OPINION

Disabling corruption

According to reports yesterday some 120,000 people in Greece are receiving phony disability benefits. Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis has vowed to punish the wrongdoers. According to past statistics, the share of people faking disability in some municipalities is over 90 percent. This is not to question Kaklamanis’s intentions. However, previous ministers have repeatedly failed to deliver on similar promises. Good intentions and a strong will are not enough to detect bogus cases and freeze unwarranted pensions and benefits. The problem will be solved when the real villains are brought to justice. People who are faking a disability are not getting away with it on their own. They are being helped by corrupt officials who approved pension payments. The truth of the matter is highlighted by the uneven distribution of wrongdoers across the country’s municipalities. Ministers have used taxpayers’ money to buy out voters in their electoral constituencies. Members of the medical committees and other state bodies issued disability permits on ministerial orders or merely to serve the interests of the party that gave them a state sector job. Cross checking the names of staff members who have awarded the disability permits is necessary to shed light on this massive fraud that damaged the interests of the state, taxpayers and those who are really disabled. Revealing the names of staff members who issued the benefits requires more political courage than detecting the hundreds or thousands of persons faking disability – especially given that the practice appears to date back to the years of Socialist governance. If Kaklamanis does not want to see his name added to the long list of ministers who merely noticed the problem, he must expose and punish those who are really responsible for it.