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Brussels-City IT department under fire for paying consultant €3 million
Just when you thought the dust had settled on Brussels’ city council scandals, it was revealed last week that Brussels-City paid some €3 million over the course of 18 years to a consultant at one of its own agencies.
Le Vif/L’Express broke the story last Friday, and several Gial board members have since confirmed the story to other news outlets. Michel Leroy had the title of development director at the city’s ICT agency Gial, but was never actually hired, instead charging up to €1,000 a day as a consultant. Gial is Brussels-City’s ICT department, setting up applications for different departments and providing IT support.
The practice is technically illegal, as government consultancy contracts of that size must be put out to public bid. Instead, one city councillor after another signed off on the monthly invoices.
The news emerged following an audit of the agency, which was ordered by the new board of directors. The board itself seemed stunned by the amount of money involved. “You can hire a consultant at this price for a few weeks, but not for 18 years,” board member Mary-Odile Lognard told Le Vif.
Former director claims he was fired for questioning contract
This is not the first time that Gial has come under fire. In 2006, four people were fired for the mismanagement of funds, and just two years ago the city fired the director for fraud involving government contracts.
Though that director, Yves Vander Auwera, told De Morgen at the weekend that he was really fired for questioning the Leroy contract. “I asked to see the contract in 2016, and I questioned it. Shortly thereafter, I was let go,” he said.
Vander Auwera took the city to labour court over his sacking, and the case is still ongoing. He claims that his case is the real reason why the Leroy contract was ended and not because of an audit.
He told the paper that final arguments in his case were delivered in early December. “We delivered final arguments, including the chronology of what happened leading up to my dismissal. We spoke explicitly about Leroy’s contract. A few days later, the contract was ended. But that audit that they’re now referring to as the reason took place in October.”
Photo courtesy Brussels-City