NEWS

Civil servants with unaccounted millions in the bank

Following the arrest of one active and four former employees of Kallithea?s Social Security Foundation, or IKA, branch at the start of the year on charges of benefit fraud to the tune of over 10 million euros, another scandal quickly came to light, involving two doctors in Iraklio, Crete, also working for IKA.

The doctors, who were running a scam issuing fake claims for medical leave, were found to have robbed the fund of over a million euros by demanding 200-300 euros from each person, mostly foreign nationals, and granting them unmerited sick leave.

Another scandal involving corrupt employees was revealed at the Development Ministry?s department for private investment following complaints made by a number of businesses. Following the charges, Deputy Minister for Development and Competitiveness Thanos Moraitis ordered an investigation into all 50 of the department?s employees.

Public administration inspector Leandros Rakintzis, meanwhile, is currently conducting a retrospective investigation into all the applications handled by the department and is also looking closely into the employees? finances to see if there are any discrepancies with the provenance of wealth forms (?pothen esches?) they and other civil servants are obliged to submit on a regular basis.

The tales of corruption in the civil service, however, appear to have no end. For example, the public administration inspection body uncovered large amounts of money that cannot be accounted for by the salaries and private assets listed during investigations into claims made by citizens against ministry employees, zoning departments, former unionists, state engineers, municipal workers and even employees at the Manpower Organization. In 13 cases against public sector workers, the inspectors discovered that collectively they had bank deposits in excess of 25 million euros.

One engineer who worked for a municipal department was found to have savings of 1 million euros in his account. When questioned as to where the money had come from, he claimed that he had sold a parcel of land 12 years ago in a deal made verbally and without being able to produce any kind of documentation of the transaction, and that the buyer was still paying the purchase in installments.

The director of a zoning department on one of the islands, meanwhile, was found to have 1.5 million euros in his bank account and evidence that he personally processed hundreds of applications for construction permits over the years.

Both employees have been fired.

A former unionist tops the list of the richest embezzlers with deposits of 8.9 million euros found in his bank account for which he could offer no reasonable explanation. According to sources, he also used his private account for funding legitimately received by the union, meaning that inspectors are not yet sure how much of the total amount was accrued fraudulently and how much was not. The man is now a pensioner and criminal charges have been brought against him.

Rakintzis?s campaign to crack down on corruption in the public sector is certainly yielding results as new cases come to light every day. But the question still remains: What happens next?

Ranking among the world?s worst offenders

Greece?s record looks equally bad in practice as it does on paper, according to corruption watchdog Transparency International, which estimates that graft cost Greece 632 million euros in 2010 and 787 million in 2009.

The nongovernmental group gave Greece a score of 3.4 out of 10 on its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2011, putting it in the same company as Colombia, El Salvador, Morocco, Peru and Thailand.

Last place, at 182, was held by Somalia, and first place by New Zealand.

The 2011 index draws on assessments and opinion surveys that include questions related to the bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, the embezzlement of public funds and the effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts.

Meanwhile, according to a recent opinion poll on public sector corruption in Greece, 83 percent of respondents said they disagree with the opinion that it is OK to grease a palm or two if it means getting the job done, while 88 percent said that they don?t agree that it is OK to break the law so long as you don?t get caught.