Auditing services shaken up to beat sleaze

Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas decided yesterday to stage a clear-out of the departments conducting checks on the country’s biggest companies, as state revenues took another dip last month. Bezas ordered the transfer of 90 auditors from Regional and Inter-Regional Auditing Centers to tax offices, as they were deemed inadequate by the ministry’s valuation committee. Sources suggest that the committee has found considerable insufficiencies in the checks performed due to the limited knowledge of several auditing officers, resulting in them being more vulnerable to pressure from the companies. The ministry now has to immediately restructure its monitoring mechanism, aiming at reducing tax evasion, rebuilding relationships of trust with companies and limiting the corruption seen within the ministry. The competent committee has checked some high-risk tax cases of the last three years to determine whether legal procedures have been adhered to or whether there have been any unlawful transactions. Another 90 Finance Ministry employees will fill the positions left open and conduct checks on major enterprises, such as banks and other firms listed on the Athens stock market. In May 2008, listed firms paid 400 million euros less in taxes than in 2007.