By Evie Andreou
Irregularities in the construction of the new THOC theatre range from problems with the tender to there being 1,200m² missing from the final building, the House public expenditure committee heard on Tuesday.
The committee invited Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides to inform them on his office’s findings after looking into the tender construction for the Cyprus theatre organisation (THOC)’s new building.
Doubts over the procedures were first raised by DISY in 2011 and then again by their MP Prodromos Prodromou in 2013. the building itself was completed in 2012.
In 2013, MPs heard the €20.5m project had eventually cost €23.1m. The contractor was Miltiades Neophytou.
“Not a single phase of the whole project was without irregularities, Michaelides said during the committee meeting,” Prodromou told the Cyprus Mail.
According to Michaelides, Prodromou said, as regards the tender procedure terms were changed so that the specific contractor would be eligible for the competition.
He also said the final costs of the project are still unknown as Michaelides’ office is scrutinising the contract provisions and will also perform quantity surveying on construction materials used to come up with an estimate.
“There were cases during the construction where different materials were used than what was provided in the contract. For instance, in some cases instead of wood, carpets were laid,” Prodromou said.
Michaelides told MPs that investigations are underway, some of them for criminal offences, CyBC reported.
The committee heard that the contract provided for 550 seats for the main stage, but only 510 were installed, of which only 353 are available for use.
In the smaller stage, of the 220 seats in the contract 179 were installed but 59 of them are not deemed safe, MPs heard.
“There is also limited visibility from some 50 seats,” Prodromou said. “Michaelides told us that the whole project is 1,200 square meters smaller than what the contract provides.
“What’s important is that it was proven that an ‘industry’ was in place where several companies were granted government contracts by placing low bids, even though they knew they couldn’t deliver what they promised, and then they raise the amounts citing various reasons,” Prodromou said.
He also said MPs are contemplating tabling a bill which will stipulate that contractors for projects of semi-governmental organisations must be inspected by the state’s public works department.
In June, the THOC construction project was again under scrutiny, as Michaelides had asked the Attorney general Costas Clerides to investigate a suspected conspiracy between the contractor and the architect of the project, in which they appear to have sneaked in a payment of €500,000 to build the architect’s home.
It was reported 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 as the contractor had undertaken to build the architect’s home.
A high ranking Miltiades Neophytou official has denied the allegations and said the company had done everything “by the book”, both in the case of the theatre contract and the architect’s house.