NEWS

Ministry workers on graft charge

Four employees of the Infrastructure Ministry and two at the Prefecture of Kilkis in northern Greece have been suspended after allegedly colluding to issue permits so machinery that had not been inspected could be used in public works projects. Infrastructure Minister Dimitris Reppas immediately ordered the suspension of his four subordinates (one general manager and three lower-level public servants) after Public Administration General Inspector Leandros Rakintzis revealed the alleged scam. According to the evidence uncovered by Rakintzis, the two bureaucrats in Kilkis issued paperwork declaring the machinery fit for use even though they had never seen it in operation. They then sent these documents to the ministry, where they received the final approval from the general manager of the Technical Department at the ministry’s General Secretariat for Public Works. It is believed that the six suspects were receiving cash payments from the companies involved to approve the paperwork. The money was posted to the ministry in Athens by the public servants in Kilkis. The general manager had informed his staff not to open any registered mail but when his secretary mistakenly opened one letter, she found almost 1,000 euros inside. It is not clear how much money the six allegedly made from their scam but Rakintzis believes that some 1,600 permits were issued using this method. The inspector believes that one of the two Kilkis officials earned 1,000 to 10,000 euros in kickbacks for each permit he processed. «He authorized machinery that he had never seen, thus endangering the lives of operators and others,» said Rakintzis. According to the inspector, the ministry’s general manager, whose name was not made public, also issued a circular to regional offices to inform them that a specific type of machinery would be exempt from a special tax. It is estimated that this decision, which had not been approved by a higher-ranking official, cost the state 120,000-135,000 euros.