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House withholds funds for new government buildings

ministry of labour

The House finance committee on Monday decided to ‘cross’, or put on hold, some €33 million in funds earmarked for the purchase of two buildings that will house various government services.

Parliament has the right to withhold government spending when this concerns the buying or leasing of real estate by the state.

The cabinet had previously given the nod to €25 million for the purchase of the Metropolitan building in Nicosia, to house the ministry of labour and the social insurance services. The current premises of these government departments are considered structurally unsafe.

An additional €8 million was earmarked for the purchase of Nicosia City Central, also in Nicosia, to house the dental services, the Registrar of Companies, and the junior ministry for research, innovation and digital policy.

The cabinet had said these prices were determined after an open tenders process.

But MPs have decided to withhold releasing the funds, acting on the auditor-general’s advice.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Audit Office spokesman Marios Petrides reiterated their concerns over the prices agreed to by the government.

He compared and contrasted the €25 million for the Metropolitan building, to the €15 million it previously cost to purchase a building housing the Department of Lands and Surveys.

The former has an area of 6,500 square metres; the latter 8,000 square metres.

As such, Petrides said, a reasonable price for the Metropolitan would be around €12 million – not €25 million.

The official added that as long as the Republic possesses state land which can be utilised for constructing buildings and at advantageous prices for the taxpayer, this should be the primary option.

The Audit Office wants all the data and documentation relating to the cabinet’s decision to purchase the two buildings in question, to be submitted to parliament.

 

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