Eurostat, the EU’s statistics arm, said on Tuesday that Greece’s government budget figures were unreliable and seem to have been falsified to play down a budget crisis that has shaken the EU.
Eurostat said the Greek statistical office NSSG had complained of political interference in the financial figures that were sent to the EU executive in October. The NSSG is controlled by the Greek Finance Ministry.
The ministry blamed the problems on Greece’s previous conservative government when “every sense of statistical reliability and transparency was abused.” The ministry said it planned reforms to make NSSG independent, but did not say when that would happen.
Greece’s current government, which took power on Oct. 4, has “set the target of restoring the country’s credibility, recognizing the importance of reliable statistical data,” the ministry said.
Eurostat also blamed poor bookkeeping for the low quality of Greek statistics and said that it still had “a substantial number of unanswered questions” on spending for social security, hospital arrears and deals between the government and state-owned companies.
Greece shocked bond markets and other EU governments in October when it announced that its deficit for last year would be a staggering 12.5 percent of GDP far above the 3.7 percent it estimated in the spring. The growing debt is forecast to overtake Italy this year as Europe’s highest. Revising figures for recent years could see current debt and deficit increase.
Eurostat said there was “deliberate misreporting” in accounts, citing fudged figures for interest payments, EU grants, hospital debt and swaps write-offs that made the deficit appear smaller.
“The current set-up does not guarantee the independence, integrity and accountability of the national statistical authorities,” Eurostat said.