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Cyprus

House committees to look into overpaying for helicopters

The House defence and watchdog committees will on Tuesday discuss audit service reports over possible irregularities concerning the€76.5m purchase in 2008 of five helicopters for the national guard and police, EDEK MP Giorgos Varnava said on Saturday.

Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, head of the House defence committee Varnava said that on Friday the auditor general Odysseas Michaelides sent the two committees a letter attaching a relevant report of the director of technical audit, Andreas Hasapopoulos. The letter was also given to Attorney General Costas Clerides.

According to media reports, Michaelides, citing the report by Hasapopoulos, who had dealt with the purchase back in 2008, points the finger at his predecessor, Chrystalla Georghadji, who allegedly despite being informed by Hasapopoulos that the prices of the helicopters was quite high and that he had reservations as to the contract amount, she chose not to show the report to the House defence committee. This resulted in two separate purchases of five AW-139 helicopters from the Italian company Agusta; three for the National Guard at more than double the price the government had estimated to pay, and two for the police, €3.5m more than the estimated costs.

“It is pointed out that the defence ministry’s estimated cost was €20.5m, while the contract given was for €45m. For the police, the estimate was €28m and the contract given was for €31.5m,” Hasapopoulos’ report said, according to Phileleftheros.

Hasapopoulos, in the report, mentions that he had also advised against the purchase of the police helicopters as the company’s price for the basic police helicopter, more than €13m, was “even higher” and that there were no conditions “of satisfactory competition”. Georghadji, instead, the report said, told MPs that the price between basic helicopters differs from case to case and in the case of the police competition, which was an open competition, the price was similar.

Given the above, the report said, “it is my opinion that the Auditor general (Georghadji) did not submit my full report and did not mention my reservations as to the reduced participation of valid tenders in the competitions, as well as for the high prices”.

“I believe that her whole attitude and her reports, compared to the content of my note, were misleading for the House defence committee,” Hasapopoulos’ report said.

Varnava said the two committees will decide on Tuesday how to handle the case.

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