OPINION

Smoke screen for corruption

The effectiveness of the country’s public services leaves much to be desired. A number of violations on several levels have often brought tragicomic results. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to attribute the shortcomings to the lax attitude and irresponsibility of public officials alone. Rather, the reasons should be sought in the absence of a solid monitoring system. The fact is that no disciplinary or criminal action is taken against wrongdoers. When penalties are enforced, they are minor or insignificant. If checks are lacking, that is mainly because neglect for regulations facilitates arbitrary behavior and corruption, which in turn breed a climate of tolerance. Governments are happy with the situation, for it allows them to build their own clientele ties. Reports indicate that notorious bank robber Vassilis Palaiocostas would not have been able to escape without the help of prison officials. Certainly, staff are very disorganized and sometimes irresponsible, but these failings are mostly used as a smoke screen for corruption. In a bid to contain the political damage, the minister of justice made what seemed an obvious statement, while also sending a message to the judges. However, a conviction requires more than logical conclusions; it requires evidence. The government faux pas does not cancel out the clear responsibilities of the Korydallos staff. When it comes to personal interests, individuals are quite rational. The kidnapping left Palaiocostas with a lot of money, and money is a big temptation. When prison officials take a bribe it’s because they know their punishment will be minor. After all, their colleagues implicated in Palaiocostas’s first escape got away largely unscathed. Moreover, they know they can expect support from their union. For all they are asked to do is take a favorable decision or fail to deliver at the crucial moment. You won’t see heads rolling in Greece for such things. Sure, there will be some fuss. But it will soon be forgotten and the media will move on to the next fiasco.