Opposition politicians and parties will initiate a no-confidence vote in Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, opposition MPs Jozef Rajtár (Freedom and Solidarity/SaS), Richard Vašečka (OĽaNO) and Milan Krajniak (Sme Rodina) said on November 15.
“Robert Kaliňák has repeatedly failed in his post,” Rajtár said, adding that the latest issue concerns a ten-million-euro fine from the Public Procurement Office. “There are experienced people at the Interior Ministry who have been working with public procurement proceedings for years. It's unimaginable for the fines to be the result of inadequacies. The fines are the result of tender malfeasance and the fact that the winners of the tenders are set beforehand. Robert Kalinak is responsible for this,” added Rajtár, as quoted by the TASR newswire. Kaliňák has failed as the head of the Interior Ministry. It is mainly his fault that the public has no trust in the police and he has also failed as an honest politician, as he “hasn't been able to avoid shady businesses and non-transparent tenders”, the Sme Rodina MP noted.
“We've concurred that as of today, we'll start collecting signatures to convene an extraordinary session to oust Interior Minister Robert Kalinak,” Krajniak also said. “We'll most probably submit these signatures to the Parliament Office on the day of and at the beginning of the [next] parliamentary session.”
The Interior Ministry has had to pay fines for tender malfeasance equalling almost €25.7 million in the past three months alone, opposition OĽaNO party leader Igor Matovič said one day earlier. He added that the media were reporting, almost on a daily basis, how Kaliňák was signing agreements on the payment of the fine by instalments with Igor Federič (also of the ruling Smer party) from the Government Office. The OľaNO chair pointed out that the ministry has to pay €25.7 million for wrongdoings in tenders worth €340 million.
The largest of the fines is related to the procurement of electronic ID cards and amounted to €10 million.
Matovič rejected the statement by Prime Minister Robert Fico who said that the payment of fines is nothing but a transfer of money from one state coffer to another. “...(because) in most cases, there are European funds that we won't receive at the end of the day, and we'll need to pay out of our own pocket. Up to 90 percent of it is European money,” he claimed. This sentiment is shared by OĽaNO MP Ján Marosz, who strongly demanded that the government pay all the ministry's fines from Kaliňák's personal bank account.
Minister and ministry strike back
A press statement released by the ministry describes Matovič as completely clueless when he claims that the Interior Ministry has received several fines for tender malfeasance, as these were rather corrections regarding projects for which the ministry drew €300 million from the EU. The statement continues with an argument that the corrections involved other recipients as well, including ministers in the government of Iveta Radičová [2010-12], in which Mr. Matovič himself was involved. “We fail to understand why the very individual who was proven guilty of tax fraud plays the part of an EU funds expert,” the ministry backlashed.
Corrections, not fines
It also pointed out that Slovakia is not losing any money by these corrections, as the resources are being returned to the Slovak budget, from where they will be reassigned.
“In the processing of EU-funds, in some cases financial participation is increased by what we call corrections,” the explanation reads. “In one such case, the Interior Ministry received a correction for the fact that we failed to send out replies to all bidders but sent them to just one who raised a question. There was one bidder who asked the question and received a reply regarding what exactly a personal document is and that there was a need to make euro conversions in the recommendations. We did not have to expel any of the bidders over this, so it had no impact on the result. Therefore, there were no corrections for dubious tenders but rather for administrative mistakes,” reads the text.
In response to Matovič, Kaliňák also argued that the Interior Ministry under his lead (2006-10, 2012-present) has not received a single fine from the Public Procurements Office (ÚVO) since 2006. In fact, the ministry has received fines only twice – at the time of PM Iveta Radičová, when it was headed by Daniel Lipsic (2010-12), the minister claims. “So, if [OĽaNO leader] Igor Matovič and people from the opposition want to talk about the ministry paying fines and they table a motion for my removal, they've got the wrong guy, unfortunately,” Kaliňák summed up.
The alleged corrections were issued for grave violations of the law on public procurement when organising tenders, the Sme daily writes on its website, adding that Kaliňák is also lying when ascribing the fines to the cabinet of former prime minister Iveta Radičová. Although concluded during the term of Daniel Lipšic, the audit that found wrongdoings in the tenders started eight days before the general election that brought PM Radičová and Daniel Lipšic as interior minister to power, according to Sme. In both disputed cases, the ÚVO found law violations that may have impacted directly on the selection of a supplier.
The next parliamentary session is scheduled for November 28.