Czech IT specialists organize “hackathon” to give government online motorway vignette sales system for free

The Czech transport minister has been sacked for mismanaging a tender to operate a new online system of motorway vignette sales. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš moved swiftly on Monday to stop a 400-million crown deal going ahead, accepting an offer from IT specialists who said they would work for free to produce a fully functional online sales system by next Monday.

Vladimír Kremlík,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio
The 400-million crown contract for a new online system for motorway vignette sales has shaken the Transport Ministry in its foundations. After expressing shock at the overpriced deal and the fact that he had not been informed about developments Prime Minister Andrej Babiš called an impromptu press briefing to announce a series of far-reaching changes – the sacking of the transport minister, the naming of his successor and news of a merger between the ministries of transport and industry and trade.

After a futile attempt to try to defend his position Transport Minister Vladimir Kremlík was left out of emergency talks to salvage the project he had “botched” and his successor, Trade and Industry Minister Karel Havlíček, who was handed the transport portfolio, made it clear that more heads would roll at the ministry.

“I will primarily turn my attention to personnel changes at the Transport Ministry and of course take steps to abrogate the overpriced deal, call a new tender, under fair conditions to all, which would cut the staggering cost of this project.”

The prime minister has already paved the way for this to happen – accepting an offer made via the media from IT specialist and entrepreneur Tomáš Vondráček who told the prime minister he and hundreds of other volunteers would work for free to create an online system for the electronic vignettes.

Following talks with Mr.Babiš who gave him the green light, Vondráček said the IT specialists would take care of the online sales system and the government would only need to deal with the remaining operations such as a camera system and security.

“The government will be able to use the results of our hackathon in which we will create a fully functional online sales system. This means it can narrow the tender to the remaining operations which should enable it to radically bring down the cost.”

According to Tomáš Vondráček hundreds of IT specialists have offered to take part in the hackathon to help the government out. Work is to start at 6pm on Friday and Vondráček has promised that the system will be ready by Monday morning.

According to Hlídač státu, a government watchdog initiative, the prime minister’s action came at the eleventh hour. If the project had gone ahead as planned, it would have cost taxpayers 75 million crowns more annually than the current paper vignettes.