Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Gov't rejects proposed changes to sCard project

11 April 2013

Prague, April 10 (CTK) - The Czech government yesterday rejected the proposed modifications to the project of electronic social cards (sCards) for welfare benefit payment and Labour Minister Ludmila Muellerova (TOP 09) must submit an alternative solution, Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) said.

He said most of the ministers opposed the modified sCards at the cabinet meeting.

Necas added that the project can hardly be corrected.

According to CTK's information, 10 of 14 cabinet members present voted against Muellerova's proposal. TOP 09 has five ministers in the 16-member team.

Necas said Muellerova cannot be surprised by the result since she did not follow his recommendation that the controversial project be scrapped as soon as possible.

Muellerova said the cabinet did not order her to prepare the withdrawal of the electronic cards.

She argued before that it would be a waste of money to scrap the project.

Muellerova proposed to the government that welfare recipients use the sCard as an identification document and only optionally as a payment card. The recipients would not need a special bank account with the Ceska sporitelna bank, to which the state now sends the welfare benefits, she proposed.

In January 2012, the Labour Ministry signed a contract for the s-Card with Ceska sporitelna for 12 years, under which 98 percent of state benefits and allowances should be paid via the sCard system and pensions should be sent this way, too, in the future.

Ceska sporitelna head Pavel Kysilka said earlier the bank invested about 300 million crowns in the project. Necas said in reaction the state acknowledged that the bank had its expenses. A possible compensation would thus be negotiated about if the project was scrapped or limited.

Originally, one million people should have received the electronic card by the end of last year. According to the ministry, about 270,000 people have got it so far. Some 3500 clients rejected the card. Welfare benefits worth six billion crowns have been paid out via the new system so far.

The project was introduced by Muellerova's predecessor Jaromir Drabek (TOP 09). It has been criticised by trade unions, the ombudsman, representatives of the disabled, and opposition but also some coalition lawmakers.

The lower house of parliament is discussing a bill that cancels the s-Cards.

($1=19.755 crowns)

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