By Bejay Browne
THE Paphos mayor’s refusal to pay outstanding waste management fees could mean municipal trucks are refused entry to the main rubbish site as early as next week, the chairman of the board of Paphos refuse disposal sites (HYTA) said on Thursday.
The spat concerns the operation of the MSW (municipal solid waste) site at Marathounda in Paphos which currently serves the entire district.
Board chairman Andreas Chrysanthou told the Cyprus Mail that mayor Phedonas Phedonos’ move was populist and that, although he had previously stood side by side with the mayor to eradicate corruption from the town following the arrest and conviction of a number of local officials including the former mayor, Savvas Vergas, he was now going too far.
“In the past, we fought corruption side by side, and I stand for and believe in transparency. But if we now have to fight, so be it. If the municipality doesn’t pay us, we can’t pay the company operating the waste site, and the company has the right to shut it down,” he warned.
Chrysanthou said the mayor has refused to pay outstanding charges to the landfill organisation based on assumptions and allegations, which have no legal justification.
“This is a very complicated matter, some of it to do with years ago when Vergas was the chairman of the board of directors. There are claims that at that time money was ‘stolen’ by overcharging, but this has not been proved in court.”
The board has a contract to honour with the site operators who are currently handling the garbage management, the chairman said.
“The operators are not permitted to pick and choose who they accept rubbish deliveries from, but they are able to shut down the entire operation for the district of Paphos.”
He said that the board has unanimously agreed that unless the amount owed is paid by December 15, the board will instruct the waste company not to accept any garbage from Paphos municipality.
Phedonos is refusing to pay because of previous allegations of corruption and because he argues that the board is paying too much for the service and should never have extended the contract with the company once it expired on July 14.
“It was supposed to be extended for another six months so that the conditions of the new tender could be prepared,” Phedonas told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday. “Yet today is December 10 and this has still not yet been prepared. There is something wrong with this situation.”
He added that the extension to the contract was also carried out in an illegal manner.
Chrysanthou said they had no choice but to extend the current contract, as fixing and approving new terms is a lengthy process, involving the government.
“It involves two ministries; agriculture and the interior, and we are in the process of preparing the documents to open the tender process for the contract. I have explained all of this to the mayor, but he seems to be sticking to his position,” he said.
The head of HYTA said that they have already issued four written warnings to the mayor, and the last demand they gave him was an eight page letter which explained the situation clearly.
“He is acting as a populist and trying to make this a big issue. Maybe there was corruption before, we don’t know for sure. But there isn’t now and we have already managed to lower the price.”
Chrysanthou said that the board is pushing for an open call for the tender process as soon as possible, which he said will be carried out transparently.
“We are hoping to reduce the charges from the operator of the site still further.”
He said these are currently stacked at around two million euros a year.