Crackdown on spending

A spending clampdown bill, part of the government’s latest bid to monitor public bodies that are frittering away state funds and which creates a team of inspectors with the power to investigate cases of wasteful spending, is to be submitted to Parliament very soon, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. The draft law will help create a Fiscal Inspectors Squad, which will monitor the use of money from state coffers as well as European Union funds that are handed over to public sector organizations. The initiative comes at a time when the government views reining in public expenditure as a key tool in its armory to combat the country’s excessive deficit. Greece has to more than halve its budget deficit to under 3 percent of GDP by the end of 2006 to comply with eurozone rules and meet a deadline set by the European Commission. An indication of the government’s determination to cut down on public expenditure came at the end of March, when Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas informed ministries that only 45 percent of the spending entries included in this year’s budget would be covered for the time being. The new squad will be fully independent and its remit will include checking on the use of public money by the office of President Karolos Papoulias, Parliament, government ministries, regional and local authorities, the Church of Greece and independent state bodies. Any private organizations or groups for which state funding accounts for over half of their annual revenues are also within the inspectors’ scope. They will be empowered to carry out in-depth examination of state-financed organizations’ finances in order to establish whether the money they have been allocated by the state is being spent appropriately. The intention is that the Fiscal Inspectors Squad will be aware of every outlay made by each of the bodies within its scope of authority. The inspectors will also check that the public funding received by these organizations is recorded properly in their accounts. They will have the authority to temporarily suspend any civil servant who hampers their work by concealing information, such as accounts, from them.