Environment Ministry ends year with bird and beaver underwear
With less than a fortnight to go before the end of the year, the Czech Environment Ministry has decided to allocate some of the remaining annual budget to the very last public tender for promotional items, some of which have raised eyebrows. Public institutions see these kinds of end-of-year spending sprees as necessary, but critics see it simply as a waste of public funds.
The list of items the ministry wants to buy for this money sounds a bit like a well-known song The Twelve Days of Christmas: six thousand pens, crayons, bags, umbrellas and stickers, two hundred cufflinks and scarves. And the item that has got many riled up is the order for one thousand pieces of underwear with a picture of a beaver on women’s knickers and the Cormorant bird on the male trunks.
The well-known environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (Hnutí Duha) was unimpressed. The group’s expert on forestry, Jaromír Bláha, told me this is not the first blunder of the Czech Nature campaign:
“The campaign to promote Czech nature began some time ago, under the previous minister, with billboards featuring the invasive plant big-leaved Lupine, which originally comes from North America. The problem is that the ministry actually spends millions of crowns trying to keep this invasive breed in check. The newest racy element of the campaign is the underwear. I consider this to be greenwashing. At a time when the ministry allows nature in some parts of the country to be destroyed, using public money for the promotion of nature is hypocritical.”
But the Environment Ministry is not alone in its last-ditch attempts to spend the full annual budget by the end of the year by allocating more money to promotional campaigns with relatively little impact. The Czech Supreme Audit Office is planning to look into four promotional campaigns of the Agriculture Ministry, which have all, at some point or another, received very similarly rushed end-of-year financial injections.