Civil servants ‘promised immunity from disciplinary action’ over childcare scandal
Civil servants at the centre of the tax office child benefit scandal were offered guarantees that they would not be disciplined if they co-operated with an internal inquiry, according to RTL Nieuws.
The former head of the tax office, Jaap Uijlenbroek, agreed to the terms proposed by three senior employees in the department handling suspected fraud by people claiming tax credits for childcare.
Thousands of parents were wrongly accused and forced to pay back their benefits with no right to appeal. The tax office admitted earlier this month that 11,000 people were subjected to extra scrutiny because they had dual nationality.
Uijlenbroek drafted a memo after talking to the three staff members involved stating that ‘no culpable actions’ had been committed by individual civil servants and anything they disclosed to the inquiry by internal auditors would be kept out of their personnel files.
However, the secretary-general at the finance ministry, who is in charge of the ministry’s civil service team, sent the memo back to Uijlenbroek with a note saying that ‘administrative crimes cannot be excluded in advance’.
Uijlenbroek left his post in January, a month after junior finance minister Menno Snel resigned over his handling of the scandal. Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra was reported to have withdrawn his confidence in Uijlenbroek when he took over Snel’s responsibilities.
The two ministers appointed to replace Snel, Hans Vijlbrief and Alexandra van Huffelen, have taken a dramatically different approach to civil service misconduct. Last week they asked the public prosecution department to investigate whether tax officials should be charged with systematic discrimination and extortion.
Meanwhile, several parents who were wrongly accused of fraud said they had been told they would receive no compensation even though the cabinet has set aside a €500 million for affected families.
The tax office is sending out letters this week to the first 10,000 families giving details of the compensation scheme.
Angela Sanches, a 40-year-old mother of two from Rotterdam, said she had already been contacted by a tax service official who said she was not eligible because she was not included in one of the test cases being brought against the CAF teams that dealt with suspected fraud.
Sanches accused civil servants of ‘playing games’ because she had previously been advised to have her case reviewed individually rather than join a CAF action. She was left with €100,000 of debts after the tax office held her liable for benefits that were fraudulently claimed by her childcare provider.
‘I was told that I wasn’t classed as a so-called CAF case, but in the ‘self-claim’ group. That means I get no compensation, nothing,’ she told NOS.
‘At the time the tax office asked me to register as a victim so my file could be reviewed. Now that’s being seized on as the reason why I’m not in a CAF case. No I have to prove it all again, it’s exhausting.’
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