Corruption is not only endemic at the highest levels of the Czech government but has also permeated into the smallest local village and town authorities, according to a new report published by the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office. Specifically, untoward connections between public officials and lobbyists, contractors and consulting firms are causing corruption in transactions affecting public property and the public purse. The report, compiled with the aid of the country’s intelligence service BIS, also warns that many cases of localised corruption are going unnoticed or unpunished due to fears of political consequences. Only around 50 cases of bribe taking were investigated last year in this sphere, which the Prosecutor’s Office says is indicative of poor police work. One solution is believed to be better legislation to protect whistle-blowers, and is currently under discussion by the government.
In 2011, Czechs collected a staggering 46,300 tonnes of mushrooms from Czech forests, or 11 kilogrammes for every household. The data was revealed via a government report conducted by the country’s forestry service and suggests volatility in the mushroom bounty across the years, highly dependant on the weather. The ultimate bumper yield was in 1995, when Czechs collected 58,500 tonnes. Additionally, Czechs collected 8,900 tonnes of blueberries, 2,100 tonnes of raspberries and 2,300 tonnes of blackberries last year.
The Czech Civic Democrats have formally backed the former Senate President, and current deputy Senate head, Přemysl Sobotka for their party’s nomination in the Czech presidential race. According to PM Petr Nečas, Sobotka enjoys the full support of all Civic Democrat MPs and Senators; the endorsement comes on the back of the Czech Senator emerging victorious from the party’s presidential primaries against former governor Evžen Tošenovský at the end of June. Sobotka is one of around a dozen candidates for the 2013 Czech presidential elections, which will be decided by a popular vote for the first time in history. Recent polling suggests Sobotka will have a hard time against independent candidates, specifically Jan Fischer, who leads the pack in current polls. Analysts suggest that corruption scandals make independents favoured over major party candidates by a wide margin for 2013.
Final school exams for Czech Secondary School teenagers are to be simplified according to new plans unveiled by Czech Education Minister Petr Fiala. Among the changes are that the exams will no longer be marked by independent evaluators but rather by the teachers who educate the students. Also, a two-tier difficulty level choice will also be eliminated. According to Fiala, the changes will ease administrative burdens, save millions of crowns and make for more understandable marking of papers; he also added that he expects the proposals will receive wide support in parliament. The changes were proposed after the most recent round of such exams led to widespread complaints by students over various components of the exams, particularly in the Czech language and mathematics fields.
More than a fifth of Czech female managers are having to decline lucrative career advancements due to a lack of childcare, according to an analysis by Stanton Chase, a head-hunting company. The figure is far higher than in Western Europe and Northern America, where the number is around 4% to the Czech Republic’s 22%. The study also found that more than half of Czech women want to work during their maternity leave, but 29% of these cannot make extra money for want of childcare facilities.
An IMF report issued on Tuesday appeared to give the Czech financial sector a clean bill of health, noting that it could withstand substantial shocks thanks to strong capital, liquidity and profits. But it also warned that it is vulnerable to potential negative occurrences in the EU and also at its foreign parent banks, particularly in light of the large dependence of the Czech Republic on exports to the EU. The IMF also stated that the Czech regulatory framework for banks was largely sound, but called for more staff and for an increase in bank inspections.
The English-language version of the online journal Česká Pozice, namely Czech Position, has announced that it will cease publication. In a statement released on their website on Tuesday, editor Brian Kenety noted that advertising revenue had proven insufficient to continue the project, particularly in light of a weak economic outlook. The English section launched in 2010, seeking, as Kenety noted in his statement, to become “the world’s daily English-language source for Czech political, business and cultural news”. Local reporters, including those affiliated with Radio Prague, contributed to the publication. The Czech version is set to continue publication
Jordan’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Tarawneh has said that the United Nations needs to play a far greater role and needs to exert more pressure on the government of Syria if it is to help end continuing violence and armed conflict in the Middle Eastern state. Mr Al-Tarawneh, whose country borders Syria, made the statement on an official visit to the Czech Republic on Monday, where he met with Czech counterpart Petr Nečas. Violence in Syria has continued since January 2011. Peace envoy Kofi Annan is due to arrive in Russia where he will appeal to Moscow to put more pressure on Syria's leadership to begin political transition to end the conflict. Russia has strong ties with Syria and has, for example, vetoed calls for foreign intervention.
The Czech Export Bank provided 8.2 billion crowns, the equivalent of nearly 400 million US dollars, in unjustified loans, according to a review released on Monday by the country’s supreme audit authority. The auditors found that around half of that sum was in fact provided in breach of Czech law, while more than 13 percent of the 143 billion crowns the bank gave out between 2005 and 2011 to support Czech exporters was sent to only two companies. One of the recipients paid over 40 percent of the sum to an off-shore firm which, the auditors said, cast serious doubt over whether the move can be considered support of Czech exports. Some of the loans were also given without being reviewed by the bank’s supervisory board, the report said.
Even after one week, problems are continuing to plague the Transport Ministry’s electronic vehicle registration system, news website idnes writes. According to the daily, software was updated over the weekend but not all wrinkles have been ironed out by far. Originally, the ministry promised the system would resume properly within a matter of days. Complications have prevented car owners from registering or deregistering their vehicles. In places on Monday, officials said the system was running but far from optimal, leading - for example - to long waiting periods. A crisis team at the ministry is meeting on Monday to discuss how to proceed next.