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Amsterdam lax on integrity

30 August 2008 - Amsterdam is relatively lax on corruption and conflicts of interest, an international study found. Het Parool recently reported that various city council members have connections with organisations that receive subsidies from the municipality.

Amsterdam is the only Dutch municipality to have an Integrity Office (BI), but the institution has very limited powers, according to the Local Integrity Systems study quoted by het Parool and NRC Handelsblad.

The BI's activities are largely limited to prevention and seldom result in prosecutions. Further, its budget is being cut. Civil servants seldom report corruption and whistle blowers are not uniformly protected.

The study quotes an anonymous municipal manager who says that it is difficult to punish corrupt civil servants when politicians are seen to be bending the rules.

In 2007, the Accounting Office published a study that found that a number of Zuidoost district council members had personally gained from their connections with subsidised organisations. Initially there was an outcry, but eventually the council members were allowed to stay on.

On 20 August, het Parool reported that quite a few city council members also have connections with subsidised organisations.

For example, Ruud Nederveen (VVD) is a board member of the theatre group Dood Paard, which has applied for a subsidy out of the Arts Plan. Nederveen is also a member of the city council's Culture Committee and his party's spokesperson on this topic.

He told het Parool that he may make a statement that he is to be considered not to have voted on the Dood Paard subsidy when the Arts Plan is put to a vote. He said that he saw no reason to withdraw as culture spokesperson.

Two months ago, Anne Graumans (PvdA, photo) argued that the BI should screen all positions held by council members.

"Almost no one dares raise this issue with each other", she told Het Parool at the time. "It's a personal consideration, but that's not good enough for Amsterdammers".

Source: Addie Schulte (Het Parool); Jos Verlaan (NRC Handelsblad)


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