Although the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) remains a profitable business concern, there is also an internal effort to “embellish” its image and to conceal serious problems, found a report released by the Audit Office on Thursday.

The report covered the fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

The Audit Office cautions that CyTA “is rolling out investments worth hundreds of millions of euros, without proper assessment of the legitimacy, purpose or viability of these investments”.

Also, the organisation’s practice of awarding no-bid contracts for the procurement of either services or equipment violates “the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination and transparency”.

The dossier draws attention to the fact that several CyTA mobile phone base stations (radio transmitters with antennas mounted on either free-standing masts or on buildings) lack either a town planning permit or a building license.

In addition, the leases for several cellular phone masts have expired.

Responding to this finding of the Audit Office, CyTA said that up to 50 per cent of its mobile antenna network had been established prior to current legislation. The semi-governmental organisation promised to rationalise the situation relating to the permits.

Elsewhere in the dossier, CyTA is said to have decided to participate in a business partnership to develop the EMC (East to Med Data Corridor), a telecommunications submarine cable system seeking to establish a ‘digital highway’ using Cyprus, Greece, and Saudi Arabia as key components.

The problem flagged by the auditor-general has to do with the fact that also taking part in this venture was a “newly established company, whose director is a person with political connections…this company acquired shares in the partnership by paying a disproportionately small amount”.

According to the report, “this person [the company director] would have received a ‘gift’ of €50 million because he/she supposedly came up with the idea for the project”.

According to media reports earlier this month, CyTA has exited the EMC business venture. Initially involved in the project with a 20 per cent stake, it has since sold its stake to Saudi Telecom.

Another issue tracked by the Audit Office concerns CyTA’s intended entry into the competitive electricity market, via an affiliate called ‘CyTA Power’.

Other than clashing with the law, this move would allow CyTA to partner up with private companies and essentially act as a competitor to the Electricity Authority – which like CyTA is also a semi-governmental organisation.