An audit of the Czech Defence Ministry´s financial management unveiled more than 50 mistakes and suspicious circumstances in connection with tenders, in which some bidders might have been given an advantage, the ministry told journalists on Monday. Five of the ministry´s orders were overpriced by about 100 million crowns, an audit showed and every fifth tender was not won by the cheapest bidder. Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra, who has held the post since July, initiated the audit. The most serious cases to surface will be investigated further; five people have also been recalled from their posts. Czech military orders have for a long time been criticised as being far from transparent and open to corruption; doubts have mainly concerned purchases of military equipment and real estate construction and management.
President Václav Klaus says that next year’s state budget cuts will affect the Czech economy by a few tenths of a percent. Speaking on TV Prima on Sunday afternoon, Mr Klaus said that the cuts were perhaps the smallest in Europe and may have to be more extensive in the future. Demand for Czech goods abroad, he said, would have a much greater impact on economic growth than the restrictions on state expenditures. Last week, the government saw its budget for 2011 through the lower house of Parliament. Mr Klaus says the 135 billion crown it calls for - more than 20 billion less than this year – is still low enough for the country to grow out of economically, if no additional debt is added.
High among those threatening to resign are hospital neurologists in Prague. According to the union, up to 80% of neurologists in some Prague medical facilities have promised to quit their jobs. In some hospitals, the doctors who have stayed on are predominantly pensioners or are on maternal leave, further reducing the true number of available neurologists at the centres. Hospital doctors currently earn an average 50,000 crowns per month including overtime and services; the union’s goal is an average base salary of 70,000. Health Minister Leoš Heger has said that the government will have to resort to using crisis funds to run hospitals should a majority of surgeons or anaesthesiologists resign.
Some 3,500 Czech physicians have confirmed they will be resigning in protest against salary conditions, the union of Czech doctors reported on Sunday. The union says it expects up to 4,000 – or one fourth of all hospital doctors to resign through it “Thank You, We’re Leaving” campaign, which demands that hospital physicians receive up to three times the national average wage. However, Health Minister Leoš Heger says he is confident the final number will be about 700. Mr Heger maintains that there is no money for raising state doctors’ salaries and points out that health care salaries have not been reduced along with other state employee wages. Instead, he asked for the doctors’ help in implementing health care reform so that the situation could be better from 2012.
In the same interview Mr Klaus also addressed a number of other issues,
among them a proposal to hold a single tender for the clean-up of
environmental damage from the communist era. Mr Klaus said the enormous
tender means a serious danger of including hidden and inappropriate costs
and that the situation should be handled step-by-step. The
“supertender”, which was originally announced in 2008, is worth an
estimated 115 billion crowns and merges hundreds of smaller eco-projects.
The president also said he believes the government underestimates the threat of lawsuits arising from its plan to tax solar energy producers in order to reduce the end-user prices of electricity next year. He said that while it was a valid point that the state has the right to set taxes as it deem fit, he was not sure the final legal interpretation would see it through. Solar investors have threatened lawsuits of up to 260 billion crowns if the tax is implemented.
The Czech Republic is against a UK proposal to freeze the European Union’s budget in the 2014 to 2020 period. Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, said his government was opposed to the plan, adding that talks on the matter were in their infancy. The Czech Republic could in theory lose some of the money it receives under the bloc’s cohesion policy if the idea meets acceptance. Great Britain would like to see the EU’s budget frozen at 2013 levels, with spending only rising in line with inflation until the end of the decade.
In Business News: Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas comes out against the European budget freeze; the health minister, Leoš Heger, says the health Ministry will do everything possible to redirect funds towards doctors’ salaries; the Czech Trade Inspection Office will soon be able to publish the names of gas stations selling poor-quality fuel; and, etiquette experts provide tips on how not to behave at upcoming office parties.
The Czech Republic will receive almost 130 million crowns (the equivalent of around 5 million euros) to help cover damages from floods which hit parts of the country in May and June. The information was released by the European Commission on Thursday. A spokesman for the Finance Ministry confirmed that the allotted funds would defray expenses for repairs to public property and infrastructure that had not been covered by insurance companies but would not cover losses suffered by private businesses. Damage from the floods earlier in the year was estimated in the billions of crowns.
Fuel prices have continued to grow in the past week with the price of the top-selling petrol Natural 95 up by 1.10 crowns to 32.69 a litre, a five-year record high. The price of diesel oil increased by 97 halers to 31.83 a litre. Experts attribute the steady growth to growing oil prices on world markets. The weak rate of the Czech crown to the US dollar as well as higher VAT and excise duties are also contributing to the trend.
A new poll commissioned by the Czech Finance Ministry and the central bank showed that most Czechs lack basic financial knowledge, and do not understand some of the fundamental principles of borrowing. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has described the results were “shocking”, and said he would push for more financial education at Czech schools.
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