Wider brief for the ‘untouchables’

The Internal Affairs Department of the Greek police force, commonly known as the «untouchables,» can now be be contacted by people who want to complain about any case of bribery or blackmail in the broader public sector – a daily occurrence, as is commonly agreed. Envelopes filled with money for doctors, bribery of employees in town-planning departments or tax offices are the kinds of cases to be investigated by the department, which was set up in October 1999 to fight corruption within the police and which has had very positive results in the three years since its inception. Law 3103 of January 29, 2003 extended the Internal Affairs Department’s remit to include all crimes of bribery and blackmail, committed throughout the country, by civil servants. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, who announced the move on Wednesday, urged people to report cases of bribery and extortion. «People themselves regard the existence of corruption as a necessary evil and something they take for granted in their dealings with the public sector,» he said. The new law stipulates the distinct and specific responsibilities of the Internal Affairs Department, which will not overlap with those of similar services in each ministry and will dovetail with the responsibilities of the General Inspector of Public Administration. The independence of the Internal Affairs Department, which will be monitored by an appeals court prosecutor, is also safeguarded. The public order minister said that corruption in the state sector was not an invisible enemy, and combating it was by no means a quixotic aspiration. He added that the government was staunchly committed to fighting it, for as long as it took. The reasons for the department’s success, according to Chrysochoidis, is that it acted boldly to forge a strategy where there was no precedent, and that it was effective, achieving visible and measurable results, cultivating an atmosphere of trust among the public and mutual aid and support within the police force itself. The goals set for the expansion of the department’s jurisdiction include maintaining continual awareness of the problem and constant monitoring of corruption, removing opportunities for civil servants to profit from bribes and instilling trust and a feeling of security among people in their transactions with the State.

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