Education Minister Dušan Čaplovič is considering whether to resign, the Sme daily reported on March 28, quoting the minister’s external adviser, Ľubomír Andrassy. Andrassy said the two have discussed the possibility, Sme wrote. The Slovak media has recently reported on several deals concluded by the Ministry of Education which have prompted questions about transparency at the department and appropriate use of public funds.
It was recently reported that during last year's strike by teachers and school employees, who were seeking a pay rise, the minister spent €9,900 on flowers at an upmarket Bratislava flower shop, Orchidea. Though the ministry explained that some of flowers went to schools that teach flower arranging, it did not explain where gift bouquets worth €2,500 ended up, Sme wrote on March 21.
According to separate reports, the State Institute for Technical Education, which is supervised by the Education Ministry, signed an agreement worth €1.5 million to promote vocational education over the next four years. The ministry explained that part of the money would be allocated from foreign funds, in particular the Swiss Financial Fund, Sme reported on March 25.
Another deal involved an order, worth €8,650, for a new logo for the Institute of Information and Prognoses of Education Sector. That resulted in the dismissal of the institute’s head, Juraj Homola, the SITA newswire reported.
Meanwhile, two MPs for the opposition Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) party, Igor Hraško and Richard Vašečka, on March 27 sent an open letter in which they called on Prime Minister Robert Fico to sack Čaplovič. According to them, the minister is responsible for the critical state of the Slovak education sector, SITA reported.
“The steps of minister [Čaplovič] during the first year of the rule of Robert Fico have considerably polarised professionals as well as civil society and have had negative impacts on raising and educating [children] in Slovakia,” said Hraško, as quoted by SITA.
The MPs also reminded Fico of his promise to intervene in any mistakes made by his ministers. Vašečka stressed that Fico should give his education minister a red instead of a yellow card, claiming that this and Hraško's criticism “is not only our personal opinion”, SITA wrote.
Hraško and Vašečka also reminded reporters of the proposed changes to the financing of free-time centres, which will result in the closure of the biggest such centre, which caters for about 8,000 children in Žilina. They also said that the minister did not handle the teachers' strike well, and that he reneged on promises he originally made trade unions. They also blamed the minister for preparing non-systematic laws for the education sector, and being involved in several scandals that have recently affected the Education Ministry.
“We see that the money is distributed only to the chosen ones, but not to the systematic financing of the education sector,” Hraško added.
Education Ministry spokesperson Michal Kaliňák said that the minister would not respond to the activities of deputies who neither support the government nor back “the priorities of realisation of fundamental changes in the school system supporting the increase in the quality of education which are, among others, reflected in the programme statement of the government”, SITA wrote.
Andrassy, who is currently the head of the office of the mayor of Bratislava, Milan Ftáčnik, said he helped Čaplovič to deal with the widely criticised lease by the minister's department of an Audi limousine owned by the company of Jirko Malchárek, a former economy minister whose name features heavily in the Gorilla file, a unverified intelligence agency wire-tap transcript purportedly describing unethical relations between businesses and high-level politicians at the time Malchárek was in office. The ministry paid €3,000 a month to lease the Audi.
“I told him my opinion about how he should react,” Andrassy told Sme. “Firstly, he should feel whether he has the inner strength and energy to continue in passing the changes which the education sector needs. Simultaneously, he has to now see whether he has the support of the prime minister.”
Fico previously ordered Čaplovič to scrap the limousine lease contract, and the Finance Ministry launched an audit which is supposed to determine whether it was disadvantageous to the state, Sme wrote.
Andrassy also served as an adviser to Čaplovič when the latter was deputy prime minister for human rights and minorities in the first Fico government, in 2006-10. Andrassy's work then was unpaid, put he now receives €1,500 per month for his services, Sme wrote.
Sources: Sme, SITA
Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.
28. Mar 2013 at 13:00