The Home for Whistle-blowers turns out to be a trap

Paul van Buitenen

Staff- and money-devouring

The Home for Whistle-blowers (Huis voor Klokkenluiders) has gone through 10 board members, 3 directors, 20 officers and approximately €10 million since it was founded on July 1st, 2016. This institution is completely ineffective and – similarly to several of its predecessors – does not play any significant role in the world of whistleblowing. Due to its lack of results, trust in the Home is completely absent among whistle-blowers. The fact that the Home has put forward plans to become an official “authority” and that these plans have not been met with any opposition is, based on the reality of its poor results, rather embarrassing.

The Senior Civil Service

Disturbing in this case are the appointments of directors and board members – jointly decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Senior Civil Service – who did not possess the necessary professional qualifications. They did however display a particularly bad professional attitude and only cared for their personal (professional) position. Several showed demonstrable corruption by neutralising the informers and their reports on the professional wrongdoings that truly mattered. They were often supported by officials who actively contributed to this behaviour or deliberately looked the other way in order to evade any kind of responsibility

Elimination of reporters

The few employees who, after a long period of malfunctioning by the Home, saw through the mechanisms and had the rare audacity to intervene, have now left. Either by choice or by force.

Apart from an internal report on abuses within the Home – submitted by a now fired employee – three members of the advice department stepped down. They wrote the following on the Ruys Report’s unimplemented recommendations:

“The Board of Directors of the Home deliberately fails to implement the recommendations of the Ruys report. The Home does not have the required knowledge and experience, and shows an inappropriate attitude towards whistle-blowers. Lack of insight into the situation of whistle-blowers leads to such abysmal decisions that the Home loses every right to exist. The Board of Directors refuses to tackle these issues. This way we can no longer provide advice in good faith to whistle-blowers. We have decided to seek other work, outside the Home.”

Inbreeding at the Ministry for Justice

This week there were several debatable appointments of former managers from the failing Home for Whistle-blowers. They are now going to evaluate reporters of abuses and their reports within, of all places, the Ministry of Justice.

The Home is a typical administrative body filled with people from the General Administration Service. They regard the exposure of abuses and corruption as an undesirable phenomenon that must be suppressed. Truth and the public interest are unwanted accessories. Self-reflection and criticism are absent and abuses are a part of the Home’s daily operations. These are the people who are now going to put their stamp on the Ministry of Justice.

What does the Home do with the Ombudsman’s advice?

· The current chairman, Wilbert Tomesen, wants to upgrade the Home to a knowledge institute. This is not in line with the most important recommendation from the Ruys report: “it must be a Home for whistle-blowers”.

· The advisory function and support for whistle-blowers is being dismantled and “externalised”. The Home’s budget decreases while its core tasks are diminished.

· Only those cases that have been submitted after January 1st, 2019 will be… All other cases will be handled externally. The Home does not want to recognise “systematic failing mechanisms”.

· Contrary to the recommendations from the Ruys report, there are no requirements for the professional attitude and demonstrable results for directors and managers, nor are there any requirements for relevant professional qualifications for employees.

· It is realistic and reasonable that output criteria should be defined after years of poor performance. No such criteria has been formulated, however.

· The creation of a financial fund for reporters and whistle-blowers would be welcomed. However, there is reason for mistrust if such a fund were to be managed by the Home itself.

· Chairman Tomesen regards the Home as authoritative and a centre for expert-knowledge. There is no legitimacy for such claims based on the performance of the Home.

True experts with the right attitude do show results

In sharp contrast to the Home, which fails to produce any results with its extensive staff and financial resources, there is a small group of professionals within the Expert-group Whistle-blowers (Expertgroep Klokkenluiders) that does succeed in creating results in very complex whistleblowing cases, thanks to their knowledge and experience. Dozens of cases with severe societal impact have been uncovered with a comprehensive and dedicated approach, which also provided recognition, rehabilitation and even compensation for the whistle-blowers. Several parliamentarians within the Home Affairs and Justice and Security commissions are aware of the results at, inter alia, police departments and the Ministry of Justice.

Two decades of societal damage

The Home for Whistle-blowers is displaying the same sort of symptoms of dysfunction as its failed legal predecessors. Since 2001 we have had the CIR (Commissie Integriteit Rijksoverheid), CIO (Commissie Integriteit Overheid), OIO (Onderzoeksraad Integriteit Overheid), and now the Home. Many reporters and whistle-blowers, and their partners and family members, have since become victims. The Home is not just incompetent and inefficient, it is also unwilling. The Home has caused great damage to our society and even greater damage to the individuals that stepped forward to report abuses and corruption.

The Home wastes taxpayers’ money with the appointments of officers in a fabricated bureaucratic “construction of positions”. Whistle-blowers and reporters are not helped. Instead, they are lured into a trap. It shows that the protection of whistle-blowers cannot be ensured by government institutions.

A grand finale

Lastly I want to point out something extraordinary. The Chairman of the Home, Wilbert Tomesen, dares to say that the shortcomings are not caused by the Home, but rather by the law:

Wilbert Tomesen: “it’s about an evaluation of the law and not an evaluation of the Home”.

In other words: the Home does not deliver any results for years, wastes €10 million, causes major public damage, but may not be evaluated any longer. Moreover, they do not want to be a “Home” any longer. Instead, they want to be a “knowledge institute” and “authority for integrity and whistleblowing” with even more money, more people and more prestige.

Settled business

These plans were discussed by the Parliament Commission for Home Affairs on Wednesday, March 4th. The Minister for Home Affairs was flanked by more supporting officials than there were Parliamentarians. Everything had been agree beforehand.

Translated by Frank Creations

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