Implementation of government policy should not disadvantage citizens and democracy

Parliament and the government must have a proper understanding of the consequences for citizens and business, and also for democratic control, before deciding to transfer policy implementation to parties outside government. The Netherlands Court of Audit makes this recommendation in a letter to the President of the House of Representatives.

Implementation problems can have far-reaching consequences for citizens and businesses. Apart from the recent childcare benefits scandal, the Court of Audit refers in its letter to the state of affairs regarding earth tremors in the province of Groningen and the Social Insurance Bank’s administration of personal budgets since 2015. The Court has carried out many audits of the implementation of government policy in the past 20 years and it willingly shares the lessons it learns with parliament. In its letter, the Court first repeats its call that whether new policy can actually be implemented should be checked in advance, as should the consequences, including unintentional ones, implementation can have for individual citizens and society as a whole.

Organisation of implementation needs attention

In addition, the Court draws attention to the organisation of policy implementation. If the government and parliament decide to have policy implemented by an independent party, the minister is no longer in control. What powers does the minister still have? How are responsibilities shared? Is there still scrutiny of the use of public money? And of the results? Who is accountable? And who can intervene if implementation goes wrong? In the Court’s opinion, all these questions need addressing because ‘a good beginning is half the work’ but ‘half the work is not a good beginning’.

The letter is only available in Dutch.