HUGE expanses of state land are being illegally exploited for years, with the Lands Office unable to take effective action because of lack of resources.
As a result cases involving land worth millions of euros have not moved forward for years.
A number of complaints lodged with authorities have needed up to a decade to be investigated so that they can be conveyed to the attorney general for legal action.
This has only encouraged instances where some people have even gone as far as to build homes on state land.
Auditor general Chrystakka Georghadji has sounded the alarm in her 2012 report, and urged authorities to take legal action immediately to protect state property.
“Even though district offices have informed the district land offices about illegal interventions on state land which were determined after on the spot visits by officials from the land office or complaints submitted by individuals, the Lands Office delays for periods up to 10 years to carry out an investigation so that this can stop,” the auditor general says in her report.
And she added: “As a result, the problem has become more acute, whereas cases where there is a cabinet decision, the Lands Office is slow in determining whether there is compliance with these decisions or to take action to stop the intervention.”
The auditor general warned that tolerating illegal interventions on state land can be interpreted as a weakness in effectively dealing with the problem, therefore serving as an encouragement rather than a deterrent. One case cited was in the village of Agridia where someone had illegally built on state land bordering on his property. Though the trespass was established in July 2004 and the individual given six months to demolish the illegal building, the Lands Office has still not carried out an on the spot check to see whether he has complied.
Another case involves a large expanse of state land on the Larnaca coast worth several million euros where an individual has built a private home and runs a camping site.
According to the auditor general, although the individual’s contract expired in 1987 and has not been renewed, he continues to use the land. Cabinet has twice rejected his request to renew the lease – in 1993 and 1999 and decided that he should pay dues to the state for the camping site from 1986 until he terminates the illegal intervention.
Cabinet has also given instructions for legal action to be taken against him by both the Lands Office and the District Officer of Larnaca for illegal use of state land and building a house without permission, respectively. Three years later, in September 2002, the case was sent from the Lands Office to the attorney general to sue in court so as to collect the sums due and terminate on encroachment state land.
The individual appealed against the cabinet decision to the Supreme Court which in 1994 rejected his appeal. A request for the home be registered in his and the names of his children was also rejected. The appeal that followed in the Supreme Court was rejected in 2008.
Twenty six years later, both the uncollected dues and the intervention remain.