Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter branded her decision to employ two Bpost experts who were still being paid by the company as “a bad practice from the past that must be stopped.”
Questioned on the scandal by a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, she announced that the advisors will rejoin Bpost as “they can no longer do their job” within her cabinet following last week’s revelations.
La Libre and De Tijd had reported that two members of the Deputy PM’s cabinet, which she had hired from the Bpost, were still on the company’s payroll. It was later revealed that one of the postal experts had argued for fewer cuts to Bpost’s state aid on De Sutter’s behalf.
The green minister defended her advisors, however, telling the committee that
“I don’t accept the claim that they acted against the general interest, that’s not the truth.” She added that the experts “are people of integrity, who are now accused of acting as Bpost’s moles.”
De Sutter also admitted that both advisors had been paid as members of her cabinet from March of this year onwards. She claimed that this was due to a change in Bpost’s management, which had led to fears of them losing their jobs at the postal company.
The Deputy PM is now calling for a change of law which would see ministers forbidden from employing external advisors from publicly-traded companies.
It remains to be seen whether this will temper the scrutiny De Sutter faces from opposition parties. The MP Michael Freilich (N-VA) is still calling for an external audit into the scandal. Catherine Fonck of the centrist party Les Engagés argued that a minute-by-minute account of the meetings between Bpost’s management and De Sutter’s postal advisor should be released.
However, the green minister still maintains the support of her colleagues in government with the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stating as much last Friday.