Most departing ministers will keep two taxpayer-funded staff members
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Most departing ministers will keep two taxpayer-funded staff members

Koen Geens will retain an archivist and someone to follow up on his legislative work. © Belga

A majority of those ministers who lost their post in the creation of a new government under Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) are planning to take up the option of retaining two staff members paid by the state, De Standaard reports.

The years-long tradition continues despite repeated promises of reform, and a resolution proposed by eight parties which was passed by the parliament in 2017.

The system means that any person leaving a ministerial or secretary of state post, regardless of how long they were in office, may retain the services of two members of their staff, employed full time for the remaining duration of the term of government, and paid from the public purse.

And there is no restriction on how those staff members are employed, whether as private chauffeur, party worker or campaigner.

The ministers in the government led by Sophie Wilmès were members of MR (eight posts), CD&V (three) and Open VLD (three). Of those, three continue in government: De Croo, Wilmès and David Clarinval (MR). The other 11 former ministers are eligible for the two staff members.

Among them, De Standaard reveals, former foreign affairs minister Philippe Goffin (MR) and mobility minister François Bellot (MR) will keep on two staff to help with parliamentary work. Pensions minister Daniel Bacquelaine intends to keep on his two ministerial drivers. And small business minister Denis Ducarme (MR) keep two members of his staff for charitable reasons.
“These are people who would otherwise lose their jobs,” he told the paper.

Former health minister Maggie De Block (Open VLD) keep two members of staff, her private secretary and a staff member seconded from the federal health institute Sciensano.

Koen Geens (CD&V), former justice minister, retains two people, one to organise his archives and the other to follow up on his legislative work.

This is not about a chauffeur,” he said. “I can drive myself.”

Two ex-ministers, Philippe De Backer (Open VLD) and Marie Christine Marghem (MR), said they have not yet made a decision. Home affairs minister Pieter De Crem and labour minister Nathalie Muylle (both CD&V) were not available for comment.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times