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Our View: Waste-treatment plant probe must be wide-ranging

The waste-treatment plant will produce Solid Recovered Fuel that can only be used in heavy industry

NOW THAT it has become painfully obvious that the waste to energy plant commissioned by the government was a badly thought out decision that could cost the taxpayer millions, everyone is trying to avoid responsibility. The council of ministers set up an investigating committee to look into the decisions taken in creating a treatment plant in Pentakomo that would turn domestic waste into fuel.

The news prompted the intervention of the auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides who argued that the council of ministers did not have the authority to set up an investigating committee to investigate decisions that the cabinet itself had subsequently changed. The mandate was only for an investigation into those decisions taken by the Christofias government.

Michaelides had a point, although he may have had an ulterior motive. He played a key role in the decision-making for the Pentakomo treatment plant, while serving in a different government post before 2013. This may have been the reason he insisted the investigation should focus on the decisions taken after 2013.

Michaelides wrote to the attorney-general Costas Clerides asking him to carry out an investigation into the matter, warning that if he did not, the auditor-general’s office would carry out an investigation. Would that have been more objective, given Michaelides’ involvement in the decisions?

Clerides then made his own proposal which might satisfy neither the government nor the auditor-general, but is the sensible way of dealing with the matter.

In a letter sent to the president and the auditor-general, Clerides proposed that the council of ministers revoked the appointment of the investigative committee so that the attorney-general could appoint a new one that would look into all aspects of the matter from its birth until today. If Clerides’ proposal is accepted then the investigation would neither stop at 2013 as the council of ministers intended nor focus just on post-2013 events as Michaelides wanted.

Only if the decision-making is investigated from the very beginning until today will we really know how it was possible to pay €72 million for a waste to fuel plant, run by companies with no know-how in waste treatment, producing a lower quality fuel than what was intended (SRF slurry form) which cannot be disposed of in Cyprus.

There might be no takers for ‘SRF slurry form’ abroad either, something the government will find out about soon as it has invited tenders; sending this fuel abroad would also involve a cost to the taxpayer of between 70 and 100 euros per tonne.

We hope Clerides’ proposal is accepted by the government and there is a full and comprehensive investigation that will expose the slapdash and irresponsible way in which politicians and civil servants take decisions involving tens of millions of euro.

 

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