NEWS

Chaos and venality cost Greece CSF funds

Corrupt, poorly managed and dysfunctional: These are the words that describe 20 years of attempts to use European Union funding – the most important opportunity to modernize the country since the Marshall Plan. Absorption of Community funds in Greece – or the lack of it – has become purely a matter of quantity over quality, that is the impetus for development that each program provides for the country. Two questions thus arise: How much do we get, and what do we do with it? The answers to both questions are disappointing. The reasons are to be found in the public administration which underwrites the whole process. Community funding has dragged a host of problems to the surface: labyrinthian bureaucracy, disorganization, improvisation, and lack of meritocracy, all resulting in a lack of expertise. Patronage and nepotism, which dominated and continue to dominate public administration, are the chief cause. Politicians of all stripes have been reluctant to root out the problem. Central administrative bodies (ministries, regions and prefectures) control the system, elevating yes-men to the highest posts. Civil servants in their turn shrink from taking initiatives, making proposals or even studying their subject. They make mistakes. Two reports missing Recently, the National Economy Ministry published an annual report on the results of 2001 inspections of the 1994-2000 Second Community Support Framework (CSFII) projects. While the country consists of 12 regions, results from two regions, Crete and Central Macedonia, are not even included in the report. The ministry’s official explanation (April 2003) was that there were no «single monitoring reports» on the two regional programs, despite the fact that 19 months had elapsed since inspectors received their marching orders. The ministry turned a deaf ear to demands by parliamentary deputies that they see the initial reports on the two regions. Kathimerini managed to obtain both the missing reports and the intra-ministerial correspondence which followed them. The evidence clearly outlines both the causes of this inability to absorb funding as well as why Community-financed works have been unable to breathe life into development. The correspondence uncovers an unhealthy and wholly decadent atmosphere within the public services. Political leaders’ inertia suggests no will to tackle it. Of all the projects described in the two reports on Central Macedonia and Crete, two projects from the former were selected as being wholly representative. After the commotion caused by the pertinent report, these two works were finally excluded from funding applications made by the Finance Ministry. They are merely a drop (just 1.5 billion drachmas, or 4.4 million euros) in the 160 billion drachmas, or 469.5 million euros, ocean of funding lost from CSFII. But the behavior of all concerned – ministry, regional and local administration – suggests that many more works will be removed from the funding list before inspections by Community authorities are over. Deeply entrenched attitudes are difficult to uproot, despite the government’s statement of intent to clean out the public administration. Members of the ministerial council decide to carry out useless works in order to satisfy local voters, and ministries a priori render works unsuitable for funding, due to a total lack of knowledge of the legislation. At the same time, reports by the financial monitoring committee EDEL, the third and highest level in overseeing Community-funded works, are doctored, and the line of distinction between inspector and inspected gets blurred.