The Prague transit authority, DPP, spent more than 160 million crowns on consultation services over the course of two years according to an analysis ordered by city representitives from the opposition TOP 09 party. The analysis suggests that the same amount of money at standard market rates would pay for some 27 full-time consultants working every day of the week during 2009, when 103 million was spent. The City of Prague is the 100% owner of DPP. TOP 09 plans to present the details of the analysis on Wednesday.
Police have reported busting a major ring of heroin producers and dealers in Brno. More than 200 grams of heroin worth a quarter of a million crowns was confiscated last Thursday, as was a large amount of money. The police told the Czech Press Agency that they believe the gang was organised by a 60-year-old woman who worked in concert with her daughter and had previous drug-related convictions. Three people are under arrest and face up to ten years in prison.
Ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský has issued a set of recommendations to combat price discrimination against foreigners and minorities. According to the ombudsman’s office there is a growing number of cases where foreigners, Roma or homosexuals are asked to pay higher prices for standard services or entrance fees. The office cites a case at Karlštejn castle, where information on discount entry fees was provided only in Czech. In other cases it says up to ten times the set price has been charged in places like discotheques in order to dissuade undesirable patrons. The ombudsman’s office emphasised that it has a liberal attitude towards price setting and that businessmen are free to set specific prices for specific customers, but that such prices must not be qualified by factors such as race, religion or nationality.
The Czech Police have begun investigating the country’s chief hygiene officer Michael Vít on suspicion of abuse of public office. The investigation centres on a commission awarded to the husband of a subordinate from the Health Ministry without a public tender. The complaint was filed in the spring by the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International. In April, the organisation told the website Aktualne.cz that it had acquired documents suggesting that Dr. Vít and potentially others had avoided a tender. The recipient of the commission earned 2.5 million crowns for consultation services between 2003 and 2009, in spite of the fact that the office of the Chief Hygiene Officer has its own committee for such purposes. Dr. Vít has said he sees nothing inappropriate in the deal.
The daily Právo reports that the Education Ministry has released 11 million crowns for a project to teach grade-school students that global warming is a natural, rather than man-made phenomenon. An organiser for the project told Právo that it aims to debunk myths about global warming, such as the “common rumour” that greenhouse effect is caused by man, and will consist of an “original road show” around regional primary and secondary schools. Právo notes strong ties between Education Minister Josef Dobeš and President Klaus, an ardent climate-change sceptic who recently called Mr Dobeš the best education minister since the revolution.
Coalition party leaders met on Tuesday morning to discuss, among other things, a dispute regarding the appointment of a state secretary for EU affairs. No agreement on the matter was reached. Deputy TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek told the Czech Press Agency that the coalition would suspend the debate for a week to allow his party’s chairman, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, and the prime minister time to reach an agreement. TOP 09 and Prime Minister Nečas have been at loggerheads over how to fill the position for several weeks, with each appointing their own sectional secretaries.
The Czech Republic is spending less of its GDP on education than nearly any other OECD member state. A comparative report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development released by the Education Ministry on Tuesday shows that the Czech Republic spends 4.5% of its gross domestic product on education, while the average among developed countries is 6.1%. The Czech Republic thus holds next to last place on the list of 34 member states, with only Slovakia putting less money into education. The report compares data from the year 2008.
Former president Václav Havel says he is disturbed by the attitude of President Klaus and the Public Affairs party towards the issue of ultra-right-winger Ladislav Bátora and his involvement with the Ministry of Education. Mr Havel told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes that he was struck by the party’s apparent opinion that an official could express semi-fascist or semi-anti-Semitic views outside the workplace. The former president, who has been out of the public eye for most of the year as he recovers from a lung ailment, further criticised the support that Mr Bátora enjoys in Prague Castle. Mr Bátora was formerly a candidate for an extreme nationalist party and is known for his far-right positions. President Václav Klaus has strongly backed his position at the Education Ministry.
Anticorruption police have launched a criminal investigation into overpriced commissions for the institute of experimental medicine, IKEM, the daily E15 reports. The paper writes that the inappropriate dealings regarding the purchase of a hybrid operating theatre and related structural modifications may have cost the institution more than ten million crowns. Four top IKEM managers are reportedly suspected of property management crimes. Structural modifications were apparently contracted last year for a cost of 20 million crowns by the company Phar Service, which was founded by current Regional Development Minister Kamil Jankovský of the Public Affairs party and which he transferred to his son after taking office. According to E15, police are also checking into orders for maintenance and other work that the managers ordered from unspecified service companies for 30 million crowns.
The Czech Republic has the lowest tax revenues of all EU member states, the business daily E15 reported on Tuesday. Taxes account for 45.9 percent of the state revenues; a vast majority of both the European Union and the European Free Trade Association members levy at least 50 percent of their revenues from taxes. The Czech Republic has also disproportionately high social insurance rates. However, the government’s reform efforts are aimed to change this; the value added tax rates are to rise as part of the pension reform which will also lower people’s contribution into the social and welfare system.
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