The tower of anomie


There are two well-publicized examples of how the state has lost hundreds of thousands of euros in revenues due to mismanagement or blatant thievery at major cultural institutions.

At the museum of the famous site of Knossos on Crete, a raid by the Financial Crimes Squad in the summer revealed that staff were issuing hardly any receipts at all and those that were issued were useless as the till was not registered with the Finance Ministry. Then, accounts drawn for 2014 for the Acropolis revealed that 3 million visitors had been counted as entering the site but half of them were granted a free pass.

What you end up with when you look at every level of the public administration is an extremely long list of problems. A lack of oversight means that illegal behavior has become a fixture, a part of the system. Even the simplest decisions need to go through a labyrinth of paperwork where they are pondered and weighed at every step before they can be implemented. Crackdowns against corrupt or inept public officials are always heralded among much fanfare and declarations of “zero tolerance” from whomever is in charge at any given time and then just fizzle out, losing steam and leaving just one winner behind. Who? The lawbreaker, a species with a very fast rate of reproduction. The lawbreaker is also very much helped by the typical Greek tactic of passing the blame. The minister wants to put an end to graft but can’t, the interests hiding behind any issue are always powerful, the proper authorities know of the infraction but are too understaffed to do anything about it.

I was prompted to recall the above two cases by a press conference held earlier this week by Culture Minister Aristides Baltas. He assured the press that the (infamous) electronic ticket would be introduced at all archaeological sites and museums “before the start of the new season,” while also admitting that he wasn’t sure whether the new cash registers ordered by the financial management authority responsible for archaeological sites and museums have been installed.

Sure, the example of Knossos may be one isolated incident but it represents how the tower of anomie is built on such minor things as a cash register that isn’t operating properly. And this tower has extremely strong foundations and is hard to topple, because it suits everyone involved and they are not likely to turn on each other anytime soon. If anything, the “powerful” interests always find a way to get along. Just woe betide the poor sap who pays, thinking that the money will go to the state.