Τwo marine vessels purchased for the Paphos airport fire station have been sitting idle for the past two years as no one has overseen their delivery or has the expertise to use them, a report on the fire services published by the auditor general on Monday revealed.
Outlining a host of issues, the report also showed that overtime hours clocked by department staff increased by 469 per cent in 2016 from the previous year.
While in 2015 overtime hours were just short of 1,400 for an unspecified number of employees, the hours jumped to around 7,800 by 2016.
The fire services chief, according to the report, put this down to the department being short staffed and changing the system to count public holidays as overtime.
Delays surrounding equipment were observed in more than one occasion, as outlined by the audit service’s findings. In one instance, two marine vessels for Paphos airport and one hovercraft for Larnaca airport were deemed necessary in case of a plane crash near the two locations.
Though in April 2015, Hermes airport – which shared the expenses with the fire department – received the two marine vessels, the fire department has yet to pick them up to take them to the Paphos airport fire station.
“The delay in picking them up is due to a shortage of staff on shifts as well as incomplete training on the use of such equipment,” the report said.
Though the airport, police and fire services have reached an agreement on resolving the matter, no official documents had been signed by the time the report was prepared.
Additionally, no hovercraft for Larnaca airport was ever purchased despite it being discussed since 2006. The process is now apparently in its final stages and the hovercraft is set to arrive by the end of the year.
The report also outlines that in 2015, calls for tender went out for four fire service vehicles including two rescue trucks. Although a contract was signed at the end of the year which outlined the vehicles needed to be delivered within 12 months – by the end of 2016 – until August 2017 when the audit service inspected the matter, the vehicles had not materialised.
Sufficient answers over a complaint filed to police towards the end of 2016 also had not been provided, the report outlined. The complaint concerned allegations that the fire service was showing preferential treatment to a certain company installing fire extinguishing equipment.
Out of 55 premises that had such equipment installed in Larnaca, only five of them had details of the company which installed them in their records. After the audit service’s request, information for a total of 33 premises was obtained which revealed that in 64 per cent of the cases, the same company had been responsible for installing the equipment.
The audit service found that the police investigation did not properly look into whether the fire service did in fact promote the rival company of the man who made the complaint and was still awaiting answers.
The report outlines that a member of the fire services department worked in a private company without receiving the sufficient permit from the justice ministry as is required by law. The employee in question went on early retirement from the service in September this year.
Also brought up in the report is that the building housing the head office of the department lacks a certificate of technical approval as the contractor was not paid their due sum of €43,700 on time.
Following a decision by Nicosia district court, the amount was paid in May this year, however the procedure for obtaining the certificate is still in the works.