In his report about the deputy ministry for tourism, auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides pointed out that the government had not followed the correct procedures for the leasing of a state-owned seaside plot to the Ayia Napa marina. The plot (area of 3,093 square metres), which was adjacent to the marina had not been put out to tender by the government, so it could secure the maximum price, said the report that also noted other technical irregularities in the procedure.
None of the different departments of state that gave the go-ahead to the leasing of the land – town planning, land registry, council of ministers and interior ministry which signed the lease agreement – had the authority to “take decisions that directly affected the lease agreement of the Ayia Napa marina which is administered by the Marinas Administrative Committee (Dem)” said the report. Its recommendation was that, “the leasing of state land, especially for commercial reasons, must be carried out by an open and transparent procedure, with which there would be an invitation for a show of interest by individuals/businessmen.” And the land would be leased to the highest bidder, thus “securing for the Republic the highest possible benefit.”
On the surface, this seems a reasonable position to take, but as with many things the audit office makes an issue of, it is out of context. It was not referring to some seaside plot off Pervolia, but a plot adjacent to the Ayia Napa marina, an investment project worth close to €300 million. The operator of the marina wanted the plot to build a beach club that would complement the project, something perfectly reasonable, and would pay the existing annual lease of €53,000, which will be reviewed every five years. So if it was put to tender, the state may have secured a few thousand euro more per year, but was this worth alienating a company that invested three hundred million euro on upgrading our tourist product and wanted the land to boost its revenue streams?
In leasing the land to the marina operator, the authorities might have not followed the correct procedure, but they followed the correct reasoning – a company that invests hundred of millions of euro in the country, creating jobs, upgrading our tourist product and attracting high net worth visitors should be supported by the government. Leasing a plot of land that would help the project, without tenders, is neither corruption nor a crime as the auditor-general seemed to imply in his report. It is good business sense, which is rarely exhibited by the state because it is run by petty-minded officials like Michaelides, obsessed with bureaucratic detail, that has driven many potential investors away over the years.