The filed interpellation should mostly scare the Social Democrats (SD), who controlled the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities for the vast majority of the time. In the past twenty years, the ministry was headed by Jožica Puhar, Rina Klinar, Vlado Dimovski, Ivan Svetlik and Anja Kopač Mrak. The long-term rule or even the usurpation of the ministry by a single party, left severe consequences on the ministry, in the form of agreed-upon comradely affairs, in which millions of euros disappeared in the pockets of the select few.
The Constitutional Arch Coalition (Koalicija ustavnega loka – referred to as KUL) will score the own goal of the decade. On Friday, they filed an interpellation against the Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Janez Cigler Kralj, which was signed by the members of the LMŠ, Levica, SAB and SD parties. The interpellation was filed because of Cigler Kralj’s connections with Zavod ŽIV!M (the Institute I LIVE). Despite the fact that the case does seem questionable at first glance, the matter is not legally disputable at all, which was also confirmed by Gregor Virant, Ph.D., a former Minister from the government of Alenka Bratušek.
When the LMŠ party announced the interpellation, the SD party responded through gritted teeth. The fear of Minister Cigler Kralj’s interpellation is all the greater since the Social Democrats have built an interest network with key positions in social work centres, nursing homes … It is also important to note that the former president of the SD party, Dejan Židan, did not submit his signature for the interpellation.
How the influential SD member Matevž Frangež easily got 80 thousand euros during the time of the left-wing government
In recent years, a lot has been written about the management of the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. A lot happened in the period from 2013 to 2018, when the ministry was headed by an influential member of the SD party, Anja Kopač Mrak. The operating of the social work centres and problems in homes for the elderly were problematised on the show Tarča (target), just a few days before the resignation of Marjan Šarec, precisely when the ministry was headed by Kopač Mrak and Ksenija Klampfer.
In spite of everything, the SD party took excellent care of its former MP Matevž Frangež and the two former directors of Večer, Tomaž Štruc and Mitja Blagajc. They were all selected to be a part of the Coexistence project, worth 80 thousand euros. However, in reality, the retirees got nothing out of this project, except for brochures.
The Court of Audit highlighted the spending of 74 million euros on studies
The Court of Audit wrote a report about another affair in which the Social Democrats were caught up, namely, a report about the studies of long-term care. According to the Court of Audit of the Republic of Slovenia, the government allocated as much as 74.5 million euros for projects which were only supposed to show whether the envisaged solutions regarding the long-term care are adequate or not. The Court of Audit pointed out that this is a disproportionate cost, compared to the funds needed to provide the missing capacities. Despite the fact that the SD party keeps going on and on about strengthening social assistance, they have not managed to build even one new home for the elderly in Slovenia since 2008, and the construction of the two homes for the elderly in Vrtojba and Osilnica has been going on for years.
However, on the first day that was not covered in the audit, which was the 1st of July 2018, a new study began, which was also financed from the state budget. We found it on the website of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Ljubljana, as it is being headed by none other than Vlado Dimovski. Dimovski was the Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs in two LDS governments, the sixth, which was led by Janez Drnovšek, and the seventh, which was led by Anton Rop, who later joined the SD party. We presented the matter in great detail in an article entitled “They spent 74.5 million euros from the state budget, but they did not build a single home for the elderly – and the studies are being conducted by the politicians who are buying apartments!” The article was published on the 9th of October 2019. Dimovski later bought two apartments in Florida.
Anja Kopač Mrak was one of the people who bore most of the political responsibility in the story of the Carinthian boys. After a tragic event, the grandparents wanted to be the ones to take care of the two boys, their grandchildren. However, with very suspicious and strange practices, the responsible people at the Social Work Centre in Velenje placed both boys in a foster family. This scandalous act that was done by Mrak was defended by the authority of the left-wing in the field of social politics, Gabi Čačinovič, Ph.D. In recent years, the social worker Franci Donko has written several critical articles related to this case.
Ivan Svetlik found himself in a conflict of interests in granting state aid to his cousin from Idrija’s company Hidria
Ivan Svetlik, the former Minister of Labour from the Borut Pahor government, got involved in a very unpleasant affair during his term in office. The affair was discovered by Slovenske novice when they found out that Svetlik’s Ministry of Labour was subsidising Hidria, a company from Idrija. Edvard Svetlik was the long-time leader of Hidria through affiliated companies. According to several reliable witnesses and sources, one of the richest Slovenians was also Ivan Svetlik’s cousin. When he was asked the simple question of whether or not they are cousins, Minister Svetlik did not respond. He also did not want to comment on the allegations that the subsidies that Hidria received from the Ministry of Labour were clientelism. In the first six months of 2009, the company Hidria Rotomatika received 107,220 euros in state subsidies for part-time work.
As Slovenske novice reported, their sources at the time told them that Hidria had received more than 200,000 euros during Svetlik’s time alone. When asked about it, the Employment Service explained that from the 1st of July 2009 and until the end of 2009, Hidria Rotomotorika received an average of 17,870 euros per month in subsidies for full-time or part-time work. According to Erar, Hidria received 949,417.37 euros from the state budget in 2009.
