Greek Political Parties Misspend Public Money While Authorities Turn a Blind Eye

A story of transparency and unaccountability

Vouliwatch
Oct 14 · 4 min read
Vouliwatch vs the Auditing Parliamentary Committee for Political Money

The independent -in the sense that it’s only composed of 3 MPs, the rest are members of the judiciary, ombudsman etc.- parliamentary committee in charge of auditing asset declarations and political parties finances is required by law to publish an annual report with its findings.

To this day they have published 3 reports for the years 2015,2016,2017.

In all three reports, the committee in question, despite the fact that it detected a series of breaches of the relevant legislation (party financing) it never released details with regards to which parties breached the law (by mishandling public financing) nor did it impose any sanctions as foreseen by the law.

Specifically the committee in its reports found that:

  1. Some political parties that had received public funding for research/educational purposes either spent this sum on other activities or they just didn’t spend the money and kept it. The law is clear on this…political parties can only spend this funding on research/educational purposes and in case they don’t manage to spend it within a year they need to return it.
  2. Some political parties haven’t made use of a special bank account (as foreseen by the law) for their transactions (both income and expenses).

Vouliwatch over the past 2 years has been “harassing” the committee with requests to release the relevant information. Namely we wanted to find out specifically WHICH political parties breached the law and HOW MUCH public money was misspent. The committee in question would either reply vaguely or not at all.

The stance of the committee left Vouliwatch with no other choice but to take the case in front of the Greek State Council (aka Constitutional Court) claiming that the committee is impeding our right to access to public information with its administrative silence.

The first hearing was set to take place on the 8th of October, but just a few days prior to this, the legal department of the parliament notified us that they would finally release the information (in an attempt to avoid being ruled against in the court??).

The answer of the committee received on the 23rd of September contained the information Vouliwatch requested for 2016 and 2017. Namely the names of the parties that breached the law and the sums of public money that was misspent.

In particular:

  1. Nearly all parties didn’t make use of the special bank account for their expenses and income (which makes it harder for the relevant authorities to monitor/audit). The law foresees that the committee in question can impose financial sanctions up to 50% of the last financial support received by the state (in Greece political parties are mainly subsidized by the state).
  2. Nearly all parties instead of returning (as they should have) the amounts received from public funding for research/educational purposes, which they hadn’t spent, decided to keep it for future use.
  3. New Democracy (the ruling party) received nearly 1 million Euros (875.941 euros to be precise) for research/educational purposes and it used this sum to repay its debts towards banks (let us note at this point that New Democracy owes to the banks 142.100.000 euros) and the state. This practically means that New Democracy has been using public funds/ tax payers’ money to repay its private loans to banks that in the end have been recapitalised by the people during the financial crisis!

To sum up…the committee in question:

  1. Refused to release the above mentioned information thus covering up for political parties breaching the law and only after the threat of the court decided to finally do so.
  2. The committee not only covered up for them but also repeatedly refused to impose any sanctions (repeatedly in the sense that it has been identifying these issues for the past 2 years at least).

And

  1. The ruling party (New Democracy) has been making use of public funds to repay its bank loans and other debts to the state!

Read more about the loans of the Greek political parties:

https://medium.com/athenslivegr/fantastic-loans-and-where-to-find-them-a5a4fd4799a3


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