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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

An incredible deception about the visits of leaders in Golob’s government

By:  Vida Kocjan

At the end of June, we sent a request to all members of the new Slovenian government to forward a list of visitors by name to both ministers and state secretaries, relying on the Media Act. The responses from Prime Minister Robert Golob’s cabinet and the ministries were very different and show that Golob’s team is not ready to disclose information to the public.

The transparency of their work, which was promised before the elections, is not heard of.

Who visited the Golob’s?

Golob’s office sent us an incomplete list of visitors. At the outset, they emphasised that visitor records are documents that contain personal data. They also stated that the records of visitors to the government building at Gregorčičeva street 20, 25, and 26 are regulated by a special catalogue in which the data is kept for only 14 days.

Based on this, they sent us data for visits to the Prime Minister and State Secretaries in the Prime Minister’s office from June 15th to June 28th, 2022, inclusive, when they received our question. They started their mandate on June 1st, so according to their statements, they no longer keep data on visits before that.

Furthermore, they sent us the decision of the Information Commissioner dated July 30th, 2014, that is from the time of Miro Cerar’s government, when this institution was already headed by Mojca Prelesnik, who took over the job on July 17th, 2014. It is clear from the decision that Slovenian legislation does not have a law, which would allow the authority to disclose the names and surnames of visitors. This means that this data is protected personal data and is therefore an exception to free access to public information. On the other hand, protected personal data does not include the names and surnames of those visitors who were with the Prime Minister as civil servants or officials. The personal data of these individuals are stated in the document in question in connection with the performance of a public function or the employment relationship of a civil servant, therefore personal data are not protected.

The public has no right to know

It follows that, in their opinion, the media and thus the public are not entitled to the list of visitors who visit the highest representatives of executive power, politics. These are supposed to be a closely guarded secret. They are only entitled to reveal the names of visitors who are civil servants or officials.

On the basis of such reasoning, they then sent us a list of visitors, on which some names were covered. They were not consistent in this, as the list includes e.g., also the name Zoran Stevanović, president of the Resni.ca party, who visited Golob on June 28th at 12:28 p.m.

Furthermore, the list is not arranged by date, the dates are mixed up, which means that this can also be edited. The list of visitors to Robert Golob from June 14th to 29th, 2022 is published separately. The list also mentions the visit of Leo Cahari; according to publicly available information, he is a photographer for Primorske novice and there is no indication that he is a civil servant. Urška Korošec is also on the list of Golob’s visitors, for whom the web shows that there are several people with this name, none of whom are public servants. Robert Golob was also visited by Damir Črnčec, a well-known companion of Šarec, at 9:15 a.m. on June 15th. He was also visited by some director generals of directorates within individual ministries, including Hinko Šolinc, director general of the energy directorate in the previous government.

Visits to Golob’s secretaries

Three more state secretaries visited the Prime Minister’s office: Melita Župevc, Maksimilijan Kovač, Maša Kociper, and the head of Golob’s cabinet, Petra Škofic. Melita Župevc was visited by Andreja Čmaj Fakin, head of the public relations service at the Ministry of Health, and Jernej Kovač (there are several, it is not known which one). The third visit on June 28th was covered up.

Maksimiljan Kovač had several visits, four of which were covered. The visits of Lenart Žavbi and Tereza Novak, two MPs of the Gibanje Svoboda party, were not covered. The Secretary of State was also visited by Miha Mohorčič and Nataša Peršek, there are also more of these names online, so it is difficult to determine who it is.

Maša Kociper, former member of the SAB and now state secretary in Golob’s cabinet, had two visits. One is hidden, but Jani Prednik, leader of the SD parliamentary group, visited her twice.

Head of Cabinet Petra Škofic had a greater number of visits. The names of seven visitors are hidden, but the revealed name is Nuša Baranja, known as a former journalist at RTV Slovenia, then working for Marjan Šarec and his LMŠ, now she has transferred to the Gibanje Svoboda party. The list of visitors to Petra Škofic is published separately.

