OPINION

A weighty reform

It is generally accepted that public utilities (DEKO) have been, and remain, rather dubious in both the quality of their services and management. For many years they constituted fertile ground for blatant transgressions of restrictions and rules. Appointed managers were willing to offer political favors, hiring superfluous staff and wasting state funds with controversial contracts. It is no coincidence that public services became frontrunners in all kinds of mismanagement and corruption. Whether the managers were honorable was, of course, a factor. But the problem was also structural, and it is significant that the government is now treating it as such. The new legislative framework – which dictates that every DEKO is overseen by a competent minister as well as by the economy minister – is not just a change in government power games. Chiefly, it is an extremely significant reform. Evidently, Finance and Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis will not be involved in the business affairs of these utilities. In view of this, there is no question of him substituting either the DEKO managers or the competent ministers. He will, however, have a strong say when it comes to monitoring the management of public money. Even the implementation of international accounting standards in itself is a decisive step in the right direction. In reality, the new institutional framework prevents DEKOs from operating as uncontrolled «fiefdoms.» Experience has shown us that the supervision of DEKOs by competent ministries to date has been deficient and ineffective. Furthermore, internal corruption – where ministers tolerated mismanagement and DEKO heads granted political favors – was hardly a rare phenomenon. A new regime of joint supervision will bring significant changes to this situation. From now on, DEKOs will be obliged to submit their plans, on the basis of which they will receive their funding and be monitored. The traditionally closed relationship between the competent minister and management will open up to embrace a third party. The intervention of this third factor will curb these unhealthy practices. The Economy Ministry believes it will save between 1 and 2 billion euros with the implementation of the new program. This speaks volumes about its importance. For all these reasons, the draft bill being promoted is significant and can remedy a situation which has constituted a scourge for our economy and society for decades.