OPINION

Town planning and graft

We should welcome the decision by prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos to launch a preliminary investigation into whether the Town Planning Department and notaries broke any laws in issuing building licenses with false dates to constructors so they could avoid to pay value-added tax (which comes into effect in January next year). Similarly, we should also hail the government decision to set up a group of prosecutors who will conduct checks on town-planning offices and notaries for the same reason. All this is not without good reason. The issuing of tens of thousands of building permits is currently taking place throughout the country’s town-planning offices. True to form, Greeks are rushing at the last moment to submit the requisite documents so that they can legally avoid paying the VAT which is to be imposed on property next year. There are too many license applications for existing staff to process before the year is out. This creates a favorable environment for illegal transactions – particularly in a corruption-prone sector such as town planning. Many people are tempted to bribe officials in order to speed up the processing of their applications. The government must take measures to enforce the smooth and fair processing of the applications, while the threat of prosecutor raids should also help avert potential wrongdoers. Furthermore, the government should take advantage of the current juncture to extend and intensify probes into possible wrongdoing by town-planning officials throughout the country. It is common knowledge that town-planning departments are ridden with corruption. The authorities must pierce to the marrow of the problem. The government, the judiciary and all the democratic institutions must show determination. It’s time to crack down on the rings that do business on the back of public administration – whether it’s the town-planning offices, the tax offices or the ministries. People can no longer tolerate this sick situation and must demand radical measures as soon as possible.