Greece – Wheres the accountability?

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard mutterings about Greece fiddling its figures in order to gain entry to the Euro and the sentiments in this blog crossed my mind at the time. However suggestions of fraud (or similar) should not be taken lightly and I decided to keep my thoughts to myself. Mutterings are one thing, blogging about it  is another.

Last Thursday, on Question Time, Benjamin Zephaniah said that Greece cooked the books to get into the Eurozone.  In this month’s Accountancy magazine, writing about the Eurozone crisis, Emile Woolf said, of Greece’s entry to the Eurozone, that “Rampant profligacy had masqueraded as economic rectitude in the fraudulently manipulated figures supporting its entry in 2001”.  Vicky Pryce, a Greek born economist, speaking on television this morning said that when George Papandreou took over as Prime Minister he found that things were much worse than he expected, because the previous government had falsified the data. Claims made in the national media are in my mind more than a “muttering”.

Falsifying financial information can lead to bad decisions its old adage but very true: garbage in, garbage out.  This seems to have been the case with Greece’s acceptance into the Euro and its huge borrowings which resulted in devastating economic consequences both in Greece and abroad.

In the UK there are criminal offences such as False Accounting or Fraud by False Representation. Surely there are similar laws in Greece? after all they are also in the EU, which seems to be adept at imposing legislation on even minor matters on its members!!

Much has been made of a culture of widespread tax evasion in Greece.  Greece also fairs badly in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception’s Index, when compared with its EU counterparts.  I get the feeling that norms differ from many other EU countries. Arguably a lack of financial probity has led to the crisis and I wonder whether there needs to be a cultural as well as a financial fix.

Public debate has centred around the way out of the crisis and what the future holds. However, seemingly serious claims have been made, but with no suggestion of prosecution.  Greeces medicine is one of severe austerity, but is there also a real commitment to accountability and financial probity? Changing a culture may be easier said than done but, if there was wrongdoing, then surely a good start would be to bring those responsible to account?

This mornings news was that Mr Papandreou is stepping down as Prime Minister. Agreement, referendum, no referendum and now it seems that the favourite to take over is a former governor of the Bank of Greece, who oversaw the countrys entry to the Eurozone. Am I the only person who thinks that this crisis is surreal?

I am passionate about the importance of reliable information as a basis for sound business decisions and am sure that the same should apply to governments. I’d be interested to hear your views.

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