Prime Minister will undergo security screening to clear his name

08-02-2005

For the first time in the country's modern day history, the Prime Minister has to account for his private finances in Parliament. After failing to explain how he paid for his luxury flat in Prague, the Prime Minister Stanislav Gross faces tough questions in the Lower House and there are even calls for his immediate resignation.

Stanislav Gross, photo: CTKStanislav Gross, photo: CTK Daniela Lazarova has been following the story. Daniela, how serious is this situation for the Prime Minister ?

Very serious indeed, I should say. It comes hard on the heels of an earlier revelation that while he was interior minister Mr. Gross had a secret intelligence team working for him - accountable only to himself - which caused quite a stir. And even before he'd recovered from that scandal -he is now in hot water over his private finances. Of course, there are those who say that this is a political attack on the Prime Minister -but even if that were the case, Mr Gross played right into his opponents hands. He was clearly unable or unwilling to say how he got the money for his flat, he changed his story three times and in doing so discredited himself with very little help from the media or political opponents.

He has now made an unexpected U turn and agreed to undergo security screening -something he was refusing to do a week ago. Will that help?

Well, as Mr. Gross himself said a week ago he heads the National Security Office which would screen him and that would naturally throw doubt on the results of the investigation. Even if it did not, there are several levels of screening and apparently this case would require in depth screening going back several years which would take about a year to complete. So in saying he will undergo it, the Prime Minister could just be buying more time. What would help, of course is if the country had proper legislation that would require politicians and their immediate family members to make public their assets and outside sources of income. Politicians have shown themselves unwilling to approve such a law in the past and hopefully this latest scandal will provide the necessary impetus.

How damaging is this scandal proving to be to the governing party and indeed the Czech Republic?

Well, I put that very same question to David Ondracka of the Czech branch of Transparency International and here's what he had to say:

"This whole business undermines the trust in the Prime Minister and the entire government and in our view Mr. Gross has only two options now: either to explain and publish all the details of the case or to resign. You know, this case illustrates the severe lack of a proper conflict of interest legislation, legislation that would provide clear and enforceable mechanisms that would prevent conflict of interest and potential corruption."

Do you have any information on how this scandal is being viewed abroad. Is it seriously damaging the country's image?

"Well, I would not want to exaggerate, but this is definitely seen as a strong and to some extent entertaining case that most definitely has a negative impact on our image and on our reputation."

08-02-2005