The National Ombudsman, Ombudsman for Children and Ombudsman for Veterans present their Annual Report 2020 (Dutch) to the newly elected House of Representatives today.
The report notes that dealings between government and the citizen are still beset by problems. This must change. The citizen deserves better. This is particularly true in the case of those who need extra assistance to avoid becoming marginalised: vulnerable children, veterans suffering from PTSD, people who have difficulty with reading and writing, young people with complex care needs, and business owners who face mounting debts due to the coronavirus crisis, for example. The Annual Report is therefore an urgent call to parliament: pass legislation that is straightforward, easy to understand and practical.
"The government exists to serve the citizen, not vice versa,” states National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen. “I have stressed this many times in recent years. Nevertheless, we still see too many failings in public sector service provision. We bring shortcomings to the attention of ministers, officials and the staff responsible, but we also maintain a dialogue with parliament. It is parliament that is responsible for the strength of public sector institutions. It is parliament that passes the relevant legislation, which must always be straightforward and practicable. Anything less fails not only the citizen but also the staff who must implement the rules. In future, the ombudsmen will engage parliament in discussions about our recommendations more often and at an earlier stage."
More of the same is not an option
The months and years ahead will bring several major challenges. Many people will continue to rely heavily on the government. They include business owners who have taken advantage of the generous coronavirus support measures. Some may soon face significant problems when they are required to repay loans or deferred tax obligations. These problems cannot be addressed as they were in the past: more of the same is not an option. The government must take a more sympathetic, flexible stance.
The recent childcare allowance scandal is a prime example of how government action can have disastrous consequences for the citizen. Acknowledgement of mistakes can be very slow in coming, as can a helping hand to put things right. Public confidence in government is under pressure. If that confidence is to be restored, the government must show itself to be reliable. It must earn the trust of the citizen. This is the interests of everyone in our country. The citizen deserves better.
Annual Magazine 2020
To coincide with the publication of the Annual Report, the three organisations have also produced the Annual Magazine 2020 (Dutch).