The findings of the National Transparency Authority audit
In early May 2020, the National Transparency Authority and the Financial Police Bureau launched a cross-cutting inspection of non-governmental organizations operating in the sector of migrant support.
A series of sensationalist articles accompanied the launch of investigations, presenting them as though it were a criminal reportage with references to “raids” and “seized computers”, thus further fueling the climate of mistrust and skepticism about the work and contributions of civil society organizations.
As far as METAdrasi is concerned, none of these descriptions were valid. The audit lasted just over two months, whilst the cooperation with auditors took place in an environment of mutual respect, professionalism and accountability.
Given the absence of a public announcement of the findings, we consider it our duty to inform METAdrasi’s network of supporters and friends, but also the general public, about the findings of the audit. The results, received at the end of July, indicated that apart from two minor recommendations concerning the streamlining of procedures, there were no findings.
For METAdrasi, meritocracy, transparency, accountability and integrity are key principles. Since the early years of our operation, METAdrasi established an annual audit by certified accountants, though there was no legal obligation to do so. In addition, further inspections are carried out at least twice annually by independent auditing firms cooperating with the European Commission and with international organizations including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF and others.
METAdrasi is an organization recognized internationally for its valuable contributions, receiving multiple awards for its work. In the ten years since its founding, METAdrasi, has contributed to substantial systemic changes in the management of migration through innovative programs and interventions. The pioneering system of training, certifying and deploying quality interpreters and the programs for the protection of unaccompanied children (including escorting missions, guardianship, foster care, supported independent living for teenagers) – activities introduced in Greece by METAdrasi – are now embraced and institutionalized by the state as best practices.
One of the main objectives of the audit, as referenced on the National Transparency Authority’s website, is to restore citizens’ confidence in institutions. How is this goal achieved when the citizen is not then informed about the outcomes of the audits?
While the state recognizes the contribution of some organizations, its inability to specify and name them elicits reasonable questions. Despite the audits and the continued burdening of civil society organizations with additional bureaucratic procedures and re-entry into new NGO registries, no distinction is made in public discourse and the media between organizations that have a proven track-record and those that fall short of even basic criteria.
Since 2017, this has bolstered a climate of suspicion against NGOs, disorienting public opinion against independent organizations, their employees and volunteers, who offer essential services. Rather than recognizing and rewarding upstanding organizations, promoting and supporting civil society, a feeling of aversion towards civic engagement and citizens’ participation in social issues is cultivated instead.
The cross-cutting inspection of the National Transparency Authority could be a first, important step towards restoring an accurate representation of NGOs. The publication of a report with the preliminary findings of all the audited organizations would demonstrate the degree of credibility and transparent financial oversight of civil society organizations operating in this thematic area. In addition, it would be especially important and useful to highlight all the problems that these organizations face with public authorities and services.
The vibrancy of civil society is an inextricable part of an open democratic society based on trust and an honest relationship between public authorities and civil society organizations. For trust to flourish however, reliability, transparency and accountability on both sides is required.