The attorney-general’s office (Law Office of the Republic) needs to put mechanisms in place to properly report payments overdue, the auditor-general has said, after it was found that some €2 million in unpaid legal costs awarded to the office had accumulated over a period of 24 years.
In a special dossier compiled on the attorney-general’s financial reporting, for the year ended December 31, 2017, the auditor-general said the attorney-general was due €1.983m in legal expenses awarded.
The amount owed concerned the period 1994 to 2017. It represents payments due to the attorney-general’s office for legal costs awarded to it by the courts. This related to 2,685 persons or companies owing moneys to the office.
Although not part of the scope of this report, subsequent investigations – covering the period up to July 2018 – brought the moneys owed to €2.105m.
The auditor-general said the attorney-general had failed to produce a detailed report on delayed payments, owed by individuals (Cypriot and non-Cypriot nationals) and corporations for cases that went to court.
Moreover, the Law Office was displaying considerable delays in collecting amounts due or taking the necessary steps to collect.
Although records are on paper, their transfer to an electronic system has not been completed. The computer system is still missing data on payments due, such as for the amounts and dates.
For example, for the period 1995 to 2007, the dates of rulings awarding legal costs to the attorney-general were missing for 384 cases.
In certain cases, the dossiers on appeals filed by the attorney-general could likewise not be tracked.
The attorney-general said that his office has serious understaffing problems at the department in charge of collecting legal expenses; the department is currently manned by a single person. Measures are being taken to hire more personnel.