Information Society risks losing 180 mln in EU aid

Greece risks losing 180 million euros by the month’s end from the «Information Society» program, as bureaucracy and little interest from state corporations have hampered the absorption of the much-needed EU funding. Five ministries and state corporations had officially committed themselves to absorbing 150 million euros in 2005 for information technology projects, subsidies for buying hardware or software for seminars on new technologies. The amount absorbed to date does not exceed 45 million euros, though, raising the alarm at the Finance Ministry. The picture gets even grimmer considering that 120 million euros was transferred to other domains of the EU-subsidized Third Community Support Framework investment program to avoid losing that, too. Ministry data show that many bodies, led by Information Society SA (IS), the corporation which realizes IT projects for many ministries and state corporations, are far away from the targets set in early 2005. In some cases, there is no logical explanation as to their inability to absorb funds, since ministries do not promote any complex IT projects, but educational seminars or subsidies to companies. For instance the Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Industry committed at the start of the year to absorbing 52 million euros. Still, no more than 16 million euros of expenditure has been recorded to date, leading to administrative changes. The government is trying to understand why there are no payments once the sums have been approved, while the companies to be subsidized were found long ago. Worse still is IS itself, whose record to date is 14 million euros against a forecast for 65 million euros this year. It takes up to 10 meetings by committees to evaluate bids, and months for ministry officials to mobilize themselves for each project. «The technological upgrade of a state corporation requires organizational changes, too, stretching beyond a mere four-year period,» market officials pointedly noted.