OPINION

Curbing corruption in public life

The greatest weapon against corruption is probably transparency. When citizens are aware of how public finances are being spent, there is a significant reduction in the squandering of public money. This is why we have the Government Gazette, which records all the decisions and activities of the government so that – theoretically, at least – citizens are able to monitor them. The more inspectors – albeit unofficial – the less scope there is for corruption. But, for various reasons, this has not had the intended impact in Greece. First of all, the state is too large and administrative decisions too numerous. Secondly, there is no mature civil society and the mass media pays very little attention to the details of the activities of successive governments. Thirdly, subscriptions to the Government Gazette are extremely expensive, curbing the number of potential inspectors. As a result, instances of palm-greasing by state officials may be published but generally pass without comment. In view of this, the Government Gazette operates as an alibi for transparency rather than a truly effective monitoring mechanism. But this publication should be freely accessible to all citizens on the Internet. Of course, every citizen would only check the decisions that interest him, but the more citizens we have checking public sector activities the more difficult it will be for corruption to go unnoticed. It would be ideal if all decisions made in the public sector were published electronically – from the state contracts signed by enterprises to public sector recruitment. The taxpayers should know whose salaries they are paying. There is some skepticism about such a move although there has already been debate about the electronic publication of civil servants’ pothen esches declarations of assets. But this would be a violation of personal data. It is one thing to publicize state activities and quite another to publicize the activities of citizens, even if they do work for the state.