Belgian lawmakers were up in arms this week after being told that crucial repairs to crumbling road tunnels in traffic-clogged Brussels have been delayed because mice had eaten the original plans.
Teachers expect explanations like that from students who haven’t done their homework, but the parliamentarians reacted angrily as they face a repair bill exceeding $1bn in one of the most congested cities in the developed world.
"That’s not funny," said Green Party MEP, Bruno De Lille, during a meeting of a special committee responsible for investigating the sorry state of the tunnels in the capital. "How can you maintain the tunnels as there are no plans anymore?"
He was responding to Christian Debuysscher, former head of the Brussels infrastructure agency, who had been called in to give answers.
But the hungry-rodents story seems to stack up in a curious tale of ancient bureaucratic bungling.
According to Belgian news website Nieuwsblad.be, Debuysscher explained that when responsibility for the tunnels transferred from the federal government to the Brussels municipality in 1989, the new department had no offices and worked out of a hotel.
Lacking space to store all their documents, the harassed officials stored some of the archives in a cavity under the Reyer viaduct.
It was meant to be a purely temporary solution, but when the new department was finally allocated a permanent office, the documents under the bridge were forgotten and left behind.
Only 20 years later did anyone remember.
"By then the mice had gepeuzeld (gnawed) it," said Debuysscher.
The revelation came as traffic congestion in Brussels was made worse by the arrival of European Union leaders, plus their entourages and international media, as crunch talks ground on over Britain’s threats to leave the EU.
A spokesperson for Brussels Mobility, Inge Paemen, said that it would be possible to make new plans.
"But there creeps a lot of time," she said, according to Nieuwsblad.be. "We try to find the exact documents. We will also examine the plans used in previous work."
Top image via Roger McLassus/Wikimedia Commons