The sharks and piranhas of public money swim in the muddy waters of corruption. The former devour their prey and are usually never found; they exploit their strength. But a recent inspection of public servants’ assets by the state auditors netted 130 piranhas. These were employees who had quietly but efficiently managed to create reserves of hundreds of millions of drachmas in record time. True, these reserves did not flow into the public purse, but only into the pockets of their creators; however, nobody is perfect. Following investigation into the assets of 25,000 public servants – from a total of 400,000 – there were at least 130 cases of deposits in excess of 100 million drachmas which could not be justified by the meager salaries of their owners. All of a sudden, an employee on a low wage and just six years of service appears to have saved 150 million drachmas, a miracle worthy of Argentina’s Finance Ministry. And strangely enough, most of these miracles took place in offices connected with public works, town planning permits and driving licenses, in other words, where Lucifer usually spreads his tentacles. One might claim that 5 percent of those monitored is not so bad. But we fear that it is just the tip of the iceberg. Worse still, these officials, who have betrayed the citizens’ trust and who view a public service post as a private business, are supported by the large proportion of the public that engages in under-the-counter dealings, either in order to expedite handling of legitimate matters or to have some completely illegal demand met. In either case the result is socially fatal, whether it is a matter of polluting the environment by building illegal hotel complexes, or of the thousands of drivers, potential suicides and murderers, who learn to drive after getting their license by crooked means. It has been said that people get the governments they deserve. Perhaps it is time to look at the matter in broader terms. Perhaps we ordinary citizens tolerate and maintain a corrupt public administration on the understanding that in this way we all help each other. Some believe the introduction of the euro will act as a catalyst, speeding up political union in Europe; but it is too early for such assertions.

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