Special Services to Control State-Owned Enterprises in Poland?

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At the beginning of October, Henryk Kowalczyk, the Head of the Standing Committee of the Council of Ministers in Poland declared that within the Committee there will be created a special unit devoted to supervising state-owned enterprises. Judging by many of his statements, this supervision shall focus mostly on the decisions regarding personnel. What we ought to remember is that the Committee already has an office which has extensive rights as regards giving an opinion about the prospective candidates for prominent posts in administration and enterprises. It is known as the National Security Bureau and it is a back office of Minister Mariusz Kamiński. Does it mean that special services will decide who is eligible to work in state-dependant companies?

At a conference held on October 5, Minister Henryk Kowalczyk explained what would be the competencies of the unit created by the Chancellery of the Prime Minister. It is to be a superior institution which shall control the state-owned enterprises from the outside as “sometimes people fail. (…) If the second instance exists, if there is a verifier that oversees these manners, we may be much more certain that all the decisions will be made carefully and that the people who are not competent enough will not be allowed to go through. That’s our intention – to create a second instance institution which could verify the decisions of centrain Ministers”.

Let us remind you that many posts at the state-owned enterprises require an access to classified information. This means that in order to be able to work there one must acquire the so-called “confirmation of security” issued by Internal Security Agency (ABW) or – in the case of military institutions – Military Counterintelligence Service (SKW). Taking into account that the current government is likely to broaden the scope of information considered as classified, we may well suspect that the list of posts which will recquire being certified by special services will grow in time and in the future shall include all other key posts in the fields of administration and economy.

The rights of the Minister Coordinator in this matter result from the act on the classified information protection and the act on Internal Security Agency (ABW) and Foreign Intelligence Agency (AW). According to the legislation, the minister has the right to demand information (also classified), documents, analyses and periodic reports or data devoted to a specific case or a type of cases from the chiefs of special services. In short, we may say that the Minister Coordinator has an actual access to information collected in the procedings conducted by ABW and SKW while granting – to candidates for the posts which recquire that – access to classified information. It is difficult to imagine that the emerging in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister unit did not bother to ask for the neighbouring Department’s opinion. Even more since the announcement of the idea of creating a new control team coincided with the infamous scandal referred in the media as “the Misiewiczs’ scandal” (related to over 40 people connected to Law and Justice who found employment in state-owned enterprises after the new government came into power) and a control conducted by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) in the key enterprises in the midst of the scandal. But will the recommendations collected by the means of the “veryfying procedings” be a reliable measure to account for somebody’s usefullness in a commercial company?

Neither the bureaucrats at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, nor the special services officers seem to be specialists in evaluating competences and experience of people employed in the boards and supervisory boards of companies. Responsibility for making or evaluating business decisions recquires specific knowledge which comes from working in a given industry and only the supervisors who have already gone through a similar path and actually work in it are capable of veryfying them. The methods of bureaucrats and police help at best to establish what diplomas does the candidate have, with what political parties was he/she affiliated, how many times did he/she run in the elections and who supported him/her. That does not show the full picture of a real capacity to manage an economic entity. Unless it is loyalty and not competence that counts. In such a case the data from background survey can be really useful: who studies with whom, with whom keeps in touch, does he cheat on his wife (or she on her husband) and with whom does he/she “drink vodka”?

Michail Woslenski, the author of Nomeclature (one of the best-known monographs on the Soviet system of how elites emerge) wrote:

In socialism it pays off – but noone will say it out loud – to give posts to people who are incompetent or actually incapable of holding them. This phenomenon, which exists in all socialist states, can be easily explained. Everyone must be aware of the fact that holding a given post is not dictated by law but it is rather a result of a favor granted by the authorities and can be easily taken back if the person falls out of favor. (…) Stalin’s thesis is also based on this rule: Nobody is irreplacable. Indeed – shall we say – a thesis not devoid of logic.”

(Quote after Michail Woslenski, Nomenklatura, “Vist” Publishing House, Warsaw-Wroclaw 1986, p. 28), own translation.

Is Law and Justice leading Polish econoymy in this direction? By reading news of the recent appointments this cannot be disregarded. Quite the contrary.

Translated by Olga Łabendowicz

The article was originally published in Polished at: http://niemczyk.liberte.pl/nomenklatura/

Piotr Niemczyk
Liberte