Amsterdam fire department wasted €4 million in 'extras' to staff

Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet). (Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet))

For years the Amsterdam fire brigade made extra payments to staff against the rules, according to a report by the forensic investigation office Integis. A total of nearly 4 million euros was illegally paid out to firefighters and other staff members, Integis concluded after launching an investigation at the request of local safety office Veiligheidsregio Amsterdam-Amstelland.

Members of the fire brigade's Central Works Council also received illegal allowances, according to Integis. A regulation for early retirement of firefighters - the Regulation on Functional Age Dismissal - in particular was abused in a generous way. 

According to Integis, the generous employment conditions are the result of a 'family organization' - a closed culture in which firefighters form a powerful front against the leadership, which is lavished with gifts to avoid conflicts. A whistleblower inside the fire brigade raised the issue of the generous regulations several times with the brigade's previous management, but the reports were ignored. The current Amsterdam fire brigade commander, Leen Schaap, launched an investigation.

The fire brigade has now stopped the generous regulations. The amounts already paid out - totaling 3.9 million euros over a period of 10 years - can not be recovered, according to a supplementary investigation by a law firm specializing in employment law. 

Leen Schaap is shocked by the abuses revealed by this investigation. "Sinterklaas exists at the fire brigade", he commented to Het Parool.

Chairman of the local safety office, Amstelveen mayor Bas Eenhoorn, is "baffled and indignant" by the report, he said to the newspaper. "This should never have happened. We see this as the excesses of a closed family culture. If it had not been there, this would have come to light much sooner." 

It is not clear whether the Regulation on Functional Age Dismissal was also abused by other fire brigades. "However, this regulation is so complicated that it would not surprise me if there were deviations elsewhere", Eenhoorn said. He sent the Integis report to his colleagues in the other 24 safety offices, so that they can look into it.