The former centre-right government of ex-PMPetr Nečas handed out a record 250 million crowns in bonuses to ministerial staff shortly before leaving office, the daily Lidové noviny writes. The sum is reported to be three and a half times bigger than that which government employees received in the same period last year. Former ministers have dismissed the idea that the bonuses could be interpreted as a golden handshake at the end of their three-year-term in office, saying there had been more work for everyone following a streamlining of the administration. The Rusnok cabinet which was appointed to office earlier this month has already replaced public officials at key posts in several ministries.
Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok on Monday met with Public Affairs representatives to present an outline of his party’s policy priorities and ask them for support in the upcoming vote of confidence. According to party leader Vit Barta Public Affairs is keeping its options open and wants to consult with several cabinet ministers before making a firm decision. However Mr. Barta said the two sides had found common ground on most points on the government’s policy programme.
Czech customs officials have seized smuggled rhino horns worth 100 million Czech crowns on the black market. Sixteen people were arrested in the operation last week, according to the CTK news agency. The police and the Czech Environment Inspection office are expected to release more information on the case at a joint press briefing in Prague on Tuesday.
The construction company responsible for the reconstruction of the country’s D1 highway announced on Monday that it would resume work suspended over a fortnight ago over costs. The announcement came shortly after Transport Minister Zdeněk Žák threatened to terminate the contract if work on the respective stretch of the road did not resume immediately. The company halted work on the argument that the road was in much worse condition than expected and asked the investor for more money. The country’s Road and Motorway directorate, which allegedly failed to commission an adequate expert assessment of the state of the highway, has said it is ready to negotiate the question of cost but has warned it would demand penalties for work not concluded on schedule.
Three Czech lawyers have launched a public petition against the Jiří Rusnok government calling it a threat to parliamentary democracy in the country. The petition accuses President Miloš Zeman of trying to usurp power from Parliament and claims that his disregard for the balance of power in the lower house and the wishes of parliamentary parties undermines the democratic values which the country re-embraced after the fall of communism. It appeals on parliamentary deputies from all parties to put aside their narrow political interests and join forces in defending the country’s parliamentary democracy. The internet petition has been signed by over 400 people.
Less than a third of Czechs return rested and relaxed from their holidays, according to the outcome of a poll conducted by zamestnanci.com. According to the poll results only 28 percent of respondents said they felt reinvigorated after their time off, as compared to 39 percent in 2008. The poll revealed that Czechs increasingly opt for shorter holidays, mostly for the duration of a week, and many of them remain on-call, dealing with pressing work issues over the phone. They also try to pack as many sights and destinations into that brief time as possible, often leaving them exhausted upon their return.
Ex-president Vaclav Klaus’ controversial amnesty, declared in January of this year, has so far halted the prosecution of 904 people accused in close to 500 cases, according to the Supreme State Attorney’s Office. The figure is not final since the process of assessing other cases is still underway. The majority of these cases concerned prosecution on suspicion of property crimes, such as fraud and embezzlement followed by bribery, abuse of office and tax evasion. The controversial article also applies to some to high-profile cases of financial fraud and corruption for which the Supreme Court has requested an appellate review.
The power giant ČEZ has decided to postpone a decision on the completion of the Temelín nuclear power plant by at least a year, the head of the company’s planning department Pavel Cyrani told the economic weekly magazine Euro. Mr. Cyrani said the decision would only be made after the approval of a long term state energy strategy and the possible approval of a fixed price on energy from the two new reactors. The government was to have selected the winner of a multi-billion crown tender on the completion of Temelín in the autumn of this year, but there has been increasing controversy over whether the country needs two more nuclear reactors in the first place.
President Miloš Zeman is meeting with representatives of all parliamentary parties in a bid to secure support for the Rusnok caretaker government. Following brief consultations with Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok on Monday morning, the president is holding talks with representatives of the Civic Democratic Party, TOP 09 and the opposition Social Democrats. While the centre-right Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have ruled out support for the caretaker administration the opposition Social Democrats have indicated that under certain circumstances they might be prepared to tolerate the Rusnok government. The caretaker cabinet would need a simple majority to win a vote of confidence and the centre-right parties, who claim to have a 101 votes in the lower house, are determined to prevent that happening.
The country’s largest bank Česká Spořitelna has apologized to its clients for problems with its internet banking service. The problems which persisted throughout Monday affected predominantly its BUSINESS 24 service, as well as its Telebanking and S-Card call lines. The bank says its other services as well as its money machines are fully functional.
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