Actors in latest health care scandal are connected

MONIKA Pažinková is charged with investigating the former director of the state-run health insurance company Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa (VšZP) over dubious contracts, but her husband is a partner in one of the offending companies -- leading to allegations she has a conflict of interest. 

Marcel ForaiMarcel Forai (Source: Sme)

Ex VšZP chief Marcel Forai announced his decision to resign after Miroslav Beblavý of the non-parliamentary Sieť party raised  suspicions that Forai preferred seven companies where his aunt Anna Součková is a partner. Beblavý backed his accusations with 69 agreements worth €14 million which VšZP has signed with these companies since 2012.

“I consider the MP Beblavý’s attack on me to be pre-election campaign,” Forai told the press on September 23. “I don’t want VšZP to suffer from this pre-election campaign…”

Forai added that he wants to prove that he is innocent and asked the ÚDZS inspection office to check all contracts the VšZP signed with Sučková since 2004 when first contract was signed. If it is proven that the law was not violated Health Minister Viliam Čislák stated that he is prepared to reappoint Forai.

Forai could come back

Forai also plans to fill a criminal complaint on Beblavý for libel. He insists that the health insurer had signed contracts with his aunt long before he became its head, and that these are standard contracts concerning health care. The former director also states the number of contracts at six, not 69, and adds that not one is active.

On the other hand, Forai admits that he had signed addendums to the contracts, but stated that he does not feel in conflict of interest. He also stressed that all contracts can be found on the internet and checked, and so his conscience is clear.

“As a general director I would be very naïve and stupid if I signed dubious contracts with my own aunt for €14 million and published them on a webpage,” Forai said, as quoted by SITA.

Beblavý filed a motion with the parliamentary committee for conflicts of functions and wants it to launch a proceeding for the suspicion of abuse of position and violation of the constitutional law on protection of public interest. If the suspicion proves to be true, Forai could see a fine of € 67,000.

Conflict of interest

ÚDZS however cannot objectively examine the contracts signed by VšZP and firms affiliated with its former director because of a potential conflict of interest, ethics watchdog Transparency International Slovensko (TIS) argued on September 23.

Pažinková’s husband Peter Pažinka was an active partner with Miroslav Sučko in firm Gynastar until April 2005. Sučko is a son of Forai’s aunt Anna Součková and lives in same address as she does, according to business register.

“The head of the office is not in conflict of interests,” ÚDZS spokeswoman Soňa Valášiková said, as quoted by the Sme daily. “A group of authorized employees conducts surveillance over health insurers sometimes together with other persons.” 

TIS recommends Čislák to release an analysis outlining the system as to how VšZP awards contracts for the provision of CT and MR machines.

“If he wants to cast away suspicions regarding personal connections influencing the distribution of money in health care, this is a step in the right direction,” said TIS said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

Not the first scandal  

Forai has already received condemnation from a parliamentary committee for an incomplete property return/declaration that did not include his flat in the River Park development site in Bratislava.

The whole site was constructed by controversial J&T financial group and price of Forai’s flat is estimated at €700,000. Reportedly no bank had mortgage on the flat which would mean that Forai paid for it by cash or was given it as a gift. He has not explained if he truly possessed such amount of money, the Denník N daily wrote, pointing out that Forai was nevert a business man but worked in state offices.

His first public scandal however came even before he was installed to the VšZP general manager position. TV Markíza private broadcaster recorded Medirex firm head Radoslav Bardún saying that soon “our friend from Košice city” will become head of VšZP and “it could be great when considering the lobbying”.

Three weeks later Forai who is from Košice became VšZP general manager. Later, he admitted that he knows Bardún personally but is standard professional relationship, according to Denník N.

Health care scandals

The second Robert Fico government, which will run through March 2016, has been marked by health care scandals. In 2014 Alexander Winter Hospital in Piešťany was making headlines as it violated the law when procuring the CT scanner, which cost the positions of then health minister Zuzana Zvolenská, then speaker of parliament Pavol Paška and then deputy speaker Renáta Zmajkovičová.

In mid-September 2015 hospital’s director Mária Domčeková together with seven people were accused by the police in the case. Subsequently the boards of directors of the Piešťany hospital dismissed Mária Domčeková from her post as the hospital’s director.

Read also:Piešťany hospital director steps down over CT device scandalRead more 

Moreover, in December 2014 heads of state-owned hospitals in Banská Bystrica, Trnava and Poprad, together with the Health Ministry’s service office head Martin Senčák, were forced out in yet another health care sector scandal – this one concerning overpriced catering contracts signed with mutually intertwined companies.

Read also:Catering scandal cuts heads of hospitalsRead more 

Sme and TIS reviewed contracts of four large state hospitals in Trenčín, Banská Bystrica, Trnava and Poprad and found that they will pay external caterers nearly €81 million including VAT over the course of 10 years. Trenčín hospital signed a contract with the company Hospital Catering Solutions (HCS) and the other three hospitals with the Dora Gastro company. The contracts show that while most hospitals obtain food for patients for less than €5 per day, in these four state hospitals the sum oscillates between €8.30 and €10.80, Sme reported on December 8.


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