Awareness-Raising About Anti-Social Activities (SK0119)
Action Plan: Slovak Republic National Action Plan 2017-2019
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: Plenipotentiary of the Government for the Development of Civil Society in cooperation with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior and the Slovak National Center for Human Rights
Support Institution(s): NA
Policy AreasAnti-Corruption, Legislation & Regulation, Whistleblower Protections
In November 2014, Act No. 307/2014 Coll. On certain measures relating to the reporting of anti-social activ-ities and on the amendment of certain laws with effect from 1 January 2015 was adopted, resulting from the commitments in the OGP National Action Plan 2012-2013. Pursuant to § 19 par. 1 of this Act, regular evaluation of the reporting of anti-social activities ("whistle-blowing") and the dissemination of information in this area has been entrusted to the Slovak National Center for Human Rights. The Slovak National Center for Human Rights developed the historically first evaluation report and published it48 on its website in 2016. The report notes in particular that the mandatory subjects are disinterested in the issue of protected dis-closure and indifferent to eliminating anti-social work at the workplace, as well as in the training of em-ployees in the field of protected disclosure. It notes low awareness of the possibilities and the means of reporting anti-social activities and the lack of interest and fear of employees related to reporting anti-social activity49.
For these reasons, it is necessary to promote and disseminate public awareness of anti-social activities and its reporting through training, seminars, workshops or other means, to regularly analyze and continue to evaluate the application of the cited law, to search for and to name the shortcomings of legislative modifi-cation and application practice, to propose and carry out the correction of identified shortcomings and to accept positive changes to ensure a more effective fight against anti-social activity.
Commitment No. 62: Raise public awareness in the field of reporting of anti-social activities and on the basis of the results of regular evaluations of application practice of Act no. 307/2014 Coll. on certain measures related to the reporting of anti-social activities and on the amendment of some laws, or to propose amendments to the legislation.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
THEME - Raise awareness on whistleblowing
Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan[Note : The Office of the Plenipotentiary, “Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic 2017 – 2019”, http://bit.ly/2QYIlHV ]:
Commitment 62: “Raise public awareness in the field of reporting of anti-social activities and on the basis of the results of regular evaluations of application practice of Act no. 307/2014 Coll. on certain measures related to the reporting of anti-social activities and on the amendment of some laws, or to propose amendments to the legislation.”
Start Date: Not specified
End Date: 31 March 2019 and ongoing
Context and Objectives
The commitments related to the Whistle-blowers Protection Act were already present in the first national action plan[Note : The Office of the Plenipotentiary, “Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic”, http://bit.ly/2DKiGPZ ] which aimed for drafting and passing the legislation by the end of 2013. However, the progress was limited, and the commitment was postponed[Note : Matej Kurian, “Slovakia Progress Report 2012 – 2013,” http://bit.ly/2KwjQzY ]. Eventually, the act was adopted and became effective on 1 January 2015[Note : SLOV-LEX (Legal and information portal), The Ministry of Justice, “Whistle-blowers Protection Act no. 307/2014 Coll.,” http://bit.ly/2b3GA98 (in Slovak).]. The previous IRM report[Note : Mária Žuffová, Open Government Partnership, “Slovakia Special Accountability Report 2014 - 2015”, http://bit.ly/2EzH4Ws] pointed to the findings of Transparency International Slovakia (TI Slovakia)[Note : Transparency International Slovakia, “Government’s protection of whistle-blowers is insufficient,” http://bit.ly/2b3MerA
Transparency International Slovakia, “Oznamovateľov nekalých praktík chránime len na papieri” (Whistleblowers are protected only on paper), http://bit.ly/2KPDY05 (in Slovak). ]. The limited number of filed requests indicated that public awareness of the existence of the act and how it can be applied in practice is low. TI Slovakia argued at that time that a commitment to protect whistleblowers was largely on paper and the Slovak EU Council Presidency scandal in 2016 over an overpriced tender suggested the situation has not improved. The commitment to raise awareness on whistleblowing was, thus, an important commitment, specific enough to be verifiable as well as impactful if the campaign was to reach large audiences.
