NEWS

Survey finds graft is thriving

Corruption is thriving in Greece’s public and private sectors, with staff at hospitals, tax offices and town-planning offices among the worst offenders, Transparency International’s Greek office said yesterday. Bribes paid to Greek officials last year rose by 50 million euros to 790 million euros, the corruption watchdog said, noting that the bulk of the increase was due to illicit transactions in the private sector. In the state sector, the usual suspects topped the chart. According to a survey of 6,122 people carried out for TI’s Greek office by polling firm Public Issue, hospitals accounted for 33.5 percent of bribes taken, with tax offices and local authority services accounting for 15.7 and 15.9 percent, respectively. Banks and lawyers are next on the list with 10.8 percent and 9 percent of cases. In the state sector, the average bribe was 1,355 euros and in the private sector 1,671 euros, according to the survey. The head of TI’s Athens office, Costas Bakouris, said the report also showed that the overwhelming majority (98 percent) of Greeks believed the implementation of existing laws is the best way to crack down on graft. A similarly large majority (96 percent) wants to see bribe-takers punished. According to Bakouris, the problem is not the lack of legal provisions for curbing corruption but the nonimplementation of existing ones. «The problem is lax and sometimes selective implementation,» he said. Bakouris and Public Issue Director Yiannis Mavris both said that Greece’s financial crisis is closely linked to graft. «It is a problem with very deep roots,» Mavris said. Last November, Greece was ranked at the bottom of a list of the 27 member states of the European Union on TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2008. The index awarded Greece a score of 3.8, where 10 is highly clean and 0 is highly corrupt. The rating was equal to that of Bulgaria and Romania, and below non-EU countries such as Botswana and Tunisia.