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Audit chief hauls public broadcaster over the coals

Odysseas Michaelides (right) at parliament on Thursday (Christos Theodorides)

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides hauled the public broadcaster over the coals on Thursday, even hinting that certain financial peccadillos within the organisation could potentially amount to criminal activity.

Speaking at the House watchdog committee, reviewing the audit office’s 2017 report on the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC), Michaelides said that the pension fund’s reserves have “evaporated” over the years.

Back in 2008, the fund’s reserves amounted to €53m; by 2016 they were down to just €3m.

Michaelides said he has referred this matter to the attorney-general, who has relayed the information to the police for investigation.

What’s more, the pension fund is currently in the red to the tune of €122m.

The auditor-general sounded the alarm over hiring practices in the CyBC, noting the growing trend of hiring people on a contractual basis.

It appeared that CyBC was increasingly shifting to hiring contract workers.

“This looks like a precursor to scrapping full-time positions, which I don’t think is a sound policy,” Michaelides noted.

At the moment CyBC employs 256 contract workers (associates) whose combined annual wages come to €7.9m; the state-run organisation also employs 85 full-time workers with combined annual wages of €5.3m.

In his report, the auditor-general also flagged a problem with verifying the academic qualifications of staff.

And there was the matter of ongoing lax conduct at CyBC, with managers failing to punch in and out.

“What message does the manager convey to the rest of the staff when he does not punch in his card?”

On the purchase of legal services, Michaelides said CyBC was no better than other semi-governmental organisations.

The public broadcaster has been using the same law firm since 1957, without bothering to invite tenders for the best offer for legal services.

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