Speech today at the General Secretariat for Media and Communication, Athens, Greece
Follow the rest of the event live here.
Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers, General Secretary Against Corruption, Representative of the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS), Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to launch in Athens the Greece-OECD Project for Technical Support on Anti-Corruption.
I am very glad to be here. Since the very beginning of Prime Minister Tsipras’ Government, the OECD has been a partner and this partnership is confirmed today. But I am also glad as I could not imagine a better area to have impact and improve the outcomes in Greece as the fight against corruption.
I want to thank the European Commission SRSS for their support and the General Secretariat for Anti-Corruption for their excellent collaboration, both are key parts of this equation. The OECD is committed to help Greece, as always.
Corruption is the cancer of our nations: it weakens our economies, sickens our societies and cripples our governments, eroding the most important ingredient in our social contracts: TRUST.
It is very difficult to calculate the exact cost of corruption, but some international agencies have estimated that every year close to $1 trillion dollars pollute our systems and go to waste only in bribes, while our research suggests that the probability of foreign direct investment is 15 percentage points lower in countries with a strong presence of corruption than in countries that are relatively free of corruption.[i]
The levels of corruption in Greece have been high for the past decades. In 2015, Greece was the second country with the highest perception of corruption in the OECD, after my own country, Mexico.
This has become a drag for the Greek economy but it also has an enormous social cost. Combating corruption is necessary in every country, but it is essential, I would say even strategic, in a context where the people, the elderly, the youth, have gone through one of the deepest social crises ever registered in an OECD country.
We know what we are confronting. The Greek anticorruption effort is addressing challenges that are probably shared around the world, a badly structured and fragmented system, with institutions working on silos, with weak implementation assessment mechanisms, lack of transparency and ineffective enforcement.
This is why it is very encouraging to see that the Government of Prime Minister Tsipras is committed to tackling this challenge up-front with the establishment of a General Secretariat Against Corruption and the implementation of a National Anti-Corruption Action Plan with the help of OECD.
The National Anti-Corruption Action Plan provides a clear path for strengthening trust in government and public institutions by building resistance to corruption. It identifies key areas of reform and provides detailed actions towards strengthening integrity and fighting corruption, in both the public and private sectors. Its effective implementation will require better integrating anti-corruption measures in the whole of the government’s policy agenda and in the business models of the private sector. It will also require raising public awareness on anti-corruption efforts. And it will demand strengthening the anti-corruption legislative framework, and enhancing the capacity of key players in the law enforcement community.
The Greece-OECD Project that we are officially starting today, is dedicated to developing the know-how for the effective implementation of the work done across outcome areas of the Action Plan, as well as advancing the evidence base of what works and why. The project will reach out to the actors from civil society and the private sector.
The programme of work includes 10 outcome areas, each of them contributing to the objectives of the Action Plan. For example: strengthening internal control and audit; developing dedicated corruption risk management frameworks; improving asset declaration, political financing and whistle-blower mechanisms; enhancing detection and reporting of corruption in the private sector; and improving capacity of law enforcement authorities; to mention a few.
Our technical support will help the Greek Anti-Corruption authorities, and the Government as a whole, to: focus on enhancing and formalising coordination and exchange of good practices; harmonise procedures and share annual planning; spread practical standards and tools that have been proven effective; prioritise and better target existing resources; mainstream anticorruption tools and policies within managements systems and daily operations; and allocate concrete roles and responsibilities across all levels of public organisations
And we will be as concrete and practical as possible. For example, if we deal with control auditing institutions we should have a comprehensive view, including risk based audit planning, audit manuals, dedicated corruption risk management framework, forensic audits. The purpose is not only to identify and sanction individuals. The focus is to identify the control gaps, put in place cost-effective controls, effectively mitigate corruption risks, improve professionalism and expertise among control and audit practitioners, and take a holistic and practical approach to effectively prevent, detect and respond to corruption.
We will mobilise the insights and first-hand experience of anti-corruption experts from the OECD, some of which are here today, with extensive knowledge in many countries. We will also rely on practitioners from many OECD countries, benefiting from well-established institutions and recent successful reforms in places like Australia, Korea, Estonia, Latvia. But we are also conscious that the approach needs to be tailor-made, especially for specific high risk sectors in Greece, such as defence, health, and local government entities.
If we manage to implement all this Action Plan properly, we are sure that corruption will decrease while the levels of public sector efficiency and public trust will grow
Ladies and gentlemen:
The fight against corruption is one of the most effective ways to promote a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth. It is one of the most efficient ways of recovering public trust in governments, parliaments, corporations, banks. It is crucial to recover confidence in democracy and market economies. It is crucial to recover trust in our countries!
The implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan can be a landmark in the history of Greece. It can become a catalyst of shared progress after years of huge efforts by the Greek people. Let’s help the Government of Greece implement this Plan effectively. Let’s make the most of this opportunity. Not for global rankings or Memoranda of Understanding, but for the Greek people, the Greek youth, the Greek children, who deserve and can have a brighter future and a better life!
[i] OECD, Anti-Corruption Brochure, May 2016