The special session is likely to increase pressure for Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra to resign
A special session of the lower house of Parliament has been called to debate a scandal over an allegedly inflated bill for services provided during the Czech EU Presidency which threatens to unseat the current Civic Democrat (ODS) Minister of Defense Alexandr Vondra.
The session over the so-called ProMoPro scandal has been set for May 5 by the ODS chairwoman of the lower house, Miroslava Němcová. But it is unclear how the session could turn out with some reports suggesting that it could be opened and then closed immediately and the prime witness in the affair, Vondra, already saying that he will not be present on health grounds.
The scandal was sparked when details emerged of the Kč 550 million bill charged to the government for audiovisual and translation services by the privately-owned ProMoPro company during the Czech EU presidency at the start of 2009. The struggling company won the contract without any competition being held.
The Ministry of Finance, headed by TOP 09 deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek, says it not clear what the government got for around half of the money paid. Kalousek has led calls for Vondra, the then Minister for European Affairs, to admit responsibility and resign.
Vondra already said earlier this month that he was prepared to quit as minister if it would help stabilize the government during the recent coalition crisis which followed revelations that Public Affairs (VV) party’s paymaster and de-facto leader, Vít Bárta, paid large sums of cash to fellow parliamentary deputies.
TOP 09 and VV deputies have suggested that they could leave the chamber during the special session, leaving the ODS party outnumbered and the left-wing opposition parties free to pursue their demands for answers over the ProMoPro scandal. ODS leaders warn that such as step would break the coalition agreement between the three parties that is the foundation of the center-right government.
The state spending watchdog, the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ), is due on Monday to decide whether to launch its own investigation into the ProMoPro payments. It powers to delve into the details of the case are limited by the fact that it can only look at flows of money between public institutions and therefore cannot find out exactly what services ProMoPro provided.