Prior to the Parliamentary committee of inquiry into Fraud Policy and Public Service there have been two previous inquiries into tackling fraud, and executive organisations. This parliamentary inquiry has been instigated in the light of these.
- In response to problems in executive organisations the Temporary research committee on executive organisations (TCU) was established in March 2020. This committee investigated the causes of the problems at various executive organisations such as the CBR (Central Office for Driving Licences), the Tax and Customs Administration and the UWV (Employment Benefits Agency), and the associated loss of the ‘human dimension’. The results were published in the final report Klem tussen balie en beleid (Caught between desk and policy).
- July 2020 also saw the setting up of the Parliamentary committee inquiry into Childcare Benefit (POK). This committee investigated the approach in tackling fraud in the case of the childcare benefit and concluded in its report entitled Ongekend onrecht (Unprecedented injustice) that the basic principles of the rule of law had been breached and many parents unjustly accused of fraud. In the light of this report, the third Rutte government stepped down.
These two inquiries raised new questions. Had some of the causes of the problems in executive organisations already been known about for a long time? What role did the House of Representatives play in the Childcare Benefit Scandal?
In a bid to answer these questions, the motion by Marijnissen et al. was brought on 10 February 2021, during the debate about the resignation of the third Rutte government. The motion called for a parliamentary inquiry into services, enforcement and anti-fraud activities in public services and highlighted the need for the reports from the previous inquiries also to be taken into account. As a result, this parliamentary committee of inquiry not only covers the Childcare Benefit Scandal but also all of the services, enforcement and anti-fraud activities in public services.
What will the committee be investigating?
The Parliamentary committee of inquiry into Fraud Policy and Public Service will investigate the government's approach to tackling fraud. The committee will also look at what went wrong in the service provided to the public and whether options were available to members of the public for objecting to government decisions. In order to investigate fraud policy, the committee will explore the role of the House of Representatives and the use of discriminatory risk profiles.
The main questions being addressed by the inquiry are:
- How can it be that the government’s anti-fraud approach has resulted in a substandard service for members of the public and a substandard safeguarding of their legal rights?
- What role did the actors involved play in the development and execution of this fraud policy and what lessons can be drawn in order to ensure everyone can have confidence in fair treatment by the government?
The purpose of the inquiry
The purpose of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Fraud Policy and Public Service is to gain insight into the government’s fraud policy and form a judgement about it. It will focus on the way in which the government combats fraud and how it failed in its public service and in safeguarding the legal rights of the public. The committee of inquiry will investigate how the policy came about and also explore how it is executed in practice. Particular attention will be paid to the role played by the House of Representatives, the use of discriminatory risk profiling and the sharing of information and data. The committee of inquiry will draw lessons for the future. The guiding framework is that everyone must be able to have confidence in fair treatment by government.
Structure of the inquiry
The first phase of the inquiry is in two parts:
1. Contextual analysis. The first part of the inquiry will focus on the development of fraud policy over the last thirty years. In order to investigate this period, the committee will look at discussions in society on the subject of fraud over the last thirty years and how fraud policy has developed since the 1990s. The committee will also conduct desk research in order to obtain information that has not previously been available to the public. For this purpose, it will requisition information and documents.
2. More detailed investigation. The second part of the inquiry will focus on the practical execution, through a more detailed investigation into the working methods of the Tax and Customs Administration, the UWV Employment Benefits Agency and the Information Office (Inlichtingenbureau).
This will be followed by the private preparatory interviews and public hearings, which will culminate in the final report.
Immediately after its establishment, the committee will begin requisitioning written information and documents from the organisations and bodies concerned. It will use this material to conduct more in-depth investigations. The committee will also see to it that contextual analysis is conducted.
It will then hold preparatory interviews with experts and witnesses behind closed doors in order to gather additional information and assess its preliminary findings. These preparatory interviews are scheduled for November 2022. The public hearings are expected to start in the spring of 2023. In the autumn of 2023, the committee of inquiry will present its final report to the House of Representatives.
What is a parliamentary inquiry?
A parliamentary inquiry is the most powerful instrument the House of Representatives has at its disposal if it wants to conduct its own investigation into a certain issue. It allows the House of Representatives to requisition written information, files and records from the organisations concerned and to hear witnesses and experts under oath. Anyone who is summoned by the committee is required to appear.
How is the inquiry prepared?
On 11 February 2021, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted the motion brought by Marijnissen et al., expressing the desirability of holding a parliamentary inquiry into the services, enforcement and anti-fraud activities in public services. The Temporary committee of inquiry into Fraud Policy and Public Service was formed on 8 July 2021 for the purpose of preparing this inquiry. Its remit was to provide the House of Representatives with a proposal on the form that the investigation should take.
The proposal for the inquiry was presented to the House on 27 January 2022 and passed by it on 1 February. The committee of inquiry will conduct its investigation according to this proposal.