Politicians and the public nipple
Cronyism is the main staple of politicians the world over. It is one of the more obvious symptoms of the decline of the Western parliamentary system, a system in which career politicians have come to dominate.
These professionals, though sometimes out of power in a formal sense, are rarely if ever out of work or favours. Theirs is typically a job for life. The competition between them is largely meaningless. In the end, they serve each others interests, regardless of the party to which they belong.
Career politicians have little time for bona fide permanent civil servants and competent managers of state companies, whose political independence is an essential part of their contribution to good government and good management. Indeed, the modern politician has become both civil servant and manager, with the only difference being that he is expected to maintain the pretence of partiality.
The practice of cronyism or ‘trafika’ is especially acute in this country because of the absence of a civil service law (23 years after the fall of communism) and of any meaningful corporate governance of state-run companies.
Civil servants and supervisory board members are essentially redundant in all but a formal sense. They are adequately paid to push paper and to look the other way as the politicians, and the state capitalists that direct them, plunder the common wealth.
The real civil servants and managers serve as doormats upon which full-time politicians and their cronies may wipe their well-heeled shoes. Look at any state institution or company owned by the state.
There are so many examples of this rampant cronyism in Czech public life that it seems unfair to pick on a single individual. Ivo Hlavac, an ODS politician from Olomouc, was appointed the head in-house lobbyist at CEZ in January 2013. Before joining CEZ (in fact, he was rejoining CEZ after a break from the state-owned firm of some six years), Hlavac had the privilege to serve his country as a deputy agriculture minister, a deputy minister of regional development and a deputy environment minister. And he is still not yet 40.
Ministers Chalupa and Hlavac serving themselves...
In early 2012, Hlavac tore himself off the public nipple, and found employment in the private sector, albeit in a part of the private sector that lives off public contracts –he joined the consultancy arm of the Prague office of Deloitte, presumably to massage the firm’s public sector clients, such as the interior ministry and CEZ.
Hlavac’s time in the market place was short lived however, and before the year was out, our hero was back on the nipple again, at CEZ.
The example of Ivo Hlavac is very common indeed. And it will remain so without legislation to depoliticise public administration and to end the trafficking in board positions at state companies.
These are just two of the nine objectives of Rekonstrukce statu (Reconstruction of the State), an inspiring initiative of citizens, the details of which can be found here in both Czech and English.