Mistakes were made in the handling of Turkish Cypriot properties in the south, the interior minister conceded on Tuesday as he pledged transparency and accountability going forward.
“It is generally acknowledged that the existing model for operating and administering Turkish Cypriot properties has not achieved its goals. Our aim is to ultimately have the administration of these properties be done in a meritocratic and transparent way,” Constantinos Ioannou said.
He was responding to a journalist’s question about a fresh report relating to mismanagement of Turkish Cypriot properties.
Ioannou said the ministry has been aware of the issue for some months, thanks to information documented in a special report by the auditor-general.
Some steps have been taken in the interim, he said, such as the publishing of properties that become available for leasing.
And additional staff have been hired to help with rent collection.
One logistical problem has to do with the lack of computerisation at the Custodian of Turkish Cypriot properties – the agency tasked with administering such properties in the south. The Custodian comes under the ministry of the interior.
“I have to say, though, that it won’t be easy to rectify some past mistakes, some fait accomplis. What is important is that from now on we can fix problems, and wherever we can, we will,” the minister said.
Back in March, Ioannou ordered the transfer out of the Custodian of a number of civil servants suspected of mismanagement and nepotism.
Earlier, in parliament, MPs heard of cases where officials had asked for bribes to promote an individual’s application to lease a Turkish Cypriot property.
The auditor-general reported “gaps and omissions” in the administering of these properties, pointing out that only 65 per cent have been granted to legitimate Greek Cypriot refugees.