Gas utility must publish salaries and benefits following dispute with Transparency International Slovakia

The verdict is a turning point when it comes to information laws.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

The Supreme Court has sided with watchdog Transparency International Slovakia (TIS). It ruled that the Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) gas utility manages public finances and the public thus has the right to control it.

“Public companies that manage billions of euros together cannot rebuff citizens by saying that their business has nothing to do with the state,” TIS wrote in a statement, adding that the verdict could have an impact on the public's control in other state and town companies as many of them refuse to make information about their management accessible to the public.

TIS said that in their last ranking of the level of transparency of the 100 biggest companies from 2019, 40 percent were unwilling to offer data about salaries and benefits for managers.

State money or not

The information law allows state and city companies a limited informative obligation to provide information about management with public means, the property of the state, a self-governing region or a village.

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The limitation of public control should protect them from a possible disadvantage during private competitions. Several state companies, including SPP, add that public finances are only direct funds from the state and European funds, so they make almost no information accessible as a result, TIS wrote.

The dispute with SPP reaches back to 2015 when TIS asked a 100-percent state joint-stock company to provide information about the volume of salaries and benefits members of the managing board and supervising council received. It also asked for details about an advertisement contract between SPP and the Paralympic marketing company. SPP refused to do so, reasoning that it does not manage public finances nor state property.

Turning point

Pavel Nechala and Matej Šimalčík from the Wise 3 attorney office, which is representing Transparency International Slovakia in the dispute, said that the verdict is a turning point.

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“We are happy that there is another significant court decision that strengthens the right of the public to control the public's power,” they said in the statement. “The verdict offers guidance to solve practical questions when enforcing the right for information for courts and also for obligatory people.”

SPP respects the decision of the Supreme Court and will make the information requested by Transparency International Slovakia accessible, the company said.

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