NEWS

Public administration in Greece impeded by staffers’ poor skills

What do most of the reports you get at the European Union refer to? A large part, about 25 percent, of the research I conducted over that past year related to lack of transparency, including cases of refusal to supply information. This research mainly concerned cases in which EU institutions did not supply documents or simply did not reply to applications by citizens, businesses and organizations. Other cases of bad management that I deal with and which seem to be common to public administration throughout Europe are cases of abuse of power, unjustified discrimination, delays and negligence. Do you consider the procedures followed by European organizations to be transparent? In which sectors are allegations of lack of transparency concentrated? EU institutions have made serious efforts to improve the services they offer the public and to promote transparency. But there is still plenty of room for improvement in order to establish completely transparent administration capable of caring for and answering to the public. One measure that I found extremely encouraging for the promotion of transparency was the adoption of new internal procedures by the European Commission concerning its response to investigations conducted by the Ombudsman. Under these new procedures, the commissioners now personally assume political responsibility for each case. What measures would you recommend to improve the situation? One sphere in which I think greater transparency could be achieved in the EU is in cases where the European Council operates as a lawmaking body. Even though significant steps have been taken to enhance the transparency of the Council’s procedures, I still think that all and not just some legislative meetings of the Council should be open and accessible to the public. From your experience as European Ombudsman where do you place Greece among member states when it comes to administrative services and human rights? Based on my experience both as Greek Ombudsman and European Ombudsman, I would say that Greek public administration has taken considerable steps forward in acknowledging its obligation to serve the public and help them deal with its offices. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The main and serious problem with Greek public administration is the low level of knowledge and skills of the staff. A public administration with low levels of knowledge and skills, the product of non-meritocratic criteria for appointments, cannot function rationally, effectively and in a user-friendly manner or incorporate into its code of behavior a respect for the fundamental rights of citizens (and in general of those who use its services) so as to understand the basic principle that the state exists in order to serve citizens, and not the reverse. Consequently, the adoption and espousal of the principles of a culture of serving citizens is a major strategic goal for Greece’s public administration.