Watchdog finds graft is still rife

The state official in charge of keeping an eye on public services for cases of graft has expressed concern about lax procedures and enduring corruption in his annual report, delivered on Wednesday to Prime Minister George Papandreou.

In his report for 2009, the country?s general inspector of public administration, Leandros Rakintzis, notes that bureaucracy and inefficiency continue to burden Greece?s public administration -- with the court system still woefully unable to dispense justice -- and that the system continues to feed unaccountability and corruption.

?The slow dispensation of justice and the inadequacy of the courts in imposing the law, particularly in the case of financial crimes where many get away behind the shield of the statute of limitations, as well as the discreet handling of high-profile personalities, have created a sense of impunity among offenders,? Rakintzis wrote.

According to the report, many tax offices showed laxness in checking and collecting outstanding debts. Often, orders to seize the assets of tax evaders and to inspect forged invoices were not carried out, the report noted, adding that illegal value-added tax returns to farmers and for exports had cost the state dearly.

In total, 29 civil servants were suspended in 2009 while 398 cases were forwarded to a prosecutor following 4,199 inspections.

In the case of declarations of source of wealth (known as ?pothen esches?), 18 members of the state labor inspectorate (a third of the staff) did not even submit them, according to the report which noted a similar trend in other state bodies.

Another problem highlighted by Rakintzis is the sluggishness of Greece?s public administration when it comes to implementing new laws. For example, reforms introduced to open up the road haulage sector are said to have remained on paper.

Rakintzis said that the excessively high cost of procuring licenses effectively shut aspiring truck drivers out of the market. Charges range from 94,000 euros for a truck with a ?common cargo? to 192,000 euros for a truck carrying fuel products. ?Demanding such large fees basically prohibits new professionals from entering the road haulage profession,? Rakintzis said.