Photo: bluegum / freeimages

In Magazine: the state spends 230 million crowns inefficiently to make the civil service more efficient, a group of musicians from Benin end up in detention on suspicion of being illegal migrants, an English language teacher is sacked for letting her class watch 50 Shades of Grey and half of Czechs believe they are underpaid.

Photo: bluegum / freeimages
It’s a news story that Kafka would have loved. The country’s Supreme Audit Office recently reported that in the years between 2007 and 2014 the Czech state spent almost 230 million crowns inefficiently to make the civil service more efficient. The office has already proposed filing a number of criminal complaints on the grounds of the facts unearthed. The office checked eight projects within the Smart Administration Strategy that was to secure a more efficient public administration, including a planned information system to administer data on the Smart Administration projects. Seven projects did not fulfil the set goals, spouting endless methodological directives that had no impact on streamlining public administration or lowering the costs of paperwork, the office concluded. The Interior Ministry which was the main guarantor of the projects apparently failed to set down the goals that were to be achieved by 2015 and so it was not possible to assess whether they were fulfilled. Well, improving public administration is clearly hard work and costs a lot of money.

International Folklore Festival in Strážnice,  illustrative photo: Archive de Radio Prague
A group of musicians from Benin attending the International Folklore Festival in Strážnice had an unpleasant experience in the nearby town of Uherské Hradište this week. Public concern with regard to a possible wave of migrants from Africa and the Middle East led to them being detained for two hours on the grounds that they were illegal migrants. The group was making a tour of the city when the local police were alerted to their presence by some of the locals. Because they had no IDs they were led off to the local police station where they spent two hours before the matter was explained. After their initial shock the band laughed the incident off.

The saga surrounding the tale of President Miloš Zeman and an apparently non-existing article written by the respected Czech interwar journalist Ferdinand Peroutka has taken a new twist and made the president the butt of jokes nationwide. Months ago President Zeman claimed to have read an article by Peroutka entitled “Hitler is a gentleman” and stuck to his story despite assurances from experts in the field that such an article simply did not exist. After making his aide search for the article for months the president issued a half-hearted apology, but still offered a 100,000 crown reward to anyone who finds the article in question. Lots of people are now calling in with the reportedly “authentic” article in order to collect the money. The president’s blunder has become the butt of jokes nationwide and the latest victim of the endless jokes on the subject is the mayor of Prague 10 who found a fake article of the same title created by a literary critic and journalist and placed in Karel Capek’s villa to amuse visitors and fell for it. Moreover the social networks are rife with reports of the said article as people are joking at the president’s expense. Most recently a practical joker posing on social networks as Cardinal Miroslav Vlk announced he would give a 100,000 crown reward to anyone who finds a line in the Bible saying “Satan is a gentleman”.

An English language teacher in Hradec Kralove recently got sacked because she decided to liven up a lesson by letting the class watch Fifty Shades of Grey. The class of eighth graders was not against, but word got out and the young lady got the boot. The film is an over 15 movie in the Czech Republic and the eighth graders were a year younger than that. Her successor is unlikely to be able to stand up to the competition no matter what teaching aids she chooses to use.

Several thousand people turned out for the Ostravice river celebrations last week the highlight of which was a carnival-style boat parade. Among the vessels on show was a bathtub, a girl in a floating coffin, a huge guitar, a crocodile boat, a boat manned by Shrek and Fiona and a floating UFO. The evening ended with a light show and river party that brought together people from both sides of the river. The organizers said the main idea behind the event was that rivers should unite, not divide people.

Photo: Eva Odstrčilová,  ČRo
Half of Czechs believe that they are underpaid, according to a survey conducted by the STEM/MARK agency, but the vast majority are afraid to ask their boss for a raise. Two thirds of dissatisfied respondents said it was up to their bosses to give them a raise, a third of them boldly asked for more money. Only seven percent of those who did got it, the rest were either turned away or were given a symbolic raise that was nowhere near their expectations. Statistics indicate people may not be complaining in vain – according to EUROSTAT the Czechs ranked higher than any other post-communist EU state in output in capita in 2014 yet the minimum wage is the fourth lowest in the 28 member block. Trade union leader Josef Stredula said in an interview this week that the country needed to ditch its reputation as a cheap-labour economy –otherwise it would lag behind countries like Germany and Austria for another 100 years.