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Audit Office backs Paphos Mayor over airport chaos

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The Audit Office fuelled controversy surrounding Paphos airport after Mayor Phedon Phedonos posted video footage of long queues at passport control, describing the situation as “dreadful” and calling for accountability.

“It’s tragic what is happening at Paphos airport tonight, but also very often.

“Some people need to be held accountable,” posted Phedonos with a video of queues lining outside the local airport Monday.

The Audit Office Tuesday supported the Paphos mayor’s criticism, saying the previous government’s handling of the concession agreement for managing Cyprus airports was “scandalous.”

In a written statement, the Audit Office faulted the previous government for engaging in a preliminary agreement to expand a concession agreement with airport operator Hermes, which allowed for delays in much-needed expansion plans.

“The photographs of the Mayor demonstrate the tragic state in which the government has found itself due to the unacceptable actions of the Ministry of Finance,” said the Audit Office.

It highlighted that, despite not being the contracting authority, the Finance Ministry sidelined the competent Transport Ministry during the previous government’s tenure.

Furthermore, the director-general of the Finance Ministry led the negotiating team, endorsing the management company’s “unacceptable” positions regarding their demands.

“This pertains to the company’s contractual obligation to expand the airport to increase capacity (Phase B) and the illicit extension of the concession agreement by 5.5 years, directly impacting services with gross revenues of €1.5 bln, along with various financial disputes”.

The Audit Office labelled the agreement “scandalous,” asserting that it favoured the company and would lead to significant delays in Phase B.

“This is because, due to the 5.5-year extension, the agreement would require approval from the European Commission, which, if granted, would necessitate an additional one to two years”.

The statement added that President Nikos Christodoulides approved the transfer of project responsibility back to the Transport Ministry, in line with the correct position that Phase B should be a priority, regardless of other disagreements.

It clarified that the illegal preliminary agreement to extend the 5.5 years is no longer under consideration.

The Audit Office supported Mayor Phedonos’ call for accountability, stating that the mayor’s posts reveal the dire situation created by the Finance Ministry’s handling of the issue.

Additionally, it pointed to a conflict in the Attorney General’s dual role, as he was both aware of the Ministry of Interior’s actions and provided legal advice and guidance while also serving as a public prosecutor.

“The Attorney General is now expected to assist in holding those he advised accountable.”