STA supervisory board urges govt to release overdue funding
Ljubljana, 31 March - The supervisory board of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) has called on the government to immediately settle all of its outstanding liabilities to the STA and to comply with its legal obligations to finance the STA public service.
The supervisory board established that the STA has been performing its public news service under the STA act without interruption, said Mladen Terčelj, the chair of the board, after Tuesday's session of the supervisory board.
Due to the lack of budget funds, "the company will be insolvent and incapable of meeting its financial obligations a few weeks prior to its 30th anniversary," Terčelj said.
The supervisors discussed the STA management's report about the financial situation, possible insolvency scenarios and proposals to tackle the situation.
The board determined that none of the proposals could offset the shortfall of budget funds. "The last resort measure of downsizing would mean an inability to provide the public service to the extent set by the STA act. At the same time that would mean a scaling down in the commercial service, which is currently the company's only source of financing," Terčelj said.
He also highlighted that under the seventh Covid relief package the state is obliged to fund the STA regardless of whether a public service contract has been signed for this year.
"The government is not respecting its own law, passed in parliament. I personally also think that this is an important constitutional issue of whether the government may ignore a law or put itself above a law passed by the National Assembly," the chief supervisor said.
The supervisory board again urged the government to come up with a 2021 contract for the public service, saying that the STA had been expecting it since December 2020.
Suspending financing of the STA public service without any proven wrongdoing is unacceptable and contrary to rule of law principles, Terčelj noted.
The supervisors also reiterated that all documents and information regarding STA management were available to the government, which exercises the rights of the agency's sole founder and shareholder.
STA director Bojan Veselinovič was thus urged by the supervisory board to call on the prime minister and government ministers as representatives of the founder to authorise the Government Communication Office (UKOM) or another government body in the event it wishes to get the relevant information.
Veselinovič has already done this, addressing a letter to the prime minister and urging him to give such authorisation so that the STA management could provide access to all the required documents in line with law. A copy of the letter was also sent to other ministers and media.
Regarding the government's proposal that the supervisors dismiss Veselinovič, Terčelj said that they had not received a formal notification from the government. The board could discuss this only after it receives the decisions and an accompanying report on implementation of STA-related legal provisions, he said.
UKOM has suspended financing of the STA public service arguing the parties have not signed a contract for this year and alleging Veselinovič's failure to provide documents.