28/06/2011. While Greek politicians are voting in austerity measures that are a condition of further EU and IMF bailout funds being released, one of the root causes of the crisis – corruption – is fading from view. So says Transparency International Greece.
In March 2011, Transparency International in Greece (TI-Greece) published its 2010 Annual Survey on Corruption in the country covering the period between July and December. It estimated that bribery cost Greece €632 million in 2010 (US$837 million). Although down from a high of €787 million (US$1.09 billion) in 2009, this was mainly due to a reflection of the effects of the financial crisis and the shrinking size of the Greek economy.
The overall picture, taken over the four years since the survey started in 2007, is more troubling: on average more than one in ten people report having to pay a bribe for some kind of service, predominantly to public sector institutions.
In 2010, for example, more than a third of people surveyed who used a public health sector facility reported paying a bribe to secure a service or jump a queue.
Transparency International’s 86-country public survey, the Global Corruption Barometer, tells the same story. 75 per cent of Greek people surveyed in June 2010 thought corruption was increasing, and 18 per cent of households who had contact with a public service in the previous 12 months had paid a bribe.
Another TI study published last year shows that lengthy proceedings and short statutes of limitations pose significant problems for prosecuting corruption in Greece. It is particularly striking that statutes of limitations for parliamentarians and ministers are shorter than for regular citizens. Greeks named political parties as the institutions they perceived to be the most corrupt.
Need for strong anti-corruption measures
TI believes that the first step to fighting corruption is building strong anti-corruption measures into key institutions. Transparency, accountability and integrity are concepts that can be translated into concrete actions and enforceable legislation.
In Greece, TI has submitted a series of recommendations to the government:
- On political financing, it wants the Elections Committee upgraded, parties to comply with accounting requirements, and the procedure of politician’s asset declarations to be reinforced.
- On the tax system, a TI conference in Athens identified the need for a codified, unified set of tax regulations which would not include the formalities and excessive red tape in the current tax code and the permanent abrogation of tax settlements (where unpaid taxes are resolved with a once-off payment).
- On public contracting, it wants the government to implement Integrity Pacts – a tool for keeping public procurement clean (the Integrity Pact is an agreement between a government or a government department (at the federal, national or local level) and all bidders for a public contract that neither side will: pay, offer, demand or accept bribes; collude with competitors to obtain the contract; or engage in such abuses while carrying out the contract. Transparency International has used Integrity Pacts for ten years in hundreds of contracts in over 15 countries, which shows that practical solutions can make a difference if the political will is there).
TI Greece 2010 National Corruption Survey – http://en.transparency.gr/download.aspx?file=/Uploads/File/Survey_2010_Short%20Presentation%20EN.pdf
TI Greece Press Release for 2010 Survey – http://en.transparency.gr/Press.aspx?page=34&code=PressRelease&article=295
Global Corruption Barometer – http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/gcb/2010
Timed Out: Statutes of Limitations and Prosecuting Corruption in EU Countries – http://transparency.org/regional_pages/europe_central_asia/projects_and_activities/statutes_limitations
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