STA remains without public service payment
Ljubljana, 8 January - The Slovenian Press Agency (STA) was supposed to receive by yesterday overdue payments for the performance of public service under amendments to the latest economic stimulus act. The transfer has not been made.
After the Government Communication Office (UKOM) suspended the monthly public service payment, the National Assembly late on December adopted a special amendment to the economic stimulus law stipulating that any overdue payments must be made within seven days after the entry into force of the act. That deadline has expired.
The amendment also states that payments for the performance of public service in 2021 must be made on the basis of the agency's adopted financial plan, regardless of whether a contract for the performance of public service is signed.
The amendment was inserted at the proposal of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) to avoid diverging interpretations as to the government's obligations.
The UKOM said today the legislative provision had made STA financing a direct and unconditional financial obligation in an amount "unilaterally determined by the STA in its financial plan", raising the question of whether this is in compliance with EU state aid rules.
The statutory amount will be transferred as soon as the European Commission gives a positive opinion, it said.
The UKOM has refused to pay the monthly instalment for October and November, along with the payment of separate invoices for market-based services that the STA performs for state institutions. A contract for 2021 has not been signed yet.
Financing was suspended after the STA management declined to deliver all the documents and information UKOM requested, having assessed that delivery of some of the requested documents might compromise the agency's editorial independence.
For example, UKOM demanded pay data for all agency employees, all contracts for the STA's market services for several years, as well as explanations about the choice of interviewees and length of interviews.
Some of the operating documents it requested are accessible according to the companies act only to the shareholder, in this case the government.
Two separate legal opinions, one by the government's own Office for Legislation, have concluded that the cessation of financing creates an unlawful state since the law stipulates that the government must secure "appropriate financing".
The STA has continued to perform the public service it must provide according to law.