Senate committee criticises minister over Rey affair

A Swiss Senate committee on Tuesday criticised Communications Minister Moritz Leuenberger for lack of leadership in dealing with the case of former Postmaster-General Jean-Noel Rey, who resigned last year amid allegations of nepotism.

This content was published on June 22, 1999 - 17:46

The Swiss Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday criticised Communications Minister Moritz Leuenberger for lack of leadership in dealing with the case of former Postmaster-General Jean-Noel Rey(picture), who resigned last year amid allegations of mismanagement and nepotism.

The committee did not have to qualify the former postmaster-general's errors. Its job was simply to ascertain if the transport, energy and communications ministry had fulfilled its supervisory tasks as controlling body of the Post Office.

The committee looked at the three major allegations against Rey and assessed how the ministry had dealt with them.

In 1997, the designated new operations chief of the Post Office, Urs Haymoz, was found to be under investigation in Germany in connection with the bankruptcy of a company he had managed.

Haymoz was forced to resign before ever having taken up his job at the Post Office and he was given a golden handshake to the tune of SFr280,000.

At a time when the Post Office had to make job cuts, this payoff caused a storm amongst staff and received widespread coverage in the media.

It also led to questions for Rey from Communications Minister and fellow Social Democrat Leuenberger.

In its assessment, the Senate committe came to the conclusion that the ministry and its head had in this case reacted quickly, purposefully and with consequences.

However, as to the allegations of nepotism and the granting of a loan to a consultant before he had even done any work, the Senate said the ministry “lost its bite.”

Although Leuenberger and Rey are both Social Democrats, they have never been bosom friends. Party political allegations of protection were indeed made but Rey answered those by resigning and not standing as director of the newly-independent Post Office.

Leuenberger gave his views to the committee and supported the publication of its report. But he denied any personal shortcomings in the matter, such as lack of leadership.

Bruno Frick, a prominent Christian Democrat member of the Senate and one of the four members of the committee, said the minister made a political error.

Frick said Leuenberger’s error had not been a grave one – a bit like a car crash with no injuries and just bent fenders.

Rey himself was said to be reconsidering entering politics -- and he has yet to face charges relating to the SFr50,000 loan made to a consultant.

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