Are 4,351 civil servants anything to fret about?
The Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Administration (SEEDD) reported this week that there are 4,351 disciplinary cases pending against public sector employees. According to a report in Kathimerini on Thursday, disciplinary councils have still not been formed in many of the state’s agencies and where they do exist, they hold very few sessions. As a result, employees who are under investigation for a range of offenses continue to work as usual in the civil service. Discipline in the state sector was put on the back burner when Giorgos Katrougalos was appointed labor minister and reintroduced a measure that allowed unionists to sit on disciplinary councils. Sure, this may appears as a minuscule problem compared to all the others the country is facing. Are 4,351 civil servants anything to get hot under the collar about? But the truth is that this minuscule problem represents one of the reasons why the country is stuck in the mire and why the government refuses to contribute to its reform. If you explore the issue a bit more, it is certain that everyone will be able to give a reason or an interpretation that is convincing to a greater or lesser degree. What matters though, is the element of denial, the unwillingness to do what so clearly has to be done, rather than a solution to stop the message going out to society that wrongdoers are going unpunished and that message growing and finding hundreds of fans. It does indeed take a lot of bravery and maturity to stop yourself from adopting in your own life all the negative examples around us – to pay taxes instead of evading them, to do your job (in the civil service) conscientiously and not according to whim, to obey the law despite the belief that covering up lawlessness is part of the government’s language and practice. The immunity being endowed on civil servants under suspicion, whether by design or indifference, is by no means an isolated event. It is but a link in the chain of immunity enjoyed by many who support the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition or have an affinity with the government’s ideologies. Even if one of these links were to break (if, for example, those 4,351 cases went ahead), the government risks a domino effect – it could be looking at the prospect of the evaluation of civil servants, of a separation between those who are competent and those who are not – that would would threaten the established system of privileges and impunity created by the two government partners. In the Neverland that is Greece, the immunity of civil servants is one of the most blatant examples of decay.