Jonas Roosens

Officials at minister’s private office on Bpost payroll

It has emerged that two experts working at the private office of public enterprises minister Petra De Sutter (Flemish green) have been on the payroll of the Belgium’s semi-publicly-owned postal services company Bpost for more than two years. The officials recently negotiated the management contract between the federal government and postal company Bpost.

Minister De Sutter has confirmed this to the daily De Tijd. Speaking on VRT Radio she admitted that there may have been a perception of a conflict of interest and that the employees will in future be paid by the minister’s office from June onwards. That decision, she says, had been taken before the current brouhaha. "This is a practice of the past. We are putting a stop to it".

Two Bpost employees were seconded to the minister’s private office in the autumn of 2020 at the request of Minister De Sutter, the newspaper explains. At the office, they were in charge of daily contacts and negotiations with Bpost. "They remained on Bpost’s payroll, which raises questions about whose interests they served," De Tijd points out.

The minister confirmed to the newspaper that the employees, who have been working full-time at the office for almost three years, are still being paid by the postal company. According to the newspaper, the employees remained on Bpost's payroll at the request of De Sutter’s office.

De Sutter does admit that this arrangement could make it look like there might be a conflict of interest and that the employees will therefore be paid by the minister’s office itself from June onwards.

"That people are seconded to an office is common. But that they continue to be paid by a private company, with which the government has to negotiate, is highly unusual," De Tijd says.

Minister De Sutter: "This also happens in other administrations, but because of what was recently brought to light by the internal audits at Bpost, we decided to put a stop to it”.

De Sutter stresses that "there is no conflict of interest". "These people work as technical experts: they work on dossiers, but these are then finalised by politicians.”

Top stories