How to waste public funds

University foundation gives a huge second salary to MFA Péter Szijjártó, the workload is not accounted for

The Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Széchenyi István University Foundation in Győr, Hungary, and receives a gross monthly salary of HUF 1.5 million. We asked how much he works for this amount, but the foundation said they do not keep records. Their answer was exactly the same as the one we received from the foundation that runs the University of Miskolc when we asked about the work of Judit Varga, the Minister of Justice as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the foundation.

In May 2020, the government established the Széchenyi István University Foundation (SZIEA), to which it donated the University of Győr and all its real estate assets. As part of a process (universities that were previously state-funded become foundation-run) referred to as “change of model”, the board of SZIEA, like other public interest trusts (so called KEKVAs), has been filled with government politicians: the board of trustees includes Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Csaba András Dézsi, Mayor of Győr, while the supervisory board is chaired by István Tarlós, former Lord Mayor of the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

Péter Szijjártó has held the position without renumeration since 2020, but according to his newest asset declaration submitted at the beginning of August this year, he receives more than HUF 1 million gross per month from 1 June 2022. The exact amount was revealed in the asset declaration of his fellow trustee, the Fidesz mayor of Győr, Csaba András Dézsi: 1.5 million HUF gross per month.

198 million HUF over 2 years

In October, in response to a request for public information by the online news site, the foundation that maintains the University of Győr said that from September 2020 to the end of August 2022, a total of HUF 126 million was paid to the trustees and HUF 72 million to the members of the supervisory board and the auditor, i.e. a total of HUF 198 million was spent on salaries over two years.

The five members of the Board of Trustees (Szijjártó, Dézsi, and Erzsébet Knáb, chairman, plus József Bokor and Tamás Sárai-Szabó) receive a total gross monthly salary of HUF 7.5 million (HUF 1.5 million each), plus Supervisory Board Chairman István Tarlós (who also advises Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for almost HUF 2 million gross per month) earns HUF 1 million gross per month, while the two other members of the Supervisory Board and the asset controller earn a total of HUF 2 million.

No time records are kept

We wanted to know how much time the busy Foreign Minister, who is constantly travelling to different countries with the HUngarian Defence Forces’ planes for negotiations, spends on the board of trustees of the Győr University Foundation, for his gross monthly second salary of HUF 1.5 million.

In a public data request, we asked the foundation for the protocols of the board of trustees’ meetings “or any other document that would show the dates on which the members of the board of trustees were active in the years 2021 and 2022 and the duration of their activities in connection with their membership of the board of trustees”.

According to the reply of the Széchenyi István University Foundation, the Foundation

“does not handle such data and therefore does not keep any records from which the requested data could be extracted”.

The only specific information provided was that “the Board of Trustees meets as necessary, but at least every two months, to take decisions in the light of the Foundation’s objectives and activities as set out in its Statutes”. So, once every two months, in principle, Péter Szijjártó, Csaba András Dézsi and the other members of the Board of Trustees will certainly work in exchange for a nice monthly fee.

Minister of Justice Judit Varga has also a second job

Surprisingly, the rest of the SZIEA’s answer is literally (!) the same as the one we received from the Universitas Miskolcinensis Foundation (UMA), which runs the University of Miskolc, when we asked it how much Judit Varga, the Minister of Justice, works for 1.4 million HUF per month as chair of the Board of Trustees.

“The work of a trustee is not limited to attending and preparing for trustee meetings. The minutes of the meetings of the Board of Trustees are not intended to indicate the amount of work and time spent by each member. The minutes shall contain the outcome of the work, the decisions taken and a brief and concise summary of the comments made on each agenda. The amount of preparatory and background work that is involved in certain tasks of the Board of Trustees cannot be read in the minutes or in other documents. The work on specific issues is daily and regular. There are ongoing discussions between the members of the Board of Trustees and between the members of the Board of Trustees and the university management – not only the Rector and the Chief Financial Officer, but also the heads of the various departments – and the members of the Board of Trustees take part in university events, professional meetings, ceremonies, openings, inaugurations and other events, and regularly accept professional invitations from the Ministry of Higher Education. They shall perform any task necessary for the benefit of the University, whether at home or abroad.” – answered the Secretary of the SZIEA on 17 November 2022, and the Secretary of the UMA on 19 October 2022.

The Minister of Justice earns a fortune as a second job on the Board of Trustees of the University of Miskolc

As chairman of the board of trustees of the Universitas Miskolcinensis Foundation (UMA), Minister of Justice Judit Varga receives 1.4 million HUF per month as compensation – but the institution kept no records of how many hours the Minister worked for the money.

It’s a bit like the pro-government newspapers with the same headline, but of course it’s possible that two different trusts didn’t respond to the same thing on central instruction, and the exact similar wording is nothing but a result of a strange coincidence. We’ll test the others: we’ll ask all KEKVA trusts for the trustees’ employment details to see if we can get a meaningful response from any of them.

Written and translated by Katalin Erdélyi. The Hungarian version of this story is available here. Cover photo: Csaba András Dézsi / Facebook. Atlatszo’s KiMitTud FOI Request Generator website can be used by anyone to request access to data of public information. It covers any institution or individual that carries out public duties or operates public funds.