NEWS

Stricter rules to halt graft

The drive to target graft in the public sector continued yesterday as the government unveiled a new bill which imposes stricter penalties on corrupt civil servants while also offering incentives to their colleagues to inform on them. According to the proposals unveiled by Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haris Kastanidis, any public servant coming forward with information about corrupt practices in their department, even if it is for offenses that are subject to the statute of limitations, will be given an amnesty even if he or she is involved too. The proposed law would also give the minister the right to order an investigation into the personal wealth of any bureaucrat under suspicion of breaking the law based on a complaint from someone either within the public sector or an ordinary citizen. The draft law also makes it a felony rather than a misdemeanor for a public servant, a tax inspector or a customs official to be found guilty of a breach of trust. Also, any public servants found to be submitting false declarations on their source of wealth («pothen esches») will also face criminal prosecution. Prime Minister George Papandreou made tackling graft one of his main election pledges and his government has moved quickly to attempt to draw up new legislation to stamp out corruption while also building up political consensus on the issue. In an unusual display of harmony, PASOK and New Democracy found common ground during a meeting of parliamentary party leaders in December when methods of tackling corruption and boosting transparency were discussed. The rare meeting was convened at the request of Papandreou. Also last December, the Cabinet approved a bill that will see all public sector decisions, budgets and even the wages of some bureaucrats published on the Internet. Under the proposals it will be compulsory for each government department and the wider public sector in general to publish all its decisions, including appointments, the formation of committees and the remuneration paid to their members. Each department will also have to make public its budget as well as its balance sheets.