Minor government errors have a major impact on the man in the street

Minor mistakes by government officials can end up having a major impact on ordinary people’s lives, the national audit office says in a new report on Wednesday.

A small error in someone’s name or address can have a tremendous knock-on effect which takes considerable effort to solve, the auditor says in the report.

For example, it quotes a woman who registered the death of her grandmother abroad and ended up being listed as dead herself. In another case, a man was plagued by fines for his stolen motorbike.

And a family from Woerden were mistakenly registered as having emigrated. They lost various benefits and ended up in serious financial difficulty, the auditor says.

In addition, the switch to digital files is making the problem worse, the auditor says. A mistake in an address can be taken over by various other organisations, such as the tax office, student loan service and water boards.

In order to make rectifying problems as easy as possible, there needs to be a central place to register any errors, the auditor says.

This could, for example, be done via the national ombudsman who is often a last resort for worried people trying to cope with official errors.

In total, five government ministries and hundreds of other bodies are involved in registering people’s information, the auditor says.

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