31. října 2016 | News

Miliarda z veřejných peněz prosazená nestandardním lobbingem

Shortly before the elections, on 5 October 2016, the Government passed a bill that raises the minimal wage of public transport bus drivers. Regions, maybe with help from the State, must scrape by more than one billion crowns in order to oblige. But the money goes primarily to public bus operators, who will not share in the increasing of wages by as much as 40 percent. Moreover, the decision, which is hard to explain, ensues from unusual lobbying pressures. The Centre for Independent Investigation (CNI) and the Regional Anticorruption Unit in Liberec (KPKP) have worked with the Anticorruption Endowment (NFPK) to map a story that illustrates inequalities between private transport companies and public administration.

The demand for setting the minimal pay of drivers in a public tender ensued from the trade unions at the private operator, BusLine a.s., long known for its controversial contracts with the Liberec Region and the Liberec and Jablonec nad Nisou Transport Company, and a relationships with local politicians. An in-depth analysis of the BusLine property structure, carried out by CNI and KPKP (article and analysis - in Czech only) shows that operating behind the company scenes is one and the same Jiří Vařil, who until recently served as the chairman of its board but at the same time sits in the firms that have provided no small funding to BusLine. He is also a member of the Liberec Region Transport Committee and newly also a transport expert in the Association of Regions of the Czech Republic (AKČR).

The AKČR played a pivotal role, in the case, as this institution presented the Government with a demand for wage increases. Pressure was intensified, among other projects, by declaring a strike alert at privately-owned BusLine and other operators, under what was called the Jablonec Appeal: Jiří Vyvařil operates on all fronts and one should know if he stands for the interests of BusLine, the proponent of the AKČR call for wage increases, or the Liberec Region, which will participate in the drivers’ payrises,” says CNI analyst Šárka Trunkatová.

The final deal is so uniquely advantageous for private bussers that it makes one ask, in view of the case, if it was not the operator, who finally backed the labour union demand. Speculation is further fuelled by Jiří Vařil’s good connections with a range of political parties and corporate dominance over the firm’s management. Such approach disrupts public tenders for subsidies to public bus transport. Bus drivers deserve a higher pay, but it is the operator who must pay more. “In a public tender, the transport operator must bid with a view to adequately remunerate its drivers. The private operators, whose bids counted in the adequate remuneration of drivers, could unfairly lose the public tender, which leads to the further waste of public funds,” NFPK analyst Janusz Konieczny explains.

The ambition of CNI and KPKP is not to question the drivers’ claim to adequate pay, which is untenable in the current circumstances, but to expose the un-systemic, opaque nature of the solution adopted. Although the Government boasted of having taken the step before the elections, it is not yet clear who will provide funds for wages in 2017. The only certainty is an increase of funding the State and the public budget will face in order to provide for public transport services.

Please contact: Jaroslav Tauchman, KPP analyst, e-mail: j.tauchman@seznam.cz, tel.: 777 749 346