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MPs say no expenses for oversight board until sewerage scandal sorted

Sapa trucks. The Council for the Registration and Control of Contractors has yet to take disciplinary action against any of the contractors implicated in the Paphos sewerage board (Sapa) affair that had gone to trial

Opposition lawmakers on Monday harangued the entity tasked with oversight of public-works contractors, as to date it has apparently taken no sanctions against companies linked to the scandal involving the Paphos sewerage board which saw a number of municipal officials end up behind bars for taking kickbacks.

The matter came up at the House finance committee, reviewing the 2021 budget of the Council for the Registration and Control of Contractors.

The council was asking for the release of some €60,000 – provided for in a previous budget – that has been withheld by MPs. The amount – a fraction of the entity’s overall balance sheet – concerns compensation for council members’ attendance of meetings and for travel allowance.

Their request drew the ire of opposition MPs, as it reminded them of the council’s failure so far to take disciplinary action against any of the contractors implicated in the Paphos sewerage board (Sapa) affair that had gone to trial.

Deletion from the council’s registry is the maximum sanction the entity can impose on contractors.

It has been more than three years since the Sapa trial produced a number of convictions.

Some legislators threatened to not only keep withholding the €60,000, but also to vote against the entire council’s budget for 2021 when it goes to the House plenum.

Akel deputy Stefanos Stefanos called the ongoing impunity outrageous, accusing the government of resorting to shenanigans to avoid dropping the hammer on the contractors implicated in the Sapa scandal.

“Just when a [disciplinary] decision was being prepared, the government replaced some members of the council, leading to a new process from scratch, which has yet to occur,” he said.

“Over time, the contractors – those which continue to exist – continue to participate normally in bidding for public projects.”

Angelos Votsis, an MP with the Cooperation of Democratic Forces party, said the new council were dragging their feet.

He said they wasted 10 months consulting with lawyers as to whether they could arrive at a disciplinary ruling, only to ultimately decide that they would need to repeat the disciplinary review, to ensure that their ruling were legally unimpeachable.

“They’re taking us for a ride,” Votsis added.

During the Sapa corruption trial, officials from at least two construction and engineering companies stated on the record and under oath they had greased politicians and public officials in order to land contracts with the Paphos sewerage board.

Medcon and Nemesis were two of the companies implicated. They were not sentenced, as they were acting as witnesses for the prosecution, testifying against the corrupt politicians who accepted bribes.

However the rules state that any contractor linked to corruption – whether found guilty by a court or not – is liable to suspension or outright cancellation of their license to bid for public projects.

Medcon, one of the companies, is currently still listed with the Council for the Registration and Control of Contractors. Its licence is valid, and the company has ‘A’ status – meaning it can bid for a public works contract regardless of size.

Nemesis is no longer listed on the council’s registry under that name.

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