The Government has been notified by the Government Communication Office of the inability to perform the public service contract concluded with the Slovenian Press Agency
At its 134th session by correspondence on 30 November 2020, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia was informed by the Government Communication Office (GCO) of the inability to perform Contract No. 81/2019 on the Performance of Public Service in 2020, concluded with Slovenska tiskovna agencija d.o.o. (Slovenian Press Agency), Ljubljana, and the inability to conclude a contract on the performance of public service in 2021.
However, the Government did not reach any decision to suspend the SPA's financing at the session, as was wrongly reported by the media.
Paragraph three of Article 3 of the Slovenian Press Agency Act (STAgen, Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia [Uradni list RS], No. 50/2011) stipulates that "The founder shall be obliged to ensure the institutional autonomy and editorial independence of the SPA as well as the appropriate financing for the comprehensive and smooth performance of public service based on the annual SPA Business Plan."
In Contract No. 81/2019 on the Performance of Public Service in 2020, signed by SPA Director Bojan Veselinovič as the contractor and former GCO Director Kristina Plavšak Krajnc on behalf of the "representative of the founder", the GCO is identified as the representative of the Agency's founder.
One part of Article 6 of the Contract sets out the following provisions:
"At the explicit request of the representative of the founder, the contractor must immediately provide the latter with all documents on the performance of public service (financial, legal and content-related documentation). The contractor must also cooperate with the representative of the founder and respond to the latter's requests for documents and explanations."
The same article further stipulates:
"The contracting parties agree that, if the contractor fails to cooperate or remains silent after being called upon to do so in writing, the representative of the founder may suspend payments under this Contract or even withdraw from the Contract by providing a written statement without notice, in which case the latter may also request the reimbursement of funds already paid under this Contract and any accrued statutory interest for late payment as of the day of receipt of funding."
The GCO as the "representative of the founder" is obliged by law to establish the meaning of the legal diction "appropriate financing" before signing a new contract. With the aim of ensuring appropriate financing and concluding a new contract on time, the GCO addressed a letter to SPA Director Bojan Veselinovič and the SPA Supervisory Board in October, requesting business documents. Director Bojan Veselinovič did not want to submit the documents, and the SPA Supervisory Board reached the decision on 4 November that it was "not within its remit to provide the requested documents and information", proposing "that the owner directly contact the Director of STA d.o.o. Ljubljana regarding the submission of the requested documentation".
In accordance with the Contract, the GCO as the "representative of the founder" again contacted SPA Director Bojan Veselinovič, making another request for the submission of the documents, which has not been delivered by the latter to this day.
It should be noted that, on 3 November 2020, the GCO officially rejected the payment of an invoice submitted by SPA Director Bojan Veselinovič on the basis of the concluded Contract, as the latter was clearly in violation of Article 6 of the Contract obliging him to deliver all the documents to the "representative of the founder". As is evident from this article, the first sentence discusses the documents pertaining to the performance of public service and the second sentence expands this to all the documents and explanations. This is understandable, as the "representative of the founder" would otherwise not have any means to establish the meaning of the legal diction "appropriate financing".
Pursuant to the last paragraph of Article 6 of the Contract signed by SPA Director Bojan Veselinovič and the former GCO Director, the GCO could withdraw from the entire Contract and request the reimbursement of funds with interest. Nevertheless, with the aim of finding a constructive solution to the problem, the "representative of the founder" merely rejected the payment of the current invoice submitted by SPA Director Bojan Veselinovič. The GCO also called attention to the significant damage caused to the SPA by Director Bojan Veselinovič by concealing information and violating the Contract.