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Nicolaou hits back at audit office over unpaid fines

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou

The justice minister on Thursday denied there were €246m in uncollected warrants, arguing that the figure also included cases were payment arrangements had been made.

Ionas Nicolaou was responding to a reference in the auditor-general’s report for 2015, which said there were €246m worth of outstanding warrants, including, €21.7m concerning traffic violations.

“This figure is misleading,” the minister said in a lengthy written response. “It must be clarified that cases were arrangements had been made by individuals to pay their dues through instalments continue to be included in the category of unexecuted warrants, resulting in a higher amount than what it really is,” the minister said.

The minister said the biggest percentage of such warrants concerned outstanding social security payments for which arrangements were being made on a daily basis. Citing the attorney-general’s office, Nicolaou said it handled 50 to 100 applications a day from small debtors so that they did not end up in jail.

“All these are included in the €246m that appears as uncollected in the auditor-general’s report.”

The net amount was not provided.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides’ annual report was full of irregularities across the public sector. In the diplomatic corps, the audit service found that some staff employed in diplomatic missions overseas pay no income tax, either in the country they are stationed or Cyprus.

According to the report, the foreign ministry has prepared a draft bill to address the issue.

Moreover, the London embassy was found to keep no records of arrival to and departure from work, despite a 2002 cabinet decision approving the introduction of an electronic attendance register.

In the judiciary, the auditor-general’s report noted relatively minor issues, with one observation relating to the fact that no record of judges’ days off is kept. “It has been found that judges of lower courts do not fill out leave request forms, resulting in any such time off going unrecorded and making the verification of their remaining annual leave impossible,” Michaelides said.

“In spite of this, at a judge’s retirement or resignation, he or she receives monetary compensation for the maximum allowed carry-over days (70).”

 

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