A lease between his company and the civil aviation department was signed before a law was passed on conflict of interests and has not been updated since, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said in a statement on Thursday.
He was responding to recent press reports of an investigation by auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides into possible breach after it emerged that a company, 60-per-cent owned by Hasikos, was renting out office space to a government department.
“The lease document in question was signed by the company I hold shares in on June 5, 2007, almost 10 years ago, and before the law on conflict of interest was voted, at which time I was not a government minister,” he said.
“Per the renewal clauses included in the original contract, it was renewed until December 31, 2015. On December 23, 2015, the tenants requested to extend the contract until December 31, 2016, under the same terms, until a new public tenders process could be opened.”
To date, no new contract has been signed with the company I hold shares in regarding any time after January 1, 2017, Hasikos said.
“It is on this point that I have stated publicly that, in case of a conflict of interest, I will not sign, nor will I engage in shenanigans and arrangements allowed for in the law, like turning my shares over to my wife and children so that I technically have no conflicts,” he said.
As well, the interior minister added, in capital statements submitted to the House of Representatives on July 18, 2013, and May 30, 2016, his participation in the ownership structure of the company, SOEC, is clearly recorded.
“My capital statements were published in the press, as part of President Nicos Anastasiades’ pledge for transparency on the holdings of all members of government,” Hasikos said.
“Also, in public remarks in the past, I have repeatedly referred to the fact that, per a contract signed prior to my appointment as minister, the state is renting office space owned by a company I hold a stake in.”
As a result, no intention to hide the fact can be substantiated, the minister said.
“It is my firm belief that I have not committed any type of illegality or impropriety,” he added.
Turning his sights on Michaelides, whom he has accused on more than one occasion of obstructionism and sensationalism, Hasikos said he was “saddened” to have been informed by the media that, “once more”, the auditor-general has filed a complaint against him.
“This complaint was preceded by another, in connection with my conflict of interest as Interior minister and oversight of the Cyprus Radio and Television Authority, the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, the Cyprus News Agency, and so on,” Hasikos complained.
“There is a report, which the auditor-general did not publicise, which concluded that there is no conflict of interest.”
All of these complaints, Hasikos said, are investigated “without informing the minister, who learns about them from the newspapers”.
“I remain at the disposal of any institution or authority, particularly the attorney-general and the Incompatibility Committee, to supply all evidence that will confirm my stated position,” he pledged.
Hours later, the audit service issued a statement of response to Hasikos’ claims.
“On February 20, 2017, we informed MP and leader of the Green Party Giorgos Perdikis that, based on the evidence he had furnished us with, we had found no conflict of interest as defined by any legislation on the Interior minister’s part,” the statement said, referring to Hasikos, owner of various media outlets, in his capacity as oversight authority of state-run media.
“Possible conflicts of interest in the context of political ethics are not the remit of our service, as long as they do not relate to public spending or revenues, we had said, and urged Perdikis to refer his questions to the President of the Republic.”
This, the statement said, was the ‘report’ Hasikos had accused the auditor-general of “not publicising”.
With regard to the leasing contract, the audit service said that the problem it found was not with the original contract, but with the fact that, in June 2016, tenders were opened for the leasing of office space by the Civil Aviation Department for one year, with two additional two-year extension clauses.
Two bids were filed, and the one filed by Hasikos’ company was selected.
“The law on conflicts of interest by state officials does not allow the submission of bids by an official, or a company the official participates in, as a shareholder or board member to sign a leasing, supply, or service, contract with the state,” the statement said.
“This is why our service decided to inform the Incompatibility Committee of its findings.”