Cyprus Mail

Local councils send out invoices for controversial Koshi charges

The Koshi solid waste management plant

MUNICIPALITIES and villages served by the Koshi waste-management plant, which refuses to make payments to Helector, the site’s administrator, on grounds that the company has been found to systematically overcharge them, have sent out invoices to the public, it emerged on Thursday.

Payments to Helector have been withheld since March 2016, when the state’s Central Committee of Changes and Claims ordered a freeze on payments until the fate of Helector’s Koshi contract was decided. In July, the committee withdrew the suspension, but invoices – which meanwhile the company continued to issue as normal – were not forwarded to municipalities by the Koshi administrative committee.

Helector has been accused of over-reporting waste volumes processed, resulting in higher charges for local authorities, as well as bribing various officials to look the other way.

“We still refuse to pay Helector,” Aradippou mayor and head of the municipalities’ administrative committee on Koshi Evangelos Evangelides said.

“But year-end is coming and we need to close our books. We will receive payment for these services but won’t pay Helector until the issue has been resolved.”

The company had been awarded the contract for Koshi in 2006, in force until 2019, to serve the Larnacca and Famagusta districts’ waste at a price of €62 per tonne. By comparison, the Limassol district pays €17 per tonne.

Negotiations between Interior minister Socratis Hasikos and Helector last year came close to a new deal, at €39 per tonne, plus the transfer of all waste found in the Kotsiatis landfill, in exchange for a five-year contract extension. The Kotsiatis landfill is a headache for the government, which has already been found by European Union courts to have long exceeded the deadline for shutting it down and could face fines.

But the deal was never signed as auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides objected strongly, and the matter was referred to the Central Committee of Changes and Claims for further handling.

Despite July’s decision to lift the suspension of payments to Helector, the Koshi administration council – headed by Aradippou mayor Evangelos Evangelides – decided to maintain the freeze, until earlier this week, when invoices for total dues of €15 million were sent out to municipalities for payment.

Meanwhile, Helector has notified the government and local authorities that it is willing to retable the deal it had agreed with Hasikos.

“Absolutely not,” Evangelides said.

“We will discuss any option that reduces the price but no discussion on a contract extension will take place.”

At the same time, daily Politis reported on Thursday that the government is considering addressing the large discrepancies in waste-management charges by consolidating the charges payable by each municipality and imposing a uniform fee across the island.

Citing sources, the paper said that the plan has been devised by a committee of the interior, agriculture, and finance ministries.

The plan is for the uniform fee to be imposed by ministerial decree, with the finance ministry subsequently spreading out the revenues across local authorities accordingly.

The solution, Politis added, is expected to be introduced in the first half of 2017.

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