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Eight district council members have broken the law

7 March 2008 - At least eight district council members have broken the law by voting on subsidies for organisations they are themselves involved in. This is the conclusion of Professor Hans van den Heuvel (Vrije Universiteit) in an article published in Openbaar Bestuur today.

It regards council members in Westerpark, Noord, Bos en Lommer, Zuidoost, ZuiderAmstel, Slotervaart and Osdorp. Further, 13 council members said they had participated in discussions about such decisions.

Van den Heuvel cannot judge whether their behaviour is ‘really wrong’, because his research provides no information on the nature of the decisions involving a conflict of interest. He further emphasises that it is unknown how often conflicts of interest occur among council members who did not participate in the study.

Van den Heuvel says that council members must be ‘transparent and incorruptible’. “Citizens must be able to judge whether council members are guided by the public interest rather than private interests. Discuss this issue! All Amsterdam district councils should periodically put this on the agenda. For other city councils this would be very refreshing as well”.

In order to improve transparency, Van den Heuvel advices district councils to check whether the lists of functions members have besides their council membership are complete. The study revealed that the lists are ‘fairly accurate’. An exception is Geuzenveld, where six out of eight respondents said the list was not accurate.

One hundred forty-three out of 322 district council members participated in the study. It was carried out in response to the subsidy controversy in Zuidoost. Three council members were thrown out of the PvdA party group last year after the Accounting Office had concluded that they had been involved in conflicts of interest involving personal gain. They were allowed to return after a study commissioned by the PvdA reached a milder conclusion.

Findings from an unpublished report of the Vrije Universiteit study were published in January.

Openbaar Bestuur. Photo Wikipedia / Bureau Monumenten en Archeologie


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