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Probe into Foreign Ministry scandal shows Slovakia in bad light

Former Foreign Ministry employee Zuzana Hlávková decried allegedly shady purchases at the Foreign Affairs Ministry one year ago

The ceremonial launch of the Slovak presidency's logo. (Source: Sme)

The entire investigation concerning overpriced cultural events and a dubious commission carried out by the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry during Slovakia’s presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2016, shows Slovakia, with the exception of the Ombudsman’s Office, in a bad light in terms of a law-based state, said Transparency International Slovensko (TIS) head Gabriel Šípoš at a press conference on Monday, November 20.

Summarising the investigation into the case exactly one year after former ministry employee Zuzana Hlávková decried the allegedly shady purchases made by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Šípoš added that the course of the investigation has also reflected negatively on Slovakia in terms of the kind of protection that whistle-blowers have in the country.

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“On the very day when Zuzana gave her testimony we contacted five state institutions to verify it,” said Šípoš. “Hlávková pointed to violations of three laws - the Public Procurements Act, the Declaration of Anti-Social Action Act and the Free Access to Information Act.”

Twelve months after complaints were submitted in this regard only one institution has detected violations of the law, namely the Ombudsman’s Office, which confirmed repeated violations of the Free Access to Information Act in February, said Šípoš.

The remaining four institutions - the Public Procurements Office (ÚVO), the Anti-Monopoly Office (PMÚ), the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) and a district office – have not yet come to a conclusion that would confirm a violation of the law, said Šípoš.

“The case is also being investigated by the police but no ruling has yet been made,” he said.

One positive element according to the TIS head is the level of public interest in the scandal.

“The articles on the TIS blog have had more than 240,000 views, while the media have covered the issue more than 1,100 times - not only in Slovakia, but also abroad,” said Šípoš, adding that the case has also made people more determined to report similar unfair practices.

“The public can mobilise itself, inspire and stand up for people who have the courage to report scandals publicly,” said the TIS head, adding that reports of corruption could rise if state institutions were able to assume responsibility.

In 2016, Hlávkova, via TIS, accused the ministry of organising overpriced cultural events linked to the Slovak presidency. She claims that a commission to organise the logo presentation event was given to a firm selected in advance without a tender.

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