Ombusman calls for new social contract

Greece has to draw up a new social contract between its citizens and the state, which is finding it increasingly difficult to provide adequate services under the pressure of the crisis, according to Ombudsman Calliope Spanou, who presented the organization?s annual report yesterday.

The Ombudsman, the state body responsible for upholding citizens? rights, received 10,706 complaints last year, which is about 2,500 fewer than in 2010. Of the complaints made in 2011, 61.6 percent proved to be valid gripes. Almost a quarter of the complaints related to social security funds. The watchdog found that in many cases, retirees were waiting up to two years after they had stopped working for their funds to begin paying their pensions. The second most popular cause for people?s displeasure was local authorities. They were followed on the black list by government ministries.

?Citizens doubt to what extent the state and the public administration can support them,? said Spanou, who was appointed to her position last year. ?The administration has suffered serious damage and its staff are caught in a permanent state of uncertainty at the same time that they are being asked to respond to increased demands.?

Spanou said that a new social contract is needed to rebuild trust between Greeks and their state. ?In the current difficult circumstances, there is an urgent need to redefine the relationship between citizens and the state.?

The Ombudsman drew particular attention to the fact that ministers and top ministry officials often complicated the work of government departments by issuing circulars in an attempt to clarify or interpret legislation. Spanou said that these moves often end up creating more confusion.

?A circular cannot create a law that contradicts existing legislation,? she said, giving the example of a government circular by the IKA social security fund concerning the nonpayment of Christmas and Easter bonuses for low-level pensioners.