Mud fight continues in Salzburg

A bitter row between the conservative People’s party ÖVP and the social Democrats SPÖ in the regional parliament in Salzburg is continuing to interrupts the smooth running of government.

The row centres about responsibility for the investment of taxpayers money in risky financial investments and the possible loss of several hundred million euros.

In advance of a recent working group both sides sent out strongly worded press releases that caused a heated exchange that left little time for the regular work to take place.

Gerlinde Rogatsch  from the  ÖVP  criticised the statement by the Landeshauptfrau Gabi Burgstaller saying that the people’s party were making it difficult to get to the bottom of the scandal.

On the other side Roland Meisl  from the social Democrats criticised Landeshauptmann-Stellvertreter Wilfried Haslauer  with his role on the board at the Hypo-Bank.

Salzburger  political commentator Reinhard Heinisch  warned : “What is happening now is a mud fight. It was to be expected and as it is the period before the vote is unlikely to be a clear winner. Everybody is against everybody else and everyone is trying to cover themselves.”

Regional parliamentary president Simon Illmer (ÖVP) has criticised from his point of view the sloppy work carried out investigating exactly what happened in the Salzburg region’s financial scandal.

He said the fact that the search for the missing millions has not yet come up with a concrete result about what happened to the money is not believable by anybody . He was particularly aiming the criticism at the financial controller David Brenner (SPÖ) who is staying in office to oversee the investigation before stepping down later in the year.

He said that the investigation was going fast to slowly, adding: “For more than a month the regional parliaments and members of the public have been wanting to know about what is happening with the 400 million euros that was earmarked for residential development and what the potential cost to the area is from risky financial investments that we have been hearing around 340 million euros . Nobody believes that nothing is known about the question marks hanging over these matters. ”

He added: “Instead of chasing important documents that are already in Salzburg I want to see things made public about what is happening over the finance department’s research. This is a major problem for the region and that is why I want facts on the table.”

He was refering to the fact that a central government loan made to the regional government in Salzburg appears to have been used at least in part for risky financial investment.

It followed news that millions were invested on financial markets by an alleged rogue trader without the knowledge of her financial superiors.

A credit of 1.7 billion Euro granted by the federal financing agency (OeBFA) was reportedly  partly used for questionable financial investments. According to Austrian finance minister Maria Fekter of the Austrian Peoples Party (ÖVP) currently 400 million Euro are unaccounted for.

The missing millions were originally borrowed for use by the regional building fund. However, of the 1 billion Euro designated for the fund, only 600 million arrived and are accounted for.

The finance ministry now believes that the missing 400 million Euro have been used for questionable financial speculation, which would be illegal because money borrowed from the OeBFA must not be invested in securities. However, this would not be the first case of such transactions in Salzburg.

Markus Kumpfmüller, the responsible manager for risk assessment at the OeBFA, explained that it is neither the OeBFAs function to supervise the use of the borrowed money on the regional level nor to ask for securities in exchange for the debt.