The Christian Democrats (KDH) party is in hot water after it was discovered that many KDH officials were on the payroll of a firm named TV Com. TV Com, in turn, received 30 million Slovak crowns from Siemens Slovakia just weeks before Siemens won a contract to repair and modernize Bratislava's public lighting system.
The affair began with a report on TV Markíza on November 28 that 67 KDH officials were on the payroll of TV Com, a private media company which is owned by prominent KDH member Peter Gabura. According to Gabura, for the last four years senior party officials had occupied posts as 'advertisement executives' with the Fakty weekly published by TV Com, and were paid between 10,000 and 20,000 Slovak crowns ($250 to $500) per month.
KDH Vice-Chairman Vladimír Palko told TV Markíza on the 'Na Telo' talk show on November 28 that the TV Com contracts were "absolutely in order," and said that he himself had written more than 200 stories for the tiny weekly magazine. "I don't see anything wrong with this support. Without TV Com, the KDH wouldn't survive," Palko said.
Although Palko was not able to say where TV Com had acquired enough money to support so many officials, Markiza produced two contracts which had been signed between TV Com and the Slovak daughter company of the German technology giant Siemens in September, 1996 worth 30 million crowns in total.
These contracts, the station said, were signed two weeks before Siemens won tender on a 1.8 billion crown contract for repairing and replacing Bratislava's street lighting system. The tender decision was made by the Bratislava city council, led that time by Mayor and KDH member Peter Kresánek.
Based on the evidence, Interior Minister and KDH member Ladislav Pittner on November 25 ordered the country's 'financial police' to investigate KDH party financing. Former Mayor Kresánek said that he had not personally been involved in the Siemens-TV Com contract, but agreed that if the contract is verified, "then this is truly an affair that should be investigated and criminal charges laid."
After several days of silence, Siemens made an official statement on December 1. Although TV Com had been the co-ordinator of the Bratislava lighting tender, and although Siemens had indeed signed a contract with TV Com for 30 million crowns, "Siemens used the chance to work on the project for modernisation and reconstruction of the public lighting system in Bratislava with many partners."
The statement did not comment on the allegation that the money Siemens paid TV Com had found its way into the pockets of KDH officials.
The KDH, meanwhile, in an official statement published on November 29, accused the media of attacking and discrediting the party. Gabura told the Sme daily on November 30 that he had been co-operating with Siemens since 1991, and that the KDH had never shown any favoritism to Siemens.
As the sensation caused by the scandal began to diminish, one political analyst said that the accusations against the KDH had been fed by political jealousies among other party members.
Ľuboš Kubin, a political analyst with the Slovak Academy of Sciences, said on November 30 that the current scandal served the interests of a group of KDH politicians close to Prime Minister Dzurinda, himself a former KDH Vice-Chairman. Interior Minister Pittner, Kubin said, was among the men who wanted to weaken the position of current KDH Chairman and Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský, giving Dzurinda more influence within the KDH.
"I think this affair is the result of power tensions inside the government coalition," Kubin said. "That's the real reason this began, not an effort to make party financing more transparent."
Kubin's hypothesis was supported by Palko, who suggested that the scandal was a form of revenge by former Transport Minister Gabriel Palacka, who was forced to resign under pressure from the KDH in August this year. Palacka, now a member of the Slovak parliament, is considered to be Dzurinda's ally; Palko said that both men had been fully informed of the TV Com situation at the time of the Siemens tender.
Dzurinda had not commented on the case by press time, although Palacka told Sme on November 29 that Palko's claim that he was exacting revenge for his dismissal was a "horrible lie," and that he had known nothing of the TV Com contract. If the contact with Siemens were proven true, Palacka added, "[KDH] Chairman Čarnogurský should bear the consequences."
Kubín warned that if the KDH scandal were not doused immediately, it could quickly get out of hand and cause serious problems for the government. "I'm afraid the actors in this scandal still don't realise where it might develop," he said. "Just look at the Czech Republic two years ago - a similar scandal resulted in the resignation of the government and a complete switch in governmental ideology from right to left."
6. Dec 1999 at 0:00 | Daniel Domanovský