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Babiš demands costs of ministers’ trips, representation

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Prague, May 17 (CTK) – Czech PM Andrej Babis has called on ministers in a letter to calculate the costs of their foreign and domestic trips at Defence Minister Karla Slechtova’s request, as well as representation and external advisers, government spokeswoman Barbora Peterova confirmed to CTK on Thursday.

“This is an internal document that we do not want to promote in the media,” Peterova said about Babis’s letter.

On Wednesday, Slechtova asked Babis in an open letter to evaluate the costs of the working trips of all ministries from the previous coalition government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

She thereby defended herself against accusation of behaving uneconomically by using the VIP services at the airport.

The daily Lidove noviny (LN) has reported that as the regional development minister in the previous government, Slechtova used VIP services at the airport for some 310,000 crowns in 26 cases.

Babis (ANO) said if the LN information on Slechtova were true, he would consider this behaviour wasting money.

Slechtova said the information carried by LN was monstrous and expedient and that she, as a government member, was targetted by an aggressive campaign in order to discredit her.

The daily belongs to the trust fund of billionaire businessman Babis. He transferred his Agrofert holding, including several media outlets, such as LN and Mlada fronta Dnes papers, to trust funds to comply with a new conflict of interest law in February 2017.

Babis expressed surprise at the form Slechtova used to address him on Wednesday. In his letter, he wrote he cannot understand why she had not presented her request to the ministers in person at the government meeting “like we all do.”

Babis has asked the ministers to meet Slechtova’s request and “count the costs of the foreign and domestic trips in their sectors, including the use of air travel classes and the government plane and the costs of accompanying persons and related services.”

Babis would like to have these data for the whole four-year term of the previous government and for the current ANO minority cabinet that resigned after it lost a confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies in January, but keeps ruling, pending the formation of a new cabinet.

Babis added his own demands for calculating the costs of all external adviser and PR contracts directly connected with the ministers and of representation funds. He would like to have the figures available by May 28.

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