The finance ministry has ordered an administrative probe into an apparent foul-up that saw €14.3 million in coronavirus-related relief provided by the government end up with ineligible companies.

The matter came up during a discussion in parliament on Thursday.

In January the government decided a one-off direct cash injection for businesses to counter the impact of closures due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

Due to the urgency, the relief would be directly deposited into the companies’ bank accounts.

The minimum assistance for any one business was set at €1,000, the maximum at €300,000.

Between early February and mid-June, some €161 million in this relief got disbursed to approximately 18,000 companies.

But following subsequent checks done by finance ministry functionaries, it turned out that 152 beneficiaries (companies) did not meet key eligibility criteria – specifically they were not permanently based in Cyprus or did not conduct economic activities within the territory of the Republic.

According to Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides as soon as the error was tracked, authorities got in touch with these 152 beneficiaries and asked them to return the money.

To date, 83 of these companies have complied and returned the money – accounting for €9.3 million of the €14.3 million wrongly disbursed.

The rest of these beneficiaries have yet to respond.

Meantime the finance ministry has launched an administrative investigation into the possible commission of disciplinary infraction by ministry functionaries.