Former Ministry of Education official Šimon Mastný is supposed to have had access to a secret e-mail account
There appears to be no immediate end in sight to the difficulties of embattled Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs, VV): Apparently, his subordinates illegally read the e-mails of Education Ministry (MŠMT) employees and he is considering giving a post at the ministry to an ultra-nationalist. Has war broken out at the ministry’s Karmelitská street headquarters?
Daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD) broke the news of spying at the MŠMT, reporting that the e-mail correspondence of about 20 senior ministry employees had been monitored, and that thousands of e-mail messages ended up in a special mailbox. The existence of a special account — which close collaborators of Dobeš had access to — has also been confirmed by the Education Ministry’s press department. The minister allegedly did not know about its existence. Have officials whom the minister dismissed in previous months already taken revenge?
Information has been appearing in the mass media about the alleged paranoia that reigns in Dobeš’s office. Some voters have dismissed it as a campaign against the junior ruling coalition partner Public Affairs (VV); however, former and current MŠMT employees have told Czech Position they are convinced that even their mobiles are now bugged, and are afraid of meeting journalists in person. Furthermore, the number of angry people at the ministry is rapidly growing, so this is probably not about a one-off political campaign by selected media.
Case 1: ‘Special Dobeš rates’
When Czech Position reported that Dobeš’s adviser Jana Machálková received “starting” pay of Kč 145,000, the minister said that it was a mistake made by a “tabloid website.” Under the weight of the evidence, however, he subsequently said that quarterly bonuses were only for senior managers. Then, of course, it came to light that the ministry spokesman Václav Koukolíček received a December bonus of Kč 129,321. Under the weight of the evidence, the minister said ‘quarterly bonuses’ were paid only to senior managersIt subsequently transpired that in November the director of communications also received a payment of over a Kč 100,000. Among themselves, teachers have started referring to these wages as “special Dobeš rates.”
Eventually, we learned that these were bonuses were “beyond the minister’s resolving powers,” and that they would not be reviewed as he had allegedly not known about them. To be on the safe side, he filed a criminal complaint against the informer so as to protect workers’ privacy.
Case 2: Class essay
The case of the class essay for Machalková, the current chief director of the minister’s executive office, also developed in a similar way. Stolen correspondence has indicated that the minister himself helped her with her class work at the J.A. Komenský University. At first, he spoke of consultations, then authorization, but in a subsequent e-mail message, which was published by MfD, he directly owned up to penning it because he “wrote it drunk.”
According to documents in Czech Position’s possession, this was not a one-time aberration as far as Machálková is concerned. Allegedly, another class essay on the subject of state leaving-certificate examinations was written for her by spokesman Koukolíček, who sent the text along with some emoticon “smileys” from his work address. This was rebutted by the ministry at a press conference. The ministry has begun tackling and examining the leaking of e-mails and ministry documents.
Case 3: Spying
The ministry held a meeting last Monday. A specialized agency that was supposed to investigate the “leaks” in the ministry discovered the existence of a superordinate administrative account called firstname.lastname@example.org that around 15,000 e-mails had been routed to since October last year. Former ministry office directors Šimon Mastný and Jaroslav Říha had access to this account.
In the words of his spokesman, Minister Dobeš explained that this was unconscionable, and that he had not known anything about the spying, even though, according to MfD, the ministry’s IT manager Ivan Metelka exclaimed, “All the same, you yourself said …” but was cut off before he could finish.
Mastný denies any role in the espionage. Both of Říha’s mobile phone numbers have not been in service for a long time. Apparently, Metelka had to sign an affidavit saying that he had been told to take this action by the former ministry office directors, not the minister, whom the spokesman claims could not have known of their character.
Case 4: The rightwinger Ladislav Bátora
The website Parlamentní listy published a report that Dobeš had chosen Ladislav Bátora as his new first deputy. Bátora is a controversial figure who allegedly has close ties with President Václav Klaus. Years ago, Bátora stood as a candidate for the ultra-right National Party (NS). He had wanted to get in the Senate for Jana Bobošíková’s Sovereignty party, and he was involved in a lawsuit concerning the College of Media and Journalism (VOŠP). Roma organizations have reacted angrily, but the Education Ministry has responded by saying it is all only speculation at the moment.
According to Czech Position’s information, there are possible indications that this problematic personality will be deliberately installed at the Education Ministry so that he will become the final person to ensure Dobeš’s downfall. … And these are “only” the problems involving personnel. There are also looming difficulties surrounding the utilization of Operational Programs worth billions of crowns — the Research and Development for Innovation OP and especially the Education for Competitiveness OP.
Dobeš’s prospects, or what next?
Let’s summarize: Dobeš probably pulled strings for a person without adequate education. During a time of austerity, he doled out inappropriate remuneration. (The argument that Máchalková saved millions of crowns will be contradicted.) He wrote a class paper for his attractive adviser. In the office he manages, crimes were probably committed regarding the handling of personal data (if the employees did not agree in writing to checks of their personal computers). Moreover, in any event, Dobeš repeatedly failed to select co-workers in whom he could place his confidence.
What will happen next? The MfD website has already stated that Dobeš approved the arming of detectives at the ABL security agency. According to Czech Position’s information, journalists are preparing to look back over Dobeš’s past, including his personal history.