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Muňko is back at social insurance provider

DUŠAN Muňko, whom the last government sacked as head of the country’s social insurance provider for what it called non-transparent handling of state funds and signing contracts disadvantageous to the state, is now back in his job and seeking compensation for his 2010 dismissal. Citing a Constitutional Court ruling, Prime Minister Robert Fico declared on August 1 that Muňko, who is an MP for Fico’s own party, is the rightful director of Sociálna Poisťovňa (SP).

DUŠAN Muňko, whom the last government sacked as head of the country’s social insurance provider for what it called non-transparent handling of state funds and signing contracts disadvantageous to the state, is now back in his job and seeking compensation for his 2010 dismissal. Citing a Constitutional Court ruling, Prime Minister Robert Fico declared on August 1 that Muňko, who is an MP for Fico’s own party, is the rightful director of Sociálna Poisťovňa (SP).

“The government of Iveta Radičová seriously violated the constitution by dismissing Muňko from his post as SP director,” Fico said, as quoted by the TASR newswire, adding that as Muňko had successfully challenged the decision at the Constitutional Court it was thus the court that had put him back in the job.

Labour Minister Ján Richter will discuss with Muňko the issue of compensation for unpaid wages, which might exceed €100,000. The Sme daily reported Muňko as saying that he will give the money to a health-sector charity.

Fico said there were now only three options in the Muňko case: for Muňko to remain as SP director; for him to voluntarily give up the job; or for the government to dismiss him again.

“But as I sit here I’m saying directly that I’ll never do that [i.e. dismiss him],” Fico said, as reported by TASR.

In 2010, the media department at the Ministry of Labour, which oversees SP, told The Slovak Spectator that Muňko was recalled over controversial deals between SP and IT firm Datalan, his failure to inform SP’s supervisory board about the deals, and related suspicions of corruption.

Muňko argued that the real reason for his sacking was his affiliation with Fico’s Smer party. He first represented Smer as an MP between 2002 and 2006, then served as deputy minister in the first Fico government between 2006 and 2008, when he was appointed head of SP. While continuing to hold that post, he was re-elected as a Smer MP in 2010.

The Constitutional Court ruled in early July Muňko’s rights were not observed in 2010 as the government’s decision to dismiss him did not include references to the law on social insurance identifying the reason for his recall, the SITA newswire reported.

Ironically, given the circumstances surrounding Muňko’s dismissal and reinstatement, his predecessor as director of SP, Ivan Bernátek, was sacked in 2008 by Fico, who gave no specific reasons for his decision beyond criticising him for ‘inactivity’.

Muňko’s previously worked as chief executive of Satur, the country’s largest travel agency. During his period as Environment Ministry state secretary in 2006-2008 he faced protests from 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 denied having cooperated with the ŠtB.

Previous director resigned

Ľubos Lopatka, SP’s director until early July, submitted his resignation after learning that Labour Minister Richter planned to reappoint some of the local SP branch heads whom he had sacked after taking over at the social insurer in 2010.

“My relations with Minister Richter are correct, but we still have a different opinion on personnel policies,” Lopatka said on July 6, as quoted in the local media, when asked why he was resigning.

Richter said that it was natural that Lopatka, after taking over at SP, had sacked some of the branch heads, but added that now “there is an interest that they return to their positions”. He did not elaborate on what – or whose – ‘interest’ he was referring to; nor was it clear who had instructed the SP director to make the appointments or on what authority. Richter continued that he understood that Lopatka might be uncomfortable appointing people he had sacked in the past, SITA reported.

Richter’s predecessor, Jozef Mihál, who is now an MP for the opposition Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, said he had believed that it would just be a matter of time before Lopatka came into conflict with the new management of the Labour Ministry, suggesting that Lopatka decided to resign “rather than conform to political pressure”, TASR reported.

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