More details are coming out about the scam in Limassol where a hotel owner and other people allegedly managed to con the welfare services out of €200,000 in the space of a year, and had submitted a new bill covering the past two months for an additional €170,000.
Is that what finally woke them up? They should have figured it out long ago simply by doing the maths. Based on the reports of the case, the hotel owner was charging €167 per homeless person per day, which amounts to €1,169 per person per week or €4,676 a month.
The latter is the kind of monthly salary most workers in Cyprus could only dream about, and begs the question: ‘What were they thinking?’ Where was the auditor-general after the first €200,000 was paid out for use of the hotel between August 2018 and July 2019? Is this widespread and what’s going to be done about it?
If you have that kind of money to throw away, why not just give the homeless people €1,000 a month and let them survive like so many others who earn this much or less every month? Even if you gave them a handout of €2,000 per month each, it would still work out cheaper for the state, and there would not be any more homeless people.
Are welfare officials asleep at the wheel? Logic dictates that even your average tourist would baulk at paying €167 a day for a hotel in Cyprus when most decent ones are cheaper by at least one third.
It is commendable that the state is doing something to help the homeless, but officials need to use common sense. It’s hard to know what is more scandalous here. The fact that welfare was scammed in this blatant manner without due diligence, or the fact that this kind of money is being paid out to house homeless people in hotels.
There are always those who know how to game the system to the detriment of the people who really need support. Immigrants, the disabled, the unemployed, GMI and children’s allowance recipients, and the elderly, always seem to have to wait months for their meagre benefits. Yet, some random hotel owner in league, with the head of an organisation purportedly helping homeless people, can easily pocket €200,000, and that’s leaving aside the despicable behaviour of the latter in posing as someone pretending to help the less fortunate.
Mechanisms need to the put in place to nip this in the bud. Homelessness is likely to grow in Cyprus as it has done everywhere else in Europe, especially with rising rents. Welfare fraud is a consequence. The government would be better served if it planned ahead to create homeless shelters and work with registered charities to make sure money is going where it’s really needed. That €200,000 they already paid out to a fraudster would have gone a long way towards that.