Petty bribery on the rise

Citizens are increasingly resorting to bribes in order to get jobs done in both the public and private sectors, according to a new survey published by the Greek arm of corruption watchdog Transparency International. The survey, carried out by polling firm Public Issue among a sample of 6,105 citizens on behalf of the watchdog, found that one in seven citizens paid so-called «fakelakia» (little envelopes) last year. An estimated 750 million euros was paid in bribes, according to Public Issue, some 10 percent more than in 2007. This sum breaks down to an average of 1,450 euros in bribes per family, according to Yiannis Mavris of Public Issue, who noted that more than three-quarters of the fakelakia were paid by citizens to civil servants in order to facilitate a procedure. Some 60 percent of bribes were paid to state hospitals, tax offices and town-planning offices. Many fakelakia also went to the Transport Ministry’s driving license-issuing department and to prefectural offices for various services. Most of the bribes paid in the private sector went to doctors, to banks – for the issuance of loans at favorable terms, to lawyers and to driving school instructors. The survey said 9.5 percent of households, or 337,009 families, admitted to bribing civil servants last year a total of 463 million euros. Meanwhile, 5.1 percent of households, or 180,920 families, admitted to giving bribes in the private sector, amounting to 285 million euros. According to the survey, the average single bribe to a doctor in a state hospital is 870 euros, though there was one case when a patient gave 6,000 euros. To secure the issuance of a building license or «legitimize» an illegally constructed house, the average bribe needed is 2,169 euros, though there reportedly has been an instance of 15,000 euros being paid under the table. The largest sums are paid to tax offices, usually for the regulation of outstanding debts, and can reach 30,000 euros. The average fakelaki paid in a private clinic is 4,543 euros. Despite the involvement of many citizens in petty bribery, the survey found that the overwhelming majority of Greeks – 80 percent – condemn corruption in public life.

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