ECONOMY

Finance Ministry plans to inspect the inspectors

The Finance Ministry is setting up an internal affairs department to crack down on corruption within its walls. Legislation due to be tabled in Parliament shortly will set up a strict and merciless monitoring system of tax inspectors along the lines of the US Internal Revenue Service. Based on a report conducted by US experts during their four-year stay in Greece, the ministry feels it is imperative that it should adopt some of the suggested measures in order to clean up the taxation department. An internal monitoring department is due to be set up immediately in the coming weeks, which will look into the means test (pothen esches) of ministry employees, reopen and review major cases and inform the government of problems that could come up. Presently, the ministry has to issue a ruling if it wants to look into the pothen esches of ministry employees or check major companies. Finance Ministry officials said the move is aimed at depoliticizing tax inspection as well as setting up objective criteria. Sources said a new division will be in charge of inspecting major companies, something that has never been done, due in part to the difficulty of getting a ministerial decision. The changes entail a transfer of responsibility to the mooted department, which will inspect 5 percent of the big companies. The changes in tax legislation mean that gentlemen’s agreements between inspectors and companies will come to an end as a second inspection could uncover data which could impact on both inspectors and companies adversely. Disciplinary inspection of the inspectors will be conducted by supervisors of the respective departments where they serve. The proposed changes mean a complete overhaul of the financial inspection department. A financial crime squad member noted that a tax inspector has never requested a second inspection of a company. About 10 percent or 2,500 Finance Ministry employees will be randomly chosen and asked for their pothen esches without needing a ministerial ruling. The new department’s third responsibility will be to inform administration of how tax legislation is operating and of possible problems. This is essentially a management information system. Legislation on internal affairs will be submitted to Parliament in 15 days. Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis will put the finishing touches this week.