Czech Presidential Office Pays Fine for Misusing Public Funds in Zeman-Sarapatka Dispute

In a recent development reported by Hospodarske Noviny (HN), the Czech Presidential Office (KPR) paid a fine of approximately CZK 150,000 in January for the misuse of public funds in the legal dispute between then-President Milos Zeman and his former aide Zdenek Sarapatka. The Financial Office (FU) imposed the fine on KPR for breaching budgetary discipline rules.

The dispute between Zeman and Sarapatka, stemming from Zeman’s statement in November 2017 that he had fired Sarapatka for incompetence, has been a long-standing issue. It was later confirmed by the court that Sarapatka had left his post by mutual agreement. The case remains unresolved, as Zeman’s lawyer Marek Nespala has appealed to the Supreme Court, which has yet to make a decision.

KPR had initially paid CZK 348,428 to Nespala for representing Zeman in the dispute. However, following criticism from various quarters, including the Supreme Audit Office (NKU), Nespala returned the money. This refund took place after the FU initiated administrative proceedings against KPR, following a complaint from the NKU. As a result, the FU ordered KPR to pay a fine of CZK 148,909 for breaching budgetary discipline.

The fine order has not been officially delivered to KPR as of yet. Nevertheless, KPR decided to pay the fine in January to avoid incurring additional interest. Karel Capek from the KPR press department stated that the Office would consider filing an appeal to the General Financial Directorate after receiving the fine order.

Should the fine ultimately stand, KPR may seek compensation from the individual responsible for the breach. However, when asked whether the Office plans to do so, it did not provide a clear response.

Nespala, Zeman’s lawyer, refrained from commenting on whether the CZK 348,000 he returned to KPR was subsequently billed to Zeman, citing confidentiality. He also emphasized that the dispute between Zeman and Sarapatka is not merely a private matter, despite court confirmation to the contrary, as they have filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, which could rule on the case in multiple ways.

Article by Prague Forum

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