ECONOMY

Government wants to make up for delays in Info Society program

Despite significant delays in the implementation of the «Information Society» program, the government does not expect to lose a major portion of European Union funds provided the tendering process for projects moves faster. The Cabinet yesterday dealt with problems in the program, which is mostly funded through the EU’s Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII). Both Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and the special secretary for the Information Society program, Vassilis Asimakopoulos, assured Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that the program is now proceeding faster. After the meeting, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced that when the current New Democracy government took over in March, only 6 percent of the funds earmarked through CSFIII, which began in 2000, had been absorbed. The Cabinet decided to increase fund absorption to 15 percent by the end of the year. For this reason, tenders will be called for 39 projects, with a total budget of 92 million euros, by the end of November, while contracts for projects worth 95 million euros will be signed by the end of the month. The «Syzefxis» project that will provide an online network connecting all state administration agencies, which has been delayed for 18 months, will soon be awarded to the lowest bidder. Another project, Police Online, also stalled for the past year and a half, will have to be partly retendered – the part regarding acquisition of hardware – while a new commission will be set up to assess the quality of software proposed by different bidders. Several projects regarding the provision of equipment to local health authorities, which had also stalled, will go ahead and contracts will be signed. Asimakopoulos told the Cabinet that the program suffered from excessive bureaucracy and overly complicated procedures for awarding projects. He announced that these procedures had been simplified and that thanks to that and some emergency actions, the rate of absorption of EU funds had more than tripled, from a monthly average of 3.3 million euros to 11.3 million. Pavlopoulos also presented the changes made to Information Society SA, a semi-independent agency created by the ministry to support mostly local authorities and agencies without the necessary know-how to undertake information technology projects. Information Society SA has undertaken 104 projects worth a total of 946 million euros. Pavlopoulos said the agency has become more efficient and transparent, as a result.