Former health ministry top official implicated in new corruption scandal

Illustrative photo: archive of the Ministry of the Interior

A fresh corruption scandal has erupted on the Czech political scene. The police have charged a high placed former health ministry official with breach of trust and abuse of office in connection with a dubious tender for the operation of the air rescue services. The transfer of the operation from the defense ministry to two private companies is reported to have caused the state losses of close to 800 million crowns to date.

Tomáš Julínek,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
Although the anti-corruption police have so-far refused to give the person’s name everything points to the fact that the man at centre of this latest scandal is none other than former health minister Tomáš Julínek of the ruling Civic Democratic Party. Mr. Julínek who served as health minister in the Topolánek government in the years between 2006 and 2009, called the tender in early 2008, later sanctioning the transfer of the air-rescue operation in 8 out of 10 localities from the military to two private companies: Alfa Helicopter and DSA.

The anti-corruption police, who started investigating the case in 2012 in connection with a criminal complaint filed against Tomas Julínek by deputy Jiří Štětina from Public Affairs, say the decision to outsource most of the operation to private companies more than doubled the cost of the service causing the state damages to the tune of close to 800 million crowns to date and potentially a lot more since the respective contracts are valid until 2016.

Illustrative photo: archive of the Ministry of the Interior
According to the terms of the contracts, DSA and Alfa Helicopter are to receive close to 4 billion crowns from the state over a period of 8 years during which they are to operate the air rescue service in eight out of ten regions. According to a financial analysis commissioned by the police the private companies charge 135,000 crowns per hour of service, including on-alert periods, compared to the 50,000 charged by the Czech military in the two regions where it still provides the service.

Moreover according to Czech Television, the former health minister has close links to one of the firms that won the lucrative tender. A year after leaving the health ministry Tomáš Julínek got a seat on the supervisory board of a fund that co-owns Alfa Helicopter. The fund, which is largely financed by Alfa Helicopter, is reported to have sent close to 200,000 crowns to Advance Healthcare Management, a company headed by Julínek’s former deputy at the ministry Pavel Hroboň.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
Despite the gravity of these revelations Tomáš Julínek has made no effort to clear his name or reject the accusations. Since the news broke on Friday he has refused to communicate with the press, leaving it to his former spokesman Tomáš Cikrt to speak out in his defense. According to Mr. Cikrt, who was also questioned by police on the matter, the accusations are nonsensical and the former health minister had no choice but to outsource the service since the defense ministry was losing money on it and was no longer willing to provide it. No one else has come forward to support that claim. The two private companies who received the lucrative deal –Alfa Helicopter and DSA- have issued written statements questioning the claim that the defense ministry could provide a rescue helicopter service at a significantly lower cost and stressing that they had won the tender in fair and open competition.