The only transparent list is Arčon’s

The list of visitors was sent to us immediately and without any additional questions or complications from the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Slovenes Abroad and the World, which is headed by Matej Arčon, former mayor of the municipality of Nova Gorica and member of the Gibanje Svoboda party. We are publishing the list separately, but it refers to the period from June 1st to June 27th, 2022. It is true that they did not specify the days and hours of the visit, and in some places, they also omitted names.

Tatjana Bobnar is evading

The Ministry of the Interior, which is headed by Tatjana Bobnar, did not provide us with the list of visitors to the minister and state secretaries. We were informed that our “request is being processed under the Act on Access to Public Information”. The decision will be sent to us by post with a registered letter.

An incredible deception by Šinko

We received a similar response from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Food, which is currently headed by Irena Šinko. First, we received a response similar to that from the Ministry of the Interior, that the request is being processed under the Act on Access to Public Information. The deadline for serving the decision in this case is 20 working days. On Friday, we received the decision of the official person responsible for providing information of a public nature, signed by Roman Počkaj, that the deadline is extended from 20 days by an additional 20 working days, which means 40 working days. The reason given was that the ministry “needs more time to provide the requested information” and that the ministry does not have the requested information in the form of an existing document. The list can only be obtained “by more time-consuming processing of electronic calendar data”. It is an incredible deception.

We should receive the decision at the beginning of September, which does not mean that we will also receive a list of visitors. It is most likely that the public will never see visitors to Irena Šinko and her state secretaries for at least half of June.

And the rest? Unbelievable.

The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Affairs, headed by Golob’s confidant Uroš Beržan, sent us copies of the daily visits, written by hand, the list is mostly anonymised (blacked out).

On July 5th, the Ministry of Public Administration, headed by Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, informed us that they had transferred the request to a person authorised to access information of a public nature at the ministry. And that was it.

On June 29th, we received the same answer from the Ministry of Infrastructure, which is headed by Golob’s Bojan Kumer. They did not get further than withdrawing the request.

On June 29th, we received the same answer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is headed by the “always transparent” Tanja Fajon.

The same answer was already sent to us on June 29th from the Ministry of Economic Activities and Development, headed by Matjaž Han. They did not get further than that here either.

On June 29th, we received the same answer from the Ministry of Finance, headed by Klemen Boštjančič. And that was it.

On July 1st, we received the same answer from the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities, headed by Luka Mesec. They did not get further than that.

On June 30th, we received the same answer from the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Digital Transformation, headed by Emilija Stojmenova Duh. That is all there is to it.

On June 30th, the Ministry of Culture, headed by Asta Vrečko, sent us a similar answer. On the same day, they asked us if they could only send similar information as they sent us from the office of the Prime Minister (this is a list of public officials or civil servants). It is obvious that they colluded with each other.

We also received the same answer from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sports, which is headed by Igor Papič. They gave it to the “official person of the Ministry of Mediation of a Public Character”. And that was it.

We received the same answer from the Ministry of Defence, which is headed by Marjan Šarec. And that was it.

The Ministry of Health, headed by Danijel Bešič Loredan, even directed us to send our request to the address of their representative.

We did not receive a response from the Ministry of Justice, headed by Dominika Švarc Pipan, and the Ministry of European Cohesion Policy and Development, headed by Aleksander Jevšek (both SD).

For the end

The review shows that most of the ministers in Golob’s government is faking ignorance and carefully hiding their visitors from the public. It is obvious that we will have to contact the Information Commissioner, but above all we will be looking for answers in the future.

List of visitors of the minister without a document wallet for Slovenes abroad and around the world, Matej Arčon, and state secretaries for the period from June 1st to 27th, 2022:

Minister’s visitors:

  • Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia in Vienna, representative of SKB Bank
  • a representative of the Security and Protection Centre,
  • notary Miro Košak,
  • information and communication technology contractor from the Ministry of Public Administration
  • representative of the Slovenian Global Business Connection from Brazil,
  • the future Consul General in Trieste
  • representatives of the Association Slovenska izseljenska matica, the Expatriate Society Slovenia in the World, the World Slovenian Congress and Rafael’s company.

Visitors of State Secretary Vesna Humar:

  • information and communication technology contractor from the Ministry of Public Administration
  • a photographer and a civil servant, both from the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Communication.
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