European Diary, 24.9.2020: Minister of Finance Gernot Blümel takes the chance. The Viennese election campaign is more important anyway than the emergency aid for the suffering economy. And since the distribution of this aid is not very smooth anyway, it is good to have a scapegoat for it: Brussels.
And the EU Commission would have every reason to put the stick in Austria’s craw more clearly than it does. At the moment, constructions are flourishing that promote corruption – or at least “friendly services” – in an almost systematic manner.
Instead of regulating the disbursement of 15 billion in aid money for companies through the tax office, and thus under public control by parliament and the Court of Auditors, the federal government has set up a “Covid-19 Financing Agency” as a limited liability company. Cofag is intended to support the ailing economy with fixed cost subsidies and bridging guarantees and is financially positioned accordingly by the federal government. “In accordance with § 6a para. 2 ABBAG Act, the Federal Government will equip COFAG in such a way that it is in a position to provide capital and liquidity support measures assigned to it under § 2 para. 2 no. 7 ABBAG Act up to a maximum amount of 15 billion Euro and to meet its financial obligations”. The advantage of this construction is obvious: a GesmbH is after all not obliged to provide information to parliament.
Florian Scheuba has a biting comment on this in the newspaper Standard: “Not only members of the opposition can thus no longer annoy with annoying questions such as ‘Who gets how much tax money and why?’ Applicants can also save themselves the request for justification as to why their auxiliary request is rejected, because Cofag advisory board members are bound to secrecy. Is the Court of Auditors the last hope? No, because even its requests for accompanying control can be rejected by the agency with a hearty ‘Cofag yourself’. Here, then, an opaque darkroom is being created for future wrangling. The latest events surrounding an 800,000 Euro contract between Cofag and a PR agency, which was initially kept secret, provide an idea of how dark it will be. “The money does not flow into our own PR, but rather into the support of our homepage or the answering of media questions,” says Cofag Managing Director Bernhard Perner.
Let’s see how many media inquiries there will be – in view of the well-known critical press landscape in Austria.