Graft ills escape PM

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s remarks during his speech at the National Council for Administrative Reform were totally divorced from reality. «Modern public administration must continue to be meritocratic. PASOK purged public administration of partisan interests, with its law on hiring… Along with hirings, promotions in the public sector will always take place according to ability, knowledge and merit. The initiative displayed by civil servants and the dedication to their vocation will be rewarded materially and morally,» the prime minister said. This is a far cry from the daily experience of the millions of Greek citizens who deal with public administration. Corruption, nepotism, and partisanship are the rule, in contradiction to Simitis’s claims. Public administration has never excelled, but the mess of the previous decades has gone beyond the pale. Simitis said that we have to put an end to waste, political favors, and to the unacceptable bribery aimed at accelerating bureaucratic procedures, apparently dismissing the intrinsic flaws in the public administration, which have acquired unprecedented dimensions during Greece’s Socialist rule. Without questioning the regular abuses committed by the various local administrations, it is hypocritical to focus, as Simitis did, on the fact that «in many cases, the 1998 local administration dashed public expectations,» thereby suppressing the far more serious shortcomings of state administration: discredited public services staffed with underpaid officials who have not been recruited according to meritocratic procedures; officials who are vulnerable to corruption and who treat their posts as a means for easy money-making; insufficient executives and an institutional framework which suppresses and discourages any more ambitious or idealistic civil servants from attempting to stand out in a sea of mediocrity and indifference; venal officials who ravage the state budget in the shape of unmonitored advisers, collecting high payments and convincing all civil servants that moneygrubbing is the path to the highest rank in the administrative pyramid. The situation is coming to a head. The country will not be able to survive the highly competitive global environment unless someone dares to carry out a brave reform, a radical transformation of the public administration.