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Cyprus

Audit office calls on Peyia to clean up its act

By Bejay Browne

PEYIA municipality should take back control of the two so-called beach bars at Coral Bay, both of which are licensed as kiosks, in the light of the auditor-general’s scathing report highlighting the town’s mismanagement, a local councillor has said.

“We will decide if the kiosks will go to tender in a few weeks. Along with a number of other councillors, I would prefer that the municipality has control of the income they generate and this will be decided soon,” said municipal councillor Linda Leblanc.

However, Leblanc said that this was an unlikely outcome, as supporters probably would not be able to garner enough votes due to the “vested interests of local families”.

Peyia municipality was accused of abuse of power and mismanagement in a number of instances in Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides’ annual report released at the end of last year.

These include rent reductions to a local business of around €1 million. Abuse of power and violation of good administration were also cited by Michaelides.

According to Leblanc, long an outspoken critic of the way Peyia municipality operates, such practices are prevalent.

“This is nothing new and the mismanagement continues. Close to €300,000 has been lost in revenue in 2015 alone, with special deals on beach beds for hoteliers, mismanagement of our own beach beds, and a fiasco with kiosks (beach bar) tenders, along with zero income from the water sports last year due to nepotism and illegal decisions,” she said.

One of the points raised in the report concerns a rent reduction of €1 million, dating from 2005, which was granted to previous operators of the beach bars at Coral Bay beach. This issue is an ongoing problem, which led to three councillors, including Leblanc, signing a written complaint to the minister of interior in October 2014, she said.

The audit office is recommending that Peyia municipality take immediate steps to claw back all of the money owed as a result of mismanagement of back taxes and tenders.

“The previous operator of the Coral Bay kiosks was granted a large rent reduction on condition that he paid all of his outstanding arrears. This was a condition of the reduction and he didn’t fulfil his obligations,” Andreas Hasapopoulos, director of the technical department of the audit office, told the Sunday Mail.

The audit office found that this shows mismanagement of funds and modifying the original tender, which highlights an unequal treatment of the competition by Peyia municipality, he said.

“The same company operated these kiosks for a long time and the report found that their treatment wasn’t fair.”

In an attempt to start afresh, the operation of the kiosks went to tender in 2015, but the municipality was forced to close them both, after they discovered that the new operator had failed to sign the necessary paperwork or hand over a deposit before opening.

The new operator was mistakenly handed keys by municipal staff, and was operating the kiosks without fulfilling the terms of the contract, said Leblanc.

This led to an emergency tender process, where two separate local companies were awarded the contracts for the beach’s two kiosks.

Leblanc said that the best solution for 2016 would see the municipality take back control of both venues. The municipality could offer management of the kiosks under a special services contract and this way proper management would be ensured, she said.

“A professional manager would come in and we would have control over the collection of money; instead of thousands of euros going into private pockets, it would go to the municipality.”

She said that the current operation of the water sports facility at Coral Bay Beach is also illegal, and the municipality ignored a report from the National Beaches Committee saying Peyia should not go ahead with awarding the bid, she said.

“We have also lost out on €20,000 in income from the licence fee for the 2015 operator, whilst it’s being sorted out,” she said.

The municipality has also lost several hundred thousand euros in sun bed and umbrella hire for 2015, as there were not enough staff to collect fees from visitors. A proposal that unemployed students be hired to cover the shortage failed to gain a majority vote, she said.

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