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Czech court rules Romani NGO must return money to Regional Authority

Liberec, 20.2.2015 0:57, (ROMEA)
The Regional Court in Liberec.
The Regional Court in Liberec.

The Liberec Romani Association (Liberecké romské sdružení - LRS) must return CZK 2.6 million (EUR 95 000) to the Liberec Regional Authority plus 8.05 % interest, according to a recent court verdict. The NGO will also have to pay CZK 133 000 (EUR 4 860) in court fees.  

The court found that the LRS mishandled a subsidy it received from the Regional Authority for performing preventive social work. No one representing the association was in court for the ruling on Tuesday, not even a lawyer.

The verdict has yet to take effect and may be appealed. News server iDNES.cz reports that the LRS paid CZK 1 000 (EUR 37) annually to lease spaces for a community center from the town hall in Tanvald but represented the rent to the Regional Authority as CZK 24 000 (EUR 877).

A ministerial report on the group pointed to, among other things, the disproportionately high wages paid to some LRS staff. For example, at least one staffer was paid a salary of CZK 99 000 (EUR 3,617) before taxes.

Field social workers hired by the LRS were paid CZK 50 000 (EUR 1,827) monthly. A project manager also leased an automobile for the association from a firm with which he was personally connected.  

An audit also determined that the association had purchased, in connection with the provison of social services, various hardware gadgets, scaffolding, and an iPad tablet costing CZK 15 490 (EUR 566). If the LRS does not appeal the verdict, collections proceedings will begin against it.  

News server iDNES.cz reports that the LRS probably does not have any assets. "We might believe that the average salary for a social worker should be CZK 20 000, not CZK 50 000 or CZK 90 000, but within the framework of that project, they were never forbidden to pay such salaries. No one could have forbidden it, because there is no methodological guidance in place for such a thing. We were able to warn them that their arrangements were unethical, but that was all we could do," claimed Regional Councilor Pavel Petráček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) at the start of the trial.  

The Liberec Regional Authority took the case to court after a ministerial audit revealed a great deal of misconduct in the association's activities involving more than CZK 2.5 million. Those findings led to the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, as the provider of the subsidy to ensure the social services, refusing to send the Regional Authority any more funding.  

The Regional Authority, however, had already concluded its contract with the organization and paid its invoices. Because no more payments were to be forthcoming from the ministry to the region as a result of the misconduct, the Romani association was held liable for the damages.

fk, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Liberec, Liberecké romské sdružení, Soud, MPSV



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