Pavlis ousted by nepotism allegations

ECONOMY Minister Pavol Pavlis announced he was stepping down as minister after his meeting with Prime Minister Robert Fico. 

Pavol PavlisPavol Pavlis (Source: Sme)

Pavlis resigned from his post over alleged nepotism at his ministry on April 21, the same day the Sme daily broke a story about his brother-in-law’s cleaning company and its lucrative tender with the ministry.

“The economy minister has assumed political responsibility for information concerning him that was published by media,” the ministry’s spokesperson Miriam Žiaková said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “The smearing of his name represents potential damage to the party that nominated him as well as to his personal reputation and that of his family.”

Pavlis, who had faced cronyism and conflict-of-interest allegations several times during his brief ministerial career resigned after Sme broke the story about Dávid Šípoš, Pavlis’ brother-in-law and the owner of a cleaning company called Sitis, received commissions worth hundreds of thousands of euros from the Economy Ministry.

Sitis was founded in August 2012, four months after Pavlis’ arrival at the Economy Ministry as state secretary. Two months later, the company signed its first contract with MH Invest, a division of the ministry, worth more than €20,000 and subsequently also received deals at other ministries, according to Sme.

Šípoš became the sole stockholder of Sitis in September 2013. In 2014, the company also concluded a cleaning contract with Tehelná Poliklinika health center, under the remit of the National Property Fund (FNM), worth €103,000, the daily wrote. Pavlis first denied his connection with Sitis, and later refused to comment when the media reported that the company was owned by his relative.

Replacement still unknown

On April 29 Fico announced that Ľubomír Vážny, the deputy PM for investments, or Finance Minister Peter Kažimír would be assigned the department as acting economy minister. The date when a permanent replacement will be announced has not been specified.

“That will give us time to offer the President the name of a new minister,” Fico said as quoted by TASR.

The ministry’s state secretaries were mentioned as the possible picks: Miroslav Obert, former top manager of the nuclear decommissioning company JAVYS, currently responsible for energy issues, and Rastislav Chovanec, former advisor to the prime minister for investments.

The Pravda daily mentioned Viktor Stromček, the state secretary at the Transport Ministry, who previously served as MP and as the head of the parliament’s office. Pravda however cited insider information from the Transport Ministry that Minister Ján Počiatek wants to keep Stromček in his department.

The head of the National Property Fund since 2012 Branislav Bacik was mentioned as another possible candidate, as reported by the Sme daily.

Other ministers scrutinised

Observers of the Slovak political scene called Pavlis’ resignation a logical step and opposition politicians spoke along the same lines, but weren’t satisfied by the sudden removal of Pavlis, whom they tried to force from office in a no confidence vote earlier this year for alleged conflict of interest concerning the Port Service company.

KDH chairman Ján Figeľ, who at the time of Pavlis’ resignation himself faced a no-confidence vote in the parliament as part of the fallout from the scandal surrounding the insolvent construction firm Váhostav, said Pavlis “should never have become minister”.

“And that goes for several ministers of the current government,” he added.

Figeľ and other opposition politicians have sought to connect Transport Minister Počiatek to the Váhostav scandal. The opposition however did not initiate the ousting of Počiatek in the parliament, but did press for a no-confidence vote for Health Minister Viliam Čislák, who has only been on the job a matter of months.

The opposition has accused him of sweeping scandals under the carpet, of the growing debts of the public hospitals, and claim he has failed to adequately investigate a procurement scandal from last year. In the end just 37 of the 110 MPs present in parliament voted for his removal.

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