It’s official, graft’s rife

The state watchdog entrusted with fighting official corruption presented its first report to Parliament and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday and – Greeks might not be surprised to learn – it is rife with instances of brazen corruption by members of local authorities and the public administration. Most of the problems among the cases studied by General Inspector for Public Administration Constantinos Dafermos were found at municipalities, in town-planning offices and Transport Ministry departments involved in issuing drivers’ licenses. Dafermos cited complicated procedures and a lack of accountability, supervision and laughable disciplinary action as some of the causes of corruption. But he also cast blame on citizens themselves for parting with their money. «There is no way surgery will take place unless the patients’ pay a bribe to the doctors, even if this is not asked for straight out,» Dafermos said. As an example of bribe-taking by drivers’ license departments, Dafermos mentioned the department of one province, which he did not name, where candidate truckdrivers would flock from other provinces as it was known that no candidate would fail there. «In provinces where half the candidates or 60 percent would fail there were no candidates,» Dafermos told reporters. A striking case of bribe-taking involved the former head of a local tax department who had also been elected mayor of his town. An inspection of his assets found that he was the owner of a hotel complex and many other properties whose value came to several million euros. «The general prosecutor of the State Audit Council has asked that he be held responsible for some 655,000 euros,» Dafermos said, without naming the official. An employee of a large municipality would confiscate the goods of illegal street merchants and impose fines, which he would keep for himself. In his 176-page report, Dafermos wrote of the results of 386 inspections by his own office and his review of 337 reports by other agencies. The largest number of complaints concerned town-planning offices (109, or 36 percent), followed by bribe-taking in other departments (16 percent). Dafermos blamed most of the corruption on complicated procedures in the public administration. He also lamented the fact that local authorities, who are elected, acted without any sense of accountability.