The government has commissioned five major private auditing companies to monitor hospitals, social security funds and ministries in order to get their finances in order, as they will now be responsible for finding any «black holes» in the budget that could threaten to make the deficit soar. At the same time, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou expressed optimism about the future of the Greek economy when speaking at the launch of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) and the introduction of the body’s new governing board. The government has made a decision about the auditing companies that are to begin work in the next few days, as well as the various bodies to be checked in the first phase of the monitoring project. Sources suggest that, besides the complete and detailed recording of expenditures at ministries to be detailed by the private firms in cooperation with the General Accounting Office, three hospitals and four social security funds will be the first to be monitored. The hospitals are the Evangelismos, Attikon and Geniko Kratiko – Giorgos Gennimatas, all located in Athens. The five monitoring companies are Grant Thornton, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In the next phase and as soon as the reform of local authorities is complete, the auditing companies will begin to monitor them as well. This comes at a time when the International Monetary Fund and the European Union are applying great pressure on Greece to proceed with detailed descriptions and a general monitoring of government expenses. A top Finance Ministry official said there is a pressing need for a «plan of action for cutting these expenses.» These issues will be discussed by experts from the IMF, European Commission and the European Central Bank expected to arrive in Athens next week, along with the tragic financial status of many state firms whose debts are to be incorporated into the public deficit, raising it by about 5 percent for this year. Papaconstantinou said he was optimistic «as we see that the Greek economy can withstand the pressure and a period is beginning during which we will be able to create a more viable, competitive economy through our structural changes – an economy that can create jobs, investment and wealth that is fairly distributed.» New ELSTAT head Andreas Georgiou stated that it is not the success and credibility of the authority at stake; «it is also the success of the economic policy and long-term national interests.» Also yesterday, Greece accepted an additional 450 million euros in second-day 3-month T-bills, bringing the total amount sold in a July 20 auction to 2.4 billion euros, the country’s debt agency PDMA announced.