Rift over NKÚ candidate deepens

SEVERAL state offices in Slovakia have been functioning without a legitimate director for a long time now. The authority in charge of auditing public spending is perhaps the second most visible among them, after the General Prosecutor’s Office. The reason is the same in both cases: politics.

SEVERAL state offices in Slovakia have been functioning without a legitimate director for a long time now. The authority in charge of auditing public spending is perhaps the second most visible among them, after the General Prosecutor’s Office. The reason is the same in both cases: politics.

The Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) is still led by Ján Jasovský, a nominee of the now extra-parliamentary Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), despite the fact that his term elapsed in February 2012. The NKÚ is a state office that is established by the constitution as “an independent body in charge of overseeing the management of budgetary resources, state property, property rights, and state claims”.

“As at every institution with a deputising director, there is a lack of motivation to [make] long-term changes,” Gabriel Šípoš, director of the political ethics watchdog Transparency International Slovensko, told The Slovak Spectator, adding that the selection is politicised and that weakens the power of NKÚ officers when searching for sensitive cases.

After the current government took office, Fico claimed that the opposition, in line with tradition, should propose the candidate for the post of the NKÚ chairman.

The opposition originally agreed that Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) would propose the candidate, which it did, but the opposition parties have so far failed to have their candidate elected by parliament, after Fico said that his ruling Smer party would only support an opposition candidate if he or she secured unanimous backing from opposition MPs. Meanwhile, the SaS parliamentary caucus lost five members, which has further complicated the situation.

SaS vs. People's Platform dispute

Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška announced that the next election for the NKÚ post will take place on May 28, with the deadline for submitting candidates being May 17. Ten days before that, however, the opposition was very much divided about the issue and there seemed to be little chance of their securing a unanimous vote.

The break-up of SaS in late March has caused tension among the opposition. On April 26, the People’s Platform announced it was no longer willing to support a candidate proposed by SaS.

“We can only state that the parliamentary caucus of SaS has lost the number of MPs that is necessary for it to be functional,” KDH caucus leader Pavol Hrušovský told the TASR newswire.

The rift in SaS resulted in five of its MPs leaving the SaS caucus, and only six MPs remaining. The constitution requires a minimum of eight MPs for a caucus to be established, but there are various interpretations over the status of an existing caucus that falls below the required number of MPs.
The People’s Platform is now ready to propose its own candidate for the NKÚ post, but as The Slovak Spectator went to print, eight days before the deadline for submitting candidates, they still had not announced the name of their candidate.

Additionally, on April 26, the platform’s member parties also stated they would require the vote to be public.

In response, SaS leader Richard Sulík accused the platform’s leaders of collaborating with Fico and Smer, and suggested he is not likely to discuss a common candidate with them.

“I don’t know what we should negotiate about; they don’t keep agreements,” Sulík said, as quoted by TASR.

SaS has reportedly already selected former SaS MP Milan Laurenčík as its candidate, but Sulík did not confirm the name to TASR.

Meanwhile, one of the SaS defectors, MP Juraj Miškov, said on the public broadcaster STV that “unless Mr Fico guarantees that 83 [i.e. all] of his MPs will vote for the opposition candidate” he and his fellow former SaS MPs are not going to participate in the vote.

A brief history of the vote

The current parliament has already made four attempts to elect a new NKÚ chairman, after the term of Ján Jasovský, who was elected to the post in 2004, elapsed. None of the votes was successful.

Fico first said his MPs will only support a candidate who receives unanimous opposition support.
Parliament failed to elect Kamil Krnáč and then Vladimír Klimeš, after MPs from Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) did not vote for them and Smer withdrew its support, citing a lack of unified support among the opposition.

Fico then proposed that each opposition party nominate its candidate and Smer would select from among them, before finally coming up with his own list of candidates. On April 4 he proposed three opposition-linked names: Peter Mach, who previously ran the statistics authority; Béla Angyal, the former boss of the Public Procurement Office; and the one-time director of the SIS intelligence service, Karol Mitrík.

However, Fico now says that as soon as the opposition parties agree to support one of the names from his list, Smer will support the candidate in a secret parliamentary ballot. The second alternative, according to Fico, is for the opposition to agree on a candidate who all the parties are willing to support. If neither approach succeeds, Fico said he would resort to a public competition organised by the Government’s Office, according to the Sme daily.

OĽaNO has also been pushing for a public competition organised by the opposition parties.

Political transparency watchdogs consider the public competition to be the best option. It should include a public hearing, and all candidates would submit their CVs, their moral and professional predispositions, and a plan for managing the NKÚ and what they want to achieve as its leader,
according to Šípoš of TIS.

“Such public competition would prove the candidates better than without any discussion about their pluses and minuses,” Šípoš told The Slovak Spectator.

It is also important that selection of the NKÚ chairman is based on professional predispositions rather than on political affiliation.

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