Government transport and environmental inspectors are under fire for their decision to give companies advance warning before they carry out inspections, the Volkskrant reports on Monday.
The ILT says the decision is based on its ‘client focus and efficiency’ but unions say it is absurd that inspectors work on the basis of trusting the companies themselves.
‘It sounds good but it is strategy based on poverty. There are 40,000 transport companies in the Netherlands and just a handful of inspectors,’ Edwin Atema of the FNV transport union told the Volkskrant.
‘Their job is to uphold the law. The bad guys will be very pleased with this,’ Atema said.
The decision to warn companies about impending inspections emerged this weekend via the whistleblowers website Publeaks, which was set up several Dutch newspapers last year.
The document states: ‘this choice services the client focus – we do not form an unexpected nuisance and a company can prepare for our visit – and boosts our efficiency. Inspectors will not have to wait for items or documents.’
The ILT inspects the taxi sector, companies which work with asbestos, housing corporations, waste disposal firms and transport companies.
Former professor and ministry inspector Ferdinand Mertens told the Volkskrant there are some advantages to the new strategy. ‘If you are looking for documents, you are better off saying what you want to see and when you are coming.’
However, that is not the case if you want to check how a company acts, he said. Mertens pointed out that the massive Chemie-Pack chemicals plant fire in Moerdijk several years ago showed how companies got round the law.
‘There were never any chemicals in the inner parts of the complex during an announced visit by the inspectors,’ Mertens said. ‘But when the inspectors were not around, the chemicals were there.’
Mertens points out that covenants between companies and officials have replaced inspections in many sectors.
The Publeaks documents state the current chief inspector Jenny Thunnissen is ‘obsessed’ with covenants and hopes to reduce firework sector inspections in 2015 because covenants are another option.
Transport unions say freight companies would welcome a covenant because it would make inspections much less frequent. This would have an impact on efforts to stop trucking companies using cheap, foreign drivers.
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