No one exactly knows how many state, regional or municipal-owned enterprises operate in Slovakia. What is certain is that they are annually handling billions of euros and these resources are under minimal public oversight because of the benevolent legislation.
Why Is It a Problem?
It is not only the General Health Insurance Company, the Radio and Television of Slovakia, the Slovak Post Office or the Slovak Gas Industry. The enterprises owned by public sector are in large extent deciding about quality of our railways, motorways, services and prices related with public transport, heating or waste disposal. These companies operate on the edge between the public and private sector and are publishing considerably less information compared to other state or self-governing organizations. Their managers deciding about hundreds of thousands of euros are often under lower public oversight than Mayors of small villages.
We try to increase public oversight of enterprises owned by public sector by different strategies. Whether we are using companies’ transparency rankings (available in english), consultations with their managers and politicians or raising awareness of both good and bad practices. In this area, our activities related with the Freedom of Information Act are also important because it is the main tool of public oversight in the companies. For a long time, we have been advocating for its changes which would prevent public companies from abusing exceptions in mandatory published information. If there is no other way, we are also trying to defend public interest by the legal actions. Open selection procedures for managers’ positions which should replace the still wide-spread political nominations, would also help with improving of the situation.
In average, Slovak companies are still too little open to the public oversight. In our transparency ranking from 2019, they have reached only 40% of points in avarega (it was 38% in 2015). As the V4 analysis (available in english) from 2017 showed us, Slovak municipal-owned companies are significantly lagging in openness behind our Czech and Hungarian colleagues. Based on the results of our analysis, we have been already contacted by about dozen companies which started to apply part of our recommendations. Our cooperation was well-functioning in the case of the Slovak Post, where we have carried out a project base on an anti-corruption strategy. Throughout the years 2015 and 2016, the Slovak Post has put into practice most of our recommendations and today it is publishing for example the results of selection procedures, professional CVs of managers, subjects supported by grants or gifts, or minutes from sales or leases of the property on its website. We cooperate in implementation of our successful project also in Moldova and Ukraine.