Graft costing public sector millions of euros

Corruption is draining the public sector of millions of euros a year even though the repercussions of Greece?s debt crisis have led to people offering smaller bribes, according to a new survey by the Greek office of Transparency International which also indicated that one in four Greeks are refusing to give under-the-table payments.

According to a nationwide survey for 2011, whose results were presented on Tuesday, an estimated 554 million euros was paid in bribes in the public sector last year, down from 632 million in 2010.

Hospitals, tax offices and town-planning offices ranked top of the list of public services where ?fakelakia? (literally ?small envelopes,? or bribes) were paid to officials.

In the private sector, health and vehicle inspection services topped the list.

The rate of households reporting instances of corruption in the public sector increased marginally in 2011 to 7.4 percent from 7.2 percent in 2010 while in the private sector the rate reduced slightly, to 3.4 percent from 4 percent in 2010.

The average amount paid in bribes in the private sector last year was 1,406 euros, compared to 1,623 euros in 2010, a 15 percent drop. In the public sector, there was a 6.6 percent drop in the size of the average bribe, to 1,400 euros from 1,492 euros in 2010.

One of the most revealing aspects of the survey, which questioned 12,000 people nationwide compared to 6,000 in previous years, is that one in four respondents claimed they refused to pay the requested bribes.

The head of TI?s office in Athens, Costas Bakouris, said this was very encouraging, adding that his agency was urging people to report cases of corruption. ?People are less tolerant,? he said, noting however that whistleblowing had yet to take off.

In a related development on Tuesday, police detained two suspected large-scale tax evaders. A 31-year-old man said to have a tax bill of more than 826,000 euros was arrested near the small town of Molaoi in the prefecture of Laconia in the Peloponnese. It was unclear whether the debts were withheld income tax or value-added tax from a business. In Athens meanwhile, officers detained the 59-year-old managing director of a plastics company for owing more than 158,000 euros to the state.