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Cyprus

Cabinet approves bill curtailing companies which bribe officials

Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos has accused parliament of cheap populism ahead of January’s presidential election

The cabinet on Wednesday reviewed and approved a government bill banning companies that have bribed officials from bidding for new contracts.
It’s understood the legislation is to be forwarded to parliament on Thursday.
The bill stipulates that a central body will have the final say on blacklisting companies. But it does not clarify who will sit on the panel or to whom the body is answerable.
According to Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos, who has been vocal in his support of the legislation, this point was perhaps deliberately left vague due to the controversy.
“The precise details of this central organ will be spelled out in the accompanying ordinances once the law is passed.
“As long as the law is passed before parliament dissolves, that’s OK. We’ll fight another battle when the ordinances come up,” Phedonos told the Cyprus Mail.
The timing of the bill’s passage is significant, because the legislation is not designed to be retroactive. Therefore, Phedonos has surmised, should the blacklisting law pass after the second and ongoing Paphos sewerage board trial is over, the contractors – including big names in the local construction business – implicated in that case would be left unscathed.
The mayor has moreover alleged there are behind-the-scenes efforts to render the bill toothless.
As it was initially drafted, the legislation stipulated that the final say on whether companies are excluded from public procurement tenders should rest with the Central Committee on Changes and Claims, a body chaired by the state treasurer. The treasury is in charge of monitoring public procurement contracts.
Under the current set-up, independent officials like the attorney-general and the auditor-general participate in sessions of the Central Committee on Changes and Claims.
But after having earlier reviewed the draft bill, the cabinet had sent it back to the treasury for amendments, and Phedonos claims that certain quarters interfered for this to occur.
Speaking to the Mail a day earlier, Phedonons said the main point of contention was whether the body with the final say on blacklisting companies would be a central organ, or local authorities such as municipalities.
The latest trend, from what Phedonos heard, was to have a central body appointed by and directly answerable to the President.
“In other words, political appointees. This is not good,” the mayor had commented.

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