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Damning report by audit boss into Olympic committee.

The Cyprus Olympic Committee (COC) stated on Thursday that its top organ would soon convene in an extraordinary session in order to 'carefully consider' a damning report by the auditor-general into the entity's financial shenanigans.

In a statement, the COC said it would study the report and make all effort to comply with the auditor-general's recommendations.

The damage-control statement came just hours after local media ran excerpts from the just-out report, cataloguing a slew of financial irregularities and wastage by the COE mostly related to its hosting of the 2009 Games of Small States of Europe, a biennial, multi-sport event.

The COC reported a e1/4685,000 deficit for hosting the games, and subsequently asked the finance ministry to top up its account.

The ministry replied it would consider the request, but on condition the COC made its financial statements available to the auditor-general. The COC did not comply initially.

Due to stricter budget regulations coming into effect in 2014, current auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides took up the matter, requesting the COC to hand over its books, which it eventually agreed to do -- in July 2015.

The COC is a private-law entity and normally does not come under the purview of the auditor-general. But unlike other sports federations (except for the Cyprus Sports Organisation, which is a semi-governmental organisation) some 50 per cent of the COC's revenues derive directly from the state via annual grants.

The state funding gives the auditor-general the right to scrutinise the COC's accounts.

According to daily Politis, which led with the story on Thursday, the audit office has tracked a long line of non-transparent and highly questionable practices at the COC, chiefly related to the hosting of the 2009 games.

These included paying COC directors and staff overtime without prior payment authorization -- resulting in many cases in excessive payouts.

Payments to musicians, sports journalists and to the company organising the opening and closing ceremonies also came under scrutiny.

At least 10 procurements -- worth a combined e1/4430,000 -- were made for materials and various services without inviting tenders.

The auditor-general also discovered conflict of interest issues. In one case, regarding the procurement of plastic chairs and tables for the games, the contract was given to Lordos United Plastics Ltd which had filed the lowest bid.

But it later transpired that one of the company's directors was Dimitris Lordos who at the time happened to serve as the vice-president of the COC.

Politis said moreover that the auditor-general has uncovered a possible tampering of the minutes kept by the COC's Executive Board.

It appears that the wording of the minutes pertaining to a meeting of the Executive Board held on May 5, 2009 -- and concerning the expenses for the games' musical concert --was subsequently altered to make it look like the board had not gone over budget.

The Audit Office's broader investigation into the COC additionally covers the period after the 2009 games. Among the irregularities discovered are unwarranted travel expenses, the hiring of unqualified personnel, and salary bumps which appear to be unjustified.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Nov 3, 2016
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