Yes, I have rarely seen such a case. The presumption of innocence has been trampled on. There was a political trial and a media trial. I deeply respect justice. We hear a lot of assumptions but there are few facts. I come with facts. In everything I’ve heard, there isn’t much that holds water. I never took advantage, for a single moment, of public money, I did not make decisions in my corner without informing anyone, like a free electron.
Some MPs point to your responsibility for the slippages. You no longer reported to the Bureau on the progress of Parliament’s work?
It’s fiction. Just look at the rules of Parliament that the deputies voted for themselves. This regulation specifies how expenses are made. First, no expenditure is possible if there is no budget. The budget is not the clerk who does it, alone in his corner. It is the Parliament which adopts it after work in committee. Then, at the end of the financial year, there are accounts (Editor’s note: the actual amounts of expenditure and any income). I introduced, several years ago, a budgetary control on June 30th. For someone who would like to show off and not be controlled, it’s quite absurd to have done that. Each year, at the beginning of July, the Office receives the provisional execution of the accounts for the current year. It is very specific, contrary to what some members are saying. Let them look at the documents they receive. This allows you to see where there are overruns, for example. Each year, the Bureau decided that it was not necessary to come back to Parliament. He was therefore aware of where we were in the execution of the budget.
Are the accounts audited at the end of the financial year too?
They are verified by verifiers. In 13 years, I have met 17 account auditors. When they have finished their work, they present their report to the committee. In 13 years, there have been a total of 32 MPs who have heard of the reports of these auditors. When a report is adopted by the committee, it is sent to the deputies. It is a report of about ten pages which summarizes the income statement, the balance sheet and the state of assets. When I hear that I would have made all these decisions in my corner and spent all this money without realizing it, my arms drop. It’s not reality.
No deputy was moved by these overruns?
Until six months ago, I only heard congratulations on the pedestrian junction (Editor’s note: the famous tunnel), its practicality, but also the gain in terms of safety. As for the parliamentarians’ house, I visited with parliamentarians who found that it was the infrastructure we needed, that it was functional and that there was nothing luxurious about it. Suddenly it became a palace. I accept that people change their minds, but I do not see why that supposes throwing the clerk into the public square.
You are also accused of a conflict of interest in a public contract relating to IT, did you respect the rules?
There were six offers. The reasoned award decision is ten pages long and there was no appeal.
You were accused of excessive telephone charges of up to 25,000 euros during a private trip to Costa Rica…
… In April 2015. I recognize that this amount is enormous. The truth of this file is that I have never heard of this invoice. What happened ? The official in charge of checking these invoices receives it, I imagine, in May 2015 and rather than coming to talk to me about it or to the Bureau, what does he do? He makes a copy of the invoice. And seven years later when we take out other files and we are upset by the end-of-career reform, we will deliver this document to a journalist. I replied that I did indeed go on vacation to Costa Rica where I dealt with 306 requests for interpellations and oral questions for the conference of presidents which took place on the Thursday of my return. When I discover this bill, I see that it represents 3.3 gigabytes of data (Editor’s note: roaming costs are very high outside Europe). You have to know what 3.3 gigabytes of data represent. Proximus’ basic subscription is 12 gigas.
Why did you have to accompany the President of Parliament and the members of the Bureau on trips abroad?
Because it is difficult to see, for the trip to Dubai, for example, the President of Parliament disembark alone at the airport, take the bus to go to the expo and take care of fixing his appointments himself. There is a minimum of respect to be had. The President of Parliament is, whether we like it or not, the first of the Walloons and there are protocol aspects. Traditionally, the clerk who works most often with the president is well placed to provide support for this type of trip. As for the accompaniment of the Bureau, I remind you that I am the secretary.