Legal investigation into Molenbeek housing association following audit
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    Legal investigation into Molenbeek housing association following audit

    © Wikimedia
    © Wikimedia

    The Brussels region’s housing agency SLRB has notified the Brussels prosecutor’s office of an audit carried out on the housing agency in Molenbeek, which speaks of a certain number of irregularities, in particular regarding the grant of contracts to private companies. Among the problem areas mentioned in the audit, reported earlier in the week in the French-speaking press, are the lack of proper invoices in as many as half of contracts handed out to private companies. Also, one company was repeatedly given contracts between 2013 and 2017 without any call for public tenders, despite the value of the contracts being greater than 300,000 a year. Meanwhile rent arrears were allowed to climb above 2.2 million euros without action being taken.

    Françoise Schepmans, who was mayor between 2012 and 2018 and is now a municipal councillor, claimed to know nothing of the problems until the audit was revealed. However as La Libre reports, she was present in July last year at a meeting in the town hall where representatives of the SLRB raised concerns about the way the Molenbeek agency was being managed. In the few months that remained to her as mayor, she took no action.

    According to the chair of the Molenbeek agency, Michel Eylenbosch, the audit describes the situation to end 2017, since when some of the problems cited have been tackled. The problem of unsigned invoices has now been resolved. And he minimised the question of one supplier being paid more than 300,000 euro without an open call for tenders. “If you have a supplier you regularly call on for small orders, that can at a certain point add up to a larger amount,” he told Bruzz. “That was the case here. There was no ill intent.”

    As the case is handed over to the prosecutor’s office for examination, the minister in charge, Céline Fremault (photo), has turned the management of Molenbeek’s housing over to the regional authority, the SLRB. The minister has lost faith in the agency’s management of the commune’s 3,000 housing properties, she said, who have for the time being been suspended while the investigation continues.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times