Reinier van Zutphen was today sworn in as the new National Ombudsman of the Netherlands by Anouchka van Miltenburg, President of the House of Representatives. In an initial reaction on taking up his new post Van Zutphen said: 'The government needs to be keenly aware of its influence on the everyday life of people.'
Van Zutphen will first take time to familiarise himself with the work of the National Ombudsman. 'But I’ve noticed that subjects and complaints come in automatically from members of the public, as in the case of the devolution of tasks from central government to municipal authorities,' he said. In mid-April the Ombudsman is organising a conference for members of municipal executives, mayors and aldermen on the handling of complaints by municipalities.
Other subjects currently requiring his attention include payment problems with the patient fundholding system in the care sector and the large number of complaints that the Ombudsman received last year about the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. Every one of these subjects impacts significantly on the day-to-day life of members of the public.
Van Zutphen (Wageningen, 1960) has very extensive experience having served as a judge in Utrecht, The Hague, Almelo, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Curaçao and Alkmaar. Other notable positions included chairing the Dutch Association for the Judiciary. From 2012 he was president of the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal. He brings all of this experience with him to his position as National Ombudsman: 'In my many years of experience as a judge, I’ve observed that if people, the public and also the government had listened more to each other they wouldn’t ultimately have needed a judge.' The House of Representatives voted on Van Zutphen’s appointment in February 2015. His six-year term of office starts today.
The National Ombudsman is an independent institute that receives more than 36,000 complaints each year from people who encounter problems with the government. After Alex Brenninkmeijer stepped down on 31 December 2013, Frank van Dooren served as interim National Ombudsman. Van Dooren retires on 1 April 2015.