OPINION

Defense against corruption

Some news items fly right under the radar, when in fact they should be getting our undivided attention. Following the recent crash of a military Apache-type helicopter in which two young men were killed, we were informed that 12 helicopters of the same model, but manufactured much more recently, have been stuck in storage for the past year because the Army General Staff refuses to take delivery of them. These helicopters cost $675 million and were ordered in 2002, so there must be something wrong with the agreement or their quality. Either someone didn’t do their job properly or someone cheated the state. Which party was in power at the time is not important. What is important is that Greek taxpayers have been paying enormous amounts of money for defense with extremely dubious results. At the same time, they see that a handful of people who were involved in the procurement of military equipment have made fortunes. Outrage is totally justified, especially at a time when the state does not have enough money to pay its nurses. Another such outrageous case concerns four German submarines, some of which were supposed to be built in Greece. In 2000, the Greek state paid 80 percent of their 1.5-billion-euro cost and has yet to see a single submarine. Navy officials refuse to take delivery of the vessels because they have ascertained basic design faults. At least a little comfort can be taken from the fact that some civil servants still care enough to protect the state’s interest, as one can only imagine what kind of pressure they were under to seal the deal. The war on terror, it seems, created an entire industry of intermediaries, of «influence pedlars» and corrupt state officials who live off everyone else. It is time, however, to break this cycle and start naming names in every instance of waste or fraud in this crucial sector, whether in the past or the present.