Local councils are facing allegations of misconduct, including untendered contracts, nepotism, lack of financial transparency, and failure to properly record meeting minutes. Out of 350 councils, 32 are under scrutiny for awarding contracts to family members or associates and not maintaining inclusive communication within the council.
What integrity issues are local councils facing?
Local councils are under scrutiny for integrity issues such as untendered contracts, nepotism, lack of financial transparency, and failure to record meeting minutes properly. 32 out of 350 councils are facing allegations involving awarding contracts to family members or associates and not maintaining inclusive communication within the council.
In a recent examination of practices within local councils, concerns have been raised regarding a series of irregularities. Out of 350 councils, 32 are facing scrutiny following a range of accusations that put their operational integrity into question.
Uncovering the Untendered Contracts
It was revealed on Thursday that numerous problems have arisen from specific councils’ management styles. Issues span from failing to tender projects to engaging in nepotism, with contracts being awarded to family members or associates within the council. Moreover, these councils have also been criticized for not inviting all members to meetings, and in some instances, outright refusing to open their financial books to supervisory district offices.
The Push Toward Reform and Accountability
During a House audit committee discussion centered on local government reform, the intention to amalgamate the existing councils into 20 larger municipalities became clear. This move is seen as a necessary response to a study by the EY accounting firm, which highlighted 300 complaints against the errant 32 councils.
Stalo Aristidou, EY’s Director of Technical Services, pointed out several administrative failures, including improperly recorded meeting minutes and the lack of inclusive communication regarding decisions taken by councils.
Red Flags and Direct Dealings
Direct contracts awarded to board members and their relatives raised another red flag. There were instances where purchases were made from companies that board members had an interest in, and contractors were paid without the necessary paperwork, such as invoices or receipts.
Delays in forwarding meeting minutes to district offices for legality checks were also noted, along with projects being executed without the required approvals. The district offices themselves took considerable time to respond to councils’ inquiries, adding to the procedural inefficiencies.
Voices from the Audit
The auditor-general, Odysseas Michaelides, underscored that these issues, particularly those concerning public contracts, emerged from an investigation prompted by numerous complaints. He called attention to local councils’ disinterest in financial accountability, citing Palaichori Orinis’s community leader’s persistent refusal to prepare financial statements since 2002.
Elikkos Ilias, the permanent secretary of the interior ministry, acknowledged direct awards of feasibility studies to private consultants by local councils and admitted to management weaknesses in construction contracts.
A Unified Front for Reform
Both Ilias and Mary Lambrou, the Paphos district officer, concurred with EY’s findings. Lambrou, addressing the situation in Paphos where 12 of the 32 scrutinized councils are located, stressed the challenge in retroactively addressing these issues. She expressed hope that the introduction of private auditors would lead to improvements.
As a measure to enhance transparency and oversight, efforts to include government representatives in local council meetings have been proposed.
The reform plan is anticipated to have a significant impact, with the aim of eliminating the irregularities that have been a persistent issue across the many individual councils. Training for new community leaders is set to begin after July 1, 2024, which is hoped to further the cause of improved governance in these local bodies.
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- Local councils are facing allegations of misconduct, including untendered contracts, nepotism, lack of financial transparency, and failure to properly record meeting minutes.
- Out of 350 councils, 32 are under scrutiny for awarding contracts to family members or associates and not maintaining inclusive communication within the council.
- Issues include failing to tender projects, engaging in nepotism, and refusing to open financial books to supervisory district offices.
- The intention to amalgamate the existing councils into 20 larger municipalities is seen as a necessary response to 300 complaints against the errant 32 councils.
- Direct contracts awarded to board members and their relatives, delays in forwarding meeting minutes, and lack of financial accountability are some of the specific issues highlighted.