Cyprus’ diplomatic missions and their financial mischief are never beyond the reach of the Auditor-general’s scrutiny.
A case in point, cited in the official’s latest report, concerns the High Commission in Pretoria. The former High Commissioner – who served from September 2007 to September 2011 – is now facing a disciplinary probe on charges that he defrauded the Republic of €153,000.
The former High Commissioner, who was demoted in 2014, is being accused of authorising payments based on phoney invoices, accepting cash gifts from a private corporation, and forcing a company manager to issue invoices for supposedly providing security during the transfer of embassy cash to a bank.
The Auditor-general recommends that, given the nature of the offences, the foreign ministry and the Attorney-general should examine whether criminal offences were committed.
The embassy in Cairo meanwhile had a habit of issuing many of its invoices and receipts in Arabic, making it exceedingly difficult for the foreign ministry to properly verify expenses.
The High Commission in London – the Republic’s largest diplomatic mission – has since 2008 been granting employees automatic pay rises, irrespective of their performance.
Normally employees get a bump of 3.25% when they reach the top of their salary bracket, but on condition that they also received high marks in their work performance assessment.
But according to the Auditor-general, these assessments are not regularly carried out. The official notes that, in his opinion, this constitutes squandering of public funds.
It was further uncovered that since 2007, field staff with Cypriot nationality and employed at the London High Commission have paid no income tax, either to the United Kingdom or to Cyprus.