The Slovenia Times

Public administration minister steps down

Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik. Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik resigned on 6 October, capping a turbulent two weeks for the government amidst damaging revelations about her costly trip to New York and potential conflict of interest in a €10 million-plus funding call for non-profits.

Ajanović Hovnik has been under intense media scrutiny in recent weeks, with a business trip of her delegation to New York having raised eyebrows because of its length and a price tag of over €33,000.

She has also been in the spotlight because of the ministry's funding call for non-governmental organisations under which her former business partner won €300,000. Subsequent revelations showed several other potential conflicts of interest.

Ajanović Hovnik maintains she has done nothing wrong but said she did not wish the ministry or government to bear the burden of defending her against the allegations.

She said it would have been counterproductive if she had insisted on staying on while the competent authorities carried out their procedures, which she hopes will happen soon.

Labelling the allegations as "a ruthless campaign", she said she "could not have imagined becoming a target of media attacks in which I am condemned in advance, in which facts are not important and the verdict has already been written".

Prime Minister Robert Golob until recently defended the minister but now says when a minister offers to step down, there is "nothing left to but to accept the resignation."

The resignation is not surprising considering that alleged problems, in particular regarding the funding call, have mounted in recent days, leading pundits to describe her position as no longer tenable.

This view was echoed today by opposition and coalition parties alike.

The Freedom Movement, Ajanović Hovnik's party, said they respected her decision and think this would "create space for the competent institutions to do their job".

The Left said it was now necessary to "find appropriate solutions that will help remedy the situation and restore trust in funding calls, the NGO sector and the rest of the government," while the Social Democrats said the government must now "focus on the complex substantive challenges important for the country and the people."

The opposition, long critical of the funding of NGOs that they claim are mostly outposts of leftist parties, indicated the resignation is not the end of the story and that they plan to get to the bottom of the allegations.

The resignation comes hot on the heels of a government reshuffle that has swept away Minister of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Uroš Brežan and Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko due to what the prime minister described as a loss of trust.

The latest resignation brings the number of ministers who have left the Robert Golob government to four and marks the nadir of arguably the most difficult week for the cabinet since it took office in June last year.


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