Prague, Aug 29 (CTK) – The re-election of Zdenek Kabatek as head of the General Health Insurance Company (VZP), the biggest Czech health insurer, yesterday is scandalous, Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) said yesterday, calling the step another trick on the part of Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek (Social Democrats, CSSD).
In reaction to Babis, Nemecek wrote on Twitter that he does not understand his criticism. ANO’s representatives on the VZP board did not vote against Kabatek’s re-election, he wrote.
Prime Minister and CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said Babis should not comment on developments in the VZP because his own position amounts to a conflict of interests.
Kabatek, 46, has headed the VZP since 2012 and his mandate was to expire in November. The VZP board re-elected him VZP general director for another four years yesterday.
Babis said in a press release that he considers the presentation of Kabatek as a good manager absurd.
He said Kabatek is a controversial figure linked with the “biggest godfather” in the Czech health sector’s history, i.e. former deputy health minister Marek Snajdr (2006-2010, Civic Democrats, ODS).
“I view Mr Kabatek as a representative of the Czech health care era that was plagued with corruption and bribery,” said Babis, whose ANO movement was established in the early 2010s and entered parliament in 2013.
Babis said the election of general director was put on the agenda of the VZP board meeting somewhat hastily yesterday.
“The course of the VZP board meeting was another trick on the part of Nemecek, who wants to keep corruption and the opaque character of the Czech health care system at any cost,” Babis wrote.
Nemecek wrote on Twitter that he does not understand Babis’s words.
The health minister neither appoints the VZP director nor is he empowered to interfere in the latter’s election, he emphasised, and added that ANO’s nine representatives on the VZP board did not vote against Kabatek.
Sobotka said Babis should not comment on the VZP.
“He faces a conflict of interests, His Hartenberg fund owns health facilities that receive millions of crowns from health insurers,” Sobotka wrote on Twitter.
The Hartenberg Holding investment fund manages money of Babis, a billionaire. Its property include FutureLife, a network of clinic specialising in the care for women.
The proposal to elect the VZP head was made only yesterday by the VZP board chairman Jiri Behounek, who is a CSSD lawmaker.
To explain the step, Behounek said it was necessary to ascertain whether the VZP is stable and its present management enjoys confidence.
In a debate preceding the vote, members of the VZP board assessed Kabatek’s performance as general director positively, Behounek said.
Babis, nevertheless, said the VZP fares well owing to the country’s economic growth and to the ministerial directive on healthcare prices, which puts the VZP in advantage.
According to Babis, the VZP has the lowest number of insured clients per one employee and it is the least effective of all health insurers.
Behounek said ANO, with its criticism, wants to politicise the election of the VZP head, though it is an expert post, not a political one.
“I am very glad that the election took place before it could be subjected to political games. This is what I tried to avert and to prevent the election of a political nominee as VZP director, instead of a competent expert and manager,” Behounek said in a press release.
Babis’s lash-out is another in a recent series of conflicts between ANO and the CSSD.
The CSSD and ANO are the two most popular parties.
Despite their cooperation as government partners, they will be the main rivals in the regional and Senate elections due in October, commentators point out.