Christiana Stilianidou 20 • 12 • 2020

Repeated extensions to the deadlines for the submission of asset declarations

Christiana Stilianidou
Repeated extensions to the deadlines for the submission of asset declarations
20 • 12 • 2020

Law 3213/2003 provides specific deadlines within which asset declarations may be submitted or amended. However, in recent years, these deadlines have been repeatedly extended through legislation, which has been passed by way of amendments to unrelated bills. Delays in submitting asset declarations, in turn, lead to delays in verifying and auditing these declarations, with all that this entails for detecting and combating corruption.

The provisions of law 3213/2003 provide specific deadlines for both the submission and the amendment of asset declarations. Failure to meet these deadlines can result in both administrative and criminal sanctions (see Article 1 paragraph 2, Article 2 paragraph 3,  and Article 6 of law 3213/2003). Despite this fact, the deadlines have been repeatedly extended in recent years, on dubious legal grounds. In the course of 2020, extensions with retroactive provisions have also been granted.

Deadline extensions for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018

In December 2020, Article 29 of Law 4760/2020 provided, however, that those who had submitted declarations for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 before 30.10.2018 have three months from the publication of the present article to confirm their submissions, in derogation of paragraph 2 of article 1 of law 3213/2003. In this way, the deadline for submitting declarations for the years mentioned above was extended even further, until March 2021, despite the fact that the deadline for the re-submission of these statements had already expired on 30-4-2019. It is also worth mentioning that when Article 29 was introduced, it was originally specified to apply only to staff in specific ministries, which was then amended so that in its final form this extension applies to all of those obliged to supply asset declarations

Furthermore, in November 2019 the CIDA Committee (of Article 3A of Law 3213/2003) which is responsible for the verification and auditing of asset declarations had issued a statement granting the possibility of correction (through submitting an amended declaration) for declarations that had already been submitted, even when the submission deadline has passed. The dubious legal grounds for this move has created concerns – see more on this here).

Deadline extensions for the year 2020 (fiscal year 2019)

These deadline extensions continued for the asset declarations relating to 2020 (fiscal year 2019). Two amendments (see article 1 of amendment 556/34/13-11-2020, voted in as article 59 of law 4753/2020 and amendment 764/5/24-2 -2021, voted in as article 487 of law 4781/2021) extended the deadline for the submission of asset declarations to 31-3-2021.

According to the explanatory memorandum accompanying Article 1 of amendment 556/34/13-11-2020 these extensions were deemed necessary “due to the objective difficulties in gathering the supporting documents due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic”, which was also the reason given for the other extensions. 

Despite the fact that the conditions that have prevailed in recent years do justify, in part, these extensions, the circumvention of the deadlines set by Law 3213/2003 can be seen at the very least as problematic, with the potential for these extensions to become standard. Specific deadlines end up being merely indicative submission dates, while the penalties provided by law for the late submission or non-submission of declarations become meaningless in the longer term.

In any case, these extensions of the submission deadlines greatly affect and delay the auditing of the declarations. The 2020 annual report of the CIDA Committee, which is responsible for verifying the declarations, states that regular auditing of the asset declarations for the years 2016 to 2020 had not been possible due to the deadline extensions. The only investigations undertaken in 2020 by the Committee were into 8 cases referred to it by the public or judicial authorities. These cases were all archived, and no other information has been given.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

The obligation to submit  asset declarations aims to enhance transparency and strengthen democracy, and is a key tool in preventing corruption. Law 3213/2003 is the main law that regulates the issue and provides specific deadlines within which the declarations must be submitted.

However, in recent years these deadlines have been repeatedly extended by legislation, circumventing the letter and the spirit of law 3213/2003, and creating delays and obstacles in the submission and verification of asset declarations.

Christiana Stilianidou
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