An advocate for ‘chronic ailments’

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday visited the office of the Citizen’s Advocate and praised its work, and he acknowledged that many public services – especially those of health, welfare and town planning – caused traumatic experiences. In three years – from October 1998 to August 2001 – 25,357 complaints were filed with the Citizen’s Advocate, of which 34.81 percent dealt with relations between the citizen and the State, 28.67 percent dealt with social welfare, 23.42 percent with the environment and quality of life and 13.11 percent with human rights issues. Our experience of the functioning of many services is often not pleasant, Simitis said. Sometimes it is even traumatic. The problems in the health, welfare and town-planning offices are often solved after suffering, delays and travails for the citizen. Simitis said that the Citizen’s Advocate has highlighted, with prudence and determination, the pathological symptoms which were chronic and have tended to become endemic. He singled out for criticism the bureaucracy, low productivity, isolation from reality, the lack of transparency and the ease with which legality is often sidestepped or violated. The Citizen’s Advocate, Simitis said, has, on its own initiative, dealt with burning issues in cases where it appeared that human rights were at risk. Nikiforos Diamantouros, the Citizen’s Advocate, said the institution must not be considered only as a monitoring mechanism, but also as an advisory body to the political leadership and administration due to its wealth of experience, he said.

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