Tougher checks on hospital spending

The Finance Ministry will step up checks on the country’s costly hospital system in a bid to fight overspending and help meet tight fiscal goals, according to sources. The Finance Ministry’s Special Investigation Service (SIS) will comb over hospital books after growing reports of employees fixing tender deals that award contacts to a limited number of suppliers. We have in our possession two taped conversations of hospital staff members fixing tenders for medical supplies at one of Athens’s largest hospitals, said one source, who asked not to be named. Authorities said that bandage orders at the same hospital have increased some 40 percent recently, though the supplier has been delivering fewer quantities according to invoices. At the start of next year, the government plans to submit to Parliament a draft bill that is intended to transfer the monitoring of hospital purse strings to a joint ministerial committee. The Finance Ministry is aiming to cut down on spending as the government hopes to balance its budget by 2010. According to the 2008 draft budget, some 6 billion euros’ worth of extra revenues are needed to cut the deficit to 1.7 percent of economic output from 2.5 percent this year. A crackdown on excessive spending practices by municipalities and prefectures is also expected, along with tighter checks on co-funded government projects backed by the European Union.