Senate starts investigation into effect of privatisation policy

The senate, or upper house parliament, on Monday begins a parliamentary inquiry into the effect of privatising government services in the 1990s.


The commission charged with leading the inquiry has already carried out preliminary inquiries into four aspects of government policy, which the Volkskrant summarises on Monday.
For example, the energy sector, which used to be in the hands of local and regional government, has now been put at arms length and some companies have been sold to foreign firms, such as Nuon and Essent.
Transparency
The paper says this has led to greater transparency but also more confusion, particularly as customers now have to deal with separate energy providers and transport firms. In addition, salaries and bonuses for senior staff have become a major issue and service is not always customer friendly, the paper says.
The Dutch railway system is still 100% state owned but split into two companies: NS for passenger services and ProRail for the infrastructure.
Although private firms do now operate services on a few routes, the railway system itself has been damaged by the animosity between NS and ProRail, leading the NS chief to call for the two companies to be merged again, the paper points out.
Bonuses
The KPN telecoms and post office group was fully privatised in 1988 and while prices have effectively gone down, customer service has suffered, the Volkskrant says. At the same time, both KPN and PostNL have gone through a number of reorganisations, leading to thousands of job losses.
Last year, PostNL chief executive Peter Bakker got a €5.4m leaving bonus while sacking thousands of staff, the paper says.
The final area of special focus was the workplace reintegration projects run by the state benefit office UWV. Complaints doubled between 1999 and 2004, there were major rows about luxurious offices and one part of the operation, Kliq, went bankrupt almost as soon as it was put at arms length.