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Law: What's That?

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Nadacni Fond Proti Korupci 24 February 2016

Late in 2015 the Anticorruption Endowment (NFPK) obtained disconcerting information indicating that the Documentation Centre for Property Transfers of the Cultural Assets of WWII Victims (hereinafter the “Centre”), and specifically its director, PhDr. Helena Krejčová, has applied a truly original approach when it comes to honouring laws and due diligence principles.



For many obvious reasons, the Centre falls under the legislation enabling free access to information. The Centre receives and works with enjoys an annual Ministry of Culture subsidy, amounting to around 11 million CZK. Due to its activities in 2014 the Centre earned something like 9,500 crowns. But according to the 2014 Annual Report, personal expenses alone amounted to almost 8,800,000 crowns. Therefore the NFPK repeatedly sought the provision of relevant information about the case in accordance with an applicable Information Act.

The head of the Centre, PhDr. Krejčová, must have thought about the question that makes the headline of this essay when she received our query. She intimated us that the Centre is not liable to pay tax under common law. The NFPK obviously appealed against. In response to our appeal we were told our request would be forwarded to the trustee, in this case the Ministry of Culture to issue a ruling. However, the NFPK did not wait for the official explanation and contacted the minister of culture in the flesh. Ices broke, the Centre owned up to being a taxpayer and cleared most of the information for the press. It should be noted that some of this information was quite interesting, such as the number of employees (about 13), and the bonuses paid to its director (e.g. 2014 – CZK 160,000) against the background of total labour costs and other information thus obtained.

Under the said legislation, a taxpaying entity must disclose data in a manner which would facilitate remote public access within 15 (fifteen) days of obtaining such information. The director seems to have overlooked her duty and we intimated her on this omission. However, she put the illegality right in a truly original way, never recorded by the NFPK before. The Centre in effect voted for a virtually irretrievable format and blacked out information which formed the essence of our inquest (see attachment), thereby repeatedly breaking the law. Anyway, blacking out texts must be a hobby for one of the Centre’s employees, as their annual reports also contain inexplicably blacked-out paragraphs (see examples).

We might add, in conclusion, that virtually all communication with the Centre was quite anonymous, because the electronic messages we received had no names of executive/managing subjects attached to them, being limited only to the conventional “With Best Regards from the Documentation Centre”. The NFPK’s frequent requests for amendment went unanswered. We have never before encountered this form of official communication.

“In a way, the Centre affair would have been some fun, provided we have forgotten all about the 11 million crowns out of the Ministry of Culture pocket. One cannot but wonder if this was sheer incompetence or indeed an intention,” says Anticorruption Endowment (NFPK) director Petr Soukenka, about the case.

Contacts: Petr Soukenka, Head of NFPK, tel.: 734 315 352, e-mail: petr.soukenka@nfpk.cz

Original facsimile of reply:

Atttachment:

1)    The following bonuses were paid to the Director of the Centre in 2012, 2013 and 2014: 2012 – CZK 150,000; 2013 – CZK 130,000; 2014 – CZK 160,000

The amount of bonus shall be determined by the Board of Managers of the Centre

2) The Director of the Centre shall be remunerated on the basis of a decision made by the Board of Managers of the Centre. The Board shall consider the criteria such as the economic management and publication activities of the Centre, and basic research of the archives of various origin in the Czech Republic and abroad

3) The number of employees and their responsibilites, including those of its Director and his/her statutory replacement, shall be nominally stated on the Centre website (present: 15, recounted: 12, 9)

4) Financial statements not audited but an audit expected in the near future. Activity Reports including financial statements shall be forwarded to the Administrative and Supervisory Boards of the Centre and the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.

In 2013 an audit of the Centre’s was performed by the Ústí Region Financial Office and the tax manager did not discern any breach of budgetary discipline.

Accounting shall be governed by Law 564/1991 Coll., as amended.

Due diligence is accorded to Law 218/2000 Coll., concerning Budgetary Rules.

5), 9) An external audit company was hired to process accounting and wage policies.

6) Procurement shall be governed by an internal regulation of the Centre, enclosed herewithin.

7) The Centre provides its promotion texts on its website.

8) In 2015 the Centre created websites the total cost of which amounted to CZK 34,000.

 
Text published on the Centre’s web:

Attachment:

 

  1. The following bonuses were paid (blacked out) in 2012 (black), 2013 and 2014 (blacked out). The amount of bonus shall be determined by the Administrative Board of the Centre.
  2. The Administrative Board shall consider the criteria such as the economic management and publishing activities of the Centre, and basic research of the archives of various origin in the Czech Republic and abroad.
  3. The number of employees and their responsibilites, including those of its Director and his/her statutory replacement, shall be nominally stated on the Centre website (present: 15, recounted: 12, 9).
  4. Financial statements not yet audited but will be audited an audit expected in the near future. Activity Reports including financial statements shall be forwarded to the Administrative and Supervisory Boards of the Centre and the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. In 2013 an audit of the Centre’s was performed by the Ústí Region Financial Office and the tax manager did not discern any breach of budgetary discipline. Accounting shall be governed by Law 564/1991 Coll., as amended. Due diligence is accorded to Law 218/2000 Coll., concerning Budgetary Rules.

5) 9) An external audit company was hired to process accounting and wage policies.

6. Procurement shall be governed by an internal regulation of the Centre, enclosed herewithin.

7. The Centre provides its promotion texts on its website.

8. In 2015 the Centre created websites the total cost of which amounted to CZK (blacked out)

 

Examples of blacked-out text from Annual Report 2014

Page 9:

Cooperation with new partners abroad

Newnham College, Cambridge

Senate of the Republic of France

University of Marburg

Ministry of Culture, Poland

Ministry of Culture, Poland

Denis Diderot University, Paris 7

University of Bologna

Authenticity and Origin Verification Studio, Berne

 

Page 10:

strana č. 10:

Page 10

Czech Republic, Prague

The Centre for Documentation in September 2014 organized and thematically framed a workshop on education and research in the field of provenience. It was an international working seminar of research workers studying the field in the framework of their academic endeavour. .... from Freie Universität Berlin presented a teaching cycle methodology focusing on “degenerate art”. …. of Jyväskylä University in Finland discussed the identification of stolen art with the help of computer technologies and chemical analysis, performed at their university. A similar paper, targeting various technical methods used to prove the authorship of works of art, were presented by … from the Berne Centre for Documentation in Switzerland. … and … focused on the methodology of artwork authorship evidence, performed by the Centre in Czech museums and art galleries, and the possibilities of including the Centre in the international research network. Although the many facets of the field were evident (some participants pursue research with the help of latest technologies, while some of them focus on the history of modern art and the others centre on the research of archive documents, it was possible to describe the meeting as a very enriching occasion.

United Kingdom, Cambridge

The paper presented by …, entitled Restitutions in the Czech Republic, was selected as one of three reports by representatives from the former East Bloc, who attended the international conference, Looted Art and Restitution in the 20th Century: Europe in transnational and global perspective, organized by University of Cambridge Newnham College in September 2014. The paper focused on the restitutions in the Czech Republic and referred to the unique position of the Centre for Documentation, the sole East European state organization of its kind that works to identify Holocaust art.

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