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Corrections were made to almost all of the Audit Service's findings, say the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

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    Corrections were made to almost all EY findings, say the DG YPAM and the Chief of the EF – “We have seen the gaps and made corrections”, while “we give answers for everything”, it is emphasized

    The assurance that in almost all the findings of the Auditor Service (EY) for the Ministry of Defensecorrections have been made, while an examination process has begun for the remaining ones as they require institutional procedures, expressed both the Director General of the Ministry of Defense Andreas Loukas and the Chief of the National Guard, Lieutenant General Georgios Tsitsikostas.

    Specifically, speaking at the session of the Parliamentary Audit Committee which discussed the EY's annual report on the Ministry of Defence, which was released on March 27, 2024, Mr Loukas said that in almost all the findings “ we have seen the gaps and made corrections”, while “we provide answers for everything”, which is mentioned in the report.

    For his part, in his first appearance at the Audit Committee since the day of his appointment, Lieutenant General George Tsitsikostas assured that from a multitude of EY observations “most have been remedied, actions have been taken strong>”, while “for those that have not been restored, at least they have been marked and an examination process has been started”, as some need institutional procedures.

    For all the findings of EY “there is care” , noted.

    In her turn, EY Senior Officer Anna Herakleous, after noting that in some cases corrective measures were taken by the Ministry of Defense, referred to the most important findings of EY's financial and management audit.

    < p>Commenting on the EY's finding that although the General Staff of the National Guard (GNF) has pointed out since 2012 to the Ministry of the Interior the need to conclude a contract with the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CTA), for the provision of telecommunications services to the National Guard and the Council of Ministers (SC) issued a relevant Decision from 2017, no substantial progress has been made so far and that the amount of said services amounted to €3.12m. in 2022 and the results of the audit showed possible indirect state aid to ATIK, Mr. Loukas said that “ATIK is the only provider of electricity” as “we cannot enter into competitive procedures”, while “the prices they charge us are the purchase prices”.

    Stating that the Ministry is “in a process over the last two years to reach a final agreement”, the DG of the Ministry of Internal Affairs explained that due to the fact that “we have to integrate a large project into this agreement”, it is expected that “all this will be finalized » and to have an agreement by the end of the year.

    Commenting on the finding of the EY for the payment of an allowance to the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), Mr. Loukas said that a relevant letter from the Legal Service “opened the way for us to give this benefit in consultation with the Ministry of Finance and also with the decision of the Council of Ministers and integrating this allowance into the state budgets”, while he wondered how it turns out that this allowance is illegal.

    In relation to a report by EY that the security rules set out in the relevant Standing Order (Std) of the GEF were not being observed in the ammunition depots of the Unit, Mr. Loukas said that “due to the fact that we have the syndrome of the Marie explosion, the world is worried”, while he admitted that “certainly there are some imperfections in the marking”, but “the mind of the people always goes to the bad”.

    From Marie to 2023, 23 new ammunition storage depots have been built and in very good security levels“, he underlined.

    Regarding a non-commissioned officer who serves with her husband at the Cyprus embassy in Paris, Mr. Loukas said that “there was a request from this colleague” to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which evaluated her and “serves against a vacant secretarial staff position and not under the powers and responsibilities of her husband (she serves in another area of embassy) to meet the needs of the embassy and indeed at a lower cost, if we brought local staff or staff from Cyprus that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has difficulty finding”.

    He also said that the non-commissioned officer performs tasks at the embassy similar to those he performed in Cyprus (file duties).

    In addition, the DG of YPAM said that the specific employee of EF is paid only her salary, without allowances, while he noted that there was no other relevant request from EF staff and this it was the only one.

    “The position of the Ministry of Defense is that wherever and whenever an employee of the EF can be utilized, he should assist positively because we want to give an incentive to find officers to go to the embassies”, he added.

    Asked by AKEL Member of Parliament Irene Charalambidou if the non-commissioned officer position in Cyprus has been filled, Mr. Loukas answered in the negative and added that there is a “huge number of non-commissioned officer vacancies”.

    Mrs. Charalambidou referred to another case where the Republic of Cyprus wanted to make someone comfortable, as she said, “and send him to Brussels, sent his wife who was a teacher, paid her a salary for three months and sat at home hanging out with her husband, simply because she had the means and cashed in on bribes”.

    He also mentioned that in this case it appears that “the Ministry of Health, in order to encourage family institutions if your husband is serving (abroad) you can go too” and requested that the issue be institutionalized so that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is clean.

    Mr. Loukas referred to another related request that was rejected by an EF executive to be employed in a diplomatic mission in Luxembourg where there was no this possibility.

    In addition, the Chief of Defense Forces, Lieutenant General Georgios Tsitsikostas said that for him it was “very strange the system, the process” of control and that “DF came to enter the warehouses”. p>

    He stated that in the control effort which is a key element of the operation of the army, a part of it is the assignment of responsibilities and he added that as many inspections and checks are carried out and “in the end we arrive at the restoration of observations and corrections, the operation of the army is based on and accountability”.

    Regarding the munitions, the Chief of Defense Force said that this issue is “so serious and critical that some aspects of it are not to be made public” and referred to elements of the report that are not they should be made public “both for reasons of security from the enemy and for reasons of impressions that create a feeling of insecurity in the population”.

    He also stated that the issue of ammunition “has reached the President of the Republic, updates were made” and a long-term and very detailed inspection (from September 2023 with the assumption of his duties), was completed at the end of November” and a presentation was made to the Minister of Defense Vassilis Palma, who presented the results to the President of the Republic.

