The report of Audit Flanders on possible irregularities in the then board of directors of the VRT has indeed exposed pain points in the operation of some departments of the public broadcaster. It cites examples where procedures and rules have been circumvented or not respected in recent years. The VRT promises measures.
Rewind for a moment: in February it became known that Audit Flanders, the agency that scrutinizes the Flemish administration, had started an audit of several contracts at the VRT. The investigation examined whether or not there were irregularities. It was also examined whether matters went wrong in terms of integrity and deontology. Some newspapers wrote that it was about the contract with production house De People (known for “Blokken” and the programs of Tom Waes, among others) or the contract between the public broadcaster and an art director.
Peter Claes, the former director of Media and Production, was then responsible for those contracts. Claes himself left the public broadcaster in February after a protracted conflict between him and the rest of the management.
The VRT announced on Friday that the report of Audit Flanders does indeed reveal pain points in the operation of some departments of the broadcaster. “It cites a number of examples in which the procedures and rules have been circumvented or simply not respected in recent years. At the very least, this creates the impression of inadequate organizational control and insufficient sense of integrity among certain employees, ”it says.
Rules, laws, deontology
The public broadcaster emphasizes that it takes the recommendations from the report to heart to ensure better respect for the law on public procurement, to make contract management sound and to sharpen integrity awareness. “The public broadcaster must be free from any suspicion and set an example in respecting laws, regulations and deontology,” explains CEO Frederik Delaplace. “We not only want to make the best programs, but also be a responsible media company that handles the Flemish money carefully.”
Delaplace emphasizes that from now on there is a zero tolerance for non-compliance with the rules and for any lack of integrity. “Checks on correct compliance with rules and ethics will be strengthened with immediate effect.”
In recent months, the broadcaster has already taken a series of measures to increase organizational control, such as “a clear and stricter financial delegation arrangement”.
The VRT remains determined to manage the public funds made available to it with due diligence. “Business and efficient management is also possible and necessary in a creative company. That is the firm belief of myself and the current management. The recommendations of Audit Flanders will help us to act on this ”, says Delaplace.
Minister wants recommendations to be implemented
According to the public broadcaster, it is making every effort to ensure the proper and correct operation of the broadcaster after last year’s turbulent passage. The current executive board has expressed its support for a plan to make the VRT “a prime example in respecting laws and deontology”.
The broadcaster says it will cooperate constructively in the further follow-up of the investigation. Because it concerns competition and privacy sensitive information, the VRT does not want to disclose further details about the report.
Minister of Media Benjamin Dalle has taken note of the conclusions of the forensic investigation that Audit Flanders conducted at the VRT. The minister has been in contact with the new managing director of the VRT, Frederik Delaplace. The minister insists that the recommendations are implemented and that this is included in the management agreement.
Flemish MP Katia Segers (sp.a) for her part is concerned about the audit, it sounds. “The public broadcaster must be a model of good governance and show more transparency,” says Segers Friday evening.
She expects more transparency from the VRT. “The broadcaster has to learn from the past. And the VRT must convince the Flemish through parliament that it is spending the tax money correctly. ”