D66, GroenLinks Want More Transparency
GroenLinks parliamentarian, Linda Voortman, presented an initiative Act on Thursday, together with D66, meant to replace the open government Act (WOB).The Open Government Act, such as the proposal is called, regulates that information is disclosed more often and more active. The parties also want to limit the frequency with which governments refuse to disclose information, and the abuse of the law is addressed.
In many cases where the government refuses to disclose information now, that information should be made available. In many cases, governments will need to better explain why information is withheld. In addition, the citizen will feel less need to ask for information, because the government is required to actively provide this.
One of the major changes is that the House and companies like ProRail, Dutch Railways, and other organizations that are paid with more than 100,000 euros of taxpayers' money will fall under the law. The law will also apply to associations and foundations of governments that previously had no obligation to transparency.
Governments will no longer be allowed to delay answering requests. The way that works is to keep to maximum response times, and only provide information after a notice of default by the applicant. Within the WOB a government must decide on the request within two months, but in practice it usually takes longer.
Especially journalists complain about that, because it prevents them from publishing sensitive news on time. The initiative Act reduces the response time to two weeks. Only in exceptional cases will the government be allowed more time to respond to a request.
The bill also addresses abuse of the law. The penalty for failing to timely reply to a request is dropped. Especially municipalities frequently complained about being penalized. The bill provides that the administrative judge intervenes in violation of the term.
Even abuse of the law by officials is addressed. Hiding documents from citizens is punishable with up to four years in prison. The court may also impose penalties if governments fail to make a timely decision.
For the longest time GroenLinks has tried to improve the current WOB, together with Minister Plasterk from Internal Affairs. These discussions ultimately failed, which is why the Initiative Act was presented.