Greek Public & Private Sector: Corruption, Tax Evasion and Impunity Still Alive and Kicking

Posted by in Economy

Health sector and tax authorities are the masters in corruption according to a report issued by Leandros Rakitzis, Greece’s public administration inspector, the country’s watchdog on corruption in the public services. No, the crisis did not lowered corruption, just the price of it.

“While the crisis has not reduced the corruption itself, it has reduced the price of corruption,” Rakintzis told Skai TV after publishing his annual report for the year 2011. “They (civil servants) have lowered their price,” Rakitzis found out.

Out of 1,403 corruption cases examined, 393 were referred to prosecutors. Four out of ten case were investigated after ocmplaints by citiznes. The worst offenders were officials working at the tax authority as well as high ranking civil servants with many years of work experience, the report found.

Rakintzis said that the majority of corruption cases concern local government officials, and employees in the health sector, at social security funds and town planning offices.

Nice Try…

In one incident, a tax office official gave her fiance proof of tax clearance even though he never submitted his tax return and had arrears amounting to 178,863 euros.

In another case, a Foreign Ministry official issued visas without carrying out necessary checks, redeeming the visa with an additional tax-free income.

A civil servant was caught transporting illegal immigrants with his vehicle. His punishment were salaries of three months/

However Leanrdos Rakitzis repeated his complaint that some civil servants get away with a soft punishment like a suspension from work only for a couple of months.

He said that disciplinary committees issued some 1,900 decisions last year but Rakintzis appealed against 186 of these because he felt the punishment was not harsh enough.

In one case, an employee at the OAED Manpower Organization who was illegally securing unemployment benefits for his sister and brother-in-law but was only suspended from duty for four months.

“The struggle against corruption is not easy and demands persistent political will,” Rakitzis wrote in his report.

Impunity

As the economic situation of Greeks deteriorates and it will continuing doing so with hikes in regular and emergency taxes and income decreases for citizens and civil servants, corruption is still alive and kicking. One just has to recall the many scandals that broke out in 2012 with fake blinds, fake disabled and fake “whatevers” exploiting public money and social benefits, after state doctors confirmed the alleged disabilities.

And yet. The government policy on perjurer civil servants seems to remain the same: make public the scandal for the justice-hungry Greeks, accompanied by flamboyant announcements and assurances that “the knife will hit the bone.” And then nothing. No dismissal, no confiscation.

 The civil servants committing the corruption crimes are found keep silently working at their old work places.

Fake Blinds & Clever Doctors

Characteristic for this practice are the cases of doctors on the island of Chios and Zakynthos who massively approved fake blind confirmations and allowed hundreds of corrupt citizens to enjoy social benefits.

Just a couple of months after the scandals broke out, the doctors are still on duty. None the less because of the labyrinth corridors of the Greek bureaucracy, that assigns more ministries to be responsible for the several public administration sectors.

When asked as to why the doctors are still working, Health Minister Andreas Lykouretzos told Capital gr, that is “up to the responsibility of the Ministry for Labour, Social Insurance and Benefits to decide.” 

Tax Evasion

At the same time, reports but also personal experience about businessmen who still try to evade taxes by not issuing receipts are almost on a daily basis.

Only recently Financial Crimes Units (SDOE) of the Finance Ministry were stunned to find out that the majority of  businessmen in favorite tourist destinations, the Greek islands, did not bother at all to issue receipts therefore bypassing giving the state at least the 23% Value Added Tax.

SDOE found that seven out of ten businesses had committed tax evasions. In inspections conducted 6-23 July 2012, SDOE carried out 1,410 tax controls. 805 ‘offenders’ had committed 22,435 tax offences.

However hiding the V.A.T. and the revenues from the tax office does not always mean that it is for the benefit of the customer. I keep hearing complains by friends who pay full price at restaurants or bars and get no receipt – and no price reduction.

What if the state has no money… Civil servant continue to establish their own private ‘businesses’ within the publice services knowing they won’t get punished. Private businessmen continue to evade taxes knowing nobody goes to prison for this or that they can settle the fine with a bribe-envelope (fakelaki).

I think we are trapped into a vicious circle: one citizens tries to rob another, they all together try to rob the state and the state tries to rob all citizens from the money the majority of them does not have. 

This is austerity in moral values, I’m afraid.

A project “Re-Install Greece” is urgently needed here.