Citizens and businesses not yet at centre of basic registers

Citizens and businesses find it too complicated to correct errors in the government’s basic registers. They still cannot report problems and errors to a central desk. There is therefore a risk of citizens being sent from pillar to post.

Foto cover Grip op gegevens: het stelsel van basisregistraties voor burgers en bedrijven

In a follow-up audit of basic registers, the Court of Audit looked at the measures taken by the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) further to the recommendations made in a previous audit of basic registers published in 2014. The Minister of BZK is responsible for the system of basic registers.

There are ten 10 basic registers in the Netherlands containing information on, for example, identity (Personal Records Database), home ownership (Immovable Property Basic Register), vehicle ownership (Vehicles Basic Register) and businesses (Commercial Register). The government uses the registers to award grants and allowances, detect fraud and misuse, and levy taxes. The data are also used to buy and sell vehicles and properties and establish the creditworthiness of business counterparts.

The information is shared and reused within government so that citizens and businesses have to provide the data only once. This also has a downside. If the data used by the government are incorrect, it is very difficult for citizens and businesses to find out where and when an error occurred and nearly impossible for them to correct it and reverse the consequences without the assistance of an authority that understands the system of basic registers.

Many improvements have been made in individual basic registers since 2014. The Land Registry, for example, helps citizens and businesses solve problems and correct errors. The Immovable Property Basic Register is another good example; its maps show the taxable value of all houses and other immovable properties in the Netherlands.

In addition to positive developments, the Court of Audit also found that the minister had done little to put citizens and businesses at the centre of the basic registers. In 2014 the Court of Audit had recommended that an authoritative central reporting desk be established to help people who get into problems because of errors in the basic registers and the incorrect use of their data. A reporting desk would make it easier to correct errors but the Minister of BZK has not followed up this recommendation. Furthermore, the follow-up audit has not persuaded the minister to establish a reporting desk either. The organisations that manage the basic registers are responsible for correcting errors, but the Court of Audit thinks the Minister of BZK should take the lead to help citizens and businesses if they have problems.

Ideally, citizens and businesses should be able to check whether the government uses, links and analyses the information in the basic registers correctly. But it does not do so at present. Moreover, the 10 basic registers take difference approaches to data protection. This is confusing for both citizens and businesses.

The Court of Audit recommends that the Minister of BZK work with other ministers and municipalities to improve the system of basic registers for the benefit of citizens and businesses.