Disagreements have emerged between the audit service and the Nicosia municipality over the handling of Eleftheria Square’s redevelopment.
The issue emerged after Greens MP Giorgios Perdikis sent a letter to Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides asking about the reported costs of the Eleftheria Square redevelopment, which appear a lot higher than the original estimated cost.
According to the auditor general’s response, the initial estimate for the project, which began in February 2012, was €22,969,000. So far the municipality spent around €319,000 more than the initial estimated amount while the construction of the underground parking in Homer Avenue is still pending, the audit service said.
The municipality had asked the government treasurer to allow the transfer of a number of works linked with the construction of the parking place to the square’s redevelopment works as they were deemed necessary for the completion and functionality of the square.
This, the audit service said, led to extensions and additional costs which led to a 40 per cent increase of the initial estimated amount concerning the Homer Avenue project.
In his response to the audit service’s report, mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said “it is with surprise but mainly with sadness and disappointment” that he observed that the report on the transfer of works from the Homer Avenue project to the Eleftheria square one does not paint the real picture. Rather, the report implies mismanagement, mistakes and irregularities, Yiorkadjis said in the letter.
The mayor also rejects as unfair the audit service’s contention that today’s deal is 40 per cent higher than an earlier agreement which Yiorkadjis said, was cancelled due to high prices, thus creating misconceptions.
All municipality decisions were taken in agreement with the government treasury and the necessary certificates were obtained, he said. He added that the audit service was also informed but that it did not get back to them with remarks which is usually the case when they disagree.
The redevelopment of the square based on the design of the late award-winning architect Zaha Hadid, aims to reconnect the town’s Venetian walls and moat with the modern commercial centre of the capital. Hadid’s design won the Europe-wide competition in 2005.
It is also around three years overdue as the original deadline of March 2013 for completion has been pushed back a few times.
The contractor who won the tender in 2011, Miltiades Neophytou Civil Engineering Contractors & Developers Ltd, finally gave up on the works in 2013 after repeated delays drove building costs up.
After the termination of the contract, the Nicosia municipality announced two competitions, one for the redevelopment of the Eleftheria Square and its surroundings and the other for the construction of a two-storey underground car park on Homer Avenue, in a bid to speed up the completion of works.
The Homer Avenue competition was later cancelled as the lowest bid was 29 per cent higher than what the municipality had estimated.
A new contract with LOIS Builders for part of the Eleftheria square project was signed just before Christmas 2014 with a fresh completion date set for June 2016, which has also been pushed back.
The final phase began this week, while the whole project is expected to be completed sometime in the first half of 2017.