Greece has seen it share of economic troubles over the past few years. Yet within these troubles there has been some good news around the fight against the endemic corruption usually associated with the Greek financial system. In an article in the Financial Times, the economic downturn has caused Greek physicians to reduce their standard bribe rate for fakellakia (envelopes stuffed with cash) from €5000 to €500 for a serious operation. Progress indeed.

The article reported on the impending retirement of the country’s inspector general of public administration, Leandros Rakintzis, who is retiring after 11 years on the job. Most interestingly, he tried to retire once before, only to find there was no person in the entire country willing to take on the position. Talk about evidence of a culture of non-compliance.

Greece still rates at or near the bottom of European countries on the Transparency International-Corruption Perception Index and at the bottom of “most league tables for EU transparency and good government.” But it is more than simply graft and bribery which haunts the country, as Rakintzis said in the article, “It’s true that Greece is very corrupt…but by comparison with the northern European states—not the Easterns one and the Balkans.”

Rakintzis even listed out the hierarchy of bribe-takers in the country’s civil service. First and foremost is the health care system, where if one speaks out, it is feared the “profession takes revenge”. Talk about a disincentive for whistleblowers; an entire health care system so corrupt, it will refuse medical services to anyone who steps forward and complains. Next in line as most corrupt are those “at local offices tasked with issuing building permits and monitoring illegal construction and in the tax service.”

Most interestingly, one of the things which has been the most helpful to him has been the bailout agreements the Greek government has agreed to during this financial crisis, which he called “the memorandum.” Rakintzis said: “The memorandum is positive. It’s helping fix some things…”. We can only hope that a capable replacement can be found upon this retirement for Rakintzis.