NEWS

Law is adequate but not implemented

Based on your personal experience, would it help if the Greek Ombudsman had additional responsibilities? Comparison of the function of the European Ombudsman with that of the Citizen’s Advocate does not reveal any substantial differences or obvious gaps in the Greek legislation that ought to be covered in order to make the institution work better. Is the legislative armory of Greece adequate to stamp out corruption? My experience from the term I served as the Citizen’s Advocate indicates that, in general, the legislative armory is adequate. The problem lies more in the fact that the legislation in question is not implemented consistently and systematically. In other words, it is more the inadequate operation of the existing inspection mechanism (and much less the inadequacy of the legislative armory) that hampers the effective stamping out of corruption. It is said that you discussed the subject with Costas Simitis when he was prime minister. What do you consider to be the key measure for tackling corruption in the state sector? During my term as Greek Ombudsman I did indeed have the opportunity to inform the prime minister at the time of the opinions of the institution about dealing with corruption in public administration. One of the main conclusions in the report was that the final confirmation of corruption is the responsibility of the investigatory authorities and not of the Ombudsman. In fact, when it comes to corruption, the Ombudsman may have indications or suspicions but not proof. But to respond to your question, my main proposals to the then prime minister and the then minister of the interior, public administration and decentralization is that, in the final analysis, stamping out corruption is linked to a great extent with ensuring conditions which in the short term enable the unhindered implementation of existing legislation and the smooth running of existing monitoring mechanisms, and, in the long term, permit the staffing of public administration solely on meritocratic criteria, without exceptions and loopholes. The unhindered operation of the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP) can make a decisive contribution in that direction. Finally, allow me to make a general observation. Corruption in public administration must not be the distinguishing feature of a democratic society. I am also convinced that the extent of corruption in public administration is closely (and negatively, it is obvious) linked to the lack of transparency in the way the administration operates. A transparent public administration accepts its obligation to answer for its actions and, in the nature of things, combats corruption. To put it differently, consistent, systematic application of the principles of good administration combats and curbs corruption. Absolutely clear codes of behavior for public servants prevent confusion, among both public servants and the public, as to what is legal and what is not.