Red tape is still a bind

Half of civil services and independent bodies, which are bound by an agreement to help cut red tape by doing the legwork on behalf of citizens, are not keeping to the deal, according to the results of an internal investigation carried out by the government. The Interior Ministry found that 49 percent of the organizations, including six ministries and 10 independent bodies, are making applicants go from one service to another. By law, civil servants are obliged to communicate with other departments if they need to get more paperwork for an application, for instance for pensions or for the establishment of a company. However, the ministry has found that, just as two years ago, only one in two services is actually implementing the changes. When challenged by the ministry, many bodies said that they did not comply because they lacked the necessary equipment, even though only a fax is needed. Some also claimed a shortage of staff. Sources said that circulars are repeatedly distributed to civil service offices clarifying that retrieving documents for citizens is the job of workers in public services. The results of the study are a blow to the Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who had been hoping to cut the mountains of red tape faced by Greeks, which costs the equivalent of 6.8 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product. In 2005, the Interior Ministry worked with the Ombudsman to produce a «Good Behavior Guide,» which, among other things, advised bureaucrats to greet citizens politely and not to eat, smoke, read books or talk on their mobile phones while dealing with inquiries. Earlier this year the Interior Ministry announced it was joining forces with the Economy and Finance Ministry in a bid to reduce bureaucratic costs by a quarter over the next five years through a 631-million-euro program, called Politia. This would help boost public coffers by 4 billion euros, according to government estimates, as it would stimulate economic activity by increasing competitiveness and productivity.