Red tape still bedevils the people, reports Citizen’s Advocate

A plethora of monitoring mechanisms in public administration, such as health, environmental and prison inspectorates, not only fail to help solve problems but, due to overlapping competences, actually cultivate them, a Citizen’s Advocate report on the year 2003 has found. The country’s ombudsman, G. Kaminis, upon presenting his office’s annual report, said: «We accumulate supervisory mechanisms without tackling the fundamental problems of public administration. I haven’t seen anything come of them.» He also expressed reservations about the creation of bodies mediating between the citizen and the administration, which have been announced from time to time by both large parties. «Fragmenting supervisory duties will eventually prove detrimental to the citizen, who will inevitably become confused.» Kaminis cautioned that the idea floated by the government, of having a municipal residents’ advocate, required «great care.» Local authorities’ areas of responsibility, he explained, are so tightly interwoven with central and regional administration (e.g. in the area of town and country planning) that «fragmentation of supervisory mechanisms will greatly weaken the effectiveness of both authorities.» Worst offenders The worst state services, in terms of the trouble they cause citizens, are social security funds, municipalities and prefectures, which account for six out of 10 cases of maladministration. Eight cases, most of them local administrative bodies and the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), were taken to court. Flanked by his five assistant advocates, Takis Andreas (human rights), Calliope Spanou (relations between State and citizen), Giorgos Moschos (children’s rights), Georgia Yiannakourou (quality of life) and Patrina Paparrigopoulou (social protection), Kaminis described the many and diverse problems that run through administration. These include the unequal distribution of funds between center and periphery, a dearth of specialized executives and lack of administrative coordination. A wall of obfuscation is raised in front of people, while orders that cancel each other out are often issued. «The citizen is transformed into a panting figure that runs from service to service in order to collect a sheaf of certificates,» the ombudsman added. As for red tape, the chronic disease of public administration, he said, «It favors illegal transactions between employees and citizens and discourages a number of serious economic investments.» Kaminis then went into the municipalities in some detail, saying they «seethed with problems.» «I don’t want to demonize local administrations, but these elected representatives disregard both judicial decisions and the Citizen’s Advocate.» Hirings for citizens’ service and advice centers (KEP), he said, moving on to another issue, had been «blatantly illegal» with «irregularities and oversights.» Complainants to the ombudsman charged that many fellow candidates, who were finally selected and hired, had fewer qualifications than they did. In many cases, while their cases were upheld, the municipalities involved refused to comply with the ombudsman’s rulings. Investigation showed that the legal framework, which regulated the process of choosing personnel for KEP (Article 6 of Law 2527/1997), did not offer the necessary guarantees for the meritocratic choice of candidates. Out of a total of 16,009 complaints made to the Citizen’s Advocate in 2003, 10,850 were submitted within that year. Another 5,159 had been submitted within 2002, but were investigated in 2003. Fifty-seven percent (4,168) of the complaints were found to be justified, while 35.17 percent were found to be groundless, that is, the state administration had acted legally.