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Audit Office uncovers wrongdoings in Larnaca

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Not only did Larnaca municipality not suspend an employee under criminal investigation, but promoted him as well, the Audit Office has noted in a just-released report.

That was one of the standout findings in a special report auditing the municipality, published on Tuesday.

The case dates back to 2012, with the Audit Office having to dig up the paper trail from some 10 years ago.

Meanwhile the attorney-general has instructed police to expedite their investigation into the matter.

The events date to July 2012, when Larnaca municipality organised an under-19 beach volley tournament.

The municipality appointed one of its functionaries to act as tournament coordinator. In this capacity, the functionary would be paid for his overtime work.

The Audit Office tracked an unsigned statement, attached to a voucher, according to which from June 11 to July 14 of that year the municipality employee in question logged 441 hours of overtime work, corresponding to €8,710 in compensation.

According to the employee, because at the time the then mayor refused to pay that amount – due to the absence of approved funds in the budget for 2012 – he and the mayor negotiated and eventually settled on the amount of €4,000.

The case took a turn for the bizarre, with the Audit Office discovering that the €4,000 was paid not to the functionary, but to his father – supposedly for the provision of consulting services in relation to the beach volley tournament. The amount was paid by cheque issued by the – now defunct – Famagusta cooperative bank.

There was more. The invoice, attached to the voucher, bore the signature of the municipality employee. And the very same person also signed the voucher, as the person who carried out the audit on the transaction.

In July 2021 the Audit Office relayed the matter to the attorney-general. In its report the Audit Office notes that “Larnaca municipality and/or the father as the beneficiary of the payment and/or the functionary and or other persons, may have committed criminal offences against the Republic.”

That was because the functionary paid neither the income tax corresponding to the €4,000 nor the associated social insurance contributions.

In September 2021, as part of the communications between the Audit Office and the municipality while the former compiled its dossier, the municipality said it had launched an internal disciplinary probe. The municipality also said that, as at that time, it had decided not to suspend the functionary.

“Subsequently, we learned that the employee in question was promoted by the municipal council…” the Audit Office states.

The auditor is asking the municipality to update it on the course of the disciplinary probe.

 

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