Anti-corruption police raided the offices of Prague’s Public Transit
Company, or DPP, Friday morning. The case is supervised by the Prague High
State Attorney’s office, which has not yet released any information
the cause or findings of the raid. The company’s newly appointed
Magdalena Češková said the search was connected to the charges filed on
Wednesday by DPP’s former director general Vladimír Lich against
potentially fraudulent activities of the company’s former managers. Ms.
Češková also said that members of the non-profit organization
Transparency International assisted the police in the raid, and that DPP
will file a complaint as a result.
Lich was unexpected sacked from his post of chairman of the board of directors on Wednesday, and from his position as director the next day on the grounds of bad management. Prague mayor Bohuslav Sobotka expressed vehement disagreement with the move.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Friday pledged to override the Senate’s veto of a bill that would raise the Value Added Tax rates by one percentage points to 15 and 21 percent, cancel cuts on tax insurance for employees, and raise taxes for people earning more than 100 thousand crowns a month. The tax hikes are one of the key components of the government’s consolidation package aimed at bringing the gap in public finance to under three percent of GDP in 2013. The Prime Minister is confident that the coalition parties will secure the 101 votes necessary for the lower house to overturn the Senate’s decision.
The regional court in Brno made the first ruling in a case connected to
the controversial secondary school leaving exams. The case was brought by
female student against the South Moravian Regional Authority for a
negligent assessment of her appeal of her exam results. The Regional Court
ruled on Friday that the Regional Administration has to re-evaluate with
greater care the student’s appeal against a failing score in the Czech
language written exam.
This year, Czech students took the first unified state leaving exams, with a 21.2 percent rate of failure, which is an increase of 1.7 percentage points from last year’s test run. Many students have filed complaints over the grading of the test, especially the essay sections. Regional Administrations have complied with approximately a third of the complaints. Education Minister Petr Fiala recently sacked the head of the company that created the tests and ordered and audit of the exams.
The Building Authority in Ostrava has called on the owner of houses in the
Přednádraží slum to make repairs in six of the buildings within the
next 60 days. The authority deemed 74 apartments as uninhabitable.
Residents, who are for the most part Romani, and chose to remain in the
buildings were told they must vacate the premises. The owner is facing a
fine of 200 thousand crowns if he does not carry out the repairs in due
Authorities have already issued eviction notices two weeks ago. At the time, over 100 residents had refused to leave. The Building Authority has filed a petition Friday for court-sanctioned evictions. The owner, Oldřich Roztočil, had previously expressed willingness to carry out repairs on his property but said he will not do so unless the city fixes the sewer system that is municipal property.
The number of self-employed people in the Czech Republic grew in the first half of 2012 by 10 thousand, bringing the total number to over 1.012 million people, compared to 1.002 million last December, according to figures from the Czech Social Security Administration. However the number of the self-employed paying for social and health insurance decreased by 6 thousand and 15 thousand respectively. Most self-employed people are residing in Prague, the Central Bohemia and the Moravian-Silesian regions. Companies with one to two employees make up 95% of all business in the Czech Republic.
The week-long Prague Pride festival celebrating diversity and the gay and lesbian community in the Czech Republic will be coming to an end this weekend. On Saturday, the Prague Pride parade will take place in the Czech capital, starting at Wenceslas Square and finishing at the Střelecký island. While on Sunday, an ecumenical service will be held for festival participants in cooperation with the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. The festival has been criticized by a number of conservative and religious groups, some of whom will most likely be present at the Saturday parade to protest the event.
Civic Democrat presidential candidate, deputy speaker of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka opened his campaign headquarters in Prague on Friday. At the opening, Mr. Sobotka highlighted several issues that he is likely to campaign on, such as the introduction of direct voting in the elections for the lower house. Czech MPs are currently elected on party tickets. Mr. Sobotka also announced that if elected he would oppose the adoption the euro in the country. The Civic Democratic candidate is one of around 15 people who have announced their intent to run for president in the first Czech popular presidential elections in the winter of 2013.
Prague city hall will purchase mobile residential containers for approximately eight million crowns that will be available in crisis situation to people without shelter or drug addicts. Containers with health and sleeping facilities should be available during the winter months. Civic Democratic councilman Ivan Kabický announced this on Friday as part of Prague City Hall’s plan to aid the homeless. The city hall will lend the mobile containers to providers of social services for free this winter. There are at least 4 000 people in Prague living on the streets, who are at particular risk during the winter months.
Jiří Dienstbier, the Social Democratic candidate for the 2013 presidential elections, has expressed his support for new laws to permit gay couples to both enter into registered partnerships and adopt children in the Czech Republic. Discussing his position, Dienstbier stated that he believed that no institute could supplant an upbringing provided to a child by a stable couple. Recent opinion polls have Dientsbier achieving around 6% support while independent candidate Jan Fischer leads the pack with 34.5%, according to the Meridian agency.
On late Thursday evening, the Czech upper house voted to reject a key component of the government's fiscal consolidation package - a controversial rise in VAT tax rates from 15 to 21 percent. The opposition Social Democrats hold 41 seats in the 81 seat senate. Despite an in-person appeal by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek urging the upper chamber to pass the plan, 50 out of 72 senators present voted "no" including one member of the leading coalition party, Civic Democrat senator Jaroslav Kubera. The assembled representatives were forced to vote twice after a technical glitch annulled the first attempt. In order to overturn the Senate's decision, the lower house will now have to find 101 votes in favour of the measure. The Social Democrats have opposed higher VAT rates on the grounds that they will harm the economy, which is currently in recession, with GDP contracting by 1.2 percent in the second quarter of 2012.