Storage of fuel and ammunition without the necessary fire safety measures, insufficient control of compliance with the statutory schedule of the Public Service, are some of the findings of the Special Report of the Audit Service (EA) for the control of the Ministry of Defense, published on Monday. The Service also points out that the relocation of the YPAM to a rented building “is not the most economically advantageous option” and recommends that the legal procedures for the construction of a new privately owned building be promoted as soon as possible. p>
It is stated in the report, that, based on the individual findings of the financial audit, as well as the compliance audit, weaknesses were identified in terms of full compliance with the provisions/provisions of the relevant Laws/Regulations, circulars and Standing Orders of the EOEF, regarding the storage and destruction of controlled forms, storage of attractive materials, prescription of drugs, keeping of asset records, as well as in the regulation of personnel related matters. Delays in decision-making and problem solving were also observed, regarding the static adequacy of military facilities, the construction of a privately-owned building of the Ministry of Defense/Geef and the reconciliation of armament elements.
It is noted that the Audit Service conducted an audit of the financial statements of the Republic of Cyprus (DC), during which a sample of receipts and payment transactions of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) was audited for the year 2021. Additionally, an audit was conducted on a number of Units – Independent Sub-Units of the Guard (EF), in the context of which, among other things, armaments – ammunition, supplies – food, fuel, general material and cash were counted.
One of the most important findings of the compliance audit, as mentioned, is that key loads of fuel are placed in barrels in an open area within a certain camp, which is located in a wooded area. This fact carries risks of ignition in the event of a fire, the report states, adding that the Service has been advised to consider taking additional protective measures to prevent fire hazards.
It is also noted that 7.62 mm cartridges were kept in a warehouse of a specific Unit of the EF, “which did not have the necessary fire safety measures, as specified in the relevant Standing Order of the General Directorate of Defense” and the need to comply with the provisions of the above Standing Order was pointed out .
Also found were “phenomena of insufficient control of the observance of the statutory timetable of the Public Service” and unevenness in the handling of the system for recording the time of arrival and departure to/from work of the civil staff of the Ministry of Interior.
With regard to the housing of the YPAM, the report mentions that EY pointed out to the Ministry in question from 2019 that its relocation to a rented building, with an annual cost of €794,475 and an additional €26,400 for parking spaces, “is not the most economically advantageous option” and notes that he had recommended that the legal procedures for the construction of a new privately owned building be promoted as soon as possible. “The Ministry of the Interior informed us in October 2022 that the required actions will be promoted, based on the recommendations of the Department of Urban Planning and Housing, and at the same time the rest of the procedures will proceed at the Ministry of Finance and the Council of Ministers, to secure the necessary Funds and approvals”, is mentioned.
The Service also notes that it requested to be informed if any cost-benefit analysis had been prepared, based on the comparative data/data available to the Presidency, as well as if the House of Representatives had received information regarding the multi-year commitments resulting from the acquisition of political type of aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force, used to transport officials. It is noted that for its immediate utilization, specific costs of €750,000 and an additional €410,000 on an annual basis, for periodic maintenance and subscriptions, were required.
The Service notes that “the use of the aircraft is clearly more expensive, compared to the use of a normal commercial airline”, therefore, its intention, as it states, is to check, on an annual basis, whether the state aircraft has been used by any other official other than the President of the Republic (e.g. Ministers, Deputy Ministers, etc.) and to include, for transparency purposes, the relevant data in the Special Report for the Presidency of the Republic.
It is also noted that after an inspection by the Service, regarding the inclusion of military doctors in the NHS, without securing the required permission of the Minister of Defense (Ministry of Defense Special Report 01/2020 “Pharmaceutical Treatment of PF and Private Employment of Military Doctors” published on 26.11. 2020), the Tax Commissioner decided to initiate criminal proceedings against one doctor, while for the rest, the relevant correspondence was sent to the District Tax Offices for review. In addition, the Social Insurance Services found that, as a whole, the doctors were not registered as self-employed, even though they received, in addition to their monthly salaries, “significant sums of money” from the NHS, it is reported. As an example, the case of a military doctor is mentioned, “who, in a period of just five months from the date of his registration with the National Health Service, collected a total of €226,016”. The Service reports that the doctors in question were called by the Social Security Services for their registration, in order to pay the statutory contributions.
The report also observes that the subject of an unpaid check of €128,145, d. 22.12.1999, issued by a specific company as a guarantee for participation in a tender for the construction of a camp, “remains stagnant to this day”.
The investigative work of the case regarding the medical expenses (€101,375) of a military Defense Attache (DAC), during his service at a specific Embassy, has been completed, the report states, noting that the Attorney General of the Republic ruled that no testimony was found to demonstrate the commission of any criminal offense against him. However, it appeared that there were significant gaps/weaknesses and/or no control procedures were applied, on the part of the competent State bodies involved, regarding the financial coverage of the medical and pharmaceutical requests of the members of the Diplomatic Missions of the KD abroad, it is added.
The report also refers to the February 2022 clerical firing of rifles during a training exercise for its staff, noting, among other things, that the total amount of ammunition used was equal to the original amount planned for use by the staff of the Unit and the Formation, “from which we concluded that the officers and soldiers of the EF did not receive the planned training”.
It is added that, the GEEF, by letter dated 3.6.2022, and, in response to the Service's questions on the subject, stated that a specific Metropolitan was invited to the shoot in question, accompanied by clergy and members of the Diocese, in order to be informed about the operational capabilities of the shooting range, as the Diocese in question demonstrates real interest in the area. After the execution of the shot by the military personnel, an honorary shot was carried out by a total of nine people of the Holy Metropolis, who expressed a desire to participate, it is noted, while the spent ammunition, with a total cost of €333, was the rest of the package, which resulted after the shot military personnel. The GEEF also stated that the clerics in question were trained in the subject in question, after they had fulfilled their military obligations and according to article 43 of the National Guard Law of 2011 (L.19(I)/2011), they are , in the broadest sense, part of the reserve.
In its general recommendations, the Service notes that the individual findings/discrepancies that arose related, in the majority of them, to deficiencies in the implementation of the established procedures and in some only cases, weaknesses in the design of the required procedures. To this end, it reiterates its recommendation for the establishment of “a reliable internal control system”, which will ensure compliance with the relevant regulatory provisions and procedures, as well as the monitoring and implementation of the Service's recommendations, within the framework of the principles of good administration .