Peter Badač's Statement on the dismissal from the position of the Director of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund

    On August 4, 2023, the Board of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, as based on the findings of the Supervisory Commitee of SAF, removed me from the position of the Fund’s Director for allegedly violating the law. I disagree with the findings of the Supervisory Commitee and consider them to be insufficiently substantied and flawed. In my opinion, the inspection was conducted in a purposive manner related to the wording of the particular complaint received, and I am considering further legal action.

    When the Slovak Audiovisual Fund announced the call for the position of the Fund’s director in autumn 2022, I hesitated for a while about whether to take part in it. After all, as a relatively young active producer I might not have as much experience as other potential candidates. In the end, my desire to move this important public institution into the 21st century – for it to take a keener and more intense interest in the professional environment, to communicate with the industry, to be inspired by experience from abroad, and, thus, to help create beFer condi(ons for all filmmakers and film professionals – prevailed.

    I was democratically elected by a majority of the Board members as the candidate with the best project in the selection process. The first big surprise came at the first meeting of the Board, where the animosity of a part of the Board, already noticeable at the public presentation of the projects, became apparent. During the presentation, I thought that everyone had their favourite candidate and hence was more accommodating to some and stricter to others, but I was convinced that after the election and appointment we would all be on the same page and in open discussions search together for solutions that would help audiovisual industry in Slovakia. Unfortunately, the opposite was true. It started with unequal pay conditions in comparison to the previous director. The unequal treatment continued by insisting on processes and procedures that were not followed in the established practice at the time, and I perceived the demands of some of the board members as discriminatory or even bullying at times.

    Part of the Board boycotted my efforts to negotiate important points of my project, such as the reform of the structure of the financial support system aimed at ensuring more transparent funding and evaluation of projects and allocation of funds for individual calls. It  was not possible to address the organisational structure of the Fund's office, which was aimed at changing the centralist way of management previously applied. I also considered it an important point to bring the good practice from abroad, where a number of institutions have gone through a similar process to the one that our Fund was going through, and could serve as a source of inspiration.

    At the end of June, I personally, as well as my colleagues from the Fund's office, began to face anonymous personal attacks on social networks and a growing number of complaints and motions addressed to the Supervisory Committee of SAF and to the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic. Their aim was clearly to question and intimidate not only me, but also the Fund's employees, to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Some of the attacks on social networks took on the character of trolling, and we had to remove posts on the Fund's official platforms and block some contributors.

    Fully aware of my responsibilities to a public institution, I requested a meeting with the Minister of Culture, Mrs. Silvia Hroncová, in an attempt to inform her about the situation. I did not intend to meet and talk about the complaints and gossips only, first of all, I wanted to inform her of the serious findings concerning the insolvency of the Fund. I asked for a meeting on July 12, asking for the earliest possible date, but I was given a date in the second half of August, even though in the meantime the Minister had met with representatives of various professional associations, as well as with the Board member nominated by the Ministry of Culture, whom she has since dismissed.

    The Board has not taken a position on the poorly set financial management system, despite the fact that I have presented the relevant material several times at its meetings. The Supervisory Committee considered it more important to deal with the fact that I should have interrupted a business trip or delivered contracts to applicants than to check the real state of the Fund's management and, in particular, its cash flow, despite the fact that I had invited the Committee to do so.

    One of the 'legends' about my mismanagement of the Fund is that by paying out grants from the 2022 autumn call, which was processed by my predecessor, I have put the Fund into insolvency and caused applicants not to receive any further grants now. On January 18, 2023, when I took over the management of the Fund, the Fund's liabilities stood at 10 540 388 €, which is 19% more than the total income for 2022. The income for 2023 is approximately 9 000 000 €. Given the situation in which I took over the Fund, only approximately 450 000 € could be paid for 2023’s projects. More than 4 740 000 € was paid for commitments from previous years due in 2023. At the same time, we launched the calls according to the approved structure of the financial support for 2023, which I, as Director, could not intervene in and had to launch the calls, otherwise I would have violated the approved internal regulation which sets the timeframe for the calls of the particular year. I have at least adjusted the allocations, so that commitments do not increase excessively. The commitments from these calls now amount to more than 2 800 000 €.

    Currently, the Fund is facing a situation, in which it has current liabilities of 11 635 020 €, €4.5 million of which are due in 2023. However, it has just over €3 million in its account. And we have already identified commitments for 2024 of €4.1 million and €1.5 million for outstanding commitments from 2023, which means €5.6 million, or 70% of the total budget for support in 2024. The path of deferring a larger part of the commitments to future periods can only be effec(ve in the short term and only to a certain reasonable extent.

    However, it is unsustainable in the long term, especially if more than the Fund's revenue is distributed each year, as happened repeatedly in recent years. Irrespective of the outcome of the Board's deliberations on my removal from office, the Fund faces a very difficult period. The audiovisual environment, crushed by the pandemic, the economic crisis and the state of cinema distribution, is on its knees, and the consequences of the situation I have specified above will be fatal for many. In this situation, the candidate who puts himself forward for the upcoming call for a Director of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund will not have an easy position at all, especially after the way in which part of the Board has communicated with me as the officially elected and appointed Director, but also with the film professionals or with each other over the last six months. I firmly believe that after my departure the current problems of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund will finally start to be addressed and the members of the Board and the Supervisory Committee will not stick their heads in the sand and pretend that everything can continue as it has for the last 13 years under the previous management.

    Peter Badač

    Last modified on 07-08-2023