OPINION

Contract irregularities

The revelations about irregularities in the tenders and contracts of the Athens 2004 Olympic organizing committee, according to allegations by two former members of a three-member auditing committee, unfortunately came as old news to most of the public. However, new evidence has emerged concerning inexcusable delays in completing contracts and tenders. Sponsorship contracts were allegedly signed with long delays or have yet to be signed, at the expense of Athens 2004 and, by extension, the state coffers. According to the allegations made by the retired judges of the oversight committee, many big contracts were executed before they were signed, while the belated completion of procurement tenders worked to the benefit of the bidders. The findings of the two judges were reported to the government in April. Before releasing their report, the removed judges sent a letter to the prime minister. Government officials who, of course, know more than what is included in the findings of the oversight committee should shed full light on the workings and the procedures followed by Athens 2004 as they fundamentally concern the management of public wealth. The involvement of prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos does not satisfy the public demand for resolving the issue. It rather shows clearly the extent of political responsibility, because the administration of public wealth is a political act par excellence which cannot be regulated via legal procedures. It is worth keeping in mind that both of the governments that were involved in organizing the Athens Olympic Games had emphasized they were against money squandering, that they would try to inject a sense of moderation and morality to the games (as former Socialist Prime Minister Costas Simitis said) or to build a public sphere that would be permeated with modesty and humility (in the words of Simitis’s successor, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis). To be sure, none of the Greeks want to believe that an elected government would think of wasting taxpayer money only to satisfy the vanity and the nouveau riche whims of politically unaccountable people. The government must cast full light on the economic (mis)management surrounding Athens 2004.