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Cyprus

Red-faced over blue and silver cars

Happier times between interior minister Socratis Hasikos and Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides

By Evie Andreou

AUDITOR-general Odysseas Michaelides defended on Friday enquiries by his service as to why the 20 cars for state officials delivered last month were not uniformly coloured, as per the original agreement, and said that the issue was not the colour of the limos but that the terms of the specific tender bid had been violated.

Following media reports earlier in the week on the audit service’s enquiry to the Electromechanical Services Department (EMS) to explain why the 20 vehicles had arrived in four different colours, the service received heavy criticism that it deals with trivial issues.

In a letter dated January 22, sent on behalf of Michaelides to the EMS, the service was told that ordering the cars in four separate colours “constituted an amendment to the agreement, which should have been approved by the Central Committee of Changes and Claims”. The cars, 20 Audi A6s with 2-litre diesel engines, were ordered for use by government ministers and other officials.

The choice of colours, the letter said, appeared to have been made by the communications ministry, allowing each minister or official a choice among them. Furthermore, the audit service asked why the terms of the original agreement were violated and two brand-new cars remain parked and idle in the EMS department’s parking lot.

His service, Michaelides told state broadcaster CyBC radio yesterday, followed the same procedure “as per every public tender for which there was information that something was not made according to the tender provisions”.

“We do not care if the Cabinet chose to buy blue or silver cars or any other colour,” Michaelides said.

He added that what is of importance is that the competition provisions stated that the cars should be uniformly coloured as ordering different colours might have facilitated the supplying company which might have had them in stock. Secondly, he added, it appears the whole procedure was made “totally casually” as the preferred colours were written “on a sheet of paper” and were submitted.

“This, as it turned out, creates some practical issues,” Michaelides said. He added that police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou was given a silver car which he declined as it was seen as not compatible with the “police image”, which traditionally uses dark blue.

“It emerged that an amendment was made which creates some problems, but most importantly, it was not as per the competition’s provisions,” Michaelides said.

He added that his service is in anticipation of the explanations of the EMS as the national legislation provides for amendment procedures, which are not time-consuming, but that instead of following the indicated path, the service in question “acted in violation of this legislation”.

Michaelides said that the audit service sends daily over ten letters enquiring public tender competitions for small and large contracts regardless if it concerns €500,000 or €50,000.

In the specific case, he added, “we had information that two limos remained idle in the EMS parking lot, and we expect explanations,” he said.

Citing unidentified sources, Politis reported that government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said he doesn’t require a new state car. An added point raised in the letter was the case of Interior minister Socratis Hasikos, who declined the new car but continues to use the old one, a Mercedes S320, which carries a 3.2-litre engine.

Interior minister Socratis Hasikos said on Thursday that the audit service should “deal with more serious issues than the colours of the ministers’ cars”.

He added that he does not want a state car, and that he will use his own car instead.

“Therefore, I do not care about the colour of the state limo, nor if it is a new or used car or of high or low consumption. I will use my own car. Nor do I want petrol allowance,” Hasikos told reporters.

In response through his Facebook account, Michaelides said that Hasikos was right to stop driving the Mercedes he has been using the last two years as it was not energy efficient, but that he should have informed the transport ministry of his decision, “before they ordered for him the silver Audi which he now declined and remains idle along with another silver Audi which the tax payer has paid for, and for whom €50,000 is not a trivial issue”.



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