COMMENT

The Greek paradox

By Tasoula Karaiskaki

A couple of days ago, it was Transparency International, a month ago it was Public Administration General Inspector Leandros Rakintzis, and three months ago it was the American Brookings Institution that pointed out the same Greek paradox: Four separate state agencies consistently report on the stunning breadth of corruption in Greece, yet not much is being done to combat it. Corruption costs the Greek state some 20 billion euros a year - or the first installment of the bailout money from the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. Every hospital in the country spends hundreds of millions of euros annually on sanitation, supplies etc, without being closely monitored. Even though the government just finished settling their debts (6.2 billion euros), the sector has already accrued another 1.2 billion euros in the usual manner. Committees, researchers, contractors, suppliers, organizations, nonprofit groups, civil servant rackets and numerous officers under oath of office continue to suck the state coffers dry. Two months ago, 70 Finance Ministry employees who declared incomes of up to 50,000 euros were found to possess real estate assets of up to 3 million euros each. What is stopping the government from purging the public sector of corruption? A simple feasibility study of every service would reveal both its needs and whether or not funds are being mismanaged. In every state entity, people know who is pocketing money but their lips are sealed. «Today it's that guy and tomorrow it might be me,» the thinking goes. Had they been in the private sector, they would have been fired long ago. What stops the government from going through the records of every employee responsible for assigning contracts, distributing funds or issuing licenses, and finding and punishing the wrongdoers? The EU gives Greece money to fight corruption - the Interior Ministry received 500 million euros in 2007 for this purpose. It is embarrassing that so many crooks are being shielded by political parties in the safe haven of the public sector and labor groups. At a time when the authorities are struggling to find the funds to repay the social security funds' debts of 5 billion euros and when the 2011 budget is all about boosting revenue through new taxes, the government continues to allow precious money to leak out.

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