Two recent Belgian news items are intertwined and need to be linked to better understand them:

1. On Saturday, August 17, L’Echo published an article about a confidential audit report by the Inspectorate of Finance, which found that the federal police headquarters cost the taxpayer tens of millions of euros too much. The report also denounces a series of serious failures in this file, such as non-compliance with the law on public procurement. What is it about?

In 2001, the federal government sold the Administrative City to a company owned 60% by Breevast, the company of a Dutch billionaire with a sulphurous reputation, Frank Zwegers, and 40% by Immobel. Belgium received 276.5 million euros for the sale but leases the same building complex for an annual indexed rent of 24.8 million euros. Following the renovation work completed in 2009, the rent would have increased to 54.2 million. Needless to say, these prices are monstrous and totally against the general interest.(1)

In 2010, in the course of current affairs, the government makes the decision to consolidate the federal police at this location. The department responsible for this type of contract is the Régie des Bâtiments. « According to her own statements, she received signals from the federal police and former Open Vld ministers of the interior that their preference was for the Breevast and Immobel project, » the audit report reads. Even though the Régie was responsible for the final choice, it felt « obliged ». The office of the Minister of Finance — at that time Didier Reynders (MR) — was responsible for the Régie des Bâtiments and played an important role in the choice of the Cité administrative.  » But based on the documents available, it’s not easy to know who decided what.  »

It’s been 8 years since a criminal investigation was launched against the former boss of the PJ in Brussels, Glenn Audenaert, who allegedly received money from Dutch boss Frank Zweegers, the former owner of the Administrative City. Were there bribes involved in some of the strange decisions?(2) In short, in one word, we now have an estimate of the cost of corruption (40 million €) in this case thanks to the work of a journalist (Lars Bové) and the courage of a source who dared to bring this report to light.

2. The second piece of information concerns a bill proposed by Didier Reynders to punish whistleblowers and journalists who reveal secret government information with several months in prison and thousands of euros in fines.(3)This is a perfect case in point: Lars Bové reveals confidential information in an audit report by the Finance Inspectorate. This disclosure clearly puts Didier Reynders in charge and is of public interest, but if the law in question passes, journalists like Lars Bové could be prosecuted and imprisoned in Belgium… in 2019.

No, we are not talking about a dictatorship in an African country but about Belgium…

Eric Arthur Parme

Notes et références
  1. Cfr « Bienvenue en ploutocratie : Kazahgate, Afrique, réseaux… Le MR à tous les étages. » : http://www.kairospresse.be/article/bienvenue-en-ploutocratie-kazakhgate-afrique-reseaux-le-mr-tous-les-etages
  2. Cfr https://www.lecho.be/economie-politique/belgique/federal/les-manquements-de-la-regie-des-batiments-ont-coute-des-millions/10154223.html).
  3.  Cfr « 5.000€ d’amende et de la prison pour les lanceurs d’alerte : le projet de loi de Didier Reynders. » in RTBF.be du 14/8/2019).

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