Kickbacks cost 613 mln euros

One in five Greeks paid an estimated total of 613 million euros in bribes to public and private sector officials last year, according to the results of a survey made public yesterday. According to corruption watchdog group Transparency International, 26 percent of the 6,000 households surveyed said they had been asked for a bribe at some point in their dealings with the public service. Nine percent also said they had been asked to pay bribes by non-state bodies, including hospitals and banks. Hospitals, town-planning and tax departments are considered the most corrupt public services. As for the private sector, bribes go mostly to doctors, banks and lawyers who often play an intermediary role between their clients and the state. The average public sector bribe in 2007 reached 1,313 euros, while private sector kickbacks averaged 1,554 euros. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has pledged to tackle corruption in public services – a key election platform that helped the conservative leader win his first term in office in March 2004. He said yesterday that technology can be used as a tool to reduce the number of opportunities corrupt officials can take advantage of. «A crucial method to achieve more efficient operation of the state… and a way to stamp out corruption is our e-governance plan,» he said. «The utilization (of technology) will allow people to perform transactions without the mediation of state employees… more directly, efficiently and objectively.» Greece ranks 56th in Transparency International’s 2007 corruption index of 180 countries, that was published last year. PASOK president George Papandreou accused Karamanlis of contributing to the problem by failing to uncover who is behind recent scandals, including the acquisition of overpriced government bonds by state pension funds. «The government supposedly came to provide solutions to boost transparency but it has become a central part of the problem itself,» he said.