COMMENT

News from the corruption front

By P. Mandravelis

Great. We can rest easy now that the newly founded rural police force has spent 100,000 euros on «confidential expenses.» The war against corruption, launched in 2004, is bearing fruit, because we can be certain that these secret funds were spent on paying informers for tips on corruption in the countryside. We can also rest easy because the secret funds from the Ministry of Public Order have been increased tenfold. According to Ta Nea daily, though the 2007 budget had put aside 7 million euros, 77 million had been spent by September. With Greece's terrorists behind bars, we can only assume that this money was spent on battling corruption. It seems as though too many shadows have already been cast over the government's moral standing. And yes, the «hospitality» provided by the social security minister to two migrants at his summer home was a misdemeanor. Almost everyone with a holiday home has migrant «guests,» and this is one reason why we cannot gauge the magnitude of tax evasion. But for the administration that succeeded in forcing a deputy minister (Evangelos Malesios) to resign because he was residing rent-free at the home of a childhood friend - a businessman and state supplier - the criminal status of «hospitality» was elevated to a «political crime.» Also, when the administration causes such a stink because former minister Christos Protopappas built a home with all the right legal permits, it cannot just play dumb when the minister of public works builds his home illegally. New Democracy was elected in 1990 and again in 2004 by waving the banner of transparency. Both times it began its term by prosecuting officials from previous administrations. It has been dragging the officials of the DEKA state asset management company to court on charges of manipulating the stock exchange since 2004. It made a lot of noise over the Athens Stock Exchange scandal, and rightly so. But, there is one important difference: The recent bonds scandal gave us hard evidence of bribery - suitcases packed with millions of euros and bank transfers to Switzerland. In Zoniana, we saw New Democracy cadres with direct ties to the local mafia. We cannot know for a fact whether there was more or less corruption pre-2004, because corruption is not really quantifiable. What the organization Transparency International does measure is citizens' feelings about corruption and here we see a rapid worsening of the situation in Greece. What can also be counted are the available opportunities for corruption, that is, the size of the state. As it grows, it creates new, fertile fields. The rural police is a glaring example: Still in its early days, it is already using «secret funds.»

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