INDIVIDUAL donors and companies who employ donors of the Slovak political parties gained Sk5.2 billion (€129 million) in state orders over the last three years - with many selected in closed tenders - the latest analysis by the Fair Play Alliance (AFP) watchdog has shown.
"This sum is so big that we consider it inevitable that the area where party interests intersect with the distribution of public finances be subjected to greater public control," the AFP stated.
"The control could be secured by effective legislation on conflicts of interests, the register of interests, lobbying, and the economic performance of political parties."
AFP representatives told journalists at a press conference on May 11 that among direct donors - individual legal entities who give money to political parties - the supporters of the opposition party Smer scored the most state orders, which were worth Sk1.3 billion (€32 million). The orders were chosen in favour of firms linked to these donors.
In second were the donors of the ruling Christian Democrats (KDH), who gained Sk1.1 billion (€27 million), followed by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) donors, who gained Sk250 million (€6.2 million) in the form of state orders.
Among firms that employ political party donors and then received state orders, the SDKÚ's sponsors scored Sk1.3 billion (€32.4 million), the greatest volume of state orders, followed by Smer's sponsors with Sk624 million (€15.5 million), and the KDH with Sk330 million (€8.2 million, see charts page 3).
The KDH, SDKÚ, and other parties, including the ruling New Citizen's Alliance, whose direct donors gained Sk150 million (€3.7 million) in state orders, rejected allegations that there was a direct relation between party sponsorships and the state orders.
SDKÚ spokesman Martin Maťko told The Slovak Spectator that his party "rules out any connection between donors and state orders".
Smer leader Robert Fico even ridiculed the AFP findings, stressing that Smer has no say whatsoever over public orders.
"Smer would like to point out a tiny detail to the AFP that it probably forgot in the fervour of its work, which is that the party is in opposition and therefore does not have and never had any influence on the process of public procurement," Fico said in a press statement.
Emília Sičáková-Beblavá, head of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator on May 12 that Slovak legislation as such did not forbid entities from sponsoring political parties and running for public orders at the same time.
"Therefore, these cannot be seen as illegal activities. The question is, however, why firms or donors contribute money to political parties. There is a term often used in this respect - pay to play - suggesting that sometimes the sponsorship is a kind of entry fee for firms to be allowed to enter the [state-orders] playground," Sičáková-Beblavá said. She added that, in various surveys her organisation had carried out among businesspeople, many of them said that the possibility of getting state orders was one of the motives behind their sponsorship of political parties.
"However, we cannot say that all firms who sponsor political parties and get state orders necessarily receive the jobs because of political involvement. Some firms certainly win tenders because they present the best offers," she said.
She added that the possibility that state orders were a method by which parties secure their own sponsors could not be ruled out.
The AFP based its findings on data from the public procurement authority. Of the total number of state orders between 2001 and 2003, those that included donors or sponsors constituted only 2.4 percent of the total 25,000 orders.
Zuzana Wienk, executive director of the AFP, also pointed out that a lack of transparency was frequent in state orders in general, with as many as 61 percent of selection processes taking place in closed tenders.
|Money gained by direct donors of parties in state orders 2001 - 2003|
|Money gained by firms that employ individual donors to political parties|
17. May 2004 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová