The Board of Directors of the Greater Fu Council released its report Friday on the Beaulieu Corporation disaster. He concludes that the cantonal funds, approximately 70 million francs, were used correctly. On the other hand, it emphasizes an ambiguous judgment.
“As far as we know, there has been no scandal or misappropriation of cantonal funds,” explained Keystone-ATS Monique Reeve, Chairman of the Management Committee (COGES). The appropriations of 30 million (1999) and 36.8 million francs (2009) were used in connection with Beaulieu, a historic fair and congress site in Lausanne, she says.
The Grand Council approved these two amounts. A capital endowment of 30 million was used in 1999 to pay off the debts of the Beaulieu Co-operative, but the Beaulieu Foundation (FdB) then did not find the ability to fund the necessary new investments. 36.8 million were used in 2009 to rebuild Halles Sud, COGES attests.
CEP rejected in 2020
COGES’s investigative work follows Vaud’s refusal to set up a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (CEP) in September 2020. COGES’s mandate relates only to the use of cantonal appropriations in this case.
After paying off the debt, the FdB has not yet found “the ability to fund necessary new investments,” but the COGES report notes. As for the 36.8 million, they “were part of a $100 million investment strategy, which did not materialize, which also provided for the renovation of the north halls and heavy maintenance work for the main building,” he adds.
The dilapidated condition of the site and the workload were also underestimated, the report continues. COGES was also surprised by the lack of an inventory of the buildings at the time of the acquisition from the Beaulieu Co-operative by the FdB that followed.
Complex and mixed governance
In the end, the report points an accusing finger at clearly “opaque” and “improvable” governance. Beaulieu’s strategic vision was based on a “very positive and overly optimistic” business model in terms of holding fairs, conferences, events and exhibitions, “so all economic indicators showed a decline in attendance,” notes Ms. Reeve.
The Council of the Foundation’s (CdF) questioning has been so belated that it is struggling to rethink the economic model, COGES wrote.
The failure of the Taoua Tower project in 2014 also led to a strategic reorientation towards more diversification of activities and actors, “but the structure and governance of CdF were not adapted to the new tasks that would arise. FdB, which went from the real estate operator to the operator responsible for hosting, was allocated events.
Here, COGES condemns the “complex and mixed” governance between the authorities of the city of Lausanne and the canton of Vaud that has shown all their limits, paralyzed decision-making and explained an opaque management, summarizes the report.
No one dared to pull out the Comptoir Suisse
Each party has transferred responsibility for the future of the site, a view of both the city and the canton. COGES wrote: “No authority has dared to take responsibility for the most drastic measure, that of ‘pulling the fist of Beaulieu’, guaranteed by the Comptoir suisse.
This is also due to “the complexity and transparency of the accounts as well as the regulation put in place by the Secretary-General at the time, which limits monitoring by CdF representatives”. However, she believes they could have been “more insistent and persistent in their demands,” noting in passing that “some ambiguity” also prevailed regarding the interactions between the state and its CdF representatives.
The lack of curiosity that can also be attributed to the auditors, the same from 1999 to 2017, which despite the situation, found no violation, defies the report.
As a reminder, a criminal investigation against the former Secretary General of the Federal Development Bank (2001-2017), which was initially approved, was reopened in the spring of 2020 at the request of the Cantonal Court to decide on a possible fraud case. He faces many suspicions: over-billing, obfuscation of accounts or authorizations given to relatives without invitations to bid.
Today, the city of Lausanne has acquired exclusively the Beaulieu site, with the creation of a public limited company, and thus FdB has been dissolved.