Minister survives UWV finance scandal

20th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

20 February 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus was strongly rebuked, but retained his ministerial post as he escaped with a warning over a financial scandal in the government's social security bureau UWV.

20 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus was strongly rebuked, but retained his ministerial post as he escaped with a warning over a financial scandal in the government's social security bureau UWV.

Government coalition party Liberal VVD and opposition parties Labour PvdA, Socialist Party and green-left GroenLinks accepted the minister's apology for his blunder over the higher-than-budgeted costs in relocating the UWV headquarters to Amsterdam.

But De Geus was warned that he was being given a last chance. He thus cannot afford a another error and his first test will come in reaching a deal secure the permanent departure of UWV chief Tjibbe Joustra, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

An irate De Geus demanded on Sunday the resignation of Joustra and appointed earlier this week the chief public servant at the Defence Ministry as a temporary four-week UWV chief until a permanent replacement can be found. He also demanded that deputy UWV chairman Pieter Cloo vacate his position.

The Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, has indicated that it will not accept the offer of a golden handshake to secure the departure of Joustra, who has refused to resign.

De Geus hopes that consultations with Joustra will result in the quickest and cheapest method to remove him as UWV chief, which administers the WAO worker disability and WW unemployment benefits scheme. The minister does not intend to offer a pay-out or a so-called golden handshake.

The CDA minister survived the UWV affair because he apologised for giving incorrect and incomplete information to the parliament about the extravagant EUR 19 million renovations to the UWV Amsterdam office. He blamed the UWV for the incorrect information.

In particular, renovations to boardroom offices cost EUR 3.5 million, breaching a September 2003 estimate of EUR 1.9 million. The renovations included the laying of marble floors as the UWV said it needed to make an adequate impression.

But De Geus launched an inquiry at the insistence of MPs and the report directed sharp criticism against the UWV. In turn, the UWV has dismissed criticism of its accountability and said the renovations were necessary to establish a head office. The UWV was created at the start of 2002 with the merger of the five Dutch social security bureaus.

Meanwhile, De Geus has promised MPs to more quickly request the parliament to conduct an inquiry when concerns are raised.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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