STA director invites government to access all books and documents
Ljubljana, 12 April - Slovenian Press Agency (STA) director Bojan Veselinovič has told the government he is granting it access to all books of account and documents, even though the STA has never received a formal request to that effect. He said the government should say, in writing, who will access the documents on its behalf and in what way.
In an open letter sent on Monday, Veselinovič says he is doing that despite the government having never formally transferred its shareholder rights to any government agency or body, which he has said in the past is a prerequisite under Slovenian corporate law to grant access to anyone except the government as such, including the Government Communication Office (UKOM).
Veselinovič acknowledged that the move may be construed as "legally incorrect" but "I have opted for this step having struggled between consistent respect for a clearly defined legal framework which governs the information rights of shareholders, and a repeal of the vapid excuse by the government side which leads to the financial starvation of the STA and jeopardises the social security of the employees."
He also reiterated that the STA has not received the public service fee for this year, even though that obligation is set down in the seventh anti-corona law, which stipulates that it is entitled to the payment regardless of whether a public service agreement with the government has been concluded or not.
Moreover, he said the government has refused to sign a public service agreement even though it had been urged to do so, and he rejected the recent claim by the prime minister's chief-of-staff, Peter Šuhel, that he had been invited twice to sign a public service agreement but refused to.
Noting that the independent auditor has highlighted risks to liquidity in its report on the STA's financial operations, Veselinovič said that "it is the duty of the government as the representative of the founder to honour its legal obligations and prevent the collapse of the STA."
The government said in a tweet that UKOM had called on Veselinovič to sing a new contract on 24 February and 29 March. It also published the two letters, which call on Veselinovič to "clearly say whether he acknowledges UKOM as a representative of the founder so that we can prepare a new contract and also forward all the documents that had been demanded".
The question whether the government would respond to Veselinovič's latest call was left unanswered. UKOM merely said that Veselinovič had not forwarded the requested documents until today.
The STA's supervisory board called on the government at the end of March to meet its legal obligations to the agency, which had been performing the public service of informing the public under the STA act and had been recording very good business results so far.
The board also said that all documents and data were always available to the government as the only STA shareholder.
The head of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and deputy prime minister, Zdravko Počivalšek, said on Twitter Veselinovič had made the right move today "albeit a bit late". "The STA is an important state institution, so it is essential that this dispute be solved as soon as possible," he said.
The coalition New Slovenia (NSi) did not respond to Veselinovič's call but pointed to a recent letter by the NSi head and deputy prime minister, Matej Tonin, urging Veselinovič to immediately forward the requested documents to UKOM. Tonin also assessed at the time that the relationship between Veselinovič, the government and UKOM had deteriorated so much in the last months that the STA director should offer his resignation for the benefit of the agency.