Ombudswoman: MFA violated the constitution

Transparency International Slovensko now prepares a lawsuit.

Foreign Minister Minister LajčákForeign Minister Minister Lajčák (Source: TASR)

Ombudswoman, Jana Dubovcová, has decided on the motion submitted by the ethics watchdog, Transparency International Slovensko (TIS) last year. It asked her to check the legitimacy of steps taken by the Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák, who has refused to publish agreements and invoices concerning the ceremonial introduction of Slovakia’s EU Council presidency logo.

Dubovcová claims in her decision that Lajčák and his employees have violated TIS’s fundamental right to information five times and therefore the law on free access to information and the Slovak constitution, the watchdog informed in a blog post.

In a 18-page document, the ombudswoman explains in detail what the Foreign Affairs Ministry failed to do thereby violating fundamental rights. She inspected six requests for information submitted by TIS and revealed violations in five of the ministry’s responses. She also recommended that the department should send to TIS all the documents that it had failed to provide.

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“As for the cited agreements with artists, the ombudswoman claims that the ministry should have provided them based on the law, though the names of the artists should have been redacted,” the blog post reads.

Regarding the opening concerts for the public and the VIP guests, the ministry should have provided all contracts and invoices to TIS, not only those picked by the department. The ombudswoman also indirectly criticised the ministry for concealing some agreements, according to TIS.

The chaotic and inconsistent decisions of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, according to Ombudswoman Dubovcová, “don’t contribute to the trustworthiness of the ministry’s explanations of why the information could not have been provided,” the blog post reads.

TIS ponders lawsuit

The ombudswoman, on the other hand, did not issue a direct decision in the case of the names of the companies and bids from the rivals of the Evka agency, which in the end prepared the event at which the logo was introduced. The reason was that the ministry had referred to the ongoing scrutiny.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry now has 20 days to put the recommendations into practice. If it fails to do so, the case will be decided by the government.

TIS meanwhile claims it will submit a lawsuit against the ministry, reasoning that the ministry has no right to refuse the provision of documents, saying they would be subject to inspection by respective bodies, such as the Supreme Audit Office.

The current dispute arose after the ministry’s former employee, Zuzana Hlávková, wrote about the murky practices in a TIS blog, The watchdog considers it to be important as it would finally prove whether the ministry manipulated the orders or not.

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