Tuesday 06 December 2022

Audit office warns new government on targets and special fund strategy

The entrance to the parliamentary complex. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Government auditors have criticised the new cabinet’s plans to put billions of euros into special funds which, they say, removes the spending from parliamentary scrutiny.

Unless MPs act, parliament will lose oversight of a large part of the government’s financial strategy, which would be ‘undemocratic and undesirable’, audit office president Arno Visser said in a letter to parliamentary chairwoman Vera Bergkamp.

The audit office has criticised the lack of government transparency in recent years, but says the situation is likely to become more complicated, now the cabinet plans to spend billions of euros via special funding systems.

These include a €25bn fund for reducing nitrogen based pollution and €35bn to tackle climate change. Once these funds have been set up, the plans they pay for are ‘no longer part of the annual process of authorisation and control of public spending by parliament,’ the audit office said.

MPs will be briefed about the spending but, Visser said, will have no opportunity to influence what it is spent on, and this is undesirable from the perspective of a democracy.

Concerns

Independent MP Pieter Omtzigt said he shares the audit office concerns. ‘The risk is that lobby groups will lay claim to the cash,’ he said. ‘Then it would be a question of those who shout loudest getting the money.’

‘In principle, such spending should always be put to parliament,’ he said.

The audit office has also called on the new government to set clear targets in all the policy areas where it talks of making progress.

Targets

The new cabinet plans to ‘combat climate change, improve the health service, boost public safety, combat organised crime, improve equal opportunities, lower taxes, deal with poverty and debt, improve education and innovation and improve the Netherlands as a place to do business,’ the audit office points out.

‘Organisation and information is crucial in this,’ Visser said. ‘This is why it is essential that ministers give clarity and make concrete how they are going to give parliament insight into the progress and realisation of the policies.’

Earlier this week, the CPB macro-economic think tank, said the government is assuming much of its spending on specific projects would be a one off, but this is unlikely to be the case in reality.

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