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Audit boss takes aim at veterinary services during Cypra probe

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Odysseas Michaelides at the Cypra probe (Christos Theodorides)

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides hauled the head of the state veterinary services over the coals anew on Thursday, calling him a ‘bad-faith actor’ whose actions have led the government to overpay for animal-waste processing contracts.

Michaelides picked up where he’d left off earlier in the week, testifying before a panel investigating the activities of a slaughterhouse business and whether the business received favourable treatment from state services.

The inquiry revolves around Cypra, an abattoir owned by the husband of the state treasurer. The company found itself in the eye of the storm last November after some 100 staff at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus, and it later emerged the majority were asylum seekers who had not been declared to the department of social insurance.

The matter gradually snowballed, revealing a slew of building and environmental code violations that were never properly addressed, ostensibly due to slow bureaucratic and legal procedures.

But Michaelides’ testimony focused on another company by the name of Sigan Management Ltd, which landed a no-bid public contract for processing animal waste, then saw the contract extended several times over a 15-year span.

The auditor laid into Christodoulos Pipis, head of the veterinary services – the contracting authority in this case.

He said Pipis had time and again shown “he does not handle cases in the proper way, but rather in a way that the least someone can say is that he is suspicious…for us at the Audit Office, this type of official is a high risk for corruption.”

Asked whether he had evidence to back this up, Michaelides said he did not have direct proof but that the clues “point to a handling of affairs that not only does not serve the public interest, but harms it, instead benefiting private interests.”

The official next dismissed the notion that the Audit Office was letting Cypra itself off the hook, recalling that it was they who pointed out that the company received preferential treatment.

This concerned a settlement deal between Cypra and the government, where the former agreed to pay up veterinary fees owed to the state, but was charged no interest on these dues as it should have been.

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