Anti-corruption commission endorsed; chairwoman Peake’s resolve awaits test

Gov’t endorses anti-corruption commission to be headed by Karolina Peake whose resolve to fight corruption will be tested within days

Politics & Policy
Tom Jones | 18.08.2011
It appears that Karolína Peake has decided to place personal and party allegiances above the principles she propagates

The Czech government has endorsed the composition and statutes of its new anti-corruption commission, to be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake (Public Affairs, VV) and comprise seven ministers, including Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra (Civic Democrats, ODS) and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) — whom the VV party was calling upon to resign just months ago. A crucial test of Peake’s sincerity and resolve to fight corruption will come at the end of August.

The government Commission for the Coordination of the Fight Against Corruption will also include Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš (VV), Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil (ODS), Minister of Regional Development Kamil Jankovský (VV), Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), and Interior Minister Jan Kubice (non-affiliated). The only member of the commission who is not in the government is Robert Vacek, Peake’s deputy who she reportedly selected and who previously worked in the National Security Office (NPÚ).

The commission is to convene once a month and extra sessions may be called if deemed necessary by the committee’s chairperson and the prime minister.

NERV as a model

According to a government statement, the new commission’s job will be to propose new laws and measures “towards reducing the The commission is to advise ministries on introducing anti-corruption policies and inspect whether they implement anti-corruption measures.risk of corruption within the framework of the activities of the public administration and increasing the transparency of its activities.” It will also assess draft legislation to identify shortcomings and loopholes which could present opportunities for corrupt practices. This was previously the responsibility of the Interior Ministry. The commission is supposed to advise ministries on introducing anti-corruption policies and also to inspect whether they implement anti-corruption measures.

“When creating this commission, we drew from the proven format of the of the advisory council of the economic ministers [the NERV council] where individual and specialized points for the government are discussed in advanced, and any misunderstandings and expert questions are discussed,” Peake said in a statement outlining the principles and methods of the anti-corruption commission’s functioning.

As the commission’s head, Peake will form a special working commission formed of experts which she intends to present to the commission in mid-September. However, her credentials as an anti-corruption warrior will be put to the test much sooner: On August 25, the lower house of parliament’s immunity committee will meet to discuss the police’s request to lift the immunity on Vít Bárta, the de-facto leader of Public Affairs, so as they can charge him with suspected corruption. On the basis of its review of the case, the committee will recommend MPs to vote for or against removing Bárta’s immunity.

Cash for loyalty and ABL

To recap: in April this year two VV MPs who have since quit the party, , Krisýna Kočí and Jaroslav Škárka, announced that Bárta Public Affairs first won representation in parliament in last year’s elections billing itself as an anti-corruption force of young reformers promising to bring change to Czech political culture. had given them cash payments amounting to hundreds of thousands of crowns in return for their loyalty, i.e. keeping quit about dubious practices, and lodged criminal complaints with the police.

Shortly thereafter, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD) published recordings from meetings of the top management of ABL, a prominent private security which Bárta — a graduate of the Czech Police Academy — founded, managed and owned. Bárta officially quit the company and sold it to his younger brother upon becoming an MP. In the recordings, Bárta speaks about the need to collect compromising materials on prominent figures including politicians, and entering politics in order to further the economic interests of his firm.

Under pressure, Bárta resigned as minister of transport and the official leader of VV, Radek John, was forced to quit the Interior Ministry due to fears that Bárta’s company ABL may have infiltrated the security-sensitive ministry. “I will do everything to clear my name,” Bárta promised when announcing his resignation. Czech Position asked Bárta why if he meant this he has not requested parliament to remove his immunity so he has the opportunity to do so in court; he did not respond.

Czech Position has also asked ABL whether or not Peake’s deputy chair of the new commission, Robert Vacek, has ever been an employee or has in any way cooperated with the firm. The company’s PR manager, Martin Marcilis, promised to provide an answer but has not answered subsequent phone calls.

Public Affairs, which first won representation in parliament in last year’s elections to the lower house (24 seats in the 200-seat chamber, reduced to 22 following the departures of Kočí and Škárka) billing itself as an anti-corruption force of young reformers promising to bring change to Czech political culture.

Prior to the elections VV published a party policy program that includes a pledge to abolish MPs immunity against criminal charges. “[We] will demand the limitation of deputies [MPs] and senators only to immunity for speeches made in the Parliament of the Czech Republic or in its organs,” it states.

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