Embattled transport minister announces decision to step down
Transport Minister Dan Ťok has announced his decision to step down. The country’s longest-serving transport minister is being blamed for the state of the country’s permanently congested D1 highway and procrastination in failing to secure a new operator for the tolling system on Czech highways.
“I am tired not from the work that the post entails, which has been rewarding, but from the constant attacks against me and from the various efforts made to by-pass me.”
Minister Ťok was referring to a recent revelation stemming from a police investigation that Jaroslav Faltýnek, a senior official from the ANO party and the prime minister’s chief aide, had led secret negotiations regarding the tender for an operator to run the tolling system on Czech highways. This was at a time when the minister came under fire for prolonging a contract with the Austrian company Kapsch after failing to organize a competitive tender in time.
The transport minister was also blamed for the slow pace of reconstruction of the country’s highways, the building of new stretches and the generally poor state of Czech roads. The problems surrounding the permanently congested D1 highway, the country’s main connection from Prague to Brno, led to a special session of the lower house at which deputies called for the minister’s head.
“It was never my intention to dismiss him. He is leaving at his own request and frankly, it does not surprise me, given the constant attacks against him. I think he did plenty of good work and deserves our thanks for it.”
The prime minister highlighted particularly the fact that since taking office in 2014 minister Ťok had successfully tackled long-standing problems with corruption and had halved the cost of highway construction. He refused to comment on who would be Dan Ťok’s successor, noting only that the post required a capable manager.
Transport Minister Dan Ťok said with regard to his departure that he would leave the time-frame up to the prime minister, and there has been speculation that details of the cabinet reshuffle would be announced by mid-May at the latest, but given minister Ťok’s decision to jump the gun, the news may come sooner rather than later.