Monday 22 July 2019

Senators to get code of conduct to head off conflicts of interest

Senators in the upper house of the Dutch parliament are to get a code of conduct for the first time, which will govern how they work with lobbyists, the work they do outside the senate and how to deal with gifts.

The rules have been drawn up partly following pressure from the Council of Europe, and partly due to several high-profile conflicts of interest affecting the 75 members of the upper house.

The commission which drew up the rules says it has taken the specific circumstances of the senate into account. The job is not a full-time position and most senators have other paid employment.

Last year, two VVD senators, Loek Hermans and Anne-Wil Duthler, were implicated in conflict of interest cases. Hermans resigned from the upper house over his role at healthcare organisation Meavita, which went bankrupt in 2009, while Duthler was criticised for using her own advisory agency to analyse a bill that she voted on.

Another conflict of interest case involved the PvdA’s Senate group leader, Marleen Barth, who stepped down after it emerged she had tried to secure a rent reduction for her husband, former Wassenaar mayor Jan Hoekema, when he stayed on in the mayor’s residence after leaving office.

Although the Netherlands ranks among the least corrupt nations in the world, taking eighth place on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, there are concerns about the lack of formalised integrity rules in parliament.

The European council’s anti-corruption unit Greco published a report last year criticising the lack of oversight, citing the row over Alexander Pechtold’s inheritance of an apartment in Scheveningen from a foreign diplomat. Pechtold was not obliged to declare the €135,000 property in the MPs’ register of gifts.

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