Wednesday , February 21 2024

Opinion: Plasterk – Dutch Cronyism and the dismise of integrity

We expect good governance and transparency from the Dutch. But Stolte, Isabella and now the secret appointment of a very senior civil servant for the RCN in Bonaire have ruined that perception. In a country where spying and lying go hand in hand, Plasterk should now face serious questions about the importance of integrity at home if only to promote a reputation for good governance abroad. He should also worry about the lessons his administration is giving to the rest of the Dutch Civil Service when it comes to equality of opportunity – which he has suppressed.

Cronyism is widely defined as the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications. For example, Stolte as Kingdom Representative was a CDA appointment made by a CDA Minister. We all know how unfortunate that became for the BES islands. In a written parliamentary question to Plasterk, members Fritsma and Wilders asked the Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations about the role of the new Kingdom Representative: “Is this post only available for failed councilors, given that the previous was also totally inept and wasting tax money?”

Similarly, Isabella is a PvdA appointment made by a PvdA Minister. Much has been said about the unsuitability of Isabella so no need for me to repeat the claims here. But I will add further fuel to the bonfire of good governance. Out of sixty candidates many of which had excellent skills and talents, the well-paid bingo prize of EUR 9,000 salary per month went to a ‘failed politician’.

Why and how?

He was a close friend of Plasterk. They had known each other for a long time and had even canvassed together for elections in Utrecht. Compared to other candidates, his knowledge of the Caribbean is microscopic but his rewards (salary, perks, and emoluments) will be macroeconomic. Isabella did not complete his college studies in pedagogy yet as Kingdom Representative, he will now be responsible for shaping educational policy in the BES islands.

And what about the committee that chose him? There was Plasterk (PvdA), Gerdi Verbeet (PvdA colleague), Frits Goedgedrag (former employee of Ministry) and Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst (D66), a yes man with royal connections. Such is the power of Plasterk’s position. Patronage and privilege make for easy bedfellows. George Orwell epitomized the public mechanics of human greed so perfectly in his famous book Animal Farm: “Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.”

If there is one thing Plasterk has learned about the realities of political life it is that good governance is only an ideal and one that has no role in the political exercise of responsibility. In the modern world, it seems that lies and spies are the real forces that dictate public policy.

That is why Plasterk recently lied to the Dutch Parliament by saying that the NSA was responsible for the interception of 1.8 million illegal mobile phone taps and text messages on its citizens. The following month, leaked documents surfaced to reveal that the Dutch intelligence agencies were actually collecting the data. So much for Plasterk’s integrity in creed and deed…

More jobs for the boys

And that brings us to the latest Caribbean scandal in the world of Dutch administration. When Isabella takes up his job in Bonaire (has he ever been there?) he will have a new director – a right hand man. Unlike Isabella’s appointment, the vacancy for the new top civil service RCN job was never advertised. And the appointment that was made many months ago has never been officially announced.

Once again, it was all handled conveniently by the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations – the Ministry that actually lays down the code for civil servants for all the Ministries. “Quality is the common denominator” is how the Dutch Civil Service was once presented by the same Ministry a few years ago at an international conference. Its code of conduct specifically states: “all organizations in the central government sector must post all their job vacancies where they are accessible to all employees.”

So once again, what could and should have been an open-handed and transparent process was handled in an apparently underhanded way. It is almost as if Plasterk is aiming to fuse the secret service with the civil service?

Fortunately we live in the age of social networking and the new director’s wife who works in a personnel management function (and should know better) could hardly keep the news to herself. By blurting the news out on FACEBOOK, she has also seriously damaged the credibility of the communications department of the RCN and exposed Plasterk to some more searching questions in the Dutch Lower House about how the civil service works in private or in public.

Readers of this communiqué should not be overly shocked by this display of desperate cronyism and absence of integrity. It has a history in the Netherlands. In 1781, Dutch Patriots conducted a revolution against corruption, cronyism and other abuses. It was all blamed on William V, the arrogant ‘Stadholder’ of the time.

William eventually had to flee and my advice to Plasterk is to be more open and do the right thing. In Europe and especially in the Caribbean, we are getting tired of political stooges (many of whom are not directly elected but chosen in the name of the party) who do not behave in the best interests or the will of the people.

Name withheld on request

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