Ghent City Development Company in the eye of the storm

Once again there is controversy involving real estate in the East Flemish city of Ghent. In December of last year two directors of the City Development Company ‘SoGent’ were dismissed for “carelessness”. One of those dismissed says that he was given the push because he was a whistle blower that had wanted to expose corruption.

He sent a file containing information about the circumstance of his sacking to all the members of the city council. He also plans to take legal action to demand an enquiry. The whistle-blower claims that the Alderman responsible for ‘SoGent’ is a friend of the man he suspects of corruption.

Didier Nachtegaele was the Director-General of the Ghent City Development Company SoGent until last December when he was dismissed together with SoGent’s Director of projects. The city authorities said that both had been “careless” when granting contracts to building firms for a number of large-scale projects in the city.

However, Mr Nachtegaele claims that the real reason for his dismissal was the fact that he had acted as a whistle-blower.
At the start of the month he sent an e-mail to all 51 members of Ghent City Council with a 200 page attachment containing what he was evidence of malpractice by his former colleague. Mr Nachtegaele says that criminal offence were committed. The Director of Projects is accused of having acted illegally to ensure that his favourite construction firm won contracts.

The allegded corruption is said to have taken place with relation to three projects: the Old Docks (image above), the S-Building next to Ghent’s main railway station and the Wasserij Site.

The man accused by Mr Nachtegaele of corruption is a personal friend of the socialist City Alderman Sven Taeldeman. Mr Taeldeman is responsible for planning, housing, and urban development.

In the news weekly Knack Mr Nachtegaele says that he has approached an Examining Magistrate to ensure the case is looked into.

The affair was discussed at Tuesday evening’s meeting of Ghent City Council. Both the Christian democrats and Flemish nationalist said that they don’t understand why the City Authorities didn’t go to the Judicial Authorities when the irregularities first came to light.

"I suggest that we do so as members of the City Council”, the nationalist councilor Siegfried Bracke said.

Alderman "I have faith in the Judicial Authorities"

The Alderman responsible for urban development Sven Taeldeman says that he has “every faith” in the investigation that will be carried out by the Judicial Authorities and will await its results before drawing any conclusions.