The EU criticises public tender

Weekly Respekt

In mid October Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman had announced that his cabinet was going to file charges against the weekly Respekt. He claimed that 17 members of the cabinet intended to sue the weekly for libel, each demanding 10 million crowns in compensation. Respekt's article, which aroused such anger, insinuated that the cabinet had lost its battle against corruption - one of its 1998 election platform pledges. The lawsuits were never filed, and there is irony in the fact that only weeks after the threats, the European Commission is expected to release a document which criticises Zeman's cabinet for many of the same things Respekt wrote about them in the article. Nicole Klement has the details.

The main criticism in the European Commission's report is that the Czech government neglects to use public tenders when appropriate. The government often grants large contracts to firms without ever offering the job through formal public tenders. This year an Israeli construction company was automatically given a million-dollar contract to build a highway in Northern Moravia. In the same manner, projects were also granted to international consulting firms such as Deloitte and Touche, HSBC and ABN Amro, with these companies employed to give advice on the recent privatization of previously state-run enterprises.

I spoke with Erik Tabery from Respekt, and asked him whether he believed that the upcoming commission report truly confirms the criticisms first leveled by his magazine.

"According to our information the report criticizes exactly the same governmental weaknesses as we did in our article. It seems that whenever a public tender is not properly announced everyone does and should question - Why has this particular firm been chosen? For this situation automatically allows for corrupt business possibilities. In this respect, we totally agree with the European Commission."

I also asked whether Mr. Tabery felt that the government ministers haven't gone ahead with the lawsuit because they have foreseen the report's findings..

"Of course the preliminary report of the European Commission could have played a major role because how could Zeman's cabinet members sue a magazine for publishing something that is confirmed by such a reputable institution as the European Commission."

Other criticisms expected to appear in the report include, the Czech government's weak attempt at fighting national corruption and economic crime, and the growing state budget deficit. However, the European Commission's document is also expected to include some praise. Apparently the Czech Government has managed to make advances in its recent reforms of the judicial system, as well as managing to harmonize much of its legislation to that of the EU.

Author: Nicole Klement
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