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Phedonos accuses AKEL deputy of conflict of interest

Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos

Combative Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos on Thursday accused AKEL MP Aristos Damianou of abusing his seat in parliament to favour a Cyprus-based software provider where the deputy’s father-in-law works, and linked him to the party’s decision to vote against a government bill to exclude ‘dirty contractors’ from bidding for state projects.

Speaking on state TV’s noon news show, Phedonos gave a long-winded account of the links he claimed led back to Damianou’s effort to defend the company’s interests, as well as AKEL’s decision to not back the controversial bill.

“Last month I told you about a deputy who was the relative of an official at the software company, whose law firm appeared before the Tenders Review Board representing the company,” Phedonos told the show’s host.

“It had lost the bid for administering the Cyprus Sports Organisation’s fan card to another contractor, and three or four days later at the House Watchdog Committee Damianou tabled the issue of how the contract was awarded. And [on Wednesday] this same deputy issued a statement announcing his party’s intention to vote against the blacklisting bill.”

Though it was not clear whether the reference to the blacklisting bill implied more than Phedonos said, it took very little pressure from the show host for the Paphos mayor to give up the deputy’s name.

“It is MP Aristos Damianou, and I’m saying it loud and clear,” he said.

“There is a very serious issue of moral and political order here. If I am a deputy and my private law firm represents the company – well, I can’t then table an issue in parliament that clearly favours my clients.”

On Wednesday, Damianou had issued a statement on behalf of AKEL, saying his party would vote against the government’s blacklisting bill because the document was delivered too late to review.

“Everyone who is involved in paying kickbacks should be barred from bidding for public tenders,” the statement said.

“Two years after first touching the issue, the government submitted to parliament a 300-page draft bill [for the blacklisting of contractors who paid bribes] and expects the House to be irresponsible enough to vote it with a blindfold on. As much as some may try to create an atmosphere of insinuations, we will remain serious and responsible.”

Following Phedonos’ public remarks on Thursday, Damianou issued a harsh reaction.

“Over the last few weeks, I have had the chance to be informed about the gutter to which Mr Phedonos wants to reduce our public discourse and political ethics to,” the AKEL MP said.

“I have no intention of joining him in the gutter, but my political history and my honesty, for which even political adversaries have acknowledged, is my response to Mr Phedonos.”

Calling on DISY leader Averof Neophytou to state publicly whether he backs Phedonos’ claims, Damianou warned that he would be pressing slander charges against the Paphos mayor.

“The only thing I can say is that this slander against myself and my family will be taken up in court,” he said.

“But I expect DISY’s leader to say publicly whether he supports what has been said about myself and my family by this gentleman.”

Damianou’s party weighed in shortly after Phedonos’ outburst in a brief statement. “We condemn the effort to slander deputy Aristos Damianou’s name,” AKEL said.

“Mr Phedonos’ claims reduce public life to the level of gossip. We expect DISY to comment on the slanderous accusations against the AKEL member, who was acting on the basis of collective decisions on the public tenders bill.”

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