NEWS

Greece freezes public funding for NGOs

On the orders of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, public funding for nongovernmental organizations was frozen on Tuesday as part of the effort to reduce waste.

It is not known exactly how many such organizations had been receiving state money but research carried out last year suggested there are at least 6,700 of them. Some NGOs have been demanding for several years that the government create a central register of organizations in order to keep track of who is receiving money and whether they deserve to be funded by taxpayers.

?Nearly every ministry has its own register,? said Tzanetos Antypas, the president of Praksis, an NGO that provides free medical and legal advice. ?When the actions of an NGO, such as Praksis, fall under the authority of more than one ministry, we are obliged to register with all of them.?

Via the government?s general secretary, Panayiotis Baltakos, Samaras has asked to be informed by tomorrow of the numbers of NGOs being funded and how much could be saved from public coffers if the coalition ceases to bankroll them.

The head of the Greek Council for Refugees, Panos Christodoulou, suggested this was an opportunity to clear up the legal framework in which NGOs can operate. ?The government?s announcement does not make it clear if some things are going to be left in a semi-complete state,? he said.

A judicial investigation was ordered last year into allegations about the lack of transparency and financial mismanagement at Greece?s NGOs after a parliamentary report suggested little control was exercised over the groups. The deputy foreign minister at the time, Spyros Kouvelis, told Parliament that Greece gave 26 million euros to 528 NGOs in 2010, most conducting aid work abroad.

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