Procurement head resigns due to his conscience

Following criticism from Prime Minister Iveta Radicova last week, yesterday head of the Public Procurement Office (UVO), Roman Sipos, suddenly decided to step down from the post.

Sipos announced his resignation saying that he could not do the job to the best of his conscience and so had decided to resign. Sipos was nominated to the post by Robert Fico’s Smer-SD party, and Fico feels that his party should be responsible for Sipos’ successor as well.

Last week PM Radicova questioned why various tenders were being cancelled, while claiming that the situation was blocking money from coming in for large projects from the EU. She also referred to a conflict of interests involving deputy chairman of UVO, Marek Vladar, but she would not divulge more details on the matter.

Vladar used to be in charge of procurement at the Ministry of Interior under the former government of Robert Fico, so this might have something to do with it. Vladar will be the interim head of the authority until a new head is appointed.

Surprised by his sudden resignation, the Prime Minister is now asking why Sipos took the decision, maybe believing that he was under pressure from Fico’s Smer-SD party as he was cancelling certain tenders. Robert Fico, on the other hand, blames government pressure for Sipos’ resignation, claiming that Sipos was being forced to act in conflict with the law.

Either way, it seems that Sipos may have been caught up in a power struggle between the wishes of the government and the interests of Fico’s party if his ‘conscience’ was getting in the way.

This highly important and sensitive post is now up for grabs, and Robert Fico wants to keep his finger on the procurement button. His Smer-SD party will therefore propose Sipos’ replacement as the post “belongs” to the opposition, said Fico.

The government and Prime Minister Radicova have other ideas, though, with the PM openly announcing that all parliamentary parties are now entitled to put forward their candidates for the post. She added that the post should be filled by an independent expert, regardless of whose nominee it is, and that she was open to talks with Fico’s Smer-SD party.

Parliamentary chairman and head of the SaS party, Richard Sulik, said that the issue would be dealt with at the next parliamentary session on 17 May as the situation does not warrant convening an extraordinary session.

Everything took place in one day and the real reasons for Sipos’ resignation might never be known, but now the power battle begins to fill the vacant post, much like the still vacant post of Attorney General. We can only hope that the new head will follow his conscience and that taxpayers’ money will stop being abused like it so often has to date in Slovakia.

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