NEWS

Austerity has worsened public services, report finds

The Ombudsman?s annual report for 2010 has found that the spending cuts imposed by the country?s debt crisis have aggravated existing problems in public administration, downgraded the quality of public services and intensified the public?s exasperation in its attempts to meet financial obligations as household budgets tighten.

?In a country where trust in state institutions has always been lagging, the fostering of relationships of trust between the state and its citizens, particularly as seen under the prism of the crisis, is more crucial than ever,? Ombudsman Calliope Spanou said on Tuesday after handing over her report to Parliament Speaker Philippos Petsalnikos.

Spanou?s report notes that cutbacks have had a negative impact on the broader operation of the state apparatus while also putting a huge dent in citizens? optimism as is clear from the thousands of complaints received by the body over the course of 2010.

Of the 13,176 complaints received by the Ombudsman last year, a large chunk referred to delays in the disbursement of pensions and benefits, often due to understaffed public service offices.

Often the authors of the complaints charged that the public service in question had failed to offer any response at all.

Of the complaints filed by citizens to the Ombudsman, 40 percent did not fall within the remit of the body?s competencies and therefore could not be dealt with. Of the remaining 60 percent, around half were found to be ?groundless.? Many of the complaints comprised appeals for help by heavily indebted households, unemployed citizens and entrepreneurs facing bankruptcy.

A ?mismanagement chart? drawn up by the Ombudsman found municipal authorities to be the worst offenders, followed by the former Economy, Competitiveness and Merchant Marine Ministry (which has since split into three separate entities). Next in line is the Social Security Foundation (IKA), Attica?s immigration services and the country?s prefectural authorities.