Slovakia ranked 61 in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in 2013 by the ethics watchdog Transparency International (TI). The only European Union countries ranking lower were Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. In 2013, the media broke several stories involving suspicions of corruption or nepotism but none resulted in the resignation of the senior state officials involved.
Agriculture Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek, facing accusations of nepotism, had to explain why a disproportionately high number of people in his ministry's management positions have ties to Jahnátek’s native village of Komjatice, which has just 4,000 residents. The list of ministry employees with ties to Jahnátek includes the minister’s nephew serving as head of control for projects financed from two EU operational programmes and his niece in the post of head of operations and registration while also being in the post of general director of the department of implementation of regional development programmes. A seat of the Slovak Land Fund council also went to a Komjatice native. The brother-in-law of the local Smer head in Komjatice got the job of the head of state property and investment while the heads of the press office and the internal audits are also Komjatice natives. All these employees joined the ministry’s staff only after Jahnátek took the ministerial post. The announcement for the job openings was only published on the ministry’s intranet, and only ministry employees had access to the information, according to the Sme daily.

Jahnátek has maintained all along that he considers the media reports about his relatives employed at the ministry to be part of a campaign targeted against him personally. He indirectly accused Sme of taking part in a conspiracy, asking why the issue around the employees at the ministry is coming up now, even though they have been working at the ministry since January.

Jahnátek has not faced any punishment for employing relatives and compatriots from Komjatice after the parliamentary committee for conflict of interests decided at its October 22 session that it would not debate the case.

On May 16, Sme broke the story about suspicions of large-scale embezzlement of funds via the country’s military intelligence agency during the first government of Prime Minister Robert Fico (2006-2010), citing a 134-page file that was apparently leaked anonymously from military intelligence agencies. The report contains information about alleged fraud pertaining to 15 expensive residential properties in Bratislava, as well as cars, which supposedly ended up in the personal ownership of the then Military Intelligence Agency (VSS) officers and their relatives. Both of the then directors of the two military intelligence agencies – Juraj Šebo of the VSS and Ľubomír Skuhra of the Military Defence Intelligence (VOS) counter-intelligence agency – allegedly knew about the transactions. The VSS and the VOS have since been merged and the new organisation, Military Intelligence (VS), is led by Skuhra.

Defence Minister Martin Glváč called suspicions a “dangerous media hoax” as well as a “fictional construction” and on May 25 he went so far as to assert that it is “provable” that no embezzlement ever took place. Glváč based his statement on an inquiry into the leaked report (which Sme had subsequently passed on to the special prosecutor’s office and the parliamentary oversight committee). In addition, the Defence Ministry said it was ready to file criminal complaints against those who it said leaked classified information. In this connection it named former defence minister Ľubomír Galko, Roman Mikulec, former head of VSS, and his former deputy, Vladimír Suchodolinský, the SITA newswire reported.

The parliament then failed to discuss the dismissal of Glváč initiated by Galko after opposition MP Zsolt Simon withdrew his signature from the proposal to summon a special session.

Education Minister Dušan Čaplovič was also on shaky ground due to several cases of murky spending by his department. In 2013, Slovak media reported several deals concluded by the Education Ministry which have prompted questions about transparency at the department and appropriate use of public funds, including €9,900 spent on flowers at an upmarket Bratislava flower shop, and a new logo for the Institute of Information and Prognoses of Education worth €8,650. Opposition MPs have called on Fico to sack Čaplovič, saying he is responsible for the critical state of the Slovak education sector. After rumours about his possible resignation started appearing in Slovak media, Čaplovič on April 6 dismissed the information.

The opposition made a failed attempt to have Fico and his government sacked over what the opposition called signs that his government is beholden to oligarchs. The motion came after Daniel Lipšic claimed that the documentation related to the purchase of the 49-percent stake in Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) from the Energetický a Průmyslový Holding (EPH) was masterminded by the company J&T Investment Advisors, which now under a different name is part of EPH. To support his claim, Lipšic referred to the electronic document’s file properties, which indicate it passed through computers tagged as property of J&T Investment Advisors.

Fico, who survived the no-confidence vote easily, argued that the opposition wants to punish his government for efforts to keep household gas prices low. Even with the result never in doubt, the parliamentary discussion, which Fico mostly ignored, produced physical clashes leaving one deputy slightly injured alongside accusations of excessive alcohol consumption by deputies from Smer.

The opposition failed in its attempt to oust Health Minister Zuzana Zvolenská on October 24 after all the MPs of the ruling Smer party voted against the no-confidence motion. The opposition has criticised Zvolenská over completing the tender process for licences for helicopter emergency services in Bratislava and Trenčín late, leaving a five day window where there were no such services. The life of a woman who died in a car accident in Bratislava Region during this period could have been saved if rescue helicopters had been able to attend to her, the opposition alleged.
The government insisted recalling of Zvolenská was part of a campaign.

Radka Minarechová contributed to this story

THE YEAR IN POLITICS

Smer maintains firm grip; so does high unemployment
Presidential race on deck
Regional elections bring extremist to power
Political right remains fragmented
Judicial independence under threat
Roma reform and human rights strategy stuck
Uncertainties in health sector remain