Watchdog starved of officials

Watchdog starved of officials

Crucial cases handled by the Competition Commission, with a major impact on the operation of markets, risk being abandoned as the watchdog sees its staff leaving, thereby threatening its monitoring work.

Besides the fact that the number of employees covers less than 50% of the posts the organizational flowchart provides for (around 35%), the process for staff selection through the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP) can take up to two years, while the filling of vacancies through civil service mobility has proved almost fruitless.

The sum of positions the organization flowchart provides for is 230, and the commission’s staff only number 81 people.

The failure to resolve the problem at this time, when the very high inflation is generating market unrest, there is strong concentration and some key cases (involving banks, construction companies etc) are under way, aggravates the consequences of the understaffing of the watchdog in the economy and society.

Kathimerini understands that the Competition Commission has sent dozens of complaint letters to the prime minister and the competent ministers and is now planning to inform the European Commission of the problem.

Notably, the insufficiency of human resources and the lack of specialized personnel for the proper operation of the regulator could be seen as violations of the European Union Directive from 2019 regarding the competences of member-state competition authorities, and could even trigger a case against Greece in the court of the EU.

The new problem, which is expected to grow as next year’s general election approaches, is the so-called postings by exemption from the Commission to other public sector entities such as ministries; they are departures from the watchdog that its management only finds out about at the moment it is asked to sign. Such transfers are conducted through bypassing the existing regulations on hirings and postings.

In the last few weeks there have been eight such postings, and in some cases they concerned officials handling particularly sensitive cases, such as those regarding charges imposed by banks on their clients. Sources in the know do not rule out a major delay in the issue of key decisions by the watchdog.

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