A series of mistakes in the PPC case

The sensation created by high-level corruption allegations by now former Public Power Corporation (PPC) president Yiannis Paleokrassas in his interview with Kathimerini eight days ago remains at the forefront of news. Paleokrassas may have resigned but the matter is not closed; quite the contrary, the huge issue of the transparent management of large public utilities has been thrust into the open more forcefully than ever. Paleokrassas’s interview created a sensation, not because his allegations shocked the public, but because they were aired by an experienced politician and long-time parliamentarian. Some may attempt to play down the matter as an issue of technocratic management, but in reality this was a problem of political options. In contrast to other utilities, such as OTE Telecoms and Hellenic Petroleum, where the government had appointed experienced technocrats with exclusive responsibilities, PPC was left in the gray area. Paleokrassas was apparently appointed early last year on the promise that the corporation’s managing director, Stergios Nezis, would be replaced after the Olympics. In due course, however, it emerged that the government considered Nezis a superstar manager and was unwilling to replace him. Paleokrassas started losing patience and chose to send Nezis to court over his handling of a number of investment decisions. Oddly, members of the PPC’s board, who testified in favor of Nezis in court, were also referred by Paleokrassas to a public prosecutor for related matters. The affair raises a huge political issue: The government cannot tolerate allegations of corruption and adopt the classic defensive posture: «Let the judges decide.» In reality, the issue is not judicial, it is political. If they cannot ensure the proper disbursement of public money, they should not expect proper governance from public prosecutors – it was not them that the voters chose. In the end, the affair is a series of mistakes. The government has suffered the political cost because it did not ask for Paleokrassas’s resignation earlier. Also, it referred his resignation letter, in which he repeats his allegations, to the Supreme Court prosecutor. Paleokrassas, meanwhile, is due to give a press conference today, but PPC’s real problems will be dealt with – in the government’s words – within the four year term. Probably the next one.