However, it is important to mention in this context that when the Ministry and the government had an opportunity to support a whistleblower Zuzana Hlávková[Note : Transparency International Slovakia, “Ako som kvôli pochybným zákazkám odišla z ministerstva zahraničných vecí” (How I left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for shady contracts), Blog.sme.sk, http://bit.ly/2PVWYQj (in Slovak). ], a former public servant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who pointed to suspicious contracts, the government instead belittled her role at the ministry and dismissed her allegations[Note : Michaela Terenzani, “Ex-employee points to overpriced presidency-related orders”, The Slovak Spectator, http://bit.ly/2AptC2e ]. By not responding to Hlávková’s claim, the ministry might have also violated the Whistle-blowers Protection Act. In two years, the ministry was not able to refute the allegations.
The Office for Public Procurement[Note : The Office for Public Procurement, “Prehľad rozhodnutí v konaní o preskúmanie úkonov kontrolovaného podľa zákona č. 343/2015 Z. z.” (Review of decisions in the procedures of the examination of acts controlled under the Act no. 343/2015 Coll.), http://bit.ly/2Alc5YF (in Slovak). ] and Antimonopoly Office concluded that the ministry did not violate the law by choosing negotiations without publication. Nonetheless, it did not refute any allegations about non-transparent processes and overpriced tenders. In 2018 the Supreme Audit Office concluded several violations of the law, e.g. absence of the materials on the scope and prices of the services provided, which should be attached to invoices, contracts not concluded in writing, the absence of arguments why the supplier was chosen over others etc.[Note : The Supreme Audit Office, “Slovensko zvládlo predsedníctvo úspešne, kontrolóri však zistili viacero porušení zákonov” (Slovakia has managed the EU presidency successfully, but the inspectors have identified several violations of the law), http://bit.ly/2DIOswH (in Slovak). ].
This case suggests that the commitment to raise awareness on whistleblowing will be ineffective in the absence of high-level political commitment. At the same time, although when it comes to actual cases of whistleblowing there is a lack of high-level political support, the government is willing to improve the legislation. As a representative of the Office of the Plenipotentiary mentioned, the new amendment is soon to be approved by the parliament[Note : Interview with Lucia Lacika (The Office of the Plenipotentiary), 25 September and 9 October 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. The amendment of the law has been prepared in a participatory manner. The established working group comprised experts from Alliance Fair-Play, Stop Corruption Foundation and TI Slovakia[Note : The Office of the Plenipotentiary, “Úradný spravodaj 31. – 32. týždeň 2017” (Official journal 31st – 32nd week of the year 2017), http://bit.ly/2SBIbHm (in Slovak). ].
The Whistle-blowers Protection Act affects the daily lives of citizens. By and large, CSOs have been substituting the role of the state in the topic of whistleblowing. They have been helping whistle-blowers (see the case of Zuzana Hlávková, Ľubica Lapinová[Note : Roman Cuprík, “White crows awarded”, The Slovak Spectator, http://bit.ly/2OZwWpR ] and others[Note : Matúš Burčík, “Fico chce chrániť oznamovateľov korupcie. Ako dopadli tí, čo sa ozvali.” (Fico would like to protect whistle-blowers. What happened to those who were not quiet.), Sme.sk, http://bit.ly/2FIjAip (in Slovak). ]) whereas by the law this should be the role of the labor inspectorates. CSOs also carry out the majority of campaigns[Note : Transparency International Slovakia and Labor Inspectorate, “Praktický manuál ako oznámiť nekalú praktiku a nedoplatiť na to.“ (Manual: how to blow a whistle without repercussions), http://bit.ly/2RrPt02 (in Slovak).] and awareness-raising activities (see the campaign by Stop Corruption Foundation[Note : Stop Corruption Foundation, “Ako oznámiť kampaň” (How to report campaign), http://akooznamit.sk/ (in Slovak). ], TI Slovakia[Note : Transparency International Slovakia, “Kampaň Stojíme za odvážnymi” (We stand for courageous campaign), http://transparency.sk/sk/ZaOdvaznymi/ (in Slovak). ] etc.). The Office of the Plenipotentiary also actively invites whistleblowers for their events. Nonetheless, for the campaigns about whistleblowing to have the effects, the public has to be confident that the daily application of the Whistle-blowers Protection Act is reasonable and rigorous. For that to happen, the government and high-level politicians must change their rhetoric and acknowledge whistleblowers’ contribution to achieving greater accountability.