Nobody in the army was really surprised when the Patrouille des Glaciers sank into the maelstrom of a financial affair a few months ago: Instead of top sporting performances, the legendary ski touring race in the Valais Alps made a name for itself with scandalous payments.
The board of the support association for the implementation of the patrol (French abbreviation ASPDG) had generously made use of the association’s treasury. The five men could not be proven to have behaved in a criminally relevant manner. The income was morally questionable – more than 900,000 francs in two years – in any case.
Only: None of this came as a surprise. An audit by the army, which organizes the event, had already shown in 2017 that the cooperation with the support association could be problematic and warned of damage to the image of the federal government: “The fact is that a private association earns money with an army mission,” emphasizes the report in great clarity. In addition, members of the association are also active for the army. “This raises questions of independence and interests.” There is a need for action. Among other things, the authors of the report recommend sending an independent representative to the association who can keep an eye on the finances.
VBS was put off until later
So the army knew the risk that the association could get rich with public money – but still did practically nothing. Although she revised the agreement with the club a little. But not even these gentle adjustments could the army command enforce against the club’s board. This is evidenced by the minutes of the meeting, which SonntagsBlick – based on the principle of publicity – was able to inspect. In return, the five board members tried to put Commander Daniel Jolliet in a bad light: the chief of the patrol, who asked critical questions from the army.
Jolliet had insisted that the board stick to the agreements: According to the agreement, the club is obliged to present the army with a list of all sponsors who support the race. A list is to be handed out, from which the amount of the sponsorship money can be seen.
But the group of five never gave these documents to the Department of Defense (DDPS). Rather, the Valais succeeded in putting the DDPS off until later – and thus accepting an illegal situation.
No priority in taxpayers’ money
That is spicy, because the support association is obliged to transfer part of its profit to the army above a certain threshold. She is responsible for the occasion. But the careful handling of taxpayers’ money was, it seems, not at the top of the priority list of the DDPS.
Why the association’s board got through with his behavior and whether the army has now received the contracts remains open – the VBS is unable to answer these questions due to vacation absences.
At the same time, the support association shoots itself at the army commander. This is shown by notes from the Board of Management for the meeting on November 30, 2020.
According to the meeting notes, the board of the association accuses Commander Jolliet of lying. He lacks loyalty and integrity; in addition, he interferes inappropriately in the work of the association. It is unclear whether and how the representatives of the armed forces will react to these allegations: the DDPS did not produce its own minutes for the corresponding meeting.
Army representatives do not respond to allegations
At a later meeting on February 12, members of the ASPDG again raised the mood against the commanding officer. A board member complained that he had made direct contact with the patrol’s sponsors and suppliers. Later there is even talk of a “stab in the dagger” of the commandant against the club.
Jolliet receives little support from his colleagues, as the minutes show. Instead of contradicting the association’s board of directors, the army representatives ignore the allegations, which in some cases seem absurd.
Critical questions hardly to be feared
Defense Minister Viola Amherd’s (59) attempted liberation is more like a blow in the water: in mid-June, she announced that the army would end its cooperation with the support association. A foundation is to take over its tasks from 2024. Until then, a temporary solution will come into force in which Fabrice Favero, of all people, ex-president of the support association, will play a leading role – the man who received over 370,000 francs for just one expenditure.
Favero will be part of the steering committee. This in order to ensure the “best possible transition” for the organization of the patrol in 2022, as the canton of Valais announced.
Favero will hardly have to fear critical questions from the army. His opponent, Commander Daniel Jolliet, is no longer responsible for the patrol: a week ago he asked the federal government for a transfer.
According to the DDPS, this is due to “personal reasons”.