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23 May, 2024
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Akamas road irregularities demand answers

Transparency crisis hits road construction accountability

Pavlos Neophytos

A series of pressing questions has emerged concerning irregularities in the initial phase of the road network construction in Akamas. These questions touch on various aspects, including the financial repercussions of corrective measures, such as the demolition of walls and removal of tires, which ultimately burden the taxpayers.

Equally significant is the issue of accountability, yet answers to these questions remain elusive. The government's reluctance to disclose the administrative investigation conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development, and Environment has left these inquiries unanswered, according to General Auditor Odysseas Michaelides, speaking before the Parliamentary Environmental Committee.

Michaelides emphasized that despite the suspension of works last December and subsequent studies, the oversight initiated by the Parliamentary Environmental Committee through the Audit Office is facing obstacles due to the government's refusal to grant access to pertinent files. He highlighted that concerns have been raised with the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), underscoring ongoing challenges posed by the government. Assurance has been given that the INTOSAI report, encompassing these critical issues, will be released shortly.

The need for accountability was further emphasized by Michaelides, stressing the importance of identifying those responsible for decisions made. Additionally, he pointed out the plight of the project contractor awaiting compensation from the state due to the halted works and the government's indecision regarding their resumption.

In parallel, preparations are underway within the Agency to address cost-related matters not covered by the ongoing administrative investigation, such as expenses incurred for wall removal.

Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development, and Environment, Mrs. Panayiotou, echoed the sentiment of accountability, acknowledging the deficiencies in the administrative investigation upon assuming her role. She reassured that accountability will be upheld, with the investigation timeline set for eight weeks from March 19.

Mrs. Panayiotou emphasized the government's commitment to environmental protection, as demonstrated in its practical approach to the Akamas projects. Regarding the project's contractual assignment to the Forestry Department, she referenced the Legal Service's opinion, confirming its retention while subject to stringent oversight by the Project Team, headed by a designated civil engineer. Furthermore, a Steering Committee has been tasked with decision-making.

Looking ahead, Mrs. Panayiotou announced plans to unveil project timelines in June, following consultations with experts, environmental organizations, and local communities. She also revealed that work to ensure safe user movement on the evolving road network is set to commence next week, aiming for completion by May to coincide with the start of the tourist season.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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