Polish Justice Minister draws battle lines against General Prosecutor
The Polish Minister of Justice Marek Biernacki criticized the work of the General Prosecutor based on an annual report, which outlines the activities carried out by the General Prosecutor’s office in the previous year, the Polish media reported, July 10.
“My opinion of activities carried out at the prosecutor’s office for 2012, based on the annual report submitted to me by the Prosecutor General, is negative,” Biernacki wrote in a statement.
The General Prosecutors’ office was formally separated form the Ministry of Justice in 2011. It is obliged to present an annual report to the Prime Minister, which is opinionated by the Justice Ministry along the way.
Bernacki gave a positive opinion of the work done in the individual prosecutors’ offices, but raised objections regarding the work of their supervisor – Andrzej Seremet. Biernacki explained that in his opinion, cases handled by the prosecutors’ office are badly allocated, with some 99.4 percent of investigations being run by regional prosecutors’ offices and not by district or appellate offices, as should be the case.
After the parabank Amber Gold scandal from 2012, the Prosecutor General ordered that all the investigations regarding serious economic crimes should be led by specialized departments at the district or appellate prosecutors’ offices. It seems that the directive was never enforced, however.
A further objection has to do with the number of prosecutors who are actually leading the investigations and managing court cases. According to Biernacki, too many of them are doing paperwork.
“The lack of proper personnel policies and task management may lead to serious irregularities in the functioning of the prosecutor’s office,” Biernacki wrote in his statement.
The Justice Minister also pointed out that Andrzej Seremet’s managerial style is too passive.
“Retaining current methods used to organize work and the lack of visible actions, which would increase the potential of the prosecutor’s office, has to be considered as a huge weakness of the current management,” Biernacki wrote. “It is the effect of a lack of proper dialogue between the Prosecutor General and the Ministry of Justice.”
Andrzej Seremet rejected most of Biernacki’s criticisms, maintaining that the facts brought forward by the minister do not justify such a negative opinion, and that in fact the opinion itself contradicts the descriptive part of the minister’s statement.
“The law stipulates that the prosecutor’s office has to carry out many other tasks other than those connected to investigations,” Seremet commented in response to the accusation that prosecutors are spending too much time doing paperwork. “Somebody has to do it [paperwork], as we are obliged to by the law.”
Former Justice Minister, Jaroslaw Gowin, stated publicly that he agrees with Biernacki criticisms, but that a critical opinion of the prosecutor’s office does not have to lead directly to a negative opinion of the Prosecutor General.
“In my opinion the Prosecutor General’s hands are tied in many respects, due to the law, which states that he is responsible for all the faults in the prosecutor’s office,” Gowin commented.
President Bronislaw Komorowski also commented on the situation, saying that the current state of the office is inherited from the Stalinist era, and that a total restructuring is what is needed.
“Something like this does not happen anywhere in other democratic countries,” Komorowski said, referring to the structure of the prosecutors’ office. “A separate public prosecutors’ office, which also has investigative powers, where cases are not directed to the prosecutors individually but to the office in general, which can lead to case juggling. Cases pass from one prosecutor to another. In my opinion it is high time – the vary last moment – for a deep reform of the prosecutors’ office system,” the President added.
Representatives from the prosecutors’ association agree with minister Biernacki.
Malgorzata Bednarek, president of the prosecutors’ association Ad Vocem, said that in her opinion the Prosecutor General has a passive approach to matters of structure, personnel use, and organization of the office.
Jacek Skala, vice-president of the prosecutors’ office labor union, was also firm in his comments regarding the General Prosecutor.
“This passiveness and lack of vision disqualify the General Prosecutor in the face of the reform of penal proceedings planned by the government,” he stated. “The management of the General Prosecutors’ Office should be a motor for all the changes, both to the system and structure, not a brake as it is now. At the moment, the current management focuses on thinking how to preserve the current system, which is beneficial for them.”
Despite the media attention surrounding the reported failings of the General Prosecutors’ office, Biernacki underlined that he does not want to put pressure on Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
The annual 2012 General Prosecutors’ report will now be sent to the PM, who is expected to give a final opinion on the activities carried out by the office in the last year.