Today’s revelations should not be viewed as a success for those who are making them, but as a reminder of their earlier failures.
We all shudder at the revelations surrounding the charity for disadvantaged children Kivotos tou Kosmou (Ark of the World). Not only for the alleged sexual harassment of children, but also the other allegations that have been coming to light since the case broke.
Every single government body or agency involved in the investigation is uncovering new “scandals,” when none saw anything amiss with how the organization operated for more than 20 years. The Independent Authority for Public Revenue is speaking about evidence of wealth that cannot be accounted for; the Anti-Money Laundering Authority found unexplained sums; and the ubiquitous National Transparency Authority is also involved somewhere.
The sudden eagerness of all these authorities to do their job would have been simply laughable had it not been for the fact that it is a sad repetition of what we see in the news every single time a similarly big story comes to the fore. The first issue concerns the quantity and quality of the information we are bombarded with. It is clearly important news if the wife of the priest who founded and ran the charity had hundreds of thousands of euros in cash and gold sovereigns stashed away in a bank safe. Not so the fact that “she was angry and stamped her foot” when the couple started being investigated, as so many television news bulletins thought to inform us repeatedly.
The public’s bombardment with news and “news” just leaves viewers with a feeling that everything is rotten to the core, without allowing us to understand which part of the system is broken and which part is just being hyped up. In the end, we are left none the wiser about what really happened, like in the case of the 12-year-old girl from the Athens district of Kolonos who was pimped by her mother’s employer and raped by dozens of men – a case that seems to no longer interest anyone.
The second thing to point out is that today’s revelations should not be viewed as a success for those who are making them, but as a reminder of their earlier failures. We are not only referring to the state authorities and agencies, but also to several donors who, according to news reports, are now withdrawing or postponing their donations, not just to Ark of the World, but to all children’s charities. The problem is that these donors are still not doing their due diligence to find out whether the charity they are interested in supporting has the structural safeguards necessary to operate with complete transparency and accountability, just as they did not in previous years. The philanthropy for the sake of making a good impression of previous years means that they are now lumping all these charities together and throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The case of the Ark, despite the sense of sadness and gloom it creates, is a golden opportunity to revisit the welfare system in all its aspects. It is not enough to curse and denounce, and then demand that all such charities are brought under state control. This is not the answer. Those of us who are older will remember that the orphanages of the past or the older “child cities” established by the former queen, Frederica, were no better. But the most important thing is not to get fed up or bored with this issue before we can come to some serious policy proposals.
Published in eKathimerini.com 6.12.2022