    With reference to the EY's finding that an EF unit still kept in its facilities a significant amount of grenades that were deemed unsuitable by the EOEF, Mr. Tsitsikostas said that “grenades and any ammunition have safety rules that are followed” and added that “if any ammunition we consider no longer reliable to use has nothing to do with its dangerousness”.

    “If I judge that the ammunition is not reliable it means that it will not give me the desired effect and therefore it is to be withdrawn” , he said and added that “until he retires there is always some time”.

    In addition, the Chief of the EF said that “what is written in the standing order is based on the operational efficiency of the EF and its officers”, while he mentioned that “the officer serves abroad for many reasons” and added that “the EF she is more interested in gaining experience”.

    “The desire and pursuit of the EF is to do this to as many officers as possible”, he added.

    With reference to the issue of salaries, Mr. Tsitsikostas said that this issue concerns the EF “because it is an issue that concerns families”, adding that “if there is a position somewhere that the wife or husband can serve then in the context of service of the care of the staff and the family, an effort is made to place him there, but not by taking the salary of the foreigner”.

    “When there is no position for him to serve, then we give leave without pay”, he added.

    Concluding his position, the Head of the EF said that “the publication of the report should have a special treatment for the EF”, as not only the enemy acquires an image of the EF but also because this “is related to the morale of the world “.

    “If I make everything public I harm all these processes. I ask for better cooperation. I'm not asking that we hide our dirty deeds,” said Mr. Tsitsikostas, among other things.

    In relation to a request by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the approval of 92 critical positions of technical staff for which the approval of the Ministry of Finance is expected, the Chairman of the Committee Zacharias Koulias accepted the suggestion of the MP of the DIPA Alekos Tryfonidis and asked the secretariat of the Committee to prepare a letter for to be sent to the President of the Republic with notification to the Minister of Finance Makis Keravnos and the Minister of Defense, requesting the approval of the specific positions.

    Also, Mr. Koulias asked the representative of the EY to carry out an audit regarding the feeding of the EF, but also for the feeding of the hospitals where “now they buy food from outside to feed the patients”, as he said.

    Furthermore, the Chairman of the Committee said that he has asked the Department of Taxation to provide figures in relation to defense receipts since 2008.

    Speaking during the session, MP of the DISY Rita Superman said that “it is gratifying that in this report of the Auditor General no issues of exploitation of budgetary resources arose”, while he referred to confidential matters of the EF “that do not concern us and we should not touch them” .

    He also said that “procedural problems” and problems that exist more widely in the public service such as personnel control were identified and added that “these issues are serious”.

    Regarding the deployment of the couple to the Cyprus embassy in France , Ms. Superman said that “even if it was done legally — if the law itself allows for that — then we're not legitimized to make it the biggest issue that concerns the Department of Defense.”

    Besides, in statements after the session, AKEL Member of Parliament Kosta Kosta said that there are many issues that need to be addressed, adding that “the first is the issue of security in the EF”.

    He mentioned that there have been three fatal incidents in the last year and a half where “we lost three EF executives completely unjustly, while recently we had the grenade accident and the serious injury of an ELDYK official”, adding that “measures must be taken to avoid either human casualties mistakes or the use of equipment that has any problems”.

    Mr. Costas also said that “a report should be made by EY regarding the feeding program in EF to see the quality of food and especially the cost”.

    He also referred to the need to check to see if there is a large number of EF executives mainly officers and non-commissioned officers in the YPAM and the GEEF and these people, as he said, “if they are not necessary to end up in the EF units where they should serve” .

    He also said that what is important in the report and which AKEL has been shouting “for several years now is the fact that in the past, based on a standing order issued by the then Minister of Defense, the time of administration was calculated as administration that some officers did not in EF units but in other places where they exercised management and not administration”.

    He also mentioned that another important thing is that “the know-how is lost in the Defense Force when technicians who have the know-how to repair and maintain weapons systems retire, with the result that the Republic would save many millions if we sent them abroad or if we brought in foreign experts” and added that they have these positions are requested “and the Ministry of Finance must respond positively”.

    Mr. Costas referred to the issue of the transfer of an officer to a foreign embassy together with his wife, saying that clarifications were given today and AKEL is “not satisfied with the answers”, adding that “it cannot to be an answer that we had no other request in the past”.

    “We believe that this procedure should be institutionalized, a change should be made in the legislation so that there is no discrimination if there is any” and to consider the relevant requests on the basis of meritocracy, he added.

    DIPA Member of Parliament Alekos Tryfonidis said that the EY's remarks on important issues of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have been highlighted and “both the Director General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Head of the Public Prosecutor's Office assured compliance with many of the Auditor General's remarks”, while in other parts of the report “is on the path of alignment”.

    Mr. Tryfonidis also referred to the contracts of the YPAM with the ATHIK that “are running at a fast pace to end next June in order to be able to use the infrastructures of the ATHIK so that the EF installs security systems”.

    In relation to the control of the EF warehouses, Mr. Tryfonidis said that “in this too there is great progress” with the remarks of the EY, while in relation to the issue of ammunition, he stated that there were assurances that “all the necessary actions are being taken for their removal and destruction”.

    He also referred to the assurances of the Directorate General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications that security issues are of the highest priority, while in relation to the issue of food supply, Mr. Tryfonidis said that there are complaints about the quality and quantity of the food.

    He added that the DG of YPAM, the Head of the EF and the EY gave assurances to investigate the matter.

    He also mentioned that “the very serious lack of technicians in the Ministry of Internal Affairs” was highlighted, which constitutes 25% of the total number of technicians and were not approved by the Ministry of Finance, and after its recommendation, a relevant letter will be sent for the immediate release of the 92 vacant positions “in order to make the correct maintenance of our weapons systems and that know-how is not lost”.

    Source: cyprustimes.com

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