District council members distrust minority colleagues
1 July 2007 - The subsidy affair in Zuidoost
has a negative impact on the image of ethnic minority council members.
Many district council members think that their minority colleagues
apply less stringent norms when it regards potential conflicts of
interest. There is support for a stricter code of conduct.
is the outcome of a survey carried out by News from Amsterdam, in
which 43 district council members participated.
In response to reports on conflicts of interest in Zuidoost politics,
the Integrity Office (BI) stated last Thursday that some ethnic
minority council members apply more stringent norms.
“They indicate that they refuse dual functions, avoid close
contacts and impose restrictions on themselves when it regards networking.
They do so, they say, because they fear creating the semblance of
a conflict of interest sooner than their Dutch origin colleagues”,
News from Amsterdam asked district council members whether they
have the impression that their ethnic minority colleagues deal with
potential conflicts of interest in a different manner. Rita Mungra
confirms the BI’s conclusions. Ethnic minority council members
have to be even more careful: “Everything is meticulously
considered to avoid unpleasant situations”.
However, almost half the respondents (19) think ethnic minority
district council members apply less stringent norms than their Dutch
The negative opinion of ethnic minority council members has much
to do with the reports from Zuidoost. For example, Emile Jaensch
(VVD, Oud-Zuid) has
the impression that ethnic minority council members apply less stringent
norms, but he explains: “I do not know of any instances among
the people I know. I get this impression from the report on Zuidoost”.
Erna Berends (SP,
Noord) also thinks that ethnic minority council members apply less
stringent norms, “not based on my own experience, but because
of what happened in Zuidoost”. Degi ter Haar (D66,
de Baarsjes) thinks that there is a difference as well, but adds
that ethnic minority council members in his district have a ‘stainless
Tanja van Nieuwenhoven (PvdA, ZuiderAmstel) thinks there is no
difference. “What happened in Zuidoost may well reflect this
particular district and need not say anything about how ethnic minority
council members in general deal with potential conflicts of interest”.
Coos Hoebe (GroenLinks,
de Baarsjes) agrees.
Mart van de Wiel (OZO, Zuidoost) states that it is a matter of
culture rather than ethnicity. “Someone from Limburg, raised
with the political culture of the pillarisation and using ‘catholic
networks’, will be influenced in his behaviour as well”.
Working with district council members from Zuidoost, BI has developed
a proposal for a new code of conduct. It says that council members
may not serve on the board or management of subsidised institutions,
and that they may not contact civil servants or aldermen directly
on the provision of a subsidy.
Regarding potential conflicts of interest, the Accounting Office
proposes an even more stringent norm. Council members should preferably
not have any position at all in institutions that may receive subsidy,
not even as a volunteer or ‘regular’ employee.
Among the council members who responded to the News from Amsterdam
questionnaire, there is broad support for the BI code, although
5 respondents believe it to be too strict. Thirty-three respondents
have the impression that most members of their district council
already observe the rules proposed by the BI.
Opinions are divided on the Accounting Office’s norms. A
substantial group (17 respondents) believes these are too strict.
A few respondents find they are not strict enough.
Some hold that it need be no problem if council members have a
position in a subsidised institution, provided they deal with this
in a transparent manner.
Michèl Tromp (VVD, Geuzenveld): “I think the rules
are fine, but I fail to see why a council member should not be allowed
to have a position in a foundation or company that receives subsidy,
if you refrain from influencing council decision-making and from
voting. The motivation does not convince me”.
Others believe that it is going too far to prohibit council members
contacting aldermen or civil servants on subsidies. “It makes
a very bureaucratic impression if everything is referred, and the
administrative processes are often very slow”, says Wanda
Pelt (GroenLinks, ZuiderAmstel).
Jeroen van Brederode (D66, Westerpark) also objects. “I think
that it is characteristic of the situation in Zuidoost that there
are so many clubs that want subsidies. And a PvdA that favours all
these clubs. Perhaps the proposed code of conduct is needed in Zuidoost,
where the provision of subsidies seems to have gotten out of hand
years ago. For most districts, it is going way too far”.
However, a few district council members report that occasionally
things go wrong in their districts as well. Erna Berends (SP, Noord)
says that a fellow council member suggested to commission research
from an organisation where her son is employed.
See also Zuidoost: ‘no
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