Avatar Image

Grants for Greece – Where does our money flow?

10. May 2010 – 13:44 by Dorothee Ruetschle (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Prof. Dr. Jörn von LuckeProf. Dr. Jörn von Lucke wrote an interesting article concerning the current discussion about Greece:

Grants for Greece – Where does our money flow?

Author: Professor Dr. Jörn von Lucke

In times of a global financial and economic crisis, the U.S. State of Texas might be a role model. Susan Combs, Comptroller of the State of Texas, is a pioneer for more transparent budgets. Since 2007, the portal “Cash Drill: Transparency at Work” has enabled all citizens and the press to evaluate the state budget of Texas and to analyze it according to various criteria (Cash Drill: https://www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/expendlist/cashdrill.php). Various search tools are available under the “Where the Money Goes” banner. They help to create spending overviews by agency, by category, by vendors and by purchasing items. Additionally, comparisons of previous expenditures are possible with the planned budget of an agency. Such an evaluation is made possible through a data warehouse that contains these information accessible in multiple languages. Citizens also have the opportunity to communicate their experiences, impressions and to give tips for suspected corruption directly.

In recent weeks, Greece was hit dramatically by the financial crisis. Corruption in politics and administration, mismanagement, fraud, tax evasion, and falsification of official statistics have contributed to the downgrading of Greek government bonds to a “junk level.” By the end of 2012, the Hellenic Republic is expected to need more than 120 billion Euros in financial assistance. To ensure the stability of the Euro, Germany will have to play a significant part. A guarantee of the KfW Bankengruppe (“Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau”) appears to all parties as useful and the only option – which is right. As a taxpayer, we may regret this. Nevertheless, we should seize the hour. In times of crisis, the window of opportunity, in which a substantial change from all sides might be accepted and sustainably implemented, is small; this is nearly impossible in prosperous times.

If German tax money is used for guarantees in Greece, the German taxpayer should also be able to know where the money goes. A Greek Cash Drill portal could inform us and especially the Greek people how politics and public administration are currently dealing with the existing resources and tax money. Information on fraud, corruption and nepotism resulting from the common review of this fully transparent budget, could be used by authorities. The Greek press and the Greek population might be hold accountable for exactly this task. Just in the spirit of crowd sourcing, this all depends on the knowledge and participation of the masses. Technically, such a portal, as the example shows in Texas, would be quite quickly implementable in several languages. In terms of open government such a mandatory requirement for a financial aid package would fit in the new public management strategy of the Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou. Now it is up to the negotiators, whether they can claim a genuine and transparent budget for a stable currency, or if they fail.

Admittedly, our eyes should not only wander to Greece. The financial crisis has also reached Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy. Here too, we have to ask the question, how far an open and transparent budget could help to win back trust and confidence in banks, business, politics and administration. Even in Germany, we should no longer close ourselves to this discussion. The federal government, the states government, cities and municipalities are equally called to start the action. Let’s go!



  1. 3 Responses to “Grants for Greece – Where does our money flow?”

  2. By Celia Roniotes (R.A. CTI) on Jul 14, 2010

    The benefit provided by this type of portal in accessing financial amounts as accounted for by state spending notwithstanding, the crucial questions of an average tax payer will always remain:
    - Just how verifiable are the facts on the portal?
    - Even if you know the money source and the receiver, will it ever be possible to know how transparent (i.e. not overvalued for superlative profit margins of contractors and suppliers) and how licit the allocated and expended budgets are, even if they do accurately reflect the actual money flow? This being the crux of govermnet spending and the real route of tax payers money.
    - Would the financial data be easily comprehensible to the lay person?
    - Would citizen queries & remarks be accepted, duly processed and answered objectively, or would they be justified in the context of the prevailent accounting approach” to the national budgeting philosophy? Otherwise, beyond the financial data given the portal would just host another open blog besides the data it offers.

    Understandably, a Cash Drill portal would be limited to functioning as a structured single access point to government spending. How can this be expanded to address the issues above or at least allow citizens to pursue the answers to such questions with some chance of success?

  3. By Joern von Lucke on Jul 20, 2010

    A cashdrill portal will always be a tool, a dashboard or a cockpit for people who are interested in where the taxpayer’s money flows. Therefore in a world with at least a chance of pseudo-transparency, you always have to be careful what will be presented to you and whether you can trust the data or not.

    The Federal Office of Audit as well as the internal audit of each agency, both have the task to check that the budget facts presented by the government and the agencies are correct. Any intentional budget manipulation done by hacking the it-based budget systems or by inaccurate modifications is against the law and should be punished. If you can’t trust these authorities, it’s important to have an accepted seal or an institution which proves that the systems are neither hacked nor present false facts.

    You might trust government presentation. But open data can offer you different approaches. One idea of open data is that people use the budget data to present them in different ways – for example in charts, forums or maps. Business intelligence tools offer new ways for interpretating facts and data. At least, there will be a new chance for a different and hopefully better understanding of what will be done with taxpayer’s money and who are the players which profit the most of it. It might also help you to understand the financial situation and to brainstorm with others for suitable solutions.

    Comprehend budget data is not an easy task. If you don’t try to improve the presentation of financial data, most people won’t understand it at all. There are different approaches to make it more comprehensible, for example as a map, a picture or a four page paper report. From my point of view it is a very important open question which type of presentation will suit best.

    If there is a decision in favor of open government, queries and remarks by citizens should be accepted and processed by the government. An open budget blog might be a task for public relations but improving the processes in the back offices is more important. An open budget offers new possibilities for new value-added process chains besides transparency and participation.

    The main question from my point of view will still remain: Will politicians and government accept such an open budget system when the citizens demand it, especially with a view to the experiences we had over the last two years?

  1. 1 Trackback(s)

  2. May 11, 2010: PEP-NET » Blog Archive » Finanzhilfen für Griechenland – Wohin verschwindet unser Geld?

Post a Comment

The PEP-NET Blog uses the gravatar service to display your picture next to comments!