COMMENT

Allegations met with silence

MARIA KATSOUNAKI

TAGS: Culture, Corruption, Politics

A week after Kathimerini’s interview with the former president of the Archaeological Receipts and Expropriations Fund (TAP), Aspasia Louvi, in which she claimed that Greece’s culture minister is being held ransom to vested interests, there has not been a single statement to refute her allegation.

The silence is strange considering the hard-line approach of security guards at the country’s museum and archaeological sites or the minister’s habit of announcing so-called “memorandums of agreement” on a near-daily basis in response to critics who accuse her of being idle.

It is surprising that the union of museum and archaeological site employees (PEYFA) did not react with the usual “surprise and indignation” to Louvi’s allegations last Sunday. It is not just the severe blow inflicted by Louvi against a system that has been corrupt for decades, as she went on to courageously expose an apparatus that has fought off all bids to reform and modernize. It’s also that she presented strong evidence to back her allegations, while naming the vested interests that are manipulating the system.

Surely, what Louvi described is only a microcosm of the Greek civil service. However, rarely does a civil servant take the responsibility of speaking publicly instead of just make anonymous claims about the ills of the state sector.

Louvi made several claims including the absence of official data on overtime work when guards are demanding 17 million euros in overtime pay; the fact that cafeterias at major archaeological sites have for years been run – always via a tender – by the same three business families; and lost profits as a result of thousands of free tickets to the Parthenon being granted to students at the peak of the summer season.

There has been no reaction from the minister, or anyone else. The minister is not the only one scared of taking on vested interests. The fear, the mud-slinging and the “punishment” which awaits any politician that deviates from the norm, are the strongest allies of corruption – a form of corruption that hijacks the state sector in the shape of informal, covert and unchecked privatization. Thus we end up in a situation where the SYRIZA-led government is fighting privatization when it is carried out with rules and principles while, at the same time, the public sector is being taken over by self-serving interests.

If the first left-wing administration, as SYRIZA has touted its rule, has taught us something, it is that power does not come with an ideological tag. The same applies to the war on graft. It is waged by those who understand their public role as something above private interest. By those who see a duty in defending their truth. “I am ready to face anyone who dares challenge my claims,” Louvi said. Silence is all she’s met with so far.

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