COFAG-U group: High-level final with a gap

However, content should be at the fore: Finance Minister Brunner will start – he will be available to answer questions on Wednesday morning. The minister will face questions about COFAG's “significantly overfunded capacity”. The Court of Auditors found this during an audit of the subsidiary between March 2020 and June 2021.

Additionally, a refund may be on the table. When questioned in March COFAG managing director Mark Schimpel was furious that the SPÖ CoV aid agency had not yet repaid 311 million euros. Brunner will also face this after being questioned as to why the minister did not pay.

Is there no alternative to installing COFAG?

After Brunner is questioned, we continue with his predecessor, Blümel. He was already threatened with an application for a fine at the Federal Administrative Court (BVwG), but eventually he agreed to answer the questions of the compulsions. It is quite possible that he is reminded of his “whatever” clause. Established on behalf of Blümel, the central focus will of course be on COFAG.

In its final report in autumn 2022, the Court of Auditors criticized the fact that preparations for the establishment were mostly carried out in the Cabinet. Blümel might also ask why the real administration and its expertise were called upon “selectively” (according to RH). He should also explain why the department is not using existing structures like Tax Offices or State Development Bank AWS instead of setting up a new settlement agency.

“Black Box” and “Self Service Shop”

Political criticism after the RH report on COFAG was enormous: the FPÖ spoke of a “black box” and a “money-sharing structure beyond any parliamentary control”. The SPÖ has a “self-service shop for turquoise lovers and advisers close to the VP”. NEOS described COFAG as a company that “forgot the future and recklessly threw billions of taxpayers' money out the window”.

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APA/Hans Punz

COFAG was established under the then Finance Minister Blümel

Gogler is also being investigated

After Blumel, Vice Chancellor Koegler will be investigated. NEOS recently accused COFAG of “cronyism” in management. Tenor: Greens urge Gove to fast-track a specific company's application for aid Kögler saw the case “in a different way” and spoke of a request due to allegations related to payment problems alleged by the SPÖ and NEOS.

Kogler's explanation did not satisfy NEOS at the time – this is a “completely” different case – questions are expected here. However, COFAG Executive Director Schimpel denied during the survey that there is a kind of “fastlane” when it comes to payment, no matter how important the applicant is. NEOS's critique of the COFAG occupation also said the aid agency was “disproportionately staffed between black and green.”

According to Schimmel, the former office manager of the Green Club, who is politically appointed, the second COFAG executive director, Ulrich Jafoschnick, must answer questionable questions for influential people. The former ÖVP state councilor was due to arrive on Thursday – but there was no promise until recently.

Benko is threatened with being cited

The only thing certain on Thursday is the arrival of a COFAG oversight committee headed by the Finance Ministry. René Benko was also invited to this day. He apologized for the second time on Wednesday, citing a court date in Innsbruck after it was canceled in early April. His lawyer again argued that his client did not know what he was legally charged with and therefore was not adequately prepared.

Signa-Holding-Gründer Rene Benko

APA/Helmut Fohringer

Benko has already canceled his meeting on Wednesday

If entrepreneurs do not attend the appointment of the third summons without sufficient justification, they want to submit an application for an official presentation, the SPÖ said: Benko is under a legal obligation to cooperate. However, the application to the Federal Administrative Court to impose a fine against entrepreneur Siegfried Wolf – he would have been summoned on Wednesday as well.

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