Utilities in line for shake-up

A new law designed to reform the way state-controlled utilities are run is set to be approved by the government this week, with its main focus on tackling what Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told Sunday’s Kathimerini was the «undoubted» waste within the organizations. The Inner Cabinet is due to meet tomorrow to give the green light to a draft law which will seek, among other things, to set up a cross-ministerial committee which will approve the business plan of each utility, especially their budgets. Improving the administration of enterprises such as the Public Power Corporation (PPC), Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and Olympic Airlines has been declared as one of the ruling conservatives’ main economic policy goals. In his annual economic speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair last month, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis made a point of highlighting his government’s determination to reform the utilities, beginning with an end to jobs for life. The financial problems for many of the state-controlled utilities seem to be mounting as their total outstanding debts have risen from some 9.3 million euros to 11.7 million euros over the last two years. OSE’s revenues, meanwhile, only cover a fifth of the organization’s costs. The government thinks these developments are due to poor financial management within the utilities. «There is undoubtedly waste in the utilities, which can be provocative as it is linked to benefits and high wages,» Alogoskoufis told Sunday’s Kathimerini. «There is still mismanagement, which has been aided by the lack of state inspections.» Under the new bill, utilities will be required to comply with international accounting standards and produce financial statements every three months so the government can keep an eye on how public money is spent. «Is it just by chance that many utilities do not publish their accounts?» Alogoskoufis said. «Theft and waste can hide in this darkness.»