Wallonia Parliament's Office reshuffles after Dubai expenses scandal

Wallonia Parliament's Office reshuffles after Dubai expenses scandal
MR's Rachel Sobry pictured during a plenary session of the Walloon Parliament in Namur, Wednesday 18 May 2022. BELGA PHOTO BRUNO FAHY

The Office of Wallonia's Parliament is undergoing a reshuffle after a recent expense scandal caused some of its most senior figures to quit their roles.

After the exit of Mouvement Réformateur (MR) MPs Jacqueline Galant and Sybille de Coster-Bauchau, the liberal party will again be represented by two women: Sabine Laruelle and Rachel Sobry. Laruelle has become a major figure in the regional parliament after working as federal minister, particularly for her work on overseeing an inquiry into the floods that devastated parts of Belgium in 2021. Rachel Sobry is at 29 the youngest MP in Wallonia.

The reshuffle comes after two members of the Office of Wallonia's Parliament – Parliament's President Jean-Claude Marcourt (PS) nor the clerk, Frédéric Janssens, – travelled to the World Exhibition in Dubai on a luxury trip that included business class flights, a guide for over €3,000 and came to a total cost estimated at €19,000 for the four-day trip, according to documents obtained by Le Soir.

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Other members of the Office of the Parliament- Sophie Pécriaux (PS), Jacqueline Galant (MR), Sybille de Coster-Bauchau (MR) and Manu Disabato (Ecolo) were meant to go as well, with a budget of €6,600 approved for each person. However, they decided against going withdrawing their approval for the trip.

The Office of Wallonia's Parliament has five seats, two of which will go to the Socialist Party (PS), two to MR and one to the French-speaking Greens (Ecolo). Olivier Biérin from Liège will represent Ecolo.

New representation

PTB and les Engagés stressed that the representatives of the major parties would have to be replaced by new MPs as a condition for them to enter office.

MR President Georges-Louis Bouchez stressed that he maintained confidence in Jacqueline Galant and Syblille de Coster-Bauchau, the outgoing MR vice-president and secretary.

However, after considering a range of possibilities and potential MP swaps, MR announced that Laruelle and Sobry would take office. When it was clear that the Parliament's Office would be renewed, PTB confirmed that their choice for the Office is Verviers MP Laszlo Schonvrodt.

On Monday, PS leader Paul Magnette chose his colleague and MP André Frédéric to chair Wallonia's Government. He will start his new role on Wednesday after president of the parliament Jean-Claude Marcourt quit his post.

The other new members of the Office will also be sworn in on Wednesday morning.

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