Figel: Pociatek Came into Limelight Mainly with Scandals

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KDH chairman Jan Figel (TASR)

Bratislava, February 2 (TASR) – Jan Pociatek as Transport, Construction and Regional Development Minister has been almost absent and has only come into the limelight mainly thanks to scandals, said Christian Democrat (KDH) chairman and former transport minister Jan Figel in an interview for TASR on Tuesday.

“In a responsible Coalition Government he would have been removed as minister long ago,” said Figel, adding that Pociatek shouldn’t even have become a minister after what he showcased while in the post of finance minister during Robert Fico’s first government in 2006-10. This included, for example, a scandal when fixing the Slovak koruna-euro conversion rate, the approval of overpriced public-private partnership (PPP) contracts and the downfall of Operational Programme Informatisation of Society (OPIS).

According to Figel, the case of construction giant Vahostav and its restructuring only highlighted Pociatek’s performance as minister, when suppliers and the self-employed weren’t paid a long time for work carried out.

Figel also mentioned the death of four construction workers when a bridge under construction near Kurimany (Presov region) collapsed in 2012.

Another case Figel mentioned was a contract for verifying payments using fuel cards for road tolls between a company called PayWell and the National Highway Company. “This disadvantageous deal for the state is making profits for a letterbox company in Cyprus. Similar is the case of the partial privatisation of [rail freight company] Cargo, with wagons taken over by a Swiss company that is co-owned by a letterbox company in Cyprus,” said Figel.

According to Figel, a positive element in transport in the past four years was that highway construction proceeded as it was set when Figel was minister after the cancellation of overpriced PPP projects. “On sections between Zilina and Presov we saved two billion euros on construction costs alone,” said Figel.

Figel reproached Pociatek for the cancellation of a project involving a new central railway station for Bratislava called Filialka. “And he didn’t produce anything better,” said Figel, who added that Pociatek along with Prime Minister Robert Fico has downgraded rail transport in the name of ‘package populism’ in the form of free transport for students and pensioners and subsequently by the ill-advised cancellation of prestigious InterCity trains operated by state-run rail company ZSSK.