NEWS

Tug of war over lost ministry hoard

Finance Ministry officials have discovered a 500-billion-drachma windfall of cash squirreled away in an account set up to finance Defense Ministry projects which had somehow been mislaid in the central bank of Greece. The two ministries are now vying for possession of the account. The cash, deposited in the account starting in the late 1980s, was intended to allow the Ministry of Defense to pay for military construction works with as little red tape as possible, thus enabling swift completion of the projects. However, things did not always work out the way they were intended. Often, the initial decision to carry out a specific project was superseded by military developments, time schedules were drastically revised or construction was put off for some time in the future. And, incredibly, the money was forgotten. Working on the principle of finders keepers – and pointing out that the funds from the state budget were never used for their intended purpose anyway – the Finance Ministry is now seeking to hang on to the cash, which could prove very useful in balancing unruly budgetary figures. But the Defense Ministry – which only last week was imploring Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis for 18 billion drachmas to cover emergency air force purchases (including eight billion drachmas worth of jet fighter fuel) – is loth to part with its recovered hoard. The Bank of Greece is also proving uncooperative in supplying information on the account.