The bill on disciplinary responsibility of civil servants by the Ministry of Administrative Reform was approved last week with the support of PASOK, New Democracy and LAOS.
The debates in parliament once again revealed the daily corruption in public administration and the absurd way in which civil servants are being handled.
The examples in which impunity nurtures the growth of bureaucracy and non-transparency are many:
- After the legendary escape of Vassilis Paleokostas the responsible employees in the prison were declared innocent and were never fully checked.
- The teachers accused of issuing fake diplomas were declared innocent by the Court and after an appeal by the Minister of Education, they were sentenced by the Court of Appeal.
- A tax employee from Thessaloniki was charged with failure to do her job and illegal return of VAT. The Court determined the offence was committed by negligence and due to the statute of limitations, the employee was declared innocent. After a complaint by the administration the case was transferred to the Court of Appeal, where she was sentenced to removal from office for six months.
- An employee from the Customs office of the Athens airport was accused of stealing watches, mobile phones, laptops and branded clothes. Many of the goods were found in his home. He was brought before the Disciplinary Court with a proposal for permanent removal from office. He was found guilty and removed from office for 4 months! Only after the Minister of Finance submitted an appeal, the Court of Appeal dismissed him, and subsequently he was convicted of theft by the criminal courts.
- A tax official in Athens demanded 100,000 Euros in order not to file a tax violation he found in a company. The Finance Minister referred the case to the Disciplinary Court, which imposed suspension from office for six months. The employee was fired later by the Court of Appeals.
- Deposits of over seven million Euros were found in the bank accounts of an employee of the Administrative Court of Athens and her family. Moreover, she herself, or with her husband, owned all the shares of a joint stock company and were involved in its management.
- After inspection, deposits of over 900,000 Euros were found in the bank account of a customs officer, which cannot be justified from his income.
- The record with the most corrupt officials belongs to the Public Works Agency. In particular, five cases of the 13 mentioned in the document of the Ministry of Administrative Reform, refer to heads of Public Works offices across the country in whose accounts were found over 4 million Euros, which cannot be justified by their incomes.
- A former chief of forestry on an island in the Saronic Gulf has become a millionaire. According to the report of the Ministry, "more than 1 million Euros were found in his bank accounts, which cannot be justified by his income."
- Finally, a former director of technical services in western Greece, who owns a bank account with over 600,000 Euros was removed from office.
The job of the Disciplinary Courts
The data show that in the last 10 years Appeal Disciplinary Courts have submitted 3,362 complaints on 1,834 cases. Of these, in 1,938 of the cases offences are committed by the management staff, and in 1 424 of the cases by the employees.
Decisions were made on 2,846 complaints, which relate to 1,532 cases and 518 cases remain unsolved. The Chief Inspector of Public Administration has submitted 789 complaints. A decision has been made on 604 of them.
The Ministry of Finance has submitted 809 complaints, the Ministry of Education - 177, the management of the Social Insurance Institute (IKA) – 57 and other departments, which have submitted less.
Brookings International Institute has created a special report on corruption in Greece. It is stressed in the research that the budget deficit in the country has increased by 4 percent due to corruption in public administration. And this happens because tax evasion is increasing, the grey economy strengthens and investors are being deterred.
According to the index of perception of corruption in 2011 by the non-governmental organisation "Transparency Without Borders" Greece occupies a leading position among the Eurozone countries.
The new bill, the increase of penalties for public officials who have committed disciplinary offences, and by extending the statute of limitations, aim to end the practice of violators going unpunished.
With the change in the composition of boards of first instance, which usually pre-release offenders (because representatives of employees participate in them), it is aimed to become more efficient, impartial, and function not only on the principle of collegiate solidarity.
At the same time strict deadlines are being introduced for the completion of investigations, other procedures and issuing decisions. Those who do not meet the deadline will be held accountable.
And another detail: serious criminal offences such as fraud, embezzlement, distribution of child pornography by teachers, military and others, drug use and trafficking were among the offences for which there was a statute of limitation in the Disciplinary Courts.
So far, First Instance Courts have failed to issue timely decisions, deliberately delayed proceedings in order for a case to be closed due to statute of limitations or they have just imposed some of the mildest penalties!