NEW SP boss František Halmeš.
THE CANDIDATE proposed by Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, and the Family Ľudovít Kaník has been selected as the new director for social security provider Sociálna poisťovňa (SP). His appointment follows weeks of wrangling between the ministry and members of the SP board.
The new director is František Halmeš, once an MP from the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), the former party of Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, and current director of Nimnica spa on the Váh river in western Slovakia. He has not had any prior experience in the field of social security.
Halmeš was elected after receiving 11 votes at a meeting attended by 19 SP board members.
The other candidate, pensions provider Tatry-Sympathia general director Michal Němec, received four votes and had appeared to be the clear favourite before the meeting. He was nominated by the Slovak Federation of Employer's Associations. Trade unionists had also given him their support before the meeting.
Halmeš must have received support from at least one of these groups in the final vote.
The previous incumbent, Miroslav Knitl, lost his job after a dispute with Kaník over Knitl's purchase of a new IT system for managing social security payments.
The director chose to buy a system from CSC for Sk167 million (€4 million), Sk27 million (€640,000) higher than a rival bid from IBM. The board refused to approve the decision, with Kaník walking out of one meeting to remove the quorum. However, despite the board's objections, Knitl signed the purchase agreement in a move that the Labour Ministry says was illegal.
Kaník said at the time that Knitl had overstepped his authority and acted against the interests of the company. The two also clashed in June over the level of pension rises - with Kaník and the government saying that the state could only afford a 6 percent increase, and Knitl declaring that SP could afford up to an 8 percent rise.
The minister initiated moves to dismiss Knitl, who was finally removed from the post at the third attempt during a July 3 board meeting.
Halmeš will manage the state firm until the end of the year when control will be placed in the hands of a five-member council. SP has until that time to prepare for the introduction of changes in the pension system, which will include the introduction of individual pension schemes.
Kaník expressed his relief at the appointment and his optimism for the future of SP under Halmeš's management to the daily Pravda: "We expect him to intensively enter his responsibilities and dive into the problems."
The former spa director's own response was more muted: "The water is deep..."
18. Aug 2003 at 0:00 | Conrad Toft