THE GOVERNMENT intends to establish a property services agency to handle state-owned real estate assets. The agency will represent the buying, selling, renting and building of state-owned property, as well as provide legal representation to the government in property cases.
According to the law approved by the government on September 22, the agency will handle state property as early as July 1, 2005. The Finance Ministry drafted the law.
"The agency will, above all, be responsible for state-owned buildings and land, both of which are currently under the administration of individual ministries and various governing bodies," Mikuláš Gera, on behalf of the Finance Ministry, told The Slovak Spectator.
Gera said the agency would function like a commercial and residential real estate firm. "It will acquire the power to sell and rent state assets - property, movable assets, and state-ownership claims."
The minister was unable to estimate the volume of property the new agency would eventually control. Gera assured The Spectator that the agency "would work within a concrete sphere of responsibility outlined by the law".
While the agency will handle real estate assets belonging to various ministries, budgetary and contribution organisations, and public organisations, its power will not extend to property management.
The Finance Ministry's original intention was to charge the agency with overall administration - not just performing real estate functions. The ministry argued that current governing bodies often acted outside the law with regard to managing their properties. As an example, the ministry cited an advanced sale of a property for a price that significantly undercut the market. In the end, however, the Finance Ministry bowed to popular demand and revised the draft bill to keep property management outside the agency's authority.
Tomáš Šarluška of the Transport, Post Office and Telecommunication Ministry explained his objections to the Finance Ministry's draft bill to the daily SME.
"We have specific organisations in our department, for example the Civic Association Authority and the State Railway Authority of the State Navigation Administration. These organisations need management of their property to perform their tasks in accordance with special laws," he said.
"As the draft bill was not in line with these needs, we proposed to set aside only the property portion to the agency."
The law does give the agency the authority to manage state property abroad, unless a separate law regulates that such a property cannot be handled as such.
The agency will not provide real estate services for all state-owned property, however. Assets currently overseen by the Interior, Defence and Justice Ministries, the Slovak Intelligence Service, and the National Security Office, will remain as they are.
"The state property law will necessarily impact the organisational structure of the agency. It will have a Board of Directors, a Board of Supervisors and a Director General. The agency will be a part of the Cabinet Office's budgetary chapter," Gera told to The Slovak Spectator.
Establishing the agency is expected to cost Sk30 million (€750 thousand). The Finance Ministry said that the agency would nevertheless save the government by eliminating fees and increasing state revenues, amounting to more than the initial investment.
Some European Union countries have created similar centralised agencies to handle state property. In Germany there is a federal administration of real estate organised by the Finance Ministry, which has been operating since 2002. Germany has defined two types of property: One that is not necessary for fulfilling state functions and therefore can be used for profitable activities; and another is used only for the purpose of state administration.
Italy has established an organisation for property administration as one of the four tax authorities. Its role is to administer state property with the aim of optimising its use. State property in Spain is subject to strict laws. There is a special organisation by the Finance Ministry that provides services in handling state real estates. The property price list always has to be approved by the Finance Ministry. Ireland also has a special agency that serves the state in the field of property, including construction and purchase.