Insurer boss's head rolls

DUŠAN Muňko, whose high-flying career has included the top job at the country’s largest travel agency and a deputy ministerial post at the Environment Ministry, is no longer the director of Slovakia’s social security provider, Sociálna Poisťovňa (SP). Though he had resisted all calls for his resignation, the government of Iveta Radičová finally sacked Muňko over what it called non-transparent handling of state funds and the conclusion of contracts disadvantageous to the state.

DUŠAN Muňko, whose high-flying career has included the top job at the country’s largest travel agency and a deputy ministerial post at the Environment Ministry, is no longer the director of Slovakia’s social security provider, Sociálna Poisťovňa (SP). Though he had resisted all calls for his resignation, the government of Iveta Radičová finally sacked Muňko over what it called non-transparent handling of state funds and the conclusion of contracts disadvantageous to the state.

Muňko had signed deals with IT firm Datalan for the supply of computer technology, hardware and software but failed to submit the contracts to the insurer’s supervisory board for approval.

Radičová has even suggested that Muňko’s violations are grave enough for criminal prosecution bodies to investigate them.

Muňko claims that that his party affiliation – he was elected as an MP for the opposition Smer party at the general election in June – is the real reason for his sacking, and said the reasons given by the government for his dismissal were made up.

“The real reason for my recall is that I am a member of the opposition Smer [party] and a parliamentary deputy for this party,” Muňko wrote in a statement which he distributed to the media. “The government of Iveta Radičová cannot openly admit this because it claims to respect laws which stipulate that the term of the SP director lasts six years, regardless of the term of the government.”

Andrea Devánová of the media department at the Ministry of Labour, which oversees SP, confirmed to The Slovak Spectator that Dušan Muňko was recalled over the controversial deals with Datalan, his failure to inform the SP supervisory board about the deals, and related suspicions of corruption. Devánová said that the state now has 30 days to appoint a new director to head the social security provider.

Labour Minister Jozef Mihál, a nominee of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), who has been unhappy with the economic performance of the social insurer, had been insisting since his appointment that Muňko should depart.

Yet the official proposal for Muňko’s fall to earth, provided to The Slovak Spectator by Devánová, suggests that he was sacked for a failure to provide data and information from SP’s information system required by the tax directorate, as well as for not fulfilling strategic goals set for the state-controlled social security provider. One of those goals was a higher collection rate of social insurance contributions and a better success rate for recovered claims. The government claims that SP in 2008 had a higher collection rate for social insurance than it did in 2009, for example.

In his statement Muňko said that during his employment he had not concluded any framework agreements on the supply of software or other products supplied by Datalan. He insisted that he signed only purchase contracts predefined by framework agreements concluded by his predecessors.

“I could have not proceeded otherwise,” Muňko said, adding that if he had not signed the contracts in question the insurer would have been hit with hefty sanctions.

Back in 2007, SP announced a tender for the purchase of 4,300 computers and notebooks, 200 servers and printers, 4,500 computer mice, 6,000 supporting devices and 5,000 software licences. The tender was won by Datalan, which bid €14 million without VAT for four years, according to the Sme daily. In 2008, Datalan won another tender worth €5 million without VAT. Two other companies bid, but SP says that the Datalan offer was the most advantageous. The two other bids have never been published. Two framework agreements had been signed by Muňko’s predecessor, but 14 purchase agreements were signed by Muňko himself, Sme wrote.

Muňko replaced Ivan Bernátek in the job after the latter’s departure on August 21, 2008. Former prime minister Robert Fico ordered Bernátek’s dismissal following an inspection day at Sociálna Poisťovňa in late June 2008, but gave no specific reasons for the move. Fico did, however, criticise Bernátek, saying that the social insurer had been stabilised thanks to the efforts of then labour minister, Viera Tomanová, rather than Bernátek. Tomanová had not previously voiced any objections to Bernátek's work.

Muňko, while serving as head of SP, was a strong critic of the second, privately-managed, pillar of the country’s pension system.

“People under the age of 30 should be in the second pillar, while there is no place there for people over 35,” Muňko said in one of his statements on the second pillar, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that anyone who earns less than €600 per month should also not be there.

As for Muňko’s previous career, he served as director general of Satur, the country's largest travel agency. When he received his appointment to the Environment Ministry, Muňko faced protests by environmentalists and NGOs. They claimed that he had been an agent of the communist-era secret police, the ŠtB, and had faced serious allegations over illegal breeding of endangered species of exotic parrots. Muňko has denied any cooperation with the ŠtB.

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