Friday, 31 October 2014

Ministry of the Environment faces accusations of corruption and nepotism

Prague Daily Monitor |
24 June 2014

A legal case stretching back nine years between an electrical waste recycling company and the Czech Republic’s Ministry of the Environment has resulted in the department facing damages to the tune of over half a billion CZK.

In 2005 REMA System, the Prague-based not-for-profit organisation that deals in the environmentally sound recycling of waste electrical equipment throughout the Czech Republic, concluded that the Ministry of the Environment had failed to comply with the due, legal administrative processes involved in the selection process of determining the Manager of Electrical Equipment in the Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications – an apolitical organisation that operates independently of the state. The following year, in 2006, REMA System initiated its long-running legal dispute against the Ministry.

In 2010 the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic determined that the administrative procedures involved in the 2005 selection process violated the required principles of due impartiality and concluded that the Ministry of the Environment’s decisions were indeed unlawful.

During the nine-year long dispute the courts debated as to what action to take against the Ministry of the Environment, though a lack of communication and a reluctance to address the issue by the Ministry has prolonged the situation considerably and unnecessarily.

Quite rightly, the delays caused by the Ministry of the Environment have lead REMA System to suspect the existence of corruption and nepotism within the department and REMA System’s owner and Chairman of the Board David Beneš believes its misjudgement and potential bias should be brought to light.

Following a judgement made by the Municipal Court of Prague on 8 October 2013, REMA System began to seek compensation caused by the erroneous activities of the Ministry of the Environment. An independent legal expert determined that REMA System as owed 581, 711, 000 CZK in damages (approximately £16, 915, 604 or $28, 858, 322) due to the Ministry’s inaction. The Ministry was required to remedy this amount no later than 31 December 2013, but failed to do so.

In spring of 2014 REMA System proposed to commence execution on the property of the Ministry of the Environment. The Ministry responded on 7 April 2014 issuing a statement regarding its decisions that was based on the legal opinion of law firm Šachta & Partners, but subsequently denied having ordered and paid for the firm’s consultation.

However, according to the Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications, the Ministry of the Environment’s decision is contrary to court judgements made and violates the principle of impartiality essential to fair administrative proceedings. Following this, the Association filed a criminal complaint against the Ministry citing corruption and the abuse of power by public officials.

On 18 June 2014, REMA System officially filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Prague 10 demanding damages to the amount of 581, 711, 000 CZK owed by the Ministry of the Environment due to its unlawful decision.

Whether the Ministry of the Environment will respond to the lawsuit, and finally bring to an end this nine-year dispute, remains to be seen.