‘Corruption is like the Lernaian Hydra’

Trying to get rid of corruption is rather like cutting off a Hydra’s heads. It just keeps coming back, a senior civil servant has told Kathimerini. According to Costas Dafermos, general inspector for the civil service, it is impossible to be completely free of corruption. In this interview with Kathimerini, Dafermos, who is also honorary vice president of the Supreme Court, talks about corruption’s many aspects, such as irregularities in public works finances and illegalities by local government interest groups. «Corruption is like the Lernaian Hydra: You cut off one head and more grow in its place,» he said. Dafermos believe these phenomena are «nurtured and reproduced because of the lack of transparency in the way the State functions.» He professes to be stunned by the illegal activities of mayors, who break large projects down into smaller ones to be assigned directly to contractors of their choosing. As for contracts and public works, Dafermos said that as designs were incomplete, arbitrary changes during the execution of the contract often cost the State a great deal. Even inspectors were not immune; an investigation of their sources of income is currently under way. «A few dozen (income) statements have been singled out,» he said, adding that on average there were 80 violations of the disciplinary code by civil servants every month. Over the past two months, four staff members have been dismissed. However, Dafermos believes that disciplinary procedures leave much to be desired, with unjustified delays and punishments that are inversely proportional to the offenses, which were usually serious and in most cases called for dismissal. Dafermos says people themselves bear a large proportion of responsibility for perpetuating the phenomena of corruption, particularly the notorious «little envelopes» given to hospital doctors, a practice which Dafermos said is the rule. «These envelopes and every act of bribery is a dance that needs two dancers,» he said. He advises the government to be careful in selecting senior staff, who should be people with strong ethics.