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Corruption report: Greece ranks worst in European Union for corruption

posted 5 Dec 2012, 12:30 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 5 Dec 2012, 12:31 ]

Greece has scored the worst ranking of all 27 European Union nations for corruption, according to anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

ATHENSGREECE (DECEMBER 5 2012)(REUTERS) - Chairman of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International GreeceCostas Bakouris said on Wednesday (December 5) the economic crisis has magnified the country's corruption problem after Greece scored the worst ranking of all 27European Union nations in a global league table of perceived official corruption by Transparency International.

The index on state sector corruption, published by Transparency International (TI) on Wednesday, which this year ranks 176 countries, measures perceptions of graft rather than actual levels due to the secrecy that surrounds most corrupt dealings. Greece took 94th place, below the poorer, newer democracies such as Bulgaria and RomaniaItalywas placed 72nd, just ahead of Bulgaria at 75th but behind Romania on 66th. In the 2011 index, Greece was in 80th place.

"Indeed the results of today they are very discouraging for the Greeks. The place of 94th in total number of countries of 176 is absolutely disappointing." said Bakouris.

The economic crisis has brought to the fore instances of businesses not issuing receipts, people receiving fake benefits, the wealthy avoiding taxes with offshore accounts, corrupt politicians, and weaknesses in enforcing the law, all which contribute to Greece's position, says Bakouris.

It has been a decades old tradition in Greece to be forced to slip envelopes full of cash into pockets of doctors, notaries, public administration and town planning officials among others in order to ensure a job will be done.

A corruption survey conducted for the Greek branch of Transparency International showed that 60 percent in the public sector and 54 percent in the private sector paid for a bribe in 2011. The average amount paid for a bribe was around 1,400 euros in 2011.

But the statistics also show the magnitude of corruption from 2010 to 2011 fell by 78 million euros, from 632 million to 554 million euros. About 21 percent in the private sector and 25 percent in the public sector refused to pay the bribe in 2011.

Bakouris says the drop shows that the public has reached its tolerance level on being forced to pay bribes, or, due to crisis, no longer have the money to pay bribes. But he does not believe things have gotten better.

"I have not perceived that things have gotten better, as a matter of fact because of the crisis some people think that because of the economic pressure people have tended to do more tax evasion and other issues like that," he said.

Fifty-three year old artist Soula Petrou agrees bribery continues, saying she has passed an envelope herself.

"I don't think it has improved, I think it is worse now, we simply do not have the money to give bribes now like in the past. I have, unfortunately, done it because I had my parents in the hospital from a car accident and it was impossible that they would take care of them if I did not give an envelope."

But one 62 year old pensioner said she refuses to pay bribes and never will.

"I have never given anyone the right to demand this from me. I insist on getting what I deserve and that is it. That is me personally, but I hear allot from my friends that they give envelopes, that they give bribes, but I personally have never," she said.

One of Greece's biggest problems is tax evasion, one of the reasons for its dire economic situation. The newly elected Greek government is striving to tackle corruption and rampant tax evasion and catch evaders, but for previous administrations it has been tough going, despite the arrest of big tax evaders last year and increased audits by special tax forces.

Bakouris said the newly elected government knows the steps to take to fight corruption, but has not had a chance to fully implement all of them yet as it had concentrated on cutting savings in order to receive its next loan payment.

"The tools are there, we have to see now whether they will push the button," said Bakouris.

Greeks have long complained about corruption and are angered over tax evasion among the rich who have escaped paying, as well as corrupt politicians who have dug their hands into state coffers, leading to the crisis, while at the same time the government has imposed wave after wave of austerity on the general public including increased taxes in order to fill the gap.

"There is a big sense that there is no justice, because they feel there was either corruption or there was incompetence, that they wasted a lot of money and we came to the crisis, and the everyday person that has suffered because of the reductions of their either salaries or their pensions, they feel that they are the ones who are the victims," said Bakouris.

The index on state sector corruption, published by Transparency International (TI) on Wednesday, also showed other struggling euro zone countries scoring poorly such asItaly which ranked below Romania.