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The Government Communication Office Has Been Waiting for the Slovenian Press Agency’s Documentation for Months

Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenska tiskovna agencija – referred to as the STA), headed by Bojan Veselinovič, is complaining that it has been waiting for the Government of the Republic of Slovenia’s payment for its public service for 19 days now. On the other hand, it continues to ignore the fact that the contract between the STA and the Government Communication Office (Urad Vlade Republike Slovenije za komuniciranje – referred to as UKOM) was not even concluded – and without a contract, the question is, how should the service even be paid for. Namely, Veselinovič is only willing to recognise UKOM as the founder of the STA when something has to be paid, but when he should provide the documentation, he denies UKOM the right to ask for it. Meanwhile, a few days ago, Prime Minister Janez Janša called on Veselinovič to resign.

Earlier this month, we reported that the STA had closed access to the market content for the Government Communication Office after two months without a contract. The STA and UKOM had not signed a new contract, mainly because the director of the STA, Bojan Veselinovič, has still not provided the necessary business documentation to UKOM – wich is, of course, a precondition for concluding a new contract with someone. The STA market services have so far been leased by the government administration every year, with a one-year contract that was concluded between the STA and UKOM, which is the representative of the founder of the STA – so the Republic of Slovenia. In accordance with the law, the STA must perform public service, for which it receives over 2 million euros from the state – regardless of the aforementioned contract with UKOM, to be clear.

A few days ago, the STA management warned that they have been waiting for the payment of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for providing their public service in January 2021, to which they are entitled under Article 66 of the seventh anti-corona legislative package, since the end of February. From the beginning of 2021 and up until now, the STA has performed the public service smoothly, and in its full scope, as required by the Slovenian Press Agency Act, they wrote, adding that the costs incurred in performing the public service are currently being covered by market revenues, but the existence of the STA is becoming more and more endangered and uncertain, and all this is happening in the year when the STA is supposed to celebrate its 30th anniversary in June. They also added the content of Article 66 of the Act Determining Intervention Measures to Assist in Mitigating the Consequences of the Second Wave of COVID-19 Epidemic to their statement.

Article 66 of the Act Determining Intervention Measures to Assist in Mitigating the Consequences of the Second Wave of COVID-19 Epidemic dictates, among other things, that the STA, regardless of whether it has concluded a contract with the founder from the first indent of the first paragraph of Article 20 of the Slovenian Press Agency Act, should receive the funds from the state budget for the year 2021, for the provision of public service, in accordance with the adopted STA Business Plan for 2021. Here, however, two questions arise; namely, whether there even is an STA Business Plan for 2021 at all, and whether the director of UKOM, Uroš Urbanija, knows about it – given that Veselinovič mostly does not want to give the required documentation to Urbanija. We should also ask ourselves what the fact that the money for the STA must be provided for from the state budget really means. Does this refer to the two million euros that the STA gets anyway, or is this supposed to be additional money that is allocated according to the business plan or the contract? Namely, this is practically impossible to achieve if the contract does not exist.

Minister of the Interior, Aleš Hojs, also commented on the STA’s “news” about how they have been waiting for 19 days for the payment by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for their public service. They also dramatically wondered whether they would even get to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the STA, which was 77 days away at the time. Minister Hojs posted his response on Twitter, writing that the government has been waiting even longer – for months now, for the documentation that Veselinovič refuses to provide. In his opinion, the concern about whether or not the STA would reach its 30th anniversary is pointless. However, he also believes that the celebration of this anniversary and the work of the agency in the future would be much more successful without Veselinovič there. And remember, Prime Minister Janez Janša has also called for the resignation of the STA director Veselinovič a few days ago. “It is time for the director, who is the political tool of the far left, to step down and be held accountable for his illegal actions and enable STA to work and develop normally,” he wrote on Twitter. Here, it should be mentioned once again that practically all news agencies abroad are privately owned, so perhaps our country should also start thinking in the direction of placing the agency on the market.

The director of UKOM, Uroš Urbanija, also commented on the matter on Twitter, writing that according to Veselinovič’s statements, it seems that he is supervising the work of the supervisors at the STA, and not the other way around, which is, of course, how it should be. This is supposedly also confirmed by the report of one of the supervisors. He also criticised one of the STA’s news articles, in which they reported on the fact that Tanzania got its first female president. “One would expect that a picture of the new president would be published on the STA website, next to a title like this, and not a picture of the former, deceased president. This is a clear nomination for the “Bodeča neža” award (“awarded” for the most sexist statements by the people in Slovenia), or something,” he wrote.

As we have already reported, Veselinovič also responded to what is going on some time ago. “In order to avoid claims that the STA is to blame for the fact that there is no market contract, which is what UKOM wrote in a press release on the 29th of January 2021, we also provided them with the price list of individual services. UKOM did not even respond to our latest offer. It is therefore not true that the conclusion of the contract was not in our interest,” he said, adding that the so-called marketing contract was always signed before the start of each new year. He also wrote that they constantly emphasise that their business is transparent and that all documentation is always available to the government, as its sole shareholder, as well as to the other competent authorities. According to Veselinovič, they do not want to deal with the question of whether or not UKOM is the representative of the founder. The granting of such a power is the responsibility of the government as their sole shareholder. “As a director, I have never stated that UKOM did not have the authority to sign the contract. However, I pointed out that based on the signing of the public service contract, UKOM did not have the authority for the company rights for the documents they want to see, or the rights to access data,” he stated. Which is pretty interesting. So, he does recognise UKOM’s right to sign a contract, but not it’s right to inspect the data?

Sara Bertoncelj

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