Mass staff resignation after minister sacks head of CzechInvest

Czechinvest office in Prague, photo: CTK

A storm has erupted at CzechInvest, a state body which encourages foreign investment and helps develop Czech companies. At least a fifth of CzechInvest's employees have handed in their notice, after the minister of industry sacked CEO Tomas Hruda on Friday. The Industry Ministry has made a number of accusations against Mr Hruda - claims denied by him, and the staff who have resigned en masse.

Czechinvest office in Prague,  photo: CTK
Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman surprised many by dismissing Tomas Hruda as head of the Czech Republic's state investment agency CzechInvest on Friday. Within hours he had replaced the fresh-faced 28-year-old with Roman Cermak, a member of Mr Riman's party the Civic Democrats.

"The reasons the minister dismissed Mr Hruda are justified and have been explained", Industry Ministry spokesman Tomas Bartovsky told reporters on Friday; he denied Mr Hruda's claims that it was purely personal.

Tomas Hruda,  photo: CTK
The ministry said there had been a lack of management overview at CzechInvest, and hiring without authorisation. But it also made more damning allegations - it said on several occasions there had been discrepancies in the awarding of public tenders by the agency.

On Monday there were reports that up to 80 percent of CzechInvest staff would quit in protest at Mr Hruda's sacking. That hasn't happened, though all its management resigned and up to 90 of its 313 employees could have quit by Friday evening.

Alzbeta Honsova herself resigned as press spokesperson this week.

Martin Riman,  photo: CTK
"The main reason they're quitting is obvious. It's not only the fact that the CEO Tomas Hruda has been dismissed, but the way it happened. The false accusations of faults with public tenders and other situations in CzechInvest made the staff, let's say, disgusted, or angry. Because it's not true. And the way the minister continues in these accusations makes people think their work lacks sense."

It is not impossible that Minister Riman will not be too concerned by the turmoil at CzechInvest. He is against the very idea of investment incentives for foreign companies, and plans to merge CzechInvest with Czech Trade, which promotes Czech companies abroad. Both are part of his ministry.

Some have suggested that Mr Riman would also like to gain more influence on the European Union funds which are currently channelled through CzechInvest.