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RTBF sacks whistle-blower who revealed CEO’s salary

© Bruno Fahy/Belga

The board of the French-speaking public broadcaster RTBF has approved the dismissal of a human resources manager who revealed to the press the salary of the director-general, Jean-Paul Philippot.

The woman, who has not been named, was dismissed for “serious misconduct”. She was previously the head of the administrative department of the human resources division, in charge of payroll matters.

As such, it was she who leaked to the press in 2016 the details of the remuneration package of the RTBF boss Philippot. The motive: according to established practice governed by a circular from 2014 from the French Community, which set a cap on the salaries of all officials of organisations dependent on the Community of €250,000 a year before deductions.

Allowing for indexation, the limit on 1 January 2016 would have been €250,138. But not the case of Philippot. In 2016, the whistle-blower revealed, his salary was in line to be between €295,000 and €330,000. Not only was it higher than the absolute limit, it was also more than the amount published in the annual report of the Community.

In addition, alone among administrators of public entities, Philippot would receive part of his remuneration as a variable package that would depend on the performance of the RTBF. Something which Françoise Bertieaux (MR), member of the parliament of the French Community, pointed out was based on no known criteria.

The revelation led to a scandal at the time, and Philippot was obliged to repay €60,000, and his remuneration was revised downwards.

A disciplinary proceeding was begun against the whistle-blower, and a dossier compiled that eventually ran to over 1,000 pages.

The matter came to a head this week, when the board of the broadcaster decided on a vote of ten to one with one abstention to dismiss the leaker.

The board is made up of four representatives of the PS, four MR, two Ecolo, two PTB and one CDH. The details of the breakdown of the vote are confidential. One board member was absent for the vote.

According to Le Vif magazine, the employee is preparing to appeal the dismissal before the Council of State, which has authority over all decisions of all levels of government and of public administrations.

Whistleblowing is usually defined as unauthorised disclosure or reporting of corporate information to people and media outside the organisation (external disclosure).  Whistleblowing, however, can also take place inside the organisation when for example an employee reports that wrong-doing or malpractice has occurred (internal disclosure).

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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