Director of the Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenska tiskovna agencija – hereinafter referred to as the STA), Bojan Veselinovič, apparently lost his temper when we sent him a few journalistic questions, as he rather arrogantly responded that we should find an expert in interpreting data. Well, it was, in fact, a financial expert who found that the data from 2017 show significant deviations compared to other years.
Our media outlet has repeatedly highlighted the strange business moves of the STA leadership and their director Bojan Veselinovič from the past. Thus, we discovered a loan in the amount of 250 thousand euros between the NKBM bank and the STA. The newspaper Dnevnik was allegedly also involved in this, but all three denied their involvement and tried to make excuses, saying that they never reveal their clients. When we sent Veselinovič additional questions about this matter, he remained quiet – until today. This time, we discovered another suspicious business practice from the STA that happened in recent years.
How can net profit be 19 times higher than usual?
The publicly available data from the financial report of the year 2017 shows that in the years or year before 2017, the company recorded a subsequently identified extraordinary event. This event resulted in a net profit of 185,658 euros, which is marked in the report for the year 2017 as net earnings carried over from the previous year. It should be pointed out that all regularly determined profit for the year 2016 was already fully allocated to profit reserves. This is a larger deviation during normal business years, as the STA usually generates less than 10 thousand euros of profit annually. It is all the more unusual to see the data that the highlighted extraordinary net profit is almost 19 times higher than usual. Given such findings and such a large deviation from normal business, it would be very good to hear an explanation from Veselinovič and the person who audited the STA for 2017 about this.
Why does the STA have as much as twenty percent of its assets in cash?
What also surprised us is that there is no further explanation for why the management and the supervisory board of the STA decided on such a move. Moreover, this did not even seem strange to the Commission for Culture, Science, Education and Sport, which is evident from the publicly given opinion on STA’s operations at the session of the National Council, which happened on the 28th of March in 2018. The session was chaired by the trade unionist Branimir Štrukelj.
After reviewing the available financial data, Veselinovič’s words about the great financial hardship show that the long-time director was actually lying. Veselinovič’s panic is all the more understandable, and it is even more clear now why he refuses to show STA’s financial data for the previous years. Instead, he decided that he would rather take all of the employees of the STA hostage, the majority of whom continue to incomprehensibly and overwhelmingly support the controversial actions of the current STA director.
STA’s accounting data show that the STA has, on average, more than 20 percent of its assets in cash in a business account. This amounts to around 400 thousand euros in normal terms. And an additional twenty percent is in short-term receivables from suppliers. Just as an example, the pharmaceutical giant Krka only has 2.5 percent of its assets in cash.
Veselinovič evades answering the questions
The company STA generates around four million euros in revenue annually. Of this, more than half of the assets come from the guaranteed taxpayer funds provided by the law. The STA already has more than half of its funds provided for by the state from the start, for which they have not had to prove the quality of their product so far. It is because of social responsibility that the management of the STA should be aware that they should only provide real information. In recent months, however, they have openly proven to be the political trump card of the current left-wing opposition parties. We should not forget that in the latest episode of the show Tarča (Target), they said that every “serious” journalist and editor looks at the STA’s website first thing in the morning, so they cannot run out of website visitors and those who are willing to pay for their services. They also proved this with a donation campaign in which they raised funds, as they managed to raise more than 246 thousand euros.
Director Bojan Veselinovič has been the first man of the STA for twelve years now. He probably knows the rules of business and the legality of the company’s operations very well by now. The same goes for all members of the STA supervisory board, who have allowed Veselinovič’s business activities to continue throughout all these years. The first thing we noticed when going over the company’s accounts is that the company, according to publicly available data, records extremely low profitability. The indicator of net profitable operating income for the year 2020 was only 0.25.
To illustrate it more clearly, within the set of twelve indicators in the years from 2017 to 2019, there were no deviations in the observed indications. Except in the part where the overall profitability of the operating revenues was decreased in 2019 – so, it got even worse. In three years, only one of the 36 measured indicators has changed, and even that one changed for the worse! All profitability indicators show a disastrous picture. On the other hand, you can see that the average salary per employee is relatively high. However, the figures that were made public were mostly quite shameful, as some employees are supposedly only paid five euros for a short article on the STA website.
All this data clearly shows that the management of the central Slovenian Press Agency should prepare an appropriate rehabilitation plan. It is clear that the bad decisions of the management from recent years were covered by the state share, which is obligatorily covered by Slovenian taxpayers. For 2020, Veselinovič planned 5 percent less revenue than what they achieved in 2019! This was publicly stated by Veselinovič himself in his address, related to an excerpt from the annual report for 2020.
It is clear to everyone that you do not need anything other than premises, computers, internet access and, of course, employees, to run such a company. There were 91 of them on the 31st of December 2020. In the past, the company covered the cost of purchasing business premises. In recent years, however, no high investments in machinery or stocks of raw materials have been recorded.
In the review of the costs, you can see that 80 percent of all generated revenue is spent on paying employees’ salaries. So, you could also wonder who benefits from such a business model. We sent Veselinovič a few journalistic questions related to this topic. Instead of a reasoned answer, here is what he wrote to us: “Dear Sir, I would like to kindly ask you to find an expert with appropriate accounting knowledge to help you understand the data you have reviewed. All explanations can be found in the annual reports, which are audited every year, publicly available and also approved by the STA Supervisory Board.” His answer actually gives us a feeling that we have discovered yet another financially unclear business practice of the STA from the past. We also do not know which annual reports Veselinovič was referring to, as the annual report for 2017 cannot be found on the STA’s website. And it was this report that we wrote to Veselinovič about.