OPINION

Accountability

Virtually all government figures tend to brush off criticism from the media or the opposition with the same response: «Your question,» they say, «doesn’t merit a reply.» Let’s take two recent incidents. One was the government’s refusal to respond to a Kathimerini article last Sunday which said that a Greek company received 60 million euros for mediating in the transaction of 170 Leopard tanks from a German firm. The second incident involved Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou’s silence over allegations that he wasted $45,000 of taxpayers’ money by hiring a private jet during a recent visit to the US instead of taking a commercial flight. In the first case, Deputy Press Minister Telemachos Hytiris said the government would respond in Parliament as a New Democracy deputy had also submitted two questions on the subject. Hytiris did not add when and if the issue would be discussed in Parliament, though he might as well have done so. For it is common knowledge – and a subject of repeated opposition charges – that the ruling elite has manipulated the parliamentary system to the extent of avoiding government accountability. In a similar vein, Papantoniou was also vague and misleading when responding to charges about the cost of leasing the plane. He simply said that it was lower than $45,000, without mentioning the exact amount. In other words, whenever a government official is criticized for wrongdoing or omission in their sphere of responsibility, they do not seem annoyed or offended, nor do they hasten to prove their innocence. Instead, they resort to foot-dragging, prevarication or to «your-question-doesn’t-merit-a-reply» type reactions. In a democratic system, such behavior is a sign of arrogance, political amorality, or possibly an attempt to disguise guilt.