The House of Representatives on Thursday greenlit the budget for the Cyprus University of Technology (Tepak) even as MPs hammered the institution over lack of transparency and its track record of financial scandals.

The 2024 budget bill for Tepak passed by unanimous vote. It is the last public body to have had its 2024 balance sheet approved.

But in passing the budget, MPs also ‘crossed’ two spending items. The first item had to do with Tepak purchasing services from the private sector, the second with spending on renting premises. For both of these, whenever Tepak wishes to make expenditures, it has to come to parliament and request the release of those funds.

The third amendment had to do with an administrative issue, cited as the main reason having delayed the passage of Tepak’s balance sheet. As submitted, the budget bill had stipulated that the head of the university’s management and finances department would no longer act as the financial auditor; rather, this competency would be transferred to the head of the studies and student welfare department.

In this way, Tepak would have effectively audited itself from now on – the only public body to do so. Earlier, the Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides had opined that this would have been both irregular and illegal.

But the amendment passed on Thursday struck out this clause, reinstating the status quo ante.

On the House floor, MPs complained bitterly about the delay in the submission of the Tepak budget – which comes to €100 million – saying this amounted to blackmail.

The blackmail relates to the fact that MPs were under pressure to pass the budget no matter what, otherwise university staff would have been left unpaid.

A day earlier, it emerged that the March salaries had to be paid out of the university’s pension fund.

Budgets are normally passed at the end of December. During the months of January and February, organisations whose budgets have yet to get the nod from parliament, can still pay staff under a temporary system known as ‘twelfths’ – where only a sum equivalent to not more than one twelfth of the budget appropriations for the previous year may be spent each month for any chapter of the budget.

The ‘twelfths’ system expires at the end of February – meaning that if the budgets of these organisations do not pass in that month, they are barred from making any payments, leaving staff unpaid.

For this March, Tepak had to ‘cheat’ in order to disburse moneys to faculty and employees.