The Daily Herald writes that Labour Party PvdA in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament is very critical about the nature and frequency of business travels of Dutch civil servants to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The letter of Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk (PvdA) dated December 13, 2013, was sufficient reason for Member of Parliament (MP) Roelof van Laar (PvdA) to request a written round of questions in Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations.
The intensive travelling of Dutch civil servants to the islands before and after their transition as public entities, the necessity and the associated cost are bothering the PvdA. Travelling expenses have gone down in 2012 and 2013, but in 2010 and 2011 for example 866,472 euros and 634,600 euros were spent by BZK alone on trips to the islands.
On Wednesday, Van Laar and his colleagues submitted a written contribution with critical remarks and questions in response to the minister’s letter in which he reported that the number of travels to the islands has decreased since the Secretaries General of the various Ministries have agreed to limit travelling to the islands and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations has implemented a stricter travel policy since July 2013. Civil servants now have to report their travels to the Intra-departmental workgroup Caribbean Netherlands, the National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger), and BZK employees also have to inform management of the department of Kingdom Relations.
The PvdA in the Second Chamber stated that it was “curious” to know how this system would work in practice, whereby the National Government Representative had to be informed before a civil servant travels to the islands, so he could “indicate the timing and necessity” of the trip in question. The PvdA asked why the travel policy was only made stricter for civil servants of BZK. “Why didn’t government chose to apply these stricter guidelines for business trips to the Caribbean Netherlands for all civil servants?”
The BZK Ministry should assume a central role where it comes to business trips to the Caribbean Netherlands, as this would fit in the coordinating function of the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. The party wanted to know if the “comply or explain” policy was being applied to force civil servants to give account for their travels. The PvdA also questioned the travelling of some civil servants in business class instead of in coach (economy or economy plus). The party asked why this was the case and what the reasons were for deviating from this policy. The PvdA wondered how the policy switch from business class to economy class and the limitation of the trip to a maximum of three work days would result in fewer civil servants travelling to the Caribbean Netherlands.
The party further asked how the cost of business trips to the islands would develop in the near future, especially with the general evaluation coming up next year. “Will the pending evaluations result in an increase in the number and the length of business trips?”
After Minister Plasterk has provided answers to the list of questions and given his view on this issue, the PvdA will decide whether it will seek a general debate with the minister. The excessive travelling of Dutch civil servants has been a source of concern and irritation of the island governments for a while.