Corruption also hit by recession, Transparency Int'l survey shows

Corruption was another unexpected 'victim' of the economic crisis in Greece, with the number of incidents falling for the first time ever in 2010.

This was revealed in a survey released by Transparency International Greece on Tuesday, which showed a decline in both the number of households reporting incidents of corruption (from 13.4 percent in 2009 to 10.4 percent in 2010) and in the total estimated sums involved (632 million euro in 2010, from 787 million euro in 2009). Overall, corruption was estimated to have cost Greece 155 million euros less in 2010 than in 2009.

As in previous years, hospitals remained the undisputed corruption 'champions', while tax offices outstripped town planning departments for second place following a significant slump in building activity, measures to 'legalise' unlawful building conversions and new tax measures.

The going rate in 2010 for a 'better quality service' from a state hospital surgeon ranged from 150-7,500 euro, while the going rate for a doctor's visit ranged from 50 to 1,500 euro. Getting one's books passed by the tax man could cost anything from 300 euros to 15,000 euros, while a favourable tax settlement might set one back anything between 100 and 3,500 euro.

Greasing the wheels in a town planning department to obtain a building permit cost between 200 and 9,000 euros, while simply speeding up the process cost 500 to 1,000 euros.

Overall, the public sector accounted for 7.2 percent of corruption incidents reported by households in 2010 and the private sector 4 percent. The equivalent figures in 2009 were 9.3 percent for the public sector and 5.3 percent for the private sector.

While less extensive, private-sector bribes were generally more expensive, according to the findings of the survey. The cost of the average bribe in the private sector was 1,623 euros in 2010, compared with 1,492 euros in the state sector. Indicatively, illegal payments to a private-sector surgeon ranged from 250-15,000 euros, whereas for a visit to a private doctor the cost might range from 500-6,000 euros. In the private sector also, health services took the lead in corruption, followed by lawyers, while incidents of corruption in banks was significantly reduced.

The average cost of a private-sector bribe actually fell by 48 euros, however, whereas public-sector bribes continued to rise, increasing by 137 euros or 9.2 percent.

Other hotbeds of corruption were prefectures, IKA, driving licence services, the power company, municipalities, banks and the finance ministry in the public sector. In the private sector, they included driving schools, private testing centres for vehicles, car dealerships, garages, contractors, civil engineers, architects, construction companies and real estate agents.

For the first time since the survey began to be conducted in 2007, people taking part appeared less tolerant of corruption in general. The percentage of those who disagreed that it was acceptable to give a bribe in order to get a job done increased to 83 percent, compared with 77 percent the previous year.

Also increased was the percentage of those who disagreed with the opinion that breaking the law was OK as long as no one was looking, rising from 86 percent in 2008 to 88 percent in 2010.

For the first time, 94 percent of those taking part in the survey disagreed with the statement that taking bribes was acceptable, even when it happened right in front of their eyes, as long their personal interests were not harmed as a result.

The survey was conducted by the company Public Issue, whose CEO Yiannis Mavris noted that 409,000 households out of a projected 3.6 million were victims of public or private-sector corruption in 2010. It had a sample of 6,114 people interviewed by phone from July to December and had a margin of error of 1.3 percentage points.

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