Commenting on allegations that a Slovak National Party (SNS) MP, Rafael Rafaj, had faked the signature of absent SNS party leader Ján Slota on parliamentary attendance sheets in order for Slota to qualify for taxpayer-funded pay and benefits, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák (Smer-SD) said during Question Hour in Parliament on May 22 that faking a signature would not be classified as a crime. Answering a question by independent MP Rudolf Bauer, Kaliňák said: “This case did not constitute a crime. We could talk about ethical aspects, but that's your job here in Parliament.” Kaliňák’s Smer party governs in coalition with Slota’s SNS. In order to constitute a legal offence of fraud or forgery it would have to be committed deliberately for profit, the TASR newswire wrote. However, the MP is entitled to his salary based on the election results, and not due to signatures on the attendance sheet, Kaliňák explained. An MP can lose half a month's pay for being absent from Parliament for two days without due cause, and lose his entire pay for further such absences.
Kaliňák did not rule out further parliamentary investigation of the alleged signature fraud scandal and disciplinary action, but he insisted it was not a criminal matter. According to Slota's and Rafaj's declarations at a meeting with Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška (Smer-SD) on Tuesday (at which Kaliňák was reportedly present), their signatures were genuine, so both should have been present at last week's sessions. Although Paška initially said that he had no reason to believe that Slota would lie to him over such a matter and that he had no powers to initiate a further probe, he later supported opposition MPs' demands for a report to be presented to parliament.
In response to the scandal, the vice-chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Daniel Lipšic, is to propose an amendment to parliament's rules of procedure next month, he announced at a meeting on May 22 with journalists. MPs would register with a card directly through the voting devices in parliament, adjusted to enable this. In order to claim to be present for half of the day, an MP would have to participate in voting at least once. If an MP did not want to vote, which is a legitimate strategy, they could register in a specific way that would serve to confirm their presence. Moreover, parliament's cameras would make any fraud attempt impossible. In this way, the MPs would register twice a day, and the sanctions for unexcused absence would range from salary suspension to possibly giving up their MP's mandate. Lipšic wants to discuss this with fellow oppostion party SDKÚ-DS at their next meeting. He said he would also welcome support from the main governing party, Smer-SD. TASR
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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23. May 2008 at 9:00