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Moser rejects 'political show' claims

Gabriela Moser has denied that the parliamentary anti-corruption commission is nothing but a political show.

Several parliament members (MPs) – including Social Democrat (SPÖ) Hannes Jarolim, Werner Amon of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP), Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) MP Stefan Petzner and Greens MP Peter Pilz – are currently investigating alleged acts of corruption carried out by ex-government ministers, lobbyists and businesspeople. While some observers appreciate the panel’s work, others expressed doubts whether its activities would lead to anything of substance.

Now Moser – who heads the committee – has defended the procedures. The Green Party MP told the Kurier that the decision to allow the group to examine before state prosecutors finished their investigations was right. She made aware of the length of several corruption and bribery investigations which were still ongoing after having been kicked off years ago. Moser said that it would have become the privilege of "our grandchildren" to be informed whether there was any truth to the claims that ex-government members had been corrupt had the committee been kept from examining.

The parliamentary panel, which started interviewing suspects and potential witnesses of illicit business deals in January, will hold a brief break in summer before restarting its activities in autumn. Moser explained that the group of MPs planned to rest not as long as the federal parliament in summer to finalise its report as soon as possible. The panel is still looking into suspicious occurrences around Telekom Austria (TA) in which the state holds a stake of 28.4 per cent. The plan is to deal with a handful of other disputed topics later on. Asked whether the creation of the anti-corruption panel was little more than an accumulation of promotional manoeuvres by those involved, Moser claimed that "at last 90 per cent" of the commission’s activities were "serious".

ÖVP MP Dorothea Schittenhelm made headlines last week by suggesting to pull the plug on the panel in the near future. Schittenhelm argued that the commission should not deal with issues which prosecutors were looking into already. She claimed that such a move would guarantee a full clarification of all allegations. Her statements were branded by political rivals as attempts to drag the public’s attention away from accusations affecting former and active ÖVP officials.

ÖVP chief Michael Spindelegger supported Schittenhelm in this regard nevertheless. A poll by OGM reveals that almost six in 10 Austrians disagree with Schittenhelm and the vice chancellor. Around 58 per cent of interviewed people said the commission should not be forced to stop its activities. Only 26 per cent welcomed the idea, OGM announced on Sunday. Around three in 10 (31 per cent) of Austrians told the agency that the committee had done a good job so far. Forty per cent have a contradicting opinion, OGM found. The public opinion research group’s survey also shows that only nine per cent of Austrians think that the panel will manage to clarify all issues. A vast majority of 79 per cent told OGM they feared that the anti-corruption commission might be unable to do so.

Jarolim said yesterday that he agreed with fellow commission members to determine next December as a possible date of finishing all investigations. The SPÖ MP claimed that checking the various controversies for around one year was a reasonable decision. He said the panel must not be told to stop early. "We want to finalise our work in December 2012. I am convinced about being able to meet this deadline," he announced.

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