Anja Kopač Mrak and Ivan Svetlik gave several million euros of taxpayer money to the companies Comland and Rais!
The affair of all affairs was cooked up by Svetlik and the then-state secretary Kopač Mrak in 2010 when they selected the companies Comland and Rais without a public tender and awarded them the production of ISCD 2. The deal was worth 1.2 million euros. Svetlik’s team made excuses about the companies getting the deal because of the copyright of the programme code they supposedly had. However, it later turned out that the team from the ministry lied, as they themselves were the actual owners of the code and they should have carried out a public tender. In the years from 2010 to 2015, the ministry paid a total of 9.5 million euros to Comland and Rais for the ISCD 2 application, without ever holding a public tender for it!
This did not stop Mrak from continuing with the old practices during her term as the Minister in Cerar’s government. Thus, in May of 2015, the Comland and Rais companies were once again rewarded with a deal for the maintenance and upgrade of the information system of the social work centres (ISCD 2), worth 6.4 million euros, without a public tender. As reported by the media outlet Pod črto, the Court of Audit warned the ministry in its 2013 audit that such disabling of the competition in the public tender violates the Public Finances Act and most likely also the Public Procurement Act.
The researchers then discovered another interesting affair. In June of 2015, Kopač Mrak once again decided that she would need Comland’s services. They were once again selected without a public tender, this time, for a three-year task of maintenance of the Kurir application for the payment of pensions and other benefits to war veterans, those disabled because of war, and victims of war violence, for which they would be paid the amount of 1.71 million euros. As the executives at the ministry said at the time, they were forced to once again select Comland, due to the copyright for the programme’s code. From their work with the Kurir application alone, the company earned around 600 thousand euros per year in the years between 2011 and 2018. On the 27th of May 2015, the SDS MP Tomaž Lisec drew attention to Kopač Mrak’s strange business practices. According to the Erar application, the Comland company received more than 20 million euros from the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, and the Rais company a bit more than 14 million euros!
Janez Drobnič got a headache when he became the head of the ministry after the casual Vlado Dimovski
The next person on the list is the well-known left-wing politician Vlado Dimovski. Despite the fact that the media did not extensively report on the problems at the ministry, their shortcomings were revealed in 2006 by the then-Minister of the first government of Janez Janša, Janez Drobnič. He noted that deficiencies had been identified at the time of the handover. Drobnič pointed out that the ministry that had been led by Dimovski had not submitted the active employment policy programme for the year 2004 to the government, and according to Drobnič, Dimovski went against the law. Dimovski also failed to establish national and regional scholarship schemes for the year 2005. Dimovski proved to be a very casual Minister, failing to pass the four emergency laws, despite the fact that they were part of the government plan in the year 2004.
Just like during Kopač Mrak’s time at the ministry, an interesting phenomenon regarding the number of recipients of financial social assistance also occurred back then. From January 2002 to December 2004, the number increased from 38,188 to 63,839, Dnevnik reported. Drobnič said that he found this very strange, as the poverty rate had not increased or decreased significantly. Drobnič also pointed out that he believed that the cash allowances for those injured in the war and the victims of war violence were worrying. Most of the recipients got more than 300 thousand tolars, and every tenth recipient received close to 600 thousand tolars.
Dimovski created a loss of 845.2 million tolars in his department during the time of Anton Rop’s government!
Janez Drobnič went on to reveal more of Dimovski’s work. According to the former Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities from Janša’s first government, Dimovski’s actions were not very smart, and he was not making sensible economic moves when it came to financing projects and institutions. In 2005, Drobnič was not able to allocate sufficient funds for the operation of social services and institutions, as well as for the implementation of the programmes and the repayment of all obligations, Dnevnik reported. Drobnič said that there were only enough funds for ten months in the year 2005. According to Drobnič’s estimation, there was a shortage of as much as 835 million tolars!
At the handover, they realised that a lot of the laws were being prepared outside the ministry. Thus, the preparation of the law on wages in the public sector cost Slovenian taxpayers 2.2 million tolars, and the family legislation cost us 6.4 million tolars, which increased to eight million tolars with the annex. Dimovski also diligently recruited his own political staff. In 2004, he hired as many as 20 new people. The employments of certain professional associates were distinctly political, Drobnič said.
Jožica Puhar survived Drnovšek’s interpellation
In the end, we are left with Jožica Puhar and Rina Klinar. Puhar held the position of the Minister of Labour since the first Demos government and in two other Drnovšek governments. Puhar later also held other management positions. Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek intended to dismiss her from the post of Minister in October 1993, as he believed that she was involved in the police strike. However, she “survived” the vote in the National Assembly and therefore remained a Minister. Regarding Rina Klinar, we were not able to find reports of any illegal affairs she might have been a part of on the web.
Some names also frequently appeared in other affairs. Vlado Dimovski and Ivan Svetlik were also involved in the allowances affair. Anja Kopač Mrak is the person who is most responsible for the catastrophic situation in the social work centres and homes for the elderly.
In this article, we have only presented some of the most visible political scandals, in which the Ministers from the ranks of Social Democrats were involved.