ECONOMY

Condition of national watchdogs slides from toothless to comatose

condition-of-national-watchdogs-slides-from-toothless-to-comatose

Independent regulatory authorities are in a chaotic state in Greece, despite the political system’s apparent consensus for the preservation of the function of some of them considered to have a key role, such as the National Broadcasting Council and the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT).

Barring a miracle in the next few days, EETT will sink into a coma as it will be unable to perform any of its duties, even for national purposes. Unless the watchdog’s budget is approved in the next two or three weeks, it won’t even be able to pay for fuel for its vehicles to monitor interference with communication systems.

“Even if the interference concerns the radars of the Civil Aviation Authority or the Hellenic Air Force, the vehicles will be unable to go anywhere,” says an EETT official. There is no one else with either the competence or – mainly – the know-how to conduct this monitoring. The issue has been reported to the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the National Defense Ministry.

The blame for the tragic state of the independent regulators lies mainly with the current government, but partly also to previous governments and the other opposition parties: Instead of following a consensus policy for the renewal of the authorities’ boards, previous governments simply extended the mandates of the existing board members for three more years, leading them into stagnation. That occurred either because the political parties failed to reach consensus on the appointment of new boards or because they promoted their political friends to such positions.

Such moves have clearly undermined the operation of the independent authorities, as the companies regulated by the watchdogs started resorting to the administrative courts on the grounds of the authorities’ illegal composition. This argument was recently sustained by an administrative court regarding a fine imposed by the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE). A section of the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, has also recommended to the plenary that the decisions by former Public Administration General Inspector Leandros Rakintzis should be annulled due to the expiry of his mandate in 2009.

The finishing blow for the operations of the independent authorities came last October with a legislative clause regarding the “automatic departure of authority members whose original mandate has expired.” This led to the departure of 53 out of the 86 watchdog board members. Even if those authorities operated insufficiently, exercising mostly their administrative and not their regulatory or supervisory duties, they have had to grind to a halt.