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Our View: Only time will tell whether Anti-Corruption Authority has teeth

dracou anti corruption
Former Justice Minister Stefi Dracou with members of the anti-corruption authority

The Commissioner for Transparency and head of the Anti-Corruption Authority, Haris Poyiadjis, announced that the newly established authority was ready to start work. The legislature approved the regulations for its operation, and it is now in the process of preparing a list of the officials that would be investigating allegations of corruption that would be submitted, he said in an interview published by Phileleftheros on Sunday.

From what Poyiadjis said, we can deduce the authority will be a bureaucratic organisation operating like any government department, with committee meetings and plenty of paperwork. According to the regulations, a complaint would have to undergo a preliminary examination by all members of the Anti-Corruption Authority and one of them will prepare a report on whether it is within the remit of the authority. If it is, and there is testimony to support the allegations, then an investigation would be ordered by a so-called ‘inspection official’. This official would have the legal power to call in people for questioning.

The objective of the ‘inspection official’s’ investigation would be to establish whether there is evidence of a criminal offence and if there is, the case would be sent to the attorney-general’s office. If there is not, the complaint would be filed. All complaints will be looked at chronologically, said Poyadjis, explaining that the authority had already received written complaints and via telephone calls. All of them would be looked at and scheduled for examination he said. He expressed the hope that there will not be an accumulation of complaints that would require time to be investigated and give rise to delays.

Delays might be inevitable given the bureaucratic mode of operation of the authority and the general difficulty in investigating allegations of corruption. What was not clear in the Poyiadjis’ interview was from where the ‘inspection officials’ would be drawn. Would they be civil servants coming from different government departments? If they are, is there not be a danger of partiality? Some might not want to land a colleague in trouble, while others might fear their career prospects will be affected by deciding a colleague should be investigated. Perhaps the authority will have its own team of officials, who would not be classed as civil servants.

There are many unanswered questions about the setting-up of the Anti- Corruption Authority. Time will show whether it will be an effective body in the fight against corruption or just another state organisation hiding behind its own bureaucratic procedures despite its good intentions.

 

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