast the deciding vote in a three to two TRA majority ruling last Thursday, which allowed contractors involved in the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) bribery scandal to continue bidding for public contracts.
“The attorney-general agreed that the issue merits investigation, which is why I will forward it to him,” Michaelides said.
But EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos was scathing against what he deemed a “non-issue” on Wednesday morning.
Speaking on state radio, Sizopoulos had to qualify his claim made on Tuesday that Kappas resigned all his party posts when he was appointed to the TRA in 2013. this was apparently not exactly right as he is still listed on the party’s website as being a member of the central committee and the political bureau.
“Indeed, he was elected at the party’s last convention, but he has frozen his participation – he does not attend central committee sessions since his appointment,” Sizopoulos said.
But Michaelides told parliament that he found press reports from the summer of 2014 – after Kappas supposedly left his post at EDEK – in which he was said to have attended a session of EDEK’s central committee and spoke as the party’s financial director.
EDEK’s leader confirmed that the contractor who made the €20,000 donation – Loizos Iordanou – has been a frequent donor to the party, unwittingly vindicating Michaelides’ assertion of a “special relationship”.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday it emerged that four out of five TRA members were partisan appointments.
With the exception of chairwoman Efi Papadopoulou, who is a former Supreme Court judge, the rest of the seats on the TRA were distributed among ruling DISY, which nominated executive committee member Solon Papatheocharous, DIKO, who got official Vasilis Palmas a seat, EVROKO, whose Nicosia district chairman Yiorgos Anastasiou was also appointed, and EDEK, with Kappas.
“What do you mean – is it only EDEK that has appointed one of its officials to these bodies?” an indignant Sizopoulos told the radio host who criticised the practice.
The practice of appointing party members to boards is not a new one. This unspoken code of seats on semi-state boards and authorities has been adhered to for years.
The TRA’s previous appointments included former DIKO MP Nicos Pittokopitis, former DIKO and AKEL member Zacharias Toulouras, and former DIKO deputy Christoforos Christofides.
“An objective reader of this list will realise that there have been no partisan favours,” deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said in 2013, referring to the newly-announced appointments.
But the practice was corroborated by DISY deputy Yiorgos Georgiou, who followed Sizopoulos on state radio.
“There’s no rule that each party must have one of his own appointed,” he said.
“In any case, this was the make-up of the authority; it’s not something that no one knew about. My view is that people who belong to party formations should not have been appointed.”