Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Audit service reveals irregularities at the foreign ministry

In one case it was revealed that taxpayers had footed the healthcare bill of a former ambassador in a European capital

An audit of the foreign ministry has found serious irregularities in the issuance of visas at the island’s embassy in Jordan, including missing funds, it emerged on Monday.

According to a report issued on Monday, the audit service has found “serious irregularities in the issuance of visas by the embassy in Amman.”

An October 2015 report by the then ambassador to the foreign ministry permanent secretary, said that a substantial number of double entry visa applications was mainly submitted by certain travel agents.

The applications concerned Iraqi Kurds who did not appear to meet the criteria because most of the information they provided like bank accounts and work certificates were false, the ambassador’s report said.

The passport control at Larnaca airport said 80 per cent of those people had already left Cyprus for Bulgaria, Romania or Croatia, 10 per cent were still on the island, and 10 per cent had returned to Erbil.

The findings resulted in the termination of the issuance of double entry visas.

On top of that, it transpired that in certain cases, despite issuing double or multiple entry visas that cost €60, the service collected €20, which was the cost of a single-entry visa.

In December 2015, the foreign ministry’s internal audit unit found that between January and August 2015, the state had been deprived of income worth €11,240.

In December, 2016 the ministry informed the attorney-general about the matter and asked for a probe that is being carried out by the police.

Included in the findings is a case where taxpayers footed the healthcare bill of a former ambassador in a European capital.

The report said between January, 2010 and August, 2013, the embassy paid €25,508 in healthcare bills for the ambassador and his wife. Included were €5,208 of expenses paid to private doctors and pharmacies in Cyprus.

Most payments had been authorised by the ambassador himself while others were signed off by the embassy accountant.

The auditor said the €5,208 should not have been covered since the ambassador and wife could have received free healthcare at state facilities while in Cyprus.

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