Thursday, June 20

Budvar, Freedom of Information, and the current political scandals


I have a feeling that on Monday evening in Česke Budejovice, rather more Budvar than usual was consumed. I imagine that a lot of people working for or connected with Budvar will have been most satisfied with the news that the police raided the home of a lawyer, Tomas Jindra.

Just over a year ago, Mr Jindra was making life extremely unpleasant for a lot of managers in Budvar. He was the person initially asked to supervise the audit of Budvar which was ordered by Minister Bendl. Another person closely associated with this audit in media reports was Roman Boček. He had been appointed to the Budvar supervisory board, and he was the source of media reports that the audit would uncover problems, before the audit had actually begun. Mr Boček is at this time in police custody. No mention has been made in the press of police interest in the Budvar case. That may be because in this particular case, things did not go to plan for those who, in my opinion, had set up the audit with sinister intentions.

I wrote series of blogposts about this audit. I made a series of requests to the Ministry of Agriculture under the Freedom of Information law. In February 2012, the media were already reporting that Budvar CEO Jiri Boček (no relation to Roman) would lose his job within days. In fact, while the audit proceeded, and made lives difficult for innocent people at Budvar for five months, it was in fact Mr Jindra who lost his job, firstly on the supervisory board of Budvar, and then as the leader of the audit. As we now know, the audit found absolutely nothing to warranty any serious criticism of the company.

Let me put something to you, and in doing so, I don't seek any personal credit. Rather I want to suggest that use of the Freedom of Information law helped to scare people who may have been planning things which were not in the taxpayers' interests. It is beyond reasonable doubt that everyone connected to the Ministry knew these questions were being asked. Indeed Mr Bendl himself had to sign the final letter to me (regarding the heavy redacting of the detail in the audit report which I received). Is it just possible that Jindra's removal was hastened by the realisation that not just the media but ordinary citizens were actively asking questions about the Budvar audit? And that when the audit was finished, the Ministry had nothing to say to the media about its contents (when in February it was an issue of the future of the CEO)?

The point is that Freedom of information requests shine a light on things which the State sometimes would rather keep from your view. If the light is shone on them, the State may think twice about doing things they cannot adequately explain to their citizens as being in their best interests. Think of it this way; burglaries take place generally late at night when it is dark and no-one is around. And the introduction of light in previously darkened areas has been shown to cut crime.

The website which I helped set up, Informace pro vsechny, shines even more light because it allows everyone to see straight away what questions are being asked and how they are answered. So don't wait for somebody else to ask; use the website, and if you are really impressed, support us with a donation. The more it is used, for big and small questions, the more light will be shone on every corner of the State.

Comments (1)

  • 1
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