If it were up to Leandros Rakintzis, Greece would be free of corruption, the rich would pay taxes, politicians wouldn’t be crooked and the law would apply to everyone.
Since it’s not up to him, Greece is corrupt, the rich don’t pay taxes, too many politicians are crooked and the privileged are above the law, especially during a crushing economic crisis which has devastated the lives of the middle-class, poor and pensioners.
Rakintzis is the General Inspector of Public Administration, a high-flying title that makes him kind of the Inspector General charged with rooting out wrongdoing in a public sector that has for decades been filled with patronage hires, lackeys, buffoons and the clueless who sit around smoking, drinking coffee and waiting for early retirement.
In reality, he’s spitting into the wind and is kind of the Don Quixote of Greece, hoping to instill, if not chivalry, some sense of decency in the plutocrats who are soulless and conscienceless.
Five years ago, just before Greece asked international lenders for what would turn into two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($317 billion) needed largely because of wild overspending over the generations by the now ruling New Democracy Capitalists and their coalition partner the PASOK Anti-Socialists, his annual report was a blueprint of what was wrong with the country.
Among the findings in 2009 were that:
What’s changed? Almost nothing, despite his constant crowing and barking about the crooks and the lazy and people who profess to love their country but rob it blind.
He recommended 15 ways of tackling corruption, which included employing public servants only in areas where they already live, and changing the system for promotions and drawing up a new wage structure, reforms that went into File 13, also known as the Circular File found under the desk.
Rakintzis was ahead of his time. The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that put up the rescue monies to save Greece from itself has made similar recommendations, with the same results, apart from some window dressing reforms and the prosecution of a few high-level politicians whose crimes were so open and egregious that something had to be done.
In the past couple of months, he’s taken another whack at trying to get Greeks to care about what’s happening to their country and been met with a gigantic yawn.
He said that politicians and lawmakers use sneaky, back-door amendments to take the guts out of laws they passed as a pretense to show they are serious about making change.
What upset him anew was that an unidentified lawmaker (they’re always unidentified although it’s allegedly a public record) slipped an amendment into a bill before Parliament that allows unlawful tavernas at Schinias Beach at Marathon to remain standing even though the country’s Council of State ruled they should be taken down.
It should have come as no surprise that the buildings are owned by the Judges and Prosecutors’ Building Cooperative and will avoid demolition for at least another year. The only surprise was that a court acted against its own members, but that was for show anyway.
In an interview with Kathimerini, Rakintzis accused politicians of canceling out their own rules after it was revealed that the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who favors unfettered development on the coasts, in parks and in green space to bring in money, was behind the amendment.
“We often see laws being bypassed by the same state that legislated them in the first place,” he said. “All you need is one politician to pass an amendment and the law, in effect, becomes void.”
There have been court orders to demolish the buildings since 1996 because they have been built within a protected area but the government favors building even in environmentally-sensitive areas allegedly covered by Greek and European Union laws.
Samaras, the New Democracy leader, wants to allow almost unchecked building on beaches, green space, public parks and wherever it can be done because there’s a lot of gold in them ‘thar buildings.
Now Supreme Court prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani has ordered an investigation into charges Rakintzis made before Parliament’s Ethics and Transparency Committee that prominent public figures accused of financial crimes received “special treatment” since legislative amendments or judicial rulings are often issued to get them off the hook. That’s not news, of course, especially in Greece where VIPS almost always escape justice.
Last year he accused the Justice Ministry of trying to declare that bribes weren’t unlawful by using arcane language to defend the common practice in Greece.
What’s been done? Nothing. And nothing will be done because the Prime Minister controls the Parliament and, as Rakintzis noted, “Parliament can do anything except make a man a woman and a woman a man.” It can also make decency disappear.