The Citizen’s Advocate office has already been in place for three years – and so has Nikiforos Diamantouros as the office’s head. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, for his part, will have completed six years as premier in a few months while his party will have been in power for eight consecutive years in the last 20-year period. However, there was something paradoxical yesterday about Simitis’s praise for the ombudsman. The prime minister lauded Diamantouros and his aides for highlighting the problems obstructing the smooth functioning of public services, but these services are actually headed by himself and his ministers. What is more, Simitis and his ministers have occupied their posts for a long time – quite long enough to cure the public services of their plight, as opposed to gloating over the fact that the ombudsman is lifting the veil off the mess – hence pointing the figure at the political failure of the government. This is no hyperbole. In praising the work of the Citizen’s Advocate, Simitis said that bureaucracy, low productivity, isolation from reality, the lack of transparency and the ease with which legality is often sidestepped or violated have tended to become endemic. In other words, the prime minister criticized the public administration of which he has been in charge since 1993 and which has, almost without interruption, been the exclusive responsibility of his party since 1981. Yet Simitis made no mention of this fact. The issue of responsibilities, however, has to be raised if the public administration is to be purged of all its inefficiency. It should not be done so that citizens can judge the stance of their rulers, but in order to determine the administration’s flaws (whether intentional or not). Party-political objectives and clientele relations alike saw public administration not as a sector that required efficient staff but as an area for the granting of political favors. It is only by determining the root causes of the pathological symptoms that the public sector can be cured – and this is, primarily, a political issue. The ombudsman’s monitoring function may be valuable but is no panacea. The prime minister may be right in praising him but he should keep in mind that setting up a transparent and effective administration is the government’s responsibility – not Diamantouros’s.

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