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Construction Ministry figures inflated to secure funding

The Ministry of Construction and Public Works (MVVP) has been accused by the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) of misleading the public in order to procure more money from the state budget.
The Slovak Statistical Office, in cooperation with the MVVP, published information that 7,172 flats were completed in 1997. However, Ľubomír Ficker, the SDK advisor for housing, alleged that hundreds of unfinished flats had been included in the statistics.
Since 1994, when it was created to meet the Association of Slovak Workers' precondition for joining the coalition government, the MVVP has financially supported projects for the construction of new flats all around the country.


Finished flats? These flats built in the village of Poltár were counted as completed in order to retain finances for building construction, but no one is in fact able to move in just yet.
Poltár Mayor's Office

The Ministry of Construction and Public Works (MVVP) has been accused by the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) of misleading the public in order to procure more money from the state budget.

The Slovak Statistical Office, in cooperation with the MVVP, published information that 7,172 flats were completed in 1997. However, Ľubomír Ficker, the SDK advisor for housing, alleged that hundreds of unfinished flats had been included in the statistics.

Since 1994, when it was created to meet the Association of Slovak Workers' precondition for joining the coalition government, the MVVP has financially supported projects for the construction of new flats all around the country. The deal was, Ficker explained, that all housing projects receiving Ministry funds for 1997 had to be finished by the end of December 1997, or the ministry would reduce its financial support to contractors.

In order to register a flat as finished, it has to be inspected by the municipal environmental department, which considers a flat "finished" when people can move in to it immediately.

Ficker said that local municipalities rushed the inspections to try and meet their quotas of finished flats to keep state financial support. "The municipalities, the ministry and the environmental departments have cheated so that no one would be fined," Ficker said, citing blocks of unfinished flats in the central Slovak towns of Poltár and Kanianka as the most striking examples.

The town of Poltár launched construction of 64 flats in June 1997. Due to its inability to finish them alone, the town received financial support worth 32 million Sk ($1 million) from the ministry. The flats were checked at the end of January, but were not considered ready for people to move in to. "The head of the environment office, Blažena Haladová, refused to approve this building," said Zdenek Pitliak, a member of the town council for the Democratic Party (DS) in Poltár, adding that at the time of inspection, the building's facade was not finished. "Later, [Haladová] was removed from her position," he said.

Poltár Mayor, Ján Koršo, denied all accusations. "We have met all the deadlines, and I think that this crazy man Pitliak is just making everything up," said Koršo. "The building was finished on time. We could not work on the facade in winter, of course, how could anyone do that? But people could move in at any time."

But Pitliak noted that people still hadn't moved into any of the flats yet, and said he had written a letter to housing minister Ján Mráz, explaining the situation. Mráz decided to fine the municipality by withdrawing 10 percent of its financial support (3.2 million Sk). "The minister himself admitted that the flats were not finished yet," Pitliak said.

"Had [the ministry] done check-ups on a regular basis, these flats would not have been included in the statistics," Ficker charged.

But Ladislav Sakál, MVVP spokesman, maintained that the ministry had been doing regular check-ups on all the buildings it financed. "We do not manipulate statistics, we just work with the statistics we receive from the municipalities," Sakál said, adding that Ficker's arguments are "not based on truth and wisdom."

Ficker said his only motive had been the proper disposition of public finances. "If the ministry invests money somewhere, it should make sure the finances are being used properly," he said. But Sakál reacted by saying that the "ministry does check its financing all the time. But it cannot go to every building site that exists."

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