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Audit office finds litany of irregularities at Paralimni Municipality

An audit of Paralimni Municipality has revealed a litany of irregularities and failures, including not keeping track of construction work within its jurisdiction, wasted money, unlawful interventions on the coast, and potential embezzlement.

According to the report, issued on Thursday, the audit service discovered that the mayors of Paralimni, Ayia Napa, Dherynia, and Sotira, have set up a limited company that operates as a coordinator between local authorities and the local bishopric and other individuals.

“We found out that the company, unacceptably, has received commission for 63 projects worth an estimated €96.5m, which are carried out by local authorities with public money and has set the payment of an annual subscription to the company by local authorities.”

The company has also assumed drafting a study worth €103,000, concerning the planning of development projects in the district.

The report said number of hotels in the area have undergone renovations and extensions, including additional floors, without securing the necessary building permits and without the municipality taking any measures.

“We have asked the municipality to convey a detailed report of whether the work is taking place without permit, the measures it took or plans to take, as well as whether the municipality has issued operation permits … without any response,” the report said.

It noted that under a legal arrangement approved in 2019, hotels can operate for five years without an operating permit, “but this does not mean construction work without a permit stops being a criminal offence.”

The municipality, headed by Disy’s Theodoros Pirillis, has also failed to take any measures concerning public swimming pools and petrol stations operating in the area without permits because they have no final approval. The matter relates to the inspections the municipality’s technical services should carry out during construction, the report said.

It has also intervened, without permission from the government, on several beaches and the sea, including rockwork, construction of dirt walkways, and other earthworks.

Work was also assigned to contractors without a public tender, based on the cost of previous contracts that were no longer in force.

“We also observed the approval of payments by the council after the fact, following briefing by the mayor.”

The municipality also appears to have washed its hands of the apparent violation of a building permit issued for 21 homes, which turned out to be 30 in the end.

Two of the 30 houses were constructed in space reserved as a “green area.”

The municipality said it was the civil engineer’s responsibility and not theirs.

“However, we consider it unacceptable for the municipality not to take measures against the owner, contractor, and civil engineer,” the audit report said.

The audit also identified weaknesses in the internal audit system.

According to the report, the local authority’s assets were not counted to confirm they existed while no record of money transfers was kept.

Furthermore, the municipality did not sue when taxes and other payments were delayed and had no record of court cases.

Large quantities of expensive items like electricity poles, water pipes, sunbeds, and umbrellas, were stored in a fenced area without being recorded anywhere.

At the end of March 2014, the municipality found that around €109,502 was missing from the coffer of an employee who collects money.

The case was reported to police in June, 2014.

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