OPINION

Suspect procurements

The charges being bandied regarding alleged sleights of hand in the program to upgrade Greece’s navy frigates once more shift the focus onto the matter of major public procurements and the way public funds are squandered. No one has rushed to take the claims of a former employee of French arms manufacturer Thales, incriminating French and Greek defense officials, at face value. The assertions, made by the top-level representative following his dismissal from Thales early last year, may contain some truth or they may not. In any case, his claims are an opportunity for us to discern the dubious procedures behind multi-billion-euro purchases being made in this country. As noted in Kathimerini’s feature on the subject yesterday, the project for upgrading Greece’s S-type frigates was approved in 2002 by the Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) despite objections by the then-navy chief. The latter deemed the program to be expensive and of little benefit, as the frigates in question would only be useful for a limited period of time. However, the navy chief’s objections were bypassed and the program was approved, and this around the time that security planning had gotten underway for the Olympic Games (which appear to have been the justification for speeding up the approval). No one is in a position to judge to what extent the navy chief was right in this situation, nor whether Greece had the means to allow the construction of new frigates. Nevertheless, the case in point is yet another indication of the fact that many of our country’s large state procurements suffer due to high prices, which are inflated by kickbacks for advisors and representatives (who do not actually make any real contribution), but also to political expediency. As former US President Dwight Eisenhower (a general himself) said in 1960, arms are the one area where the «understanding» between defense officials and the manufacturing industry lead to superfluous purchases. But this is often the case in other sectors, too, as can be seen in hospital procurements and local authority projects. Billions of euros are spent on superfluous activities. And on the occasions that useful purchases are made, they are generally put away in storerooms to rot. The claims by the fired French employee about the frigates may be groundless, but the government and the political world in general owe it to their people to put an end to this widespread waste and jugglery so that real public needs can be met.