Talk about problems with auditor independence: the government of Poland is in turmoil these days because its top audit executive, whom other officials can’t easily fire, has been accused of supporting a whorehouse on the side.
So says the Associated Press in an article from Warsaw, which of course caught my eye because how often do we encounter the words “chief auditor” and “brothel” in the same breath? Let’s look under the covers here.
The man in question, Marian Banas, was appointed president of Poland’s Supreme Audit Office — and holy cow, you need to get that title come your next performance review — in August. Within weeks, a Polish TV news outlet reported that Manas rents out a home he owns to a sex business that offers rooms by the hour.
At first the Polish government, led by the right-wing Law & Justice Party, dismissed the allegations against Banas as, you guessed it, “fake news.” The Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, however, reviewed four years’ worth of Banas’ financial declarations, and discovered tens of thousands of dollars in income that Banas couldn’t explain.
Fake news is a fake thing, folks. Bank on it.
Anyway, once the awkward details of Banas’ finances became public, the government changed its tune. Both Law & Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki have called on Banas to resign — but he won’t go! And they can’t force him out, because Polish law allows Banas to serve his full six-year term!
Even better: Banas has begun using his position as president of the Supreme Audit Office to return fire, informing prosecutors about mismanagement his audit teams have uncovered in the Polish Ministry of Justice. Moves like that are sure to irritate Kaczynski, whose party has suffered a string of scandals since it came to power in 2015. (Sun Tzu, The Art of War: “When your enemy is angry, irritate him.”)
In theory, the government could fire Banas if he is convicted of a crime, and running a brothel is illegal in Poland. Plus, let’s remember that brothels are one step away from human trafficking at best. If Banas is complicit, he should be prosecuted.
The Law & Justice Party has also floated the idea of amending the constitution to fire Banas more easily, except that would require the support of Poland’s opposition parties — which, to no surprise, aren’t rushing to help the Law & Justice party get out of this predicament. (Napoleon: “Never interfere when your opponent is destroying himself.”)
How will this all end? We don’t know. We do know Banas, 64, also goes by the nickname “Iron Marian” because he has mad karate skills and spent two years as a political prisoner before the communist government fell in 1989.
Plus, Banas apparently does have solid administrative skills. His promotion to president of the Supreme Audit Office came as a reward for turning around Poland’s beleaguered tax and customs agency earlier in the 2010s, where he led a crackdown on tax fraud.
Well, past performance is no guarantee of future results. We’ll have to wait and see how much longer Banas has skin in the game.