Expatica news

Social security heads face chop in finance row

16 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — The UWV rejected on Monday demands from Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus that its boss, Tjibbe Joustra, resign after the social security agency’s handling of its own financial affairs came under heavy fire.

De Geus informed Joustra by letter on Sunday that he should vacate his position, and he also demanded the resignation of deputy UWV chairman, Pieter Cloo, who is responsible for the bureau’s finances.

The UWV manages the government’s WAO worker disability and WW unemployment benefits schemes. Its website said the UWV pays benefits to about 1.2 million people.

But an investigative report — to be officially published later on Monday — claims that EUR 3.6 million more than expected was spent on renovating the UWV board’s office. The line of responsibility for expenditure has also been called into question.

Soon after television current affairs programme Buitenhof quoted various parts of the report on Sunday, Democrat D66 government MP Bert Bakker demanded the immediate resignation of the UWV board because “they can no longer function with authority”.

Bakker also said that organisations responsible for government money, such as the UWV, should use their funds in a more sober fashion, Dutch associated press ANP reported.

But the UWV dismissed the report’s findings and claimed that the renovations were necessary to create a central administrative office. The UWV was formed at the start of 2002 by a merger of the nation’s five social security organisations.

The UWV also pointed out that in its first two years of existence it achieved a 28 percent decline in new WAO recipients and reduced its costs by EUR 108 million in 2003. It flatly rejected the minister’s demand that Joustra and Cloo resign.
De Geus commissioned the investigative report last year after MPs raised concern about the renovations to the UWV Amsterdam-Sloterdijk office. The UWV had defended the renovation work — which involved the laying of marble floors — claiming its present offices did not create a good enough impression.

The minister previously said that everything had been done according to the rules, but decided on the investigation to clarify the situation. The large political parties have not yet reacted to the report’s findings.

The UWV renovations are in contrast to the government’s cost-cutting budget. Faced with rising WAO and healthcare costs, the government is cutting EUR 17 billion from the budget by 2007 and all public servant departments have been ordered to squeeze costs.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news