Prammer wants speedy TA investigations

Barbara Prammer has said exposed occurrences within Telekom Austria (TA) are “almost unbearable.”

The Social Democrat (SPÖ) is, as first president of the federal parliament, the highest political representative of Austria after President Heinz Fischer. Prammer appealed on prosecutors to present the results of their investigations as soon as possible. The Social Democrat also said today (Fri) she backed the idea to create a special parliamentary commission to investigate accusations against ex-TA chiefs and leading politicians. Lobbyists and former federal ministers of the People’s Party (ÖVP), the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) are suspected of pocketing hundreds of thousands of Euros in various takeovers and other activities by TA.

The Greens said a few days ago a special parliamentary committee must be formed instantly to shed light on the disputed activities of former TA managers and lawmakers. Austria’s other opposition parties, the FPÖ and the BZÖ, have not made clear whether they supported the Green Party’s suggestion. The Social Democrats and the conservative ÖVP angered the Greens by claiming creating a parliamentary commission would make little sense as long as investigations by state prosecutors continued.

Prammer explained today she was not accusing juridical authorities of working not quick enough. The former minister for women said prosecutors may lack resources to deliver results as fast as she wished them to. The first president of the federal parliament said she was convinced the scandals around TA seriously harmed the reputation of politics as a whole. “What are voters supposed to think of us?” she asked today. The SPÖ official emphasised it was of great importance to avoid investigations and possible court cases from lasting “10 to 15 years.”

Audit Office (RH) head Josef Moser said today he would appreciate if his institution was allowed to examine the issues that cast a shadow over TA in the recent weeks. Moser explained RH was currently not authorised to investigate anything to do with firms the Republic of Austria holds a stake of 25 per cent or more. Moser said such a change of laws was considered but never agreed upon. The ex-FPÖ whip said it was on politicians to decide over whether RH should receive the competences needed to check corruption and illegal financing of political parties allegations mentioned by the press in connection with TA.

Former FH President Franz Fiedler said yesterday there was no problem in setting up a special parliamentary commission to clarify the controversial occurrences at TA in his opinion. The head of the Austrian branch of globally operating anti-corruption group Transparency International (TI) – argued creating such a panel before prosecutors presented their final report was not a contradiction.

Austria holds an interest of 28.4 per cent stake in TA via ÖIAG, the Federal Industry-Holding Stock Cooperation. ÖIAG’s supervisory board held an extraordinary meeting in Vienna today to discuss its reactions and actions considering TA. Reports have it that ÖIAG – which is headed by Markus Beyrer – will assign a task force of international corruption experts to clarify allegedly illicit operations by TA chiefs.

Greens head Eva Glawischnig called on ÖVP official Wolfgang Schüssel to step down as member of the parliament (MP) in a reaction to the scandals that rocked the market-leading mobile services provider. Schüssel was chancellor in a coalition between his party and the FPÖ from 2000 to 2005 before his faction cooperated with the BZÖ until 2007.

The names of ex-ÖVP Interior Minister Ernst Strasser, former FPÖ Infrastructure Minister Mathias Reichhold and former BZÖ Vice Chancellor Hubert Gorbach have been mentioned by newspapers and magazines listing politicians who may have benefited financially from business activities of TA. Strasser refused to comment the accusations while Reichhold and Gorbach denied any involvement and wrongdoings. ÖVP Finance Minister Maria Fekter yesterday warned from accusing former TA managers and politicians before juridical authorities finished their examinations.

TA works council chiefs underlined today how important it was to solve the issues the company is entangled in quickly. The current situation is especially difficult for customers who deal with customers, staff representatives announced today.

TA is one of the most powerful phone and internet service providers in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The company has 16,000 staff and 21 million customers in nine countries. Its earnings before interest and taxes (Ebit) plunged by 85.8 per cent from the first half of 2010 to the same time span of this year to 42.7 million Euros. However, the turnover of the company headed by Hannes Ametsreiter improved by 2.9 per cent to nearly 2.23 billion Euros.