Billions spent on failed Greek state data upgrade

The Greek state failed for nearly two decades to update its electronic data-keeping despite around 7 billion euros in EU funds for the purpose, a senior official said this week.

?About 7 billion euros have been spent on telecoms and data processing since 1996,? Pantelis Tzortzakis, deputy minister for administrative reform and electronic governance, told reporters. ?Not only are we not even close to the European average, we are the laggards… we actually bring down the European average,? he told a news conference.

Tzortzakis, formerly the CEO of pay TV platform Nova, said state records were still not streamlined and it was no wonder that millions of euros were paid out in fraudulent benefits every year.

?At this moment, ?Pantelis Tzortzakis? brings up different information to the tax office, the registry office and the social security office,? he said. ?How can a person be identified if registries do not cross-operate?? he wondered. ?Until two years ago, we did not know how many civil servants we had… and we were making social welfare payments to dead or non-existent people,? Tzortzakis said.

The Labor Ministry last week said 40,000 bogus pensions had been found and would be cut, and seven people were arraigned in connection with an alleged scam at Greece?s largest pension fund IKA that had cost the organization at least 6 million euros over eight years.

Police said some of the suspects, who worked for IKA, took advantage of their positions to pocket benefits for themselves and family members. In one case, a childless woman received benefits for two [AFP]

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