Drive to cut cost of transportation for officials stalls

Efforts to cut back on the state?s official transportation bill appear to have come to a halt over the past few months, despite the fact that taxpayers spend 320 million euros a year on cars, drivers and gas for politicians and high-ranking public officials.

The drive to reduce the number of officials entitled to use official cars and put a stop to the purchase and use of luxury vehicles with high maintenance costs, was launched under the previous administration?s Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis, and has now passed into the hands of Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis, who urged his colleagues to rethink their transportation needs in his first days in office.

During the initial efforts to cut back on costs, data show that in the first half of 2011 the number of government vehicles dropped to 172 from 279 from the same period in the previous year, the cost of maintenance and repairs dropped in 2010 by 69.5 percent to 47,680 euros from 156,300 euros a year earlier, and the cost of gas also went down by 67.1 percent in 2010 compared to 2009.

However, Kathimerini understands that while progress has been made to reduce the cost of the official fleet, some 44,000 cars remain in circulation — down from 57,000 in 2006 — a number that remains unjustifiably high given the real needs of the civil service.

Sources told Kathimerini that after assuming office in June, Manitakis issued a circular to all ministries demanding a reduction in their fleets and transportation costs. The call was mostly ignored, according to the same sources, who added that the minister even received demands by certain high-ranking officials for larger vehicles.

There is also evidence of widespread abuse of the perk by senior administrators and politicians, who use the official car service to accommodate family members or for activities that are not related to their work. This is not to mention individuals who continue to enjoy the benefits of free transportation even though they are no longer entitled to it because the ministry has failed to update the list of beneficiaries, which still includes the special secretary of the 2004 Athens Olympics and the chairman of the Hellenic Bank of Industrial Development (ETVA), which was acquired by Piraeus Bank nearly a decade ago.

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