Charleroi socialists resign over housing scandal
19 September 2005
BRUSSELS – Three leading Charleroi Socialists have resigned over allegations of corruption at a social housing company.
The three men – Claude Despiegeleer, Serge Van Bergen and Andre Liesse – were all on the management board of the social housing project ‘La Caroloregienne’.
Accusations of mismanagement and financial abuse were first publicised on Friday morning by the radio programme ‘Vivacite’ on RTBF, which based its claims on audits from 2001 and 2002.
Despiegeleer is alleged to have spent BEF 730 000 (EUR 18 096) in restaurants in 2001, along with BEF 400 000 (EUR 9 916) on food and wine.
Over serveral years, the housing company transferred funds to a not-for-profit company called L’Ecrin. In 2001, the audit shows L’Ecrin’s expenditure included a monthly salary to Despiegeleer of BEF 21 000 (EUR 521) and to Petit of EUR 486.
Although the management committee only met twice in 2001, the 12 members received payments of BEF 136 000 (EUR 3 371).
The allegations prompted the opening of a police investigation and documents were seized from the offices of La Caroloregienne.
On Friday Despiegeleer denounced the accusations as a “political conspiracy” but over the weekend it emerged that his resignation letter had been placed on the table alongside those of Van Bergen and Liesse.
Opposition parties have been angered that the three men have not also resigned from their positions on the local council.
Charleroi mayor Jacques Van Gompel said the resignations were unnecessary as the men had done nothing wrong in their functions as councillors. His views were supported by Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe, the president of the town’s Socialist party.
The Ecolo party claimed in a statement it was unacceptable after what amounted to a confession of guilt that the three councillors continued to manage public services such as sports facilities and buildings and were still involved in housing policy.
Olivier Chastel, from the MR party, said he was satisfied that a first step had been taken but argued that the functions of the three men as councillors could not be viewed as an entirely separate issue.
The Centre Right CDH also issued a statement criticising the triple resignation as insufficient.
The councillors’ fate will be decided at a meeting of Charleroi Socialists on Monday evening.
Their future as members of the council has been dealt what may be a fatal blow by the personal intervention of Socialist leader Elio di Rupo who said a “strong gesture” was needed to resolve the messy situation.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news