Saturday, March 28, 2009

Poland's economy minister, Waldemar Pawlak, has been questioned over his family's business ties

Last week Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak came under fire in the media after accusations of nepotism and possible conflicts of interest arose. It came to light that companies which have won public tenders to service Voluntary Fire Service units are headed by the minister’s relatives. Pawlak himself is the president of the Association of Voluntary Fire Service in Poland.

Dziennik reported that the Internet Institute of Information 3i, an internet service provider whose primary clients are Voluntary Fire Service units, has been headed for five years by Pawlak’s spouse. The economy minister does not currently have a financial stake in this or other companies connected with the fire service, having in the past donated his shares to Partnerstwo dla Rozwoju, a foundation supporting the development of rural areas in Poland.

However, it turns out that this foundation is headed by Pawlak’s mother. Reporters pointed this out as another example of nepotism.

Pawlak called a press conference on Thursday. “All of my activities, either public or business, are transparent and legitimate,” he replied angrily to reporters’ queries. But he was reluctant to answer detailed questions.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he was satisfied with Pawlak’s explanations. “In the future we need to avoid these kind of [business] relationships, because they are not of high standards,” said Zbigniew Chlebowski, head of PO’s parliamentary club.

This is not the first time that PO’s coalition partner has been accused of nepotistic practices. Last year the media revealed that relatives of PSL politicians were employed at various Agriculture Market Agency (ARR) branches.

For example, the former head of the Agricultural Social Insurance Fund, PSL member Roman Kwasnicki, was harshly criticized when it was reported that he employed a close female friend, her brother and the brother’s wife at his agency. Reporters also proved that it is possible to get a job at the ARR office in Bydgoszcz by simply calling and claiming to be friends with a PSL politician.