Cyprus Mail

Audit office wants sewerage probe expedited

Audit Service top technical auditor Andreas Hasapopoulos has asked police investigators to expedite work on the Nicosia Sewerage Board (SAL) as high-profile individuals involved may attempt to cover up the cases, daily Phileleftheros reported on Thursday.

The investigations, which relate to contracts awarded by SAL from 2003 to 2014, have raised suspicions of kickbacks for the approval of overpayment claims to contractors, and centre on 10 individuals.

Hasapopoulos, the paper said, forwarded the Audit Service’s findings from the 10 individuals’ bank records to investigators a few days ago.

Press reports on Wednesday suggested that three persons, formerly with SAL, are in the police’s crosshairs: two former members of the board, and a former employee.

Last May, the Audit Service – which started looking into the affair – conveyed its findings to the attorney-general’s office. The AG decided to green-light a criminal investigation, and police began interviewing a number of people.

Having secured court warrants to check the bank accounts of 10 individuals, police tracked €1 million in the account of a former SAL employee.

It further emerged that a first-degree relative of this former SAL employee was working for a company co-owned by the same contractor suspected to be linked to the payments.

Further, in the accounts of two former SAL board members, authorities found that multiple cheque payments were made by a specific contractor, ranging from €1,000 to €3,000.

One of the board members received some 20 cheques from the contractor in question, whereas the other board member got one or two cheque payments from the same contractor.

Meanwhile, police investigations have also zeroed in on two SAL contracts, won by the same contractor in 2003.

The contractor demanded out-of-contract compensation for unforeseen additional work to the tune of about 885.000 Cyprus pounds – over €1.5 million.

But an estimate by SAL’s consultant, that the added work cost some 249.000 Cyprus pounds, or €430.000, were ignored.

A 2008 recommendation to the SAL board by the same employee who appears to have issued cheques to two SAL ad-hoc committee members claimed that the contractor stood a good chance of being awarded the compensation in a possible arbitration.

At this recommendation, the board decided to approve the disbursement of 265.000 Cyprus pounds, leaving the difference of 636,000 pounds unsettled.

Later in the year, the contractor’s representative attended a session of the four-man SAL dispute-settling committee regarding the outstanding claim.

One committee member – whose accounts have not yet been investigated – suggested a compromise settlement of 270.000 Cyprus pounds, plus interest, which was eventually approved.

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