Czech ombud says her deputy's article was totally out of line
Anna Šabatová, the Czech Public Defender of Rights (the ombud) has sharply criticized her deputy, Stanislav Křeček, for authoring an article critiquing the work of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. "[Mr Křeček's article] contravenes all of the principles of the work of the ombud, which are to maintain competence and confidentiality, to have a thorough knowledge of all the circumstances of a case, to listen to the other side, and what is most important, to propose measures for improving a situation should it be unsatisfactory," she has written in the daily Lidové noviny, which published Křeček's critique.
In his article, Křeček criticizes the activity of the Agency in the town of Duchcov. Šabatová says she believes he visited the town at the personal invitation of the Mayor of Duchcov, Jitka Bártová, and wrote his critique on the basis of that visit.
"I consider it necessary to state that this office is not conducting any investigations in relation to either the Agency or the town of Duchcov, and no complaints about their activity or lack thereof have been filed with us. As far as I am aware, my deputy visited Duchcov completely on his own (allegedly at the personal invitation of the mayor) and the result of his one-day mission is the critical article that has been cited and that contravenes all of the principles of the work of the ombud, which are to maintain competence and confidentiality, to have a thorough knowledge of all the circumstances of a case, to listen to the other side, and what is most important, to propose measures for improving a situation should it be unsatisfactory. I have no doubt that my deputy is familiar with these key principles after 17 months of working in this 'remote province'. It is an indisputable and revealing fact that to date he has not identified any comprehensive strategies for how municipalities are to get out of such difficult situations. I presume he already had enough capacity and space in which to do so prior to my election," Šabatová writes.
The ombud goes on to point out that Křeček's portfolio does not include tasks related to social inclusion, but that he has publicly expressed his personal views on the topic several times. "After being elected to the position of the Public Defender of Rights I have, in accordance with the law, entrusted Mr Křeček with several tasks in writing. My deputy has, for example, been involved in reviewing the activities of the Building Works Authorities, the Cadastral Registries, the Revenue Authorities and the Land Offices, as well as consumer protections and the state administration of the courts. However, education, equal treatment, social inclusion and supervision of local governments are decidedly not part of the agenda I have entrusted him with. I remain the guarantor of this office's work on those issues, with the assistance of the professional apparatus," Šabatová writes.
Šabatová says Křeček's statements are not connected to the activities of the Office of the Public Defender of Rights and that they are purely his personal opinion. "I really do not know why he is doing this just before the local elections and in relation to a specific department of the Office of the Government, the procedures of which the ombud is not even legally authorized to investigate," she writes.
The Public Defender of Rights also expresses support not just for the staffers of the Agency, whose difficult work she appreciates, but also for all local politicians doing their best to overcome social exclusion who take steps that are often unpopular among the voters. "I believe their efforts will not stop after the upcoming elections and that most towns and villages will continue to cooperate with the Agency. I consider that to be the optimal solution. At the same time, I assure them that, unlike my deputy, I will do my best when performing my role to act in complicated situations as a mediator and to contribute clear, constructive recommendations. That is my idea of the work of the ombud!" she concludes.
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