Auditor criticises vague government targets

Many of the 76 targets the government set out in its ‘working together, living together’ manifesto are too vague or impossible to achieve, the national audit office said in its report on the government’s first year in office.

Terms such as ‘reducing crime by 25% by 2010’ were meaningless because the way the statistics were calculated had been changed, the NRC reports the audit office as saying. Government policy was being sold by rhetoric and the excuse ‘I cannot be more specific’ used too often, one audit office member told the paper.
Nevertheless, according to the Volkskrant, 99% of the €195bn ministries spent over the past year had been spent in line with the proper procedures, although a number of improvements still need to be made.
For example, the payment of child, housing and health subsidies has not yet been sorted out after three years of problems. In addition, projects costing €188m had not been put out to tender as required by EU regulations, and there was still not enough clarity about the cost of the royal family to tax payers.
The third Wednesday in May is traditionally known as accountability day because ministers are called to account for their actions over the past year.
At a news conference, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende attacked the shift towards negativism and cynicism. The Netherlands suffers from negative self-image, Balkenende said. But compared with other countries, unemployment is low and progress is being made on improving social cohesion, he added.
And finance minister Wouter Bos admitted that 2008 was a difficult year for the government because it had been forced to take unpopular measures, like increase taxes.

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